In the UK at the moment, one of the main news items is the criminal trial of Chelsea football club captain John Terry for allegedly making a racist comment to footballer Anton Ferdinand.
Terry isn't exactly a great thinker, and given that one of his contract conditions is not behave in such a manner, he certainly deserved to be reprimanded if guilty and be subject to whatever punishment is appropriate in that context.
However, now he faces criminal charges, essentially for hurting someone else's feelings.
In New Zealand, Dr Cat Pause (yes, imagine the university thesis on the psychology behind that name) not only embraces this, but wants a similar approach to be taken to discrimination on the basis of mass. She is a taxpayer funded university lecturer at Massey (yes, agriculture clearly isn't enough), and her belief in criminalising make fun of obesity, in opposing businesses selling diets, exercise and in her hatred of the fashion industry. She even hates the airline industry for not having wide enough seats for the obese.
She is hosting a conference on "fatism" and of course she has been the subject of the obvious jokes from Whaleoil. It is easy to poke fun at someone with an amusing name who is seeking to normalise a condition that health professionals regard as dangerous and a key contributor to a vast range of chronic diseases, particularly a condition that is largely a matter of personal choice.
However, I'm not laughing that much, because the wedge that has opened up the chance for taxpayers to fund discussion, debate and study into this perspective was created many years ago. It's the embrace of identity politics, and its neo-Marxist, ultra-collectivised, power stereotyping that pigeon holes absolutely everyone into categories, whilst claiming it is actually about empowering people.
The conference Pause is leading demonstrates this:
Fat bodies politic: Neoliberalism, biopower, and the ‘obesity epidemic’ by Jackie Wykes
This paper will argue that the discursive construction of the ‘obesity epidemic’ mobilises neoliberal concepts of risk and responsibility to produce fat people as failed subjects across various sites of power, including capitalist production, profitability, and reproductive (hetero)sexuality.
In other words, "fatists" blames capitalism for creating a subjective "myth" around obesity as showing people as failures as productive individuals and as being fit to breed. The existence of plenty of successful overweight people, men and women, is blanked out, because it doesn't fit the story being manufactured.
Then there is this paper:
The role of diagnosis in marginalising corpulence by Annemarie Jutel
In this presentation, using overweight as a heuristic, I will describe the social model of diagnosis and how it assists us to understand contemporary attitudes to health, illness and disease. At the same time I will explain how the ascendance of diagnosis and the paradigm of evidence based practice have forced the emergence of overweight as a disease category.
In other words because evidence is used to inform medicine, being overweight is seen as a disease. Now I think it isn't a disease, because it can't be caught and it doesn't spontaneously emerge, but it is a "state of being". People aren't born that way (unlike race and sex). However, is it seriously being argued that medicine should not be evidence based?
It is easy to go on, but Cat Pause claims she is "promoting the idea that fat people deserve the same rights and dignity as non-fat people".
Yet there is no objective assessment of not having the same rights. The rights she appears to want are demands upon the persons and property of others to make special provision for obese people. Of course she has a precedent in this, in the "disabled rights" movement demanding accessibility and people to be made to pay for their private property to be accessible to people they don't know. She claims airlines kick fat people off planes, and then demands that economy class have wider seats (although she pays for premium classes herself - which is the same point with better food anyway).
Of course she goes further. She wants to criminalise "fat hatred" Why? "fat phobia, or fat stigma, or fat hatred, is harmful. It stigmatises fat people, which is harmful for both physical and mental health. It also affects non-fat people – making many of them terrified of becoming fat. Being shamed, or bullied, is never good for anyone"
It's Orwellian thought control, she wants it to be wrong for people to think it is wrong to be overweight, wrong to seek to change their bodies, wrong to sell goods or services to facilitate that. She wants to criminalise people being hurt by what others say.
Yet people don't have a right to not be insulted or hurt. It is a fact of life. A person throwing an insult because of how you look isn't nice, and isn't fun, but is it a matter for the criminal law?
Should the state be there to protect people from stigma, hatred, fear or shame?
What is next? The obvious next characteristic to pursue is hair colour. Red headed people are probably sick of being called gingas, or being thought of as angry. Blondes are probably sick of being presume to be ditsy, stupid or even slutty. Should short and tall people demand "rights"? How about people who wear glasses being thought of as being smart or geeky? How about commenting about what people wear?
Those of us who embrace individualism and the treatment of people as individuals have no problem with the moral dimension of being open to who people are, what they think and what they do, but it does not mean surrendering the personal right to not have to surrender to what others want to claim from you.
If you own a business, should you not have the right to decide who you trade with, who you buy and sell from and who you employ? Indeed, similarly as a consumer you should also be able to assert the right to buy from whomever you wish, and refuse to trade with those you don't wish to.
Moreover, you do have a right to not like people. There is a right to not be polite, to not be considerate and accommodating. That doesn't mean using force or fraud, but it does mean you can blank out people, ignore them and yes, laugh at them.
Sterilising expression and discourse by criminalising it is disturbing.
It can be seen in the thin line between actions that insult Islam and Muslims who claim they are being "discriminated against" because they have beliefs that I, and billions of others, regard as peculiar or even evil.
It can be seen in the way that some people can throw around racist insults, promote racist policies without shame because the identity politics touters claim people of some races "can't be racist" - even Members of Parliament can be "oppressed".
Meanwhile, hatred of wealth creation, entrepreneurs and Christians is all allowed.
Human rights legislation banning discrimination should itself be struck off the books. The proper response to racist and sexist activity by businesses is to boycott and shame them. Indeed, if the fat women (and it is women) have a problem with how others treat them, then they can boycott, protest and the like. That is entirely appropriate and the only way to really change behaviour, and to isolate those who are bigoted, rude or simply intolerant.
However, they and others should not claim a right to be treated a certain way by law by private businesses or individuals. For those who do are as intolerant as those they seek to bully and force to treat them the way they demand.
In a free society we all have freedom of thought and freedom of expression, and that includes the right to say things other people don't like and to act on that basis as private individuals.
Dr. Cat Pause and her gang of reality evading subjectivist post-modernists can create all of the fictional fantasy conspiracies, can proclaim victimhood and demand that people be forced to accommodate their demands, but for all of that they shouldn't be allowed to make people do what they want.
Her philosophy portrays itself as being about acceptance and tolerance, where it is about hatred and intolerance. It is about reality denial and a grand claim upon the minds, mouths, pens, keyboards and deeds of everyone else.
It takes the right to be an individual and to live you life as you see fit, and morphs it into an artificially constructed "identity" with "oppression", "victimhood", an "interpretation of history" and as a result endless demands for taxpayers to be forced to pay for her studies and to investigate accommodating this self styled identity group, at the same time as taxpayers are being cajoled to deal with obesity as a key factor contributing to multiple chronic diseases (with children who are obese being a specific concern).
If it continues to get government support, then I propose that someone invent a "blonde studies" course and start doctoring up some post modernist snakeoil that would be easy for any half smart person to manufacture. Then the "dim witted", "low IQ" and "not very smart" can claim the same, how they are insulted by being expected to know stuff.
The rest of us will be getting on with our lives.