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Global Pulse: The ‘blurred’ lines between yes & no, free speech & hate speech, & Trump’s separate realities

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Not just rape, ‘consensual’ sex is about power too as Ansari exposé shows

Human sexual interactions are not always clearcut: yes or no, good or bad, empowering or not, writes Jill Filipovic in The Guardian. And we missed a wonderful opportunity to “wade into the messy, complicated nature of sex in a misogynist world” because of the breathless Aziz Ansari exposé.

“When we haven’t yet agreed that female pleasure and clear enthusiasm are prerequisites for a sexual encounter, we lack the ability to peel back the layers of sexual experience, and we end up with two bad options: accept sexual inequity as just how sex is (or just how men are) or wedge truly bad sexual experiences into the category of sexual assault.”

“Girls are raised with a contradictory set of expectations: be kind and acquiescent, but also be the brakes on male sexual desire. We are taught to reflexively say yes except for when we’re supposed to definitively say no, but we don’t learn how to know when we want to say either.”

“Men aren’t morons, and they know as well as anyone that a woman who is silent, physically stiff, or pulling away is not exactly aflame with desire. But they also know that we are collectively invested in a social script wherein men push to get sex until women acquiesce. And so they push, even when they know it’s unwelcome, because they can.”

“Feminists have been on the forefront of tackling these knottier issues of sex, consent, pleasure and power. And so it’s up to us to lead the way in confronting the private, intimate interactions that may be technically consensual but still profoundly sexist.”

Free speech or hate speech?

Germany has long striven to be the land where the thin line between free speech and hate speech remains clear. But along with other factors, its 2015 refugee gambit has blurred this line and left the entire nation scrambling for balance between fairness and a draconian onslaught on speech, argues The Economist.

“Reconciling these two convictions—for free speech and against hate speech—is becoming harder, particularly since Angela Merkel’s refugee gambit in 2015. Opening Germany’s borders to some 1.2m mostly Muslim migrants has fuelled the rise of nativist outfits like the AfD and Pegida. Racist propaganda and sensationalist reports (some, though not all, fake) of criminal and rapist immigrants have rippled across social media. In 2016, for example, the number of criminal investigations into online hate speech in Berlin rose by 50%. A number of the newcomers from the Middle East and Africa are anti-Semitic. Confronting such ills without encroaching too much on freedom of expression is tricky.”

“The most prominent example of the balancing act is the new Net Enforcement Law (NetzDG), of which Ms von Storch’s and Ms Weidel’s tweets were early victims. Inspired by the rise of fake news and a report suggesting that only a minority of illegal posts on social media were being removed within a day (and just 1% or so on Twitter), the law cleared the Bundestag last June and came into force on January 1st. It sets out 20 things defining a comment as ‘clearly illegal’, such as incitement to hatred or showing the swastika. Once posts are flagged by users, a social-media firm has 24 hours—extended to a week in complex cases—to check and remove those that contravene the rules, or face a €50m ($60m) fine. In the first week, Facebook’s over 1,000 German moderators have had to process hundreds of thousands of cases.”

“All of which points to a broader truth: regulating speech was easier in the past, when Germany was a more settled, homogeneous and conformist place. The wave of new arrivals since 2015 has accelerated its long-term evolution into a more plural, fragmented country. Long after Britain and France, Germany is becoming a land of immigrants. The arrival of the AfD in the Bundestag after its election in September increased the number of groupings there to a record six, up from three for most of the post-war period. The internet is generating dissenting and outspoken competitors to the country’s more cautious established media. This new, more open and varied Germany is harder to govern.”

Is the Iranian threat a figment of Trump’s imagination?

Tehran isn’t really the hegemonic demon that the Trump administration’s Middle East Policy deems it to be, writes Stephen Walt in Foreign Policy, as a result of which the entire world could be getting Iran wrong.

“Iran presently lacks the hard power a state would need to dominate the Middle East’s vast and deeply divided set of countries. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Iran has a population of about 83 million; as of 2016, its GDP was more than $400 billion; and its annual defense budget is almost $16 billion…Many of its tanks, aircraft, and other major weapons systems date from the era of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and are in poor repair,” Walt argues.

“When confronted with these realities, Iran’s foes typically warn that it is using local proxies to spread its influence and take over the region. There is no question that Iran has backed a number of local actors in recent years, including the Lebanese Hezbollah, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, various militias in Iraq, and, to a lesser extent, the Houthis in Yemen. These moves have marginally enhanced Iran’s power — but mostly because it has been able to take advantage of its opponents’ blunders, such as the George W. Bush administration’s decision to topple Saddam Hussein. But these advances still leave Tehran far short of regional domination.”

Israel is winning an ideological war in Latin America

With the rise of the right in Latin America, the US is resuming the control of its “backyard”, and Israel is using the situation as an opportunity to have a more solid presence in a region it previously ignored, writes Massimo Di Ricco in Al Jazeera.

“Latin America has gradually turned to the right, and this has affected the region’s relations with the rest of the world. In the past, leftist governments managed to build new international relationships independent of the US, but the rise of the right in the region has allowed Washington to assume an active role in its “backyard” once again. The right-wing shift in the region brought to an end the era of independent foreign relations and transformed Latin America into a US playground once more.”

“Several Latin American countries that recognised Palestine as a state between 2008 and 2013, including the Dominican Republic, Paraguay, Argentina, and Haiti, chose to abstain in the UN condemnation of the US decision to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Other countries that recognised Palestine during the same period, namely Guatemala and Honduras, voted against the UN resolution. Domestic considerations and a need for continued US support motivated these decisions.”

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