Whitehaven News column – 15th January 2015

Je suis Charlie

Last week’s column was posted before the terrorist atrocities took place in Paris at the offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. It feels like another watershed moment – there are so many these days – but the overwhelming response to the murders from the French establishment and other European leaders has been strangely reassuring. What has been missing in some quarters though, has been coverage of the condemnation of these acts from Muslims around the world.  Those responsible for these acts subscribe to a fundamentalist evil. Painfully, it is an evil that we must continue to confront. That said, this kind of behaviour is not and never has been the exclusive preserve of Islamic fundamentalists and it’s important for all of us that we recognise this.

Remember Anders Breivik? The far-right Norwegian terrorist who in 2011 bombed Oslo before targeting a youth summer camp for Norwegian Labour Party activists. He murdered 77 people. Breivik, like the Islamic fundamentalists in Paris, wanted to provoke a conflict, to create an extreme response to his actions and to sow the seeds of civil war between communities. He failed and the Norwegian people won. The response of Norwegian society was remarkable, but the point is this: Breivik was described as a Christian fundamentalist and at no point were Christians asked to apologise for what Breivik did. Of course this is right, anything else would be perverse.

Step forward Rupert Murdoch who last Friday took to twitter to state “Maybe most Moslems peaceful, but until they recognize and destroy their growing jihadist cancer they must be held responsible.”

The phrase ‘poisonous, ill-informed garbage’ is over-used these days, but there’s no better example of this than Murdoch’s tweet. As a Methodist, I’m fairly certain that I’m not to blame for the Spanish Inquisition or the Ku Klux Klan and if you still labour under the delusion that I’m an actual Jedi, I’m equally certain that I’m not to blame for Darth Vader’s destruction of the planet Alderaan.

Freedom of speech is important, it matters, it is the lifeblood of our democracy in so many ways. Equally, freedoms such as this should be seen as universal values. And whilst we consider freedom of speech and its importance to our democracy, consider just how many newspapers, television and media outlets Rupert Murdoch owns.

Who ordered the chicken?

David Cameron’s efforts to wriggle out of the party leaders debates is one of the most unedifying political spectacles I’ve ever seen. Other party leaders have now written to the Prime Minister and the host broadcasters urging them to go ahead whether or not the Tory leader attends. Cameron’s chicken act makes him look like a turkey. I’d cry fowl but that would be a pun too far.

The principle reason the Tory leader doesn’t want to debate? He doesn’t want to be forced to defend the damage that his policies have done to the NHS. No wonder, with failed hospital privatisations, broken promises, widespread chaos and the worst A&E figures since records began, his record is indefensible. 

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