We only care when Westerners die

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The more I write these things, the more I realise that I’ve only got about four basic articles in me. I just put out variations on the same core arguments again and again – consumer capitalism is destroying the environment, left-wingers have abandoned the global poor, the political establishment is impervious to radical change, and so on. This one is always the most controversial.

The Manchester Arena attack was sickening. Violence against civilians is always wrong. Hurt the innocent, and you’ve immediately lost the argument. Whatever your cause, you’ve irrevocably damaged it.

Killing children is on another level. It’s hard, if not impossible, to try and put the gravity of it into words, so I won’t try.

After Manchester, 22 people are dead, many of them teenagers. The youngest was eight. Hundreds of people will be dealing with the psychological scars for the rest of their lives – the friends and family of the dead, the injured, bystanders, first responders, and many others.

But around in the world, millions of people are in the same position, if not a much worse one. Continue reading “We only care when Westerners die”

Public Opinion Is Wrong (featuring Jeremy Corbyn and Jihadi John)

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What a fucking idiot

Islamic State militant ‘Jihadi John’ has allegedly been killed in a US drone strike. Born Mohammed Emwazi in Kuwait before moving to the UK, ‘John’ became notorious after appearing in videos posted online in which Western aid workers were apparently beheaded.

While Cameron and his American counterparts trumpeted John’s death as an unmitigated triumph, Jeremy Corbyn said it was a shame he wasn’t brought in alive and put on trial. Cue a flurry of criticism accusing the Labour leader of being out of touch with public opinion.

He is, and that’s good, because public opinion is wrong about most things. A few years ago, a MORI poll found that people think benefit fraud is 34 times more costly than it actually is, that 24% of the population is Muslim when in fact it’s only 5%, and that 31% are recent immigrants when in fact it’s only 13%. It’s not surprising, because for decades an overwhelmingly corporate news media has done its best to make people woefully ill-informed, prejudiced, and irrationally quick to anger. Continue reading “Public Opinion Is Wrong (featuring Jeremy Corbyn and Jihadi John)”

Charlie Hebdo and our erratic internationalism

Charlie Hebdo
Charlie Hebdo

This week, something horrible happened. In Paris, France, three armed men arrived at the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo – the closest English equivalent would probably be Private Eye – and shot 12 people dead. The perpetrators, one in custody, two still at large (Edit: now dead, shot by police), are apparently French-Algerian Islamic extremists.

There are already reports of firebomb attacks on mosques, as the logically challenged exact ‘revenge’. In fact, as anyone level-headed knows very well, the jihadis are about as representative of mainstream Islam as Norwegian mass-murderer Anders Behring Brievik is of mainstream Christianity. Grimly, given the ever-provocative magazine’s staunchly leftist editorial stance, the only person likely to do well out of all this is Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s neo-Nazi Front National.

But now comes the delicate bit. In the 48 hours since the atrocity was committed, a wave of international solidarity has rolled France-ward. World leaders rightly condemned the terrorists. Social media rightly abounded with Spartacus-style ‘I Am Charlie Hedbo’ hash-tags. And left-wingers shuffled precariously along the moral tightrope, rightly expressing their solidarity with the French, but rightly pointing out that radical Islamism is just a fanatical, ultra-conservative backlash to decades of Western abuse in the Arab world. Continue reading “Charlie Hebdo and our erratic internationalism”