Charlie Hebdo and the rights and wrongs of our freedom of expression

The images this week of 3 gunmen killing journalists at Charlie Hebdo whilst at work sent shock waves around the world. People reacted strongly to the attack, the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie trended and peaceful assemblies to remember them took place all over.

I was with some police officers when news broke and the images started to go viral. My first thoughts were with the victims and their families, then the countless number of innocent Muslims that would be victimised as a result of this barbaric act. This was a vicious attack, conducted by a handful of people with significant issues but not one driven by religion.

One is a follower of Islam, the other is a crazed gunman
One is a follower of Islam, the other is a crazed gunman

The attacks are alleged to be in response to several cartoons published by Charlie Hebdo, that portrayed the Prophet Muhammad in a negative light. This has resulted in dozens, if not hundreds, of people coming out and expressing their belief that these attacks were an attack on the freedom of speech and expression itself. People such as Barack Obama and David Cameron. Barack Obama and David Cameron? These people have been the face of oppression, both sides of the Atlantic, with acts and bills being passed day and night that have gradually stripped away our freedoms and liberties. I do not recall any of them bleating about our rights to expression then?

UK Newspapers war on freedom

Secret Courts, TPIMs, DRIP, NDAA, RIPA, CISPA; you name it, they have passed it, to protect our ‘liberties’. If the situation in Paris was not so serious, it would be laughable to hear these people come out in their support of our freedom of expression.

National Defense Authorisation Act
National Defense Authorisation Act

The right to freedom of speech and expression is something that causes controversy; is it okay to have freedom of speech and expression if it incites hatred or intolerance, or cause offence? The main problem is the balance with which this freedom is given. Even with a cursory glance at the media you will see that the majority of views, regards certain religions or beliefs, are typically one-sided and biased.  If we are therefore to have the freedom for all to express themselves, without remit, there has to be an equal and opposite balance of views, which is something sorely missing. Some believe that our freedoms come with moral responsibility to be mindful of others.

To put the bleating of Cameron into perspective, in the lead up to the Royal wedding, the MET police went on a ‘pre-crime’ spree of arresting people who they believed would visibly oppose the wedding, sort of like the Tom Cruise film ‘Minority Report’. Is this the action of a state that supposedly supports the freedom of expression, something that we would “never relinquish” as exclaimed by David Cameron this week? But, you might say, there should be a line, it was someone’s wedding, something that people wanted to see, so you cannot speak out openly about it and disrupt the publics viewing pleasure. How is that any different to the divisive images created by Charlie Hebdo or others? Their images may have caused offence to the population of Frances’ Muslim community, and the wider Muslim community as a whole, yet there was not the global race to remove such imagery from their repertoire?

Satire not a tool to use against the weak
Satire not a tool to use against the weak

Where do we draw a line on what is the right to free expression? Do we draw a line? Should there be a line? Would the same support for this freedom of expression have existed if the cartoonists were making offensive imagery of Jews? I doubt very much so. Russia Today journalist Harry Fear said: “There’s a big difference between the right of expression and the freedom of expression. The latter concept conveys solely the ability to express; one is free to do something. It’s different to be able to do something, than to be able to do something and also to do it. In France, yes, it’s a freedom, to insult, humiliate and disrespect minorities for the sake of it, just to hurt them — but should it really be a right that one fulfils for the sake of it? Further, is it really noble to do so? Is it valuable for democracy? It is a symbolic measure of civilisation?” 

What happened this week was a vicious, cowardly act, perpetrated by deeply troubled people. It has been used by the right to justify their beliefs and actions over minorities and now there are calls for the Muslim community to apologise, but why? Did we ask the Catholic church or the Buddhist temples to apologise for Hitler or Moa? Did we ask all Jews to apologise for the acts of the Israeli Defence Force in Gaza last summer? No. So why are some in society making the requirement for one group to apologise over another? For villains such as Rupert Murdoch, who it might be said are complicit in the deaths of millions of innocent people and armed forces personnel wading in to call for Muslims to be held responsible is deplorable. The religion someone is born into, the language they use to justify their actions, should not be used to perpetuate intolerance towards the wider, peaceful majority. Hitler, Stalin and Moa were all born into certain religions, used phrases such as ‘doing the lords work’ yet we do not condemn the entire faith base of their religion with the same crimes or with the same conviction. Do not do so to followers of Islam either.

Western world calls for apology
Western world calls for apology
Warmongers musings
Warmongers musings

The attacks in Paris this week were horrendous but the clamour by the establishment to call this the ‘war on freedom’, with the evidence and experience we have of the way in which we are viewed as subjects by our very own governments, is as callous and scandalous a move as I have seen.

Do not be undone by fear, we are more alike than we are different and do not let the seeds of fear grow doubt within you because the media says so.

Will Self: #JeNeSuisCharlie

George Bush says he is “doing the work of God“.

Catholic Education – Was Hitler Christian? 

 

 

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Fascism: a very, very short introduction

boot stamping on a human face forever

This week confirmed what many had known for a long time; that the perpetual message of hatred, fear and mistrust by the media and our politicians has seeped into the psyche of the wider public. Tell the lie often enough and keep it simple enough and eventually we will believe it.

The local elections and European Parliament elections this week have been preceded by endless debate around the viability and validity of UKIP as a party political group. Our state broadcaster has given wall to wall coverage for one group, one individual over all others and have a history of favouring one type of speech over another. Why has there been no comparative in-depth look at the relative surge in support for the Green Party? UKIP have been championed for their earthquake victory and we watch as the last remnants of a broken democracy is washed down the gutter to the sound of thunderous applause.

There has been much written about the history of fascism and politics but one book on both aspects, ‘A Very Short Introduction to Fascism’ by Kevin Passmore, hits the nail on the head when it said:

“It was held that when pressure from the proletariat for the destruction of capitalism rose to extreme proportions, capitalists resorted to terror to defend their control over the means of production. For the Communist International, the current crisis of capitalism was so serious that a conventional dictatorship was inadequate, therefore capitalists used the mass fascist movement to destroy socialism. According to 1935 definition, fascism was not the creation of the capitalists, for it recruited from the petty bourgeoisie (lower middle-class), which had real grievances against the big capital. Nevertheless, capitalists were able to persuade the perpetually perplexed petty bourgeoisie that it’s interests lay in defending the property against socialism. Once fascism was in power and the labour movement destroyed, capitalists no longer needed the fascist party and so it was again suppressed or marginalised.”

The past 6 years, following the recession and general election in 2010, has seen much unrest from the ‘left’ with strikes, endless marches and the like and we have witnessed an equal and opposite rise of the right in relation to this, first through the English Defence League and now UKIP. This is being replicated across Europe with Marie Le Pen leading a resurgent Front National in France. The worrying thing for us should be that the famously fascist BNP have seen their number of voters dwindle at the same time as the UKIP vote has risen. Farage won’t have it but his interview on LBC radio with James O’Brien recently exposed him for the intolerant hypocrite he really is and what UKIP is really all about.

We will now sit and see the rest of the mainstream parties rally further around this message of the far right to appease the middle ground, the firing gun started before these elections with one Tory MP agreeing with Farage’s comments about Romanian’s on trains and since the election George Osborne has said that he ‘respects’ Farage.

Finally from ‘A Very Short Introduction to Fascism’: 

“Fascism contends that a nationality should restore its domination or become dominant within a given state, and perhaps internationally too. Frequently fascists nationalism is that of the dominant ethnic group, or rather of a part of the dominant nationality which perceives itself, rightly or wrongly, to be neglected.

French thinker, Gustave Le Bon argued that irrational crowds were manipulated by charismatic leaders. Georges Sorel argued likewise that the masses were motivated by myths.”

The last two points reflect poorly on our current society. I think it was Noam Chomsky who said that the people you elect reflect upon the state of your society. We have had a buffoon in Boris Johnson as Mayor of London, a war criminal in Tony Blair as Prime Minister and now we have a fascist group gaining prominence that will now shape the future of the general election in 2015, as if the current parties were not fascist enough already. I had it argued against me recently that the current government were not fascist, which I would disagree with, if you look at some of the legislation that is being passed such as the Crime and Anti Social Behaviour Act, Tpims, the authorisation of water cannons and the GCHQ scandal etc but I could be wrong.

Some of us have said for a while that the next general election will be fought on immigration, fear, hatred and the EU, with results like this that much seems certain. Whoever gets in, we lose.

Malc-X-Democracy