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? 

 

 

We are here because of the path that lies behind us

Conference season is all but over and the battle lines have been drawn for the run-in to the 2015 General Election. The papers today say too that the election campaign begins, but where are we?

David Cameron made a rousing speech fit for a Nuremberg rally as he followed on from Theresa May, outlining his intentions to dismantle the Human Rights Act, save the NHS and be the ‘trade union’ for hardworking people. This would be funny if it was not so serious and frankly disgusting. This is the man whose party smashed hardworking, trade union families in the 1980’s and who want to all but revoke a workers right to withdraw their labour and raise the threshold for ballots so high, that neither Boris Johnson, nor the Coalition government would have taken office with the same stipulations. This is the man who has seen thousands of people die after their benefits were cut by the cut throat, unqualified and inept assassins at ATOS and has overseen a cost in living crisis leaving 1 in 4 families described as ‘working poor’, over 1 million children in poverty and the resurgence of Victorian diseases such as rickets. It is quite literally banquets for the rich and food banks for the poor.

I think he meant what he said when he said we were the people that he and his party resented.

Further to this, the Tory party have continued unabated in the mass sell off of our NHS, built and paid for by us, our parents and grandparents, after first Labour opened the gateway with PFI contracts in their previous disastrous term in office. The NHS is safe in no ones hands but our own. If we leave it to these vultures we will face yearly prices hikes the same as we already do with the rail and energy firms. Families would soon be priced out of basic health care, a fundamental human right for all. Do not be persuaded or convinced that charging immigrants for use of the NHS is anything other than to get us used to the idea of getting our plastic friends out to pay for care. It is a classic tale of divide and rule.

Which brings me to the threat posed to human rights.

Time and again Theresa May, Cameron, Hague, whomever, tell us it is because of the threat posed to us by terrorists, hate preachers and other so-called undesirables that they wish to extradite but by whose definition will be determining the terrorists? In May’s speech she has outlined a vision of such Orwellian proportions, it left many aghast at how it could even be implemented. May’s vision is one of national censorship of extremists who use social media, yet when they have over 9000 domestic extremists on their list, people who make it their civic and moral duty to stand up to police and political corruption, fracking, TTIP, arms fairs, illegal Israeli state expansion, many without a criminal record. You can only begin to imagine just how dangerous things are getting for people who speak truth. The establishment at all levels have a very genuine fear of the social media, it used to be that we saw something on the social media and went to the mainstream news networks to confirm it, now we see something on the mainstream news and take to social media to disprove it. It is instant, live and connects us, for better or worse, in a way that they cannot abide. It is for these reasons that we are seeing clumsy and draconian attempts to break people’s faith in using it, for fear of ending up on the scrap heap or worse, in some form of censorship or detention. In the future only outlaws will be free.

The Sun manifesto Cameron

In the meantime The Sun takes credit for the potential abolishment of our human rights act and generally people don’t even bat an eyelid. A mate said to me yesterday (I am sure he won’t mind) that we could all already do what the Human Rights Act is supposed to guarantee for us long before they existed (such as the right to assembly, marry, practice religion, freedom of speech etc), but were we?

One example could be gay people’s right to marry the person they love, until recently it was still debated only getting as far as civil partnership, only with ‘gay marriage’ coming in the last 12 months. It is called ‘gay marriage’ or ‘same-sex marriage’, rather than as I call it – ‘marriage’, because to many it is still taboo. And they still face serious issues regards access to equal pension rights for their partners in the event something happens to one of them, parity with a ‘normal’ married couple is still beyond the law and that is just one example of how our so-called ‘civilised’ society doesn’t get it right even with a Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a foundation. What chance justice with a watered down bill of rights drafted by this inept bunch because they convinced us terrorists are on every street corner?

Taken from an article featured in The Telegraph, Tory plans will involve some of the following ideas:

  • Extremists will have to get posts on Facebook and Twitter approved in advance by the police under sweeping rules planned by the Conservatives.
  • They will also be barred from speaking at public events if they represent a threat to “the functioning of democracy”, under the new Extremist Disruption Orders.
  • Theresa May, the Home Secretary, will lay out plans to allow judges to ban people from broadcasting or protesting in certain places, as well as associating with specific people.
  • The plans — to be brought in if the Conservatives win the election in May — are part of a wide-ranging set of rules to strengthen the Government’s counter-terrorism strategy.

Universal…That word, universal, for all, because after two world wars in 30 years they realised the need for something resolute to hold tyranny to account and at bay, if 100 years more global war has taught us anything, is that human rights needs reinforcing, not disbanding. 

Remember nothing was given to us because we deserved it, it was given to us because we fought for it for generations. Ask yourself why they would really want to take something as precious as this away from us? Remember that we are not here because of the path that lies before us, but because of the path that lies behind us. 

‘Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people’ – Preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

1984 George Orwell

Stealing children will not solve the issue of ‘radicalisation’, whatever that means.

BORIS JOHNSON has once again caused outrage with his comment that children at risk of radicalisation should be treated the same as child abuse victims and be removed from their parents and put into care, singling out Muslims in the process.

The Mayor of London cited the recent court case of Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, the men found guilty of the murder of Lee Rigby last year, as an example of what he called the potential for children to “learn to become killers or suicide bombers.” Boris must have casually forgotten that the two men he used for his sound reasoning and such delusion were actually born and raised Christian by Nigerian parents. Where will we draw the line for this? Did anyone from the government come out to say that when Emma West made her Nazi rant on London’s underground with her son on her lap? Her punishment was a 24 month community order under supervision, no mention of her children being taken away from her by Boris Johnson for his potential radicalisation, side man Nick Clegg or anyone else. So is Boris deliberately trying to drive a cultural war that they are getting extremely good at fanning the flames for? What about Tommy Robinson, the former EDL leader who’s group have previously expressed desire to blow up Mosques, will they be taking his children from him too for radicalisation? What about removing Catholic children from Irish parents in case we see a rise in the IRA?

No, Boris is quite clear when he talks about radicalisation, he means Muslim parents teaching their children about a peaceful religion, Islam.

boris-johnson-fail

If Boris is so keen to deal with radicalism in the UK and indeed the world, then perhaps he wants to steer parliament away from the military industrial complex puppet masters and away from their agenda of imperialism and globalisation. If we really believe that the way to peace is to send unmanned drones to bomb women and children in Pakistan and Yemen, to wage shock and awe bombing campaigns on Iraqi citizens and to destabilise governments we aren’t happy with, sending countries into a vicious spiral of civil war that threatens to engulf the world, well then we are lost. We can bomb this world into pieces but we will not bomb it into peace. We need to create an environment where radicalism cannot breed and this is the issue Boris so poorly fails to address – the role of environment.

What the Lee Rigby murder trial highlighted, as details of the pairs life was recounted, are the key roles society and environment play in our development from cradle to grave, Adebowale, the younger of the two was said to have had a history of mental illness and they point to a number of events that occurred in their lives that lead to that fateful day in May 2013. In fact, it is argued that we our susceptible to environmental conditioning from the moment we have one to be influenced by and this starts as early as our mothers womb, where we are at the mercy of their daily lives and chemical balances. It is here we first develop predisposition for addiction etc. The documentary Zeitgeist: Moving Forward, the third by Peter Joseph, had a 15 – 20 minute introduction on the role of genetics and predisposition which centred on the role environment plays in our development and is worth taking the time to watch if you haven’t or to revisit even if you have.

This does not excuse any of the numerous things that we humans do to each other every day and we are all guilty when it comes to the radicalisation of children/people because we allow environments to fester whereby hatred is the order of the day, but we are the ones that can change that, we are the ones who can demand an end to illegal wars and the sale of arms to people today who tomorrow we will be at war with for New Democracy. What is certain is that knee jerk, popularity seeking soundbites from people like Boris Johnson, who is only in it for himself, that only deal in symptoms and not the root causes of our problems are not the way to change things for the better. I will finish off with a quote from Nelson Mandela who captures this last point best.

Mandela-love-vs-hate