Thursday, April 09, 2015

Satire is dead

I emerged from the fog of a bad cold in an unseasonally chilly Greece and, now recovered, picked up the Guardian. Or was it the The Daily Mash? Has the Guardian become a self parody?

First up was a strange rant about how the cause of jihadi radicalism in Britain is apparently, er, David Cameron. Oh. Well, he "got away with bombing Libya (with barely a thought for the poor Libyans ...)" - other than responding to the Libyans' increasingly desperate requests to bomb Libya of course, or, to be more precise, bomb the Libyan army that was busy killing them. But since then he has encouraged jihadis by calling "for the overthrow of the secular Syrian government" and "to demonise it out of all proportion" (with 200,000 dead, overflowing torture chambers and around nine million displaced I want to know what would be proportionate in the demonisation stakes). But he had a clinching argument. He insisted that we "remember, this is the same President Assad who was having tea with the Queen in 2006." Of course, I had forgotten. How could I be so silly?

So was this pro-Assad propaganda a Seumas Milne column or by someone from the SWP or the Stop the War Coalition? No, it wasn't a stopper, it was a former British ambassador. I think that the diplomatic service may need to look at their recruitment policies.

So, with a mounting sense of despair I turned to the next article. It was by Naomi Wolf. Please tell me, why does anybody publish Naomi Wolf? Anyway, it started off as a robust defence of free speech, even if her history was embarrassingly wrong. According to her, "Before 1857 it was quite difficult to get arrested for speech in England." Tell that to John Wilkes (1763), Francis Burdett (1820) or Richard Carlile (1819), to mention only the most prominent cases, and it would be helpful to know that the offence of seditious libel had been part of the common law since 1606. Never mind, the main thrust of the argument might have been superficial, but it is a fair point that government restrictions on speech usually fail to suppress ideas. Except that she too is writing about jhadi radicalism and suffers from the standard liberal under-estimation of an ideology that exhorts people to murder strangers and obliterate free speech with violence.

Wolf doesn't bother to get to grips with harm principle, that free speech can be restricted where it can cause harm to others (like 'let's nip off to Iraq, crucify people, throw gays off buildings and rape a few slaves'), nor does she really engage with the fact that most policy makers feel that any response to jihadism has to be multi-layered, combining a range of different measures. Instead, she offers the Mrs Merton solution - "Now, let's have a heated debate..."
If you look at what actually worked in history, you would not be arresting people for “Muslim extremist” thought or antisemitic cartoons, however unpleasant: you would be holding well-covered, widely translated public debates between moderate Muslim critics of extremism and extremist voices, or between Muslim extremist religious advocates and western rabbis or secularists – and tweeting, Facebooking, televising, and commenting on the debate in real time.
 Is this for real? Are you sure it is a serious newspaper? 

I put it down and stared out of the window as a brightly coloured woodpecker flitted between trees before settling on the apple tree and tapped at the bark, its bright red head moving rapidly in a cold breeze. It beat reading the Guardian hands down.


Bob-B said...

Ceausescu also met the Queen. So I guess he was okay after all.

Anton Deque said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anton Deque said...

I dispair. I really do despair. Excepting I have noticed more and more sarky comments beneath some of this tripe. Those that survive the moderators. A dashing article by Owen Jones made me write one that survived about ten minutes.

"Fear not Kurds! Owen Jones supports you! Owen Jones! Jones! Owen Jones … O-W-E-N J-O-N-E-S …"