Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Cause and effect

The appointment of Seumas Milne as Labour's director of strategy and communications has certainly stirred things up, pitching some Labour people into despair. They have a point. But this isn't why I am posting. Instead, I am interested in the way extracts from an article on the murder of Lee Rigby have been used. Milne's critics all quote this line.
Rigby was a British soldier who had taken part in multiple combat operations in Afghanistan. So the attack wasn't terrorism in the normal sense of an indiscriminate attack on civilians.
At this point, in pour in his defenders, including Owen Jones on Twitter. They point out that Milne followed this up by writing,
The killing of an unarmed man far from the conflict, however, by self-appointed individuals with non-violent political alternatives, isn't condoned by any significant political or religious tradition.
 And so the criticism is deemed to be unfair. Milne is not defending the crime.

The problem is that both sides, in trying to score partisan points, are missing the point of the article. Of course Milne condemns the murder. The worse the crime, the stronger his argument is. He was not defending it as being justified, instead he was arguing about what caused it.

These articles are all the same. They are written to a formula and are utterly tedious. You know exactly what they are going to say. There is always a disclaimer - 'this act was horrible, terrible, unconscionable, can't be condoned etc, etc.' This is then followed by an explanation of why this horrible act is really the fault of anyone other than the people who committed it or the ideas that animated them. In this case it is all the result of the wars waged by the West "in the Muslim world." 
To say these attacks are about "foreign policy" prettifies the reality. They are the predicted consequence of an avalanche of violence unleashed by the US, Britain and others ... 
And then off we go into a furious rant directed against the political elites, while the barbaric nature of the murder is taken to show how evil our governments must be to have provoked it. 

This is what you find in all articles of this type. They aren't always about blaming the victims, they are about making the perpetrators into victims. It is the playground excuse, 'they made me do it.' And of course that means ignoring a fascistic, theocratic ideology whose adherents inflict horrible death on their opponents. After all, look at the grim casualty statistics during the period known as the war on terror. The vast majority of civilians who have been killed or maimed have met their fate at the hands of these far right Islamist movements, and most have been Muslims.

This is old ground. But going back over it again makes me even more concerned that a formulaic writer from the Guardian, responsible for some dreadful and, at times, wilfully ignorant journalism pandering to the prejudices of the liberal middle classes, is the person who has been chosen to reconnect the Labour Party to its grass roots, and to reanimate its electoral support and media profile. I am not hopeful.


Anonymous said...

As usual you are right.

Slightly off point though, why Milne? Surely JC knows he needs a present day Campbell (or at least a less Malcom Tucker version of him) I.e. a tabloid experienced mover and shaker capable of creating a media message the party can get behind and deliver. Turning out and sub editing obnoxious shite in the guardian comments section is surely not in the "desirable experience" section of the person specification let alone the essential one. At least Campbell knew when he became the story. Did Kevin McGuire turn it down?


The Plump said...

Actually, it is very much to the point. There has been a lot of focus on ideology, political allegiances, etc. Not as many people have been talking about whether they can actually do the bloody job. There is a big competency issue here. It reminds me of some of the college principals I have worked for who made all the right noises but who were totally useless, with predictably catastrophic results. It all seems horribly familiar at the moment.