Pourquoi je ne suis pas Charlie #CharlieHebdo #EndlessWar #ParisShooting

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When I was young, I used to laugh at paranoid, grumpy old men who told me not to believe what we read in the newspapers or saw on the television news. Maybe at 50 years I am not exactly an old man, but I can no longer be described as young, and I am certainly paranoid and grumpy.

Some of my family, friends and colleagues attended a Charlie Hebdo solidarity rally in Sheffield on Sunday 10th January. I did not. Not because I in anyway condone or excuse the action of the men who murdered 12 cartoonists and journalists at the magazine’s headquarters, or the five other people killed subsequently. But even before the staggering hypocrisy of David Cameron, amongst others, posturing at the memorial march in Paris, I felt uncomfortable about the willingness of the British mainstream media to ignore the approximately one million people who have been killed in the “war on terror” in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere that is really a colonial proxy war over oil and gas reserves, perpetrated by the United States and aided by the United Kingdom.

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Here is my “brilliant” take on the Charlie Hebdo shooting. An anti-colonialist, anti-royalist Facebook cover picture. That’ll show ’em..

As an observer, I am not in the same league as people like John Pilger, and if you want to know more about the dirty wars being perpetrated in our names, you should read his work and watch his films and I will not duplicate that here.

He documents how jihadism / radicalization was unknown in most of the middle eastern countries until recently and how it is a product of invasion, occupation and oppression. He compares it to the rise of the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot in Cambodia, who were radicalized by the indiscriminate bombing by the US, and theirs was a reign of genuine terror that left two million Cambodians dead in the killing fields and torture rooms.

Will Self, in his article for the Guardian, branded the murderers as evil and, although I would not necessarily use that word myself, quite rightly says that the act was not “an attack on freedom of speech”, and also that freedom of speech is not an inalienable human right. Unfettered freedom of speech would also allow the expression of any extreme views, including incitement to racial hatred and violence.

Memories are short, but I remember thinking about some members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), in the days before the successful negotiated peace (fancy that!), that, regardless of their grievances and the British government’s shameful past, some of the members of the IRA seemed to enjoy making bombs and blowing “holes in bandsmen by remote control”.

Wicked, misguided people with always find a reason to justify their actions, but these motivations should not be used to generalize attitudes towards other people that the perpetrators might identify with. If Charlie Hebdo had not published cartoons portraying the prophet Mohammed, the same men would have found other reasons for persecuting other victims, because that is what they wanted to do.

Charlie Hebdo has a reputation for highly provocative material and this I why I do not claim je suis Charlie. As cartoonist Martin Rowson said in the Channel 4 News discussion with Will Self, a degree of self-censorship is also necessary. I do not believe that the principle of freedom of speech allows anyone to say absolutely anything. Responsibility needs to be exercised, although that does not excuse murder.

I can’t speak for other countries, but the British mainstream media is a swamp of lies and misinformation. I am sure that there are radicalized Muslims but I do not believe there are anywhere near as many as our media would have us believe, and where there are genuine jihadists, they have been inspired by generations of foreign countries destroying their homelands, killing their people and stealing their resources.

I believe that the mainstream media’s obsession with radicalized Muslims is a deliberate policy, seeded by the spin-doctors and lobbyists of the right-wing political parties, and is directly comparable with the scapegoating of Jews by Hitler and the National Socialists in the 1930s. It is a strategy to move the electorate to the right and to undermine civil liberties.

Just as I criticized the poppies in the moat of the Tower of London, representing only the British and Commonwealth service personnel’s dead and not even the hapless civilians, I believe that this act of murder is part of an ongoing tragedy whose scale is almost too great to comprehend.

In the same week, 2,000 people were murdered in Baga in Nigeria by Boko Haram but we didn’t see any world leaders marching there. No doubt because the victims are only black people and they do not work in the media. What’s more, they don’t live in a comfortable western city where a photo opportunity would not be too inconvenient.

The hypocrisy of our political leaders is breathtaking. Even a committee of George Orwell, Charles Dickens and Samuel Beckett would be hard pushed to imagine a more cynical image than Benjamin Netanyahu, David Cameron and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu arm-in-arm, marching in solidarity for freedom of speech.

Stop the War Coalition nailed it with this post:

In the meantime, don’t believe what you read in the newspapers or see on the television news.


BBC News can no longer be trusted, and neither can Channel 4 News – Monday 27 October 2014

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I stopped watching BBC television news after their coverage of the death and funeral of Margaret Thatcher in 2013. I was born in Nottinghamshire but have lived in South Yorkshire since I was a year old and Thatcher was a very unpopular prime minister in these parts, although you would not have realised that from the eulogising on the BBC.

But Broadcasting House is a long way from Orgreave, and the BBC’s recently replaced chairman, Chris Patten, has come a long way since his days as Secretary of State for the Environment when guess-who was prime minister. I doubt those two things are connected.

My wife has been getting increasingly irritated with my whinging about television news broadcasting, so I’m going to stop bothering her and bother you instead. For some time I have been complaining about what I perceived as a disproportionate obsession, particularly on the part of Channel 4 News, with British jidahis and general xenophobia. But this was all just subjective, so I decided to try a little documentary experiment.

I am not a journalist, but I am a critical consumer of the news, and I decided to log the proportions of time spent, and the subject of the stories reported, on the main 7pm Channel 4 News bulletin over a period of seven consecutive days. This is day one.

Timings are to the nearest minute.

19.00 – 19.11 They led with the story of Bolton teacher Jamshed Javeed who has admitted charges that he was intending to travel to Syria to fight the Assad regime.

19.11 – 19.14 David Cameron is bumped into by a “jogger”.

19.14 – 19.26 David Cameron is refusing to pay up the European Union’s bill for £1.7 billion, followed by an item on the European Arrest Warrant.

19.26 – 19.30 A story about Michael Fallon claiming that some places in Britain are being “swamped” with immigrants.

19.30 – 19.40 Sex trafficking by Romanian gangsters.

19.40 – 19.42 Surfers die in Newquay.

19.42 – 19.43 British troops withdraw from Afghanistan.

19.43 – 1946 The proposed High Speed rail link (HS3).

19.46 – 19.50 Boko Haram jihadis kidnapping women and girls in Nigeria.

19.50 – 19.52 Adverts

19.52 – 19.55 The proliferation of civilian drone aircraft and the need for regulation.

19.55 – 19.56 European illegal migration, including a quotation from a trafficker “I take all the dirt”.

Out of a 55 minute program (not including adverts and weather), 42 minutes (give or take a minute) were spent reporting about Muslim jihadis, anti-EU politics and immigration. All panic-mongering stories about Johnny Foreigner.

There is plenty happening in the world other than immigration, including climate change, the disappearance of wildlife, increasing inequality, Iain Duncan Smith’s re-designation of degenerative diseases as curable, the commissioning of Hinckley C, US-led war-based economics, coal gasification etc etc etc.

Oh yes, and all those Occupy Democracy protesters in London, but I guess the Channel 4 News editors didn’t walk through Parliament Square.

Whilst I do not doubt the integrity of the individual journalists and broadcasters on Channel 4 News (Paul Mason in particular has published some very insightful and critical online articles recently), there is something deeply troubling about the editorial balance of the program. There is a poisonous xenophobia and paranoid nationalism evident throughout the mainstream media and it is something to be resisted.

I have no doubt that the editorial policy will change once Channel 4 find out I am on the case, so expect more balanced reporting by the weekend, and at least they didn’t mention UKIP today.

One down, six to go.