Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Why self-imposed political silence is a misguided reaction to terrorism


I've thought long and hard about what to write about the appalling act of barbarity that happened at the Manchester Arena.

Obviously the most important thing is to send condolences to the bereaved and the hundreds of people who have been injured or horribly traumatised by this disgusting act of savagery.

The next most important thing is to praise all those who helped. The emergency services, the people who looked after traumatised children, the people who offered their homes and businesses as refuge, the taxi drivers who took people home for free. You're what's great about Britain. You did yourselves, and Manchester, and Britain proud at a time of terrible trauma and suffering.

Another thing that is clearly implicit in what I've already written is condemnation of this barbarity. Even against a backdrop of all of the dreadful ongoing suffering in places like Syria, Iraq and Yemen, a deadly attack on a crowd full of teenagers and children who had just been out to enjoy a music concert is exceptionally depraved.


The next thing to note is that some people's reactions to this horrific attack are simply disgusting. The people who have used this terrible tragedy to tell sick jokes, make bigoted generalisations about all Muslims, or launch repulsive political attacks on certain politicians, you know who you are, and you should be ashamed of yourselves.

Having covered those important points, I'm now going to turn to the main thrust of this article.

No moratorium on political discourse

Some people have tried to piggyback on this tragedy to try and silence political debate.

They've tried to claim that talking about any other political issue at the moment is somehow disrespectful to the victims. I'm going to explain why I profoundly disagree.

The people who commit barbarous acts of terrorism don't do it for no reason. They do it for impact. They want to fundamentally change the places they attack, and the people who live there.

If we stop what we were doing, or refuse to proceed with what we were going to do, they've succeeded in changing our daily lives, and if what we were going to do is talk about politics, they've succeeded in undermining our democracy by stifling the democratic engagement that would otherwise have happened.

In my view the UK political parties are playing a very dangerous game by suspending their political campaigns out of misguided respect, because what they're actually doing is sending terrorists (Islamist fanatics and right-wing extremists alike) a very clear message that they can severely disrupt our democratic processes by timing their violent attacks to coincide with our elections.

They're essentially incentivising terrorists to attack during elections.

Silence gives the extremists a void to fill


We know from experience that horrific incidents like this generate massive surges of hatred from the extreme-right, and that no amount of begging for restraint, consideration or sensitivity is ever going to stop these people from piggybacking on other people's misery to spread their divisiveness, bigotry and lies.

So any moratorium on political discourse in the wake of such events just leaves the floor open for the most depraved, extreme and opportunist people to shout their mouths off and revel in all the extra attention they're getting.

Unsavoury examples



Just look at the pictured tweet from a Tory supporter called Tim Dawson.

If all the progressives, the left, the greens, the liberals, the centrists, and the moderate centre-right types bind ourselves to a period of political silence over the Manchester Arena attack, or any other brutal act of savagery, we're just giving utterly depraved people like Tim Dawson a silence to shout their hateful and divisive abuse into aren't we?



Look at this next Tweet from another anti-Corbyn ranter called Robin Marchesi. Look how he accuses Jeremy Corbyn of what he himself is guilty of. 

Jeremy Corbyn clearly didn't try to politicise the attack at all, he simply expressed his condolences and praised the emergency services (as pretty much all other leading politicians did too).

This Robin Marchesi however clearly does politicise the attack by pretending that Corbyn's Tweet is somehow offensive, and that it's cost Labour a vote.

A quick look through Marchesi's Twitter contribution history reveals that he's been spreading anti-Corbyn bile for months, and was clearly never intending to vote for Labour.

This track record of anti-Corbyn abuse indicates that Marchesi is a sickeningly dishonest concern troll who was intent on politicising the tragedy by pretending to have lost faith with Corbyn when he had actually hated him all along.

As is so often the case with extreme right-wingers, they're accusing someone else of what they themselves are guilty of.



Look at this third right-wing reaction to the appalling attack in Manchester.

See how this person using the name "Brexit May" uses the tragic circumstances to brand all Muslims "filth" and as an excuse to use an old (2016), traduced, and out-of-context quote in order to smear the Muslim mayor of London Sadiq Khan.

The full quote from Sadiq Khan is "Part and parcel of living in a great global city is you have to be prepared for these sorts of things, you have to be vigilant, you have to support the police doing an incredibly hard job, you have to support the security services" - which makes it very clear that he was saying that working to prevent terrorist attacks is of fundamental importance in big cities.

If believing that the role of the state is to prevent terrorists from harming civilians makes a person a "massive prick", then I'm a "massive prick" too, and I guess you probably must be one too aren't you?

Conclusion

I'm going to continue to write about politics today.

Not because I don't care about the victims, but because I don't want to let the terrorist(s) who did this win by stopping me from living my life as I would have done otherwise, which would have been writing about political issues and engaging in democracy.

A second reason for not self-imposing a moratorium on political commentary is that I don't want to leave the political floor wide open for the most depraved extreme-right opportunists to spew their hate, deceptions, bigotry and abuse into the void while the rest of us remain silent.

If the majority of decent people choose self-imposed political silence as some kind of misguided tribute, we're giving in to the terrorists and we're allowing the extreme-right the space to dominate the political debate and steer society towards the violent clash of civilisations they crave just as strongly as the Islamist fanatics do.


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