Sunday, December 28, 2008

Why is it that liberals gravitate towards extremists?

English state-sponsored television has never been a particularly reliable source for accurate news, but Channel Four has until now done well to stay reasonably impartial and provide a relatively good resource for current affairs.

There was an uproar recently on the internet, particularly within the “blogosphere,” (referring to weblogs around the world,) when Jon Snow (an otherwise fairly decent reporter) referred to the perpetrators of the Mumbai terrorist attacks as “practitioners.” An excellent article on the Wall Street Journal website referring to the horrific media coverage of the attacks is available here, and I highly recommend that you read it.

The concept of political correctness, abhorrent to anyone with even a minimal cluster of functioning brain cells, seems to be reaching breathtaking new lows. “Terrorist” has been a naughty word for quite a few years, and the more sanitised “militant” has been employed in its place with minimum fuss by such enlightened organisations as the BBC and the Independent. But it would seem that this word too could end up getting blacklisted. (If we look at the Negro/Coloured/Black/African-American precedent, this could very well be true.) Like all PC words, as soon as the so called free-thinkers in our society realise that a word is being used for something that is either construed as bad or something that really is bad, the word itself must be blacklisted and supplanted with a more sterile alternative. Now if that is the case, “militants,” what with its shocking etymological link to words such as Militia and Military, will soon come to the end of its lifetime and be deemed too reminiscent of aggression and bloodshed than is acceptable, and hence a new, meeker word will be introduced. If Jon Snow is anything to go by, “practitioner” would be a good bet.

Now the last time I checked, the only kind of practitioner I ever met was a General Practitioner, a GP, otherwise known as a Doctor. If these terrorists are to be dubbed “practitioners,” what is it that they practise exactly? Tolerance and love? For crying out loud, world, wake up!

Apart from that unfortunate episode, Channel Four has a solid reputation as their reporting of the news is actually normally fairly factual and well balanced. But then some fool decided to approve what must frankly be ranked as one of the most idiotic decisions in British television history. First, a bit of context is needed. The Queen of England has traditionally given a speech of seasonal goodwill every Christmas day every year of her reign. The tradition began in 1932 with a radio broadcast by King George V, and Queen Elizabeth II has continued the tradition, delivering the speech almost each Christmas ever since, with the 1969 being the sole exception. The messages of the past few years have increasingly made reference to themes of cultural and religious diversity and the benefits of tolerance.

Quoting Wikipedia, “Since 1993, Channel 4 has broadcast an "Alternative Christmas message" featuring a contemporary, often controversial celebrity, delivering a message in the manner of Her Majesty.” Past speakers have included parents of a murdered schoolboy and a mother of a child infected with CJD and a British soldier injured in action in Afghanistan, amongst others. I take no issue with soldiers, mothers, schoolchildren or even comedians issuing a message to Britain, even if it turns out to be a heavily politicised and biased one, but this year Channel Four decided that the platform ought to be given to the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Before I continue, I must make it absolutely clear that I believe in a free media, in the basic right to freedom of expression, and what I am about to state absolutely does not that belief.

It is my belief that it was foolish, dangerous and wrong to invite a crazed maniac such as Ahmadinejad to speak on a level parallel to Royalty. His words are twisted and we should not give him so much as a second to spout his drivel on national television. I understand the broadcasters’ need to win their ratings and the viewing wars against other channels, but there are limits of taste and decency that simply must come first. I shouldn’t be surprised after seeing countless re-runs of unfunny American sitcoms and endless reality TV, but if television ever had a soul, it would seem that it sold it a long time ago.

Britain’s core values are based on tolerance and liberality. Freedom of expression is taken for granted in the Western World and people of all religions and sexual orientation are free to live their lives as they wish, with minimal intervention by the government. We can now juxtapose Ahmadinejad’s Iran with this free society. Iran has seen countless alleged homosexuals killed over the last year, men and women slaughtered in the streets in the name of Allah and in the name of family honour. To give this man airtime on a day that celebrates the birth of Jesus, on a day that Christians mark what should be goodwill to all men and their pinnacle of the season of peace is frankly repulsive.

The decision drew a fluury of criticism, and even the government condemned the choice to allow Ahmadinejad to speak as likely to cause "international offence." As Human Rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said, Ahmadinejad is a "criminal despot, who ranks with Robert Mugabe, Omar al-Bashir of Sudan and the Burmese military junta as one of the world's most bloody tyrants". Henry Grunwald QC of the Board of Deputies of British Jews commented that "The appearance on our television screens of a man whose prejudices are so well-documented and who has openly called for the eradication of another member country of the United Nations is an affront to decency... To invite him to deliver a Christmas message, even a so-called alternative one, fills me with disgust."

The decision to allow such a man to address a nation as supposedly liberal and tolerant as Britain is utterly lamentable. In the U.S., the fault line between acceptable “alternative world views” and perspectives so vile as to be unfit for public consumption is a preacher who’s done good work for AIDS victims but is tepidly opposed to gay marriage. In Britain, it’s this turd — and as it turns out, he’s on the right side of the line. This is the same cretin who humiliated British sailors on worldwide television; who provoked an international standoff over a nuclear program that will end up starting an arms race in the Middle East; and who’s been sending weapons into Iraq for years to do to British soldiers there what was done in Afghanistan to last year’s “alternative message” presenter. It’s because of all that, not in spite of it, that he’s being handed this platform — on Christmas Day, as a de facto rebuttal to the Queen, to invite his audience in a thinly veiled way to convert. Imagine the contempt you’d have to have for your country to give him the opportunity.

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