Friday, 15 October 2021

The Use and Abuse of David Amess

Irrespective of politics, the murder of David Amess calls for unreserved condemnation. Like what happened to Jo Cox, violent attacks on MPs as representatives of the meagre and faltering democracy we have in this country demands nothing less. It should then be a moment for pause and reflection about how we conduct our politics, especially while we don't know anything about the suspect's motives. Pondering the security of parliamentarians, yes. Paying tribute to Amess's life and work, yes. Offering thoughts about taking the sting out of politics and how we might realise the earnest promises made five years ago, yes. What this isn't a moment for is exploiting Amess's death and his family's pain for petty politics. And yet.

In the hours since lunch time, there have been three such attempts. The first are your common or garden racists. Upon news that the suspect is apparently Somalian, it doesn't take much for these to connect the murder with Islamism and from their trying to stir up a confected panic against Somalis everywhere, and by extension anyone with brown skin. No opportunity can be passed up to stir the cauldron of race hate.

Then we have the straightforward point scoring. As the motive behind Jo Cox's murder was quickly established and shown to be directly an act of far right terrorism against the backdrop of overheated anti-immigration and anti-liberal rhetoric from the Leave camp, a relationship was obvious. Thomas Mair was enabled and encouraged by the hothouse climate fanned by sundry politicians and press barons. Looking at Twitter shortly afterwards today, trending topics around Amess's murder were absolute cesspits of dishonesty and bad faith. There were rightwingers absolutely desperately trying to draw a chain of causation between what had happened, and Angela Rayner's off script comments at a Labour conference meeting where she branded the Tories scum. Naturally, drawing in all the bile Darren Grimes said "this is exactly why it’s completely unacceptable to describe your political opposition as ‘scum’?" This is the same Grimes who, a couple of years ago, went around saying it was perfectly acceptable to thump MPs who were opposed to Brexit. Just imagine. Crapping all over a politician who'd loyally served the Tory cause in the Commons for 38 years for the sake of right wing identity performance. What a grotesque bunch.

Coming in last is someone ostensibly from our own side. Chris Bryant's tribute to Amess is good, but to use the occasion to peddle his own hobby horse of ending social media anonymity? Such bad taste. Given we don't know whether social media or, for that matter, politics played a role in today's events, this is at best jumping the gun. At worst, opportunistically jumping on an issue to strike while the iron is hot, as it were. Never mind that the majority of social media abuse comes from accounts that are readily identifiable and, in most cases, use their own names it's an utter waste of time anyway. Something Bryant already knows, but he dishonestly carries on, recruiting the memory of a MP who can no longer speak for himself. What a shoddy, shameful effort.

The truth is if politics is at root of David Amess's murder, politicians and their press allies would do well to look at their own rhetoric. When she's not demonising refugees, Priti Patel is talking about pushing them back into the sea and exempting border patrols from prosecution for the subsequent drownings. The Tories dog whistle scrounger sentiments with their Universal Credit cut, the press egg on drivers to run over Insulate Britain protesters, and Boris Johnson himself built his victorious 2019 campaign off the back of labelling his opponents traitors and unpatriotic. All this is done in the service of a polarisation of politics they're happy to feed for as long as they benefit from it. This is the root of the political pathologies we see, and the Tories cheerfully apply more gas to the pressure cooker. For as long as these stark inequalities and antagonisms continue, we'll see more hateful rhetoric and, in all likelihood, a small number of people responding to it.

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1 comment:

BCFG said...

“it doesn't take much for these to connect the murder with Islamism”

And here is me thinking you were going to say mass plunder and the destruction of fishing villages by imperialist vultures! But you just couldn’t let the opportunity pass could you!

Like the Sarah Everard case, this event is extremely terrible and extraordinarily rare, yet there will be those using this as an excuse to hand more power to the authoritarian state.

For example, let me quote the utterly hideous Laura Kuenssberg on the death of David Amess,

“Blah Blah Blah online, blah blah, online, blah blah blah blah online, blah, online, blah blah, Jeremy corbyn suppprters, blah blah online blah blah”

In other words, following the sad and shocking death of this MP can you please do something about all the ‘abuse’ I get on twitter, and can we please stop piracy against multi nationals, as I believe the young man was radicalised while by watching a pirated version of Jumanji (the police didn’t mention which version).