Saturday, 24 January 2015


We are publishing the following article taken from the Tameside Citizen blog, as it should be of interest to our readers:

"Carlton, Nottingham today. Hundreds of supporters of cancer sufferer Tom Crowford turned out today in a flash demo to block the path of bailiffs (spit) and turn them back, thereby preventing him from being evicted. (check here for more details.) Leaderless Resistance, the way forward!

Don't join joint committees involving the local Labour Party or Unions. They are a part of the problem. Liaison with state approved bodies in the fight against austerity is as logical as having a joint strike committee with the boss! Use social media to announce your flash demo but keep your identity secret. The police regularly wear helmets with face covering visors and hide their shoulder numbers so we should hide our names..."


The role of the European Committee of Social Rights (the Committee) is to rule on the conformity of the situation in States Parties with the 1961 European Social Charter (the 1961 Charter) and the 1988 Additional Protocol (the Additional Protocol). The Committee adopts conclusions through the framework of the reporting procedure and decisions under the collective complaints procedure. These conclusions were published in January 2015.

Information on the 1961 Charter, statements of interpretation, and general questions from the Committee, are reflected in the General Introduction to all Conclusions. The following chapter concerns the United Kingdom, which has ratified the 1961 Charter on 11 July 1962. The deadline for submitting the 33rd report was 31 October 2013 and the United Kingdom submitted it on 30 October 2013.

Conclusions United Kingdom Articles 2, 4, 5 and 6 of the 1961 Charter

The report concerns the following provisions of the thematic group "Labour rights":

-  The right to just conditions of work (Article 2)
-  The right to a fair remuneration (Article 4)
-  The right to organize (Article 5)
-  The right to bargain collectively (Article 6)
-  The right to information and consultation (Article 2 of the Additional Protocol)
-  The right to take part in the determination and improvement of the working conditions and working environment (Article 3 of the Additional Protocol)

The United Kingdom has accepted all Articles from this group except Articles 2§1, 4§3, 2 of the Additional Protocol and 3 of the Additional Protocol. The reference period was from 1 January 2009 to 31 December 2012.

The conclusions on United Kingdom concern 13 situations and are as follows:
-  10 conclusions of non-conformity: Articles 2§2, 2§4, 2§5, 4§1, 4§2, 4§4, 4§5, 5, 6§2 and 6§4.
-  3 conclusions of conformity: Articles 2§3, 6§1 and 6§3.

Article 6 - Paragraph 4 - Collective action
Conclusion: The Committee concludes that the situation in the United Kingdom is not in conformity with Article 6§4 of the 1961 Charter on the grounds that:

-  the possibilities for workers to defend their interests through lawful collective action are excessively limited;

-  the requirement to give notice to an employer of a ballot on industrial action is excessive;

-   the protection of workers against dismissal when taking industrial action is insufficient.

Article 5 - Right to organize
Conclusion: The Committee concludes that the situation in the United Kingdom is not in conformity with Article 5 of the 1961 Charter, on the ground that legislation which makes it unlawful for a trade union to indemnify an individual union member for a penalty imposed for an offence or contempt of court, and which severely restricts the grounds on which a trade union may lawfully discipline members, represent unjustified incursions into the autonomy of trade unions.

Article 6 - Paragraph 2 - Negotiation procedures
Conclusion: The Committee concludes that the situation in the United Kingdom is not in conformity with Article 6§2 of the 1961 Charter on the ground that workers and trade unions do not have the right to bring legal proceedings in the event that employers offer financial incentives to induce workers to exclude themselves from collective bargaining.

Article 4 - Paragraph 1 - Decent remuneration
Conclusion: The Committee concludes that the situation in the United Kingdom is not in conformity with Article 4§1 of the 1961 Charter on the ground that the minimum wage applicable to workers in the private sector does not secure a decent standard of living.

Article 4 - Paragraph 2 - Increased remuneration for overtime work
Conclusion: The Committee concludes that the situation in the United Kingdom is not in conformity with Article 4§2 of the Charter on the ground that workers do have no adequate legal guarantees to ensure them increased remuneration for overtime.

Article 2 -  Paragraph 2 - Public holidays with pay
Conclusion: The Committee concludes that the situation in the United Kingdom is not in conformity with Article 2§2 of the 1961 Charter on the ground that the right of all workers to public holidays with pay is not guaranteed.

Article 2 - Paragraph 4 - Elimination of risks in dangerous or unhealthy occupations
Conclusion: The Committee concludes that the situation in the United Kingdom is not in conformity with Article 2§4 of the 1961 Charter on the ground that it has not been established that workers exposed to occupational health risks, despite the existing risk elimination policy, are entitled to appropriate compensation measures.

Article 2 - Paragraph 5 - Weekly rest period
Conclusion: The Committee concludes that the situation in the United Kingdom is not in conformity with Article 2§5 of the 1961 Charter, on the ground that there are inadequate safeguards to prevent that workers may work for more than twelve consecutive days without a rest period.

Article 4 - Paragraph 4 - Reasonable notice of termination of employment
Conclusion: The Committee concludes that the situation in the United Kingdom is not in conformity with Article 4§4 of the 1961 Charter on the ground that notice periods are inadequate below three years of service.

Article 4 - Paragraph 5 - Limits to wage deductions
Conclusion: The Committee concludes that the situation in the United Kingdom is not in conformity with Article 4§5 of the 1961 Charter, on the grounds that: - it has not been established that the limits on deductions from wages equivalent to the National Minimum Wage are reasonable; the determination of deductions from wages higher than the National Minimum Wage is left at the disposal of the parties to the employment contract.

[Editors note: Submissions for these reports were submitted at the end of 2013; studied throughout 2014, conclusions drawn up and published this month January 2015.

Manchester demo against MAXIMUS and Work Capability Assessments!

We are publishing below a recent briefing received from Boycott Workfare:

"There will be a demonstration against Maximus and the Work Capability
Assessment on Monday 2nd March 2015 from 12pm at Albert Bridge House,
Bridge Street, Manchester, M60 9AT (meeting point St Mary's Parsonage
(the road/square off Bridge St on the Manchester side of Albert Bridge
House), Facebook event: )

This demonstration is part of the national day of action against
Maximus and the WCA called by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) on
Monday 2nd March 2015:

Maximus is the company taking over from Atos running the despised Work
Capability Assessments (WCAs) for sickness and disability benefits.
These crude and callous assessments have been used to strip benefits
from hundreds of thousands of sick and disabled people after a quick
computer based test ruled them 'fit for work'. A growing number of
suicides have been directly linked to this stressful regime, whilst
charities, medical staff and claimants themselves have warned of the
desperate consequences for those left with no money at all by the

In a huge embarrassment for the DWP, the previous contractor Atos were
chased out of the Work Capability Assessments after a sustained and
militant campaign carried out by disabled people, benefit claimants
and supporters. In a panicky effort to save these vicious assessments
Iain Duncan Smith hired US private healthcare company Maximus to take
over from Atos this coming April.

This is not the only lucrative contract the Tories have awarded this
company. Maximus are also involved in helping to privatise the NHS,
running the Fit for Work occupational health service designed to bully
and harass people on sick leave into going back to work. Maximus also
run the notorious Work Programme in some parts of the UK, meaning that
disabled people found fit for work by Maximus may then find themselves
sent on workfare by Maximus. There is no greater enemy to the lives of
sick and disabled people in the UK today than this multi-national
poverty profiteer who even are prepared to run welfare-to-work style
schemes for the brutal Saudi Arabian government.

Maximus have boasted they will not face protests due to their
involvement in the Work Capability Asessments and have even stooped as
low as hiring one prominent former disability campaigner on a huge
salary in an effort to quell protests against their activities. We
urgently need to show them how wrong they are and call for all
disabled people, benefit claimants and supporters to organise against
this vicious bunch of profiteering thugs.

Albert Bridge House is the assessment centre used in Manchester by
Atos to carry out Work Capability Asessments. The building is owned by
the DWP and it is likely that it will continue to be used for these
assessments with the premises and staff handed over from Atos to

Details of other national and local actions:

Links for more info about Maximus and the WCA:

Lords to sneak in the Snoopers' Charter

THE Counter Terrorism and Security Bill is being debated on Monday, but suddenly it turned into a totally different beast. Four peers have decided to insert the Snoopers Charter into the law, as 18 pages of amendments. The amendments are nearly identical in form to the draft Communications Data Bill, which was previously scrutinized by a parliamentary committee who concluded that it was inappropriate.

All the problems with the Snoopers' Charter - that its figures were fanciful and misleading, that it, pays insufficient attention to the duty to respect the right to privacy, are still there. Laying 18 pages of amendments before the Lords to insert the Snoopers' Charter into an already complicated Bill is an abuse of our democratic system.

The Lords cannot have time to properly consider the bill, and would deny the Commons the opportunity to consider the clauses as well. You can stop this happening! Please

1. Write to a Lord (they don't have constituencies, so you have to pick one at random)
2. Ask them to debate Snoopers Charter on Monday
3. Send them our briefing

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Murdering journalists … them and us

by William Blum

AFTER Paris, condemnation of religious fanaticism is at its height.  I’d guess that even many progressives fantasize about wringing the necks of jihadists, bashing into their heads some thoughts about the intellect, about satire, humor, freedom of speech.  We’re talking here, after all, about young men raised in France, not Saudi Arabia.
Where has all this Islamic fundamentalism come from in this modern age?  Most of it comes – trained, armed, financed, indoctrinated – from Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria.  During various periods from the 1970s to the present, these four countries had been the most secular, modern, educated, welfare states in the Middle East region.  And what had happened to these secular, modern, educated, welfare states?
In the 1980s, the United States overthrew the Afghan government that was progressive, with full rights for women, believe it or not  , leading to the creation of the Taliban and their taking power.
In the 2000s, the United States overthrew the Iraqi government, destroying not only the secular state, but the civilized state as well, leaving a failed state.
In 2011, the United States and its NATO military machine overthrew the secular Libyan government of Muammar Gaddafi, leaving behind a lawless state and unleashing many hundreds of jihadists and tons of weaponry across the Middle East.
Read the full article here -- expert analysis of the catastrophe the USA has brought to the Middle East:

Green Party & the Blacklist

ON Monday night, I was at a public meeting of the Oldham/ Rochdale Green Party entitled 'Is Britain Too Unequal' at The Lancashire Fold pub on Kirkway estate in Middleton, and it was very well attended given that it was a Monday & the weather was bad. I'm not a member of any Party, but because I don't think you can get much more 'unequal' than by being on the blacklist, I raised our campaign against the blacklist in the British building trade.

I think it was fairly well received although I do detect a 'generational gap' between the older-end who may remember trade unions as they used to be in the 1970s & 80s, and the younger ones who are fresh which ideas about the environment. This may not be a problem if they can find some way blending the two tendencies.

Yet, with Labour Councils like Manchester City Council and Tameside MBC under Kieron Quinn, freely handing out contracts to blacklisting companies like Carillion it would be good if we could get the Greens to take up a policy of 'Ethical Procurement' using the 'Islington Model' as suggested at Liverpool TUC last Thursday night, to try to turn it into an election issue.

That would, I think, help put some of these Labour Councils who are collaborating with blacklisting companies on the back-foot.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Liverpool TUC & the Blacklist

Unite's Gail Cartmail & the Northern Narative!

'Boys on the Blacklist' talk given by
Brian Bamford, Secretary of Tameside TUC,
to Liverpool TUC on the 19th, January 2015:
I first met the 'Boys on the Blacklist' in Manchester's Piccadilly Square one afternoon on a picket during the DAF DISPUTE in 2003.  

At that time I was on a mission to give them a cheque for all of £10 from Tameside TUC.
I didn't know then, what we all know now, that this would lead the most significant industrial struggles of this century so far.   

The battle against the blacklist in the BRITISH building trade began in there Manchester Piccadilly, in 2003.   There in 2003, in both Manchester Piccadilly and later on in the pickets in Crown Square near the Law courts was where it all began. 
None of us knew where all this would end up!

 Soon after these early pickets was when at the Manchester Employment Tribunal that Michael Fahey, a manager for the sub-contractor DAF Electricial Contractors PLC, famously declared:
 Bringing the natural response from the union barrister:

 'YES' ,  he says, 'We pay the union dues!'

 Thus  the boss of DAF Electrical Contractors PLC pays the union affiliations for his own workforce on site.
When Michael Fahey said:  'IT'S OUR UNION'   

 That was a signal, the vital signal that something is anmiss in the culture of labour relations on the British building sites.  

Sometime in 2004, on a picket in Crown Square, while standing with the electrician Sean Keaveney I took a photo of Dave Fahey, the senior boss or managing director of DAF. 
The photo I took of Mr. Fahey was later to appear in this small booklet entitled 'Locked-Out Manchester Electricians' published by Tameside TUC.  This pamphlet was financially backed by the Greater Manchester Fire Brigades Union; Tameside TUC; Manchester Social Forum; Oldham Trades Council; the North West TUC, the Greater Manchester County Associatioon of TUCs and the regional journal Northern Voices.

In this booklet over a decade ago we stated that: 
'it aims  to capture the essence of /// a small but important dispute:    The Manchester Lockout of the DAF electricians.'
and in our conclusion, at that time in 2004, we stated an analysis that was very different from that that we are proposing today in the 'Boys on the Blacklist'

'it aims to capture the essence of ///  a small but important dispute':  /// 

In the 'Locked-out Electricians' we simply concluded that the dispute was '...important because it reflects a decline in the standards of workmanship in Britain by bringing in semi-skilled workers to do skilled work [producing] a willingness to run risks with safety at work through cutting corners and casualisation.'
What has happened here is, that in just over a decade, a dispute that kicked-off with health and safety issues on the British building sites, and cheap labour on British building sites, has clearly moved on to something much more significant.

With this new book I think that we have now come to realise that we're up against something very much more radical; and fundemental than health and safety or cheap labour however important these issues are.  Now in this later book the 'Boys on the Blacklist' I think we now know that we're up against something more serious, and that in dealing with the affiliates of the Consulting Assocaition we have seen a culture, a spirit of capital, that both red raw in tooth and claw.

There are two areas of serious concern which are alluded to in both these books - the 'Manchester Locked-out Electricians' and the 'Boys on the Blacklist'.  Both deal with what are for all of us trade unionists two serious matters, but neither resolve the two problems:


This has been alleged many times by lads in the building trade & some names has been put forward.  The whistle-blower & Agency manager Jim Simms has argued that this was the case but when I met him while we were producing this book he didn't provide us with a smoking gun.

In our earlier book 'The Lock-out Electricians' an academic Dave White, then working at Leeds University wrote:
'In the Manchester DAF dispute, workers have evidence that Amicus officials sanctioned their sacking in order to preserve good relations with management.'

At the time of the Manchester Employment Tribunal hearing in 2003, I believe one Amicus official was named as being present at meetings that excluded certain electricians from the CROWN SQUARE site.


Over this there has been strong evidence and convincing claims from another whistle-blower called Alan Wainwright:  I think he told Gail Cartmail, Deputy General Secretary of UNite, that the company Carillion paid AMICU £100,000 a year in union dues. 

When, while researching this latest pamphlet we came to read GAIL CARTMAIL'S own report on blacklisting produced for UNITE in 2011; we found that she hadn't even interviewed  ALAN WAINWRIGHT//

We naturally asked her while producing this book  WHY SHE HADN'T BOTHERED to interview such an important witness:  We are still waiting for her answer.

ON THE 5th, November 2014, about 2 weeks after the 'BOYS ON THE BLACKLIST' went on sale.  GAIL CARTMAIL an e-mail to the Unite head of legal services, Howard Becket, and several of her senior colleagues.  This e-mail was leaked to us at tameside TUC and reads as follows: 







So there you go comrades!  & that you know that we're 'EVERYDAY SEXISTS!'

I'll bet somebody got his or her arse chewed when Gail found out that her e-mail had been leaked to us.

What's interesting here is that Gail Cartmail didn't really want to dig the dirt on AMICUS  and full-time officials who may have been involved in the blacklist.  She just wants to hand the problem over to a future Labour Government.  The last thing she wants to do is to say the Emperor has no clothes.  Of course, Gail talks of an 'independent public inquiry' into blacklisting but how can it be genuinely independent when the biggest donor to the Labour Party is Unite the Union

Charlie Hebdo & War for Civilisation

15 January 2015:

Charlie Hebdo And The War For Civilisation

IN 2003, a top security expert told filmmaker Michael Moore, 'there is no one in America other than President Bush who is in more danger than you'. (Michael Moore, 'Here Comes Trouble – Stories From My Life,' Allen Lane, 2011, p.4)
Moore was attacked with a knife, a blunt object and stalked by a man with a gun.  Scalding coffee was thrown at his face, punches were thrown in broad daylight.  The verbal abuse was ceaseless, including numerous death threats.  In his book, 'Here Comes Trouble', Moore writes:
'I could no longer go out in public without an incident happening.' (p.20)
A security company, which compiled a list of more than 440 credible threats against Moore, told him:
'We need to tell you that the police have in custody a man who was planning to blow up your house. You're in no danger now.' (p.23)
But why was Moore a target? Had he published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad?
The problem had begun in the first week of the 2003 Iraq war when Moore's film 'Bowling For Columbine' won the Oscar for best documentary. At the March 23 Academy Awards ceremony, Moore told a global audience:
'I've invited my fellow documentary nominees on the stage with us. They are here in solidarity with me because we like nonfiction. We like nonfiction, yet we live in fictitious times. We live in a time where we have fictitious election results that elect a fictitious president. We live in a time where we have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons. Whether it's the fiction of duct tape or the fiction of orange alerts: we are against this war, Mr. Bush. Shame on you, Mr. Bush. Shame on you! And anytime you've got the Pope and the Dixie Chicks against you, your time is up! Thank you very much.' (p.5-6)
About halfway through these remarks, Moore reports, 'all hell broke loose'. On arriving home from the ceremony, he found three truckloads of horse manure dumped waist-high in his driveway. That night, Moore witnessed for himself the extent to which US corporate journalism defends the right to offend:
' I flipped between the channels, I listened to one pundit after another question my sanity, criticise my speech, and say, over and over, in essence: "I don't know what got into him!" "He sure won't have an easy time in this town after that stunt!" "Who does he think will make another movie with him now?" "Talk about career suicide!" After an hour of this, I turned off the TV and went online – where there was more of the same, only worse – from all over America.' (pp.9-10)
This is the reality of respect for free speech in the United States. If, on Oscar night, he had held up a cartoon depicting President Bush naked on all fours, buttocks raised to a pornographic filmmaker, would Moore still be alive today?

War - Total, Merciless, Civilised

In stark contrast to the campaign of near-fatal media vilification of Moore, journalists have responded to the Charlie Hebdo atrocity in Paris by passionately defending the right to offend. Or so we are to believe. The Daily Telegraph's chief interviewer, Allison Pearson, wrote:
'Those that died yesterday did so on the frontline of a war of civilisations. I salute them, those Martyrs for Freedom of Speech.'
Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy agreed, describing the attacks as 'a war declared on civilisation'. Joan Smith wrote in the Guardian:
'I am feeling sick and shaky. I have been writing all day with tears running down my face. I don't suppose I'm alone in reacting like this to the massacre at Charlie Hebdo, which is an assault on journalists and free speech.'
New York Times columnist Roger Cohen tweeted:
'I am shaking with rage at the attack on Charlie Hebdo. It's an attack on the free world. The entire free world should respond, ruthlessly.'
The Western tendency to act with ruthless, overwhelming violence is, of course, a key reason why Islamic terrorists are targeting the West. Glenn Greenwald asked Cohen:
'At whom should this violence be directed beyond the specific perpetrators, and what form should it take?'
Sylvain Attal, editor of new media at TV station France24, replied:
'response must be both merciless and respectful of our legal system. Period'
End of discussion. American journalist and regular Fox News talk show host, Geraldo Rivera, raved:
'The French extremists say they are committed to Jihad and are willing to die for their cause. We should make their wish come true. No mercy'
The 'entire free world', then, should resort to ruthless, merciless violence to defend 'civilisation', a term some naïve souls have associated with compassion, restraint, and even the bizarre exhortation:
'Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.'
Cohen retweeted Anand Giridharadas, who writes for the New York Times:
'Not & never a war of civilizations or between them. But a war FOR civilization against groups on the other side of that line. #CharlieHebdo'
Thus, we live in a time when a 'war for civilisation' is seen as something more than a grotesque contradiction in terms.
Much, but thankfully not all, media coverage has been this extreme. To his credit, former Independent editor Simon Kelner managed a rather more nuanced view.

Journalism - Part Of 'The Murder Machine'

In The Times, the perennially apocalyptic David Aaronovitch wrote:
'Yesterday in Paris we in the west crossed a boundary that cannot be recrossed. For the first time since the defeat of fascism a group of citizens were massacred because of what they had drawn, said and published.'
The Guardian took a similar view:
'Wednesday's atrocity was the... bloodiest single assault on western journalism in living memory.'
But, in fact, the bloodiest attack on journalism in living memory, at least in Europe, happened on April 23, 1999 when Nato bombed the headquarters of Serbian state radio and television, killing 16 people. The dead included an editor, a programme director, a cameraman, a make-up artist, three security guards and other media support staff. Additional radio and electrical installations throughout the country were also attacked. The New York Times witnessed the carnage:
'The Spanish-style entrance was ripped away by the blasts, which seemed to hit the roof just under the large girder tower that holds numerous satellite dishes. Although the tower and blackened dishes remained, the control rooms and studios underneath had simply disappeared.'  (Steven Erlanger, 'Survivors of NATO Attack On Serb TV Headquarters: Luck, Pluck and Resolve,' The New York Times, April 24, 1999)
Presumably this had been some kind of terrible mistake by the civilised West crossing a boundary that could not be recrossed. No, Nato insisted that the TV station, a 'ministry of lies', was a legitimate target and the bombing 'must be seen as an intensification of our attacks'. A Pentagon spokesman added:
'Serb TV is as much a part of Milosevic's murder machine as his military is. The media is one of the pillars of Milosevic's power machine. It is right up there with security forces and the military.' (Erlanger, op.cit.)
Amnesty International responded:
'The bombing of the headquarters of Serbian state radio and television was a deliberate attack on a civilian object and as such constitutes a war crime.'
In all the corporate press discussion of the Paris killings, we have found no mention of Nato's bombing of Serbian TV and radio.
In August 2011, Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, condemned Nato's bombing of Libyan state broadcasting facilities on July 30, killing three media workers, with 21 people injured:
'I deplore the NATO strike on Al-Jamahiriya and its installations. Media outlets should not be targeted in military actions. U.N. Security Council Resolution 1738 (2006) condemns acts of violence against journalists and media personnel in conflict situations.'
Again, Nato confirmed that the bombing had been deliberate:
'Striking specifically these critical satellite dishes will reduce the regime's ability to oppress civilians while [preserving] television broadcast infrastructure that will be needed after the conflict.'
In November 2001, two American air-to-surface missiles hit al-Jazeera's satellite TV station in Kabul, Afghanistan, killing a reporter. Chief editor Ibrahim Hilal said al-Jazeera had communicated the location of its office in Kabul to the American authorities.
In April 2003, an al-Jazeera cameraman was killed when the station's Baghdad office was bombed during a US air raid. In 2005, the Guardian quoted the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ):
'"Reports that George Bush and Tony Blair discussed a plan to bomb al-Jazeera reinforce concerns that the US attack in Baghdad on April 8 [2003] was deliberate targeting of the media" said Aidan White, the general secretary of the IFJ.'
According to the Daily Mirror, Bush had told Blair of his plan:
'He made clear he wanted to bomb al-Jazeera in Qatar and elsewhere. Blair replied that would cause a big problem. There's no doubt what Bush wanted to do - and no doubt Blair didn't want him to do it.'
Similarly, during last summer's blitz of Gaza, Israel killed 17 journalists. An investigation led by Human Rights Watch concluded that Israeli attacks on journalists were one of many 'apparent violations' of international law. In a 2012 letter to The New York Times, Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich, head spokeswoman to foreign media for the Israel Defense Force, wrote:
'Such terrorists, who hold cameras and notebooks in their hands, are no different from their colleagues who fire rockets aimed at Israeli cities and cannot enjoy the rights and protection afforded to legitimate journalists.'

'Sorry For Any Offence'

Aaronovitch warned that 'appalling' as previous attacks on Western free speech had been, 'they were generally the work of disorganised loners', whereas the Paris attacks seemed to have been more organised. What then to say of lethal attacks on journalists conducted, not by a group of religious fanatics, but by democratically elected governments?
Given this context, corporate media commentary on the Charlie Hebdo massacre all but drowns in irony and hypocrisy. The Telegraph commented:
'But the march in Paris reminds us, at the very least, that the men of violence are not just a minority, but a fragment of a fragment. And it may be that it also acts as a turning point. The US is to hold a conference at the White House on countering violent extremism...'
In fact, as LSE student Daniel Wickham clarified, 'men of violence' were among the marchers. Certainly the White House is a good place for people to do some serious thinking about violent extremism and how to stop it.
A Guardian leader observed:
'When men and women have gone to their deaths for nothing more than what they have said, or drawn, there is only one side to be on.'
True, but if it is to be meaningful, support for the right to offend must not defer to a self-serving view of a world divided into 'good guys' and 'bad guys', 'us' and 'them'. Like the rest of the media, the Guardian protests passionately when 'bad guys' commit an atrocity against 'us', but emotive defences of free speech are in short supply when 'good guys' bomb Serb and Libyan TV, or threaten the life of progressive US filmmakers. Far fewer tears are shed for Serb, Libyan or Palestinian journalists in US-UK corporate media offices.
The Guardian added:
'Being shocking is going to involve offending someone. If there is a right to free speech, implicit within it there has to be a right to offend. Any society that's serious about liberty has to defend the free flow of ugly words, even ugly sentiments.'
The sentiment was quickly put to the test when BBC reporter Tim Willcox commented in a live TV interview:
'Many critics though of Israel's policy would suggest that the Palestinians suffer hugely at Jewish hands as well.'
This mild statement of obvious fact brought a predictable flood of calls for Willcox to resign. The journalist instantly backed down:
'Really sorry for any offence caused by a poorly phrased question in a live interview in Paris yesterday - it was entirely unintentional'
A BBC spokesman completed the humiliation:
'Tim Willcox has apologised for what he accepts was a poorly phrased question... He had no intention of causing offence.'
Glenn Greenwald describes the prevailing rule:
'As always: it's free speech if it involves ideas I like or attacks groups I dislike, but it's something different when I'm the one who is offended.'
Chris Hedges notes:
'In France a Holocaust denier, or someone who denies the Armenian genocide, can be imprisoned for a year and forced to pay a $60,000 fine. It is a criminal act in France to mock the Holocaust the way Charlie Hebdo mocked Islam.'
A point emphasised by the recent arrest of a French comedian on charges of 'defending terrorism'.
The irony of the BBC apology, given recent events, appears to have been invisible to most commentators.   Radical comedian Frankie Boyle is a welcome exception, having earlier commented:
'I'm reading a defence of free speech in a paper that tried to have me arrested and charged with obscenity for making a joke about the Queen'
The Guardian leader concluded:
'Poverty and discrimination at home may create fertile conditions for the spread of extremism, and western misadventures abroad can certainly inflame the risks.'
The term 'western misadventures' is a perfect example of how media like the Guardian work so hard to avoid offending elite interests with more accurate descriptions like 'Western atrocities' and 'Western genocidal crimes'.
A leader in The Times observed of the Charlie Hebdo killers:
'Their victims knew the risks they ran by defying the jihadist strategy of censorship through terror. They accepted those risks. They understood that freedom is not free, and so should we all.'  (Leader, 'Nous Sommes Tous Charlie,' The Times, January 8, 2015)
Fine words, but in 2013 Times owner Rupert Murdoch apologised for a powerful cartoon by Gerald Scarfe that had appeared in the newspaper. The cartoon depicted the brutal Israeli treatment of Palestinians but was not in any way anti-Semitic. Murdoch, however, tweeted:
'Gerald Scarfe has never reflected the opinions of the Sunday Times.  Nevertheless, we owe major apology for grotesque, offensive cartoon.'
In its response to the Paris killings, The Times perceived 'a vital duty for Muslim clerics who must embrace a new role actively deradicalising their followers. It also imposes an urgent responsibility on Muslim political leaders'.
Did the paper have any positive role models in mind?
'One controversial figure who appears to have understood this is Egypt's president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. In a remarkable speech to imams last week to mark the birthday of Muhammad, he called for a "religious revolution" to prevent the Islamic world being "lost by our own hands".'
The Times went on:
'Mr al-Sisi is not unique. Najib Razak, Malaysia's prime minister, has championed moderate political Islam at home and abroad.' (Leader, 'Freedom Must Prevail,' Times, January 9, 2015)
Thus, Sisi, leader of a military coup, someone who oversaw the massacre of 1,000 civilian protestors on a single day in August 2013, is hailed as a 'champion' of 'moderate political Islam'.
There is so much more that could be said about just how little passion the corporate media have for defending the right to offend. Anyone in doubt should try, as we have, to discuss their own record of failing to offend the powerful. To criticise 'mainstream' media from this perspective is to render oneself a despised unperson. In response to our polite, decidedly inoffensive challenges on Twitter we have been banned by champions of free speech like Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, Jon Snow of Channel 4 News, Jeremy Bowen of the BBC, Peter Beaumont of the Observer and Guardian, and many others.
Even rare dissident fig leaves on newspapers like the Guardian dismiss as asinine and, yes, offensive, the suggestion that they should risk offending their corporate employers and advertisers. Not only is no attempt made to defend such a right, the very idea is dismissed as nonsense unworthy even of discussion.
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Charlie Hebdo And The War For Civilisation
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