Monday, 19 January 2015

Je Suis Charlie - Except In Scotland

You know, 2015 has started in utterly rubbish fashion.  Political parties gearing up for the oncoming UK General Election and utterly failing to understand the trouble ordinary people are in.

Then there’s the attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

David Brown from The Independent's take on the Charlie Hebdo attack.
As an outsider, it does look like Charlie Hebdo does sail very close to the bone with its subject matter.  Looking at the covers, they are more strident and forthright than their nearest British equivalent Private Eye.  For all that the cover in the aftermath of the death of the Princess of Wales and the New York terrorist attacks were controversial, Charlie Hebdo is consistently controversial.  There’s the one with Francois Holland being led by his penis and there’s one that is about as close to the bone as possible about Michael Jackson… quite literally.  Then there’s the one’s that show the Islamic prophet Mohammed.

If I’m honest, the thought that people are offended at an image just seems so absurd…  so quaint...  so old fashioned.  Add to that the thought that the message that, arguably, Charlie Hebdo’s most controversial cover is obscured by that, misplaced, offence.  That cover shows the prophet being killed by someone who resembles an IS/ISIS/ISL thug.  The message that these Neanderthals wouldn’t know the true meaning of Islam being obscured by the use of the prophet is such a block on the true interpretation of these cartoons.  To quote another Charlie Hebdo cartoon “It’s hard to be liked by jerks…”.  Jerks who happen to behave more like bullyboy gangsters than religious figureheads mind, but still jerks.

It’s not just France that are having issues regarding the attacks.  Here in the UK, our media shamefully decided to not give any context to the story by pointedly not showing any of the cartoons, at least until they were pressed.  The BBC’s Newsnight showed the front page of “the survivors” issue, whilst someone tried to show it on Qatar Airlines sponsored Sky News.  Up here, the talk has been more on the offence caused by Charlie Hebdo more than anything else.  Last Wednesday’s Scotland 2015 was something of a low when it’s edition was a po faced discussion on…  well why do these people do it?

It’s not just the motives behind poking fun at Islamic fundamentalism that Scotland has failed the Je Suis Charlie test.  Supporters of both the SNP and Labour have continued to bitch, argue, fight and be nasty towards each other.  Two incidents come to mind.  Firstly, you may remember the case of the four Renfrewshire councillors suspended for protesting against the weak “Smith Report” – Indeed Smith himself dealt with the situation with more humor than any of the Labour representatives on the media.  In the past couple of weeks it came out that the punishment given to the “Renfrewshire Four” did not cover running for the SNP after 2016.  Cue hoardes of Labour empty vessels with their pitchforks out raged at this…  well to be honest I’m not sure why they are outraged.

The second incident involved a group called “Comedians for Independence” who, with a shocking lack of self awareness, called for the sacking of the journalist Paul Hutcheon for writing something critical of the SNP.  Words just fail…

For all of the so called similarities between Scotland and France, there are also lots of differences – France’s secular outlook is not a majority viewpoint here in Scotland.  It’s why I’ve felt that we (in Scotland) have never really understood why Je Suis Charlie resonates.  To me it’s about freedom of speech, freedom to make arguments and to make the case for things that may sound unsayable. 

It’s about being grown up and accepting ideas contrary to your own and responding to those views and ideas in a grown up fashion.  It is not about regurgitating decades discredited views, mistaking diplomacy with appeasement, surrendering to intimidation and abuse or giving into frustration and the temptation to abuse.  Those are the values that should be defended and adopted as we go into a General Election campaign hard on the tails of a bruising Referendum campaign.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

First Footing 2015, With The Best of 2014

First of all, can I wish you a Happy New Year?

Last year saw 36 posts.  A wee bit light given the year Scotland has gone through.  I’d have liked to have posted more but time constraints and all that.  It won’t surprise you to know that the referendum dominated the most read posts list, so without further ado (insert own preferred countdown music, be it Pick of The Pops, Phil Lynott or Paul Hardcastle…)

At 10, it’s the post about the first referendum debate between the Chairman of Better Together, Alistair Darling and the First Minister Alex Salmond.  A Wasted Opportunity was not the last post about currency, but Darling’s brutal slaughter of Salmond’s currency position told us what some people knew already – Sterlingzone wasn’t going to win the referendum.  As a contrast, the post at number 9 asks, in the week of Salmond’s resignation as First Minister, Just WhatHas Alex Salmond Ever Done For Us?

The second Darling/Salmond debate is partly the subject of the eighth best read post of the year.  A Tale of Two Debates compares & contrasts that debate with the Paisley hustings which featured Jim Sheridan MP, George Adam MSP, Fiona McDonald (from the PCS Union) and Tommy Morrison (from Clydebank Trades Union Council).  Both debates took place on the same night in August.  At 7 was my take on the whole Wiiings/Lally/Rowling/Cybernats thing. Cyber-twats probably tells you everything about what I think about every hardcore pro-Indy supporters favorite blogger with alarmingly UKIP acceptable views and a line in appropriating Laibach’s imagery.  Just outside the top 5 and at 6 is a post about that debate.  No not that one, the one between Sturgeon and Lamont.  So How Did Lamont Lose That Debate reports on Johann Lamont’s successful attempt to take Nicola Sturgeon to extra time and then penalties in their Scotland Tonight debate.

So, top 5, and at 5 is “The Lie of The Land – What Now For The 45?” which looks at the evolving post referendum landscape and the SNP’s task in making inroads to Labour’s 41 seats it will be defending in May.  Essentially, it will be hard.  The fourth best read blog of 2014 was the post sifting through the wreckage and foot in mouth moments of Johann Lamont’s leadership – The Political Suicide ofJohann Lamont. Ah, the wee things.

We are now into the top three, and the third best read blog of 2014 keeps that Labour theme going.  The Slow Slow Death of ScottishLabour pinpointed the issues Scottish Labour had accrued during the referendum campaign, and highlighted the reasons why voters might be thinking of not voting Labour in the onrushing General Election.  Being held off the number one slot is the second Sterlingzone post of the year – confusingly titled Sterlingzone – Part 57.  This one was in the aftermath of Osborne’s speech ruling out a currency union – closely backed up by the 99p shop Dennis Healy and the ginger haired one off the Muppets.  Punningly, Iain MacWhirter dubbed this event “The Sermon on The Pound” as he identified that Osborne’s behavior could backfire on the pro-Union parties.  Political mastermind my bahochie.

Which leaves us with the most read post in 2014.  At number one is “The UKIP effect” – a post looking at the rightwards drift of the Westminster parties as they are (without justification) looking to stem the light trickle of voters defecting to UKIP.  A rather prescient post that explains the (suggested according to polling) decline in support for Scottish Labour to the SNP, given it was written in February.

So that’s that for 2014.  A year like no other the blurb went, all rather obvious given that 2014 will only happen once.  Proper blogging will resume shortly…