I tweeted Hilary Benn, following the Commons debate on Wednesday. The tweet read: Let’s plug your auld man’s corpse into the National Grid. It’s now spinning so fast we could power the nation. You in? @hilarybennmp
As most British people know, ‘spinning (or ‘burling’ in Scotland) in the grave’ is a widely-used and accepted saying; intended to indicate disapproval by a departed loved-one. I merely stretched the metaphor for greater impact. Well, it certainly had impact…
I was surprised to see the channelling of my inner Frankie Boyle reproduced in The Daily Mail, as part of an article concerned with ‘Corbyn’s anti-war bullies.’ The Daily Mail, it isn’t unfair to suggest, has a certain form of its own regarding bullying and intimidation. The rag was quickly followed by The Metro, Russia Today and then BBC’s Newsnight, for which I did a twenty-three minute interview (Newsnight didn’t use any of the footage on the program but, instead, posted forty-nine seconds of it on Twitter).
Many people found the tweet offensive; a roughly equal number did not. And that’s all we really need to say on the question. The most important aspect of the affair is its tiny and inconsequential place in the wider narrative of pro-war MPs being ‘bullied’ ‘abused’ and ‘threatened.’
At this point, given my status – along with millions of others who oppose the bombing of Syria – as a “terrorist sympathiser,” allow me clear up a few things before we attend to the substantive issue. Firstly, I oppose Daesh with no qualification, hesitation or mental reservation of any kind. I am not even opposed, in principle, to the use of force in dealing with it. I’d just like that force to be effective instead of it simply killing children, handing Daesh the propaganda coup for which it desperately yearns and ensuring yet more recruits and martyrs to its cause.
I also deplore threats of violence, including those directed towards MPs. I even condemn threats of violence toward those who see no hypocrisy in cheering and applauding, alongside their Tory colleagues (I use the word ‘colleagues’ deliberately), following a successful vote to kill people, while whinging that they are being ‘bullied.’
However, lobbying one’s MP is not ‘bullying.’ Sending angry Tweets to one’s MP, expressing disagreement with their stance, is not ‘intimidation.’ Neither is it ‘abuse’ to promise one’s MP that one will take all possible measures to ensure said MP’s de-selection As for holding a candlelight vigil outside an MP’s surgery, the suggestion that such an action is ‘offensive’ is derisory.
What all these things are, though, is applied democracy. It is demanding MPs be accountable for the actions they take, on behalf of those that they purport to represent. It is the public, and constituency party members, exercising their right to choose who they want to be their elected representatives.
Calling a Labour MP a ‘red Tory’ isn’t, in any playground I’ve ever spent time, ‘harassment.’ In fact, if one’s ideological world-view is so similar to that of the Conservatives (yes, I’m looking at you, Liz Kendall), then suggestions that such people simply complete their natural trajectory and join the Tories seems not unreasonable.
Interestingly, among those Labour MPs who were enthusiastically Je Suis-ing away, post-Charlie Hebdo, are some who seem to have rather forgotten their fierce commitment to free speech. It’s almost as if free speech is acceptable when it provides a cover for mocking and taunting Muslims, but unacceptable if one exercises it to ask MPs to stop killing them.
Regarding the sending of photographs of dead children to MPs, I wouldn’t do it myself; but not for any concern regarding the feelings of MPs who vote to bomb Syrians. After all, when a politician makes a decision that will result in the deaths of children, then he or she should, at the very least, have the spine, the integrity and the moral fibre to face, unflinchingly, the consequences of that decision.
If you vote to drop bombs on people then you have forfeited the right to be offended at angry people Tweeting or emailing you photographs of the victims. What’s your problem? No big deal killing kids, but your delicate sensibilities quiver in disgust and offence when you’re forced to confront the inevitable horror of your own actions? Stiffen your spine and own your choices. Take responsibility for what you do.
No, my reluctance to the sending of such photographs is that I could not be sure that this wouldn’t cause yet further pain and grief to the victims’ loved ones. These are the people who really are suffering from ‘bullying’ ‘abuse’ ‘intimidation’ and ‘harassment.’ Along with death, heartache and a fear we cannot even imagine. Not privileged and arrogant MPs whose sense of entitlement has now grown to such obscene proportions that they object to the little people daring to question them.
It’s all part of the anti-Corbyn media offensive, though, isn’t? To tie in the threats from a random collection of disturbed individuals to the legitimate and quite proper anger of voters and party members. As if there is a sinister plot afoot to do down these hapless and vulnerable right-wingers. There isn’t, of course. It’s ridiculous. In fact, many people feel a growing sense of frustration with Corbyn precisely because he doesn’t take disciplinary action against these people.
Today, on Radio Four’s lunchtime news, the report of a, presumably authentic, death threat received by expert self-publicist Simon Danczuk, was linked seamlessly with “… over a hundred complaints received by his office.” See? A death threat and legitimate “complaints” are to be conflated. All orchestrated by the controlling hand of Corbyn and his malevolent outriders, of course. Telling us the Andrex puppy was really a serial killer would be more plausible.
Those who know me offline will testify; I never say anything on social media that I haven’t already said in real life or wouldn’t be quite happy to say, given the opportunity (as my nose will testify. Trust me; you don’t get one like mine hiding behind a keyboard). I think that’s only right. It’s just one of the many values my mam and dad instilled in me; never say anything about anyone if you’re not prepared to say it to their face. With that in mind, I’d be delighted to discuss my Tweet in person with Bomber Benn.
Another parental lesson concerned personal responsibility. The idea that I should bear the weight, suffer the consequences, of any decisions I made. What a shame so many of today’s pro-bombing, privileged and pampered MPs didn’t have a similar upbringing.