Can we talk about liberal bias…again?!

In a neat follow up to this, the latest example of Johann Hari being a ridiculously poor journalist has provoked a response so in keeping with what I wrote that I could have scripted it. Firstly, a condescending and smug response from Hari . Despite being caught red-handed, he still manages to adopt a tone akin to a teacher scolding some impudent pupils. This, of course, is just the latest of many examples of Hari’s piss poor ‘journalism’ and his complete inability to ever acknowledge when he’s wrong.

Then, the insults . Hari himself likes to dish them out as you can see in some of the above links. He called one (very polite) person who dared to quiz him on his sources “highly unintelligent” and “childlike” and told another they had “no grasp of reality”. Lefty chum Patrick Strudwick sometimes chips in, quite hilariously/pathetically labelling one critic ‘homophobic’ for daring to question Saint Johann. As I mentioned in my previous post, Hari has been the subject of columns in The Guardian excusing his behaviour because he’s a lefty. Now we have Patron Saint of the self-righteous ‘liberal’ mob, Sunny Hundal, calling me a ‘twat’ for pointing out what is patently obvious to everyone else – that so-called lefty ‘journalists’ would not be defending Hari if his views did not reinforce their own world view.

That is why he gets away with it and that is why he is able to be so irredeemably smug in dealing with criticism – he has an army of followers who salivate over his every word because it repeats their own prejudices back to them. These are not people with an interest in thinking about their views – they just want them parroted back to them in an indignant manner so that they can believe they are fighting the good fight. Simple concepts such as facts and ownership only get in the way! Meanwhile, they will keep wanking each other off over the ‘shoddy journalism’ of Daily Mail columnists.

Interesting postscript – one of the favourite bugbears of these types is the tendency of the right-wing newspapers to ‘bury’ their corrections and apologies. At the same time as Johann Hari uploaded his risible ‘explanation’ for nicking other people’s quotes and passing them off as an interview, he uploaded an old column from Attitude magazine, making sure that his ‘explanation’ is pushed halfway down the page and isn’t the first thing you see.

BUT HE’S A LEFTY!

Can we talk about liberal bias now?

The only criticism I have seen of Johann Hari’s recent silly (dangerously so) article about ‘Muslim homophobia’ has been in blogs:

http://www.islamophobia-watch.com/islamophobia-watch/2011/2/28/are-muslims-responsible-for-a-huge-rise-in-homophobic-attack.html

http://leninology.blogspot.com/2011/02/can-we-finally-talk-about-johann-haris.html

Guardian journo Gary Younge tweeted that he disagreed with it, but went out of his way to also tweet that Johann Hari was an “important voice & ought to be engaged, as some have, not demonised.”

Engaging proved difficult. Johann’s response to people tweeting criticism at him has either been to ignore it completely or to, in one case, label the person responsible as ‘extremely unintelligent’ and it seems he has blocked many of the critics (including at least one of the authors above).

Some of the attacks on Johann since his article have been quite hysterical. But most that I’ve seen have been reasoned and calm. It’s raised an interesting, but quietly disturbing question about ‘liberal writers’. Johann and many other ‘left’ journalists quite regularly write indignant columns about the ignorance and stupidity of people like Melanie Phillips and Richard Littlejohn. Whether this is helpful or productive is another question, but it’s not something that most people are going to be particularly bothered by because, on the whole, they do seem to be ignorant and stupid.

However, I have not seen a single one of these writers tackle Johann’s article. An article which has since been shown to be based on a completely incorrect assertion and which, as I argued here:

http://howupsetting.tumblr.com/post/3503560578/can-we-talk-about-muslim-homophobia-now (I wrote this before seeing the above blogs so obviously the crime figures bit is moot)

is factually selective, logically muddled and presents an at times almost incoherent argument. I have absolutely no doubt that if a right-wing columnist of a similar profile to Johann had written a factually inaccurate, inflammatory colum about Muslims that there would have been at least a couple of high-profile attacks on it. The absence of this suggests that it’s okay for a liberal writer to write provocative tosh about Muslims, because they’re on ‘our side’ and write good columns about causes close to our hearts such as UK Uncut.

We’re supposed to be better than the right-wing bastards. We’re supposed to have higher standards. Johann is a writer I have long followed and he has written some things that I have admired. His refusal to either acknowledge that his article contained inaccuracies and apologise, or to tackle the criticism head on and explain why he’s right, has greatly reduced my respect for him. People share these articles and people assume that what they’re reading is based on accurate information (the issue of people thinking about such articles critically is another one entirely). They calcify opinions and create false oppositions. They are, as I wrote earlier, deeply irresponsible.

This article infuriates me. It’s lazy, and that is the most inexcusable thing for such an inflammatory article to be. From it’s ‘Can we talk about immigration now?’ Daily Mail-esque headline (because, you know, I’m pretty sure people have been talking about ‘Muslim homophobia’ for quite some time now. With zero sense of irony, the poll Hari links to was TWO YEARS AGO!) to its selective use of facts, it’s shockingly irresponsible.

It is irresponsible in ignoring the fact that bodies such as the Muslim Council of Britain, the East London Mosque and the Association of British Muslims all condemned these stickers. Indeed, the latter organisation went even further and said “There is nothing in the Qur’an against LGBT people.  Allah has honoured every son/daughter of Adam, so such a hateful message is not only morally and ethically wrong but actually unislamic.”

It is irresponsible in failing to explain the quite striking statement that “East London has seen the highest increase in homophobic attacks anywhere in Britain.” A quick Google search reveals stark headlines about soaring homophobic crime every year dating back to at least 2005. Is it perhaps possible that the ‘increase’ is down to a) increased efforts by the police to engage with the LGBT community and, linked to this, b) increased reporting of offences? It also fails to question any link between the gay population of various parts of the UK and an ‘increase’ – if homophobic crime is increasing across the UK, it’s logical it would increase more in areas with a large gay population (such as East London) than in other areas, no? And rise it has – apparently homophobic crime doubled in Scotland LAST YEAR, as opposed to a 28% increase in London in the past 4 years. Would Hari attribute the rise in Scotland to Muslim homophobia also?

It is irresponsible in treating homophobic attacks as a ‘special’ kind of attack, as if they exist in a vacuum. We already know that single men are by far the most likely to be attacked. Has this risen in East London generally? Without this knowledge the article is immediately meaningless. I read of stabbings in East London on a daily basis, but because they are typically seen as gang-related they are seen as nothing to do with homophobic attacks. If an entire area is suffering from a large incidence of violent crime, why would gay people be excluded from this?

Related to this point, is Hari saying that Muslim people are just more likely to attack gay men? Or is it rather that people from a certain socio-economic background are more likely to do so? Are middle-class Muslims running around East London stabbing gay men? If it IS related to socio-economic status then that tells us something, no? Would Hari attribute the violent crimes committed by Christians, agnostics, atheists etc to their spiritual beliefs? If I was to go out and mug a gay man, would this be because I was baptised? This goes to the hoary (but worth repeating) point that NO-ONE ever referred to the IRA as a ‘Catholic Terrorist group’ whereas the immediate reaction to any ‘Muslim’ political organisation is to immediately highlight the religious aspect (and presumed cause).

It saddens me that gay people are so willing to applaud articles like this without applying any critical thought. I don’t mean to downplay the importance of tackling the problem of attacks on gay men. But we do not exist in a vacuum, and however much some people’s sense of identity may depend on it, we are not a horribly oppressed minority. In tackling violent crime we should join as a community – a community based on shared space, values and empathy, and not sexuality – and tackle all violent crime. Simplistic articles like this do nothing to help with this.

Can we talk about Muslim homophobia now?