Wednesday 7 January 2015

Keep calm and carry on

I'm not actually all that impressed at calls for British media to republish Charlie Hebdo images. In ordinary circumstances the media does have a moral duty not to self-censor, but these are not ordinary circumstances.

Any incident like this carries the risk of copycat attacks in the immediate aftermath now that such obscure publications are in the public eye, and in Britain, I'm betting the security service assessment is that any such copycat attack would be a "lone wolf" attack, probably directed at a smaller publication like the Jewish Chronicle, thus impossible to predict and difficult to protect against. 

It's one thing for an editor of a blog to indulge in moral posturing, another to be a managing editor putting the lives of your entire staff at risk. I think there's a reasonable argument for smaller publications to exercise editorial caution until the fuss has died down. I might be willing to die for a principle at the hands of terrorists, but not in some back alley at the hands of a whackjob. It serves no purpose.

In the war for free speech, like any other war, you have to pick your battles and you don't willfully expose your troops to avoidable ambushes. The way to win this war is not with tokenistic gestures, but through measured tolerance. The ultimate motive of Islamists is to sow division between the West and its Muslim population. Plastering the media with what are fairly tawdry and gratuitous cartoons feels un-British somehow. Keep calm and carry on is our national motto. Let's do that. Let's not indulge the attention seeking of losers.

It is meaningless for them to do it now. The media cowardice beforehand speaks to their character, and no amount of belated showmanship will show our media has any courage, nor respect for freedom of expression.

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