The Canary is excited to share the latest edition of our letters page. This is where we publish people’s responses to the news, politics, or anything else they want to get off their chest. We’ve now opened the letters page up so anyone can submit a contribution. As always, if you’d like to subscribe to the Canary – starting from just £1 a month – to support truly radical and independent media, then you can do that here:
This week’s letters
This week we have people’s thoughts on Canary articles on Australian SAS war crimes and cops detaining journalist Kit Klarenberg, musings on what the hell is going on with Jamie Driscoll, an open letter from someone affected by the Telegraph‘s attack on benefit claimants, and a short essay of the idea of ‘freedom of speech’.
Canary article on Australian SAS war crimes: par for the course?
Sadly I doubt that the story of the Australian SAS soldier killing Afghan prisoners is unusual.
In 1968 I was working with a chap who had done his national service in the army in Egypt in the 1950s. One day he told me how they had been riding on the back of a lorry and the sergeant had picked up a length of wood and said “You could knock someone’s head off as we go past”. The soldiers goaded him on – “you wouldn’t dare” – that sort of thing.
The next Egyptian they raced past, he reached out and whacked him as hard as he could. “Must have killed him outright” I was told. I was horrified. “But that’s murder” I said. “Oh no“ he replied, “It’s different out there”.
Apologists will say this was an isolated incident but I don’t think so. In 2006 there was a programme about the Suez invasion in 1956. It contained an interview with the Colonel commanding the Parachute regiment there. “Of course all the prisoners were treated according to the Geneva Convention” he assured us. The next interview was with a private in the Paras. Asked about prisoners he replied “Well I was in the Paras. You don’t take prisoners in the Paras”. He left no doubt as to what happened to any Egyptian that tried to surrender to him or his comrades.
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The sad truth is that soldiers are trained to kill and that is what they do. Rarely are they punished for ignoring the Geneva convention.
Barry Cash, via email
The Telegraph: fomenting hatred against chronically ill, disabled, and non-working people?
I would like to draw your attention to the Telegraph, which recently went on the attack against unemployed people. I shared a complaint I made to them/shared some articles that were supportive, here.
I wanted to let people get the sense of the difficulties people such as me face in society, and I am fed up with right-wing organisations constantly shaming us. It is really damaging. The more that is done to make that behaviour unacceptable the better. I feel as if people want to always demonise disabled/unemployed people, and I think that it should be placed on the same level as a hate crime. I get treated as if I’m a criminal for being unemployed/having social anxiety, and yet I’ve never been in trouble with the law. People need support and encouragement, but all we get is contempt.
I know that the Canary made an article about the Daily Mail discriminating against the unemployed earlier this year, and the Telegraph have done it recently. Enough is enough! Public perception needs to be more compassionate and understanding in my opinion. I think the Canary would be supportive too, which is why I have contacted you (which isn’t easy, due to my anxiety). I’ve contacted a few people/places, and I hope that life could become a little bit less stressful for people who suffer.
But I worry that speaking out could have the opposite effect though.
Anthony, via email
ED: Thanks so much for being brave enough to write in, Anthony. There are several of us at the Canary with lived experience of chronic illness, disability, psychological distress, and the benefits system. One of our foremost missions over the years has been to highlight the state-sanctioned abuse of people in your position – and our journalists will continue to do so.
Readers respond to Canary article on counter terror cops detaining journalist Kit Klarenberg
You did a recent piece on the detention of journalist Kit Klarenberg, who writes for the Grayzone.
But I was yet again dismayed at your stance regarding the Grayzone, where you said “whatever you think” of the Grayzone (regarding their journalism). Why do you follow the line of the other outlets regarding the Grayzone in presuming that they’re some kind of conspiracy theory tribe? Would you say “whatever you think of the Telegraph or whatever you think of Julian Assange, or whatever you think of the FT”? The Grayzone are spot on in all they do. So is Jimmy Dore. Take a look at their history and the stories they uncover, and you’ll see that they’re on the right side of history. As is Kit Klarenberg. And Declassified UK. And MediaLens.
In saying “whatever you think of the Grayzone” you’re saying that you yourselves are not on board with their brilliance and that actually, you yourselves don’t know history. Aaron Mate uncovered the deception of the chemical weapon attack in Douma and testified at the UN with evidence of an OPCW coverup. Have you done such as this?
Please rethink on how you report your fellow journalists who are on the right side of history.
Ady Cheale, via email
ED: In the context of this article, Ady, we thought it important to present an argument that showed solidarity between journalists regardless of political affiliation as we think it makes for a more compelling argument. You say that “Would you say ‘whatever you think of the Telegraph…'” in the context, we presume, of one of their journalists being detained. Yes, we would say this if what happened to Klarenberg happened to a Telegraph journalist – because solidarity against authoritarian states should be for all journalists, not just the ones whose politics we happen to agree with.
That said, it’s no accident that journalists of colour, journalists from the Global South, and indigenous journalists are met with censure, repression, and death when defending their own communities – yet the fate of these same journalists is ignored by many types of media outlets who only seem to meaningfully rally round victims of suppression who are like them (white, privileged, and so on).
Barring Jamie Driscoll
The justification for barring Jamie Driscoll from Tyneside’s mayoral election is so bananas that it would only evoke hysterical laughter if it wasn’t so disturbing. He shared a platform with Ken Loach who has made numerous films on Tyneside, the area of which Driscoll is presently a highly successful and admired mayor.
Simultaneously with this Loach received a 15-minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival. The Labour Party has not stated clearly what is so heinous about sharing a discussion about British film with the UK’s foremost film director. They have lost all sense of proportion. They owe all fair-minded electors a full, smear-free explanation.
Alan Marsden, via email
ED: We wholeheartedly agree, Alan.
Can we complain about freedom of speech?
Of course we can. But as usual, we often only complain because we didn’t think things through properly in the first place.
Let’s think of the meaning of the words as well as the limits of the concept, right from the start.
Just like “free movement” doesn’t mean that I can move into your spare bedroom tonight, so ’’free speech” doesn’t mean that I can shout lies and obscenities to anyone at will. I guess most of you will agree to that, especially if it is your spare bedroom we are talking about.
The posh word for this is that this right to free speech is “qualified”: Helena Kennedy pointed out (which I hadn’t realised) that the only item In the Human Rights Act not being qualified was freedom from torture. A 100% no-no, that one. As for definitions, Liberty says this: “Freedom of speech is essentially our right to communicate about political issues”. Hmmm, I have seen better definitions.
Amnesty International says: “Freedom of speech is the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, by any means”. Well, eh, yes, but…“by any means”? Really? “Ahem… would you mind if I smack your head while I talk to you?”
The principle of all this is roughly based on our definition of democracy: if we define the duties of an honest, open, workable democracy, freedom of speech will be clarified. But without further thought we have long self-named ourselves an example of an early democracy, ever since the Magna Carta in 1215, which allowed no women till 1928. Democracy by whose definition?
In reality we need to look at two principles: the difference between equality and egality and the difference between outputs and outcomes.
If I feed 200 hungry asylum seekers pork sausages, and half of them are Muslims, half the group will be left hungry: treating everyone the same, the equality of my deed has not led to an egality outcome. A fine of £100 each for a landlord and his servant who have committed the same offence may be equal before the law but does not lead to an egality outcome in practice. Again, the output was the same, the outcome was not.
A true democracy guarantees that every output of the governing body is designed and examined to lead to an egality outcome, not a theoretical, deceiving equality. Properly done, this will automatically lead to thoughtful defining and handling of freedom of speech.
And yes, I can hear you say ”easier said than done”, and I agree whole-heartedly. But hey, who said we wouldn’t have to all work together to get there?
Jenny Backwell, via email
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