We don’t just report off-beat news, breaking news and digest the best and worst of the news media analysis and commentary. We give an original take on what happened and why. We add lols, satire, news photos and original content.
Donald Trump’s presidency is causing one Guardian writer to come over all anti-democratic.
I turned off the radio after Obama said, in his final speech: “In 10 days, the world will witness a hallmark of our democracy, the peaceful transfer of power from one freely elected president to the next.” I yearned for a leader who would say something like: “Hey, there was foreign intervention in this election, along with voter disenfranchisement, so maybe it wasn’t free and fair.”
You might recall when Barack Obama popped over to the UK to tell Britishers how voting for Brexit would relegate the country to the “back of the queue”? As Henry Kissinger put it: “Obama seems to think of himself not as part of a political process, but as sui generis, a unique phenomenon with a unique capacity.”
The Guardian writer adds:
We didn’t need to know the minutiae of the Russian intervention; we already knew that it raised questions so grave that the whole transfer of power should have been halted while it was investigated.
So is democracy not free and fair when it delivers the result you don’t want?
Only one tabloid leads with Donald Trump’ inauguration. The Mirror introduces the 45th President of the United States. “Now the world holds its breath,” it adds. Over pages 4 and 5 readers are told “IT COULD ALL GO VERY BADLY WRONG.” The paper produces a listicle: “20 reasons why Trump’s reign could be a disaster for USA & World.”
Across the page, we see a picture of the Obamas sharing a hug as they gaze out from the White House. The message is clear: the good times are over. The good people are gone.
But let’s look at that list.
2. The rich will get richer.
What of Obama’s record, under whom African-Americans’ economic fortunes declined?
4. Deport illegal immigrants.
Under Obama, the US facilitated around 2.5million deportations. A record.
This is not to undermine Obama’s achievements and record. As the New York Times reports, Obama pulled “the nation back from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression”. This is to highlight monocular reporting of a man whose wife billed him as “a leader who’s going to touch our souls”.
Lest any reader not have got the Mirror’s point, its editorial thunders, “Reasons to be fearful.” Brian Reade delivers Trump’ speech as he imagines it. People are “subjects of the Trump organisation”. But didn’t we all buy into Obama’s world, the man whose identity was key to his success? When Trayvon Martin was killed by a white Hispanic vigilante in 2012, Trump opined: “If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon.”
So how do you follow that? What is Obama’s legacy? Is it Donald Trump? “There is not a liberal America and a conservative America: there’s the United States of America,” said Obama in 2004. Now what do you see in a country where ‘white man’ has become an insult more than an observation?
Once all eyes were on Obama the man not the party activist, a politico branded ‘The One’, by Oprah Winfrey; now they are on Trump and his identity.
Plus ca change.
Thank f*** for that, then. After much pontificating, Theresa May told everyone she’s sided with the British unwashed and decided to go for Brexit.
There has been much talk of hard Brexit and soft Brexit. Hard Brexit meant Brexit. You said your goodbyes and left. Soft Brexit meant no kind of Brexit it all. You said goodbye and left behind your coat with your phone and keys in the pocket in the hope you’d get a call and another lunch date.
The Pet Shop Boys put it well in their hit West End Girls:
Too many shadows, whispering voices
faces on posters, too many choices
If? When? Why? What?
How much have you got?
Have you got it? Do you get it?
If so, how often?
Which do you choose
a hard or soft option?
(How much do you need?)
So a mere seven months after the British public delivered a clear result in a large popular vote, the Prime Minister vowed to represent the people’s will.
“Brexit: UK to leave single market, says Theresa May,” reports the BBC. The UK “cannot possibly” remain within the European single market, as staying in it would mean “not leaving the EU at all”.
Hurrah! She gets it. She doesn’t want it. But she gets it. And she shot from the hip.
Britain wants to remain a good friend and neighbour to Europe. Yet I know there are some voices calling for a punitive deal that punishes Britain and discourages other countries from taking the same path.
That would be an act of calamitous self-harm for the countries of Europe. And it would not be the act of a friend.
Britain would not – indeed we could not – accept such an approach. And while I am confident that this scenario need never arise – while I am sure a positive agreement can be reached – I am equally clear that no deal for Britain is better than a bad deal for Britain.
All strong and decisive stuff. It echoes the strong and decisive vote. But not everyone is pleased.
LibDem leader Tim Farron says May’s moves represent a “theft of democracy”. He says “business is united” that it wants to be in the single market. All of it, including the business people who voted to leave the EU? Farron says May’s “stitch up” has “ignored the will of the people”. In other words, you 17.4m who voted to leave didn’t really understand what you were voting for. Only the MPs can know what is right for you. What a low view he has of Leave voters, and what an elevated view of his own role.
Farron’s view is odd but no uncommon. Jeremy Corbyn’s view is irrelevant. What is Labour’s plan for Brexit? We don’t know. But when he’s got one, he’ll share it with us. On the morning before May’s speech – one which had been trailed for days – the Guardian wrote:
Corbyn told the MPs the party would have a clear message in response to the prime minister’s speech, saying Labour would fight any attempt to make the UK “a bargain basement economy off the coast of Europe”.
The only worthwhile opposition of May comes from within her own party.
Dan Roberts has news for Guardian readers who hope Brexit will be scuffed and denied.
The first clue to the prime minister’s ongoing need for more cordial relations with Europe in private is her announcement of a second vote in parliament at the end of the process.
The MPs will have a say on the process. But that’s surely a sop to the Remainers who want the courts to block Brexit and stymie the people’s will.
Roberts turns to the money markets:
The pound rose on news of this commitment, after several days in which sterling was perhaps falsely depressed by talk of May promising “clean Brexit”.
Really? The pound rose on news that MPs might scupper Brexit?
Asking MPs to sign off on the terms of the exit deal is a sign not only that the government still hopes there will be a deal to vote on, but that it may yet be rejected by parliament, leading instead to the messiest of departures.
The FT has more:
The promised [parliamentary] vote “appeared to offer some degree of assurance that the deal would have a broad appeal”, says Jane Foley, foreign exchange strategist at Rabobank. “That said, it also provides another element of confusion should the deal not be passed by parliament.”
Will it be messy? No, says the Economist:
So Britain’s economy is in for a rough ride and, though the government will try to smooth it out, the priority is getting the country out of the EU in the most complete and rapid way possible. If the price of this priority is economic pain, then pay Britain must. All of which gives firms some of the certainty they have craved since June 23rd: those fundamentally reliant on continental supply chains or the EU “passport” for financial services, say, now have the green light to plan their total or partial relocation. It also means the Brexit talks will be simpler and perhaps even less fractious than they might have been had Britain tried to “have its cake and eat it”. The country will eat its cake and live with an empty plate afterwards. Brexit really does mean Brexit.
We and the markets like the definite.
Donald Trump’s affinity with the Scottish people of his mother’s ancestry knows no bounds. Some Scots have been succinct to the point of monosyllabic in giving full throat to their opinions of the US President. Scottish newspaper The Herald is pretty verbose, likening reality TV creation Trump’s inauguration to an episode of The Twilight Zone.
As ever, the best thing on British telly is a US import.
Are old white, male dons unable to teach young black students? Students at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) created a report to answer the question they pose. Called Degrees of Racism, the student union demands that “all academics must be prepared to acknowledge that they are capable of racism”.
Well, we all have our prejudices, even SOAS students and people on the Student Unions’ executive.
One student is quoted:
“Both of my tutors are white men. How can I have a rapport and feel comfortable talking to a 60-year-old white man? Our experiences of life are so different and you’re coming from completely different places.”
Wouldn’t it be good idea to learn how to relate to the old white boy, of which there are so many?
The report begins from making an argument that identity is of paramount importance in education. It paints all BAME students as victims.
The BME Attainment Gap project was conducted as studies show that there has been a gap between the degree attainment of white and BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) undergraduates at SOAS, with a greater proportion of white students attaining either a 2:1 or first class degree.
Might this be down to family money, class, society and more?
These gaps cannot be attributed to differences between students at entry at SOAS, thus suggesting factors within SOAS contributing to this finding.
So it must be racism, then. Is it “unconscious” racism, or unwitting racism, if you will, because racism didn’t prevent BAME students gaining a place at the college? We also don’t know why the BAMe students who made it to SOAS survived being taught by white teachers, who make up the bulk of education professionals.
A worrying number of students reported having experienced explicitly racist comments and behaviours in class, both from other students and from teachers.
That’s from the champions of reason and learning at SOAS student union, the same group that wants to boycott Israel and Israeli academics. Maybe if there were more Israeli academics in visible places at SOAS, the non-Israeli students would relate and understand the situation better? Because it’s all about identity, isn’t it.
Nutella gives you cancer. Maybe. Maybe not. The Daily Mail is taking no chances, warning its readers that the sugary spread offers eaters potentially lethal side effects. Well, one of its ingredients might be cancerous. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) says palm oil, which makes the spread smooth, is “more carcinogenic than any other oil”.
Ferrero, which makes the goo, should know that last year the Mail reported on another of its products. “Kinder chocolate found to contain possible cancer-causing oil,” thundered the headline.
Germany’s Foodwatch found the Kinder Reigel contained mineral oil aromatic hydrocarbons (MOAH), which the European Food Safety Agency has said ‘may be carcinogenic’.
Or to put it another way: MOAH may not be carcinogenic.
Kinder also make Ferrero Rocher chocs. Those over-sweet balls contain palm oil. Did the Mail fail to spot the alleged danger when it reported on Nigel Farage’s party:
We know Farage and the Mail want a hard Brexit, but surely neither don’t want the EU offed in such a brutal manner?
You can get a free copy of the Sun newspaper at Odeon cinemas and London’s Queen Mary University (QM). The Odeon gives the red-top away because it believes newspapers are another form of entertainment. “Please take your free Sun,” invites the message by the pile of papers stacked in the Odeon chain’s foyets.
At QM students are giving the Sun away in defiance of a ban voted in by the Student Union.
The Union also banned The Daily Express and Daily Mail from all shops on campus. The Union said the newspapers contravene the union’s values of “diversity and inclusivity”.
So free speech activists got hold of 250 copies of the Sun (did they get them for free at the cinemas?) and handed them out. One free speech extremist (they are the best sort), Emily Dinsmore, says,”Some students showed resistance to our stunt, reflecting a sneering, hostile attitude towards the tabloid press. ‘Racist scumbags’, one right-on, plummy-voiced undergraduate hissed as we approached with the papers. ‘Waste of time’, a haughty student-council representative huffed on Twitter.”
Also quoting what’s said on Twitter, the Huffington Post hears the free speech rabble rousers called a “total pack of bellends” one of the women a “daft slag”.
A spokesperson for the Sun is pretty chuffed that at a time of falling newspaper sales the Sun remains relevant, telling us: “These young students deserve enormous credit for defying their peers and standing up for free speech and the ability to take an informed decision about what one reads, rather than have it dictated from above.”
The Tab says the bansturbators are in the minority: “Most of the students, even those who hold the tabloids in contempt, agreed that the ban on tabloids was ‘authoritarian’, and a hindrance to freedom of speech.”
A spokesman for the NUS London branch-explains their thinking: ‘Freedom of Speech comes with responsibility. When that “free speech” turns into hate speech we have a responsibility to protect our members.’
Hates speech is free speech, of course. The right to offend is what makes it free.
The Tab notes that the student unions’ prudishness does not extend to all: “What’s irrefutably odd about the boycott is that the Students’ Union has been a staunch advocate of giving a platform to holocaust deniers, advocates for killing homosexuals, advocates for the Islamic State, and radical fundamentalist speakers.”
As the East London Advertiser told readers in a 2015 story on QM: ‘The university has been singled out as among the “worst offenders” for hosting events involving extremist speakers at its campus in Mile End Road.’
Is QM Student Union part of a Labour Party recruitment drive?
Writing in the Guardian, Sam Segman tells us that free speech is not free unless it has limits. If you want to stop reading, I can’t blame you. Free speech is so simple a thing it needs no caveats. You get it. You can go. For the rest of you still here, this is Segman:
Free speech has limits. You aren’t allowed to shout “fire” in a crowded theatre because someone’s probably going to get hurt.
You are allowed, or at least you should be. (Factoid: five minutes into Riverdance, it’s compulsory and pardonable to trigger a dash for the exit. See Sorene v In-laws 1998.) How others react to your words is where laws and consequences arise. The word itself should not be unsayable.
But Segman is just echoing a million others who have used the same example of that ‘FIRE! in the theatre to support free speech’s limits. David Miliband banned Dutch politician Geert Wilders from entering the UK in 2009. Miliband told us why: ‘We have a profound commitment to freedom of speech, but there is no freedom to cry “fire” in a crowded theatre and there is no freedom to stir up hate, religious and racial hatred.’
Free speech is only free and worth championing when the speaker is someone with whom you agree, says Miliband. Our default position should be to err on the side of censorship. How very totalitarian.
As Gabe Rottman writes, the crowded theatre line is “worse than useless in defining the boundaries of constitutional speech. When used metaphorically, it can be deployed against any unpopular speech.”
Tim Black told us how the phrase became so commonplace. Taking on the role of Oliver Wendell Holmes, he writes of the man who 1919, in Schenck v United States, opined: ‘The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic.’
Holmes was appealing a US Supreme Court ruling that convicted an anti-conscription activist under the wartime Espionage Act. (“The Court was deciding whether Charles Schenck, the Secretary of the Socialist Party of America, could be convicted under the Espionage Act for writing and distributing a pamphlet that expressed his opposition to the draft during World War I.)
In another case, Holmes offered: “The ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas – that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out.” He wanted more speech not less.
But it’s his line about the hot theatre that’s endured. The fuller quote runs thus:
‘[The] question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent… We admit that in many places and in ordinary times the defendants in saying all that was said in the circular would have been within their constitutional rights. But the character of every act depends upon the circumstances in which it is done. The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic.’
Black rolls back the eyes and channels Holmes:
“I never said that shouting fire was the problem, or better still, falsely shouting fire. No, what made ‘falsely shouting fire’ a free-speech act too far was the context, the time and place: namely, ‘the theatre’. Or, if you need me to spell it out, ‘the theatre of war’.”
The quote is about limits in extraordinary times. And so to Segman, who adds:
Your right to say what you like is trumped by your responsibility to stop me being trampled to death by a stampede of panicked theatre-goers. Death threats; rape threats; bomb threats; online abuse that drives someone to suicide – these are all things that free speech doesn’t cover – and which aren’t appropriate to defend in its name.
No. They are all examples of free speech. It is either free or it is not. They are things that we must be free to say even if they earn the punishment of other laws.
“Hate speech is not compatible with reasoned debate,” says Segman. But it is. What isn’t, is censorship.
What do we make of the news that ‘A British man who fell pregnant after he used Facebook to find a sperm donor has said he will be the “greatest dad”.’ That’s the start of the Indy‘s article on Hayden Cross, 20, a woman who, having been told by the NHS that she wouldn’t be able to freeze her eggs for use at a later date due to her hormonal gender transitioning, found a sperm donor on the web and got pregnant.
The Indy says, “He is now four months pregnant and may be the first British man ever to give birth.” Be he isn’t. Because, well, he’s not a he. He is not pregnant. She is. We can agree on that, surely? No. The Sun says, “He is legally male.”
The Indy is at pains to tell readers that Hayden Cross is a man. “Mr Cross said his first attempt using donor sperm had been successful and he would continue his transition process to remove his breasts and ovaries as soon as he has given birth,” says the paper.
Every paper agrees that Hayden is a pregnant man.
PREGNANT DAD-TO-BE Who is Hayden Cross? UK’s first pregnant man undergoing gender realignment treatment – Sun
FIRST PREGNANT MAN! British man four months pregnant after receiving sperm donation – Express
Proudly showing off his baby bump: Former Asda worker is the first British MAN to become PREGNANT after finding a sperm donor on Facebook – Mail
Hayden (born Paige) tells the Sun: “In September I got pregnant by a sperm donation. I found the donor on the internet… The man came to my house, he passed me the sperm in a pot and I did it via a syringe. I felt I’d no choice, I couldn’t afford a proper clinic. I don’t know who the bloke was. To be honest I can’t remember anything about him. He wouldn’t even tell me his name. He said he was just doing it to help people.”
Can Hayden be certain the sperm was the man’s and not harvested from another source? If you got a pot of jism from a stranger would you be not a little circumspect?
“It was the first attempt and it worked,” adds Hayden. “I was really lucky.”
It is an unusual story. But is there really no newspaper editor looking on thinking it’s not the story of a pregnant man?
Dave Duncan, from Otley, wanted to help the family of Lukasz Urban, the Polish trucker murdered by Islamist Anis Amri and his ISIS cohorts. Amri used Mr Urban’s truck to murder 12 people and ruin the lives of many more at a Berlin Christmas market. Dave Duncan, himself a trucker, set about raising nearly £200,000 for Urban’s relatives.
“It could have been any one of us there that day,” says Mr Duncan, who having presented Mr Urban’s family with the money was invited by them to attend the driver’s funeral in Banie, close to the Polish border with Germany.
“The Polish truckers’ own tributes are what being a truck driver is all about,” he adds.” “We have to watch out for one another, as in most cases nobody else does.”
“We’ve got to be as clear-headed about human beings as possible, because we are still each other’s only hope,” said the author James Baldwin. Dave Duncan’s clarity of thought is manifest in his intensely human act of kindness.
Poland’s ambassador to the UK, Arkady Rzegocki is touched by Duncan’s humanity. He will thank him at an official ceremony. “His compassion moved many both in the UK and back in Poland,” he told the BBC. “It is an inspiring example of British-Polish solidarity which never fails in times of crisis.”
Great story, isn’t it. A British man shows the Poles that he and the donors to his cause also understand the meaning of solidarity. Are we divided? No. ISIS can’t win. We win.
“Practice kindness all day to everybody and you will realize you’re already in heaven now,” wrote Jack Kerouac in 1957.
Naomi Shihab Nye put it well in her poem ‘KINDNESS’:
Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.
Nice one, Dave.
The Daily Mail loves to give the BBC a bashing. Today it bring news that “The BBC has spent more than £100,000 in three years on alcohol”. Lest any readers think the Beeb was buying ethanol to swap down ex DJs’ chairs, the Mail tells us that booze is “spirits, beer and cider and sparkling wine”.
A Freedom of Information act request revealed a total spend of £115,049 in 2013, 2014, and 2015 on wine, beer, cider and spirits.
The BBC employs around 21,000 staff. The bar bill also includes guests, all those celebs and politicos who need greasing up before making noises to deadline. There were 170-odd different panelists on Question Time alone.
A BBC spokesman tells the paper:
“The BBC has clear policies that drinks may only purchased where there is an appropriate business purpose such as production hospitality for guests and costs have come down by 40 per cent compared to this time last year.”
It is an odd state of affairs when a newspaper criticises another media outfit for having too large a drinks bill. What is newsworthy is how remarkably small that bill is, not quite a low as the slate at the Mosul Courier but most certainly not a large stinger.
When did British journalists become such prudes?
In 2015, the late Christopher Hitchens recalled an early brush with a hack in the 1960s. He spotted “a man of impossibly fly-blown and lugubrious appearance; his skin sallow and wrinkled, an unfiltered cigarette in his mouth; his eyes like piss-holes in the snow. Only one detail was required to complete the scene, and at first my disordered senses almost refused to register it. Stuck in the corner of his windscreen was a faint and tattered card that read ‘PRESS’. It was yellow all right. It might as well have been stuck in the band of his hat.”
Meanwhile, in 2016 we’d like to see the Beeb’s bill for smart juices and goji berries. ‘Health before sport’, as they say in the bidding chambers.
What do we think about the right to carry arms? Amanda Erikson tells us:
Czech government tells its citizens how to fight terrorists: Shoot them yourselves
The Daily Express thinks it is. “Czech citizens may soon be able to legally shoot terrorists,” it says. The story is illustrated with a series of images entitled “Horrifying acts of terrorism we will never forget.” The paper also repeats the words of President Milos Zeman. He ‘already told the Czech population to buy weapons in preparation for a “super Holocaust” perpetrated by Muslim terrorists”.
The Czech Republic is home to 300,000 people with gun licenses. We don’t know how many of them are Muslim. But it can’t be many. There are about 11,000 Muslims in the country.
Obtaining a weapon is relatively easy: Residents must be 21, pass a gun knowledge check and have no criminal record. By law, Czechs can use their weapons to protect their property or when in danger, although they need to prove they faced a real threat.
The move to arm the populace is being promoted by Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec. He says:
“The terrorist attacks we have seen in Western Europe and elsewhere have increased security concerns among the public. More Czechs are getting firearms licenses and I think that if the situation does not improve in the coming months, then the number of firearms holders will grow.”
As the WaPo notes, the push if for citizens to use guns against terrorists if police are delayed or unable to reach the scene.
But the EU is not in favour:
People across the EU will now have to go through medical checks before getting a license to buy firearms. Online sales will also be limited.
Jean-Claude Juncker, the head of the European Commission, called the agreement a “milestone in gun control in the EU. We have fought hard for an ambitious deal that reduces the risk of shootings in schools, summer camps or terrorist attacks with legally held firearms,” he said.
Europe is experiencing a mass wave of immigration of a type seen in the USA . Should Europe too have a Second Amendment to maintain order – “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”?
Or is this all about the right to bear arms if you’re not a Muslim or a refugee?
Local News Watch: Adam Hart spots two paragraphs in the Western Gazette which, as he says, show us “journalism at its very best”.
The story is about a car parking matters. Two cars have been spotted parked close together in Frome, Somerset. The local news hound places the happening in context: “They’re not the first two vehicles to have been pictured inches from one another in the town. A yellow Citroen parked inches away from a blue Volkswagen at Sainsbury’s a few months ago.”
This story might be missing the still bigger scoop: who is going around Frome taking pictures of cars almost touching and are they on a police register?
Spotter: Adam Hart
Yassar Yaqub, 28, is dead. Police shot him through the windscreen of his car as he drove along a slip road by the M62 in Huddersfield. Armed police were responding to a tip-off that a “criminal was in possession of a firearm”. The Mail says a firearm was found in his car. The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) says what appeared to be a “non-police issue firearm” was discovered in the vehicle in which Mr Yaqub was travelling.
The Mail shows a picture of Yaqub posing with a vulgar yellow Lambourghini, a car it values at £400,000 – “three times the price of his £136,000 Huddersfield home.” Yaqub was in a white Audi when he was shot dead. Is the Italian supercar car his? The Star is unsure, but values the Lamboughini Aventador at £260,000. The Sun says he “cruised the streets in a £260,000 gold Lambourghini”.
The Mirror says Yaqub was ‘a major drug baron, according to a man targeted by the “heroin and crack dealer”’. We also learn that on an online dating site he went by the name “Stud Badboy”. It’s from that profile the photo of the car comes.
The father-of-two’s account stated that he had no children and included topless selfies and a photo of himself in front of a bright yellow Lamborghini sports car worth more than £250,000.
As men looking for love and casual sex off the clock head down to the car dealership for a picture with the kind of motor an adolescent Saudi princeling thinks a tad gauche, the Mirror captions a picture of Yaqub in a vest: “The 28-year-old appeared to have a taste for the finer things in life.”
So much for the world of a twenty-something living in Huddersfield. But what of his death? What happened?
Officers were investigating a tip-off relating to the criminal possession of a firearm when they boxed in Yaqub’s car at Junction 24 of the M62 in Huddersfield. What happened next during the ‘pre-planned’ police operation remains unclear.
Many people would like to know what happened. Yassar Yaqub’s parents Mohammed and Sofia “clutched balloons and sobbed last night as they joined more than 100 mourners on the M62 sliproad where he died during Monday’s rush hour,” writes the Mail.
We hear from the distraught father:
“If it were a fight you could understand it but [it was] just bang, finished – that’s what’s killing me. Looking at the photographs, someone just running up and shooting at him in the dark. How can you justify it? It is just impossible. He was driving down, he was cornered. Bearing in mind it was dark, how could you have seen what he was doing? It is not right that the police weren’t wearing body cameras. Of course I want answers for what has happened. I will go privately if I have to. In the end I need to find out. My lad didn’t deserve this – I thought this is something that happens in America but not here.”
The Telegraph surveys the crowd:
Many wore jumpers bearing the messages: “No chance to surrender, No warning shots, Unlawful killing #justiceforyassar” and “No justice, No humanity, No peace #justiceforyassar”. Others wore T-shirts with a photo of Mr Yaqub printed on it.
A handwritten banner, which was taped to the signpost along with flowers and one of the jumpers, read: “Stop police assassinations.”
The Times sees more protest:
Yaqub’s family and campaign groups have criticised the force. Some protesters likened his death to that of Mark Duggan, 29, whose shooting by police in 2011 led to rioting across England. About 100 demonstrators, some in masks, took to the streets of Bradford on Tuesday night.
Why no body cameras on police? Andy Battle, an assistant chief constable of West Yorkshire police, says:
“Uniformed officers in three of the five districts of West Yorkshire are now equipped with body-worn video cameras, as a force-wide roll-out of the devices continues. Firearms officers do not currently use them, however. We are seeking a separate solution to meet the specific and specialised requirements of their role.”
The Sun says the “GUN COP” was “DOING HIS JOB”. Met Police Federation Chairman Ken Marsh says the copper was ding “an honest day’s work”.
The Sun has more on the police action:
West Yorkshire Police penned him into the sliproad of the M62 at Junction 24 as he was driving in a fleet of luxury cars at around 6pm on Monday January 1.
Can one man drive a fleet of cars?
[He was] cleared of attempted murder in relation to an alleged drive-by shooting in 2009, when he was just 21. He was also reportedly shot in a “turf war” just meters behind his home in Huddersfield, West Yorks., in June 2015, which is now covered with up to 10 CCTV cameras.
Former associate Chris Bean, 26, told The Sun he was a “heroin and crack dealer” and was lucky not to be killed in the incident.
Mr Bean said Yassar would buy luxury cars with his drug money after raking in profits by using drones to send Class A drugs into HMP Armley in Leeds, West Yorks. He also claimed Yassar fired a gun at him in the street.
“He managed to afford his Lambo [Lamborghini] by laundering money – he was such a flashy g*t,” said Mr Bean. “Yassar used to buy high powered sports cars and sell them on for profit – all funded by drug money. He had it [West Yorkshire] all locked down and would fly drugs into HMP Leeds at Armley with drones and make 10 times what he was making on the outside.
“Everyone knows stuff about Yassar – but are just too damn scared to say anything bad because they still live there.”
Over on the BBC, we hear more from Yaqub’s father:
“He hasn’t got a bad past, because he’s never been convicted of anything. He’s never had a charge of him at all. We had a car business, by the way, so all sorts of cars come and go.”
Such are the facts.
The latest person to be publicly shamed by what they said on Twitter is Hitchin Town footballer Alfie Barker, 19, who thought it a good idea to abuse Bournemouth midfielder Harry Arter in odious fashion. Tweeted Barker: “Big hype just for a disappointment like the nine months leading up to your child’s birth.”
After last night’s Bournemouth v Arsenal fixture in the Premier League ended 3-3 – the Cherries had led 3-0 – Barker added: “At least you didn’t lose your kid.”
Bournemouth midfielder Harry Arter’s baby daughter died in 2015.
That the tweet was designed to wound is clear. Arter has been candid about the “devastation” he felt at the loss of his child. “To be honest, at times I felt a bit envious when I’d see the lads with their families,” said Arter, “a lot of them had babies around that period, which was just a coincidence. It was strange – if I heard them talking about things to do with their children, for example, someone saying, ‘I haven’t had any sleep tonight, it’s doing my head in,’ I would think: ‘I’d do anything to have a restless night.’
When questioned over his tweet, Barker did the cowardly thing and “initially claimed his account had been hacked,” says the BBC. But it was him. And now he’s an ex-player with Hitchin FC. The club has issued a statement saying: “In the light of the player’s irresponsible and anti-social behaviour, we are terminating Alfie Barker’s registration and relationship with the club with immediate effect.”
And Codicote FC, where Barker is on loan, adds: “We have no choice but to terminate our relationship with him.”
That Alfie Baker is a prat is beyond question. But does he deserve to be sacked? Does his punishment equal the gravity of the offence? Barker did apologise. What now for him? Ugly tweets designed to cause offence – could they be termed ‘sick jokes’? – have defined him at just 19.
“The truth is, rarely can a response make something better,” writes Dr. Brené Brown in The Gifts of Imperfection, “we what makes something better is connection.”
Will any club now dare connect with Barker?
Deep on page 9 of the Daily Mirror is the story of four Chelsea fans found guilty of racist violence and given suspended prisoner sentences by a French judge. The four white men were accused of pushing a back man off a Metro train in Paris ahead of Chelsea’s Champions’ League match with PSG. “We’re racist, we’re racist and that’s the way we like it,” belched fans as the video rolled.
A nasty little event was then amplified beyond all proportion. The Sun led with the news:
Readers were ordered to “FIND PIGS OF PARIS”. The Sun said “an international hunt” was under way for the bellends who also chanted the refrain “Where were you in World War 2?”. It was the type of cross-border hunt usually reserved for jihadis and master criminals. It was that serious.
The then Prime Minister, David Cameron, lifted his blinkers away from Syria and the EU Referendum to tell us that the matter was “extremely worrying”. “These are very, very serious matters.” Nick Clegg said, without irony given his career: “‘I was so ashamed.”
The United Nations – no, I’m not making this up – thought it wise to comment. “It is important to build on the outrage created by this snapshot of the ugly face of racism, to re-energize the effort to combat it in all its forms wherever it occurs,” said a spokesman. It was, he said, “cruel”. The United Nations is hot on cruelty, human rights and racism, after all just look at the members who sit on its panel: Bangladesh (“Security forces continue enforced disappearances, killings, and arbitrary arrests with impunity”), China (“Uighur Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists and Falun Gong practitioners have faced particularly severe repression in recent years, including forced conversion, torture and imprisonment”), Qatar (“Discrimination against women remains entrenched in both law and practice) and Saudi Arabia (“Members of other faiths can worship privately, but non-Muslim houses of worship may not be built”).
Across the global feelings were hurt by oafs on a Paris tube train. Idiots had been caught behaving sadly. But the elite in Westminster and what used to be Fleet Street wanted more. They held the video up as being a sign of much greater ills. And once again football – the great meritocratic melting pot watched by slum people – was in the dock.
There are no black faces on the Government’s front benches; no black editors of national newspapers; no black faces on the Metropolitan police leadership team; but get a load of those berks on the Paris Metro. There’s your racism. Happily for the elite who use football as a extension of Moral Health UK, the Chelsea fans were wearing club colours.
The elite like their racists white, preferably working class and always obvious.
The Daily Mail (number of black faces on board: nil), knows racism when it sees it. It delivered the time-honoured “LEAGUE OF SHAME”, a list of football fans arrested for “racist and abusive chanting”. The Daily Star (which once supported the EDL) said the “Hate thugs face 3 years’ jail”. “There is a greater shame here because we foolishly, naively, believed the issue of racism among our football supporters was a thing of the past,” wrote Neil Ashton in the Daily Mail. The Guardian’s Barney Ronay opined in the paper’s 40-odd articles on the incident: “For decades this kind of thing has happened, continues to happen, and most troubling, appears to be happening a little more now.”
One by one these wrong ‘uns were lined up to be shot at. Josh Parsons came to epitomise racism. The Sun led with a picture of Parsons. The Times showed us photo of his home in Dorking. He was an ex-public schoolboy. He was a “City high-flyer”. He had studied at “30,000-a-year” Millfield school. He worked for the Business and Commercial Club in Mayfair. And in case you still couldn’t find him, the Sun said his office was on Mayfair, Central London.
Grab your torches! Saddle up! Let’s roll!
And as you journeyed to the lynching, know this – Star told readers: “Meanwhile, season ticket holder Josh Parsons, 21, one of those filmed, is a UKIP supporter who enjoyed a pint with Nigel Farage”.
Damned in print and monstered by the highest offices in global diplomacy, the men who abused Souleymane Sylla, 34, are now buried deep in the papers. Parsons, billed as a”trainee scaffolder”, Jamie Fairbairn, a civil engineer, Richard Barklie and William Simpson are no longer the apogee of all wrongs. They were ordered to pay about £9,000 to My Sylla.” That’s a pretty steep fine for being a prat, and far less than the lengthy custodial terms some were hoping for.
You might supposed the story is front-page news elsewhere. But you’d be wrong. It does not appear in the Star. It’s on page 8 of the Mail (“Chelsea yobs told to pay £9k for racist Paris attack”). The Sun shows the story on page 8. In its version Barklie is not 50 years old, as the Mirror says he is, but 52 and an “ex-cop”. We also get more details of the punishment:
Barklie: Tried in his absence, the County Antrim man got a suspended year long jail term. He denied racist violence.
Simpson: Tried in his absence, he got a suspended year long jail term.
Parsons: He went to court and got an eight months suspended sentence.
Fairbairn: He went to court and got a six months suspended sentence.
The Guardian has more. We get to know what happened to Parsons, public enemy Number 1:
Parsons told the court the Métro was packed and the atmosphere was “hot and hostile”. He said Sylla was “bigger than me” and when the commuter tried to get on the carriage “I pushed back”. He said the pushing was not related to the colour of Sylla’s skin. “The only time I knew the skin colour was when I saw the video afterwards,” he said.
Questioned by the state prosecutor, Parsons said that after he pushed Sylla the first time, he chanted “Chelsea, Chelsea, Chelsea,” and after he pushed him a second time, he chanted “Fuck the IRA”. He said the chant “We’re racist, we’re racist and that’s the way we like it” was shouted in another carriage; he did not sing it and he “did not like that chant”.
Parsons said: “I’m very sorry for Mr Sylla but I wasn’t racist in any way.”
Parsons’ lawyer said his life had been affected by the “total hysteria” of the media, members of which had arrived at his home after he was identified as one of the fans in the video. Parsons, who once posed for a photograph with Nigel Farage, said journalists had come on to “my land” and rung his grandmother’s doorbell every half an hour.
He said he had lost his finance job in Mayfair, London, and had briefly moved to Cornwall where he retrained as a scaffolder. His lawyer said Parsons’ entourage described him as a “well-brought-up boy” and two former dormitory friends from his boarding school, who were not white, had testified that he was not racist.
Such are the facts.
In Derby, freezer compartments are full of novelty tat, the tops of carrots Santa’s reindeer declined and grandma. Derby City Council announced there would be “no domestic waste or recycling collections from 4pm on Friday December 23, 2016 until Tuesday January 3, 2017”. Incredibly, rubbish has been piling up and people have been dumping their waste in the street.
The council has advice:
Derby City Council issued a list of Christmas waste and recycling tips to get them through a 10-day period without any refuse rounds which included a call for people to bag up food waste and store it in the freezer until the next collection.
It’s all about
being lazy promoting recycling. The council runs an “education” scheme and trains residents to recycle more. It misses out the part that says using your freezer will save the planet. But it does, obviously.
Or not. Says the New York Times:
The kitchen refrigerator is an obvious contributor to global warming because it usually sucks in electricity that was made by burning fossil fuels. But it turns out that the refrigerator does harm to the environment before it is even plugged in because the insulating foam in its innards is made with a gas that is more than 1,000 times worse, molecule for molecule, than carbon dioxide.
Yes, it’s the methane steaming from Derby’s council’s bullshit. Probably.
The post-mortem on George Michael’s body failed to establish a cause of death. There will be further tests. The police are not treating it as suspicious.
But the tabloids know why George Michael died. “Tragic George ‘Killed Himself’,” states the Star’s cover story. “Singer ‘wanted to die’.”
You might think George Michael’s life anything but tragic. Feted, celebrated, admired and adored by many, the singer was a superstar. The Star writes a narrative allegedly fed by a Twitter account apparently linked to Fadi Fawaz, Michael’s boyfriend, who, as the Times notes, found the singer “lying peacefully” in bed at his 16th-century cottage in Goring-on-Thames, Oxfordshire.
The paper broadcasts the tweets: “the only thing George wanted is to DIE”; “he tried numbers of time to kill himself many times…”; “and finally he managed…” All troubling. And then below a picture of Fadi walking the Star supplies the caption: “Fadi claims he is hacking victim”.
The Sun, which also leads with the story of a tweet, says Fadi Fawaz’s profile has been “quickly deleted”.
He says he didn’t send those tweets.
The Mirror wrings more from “the mystery”. In “Final hours of pop legend” the paper thunders : “GEORGE’S LOVER: I SLEPT IN MY CAR AS HE DIED ALONE.” Farwaz tells the paper: “I did not send those tweets.” The Mirror then says, “It is unclear why he spent the night apart from his 53-year-old lover”. Farwz says, “I fell asleep in my car and I never saw him that night.”
For those of you seeking more official action, it’s worth noting what else the Mirror reports: “Fadi was pictured buying coffee on Christmas Eve from a shop near George’s home… He was wearing sandals and socks.”
Were his feet hacked? Or is it now fashionable to dress like a summering vicar on a Norfolk beach?
The mystery continues.
Enemies can be useful when they agree with you. In a rant against Rupert Murdoch’s bid to “seize control” of Sky, the Mail calls on the great and good to side with it against one man having “complete control of a media empire spanning TV networks and newspapers”.
If Murdoch does make a bid, Karen Bradley, the culture secretary, could call on Ofcom to evaluate whether the public will be worse off. Would the media landscape be diverse enough?
In the Guardian, Polly Tonybee in a long moan about Murdoch notes:
Letting Fox own Sky will start the campaign to undermine the very notion of impartiality and accuracy. We should never let our impartiality rules go: they make BBC news the most trusted around the world.
Eh? Why can’t the BBC continue to be impartial [which it isn’t?] whatever happens to Sky?
Predictable stuff from the tabloid hating Guardian. But less so from the Mail, which takes quotes from a bevy of sources it’s usually keen to discredit.
Sir Michael Lyons, who became chairman of the BBC Trust in 2007, said that Murdoch’s proposal should face a ‘fit and proper person’ test.
Labour leader Ed Miliband, 46, instantly called on Mrs May to refer the bid to Ofcom and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).
Hacked Off – who fight for a free and accountable press – have also said the bid needs to be checked by Ofcom.
Egregious hypocrisy, indeed.
Hacked Off can call on Steve Coogan (“Press freedom is a lie peddled by proprietors and editors who only care about profit”) and free speech extremists can summon day time telly’s Judge Rinder (first name on application).
Writing in the Sun, Rinder says the country’s greatest freedom is “to say what you want”. You might suppose this is obvious, that freedom of expression is not under threat in a modern country like the UK. If you think that, you’re wrong.
Just look at the Metropolitan Police’s Operation Elveden, the investigation into tabloid newspapers allegedly paying public employees for information. Mick Hume explains the perversity of how journalists doing their jobs became suspected criminals. Countries where truth dies on the vine might care to make notes:
To pursue Elveden, the UK authorities effectively made up a law specifically aimed at journalists – something the Turkish and Egyptian states might be wary of doing. Prosecutors dusted off a thirteenth-century common law which made ‘misconduct in public office’ a crime. Then they gave it a modern twist by adding on the previously unheard-of offence of ‘conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office’, which allowed them to prosecute journalists who are not public employees at all.
Rinder recalls his grandfather, a survivor of the Nazi death camps. Stood at Speakers’ Corner in London’s Hyde Park, Judge’s grandfather heard one speaker giving full throat to his anti-Semitism. “You see,” he says. “In this county, even this man can say whatever he wants and nobody can stop him.”
Free speech is the right to hear what you don’t want to hear. It is the right to offend and to be offended.
And so Rinder turns to Section 40 and the drive for a Press no longer free but regulated under the Government’s Royal Charter. What business is it of the State’s to police anyone says in print or pixels? None. But they want it to be.
Section 40 demands newspapers sign up to a Press watchdog supported by statute. Failure to sign up to the official censor means publications will have to pay the costs of anyone who brings a civil suit, libel or privacy actions against them – even if they win their case. Be targeted by a vexatious campaign and watch your organ die.
Is that an incentive to sign up to the Royal Charter-backed press regulator? No. It’s a threat. Join Impress, the Max Mosley-funded press regulator, or else they’ll cut your tongue out and chop your fingers off. Whatever the jury decides, you will be found guilty.
How can a journalist function in such a climate?
The Mirror takes up the cry. Jason Beattie looks at the “Attack On Press Freedom”. He says a free press is the “rampart between the defenceless and the bullies, the bad and the powerful”. If the State gets its way you paper will become “no better than a council free-sheet”. You will only read what the rich and powerful want you to read. He reminds readers that the State’s pet press watchdog, Impress, is “ultimately governed by Royal Charter, which in turn is overseen by politicians on the Privy Council”.
The Privy Council’s oath contains one line all members must utter: “You will keep secret all Matters committed unto you.” There are about 600 privy counsellors, including all former prime ministers, cabinet ministers, leaders of the opposition, Prince Philip, Prince Charles, the current and former Speakers of the House of Commons, Archbishops, senior Bishops, senior courtiers, senior backbenchers and senior judges. Here is a full list of people that if the censorious win will rule on what you can and cannot say.
Of course, it won’t matter who sits in this reworked Star Chamber if Section 40 is passed – you’ll be mute and impoverished before the throttlers sit down for lunch at Buckingham Palace.
The Right To Gossip
Both Beattie and Rinder cite high examples of how a free Press have caused upset, exposing paedophiles, Lance Armstrong’s cheating and politicians fiddling on their expenses. All wonderful and worthy work. But I’d go for something else that epitomises free speech: tittle-tattle. If you like poking fun, lampooning and gossip and all that stuff that entertains, you enjoy free speech.
The censors dismiss it as the stuff of the ‘gutter press’. Well, to muck rake you need to look in the ugly places. But if the censors have their way, you’ll only ever see shiny, clean things covered in a fresh layer of paint – you won’t get close enough to pick up the stink and scratch off the veneer to see what lurks beneath.
Sign here and support free speech.
Chelsea did not break any Premier League rules in their dealings with former player Gary Johnson, the former player who claims he was sexually abused by coach Eddie Heath as a member of the youth team in the 1970s. When Johnson and his lawyers took the matter to Chelsea in 2014, the club Chelsea agreed to pay him £50,000 and told him never to mention the allegations.
Johnson accepted the deal. But was a man who says his childhood was stolen from him badly advised and badly treated?
Chelsea said the club’s board understood it was “usual practice” to include a mutual confidentiality agreement. They noted that Johnson’s solicitors had not objected to the clause. When Johnson went public, Chelsea waived the confidentiality clause.
Eddie Heath is dead. Chelsea have publicly apologised. They say Johnson “suffered unacceptably” after joining Chelsea as an 11-year-old in 1970. You might well ask what an acceptable level of suffering amounts to, and who gages it?
The matter was put before the Premier League. They have found Chelsea clear of any wrongdoing. The Blues will review their procedures and send a copy of their report to The Premier League. The Premier League board says: “After careful consideration, the board has determined that no Premier League rules were broken by the club not reporting this matter to them in 2014. ‘The League has requested that Chelsea agrees to a full safeguarding audit from an independent safeguarding expert. The league has no reason to have any concerns about Chelsea’s current provisions in this area but, given the seriousness of these historical allegations, feels that such a review is an appropriate course of action.”
Says Gary Johnson to the Mirror: “(Chelsea owner) Roman Abramovich may be one of the richest men in football, but he has been very badly advised on this.” Was he the only one who was?
Donald Trump thinks the attack on a Berlin Christmas market was an assault on Christianity. “Innocent civilians were murdered in the streets as they prepared to celebrate the Christmas holiday,” says Trump. “ISIS and other Islamist terrorists continually slaughter Christians in their communities and places of worship as part of their global jihad.”
Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the massacre.
It’s a group not famed for its tolerance of other religions.
So why did it choose to murder people at a Christmas market?
The New York Times says there is no “war on Christmas” and, therefore, Christian belief is not in peril.
The greeting “Happy Holidays” has been in use as a Christmas greeting for more than 100 years. But it has grown in popularity in recent decades as people have tried to be inclusive and sensitive to those of other faiths and the nonreligious.
Do you say happy holidays at Eid or Diwali?
Not everyone opts for coercion at the point of a sabre.
Tim Black notes: “…to defend the freedom of those Christians today who refuse to endorse same-sex marriage, or who believe that a heterosexual couple provides the best environment to raise a child, does not entail defending the beliefs themselves; rather, it entails defending people’s right to hold and practise those beliefs where, as Tom Paine had it, ‘their practice doesn’t disturb public order as established by the law’.”
In the West Christians are criminalised and placed ‘on the wrong side of history’ for expressing their heartfelt beliefs. Coercion has replaced reason.
Trump, the Times‘ and IS each espouse their monocular view of religious intolerance.
Who asked them and why were they asked?
As the pollsters look for offence, Campus Reform asked students at the University of Virginia if they find Christmas offensive enough to want it banned.
To Chicago, where Latasha Eatman has been jailed for 49 days for something she didn’t do. CBS News reports that Eatman was arrested in 1993 on minor marijuana possession charges. Her punishment was to complete a period of community service. But Eatman was unable to comply because the facility to which she’d been detailed was closed and full whenever she turned up. And she turned up on numerous occasions. Eventually a judge excused her from probation.
Fast forward to 2016 and police looking for shops selling contraband cigarettes spot Eatman and run her name through the computer. The machine flags up an outstanding warrant for failure to complete community service. On the strength of the shoddy data and poor admin, police arrest Eatman and locked her up. After ten days in prison, the mother of a six-year-old is brought before the Beak. She tells him what happened and of the previous ruling. But this judge calls her a liar. He orders that Eatman is slammed back in prison and held without bond. For 29 days she remains in choky.
By chance, one Cara Smith, a chief officer at the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, is running an audit of first-time offenders locked up in their jail. The authorities realise their error. Whoops!
One day later, Eatman is released.
And how was your day?
Anis Amri is the man wanted in connection with the massacre at a Berlin Christmas market. The Sun says he was “freed” three times by German police this year alone. The 24-year-old Tunisian was under “covert surveillance” months before the horror in Berlin. Now the police want to survey him as close quarters. Anyone who knows where Anis Amri is can earn £85,000 by telling the police. (The reward is €100,000.)
We then get a few facts. Amri arrived in Europe in 2012, landing by boat in Italy and posing as a minor. In June 2015 he arrived in Germany. In April 2016 he was refused asylum. The Germans wanted to send him back to Tunisia but the Tunisians said they had no idea if he was one of theirs. Amri had no papers.
The Times manages to establish Amri’s roots by speaking to his family in Tunisia.
Speaking to The Times yesterday from Kairouan, Tunisia, Amri’s father said that his son had been a violent, drug-taking adolescent. He was jailed for four years in Italy for setting fire to a migrant reception centre before arriving in Germany in February.
When did he arrive in Germany, was it February or April? The Press seem unsure. The Express says he’s 23. The Express and Mail says he arrived in Germany in July 2015. The Mail says he’s 24 in one report and in another that’s he’s 23.
Today is Anis Amri’s birthday. He’s now 24.
The Times adds:
Expulsion orders had been issued but the Italian and German governments could not deport him until Tunisia confirmed his identity and granted him a passport, which was finally issued yesterday.
Scheduled to be sent packing, Amri struck? Well, that’s the allegation.
The Mirror says Amri – the “world’s most wanted man” – could have been injured with the Polish driver whose lorry he allegedly stole. “It is believed that Lukasz Urban, 37, fought with the terrorist as the vehicle began to plough into the Breitscheidplatz market in west Berlin,” says the Times. “Mr Urban was found dead in the cab, having been stabbed and shot.”
Really? The men were fighting as the truck ploughed into shoppers? And how do we come to know Amri? The Guardian notes:
German authorities said they had found Amri’s identity card under the driver’s seat of the truck he allegedly drove into a crowd of people at the Breitscheidplatz Christmas market.
Does that strike anyone as odd? A devious known criminal left his ID paper by the seat of the vehicle that murdered so many?
“When I saw the picture of my brother in the media, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I’m in shock, and can’t believe it’s him who committed this crime,” Amri’s brother Abdelkader Amri tells AFP. “But if he’s guilty, he deserves every condemnation. We reject terrorism and terrorists – we have no dealings with terrorists.”
His sister Najoua Amri adds: “He never made us feel there was anything wrong. We were in touch through Facebook and he was always smiling and cheerful. I was the first to see his picture and it came as a total shock. I can’t believe my brother could do such a thing.”
The Guardian says Amri has ‘links with the radical Salafist Abu Walaa, alias Ahmad Abdulaziz Abdullah A, a 32-year-old Iraqi Isis supporter known as the “preacher without a face”, who was arrested in the northern town of Hildesheim in November’ and ‘known Turkish Islamic fundamentalist, Hasan C, 50’ and with Boban S, ‘a hate preacher from Dortmund’.
According to an anti-terror investigator speaking on condition of anonymity to German media, Amri had sought accomplices for a terror attack in early 2016, and had shown an interest in weapons. Despite authorities being made aware that he wanted to buy a pistol, there were apparently no attempts to take him into custody.
Such are the facts.
After the “slaughter” (Daily Express) by a “truck nut” (Daily Star) at a Christmas market in Berlin, the Star surveys the “carnage” (Daily Mail) and declares on its front page: “Murdering scum told: Get stuffed just like the turkey.” That is ‘turkey’ with the small ‘k’. The Star doesn’t do subtle. But it nails it. ‘Defiant Brits have stuck two fingers up to Christmas terror,” says the paper, “and told them ‘You can get stuffed”.’
Over pages 4 and 5, the Star repeats its seasonal message: “XMAS KILLERS CAN GET STUFFED.”
Brilliant, isn’t it. Spot on.
At least one of the killers who murdered so many as they shopped for seasonal bits and bobs is on the run. We don’t know why he / she and any accomplices did it. All we know is that 12 people are dead, including trucker Lukasz Urban. Rather than speculate, the Star makes a statement. Get stuffed. Perfect.
Over in the Mail, the focus is on fear. “So much for Peace and Goodwill to All Men,” says the paper below a picture of armed police guarding the nativity scene at Canterbury Cathedral. But who are the coppers on the look out for? Islamic State has, we’re told, claimed responsibility for the mass murder in Berlin. The Mail tells of “fears” IS will call a “lone wolf from any of the 400 militants who have returned here from fighting in the Middle East”. Not a lone wolf at all, then, rather a suspect whose part of a global murder cult on a mission from god. The paper adds, “Experts warned that a lone wolf attack would be very difficult to prevent.”
Readers are told that “special forces and police have rehearsed the very difficult task of stopping a vehicle running amok”.
It’s more ‘We’re stuffed’ than ‘Get stuffed’ in the Mail.
And the fear keeps coming.
“BRIT IS CELL LINKED TO TRUCK HORROR,” thunders the Sun on its front page. This cell “may have been groomed by IS commanders who plotted the Berlin massacre”. Or to put it another way, they may not have been. We have no idea. And what’s this ‘groomed’ balls? Is it right to harness the language of child sexual abuse – the county’s obsession – to describe grown men murdering strangers? Don’t give the bastards an excuse. They’re no victims. The Sun that once yelled ‘GOTCHA” as the enemy’s ship was holed has lost its swagger.
Over pages 6 and 7, we read that the “bungling cops” arrested the wrong man. The “true killer” is armed and still at large. Unless – get this – those famously inefficient Germans let him go in the hope he’d lead them to his ‘groomers’. Or right now he’s in a cell having secrets leached out of him? Or maybe because the Germans let so many migrants in unchecked they have no idea who they’re looking for? Maybe the killer is Hans from Bavaria? We don’t know. But it’s exciting to guess.
On page 8, we hear more of Lukasz Urban, the aforesaid Polish trucker. He is now “brave Lukasz” who “fought to the end”. We don’t know how he died. All we know is that he was stabbed and shot. But the media like to portray victims as heroic, so the man whose battered body was found in the truck that killed so many is kidnapped anew, this time to become the face of courage.
More fear on the Mirror’s cover. “TRUCK KILLER COULD STRIKE AGAIN,” chills the headline. He could. Will he?
On page 12, the Mirror tells its readers “hate can’t fight hate”. Maybe not. But if a jihadi is trying to kill you and yours, lobbing flowers at him will only be enough if they’re tied to a sharp brick atop an F16. The Mirror says we can “show solidarity with the victims by refusing to be infected by the poison of terrorism and not turning on each other or sharing the bigotry of those who destroy lives for paranoid political ends.”
We know nothing of the victims, save that they were murdered at the shops. Showing solidarity with the dead speaks only of the living’s needs. And the killer did it for political ends, not for militant Islam or because, as the papers says, he is a “maniac”? The Mirror is sure of that.
The paper than says the Far Right are milking the massacre. The paper’s angle is that if you now worry about migrants and militant Islam, you are on the same side as the Nazis. You’re a facist. Oh, get stuffed. Not feeling the love does not make you a deviant. Criticising Islam does not make you an Islamophobic race rioter-in-waiting. Warning us about our response to terror is absurd. It paints us as fools and untrustworthy. We won’t be “groomed” by extremists on any sort. We can think for ourselves.
The final word comes to readers via the Express: “I’ll destroy IS terrorists says Trump.” The US President-elect says the people behind the massacre should be “eradicated from the face of the Earth”. He adds: “ISIS and other Islamist terrorists continually slaughter Christians… as part of their global jihad.”
So much for the stuff of politics. Now for the culture…