Wednesday 28 September 2016

How have terror victims Eagles of Death Metal managed to become the bad guys?

Published 24/05/2016 | 02:30

'Self-confessed redneck Hughes was always an unlikely poster boy
for urbane Parisians' Photo: AP
'Self-confessed redneck Hughes was always an unlikely poster boy for urbane Parisians' Photo: AP

Last week, as the eyes of the world were focused on the missing EgyptAir flight, two stories emerged from France which, under ordinary circumstances, would have dominated front page headlines. But, as we know, these are not ordinary circumstances.

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The first item was a briefing given by France's top internal security chief, Patrick Calvar.

Like most internal security chiefs, Calvar is not prone to hyperbole but his pessimistic preview of the Euros was the last thing any of the estimated 70,000 travelling Irish fans wanted to hear.

According to him, the Euros bring with it an increased possibility of: "A new form of attack ... characterised by placing explosive devices in places where there are large crowds and repeating this type of action to create a climate of maximum panic."

The Euros start on June 10 and run for a month in 10 stadiums across France. With 2.5 million spectators expected for 51 soccer matches involving 24 teams in stadiums all across the country, it is a logistical and security nightmare, which is why Eamon Dunphy recently spoke for many Irish fans when he said: "I wouldn't go to the European Championships and I would be extremely troubled if anyone close to me went...I would be very surprised if they (Isil) didn't target the Euros."

Ultimately, people will travel and put up with increased security precautions and I imagine I speak for many fans when I say that I'm hoping to get tickets and if something happens, well, something happens.

The other story to appear below the radar is, however, far more depressing than increased security - the decision by two French festivals, Rock en Seine and Le Festival Vert, to axe Eagles of Death Metal from their line-up.

Eagles of Death Metal were, of course, playing in the Bataclan on that infamous night last November and they briefly became a symbol of hope over adversity.

Eighty nine people were murdered in the venue during their gig and, after a brief period of healing, which involved appearing onstage with U2, their singer Jesse Hughes (pictured) has enraged French liberals with his subsequent comments. Hughes is a compelling figure - pro-life, pro-gun and pro-Trump, he was always an unlikely ally of the French and, speaking to journalist Gavin McInnes last week, he repeated his claims that the Bataclan was an inside job: "There's no denying the terrorists were already inside, and they had to get in somehow. Why was the (backstage) door left open?"

The singer then seemed to further insult his French former friends when he added: "One girl got up and said she was scared. The guy said, 'Don't be scared, you'll be dead in two minutes', and then he shot her. I saw fear fall like a blanket on the whole crowd and they fell like wheat in the wind."

It's interesting to note that Hughes, who was covered in blood after the carnage having been splattered in the attack, has also admitted he is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, yet he remains steadfast in his view that gun control and cowardice are Europe's two biggest flaws and believes that "fear of offending Muslims is the terrorists' greatest weapon".

People can agree or disagree with what Hughes has to say.

What they cannot deny is that he was literally centre stage when the attack happened and if anybody has earned the right to have an opinion on the events of that night, it is surely him.

But the organisers of the festivals decided that his comments were racist and they cancelled the bookings.

In many ways, this is a classic example of cultural dissonance. Gun-totin', self-confessed American redneck Hughes was always an unlikely poster boy for urbane Parisians and their prompt cancellation of the shows, with the statement ending, "We thank you for your understanding", says a lot.

The response fits easily into the framework of mixed-up reactions that have characterised Europe's handling of terrorists who want to drag us all back to the Middle Ages.

We are all heartily sick of the proliferation of silly social media hashtags to signify fatuous solidarity with the victims of whatever the latest terrorist atrocity happens to be.

However, the decision to effectively censor a band who went through an unspeakable ordeal and then expressed an inconvenient opinion could be seen as the most ridiculous case of victim-blaming anyone has seen for some time.

It's easy to show support when the public is on your side, but it is clear from much of the bile directed towards Hughes since the interview that a lot of that support has ebbed away. Instead, it has been replaced by spurious soundbites.

Will the likes of Bono offer solidarity now that the situation is rather more murky than it was last year? It also begs the question: How can other acts possibly take to the stage at a festival when their fellow musicians, who are victims of terrorism, are axed for giving their opinion?

Irish Independent

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