Thursday 17 October 2019

Eilis O'Hanlon: Left should zip it for decency's sake as France mourns dead

RTE's obsession with whataboutery merchants was evident as Paris woke in horror, says Eilis O'Hanlon

Atrocity: Medics evacuate an injured person on Boulevard des Filles du Calvaire, close to the Bataclan theatre, yesterday morning after Paris was hit by multiple terrorist attacks
Atrocity: Medics evacuate an injured person on Boulevard des Filles du Calvaire, close to the Bataclan theatre, yesterday morning after Paris was hit by multiple terrorist attacks

Eilis O'Hanlon

More than one hundred people are murdered whilst enjoying a night out in Paris, and Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy, speaking on RTE's Saturday with Claire Byrne, says "the main thing I'm concerned about right now is the backlash against migrants and Muslims".

Next up it's the turn of Siptu general secretary Jack O'Connor to deliver a speech condemning Israel, whilst Mick Wallace also takes a call to explain his tweet, issued when the bodies of victims were still warm, condemning France for its "militarisation of the planet".

Where does RTE find them? Do they have a job lot of whataboutery merchants on permanent standby in a cupboard for tragedies such as this, or are there really people in Donnybrook whose first thought on hearing of another appalling terrorist attack by Islamic State is to ask: "I wonder what Paul Murphy thinks of this?"

Everyone knew what Paul Murphy was going to say. He was going to say that Islamic State is a "Frankenstein creation of Western imperialism", and he didn't disappoint. He was going to say that it's sponsored by Saudi Arabia, which is in turn supported by the US government. Sure enough, he did that too. International politics for the Left is always about playing this same stupid game of six degrees of separation, where the winner is whoever can most quickly link each atrocity back to Western countries, even as their citizens are under attack.

It's not that Murphy, O'Connor and co are wrong to trace the interconnectedness between events in the Middle East and those on the streets of Paris on Friday - though it's interesting that, for them, the causes and effects only ever seem to work one way. We in the West are, ultimately, blamed for every evil act committed against us by Islamic fanatics, whilst any suggestion that the fanatics are themselves equally to blame for the consequences they bring on their own people is dismissed.

The message is clear: we must never under any circumstances respond to the provocation of terrorists, but excuses will always be made for terrorists when they spill our blood. We shouldn't have to apologise for fighting Islamic State, any more than those who signed up to defeat fascists in the Spanish Civil War should have said sorry either.

That, though, was back in the days when most on the Left still believed in standing up to tyranny. These days, they'd much rather take shelter behind moral equivalence, as if killing an enemy combatant such as "Jihadi John" is in any way comparable to gunning down people at a rock concert before issuing a statement decrying Paris as "the capital of prostitution and obscenity". Their over-riding concern is not to combat ideologies which promote the wholesale slaughter of innocents, but rather to insist that these barbarities have nothing to do with Islam even as the people carrying them out are telling you that it does.

What's striking is how quickly the usual suspects now jump to whataboutery. Whatever valid points they have to make, there's no longer any gap between bullets being fired and soundbites being issued.

Can't they just, for decency's sake, zip it for a few days, in order to allow a space where those who died can be mourned, buried - or counted at the very least - and the survivors tell their stories? Paris is dealing with the aftermath of the worst death toll on its streets since the Second World War, and should be allowed to come to terms with that experience in its own time, before being subjected to the usual politically opportunistic waffle from those who seem to think that "I told you so" is an appropriate response to scores of dead bodies.

Sunday Independent

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