If people are not concerned that The Times had a three page spread, including the front page, to attack academics who question aspects of our involvement in Syria, they should be. It sets a deeply worrying precedent indeed.
Our media and our government can't have it both ways. Either they're open and transparent, unafraid of criticism, as it is a necessary part of the democratic process, or, they're dictatorially silencing those who question the narrative; which means it's "highly likely" they have something, or perhaps, rather a lot, to hide.
Slapping an "Assad apologist" label onto everyone who has questions about war, is similar to slapping a "Saddam apologist" label on anyone who dared to question there might not be any WMDs in Iraq. It is absurdly childish and very telling indeed. There is clearly an organised campaign afoot to vilify and ridicule anyone at all who dares to discuss counter arguments to those which have been rubber stamped by war enthusiasts and those with some other vested interest in dropping bombs. These activities reveal a government who will collude with media to silence those who have every right to ask awkward questions when lives are at risk. It reveals a government who is clearly prepared to spend tax payers money on covert censorship and manipulation of the public's perception of foreign affairs, through expensive front page newspaper hit pieces, and warped coverage of events overseas. Ironically, this witch-hunting of dissenting voices has had the effect of rendering a larger number of people much more skeptical of the government's claims, and much more eager to investigate for themselves.
The low brow, poorly written, factually inept articles in The Times newspaper were not only "not news", they were simply three pages of name-calling and in certain instances probably libelous - yet this is the least of our worries. We need to ask what on earth these people are doing, orchestrating coordinated attack campaigns across press, TV, radio and social media upon dissenting voices, when they ought to be running the country and reporting the real news, respectively? These activities are not at all indicative of a government which is happy in its own skin.
I for one am grateful to Tim Hayward and his colleagues, for all their hard work and integrity. I cherish the work of independent journalists who cast light upon our world from varying angles and view points, as is in keeping with a robust democracy, which should never have a fear of words honestly spoken by its citizens.
In the past month I've witnessed a shrinking of our democracy to the point where it barely exists at all. "Democracy" is a weary, tarnished word that is peppered all over our government's PR. it rolls easily of the tongue when finger-wagging at a "dictator" overseas. Its meaning now lost, it represents a concept which has not been cherished, has not been watered or nourished, and has not survived.
Journalists Vanessa Beeley and Eva Karene Bartlett and others suffered a heinous attack by an outlet which purports to be independent but, during the attack, presented in surprisingly "old school mainstream finger-wagging " video format, it was mentioned that more (attacks) are coming. Along with other threats, and incitement to hate the named individuals, their intriguingly prophetic choice of language immediately signalled to me they might have prior knowledge of media articles in mainstream press, which sure enough did later appear. Has this "independent" channel been lobbied, compromised or simply bought? We don't know. What we do know is they echo exactly the same hate speech, the same lack of context and the same disregard for facts which was later demonstrated in The Times on 14th April.
The title alone would take another whole rant for me to tackle, and I've already mentioned the inappropriateness of the lazy catch-all phrase "apologist for Assad", so let's say only this one paragraph about the title of the article in The Times. Would it matter if these individuals, who hold views about their country's involvement in Syria, were "working in the dry cleaners on Edge Hill"? "Working in universities" implies they are subverting young minds, though I rather think that vacancy has been filled, by tabloids, TV and other media spiralling down onto the people of UK from Mr. Murdoch's universe. Mr. Hayward works at a university. He also has political opinions. Some people work as doctors, or bus drivers, and also carry opinions and views about most things. Is the inimitable "investigation" team who wrote this sparkling piece of journalistic literature asserting that university lecturers are only to hold the same views as government? If not, why is Mr. Hayward's occupation worthy of a headline? It was a cheap shot worthy of a shabby tabloid.
This month, several excellent commentary Twitter accounts have been closed without warning or justifiable reason. Closing social media accounts, and name-calling anyone with an opposing view a "Russian troll", is a thuggish bullying tactic worthy of a despotic regime; oh how the ironies keep piling up, don't they? It is also indicative of Government collusion with social media companies, collusion which is used to censor rather than to keep us safe; using the "war on terror" as the excuse to silence those who, well, just might not be Tory voters, let's face it (!) I have not heard of any Conservative people who support intervention in Syria being denied access to their Twitter account, but do correct me if I am wrong. Now, I am not accusing the Tories of vote rigging here. I'm flagging up the possibility that powers our government has to influence the media are open to abuse by those who want to hold onto power by shutting down natural opposition.
I am regularly accused of being a "Russian bot". This particular "bomb" is usually thrown by intellectually lazy people with absolutely no arguments of substance, and nothing in their debating arsenal but name-calling and Hitler-esque badging of opposing opinions. Recent witch-hunting, and the rounding up and demonising of opposing voices, is an extremely incriminating development. Attempted character assassinations of individual citizens and journalists, McCarthy-esque lists of persona non grata and "badging", is evidence of co-ordinated government and media oppression.
Pointing fingers at "dictators" in countries that have oil, whilst silencing, attacking and attempting to demonise its own citizens - and indeed even the legitimate opposition leader - with personal attacks which abandon factual information in favour of hate rhetoric, smells like totalitarianism to me. "Totalitarian": a dictatorial system of government requiring complete subservience to the state."
Once again, as at the time of the Iraq invasion, we have an unhealthy, unholy coupling of state and media which quite frankly is not simply distasteful, it is questionable to the point of requiring serious investigation. Mysteriously, there is not one journalist in the whole of UK examining this particularly frightening aspect of life in twenty first century Britain.