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Two falls, two submissions and a knockout

(posted here because I’m having temporary techie problems with CT)

With the inevitable Barthesian logic of a good wrestling show, Gorgeous George Galloway has made suckers of us all. After bringing a smile to the stoniest of faces when he took apart Norm Coleman and gang, he’s gone on a tour of Al-Jazeera territory, with some frankly unforgivable rhetoric (I’ve watched the footage and can confirm that in this specific instance, the translation is accurate). I have always known that Georgeous Gorge was going to end up being an embarrassment to the antiwar movement and here you go.

To be honest, listening to these orations, my reaction was that this is on the absolute cusp of being the sort of thing that a decent, liberal society ought to be chucking people in jail for. The issue is the language; a charitable interpretation might be that GG has allowed his own gift for turning a fiery phrase to combine with the hyperbole beloved of Arab literature (“a thousand curses, etc, etc) to quite dangerous effect. A less charitable interpretation would be that, like Enoch Powell with his River Tiber, he knows exactly what he’s fucking doing and doesn’t care. It is entirely possible to express the opinion that the current status of Jerusalem and Baghdad is problematic without saying a) “your beautiful women are being raped by the foreigner” or b) “your rulers are doing nothing to protect your beautiful women”. If this was said in the UK, I would guess it would be exactly the sort of thing that would be captured by the incitement to hatred laws (either racial or religious depending on whether he’s going on about Islam or specifically Arabs). I’m not a great fan of those laws, so I wouldn’t necessarily support such a prosecution, but I would certainly regard it as a misfortune he’d brought on himself.

This is entirely compatible with Millian liberalism, by the way. If someone wants to express the vilest of views, they ought to be entitled to do so in the same public fora as the rest of us. But always with the caveat that you’re not allowed to directly incite violent or socially destructive behaviour. You can preach from the pulpit or publish in your newspaper that group X are the spawn of Satan and that God abominates their presence. But when you start wheeling out the metaphors and stirring up the crowd, then you’ve crossed a line my friend; the line between trying to convince people by argument and trying to force them into your view of the world by things that are not arguments. Galloway isn’t speaking truth to power on Al-Jazeera like he was in the House of Representatives; he’s speaking untruths to the powerless. And if you’re doing that, you mind your language or you start undercutting the basis of your right to free speech. This is hardly a first offence too, but it’s the most egregious one I’ve seen (the “wolves” comment that got him chucked out the Labour Party was of a piece, but less obviously likely to stir up terrorist violence). This bugger ought to have been kept at arms’ length from the get-go and now that he’s won his seat and made the anti-war points, I would suggest that the rest of the RESPECT (George Galloway) coalition might want to consider whether the parenthetical part of their party’s name is on balance worth the trouble he causes.

Sigh. I don’t really blame GG for this; it would be pointless to do so, like getting angry with Ravishing Rick Rude for pulling out a pair of brass knuckles while Hulk Hogan’s arguing with the referee. The pantomime has to play itself out and that’s and end to it.

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