Hari Kunzru comes to Rod Liddle’s defence


by Sunny
22nd January, 2010 at 7:45 pm    

I fear that Hari Kunzru is making the exact same mistake as Catherine Bennett (though his point is made much better) that we’re going after Rod Liddle’s speech by campaigning against him being editor of the Indy.

I respond:

Catherine Bennett made the same accusations, and I replied to her here:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/libertycentral/2010/jan/19/twitter-mob-rules-people-power

Being liberal doesn’t mean you can’t campaign against or for anything. No one is taking Rod Liddle’s free speech away – he still blogs away at Spectator and writes for the Sunday Times.

If they want to legitimise and help such an obnoxious misogynist and racist – that’s their problem: I don’t buy them.

But to say that liberals (I’m a left liberal, the name of the site is meant to be ironic) cannot campaign or criticise anyone because it somehow takes away their freedom of speech isn’t an argument. I’m not like the Chinese authorities. I’m not calling for him to be imprisoned.

This is like saying Rock Against Racism and the Anti-Nazi League marches shouldn’t have happened because they restricted the right of the BNP and National Front to say what they want.

To which Hari responds with:

@ Sunny – I don’t think you’re answering my point at all. I’m not saying the same thing as Catherine Bennett. I’m asking you to think about the limits of campaigning. When does legitimate campaigning become something else? I’m not saying you’re the Chinese government. It’s a silly comparison. I also don’t buy the RaR analogy. Rod Liddle is an individual, not an ideology (afaik). You’ve already won the point about Liddle’s unsuitability to edit the Indie – this is very much in the public domain. What’s the end/purpose of your campaign now? How ‘non grata’ do you want his persona? I’m not saying you can’t campaign or criticise.

I’m saying that beyond a certain point, mass campaigns have a chilling effect on free speech. Is this the case with Liddle? Possibly not – as you say he’s robust, and has plenty of media outlets and allies. But it’s something that needs to be thought about if you care about freedom. Would you be more circumspect if he was weaker or less well-known? You’re in the trenches right now (judging by an fb post you made today) and I wonder if your exhiliration at breaking the Millwall stuff is overtaking a sense of proportion. How do you respond, for example, to my charge that this is potentially damaging to your own politics – beyond a certain point isn’t this trivial? Doesn’t it risk delegitimising the more important stuff you campaign about?

Frankly I don’t really care if criticising Rod Liddle means there is less casual racism and misogyny in public life – I’d welcome that, thanks. Is the fact there is now much less overt anti-semitism in public life a bad thing?

The purpose of the campaign is to say that Rod Liddle’s views go against those of the Indy’s principles and it’s readers. He is a troll and is only being considered because Simon Kelner thinks what the Indy really needs is someone who can make it talked about.

But that won’t bring it loyal readers and it will only herald the demise of Britain’s only other left-liberal newspaper. I don’t see that as a good thing. Hence the campaign. That’s how citizens roll.

This airy-fairy liberal thinking that if we’re nasty to poor old Wod Widdle then it’s going to make life difficult for others is frankly horse-shit. In the US, Colour of Change ran a campaign against Glenn Beck for his on-air racism. Was freedom of speech in the US curtailed?

Sorry, I’m not buying this argument at all. Sarah Ditum covered this quite well too – this liberal intelligentsia penchant for mixing up criticism and campaigning with censorship really should be ignored.


              Post to del.icio.us


Filed in: Civil liberties,Media






15 Comments below   |  

Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. pickles

    Blog post:: Hari Kunzru comes to Rod Liddle's defence http://bit.ly/7XYwtP


  2. earwicga

    RT @pickledpolitics Pickled Politics » Hari Kunzru comes to Rod Liddle’s defence http://bit.ly/7XYwtP


  3. Mike Power

    In this exchange with Hari Kunzru, Sunny H comes over like a silly teenager. Learn from Hari, he knows how to write. http://bit.ly/6VtI5L


  4. Milena Buyum

    RT @pickledpolitics Blog post:: Hari Kunzru comes to Rod Liddle's defence http://bit.ly/7XYwtP




  1. Shatterface — on 22nd January, 2010 at 8:21 pm  

    ‘Doesn’t it risk delegitimising the more important stuff you campaign about?’

    Rather ironic really, since this story actually involved some element of investigation.

    Exposing the real opinions of a potential editor of a vaguely liberal paper – even one no-one reads – seems to me a much more effective use of your time than simply reporting the opinions of Dale or Staines when we could discover those for ourselves with a click of the mouse.

    Criticism of someone’s opinions is not the same as criticism of someone’s right to *hold* those opinions or even the right to *express* them in public. It can certainly shade into that but I don’t think you have actually crossed that line on this occasion.

    Campaigning for his prosecution would cross the line; so would campaigning to shut down the Millwall site. You aren’t even calling for him to be sacked as he hasn’t even got the editorship yet. Liddle isn’t just a private citizen, he has made himself a public figure and his reputation is a commodity he trades in.

  2. Kulvinder — on 22nd January, 2010 at 8:49 pm  

    beyond a certain point isn’t this trivial?

    For what its worth, and although i disagree with Sunny on many issues; highlighting the opinions that Rod Liddle has prior to becoming a fairly influential editor is hardly trivialising the issue.

    If it was some random blogger, commentator or even journalist i doubt anyone would care much and i certainly wouldn’t bother even thinking about it. But to ask whether those sort of opinions are really compatible with someone who would edit a paper with a six figure circulation; let alone a six figure circulation of people who would probably mostly disagree with Liddle isn’t ‘picking’ on him (and for what its worth i think the problem people have is the great unwashed are ‘picking’ on Rod Liddle).

    Surely remaining silent on such a matter when the individual concerned would then edit an influential paper would have a more chilling effect on free speech?!

    I don’t think the likes of dacre, rusbridger, mohan, harding, wallace, hill or lewis should have their personal opinions and philosophies interrogated to the same extent as say MPs, but i don’t see anything wrong with questioning them on what they actually think and highlighting issues that are contemptible.

    To reiterate what i said in another thread i honestly don’t think the problem people in the publishing industry have with all this is the ‘campaign’ against him; rather its the fact the campaign didn’t originate and isn’t orchestrated by them.

    If dacre had said those same things the express as well as every other paper would have character assassinated him, not only because what he said was ‘wrong’ but because it would probably help their circulation figures.

    The people from facebook and twitter have no financial motive in all this; they’re simply voicing their opinion.

    The 20th century may have allowed editors and press barons to tell several hundred thousand people what to believe; all thats happening in the 21st century is that same readership responding back.

    In terms of ‘personal abuse’, and as reprehensible and regrettable as it is, most footballers get told far worse things to them by tens of thousands of people every week. I accept that isn’t linked to the expression of ideas, rather my point is liddle isn’t the most put upon man in the country.

  3. Sunny — on 22nd January, 2010 at 9:34 pm  

    Hari says: It’s a silly comparison. I also don’t buy the RaR analogy. Rod Liddle is an individual, not an ideology (afaik).

    Mmmm… that’s like saying Nick Griffin is just a man not an ideology. Rod Liddle might as well join the fucking BNP – he says shit even Nick Griffin wouldn’t say on TV.

    I’m saying that beyond a certain point, mass campaigns have a chilling effect on free speech. Is this the case with Liddle? Possibly not

    Case over.

  4. lfc4life — on 22nd January, 2010 at 10:46 pm  

    Those racist comments by liddle are disgusting and something i would associate with the dimmest of bnp supporters.

    People have been sacked and condemned for a lot less, liddle must think he is going to get away with it again using the old get out of jail card which is commonly known as freedom of speech!

  5. Hari Kunzru — on 23rd January, 2010 at 11:55 am  

    @ Sunny Case over? Not really. You’ve yet to give any sense of where you stand on the larger questions. What are you actually calling for now? What should be done? To repeat – I’m happy Liddle’s opinions are now the subject of public scrutiny, and (as I’ve said all along in this) to this extent the campaign and your investigation have done a laudable job. Are you after an apology? Him to attend race awareness training? Leave town? There doesn’t seem to be a suggestion he’s committed a crime under hate speech laws. He’s not the leader of a political party, so the Griffin comparison doesn’t work. By carrying on, with the appearance of vindictiveness, you risk offering him martyr status on a plate – and allowing people who agree with his crass and stupid opinions to feel they’re a brave, put-upon minority. This is what I mean by delegitimising what are very legitimate concerns. Unless you have a coherent agenda, you’d do better to show magnanimity, and retain the moral high ground – then come back if and when he’s offered the job. That’s not defending Rod Liddle. That’s just good tactics.

  6. KJB — on 23rd January, 2010 at 1:32 pm  

    Even I understood what Sunny was saying above… but then, I actually read it all carefully. Methinks Hari Kunzru needs new glasses.

  7. KB Player — on 23rd January, 2010 at 3:13 pm  

    HK – my understanding is that Sunny doesn’t want Rod Liddle editing The Independent. I imagine if Liddle was an MP he wouldn’t want him to become the Minister for Community Relations – because holding the views he does he wouldn’t be right for the job. Similarly I wouldn’t ask Jeremy Clarkson to head a campaign promoting cycling, or Amy Winehouse to run a finishing school for young ladies.

    By carrying on, with the appearance of vindictiveness, you risk offering him martyr status on a plate – and allowing people who agree with his crass and stupid opinions to feel they’re a brave, put-upon minority.

    Or that they hold crass and stupid opinions and will therefore be treated with contempt and derision.

  8. Sunny — on 23rd January, 2010 at 3:33 pm  

    You’ve yet to give any sense of where you stand on the larger questions.

    The larger questions are irrelevant to the point about Liddle surely? I’ve said loads of times where I stand on Liddle and why I’m running the campaign.

    Him to attend race awareness training? Leave town?

    Leaving town would be beautiful but no. I’ve merely said he is unfit to edit the Indy.

    The Spectator employ him to write a blog, but I expect them to employ racists who pander to their audiences – that is in the nature of that magazine. After all, they also employ Melanie Phillips.

    The same people will happily rail against anti-semitism but when it’s black people being degenerated suddenly it becomes “having a debate”. Well, that’s their prerogative I suppose.

    This is what I mean by delegitimising what are very legitimate concerns.

    How many times do I have to state my agenda?? I’ve done it right at the top of this blog post too. We know he’s being considered, we also know Simon Kelner bizarrely thinks all this publicity is good because it’ll bring readers to the paper – no it won’t, it will just kill it.

    I’ve been the one most open about my agenda from day one. The fact that you’re questioning me about it says you haven’t been reading what I’ve been saying Hari.

    Lastly – not sure how Liddle can claim the high moral ground with the comments he’s come out with. You must be living in a different world to me where making jokes about Auschwitz or black people only being good for goat curry makes you perfectly acceptable.

  9. damon — on 24th January, 2010 at 12:54 pm  

    This is Liddle’s explanation to the Jewish Chronicle for his Auschwitz comments.
    http://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/26297/liddle-defends-his-auschwitz-humour%E2%80%99

    It depends if you accept what he said, or whether you insist that it was offensive to the memory of those who died at Auschwitz.

    Some people will find Chris Morris’s ‘Four Lions’ film islamophobic and there wont be much you can do to change their minds.
    Likewise, many insist that Boris Johnson made racist comments, and don’t care about any ”explanations” that it was all a clever play on old Pathé film archive of the queen visiting Africa and the idea of Tony Blair doing something similar. People took offense so therefore it was racist.

    To me it’s not so cut and dried. That Millwall site is in the public domain, but it’s also (kind of) private too isn’t it? Everything is not always as it seems there and I don’t think it’s suitable for Liberal people. It has racists on it, and their are non-racists on it too. It certainly isn’t a ”respectable” site. But then pornography isn’t to everyone’s liking either. Or is fox-hunting, or Soldier of Fortune magazine.

    The word ”racist” is not something I understand so clearly these days. It is used pretty liberally.
    Maybe the ”curried goad” comments were racist.
    Or maybe he was trying to be ironic (or something).
    But they were certainly offensive to people.
    So perhaps that makes them racist, regardless of intent.

  10. MiriamBinder — on 24th January, 2010 at 1:53 pm  

    The term ‘Racist’ is certainly used far too often. Further, I don’t think that people should expect to have their ‘sensibilities’ protected, or even considered, at all times. Quite aside from the patronising hot-house flower syndrome of public discourse that it encourages, it also serves to muddy the waters when it comes to trying to debate real issues.

    Such as for instance, is Rod Liddle really contributing to the sum total of human knowledge and growth? Is it really so terrible to attempt to caste the spectre of terrorism into the comedic limelight? Is it really worth spending time and effort on either justifying or condemning what is after all only one point of view?

  11. Alex Higgins — on 25th January, 2010 at 7:27 pm  

    @Miriam

    “Such as for instance, is Rod Liddle really contributing to the sum total of human knowledge and growth?”

    That is a question that can be answered with a fair degree of certainty: no.

    “Is it really so terrible to attempt to caste the spectre of terrorism into the comedic limelight?”

    Not really, but that’s not the criticism.

    “Is it really worth spending time and effort on either justifying or condemning what is after all only one point of view?”

    Not necessarily, except that Liddle is being considered for the role of editing the Independent, a newspaper its readers choose precisely because they want an alternative to papers informing us about the worthlessness of black people, among other favourite topics of Liddle’s.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Pickled Politics © Copyright 2005 - 2010. All rights reserved. Terms and conditions.
With the help of PHP and Wordpress.