Charlie’s angles

For days I have been thinking about writing something on last week’s atrocities in Paris, starting at the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and ending with seventeen dead. But I have already read many, many news reports and opinion pieces that have approached the issue from all sorts of directions.

I’m not sure I have a huge amount to add. Except to say that much of the commentary demonstrates the challenges inherent in cross-cultural interpretation. There are considerable risks in interpreting the sort of satire that Charlie Hebdo produced from outside of its milieu – risks of getting the interpretation hopelessly wrong because all the allusions, undertones and implications are missed. Paul’s analogy with the way we make sense of the Alf Garnett character makes the point effectively to a UK audience; at least to a UK audience of a certain age.

Horror and incomprehension at inexcusable acts of violence has been followed by the stirring sight of hundreds of thousands – indeed milliions – of people joining marches and vigils under the rallying cry “Je suis Charlie”.* For many that was no doubt primarily a statement of solidarity – no one should die for drawing a few lines on a page. For many it was no doubt an endorsement of core practices and rights – liberty and free expression – that has been imperilled by these violent attacks. [Read more…]

Trading Liberty For “Security”

[Originally posted at Dale&Co, 06/04/12]

What is going on? I mean, seriously? Is it just me or do the wheels seem to be coming off this Government quite badly?

If we look over the last couple of weeks we’ve seen a botched budget, including the failure to make the case for a “granny tax” in the context of cuts to the 50p rate and the bizarre brouhaha over the “pasty tax”. The #CamDineWithMe scandal over cash for access has been exposed. And we’ve witnessed a Government-induced panic over possible fuel shortages in the face of the strike that never was – or at least isn’t yet. The master strategist has been shown to be less than masterful. Some of these issues might be argued to be froth. But others are rather more serious.

The latest instalment in the increasingly fraught soap opera of the Coalition focuses upon civil liberties. [Read more…]

Here we go snooping again …

It doesn’t matter who you vote for, the government always gets in

Liberal Democrats can be a fractious bunch. There are plenty of disagreements between the various wings of the party, particularly in relation to the wisdom of markets and the role of the state. But one area in which we tend towards unanimity is the importance of protecting civil liberties. When striking the balance between liberty and security, the balance should always be in favour of liberty and against the persistent encroachments of an over-mighty state.

Couple the Liberal Democrats in Coalition with a bunch of small-state freedom-loving Tories and you might expect that on principle the Government would take a strong stand against unnecessary state prying into the lives of its citizens.

Apparently not. [Read more…]