Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Why headlines are important

That S*n headline

On November 23rd 2015 the S*n lead with the appallingly misleading headline "1 in 5 Brit Muslims' sympathy for jihadis" when the actual question they based this shock headline on made no mention of jihadis or Islamist fanatics of any description. What it actually asked was whether respondents had sympathy towards anyone going to fight in Syria (which includes ISIS, but also the anti-Assad Syrian Free Army and the anti-ISIS Kurdish led Syrian Democratic Forces). What is more, the poll also revealed that 1 in 7 of the general UK population expressed similar general sympathies towards people going to fight in Syria, meaning that there is actually very little difference between the opinions of British Muslims and those of the general British public.

A more accurate headline might have read "According to a poll based on the very dubious methodology of trawling the Survation database for Muslim sounding names it turns out that British Muslims are very marginally more likely to express sympathy for people going to fight for or against ISIS in the Syrian civil war than the general British public are" but then that surely wouldn't have sold as many papers as the blatantly misleading headline they ran with.

Aside from stripping out the desired anti-Muslim fearmongering the Murdoch empire deem necessary in the wake of the Paris atrocities, such an accurate headline would be unthinkable because it's obviously far too long to scan. As an independent Blogger one of the most difficult things is coming up with short snappy article titles that will accurately describe the contents and incentivise people to actually click on the link. I'll freely admit that tabloid news teams are much better at coming up with snappy and/or humourous titles than I am. Probably the best ones I ever came up with was "Tories sell NHS blood supply to vampire capitalists" back in 2013 and the incredibly clickbaity "Don't Read This Article" earlier in 2015.

My Church of England headline

After addressing the appallingly misleading nature of the S*n headline with an infographic, later that day I posted an article about the DCM Cinema group refusing to allow the screening of the Church of England's Lord's Prayer advert. This article provoked quite an uproar with one of the main recurring complaints being that it was unacceptably misleading to use the word "banned" to describe the decision to not allow the advert to be shown.

Numerous people complained that my use of the word "banned" was inaccurate/misleading, and others became so upset that they claimed they'd lost all respect for me, and that the credibility of the rest of my work had been destroyed. In my view these kinds of statements were huge over-reactions, especially from people who were trying to take the rational high ground. However people are entitled to their views, even if their main complaint of inaccuracy relies on some kind of semantic point about how "banned" is a totally unacceptable word to describe "the prevention of something being shown".

To give an example of why I consider the word banned to be appropriate here's a question: If I write a set of rules saying "no Christmas music is allowed in my house" (then justify the house rules by releasing a statement about how it's not to be allowed because some people might find it offensive), have I "banned" Christmas music from my house or not?

Apparently some people would argue that I haven't, and furthermore that anyone saying that I had would be guilty of respect-destroying levels of inaccuracy!

I did try to consider what the objection was, and whether there was something more to it than some kind of semantic point about "banned" being an outrage-inducingly inappropriate synonym for "prevented", "prohibited", "forbidden", "stopped", or whatever other word people would have preferred me to use, but I still can't see how my use of the word "banned" provoked such a furious response.

The reason I found this fixation on the word "banned" so disappointing is that surely people can come up with stronger criticisms of my article, or defences of the ban on religious adverts than what appears to be nothing more than a semantic point about the use of a single word?

What I did get wrong

Having looked at the headline again for some time (to try to figure out why it made so many people so angry), I have spotted something that I could have changed to make it more accurate, but it's not actually my use of the word banned at all, it's the context in which it's used. What I wrote was "The Church of England advert that has been banned ..."  when a more accurate interpretation of events might have been to write "The Church of England advert that is banned ..." .

The difference being that it is possible to read "has been banned" as an implication that the decision by DCM to ban the religious advert in their cinemas has only just been taken, while the use of "is banned" more accurately describes the actual situation where the advert was not allowed to be aired in UK cinemas due to pre-existing rules, but that these rules were then justified with a statement about how adverts from religious groups are not allowed in DCM cinemas in case certain cinema goers get offended by them. This "people might get offended" justification was the actual crux of the article but it received so much less attention than my use of the word banned in the headline.

Why headlines are important

Headlines are particularly important because so many people read no further than the headline. The circulation of The S*n has now dipped below two million, but millions more people will have seen that misleading front page headline on news stands, in canteens, on public transport, in waiting rooms or in family homes. In my view it's doubtful whether more than 20% of the people who saw the misleading headline actually read the whole article, and it's doubtful whether 0.2% of the people who read the headline ended up looking up the Survation poll that the misleading headline was supposedly based on and checking the wording of the actual question for themselves.

Similarly with my blog post about the Church of England advert, my Facebook statistics tell me that my post (including the headline image and link to the article) was seen over 288,000 times in Facebook news feeds, and my blog statistics tell me that only* 27,000 odd people actually clicked the link to see what the article actually said.

Most of the people who see any of my articles will not click on them, which is fair enough. I certainly don't click on all of the articles I see going across my Facebook news feed either.

I know from my statistics that if I get my headline wrong, it doesn't matter how good the article is, people won't click on it and it will only get read by a tiny percentage of people who see it (sometimes below 1%). If I get it right then it will get clicked on by a much higher percentage of people, shared, and eventually read by tens, or even hundreds of thousands of people.


One of the lessons I've learned from the reaction to my headline is that there is more to writing a good one than quickly typing some text into a box because you're in a hurry to get your article published. Another is that it's important to state things in ways they can't be misconstrued (deliberately or otherwise) because if I word my headline wrong it's clearly possible that comments from people addressing the actual contents of the article will be completely drowned out under a tide of complaints from people who object to the headline.

Another thing I've learned is that when people are upset they say utterly bizarre things, like people comparing my use of the word "banned" to describe a situation where something is not allowed to be shown with the appallingly misleading Muslim fearmongering headline in the S*n earlier that day.

Apparently some people are prepared to argue that some lone-wolf blogger using the word "banned" instead of "prevented" (or whatever word they would have preferred) in the title of an article read by fewer than 27,000 people is somehow the direct equivalent of the editors of Britain's most widely read newspaper deciding to run a totally misleading headline, seen and believed by countless millions of people, and apparently devised with the objective of stirring up anti-Muslim hatred in the wake of the Paris atrocities (making the S*n editors who gave it the green light guilty of fighting the ISIS propaganda war for them by creating divisions between Muslims and non-Muslims).

Of course I'll aspire to be more accurate in the way I phrase things when it comes to thinking up headlines from now on and I thank anyone who pointed out their objections in a polite, reasonable and non-hyperbolic manner for their input. However I'm not taking such a stance because of the flood of extremely negative reactions to the title of my article, I'm doing it despite them.

Having so many people say that they've "lost all respect" for me, attacking my credibility, slinging insults at me, misrepresenting what I actually said, completely ignoring the majority of points I raised in the article, and even comparing my work to the anti-Muslim fearmongering of the S*n was a bit of an onslaught, but it definitely won't deter me from writing about what I want to. In fact it actually makes me far more inclined to write something else that these people will dislike just to prove to myself that I won't by silenced from expressing my own opinions, no matter how many people try to shout me down or make insulting comparisons between my work and the appalling anti-Muslim fearmongering of Rupert Murdoch's vast propaganda empire.

I'll just have to make more effort to ensure my headlines are not as easily misconstrued so that a higher percentage of any complaints end up addressing the actual content of the article, not the wording of the headline.

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.

* = My use of the word "only" to describe 27,000 hits does seem a little churlish for a couple of reasons. 27,000 hit from 288,000 views is a hit rate of almost 10% which is actually pretty good, suggesting that the headline was interesting enough to get a significantly above average number of people to actually click on it. It also seems churlish because I'm pretty sure that there are a lot of independent bloggers out there who would be delighted with 27,000 hits on one of their articles.

The "banned" Church of England advert
Bigotry and cowardice in the Republican Party

The incompatibility of Christian ethics and modern Conservatism
The Church of England and poverty

Richard Dawkins and the slave trade
Richard Dawkins and the far-right extremists
12 Things you should know about Britain First

Monday, November 23, 2015

About that banned Church of England advert

Someone at the Church of England had the bright idea of creating a short advert about praying to be shown in cinemas before the new Star Wars film this winter. The advert is nothing more than a selection of people saying one line each from the Lord's Prayer and then some publicity for their Just Pray website.

Unfortunately for the Church of England, the company that runs advertising in most of the cinemas in the UK decided to ban the advert on the grounds that some cinema goers might be offended by it. DCM (the company that made the decision not to show the advert in their UK cinemas) said that it's their policy not to show adverts from religious groups because "some advertisements - unintentionally or otherwise - could cause offence to those of differing political persuasions, as well as to those of differing faiths and indeed of no faith". That's a pretty clear explanation that the advert will not be shown in case it causes offence.

It's not so much the policy of not allowing religious groups to buy advertising space that I object to, it's the justification of that policy on the grounds that people might get offended.

I've included an embedded video of the advert so you can make up your own mind if it's offensive, then beneath it there's some further analysis.

The first thing to note is that the advert is clearly not even remotely offensive. There is nothing inherently offensive about The Lord's Prayer, praying in general or a peaceful organisation trying to spread public awareness of their work. Anyone who gets all offended by this must be the kind of permanently offended attention seeker who pisses pretty much everyone off, and so often give liberally minded people a terrible reputation with their unwarranted whinging into the bargain.

I'm pretty surprised that I'm actually in agreement with two people I often strongly disagree with. Richard Dawkins (the famous atheist and Twitter shit-stirrer) said that the advert should not be censored and that anyone who gets offended by the advert "deserves to be offended". David Cameron has also spoken out against the ban. It's pretty rare that I agree with either of them, let alone both of them at the same time!

I'm not, and never have been a member of the Church of England, however I do know and respect several people who are. I remember resenting being made to actually say the Lord's Prayer in school because I didn't think anybody should be forced to say anything against their will, especially not kids in publicly funded schools. However this advert doesn't force anyone to actually say the Lord's Prayer, so I have no objection to it at all.

What I do have a strong objection to is the commercialisation of Christmas, and the ever increasing duration of the Christmas advertising period. I'm irritated by the idea that we have to endure Christmas advertising from all manner of rapacious corporations all the way from the end of October (or even earlier) through to January every single year, while we're now prevented from seeing an advert that actually references the belief system that actually underpins Christmas.

I'm not saying corporations should be banned from making Christmas adverts, of course they shouldn't. But what kind of insane society are we living in where corporations can use a Christian festival to make juicy profits for themselves, but actual Christians are prevented from spreading awareness of their work with just about the least offensive advert imaginable?

As I said before I'm not a member of the Church of England. In fact I'm often a vocal critic of organised dogmatic religion. However I'm not happy about the way this advert has been banned because not only does it seem to be an attack on freedom of expression, but also because it paints a depressing picture of an insane society where Christianity is egregiously commercialised in order to sell products and make profits, but cannot be expressed in and for itself.

I think it's unlikely the cinemas groups will overturn their decision to censor the Church of England, so probably the best thing to do is leave a link for the Just Pray website that these major UK cinema groups don't want you to know about so that you have the choice to check it out for yourself if you want to.

It doesn't matter if you're not Church of England, or not religious at all, some of the countless prayers people have left on there are worth reading. Even if you don't find any of them moving, they'll definitely provide an interesting insight into the mentality of people with religious faith. 

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.

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Bigotry and cowardice in the Republican Party
The incompatibility of Christian ethics and modern Conservatism
The Church of England and poverty

Richard Dawkins and the slave trade
Richard Dawkins and the far-right extremists
12 Things you should know about Britain First

Sunday, November 22, 2015

How bigotry and cowardice are becoming fundamental Republican "values"

The contest to lead the Republican Party into the next Presidential election would be a hilarious spectacle if it weren't for the very real fear that the American public might well end up electing the likes of Donald Trump or Ben Carson as their President (and the commander of the most powerful military the world has ever seen). 

This fear is not without reason either. Not only did the American public (kind of) elect George W. Bush in the first place, they actually re-elected him despite the fact that he let 9/11 happen on his watch, then gave the Islamist fanatics the stateless chaos they thrive in by attacking Iraq when not a single one of the 9/11 terrorists had anything to do with Iraq (15 out of the 19 were Saudi Arabians)!

Bigotry and cowardice

Donald Trump and Ben Carson seem to be engaged in a competition to come up with the most reactionary, bigoted and unconstitutional declarations possible. Whether it's plans to create a Nazi style national database of Muslims, or to impose Christianity tests on Syrian refugees, the Republican Party seems to have fully embraced religious bigotry and outright cowardice as core principles of Republican politics.

Nazi undertones

Many people have drawn parallels between the Republican Party proposals for a government blacklist of Muslims, and the treatment of Jews by the Nazis.When challenged about the similarities between his policy of discrimination against Muslims and the policies of discrimination towards Jews in 1930s Germany, Donald Trump simply evaded the questions.

Rabbi Jack Moline of the Interfaith Alliance attacked Trump's plans to create a Nazi style Muslim blacklist by saying "My father was in World War II, and he fought to preserve America against what the Nazis were doing," he said. "This is exactly why there is an America, to not be like that".

Victim blaming

The evidence is absolutely clear that the atrocities in Paris were masterminded and carried out by French citizens, not by Syrian refugees. Yet the Republican Party have taken to openly fearmongering about Syrian refugees, who are fleeing exactly the same breed of Wahabist fanatics as those who carried out the Paris atrocities.

Using fear over what happened in Paris to attack Syrian refugees is about as clear an example of victim blaming as it's possible to see. 

American values?

As an outsider it's absolutely amazing to see how these leading Republican candidates seem to be getting away with such openly bigoted policies. I always thought that stuff like religious freedom, the separation of church and state and the provision of a safe haven to the victims of religious persecution were fundamental, pretty much unquestionable American values? Yet here we have people like Trump and Carson shitting all over these American values, and somehow maintaining their popularity.

The idea of shutting the door to Syrian refugees (unless they pass some kind of warped Christianity test) seems about as contrary to proclaimed American values as is possible to imagine. Not only is turning away the victims of persecution on the basis of their religious beliefs contrary to the American principle of religious freedom, it's also an appalling display of ignorant cowardice in the wake of the Paris atrocities given that the perpetrators were French and Belgian citizens, not Syrian refugees.

Collective punishment

Using the Paris atrocities to call for state sponsored discrimination against all Muslims in the United States is appalling stuff. Since when was it an American trait to collectively punish all people within a particular group for the actions of a tiny minority within that group?

In fact, given that this global wave of barbaric Wahabist terrorism has been carried out by non-American Muslims, it's possible to argue that the Republican Party are planning to collectively punish a group of people (law-abiding American Muslims) for the heinous actions of people completely outside that group (non-American Wahabist fanatics) 


Maybe it's worth comparing these Republican calls for collective discrimination against Muslims with the way they might react to calls for some kind of government blacklist for gun owners in response to the appalling killing sprees that keep happening in American schools and colleges? 

Surely they'd argue that it's wrong to clamp down on millions of law abiding gun owners due to the crimes of a small minority?

Of course the Republicans would wail and scream at any proposals to monitor and discriminate against all gun owners, but they seem incapable of seeing their own hypocrisy when they decide they want to collectively punish all American Muslims for the crimes of Islamist fanatics from elsewhere in the world.

What about Saudi Arabia?
Instead of fearmongering about Syrian refugees and devising plans to collectively punish American Muslims for the crimes of foreign terrorists, perhaps it might make a little more sense for American politicians to reappraise their relationship with the barbaric Saudi Arabian regime? 

15 of the 19 terrorists on September 11th 2001 were Saudis and the barbaric Islamist fanatics committing terrorist atrocities all over the world follow the same brand of militant Wahabist fanaticism as the Saudi regime, yet leading Republicans would rather clamp down on law abiding American Muslims rather than confront Saudi Arabia over their role in spreading their dangerous fanatical Wahabist ideology all over the world.

Where are the Republican moderates?

Surely there must be someone within the Republican Party capable of seeing that mass discrimination against law abiding American Muslims is an unjustifiable response to the actions of non-American Wahabist fanatics elsewhere in the world?

Assuming moderates within the Republican Party still exist, and that the whole show hasn't been completely taken over by TeaBaggers, why are they so quiet? Where are the Republicans asking questions like whether the maintenance of a government religious blacklist goes against the First Amendment right to religious freedom? Or how does the maintenance of a massive government blacklist for all Muslims fit in with the small state ideology that the Republicans claim to support?

To an outsider it really does seem like the lunatics have taken over the Republican Party asylum, and that there is nobody with the requisite level of sanity to restore some semblance of order.


Perhaps the most embarrassing thing for Americans must be that these Republican anti-Muslim policies are a display of appalling cowardice on the international stage. 

Do Americans really want their politicians to foster and project such ignorant fear of displaced Syrian women and children when France is still vowing to take in tens of thousands of Syrian refugees, despite what happened in Paris? 

Do Americans really want their politicians projecting such ignorance and cowardice when Vladimir Putin is so determined to play the fearless Islamist-killing hardman on the world stage?

In the UK David Cameron has so far resisted the cowardly (and staggeringly impractical) petition to "close the UK borders until ISIS is defeated", so do Americans really want their politicians to come across as even more cowardly and opportunistic than the dish-faced, over-privileged walking embodiment of incompetence us Brits have to suffer?

Is this kind of ignorant bigoted cowardice really the kind of image Americans want their politicians projecting on the world stage? Somehow I doubt it. But then I was naive enough to think that the American public couldn't possibly have been crazy enough to re-elect George W. Bush, and I was proven wrong, so perhaps ignorance, bigotry and cowardice are what the American public want from their politicians? 

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.

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The cowardly and staggeringly impractical petition to "Close the UK borders until ISIS is defeated"

David Cameron's insane rush to war in Syria
Reactions to the Charlie Hebdo atrocity
Who are the real extremists?
How NSA over-reach might be worse than terrorism

Friday, November 20, 2015

How the mainstream media give George Osborne a free pass on the failure of ideological austerity.

One of the main reasons that the Tories have kept getting away with the their ideological austerity agenda is the pro-austerity bias of the mainstream media.

I'm not going to get sidetracked into explaining why ideological austerity is failing so badly. If you want to know more about that you can read my articles on the austerity con and the "economic recovery" lie, as well as my articles explaining fiscal multiplication, the marginal propensity to consume and the difference between a debt and a deficit.

It would also be easy to get sidetracked into explaining how the mainstream media has become so blatantly unbalanced, but I'll just point out the overwhelming right-wing bias of the corporate print media, and the way that Tony Blair castrated the BBC for daring to question the UK government narrative in favour of causing the ongoing catastrophe in Iraq.
In this article I'm not going to criticise the bias of the right-wing press. We all know that the Murdoch press, the Daily Mail (including their Metro freesheet), Telegraph, Express, Evening Standard ... will almost always take a wholly uncritical pro-austerity line. You'd have to be pretty naive to expect balanced coverage from that lot. What I'm going to look at is how even the supposedly left-wing media provide spectacularly uncritical analyses of George Osborne's ideological austerity agenda too.

The focus of my critique will be an article in the Guardian by their economics reporter Katie Allen entitled "Shock UK deficit figures dent George Osborne's economic plan". I'm not having a go at this article because it's a particularly outstanding example of pro-austerity bias in the left-wing press because it's not. It's actually a very typical example of the free pass George Osborne always seems to get from the mainstream press.

A shock?

Is it really a "shock" that George Osborne has missed his economic projections once again? Remember how back in 2010 that his ideological austerity agenda would have completely eliminated the budget deficit by now? Well "shock deficit figures" show that Osborne is on course to badly miss his much revised target of borrowing an extra £69.5 billion in 2015.

The scale of George Osborne's excess borrowing is so bad that he's created more new public debt than every single Labour government in history (measured in pounds and as a percentage of GDP).

In 2010 Osborne said we wouldn't be borrowing anything at all by 2015, yet here he is failing to meet his revised target of borrowing £69.5 billion this year. Somehow the article makes no reference to this at all, instead painting it some kind of surprise that George Osborne's current projections are wrong.

Surely it would be more of a shock if George Osborne's maths actually added up for a change?

Where is the political balance?

The article extensively quotes an unnamed "Treasury spokeswoman" who gives a masterful display of Tory propaganda speak, piffling on about "providing economic security for working people" when the actual plan is to harm the economic security of millions of working families by slashing Tax Credits (in precisely the way the Tory party promised they weren't going to).

Not a single Labour politician is asked for their opinion (not even a Blairite one) and nobody from any other political party is given the opportunity to hold the government to account.

Some balance eh?

Which economists?

The subheading to the article asserts that "economists" are "warning chancellor will need further austerity or miss annual target" as if there is some kind of economic consensus that the only solution to failing austerity is even more austerity.

In reality economic opinion is divided on austerity. Two thirds of economists say that ideological austerity has damaged the UK economy. Opposing ideological austerity is hardly an extreme-left position either. Just look at Canada where Justin Trudeau just led the Liberal party to a historic victory on an anti-austerity pro-growth platform.

Given the general economic consensus that ideological austerity is economically harmful; that Osborne's austerity policies are demonstrably failing; and that anti-austerity politics is mainstream and highly popular in other countries, one would have thought that it would be possible for the author to find at least one economist to actually critique the ideological austerity agenda that has caused the slowest post-crisis economic recovery in recorded history. But no, the article features quotes from three corporate economists who all speak from a position of complete unquestioning faith in austerity.

It's hardly surprising that the consensus amongst wealthy corporate economists is that the austerity show (that benefits the super-wealthy at the expense of almost everyone else) must go on.

Corporate economists

The three economists are Howard Archer of IHS global, Chris Hare of Investec and Samuel Tombs of Pantheon Macroeconomic. The article does not make clear how these quotations were selected, Whether it was on the basis that they are friends of the author, or by some other methodology is not clear.

Not a single academic economist was asked for their opinion. This imbalance would be bad enough if it were just the fact that the article relies solely on corporate economists, but one of the companies represented actually has financial links with the Tory party.

The Chief Economist at Pantheon Macroeconimic Samuel Tombs was quoted as saying "October’s poor borrowing numbers extinguish any lingering hope that the chancellor will be able to soften his austerity plans materially in next week’s autumn statement" but no mention was made of the the fact one of the senior partners of the Pantheon group (Rhoddy Swire) is a major donor to the Tory party having given at least £13,620 in donations to the Tories.

It's bad enough that the author doesn't bother to find one single source who is prepared to actually criticise the crackpot pseudo-economic ideology that underpins Osborne's failing "economic plan", but that she quotes the position of a company founded by a guy who actually helped put George Osborne and his ilk into power in the first place is quite another.


The fact that an economics article in the supposedly left-wing Guardian does absolutely nothing to hold George Osborne to account for his economic failures illustrates how desperately unbalanced the mainstream media has become. It's apparently beyond the pale these days to offer the opinion of a single dissenting voice, even in the so-called left-wing press. The first conclusion must surely be that the Guardian has now shed all pretence at being a left-wing paper.

The second conclusion is that George Osborne continues to get a free pass from the mainstream press. If it is the job of the press to hold politicians to account for their failings (rather than turn a profit for their shareholders, or promote the economic interests of their owners), then the mainstream media are not fit for purpose. If anyone else in any other occupation had presided over so many consecutive years of blunders, overspends and missed targets due to their rigid adherence to a purely ideological agenda they would have been mercilessly ridiculed and condemned by the press, yet George Osborne apparently has a free pass of indefinite duration, no matter how badly he continues to fail at getting his sums right.

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.

Ideological austerity is a con
How on earth do some people believe George Osborne is a genius?
The Tory "economic recovery" mantra is a lie
What is ... Fiscal Multiplication?
What is ... The Marginal Propensity to Consume?
What is ... the difference between a debt and a deficit?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Why signing the "Close the Borders" petition is such a shameful reaction to the Paris atrocities

In the aftermath of the November 13th atrocities in Paris, over 400,000 British people reacted by signing an absurd petition calling for the UK borders to be closed "until ISIS is defeated".

Firstly I'm going to look at what people actually mean when they say "close the borders", then explain why taking such a reactionary stance is such a shameful reaction to terrorism.

What do they want?

The idea that the UK borders can just be closed is fantastically naive. Hundreds of thousands of people per day transit in and out of the UK. Are the 400,000+ people who signed this petition calling for every UK airport to be shut down, our ferry ports to be closed and the Channel Tunnel to be bricked up until some distant date in the future when "ISIS is defeated"?

Just think about how long it took the US to kill Osama Bin Laden, and the fact that Al Qaida hasn't been defeated yet, 14 years after the September 11th attacks on the US. Anyone who thinks that ISIS could be defeated in the course of a few months or years is clearly pretty delusional.

Calling for the borders to be completely closed for an indefinite period of time is clearly a very ill-considered and impractical response to a terrorist attack. Just think about the hundreds of thousands of British tourists and business people who would be trapped abroad indefinitely. Surely few people are naive enough to actually endorse the staggeringly impractical appeal this petition makes, so what do they actually want?


The idea of completely shutting the British borders for an indefinite period of years, or even decades is an astonishingly impractical thing to ask for. The idea that nobody should enter and nobody should leave is so ill-conceived it's beyond words, so there must be exemptions.


I'm pretty sure that most of the 400,000+ people who signed the petition would agree that keeping people trapped inside the UK would be an irrational response to terrorism. Maybe they would allow an exemption to allow anyone who needs to be deported to go, and anyone who just wants to leave to get out?

British citizens

I'm pretty sure a lot of the people who signed this petition would become extremely angry if they were told that they could go on holiday abroad, but that they wouldn't be allowed back in "until ISIS is defeated". The majority of people who signed this petition would probably want an exemption to the "closed borders" for British citizens.

The problem with this of course is that the vast majority of terrorist attacks in the UK have been perpetrated by British citizens, and most of the attackers in the two major Paris atrocities in 2015 appear to have been French citizens too. Shutting the borders to all foreigners seems like a pretty impractical solution to the risk of homegrown terrorists.

EU Citizens

I'm pretty sure that a significant proportion of the people who signed such an incoherent petition must be of the Ukipper persuasion, so they'd be absolutely delighted if the terrorist attacks in Paris could be used as an opportunity to rescind European freedom of movement.

More fair minded people might argue that there will soon be a referendum on membership of the EU, so the democratic thing to do would be to wait for the result of that referendum rather than opportunistically using the tragedy in Paris to enforce the end of free movement between the UK and the rest of the EU.

Anyone who believes in democracy and isn't foul minded enough to use the deaths of so many innocent people to push their personal political agenda would say that unilaterally shutting the borders to EU migrants would be a very harsh move, especially considering the inevitable tit-for-tat recriminations against the 2 million British migrants now living in other EU countries.

People with the correct paperwork

The next question must be about people coming into the UK with the correct paperwork. Do the people who have signed this petition really want UK universities to collapse because foreign students are locked out of the UK? Do they really want to wreck the tourism industry by shutting out foreign tourists? Do they really want to rip apart any family that contains non-EU citizens? Do they really want to prevent foreign sports stars, artists, academics, musicians, actors from entering the UK "until ISIS is defeated"?

So who would the borders actually be closed to?

I'd guess that rather a lot of people who signed this petition would admit that when they say "close the borders" they actually mean "leave the borders open to pretty much anyone who wants to enter or leave the UK, but close them to a small minority of people". So which small minority of people are they wanting the borders closed to?

The answer is obvious: They want the border closed to Muslims, and specifically Muslims who are fleeing the appalling conflict in Syria.

Syrian refugees

The civil war in Syria and the rise of the barbaric ISIS fanatics has caused a vast refugee crisis. Some 12 million people have fled their homes. 8 Million of them are displaced in Syria and almost 4 million of them have fled to neighbouring countries. 1.773 million have fled to Turkey, 1.175 million to Lebanon, 629,000 to Jordan and even 250,000 to Iraq (imagine how bad things must be in Syria if they're running away to seek sanctuary in Iraq).

Of the millions of Syrians to have fled their homes only a few hundred thousand have ended up in Europe, far fewer still in the UK, which is pretty unfair given that it was the UK/US policy of eradicating the government in Iraq and creating the kind of stateless sectarianism infested society which created the perfect breeding ground for murderous Islamist fanatics like Al Qaida in Iraq and ISIS. It wasn't Lebanon or Jordan who pushed so relentlessly for the destabilisation of the region, it was the UK government.

Then there's the fact that the UK even tried to join in the Syrian civil war on the same side as the Islamist fanatics just a couple of years ago. Thankfully David Cameron was prevented from assisting the full ISIS takeover of Syria when he became the first Prime Minister to lose a war vote since 1782, but that doesn't detract from the fact that he wanted to make the situation a whole lot worse by removing Assad and creating a power vacuum that the Islamist fanatics would have absolutely thrived in.

Then there's the fact that Cameron is still cosying up to the Saudi Arabian regime when he himself admits that they're guilty of exporting militant Wahabist fanaticism all over the world. Anyone who can't see that Wahabist Islamist death cults like ISIS and Al Qaida are the children of Saudi Arabia is deeply ignorant. Cameron shouldn't be pathetically prostrating himself before the Saudis to win arms contracts, he should be doing everything in his power to stop them from supporting and funding ISIS.

Anyone who imagines that UK foreign policy has had no role to play in the rise of ISIS and the Syrian refugee crisis is under-informed at best and delusional at worst, and anyone who accepts that UK foreign policy has exacerbated the crisis in Syria, but believes that the refugee crisis should be handled exclusively by other countries as we "close the borders" is hardly fair-minded. Why should other countries be left to bear the burden of the UK's foreign policy disasters?

Fuck you everyone

The idea that the UK should just raise the drawbridge to keep out refugees from a horrifying conflict is cowardly and selfish.

Not only does it ignore the observable reality that the vast majority of terrorists in Europe are homegrown, it's also a big "fuck you" to the rest of the world.

Firstly it's a "fuck you" to people who are fleeing an unimaginably appalling conflict. Signing the "close the borders" petition is essentially saying that the horrors people in Syria have endured are nowhere near as important as our fear about what happened in Paris. It's saying that we don't give a damn about the very real horrors you've suffered, because there's a small chance that a few of the indescribably barbaric Islamist fanatics you're fleeing from might sneak in amongst you so fuck off.

It's also a very big "fuck you" to Syria's neighbouring countries, who have taken millions of refugees. By signing the "close the borders" petition we're saying that it should be left entirely up to countries like Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey to deal with the catastrophic human consequences, while we refuse to help anyone.

It's also a big "fuck you" to all of the countries in the Schenigen Area, including France. It's unquestionable that Syrian refugees are going to continue flowing into Europe as long as ISIS continue to run amok there, but what people who have signed this appalling petition are saying is it's a problem for the rest of Europe to deal with because were shutting our borders to it.

At a time when we should be standing in absolute solidarity with the French, instead hundreds of thousands of us are signing a cowardly petition saying "fuck France, fuck Europe, fuck Syrian refugees, fuck the rest of the world. The Syrian refugee crisis is your problem now because we're washing our hands of it".

It's a big "fuck you" to the victims of terrorism (the Syrian refugees and the shellshocked French) and a "fuck you" to the other countries that are carrying the lion's share of the humanitarian disaster (especially Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey).

Fear and cowardice

It's clear that the vast majority of people who signed this petition don't actually want the borders to be closed, the airports to be shut down, and the Channel Tunnel to be bricked up. They've just been motivated to sign such a selfish and incoherently written "fuck you" petition out of fear.

It's understandable that people are afraid. Anyone with the faintest shred of human empathy must be utterly horrified at the atrocities in Paris and frightened at the thought of similar atrocities being carried out against the British public. Nobody is saying it's wrong to be scared, but people tend to act irrationally out of fear, and (aside from the Ukipper opportunists who see the attacks in Paris as a glorious opportunity to promote their insular little Britain ideology) I'm pretty sure most of the people who signed this petition did so without realising that it was such a cowardly "fuck you" to the actual victims of Islamist terrorism.

If the terrorists get us so afraid that we end up saying "fuck you" to their victims, then they've won already haven't they? They've cowed us in fear to such an extent that we've given up our human decency, our empathy, our compassion.

If you've signed that petition you've admitted that the Islamist fanatics have already beaten you into submission and reduced you to such a cowardly and incoherent state of fear that you'll abandon your human decency and turn on their victims by signing a petition that doesn't even make any sense.

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