On June 16th 2016 the Labour politician and humanitarian campaigner Jo Cox was brutally assassinated in Birstall, West Yorkshire while she was going about her business as an MP.
When people hear that a young mother has been killed, the reaction of many of us is an intense feeling of human empathy. Empathy at the terror Jo Cox must have felt when she realised that someone was trying to kill her; empathy for her two very young children (just three and five) who will never see their mother again; and empathy for her husband Brendan who has lost his wife and is left with the duty of caring for the distraught children while suffering such profound grief himself.
Here's a heartbreaking statement from her husband Brendan:
"She would have wanted two things above all else to happen now, one that our precious children are bathed in love and two, that we all unite to fight against the hatred that killed her. Hate doesn’t have a creed, race or religion, it is poisonous."Politicians
Politicians from across the spectrum took the time to express their condolences. The Labour Party were united in grief, but politicians from all of the other parties expressed their condolences too. Jo Cox was a fierce critic of a lot of Tory policies but the likes of David Cameron, George Osborne, Boris Johnson, Sarah Wollaston and Theresa May all made statements describing her as having "huge compassion" and being, "a lovely person", "a committed MP" and "one of our brightest and most popular Westminster colleagues".
Even if you detest the Tories and tend to question their sincerity in pretty much anything they do or say, it's possible to understand that many of them would actually be genuinely upset that somebody that they know in a personal capacity, and have seen regularly in the corridors of power has been brutally assassinated whilst going about their business doing the same job as they do.
The tinfoil hat brigade
Some people lack basic human empathy so they don't think about a brutal murder like you or I, or even a Tory MP would. Some people are so wrapped up in their own personal agendas that they don't even take a moment to express sympathy or condolences before spewing out their warped conspiracy theories that the murder must have been some kind of left-wing "false flag" attack designed to derail their beloved Brexit campaign.
You might think that such a jump into full-bore conspiracy mode could only be an isolated incident borne of a particularly rotten mind lacking any semblance of reason or logic due to being stuffed so full of hard-right bigotry, but you'd be wrong. Before Jo Cox was even declared dead social media was awash with furious evidence-free extreme-right conspiracy theories that the attack was some kind of desperate attempt by the Remain camp to shore up their campaign.
The idea that the Remain campaign thought that the only way to prevent Brexit would be to have a Labour MP murdered in the street is ludicrous enough just to entertain as a thought, but to actually state it as a fact (as many Brexiters, Biffers and 'Kippers have) is an example of completely off-the-chart levels of delusion.
I detest pro-Remain Tories like David Cameron, George Osborne and Theresa May as much as anyone for their dishonesty, their socially and economically destructive hard-right ideology, their callous mistreatment of disabled people, their sheer incompetence and their shocking lack of respect for traditional British values, but it's important to keep some perspective instead of simply choosing to believe whatever made up rubbish we want to believe.
If you are one of those people who imagines that it's likely that the Remain campaign orchestrated this brutal killing as a false flag attack, you need to have a good long think about how your mind comes to the conclusions it does. Does it synthesise various bits of information using reason and logic, or does it just automatically accept any idea that conforms to the worldview you already have, regardless of the verifiable facts?
As a response to the news I created a Jo Cox quote for Another Angry Voice taken from a parliamentary speech she made about the refugee crisis, which was an issue she cared deeply about. A lot of people shared it. A lot of people expressed their sympathy. A minority used it to engage in outrageous moral high-horsing claiming that it is somehow disrespectful to her family to "promote an agenda" (her own agenda) and even calling for the Another Angry Voice Facebook page to be shut down.
In one of the very worst examples a regular right-wing AAV troll tried this "you're being disrespectful" moral high-horsing tactic, but soon resorted to slinging foul mouthed insults at anyone who disagreed with his view that Jo Cox's own words should not be quoted on the day of her death. What a bizarrely warped worldview some people have that making a tribute to someone is disrespectful, but spewing insults all over a tribute is perfectly fine.
Others have tried to create the narrative that consideration of the political aspects of the killing is morally outrageous, which is a bizarre argument, with highly questionable motivations.
Jo Cox was a politician. Politics was her job. To pretend that there's no political aspect to the killing, or that it's somehow morally wrong to even consider the political aspects is a weird strategy that is strongly suggestive of extreme-right sympathies (because any political analysis is certain to conclude that the killer was a mentally unwell loner with a head full of violent, extreme-right, white supremacist politics).
Had eyewitnesses said that the killer was shouting "Allahu Akbar" and initial investigations found that he had links to radical Islamist groups, does anyone seriously believe that there would be so much of this sanctimonious moral high-horsing and demanding that people don't consider the political dimensions of the killing?
I will not apologise for trying to ensure that Jo Cox's voice was heard louder on the day of her death than it ever was when she was alive and fighting for the welfare of Syrian refugees and their children.
Remember what her her husband Brendan said about what Jo would have wanted: That she would have wanted people to unite against hatred. In the current political climate, where hatred of refugees is so commonplace, I'm sure that posting a quote of her expressing her concern for the welfare of Syrian refugees is respectful to his wishes.
Several eyewitnesses have stated that they heard the killer yelling "Britain First" as he carried out the attack. The accusation doesn't sound completely unreasonable because Jo Cox was an active campaigner for refugees rights, and we all know the kind of hatemongering anti-refugee, anti-Islam, anti-Labour, anti-intellectual, anti-European, anti-left propaganda Britain First spew out on a daily basis, and we also know how much they glorify violence with their militarism, Crusader fetishism, street parades in "bin bag" uniforms, calls for mob justice and extremist training camps in the Welsh mountains.
The police investigation will eventually determine whether the killer was shouting "Britain First" and whether he had any more links to extreme-right organisations other than the pro-Apartheid Springbok Club and the US based Neo-Nazi outfit he purchased gun making manuals from.
Again, even if it is determined that the killer was yelling "Britain First" it's important not to jump straight into conspiracy mode. It's vanishingly unlikely that the Britain First leadership actively sent someone out to murder a Labour MP because involvement in a plot to murder a politician is a hell of a lot more serious than their usual level of criminality (stuff like invading mosques, harassing people in the street, ripping off the British Legion red poppy logo to sell their own products and scamming gullible people into donating money to their extreme-right hate group with animal cruelty shock images).
On a purely pragmatic level it's obvious that sending someone to assassinate an MP would end up getting the Britain First Facebook page shut down and put an end to their lucrative money scams. As detestable as they are, they're highly unlikely to decide to kill their cash cow like that.
It's inconceivable that the Britain First leadership actively orchestrated this assassination, but if the allegations that the murderer was yelling "Britain First" are true, it's absolutely clear that Britain First (and other extreme-right hate groups) must shoulder some of the blame for fostering such an environment of hate. It's beyond obvious that programming hundreds of thousands of people (many of them intensely gullible or suffering severe mental health issues) with reams of hatemongering rhetoric and "clash of civilisation" type hyperbole on a daily basis was eventually going to lead to acts of violence being committed.
The Britain First reaction
Like so much to do with Britain First, their reaction to the killing was utterly appalling and yet strangely fascinating to behold at the same time. In a rambling video post their leader Paul Golding emphasised that "it's important not to speculate" which sounds perfectly fine in its own right, but then he immediately went on to ... erm ... speculate that the killer might have been yelling "It's time to put Britain first" instead of declaring his allegiance to his favourite extreme-right BNP splinter group.
Golding repeatedly chastised the media for reporting that numerous witnesses claimed to have heard the killer shouting "Britain First" because that's apparently unacceptable "hearsay". However in his mind it's perfectly fine for him to engage in evidence-free speculation that the killer might have been yelling other things that nobody at all has claimed to have heard him shouting? If it's so terribly wrong to report "hearsay" about a killing, what does that make just inventing things about it to suit your own agenda?
Golding then tried to create the argument that the killer was an individual acting in his own right and not representative of Britain First or any other hard-right group, which is a stunningly brass-necked statement from the head of an organisation that has stoked up hate by repeatedly tarring all Muslims and all refugees with the crimes of a tiny minority.
Towards the end of his ramble Golding made a desperate attempt to distance himself from the killer by saying that "we hope this person is strung up by the neck from the nearest lamp post; that's the way we view justice" which is precisely the kind of violent lawless lynch mob mentality that could clearly drive mentally unstable people with heads full of anti-refugee propaganda to murder an MP for the "crime" of standing up for Syrian refugees.
The referendum campaigns
Both sides of the EU referendum campaign decided to temporarily suspend campaigning out of respect for Jo Cox. I've been severely critical of Vote Leave during the referendum debate, but they had the decency to suspend campaigning for the day, a decision that was lauded by the majority of their Facebook followers, so credit to them for that at least.
Meanwhile Britain First were amongst the minority to carry on campaigning, interspersing anti-EU diatribes between the reams of posts linking to articles on their own website denying that their hatemongering had anything to do with the killing and decrying the multiple eye witness accounts that the killer was shouting "Britain First" as some kind of fabricated mainstream media conspiracy.
The conclusion is dispiriting. A young mother is dead because a hate-filled individual ended her life, ruining the lives of her husband and children and shocking the nation in the process.
The evidence-free false flag conspiracy theories from the vocal minority of "screw evidence, I'll believe whatever I want to believe" Brexiter types are sickening but all too predictable given the appalling decline in the standards of political debate in the UK.
The investigation will no doubt determine whether the killer's head was full of extreme-right Britain First propaganda or not, and whether he was shouting "Britain First" as reported by several witnesses (or perhaps shouting something else that is less damaging to Paul Golding's hate group and reported by nobody), but it is clear that the killer's actions were driven by hate, and the reaction of any decent person should be to recognise that hate doesn't have a religion or creed, and to stand up against hatemongering whenever we see it.