Reactions 3

Peace vigils, attacking liberty, and the sources of hate: more spiked readers give their views.

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After the attack on America: more spiked readers give their views.

What do you think? Email spiked letters. Please keep your letters succinct.

So is spiked against the USA and the UK going into Afghanistan – or not? In his article on the CND vigil, Brendan O’Neill has an awful lot to say about peace protesters and their lack of politics and placards, but not very much about Bush and Blair’s war-in-planning (No politics please, we’re peace campaigners, 25 September). I sympathise with O’Neill’s points about how much of anti-war politics (better described as peace politics) is weak and unfocused, and often not opposed to intervention in any actual sense. But surely the solution is to have a more robust argument for a real anti-war politics that challenges Western governments’ right to walk all over the world, instead of pooh-poohing and mocking those who are misguided. Conor Feehily, UK

Tony Blair’s vague statement that ‘the most basic liberty of all is the right of the ordinary citizen to go about their business free from fear or terror’ would in other circumstances be laughed out of parliament, but it is acceptable in the context of an outraged, emotionally charged nation (Defend liberty – especially now, 17 September). We hear Blair insisting that the attack on the USA was ‘an attack on democracy, freedom, civilisation’, thereby trying to convince everybody that what happened on the other side of the Atlantic was in fact close to home and therefore demands radical action in the UK. Given that the attack was so heinous and deplorable, any attempt to speak out against proposed government measures is seen as speaking for the perpetrators. While the emotions that fuel these impassioned responses are entirely understandable, in such circumstances it is incumbent upon our elected leaders to take a dispassionate view and respond with rationality and objectivity. Any government can improve safety by mortgaging the freedom of its citizens – a measure made all the more easy if it first convinces the citizens that they have something to fear. George Hyde, UK

Listening to radio talk shows about the attack on the USA, I am struck by the fact that a lot of angry people are being patronised and cut off by self-righteous radio hosts for expressing any form of racist views. There seems to be a lack of acknowledgement – even from yourselves – that there is a hell of a lot of anger among people that cannot be expressed in any public arena. As you rightly point out, multiculturalism has polarised people along cultural lines, and none more so than disaffected white working-class people. On one talk show a woman called in to condemn the US attack, but as soon as she expressed fears of ‘being taken over’ by Muslims she was immediately condemned, insulted and cut off. Okay, I know these views are ignorant – but the caller also made the point that anti-American views were only permitted on Question Time because we live in a ‘free society’. Linda Payne, UK

Sooner or later we liberals and libertarians have to face up to the question: what should we do? Until this happens, we are in deep crisis. These events do not fit anything we’ve faced before – our normal modes are sorely exposed. It is crucial in a democracy that people attempt to explore the sympathies of the oppressed. But radical Islamists are no allies of ours by their hatred of America. Years of ill-judged foreign policy against ordinary Arabs have little to do with this brand of Islamist super-extremism – our linking of the two does nothing but insult decent tolerant Muslims worldwide. Our thinking on security has become so muddled – that the terrorists were trained in our own backyard proves nothing except that we aren’t a police state, and I presume we aim to preserve this. For the liberal intelligentsia, the agenda so far does not fit. The USA hasn’t waded in with instant warlike rashness. Bizarrely, I sense disappointment about this. And how dreadful, too, that the tabloid press has acted so responsibly – to my mind, the best coverage so far has been the brave and intelligent analysis from the Sun, day after day talking sense to ordinary people. Gavin Stewart, UK

During the three-minute silence in Birmingham city centre I braved the disapproving looks and teeth sucking and decided to carry on walking to the meeting at which I was due. I was surprised by the number of people who stood still for the whole three minutes – a really deathly silence fell over the usually throbbing high street. I got the impression that some people felt pressurised into standing still. I can only suppose that should they have carried on with their daily business, they would signal to family, friends and colleagues how uncaring, cynical and uncharitable they were. Towards the end of my defiant walk, I said: ‘I hope you will all be back here when they bomb the fuck out of the Afghans.’ People just averted their eyes, hung their heads lower and, when the alarm rang for the end of the three-minute silence, obediently shuffled back to their desks. Joan Murphy, UK

I cannot remember the word ‘hate’ being applied to any nation with the kind of frequency and enthusiasm I have heard it hurled at mine in the past two weeks. The first time the issue arose was on BBC’s Question Time, less than 48 hours after the terrorist. The word was uttered over and over again by both the audience and panel: ‘What is America going to do about the fact that it is hated?’ and ‘Shouldn’t America admit now that it is hated?’. I am not a patriotic person, but, under the circumstances, each utterance felt like a blow.

It seems a Pandora’s box was opened by the angry audience that night. Since then, people just can’t stop saying it: ‘hate, hate, hate.’ It’s like the whole country has spontaneously developed a sort of Tourette syndrome with the word ‘hate’ instead of ‘fuck’. Novelist Martin Amis wrote in the UK Guardian about ‘the ferocity of hatred’ the world directs at the USA: ‘It will also be horribly difficult and painful for Americans to absorb the fact that they are hated, and hated intelligibly.’ If this attack was an intelligible expression of hatred, then I certainly don’t want to see hatred when it’s incomprehensible.

Those who say we don’t understand the hatred are correct. Try as we might, we don’t get it. No, we’re not perfect, and yes, our government makes mistakes – and pretty big ones at that. But do we really deserve to be hated? Ask yourself one question: can you ever remember people saying they hated any nation except the USA? Did you hate China for invading Tibet? Did you hate the USSR for crushing the life out of Czechoslovakia? Do you hate Israel or Palestine for their endless battle against one another? So why do you hate us?

I’m not trying to diminish the things the USA has done wrong. There’s plenty to be mad about – like Vietnam and the Bay of Pigs, Latin American dictators and the Shah of Iran. But, come on, all countries have things in their past of which they should be ashamed. The USA may be bigger, and it is surely involved in more illicit international activities than most, but I cannot think of one major nation that does not have blood on its hands. So why do you hate us? Or do you?

Maybe I’m just in denial, but I don’t believe it’s true. Personally, I have experienced nothing but support and sympathy from all corners of the United Kingdom since 11 September. In fact, I’ve never seen such a nationwide outpouring of concern. You don’t do that for a country you hate – you do that for family. Rather than a worldwide zeitgeist of hatred, I think there is a lot of simmering resentment – and that is not the same thing. I believe the USA could, as a country, do much to diminish the resentment.

I think our bullheadedness – this national belief that we know what’s right for the rest of the world – doesn’t win us any friends. Americans need to get out more, and do a little listening for a change. The whole first world, not just the USA, needs to pay more attention to third-world nations, because they are clamouring to be heard. I think, though, that there will be a time for discussion of all of these issues, and that, if any good at all is to come out of this catastrophe, it would be for George W Bush to learn how much the rest of the world really matters. But it is too early for that now. Let us have the funerals first. Christi Daugherty, London

Read on:

Reactions 2, 20 September 2001

Reactions, 14 September 2001

spiked-issues: Attack on USA

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