Gary Lineker’s useful idiocy

The BBC’s doe-eyed football pundit has fallen hook, line and sinker for Hamas propaganda.

Jake Wallis Simons

Topics Politics World

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Remember when Gary Lineker likened the UK government to the Nazis? Last March, the doe-eyed national treasure described the Tories’ attempts at stopping the small boats as ‘an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the [1930s]’.

Fast-forward seven months to 7 October. As the world stood appalled by scenes of butchery, mutilation, infanticide and sexual torture in southern Israel that would have made the Nazis applaud, how did Lineker respond? ‘Super Spurs are top of the league’, he tweeted.

I mention this episode only because last week, in an inexplicable interview with internet provocateur Mehdi Hasan about the Gaza war, Lineker again skipped over the Hamas atrocities, this time with an almost comical lightness of foot, before getting his teeth into Israel. ‘Obviously we all know, you know, 7 October happened’, he said magnanimously, ‘and you know, the Hamas thing. But the minute you, you know, raise your voice against what [the Israelis] are now doing there, you know, you get accused of being a supporter of Hamas.’

This startling display of hypocrisy brought to mind that line from Game of Thrones, where Jon Snow says: ‘Everything before the word “but” is horseshit.’ Because the fact is that, however unwittingly, Lineker spent the rest of the interview articulating, embellishing and amplifying Hamas propaganda.

Following Aristotle’s threefold precept of rhetoric (ethos, logos and pathos), Lineker begins the interview by staking a claim to moral authority. ‘You know, I’ve got no skin in this game’, he says. ‘I’m not Muslim, you know, not Jewish. I’m not Israeli. I’m not Palestinian. So I see, I think, purely from the outside, from a neutral perspective.’

Having set himself up as a sports commentator worth taking seriously when it comes to just-war theory and Middle Eastern geopolitics, Lineker warms to his theme. But whereas Aristotle recommends that the speaker moves on to logos (or appealing to the audience’s reason by building up logical arguments), Lineker ducks this challenge. He jumps instead straight to the pathos, or the practice of appealing to the audience’s emotions. ‘I can’t think of anything that I’ve seen worse in my lifetime’, he says of the Gaza war, shaking his head. ‘The constant images of children losing their lives, day in, day out.’

He then blends this with a bit more ego-fuelled ethos:

‘There is, you know, a lot of heavy lobbying on people to be quiet. So I understand why most people refrain. But I’m getting on a bit now. I’m fairly secure. And, you know, I can’t be silent about what’s happening. It’s so, so utterly awful.’

The BBC sports commentator, with an expression of exaggerated incredulity, then says: ‘And now they’re talking about going into Rafah!’ He can’t believe it. Why would the Israelis possibly consider such a thing?

This is, from beginning to end, music to the ears of Hamas. In carrying out the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust and then turning the world against its victims, the terror group has performed a remarkable feat. How did it achieve this? By saturating social media and legacy media alike with footage of suffering children, combined with condemnation of the sole democracy in the Middle East.

Have you ever wondered why your television never shows video of a dead or injured terrorist, only dead or injured civilians? The answer is that Hamas censors all footage coming out of Gaza. The fact that Lineker’s employer – and all other broadcasters – fail to inform their viewers of this fact is shameful in itself. But Hamas’s objectives are clear: it is trying to rouse people’s emotions against the Jewish State so as to obscure the truth, which is that Israel is fighting defensively. Anybody of sound mind knows that Israeli wives and parents are not sending their men to risk their lives in pursuit of some genocide. But watch enough footage of dead Palestinian children and it is difficult to hold on to that truth.

Hamas is willing to sacrifice its people – all of whom would fit into the safety of its tunnels if they were allowed in – to create emotive propaganda. Hamas understands that, in this day and age, feelings are what count.

This concerted media campaign explains, perhaps, why Lineker believes that the Gaza war is the worst thing he’s seen in his lifetime. Many commentators have made the obvious point that Lineker’s life has so far spanned the genocides in Rwanda, Darfur and Cambodia. Is the war in Gaza – a defensive operation against the most depraved enemies pursuing a strategy of human sacrifice for propaganda gains – really worse than the machete savagery of the Hutus or the killing fields of the Khmer Rouge, where blood-crazed executioners would drink from human gallbladders? As Lineker would know if he had engaged his rational faculties as well as his emotions, Israel has killed proportionally fewer civilians than any other modern army in an urban battle environment by taking extraordinary measures to warn people to evacuate prior to attacks. Did the Janjaweed do this as they bombed civilians from the air or raped them en masse in Darfur over 20 years ago? No, Lineker, they did not.

I suppose there was no TikTok in Rwanda, Cambodia and Darfur. But if Lineker had taken the time to listen to people like John Spencer, chair of urban warfare studies at the United States Military Academy at West Point, the world’s foremost authority on urban warfare, he would discover that Israel’s military occupation has incurred historically low numbers of civilian casualties. He would also learn that there are serious and compelling reasons why the Rafah invasion must go ahead. Namely, that you can’t extinguish 80 per cent of a fire and expect it not to return. If Hamas is not destroyed in Rafah, we will see another 7 October, followed by another war.

Is that really so difficult to understand? Nobody is claiming that Lineker is the sharpest football pundit in the box, but he must surely have the capacity to raise his insight just that small amount? Surely, this would at least be worth attempting, since he has set himself up as the mouthpiece of Israelophobia on Twitter? Surely he could, for a few minutes at least, look beyond his feelings?

Jake Wallis Simons is a journalist and the author of Israelophobia: The Newest Version of the Oldest Hatred and What To Do About It.

Picture by: YouTube.

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Topics Politics World


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