I was thinking recently that I should probably tone down the swearing on the posts I put up here. Not because I think there’s anything wrong with invective – it’s just that it only helps to add emphasis if it’s used sparingly, and I don’t want it to lose its effect too fast. And I really meant to try, honest I did…
…then I clicked on a news headline that read ‘Gaddafi violence against Libya civilians exaggerated, says British group’.
Seriously, who the fuck are these wankers? British Civilians for Peace in Libya are reported not to have seen any evidence of the Libyan government targeting civilians, and “witnessed substantial support for the government by broad sections of society”…on their government-organised tour of government-controlled areas? Well, what a fucking surprise. Oh, and group leader Dave Roberts apparently once gave a speech in Tripoli which ended with the words ‘Long live Muammar Gaddafi’. So he definitely went on this trip with an open mind then.
The worst thing about this story, though, isn’t the revelation that there are a small number of people in the UK who are deranged Gaddafi-apologists (and if the esteemed Mr Roberts is anything to go by, deranged they clearly are – a quick googling of ‘Dave Roberts Libya’ brings up this interesting little piece on him from the Weekly Worker a few years ago); it’s how this story is probably going to get used by the less scrupulous supporters of the NATO bombings. Because looking at the way this is being reported, the group aren’t being treated like a handful of the terminally unhinged – they’re actually being taken seriously (albeit with a degree of scepticism), as if their views are representative of most of those who oppose the war. It’s not just the Guardian, either – Sky News has a story on them too. Roberts and his happy band could end up becoming the Islam4UK of the anti-war movement – a tiny group of attention-seeking fuckwits led by a pantomime villain brimming over with ludicrous tabloid-baiting soundbites who get painted as the tip of a large iceberg when they’re anything but.
As I wrote a while back, I’m firmly agnostic about the rights and wrongs of the bombing in Libya, but you don’t have to actually be in the anti-war camp to see that there are a lot of good and persuasive arguments for being there. I’ve even read enough Chomsky to recognise that the media are probably taking a less-than-critical line towards the pronouncements and actions of Western governments, since they have a bit of a habit of doing that when we bomb places. But if British Civilians for Peace in Libya get painted as the mainstream anti-war voice, that’s going to make it very easy to write off anyone against the intervention as just another Gaddafi-loving crackpot. I might not be a staunch opponent of the war, but I don’t want that to happen. And – whatever you think about Libya – if you care about honest debate, neither should you.