When six British soldiers were killed in Afghanistan earlier this month, I heard a number of people expressing exasperation with just how much of a fuss the media was making over it.
In particular, a common objection was that the numerous other people being killed in the conflict don’t tend to receive anything like such devoted press coverage, particularly if they’re foreigners, and particularly if they’re innocent citizens. The tally of war-related civilian deaths in Afghanistan in the past decade is into the tens, or even hundreds of thousands.
While the loss of these few soldiers was no doubt personally devastating to their own friends and families, it perhaps shouldn’t be shocking to the rest of us to learn than a half-dozen military professionals in a war zone lost their lives.
But when a white person dies, it’s a tragedy; when a village in the Middle East gets carpet-bombed, it’s four seconds of an inch-wide rolling news ticker.
I’m trying to select my words so as to make my point clear, but I worry that I’m not doing a good enough job. Which would be a shame, as somebody else “didn’t make his point very well” while discussing this very subject a couple of weeks ago, and he got himself arrested and charged with a racially aggravated public order offence.
Seems a bit harsh for a moment of inarticulacy.
Actually, what it seems like is tyrannical bullshit. He posted something on his own Facebook wall, the bulk of which calls attention to the plight of innocent Afghani people, and doesn’t mention race or anything race related. Which I suppose was tacitly admitted when the police dropped the racial aggravation charges.
Compare and contrast the backlash he received, from some of the most spitefully point-missing zealots since the Jessica Ahlquist affair:
Fucking sick twat burn his eyes out smelly fukka
Cheeky smelly pakki cunt wants tying to a tree n shooting …Smelly fukker..Lock him up n throw the key away ..Grrrhhhh…SKUM…!!
Dirty smelly greasy bastard needs fuking torturing the dirty paki bastard!!
Remember: these are things being said about the guy charged with a racially aggravated public order defense.
For his part, Azhar Ahmed is still being charged. This time with “sending a message that was grossly offensive”.
Well, maybe it was grossly offensive. I wasn’t grossly offended by it myself, on any personal level, but nobody I love has recently been needlessly killed. I can understand those who have suffered such a tragedy would feel differently. For the most part, I found Ahmed’s message not inexplicably frustrated, with an unnecessary smattering of frothing bile toward the end. He’s an angry 19-year-old. He’s not threatening anyone. He’s not attacking anyone. Even if he was being an insensitive dick, you don’t get to arrest people for being insensitive dicks.
If you think Azhar Ahmed is responsible for criminally damaging soldiers’ morale, get back to me once every member of the armed forces is fully equipped with safety gear and all those in a combat zone have a complete exit timetable. Then we’ll discuss what some teenager scribbled on his own corner of the internet.
People bothered to take to the streets with placards about this. “Jail those who insult our troops“. Is that really who we want to be? Start locking up anyone who pisses us off, even when the ability to shut them out and return to blissful silence is a mere “unfriend” click away?
I accidentally watched the first few minutes of one of the Starship Troopers sequels a few weeks ago, and thought the scene – in which a group of “traitors” were convicted and executed for failing to support the troops and damaging morale – was heavy-handed and lacked nuance. I don’t want to start thinking I ought to be taking crappy dystopian sci-fi more seriously.