I should hope that as I get older I might also become wiser, such as knowing the time to speak and not to speak and, as well as when, what, why, where and how I speak. I am passionate about what I believe and unashamedly use social media and this blog in order to share those beliefs, yet I realise only too well not just how important these beliefs are but try to follow my own advice, and adopt the TNK principle: is it True, is it Necessary and is it Kind?
I have found how easy it is to upset people by what I say/write (it happened TWICE yesterday) and while I get what one preacher, I was recently listening to on YouTube, said in response to those listeners who may be upset by what he had to say, that it was their problem, I also believe it is right to live in peace, if at all possible, with our neighbours, and that requires choosing one’s words wisely. In recent days I have reflected on the need not to waste time by casting pearls before swine but also not to be like the German Christians who failed to speak out when they should have and, partly as a result of their inaction, six million Jews were needlessly slaughtered by Hitler’s Nazis and countless others besides.
The reason for this preamble is because of a story that broke in the last three days involving Jack Monroe, a well known celebrity chef and anti-poverty campaigner, and also a Southend girl with many fans, whose tweet made on Sunday, on a subject she clearly had strong views about, did cause offense to some, and this was reported in the Southend Echo under the headline: “Blogger blasted for slur over PM’s son”. The offending text was: “he (referring to David Cameron) uses stories about his dead son as misty eyed rhetoric to legitimise selling his NHS to his friends” and when taken to task due to a lack of sensitivity (according to the Echo report), she was unrepentant and even defiant. For those not aware of Jack, she blogs regularly, particularly on food matters. Besides speaking out on matters affecting the poor, sometimes based on her own first hand experience, she regularly posts innovative ideas on preparing nourishing meals aimed at those making do on low budgets.
One of the upshots of her controversial tweet was an adverse reaction, encapsulated in a Mail Online headline “Sainsbury’s axes Left-wing blogger for vile PM slur: Guardian columnist accused Cameron of exploiting his son’s death… but was happy to trade on her OWN child“. One of my Facebook friends urged a Sainsbury boycott as a result of this alleged action. Several high profile figures have condemned her actions but there was a lot of support too, as well as lively discussion concerning the rights and wrongs of the actions of those involved in this story, particularly those of Jack.
Having reflected on the story, the following are my reactions:
- First and foremost, I deeply sympathise with David and Samantha Cameron concerning the loss of their beloved son, Ivan.
- Jack did cross the line of decency and she should have apologised for her comment, even though made without ill intent. (Edit: I believe this may have happened and if so I hope it gets reported)
- The Mail Online headline is inappropriate and sensationalist and amounts to little more than muck raking. Sadly, this may often be said of the “other side” – not a good omen for constructive debate!
- Jack is passionate about the NHS and her concerns are legitimate, but there are better ways to bring these to public attention.
- Freedom of speech should be protected, unless in exceptional circumstances, e.g. it is libelous or hateful. Even though I may not like what was said, Jack was entitled to say what she said!
- While Sainsburys should be free to hire and fire who they wish, it would be regrettable if their action, as has been suggested, was for any other reason than breach of contract or bringing their business into disrepute or quite simply she had completed her contract and her services were no longer required.
- If we are to boycott Sainsbury over their action as some have urged, where do we stop? I am more incensed with the Red Cross who recently sacked one of their volunteers and then lied about it because they found he had joined a protest against gay marriage.
- The tweet illustrates some of the anger many feel regarding the way the NHS is being handled, and those who suffer, and the issues that have given rise to this anger needs to be addressed.
- It is better that we focus on issues and facts rather than insinuations and opinions when making public statements.
- It is better that we keep our family out of it when we are making our points publicly (something I am personally mindful of).
This may already be yesterday’s news, but it does show how carefully those of us who engage in the public square need to be when putting across our points and some of the issues that can arise when we do. I hope Jack will learn from this incident, not least there are those out there who are intent to undermine her, and take stock. I wish her well and believe what she does telling us about cooking on a budget and being a voice for the voiceless to be important and necessary.