When I was a university student, straight from school, I embarked upon my first campaign that I have recollection of. On our campus there was a bookshop (Dillons) and that was where we students were expected to buy our books (and that was in the day when there were many books we were expected to buy). I cottoned on, soon after, that around the walls of the shop were pictures of bare breasted ladies (in those days such things were not particularly abnormal). This affronted my sensibilities as a Christian zealot. I decided I would boycott the shop, although as I recall few of my fellow students followed suit. It was inconvenient insofar I had to go into the city (Foyles) to buy my books, but I had made my stand.
This incident came to mind when I noted a tweet by a friend of mine to do with the Stop Funding Hate campaign (see here). Part of my friends action was not to shop at our local supermarket since it was not doing what the campaign was calling for, which effectively was to “help us take on the divisive hate campaigns of the Sun, Daily Mail and Daily Express by persuading advertisers to pull their support”. It got me to check out what the campaign was all about and how this related to my own views on the matter and experiences in the past couple of weeks. The origins of the campaign was part to do with the attack on the judges who ruled the UK could not instigate Article 50 without Parliamentary consent but more to do with the demonization of immigrants that the aforementioned newspapers were stirring up in the way they reported matters.
I have given my view on the above matters. In short: I disagreed with the judge’s decision because my understanding was that once the people had decided in the referendum to leave the EU the government were obligated to fulfilling that mandate without any further hurdle. What the newspapers should not have done is embark on a campaign to vilify the judges they disagreed with. As for newspaper reporting, I have gone on record as saying how disappointed I am with mainstream media, not just because of bias when giving a view but because of selection of material so only that which goes along with the narrative they wish to push is what gets included. Included in that is my disdain for that which intentionally stirs up hate, but I would add a caveat that newspapers need to do their job and should say it as it is – and therein lies my problem.
The reason why reading my friends comment hit a raw nerve is that twice recently what I posted on my Facebook page resulted in an unpleasant response by “friends” when all I was attempting to do was to say it as it is (here and here for blogs relating to this). Both posts had to do with Muslim immigration, one around the recent terror attacks in London and the other to do with the situation we are seeing unfold in Sweden with respect to Muslim immigration. My view has long been that we should treat foreigners who live in my country with the love and respect that was demanded in several places in the Old Testament law and to do on the basis of Christian hospitality. While I believe in restricting immigration I also believe there is often a case for doing more for genuine asylum seekers. I recall being taught as a boy: “when in Rome do as the Romans do”, and this strikes me as pertinent still. Not only is there the issue of insufficient infra-structure, but often an unwillingness to fit in with the host culture and way of life, and this is too often evident among Muslims. My most controversial point is that we as a country face a threat by some Islamists. The UK has acted foolishly not recognizing this, failing to tackle root causes, stubbornly refusing to accept a likely link between bad things happening and religion but rather pandering, with resultant damage that might have been avoided.
Personally, I am not inclined to support the Stop Funding Hate campaign, even though I stand by them when it comes to resisting false and hate motivated reporting. While I don’t always like the tone of some of what these newspapers write and believe some of it is incendiary, I believe there are other forms of hate that some of those who do support the campaign conveniently ignore, which would bring other newspapers into the frame on the hate question. While I am big and ugly enough to fight my own battles, to be called a racist and a bigot, and worse still being accused of being unchristian, and to be attacked publicly, is not nice (or true) and neither is the sort of “deplorable” attacks on those who have the temerity to support Brexit and Trump based on genuine concerns that sadly many of their detractors still fail to get. I believe me and my friend have enough common ground and maturity to work together on addressing social injustice etc. not to be put off by differences, but despite my long history of community activism, it has made me wary entering what I now see as a lion den, given the hatred I sometimes feel when expressing my views (which is rather ironic given this campaign is supposed to be about hope not hate).
As is invariably the case, we need honest debate and respectful disagreement, but the events of recent weeks, on top of a trend I have been noting over a number of years, have left me perturbed. I have no doubt the culture wars are hotting up, with an increase in polarization concerning such contentious matters as immigration and, pertinently, British identity. It has also highlighted significant differences in emphasis among sincere Christians. The untoward consequences of political correctness and the disjoint that arises are likely to be around for some time to come. As for me, I will continue to watch and warn, and continue to do what I can to serve the poor.