There are many times when I am glad that I have moved into the country and away from the town. Usually it is because of the pleasure I get from the scenery, the pace of life and the feeling of community. Sometimes I bemoan the lack of fast broadband access, the patchy mobile phone signals and the feeling of being distant from the movers and shakers, the trendsetters and consequently being out of touch. However, this week I have been positively thankful that I am out of touch and removed from big city life. I became aware of the kidnapping and torture of a mentally handicapped young man and gave thanks that I had moved.
I gave thanks, not because in moving I am further away from events like this. I am quite sure that evil and cruelty can be found in my neighbourhood also. I gave thanks, not because I think I have made myself safer. I think it is unlikely that my odds have changed very much. No I gave thanks because I was still shocked and upset by what I heard.
I get much of my information, as do many of us, from the internet and social media as well as from the more traditional print and television media. I am aware that this often acts like an echo chamber amplifying our own opinions and confirming biases and prejudices. But I had not realised how widespread that this had become nor the degree to which people would ignore facts and moral principles for the sake of holding to their views
You would have thought that the kidnap and torture of a young man would be considered reprehensible by any reasonable person. When the young man has learning disability and reported to be vulnerable most people would think this a henious crime. That the attack was on a young white man by a two black men and two black women, and that racial abuse was hurled at him as he was tortured, and this was broadcast on Facebook for the amusement of others, would make this all the more despicable. One would imagine that everyone would be upset and angered by this depravity.
Horrors like these are not as rare as we would like them to be. We all have our own history of nightmares, I recall the crimes of Hindley and Brady, the horrors reported in the trial of Rurik Jutting, the murder of James Bulger, and more recently the murder of Angela Wrightson and my opposition to capital punishment is stretched to its breaking point. When I looked a the images of this gang and the video of the poor unfortunate all my usual anger and sadness came back. But then I went browsing and my despondency grew.
What struck me was the artificial and contrived responses to this event. The right wing were quickly out in force trying to associate the the crime with the Black Lives Matter movement. While it seems obvious that racism did drive this assault (The attackers shouted clear racial abuse during the attack) there is no evidence whatsoever that the attackers were associated with BLM. This was simple politicking and similar to the use that the left made of the murder of Jo Cox during the EU debate. Using the murder or torture of innocents to make a political point is a dreadful step.
However, this was not the only politicking. The left media were also in on the game. They were keen to see this as “not a hate crime” and warned against jumping to conclusions that race hate played a part. Democrat Symone Sanders suggested that hatred of Trump may be a factor while CNN’s Don Lemon thought that these young people had “bad home training” which lead to their actions and Kevin Duffy, speaking for the Chicago Police, said they are “kids” making “stupid decisions”. The double standard here is breathtaking. Had this attack been on a young black woman by a white gang shouting ‘fuck Hilary’ and ‘fuck blacks’ the internet would have melted under the traffic deploring the misogyny and racism.
Both the left and the right only see this act as a further piece of evidence to confirm their beliefs. The individuals and events are not truly important to them, they are simply further fodder for the ongoing propaganda war. The victim’s history taken to be used for the benefit of others and moral principles ignored for the benefit of short term gain. It is this behaviour which has made me despair of current culture and politics. People are not thought of as individuals but as members of groups (black, white, gay, disabled, etc) and as means to an end. Their histories and experiences taken to be used to make some point with little regard to the truth.
So this evening, when I try to collect my email and am informed there is “no connection”, or later when I try to make a call and rediscover that there is “no network” available in our area, I will feel glad. Glad that something, or somebody, is protecting me from all of this ghastliness