Orlando…And Owen Jones

Orlando, Florida was a horrific event. Fifty people killed by a gunman.

There are two factors here. The venue was a gay club. Was this a homophobic attack? Self-evidently …yes. Was this an Islamist terrorist attack on United States? Self-evidently …yes.

It was certainly an attack on American “values”. A key American “value” is tolerance of sexual orientation. Conversely many American Christians….I should say so-called Christians….proclaim that their own version of American “values” does not include tolerance of “gay” people.

There are after all “Christians” driving around in cars with stickers “Kill a Qxxxx for Jesus”. Quite possibly there are stickers which say “Kill a Qxxxx for Mohammed”.

The reaction on right-wing Fux News is interesting. They siezed on the fact that the murderer was American-born of Afghan heritage. The contributors that Fux News regard as experts lined up to blame President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

I did not hear any Fux commentary on American gun laws and I did not hear any commentary that was specifically sympathetic to the LGBT community.

Fux News have an agenda.

The mass murderers at Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech were not Islamist. The murderer at the “black” church at Charleston, South Carolina was a white supremacist who might have a distorted view of “American” values. The so-called Christians who bomb family planning clinics have ….they would say…American values.

To understand what happened last night in Florida….we need a discussion. All that you have just read above was always going to the subject of a blog-post that I would write tonight. It would be reasonable to arrive at a conclusion that the murders were nothing more than blind hatred of gay people. Thats an entirely reasonable conclusion and you dont have to be LGBT to believe that. Nor do you have to be homophobic to believe that this was an attack on western values (and that a LGBT night club is a very visible sign of western tolerance.

There is a discussion to be had.

A discussion that should have been part of the 25 minute Press Review (10.30 pm….there is a second edition at 11.30pm) an always watchable segment on SKY NEWS. Two journalist reviewers as always tonight (Julia Hartley-Brewer, a conservative commentator and Owen Jones the liberal/Labour commentator) and presented by tonights duty newscaster, Mark Longhurst.

This was the ideal forum to discuss the way that tomorrows  British neespapers were handling this story. That after all is the whole point of the nightly “Press Preview”. Part of the discussion is to analyse the unpalatable. Necessarily, the presenter (Mark Longhurst tonight) has to act as Devils Advocate.

As I have said, a reasoned discussion would probably have reached the conclusion that this was simply or mostly homophobic.

Yet a reasoned discussion never happened. Owen Jones is usually right-on-the-money with political and social commentary …an effective advocate of social democracy, the Labour Party and LGBT issues (he is gay).

Yet Jones…who has accepted enough appearance fees on SKY NEWS to know how the format works,  wanted no discussion. He may well be right that this is an attack based on unique hatred of and unique vulnerability of the LGBT community. But the role of Islamic terrorism (if any) should not be dismissed.

Increasingly Owen Jones became more animated and increasingly more over-the-top.  And it was no surprise that he walked off the set. He looked petulant. He did not appear on the second edition of the “Press Review”. It was left to Mark Longhurst and Julia Hartley Brewer to appear without him. And rather oddly, he was not even mentioned.

And his attitude becomes the story. Rather than writing about “Orlando”, I find myself writing about “Orlando…and Owen Jones”. That is a shame.

Of course I understand the fact that tonight the LGBT community around the world is grieving and in shock. Likewise my friends in the local LGBT community.

But if we have proved anything in Ireland in the last year, it is that gay people are valued members of the Irish nation…LGBT people and heterosexual people voted for Equal Marriage. We proved our Humanity.

I dont have to prove my Humanity to anyone. I grieve for people affected by the Orlando tragedy. I grieve for the broader LGBT community around the world.

I will never be attacked for being Gay. I will never be attacked for being Black. I will never be attacked for being a Woman. Or Muslim. Or Jewish. Or Protestant (Kingsmill). Or British (Birmingham).

But dont demean my Humanity by trying to suggest that I have no understanding of the murders and hate crimes, committed on your unique vulnerable group. Loughinisland anyone?

“Hate Crimes” were not invented in the 21st Century.

The acceptance of the LGBT people into the mainstream has been one of the great acchievements in my life. But Owen Jones doing a passable imitation of “the only gay in the village” is a step backwards.

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10 Responses to Orlando…And Owen Jones

  1. Kev Hughes says:

    John, I watched this on youtube and whilst he (Owen) didn’t cover himself in any glory towards the end with his petulance, I think he is essentially correct though, that the SKY News anchor was trying to play down how this was an attack on the LGBT community. When the anchor (I do not know who he is) was trying to make this a whole ‘all lives matter’ issue I think he was deliberately playing down the uniqueness of the whole matter or to make the defining issue part of the background.

    Owen’s point that if this took place at a synagogue is actually on the money, it would be an anti-semitic attack first and foremost. It can be a terrorist attack and an anti-LGBT attack all at once, however, I felt the anchor really wanted to play down the LGBT aspect.

    • Kev….its a matter of interpretation. I take the point of my LGBT friends that this is an attack on their community.
      And thats the point Jones was making. I dont think that Mark Longhurst was offensive and really Julia Hartley Brewer was very good at trying to calm Jones down….basically if Jones had listened more, he would have realised that he was pushing at an open door. The conversation would have gone in the direction he wanted but Longhurst had a duty to appear even-handed.
      TV News or analysis is about nuance…and there are times when that is hard but it is still a duty to do so.
      I am not sure if Jones was angry at Longhurst as Longhurst could not have been involved in the preparation of the Press Review…all he had to do was press the buttons on his ipad which would have given him the “running order” and the general approach.
      The “running order” and approach would have been decided in the Green Room between a duty editor and the reviewers and I think Jones had probably had an argument BEFORE he went on the set.
      No doubt Jones will write about this in his Guardian column and it will be interesting if he reveals more than what we saw onscreen.
      I have no doubt that people will make a formal complaint to SKY or a regulator but I dont think Longhurst has a case to answer.
      The pity is that LGBT people have made great strides and mainstream people are delighted to see them in the mainstream. But turning back into a cultural ghetto would be a backward step.
      It is in my make-up to say that i am as hurt by Orlando as anyone else but some LGBT people seem to be telling me that I cant be.
      Then thats fair enough.
      In so far as some want sole ownership of the horror then thats ok. But next week (?) there is that Pride Event in Belfast…and thankfully that is much more inclusive.
      Thats the choice Inclusive or Exclusive.
      If some or all LGBT people are not interested in my views and tell me its none of my business, then I am ok with that. Just dont ask me to sign petitions or “share” posters on Facebook.
      Nobody gets to tell me to mind my own business twice.

      • kevinbarryhughes says:

        John, I don’t think Owen was saying this can only be mourned or owned by the LGBT community, more that this particular community had inflicted a mass murder against it and the anchor was trying to ignore the sexuality of the victims. The murderer could’ve picked any nightclub but he went to an LGBT club, it’s a homophobic act and terrorist incident at once but focusing on the perpetrator’s political persuasion in this instance was more important, it would appear, than the victims and what they all had in common, tolerance of and or coming from the LGBT community.

        Owen has a piece in today’s guardian, http://gu.com/p/4yvjj?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

      • Thanks …will read after match.

  2. Turgon says:

    This terribly dreadful utterly wicked attack can be analysed in many ways. It may have been Islamist (a different and political concept from Islam the religion). It may have been homophobic. It may have been to do with the murderer having a grievance (he had apparently frequented the club over a number of years). It may be repressed sexuality.

    No one knows it could be any, some, all or none of those issues. People on whatever side will grind whichever axe they wish to (gun control, homosexual rights, radical political Islamism).

    None of that is fair, however. Those murdered will have had different views on different things. We should not appropriate their murders to further our own agendas; even for the LGBT community it is a bit distasteful to use the deaths of those 49 people to further their own agenda.

    This is a time to say it was utterly wrong by any religious or secular morality and wish good wishes to all those injured and to the families of those murdered.

    • as I have said the final analysis will probably show that the LGBT community was a probable factor.
      But youre absolutely right that sexual orientation was the only common thread. The victims will include Republicans as well as Democrats as well as politically apathetic….not to mention pro-gun and anti-gun.
      And with the victims being mostly Latino from that night, a fair bet that some of them (this is Florida after all) will take different views on Cuba.
      The mistake that the LGBT community in Soho last night or in Europe makes is to assume that support for their liberal cause is in itself an indicator of a broader liberal social or political agenda.
      This is the mistake that Eddie Izzard (on Question Time) and Owen Jones (on SKY News) have made.
      Izzard for example saw his transgendered status as an indicator to vote REMAIN (there are lots of good reasons to vote REMAIN or LEAVE but being gay or straight is not a good reason)
      It is a triumph that LGBT are in the mainstream but a consequence has to the acknowledgement that saying Izzard and Jones were petulant and irritating is not homophobic.
      Some LGBT people really need to take off the blinkers.

    • Kev Hughes says:

      ‘even for the LGBT community it is a bit distasteful to use the deaths of those 49 people to further their own agenda.’

      Turgon, what does that actually mean, I’d be intrigued to hear how mourning the murder of people at an LGBT club and highlighting this as an attack on the LGBT community in Orlando is furthering one’s own agenda, as opposed to highlighting that those who choose to ignore this may be homophobic.

      John’s bringing Eddie Izzard and the REMAIN camp into this is classic misdirection.

      • Kev…I will only address your final sentence.
        People like Eddie Izzard and Owen Jones have been excellent advocates for LGBT rights. I remember the 1960s and 1970s when Gay people were the victims of jokes on TV. Comedians and comic actors like Larry Grayson, Frankie Howard, John Inman never openly admited to being gay.
        So….Eddie Izzard….he has in some way moved from being a mere comedian to being a social commentator.
        Thirty years ago, QUestion Time was for professional politicians and the occasional journalist. It is now a feature in 21st century that there is a fifth chair for a celeb. On occasions it works. On oother occasions it doesnt work.
        Eddie Izzard occupied that chair last week and made a fool of himself. His transgendered nature is a matter for himself but it is not somehow as he implied a symbol of his openness to internationalism and Europe.
        Nigel Farage has ideas that I find offensive.
        Eddie Izzard has no ideas that I find offensive. Yet last Thursday he contrived by a boorish attitude to make Nigel Farage seem “reasonable”.
        REASON…I think that sums it up. Balancing ideas “Remain or Leave” and advocating a position. Thats how Question Time works. THe pub bore who blames migrants for everything is an unreasonable argument that has no place on Question Time. WHether its Boris Johnson, Farage or other LEAVERS, they need to at least dress up their views in a presentation that is not so crude.
        Likewise the REMAIN side….Izzard did not put up an argument. To him it was self-evident. A coffee house bore rather than a pub bore.
        Owen Jones…my favourite columnist..I am currently on a train to Belfast and I have the GUARDIAN (he isnt in it today). We all read columnists because we want validation that our views on the news are correct…..thats why I used to read Ian Aiken or the late Hugo Young (todays Guardian reprints an article he wrote in 1999).
        So on SUnday night Jones disappointed because rather than put up a reasoned argument, he went with his gut….an attack on LGBT pure and simple. He might well be right and I think most reasoned argument on Sunday night would have taken the discussion down the same road.
        Jones mistake was to try and shut down any suggestion to the contrary.
        Three days later, there is a new narrative. The alleged visits of the murderer to the scene of the Orlando tragedy might well be no more than him familiarising himself with the venue…in an effort to make his killing spree more effective. His alleged presentation of himself as a gay man trying to hook up might be a total lie. Or it might be an attempt to blend in. Or….it might be that the murderer was conflicted about his sexual orientation.
        Again reasoned discussion and analysis would tease out the truth.
        This means that Owen Jones MIGHT have jumped to conclusions, as much as Fux News jumped to the islamic terrorist attack. It suits respective agendas.
        I expect an unreasoned agenda from Bill O’Reilly, Shaun Hannity etc. I expect better from Owen Jones.

      • Kev Hughes says:

        I will, again, have to respectfully disagree with you John.

        Was Owen angry as hell? Yes, and I think rightly so. It is very easy to get caught up in the fact that shootings are, unfortunately, a frequent occurrence in the US, however, what occurred in Orlando was most definitely a homophobic incidence and the anchor’s attempt at playing ‘devil’s advocate’ was in particularly poor taste, especially when he persisted with a line of reasoning that Owen highlighted would not gain traction with other well known minorities, eg Jews.

        The political affiliation or opinion on gun control of the victims doesn’t matter a jot; this was an incident in an LGBT club where, surprise surprise, it would mainly be filled with members of the LGBT community. And I do feel that the community targeted in an attack does get to feel somewhat raw with anger when those from outside decide to paint this as anything but what happened. To this day, the LGBT community still has to fight for equality of opportunity within communities in the western world, never mind elsewhere. I do not frequent LGBT clubs or bars but having friends who do, I know it is a ‘safe place’ for them, so the murderer would be well aware that LGBT clubs would be mainly populated with people from that community.

        Your bringing Eddie Izzard into the debate is a welcome diversion. The murders in Orlando have nought to do with Question Time and it just comes across as a poor way of tying Owen’s petulance and anger with Izzard’s idiocy. It’s a tenuous link.

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