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Wednesday 27 July 2011
Letters: Dangerous to dismiss mass killer as just ‘evil’
Anders Behring Breivik imagines himself to be a hero, bravely defending his people from the threat of contamination. He evidently hopes that others, with similar views, will be inspired to emulate his actions.
Simply portraying him as an evil monster will by no means discourage this, as racist bullies love to be feared. Instead, we should promote the widest possible public understanding that xenophobia, in all its forms, springs not from courage or strength but weak-minded cowardice, coupled with a profound sense of personal inferiority.
I was racked with emotion watching the Norwegian people on the streets of Oslo on Monday evening. I felt anger at the front page of The Independent, which was lying at my feet, giving this murderer the publicity he craves.
When the musical interlude began in Oslo, after the speeches, I was reduced to tears, watching the faces of the Norwegian people and thinking about their young people who were killed. It was so sad. It must have been horrendous for them, trapped on this small island, seeing their friends being killed, with nowhere to run, except to the water.
Why should we be trying to analyse why this excuse for a human being did what he did? I certainly do not want to know. He should not be allowed to tell his story; I, for one, do not want to hear it. He is a mass murderer, who subjected these young people to horrific fear and then death. He has forfeited any rights to live among human beings. He is of no importance. Don't make him so.
It is these young people who should be on the front pages and on television, letting us know what they were like and what their aspirations were. This is what is important.
Is it possible that pictures of a deranged killer in three of his favourite outfits from the dressing-up box on the front pages of a newspaper (25 July) grant him exactly what he wanted? Would it not be preferable that one individual's faith-inspired onslaught is treated with contempt by rational members of society? Can we explore the reasons without bestowing the living martyrdom he desired?
I never understand why extremists such as the perpetrator of the Norwegian massacre are always called right-wing by the media, whereas Muslims who believe in neo-fascist ideology of Islamism are never referred to as such, despite their anti-semitic, anti-democracy, anti-pluralism, anti-freedom of speech, anti-gender equality, anti-atheist, and anti-gay views which would be called "far right"' if held by white, non-religious native Europeans.
The basis of Islamism is essentially fascistic, and we should not be afraid to say so. But until we in Europe stop tolerating the extremism of religious and ethnic minorities in the name of diversity and multiculturalism – which works against integration – then the reaction will be one of anger and frustration by the native population.
If we want to stop atrocities such as the one in Norway, we need to be less tolerant towards intolerant and bigoted immigrant communities who will not accept our values, not more so: in such a way, full integration of all incomers could be achieved, to the benefit of all. I say this as the tolerant and Liberal-voting son of a well-integrated immigrant.
In your coverage of the appalling incidents in Oslo and Utoya, you describe Anders Behring Breivik as a Christian fundamentalist.
Just as, in recent years it has been very important not to assume that all Muslims are Islamic fundamentalists, it is equally important not to allow a someone like Mr Breivik to disfigure and abuse Christianity in this casual way.
Nothing Mr Breivik did last week, nor any principle he may uphold, bears any resemblance to Christianity. Christians are taught are to love God and to love our neighbours, even those who persecute us. You should know better than to allow a belief system to be hijacked and abused in this way. It is how misunderstanding escalates.
The English Defence League has declared its intention to march through Tower Hamlets on 3 September. This was always calculated to be a provocation to the local Muslim community. It is now also an insult to those Norwegian people who died at the hands of the racist monster Breivik.
Given the links between the Norwegian mass murderer and the EDL, will they be permitted to demonstrate? Will they be given police protection? Is allowing them to march through East London in this, the 75th year since the Battle of Cable Street, what Cameron means by a "crack-down" on the far right?
In Norway the Courts decide that, while they firmly uphold the right to free speech, they have no duty to provide a platform for extreme views.
In England we still confuse these two issues: so Jeremy Paxman has the leader of the English Defence League on Newsnight, and gives him free publicity.
Serious analytical thinking seems not to be our forte.
Reaction in the press to the recent atrocity in Norway has been to claim that the activities of the far right have been neglected and obscured by an over-emphasis on the threat of extreme Islam. Comparisons are hastily being made with the situation in the UK.
In fact many Scandinavian writers, fictional and historical, have long recognised and explored themes of neo-fascist corruption and influence in Scandinavian society. Stieg Larsson was criticised for his obsession with the far right, and questions of collaboration and resistance during the war years are still debated at a national level. The word "Quisling" has become part of the English language.
The Scandinavian experience of the Second World War, fascism and its aftermath is very different from that of our own country, and it is simplistic and naive to draw too many parallels.
London W11 1LR
Winehouse's fickle fame
Having listened to the numerous tributes to Amy Winehouse, it's clear to me that her death is a terrible waste of young talent and the sudden loss of a loved one will be deeply painful for her family, no matter how expected.
Yet if Amy got booed off stage at her most recent performance then it's interesting now that those same fans (who should have been mortified for her and supportive) want to drone on about how they will never forget and always love her. And I wonder how many newspaper columnists who are now celebrating her talent and career were once calling her a disgrace to the music business.
I remember a similar change of tune when Jade Goody and Michael Jackson died. The media was quick to celebrate the life and commemorate the death but the way in which both individuals had previously been treated by the media was appalling.
Everyone has a breaking point and celebrities need to be left alone to heal when they start to fall. Instead, they're chased into the deep end, with people savouring their downward spiral under the guise of entertainment. The tabloids have a lot to answer for right now.
I have heard Amy Winehouse dismissed as "just a junkie" and feel for her family and friends. Addicts are hell. You can't help them, and I assume that she wasn't a suitable case for sectioning.
One of my dearest friends died, estranged from me, because I had been the one to "intervene" in her drinking. What drinking problem? Just social etc etc – the familiar denial. Then her anger at me, her dismissal of me from her life, the lies she told about me.
So what could the others do but watch her inevitable decline? It breaks your heart.
Wakefield, West Yorkshire
Olympic boost could disappoint
We are now just one year away from the London Olympics. It is a tremendous event that brings any nation into the sharp focus of the world's attention. However, I would like to draw attention to a few misperceptions.
The people who will flock into London and other parts of the UK for the Games will not be traditional inbound tourists – they will be fans of the Olympics and will, in many cases, attend only the Games.
Indeed, many of my members, who represent a cross-section of businesses reliant on inbound tourism, including tour operators, restaurateurs, ticket agencies and transport providers, are forecasting a downturn in business for summer 2012. Even if many concede that the global media coverage and focus on London and the UK will create a positive impression, few see any immediate benefits to their business from the Games.
The real threat to the inbound tourism sector is that of "displacement", with visitors being put off travelling, not just to London but elsewhere in the UK – and not only in 2012, but perhaps, more worryingly, 2013 and beyond. This makes the quality and performance of our transport infrastructure, the prices of hotels, food, beverages et al all the more vital to the long-term welfare of inbound tourism.
In this next year our industry would like to hear politicians and media discuss the event in terms of being a springboard for 2013 and beyond rather than falling for the misperception that the IOC Olympic Games is, in itself, good for inbound UK tourism.
UKinbound, London WC2
Our embarrassing Sports Minister claims that a large medal haul is more important than taking part in the opening ceremony of next year's Olympics, and if the UK does win a lot of medals, then "nobody is going to worry whether the athletes went to the opening ceremony or not" (report, 25 July).
Not so: I will, for a start. I think it is disgraceful that we are putting on the Olympics but the athletes and probably the swimmers as well will not be there at the start – at a time when the world really is watching. What kind of example are we trying to set? I would prefer that they took part and won no medals at all.
Surely we should be aiming to put on a safe and enjoyable Olympic Games and this is the criterion by which the world will judge us. Most people in other countries couldn't care less how many medals we win.
Is it too late to return to the true spirit of sport and the Olympics? Taking part is what matters. Sport is sport; it is fun; it is good for you; it is good to watch. But it is not to be taken too seriously. I fear we are getting this all wrong.
Drought kills a way of life
The UN's declaration of a famine across large parts of Somalia, the first there in a generation, is as tragic as it is predictable.
The international community, so adept at mounting vast emergency relief operations, has failed to mitigate the worst of this crisis through its blindness to the one self-evident fact that is clear to all who visit the Horn of Africa: that poor communities rely on livestock.
Many of the poorest people across the region, those who are finding their way to refugee camps, are nomadic pastoralists. They don't grow crops and have few possessions: livestock is all they have of any worth. When pastoralists lose their livestock they are known as "dropouts" – they have dropped out of the nomadic lifestyle.
Spana, the charity for animals across the developing world, last supported feeding programmes in north-east Kenya five years ago. There I met dropouts who had lost their livestock and livelihoods. It's telling that on my last trip, just a matter of weeks ago, I met the same dispossessed pastoralists, now completely institutionalised and reliant on food aid, with no livelihood to return to.
The situation is worsening, but there is still time to act. We must protect at least a nucleus of livestock to ensure a future for these disposed and desperate people.
Chief Executive, SPANA
Starvation will continue to recur in Africa and elsewhere until there is a scientific breakthrough in desalination technology providing virtually unlimited cheap fresh water. But who is working on it?
If vast quantities could be piped to drought areas and, over time, forests planted, not only would there be fertile land again but, at a critical point, the climate would change of its own accord.
It is a project suited to the 21st century.
Drama at the chemist's
I echo Dr Ingleton's letter (20 July) about buying products at a pharmacy. I recently tried to buy a cream from our local chemist which was recommended by my GP. When I reached the front of a large queue and requested the cream, the pharmacist demanded I show him the affected area.
As I slowly undid my trousers, the flustered and red-faced pharmacist hastily sold me the cream and, as an added bonus, under-charged me. By the way, it was my elbows that needed the treatment.
You can talk to the French
When in France, unlike Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (25 July), I take pride in our shared history and delight in our cultural differences. My compatriots who place pre-conditions on when they will even try to speak to the locals in their own language induce feelings of shame and embarrassment. I hope that I will not cross paths with Ms Alibhai-Brown on my next holiday.
Cheeriest banker in the world
While I agree with Mary Ann Sieghart's, comments about The Observer's description of Christine Lagarde as "the world's sexiest woman" (25 July), the fact is that Mme Lagarde is elegant, attractive, well turned-out and invariably smiling, unlike most of the financiers and politicians who parade across our screens with boot faces. So The Observer must be forgiven for going over the top with its appreciation.
After the badger
It is already well known that many of our native mammals suffer from, and can spread, TB. So, when our badgers have been culled (letter, 25 July) but the disease is still rife in our cattle, which species will be the next target?
Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire
Perspectives on corruption
So much for the myth of British honesty
I congratulate Mary Dejevsky on her article about corruption in the UK (Comment, 22 July). The little-noticed aspects of corruption she describes are the advantages that some privileged people get for being in the right place at the right time. These advantages and benefits are based on social connections, not merit, and those lower down on the social scale do not even get a look-in.
The UK prides itself on being a paragon of virtue. Hence the UK sees itself as a culture based on the rule of law and fair play.
But the MPs' expenses scandal, the recent cosy relationship between our political leaders and News International, the dishonourable conduct of senior police officers in the phone-hacking scandal, the cronyism in the appointments system and free expensive gifts for the privileged given on the basis of who they are, all expose this delusion about the UK's incorruptibility.
For all these reasons, it is no surprise that Transparency International places the UK in 20th place in its global corruption index.
A slogan for our times
In the light of the recent revelations about how commerce is actually conducted in this green and pleasant land, might I suggest that we amend that catchy political slogan to, "We're all at it together". Seems more in tune with the zeitgeist.
Paying the price
After living 14 years in this country, I am convinced that the British have higher moral standards than my French compatriots. As a result, corruption in Britain is more expensive.
Can it get worse?
So the media is depraved, police corrupt, banks bankrupted us, majority of politicians dishonest and in bed with them all, weak established church, dysfunctional Royal Family. What's next?
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