Twitter is an astounding thing. Remembering back to when I first used it, we’d describe it in terms of a great leveller, able to break down barriers between the public and the previously unseen conversations of certain elites. It allowed students like me to gain insight and access to the worlds that really fascinated and alluded them: politics and the press.
Whilst this peak behind the curtain should have been an exciting insight in to the workings of the British media, it was in fact a monumentally depressing view into a culturally vapid, morally relative, boring community of slack-jawed fuckwittery with little or nothing to recommend it except for the extreme hard work of their editors and my own schadenfreude. This took some time to get used to, but I think it probably does society the world of good to see the all too human failings of those who would like to pronounce on how we should think, feel and act.
Anyway… back to the point. Deborah Orr is pronouncing on the good (or bad) taste of publishing the cartoons of Charlie Hebdo. I’m not going to delve in to how ironically tasteless I find her pronouncements – given the people who drew them were murdered in cold blood for doing so a matter of mere days ago, I am sure you can all judge for yourselves. I do, however, find the idea that she is not in the least embarrassed by assuming this role (of deciding what is or isn’t suitable for public consumption based on her own distaste of the topic/image/idea), and she is therefore doing it in view of the public, utterly astounding.
Good God, we’re adults for crying out loud, are you going to come round my house and go through the bookshelves to remove the books that make you blush, or feel uncomfortable, or challenge you?
The truth is often unpleasant, life is nasty, brutish and short. Worthy journalism, worthy writing, is there to report on that truth, to help us to comprehend the world in which we live and to bring in to sharp focus the narrative and connection between events. We really are in a sorry state of affairs if distaste becomes the basis by which we embargo news stories. The images are context without them the story is anchorless. They are part of a long and complicated narrative that talks of the ageing and maturing of European revolutionary politics, globalisation, inter-cultural relationships, secularism, Islamophobia, Islamo-facism, intolerance and tolerance and more besides. This is the history and the context in which we live.
There are many reasons editors might not want to publish the images (the safety of their staff not being a small matter), but taste should never, ever be one of them. Deborah, avert your damned eyes if you don’t like it, but how dare you condescend to tell us, in the name of good taste, what truth should be kept from us.