Thursday, September 9th, 2010...12:34

Tony Blair and Censorship

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The argument that mob censorship is what stopped Tony Blair from going ahead with his London book signing and subsequent private shindig at Tate Modern holds no water. A much larger mob of millions in 2003 marched against the invasion of Iraq in 800 cities around the world. But in those days Blair ran Britain. And his mate George ran the United States.

These days Tony Blair cuts a tragicomic figure who embodies the oxymoron. He’s charged with bringing about Middle East peace when his actions fueled fires in those deserts. He’s pulled out of public events due to “threats of protest” from a gaggle of anti-war activists yet was cloth-eared to the millions shouting against an Iraq invasion before a single shock had been awed.

The demonstrations in Dublin set a precedent but would you have expected anything less? Hundreds of thousands of war dead may have been wiped off this earth but the violence that brought those deaths have scarred the skin of our humanity. The world was screaming “stop” but the men who held the guns still shot. We’ll never forgive Blair or Bush for that.

By publishing his book, he’s exercised his right to speak. He’s sated his ego by ensuring he won’t be forgotten. The people who planned to demonstrate at Waterstones and at Tate would’ve been exercising their right to protest. Both are freedoms of expression we should fight to protect. Both are freedoms the dead do not have.
Blair is having a crisis of conscience. He’s not having second thoughts about causing the deaths of soldiers and civilians and upsetting the balance of the Middle East for generations. Ever the considerate host, he feared a thousand people with placards calling him a war criminal would “hassle” his guests. Perhaps canceling his events is muzzling him. But it’s not censorship that stopped him. It’s cowardice.
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This article was originally published on the Index on Censorship, 09 September 2010.

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