Leaders’ hypocrisy over freedom of speech

Timur Kuashev worked diligently to expose police corruption, failures in the Russian criminal justice system, and state persecution of Muslims. For this he lost his life under circumstances which Human Rights Watch describe as “strong grounds to suspect foul play”, at the same time the Russian state is clamping down on the civil liberties of trans citizens. Despite this, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov marched under banners of #JeSuisCharlie in support for free speech.

Reporters Without Borders (RWB) have rightfully drawn attention to the hypocrisy of certain international politicians paying their respects to the victims of the attacks against the Charlie Hebdo staff in Paris. With at least seven journalists killed in Palestine during the IDF 2014 summer offensive, all of whom RWB list only after it has been “established that the victim was killed because of his/her activities as a journalist,” how can Netanyahu possibly show his face at such an occasion?

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas jailed journalists in 2013 who dared to insult him. Polish PM Kopacz has been implicated in the raiding of a magazine which possessed potentially embarrassing material for the ruling party. Even our own David Cameron has recent forayed into dubious obscenity laws. These leaders have no place in a movement to memorialise those who have lost their lives for exercising their right to air their controversial, and at times acrid, opinions.

It is hardly cutting edge to suggest that perhaps our political leaders are guilty of a deep and trying hypocrisy in their declared dedication to liberty. With US leaders using threats of in- ternational terrorism to justify the murder of innocents in drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen as ‘collateral damage,’ or the French government’s purported dedication to secular rule and celebration of multiculturalism coming in tandem with the continued ban on wearing a niqab in public, it seems very difficult to accept that our leaders are sincere in their pronounced commitment to civil rights.

In a way this all boils down to a key issue in campaigning for social justice, that all too often those who purport to be at the cusp of the fight are in fact part of the exact same system perpetuating the issue at hand. The presence of these state leaders at these demonstrations is not entirely distant from certain fashion publications or cosmetics retailers claiming to love ‘real beauty,’ as they continue to profit from a cult of image that they have themselves been all too involved in constructing. Just as Thatcher touted individual liberty whilst supporting Pinochet’s regime in Chile, as Blair championed peace in Kosovo before bombing Baghdad, so Cameron claims to be the face of compassionate Conservatism, yet continues to pursue toxic attitudes towards immigration, welfare, whilst glazing over his early naughties support for both Section 28 and banning gay couples from adoption.

Politics is about marketing, it is about packaging ideas which the polls show will sell. Whilst, admittedly, the day-to-day affairs of state are of much greater significance, you might deplore animal cruelty with a quick Facebook ‘like ‘n’ share’ before chomping down a hamburger. The lines are blurred by a desire not to face up to our day-to-day hypocrisies.

It is all too easy to focus attention on our representatives rather than facing up to our own faults. We are all, at times, guilty of failing to follow through on our beliefs, failing to practise what we preach and ultimately acting in bad faith. This does not absolve our leaders, but we should remember to reflect as we condemn– a lesson they should surely be reminded of too.

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