Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Columnist David Banks

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Columnist David Banks

Article excerpt

THE village of St Mary Mead is the world in microcosm for Miss Jane Marple. The most murderous crimes, the greatest international evils ... all are explicable once Agatha Christie's frail country spinster finds parallels for mind-set and motive among her neighbours within the fictional country community in which she lives.

Godzone is a bit like that. Forgive my insensitive and extreme comparison but the same sense of grievance which apparently led offended Muslim extremists to slaughter ten journalists and two policemen in a Paris newspaper office can be - indeed HAS been - replicated in miniature in my own environment. Some piece of whimsy I included in a recent column provoked an outraged reaction from the central character (which gives the lie to readers who imagine my 'pals' are imaginary) to the extent that he has darkened neither the Red Lion's domino table nor yet its doorstep since the offence-giving edition. Mea culpa.

It happened once before: a column poking mild fun at the double-barrelled fraternity (of whom there are plenty in Godzone) drew fury from one of those I (unwisely) named. Mea maxima culpa.

Stomping off in a huff is one thing, however; planning and staging a mass execution quite another. The media rightly publically exposes and criticises the illicit and downright disgusting acts of Western governments who collude to torture and illegally imprison suspects without trial, activities which recruit so many impressionable young Muslims to the caliphate cause.

But when the press shines a similarly critical spotlight on the blinkered fanaticism of the jihadi terrorists the result is murder and mayhem; terrorism triumphs.

So how does a journalist do his job and not give offence to someone? How can mere words or artwork, be they fact or comment carefully framed to avoid infringing stringent laws of libel and contempt, lead to savage murder? More importantly, as a series of radio stations rang to ask this exeditor yesterday, what should be the response of the media fraternity in registering its horror at and defiance of such bullying butchery? Run and hide or give 'em hell? …

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