When fanatics kill journalists, Seumas Milne blames something else

Labour's new spin doctor made excuses for the Charlie Hebdo killers


As Guardian columnist Seumas Milne is announced head of communications for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party, journalists who now have to deal with him should know how cheaply he values their lives.

Just days after the Paris murders at the offices of Charlie Hebdo in January, Milne took to the pages of the Guardian to rehearse for his new role as spin doctor – only this time for the killers.

Milne Paris

In a column titled ‘Paris is a warning: there is no insulation from our wars’, and sub-headed, ‘The attacks in France are a blowback from intervention in the Arab and Muslim world. What happens there happens here too’, Labour’s new spinner-in-chief gets his deniability in early:

“Nothing remotely justifies the murderous assault on Charlie Hebdo’s journalists, still less on the Jewish victims singled out only for their religious and ethnic identity.”

Despite this proviso, Milne proceeds to list at length more justifications than had even occurred to the killers. After explaining that the cartoons and jokes in Charlie Hebdo were a ‘repeated pornographic humiliation’ for French Muslims, he casts a wide net:

“Of course, the cocktail of causes and motivations for the attacks are complex: from an inheritance of savage colonial brutality in Algeria via poverty, racism, criminality and takfiri jihadist ideology.

Everything, in short, except the agency of the killers themselves. (One could argue that the role of religious ideas in the murder of cartoonists for drawing a religious figure is more significant than the Algerian war of independence, which wound down in 1962, but leave that aside for now.) Milne’s apologia hits its stride as he asserts:

“But without the war waged by western powers, including France, to bring to heel and reoccupy the Arab and Muslim world, last week’s attacks clearly wouldn’t have taken place.

Clearly? Given his articles after 9/11, 7/7 and the Woolwich murder of Lee Rigby, the only thing clear is Milne’s consistent victim blaming when it comes to Islamist terrorism.

Milne goes on to invoke the authority of the dead killers to make excuses on their behalf, repeating their self-serving propaganda in a liberal newspaper:

“Cherif Kouachi insisted the attacks had been carried out in revenge for the ‘children of Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria’. Ahmed Coulibaly said they were a response to France’s attacks on Isis, while claiming the supermarket slaughter was revenge for the deaths of Muslims in Palestine.”

He then quickly reassures readers who might be getting the wrong end of the stick that ‘such wanton killings are, of course, entirely counterproductive to the causes they are supposed to promote’. Of course. Poor misguided terrorists. If only you had listened to Seumas!

‘Why does this matter?’ you might ask. ‘Milne has written countless god-awful things. Why is this of particular significance now?’ Well, I think for this reason.

Journalists who cover British politics will now presumably deal with Labour’s new head of comms on a regular basis. Due to this professional necessity, they deserve to know what he thinks of them.

When Milne says there is a ‘gulf that separates the official view of French state policy at home and abroad and how it is seen by many of the country’s Muslim citizens,’ adding ‘That’s true in Britain too, of course’, he means that his apologia for terror would apply to the murder of British journalists as well.

Hacks might have hated Lynton Crosby and Alistair Campbell, but at least they could rely on them to be solid on the right of journalists not to be shot in their workplace.

The same cannot be said for Campbell’s successor.

In Seumas Milne, journalists will be sitting down to lunch or speaking on the phone with a man of whom they know the following to be true:

If a fanatic stormed into their offices tomorrow and stuck a gun in their face – either out of dislike for something they had written or to act out some political grievance – Milne would be willing to say, in public, that this was at least partly their own fault.

Happy lunching, comrades.


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Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow MediaWatch on Twitter

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141 Responses to “When fanatics kill journalists, Seumas Milne blames something else”

  1. MacGuffin

    Splits, Spits, and Shits – welcome to Corbyn’s Labour Party.

  2. Chicago

    Well put, Tyronen.

  3. Esmee Phillips

    Tory troll.

  4. Esmee Phillips

    Trolling the same rubbish here as on Labour List, I see.

    Does ConHome pay double time?

  5. Esmee Phillips

    How very dare Milne oppose the enlightened humanitarianism of the State Department and its employers in the big investment banks and the Fortune 500?

  6. Jennifer Hornsby

    Milne, I take it, was interested in how a certain sort of killer is bred. Nothing wrong with that. It explains how someone could be motivated to kill without in anyway justifying killing.

  7. Esmee Phillips

    Milne in the passage quoted offers a complete non-exculpation of terrorism, while attempting an explanation of why it happens. A distinction too subtle for the writer, it seems.

    In a world whose holy book is the Dodgy Dossier, that sort of ‘moral equivalence’ is not allowed. You are either with the US-Israeli junta or you are against it. An awful lot of the 4.5% refuseniks and bitter-ayers are with it… and have been ever since the glorious ‘Euston Spring’ of the ‘Decent Left’.

    The mark of their ‘moderate’ Labourism is their willingness to tolerate the drone, the phone tap and Gitmo. With a tear in their liberal-humanitarian-interventionist eye, of course. But sometimes those primitive Middle Easterners have to be taught a lesson.

  8. Esmee Phillips

    You won’t be in the least shocked to hear that MacGuffin is a Tory troll.

  9. Esmee Phillips

    You socialise with no-one. You are a crawlbot.

  10. Jeremy Poynton

    Must be. After all, Corbyn’s a HUGE hit with all of the Labour MPs, as has been widely reported. You can’t really think this man will be get elected? After Brown and Miliband? The Labour Party has a suicide wish – e.g. they all knew Brown was not fit for power, yet waved him into Number 10. You then elect a bizarre Marxist dweeble from Hampstead. He’s told to go take a dump. So you then elect an even bizarrer Marxist dweeble from Islington.

    Mad. And hugely entertaining.

  11. Jeremy Poynton

    Brown – Jack Straw’s autobiography notes that he knew Brown was not fit for Number 10, but said nothing, as he didn’t want to hurt the Labour Party. No, he just wanted to hurt the country (as he did). Tribalism at its most base.

  12. MacGuffin

    You fear me because you know I am not a Tory troll. Even on Labour List you are outnumbered. Your sweaty Corbynista fantasies are turning into a nightmare before your eyes.

  13. Jeremy Poynton

    When they aren’t teaching each other a lesson…


    “”Forty years after the Swedish parliament unanimously decided to change the formerly homogenous Sweden into a multicultural country, violent crime has increased by 300% and rapes by 1,472%. Sweden is now number two on the list of rape countries, surpassed only by Lesotho in Southern Africa.”

    I guess that’s all the fault of the West?


  14. Timbo

    How silly.

    Adam Barnett’s view appears to be that it does not matter how many terrorists there are, or how many vicitims of terrorism there are. The only thing that matters is that we directly blame the perpetrators of terrorism, and that we don’t go near any kind of analysis of what gives rise to terrorism.

    As long as blame is attributed in the right place and the right proportion, everything is in happy balance. Fatal terrorist attacks in the UK could double in ten years time from now and we would have no business trying to anlayse why that might be – or how it could be stopped – in terms of the historical, political and cultural contexts. That would be apologism. Just keep on blaming the right people and it doesn’t matter how many victims there are.

    Milne is very clear that “Nothing remotely justifies the murderous assault on Charlie Hebdo’s journalists”. But you’d almost think Adam thinks it’s Milne fault for giving them apologist cover!

    What next – a witch hunt for psychologists who seek to understand the behaviour of sexual offenders? Many of them claim it can help prevent offending behaviour, but they’re clearly just a bunch of apologists for pedos, innit.

  15. Esmee Phillips

    It is the fault of cheap-labour sweaters, who imported these people to undermine the social solidarity of organised labour country by country.

    The globalists know no patriotism. They inhabit their privileged and secure world, guarded from the evils they have unleashed on the rest.

    The cheerleaders for unrestricted intercontinental immigration are the useful idiots of the 1%, tirelessly enforcing silence or equivocation on the victims of adulteration. But perhaps resentment will not be contained so easily much longer, even in poor docile Sweden.

  16. Esmee Phillips

    Tory troll. Ladies do not sweat, btw.

  17. Esmee Phillips

    Congratulations on your flawless perception of the result of the next general election. Why are you hanging round here when you could be making a fortune on dogs or horses?

  18. MacGuffin

    You’re no lady. You’re a Trot.

  19. reactionary cad

    This is how Milne “explained” the legitimacy of Ahmadinejad’s 2009 election and the social basis of the subsequent student protests. Readers of the following lovely excerpt might care to remember that this was published two days before Neda Agha Soltan was gunned down in the street:

    “Of course the movement behind opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi spreads far beyond the capital’s elite, as did the supporters of Winston Churchill against Clement Attlee. In Iran, it includes large sections of the middle class, students and the secular. But a similar misreading of their own social circles for the country at large appears to have convinced the opposition’s supporters that it can only have lost last Friday’s election through fraud.

    That is also reflected in the western media, whose cameras focus so lovingly on Tehran’s gilded youth and for whom Ahmadinejad is nothing but a Holocaust-denying fanatic.”

    Supporters of Milne’s appointment by Corbyn might care to ask themselves whether this is really what is meant by “new politics”? The man’s worldview is poison and the choice by Corbyn demonstrates that he is unfit to lead the Labour Party. Remember Milne has not been hired to empty the bins, he is Director of Strategy and Communications. The only assumption one can make is that Corbyn has been reading the finely honed bile that Milne has cranked out at the Guardian and agrees with it.

  20. Jeremy Poynton

    Would that I was a betting men 😉

  21. Esmee Phillips

    Others deem me to be a Tory, however. The concept of an independent thinker is sooooo tough for the automatons of this world to get their CPUs round.

  22. Norfolk29

    Clearly you have never studied philosophy, or if you have, you completely failed to understand cause and effect. Everything Milne says is only understandable if you accept that the killers would not even be there if the wars against Islam had never taken place. I accept that Islam, especially the Ottoman Turks, attempted to colonise Europe and actually got to the gates of Vienna, but it was a war of conquest, not revenge, as are today’s Islamist attacks.

  23. Riversideboy

    “Many of us on the left”? Don’t thinks so mate, your pretending you are on the left but you are clearly not, no way or else you would not complain. No one I know on the left attacked the appointment, Mandelson and company yes. Dont think you know your left from right.

  24. Henry Krinkle

    Lesley Stahl on U.S. sanctions against Iraq: “We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?”

    Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price–we think the price is worth it.” – 60 Minutes (5/12/96)

    An example of the right kind of liberal atrocity apologist.

  25. Jeremy Poynton

    I assume that by “perception” you mean “prediction”?

  26. Esmee Phillips

    No, your confidence is absolute; so ‘perception’ describes your verily supernatural powers, which so many commenters on UK politics seem to share.

  27. Jeremy Poynton

    You are too kind. However, if you think Corbyn has any chance of becoming PM, you are completely deluded. Unlike the British people. Sorry. It would seem that most of the Labour party agree with me, so might I suggest, assuming you are a Labour supporter, that you turn your attention to your own party rather than me.

  28. Paul Glendenning

    Lol 🙂

  29. MacGuffin

    Oh, it’s aaaaaaalllllll about you. Others deem you to be a Tory, do they? Should I care?

  30. Labourisntworking

    But, wait, that’s not far-fetched enough! Let’s appoint a Stalinist sympathiser as spin doctor! That’ll work!!!! You couldn’t make it up!

  31. Anti Divide and conquer

    Noam Chomsky makes an interesting point on the hypocrisy of the west in contrast to the Serb tv bombings by western military. Will Self makes a good case stating the cartoons were racist and designed to bait. This isn’t as simple as the author implies. This article is another example of western exceptionalism and is probably using a deeply sensitive issue to undermine Corbyn’s Labour. This i find profoundly appalling .

  32. Esmee Phillips

    At least nobody deems you to be anything other than a Tory troll.

  33. Esmee Phillips


  34. Jeremy Poynton

    A Stalinist who sends his kids to The TIffin, and owns a £2 million house. He’ll keep the Red Flag flying high. Retarded development, like his new boss.

  35. Jeremy Poynton

    Lost me there. You take care.

  36. Labourisntworking

    Really? Why am I not surprised? Do as I say not do as I do! Like Tony Benn, a millionaire socialist who married an American multi-millionairess, left nothing to the Party, and set up trusts to avoid Inheritance Tax!! The workers flag is brightest pink, it’s not as red as people think!!

  37. hederer

    There is a total absence of intellectual analysis in this demonization of Milne. He is NOT apologising for the vile acts of terrorists but searching for the deep political and military triggers for such violence. You sound like the blinkered Daily Mail hacks

  38. fuckleftfootforward

    you’re all idiots. while you felate each other with facile self-congratulatory remarks about ‘stalinist’ this and ‘apologist’ that, you do nothing other than reveal the simple fact that you’re incapable of turning a critical eye to the actions of western liberalism (something which by the way is not synonymous with being a ‘terrorist apologist’ or a ‘stalinist’). ‘muslim on muslim violence’ indeed, and i suppose our illegal military intervention in iraq and subsequent decade of cock-ups there has nothing to do with current crisis going on, right? or maybe we’re just well-meaning humanitarians who made an honest mistake? Grow up. your blatant defence of western sovereign interests is myopic to the point of being delusional. Atleast have the decency to admit that’s what you are defending. ‘left foot forward’ my arse, the vacuity of this liberal closet-tory blairite tripe amazes me – ‘stalinist ideologue’? are you listening to yourself? you sound deranged. It is YOU who are the ideologues. Atleast some people have the courage to defend the oppressed of this world instead of arrogantly dismissing any shred of legitimacy they lay claim to because of the actions of a handful of psychos who fancy themselves ‘matryrs of god’, yes, they do happen to either speak the same language, share the same religion or have the same skin colour as the rest, although i don’t know what that has to do with anything. Are you responsible for the excesses of national socialism? they were white, they were european. Or the genocides of the belgian congo? or abu graib? or the great indian famine? i suppose the thousands of civilians killed in drone strikes orchestrated by the ‘great liberal democracies’ of the west over the past 15 years don’t qualify as terrorist attacks in the same way as the murders of 12 white europeans. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

  39. bluewaffle

    Is this the webpage where the Blairites come to die. Lol

  40. Bluesman1950

    Why do you think that so many Conservatives and UKIP supporters did what I did, paid up £3 and voted for Corbyn? Do you think we did it to get a radical left-wing government?

    Watching the left jumping deliriously around, convincing itself that it has the mood of the nation and appointing progressively more extreme Trots to frighten the horses makes that the best £3 I ever spent!

  41. Liam Large

    Pure nonsense. Acts such as the Charlie Hebdo slayings have a political context. They aren’t someone murdering someone in a rage in the pub, these are acts undertaken for a reason. Milne states clearly that there is nothing to excuse the acts of murder, then seeks to uncover some of the context behind such atrocities. You are entitled to debate the conclusions he comes to but to accuse him of sheer victim-blaming and terrorist apology is counter-intellectual bullshit. Unless you are one of these religious types who sees all acts of violence as taking place in their own moral vacuum i.e. spaces where the only possible motivations are wicked thoughts emerging from wicked minds. But in this case you can stop discussing the roots and context of all crimes, and all wars, now that you’ve established yourself as a believer in pure good and pure evil.

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