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.


Like this article? Support our work: donate here.

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

Sign up for our weekly email by clicking here.

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

  1. Annie Powell

    I think this quote is also potentially revealing: “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.”

    “Still less.” So murdering journalist for their publications is not as bad as murdering people for their religious and ethnic identity. Which is interesting.

  2. mickey667

    What a bizarre article. He condemns utterly the killings, and then seeks to discuss causal factors, explanations, asks why, what the killers said, what other people have said the context and so on of what caused this and so on.

    While you may disagree with his analysis, for you to demand no other comment but yaa boo evil evil evil is just dumb frankly. Do you not wish any thought process when nightmarish and seemingly inexplicable and murderous outrages events occur?

    I read many investigations and musings on the Hebdo killings amongst all the self righteous noise and sanctimonious photo-op marches by world leaders. I value greatly people who keep their heads cool and analyse this mad and murderous world. I don;t in fact agree with Milne on what he says here, far from it in fact but i;m glad he is writing something other than Yaa Boo evil!

  3. mickey667

    Very revealing, yes. He believes that nothing remotely justifies murdering people in this way. What a bastard.


  4. DaveJones

    Clearly from his articles, he is a terrorist sympathiser and should not be employed by mainstream political party.

    His support for the 9/11, 7/7, Lee Rigby and Charlie Hebdo killers is sickening.

  5. Chino Gambino

    There’s an entire class of over-educated atrocity apologists like this, they get their wires crossed between their central completing drives; protect brown people from whitey and promoting progressive values. Islam lands between those drives by representing both brown people and a complete illiberal system of thought they should in principle be antithetical to. They can’t do both yet dishonestly try anyway by down playing the role of religion, diminish the possibility other peoples may in fact have agency beyond our foreign policy and excuses like the racism of white people and poverty.

    If only our journalists and leaders did fewer things to upset violent Muslims these things wouldn’t happen. Its a spineless capitulation without end.

Comments are closed.