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. 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.

  6. SteveH50

    Left Foot Forward should be embarrassed to publish this article. It is an appalling distortion and delibeate misinterpretation of what Seumas wrote. Proper journalists look behind the immediate event to look for causes and explanations, otherwise you can never deal with the threat. It makes me question the motivation of the person writing this article. What is your agenda in relation to Seumas Milne and Jeremy Corbyn?

  7. reactionary cad

    The point is that the leader of the Labour Party, the party of Orwell, Michael Foot and Tribune, has appointed a hardened Stalinist ideologue as head of strategy. In his articles for the Guardian Milne has, inter alia, sought to down play the extent of killings in the USSR in the 1930s, justified Stalin’s non-response to the Warsaw uprising, lauded Putin for “standing up to the West”. M

    There is no more solid evidence of Corbyn’s unfitness for office than this appointment.

  8. jj

    This Guardian ‘journalist’ is merely looking for any reason to excuse the vile actions of terror, I suspect there is some kind of agenda, that we should be more compassionate to those who kill others in cold blood, the only ones I sympathise with are the victims. And if the Guardian had an ounce of decency, they would sack this publisher. Using his logic, if I am offended by any war, I can kill anyone who hails from the country involved in that war, because, you know, reasons…

  9. jj

    Left Foot Forward criticises right wing newspapers on a daily occurrence, why not for once look into the more liberal newspapers? I see no reason why we shouldn’t criticise this journalist, he is basically making excuses for the murder of foreign journalists.

  10. jj

    I think the killing of innocent civilians is nothing better than ‘Yaa Boo evil’, or are we supposed to excuse the actions of those who kill?

  11. Bob Gigon

    Oh dear… LFF goes from bad to worse. There does seem to be an increasing trend on LFF towards hatchet jobs on individuals that the editorial team (or maybe just Bloodworth) don’t like. This is cheap, nasty journalism more suited to the pages of the Daily Mail than any intelligent reasoned journal. Sensationalist claptrap.

  12. rbw152

    He’s just a more robust version of all lefties really, in that they automatically assume they have the moral high ground in any given subject. That, coupled with the moral relativism borne of a basic view that everyone is the same, is what gives rise to the idiocy he displays.

    Well, everyone isn’t the same and some cultures are superior to others. He should get over that.

  13. Andy Castor

    Bizarre. Had a bad day and read the DM or something?

  14. Saleem Shady

    Labour has confirmed that it is now an evil entity that seeks to harm British people. Milne’s articles should be disseminated widely amongst Labour voters.

  15. Gareth Gough

    Silly click bait article. I don’t completely agree with Milne’s analysis but he is not saying it’s okay for journalists to be murdered. It’s not beyond the pale to look at what motivates terrorists they don’t hate ‘our freedoms’ nor should we stop living like free people but there is a certain level of logic on his argument

  16. Alex Ross

    However, Milne’s “analysis” (read boilerplate Stalinist “anti-imperialism”) is far from dispassionate. In the same way that many on the right used Brevik’s terrorist attacks to raise and pursue their own anti-immigrant, anti-multicultural agendas, so Milne uses each and every act of Islamist terror to promote his own “everything bad in the world is the west’s fault’ nonsense. Furthermore, despite the insincere, “throat-cleansing” condemnation of terror, he then always moves to claim the “root cause” of terrorism is [insert western ‘bad thing’ here] – hence he (by default) reduces the moral culpability of the perpetrator.

    A genuinely interesting “analysis” of terrorism would look at a range of factors objectively – the role of ideology (and why certain ideologies are more related to violence than others – and why not all types of political anger transform into terrorism), patterns of psychological attributes (e.g paranoia,
    gullibility, delusion), mental health issues, whether the individuals have been abused/persecuted (e.g. the 9/11 terrorists were mainly highly privileged, middle class Saudis), whether the ideology has broad popular support or whether it is very much on the fringe etc… That makes for more interesting reading.

  17. rbw152

    Logic or not he consistently (as in ‘always’) supports anyone but his own country. In Milne’s world we are always wrong and the others are always right. In the same way that extreme lefties are always correct and anyone on the right is automatically wrong.

    All he has to do is find the words to justify this position.

    If anyone can find an article where he praises this country’s actions abroad, with no ifs buts of caveats, I’d like to read it. This country does do some good things in the world too!

  18. Samuel Smith

    unbelievably retarded article. Left foot forward to balance before you kick people in the head with the right. go away.

  19. Fred

    There is a much larger army of atrocity apologists quite happy to sweep mass murder and genocide under the carpet as long as it comes at the hands of our boys. Libya, Iraq and currently Syria spring to mind.

  20. Mark

    The analysis of Milne’s “analysis” is spot on. If I repeat it, he found reasons the killers never even knew they had. When a killer shouts that they have “avenged the prophet,” (for the cartoons), why go looking at Western Imperialism? That’s the sort of thing Myriam Francois-Cerrah does. Anything but the religion is a cause.

  21. Asteri

    Campbell was responsible for lying the government’s way in into the Iraq war and trying to bully the media into supporting it – which they all did; with a few exceptions.

  22. Paul Glendenning

    “Clearly” many comments are based upon a false premise – that to attempt to analyse reasons behind an action is to condone said action.” Seamus simply acknowledges what might lay beneath. He does NOT – through this – imply that attacks on journalists or anyone else are either justified or OK. It seems to me that ANY deviation from the official Hegemony line is to be condemned.
    Try thinking for yourselves – rather than awaiting a spoonfull of bullshit.

  23. MacGuffin

    You’d be shocked at how widespread is the tacit support for the Charlie Hebdo massacre among the Corbyn-supporting Left.

  24. tyronen

    This silly article is based on a standard right-wing mistake:

    To understand something is not the same thing as to justify it.

    Milne simply linked the killings to actions in Western foreign policy, and quoted the terrorists as supporting evidence. You’re free to disagree with his reasoning and present counter-arguments of your own.

    But to go from there to claim that he would justify the murders of his own colleagues is intellectual dishonesty worthy of a tabloid. Disgraceful.

  25. GhostofJimMorisson

    Milne hasn’t linked anything. The Islamist murderers killed the Charlie Ebdo staff because they (in their twisted view) insulted Mohammed. That’s it. Past wrongs and colonialism was the last thing on their minds when they were planning their attack. Milne and other useful idiots simply cannot comprehend this, and seek other more rational explanations.

  26. GhostofJimMorisson

    They don’t hate our freedoms? Utter rubbish. To the Islamist, democracy, liberalism and the rule of law are heresies. The only law is god’s law. Just out of interest, what do you think motivated the terrorists who murdered the Charlie Ebdo staff? If it is, as Milne suggests, French colonialism in Algeria and poverty, then what better target than a tiny obscure French magazine!

  27. Graham Lester George

    How do you know it’s widespread? And if it’s “tacit” then how do you know it exists at all. My, my, Conservative Central Office has been doing overtime on this one.

  28. jj

    What is more ‘disgraceful’ is the frankly woeful way this Guardian ‘journalist’ has attempted to blame everybody else except for the actual murderers. He is making his own excuses for massacres and seems to care not what the victims of such massacres are feeling. Maybe if he removed his bias and looked at all those affected by whom are frankly fanatic fascists, he would be a respected journalist. Because he seems to give excuses for any fanatical action (thus merely fuelling a self righteousness terrorists already has) he is making the world a worse place. This is one of the few LFF articles that I strongly agree with, the comments section shows widespread support for this commentary and support for Adam, the fact that this article has over 300 shares, instead of the mere 100 or so Adam usually gets, tells you something also.

  29. jj

    Where is the logic? The Charlie Hebdo massacre was perpetrated by those that were upset by the lack of respect for their prophet. They merely want us to bow down to them, keep silent or die is their premise. This article isn’t ‘clickbait’ or ‘silly’, it is an analysis of a biased, skewed form of journalism that excuses the actions of murders by attempting to argue that they have a genuine motive. Milne overcomplicates his own arguments to enforce the belief that we are to blame for every terrorist act.

  30. jj

    They hate the fact that we dare ‘insult’ their prophet. They were ‘offended’ and upset that we have the free will to criticise others when they deserve criticism, of course they hate our freedoms, that’s why they want us to keep silent and let them carry on with their atrocities.

  31. jj

    “bizzare’? What, the fact that a left wing journalist criticises another left wing journalist? Nope, not ‘bizarre’, that’s progress actually, criticism actually leads to improvement, and this Milne character has said some rather idiotic things, he deserves this criticism from Adam 100%.

  32. jj

    When a left wing journalist criticises Corbyn, you know something is wrong, it is things like this that will gravely hinder Labour’s progress come 2020.

  33. Gareth Gough

    I don’t think the US being a democratic national made 9/11 more or less likely. Nothing can justify taking innocent lives absolutely nothing. It’s not useful or correct to go around thinking the west is always right, or the west is always wrong. The murders at Charlie He do had nothing to do with Algeria but Algeria is important in looking at the Islam/European narrative

  34. MacGuffin

    I know it’s widespread because I socialise with a fair number of left-wing people and I read a fair number of left-wing publications. You will have to listen long and search hard to find a full-throated unequivocal condemnation of the Hebdo killings among the British left.

  35. jj

    Translated: how dare you criticise someone else who so happens to hold left wing views.
    What I find ‘retarded’ as you so eloquently put it, is the fact that one is able to twist things so that the blame lies on the victims instead of the ones who carried out the act. This article makes LFF far more balanced actually, as now they are indeed looking into both left and right wing journalism, not merely the right.

  36. Samuel Smith

    listen man, if that’s how you want to spin it then be my guest. You sound like just another spiff tory daily fail reader intent on removing all nuance and preying on ignorant people’s emotions. If you think western foreign policy cannot be taken in to consideration in motivating instances of “muslim” terrorism, then you’re a f*cking idiot, but most likely a tory troll.

  37. GhostofJimMorisson

    Adam never suggested that Milne justifies or condones the murder of journalists. What he said is that Milne appears to be making excuses for the terrorists, and that the victims, by simply being residents of the West, are in some way culpable for the supposed crimes committed by their country, past or present. How on earth can a tiny French satirical magazine be held responsible for French colonialism, racism or poverty? By shifting the blame, Milne is attempting to avoid the real reason for the killings: radical Islam. A seriously warped, deranged and perverted variation of Islam to be sure, but Islam nonethless. But Milne and others simply refuse to see this. For them, there must always be another reason, one that is easier to rationalise and justify. Just as Chomsky refused to believe that the Khmer Rouge slaughtered millions for their ideology, preferring to blame it on US imposed sanctions on Cambodia, Milne and others refuse to believe that people commit terrorist acts purely in the name of religion.

  38. GhostofJimMorisson

    Agreed. I think the majority of what Adam and MW does is feeble barrel-scraping, but on this he is entirely correct and right to highlight it. He will of course be labelled a Tory rightwinger by ignorant, lazy Corbynites, who will not stand for any dissent towards their glorious leader. LFF and particularly James Bloodworth have always been consistent on this subject, and I applaud them for it.

  39. Jingleballix

    Not completely true………Milne has made excuses for the killing of ANYONE by an Islamo-Fascist forces (including soldiers)…….and by implication, he has made excuses for any mouthpiece of Islamo-Fascism itself.

    Public school and Oxford educated Seumas Milne is a very strange – and unpleasant – fish.

  40. GhostofJimMorisson

    There’s only one troll in here.

  41. Gareth Gough

    They have a motivation that in their dark, absurd, sociopathic minds the cartoons justified murders. Obviously that is abhorrent but it’s a false premise to label anyone drilling down into motivation for terrorists as a ‘justifer’.It’s important to have diverse opinion.

  42. NickOLarse

    “Purely in the name of religion” is a gross simplification. If that is your view, then I am closer to Seumus Milne.

  43. Samuel Smith

    Something tells me Jim Morrison* would have thought you a penis mate… How dare you take sweet Jim’s name in vain for your right wing trollage. Is there no low to which you will not comfortably stoop?

  44. NickOLarse

    So not everyone is the same but all “lefties” are the same. Ha!

  45. Eoireitum

    “Only one faction in (American – but the same applies here) politics has found itself able to make excuses for the kind of religious fanaticism that immediately menaces us in the here and now. And that faction, I am sorry and furious to say, is the Left.” Hitchens (Christopher of course).

  46. NickOLarse

    On my reading Milne doesn’t proceed to “list at length more justifications” for the Hebdo killings. To suggest that Western actions in Arab / Muslim countries might be causal factors in terms of Islamist attacks in the West is not equivalent to justifying Islamist attacks, particularly when this is prefaced with “Nothing remotely justifies the murderous assault…”. Surely that is a logical point? On the face of it, it seems unlikely that Western actions have not been in some way or other a causal factor. I am not in favour of condemning more if it has to entail understanding (or analysing) less. I will concede however that ” *still less* on the Jewish victims..” [emphasis added] is at best an unfortunate choice of phrase.

  47. NickOLarse

    Considering causal factors is not equivalent to making excuses. Why do many seem to think that a Christopher Hitchens quote acts as some kind of high trump? I have much respect for Hitch, but some of the fervour he draws seems to be almost – dare I say – religious.

  48. NickOLarse

    Damn all those idiots who seek more rational explanations.

  49. Riversideboy

    Hell’s bells this appointment has rattled the Tories alright. What with Cameron saying Corbyn hated Britain I can see where this is going. We can expect a very British right wing response with our security services put on red alert to keep an eye on a democratic opposition, a threat to Britain etc etc. What came up in Parliament just this week? Oh yes, the assurance given by Harold Wilson (who was spied on we are told and smeared as, yes you guessed it, a Soviet agent) that MP’s phones and communications CAN be tapped. Now I wonder what that was all about-not. When this lot are in trouble and they certainly are the position they take as all low life fascists do, is that the opposition hate Britain. The last bastion of the scoundrel has once again been occupied.

  50. Cole

    Lots of left wing people can’t stand Corbyn. His appointment of the gruesome Milne shows how poor his judgement is,

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