Tuesday 7 March 2006

Pin the hatchet on the donkey.

There's a bit of a controversy breaking out over that bastard George Galloway's comments that I mentioned the other day:

In fact, the cartoons published in Denmark did not surprise me because the Western states have been waging fierce attacks against Islam for years. These began by humiliation, insults and then occupation. Today they reached the point of ridiculing the prophet. This incident is worse than the 11 September attacks in the US and the 7/7 incidents in London.

In the comments, someone has provided a link to this post at Lenin's Tomb:

The mooncalves at Harry's Slaughterhouse have been remarkably quick in leaping onto BBC Monitoring translation of an interview with Respect MP George Galloway for El Khabar. Brimming with credulity, and eyes afire at the didactic delights found therein, one particular moo-head actually published the material twice, pausing the second time round to actually put the 'gotcha' moments in bold type. They're resourceful with their hypertext, those boys, and every bit as subtle as the average crow bar.

Not the ideal paragraph in which to criticise someone else's lack of subtlety, but hey.

The most arresting claim is that Galloway said the following:

Today they reached the point of ridiculing the prophet. This incident is worse than the 11 September attacks in the US and the 7/7 incidents in London. Therefore, today it is the right of Muslims to express their anger and to defend their right and faith.

Well, he didn't. The journalist who interviewed him has acknowledged that he said no such thing, and the paper has promised to issue a correction on its site. The tapes are being sent back to the Respect office, just in case any newspaper or television news programme tries repeating those claims.

Well, first off, El Khabar certainly did publish the quote — else why are they issuing a retraction? — yet "Lenin" reckons that the people to blame for the misquote are not those who published it (whom he criticises for not one second) but the people who read it. He defends this bizarre approach quite vigorously in his own comments:

Harry's Place published this guff without even asking themselves whether it was probable. They were willing to believe it, wholesale, without question, despite the fact that anyone who read and thought about the claim for half a second would be able to tell it was bollocks. They are credulous to the point of absurdity.

This from a man whose reaction to reading Socialist Worker was to join the Socialist Workers Party.

But is the quote really so improbable? Why?

George Galloway is on record as saying that the fall of Soviet Communism was the "biggest catastrophe" of his life, so he clearly has no problem with the mass killing of innocents in the cause of his favoured political causes: when that particular mass killing of innocents stopped, he was upset. So the alleged quote isn't improbable on the grounds that he wouldn't belittle 9/11 because so many people died that day. (There may be some other reason why he wouldn't belittle 9/11, but I honestly can't think what it might be.) Is it improbable that he'd say that Muslims have the right to express their anger? Hardly; he says that all the time. Is it improbable that he'd refer to Mohammed as "the prophet"? Again, no: say whatever else you like about the man, but he knows his Arab culture, and often speaks to Arabic audiences in their own terms; he calls Jerusalem "Al-Quds"; furthermore, since it's a translation, there's always the possibility that he did say "Mohammed" but it's been translated as "the prophet". These things happen. So why, exactly, would anyone even slightly familiar with Galloway's opinions suspect that quote as bogus?

And then the whole thing starts getting complicated. Someone called Lachlan has quoted the following passage here and here:

Do not take the words of George Galloway out of context. George was speaking in Algeria to a Muslim readership and to them an insult to the Prophet Muhammad is an insult to all Muslims.

Many have died as a result of these cartoons and taken into context with the war in Iraq which has killed over 100,000 people including 1000's of children 9/11 IS small in comparison (this is how Muslims will see it - your view is very Eurocentric.)
Number Of Iraqi Civilians Slaughtered In America's War? As Many As 250,000 at:

10,000's of children in Iraq died after the first Iraq war due to the US and European sauntions - many of us have not forgotten and nor do the Muslim world.
1000's of Palestinains have died fighting for their right to a homeland taken away from them by the UK and others.

These events are linked in the mind of Muslims and Socialists in Europe and the USA. Yes 9/11 was shocking and wrong but in terms of numbers as nothing compared to what the Muslim world has suffered by the Bush and Blair War on Terror (whose terror I ask?).

The issue of the cartoons is not seperate from the issue of Iraq, Palestine,Iran and the US agenda to dominate the world oil and trade markets in the eyes of Muslims - it is only in the UK/USA and Europe that we unlink these issues. In this context George was not out of order with his remarks about 9/11.


Neil Williams
Respect Blog:

Posted by NeilWilliams at February 27, 2006 05:00 PM

In the light of that post, we can make a couple of reasonable conclusions. Neil Williams is very familiar with George Galloway and his opinions — he puts out press releases for Galloway's party, and is posting on that party's official blog. And he was willing to believe that the quote was genuine, wholesale, without question; he read and thought about the claim for half a second, yet couldn't tell it was bollocks. Is he credulous to the point of absurdity? (Well, yes, obviously. But is he credulous on the subject of what George Galloway would or would not say?)

Secondly, we can now see that, regardless of whether Galloway actually made that comment, it is an accurate representation of the position of his party. One of his party's spokesmen has defended and explained the quote, in the process making its origin immaterial.

Which is all well and good, except that that post by Neil Williams is no longer on the Respect Party's blog. Hmm. Has it been removed? Did it ever exist? Difficult to say, now. Eyewitnesses would be appreciated. I find it unlikely that Lachlan would have made this up — not because I trust some stranger off of the Internet, but because, if he were going to make it up, he could easily have claimed that he heard Williams's justification on the radio or some other more difficult-to-check source, rather than providing a link to a page which doesn't contain what he says it does; and because, if he had made it up, I wouldn't have been the first person to spot its absence and there would have been loads of comments in both those threads calling him a liar before I even turned up — so I reckon the post has probably been removed from the blog. But, of course, I can't prove that.

(As an aside, I have to point this one out. Still in Lenin Tomb's comments, Dan Collins says:

Are the cartoons an abomination? Certainly no more than anything produced by Hanna-Barbera.

One of Galloway's fans immediately calls this:

Shamelessly stupid timewasting rubbish.

And, in a sane world, it would be. Sadly, it is in fact a pertinent comment on influential modern Islamic thought. But anyway.)

So the next question is: how likely is it that El Khabar would have made the quote up? Why would they have done that? When newspapers lie, they usually do it about their opponents. Why would they put these words in the mouth of a man whom they think of as a friend? I don't get it.

And the next question is: how likely is it that, if the quote were accurate, Galloway would claim otherwise if he thought it was bad for his image back in Britain and would try and persuade El Khabar to go along with his denial? Has he done such a thing before — denying saying something that he has in fact said? Well, yes, actually.

Back to the original "debunking": what do we see there? No links. Nothing to back up the claim that El Khabar have now said that Galloway never said what they said he said. We just take that on trust. At time of writing, the promised retraction has yet to appear, at least in English; the original interview remains uncorrected. In fact, the only place Google can find on the English-speaking Web that even mentions this retraction is, "amazingly", Lenin's Tomb. It's almost as if the information doesn't exist anywhere else.

Ach, make up your own minds. I know what I think.


Thank you to Mr Eugenides for pointing out that Neil Williams didn't post his explanation of Galloway's comments at his own blog, but in the comments of Mr Eugenides's blog, where it remains.

Just to recap, then, without any of my previous hedging....

One of Galloway's own political colleagues believed the remarks were genuine, which implies that to do so does not require a lack of familiarity with his beliefs.

Regardless of the provenance of the original quote, the Respect Party's defense of it proves that it does accurately reflect their thinking.

Williams goes on to make a further comment, which includes the quite wonderful assertion:

Socialists do not unlink events

This is why you can barely walk down the street these days without being accosted by some Socialist eager to explain to you how popular interpretations of the works of Karl Marx led to mass murder in Russia, China, Cuba, Cambodia, Vietnam, Germany, Italy, Palestine, Syria, Hungary, Mongolia, Peru....

Further update:

Finally, evidence of the promised retraction has appeared in The Times:

The People column recently (February 28) repeated comments attributed to George Galloway by the Algerian El-Khabar newspaper that the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad was "worse than the September 11 attacks in the US and the 7/7 incidents in London". Mr Galloway actually said to El-Khabar that Muslims are now more marginalised than ever before, "worse than the aftermath of 9/11, worse than the aftermath of 7/7". We are happy to correct the record and apologise to Mr Galloway.

Bizarrely, El Khabar have still not published an amendment on their own site. This is an odd situation. If a journalist goes to El Khabar's site and quotes what is published there, El Khabar will get in touch and tell them to retract the untrue allegations.

Anyway, so, once again, to recap:

The quote is fake: Galloway never said it.

Anyone who traces the quote to its source, El Khabar, will find evidence that it is genuine and no evidence of any retraction.

The quote, though fake, is sufficiently likely and realistic for Neil Williams, one of Galloway's political colleagues, to think it was genuine.

Neil Williams, a prominent member of the Respect Party, repeatedly defended the quote as reasonable and sensible. Regardless of whether Galloway said it, Williams thinks it's a reasonable thing to have said. There have, as yet, been no mass denunciations of Williams's opinions on this matter by other members of the Respect Party, Galloway included.

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