Is there anything Mo Farrah can’t do?
10,000 metres Olympic champion. 5,000 metres Olympic, World and European champion. Inventor of the Mo Bot. Object of one of the internet’s greatest memes:
And now, Twitter Superstar and bastion of British politeness as well!
The story starts yesterday when Farah won the New Orleans Half Marathon (please note the word ‘half’). Just after the victory, he was interviewed by an American journalist who had seemingly failed to do any research on Mo whatsoever:
My first impression of the interview was how awkward it was. Mo, bless him, isn’t quite as used to being on camera as you may expect. I’m not trying to disrespect the man – he’s just run 13 miles in 61 minutes. Plus English isn’t his first language, so we need to cut the guy some slack.
But the general awkwardness flowed both ways and the real talking point of the video was not Mo, but the journalist. “Haven’t you run before?” was the silliest question of the interview. You don’t have to be an athletics expert to know who Mo is. The fact she kept calling it a marathon not a half marathon didn’t help her case as half of the internet started laughing at her. There was “lol”, “LOL”, “LMAO”, “ROFL”, “ROFLCOPTER”…and worse. Poor girl.
But what the animals on Twitter did appreciate was Mo’s reaction. We can all think of celebrities who would make the interviewer look stupid by listing the number of medals and championships they’d won to date. But Mo didn’t. He remained humble throughout. He never even mentioned the Olympics. I don’t know about you, but if I won Olympic gold I’d make sure it came up in every conversation I ever had for the rest of my life! (I’m just being honest here)
The interview didn’t get much better when the journalist asked if he had any other races coming up. The fact that Mo will be running only half of the London marathon has been much discussed and debated. So it’s another lesson to aspiring journalists: Before your interview, do some research!
There were other gems in the 2 minute clip. I liked how Mo said “A marathon is double the distance of what I’ve done today”. Showing off his maths skills!
But the best part of this particular story is the ending. Earlier today Mo Farah tweeted:
“Just wanna say to everyone being nasty to LaTonya Norton please stop!! She made a mistake like we all do!! She didn’t mean anything by it”
What a gentlemen! And it just goes to show that despite arguments to the contrary, British politeness is still very much in fashion. And he likes White Cafe Mochas. Legend.
White chocolate mocha… Can’t go wrong…!! So sweet…. twitter.com/Mo_Farah/statu…
— Mo Farah (@Mo_Farah) February 25, 2013
In America the gun debate is a political issue. Those on the Right tend to be very vocal about citizens right to bear arms as stated in the second amendment to the American constitution. Republicans often claim those on the Left have no respect for the constitution.
Those on the Left reject this criticism. Few Democrats argue for a total ban on weapons. However they are critical of America’s National Rifle Association (NRA) and see it as a group with far too much influence and control on government. Broadly speaking, Democrats want to limit the availability of guns, hence Obama’s recommendations.
I still maintain (as I wrote here) that ultimately us Brits won’t get our heads completely around this important debate. But we can move beyond a simplistic “guns are bad, let’s ban them” attitude that shows complete ignorance of the real issues.
Britain and America are incredibly close in many ways. But when it comes to ‘gun culture’ we couldn’t be more different. We must keep this in mind when we think through political issues that are foreign to us.
I’ve chosen to focus on arguments for guns, plus short responses from the other side of the debate. The reason for this is I think among Brits there’s a lack of understanding of why Americans would want to own guns in the first place. If Brits understand just a little bit of why guns are so important to Americans, perhaps we can help move the debate forward, rather than writing off Americans as crazies and loonies (like I’ve seen so many people doing recently). Just because someone has a different strongly held opinion to you, doesn’t mean their an idiot. I had hoped this was common sense, but recent comments suggest otherwise…
Three Top Arguments FOR Guns, plus responses
1. The Constitution
For a lot of Americans the Constitutions is holy. It’s set apart and not to be messed with under any circumstances.
The second amendment says: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
This single sentence explains why in the eyes of many Americans, it is necessary for gun ownership to be legal: It’s seen as a law which allows America to be free and secure.
The initial response is often an emotional one: “How many more massacres does America have to endure before tighter restrictions are put in place? How many more lives need to be lost? What’s more important – saving lives or saving the constitution?”
The constitution has been changed before (hence the word “amendment”), and some argue that now is the time for it to be changed again. But most Americans don’t want to rip up the constitution. They are happy for some people to own guns.These people who advocate for tighter restrictions are desperate to find a way of preventing more massacres. Those such as Obama believe part of the answer lies in tighter legislation.
2. Individual Protection
Why is there a “right to bear arms” in the first place? It’s because Americans want to be able to defend themselves.
Those on the Right tend to be sceptical of big government control in Washington. They would balk at some UK legislation (such as it being illegal to drive while using a mobile phone) which in their eyes limits the individual’s freedom.
This scepticism of authority structures results in a greater emphasis being placed on the individual to take care of themselves and not rely on institutions such as the police. How do you take care of yourself? You get a gun. These people rightly point out that if you get burgled, drawing a gun on the intruder is going to sort things out a lot quicker than dialling 911 and waiting for the cops to arrive.
Anti gun campaigners tend to have a lot more faith in authority structures. They would argue that America isn’t the Wild West anymore and would doubt the necessity of carrying a firearm 24/7 to protect you. For those who want to bring religion in, the argument here would be “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind” (to quote Ghandi misunderstanding Jewish law). In other words you don’t stop violence and bad people by buying a gun, otherwise the cycle of violence in society becomes never-ending. “Those who live by the sword, die by the sword”.
3. National Protection
Talk to a gun rights activist long enough and this issue will come up. It sounds a little conspiracy theory-esq until you realise history is very much on their side.
The argument goes like this…We don’t know who is going to be elected to the White House next. Democracy doesn’t always work. If we end up with a dictatorship or a tyrant, we want to have the power to overthrow them. Owning a gun gives us that power.
Modern European history proves dictators can quickly rise to power – even in a democracy. As much as those on the Right dislike Obama, they aren’t concerned he’s going to turn into a Middle Eastern style dictator. “But who knows what the future holds?” gun rights activists say. These Americans would rather be safe than sorry. They’d rather be able to defend themselves but not need to than not be able to defend themselves when they do need to!
On a much smaller level, there’s the issue of crime. Gun rights activists argue that statistics show that the more guns there are, the less crime there is. “Why do you think gun stores never get robbed? They know someone will fire back!” one person said to me recently. It’s also true that mass shootings often happen where guns are completely banned – shopping malls, schools and cinemas. The argument goes that if guns weren’t banned in such places, it could a) act as a deterrent as b) if something terrible were to happen, people could respond by firing back.
Response: Few historians would argue against the premise that very bad people can work their way to the top of entire nations. What is disputed is whether citizens owning guns would be any real threat to a government in charge of one of the world’s most powerful armies.
As for crime, this is very much a battle of statistics. The more guns there are, the more gun deaths there are. But it’s also true to say the more guns there are, the less overall crime there is. No single statistic tells the whole story, as this helpful info-graphic states.
While I was not alive in those decades, I have been aware of the television presenter’s fame. TV programs like Jim’ll fix it are so legendary that those born long after its final broadcast have some knowledge of it.
Everyone has been quick to believe the claims about Savile, and I don’t blame them. Witness after witness is coming forward with terrible stories. We must be quick to believe and slow to doubt when people are brave enough to come forward about cases of possible sexual abuse.
Yes, there will sadly always be people who lie, but they are in the minority and it’s far better, in these cases atleast, to err on the side of belief, rather than doubt.
What angers me the most about this sorry affair are the celebrities and those who worked at the BBC who have said they “always suspected” something was going on, or that their were rumours about abuse, yet at the time they said nothing and they did nothing.
Their defense is always the same “no one would have believed me”. My reply is simple: “Who cares?”
I honestly don’t know how some of these celebrities can live with themselves knowing they had reasons to believe Savile was abusing children and yet said nothing.
Let’s assume they had come forward and nothing was done about it. We can say two things. Firstly, the celebrities concerned did what was right. They had a moral backbone and they stood up for the most basic of beliefs – the belief that every person has the right to do what they want with their own body and this should never be abused.
Secondly, if all of these people in television centre who suspected something had come forward, there would have been enough of them to make executives think twice before ignoring “yet another” claim. Even if I’m wrong about that, it’s irrelevant. If you see something that’s wrong you have a duty to blow the whistle. People’s lives are at stake.
And nevermind BBC executives. I may not be familiar with 1970s culture, but it was hardly the dark ages, was it? People knew that touching young girls sexually was wrong. Why did celebrities not think to give the police a call?
As Simon Hughes said on Question Time last night, it’s hard to believe no one went to the police. If they did then questions must be asked about why nothing was done. If they didn’t then that shows there was (and perhaps still is) a widespread problem in society.
I do not blame anyone who was abused for not coming forward. I can only imagine how horrible such an experience must have been. Victims should always be encouraged to report such offenses, but I do not blame any of them for keeping quiet.
Instead I blame those who suspected something was wrong and said and did nothing.
The only good that can come of this is a lesson to the rest of us.
We have the slogan “if you suspect it, report it” for all kinds of things. An unattended bag at a station is the only that comes to mind right now, but the principle runs through society today. I’d like to think that this slogan extends to all crime, but especially the worst crimes – rape and sexual abuse being two of them.
If this case does nothing else, it reminds us all to speak up.
I’ll end with this:
“Evil prospers when good men do nothing.” – John Philpot Curran / Edmand Burke
This could turn into an ongoing saga, but after I finally got a reply from the Co-Op over a month after writing this blog, tweeting and emailing them. I got this reply. My notes are in [red]
Dear Mr Hailes Thank you for your tweet.
Please see below our policy [the following is obviously copied and pasted as appears in a different font and begins...]
Thank you for contacting the Co-operative Careline. [I didn't. I tweeted, I blogged and I emailed. But I never phoned them]
We welcome the opportunity to clarify our position on the issue of the illegal Israeli settlements.
Our Human Rights and Trade Policy, adopted in 2009, established the exceptional circumstances under which we will withdraw all trade from a particular state, area or settlement. One such circumstance is where there is a broad international consensus that the status of a settlement is illegal. There are only two examples of such settlements: the Israeli settlements in the Palestinian Occupied Territories and the Moroccan settlements in Western Sahara. On this basis, our policy has been not to source any produce or own-brand product from these settlements.
On the 25th April, The Co-operative’s Board determined that, going forward, we will additionally no longer engage with any supplier of produce known to be sourcing from the illegal Israeli settlements. This decision will impact four suppliers, and circa £350,000 of trade. In reaching this decision, the Board was mindful of the additional costs involved in the tracing and auditing of all produce supplied by these businesses.
We would like to state categorically that our position does not constitute a boycott of Israeli businesses. [But it is a boycott of Israeli businesses working in the West Bank] Indeed, we remain firmly committed to sourcing produce from Israel, and we continue to have valued arrangements with some twenty Israeli businesses (worth around £1.75 million per annum). Our need to source high-quality seasonal produce, including peppers, tomatoes and herbs, means that it will predominantly be our Israeli growers and suppliers who benefit from the transfer of trade from those delisted. As such, this decision is not expected to lead to a significant overall reduction in our trade with Israeli businesses.
In addition to our firm commitment to Israeli produce, we continue to seek increased trade links with Palestinian businesses. For example, we were the first major UK retailer to stock Fairtrade Palestinian olive oil. [They won't sell olive oil produced by Israeli and Palestinians owned by an Israeli company, but they will sell olive oil produced by Palestinians owned by a Palestinian company.]
I hope that this information clarifies our position and if I can be of further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me or on our Freephone 0800-0686-727.
Customer Relations Officer
Here’s my reply:
Thank you for your response. I was surprised I had to wait so many weeks for a reply but understand you have been inundated with upset customers such as myself on this issue. I hope the number of complaints you’ve had on this issue will make the Co-Op think about its policy.
Sadly, the copying and pasting of your policy is not useful in this case. Let me just take the time to highlight the legal status of that part of the world:
In 1920 at the San Remo conference, all 51 countries in the League of Nations voted in favour of giving what was then called Palestine to the Jews. This included what we now call the “West Bank”. After WW2, the United Nations replaced the League of Nations and inherited all of its rulings, including this one.
In 1947, the Arabs were offered a state in all of the West Bank, Gaza and some of the north of Israel. They rejected this, and so it remained Israel’s. The following year, 5 Arab armies attacked Israel. Jordan illegally annexed the West Bank in 1950.
In 1967, Arab armies again seeked to completely destroy the Jewish nation and failed. But importantly, the Israelis won back territory they had previously lost – including the West Bank. Because they were fighting a defensive war, and because the land was theirs legally, they have every right to live in and build on that land. Therefore it is not correct to refer to settlements in the West Bank as “illegal”.
The question for you is will you base your policy on the facts, or on other people’s opinions? I’m willing to admit there are plenty of people and nations that believe settlements are illegal. But if you want to adopt their view, you must now explain why the above history I’ve explained to you is incorrect.
I look forward to hearing your response.
Thanks very much,
I get the impression that a large percentage of people my age are a little disillusioned with the monarchy.
In a straw poll during one lecture at university, we were asked to raise our hands if we cared about the monarchy. Out of a full lecture theater, only a handful of us were bothered.
Since then we’ve had a royal wedding which may have helped renewed interest in Britain’s most famous family, but overall my generation is cynical.
Sometimes it even takes foreigners to remind us of our own nation’s unique standing in the world. Today on The Mall, much of the front row were made up of Americans who had camped out just to catch a glimpse of her Majesty.
My mother is, other than the Queen herself, the biggest royalist in the world. To illustrate this point, while at home last night watching the royal concert on TV, my Mum stood to sing the national anthem…
Today was a first for all of our family as we went to London to catch a glimpse of the Royal family. But why bother? That question bugged me all morning, but especially when my alarm went off at 5.30am.
The answer had started the night before.
It wasn’t Cheryl’s shocking vocal performance, Grace Jones bizarre costume, those comedian’s terrible jokes, Cliff Richard’s embarrassing “Dad dancing” or Will.I.Am’s usual “it’s all about me” attitude that impressed me.
The beauty and magnificence of it all came later in the evening. Stevie Wonder’s unfortunate moment of singing; “Happy birthday to you” led to @Queen_UK tweeting “It’s not one’s Birthday. Awkward.” But Stevie rescued it magnificently when he changed the lyrics of “Isn’t She Lovely” in honour of the occasion.
“Isn’t she special/a young eighty-six years old/I can’t believe what God has done/let’s celebrate the royal one”
Madness performing “Our House” on top of Buckingham Palace was a special moment, as was Paul McCartney leading all of the artists and thousands of onlookers in a rousing rendition of Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da.
By the time the national anthem had been sung and Prince Charles had delivered the best speech of his life, I could almost see the earlier cynicism melting from my Twitter feed.
At the mention of the DofE’s health, her majesty looked close to tears. The outpouring of love towards the Queen was touching.
I’ve always supported the monarchy, but this weekend has gone a long way in cementing my belief that this country needs the Queen and to do away with the monarchy would be a travesty.
Those on the other side of the argument have made my beliefs even stronger. Peter Tachell’s disgusting and offensive opinion piece that The Guardian dared to print incensed nearly everyone who read it. Then there was the New Statesman‘s usual cynicism, but that was to be expected.
Tatchell managed to frustrate me further when he moaned “Media coverage of #DiamondJubilee one-sided in favour of #royals. Not everyone is pro #monarchy. Pro #republic voices should also be heard”. I couldn’t resist hitting back with: “Boo you! Party pooper”. Immature, but he deserved it!
The Queen has counseled 12 Prime Ministers. She’s met with everyone from Churchill to Cameron week in week out. In the often messy world of politics, she has remained a-political. A figurehead that brings millions to our country ever year, the Queen is well respected and rightly honoured throughout the world.
Open about her faith and clear about her responsibilities (all of which will continue until the day she dies), the Queen has remained steadfast in holding the country together through the toughest of times.
It’s not right to ask “what does the Queen do?”. This weekend has reminded us that our identity does not lie in what we do, but who we are. The Queen does a lot for this country. But who is she? The answer is obvious; she’s a living legend.
I’m in the habit of writing tweets that never get read.
That’s not because I have 0 followers, but because I’ll write a tweet, stare at it and think “do I really want to say this?”. Quite a lot of the time the answer is “no way” and the “tweet” button will never be pressed.
I don’t mean to make out that I’m wonderfully controlled and am always really careful what I say on Twitter. Sadly that’s not true. I’m a work in progress in all areas of my life, including this one.
Nevertheless, three recent stories in the media have really made me think.
1. The first was the case of Liam Stacey who has been sentenced to 56 days in prison after he made racist comments on Twitter.
The tweet in question? “LOL. F*** Muamba. He’s dead!!! #haha”, presumably without the stars.
2. The second story broke about this time last night. Mrs Speaker tweeted she was tempted to try the drug Mexxi before it’s made illegal.
“Am I the only one now slightly tempted to try mexxy before it becomes illegal? I won’t, obvs”. Her comments came just days after the drug has been linked to the death of at least two people, leading to her being labelled “insensitive”. I found both the Daily Mail‘s Headline “Will She Ever Learn?” and Mrs Speaker terming the paper the “Daily Fail” pretty amusing.
3. Finally, according to Reuters, Kuwaiti authorities arrested a man on Tuesday for insulting Mohammed over Twitter.
That’s three stories about Twitter in one week. Oh wait, I’m wrong. The biggest story about Twitter this week is that the company has admitted there’s a bug going around that will make your account unfollow people randomly, without your permission (thus providing all of us with a wonderful excuse the next time someone asks why you’re not following them).
Presumably the legislature that allowed Liam and the Kuwaiti man to be arrested applies to Facebook too, and, come to think of it…this blog. I’m hardly the most controversial of bloggers, but it’s still a scary thought that what I write here could get me arrested.
I would not defend any of the above tweets. But I would question if arresting people for what they say on Twitter is fair. It’s a grey area.
Some would argue that just as someone walking up to me in the street and hurling racist language warrants arrest, the same rules should apply in the online world.
On the other hand, millions of views are expressed on Twitter every minute. Fanatic and offensive views aren’t normally read by thousands. And if they are, a large percentage of those thousands will write back and give the tweeter plenty of grief!
This happens all the time with celebrities. Let’s say I tweet that Dom Joly is the least funny person on the planet. He’ll retweet my message, sending it to his 133,000 followers. 10,000 of those followers will then hurl abuse at me in turn. It’s basically Karma. And it’s beautiful.
So which of these two philosophies on Twitter and free speech is best? I err on the side of the latter, but I’m open to persuasion either way. I look forward to reading your comments and watching the wider debate grow. I think this is an issue that will run and run as time goes on…