We are having a national debate, apparently, about the use of the veil by Muslim women. Initiated by Jack Straw, this is supposedly a healthy way for us to resolve this issue, where everyone can take part. Here we should understand the word 'everyone' to mean 'the Daily Mail' and 'take part' to mean 'persecute'.
To paraphrase Dr Johnson, "starting a debate" is the last refuge of the scoundrel. About ten years ago Noel Gallagher got into a lot of trouble by admitting to journalists what everyone knew: that he took a fantastic amount of hard drugs. But before Plod could rattle his handcuffs, Gallagher claimed that he was merely "starting a debate" about drugs. Some took him at his word and tried to have such a debate, but these tended to be somewhat reductive yes/no: "Should we legalise drugs?"; "Should young people's role models admit to breaking the law?"; and "When will Oasis produce another decent record?" Ten years on, and we're no further along, except Noel Gallagher is richer and the answer to the last question is: "not yet"
When I was fourteen I stole some sweets from the school tuck shop. So I am starting a debate about theft. I also look forward to engaging with Ian Huntley about the pros and cons of murder.
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