<![CDATA[The Guardian - Editorial]]> https://www.theguardian.com/profile/editorial RSSHub i@diygod.me zh-cn Tue, 19 Mar 2019 13:28:12 GMT 900 <![CDATA[The Guardian view on Speaker Bercow: on parliament’s side | Editorial]]> John Bercow making his announcement in the Commons
John Bercow making his announcement in the Commons.Photograph: Reuters Tv/Reuters

This country has been in a political and constitutional quandary since the results of the Brexit referendum in June 2016. Today the crisis deepened in a dramatic and decisive way. The Commons Speaker John Bercow said he was minded not to allow the government to bring back its Brexit deal for a third meaningful vote because it breaks parliamentary convention. Mr Bercow has history – going back all the way to 1604 – on his side. Under the “same question, same session” rule MPs cannot be asked to decide a question they have already decided in the same session. It’s the parliamentary equivalent of the double jeopardy rule. “Decisions of the house matter. They have weight,” he said.

Theresa May has tried to use votes in parliament to grind her opponents down until they accepted the only Brexit that would work was hers. This strategy involved ignoring decisions of parliament. MPs voted to take the date of the UK leaving the European Union of 29 March 2019 out of law – but ministers did nothing. Parliament voted against a no-deal Brexit – but it remained as the default option in statute. It is time to stop the prime minister playing a game of chicken with the future of the country. The speaker, representing the collective voice of parliament, has a duty to uphold the legislature’s supremacy over the government and the judiciary. Mr Bercow is right to remind the government that it cannot go on ignoring the will of the House.

Mrs May risks losing an important weapon in her armoury. She now has little choice but to go to the European council meeting this week and seek changes to her withdrawal agreement that has already been defeated twice in parliament. She needs to come back with a Brexit plan that commands the confidence of the House. Mr Bercow not unreasonably suggested that for MPs to vote again, the Brexit deal they vote on must be “fundamentally different”.

There are clearly ways around the Speaker’s thinking and Mrs May could prorogue parliament to get her way. This is a nuclear-sized option. It would involve starting a new session with a clean slate and putting the Brexit deal motion again to MPs. There are other measures, though they are equally historic in nature. Parliamentarians could also seize control to prevent the rules being applied – a radical move MPs considered last week to force a softer Brexit. Mr Bercow must be aware such a coalition could be marshalled against him in a vote of no confidence. Once the genie of a determined Commons majority is uncorked there will be no putting it back.

If the risks are high for the Speaker, they are higher for Mrs May. She could lose her Brexit deal and lose power. She has only herself to blame for this sorry state of affairs. Since becoming premier she has failed to build a consensus across parliament for Brexit, preferring instead to define it in terms that would curry favour with Tory hardliners. Parliamentary conventions have been ignored to the extent that even cabinet ministers have voted against the government without resigning. There is no love lost between ministers and Mr Bercow as testy exchanges in parliament attest. This ought to be a matter of some concern. Whereas the American speaker is the head of the largest party in Congress, the British speaker is supposed to be above politics. For all his faults, and there are many, Mr Bercow has championed the rights of MPs. For decades the balance of power has shifted from the legislature to the executive. The Speaker is right to prevent this government from tipping the scales too far from a parliamentary politics to a plebiscitary one.

Mon, 18 Mar 2019 19:07:53 GMT https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/mar/18/the-guardian-view-on-speaker-bercow-on-parliaments-side https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/mar/18/the-guardian-view-on-speaker-bercow-on-parliaments-side
<![CDATA[The Guardian view on special educational needs: segregation is not the answer | Editorial]]> Primary school children in a classroom
‘A decade of cuts has led to segregation once again increasing.’Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

A showdown between parents of children with special needs and the government is coming. Three families from different parts of England have won the right to a judicial review of the funding allocated to local authorities to fulfil their obligation to educate the 253,680 young people in England with an Education, Health and Care plan (EHC) – or “statement” – and the 1,022,535 other children also entitled to some form of SEN support. Such budgets have been stretched beyond breaking point, while the number of children assessed as having special needs has increased for two years in a row until these groups now form 14.6% of the school population – with autistic spectrum disorders the most common type of need for pupils with a statement.

In December the Local Government Association predicted a funding shortfall of £1.6bn by 2020/21. Paul Whiteman of the National Association of Headteachers believes the code governing special needs education has been reduced to an “empty promise”. Yet so far the response from ministers has served to underline the problem rather than solve it. This is because, while additional resources are urgently needed, there is another aspect to the special needs crisis in England. Namely, that decades of progress towards an inclusive model in which, as far as possible, all children are educated together, are being rolled back.

In many ways, life for children with special needs and disabilities has improved immeasurably since Baroness Warnock’s seminal 1978 report. Gone is the discriminatory, prejudicial language of the past, while advances in child psychology and teacher training mean that children struggling with emotional or learning difficulties are less likely to be written off in primary school as simply naughty. But recent evidence shows that a decade of cuts has led to segregation once again increasing, with the percentage of EHC pupils attending state secondary schools falling 8% between 2010 and 2018, the bill for councils funding private special school places rising, and exclusions and unofficial “off-rolling” of hard-to-teach pupils both on the up.

It is not clear to what extent these shifts are the unintended consequence of policy changes and funding reductions that have increased pressures across the system, and to what extent they were ministers’ aim. But last week’s announcement that the government plans to open 37 new special free schools appears to confirm that the direction of travel has changed – in defiance of the UN, whose disability convention asserts the right of disabled people to learn with everyone else.

Clearly, mainstream schools are not for everyone and high-quality alternative settings are required for children who do not thrive in them. But moves to divide children according to their needs more frequently rather than less should be vigorously opposed. Inclusive education is not a liberal piety. Properly resourced, it benefits not only the children being included, but everyone else. That there is an unignorable socioeconomic dimension, with pupils with SEN more than twice as likely to be eligible for free school meals than those without, only serves to reinforce how undesirable segregation is.

As well as building special schools, ministers should focus on boosting inclusion. This is a fragmented system in which vulnerable children are falling through the cracks, and councils are loaded up with duties they lack the resources to fulfil. That families are taking ministers to court shows it has reached breaking point.

Mon, 18 Mar 2019 19:05:08 GMT https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/mar/18/the-guardian-view-on-special-educational-needs-segregation-is-not-the-answer https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/mar/18/the-guardian-view-on-special-educational-needs-segregation-is-not-the-answer
<![CDATA[The Guardian view on Theresa May’s Brexit deal: third time unlucky | Editorial]]> Theresa May listens in parliament
‘Less than a week after she heavily lost the second “meaningful” vote on her Brexit deal last Tuesday, Mrs May’s deal has come back from the dead.’Photograph: Reuters TV/Reuters

Back in February, ITV’s Angus Walker reported on a very public conversation he had overheard in a Brussels hotel bar. The person doing the talking was the UK’s chief Brexit negotiator, Olly Robbins, who was chatting to colleagues over a drink. Mr Robbins voiced his view that the eventual choice for MPs in March would be whether to back Theresa May’s UK-EU Brexit deal or to extend the article 50 talks. The possibility that the extension might be a long one could focus the minds of MPs who had previously voted against the deal, Mr Robbins argued.

In the vertiginous rollercoaster of argument over Brexit, few predictions have survived with much dignity for as long as five weeks. Yet, five weeks on, Mr Robbins’ prediction still looks shrewd. Less than a week after she heavily lost the second “meaningful” vote on her Brexit deal last Tuesday, Mrs May’s agreement has come back from the dead. She is now gearing up for one more heave, perhaps as soon as Tuesday. Over the weekend, Downing Street has been pulling out the stops to bring Tory Brexiters and the Northern Ireland DUP into line. Brinkmanship abounds, especially from the DUP. But there are unmistakable signs of life again in the prime minister’s my-way-or-the-highway approach to Brexit.

She is only back in business because of what happened in the Commons last Wednesday and Thursday. In a series of votes, MPs unlocked a door to a very different Brexit future from the one that Mrs May is battling for. By voting to take a no-deal Brexit off the table, to support an article 50 extension, and by coming within two votes of taking control of the whole Brexit process, MPs have opened up a variety of possibilities, including a much softer Brexit and a second referendum. Mrs May is banking that her own MPs will be frightened back into the fold by these new uncertainties. Special alarm is being generated by the idea that the EU may insist on Britain taking part in this year’s European parliament elections as the price for the now almost inevitable article 50 extension. After many weeks of nonchalantly voting against Mrs May and her deal as though there would be no consequences of doing so, even hardline leavers are now under pressure to bank their Brexit winnings and not end up blowing the lot.

Some of that pressure is coming from below, not just from above. One arch-leaver, the Shrewsbury and Atcham MP Daniel Kawczynski, revealed on Saturday that his local farmers, his local chamber of commerce, most local Conservative councillors and many local Tory members want him to bend the knee and back Mrs May – so he will do so. Other Tories remain more defiant of reality. The DUP’s decision will shape the choice for many MPs before the whips do their sums and advise Mrs May whether to try again.

This febrile mood prompts three conclusions. The first is that the pressure from remainers and soft Brexit supporters is having an effect. Their forces have the upper hand. When it has come to the crunch, it is they who have the stronger arguments, the more resilient support and, ultimately, the more political clout. The second is that these events could have been foreseen – and not just by Mr Robbins. Britain’s divisions over Brexit called out for compromises and choices, especially on alignment with the single market and the customs union, that should have been embraced, not spurned. Parliament has begun to redress a balance that should never have been upset but which Mrs May’s approach seeks to destroy.

The final conclusion is that all this will continue. Brexit is not a single moment but a process. Neither 2016 nor 2019 is the last word. If Mrs May gets her deal through, that is not the end. Her deal is about leaving the EU. The future relationship remains to be negotiated. Her fanatics want that to be minimal. Supporters of a unified Britain need it to be strong. Brexit is a failing process because, above all, it is a bad idea. More people see that now than before. Win or lose the vote, Mrs May is losing the argument.

Sun, 17 Mar 2019 18:33:37 GMT https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/mar/17/the-guardian-view-on-theresa-mays-brexit-deal-third-time-unlucky https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/mar/17/the-guardian-view-on-theresa-mays-brexit-deal-third-time-unlucky
<![CDATA[The Guardian view on Xinjiang’s detention camps: not just China’s shame | Editorial]]> Serikjan Bilash speaks to a crowd of Kazakhs at a restaurant in Almaty
Serikjan Bilash, a Uighur exile and campaigner, addresses Kazakhs at a restaurant in Almaty.Photograph: Ng Han Guan/AP

An “A-list” comedian, well-known singers, scholars, pensioners and civil servants – the list of prisoners grows. As many as 1.5 million Uighurs and other Muslims are or have been held in camps in China’s Xinjiang region without charge or trial, a leading researcher believes. Virtually no Uighur family is untouched, he says.

China has moved from denying the camps to describing them as vocational training centres, comparable to boarding schools. In the run-up to last week’s meeting of the UN human rights council in Geneva, it invited diplomats from selected countries on tours and choreographed visits for a few journalists, who were greeted with people singing If You’re Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands. According to Beijing, these are students receiving free accommodation, skills training, and lessons in Chinese language and law.

This doesn’t explain the barbed wire, the purchases of stun guns or the accounts of political indoctrination, punishment for speaking anything but Mandarin, harsh conditions, and abuses amounting in some cases to torture. People have reportedly been detained for having verses from the Qur’an on their phone or family members abroad. There are suggestions that more inmates are now leaving the camps, but perhaps for house arrest or forced labour. Meanwhile, all-encompassing surveillance and intense repression envelop the region.

Beijing believes these measures are needed to curb the violence that has plagued Xinjiang – and that they are working. A Chinese official in Geneva said that thanks to the training centres, there had not been a single terrorist attack in more than two years. In Beijing, the region’s governor – its most senior Uighur official – suggested that numbers are likely to dwindle and that the centres will disappear “if one day our society doesn’t need them”. Few Uighurs take comfort from those words. Relatives overseas, who once feared that speaking out would worsen the plight of prisoners, have concluded they have little choice but to go public. They have found little support.

Serikjan Bilash, a prominent campaigner on the camps who lives in Kazakhstan, was recently detained; supporters blame pressure from Beijing. Muslim-majority countries have been strikingly silent about the camps, though Turkey recently criticised them as “a great cause of shame for humanity”, and Malaysia refused to return 11 Uighurs in its custody; Anwar Ibrahim, in line to be the next prime minister, has also spoken out. Yet, staggeringly, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, whose 57 members include Turkey and Malaysia, has just commended Beijing’s efforts “in providing care to its Muslim citizens”: not bleak humour but testament to China’s growing political and economic power.

True, the US has stepped up criticism, saying it would consider targeted measures against individuals responsible for rights violations. Britain was among a few western nations in Geneva calling for immediate release of those detained without due process, and urging that the UN is given access – as its rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, has repeatedly requested. These demands should be made much more loudly, and far more broadly. The camps are China’s shame; the indifference is the world’s.

This article was amended on 18 March 2019 to remove an incorrect description of Bilash as Uighur.

Sun, 17 Mar 2019 18:29:09 GMT https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/mar/17/the-guardian-view-on-xinjiangs-detention-camps-not-just-chinas-shame https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/mar/17/the-guardian-view-on-xinjiangs-detention-camps-not-just-chinas-shame
<![CDATA[The Observer view on the school climate strikes: it’s shameful that children need to take the lead ...]]> Thousands joined a climate change strike in Brussels on 16 March.
Thousands joined a climate change strike in Brussels on 16 March.Photograph: Xinhua/Barcroft Images

For those who care passionately about our planet’s future, these are dispiriting times. Fossil fuel emissions, which are now causing our world to overheat dangerously, continue to rise despite scientists’ clear warnings about the likely consequences: melting ice sheets, rising sea levels, unprecedented storms, acidifying oceans and spreading deserts.

Such forecasts should have spurred global action a long time ago. Yet politicians across the world have consistently refused to act and for decades have procrastinated, discounting evidence that clearly shows global warming is already affecting our planet. Many factors account for this inaction. Lobbying by oil and gas companies obsessed with short-term gain has certainly been involved. Others have argued that only God can have a planet-wide influence and that humanity is being presumptuous in believing it could alter a global ecosystem. In addition, there are those who believe bids to introduce limits on coal and oil burning are simply the work of leftwing, anti-capitalist conspirators.

Such befuddled notions are no longer acceptable in an overheating world. In failing to act over climate change, our leaders are in real danger of betraying a generation of young people who, in a few decades, are likely to inherit a blighted world that has been denuded of much of its wildlife, coastline and fertile land. The future of our children is being stolen before their eyes.


Who is Greta Thunberg?

'Never too small to make a difference'

Thunberg (16) began a solo climate protest by striking from school in Sweden in August 2018. She has since been joined by tens of thousands of school and university students in Australia, Belgium, Germany, the United States, Japan and more than a dozen other countries.

'Irresponsible children'

Speaking at the United Nations climate conference in December 2018, she berated world leaders for behaving like irresponsible children. And in January 2019 she rounded on the global business elite in Davos: “Some people, some companies, some decision-makers in particular, have known exactly what priceless values they have been sacrificing to continue making unimaginable amounts of money. And I think many of you here today belong to that group of people.”


Veteran climate campaigners are astonished by what has been achieved in such a short time. Thunberg has described the rapid spread of school strikes for climate around the world as amazing. “It proves you are never too small to make a difference,” she said. Her protests were inspired by US students who staged walk-outs to demand better gun controls in the wake of multiple school shootings.


Her mother, Malena Ernman, has given up her international career as an opera singer because of the climate effects of aviation. Her father is actor Svante Thunber. Greta has Asperger’s syndrome, which in the past has affected her health, he says. She sees her condition not as a disability but as a gift which has helped open her eyes to the climate crisis.

Photograph: Michael Campanella/CampanellaFoto

In the face of this stark scenario, the decision by children round the planet to vent their anger and to stage an international campaign of protests and school walkouts last week is to be welcomed. It was a just response to a global injustice. Without a voice in a political debate in which their future is being threatened by the political inability of their elders, young people have had little choice. Teachers may complain that the disruption caused by last week’s protests only increases their workload and wastes lesson times, but it is clear the campaign is being driven by genuine outrage, a grievance that also explains the considerable breadth of these protests.

From Australia to America, pupils simply put down their books and took to the streets. More than 100 towns and cities in the UK saw protests. In Sydney, about 30,000 young folk held a climate march, while in Delhi more than 200 children walked out of classes.

Equally impressive were the comments and blogs. In India, 13-year-old Arya Dhar Gupta from Gurugram, whose air is some of the world’s most polluted, revealed it was no longer safe for her to play outdoors. Others called for a moratorium on all new coal, oil and gas plants. Some demanded massive investment in renewable energy projects.

But perhaps most telling were the words of Anastasia Martynenko from Kiev. She supported her actions in terms that starkly highlight the depth of her elders’ failures and underline the now desperate need for a reinvigoration of global climate policies. “We are happy to be the driving force... because when our children ask us what have you done for our future, we will have an answer.”

Sun, 17 Mar 2019 06:00:00 GMT https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/mar/17/observer-view-on-schools-climate-strike https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/mar/17/observer-view-on-schools-climate-strike
<![CDATA[The Observer view on the Christchurch shootings: we’ve been too slow to see the far right threat| O...]]> Anti-racism Day in Warsaw
Anti-racism Day in Warsaw yesterday. ‘The far right feeds off a pervasive and widening Islamophobia.’Photograph: Attila Husejnow/Sopa Images/Rex/Shutterstock

After so many attacks over so many years, we have become inured to terrorist atrocities. This in itself is a tragedy. Yet even after so much previous bloodshed in the name of hate-filled ideologies, the murder of 49 men, women and children at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Friday has spread shock and disgust around the globe.

There is something particularly appalling about targeting people for their faith, as they engage in the act of worship.

But there were other factors behind our collective outrage: recognition of the spread, power and brutality of the global far right; the evidence that it feeds off a widening Islamophobia that reaches deep into our political culture; and the demonstration of how terrorism has been made immeasurably more effective by modern technology, in this case the manner in which the attacker deployed Facebook to display his gruesome work.

Expressions of solidarity and support have flooded in from all over the world. These are made in the hope that they will provide some comfort to Muslims who will be feeling even less safe after Friday’s attacks and are to be welcomed. But thoughts and prayers are not, and have never been, enough. In the weeks and months after such an atrocity – when the initial shock and grief has passed, but the extra police presence remains – we have a duty to the Muslim, Jewish and other minorities that feel under threat from far-right extremism. It is to ask a simple question: are we doing all in our power to prevent such an attack happening again?

The regrettable truth is that expressing deep sympathy in the immediate aftermath of an attack comes much more easily than longer-term reflection on the role that politicians, and social and traditional media may play in creating an environment in which far-right terrorism can flourish.

There can be no doubt that the west has underestimated the risk of far-right terrorism. The murder of the MP Jo Cox in 2016 left Britain numb with shock. Yet what lessons were really learned in the wake of her assassination? Since then, the far-right threat has only grown. In June 2017, one person was killed and many more injured after a man drove a van into a crowd outside Finsbury Park Mosque. There were a further 11 far-right terrorist attacks that year and yet more attacks were thwarted by police, including a plot by a member of the neo-Nazi group National Action to murder the MP Rosie Cooper. This is why the former head of counter-terrorism at the Met, Mark Rowley, has warned that the UK has not yet “woken up” to the threat posed by the far right.

Britain is not alone in this: in the US, the number of far-right terrorist attacks quadrupled between 2016 and 2017. Last year, 11 people were shot while worshipping at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. Yet President Trump has slashed funding aimed at reducing domestic terrorism.

There has been a tendency for our political leaders to underplay far-right violence by claiming that it is the product of isolated individuals, while seeing Muslim terrorists as linked to groups working systematically to destroy western liberal societies.

One reason for this double standard may be that it is easier to attribute organised evil to fundamentalist movements whose origins lie in societies that appear to have little in common with the west than to accept that the same evil can grow in the hearts of those who live alongside us.

But this failure blinkers us to how much far-right and Islamist terrorism have in common.

Two critical elements they share are the importance of non-violent extremist statements and ideas in radicalising those who go on to commit terrorist atrocities and the role of social media in disseminating hatred and radicalising others.

Like its Islamist counterpart, far-right terrorism is only one element of a much broader movement. When that movement is strong and empowered, so are its violent elements. Here in Britain, Ukip has embraced far-right extremism under its leader, Gerald Batten, who has described Islam as “a death cult” and has appointed Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, the far-right thug better known as “Tommy Robinson”, as an adviser. Five out of the 10 far-right activists with the biggest social media reach in the world are British. Elsewhere in Europe, populists who appeal to the Islamophobic and the antisemitic are increasing their power base: Viktor Orbán in Hungary, Matteo Salvini in Italy, Jarosław Kaczyński in Poland.

But it is not just a problem in the political fringes. Here in the UK, both mainstream parties have become infected with racist hate. The Conservative party stands accused of failing to act upon all allegations of Islamophobia in its candidates and members. Moreover, senior Tories have been complicit in spreading Islamophobia. Last year, Boris Johnson compared Muslim women wearing burqas to “letterboxes” and “bank robbers”. According to the hate crime monitors Tell Mama, this led to a rise in incidents targeting women wearing the burqa. In 2016, Zac Goldsmith’s campaign for London mayor deployed a series of racist dogwhistles to imply that Sadiq Khan had links to Muslim extremists. Not only did he face no censure, other senior Tories, including David Cameron, joined in: Theresa May said Khan was unfit to be mayor “at a time when we face a significant threat from terrorism”. Jeremy Corbyn has been so remiss in getting a grip on antisemitism in the Labour party that the Equality and Human Rights Commission has taken the extraordinary step of opening an investigation into the party.

Social media platforms and news sites have too often fallen into the trap of spreading the terrorists’ message. Hours after the Christchurch shootings, the footage the attacker streamed live could still be viewed online. Other publications have been too quick to give a platform to Islamophobic views in the name of free speech without acknowledging that with free speech comes responsibility and there may be real-world consequences to their decisions.

Eight years ago, Sayeeda Warsi argued that Islamophobia had passed the “dinner-table test” in Britain. Since then, Islamophobia and antisemitism have come to pollute mainstream politics. The link between hate speech and violent extremism may be complex and indirect, but it would be naive to dismiss it altogether. So the world faces an important test in its response to Christchurch. Will it be to express solidarity and move on? Or will our leaders make more effort to call out all forms of racist hate wherever they are found? That would be a fitting tribute to the 49 people who lost their lives on Friday.

Crisis support services can be reached 24 hours a day. In New Zealand, the crisis support service Lifeline can be reached on 0800 543 354. In Australia, Lifeline is 13 11 14. In the UK and Irish Republic, contact Samaritans on 116 123. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Other international helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.

Sun, 17 Mar 2019 05:59:00 GMT https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/mar/17/the-observer-view-on-the-christchurch-shootings-weve-been-too-slow-to-see-deadly-far-right-threat https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/mar/17/the-observer-view-on-the-christchurch-shootings-weve-been-too-slow-to-see-deadly-far-right-threat
<![CDATA[The Guardian view on the Christchurch attacks: extremism’s rising danger | Editorial]]> New Zealand
New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, speaks at a news conference after the Christchurch attack.Photograph: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

New Zealand is best known for its breathtaking wilderness, found in distant but secure islands at the edge of the world. On Friday that changed. Forty-nine people were killed in shootings at two mosques in central Christchurch in a suspected terrorist attack during the congregational prayer. The horrific events have left the country in mourning and shock. Muslims make up less than 1% of New Zealand’s population and the faith’s most prominent adherent is a rugby player. This was a stupefying amount of lethal force in a country that saw only 35 homicides in all of 2017. New Zealand as a nation will collectively have to deal with a trauma that no parent, no relative, no friend should ever endure.

At the time of writing, it is unclear whether Brenton Tarrant, the 28-year-old Australian suspected of both attacks, had accomplices. On a Facebook post last year he had called the people whom he had met while travelling in Pakistan, presumably all Muslim, “the most earnest, kind hearted and hospitable people in the world”. If Tarrant is the same man wearing military fatigues who livestreamed himself carrying out the attacks, then the humanity he had publicly recognised in others had in months been drained and replaced with hate. A Twitter account with the same name posted links to a manifesto reeking of white supremacist conspiracy theories.

The birth, growth and resilience of the far right, which once festered in dark nooks and crannies, has been assisted by the in-group echo chambers of social media. It now festers in plain sight. The manifesto, videos and photos associated with the latest atrocity have since been circulated on the web, where it is appalling to see some celebrating the attack. Too many media outlets in Britain thought nothing of dousing readers in this hateful bile. Responsible journalism must distinguish between its legitimate function to communicate information and the attempt by fascists to shut out perspectives, raise fears and heighten prejudice. The US news media, research shows, was hijacked from 2016 to 2018 to amplify the messages of hate groups. In Australia tabloids have portrayed attacks on South African farmers as evidence of “white genocide” while Sky News Australia apologised for interviewing a neo-Nazi.

Such atrocities and the trail of media posts left in their wake are designed to generate searches via racist memes and language. It is public relations by mass murder. The rise in hate speech, too readily accepted by some, is licensing violent acts. How else to explain such consistent increases? Similar dynamics lurk behind antisemitism’s reappearance. Last October the deadliest antisemitic attack in American history saw 11 people gunned down in a synagogue in Pittsburgh. This is why not only Muslims worldwide, but other minorities feel more vulnerable.

Politicians have created the swamp for such reptiles. White supremacists in America clearly believe that they have a fellow traveller in the White House. If they are mistaken then Donald Trump has hardly done much to disabuse them of this idea. Others have taken a cue from his overt race-baiting, unable even to resist the urge to whip up Islamophobia in the aftermath of the latest killings. Mr Trump could fill a bath with crocodile tears he has wept. In the US white supremacists and their ilk have killed far more people since 11 September 2001, than any other category of domestic extremist. The threat of violence from far-right extremists has been ignored for too long. In Britain the menace is recognised as so serious the security services have taken charge of it. During the Brexit referendum, a campaign swimming in reaction, a Labour MP was shot and stabbed by a neo-Nazi shouting “Britain first”. New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, has understood the threat the mosque attacks pose to her country’s society, imperilling the values New Zealanders cherish most – their solidarity, their sense of community and their feeling of safety. Many of the victims, she said, may be migrants or refugees and “they are us. The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not”. Terrorists seek to divide. In grief and anger, communities must stand together.

Crisis support services can be reached 24 hours a day. In New Zealand, the crisis support service Lifeline can be reached on 0800 543 354. In Australia, Lifeline is 13 11 14. In the UK and Irish Republic, contact Samaritans on 116 123. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Other international helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.

Fri, 15 Mar 2019 18:39:00 GMT https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/mar/15/the-guardian-view-on-the-christchurch-attacks-extremisms-rising-danger https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/mar/15/the-guardian-view-on-the-christchurch-attacks-extremisms-rising-danger
<![CDATA[The Guardian view on language: the flesh made word | Editorial]]> A mother and baby playing
‘By the age of one, babies can recognise the significant noises in the babble around them and group them into a language.’Photograph: Alamy

Babies have an astonishing talent that adults entirely lose. By the age of one, they can recognise the significant noises in the babble around them and group them into a language. When we have lost this capacity as adults, it becomes enormously difficult to distinguish between sounds that are glaringly different to a native speaker. It all sounds Greek to us, or, as the Greeks would have it, barbarous. This is because the range of possible sounds that humans use to convey meaning may be as high as 2,000, but few languages use more than 100 and even then the significant noises – the phonemes of a language – each cover a range of sounds and so blur distinctions which would change the meaning of a word in other languages.

But where do these phonemes come from and why do they shift over time? New research suggests that the apparently arbitrary distribution of some sounds around the world may be partially explained by diet. This is unexpected. We’d rather think of language as the product of our thought, rather than of the arrangement of our teeth. In reality, though, any given language must be both.

Hunter gatherer languages very seldom use the sounds known as labiodentals – those such as f and v – that are made by touching the lower lip with the upper teeth. Only two of the hundreds of Australian aboriginal languages use them, for example. But in cultures that have discovered farming, these consonants are much more common. The argument goes that farmers eat more cooked food and more dairy than hunter gatherers. Either way, they need to chew much less, and to bite less with their front teeth. So farmers grew up with smaller lower jaws and more of an overbite than their ancestors who had to bite through tougher foods. It became easier for them to make the labiodental consonants instead of purely labial ones: one example is that f came to take the place of p. Romans said “pater” but English speakers (unless they’re Rees-Moggs) say “father”.

Beyond these particular changes, the story highlights the way in which everything distinctively human is both material and spiritual: speech must combine sound and meaning, and the meaning can’t exist or be transmitted without a physical embodiment of some sort. But neither can it be reduced to the purely physical, as our inability to understand or even to recognise foreign languages makes clear. The food we eat shapes our jaws, and our jaws in turn shape the sounds of our language. The ease with which we eat probably shapes our thought too, as anyone who has suffered chronic toothache could testify. What we eat may have shaped the sounds of our language, but how we eat changes how we feel and what we use language to express. A family meal is very different from a solitary sandwich at the office desk, even if the calorific content is the same. Food has purposes and meanings far beyond keeping us alive and pleasing the palate.

Fri, 15 Mar 2019 18:25:17 GMT https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/mar/15/the-guardian-view-on-language-the-flesh-made-word https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/mar/15/the-guardian-view-on-language-the-flesh-made-word
<![CDATA[The Guardian view on Brexit delay: time to let reality in | Editorial]]> A pro-EU protester outside parliament on Thursday, before MPs voted in favour of delaying Brexit.
A pro-EU protester outside parliament on Thursday, before MPs voted in favour of delaying Brexit.Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA

For nearly two years, Britain has known when it is supposed to leave the EU. Its politics have been consumed by the question of how. There has been less exploration of why. The simplest answer is that a majority voted to do so and that their preference should, on democratic principle, be respected. But when the government has failed to find a safe Brexit path, to proceed regardless of the consequences is to risk being wantonly destructive. Just such a point of failure has been reached. A vote by MPs last night recognising the need to delay the 29 March departure date proves it. But there is no more clarity about the purpose of such an extension than there is about the ultimate goals of Brexit itself.

An amendment calling for another referendum was soundly beaten. That cannot be the end of the idea. Labour abstained, with many of its MPs supporting a public vote in principle but believing the question had been put prematurely. Such tactics aside, a clear majority of MPs are currently committed to quitting the EU. Sadly, intent alone doesn’t bring practical solutions closer. The 2016 result described an action – leave – but not a motive. Theresa May has her own interpretation of what 17.4 million voters had in mind, but her view isn’t canonical. Politicians see public opinion through their chosen lens. For Mrs May it is immigration control. For others it is deregulation or the power to sign trade deals. Those are priorities for some voters, but none deserves sanctification as the “will of the people”.

The impossible demand for a Brexit to satisfy that abstraction is a significant cause of the present crisis. It makes it harder to turn a one-off vote into a legitimate settlement of the UK’s relations with the EU. Remain voters are also people with a will. MPs represent people with competing wills in their constituencies. The Commons has to turn a superficially simple concept – ending EU membership – into a treaty with multiple, complex implications for Britain’s relations with the rest of the world. Sadly, a cross-party plan that would have allowed MPs to seize control of the agenda was narrowly defeated last night – by two votes. That leaves Mrs May still notionally in charge of Brexit, determined to keep testing parliament’s view of her ailing deal. That is a dismal prospect even with the partial safety net of an article 50 extension.

The whole Brexit question needs reframing around the actual relationship between the UK and the EU – the facts of what it means to be a leading member of a powerful global alliance and what relinquishing that status entails, as distinct from nationalistic myths of dissolved sovereignty. A systematic failure of Mrs May’s approach has been to negotiate first with her own party, which is steeped in a culture of paranoid Euroscepticism, and only then present the results of that discussion as unrealistic demands in Brussels. That route guaranteed disappointment and amplified differences between Britain and its neighbours, when the future relationship has to be founded in recognition of commonalities.

It is feasible that MPs will yet nudge Mrs May’s withdrawal agreement over the finish line, but if so, that will only be the end of the beginning of Brexit. It starts to describe how it might be done. But there will still be mysteries unsolved: how are Britain’s interests served by Brexit; what are the costs in exchanging privileges afforded to a leading EU member for the diminished position of former member; what, in the most profound strategic, cultural and economic terms, is the point?

Mrs May came to office unequipped with answers to those questions. She then went looking for them in the wrong place, on her party’s rightmost fringe. She has squandered the whole of the available negotiating period and made extension essential. But additional time is of limited value if it is not used differently. Parliament must restart the Brexit debate. The options cannot be limited by ideological extrapolations of a mystical “will of the people” from the result in June 2016. The task is to use evidence, examine facts, heed voices on all sides, and settle on a relationship with EU institutions that realistically reflects the interests of the whole country.

Thu, 14 Mar 2019 19:28:49 GMT https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/mar/14/the-guardian-view-on-brexit-delay-time-to-let-reality-in https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/mar/14/the-guardian-view-on-brexit-delay-time-to-let-reality-in
<![CDATA[The Guardian view on the Bloody Sunday prosecution: late but necessary | Editorial]]> A mural depicting Bloody Sunday
A mural depicting Bloody Sunday.Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

It is now approaching half a century since Bloody Sunday, when British troops fired on civil rights demonstrators in Derry. The killings not only left families distraught but, as the brother of one victim observed on Thursday, deepened and widened the conflict in Northern Ireland. The Widgery tribunal of the same year compounded anger. It took more than 25 years, and the peace process, for the British government to commission another inquiry. In 2010 Lord Saville finally delivered his devastating report. A lengthy police inquiry followed.

Now one former paratrooper is to stand trial for the murder of two men, and attempted murder of four more. Prosecutors concluded that there was insufficient evidence to provide a reasonable prospect of convicting other suspects on similar charges, though some may yet face perjury cases.

The British state has a long and dishonourable tradition of denying its wrongs and, when that becomes unsustainable, delaying facing the issue for as long as possible. The passage of so many years has inevitably had its impact upon the process of justice – witnesses and soldiers present on Bloody Sunday have died, as have some of the bereaved. Relatives are profoundly disappointed that only one person is to be charged, despite their relief that there are charges at all, and will probably challenge the decision not to pursue other cases.

Their distress and anger has been fuelled by the carelessness, ignorance and crassness of British ministers – all the more alarming given the stresses that Brexit imposes upon a hard-won peace. Last week the Northern Ireland secretary, Karen Bradley, had to apologise for saying killings by security forces were “not crimes” and were carried out by people “fulfilling their duties in a dignified and appropriate way”.

The defence secretary’s response to this prosecution has been insensitive in the extreme. Gavin Williamson made no mention of the victims or families in his statement. He went on to say that the government is working on safeguards to ensure the armed forces are not unfairly treated and will “urgently reform the system for dealing with legacy issues. Our serving and former personnel cannot live in constant fear of prosecution.” A 10-year statute of limitations has been mooted.

The implications with regard to Iraq and Afghanistan are obvious. So is the message it would send to personnel in operations yet to come. That the state upholds the law, and especially that it addresses its own breaches, is not less but more important in highly charged contexts or full-scale conflicts. If it fails to do so promptly and transparently, it must address that too. To tackle old wrongs helps to rebuild trust and strengthen communities today. It also prevents future wrongs by reminding troops and those who command them of their responsibilities. This prosecution is both important and necessary.

Thu, 14 Mar 2019 18:28:49 GMT https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/mar/14/the-guardian-view-on-the-bloody-sunday-prosecution-late-but-necessary https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/mar/14/the-guardian-view-on-the-bloody-sunday-prosecution-late-but-necessary