Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Huzzah for Frank Huzur

To be honest, I don't much like Frank Huzur, biographer of Imran Khan and playwright. He is a demanding self-publicist with a galactic ego. I don't like that kind of competition. That's MY job. He is however a successful one with a great deal of drive. He has thrown a lot of effort and resource at establishing Socialist Factor, a magazine which could well be the Indian lefty version of The Spectator eventually.

Frank has given me ample opportunity to make my own points in his publication without any editorial interference, and has given me the chance to widen my reach. It's always a real kick to see your own work in print no matter who prints it and so I thank him for that. Sadly, that also means republishing my typos. His managing editor needs a few lessons in conscientious publishing. That said, thanks to him I can say I am a contributing editor to a significant international publication.

It has to be said that I don't much appreciate his demanding tone, asking for articles at short notice, especially when he's not paying me. Running a daily blog and a referendum splinter campaign is more than enough work and though I appreciate the exposure, Indian publications are not really my centre of focus right now for obvious reasons.

That said, the guy PM's me on Facebook saying he's had a death threat from the Indian far right for his social justice work. He asks that I write a puff piece telling the world how wonderful and brave he is. Being a contrary bastard you know full well I will do no such thing. Not least since I don't really know him from Adam or what he does. I am "contributing editor" to Socialist Factor and I'm not even a socialist.

More to the point, going into Indian politics and complaining that you're getting death threats is a bit like joining the US Marines and complaining people shoot at you. You know the job, you know the risks.

Those with better memories than me will recall how editors of the leading Yugoslav satirical magazine had to go into hiding before the war. The first thing fascists go after is the expression of free speech in order to control the message. It is therefore incumbent on all journalists and writers to keep saying things as they see it. Some death threats are just losers sounding off, others are deadly serious. Since you can never really tell the difference you just have to keep buggering on.

It is for those same reasons Charlie Hebdo became the target of Islamists. Personally I thought CH was a disgusting rag that needlessly insulted French Muslims and seemed to enjoy it. I was not surprised in the least they became a target. But if there is to be democracy then there must be free speech and nobody deserves to die for saying it how they feel it.

I personally believe that editors should show maturity in judgement in not needlessly provoking reactions for its own sake. Because no such professional judgement exists in British media we have professional trolls like Katie Hopkins who are wholly malevolent and destructive.

That said, I believe in the decency of people and they will reject such hatred and so we should just give these bozos enough rope to hang themselves. It would be better if people weren't so thoughtless and depressingly self-centred as Katie Hopkins, who herself advocates gunboats to fend off migrants. But a rich, diverse, free society must tolerate the intolerable where speech is concerned.

So while I won't stroke Frank Huzur's ego by republishing his bio, I will salute the bravery of all writers who fly in the face of orthodoxy and those who dare to speak the truth as they see it. Had more people had the same courage in the run up to the second world war, we may not have seen the industrial scale butchery of the holocaust.

In this, I wish Frank and Socialist Factor the best of British luck, not least because India needs a free press and a democracy movement now more than ever. But what I would say to Frank is that this isn't the first threat of its kind and won't be the last. If you signed up to be a political publisher in India, then there are legions of people who will want to shut you up by any means available. This is what you signed up for, so suck it up kid. Welcome to the world of journalism. If you want an easy life, do something else. It may be safer, but you will accomplish nothing.

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