To my simple suggestion that Owen Jones apologise for claiming that an 11-month old child killed by a Hamas rocket was in fact killed by an Israeli ‘so-called targeted strike’, Owen appears to have answered ‘no’.
He starts his reply: ‘In the last couple of years I’ve learned one thing: the right don’t like me very much, and expend a sizeable amount of energy attacking me personally rather than my writing.’
In saying that he has learned even ‘one thing’ I fear Owen exaggerates. He begins his next paragraph: ‘Hard right pseudo-intellectual [Douglas] Murray…’ Nothing worse than attacking a person rather than their writing is there? Of course it is no concern to me whether Owen thinks me an ‘intellectual’, pseudo or otherwise, or regards me as hard, soft or medium right. What matters are the facts. Incidentally Rod Liddle attacks Owen’s writing here.
Owen is now attempting to argue that this is about facts other than the one he picked up and ran with, or that it is not about what he has said but what other people have or have not said. He writes that ‘Murray and his cynical allies [who are these people?] are attempting to bury the contents of the rest of this [UN] report.’ Though I cannot of course speak for my mysterious ‘cynical allies’ I myself have no such ‘plan’. I am simply inviting Owen to admit he used a fact that was wrong. Here is why it matters.
Currently Owen’s main justification for not correcting his factual error boils down to: ‘Everybody else was doing it!’
There are three things to say about this:
1). No they weren’t. Some who have observed the wars in that region know that although you have to be careful about attributing casualties in the heat of any conflict, you must be especially careful with this one.
2). Even if every paper in the world had attributed the blame incorrectly that would not mean that they should not now correct their mistake, or that Owen should avoid doing so.
3). So far as I know, none of the journalistic sources Owen cites (such as the Washington Post) used the tragic death of an 11-month old child as a springboard for a demagogic and self-righteous rant against Israel on prime-time TV. Owen did not simply report a fact, he used the ‘fact’ to rail against Israel in a speech packed with lies about that country which singularly failed even to mention the genocidal anti-Semites of Hamas. As the clip can remind people, Owen delivered his one-dimensional anti-Israel diatribe in a tone of absolute moral certainty on prime time television to a potential audience of millions.
If Owen does not wish to correct his mistake then that is his prerogative. But I think people might rightly wonder in future why he should be listened to on such matters. Journalism and propaganda are different things. Owen appears to have demonstrated that his devotion to the latter trumps his aspirations to the former.