I don’t have much time for ‘Twitter storms’ or ‘social media outcries’. My initial reaction is “who cares?” and more importantly “what difference does it make?”.
The internet is often ridiculous and its users’ actions self defeating; Donald Trump’s use of Twitter isn’t a bad example.
However, bans on the so called burkini across 15 French authorities does, in my opinion, warrant a public backlash and if the internet is the easiest way to achieve that then so be it.
I’m not going to spend time picking apart the sheer idiocy, hypocrisy and misguided nature of the bans, there are plenty who have done that already and more eloquently than I can. See David Aaronovitch’s piece in The Times.
In my mind the bans are a case of politicians trying to do something for the sake of being seen to be doing something.
France has suffered 11 terrorist attacks since January last year – higher than any of its European neighbours. The current approach, be it in Syria, Iraq or domestic policy isn’t working. But radical Islamic terrorism is complicated, the causes and roots multi-faceted and the solutions must be as well.
It is times like these where with media and electoral pressure it must be easy to be seen to take a stand, to listen to people and their fears. But short-term ill conceived fixes can never be solutions. Furthermore, as is the case with the Burkini bans, they may serve only to undermine your initial standing and international good will.
I don’t think anyone would fault France for wanting to take action to protect its citizens but when the response is so erroneous it creates resentment.
Commenting on the bans Italian interior minister Angelino Alfano said the policy risked “provoking” more terrorist attacks, and it’s not hard to see the logic. On Wednesday photos emerged of armed police surrounding a woman on a French beach forcing her to take off her tunic.
Subjecting a clearly defined group to such indignities cannot do anything to heal tensions.
In the current climate additional ‘safety precautions’ adopted by the state are understandable, but not this one. It feels as though a line has been crossed.
The right to dignity is enshrined under Article 1 of the EU Charter of fundamental rights, it is that important. Times of heightened tensions and fear are ones where governments and people are truly tested. America has its test in November, there is an argument to say the UK has failed its own.
Whether or not it wants the status, France is the third largest economy in the EU as well as being seen as its’ cultural centre; the precedents it sets are watched globally.
Social media often is criticised, justly, for encouraging ‘slactivism’ – the practice of equating online activity such as ‘liking’ a cause of posting an article with actually doing something productive in the real world towards your cause. However, sometimes all you can do is raise your voice and hope it’s heard.
Quite rightly the legality of the bans will be decided by France’s highest administrative court, the Council of State. The court will consider an application by the French Human Right League arguing short term decrees of this nature are illegal.
Even if the bans are found to be legal the ill feeling they have invoked is unlikely to go away. Doing something for something’s sake is a dangerous course of action – even Twitter knows it.