Our 'national moral compass' is nothing more than tabloid-run bear baiting

The recent immolation of Aiden Burley MP is yet another example of the media tearing someone’s career, and life, apart without asking the difficult questions that should come with proposing a universal moral compass

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Aiden Burley MP on the now infamous stag weekend
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Benjamin Harris-Quinney
On 3 January 2012 10:47

The recent immolation by press and commentary of Aiden Burley MP is yet another example of the media gripping a story, and with wilfully blinkered vision tearing someone’s career, and life, apart without asking any of the difficult questions that should come with proposing a universal and immutable moral compass.

In such circumstance it seems the person concerned loses the ability to reason with the current of media criticism and merely offers a grovelling and often unconvincing apology, usually with the political party or company’s head of media looming in the background.

I have never been to a party that featured anyone in Nazi dress, but if I had, I probably would not have left. It would be quite a different matter if someone, in any dress, began to espouse openly murderous, anti British, American or anti-Semitic views. But dressing up in something or as something bizarre and taboo for the purpose of merriment does not necessarily imply synergy or sympathy with the subject.

Moreover if it did, a Nazi costume is far from the only costume that could or should be deemed offensive. I have seen any number costumes including Chairman Mao, Henry VIII, Stalin, Tony Blair, Ghengis Khan, Osama Bin Laden, Nixon and soldiers of all bearing and hue who have all been responsible for death and misery, to both a lesser and greater extent than the Nazis. 

Yet I find it hard to believe that if pictured next to an acquaintance in a Chairman Mao costume (responsible for 70 million deaths)  on a stag weekend, Mr Burley would have been given a second look by media hacks combing the private lives of public figures for a by-line.

The generally inaccurate and ahistoric approach by the media on moral issues is best left for a more considered debate but consistency should be a minimum requirement if our ‘national moral compass’, heralded as it is by our tabloid media, is to have any credibility. Surely it is either unacceptable for a parliamentarian to be willingly pictured next to any costume which holds some reference to a murderous, criminal or amoral philosophy or it should be passed over as an event which has little relevance or bearing on his own views and philosophies.

If indeed Aiden Burley is responsible for encouraging Nazism in philosophy rather than dress, there is no defence that should allow someone of such views to continue as an elected representative of the people. There is however, currently no evidence that he has done anything other than hire a Nazi costume as a joke for a stag weekend.

By taste it is not something that many, including myself, would choose to do. But poor taste is entirely different from Nazism and I do not believe it, in itself, to be a sackable offense, nor one that should prompt public ridicule or interest. 

Benjamin Harris-Quinney is the Chairman of the Bow Group. He tweets at @B_HQ

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