Up in flames

Ignorance breeds intolerance; it’s just a shame to see the media fuelling it. The rapacious hounds of the tabloid press have played out the burn-the-Koran farce with their habitual feigned indignation, succeeding in whipping up a media tornado that serves only to fan the flames of hatred. A wisp of smoke billowing from a lonely Koran would hardly have changed the world. Yet as a media ruckus hysterically dramatises a non-event, we merely raise a plinth from which Pastor Jones’ contemptible preaching can reach a wider audience. As Jones’ unsubstantiated claims are disseminated through every available media outlet, the delirious pastor’s formerly paltry throng of disciples swells. His insensitive intention to burn the holy text of Islam, as a commemoration of those killed on 9/11, instantly received ubiquitous airtime. Before the fire was senselessly transformed into an incandescent blaze, this bigot was simply an oddball preaching in a tucked-away corner …

An interview with Johann Hari

“If Jesus comes back, we’ll kill him again”. Johann Hari, award-winning columnist for The Independent, is telling me about a slogan on a t-shirt that got him into a little trouble in a library. He speaks with a kind of schoolboy exhilaration, a mischievous grin on his face and a glint in his eye. Very few people would sport such a provocative item of clothing in a public place, but I soon realise that Hari isn’t one to shy away from controversy. His articles are invariably outspoken and fearless; he has been the subject of numerous death threats from Islamic fundamentalists, had his effigy burned on the streets of India, and been called fat by the Dalai Lama. Yet despite this reputation, he immediately strikes me as a humane and congenial man. As we meet under the red-and-white awning of a Hampstead cafĂ©, I am greeted by an outstretched arm …

How I pine for South Africa’s muffled cries and drowned tears to be noticed

“Didier Drogba is just over there, but what does that do to help me?” As the harmonious discord of the vuvuzela imbues the glossy stadiums swathed in the sickening glow of African democratic pseudo-success, South Africa’s reality is laden with mass poverty, unemployment, inequality, crime and death. The World Cup simply acts as a diversion, fixing a shameless, unflinching barrier in front of the harsh actualities of day-to-day life. We flock to the Rainbow Nation in a forced migration of millions who will leave as quickly as they came; money is doubtless injected but where does it go? The tournament has the opportunity to make a difference. Yet it doesn’t. Images of laughing, smiling African children adorn our television screens, as though the lure of the dancing pixels can allay our anxieties about their reality. How I wish that this World Cup was ameliorating global society in the way it …