We’ve been getting to know Guardian columnist Owen Jones, whose devotion, as a gay man, to gay rights – and readiness to criticize any Western institution for homophobia – has coexisted from the beginning of his still-young career with his ideologically rooted refusal to criticize the most homophobic force on the planet, namely Islam.
For a while there, he seemed to be able to pull off this contradiction. Then came the Orlando Pulse nightclub massacre.
Appearing on Sky News with host Mark Longhurst and Telegraph journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer on the night of the mass murder, Jones tried to stake out a position that was simply not tenable. As Hartley-Brewer summed it up afterwards, Jones had made three assertions:
His second was that to question why Mateen might have been a homophobe (was it his Islamic faith or was he just an angry hate-filled lunatic?) was to deliberately undermine the horror of the atrocity.
And the third was that neither Mark Longhurst nor I were entitled to venture any opinion on any issues arising out of this crime because we were straight and therefore could not presume to care as much about the deaths of 50 gay people as Owen. In his own words: “You don’t understand this because you’re not gay.”
In other words, Jones was trying to use his gay identity to shut down any effort to link this mass murder to Islam. As Hartley-Brewer pointed out, Jones is one of many people on the left who are “intent on putting their heads in the sand about the unquestionable fact that Islam has a problem with homophobia….Does it matter whether the Orlando killer hated gay people because he just happened to hate gay people or because he believed that such hatred was fundamental to the teachings of his Islamic faith? I think it does.”
Rather than admit that Islam teaches homophobia, Jones chose to turn the spotlight on his host and fellow panelist, claiming repeatedly that they were denying that homophobia was a factor in the Orlando atrocity – even as they both repeatedly agreed with him that, of course, it was.
Watch the exchange for yourself:
On the morning after his Sky News appearance, Jones stuck with his on-camera spin, maintaining in the Guardian that he had “walked off in disgust” as “an instinctive reaction” to Longhurst, who, he asserted, had “continually and repeatedly refused to accept that this was an attack on LGBT people….He not only refused to accept it as an attack on LGBT people, but was increasingly agitated that I – as a gay man – would claim it as such.”
To this, Hartley-Brewer replied, succinctly and correctly: “This is a blatant flat-out lie.” Owen also wrote in his Guardian follow-up: “I am reluctant to dwell too much on my appearance on Sky News last night, because this isn’t about me.” Hartley-Brewer found this to be altogether too much: “Really Owen? Because from where I was sitting, the entire thing has been ENTIRELY about you all along.”
Others also weighed in on Jones’s petulant walk-off. We’ll get to them tomorrow.