Public debate on highly contentious issues is now careering out of control. Tragedy is being hijacked by political agitators. Facts are being junked for ignorance, misrepresentation and misleading hearsay. A culture of hyperventilating emotion and licensed resentment means that those trying to articulate dispassionate judgment, justice and compassion are being vilified as unfeeling brutes.
The Grenfell Tower fire in London, in which an entire apartment block was consumed by flames at the loss of at least 80 lives and left all the survivors homeless, was an appalling event whose causes have yet to be established. To do so, a public inquiry was set up under a retired senior judge, Sir Martin Moore-Bick. He was chosen because his expertise in complex commercial contracts fitted him for the likely technical challenges posed by this tragedy.
Those very qualities, however, have ruled him out as far as the residents’ spokesmen are concerned. They didn’t want dispassionate, objective and informed. They wanted touchy-feely. They didn’t want the inquiry to get at the truth of what had happened. They wanted it to arrive at the conclusion they had already reached: that residents of Grenfell Tower were killed and the survivors further victimised by a callous establishment determined to trash the working-class.
So they formed themselves into a political activists’ cause: “Justice for Grenfell”. From these activists and their supporters has issued a stream of bigoted, ignorant, class-war assertions about Sir Martin Moore-Bick. Because he is upper-middle class, dresses formally and speaks like the Appeal Court Vice-President that he was rather than a grief counsellor or community organiser, the activists have decided he doesn’t understand how they feel or their way of life and is therefore axiomatically unfit for the job.
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