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How on earth is it acceptable for a Guardian columnist to say he wants Jeremy Corbyn assassinated?

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In an age of online harassment, bullying and trolling, high-profile victims are nothing new. Speak your mind on the issues of the day and you’ll doubtless inspire others to speak theirs and some of them will in ways that are barely literate, let alone legal. Of late, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has been subject to all manner of denigration and abuse, a lot of it coming from people who, theoretically at least, are on the left.

Enter freelance hack Nicholas Lezard. Lezard, who writes for the Guardian and New Statesman and has also written for the Independent, isn’t a Corbynite. Something he made abundantly clear on September 20 when, as part of a longer Facebook comment, he posted this regarding Corbyn:

I’d crowdfund an assassination plot were it not for the ACTUAL FACT that there is a team of MI5 agents tailing him.

nicholas-lezard-crowdfund-assassination1
Image Credit: The Canary

Now, nobody is suggesting that Lezard is serious. After all, it’s somewhat unlikely that the services of Kickstarter or GoFundMe extend to arranging a real-life version of ‘The Day of the Jackal.’ That said, it’s still only months after the death of Labour MP Jo Cox. Not exactly sensitive, really.

From sensitive to over-sensitive, Bristol West Labour MP Thangam Debbonaire was quick to suggest that a single Tweet from local student Verity Phillips suggesting that she should ‘Get in the sea’ was, in fact, a threat to kill. A threat for which Phillips was investigated. Granted, Tweeting something like that to a Labour MP on the day of Jo Cox’s funeral probably wasn’t a good idea. It’s about as likely as Lezard crowdfunding a hit on Jeremy Corbyn as well and, as such, hardly to be interpreted as a desire to actually kill anybody.

So far, it looks as though no action has been taken against Lezard. Nor does it look likely that any action will be taken. But that does raise a few questions:

If, say, a disabled welfare claimant made a similar remark regarding Iain Duncan Smith, would they be as likely to escape any official sanction?

Probably not.

If a Muslim made a similar remark regarding any senior politician regarding, say, their stance on the Middle East, would they be likely to escape investigation?

Almost certainly not.

If, for example, a neo-Nazi were to make the same remark about a Jewish public figure, or a fundamentalist Christian about an atheist in the public eye, would they be as likely to see the matter brushed under the carpet?

It’s rather doubtful.

But, because the subject of the remark is Jeremy Corbyn and the person making it is a hack of some prominence, seemingly it’s not a bad thing and therefore not worth pursuing. Which is fine, as long as it’s only a throwaway remark without any actual intent behind it.  Throwaway remarks about Corbyn, according to a recent article in the Morning Star anyway, being something that many of his political opponents are all too familiar with.

The simplest and most obvious question is this;

If anybody made a similar remark about Lezard himself, what would his reaction be?

Would he brush it off as all being part of the cut-and-thrust of the Internet and social media?

Would he find it offensive (and understandably so)?

Would he take it seriously enough to demand official action be taken?

Would it become the grist for a piece on online harassment, bullying and trolling? After all, one person’s trolling is another person’s harsh-but-fair comment.

Well, seeing as Lezard made the original comment on social media, if anybody is curious they could always ask him via Twitter and/or Facebook.

That said, do it politely and civilly.

[edit] Mr Lezard has since apologised unreservedly for the comment:

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