Erasing Victims

In the aftermath of the Orlando murders, some politicians on the US right struggled with describing who the victims were. That the victims were LGBTI people proved to be a difficult aspect for some and consequently, there was a tendency to erase that aspect of the story. Doing so compounds the crime. It does so regardless of what the motives of the killer might be. While the Orlando murders have many complex elements (as discussed before) it is a simple fact that it was an attack on the LGBTI community in Orlando.

In the UK a different killing, perhaps equally as complex, happened only a few days later. Jo Cox, a Labour MP and refugee activist and a campaigner for the “Remain” campaign in the current UK-EU referendum was murdered. Political assassination is not unknown in the UK but it is rare and since WW2 has been related to the conflict in Northern Ireland. The investigation is on-going and the motives and affiliations of the killer are still being debated.

Now there is a phenomenon on the pro-‘Brexit’ side of British politics to bemoan the ‘politicisation’ of Jo Cox’s death. I can muster a tiny bit of sympathy because the UK press is proverbially appalling and is busy connecting dots that might not exist. However, that tiny (teeny-tiny) bit of sympathy is overwhelmed by a massive tide of anger. Jo Cox was political, her life was political, her voice was political. Prior to being an MP she was an active campaigner on refugee rights, humanitarian and campaigner against slavery. In parliament, she took difficult and principled positions on complex issues. Her death means an important voice on the left was silenced – and this is when we hear from the right that we shouldn’t “politicise” her death. I’m sorry, but I can’t see that as anything but collaborating with her death. For whatever reason, her killer silenced Jo Cox.

For whatever reason, her killer silenced Jo Cox. For people who agree with the positions she took to now impose on themselves a silence because of some previously unseen sense of decorum from the right, would be to compound that crime. If she were alive she would not be silent and to be silent as a consequence of her death is wrong.

Once again it is the right attempting to erase the character of the victim from the story of the murder. It as if some people can only be mourned if somehow important aspects of who they were are erased.


  1. KR

    There are many sobering things about the events of the past weekend (not least of which is that they are just the latest in a long lineage of attacks that taken together form an unmistakable pattern with shared content and directionality).

    For me, this particular political murder is not just about silencing a political voice (or erasing her, in this valid assessment of the aftermath) — but actually about obliterating her person in a gendered sense. The intense, up close, personal violence indicates such a level of rage at a woman with a voice and power that is really unmistakable. Shooting a gun leads to death, getting up close and repeatedly stabbing is a different game altogether, psychologically speaking, which is based around asserting control through bodily penetration. I think we will probably find, that this particular murderer was fueled by a lot of hate for both immigrants and women.

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