A number of journalists have been in touch about comments I was reported to have made on Facebook a long time ago. I was in the process of writing a lengthy essay about it all, because I am interested in exploring the issues involved. However, in the interests of avoiding endless back-and-forth, this is a statement that they can use.
"The disingenuous reports circulating on the alt-right blogs are based on off-hand, off-colour statements made over a year ago in what I had assumed were private exchanges. These exchanges involved, as far as I was aware, a small number of friends who would know from the context that they were not intended literally or maliciously. That was obviously a naive assumption on my part. I should have realised that the tasteless remark, the dark joke, that disappears as soon as it is uttered in a pub conversation, can quickly be preserved and distorted if uttered on Facebook. Because of that rookie's error, some bloggers and trolls have used my comments, quite disingenuously, to hurt people.
"To be absolutely clear. I do not think that Simon Weston’s injuries deserve ridicule. I emphatically do not think that people who advocate for the West Bank settlers should have their throats cut. I certainly didn’t mention or even consider the ethnicity of the individual in question, and the attempts to imply that this was a factor in the original statement are invidious and dishonest. I at no point sought a public audience for these comments, and never sought to solicit anyone’s anguish. I am, of course, very sorry to anyone who was hurt.
"I also note that the Guardian journalist Nicholas Lezard is just today being publicly shamed for a Facebook joke about a “crowd-funded assassination” of Corbyn. Although I profoundly disagree with his express sentiments, I do not think that he should be monstered for decompressing and joking among friends, particularly when he is clearly not being literal. It is a real shame that some of the media are allowing their agenda to be driven by the most trivial, sensation-hunting, traffic-driven pseudo-journalism of the blogs and the pay-per-click sites."