The deafening silence of Gary Lineker and his chums keeps us awake at night

Sometimes silence can convey a message

November 08, 2023 11:39

If Bob Dylan can win the Nobel Prize for Literature, it’s no surprise that there are university courses exploring the poetry of Simon & Garfunkel. But in the month since the October 7 massacre, a new meaning has attached itself to the concept of The Sound of Silence.

One of the most depressing realisations has been that so many of those we thought of as friends are, when it mattered, simply not there for us. We have heard not a word from them. Even a bland “How are you?” has proved too much.

It’s always said that you learn who your real friends are when you need them, and that’s proved itself true.

But disheartening as this passive silence has been, there is also another, more aggressive form of silence — a silence that sends a message. “Hello darkness, my old friend,” sang Simon & Garfunkel. Across social media and beyond, the Israeli response to October 7 has led to an outpouring of anger, concern and comment. But for some, there is a darkness when it comes to the barbaric murder of 1,400 Israelis and the seizure of more than 200 hostages. A darkness that manifests itself as silence. 

The actress Susan Sarandon has been vocal in her concern for Palestinians in Gaza, even to the extent of posting pure invention, such as sharing the claim that Israel
has been using white phosphorous. 

“You don’t have to be Palestinian to care about what’s happening in Gaza. I stand with Palestine”, she wrote on 5 November. 

Indeed you do not. But for Sarandon, it would seem you do have to be Jewish to care about what happened on October 7, because despite her obsessive posts about Israel — barely a day has passed without her posting something vicious about the Jewish state — her social media has been entirely silent when it comes to the massacre of 1,400 Jews. 

Sarandon has had other things on her mind. On 8 October she posted a picture of a bird with the caption “my new friend”.

Notoriously, just over a week after the massacre, some 2,000 actors and other creative types signed an open letter organised by Artists for Palestine calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. The signatories included the usual suspects — the likes of Tilda Swinton, Charles Dance, Steve Coogan, Miriam Margolyes and Maxine Peake. The letter made no mention of Hamas or the murders. 

The silence is deafening, and is all the more poisonous from some sources.

Gary Lineker has 8.9 million followers on X/Twitter. In March he was suspended (and then quickly reinstated) by the BBC over a post describing a video by Suella Braverman as “using language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the [19]30s”. 

At the time, he insisted that he would continue to comment on issues that he cared about. Which, presumably, is why since October 7 he has used his account to attack the home secretary again, after she described the Free Palestine marches as “hate marches”.

“Marching and calling for a ceasefire and peace so that more innocent children don’t get killed is not really the definition of a hate march,” Lineker wrote. 

Given his obvious expertise in Nazi comparisons, one might have thought that a pogrom of Jews might spark his interest. But look for mention of it — or even a word of sympathy or concern over the murder of 1,400 Jews — and you will find nothing.

For Lineker, the only noteworthy event worth mentioning on October 7 then was Tottenham sitting at the top of the table: “Super Spurs are top of the league”, he posted after the massacre unfolded that day.

If social media is now the preferred vehicle for the likes of Sarandon and Lineker to proffer their thoughts — and to demonstrate their silence — it has also given birth to its own figures, hugely popular users whose careers are built online and are immediately recognisable names to a younger generation. 

Munya Chawawa, for example, specialises in satirical videos and is genuinely funny and clever. He has 1.2 million Instagram followers. Since October 7 he has posted helpful lists of things that can be done to support Gaza and Palestine. What about help for the families of murdered Israelis and the hostages? Just the sound of silence.

As for the Posh and Becks of the Instagram generation: Love Island presenter Maya Jama has posted only about Gaza and Palestine, while rapper Stormzy went three weeks without any posts and then on 26 October told his followers that: “If ever there is a clear injustice in the world… 100 times out of 100 I will be on the side of the oppressed.” 

US singer Kehlani has been relentlessly posting misinformation to her 15.6 million followers, including talks about genocide. Again, silence when it comes to dead Jews. 

And Owen Jones, the darling of the young left, with 1 million X followers? On October 7, not a word of condemnation. The next day, also nothing. Or the next. But a Palestinian Lives Matter clip the next day. 

On and on it goes — a silence so loud it keeps us all awake.

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November 08, 2023 11:39

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