A Second Open Letter to James O’Brien



Dear James,

I find myself compelled to write to you a second and hopefully final time. My first letter was heartfelt but far more widely read than I anticipated that it might be, and, I fear, occasionally misinterpreted. One of your friends, who I have agreed to neither name nor involve in this correspondence, told his radio listeners that my first missive was ‘mean.’ The words to him appeared to be an attack on his friend, and I understand and occasionally share the overwhelming passion that an attack on a friend can engender. I partly write for him.

Many of those who were complimentary of my first letter applauded what they saw as me calling out a bully. In truth I do not believe you are a bully. I think you sometimes fall into the trap of bullying. I can also understand why that may be. Being the target of inelegant social media communications is unpleasant. I know. In my small way I also attract passionate reactions and it is often difficult to distinguish between insult and disagreement. Occasionally those who swear, threaten or insult, find themselves agreeing at a later point on a different issue. Getting to that point can be painful, but I believe it is worth it. I partly write for all of them.

I mainly write, however, because I listened to you today. I confess I was nervous. One of your colleagues had retweeted my first letter and it gained a significance it was never intended to have. I wondered whether it may have made its way to you. I wondered whether you would be tempted to use the extraordinary platform that you have in order to redress the insult by demonising me in the way I suggested that you were capable of demonising others. You didn’t.

I am sure the reason why you didn’t is because you either didn’t read my first letter or if you did, you treated it with equanimity, as the writings of someone who was entitled to express a view but not in a position to require a response. I am sure that my letter has had no effect other than to amuse and offend your foes and your fans who happened to chance upon it. In your case it would never have been more than water off a big billy goat’s back.

Nonetheless I listened to your programme and enjoyed it. Your manner was inclusive and your callers informed and informative. You tackled a question that was hugely controversial without shutting down the debate. You discussed the extraordinary inequity of a treaty that Tony Blair signed for his friend George Bush that can now result in people being taken by force to the US without any evidence of any offence ever being put before any UK court.

You touched the common ground I imagine people on your side of politics and people on mine could find. You see the essence of the case of Lauri Love is not the complex legality that underlies it, nor even the Asperger’s that adds tragic colour to it. It is the extent to which states use their violent power to deal with individuals. There is no doubt that states should have a monopoly on violence. It keeps us safer if the stronger individuals are dissuaded from using violence to settle disagreements. Nonetheless that monopoly must be tempered with real consideration.

The idea that a state could imprison anyone, whoever they are and whatever their mental state, for life, in order to dissuade others from exploiting the weaknesses in their technological infrastructure is highly troubling. It is understandable that the US is keen to protect the national security that is now intimately bound up with our brave new virtual world. We are equally keen to protect our own. We have not, however, taken the view that the threat of life imprisonment is likely to achieve that. That threat obviously doesn’t prevent people from killing each other either. We take the view that the value of human life justifies that sentence but the value of information can’t. The US disagrees.

 Your question about why, if we believe in the rule of law and the independence of the UK judiciary, we allow the US view to prevail is one for politicians. I hope that our Home Secretary thinks very hard before allowing this man to be taken away from our justice system and handed over to another. If the horrific prospect of him ending his life is enough to persuade her then all well and good. Far more importantly our politicians should look carefully at the terms of the deal Mr Blair agreed to very carefully. They should look at it in the context of the new relationship we are building with the US. It will be a hard conversation to have with our friends. It is a conversation that can only be positive if we haven’t wasted our energies insulting their President in ways that will have no real effect but will make us feel virtuous. We may have many such hard conversations. We can’t talk to a demon. Laurie Love is as good an argument to avoid demonisation as any I can think of.

I continue to listen to your programme when life and time allows. I don’t know if I will find the ‘listening James’ or the ‘rabble rousing James’ when I tune in. I suspect your audience figures have far more to do with that than any other factor. Nonetheless I finish where I began two days ago. You have two ears and one mouth. A great deal of intelligence and information sits between them. If you use them in the right proportion your programme could be very special indeed. I live in hope.

Yours Truly

Jamie Foster

9 thoughts on “A Second Open Letter to James O’Brien

  1. Call to o Brian are vetted. I know, I’m practically blacklisted. They only finally answer the phone to let me know the thread is moving on. They really are LEADING britains. conversation.

  2. Call to o Brian are better. I know I’m practically blacklisted. They only finally answer the phone to let me know the thread is moving on. They really are LEADING britains. conversation.

  3. Oh give over….He is a radio host. We’re having to deal with conservative snowflakes now? Some of these comments moan even though they have most of the ear of the right wing press which is nothing but rabble rousing and you moan about one radio host. Get over it.

    One thing I hugely welcome with James is that he is apologetic about his mistakes n.b. a call he was middle stumped on only on Monday. I do object to the way he shouts down some callers and doesn’t give them time but hey ho – does Nige ever apologise?

    So lets get back to the point of the 2nd letter – applause for the fact he is magnanimous.

    Great 2nd letter by the way. It is by engaging in this way that we get a more balanced debate. I chose to listen to James this year because I found a voice for my opinions & thoughts on certain issues – for that I am hugely glad he is there. You don’t have to listen to him just as I chuck the radio out the window every time the clock strikes 7pm weekdays or 2pm Sunday. Not picking sides – I would say Dale is excellent & Foggerty good too. Frei is clearly a heavyweight. You can see LBC have created something pretty lucrative.

  4. O’Brien is a mustard commentator. Having been a traditional Labour supporter in my youth, there are obviously common threads, but often I find him patronising, childish and divisive.

    Last week, I was listening to his hour following the Casey report on Integration. He had read the first paragraph about Britain being a ‘tolerant and liberal’ nation and went on a rant about Britain, today in 2016 being the totally opposite.

    “Britain – tolerant and liberal – do me a favour”

    “Why should Muslims try and integrate when ‘they’ think all Muslims are rapists and murderers?” he exclaimed and tweeted.

    Who are ‘they’? Surely nobody thinks all Muslims are rapists and murderers!

    A Muslim phoned up and asked how many fish and chip suppers a month he should eat to be accepted in Britain. O’ Brien loved this and tweeted that as well. A black guy phoned up and said his Indonesian wife had her hajib pulled in the park. An Imam from Birmingham said boys called him names when wearing his robes. O’Brien stated that his friend Asif was just the same as his white mates.

    And so on. O’Brien and his vetted callers tried to paint the picture that the failure of Muslim integration is because we are racist.

    Yet, if O’Brien had actually asked the Imam about some of his views, say about gays, Sharia’, the terrible deeds of Mohammed,etc etc we might have had a more interesting ‘debate’. O’Brien and his ilk cannot square the circle between the illiberalism and intolerance of Islam and offending an ethnic group, ie Muslims.

    So, in the main, he refuses to go there. At one point, he did let his slip show. “Anybody whose religious faith allows them to discriminate against gays are in the wrong country”, he told us. Well, a recent PEW poll stated that 100% of Muslims thought homosexuals were out of order. The Islamic punishment, as practiced by 18 Muslim countries, is death.

    It is left to his stand-in, Maajid Nawaz, to actually challenge the bigotry in Islam. O’Brien is far happier calling his dissenters racist, haters, ‘box of trolls begging for attention’ etc.

    To be fair, he is very good on social issues, something men as a rule are not very good at. I wish he would quit politics all together and become LBC’s first ‘agony uncle’

    Doing this, he could keep his pc, liberal credentials in tact, and not suffer the realms of abuse he gets daily on his facebook posts.

    It is not easy to fill 3 hours everyday with just talk, but after 6 months, I find him repeating himself too often for it to be ‘essential listening’. I can’t take the anecdote about biscuits, bankers and immigrants even one more time.

    If I am around at 10 am in he future, it will be a podcast from Nawaz, Dale, Collins or the hidden genius of Nick Abott!

  5. I am one who turns off after Nick Ferrari, although he too suffers from “Phone in and listen to me” syndrome.
    These radio hosts are all the same, only wordsmiths, no experience of much else, never had a proper job, relying on swatting up on a particular subject before a programme, and stamping on a caller after his first few words.
    O’Brien, though, is especially obnoxious in all these respects, together with his fake left-wingness.
    Why would anybody be daft enough to volunteer to interact publicly with that whining, whingeing, bullying, voice?

  6. I listen to James regularly and honestly have no idea what this letter is about. I do recall James’ programme in which this young man’s extradition to the USA was discussed. I do, though, have to disagree with the description of James as rabble rousing. I would put some of his right wing colleagues squarely in that category, but never James.

  7. According to my brother who works as a media buyer O’Brien does not have 810,000 listeners. There are lots on the radio when Nic Ferrari hands over but loads switch off. His actual stats are way below that. And the rates paid during O’Brien’s show are way down on the breakfast slot.

  8. Seems James O’Brien is a bully and a coward. Or he’d have addressed the 20,000 people who read that first letter?

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