The story surrounding Liam Neeson at the moment is the epitome of the monstrous journalism that is rife today. In an interview for an upcoming film themed on revenge (it’s Liam Neeson after all), Neeson was asked how he touches into the character of someone who deeply wants to take revenge. He replied with a story from over 30 years ago, when a close female friend of his was raped by a black man. In response to the incident, Neeson said he went out looking for a black person to kill, in an attempt to seek revenge. He went on to say that he was deeply ashamed to have done this. Clearly then, Neeson recognises what a dreadful thing he tried to do, and after all, it was all over 30 years ago. The press, however, have not promoted this narrative.
Here are a few examples of ridiculous headlines regarding this story:
I’m not sure how Liam Neeson’s ‘violent past’ has been ‘exposed’. He didn’t actually do anything.
Because ‘turning to booze after wife’s death’ is totally relevant to this story…
‘Fantasy’. Of course, the headline presents the story as though Neeson was having the time of his life, knowing his close friend had just been raped. This headline also gives absolutely no reference whatsoever to the fact that Neeson had these racist thoughts over 30 years ago. Anyone who reads that headline could well assume it happened yesterday. This is non-factual clickbait at its finest.
But of course, these headlines are more than just clickbait. They are actively attempting to ruin Liam Neeson’s credibility. The majority of people who read these headlines when a notification comes up on their phone are just going to assume Liam Neeson is a racist.
Moving on (for now) from the disgraceful headlines surrounding this story, Liam Neeson has undeniably admitted he went looking for a black person to kill. However, it was 30 years ago. I’m not saying that what he did is at all fine because it was in the distant past, but something from so long ago clearly does not suggest the same person’s views from the modern day have not changed. He is not going to go out looking for people to kill tomorrow. People shouldn’t be held back because of the wrongdoings in their past. Everyone makes mistakes, and if your whole life was tracked by the rest of the world, you would have some things you would be roasted for in the media. Give the man a break.
On Sky News last week, John Barnes, the former footballer said Liam Neeson “deserves a medal”. He went on to explain that he has “more respect” for Liam Neeson now that he has “told the truth”, compared to if he had merely hidden the story forever. I couldn’t agree more with John Barnes. But the most important thing Barnes said was that society views racism in this light: “As long as you don’t admit it, then we think everything is okay”. This is why it’s actually a good thing that Liam Neeson told his story.
Let’s face up to it. Racism still exists today. One look at the treatment of Raheem Sterling in the media makes this pretty obvious. But this is why Liam Neeson’s story is important. Neeson presents an example of how racist views can be fought and overcome, and that is a whole lot better than pretending racist views do not exist. If we do that, then those with racist views will stay quiet, and keep passing on their racist views to their children, and then those children to their grandchildren, and racism will never be eradicated. But if those like Neeson are prepared to stand up and admit their mistakes, they can be an example to others, and make some real positive change.
If you like to read more of Ryan's blog, read getaware.co.uk