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What commentators made of Neeson's rash outburst

Lindy McDowell, Belfast Telegraph: Is the Neeson of today an unthinking racist? No, far from it.

The very fact that he was being so searingly honest in his recall, in his confessional shame, speaks of the man that he is. What he was articulating - or attempting to articulate, and certainly to condemn - was an unjustifiable, knee-jerk thirst for revenge.

That "something primal" that is all too often fuelled by a racist or sectarian impulse.

And, dear God, we know all about that here in Neeson's native Northern Ireland, don't we?

For his story is illustrative of the same unthinking, hate-filled desire for bloody vengeance that led here to so many tit-for-tat killings in which so many innocent people lost their lives.

Fionola Meredith, Belfast Telegraph

Instead of queuing up to condemn Neeson we should - as the footballer and anti-racism campaigner John Barnes, who suffered terrible abuse during his career, has insisted - be praising him for his honesty in "outing" himself in this way.

To do so is not to condone what Neeson did, or wanted to do, all those years ago.

It's to acknowledge him for confronting his own former bigotry and 'fessing up to it.

It would be entirely different if Neeson was in any way trying to defend his past thoughts and actions. He's not.

He's saying that they are a profound source of shame to him, as the man he is today.

Jan Moir, Daily Mail

I don't think Liam Neeson is a racist. However, you could certainly make a case against him, were you so inclined.

You could damn him to hell for ever, because he has certainly committed a terrible sin by Hollywood standards.

The ultimate sin, perhaps. The definitive transgression.

When asked a question, he tried to tell the truth. But if we spool back, what do we find? A crucial point, which is that the young Neeson contemporaneously realised that his thinking was wrong and irresponsible.

He was ashamed and horrified of how he felt, both then and now.

Eva Simpson, Daily Mirror

Liam Neeson gave one of the most explosive, career-ending interviews I have ever heard when he told a journalist that he wanted to murder a black person after someone close to him was raped.

He's now furiously back-pedalling and telling anyone who will listen that he is not racist - no doubt with one eye on the effect his comments will have at the box office.

Neeson has admitted he walked around with a cosh for a whole week trying to find someone to attack. I find this utterly terrifying, sickening and really saddening.

Gary Younge, The Guardian

We should, at the very least, admire (Neeson) for his candour. For all the talk of a post-racial society and Enlightenment values, here's a white man who admits he literally went out for a week or more looking for a black man to murder.

The man who performed a tender love scene with Viola Davis (in Widows) is the same man who fantasised about killing her husband or stepson or anyone else who looked like them.

We should, of course, not ignore Neeson's shame in this. We all do things we regret. We are all fragile. It takes courage to admit the things that we are most ashamed of.

(But) since when did people get credit for confessing that they once thought about killing innocent people on the basis of their race and have since thought better of it?

Brendan O'Neill, The Spectator

Neeson, in his rage over a rape, was engaging in the horrible art of collective guilt, seeing all black men as legitimate targets for the crime of one particular black man.

That is racist and wrong. But here's the thing: Neeson knows this. He admits the wickedness of his thinking. He did not make this confession to promote the collective judgement of black people or race-based vengeance, but to do the opposite: to highlight how awful and corrupting such feelings are.

Yet none of this matters to the Twittermob or to those sections of the media that love nothing more than hanging out to dry individuals who have thought or said or done bad things.

Belfast Telegraph

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