For every rational cause you can guarantee there will be someone who tries to pursue it in a crazy and counter-productive manner. A Cambridge school caretaker has just been gaoled for sending letter bombs in protest against the surveillance state. Quite how he thought it might help is obscure; there is no Bakhuninite theory of precipitating revolution on offer, nor the intimidation/revenge motive of animal-rights terrorists. Perhaps he is a product of what the LM people identify as “therapeutic culture” and believes (compare Mr Blair) that strength of feeling is truth, and demonstrating the strength of one’s feelings by hurting others – a Big Howl – is persuasive.
All of which is by way of introduction to the strangest point in the whole affair: the post trial commentary from the officer in charge of the investigation. This is becoming a standard feature of any notorious case, one which I dislike intensely. I think the job of the police is to investigate crime disinterestedly, and they should not have a say in or comment on the process of the courts, any more than they should prejudice the position of suspects beforehand.
Detective Superintendent George Turner, from Thames Valley Police, said of the criminal,
“He utilised his interests in anarchy, terrorism and explosive devices in support of his political views.”
Let us be clear. This is not a slip of the tongue. It is a pre-prepared statement, given out in a press release to be reproduced verbatim.
How could an interest in anarchy (which does not seem to have been made out in any account I have read, and I would be grateful to be pointed to the evidence) have utility in bombing people? It might, just, provide motivation, although there are lots of pacifist anarchists and few violent nihilists, but practical assistance?
And “in support of his political views”? No, quite back-to-front. His crimes were in (mistaken) pursuit of his political views. There is a worrying muddling of means and ends there. What Cooper did was wrong; it does not support his views in the slightest. The criminality is founded in his intent to damage property and injure people. But we are left with the impression that the views are the mens rea.
Except I do not think he should be making it at all, I would have no quarrel with D-Supt Turner’s prepared statement had it said:
“He utilised his interests in terrorism and explosive devices in support of a politically motivated criminal plan.”
What he actually said is a disturbing glimpse of an official mind-set in which non-conformity and violence, dissent and criminality, are confounded.