The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists are an interesting outfit, a group crowd sourcing denouncing people to various states across the globe.
Just as we see the edifying example of Edward Snowden revealing routine US surveillance of hundreds of millions of people, we have as a counterpoint the ICIJ, who are folks that clearly think there is not nearly enough surveillance being carried out by nation states… and so they want to see if like minded folks can help nations worldwide ensure there is nowhere anyone can keep their money free from appropriation by the world’s tax men.
The ICIJ no doubt warms the cockles of Tory leader Dave Cameron’s heart as much as the likes of Edward Snowden scare the crap out him.
Yet I suspect many people who have not really thought this through very well might assume people like NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden on one hand, and the ICIJ on the other, are actually doing much the same thing.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Last night I, and millions of others, saw a little bit of television history. Television history is not when they do a particularly fine historical drama. It is when the drama happens to television itself. Yesterday it did, to Greek television anyway, when Greece’s equivalent of the BBC was shut down, in mid show, live, on television. The BBC showed it, last night. Then they showed one of the sackees saying, in English, to the BBC, that the public sector of Europe was indeed rather too “bloated”.
Someone described in the headline above this piece as the “Europe TV chief” has said that Greek TV should be switched back on immediately:
The head of Europe’s public broadcasters has arrived in Greece to show support for 2,600 fired state TV and radio staff and demand that the country’s conservative government put the stations back on the air.
I had not realised that there was a “head of Europe’s public broadcasters”. Blog and learn.
Jean-Paul Philippot, president of the Switzerland-based European Broadcasting Union, said he would meet with Greece’s Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras to hand him a petition signed by 51 European broadcast executives calling for the broadcaster’s signal to be restored immediately.
A “petition”, “calling for” business as usual to be restored forthwith. Yes, that’ll do it. Clearly, these people fear that they and their underlings could be next, as they could if the Euro-crisis gets worse, as it will.
What I particularly like about this drama is that it changes what is imaginable. Public opinion does not tend to waste its time desiring what is unimaginable. But when what is unimaginable becomes imaginable by actually happening, that can also change what is then desired.
Do yourself a favour. Just stop watching ‘the news’. Every time in the future you might then occasionally re-watch it, it becomes extremely obvious how manipulated it is, and how the obvious answer to virtually every ‘problem’ it discusses, is that the government should get booted out of whichever area the ‘problem’ is in (e.g. the NHS, various fomented wars around the world, the state of the roads).
It becomes blindingly obvious that private enterprise, the free market, and free competition should be employed instead, which is why you constantly hear about failures of the NHS to supply health services, but never hear stories about semi-free supermarkets failing to deliver food services.
- Andy Duncan
Nile Gardiner has this to say about the Obama administration:
This week, thanks to unprecedented levels of Congressional and mainstream media scrutiny of the actions of the Obama administration, the American people have been given a powerful insight into the way in which this presidency has operated. For far too long, the Obama administration has acted like an imperial court rather than a government that is accountable to the nation. The White House’s culture of arrogance and impunity, coupled with a deeply unpleasant vindictiveness, is increasingly there for all to see. Suppression of political dissent, a callous disregard for the loss of American life in Benghazi, and the relentless rise of big government – these will be three of the most of enduring images of Barack Obama’s imperial presidency.
In some ways, however, one could argue that the thuggery, deviousness and unpleasantness of this administration – and let’s not forget the Fast and Furious scandal, which is arguably the worst of all of them – in some ways shows that Barack Obama and his colleagues are not particularly crafty men (and women). If they were really as smart as some think, they would not have allowed some of these disasters to have seen the light of day. Perhaps what the stories suggest is that – as Brian Micklethwait suggested in a comment thread note the other day – that years of enjoying a placid, supine MSM meant that Obama and his colleagues got cocky. They probably thought that no matter how bad behaviour was, whether it was the ACORN episode, the blame-the-other-side nonsense over the budget impasse, Fast and Furious, Libya, insults to old friends (the UK, Poland), failure to shut down Gitmo (as promised), the IRS harassments, the AP phone record stories, etc, etc, that nothing would happen. Jon Stewart would continue to mock mostly Republicans. The MSM would, at most, treat these and other episodes as distractions. (At Reason magazine, here is an example, nicely dissected.) But I think what the administration failed to see is that even in a situation like this, cockiness will lead to a series of disasters and scandals so bad that even usual allies wake up. There is a certain inevitability. The passing of time means memories of how glamorous and appealing Obama seemed have faded.
Another point is that when Obama was elected, the expectation was enormous, although commentators at the time, such as Glenn Reynolds in the US and James Delingpole in Britain pointed out the gulf between the rhetoric, the image, and the reality. That gap has become so vast, and so difficult to ignore, that the media coverage of Obama is getting worse and worse. And all the while voters in the US are understanding that the sort of people who run the IRS will be running healthcare. Marvellous.
Eventually, even Andrew Sullivan will slag him off. Then it’s all over.
Within hours of the July 7 2005 bombings in London, the BBC stealth-edited its reports so that any references to “terrorists” that had initially appeared were changed to “bombers” or a similar purely descriptive, non-judgmental term. This was done in response to a memo from Helen Boaden, then Head of News. She did not want to offend World Service listeners. Given this reluctance to use the word “terrorist”, suspended for a few hours when terrorism came to its front door and then reimposed, I often wondered what it would take for the BBC to rediscover the ability to use words that imply a moral judgment.
One answer was obvious. It was fine to describe bombing as a “war crime” if it was carried out by the Israeli air force.
But in general as the years have gone by the BBC stuck to what it knew best: obfuscation. For instance, this article from last December, describing how fifteen Christians had their throats slit in Nigeria described the perpetrators as the “Islamist militants Boko Haram”. In venturing to describe the murders as a massacre, that article went further than most; the bombings of churches in Nigeria by Boko Haram are routinely described in terms of “unrest”, or as “conflict” – as if there were two sides killing each other at a roughly equal rate.
However, on Sunday I observed something I had not seen before. An atrocity carried out by Muslims against Christians was described as an “atrocity”. It happened in 1480, but still.
The BBC report says,
Pope Francis has proclaimed the first saints of his pontificate in a ceremony at the Vatican – a list which includes 800 victims of an atrocity carried out by Ottoman soldiers in 1480.
They were beheaded in the southern Italian town of Otranto after refusing to convert to Islam.
A reminder that “martyr” used to mean someone who died for his faith rather than killed for it. A reminder also of a centuries-long struggle against invading Islam that has been edited out of our history. You can bet the Seige of Vienna, which proved to be the high water mark of the Ottoman tide, does not feature in any GCSE syllabus. Nor does the rematch one and a half centuries later. The epic Seige of Malta was once celebrated in song and story, but don’t expect to see a BBC mini-series about it any time soon. Damian Thompson recently said a lot of what I had been thinking when he wrote about the the mass canonisation of the martyrs of Otranto in the Telegraph (subscription may be required):
Martyred for Christ: 800 victims of Islamic violence who will become saints this month
The cathedral of Otranto in southern Italy is decorated with the skulls of 800 Christian townsfolk beheaded by Ottoman soldiers in 1480. A week tomorrow, on Sunday May 12, they will become the skulls of saints, as Pope Francis canonises all of them. In doing so, he will instantly break the record for the pope who has created the most saints.
I wonder how he feels about that. Benedict XVI announced the planned canonisations just minutes before dropping the bombshell of his own resignation. You could view it as a parting gift to his successor. Or a booby trap.
The 800 men of Otranto – whose names are lost, except for that of Antonio Primaldo, an old tailor – were rounded up and killed because they refused to convert to Islam. In 2007, Pope Benedict recognised them as martyrs “killed out of hatred for the faith”. That is no exaggeration. Earlier, the Archbishop of Otranto had been cut to pieces with a scimitar.
There are, however, good secular reasons for welcoming this canonisation. Our history is distorted by a nagging emphasis on Christian atrocities during the Crusades combined with airbrushing of Muslim Andalusia, whose massacre of Jews in 1066 and exodus of Christians in 1126 are rarely mentioned. Otranto reminds us that Islam had its equivalent of crusaders – mighty forces who nearly captured Rome and Vienna.
The Muslim Brotherhood is still committed to a restored Caliphate; this week its supporters prophesied the return of a Muslim paradise to Andalusia. These are pipe dreams, it goes without saying. But they matter because they inspire freelance Islamists whose fascination with southern Europe has nothing to do with welfare payments. They think of it as theirs because they know bits of history that we’ve forgotten.
Our amnesia comes in handy in dialogue with Muslims: we grovel a few apologies for the Crusades, sing the praises of the Alhambra, and that’s it. But what does this self-laceration achieve? Arguably it’s counterproductive, because it shows Muslims that we’re ashamed of our heroes as well as our villains. Which is why the mass canonisation of 800 anonymous men is so welcome: it ensures that, even though the West has forgotten their names, it won’t be allowed to forget their deaths.
This Comment is Free article, The Dark Side of Home Schooling by Katherine Stewart, claims that:
Several decades ago, political activists on the religious right began to put together an “ideology machine”. Home schooling was a big part of the plan. The idea was to breed and “train up” an army of culture warriors. We now are faced with the consequences of their actions, some of which are quite disturbing.
According to the Department of Education, the home schooling student population doubled in between 1999 and 2007, to 1.5 million students, and there is reason to think the growth has continued. Though families opt to home school for many different reasons, a large part of the growth has come from Christian fundamentalist sects. Children in that first wave are now old enough to talk about their experiences. In many cases, what they have to say is quite alarming.
The article mainly consists of quotes from people who have posted at a website aimed at those who are unhappy with their home schooling. We hear that some of them have suffered from “depression, distrust of authority, and issues around sexuality.” It concludes that “Families should be allowed to pursue sensible homeschooling options, but current arrangements have allowed some families to replace education with fundamentalist indoctrination.” In other words it is a run-of-the-mill article that uses the spectre of every Guardian reader’s favourite villains to protect the class interest of teachers at US state schools.
However, the picture the Guardian chose to illustrate the piece was out of the ordinary.
Commenter JohnCan45 says,
The accompanying photo of a shuttered home in Cleveland… reason?
Perhaps the editor just mixed up a picture from this week’s big story, but maybe they didn’t. And that would be pretty cheap.
Seriously, that is the picture chosen to illustrate this article about home schooling. Go look at it now – it may change later. It shows a picture of a white clapboard house with the windows boarded up. And in case you didn’t get what that meant, the caption says, “A house in Cleveland, Ohio. Photograph: Timothy A Clary/AFP”.
It does not appear to depict the white clapboard house in Cleveland, Ohio with the windows boarded up in which three women were imprisoned, raped and brutalised for a decade and in which a child was born as a result of one of these rapes and lived her life in captivity. Oh, but, wait! The little girl was “home schooled”. In other words, she received whatever scraps of knowledge about the outside world that her mother and the other enslaved women could give her in the same prison “home” in which she lived her whole life. That’s your connection, there.
What estimate the Guardian makes of its readers can be judged by its evident belief that a smear by association of such crudity would work on them. The degree to which this estimate is correct can be judged by the readers’ comments.
UPDATE: Commenter WDO has pointed out that, as predicted, the picture of “A house in Cleveland” has gone down the memory hole to be replaced by a picture of “a 1950s family at home.”
A year ago today, Polly Toynbee wrote this in the Guardian: Hollande and Europe are turning the tide. Where will it leave Cameron?
Labour gains from the triumph of the French Socialist leader with his intellectually cogent rallying cry for a new direction for Europe. Look how he won with a promise to tax the super-rich at a heart-attack rate of 75%, yet the French stock market actually rose slightly. Can he now turn the great liner of the EU’s disastrous economic policy?
Looking at the comments to the above article “newest first”, one AndyZama said,
Yes Polly. Time will tell.
Maybe in time you will again have to squirm with embarrassment like when you wrote articles like this.
Which link, in turn, takes us to an article by Ms Toynbee from 2006 that said,
Twice a year Gordon Brown fills his party’s sails with pride. His tornado of facts and figures magics up images of untold national wealth and success. Sixty per cent more personal wealth! Most chancellors sound as if chunks of their speech are penned by officials, not quite convincing in their grasp of macro or micro details. But here is the man who studies everything, consuming documents with the speed of a shredder. Standing at the dispatch box, the towering superiority of his brain makes intellectual pygmies of his opponents. George Osborne’s feeble joke about Granita and the green chancellor (green with envy) died on his lips: lacking authority, unlike Cameron, he also lacks the likeability to compensate. Like Old Mr Brown and Squirrel Nutkin, the big Scots brain seems not to register Osborne’s presence until he bites off his tail.
However, British politics is unaccustomed to intellect: the intellectual in politics has often been doomed to failure. A brainy chancellor running the economy from the engine rooms of the Treasury is one thing – but a great prime minister needs political genius. So far we don’t know if Brown has it. Within a few months he may prove, as his enemies suggest, to be a character too inflexible, too inward and just too serious for the top job. Or we could possibly have the most formidable leader in many years. As David Cameron reaches the end of a shrewd first year, he has done the best he can, but now his fate depends entirely on the untried strength of Gordon Brown as prime minister.
Nothing new could be gleaned from his pre-budget report this week, with no new direction hinted at. His aces will stay firmly up his sleeve until he moves next door. But the more opaque he seems, the greater the surprises he must spring in his first 100 days in No 10. With some nervousness, those around him try in vain to lower expectations, but his party already yearns for the near-impossible. It wants the stability he brings from the Treasury, the iron chancellor who broke the boom-and-bust cycle with his bare hands.
I do sympathise, a little. The internet holds many more failed prophecies and assessments that turned out to be spectacularly wrong than just these two. There are even some of mine in there. But Polly Toynbee is so gloriously reliable. If wrong guesses were sold like music, she’d have a row of gold discs on her wall.
A week ago, a friend of mine, a retired journalist now living in France, stayed with me for a couple of nights, kipping down on my living room sofa-bed. He arrived on Sunday, and on Monday he journeyed forth at midday, to have lunch, with a big gaggle of his old journo pals. The lunch was quite liquid and very prolonged. Although I should add that when he got back to my place around midnight he behaved impeccably, his only slight infringement of good manners being a tendency toward repetition.
All of which got me a-googling the phenomenon of Lunchtime O’Booze, that being the soubriquet that was bestowed upon journalists of a certain vintage by Private Eye. The words explain themselves.
This caused me to encounter some bang-up-to-date observations about the Lunchtime O’Booze generation of journos, and the disdain with which they are now often treated, in a piece entitled In Defence of Lunchtime O’Booze, by John Dale.
In characteristic journo style (from which I dare say I could learn) Dale gets straight to his point:
Alcohol is a truth drug. Reporters use it as the weapon of choice to breach the carapace of lies erected by prime ministers, politicians, police and anyone else tempted to become tinpot Hitlers.
With drink you don’t hack with a keyboard. You hack with the clink of a glass and then download your personal malware and intellectual trojans directly into someone else’s brain.
Occasionally you get inside their heart as well, which is a cruel bonus. Alcohol, when applied by good reporters, brings the powerful and the pompous crashing to earth, face down in the gutter right in front of the paps shooting for posterity at 40 frames a second.
Next morning the prototype tyrant wakes up a nicer, gentler human being. …
And now for the bang-up-to-date bit:
… So, for me, the most alarming feature of the Leveson Inquiry was that it turned anti-alcohol, as if coveting the pulpit at a temperance meeting.
Any moment I expected Leveson to raise a placard saying: ‘Lips that touch liquor shall never touch mine.’
Leveson’s point is that the Police should beware getting too pally with journos, and especially of drinking with them too much. But Dale’s point is that although the Police would be wise to shun alcohol, journos who do the same are missing a big trick. Journos taking it in turns to tell Leveson that they abjure the demon drink should instead, says Dale, be willing to stand up, as best they can, and defend alcohol as a vital tool of their trade.
Dale follows with a character sketch of one Noel Botham, with a photo of Botham holding a drink and involving a drink-lubricated interview:
He raises his glass, giving it a tilt as if it were a journalistic rapier. …
A youthful 72, Botham is relevant because he is a lifelong bon viveur who has used his taste for the high life to pursue a form of free-range journalism which is the antithesis of that promoted by most Leveson witnesses, the reborn PCC and various journo professors. He’s the last cavalier in a world of roundheads. He symbolises free range against the battery farms of Canary Wharf and other media plantations.
But drink has not now stopped working its truthful magic, despite what Dale says. Botham is not actually the “last cavalier” by any means.
Guido Fawkes is often talked about as a challenge to traditional journalism. But when it comes to drinking and as a result learning stuff, Guido is no challenge to regular journalistic ways. He is booze and business as usual.
What are some of the most common misconceptions you encounter from non-gun owners? Do you identify, politically, with other gun owners? Do you feel misrepresented by the media? Tell us and we’ll feature your responses on the Guardian.
Dave is going to wake up one morning and find that the Conservative Party website, and any other right-of-centre source of information, is going to be shut away behind an “Over-18″ “hate-and-porn” firewall and he will be too stupid to work out what happened.
- Samizdata commenter Rob
Samizdata lurker Mike Ritchie has an observation to share:
John Sweeney’s undercover report on North Korea for Panorama on the BBC contains this steaming turd of a quote from a contributor – one Bryan Myers – a “Professor”, we are assured:
“…so I think it’s much more accurate to look at North Korea as a far-right state, an ultra-nationalist state”.
North Korea Undercover from 4:00 to 6:00 if you can bear it – do not feel compelled to watch the whole thing, it is superficial pap.
Another witless bozo who can not seem to grasp the logical outcome of putting the state in the driving seat, whatever the superficial branding/flag colour/exact nature of dynastic succession.
Of course, the Panorama editorial team seem more than happy to include this statement – you would almost think they worked for a state broadcaster
I was struck by a particular contrast between two opinion columns that appeared in today’s Guardian. Both made reference to crimes in which many children were killed.
The first column I would like to look at, written by Zoe Williams, refers to the crime described here. Mick Philpott had lived in a ménage à trois with his wife, Mairead, his mistress Lisa Willis and the eleven children the two women had bore him. When Lisa Willis walked out on this arrangement, taking her five children – and their welfare benefits – with her, the Philpotts and another man set a fire at the Philpott house with the aim of framing Ms Willis for it, which would help him regain custody of their children and the income stream that came with them, and also so that Philpott could be seen to rescue the other six children who still lived in that house. It would also aid him in his custody battle to be hailed a hero. As it turned out, he could not rescue them. All six died in the fire. The three conspirators have been jailed for multiple manslaughter, with Mick Philpott receiving the longest sentence as the dominant figure in the group.
The Daily Mail published an article headed “Vile product of Welfare UK: Man who bred 17 babies by five women to milk benefits system is guilty of killing six of them.”
Zoe Williams of the Guardian was deeply angered by this. Her Guardian column has the title “Don’t get mad about the Mail’s use of the Philpotts to tarnish the poor – get even.” Ms Williams writes,
It is vitriolic, illogical depersonalisation to ascribe the grotesqueness of one wild, unique crime to tens of thousands of people on benefits. When any section of society is demonised on irrational grounds we have to take that seriously, so I will complain to the Press Complaints Commission, and I hope you will too.
The readers’ comments share Ms Goodman’s outrage, as does a similar comment piece about the same crime by Graeme Cooke which says,
There’s nothing wrong with moral principles in welfare policy but making political capital from an appalling crime is offensive.
The second, contrasting Guardian column, by Amy Goodman, referred to the gun massacre of twenty children and six adults carried out by Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012. That crime and its legal and moral implications were discussed at length in this blog at the time it occurred.
Amy Goodman’s column has the title “It’s time for the majority to move on gun control” and includes the words:
The moment to pass gun control was when the national attention was riveted on the massacre at Sandy Hook, the brutal slaying of 20 children and six adults. Before the broken bodies of those victims fade from memory, our broken body politic must be mended. What is needed is a vigorous grassroots movement, to provide the leadership so lacking in Washington DC.
I do not wish to simply jeer at the inconsistency of the reaction of the Guardian’s writers and readers. They could quite fairly throw the same jibe back at us – I assume that most readers of this blog oppose gun control and objected to the demonisation of American gun owners because of one grotesque crime on much the same grounds as Ms Williams objects to the demonisation of British welfare claimants for one grotesque crime. I post this to ask, not answer, the question, when is it offensive and when is it a moral necessity to make political capital over the bodies of dead children?