ANDREW MARR: "We are in circumstances right now, where during the lifetime of the Parliament at Westminster that we are about to elect, it's perfectly possible at least, that Scotland and England will finally go their separate ways."
Sunday, 12 April 2015
Thursday, 13 December 2012
Saturday, 13 August 2011
The riots have subsided, but the danger has not. The Government, who should be relaxing with a post coital cigarette, blowing smoke rings after their heroic efforts to save the nation, are instead engaged in an unseemly spat with the Metropolitan police, who are accusing the Cameron/Clegg Gang of blowing smoke in the faces of the people by claiming that they had saved the nation from the rampaging, Blackberry-inspired mob and police incompetence.
Little sense has been talked on the media, with elderly historians like David Starkey (last night on Newsnight) displaying their complete failure to understand the present, whatever their understanding of the past may be, Kelvin McKenzie spluttering his tabloid rage and indignation in a studio discussion, and John ‘The Baron’ Prescott in equally pop-eyed, incoherent populist mode on the Question Time Special (whatever it was, this edition certainly wasn’t special!), railing against the Government and the Establishment as though he hasn’t been part of it for far too long for most of us.
Such logic and calm analysis as there has been has come almost exclusively from the young, especially the articulate young people who actually live in places from which the violence has sprung, and these young voices were able to effortlessly demolish the wet-lipped, uncomprehending incoherent, and blustering outpourings of the Starkeys, McKenzies and Prescotts. These young commentators maintained their effortless cool and their logical thrust in the face of their elders-but-most-certainly-not-betters, and they made a fair showing of trying to conceal their amused contempt for the more ludicrous demonstrations of how out of touch they were with street realities.
In fact, one of the most-wet lipped (mainly the lower lip) tirades of the week came from Michael Gove, who was born to be an old fogey and has already perfected the style. Directed against Harriet Harman, who could have been vulnerable to properly directed arguments, Gove’s rant was totally ineffective, but delightfully amusing, as he came close to spontaneous combustion in the studio.
This has been a strange week for the broadcast media. In terms of instant visual coverage of events, they were in their element, and excelled themselves. As far as political analysis went, they resorted to clichéd interviewing styles and clichéd questions, and their selection of commentators consisted in the main of rounding up the usual suspects to deliver their confident banalities.
When they did get a least some of the right voices on their programmes, the presenters were often poor at directing and controlling the debate. Such real people as they did find seem to have been the result of accident, rather than design. When they did stumble across reality, in fairness, they recognised it and made the most of it, but to the point of repetitiveness on occasion.
The politicians whose greed, lack of vision and lack of humanity had led to the riots, predictably seized upon selected instances and individuals to bend them to their pathetic narrative of excuse and blame.
Print media, as it does in the face of such rapidly unfolding events, ran desperately behind the story, and mainly failed in what is their new primary role of providing the kind of detailed examination of facts and sober, cold-light-of-day commentary. Instead, they tried to ape the television coverage, and failed miserably.
Neither television nor the print media showed any evidence that they really understood the nature and implications of the new media.
Our politicians and pundits certainly don’t understand it, in spite of their cack-handed efforts at using Twitter, Facebook, etc.
We had a former senior police officer, Brian Paddick, asking why the police had not been “on Twitter and Blackberries” in advance of the riots. He seemed unaware of how these two manifestations of the new media actually worked. It would require something on the scale of GCHQ to monitor them, not to mention a radical change in the law, and the monitoring would be nullified by instantaneous modification of behaviour by the young. Young people find it difficult to contain their amusement and contempt for this kind of nonsense from those in authority.
There are only two choices that I can see open to governments, intelligence services and the state apparatus in the face of the new media -
either accept that we now live in a world of totally open communication, much of it rubbish, much of it inaccurate, some of it pernicious and dangerous, and deal with the criminal aspects and egregious abuses while recognising and accepting that everybody will know - or think they know - everything at all times and on all issues
adopt the repressive control and censorship of all free communications, technology and media that characterises totalitarian regimes across the globe, including those regimes that we condemn, and have committed our armed forces to destroy.
Wednesday, 4 August 2010
A Western journalist lives with a Taliban fighting group, documenting and filming their daily lives, risking his own freedom and his life in the process. A remarkable film, by any standards.
I would guess that those watching this clip will polarise at two ends of the spectrum –
those who think it portrays the Taliban as brave, humble and deeply religious people fighting against a foreign invader for their country, their faith and their families
those who think it is an outrageous piece of propaganda by misguided and unpatriotic Western liberals to portray the Taliban in a sympathetic light, when in fact they are brutal religious zealots who persecute women and harbour Al Qaeda cells plotting terrorist attacks against civilians in the West.
There will also be many who find this a thought-provoking piece of courageous journalism, and who try to make up their own minds.
Wherever you are on this spectrum, I ask you to reflect on the following facts and ask yourself the following questions -
The United Kingdom has been involved in this military action and occupation for nine years.
There is no end in sight.
Combatants on both sides are dying daily.
Innocent civilians – men, women and children are dying almost daily.
Both sides are totally convinced that God is on their side.
Opinions on the conflict are deeply divided in the UK, with probably a majority of the electorate being against the war being continued and in favour of withdrawal.
The Karsai Government is deeply corrupt.
Opinion in Pakistan is deeply divided over the conflict.
The coalition forces are not winning this conflict.
The original objectives of the invasion of Afghanistan have been repeatedly redefined and have become blurred and confused.
The occupation of Afghanistan has created what is rapidly becoming an unbridgeable rift between the West and Islamic nations and cultures. It has also created serious tensions within the UK itself.
The invasion of Afghanistan was launched by the now wholly discredited Bush/Cheney neocom regime in America.
The coalition forces and the Karsai government will almost certainly do a deal with the Taliban to secure a diplomatic end to the conflict.
Whose country is being occupied by a foreign invader?
Has any invader ever won a war in Afghanistan in the last few centuries?
Is the persecution, torture and oppression of women by the Taliban unique in the Indian sub-continent?
Is the denial of the rights of women to play an equal part in religious hierarchies unique to the Taliban or does it exist among the nations of the coalition?
Are fundamentalist beliefs in war as an instrument of religion unique to the Taliban or do they exist among the nations of the coalition?
Does Afghanistan provide the only place in the world where Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups can train, organise and plan terrorist attacks?
Have the nations of the Western coalition considered invading any other country to protect the rights of women?
Have the nations of the Western coalition considered invading any other country to root out and destroy terrorist bases?
Sunday, 25 April 2010
Leaving aside the old saying that a terrorist is “a patriot without an army, navy or air force”, the 'rational' - but never justifiable - purposes of terror include, but are not limited to:
forcing the electorate of a state that is oppressing other less powerful states and their people to confront the fact that they cannot escape the consequences of the regime they voted for, or allow to remain in power:
terrorising the civilian population:
gaining publicity for their cause:
forcing the government of the state being attacked to resort to more and more repressive measures and the progressive removal of their own people's democratic rights and freedoms.
The irrational 'purpose' of terror is to give violent expression to feelings of impotence and frustration at perceived injustices perpetrated by a more powerful enemy.
Every state, every empire that has ever existed has used terror at one point or another in its history, and the bloody policy continues. If it is large-scale, it is called military intervention, pre-emptive strike or war – if it is small-scale, it is called covert intelligence operations.
If I revisit the objectives of terror I outlined above, I have to say that Al Quaeda has been successful beyond its wildest dreams - and they are wild and inhuman dreams - because they have produced exactly the effects desired by the terrorists. They have created a bogeyman, and we - the West - have swallowed the fantasy whole and entered into their paranoid nightmare, one from which the world may not emerge.
Unless sanity prevails, we are in a state of perpetual war against a shadowy enemy that cannot be defeated by violence. Only a systematic removal of the manifest injustices that exist in our world by patient, sustained action can eliminate terror, and a good place to start is the Israel/Palestine conflict that is eating like a cancer at our morality and our identity.
I am against violence as an instrument of political policy, however it is applied and on whatever scale. But I am not a pacifist - I believe that an individual or a state has the right to use violence to defend itself against an aggressor, and I believe in the concept of a just war.
Perhaps WW2 was the closest the world ever came to a just war - it was certainly America and Britain's finest hour, and Britain has a debt of gratitude to America than can never be adequately repaid.
But it cannot be repaid, even in part, by failing to speak out against the appalling injustices of both American and British foreign policy as they have existed for the last half century or more. The concept of defence, the concept of a just war, and any relics of the morality and statesmanship, not to say common humanity that existed between 1939 and 1945 have been debased almost beyond recognition.
America now has a man who I believe will prove to be, not only a great President, but a great world statesman, of a kind rarely seen more than once or twice in a century. Like many millions of Americans and non-Americans, I have placed my hope and trust in Barack Obama, because there is no politician in Britain of remotely comparable moral and intellectual stature. But his enemies are many, and highly vocal and powerful. In these dog days of the British Empire, I also place my faith in a small country – Scotland - that has no intrinsic power except the power of its intellect and its citizens' belief in a better world – and a non-nuclear world.