Bartlett's Bizarre Bazaar

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006


New post at The Sharpener

I have a new post, Anti-hagiography, at The Sharpener:

Sometimes our ‘saints’ need to be disrobed.

Gunter Grass, awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1999, has recently admitted to serving in the Waffen-SS during the last days of World War Two. This story is being dressed up as exposing Grass as a hypocrite. I argue that the story is does nothing of the sort. But it does contain the spectacle of another, similarly moustachioed Central European 20th Century living ‘saint’ inadvertently flashing the gallery the some of the more vulgar parts of his character. This post is not about the revelations volunteered by Grass, but the reaction of Lech Walesa to this stone being ploughed to the surface.

Read the rest of Anti-hagiography.

Monday, August 14, 2006


Peace and Socialism

John Reid has declared that the War on Terror is at an end!

He said that it was a “dreadful misjudgement if they believe that the foreign policy of this country should be shaped in part or in whole under the threat of terrorist activity”.

Oh, hang on. He only meant that we will not stop acts of war and occupation in the Middle East as part of a response to threats of terror. This is despite the fact that the principal justification for the shape of our modern foreign policy is that it is, categorically, a response to terrorism. Foreign policy would not be what it is, we are asked to assume, if it were not for terrorism. We would not have soldiers in oil-rich states if it were not for the temporally prior acts of terrorism.

Please remember, and get this straight; our foreign policy is nothing more than a response to terrorism combined with a deepest concern to spread democratic freedom. Do not dare to suggest that our foreign policy is anything but a complete break with the past. Now, without any sort of change in the structure or institutions of our society, we have miraculously reached a point where foreign policy does not serve the material interests of national elites. Marvellous!

But, if our foreign policy is of this categorically new and noble design, part of the War on Terror rather than a struggle for power at home and abroad, then it is surely designed to reduce the incidence of terrorism. If we fight a War on Terror with methods that result only in a greater incidence of terrorism, then it will be a war without end. And no-one would want that. Not in a world in which our political elites, the Great Men that they are, have transcended the structural and institutional drivers that have constrained all corresponding elites prior to 1997. Would they?

Of course not. And to understand just how deep, despite the lack of any structural or institutional change in society, this break in historical continuity runs, we only have to quote John Reid once again.

“That is not the British way, it is antithetical to our very central values. We decide things in this country by democracy, not under the threat of terrorism.”

That is right. Writing a letter to the government asking for a change in our foreign policy is antithetical the British way*. Indeed, it is antidemocratic. Labour used to stand for Peace and Socialism. Now it proudly flies the banner ‘Shut Up and Die’.

*Incidentally, what on Earth is that? Is it a crude transatlantic reworking of that all-purpose patriotic rallying cry, ‘the American way’? How very British, eh?

Update: Roy Hattersley has a column in the Guardian addressing this subject. As his editors summarise, it argues “oppose British policy on its merits - not because it makes us a target”. Which is all well and good, until we understand that, as our foreign policy is being sold to us as being a means to make us safer, the merits of the policies cannot be disentangled from whether or not these policies make us a target. There are other ways of justifying our foreign policy, of course, but if we take democracy seriously then we must take the argument that is the basis of the consent of the polity to that policy to be of great importance.

Update Two: Kim Howells has exposed government policy as an imperialistic and authoritarian scam for which terrorism is nothing but a handy pretext. According to BBC News Online, he argues that, “"no government" formulates policy based on a perceived risk from terrorists.”

Saturday, August 12, 2006


Necessarily proportional

On Thursday a Labour councillor wrote, regarding the ‘liquid bomb plot’:

The Government is right to take whatever action is necessary to ensure the security of its citizen and I find it hard to fathom that some believe it is an overreaction given the events that have happened overnight.

[found via Perfect]

Is this deliberate unreason deployed in the cause of party loyalty? I am not sure. I lean to believing that Martin Whelton finds many things ‘hard to fathom’. Perhaps someone could do our democracy a service and explain to Whelton that the only ‘events that happened overnight’ were the [over?]reaction of the security services and the Government.

Whelton cannot therefore, in good faith, justify the reaction of the security services and the Government by reference to that same reaction of the security services and the Government, no matter that Whelton dresses up this one event as two in order to use it as yardstick against itself. When measured on this scale, everything is proportional.

Friday, August 11, 2006


It's the way they tell 'em

And in that, timing is everything.

The answer, apparently, to the question; “if senior politicians and the security services knew about this plot for days, weeks or months in advance, why was the ‘threat level’ only raised yesterday?” is; “because to raise the threat level before the plotters were arrested then the plotters would have been tipped off.” Obviously.

But this raises a further question; “just what are the threat levels for?” If the threat level can only be raised after a plot has been foiled, just what are threat levels meant to warn us about? If they cannot be raised, or lowered, on the basis of specific evidence, lest this advantage the subjects of that evidence, then threat levels can only be determined by the impressionistic judgement of politicians. In that, they can be little more than this.

So, let us say that this was a real plot. This was not Forest Gate. This was not Jean Charles de Menezes. And let us say that there actually was some evidence. This was not the [no] ricin plot. And let us say that this was not a security services operation from start to finish, with government provocateurs inciting alienated young men to carry out terrorist attacks and then arranging for them to be supplied with explosives. Britain is not like Canada or Florida, after all. This still leaves the question; “why are these men arrested at this moment?” This has, after all the effect of pushing the actually existing atrocities in Lebanon off the front pages and validating the recent, and frankly childish, ‘Islamic fascist’ speeches of Bush, Blair and Reid. “And why the imposition of draconian security procedures on the 10th of August, specifically, we are told, to deal with a threat that was in existence, if at any time, before the 10th of August?” This was a threat that was known about, and, if the security services can be trusted to have arrested the right men, then on the 10th of August the threat was reduced dramatically. This will, after all, have the effect of ramming the threat of Islamic fascism home to thousands of ordinary people, ensuring that, in John Reid’s words, they ‘get it’. “And why was the non-specific threat level raised and the possibility of an attack described as imminent as a result of developments that can only have decreased the threat level?” This, after all… oh, you get it.

In the exploitation of terrorism for political ends, timing is everything.

P.s. what on Earth has happened to the language of our politicians? ‘Islamic fascists’ is a singularly stupid phrase, one that has spread from hate sites like Little Green Footballs to those sites that help foster hate in more polite company such as Harry’s Place. It was only a few weeks ago that Gene of Harry’s Place attempted to cast Hezbollah as a fascist organisation on the basis that they have a militaristic mythology and that they give the Roman salute. Nothing more, no analysis, just a diagnosis by stylistic epiphenomena. And saying that people ‘don’t get it’ has for some time been the rhetorical refuge of the internet warmonger. What we do not get is that Muslims are going to Eurabise us, impose Sharia Law, and that they plan to conquer the Earth. And that, having got this, we need to cast aside our qualms and start fighting them right now. Islamic fascists? I do not know about that. What I do know is that the people who expound their views using the kind of language our political leaders have been using recently are fascists. People like Melanie Phillips and Douglas Murray are syndeological heirs to those who identified a dangerously decadent tolerance in European civilisation, the backwardness of other societies, the need to use force to order society at home and re-order societies abroad, and the threats from within and without posed by a particular ethno-religious grouping.

They would be frightening clowns, offensive comedians, if they did not seem to have their timing lockstep with the sophisticated comics that hold political power.

Thursday, August 03, 2006


Lies, lies, lies

When an organisation with deadly powers has been caught lying, time after time after time, is it wrong to suggest that people ought to withdraw their co-operation? Or does it seem far more unreasonable to suggest that we ought to give that organisation our full support? Well, as The Man said, 101% support, which is 9% less than most people with a liberal attitude towards numbers, and 1% more than ought be possible. So again, The Man manages the frankly astounding feat of finding a ‘Third Way’ that is utterly objectionable and numb-headed.

Jean Charles de Menezes was not a suicide bomber. He was not challenged outside Stockwell tube station. He did not vault the ticket barrier. He was not chased onto the tube train. He was not wearing a bulky jacket. He was not wearing bomb belt with protruding wires. He did not act erratically as a result of cocaine in his system. He was not a rapist. These were lies.

These lies and smears and no-one is to be prosecuted? No-one is to be sacked?

Mohammed Abdul Kohar and Abul Koyair did not have a chemical weapon. Abul Koyair did not shoot his brother. These were lies.

So after the ‘benefit’ of having seen the lie ‘Jean Charles de Menezes was a rapist’ planted in the press as a post-hoc justification for his murder after the exposure of the other police lies, what credibility can be given to ‘shot Forest Gate man is a computer paedophile’? None. Absolutely none.

Some suggest that post-modernists have destroyed the idea of truth. Perhaps Truth, but not truth. To do that it seems that you need a state empowered by the voluntary adoption of a state of war. The production of truth is necessarily a social process, that is all ‘post-modernists’ argue, though it should be noted that it seems most people who declare their opposition to ‘post-modernism’ appear to be basing this stance on a consideration of the front covers of books that they have not read. The adage that runs that the first casualty of war is truth does not simply mean that in war, people lie, but that in a state of war the normative structures of the social institutions that produce truth are eroded, leaving the production of anything accepted as truth impossible.

Given the role that sections of the Met Police have had in destroying truth, and even if these people cannot be prosecuted for the lies surrounding the shooting of de Menezes and the shooting of Kohar, then what ought to happen is that the new Kohar case should be declared void, a mistrial if it comes to that, and the members of the Met Police ought to face trial for obstructing justice. Thanks to their hard work to destroying the social institutions that produce truth, they are guilty of this regardless of whatever is the Truth of the Kohar case.


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