Wednesday, September 02, 2015 

Subtext is everything.


There is always a danger in reading too much into works of art, whether they be music, film or animated comedies.  The number of obsessives that regard American Pie (the song, not the film series, you dullards) as a masterpiece with meaning and allusions so deep that it can never be fully deciphered, or have detected things that were never there in the Eagles' Hotel California is testimony to that.

And so we must then return to Rick and Morty, for which I make no apologies whatsoever, although if you have been watching and haven't reached this point yet there are obviously spoilers ahead.  The third episode of the new series ends in another exceptionally bleak denouement: after being dumped for a second time by Unity, a being that can take over the minds of the inhabitants of entire planets, Rick comes within a whisker of killing himself, passing out moments before the suicide machine he constructs would have turned him to dust.  Clearly it's not just because of Unity that he tries to do so, and it's also the case that he's not certain about what he's doing, hence why he drinks a substance that he knows will knock him out very quickly, reducing the chances he actually will die.  Does he also take it though because he doesn't want to experience even the momentary pain the instant cremation will have if he doesn't collapse before the beam reaches full power?  Has Rick reached this point despite being a world-beating albeit unrecognised genius, or is it rather because of that genius, and that despite his intelligence he cannot overcome the failings of his own sociopathic personality, which in the words of Unity, makes him better at what she does without even trying?  And as this is a world where there are an infinite number of alternate realities, as demonstrated neatly by the next episode, in just how many of those universes did Rick kill himself?

Or of course it could be that this was simply a neat way to end an episode that would get an already fevered fan base talking all the more.  Such is television.

Similar pratfalls can result if you focus on one particular issue rather than the whole.  Witness the silliness over the killing of our old friend Cecil, for instance.  You could if you so wish reflect on the impression that gave of an awful lot of people caring more about the death of an endangered animal on the other side of the world than they do plight of other humans on their doorsteps.  You could say that's understandable when animals are, unlike humans, far less complex creatures and operate only on instinct, however much we like to anthropomorphise them.  It's also easy to lose proportion when you don't have to deal with the bottom line, with nature reserves unable to survive on tourism and government funding alone.

All the same, when images like the ones today of a drowned, tiny child washed ashore in Turkey are widely shared, the sort of photographs that manage to speak of both the simplicity and difficulty of the refugee crisis gripping Europe, you can't help but note the other items that are vying for attention alongside it.  The latest on Taylor Swift's latent racism?  How about every single one of you journalists involved in bringing us the latest on this thrilling saga build your own suicide machines?  A 4-page feature on the styles for autumn 2015, including school bully hair, whether to channel the 70s or the 80s and where the only people smiling in the entire feature are notably those smug fucks that sit in the front row at all the shows?  Fashion journalism has always been about incredibly privileged white people in a tiny part of London telling each other to buy £700 trousers and £1,200 pairs of shoes, but isn't it about time you stopped trying to tell us this is of any importance whatsoever or deserving of even the small space it still gets in the national press, especially when the writing reaches ever greater heights of absurdity and insularity?

The real villains are of course not these people, although they make for easy, highly punchable targets.  According to our prime minister, taking in more refugees will do nothing to solve the root problems in Africa and the Middle East.  Well no it won't, but then I don't think anyone was suggesting it would.  It would be a gesture, a recognition that we along with a whole lot of others should play more of a role than we have so far.  Except according to Dave we already are doing our bit to bring peace and stability to these troubled nations.  It's not precisely clear what we're doing to help the situation in Eritrea, for instance, or how aid will help persuade the government there to stop terrorising its own citizens, nor is it obvious what we can do to fix Libya having helped to so comprehensively break it.  

As for Syria and Iraq, presumably the fact we're playing a role in bombing Islamic State targets in the former and the government is likely to seek parliamentary authority to do the same in the latter is what Cameron means, although considering advances against IS have only been won with a combination of air power and ground forces, their defeat is hardly expected any time soon.  Nor would IS's defeat immediately bring an end to the wider conflicts in Iraq and Syria, especially not in the latter, where for all the repeated claims that Assad's government is on the brink of collapse, the murderous stalemate continues.

This is without once again repeating the tedious argument that err, we've played quite a considerable role ourselves in creating this refugee crisis, whether by intervening in Libya and then all but abandoning the place, or by following the Saudi policy in Syria.  If you're going to bomb somewhere or provide support to the people who operate weapons like this with as much impunity as the Assad regime, the very least you can do is offer sanctuary to the people who find themselves in harms way.  

To Cameron, and it should be added a sizeable proportion of people in this country, the 200 who have been give refuge through the specific scheme and the few thousand others that have made it here through fair or foul means are more than enough.  Cameron either doesn't feel any responsibility, or believes that to do the decent, honourable thing would cost him some short-term popularity.  We know he's not going to serve a full term, his government currently faces almost no opposition except from the media; what is there to stop him from this once refusing to bow to those further to his right?  Or is it that he really is just a completely obtuse, pompous snob, from whom there is no subtext to read?

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Tuesday, September 01, 2015 

Germany: putting the rest of Europe to shame.

There is something quite extraordinary taking place in Germany.  With predictions that the country will see 800,000 asylum applications this year, a figure that some are already suggesting is likely to be an underestimate, it's all too predictable that 199 attacks of varying severity on refugee hostels had been recorded by early July.  Polls suggest 40% of Germans are opposed to taking in any more, while the rise of both the Pegida movement and the Alternative for Deutschland party have both further raised concerns.

Yet that only tells half the story.  Established a year ago, the Welcoming Alliance for Refugees, based in Berlin, now has over 1,000 supporters and regularly sees more than 300 volunteers turn out to give donations and help newly arrived asylum seekers with their claims.  Banners making clear that refugees are welcome have been waved not just at demonstrations, but at football grounds across the country.  The German media, regardless of political affiliation, has almost as a whole expressed the same message.  The populist tabloid Bild, which most closely resembles the Sun, declared at the weekend it too supported the "we're helping" movement, having in the past been accused of helping to ramp up xenophobia.  Politicians too have almost universally said that the country can accommodate the numbers coming, even if there has been criticism they have at times been slow in acknowledging as much.  Last week the government also suspended the Dublin convention, if only for Syrian refugees, making clear they would not be deported regardless of if they had already made an application in another EU state.

Indeed, in the main this has been the reaction of the locals at the sharp end of the biggest mass movement of refugees since WW2 regardless of country.  Residents of places like Lampedusa and any number of Greek islands have shown remarkable patience and made great sacrifices to help those whom have landed on their shores, a kindness that has not always been extended by the authorities themselves.  While few will begrudge the Greek government protesting about it being unable to cope, the refusal of other EU member states to agree to a quota system for refugees is one of the first signs of the possibility of the Schengen agreement breaking down.  The Schengen agreement underpins the freedom of movement rules that have become the bete noire of those opposed to "uncontrolled" immigration with the EU, with Theresa May declaring at the weekend that freedom of movement ought to mean freedom to move to a country where a job is waiting, not simply to look for work.

Der Spiegel's depiction of both a "dark Germany" and a "bright Germany" is probably to overdramatise events in the country that will on current trends take in more refugees this year than the rest of Europe combined.  Germany's stance is all the more remarkable when you realise it is motivated less by anything approaching guilt over the role played in the various wars that have led to the refugee crisis and more by memories of the suffering following the second world war, when millions were left to make their way back to places that were either in ruins or soon to be under a new tyranny.  Germany, unlike ourselves or France, refused to get involved in the NATO intervention in Libya, while it has also played a less partisan role in Syria.  The irony that it is now the major destination for refugees making their way through the failed state of Libya and has opened its borders to Syrians as a whole has not been lost on the German media: Bild for one has raged against David Cameron for shirking his responsibilities.

The attitudes of the German and British media could hardly be further removed from each other.  At the same time as the German papers have welcomed the 200,000 that claimed asylum in the country in July alone, our finest have been thundering against the 1,500 that equally desperately have been trying to make their way to this country from Calais.  Every solution other than letting those who clearly won't be put off by bigger fences and more security make their claims in France has been considered, including sending in the army.  Some might argue that our papers are more reflective of public opinion than their German equivalent, and to judge by radio and TV debates that's probably the case. 

That this merely demonstrates the nadir the debate on immigration has descended to is hardly something to say in our media's defence.   The number of asylum seekers taken in last year made up only around a tenth of the overall net figure of 330,000, a number which is itself deceptive due to how it includes students coming to study from abroad.  We've reached the point where a Songs of Praise broadcast from a makeshift church in the Calais "jungle" has become a front page outrage.  That once these same papers did on occasion welcome asylum seekers, so long as they were from the eastern bloc, with even those who would now be denounced as people smugglers regarded as heroes just underlines the way in which the default tabloid position has become one of permanent suspicion if not outright opposition.

You could say the reality of mass immigration since 2005 has led to public opposition to migration in general, whether economic or for sanctuary, and there's a smidgen of truth in that.  Easily forgotten is back in 2001-2003 the same scenes of chaos at Calais were a nightly feature on the news, with much the same reaction from the media, including alleged collusion between the Sun and the government over what the paper had deemed to be the biggest issue facing the country.  The main problem for many seems to be those in Calais trying to get to Britain aren't completely helpless: that they are breaking into trucks, sneaking onto trains, cutting fences, scaring holidaymakers means they can't possibly be victims, not least when their actions are or were having such a knock-on effect in Dover and Kent in general.  Combined with the questions over why they aren't claiming asylum in France or elsewhere in Europe, despite France taking more than double the number we have, such an atmosphere is hardly conducive to our politicians attempting to raise the tenor of the debate, let alone draw back from such self-defeating policies as the ever more ridiculous Conservative target of reducing immigration to the tens of thousands.

Credit must then be given to Yvette Cooper, for at least making the case for us to do more.  To be frank, even accepting 10,000 Syrian refugees would be a fairly minor gesture, such are the numbers not just in Germany but throughout Europe and also Syria's neighbours.  It would at least be a start, and as Cooper said, would go some way towards this country once again playing the role it has in the past.  Without going further however, and providing a way for refugees to claim asylum from outside Europe, it is both ludicrous and downright stupid to talk about those involved in getting Syrians and others into Europe as the equivalent of slave traders.  What option is there apart from paying smugglers when the other choices are staying or attempting the journey through Turkey and then the Balkans on their own?  Stripped of those boats and vehicles there would be even less hope, terrible as the sinkings in the Mediterranean and suffocation of so many last weekend are. 

That regardless Cooper is up to now the closest we've come to a politician recognising we have a responsibility, not just to Europe but to ourselves to do more is an indictment of just what a nasty, selfish and brutish country we are in danger of becoming.  The very least a nation can do when it has had such a role in breaking the likes of Libya, Iraq and Syria is to give shelter to those who were in the way.  The selflessness of Germany increasingly stands apart from a rest of Europe that seems all too willing to turn its back on its shared past.

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Monday, August 31, 2015 

Jeremy Corbyn threat to economic security, says George Osborne.

Labour under the “far left” anti-nuclear leadership of Jeremy Corbyn will be a threat to Britain’s national and economic security, George Osborne has declared.

"The man is frankly a lunatic," the chancellor said.  "Not only does he want to get rid of our insanely expensive doomsday devices, the ones we can't use without the permission of the Americans and have to be built with their help in any case, making them independent in the same way as my arsehole is from the rest of my body, and which are practically useless anyway when the main threat remains not an opposing state but international terrorism, he wants to let mass-murdering jihadist nutjobs off the hook as well!  How can the rest of the world possibly take us seriously if we don't just slaughter our foes like they do?  Put Bin Laden on trial?  You're having a bubble mate."

George Osborne is likely to be our next prime minister.

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Friday, August 28, 2015 

Helelyos.

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House of Lords number crunching.

8 - Number of Lib Dems voters saw fit to return to parliament after five years of coalition with the Conservatives

11 - Number of Lib Dems nominated to the House of Lords for services to the Conservative party

2 - Number of former Lib Dem MPs knighted for their help in getting the Conservatives their first majority in 23 years

4 - Number of honours handed out to various people for services to Nick Clegg

3 - Number of Downing Street staff given the resurrected British Empire Medal, a bauble recognising something that no longer exists, to honour years of service to politicians regardless of stripe

1 - Person bewildered by politicians' continuing insistence on making the public despise them, i.e. me

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Thursday, August 27, 2015 

The worst is yet to come.

When it comes to covering breaking news, broadcasters and live bloggers are always going to be damned if they do and damned if they don't.  Yesterday's murders in Virginia, notable internationally only because it involved two journalists being shot at live on air (however harsh that sounds) were always going to involve an element of voyeurism precisely for that reason.  When they had already shown video of Adam Ward's camera hitting the floor and played the audio of the gunshots and Alison Parker's screams, as without it this was just another shooting in a country that sees dozens every day, it was hardly a leap to then linking to or hosting the videos the murderer himself shot.  If one outlet decided not to, others would have done, while at the same time the videos were being shared on Twitter and Facebook regardless.

Getting too sanctimonious about the initial coverage is pointless.  Decisions on featuring content that previously would have been debated intensely now have to be made in a matter of seconds, like it or not.  The 24-hour news monster may have been created by the media themselves, but it has long since been overtaken by the demands of consumers.  The BBC was criticised earlier in the month for taking slightly longer than its competitors to report on the death of Cilla Black, as it apparently awaited confirmation from a family member, for instance.

As I've argued in the past, looking for the transgressive, the extreme, the forbidden is just as normal as not looking for it.  Judging people that choose to seek out the worst the internet has to offer, so long as that worst does not break the law, is not going to change minds, whether it's the hacked personal photographs of celebrities or Islamic State propaganda (and that so much as watching videos by Islamic extremists is enough in some cases to get you arrested is a disgrace in itself).  At worst it is the height of hypocrisy: I've seen this material, I'm pretty much telling you where to find it if you so wish, but you're a terrible human being if you do.

This said, it should always be the active choice of the person to watch such material.  Click and be damned.  Search and be damned.  When newspapers, forced or rather unable to compete with such rivals then make the decision to put on their front pages images shot by the killer pointing his gun at Parker, with the Sun going so far as to screencap the exact frame when he fired the first shot, grabbing the flash of the muzzle, the question of complicity comes very much into play, without any of the grounding that say films that have asked their audience why they're still watching have done.  If anything, printing mere shots from the video is far worse than watching the whole thing.  The grabs show the murderer as he imagined himself, in a position of power, stalking his victim, waiting for the moment he decides is best for taking the life of another person, for maximum impact.  The full video shows Parker's absolute panic and terror, inviting sympathy and empathy for her and Ward.  It also reminds of just how common gun violence is in the United States, an epidemic that could be curtailed if only there was the political will to do so.

It has also left almost anyone who has gone into a supermarket, off licence or onto a garage forecourt without the ability to make the active choice as to whether or not to see someone in the process of taking a life.  Again, that this happened in the US has without doubt played a role in the editorial decisions: had it been in this country, it seems unlikely the papers that chose to use those grabs would have come to the same decision, precisely because the backlash would have been all the fiercer.  The Sun for one made clear last year it would not print any of the images from the IS video that showed the murder of Alan Henning, as they would not give his "absurd murderers the publicity they crave".  The killer of Parker and Ward may not have filmed his attack partially for the purpose of spreading fear, but he clearly did so knowing full well that he was about to have the publicity he had long craved and believed he had been wrongly denied.  His task done, he further denied the families of the two people he killed proper justice by taking his own life.

You could if you so wished put the shooting and its aftermath down as just the latest extreme example of the latent narcissism that drives a minority into believing they are entitled to something they're convinced they've been wrongfully denied.  It also though reflects on the media that so often encourages such beliefs, that thinks so little about the impact it has, and which it would be foolish to dismiss outright as having very little overall impact.  It also, sadly, marks the beginning of what thanks to advances in technology and the internet of things is bound to be just the first in a series of acts committed with the intention of garnering the maximum possible publicity.  It can only be so long before a spree killer streams live his trail of murder and horror, before someone who believes he has nothing to lose tortures a kidnap victim while taunting journalists, the police and the social networks over their failure to find where his feed is coming from.  If yesterday was a challenge to the media's sense of ethics, morals and news values, the future promises far worse.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2015 

Another post in the making myself even less popular series.

Earlier in the month you might just recall we had days of coverage on the varying allegations made against Ted Heath.  Every police force in the country seemed to be launching investigations into claims made against the deceased former prime minister, to the point where it was decided Wiltshire police, the force whose superintendent had decided to make an appeal to other potential victims to come forward from outside what was Heath's home, would supervise the other inquiries.

It does strike as just slightly odd then that mere weeks later a genuinely extraordinary press conference by Harvey Proctor, during which he outlined in full the allegations of both child sexual abuse and murder, made not just against him but other senior members of the establishment, has slipped down the news agenda quite so quickly.  Only the Mail and Independent lead with it on their front pages, and beyond the interviews Proctor gave, little in the way of further analysis of the claims being made about a Westminster/establishment paedophile ring has been forthcoming.  One has to wonder if whether this might either be as a result of a request from the Metropolitan police, who yesterday were declining to comment on Proctor's media blitz, or if others have taken the same tact as the Guardian, declining to name the other figures identified out of a misplaced sense of not further spreading unproven allegations.

Some of it can undoubtedly be put down to the extravagant, hyperbolic way in which Proctor put his message across.  Either he should be arrested, charged and prosecuted immediately, or his accuser, known only as "Nick", should be charged with wasting police time, while the officer in charge of Operation Midland, Detective Superintendent Kenny McDonald, should either resign, be sacked or demoted to traffic duties.  Oh, and both should be medically examined to ensure they are of sound mind.

Proctor has done himself no favours with such personal attacks.  He does though have absolutely every right to be as angry and bewildered as he is.  When someone makes allegations as lurid and as serious as the ones that Nick has, not just against Harvey Proctor but, to reel off the list Proctor was provided with, Ted Heath, Leon Brittan, Lord Janner, Lord Bramall, the heads at the time of both MI5 and MI6, General Sir Hugh Beach, a man called Ray Beech, as well as to be asked as to whether he knew or had any association with Jimmy Savile, Leslie Goddard or Peter Hayman, the expectation has to be that they will be investigated thoroughly, properly, and without favour or prejudice.  Instead, one of McDonald's first actions following the interviews with Nick was to hold a press conference at which he said that he believed the allegations made to be not just credible, but "true".  Nick has since appeared on television a number of times to relate his story, albeit with any details beyond that he was abused by establishment figures and also witnessed the murder of three other boys almost entirely shorn from the interviews.

Now that we know precisely whom Nick is accusing, it does, as Proctor said, seem "so farfetched as to be unbelievable".  As Evan Davis nearly summarised on Newsnight last night, either the very worst fears of an establishment abuse ring and cover-up are true, or this is the biggest witch-hunt since the Satanic abuse panic of the late 80s/early 90s, with some of the same individuals involved.  The police strategy appears on the surface at least to have been to give publicity to Nick's allegations in the hope that other witnesses will come forward to corroborate them.  If anyone has, it would seem their accounts haven't matched, leaving the Met with little evidence other than Nick's statements.  This would explain why despite searching Proctor's home and twice interviewing him under caution, he has not been arrested.

Instead, the police have allowed the drip, drip of the claims against various figures, not just Proctor and Heath, to continue for the best part of the 9 months.  In the vanguard has been Exaro News, the online agency that has come to specialise in investigating cases of historic child abuse, with a journalist from Exaro apparently sitting in on the interviews between the police and Nick.  Exaro also had the scoop on just when Proctor was to be raided and interviewed, whether as a result of the police telling Nick and Nick informing Exaro, or being told directly.

Nick's testimony, regardless of the figures he says were involved in his abuse, is clearly compelling.  Without other witnesses however, or when most of those named are either dead or advanced in age, it's left the police with almost nowhere to go.  When you've already declared the account given by the witness to be true, a word that Exaro notably have been leaving out of their defences of Nick, saying only that he is regarded as credible, to then not act against Proctor other than to leave him to be judged in the court of public opinion is deeply troubling.  Proctor's claims of a homosexual witch-hunt may be over done, at least when it comes to the police, but that these allegations have been made repeatedly and principally against gay men does raise concern.

As does so much about the way these cases have been reported and consumed.  I don't know whether Nick's account is true, nor do I know if as Proctor protests, he is innocent.  You might well have thought that Proctor's downfall in 1987 over rent boys, albeit ones that would now be above the age of consent, would have led to these even more sensational claims coming to the fore sooner, for instance.  


Nonetheless, the more serious and the higher allegations of wrongdoing go, the rule normally is the more evidence is needed in order to convince.  Neither the police or media have come close to providing anything other than innuendo or a single, necessarily anonymous source to back up the claims being made.  The so close to almost be inseparable involvement of a media organisation with both the witness and the investigating state body also raises alarm bells.  For the same media organisations that have had no problem with repeatedly publicising allegations against senior figures without naming them or detailing exactly what they have been accused of to suddenly blanch when the principal accused sets out in unflinching detail the rapes, the stabbings, the running over of a 12-year-old, a list of exactly who is being accused, it smacks of them thinking that their readers will conclude they've been strung along for months once they're given the whole picture, rather than as Exaro laughably claims, about "avoiding contaminating the evidence pool".

This still doesn't explain why so many have been convinced from the moment Nick's allegations were first made public that they were true.  Exaro yesterday retweeted someone who asked them to send their regards as Nick was a source of "hope".  If that's out of the sense that survivors of abuse will be believed, fine.  If however it's because many want Nick's account to be true because it will prove accurate the worst fears or rather prejudices many have long had for politicians, especially Conservative ones, as it's difficult not to detect, that's something quite different.  Barth's Notes puts it down to a form of anti-establishment millennialism, but to me it reminds of Nick Davies' mea culpa over the murder of Hilda Murrell, an anti-nuclear campaigner whose death became a cause celebre in the 80s.  


Then it was the shadow of the secret state combined with the viciousness of the Thatcher era.  Now it's the spectre of the failure to expose Jimmy Savile while he was alive, combined with the general contempt for politicians and the belief that exposing the figures of the past will do for their successors today.  Others call for the abused to always be listened to regardless of how outlandish their claims may seem, ignoring how if it turns out that Nick's story is false or doesn't lead to prosecutions the damage likely to be done to public faith in similar exposes will be considerable.  Like what Proctor did or not, his actions are a more than understandable response to the mistakes and questionable decisions of both Exaro and the Metropolitan police. 

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015 

Being right about the Iraq war has made Sarah Ditum insufferable.

I, like Sarah Ditum, was against the Iraq war.  I, like Ditum, focused on the potential for war to the detriment of everything else, with the exception of one thing.  I was a few years younger than Ditum, but otherwise the picture she paints is highly recognisable.  Perhaps I wouldn't go as far to say that it gave me an overwhelming sense of moral superiority, as it didn't, mainly because I'm rarely 100% certain about anything.  I definitely hoped that other people I admired would be anti-war too though.

Which is where we must separate.  I long ago reached the point of being bored senseless by Iraq; there are only so many times the same arguments can be regurgitated, the same realities ignored, the same mistakes repeated before you lose the will to carry on.  I might not feel morally superior for it, but I'm more convinced than ever that Iraq will come to be seen as the defining disaster of early 21st century foreign policy.  It's just that there seems little to no point whatsoever in acting high and mighty about it, or reminding everyone just how right you were, precisely because most other people who were also energised and enraged by the build up to the war are now also in a similar position.  Shutting the fuck up about Iraq is something I would have advised everyone to do, or at least would have done prior to the rise of Islamic State.

For the reason that you can't talk about Islamic State without recognising where the group came from.  Islamic State owes its existence to the Iraq war, even if its existence can hardly be wholly blamed on the West as some would like to.  Al-Qaida probably had at best a handful of members in Iraq prior to the invasion.  Afterwards, thanks to the Americans and our good selves deciding it would be a spiffing idea to carry on with an occupation that was doomed from the start, foreign Sunni extremists, domestic Islamists and nationalists/Ba'athists opposed to the foreign presence swiftly made common cause and so began the insurgency.  The forerunners to Islamic State changed name repeatedly, seemed on a couple of occasions on the brink of defeat, but thanks to mistakes by the Western-backed Iraqi government, were never degraded completely.  It's a very long way from the bombing of the UN building in August 2003 to the destruction of the Baal temple in Palmyra in Syria in August 2015, but the two outrages are connected.

No, what Ditum seems to be describing is, once again, and as Flying Rodent has also pointed out, her own private Idaho.  The left she's talking about and identifies is the same one trapped in the social media echo chamber, the one where as fellow New Statesman columnist Helen Lewis has recently identified, appearing right on is more important than actually being so when it matters.  I mean really, Media Lens?  I too quite liked them back between around 2003-2006, then lost interest once it became apparent they believed their real enemies to be the few mainstream outlets in this country that are even vaguely left-wing.  It's very easy to be snotty about Twitter, especially when you're someone who has always refused to have anything to do with it, but it undoubtedly can and has made some even more parochial in their interests and selective in precisely what information they rely on.

Ditum's real point, more really than Iraq, is about how this relatively small cross-section of people are among the most vocal in supporting Jeremy Corbyn.  They no doubt are, and considering that the SNP have long been some of the most noisy in making known their opposition to the war, despite having done very little at the time about it, it's not surprising that some of these same people were not like us marching around our miserable little town centres knowing full well it was pointless.  Mainly because plenty of them were, like Mhairi Black, not even into double figures age wise at the time.  That's how long ago it was, even if it doesn't feel like it.

Iraq does and at the same time doesn't matter.  It doesn't matter because the vast majority have long since grown bored of it, or if they aren't exasperated by its mere mention they don't base their decisions when it comes to voting on something that happened 13 years ago.  And yet, it does matter, not because there is this noisy minority that overwhelmingly supports Corbyn, some of whom regarded Iraq as the ultimate betrayal and have been holding out for a hero ever since, but because it's Corbyn's largely irrelevant attitudes towards foreign policy, at least from a Labour leadership standpoint, that have been where most of the mud thrown at him has been found.

The reason this especially seems to enrage his online opponents is that unlike them, he's been able to make common course with groups or individuals that are rightly controversial, in this instance ones that have either made anti-Semitic comments or are definitively anti-Semitic, and yet it hasn't damaged him.  It doesn't seem to occur this is because Corbyn himself is not racist in the slightest, and that the best explanation for his continuing to attend Deir Yassin Remembered meetings or speak at a conference organised by a front organisation for the LaRouche group is down to not checking out their credentials properly or naivety, alongside his general friendliness towards any organisation that seems on the surface at least to share his views.  Also, unlike them, his willingness to not instantly condemn any group in the search for peace, his experience with the IRA having informed this approach, rankles more than anything.  Ideological purity is always important regardless of whether it's the far left or the Labour right involved in the whatabouttery.

Except, of course, it's not Corbyn's anti-war position on Iraq that has led him to associate with most of these accused individuals and groups, but his stance on Palestine, as Ditum must know.  Iraq has very little to nothing to do with his rise in the contest; as Andy Burnham has recognised, the real reason for Corbyn's surge was the welfare vote.  As I related yesterday, only 2 people at the Burnham question and answer session mentioned Iraq, one of them a Tory, the other asking not about Iraq specifically but mentioning it in regard to conviction.  If anything, Corbyn telling the Graun he would issue a general apology for the Iraq war was a response to the Labour figures that have made so much of his views on foreign policy, pointing out the ridiculousness of such people lecturing others over what is and isn't acceptable.

Ditum is right that being right about Iraq is not a good enough foundation for political life, but Corbyn isn't relying on it as his foundation in any case.  The question ought to be what is preferable, knowing what we do now: is remaining an interventionist by instinct going to count in your favour when we have not just Iraq, but also Libya to judge by?  Is bombing in Syria as well as Iraq, as it is after all worth remembering that technically we are currently involved in the third Iraq war, really going to alter anything, especially when we seem to have just abandoned the Kurds in favour of the Turks?  Has in fact our belief that we have the "responsibility to protect" undermined both national and international security, making our protests against Russia's annexation of the Crimea and parts of eastern Ukraine even easier for Putin and other imperialists to ignore?  And isn't much of the insufferable banging on about Iraq in any case not about what went wrong at all levels of government, what mistakes everyone involved made, but in fact about one man, who has become just as much the scapegoat for the failings of all concerned, driving force as he was?  Indeed, shouldn't we truly learn the lessons of Iraq, as we clearly still haven't, before condemning a small group of annoyingly self-righteous people whose politics have been defined by it?

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