Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Do you think Mail writers wonder why people hate their paper?

The Daily Mail has long been the standard bearer for the very worst, the absolute worst of right wing, intolerant, bigoted, out of touch prejudice peddled as 'old fashioned values'. Far worse than the Sun, because it pretends to be something it isn't, by disguising its vitriol in a more formal tone than is used by the red tops and trying to come across as reasoned and intelligent.

But this article is a new low. At first it appears to be a condemnation of the racism which is still occasionally heard at football matches in Spain. I was vaguely surprised at the tone of the first few paragraphs. But the last lines give away the writer's intent. Basically, all he appears to be doing with that first part is setting up this pay-off, enabling him to say that we're so much better off than those really nasty Spaniards that a couple of black footballers allegedly being racially abused by fellow professionals is nothing to get too worked up about, that they should merely have 'got on with the game'.

I don't even really know where to begin with this. It's a statement of such mind-boggling nastiness that blind fury is the only reasonable response. How the hell does he think such progress in eradicating racial abuse from our stadia has been made in the first place? By tolerating the 'mild' stuff? Those last two sentences absolutely epitomise everything I hate about this disgusting, abhorrent rag. "I know you feel insulted," he says. No you don't, Mr Doughty - only a black person can have any concept of what it must feel like, and though I don't know for absolutely certain, I'd be stunned if the writer of this tripe is black. Only the fictional paradigm of the cowed, downtrodden, Princess Di-loving, white 'Anglo-Saxon' middle Englishman that the Mail so assiduously asserts comprise our population could agree with this, let alone write it.

'Right Minds' the section is called, edited by one Simon Heffer, who should be ashamed of himself for allowing this to appear under his name. "There are worse things to complain about," says Mr Doughty, rather giving himself away. Right minds? Extreme right minds acting as apologists for alleged racism, disguised as reasonable argument, is the truth of the matter. Mr Doughty has chosen to publish this piece before investigations into the allegations have even been completed, so clearly feels that the alleged victims have not been 'abused', regardless of what's actually been said to them.

Fortunately, plenty of people (myself among them, though it meant registering with the Mail Online in order to comment on their articles, which has resulted in me feeling rather filthy and ashamed, as if I'd been caught doing something unspeakable by my mum) have vented their disgust at the thing, clearly showing that word has got round of what's been written. I hope (though have no faith in this happening) that the response of considerably more 'right-minded' people to his piece will make Mr Doughty, and his editor, think a bit more carefully before publishing such bile again in future.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Manner of Gaddafi's death is difficult to feel too sorry about

The 'liberation' of Libya, to use the interim administration's own term, and the resultant capture and on-the-spot execution of the despot Muammar Gadaffi, has been featured in the news as much for the way in which he was killed as for the significance of the revolution itself.

Firstly, I must state clearly that from an ethical point of view it would have been better for justice to be seen to be done 'properly', in an open and fair trial. Of course, the sort of summary justice dealt out to him is not the way to deal with a captured and unresistant prisoner. But the various calls for an investigation by other governments, including those who have been happy to lend military support to the rebellion, rather stick in the craw.

Gadaffi died at the hands of his own people. A people he'd subjugated for 42 years. A people who lived in fear of him, thousands of whom he'd allegedly imprisoned, tortured or killed in the manner typical of tyrants like him. Any trial he'd undergone would have inevitably ended in his death anyway, so what exactly would it have been held for? Would a trial have been put on so that justice be done, or would it only have been to make it OK to kill him, make it official, that with the sanction of a judge his execution would somehow be different? He'd still be dead one way or the other and any trial would have felt, to me, like a salve on the consciences of the states who'd helped overthrow him, killing many of his supporters in the process.

He'd also have been given the opportunity to turn it into the kind of grandstanding farce that Saddam Hussein's trial often degenerated into. And look how his execution turned out - the clamour to kill him, while understandable, was so hysterical that in his last moments that evil, murderous bastard somehow became the dignified one, the only one to come out of the process with any credit. So any judicially approved killing would not necessarily have been much better.

And where were the howls of protest at the execution of other dictators in the past? Nicolae Ceau┼čescu and his wife, for example, were executed after a show trial so hastily arranged and carried out that he was dead before the TV cameras could get there to cover the trial, let alone the execution. Not a peep from other governments at the time, as I recall.

So, as I say, I entirely understand that to make the process legitimate, to lend weight to a new regime's judiciary, to see justice administered ethically and to avoid lowering themselves to his murderous level, it would of course have been much better for him to stand trial. But I find it difficult to feel any sympathy for him, and I find it even more difficult to find any credibility in the clamour for an investigation coming from outside Libya. I hope the Libyan people can now be left in peace to find their own way forward, and that they do so peacefully, without the societal divisions that are so clear in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Monday, 17 October 2011

The truth will out. Eventually.

I've written on here before that, for Joe Public at least, there is no power but the vote. Happily, today showed that this is no longer necessarily true, thanks to the power of the internet. As much as it may be used to look at pictures your gran would disapprove of, try to scam innocent people out of money, sell complete tat or waste time by laying out the minutiae of one's life in Proustian detail to an uninterested public, it can also be capable of catalysing great things.

The Commons website which allows people to set up favoured issues which they'd like to see debated, and which, should they pass 100,000 signatures in support, is instrumental in getting those issued debated in Parliament, allowed the reopening of the Hillsborough Stadium disaster debate.

Today, after 22 years of campaigning by the families of the 96 innocents who lost their lives, Theresa May stood in Parliament and promised full disclosure to the Hillsborough Independent Panel of all the documents relating to Cabinet discussion of the disaster in its aftermath. That disclosure should reveal the full truth of the causes, the reaction of police and fans, and the scandalous, shocking rubbing of salt into gaping wounds by a press intent on demonising those supporters, those victims. The families will, hopefully, finally get the full story and have their dead loved ones (and all the other Liverpool supporters there) fully vindicated, as they indeed were by the Taylor Report.

Over 139,000 people signed this particular petition in a short space of time, giving sharp focus to the strength of feeling that's still there, and the number of people to whom this was important. As an example of power, some power at any rate, being put back into the hands of the people, this was outstanding. It also allowed Parliament to show that it hasn't completely forgotten that it's there to serve the electorate, not the other way round, and that it can act as one and do the right thing.

A more comprehensive run-down of the debate can be found here. One poster rightly says that it's a shame that more MPs couldn't be bothered to turn up for a debate which was so important to the public, but I suspect many of them knew that which way it was going. Had there been continued resistance from the Government I'm pretty sure there would have been a lot more there. And the families of many of the dead were in the public gallery to see this important step towards justice for the 96. All in all, a good day for British justice and democracy, I reckon, and it ain't too often you can say that.

Another day to be grateful for

Another wedding on Saturday, and once again I felt fortunate to witness a joyous occasion for two people cut from the very finest cloth. A bright blue sky, entirely cloudless, and unseasonably warm. A reception in a beautiful old manor house, bits of which dated back to the 12th century, right on the banks of the Thames in one of its more beautiful stretches. And, once again, a crowd of good people you felt happy to be part of getting cheerfully drunk and throwing some shapes. (Not me, of course. Everyone knows I don't dance, and in any case I retired to my room with a cocoa at 9pm to read some poetry and meditate. *cough*)

Anyway, here's to you indeed, Mrs (and Mr) R. All good health and happiness to both of you.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

How to react to Knox's freedom?

Hmm. The Knox/Kercher case (for that's what it's become, despite the fact that there were two co-accused in the dock with her, one of whom, her then-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, has also been acquitted – you'd never know this from the headlines). It's extremely difficult to know how to feel about it. The dichotomy in the media portrayals of her by supporters and opponents has been revealing insofar as, I suspect, the truth of her character lies somewhere in the middle. She and Sollecito were, in the eyes of the media, condemned as guilty from the moment they were photographed canoodling just a week after the murder. Perhaps this condemned them in the eyes of the Italian police as well because, it seems, part of the success of her appeal was that they appeared, during their investigations, to look for clues that fitted their supposition of guilt, rather than objectively consider all evidence as it emerged. They also, in a move which is enough in itself to introduce 'reasonable doubt' to the case, completely botched the handling of the forensic evidence. (I heard on Radio 5 for example, that one of the pieces of evidence recovered from the murder scene, which became central to the prosecution's case, was not put in a sealed bag for 42 days after it was collected. What the hell???)

But aside from the handling of the case itself, there was also the weird behaviour of the accused, manna from heaven to the news media. It does to most people, I imagine, seem odd that Knox and Sollecito behaved apparently indifferently, even oddly, under questioning, but that does not make them murderers. They'll live the rest of their lives, whether they're innocent or not, guilty in the eyes of millions because of that one photo of them which we've all seen.

The truth is, no matter that the police seemed to fuck up the investigation, no matter that you can interpret evidence either way, no matter that it's all too easy to read guilt in oddness, no matter the vehement protestations of innocence or assertions of guilt, there are probably only three people on the planet who know if Knox and Sollecito are guilty – themselves and Rudy Guede, who's still in prison for the murder and whose own appeal failed some time ago. Anybody else who 'knows' is likely deluding themselves. All we can do is hope that the appeals court has got things right, that the murderer is behind bars, that innocents are free. So I hope Knox and Sollecito are indeed innocent, but not because I care about them one way or the other specifically, other than in the abstract sense of wanting justice all round of course. I hope they're innocent because the friends and family of Meredith Kercher, themselves victims of this appalling crime (who have rightly criticised the fact that the victim herself seems to have become a forgotten footnote in the whole thing), are now again being punished themselves, this time with the possibility that two of the murderers of their loved one have walked free.

That is reason enough to hope that justice has indeed been done, because their suffering must be indescribable, and it can only have been worsened by what's gone on in court. However little difference it will make to them, at least if Knox and Sellicito are innocent, it would mean their additional suffering won't have been for nothing.