Tag Archives: UK government

Who is radicalising whom?

It is not too difficult to divert the attention of a loose collection of individuals from an internal crisis by talking about a major external threat that appears to unify them behind shared values and a common cause.

We are reliably told that the radicalisation of young British Muslims constitutes one of the most significant security risks for this country today.

But what is it that makes an individual open to radicalisation? And what makes the rest of us believe in the UK Government’s narrative that extremism creates an environment for radicalising individuals? Who is radicalising whom? Who indeed are the extremists?

The narrative contains the seeds of the frightening idea that there is a supremely well organised, and formidable global force out there, working through the internet, infiltrating many of our public institutions, and recruiting young British Muslims to engage in terrorist activities.

The UK Government invites us to accept its definition of extremism as ‘the active opposition to fundamental British values’; and to conclude from that, that the biggest risk to our security therefore comes from individuals or groups who draw on the ideology of ‘Islamist Extremism’.

The UK Government reminds us that ‘Islamist extremists’ consider Western intervention in Muslim majority countries to be a war on Islam. We are also warned that they want to create a new world order, which sees the unification of Muslim majority countries into a global Islamic state and will use whatever violent and barbaric means they see fit to achieve it. Countless examples are offered in support.

When a peaceful religion is hijacked and repackaged with the beliefs of extremist thinkers, the distortion can be terrifying. It is also terrifying that many of the individuals whom we consider to have been radicalised may have actually chosen to immerse themselves in the belief systems promoted by these extremist thinkers.

And whilst we will always struggle to understand the psychology of individuals who freely choose to do evil deeds, those who do behave in this way are unlikely to describe their behaviour in such terms. They will have a very different way of rationalising their own behaviour.

Nor are we likely to understand the psychology of those ‘highly prominent individuals’ sitting quite comfortably, and luxuriously protected, at the heart of the British establishment for decades – they purport to represent and uphold the very British values referred to in the UK Government’s home spun definition of extremism, whilst happily indulging in unlawful and morally rotten activities behind the scenes.

How freely they came to believe in their own code of conduct, their superiority, and their sense of absolute entitlement to whatever, and whomever, they choose. There is a deep rooted and very ugly hypocrisy, shaped within a despicable culture of establishmentarian extremism, at the heart of many of our great British institutions.

So what makes an individual open to radicalisation? What makes an individual come to believe that it is right to perform barbaric deeds, apparently in the name of their religion? These are very difficult questions to answer and need to be treated with a high degree of caution.

In fact, we need to be sure that we have not been directed away from asking the right questions in the first place, because it is not obvious that we are.

And so equally, as we follow the threads of the UK Government’s narrative, we need to proceed with caution, lest we are radicalised by it, and we fail to notice how deeply damaged this country has become by some of the highly prominent extremists sitting in our houses and our back yard.

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British Elitist Extremism

When Governments feel the need to offer definitions of certain socio-religious concepts, you immediately start to question their motivation for doing so. Which of their unpalatable, unfair or unethical policies are they about to justify by reference to one of their carefully crafted definitions?

For example, the Scottish Government made the mistake of trying to offer a ‘working definition of sectarianism in Scotland’ that looked more like a dodgy attempt to justify its unpopular and unnecessary legislation against Offensive Behaviour at Football matches:

http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/0044/00440386.pdf

The United Kingdom Government is just as transparent. David Cameron recently tried to remind us that the United Kingdom is a Christian country. He now wants to encourage us to feel less bashful about promoting the traditional values that underpin British society, for which too many individuals living in this country appear to have lost respect. To that end, education must play a vital role.

Cameron’s argument quickly jumps to the astonishing conclusion that being too bashful about celebrating traditional British values creates the type of space which allows extremism to flourish. There is something seriously wrong with this way of thinking.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-27853591

Extremism is defined by the UK Government in a 2013 publication, as ‘vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs’:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/263181/ETF_FINAL.pdf

The publication goes on to claim that extremism creates an environment for radicalising individuals and it can set them on the path to terrorism; extremist ideologies, including Islamist extremism, run counter to our traditional values and therefore must be tackled before they get a chance to take root. 

For example, we have been informed recently that there are around four or five hundred young British Muslims who have recently gone to fight in Syria, and who may commit acts of violence and terrorism on their return. That this poses a long term security threat to the United Kingdom means that tracking the activities of young British Muslims fighting in Syria is now a top priority for MI5.

In Cameron’s mind, it also means that the United Kingdom Government needs to find a way of blocking off the path to terrorism before it begins. This can be done through making it compulsory to teach British values in schools in England and Wales, and through so called counter-messaging agencies hammering home the importance of respect for democracy and the rule of law, particularly to those identified as being potentially vulnerable to radicalisation.

So the condensed version of Cameron’s argument is that unless we are more confident about promoting British values, we run the risk of terrorists growing up in our own streets and attacking our country from within. This is nonsense and Cameron knows it!

Apart from defining extremism in such a narrow way that it can only be avoided through teaching and reinforcing traditional British values at every opportunity, Cameron appears to link the decline in the latter with the rise in extremist religious ideologies that lead to terrorist activities, which is dangerously arrogant of him.  

Cameron’s arrogance also seems to have blinded him to the obvious, and this is one of the key reasons why Governments need to think twice before they tie themselves up in knots trying to control our thinking – by his own Government’s definition of the term, the United Kingdom has been harbouring more than its fair share of home grown extremists for generations, no doubt brought up to respect the fundamental and traditional British values that he insists are the solution to the rise of Islamist extremism in this country –

They are the self-serving, greedy Westminster MPs caught up in the parliamentary expenses scandal; the dishonest, profit-crazy City of London bankers found guilty of fixing LIBOR rates; the shameless South Yorkshire Police officers who altered witness statements to conceal their own failures at the Hillsborough stadium disaster; the UK Government’s Child Migrant Programme that sent 130,000 children from the UK to live in Australia and Canada on the basis of an ugly lie; its decision to illegally invade Iraq on the basis of another lie; the out of control British soldiers who committed the unjustified and unjustifiable killing of innocent Civil Rights marchers in Derry on Bloody Sunday; the British colonial forces who tortured Kenyans during the Mau Mau uprising.

Surely these actions show active opposition to democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs? It would appear to me that it is not just so-called Islamist extremism that runs counter to the fundamental British values that David Cameron apparently cherishes. We might want to refer to it as British Elitist extremism.

It is practiced by too many of the individuals who have been elected or otherwise to govern our country and appointed to manage our great institutions. It is their entitlement. And of course, despite the occasional apology to appease public outrage, British Elitist extremists would seem to operate without a social conscience and with impunity, because the United Kingdom Government would never define them as such.

   

     

 

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Some Thoughts on Alan Turing’s Pardon

Despite receiving a posthumous apology in 2009, from the then Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, for treatment now considered to be ‘utterly unfair and appalling’, the current UK Government went on to reject a request to pardon Alan Turing, in February 2012.

The reason for this refusal was that a pardon would have been deemed inappropriate, given that Turing was properly convicted in 1952 for committing acts of homosexuality, which were offences at the time under Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885. He was punished by chemical castration.

Turing was regarded as a brilliant Mathematician who played a central role in the development of modern computers and the subject of Artificial Intelligence. His views were highly regarded in Philosophical circles too, attending lectures and debating with Ludwig Wittgenstein on the Foundation of Mathematics.

Crucially, Turing also happened to play a pivotal part in breaking Germany’s Enigma Code, which many regard as having helped to bring about an earlier end to World War II than could have been the case, saving countless lives. Turing was said to have committed suicide in 1954.

On 23rd December 2013, the Queen granted a posthumous pardon under the Royal Prerogative of Mercy, which takes effect today. It is a move which is entirely right and fitting, but which seems strange in light of the reasons given less than two years earlier, that Turing’s conviction was in accord with the law at the time, and that he would have known that he was committing a criminal offence.

The case of Alan Turing’s posthumous apology and subsequent pardon throws up all sorts of interesting questions on human rights, law and morality. It also throws up other questions on the honesty or otherwise of our Governments.

Lord McNally is reported to have commented in 2012 that whilst we cannot go back and alter the historical context and put right what cannot be put right, we can do our best today to make sure that we never again return to those times.

McNally is absolutely correct to say that we cannot alter the historical context in which certain acts were once judged morally right or wrong, legal or illegal, even if we can now look back with a different perspective and a different way of thinking about things.

As our culture, values and way of living evolve, so too do our rights, our laws, our morals and some of the language we use to describe the latter. We might not be able to change the past, but we can certainly rethink the present by being more honest about the way our society once functioned.

The big problem for me, however, is that Governments are rarely honest enough about the way society currently functions for this type of retrospective slate wiping to hold much sway. And it just seems obvious to me that if you suddenly decide to make it look as if you are concerned about righting certain wrongs of the past, which you previously rejected, you are hoping that it will be much easier to create a more morally appealing story about some of the motivations behind your actions today, or the ones you have planned for tomorrow…sadly, politics is like that.

Nothing about Turing’s case has changed. As Lord McNally was quick to point out less than two years ago, we cannot change the historical context. So what has happened now to make the difference? What exactly has changed? And why should we simply accept David Cameron’s remark that Alan Turing ‘left a remarkable national legacy’ as a good reason for granting him a royal pardon today, when we were previously told that the principle of precedence meant we could not?

Alan Turing’s pardon is absolutely right in my opinion, but unfortunately it raises more questions than it answers. Time will tell, I am sure; my only hope is that the decision to grant this pardon has not been driven by other, less honourable, motivations dressed up in the language of fake national interest.

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History, Myths and Value Systems

An article in today’s Herald reports on the decision of the Scotland Office to temporarily block the publication of certain files relating to the Scottish devolution process, with Whitehall ministers having the final say on their release. SNP MSP Jamie Hepburn describes it as “cheating Scotland of its history”:

http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/home-news/westminster-blocks-moves-to-release-secret-devolution-files.19837622

It is unsurprising that this would happen, of course, given that the independence referendum is not that far away and there are likely to be vital pieces of information – which quiet deals were made, when and by whom, who gave away what and why – that could have an effect on how the people of Scotland vote in 2014.

One of the difficulties we have when trying to make sense of key political events today is that their causes, and reasons for occurring, may be inextricably linked to certain people and events in the past, the motives of whom, and the significance of which, are not always easy to understand.

The problem is not necessarily that we are poor at understanding occurrences in the past. Sometimes it is that we are simply unable to arrive at a true account of events because of inherent ambiguities and compelling alternative interpretations, with no means of corroborating any of the versions given.

Other times it is because the truth – as in the case cited above – has been deliberately withheld for political reasons, with lighter and more digestible accounts of events offered up to us in their place through carefully controlled press releases and media coverage.

All of which can make it difficult to fully understand why certain political decisions are being made today – or why some key ones were made in the recent past – and therefore deny us the opportunity to make informed judgements about our country’s future.

The sickening part is that it is perfectly legal for our ‘democratically elected’ Government to manage the truth in this manner on our behalf, and as a result, through the variety of institutions in which we are immersed, control the history we think we lived through in the past, and manipulate the present we believe we are experiencing today.

Almost on a daily basis we have representatives of the United Kingdom and Scottish Governments accusing each other of peddling dangerous myths about independence or otherwise and attempting to mislead the people of Scotland through their own particular slant on events.

Whilst the passage of time will help to loosen the grip of the political and economic myths we build our lives around today, we may never achieve complete transparency in these matters until it is too late for the truth to make a difference. That’s just how this country operates.

When we elect a Government, we are not simply authorising politicians to make decisions on our behalf; we are also gifting them the right to manage the truth behind those decisions. And when a Government appoints itself, as the case may be, we may find that the value systems they carve out from the truths they have been entrusted with begin to diverge from our own in drastic fashion.

In 2014, Scotland’s choice is not simply about where the ultimate seat of political and economic decision making for this country should be. It is about choosing the values that best reflect Scottish interests and the needs of the people of Scotland.

It is about choosing Scottish priorities, such as free education and welfare policies to support social justice, over Westminster ones, such as dismantling the NHS, engaging in illegal wars and keeping Trident out of harm’s way of London.

But the problem is this: these values are easily lost in the mix of dangerous myths and historical inaccuracies we are asked to accept as fact; they are easily promoted by clever rhetoric as the root cause of our economic problems and the reasons behind many of our social ills.

When you manage the truth behind political decisions, you ultimately manage the country’s value systems. And when you manage that, you are a short step away, not only from ‘cheating a country of its history’, but also depriving it of a better future.

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‘All the Truth in the World Adds up to One Big Lie’

By which criteria do we satisfy ourselves that we have reached the truth?

That a particular account of events is true is something that we too often take for granted, particularly when it is given to us ‘as the truth’ by those in positions of authority, leadership and power.

In an ideal world, of course, the role of police officers, politicians, bankers and journalists should be sufficient to confer a high degree of trust in their actions, automatically and without reservation; it should be sufficient to justify the naïve assumption that their motives are always entirely innocent and without agenda.

But we live in an imperfect society. It is one in which positions of authority are now widely regarded with suspicion and distrust. Our common outrage at the ugly catalogue of corruption and deceit that has been published in the form of apologies over the past couple of years – which includes several back copies from years gone by – has been testimony to that.

Here are just a couple:

 

Hillsborough papers: Cameron apology over ‘double injustice’ –
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-merseyside-19543964

Gordon Brown to apologise for UK’s role in child migrant scandal –
http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/feb/24/gordon-brown-apology-child-migrants

David Cameron condemns Bloody Sunday killings and makes apology –
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/jun/15/david-cameron-bloody-sunday-apology

Barclays apologizes for Libor scandal –
http://money.cnn.com/2012/07/27/investing/barclays-libor/index.htm

Rupert Murdoch ‘sorry’ in newspaper adverts –
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14170756

 

The list goes on and on. The worrying thing is that we are force-fed whichever version of events best suits the prevailing political agenda, usually created for those individuals who have the means and the money to sustain them, and which the rest of society is normally just expected to take as correct.

And most of the time we do, until something significant that could no longer be contained, or something very small that had been overlooked, finally makes its way to the surface and brings everything to a crashing halt.

We are led to believe that certain groups of individuals are decent, honest and upstanding, whilst others are not; we are led to think that certain historical troubles were caused and perpetuated by one particular religious or ethnic group, and courageously and rightfully managed down by another.

The despicable cover up of truth that we witnessed with the Hillsborough disaster, and the unforgiveable manner in which the people of Liverpool were treated and portrayed in the aftermath, must surely be one of the final nails in the coffin of this country’s utterly corrupt constitution.

This country has happily created its own version of the truth for centuries in order to conceal the sheer extent of the hatred, prejudice and contempt with which the elite minority regards even the rest of its own society.

Bob Dylan once wrote that ‘all the truth in the world adds up to one big lie’.

And I think it is fairly obvious how important that one big lie has been to successive Governments.

It is that without which they would not exist.

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Precariously Pinned Together

Whereas Alistair Darling previously threatened that voting for Scottish independence would be like buying a one-way ticket to a deeply uncertain place, Gordon Brown this week warned that it would signal the start of the race to the bottom.

For some people retaining the union is about having an emotional commitment to a tradition and a history. And that is absolutely to be acknowledged and respected, whether we feel the same commitment or not.

But the rhetoric of the likes of Darling and Brown, which unashamedly exploits this emotional commitment, clearly shows that what lies at the heart of the no campaign is neither decent political debate concerning the true interests of Scotland, nor sound economic argument relevant to the country’s financial standing before and after independence.

Rather it is about a deep rooted unwillingness to lose control over the critical variables – mainly the fiscal levers, as they have been occasionally described – that could potentially damage the wealth, privilege and position of certain elite groups of individuals, and undermine the competitiveness of certain other economic areas across the United Kingdom.

Ensuring that Scotland’s right to determine its own social, political and economic future is not granted is therefore their priority, rather than creating a progressive unionist strategy to improve the quality of life, educational opportunities and employment prospects across the whole of the United Kingdom as it currently stands.

The problem is that such a strategy has never been viewed as an integral component of the unionist campaign. It has simply been about blocking a movement for change, for selfish reasons, whereas it should have been about recognising that the motivations behind that movement are signs that the United Kingdom is predicated on a union that is not fit for purpose.

Grasp that simple fact and the unconvincing frontmen like Darling and Brown could have had a better chance of gaining credibility for their paymaster’s position, and perhaps significantly more support.

But those of an independent mind needn’t worry. That is never going to happen. It just doesn’t figure in the thinking of those who run the United Kingdom government that the fundamental political and economic structures precariously pinning the country together need to change.

So in the meantime we can happily let the better together campaigners continue their efforts to persuade the people of Scotland that it is in their interests to stop looking for change. That it is in their interests to stop seeking the right to make their own decisions, just so that the status quo continues to deliver its cosy benefits for a small pocket of people spread throughout the United Kingdom, including Scotland.

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The Independence Debate & The Politics of Rogues

Various questionable arguments have been thrown into the debate about Scottish Independence in recent months; so much so that it is now becoming amusing to see predictions of economic ruin sitting right next to forecasts of previously unachievable wealth and prosperity.

It is almost as if we are being told, ‘don’t listen to the other side’s nonsense, it will lead you in the wrong direction; now, here are the facts, on which you need to make your decision’. In this respect, both are as bad as each other.

Encouraging others to adopt a course action by exaggerating benefits and making grand promises that may never be fulfilled, looks remarkably similar to some of the unscrupulous sales tactics adopted by individuals operating at the gutter end of the market.

Whilst encouraging others against that same course of action by instilling disproportionate fear in their minds, reveals much more about the psychology, and personal circumstances, of the scare mongering individuals than it does about the reality of the situation.

It makes you want to ask the question, what do the latter really think they are going to lose by acknowledging that it would be better for Scotland to make its own decisions, and why do they really want the rest of us to feel the fear of that loss too, in the way that they pretend to?

And it makes you want to ask of the former, why do they feel the need to spin a fabulous, sometimes confusingly mixed, story around a couple of facts and stats, immediately casting their credibility in doubt and raising questions about whether they are indeed the people to take this country forward in the right direction?

Perhaps the only reality we can work with in entering this debate is that being an independent country is simply about taking full responsibility for your own affairs, and nothing less than that.
Everything else we have been told, and will be told countless times over, about how damaging independence would be for Scotland’s position in the world, or how wonderful it would be for our economy, is imaginative conjecture.

It is an attempt to manipulate our emotions by individuals who know that they have too much to lose.

Both campaigns recognise that they have, in fact, too much to lose; not just from a political point of view, but also from a personal, selfish point of view. Their obsession with winning this game at all costs is beginning to ruin what should otherwise have been the build-up to a momentous event in our country’s history.

In fact the event itself – regaining independence or reinforcing the union – is beginning to look like it will be spoiled. Either way, it is beginning to look like it will turn into a reflection of the politics of self-interested rogues, than a reflection of the best interests of the ordinary people of Scotland.

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‘National Interest’ is a Curious Concept

It is utterly despicable to think that the UK Government’s campaign against Scottish Independence, to mention just one among many other significant issues of national concern, could have been partly influenced by millionaire friends of the Conservative Party.

Not so much because it would have given the unionist campaign an unfair competitive advantage – the Independence campaign has also received private funding from wealthy individuals; but more so because of the wider implications of proactively offering access to senior policy makers in return for substantial donations.

Conservative Party Co-Treasurer, Peter Cruddas, was secretly filmed making startling claims about access to David Cameron and George Osborne in return for substantial, premier league style, donations of upwards of £200,000.

It goes without saying that if you solicit funding from individuals in return for a favourable hearing at the Prime Minister’s table, you immediately undermine the fundamental principles on which a democratic society ought to be built.

It completely destroys the integrity of the democratic process.

Democracy slips into myth status when the policies of a Government are shaped by the financially elite minority who can afford to have their opinions heard, rather than by the rest of us who are given token votes every so often to perpetuate the illusion that we are making a contribution.

It is frustrating and disappointing to think that regardless of the effort we put in at the ground floor level, our real position in society will not change.

We will continue to struggle against the policies shaped in the millionaires’ playground for the interests of the wealthy elite. What occurs in the name of national interest is very rarely in the interests of the majority of working people in the country.

National interest is a curious concept. It is more a tool to cleverly translate the selfish interests of the elite into what appear to be honest political and economic reasons behind Government policy decisions.

When the UK Government claims, with heart felt theatrical integrity, that Scotland is stronger in the UK, you just begin to wonder who is actually driving this policy, and how much they have had to pay for their interests to be pushed.

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