Monday, June 12, 2006

Playing With Fire

The quotation I'm about to use isn't for real. Big Jules didn't say it and neither did Will's version of him. In fact, no-one seems to know where these lines came from. Wikipedia says they were written by political cartoonist Paul Conrad but Snopes says the quotation first appeared on the interwebs in 2001 and Conrad's cartoon wasn't published until late 2002. Anyway, whoever it was, it wasn't Julius Caesar. That doesn't mean it's not a useful introduction to this post.
Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervor, for patriotism is indeed a double-edged sword. It both emboldens the blood, just as it narrows the mind. And when the drums of war have reached a fever pitch and the blood boils with hate and the mind has closed, the leader will have no need in seizing the rights of the citizenry. Rather, the citizenry, infused with fear and blinded by patriotism, will offer up all of their rights unto the leader and gladly so. How do I know? For this is what I have done. And I am Caesar.
With that ficticious but salient quotation in mind, it's time to turn to the Beeb's Have Your Say on last week's anti-terror raid in Forest Gate. Here are the two most recommended comments as I write this:
Why should police action affect "race relations" They uphold the laws of the land, decided by members of parliament elected by the people, why are people from one religion,not a race, allowed to put the police force under such scrutiny,no other religion does, and would they be allowed to do it in any other country?. NO, so stop aplogising,there's nothing to apologise for nobody has to stay here if it does not suit them.
- jennileoni, Milton Keynes

So what should the police do? Ignore intelligence and then when muslim fanatics blow up another bomb who will get the blame?

Perhaps if muslim communities weren't so incredibly insular then intelligence would flow more easily and this kind of thing wouldn't happen again.
- Neo Neko, Newcastle
Going through the recommended comments, the ninteenth is the first to be critical of this raid. I'm always wary of making generalisations based on the opinions of interweb geeks (and I include myself in that) but I do get the sense that this HYS is broadly representative of public opinion as a whole at the moment. It appears that the "law abiding majority" have been infused with fear to the necessary degree.

That ninteenth most recommended comment, the first appearance of a dissenting opinion, is a genuine well known quotation:
When the Nazis came for the communists, I remained silent; I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats, I remained silent; I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists, I did not speak out; I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews, I did not speak out; I was not a Jew.

When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out.
- Martin Niemöller

Posted by Steve, UK.

Blair is not Hitler. As I've said before, I believe that direct comparisions of the two men are unjustified hyperbole and not at all helpful. That isn't the point.

The point is that Blair does not show any sign that he understands the conditions in which prejudice and extremism thrive (a characteristic he shares with much of the media, it has to be said). We owe it to those who defended our country against Hitler's aggression to never forget the fact that the Nazis polled over 40% in the 1933 German elections. The reasons why this happened are complex, and many of them do not apply to the UK in 2006, but the lessons of that barbaric time should never be forgotten. Blair, if his actions are any guide, has done just that.

He, by manipulating and amplifying the terrorist threat for his own political purposes, is creating increased hostility towards a minority group in our society. It is a dangerous undertaking and one that could easily spiral out of control and lead to extremely unpleasant unintended consequences.

After a disasterous raid like this, in which an unarmed man was shot by a police officer, the most popular sentiment on the Beeb's HYS forum is that "there's nothing to apologise for nobody has to stay here if it does not suit them". And let's be honest here; the word "nobody" is clearly a euphemism for "they".

Why can the PM not see the dangers of the path he has chosen to lead us down? I don't know the answer; I wish I did. But the fact that he cannot is undoubtedly a cause for great concern.

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Anonymous said...

Agree the HYS comments about the Forest Gate raid very worrying and some of them blatently racist. I wondered why the BBC monitoring let quite so much mad bile through. I also wondered how many comments might be from police officers and their family members seeking to divert criticism from the Met.

Robert said...

Keep writing stuff like this Garry.