Five Presidents: A picture tells a story

 (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

In the photographs (the one above and the one below) the various presidents provide signals of their status. Although no analysis is definitive since the context and dynamic need to be consider, this photograph captures a unique event that is worthy of detailed analysis. As the photograph is static, we need a cluster of signals, not the single or individual signals that each president reveals to understand what individual elements mean as a whole.

The signals that reveal the most about the subjects are those that are ones they control with intent, which in turn reflects what they think. The main sources of signals within the picture are Hands, Head, Position, and Clothing. Clothing is included since it represents a conscious choice, the president has to dress for a special occasion and that reflects thought and intent. If the picture contained their feet, we could consider that signal as well since how they place their feet will reveal something about their mental and emotional state. If we had a video showing the presidents shaking their feet or crossing their legs, it would provide us further insights into their emotional state and their thinking.  We start with the hands.

Hands

Which man is not yet president? Barack Obama’s crossed hands show a defensive posture that suggests he is ill at ease as he is in the presence of 4 former presidents and the current president. One explanation is that he is the only one not to occupy the Oval Office and experienced its status and cost. By contrast, George W. Bush has his hands at his sides and his stance, at the centre of the group, shows he is confident and in charge. This is his office. By contrast, Bill Clinton’s hands are hidden behind his back which suggests control and a false sense of openness. He is holding something back, which may be the fact that his wife is still in government and he has to watch his step. George H. Bush shows his relaxed and confident pose with his hands in his pockets. After all, he was president and his son is president, which would be reason enough to provide him with confidence since it is a rare feat. Jimmy Carter looks relaxed as well with his hands at his side. His pose seems similar to George W Bush’s as it reflects someone comfortable in his position. Of the presidents, he is the most outspoken and distant from the main group, which is perhaps reflected in his pose apart from the main group. He may indicate that he is comfortable with his status and is not connected to the presidents who are active political operates. His hands show he is relaxed in this mode. We have to consider that another explanation for Obama’s defensive posture may be that he is uncomfortable being positioned next to George H and George W Bush and he does not yet have the status to dictate where he wants to stand.

Heads

Presidents are professional politicians who know that when they are in the spotlight they have to control their physical and emotional behaviour. Their heads reveal much more because they are controlling how the rest of their body moves. All the men are looking forward to the camera(s) even though George W Bush has a different focus point in that moment. George H. Bush, who is on the end, has his head slightly tilted towards Barack Obama who is on his left and Jimmy Carter, on the other end, has his head slightly tilted towards Bill Clinton who is on his right. The ends are tilting to the middle which suggests a basic consensus of the group towards the incumbent President. Three head positions that are noticeable in the photo. Two are minor and one that is a major significance. The first is that Bill Clinton’s head does not tilt either towards Bush or Carter as if he is separate from either man. George H. Bush’s head tilts slightly towards Barack Obama. The major issue is how far Barack Obama’s head tilts towards George H. Bush. The difference is significant since it is whether it is away from George W or if it is towards George H. The tilt towards George H may reflects perhaps an unconscious identification Obama may have with George H. Bush as the oldest male. One could go further to suggest an unconscious father figure association. What this may reveal is that Obama, who was raised by his grandparents, may link George W to that memory or experience.

Position

The presidents appear to be ordered from left to right, with George W Bush, the incumbent president, at the centre according to their political position. Carter on the left, with Clinton to his right, George W Bush in the centre and George H. Bush is farthest to right. What is of interest is that Obama is situated between George H. Bush and George W. Bush. Does this reflect his political inclinations or the need to fit within the hierarchy of Bush father and Bush son. It may also indicate that as George W’s successor he is literally his right hand since he takes over from him.

There are three noticeable stances to analyse when we consider their position. The first is the gap between Carter and Clinton and the rest of the Presidents. The only stance where there is a gap is between Clinton and Carter. The gap is made noticeable because Clinton has his hands behind his back and is closer to Bush and standing slightly behind him. Clinton is not trying to reach out to Carter and by placing his hands behind his back he shows his distance from him. The second noticeable stance is that Carter is the only President not to have positioned himself with his shoulders behind George W. Bush’s shoulders. Carter was and remains an outspoken critic of the Iraq War and its aftermath. By contrast, Clinton, George H. Bush, and Obama are all behind George W. Bush’s shoulders while Carter’s shoulders are level to them. The third stance that is noticeable is Barack Obama’s.  He is behind George W. Bush and in front of George H. Bush.  What is striking is that Obama’s left shoulder appears raised as if George W Bush is crowding him and Obama is trying to avoid touching him. Obama’s whole stance appears as if he is trying to move away from George W. Bush and towards George H. Bush. At the same time, it may also signify that both Bush’s want to be close to Obama to bask in his current popularity and status. They may have position themselves to exclude Clinton and Carter from that opportunity so that the public see Obama close to them in any photos that would focus on Obama.

Clothing

Three men are wearing blue ties and two are wearing red. What is of interest is the following.  Carter is the most distinctive. He is wearing a gray suit and a red tie.  No one else is where a gray suit. His suit is the lightest of the group, again, perhaps to show his distance from the main group. Two presidents, Clinton and Carter, are wearing red ties. Three presidents are wearing blue ties but they are not from the same party.  George W. Bush and George H. Bush are Republicans and Barack Obama is a Democrat.  Obama appears to be trying to fit in by having the same tie and the same dark suits as George W and George H Bush. The suit colours are all dark except for Jimmy Carter has a relatively lower public profile and rarely seeks publicity.

Feet

In the photo below, we see the same situation from a slightly different angle which allows us to see each president’s feet and their full posture. What is noticeable is how relaxed George H. Bush is in his posture with his hands in his pockets and his feet comfortably apart, right foot forward. By contrast, Bill Clinton looks as if he standing at attention with his heels together, his hands behind his back, and his posture appearing almost ramrod straight. Jimmy Carter is also relaxed with his feet apart and his hands on his side. However, he doe snot appear as comfortable as George H. Bush. In a similar way Barack Obama, as the president elect, has a posture similar to Clinton’s although his heels are not touching and his hands are crossed in front. We can notice how uncomfortable, for a President in his own office, George W. Bush looks. His feet are separated but with one foot slightly raised as if resting on the side of his foot, his feet betray a sense of unease. At the same time, his posture pushes him in front of Barack Obama as if he is trying to crowd him out. The dynamic and implicit tension between the President and the President Elect is clear. One could also suggest that Bush is trying to align himself with Obama, who is the next president and clearly more charismatic, to share the spotlight and attention. In a sense, we can see one President holding on to the spotlight even as the other President emerges from their shadow as their successor.

English: In January 2009, President of the Uni...

English: In January 2009, President of the United States of America, George W. Bush invited then President-Elect Barack Obama and former Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter for a Meeting and Lunch at The White House. Photo taken in the Oval Office at The White House. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Analysis

The photos reveal an Obama that is still not comfortable with his role. What needs to be done is to have a similar photo taken in a year when Obama has been President. One would suspect that the body language will change as the position and posture change. At the same time, Obama’s discomfort may reflect that there is a Bush to either side of him and that keeps him from expressing where he wants to stand. They may be standing close to him so that they share in his current popularity.  What is striking, aside from Obama’s attempts to mask a deeper discomfort, is how far Carter is cut adrift from the rest of the group.  He is either quite comfortable in his outspoken status or the group is trying to distance themselves from him so that they are seen with Obama and not being identified as being with Carter.  One could almost imagine based upon the campaign and Obama’s own rhetoric, that he would be more comfortable standing between Clinton and Carter and not between George H and George W Bush. A last point to consider is that Obama appears the happiest of the presidents. He is uninitiated in its burdens, which may suggest why his smile is broadest and appears genuine. The other presidents, while their expressions are positive and open, do not show an openness or depth of feeling that Obama clearly expresses. The nearest expression to that of Obama is Gorge W Bush who seems almost appears giddy in being the host but also aware that he is soon to shrug off the burdens of the presidency.

As the saying, often attributed to Sigmund Freud, goes “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar”, so too sometimes a picture is just a picture. We can read into situations and images what we want. Yet, what is clear is that the pictures do capture something important in the positional dynamics of powerful people. Perhaps these are sub-conscious behaviors or simply what the photographer wanted, but they do give us an opportunity to see the presidents in a way that helps us understand how they understand themselves. What will be useful is to compare this photograph with any that Obama has with Donald Trump and whether Trump would feel comfortable to be in the presence of the former presidents.

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Theresa May, Brexit and the lost imperial past of a Global Britain

Theresa May

Theresa May (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Theresa May has flattered her party and she wants to seduce the public. Despite the harsh economic reality, she has offered a dream that re-imagines the UK’s imperial past as a bright future. Her post Brexit path is towards a Global Britain. In her opening speech to the Conservative Party Conference, she explained that Brexit meant the UK would become an independent, sovereign nation one that will allow the UK to reach its potential to be a Global Britain.[1]

We are going to be a fully-independent, sovereign country, a country that is no longer part of a political union with supranational institutions that can override national parliaments and courts.  And that means we are going, once more, to have the freedom to make our own decisions on a whole host of different matters, from how we label our food to the way in which we choose to control immigration.[2]

Think globally, act locally is not what May has promised.

Her comments have evoked a long dead ghost of an imperial past as if by Brexit, the UK will become what it once was. Despite her brave rhetoric, which flatters her audience, she knows that the effort to act globally and independently is beyond the UK’s capacity. The UK’s success is a direct result of EU membership. She must realize that she cannot meet all of the promises, in particular the rights that developed with EU membership, and act globally. The UK cannot have its cake and eat it too. The effort to sustain the EU derived rights was sustained by EU membership with the easier trade, the free movement of people and capital. When she listed the UK’s accomplishments, she forgot to mention these were all within the context of EU membership.

And we attract a fifth of all foreign investment in the EU.  We are the biggest foreign investor in the United States.  We have more Nobel Laureates than any country outside America.  We have the best intelligence services in the world, a military that can project its power around the globe, and friendships, partnerships and alliances in every continent.  We have the greatest soft power in the world, we sit in exactly the right time zone for global trade, and our language is the language of the world.

Systemic inequality remains despite EU membership by intent.

Despite this success, the fundamental, systemic problems remain. The UK has great and growing economic inequality. Despite 40 years of EU membership, the UK’s economic inequality has increased. The brutal, systemic economic inequality between the South of England and the North East refutes her claims to Global Britain. She ignores this inequality, an inequality that has continued for generations, so she can flatter her audience. She will seduce the public with claims that a neo-imperial dream of Global Britain.

It should make us think of Global Britain, a country with the self-confidence and the freedom to look beyond the continent of Europe and to the economic and diplomatic opportunities of the wider world.  Because we know that the referendum was not a vote to turn in ourselves, to cut ourselves off from the world.  It was a vote for Britain to stand tall, to believe in ourselves, to forge an ambitious and optimistic new role in the world.

Her rhetoric would have the audience and the wider public forget that EU membership multiplied the UK’s status and power. Her rhetoric overlooks two brutal truths that she must know as PM. She omits these truths, which reveals her intent.

Two brutal truths that May hid from her audience and the public.

First, the Global Britain overlooks the harsh economic and societal inequality within the UK. If only we look abroad to global free trade, we need not focus on the North East’s brutal, vicious, for it is intentional, economic fate. She did not talk of the North East for that does not fit her narrative. They have suffered for generations. They don’t fit her grandiose Brexit dreams. She wants to be able to claim she speaks for all even though she has no plans to end or even reduce this economic inequality. She has no plans to address the social inequality, which can only worsen as the UK leaves the EU. For all her talk of everyone, as if it is the common good, she talks only to those who will benefit from Brexit for they are her audience.

The UK lacks the capacity to act globally outside the EU.

Second, Global Britain overlooks the strategic reality. EU membership increased the UK’s freedom to act. As part of the EU, the UK could rely on its neutrality if not its support in any international disputes. Outside the EU, the UK must reconsider the EU’s views whenever it acts. In a dispute with Argentina, the UK could find itself subject to EU sanctions. May and her advisers have forgotten the fundamental principle of the UK’s foreign policy that it followed for over 400 years. As Churchill explained, the UK has acted to keep Europe from being dominated by a single power. When the UK joined the EU, it ensured that the EU could not threaten the UK. Moreover, its EU membership helped to keep Europe from being dominated by the Soviet Union. Outside the EU, the UK will have abandoned that principle. It would allow Europe to become a unified threat. It would weaken the EU against Russia. She may claim that NATO has rendered that UK foreign policy principle invalid, yet that simply means that someone else, America and the EU, determine the UK’s freedom.

Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true**

Theresa May has sold her party and the public a dream, a dream of a neo-imperial Global Britain. Her dream, like all dreams, is a salve to ward off Britain’s brutal reality of economic inequality and strategic weakness. She may sell the dream but the gap between appearance and reality will define her, Brexit, and Britain.

[1] https://www.politicshome.com/news/uk/political-parties/conservative-party/news/79517/read-full-theresa-mays-conservative

[2] Ibid. One has to ask why food labelling is so important for the UK’s fate. Perhaps it is to show that Parliament’s inability to rule on food labels indicates the extent to which its status has been diminished. Yet, it also raises the question of why the UK did not legislate on food labelling on its own and why it waited too long to accept what the EU offered. One has to wonder if it was the EU that was acting for the best interests of the UK instead of the UK government.

**http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/brucespringsteen/theriver.html

Posted in censorship, corruption, justice, public opinion, statesmanship | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Trump is only a symptom; he is not the problem.

speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on Februar...

speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on February 10, 2011. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We are outraged at Donald Trump’s private remarks. He spoke of his attempt to seduce a married woman. In his crude language, he said he tried to fornicate with her or at least make clear his intention to do so by grabbing her genitals. They want us to believe he is the problem. What we must avoid is the thought that he is only a symptom.

The public are outraged and people cannot believe that he would talk that way in public. They want to believe that other public figures do not behave that way, or if they did, their private behaviour would be made public. In particular, the public cannot understand how various public figures, such as Lyndon Johnson, John F Kennedy, Roger Ailes, or Rudy Giuliani could make such comments, behave this way, and get away with it for so long.

What Trump talked about previous president did.

The America public want to believe or are encouraged to believe that Trump is a singularity, he is beyond the pale. What they are discouraged from believing or considering is that he is normal in the sense that his behaviour is common and therefore unsurprising. In America, the powerful have long been indulged in their desires legal or otherwise. We only note the many sex scandals within Hollywood or the wider entertainment culture to see how those with status, wealth, or celebrity believe that they can act with near impunity. More widely, American culture now encourages, if not embraces, wider translegal desires that strike at the heart of America’s civil religion.

In the past, one would expect that public leaders would display personal fidelity and behave moderately in the public domain. Where private behaviours did not correspond to such public demands, they would be restrained and kept from public sight to avoid inflaming public disapproval. The public life required a certain private moderation. Alas, that era is gone and has been gone for decades before Trump emerged as a candidate.

What Trump expresses and gets away with is a disordered eros, a tyrannical longing, to indulge his sexual appetites with any women, whether she is married or not. He can indulge his appetites, his translegal desires, because of his powers and that is why others want to be powerful. America’s culture nurtures the belief, especially through entertainment, that if you are successful, and most of all power ful, your desires will be fulfilled because you deserve it, you are worth it. Thus, the public are habituated to pursue power, wealth, and success for the translegal desires that can be indulged.

The powerful have private lives that are well protected by law or threats.

We know that public officials often have private lives that appear to escape scrutiny. We also know that politicians will be protected by loyal aides and staff who have invested much in their patron’s success. They will display a loyalty to their employer or patron at the law’s expense. One can only imagine the level of fear that politically powerful figures, ones connected to the political establishment, could generate such as Johnson or Kennedy or even a governor in a small state.

Even if you raise it, who will believe you?

If you did raise a concern, who would believe you? Would anyone care? In a political campaign, the culture is one where supporters will look the other way to ensure their candidate gets elected. In many cases, we know that such people looked the other way and just dismissed the possibility of abuse. Some did not even investigate. Others simply excused it almost like an entitlement. Powerful men like LBJ and JFK are to be indulged for their status. What would be the attitude in the professions that wield the state’s coercive power? A lowly employee is going to think twice if they think of reporting the incident. The lowly political person will know how vindictive politically powerful figures are. Without exception, the political powerful are also vindictive people who always seek to punish their enemies often seeking revenge for slights from decades earlier. The nature of politics is that you seek to help your friends and hurt your enemies.

Caught in a shower having sex with a child and still ignored

Even without the fear, are they likely to be believed? We are surprised at Trump’s statements but when Jerry Sandusky was caught in the shower with a child, he escaped punishment for 10 years.[1] Even now people defend Penn State and the failures to bring Sandusky to justice.  Excuses and rationalizes just roll off the tongue. Anyone can and does rationalize any and all behaviour that they see or display. We only need to glance at Fox News, which shapes the public domain, where Roger Ailes engaged in behaviour that humiliated women. Horrific acts can and have been excused or overlooked when it suited the powerful. America is no different.

Trump’s behaviour is common in politics, business, and our entertainment culture

What Trumps comments reveal is what has been implicit in American culture. His behaviour is revealed only when it serves a political purpose not for being intrinsically wrong. If his behaviour was considered intrinsically wrong, it would not have waited for an election to bring it to the surface. However, the problem is deeper than Trump, his comments, or even Fox News. America has indulged its disordered eros in direct proportion to its imperial ethos. America’s foreign policy behaviour is now being expressed domestically. Trump expresses the age old belief that the strong do as they want; the weak do as they must. In the domestic realm, Trump has revealed America’s disordered soul, the tyrant’s life, which Americans are willing to excuse so long as they benefit from it whether it is a politician, a businessman, or an entertainer.

Trump reveals what we want to hide: the translegal desires that drive our culture

America needs to look around and see that Trump’s behaviour is not new and it is not shocking; it is American culture. America has embraced a disordered eros; for it is what drives America. The disordered eros will not stop if Trump loses the election. He is only a symptom; he is not the problem. America will not address this deeper problem and that is the truth that hysterical faux outrage over Trump’s comments hides.

[1] Jerry Sandusky was eventually arrested, tried, and convicted for sexually abusing children. However, the incident in the shower did not immediately trigger his suspension or arrest. (It occurred in 2001, he was not arrested until 2011.) His status within the Penn State football programme and the standing of the Penn State football programme within the University and within the community protected him. Surely, an ex-PM would garner the same, if not more, deference and protection. http://www.addictinginfo.org/2013/03/25/jerry-sandusky-i-was-just-fooling-around-when-caught-boy-in-shower/  For an overview of the case consider: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerry_Sandusky

Posted in Government, philosophy, privacy, public opinion, statesmanship | Tagged , , , , , ,

When facts don’t matter, democracy dies.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts.

– Daniel Patrick Moynihan

The reason people think facts are subjective is that facts are not self-evident, they require context to be understood. We could say that Belgium invaded Germany in World War One. Unless someone knew about Belgium, Germany, and how the war started, they could not disprove that claim. To prove the fact is true requires other facts such as evidence of Germany’s invasion plans, Belgium neutrality, or eyewitness accounts. What a fact usually requires is a factual context, either other facts, or eye witnesses or other testimony that can be verified. On the surface, when facts and opinions clash the dispute is usually settled by what the majority agree. What makes facts even more unreliable is that witnesses can be encourage to bear false witness. If you persuade a group of people to bear false witness about a fact or facts, then a majority can create a truth that contradicts the facts.[1]

When facts don’t matter the loudest voice wins.

Hannah Arendt in her famous essay Truth and Politics, described how totalitarian regimes twisted facts to suit their “truth”. She had seen how the Nazi tyranny and the Soviet tyranny had succeeded because facts were replaced with opinions. In those regimes, the loudest voice, the most violent faction, was able to impose itself as facts were seen to be opinions, or relative to what could be imposed with force. When facts got in their way they discredited the facts, the speaker, or both. In a normal democracy, a citizen, armed with facts, can hold power to account. To overcome such citizens, a tyranny has to use force which reveals the regime’s true nature. If they do not want to use force, they will use the next best thing. They will replace the facts with opinions so that the loudest voices or the most voices will decide what is right. When opinions replace facts, then the loudest voice, or the most persuasive voice, or the voice with the most supporters will win. In the contest between opinions and facts, the facts are at a disadvantage for facts can only succeed when they are embedded in the truth or in political knowledge. Yet, opinions about political things is easier to display and is often confused with political knowledge, which is knowledge of political things.

Political knowledge is always hidden by opinions

Citizens will have opinions about the political things such as elections, laws, political parties, public records. These political opinions are their prejudices or guesses about political things. From these opinions, we can create political knowledge through discovery and reasoned debate. When people compare and discuss their opinions about the facts they can create political knowledge. However, political knowledge is confused with opinion so truth based in the nature of political things remains elusive. However, as long as we can discover the nature of political things, by discovering and debating political facts based within the nature of political things, then political truths are possible. As the nature of political things cannot be changed by an act of will in the way an opinion can be changed, we have an agreed foundation within which to build decent politics. In turn, political knowledge is sustained by a web of facts that anchors it in reality. As Arendt explained, facts are embedded in the fabric of history. A fact torn from its context is easily spotted as a falsehood. If someone were to claim that President Abraham Lincoln died in 1965, we could see that as an obvious falsehood. Yet, political knowledge is often hidden by, or confused with, political opinions. It is these opinions about the nature of political things that governments will want to control. Any government knows that it is easier to shape public opinion than to change facts.

To destroy facts one has to destroy the trust needed to sustain a political community.

A regime’s resistance to facts, though, is not limited to totalitarian politics, it occurs in any regime. A regime finds it easier to control the public domain when they can rely on an opinion instead of working to facts that might contradict them. When facts don’t matter, then any “fact” can be shaped to fit the “truth” the speaker wants to claim. When Donald Trump expresses his political opinion that Barack Obama is not an American citizen, he wants his opinion that the President’s birth certificate is fraudulent to replace the fact that it is genuine. He asserts his opinion to create a doubt about the facts. His opinion, is only the problem’s surface. What makes his behaviour insidious and destructive is that he wants to pull apart the historical fabric within which the fact exists and makes the birth certificate valid. To achieve this outcome, Trump and his “truthers” attacked the common good. They tried to unravel the web of trust our democracy requires. They tried to sever the birth registration process within the government bureaucratic process from the system of public records. To do this, they sought to destroy the integrity of all the people in that web of trust. When such a practice of tearing apart the historical fabric is accepted as normal within a democracy, it destroys the common good. In effect, Trump’s claim means that any fact he disagrees with must be false and his opinions are true. His claim of doubt about any topic, be it Obama’s birth certificate or the Clintons’ marriage, is true. When facts don’t matter, democracy dies for there is no political knowledge and no political truths that can hold the society together or hold the majority to account. When facts don’t matter only the loudest voice matters and a community based on that belief soon decays into demagoguery and mob rule.

When you can have your opinions considered the truth, there is no limit to what you can do

Like all demagogues “truthers” wants to discredit political facts as a common standard for behaviour within the public domain so their opinions can take root. Without a common standard of truth, based on political facts, the common good that binds the country together decays. When the common good decays, then factions can rule. The faction which can promote its opinion most strongly wins. Yet, that does not allow for us to judge the opinions since a demagogue like Trump can shape his “facts” to fit what his audience expects since his facts are simply his opinion. We saw this in the UK during the recent EU referendum. Nigel Farage made claims about £350 million a week being sent to the EU which would be returned to the NHS.[2] He was challenged on it and claimed it was true and those who doubted it were trying to scare the public. After the referendum, won in part on claims such as that and other claims, he and others recanted on that statement. They said it would not happen. Yet, their opinions passed as political truths had succeeded.

Farage and Trump succeed because they present their opinions as truths.

Farage and Trump’s facts are not based in a verifiable context. They, like sophists of old, can present whatever the audience wants to hear. As they only need to present what they believe will persuade the audience, they will always sound more persuasive than those who have political knowledge or political facts. When those with political facts and political knowledge try to explain these truths, the sophists, such as Boris Johnson and Dom Cummings, can escape by saying “I don’t do details”. Even though the facts are unalterable, Johnson and Cummings can tout their opinions as truths since what matters to them is that they convince their audience. If they have convinced their audience, and made it funny, then they have succeeded. Through the faux humour or faux arrogance, they sound more persuasive since they can make their opinions match to the audience’s preferred beliefs. They have no desire to engage the truth teller in a search for the truth of the matter. Instead, they can say; “The EU is wasteful; the UK is being ripped off” and the audience will find it easier to believe the seductive, because they are comforting, opinions. The truth tellers, by contrast, will sound dour since they can only point to an arduous path needed to understand the political knowledge about political things. When truth Teller like Andrew Tyrie meets these men he has two disadvantages.[3] In such a domain, a truth teller, someone who has political knowledge and knows political truths will be unpersuasive since their facts will appear unbelievable to someone who understands reality as simply an opinion. As there will be many people who will share that opinion, it becomes exponentially difficult for the truth teller to succeed. Second, he has to remain true to the truth as he seeks to counter someone who is completely unmoored from the facts. He can only repeat the facts even as his opponent creates an opinion without any basis in such facts since his opponent does not share his starting premise—that the truth matters.

When you can discredit the truth tellers, who will stop you?

With truth tellers discredited, the “truthers” can impose their opinions as the “truth” without concern for verifiable political facts. The “truther” will insist that any facts they disagree with are simply opinions. (It is your opinion that Obama’s birth certificate is valid. It is your opinion that I said immigration was good. It is your opinion that I said the NHS would receive 350 million per week that goes to the EU.) The political opinion is defended as a constitutional right. In such a demand, the “truther” wants the right to replace facts with opinions. Moreover, they will insist that facts are subjective and their opinions have to be respected as equal to or superior to any facts. If you disagree, they will insist that they have a constitutional right to free speech to speak their opinion that facts are simply opinions. He will assert that he has a right to be wrong, yet no one has a right to be wrong about facts:

Germany did invade Belgium. Belgium did not invade Germany.

The Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776. The Declaration of Independence was not signed in 1976.

Trump did lose in Iowa. Trump did not win in Iowa.

 

Without the insistence on facts and the truth derived from them, decent politics begins to wither. When opinions replace facts, a shared understanding of political things begins to decay. In time, the allegiance to an arbitrary opinion is what holds the community together. In that situation, loyalty to the opinion becomes the standard of truth. The common good is defined by that loyalty. In turn, the faction that rules or is the loudest gets to determine the ruling opinion. We move beyond majority rule to a totalitarian rule since the community lacks a standard, truth based on facts, that holds the majority to account. Those opposed to the dominant opinion have no basis upon which to debate or reason since the opinion, unmoored from facts, or the historical context, determines the “truth”. In that moment, liberal democracy dies for it relies upon self-evident truths that sustain the opinion that facts matter.

 

[1] “[F]actual truth is no more self-evident than opinion, and this may be among the reasons that opinion-holders find it relatively easy to discredit factual truth as just another opinion. Factual evidence, moreover, is established through testimony by eyewitnesses – notoriously unreliable – and by records, documents, and monuments, all of which can be suspected as forgeries. In the event of a dispute, only other witnesses but no third and higher instance can be invoked, and settlement is usually arrived at by way of a majority; that is, in the same way as the settlement of opinion disputes – a wholly unsatisfactory procedure, since there is nothing to prevent a majority of witnesses from being false witnesses.”

TRUTH AND POLITICS by Hannah Arendt Originally published in The New Yorker, February 25, 1967, and reprinted with minor changes in Between Past and Future (1968) and The Portable Hannah Arendt edited by Peter Baier (2000) and Truth: Engagements Across Philosophical Traditions edited by Medina and Wood (2005) p. 304

[2] http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/boris-johnsons-brexit-campaign-prints-7943300

[3] http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2016/04/watch-vote-leaves-dom-cummings-is-grilled-by-andrew-tyrie-this-sounds-like-aladdins-cave-to-me/ see also http://www.politics.co.uk/blogs/2016/03/23/boris-johnson-grilled-on-eu-referendum-as-it-happens

Here is an indicative passage.

11.09 – Johnson now being questioned by Wes Streeting, an up-and-coming Labour MP, who predicted that Boris would flounder today (see below). Streeting asks Boris to agree that there would be “an economic shock” to exit. Boris disagrees then Streeting points out this is what Boris’s own economic adviser Gerard Lyons said previously (see below again). “You don’t agree with your own adviser?” Boris (falsely) denies that Lyons said this and insists there will be no economic downsides. “British democracy [and economy] would be galvanised,” he insists.

Posted in corruption, justice, philosophy, public opinion, statesmanship | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Incest and tyranny, Trump fits a pattern

The creepy Dr. Tower (Claude Rains) commits in...

The creepy Dr. Tower (Claude Rains) commits incest with his daughter Cassandra in the novel. Censors forbade that in the film. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Incest is an abuse of power. The incest, though, is more than physical abuse as it can include emotional or psychological elements. From ancient times, incest was shunned for its effect on the family and more widely on society. For the ancient Athenians, incest had political consequences as they saw the polis as an extended family.[1]. In political terms, incest would be a way to describe tyranny. The tyrant, acting as the city’s patriarch, had a disordered eros as the city served his interests and the normal relationship between ruler and ruled was corrupted. In the medieval era, incest by the father was described as a domestic tyrant.[2]. The father corrupted the family by his incestuous relationship with his daughter. The father, unable to control his disordered eros, corrupted the family structure as the daughter replaced his wife as a sexual partner.

From the physical to the psychological, incest takes many forms.

The modern view of incest moves beyond the physical to the psychological. The physical abuse can be replaced by a form of psychological abuse. Judith Warner cites Judith Lewis Herman on that issue.

Incest, she says, is “an abuse of patriarchal power,” a criminal perversion of fatherly control and influence. It is perpetrated, in many cases, by men who present themselves as the guardians of the moral order. And it isn’t always physical; in her 1981 book (with Lisa Hirschman), “Father-Daughter Incest,” she writes that the violation can be emotional, too, as when a “seductive father” oversteps his boundaries and goes places he never should in his daughter’s head.[3] [Emphasis added]

When we consider the emotional or psychological incest, we see how the seductive father oversteps the normal boundaries between a father and a daughter. When a divorced father boasts about his daughter, in her presence, that she has a hot body and that if he was not her father, he would date her, he crosses the boundary.[4] He gets into her head. The comment puts the daughter in an invidious position. The father erases the normal parental role as he indicates that she is now eligible to be a potential sexual partner. He gives her his highest approval. She wants to be approved but not in that way. She cannot correct her father for that risks his displeasure. The father forces the daughter to consider him as a potential sexual partner. She has to consider the idea if only to reject it.  In that moment, the father publicly asserts his psychological power over his daughter. He reminds that her physical and sexual potential meet his approval. He asserts his sexual prowess, by his statement, and he abuses the psychological and emotional relationship. She is no longer his daughter; she is a viable sexual partner.

When the family is the microcosm of the state, incest has political consequences

If a father will inflict that emotional abuse on his daughter, what is he capable on a larger scale? Thankfully, most father-daughter incestuous relationships have no consequences beyond the family. Yet, the ancient Greeks viewed the family as a model for the state.[5] Aristotle argued that the family was the building block of the city/polis.[6] The Ancient Greeks understood that individual abuse, driven by a disordered eros, could scale to the city level if the father was able to gain control of the polis. The problem was the disordered eros that drove the father to the incestuous comments would have political consequences. On a larger scale, the disordered eros would have even greater consequences. What the seductive father does to his daughter within the family, the tyrant can do to a community within a nation. He will abuse it so that it will serve his disordered erotic political vision. He will seduce the state that he is supposed to protect and serve so that it is corrupted to serve his interests.

[1] [1] Wohl, V. 2002. Love Among the Ruins: The Erotics of Democracy in Classical Athens, Princeton and London: Princeton University Press. p 221. Quoted in Larivee, Annie. Eros Tyrannos: Alcibiades as the Model of the Tyrant in Book IX of the Republic. The International Journal of the Platonic Tradition 6 (2012) p.9.

[2] Archibald, Elizabeth. Incest and the Medieval Imagination. Oxford, Claredon Press, 2003 p.190    https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=qfqWgZETHdQC&pg=PA190&lpg=PA190&dq=incest+tyranny+father+daughter&source=bl&ots=DLshrTQPei&sig=dTL85ACj75zw8i3gYG0TupLZN6k&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiLlbiagKjPAhWMLsAKHTKIAKwQ6AEIHjAA#v=onepage&q=incest%20tyranny%20father%20daughter&f=false

[3] Warner, Judith. Pure Tyranny ,New York Times, The Opinion Pages, 13 June 2008

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/13/opinion/13iht-edwarner.1.13693546.html?_r=0  (accessed 24 September 2016)

[4] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DP7yf8-Lk80

Trump repeated his remarks on other occasions and has never retracted his views nor has he apologised publicly to his daughter.

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Family_as_a_model_for_the_state

[6] Aristotle. Politics. 1.1252a http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0058

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Mike Cernovich, propaganda and the Truth

Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton stopped...

Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton stopped by Little Rock to get the endorsement of Governor Mike Beebe. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In an interesting film, Mike Cernovich (hereafter MC) says that he is tired of mainstream media propaganda.[1] He does not believe that the media covered the conventions correctly. He sets out to the tell the truth about the conventions, the protests, and the media’s failure to cover either appropriately. For MC, the media’s failure indicates they engage in propaganda.[2] To counter this propaganda, he will broadcast the truth, at least the truth as he understands it or can capture with Periscope.[3]

At a technical level, the film shows the relative ease with which one can use the Periscope application to capture live events and broadcast them. Periscope appears to make video as easy to broadcast as social media platforms like WordPress and Blogger make documents easy to publish. The short comings, though, are not from technology but from the content, in particular, the way the issues are framed.

What are the issues with content or intent?

First, MC believes he acts in the spirit of a truth teller, a Parrhesiastes.[4] I admire his desire to act thusly even though he falls short. The truth teller, to succeed, has to hold the Truth, not simply an opinion about how he understands the Truth or even an opinion about the Truth. The truth teller is someone who is compelled to tell the Truth in the face of danger. The truth teller must confront the prevailing opinion. The prevailing opinion may, or may not be, the orthodoxy. In most cases, though, what has to be challenged is the accepted public opinion about something or the opinion that the media has reported. In this case, MC contests the prevailing opinion about the media’s reports on the political party conventions.

The truth is opposed to opinion, therein the film’s major flaw

Second, we have to clear up a common misunderstanding about Truth, lies, and opinions. The prevailing opinion is that a lie is the opposite of the truth. The dichotomy is between truth and lie. Yet, this prevailing opinion limits debate and discussion. Instead, we need to consider that the opposite of the truth is opinion. When we start with this understanding, as informed by Hannah Arendt’s work, we see how MC’s approach will suffer a near fatal flaw.[5] MC approaches the media’s reporting as if he has the truth about the conventions and the coverage based on what he has seen and recorded through Periscope. As he believes he has the truth, he will see the media’s reporting as at worst a lie and at best propaganda. His position is unsurprising since it is what most people believe in the public domain when they engage in politics. Like others, MC thinks he has the truth, not simply an opinion about the truth, or even an understanding of an opinion about the truth. He has the Truth. From this premise, we come to an immediate problem. We cannot see that two people can consider the same event and come away with different opinions. Instead, one must be wrong and the other right. One must be telling the truth and therefore the other must be lying. Yet, once we consider that they both might have an opinion about the convention and the coverage, we then begin to see that we need for a public dialogue to discern the truth.

What is often missed in such reporting, MC acts as a type of reporter in his approach, is the need to discern, through a reasoned discussion, the differences within the opinions as well as how they overlap. When citizens discuss an issue, to diacern its meaning, they begin to exercise public reasoning. Yet, when the public reasoning is reduced to an “either/or” case and not “both and” we cannot reconcile the opinions or begin to consider which opinion comes closer to uncovering the reality of the situation.[6] In that sense, we cannot build a shared understanding, we limit debate and we stay in our echo chamber.  We find what we are looking for, a type of confirmation bias, because we only look for what we want to find. At any given time, the truth, based on reconciled opinions, is a constructed truth, which sustains the common good. It is a truth constructed on the facts of reality as seen, understood, and expressed by the parties. This does not mean that all truth is relative or constructed. Instead, it is to say that when we use public reasoning to discern the political truth as presented by the reality we describe and compare, we are constructing pokitocal truth as we live it.

Superficial, without meaningful content, but that isn’t the point is it?

Third, MC’s approach, while well intentioned, is superficial. The superficiality of the analysis comes from the failure to discuss the levels of analysis problem.[7] The levels of analysis problem refers to what anyone who wants to study a political phenomenon must answer so that their analysis remains consistent. In general, there are three levels to consider

  • the individual, 
  • the organisation
  • the system.

However, the level that is used (individual, organisational, or system) will determine what one finds. In this case MC wants to say that his individual view, the view on the ground, is the correct or better view than one at the organisational level or the national or system level. He believes that the media either misses the individual level or that it prioritizes the national level to the point is distorts or ignores what happens on the ground. Yet, his view on the ground is limited. What is needed is to recognize the problem so that he can put his individual level view into either an organisational or a national context. Had he looked at the party level, he would have seen the conventions differently. Just as if he had seen it from a national perspective, how the conventions reflect the national trends and audiences, it would have been understood differently.

What did MC miss with his level of analysis?

Here is an example of what he missed. He does not consider the nature of the protests. He equates the protests at the RNC with the DNC. Had he reflected on the protests, their nature, and their intent, he would have seen an important difference. The RNC protestors were external to the party while the DNC protests were from within the party. The difference becomes greater when we look within the conventions as the protests continued in a different form. Even though the RNC had relatively mild external protestors, the RNC itself contained deep divisions, conflicts, and outright animosity.[8] In a word, the RNC was not a unified convention. By contrast, the DNC had unity.[9] Bernie Sanders supported Hillary Clinton. Yet, MC’s focus on the protests on the ground misses this point. In effect, he assumes that the protests outside the convention are more important and should be covered with greater interests than the protests within the convention. Since he does not explain why this should be the case, we are left with what appears to be his personal preference. In much the same way that a baseball fan might like there to be more focus on the right fielder, the focus will always be the pitcher or the batter for that is where the majority of the determinative acts occur.

In the end, a lot about MC and perhaps that is the only point.

Overall, the movie shows us what can be done with Periscope. It also shows us that what passes for political commentary or analysis is more often than not a loud voice, light on reason, with a broadcast platform. Unless his output improves, I’ll give his work a pass. As the movie lacked context and content, it provides no meaningful insight into politics, media, protests or their relationship. Perhaps that superficiality is intended for what the movie does tell us is a lot about MC and it just might be that was the point.

[1] http://www.dangerandplay.com/2016/09/14/mike-cernovich-documentary-unconvention-dnc-rnc/ The film was produced by Loren Feldman who has real talent for this work. His social commentary, unlike his political commentary, is insightful, biting, and funny. A rare combination and worth a watch. http://www.lorenfeldman.com/about/

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propaganda What is curious is that he does not define propaganda so much as practice it.

[3] http://smallbiztrends.com/2015/08/what-is-periscope-how-do-i-use-it.html

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parrhesia

[5] “To the citizens’ ever-changing opinions about human affairs, which themselves were in a state of constant flux, the philosopher opposed the truth about those things which in their very nature were everlasting and from which, therefore, principles could be derived to stabilize human affairs. Hence the opposite to truth was mere opinion, which was equated with illusion, and it was this degrading of opinion that gave the conflict its political poignancy; for opinion, and not truth, belongs among the indispensable prerequisites of all power. “All governments rest on opinion,” James Madison said, and not even the most autocratic ruler or tyrant could ever rise to power, let alone keep it, without the support of those who are like-minded.” (p.4)

TRUTH AND POLITICS by Hannah Arendt Originally published in The New Yorker, February 25, 1967, and reprinted with minor changes in Between Past and Future (1968) and The Portable Hannah Arendt edited by Peter Baier (2000) and Truth: Engagements Across Philosophical Traditions edited by Medina and Wood (2005)

[6]http://www.socialstudies.org/publications/socialeducation/september2012/fault_lines_in_american_culture

[7] The Level-of-Analysis Problem in International Relations, J. David Singer, World Politics , Vol. 14, No. 1, The International System: Theoretical Essays (Oct., 1961), pp. 77-92  A general description is provided here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Level_of_analysis

[8] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jul/18/donald-trump-republican-national-convention-party-unity

[9] http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/26/upshot/democrats-may-not-be-unified-but-their-convention-speakers-are.html?_r=0

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Why QCs like cross examination: they can destroy witnesses.

Caricature of Sir Charles Russell QC MP. Capti...

Caricature of Sir Charles Russell QC MP. Caption read “Cross Examination”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the recent case of Lord Janner, we are told that those who make the allegations must face cross examination. We are told that this is necessary for justice. We are told that this is what the UK legal system requires. Yet, there is a deeper, darker, element to this request-the ability to destroy the witness.

Court is a brutal place of legal combat

When someone is cross-examined in court, they face a brutal environment. They are at the QC’s mercy. The contest is neither fair nor balanced. It is combat. The UK system is based on adversarial justice. The QC is a master of their art. Their goal is to win. If the witness is destroyed, that is of no consequence. Their job is to win by testing the evidence; nothing more, nothing less. As long as they stay in the code of conduct they can do what they want.

Only doing our job, we must “test the evidence”.

As we are reminded, if the QC did not test the evidence then they will have failed their client.

Indeed, not to test the evidence properly would itself be a breach of the Code of Conduct, which requires that barristers, “must at all times promote and protect fearlessly and by all proper and lawful means his lay client’s best interests” (Written Standards for the Conduct of Professional Work, para 5.2).[1]

The victim is there answer questions. The QC is not interested in the truth for this is not a philosophical inquiry. It is a battle, through a test of the evidence, to determine guilt or innocence. Anyone who believes that the legal process is a quest for truth understand neither the law nor philosophy. Even though both rely on cross examination one has a goal to understand, to discover the Truth, the other is focused on persuading the court of someone’s guilt or innocence by “testing the evidence.”

Attack the character as Aristotle recommended.

As Aristotle explained in his treatise Rhetoric, one technique to persuade an audience is to attack the witness’s character.

For if we have no evidence of fact supporting our own case or telling against that of our opponent, at least we can always find evidence to prove our own worth or our opponent’s worthlessness. Other arguments about a witness-that he is a friend or an enemy or neutral, or has a good, bad, or indifferent reputation, and any other such distinctions-we must construct upon the same general lines as we use for the regular rhetorical proofs.[2]

Beyond the character, a QC’s will attack their psychological state. The QC may even do it sympathetically for they cannot have the jury hate them too much. They will be sure to make the witness relive the experiences they have alleged. They will walk them through each humiliating detail. They will repeat back to them what they said. All of this is to test the witness’s psychological endurance under the cover of a test of the evidence. Whether they intend it or not, they punish the witness.

The adversarial system allows this approach.

Immediately, one may protest and say “Surely, this is not so. The judge would intervene.” Yet, this is the case. The judge cannot set the limits to the number of lawyers questioning a vulnerable witness nor can they limit how long the question lasts.

As it stands, judges have no real power to limit the duration of questioning or the number of lawyers who can cross-examine a highly vulnerable witness in court. Practice directions encourage judges to set limits, but despite this judicial practice remains very uneven.[3]

If a witness requests, and the court grants it, they may be treated as a vulnerable witness. They can

“[H]ave had the option of benefitting from a variety of different measures that are enshrined in the (Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999). These measures include giving evidence with screens in order to prevent the victim from seeing the defendant (s 23), or giving evidence via videolink, thus allowing the victim to be in another room altogether whilst giving their evidence (s 24). Section 17(4) automatically classes sexual offence complainants as being intimidated and therefore eligible for special measures. They must still request them, but they are assumed as fulfilling the criteria to be eligible for them.”

Let’s consider how barristers acted with Abby who was questioned aggressively by seven solicitors[4] every day for three weeks.[5] In Abby’s case, the Bar Council was concerned enough to raise it at their meeting.[6] Her case is hardly the exception. It is depressingly common.[7] More to the point, her treatment is after the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999. Before that Act, vulnerable witnesses had no such protection.

If you think it is bad today, imagine what it was like 50 years ago!

One can only shudder at what it would have been like to testify in the 1950s, 60s, or 70s. For someone to bring a case to court, they will have had to struggle against the institution where they were abused. They would have had to convince a sceptical police. They may have even faced a police force that wanted to favour their accuser so that their claims were dismissed out of hand. If they are able to overcome their institution, the police, they face the final challenge–the court. The court experience, even in the last five years is a brutal experience. As one victim said, they would not go through it again.[8]

Test the evidence or punish the witness?

With this knowledge, we can see why QCs want to “test the evidence”. They know what they can do. The witnesses will be at their mercy. Even if the witnesses are right, the QCs will have done their work. They will give the witness a thorough, if legal, beating. For some defendants, this is enough for they will inflict pain to balance the scales. At the end, the public will be told “they were just doing their job”. The broken witnesses will have been taught a brutal lesson about the law.

The law teaches a brutal truth

We know that Lord Janner will not be cross examined. His alleged victims will.[9] This about sums up UK justice for CSE survivors. The strong rule the weak and the weak suffer what they must.

[1] http://www.halsburyslawexchange.co.uk/frances-andrade-case-the-treatment-of-vulnerable-victims-in-the-court-system/

[2] http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/rhetoric.mb.txt

[3] See http://goo.gl/sFpxos at https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2016-07-06/debates/16070660000001/Cross-ExaminationOfVulnerableWitnesses

[4] One wonders why after the 3rd barrister making the same points did not succeed the remaining four thought they would succeed?

[5] http://www.theguardian.com/law/2013/may/19/lawyers-oxford-abuse-ring

[6] The Bar Council was suitably concerned about the case and others to raise it at one of their meetings. http://www.barcouncil.org.uk/4767.aspx see also http://www.newlawjournal.co.uk/nlj/content/question-time

[7] The case is not isolated it is one of many. It is hard to believe but the UK criminal justice system has improved in recent years with some guidance for treating vulnerable witnesses. One can only imagine how brutal the QCs could have been in the past assuming a victim could convince the police to investigate and the Crown Prosecution Service to bring a prosecution.  See for example, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/court-is-just-as-traumatic-girl-who-faced-aggressive-cross-examination-aged-nine-says-she-has-never-8631662.html and http://www.felicitygerry.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/IARS-Vulnerable-witnesses-dignity-and-respect-FRGQC-FINAL.pdf

[8] One victim who suffered such an ordeal when they gave evidence said they would never give evidence again as it was worse than had their abuser gone free. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-jersey-27949117

[9] One wonders if, as a QC, Greville Jenner avoided cross examination as he knew what it entailed?

Posted in corruption, justice, philosophy | Tagged , , , , , ,

Tyrants, Incest and the Trumps (revised)

English: Donald Trump at a press conference an...

English: Donald Trump at a press conference announcing David Blaine’s latest feat in New York City at the Trump Tower. The photographer dedicates this portrait of Donald Trump to Tony Santiago, Wikipedia editor Marine 69-71, perhaps the most officially recognized and accomplished content contributor to Wikipedia, for his outstanding contributions to improving articles related to his Puerto Rican heritage. He is also a close friend. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We know from history, that tyrants display a disordered eros, an erotic longing, to rule others. The tyrant’s desire to rule others is often accompanied by other appetites for food, drink, drugs, and sex. In particular, their sexuality and its perversions define them.

“[I]t is impossible to segregate the tyrant’s sexuality from his political power: each symbolizes the other. His notorious perversions (adultery, bigamy, rape, incest, sadism, necrophilia…) are the sexual manifestation of his extraordinary relation to the laws and norms of the polis.”[1]

The tyrant wants more; their disordered desire means they are seen as eros incarnate[2]. No matter how much a tyrant has, he wants more. As a result, they are usually undone by their desires when they start to threaten the community’s unwritten norms. As they are not satisfied with what they have, they begin to push against any constraints. They see constraints as a threat to their rule, or as a personal affront. “Who are you to say no to me?”. Their initial success emboldens them. They see their rule as a basis to demand and receive more. In time, their success emboldens them so that their desires transcend legal and moral boundaries. Their “translegal desires”, that violate the community’s norms either formal or informal.[3] One such trans-legal desire was incest.

Is it healthy for a father to talk of having sex with his daughter?

In ancient Athens, the tyrant’s life was condemned in the play, Oedipus Rex, where a son unknowingly killed his father to become king. Oedipus had been abandoned as a child for fear of a prophecy that the son would kill the father. The prophecy came true. As a consequence, Oedipus became king and he slept with the Queen who happened to be, unknowingly, his mother. The story of incest and tyranny scandalized the audience. The play explored the deepest taboo within a family for incest destroyed a family’s integrity, which would unravel the community’s fabric. Tyranny was a threat to the political community in the same way that incest was a threat to the family.

Incest destroys a family, tyranny destroys a community

Tyranny is like incest for it destroys what allows the community to survive, the fellow feeling of citizens that sustains decent political life. In practical terms, incest destroys the family and what it produces, children, which are necessary for the community’s survival.[4] In political terms the tyrant’s immoderate thought and behaviour undermined the community.[5] Incest is a deviant sexual excess and the tyrant was identified by sexual excess and extreme sexual appetites both of which the people feared would be used to obtain any sexual partner such as their wives, brothers sisters, daughters or sons.[6] The same holds true today.

Trump embodies the tyrant’s life; he only lacks political power.

Trump’s approach, revealed by his comment about his daughter, brings the tyrant’s life to the American voters and his supporters love him for it. Trump appeals because he offers the hottest girls[7], the fastest cars, the biggest deals, the best of everything. His current wife is a MILF embodied. He lives the dream of his followers. For them, Trump embodies everything they cannot have and they blame those who tell them they can’t indulge their desires. Be it a big house, a fast car, a hot wife, the availability of a wide pool of sexual partners, vast wealth, or the ability to speak his mind without fear or favor, all of these are available for the taking. Trump succeeds to the extent he makes his followers believe he can deliver these outcomes. His followers want what he offers because they have been habituated to believe what he offers defines a complete life. He appeals to the average person’s desire to live the tyrant’s life—except for the incest.

Donald Trump’s disordered eros.

Donald Trump is a man who has everything and now wants to be president. To be president requires someone who believes that they can win and deserves to win. In this, Trump meets both criteria. A successful candidate has to have a message. What is Trump’s message and is it democratic or tyrannical? Trump’s message appears on the surface to be democratic since he boasts of his personal success and how he achieved success by his own hard work. He likes to claim he embodies the American dream. At the same time, he entices his followers with boasts of his appetites for his brand is one of luxury and indulgence. His brand also includes his children. In particular, he promoted Ivanka’s career and she introduced him at the Republican National Convention. Over the years, he has talked openly of her body that would make her a lot of money.[8] [insert reference] On other occasions he has spoken of how she was the type of woman he would date.[9] At other times he has made comments about having sex with her. His behavior does not appear normal or healthy father-daughter relationship. Does it appear politically healthy?

Trump’s political behaviour is it tyrannical?

Trump’s behaviour towards his daughter suggests his political behaviour might be no different. For Trump, like a tyrant, it is acceptable to comment publicly on her desirability as a sexual partner.[10] He often comments on people’s partners telling them that they are not good looking and that they could do better.[11]

Trump has been accused of sexual harassment.[12] Trump’s excesses suggest how might rule. How he behaves privately with power reveals his public persona. He squeezes the little guy and drives a hard bargain with the weak and is deferential to the powerful. He seeks adulation without intimacy. He harasses women. All of this suggests his personal life he is more a tyrant than a democrat. Do we want to give him the chance to prove himself a political tyrant when his disordered relationship with his daughter suggests how he will act to the community? As Andrew Sullivan warned, Trump appears a tyrant. If his behavior with his family is any guide, then we could find Oedipus in the White House, which would suggest that America is as polluted as Thebes.

(This is a revised post as the previous one was based on an earlier draft.)

[1] Wohl, V. 2002. Love Among the Ruins: The Erotics of Democracy in Classical Athens, Princeton

and London: Princeton University Press. Love Among the ruins Wohl (2002), 221. quoted in Annie Larivee the International Journal of the Platonic Tradition 6 (2012) 1-26

The International Journal of the Platonic Tradition brill.nl/jpt

Eros Tyrannos: Alcibiades as the Model of the Tyrant in Book IX of the Republic

Annie Larivée p.9

[2] See Republic 573b-579d

[3] Seth Bernadete Plato’s Second Sailing 1989 p. 205

[4] In the Symposium, the discussion about eros shows the threat to the family and the need to dismantle the family since it acts as a constraint. The family is supported by the law to sustain the political stability and the community’s continued prospects for survival. When Steven Berg describes Pausanias’ proposal in the Symposium, we can see the issue for America.

“Pausanias’ proposal, then, to replace the distinction between the just and the unjust with that between the beautiful and the ugly as the primary distinction of the law, is a proposal to turn the city on its head in regard to erotic maters: heterosexual conjugal union will no longer receive the law’s stamp of approval, but will be rendered “unlawful” in the weak sense—that is, shameful (181b)—and pederasty, which, in Athens, currently exists in a legal no-man’s-land somewhere between outright prohibition and grudging acceptance (182d-183d), will be held up as the model of lawful conduct (184d-e).” p.29

[5]  “We learn from Herodotus that the tyrant is the one who “moves ancestral laws [patria nomia] and forces himself on women and kills men who have not been tried” (3.80.5 [1927]). From Thucydides we learn that Alcibiades was considered the potential tyrant: “Most men, fearing the greatness of his lawless-ness paranoiai] with regard to his body, his daily habits, and the intelligence he showed in whatever he did, set him down as desiring a tyranny” (6.15 [1900]) The Tyranny of Reason in the World of the Polis Arlene W. Saxonhouse The American Political Science Review, Vol. 82, No. 4 (Dec., 1988), pp. 1261-1275 (p.1263)

[7] Robert Crumb’s cartoon captures Trump’s behaviour. http://i.imgur.com/7J9u2Rt.jpg

[8] “In 2003, he told Howard Stern, “You know who’s one of the great beauties of the world, according to everybody? And I helped create her? Ivanka. My daughter, Ivanka. She’s six feet tall, she’s got the best body. She made a lot of money as a model—a tremendous amount.”” http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/08/22/ivanka-trump-and-jared-kushners-power-play

[9] http://fusion.net/story/176716/heres-the-creepy-video-of-donald-trump-saying-hed-date-his-own-daughter/ What is curious is why people assume he is joking. Even if it was a “joke” it demonstrates the thought necessary to draw attention to his desires. What parent jokes about “dating” their children? In this case if we follow Freud, the “joke” appears to be an unconscious desire.

The term “date” in Trump’s world is best understood as “fxxx” since he has not displayed anything resembling chaste behaviour.

[10] Or fondle her if you are a celebrity or politically powerful. Consider the case of Vice President Joe Biden who enjoys fondling women while their husbands or parents are nearby. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2958620/Not-Mr-Vice-President-Joe-Biden-loves-nuzzle-ladies-cameras-conservative-commentators-slamming-space-invading.html

[11] http://www.marieclaire.co.uk/blogs/550112/donald-trump-quotes.html

[12]  https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jul/20/donald-trump-sexual-assault-allegations-jill-harth-interview

 

Posted in corruption, philosophy, public opinion | Tagged , ,

A response to Matthew Scott on the Goddard Inquiry

Jimmy Savile presenting "Top of The Pops&...

Jimmy Savile presenting “Top of The Pops” in 1964. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Matthew Scott, hereafter Mr Scott, has written a blog on Justice Lowell Goddard’s resignation as the Chair of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). [1]He explains in his opening paragraphs that the resignation is unsurprising. The Inquiry has been beset with problems, crisis, and setbacks.

What is curious, in a blog about a resignation, is that he spends several paragraphs parsing the terms of address. Should Justice Goddard be referred to as a QC as a sign that the resignation was drafted by a civil servant? He then explores the correct etiquette for the correct form of address. Although it appears curious, the logic returns, perhaps unintentionally, later in the piece. However, before we can discuss that logic, we have to consider the text.

Mr Scott continues his blog to tell us why Justice Goddard was right to resign since she appears, at least to what is presented, to be incompetent for the task. By way of faint praise, he does suggest that the Inquiry’s terms of reference may make it difficult for anyone to manage it. He suggests that the inquiry is open ended and impossible to complete for the sheer breadth of the problem.

Is the England institutionally incapable of investigating the child sexual abuse?

What he does not explore is how or why a country cannot manage such an inquiry or inquiries. It would appear the problem is so endemic, so entrenched, and so intrinsic to the political system and society as to be beyond reform. When the problem is intrinsic to a regime, how can it be addressed? As the NSPCC evidence suggests, 1 in 14 adults are victims of child abuse.[2] The number will have been higher for adults who were children in care. As we know from the evidence that has emerged already many predator paedophiles used children’s homes as hunting grounds. We know the same approach used by the Rotherham sex gangs,  to target children homes, was used by Jimmy Savile.  We know from the Lambeth case that paedophiles ran care homes and maintained a ring of homes as they covered for each other.

So if the Inquiry cannot address the problem, what can? What will? Perhaps it is a series of separate, yet linked, inquiries that will take years. The question is whether the public and the regime have the stomach for the effort required. What we may have to consider if the inquiry’s overly broad scope and scale is intended to fail. The danger is that the Inquiry becomes unmanageable so that it cannot be accomplished and collapses into recriminations never to be resurrected. We have seen this cycle with the Home Office where there have been countless investigations into police corruption that simply collapse into recriminations after a few resignations and trials have satisfied the public appetite that initiated the inquiry. Such a question is one for Theresa May.

The problem was mainly about including Lord Janner. Why?

Mr Scott moves to the challenge of finding another chair. He explains that it is now a poisoned chalice that no one would take willingly. He touches on the problem that no one can be found who is not tainted by the topic, or at least lacks a suitable distance from it. However, there is a procedural problem with continuing the Inquiry since the new Chair will have to deal with the Janner problem. Lord Janner was included in the Inquiry. He is not an institution so he cannot be guilty by default in the way that all the institutions are. His guilt or innocence is, as he says, “hotly contested.” Former police officers claim there was a case to be answered. Lord Janner’s supporters, in particular his son Daniel Janner QC, argue that there is no case to answer. As Mr Scott argues that to include an individual, even a contested one, is to suggest a “recipe for muddle and unfairness”.

What is not clear is how that is the case. Most of the figures that will emerge in the review are long dead. One imagines that Cyril Smith, the deceased MP, will emerge at some point in the Inquiry, if it continues, under one of the institutions that were mentioned. Yet, his guilt is not proven in a court of law just as Lord Janner’s is not proven in a court of law. Perhaps what Mr Scott refers to as unfairness will be to the living, the accused’s survivors. They would be the ones who are unfairly associated with the allegations. There is precedence for this as defendants have defended the reputation of deceased relatives.

Why claim the Inquiry started with false allegations?

Mr Scott continues by bringing us back to how the inquiry began. He wants us to understand something from this return. What is curious is that he wants to link the Inquiry, which ranges across nearly all UK institutions, to Leon Brittan. Why?  He wants his readers to infer that what happened to Leon Brittan instigated the IICSA

It is worth remembering how the inquiry came about in the first place. It was announced the day after Leon Brittan was interviewed by the police on suspicion of rape (the fact of the police interview was publicised).[3]

Except this is not why the inquiry was needed or why it commenced. It is well established that institutional abuse had been rife across the UK for decades. Moreover, we know that Scotland, through its devolved powers, had initiated as one of its very first acts was to launch “An independent review of the systems in place to protect children and keep them safe in residential care between 1950-1995”. (2009) The Shaw Report was damning in its finding and far reaching in its effect.[4] In particular it has transformed records management in Scotland so that such abuse cannot be concealed by poor or non-existent records management. Moreover, Northern Ireland[5] initiated its own review (2012) as did Australia(2013).[6] The only one who had stoutly and determinedly resisted was England. Parliament stood firm and intransigent in accepting let alone reviewing the horrific scale, scope, and severity of the abuse looked after children, and others, suffered in institutional care or in any institution. Despite articles and evidence over the years, no review had been launched by Parliament.[7]

Why avoid the context unless it serves an intent.

Why Mr Scott would elide such a history is a question he alone can answer. It serves a purpose to make the IISCA appear to have been created after the charges about Leon Brittan. If he chooses, he can explain that purpose. He makes it clear he has a target with his history.

That allegation went nowhere, although the police decided not to tell Lord Brittan that before he died. Allegations were also swirling around about other MPs, some of which may have been true but many of which have since been shown to be false or at least highly dubious. Even Tom Watson, one of Brittan’s main tormentors, has apologised to his widow for describing him, disgracefully, as “as close to evil as any human being could get.”

Except that Tom Watson did not describe Lord Brittan that way. Mr Watson, as the historical record shows, was quoting someone else; the woman who brought the original complaint to which the Police investigated.[8] Why Mr Scott seeks to make this false inference is something only he can answer. It is often the case that an audience mistakes the views of a character for the speaker. However, he has a point to make.

It turned out he wasn’t actually very close to evil at all; and nor for that matter was Harvey Proctor, or Ted Heath or Lord Bramall, although all three have had either their lives or their reputations blighted, whilst their accusers have turned out to be deranged, deluded or deceitful.

We can all agree that false allegations are a horrible experience to suffer. What he omits is that various investigations remain open for Ted Heath.[9] As for Mr Proctor and Lord Bramall, we are aware that the claims were sufficient to warrant attention. Does this mean that they were or are guilty? No. As the charges have been dropped, we know the cases raise questions about how the police manage such allegations, how the CPS pursues them, and how the press reports them. However, that does not mean that all allegations against powerful people are false. We know that there was strong evidence to indicate Clement Freud, another MP, abused children.[10] Moreover, it overlooks a salient point about UK political culture.

The UK has a political culture that thrives on political blackmail.

What we know is that such information and allegations are the currency of politics. We know from Tim Fortescue that Whips would use such information for their political purposes.[11] We know that the government refused to investigate claims around child abuse, 30 years ago, for the potential damage to the government’s reputation. We know that such information is used when honours are being considered. Jimmy Savile was euphemistically described by the civil servants dealing with honours as “strange and complex”.[12] It would appear that the IICSA is allowing the public to see what has been done privately by politicians, QCs, police, civil servants, and royal retainers. All have trafficked in this information, allegations, and innuendo. Moreover, no one within any of these groups spoke up about it or sought to change it. They simply played the game as they found it.

Was it really a misguided belief in a VIP paedophile ring that started the IICSA?

Mr Scott wants us to believe that the only reason the IICSA was set up was some misguided belief in a VIP paedophile ring.

Now that the allegations against Brittan, Heath, Proctor and Bramall have been exhaustively investigated and found wanting, an inquiry that was set up largely on the basis that there had been some sort of “VIP paedophile ring”

Why Mr Scott makes this allegation, when the historical record indicates other causes will be a question he alone can answer. However, he wants his readers to be clear that the IICSA must acknowledge an important truth as he sees it.

needs at least to acknowledge the possibility that politicians and others in public life are not – as conspiracists were telling us – part of an “elite” protected by a code of omerta, but are in fact just as vulnerable to false accusations as anyone else, and in some ways more so.

What is strange about this claim is the view that no one believes in false claims. Indeed, people are sensitive to this issue. Yet, victims spent decades with no one willing to listen to them, no one to believe their claims, and few powerful people to champion their claims.  Instead, for the past 60 years, the great and the good, the ones who must be addressed by the correct title or form of address, were above reproach for they never would commit these crimes. They, like judges and QCs, were beyond reproach. They gave their word that the child is a fantasist. Or, as one judge complained, the 13 year old girl was a sexual predator.[13]

The great and good were beyond reproach as a culture of deference demanded it.

What the record has shown though is any claim to be beyond reproach is simply a way to quiet victims and claims. When England finally reaches a point where victims have an institutional voice, we are told that any such claims must be taken with a grain of salt for they are surely fantasists, conspiracists. In particular, if they dare to make a claim about a powerful person, if they have the temerity to make such a claim, they must be considered to be unreliable or at least potentially unreliable. Why?

As for the code of Omerta, Mr Scott makes an emotive point that exaggerates what he already knows to be true.[14] He knows as a barrister that non-disclosure agreements are common technique used by insurance companies to silence victims. and hinder investigations.[15] They either sign or there is no settlement. The NDA keeps victims from talking to each other or from others to connect the dots about historical patterns of behaviour. Institutions agreed to these, and in some case demanded them, so that they could limit their reputational damage. The institutions would put their reputation before any victims or stopping a predator.

Omerta or the way Arcana Imperii and Tacenda work within an imperial society?

The term Omerta also evokes the Mafia. The idea that there is some criminal enterprise behind all of this behaviour. As such it is a useful device to diminish what we know about the UK society. We know that information is hidden from the public and that information is covered up by the state organs.[16] If a fish rots from the head down, we need to start with the Royal Household and the guilds. These institutions keep their records secret. Their disciplinary procedures are secret. They maintain a silence about such matters. For some, this is considered good manners. For others, it is a way to keep outsiders in the dark. Even though those within the accepted group will discuss these matters quite openly and frankly. In Ancient Rome such information was called tacenda, that which would not be discussed publicly. However, it was discussed privately as Norman Tebbit explained.[17] He heard rumours as well as Edwina Currie’s claim that Peter Morrison was a well-known as a paedophile.[18] His status was known throughout Westminster but not publicly.

The public were not aware that Whips used private information against politicians

We know from the Whips that they know of the scandals, indiscretions, and deviant behaviour which they help to cover up and protect. In exchange, they have a claim on that politician’s loyalties forever. Such behaviour is to use information to manipulate the politicians, whom the public think act in their interests, to do the whips’ bidding. Such information is never known. There is a code of silence within the whips office and amongst politicians. To deny this is to deny the reality of tacenda and arcana imperii.[19] The powerful are protected for they serve a purpose. Perhaps Mr Scott can explain why he does not believe that this happens despite the published evidence.

Why assert the IICSA is set up on false pretenses or appears to set up that way?

Mr Scott now gets to the heart of his post just before the end. He makes the claim that the inquiry was set up *partly* on false innuendos. He is a good lawyer. He plants the seed of doubt. He wants people to believe that there is something wrong with the inquiry, something rotten in its core that will only grow with each year.

It would be strange if an inquiry set up partly on the basis of false innuendoes were to continue merrily on its way under a new Chair without any real recognition of the fact that some of those claiming to be the victims of VIP abuse were in fact nothing of the sort.

Here is the question for Mr Scott. Is the Inquiry only valid and free of taint if it does not include powerful individuals? We know from Scotland that the scale of institutional abuse over decades. None of this was in doubt. The same occurred in England[20] yet this is now in doubt simply because Greville Janner has been included. What is it about Greville Janner that makes it imperative for Mr Scott to suggest that the whole inquiry, its basis, its scope, scale, and severity are worthless?

Would the IICSA be ok if Lord Janner had not been included?

Does Mr Scott believe that England is immune to the institutional behaviour demonstrated in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Australia? If he does, is it simply because some powerful people suffered from allegations that have not been substantiated? Allegations that they faced in private from whips, political enemies, and journalists only become problematic when the public know. Why?

 

[1] http://barristerblogger.com/2016/08/05/goddard-right-resign-child-sex-inquiry-now-needs-complete-reboot/

[2] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-36979673

[3] The claim seeks to link two events that happened near to each other. Yet, how could they be linked unless there was a belief that they were linked. We do know at that time the failure to deal with Jimmy Savile were being debated. We know that there were many investigations that had emerged from Tom Watson’s October 2012 claim of a paedophile ring in Westminster. The overriding issue was Jimmy Savile and less Leon Brittan as various findings were emerging from the investigations launched in October 2012.  On 26 June 2014 Leeds Teaching Hospital Trust publishes their independent inquiry into scale and scope of Jimmy Savile’s abuse. http://www.leedsth.nhs.uk/about-us/news-and-media/2014/06/26/response-to-the-independent-report-of-the-investigation-into-matters-relating-to-savile-at-ltht . Moreover, Cyril Smith was also in the news with specific and credible claims that his crimes were known and covered up with the police failing to investigate properly. (See timeline here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyril_Smith#Sexual_and_physical_abuse_allegations Simon Danczuk published his Cyril Smith book in April 2014 alleging another paedophile ring and Westminster protection. Moreover, the Wanless-Whittam QC report was published in November 2014 that looked at the poor records management of allegations around child abuse. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-peter-wanless-and-richard-whittam-qc-review  However, Mr Scott ignores this context to make the issue solely about Leon Britttan allegations. Why?

[4] http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2007/11/20104729/0 This was in 2009.  Mr Scott does not mention this context.

[5] http://www.hiainquiry.org/index/background-and_legislation.htm this was in 2012. Mr Scott does not mention this context.

[6] https://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/about-us/terms-of-reference

[7] See http://www.nickdavies.net/1998/04/01/the-sheer-scale-of-child-sexual-abuse-in-britain/ See also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elm_Guest_House_child_abuse_scandal and https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/mar/24/children-lambeth-councils-care-abused-industrial-scale-goddard-inquiry

[8] “Last week Watson declined to apologise to Brittan’s widow in parliament, but in his appearance before the select committee on Wednesday he expressed regret for repeating a claim by an alleged sex abuse survivor who described Brittan as “as close to evil as any human being could get””. [emphasis added] http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/oct/21/tom-watson-apologises-leon-brittan-widow

[9] http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/may/11/investigations-in-to-edward-heath-sex-abuse-claims-to-continue

[10] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/14/sir-clement-freud-exposed-as-a-paedophile-as-police-urged-to-pro/

[11] https://vimeo.com/100640992 See also the Wanless-Whittam QC report https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/372915/Wanless-Whittam_Review_Report.pdf

[12] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-23355531 Such warnings were over ruled as Thatcher ensured was knighted.

[13] http://www.romfordrecorder.co.uk/news/crime-court/schoolgirl_13_branded_sexual_predator_by_judge_who_spared_romford_paedophile_jail_1_2321573

[14] The case of Lord Armstrong is indicative. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3172796/Mandarin-t-help-economical-truth-Lord-Armstrong-centre-accusations-child-abuse-cover-up.html Even the Wanless-Whittam QC report indicated the problems with the historical record especially the material around the Dickens dossier. https://lawrenceserewicz.wordpress.com/2015/08/10/when-the-whitewash-of-a-cover-up-unravels-why-archives-matter/

[15] See this story from 1996 about the practice. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/insurer-tried-to-halt-child-abuse-inquiry-1303268.html See also this story from 2015 http://www.independent.co.uk/news/insurer-tried-to-halt-child-abuse-inquiry-1303268.html See also this blog post. https://researchingreform.net/2016/01/30/uk-insurance-companies-covering-up-child-abuse-since-1996/ Mr Scott avoids this context. Why?

[16] See for example the case of the former editor Don Hale who was told by Special Branch to hand over the dossier on paedophiles compiled by Barbara Castle. https://www.theguardian.com/media/greenslade/2014/jul/15/daily-star-sunday-cyril-smith We know that police officers were threatened with the Official Secrets Act https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/mar/17/met-police-cyril-smith-child-sex-abuse-official-secrets-act As the article pointed out the libel laws were much stricter then in the 1970s, 1980s, when these allegations might have surfaced, than they were now. Moreover, there is now a greater awareness of the crimes as well as more institutions to protect children and pursue perpetrators.

[17] http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/norman-tebbit-admits-heard-rumours-3826206

[18] “Mr Richard’s intervention follows claims last week by former Tory Minister Edwina Currie that Morrison had sex with 16-year-old boys when the age of consent was 21 and that he had been protected by a ‘culture of sniggering’. In her diaries, she called him ‘a noted pederast’, with a liking for young boys.” [emphasis added]  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2224167/Former-Minister-says-Thatcher-aide-paedophile-preyed-boys-home–Hague-known.html#ixzz4H3fitEje

[19] https://lawrenceserewicz.wordpress.com/2015/04/13/official-secrets-act-and-child-sexual-abuse-inquiry-arcana-imperii-and-the-secrets-of-state/

[20] See this Nick Davies story from 1998 on the sheer scale of the abuse. http://www.nickdavies.net/1998/04/01/the-sheer-scale-of-child-sexual-abuse-in-britain/

Posted in corruption, Government, justice, public opinion | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The UK constitutional crisis: the death of liberal democracy

The United Kingdom faces a constitutional crisis created by the vote to leave the EU. The referendum outcome had many causes. For some, a quasi-Marxist view explains the outcome as caused by the recent financial crisis and the austerity that followed. Yet, other liberal democracies faced the same without a constitutional crisis. For many, the EU’s policy on the free movement of people created an “immigration crisis”. Even though areas with the highest immigration voted to Remain and those with the lowest voted to Leave, the popular view was that it was due to immigration levels. Commentators who looked deeper saw the cause in the public’s deep seated fear of being left behind by global economy. In communities where jobs were scarce, the global economy’s opportunities were hard to reach as low skilled jobs seemed to move away. In this view, the EU represented the global economy that took their opportunities and left them unable to compete with the lower wage rivals. The public believed the EU and the effort to sustain EU membership forced the government to accept these changes which had a direct impact on local community social stability. The people were no longer in control. In response to the view that the government was unable to resist the EU, the UK media waged a broad, deep, and virulent propaganda campaign to convince the public that they needed to “take back control” with a vote to leave. Despite these varied claims by myriad commentators, what has not been considered as a cause is the crisis of liberal democracy within the United Kingdom.

Since 1688, the United Kingdom has struggled with liberalism. The liberal democracy built on that liberalism struggled to find purchase on the UK’s imperial regime. The two were in tension. The imperial regime, a constitutional monarchy, and liberal democracy, in which all are equal before the law, were a mismatch that remained implicit for centuries. After the UK joined the European Community in 1973, the tension started to come to the surface. When the European Union was formed in 1993, the tension became an implicit crisis. A fault line emerged between the regime and the EU over the Human Rights Act. The gap between the UK’s founding on the hereditary rights of a monarchy and the universal rights that animates the European Union began to grow. Those who demanded British Rights, derived from the Crown, and those who embraced European rights, based on the universalism derived from the French Revolution in 1789 was irreconcilable. The former is bound to, or derived from, the Crown’s sovereignty while the latter is universal and draws its essence from human nature’s intrinsic dignity. It is beyond the Crown’s control. The referendum was a reminder of the UK’s response to the French Revolution of 1789. The central figure for this debate is Edmund Burke. In his polemics attacking the revolution and defending the Monarchical regime, he argued against the universal rights. He saw them as a direct attack on the customs, practices, and culture that animates the UK. If they succeeded the UK would cease to be what it is.

In 2016, the UK could be described as a liberal democracy. It was this liberal democracy, which expressed the desire to remain in the EU. This liberal democracy depended on Europe, and above all on Germany. The liberal democracy was marked by a corresponding embrace of everything foreign. By linking itself to Remain campaign, the UK liberal democracy was caught between two extremes. It tried to maintain the uneasy balance between the implicit principles of 1789, as expressed through the EU, and the dedication to the highest British tradition. The balance already difficult to maintain was made impossible by the UK media. The UK media was unstintingly hostile. With virulent, vicious, and dishonest attacks, it became a propaganda machine with one goal, leave the EU. The attacks, sustained over decades, had habituated the people to fear the EU and liberal democracy. They privileged foreigners, minorities, and immigrants at the expense of citizens, the majority, and British. The UK media reflected and encouraged the deepest longings of the old England, the imperial England. An England that remained unrepentantly opposed to Europe. The England founded in direct opposition to the principles of the 1789 revolution.

The Remain campaign was weak. It only displayed its potential strength, if not greatness, when it reacted to the murder of the MP Jo Cox in June 2016. The murder was a turning point not for what many expected, for a Remain vote, but for the public perception of the Remain campaign’s resolve. The murder showed what the Right could achieve if they were willing to dare it. The murder showed, to those with the eyes to see that the UK liberal democracy was in terminal decline: the old England (Leave) was stronger in will than the new UK (Remain). One only need to note the unabashed talk of “traitors” which the Leave campaign never disavowed.

The campaign showed that Remain, led by David Cameron, lacked the will and resolve to win. They believed that what mattered was common decency or the decent regard for public opinion. Their belief in common decency left them vulnerable. The right had been able to kill an outspoken advocate for Remain without consequence. Liberal democracy revealed its naïve faith in due process and decency. We saw that those who had the strongest will, daring and resolve would win for they understood the various forces in play. They could, and did win, because they dared. They dared to lie, they dared to bait their opponents with racist propaganda, they dared to foment hatred without concern for safety as they only had one goal—to win. Nigel Farage’s Breaking Point poster showed what was possible and what was needed to win. If you wanted to win, neither decency nor honesty would stop you.

What still needs to be investigated is why liberal democracy is so weak. Liberal democracy’s weakness should have been apparent earlier. At each previous crisis, it had found a way to limp past it. Often the vague invocation of Locke and Hobbes would be enough to salve the collective soul that liberal democracy was only reshaping itself. For many commentators, they will be surprised to learn liberal democracy’s roots are so shallow and unhealthy.

The liberal democratic regime pursued neo-liberal policies. Despite their success, they faced strong resistance. Those opposed to the economic effect and those who opposed its societal effects found common cause. They would resist the global economic and immigration movements. These policies and their effects legitimated the resolve of those who wanted to return to the old England. Even if they had no common ground with those opposed to neo-liberalism, they found a common enemy in liberal democracy. The contest returned to its previous champions Rousseau and Burke. Rousseau inspired the Remain campaign for they pursued neo-liberalism especially through the EU project. In their belief that the public would accept the liberal democratic benefits, they forgot what animated the Leave campaign. Burke was the founder of the Leave campaign. He championed British Rights against the universal rights proclaimed by the revolution of 1789. He would defend the customs, practices, and culture that were under threat.

The Remain campaign forget that beneath the democratic veneer exists cultures and customs created by the Monarchical or imperial regime. Burke’s conservatism provided a legitimate and principled defence of England’s traditions and its imperial system. For the Leave campaign, though, he was too timid. They were not Burkean conservatives. They had imbibed the Enlightenment’s disdain for tradition, custom, and continuity. Instead they appealed to something deeper than Burke had imagined. The Leave campaign under the respectable banner of conservatism had tapped deeper patterns of dissent. They had tapped into an irrational core with the focus on immigrants, refugees and foreigners. The Leave campaign, taking a lead from the demonic propaganda developed by Goebbels relied on the big lies, the fear, the hatred, but above all residual imperial ethos that pulsates beneath the public domain’s surface. Beneath the UK’s liberal democracy, which believed that reason, fair play, and due process would ensure justice, lurked something that had not changed. There is a hard sediment of a supremacist ideology which Leave has awakened. It is that residual imperial or supremacist ethos which animates the UK political system that the Leave campaign revealed. The fear of immigration made the public aware of how much it had lost and how much more it had to lose unless they “took back control”.

Liberalism is defined by the divide between state and society which requires a recognized private sphere, that is protected by the law yet is not subject to the law. The private sphere can escape the law where it becomes a realm of freedom. In return, the private sphere accepts that for the public domain to remain peaceful, it will accept that public behaviour that matches the public orthodoxy is sustained. The liberal state, though, promises to end discrimination. To overcome that private space, which is often the source for discrimination and private beliefs that flout the liberal ideas of tolerance, the liberal state has criminalized private behaviours such as hate speech or defamation. Yet, that promise to prevent discrimination requires the state to penetrate further into the private domain, thus limiting freedom and constraining that supremacist ethos. For to recognize or accept a private sphere means that some private “discrimination,” has to be accepted and protected. Yet, to prohibit such private discrimination would require the liberal state to destroy what it was create to protect the private sphere. Even as the UK liberal democracy was saying it wold tolerate foreign customs and beliefs, especially those which arrived because of UK imperialism, it was suppressing and criminalizing native customs, beliefs, and practices, like fox-hunting, on the basis of an alien idea—liberalism. Thus, the pursuit of the liberal state to end all discriminations leads to the destruction of the liberal state’s premise which is a private sphere.

Even though the EU and liberalism are blamed for the loss of control, the Crown is the more invasive. The liberal state reaches its apotheosis with the surveillance state. The state’s increases surveillance powers to look into the lives of its citizens. There is no private activity that escape the law. The liberal state is concerned with your private activity. How you raise your children, how you practice your faith, what you say about your neighbour, how you behave in your bedroom, are all subject to the law or the state. How the Leave campaign described this, though, was that the EU, not the UK liberal democracy, nor the Crown, was meddling in the private domain. The Leave campaign was dishonest for it knew that it could not show that it was fundamentally opposed to UK’s liberal democracy for that would cause the public to realize the EU was only a proxy for what Leave meant when they said they wanted to take back control.[1] Indeed, they want to return to an England before liberal democracy.

Unless liberal democracy understands this threat, it will not survive. The constitutional crisis will have unleashed forces that will consume those who fomented the Leave campaign. The campaign revealed that the Crown is concerned with self-preservation more than it is concerned with the democratic will. It will not sacrifice itself for the people or an abstract idea. The Crown has accepted liberal democratic principles to the extent they enable it to survive. They provide the necessary democratic veneer. As liberal democracy fades, we can expect the Crown’s implicit authoritarianism to emerge. However, it will cover its increased coercive power, its ability to tyrannize thought, by judicious gifts that return what liberal democracy suppressed. The desire to overturn fox-hunting ban, grammar schools, show the desire to revive cultures, practices, and customs that liberal democracy had displaced. Under the guise of reform, we will find that less individual freedoms and an increased demand for public behaviour to conform to the new orthodoxy, an orthodoxy that favours the strong at the expense of the weak for that is the imperial or supremacist ethos reborn for a post-modern age.

[1] The desire to take back control was never a claim to bring about popular sovereignty. The public would only be in control to the extent they would endorse a choice between alternatives manufactured by their rulers. Moreover, control meant that the people could no longer appeal beyond the UK to the EU. Even now as Article 50 remains unengaged the public seem barely aware that their votes did not matter for the PM will decide regardless of the vote’s outcome. Yet, each day the Article 50 is unengaged it also shows that the public have no say in what the government does. The government is resisting the public will, as expressed in the EU referendum, which further erodes the idea of liberal democracy that existed.

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