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The Conspiraleft


I don’t know whether you recall Naomi Wolf’s bestseller “The Beauty Myth”? I read it at university and remember thinking it good (although I vastly preferred Faludi’s “Backlash”).

Well, somewhere between there, via Occupy Wall Street, and here?

She’s gone a bit, as we say around my neck of the woods, “doolally tap”.

From her publicly posted Facebook page, she treats us to this:-

“In 2006 I went to Sierra Leone where 15000 girls had been kidnapped as sex slaves and NO ONE IN THE US CARED…not the state dept, not the military, no one in the media would run the story I was pushing for but finally Oprah did the story…news shows said ‘our audience is suburban’ meaning ‘we don’t care about black girls being kidnapped’….so the HUGE ANOMALOUS reaction to this EVERYDAY kind of sexual violence against African teenage girls is VERY SUSPECT and totally theatricalized, if that is a word”

A couple of things, really, Naomi. Firstly, those 15000 girls you mention? They weren’t all stolen in one go. Secondly, they weren’t all stolen in one go by an Islamist terror group. Thirdly, they weren’t all stolen in one go by an Islamist terror group whose leader made a broadcast saying he’d stolen them to be slaves because they were receiving an education. And fourthly, after all being stolen in one go by an Islamist terror group who then made a broadcast saying he’d stolen them to be slaves because they were recieving an eduction, the people of Sierra Leone didn’t launch a 3 week co-ordinated social media campaign (like the people – WOMEN – of Nigeria did) to bring to this to the attention of a blase world.

So, you know, maybe it’s that. Or maybe the US ZIONAZI WARPIG MILITARY INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX is USING IT TO STEAL NIGERIA’S OIL?????????

Anyone seen Occam’s Razor?

 

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Top Jeer


I don’t like cars. Let’s get that out straight off the bat.

Oh, I recognise their worth for getting individuals from A to B. I don’t have a Green antipathy towards them. Just, I don’t like them, in that barely developed teenage boy way that so many men do. You won’t catch me having a long discussion about the merits of a particular model. I don’t buy Practical Car Masturbation Monthly, or whatever any of the specialist titles are called.

I’m also, as may be probably guessed from my political views, not really a sharer of the world-view of Mr Clarkson.

Which leads me to only make two observations regarding the latest racism row that recently erupted around the fellow.

Observation 1 is that, I have no idea what his intention was in using the language, whether he is actually a racist, I don’t really care, and I believe nobody should be fired for their unbroadcast, private language in a free and open democracy.

However, this is not the same as a public service broadcaster employing them. We shouldn’t be at this stage. We shouldn’t, because way before this point, the BBC should have stopped making the show, or stopped making the show in this current format, with these current scripts.

This isn’t a call for him not to be allowed to make a TV program in which he “hilariously” mixes jokes, which are occasionally aimed at the disabled, referencing people’s sexuality or exhibiting petty, oafish low level (at best) national chauvinism with comedy car reviews.

He should be free to make whatever program he likes.

A commercial channel could – if it feels it could attract and keep advertisers for that time slot, when he’s busy offending potential clientele (good luck with that) – then air it. Entirely up to them, there. But a public service broadcaster, paid for by the licence fees and from the general taxation of the disabled, the license fees and general taxation of people of all sexualities and all ethnic backgrounds, should not be airing it. That’s a simple principle. You expect your providers of public services – be they NHS, broadcasting, or bin-men, to be impartial as much as humanly possible.

That isn’t about censoring “views” away from public service broadcasting. Because what Mr Clarkson represents shouldn’t even be dignified with the word “views”. It is merely about making sure that such a service is impartial. I wouldn’t want my NHS doctor to call people, say, “slope”. Because he represents a public service organisation. If someone chooses to go on – say – Question Time and use the word “slope” to describe a man of Southeast Asian origin, let him go ahead. Watch how it affects his popularity. The stage is set for you, Mr Farage.

The private sector? Well, let the market decide. Strangely enough, I feel Mr Clarkson’s antics are both justified by the market (the massive sales of Top Gear DVDs) and protected from the markets, because I suspect very very few commercial providers would handle the flocking away of advertisers from a particular time slot that such open and constant low level charmless bigotry would provoke.

If you look across the Atlantic to America, with their first amendment rights, whilst racist attitudes are present in drama (as an integral part of the drama) after a certain point at night, you wouldn’t catch any of their channels broadcasting such witless stuff (and it is the witlessness of it that makes it so bad – something like “South Park” will be gleefully offensive to all races and nations including its own. But that has wit to it. People get there is humour present. “Top Gear” doesn’t even begin to approach wit. It gazes, longingly, at the foothills of wit from the trench of lumpen blokeish idiot banter it inhabits). Because the market will iron it out.

There’s also the fact that Top Gear has grown into this role. Its had a very strange evolution into quite a weird beast, one that bears little resemblance to the original program, which was a magazine program about cars. Imagining it being pitched today leads one to think of the scene where Alan Partridge pitches more and more desperate shows, culminating in “Monkey Tennis”

Partridge: “Its a car magazine show”

BBC Commissioning Editor: “No, I don’t think…”

Partridge: “But wait! Every so often, the presenter says something controversial and borderline racist”

I can’t really see it happening, can you?

The second point is a shorter summation of the first:

IT’S A FUCKING CAR REVIEW SHOW, YOU FUCKING MORON. CAN’T YOU JUST REVIEW A CAR WITHOUT BEING BIGOTED? WHAT WOULD THE SHOW LOSE, PRECISELY, FROM YOU NOT MAKING HILARIOUS REMARKS ABOUT LAZY MEXICANS? WHAT DID THE ‘SLOPE’ ‘JOKE’ ADD TO THE SHOW? 0.10 SECONDS OF LAUGHTER? DO YOU THINK YOU WERE STANDING UP FOR SOMETHING? WHAT, PRECISELY?

The solipsism of anti-imperialism


Lindsey German is a former member of the SWP and current “convenor” of the “Stop The War” coalition, a coalition who appear to exist entirely to oppose what they see as the continuous and unvarnished evil of the West. Ms German has frequently disgraced herself in the very recent past – making excuses for the terrorist who attacked a French Jewish school (such excuses, of course, she would never make for Mr Breivik), pushing a pretty nauseating pro-Putin line over Ukraine, etc etc.

Last night, however, she decided to up the ante completely. In a Guardian article ostensibly about the 200 Nigerian schoolgirls whose kidnapping by the brutal Islamist terror organisation Boko Haram has become an internet cause celebre (mainly, it must be said, led by Nigerians – mainly female Nigerians at that – themselves), she indulged in yet another round of…

Oh, go on, you know. Another round of blame the west.

It is interesting to see how she formulates this argument. After a couple of paragraphs of throat-clearing (in which the kidnapping is described as a “tragedy” – a revealing choice of word, given a tragedy is generally something, y’know, unavoidable, accidental and grim, like a volcano eruption or a tidal wave, rather than what this actually is, which is a massive criminal human rights violation by a bunch of medievalist psychopaths), she gets down to brass tacks.

To wit, the west shouldn’t get involved. Oh no. Because they will turn Nigeria into Afghanistan. And anyway, the Americans are already there! Boots on the ground in Niger! (Ok, it’s actually the country next door. Ok, there’s only actually 100 of them there. Ok, they operate unarmed surveillance drones at the behest of the Niger government who are worried about….ummm…..medievalist psychopaths spilling over the border).

“And western intervention is already firmly embedded in Africa. It does not have the same profile as in Afghanistan or Iraq, because past wars have made it harder to put boots on the ground. But Barack Obama has his military forces engaged in West Africa through their Predator drone base in Niger, which borders northern Nigeria. It also borders Mali, the scene of recent French and British interventions, and Libya, object of a disastrous western bombing campaign in 2011 that has left that country in a state of civil war and collapse.

US drones also operate in Djibouti, Ethiopia and just across the Red Sea in Yemen. The west has been engaged in proxy wars in Somalia in recent years.

If Islamism is now a threat to western interests in growing parts of Africa, it is one that they have played a large part in creating.”

Never mind there’s rather a large distance between Djibouti and Yemen and Nigeria. Around 3000 miles as the crow flies. Approximately the same distance there is between London and Gambia. Or London and New York. Because Africa is all the same place, innit? Those drones operating out of Djibouti most definitely add to the insecurity in Northern Nigeria. Just as Boris Johnson’s transport policies affect the New York Subway…

Oh, and there’s Mali. Mali is interesting because it happened last year. Remember last year? I remember it happening. And Libya? Remember the Libyan campaign in 2011? Of course you do.

Boko Haram, which “The West” has played a “large part in creating” in Nigeria, was formed in 2002. Its name allegedly translates as “Western Education is sinful” (although there is some etymological dispute over this, but its very much against western – or indeed, any feminine – education, whatever the provenance of its name). It started its campaign of violence in 2009. I’m quite impressed how, as well as destabilising the entire of the region by having 100 soldiers in the country next door, and a drone base 3000 miles away, the evil US have also managed to create Boko Haram via time travel! Astounding!

She then finishes the piece with some general knock-about “hate capitalism” stuff which blames the evil imperialist west for exploiting Africa, and blissfully ignores the major rising economic presence in the area, sitting behind some of the most brutal regimes, the lovely authoritarian Chinese regime, who are busy buying up African resources like there is no tomorrow.

I made a very simple, and easy joke earlier, on Twitter. “There’s a Yoruba saying which translates as ‘as day follows night, whatever the situation, Lindsey German will find a way to attack the West'”. I apologise for that joke – the language in the areas where Boko Haram operate is predominantly Hausa, so it was inaccurate – but the truth of it remains.

Some authors, Ms German prime amongst them, refuse to see any situation through the viewpoint of what it is like for those living in the area. To them, geo-politics is all about you and nothing else. Thus, Ukraine’s national integrity can be sacrificed because one doesn’t like the EU, or NATO. Nigerian schoolgirls being kidnapped can be waved away as a tragedy and then blame fixed on “the West”. Everything comes down to who you hate at home, nothing comes down to what is actually happening abroad.

There is a word for this. The word is solipsism.”Fuck what happens to the Nigerian girls, I’ll just do a bit of dear oh dear hand-wringing and then oppose any action at all that could help them. Why? Because I hate having to live in a reasonably successful pluralist democracy. Why? Because capitalism”.

Pretty sight, that view, isn’t it? Aren’t you pleased our leading liberal-left newspaper gives this woman space to push it?

Ad Hominemism is not antisemitism


Saw an illuminating exchange on Twitter the other day. Normally, I wouldn’t post about such stuff, as I find blogging about “microblogging” to be the most tedious self-referential guff. But this has stuck with me.

David Aaronovitch of the Times was sharing his latest piece, about the similarities between Farage and Salmond. I haven’t read the piece in question, and I don’t really need to, because the similarities are quite obvious – reductive answer to complex question, with surrounding guff designed to appeal to the sensibilities of those he is targeting. However, what did interest me is the response of one – I assume – follower of Scottish independence, who popped up with this delightful retort:-

“Blairite, Zionist Murdoch employee offers opinion about what’s good for Scotland. Thanks anyway.”

Now, ignoring the slightly ahistorical tone deafness of the retort regarding parts (A) and (C) (to wit, Blairism was generally about “accountability”, the “choice” mantra, bringing the market into public services – some could argue badly, some could argue well – transatlanticism, mild europhilia and avoiding tax rises; and Murdoch is rather pally with Mr Salmond above the borderline, so I don’t see how either – even if Mr A took his instructions from on high from a scheming duopoly of Murdoch and Blair – necessitates having a negative view of Scottish independence), it’s the Zionist thing that sticks out. And for one reason, and one reason alone, which is, one’s opinions on the state of Israel bear absolutely no relation to the Scottish Independence Debate. Not one jot. Not an iota (in fact, I would argue that “belief in the right of Jews to have their own state” if anything would make one more likely to be positive about the right of Scots to have their own state, not negative).

The fact is, the tweeter in question identified himself (quelle surprise) as on the left. And – aside from one or two challenges – nobody on his friendslist actually pointed out the irrationality of his yoking “views on the Middle East” to a completely unrelated situation. I’d go further and say, most probably, some of his buddies out there thought he’d hit the mark with a real zinger.

This kind of low level stuff feeds into a question I’ve been asking myself for a while. Many – mainly on the left, but shifting over to the liberals with the occasional high Tory – are quick to use the formulation “I am not anti-semitic, I am anti-zionist” without thinking it through. On the one hand, it makes a plausible cover. “I don’t believe in being nasty to individuals, but the project that is the Jewish state, on the other hand…”

Problem is, is when you examine it with any riguour, the idea kind of falls apart under it’s own contradiction. Oh, don’t mistake me here – I’m not one who offers blanket coverage for the actions of Israel. I don’t even offer coverage, it really isn’t my fight (in his “Trials of the Diaspora”, Anthony Julius identifies as “rational” enemies of the Jewish state those who have reason – however justified or unjustified you may feel them – to feel aggrieved with Israel, be they Palestinian, Lebanese, Syrian…similarly with supporters of the Jewish state, the same caveat applies – a friend said to me recently that a one-dimensional focus on the rights or wrongs of Israel/Palestine, from whatever side, unless you have a specific connection to the region, is pretty much the sure sign of a crank or someone using it as a proxy in a different war, and I’m 100% behind that interpretation).

But there is an inherent contradiction behind “I’m not anti-semitic, I’m anti-zionist”.

Which is, inevitably, the person who states it is a supporter of Palestinian nationhood. Guess what? In my disengaged way, so am I! Whoop! Let’s all join in the group hug here, until I offer you the caveat: that if you support Palestinian nationhood but don’t support Zionism – ie/ the right of the jews to have a homeland – then you are, by your own admission, racist. The Palestinians deserve a state, the Israelis don’t. That’s what you are saying, when you say you are anti-zionist. Because that’s all zionism is. And that, on any level, is racist.

(I will, of course, also excuse “one state solution” supporters here, as much as I excuse “one world government” supporters here. Not that either do not in their number contain the possibility of racism – everyone is human – but the position itself is not in itself racism. Most likely, on every level, unattainable, but not racist in and of itself)

Now, there’s a charitable interpretation, here, of your formulation. That charitable interpretation is that, you know, you’ve got all muddled up with terminology. You are using the buzzword “Zionism”, like your friends on the left will use the word “Neo-liberal”, or your friends on the right will use “Cultural Marxist”, and you don’t actually think through what you are saying when you use it. Sloppy and inexact language breeds misinterpretation. Perhaps what you mean is “I don’t approve of some of the actions of the Jewish state whilst recognising it has a right to exist”.

If that’s the case, pat yourself on the back a little, because then you’ve passed the test and you aren’t (at least, in this instance) being racist. But you aren’t an anti-Zionist. You are, in actualite, a Zionist. You’ve just said you believe in the right of Israel to exist. Zionist you! It’s perfectly plausible to be one, and a believer in Palestinian statehood, by the way. David Aaronovitch, I believe, is (and has also defended critics of Israel, including believers in the one-state solution, from cries of anti-Semitism).

Perhaps you don’t believe in *this* Jewish state – you believe it should be constituted differently, have different boundaries, perhaps you don’t believe in its government’s behaviour or actions, perhaps you feel it gets away with things (which, if it does, it does because of the balance of the region rather than anything else, I would say). All well and good. Argue your points there, it’s grand. All debatable. But if you hold to the right for Jews to have a national homeland, then you are, a priori, a Zionist.

Which brings us back to our original tweeter, our man of the left, bravely standing up to someone else’s opinion by labelling him (A jewish writer, but I’m sure that’s just a coincidence, isn’t it?) a “Zionist”, when that label bears absolutely no relation to the subject in question. He probably thinks he’s not anti-semitic. He’s just anti-zionist. And people let that explanation slide. People think, nawwwww, he’s not a racist.

Y’know what? I don’t think that’s quite true.

Requiem for a Character


Max Dunbar

At some point in my childhood, I was led into a room in a school with a middle aged woman behind a desk. It was some kind of interview, for secondary school, I don’t remember, I was around ten or eleven at this time.

What I do remember is the woman asking me: ‘What’s your birthday?’

‘November 17,’ I said.

The woman produced a book. ‘Okay,’ she said, ‘let’s find out what Adrian Mole did on your birthday.’

That icebreaker was the first thing I thought of when I heard about Sue Townsend’s death. We all knew Adrian Mole. We had grown up with him. I read the teenage diaries as a kid, of course I did, but it’s the adult novels I loved most, because childhood in the main follows a set path, whereas once you’ve grown up, anything can happen.

Not that much happens in the Mole diaries. As…

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Are you not entertained?


I wasn’t shocked when I heard he had died. I can’t say it didn’t floor me, because it did, but it was one of those slow-motion punches you see coming, filling your vision, that you are powerless to avoid. Doesn’t stop the impact of it, but at the same time, you can’t say you weren’t expecting it.

You could see it coming from sometime between the second and third albums, from sometime between the bracing cynicism and contempt of that baby swimming after that dollar on a hook becoming lacerating, self-loathing, corrosive, fully nilistic. You could see it in performances people described as raw, and anguished, as a howl, as pain. You could see it coming.

Some of us – myself included – turned away. That third album was too much for me (see also: The Holy Bible, the same beast, the same sense of a car crash in slow-motion). But I understand those who continued watching. I had the same pangs. I have the same stirrings as I listen to him howl his way through “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” on the Unplugged album. A sick fascination for watching a man working out his demons under a spotlight. Or trying, and failing, to work out his demons.

At what point do we – and I mean all of us, all the time, not just in certain circumstances, not just with certain artists, but all of us, all of the time – at what point do we admit our collusion as a culture in the endless stream of celebrities fucking themselves up for us, on camera, in print, on stage? At what point will our culture back away from the freakshow and admit we’ve become like visitors to Bedlam, poking the inmates with a stick for shits and giggles?

Galloway and Shite


“The Zionists sent Gunmen to the Maidan in Kiev, to help a revolution, the cutting edge of which, the heavy lifting of which was being done by actual, outright, nazi anti-semites. The Bizarre alliance in the Maidan between former Israeli army officers, who’ve spoken openly of their role in Ha’aretz, and Nazis with swastikas on their arms is the most ugly alliance you can possibly imagine. Is part of the thinking of this, well, if these Nazis come to power in Kiev, and they hate Jews so much, the remaining Ukrainian Jews will feel that they go and have to settle in Palestine” – George Galloway, Press TV, March 15th.

Oh, this is so easy to Fisk. Such as, I’ve read the Ha’aretz article he references. There were 5 former Israeli servicemen mentioned in it. Now, stop and think for a while – Israel has national service, so pretty much everyone is going to be a “former Israeli serviceman” (or woman). Ukraine has a large Jewish population, and Israel has a large Ukrainian Jewish population, so there’s going to be ongoing familial ties. So, you know, the fact that there were 5 former Israeli servicemen there isn’t…when you actually stop and think for a second…that much of a shock. In the same Ha’aretz article, by the way, one of the Israelis makes the point that the “Nazis” had never acted in any way Nazi around him, were completely un-Nazi in his eyes. You know, I may be naive here, but I’m going to take the word of a Jewish guy on the ground about who is and isn’t anti-semitic over someone who hasn’t visited and has his own…mmm…troublesome relationship with Jewish people, and with the state of Israel (who, last going off, he was accusing of gassing Syrians, despite every government in the world that isn’t allied with the Syrian government believing that the guilty party in that case were…the Syrian government).

And then there’s the further, tentatively offered, “is part of the thinking” bit at the end. Oh. Those wicked Zionists. Making their own kind the victim, with the goal of oppressing the Palestinians. Of course, this basic anti-semitic canard is offered as just a random thought…because, you know, he’s just thinking aloud, he’s not actually claiming that, he can fall back on deniability, he can say “is part of the thinking”.

Of course, the contra-argument, that Ukrainians of Jewish descent are being slandered by an anti-semite, on an anti-semitic news channel, which is funded by a state closely entwined with the state currently menacing Ukrainians of all types…

Nah, that’s a bit far fetched, isn’t it? Must be the Zionists behind it. Makes perfect sense.

Gradgrind


From Yahoo News:

The NHS has wasted at least £46m on needless jobs including spin doctors, an art curator and a car park officer, the Tax Payers’ Alliance (TPA) has claimed.

It says the NHS had created 1,129 unnecessary jobs in areas such as public relations, the European Union and “green” staff – enough to pay for 1,662 fulltime nurses.

The campaign group said between 2002 and 2013, the NHS budget increased from £57bn to more than £105bn but that a large chunk was being thrown at unnecessary jobs.

There’s a number of points we can make here. The first is, of course, that the Taxpayer’s Alliance is being disengenuous. One could argue their very name is disengenuous, given that they appear to be a business funded astroturfing operation that *claims* up to 75,000 supporters but never releases the figures. But, even leaving aside that simple snark, in making the emotional comparison between these jobs and the extra nurses that could be employed, they are – well – operating in bad faith.

They don’t want extra nurses. They are small state conservatives. They want the NHS budget to be less, and as a consequence, their taxes to be less. There is nothing intellectually wrong with being small state conservatives, wanting the NHS budget to be less, and wanting your taxes to be less. Each are arguable positions, each I may disagree with somewhat (and, pretty much, for the same reasons I disagree with the nationalise everything brigade on the left – because they operate with an overly idealistic and naive view of what would happen next – faith in the market, faith in the state, is still faith), but it’s an arguable position with honest antecedents.

Pretending you want to cut state waste here for the state employ more people there, however, is a lie, if what you really want is to, well, cut the state.

There follows a corollary argument, which is, what do they think 1662 extra nurses would do to the NHS? It is a lovely striking figure, but since the NHS itself admits to around 2300 hospitals, what they are talking about is less than an extra nurse to each hospital. Most hospitals employ hundreds – or even thousands – of staff. The addition of less than 0.75 more nurses in each would make little difference, mmmm?

There is also the point that, if the NHS has a budget of £105 billion, and the most you can identify being “wasted” is £46 million (£45.3, actually, chaps, but had to push it to “almost £46 million” rather than “Just over £45 million”…no offence, but I was taught to round down on numbers below .5…know warrimean?), you aren’t doing very well. Every large organisation – public and private – will have a degree of waste about it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are examples of waste in the NHS and in the public sector that dwarf this, and I wouldn’t turn my nose up at £45.3 million in a big sack, and in a perfect world the NHS wouldn’t be wasting £45.30, but still…it does count as small potatoes within the budget you are looking at.

Then, there is the final part of the argument, which is their identification of “waste”. Pausing to nod at the art curator and say “well, you know, I agree with the TPA in that instance”, glossing over their identification of a “Car Park Officer” as an unnecessary job (Hospitals, big buildings. Tend to have car parks. These tend to need to be managed. Having a guess that Car Park Officer isn’t quite as unnecessary as you may think), wandering past the diversity and equality and green and EU representation officers and thinking “Well, I’d need a tad more explanation as to what they do before I cast judgement, but I can certainly see you may have a point”, we get to the meat of the waste – £34 million on PR.

Now, again, I’d love the NHS to not need PR. I’d love NHS Trusts not to need PR. But should a – say – disengenuous astro-turf organisation spend a lot of time demanding breakdowns of information via Freedom of Information requests, with the intention of rubbishing said NHS, said Trust, whatever…what would your average organisation do? Public, private, it matters not a jot. They’d need someone to go out in front of the cameras and answer those stories. They’d need to get their message across. Generally, those people would need to be professionals, and paid a commensurate salary. If you want transparency from an organisation – any organisation – then fair play, and common sense, would argue that the organisation should be able to employ someone to deal with that, someone who can answer questions, someone who can explain the organisation’s perspective – we call that “PR”, I believe.

And – when they weren’t fielding such queries – perhaps they’d be trying to get messages out to the public about health initiatives, services available, about how to look after themselves, how to recognise this ailment or that, where they could go for treatment for this disease or that. Etc etc etc (Which – possibly – in the long term preventative sense of medicine may have more of a benefit to the population than, oooh, say, an extra 0.72 nurses in every hospital in the land).

(There is, of course, a further irony in the fact that the TPA are, basically, a PR organisation for a particular view of the world, with a couple of researchers thrown in. Unnecessary jobs, chaps? Really?)

Do I know whether the number of PR professionals employed by the NHS (less than 0.5 for each hospital) is necessary? No, I don’t. Do I want to live in a world where the NHS doesn’t need PR professionals? Of course I do. Is the latter likely to happen, if there exist organisations whose raison d’etre is to use freedom of information laws as a baseball bat to smack the NHS around?

I don’t need a report to tell me the answer to that last one.

“The Rosicrucians were everywhere, aided by the fact that they didn’t exist.”


Like a dog returning to its own vomit, I can’t keep myself away from conspiracist thinking.

A short while after EuroMaidan and the fleeing of the Ukrainian President, a recording surfaced allegedly of Baroness Ashton of the EU and Urmas Paet, the Estonian Foreign Minister. In it, Paet outlined a theory – that he said had been voiced to him by a doctor named “Olga” (presumably Dr Olga Bogomolets, the leader of the doctors who tended the protestors) – that both government soldiers and protestors had been shot by the same people, and that those same people were hired by the leaders of the Ukrainian opposition. This conversation was taken, on the talk boards of Comment is Free (and has recently surfaced again, leading to several long and wearying arguments), to imply or suggest some sort of complicity of the EU in the deaths.

Now, looking at the above, it isn’t particularly hard to unpick this one, but let’s do it anyway. Shooting fish in a barrel is one of my favourite occupations.

Person A reports an alleged opinion of Person B (Person B, by the way, has denied she ever stated this opinion as she had, at that point, not examined the bodies of soldiers and, furthermore, didn’t believe the protestors to be behind both sets of deaths) to Person C.

We’ve already got one hole in the argument – the hearsay nature of the evidence (which is denied by Person B). Person A’s interpretation of Person B’s opinion is as fallible as anyone else’s. This is an alleged opinion, presented via Chinese whispers.

The second hole in it is the idea that even should Person A be truthfully/accurately reporting Person B’s opinion (We don’t know whether he is), Person B’s opinion is as fallible as anyone else’s.

Hole three – even should that opinion on “they were all killed by the same forces” hold true, there’s no evidence presented here at all that “the same forces” = “The Euromaidan protestors” – they could just as easily have been forces of the previous Ukrainian regime. Or, indeed, Russian Special Forces. CIA. The Rosicrucians. Lizards. Fat Larry’s Band, who had a major hit in the 70s with “Zoom”. Take your pick.

The big whopping hole number 4 in the theory is the “complicity” hole. Why, precisely, does someone advancing a theory to you make you…responsible for the thing in the first place? How precisely does this lead to suggestions of Person C being “complicit” again?

It doesn’t, of course, is the answer. The only thing that actually gives this any legs as a conspiracy theory is that is allegedly a conversation (Baroness Ashton has declined to comment on it) between two high-powered (well, one high-powered and the Estonian Foreign Minister) diplomatic types. Baroness Ashton, a supremely tedious failed politician, is somehow transformed into Jason Bourne’s boss because she listened to the unverified and unverifiable opinions of – let’s not beat around the bush – a minor European minister.

That, of course, doesn’t matter in the conspiracy theory view of how the world works. Because people are talking about something, they must be involved in it. Because people have some element of power, of connection, they must be plugged in. Everything is connected. It must be.

The cock-up theory of history holds something different, which is “Bloke thinks he hears some juicy rumour (but is probably wrong), phones somebody to tell her about it. She’s baffled. The end”.

I dunno, I’m veering towards the latter, aren’t you?

Memory, Sorrow..


Between the years of 1917 and 1954, there were many awful places to be alive in the world. It’s pretty certain most of us wouldn’t have coped with being a victim of the Bengal famine of the 40s, or been happy being placed in the middle of the Rape of Nanking. Perhaps the most awful place to have been alive, consistently, for that entire period though, would be Ukraine.

Between 1914 and 1917, 4 million Ukrainians fought on either side of the Great War. Tsarist “Russian” casualties of the war were enormous. And for the civilians, tens of thousands were murdered, imprisoned. Between 1917 and 1921, it was the cockpit of the civil war – hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions dead in the countryside. Purges. Pogroms. There followed a famine in which 1.5 million died. For 10 years following, it languished under Leninism, which slowly turned to Stalinism, and after that, we have Holodomor, where between 3 and 10 million people died, 80% of them Ukrainian, we have purges, we have mass ethnic cleansing. And then the Germans come. And the Ukrainian nationalists sided with the Germans and helped them with their crimes, killing hundreds of thousands of Jews, while millions more – Ukrainian peasants, soldiers, died again. Then 10 years of guerilla warfare against the Soviet state, all the while Stalin sending political prisoners east, purging the Tartars from Crimea (Which – with the exception of a brief period of 33 years until 54 – had always been part of the same administrative unit as Southern Ukraine).

My last post was on the subject of my own memories. I’ve come to the conclusion of late that we forget the impact of memory on the world, and we are ignoring it at our peril. In the UK, at present, we are limbering up for the anniversary of the commencement of World War I. By the official figures, just short of a million people from the UK died in the war. A horror that we today think unimaginable. Now think of the losses of Ukraine. Every ethnic group there suffered. Jews. Ethnic Germans. Ukrainians. Russians. Millions upon millions. And the major proportion of this, at the hands of their neighbours to the East. Dwarfing by far our deaths in World War 1 and World War 2 combined.

And this, really, in living memory. Less than a lifetime ago this stopped. And all the while it carried on, a forced “Russification”, Russian language and culture made de rigeur, in an attempt – not in the slightest unique to Ukraine – to destroy national identity. This was still happening when my parents were children. You think how we’ve been told stories by our parents and grandparents about the First World War, the Second World War…

Think what the tales of Ukraine must sound like. It must be like having an entire nation built on the site of the Somme.

And you come along with your talk of “natural spheres of influence”, and “Russia’s strategic interests”, and your footling concerns about o’erweening EU power when people who have this forty year period of horror in their cultural memory bank are looking next door to see an overmighty neighbour gearing up for war, using bellicose nationalist language, using quite obvious blood and soil rhetoric, passing laws that make the regaining of “lost” territory “legal”. The question is not “how can we judge the Russians, with the blood on our hands, with the mistakes and the lies of Western power?”. The question is “how does it feel to be Ukrainian this morning? How scared are you?”

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