The Power and The Glory

Simon Jenkins is having fun at the Guardian. He has a go at the proposed legislation to deal with ‘glorification’ of terrorism. In a piece titled, rather conservatively, This is an act of censorship worthy of Joseph Goebbels he takes a rather dim view of the wording of the bill:

‘The wording recalls the remit of the old House Un-American Activities Committee
in Washington. It is born of Joe McCarthy out of 1066 and All That, with a dash
of the Soviet Academy of Sciences.’

And of the British government’s dubious ability to read history:

‘Are Hiroshima or Dresden to be listed events? If not, how can the no less
terrorist blitz be listed? Conrad was in this sense right: “The terrorist and
the policeman both come from the same basket.” I have no faith in Clarke’s
Stalinist historians. If Whitehall bureaucrats are so otherworldly as to find
village ponds, conker trees and rare steaks awash in human hazard, there is no
telling what they will find in the bloodstained pages of history.’

There is an old story about how when Elvis met Tom Jones, he proudly showed him his Drug Enforcement Agency badge that Richard Nixon had assigned him. The Voice managed to provoke the ire of The King by pointing out to him that his badge meant that he might have to arrest himself. Jenkins points out that ministers could find themselves in a similar situation under the new legislation:

‘Government lawyers may argue that states cannot be terrorists, yet those same
lawyers apply the phrase “state terrorism” to others. Besides, the bill offers
no defence of “good cause”. The Crown Prosecution Service must surely apply the
law impartially.’

And on the British government’s potential difficulties in defending itself:
‘The government’s defenders will argue of terror-bombing from the air that there are distinctions in targeting and collateral damage. But any self-respecting terrorist can find similar excuses for horror. At very least Downing Street is vulnerable to hypocrisy. Its crude attempt to stoke war fever in the winter of 2002/3 with briefings of “new smallpox/ricin/anthrax threat to London” was no less political. It was meant to frighten the public into supporting the rush to war. The effect was to disseminate the same fear as did the supposed terrorists. Bluntly, the government was doing the terrorists’ job for them. I cannot see how this puts ministers above their own law.’

1 Response to “The Power and The Glory”

  1. 1 IP September 23, 2005 at 1:45 pm

    i’m intrigued by this notion of “listed events.” so far, all they’ve said is the 9/11 attacks will become listed events after 20 years, but the 1916 Rising and the French Revolution will not be listed.

    But what’s going to be listed? The IRA’s Brighton bombing in 1984? Guy Fawkes trying to blow up Parliament? We don’t know yet, and that’s a big issue.

    Will films like the Battle of Algiers fall foul of this law? Not only does it glorify terrorism, it also falls foul of another part of the draft legislation, in that in acts as a training manual for those wanting to set up terrorist cells (everyone from the IRA to the PLO has used the film for this purpose).

    Will books like The Art of War, Chairman Mao’s little book of terrorism, Che Guevara’s little book of terrorism and assorted other similar texts, also fall foul of this part of the legislation? Will simply having these books in my posession on a trip the UK mean I could be arrested?

    There’s all sorts of other books, plays and films which could fall foul of this law, either through covering a listed event, or being seen as offering training. Take Freddie Forsyth. At least one of those books tells you how to make an atomic bomb.

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