Must Read: Robert Parry — Deciphering the Mideast Chaos

The mainstream media’s coverage of world affairs over the past year has generally speaking been nothing short of diabolical. Proper journalism died at some point in the past decade, and the Ukrainian crisis, along with the Middle Eastern crises, have shown that there are a lot of journalists out there who seem to think their job is to tell the government’s story, rather than holding the government to account.

Perhaps the most graphic displays of this I have seen, is the daily briefings of the U.S. State Department. With the noble exception of the AP journalist, Matt Lee, and RT’s Gayane Chichikyan, the other “journalists” appear to see their roles as scribes, noting down all that Jen Psaki or Marie Harf spout. Lee and Chichikyan often commit that modern heresy of “asking difficult questions,” which was something that once upon a time most journalists seemed to think was part of their job.

Another notable exception to the journalistic malaise that I want to mention is the U.S. journalist, Robert Parry. Mr Parry has been consistently excellent in his coverage of the Ukraine crisis over the past year, and anyone who really wants to get to grips with what has happened there really should read some of his stuff, including his “Wretched US Journalism on Ukraine” piece and his update on the U.S. Intelligence Community’s silence on the cause of the MH17 air disaster.

But I also want to draw your attention to another great article from Mr Parry. The Middle East is just about as confusing as its possible to be right now. As I wrote back here, U.S. foreign policy in the region seems at times not to be so much a case of My enemy’s enemy is my friend, but more like My enemy’s enemy is my friend’s enemy’s enemy’s friend. In this piece, Mr Parry unravels a lot of the current shenanigans to show that the basic key to what is going on is an emerging Israeli-Saudi alliance. It explains a lot, but at the same time leaves a lot of unnerving questions. Anyway, here it is. Thoroughly recommended.

The King is Dead

Excruciating! Do you know where that word comes from? It comes from the same root word as the word Crucifixion. In Jesus’ day, nobody would talk about crucifixion. It was almost like a swear word, such was the horror and revulsion that that form of death brought. Anyone jesting about it would have been treated in the same way as someone jesting about Auschwitz might be seen today.

Yet for the Messiah, the pain was not just physical. That was just “the beginning of sorrows”. There was the psychological torment of having all his friends fleeing or standing afar off, of men wagging their heads and reviling him, and of the mockery of the priests and the soldiers and all who passed by.

And then there was the spiritual torment. Of having his prayers to His Father go unanswered, as His Father poured out His wrath for sin upon Him and turned His back upon Him.

Torment, upon torment upon torment. And then death. And all for our sakes.

The King is Dead: the latest sermon from Christ Church Salisbury.

Enoch Powell and the Presumption of Innocence

I wrote a few weeks back about the ironies of a nation celebrating the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, and the liberties it gave rise to, at the same time as we are busy dumping those liberties. What Magna Carta did, was to begin a process of turning the nation from a state where the authorities could effectively prosecute and punish whomsoever they liked, without having to justify their actions, to a state which was itself under the law and which could only prosecute people for real crimes, and after a rigorous and due process of law was followed. Magna Carta itself didn’t achieve this, but it paved the way for a whole variety of safeguards that we have — until now — taken for granted: habeus corpus, trial by jury, presumption of innocence.

In the last decade or so, there have been concerted attempts to undermine these liberties. One of the most sinister attempts to undermine these safeguards currently doing the rounds is the naming and shaming of people who are dead, for horrendous crimes, on the basis of almost no evidence, for which (for obvious reasons) that person is unable to defend themselves against.

The latest example of this are claims made in the media against the Conservative MP and later Ulster Unionist MP, Enoch Powell. Mr Powell is of course most famous for his “Rivers of Blood” speech, and so in the minds of many he is already a figure of hate. According to reports, he is now “being investigated as an alleged member of a claimed Westminster paedophile network after his name was supplied to police by a senior Anglican bishop.”

Pause there for one moment. Mr Powell, who died more than 17 years ago, is being investigated for crimes that are alleged to have taken place back in the 1980s. A number of questions arise.

Firstly, to what purpose? If it was the case that Mr Powell was involved in what the papers are calling “satanic sex abuse” (what other kind is there) what possible reason can there be for investigating him for it? He is dead for pity’s sake, well beyond the range of human justice.

Secondly, is this really what the police are employed for? To examine cases dating back nearly 40 years, involving politicians who have been dead nearly two decades and who can’t consequently defend themselves? Are there not more than enough current cases of sex abuse that the police could be looking into, without drudging up possible scandals from the past involving people who have already gone to meet their maker?

And thirdly, how exactly could any investigation be described as free and fair. As I stated earlier, Magna Carta and the documents that followed enshrined the concept of the presumption of innocence. Magna Carta itself doesn’t expressly state this, but it is implied in the part of the document stating, “no free man is to be arrested, or imprisoned… or in any other way ruined, nor will we go against him or send against him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.”

How can it be right to name Mr Powell in the media, since he is not around to challenge any evidence against him? In fact it is worse than that. According to the report in the Independent, “the claims against Mr Powell were passed to police by the Right Reverend Paul Butler, the Bishop of Durham, more than a year ago, but that they have only now been made public…It is understood the allegations against Mr Powell came from a single individual.”

So on the basis of the claims of a single individual, a man who died nearly two decades ago has his name all over the media as being linked to some of the worst crimes imaginable.

Of course I have no idea whether or not Mr Powell was involved in the crimes that are being alleged against him. If he was, God will have already taken care of that. But this is not really about whether Mr Powell was or wasn’t guilty of these crimes. Rather, it is about our whole view of justice and equity. Here are some simple questions that provide a test as to whether this is how we should go about things:

1. After hearing the claim made against him, are you more or less likely to be suspicious about Enoch Powell than you were before?

2. Do you think that a justice system and a media which can make allegations about a dead man based on the unsubstantiated claims of one individual might be open to abuse?

Some might accuse me of wanting to sweep these sorts of crimes under the carpet. Not at all. Any such crimes that are committed by persons living today, should be dealt with by free and fair due process of law, with the accused man able to defend himself against the charges laid at his door. And if, after being freely tried, he is found guilty by 12 of his peers of the type of crime being laid at Mr Powell’s door, I fully believe that he should be swiftly executed, such is the heinousness of this crime.

In Mr Powell’s case, though, none of this can take place. That being the case, I fail to see how justice can be served by splashing the case across the media. In cases such as these, I would rather leave justice in the hands of God — who does know what happened — than in the hands of the media — who love to engage in idle speculation.

New Reality TV Show: Amusing Ourselves to Death with Jeremy Clarkson & David Cameron

The whole Jeremy Clarkson saga is, largely speaking, significantly less interesting than standing waiting for an egg to boil. I am unsure how the story of a television presenter, suspended and now sacked for being an oaf, can possibly have occupied so much media space over the past few weeks. But it has. Indeed, so important has this news been deemed that the BBC put it above Saudi Arabia’s bombing of Yemen on Wednesday night.

Nevertheless, there are a couple of things of interest that have arisen from this episode. The first is the almost inexplicable decision of more than 1,000,000 to sign a petition calling for Mr Clarkson to be reinstated. Why is this of interest? Well, can you imagine these sorts of numbers of people getting worked up about something of actual importance – say the government dropping bombs on a foreign country that has not attacked or threatened us, or the mass slaughter of almost 200,000 babies in the womb each year? No, neither can I. That tells us something about our state, and it isn’t what you’d call a flattering picture.

The second thing that is of interest is that no less a personage as the esteemed British Prime Minister, Mr David Cameron, felt the need to weigh in with an opinion on the subject. A couple of weeks ago, he had publicly backed Mr Clarkson and called for his reinstatement, but after it emerged that Mr Clarkson had punched a producer, Mr Cameron backtracked, with his official spokesman saying, “If you do something wrong at work there will be consequences. Aggressive and abusive behaviour is not acceptable in the workplace or elsewhere. Jeremy Clarkson has to face the consequences of that.”

There is something horribly pitiable about the Prime Minister of a once great nation involving himself in this kind of trivia. It is not, however, without precedent. Back in 1998, David Cameron’s previous incarnation, Tony Blair, intervened to try to get Deirdre Rachid, a character in the Soap Opera Coronation Street, freed from jail. No kidding!

What are we to make of all this? As someone who has lived without a television for 14 years, I find it difficult to even connect with any of this. More than a million people care enough about who presents a TV show to sign a petition calling for his reinstatement? The British Prime Minister apparently thinks part of his job involves commenting on the suspension and then the sacking of a TV presenter. Doesn’t this strike you as being at the very least, mildly unhinged?

It all reminds me of what Neil Postman said in the foreword to his book, Amusing Ourselves to Death. It’s worth quoting at length, since it so accurately captures what we are discussing:

“We were keeping our eye on 1984. When the year came and the prophecy didn’t, thoughtful Americans sang softly in praise of themselves. The roots of liberal democracy had held. Wherever else the terror had happened, we, at least, had not been visited by Orwellian nightmares.

But we had forgotten that alongside Orwell’s dark vision, there was another-slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley’s vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity arid history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies [Huxley’s sense stimulating movies], the orgy porgy [group sex in the novel], and the centrifugal bumblepuppy [a child’s game in the novel]. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.”

What Huxley teaches is that in the age of advanced technology, spiritual devastation is more likely to come from an enemy with a smiling face than from one whose countenance exudes suspicion and hate. In the Huxleyan prophecy, Big Brother does not watch us, by his choice. We watch him, by ours. There is no need for wardens or gates or Ministries of Truth. When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; culture-death is a clear possibility.”

If the absurd circus surrounding the Clarkson episode was an isolated incident, I might be tempted to dismiss it. But it isn’t. In fact, it really is nothing out of the ordinary for our trivial, celebrity-obsessed culture. Perhaps we are close to that point of culture-death that Postman describes so well? What then?

PS. Actually Mr Cameron’s spokesman was dead wrong when he claimed that “If you do something wrong at work there will be consequences. Aggressive and abusive behaviour is not acceptable in the workplace or elsewhere.” His boss, Mr Cameron, launched a wave of aggression in the form of airstrikes on the sovereign territory of Libya back in 2011. Today that country is a failed state where chaos and lawlessness reigns, and where 21 Egyptian Christians recently had their heads cut off. Yet there have been no consequences for Mr Cameron over his role in this. Maybe we could start a petition for his removal.

Everyone Thinks in Black & White

Another Excerpt from my soon-to-be-published book, a Christian & an Unbeliever discuss: Life the Universe & Everything

The basic starting point of truth and logic is A equals A, so A cannot equal non-A. Up to the nineteenth century, people generally thought in these terms: thesis or truth (A equals A) stands opposed to its antithesis or falsehood (A equals non-A). Then along came philosophers such as Hegel and a century later, Satre, who, even if people aren’t aware of them, have had a massive influence on the way people think today, and basically they tore up these rules. In layman’s terms, Hegel essentially said that although A seems to equal A, it ain’t necessarily so, and the answer may change over time. Sartre then came along later on and essentially said that A equals whatever you want it to equal.

Of course, it sounds ridiculous when expressed in these basic terms, but nevertheless this type of thought has filtered down to the general public, so much so that many people—on the surface, that is—now think in relative, subjective terms rather than absolute, objective terms and think themselves to be jolly, free-thinking people because of it. So the most enlightened person today is one who says things like “What is truth?” or “How can we know what truth is?” or “Maybe this is just a dream I am having”, whereas someone who says, “No—truth is absolute and we can know it because God has revealed it to us” is a boneheaded fool.

But the trouble is that no matter how multi-coloured (as opposed to black and white) and liberal people like to think their opinions are, they always betray in their lives that, deep down, they do essentially still think in terms of A equals A, because this is the way we are made to think. Even if you are a “What is truth?” person or a “Your truth is your truth, and my truth is mine” wannabe, you will still find that, if you analyse your thoughts and words truthfully (if I’m allowed to use that word), your thinking is essentially in black and white in every essential area of life. You believe that Adolf Hitler was a wicked man? Black and white thinking! You believe that someone who punches you in the face for no reason has done something wrong? Black and white thinking! You believe that 2 + 2 = 4? Again, black and white thinking!

If you really want to avoid thinking in black and white, you must fulfil the following criteria:

  • Never, ever judge anybody for anything they do, either accusing them or excusing them for their actions, even in your thoughts.
  • Never use the words “good” and “bad” when describing either an object or an action.
  • Never use the terms “right” and “wrong” about anything.
  • Never use language that implies that a person’s behaviour, words or thoughts are good or bad/right or wrong (like “extremist” or “fundamentalist”, for example).
  • In short, never hold any opinions about anything or make value judgements about anything or anyone, all of which are examples of black and white thinking.

If you can do all these things, you will not only be the first person in history who has managed to do it, you will also be the most enlightened, free-thinking being in the world. But a word of warning: if you ever come to congratulate yourself on your liberal, multi-coloured thinking in contrast to the black and white thinking of certain fanatics, you ought to be careful. Even this very comparison betrays black and white thinking at its very root.