THIS YEAR’S MODEL

It says a lot about ‘terrorism fatigue’ that the latest atrocity – 14 dead in Barcelona to date – is something I’m struggling to write about without being overwhelmed by déjà-vu. Spain hasn’t experienced this kind of attack since the appalling Madrid bombings of 2004, but Blighty hadn’t undergone anything on the scale of 7/7 until Westminster, Manchester and London Bridge in our ‘Spring of Discontent’ earlier this year. By the time the third of these casual massacres came around, the media clichés were becoming familiar enough to induce the kind of reaction that dilutes the brutality of the slaughter and renders it almost on a par with all the other eye-rolling headlines that newspaper proprietors concoct to arrest falling sales figures.

The censorship of the gruesome reality is part of the game. There was an almighty storm on Twitter last night in which some thought it vital to show images from Barcelona whereas others regarded doing so as insulting to the people who lost their lives. Key to their recruitment policy, ISIS don’t spare the gory details in screening the aftermath of allied bombing raids on innocents abroad; seeing pictures that news outlets prefer not to show us has an impact that the Jihadi mindset responds to with a sense of vindication for their own retaliatory actions. What, one wonders, would the response in the west be were our broadcasters to practice a similarly uncompromising disregard for the editor’s scissors in the wake of another terrorist incident? Perhaps their very worry as to what response it might inspire is significant.

Whereas television news initially picked up the fearless baton from cinema newsreels and broadcasted the grim warts-and-all facts in vision from the 60s through to the 80s, recent trends have seen oversensitive censoring that leaves the reality to the viewers’ imaginations. Footage of Nazi death-camps may not have emerged until six years of conflict were already reaching their climax, but the horrific sight solidified hatred of the Germans for a generation and offered further justification for the Second World War, even if it was hardly still needed by 1945. Programmes this week marking the 70th anniversary of the partition of India have screened archive film of the bloodbaths in the wake of the British exit from the Subcontinent, yet it’s almost as though the grim images being in monochrome and from so long ago means they’re permissible in a historical context – akin to a false admission that this kind of brutality is something the civilised world left behind more than half-a-century ago.

Hearing of one more massacre on European soil and being denied the evidence transforms mass murder into an abstract concept and distances it further from the gut reaction images naturally provoke. When the world was shown the 1982 butchery at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut, Israeli troops absolving themselves of responsibility led to impassioned demonstrations in Tel Aviv that spilled over into Israel’s parliament; merely hearing of what had happened probably wouldn’t have inspired the same level of outrage as seeing the images did.

But seeing the hideous truth of precisely what it is Jihadists are capable of would tarnish the fatuous script Theresa May recited with routine precision last night – the whole ‘standing with…’ speech, which has no doubt already been accompanied by complementary appropriation of the Barcelona FC badge as a makeshift profile picture on social media. The pat sentiment of this speech, echoed across Europe in the respective languages of all the other leaders who recycled it, says nothing about the issue and fails to address it because to address it would leave the harmonious Utopian narrative in tatters. Jeremy Corbyn’s dismissal of Sarah Champion for having the nerve to say a fact out loud is symptomatic of this brush-it-under-the-carpet and don’t-frighten-the-children attitude which is fine for an ostrich but won’t prevent another atrocity in another European city before the year is out.

Unrelated on the surface, though sharing the same spirit, are the increasingly fanatical demands by the Puritan militants to remove public monuments to long-dead American heroes whose philosophies are out of kilter with contemporary mores (no surprise when most have been deceased for over a century). Confederate generals are the current target, though one enlightened online idiot apparently advocated the blowing-up of Mount Rushmore yesterday. Considering the first handful of US Presidents were slave-owners and that the White House itself was built by slave labour – something Obama at least acknowledged with a refreshing absence of froth in his mouth – means any rewriting of American history on this level will require the removal of a good deal more than a statue of Robert E Lee from the landscape.

The Taliban or ISIS destroying ancient antiquities and Islamic iconography that they find offensive or insulting to their twisted take on the faith is no different from what is being allowed to take place in America at the moment; to condemn one and condone the other is hypocrisy of the highest order. These are not the symbolic gestures of revolutionary rebellions emanating from a subjugated populace breaking the chains of totalitarian bondage, but the product of those indoctrinated in the ideology of fanaticism. Whether on an American campus, in a Middle Eastern Jihadi training camp, or inside English churches under the reign of Edward VI, it matters not; the motivation is the same, and it is this unswerving tunnel vision that drives the greatest threats to freedom of thought, speech and living we are confronted by in 2017.

© The Editor

7 thoughts on “THIS YEAR’S MODEL

  1. The sanitisation of ‘news’ and the erasing of history are both symptomatic of a process of systematic infantilisation bring applied to the populace. We are all products of our history, some of it was good, some of it was not so good, but it all contributed to bringing us to the point in time we currently occupy. Only by having easy access to all the available facts of history can we hope to appreciate the best aspects and learn lessons from the worst – we may disagree which items fit into which category, but if we all know what happened, we can have informed debate about that.

    The same is true of current news – whilst it would be inappropriate to broadcast unedited and bloody footage on the 6 O’clock BBC News, there is no reason why the real, ugly, bloody truth of what happens should not be readily available to those prepared to handle the issues. You don’t have to look if you can’t handle it, but it should be there as a public record of an event for those who can.

    As with all forms of editing, the spectre of censorship and propaganda is ever-present: despite the plethora of channels now available to us all, they are being progressively attacked by the ‘authorities’ to constrain their content and thus limit our freedom to gather facts and arrive at our own opinions.
    How long before even our comments here need to be approved by some external body before appearing? That may seem extreme but, if they could get away with doing it, they would love to. Our mutual challenge is to stop them in the cause of freedom.

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    1. Though not directly related to this brand of blog, the fact Google has appointed a panel to police YouTube seems an ominous shape of things to come re onine discourse. As for the more gruesome images of atrocities, I personally don’t want to see them; but I think they should certainly be available for those that want a more complete and less sanitised portrait of events.

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  2. It is terrible and it is Orwellian, not only are they trying to erase our history, they are already setting about rewriting it too! Type in ‘American inventors’ into Google and you will see what I mean!

    “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.” George Orwell, 1984.

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    1. It’s also generally true that history is written by the winners, although we should hope that the democratisation brought by the on-line world should change that, if it is allowed to.

      I say ‘generally’ because there is an exception developing in our own neighbourhood – it is clear that the IRA ‘won’ the Northern Ireland conflict, a status which will become more evident as all the implications of the ‘agreement’ roll on to full unification with the Irish Republic within a generation. But the UK government, the ‘loser’ in this context, is clearly complicit in air-brushing the official history to sanitise the previously-murderous Republicans in order to grant some apparent respectability. A shape of things to come?

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      1. “it is clear that the IRA ‘won’ the Northern Ireland conflict, a status which will become more evident as all the implications of the ‘agreement’ roll on to full unification with the Irish Republic within a generation. But the UK government, the ‘loser’ in this context, is clearly complicit in air-brushing the official history to sanitise the previously-murderous Republicans in order to grant some apparent respectability. A shape of things to come?”

        The IRA agreed to a permanent ceasefire and decommissioned its weapons and agreed that Irish unifiation could only be achieved by consent if it is to be achieved at all. I absolutely to do not agree with the proposition that the IRA ‘won’.

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  3. It is no doubt uncompassionate to say so but my first thought upon hearing about the attack was of the ‘Tourist You Are The Terrorist’ type protests in Barcelona. A few more similar attacks and it’ll kill off their tourist industry.

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