‘We’re becoming a very petty nation!’ So declared the officious Inspector Pratt on a 1972 episode of ‘Z-Cars’; he was incensed by the attitude of two long-haired scruffs in custody after they refused to co-operate and sign statements on the subject of their arrest. They’d been nicked driving a digger away from a building site, having missed the last train home; and they’d missed said train due to being held up during a pub raid conducted by Inspector Pratt barely a minute after the towels had been draped over the pumps. It was a quiet evening on the night-shift (not so much knife-crime in early 70s Newtown) and Inspector Pratt decided to undertake an operation that ironically echoed his own sentiments in all its intransigent pettiness. Clever writing in a TV series from almost half-a-century ago nevertheless makes a still-relevant point about hypocrisy and double standards, how one side can see pettiness in the other whilst simultaneously being blind to its own.
He’s been labelled an arrogant narcissist more than once, and Julian Assange resembling the rediscovered Radovan Karadžić with his big white beard as he was dragged kicking and screaming back onto British soil by the Met at their most camera-conscious could be seen as a sign of where we are on so many levels. The dramatic end of Assange’s unique Ecuadorian experience was a piece of Performance Art entirely in keeping with his seven-year tenancy of that distant nation’s London embassy. I would imagine conditions for Assange during his self-imposed incarceration probably resembled your average Daily Mail-reader’s fantasy of the conditions enjoyed by everyone detained at Her Majesty’s Pleasure; but it was a prison, all the same – and Assange knew his sentence wouldn’t be indefinite.
The Aussie shit-stirrer took up residency at 3 Hans Crescent in Knightsbridge in June 2012, ostensibly to avoid extradition to Sweden to face allegations of rape and sexual assault; whether grounded in fact or fiction, these allegations conveniently appeared in the wake of the whistle-blowing of the web-based organisation Assange is credited with founding, WikiLeaks. A sequence of clandestine classified documents were let loose in the public arena by WikiLeaks in 2010/11, most of which related to unpleasant American activities in Iraq and Afghanistan. With Assange’s appetite for self-publicity, it didn’t take a genius to calculate that the US Government wasn’t going to let him get away with exposing their misdeeds, so the Swedish allegations could be seen as a marvellous stroke of serendipity.
There’s no doubt WikiLeaks have released information that certain injured parties would rather wasn’t made public; the catch-all ‘National Security’ excuse works wonders in keeping such unflattering information under wraps, though there has been criticism over WikiLeaks’ reluctance to probe Russian documents in a similarly forensic manner to that which they’ve probed American ones. To most folk worn down by revelations of all powers-that-be being rotten, corrupt and generally pretty horrible, however, it’s hard to see how anything they might uncover on Putin’s regime could shock anyone in 2019. And whilst Donald Trump certainly wasn’t complaining when the organisation helped derail the Clinton campaign during the 2016 US Presidential Election, Mr President now professes ignorance over WikiLeaks. Regardless of a change in administration, the American Government as an institution finally has its opportunity to attempt extradition of Assange, something many have long predicted – including Assange confidant Pamela Anderson, who claimed the UK is ‘America’s Bitch’.
The former ‘Baywatch’ pin-up made an observation that has regularly been expressed with varying degrees of terminology since the humiliating forced withdrawal from Suez in 1956; but this week has also seen embarrassing events exceeding our poodle status to Uncle Sam. No longer a purchaser of a physical paper, I’m not aware if any of Fleet Street’s cartoonists have depicted Theresa May in the role of Oliver Twist holding out a begging bowl to the Brussels mandarins, asking for more; but it seems such an obvious open goal that I’d be surprised if any of them passed up the chance to hit the back of the net. After all, the last day of this working week was the second of the meaningless Brexit D-Days, following the no-show of March 29. Now we’ve had to pencil-in Halloween for third time lucky.
There shouldn’t really be anything left to say about Mrs May’s atrocious performance as PM; the lady’s for turning, lest we forget – and she’s done little but go back on every public statement on the subject of Brexit she’s made since 2016. Whether simple obstinacy from an unimaginative plodder or a deliberate delaying tactic of a Remainer representing a Parliament of Remainers in order to prevent the votes of 17 million from being enacted, who knows? Almost three years on from the decision of the majority, the UK now faces the bizarre prospect of selecting candidates to stand for the European Parliament when we shouldn’t even be there. Never a man to shy away from the spotlight, Nigel Farage unsurprisingly chose April 12 to launch his Brexit Party, which will probably compete with TIG under their new ‘Change UK’ title to exploit the most headlines from the Elections the UK was never supposed to contest. Short-term gain may be the aim, but if Farage’s latest venture can drain votes away from the BNP-lite that UKIP has finally descended into via the recruitment of Tommy Robinson as its mascot, good luck to him. He won’t be getting my vote, but neither will anyone else.
Anything more to report this week? Well, the philosopher Roger Scruton suffered a stitch-up at the hands of the New Statesman, whose interviewer rearranged Scruton’s statements to portray the former Tory Government adviser as a racist anti-Semite – though anyone to the right of Dave Spart is Hitler to the New Statesman; and the knee-jerk vigilante justice of social media is so entrenched as a legitimate judge and jury by now that Scruton was destined to be executed online the moment he agreed to the interview. At least Scruton had the balls to stand up for himself during the engineered outrage and not kowtow to the consensus.
At the other end of the scale, a young actress on ‘Emmerdale’ also received the chop and was forced into the obligatory online apology for tweets she apparently issued as a teenager. She was sacked for the crime of ‘Historical Offensive Tweets’ – yes, this actual term was used as a reason for her dismissal; Twitter has now been with us long enough for tweets from six years ago to be regarded as ‘historical’. One could say let this be a lesson to the Kids not to share their every intimate thought with their followers; but in a world in which an online footprint is now part of the fabric of life from the moment one emerges from the womb, how can it be avoided in future – even if one wonders how much an adult can be held responsible for what they said as a child or adolescent. Isn’t it all a bit…oh, I dunno…North Korea?
The same year the aforementioned ‘Z-Cars’ episode aired, I caused minor consternation amongst teaching staff at my first school when I drew a picture of Pinky & Perky at Christ’s crucifixion; if it had been preserved online had online existed at the time, would I now be regarded as anti-Semitic? Pork! Jesus! Call the cops! Oh, well – at least there’s a spare room at the Ecuadorian Embassy if I need it. Hmmm, if we weren’t a petty nation in 1972, we appear to be one today.
© The Editor