William Gibson makes an interesting point in the debate over the identity of the Baghdad blogger Salam Pax. Personally, I’m inclined towards the view that Pax is a real person and not an Intelligence Service product of some kind, and agree that for him to be a product of Iraqi Intelligence would seem particularly unlikely. I wonder if his five minutes of fame will continue after the war, assuming of course that he survives it. I notice the site hasn’t been updated since Monday, but I imagine that your average inhabitant of Baghdad has more important things on their mind right now than updating their blogs and checking their email.
So, the Police identified the “white powder” they found in Geoffrey Robinson‘s car as cocaine, but he’s not facing any legal sanction due to lack of evidence linking him to the substance. But they found a bag of cocaine in his car!!! I wonder whether the outcome would have been the same had the driver of the car been an ordinary person.
It appears that there will be more “questions arising from the inquiries, which will be addressed in the near future”, according to his lawyer. That’s good then. I’m sure that if the Police found a bag of charlie in my car they’d damn well want to ask me where it came from.
(via The Guardian)
One time-honoured pastime of the ill is watching TV. I would probably have been doing just this last week (during the periods of time when I wasn’t curled up asleep in bed anyway) if we owned one, and went through periods of wanting to do just that. Now I’m quite glad that we don’t have one, as no doubt I’d have spent most of that time watching the coverage of the War.
I don’t really think that I’m missing anything much by not watching rolling news channels where the slightest rumour from Iraq is reported breathlessly in the desperate attempt to fill the airwaves with something other than speculation. Although I’ve done no detailed survey, I’d be willing to bet that somewhere between 75 and 95 per cent of breaking war news is later shown to be inaccurate and misleading. (Haven’t we taken that port about four times now?) Far better to wait a few days and the grains of truth that lie in amongst the hyperbole and propaganda usually surface. And let’s face it, it will probably be months if not years before the general public can hope to get a clear picture of what is actually going on.
But obviously I want to know what’s happening, and get my fix of war porn from other media – the radio, the papers, the web. These are certainly not faultless information sources either, although I’d suggest that at least the papers being somewhat behind (as it were), probably avoid some of the worst of the “breaking news” phenomenon.
The flipside of inaccuracy is bias. I’m not going to try and analyse who is biased and how in any depth, but it’s worth mentioning that (as has been noted elsewhere) people can see different bias in the same places. I’ve seen the BBC being criticised for emphasising Coalition casualties and setbacks, as well as for mentioning every time their Baghdad correspondent files a report that it’s been subject to a skim by the censor yet failing to remark upon the fact that their people with the US/UK forces are essentially subject to censorship too. Of course their is bias. Even if you allow that an information source attempts to be objective, you have to remember that objectivity is something you aim for, not something that you are. It’s an ideal, and our world is too messy for such things to exist without flaws.
There’s not much anyone can do about this apart from sit back and wait for the fog to clear. In some ways the obvious nature of the inaccuracy and bias (perceived or otherwise – it doesn’t really matter) of the media reports is a good thing – it serves to remind us that our information channels are quite prone to error generally. Perhaps not to the same degree, but the extremes of war lead to exaggerations everywhere. We just don’t notice as much when the reports concern things that aren’t quite so fundamental as a conflict with the potential to cost hundreds or thousands of lives.
For all my vast hoards of concerned readers out there, I’m happy to say that I’m on the road to recovery. I haven’t been so ill since I was a child, and it was pretty unpleasant. Still, I suppose that I should be grateful that all I’ve suffered from over the past week is a nasty dose of the “flu”, there are plenty of others who are far worse off.
Hopefully I’ll start interacting with the outside world again soon.
I’m ill in bed right now, something knocked me flat yesterday and I’m trying to get things back together. One effect is that I’m finding it difficult to concentrate for anything more than short periods of time so I can’t even use the time to post here. I know that the odd person or two have been dropping by here so I thought I’d mention the reason for my continued silence. It’s probably the fault of the French – after all, they’re responsible for everything that’s happened this week, aren’t they?
Really hectic week – so no bloggage at the moment. Maybe back at the weekend.
- Most Invasive Company
- Most Appalling Project
- Most Heinous Government Organisation
- Worst Public Servant
- Lifetime Menace Award
At the Privacy International website via the link above.
Possibly quite appropriate today given the announcement of the revised “Snooper’s Charter” plans from the Home Office.
…it would be a cut-and-shut job. Put it under strain, and it splits down the middle.
(Inspiration from Radio 4’s Today programme.)
I feel that I’ve just got to hype this blog. David Neiwert has been running a series of interlinked posts on “Rush, Newspeak and Fascism”, he’s now up to part 9. I find the posts to be both fascinating and highly addictive reading, and I suspect that they might be of interest to one or two of the more politically inclined people I know drop by here from time to time, so go and check them out. There are links to each of the earlier parts at the top of part 9.
It’s such a large body of work that I’m not going to attempt to comment upon it at this time on a sunday night, but after reading the last couple of installments, I felt I had to link it in.
UPDATE: Claire Short says she’ll resign if there’s war without “UN authority” for the war or the subsequent reconstruction.
(Source: BBC Radio 4.)
Does this really matter?
Loughborough MP Andy Reed announced today that he was quitting his job as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Margaret Beckett due to his concerns over Blair’s policy on Iraq. Three other PPSs have announced their intentions do do likewise should war go ahead without a second UN resolution. (Story via the BBC.)
Iain Murray (couldn’t seem to find a permalink to the actual entry) suggests in response to the Telegraph coverage that this doesn’t really amount to much – PPSs are, after all, essentially gofers. But I think that Nick Assinder, commenting on the BBC, makes an valid point when he highlights the fact that anyone resigning under circumstances like this will have their cards marked for as long as Blair remains PM, and that the resignations point to the fact that many in the Labour party are already looking into a possibly Blair-free future.
The resignations of a few PPSs are certainly not going to be enough to divert Blair from his chosen course of action, but they do increase the pressure on him, but I’d suggest that the direction of this pressure is towards war, not against it. That war will happen seems to be inevitable. The sooner it does happen, the sooner all this debate over the UN becomes academic and what happens next will largely be down to what happens during and after the conflict.
Even if in the aftermath of war evidence comes to light that backs up the claims of Iraqi WMDs, Blair’s position will be far less secure than it was. There will be a sizeable chunk of the Labour Party who face no prospect of influence while he is in power after their opposition. The war will have to be unambiguously successful and the aftermath conducted with great care for them not to pose a threat to his leadership, and there’s plenty of scope for screwing up after the war even if it is resolved quickly and with minimal casualties.