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The Hutton Inquiry website is quietly disposed of

When Brian Hutton commenced his inquiry into “the circumstances surrounding the death of David Kelly” it was heralded as a paradigm of government openness. That sounds hard to believe given how it turned out, but more than a few people praised it for the light it shone on government and military processes. It revealed a great deal of David’s personal life too. It rifled through his emails and phone bills and shared whatever information it thought pertinent with the public.

All this openness was highly selective, of course. There was a great deal Hutton chose not to share or examine, and in doing so he obscured the true pressures that were acting on Kelly that fateful day. This sleight-of-hand was partly what allowed him to pronounce not only that Kelly committed suicide (a conclusion that I too share, although with far less certainty) but also that his suicide had nothing to do with the Iraq War but was instead brought about by his intense shame in having been caught out talking to journalists off-the-record without permission. That evidence which the Inquiry had not selected, but which it could not reasonably withhold, such as the testimony of David Broucher (who appeared at his own insistence), Hutton traduced or ignored.  But nevertheless, the Hutton Inquiry website was a fantastic resource for any researcher or historian, and it contained a great deal of primary documentation, however selective it might be, available for download as PDFs. Alas, it is no more.

I tried to access it today for the first time in two years and found that the domain now belongs to one Alistair Maylum of Faversham, Kent, who (it appears) buys and sells domain names. The government has jettisoned the lot. The transcripts and the PDFs are no longer there. Instead any visitors are confronted with a generic web template for a personal injury solicitors. I mean look at it.  However fake Hutton’s openness, this is a sadder and more cynical development still. The website could not possibly have been axed for reasons of cost, its costs were trifling. It was something else, incompetence or censorship or both.

My biography of Kelly, Dark Actors, came out in July 2013. Within four months the website I had used extensively to research it was offline. Many of its footnotes and citations now point nowhere. So trust not in the cloud, and always download whatever you can, because the cloud sees all, and what may be there one day may not be there the next.

(Thankfully the transcripts are still mirrored here, as for the documentary evidence, I have no idea if a comprehensive mirror exists anywhere.)

POSTSCRIPT: All is not lost! Peter Beswick has very helpfully pointed out that the whole Hutton site (as far as I can see) is currently mirrored in the National Archives web archive. Thank god for that. For the link to the mirror, see his comment below. My despondency was somewhat misplaced.



That terrible Snowden article in The Sunday Times isn’t psyops

The Sunday Times has published an atrocious bit of journalism about the Edward Snowden revelations, alleging the whistleblower has “betrayed” British spies to the Russians and Chinese. The piece is an entirely unsubstantiated mishmash of unattributed sources who frequently contradict each other as well as many facts about the case which are already established.

While I was completely unsurprised to see the piece picked up and echoed uncritically by other components of Britain’s mainstream media, such as the BBC, I was heartened to see that the piece has already been comprehensively demolished online by just about every relevant blogger, news site and forum (highlights include Glenn Greenwald here and Craig Murray here; incidentally the Greenwald piece has already come under a spurious legal challenge from the Sunday Times, while Murray’s website has succumbed to a mysterious DNS attack) What an incredible display of the profound and innate difference between corporate and online media. But in America, the crucible of the Snowden story, even parts of the corporate media had a hard time swallowing this terrible, terrible piece of work – which the Sunday Times published as a headline, front-page story. Look, for example, at this interview between CNN anchor George Howell and one of the Sunday Times reporters responsible for the piece, “home affairs correspondent” Tom Harper (who is young Harper related to, I wonder?).

A common reaction to this story is to assume the piece is a result of government disinformation. After all, spooks and authoritarians everywhere are trying to vilify Snowden and cover up the extent of the illegality he exposed, and these efforts have always been fairly transparent and predictable. However, the Harper piece is even worse than that. As Craig Murray observes, the article contains a great many operational misconceptions about gathering humint that I can only conclude that the disinformation is all on the part of the newspaper.

I have said it before now, and I will say it again here: corporate media is so lazy, venal and biased that it disinforms as a matter of course. It cannot always be the fault of the spooks when a newspaper or broadcaster lies. In this grubby scrape for a story I suppose that Harper may indeed have spoken to officers of MI5 or SIS, but only perhaps a recent graduate entrant, or a dim and distant retiree; someone who has basically no operational knowledge, and is keen to inflate their importance and the seriousness of their department (this is a trait of civil servants the world over). As for any non-attributable utterances coaxed out of officials at the Home Office or in Downing Street, well, they would know literally nothing about British agents in China or anywhere else.

This is story is so poor, its fact-checking and verification so shoddy, and its general thrust at such variance with the American version of events, that the blame must lie with the paper. It wasn’t just Tom Harper who wrote it, after all. The by-lines also went to Richard Kerbaj, the Sunday Times’ very own security correspondent, and Tim Shipman, its political editor. That’s how deep the rot is. And remember that the Sunday Times is not exactly short of cash.

How long can a major British newspaper get away with punting nonsense like this? The influence of the idiot box and the dead tree press must surely be diminishing at a yearly rate. There will surely come a day when people marvel that such things ever swung elections, and I hope very much it comes soon. Only one thing is sure: we won’t be reading about in the press, or hearing about it on the television. The more a rag like The Sun roars its relevance, for example, the more worried you know News International is.

Keeping Up Appearances: how MoD profligacy cloaks our military impotence

In today’s Telegraph journalist and former RN officer Lewis Page has written a stunner of an article advocating the break-up of the RAF. Well, he hasn’t really. I suspect the sub-editor pointed his argument to that conclusion, and guided by his own service bias, he went along with it. What Page is really arguing is that our armed forces are scandalously under-resourced yet phenomenally expensive, so we should can our indigenous, subsidized arms industry and just buy US material. And you can make a very compelling argument about that.

We should cancel our order for A400M European transport planes, and buy more C-17s and C-130s cheaply from the US.

The Navy should not be allowed its new frigates: instead it should purchase basic ships to act as floating bases for helicopters, Marines and Tomahawk missiles. The Army should likewise move away from tanks and artillery, and towards integrated air support. If the soldiers really feel a need for Apache helicopters once they have F-18s and Reapers, we could replace them: but we should buy straight from Boeing this time, rather than a job-creation scheme in Yeovilton.

The utter incompetence of MoD procurement is legendary, but most senior officers (of whom there are far too many), all senior civil servants, and the entire political class are in cahoots to cover up the dire state of Britain’s military. They have long conspired to present the illusion of military power to the public, and justify it by pretending they are really presenting that self-same illusion to our enemies, a la Sun Tzu. It’s a dishonesty that kills British servicemen and wastes billions of pounds of public money.

This is why, for example, the Navy are about to take ownership of two typically overbudget aircraft carriers, but have no VTOL jets to put on them. And on a personal level, I have long been fascinated by the exquisite awfulness of the SA80. The same army that used the Brown Bess musket, the Lee Enfield, and the FN FAL, fine firearms all, has wielded one of the worst rifles in the world for twenty years. The SA80 was designed and manufactured in Britain, but the only military to have imported it is Bermuda’s (in Bravo Two Zero the author Andy McNab descibes the SA80 as “the Rolls Royce of rifles” and says it is far superior to the M16; it’s one of the clearest signs that the MoD were granted editorial influence over the manuscript).

Page’s argument makes complete sense overall, even if he picks rather unfairly on the RAF. It’s an argument that has been made numerous times by all sorts of qualified people ever since the Options for Change review in 1990. But every time this argument is made a crucial point is missed: if we abandon our flailing, useless, indigenous arms industry our relationship with America becomes transparent. We will have to admit, and the world will plainly see, we are simply a client state. Like Saudi Arabia. The unipolar nature of the world will become glaringly obvious.

In reality it is not national pride that compels Britain to squander so much of its national wealth on crappy, home-grown materiel. It is realpolitik. It hides the extent to which we rely on American support. Indeed, it is only American support which has kept us on the UN Security Council these past few decades.  Our stupid rifles and rented nukes and empty aircraft carriers and dead soldiers and dodgy arms deals obscure the reality that we are, in effect, a Yankee vassal. Once the British and American military begin to look identical (same uniforms, same weapons, same vehicles) this truth becomes inescapable, and diplomatically, this limits America’s freedom to maneuver. Furthermore, any change to the line-up or structure of the UN SC would be globally destabilizing, and not in a way that British or American governments would like (the rest of the world might feel differently).

Any American general knows full well the reality of the situation: they are the military superpower, and we are a foreign policy fig leaf. Since the end of the Cold War, our role as an American ally has provided no military benefit to them, but rather the opposite: it makes their operational theatre more difficult to manage. Britain is a landing strip and a diplomatic lever. In terms of American domestic politics, we are a helpful, bleeding extension to the echo chamber. Ponder that the next time some shoddy kit kills a British soldier. It is all an illusion, and one that disadvantages Britain above all.

Americans have complained vocally about the latest round of cuts to UK defence spending. Whenever they have complained in the past, it has usually been because they want to boost their own war budgets back home. This time they are rather more worried, but not for the stated reason. Our current defence cuts do not threaten our effective military capability: Britain lost that years ago. It’s gone. We could just about manage a little police action, like Operation Barras, but that’s about it. What worries the Yanks now is this: we can no longer afford even the illusion of military independence.

That’s a difficult line to sell in sentimental old Blighty, where we cling to our poppies and tattered imperial dreams, but the Americans can see things without the rose tint. As far as the British public are concerned, Tommy Atkins don’t need no fancy jets or decent bullpups or poncy armour, because he’s the salt of the bloody English earth, and the finest fightin’ soldier that the world has ever seen.

Help for Heroes indeed.

Ending “the easy ride” for the “workshy”: Britain in 2015

I blogged some weeks ago about what the general election told us about English communitarianism. The prevailing social attitude, at least as reflected in political announcements, corporate media, and election results, is that we are all suffering economically because Britain has too many lazy poor people, who are sponging too much money. “Lazy” and “poor” are of course synonymous adjectives, because poverty is seen to reflect moral weakness, an attitude that has prevailed in this country ever since the Protestant Reformation (and I would further argue that Proddie predeterminism is more inhumane than the Catholic concept of original sin). In any case, here’s one of the Labour leadership candidates, proving my point:

“Labour warning by Andy Burnham – You will not win if you give the workshy an easy ride.”

Burnham is the favourite to win, and his rivals are no different. So that’s that. Politics in England is going to be about “punching down”, or blaming poor people, for the foreseeable future. And it will take a seminal, monumentous event to change that – an earthquake that comes from outside the Westminster consensus, possibly from beyond the borders of Britain itself. Either that or complete political meltdown.

However much of society as we know it – the NHS, and the civic spirit of 1945 in general – will be left standing when the next political cycle begins is anybody’s guess. But Britain has met its biggest enemy: ourselves.

“The people.”

We’re doing far better at destroying the country than any Islamist terrorist. Those guys lack vision.

Able Seaman William McNeilly: Entrapped by MI5?

It’s only May, but Able Seaman William McNeilly is already leading the pack for Worst Whistleblower of the Year Award. McNeilly is – or was – a Royal Navy sailor assigned to one of our Vanguard-class nuclear deterrent submarines. He went on leave, tried unsuccessfully to get his self-authored report published in the national press (it was two days before the election), then went AWOL. It finally started to circulate in the national press after it was picked up by the (Scottish) Sunday Herald.

Essentially, McNeilly maintains that the Vanguard subs are poorly maintained, insufficiently secure, easy to infiltrate and not-fit-for-purpose. With the sardonic wit characteristic of the British military, his report was summarised by one anonymous ARRSE poster thus:

“So all a terrorist needs to do to access the missile control centre of a nuclear sub is to join the Royal Navy. I bet they are kicking theirselves over not figuring that one out.”

But broadly speaking, McNeilly might have a point. The secrecy which has long shrouded our Vanguard subs may be wholly necessary for reasons of national security, but equally, that self-same secrecy would also cloak severe levels of incompetence and inadequacy. One does wonder sometimes. Even so, McNeilly’s whistle-blowing is distinctly unconvincing. He has committed very serious breaches of secrecy and protocol for a report that isn’t really any more damning than a bad editorial. My initial impression, when I first heard the story, was that McNeilly is a young and not especially worldly man, who went on shore leave and desperately wanted an excuse not to go back. So this report is his excuse.

But this is a far murkier story than that. Instead of embracing anonymity, McNeilly went public from the gate. He even posted his passport and RN ID card on the net.


Looks old for 25, doesn’t he?

Specifically, McNeilly posted it on Scribd, which, nudged by the security services, promptly took it down, as it did his report (whistleblowers take note). Wikileaks, still a far more reliable channel for this sort of thing, has snatched and uploaded it all here. The report has gone through three revisions, and in the last  McNeilly also trumpeted how he had been able to take three flights unmolested since he went public. So that’s all a bit weird. Where he lost me, however, was here (I’ve bolded the key bits):

“This [my report] contains references to CB8890: The instructions for the safety and security of the Trident II D5 strategic weapon system. I’m sure all the Strategic Weapon System (SWS) personnel are scratching their heads and wondering how I’m writing this on my personnel laptop and referencing a book, which is contained within a safe in the Missile Control Centre (MCC). The MCC is the compartment used to control the launch of the nuclear missiles. It can only be accessed by people on the access list, and no personnel electronics are allowed. I was on the access list but how could I have gotten a copy of every single chapter on to my phone? A hidden camera? No. Smuggled the book out then filmed it? No. What I did was walk into a room were no recording devices are allowed. I sat down; took my Samsung Galaxy SII (white) out of my pocket, and recorded the entire book word for word.

That doesn’t sound like whistleblower to me. That sounds like a spy.

Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, both in my opinion genuine whistleblowers, released huge amounts of information. In fact the number of documents leaked by Snowden is in fact so large it is extremely difficult to quantify. But despite repeated (and dishonest) assertions to contrary, none of it got anybody killed; none of it “aided the enemy”; none of it even put anyone in danger. Consider the context too. With Manning and Snowden, their government was doing something illegal; their military and intelligence apparatus was facilitating that illegality; and the spooks and the generals were lying routinely lying to both the public and the politicians about it. McNeilly’s case is drastically different. The Vanguard subs are legal, and the secrecy that surrounds them is entirely justified.

Now consider this: in 2012, Petty Officer Edward Devenny (also from Northern Ireland, as is William McNeilly) was entrapped by MI5 agents posing as Russian spies. Over three months they ploughed him with drink and offerered him a number of inducements to provide classified information. Devenny, whose service record was until then pretty exemplary, eventually succumbed. When he was tried, it emerged that one of the things “Dima” and Vladimir” wanted him to do was use his mobile phone to record some classified manuals inside the sub. McNeilly, for reasons which defy any explanation other than espionage, has done exactly the same thing.

McNeilly’s long statement reminded me very much of the stereotypical defector. He exaggerates his importance, experience, and knowledge; he boasts of his intelligence; he complains of his mistreatment; he repeatedly insists that he isn’t interested in money; he avers that deep down he is loyal to his country and his branch of service – in fact he is doing this for the greater good. This is pretty much a bullet-point list of the attitudes struck by your stereotypical defector, and with good reason: they are pampered and pressured into believing this garbage by their handlers.

During Devenny’s trial, it emerged he was hugely suspicious he was being entrapped. This isn’t surprising, considering every Vanguard sailor knows it’s something MI5 and the MOD police occasionally attempt. In fact this is public knowledge, and has been ever since Chapman Pincher started writing counter-intelligence manuals. Devenny even told the officers entrapping him he believed that was exactly what they were doing. But the Security Service persisted, and eventually, after a night on the booze, Devenny crossed the line and took some snaps.

Reading McNeilly’s statement it is all but too apparent that someone – and almost certainly our own people – had been buttering him up. Perhaps they posed as concerned liberals, and lured him into “doing a Snowden” with offers of money and fame. Or they may have faked being foreign spies, as with Devenny, in which case McNeilly realised last-minute what was going on, and has re-styled himself as a whistleblower to furnish himself with a nobler motivation. One or the other. But if the story tells us anything, it’s that MI5’s Ulster office has very little to do these days. Either that or Northern Irish submariners are inherently inclined to treachery – but that is something I would stridently deny, having a touch of the Orangeman in my lineage.

(Incidentally, if counter-intelligence officers entrap a serviceman like this, and then agree with him to keep his crime a secret, they have an agent for life – and that’s how Lee Harvey Oswalds are made.)


What’s at the end of the GCHQ rainbow?

Did you know that the 17th of May is the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia? I didn’t. IDAHTB (or whatever clonking acronym it goes by) has been going since 2004, and I’m sure it’s probably a well-intentioned and positive thing. GCHQ celebrated the day by getting itself lit up in rainbow colours. Dave Cameron promptly tweeted about it.


Looks quite nice, doesn’t it?

Cameron mentioned Turing, of course, because the life and suicide (in 1954) of Britain’s greatest code-breaker, Alan Turing, is a sorry episode of homophobia at work. But I’m sure that GCHQ is now as meticulously impartial and institutionally tolerant as any other government department, which is a good thing. In fact, I doubt the private sector will ever be able to match the public sector in this or any other aspect of employee welfare. Nevertheless, you have to give this light-show a thumbs-up. Except. Except, except, except. There are some humongous caveats.

GCHQ is an institution with no regard for privacy, that helps disseminates propaganda, and which facilitates death and division – and this is simply assertion of fact, not a criticism. Which is why, over on The Intercept, Glenn Greenwald describes this rainbow gesture as “a deeply cynical but highly effective tactic… Support for institutions of militarism and policies of imperialism is now manufactured by parading them under the emotionally manipulative banners of progressive social causes.”

He does have a point. Issues of equality are increasingly used as justification for military action. There’s a crowd of people, here and in the US, who believe we can achieve greater sexual equality in Iran, for example, by bombing and starving their people, and then forcibly imposing an undemocratic government on them. There are even people stridently insistent that this should happen, who consider any contrary position to be moral cowardice.

Most recently, this tactic reared its head in Russia, over the winter olympics at Sochi in 2014, in the aftermath of the Urkainian Euromaidan, and concurrent with Russia’s annexation of Crimea. The media, and a swathe of government-funded NGOs, relentlessly pushed the line that Russia was a homophobic country worthy of sanction and boycott – policies which by no small coincidence were at that same time being pushed by Washington, Langley and the Pentagon for entirely geopolitical reasons. Russia certainly looks like a homophobic country to me (a Levada poll had 85% of Russians against same-sex marriages, for example, and a further 87% against gay pride marches) but let’s not forget that according to several studies, the Ukraine is more homophobic still. Russia’s vaguely worded law against “gay propaganda”, which proved so controverisal in the west, was passed in Kiev without a murmur of disapproval – or even awareness. And the extremely right-wing street thugs at the forefront of the Kiev coup, so ardently supported by the West, are the ones in the vanguard of Ukraine’s violent intolerance.

Ukrainian nationalists scaring the country's first Gay Pride march off the streets.

Ukrainian nationalists scaring the country’s first Gay Pride march off the streets.

At exactly the same time Western governments were vilifying Russia for homophobia, they were effectively encouraging it in her Ukrainian neighbour. So these LGBT concerns are transpararently hypocritcal, even without taking into account the gross sexual prejudice to be found in other Western allies, such as Saudi Arabia. It’s worth stressing that homosexuality is not a crime in Russia, as it is in Nigeria, India, or all the Arab emirates, for example.

Incidentally, this “gay propaganda” we’re talking about? Much of it appears to be distributed by US- and NATO-funded NGOs, and it would be considered pretty provocative in many parts of the US and the UK, let alone Russia.


A provocative, counter-productive waste of money, unless you’re a neocon propagandist.

A final point. Russia’s biggest LGBT organization, the Russian LGBT Network, opposed the sanctions and boycotts and general Western hysteria over Sochi. It wasn’t really helping, they said. But all the organizations that beat the drum over Sochi were either Western, or Western-funded, and they did not care. Russian gays, like Russian Crimeans, Russian Ukrainians, like the Russians of South Osettia and Transnistria, like the Shia of Iraq and Yemen, like the secular Arabs of Assad’s Syria, or the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt, simply do not exist in the eyes of the West. They are invisible people, and so they cannot really suffer. Their opinions do not count.

Before we send over the bombers, before we freeze the bank accounts, and before we commence our finger-wagging, holier-than-thou diatribes over the importance of sexual equality, or gender equality, or religious equality, or any other force-fed issue de jour, we need to respect our common humanity first. Tolerance comes from love and acceptance. It does not come from bombing, from spying, from propaganda, from hatred, from intimidation, from capitalist greed or imperial avarice.

There is something sickening and transparent about a regime which trumpets its tolerance for lesbians and gays and bisexuals and all other members of the sexual spectrum while denying the most basic human rights to Palestinians, or Russian Ukranians, or any other ethnic group. But it happens an awful lot these days.

Russia cracks down on foreign NGOs

Legislation like this is the direct result of Western attitudes like this.

Makes you wonder what really lay under the hood of “revolutions” like the Euro Maidan, the fall of Gaddaffi, and the Syrian insurgency if they all needed foreign money and foreign NGOs to take off.

More on English Communitarianism

Once you perceive communitarianism to be the dominant ethos in English political culture, you start seeing it everywhere. As has been extensively reported, the new Tory government is rushing to pass even more draconian anti-terror legislation.

“For too long,” Cameron announced, “we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens ‘as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone.’”

The people of Britain will lose even more freedom of expression, and even more of their privacy, all to target “extremism”. Really any sane person could write at length about the myriad dangers and multiple stupidities this legislation presents, but the question remains, exactly what is extremism? Radio 4’s Today programme asked the Home Secretary, Theresa May, the very same question. May could not answer.

“People who seek to divide us” was one of her attempts. “People who seek to undermine British values” was another. “We are together as one society, as One Nation,” she added.

That is, plainly, the language and atittude of communitarianism. Question, division, doubt: these things can not be tolerated. Ironically, the real impetus for all this truly awful legislation is probably our subservience to America, but that’s another matter. The government’s justifications show how Britain and British politics works.

Communities (whether real or imagined) are justified and defined by the external threats (whether real or imagined) they resist. Labour’s campaign error was to see threats which were internal. The Tories are, cunningly, effectively creating one which sits outside the electorate. There will be arrests, of course. Many, many arrests. But actual danger? There has been less and less of that since 7/7, and nothing to justify laws like this.

“We just wanna be togevva,” as that bloke used to say, in the advert for that building society. Remember building societies? We have lost what made us truly communitarian. Now we are just a tangle of fears and desires, drifting on a sea of lies.


EDIT TO ADD: See also Charles Moore’s post-election editorial in The Telegraph. “Over the past five years, in Britain as a whole, we have learnt how a country that forgets to defend itself properly starts to lose a sense of its identity. In the next five years, that sense must be restored.” Italics mine.

Seymour Hersh, the death of Bin Laden, and the New Orthodoxy

The Zero Dark Thirty narrative rests on a cocktail of troublesome inconsistencies and propagandistic lies. The news, which will surely not come as a suprise to anyone remotely objective, comes from Seymour Hersh. Hersh has been a formidable journalist ever since his exclusive with the junior field officer reasponsible for the Mai Lai massacre, and he has always been known to boast superb CIA contacts. Perhaps these contacts may be getting on a bit now, perhaps they may be slightly biased towards the Agency over other institutions, perhaps, like all human sources, they are never entirely neutral nor 100% accurate. Nevertheless, Hersh is the best old-school spook writer in the business. He warned us, last year, that this story was coming, and this month he delivered.

Seymour Hersh

Seymour Hersh (AP)

It’s an interesting article, although it doesn’t contain any knock-out revelations. It’s more a collection of smaller exposures: President Obama and the White House press machine deliberately lied about the assassination, repeatedly, to the public and Pakistan. For example: the US did not determine Bin Laden’s location through torture, but from a Pakistani walk-in, who was probably acting in accordance with the wishes of Pakistani intelligence. Bin Laden was an unarmed invalid when he was shot. There was no resistance. His death yielded no actionable intelligence. His killing was supposed to be secret, instead it became “political theatre designed to burnish Obama’s military credentials”. And so on, and so on.

An interesting read, but not especially explosive.  I think the reason Hersh sat on the story for so long is because he was hoping to piece more of it together, in particular Bin Laden’s relationship with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Sadly Hersh doesn’t appear to have nailed this, but what is just as interesting, for those interested in seeing the New Orthodoxy in action, is the reception Hersh is getting from many of his journalistic peers (or people who aspire to be). Inevitably, Hersh’s refusal to support the line unquestioningly pushed by mainstream media has seen him branded a conspiracy theorist. This is despite the fact that Hersh isn’t pushing a theory. He is simply deconstructing a narrative.

In many cases his “debunkers” clearly haven’t read or understood the central claims of his 10,000 word article, or else they are deliberatebly misrepresenting them. This episode reveals the true nature of today’s American press corps, and illimunates what “conspiracy theory” really means.

Hersh split from his previous magazine, the New Yorker, because of the New Orthodoxy. Citing some excellent sources, Hersh wrote that the evidence Assad’s forces has used CW inside Syria was, at best, ambiguous, whereas the rest of the mainstream media, and the entire Western potitical establishment, had claimed it was irrefutable. The New Yorker spiked the piece and Hersh ended up at the LRB, which was when the New Orthodoxy first started to label him a conspiracy theorist. Doubt can no longer be tolerated.

The 2015 General Election: English Communitarianism at work

I have finally reached an understanding about the election result. England is not socialist, obviously. So what is it? England is essentially communitarian. Despite how the word sounds, there is a fierce difference between socialism and communitarianism. The values of communitarianism, and the values of England, which are both far older than either socialism or the industrial revolution, are roughly to do with conformism and shared identity. You are who you are because of your standing and relationships within an acknowledged group. In today’s Britain the community is largely imaginary, but the principles and dynamics of communitarianism still stand. Everyone must know their place. Everyone must pull their weight. Everyone must take their due, and no more: communitarianism holds there is a common treasury, a ‘pot’ to which all members are entitled a share (which is reflective of communitarianism’s agrarian origins). Some people get a bigger share than others, of course, but that’s because they are perceived to hold important roles in the (mutually imagined) community.

I am now convinced, on reflection and further reading, that the election result principally reflected the communitarian notion that certain people had been taking more than they were due, and the majority voted to stop it. It is the first election in my lifetime to have been influenced by such an ethos, but I am convinced that this is what swung it. Benefit scroungers; immigrants; whining lefties; champagne socialists; the professional political class (being predominantly upper class affords the Tories the illusion that they are uninfluenced by the material gain inherent in folding power); the nagging, nanny state non-job holders of New Labour; the whole gamut of types and stereotypes which dot our social landscape, this is what England gave the heave-ho on the 7th of May. This is what accounts for the majority Tory government, and UKIP’s 3.8 million too.

This analysis explains why the Lib Dems lost ground to the Tories: because they revealed themselves to be pointless parasites. The Tories, on the other hand, offer a kind of patriotic nobless oblige which the communitarian has Brit has always respected.  It was probably little different in Anglo-Saxon times. Everyone from Labour leftwards would only have continued to hand out more money to the people and phantoms listed above, who are perceived as taking more than their due.

Yes, the economy is struggling. But England did not want to go after the bankers, the rich, or the powerful. They have always been there, in their towers and castles and mansions. Every community, real or imagined, has always had its inequalities. Instead, England went after a demographic which was comparatively new: that element of society which Atlee and Bevan’s 1945 welfare state was created to protect. England went after the people it thought weren’t pulling their weight. Read the language used in the comments sections of the major news websites, it’s saturated with this sort of language.

When the right-wing Englander talks about the economy and the budget and “living within our means”, he is complaining about people who he thinks are working less (or less usefully) than him, but somehow get to be happier. He has no bugbear with the City. They work long hours in the City, after all. It’s hard to get a job there. It’s socially elite.

Communitarian England rejects the food bank, for example, as a fraud perpetrated against the gullible by the greedy and the lazy. It does not occur to the English communitarian that the rich can be greedy and lazy too. Rich people wear suits fifty or sixty hours a week. They get up early in the morning and strut around the place talking knowledgeably about business and capital and the future. They are the ones who pay you, and you need their pay. It doesn’t matter that they risk nothing and contribute less. Those issues are impossible to discuss or accept, because simply asking such questions requires perspective that you cannot obtain from within the community – and the one thing the communitarian can never question is the community itself.

Which is why anybody who has read Marx will never be at home in England.


FOOTNOTE: The observation that England is communitarian was first made, to my knowledge, by the popular philosopher Julian Baggini in his book Welcome To Everytown: A Journey Into The English Mind (Granta, 2007). The book rests on an interesting concept: Baggini worked out, statistically, which was the most average part of England, and then went and lived there for a year. And thus Baggini, an upper-middle-class sort from Clifton in Bristol, ended up in Rotherham. This was before we all found out about the Rotherham grooming scandal, and actually I cannot remember if the book addresses immigration and ethnicity at all. Suffice to say, if Rotherham is indeed England’s Everytown, it’s not surprising that the English are deeply concerned about immigration – or more precisely, integration. Integration is a vital part of communitarianism, after all.