Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Cohen Redemption

Hey, it's just a title. This week, like Nick, I'll be using journalistic cliches to sew together ideas which don't have anything in common.

I broke the story about the government's apparent hounding of Craig Murray, the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan. But ever since reading Thursday's Guardian, I've been wondering if the FO wasn't provoked.

Look, Nick. You were either right or wrong about Craig Murray. (I think you were right.) We know he provoked his former employers, that doesn't matter. Here is Craig Murray's take on the 'airline plot'.

None of the alleged terrorists had made a bomb. None had bought a plane ticket. Many did not even have passports, which given the efficiency of the UK Passport Agency would mean they couldn't be a plane bomber for quite some time.

Now Nick is also fond of bashing postmodernism. He claims he believes in truth. Craig Murray's claims are either true, or they are not. (Or some are not.)

Instead of looking Islamism in the eye, Murray declares that Bush and Blair longed to distract attention from their troubles and 'dodgy' intelligence about the alleged airport bombers 'gave them a chance'.

But 'Islamism' (a bloody stupid word, IMO) is irrelevant here. It the best the 'bad guys' can bring against us is teenagers with no bombs planning to blow up planes which they can't get on, I'M NOT SCARED. Nick looks the abyss in the eye, and like that chap in Nietzsche, it looks him right back.

Even as a conspiracy theorist, my former protege isn't up to much.

He's not a conspiracy theorist. He's not your protege either. Later, we have Nick on grade inflation:

Until that changes, we will have more media-literate drama queens than any sane society could possibly need, but not enough engineers, mathematicians and linguists.

Translated out of journalese, what 'media-literate drama queens' means is hacks who write hysterical columns with more holes in them than Gary Gilmore.

It is true that prisons are close to bursting and, in areas of full employment, it is also hard to find recruits to work in an unappealing job for an unattractive salary. Most are on around £22,000. Absurdly, while probation officers receive two years of training, prison officers are given a mere six weeks. Underpaid and underprepared, they are put alongside criminals who are experts in arts of corruption. What do you expect?

I am sure this is wrong on many levels. I thought that most prison officers were ex-army or ex-police. Six weeks to learn to bark "Lights out!" and turn keys in locks seems absurdly long to me. Here's the government's Learn Direct on probation officer salaries. Trainee probation officers can earn between £14,476 and £15,351 a year. Main grade probation officers earn around £20,804 to £27,973 a year. Criminal justice social workers can earn £17,000 to £28,000 a year. Prison officers also have prisons on their side: criminals are locked in, segregated, and watched. And most prisoners (as my friend who is a prison doctor tells me) are sad cases with serious drug problems. They may be nasty buggers, but they're rarely Professor Moriarty or Hannibal Lecter.
As too often, I don't take issue with Nick's headline "Drugs and corruption are rife in our prisons. We must clean them up". Also as too often, he doesn't suggest how (unless he means, legalise drugs, or at least ignore them in prison: but I think the reason the Home Office clamped down on drugs was the supply of heroin, which may make people passive, but can also be lethal). So as too often his column comes down to "Bad things are happening, and they shouldn't be".


Blogger Simon said...

"former protege"? Christ. I'm sure it's meant to be a bit tongue-in-cheek, but still.

8/20/2006 07:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! Spot on as usual. Such an incisive piece. This place gets better and better. Seriously guys, where's the paypal link or bank details so we can support your work?

Why's Islamism a silly word in your opinion? I think I agree, but you don't provide any further thoughts on this extremely common term. I look for light from you guys!

8/20/2006 09:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

TFC, I think Islamism is silly for several reasons. First it's in my Shorter OED where it's defined as "= Islam", and Islamist as '(a) an orthodox muslim; (b) an expert in or student of Islam'. Now, I'm not against neologisms per se, but Nick and others who use the word to mean 'Terrorist' or 'terror supporter' or 'barbarian' come pretty close to -- well I don't know what the word is, but it's like there's a universally agreed on meaning for American, and if some people try to snatch the word and use it to mean 'utter bastard' you could see Americans getting upset.

Secondly, there isn't this monolithic (there's a word I overuse) Islamist (or whatever) terror culture. It's like saying Christians all want whatever. Islam is riven with internal divisions. It's not a terrorist religion, or at least no more so than the rest.

There's some division among us; I mind "Islamofascist" less than others do, because it (to me) suggests that the fascist bit is a sub genre and not the whole thing. Though even I admit that fascist here means 'unpleasant person'; the similarities to Mussolini and Hilter are not much more evident than similarities to every other nutty organisation in history.

I'd be happier if these groups had identifiable names. (Even al Qaeda may be a made up term.) Then we could at least call them what they call themselves. Nomenclature is always a pain. If I had to pick a generic name 'jihadis' seems better to me.

8/20/2006 11:28:00 PM  

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