David Miranda, Picking Through The Issue

DM1There is considerable discussion of the detention of David Miranda and the lines are forming up.

On one side, those who seem to hate Glenn Greenwald and would probably justify any action against him or his partner, short of throwing them into Gitmo!

On the other, those concerned with the implications of the detention. I rarely find myself agreeing with Andrew Sullivan but he sums up the wider issue of Snowden’s exposé:

“Readers know I have been grappling for a while with the vexing question of the balance between the surveillance state and the threat of Jihadist terrorism. When the NSA leaks burst onto the scene, I was skeptical of many of the large claims made by civil libertarians and queasily sympathetic to a program that relied on meta-data alone, as long as it was transparent, had Congressional buy-in, did not accidentally expose innocent civilians to grotesque privacy loss, and was watched by a strong FISA court.

Since then, I’ve watched the debate closely and almost all the checks I supported have been proven illusory. The spying is vastly more extensive than anyone fully comprehended before; the FISA court has been revealed as toothless and crippled; and many civilians have had their privacy accidentally violated over 3000 times. The president, in defending the indefensible, has damaged himself and his core reputation for honesty and candor. These cumulative revelations have exposed this program as, at a minimum, dangerous to core liberties and vulnerable to rank abuse. I’ve found myself moving further and further to Glenn’s position.”

Joshua Foust is having none of that, essentially arguing that it was legal and that is what government do. Therefore, there is not much to complain about. I feel that is a rather narrow perspective, particularly for a journalist.

Nevertheless he writes:

“So, this is complicated. The UK authorities were correct to question David Miranda, but they were stupid, wrong, and abusive to have held him for so long — and in doing so, they ruined any possible legitimacy their questions might have held. It was a needless own-goal.

There’s also a bit of historical literacy we should perhaps add to the discussion. Histrionics aside, most governments, and many more unsavory groups, treat secrecy very seriously — sometimes with deadly seriousness. Regardless of the rightness or wrongness of his decision to help pilfer and distribute the treasured secrets of several governments, to do so openly, with such braggadocio, is not only arrogant it is misguided. This is not a game, especially to the governments being exposed, and casually involving a spouse to take a hit when he won’t risk it is a bizarre and troubling decision.”

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A Poor Excuse For Rationalists

As an atheist, secularist and rationalist I should be within the ideal catchment area for the Rationalist Association.

I should be, but I am not.

Having read their recent contributions to the discussion over Richard Dawkins’s conflating Islam with Muslims as a bloc, and studiously avoiding the issue of why he retweeted material from an EDL sympathiser I am less than impressed at their rationality.

I don’t mind a polemic. But to be oblivious of racism in Britain, not to understand the nature of the English Defence League and to reflectively defend Richard Dawkins is not rational, even for the Rationalist Association.

Daniel Trilling’s moderate piece on how we need to get beyond Richard Dawkins has set the cat among the pigeons and brought out some rather irrational rationalists.

Not good.

Update 1: A reminder of what a self-confess Dawkins fan said:

“Because Dawkins has gone from criticising the religion itself to criticising Muslims, as a vast bloc. They’re not individuals with names, they’re “these Muslims” or “some Muslim or other”, undifferentiated, without personhood. They haven’t managed to get very many Nobel prizes, presumably because they’re stupid, or brainwashed into zombiehood by their religion.

Yes, it’s only a “fact”, but in different contexts, the same fact can have different meanings. For instance, would Dawkins have tweeted another fact, which is that Trinity also has twice as many Nobel prizes as all black people put together? It’s just as true, but presumably he doesn’t believe that it’s because black people aren’t as clever. Yet he is willing to make the equivalent inference about Muslims, without further evidence.“[My emphasis.]

Update 2: I was probably a bit harsh, not all at the Rationalist Association are purblind to racism.

Paul Sims wrote a good piece in 2011, Demonising Muslims: When does criticism of religion cross the line into racism?

“Whatever the debates over terminology, it seems clear that there is a serious problem with anti-Muslim prejudice in Britain and, indeed, beyond. “All across Europe we have seen right-wing extremists moving more and more to using attacks on Islam as a way of using fear to win people to their cause,” says Sam Tarry, a campaign organiser at the anti-fascist organisation Hope Not Hate. Of the extremist groups tracked by Tarry and his colleagues the most high-profile in recent years has been the English Defence League, which emerged in the aftermath of a protest in 2009 against homecoming troops in Luton by the extremists of Islam4UK, the now-proscribed group led by Anjem Choudary. Drawing on pre-existing networks of right-wing extremists and football hooligans, the EDL positioned itself specifically in opposition to what it called “militant Islam” and organised street demonstrations in towns with large Muslim populations, drawing attendances of up to 2,000 by the spring of last year.

While EDL leaders maintain that their concern is with Islamic extremism, Tarry says their marches target a far broader section of society. “They’ve actually hardened their position over the last two years,” he explains. “Now they are pretty much saying they are against Islam itself as a religion, that it’s evil, that it’s incompatible with the West, and this feeds into a whole other set of arguments that they make about the general Islamification of Britain.” Hope Not Hate estimate that the demonstrations, which have frequently descended into violence, have cost the taxpayer as much as £25 million in policing and have caused serious damage to community relations. “I was there in Leicester [in October 2010] when they managed to break through police lines,” says Tarry. “Around 500 managed to rampage through the city centre and attack a halal fast food restaurant, smashing windows and storming it. In terms of victimising a particular community in this way, we haven’t really seen this kind of behaviour since the days of the National Front.” “

Over 40,000 Racist Incidents in England And Wales For 2011-12

Anyone familiar with the under currents in British society would know that racism is still a problem, but the latest figures the from Home Office are staggering.

There were over 40,000 reported racial instances last year, 2011-12.

Given the nature of these crimes it is very likely an underestimate. The real figures are probably higher, but whatever the final count, over 40,000 is a terrible indictment on British society.

I doubt the awful figures will spur any societal introspection, that would be uncharacteristically British, and as we’ve seen the question of race in Britain is often brushed under the carpet, or left to fester until it oozes out on its own.

This is an extract:

“There were 43,748 hate crimes recorded by the police in 2011/12.

Note that this figure relates to the five monitored strands of hate crime classifications used by the criminal justice system and is not a count of crime as more than one form of hate crime can be assigned to an offence. Indicative data suggest that less than five per cent of hate crime offences have more than one monitored strand assigned (this ranged between 1% and 7% of offences for the 17 forces whose data was reviewed).

Of the 43,748 hate crimes recorded by the police:

  • 35,816 (82%) were race hate crimes;
  • 1,621 (4%) were religion hate crimes;
  • 4,252 (10%) were sexual orientation hate crimes;
  • 1,744 (4%) were disability hate crimes; and
  • 315 (1%) were transgender hate crimes.

Race hate crimes accounted for the majority of hate crimes in all forces. “

Mel Gibson, The Met Police And Sikhs

Racism is a common theme in many Western societies.

Nowadays it is less conspicuous than it was, but its still around.

Many had thought that the Metropolitan Police had been cured of overt racism, or at least, banished it to the deepest reaches.

Stephen Lawrence’s murder and the subsequent bungling produced many changes in British policing, but there are still problems as Channel 4 reported:

“Exclusive: As a senior Met Police officer says warnings of racism have fallen on “deaf ears”, Channel 4 News reveals 120 race-related cases over the past decade – and only one officer dismissed.

The figures, which were obtained under the Freedom of Information act, come as the Metropolitan Police reveal that nine staff, including one civilian, have been suspended amid allegations of racism.

Ten cases have been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) and they include allegations of racist assaults in broad daylight as well as the racist abuse of prisoners behind closed doors.

The statistics come 13 years after the Macpherson Report , launched after the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence, branded the force “institutionally racist”.

Channel 4 News can reveal that between 1999 and 2011:

• 120 police officers at the Metropolitan Police were found guilty of racist behaviour
• Of these, 21 received some kind of sanction, most commonly a fine
• Six were forced to resign
• Just one police officer of the 120 was dismissed “

Doreen Lawrence argues the Met hasn’t changed, and the case of Kester David suggests as much.

The antisemite, Mel Gibson, is in the news again.

BBC One had a rather good programme, The Story of the Turban.

It deals with the Sikh faith and the importance of the Turban, but in passing it shines a light on racism in Britain from the 1970s to the Nineties, which is still very relevant today.