Media coverage, the day after

Good for Ken Livingstone, finding the right words. Though a part of me wishes he had consistently taken this line throughout his career.

Sounds like anyone I know was safely out of the way, for which, as ever, much thanks. For Londoners, of course, it’s not something especially new, although it is always shocking.

I have been mulling ‘s somewhat provocatively phrased comments, and find myself in close agreement with ‘s response. Slightly rearranging ‘s final paragraphs, he says:

I don’t think it’s overstating to say that no matter how Utopian the society there will always be someone, somewhere, so unhappy, so outraged, so extreme in their opposition to it that they will be moved to violence. To imagine that countries like the UK can heal the causes of terrorism by amending their foreign policy is to assume that those committing acts of terrorism would even care, or believe, or choose to understand. On the contrary, I don’t think anything the UK or others could do would satisfy them.

That doesn’t absolve us from blame. It doesn’t mean, of course, that we shouldn’t try to be wise, fair, and open-minded in our way of life and our dealings with other countries. It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to remove hypocrisy and self-serving interests from our politics. Of course we should. Some terrible, tainted, ideologically abhorrent acts have been committed in the name of democracy and freedom. And in general if we clean up our act it might improve the international climate. Gradually. A little. But it won’t prevent terrorists from emerging, and it won’t satisfy the ones already in existence.

I think that’s entirely realistic, as someone whose day job actually revolves around analysing the use or potential use of violence, and then trying to get the major countries of the world to adopt a wiser, fairer and more open-minded foreign policy. One doesn’t want to get too far down the line of saying “You should adopt these policies because it will reduce your exposure to terrorism” – that comes much too close to allowing violence to dictate the agenda; I prefer to say “You should adopt these policies because they are the right thing to do”. And if I get the answer, as sometimes happens, “We can’t possibly do that because it’s what the men of violence want”, my response is, “In that case you are letting them set your agenda, and any lone madman with an AK-47 is in a position to determine your policy.” Not thinking of any particular examples here, though I’m sure you can fill in the blanks.

On a somewhat lighter note. The careful phraseology of media commentators, none of them wanting to be the first to declare that al-Qaeda type terrorists are responsible, reminded me, I’m afraid, of the Peter Cook sketch about the 1963 Great Train Robbery:

Journalist: Who do you think may have perpetrated this awful crime?
Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling: We believe this to be the work of thieves. I’ll tell you why. The whole pattern is extremely reminiscent of past robberies where we have found thieves to be involved. The tell-tale loss of property, the snatching away of the money suggests that it all points to thieves.
Journalist: So you feel that thieves are responsible?
Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling: Good heavens, no. I feel that thieves are totally irresponsible – ghastly people who go around snatching your money!

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