openDemocracy https://www.opendemocracy.net/ en Humanitarian pauses in Yemen? https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/helen-lackner/humanitarian-pauses-in-yemen <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>To re-emphasise, it is now estimated that 80% of the country’s population, over 21 million people, are in need of assistance, 1.3 million officially displaced.<strong></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p>On 25 July, the ‘legitimate’ Yemeni Government [currently based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia] announced the third humanitarian pause in the war due to start the next day. Earlier a 7 day pause had been announced by the United Nations to start on 10 July. The previous one, for 5 days, started on 12 May. </p> <p>This will be seen as an interesting new form of fiction by the people in Yemen who have seen no reduction of either coalition air strikes (in support of the legitimate government) or shelling and ground fighting between the resistance and the joint forces of former president Saleh and the Huthis.&nbsp; At no time did the fighting cease completely, making a complete mockery of the concept of a humanitarian pause. Over 4000 people have been killed and 20,000 injured since 26 March, not to mention the material damage to infrastructure and the country’s unique cultural heritage.</p> <p>In the past 126 days since the coalition bombing started and a little longer since the ground war has been in full force, three ‘humanitarian pauses’ have been announced. None of them had any significant impact on the ground, though the first saw a reduction in fighting allowing for more humanitarian aid convoys to travel in the country.&nbsp; </p> <p>While control and checking of ships trying to bring basic supplies of food, medicines and fuel has been relaxed in recent weeks, ships landing are far fewer than needed, and are queuing in the Red Sea or waiting in Djibouti. But as recently as this week, the UN reminded the world that it had long ago proposed ‘a light, UN-led inspections mechanism enabling the flow of commercial imports to increase’ and was still waiting for this to be approved.&nbsp; </p> <p>Until last week, Aden port, the main one in the country, was completely inaccessible due to Saleh/Huthi forces preventing its use, while Hodeida could only function at a fraction of its capacity due to shortages of fuel and electricity as well as insecurity which prevented staff from going to work and meant that all unloading had to be done manually. Onward movement inland also suffers from insecurity, occasional attacks on trucks as well as shortages of fuel.&nbsp; The re-opening of Aden port now that the city is under the control of the legitimate authority will hopefully significantly ease relief efforts, for this city and its neighbouring areas at least.</p> <h2><strong>Running out of disaster vocabulary</strong></h2> <p>Meanwhile on 1 July, the UN system declared a ‘level 3 emergency response’ something it only does in extreme circumstances, reflecting the desperation of the situation, which is indeed shocking.&nbsp; Senior UN officials are exhausting the diplomatic vocabulary for disastrous situations, trying to find words which might on the one hand influence the fighting groups to respect international humanitarian law, and on the other persuade the international community to finance urgently needed basic assistance.&nbsp; </p> <p>As the Under-Secretary for Humanitarian affairs Stephen O’Brien put it, the situation in Yemen is deteriorating and ‘the impact on civilians is indeed catastrophic.’&nbsp; His speech includes the words dire, catastrophic, staggering, starvation, harrowing, dangerous and more. With respect to the financing humanitarian assistance, he stated that it is ‘woefully under-resourced’, pointing out that only 15% of the required USD 1.6 billion have been received and that much has been advanced ‘in expectation of the original Saudi pledge of USD 274 million’ whose delivery is presumably still awaited. Readers are urged to contribute to the various appeals for funds for humanitarian support for Yemen and, in particular can do so through Medecins Sans Frontieres who are very active.</p> <p>To re-emphasise the points, it is now estimated that 80% of the country’s population, ie over 21 million people are in need of assistance. Despite this frightening fact, the UN is only targeting just over half that number [under 12 million]; there are officially close to 1.3 million displaced people, but the real figure is likely to be much higher. For example, in al Baidha governorate, according to the UN there are 7, 700 displaced people - but I personally know of over 70 in just two households in one village coming from 3 different governorates! Without wanting to denigrate the heroic efforts of those on the ground who are delivering aid often under fire, it must be noted that, given shortage of funding and other factors, it has only been able to deliver water and sanitation assistance to 3.3 million of the 20.4 million in need, food to 1.9 or the 13 million in need, health services to 880 000 of the 15 million in need! </p> <p>Taking the most basic needs: Yemen normally imports about 80% of its basic food supplies, particularly its main staples, wheat [90%] rice [100%] sugar [100%] tea [100%].&nbsp; In the first 3 months of the war, the country imported only 25% of its food needs, while local production suffered from the massive fuel shortages which prevented transport of locally produced food to the areas where it is most needed as well as irrigation for vegetable cultivation. A journalist who stayed in Aden for a month reported not eating any vegetables during the whole period. Imports of fuel ranged from 1% of needs in April to 44% of needs in June. Fuel availability also affects that of water for drinking and domestic use, with over 20 million people now not having access to clean water.&nbsp; </p> <p>What fuel is available has increased in price by about 400% rising to 800% in some places. To address this situation, the Huthi ‘regime’ in Sana’a decreed the de-regulation of fuel prices on 27 July&nbsp; [decree 36 of 2015] with details which will be sobering to anyone who came out in support of the Huthis just under a year ago when the Hadi regime increased prices in conformity with the requirements of the IMF. The new regulation allows the private sector to import fuel and changes taxation by replacing contributions to the road maintenance and the Agriculture &amp; Fisheries promotion funds with contributions to the construction of an oil port in Salif [where there already is one] and of a power station in an unknown location. The absence of an official price for petrol and diesel will presumably simply mean that the black market prices are now legitimate.</p> <p>As always in crises and emergencies, the poor are suffering most. While electricity bills are no longer a major item of expenditure for most households due to the disappearance of electricity altogether, cooking gas prices have doubled where it is available; most people now use what little firewood and charcoal they can get hold of. Water is either collected by hand from local wells and springs or from tankers delivering it to neighbourhoods and then collected by 20litre jerrycans, as the quantities previously available for washing and laundry, in towns at least, cannot be found.&nbsp; </p> <p>Water is now distributed in neighbourhoods as a charity by NGOs when they have fuel to get hold of it. &nbsp;Food prices have increased on average by 25% since February this year but had gone up by 45% in April alone. Sources of income have dried up:&nbsp; casual employment in construction, markets and anywhere still exists on a much reduced scale in the cities where relative peace prevails, such as Sana’a, Hodeida and Mukalla, but people only go out and take the risk of being caught in crossfire in Taiz and, until very recently in Aden. Hence one of the attractions of joining a militia, at least that means being paid and having money to acquire at least some basic necessities for one’s family. </p> <h2><strong>Head of Central Bank tries to leave the country</strong></h2> <p>Government salaries are still being paid, but this is unlikely to last much longer as the Ministry of Finance is close to running out of funds; in late June the deficit reached 23% at over YR 500 billion.&nbsp; The Central Bank has not issued any reports since January, but the balance of foreign reserves has decreased by about 26% in the first five months of 2015, and the Head of the Central Bank has just been arrested by the Huthi/Saleh alliance as he was trying to leave the country. With some sense of realism, the Ministry of Planning is projecting a 13% decrease in GDP this year, but reliable observers expect this to be an underestimate due to the destruction of much of the country’s basic infrastructure through ground conflict, coalition airstrikes as well as worsening unemployment resulting for the interruption of most private and international business activities as well as agriculture and local industry.</p> <p>Daily life, when not dodging the bullets, shells and bombs, is made up of attempts at carrying out basic tasks of obtaining water, food and fuel, as well as facing a broader than ever range of bureaucratic hurdles, whether to try and earn an income or to obtain funds from a bank or other institution or indeed anything else. Each outing into the streets puts younger men at risk of being forcibly enrolled in a militia or suspected of being an opponent of one kind or another. Displaced people are living mostly with relatives and friends, putting pressure on already overcrowded and underserviced homes.</p><p> <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/dJxwTqTWVyHwNNgLSZk4xy9ZWf69PYH83OTiT3wTSqw/mtime:1438425882/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/16842882470_c4c4e63c86_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/f7wKwRjGtpf7exgyrr-abFhKBZIsa--wPgArohI6EBc/mtime:1438425765/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/16842882470_c4c4e63c86_z.jpg" alt="Hands off Yemen protest, April 2015." title="" width="460" height="460" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Hands off Yemen protest, April 2015. Flickr/See Li. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><h2><strong>Politics goes on</strong></h2> <p>Now a few words about politics: Having announced a peace conference in Geneva to start on 28 May, the UN had to cancel this as no one agreed to attend and the announcement had been premature, to say the least. It was then postponed to mid-June when meetings which can fairly be described as a shambles took place, given that instead of the proposed two delegations of 7 members each, there were a number of delegations with many more members and meetings were held in separate rooms.&nbsp; The southerners who were part of the ‘official’ delegation refused to sit with their delegation while the Huthi delegation included a number of senior General People’s Congress Saleh supporters. In addition to some farcical travel delays for the Sana’a mission, the meetings produced no notable outcome which could have been the subject of a press release. While the UN new Special Envoy is certainly doing his best to try and bring the various factions to further talks, his and the UN’s reputation were not enhanced either by these meetings or by the fiasco of the pre-Ramadan humanitarian pause.</p> <p>While many initially wondered why the pause did not take effect since Hadi and the Saudis had agreed to it, the answer became evident on 13 July when the military stalemate was broken with the launch of the Golden Arrow offensive by combined naval Emirati forces with Yemeni landed troops and the continuation of Saudi strikes on Aden. Again one was left speculating about the relationship between events in Yemen and the Iranian nuclear talks as this breakthrough took place just the day after the signature of the Geneva agreement. While fighting in Aden continued for well over a week and, at the time of writing there are still Huthi/Saleh snipers in action, the airport was re-opened and by July 22, planes with military and humanitarian assistance started landing, despite the occasional Huthi/Saleh shelling from about&nbsp; 20km away. Some ministers have returned to Aden and the UN has sent many senior officials who returned with harrowing reports about the abysmal conditions and very heavy death toll prevailing in the ruins of what was once Yemen’s second city and an earlier capital.</p> <p>While all this is going on there are some very slight hints of hope, mostly around a series of secret meetings taking place very quietly in a number of locations including Muscat, Cairo, Amman and Moscow. These have variously included senior Huthis, senior GPC members close to Saleh, representatives of Hadi, with Iranians, Americans and other diplomats. There have even been rumours [promptly denied] of meetings between Saleh representatives and US and UK diplomats. Certainly these are a long way from achieving results and in the case of the Huthis’ meetings in Muscat happened without Saleh’s say-so,&nbsp; something which he complained about publicly in interviews,&nbsp; and is yet another hint of the stresses in that alliance.&nbsp; </p> <p>However it is far too early to hope for its breakdown as both sides need each other and share one common objective, preventing the establishment of a federal state and the return of forces supporting the GCC agreement and transition started in 2011, and which they interrupted by their coups de force from mid-2014 onwards.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Donate to:</p><p> Normal 0 false false false EN-GB JA AR-SA </p><p class="MsoNormal"><span><a href="http://www.msf.org/donate">Medecins sans Frontières</a>. See <a href="http://www.msf.org/yemen ">Yemen</a>.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span><a href="https://www.icrc.org/eng/donations/">ICRC.</a>&nbsp;See <a href="https://www.icrc.org/en/where-we-work/middle-east/yemen">Yemen</a>.</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/arab-awakening/helen-lackner/war-in-yemen">The war in Yemen</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/arab-awakening/helen-lackner/international-community-and-crisis-in-yemen">The international community and the crisis in Yemen</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/arab-awakening/helen-lackner/introduction-to-yemen%27s-emergency">An introduction to Yemen&#039;s emergency</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Yemen </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Arab Awakening Arab Awakening Yemen Helen Lackner Sat, 01 Aug 2015 10:44:40 +0000 Helen Lackner 94934 at https://www.opendemocracy.net BBC Green Paper: red alert on funding https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourbeeb/gill-hind-toby-syfret/bbc-green-paper-red-alert-on-funding <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The government&nbsp;<span style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 12px; line-height: 18px;">has promised a nit-picking examination of all the BBC does, focusing on how to redefine its mission as well as reform and improve its services in the internet age.</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This report was produced by <a href="http://www.endersanalysis.com/" target="_blank">Enders Analysis</a> and is published here in full with thanks:</em></p><p><span>The government has just landed the second of two massive blows on the BBC in the last five years. By 2020/21, the BBC will have taken over completely the government subsidy of the over-75s and seen, according to our estimates, a fall in total PSB funding of at least 20% since 2010/2011, the year of the first government intervention (see Figure 1).</span></p> <p>Things could get still worse, only this time not just for the BBC, but also for the commercial TV broadcast distribution, subscription, advertising and content creation sectors should the government pursue its vision of mixed voluntary and compulsory funding, as laid out in the <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-33556009" target="_blank">Green Paper published by the DCMS on 16 July</a>. </p><p>This note looks at the government vision and why it is so dangerous for all concerned.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/Bkl9uzOBhV_PJbwVamKrbPFTmh1sQ93Bnrbd-R-UzkI/mtime:1438415501/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/537086/unnamed%20%281%29.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/0xlkVmNGLUwGtv_Rfkaja4VzjxEMTT9DIsVTtKORzg8/mtime:1438414773/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/537086/unnamed%20%281%29.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="269" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>2020/21 is the rock bottom year for total BBC net income in real terms. Our latest forecasts in Figure 1 take into account the strong growth in BBC Worldwide revenue as published in the 2014/15 Annual Report.</p> <p>The actual projections for 2020/21 could be worse, since our forecasts assume that the licence fee rises or falls in line with the CPI, which is the best possible outcome of the Charter Review. The only possible upside is the closure of the iPlayer loophole, by which a growing number of households can avoid paying the licence because they have no TV set, but still access BBC video content via online connections. However, as we discuss later in this note, we think the annual incremental payments are unlikely to amount to more than £100 million and the implementation is not straightforward.</p> <p>Yet, will we have the licence fee in its current shape and form in 2021/22, once all government obligations have disappeared, as we assumed in our analysis of the settlement “agreed” between the government and the BBC?</p> <p>The answer looks increasingly in doubt based on what is contained in the Green Paper. Though not explicitly stated, the government appears to be keen on introducing some form of hybrid publicly funded and voluntary, in other words subscription, payment solution into selected areas of BBC funding. This would allow it to hive off the BBC into separate components, be they BBC Television, BBC Radio, BBC online, BBC Nations or BBC genres such as children’s or local news; or what is tantamount to the de-scaling and end of the BBC as we know it.</p> <p>In considering which areas will get what treatment, we see BBC Television as the most obvious candidate for voluntary subscription payment and much less BBC Radio, which we think the government will want to preserve within the public purse. Hence the main focus of this note is on the implications of the Green Paper for the TV sector, while online is covered more extensively in a separate note relating to news coverage.</p> <h2>Green Paper – Key points</h2> <p>The Green Paper lists four main areas for consultation across a 12 week-period lasting from 16 July to 8 October:</p> <p><strong>1) Mission and purpose –</strong> Why do we still want/need the BBC and does the concept of universality still hold water in an age of so much choice?</p> <p><strong>2) Scale and scope –</strong> How big should the BBC be and what should it cover, having grown so big in recent years, bearing in mind too its impact on the commercial sector as well as the variable needs and interests of its public?</p> <p><strong>3) Funding –</strong> How should we fund the BBC in the modern-day connected world, given the licence fee has an on-demand loophole and is regressive, being levied at a flat rate across all payers?</p> <p><strong>4) Governance –</strong> How should we reform the governance of the BBC?</p> <p>To understand where the government is coming from, the two core sections are 'Scale and scope' and 'Funding'. Before looking at these sections more closely, we make a few general observations. In particular, two disturbing features of the Green Paper are:</p><p> <span>- Its emphasis on online as the driver of change</span></p><p><span></span><span>- Its failure to consider the implications of change in BBC funding on the UK creative economy.</span></p><h2><span>Online</span></h2> <p>For more than quarter of a century, we have been told by new age evangelists, such as George Gilder and Nicholas Negraponte, how old world linear TV will vanish in no time at all (say, five years) as the internet world allows people to watch anything on any device, anywhere, anytime.</p> <p>The Green Paper may not go that far. Nevertheless, the present government comes across as a strong believer in the online on-demand future, as the Green Paper underlines the significance of “the explosion in the use of the internet and mobile devices” from the Secretary of State’s Foreword onwards. And when it comes to examining the rationale for the BBC, it states that “the ten years of the Charter have arguably seen the most dramatic period of change in broadcasting and telecommunications since the BBC came into existence.” In addition we learn that superfast broadband will be available to 95% of UK homes and businesses by 2017, even if no mention is made of what percentage of households will subscribe or can afford it. Meanwhile “new services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Spotify and Deezer have already begun transforming peoples’ media habits and expectations, and we would expect this to continue in the years ahead.”</p> <p>However, what is missing in the Green Paper is any kind of evidence to back the government’s assertion about the transforming impact of online access to on-demand content. Nor does it supply any factual detail about the timescale of change from a broadcast to online world, which the government appears to have in mind as it looks to the future of the television ecosystem and possible introduction of subscription funding. As it states in the Executive Summary, the government is seeking views “on the nature and extent to which the BBC should be migrating away from traditional broadcast platforms towards more of an online presence”.</p> <p>In our view the shift from a broadcast to pure online delivery ecosystem has a long term horizon of beyond 2030 when we consider not only the bandwidth demands and costs of delivering long form broadcast quality over the internet during peak viewing, but also the viewing habits of the UK population. Here we observe that we have so far encountered very little change during the last five years in the viewing habits of the over-55s who now make up 36% of the UK adult 16+ population in TV homes (see Figure 2), and likely to exceed 40% by 2026, based on projections by the Office of National Statistics for the total UK population.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/pQBh5vVtcHOAJHKjR2ydukd7W5swaPhoXcFgwURorTg/mtime:1438415502/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/537086/unnamed%20%282%29.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/gvWurG7aJ3Eax0JRn3eQsTCBzakeQyR4e0dt8kG92cU/mtime:1438414953/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/537086/unnamed%20%282%29.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="269" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>Not only do the over-55s account for a large section of the adult population, they also watch a lot more TV than the under-55s, accounting for a 48.5% share of total adult 16+ viewing in 2014. Quite simply, a large chunk of TV viewing is coming from older persons, who are more entrenched in their viewing habits. As for radio, online growth has so far had almost no discernible effect on listening to radio stations.</p> <p>This is not to say that online growth has not made an important contribution by widening the field of content, above all via YouTube. Yet, important though YouTube has been in developing the market for short form content, a wide range of survey data points to low levels of long form content viewing on other screens (i.e. less than 5%). Indeed, the BBC’s own iPlayer accounts for less than 4% of viewing to BBC television content, whether on other screens or the TV set itself, while Netflix, Amazon Prime and Now TV are currently subscribed to by no more than 25% of UK households.</p> <p>In short, online has a long way to go before it transforms the UK TV landscape. We are currently updating our long term forecasts of viewing to video content across all platforms and will present our latest thoughts on the pace of change upon completion. What we can say now is that data from several sources, such as Ofcom’s Digital Day 2014, indicate that the TV set accounts for 90-95% of all viewing of video content, whether long or short form. At the same time, broadcast sources account for about 95% of all video content viewing on TV sets (including PVR timeshift and online catch-up). Although Netflix and others have added to the broadcasting mix, we would contend that the most significant change during the current Charter is the expansion of the multichannel sector, whose share of total TV viewing has risen from 33% to 46% during the last ten years.</p> <p>Finally, the emphasis placed on online by the Green Paper is reminiscent of the Peacock days in the mid-eighties when politicians mistakenly set high hopes on the ability of the burgeoning cable and satellite economy to generate UK content. In fact, it is only in relatively recent times that the non-PSB multichannel sector has begun to make a material contribution. Even as recently as 2010, the total Sky annual budget for its own news and entertainment channels, excluding sports and movies, amounted to little over £200 million, and with practically no in-house contribution apart from Sky News. Why should we expect anything more from the new online brigade of American companies – the Netflixes, Amazons and Googles? This now takes us to the UK creative economy, the second big area of concern.</p> <h2><strong>UK creative economy</strong></h2> <p>The Green Paper acknowledges the importance of the contribution made by the BBC to the UK creative economy. But, when it comes to discussing the UK creative economy in any detail, the Green Paper focuses entirely upon the terms under which the BBC now operates and whether they should be reformed in the new Charter. In this respect, the two key areas for discussion are:</p> <p>1) The existing independent quota contributions in television, radio and online and the associated terms of trade</p> <p>2) The size and role of BBC in-house productions, including the proposition put forward by the BBC of setting up BBC Studios as a commercial subsidiary of the BBC that has to compete with other independents for all BBC commissions, but may also compete for external commissions, which it cannot do at the moment</p> <p>What is completely lacking from the Green Paper is any discussion of wider trends in the UK creative economy, including the consumption at home and abroad of UK-originated television content; or how this relates to the new online players like Netflix who are allegedly transforming the nation’s viewing habits.</p> <p>Instead, the sole focus of the government seems to be on how to rein in the BBC rather than to consider at a more general level the value of the UK creative economy and the role of the PSB sector in sustaining it.</p> <p>In the case of television, Ofcom’s PSB Annual 2015 Report reports total PSB national (i.e. excluding nations and regions) spend on UK first-run contributions in 2014 of £2.5 billion, 50% of it coming from the BBC. This covers all the national BBC channels (though not BBC HD) and the three main commercial PSBs. Ofcom does not break out the other commercial PSB portfolio and non-PSB channels. But, were we to add them in we are still looking at a BBC share of around 40%, in other words a major contribution towards UK TV content production, which needs to be considered carefully in the Charter Review.</p> <p>Finally, by way of side observation about the overall value contribution of the BBC to the UK population, the latest BBC Annual Report for 2014/15 shows total spend on television content of £1,786 million. This delivered a total TV viewing share across all individuals aged 4+ of 32.9%, and average weekly reach of 85%. The BBC spend is only marginally higher than the annual payments, never mind the extra production costs, that Sky and BT will be paying for live televised football in 2016/17, with a weekly reach of around 5% when the season is in progress and all for an annual viewing share of 0.6% (see Figure 3).</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/jCqcWa1QqxK2EpD3qDN_RAEXuwupb24KyIuvYzeFO60/mtime:1438415502/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/537086/unnamed%20%283%29.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/ULh3HHoX85a-4jbJI0aCkdniAqq3VginDalmIM2E9PM/mtime:1438415031/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/537086/unnamed%20%283%29.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="269" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>The public value of the BBC is indeed broad and the bulk of its spend is on UK originated content, which the likes of Google, Netflix and Amazon show no signs of wishing to invest in to any significant extent even if they do greatly expand the viewing options. In our view, the UK creative economy needs to be a core topic of the Charter Review, the more so in view of mounting concerns about the future of Channel 4, which makes the second largest annual contribution to the UK independent production sector, as a publicly owned national broadcaster.</p> <p>One final observation is that a key factor in allowing strong investment in long form domestic content origination is scale. This is what has always set the PSB system in the UK apart from the rest of the world. We tamper with it at our peril.</p> <h2><strong>Scale and scope</strong></h2> <p>The Green Paper chapter on scale and scope is all about what the BBC does: which services it provides; how well is it serving different audiences; whether it is providing the right mix in terms of quality; and how its content should be produced.</p> <p>From the funding perspective the core topic is the scale of the BBC and the range of services that it provides. In this respect, a constant theme is the sheer size of the BBC, its great breadth of coverage, and the desirability of splitting it into variable parts, from which members of the public can take what they want according to their tastes. Reflecting the government mission to change the BBC:</p> <p>- The Green Paper states at the very outset how “The range of services that the BBC provides has increased dramatically over the last two Charter periods”. It is a period which has seen an increase in the number of BBC television channels from two to nine along with the doubling of national radio stations from five to ten and creation of three online services, making the BBC the biggest PSB in the world</p> <p>- The Green Paper invariably starts each section by heaping praise on the BBC’s record, followed by heavy criticism, with constant use of the word “reform” and suggestions for how it can do less</p> <p>- As highlighted in the previous section, the views expressed in the Green Paper are almost entirely opinion- and not evidence-based, especially where it concerns the impact of the BBC on the commercial sector</p> <p>Although the Green Paper later recognizes the role of other factors, such as the switch from analogue to digital, in shaping the growth in number of BBC television and radio services, there is much it also omits to mention. For example, in asserting the dramatic growth of the BBC services, the Green Paper leaves out mentioning that:</p> <p><span>- Even in 1995, the BBC was the largest PSB in the world; ditto in 1975 and 1955</span></p> <p><span>- The nine BBC TV channels occupy seven transmission feeds</span></p> <p><span>- The TV channels include two channels with practically no audience – BBC Parliament and BBC Alba (in Gaelic) – as well as two children’s channels, which the commercial PSBs have shown no interest in matching…</span></p> <p><span>- … while the launch of BBC3 and 4 had much to do with the BBC stepping up to the Freeview plate upon the closure of ITV Digital</span></p> <p><span>- The increase in the number of BBC TV channels has to be judged in the context of the switch from analogue to digital. In 1995, there were fewer than 30 TV channels. Today, there are over 300</span></p> <p><span>- The BBC Executive did try five years ago to close two of its national digital radio channels (BBC Radio 6 Music and Asian Network (to be replaced by a network of part-time local services in areas with large British-Asian communities)), but later had to withdraw after running into a public backlash</span></p> <p>Overall, the government appears bent on trimming the BBC, whether this be a case of closing some services, increasing the participation of the commercial sector and/or awarding some public funding on a contestable basis. This approach is underlined by the choice of representatives on the Charter Review advisory group appointed by the Secretary of State, with its emphasis on individuals with rival commercial interests.</p> <h2><strong>Funding</strong></h2> <p>Universality is a core concept of the BBC television and radio broadcast services and their funding by the television licence fee charged for all households with one or more TV sets. Under the classic public service model the licence fee covers several universal attributes, which include:</p> <p><span>- Universally available national, regional and local television and radio services within the defined reception areas</span></p> <p><span>- Universal charge (including any subsidies), but with free access at the point of use</span></p> <p><span>- Universal access to a wide selection of programming that includes listed events deemed to be in the national interest for all members of the public</span></p> <p>However, the classic model has come under increasing pressure in the last few years. We may single out four main streams of criticism within political circles:</p> <p>- The licence is a “regressive” tax that takes no account of individual household circumstances (over-75s subsidy apart)</p> <p><span>- Non-paying households are liable to criminal prosecution if detected</span></p> <p><span>- An increasing number of homes without TV sets can access BBC content online via the iPlayer on other screens, hence enabling them to avoid licence fee payment</span></p> <p><span>- As the Green Paper has laboured at length to put across, the considerable increase in content options raises the question of whether we still need public funding to cover such a wide range of content</span></p> <p><span>In considering how the licence fee model may be brought more in line in with these modern times, the government lists three most viable looking options in the short to medium term:</span></p> <p>- A reformed licence fee that covers the iPlayer loophole, by which homes without a TV can still get BBC TV output via online access to the iPlayer</p> <p><span>- A universal public funding model on the lines of the German ‘media levy’</span></p> <p><span>- A mixed model of public and subscription funding</span></p> <p><span>But, there is also a fourth fully subscription funded model, which the government has placed to one side for the time being on account of the very high costs and time required to introduce encryption funding across all terrestrial DTT as well as satellite and cable households. Though not on the table now, its introduction at some point in the coming Charter period post 2020/21 cannot be altogether ruled out.</span></p> <p>In looking at the options, two general points which need to be made clear from the outset are:</p> <p>- Modernisation of the current system to cover the iPlayer loophole is a feature of all four options; however, we cannot take it as a given. First, the technical solution is as yet unclear unless public funding were to switch from the current licence fee to a household levy. Second, it raises the question of whether not just the BBC iPlayer, but also the other PSB online catch-up services should be behind the paywall. And third, the financial benefits are unlikely to be that great. True, the non-TV household population has risen by roughly 750,000 between 2010 and 2014, which would yield a little over £100 million in extra annual revenues were they all paying the charge. But, (a) it is by no means certain that the BBC could extract payments from all these homes and (b) we may expect the decline to smooth out rapidly now that the smartphone and tablet markets have achieved mass adoption, and with televisions being preferred by all age groups as the best available screen for watching long form content</p> <p><span>- Decriminalisation is a major concern under the present or revised licence fee models. The government appears to have accepted the advice from The TV Licence Fee Enforcement Review that criminalisation is “broadly fair and proportionate under the current regime”, though it is up for consideration under the other options, especially if the BBC were to move to some form of voluntary/subscription funding system</span></p> <p>What comes across from reading the Green Paper is that the government has in mind some form of hybrid structure (i.e. option 3) as a preferred solution from the start. This is because it enables it to:</p><p><span>- Hive off areas not directly related to BBC services in the UK, such as the S4C levy, broadband roll-out or BBC World Service, where it is decided that the funds must be protected at all costs</span></p><p><span></span><span>- Decide which other areas should be publicly funded such as BBC Radio (say, by a household levy of £30 on the Council Tax), and separate them completely from areas that in this world of boundless choice could be covered by subscription (in particular television, the iPlayer, and even BBC online)</span></p><p><span></span><span>- Open the doors to contestable funding for some public services, be they children’s, Scottish or local or whatever else the Charter Renewal advisory group, replete with commercial interests, sees fit to put on the shelf</span></p> <p>Of course, the present government does acknowledge in the Green Paper that switching to a full subscription model sets many practical challenges for the current broadcast system, especially to do with the roll-out of conditional access technology system, which it could take several years to surmount. However, it also contends that things stand to move much quicker for online services using existing paywall technology; hence we believe the listing of mixed public and subscription funding is a feasible option.</p> <h2>Red alert: subscription and online funding</h2> <p>Now the alarm bells ring. As long as the BBC continues with just the licence fee or other form of public funding, such as the household levy, there is limited cause for concern.</p> <p>However, there are three areas that do raise major concerns from the outset:</p><p><span>- Contestable funding</span></p><p><span></span><span>- Voluntary subscription payment</span></p><p><span></span><span>- Move towards online</span></p> <p>The first of these, contestable funding, arguably matters least to the wider television industry, although it implies further top-slicing at the expense of the BBC to other parties from the commercial sector.</p> <p>This leaves voluntary subscription payment, whether on its own or as part of a hybrid model, and the possible move away from broadcast towards more online distribution models, as the two areas where government decisions could have far-reaching and possibly unintended consequences on the whole television ecosystem and not just the BBC.</p> <p>With regard to some form of voluntary subscription payment, this will undoubtedly present concerns to the existing pay-TV platforms, as it implies potentially significant change to the current balance between the existing free-to-air and pay-TV platforms and services. At the same time, it raises a whole series of issues for the BBC concerning such items as:</p><p><span>- Extra costs of payment collection</span></p><p><span></span><span>- Undermining of the concept of the BBC as a universal public service to which all parties have full access</span></p><p><span></span><span>- Less predictable and more variable income streams</span></p><p><span></span><span>- Distortion of programming budgets towards content that yields more favourable ROIs, along with the possible ghettoising of some content areas where there is less public appetite for voluntary payment</span></p> <p>Among the many consequences, we must also expect concurrent reappraisal of PSB rules relating to such items as EPG prominence, retransmission fees and listed events that are in the national interest.</p> <p>Consequently, the immediate impact of the introduction of subscription payments may most directly affect the pay-TV platforms and mixed advertising and subscription channels that they carry; however, it risks major repercussions across the entire commercial sector, advertising as well as subscription. In the context of advertising, we should stress, in case of any misapprehension, that loss of BBC audience share in no way implies an increase in TV net advertising revenues. Indeed, recent UK trends suggest quite the reverse when we consider the supply and demand dynamics of the UK TV advertising market.</p> <p>Then there is the move towards online, on which the government seems to have its eyes fixed, not simply because it could facilitate the introduction of subscription funding in TV households without set-top boxes, but also in so far as the Treasury may see it as a way of potentially freeing up the DTT spectrum for auction to the mobile operators in the next decade. Should that happen, it raises many issues and the effects could be very damaging to the broadcast free-to-air sector.</p> <p>In short, the TV industry needs to think through carefully the implications of the different courses of action being put forward by the Green Paper and be ready with its response by 8 October when the consultation closes. It is not just on the BBC, but on the entire television industry – pay-TV, advertising, free-to-air broadcasting and content production – that the government axe is poised to fall.</p><p><strong><em>This note is published with thanks to <a href="http://www.endersanalysis.com/" target="_blank">Enders Analysis&nbsp;</a></em></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourbeeb/peter-oborne/time-to-fight-for-bbc">Time to fight for the BBC</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourbeeb/brian-winston/no-broadcaster-is-island">No broadcaster is an island</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourbeeb/david-elstein/bbc-and-tories-is-it-war">The BBC and the Tories: is it war?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourbeeb/michael-underhill/bbc-has-little-to-fear-from-britain%E2%80%99s-new-government">The BBC has little to fear from Britain’s new government </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> OurBeeb OurBeeb OurKingdom A post-broadcast BBC Funding and the Licence Fee Toby Syfret Gill Hind Sat, 01 Aug 2015 08:21:47 +0000 Toby Syfret and Gill Hind 94922 at https://www.opendemocracy.net 13 things about the Labour leadership election https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/adam-ramsay/13-things-about-labour-leadership-election <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>What does the Labour leadership election tell us about the state of British politics?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/zVbL-epUwWku9BLgDUuTs1cQM8nqbkCPs3FxgVC1Jg4/mtime:1438345859/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/752-Corbyn-634.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/2oXHLyWNI2Pe2gQ1a3GPA2PYshP2KndDKP91Iw-Tjt8/mtime:1438345819/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/752-Corbyn-634.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="232" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p><br /><strong>1) Corbyn is currently ahead</strong><br /><br />The opinion polls, bookies, the turnout at public meetings, the anecdotal evidence from phone canvassers and the analysis of the <em>New Statesman’s </em><a href="http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2015/07/im-more-convinced-ever-jeremy-corbyn-going-win">Stephen Bush</a> after his lengthy conversations with key activists across the country could individually be dismissed. But the fact that they all point in the same direction implies something powerful. It seems reasonably safe now to say that Jeremy Corbyn is currently ahead in the race for Labour leader.<br /><br /><strong>2) It’s not just the radical left voting for him</strong><br /><br />A month or so ago, I met up with an old university friend. He’d been involved in the students’ union a bit, which was how I met him. But largely, he was, and still is, a theatrical sort. His politics at the union were always a bit of a bellwether for me: on the left, environmentalist, kind, but never what I’d call radical: from the left, but not in a left bubble. Since university, he’s joined the Labour party, and I was a little surprised when he told me that he’d be voting for Jeremy Corbyn - more out of despair than enthusiasm. <br /><br />I mention this because my impression is that it’s typical. The MP for Islington North is doing better than expected not just because the radical left is strong, though that’s true too, but because the soft left, which <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/jeremy-gilbert/what-hope-for-labour-and-left-election-80s-and-%E2%80%98aspiration%E2%80%99">Jeremy Gilbert</a> and <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jul/24/soft-left-labour-splinter-party">Neal Lawson</a> have both well described, seems to have given him its tentative backing - for the moment. <br /><br /><strong>3) Being ahead at the moment doesn’t mean that Corbyn will win. </strong><br /><br />I can well believe that my friend will end up wavering, and stumping for one of the others - because of Corbyn's hesitant support for the EU, or fears about electability, or because one of the other candidates does something, anything, to inspire him. Or something.<br /><br />More importantly, the Labour establishment will be doing everything they can to stop Jezmania. We can expect more and more attack stories, shriller and shriller denunciations, etc.<br /><br /><strong>4) If they can’t stop Corbyn, there’s no way they could have beaten the Tories</strong><br /><br />Internal elections in political parties are a chance for candidates to flex their muscles - to show how good they are at fighting election campaigns. Corbyn’s success is in part built on the fact that the other three candidates look like they’d be incapable of inspiring a rabbit into its own warren. The reaction so far of the party establishment - most iconically wheeling out Tony Blair - seems practically designed to drive the membership into Corbyn’s arms. <br /><br />It may well be that they turn this around. But it may well be that they don’t. And if they aren’t able to, then that tells us something significant: the Labour party establishment is so moribund, so wilted, and so stuck in the Nineties that there is absolutely no way they will be able to beat the Tories in 2020. In other words, if Corbyn wins, it won’t be that which will make Labour unelectable - it’s a sign that they were incapable of winning an election.<br /><br /><strong>5) The poor centrist candidates are a product of the gutting of Labour</strong><br /><br />In 1997, <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/wit-and-wisdom-of-tony-banks-522386.html">Tony Banks joked</a>:<br /><br />“Do you ever get that scary feeling that there's more than one Peter Mandelson? What are they really doing in Millbank Tower? They tell us it's a communications centre. Well, I reckon they're making Mandelsons up there and getting ready to store them in that Millennium Dome in Greenwich. When the clock strikes midnight on 31 December 1999, millions of Mandelsons will emerge from the Dome and civilisation as we know it will be at an end.”<br /><br />This was as much satire as surrealism. Mandleson had got a firm grip of the Labour selection process, and ensured that a very particular type of person was chosen to be an MP; so often people who would do what they would told, who had the uncanny ability to repeat the exact lines given to them by the HQ. <br /><br />The aim was, in part, that none would provide a challenge to Blair and Brown, that there would be no troublemakers. The result was that when the New Labour leadership got old, there was no one able to take over. Burnham, Kendall and Cooper are all products of this process. Let’s face it. All look like they’re on a training programme for middle managers not quite ready for promotion. Each has their own qualities, but the fact that these have largely been overlooked is telling: whatever “it” is, they don’t have it.<br /><br />This is a story which is perhaps most easily told through a single person - Tommy Shepherd. Before Mhairi Black’s maiden speech eclipsed all others, it was Shepherd’s which had <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H2wSGjjHXfQ">got the most attention</a>, with his name trending on twitter for the following hours. The speech was moving, charismatic and thoughtful. <br /><br />None of this was any surprise to anyone familiar with Scottish politics - for years, Tommy Shepherd was a prominent figure both in the Scottish Labour Party, and as founder of the <a href="http://www.thestand.co.uk/">Stand Comedy Club</a>, a hub of the Edinburgh festival. For years, Labour refused to select him, for fear that he wouldn’t always toe the line, wouldn’t always follow the leader. Eventually, Tommy, having been persuaded of the case for independence, joined the SNP, and almost immediately became one of its more prominent MPs.<br /><br />The problem for the party’s centre now, then, is that after keeping out anyone with their own ideas, with their own sense of direction, the resultant generation of very capable followers and superb middle managers has come of age, they are left with no leader to follow. One simple reason that Corbyn is ahead is that none of the other candidates look like winners either. If Labour's going to be in opposition anyway, many members seem to feel, it may as well actually oppose.<br /><br /><strong>6) The radical left has taken a party turn</strong><br /><br />I have lots of friends who, a year ago, would swear that they would never join a party - radical, active, but not through such formal or hierarchical structures. In the last six months, lots of these people have signed up to two - the Greens during the surge, and now Labour, to vote for Corbyn. <br /><br />For me, this willingness to engage with structures is a positive shift; showing a desire to take and redistribute hard power, as well as confronting it. Others disagree. But either way, it's notable.<br /><br /><strong>7) Party membership doesn’t mean what it used to</strong><br /><br />In an age where political sorts get emails from 38 Degrees, Avaaz, and Greenpeace; endless notifications on Facebook from a plethora of groups and pages and where the only contact they have from their trade union - if they’ve bothered to join one - is the occasional text asking them their opinion in some absurd survey, what does it mean to ‘join’ a political party? <br /><br />When I first signed up as a Green in 2001, it meant joining a family, a team, picking a side and sticking with it. A small group of us met up each month in a dingy meeting room in a run down hotel in Perth and had carefully minuted discussions about selection procedures, or consultations on landfill sites, or whatever. I imagine many of us didn’t even have an email address at that point.<br /><br />Today, just as less and less extra-party political activity consists of going to minuted Wednesday evening meetings, I suspect that most Green members interact through email lists and discussions on Facebook threads. Why can’t someone who said that they ‘like’ the Green Party five months ago now click a couple of buttons, sign up as a Labour supporter, and vote for the leader? In the age of OKCupid, political polyamory is entirely plausible. It seems to me that modern parties will only thrive if they embrace this shift.<br /><br /><strong>8) Electability is about more than policy popularity</strong><br /><br />There has been a significant debate about whether Jeremy Corbyn is electable. Strangely, both the left and right of the Labour party seem to have decided that the views of the public happen to coincide with their own; every side argues that their candidate is the one saying what voters want to hear. <br /><br />All can cite some reasonable evidence. The left can cite the figures from <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/adam-ramsay/public-ownership-is-ridiculously-popular-why-does-no-one-campaign-for-it">polls on issues like the nationalisation</a> of, well, pretty much all the things. The right can talk about attitudes on things like immigration.<br /><br />Both, though, seem to miss the important point. Elections are as much about institutional support as they are about policy popularity. After all, if popular left wing policies were enough to win elections, Natalie Bennett would be Prime Minister. <br /><br />Those on the left who point out that the SNP ran on an anti-austerity pro-immigrant ticket and swept the board need to acknowledge that they did so both on the crest of a wave of a vast social movement unleashed by the referendum, and from the pulpit of the Scottish government (though, of course, that means they had got into government in the first place).<br /><br />The pertinent question isn’t about the popularity of Corbyn’s policies, or how relatively right or left they are or aren’t. It’s whether the pro-democratic institutions in Britain are ready for an all out assault on the British state or not. If the Miliband defeat teaches us anything, it’s that Labour leaders can’t win by on the one hand trying to rally the troops for an assault on the establishment and on the other trying to calm the nerves of that same establishment. If the Blair years teach us anything, it’s that there’s little point in a Labour government which doesn’t try to redistribute power.<br /><br />Any brief assessment of the institutional power of the left in Britain - shattered unions, weak parties, co-opted NGOs, low levels of social solidarity - implies that an assault on the establishment will struggle. But...<br /><br /><strong>9) Maybe it’s about building that movement</strong><br /><br />As Jeremy Gilbert points out <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/jeremy-gilbert/what-hope-for-labour-and-left-election-80s-and-%E2%80%98aspiration%E2%80%99">in his excellent piece here on oD</a>, it may be that the most sensible strategy for the left in Britain is to invest in building up this movement. After-all, as he points out, tacking to the right after 1983 failed to win Labour the 1987 and 1992 elections. <br /><br />Blairism did, though, allow the dismantling of the institutions of power of the left, apart, arguably, from the establishment of the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly. Maybe the prerequisite to replacing neoliberalism with democracy in the UK is building those institutions anew. And it might well be that this will take 20 years. But at least that will lead us to a new place, where Labour’s strategy over the last 20 years just took us back to square one. <br /><br /><strong>10) That means Corbyn embracing pluralism</strong><br /><br />If that’s the point of voting for Corbyn, then it means he needs to acknowledge the pluralism of modern social movement politics. Will he? We’ll be interviewing him here on oD in a couple of weeks’ time. We’ll do our best to find out.</p><p><strong>11) It'll be Cooper or Corbyn<br /></strong></p><p>Burnham seems to have peaked prematurely, and got all of the flack for the equivication around the welfare reform vote. Cooper has very nearly caught him in constituency nominations and, I suspect, has a couple of rabbits up her sleeve. If anyone's going to beat Corbyn (which is looking less and less likely) I reckon it'll be her.</p><p><strong>12) Why do both sides insist on living in the past?<br /></strong></p><p>This isn't 1945. It isn't 1964. It isn't 1974. It isn't 1983. And it isn't 1992. There are, of course, lessons to be learnt from each of those elections, but if that's your game, please stop cherry picking. If you think 1983 shows that Labour can't win on a left wing manifesto, then you have to explain why Labour did so much better in October 1974 than it did in 1987. If you're going to call Labour's '83 manifesto "the longest suicide note in history" then don't forget that the MP you're quoting <a href="http://labourlist.org/2015/07/48-mps-break-whip-to-vote-against-welfare-bill-full-list/">broke the Labour whip</a> for what is believed to be the first time in his 45 year career to vote against the Welfare Reform Bill. </p><p>On the day of the 1992 General Election, the world-wide-web had just had its first birthday, Shakespears Sister were at number one, the Berlin Wall hadn't yet been fully dismantled and the World Trade Organisation wouldn't be founded for three years. Around 12% of voters in 2020 hadn't been born yet, and by the next election, a third of us won't be old enough to have voted in 1992. </p><p>Since 1992, the Western world has been through the biggest economic boom in decades and then the biggest collapse since the dawn of industrial civilisation, trade union membership has collapsed yet people have become more connected than ever through new technologies. Jobs in factories have vanished. In <a href="http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/census/2011-census/key-statistics-for-local-authorities-in-england-and-wales/rpt-ethnicity.html">the 1991 census</a>, 94.1% of people in Britain identified as white. By 2011, this had fallen to 86.1%. By 2020, we can expect it to have fallen further. </p><p>I could tell a similar story about the 1983 election: fought in the midst of the Cold War, before the invention of the CD ROM and only a decade after the oil-shocks shook the social democratic consensus across the world; James Hansen hadn't yet given his famous evidence to the US Congress revealing the dangers of climate change and Brunei hadn't yet become independent from the UK. There are certainly things to learn from it, but if you think that 2020 is going to be 1983, you've not been paying attention for the last 32 years.</p><p>And if we want to learn from political history, then we're surely better going back to the years after previous economic collapses: the Long Depression from 1873-79 saw the first candidates emerge from the groupings which would form the Labour party. Let's hope that we manage to avoid the events of the 1930s.</p><p>The Labour centre and right endlessly accuse Jeremy Corbyn of harking back to the past - which in itself may in part be true. But in doing so, they reveal an obsession with 1983 and 1992 which show how much they live in carefully chosen moments of history, how unwilling they have been to grapple with the rapidly changing modern world. </p><p><strong>13) We're not in Kansas anymore<br /></strong></p><p>The cut in Jeremy Corbyn's odds are said to be one of the biggest in British political history. Add that to the SNP surge, and the traditional rules of politics are clearly breaking down. Exactly how that will play out in the next five years, who knows. It'll be an interesting journey.</p><p><strong><em><span>OurKingdom doesn’t have a billionaire proprietor telling us what to write - we rely on donations from readers like you. </span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/donate"><span>Please support us</span></a><span> if you can.</span></em></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/jeremy-gilbert/what-hope-for-labour-and-left-election-80s-and-%E2%80%98aspiration%E2%80%99">What hope for Labour and the left? The election, the 80s and ‘aspiration’</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> OurKingdom OurKingdom Adam Ramsay Fri, 31 Jul 2015 23:11:11 +0000 Adam Ramsay 94912 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Salvaging the luminosity of a lost city https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/alice-driver/salvaging-luminosity-of-lost-city <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>While the murder of hundreds of women in Juárez, Mexico, eventually attracted international attention – and with it, sensationalist headlines – photographer Itzel Aguilera’s work engages with the complex realities of her city.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>"My idea was to begin to embrace the city," said photographer Itzel Aguilera, describing her attitude when she moved to Juárez in 2008, the first year it achieved notoriety as the most violent city in the world. In all my&nbsp;trips to Juárez, I had never heard anyone say those exact words. Aguilera&nbsp;arrived in the city with her husband and young daughters, Valeria and Dalia.</p> <p>At the time Valeria was six years old and Dalia was seven months&nbsp;old. "What happened?" Aguilera asked. "We were going through a very&nbsp;difficult time, a period of true violence that was lived starting that year and&nbsp;continuing up to 2010. But in 2008 I already felt afraid. I began to realize&nbsp;that I didn't have very many options to go out."</p> <p>In this situation, Aguilera&nbsp;began to consider what kind of photography she wanted to pursue. Living among some 22 million souls in Mexico City, her previous home, she&nbsp;had pursued both commercial projects and personal ones. Her series of portraits of the Mennonite community in northern Mexico are haunting black and whites that capture the joy of a life lived closely in connection with the earth. In Juárez, however, her work turned inward to represent&nbsp;the intimate details of daily life.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/KydIq8wAiY2_dqmmwxeohKgc4lPtaGSHegpZVOGKhHg/mtime:1438370139/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/itzel%20aguilera%201.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/okB7caOqWY61arLfZKlb_3BVwbiT45HuoVC-e_IYWQ0/mtime:1438369771/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/itzel%20aguilera%201.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Photography by Itzel Aguilera</span></span></span></p><p>Aguilera explained, "I began to take photographs of our daily scenes.&nbsp;It wasn't a very forced confinement. I never felt claustrophobic. I didn't&nbsp;sit down and cry because I couldn't go out. I considered it a special situation in that, at that time, my daughters and I had to be protected in the&nbsp;house. We went out to the porch and to the patio."</p> <p>And there is no way to explain it except to say that the series of photos of her daughters produced&nbsp;during the three highest years of violence in Juárez capture an almost unimaginable sense of peace, a world nestled within a world.</p> <p>The sense of intimacy and tenderness captured in those photos of Valeria and Dalia&nbsp;is extraordinary, moments in between moments: the drawings that the two&nbsp;girls left on the steamy bathroom mirror after a shower, Dalia laughing on the patio in the rain, bodies napping in the sunlight. "The media is very cold and calculating, very into numbers. I would like to salvage the luminosity of scenes, of children. They are very candid photos,"&nbsp;explained Aguilera.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/Ojt7zp0yZwrzvaqgA9MrAesqQOVsjqhYqbucP86c81I/mtime:1438370140/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/itzel%20aguilera%202.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/_AtI2XYtfQw4HChlJ7wCPf1y2BiuotqwsPc7VrxXFMo/mtime:1438369795/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/itzel%20aguilera%202.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Photography by Itzel Aguilera</span></span></span></p><p>"My photography was limited almost exclusively to exploring everyday&nbsp;images: spaces, the bedroom, games, the shower, water, laughter. After a&nbsp;few months, we extended our range—we went out to the patio, to the front&nbsp;porch of the house." This home photography project with her daughters was her way of coping with life in Juárez. "I needed to document those&nbsp;moments we lived in confinement," she said.</p> <p>But news of the outside world filtered into the warm cocoon of home. As Aguilera watched how the city was represented in the national and&nbsp;international media, she asked herself, "How are you going to display your work? Who are you going to show it to? Because they are families, but they&nbsp;are people who have suffered a loss. For example, a father in one of the&nbsp;homes I visited was ravaged by alcohol. You see their loss, the fatality, the&nbsp;disgrace." Was there a way to represent the city, as damaged as it was, but still capture its humanity?</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/jt4caBlRSGneuAEePpx5js59vmMFvNsLYvpy7MtsXdU/mtime:1438370140/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/itzel%20aguilera%203.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/5Xdup5RwrW8F9jxOv7kUUe3o9k5NMZBv83bpIl8oKqo/mtime:1438369823/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/itzel%20aguilera%203.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Photography by Itzel Aguilera</span></span></span><span>Aguilera would stand out on her porch taking photos of the explosive Juárez sunsets and thinking about the news of the day. She began to connect each sunset, as intricate as a fingerprint, with a particular crime.&nbsp;"One Saturday or Sunday I had just read the terrible news that they had found the bodies of the Reyes Salazar brothers, who had disappeared. They were activists who had been persecuted for a long time. Their bodies were found in the Valle de Juárez. It was impossible for me to be there&nbsp;physically in solidarity. I remember that I took the camera, went to the patio, and looked up at the sky in lament, lament for what another part of Juárez was experiencing at that moment – the burial. I had the habit of&nbsp;going out to photograph the sky in the evening. I am at a point in the project where I am linking sublime images of the sky with a coincidental act&nbsp;of violence that occurred at that time."</span></p> <p>Aguilera's photos capture cottony&nbsp;clouds swathed in the light at the end of the earth, the light of Juárez. The&nbsp;way that she has continued to embrace her city, to make it her home, and&nbsp;to find meaning in acts of everyday life is a thing of beauty.</p> <p>When I was in Juárez in 2013, Aguilera took me to the official memorial park dedicated to the eight female victims whose bodies had been&nbsp;dumped in the Cotton Field in 2011, just in front of the city's Association&nbsp;of Maquiladoras building. The memorial, which cost 1.2 million dollars, was built to comply with recommendations made by the Inter-American Court for Human Rights in 2009.</p> <p>The court found Mexico guilty of not effectively investigating the abduction and murder of the women and ordered Juárez to create a national memorial for the victims, to pay reparations to the families, and to investigate the murders.</p> <p>But on November 7, 2011, when the memorial was unveiled in a public ceremony, several of the victims' family members attended the event to protest and criticize city officials. They pointed out that the deaths and&nbsp;disappearances continued and that crimes were not being properly investigated or punished. Disappearances were disappearing, as the unfortunate wording of the anti-disappearance campaign suggested.</p> <p>They were being&nbsp;officially ignored, unresolved, and forgotten to all those except the family members who lived that disappearance as a constant present, one that did&nbsp;not allow even the small peace that comes with being able to bury a body.&nbsp;On the way to the memorial, Itzel pointed out that it was surrounded by a high wall and was almost impossible to enter given that there was no&nbsp;parking lot.</p> <p>"It is as if the government didn't want people to go there," she said. On&nbsp;the bars of the fence at the front of the park, I found posters asking for&nbsp;help finding missing girls who had disappeared in 2012: Perla, Esmeralda, María de la Luz, Jessica, Idall, and Nancy Iveth. How did a park dedicated&nbsp;to the memory of murdered women also become the place where residents taped posters of disappeared girls?</p> <p><span>On my last night in the city in May 2013, I sat in an ice cream parlor with Aguilera and her daughters. Valeria and I ate cookies and cream ice cream while little Dalia attempted to eat a giant cone of lime ice cream that mostly ran down her face and onto her shirt.</span></p> <p><span>Valeria proclaimed her love of ice cream and said, "Things I wish would never end: ice cream,&nbsp;fruit, my age." Then, sitting up straight in her chair, legs swinging beneath&nbsp;the table, she said, "But pollution and violence—I wish they would end."</span></p><p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/470LiBs1L5qEkOOYKQO7SGW7QOMZ07NVtR2tw-yL_4s/mtime:1438370141/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/more%20or%20less%20dead%20cover.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/ootoWnvl_T31Z6PowN0KfZy61Wsjuzl6INfeEMQEoXU/mtime:1438369869/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/more%20or%20less%20dead%20cover.jpg" alt="" title="" width="338" height="499" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></span></p><p><em>This is an extract from Alice Driver's recent book <a href="http://www.amazon.com/More-Less-Dead-Feminicide-Representation/dp/0816531161">More or Less Dead: Femicide, Haunting and the Ethics of Representation in Mexico.</a></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie-slavenka-drakulic/slavenka-drakuli%C4%87-violence-memory-and-nation">Slavenka Drakulić: violence, memory, and the nation</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/valerie-hudson/of-canaries-and-coal-mines">Of canaries and coal mines</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/alda-facio-cristina-hardaga/handmaid%27s-tale-of-el-salvador">The Handmaid&#039;s Tale of El Salvador </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/elizabeth-grant/choir-of-lost-voices-murder-of-loretta-saunders-and-canadas-missing-women">A choir of lost voices: the murder of Loretta Saunders and Canada&#039;s missing women</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/elizabeth-grant/missing-and-murdered-am-i-next">Missing and murdered: Am I next? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz/preventing-violence-against-women-sluggish-cascade">Preventing violence against women: a sluggish cascade?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/gender-violence-in-media-elusive-reality">Gender violence in the media: elusive reality</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Continuum of Violence bodily autonomy Alice Driver Fri, 31 Jul 2015 19:15:37 +0000 Alice Driver 94925 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The previous sole superpower https://www.opendemocracy.net/tom-engelhardt-eduardo-galeano/previous-sole-superpower <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A little history of Great Britain excerpted from Galeano's late-in-life masterpiece, <em>Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone.</em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/9-W6VLrTuhIK0Y7KkmI8P2Y2bk8hmK16O3XG3Jf0hq0/mtime:1438094522/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/557101/Eduardo%20Galeano.%20DONOSTIA%20KULTURA%20Flickr.%20Some%20rights%20reserved..jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Eduardo Galeano. DONOSTIA KULTURA/Flickr. Some rights reserved."><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/CGTE6xX1PD6zDzHQSOzbW9a2G0CPTNa8piJNI_t8TAk/mtime:1438093839/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557101/Eduardo%20Galeano.%20DONOSTIA%20KULTURA%20Flickr.%20Some%20rights%20reserved..jpg" alt="Eduardo Galeano. DONOSTIA KULTURA/Flickr. Some rights reserved." title="Eduardo Galeano. DONOSTIA KULTURA/Flickr. Some rights reserved." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Eduardo Galeano. Flickr/DONOSTIA KULTURA. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Recently, Susan Bergholz, the devoted literary agent of the late Uruguayan writer and planetary great Eduardo Galeano, sent me this brief email: “A friend of Eduardo's and mine called yesterday to tell me, ‘Now we know where Eduardo went: he became pope!’” Somehow, that thought raised my spirits immeasurably. I was about to&nbsp;</span><a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/176025/tomgram%3A_engelhardt%2C_a_message_in_a_bottle_from_my_mother/" target="_blank">turn 71</a><span>&nbsp;and feeling my age as the dog days of summer approached. After all, when I flip through my address book—and yes, I’m old enough to have a “dumb” one filled out with that ancient potion, ink—it often reads like a book of the dead. I miss friends and authors I worked with like&nbsp;</span><a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175739/Johnson_best_of" target="_blank">Chalmers Johnson</a><span>&nbsp;and&nbsp;</span><a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175928/best_of_tomdispatch%3A_jonathan_schell,_seeing_the_reality_of_the_vietnam_war,_50_years_late/" target="_blank">Jonathan Schell</a><span>&nbsp;whose ways of thinking helped me make sense of our world.&nbsp;</span><a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175974/tomgram%3A_eduardo_galeano,_sacrilegious_women/" target="_blank">Eduardo</a><span>&nbsp;has now entered that realm. I was once his English-language book editor and couldn’t be more proud of it. He remains one of my heroes.</span></p><p><span>When I’m in such moods,&nbsp;</span><em>TomDispatch</em><span>&nbsp;offers me an advantage few have. I can resuscitate the dead—and so, with Pope Francis’s&nbsp;</span><a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jun/15/pope-francis-destruction-ecosystem-leaked-encyclical" target="_blank">excoriating words</a><span>&nbsp;about our deteriorating planet in mind, I thought I might bring back from the grave the “pope” of my life. History had a strange way of spilling its secrets to Eduardo Galeano, who&nbsp;</span><a href="http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/apr/15/eduardo-galeano" target="_blank">died in April</a><span>, and in his late-in-life masterpiece, </span><em><a href="http://www.amazon.com/dp/1568586124/ref=nosim/?tag=tomdispatch-20" target="_blank">Mirrors</a></em><span>, a history of humanity in 366 episodes, he took us from our first myths to late last night. He could blend the distant past and yesterday (or even tomorrow) in a fashion that took your breath away. Here, for instance, is a passage he wrote early in&nbsp;</span><em>Mirrors</em><span>&nbsp;on the “origin of writing” that captures the essence of those first scratches on clay tablets and of the 2003 invasion of Iraq:</span></p> <blockquote><p>“When Iraq was not yet Iraq, it was the birthplace of the first written words.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>The words look like bird tracks. Masterful hands drew them in clay with sharpened canes.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Fire annihilates and rescues, kills and gives life, as do the gods, as do we. Fire hardened the clay and preserved the words. Thanks to fire, the clay tablets still tell what they told thousands of years ago in that land of two rivers.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>In our days, George W. Bush, perhaps believing that writing was invented in Texas, launched with joyful impunity a war to exterminate Iraq. There were thousands upon thousands of victims, and not all of them were flesh and blood. A great deal of memory was murdered too.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Living history in the form of numerous clay tablets were stolen or destroyed by bombs.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>One of the tablets said:</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em>We are dust and nothing</em><em><br /> <em>All that we do is no more than wind.”</em></em></p></blockquote> <p>If George W. Bush did a remarkable impersonation of the (whirl)wind across the Greater Middle East, with results that grow more horrific by the day, here is a set of passages from&nbsp;<em>Mirrors</em>&nbsp;on the planet's previous superpower, a small island nation that caused its own kind of devastation. This little history of Great Britain from the Opium Wars to Darwin’s finches ends on a typically spectacular Galeano riff on the nature of humanity. My thanks go to his publisher, Nation Books, for allowing me to bring Eduardo alive again at&nbsp;<em>TomDispatch</em>. I hope his spirit continues to inhabit this planet for a long time to come.&nbsp;<em>Tom Engelhardt</em></p> <h2><strong>God’s masterpiece or the Devil’s bad joke?</strong><br /> <strong>Barbarians and apes—from the Opium Wars to the origin of the species</strong></h2><p> By&nbsp;<a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/authors/eduardogaleano" target="_blank">Eduardo Galeano</a></p> <p>[<em>The following passages are excerpted from Eduardo Galeano’s history of humanity,</em><em>&nbsp;</em><a href="http://www.amazon.com/dp/1568586124/ref=nosim/?tag=tomdispatch-20" target="_blank">Mirrors</a>&nbsp;<em>(Nation Books).</em>]</p> <strong>Origin of freedom of oppression</strong> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/uIIGGCoZyq3yvv2e1ooPKF53ZPmuANoGNs_-b-93oNI/mtime:1438094523/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/557101/Opium%20poppy%20field.%20United%20Nations%20Photo%20Flickr.%20Some%20rights%20reserved..jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Opium poppy field. United Nations Photo/Flickr. Some rights reserved."><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/8it7VPlU64lAAB7HX6MruSzcrDn69VYiEyYWe25ZCGc/mtime:1438093897/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557101/Opium%20poppy%20field.%20United%20Nations%20Photo%20Flickr.%20Some%20rights%20reserved..jpg" alt="Opium poppy field. United Nations Photo/Flickr. Some rights reserved." title="Opium poppy field. United Nations Photo/Flickr. Some rights reserved." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Opium poppy field. Flickr/United Nations Photo. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Opium was outlawed in China.</p><p><span>British merchants smuggled it in from India. Their diligent efforts led to a surge in the number of Chinese dependent on the mother of heroin and morphine, who charmed them with false happiness and ruined their lives.</span></p> <p>The smugglers were fed up with the hindrances they faced at the hands of Chinese authorities. Developing the market required free trade, and free trade demanded war.</p> <p>William Jardine, a generous sort, was the most powerful of the drug traffickers and vice president of the Medical Missionary Society, which offered treatment to the victims of the opium he sold.</p> <p>In London, Jardine hired a few influential writers and journalists, including best-selling author Samuel Warren, to create a favorable environment for war. These communications professionals ran the cause of freedom high up the flagpole. Freedom of expression at the service of free trade: pamphlets and articles rained down upon British public opinion, exalting the sacrifice of the honest citizens who challenged Chinese despotism, risking jail, torture, and death in that kingdom of cruelty.</p> <p>The proper climate established, the storm was unleashed. The Opium War lasted, with a few interruptions, from 1839 to 1860.</p> <strong>Our lady of the seas, narco Queen</strong> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/Yo5f77BnrC8YqVooa1tNiyC7teul2EfTlBuspJNd_l8/mtime:1438095999/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/557101/Exhibit%20at%20the%20Opium%20War%20Museum%20in%20Dongguan%2C%20China.%20Chris%20Flickr.%20Some%20rights%20reserved._0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Exhibit at the Opium War Museum in Dongguan, China. Flickr/Chris. Some rights reserved."><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/4LqGkaEQq55Onv6IKgSpyXQY5N7ioO9J672q6YvHosc/mtime:1438095411/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557101/Exhibit%20at%20the%20Opium%20War%20Museum%20in%20Dongguan%2C%20China.%20Chris%20Flickr.%20Some%20rights%20reserved._0.jpg" alt="Exhibit at the Opium War Museum in Dongguan, China. Chris/Flickr. Some rights reserved." title="Exhibit at the Opium War Museum in Dongguan, China. Flickr/Chris. Some rights reserved." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Exhibit at the Opium War Museum in Dongguan, China. Flickr/Chris. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>The sale of people had been the juiciest enterprise in the British Empire. But happiness, as everyone knows, does not last. After three prosperous centuries, the Crown had to pull out of the slave trade, and selling drugs came to be the most lucrative source of imperial glory.</span></p><p>Queen Victoria was obliged to break down China’s closed doors. On board the ships of the Royal Navy, Christ’s missionaries joined the warriors of free trade. Behind them came the merchant fleet, boats that once carried black Africans, now filled with poison.</p> <p>In the first stage of the Opium War, the British Empire took over the island of Hong Kong. The colorful governor, Sir John Bowring, declared:</p> <p>“Free trade is Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ is free trade.”</p> <strong>Here lay China&nbsp;</strong> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/1TUTciGgMghWD9ZUj8TMkxpMOsJ5bibYCTEmpp4Reyk/mtime:1438095999/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/557101/Pavillion%20and%20stone%20arch%20among%20the%20Old%20Summer%20Palace%20ruins.%20Wikimedia%20Shizhao.%20Some%20rights%20reserved..jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Pavillion and stone arch among the Old Summer Palace ruins. Wikimedia/Shizhao. Some rights reserved."><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/BpaQzPi1Z1AQmeJIcRKBhOctEre5ySppstbS4NlLixU/mtime:1438095975/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557101/Pavillion%20and%20stone%20arch%20among%20the%20Old%20Summer%20Palace%20ruins.%20Wikimedia%20Shizhao.%20Some%20rights%20reserved..jpg" alt="Pavillion and stone arch among the Old Summer Palace ruins. Wikimedia/Shizhao. Some rights reserved." title="Pavillion and stone arch among the Old Summer Palace ruins. Wikimedia/Shizhao. Some rights reserved." width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Pavillion and stone arch among the Old Summer Palace ruins. Wikimedia/Shizhao. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span><span>Outside its borders the Chinese traded little and were not in the habit of waging war.</span></p><p>Merchants and warriors were looked down upon. “Barbarians” was what they called the English and the few Europeans they met.</p><p><span>And so it was foretold. China had to fall, defeated by the deadliest fleet of warships in the world, and by mortars that perforated a dozen enemy soldiers in formation with a single shell.</span></p><p><span>In 1860, after razing ports and cities, the British, accompanied by the French, entered Beijing, sacked the Summer Palace, and told their colonial troops recruited in India and Senegal they could help themselves to the leftovers.</span>The palace, center of the Manchu Dynasty’s power, was in reality many palaces, more than 200 residences and pagodas set among lakes and gardens, not unlike paradise. The victors stole everything, absolutely everything: furniture and drapes, jade sculptures, silk dresses, pearl necklaces, gold clocks, diamond bracelets... All that survived was the library, plus a telescope and a rifle that the king of England had given China 70 years before.</p> <p>Then they burned the looted buildings. Flames reddened the earth and sky for many days and nights, and all that had been became nothing.</p> <strong>Lootie</strong><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/n9vJBcdlyeLqbv0mC7rYc1sluvfyM14VT-jGaodkuLo/mtime:1438179905/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/557324/Ruins%20in%20Yuan%20Ming%20Yuan%2C%20looted%20and%20burned%20by%20British%20and%20French%20troops%20in%201860.%20Flickr%3APhilip.%20R.%20Some%20rights%20reserved.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/vjCicQ71_D29WLpturJA2rpvrzegLEJxHu-9fiUW0R8/mtime:1438179875/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557324/Ruins%20in%20Yuan%20Ming%20Yuan%2C%20looted%20and%20burned%20by%20British%20and%20French%20troops%20in%201860.%20Flickr%3APhilip.%20R.%20Some%20rights%20reserved.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="317" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ruins in Yuan Ming Yuan, looted and burned by British and French troops in 1860. Flickr/Philip. R. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Lord Elgin, who ordered the burning of the imperial palace, arrived in Beijing on a litter carried by eight scarlet-liveried porters and escorted by 400 horsemen. This Lord Elgin, son of the Lord Elgin who sold the sculptures of the Parthenon to the British Museum, donated to that same museum the entire palace library, which had been saved from the looting and fire for that very reason. And soon in another palace, Buckingham, Queen Victoria was presented with the gold and jade scepter of the vanquished king, as well as the first Pekinese in Europe. The little dog was also part of the booty. They named it “Lootie.”</p> <p>China was obliged to pay an immense sum in reparations to its executioners, since incorporating it into the community of civilized nations had turned out to be so expensive. Quickly, China became the principal market for opium and the largest customer for Lancashire cloth.</p> <p>At the beginning of the nineteenth century, Chinese workshops produced one-third of all the world’s manufactures. At the end of the nineteenth century, they produced 6%.</p> <p>Then China was invaded by Japan. Conquest was not difficult. The country was drugged and humiliated and ruined.</p> <strong>Natural disasters</strong> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/eyaNbmQQ5Rv703j7ZavZ9udpxAI-aNGRryG9FvBaeTw/mtime:1438181787/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/557324/Gobi%20desert.%20Flickr%3AKit%20Ng.%20Some%20rights%20reserved_3.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/BkduKALIJNoZ2cRxwDxtpmtsAZckRYMOK4s8Ci84fVY/mtime:1438181715/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557324/Gobi%20desert.%20Flickr%3AKit%20Ng.%20Some%20rights%20reserved_3.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="194" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Gobi desert. Flickr/Kit Ng. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>An empty desert of footsteps and voices, nothing but dust stirred by the wind.</p> <p>Many Chinese hang themselves, rather than killing to kill their hunger or waiting for hunger to kill them.</p> <p>In London, the British merchants who triumphed in the Opium War establish the China Famine Relief Fund.</p> <p>This charitable institution promises to evangelize the pagan nation via the stomach: food sent by Jesus will rain from heaven.</p> <p>In 1879, after three years without rain, the Chinese number 15 million fewer.</p> <strong>Other natural disasters</strong><p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/gk2gsv9H67Hx19PD8rP2rB2HwDKIvvFSEeIEPU5wsUI/mtime:1438182422/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/557324/The%20effects%20of%20famine%201879.%20Wikimedia%20Commons%3AWilloughby%20Wallace%20Hooper.%20Some%20rights%20reserved..jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/qjMxh4Hnki7pXyEEG3DCTcz7RkpNUI8TkMDK8DkVeXE/mtime:1438182409/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557324/The%20effects%20of%20famine%201879.%20Wikimedia%20Commons%3AWilloughby%20Wallace%20Hooper.%20Some%20rights%20reserved..jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="322" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The effects of famine 1879. Wikimedia Commons/Willoughby Wallace Hooper. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>In 1879, after three years without rain, the Indians number nine million fewer.</span></p> <p>It is the fault of nature:</p> <p>“These are natural disasters,” say those who know.</p> <p>But in India during these atrocious years, the market is more punishing than the drought.</p> <p>Under the law of the market, freedom oppresses. Free trade, which obliges you to sell, forbids you to eat.</p> <p>India is a not a poorhouse, but a colonial plantation. The market rules. Wise is the invisible hand, which makes and unmakes, and no one should dare correct it.</p> <p><a href="http://www.amazon.com/dp/1568586124/ref=nosim/?tag=tomdispatch-20" target="_blank"></a>The British government confines itself to helping a few of the moribund die in work camps it calls “relief camps,” and to demanding the taxes that the peasants cannot pay. The peasants lose their lands, sold for a pittance, and for a pittance they sell the hands that work it, while shortages send the price of grain hoarded by merchants sky-high.</p> <p>Exporters do a booming trade. Mountains of wheat and rice pile up on the wharves of London and Liverpool. India, starving colony, does not eat, but it feeds. The British eat the Indians' hunger.</p> <p>On the market this merchandise called hunger is highly valued, since it broadens investment opportunities, reduces the cost of production, and raises the price of goods.</p> <strong>Natural glories</strong> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/1qw2J0z4Shkmrqxwg12UXST5qt1Wss-0VZtRRIwPghk/mtime:1438181788/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/557324/Famine%20in%20India%20under%20colonial%20rule.%20Wikimedia%20Commons%3AWilloughby%20Wallace%20Hooper.%20Some%20rights%20reserved_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/6xvDvfAf8K5hraFuqkMbqTzB6s84oYwgC1_P5zfRxTE/mtime:1438181778/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557324/Famine%20in%20India%20under%20colonial%20rule.%20Wikimedia%20Commons%3AWilloughby%20Wallace%20Hooper.%20Some%20rights%20reserved_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="319" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Famine in India under colonial rule. Wikimedia Commons/Willoughby Wallace Hooper. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Queen Victoria was the most enthusiastic admirer and the only reader of the verses of Lord Lytton, her viceroy in India.</p> <p>Moved by literary gratitude or patriotic fervor, the viceregal poet held an enormous banquet in Victoria’s honor when she was proclaimed empress. Lord Lytton invited 70,000 guests to his palace in Delhi for seven days and seven nights.</p> <p>According to the&nbsp;<em>Times,</em><em>&nbsp;</em>this was “the most colossal and expensive meal in world history.”</p> <p>At the height of the drought, when fields baked by day and froze by night, the viceroy arose at the banquet to read out an upbeat message from Queen Victoria, who predicted for her Indian subjects “happiness, prosperity, and welfare.”</p> <p>English journalist William Digby, who happened to be present, calculated that about 100,000 Indians died of hunger during the seven days and seven nights of the great feast.</p> <strong>Upstairs, downstairs</strong> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/db1IBvyZMSAp3G7FAGSxfQPxC6lTTmWv0BXg6jTXcH0/mtime:1438094524/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/557101/World%20map%20glorifying%20the%20late-19th-century%20British%20Empire.%20Norman%20B.%20Leventhal%20Map%20Center%20Flickr.%20Some%20rights%20reserved..jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="World map glorifying the late-19th-century British Empire. Norman B. Leventhal Map Center/Flickr. Some rights reserved."><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/6wVpjh2n7tixCI92rawgtD4S6QgPGCEvzBswDUgGOUg/mtime:1438094235/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557101/World%20map%20glorifying%20the%20late-19th-century%20British%20Empire.%20Norman%20B.%20Leventhal%20Map%20Center%20Flickr.%20Some%20rights%20reserved..jpg" alt="World map glorifying the late-19th-century British Empire. Norman B. Leventhal Map Center/Flickr. Some rights reserved." title="World map glorifying the late-19th-century British Empire. Norman B. Leventhal Map Center/Flickr. Some rights reserved." width="460" height="344" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>World map glorifying the late-19th-century British Empire. Norman B. Flickr/Leventhal Map Center. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>In a slow and complicated ceremony marked by the back and forth of speeches, presentation of insignia, and exchange of offerings, India’s princes became English gentlemen and swore loyalty to Queen Victoria. For these vassal princes, the bartering of gifts was, according to well-informed sources, a trading of bribes for tribute.</span></p><p><span><span>The numerous princes lived at the summit of the caste pyramid, a system reproduced and perfected by British imperial power.</span></span></p><p><span>The empire did not need to divide to rule. Long-sacred social, racial, and cultural divisions were history’s bequest.</span></p> <p>From 1872 on, the British census classified the population of India according to caste. Imperial rule thus not only reaffirmed the legitimacy of this national tradition, but also used it to organize an even more stratified and rigid society. No policeman could have dreamed up a better way to control the function and destiny of each person. The empire codified hierarchies and servitudes, and forbade any and all from stepping out of place.</p> <strong>Calloused hands</strong> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/7WjxQgMHFOuM-1U10kOu15hOIpuqZm5T6asMYi0oDl0/mtime:1438183140/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/557324/The%20Palace%20at%20Mysore.%20Flickr%3ANatesh%20Ramasamy.%20Some%20rights%20reserved.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/DONydxIQyj6FIgD3gz2tMcFxm5p-2FGG5AI1najbi00/mtime:1438183121/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557324/The%20Palace%20at%20Mysore.%20Flickr%3ANatesh%20Ramasamy.%20Some%20rights%20reserved.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="303" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Palace at Mysore. Flickr/Natesh Ramasamy. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>The princes who served the British Crown lived in perpetual despair over the scarcity of tigers in the jungle and the abundance of jealousy in the harem.</p> <p>In the twentieth century, they still consoled themselves as best they could:</p> <p>the maharaja of Bharatpur bought all the Rolls-Royces on the market in London and used them for garbage collection;</p> <p>the one from Junagadh had many dogs, each with his own room, servant, and telephone;</p> <p>the one from Alwar set fire to the racetrack when his pony lost a race;</p> <p>the one from Kapurthala built an exact replica of the Palace of Versailles;</p> <p>the one from Mysore built an exact replica of Windsor Palace;</p> <p>the one from Gwalior bought a miniature gold and silver train that ran about the palace dining room carrying salt and spices to his guests;</p> <p>the cannons of the maharaja of Baroda were made of solid gold;</p> <p>and for a paperweight the one from Hyderabad used a 184-carat diamond.</p> <strong>Darwin’s voyage</strong> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/7J58o5r3IXssmsFhn8NZSB4xVLYnR_rdiyReVDpRBic/mtime:1438094524/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/557101/Galapagos%20tortoises%20at%20the%20Charles%20Darwin%20Research%20Station.%20Dallas%20Krentzel%20Flickr.%20Some%20rights%20reserved..jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Galapagos tortoises at the Charles Darwin Research Station. Dallas Krentzel/Flickr. Some rights reserved."><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/kStOxD4iy2wfnIzbvtgptWPV5R4Z6og2RUrVlcJQ4K0/mtime:1438094283/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557101/Galapagos%20tortoises%20at%20the%20Charles%20Darwin%20Research%20Station.%20Dallas%20Krentzel%20Flickr.%20Some%20rights%20reserved..jpg" alt="Galapagos tortoises at the Charles Darwin Research Station. Dallas Krentzel/Flickr. Some rights reserved." title="Galapagos tortoises at the Charles Darwin Research Station. Dallas Krentzel/Flickr. Some rights reserved." width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Galapagos tortoises at the Charles Darwin Research Station. Flickr/Dallas Krentzel. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Young Charles Darwin did not know what to do with his life. His father encouraged him thus:</span></p><p>“You will be a disgrace to yourself and all your family.”</p><p><span><span>At the end of 1831, he left.</span></span></p><p><span>After five years navigating South America, the Galapagos, and other far-flung realms, he returned to London. He brought with him three giant tortoises, one of which died in the year 2007 in a zoo in Australia.</span></p><p><span>&nbsp;</span><span>He came back a different man. Even his father noticed:</span></p> <p>“Why the shape of his head is quite altered!”</p> <p>He brought back more than tortoises. He brought questions. His head was teeming with questions.</p> <strong>Darwin’s questions</strong><p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/0XU_irejFvuAoXhlgMrm0l2G87JulWdYuSD9rwOq8PI/mtime:1438183744/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/557324/Human%20evolution.%20Flickr%3A.%20Some%20rights%20reserved.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/YQZpn_bJNLbx_lJwyGp7f-6e7-4L_ppOe91hLyNaxJY/mtime:1438183728/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557324/Human%20evolution.%20Flickr%3A.%20Some%20rights%20reserved.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="299" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Human evolution. Flickr/Vector Open Stock. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Why does the wooly mammoth have a thick coat? Could the mammoth be an elephant that found a way to stay warm when the ice age set in?</span></p> <p>Why is the giraffe’s neck so long? Could it be because over time it got stretched in order to reach fruit high in the treetops?</p> <p>Were the rabbits that run in the snow always white, or did they become white to fool the foxes?</p> <p>Why does the finch have a different beak depending on where it lives? Could it be that their beaks adapted bit by bit to the environment through a long evolutionary process, so they could crack open fruits, catch larvae, drink nectar?</p> <p>Does the incredibly long pistil of the orchid indicate that there are butterflies nearby whose remarkably long tongues are as long as the pistil that awaits them?</p> <p>No doubt it was a thousand and one questions like these which, with the passage of years and doubts and contradictions, became the pages of his explosive book on the origin of the species and the evolution of life in the world.</p> <p>Blasphemous notion, intolerable lesson in humility: Darwin revealed that God did not create the world in seven days, nor did He model us in His image and likeness.</p> <p>Such horrible news was not well received. Who did this fellow think he was to correct the Bible?</p> <p>Samuel Wilberforce, bishop of Oxford, asked Darwin’s readers:</p> <p>“Are you descended from the apes on your grandfather’s side or your grandmother’s?”</p> <strong>I’ll show you the world</strong><p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/E_hlFi2sbnJmggfSOATmrw1k4ihj8ZsicMGAdA0-ejg/mtime:1438184595/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/557324/Zanzibar%20sunset.%20Flickr%3AMitchpa1984.%20Some%20rights%20reserved.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/gBaPA1sTNl3xZidnXUtPpTufESDobPX0jaqI4BRbe7E/mtime:1438184444/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557324/Zanzibar%20sunset.%20Flickr%3AMitchpa1984.%20Some%20rights%20reserved.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Zanzibar sunset. Flickr/Mitchpa1984. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Darwin liked to cite James Coleman’s travel notes.</span></p> <p>No one better described the fauna of the Indian Ocean,</p> <p>the sky above flaming Vesuvius,</p> <p>the glow of Arabian nights,</p> <p>the color of the heat in Zanzibar,</p> <p>the air in Ceylon, which is made of cinnamon,</p> <p>the winter shadows of Edinburgh,</p> <p>and the grayness of Russian jails.</p> <p>Preceded by his white cane, Coleman went around the world, from tip to toe.</p> <p>This traveler, who did so much to help us see, was blind.</p> <p>“I see with my feet,” he said.</p> <strong>Only human</strong> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/hGavhFBYMXDe3oGL19XoKtWnkpGuWOuDhc-Vy9ZyFb0/mtime:1438094525/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/557101/Town%20of%20pollution.%20shinobu%20sugiyama%20Flickr.%20Some%20rights%20reserved..jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="&quot;Town of pollution&quot;. shinobu sugiyama/Flickr. Some rights reserved."><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/DjeOLzKkTqdZxzO-EhiUT_Bul7zsSPAieSYi6FcNw2Q/mtime:1438094357/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557101/Town%20of%20pollution.%20shinobu%20sugiyama%20Flickr.%20Some%20rights%20reserved..jpg" alt=""Town of pollution". shinobu sugiyama/Flickr. Some rights reserved." title="&quot;Town of pollution&quot;. shinobu sugiyama/Flickr. Some rights reserved." width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>"Town of pollution". Flickr/shinobu sugiyama. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Darwin told us we are cousins of the apes, not the angels. Later on, we learned we emerged from Africa’s jungle and that no stork ever carried us from Paris. And not long ago we discovered that our genes are almost identical to those of mice.</span></p><p>Now we can’t tell if we are God’s masterpiece or the devil’s bad joke. We puny humans:</p> <p>exterminators of everything,</p> <p>hunters of our own,</p> <p>creators of the atom bomb, the hydrogen bomb, and the neutron bomb, which is the healthiest of all bombs since it vaporizes people and leaves objects intact,</p> <p>we, the only animals who invent machines,</p> <p>the only ones who live at the service of the machines they invent,</p> <p>the only ones who devour their own home,</p> <p>the only ones who poison the water they drink and the earth that feeds them,</p> <p>the only ones capable of renting or selling themselves, or renting or selling their fellow humans,</p> <p>the only ones who kill for fun,</p> <p>the only ones who torture,</p> <p>the only ones who rape.</p> <p>And also</p> <p>the only ones who laugh,</p> <p>the only ones who daydream,</p> <p>the ones who make silk from the spit of a worm,</p> <p>the ones who find beauty in rubbish,</p> <p>the ones who discover colors beyond the rainbow,</p> <p>the ones who furnish the voices of the world with new music,</p> <p>and who create words so that</p> <p>neither reality nor memory will be mute.</p><p><em><em>This piece, including Tom Engelhardt's intro, is reposted from&nbsp;<a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/176027/tomgram%3A_eduardo_galeano%2C_the_previous_sole_superpower/">TomDispatch.com&nbsp;</a>with that site's permission.</em></em></p> <p>This post is excerpted from&nbsp;<a href="http://www.amazon.com/dp/1568586124/ref=nosim/?tag=tomdispatch-20" target="_blank"><em>Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone</em></a>&nbsp;Copyright © 2009 by Eduardo Galeano; translation copyright © 2009 by Mark Fried. Published by Nation Books, a member of the Perseus Group, New York, N.Y.&nbsp;Originally published in the Spanish language in 2008 by Siglo XXI Editores (Spain and Mexico) and Ediciones del Chanchito (Uruguay).&nbsp;By permission of Susan Bergholz Literary Services, New York City, and&nbsp;Lamy, N.M. All rights reserved.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/arts/galeano_3741.jsp">&quot;Voices of Time: A Life in Stories&quot;, Eduardo Galeano</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> TomDispatch Eduardo Galeano Tom Engelhardt Fri, 31 Jul 2015 16:42:01 +0000 Eduardo Galeano and Tom Engelhardt 94816 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Australia's cruel treatment of gay asylum-seekers https://www.opendemocracy.net/evan-ritli-and-david-sandbach/asylum-seekers-in-australia-cruel-policies-and-processes <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Australia continues to resettle homosexual refugees in homophobic Papua New Guinea. Gay men seeking asylum are both required yet unable to declare their sexuality for fear of persecution.</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/qWk5X897Rhbk7uqrJcK1DLKNPOz1ahK4Yww_BSOpcdk/mtime:1436978729/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/557324/RefugeesArePeople%20Perth%20walk.%20Louise%20Coghill%3AFlickr.%20Some%20Rights%20Reserved.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/cyaYz0GSXnFBI4Oq-SUzjC4HbbaiwreyPligW5MySNk/mtime:1436978629/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557324/RefugeesArePeople%20Perth%20walk.%20Louise%20Coghill%3AFlickr.%20Some%20Rights%20Reserved.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>RefugeesArePeople Perth walk. Flickr/Louise Coghill. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>It’s no secret that Australia’s policy of mandatory and indefinite offshore detention is harming asylum seekers. Men detained in the Manus processing centre have died. Women and children detained on Nauru have been abused. The United Nations have repeatedly assessed conditions in the camps as in violation of basic standards of&nbsp;<span>human rights</span><span>.</span></p> <p>But what makes these policies even crueller is their inflexible application. Gay asylum seekers face particular dangers under these policies: for example, gay men have been sent to Papua New Guinea, a country which has criminalised consensual homosexual sex between males.</p> <p>Australian law now mandates that all asylum seekers arriving by boat should either be sent to Nauru or PNG’s Manus Island for processing. While families, women and children have been sent to Nauru, over 1000 single adult men have been transferred to Manus Island. If they are found to be refugees, they may then be resettled in PNG. Yet PNG’s criminal code makes it a serious criminal offence for a man to have consensual sex with another man, an act deemed to be ‘against the order of nature’. The penalty for such an offence is imprisonment of up to 14 years.</p> <p><a href="http://www.libertyvictoria.org/yllr">Young Liberty for Law Reform</a>&nbsp;recently hosted an event at Melbourne’s Midsumma Festival to draw attention to the plight of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trangender, Queer and Intersex (LGBTQI) asylum seekers under Australia’s current mandatory offshore processing and resettlement policy.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/7HyH-LfMIWJHb_rTt10KEXAL0uAxV89dM5DrlsaauHU/mtime:1436978730/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/557324/Police%20remove%20Christians%20from%20prayer%20sit-in%20for%20asylum%20seekers%20at%20Malcolm%20Turnbull%27s%20office.%20Jeff%20Tan%3AFlickr.%20Some%20Rights%20Reserved.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/EtgOre0Jcblmk-njAASDkqh77fl32vjjgOpdCRmMX38/mtime:1436978736/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557324/Police%20remove%20Christians%20from%20prayer%20sit-in%20for%20asylum%20seekers%20at%20Malcolm%20Turnbull%27s%20office.%20Jeff%20Tan%3AFlickr.%20Some%20Rights%20Reserved.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Police remove Christians from prayer sit-in for asylum seekers. Flickr/Jeff Tan. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Determining refugee claims on the basis of sexuality-based persecution is a challenging and complex process at the best of times. According to LGBTQI rights advocate Senthorun Raj and barrister Kristen Walker SC, Australia’s form in determining sexuality-based refugee claims isn’t great because of decision makers’ failure to understand the complexity, fluidity and diverse nature of cultural and sexual identity. Decision makers have often relied on western-centric homosexual stereotypes to assess applications. Applicants have been questioned about their knowledge of the gay club scene in their country of origin or the music of ‘gay icons’ like Madonna.</p> <p>The complex process for determining sexuality-based refugee claims is made infinitely more challenging because PNG criminalises conduct which may need to be disclosed in the course of substantiating such claim. Same-sex attracted asylum seekers sent to PNG for processing are caught in a catch-22 situation. Those who wish to make a claim for refugee status on the basis of their sexual orientation need to disclose it. However they face the possibility of discrimination and persecution under PNG’s laws if they do so.&nbsp;</p> <p>On arrival to Manus Island, all asylum seekers are made aware of the attitudes of the PNG government towards consensual sex between men. For instance,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/24/gay-asylum-seekers-manus-island-fear-persecution-png"><em>The Guardian</em></a>&nbsp;reported last year that an orientation given to newly arrived asylum seekers at Manus Island contained an image of two men kissing with a large red cross through it accompanied by a warning that “homosexuality is illegal in Papua New Guinea. People have been imprisoned or killed for performing homosexual acts.”</p><p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/y44xH7DsdyhECah_44rFmC7t7IgV4EBgtBOmxagt52M/mtime:1436978730/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/557324/Citizens%20for%20Refugees%20Banner.%20Cheryl%20Howard%3AFlickr.%20Some%20Rights%20Reserved.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/AyuSihiSyY3zSPjNCI-Gi3zE3usLUFW-_XnZNXrPD2A/mtime:1436978678/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557324/Citizens%20for%20Refugees%20Banner.%20Cheryl%20Howard%3AFlickr.%20Some%20Rights%20Reserved.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Citizens for Refugees Banner. Flickr/Cheryl Howard. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Such warnings are clearly not conducive to men – indefinitely detained on a remote island in harsh conditions – fully, frankly and persuasively disclosing conduct which they’ve just been told is a crime. Nevertheless, the outcome of the refugee claim, and indeed their lives, may well depend on them doing so.</span></p> <p>Dame Carol Kidu – a former PNG Member of Parliament and chair of PNG’s expert panel&nbsp;on refugee&nbsp;resettlement&nbsp;policy – reported that while PNG’s anti-homosexual laws are rarely used, they may still be abused. The mere existence of such laws means that asylum seekers and resettled refugees may face intimidation, threats, fear and violence, with no real recourse to authorities due to the possibility of facing prison time.</p> <p>The resettlement of refugees in PNG will already be challenging. Dame Carol noted that while many parts of Papuan civil society – such as local churches and community groups – expressed their willingness to try and support the integration of refugees into PNG society, negative stereotypes are still widespread. Many Papuans still consider asylum seekers to be ‘terrorists’, while many of the asylum seekers view the Papuans as ‘cannibals’. Given PNG's criminalisation of homosexuality, the situation will be even worse for LGBTQI refugees, making any chance of successful resettlement extremely unlikely.</p> <p>Processing and resettling gay men in a country that continues to persecute people on the basis of this very attribute is not only cruel and unnecessary, it is also a breach of international law. As a signatory to the Refugee Convention&nbsp;and other important human rights treaties,&nbsp;Australia is bound to not return a person to a state where their lives or freedom may be threatened. This is exactly what we are doing by sending gay men to a country that criminalises consensual sex between men.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/opencitydocs/sea-full-of-bodies">The sea is full of bodies</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Australia </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Australia Civil society Democracy and government David Sandbach Evan Ritli Fri, 31 Jul 2015 16:23:32 +0000 David Sandbach and Evan Ritli 94454 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Should western countries support Tunisia and if so how? https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/ahmed-e-souaiaia/should-western-countries-support-tunisia-and-if-so-how <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The new Tunisian leaders would prefer that westerners invest in Tunisia by building factories and processing plants, creating thousands of jobs for Tunisians at home and quality goods at fair prices.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/Y3JyJj__D70RbE-r5wMQuvHAItpdxo14Kn1cC9EIzs0/mtime:1438356239/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/6609292493_f52bb7f462_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/kxR106fCHqksyzmrS2grW0cP0zAIeec1TAX-MzL7IjY/mtime:1438356227/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/6609292493_f52bb7f462_z.jpg" alt="Doux,Tunisia,2010." title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Doux,Tunisia,2010.Flickr/McKay Savage. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>The intent of those who planned and carried out the recent terrorist attack in Tunisia and the reactions to it, both underscore the idiosyncratic connections between economic development and terrorism. Importantly, the attack ought to remind us of the global nature and imperatives, not only of ISIL’s brand of terrorism, but also of economic development. </p> <p>Both problems, terrorism and lack of economic development in the Global South, must be confronted cooperatively, because European countries were indeed involved, directly and indirectly, in creating the kind of conditions that weaken their southern neighbors’ economies, which in turn have created the kind of environment most suitable for terrorism.</p> <p>When 30 British citizens vacationing in the city of Sousse, Tunisia, were killed along with three Irish, two Germans, one Belgian, one Portuguese, and one Russian, the Foreign Office ordered all but essential travelers to leave that country immediately. Habib Essid, Tunisia’s Prime Minister, said that his government would help to evacuate approximately 3,000 Britons, but told Tunisia’s parliament that he was “dismayed by the advice from the Foreign Office.” The Tunisian government said the UK “was damaging the country’s economy,” which is heavily reliant on tourism, and may end up inadvertently fueling poverty and therefore terrorism. Oliver Miles, a former UK ambassador to Libya and Greece “found the [UK]’s response puzzling.” Other commentators and international affairs analysts contended that Britain was “wrong to bring tourists home” because it would weaken the only true emerging democracy in that part of the world.</p> <p>Having just returned from Tunisia, I have had a chance to observe up-close life, the hopeful and fearful aspects of it, in that beautiful country. I have witnessed how ordinary citizens, bureaucrats and government officials, and business leaders are coping with the new reality of citizens’ mandated governance. It is clear that Tunisia deserves support from the global community for moral reasons, and deserves support from NATO countries for legal, political, and economic reasons.</p> <p>The world community ought to support Tunisia because it is the only country in the region thus far that has managed to transition to representative rule without military coups, civil wars, and violent takeovers. Support for Tunisia means support for peaceful transfer of power, and serves the global community’s stake in political and economic stability.</p> <p>More specifically, NATO countries have the legal obligation to stand by Tunisia because NATO, and its Gulf allies like Qatar, undermined Tunisian security when they launched the ill-planned bombing campaign against Libya. The two persons who carried out the Bardo and Sousse attacks were trained in Libya. Libyan weapons that were not secured after the fall of the Libyan government are now being used to destabilize Tunisia and other neighboring countries. In other words, NATO broke it, so NATO bought it.</p> <p>Furthermore, NATO and European countries have a long history of supporting authoritarian regimes in North Africa, including the Tunisian and Libyan dictators. France sent its diplomats to show support for Ben Ali even as he was killing protesters in December 2010. Italy and other European countries paid off Gaddafi so that he could prevent African immigrants from reaching the European continent while continuing to deny his people basic political and economic rights. European countries must atone for their political and economic dealings with oppressive regimes.</p> <p>European countries must also atone for decades of exploitation and unfair economic practices. Italy, for instance, used to buy Tunisian olive oil in bulk, process it in Italy, and ship it to the global markets as an Italian product. Agricultural, mineral, and other natural Tunisian resources were shipped to Europe for processing adding thousands of job opportunities to Europeans, denying them to Tunisian workers. </p> <p>Having considered these facts, let’s consider what Tunisians really want from their northern neighbors. Young Tunisian entrepreneurs and government officials want to be treated fairly and with dignity. They do not want handouts. They do not want loans. They do not want to be dependent on tourism or for European leaders to risk the lives of their citizens to shore up tourism in Tunisia. What they want is for the European leaders to encourage their powerful businesses and rich citizens who made some of their wealth through exploitation of African communities to invest in Tunisia and the Tunisian economy.</p> <p> For example, in a conversation I had with Zakaria Hamad, Tunisia’s current Minister of Industry, Energy and Mining, it became clear that Tunisian leaders want the added value from their country’s products, of which it has been deprived in the past. For instance, instead of shipping raw materials to Europe for processing and sale, the new Tunisian leaders would prefer that westerners invest in Tunisia by building factories and processing plants, creating thousands of jobs for Tunisians at home and producing quality goods for the global markets at fair prices.</p> <p>If Europeans genuinely invested in the Tunisian economy, they would limit the flow of migrant workers, help stabilize their neighboring communities, undo years of past exploitative and unfair practices, and receive a healthy return on their investment. In the long run, this change in attitude and practices are the best way forward for western countries and their southern neighbors. Military interventions, bombing campaigns, and reliance on dictatorial regimes are shortsighted, costly, callous, and destructive. Such acts are moral and legal burdens on western societies and powerful propaganda tools for genocidal terrorists.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Tunisia </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Arab Awakening Arab Awakening Tunisia Democracy and government Economics International politics Ahmed E. Souaiaia Fri, 31 Jul 2015 15:09:20 +0000 Ahmed E. Souaiaia 94920 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The crushing of Syriza: an Aesopian fable https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/yiannis-kitromilides/crushing-of-syriza-aesopian-fable <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In 2010 the image of ‘ending up like Greece’ was that of a Dickensian debtors’ prison. In 2015 it is that of hell.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/mv70cWkabwzVhEHMg_DemN4JsRPPqFJJWPlPJWBq7lI/mtime:1438351456/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Lions_share_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/cx2hnudtyvUmRAVDxhvOwfnwCfUchieJpiRUFL3fuw0/mtime:1438351448/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Lions_share_0.png" alt="Illustration for Aesop's fable of The Lion's Share: for the 1501 edition of Steinhowel." title="" width="460" height="313" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Illustration for Aesop's fable of The Lion's Share: for the 1501 edition of Steinhowel. Wikicommons. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>According to a well established narrative in 2010 and 2011 Greece was ‘saved’ by a multi-billion euro ‘bail-out’ provided by a ‘troika’ of institutions, the EC, ECB and the IMF. As a condition for the ‘bail-out’, Greece had to implement an ‘economic adjustment programme’ designed by the ‘troika’ which had come to be known as the ‘austerity’ strategy. </p> <p>It had three components: fiscal consolidation, internal devaluation and structural reforms. All three elements were expected to promote growth and ultimately reduction in indebtedness. Fiscal consolidation by restoring sound public finances can improve confidence and stimulate business investment and growth. This is known as the theory of ‘expansionary fiscal contraction’. Internal devaluation can also promote growth by improving competitiveness and therefore resulting in an increase in exports, which could potentially offset the deflationary impact of the internal devaluation. Finally, ‘structural reforms’ by modernizing the economy and creating a business-friendly environment can create the conditions necessary for a private sector-led growth. </p> <p>The austerity strategy, however, is not without its critics. There are many powerful and cogent theoretical and empirical arguments against it. Indeed a credible and persuasive case can be made that it has failed in achieving its objectives, the principal one being the reduction in indebtedness that caused the crisis in the first place. After five years of austerity a majority of Greek people, especially those who were at the receiving end of a savage 1930s style economic depression, have come to believe that the strategy was counter-productive, self-defeating and had failed to deliver what it promised. In January 2015, Greece elected a government with a mandate to try to win hearts and minds in Europe not only about ending austerity in Greece but also about the need to reform a malfunctioning and dysfunctional monetary union.&nbsp; </p> <p>In early February 2015 a charismatic young Greek Prime Minister and a brilliantly eloquent but ‘unconventional’ Greek Finance Minister arrived in Brussels ready to present to their colleague in the Euro-group the ‘counter-narrative’ of the eurozone crisis which had four major elements: beginning with the premise that indebtedness in Greece and in other eurozone peripheral countries had similar underlying causes: a malfunctioning monetary union. Secondly, that the ‘rescue’ of Greece in 2010 resulted in the rescue of European banks and prevented ‘contagion’ in the eurozone. Thirdly, it was the implementation of savage austerity rather than the non-implementation of the ‘troika’ adjustment programme that produced the collapse of the Greek economy. Lastly, that the Greek debt was unsustainable in 2010 and 2012 and that it is even more unsustainable in 2015. </p> <p>The euro-group meetings were not, of course, academic seminars in which the relative merits of alternative ‘narratives’ of the crisis in the eurozone could be debated. Greece was told in no uncertain terms that in the eurozone compliance with the rules and commitment to the undertakings of previous governments has precedence over recent electoral mandates. The German finance minister reportedly stated: “We cannot change the rules every time there is an election in the eurozone”. The only concession that could be afforded to the new government was a five month period during which an alternative means of achieving the targets agreed by the previous government were to be worked out and presented. There would be no ‘debt forgiveness’ and no reversal of austerity. </p> <h2>Constructive ambiguity</h2> <p>Thereafter, eurozone policymaking was transformed and entered the strange world of ‘constructive ambiguity’ and game theory. The games of ‘chicken’ and ‘high-stakes poker’ and scenes from Hollywood movies from <em>Dirty Harry </em>to <em>Rebel Without a Cause </em>were the most popular journalistic references for what was going on between Greece and its partners in the eurozone negotiations after January 25, 2015.&nbsp; Eventually Syriza did blink first; it went ‘all-in’ with a rubbish hand; its car fell off the cliff and as far as Clint Eastwood was concerned, they did ‘make his day’.</p> <p>Following the humiliating crushing of Syriza on July 12, 2015, the pertinence of an Aesopian fable may not have been lost on Tsipras and Varoufakis, both well versed in Greek mythology, and called, <em>The Lion’s Share.</em></p> <p>A Lion, a Donkey and a Fox agreed to go hunting together. At the end of the day the lion asks the donkey to divide the spoils. Meticulously and fairly the donkey divides the spoils in three equal parts. So enraged and offended is the lion that he kills and devours the donkey. He then asks the fox to divide the spoils. The fox creates a huge pile in front of the lion, leaving a tiny piece for herself. The lion is very impressed and asks the fox how she learned to divide so fairly and properly? The fox replied: the donkey’s predicament.</p> <p>Greece’s ‘predicament’ will reverberate around Europe and no doubt will become a salutary and painful lesson for millions of citizens in the eurozone: they must not vote for parties that promise to end austerity and hope to remain in the eurozone.&nbsp; It is better to act like the fox than the unfortunate donkey in the Aesopian fable. </p> <p>What stands out as a central message of the story is <strong>not</strong> the savagery and brutality of the lion but the idiotic miscalculation of the donkey in assuming equality of status with the lion. Similarly with regard to the negotiations between Greece and the Euro-group the bulk of the criticism is of Tsipras and Varoufakis for their serious miscalculation of power relations in the eurozone while not so much criticism is directed at the brutality in the use of power in the Eurozone, which is not too dissimilar to the one prevailing in the jungle. </p> <p>It is the same old story and same old message since the eurozone crisis erupted in 2010. All indebted economies must accept austerity or ‘end up like Greece’. Except that in 2010 the image of ‘ending up like Greece’ was that of a Dickensian debtors’ prison. In 2015 it is that of hell. The agreement is vindictive and has been compared to the Versailles Treaty of 1919. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/11744305/Greece-should-seizeGermanys-botched-offer-of-a-velvet-Grexit.html">uses much stronger language</a>. He argues that comparing the terms of the euro-group agreement to the Versailles treaty does not quite capture the ‘depravity’ of these terms. He writes: “What Greece is being asked to do is scientifically impossible. Almost everybody involved in the talks knows this. Yet the lie goes on because the dysfunctional nature of EMU politics and governance makes it impossible to come clean. The country is dishonestly kept in a permanent state of crisis” </p> <h2>Muddling through?</h2> <p>The euro-group led by Germany was not in the least interested in the Varoufakis ‘counter-narrative’ any more than the lion was interested in the donkey’s notions of fairness and justice. What mattered above all was that Syriza and other political parties that have similar aspirations must be crushed. Following the Syriza capitulation and humiliation of July 12, no one is interested in the ‘counter-narrative’ any more. On the contrary the dominant narrative and its central message are now propagated and re-iterated not only by the ‘usual suspects’ of Merkel, Schaeuble and Dijsselbloem but also by new political players from Finland and the Baltic states. </p> <p>Greece having broken the rules of the eurozone and lied about it was shown leniency and solidarity through a generous ‘rescue’ package and a ‘reform’ program that could have lifted the country out of the crisis. Greece not only failed to implement the agreed strategy but also elected a government of inexperienced amateurs who believed they could change hearts and minds in Europe and start the long overdue process of completing the European project. If Greece wants to stay in the eurozone it must be prepared to abide by its rules. The Greek people were given a final chance on July 12, 2015 to decide what they <em>really</em> wanted. They must fully implement the new agreement, regain their lost credibility and come to terms with the ‘reality’ of eurozone membership: it is ‘austerity or bust’. Moreover the ‘amputation’ option is still available.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>There is a glimmer of hope among those who continue to believe in the ideal of a united Europe that the ‘counter-narrative’ of the eurozone crisis so brutally dismissed and ridiculed by the policymaking elite of the euro-group is beginning to find resonance among many anti-austerity citizens of the eurozone. </p> <p>Whether the humiliating crushing of Syriza in Greece for daring to challenge the dominant narrative of the crisis would help or hinder the emergence of a movement for the long-awaited political reform of Europe remains to be seen. The only ‘contradiction’ that remains in the eurozone is the utopian expectation that a monetary union will work under German hegemony without political union. The centrifugal forces unleashed by the eurozone crisis are unlikely to be halted by this sorry episode. Germany’ insistence of holding on to the ‘Lion’s share’ of decision-making power in the eurozone is not only regrettable but dangerous. With ‘Grexit’ still on the table what next, ‘Brexit’? ‘Muddling-through’ like the Euro-group ‘a-Greek-ment’ of July 12 is no substitute for rational policymaking in the eurozone, the second largest economy in the world.&nbsp;</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Greece </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? EU Greece Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Economics Equality Ideas International politics Yiannis Kitromilides Fri, 31 Jul 2015 13:58:55 +0000 Yiannis Kitromilides 94918 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Apologists for terror or defenders of human rights? The Cage controversy in context https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/tom-mills-narzanin-massoumi-david-miller/apologists-for-terror-or-defenders-of-human-righ <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The attack on Cage is part of the more general assault on politically active Muslims and an attempt to push Muslim organisations to the margins of public life.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/TWXtZ0PWjVjuZfgUdik-3mMP-v_pv7LfzPIMcjXAfjw/mtime:1438350205/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555395/15191434513_3939a95277_z.jpg" alt="David Cameron giving a speech." title="David Cameron" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Prime Minister has led the public attack on Cage. Flickr/Open University. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Last week, in a widely trailed <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/david-cameron-extremism-speech-read-the-transcript-in-full-10401948.html">speech</a>, the Prime Minister laid out the government's counter-terrorism strategy for the next five years. It is necessary, Cameron explained, to challenge the idea that political violence is rooted in 'historic injustices and recent wars, or... poverty and hardship'.&nbsp; Terrorism, he said, is caused by 'extremist ideology', which his government is determined to confront.</p> <p>There was little new in Cameron's speech, which simply affirmed in strong terms the authoritarian drift of counter-terrorism policy. Influenced by the security apparatus and its supporters in Parliament, and by neoconservative think tanks, such as the <a href="http://www.spinwatch.org/images/Reports/HJS_spinwatch%20report_web_2015.pdf">Henry Jackson Society</a>, and (partly) state funded propaganda outfits like <a href="http://powerbase.info/index.php/Quilliam_Foundation">Quilliam</a>, policy makers have become increasingly preoccupied with 'non-violent extremism' rather than political violence. Officially this is portrayed as a political campaign against 'intolerance'. Thus Cameron claims that his government will be facing down 'terrorism' and 'extremism' by asserting 'basic liberal values such as democracy, freedom and sexual equality'.</p> <h2><strong>‘For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society’</strong></h2> <p>On the face of it this seems agreeable enough. But the actual policy is another matter. As was pointed out in a <a href="http://www.protectingthought.com/">recent letter</a> to which we were signatories, the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 will 'mean that individuals working within statutory organisations must report individuals suspected of being "potential terrorists" to external bodies for "de-radicalisation"'. In effect, the government has drawn the entire public sector into its controversial counter-extremist agenda, meaning that public servants once responsible for the welfare of citizens – including children – must now monitor their behaviour, appearance and political views, feeding into the most unaccountable and repressive elements of the state. Since 2014, 400 children, even <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/threeyearold-child-from-london-placed-in-government-antiextremism-programme-10419346.html">as young as three-years-old</a>, have been referred to the government's 'Channel' programme for 'de-radicalisation'. The true political implications of the policy, which has now passed into law, were made clear in May when Cameron <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/news/counter-extremism-bill-national-security-council-meeting">told</a> the first meeting of the National Security Council: 'For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens 'as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone".'&nbsp; So much for liberalism.</p> <p>The <a href="http://www.protectingthought.com/">letter</a> we signed in opposition to this plainly authoritarian approach, published before Cameron's speech, was an attempt to bring together a range of academics and others to draw attention to the problem of repressive anti-terrorism laws. Written by two academics and initiated by the human rights group Cage, it seemed to us a fairly unexceptional statement of the problem. Ten days after the letter was published, Cameron singled out Cage in the aforementioned speech, describing it as an extremist organisation which had called 'Jihadi John a "beautiful young man" and told people to "support the jihad" in Iraq and Afghanistan'. Working with Cage, he said, 'shame[d]' organisations like the National Union of Students.</p> <p>The NUS's Black Students' Officer, Malia Bouattia, responded by <a href="http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/malia-bouattia-prevent-david-cameron-speech-431">condemning</a> the 'state-sponsored witch-hunt of Muslims'. But the NUS itself was quick to point out that it had already <a href="http://beta.nusconnect.org.uk/articles/misleading-stories-in-the-media-why-nus-does-not-work-with-cage">publicly declared</a> that it would no longer work with Cage, as had another of the organisation's former partners, <a href="http://www.amnesty.org.uk/amnesty-international-responds-questions-about-cage#.VbYCxCB77IV">Amnesty International</a>. Moreover, Cage's former donors, under intense pressure from the Charity Commission, had already made public undertakings that they will never support the organisation's work, and last year banks unilaterally <a href="http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/Politics/article1433749.ece">froze the accounts of a number of Muslim groups</a>, including those of Cage staff and their family members. In attacking Cage then, Cameron was simply lending his Prime Ministerial authority to a campaign that had already proved remarkably successful in marginalising this small organisation. So what is Cage and what has it done to invite such opprobrium?</p> <h2><strong>What is Cage?</strong></h2> <p>Cage is an advocacy group and one of very few organisations working with victims of abuse or mistreatment in the 'War on Terror'. Through research, advocacy and casework it offers support for those who are being denied due process when accused of terrorism offences – which we should remember are much broader than what most people consider 'terrorism'. By putting citizens in touch with lawyers and informing them of their rights, Cage has been able to develop the trust of many Muslims subjected to harassment, torture and other abuses. As such, it has documented cases of miscarriages of justice about which we would otherwise know very little.&nbsp;</p> <p>Cage began its work in 2003 with a focus on Guantanamo Bay, and was one of the leading organisations working on publicising the names of those detained at the base. Since then it has consistently documented the involvement and complicity of UK and US governments in torture and rendition. In December 2006, it was the first organisation to <a href="http://www.cageuk.org/press-release/cage-releases-reports-describing-cia-individuals-who-tortured">publish a list of almost 100 prisons used to detain and torture terror suspects</a>. It is also reportedly the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/ben-hayes/why-britain-won%E2%80%99t-talk-about-crucial-elements-of-jihadi-john%E2%80%99s-story">only organisation</a> to offer support to Muslims harassed by the security services. In the case of Michael Adebolajo, Cage was instrumental in revealing evidence that he was tortured in Kenya, <a href="http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/uk/article4280765.ece">which led to an official inquiry</a>, ordered by Cameron. These activities are in themselves important in holding the security services to account.</p> <p>Another little remarked upon aspect of the work Cage has done is their campaigning for the release of hostages. In 2006, it worked with Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq to <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/4508640.stm">secure the release of Norman Kember and Harmeet Soodan</a> – both of whom were spared execution. More recently, it worked for the release of Alan Henning, a taxi driver who had gone to Syria to help deliver aid relief to refugees and was taken prisoner by ISIS. His friends approached Cage's Director, the former Guantanamo detainee Moazzam Begg, for help, and Cage made several appeals to Henning's captors calling for his release. Begg used contacts from his work in Syria investigating UK and US involvement in rendition, and prepared a letter to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghadi pleading for Henning's release.</p> <p>Yet despite – and indeed in some cases clearly because of – this important work, there is an intense air of suspicion around Cage on the left, and outright, sometimes hysterical, hostility towards them on the right. The organisation has been described as <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/10981050/The-evidence-shows-that-Cage-is-a-pro-terrorist-group.html">'a pro-terrorist group'</a> by <a href="http://powerbase.info/index.php/Douglas_Murray">Douglas Murray</a> and <a href="http://powerbase.info/index.php/Robin_Simcox">Robin Simcox</a> of the neoconservative <a href="http://powerbase.info/index.php/Henry_Jackson_Society">Henry Jackson Society</a>, as <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2972955/Nauseating-odious-press-conference-apologists-terror-gooders-fund-them.html">'nauseating… apologists&nbsp; for terror</a>' by the <em>Daily Mail</em> and as <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/terrorism-in-the-uk/11442602/Cage-the-extremists-peddling-lies-to-British-Muslims-to-turn-them-into-supporters-of-terror.html">'quite clearly, a terrorism advocacy group'</a> by the <em>Telegraph</em>. Not only that but, as noted above, after years of pressure, liberal groups like Amnesty have publicly criticised Cage, announcing that they would no longer work with the organisation.</p> <h2><strong>The latest allegations</strong></h2> <p>For years Cage has faced accusations of 'extremism', the substance of which we will examine further below. The latest allegations, which seem to have been quite effective in finally marginalising the organisation from public life, relate to comments made by Cage's director of research, Asim Qureshi; firstly about Mohammed Emwazi, the British-Kuwaiti ISIS fighter dubbed 'Jihadi John' by the tabloids, and secondly in relation to the practice of stoning adulterous women. The headlines tell the story:</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/islamic-state/11453846/Cage-director-Asim-Qureshi-refuses-to-condemn-stoning-of-adulterous-women.html">Cage director Asim Qureshi refuses to condemn stoning of adulterous women</a> (<em>Telegraph</em>)</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2982765/Muslim-rights-leader-praised-beautiful-Jihadi-John-sparks-outrage-refusing-condemn-stoning-women.html">Jihadi John apologist who said killer was a 'beautiful man' sparks new outrage after refusing to condemn stoning of women</a> (<em>Daily Mail</em>)</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <a href="http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/562464/Islamic-State-Jihadi-John-CAGE-Asim-Qureshi-female-stoning-Mohammed-Emwazi-BBC-This-Week">Muslim rights activist who defended Jihadi John refuses to condemn female stoning</a> (<em>Express</em>)</p> <p>Mohammed Emwazi had been on Cage's casefile for several years. So when news broke that he was 'Jihadi John', Cage held a press conference announcing the publications of a <a href="http://cageuk.org/case/mohammed-emwazi">comprehensive account</a> of their correspondence with him. This included details of Emwazi's harassment by the security service. This was despite Emwazi having never been charged with, or even arrested for, any terrorism-related crime. Emwazi faced repeated detention at airports, interrogation by MI5, deportation, and prevention from returning to Kuwait to take up a job and get married. In addition, the security services had tried to recruit Emwazi as an informant. When he refused, he was told: 'You’re going to be known... you’re going to be followed... life will be harder for you'. &nbsp;<a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2973823/I-m-dead-man-walking-Jihadi-John-tells-paranoia-shadowed-MI5-went-Syria-bombshell-email-Mail-Sunday.html">In a letter</a> sent to the journalist Robert Verkaik, Emwazi wrote that he was a 'dead man walking'.&nbsp; The picture that emerged was of course contested by the authorities. It is <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/feb/26/mi5-mohammed-emwazi-serious-questions">reported that</a> Emwazi was 'mixing in radical Islamist circles' prior to attracting the attention of MI5. But even if true, questions still remain about their tactics and harassment – as well as the accusation that they <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/feb/26/mi5-mohammed-emwazi-serious-questions">tried to strangle him</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>The evidence presented by Cage at that press conference amounted, as <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/ben-hayes/why-britain-won%E2%80%99t-talk-about-crucial-elements-of-jihadi-john%E2%80%99s-story">Ben Hayes puts it,</a> to 'a credible allegation of state-sanctioned blackmail of one of our citizens upon pain of having his life ruined by unaccountable security forces.'</p> <p>Speaking at the press conference, Cage's Qureshi contrasted the young man he had corresponded with, with the brutality displayed by 'Jihadi John', describing the Emwazi he had known years earlier as 'extremely gentle'. Qureshi's comments were seized upon and shamelessly distorted by the right-wing press. The <em>Telegraph,</em> for example, <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/terrorism-in-the-uk/11440808/Jihadi-John-Activist-who-praised-Mohammed-Emwazi-as-beautiful-caught-on-video-backing-jihad.html">reported that</a> Qureshi had said that 'Emwazi is "extremely gentle"', removing the past tense from his comments, which had made clear he was referring to Emwazi <em>before</em> his apparent 'radicalisation'.&nbsp;</p> <p>Perhaps Qureshi's comments were ill advised given the attacks that were likely to follow any high profile and credible accusations against the security service. But that does not detract from the fact that the media response was both overwrought and plainly misleading; not to mention a serious dereliction of the journalistic duty to hold power to account. Instead of addressing the evidence presented by Cage, and pursuing the awkward questions raised about the British intelligence services, the British media decided that Cage themselves were the story.</p> <p>The organisation's representatives were in fact unequivocal in their condemnation of 'Jihadi John' and the violence of ISIS. In an <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/jihadi-john-cage-representative-storms-off-sky-news-interview-after-accusing-kay-burley-of-islamaphobia-10073785.html">interview on <em>Sky News</em></a>, Cage spokesperson Cerie Bullivant said: 'nobody here is apologising or trying to make an excuse for what happened… We are shocked when we see beheadings… I am shocked by something as brutal as this... everybody should be held accountable for any torture that they do or any killings'. Yet Cage has continually faced claims that it is in some way responsible for, or has condoned, such acts.</p> <h2><strong>The politics of the last atrocity</strong></h2> <p>Increasingly marginalised by a media smear campaign, Cage has now achieved the status of public pariah once reserved for critics of government policy on Northern Ireland before the peace process. Broadcast media anchors have treated Cage representatives with open contempt and hostility, routinely putting words in their mouths and insisting they condemn abuses in Muslims countries, or the latest 'terror' attack. In Ireland, this became known as <a href="http://archive.thetablet.co.uk/article/8th-january-1994/4/dublin-holds-its-breath">the politics of the last atrocity</a>. The British state and their mainstream media cheerleaders adopted the <a href="https://www.academia.edu/3172344/The_Media_and_Northern_Ireland_Censorship_Information_Management_and_the_Broadcasting_Ban">'hostile interview technique'</a> for critics of British rule. Interviewees were branded as <a href="https://www.academia.edu/2596690/The_Media_Propaganda_and_the_Peace_process_in_Ireland">apologists for terrorism</a> if they would not indulge in selective condemnation of the latest act of violence by the official enemy. Meanwhile, journalists, fearless in interrogating critics of British policy, managed to maintain a tight-lipped silence when interviewing British Ministers after the latest British or Loyalist abuse or attack.</p> <p>Imagine the reverse of the current pattern of media 'monstering' of Cage. Imagine that the mainstream media repeatedly required UK, US or Israeli officials to condemn extra-judicial executions or the killing of civilians by their forces. In Pakistan alone, for example, the US is <a href="https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1NAfjFonM-Tn7fziqiv33HlGt09wgLZDSCP-BQaux51w/edit?usp=sharing&amp;pli=1">estimated</a> to have killed between 172 and 207 children in drone strikes since 2004, yet no condemnations are demanded of US officials, let alone civil society groups sympathetic with the US military. In its latest assault on Gaza, Israel killed 577 children, and in response, Cameron <a href="http://www.thejc.com/lifestyle/interviews/135458/david-cameron-israel-was-right-defend-itself-over-gaza-%E2%80%94-i-feel-very-cle">remarked</a> that it is 'important to speak out' in favour of Israel's right 'to defend against indiscriminate attacks'. Imagine the BBC refusing to interview Cameron or any other Minister of the Crown until they condemn such crimes. It is of course literally incredible to imagine. Yet this is precisely what representatives of Cage have been subjected to, and in relation to acts for which they bear no responsibility and for which they have professed no sympathy. Treated as partisans in a terrorist war, they are required to issue meaningless condemnations before being allowed to speak.</p> <h2><strong>The 'salafi-jihadi' smear</strong></h2> <p>Having attacked Qureshi for his comments on Emwazi, Cage's critics focused on comments he made when asked about stoning and Islamic law. The charges are based on comments Qureshi made in two interviews, the first with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange on <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VB6mZRXe2GM"><em>Russia Today</em></a><em> </em>in 2012, and the second with the right-wing TV presenter Andrew Neil on the <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=afdeFuJbK3E">BBC's <em>This Week</em></a> shortly after the Emwazi press conference.</p> <p>In the interview with Assange, Qureshi spoke of his 'personal' belief in 'Islamic concepts' in relation to punishments and the rule of law, in the abstract. But he also noted that the practical implementation of Sharia today often 'totally goes against what the rule of law requires from the Sharia'. In the case of stoning (of both men and women) for adultery he said that the 'evidentiary standard is four live witnesses to the act of sexual relations at the time it is taking place'. So, 'from an evidentiary perspective it is almost impossible to establish that'. 'The fact that you have', he said, 'the punishment even taking place means that effectively the rule of law is being abused at some point, because it is impossible to establish that evidentiary standard'. Whilst hardly an unequivocal condemnation, this is a rather more complex picture than that recognised in the headlines.</p> <p>On the BBC, Andrew Neil confronted Qureshi about the views of Sheikh Haitham al-Haddad, a Muslim scholar who Neil claimed was Qureshi's 'spiritual mentor and guide'. Qureshi responded that Haddad was just 'one scholar in the UK that I think has an important contribution to make'.&nbsp; Neil stated that Haddad:</p> <blockquote><p>believes in the following: Female Genital Mutilation is not only acceptable, it is probably obligatory; that you should not question a man's right to hit his wife; that non-Muslim prisoners should be taken as slaves; that Jews are descendants of pigs; death by stoning is OK for adultery and homosexuality is a crime against humanity.</p></blockquote> <p>He asked Qureshi if he had 'been guided to believe' these things, to which Qureshi responded: 'I've never been guided to believe any of those things'. Pressed further, Qureshi stated, 'I am not a theologian', and when asked directly about his comments to Julian Assange on stoning stated: 'I do a lot of work, actually, against the death penalty'. 'What I am about,' he continued, 'and what my organisation is about is due process of the law.'</p> <p>There is no doubt that Haddad expresses a conservative strand of Islam, in particular on the appropriateness of punishment fitting the crime (Hudud) and on questions of sexuality. It is not clear, though, that the other views attributed to him are accurately rendered. Much of the substance of the question from Neil appears to be based on a report from the Council of Ex Muslims, an organisation close to the 'new atheist' movement which enjoys the <a href="http://ex-muslim.org.uk/donate/">'generous support'</a> of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, amongst other benefactors. Their 2014 report <a href="http://ex-muslim.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/EvangelisingHate_Report_Web.pdf"><em>Evangelising Hate:<strong> </strong></em><em>Islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA)</em></a>, was <a href="http://mushypeas.org/%EF%BB%BF-the-revealing-evidence-how-andrew-neil-plotted-to-target-asim-qureshi/">drawn to Andrew Neil's attention</a> on Twitter in advance of the programme.</p> <p>In the end, as Qureshi argued to Andrew Neil: 'What we are talking about here is how counter terrorism policy is affecting our youth here in the UK. &nbsp;What you've done is that you are trying to conflate theological issues within Islam with what we're talking about'. The alternative view – as put by Andrew Neil – is that Cage is 'putting up a moderate front and behind it hangs a jihadist agenda'. Ultimately, this is what the accusations against Cage boil down to: the claim that it may be working on civil liberties and human rights, but these activities are simply a means to advance a broader political agenda, and one which poses a grave threat to democracy and ultimately to human rights.</p> <p>But whatever one might say about the politics or religious beliefs of individuals working at Cage, the fact remains that it is a human rights organisation and bases its work on the notion that everyone should have access to due process, including those suspected of 'terrorism' offences.&nbsp; This is not an especially controversial position. Indeed, it is that held by other human rights organisations, such as Amnesty International and Reprieve. Critics of human rights work have always sought to deflect the issues raised by attempting to conflate criticism with particular political agendas, or by seeking to portray human rights workers as partisans. In the 1970s and 1980s, for example, Amnesty International came under intense pressure when it queried British human rights abuses in Ireland. An example of this is Amnesty's response to the suspected extrajudicial execution of three unarmed members of the IRA on the rock of Gibraltar in March 1988. Jonathan Power, the author of <em><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Like-Water-Stone-Amnesty-International/dp/B00A17DM0C">The Story of Amnesty International</a></em> (see p.172), writes:</p> <blockquote><p>When Amnesty called for an inquiry, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher accused the organization of being 'IRA apologists'. So intense was the criticism of Amnesty by both the government and sections of the media that many British members resigned. Amnesty stuck to its guns and, finally, in 1995, the European Court of Human Rights declared that the killings by the British army were unlawful.</p></blockquote> <p>Another even more apposite historical analogy is the British state's position on the National Council of Civil Liberties – now Liberty, the well-known liberal campaigning group led by Shami Chakrabarti – during the Cold War. In 1951, MI5 <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2002/jan/06/humanrights.world">advised</a> the Home Office that despite being 'ostensibly based on Liberal principles', the National Council of Civil Liberties had been 'penetrated from the start by Communists' and since it had 'Communists and Communist-sympathisers [sic.] serving as officers', membership was 'a prima facie case for reference to our records'.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/MdtcNUmMmkzyxXLU8LXIkTO7c-F8QSXIbB8Hv9XOUBI/mtime:1438350392/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555395/4705277359_a4e2c1444b_z.jpg" alt="Image of Margaret Thatcher" title="Thatcher described Amnesty as &quot;IRA apologists&quot;. Flickr/BBC Radio 4. Some rights reserved." width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Thatcher described Amnesty as "IRA apologists". Flickr/BBC Radio 4. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Indeed, the future Cabinet Ministers Harriet Harman and Patricia Hewitt were both <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2009/oct/06/mi5-union-leaders-surveillance">placed</a> under surveillance by MI5 whilst working there. This is more than a coincidence of history. As two of us <a href="http://www.newleftproject.org/index.php/site/article_comments/the_cold_war_on_british_muslims">showed</a> in a 2011 report, the key think tanks that have influenced the shift in counter-terrorism policy away from terrorism and towards 'extremist' ideas, explicitly sought to revive Cold War style counter-subversion. In one <a href="http://www.policyexchange.org.uk/images/publications/choosing%20our%20friends%20wisely%20-%20mar%2009.pdf">2009 pamphlet</a> published by 'Cameron's favourite think tank' Policy Exchange, for example, the authors criticised the then focus on security, favouring instead an effort to counter the 'non-violent radicals' they claimed were 'indoctrinating young people with an ideology of hostility to western values.' The report explicitly called for the British state to engage in large-scale political counter-subversion, criticising MI5 for 'not draw[ing] as much as it might on British experiences during the Cold War'.</p> <h2><strong>Smoke without fire: the left-wing criticisms of Cage</strong></h2> <p>If the accusations and insinuations were limited to neoconservative think tanks, right wing politicians and the reactionary press, they could be easily dismissed by liberals, leftists and human rights activists as nothing more than cynical political smears. And in large part the claims made against Cage are just that. But attacks on Cage and its leading figures have also come from sections of the left, and this has afforded legitimacy to reactionary attacks, and discouraged some who would otherwise have supported Cage's work.</p> <p>Much of the left-wing criticism has come from secularist, anti-racist activists, particularly those close to the campaigning groups Women Against Fundamentalism and Southall Black Sisters. Both these feminist organisations emerged out of the radical anti-racist movement and are notable for having advanced a left-wing critique of multiculturalism, opposing both racist state practices and 'religious fundamentalism'. Their argument, in short, is that through elevating more conservative figures as 'community leaders' multiculturalist policies have strengthened patriarchal and reactionary forces amongst minorities and thereby fostered identity politics, patriarchy and religious conservatism at the expense of the secular, cosmopolitan vision of the radical anti-racist movement. This placed these secularist activists in opposition to the Muslim Council of Great Britain (MCB) and over time increasingly in step with elements of the government and the conservative movement, as the MCB was attacked and then sidelined for its opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – part of a broader political attack on multiculturalism. This strange political convergence between radical feminist anti-racists and various Islamophobic movements come to the fore very publicly in early 2010 when Gita Sahgal, a co-founder of Southall Black Sisters and Women Against Fundamentalism, <a href="http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/world_news/article197042.ece">publicly attacked Cage's Moazzam Begg in the pages of the <em>Sunday Times</em></a>.</p> <p>In a relatively short article leading to an international media storm, Sahgal aired her objections to her then employer Amnesty International partnering with Begg and Cage. Sahgal, who was head of Amnesty International's Gender Unit at the time, was quoted as saying: 'it was absolutely wrong to legitimise [Moazzam Begg] as a partner'. The article quoted an email she had sent to her bosses in which she described Cage as a 'jihadi' organisation and Begg as 'Britain's most famous supporter of the Taliban'. The inflammatory accusations were repeated across the British and international media, putting Amnesty under intense pressure to sever its relationship with Cage.</p> <p>Gita Sahgal was suspended and later forced to resign from Amnesty, becoming something of a <em>cause célèbre</em> for neoconservatives, the pro-war left and similar Islamophobic groupings. She and her supporters then wrote a number of articles attacking both her former employer and Moazzam Begg. In one such <a href="http://www.dnaindia.com/world/comment-dangerous-liaisons-1372616">piece</a>, published in <em>DNA India</em> a week after her forced departure from Amnesty, Sahgal writes: 'One of the issues at stake is whether there is any evidence.' We agree. Indeed, we think it revealing how little attention was paid then, and has been since, to the substance of the allegations against Cage, which have left an enduring air of suspicion around the organisation, making it and those it works with more vulnerable to abuse at the hands of the authorities.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/07H8a15tcZ0IkWPWgoi3TaIwZo8QiBHDOQNV9VUg-TQ/mtime:1438350497/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555395/3213623506_eeb46feb2d_z.jpg" alt="Hicham Yezza and Moazzam Begg." title="Moazzam Begg" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Begg, right, is Cage's director. Flickr/Sarah Mirk. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>In her <em>DNA India</em> piece, which to our knowledge is the most detailed critique Sahgal has published, she refers to Cage as 'an obscure outfit devoted to the promotion of those detainees and convicted prisoners from groups that are associated with al-Qaeda and other exponents of the ideology that is known as salafi jihadism.' In so far as the piece contains any concrete allegations, they relate first to Begg's political activities and affiliations before his incarceration and torture by the United States, and secondly to his subsequent endorsement of 'defensive jihad'. Below we examine both aspects.</p> <p>Many politically engaged Muslims in the 1990s were animated by the conflicts in Kashmir, Chechnya, Bosnia-Herzegovina and elsewhere, and Cage's Moazzam Begg was no exception. In her <em>DNA India</em> <a href="http://www.dnaindia.com/world/comment-dangerous-liaisons-1372616">piece</a>, Sahgal notes that Begg – as he details in his book <em>Enemy Combatant</em> – ran a bookshop in Birmingham which sold literature by Abdullah Azzam, a Palestinian who fought the Soviets in Afghanistan and who before his death in 1989 co-founded groupings which became Al-Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Taiba. For Sahgal, this makes Begg beyond the pale politically.&nbsp; Towards the end of her piece she asks rhetorically:</p> <blockquote><p>Would Amnesty International members and supporters decide that a man who had once sold Mein Kampf but now said that Hitler, who was a great inspiration, went a little over the top in carrying out the final solution, be considered a suitable person to adorn Amnesty platforms?</p></blockquote> <p>This is a remarkably inflammatory passage and the sort of political rhetoric that has for the most part been limited to the more extreme fringes of the Zionist and <a href="http://powerbase.info/index.php/Counterjihad_movement">Counterjihad movements</a>. But let us assume that the analogy is meant to be taken seriously. In what sense is Abdullah Azzam comparable to Hitler? <em>Mein Kampf</em> is a racist, genocidal, ultra-nationalist tract and the movement its author led was committed to territorial expansion, colonialism and ethnic cleansing. Can the same be said of the writings of Azzam or any other seminal figure in the various political movements conventionally referred to as 'Islamist' or 'jihadist'? Religiously inspired political movements in the Middle East are not homogenous and different groups have pursued different goals and adopted different strategies and tactics at different times. But whilst generally they tend to be broadly conservative – indeed many are highly reactionary – even the most extreme groupings bear only the most superficial resemblance to the German National Socialists. Even the neoconservative historian <a href="http://powerbase.info/index.php/Niall_Ferguson">Niall Ferguson</a> has <a href="http://globetrotter.berkeley.edu/people6/Ferguson/ferguson06-con5.html">described</a> the analogy as a 'fantasy' used to morally blackmail opponents of the 'War on Terror'; remarked that 'there's virtually no overlap between the ideology of al Qaeda and fascism'; and suggested that a more historically literate comparison would be with the Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin. If Ferguson is right, should we refuse to support anyone who at one stage sold the writings of Lenin or Trotsky? If so, that would likely include anyone who has worked for any major book retailer. And what about those who have sold any of the writings of the Argentinean revolutionary Che Guevara, who in 1967 <a href="https://www.marxists.org/archive/guevara/1967/04/16.htm">declared</a>:</p> <blockquote><p>We must carry the war into every corner the enemy happens to carry it: to his home, to his centres of entertainment; a total war. It is necessary to prevent him from having a moment of peace, a quiet moment outside his barracks or even inside; we must attack him wherever he may be; make him feel like a cornered beast wherever he may move.&nbsp; Then his moral fibre shall begin to decline. He will even become more beastly, but we shall notice how the signs of decadence begin to appear.</p></blockquote> <p>And what, conversely, should be our position on those who have sold any of the writings of Henry Kissinger, who in 1970 <a href="http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB123/Box%2029,%20File%202,%20Kissinger%20%96%20Haig,%20Dec%209,%201970%208,50%20pm%20106-10.pdf">instructed</a> the US military to escalate their bombing campaign against neutral Cambodia with the words, 'Anything that flies on anything that moves.'? After all, Kissinger, through this and his broader involvement in US aggression in South East Asia is implicated not only in terrorism, but in some of the most grave crimes of the 20th century.</p> <p>What is remarkable about the criticisms of Begg by Sahgal and others is that no one alleges that he has been involved in any violence, or that he has voiced any support for the targeting of civilians or for 'offensive jihad' in general. Indeed, Begg and other members of Cage have stressed again and again that they have never, and never will, support attacks on civilians. But this is not enough for critics of Cage, for whom the issue is support for 'defensive jihad' – and support for 'jihad', Sahgal argues, 'whether of the defensive or offensive variety, constitutes a profound threat to all human rights.' This is the second and more extensive claim made in the <em>DNA India</em> piece, and Sahgal and her supporters have repeated it elsewhere.</p> <p>In a <a href="http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2010/may/13/statement-gita-sahgal-leaving-amnesty-internationa/">statement published</a> by the <em>New York Review of Book</em>, for example, Sahgal made oblique reference to 'the views of Begg, his associates, and his organization', but the only specific allegation was that they had expressed support for 'jihad in self-defence'. This is true, but it is a curious basis for criticism since 'defensive jihad' – that is the violent resistance to invasion or oppression – happens to be a right under international law. This begs the question: what position on the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, for example, could Begg have taken to make himself acceptable to Sahgal and her supporters? Must he publicly oppose violence in all circumstances to make himself an acceptable partner? This is not an issue Sahgal thinks to address, since she chooses to interpret jihad not as a right or obligation to be exercised in particular circumstances, but as an 'ideology' which 'promotes the destruction of human rights generally' and women and minorities in particular. In a subsequent article <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/gita-sahgal/amnesty-working-against-oblivion">published</a> on <em>Open Democracy</em>, Sahgal goes further, claiming that 'defensive jihad' is 'after all, waged to establish systematic discrimination'. She thus ignores the question of under what circumstances it is legitimate to use violence, arguing instead that by expressing even equivocal support for violent resistance in Islamic terms, Begg and his associates, no matter what they say, <em>by definition</em> support discrimination and the violent subordination of women and minorities.</p> <p>A similar argument is advanced by the US feminist Meredith Tax, who <a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/Double-Bind-Muslim-Anglo-American-Universal/dp/0988830302">wrote a pamphlet</a> developing and broadening the arguments against Cage for Sahgal's Centre for Secular Space. In her pamphlet, Tax blurs the lines between religiously inspired political movements and terrorist organisations by defining human rights abuses justified in religious terms as acts of terrorism. &nbsp;She argues that it is 'critically important' that human rights advocates should track violations by states, but argues that 'it is also incumbent upon human rights organisations to scrutinise the ideology of groups they defend' and to make it clear they 'do not support their beliefs' (p.28). Even leaving aside the highly questionable argument that the abuses Tax describes should be defined as terrorism, or the notion that such abuses justified in religious terms should be treated as fundamentally distinct from those that are not, there is still a serious problem here.</p> <p>The implications of Tax's argument seems to be that one should focus on the <em>practices</em> of states, and the <em>ideologies</em> of non-state actors. But then why is it not equally incumbent on human rights organisations to make clear that they do not support the beliefs or ideologies of particular governments? Should Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International be condemning the ideology of Zionism rather than the abuses of the Israeli government? No, and the reason is obvious: human rights organisations have always focused on recording abuses, campaigning on due process and advocating for reforms, whilst avoiding being drawn onto the slippery slope of criticising political ideologies. The distinction between ideas and action is fundamental to human rights work, and indeed to the liberal system of law on which it is based, and it is precisely this distinction which authoritarian counter-terrorism laws have eroded.</p> <p>The logical leaps in the arguments advanced by Sahgal, Tax and others are clear enough if one chooses to address the substance and the evidence, rather than being drawn in by the rhetoric and insinuations. Begg may have voiced support for armed resistance to occupation and oppression, but where is the actual evidence that he opposes women's rights, for example? Neither Sahgal, nor her supporters, nor the array of reactionary forces determined to undermine Cage's work have to our knowledge produced any.</p> <h2><strong>Conclusion: what is at stake</strong></h2> <p>In a way though, all this heat and light on the alleged misdeeds of Cage and its staff are not really the point. The real reason Cage is being attacked is not to be found in any speech by the Prime Minister, the 'research' by the think tanks, or the howls of outrage from the media. The real reason is that it is an effective human rights organisation that is dedicated to defending the rights of terror suspects (and indeed of convicted 'terrorists' where there are concerns about due process and the safety of convictions). What is actually at stake here? It is not just a question of defending the reputation of Cage, but of actively supporting its work with the victims of the 'War on Terror'. This is because it is intrinsically a matter of justice, but also because the more injustice is piled up by wrongful convictions and abuses of power, the greater the price that British society will pay for its failure to listen to those pointing to its abuse of 'democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs'. &nbsp;These are, as alert observers will have noted, <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/380595/SMSC_Guidance_Maintained_Schools.pdf">the terms used by the government to define 'British values'</a>.</p> <p>The attack on Cage is part of the more general assault on politically active Muslims and an attempt to push Muslim organisations to the margins of public life. Cage is not the only group to have had its banks accounts, those of its staff and – let it be emphasised – their children, closed. &nbsp;Not being a charity, it is not even one of the 55 Muslim charities <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/nov/16/charity-commission-inquiries-muslim-groups">that are currently being attacked (or 'investigated' as they would have it) by the Charity Commission</a>. The Commission, headed by the neoconservative ideologue <a href="http://powerbase.info/index.php/William_Shawcross">Lord Shawcross</a>, has put <a href="http://www.jrct.org.uk/userfiles/documents/JRCT%20Media%20Statement%206%20March%202015.pdf">'intense regulatory pressure'</a> on <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/mar/06/charities-sever-ties-with-pressure-group-cage-over-mohammed-emwazi-links">charities that have funded Cage to publically declare they will never do so again</a>. In addition, <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/mar/02/amnesty-international-considers-cutting-links-with-pressure-group-cage">Amnesty and others have been pressurised to draw a <em>cordon sanitaire</em></a> between Cage and themselves. This plainly amounts to a campaign to bully and censor people into dissociating themselves from Cage and has had a significant impact on its ability to undertake its human rights work. The term Orwellian does not begin to cover this and we are saddened that some progressive individuals and organisations appear to be joining in with, or 'quietly condoning' to borrow Cameron's much derided phrase, what amounts to a state-directed attempt to silence its critics.</p> <p>If we say nothing now when they come for Cage, there will be nobody left to speak for the rest of us. Nor will there be anyone to speak for those future victims of miscarriages of justice, the Birmingham Sixes and Guildford Fours of this ever expanding and apparently never ending 'war'.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/peter-oborne-alex-delmarmorgan/uncaging-charity-commission">Uncaging the Charity Commission</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/ben-hayes/why-britain-won%E2%80%99t-talk-about-crucial-elements-of-jihadi-john%E2%80%99s-story">Why Britain won’t talk about crucial elements of Jihadi John’s story</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/tom-mills-hilary-aked-narzanin-massoumi-david-miller/taking-racism-seriously-islamophobia">Taking racism seriously: Islamophobia, civil liberties and the state</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> OurKingdom OurKingdom Civil society Democracy and government Islam Civil Liberties David Miller Narzanin Massoumi Tom Mills Fri, 31 Jul 2015 13:49:47 +0000 David Miller, Narzanin Massoumi and Tom Mills 94917 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Fair Game? The BBC and the future of sport on free-to-air television https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourbeeb/paul-smith/fair-game-bbc-and-future-of-sport-on-freetoair-television <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Providing ‘free’ access to sport is one of the BBC’s vital public roles. If this function is to be preserved in a post-broadcast age it must be reinforced by state legislation.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/G_1SpLR2smf0i1A7G4R_oK51MBVOQvLfuAdt_Q1sMJI/mtime:1438291229/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/537086/7662696650_a14519e2ac_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/AVgHBQEZnvu7qXVjJuofP0qOiU3CKS-Q7qAIpc33l-M/mtime:1438291217/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/537086/7662696650_a14519e2ac_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="311" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>London Olympic opening ceremony. Image: Flickr / Maykal</span></span></span></p><p><span>In an era of multi-channel digital television and increasingly fragmented audiences, live television coverage of major sporting events remains one of the few forms of programming able to bring the nation together for a shared viewing experience. In 2013, for instance, when Andy Murray became the first British winner of the men’s singles title at Wimbledon for 77 years, he was watched by a (BBC) television audience of over 17 million. Perhaps even more impressively, over 90 per cent of the UK’s population watched at least some of the BBC’s coverage of the 2012 London Olympic Games, with audiences for the opening and closing ceremony each exceeding 25 million.</span></p> <p>Of course, the access of viewers to live television coverage of events like these in such huge numbers is dependent on their continued availability via the BBC and other free-to-air broadcasters. To illustrate the point, it’s worth considering the example of Ashes cricket. In 2005, Channel Four’s coverage reached a peak audience of 8.2 million. Four years later, following the sale of the exclusive TV rights to Sky, <a href="http://www.bbc.com/sport/0/cricket/33407465">the audience peaked at 1.9m and, in 2013, just 1.3m</a>. On Saturday afternoon, when England clinched victory in the First Test Match of this summer’s series, <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2015/jul/12/ashes-sky-england-australia-ecb-tv">the TV audience was just 474,000</a>, only marginally more than a repeat of <em>Columbo</em> being aired at the same time on ITV3! Cricket may well be earning far more from the sale of its rights to pay-TV, but it is less and less part of the national consciousness. </p> <p>This is not just a problem for cricket. The example highlights a major problem for the future of public service broadcasting too. Sport is and has long been a vital part of the range of different programme genres provided by UK public service broadcasters. For the BBC, sports coverage provides a means to achieve some of its key ‘public purposes’. Specifically, in 2010, in its <em>Putting Quality First</em> <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/aboutthebbc/insidethebbc/howwework/reports/strategy_review.html">strategy document</a>, the BBC emphasised the importance it attached to continuing to offer a broad mix of UK and international sports coverage that includes: major events that bring communities and nations together; minority sports that bring communities of interest together and broaden cultural horizons; and sports serving audiences that are otherwise under-served by the BBC, such as young men, lower-income and ethnic minority audiences. </p> <p>However, a combination of the escalating costs of sports rights and a squeeze on its own finances means that there is a very real danger that sport, and particularly live sport, will become an increasingly marginal feature of the BBC’s output. Following the 2010 licence fee settlement, which froze the level of the licence fee for six years, a 16 per cent cut in real terms, and forced the Corporation to take over from the government the cost of funding a host of existing and new areas, including the BBC World Service, <a href="http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/aboutthebbc/insidethebbc/howwework/reports/pdf/strategy_review.pdf">the BBC cut its sports rights budget by 15 per cent</a> and committed itself to limit spending on sports rights to an average of 9p in every licence fee pound. </p> <p>The announcement in this year’s Budget, that the BBC is to take on from the government the £600 million-plus annual cost of providing free TV licences for people aged over 75, will inevitably result in further reductions in spending on sports rights by the BBC. In fact, the impact of the BBC’s shrinking sports rights budget is already evident. In February, it was announced that the BBC had lost the live rights to the Open Golf Championship to Sky, bringing to an end sixty one years of live coverage of the event on free-to-air television. To avoid a similar fate with other sports, the BBC is looking to share the cost of rights with other broadcasters where once it was able to command exclusive coverage. Two weeks ago, the BBC and ITV announced that they had agreed a joint six year deal to offer live coverage of Six Nations Rugby, with ITV set to televise all England, Ireland and Italy home matches and the BBC to cover Wales and Scotland home matches. This strategy may well enable live coverage of key sporting events to remain on free-to-air television, but it cannot disguise a significant dilution in the capacity of the BBC to achieve its key public service objectives.&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>Listed events legislation </strong></h2> <p>Against this backdrop, the position of the BBC (and, albeit to a lesser extent, other free-to-air broadcasters) in the UK sports rights market is more dependent than ever on the continued existence and enforcement of listed events legislation, which effectively guarantees that certain key national sporting events remain available on free-to-air television. Dating back to the 1950s, the listed events policy has a long history in the UK (and is now overseen via a European Union Directive), but it was during the 1990s, when, in Rupert Murdoch’s often quoted phrase, Sky began to use sports rights as a ‘battering ram’ to open up the market for pay-TV, that the issue of sport on television was propelled to the centre of debate on UK broadcasting policy.</p> <p>Since the 1990s, the scale and scope of the legislation, as well as the principle of ‘the list’ itself, has been the subject of two major government reviews (Lord Gordon, 1998; Davies, 2009). In 1998, the recommendations of the Gordon Review were fully implemented and led to the establishment of the current ‘A‘ and ‘B’ lists of events for the protection of live and highlight coverage on free-to-air television respectively.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/IU7YEFF_DcpXmSEj0N0zhMCuK1qOq1hGaVCFrhRgm6g/mtime:1438290888/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/537086/Screen%20Shot%202015-07-30%20at%2023.07.27.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/IyD87xhsLFocqKizVbBKvj0K7SQCaXKKvDCeWYnNeB4/mtime:1438290762/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/537086/Screen%20Shot%202015-07-30%20at%2023.07.27.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="366" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>More recently, in 2009, the Davies Review recommended the abolition of the ‘B list’ and the delisting of some events (the Winter Olympics, The Derby and the Rugby League Challenge Cup Final), but also a significant extension of the main (live coverage) list to include: cricket’s (home) Ashes test matches; home and away qualification matches in the FIFA World Cup and UEFA European Championships; the Wimbledon tennis Championship (in its entirety); the Open Golf Championship; the Rugby Union World Cup tournament (in its entirety); and, Wales matches in the Six Nations Rugby Championship (in Wales). However, the Labour government that commissioned the report was unable, or unwilling, to find time to legislate before the 2010 General Election and the subsequent Coalition government proved even less keen to implement Davies’ recommendations.&nbsp; </p> <p>Nevertheless, the availability of major sporting events on free-to-air television remains a potentially controversial issue. Towards the end of last month, the IOC announced that it had agreed a Pan-European deal with Discovery, the owner of the pay-TV broadcaster, <em>Eurosport</em>, for the exclusive rights to the Olympic Games, between 2018 and 2024 (although only for 2022 onwards in the UK). This means that the BBC will soon lose control of the rights to broadcast the Olympic Games and will be dependent on the continued existence of listed events legislation to ensure the sub-licensing of rights for free-to-air coverage. Against this backdrop, it is well worth restating the case for listed events legislation and the implementation of the recommendations of the Davies Report. </p> <p>Ultimately, ‘listed events’ legislation is required because, in the absence of such legislation, coverage of high profile sporting events will tend to migrate from free-to-air broadcasting to pay-TV. There is certainly considerable evidence to support this point from the UK and beyond, perhaps most notably in relation to top level domestic football. At the same time, however, it should be remembered that much, if not most, of the sports coverage provided by pay-TV broadcasters does not consist of programming previously available via free-to-air television. On the contrary, for the most part, the additional sports programming provided by pay-TV broadcasters over the last couple of decades has consisted of either more extensive coverage of sports that were previously shown by free-to-air broadcasters, or coverage of sports and sporting events that previously received little, if any, airtime on free-to-air television. </p> <p>The growth of pay-TV has provided benefits for both viewers and sports organisations, but this does not lessen the case for listed events legislation. The argument for such legislation is based on its potential to promote (and/or preserve) ‘cultural citizenship’ in two key ways. First, listed events legislation may be justified on grounds of equity. For instance, last year <a href="http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/binaries/research/consumer-experience/tce-13/cost_value_final.pdf">Ofcom published research that highlighted the rising cost of pay-TV subscriptions for UK viewers</a>. The (further) exclusion of low income groups from access to sporting events broadcast exclusively on pay-TV is the likely result of any watering down of the current listed events legislation. </p> <p>Secondly, one of the main benefits of ensuring that major sporting events are broadcast on free-to-air television is the generation of what economists refer to as ‘positive network externalities’. In simple terms, an individual not only enjoys the event and the ‘conversational network’ through viewing, their participation also adds value to the network for everyone. This concept is highly significant to the debate on listed events legislation because it can be seen to apply to the difficult to quantify, but no less real, shared benefits that can result from the coverage of major sporting events on universally available free-to-air television – think London 2012 and the ‘feel good factor’. &nbsp;</p> <p>The opposition of many sports organisations to the listing of their sports is based on the belief that they are best placed to judge how to further the interests of their own sport, and in particular how to balance the potentially increased revenue to be gained via pay-TV with the benefits (not least commercial via increased sponsorship revenue) of greater exposure through free-to-air broadcasting. Even though the example of English cricket suggests that this may not always be the case, the key argument in support of listed events legislation is not that policy makers and regulators know better than individual sports organisations how to promote the best interests of a particular sport. Rather, it is, as noted above, that the wider public interest in the form of cultural citizenship is served by the availability of particular sporting events on free-to-air television. </p> <p>For sports organisations whose events are protected for free-to-air coverage, the existence of listed events legislation may well be a source of frustration, but it is not particularly unusual in democratic societies for certain property rights to be subject to state regulation in the public interest. Planning laws mean that those who live in heritage properties cannot do with them exactly what they want. In order to promote cultural citizenship and to preserve public service broadcasting, the same is true for listed events and sports organisations.</p><p><em><strong><span>If you want to keep OurBeeb debating the BBC, </span><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/donate"><span>please chip in</span></a><span> what you can afford.</span></strong></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourbeeb/peter-oborne/time-to-fight-for-bbc">Time to fight for the BBC</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourbeeb/brian-winston/no-broadcaster-is-island">No broadcaster is an island</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourbeeb/michael-klontzas/reimagining-not-diluting-bbc-in-next-decade">Reimagining, not diluting the BBC in the next decade</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> OurBeeb OurBeeb OurKingdom Paul Smith Fri, 31 Jul 2015 13:30:12 +0000 Paul Smith 94896 at https://www.opendemocracy.net