This is the front page of tomorrow's Times. This is the BBC eight minutes ago: we have "varying degrees of confidence" about the use of poison gas on a "small scale" in Syria. Oh, well then. With confidence only varying and the scale being so small it makes all the difference in the world, then, does it?
How many dead so far? Is it 60,000 or 70,000? "We estimate it is actually around 120,000 people," says Rami Abdelrahman, head of Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. More varying degrees of confidence, and then, whoops, a few dozen more dead.
More numbers for you: At least 2,300 people have been tortured to death by the regime since the uprising began last year, including 80 children, 25 women, and 51 people aged over 60. Only 5 percent of all victims were armed rebels. But that's a human rights group doing the research, so there will be, of course, varying degrees of confidence we should attach the precision of the data.
Prime Minister Harper is quite right. It is not a time for sociology. In the matter of the state-terrorist regime of Bashar Al-Assad, it is a time for drones. It is time for the skies above Damascus to be darkened with drones.
Instead, we're all setting ourselves on fire over a bit of trainspotting and congratulating ourselves about how seriously we take this scourge of "terrorism." Here's my Citizen column today, about just that. Yes, I am being disgracefully impertinent to pretty well everyone. Yes, I do find it all quite funny. In a dark sort of way.
Until Canada is prepared to amend the regulations of the Anti-Terrorism Act in a reformed and public "listing" process to ensure that such terrorist scum as, say, Bashar al Assad and all his officials and agents and state lackeys are properly designated as terrorists, we should stop telling ourselves we are serious about terrorism.
Until we are prepared to amend our terror law to allow for the free movement and mobilization in Canada of any and all democratic-revolutionary movements committed to armed struggle for the overthrow of such terrorists as, say, Bashar al Assad - as a matter of law, not just as a matter of ministerial whim - we should stop telling ourselves we are serious about terrorism.
Until section 83.01(1)(b) of the Criminal Code is amended to ensure that acts of legitimate revolutionary violence undertaken for the purpose of regime change in terrorist tyrannies such as Syria are specifically extended the same exemptions as already exist for acts or omissions committed during armed conflicts carried out in accordance with conventional international law, then we should step telling ourselves we are serious about terrorism.
In place of actual acts of journalism related to Monday’s barbarism, was it really necessary for the Globe and Mail, Time Magazine, Slate and the Washington Post to gang up on everybody with pieties out of the cardigan-wearing Presbyterian host of a 1960s-era television babysitting service titled Mister Rogers’ Neighbourhood?
Seriously. The Globe headline: “How to talk to kids (and especially adults) about the Boston Marathon bombings: Try Mr. Rogers.” Time: “In the Wake of the Boston Marathon Attacks, Mr. Rogers Quote Spreads Hope Across the Internet.” Slate: “The History of Mister Rogers’ Powerful Message.” The Washington Post: “Mr. Rogers gives hope while social media becomes virtual house of prayer for Boston.”
This has the aspect of some strange acid flashback to the 9/11 trauma, with demented insinuations about a “false flag” operation as a backdrop to an obsessive preoccupation with the saccharine insights of an allegedly “much loved” Fred McFeeley Rogers from Televisionland. It is this one that has gone so viral on Facebook and Twitter and such places since Monday: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”
It has been like waking up in the middle of some sort of horrible Wellness Seminar. . .
It doesn't sound to me like Bostonians need to be patronized with mummy chatter and footrubs. Not when I turn to Dennis Lehane, anyway. They messed with the wrong city. This wasn’t a macho sentiment. It wasn’t “Bring it on” or a similarly insipid bit of posturing. The point wasn’t how we were going to mass in the coffee shops of the South End to figure out how to retaliate. Law enforcement will take care of that, thank you. No, what a Bostonian means when he or she says “They messed with the wrong city” is “You don’t think this changes anything, do you?”
I admit, it's kind of personal. My late dad was a leading figure in the Irish Prisoner of War Committee here in Canada during the 1980-81 hunger strikes over which Maggie so ghoulishly presided. It probably skews things a bit too that I happen to have been named after Terence MacSwiney, who died on the 75th day of his hunger strike in Brixton Prison in 1920. But on the occasion of Baroness Thatcher's death, it seems to me these names should be remembered as well:
Bobby Sands, died May 5 1981, after 66 days on hunger strike. Francis Hughes died May 12, after 59 days. Raymond McCreesh, May 21, 61 days. Patsy O'Hara died May 21, 61 days. Joe McDonnell, July 8, 61 days. Martin Hurson, July 13, 46 days. Kevin Lynch, August 1, 71 days. Kieran Doherty, August 2, 73 days. Thomas McElwee, August 8, 62 days. Michael Devine, August 20, 60 days.
The complete list of names is rather long. This one is only for "our" crowd.
Generally speaking, I'd say Doug Saunders at the Globe and Mail has it pretty well right.
Most visibly, it boosted Republican terrorism. Violent deaths related to the conflict rose to 101 in 1981 from 76 the year before, including 44 members of the security forces. Injuries rose to 1,350 from 801. Shootings increased to 1,142 from 642, and bombings reached nearly 400 that year. Far from demonstrating that the IRA's struggle was a lost one, Thatcher only intensified its opposition to rule by what it considered an ever more brutal occupying force. The horrific campaign would culminate in the IRA's attempted assassination of Thatcher herself at the Conservative Party Conference in 1984. The prime minister narrowly escaped, but five others were killed. The other significant consequence of Thatcher's unyielding position was that public sympathy for the hunger strikers quickly morphed into political support for Republicanism. Bobby Sands, one of the strikers, was elected to the British House of Commons for Fermanagh-South Tyrone while imprisoned. His victory "undermined the entire shaky edifice of British policy in Northern Ireland, which had been so painfully constructed on the hypothesis that blame for the 'Troubles' could be placed on a small gang of thugs and hoodlums who enjoyed no community support," wrote David Beresford in "Ten Men Dead." Here's how stupid Thatcher's Irish policy was.
In 1988, angry about the extent to which the long-suffering British people (whose own island was subjected to a calamitous, grotesque and bloody IRA bombing campaign) were becoming sympathetic to the cause of Irish republicanism in Ulster, Thatcher ordered restrictions on the news media of the most comical kind.
Thatcher couldn't prevented British journalists from interviewing Sinn Fein or IRA leaders, but broadcast laws could be monkeyed with to prevent "terrorist voices" from disturbing the gentle eardrums of the English people. In force until 1994, the media restrictions obliged the BBC to strip the sound tape from television reports and interviews and hire actors to repeat the words of the republican interview subjects, to be overdubbed onto the video tape. Imagine watching that sort of routine absurdity on the nightly news, year in and year out.
While I'm not a Sinn Feiner of any description, it seems a proper tribute to the 1988-94 media restrictions that we link directly to Sinn Fein TV, to let Gerry Adams have the last word:
Canada's Journey to Energy Superpowerhood: Voyage of the Damned.
Pity poor Calamity Joe. He just can't get a break. Or so I attempt to show in my Ottawa Citizen column today. In sum: Out west, where Stephen Harper’s Conservatives were born, all you can hear these days is the sound of weeping and gnashing of teeth in Alberta, and in British Columbia it’s mostly just the sound of people laughing at Joe Oliver.
A year ago, Joe was on such a roll. Canada's oil is ethical, organic, locally-raised, fairly-traded and shade-grown! And yet Canada's oil industry is under attack by a network of Ducks Unlimited sleeper cells directed by a cabal of radical billionaires commanded by Leonardo diCaprio from a secret underground bunker in Hollywood!
Then there was the sound of pennies dropping. Hey, wait a minute. If Petro-Canada was so sick and wrong back in the day, how come it's suddenly okay when the outfit Ottawa is inviting in to buy up all the oil sands is Petro-China? Don't the princeling-directors of the Chinese Communist Party's overseas corporate acquisitions arms count as radical billionaires? What's so "ethical" about oil that comes from companies owned by police-state gangsters who order their troops to shoot live rounds into groups of protesting Buddhist monks?
At some point the worm started to turn, and now, it's the sound of everybody laughing at Joe Oliver. And I mean everybody, not just the eco-fruitcakes we're all supposed to mock. I mean British Columbians, for starters, of all political persuasion - the very people whose province is the necessary portal to untold riches in China. Vancouverities across the board, pretty well the entire aboriginal leadership, and even the wicked mainstream media. The Globe's Gary Mason gets it dead right:
"With so much at stake, both environmentally but also in terms of the enormous wealth contribution energy exports make to the Canadian economy, it’s regrettable that a cogent conversation on this subject isn’t occurring. Instead, any attempts at lucid discourse are being drowned out by overly dramatic, self-serving rhetoric that provides no good purpose at all. And we all lose in the process."
Dramatic self-serving rhetoric of the green sort is not in diminishing supply, either, and I am seriously beginning to wonder whether the Keystone hubbub in Americaland isn't mostly a means by which righteous and upstanding Yankees hope to make Canada pay for their own grotesque volumes of Kyoto-ignoring greenhouse-gas effluvia.
In any case, this is right: "There is plenty of room to improve the environmental record of companies in the oilsands which requires more effort from Ottawa and there should be increasing vigilance about the safety of pipelines — especially older ones. But Keystone is not the key to any of that. Turning it down would be a costly, symbolic gesture."
It's Not Complicated. Bigotry Simply Lowers The Tone.
Low, stupid, cheap and wrong, small-minded, sub-literate, vulgar, bigoted, moronic, retrograde - any one of these is sufficient reason for a newspaper editor to pass on publishing a letter. A self-evidently racist letter simply lowers the tone. It is not an infringement upon anyone's free speech rights to refuse publication of such letters; it is indeed the healthy exercise of free speech to make such decisions, to say no, go away, we don't want your rubbish cluttering up the newspaper's letters pages.
Sorry I can't do better than that. Maybe one question I should have asked aloud was whether this incident is imagined to raise some thorny free speech question only because "racism" is a word that gets chucked around rather willynilly these days, such that when the genuine article presents itself it is not so easily distinguishable in all the flotsam simply disfavoured by the "politically correct" (I do hate that term but it seems to work here well enough).
I would even be prepared to bet that there are idiots abroad who would say that people of Norse ancestry are owed an apology from me owing to my reductio-ad-absurdum 'What have the Norwegians ever done for us?' bit on CBC this morning. No bloody way. Not after what the Scandinavians did to Brian Boru on April 23, 1014. I've been bitter about it ever since.