Pro peace, not merely anti war.
Pro privacy, not merely anti state voyeurism.
Pro speech, not merely anti censorship.
Pro capitalism, not merely anti far left. Continue Reading
Posted on 14 September 2016.
Pro peace, not merely anti war.
Pro privacy, not merely anti state voyeurism.
Pro speech, not merely anti censorship.
Pro capitalism, not merely anti far left. Continue Reading
Posted on 07 September 2016.
It took a long time for human societies to come up with the idea of universal human rights and the equality of persons under the law. Before 1215, monarchs could capriciously decree “Off with their heads!” and dispatch anyone with impunity. In the short term, leaders were the equivalent of terrestrial gods, acting with the divine right of kings, according to the received wisdom of the times. If mistakes were made, they would be dealt with in the afterlife.
Only in the thirteenth century did the absolute authority of the monarch begin seriously to be questioned. Admittedly, the first attempts were not driven by pure quests for morality or justice on the part of leaders themselves. The first steps taken were rather practical in nature, and there were many false starts before the notions of liberty and human dignity began to take hold. The earliest kings to begin the process of forging what would eventually come to be embraced as human rights were amenable to negotiation on contentious matters, including the meting out of justice, for the self-interested or prudential reason that they needed the cooperation of other people in order to govern their domains smoothly.
Full rights were not extended to all people everywhere for many, many centuries, but it all started with the Magna Carta and the path-breaking idea that the arbitrary justice handed down by monarchs up until that time needed to be moderated. Small concessions led to larger ones and were incorporated in the government constitutions of many Western democratic states, including the United States of America. The ideas continued to be developed and expanded until finally, in the mid-twentieth century, universal human rights were codified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In the twenty-first century, the idea of universal human rights has taken some serious hits. Ironically, it is the ultramodern technology used to annihilate persons by remote-control which has caused a regression to pre-Magna Carta times in matters of justice. George W. Bush was the first US president to dispatch persons with this technology, but he used it primarily in connection with the already waged wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Much of the use of drones during Bush’s terms of office involved the protection of forces on the ground. Not all, however, for Bush also used drones, albeit selectively, in places such as Yemen and Pakistan, in a quest to hunt down and eliminate alleged Al Qaeda terrorists.
President Barack Obama deserves even more censure than Bush on the drone front, having effectively normalized the practice of assassination at a distance. Obama thought that he was being a technologically savvy “smart warrior”, but the most cursory glance at the situation in the Middle East reveals that he was sorely wrong. Much of the US populace regards Obama as a cautious warrior, because he has done most of his killing quietly and covertly, characteristically refusing to share his lethal practices and policies with the public under cover of State Secrets Privilege said to be necessitated by national security.
Obama’s decision to execute thousands of suspects without warning or trial using Predator drones is particularly disturbing in the light of the statistics on Guantánamo Bay prison, where the majority of the prisoners were discovered after years of detention to have been erroneously apprehended. The intel just wasn’t that good. Bribed informants are obviously subject to mercenary corruption, and this fact was starkly confirmed by the plight of terrorist suspects incarcerated under the authority of George W. Bush.
One might have hoped that this lesson would be taken to heart by the subsequent US administration, but it was not. Instead, Obama dealt with the problem of suspects by defining them as guilty until proven innocent. Sound familiar? That would be the pre-Magna Carta template of justice. The sovereign power decrees “Off with their heads!” and that is the end of their story.
It was shocking to many people when, in 2011, Obama opted to assassinate even US citizens Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan and, two weeks later, Al-Awlaki’s son, Abdulrahman, in Yemen. Unfortunately, many people wanted to give Obama the benefit of the doubt, so impeachment proceedings were never carried out. In truth, what he started is bound to grow worse under the most likely successors to the US throne. But we did not even have to wait until the end of Obama’s term to see the nefarious potential for harm set by his precedent rolling back the progress made by republican governments over hundreds of years.
Ironically, it was during the year of the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, penned in Runnymede, West of London, that UK Prime Minister David Cameron decided to strap on his drone warrior holster and whack a couple of his own countrymen, Ruhal Amin and Reyaad Khan. The British Parliament had already explicitly voted against war in Syria, and yet that was precisely where Cameron carried out the assassinations using unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs), better known as “lethal drones”.
It is depressing that the tendency of people to accord Barack Obama the benefit of the doubt has ended by undoing so much good done by so many people who toiled over so many centuries to establish basic protections for all people under the law. When the leader of a nation chooses to execute his compatriots on the basis of secretive intelligence to which only he and his henchmen are privy, then it is difficult to see how this differs at all from what went on before 1215.
Every monarch throughout history who decreed “Off with their heads!” believed that he was doing the right thing. Often they felt entirely justified in what they were doing, primarily protecting their own domain and shoring up their power against threats. What reason can the US and UK governments possibly have for not observing the most basic protections guaranteed by the laws of the land, and codified in Article 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?
The claim made by Obama has always been that capture is “infeasible”, but the cases of the unarmed Osama bin Laden, who was shot and killed in cold blood, and Anwar al-Awlaki, who was released from a prison in Yemen only to be hunted down and slain, reveal that “infeasibility” has now come to mean “undesirability”. In some ways the execution of British nationals authorized by David Cameron is even more shocking, because the death penalty is prohibited under both British law and the EU Charter. (Oddly enough, Cameron himself opposes Brexit!)
Political leaders can generally be depended on to try to outdo their predecessors, just as Obama did vis-à-vis Bush on the drone front. That is precisely why the legacy of Barack Obama will be none other than the increased propensity to “strike first, suppress questions later,” to prove that whoever the new president ends up being is “tougher” on terrorism than Obama was.
Let no one be fooled by the fact that for most of his eight-year term Obama resolutely recited “no boots on the ground” in the manner of a mantra. After years of covert operations, drone strikes, and weapons provisions to “appropriately vetted moderate rebel forces”, the Middle East is a morass of lawlessness and homicide. We reap what we sow. Now even Obama has sent combat troops to most of the several lands where he has ruthlessly used drones to kill persons whose names are not even known, along with “high-value” targets who became enemies of the state only because of the US invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, and Syria using implements of mass homicide, Special Forces, intelligence operatives, and regular combat soldiers.
The Magna Carta was the beginning of the full recognition of human liberty and dignity, and an acknowledgement that no mere mortal possesses the divine powers of omniscience. Mistakes are made. Politicians and bureaucrats are sometimes corrupt and sometimes amoral. That is precisely why we have laws to guard against the very tyranny which Obama and Cameron have chosen so myopically to embrace and hold up as an example for leaders all over the world, in both democratic and nondemocratic states.
The road to liberty and universal human rights was long and tortuous. The road to tyranny, thousands of victims have now learned at the hands of the US and UK governments, is short and direct, rather like driving down a street which terminates off the edge of a cliff. The fact that most US and UK citizens have not suffered summary execution has persuaded many to believe that nothing has really changed. In fact, everything has changed, but not in the way which any of the early supporters of Obama might have hoped.
To freely forsake one’s right to be indicted and tried for a capital crime before being annihilated by the state is a luxury enjoyed only by already free people. To condone the drone warriors’ willful denial of the historical and political significance of the Magna Carta is to prevent that same liberty from being shared by all people everywhere.
Posted on 14 July 2016.
Some may feel yesterday’s piece on Amnesty International, abortion, and Ireland is flippant. I can certainly see why people might think that; but I am 100% unapologetic. However, I will now speak in a less polemical and satirical manner, and weaponize a more prosaic tone against Big Human Rights.
It might seem churlish to sneer at the ‘humanitarian interventionism’ Amnesty International is perpetrating against Irish people of all identities. ‘After all,’ some might say, ‘Isn’t your postcolonial angle a minor distraction from the most important thing, which is the rights of women, and the necessity to reform the laws in a direction that respects women’s bodily autonomy and right to reproductive agency?’ Continue Reading
Posted on 13 July 2016.
Amnesty International has tried to save more people from ourselves (this time, Irish people), with its campaigning on Ireland’s abortion laws.
Of course, the situation for women in Ireland, north or south, is not perfect. But there is no excuse whatsoever for taking up the white man’s burden against Ireland; no matter how just or unjust the laws may be in Ireland, whether North or South.
No one need deny that the question of how to ensure more freedom and equality for women is an important issue in any country. Continue Reading
Posted on 09 July 2016.
Just have a look at my comment below, for an article on the site of the publisher Verso Books:
Immigration is nothing to do with the question of deserving or not deserving this or that. Immigration is an entitlement, a legal provision; to confuse entitlements with desert is to confound a legal category with a morally charged ethical notion.
I further add: Continue Reading
Posted on 28 June 2016.
The referendum result has already been known for a while in the UK. The economy has taken a hit, for now.
Both sides have behaved appallingly. Continue Reading
Posted on 22 June 2016.
Behind the distortions and exaggerations of both sides, one fact remains unshakable:
Europe is not the EU.
A ‘stay’ vote in tomorrow’s referendum is not a vote to remain in Europe.
A ‘leave’ vote in tomorrow’s referendum is not a vote to leave Europe. Continue Reading
Posted on 27 April 2016.
In the past, I have been heavily critical of The Intercept, and of Glenn Greenwald’s stance on the Charlie Hebdo martyrs. However, I have noticed a pattern developing recently.
First of all, upon the renewal of the fatwa against Salman Rushdie (essentially a glorified hitman contract from God!), The Intercept did not blame Rushdie for ‘provoking’ his critics. Continue Reading
Posted on 20 March 2016.
Liberal secular parliamentary democracy is an absolute necessity for the UK and USA.
And I wholeheartedly condemn, without qualification, the kind of arrogant and hubristic critique that strays from criticizing how the political systems of these countries operate in terms of their results, and ends up criticizing the legitimacy of liberal secular parliamentary democracy itself.
Hence my critique at the time of the London Riots: Continue Reading
Posted on 22 January 2016.
THE DAYS AFTER CHENEY BECAME PRESIDENT
The Rumsfeld Synopsis
(A serial book excerpt)
Previous installments – After Flight 93 crashes into the White House on 9/11/2001 killing President Bush as was originally planned, Dick Cheney, the Vice President, is made the leader of the country. He begins immediately to make changes.
– – – – – – – – –
Rumsfeld took the news surprisingly well. His dismissal had been engineered so carefully that it came as no insult, although it was a bit embarrassing to the old man. But he knew that it was getting to be time to go out to pasture. He had worked hard enough in his life that he could now enjoy the fruits of his labor. He knew that with all the sudden changes in the world that a younger man was perhaps needed to take care of things. He guessed that Bolton had been chosen to push through any agenda Cheney wanted, something that Rumsfeld himself was getting too old to do. Continue Reading
Posted on 07 January 2016.
Quite frankly, if someone believes that children must be deprived of blood transfusions (Jehovah’s Witnesses), or of all medical care (Christian Scientists), or that women are the property of men, or that gay people are sodomites who are all going to eternal hellfire, or that disabled people are suffering the results of our evil and atrocious deeds in the past…
Then that concerns me very deeply.
But on the other hand, if someone personally believes that Jesus literally turned the water into wine, that Muhammad made the moon split in two, or that Sri Krishna performed many wondrous miracles, then in all seriousness, that does not trouble me in the least. There are more important things in life to worry about.
But even so, concerning ‘limits’ to satire, I will affirm that I do reserve the inalienable right to treat religion as not pristine, as not above theoretical critique, or above satirizing, or above ‘blasphemy.’
And I have little to no respect for anyone who makes religion exceptional, in terms of the inalienable right and sovereign prerogative to criticize and satirize; an entitlement and a ‘privilege’ that can and must be shared be all like, without neither cavil nor complaint.
‘Shame on me,’ indeed! Continue Reading
Posted on 06 January 2016.
But what, then, are my own limits for religious satire?
I will not provide an exhaustive discussion here.
I will, however, say that I do not believe that religion is either a ‘force for good’ or a ‘force for evil’ in some one-sided sense.
For, superstition and dogmatism are great evils, but I do not think that the history of religion is merely or even primarily a catalogue of backward, primitive errors, as so many of the ‘New Atheists’ seem to imply.
Of course, if it is not the intention of any New Atheists, to imply such, then perhaps there is something very faulty with their rhetorical and communicative strategies. This would not perhaps be so surprising, given that much New Atheist rhetoric is deeply problematic.
For example, I consider the late humanitarian interventionist and former Luxemburgist radical, Christopher Hitchens, to be an intellectual suicide bomber who destroyed himself and the consciences of anyone who stood by and approved of his disingenuous, militaristic sophistries. Continue Reading
Posted on 05 January 2016.
So let no-one think that by appeasing jihadists or by appeasing unaccountable figures in the countries that Orientalizing intellectuals opportunistically market as ‘the (sole and exclusively) Free World’ that they will avert their malice or their wrath.
For, none of the promises either of political Islamists and jihadists or of humanitarian interventionist intellectuals and counter-jihadists can be trusted or valued.
Indeed. Realpolitik is realpolitik, which is as much as to say that from ‘high-minded idealism,’ nothing better can be expected than high-minded idealism. And there is nothing that savors more of Realpolitik than high-minded idealism, as the terms are merely two superficially different names for the same thing. Continue Reading
Posted on 04 January 2016.
So who decides what is blasphemous or hateful?
Whoever has the power to do so.
But of course, this does not mean that all opinions are equal.
For, it is perfectly true to say that women should treated in light of an intrinsic value identical to men, that gay people are not twisted deviants, and that eugenics and eugenicists are an abomination. These ideas are non-negotiable.
However, moral panics about ‘blasphemy’ and ‘hatred’ in the context of satire serve the interests of reactionaries of every stripe.
Hence, curiously enough, freedom of speech is not the ‘idealist’ or ‘fundamentalist’ position.
Rather, it is precisely because idealistic, abstract and fundamentalist models of reality are unworkable in practice, that freedom of speech is required in the first place! Continue Reading
Posted on 03 January 2016.
Note: This is a serialization of the essay from the new, expanded edition of my satire ebook, I Shouldn’t Do God. Updates on www.wallacerunnymede.com
Dedicated to the unforgettable and shining martyrs of Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher.
I am still Charlie.
To start off a series of fake news satire anthologies with a volume on religion seems very appropriate, given the vicious massacre of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, and the other vicious murders which were committed on the same day at Hyper Cacher.
Some of these murders have already been conveniently ‘forgotten.’
But despite my allusion to these vile assassinations, I am not unaware of the mobilization of the massacre by cynical opportunists.
In the second edition of this essay, which you now see before you, I must also mention the November massacres in Paris. Continue Reading
Posted on 01 January 2016.
Prefatory note by Voltaire:
Eh bien! The following piece, it is all rather ornate-sounding. The artificial style and flamboyance of a pseudo-Parisian, or even a tinpot Hitchens knock-off.
Ah, Mesdames et Messieurs, please do not worry… the essay itself that the Monsieur Wallace is announcing, it will be much less artsy-fartsy. I believe he has drunk of the Anglo-Yuletide sherry, and so you should be so pleased as to not take the contrived style to heart! Next time, he will be more sober, but no less
swiftly,eh bien, Swiftly truthful!
I am running my serialization of Why Shouldn’t I Do God from 3-7 January: on Glossy News
This essay appeared in the original edition of the first volume of Wallace Runnymede Satire Catastrophes. The second edition comes out at the end of January 2016. The latter ebook was entitled I Shouldn’t Do God…
Thanks Alistair! The latter Notable-Public-Publicist being ever a source of wanton inspiration and flamboyantly articulate delight, as some will no doubt already be aware…
More soberly, though (and no less seriously), the essay Why Should I Do God may be of considerable interest to those who are not at all too slick and bien-pensant (de droite et de gauche!) to utter the immortal words:
#JeSuisCharlie Continue Reading
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