Saturday, 24 October 2015

The Failures of Liberal Internationalism - Cooper Two Decades On

One of my more curious intellectual habits is to avoid reading contemporary work by public intellectuals and prefer instead to study material written two or so decades ago. This may seem perverse but experience has taught me that anyone writing in the now is usually promoting an opinion based on limited information whereas something written in the recent past can be tested against subsequent events, giving insights that would not otherwise be available. Many of my book reviews of this type can be read on my Goodreads account.

Clearing out some old boxes, I found the files relating to my time launching Demos, the 'modernising' centre-left think tank, back in the mid-1990s. I broke with it quite quickly though amicably. It was part of the post-Soviet move of revisionist Marxists into what would soon become Blairism whereas I was a non-ideological traditional English socialist more concerned with ancient liberties than theory. It was an era of struggles over who would own the 'Moscow Gold', of desperation by the political Left in its search for power and of intellectual confusion.  Strange alliances were formed and old political relationships collapsed. Elements in the State attached themselves to new anti-conservative forces and old revolutionaries started their trajectory towards the moderated neo-liberalism that was to fail us in 2008 and is still thrashing around today, like a dinosaur whose wounds have not yet reached the brain as signals of its doom.

Demos produced a journal and a number of pamphlets, one of which, nearly two decades old now, was a short 50-page booklet by a diplomat, Robert Cooper, Head of the Policy Planning Staff at the FCO. This latter tells us a great deal about the mental map that was to influence the social democratic elite who surrounded Blair and who would be found in such places as Chatham House, in corporations like BP and in Government - a road map for what would be Blairite foreign policy, if you like. That foreign policy would be characterised in Blair's 1999 Chicago Speech as a duty of intervention in the world, one that was to unravel the Westphalian system that had been re-instituted in 1945, and which would lead ineluctably, sixteen years later, to a situation where the entire periphery of the European West would come to be in a state of financial and insurgent chaos. That chaos is being brought, through uncontrollable mass migration and organised crime, into the very heart of Europe.

Cooper's work, in retrospect, helps us to understand how things went so horribly wrong because the mental mapping in that pamphlet [1] gives us a plausible but ultimately flawed vision of international relations. We realists found it impossible to counter at the time because the almost faith-based commitment to idealism seemed so much nicer than what we had to offer. It was a shame, I suppose, that history proved us right. Thinkers like Cooper were able to add a theoretical rationale for emotional impulses about the ethical that provided what the idealists wanted to hear. It was a way of seeing that drove all before it and might equally be exemplified by the work of Michael Ignatieff who was explicit in his attack on the Westphalian presumptions of the past in his debate over intervention in Kosovo against Robert Skidelsky in 1999 [2].

The intellectual flaw in Cooper's work begins with the title - the assumption of something called post-modernity as a really existing permanent feature of the political landscape. This flaw derived from an oddity in intellectual thought at the time, a convergence of revisionist left-wing Hegelianism seeking a way out of the problem of Soviet collapse and a right-wing Hegelianism, derived perhaps from Kojeve, that was looking to the European Project as the natural means of assuring peace and security through ending both nationalism and socialism. Later, liberal internationalism would find itself in bed with a darker force in Schmittian neo-conservatism and then entangled with the radical 'detournement' of Trotskyism as a radical war on the same forces that disturbed the liberals - but that is a few years in the future. At this point, around 1996, before New Labour was in power and while the dodgy triangulation of Clintonism provided little more to inspire than a sort of well meaning realism with liberal rhetorical characteristics, the new politics, driven from London, emerged. It was a combination of liberal bureaucratism and the desperate desire of the official Left to reinvent itself for a post-Soviet and post-Thatcherite world. It would be neo-liberalism with a human face, perhaps as absurd and as kind an intention as Dubcek's illusion of communism with a happy smile.

Cooper's global model was simple but now seems simplistic. But simple models can concentrate the mind so long as they are critiqued against not only the facts but future possibilities. However, a naive political class did not take these theories as hypotheses to test but as articles of faith. They met certain political needs that could bind their alliance of unions, activists and liberals and make their idealism acceptable to the technocrats, progressives and bureaucrats of the State mechanism. Once the hypothesis had passed from theory to ideology and had proven effective in the acquisition of power, there was no turning back to criticism against the facts - an ideology then governed our relationship to the international community that was as irrational (though logical on its base assumptions) as national socialism in the 1930s or international socialism under the Comintern.

The central thesis was of an international system that was ringed like an onion - with pre-modern, modern and post-modern structures co-existing and requiring different ideologies of action in the relationships between them. The post-Marxist progressive model was implicitly Hegelian from the beginning - recall Fukuyama's now increasingly absurd notion of the 'end of history' which had appeared in 1992. There was no awareness of the future re-balancing of the world that would create new Powers even though there were many reasons to predict this on the facts to hand. Nor did anyone outside the PNAC neo-cons see the relative decline of old Powers (although, to be fair, Martin Jacques of Demos was always an advocate of the rise of China long before it was fashionable). Nor did anyone seem to see the possibility of a major economic crisis (as we have seen in 2008) despite the history of capitalism being a series of lurches involving bouts of creative destruction. Nor the effects of peripheral political collapse creating problems for the progressive heartlands. Yet all of these should have been understood as possibilities from a basic understanding of the history of capitalism and of past empires.

Instead, we were offered what amounted to a dream of never-ending economic (no awareness of massive indebtedness and criminal intergenerational transfers of wealth from the future to the present) and bureaucratic progress as well as the illusion of a secure democracy with no possible threats to it because the power of the radical centre was too firmly embedded in a network of activist representative bodies, corporate lobbyists, barely accountable state servants and self-appointing political elites. Given this failure of imagination, Cooper's world looks shaky but let us review it on its own terms.

The inner post-modern ring was represented by the progressive abandonment of national sovereignty to sets of supranational institutions (with minimal democratic accountability), based on rules and procedures, of which the European Union and NATO were the centre-pieces. The proposition was put forward that giving up sovereignty was the reasonable price to be paid for the security and prosperity of a post-modern West in which individuals had free-floating identities that were no longer localised, no longer feared such impositions as conscription and could leave governance to experts. The European Union would not, in fact, be a super-state so much as a transnational set of rules and regulations to which all civilised people would adhere, much like the ideal of the old Roman Empire perhaps. We might see TTP and TTIP as examples of this system in operation in the near future where democratic bodies no longer can make any decisions in areas of trade because the rules and regulations of a trans-national system make the rules for them. Contemporary European officials no longer even try to hide their disinterest in democracy which they associate with populism and ignorance. The road to that anti-democratic position was laid two decades ago.

The second ring of the system was the remaining Westphalian system of powers outside the post-modern world of the Atlantic system, the European Union and NATO. There is no doubt that these powers were seen as second order powers representing potential threats and that, therefore, there was no more 'Mr. Nice Guy' as soon as the borders of the imperium were reached. Liberal idealism existed within the Empire but realism was directed at the states that were not in the Empire because that is all they understood. Russia was, in 1996, effectively a defeated second rank state and China was nowhere near the economic arbiter it is today so the logic of the situation was to ensure that the centre held the biggest stick and beat any recalcitrant states into line from a position of superior power. This is the road that led from Blair's Chicago Speech to the imbroglio in Iraq within four years and has lead to a trail of destruction from North Africa through Greater Syria to Central Asia before and since. However, the weaker states of the second rank have proved not only that they can stand up to the West but that they are quite capable of creating a rival Empire in response to what has often amounted to patronising passive-aggressive bullying (the SCO) and of undertaking missions both to resist Western claims (Ukraine) and to resolve international problems (Syria) with more effectiveness than the confused post-modern bureaucrats in Brussels, London and Berlin (and Washington).

The final ring of the system was positioned as pre-modern with a somewhat patrician neo-colonialist stance that reminds one of the rhetoric about the 'heart of darkness'. This was the world of so-called failed states. Cooper was clear, to his credit (as would be Ignatieff) that intervention in this space should be limited to not only what was right but what was feasible. Unfortunately, the genie was let out of the bottle here - or would it be better to say that Pandora's Box was opened. The rational bureaucratic approach to an interventionary approach that was really liberal Imperialism by Nice People was obviated almost immediately by two factors. The first was that 'post-moderrn' democracy gave a voice to irrational and half-educated populations led by media and NGOs who demanded (or resisted) imperial actions. This instigated half-baked actions in which the spin and manipulation destroyed any trust in the good will of the people undertaking them. The second was that the interventionary approach was hijacked by some Not So Nice People in Washington with an ideological and economic motive for selective regime destruction: again, the post-modern bureaucrats lost trust because they preferred to associate with a powerful devil and compromise on their values rather than turn back from the brink. The fall of New Labour took time but it lies not only in economic failures but a failure to understand that it was no longer trusted to administer a system that had failed at this level of national security.

So, at every level, the new world order proposed in different forms by liberal internationalists and neo-conservatives alike collapsed on a poor reading of reality. It was a faith-based system that failed to ask fundamental questions about whether post-modern politics was viable and whether the Westphalian system was, in fact, over. But, if the Westphalian system was over, it meant the extension of the pre-modern (to use Cooper's mode) sphere of influence rather than the second order eventual integration into a global post-modern system led by the West. The Westphalian elements have reasserted their status as sovereign powers outside the 'post-modern world' (and we must never forget that the US never actually bought into this theoretical model which was a British and European conceit) while some of those within the post-modern system (Greeks, British, various national populists, Hungarians) are beginning to pine for the old ways already. Meanwhile, the pre-modern has not remained on the periphery but has begun to by-pass the modern Powers and affect, indeed infect, the post-modern system through mass and uncontrollable migration, economic degeneration and, above all, organised criminal networks accumulating significant capital at a phenomenal rate.

The entire Cooper system is hanging by a thread ... it is only bureaucrats with a fixed ideology and false confidence in their own control over the levers of power who persist in believing that everything will turn out for the best as crisis after crisis hits the core system. The European Union blundered in Ukraine and caused the gravest security crisis in modern times. It and indeed the US have proved themselves totally ineffective in dealing with serious security threats in Greater Syria. 'Modern' allies are beginning to make their own own arrangements and hedging their bets in dialogue with the rising rival powers. The cohesion of the European Union is threatened by an appalling anti-democratic intervention in Greece and the arrival of tens of thousands of migrants without adequate planning or a coherent policy. Above all, 'post-modernity' has meant that millions of people no longer trust their rulers, whether politician or bureaucrat. They have no intention of being guided by them into post-modern policy decisions. If anything, increasing numbers are pining openly for a return of variants of national sovereignty and of socialism in a way simply incomprehensible to the generation that came to power in the 1990s. Worse (from the perspective of career diplomats like Cooper who retained a strong sense of realism in 1996), the discussion of international relations is increasingly led by ineffectual and counter-productive liberal idealists who seem to be blind to the economic consequences of patronising non-European powers and to the domestic political consequences of migration and job losses arising from globalist idealism.

It is, in short, a mess. Mr. Cooper is certainly not to blame for that mess. He simply put forward a thesis for discussion and criticism, a model for exploration. How could he possibly have known that his ideas and those of people like him would be taken up by people of lesser intellect and more cunning whose purposes would be divided between their short term hunger for domestic office and a narcissistic desire to paint the global canvas with their mythologies. Somehow, I suggest, we are going to have to start all over again ...

[1] Robert Cooper, 'The Post-Modern State and the World Order' (Demos, 1996)

[2] The somewhat acrimonious debate between Skidelsky and Ignatieff took place as a series of letters published in Prospect, then a significant intellectual liberal-left journal, in early May 1999. It can be read in full in Ignatieff's 'Virtual War' (London 2000). In the exchange, Skidelsky (though I happen to think he was to be proved right) argues less ably than the impassioned but disciplined Ignatieff who had all the moral passion of someone who had seen the Kosovan refugee camps at first hand. All the fervour of the 'something must be done' school of liberal politics faced arguments that lacked force because they could not jump out of the box of liberal conventionalism to speak in consequentialist terms of the probable harms of action undertaken without adequate planning, preparation and commitment. Every intervention that took place after Kosovo compounded this central fault within liberal internationalism that it acted first and thought second, without being able to rely on the mobilisation of total war to ensure that every act could be followed through and history be firmly written according to the dictates of the victors.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

The Mail Is At It Again ... But What Is Really At Stake?

The Mail on Sunday has obviously failed to do its homework - again! It referred to me today (as before) as a friend of Jeremy Corbyn. It clearly implies that my original creation of Exaro was partisan. Apparently, Exaro is now a 'rogue' news site though, in fact, the roguery is coming from the Mail itself. Its journalists are lazy. They not only failed to contact me for fact-checking but they completely ignored an extremely clear statement by me that was drawn directly to their attention on their web site. It is, of course, for Exaro and not me to comment on Exaro's editorial position but it is reasonable for me to comment on references to me and to have opinions as an outsider on what may be going on here.

My statement was explicit about my non-relationship with Jeremy Corbyn (basically, I knew him somewhat in the 1990s but have not seen him since) while the journal failed to note that I had also stated clearly and unequivocally that I had no control or influence over editorial decision-making and that Exaro was strictly non-partisan. Maybe they thought I was lying ... if so, they should have at least had the decency to say so to my face.

The latest bit of hysteria includes an assault on the Tory MP Zac Goldsmith, another politician I rather admire, alongside Tom Watson, for his basic integrity and for reasons that have little to do with the child abuse investigation. Although I am now a Labour man again (as of a few weeks ago), I am not so shallow as suddenly to cease to admire someone if they are on the opposing side. For the record, I have never met Goldsmith.

The campaign that is going on week after week appears to have some purpose - ostensibly to restore the reputation of certain persons, in fact it increasingly looks as if it is designed to force the Metropolitan Police to close down or contain their child abuse investigation. The latest wheeze is to pressure the High Tory Command in Government not to reappoint the redoubtable Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe (current Metropolitan Police Commissioner and a committed reformer). In an accompanying article, the Mail leads: 
Scotland Yard chief Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe is under pressure to quit after the force admitted it refused to drop a baseless rape claim against former Home Secretary Leon Brittan over fears of a public backlash. 
You might like to note at this point that news has broken in the last day or so that the National Crime Agency had started an investigation into alleged corruption in the Stephen Lawrence case. This may seem wholly unconnected to the child abuse investigation but, as we shall see, allegations of police corruption are a material element in both sets of investigation. The State is becoming very active in dealing with aspects of policing that are troubling if only through active investigation without prejudice.

This may be part of a political struggle of immense importance to our country. Operation Midland is only one of many investigations across the country - if it is taken down, all the others are weakened. We might even add the suggestion of an investigation into complaints about police behaviour at Orgreave to the mix - as reported by Exaro - as a sign that reform is in the air. In this latter case, as others, the issue is community trust in the police which leads us on to the possible 'why' of all this.

Why might reformers want to be so active in their turning over of stones other than because it was the right thing to do? The 'ulterior strategic motive' is standard procedure in public life so why not here as well. I would suggest that it is because trust in the police, alleged police corruption and even links to organised crime have become a much more vital national security issue in recent years on two grounds: a) a public that does not trust the police will not come forward and provide vital intelligence on crime and, indeed, terrorism, and b) organised crime is no longer a national business contained within its limited remit and left to prey on those without a voice (like the kids in the care system).

Organised crime, for example, is now a multinational operation, accumulating capital at a ferocious rate, capable of suborning lower paid public servants at every level, involved in human and arms trafficking as well as more conventional crime, drugs and the sex trade, and even holding the potential to be an armed state within the State in extreme conditions. What happened in Northern Ireland could happen in British cities if the Police do not get a grip on things. And alliances between crime and terrorism are at the back of every security official's mind. The relatively new National Crime Agency exists to deal with this threat. Running any major investigation without infiltration by well-funded organised crime is now a key part of the reform agenda.

The point is not that there is any necessary connection between corruption allegations and organised crime and child abuse and turning a blind eye to the actions of our political police (there may or may not be) but only that all are examples of things that require thorough investigation and reform if our trust in the police is to be maintained. And, at times, these things may, indeed overlap and, if they do overlap, we need to know about it.

I retain considerable faith (perhaps stupidly in the eyes of some) in the Metropolitan Police and the Home Office to continue to do what is right - which is to investigate allegations without pressure from any party, including (though it undertakes no such pressure to my knowledge) Exaro News. If the current Commissioner is forced out (or rather his mandate is not renewed) by a politically-directed media campaign based on implicit political threats, questions must be raised about who runs Britain and whether the rest of us can feel safe in our beds if we cross those who do. This is not to say that we should not be concerned about 'excesses' by reformers (we should be) but only that the correction of any alleged excesses must not fall into the trap of damaging the reform process.

The corruption issue cross-connects to the child abuse investigation and this is shown in Duncan Campbell's piece which appeared in March 2015:
"Now [March 2015] the Independent Police Complaints Commission is investigating 14 separate referrals of alleged corruption in the Met relating to child sex offences from the 1970s to the 2000s. Offers of immunity need to be made to any police officers still with information so that, finally, the jigsaw puzzle can be completed in all its dark and depressing detail."
This gets to the heart of the matter - only half the probes into alleged child abuse cover ups (according to the Daily Mirror) result from claims by 'survivors' and non-police officers. It is not right to imply (as the BBC appears to have done) that the 'survivors' who have retracted or may be questionable are all the 'survivors' who 'matter' nor that an allegation or claim is false when it is merely unproven. The other half of probes apparently come from former serving police and security officers. This is devastating and perhaps scary to those who have a stake in keeping a lid on things. We can legitimately ask what sort of governance do we have that left an investigative journalist to uncover the disgust and rage of decent men at what they were (allegedly) asked to do. If they are not all fantasists, their lack of a voice in itself tells us something about a culture of 'cover up' and it is only fortuitous that a 'secret' forum in which concerns were expressed came to light.

The anti-investigation campaigners are certainly pinpointing some 'not proven' cases (which may be proven to be true or false at a later stage or which may always prove to 'unproven'), an exercise not entirely without merit if they were doing so in good faith and perhaps not as a means to some other end. However, what is going on here has darker effects, whether intended or not by the media or even those sincerely angered by the effects of investigation on friends or relations - vulnerable witnesses are at risk of being deterred or frightened into withdrawal of claims while those making claims from within the services are at risk of being made anxious that they could face serious problems of their own often at an advanced age.

There are issues surrounding the Official Secrets Act according to Campbell (an Act seriously misused if used to cover up an investigation into child abuse) and pension rights. Meanwhile, one sex abuse victim was hospitalised following a suicide attempt after the BBC Panorama 'expose'. Much is at stake beyond the immediate reputation of a few big wigs.

All that is required, from the point of view of those who may have something to fear from further inquiry, is for the flow of intelligence to the investigating officers to dry up. The investigation then fails to proceed to trial because of inadequate evidence (which also means that, in fact, doubt and suspicion might remain over particular persons if the investigation does not have enough evidence to exonerate them). If (and we say if) bad things have been done, justice will not be done.

We have seen already how important elements in the Establishment were mobilised to protect the former Bishop of Lewes in the early 1990s. Such attitudes do not suddenly disappear two decades later. Anyone who has done bad things can certainly put up with the conspiracy theories of the 'great unwashed' (I am subject to them as well) so long as they are not disgraced, sent to jail or dragged through the court of public opinion (which is, of course, never actually our opinion but only that of the media). Vagueness and innuendo may be preferable to clarity as the lesser evil.

Again, let us be clear - all the claims may prove to be claims that cannot stand up to scrutiny with the DPP. They may, indeed, all be false claims by fantasists and liars. But the police think the claims are credible enough to be investigated. And we have seen that there have been 14 referrals (or more) of alleged corruption in child abuse investigation cases already. And we note that the entirely separate determination to uncover corruption in the Stephen Lawrence case shows determination to look into possible miscarriages of justice. Something is up here ... something that cannot or should not be hidden from us by politically motivated and evasive attacks on Tom Watson, Zac Goldsmith and a 'rogue' Exaro.

I leave you to decide what is the right thing to do under these circumstances. Personally, I remain convinced that the interests of the People and of the State cohere in clearing out the Augean Stables and dealing with innuendo and rumour on all sides by means of a decisive investigation that can come to conclusions where there can be no suspicion of cover up and no room for conspiracy theory. Let us keep an open mind - it is quite possible that the police may uncover things quite different from our current beliefs and expectations on all sides.

It is certainly not enough simply to organise matters in secret so that, if serious state tolerance of child abuse has taken place, it could not happen again. Investigation into what has happened, how it happened and who did what to whom is absolutely necessary in order to put in the right practical reforms that are trusted by the population at large, otherwise we will make more mistakes. Bluntly, the life chances of thousands of kids is still and ultimately infinitely more important than the reputations of those of us at the top of society. I will take whatever the Mail, Times and others throw at me rather than not see this through to its end and am prepared for any outcome other than cover up. The very commitment by the ESRC to funding academic work on the 'hidden history' of official failure to deal with child abuse is just one aspect of the case that shows that our administrative structures are currently serious about reform and so should we all be. Yes, we should curb excesses and show restraint but any compromise on that reform could be disastrous for our trust in the State itself, let alone the police - that way madness lies.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Tom Watson and the Planet of the Apes

There is a fascinating culture clash to be seen in the demands that Tom Watson, Deputy Chairman of the Labour Party, apologise for what may or may not have been a mistaken judgment. This judgment certainly caused distress to one family just as much as it was part of a total project attempting to help many historically abused and psychologically vulnerable individuals. The political struggle that we are seeing is probably better seen as one between two sets of value that are incommensurable, based on class and education, than through the prism of short term party advantage and the growing terror of an establishment faced potentially with its biggest crisis of confidence since the Profumo affair.

The Tories (and middle class Labour MPs) are not being silly when they expect Watson to apologise to the family for 'casting a slur' on Lord Brittan. In their world, the 'facts' are only those that are evidenced. This is also the culture of a journalism that misses half of history because it so well hidden. The missing half is often the half that matters in allowing a democratic society to make rational decisions but, in fact, our democracy is as guided as that of the Chinese, just richer and with a longer history of adequate internal stabilisation But it is true that there are no facts that the upper middle classes can see that say that Brittan was 'evil' (the sort of language that is regarded as wildly intemperate in 'society' but which expresses the passions of people angry and frustrated at their treatment in that society). Because there are no 'facts' before them, they expect Watson to apologise. But matters are not as simple as they appear.

A victim (we call them 'survivors' now but we all know what we mean) who cannot prove what happened to them must, by the rules of this standard issue game, remain silent. If they make a claim that they cannot articulate well (articulacy is as important here as evidence) or for which they cannot show the evidence, then they will be humiliated or forced to submit, much like beta apes by alpha apes. Indeed, the darker side of the campaign against Operation Midland is clearly directed at terrorising vulnerable people and nervous retired state servants from giving evidence because of what may happen to them subsequently. It is assumed that they cannot easily cope with the stress of the scrutiny - hearts may give out and black depression result in the taking of lives. They will be deterred and no cases will come to court.

My ape analogy is perhaps crude and not intended to be insulting to anyone but we are still animals at heart. Our civilisation is built on the circulation of elites (the alpha apes come and go as individuals but there is always an alpha class). Individuals rise or fall but only within a much more slowly changing system of expectations and rules, punctuated (as in 1917, say, in Russia) by revolutions that change the expectations and the rules - for a new set of alpha apes to command and rule.

The laws of society, honed over thousands of years, will always give enormous advantage to the person who can assert authority, cover up their traces, argue their case more effectively, bluster and, if necessary, bully. In previous eras, this might include using their fists, having access to the hangman or damning a soul to hell but we have progressed - somewhat. However, these people also have managed to create in liberal society, over time, rules that stop those abuses that can be evidenced (the rule of law) and even, in some cases, merely articulated (the free press). So things are definitely getting better. But is it enough?

Tom Watson perhaps represents a more working class conception of power relations in which authority and the middle classes (the upper class in Britain is actually the upper middle class) set rules that may have an element of protection for all (which is good) but give no scope for the victim of anything that cannot be evidenced to speak freely and get justice or recompense without placing themselves at risk of humiliation or destruction. The fact may be that they suffered appalling bullying or abuse which if they can articulate but not prove only means that that fact may be wholly disregarded and the abuser protected. The rules of society continue to protect the powerful and authority in perhaps more subtle ways than they once did but grants protection nevertheless. If the victim is not articulate, they are twice-damned - as 'ignorant' or as 'unworthy' on the one hand and as unable to provide what the rules require on the other.

When he speaks for the abused in Parliament with passion, Watson speaks, in his mind's eye perhaps, in a language that is incomprehensible to the editors of newspapers and the professional classes but one very comprehensible to anyone who has been institutionally bullied, worked for a bad boss or been abused inside a family or church group. There is nowhere such people can go in most of these cases - institutions are governed by authority and low level fear and anxiety, bad bosses until the rise of modern human resources skills could act with impunity, families are a no-go area for the State except in exceptional circumstances and the churches often appear to be another no-go area for investigating authorities.

The bullied and abused used to be fobbed off with the Church and a loving Jesus but, however comforted privately by religion, they generally have to cower and, literally, 'suffer in silence' in this world in the hope of the next - they have to submit as betas before the alphas. I once was stuck for a couple of years with a bully of a boss, a psychological thug of the worst type. I was trapped by the need to feed my family and yet if anyone is a natural alpha in terms of almost Nietzschean drive it is me. I was temporarily trapped by the power relations of a particular type of society with no escape - in that case, he was fired and I took his job so there was something of a happy ending. But the experience marks you. People stuck in abusive families, care homes, institutions and so forth are deeply marked by their experiences.  And it is even a bit more complex than that - between the betas and the alphas lies a 'kapo' class of willing servitors whose psychological brutalities are conveniently unseen by their masters. The worst of abuse is always that it happens outside the sight of the people who are supposed to maintain the rule of customary law. It is a secret matter of gross impunity.

And, of course, the poor prey on the poor. The Rotherhan abuse case is a case study in thuggery perpetrated on the vulnerable where the rules and processes of a system designed by the alphas for their own protection as much as that of their charges proved wholly incapable of protecting young people. There are suspicions in this case that blind eyes were turned because local electoral considerations handed power to a 'kapo' class of vote providers who were then allowed to protect their community in return. The vulnerable margin was just handed over to the abusers as a type of the sacrifice of the outsider to preserve the cohesion of a closed community - a human approach to social cohesion that can be traced back to the Iron Age and perhaps to the bog bodies.

The Labour Party, of which Tom Watson is Deputy Chairman, may crudely be characterised as having been created to give the betas, the ordinary person without power, a chance in life. Indeed, the early trades unionists in particular grew their own alphas who would represent them through the Party. In the last few decades, this 'Movement' has become nothing more than another bunch of competing alphas at the top of the gibbon troop: the Rotherham child abuse case is proof enough of that. The leaderships of the Left have not spoken for the vulnerable and changed their conditions directly through struggle in which the vulnerable can participate so much as empowered a rather nice liberal 'kapo' class of social managers that feathers its nest at the highest levels. Things, of course, are more complex than I imply but something has gone wrong with the Left Project. In speaking for the abusers and refusing to obey the rules of the alphas (represented earlier today by the expostulations of an outraged Nicholas Soames), Watson speaks against the norms of the system he had entered on behalf of the betas. He has returned to the spirit if not the practice of the lost radical beginnings of his Party which, in many ways, is out of character for him.

This is (roughly) perhaps at the core of his reasoning for not apologising beyond the 'distress to family' apology that he has already made. It is at the core of the essentially political (that is, related to power relations in the community) aspects of the case, the driving insistence of editors and politicians that he say more, that he kow-tow to their aspirations and their rules. Above all, he perhaps (I cannot speak for him) knows that the alpha class, of which he is one through hard work and diligence, which is in command of the rules of society, are combining here to bully an upstart ape within the troop. He is 'letting the side down'. He must be brought into line - it is about much more than an apology to a family, it is a struggle for the commanding heights of national morality.

I prefer to see Watson as someone who chose not to abandon his roots but to keep fighting for those he was sent to Parliament to represent. But I do not want to be misunderstood here. I have no opinion on the late Lord Brittan. I have no emotional position on him. I genuinely feel sorry for a family who, even if he did do something bad (which we do not know), might have no inkling of it. All I recognise is the fact that the jury that has never met and will probably never meet may have to remain open until two things have happened - the exhaustive enquiries into what appear to be credible complaints of abuse and credible corroborating statements from state servants about cover ups of elite child abuse has been gone through and a system of abuse within the elite proven or not proven. Even if it is not proven, this is not the same thing as proven to be not true. We are stuck with ambiguity unless there is a killer punch that demonstrates that the claims come from liars or fantasists and it is as wrong to dismiss claimants as liars and fantasists as it would be wrong to assert that the accused are guilty rather than the subject of investigation.This alone makes it imperative that Operation Midland is permitted to proceed and to be resourced without attempts to interfere with the witnesses.

This is all deeply tragic (in Hegel's sense of tragedy being the conflict of right with right) because the ambiguities and difficulties of such cases mean that somebody is going to get hurt under any scenario. Full acceptance of the rules of the alpha system simply means that the 'hidden history' (as it is being termed by the ESRC-funded academic study of official attitudes to child abuse) will continue and that the survivors will continue to be treated as second class human beings. Full support for the claims of all 'betas' without adequate investigation could mean possible injustices to perfectly respectable and decent members of the elite - in other words another form of injustice entirely.

The answer, of course, is partly in-depth investigation ass Operation Midland is undertaking. Unfortunately, we have good historical reasons for believing that such investigations have been mishandled or subject to influence in the past. Personally, Operation Midland strikes me as determinedly independent but Watson scores a point here. Conveniently for the advocates of the survivors' case, the Bishop of Lewes has got sent down this past week for sexual exploitation. The court heard that, in the early 1990s, a surprising number of elite figures wrote to give character references that helped to ensure that justice would not be done at that time - the alpha apes look to the rest of us as if they look after their own. And if this case is proven as it is, why should not there be many others? And how was it that Savile was not investigated for so long? - and so on and so forth. The BBC as recent cultural lord and master of alpha morality in this areas may be predictable but also faintly repulsive in this latter context.

In the more general context of cases like this, Tom Watson looks eminently reasonable in doubting whether justice can be done for the abused without he exertion of political pressure. A calculation that is culturally political may be being made here that justice for the abused trumps justice for alpha families let alone individuals. It comes down to a fairly brutal decision on where you think your moral responsibility lies. For one cultural system perhaps, the ultimate crime is armed resistance by their underlings (now labelled as terrorism and turned into the darkest of all dark crimes) but to the other the ultimate crime is cover up of the misuse of power and especially of misuse of power that turns a blind eye to, and perhaps condones or even organises for its own purposes, the rape of children and harms to the weak. The war on terror led to ambiguities of justice and so, it would appear, does the 'intifada' that is the war on elite child abuse.

In many ways the Left has submitted to the Right under the recent hegemony of rights liberalism - it has abandoned all struggle except within the law - but the Right has not responded in kind in its arrogance of power. It continues to resist transparency and lacks a basic integrity that places certain human values above protection of their own kind, indeed core values above the law itself as it stands. Liberal-minded Left and Tory MPs alike are not changing the law actively to protect the vulnerable - if anything, thanks to 'austerity', they are rapidly eliminating those protective infrastructures that do exist. Watson asked MPs today to search their own consciences but he was faced with rows of blank faces and dead eyes because most of them have no conception of the radical action required to protect the vulnerable in our society. The truth is that most of them don't really give a damn enough to initiate action and those few that do come from all parties. Giving a damn about the your own vulnerable is not a Left thing in the real world any more - it used to be but not any more. Mrs Jellyby is alive and well and living in Parliament. The vulnerable of the world can cause lengthy impassioned posturing on the benches but the state of the vulnerable at home regarded as an embarrassment. For those of us on the Left, Watson has offered us, rather clumsily, a way back to the recovery of our souls. 

If Watson apologises any further than he has done, he will have betrayed the vulnerable. He will have adopted all the rules of the elite and then be forced to slink to the back of this troop of unpleasant gibbons and hope to remain accepted. He must, in short, stand and fight or lose his place forever. The distress of one family is certainly regrettable, especially as relatives may not be alphas at all but fellow betas. But if he believes (which I think he may do but is problematic as a matter of faith and judgment in the prevailing system) that the survivors who came to him as their representative, that is, to their own dedicated alpha ape, did not lie and that there is reasonable cause to believe that, despite the lack of direct evidence (according to the rules of the game), the Noble Lord was, shall we say, 'problematic' (since it may be a matter of faith that he is not problematic) then he also knows that not only would he not be true to himself but that he would do irreparable harm to the tens of thousands, maybe many more, people who look to him and his increasingly rare type in Parliament if he compromised beyond a certain line. They have hopes and now expectations that they never had before that they can be represented against a system of mostly unintentional but sometimes cynical bullies. Again, it is true, the late Lord Brittan himself may be the victim of an injustice but ... something is up and it needs investigation.

These two world views are thus incommensurable - perhaps you are of the genuine Right or Left, as opposed to the ersatz Left, to the extent that you understand this and take the appropriate side, that of order through rules with the risk of occasional cruel injustice at the margins (Right) or that of struggle against tyranny at the risk of creating worse and unstable conditions in response to the resistance of your opponents (Left). Personally, I would like a balanceof some sort - but not at the xpense of the weakest and most damaged in society. We have ended up in a world where, thanks to social media liberating the masses by cultural means, one culture bays for Watson's blood and the other begs him to stand firm no matter what.

This is what he clearly will do, backed implicitly by his own Leader - any other recent Labour Leader would probably have caved in rather than hurt the system that sustained them but things have changed. You can almost smell the panic in the elite air about this new form of passionate demotic resistance which extends far beyond this case. Even Watson himself is a possible victim of it within his own Party as Momentum gains momentum. His Party may be a victim of it as 'Red UKIP' challenges the Labour middle classes over Europe. Revolutions perhaps must always eat their young. Eventually an internal Party struggle, a Referendum and then a General Election will pit the two cultures against one another for the first time since perhaps the 1960s. Then we will see what happens, how the thesis of one culture and the antithesis of the other culture will synthesise.

In the meantime, although I do like a society of rules and I do not like armed struggle, criminal behaviour and cover up by the elite (I am persuaded that this is what the police are investigating in good faith and that it is credible that bad things have been done) offends me. I shall back Tom without assuming that any claim is proven yet. But proven or not proven has, regrettably, no necessary link to the reality of things. The law constructs an alternate probabilistic reality within the framework of its rules. It is closer to the truth than blind assertion or faith but it is never necessarily the truth as many proven cases of miscarriages of justice have shown. Sometimes even the system corrects itself with sufficient facts but the purpose of law is only incidentally justice. The purpose of law is order tempered by justice.

I shall personally also feel sorry for Lord Brittan's family under all probable scenarios while considering the investigation that caused pain during his last days to be the 'lesser evil' in terms of human suffering. This is one for Dostoevsky on a dark and stormy night. But crushing the spirit of the weak by forcing their Leader to bend his knee on one possible error (not yet actually proven to be an error) is too great a price to pay for good order in a broken system.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Poor Journalism & The Art of Innuendo - A Second Personal Statement

A few days back, I made a Personal Statement about my involvement in Exaro that I had hoped would be decisive in telling the truth of the matter for those interested in the current child abuse scandal - remember that I cannot and do not speak for Exaro or for the other shareholders but only for myself. As before, this has to be a Personal Statement.

In essence, I stated that I had founded Exaro but that I had no influence whatsoever over the editorial content and that, in particular, I certainly had no say in the editorial decision to get involved in the allegations about child abuse and its alleged cover-up in the British Establishment. I expressed my continued support, however, for the investigation of allegations. One of the grounds for this was that the campaign of vilification against me, the Editor and the main shareholder in Exaro (who also has no say over editorial decision-making as a result of a decision when the Company was founded, enshrined in a shareholders' agreement) which started some months ago in the back waters of the internet appeared to demonstrate that 'Exaro was on to something'. Based on long experience (see below), this indicated that there seemed to be murky forces interested in discrediting Exaro and perhaps 'killing it off' and, in killing it off, killing off the investigations by the Metropolitan Police. I have been struck since then by the extremely robust responses of the Met to the wide campaign of denigration of the investigations that has been mounted in recent weeks. I am also keen to emphasise that not all critics of Exaro can be tarred with the same brush. There are sincere and questioning people who are right to be concerned that the investigations remain on the right side of decency and do not descend into a witch hunt - so far, I do not believe that Exaro has done this.

I came to the view that there was no point in responding to the bottom feeders in the further reaches of the internet. The opinions of people who post on forums connected to David Icke might reasonably be ignored. I referred to the fact, however, that private investigators had been used to compile a 'dossier' on me and on Exaro. Having seen that part which related to me, it was in the grand tradition of third rate research without analysis and with content riddled with opportunities for innuendo, the art of which I shall return to later. This sump of rumour and half-truths did not avoid dragging in my family but my decision stood - there was no merit in giving the oxygen of publicity to what appeared to be an extreme right wing campaign of vilification or a psychological warfare operation masquerading as such. I have no idea who initiated or was interested in undertaking this campaign. Long experience in the defence of individuals against such online campaigns of vilification have taught me that these operations are best regarded as one of the unfortunate costs of a free society - like trolls in social media. One should be bigger than this.

So far so good but the denigration has recently moved up the line on the internet in a way I should have come to expect until it has reached the point where comment has to be made or lies and half-truths will become part of the mythology of my reputation. There is no necessary connection between the innuendo of the bottom-feeders and the higher level innuendo of the more 'respectable' blogger or mainstream media - none whatsoever - but the fact of reporting or campaigning through innuendo ironically demonstrates why Exaro existed in the first place. It was created in direct reaction to experience of the worst of British journalism - the automatic publication of material provided in dossiers whether by the 'secret state' or others, the failure to give adequate background, analysis or detail on stories and the failure to check stories at source. I am not going to defend Exaro in this context - it has to defend its own conduct. If mistakes have been made (by me as by others), there should be apology but any apology should not be the cause of the destruction of a major project which may offer to uncover something of what the ESRC-funded academics in History Today this month have called the 'hidden history' of official handling of child abuse in our country.

So, do I have anything to apologise for? Absolutely not. I have made it clear that I founded Exaro - for which I have absolutely no reason to apologise - and have no, repeat no, influence over editorial decision-making. Even if the Editor was proven to be politically motivated, had lied or had engaged in fearful misconduct (none of which is the case to date), my role would be limited to agreeing with Board Members to his removal on the evidence and only on the evidence. There would be no justification for such an act if the matter was one of the editorial material being inconvenient for us personally or our business interests.

But what is the response of the media to this in my case? It is not acceptance of the facts as outlined in my clear and unequivocal blog posting but, instead, an exercise in the sort of innuendo abhorrence of which had led to the creation of Exaro in the first place. Innuendo is the natural tool of the British Press in full hunting mode because it is an art learned within the confines of English defamation law and it usefully means that not too much resource need be spent on the expensive business of fact-checking and contextualisation. There is certainly no need to defame if you can select facts and use them to suggest something that is not actually true.

There are two key items of innuendo in my case and I am not afraid to confront them directly: that because I am left-wing and radical therefore Exaro must be part of some political conspiracy; and, second, that because my company, TPPR, undertook media relations and speech writing support for Asma Al-Assad, that I am in some way a 'bad person' whose implicit evil casts a shadow over Exaro. So I am going to deal with these two items of innuendo head on.

In both cases, these items have been variously used by campaigning bloggers and, latterly, by the so-called mainstream Press. Let me be crystal clear - in no case other than one has any journalist tried to contact me personally and directly in order to verify facts or discuss the implications. I note that the common trick with colleagues is to pose apparently devastating questions (less so with close analysis) only hours before a claimed deadline in that typical game of being able to say that the target had been contacted for a comment. In my case, I hold to a simple rule. Any respectable journalist may ask me any question on my own affairs in writing and I will undertake to try - as a busy person - to give a full written response if I think it appropriate within 36 hours. The one journalist who did try to contact me did so by leaving a message on Twitter which I did not see for several days - unlike the frenetic denizens of the Westminster Bubble, I only look at Twitter once a week at most!

The first innuendo about a left-wing political conspiracy is easily handled. I simply have to point to the previous blog posting and ask a journalist to read it. It clearly states the simple truth that Exaro was created with clear rules about editorial interference. I can add that the Editor was chosen in good part because of his lack of political affiliation and none of the other Directors to my knowledge have any particular affiliation themselves. In my case, I was actually estranged from the Labour Party from around 2004/2005 until only a few weeks ago. I am more radical and more left-wing in politics than those who controlled the Party until very recently and, like many, was uncomfortable with the forward foreign policy and the lack of democracy inside the Party. It is important to note that when Exaro was founded my regard for New Labour was probably at its lowest ebb.

This brings me to two specific claims - that I am a friend of Jeremy Corbyn and that I am in any way close to Tom Watson. Maybe I will be one day but I am not now. How about some basic facts. Let us start with Mr. Corbyn. I knew Jeremy in Islington in the 1990s for the simple reason that he was my Constituency MP.  I believe my wife (I had forgotten this but can thank the private investigators for reminding us) was on a local charitable board with him. I recall, unconnected to Islington party affairs, that I brought the attention of a Tory MP to some brutalised conservative-minded South East Asian dissidents who I had been asked to assist pro bono. That Conservative picked up the house phone at the Commons saying that Jeremy was the man to deal with this and, sure enough, with his usual moral integrity, Jeremy did what he could. In 1996, I attended meetings of the Campaign Group of MPs as Co-ordinator of the Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance which was trying to democratise the Labour Party but I am not sure I even recall him in the room. I recall Jeremy turned up at one of our street parties. In other words, I knew him only a little more than the equally personally likeable Tory MP, Greg Clarke, in my current home of Tunbridge Wells. After I left London in 2000 - fifteen years ago - although we are 'Facebook Friends', I recall no communication between us other than one brief note of recognition when we connected. I certainly have not seen him since the late-1990s. So to claim some conspiratorial friendship is absurd. In fact, I respect and personally like him and he is part of the reason I rejoined the Labour Party but the 'conspiracy' is no more than that and I know a lot of prominent Conservatives better than I know the Leader of my own Party.

There is even less of a connection with Tom Watson. He was (I recall) my 'opposition' during the attempt to democratise the Party in 1995/1996 before he was an MP. I am not sure I even met him at that time. I may have done in passing but my dealings tended to be with Jon Cruddas amongst the Political Officers of the Trades Unions and with the Leader's Office. I am connected on Twitter and that is that. I have come to admire him for his stand on private rights over institutional force but then I equally admire the Tories Zac Goldsmith and David Davies in that respect. His election as Deputy Leader of the Party was undoubtedly a factor in my rejoining the Party as a private citizen, a decision I do not in the least regret. So, let us be clear, there is no left-wing conspiracy behind Exaro. I am the only left-winger involved, there was no Labour Party connection to my initiation of the Project (quite the opposite) and even if I had that conspiratorial intent, there is no mechanism by which I could influence policy. In short, any claim that Exaro is a left-wing plot should be regarded as the manufactured innuendo of fevered and desperate minds and this would have been made clear to any journalist who had bothered to contact me directly.

Now let us move on to the Asma al-Assad issue. The implication is that I should be ashamed in some way of my Company acting as adviser in the early 2000s to Mrs Al-Assad. Not only am I not ashamed but I am proud of the work done by my colleague - since, in fact, I cannot take credit for her sterling work. So, in the interests of dealing with innuendo and half-truths, let me tell you what one of my companies (TPPR) does in general and why our extensive work in the Syrian context was valuable and worthwhile.

I never speak of the details of the work I do for clients because of a commitment to client confidentiality but it is reasonable to write of the types of work we have done and why we do it. TPPR was founded in the late-1990s after I removed myself from domestic politics with a specific brief to defend individuals and others from the effects of unwarranted political warfare operations and also to advise on behaviour change and best practice to ensure that there was no room for future attacks in the future. It is rather interesting and amusing in some ways to be the one under attack now but at least I am well prepared with a correct and cool response to strategies of innuendo and to dossier-based psychological warfare operations.

I certainly have no need to justify our work to the British media - a lot of it was trying to educate lazy journalists on how to fact-check and ask the right questions. Sometimes we undertook pro bono or low paid work for the 'voiceless'. We were non-partisan and we might work indirectly alongside the State Department (in one case) or alongside Arab individuals wrongly accused of terrorism. With one exception, I do not recall we ever acted directly for Governments and that exception is outlined below. The details of our work, if we were permitted to reveal them, would be an advertisement for a fine and honourable little company that was at the heart of events during the so-called 'war on terror' and became expert in countering online psychological warfare operations during a dark period where collateral reputational damage was regarded as acceptable, using a supine media and even some NGOs as 'useful idiots' in campaigns to pervert and manipulate public opinion for political purposes.

Perhaps I am particularly proud of our first project which was the defence of the personal reputation of the owner of the Al-Shifa pharmaceuticals works in Sudan whose plant was bombed out of existence (its last shift of women workers almost slaughtered in consequence) because of a classic dodgy dossier, of our work to raise awareness in the Arab World of the appalling condition of the Marsh Arabs in Iraq in the run-up to the US invasion of 2003 and the forensic uncovering of the forged evidence used to try to remove George Galloway from the political scene. We never took sides or acted as agents of influence outside the limited parameters of specific initiatives which were ethically scrutinised with considerable care and usually related to our assessment of natural justice.

Now to Syria. Our involvement in Syria extended from approximately 2001 to approximately 2005. It certainly ended as soon as the Civil War broke out. Our Syrian friends, deeply distressed, split into their respective camps and it was ethically axiomatic that TPPR could not act for any Client in a war situation. Our relationship with Syria was complex and expressed as a series of projects in which senior and significant politicians of both main Parties might be involved and which were very much associated with the attempt to assist in the internal reform of the Government through dialogue. This was the only case where, at one point, we acted directly for an overseas Government when we agreed to assist the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in acting as liaison with the Foreign Office and in managing media relations during the Presidential Visit of 2002. We broke our rule on working with Governments in part because it was clear that it was in the British national interest to have a competent cultural liaison working with the Embassy answerable to the Embassy. During that period we had an excellent relationship with our FCO counterparts who proved, as you would expect, administratively competent under conditions where Syrian administrators were definitely not used to Western media and cultural habits.

Our other involvements were less direct. We agreed to help set up the British Syrian Society [''BSS'] with a number of highly respected British-Syrian businessmen and UK politicians as a friendship society designed to assist in the reform process that was widely assumed to be under way at the time. Incidentally, we introduced democracy to the BSS with a general vote of members to elect its Chairman. We managed the media relations for Syrian Culture Week and, through the BSS, we got to know the President's father-in-law who asked us to assist his daughter with some rather anodyne speech writing and a Press Visit by the Sunday Times. We were more than happy to do this and have no regrets. The intention was to build bridges in order to assist in modernisation. In that context, we undertook some confidential work with the London Embassy attempting (unsuccessfully) to change attitudes through educating Ministry officials on the cultural expectations of Syria in the West. Our work may reasonably be regarded as an honourable failure but it gave us a deep understanding of at least one aspect of Middle Eastern affairs. We had no connection with the Syrian Media Centre which was the State-directed communications unit in London. The specialist and educated journalists in the West covering the region were a pleasure to work with and never once were they pressurised by us to write (as if we could) anything but what they saw ... the spin and manipulation by the usual suspects was another matter. I have personal views on the responsibility for the slaughter and mayhem that subsequently appeared and I remain horrified by the ambiguities of Western association with faith-based obscurantists but that is a matter of personal politics and not the official view of TPPR.

In this second lengthy piece, I hope I have managed to make clear that not only do I have no editorial influence over Exaro which is wholly managed in that respect by the Editor but that Exaro never was, is not and never will be a political conspiracy, that the innuendo about me, about my family (if that is ever used as a tactic beyond the sump of bottom-feeders) and about my work needs cross-checking rather than accepting. My historic work in a Syrian context was mainstream, honourable and something of which I am actually rather proud.

The deeper public policy issues remain. They represent precisely the reasons I founded Exaro in 2011. Exaro may prove inadequate to the task or fail but the original impetus has been proved to be more correct than ever. When it comes to a national journalism based on dossiers, innuendo, half-truths, lack of analysis, sensationalism, partisan misinformation and disinformation, then if not Exaro ... who?

Saturday, 3 October 2015


When I created ExaroNews I had no idea of where it would lead. Its purpose was simply to 'hold power to account' through investigative journalism under the leadership of an honest editor ... a type in our society who is as valuable as an honest cop. We found that honest editor in Mark Watts.

The next stage was to get funding and this we did. What few seem to understand is that the funding came with a condition on our part - no interference by the shareholders in editorial decision-making. There was no quarrel with this and I signed away my own ability to tell Mark what to do, neither to cajole nor to threaten.

A risk was taken by us that he would continue to maintain the highest journalistic standards and not be frightened by the brute weight of the political establishment, of the dark forces to be found in every society or of rival media embarrassed that Exaro would achieve what they had signally failed to do - hold power to account - despite their massively greater resources.

Exaro does not have massive resources but it has had sufficient resources to follow through on what has become one of the biggest investigations of our age - allegations that child abuse and worse (if anything can be worse) were covered up by the powerful. This was the decision of the editorial team and no one else.

Those who followed the Kincora Case are fully aware of what very small groups of people within the system are capable of. One should not ever assume that institutions are necessarily acting in our interest simply because that is what they claim that they are doing. To me (as an outsider), it was always reasonable that they should investigate this matter much as they have investigated many other matters.

At no time (to my knowledge) has Exaro pre-judged the issue in regard to the child abuse allegations - the police once used an unfortunate turn of phrase but that is not the responsibility of Exaro. Exaro appears to have listened to claims and undertaken what investigation it could, reasonably publishing the results. Even to suggest (as one blogger appears to have done) that Exaro had the power or influence to initiate police investigations is almost comically absurd.

The mainstream media's initial approach to Exaro was to try and kill it by ignoring it. Its ability to set the agenda has emerged as a result of editorial persistence. The police make their own decisions on what is worthy of investigation from their perspective and what is not. The allegations have clearly been taken seriously by the police who, despite the ragged and sensationalist reporting of the mainstream media, have reiterated their own high professional standards in an important statement.

That article is well worth re-reading because it makes it very clear that the police are very concerned about the reporting of witness statements and the risks that the media might prejudice their investigations and later court cases while still managing to assert their belief in the importance of the responsible media in assisting investigations.

The publication by Exaro of this police statement in full (which no other media have done despite their public interest claims) is taken by me to mean that Exaro is in in agreement with it. Subsequent public comment by the Editor of Exaro on Twitter suggests that he remains concerned about the conduct of other media in relation to the witnesses and any pre-judgment of investigations. He must speak for himself - I cannot.

The allegations are also taken seriously by some prominent and rather politically brave politicians - it is gratifying that their courage has not halted their careers. Being taken seriously by police, leading politicians and Exaro does not make allegations true but it does make them worthy of investigation in a free and open society. If not, we may as well be in a closed dictatorship.

It must be made clear that at no time (despite my own close interest in the subject of which the Editor knew nothing) have I had any say or influence in the subject matter of the investigation. Neither I nor any Director were consulted on the investigation at its inception or since. I have no idea whether the allegations are true or false. I consider it reasonable, by the very nature of things, that mistakes may have been made or could yet be made but also that the allegations are far from being easily dismissed.

Everything I have read to date (noting that this has been going on now for some two years or so) suggests that Exaro and, entirely separately, the investigating police officers have cause to be interested in the allegations, have no political angle whatsoever, are professionally committed to what they are doing in their very different spheres and are utterly right to reveal any possibility of wrong-doing in the public interest in order to explore the evidential base for claims.

One is not naive - I am aware of past scandals such as the absurd satanic abuse claims of several decades ago. The possibility of such phenomena as false memory or political manipulation has to be taken into account but the right approach is not to walk away but to investigate even these possibilities rationally and in an evidence-based way, especially in the wake of the Jimmy Savile Scandal which the BBC signally failed to investigate adequately while it was happening on its very door step. In my opinion, the BBC lacks all credibility in this area and should stand down.

My own interest is now simply as an observer while others are engaged in serious professional struggles that might have equally serious reputational consequences for them if they do get it wrong. That is their risk - I don't actually share that risk. But let me give one solid reason why I suggest that the investigation may have merit and it is this.

If the investigation had no merit, I would not personally be subject, over many months, to repeated and aggressive internet attacks on my integrity based on half-truths and failures to obtain the facts directly from me (it is not as if I am hidden on the internet), including attacks on relatives of mine using innuendo.

The flow of false claims about Exaro and the individuals involved in Exaro suggest that we are seeing a campaign of deliberate attempted destabilisation of the investigations in which some mainstream media have now found themselves to be 'useful idiots'. These mainstream journalists too must investigate but they should equally investigate the sources for the claims against the investigation. In this world of smoke and mirrors, this is becoming a test case about the sort of journalism we want in our country and so of the sort of politics and justice we are prepared to tolerate.

I am personally subject to these attacks simply because I founded Exaro News and own a minority stake in the Holding Company that owns it. That is all. It is a form of political terrorism because the aim is to create fear and anxiety surrounding reputation. The attackers seem to believe that, by attacking me, they can destabilise Exaro. They do not seem to realise that, no matter what they say about me or members of my family or my businesses or my politics, I have no power to stop any investigation even if I wished to do so - and I do not.

The nature of those personal attacks - which it seems involved hiring private investigators (who seem to have done a very poor job) to build a dossier on me (and others) which included family members - indicates that someone is rattled by these investigations. It suggests that the investigations are dangerous to someone. It suggests, on that basis alone, that the investigations are worthwhile.

Here, I write in a wholly personal capacity. I do not speak for Exaro Holdings, I do not speak for Exaro News. I speak only for an individual who has no regrets whatsoever in having kick-started an organisation, now wholly editorially independent of me and which has been so since its formation as a Company, that is prepared to turn up stones to see what lies beneath them.

I cannot take responsibility for the investigations which means I cannot take either the blame or the credit for what happens next. What I will do is say that, on the balance of probabilities and on the very fact of the attacks on me in the undergrowth of the internet, Mark Watts seems to have struck a nerve. I hope that he and his hardworking team continue to refuse to be brow-beaten as I will refuse to be brow-beaten.

The Flaw in Thinking Artificial Intelligence Can Solve Our Problems

I recently knocked out a review of Frank Tipler's 'The Physics of Immortality: Moderm Cosmology, God and the Resurrection of the Dead' (1994) on GoodReads. One passing claim struck me as particularly interesting in the light of my blog postings that cast doubt on speculative science as useful - not that it is not worthwhile but that it seems to be fuelling a cultural hysteria about scientific possibility that is distracting us from what is achievable. I have a similar critique of the social sciences and I covered my concerns about excessive claims in that area in another GoodReads review - of Lawrence Freedman's 'Strategy: A  History' (2013).

Tipler's passage gave me yet another useful bullet for my gun of scepticism about claims not only about what we can know about the world but what any machine created by us may know about the world although Tipler's main task is to postulate (amongst other things) omniscient total information at the Omega Point of history.

On page 297 of my Edition but also elsewhere, Tipler explores the amount of information required to be or do or understand certain things in the world. He points out that if something is more complex than 10 to the power of 15 bits of information, then it cannot be understood by any human being whatsoever. This is the level of complexity of the human brain itself. He points out that human society is 10 to the power of 15 bits of information times the number of humans in the world.

We have to invent higher level theories to attempt to explain such complexity but these higher level theories over-simplify and so may (I think, will) give incorrect answers. The problems of human society, in particular, are far too complex to be understood even with such theories to hand which, in my view, are not scientifically valid but merely probabilistic guidelines.

Often human instinct, honed on millions of years of evolutionary development which screens out more information than it actually uses, is going to be more effective (assuming the human being is 'intelligent', that is, evolved to maximise that evolutionary advantage) in dealing with the world than theory, no matter how apparently well based on research. Tipler's omniscient Omega Point is, of course, classed as something completely different but no one in their right minds would consider any probable AGI coming close to this level of omniscience within the foreseeable future. Tipler does not make this mistake.

Therefore, in my view, an AGI is just as likely to be more wrong (precisely because its reasoning is highly rational) than a human in those many situations where the evolution of the human brain has made it into a very fine tool for dealing with environmental complexity. Since human society is far more complex than the natural environment or environments based on classical physics (it is interesting that humans still have 'accidents' at his lower level of information, especially when distracted by human considerations), then the human being is going to be more advantaged in its competition with any creation that is still fundamentally embedded in a particular location without the environmentally attuned systems of the human.

This is not to say that AGIs might one day be more advanced in all respects than humans but the talk of the singularity has evaded and avoided this truth - that this brilliant AGI who will emerge in the wet dreams of scientists may be a reflection of their rational personality type but is no more fitted to survival and development than a scientist dumped with no funds and no friends into a refugee camp short of food and water.

In other words, species or creature survival is highly conditional on environment. The social environment in which humans are embedded may be tough but it also ensures that the human species will be operating as dominant species for quite some time after the alleged singularity. Pure intellect may not only not be able to comprend the world sufficiently to be functional (once it moves out of the realm of the physical and into the social) but, because it theorises on the basis of logic and pure reason, is likely to come up with incorrect theories by its very nature.

Worse, those human policy-makers who trust to such AGIs in the way that they currently trust to social scientists may be guilty of compounding the sorts of policy mistakes that have driven us to the brink in international relations, social collapse, economic failure in the last two or three decades. Take this as a warning!