Why No Platform is illiberal and misconceived

February 24, 2011

As an adjoiner to my previous post on multiculturalism, I wanted to write a piece on why the No Platform Policy is illiberal and misconceived. It’s something I’ve had strong views on for a while – I spoke at my university’s Debating Society against the No Platform Policy three years ago (and we won, thanks for asking).

As some of you might have gathered from the comments of that multiculturalism post, I’m planning on writing something on multiculturalism and national identity. For now, here’s something on No Platform, which is also seemingly back in the news. There’s an interview here with a Birmingham student who argues that engaging with radical Islamic preachers is the best way to challenge their arguments.

No Platform has also been thrust back into the spotlight because of the of the English Defence League. There were a few No Platform tweets when the EDL’s leader was interviewed on Newsnight a few weeks ago. “Tommy Robinson” – actually a pseudonym – gave a spirited performance, but it wasn’t quite good enough. It’s hard to present yourself as an expert on the ways of Islam when you refer to “radical inams”.

As soon as the interview had finished, the EDL reported a surge in membership, and as a result more people kept coming out of the woodwork and asking why we had allowed the EDL publicity. We shouldn’t allow facist movements to appear on television to give them publicity and legitimacy, so the argument goes.

These people obviously have short memories. What helped kill off the BNP in the May elections, as much as anything, was Nick Griffin’s leering performance on Question Time. The moment when he pointed to an Asian man in the audience and said to him “You can stay”, was the most revolting thing I’ve ever seen on that programme. As you can imagine, he’s going up against some pretty stiff competition there.

What Griffin’s performance on Question Time does prove is that the best way to defeat abhorrent ideas is to confront them and defeat them in open debate. Banning extreme groups does not work, and in many cases would play into the hands of the extremists. The BNP and the EDL like to put forward the claim that there is a “politically correct conspiracy” of the “liberal media” or “liberal elite” to stifle debate on issues such as multiculturalism or immigration. Banning these groups only serves to add credence to this message.

Perhaps banning these groups would send a message that we consider fascism, or Islamic fundamentalism, to be immoral. However, is it really the place of governments to decide what is and what isn’t morally acceptable? That is potentially a very slippery slope.

I’m always amused by the fact that people of all political stripes consider that every group should have rights – apart from people they don’t like. That could mean gypsies, fascists, etc etc. A conversation I had a couple of weeks ago demonstrates this, that I shall relate hopefully without slipping into Liberal Dinner Party syndrome.

I was talking to one of the Guild of Students’ sabbatical officers, who said that she was in support of No Platform because she was “opposed to discrimination in all its forms”.

“Except discrimination against fascists?” I piped up. After I said that, she and Hannah, occasional Paperback Rioter, looked at me as though I’d just come out as a closet Orange Booker. But the fact is, you cannot pick and choose which people you want to grant rights to.

I can see the logic for wanting to ban these fascist groups: it comes back to Cameron’s idea of “muscular liberalism”, wanting to ban “preachers of hate” and be “intolerant of intolerance”. However, the simple fact is that not only would banning these groups be illiberal, and not work, it would be impossible to enforce.

It would also be a counter-productive thing to do. Do we really want to force groups like the BNP or EDL underground? Surely it’s best to have their dealings in the open, where they can be easily monitored? Also, the publicity associated with banning American “shock jocks” or people like Geert Wilders from entering Britain gives their movement much more coverage than if they had actually just been allowed to enter quietly in the first place.

Also banning these organisations just doesn’t work, because they will just end up operating as before, but under a different name. This can be seen by the banning of Anjem Choudary’s Islam4UK. In a testy interview on the Daily Politics – and let’s face it, what’s the point of banning the organisation if as a result its founder gets an interview on BBC2? – Choudary said that he probably would just set up a new organisation. After all,

If I gather together with my friends in the park and eat together and decide to write a leaflet and distribute it in the market, is that illegal?

Well, quite. And indeed Choudary has now set up a new organisation, called Muslims Against Crusades. Should we ban that too as well? Perhaps, you could argue, but then he would just set up another organisation. It’d be like herding cats.

Basically, the No Platform Policy can never be a credible policy of any anti-fascist movement. Saying that you are “in favour of freedom of speech, but…” is on the same moral level as saying “I am not a racist, but…” Add to that the fact that it’s unworkable, and you have a heck of a silly, counter-productive policy on your hands.

Killed With Kindness?

January 7, 2011

Not too long ago, Frances Inglis reappeared in the headlines, with her failed appeal against her conviction for murder.

For those who don’t remember, she killed her 22 year old son, Thomas Inglis, by injecting him with heroin after he suffered a brain injury after falling out of the back of an ambulance. She had previously made a similar attempt on his life but failed, causing a deterioration of his condition. She was given a mandatory life sentence with a minimum tariff of eight years, reduced to 5 years on appeal after the judges heard that she had a long history of depression and had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (the event that triggered it hasn’t been revealed) shortly before her son’s accident.

Now all of this sounds like a simple personal tragedy for Thomas Inglis and his family. What makes it interesting from a wider political perspective is the reaction of the media and public.

The almost unanimous view was that what Frances Inglis had done was justified, that she had saved her son from his horrific condition and that she had been victimised by a cruel and inflexible law. ”Don’t punish this Mother Courage” is the headline of an article by Fiona Philips, in the Mirror. “Courage,” along with “love” and ”brave,” appear consistently in the reporting of the case. Within the mainstream media commentary I can only find Dominic Lawson in the Independent and George Pitcher in The Telegraph providing a contrary view.

Very little attention was given to the facts of the case, as outlined in the appeal judgment. Almost immediately after Thomas Inglis’s accident, his mother became morbidly obsessed with the notion that he was suffering unbearably, even though he would almost certainly have been comatose at this point, and that it was her duty to put him out of his suffering.

His doctors were optimistic about the likelihood of him recovering enough to live independently, but his mother disregarded their opinion. She illegally acquired heroin and, just two months after his original injury, injected him with it leading to a cardiac arrest. He was revived by medical staff at the hospital but his brain was starved of oxygen resulting in a second, much more serious, brain injury, after which his prognosis was described by one specialist as “exceedingly poor”.

Oxygen deprivation would have affected his whole brain leaving little him with little remaining function or room for recovery. At this stage the possibility of his artificial feeding being removed was discussed between his family and doctors.

Nevertheless it’s worth drawing attention to the fact that the appeal judgment reveals that there were some reports that his condition may have improved before his death. A year later Frances Inglis managed to gain access to him in breech of her bail conditions, by pretending to be his aunt, and barricaded herself inside his room. She again injected him with an overdose of heroin and, when interrupted by a nurse, said that she had HIV, and threatened her with the syringe she had used to inject her son. This time doctors were unable to revive him, and she was charged and later convicted of his murder.

There were a number of aspects to this case that put it outside the standard debate on voluntary euthanasia.

Firstly, it was very much involuntary. Thomas Inglis never expressed a wish to die, or indeed had the capacity after his accident.

Secondly, he wasn’t dying and his prognosis was relatively good for regaining some level of independence. Besides which, his mother formed and acted on her intention to kill him long before the long term outcome of his injury could have been known.

Nevertheless, the case was immediately slotted, by both the press and the public, into the wider liberal case for euthanasia. This may have had something to do with the fact that a rash of assisted suicide cases, at the time, had brought the subject to the fore, particularly the case of Lynn Gilderdale, who had a severe form of ME and committed suicide with the help of her mother, and that of Ray Gosling who claimed (falsely, it would later turn out ) to have killed a former lover who was dying of AIDS. However, I think there is a deeper phenomenon at play, namely the way the concept of “mercy killing” has captured the public imagination. The popular perception of the Inglis case was carried along by the strength of this narrative, almost without regard for the facts, which were those of a mother with a history of mental health problems, who was unable to cope with the psychological pressure of her son’s injury.

So why has “mercy killing,” as a cause, found such a firm place in the public imagination?

Firstly, it is important to realise that euthanasia and assisted suicide are primarily advocated for by those who are currently able bodied. Liberalism’s respect for individual autonomy is often cited as the central reason for relaxing the law on euthanasia. However support for Frances Inglis doesn’t fit with this a core motivation. Thomas Inglis had no say in his death, but this didn’t stop commentators from queuing up to defend his mother.

Foremost among these were “Dignity In Dying” an organisation ostensibly set up to advocate for legal assisted suicide. I suspect that the stronger motive is fear: fear of pain, fear of incapacity and fear of dependency. Thomas Inglis undoubtedly had a long, difficult and uncertain road ahead of him. Recovery from brain injuries of any kind is a gruelling and often distressing process. It is likely that he would have been left with some degree of disability and he would certainly never have returned to the condition he was in before the accident. Nevertheless, he was 22 years old – the same age I am now – with his whole life ahead of him regardless of how different from that which he had had before. As a society we adhere to a very utilitarian view of the value of life, we imagine it as a balance sheet of very clearly demarcated pains and privileges and if it goes into the red, it ceases to be worthwhile. In a secure and well off society, where few people suffer significant privations, the threshold of suffering, at which this point is reached, is fairly low.

In addition to this our society places a high value on independence, so being in a condition where you would require assistance in everyday tasks would be viewed, by many, as demeaning. This was shown in the case of Daniel James who traveled to Switzerland, with the help of his parents to kill himself, after becoming quadriplegic in a rugby accident. His parents said he didn’t want a “second class life.” They were also widely praised for their “courage.”

Both Daniel James and Thomas Inglis, were, before their accidents, young men in peak physical condition, something that signifies a high status in our society. Wider society finds this difficult to reconcile with the much lower esteem they would have, subsequently, been held in because of their disabilities. There former status is then projected forward onto their subsequent one as their authentic state, trapped or concealed by what they became. That is why a certain nobility is imputed to Daniel James’ decision and Frances Inglis’s – the former because he was too dignified submit to disability, the latter because she sacrificed her freedom to spare her son this perceived degradation.

Another, less openly acknowledged, fear is of the loss of freedom brought about by caring for a disabled relative. Parents who kill disabled children, particularly those with learning difficulties often get significantly reduced sentences compared to other killers. For example, Jacob Wragg, who had a rare degenerative condition, was smothered by his father, who was given a two year suspended sentence for manslaughter, after claiming that the killing was a “mercy killing.” Other family members described Jacob as happy right up until the time of his death.

In a similar case in Canada, Tracy Latimer, who had Cerebral Palsy was killed by her gather. Robert Latimer was convicted of Murder and sentenced to life imprisonment, eventually serving 16 years before being released on parole, in December, however he received an outpouring of public support and is considered to have fundamentally changed the way euthanasia is viewed in Canada. Juries and the public empathise with the difficulties of parents caring for disabled children, often more than with the children, who are seen as “other” because of their disabilities.

As previously stated, the legalized euthanasia movement is primarily driven by able-bodied people. In contrast, the disability rights movement is ambivalent and often hostile towards the idea. Their primary concern is that the lives of people with disabilities are considered as valuable as those without and are granted the same protection under the law.

One of Frances Inglis’s surviving sons suggested that lethal injections be legalised for brain-injured people. It has also been suggested that those who kill family members in the honest belief that they are suffering should not be charged or convicted of murder, but perhaps some lesser offence or not at all. This suggestion was made without considering that it would removed protection from fatal violence from anyone with a disability and would enshrine in law the idea that some lives have less intrinsic value than others.

Collectively, the disability rights movement also rejects the balance sheet model of happiness, recognising that people’s desires can change with their circumstances and that people can tolerate more adversity than many people with relatively easy lives appreciate. Satisfaction isn’t related to absence of hardship in a simple linear way. They also reject the notion that suffering springs inevitably from disability, instead seeing social attitudes and neglect as the main obstacles rather than disability itself. From this perspective Daniel James’s choice to seek suicide did not occur in a vacuum but cannot be separated from the attitudes that saw his condition as a humiliation and “second class.” Pity itself can be intrusive and burdensome.

Providing for easy assisted suicide is also something of a cop-out for society as a whole, obviating the necessity and political will for providing people with disabilities, however extensive, with the resources needed to live as comfortable lives with as much self determination as possible. Particularly at a time when disability services and benefits are being cut, and people with disabilities are seemingly under attack, it’s easy to see why they would experience the promotion of an easy, socially sanctioned way out, as an existential threat.

Ultimately, these factors were what made the Inglis judgment such a departure from received wisdom and hence so radical. The appeal judgment states explicitly “however disabled Thomas might have been, a disabled life, even a life lived at the extremes of disability, is not one jot less precious than the life of an able-bodied person.” This is an admirable statement, even more so for being fairly unusual in the discourse surrounding disability and death in modern Britain. Frances Inglis became a liberal cause celebre, but her conviction paradoxically upheld many of the values inherent to liberalism, namely the autonomy and inalienable value of the individual, in this case Thomas Inglis even in his parlous state at the end of his life.

In the judgment it is written that the defence implied that “Thomas Inglis was ‘already dead in all but a small physical degree.” The judges respond: “the fact is that he was alive, a person in being,” and more concisely “the law doesn’t recognise [that] idea. May that continue to be the case.

Out of apathy cometh…well, nothing actually

January 2, 2011

It’s hard being a politically-engaged young person in modern Britain.

For a start, we seem to be in a minority.

Voting has not become a habit for the younger generation in the way it was for their parents and grandparents. Research from the Electoral Commission back in March found that 56% of under-35s were not even registered to vote.

Also, as this table shows, the amount of young people not voting is going up and up (from here):

Perhaps this picture I’ve painted is a little too bleak. Research by Nottingham Trent University from 2003 suggests that 53% of 18-24 year olds are interested in politics, as opposed to 15% who have no interest at all. The main feeling therefore is impotence: 83% thought they had no influence on the political system at all.

What happens when young people actually do find a cause they care about, like opposing the tripling of university fees? Well, then even if 50,000 people peacefully protest, all the attention goes on 200 idiots who decide to kick in windows. The peaceful majority get damned by association.

The belligerent minority are then invoked by the police to justify some truly despicable tactics. There’s kettling, for a start. 

Kettling occurs when the police hem in protestors and refuse to let anybody in or out, possibly for hours at a time. You can’t get anything to eat or drink, or go to the toilet.

This tactic has been controversial for a while, and there’s a very disturbing video taken of the police crushing protestors into a kettle, whilst the shouts of “But there’s nowhere to go!” become more and more desperate. It’s quite harrowing to watch.

Then there’s the issue of police brutality against some peaceful protesters. Police horses charged a group of kettled protesters, including 13-year old schoolchildren. Some students have suffered broken collarbones as a result of police heavy-handedness.

Lest we forget, I want to bring your attention to the tragic case of Alfie Meadows. Alfie was hit over the head by a police truncheon and spent three hours in intensive care because of bleeding into his brain.

The bludgeoning of Alfie Meadows has received far less attention than the wife of the heir to the throne possibly – or possibly not – being poked with a stick. This depresses me more than I can say, whilst also being a striking example of the priorities of the British media.

Often the message to those students protesting is that they should enter mainstream politics: “That’s how you change things”. Except in May many students did that. They campaigned and voted for the Liberal Democrats. According to a YouGov poll, 45% of students voted Lib Dem in May, compared to 24% for Labour and 21% Conservative.

Students campaigned for the Lib Dems despite cynics telling them that it was futile. I did some leafleting for a Lib Dem candidate in Oldham. “Why are you bothering to campaign for them?” I was asked more than once. “You know they’ll never get in”.

Well, guess what? The Lib Dems did get in. Once they were in government, they voted to triple university fees, despite seven million people voting for Lib Dem MPs who pledged to vote against any rise in fees.

A democratic solution to the issue of university fees has therefore not worked, so it’s hardly surprising that students took to the streets in anger at this.

As soon as they did, students were patronised and told that they are naive. “What did you expect? Politicians never keep their promises”.

Politically-active young people, then, can’t win either way. If they protest, they assumed to be troublesome, good-for-nothing rioters. If we get involved in mainstream politics, it’s seen as naive or futile.

It’s therefore no wonder that few young people even bother to vote. In a few decades we could have a whole population who are either apathetic to the political process, or who are completely disenchanted with it.

Our political system is broken. And I see nobody in any major party with the desire or the ability to fix it.

Loose Cannons

December 23, 2010

A note of warning: one of the pictures on this article isn’t nice. If you’re a bit squeamish, then be prepared to scroll past it rather quickly.

At the moment it’s hard to know for certain whether “Britain’s most liberal government ever” (© Nick Clegg) will allow police to use water cannon on protesters. Home Secretary Theresa May at first said that she would not intervene to stop police from using them, then appeared to rule the prospect out.

However, police officers appear to still be in favour of using water cannons. A recent opinion poll found that 69% supported their use against protesters, as against 23% who thought it unacceptable.

Most on the left are rightly shocked that a government could even consider such tactics against peaceful protesters. There are a number of issues with using water cannons.

Firstly, the fact that soaking people in water and then kettling them – forcing them to stand in the freezing cold for hours at a time, without letting people in and out – is obviously detrimental to the health of protestors. Imagine if this happened in the freezing temperatures we have at the moment. People could easily catch pneumonia.

There’s also the fact that if you are hit by a water cannon directly in the face, the consequences can be absolutely horrific. Via The Third Estate I came across this:

(and here comes the picture)

The picture of Wagner being helped away from the melee, his eyes swollen shut and bleeding, came to symbolise what critics claim was a heavy-handed approach by police trying to break up a demonstration against the controversial revamp of Stuttgart’s main train station.

Wagner’s doctor said the patient was currently blind and might never have his sight fully restored.

On Wednesday, news magazine Stern reported on its website that Wagner, a retired engineer had been trying to help some young people who were caught in the stream of water.

In an interview to be published on Thursday, Wagner told the magazine he had raised his arms and waved at police to indicate to them they should stop. But he was hit directly in the face with such force that he lost consciousness.

“It felt like the punch of a giant boxer,” Wagner said.

Given all this, using water cannon can already be seen as an erosion of our right to protest peacefully.

However, I think there is another, more sinister, reason why water cannon should not be used, which is not really being discussed.

At most police protests over the past couple of years, some of their more contemptible tactics have only come to the public’s attention because they have been captured on cameras, or mobile phones, belonging to ordinary people.

Take, for instance, the footage of Ian Tomlinson being struck to the floor by a police officer, the camera phone footage of police horses charging peaceful demonstrators, students in a kettle being crushed by police described by a Conservative member of the Greater London Authority as a “ghastly” incident, or pictures of a disabled journalist being pulled out of his wheelchair by police officers:

If police had used water cannon on protestors, this could damage electronic recording equipment belonging to the protestors. That makes it less likely, presumably, that these images and videos would have survived.

And that makes me very scared indeed.

“You can’t handle the truth!” – A look at Wikileaks

December 5, 2010

 These abuses had been going on perfectly well for years. What people hated was being told about it. (Sir Humphrey Appleby, The Compassionate Society).

I had a half-formed piece about Wikileaks from August, around the time they released thousands of documents about Afghanistan. The recent leaking of 250,000 state department cables seemed a good time to dust this piece off and finish writing it.

First of all, it seems deeply hypocritical for any government to get santimonious about leaks. Governments leak all the time: everything from unattributable briefings to lobby journalists, all the way to “dark arts” such as disinformation.

It used to be the case that the details of the budget were kept secret before being announced by the Chancellor in the House of Commons. Now the main details are usually briefed to some political correspondents beforehand, so the markets know the salient details and no announcement is too much of a shock.

As Jim Hacker put it in Yes, Minister, a show with lots of intelligent things to say about leaking, “The ship of state is the only ship that leaks from the top”.

It also seems hypocritical of governments to say that these were private conversations and should not be printed. As we’ve seen with the spate of memoirs and diaries published by senior New Labour figures, politicians have no problem reporting a private conversation if it furthers their own purposes.

Any leak of information by a civil servant is justified if this information is in the public interest. I cannot think of any leaks that have been more in the public interest in my lifetime then Wikileaks’ leakings of the Iraq and Afganistan war logs, not to mention the recent State Department papers.

A full list of the main things we know about because of the Afghan war logs can be found here. Of most concern are the 144 logs of attacks on civilians. These inlude a Polish attack on a wedding party that killed five and wounded several, including a heavily-pregnant woman, and an attack by coalition troops on Afghan security forces, killing an Afghan police officer, after British soliders mistakenly thought they were Taliban fighters.

The Iraq war logs revealed that 15,000 – yes, that’s fifteen thousand – civilians had died in previously unknown incidents. US authorities also failed to follow up hundreds of allegations of abuse, torture, rape and murder by Iraqi policemen and soliders. Indeed, they seem to have tolerated these abuses.

It’s true that much of the information in the State Department leaks is pretty common knowledge. No jaws will drop when people read that Nicholas Sarkozy is actually thin-skinned and authoritarian, for instance. But to dismiss all these leaks as trivial gossip misses the point entirely.

Richard Adams has an excellent summary of seven things we didn’t know about previously, including the fact that Sylvio Berlusconi profited from secret deals with Vladimir Putin. The most disturbing is this one:

A classified directive which appears to blur the line between diplomacy and spying was issued to US diplomats under Hillary Clinton’s name in July 2009, demanding forensic technical details about the communications systems used by top UN officials, including passwords and personal encryption keys used in private and commercial networks for official communications.

It called for detailed biometric information “on key UN officials, to include undersecretaries, heads of specialised agencies and their chief advisers, top SYG [secretary general] aides, heads of peace operations and political field missions, including force commanders” as well as intelligence on Ban’s “management and decision-making style and his influence on the secretariat”. A parallel intelligence directive sent to diplomats in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi said biometric data included DNA, fingerprints and iris scans.

There’s also the revelation that America charges a 15% fee to handle aid that was going to Afghanistan, the world’s second-poorest country.

All of this is valuable information that we have a right to know about. Apologies for this lengthy quotation from this excellent Economist piece, but I cannot put it any better than this:

To get at the value of WikiLeaks, I think it’s important to distinguish between the government—the temporary, elected authors of national policy—and the state—the permanent bureaucratic and military apparatus superficially but not fully controlled by the reigning government. The careerists scattered about the world in America’s intelligence agencies, military, and consular offices largely operate behind a veil of secrecy executing policy which is itself largely secret. American citizens mostly have no idea what they are doing, or whether what they are doing is working out well. The actually-existing structure and strategy of the American empire remains a near-total mystery to those who foot the bill and whose children fight its wars. And that is the way the elite of America’s unelected permanent state, perhaps the most powerful class of people on Earth, like it.

As Scott Shane, the New York Times‘ national security reporter, puts it: “American taxpayers, American citizens pay for all these diplomatic operations overseas and you know, it is not a bad thing when Americans actually have a better understanding of those negotiations”. Mr Shane goes on to suggest that

Perhaps if we had had more information on these secret internal deliberations of governments prior to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, we would have had a better understanding of the quality of the evidence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

Nonetheless, it’s surprising to see a sizable proportion of the reaction to all these leaks is expressing its disgust at Wikileaks, rather than the abuses that it is uncovering. This seems a classic case of shooting the messenger.

The first reaction was to say that these leaks would cost lives. This has turned out to be nothing more than mere bluster. These cables only have information from before February, so existing missions could not be jeapodised. The State Department was told about these leaks far in advance so they could help redact particularly sensitive information and alert staff in more serious locations.

It almost feels as if the US has a standard press release whenever Wikileaks leaks more information, and says that “Lives will be lost” regardless of the context. For all of the talk of the Afghan leaks giving away names of Taliban informers, nobody has died as a result of the leaks. In contrast, although no official records actually exists, between 11,000-14,000 civilians are estimated to have been killed in Afghanistan as a result of the war.

As Flying Rodent magnificently put it:

US general says that Wikileaks could endanger lives, whilst sitting on top of a huge pile of skulls.

A secondary reaction is to say that Wikileaks has an anti-US agenda, which again is complete nonsense. Wikileaks only releases information because US citizens leak it to them. As Julian Assange says in this Forbes interview,

We’re totally source dependent. We get what we get. As our profile rises in a certain area, we get more in a particular area. People say, why don’t you release more leaks from the Taliban. So I say hey, help us, tell more Taliban dissidents about us.

I can’t get onto Wikileaks’ website at the time of writing, but a brief look at Wikipedia shows they have released information about scores of countries other than America, including:

a) A Somali document authorising the assassination of Somali government officials.
b) Alleged corruption by the family of former Kenyan leader Daniel arap Moi.
c) Possible illegal practices at the Cayman Island branch of the Swiss bank Julius Baer.
d) Phone conversations relating to the Peru oil scandal of 2008.

Lastly, there is some criticism relating to Wikileaks as an organisation, and in particular its head, Julian Assange. The focus should perhaps not be too much on Assange: there are many others involved with the organisation. I have no idea if the allegations against him are true, and would like to see them tested in a court of law, to prove one way or the other. It is, however, perfectly understandable that he and Wikileaks should want to keep their details secret when US journalists are openly calling for Assange to be assassinated, and senior Republicans are saying that whoever leaked the State Department papers should be executed for treason.

Perhaps this anger is directed at Wikileaks, and not at the conduct of the war in Afghanistan, because we’re unable to get angry at Afghanistan anymore. I began taking a serious interest in politics and current affairs in my second year at college – around 2004. By then, we had already been fighting in Afghanistan for two years. The announcement of soldiers’ deaths in Afghanistan has become routine. It is like the background hum; a fixture on our news bulletins along with the weather and the state of the financial markets.

Despite all that, you’d still like to think that people would be able to spot a leak in the public interest when they see it.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.