Perfidious Home Office

“Are you going to blog about it?” I was asked, last week, about the fall of Kabul.

“I don’t think so,” I replied.

It’s not that I don’t think the return of the Taliban to power Afghanistan is not noteworthy. On the contrary, I’m sure it will be one of the 21st Century’s historical milestones. It is just that it is clearly the product of a hundred different factors, ranging from the geopolitical to the local, that I probably don’t understand. It seems to me that any piece of writing that seeks to say “we should have done things differently” must start a couple of centuries ago. And even with the understanding of how we got here, I’ve not seen or read anything that presents a plausible plan to make things better.

Best to turn past the images of geurillla fighting, and read instead about the pandemic, the wildfires, the ‘point of no returns’ climate warnings, and the incel massacre in Plymouth.

But one very particular aspect does, I think, warrant a very particular comment, and that is our failure to support those Afghans who have supported British military and diplomatic efforts in the country.

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Marc Fennell on Colonialism and the Contradictions of Patriotism

In an interview with Roman Mars, the journalist Marc Fennell talks about his podcast Stuff The British Stole and the complexities of our interwoven historical legacies.

A big part of why I like this medium, it allows you to take the audience down the pathway that respects their intelligence, that you can hold more than one idea at once. When we look at the past, there is a tendency to either focus on the good things or only on the bad things, and my attitude particularly to colonialism is you will encounter these arguments and people will say “well, you know, if it weren’t for colonialism you wouldn’t have laws and you wouldn’t have railroads” but then at the other end of the spectrum … because of colonialism there was genocide, and there were children taken away from families, horrendous stuff.” And my attuitude to history and the thing this series taught me is that those two things don’t ever balance each other out. And they definitely don’t cancel each other out. All they do is they co-exist. And I think we as a species are smart enough to hold both those ideas at the same time. And not try to force them to balance each other out in some sort of historical weighing match. Its doesn’t work that way. And I think what’s good about stories like this is you can actually guide the audience through those things. And we emerge out the other end with a more complex understanding. Like I say to people, “I want you to stand in the mess.”

Marc Fennell, ‘Stuff thhe British Stole’ episode of the 99% Invisible podcast, 13 July 2021.

This idea of complexity and the holding of contradictory, competing ideas, is one that we encounter a lot in discussions of politics, history and culture. Fennell’s insight is not new, but it is a timely repetition of something that does, unfortunately, need repeating.

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Cory Doctorow and the Memex Method

Cory Doctorow, China Mieville and Robert Sharp

Cory Doctorow has been blogging for 20 years. In this marvellous post he reflects on how the process has helped his writing and thinking. A blog can be a commonplace book, an ‘annotated web history,’ nucleation, and a memex or brain-extension.

I’m sixteen years a blogger. Back when I started, meta-blogging (i.e. blogging about blogging) was a big chunk of the discourse, with everyone trying to justify their hobby to themselves, to other bloggers and, perhaps most importantly, to the naysayers who mocked us as freaks in pyjamas bashing away at our keyboards.

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Employment Tribunals: The New Free Speech Front Line

Back in February I wrote a post on the judgment of the Employment Tribunal in Seyi Omooba v Michael Garret Associates Ltd. The main conclusion: Employment Tribunals have become the free speech front line.

Last week I went to look for the post in order to tweet it at Sean Jones QC (see above), only to discover I had never actually published it!

I have now made it live and it appears further down this blog’s timeline. You can read it here.

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Libel Justice for Nowy Czas

Nowy Czas is a newspaper that serves the Polish community of London. It is edited by Grzegorz and Teresa Malkiewicz.

Back in 2015 they published an article about a businessman. They discussed his historic business dealings and bankruptcy, and expressed concern at his involvement with two charitable organisations: The POSK cultural centre in Hammersmith, and the Kolbe House Care home in Ealing.

The gentleman in question sued the newspaper for libel, and the case was heard in 2017. Nowy Czas successfully defended the article, using the defences of ‘substantial truth’ (Defamation Act 2013, section 2) and ‘public interest’ (section 4).

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