Sunday, February 09, 2014

Fan Service

"A look at (this) scandal dispels trite illusions. Robert Harris, a friend of Mitchell's, compares it to the Dreyfus affair, the subject of his latest fine novel. Harris is going over the top, but you can see his point..." Oor Nick 
The scandal in question is "Plebgate", so we might ask - if we're saying Plebgate is like the Dreyfus affair, then why aim so low?  Why not compare it instead to the assassination of Dr King, or to the Highland Clearances, or even the Black Death?

Why not go the whole hog and say well, Some guy has compared Plebgate to the destruction of Guernica...  He's going over the top, but you can see his point?

Ach, I know Nick's work is never complete without a wildly inappropriate historical analogy, so we'll let it slide in favour of the larger hilarities - for example, that the title of the piece incautiously announces:   "Thanks to Leveson, the police are above public scrutiny".  

Nick probably didn't pick that title and should in fact be seething about it, because the chronology goes like this:

Plebgate: 19 September 2012

Leveson Report: 29 November 2012

...Which can only suggest that Lord Leveson's conclusions were so authoritarian, so utterly Draconian in nature, that they've actually reverberated backwards through time to encourage Plod's malfeasance.

Now I imagine that many of you, like me, regard the whole Plebgate debacle as an entertaining and rare instance of a minister winding up being battered with the truncheon of his own class's Papers, please policing agenda, rather than an infamous historical injustice.

We're all no doubt disconcerted to discover that a Tribune of the Plebs can be thusly accosted by Caesar's thugs on his way home from the Senate.  Still, I'd like to think most of us are also savvy enough to spot that an ongoing power struggle between two sections of the Patrician class may have little to do with accountability to the actual citizenry.

While I'm entirely open to arguments about the accountability of the police, I suspect that all this chat about "accountability" ultimately means "to the government" rather than, you know, "to the rest of us, even via some vague representational proxy".  Which somewhat dulls my sense of democratic outrage.

Anyway, let's shoot straight past Nick's belief that "Justice is indivisible", which is surely why it took around eighteen months to get somebody banged up for inconveniencing a high-ranking Conservative Party official, while other issues...  Well, let's let Nick say it himself, shall we?

"You cannot call for justice for the victims of police lies about the Hillsborough disaster while denying justice to a victim of a political conspiracy by the coercive arm of the state".

Well, plainly you can - I'm doing it out loud just now, as it happens.  No bother.

Nonetheless, let's observe just how tasteless it is to dragoon the unavenged shades of the dead into a battle being fought in nothing but self-interest between the Tory Party, the police and the very media organisations who have all done so very much to frustrate justice of any kind being done in their names.



Anonymous said...

As soon as I saw Cohen's article this morning, I knew you would have something to say about it.

Cohen's argument appears to depend on there being dozens of junior policemen ready to blow the whistle on the corrupt practices of senior officers, but thwarted by something that came out of Leveson's Inquiry. It's the kind of thing for which I would like to see some evidence.

Organic cheeseboard said...

He really is shit on this subject. Claiming that the Met doesn't need a press office because it "has nothing worth saying" is just offensive to his reader's intelligence. He whines a lot generally about press officers not giving him what he wants, as if their job is to give journalists useful copy. Then we get:

The British left in the 2010s, and many others besides, want to believe in Tory posh boys, who will abuse the brave and honest coppers willing to put themselves in the line of fire.

I dunno about the "brave and honest" bit but that is actually what happened. He swore at them for more or less no reason. If I did that I'd have been cautioned at the very least. Thus the comparison with, say, Hillsborough is crass and offensive -he'd not mKe it if he were a Liverpool fan, that's for sure, since if it is so close to the Mitchell affair, it essentially means their fans were culpable (ditto Dreyfus of course, but that's too silly to mention). Citing a personal friend of Mitchell is hardly brilliant either. Was Harris likely to brief against him? If not,why bother quoting him? Friend of man says man is nice shocker.

Tying this to Leveson just doesn't work, as you point out. Nick has previously tried to claim that Leveson would stop police officers leaking to the press, but he admits that hasn't happened; so now he tries to claim that whistleblowers scared for their careers are somehow a new thing and that Leveson is to blame.

As per for the anti Leveson lot - if it was such a bad thing they'd be able to make the case against it clearly.

ejh said...

Though to be fair, Mitchell did get sent to Devil's Island after the incident.

Organic cheeseboard said...

Ah yes, I'd forgotten that.

Is there something I'm missing or have Nick and Aaro both separately hyped this Harris book in recent weeks? Best that nobody mention another chum of Harris's eh - a certain R. Polanski (who also apparently inspired his interest in Dreyfus).

I really think the line on this that "if it happened to him, it can happen to anyone" is, while technically true, a bit odd for everyone to have suddenly realised. I mean the copious evidence of police lying over the years surely should have set alarm bells ringing, no? But apparently not - apparently this bloke swearing but maybe not using the word "pleb" (but not being arrested or charged, and not losing his main job either) is just as significant as the IPCC saying mark Duggan shot at police, or as the met claiming De Menezes jumped barriers, or etc etc. I really don't see how Cohen could have missed the difference in the public eye between this and Hillsborough.

Organic cheeseboard said...

I missed this, but in nick related news, turns out Quilliam w're trying to get extra government funding as a result of the EDL Defection (wherein "tommy Robinson" didn't actually renounce anything at all) on literally the same day it happened:

Colour me deeply shocked.

flyingrodent said...

I really think the line on this that "if it happened to him, it can happen to anyone" is, while technically true, a bit odd for everyone to have suddenly realised.

I think this has to be seen within the context of a battle between the coppers and the Tories, really. And while I'm aware that in theory the Tories are representing us all democratically and so forth, I think it's naive to imagine that this incident wasn't basically a horse's-head-in-the-bed moment, with a subsequent retaliation - a gang fight basically, with little honour or principle on either side.

And I'm still at a loss as to why Nick thinks a single sentence in the Leveson Report has encouraged some kind of Copper omerta. I've read it about four times and I'm just not seeing it, but perhaps I'm insufficiently perceptive.

Rosie said...

The cycling fraternity knew that Mitchell was innnocent from the beginning, or if he had abused the polis, it was justified since he was only exercising his rights as a cyclist. So it's not "more or less for no reason". Still, it should have been quickly settled with apologies to and fro.

Chris Mullin thought it was a fit up by the Fed from the beginning.

Agree that the article wasn't Nick Cohen's best efforts. J'Accuse indeed.

organic cheeseboard said...

Well yeh, the police probably should have opened the gate for him (though Downing St is a bit different from a typical street and they could have had their reasons), but it's still not justification for swearing at the police which is grounds for arrest (if not necessarily charge). Since the Police can;'t strike, I'd imagine that most officers would be very happy with their chums at Downing Street making the odd inconvenience for the people who are increasing Police pension payments to fund tax cuts for the rich.

What it shows (to me at least) is the rubbishness of Cameron's Blairite desire to control the headlines - and his party. With Blair in charge, Mitchell would have been told to stfu and say sorry, and to more or less accept the 'pleb' thing even if it wasn't true - to draw a line under all of this and 'go forward' and probably get another job quite soon, maybe even be subtly reinstated. Instead we get no proper apology, a sacking, and thus this drawn-out nonsense where people are still largely unwilling to believe Mitchell's version of events, with his rich old men friends endlessly briefing about how wronged he's been (Harris penned articles on this last fucking year ffs), now he's only got his MP salary and 2million in the bank top keep him happy (and if he was truly committed to public service, surely he'd have requested, like IDS, to keep his ministerial job and not become chief whip?). The fact that Cohen is piling in on this shows how poor his political instincts are - I imagine he thinks he's being principled and contrarian, but in practice he's just another journo obsessing over something that most people literally don't give a fuck about, because what it involves is a) Tory MP being a twat who thinks he's above the law and b) police lying - file under pope = Catholic etc. And given that Nick's link to Leveson just doesn't work, the reason for obsessing over it seems even weirder.

This is what I don't get about nick's recent recasting of himself as a free speech campaigner - that'd be all well and good if he didn't try to tie this into every other issue he's obsessed with. I flicked through his book in a shop a while back and the tenuousness of most of his claims (for instance half a chapter on how great Ayaan Hirsi Ali is, ignoring her abhorrent views on Islam and completely unrelated to issues of free speech, the other half devoted to Maryan Namazie who has never been censored in Britain) leaves the whole thing weirdly limp and soggy. He's also, ahem, very indebted to certain people, not least the really-quite-rubbish-and-also-very-dodgy Pascal Bruckner.

Anonymous said...

Someone in the comments in that article thinks that the threat to dealing with police corruption is due to an ACPO guideline that was derived from something Leveson wrote in his report. The commenter then goes on to say that Cohen is therefore "bang on the money". But as Cohen never mentions ACPO or any guideline it is hard to see how he was "bang on the money"; Cohen has spoiled a potentially interesting story about how ACPO has made use of something Leveson said, because of his habit of criticising Leveson (and "The Left").


organic cheeseboard said...

Yes, he's claimed seomthing similar before, but all the same it still doesn't work as he himself says:

Throughout the scandal, the police have had no difficulty leaking fraudulent accusations to the media. By contrast, Mitchell's friends have a police whistleblower who, they say, can reveal how the stitch-up was organised. But he won't go public because he is afraid of the consequences for his career.

So in fact the police can still brief. This bloke not wanting to go public has nothing to do with Leveson whatsoever and everything to do with the standard whistleblower concern, of fucking up your career.

See here for an earlier example of Nick trying to blame everything he doesn't like on Leveson.

septicisle said...

I've always looked at it from that angle that the policeman (who is now being sued by Mitchell and vice versa) supposedly called a pleb immediately accepted Mitchell's apology and didn't want to take things any further. Then the Pol Fed got involved. All the bullshit from Channel 4 and Mitchell's pals, most of whom are Mitchell, with the odd intervention by David Davis and Harris, doesn't disprove that something was said. It's only a conspiracy if you want it to be. Otherwise it's a MP known not to suffer fools gladly just acting accordingly.

Anonymous said...

If we are relying on police whistle-blowers before dealing with police corruption, I suspect we are going to wait a long time.


organic cheeseboard said...

Further interesting context on this today:

Seems that there was specific advice the officers were following and that Mitchell had repeatedly been acting like a dick.

organic cheeseboard said...

Cohen's now 'returned to the subject' (i.e. cobbled together the stuff the Obs made him remove) on his Spectator blog. It's even less convincing than the Obs piece.

Weird, too, that it's quite agressive in its condemnation of the Times. Whither his friendship with Kamm? Is this perchance motivated by our Ollie?

Anonymous said...

Conclusion of Flying Rodent's original post.

"Nonetheless, let's observe just how tasteless it is to dragoon the unavenged shades of the dead into a battle being fought in nothing but self-interest between the Tory Party, the police and the very media organisations who have all done so very much to frustrate justice of any kind being done in their names."

Indeed. Nick's Spectator blog suggests different factions of the Tory Party, the Plods, right-wing newspapers, and Dan Hodges are at each other's throats. Yet at the end he yanks it round to being the fault of Leveson and The Left.

Nick asks why Murdoch is doing this. Obviously he hasn't woken up to how Murdoch pressurises


organic cheeseboard said...

Politics is a weird old world. Strikes me that this Mitchell sweary, arrogant behaviour is the kind of thing that's actively encouraged in politics. Witness this article that FR tweeted:

right now especially, about the 3 red cards that revoked his phone privileges. My sister didn’t tell us exactly why he had been given these 3 red cards, but we all know it will have been because he can’t keep his mouth shut.

Fair enough, I'm sure she's proud of her father in general. But in politics, or at least a certain section of parliament, being a belligerent, loudmouth, self-obsessed dickhead like MacShane and Mitchell seems to be actively celebrated. The kind of behaviour that'd get one of us arrested or, indeed, 'red carded' repeatedly in prison is celebrated in the world of politics.

I said politics, but it's really politics and journalism. See: Hodges, Dan; Hitchens, Christopher; and Cohen, Nick.

Comments on the Cohen thread point towards a blog where someone claims that Mitchell has been charged previously for cycling offences then subsequently let off...