Don’t blame MI5 for the London Bridge Attack

An inquiry into the London Bridge Terror attack finished yesterday after the coronor cleared MI5 and the police for failing to prevent the attacks. Families of the deceased expressed anger and disbelief at the decision, believing the security services bare responsibility for the loss of life. It certainly appears that MI5 could have been more proactive in their surveillance of Khuram Butt, the ringleader of the attack, and that there were signs of late-stage planning that were missed. As the Guardian notes, the fact that this was the first post 2001 terror attack carried out by someone under active investigation by MI5 certainly doesn’t reflect well on the organisation’s handling of the case. Nevertheless, by focusing on the security services we lose sight of a far more culpible branch of the state.

It is the supreme function of any government to keep its citizens safe and the first way to keep citizens safe is to not create dangerous conditions in the first place. The immoral, counter-productive and reckless foreign policy the UK has followed in the Middle East has brought radical Islamic terror to our shores to the point where it is, as Sadiq Khan famously never said, ‘part and parcel of living in a big city’.

Our involvement in Iraq, for want of a better word, radicalised a whole generation of young people, some of them British citizens who saw our involvement in Iraq, on top of our involvement in Afghanistan, as being an attack on Islam

Baroness Manningham-Buller, former head of MI5

We can never excuse those that murder innocent people for any cause, least of all terrorism. Condemenation of terrorists should come first, scrutiny of our governments role in creating the conditions in which terrorism thrives second. Every British invasion and airstrike in Arab countries – every civilian killed and every town raised – provides terrorist ringleaders with their rallying cry and propaganda material. If we want to dispell the myth that the West is at war with the Islamic world we should cease our frequent and extensive unjust military action across the Islamic world.

Warmongers continue to hold high positions across the media and government. They lied to push us into war in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya successfully, and tried their best to push us fully into the Syrian catastrophe. Whatever the failings of MI5 in the run up to the London Bridge attack specifically the organisation will never be able to prevent every terror plot. The sooner governments past and present are made properly accountable for their role in the ongoing terror threat the sooner we can begin to fix the problem.

Some Thoughts on Feminism

Women should not be disadvantaged by their sex, […] should be recognized as having human dignity equal to that of men, and […] should have the opportunity to live as fulfilling and as freely chosen lives as men can.

Susan Moller Okin

I’m not sure I have anything original or interesting to say about feminism. The issue has been weaponised in the current culture war, leaving constructive arguments and discussions behind in favour of ideological shit-throwing. The debate has become yet another way for left-leaning authoritarian types to flaunt their moral superiority by demonstrating their commitment to women’s issues and for angry young men to enhance their victim complex, insulting anyone who dares to suggest that there are institutional problems in society that disproportionately affect women. People like myself – and I imagine most of the public – who fit somewhere vaguely between these two positions are seldom heard over the racket caused by the Breitbart and Buzzfeed types. I therefore hold no great hopes that society will come together and sensibly address the issues that the female emancipation of the past 100 years has raised. Nevertheless, it is a topic that fascinates me.

The feminist position, at least as Okin understood it, is a moral truism that needs no further justification. It seems similarly uncontroversial to me that there are many ways in which women are disadvantaged by their sex. Indeed for all societal advancements we’ve made technological advances produce evermore problems. Women face the choice of adopting a gender neutral identity or experiencing persistent sexual harassment when joining a male dominated online environment. Any youtube commenter posting with a female name (worse still, with a picture of themselves in their avatar) will eventually receive at best a sexually objectifying reply, and at worst threats of rape. The unsolicited suggestive message online is the builder’s catcall of the 21st century, perhaps made worse given its anonymous nature and permanency. I offer nothing in the way of a solution for this problem but it seems insincere to label this as an unfortunate result of the internet’s anonymous nature. If it can be said that people reveal much about themselves when the risk of repercussions is removed, the misogamy ubiquitous throughout the internet isn’t something to be scoffed at. Those people behind the keyboard are or will be voters and husbands.

I think most men inclined towards feminist ideals experience something of an awakening to the problems women face. The first ‘oh shit’ moment for me came years ago when I found out that many women meticulously plan their social outings so they do not have to walk alone late at night. The idea that someone would fear for their safety, particularly in the leafy middle class town I grew up in, seemed so alien to me. In many ways it literally is. Women don’t get to live in the same world men do. Something I’ll always remember was when I said to a female friend, who was complaining of the length of her walk home, that it would fly by if she listened to music. She said she wouldn’t feel safe walking at night if she had headphones on, but it was her brief look of incredulity at my suggestion that really resonated with me; it was not at all dissimilar to the reaction one has when talking to someone from a foreign culture, and the shock you often experience when hearing about one of their norms or practices. If women truly are from Venus, then it is a world in which they are all too often made to fear from their safety because of their sex. Regular police foot patrols should be reintroduced immediately in favour of the miserable CCTV based approach we currently have.

If women deserve an equal chance at a fulfilling life there are a number of sensible policies that have been discussed (flexible work so women can avoid working on their period, reform to the treatment of rape within the courts etc). What they all share in common is an implicit recognition that women and men are different, and biology being what it is, always will be, to a certain extent. Any comprehensive set of ideas to rectify gender based inequity must recognise this reality and work within it, rather than trying to legislate away innate differences between men and women. When I opened this essay I said I had nothing original to say, and I have been true to my word – this has all been said before many times. Still, this is important, and worth repeating again and again until progress is achieved.

Don’t Waste Your Vote, Spoil Your Ballot

It’s been refreshing to see pictures of the deluge of spoiled ballots at the recent council elections. And why not? We don’t have councils anymore, after all. The meager institutions to which we elected representatives this week don’t qualify, having been ransacked of all powers by central government over the past 40 years. It’s only a shame that it’s taken the Brexit debacle to motivate people to take proper action. It should have come far sooner.

Given the state of our political institutions and the political parties they prop up, voting is a fools endeavour. The greatest falsehood in politics is that it is your duty to vote, and furthermore, that it is your duty to prevent the other side from getting in. Just think of the horrors that have been inflicted on this country after incompetent and woeful governments were brought to power, not through a proper democratic mandate but by one half of the electorate voting against the other. Both Labour and the Conservatives are indebted to our two party system, and would never dismantle their dual monopoly on power. There is no reason to believe the smaller parties would really break up the Westminster model if they were to make it to government. Our political system is broken, and anyone elected within that system cannot possibly fix it.

I ask you then to please never vote against another party, or vote for the least bad option. Only vote for parties that accurately represent your views, and whom you believe have a realistic and practical plan of implementing these views into policy. Do not sell your vote cheaply; if nobody on offer meets this criteria, spoil your ballot. This signifies two things: that you are invested in and follow politics, and that you believe nobody standing is suitable to govern. As long as we continue to waste our votes on politicians we know to be liars, elected on manifestos we know to be inadequate, our country will continue to suffer. Spoiling your ballot is a revolutionary act. It is non-violent resistance in its purest form – engagement with the system to register your complete and utter contempt, and a refusal to prop up the status quo. It would take only a significant minority (>10%) to force the politico-media bubble to take notice. If everyone dissatisfied with our current political system took the half an hour necessary every few months to return a blank ballot paper, the whole rotten system would come tumbling down, to replaced by a meaningful form of democracy.

So, at the next election and at every election until we see real change, do not waste your vote. Unless a candidate wins by 1 vote you weren’t going to change the outcome anyway. If, like so many in this country, you are unhappy with our current direction and the fools that lead us, make your voice heard. Spoil your ballot.