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Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

The New Bloody Assizes

Ominous headlines today, making me wonder how my friend S. is ever going to get rid of all the conditioners and shampoos she no doubt packed this morning before she went to the airport.

More ominous than the threat of attack from an Al Qaeda that was, readers will recall, cynically put on tap five years ago in the comedy cut up campaign in Afghanistan, the one designed to give the political establishment a ready, remote control threat (and which has proven to be beyond their control, and which is happily working from its base in Pakistan, to the almost unanimous disinterest of the Western Press). At the moment, there is a tremendous threat by to our civil liberties posed by the ill named Labour party (Surely the name should be the Blood and Soil party) in Britain and the D.C. party – the LieberCheney party – in the U.S.

This is from the horrendous British home secretary, John Reid, the man who espouses the Blairist policy of minimum freedom and maximum unctuousness – that peculiarly British twist on the authoritarian personality:

John Reid yesterday accused the government's anti-terror critics of putting national security at risk by their failure to recognise the serious nature of the threat facing Britain. "They just don't get it," he said.

"The home secretary yesterday gave the thinktank Demos his strongest hint yet that a new round of anti-terror legislation is on the way this autumn by warning that traditional civil liberty arguments were not so much wrong as just made for another age.

""Sometimes we may have to modify some of our own freedoms in the short term in order to prevent their misuse and abuse by those who oppose our fundamental values and would destroy all of our freedoms in the modern world," he said.”"

LI can see a certain justice in those words, but applies them to the greatest threat to our fundamental values – that posed by the current British and American governments. A sneaking foreign policy, politicized to expand the brute power of the operatives who benefit from it, coddled by a syncophantic crew of journalists, has indeed been striking at all our freedoms; they have thwarted investigations into their low and negligent acts, they have designed, in a remarkably short time, one of the world’s great machines for peculating public funds, showering favored companies with billions, and they have actively delayed any of the necessary changes to our current system of production to prevent an environmental catastrophe, which we actually know is coming. This, more than anything else, will make the depleted future generations curse us.

Now, traditionally the blog thing to do at this point in my rant is to roll out the Nazis as the epitome of evil. I am truly sick to death of the Nazis as stage devils, stalking into that garden of Eden, universal history. I do think there are more devils than are dreamt of in the blogger philosophy – home grown ones too. Reid doesn’t remind me of Hitler – he reminds me of a very British character, Lord Jeffrys.

Jeffrys, like the Home Secretary, was a carious, career tending, threatening man. He became King James II’s right hand man for mass repression. As his biographer, Woolrych, says, “to secure his own fortunes, let the means or consequences be as they might, was the utmost he had any care for, but the difficulty lay in discerning the best political game for accomplishing those ends.”

Jeffrys is most famous for the “bloody Assizes.” This is the story. James II combined the Stuart idea that he was God on Earth with the idea, unpopular in England, that God on Earth should be worshipped in the Roman Catholic way. His accession led to revolts – or, as Reid might say, “the serious nature of the threat facing Britain” was embodied by various invasions, starting with the Duke of Monmouth, one of those handsome, stupid Protestant nobles with a vague, blood claim to the throne, in 1685. Jeffrys was a judge at the time, and had married upward, and was eager to please James, since he had made many enemies among the Dissenters. In fact, he appears to have been a regular New Labour personality, and would certainly have fit in at any of the Murdochian conferences to which Blair likes to flit and kiss, on bended knee, Rupert’s ring.
Jeffrys was appointed as the cleanup man in Western England after the Monmouth army had been defeated. His first victim, Alice Lisle, was dispatched with alacrity – hung. This is how Macaulay describes his coming into Dorchester:
“Jeffreys reached Dorchester, the principal town of the county in which Monmouth had landed; and the judicial massacre began. The court was hung, by order of the Chief Justice, with scarlet; and this innovation seemed to the multitude to indicate a bloody purpose. It was also rumoured that, when the clergyman who preached the assize sermon enforced the duty of mercy, the ferocious mouth of the Judge was distorted by an ominous grin. These things made men augur ill of what was to follow.”

This is Reid, numbering the things that need to change if England is to be purged of terrorism:

The media commentators who "apparently give more prominence to the views of Islamist terrorists rather than democratically elected Muslim politicians like premier Maliki of Iraq or President Karzai of Afghanstan"."

Jeffrys, obviously looking down upon Reid with approval, knew just what to do with trash that didn’t praise the democratically elected, god damn it.

"“More than three hundred prisoners were to be tried. The work seemed heavy; but Jeffreys had a contrivance for making it light. He let it be understood that the only chance of obtaining pardon or respite was to plead guilty.”

Another group of people who Reid believes needs to be dashed to the ground are those puling human rightsers:

"“· European judges who passed the "Chahal judgment" that prohibited the home secretary from weighing the security of millions of British people if a suspected terrorist remained in the UK against the risk he faced if deported back to his own country.”"

And who, my Lords, isn’t a suspected terrorist in these troubled times? Yes, the only thing to do is to let those in authority, looking out for your best interest, decide on these things. Preferably in secret.

"“At every spot where two roads met, on every marketplace, on the green of every large village which had furnished Monmouth with soldiers, ironed corpses clattering in the wind, or heads and quarters stuck on poles, poisoned the air, and made the traveller sick with horror. In many parishes the peasantry could not assemble in the house of God without seeing the ghastly face of a neighbour grinning at them over the porch. The Chief Justice was all himself. His spirits rose higher and higher as the work went on. He laughed, shouted, joked, and swore in such a way that many thought him drunk from morning to night. But in him it was not easy to distinguish the madness produced by evil passions from the madness produced by brandy. A prisoner affirmed that the witnesses who appeared against him were not entitled to credit. One of them, he said, was a Papist, and another a prostitute. "Thou impudent rebel," exclaimed the Judge, "to reflect on the King's evidence! I see thee, villain, I see thee already with the halter round thy neck." Another produced testimony that he was a good Protestant. "Protestant! " said Jeffreys; "you mean Presbyterian. I'll hold you a wager of it. I can smell a Presbyterian forty miles." One wretched man moved the pity even of bitter Tories. "My Lord," they said, "this poor creature is on the parish." "Do not trouble yourselves," said the Judge, "I will ease the parish of the burden.""

The latter joke would make them roll in the Blairite conclaves. Get off the dole, you fucking twat – that’s the spirit. Reid, following in the example of his spiritual ancestor, has his own numbers:

"“Mr Reid argued that since 2000 almost 1,000 people have been arrested for terror-related offences, with 154 of them charged and 60 suspects now awaiting trial. Four significant terrorist plots had been disrupted. But the opposition from politicians, media commentators and judges had left the government ill-prepared to tackle the threat.

""In spite of these successes we remain unable to adapt our institutions and legal orthodoxy as fast as we need to," he said. "This is the area that puts us at risk in national security terms. There have been several contributory factors to this, including party political point scoring by the Conservative and Liberal opposition during the passage of key anti-terrorism measures, through to repeated challenges under the Human Rights Act and the convention, which I continue to contest

Of course, Reid has turned his face to the source of all the discontent with Britain’s gentle democratizing – the Muslims. Fuck those people.

“Such havoc must have excited disgust even if the sufferers had been generally odious. But they were, for the most part, men of blameless life, and of high religious profession. They were regarded by themselves, and by a large proportion of their neighbours, not as wrongdoers, but as martyrs who sealed with blood the truth of the Protestant religion. Very few of the convicts professed any repentance for what they had done. Many, animated by the old Puritan spirit, met death, not merely with fortitude, but with exultation.”

Suicide bombers, those exulting old Puritans.

Macaulay has a vivid description of one of Jeffrys’ spies, a man named Ferguson. I’d apply this mock heroic catalogue to many in the reactionary network that connects England and America. In fact, this sounds like a job application to work for the Sun, or the Weekly Standard.

“At length he turned his attention almost entirely from theology to the worst part of politics. He belonged to the class whose office it is to render in troubled times to exasperated parties those services from which honest men shrink in disgust and prudent men in fear, the class of fanatical knaves. Violent, malignant, regardless of truth, insensible to shame, insatiable of notoriety, delighting in intrigue, in tumult, in mischief for its own sake, he toiled during many years in the darkest mines of faction. He lived among libellers and false witnesses. He was the keeper of a secret purse from which agents too vile to be acknowledged received hire, and the director of a secret press whence pamphlets, bearing no name, were daily issued.”

Welcome to Reid’s world.


Amie said...

LI, Macauley's description of Ferguson seems pretty apt for this


roger said...

Amie, I looked at the Comment is Free site. But then I plunged back into Woolrych, Jeffreys biographer, and found -- oh the things that you can find! - that he uses an interesting word for the Judge and Lord Chancellor. He calls him a terrorist. Fancy that! Swear to God. I think Woolrych was writing in the early nineteenth century, when terrorist actually meant a man who inspired and used terror - instead of meaning whatever the powers that be want it to mean, as it does at present.