Tuesday, 15 July 2008

We don't know what you will say, but you are not allowed to say it

George Orwell made a famous remark about how it is possible for pampered westerners to eschew violence only because other people are willing to do violence on their behalf:

Those who "abjure" violence can only do so because others are committing violence on their behalf. (1)
Tim Spicer, I am sure, thinks of himself as one of those men. He has made a living fighting in various places. He is a somewhat controversial figure, and I am sure he feels he is justified in instructing libel lawyers Schillings to suppress Craig Murray's book about him, even though the contents of this as yet unpublished book can only be guessed at. As Mr Murray points out on his website, this does encourage specuulation "that Spicer has something to hide" (2).

Spicer, I am sure, would argue that he has risked his life pursuing British interests around the globe, and because he has had to operate in places where law and order and the niceties of liberal democracy do not apply, it is unfair and intrusive of Mr Murray to demonise him in a book. Well, be that as it may. It is, however, reprehensible that libel action can be threatened against someone who has not actually published anything, as this time.

George Monbiot points out (3), a propos of this incident, that Britain's libel laws are a ghastly anachronism, and are used by the rich and powerful to threaten and intimidate those whom they find disagreeable or annoying. This is a flagrant example of that - it is not know what Mr Murray's book contains. Mr Spicer, in my opinion, is intent on shutting down any discussion of his actions and involvement in Iraq and other conflicts what-so-ever. This is wrong. It is essential that peope are able to speak and publish freely, and offend the powerful by directing their attention towards them. Otherwise, the men of violence who are supposed to defend our precious rights are merely fascist goons, the jackbooted bully-boys "stamping on a human face, forever" (4).

UPDATE: Murray's new book isn't about Spicer, in fact. It is a memoir of Murray's time in Africa. Spicer features in it, as Murray crossed paths with him there. On his blog, Murray writes:
How an elegaic memoir of ten years ago can generate such heat is hard to understand ... I suspect that what Schillings are trying to block is the story of how Spicer escaped prosecution, the role of Number 10, and the origin of New Labour's love affair with mercenaries. Or maybe it's the bit about when I missed my flight to Gabon. (5)
The book is called 'Catholic Orangemen of Togo.'

1 - "Note on Nationalism," by George Orwell, published in 1945. It is interesting to note that this is often misquoted, along the lines of "People sleep easy in their beds because rough men stand ready to violence on their behalf." I have no idea where that rather camp sounding version originates, but it is not from Orwell. He might have been a public school boy, but there is no evidence he was interested in rough trade. (http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/orwelnat.htm)
2 - "Iraq Mercenary Boss Hires Schillings To Block My New Book" by Craig Murray, published 10th of July, 2008. (http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/)
3 - "A national disgrace, a global menace, and a pre-democratic anachronism," by George Monbiot, published in The Guardian, 15th of July, 2008. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/jul/15/civilliberties.medialaw)
4 - 1984 by George Orwell, published in 1949. The quote about the boot and the human face occurs in part Three of Chapter Three.
5 - Murray, op. cit., from an entry titled 'Catholic Orangemen of Togo,' dated 16th July 2008.

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