Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Off With Their Heads

Debunking is a favourite British pastime, especially when it comes to public figures. The humiliation of the famous and powerful is a national sport. Every few months a scandal breaks out, and someone is called to resign/apologise/etc. The press – tabloids and broadsheets alike – turn into hound dogs. It doesn’t really matter who it is, or why they have to go: Off with their Heads! Drag them down from the pedestal, kicking and screaming all the better, shamed and disgraced, if possible.
It compares only to the national obsession with celebrities. Actually, it’s very much the same thing: make people into gods only to throw them into the gutter later. Only to present them into a poor victim in the next round.
I sometimes wonder if it’s compensation for never having guillotines.

So now it’s Ian Blair, the Commissioner for the Metropolitan Police, who will have to go over the Stockwell shooting. Even I got carried away with it. The press is getting excited, drama is building up, they all see someone’s head is about to roll and they’re luving it.
So the Ee Menezes affair becomes an Ian Blair-will-he-get-the-sack thing.

Individuals are rarely the problem, and removing a person rarely solves much. Ian Blair has to go, but he’s not the problem with the Stockwell shooting. The problem, for me, is the blind willingness of the British public to accept draconic measures without questions, at a time of threat. The problem is 70 percent of the British public who supported ‘shoot-to-kill’ without understanding what it actually meant. The problem is comments such as:

Mr Menezes was a tragic mistake. But as far as I am concerned, the police can shoot as many Islamic terrorists as they like.
(comment in RaedintheMiddle.blogspot.com)


I have previously supported most of the Stop the War Coalition actions but this [vigil for De Menezes] is quite revolting ... This was as unfortuate event but in light of our societies current postion it would appear inevitable that mistakes will happen.
(Post in London Indymedia)

Anyone with any idea about suicide bombing will tell you that implementing ‘shoot-to-kill’ on public transport is ludicrous. Whoever came up with this idea must have watched Blade Runner too many times. ‘Shoot-to-kill’ means shooting suspects without warning (because any warning and they’ll blow themselves up). On what basis? What is enough to get a man killed? Not much as we have seen in Stockwell. Any person who looks like some blurry CCTV picture or acts a bit strange can be shot in the head.

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