Charlottesville: On the moral case for passing judgement

August 14, 2017

America today is debating the implications of the extremist demonstrations in Charlottesville, and weighing leadership responsibilities for the rioting and murder of a peaceful counter-protester

The unpleasant and unacceptable demonstrations resulted in the death of a peaceful protester, and two police officers acting in the line of duty.

President Trump eventually made a statement which sounded statesmanlike but brought down on himself criticism for his failure to make any reference to the nature of the demonstration.

The objections to this were summarised by U.S. Senator Kamala Harris

From Senator Harris’s statement

As we all now know, this weekend in Charlottesville, hundreds of white supremacists gathered with torches, shouting racial, ethnic and religious epithets about Black and Jewish people, chanting Nazi slurs, waving the Confederate flag and banners emblazoned with giant swastikas. A peaceful protester was murdered. Two brave police officers lost their lives.

And as the country grappled with this tragedy, we were told that “many sides” should be condemned. Many sides.I often advocate that we look at many sides of an issue, walk in someone else’s shoes, and identify and reject false choices.

But there are not “many sides” to this.

“Many sides” is what kept children in this country at separate schools and adults at separate lunch counters for decades.

“Many sides” is what turned a blind eye when Emmett Till was lynched and stood silent when marchers were beat in Selma for “disturbing the peace.”

“Many sides” is what my parents and thousands of others fought against during the Civil Rights Movement.

“Many sides” suggests that there is no right side or wrong side, that all are morally equal. But I reject that. It’s not hard to spot the wrong side here. They’re the ones with the torches and the swastikas.

 

Beyond the moral injunction

The Senator shows the importance of looking at context behind the literal words. President Trump said that all violence should be condemned. No argument with that is there? Until the context is added. Then, the high moral tone of Presidential words requires more precise interrogation. Is he saying that ‘We the people’ are failing to condemn violence against White Supremacists, and that he will help us reach his own moral high ground?

Is this a President who has a track record of seeking to defuse violence, and who avoids condemning those “on other sides”?

And what about Jeremy?

The Spectator found a way of dealing with today’s story by referring to the repeated use of a similar sounding argument by UK labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. In particular, Corbyn is often challenged for his association with revolutionary figures. Corbyn asserts that he wishes to avoid, not promote, violence by meetings with, among others, the IRA leadership decades ago, while they were still engaged in bloody violence against the state. If I follow the logic, the objection is that Corbyn did not condemn the IRA violence, thus showing he is on the side of the IRA.

Enough people voted for Corbyn in June to suggest the case against him in this respect is not a powerful one.

Post Script

Within minutes of my posting the above, news reached me that Kenneth Frazier, the Afro-American CEO of Merck, had quit an advisory council over the President’s failure to deal adequately with the implications of the Charlottesville events. Mr Trump found time to tweet some unpleasant comments about the defection, before offering a moving and complete repudiation of racism in all its manifestations.

So, that’s all right then

To be continued

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One strike, and you are out

May 3, 2017

Fencing

Unfolding news stories.  President Trump celebrates his first hundred days in office. He says there is a chance we have a major major conflict with North Korea. His words. The Doomsday clock clicks  closer to zero

A republican Governor tells the BBC that Trump would be advised to stop mere saber-rattling and take more direct actions to remove Kim Jong-un. He admitted he didn’t know what the steps might be, but there would be very bright guys in the Military who would.

A plausible theory is that President Trump is following the rule book about getting a good deal, say on a used car. Talk tough, kick a tyre disparagingly, and ask for more than you expect to get.

The threat of global annihilation puts in the shade the General Election campaign in the UK. It has been called by the Government to obtain a renewed mandate for its upcoming negotiations with the EU. The Government has an overwhelming lead in the opinion polls, and the PM has settled for a a rope-a-dope strategy against the unpopular opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn, designed to allow him to defeat himself. The strategy involves minimum risk of making Mrs May look anything but a strong leader. She is well-programmed to avoid policy commitments and stick two small number of sound bites about needing a huge majority to avoid the chaos if Corbin becomes Prime Minister. The likelihood of that is low, odds on it are roughly thirty to one against.

Mr Corbyn helpfully provides policies that often have appeal for their social progressiveness but too easily trashed as unworkable and financially implausible. He avoids traps clumsily on nuclear defense, a major Labour backer is reported as willing to stand against him if the local elections beginning this week are as bad as predicted.

The architect of the government’s success was the voter switch to UKIP, which is now being deserted according to those polls, giving the Government even greater prospects of electoral success.

Nevertheless, UKIP candidates are proving themselves independent souls. One Scottish Ukipper announces she is standing on a platform of re-opening public toilets, abolishing golf courses, and reintroducing the death penalty in a humane way, possibly using a guillotine.

It is not clear if a pre-emotive strike strategy helps the cause of world peace, when you are trying to stop a nuclear war, rather than trying to get a best price for a second-hand car.


Fidel Castro: On evauating a leader’s charisma

November 28, 2016
Fidel Castro
The rules about not speaking ill of the dead are increasingly suspended. Most posthumous remarks about Fidel Castro this week tell us more about the speaker than the Cuban leader. The venom of much of the recent Presidential election remains
A colleague of many years  once told me how Fidel assembled his closest followers into a room shortly after he seized power, and then dished out posts as best he could. I remember it was someone with a passing understanding of finance who had to take control over the central bank.
Top leader
Castro has fascinated me as being one of two cuban leaders whose names appear at the top of lists when charisma is being discussed.  The other is, of course Che  Guevara.
 I wrote a light-hearted piece about The Castro Charismatic Scale,  at the time of the 2015 Labour leadership election. The idea for students of leadership was to show how dubious it is to believe in such league tables.
Jeremy Corbyn
Based on impact on his or her followers, Jeremy Corbyn came somewhere towards the middle of the list, ahead of the other candidates.
Acknowledgement
To Eagle-eyed Susan, the first to spot my bungled spelling of Mr Corbyn (now corrected).

The EU Referendum: Fate knocks on the door

June 23, 2016

June 23rd 2016. After a fractious period of debate, the voters of Great Britain head for the ballot boxes. Some for various reasons have already recorded a postal vote

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The Commons vote on Syria: All human life was there and also a few political dilemmas

December 4, 2015

thatchertankOn December 2nd 2015, the elective representatives of the people of Great Britain and Northern Ireland debated for over ten hours and voted on the motion for overt military action in Syria.

The debate captured the whole range of human reactions from the authentic to the sycophantic, from the informed to the inflamed, from the arrogant to the resentful, from the committed to the confused.

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