openDemocracy https://www.opendemocracy.net/ en Using South Tyrol to solve Ukraine? Don't be stupid https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/alessio-colonnelli/using-south-tyrol-to-solve-ukraine-don%27t-be-stupid <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Italian minister of foreign affairs, Paolo Gentiloni, said that Italy’s mostly German-speaking region is an example for solving ethnic disputes in Ukraine and beyond. This is a flawed and dangerous piece of advice.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/ytiEpqlXK5PA2-f7Y4CWKINck_JyI45Rog9nb2L17PM/mtime:1425404361/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/Corvara_01%5B1%5D.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/wichT46G-kanDCRIXv0WgJegqETa6wSmMzu036nbsFY/mtime:1425404224/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/Corvara_01%5B1%5D.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A typical South Tyrolean landscape. Wikipedia/Kuebi. Public domain.</span></span></span><span>Would you ever think of suggesting that the eastern half of Ukraine (Europe’s largest country), steeped in a dramatic conflict bearing serious global repercussions, should look at forty-one times smaller South Tyrol for solutions?</span></p> <p>Chances are most of you wouldn’t. But the Italian minister of foreign affairs Paolo Gentiloni <a href="http://www.lavocedinewyork.com/Gentiloni-a-NY-Modello-Sud-Tirolo-per-crisi-ucraina-/d/9835/">did</a>: he told the audience gathered on 9 February at Bloomberg’s summit in New York “Italy: We are Open for Business” that the Ukrainian crisis could in his view be overcome by adopting an ethnic model akin to South Tyrol’s.</p> <h2>A model? Think again: Italy’s irrelevance there is now as tangible as never before</h2> <p>Emotionally speaking, South Tyrol is light years away from Rome; and quite understandably so. More and more South Tyroleans are in fact <a href="http://www.ff-online.com/ausgaben/2014/51-52/und-unsere-kinder/">unlearning Italian</a>; they just don’t need it. Italy being there is as foreign a thing as you like. Why should it be otherwise, after all?</p> <p>On the other hand most local young Italians (the third- or even fourth generation born there) are kept in ethnic compounds, forced to attend a school system devised in Rome, teaching them nothing about South Tyrol, nothing about its local Germanic parlance that’s used practically at all levels, and hardly anything about getting a firm grasp of standard German, the main language of business and a successful professional life. You get a cold picture of two parallel worlds – one big, the other small – that never talk to each other.</p> <p>Rome is desperately clinging onto South Tyrol: through its deeply flawed Italian-language-only school system, it is hopeful to instil an Italian identity on the future generations to come. But with no German skills and no decent jobs, there will eventually be no Italians. That will mean a fully Germanic South Tyrolean population, one that will see nothing wrong with asking for a grand referendum the Scottish way. Legitimately so.</p> <p>Its legally-bound outcome could mean South Tyrol breaking away from Italy. And many would argue that’s par for the course. This isn’t a model for ethnic conflicts; it’s more a patched-up temporary solution. Mr Gentiloni is clearly unaware of such dynamics: its upshot is to politely accompany one ethnic group on its way out. An acceptable solution, in a way – dignified assisted dying, like they do at Dignitas in Switzerland. </p> <h2><strong>South Tyrol is firmly part of the German-speaking world, Europe’s wealthy core</strong></h2> <p>Comparing Eastern Ukraine to South Tyrol is naïve and simplistic. Russia isn’t Austria or Germany. German-speaking countries (Luxembourg included) are Europe’s powerhouse – South Tyrol is firmly part of it. The same can’t be said about undemocratic Russia, with dissidents being criminalised day in day out. </p> <p>Consider this: Angela Merkel wanted Jean-Claude Juncker to head the EU Commission – both German speakers. It’s no coincidence. German is the Continent’s most spoken language at native level: the levers of power are firmly in the hands of Central Europe. Italy can’t lay any claim on South Tyrol’s success. </p> <p>The last decades of unprecedented&nbsp; peace and technological advancements across Europe have spontaneously propelled the Alpine region back into its natural Germanic world; the one Italy’s military arrogance tried to snatch it from (Treaty of London, 1915). </p> <h2><strong>The inter-ethnic matrix – the <em>Walschen</em> at a junction: germanising or dying out?</strong></h2> <p>What’s more is that South Tyrol is slowly yet surely becoming an ethnically homogenous region: Italians, known as <em>die Walschen</em>, were 33 per cent in the fifties; now that figure has dropped to 21 per cent. The trend is a firmly descending one. (Italianised immigrants are temporarily keeping their numbers steady.)</p> <p><a href="http://www.raetia.com/it/shop/item/1567-contro-i-miti-etnici.html">Twisted</a> democracy, governed by sectarian policies polluting the political arena across the spectrum with only a few exceptions – as anthropologist Dr Stefano Fait explianed in <em>Contro i miti etnici</em> (Against ethnic myths, 2010) – does not help. </p> <p>And Italians are in fact very orderly and democratically disappearing from the face of South Tyrol, their descendants having either cleverly germanised (it’s called natural assimilation) or just left; or died. But really, would you move to a new country and not learn its language? You’d be bound to leave sooner or later, as you couldn’t function without integrating – it’s as simple as that. Education has failed majorly.</p> <p>South Tyrol’s ever fewer Italian-speaking families have shrunk in size anyway – their salaries are too low due to their lack of adequate German-language skills. An ethnic group is dying a painful yet inconspicuous slow death; a natural one it must be said. Future ministers won’t be able to utter claims like Mr Gentiloni’s.</p> <p>Ethnic homogeneity will make for a stable environment; if that’s the outcome intended by Mr. Gentiloni, fine – but homogenising is not the same as harmonising diversity. If this is forced onto millions of people it can spark serious animosity. For Ukraine that’d mean being back to square one.</p> <h2><strong>Ethnic conflicts are coming to an end – in spite of Italy’s central government</strong></h2> <p>South Tyrol’s infrastructure is excellent; its landscape management is outstanding as it’s informed by the highest environmental standards. Quality of life comes from there – not from Rome’s politics and its impositions, of which the school system is one remarkable and most conspicuous example. </p> <p>Italy’s ministerial claims on South Tyrol’s excellence are out of place: Rome has no merit in it. If anything the central government is in the way between South Tyrol as it is and what still remains to be done, i.e. getting rid of its obsessive talks on ethnicity: it leaves several people on the margins. Resentment ensues.</p> <p>Local Italian-language schools are at the root of the problem: a sign of Rome’s attempts to meddle with the region’s natural evolution. Fortunately that’s only a few people we are talking about compared to the hypothetical war-scarred millions in a post-conflict Ukraine. South Tyrol as a model for solving ethnic animosities in much bigger regions is an ill-judged, preposterous proposition; it just sounds pretentious.</p> <h2><strong>The blindness of ministers who really couldn’t care less</strong></h2> <p>After the minister for constitutional reforms Maria Elena Boschi talked about <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/alessio-colonnelli/minister-boschi-south-tyrol-is-autonomous-and-rightly-so">stripping</a> Italy’s autonomous regions of their hard-won status – and their right to be regarded, if anything, as beacons for a federalism that’s never seen the light of day (Italy can’t give other countries any advice on such matters, really) –, now we have to listen to yet another government functionary talking publicly in very simplistic terms.</p> <p>All the above being said, it is also very clear – it can’t be stressed enough – that South Tyrol isn’t a terrible place to live in, of course. The point here is to highlight that bringing up Italy’s most peculiar autonomous region as a model for solving complex international conflicts is plain wrong.</p> <p>The model Mr Gentiloni bragged about as if it’d been cleverly devised by Italy’s political establishment – if only – is very much work in progress anyway; it’s like waiting for software to be installed on your computer: 33 per cent left; and then 21 per cent; and then, eventually, 0 per cent. Done. </p> <p>Zero like the ethnic Italians left in South Tyrol one day. At that point the region <em>will be</em> a model, having solved its residual ethnic conflicts by eradicating diversity (it never really worked out). A near-100 per cent Germanic South Tyrol could democratically separate itself from Italy via a legitimate referendum, having lost the last threadbare string attaching it to Rome. </p> <p>Multiculturalism sometimes fails; not because of people; because of short-term politics and its ill-timed policies (outdated education). And because of haughty ministers as well, who were lucky enough not to experience life under ethnic grids and don’t even know it.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/marco-brunazzo/south-tyrol-from-secessionist-to-european-dreams">South Tyrol: from secessionist to European dreams</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Italy </div> </div> </div> Tue, 03 Mar 2015 17:37:24 +0000 Alessio Colonnelli 90996 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The judiciary In Argentina is a very large family https://www.opendemocracy.net/fabi%C3%A1n-rodr%C3%ADguez/judiciary-in-argentina-is-very-large-family <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="Body">Following a Latin American coup, the first act of the generals and commanders responsible was to remove the executive; the second was to shut down the legislative. Rarely, if ever, did they touch the judiciary. <strong><em><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/fabi%C3%A1n-rodr%C3%ADguez/el-poder-judicial-en-argentina-una-familia-muy-grande">Español.</a></em></strong> </p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/ruCzgdgCn0uL0f_i4KAO73sQ0H6j46wZ9O76VzljJqI/mtime:1425401468/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/6931568.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/aM8w9X85ZlbbIWLvQhp0KrcINqNEh3qSElED2lmiD18/mtime:1425401282/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/6931568.jpg" alt="Buenos Aires rally, February 18, 2015." title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Buenos Aires rally, February 18, 2015. Javie Coltrane/Demotix. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Throughout the twentieth century, a number of Latin American countries suffered multiple disruptions to the democratic order and a parallel corrosion of their public institutions. Whenever this occurred the judiciary invariably sided with the conservative and authoritarian sectors that had seized power by force.</p> <p class="Body">Following a coup, the first act of the generals and commanders responsible was to remove the executive; the second was to shut down the legislative. Rarely, if ever, did they touch the judiciary.</p> <p class="Body">Argentina is one of those countries. After more than thirty years of democracy, a number of institutions - from political parties to the army - have been overhauled and renewed. Yet this is only half true of the judiciary, many of whose currently active members held senior fiscal or judicial positions during the years of repressive government.</p> <p class="Body">Judges Luis María Cabral and Ricardo Recondo, who have alternated over the last decade as president of the Association of Justices of the National Court (the judges’ union), are the archetypal embodiment of this relationship. There are many more. </p> <p class="Body">Others, too young to have had any direct connection with the crimes against humanity committed between 1976 and 1983, are relatives of and share the same social circles as those who were engaged in state terrorism.</p> <p class="Body">This is the case of Attorney General Ricardo Sáenz, who championed the Full Stop (1987) and Due Obedience (1988) amnesty laws aimed at guaranteeing immunity for the perpetrators of crimes against humanity. Both laws were repealed by former President Néstor Kirchner at the beginning of his term in 2003.</p> <p class="Body">President Cristina Fernández, Kirchner’s wife and successor, recently referred to this when she said that many of those who historically opposed her late husband’s government, "do not forgive" him for having both repealed these laws and annulled pardons granted to assassins in order to safeguard their impunity.</p> <p class="Body">In Argentina, the so-called “judicial family", a caste formed by generations of judges who share family names, retains to this day a series of privileges that are incompatible with a modern democratic society - such as not being obliged to submit their financial disclosure statements, and being exempted from a number of taxes payable by ordinary citizens.</p> <p class="Body">This being a closed <em>milieu</em>, a judicial career is not accessible through open competition, but through family or friends.</p> <p class="Body">In 2013, Cristina Fernández sent to Parliament a package of measures aimed at democratising the judiciary, promoting transparency, and giving greater legitimacy to legal proceedings. From then on, the judiciary has conducted an overt and sometimes even violent offensive against the government.</p> <p class="Body">Having already blocked a number of presidential initiatives endorsed by Congress, the courts then turned their attention to the officials themselves. Suddenly, judges and attorneys whose performance had been under scrutiny in recent years decided to investigate complaints&nbsp; – some of them anonymous - against both Cristina Fernández de Kirchner herself and several <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kirchnerism">Kirchnerist</a> leaders. Needless to say, although the legislation proposed by the president to democratise the judiciary was approved by Congress, the judges found legal grounds to block it.</p> <p class="Body">Just as the proposed legislation to control media concentration ignited a public debate about the ownership and role of the media, a similar controversy about the judiciary has forced many judges and prosecutors who usually keep a low profile, to reveal their opposition to legislation aimed at democratising their profession.</p> <p class="Body">The judges’ collective effort to challenge a democratic government plus their public exposure as a body that for decades has operated in the shadows, stood in the foreground of the political rally that took place in the streets of Buenos Aires on <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/feb/21/argentinian-president-hits-out-lawmakers-over-rally-for-alberto-nisman">February 18</a>, whose formal purpose was to pay homage to Special Prosecutor Alberto Nisman [1], who died in circumstances that remain unclear.</p> <p class="Body">During the twentieth century, the coalition between segments of the elite and the army was known in Argentina as the ‘Military Party’. It worked to overthrow almost every democratically-elected government.</p> <p class="Body">The ‘Military Party’ has finally ceased to exist. Damaged by popular revulsion at the crimes committed during the Dirty War (1976-1983), it was eventually disbanded after the trial and sentencing of those found most responsible for the mass killing of some 30,000 people.</p> <p class="Body">Today, an alliance of big business, finance and large media companies have found, in the “judicial Party”, a new battering ram with which to destabilise a government that they have not been able to defeat at the polls.</p> <p class="Body">________________________________________</p> <p class="Body">[1] Alberto Nisman was the special prosecutor investigating the 1994 terrorist bombing of a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires. The quality of the investigation that he led was seriously questioned by groups of victims. His failure to present sufficient evidence in recent years put him at odds with the Fernández government, which had provided him substantial resources to carry out the inquiry. Paradoxically, he had also confronted many of the colleagues who now claim to be on his side.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Argentina </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Tue, 03 Mar 2015 17:15:57 +0000 Fabián Rodríguez 90991 at https://www.opendemocracy.net IS: from a jihadist ideology to a jihadist state, Part 2 https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/hoshang-waziri/is-from-jihadist-ideology-to-jihadist-state-part-2 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A bizarre new Middle East is taking shape. We are now witnessing the disintegration of two countries and the rise of one ruthless caliphate. <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/hoshang-waziri/is-from-jihadist-ideology-to-jihadist-state">Part 1</a>.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/FM7RVo4N9ghCQj4v4fMLEW833RewZ32kXiTmWJB54Ds/mtime:1425394601/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/546772/azaz%20isis.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/6v-rEO2lLfhyoUC9T6eAgCUohPQMsdRQ8C3RJAElaJA/mtime:1425393356/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/546772/azaz%20isis.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="303" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class="image-caption">The sign upon entry to Azaz, Syria now bears the Islamic State of Iraq (ISIS) logo. Demotix/Yasmin Al Tellaway. All rights reserved.&nbsp;</span></p><p>The Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) suffered great losses from 2008 onward, especially by the hand of some of its old Sunni tribal allies from the Sunni Awaking Councils in the western parts of Iraq. &nbsp;With aid from US military, they fought an Islamic State that was increasingly developing a brutal colonial-style state. Many experts believed that ISI had been <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/14/AR2007101401245.html">crippled</a>. By the time the US withdrew its forces in November of 2011, ISI had been turned into small, isolated cells. Although some expressed fear of a surge of new terror, ISI was believed to be “certainly weaker” and unlikely to regain its <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/06/world/middleeast/leaving-iraq-us-fears-new-surge-of-qaeda-terror.html?pagewanted=all&amp;_r=0">“prior strength”. </a></p> <p>The Arab Spring, especially its Syrian autumn season, supplied the ISI with new strength, recovery tools and territories. The Syrian uprising in March 2011, which took a violent turn into a bloody sectarian war only a few months later, rescued a dying group that was losing territories in Anbar and Fallujah, and had just lost its leader, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, along with his high ranking deputy, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, in an <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8630213.stm">American raid</a> in 2010. </p> <p>In August of 2011 the new <em>amir</em> of ISI, Abu Baker al-Baghdadi, sent his Syrian deputy Abu Muhamad al-Golani–who were both detained sometime after 2005 in Camp Bucca, unbeknownst to each other–to Syria to establish what would later be known as <em>Jabhat al-Nusra li Ahal-asham</em> (the Support Front for the People of Sham). And <em>Sham</em> here does not mean Syria, as has been often wrongly translated. Rather it refers to the Levant, which formed a large part of Ottoman Empire. Its territory consisted of what is known today as the southern Turkish province of Hatay, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Israel.</p> <p>In the next few months al-Golani would succeed not only in attracting hard-core jihadists from all over the world, but also in turning his <em>Jabhat al-Nusra</em> into the most organized and aggressive force within the Free Syrian Army (FSA), its black al-Qaeda flag flown in many liberated areas. Al-Golani did his homework and knew his mission very well; besides fighting Assad’s regime, he was repairing al-Qaeda’s long-damaged and shaky reputation. On 11 December 2012, when the US State Department <a href="http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2012/12/201759.htm">designated</a> the entity as a ‘terrorist’ group, the Syrian opposition <a href="http://www.voanews.com/content/syria-opposition-protests-us-branding-jabhat-al-nusra-as-terrorists/1566708.html">protested</a> Washington’s decision. Many opposition groups, including civilians and secularists, condemned the decision and called for mass demonstration. Only three days later, a special Friday protest proclaimed that “we are all <em>Jabhat al-Nusra</em>”, and thousands of Syrians took to the streets condemning and denouncing the designation, chanting, “there is no terrorist in Syria but Assad”.</p> <p>On 9 April 2013, a highly symbolic day for the Baathists as it coincided with the tenth anniversary of the end of four decades of Baath rule in Iraq, Abu Baker al-Baghdadi expanded his Islamic State, appropriating Syria and all other Levant countries. Declaring in an audiotape that <em>Jabhat al-Nusra</em> is “extension of the Islamic State of Iraq and part of it”, al-Baghdadi deputized al-Golani as “one of our soldiers, and with him a group of our sons, and we pushed them from Iraq to the Levant so as to meet our cells in the Levant.” In the end of his speech al-Baghdadi declared the merger between both groups and changed the name to <em>al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq wa-Sham–</em><em>Da’aish</em>, or the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), now more commonly known as ISIS. By adding the Levant, al-Baghdadi took the first step towards demolishing the officially recognized colonial borders of Sykes-Picot and achieving what pan-Arab nationalists, including Baathists, have dreamt of and brawled for in their loud, vicious discourses throughout the twentieth century, from Syria’s Michel Aflaq and Egypt’s Jamal Abdul Nasir to Iraq’s Saddam Hussain.&nbsp;<span class="pullquote-right">al-Baghdadi’s speech played straight into the classic rhetoric of pan-Arabism and anti-imperialism that regards evil hands dividing the&nbsp;<em>u</em>mmah&nbsp;(nation) by drawing artificial borders, and was a direct incitement of the Arab political imagination</span></p> <p>The next day al-Golani publicly rejected the merger and the new name, pledging his elegance instead to Ayman al-Zawahri, the <em>amir</em> of al-Qaeda. It took some time for al-Zawahari to interfere and respond to the feud. While al-Baghdadi was in the process of paving the way to establish his caliphate, planning to demolish colonial borders, al-Zawahri sent a letter dated 23 May (and later a released audiotape) to both leaders, ruling against the merger, dissolving ISIL and asking both leaders to confine their operations to their own country: “the [seat] of the Islamic State in Iraq is Iraq” and “the [seat] of the Support Front for the People of al-Sham is in Syria.” al-Baghdadi responded saying that ISIL was here to stay and would continue removing borders set by “<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9JzT9c9fW0M">malignant hands</a> between Islamic countries to restrict our movements” until it hammered “the last nail in the coffin of Sykes-Picot conspiracy.” </p> <p>al-Baghdadi’s speech played straight into the classic rhetoric of pan-Arabism and anti-imperialism that regards evil hands dividing the&nbsp;<em>u</em><em>mmah</em>&nbsp;(nation) by drawing artificial borders, and was a direct incitement of the Arab political imagination, which has long dreamt and chanted of one Arab nation from the Atlantic Ocean to the Arabian Sea.&nbsp;One year later in a stunning, well-produced and highly professional <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=88u0LS8nQwc">video</a> released after capturing of Mosul and some other western Sunni Iraqi cities, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, the official spokesperson of ISIL surmounts a bulldozer and, in a extremely symbolic move, demolishes the <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vIT8iAPtqg8">borders</a> between Iraq and Syria on the ground, taking pride in removing “the borders of humiliations” and breaking the “idol of nationalism.”</p> <p>The feud soon turned into a bloody war between jihadist brothers in Syria and resulted in a devastating blow to <em>Jabhat al-Nusra</em>. Many fighters, especially foreign jihadists, <a href="http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/06/al-qaeda-iraq-syria-108214_full.html?print#.U6wmcrHNy74">defected</a> from <em>al-Nusra</em> to join ISIL.&nbsp;<span>By early 2014 ISIL was fighting more than one front in Syria: fighting <em>al-Nusra</em>, other Islamist brigades such as the Islamic Army</span><strong>,&nbsp;</strong><span>the Kurds, the FSA and Bashar al-Assad’s regime, plus its continued fight against the Shia-led government in Iraq.&nbsp;</span></p> <p>ISIL waged a brutal war, crushing anyone who attempted to stand against it and committing horrific atrocities. One of the deadliest weapons ISIL has used since its early stages is its huge array of horrendous visual material recording its barbaric acts, with which its fighters flood social media. al-Zarqawi first pioneered the visual horror in Iraq, filming the beheading of American Nick Berg in 2004. Less than a decade later, the real visual horror–unlike imaginative post-apocalyptic Hollywood films–has been taken to the extreme by the next generation. These materials have shaped the popular public image of ISIL, and made its notorious parent, al-Qaeda, look much more moderate.&nbsp; </p> <p>In February 2014 al-Zawahri implemented Adam Gadahn’s 2011 recommendations by disowning ISIL and <a href="https://www.google.com.lb/url?sa=t&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=2&amp;cad=rja&amp;uact=8&amp;ved=0CCQQFjAB&amp;url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.washingtonpost.com%2Fworld%2Fmiddle_east%2Fal-qaeda-disavows-any-ties-with-radical-islamist-isis-group-in-syria-iraq%2F2014%2F02%2F03%2F2c9afc3a-8cef-11e3-98ab-fe5228217bd1_story.html&amp;ei=9jfjVMGrHsnlywPU6oCIDA&amp;usg=AFQjCNHPQi2po5roAuYlPNZ1N-og4uF4BQ&amp;sig2=O3jYdsmf3u8O7qdDaobTqw&amp;bvm=bv.85970519,d.bGQ">declaring that it</a> “is not a branch of al-Qaeda, has no connections to it, and al-Qaeda is not responsible for its actions”. </p> <h2><strong>The powerful resurgence: declaration of <em>dawlat al-caliphate</em>&nbsp; </strong></h2> <p>What happened on 10 June in Mosul and why Iraq’s second-largest city fell without fighting, as if the city was handed over to ISIL, remains uncertain. However, there was one clear element in the whole puzzled scene of ISIL’s blitzkrieg southern advance without any military resistance–the formation of alliances between ISIL, Sunni tribesmen and the Iraqi Baathists.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/6wAq6TGVdGRLdZ_TbjQQHtiggZy-5-NgVF0e1kdm8gc/mtime:1425395120/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/546772/abandoned%20iraqi%20army.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/2766UGnyPgffmNd2_six8XgbXHI75UEA4hYe3xuJBIs/mtime:1425393782/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/546772/abandoned%20iraqi%20army.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class="image-caption">Abandoned Iraqi vehicles and personal belongings near Bartella, Iraqi Kurdistan, 20 km from Mosul. Demotix/Romina Peñate. All rights reserved.&nbsp;</span></p> <p>The Arab Baath, especially the Sunni Iraqi branch, and the Islamic State certainly have many things in common; toppling the Shia-led government in Iraq is only one of them. They are both highly nostalgic towards the past, looking back at it with admiration and ideological attempts to revive it–<em>Baath</em>, or resurrection, tries to resurrect the glorious past of the Arabs. They both resent what represents modernity, especially in regard to language and terminology. They are both fascists using terror as a central political tool to control societies. And most importantly, they both use a totalitarian <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p0CReF-2vx4">media</a> in which there is a high level of demagogy and dramatization in representing the self and the ‘other’ or the ‘enemy’, where the self is always righteous and the other is aberrant and wrong, who will eventually find their way back from aberration to what is right and true. </p> <p>The political and religious rejection of Shia rule, fueled by Sunni grievances of political marginalization and unjust treatment alongside the failed, sectarian government in Baghdad, was more than enough to build a strong coalition between ISIL and armed groups of former Baath party members, former Iraqi army officers and Sunni tribe leaders. Lack of a pragmatic, powerful Shia politician in Baghdad lent public strength to ISIL.&nbsp;<span class="pullquote-right">The powerful rise of ISIL in both Syria and Iraq symbolizes not only the failure of two post-colonial national states but also represents a clear manifestation of fragmented social groups...which have failed to co-exist and transcend their confinement in these narrow identities</span></p> <p>The relationship between Baathists and ISIL goes back to the early stages of insurgency. The former regime’s loyalists, especially high ranked military officers and Baathists civilians who were subject to the <a href="http://www.cfr.org/iraq/iraq-debaathification/p7853">de-Baathification law</a>, started joining the insurgency and later al-Qaeda in Iraq soon after the US invasion. Between 2004 and 2006 al-Qaeda managed to build an extensive network within Sunni-dominant territories. What ISIL did in June 2014 was to re-evoke and revive the early warm relationship between al-Qaeda and the Sunni insurgency that lasted passionately between early 2004 and the end of 2007. ISIL <a href="http://www.alraimedia.com/Articles.aspx?id=513018">differentiates </a>between Baathists in Syria and in Iraq; it always considered Baathists in Iraq as Sunnis who share the same religious traditions, beliefs and practices, unlike the Baath in Syria who are controlled by Alwaites, a minority Shia sect. &nbsp;</p> <p>These relations were never fully eliminated even when the major Sunni tribes, former allies, <a href="http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2007/05/the_sunni_awakening.php">turned against</a> ISI in 2007. Although there were cooling-off periods on both sides at different times, there were always shifting, temporary, and partial revivals of these networks.&nbsp;<span>These relations were revived in 2014 amongst increasing anger and protests within Sunni populations, especially in Anbar province on the Syrian border, against the Iraqi government who </span><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/09/opinion/president-obama-thomas-l-friedman-iraq-and-world-affairs.html?_r=0">“squandered an opportunity”</a><span> when they failed to demonstrate the required pragmatism. That is, when the Sunnis came together and waged a war against ISI, cleansing most of their areas of ISI and foreign-fighter jihadists–with no help from the government. With their acute sense of exclusion in the post-Saddam Iraq, Sunnis felt they had been betrayed by Nouri al-Maliki.</span></p> <p>ISIL stormed Mosul with the cooperation of at least seven Sunni groups: the Military Council, the Army of Men of Naqshbandi Order–known as JRTN, led by former Iraqi vice president Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri–, the Mujahedeen Army, the Council of the Tribal Revolutionaries, and other groups which had fought intermittently since 2003 alongside al-Zarqawi and then al-Qaeda, and later the umbrella of ISI. The Sunnis saw what happened as a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=frKoXLY30WI">liberation</a> operation from a repressive sectarian Shia regime, while the Shia looked at it as a massive conspiracy against their existence.&nbsp; </p> <p>On 29 June al-Baghdadi declared the Caliphate State and the name changed to the Islamic State (IS). Calls were issued by the <em>amir ul-mu’minin</em> for <em>ummah</em> of Islam in the world to migrate to the <em>dawlat al-Islam</em> after the world had been divided into two camps: the camp of Islam and the camp of <em>kufr</em> (disbelievers.) </p> <p>With the declaration of a Sunni Caliphate Islamic State over a great stretch of territories in Syria and Iraq, the religious and sectarian cleansing campaigns reached their highest degree of cruelty in order to purify the state from all non-Sunni citizens. Yazidis, Shia and other minorities were subjected to slaughter and mass executions, with their women being taken as <em>sabaya</em> (slaves)–‘spoils’ of war–and sold in Mosul. After seizing Mosul, an ultimatum was issued to Christians: pay <em>jizya </em>(tribute), or leave or be killed. What IS committed against all non-Sunnis was full-scale genocide. A few days after IS seized control of Speicher base in Tikrit, they released <a href="http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/photos-show-mass-execution-shia-soldiers-isil-iraq-1525114529">photos</a> and videos of mass execution of Shia soldiers. Sunni soldiers were let go after declaring their repentance. </p> <p>The powerful rise of this group in both Syria and Iraq symbolizes not only the failure of two post-colonial national states but also represents a clear manifestation of fragmented social groups with a strong sense of belonging to tribes, sects, religions and ethnicity, which have failed to co-exist and transcend their confinement in these narrow identities to structure a society in its modern context and form. The cancerous expansion of ISIL’s phenomena is a pure product of failed societies, of groups refusing to learn how to structure a dialogue using language, and in their terrible failure exchanging nothing but death. </p> <h2><strong>International déjà vu </strong></h2> <p>11 September 2014 was somehow reminiscent of 11 September 2001. After a presidential speech by Barack Obama on IS presenting his strategy of degrading and ultimately destroying it, reminiscent of former president George W. Bush’s vow of destroying al-Qaeda, the world was once again concerned by a jihadist group’s powerful comeback. And once again America busily recruited an international coalition to combat yet another jihadist-terrorist organization, this time a self-declared Islamic State. </p> <p>But despite the wide coalition of more than 40 of the most powerful countries in the world, and the heavenly war waged from the skies, the caliph and his devoted soldiers seem to be determined to demolish borders, destroy colonially-made countries and expand their Islamic State. </p> <p>Now the state of the Sunni caliphate controls most of northern Syria and large parts of western Iraq, and is moving towards the gates of Baghdad. Its radical army is estimated to be more than 30,000, led by well-trained generals from Saddam’s army, and is heavily engaged in its territories in Syria and Iraq with governance programs, such as implementing Shari’a law, collecting tax, distribution of aid and salaries, <em>hudud</em> enforcement and many other administrative and legal programs. It has an estimated USD $3m daily revenue from its own resources such as oil and gas, and it has approved its <a href="http://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2015/01/05/the-islamic-states-2015-budget-2-billion/">2015 annual budget</a> of $USD 2 billion.</p> <p>The world has been introduced to one of the most violent states that operates based on a one-dimensional interpretation of debatable texts and controversial Quranic verses, and states clearly that its aim is to convert the entire world into a Sunni religion of 1400 years ago. </p> <p>A bizarre new Middle East is taking shape, and we are now witnessing the disintegration of two countries. Syria and Iraq are both nearing their slow bloody end, the death of two societies which long bragged of historical co-existence and cohesion. In their places and on their ruins, one powerful Sunni caliphate is rising, like the founding father of the group, Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi, dreamt of during his journey from Afghanistan to Iraq more than a decade ago.&nbsp;</p><p><em>This is Part 2 of a shorter version of a paper presented at&nbsp;<a href="http://www.hum.leidenuniv.nl/lucis/eerder-bij-lucis/hoshang-waziri.html">a public lecture</a>&nbsp;at The Leiden University Center for the Study of Islam and Society LUCIS on September 11- 2014. Read <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/hoshang-waziri/is-from-jihadist-ideology-to-jihadist-state">Part 1 here</a>.&nbsp;</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/opensecurity/hoshang-waziri/is-from-jihadist-ideology-to-jihadist-state">IS: from a jihadist ideology to a jihadist state</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opensecurity/kenneth-roth/two-big-holes-in-strategy-against-is">The two big holes in the strategy against IS</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/arab-awakening/asad-zaidi/islamic-state-and-global-great-game">The Islamic State and the global Great Game</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/andrea-glioti/syrian-wounds-and-iraqi-scars">Syrian wounds and Iraqi scars</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iraq </div> <div class="field-item even"> Syria </div> </div> </div> Tue, 03 Mar 2015 16:09:59 +0000 Hoshang Waziri 90960 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Immigration detention: "expensive, ineffective and unjust" https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/eiri-ohtani/immigration-detention-expensive-ineffective-and-unjust <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The first ever parliamentary inquiry into the use of immigration detention in the UK has published its report today. Finding that we detain far too many people for far too long, the report calls for radical structural change to the system.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Yesterday, during a press briefing session at Parliament, I was listening to three MPs talk about the detention inquiry’s findings to a group of journalists.&nbsp; </p> <p>This first ever parliamentary inquiry into the use of immigration detention has published its <a href="http://detentioninquiry.com/2015/03/03/time-for-a-time-limit-parliamentarians-call-for-a-28-day-maximum-time-limit-on-immigration-detention-to-be-introduced/">report</a> today, and the briefing session was our attempt to secure some media coverage.&nbsp; </p> <p>While people carrying cameras and recording gear milled around, the session was held under strict embargo and those of us organising the briefing were anxious about the whole proceedings.&nbsp; </p> <p>To confess, I had already had several occasions to read through the report before the press briefing session.&nbsp; </p> <p>A pdf version of the embargoed copy of the report was sitting in my email inbox for about a week, while we nervously fretted about whether the printer could churn out the hard copies of the report on time and what they would look like.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>So although what was said was not supposed to be news to me, hearing about the inquiry’s recommendations through the voices of Sarah Teather MP, David Burrowes MP and Paul Blomfield MP still surprised me. </p> <p>Human voices are powerful things. </p> <p>They speak in a way that written words cannot. </p> <p>Through their voices, the recommendations sounded more real and grounded.&nbsp; </p> <p>Their voices also confirmed that those voices which gave evidence to the panel – people with experience of detention and other experts – were indeed heard and we are now going somewhere. </p> <p>These voices also made me realise that I had not fully really appreciated the significance of this report, until now.&nbsp; </p> <p>The most headline-friendly key recommendation from the inquiry is the introduction of a 28 day time limit on immigration detention, to bring the UK in line with other countries who are managing their immigration control system with a time limit on immigration detention.&nbsp; </p> <p>According to the most recently published Home Office statistics, of those who left the detention estate in 2014, almost 11,000 people did so after more than 28 days of administrative incarceration. </p> <p>However, a far more profound conclusion is found in the report’s foreword, written by the panel’s Chair, Sarah Teather MP.&nbsp; </p> <p><em>“Crucially, this panel believes that little will change by tinkering with the pastoral care or improving the facilities. We believe the problems that beset our immigration detention estate occur quite simply because we detain far too many people unnecessarily and for far too long. The current system is expensive, ineffective and unjust.” <br /></em></p> <p>From September to December 2014, the Detention Forum and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050">openDemocracy 50:50</a> explored the impact and the reality of immigration detention through our joint programme, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/5050-unlocking-detention">Unlocking Detention</a>.&nbsp; </p> <p>Over several months, we ‘visited’ each immigration detention centre in the UK, metaphorically unlocking the gates of the detention centres to hear what is indeed going on in there.&nbsp; </p> <p>The Detention Forum members contributed most of the articles in the series, and also ran a separate dedicated <a href="http://www.unlocked.org.uk/">website</a>. </p> <p>Some articles where reprinted at other websites, including <a href="http://thejusticegap.com/2014/09/migrant-lives-uk-deprivation-liberty/">the Justice Gap</a>.&nbsp; </p> <p>The series was deliberately timed to coincide with the parliamentary detention inquiry, to generate more interest in this hidden world of gross human rights abuse that no one seems to want to talk about in public.&nbsp; </p> <p>While the phrase “deprivation of liberty” should sound alarm bells in any thinking person’s mind, the UK has largely remained silent on the issue of over 30,000 migrants, routinely locked up indefinitely in prison-like conditions, year after year. </p> <p>The inquiry panel, rightly, decided to hear from those very people who have been largely forgotten.&nbsp; </p> <p>This prompted many of us to start collecting evidence from people who experienced immigration detention – up and down the country, in community halls, in interview rooms, over the phone, in detention centres, in visitors’ halls.&nbsp; </p> <p>We started calling them “experts-by-experience” instead of “ex-detainees” or “detainees”.&nbsp; </p> <p>We have had enough of people being defined by their experience of state abuse. </p> <p>We did as much as we could to bring the voices of people who are caught in this detention system. </p> <p>I recall writing the concluding piece to Unlocking Detention, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/eiri-ohtani/detention-knows-no-borders"><em>Detention knows no borders</em></a>, on the train back from Bristol to London, on International Human Rights Day, genuinely wondering what the detention inquiry was going to find and how the panel was going to respond to those voices demanding change.&nbsp; </p> <p>When you examine specific recommendations made by the inquiry panel piece by piece, there is probably nothing new or surprising about them. </p> <p>Many of us have condemned the sheer inhumanity of indefinite detention for many years. That the government thought it was okay to lock someone up without proper judicial oversight has always been hard to believe. </p> <p>The problems surrounding access to legal advice or good quality health care in detention have existed for many years, with numerous reports written about them. Likewise specific problems encountered by “vulnerable” groups of individuals.&nbsp; </p> <p>It is understandable that those who do not study the report carefully might dismiss it ‘as yet another report about immigration detention’ or a simple shopping style list of oft-repeated recommendations. However, there are three things that are refreshingly different about this report. </p> <p>The clue is in the report structure, divided into two parts, in which the first part outlines the fundamental changes that have to happen and the second part outlines issues which should not exist after the recommended changes. </p> <p>And the emphasis is very much on the first part – the panel wants to see fundamental changes.&nbsp; </p> <p>So firstly, the report warns against the danger of just tweaking detention conditions, leaving detention’s harmful and dysfunctional aspects intact.&nbsp; Instead, it calls for a radical structural change to the system, starting with the introduction of a time limit on the period anyone can be detained in immigration detention, so that far less people are detained for far shorter periods.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>Secondly, the report calls for a political commitment from whoever forms the next Government to begin the process of radical reform. </p> <p>Thirdly, the report, almost for the first time in the history of UK detention advocacy, looks out of the parochial world of domestic detention practices and finds that in other countries, far more progressive discussions are taking place. </p> <p>The report discusses community based alternatives to detention, by which people can stay in the community while going through the immigration control system, instead of being locked up in detention. </p> <p>The panel heard extensively from UNHCR – the UN Refugee Agency and International Detention Coalition, who have made it their mission to ensure that the states across the globe use less detention by investing in more humane, and let’s not forget, cheaper, models.&nbsp; </p> <p>The report is very carefully put together to encourage serious consideration of process change.&nbsp; </p> <p>It is realistic in acknowledging that there is no quick fix, pre-empting political parties from taking a “let’s stick a plaster over a gaping wound” approach.&nbsp; </p> <p>It is also bold in declaring that the current detention system, which detains far too many people for far too long, simply cannot go on.&nbsp; </p> <p>A&nbsp; remarkable thing about the media briefing was its calmness and frankness. </p> <p>The panel members, all coming from different political parties, simply said that they were overwhelmed by the strength of the evidence that they received and were able to agree on the key recommendations despite all their differences of opinion on immigration in general.&nbsp; </p> <p>Labour MP Paul Blomfield said that when he first started this inquiry, he was not particularly convinced by the idea of community-based alternatives. He went to say that after hearing from individuals and learning of other countries’ practices, he came out totally convinced by the need to reframe the debate and change the approach. </p> <p>Conservative MP David Burrowes said, simply, “No one should be treated without dignity”.&nbsp; </p> <p>Confronted by this unusual cross-party unity over immigration matters, the journalists present at the briefing session initially fell a little quiet. One of the journalists’ main interests was, of course, how this is going to play out in the volatile political arena where the topic of immigration poisons any conversations.&nbsp; </p> <p>The report answers that there needs to be strong political leadership to turn the tide:&nbsp; </p> <p><em>“Given the scale of the task, we recommend that the incoming Government after the General Election should form a working group to oversee the implementation of the recommendations of this inquiry. This working group should be independently chaired and contain officials from the Home Office as well as representatives from NGOs in order to widen the thinking and approach. The working group should produce a time-plan for introducing a time limit on detention and the creation of appropriate alternatives to detention, drawing on the best practice that is already in place in other countries.” <br /></em></p> <p>After the briefing session, we watched the MPs and “experts-by-experience” being photographed and interviewed on camera by the journalists on College Green outside Parliament.&nbsp; </p> <p>It was a sunny crisp day, although the wind was chilly.&nbsp; </p> <p>We huddled around, rather dazed by the whole experience, guarding the open box containing copies of the report. </p> <p>I glanced at my smartphone to find many emails, asking why they hadn’t received the embargoed copy of the report at the pre-arranged time of 1pm.&nbsp; </p> <p>My colleague, whose task it was to send out the report, was standing beside me looking exhausted and hungry; 3:30pm and still no sign of lunch. </p> <p>One of the “experts-by-experience”, who had always expressed healthy scepticism about the inquiry came up to me, looking confused. </p> <p>‘So, what do you think?’ I asked.&nbsp; </p> <p>‘I can’t believe that this is the result. This is a huge step,’ he answered squinting into the bright sunlight, holding the still embargoed copy of the report.&nbsp; </p> <p>After a long pause, he continued, ‘But what is going to happen next?&nbsp; Is it really going to change?’ </p><p> And I heard my own voice: ‘That’s now up to us, isn’t it?’</p><p><strong><em>Read more about the lives of those in detention and hear their voices in our series</em> <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/5050-unlocking-detention#0">Unlocking Detention&nbsp; </a></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/anonymous-interviewee-and-jennifer-allsopp/death-at-yarl%E2%80%99s-wood-women-in-mourning-women-in-fear">Death at Yarl’s Wood: Women in mourning, women in fear</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/agnes-woolley/setherfree-spectrum-of-solidarity-for-refugee-women">#SetHerFree: a spectrum of solidarity for refugee women</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/jackie-long/%27headbutt-bitch%27-serco-guard-yarl%E2%80%99s-wood-uk-immigration-detention-centre">&#039;Headbutt the bitch&#039; 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line-height: 1.5;">This is an edited version of </span><a style="font-style: italic; line-height: 1.5;" href="http://backdoorbroadcasting.net/2015/02/tony-ageh-the-bbc-and-a-digital-public-sphere/" target="_blank">a speech given at Royal Holloway University London (RHUL) </a><span style="font-style: italic; line-height: 1.5;">on 10 February.&nbsp;</span></p><p>Over the years I have had some wonderful jobs and some degree of success in being instrumental in the development of a number of interesting media products or services, a few of which have become quite well known and loved – such as The Guardian’s Guide and website, When Saturday Comes (still the best half-decent football magazine in the UK), and more recently the BBC’s Genome and RES projects and, of course the iPlayer.</p> <p>However, my current day job as Controller of Archive Development at the BBC is possibly the most interesting and challenging of them all and, if the ideas we are working on are successful, it is the job that has the potential to bring about the most universally beneficial and empowering change of them all.</p> <p>Originally I was invited to come along and explain a little of what is meant by this term ‘Digital Public Space’. I realise it is a difficult concept to grasp all in one go, even for those of us who are trying to make it happen, but you seem like a friendly bunch so here goes...</p> <p>In a nutshell, the ‘Digital Public Space’ is intended as a secure and universally accessible public sphere through which every person, regardless of age or income, ability or disability, can gain access to an ever growing library of permanently available media and data held on behalf of the public by our enduring institutions.</p> <p>Our museums and libraries; our public service broadcasters (all of them); our public archives; our government services. Every person in this country, whether adult or schoolchild, should be able to use the Digital Public Space to access... for research or for amusement, for discovery or for debate, for creative endeavour or simply for the pleasure of watching, listening or reading ... they should be able to access the priceless treasures that have recorded, reflected and shaped our shared national heritage.</p> <p>Our National Abundance. Our Inheritance. Our Story.</p> <p>It is our right to have this access, and it should be freely available to all.</p> <p>The Digital Public Space must – by definition – be equally accessible by everyone, universally equivalent and unconditional. It must be dialogic, open and protective of the rights of all participants and contributors. It must be available at all times and in all locations, it must expect contributions from every member of our society and it must respect privacy. It must operate only in the best interests of the people that it serves; absent of overtly political or commercial interests. And it must endure.</p> <p>Digital technology certainly holds out the potential for making this possible. But don’t expect it to just happen. Despite exciting our imaginations and driving up our expectations, digital technology can also be a bit of a lazy devil – quite understandable really given it is, metaphorically at least, still something close to a surly teenager.</p> <p>But we must be careful when we think it will, all by itself solve the problems it creates; as Stuart Brand once said “digital solutions will last forever or for five years... whichever comes first”. I believe the engineering term for something as complicated as this proposal for a Digital Public Space is ‘Decidedly Nontrivial’ meaning requiring both real thought *and* significant engineering power.”</p> <p>So, given the audience today, I thought it might be interesting if I shared with you one of the paths that I took to arrive at that seemingly impossible, or at best improbable, proposition and I’m going to argue that, despite the enormous challenges of making such an idea a reality, there is already an existing publicly funded organisation which is perfectly placed to provide the leadership - the real thought and significant engineering power – that will be needed for the development of such a public realm, because although we may not realise it, that’s exactly what they have been doing, on our behalf, for almost a century.</p> <p>In my view, it is the greatest media organisation ever established in the history of the world.</p> <p>It is The BBC.</p> <p>But first I want to start off by asking which you think came first – the BBC or the Licence Fee.</p> <p>Hands up for the BBC...
 Hands up for the Licence Fee...
 And which of you think they came into being at about the same time?...
And which of you don’t know?...</p><p><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/oenCc9xwp6qJbu7UFM5t-m87Y2AcQGTzoZk9kwAuslI/mtime:1425367976/files/image002_1.jpg" alt="" width="100%" /></p> <p>Congratulations to those of you that guessed right...</p><p>The Licence Fee actually predated the BBC by about 20 years!</p> <p>Now I realise that almost nobody would stop to think about that question in the first place because when asked what the Licence Fee is for, most people say BBC programmes. It’s certainly what the majority of the money is spent on and long may it remain the case.</p> <p>The BBC makes without doubt some of the greatest and most important programmes – both radio and television – anywhere in the world today. It’s hard not to get excited by Wolf Hall, The Archers, The News Quiz, The Fall and landmark sporting occasions such as our unprecedented coverage of The London Olympics.</p> <p>Our Children’s programmes are truly second to none and, in aggregate, our International, National and Local News services have no peer anywhere on the planet.</p> <p>In the upcoming conversations about the renewal of the BBC’s Charter, it is natural to ask the question ‘What is the BBC for?’ and an equally natural and common refrain, is that we make great TV programmes in support of our public purposes... and so, of course, the public want us to get as much of the Licence Fee ‘on screen’ as possible.</p> <p>However in this talk I will argue that this is not only somewhat untrue, in as much as it is only part of the picture, it is also potentially and dangerously misleading.
 I will show that the BBC and the Licence Fee are symbiotic, certainly; but not synonymous.</p> <p>Part of the reason for this is what it is currently called: ‘The Television Licence’. I think as a matter of urgency, it should be renamed.</p> <p>Because as it currently stands we all only tend to compare the BBC to other ‘competitors’ in television against the quantity and quality of the programmes that *they* broadcast.</p> <p>In the vast majority, if not all cases, the BBC compares favourably with this ‘competition’ but that is not the point. In fact this is simply the wrong paradigm.</p> <p>How did we get here? I want to go all the way back and ask what the world looked like in February 1920.</p> <p>There is no electricity as we know it. There is nothing like the choice of reading material that we have today and anyway many, many people can’t or don’t read. Most women got the vote two years earlier but some still have to wait for another eight years. The First World War ended only two years ago. We’ve only just adopted British Summer Time.</p><p><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/dTYJAyZKu9Ak8Rh8uM4cxeyyOzVeNhkRWSYCRWdmCKg/mtime:1424429324/files/ag2.png" alt="" width="100%" /></p><p>There are no traffic jams, no Times Crossword and no sliced bread.</p> <p>And there is no BBC.</p><p> Around the turn of the 20th century, the thing that we now call broadcasting was starting to emerge although it wasn’t yet called ‘broadcasting’. It was called wireless telegraphy: the ability to send information through free space without a connecting electrical conductor... or ‘wires’ to you and me. This emerging technology had (and still has) a number of unique characteristics:</p><p>- It could reach every part of the UK. Even the remotest island received the same signals</p> <p>- It transmitted the same version to everyone regardless of what they received it on </p> <p>- It didn’t require the user to acquire any new skills (e.g. reading), just to tune in and listen - assuming you were not deaf or hard of hearing</p> <p>- There was no need to travel to the venue where the event was taking place </p> <p>- The radio waves were ubiquitous– almost ‘omnipresent’ – they couldn’t be ‘turned off’ </p> <p>- All of this at zero marginal cost of distribution and reach, to both the broadcaster and the user</p> <p>It was different to any medium that had gone before. At first it was quite hard to work out what to do with it, but it soon became clear that, if it could be tamed, then we could do amazing things with it.</p><p>John Reith was soon to suggest that it would allow Nation to speak peace unto nation. It had the potential to connect the entire country, to give the best seat at the concert, to eradicate loneliness. And of course, to inform, to educate and to entertain – but not just the privileged few... everyone.</p> <p>Our politicians looked around the world to see how other countries were using, as well as funding, these emerging broadcast technologies. They saw broadly two approaches:</p> <p>In countries such as the US, there was what was described at the time as a free-for-all approach; a bit of a 'cacophony'. They decided that *we* didn’t want that. There was also an underlying suspicion that the potential of this new technology was rather ‘squandered’ by being used mainly for broadcasting ‘Light Entertainment’. It was felt that there was great potential to *also* use it for enlightenment and other so called ‘uplifting’ purposes.</p> <p>Looking across Europe there were concerns that broadcasting risked being abused by political interests if controlled entirely by the state. The term ‘propaganda’ appears frequently in the documents of the time; although it was not used in quite the same way we have come to use it since the Second World War.</p> <p>Not that either of these approaches was seen as wholly ‘bad’ – as my Italian born mother said when I told her I was joining the BBC “it wasn’t Garibaldi that unified Italy, it was radio” – it was more that they believed that there was much, much greater potential for public benefit than either of these models were likely to achieve.</p> <p>In those earliest days, although it was clear that broadcasting had great power there were also real concerns. Everybody could hear everything! At this stage, this looked more like a bug than a feature; the military were specifically concerned in much the same way that the authorities are concerned about the internet today. There was a worry that it could be used to destabilise countries.</p> <p>And so, to try to control, and essentially restrict, this exciting but as yet unproven technology to only those who had a bona fide reason to be using it, permission had to be sought from the General Post Office to experiment or own equipment and three types of licence were established:</p><p>- A Licence to manufacture any equipment: bearing in mind this was military grade technology </p> <p>- A Licence to broadcast over the airwaves: justifying what are you broadcasting and to whom?</p><p>- A Licence to own the receiving machinery for what was known back then as ‘listening in’. </p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The Licence for ordinary people to be able to broadcast was abolished during the First World War and the receiving licences suspended until around 1920.</span></p><p><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/uAbrhBlYGJwp28HRHOCu2F67kne-P9U4LvRuxhVdHbE/mtime:1424430655/files/telegram.png" alt="" width="100%" /></p><p>The Licence to manufacture was replaced by the formation of the British Broadcasting Company in 1922, by a pioneering group of radio manufactures who issued standards to the UK’s other, smaller manufacturers who in turn became ‘members’ of the association. It also started to broadcast radio programmes in order to give people a reason to buy radios, funded through sales of the radios themselves as well as some sponsorship – but not advertising.</p> <p>The Licence to own receiving equipment – the first of which, I believe, was issued by the Post Office in 1905 – was retained. That is the one that endures today – the permit to access the airwaves – and was the method eventually chosen to fund the British Broadcasting Corporation when it was created by Royal Charter in 1927, whereby most, but not all, of the money raised by the GPO was used to fund John Reith’s BBC.</p> <p>At the same time, the Government designated a part of the spectrum for the exclusive use of the public – separate from military use, whose signals needed to be encrypted. The public’s machines were designed to only ‘listen in’ to that defined public access range of frequencies.</p> <p>How to make this work in practice, in the best interests of all was a significant challenge – Decidedly Nontrivial in fact, requiring real thought and significant engineering power. And so the BBC was asked to develop the technology and broadcasting services in the national interest. Its job was to push the capabilities of the medium to its limits, to develop formats and output that were interesting, useful, uplifting, empowering and delightful within those permitted frequencies.<img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/ClzZPjvbkqQULi_N0K5aH2P7TkZvP1Uw_QFrnbGP9lE/mtime:1425326596/files/ageh4_0.png" alt="" width="100%" /></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">So we have established the development of the public airwaves, the origins of the BBC and the potential of the BBC to do wonderful things. <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/speeches/stories/thompson_cambridge.shtml" target="_blank">An ‘Analogue Public Space’ if you like</a>.</span></p><p>This publicly owned and funded spectrum was protected from overtly commercial or political interests and intervention and over time came to be shared by a wide number of organisations, many of whom were almost entirely commercial in their operations, but all of whom benefitted from investment and innovation by the BBC. </p><p>Therefore, unknown to almost everyone, for the majority of its life, the BBC has been a world class engineering organisation pushing the boundaries on behalf of the population of the UK and the whole of the industry – from manufactures, to other ‘competing’ broadcasters in both radio and television: sharing technologies to enable broadcasting to go further and faster; introducing standards for pictures, colour, clearer sound, teletext, and HD.</p> <p>Different kinds of programmes and formats were introduced to demonstrate and drive the technological innovation, sales and skills. Snooker demonstrated colour. The initial idea behind the Eurovision song contest was a worldwide collaboration to join up a network of satellites.<img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/v-PqGpd5dG67Two1zdeMcunYZIMexZJSqd-aDj9DrLQ/mtime:1425326607/files/ageh5_0.png" alt="" width="100%" /><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Th</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">at first programme was called ‘Our World’ and featured a new, specially written song from the Beatles: ‘All you need is love’.</span></p> <p>Our engineering excellence drove all of this. The BBC pushed technology to its limits and, along with this, it came up with new formats and ideas to excite and delight.</p> <p>It has also kept a steady and robust hand on the editorial independence and the integrity of that ‘analogue public space’. UK News and Current Affairs, and in particular BBC News and Current Affairs, enjoys the highest international acclaim and respect. I believe the role of the BBC in setting and maintaining quality and standards for the entire industry cannot be over stated. If the only motivation for covering news is commercial – then we eventually find ourselves with a news agenda reduced to gossip, sex, sport... and strange or cute animals.</p> <p>But by having news coverage and agenda-setting which is led by principles of public interest, holding the authorities to account and including a full range of voices from around the world as well as at home, the BBC sets a bar which encourages other providers to follow-suit.</p> <p>Together the BBC and the Licence Fee have ensured that, for the best part of a century, all you need to be part of the greatest conversation that any nation on earth has been free to enjoy, is a receiving device and a permit to ‘listen in’ or watch...</p> <p>How did the Licence Fee go from all that, to being only about making television programmes? I think I can show you exactly how:</p><p> Here is an advertisement against Licence Fee avoidance from around 1974.&nbsp;</p><iframe width="420" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Tq7luWzbouo" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe> <p>There are a couple of things you may not have appreciated about this advert at first sight.
 First of all, it was made by the Home Office on behalf of the Post Office. As I said, back then it was the Post Office that issued and collected the licences and the Home Office who enforced them and decided the level of penalty for avoidance. It was never, and is never, the BBC sending people to prison.</p> <p>The ad is dark and threatening but the important point you may have missed is this: they were watching Columbo! That wasn’t a BBC programme; it was shown on ITV, which is as you know fully funded by commercials. It was and remains the case that if you want the freedom to access that protected slice of spectrum that carries live transmissions, you have to obtain a licence on behalf of yourself and those in your household who also watch or listen, including those who cannot pay for themselves – in particular your children. It is worth just checking what it says in the Charter about Licence Fee Payers. It says this:</p><p><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/WbGqfdTGy9761NqVLkDSxtq6jrlQiGlvbXLjjKknEa8/mtime:1425326617/files/ageh6_0.png" alt="" width="100%" /><span style="line-height: 1.5;">In other words, everyone in the UK is a Licence Fee Payer, whether they actually ‘pay’ the licence fee themselves or not.</span></p> <p>The public broadcasting spectrum is as much theirs as it is the people who actually pay for it and the obligation lies with those of us who are responsible for paying it to continue to fund and maintain this precious entitlement... for everyone.</p> <p>It’s not a tax. It’s a permit and the whole of our society benefits from its unique status and, in particular, from the protection it buys us from those who would see that preserved public realm removed or obstructed or turned only into a means of charging those who can afford to &nbsp;- and who choose to - &nbsp;to pay ever more, for ever less.</p> <p>So, when does that all change?</p> <p>Unfortunately, and it really pains me to say this, it all appears to change with John Cleese.</p> <p>He is without doubt a genius and certainly one of the most significant individuals ever to grace our airwaves. However, in a genuine attempt to help quell the tide of resentment towards what still to many feels like an unfair charge for something we don’t always appreciate, he casts the die.&nbsp;</p><iframe width="420" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/bh9hz9wsHgw" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe> <p>This is a wonderful ad, clever, funny, much slicker, much more upbeat, certainly less intentionally sinister, but sadly gets the wrong end of the stick. This advert equates the Licence Fee only with the BBC’s programmes. It even ends with: ‘The BBC - Is 16 pence a day really too much to ask?’, instead of the Television Licence – etc. etc. which is what the ad is actually for.</p> <p>Of course the BBC broadcasts great programmes, but it is not the only public service organisation that does. His comment at the end about there being no commercials within the services covered by the licence is entirely incorrect. In fact, he really should have included programmes and presenters from ITV and Channel 4. He should have included technological innovation, research and development.</p> <p>But most of all he should have said that the Licence Fee ensures that the allocated public spectrum, through which the Public Service Broadcaster remit is safeguarded and secured, and that barriers to entry cannot be placed in the way of the general public by either politicians or commercial gatekeepers.</p><p><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/m1k92G_bmt5FpdEE_A7PZMeIddgyQwK8Tl4mCxuRT7s/mtime:1425368506/files/finalofcom.png" alt="" width="100%" /></p> <p>We need to rediscover what it is that 'only' the Licence Fee 'only' does.</p><p>The BBC is not a competing media business in the usual sense of the term. If the BBC were a bank it wouldn’t be Barclays or HSBC. It would be the Bank of England. It sits to one side of those that compete for business and safeguards the entire system itself for the benefit of all – providers and public alike. It enables plurality not competes with it. It raises the quality threshold and maintains standards. It underpins and supports the greatest media eco-system in the world.</p> <p>Through the Licence Fee, the BBC defends the airwaves to allow others to innovate. A lot of that innovation was indeed commercially driven and funded by advertising but while the BBC, funded through that Licence Fee, continues to keep it secure, it guarantees that everyone has the same rights to access it all.</p> <p>So what? you might say. That was then, this is now. We’ve all moved on and many of us don’t even watch live broadcasting as much as people did back then. Well, that brings me to the main point of my talk.</p> <p>Because we’ve fallen asleep at the wheel. A new technology has emerged that is likely to change everything for ever: the internet. When we eventually move to a fully IP delivered world we are going to discover something altogether disturbing.</p> <p>Without us really noticing it happen, the internet has started to strip away not only those original characteristics of broadcasting, but also three other, even more important, unique and priceless properties that broadcasting also gave us all; three characteristics, so it turns out, that are fundamental to the vibrant and democratic nature of our media consumption in the past, and that we will sorely miss if they were taken away. These are:</p><p>1. Total anonymity – You can watch or listen, secure in the knowledge that nobody can know what you are doing and exploit it for commercial or political ends or to your disadvantage. </p> <p>2. Unmetered consumption – there was no limit to the amount of broadcasting that you could have or where you chose to access it without additional charge or fees </p> <p>3. It cannot be taken away – the confidence to know that you, or other members of your family, will never be cut off from any of the public service broadcasters, not just the BBC.</p><p>The internet - certainly when thinking about using it to access the public service broadcast networks - removes all of those things. Over and above these, access to the internet is shaped by a significant range of variables and no two people are exactly the same. There are growing concerns around:</p><p>- Who does and does not have access to the Internet in the first place;</p> <p>- The speed, level and cost of access that they have or can afford;</p> <p>- People’s right to privacy and to retain ownership of their activity, thoughts, comments, and creativity </p> <p>- Their ability to keep up to date with hardware, software, operating systems; </p> <p>- The motives of gatekeepers and service providers who stand between the public and the organisations that they wish to access; </p> <p>- How often each of these will change during their lifetime and the levels of impact on them, their rights and their families </p> <p>We’ve got the cacophony we previously and skilfully avoided. We are now in a situation where the commercial sector has complete control. And they are dividing up the spoils often making commercial return the only criteria for developing or maintaining our right to access our public services – including but not limited to the public service broadcasters themselves. In many cases obsolescence is built in as the operating model itself. We need to pay them, and to keep on paying, simply to keep pace – eventually we will lose the concept of free-at-the-point-of-use to all public services when they are delivered over IP.</p><p>This is a major problem. There is something particular about the media that we understood all the way back then, but have now forgotten. A fully functioning democracy demands that everybody always has the same access.</p> <p>Whether it is about holding politicians to account, terrorism threats, consumer rights, health information, everybody should be involved and fully represented.</p> <p>Soon even getting to the BBC will be entirely mediated by commercial operators. So will digital access to public libraries, museums, galleries, education, the NHS and the wider public sphere.</p><p>In order to watch the news in future, whether from the BBC, ITN or Reuters, you will have to pay an ISP or MNO, over and above the money that you have already paid for the news to be gathered in the first place – be that through your licence fee, subscription payment or the ever growing percentage of your weekly shopping bill that is handed over via the advertising industry – itself a truly regressive tax if ever there was one.</p> <p>It will soon be impossible for journalists to protect their sources – as long as webmail service providers are ‘legally’ scanning and retaining your email – in particular those of the very people most likely to whistle-blow or refuse to be silenced.</p> <p>Because there is NO safeguarded allotment of bandwidth for public access and discourse – free of political or commercial imperative or intrusion.</p> <p>There is NO principle of privacy or protection of the rights of the individual to own and retain control over their contributions or creativity. The default position of many, many providers of online services and social media networks – in the words of an old internet meme is ‘All your Base Are Belong to Us’.</p> <p>You cannot keep your children safe online – whether from classroom bullies, predatory adults or unrelenting marketers determined to catch them while they are still too innocent to know the difference between friendly suggestions and cynical consumer profiling and consumption grooming</p> <p>The is NO guarantee of universal access or provision regardless of income or status</p> <p>What would John Reith do? I can’t tell you for certain but my hunch is he’d want to put it back.</p> <p>Go back to those basic values and engineering principles that underpin the entire broadcast system. We need to preserve an allocation of the internet entirely for universal access to public services, free at the point of use, for everyone.</p><p><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/ja7NfFCt5brZcLbDZ5yFjVsHFRjPwJnjGlplURDkKBs/mtime:1425326648/files/ageh8_0.png" alt="" width="280" /></p><p>We need to restore the right to access as much of the services we already fund as we choose or need – not just for those who can afford pay or who choose to pay, but for everyone who cannot.</p> <p>We need to safeguard privacy, personal data and the right to be a part of the national debate – not only for those who have time and money to spare or the confidence to do battle with the trolls. Losing those things will only leave us poorer.</p> <p>No country has ever come up with a better broadcast ecology – no matter what those who insist otherwise will have you believe. The BBC is still the envy of the world and I am yet to be shown a single example of a better way of funding something better.</p> <p>So what would the ‘Digital Public Space’ look like?</p> <p>It should have all the original values of the ‘Analogue Public Space’, plus some amazing new features and services that were previously impossible or unimaginable:</p><p>1. It would ensure a guarantee of access to a protected allocation of internet bandwidth for every citizen, free at the point of use, at home and in key public places – conceptually similar to frequencies within the broadcast spectrum reserved for Public Service Broadcasting </p> <p>2. The Digital Public Space will offer an ever growing digital library of digitised media and assets from our publicly funded organisations: our public service broadcasters, our museums, libraries and archives, our institutions of education and our public services. </p> <p>3. The Digital Public Space will offer innovative products and services that allow people to access, contribute to and communicate with the public and cultural sectors </p> <p>4. Users can be safe and secure to discover, use and share without fear of loss or theft or unintended exposure of their personal data and creative endeavours </p> <p>5. The Digital Public Space works through unmetered consumption, free at the point, of use for every person, regardless of status or ability. The Digital Public Space will not require a broadband subscription. It will be available anywhere across the UK, at any time, to anyone. </p> <p>6. And finally: the Digital Public Space cannot be taken away.&nbsp;</p><p>To get there, perhaps we may need help from the source that created the BBC in the first place – an ambitious desire for there to be an infrastructure constantly developed in the public interest. The combination of Real Thought and Significant Engineering. In fact we already have that remit written into the BBC charter. The sixth public purpose for the BBC states:</p> <p>(f) in promoting its other purposes, helping to deliver to the public the benefit of emerging communications technologies ...</p> <p>I believe that to understand the BBC’s relevance in the 21st Century, we need to ask, not just “what is the BBC for?” but also “what is the Licence Fee for?” They are not the same thing but, inadvertently, we have allowed them to be seen as the same.</p> <p>I think we should go back to first principles and consider the emerging needs of all Licence Fee Payers – not only those who actually pay the fee itself – and ensure that in the future each and every one of us has guaranteed access to the public sphere, control over their own data and identity and enduring services that they can trust and depend on.</p> <p>We used to be broadcast beings. We are now internet beings. However with more and higher barriers to entry to the digital realm we must work hard to ensure that nobody is stripped of the ability to be a citizen of the future.</p> <p>I believe that is, and has always been, the higher calling for both the BBC and the Licence Fee.</p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> Internet </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Science </div> </div> </div> Tue, 03 Mar 2015 14:20:40 +0000 Tony Ageh 90687 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What is Germany’s Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) on about? https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/ronald-g-asch/what-is-germany%E2%80%99s-alternative-f%C3%BCr-deutschland-afd-on-about <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The opportunities and temptations of a newcomer among Germany’s political parties.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/2KlENnulM8aUap6_Lqu3kpsZ0SsXNxqOfZHracJuRjc/mtime:1425392294/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/4822411.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/VERdQ97WBZzphafroXmD9gXHo7vbbf5Fg8nKI5OezKg/mtime:1425391866/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/4822411.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Alternative for Germany supporters march in Berlin. Demotix/Theo Schneider. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><span>When the decision was taken to furnish all countries of the European Union with the Euro as the only currency--at least those not explicitly insisting on retaining their monetary independence--in the 1990s, this was a momentous choice for Germany.</span></p> <p>In political terms the Federal Republic of Germany was not a fully sovereign state after its foundation in 1949. Foreign troops remained on German soil, no longer as an official army of occupation, but still enjoying many privileges. As the Second World War had not officially ended in a peace treaty, the status of Germany among the other European states remained somewhat ambivalent. In particular it remained unclear in which way the allied powers of 1945 would use their authority and influence should the chance ever arise for a reunification of the two German states. </p> <p>When this chance emerged in 1989, reunification came about surprisingly swiftly, despite Mrs. Thatcher’s furious protests and Mitterand’s secret misgivings about such a portentous change in the European balance of power. However, the man presiding over Germany’s fate at this time, Helmut Kohl, decided at the very moment of the rebirth of the German nation state to scrap the Deutschmark in favour of the Euro, thereby undermining the power of one of post-war Germany’s most important institutions, the Bundesbank, and destroying Germany’s monetary autonomy. </p> <p>This is not the place to discuss the reasons for this decision in detail. But Kohl clearly felt that the Germans were not really capable of governing themselves as citizens of a fully independent nation state. They needed to be supervised and controlled by other countries as they had been up till 1989, otherwise they would again lose their way as they had done in the first half of the twentieth century and would once again become the hated odd man out, as the largest and potentially most powerful nation in Europe. Resentment against Germany stretched back through two world wars and beyond, and still formed a strong undercurrent in public opinion. (Ironically, of course, Germany is now more isolated and unpopular in Europe than ever since the end of the Second World War - for that very reason, that it appears to dominate the Eurozone and impose a harsh austerity policy on other countries – or so people say). </p> <p>French pressure also played a role (Paris saw the capacity of the Bundesbank to dictate French interest rates within the monetary system replaced later by the Euro as a perpetual source of humiliation and were keen for the DM to be abolished), but Kohl’s hope was central - to create thereby a European economic system which would be the German Marktwirtschaft writ large. One should also bear in mind the fact that the great German industrial companies focused on exporting their goods saw clear advantages in a common and stable European currency which would pose a serious challenge to their competitors in Italy and France.</p> <p>What however remains remarkable to this day is that there has never been any real discussion about the Euro in Germany. True to say, a number of prominent economists--perhaps the majority of the leading economists in Germany-- opposed the Euro in the 1990s. But the public at large accepted the decision to abandon the Deutschemark with supine acquiescence. They were of course, assured and repeatedly reassured for years on end that there would never, ever be any kind of bail out of other Euro-countries and that the European central bank would be guided by the same principles and ideals which had made the Bundesbank famous for its monetary rectitude. Still, questions could have been asked about the hazardous experiment of creating a common European currency without at the same time creating a European central state upholding this currency. But they remained unasked, at least in parliament and in the wider political debate.</p> <p>German political culture after the war--matters are different since the advent of Merkel--was by no means always alien to acrimonious debates and conflicts. But if there was one subject which was taboo and a no go-area for political strife, it was Europe. Until 2014 there was never a European election in Germany in which the political parties asked the voters to choose between different versions of policy on Europe. Even in 2014 the new AfD was almost the only party to do so with the partial exception of Die Linke (the former communists). </p> <p>Essentially, domestic German issues always dominated the European elections. As far as Brussels was concerned all parties agreed that ever more institutional power should gradually be given to the European Commission and the European parliament, as along as the power of the purse remained with the Bundestag, the federal diet. This sort of policy was of course a contradiction in terms, but as one was not really allowed to discuss these issues, this was ignored.</p> <h2>Europe repressed</h2> <p>Even at the height of the Euro-crisis during the federal election of 2013, the parties dominating German politics managed to keep all issues connected to the rescue of the Euro out of the election campaign, supported in this noble endeavour by the majority of journalists working for television or the more important national newspapers and news magazines. The economics pages of the <em>Frankfurter Allgemeine</em> and the weekly journal <em>Wirtschaftswoche</em> (which however is now being brought into line by a new editor in chief, a self- acclaimed passionate supporter of the Euro) fought a lone battle against this strange complicity in silence, but such publications are not widely read as most readers find articles on economic questions too difficult to digest. </p> <p>In this world of complacent consensus the Alternative für Deutschland, founded in February 2013, is the great fly in the ointment, the heretic who dares to say the unsayable, and to question the ideal of an ever closer union of European states and the Euro itself.</p> <h2><strong>Protest movement</strong></h2> <p>One has to admit that the AfD is at the moment still more of a protest movement uniting men and women holding quite different and sometimes contradictory convictions than a homogenous political party, but then the other minor or major parties are not that homogenous either. The advantage they have, to be sure, is that they have found ways and means to isolate the oddballs and eccentrics within their own ranks and contain conflicts through a calculated mixture of fudged compromise and patronage politics.</p> <p>The AfD still has to learn how to contain internal conflicts effectively and isolate those within its own ranks who are rather too wild eyed and enthusiastic, not to mention the ‘fruitcakes’ who frequent the rank and file of UKIP supporters in Britain, for example, and are not entirely absent among AFD supporters either. Some progress has certainly been made in this regard, but a lot still needs to be done. However, there is still a danger that the party will remain a sort of institutionalised ‘Speaker’s Corner’, a place for everybody who does not belong to the political Left, but nevertheless has a grievance against the establishment and wishes to vent his or (more rarely) her anger, as the conservative and ‘patriotic’ daily <em>Junge Freiheit</em> has pointed out. </p> <p>The years to come will show whether the party is capable of building on its initial success--it now has members of parliament in four regional diets (Brandenburg, Sachsen, Thüringen and Hamburg)--and become a force in German politics that the other parties really do have to reckon with on a daily basis.</p> <p>What then do supporters of the AfD have in common? They, or most of them are convinced that the present German political class--and large sections of the media in alliance with this class--can no longer be trusted, no more really than the political <em>nomenclatura</em> which until recently governed Greece. Essentially, German voters were never told the truth about the Euro and the enormous risk it would pose both to the German taxpayer (and those depending for their income on the German welfare state of course) and the small savers unable to buy real estate or to play the stock market to make a profit. The majority of people in Germany do not belong to the upper middle class or live in the countryside, but dwell in rented accommodation, in great contrast to the situation in Italy or Britain, which partly explains the widespread German fear of inflation. They were not told about the risks in the 1990s when the ‘frivolous experiment’ &nbsp;(Wolfgang Streeck) of creating this artificial currency first got off the ground and are not told now about them, when men such as Wolfgang Schäuble, the minister of finance, still pretend that the loans granted to countries such as Greece will be paid back in due course without any losses to the German taxpayer, a proposition that nobody who has ever given any thought to this problem can believe for a single moment. &nbsp;</p> <p>If distrust of the entire political class constitutes ‘populism’, the AfD may well be a populist party. But then democracies from time to time do need tribunes of the people, in a manner of speaking, in particular when professional politicians have forgotten the principle that, ‘You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but that you cannot fool all of the people all of the time’ (Lincoln).&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <h2>‘<strong>Populism’ and nationhood</strong></h2> <p>Supporters of the AfD also share the fact that they believe in one way or another in the nation state, and that of course constitutes a major revolution in Germany. In the Federal Republic the idea of patriotism and even more so, outright nationalism, were largely discredited after 1945. Most Germans in the West (in the East attitudes were and are clearly different) would until recently have very readily accepted the idea that Germany as a state of its own should in the long run disappear and be replaced by a European federation in which Germany would be no more than one of many self-governing provinces. Many Germans still think along those lines, although in the past they used to assume that a United Europe, when it came to the rule of law or the way the economy and the welfare state was run, would somehow be quite similar to the Federal Republic of Germany. </p> <p>Now, they begin to realise, albeit slowly, that this is a pipe dream and that a United Europe, should it ever come about, will in all likelihood be more a sort of giant Italy than a greater Germany. Not an attractive prospect for everybody, despite the undeniable fact that Italians are more elegant, less, shall we say, dour people than Germans, and make better espresso.</p> <p>Supporters of the AfD, however, have little time for the idea of a United States of Europe anyhow. Most of them would not deny that the EU as such has a legitimate part to play in politics. Clearly in matters of foreign policy (although here the European governments rarely speak with one voice, unfortunately) or in trade negotiations with the US, to give just one example, the individual nation states in Europe have very little clout. They need to cooperate to exert any real pressure. Moreover the single European market has undoubtedly benefited Germany greatly (although exports to the Eurozone as a percentage of all trade have declined considerably over the last 15 years and do not any longer constitute more than about 36% of all German exports, as opposed to 44 % in 2001, a very significant change that shows the impact both of the European crisis and of globalisation). </p> <p>But the idea of an ever closer union of European states is widely rejected by AfD supporters. They believe that political cultures (and in fact economic cultures) are far too diverse in Europe for such a superstate to function effectively. Moreover the EU has been constructed so far very much as a post-democratic political system. In a union of different states--some of them quite small--simple majority decisions are just not possible. Minorities must retain a strong right to veto decisions, unless they are to feel that they can never make their voices heard. Furthermore the European parliament is not a normal parliamentary body. There is, apart from the strange and undemocratic electoral system and the total absence of any real European as opposed to merely national parties, no interplay between opposition and government as in most national parliaments. In fact any open opposition against the process of European unification as such is seen as heretical and illegitimate and many members of the great political alliances dominating politics in Brussels would clearly like to ban such critics altogether from the floor of the house. </p> <p>Finally the European Commission, although it exercises ever more considerable governmental powers--being far more than just an administrative body these days--is essentially still a body whose members are nominated by the member states of the EU as if they were mere civil servants. If democracy is about being able to kick the bums out (to bring down a government in an election) this is impossible in Brussels and will remain so for the foreseeable future. </p> <p>That a man like the egregious Mr. Juncker who has presided for years on end over a taxpayers’ paradise which allowed companies from other countries to avoid paying any realistic amount of taxation at all and has governed a country which is totally dominated by the financial industry which did so much to create the crisis of 2008/09 now embodies the noble European idea is a supreme irony. Only a philosopher as completely <em>bien pensant</em> as Habermas could hail Juncker’s election as president of the commission in Brussels as a victory for democracy.</p> <h2><strong>Our welfare in Europe</strong></h2> <p>The real problem for the EU is that both the welfare state and democracy are so far closely linked to the nation state. Should there ever be a European welfare state--and it does not look very likely that this will come about any time soon--it will be much more like the very basic American system of providing limited benefits to the poor and the needy than the present much more generous system which exists in countries such as France or Germany, not to mention Scandinavia. Friedrich August von Hayek pointed out as early as 1939 in a paper entitled ‘The Economic Conditions of Interstate Federalism’ that in a federation of nation states the welfare state would need to be scaled down because different national governments would otherwise be unable to agree on how to finance any system of welfare at all. Hayek for this very reason welcomed interstate federalism: and some authors such as the well known sociologist Wolfgang Streeck have seen the EU and the Euro with its political and financial constraints as an attempt to put his neo-liberal ideas into practice through the back door (Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain would certainly agree with this way of looking at things). </p> <p>One need not subscribe fully to such an interpretation, which does have some plausibility however, for it to be clear that the Euro has become a serious threat to democracy in Europe, because national parliaments can no longer control their own national budgets. The renewed crisis in Greece is caused <em>inter alia</em> by a revolt against this undemocratic regime. Germans have not yet realised what it will mean when large chunks of the annual budget of the federal government will in future have to be diverted to give support to other European countries. But the hour of truth may come sooner than people expect.</p><p><span><img class="image-caption" src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/xHTW9GvSCWRAq8fRfJaGegWSDx4OryfeU2YnM2Ujl5Y/mtime:1425392067/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/afd1.jpg" alt="7833" /><span class="image-caption">Konrad Adam, Bernd Lucke and Alexander Garland at the founding conference, April 2013. Demotix/Theo Schneider. All rights reserved.</span></span></p><h2><span>The AfD and the CDU</span></h2> <p>European unification, via the Euro, has created such terrible chaos, while imposing enormous suffering on millions of people in Portugal, Spain, Ireland and Greece but also, to a lesser degree in the form of high unemployment in Italy and elsewhere, that it poses a serious threat to democracy itself. Thus any rational judgement would come to the conclusion that the AfD’s opposition against a process of European unification should at least be given a fair hearing. But is such an opposition against the destruction of the nation state and against the Euro enough to keep a political party going? </p> <p>That has been the crucial question facing the AfD right from the beginning. Bernd Lucke, the most prominent among the three official leaders of the AfD and the other leading politicians of the party such as Konrad Adam, Frauke Petry and even more so Alexander Gauland in Brandenburg, have therefore tried to tap into the undercurrent of conservative opinion which is dissatisfied with the sea changes German politics have undergone over the last fifteen or twenty years. </p> <p>In the past, the CDU (the equivalent of the Conservative Party in Germany) although it was never classically conservative like Britain’s Tory Party, always had an influential conservative wing which saw the battle against the Labour Party and the Greens as a true ideological contest. This wing has almost disappeared during Merkel’s ascendancy. As a consequence, the CDU no longer dares even to challenge the language regimes which left-leaning parties and large sections of the media try to impose on political discussion. Words such as ‘assimilation’ (in the context of debates on immigration) have been banned and if a CDU politician these days said openly that a family consisting of father, mother and children is somehow more ‘normal’ than one consisting of two fathers or two mothers and adopted children (or offspring that has been produced artifically) he would be likely to run into trouble within his own party as a homophobe. Equally the CDU is now supporting a policy of widescale affirmative action in favour of women (and very soon probably also in favour of ethnic minorities) which it would have passionately rejected fifteen or twenty years ago, while Merkel officially endorses the gospel of a multicultural society (whatever that may mean in practice) which she rejected in living memory equally vociferously. </p> <p>It is easy to understand that this transformation of the CDU into a party which is more (mildly) left of centre than right of centre has left high and dry conservative voters who reject such policies, as they no longer have a party which voices their concerns. Merkel’s hope that such voters would just disappear into thin air has so far not been fulfilled. </p> <p>Moreover there are voters in Germany who are similar in outlook to the ‘left behinds’ in Britain (culturally conservative lower middle class and working class voters, often middle aged or elderly men rather than women, who frequently supported the Labour party in the past) or the ‘petits blancs’ in France who abandoned the less leafy suburban housing estates of the great urban conglomerations when they came to be dominated by immigrants who do not always display much sympathy for the dwindling indigenous population, as the geographer Christophe Guilluy, for example, has chronicled. </p> <p>There is undoubtedly mileage in taking up the grievances of such voters and some AfD politicians, Gauland in particular, see the main support of the AfD coming in future from these strata of the population, not from the more affluent and more open-minded middle classes. </p> <h2>The question of immigration and the danger of xenophobia</h2> <p>But there is also a high risk involved. The German version of ‘white van man’ is not necessarily a more pleasant or more rational person than his British counterpart and the step from justified concerns about unregulated mass immigration and rising religious and ethnic tensions to open xenophobia can be a very small one. German Jews have recently been advised by their own community leaders to avoid wearing insignia or clothes betraying their Jewish identity in public, on the grounds that this would endanger their safety in the presence of Muslims. So such tensions clearly are on the rise, but still there is no easy answer to the question of how best to contain them.</p> <p>The language games of the Left which attempt to stifle debate in the name of political correctness are too much inspired by the spirit of a new enlightened absolutism designed to educate the backward mass of the population. They view them rather as the benighted peasants of rural Europe in the eighteenth century might once have been viewed by the enlightened officeholders and intellectuals at the time. But there are issues, and immigration is definitely one of those issues, where one should choose one’s words very carefully if one does not want to make matters even worse than they already are. It is not a good idea to light a fire next to a powder keg.</p> <h2>Going that extra distance</h2> <p>So the task the AfD faces is a difficult one. It can only be successful if it manages to offer something substantial to voters subscribing to conservative values in matters concerning education, the family and immigration, beyond a principled opposition to a centralised European state. </p> <p>Some supporters of the AfD also feel that it is high time to take a critical look at the ‘friendship’ between the US and Germany, given the fact that American presidents tend to see European countries as mere pawns in a worldwide great game for power and supremacy, and no recent president more so than Barack Obama.</p> <p>However, if the AfD promotes an ideal of society which owes more to the values of the 1950s than to the realities of the twenty-first century (and there are, one has to admit, small but highly active groups within the AfD which favour such a course) it can still for the time being constitute a successful protest movement. But it will fail to have any real impact on practical politics, and this is something which Bernd Lucke and other more liberal politicians within the AfD understand only too well. </p> <p>At the same time an exit from the Euro system is as difficult for Germany as it is for any southern European country. In the same way in which the cheap credit which the Euro provided has acted as a drug for countries such as Spain or Greece before 2010--a drug these countries became addicted to--the chance to export almost unlimited quantities of German goods at artificially debased prices may not have a beneficial effect on the German economy in the long run, but it does give a stimulus to the export industry. Withdraw this stimulus, this drug, too suddenly instead of gradually, it must be admitted, and you may well produce a cold turkey which will kill your patient, the German economy, altogether. It is not easy to find a solution for this problem. </p> <p>So instead the AfD’s task may rather be to develop a vision of European co-operation for The Day After, for the time when the next—inevitable--implosion of the international financial system brings the Euro system crashing down and the EU has to be reconstructed on very different foundations from the present ones.</p> <p>Of course the future of the German political system itself is uncertain at best. What will happen when people who as we speak still trust “Mutti” Merkel almost blindly, discover that their pension schemes and their savings have become worthless because of the policy the ECB pursues and that what remains of the German welfare state has to be radically dismantled because of the cost of defending the Euro? Will they vote for the AfD or will they take to the streets in peaceful or not so peaceful protests, as so many did recently in Dresden and Leipzig (the ‘Pegida-movement’) to the great surprise of the political class which promptly threw a tantrum, shocked by these amorphous and admittedly not very pleasant anti-immigration protests. </p> <p>Or will they just keel over and silently accept their fate, having come to the conclusion that taking part in the political process in whatever form has become pointless, because all real decisions are being taken in Brussels and by the international financial markets and cannot be influenced in any significant way in democratic elections? </p> <p>Only time will tell. But the last vote in the Bundestag on giving further support to Greece certainly did not bode well for the future of democracy. When around 70 - 75 % of all voters in Germany have serious misgivings about giving further help to Greece, it may not be a good sign that 95% of all MPs vote in favour of extending financial support and that there is not a single party in parliament arguing against this momentous decision. </p> <p>One could well get the impression that what we see is merely a democratic façade for a political system which long ago became post-democratic. One is reminded of Ken Livingstone’s famous dictum: ‘If voting changed anything, they'd abolish it.’</p> <p><em>The author of this article is a member of the </em>Alternative für Deutschland<em> but holds no office in the party and the article presents only his own personal opinion not that of the party itself. He has written this article from a partly partisan point of view, but partly also in a perspective an anthropologist might classify as ‘participant observation’.</em></p><p><em><em>If you enjoyed this article then please like the&nbsp;<strong>Can Europe Make it?</strong>&nbsp;<a href="https://www.facebook.com/caneuropemakeit">facebook page</a>&nbsp;and follow us on twitter&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/oD_Europe">@oD_Europe</a></em></em></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Germany </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Tue, 03 Mar 2015 14:14:33 +0000 Ronald G. Asch 90964 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Death at Yarl’s Wood: Women in mourning, women in fear https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/anonymous-interviewee-and-jennifer-allsopp/death-at-yarl%E2%80%99s-wood-women-in-mourning-women-in-fear <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Abuse at Yarl's Wood immigration detention centre is finally mainstream news. When a woman died at Yarl’s Wood in 2014, a woman who knew her inside spoke by phone to Jennifer Allsopp.</p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/4_oATD-BFiz60QJuBk_Rt2DlLIeWiP1SNZGxb58y1jQ/mtime:1406428756/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/Yarlswood_IDC_-_geograph.org_.uk_-_78530.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Yarl&#039;s Wood immigration removal centre. Capacity: 405"><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/-CHUFvAWKcFwnketbIhIjvibyvyDuUWjPLxhIWVCDlo/mtime:1406428682/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/Yarlswood_IDC_-_geograph.org_.uk_-_78530.jpg" alt="" title="Yarl&#039;s Wood immigration removal centre. Capacity: 405" width="400" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Yarl's Wood immigration removal centre. Capacity: 405</span></span></span></span></p><p><span><em>This article was first published on 31 March 2014.</em></span></p><p><span>JA: Can you tell me why you wanted to speak to openDemocracy 50.50?</span></p> <p>A: [Name withheld] died here on Sunday morning and I wanted to say that we’re all so upset and we're not happy here. There are so many people in here who are unwell and not to fit to be detained and deported. </p> <p>JA: Did you know her?</p> <p>A: Yes. I spoke with her before she died. She’d been here about nine days. She was telling me that she was scared because she was going to be taken to the airport. She was taken there but then she was brought back here because of her solicitor. She was worried the Home Office were going to issue her with another document and send her again. To me, when I saw her, she was well. She seemed strong and was moving around. </p> <p>Some people told me that two days ago someone opened the door hard and she had a shock and was very frightened. The previous day, Saturday, she asked her friend to do her hair and then she said, when she was doing it, ‘I can’t carry on, I’m feeling unwell’.</p> <p>JA: This was a friend she’d met in detention.</p> <p>A: Yes, a friend from detention. </p> <p>JA: How have the women in Yarl’s Wood responded?</p> <p>We’re very upset. Especially yesterday, nobody went to the afternoon meal, and only some people on medication went to the evening meal. We’re all remembering her, every discussion we had with her. She was really very nice. In nine days in here she was in touch with so many people. She was strong you know. When I met her she said ‘I’m going to go and get my clothes from the reception’. I told her ‘but where will you wear your clothes in here?’ and she said, ‘yes, but they are new and I am going to wear them!’</p> <p>JA: So the women are in mourning?</p> <p>Yes, the women are in mourning. The women are in fear. We were all just thinking, this could happen to me as well. This could happen to any of us. There are other people here who are sick and most of us are not believed when we tell them. It’s common. There are vulnerable women who will keep dying in here. There are women here now in wheel chairs...there’s a paralysed woman here. </p> <p>JA: It sounds like there is an atmosphere of solidarity.</p> <p>A: There’s an atmosphere of solidarity, we get to know people’s stories. We get the stories of people who’ve been here 2 years, 2 months...</p> <p>JA: Have you been given much information about what has happened? </p> <p>A: Now the situation is in shutdown. All they’ve told us is that they’ve tried to contact her next of kin.</p> <p>JA: Can you tell me a bit about your own experience of being detained in Yarl’s Wood?</p> <p>A: In Yarl’s Wood it’s like looking out of a window in the middle of nowhere. There are no houses when you look out of the window. You’re brought here in the middle of the night so you’ve no idea where you are: no idea what the gates look like or what’s outside.</p> <p>There’s little peace. Every day you have a roll call, four times a day. Yesterday there were countless roll calls because of the situation. It was so, so uncomfortable. I don’t know what word to use.</p> <p>If a new person comes in, at 2am, 4am it doesn’t matter, they take them into your room while you’re sleeping. They just bring them in. They don’t care if you’re asleep or not asleep. They don’t care if you don’t sleep again until morning.</p> <p>JA: Can you tell me a bit more about the roll call?</p> <p>A: They knock on your door and check you’re there. The guard could be male or female, they don’t really care.&nbsp; You have to be dressed, that’s your responsibility. They knock and just come straight in. They’re doing one right now [<em>there’s a loud voice in the background and a door banging.</em>] If you’re dressing you should do it in your bathroom. They find women naked all the time. </p> <p>We have cards with our name and number. You have to carry it with you all the time, even when you go to the toilet.</p> <p>JA: What would you like to see change?</p> <p>A: I look forward to the day Yarl’s Wood will be shut down. We’re all in here and we’re not criminals. Most of us have been in detention before we fled our countries and we thought that running away would free us from detention. We didn’t think that instead of getting help, we’d be detained again here in England.</p> <p>I’m hoping that Yarl’s Wood will be closed down and asylum seekers will not be treated like animals in this country; that asylum seekers’ cases will be looked at properly; that we won’t just be bundled in here and given a ticket for three days time. It’s so unfair the way the system works. You don’t have time to appeal. Even on the outside they make you report every Monday and you know you could be taken into detention at any time. You do that for years and years with so much fear inside you. Because detention is like a prison. There's no difference as I can’t go out; I can’t breathe fresh air. There’s just a little square between the houses but it’s still an enclosed space.</p> <p>I think about the people who have been here one year, two years: the need for fresh air! I feel I’m locked up in a room and there’s no door and no fresh air. It’s an uncomfortable feeling but again, this word... imagine that for one month, one year. It’s unbearable.</p><p><em><strong>The name of the interviewee has been withheld at her request.</strong></em></p><p><em><strong><em><strong><a href="http://opendemocracy.net/5050/refugee-week">Refugee Week: Women's Voices</a>: To mark Refugee Week, from 16-22 June&nbsp;openDemocracy 50.50 presents a range of articles written by refugee women authors&nbsp;and refugee rights' activists around the world. All articles are taken from&nbsp;<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/people-on-move">People on&nbsp;</a><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/people-on-move">the Move</a>, 50.50's migration, gender and social justice dialogue, edited by Jennifer&nbsp;Allsopp.</strong></em></strong></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/refugee-women-in-uk-fighting-back-from-behind-bars">Refugee women in the UK: fighting back from behind bars</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/beatrice-botomani/refugee-women-in-uk-pushing-stone-into-sea-0">Refugee women in the UK: Pushing a stone into the sea</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/nancy-bonongwe/seeking-asylum-ending-destitution">Seeking asylum, ending destitution</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/latefa-guemar/seeking-safety-in-algeria-syrian-refugee-women%E2%80%99s-resilience">Seeking safety in Algeria: Syrian refugee women’s resilience </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jerome-phelps/is-there-alternative-to-locking-up-migrants-in-uk">Is there an alternative to locking up migrants in the UK?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/kate-blagojevic/detention-and-human-rights-in-uk-maintaining-presumption-of-liberty">Detention and human rights in the UK: maintaining the presumption of liberty</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/kate-nustedt/what-happened-to-me-here-thats-what-broke-my-spirit">&#039;What happened to me here. . . that&#039;s what broke my spirit&#039;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/anna-dixie/double-standards-dispersal-and-pregnant-asylum-seekers-in-britain">Double standards: dispersal and pregnant asylum seekers in Britain</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/natasha-tsangarides/pregnant-detained-and-subjected-to-force-in-uk">Pregnant, detained, and subjected to force in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/warsan-shire/conversations-about-home-at-deportation-centre">Conversations about home (at a deportation centre)</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/yakin-erturk-and-jennifer-allsopp/due-diligence-for-womens-human-rights-transgressing-conventio">Due diligence for women&#039;s human rights: transgressing conventional lines </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/sun-sandand-indefinite-detention">Sun, sand...and indefinite detention </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> Tue, 03 Mar 2015 10:54:27 +0000 Anonymous interviewee and Jennifer Allsopp 80885 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Could the BBC survive without the licence fee? https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourbeeb/david-elstein/could-bbc-survive-without-licence-fee <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>If licence fees are decriminalised, the BBC could lose £200 million a year in unpaid debts. Adopting a subscription system would be fairer and free it from political control</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The BBC’s director-general, Tony Hall, is a man in a hurry. As one of the oldest DGs to be appointed, and already in receipt of his BBC pension, the 64-year-old is acutely aware that the corporation’s charter has less than two years to run, and that the licence fee – the BBC’s bedrock for the 93 years of its existence – has no long-term future (<a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/bbc/11435132/BBCs-licence-fee-should-be-decriminalised-then-scrapped-MPs-say.html"><strong>according to a report from a cross-party committee of MPs published last week</strong></a>).</p> <p>In a speech on Monday,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/media/2015/mar/02/bbc-licence-fee-10-years-director-general-tony-hall"><strong>Hall claimed that the committee had given the licence fee at least another 10 years</strong></a>. Actually, that was wishful thinking – the report said no such thing: only that in the 2020s, a new system would have to be in place – and the pace of events strongly suggests the beginning of the next decade is the back-stop date.</p> <p>Hall set out the case for switching from the licence fee to a broadcasting levy on all households, irrespective of whether they have a television, watch or listen to BBC programmes, or want to pay for the BBC. This was one of the options canvassed by MPs, the other being the new Finnish system of a percentage surcharge on income tax, with both a floor and a ceiling.</p><p><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/nG7ag0xbr6xy9Ol_2MRzMw8-5QZd0UtRt6Wp4DAc54A/mtime:1425371182/files/chart.jpeg" alt="" width="100%" /></p><p>Of course, for those who do not need to have a TV licence – the million or so homes without a television and the growing number who just watch online – the proposed switch would be unwelcome, despite Lord Hall’s attractive rhetoric about retaining the BBC as a “creative beacon” in a threatening world.</p><p>A household levy also has the disadvantage of possibly requiring primary legislation, and most likely needing the consent of the Scottish parliament, if it were to be attached to council tax collection. Given that in Germany – where the broadcast levy was recently introduced – the main beneficiaries are the regional governments and their respective broadcasters, it is hard to see an SNP administration failing to demand substantial devolutionary control of broadcasting. That would not appeal much to a thoroughly centralised BBC.</p> <p><span>Unmentioned by Hall in his presentation was the sting in the tail of the proposed levy. This was that the proceeds should not accrue exclusively to the BBC, but be in part reserved for other broadcasters whose ideas for public-service content required a degree of public funding.</span></p> <p><span>Indeed, the Commons committee, in calling for the trust to be replaced by a Public Service Broadcasting Commission (PSBC), which would allocate the levy, envisaged a situation where funding might be withdrawn from the BBC if its output failed to live up to expectations. Again, the BBC has always bitterly opposed sharing the licence fee: Hall’s silence on this point was eloquent.</span></p><p>Both the committee and Hall called for online consumption of content to come within the ambit of the licence fee. Oddly enough, it would seem to do so already: any device capable of receiving live broadcast television is technically subject to the rules. It is just that the BBC has not had the nerve – or resources – to seek that level of enforcement.</p><p><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/vhFt4ZpIZow8_Bk_rHvZoP2ITGGo_HqU6X2-wOvgIQ0/mtime:1425371487/files/Screen%20Shot%202015-03-03%20at%2009.29.35.png" alt="" width="100%" /></p><p>In any case, there is a simple solution, which is to encrypt TV content on the BBC iPlayer, as that wily bird, Lord Burns, recommended to the committee. Licence holders would be able to gain access to iPlayer by typing in their licence number. Non-holders would have to pay a fee – rather like that for Netflix or Amazon. It would take weeks, not years, to implement such a system, and require no special legislation. After all, the BBC already sells DVDs of its programmes, and is a 50 per cent shareholder in UKTV, which charges a monthly subscription for access to its content, the largest single element of which comes from the BBC.</p><p>Why is Tony Hall so adamantly opposed to something so obvious, fair and easy? It is because he sees it as the thin end of the wedge, where the licence fee as a whole might be replaced by subscription. Ostensibly, the BBC opposes voluntary subscription as a replacement for the licence on two grounds: loss of universality and loss of revenue. In reality, the argument is about two different philosophies of funding broadcasting: compulsion versus choice.</p><p>The concept of universal provision of BBC services, free at the point of use, is quite recent. Not all BBC channels have been available to all households at all times; and there would be no reduction in availability in a subscription system.</p><p>As for being “free at the point of use”, that can only apply once you have paid your licence fee: which is no different from paying a Sky, Virgin Media or Netflix subscription, where you can consume as much content as you like at the relevant level of payment.</p> <p class="image-right"><img src="//dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/lCrtRSAdyo9dMWnkl5bu4dAlccx3dd1mRw_K9AiG_A4/mtime:1425370938/files/de2.jpg " alt="" width="460" /><br /><span class="image-caption"> </span><em> Pros and cons of the licence fee, according to MPs</em></p><p>More importantly, the BBC fears a significant loss of revenue if households were given the freedom to subscribe – or not. Hall argues that a reduction in the numbers of those paying would entail either a cut in the quality of service, or an increase in the fee, or both. He may be right, though my view is that with the average viewer’s consumption of BBC TV running at 8-10 hours a week, the chances of people en masse giving up EastEnders, Casualty, Countryfile, Bake Off, Antiques Road Show, Top Gear and even Pointless, not to mention Newsnight, Panorama, and an array of documentaries, in order to save £12 a month, is minimal.</p><p>The BBC regularly reminds us that, at 40p a day, its huge array of output is a tremendous bargain. The trouble is that nothing is a bargain if you have no choice but to buy it. If the BBC really believed its own propaganda about the 40p, it would embrace subscription without a second thought. That it is so viscerally opposed to subscription – and to choice, a word rarely on the lips of BBC mandarins – is a reminder that its business model relies upon criminal sanctions to achieve success.</p><p>The hundreds of thousands of impoverished householders who are prosecuted for failure to pay the licence fee are the other side of the reputed bargain. Allowing those people the freedom to do without the BBC, is surely a small price to pay for a clear conscience.</p><p>The BBC will also argue that a major investment would be required to equip millions of Freeview TV sets with conditional access modules, in order for encryption to work. That this absence is the deliberate result of BBC policy when Freeview was launched – to frustrate any future move to subscription – does not alter the economics.</p><p>The capital cost might run as high as £500 million, but this would be spread across some 15 million households, where the cost of a module per TV set might be between £15 and £25: no different from the average cost involved in the recent upgrade from analogue to digital broadcasting. If the BBC were nervous about the rate of take-up, it could easily borrow against future revenues in order to reduce the initial cost of conversion.</p> <p class="image-right"><img src="//dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/rofZK7UO_2wGZMAiwODIV2CpjoQ1gC5khqoHcoz6QbU/mtime:1425370961/files/de3.jpg " alt="" width="460" /><br /><span class="image-caption"> </span><em> Source: DCMS select committee</em></p><p>In any case, time is not on Tony Hall’s side.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/bbc/10684639/Dodging-TV-licence-will-not-be-a-crime.html"><strong>Parliament has voted to decriminalise the licence fee</strong></a>, either in 2016 or 2017, leaving the BBC to chase non-payment as a civil debt, with the inevitable result that hundreds of thousands of households will avoid payment. The BBC acknowledges that at least £200 million a year could be lost this way. Needless to say, at least an encryption and subscription system would prevent evaders freeloading at the expense of those who pay.</p> <p>Subscription would also give the BBC effective independence from politicians, as opposed to the nominal independence the licence fee represents. In October 2010, the Coalition transferred more than £500 million a year of spending obligations from its departments to the BBC, as the price of freezing the licence fee within an overall public spending review. The Commons committee was scathing about the BBC Trust’s failure to resist this blatant abuse.</p> <p>At least giving up the licence fee, and adopting subscription, would free the BBC from the constant threat of political interference in its funding. Instead, the BBC would deal directly with those who consume its services: surely not the worst of outcomes.</p> <p>Many people – probably most – admire the BBC and its cheery DG. They wish both well. But a dose of courage on their part would not go amiss.</p><p><em>This piece <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/bbc/11444921/Could-the-BBC-survive-without-the-licence-fee.html" target="_blank">was first published in The Telegraph</a> (2 March 2015)</em></p> Tue, 03 Mar 2015 09:05:48 +0000 David Elstein 90984 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Hard times: the human face of neo-liberalism https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/sue-gerhardt/hard-times-human-face-of-neoliberalism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Successive governments have promoted policies which entrench a punitive and controlling way of managing public institutions.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/XwDXVbpkuYf-j-u4Mh1VgJYWAUHltrXYDqxDmXMENPk/mtime:1425324176/files/Every-morning-I-wake-up-on-the-wrong-side-of-Capitalism_0.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Every morning I wake up on the wrong side of capitalism. Credit: Street Art Utopia, Sun Rise Above. All rights reserved.</p> <p><a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoliberalism">Neo-liberalism</a><span> isn’t just an economic doctrine. With its obsession with money and markets and targets and competition, it also shapes our emotional cultures. But how does it get under the skin and into the way we relate to one another in public institutions as well as private life?</span></p> <p><span>It’s a sneaky and insidious process. The culture shifts, and we absorb its values without noticing as it becomes more and more difficult to think in any other way. Who has the time to really listen and respond to each other, let alone enjoy playfulness, when financial outcomes override all other considerations? As a result, the quality of relationships inevitably suffers.</span></p> <p><span>These values are passed on to children through parenting practices. As society becomes increasingly unequal, parents are more stressed. And stressed parents—whether the driven, ambitious, wealthy minority or the financially struggling majority—are often less tuned in to their own feelings, and less able to respond sensitively.</span></p> <p><span>Instead of drawing on empathy to guide their responses, they turn to the ‘quick fix’ of punitive practices that are based on </span><em>external</em><span> control of the child’s behaviour, like strict feeding or sleeping regimes. Or they </span><a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/Selfish-Society-Forgot-Another-Instead/dp/1847396763/ref=sr_1_1/278-6944082-7684406?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1424722054&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=the+selfish+society">resort to threats and physical punishments</a><span> which are </span><a href="http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2010/08/02/peds.2008-2374.full.pdf+html">still practiced by a majority of parents in the UK and the USA</a><span>. These practices tend to produce individuals who are trained to ignore feelings—what’s known </span><a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/Why-Love-Matters-affection-shapes/dp/0415870534/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1424624450&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=why+love+matters">in the psychology trade</a><span> as “</span><a href="http://www.suttontrust.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/baby-bonds-final.pdf">insecure avoidant attachment</a><span>” behaviour.</span></p> <p><span>Cumulatively, this behaviour shapes the culture of society. But I think there are signs that some of the consequences of emotional avoidance are being recognised a result of recent scandals in the UK National Health Service (NHS) and in local government. These scandals show how successive governments have promoted policies which entrench a punitive and controlling—rather than secure and supportive—way of managing public institutions.</span></p> <p><span>One of the most shocking recent examples to make the headlines was at the </span><a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stafford_Hospital_scandal">Mid Staffordshire Hospital</a><span> in the UK, where some patients were ignored for long periods of time, left to lie in their own faeces, hungry, unwashed, cold or thirsty. One even resorted to drinking water from a vase. In another incident, a nurse was so bothered by hearing a baby crying that she taped a dummy to his mouth even though he was premature and suffering from breathing difficulties. Pressure from the patients’ relatives eventually led to questions being asked, but how on earth had such behaviour been allowed to take place?</span></p> <p><span>The official enquiry which investigated these incidents (the “</span><a href="http://www.midstaffspublicinquiry.com/report">Francis Report</a><span>”) found that some of the nursing staff lacked compassion, and were dismissive of the needs of patients and their families. Unfortunately there was no further psychological reflection on the factors that may have contributed to such uncaring behaviour—such as a feeling of being overwhelmed by the demand for a fast turnover of patients,&nbsp; a numbness at not having enough time to care, or a feeling of being traumatised by the emotionally demanding nature of the work itself. Neither the Report nor the hospital managers recognised such possibilities.</span></p> <p><span>However, what the Report did make clear was that instead of a secure, supportive and thoughtful management that might have helped health care workers to deal with these kinds of naturally ambivalent feelings and sustain their empathy, there was an avoidant-style culture of bullying which cascaded down from the top. Managers under pressure from the Department of Health used short cuts to get staff to comply with their directions by “applying career threatening pressure.” Those who raised questions about the quality of care were harassed and threatened with legal action.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span>This was not an isolated case. </span><a href="http://www.cqc.org.uk/provider/RWA/reports">Other recent studies</a><span> confirm the same picture. </span><a href="http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/3/6/e002628.full">One report found</a><span> that nearly half NHS staff had either witnessed or experienced bullying in the last year. This included physical bullying such as being pushed or prodded, or as one person graphically described, having a member of staff putting a hand in their face to stop them speaking. Anecdotally, there is a sense of a cultural shift to a more authoritarian way of doing things. </span><a href="http://loisrogers.com/?p=374">Malcolm Alexander</a><span>, a lobbyist for patients, put it this way “The thing that really strikes me as something that has changed, is that the hierarchy in hospitals seems more entrenched than ever.”</span></p> <p><span>Why has the culture of the NHS moved in this direction? The key finding of the Francis Report was clear: managers were so preoccupied with cost cutting and meeting government targets on waiting times that they ignored the basics of good patient care. A “command and control” attitude was forcefully promoted by the former head of the NHS, focused on financial targets as well as the achievement of elite foundation trust status or the latest re-organisation of systems.</span></p> <p><span>Managers who don’t achieve these goals face financial penalties and, one might imagine, shame. It seems that one response to such insecurity is defensive—to attempt to control and micro-manage staff—and thus anxiety gets passed on down the line. In these circumstances, compassion for patients is more difficult to sustain. As Alexander puts it, “the interaction between nurses and patients seems to have completely broken down. They are strangely distant. You rarely see them touch a patient.”&nbsp; Fear of losing jobs or funding comes to dominate people’s behaviour, and trust evaporates.</span></p> <p><span>It’s a similar story in local government. In both Rotherham and Doncaster in the UK, for example, there have been extreme failures by Councils and the South Yorkshire Police over many years to respond empathetically to the needs of children. Case after case has come to light where child protection has failed. </span><a href="http://www.rotherham.gov.uk/downloads/file/1407/independent_inquiry_cse_in_rotherham">Most recently in Rotherham</a><span>, social workers, their managers and local politicians had all known for years that underage girls were being groomed and raped by gangs of Pakistani men, but little action was taken.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span>Mirroring the behaviour of NHS managers, local councillors actively silenced and coerced those who drew attention to the problem. They </span><a href="http://www.rotherham.gov.uk/downloads/file/1407/independent_inquiry_cse_in_rotherham">intimidated a Home Office researcher</a><span> and confiscated her research. One motivation seems to have been that the party in power depended on the votes of the Pakistani community, so it was willing to minimise or even deny the reality of abusive behaviour within that community even though some of the child victims </span><a href="http://www.rotherham.gov.uk/downloads/file/1407/independent_inquiry_cse_in_rotherham">had witnessed brutally violent rapes</a><span>, been doused in petrol, and threatened with being set alight if they did not cooperate.</span></p> <p><span>The official enquiries into these cases described a “macho and insensitive culture” that was incapable of recognising and responding to the vulnerability of children. However, this was not the only sphere in which Rotherham councillors behaved in such a way: they also used a bullying and coercive approach to their own workforce. They regularly issued ultimatums to council officers and social workers, telling them to comply or be sacked.</span></p> <p><span>In psychological terms, their behaviour was typical of the </span><a href="http://faculty.coe.uh.edu/flopez/docs/Gormley.Lopez%282010%29.pdf">‘insecure authoritarian’</a><span> who attempts to control other people by force instead of engaging them in dialogue. Are these types of individuals attracted to such organisational sub-cultures, or are they produced by the sub-culture itself?</span></p> <p><span>At present we don’t have the research to answer this question. But </span><a href="http://www.karnacbooks.com/product/the-perverse-organisation-and-its-deadly-sins/25880/">Susan Long</a><span>, an Australian management scholar, believes that the problem has less to do with deviant individuals than with instrumental cultures. Dominated by a ‘transactional mindset,’ many organisations become so focused on particular outcomes that they lose the capacity to listen in a relational way to the whole person and their needs, or to respond to the whole situation.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span>Long goes further by arguing that managerial culture has become “perverse” in psychoanalytic terms, in that it represents a culture of collective self-deception. This culture endorses the pursuit of individual gain at the expense of the wellbeing of others in order to achieve its goals, even if that means denying other people’s emotional realities.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span>The behaviour of councillors and police in South Yorkshire can be seen in this light. The police overtly downplayed the harm they knew was happening to children. Perhaps because they were under pressure to meet their targets for effective prosecutions (and these cases </span><em>were</em><span> often hampered by unreliable witnesses), police officers did not pursue offenders. Instead they blamed the girls for being ‘out of control.’ They denied the reality of children who were being sexually abused and treated them as consenting adults—or even worse, as ‘slags.’</span></p> <p><span>In such an instrumental culture, where the primary goal is to achieve shorter waiting lists or higher grades or successful prosecutions, how can people make a place for listening and relating sensitively to others as individuals?</span></p> <p><span>Maybe the political economy of neo-liberalism </span><em>requires</em><span> insecure and aggressive people, instead of secure individuals who are more likely to be open and empathetic?&nbsp; If so, is this what we want? If not, we have to address everything that shapes the neo-liberal culture, from parenting practices to the design of health and education systems to the incentives that run through economic policies.</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/margaret-somers-fred-block/is-cruelty-key-to-prosperity">Is cruelty the key to prosperity?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/cathy-shutt/does-value-for-money-help-or-hinder-search-for-social-transformation">Does value for money help or hinder the search for social transformation?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/georgie-wingfieldhayes/facing-up-to-capitalist-within">Facing up to the capitalist within</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> Tue, 03 Mar 2015 01:44:49 +0000 Sue Gerhardt 90967 at https://www.opendemocracy.net 3 police officers forcibly strip a vulnerable child without calling her mum. Is that all right? https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/shauneen-lambe-paola-uccellari/3-police-officers-forcibly-strip-vulnerable-child-without- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>More and more children are being stripped or strip-searched in state custody in England and Wales. Children’s charities welcome a recent court judgement that clarifies the law.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/4n5OWc5W22y3V8E3EDIp53A7aqI_C9NrZrchapYt3gc/mtime:1425404743/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/stripgraphic_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/yJ7tskrQb4J0Ol4KLHCyBTLjMOOBSPonaWK37CCbcsU/mtime:1425404662/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/stripgraphic_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="440" height="236" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Young people on being stripped in state custody (Youth Justice Board, 2011)</span></span></span></p><p><span>PD was a 14-year-old girl, with a history of mental illness, who had been a victim of sexual abuse. She was arrested in 2010, after being drunk and abusive outside a kebab shop, then taken in handcuffs to Wirral police station where she was forcibly stripped of all her clothes by three female officers. No one called her mother until after PD had been stripped.</span></p> <p><span>The police say they stripped PD to prevent her harming herself, but CCTV footage of her after she had been stripped and put in a cell on her own, show her in acute distress, banging her head and pulling out chunks of hair. No officer appears to have tried to stop her hurting herself in this way.</span></p> <p><span>Last week, PD lost her claim for damages from the police on a point of law. However the appeal court judges expressed their “concern that it should have been thought appropriate immediately to remove the clothes of a distressed and vulnerable 14 year old girl without thought for alternative and less invasive measures to protect her from herself”.&nbsp; The police claimed she had to be stripped because they were worried she might use her underwear as a ligature and hang herself.</span></p> <p>PD’s is not an isolated case. Charities such as ours —&nbsp;<a href="http://www.justforkidslaw.org">Just for Kids Law</a> and <a href="http://www.crae.org.uk">Children's Rights Alliance for England</a>&nbsp;(CRAE) —&nbsp;are alarmed at the doubling in the number of children being stripped by police over recent years, both for their own protection and to search for weapons or drugs. </p> <p>Because of this, we acted as ‘interveners’ in PD’s case, which means that, although we weren’t acting for her directly, we were able to put expert evidence before the court to highlight the importance of children’s welfare and best interests being at the heart of any contact with police. In their judgment, the appeal judges wrote that they concurred “with the submissions made on behalf of the interveners that children in custody are vulnerable and that special care is required to protect their interests and well being”.</p> <p>It seems that little special care was shown in this case.</p> <p>Police lawyers had tried to argue that because PD was so vulnerable, she needed to be stripped for her own protection, and she was not entitled to the safeguards that are given to children who are stripped to search for evidence. </p> <p>They argued that because she was not technically being strip searched (merely stripped), the protections that apply to strip searching didn’t apply. They argued that she was not, therefore, entitled to have her mother or another ‘appropriate adult’ with her, to reassure or support PD.&nbsp;</p> <p>The rules around strip searching are contained in what is known as PACE Code C, which specifies that where someone is strip searched by the police, the strip should be conducted by an officer of the same gender and in private. If is it a child, they are entitled to have a parent or other appropriate adult with them.</p> <p>In PD’s case, the first court to look at the issue agreed with the police: it was a strip, not a strip search, so she wasn’t entitled to have her mum with her. Thankfully, the Court of Appeal disagreed, and said there is no distinction between a strip and a strip search. The same protections must apply to both.</p> <p>Although this was an important point of principle to establish, and will be welcomed by children’s campaigners, it was a fairly hollow victory for PD herself. The appeal court added the rider that there is an exception to the need for a parent or other adult to be present “in cases of urgency, where there is a risk of harm to the detainee or to others” – which is what the police successfully argued in PD’s case.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>On the broader issue the decision in PD is a positive one. Human rights laws demand that the police, and other public bodies, can interfere with a person’s privacy (in this case by removing a child’s clothes), <em>only</em> if it is a proportionate response to the risk – that is, if there is no other less intrusive measures they could have taken to achieve their objective. </p> <p>Even the most well balanced adult would be traumatised to be held down and stripped by three strangers. Imagine how much worse it must be for a child who already has mental health issues, who has previously been sexually abused.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Just for Kids Law and Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRAE) believe that the police should only ever strip children as a last resort, when there is no other alternative to keep them safe, and that all necessary protections should be in place to minimise the trauma involved.</p> <p>This doesn’t appear to be happening in practice. Statistics recently gathered by CRAE via a freedom of information request for their State of Children’s Rights in England report show that the strip searching of children by the police doubled between 2008 and 2013. CRAE’s statistics also show that in 45 per cent of those strip searches there was no appropriate adult present. The court’s decision in PD gives welcome clarification that the police can strip a child without an appropriate adult present <em>only</em> where there is an immediate risk of harm.</p> <p>Both CRAE and Just for Kids Law recently wrote to the government asking for an urgent review of police strip-searching of children, but we know ministers are already aware of the problems. The Home Office is due to publish two reports later this month by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, which are expected to include recommendations over the use of strip searching on children and other vulnerable people by police. </p> <p><span>In 2013, the Ministry of Justice reviewed the use of strip search on children in prison or other secure accommodation. As a consequence of that review the Ministry of Justice issued guidance&nbsp;stating that children must only be strip searched as a proportionate response to a real risk. Furthermore, the Ministry of Justice now collects data showing when strip search is used. It is essential that the Home Office, which is responsible for policing, follows the example set by the Ministry of Justice, which is responsible for prisons, and conducts a review of how and when children are being stripped by the police.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Shauneen Lambe is a barrister and director of Just for Kids Law; Paola Uccellari is director of Children’s Rights Alliance for England.</p><p class="paddingtonpresslist"><strong><em>Think this piece matters? Please donate to OurKingdom </em></strong><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/donate"><strong><em>here </em></strong></a><strong><em>to help keep us producing independent journalism. Thank you.</em></strong><strong></strong></p> <h3><hr /><span>Notes:</span></h3> <p>1. <a href="http://www.gardencourtchambers.co.uk/barristers/felicity-williams/">Felicity Williams</a> of Garden Court Chambers acted for JfK and CRAE in the case pro bono.</p> <p>2. Under PACE Code C any one under 18 being strip searched by police should have the following safeguards: the strip be conducted by an officer of the same gender; the strip should be conducted in private; they should have a parent or other appropriate adult with them.</p> <p>3. In January, 23 leading children's rights and youth justice experts, including the Children's Commissioner for England and Deputy Children's Commissioner for England, <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/jan/21/strip-search-children-police-stations-last-resort">called for stripping of children in police stations only to be used as a last resort</a>.&nbsp;</p><p>4. Quotes in the image are from&nbsp;<span>Young People’s Views on Safeguarding in the Secure Estate, A User Voice Report for the Youth Justice Board and the Office of the Children’s Commissioner,&nbsp;Youth Justice Board for England and Wales, 2011</span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/strip-searched-in-derbyshire">Strip-searched in Derbyshire</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/carolyne-willow/many-thousands-of-children-stripped-naked-in-custody-ignites-memories-of-">Many thousands of children stripped naked in custody. Ignites memories of being raped</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> Tue, 03 Mar 2015 00:00:39 +0000 Paola Uccellari and Shauneen Lambe 90938 at https://www.opendemocracy.net