Clegg , Vader and Snape: A discussion

After reading the excellent blog post "David Cameron is Voldemort. No seriously" by Mary Hamilton the other day, I mused in her comments section that Nick Clegg may in fact be Anakin Skywalker.

She had cast him as Professor Quirrell or Professor Snape but I wasn't quite convinced so leapt from one successful franchise to another.

Having thought long and hard about it, I am convinced I am right - particularly in the light of last night's vote.

You see, Snape was always a baddie - until it became very obvious at the bitter end he was a goodie. And Quirrell? Well Quirrell was just Quirrell until it was revealed that in fact he was a Quirrell/Voldemort hybrid hellbent on facilitating the murder of an 11-year-old orphan.

I never had great hope that Quirrell was one thing or another - I simply didn't care - whereas Clegg was full of Golden Boy potential in April. The mainstream media was full of the fact that the Lib Dem leader was changing the election dynamic who was taking support away from the Tories by the fistful.

A sneaky peaky into his background shows that he certainly had the potential to be the chosen one.

Yes he comes from a privileged background, yet his family has suffered at the hands of persecution. Everything he does, he does extremely well, which hints to me at a very high midi-chlorian count and he spent a brief period getting his hands dirty (although to be fair, working for the Financial Times, doesn't quite equate to being Watto's slave on Tattoine) before being tipped for greatness and apprenticed by a Master in the form of Paddy Ashdown who must, therefore, be Qui-Gon Jinn.

But of course, his political training went astray following the demise of Master Paddy, and the tutelage of the well-meaning but inexperienced Charles Kennedy was not enough to guide this volatile character away from the Dark Side just as Obi Wan Kenobi could not prevent Anakin's conversion to the Sith.

Just as it seemed that padawan Clegg would fulfill his destiny he was dealt a bitter blow and actually saw the Lib Dems lose ground in the May elections, which parallels The Jedi Council's refusal to grant Anakin Jedi Master status and so he wreaked a terrible revenge.

In last night's vote Clegg urged all of his MPs to break a pledge to scrap tuition fees and instead vote to treble them.

Such is the despicable nature of this deceit and treachery, I can only draw a parallel with Anakin's willingness to murder the Jedi younglings (below).

He is now firmly ensconced in the Dark Side alongside Cameron (didn't Palpatine seem sincere and thoroughly decent during his rise to power?)

Of course, if my Anakin analogy is correct, we are likely to suffer decades more injustice at the hands of this tyrant until eventually he repents having saved the next chosen one, before dying on a distant planet covered in Ewoks; furry, tree-loving and largely peaceful creatures who could certainly be members of the Green Party.

Of course, I could be attaching too much significance to Clegg. In the grand scheme of Star Wars he may actually be Jar Jar Binks - a chirping, ineffectual, grating twat who'll gradually fade into the background under a torrent of negative publicity.

Wikileaks: Can you have too much of a good thing?

Journalism is about information.

Specifically, journalism is about revealing information.

More specifically still, journalism should be about revealing information which otherwise may not be revealed.

So Wikileaks is A Good Thing. Right?

Certainly it would seem so. The revelations following the publication of war logs were superb and shone megawatt spotlights into murky corners of world politics that Tony Blair and George W Bush had sought to keep in the shadows for eternity.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is to be praised for his all-consuming effort to bring hidden information out into the open to bear the full brunt of public scrutiny. For too long, the 'War on Terror' has been used as an excuse to 'classify' information and stop us from worrying our pretty little heads about it.

Now we have a third major installment as the US Embassy Cables are being picked over across the globe. But it doesn't feel like a satisfying part of the trilogy. In fact I feel very similar emotions to those experienced when watching X-Men 3 or Spiderman 3 - I had high hopes, some of the old excitement is still there but it has lost its sparkle and originality.

Perhaps it is because much of what is now being revealed is so banal, perhaps even downmarket. Much of it is not what anyone would label primary evidence but more gossip and intrigue - the kind of circumstantial evidence which would have little credence in a court of law.

What do we really know? Well here's three examples:
  1. Prince Andrew is cocky and rude.
  2. Hilary Clinton thinks rich Saudis are bankrolling terrorism.
  3. That the US fears that Qatar has undue influence over al-Jazeera
And here's my reaction to hearing all three bits of info
  1. Well he's an old school royal so it's no surprise.
  2. Considering the US have pointed hundreds of times that Osama Bin Laden is of Saudi descent that is not ground breaking.
  3. The US, and other western powers, actually fear that countries like Qatar have a global media brand as it means they no longer have to confirm to standards of journalism set in the US and other Western powers
There is still great information in the latest data dump. Take the highlighting of America's attempts to control the International Panel on Climate Change.

But it's still ultimately gossip. We are hearing one side of a conversation without context of what questions were being asked, what scenarios were being set. It is akin to judging a Twitter debate by looking not at a hashtag to get all views but only at one user's feed.

I want transparency but we all must recognise that at times, a conversation between two people can be private, otherwise nothing in life would ever be planned for fear that the planning process would be leaked to undermine the outcome. Judging which of those moments should be private is tricky but it seems at the moment that no-one is even attempting to make that call.

The World Wide Web is becoming a place where journalists can investigate and publish in a way that seeks to circumvent the wall of PR and legislation that aims to prevent some truths being uncovered. openDemocracy and HelpMeInvestigate are two great examples of that.

Such is the success of sites like these that the winner of this year's Paul Foot Award for investigative journalism was Clare Sambrook - a journalist who had the bulk of her investigative work published on openDemocracy.

But the standard response to all allegations in the Cables is denial and there is little proof one way or another to currently force a change in that stance. Perhaps they should be run through helpmeinvestigate before publication to stiffen them up a bit?

I labelled the cables potentially downmarket as it shares some characteristics with classic tabloid tales. Take the Lord Triesman sting: Get a pretty young woman to tape him making outrageous claims and print them. Whether or not he believed them or simply grandstanding in front of an audience was irrelevant to the Mail on Sunday.

To go further back, look at the News of the World's treatment of England rugby union captain Lawrence Dallaglio. They put him a room with a bevy of beauties and encouraged him to tell tales of drug taking. Of course he didn't have to do it but what did the story achieve? We didn't discover that the England captain had taken drugs - in fact he was exonerated of all charges - just that he might lie about when seeking to impress young ladies while pursuing a sponsorship deal.

And that is the difficulty with the kind of journalism Wikileaks is currently producing. It's not 'copper-bottomed', 'stood up' or 'evened-out' in a way that journalism usually would be.

So can we have too much of a good thing? Certainly, taking my examples of Hollywood's superhero films, the answer is yes, but what about Wikileaks.

What good is being served by having this kind of information released?

Very little that I can see and I am not alone. Blogger and lawyer David Allen Green has blogged along similar lines. He argues, and persuasively in my view, that transparency as a liberal ideal must be weighed against legitimacy, legality and privacy.

It is interesting to note that in the comments section of Green's blog, there are some fairly frothy postings, just as there have been on Twitter and again I am left ruing this desire of the modern world to see everything in black and white.

For example, it seems from the above that I am not supportive of the Cable leaks. But then I see an article like the one in the Washington Times, which called for the assassination of Julian Assange and I feel the need to point out that I am in no way in that camp. Neither am I with Sarah Palin, who called for Assange to be tried for treason against the US, neatly forgetting he is an Australian who until recently was based in Sweden. (seriously, if she is ever elected president the pictures

No. I'm a shade of grey. I applaud Assange for the work he did on the war logs as it poured bleach on the bacteria that Bush and Blair had cultivated around the War On Terror, but I'm not swayed by anything in this current glut of data until it has been through the journalistic process a few more times.

Press reaction to 2018 failure

So. The World Cup will not be coming to England in 2018. It seemed almost inevitable yet the shock and outrage that greeted the decision indicates that some quarters thought we had it in the bag.

On Monday evening Panorama aired its 'investigation' into allegations of FIFA corruption and I blogged to say I was disappointed by the poor standards of investigative journalism exercised by Panorama but ultimately backed their decision to run the programme.

But today, many of the papers are full of bile and anger about the decision and many are indicating it was a fix.

  • The Daily Mirror is convinced that money must have changed hands to secure the World Cup for Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022
  • The Sun's homepage (right) called for a corruption probe (sounds painfully like something the Spanish Inquisition would use), claiming that Russia has been 'bunged' the World Cup.
  • The Daily Telegraph thundered that it was A Disgrace, adding the England had been lied to
  • Even The Independent got in on the act, claiming that England feared foul play
Most seem to have forgotten the spurious allegation that the BBC had cost us the World Cup. It was an allegation that had featured prominently and amusingly in The Sun on Tuesday. It is an allegation repeated by England bid chairman Andy Anson today, alongside a claim that we probably should take our toys home and never bid for the World Cup again.

The Sun's response to Panorama wasn't truly surprising - after all there is no hypocrisy like red top hypocrisy as I discussed in an earlier blog about the excellent film Starsuckers. Surely The Sun must appreciate that reporting on corruption is pretty well timeless, unlike labelling a mentally ill boxing star Bonkers Bruno or running a picture of a topless Royal bride-to-be taken a decade earlier. However, Sun readers seem to have believed the article as Josh Halliday of the Guardian reported that the Beeb had been inundated with complaints since Russia got the nod.

But back to today's coverage. What is obvious from all the coverage is that the media agrees on one thing: it is beyond comprehension that Russia got the bid over England.

The Daily Mirror states:
Russia is a country where, as Wikileaks showed, it's difficult to tell politicians and the Mafia apart because corruption is so rife.

Black and Asian footballers suffer abuse from racist supporters. The new Tsar, Vladimir Putin, threatens the fledgling democracy. Neighbouring countries are warned that gas pipelines will be shut if they refuse to bow to Moscow.

It is a classic myth of British media. It is othering. It is the 'factory setting' of the British media standing up and shouting from the rooftops: "But we are the best. No-one can do it like us and just look at those other countries. They have horrific problems."

No mention that our Lord Triesman was caught (admittedly in a pretty shabby sting) spouting apparently groundless allegations that Spain was prepared to bribe referees or that recent hooliganism is threatening to undermine the sheen of respectability applied to English football after the shame of Heysel in 1985.

No mention of the fact that racism has still not been kicked out of English football or that our leading players seem incapable of behaving in a way that represents the game well.

No. If England lost, it must be down to skulduggery, underhand tactics and outright corruption because that his how the 'other' behaves

Of course, the Daily Mail has another view. According to the Daily Mail, we lost the bid because we had too many foreigners in our own bid video. Images of the Premier League's popularity in places like Africa and Asia must be to blame. If only we had a couple of pictures of bobbies-on-the-beat, paintings from Constable and, dare we suggest, some choice words from Enoch Powell, all would have been different.

To be surprised by Xenophobia in the Daily Mail is akin to being surprised by David Cameron's failure to grasp the economic plight of the lower classes. Still, it was shocking even by their standards.

I for one will look forward to the World Cup in Russia.

Yes I am frequently appalled by the lack of democracy in that country and yes, it has problems with corruption. But when we see our own policemen 'getting away with murder', our own politicians backtracking on promises for a sniff of power and attempts to stifle legitimate protest, are we sure that we can say that it is just them 'others'.