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February 16, 2013

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ejh

It's a dreadful, rubbishy, stupid piece by Massie, and the idea of anybody who writes for the Spectator accusing anybody else of being "narcissistic" is ludicrous enough in itself. It's also written in a tone which would get the author into a fight if he ever spoke to anybody like that. (As indeed is this comment, probably.)

Of course it comes complete with the usual, "who would have been disappointed if Saddam Hussein had been permitted to remain in power" hint-hint-nudge, because of course the antiwar protestors didn't care about Saddam, but the line:

"It is impossible, however, to think they would have whined about it in quite this ghastly fashion"

is its own refutation, since what of course Massie is doing is indeed whining, in ghastly fashion (just as some other prominent commentators have done, ever since). But this:

"what Ms Penny means is that an insufficient number of British parliamentarians agreed with her and her comrades"

is just dishonest: that's manifestly not what Ms Penny means. What Ms Penny means is that a majority of the British public were against the war, as well as that an unprecedented number of these were prepared to demonstrate about it: Massie's "The people were of two minds" avoids the reality that one mind had substantially more adherents than the other.

http://www.ipsos-mori.com/newsevents/ca/287/Iraq-The-Last-PreWar-Polls.aspx

It is not conceivable that Massie did not know this.

When parliaments vote against the will of the people, that's not the final negation of democracy, but it is a serious problem of democracy and so we ask why this happened, is this a problem, and so on. If we don't, we invite parliament to be a mere rubber stamp for power: it's important to examine when, and why, it does, can or should ignore the public will.

Massie pretends, though, that there is no issue at all. Parliament voted, that's what democracy is, stuff you. It's not just ignorant, it's boorish.

As I say, a dreadful piece. Dreadful, boorish and arrogant, and for that matter, involving a substantial element of projection.

Phil

Like Norm before him, Massie skates briskly past the fact that people demonstrate in the expectation that they will be listened to, and that we all - Massie, Norm and me - grew up in a country where that expectation was more or less honoured. A system which could only survive by ignoring large demonstrations was generally recognised as a system which was broken and needed replacing, if only so that everything could stay the same (exhibit A: the Poll Tax riots and the fall of Thatcher).

In 2003 an unprecedentedly large mobilisation was completely ignored. The second part of that sentence, not the first, is the real novelty of 2003. Anyone who trivialises this change - and passing it off as normality is certainly trivialising it - is simply endorsing our leaders' contempt for democracy.

Paul0Evans1

There's a shorter version of Massie's argument. Are Owen Jones & Laurie Penny saying the fox hunting ban should have been abandoned after the Countryside Alliance marches?

Guano

The implication of what Massie has written is that politicians do not have to explain why they vote the way they do, that they don't have to apologise to their constituents if they are proved wrong and that they do not need to say anything to their constituents about their position on fundamental issues such as international law and their attitude to the UN.

Keith

Rather than complaining about the supposed personality defects of the anti war spokespersons it would be better to explain how the USA and its allies came to form bad policies based on serious factual errors and unrealistic assumptions. Rumsfeld seems pretty narcissistic as does Bush his former boss. Massie should ask them to apologise for being wrong and lying non stop to justify their predetermined goal of invading Iraq and grabbing its oil.

ejh

Massie's piece gets worse every time I look at it.

"The narcissistic left may prefer the rule of the mob."

That's what that march was, then, a "mob"? A million and a half people marching peacefully against a war, and that's a "mob".

Really, how breathtakingly arrogant to you have to be in order to write something like that?

(In re: the foxhunting march, by the way, there are some obvious differences, notably that if I recall rightly, public opinion supported the foxhunting ban, and the ban had also been a manifesto commitment - it ahd been put, plainly, to the electorate. This doesn't mean that that march should be disregarded or disrespected, just that it's a different situation. However, I'll bet nobody in the Spectator called that march a "mob".)

Phil

Looking at the minimal effort that's put into enforcing the ban on hunting with dogs - to the point where representatives of the League For Cruel Sports (or whatever they're called) can call for the law to be scrapped *because it's not being enforced* - I think that march did get a hearing, and (as ejh says) more of one than it really deserved.

Guano

The demonstration on 15th February 2003 was enormous because people felt that the UK was moving towards an invasion of Iraq while weapons' inspections were still in progress and without the agreement of the UNSC. That is what happened, of course. The politicians justified this at the time by saying that it was an established fact that Iraq had WMD. It was clear at the time, though, that the evidence to say the "we know Iraq has WMD" did not exist and within a few months it was clear that Iraq did not have WMD. So it the demonstrators who were right and the politicians who were wrong.

Alternatively the reason for an invasion of Iraq while weapons' inspections were still in progress and without the agreement of the UNSC was that the inspections were just a smokescreen and the politicians had intended all along to invade Iraq whatever the status of the inspections and of WMD. This means, of course, that the politicians spent more than 6 months lying to us about their intentions and have adopted a risky ideology of international relations that ignores the UN Charter. Once again the demonstrators were right and the politicians were wrong, because clearly the politicians haven't thought through the implications of the ideology that they have adopted without public discussion.

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