The problem here, in my estimation, is that a chasm has opened up between sound ethical reasoning and contemporary culture to the point that more and more people are finding it increasingly more difficult to understand why something is wrong. Where the law is about what is right and what is wrong, ethics is about why something ought to be right and wrong. Without an understanding of why deriving laughter from symbols of Nazi hatred and from the extermination of the Jews during the Holocaust is wrong the law begins to read like an arbitrary and irrational decree.
During the Yes Scotland campaign of 2012-14 local “Yes groups” sprouted up all over Scotland and quickly became the backbone and the bedrock of the independence movement. This was limited, however, in that it was largely the product of a centralised political campaign and its national outreach agenda. Yes groups therefore tended to be reproductions of the same model and struggled to be anything more than top-down hierarchical structures.
Rather naïvely Peter assumes the law to be the written text of civilisation’s better angels, or – as he puts it – “the codification of society’s mores and principles.” Here he touches on what the child is taught to think of the policeman and the law, that it is universally good and wholesome. It lacks completely any normal and healthy hermeneutic of suspicion that comes with the reality of the law, its place in society, and the purposes it always and everywhere serves.
Yet this moment – however and wherever we imagine it happening – changes everything. That God the creator of the universe took flesh and was born to these people in this place makes a scandal of the poverty that surrounds it. In every detail it turns on its head the notion that baubles and frivolities for a single day can absolve us of all we have chosen to ignore. It comes as a stark reminder that what we are ignoring is no less than all the suffering of the world.
“Cyber troop teams” have been found to be charged with producing substantive content for the purposes of spreading political messages. This is more than simple Twitter or Facebook updates and responses, but includes blog articles, YouTube vlogs and videos, “fake news,” and memes that promote the government’s agenda. In Britain the government has been shown to have been creating “persuasive messages” under a whole host of false personas and aliases in psy-ops framed as “anti-radicalisation” campaigns.
As we have become increasingly more aware of fake news and how it functions we have also come to recognise that more trustworthy news media sites – newspapers and news channels – have been, to quite some considerable degree, producing what amounts to fake news for a long time. Admittedly this is not fake news insofar as the content is not a simple fabrication, but the emphasis and the spin that many have been putting on the facts, often to political ends, certainly places them well within any acceptable definition of fake news.
Ever since Donald Trump called for closer US-Russian relations on 7 January 2017, whilst still president-elect, the United States has been pulled into a de facto soft coup, with powerful elements of the intelligence and military-industrial complex – the so-called “deep state” – mobilising against him. In no sense is this reflection an attempt to ingratiate myself to Trump or otherwise rehabilitate him. Donald Trump is, in many respects a liability, but even a broken clock is right twice a day. We simply cannot argue with the fact that, on aggregate, closer relations between the world’s two most powerful states will be good for everyone.
Whether or not we are paranoid or delusion we are all subject to comprehensive, deeply penetrative, and highly technologically sophisticated surveillance by the state. In a sense Edward Snowden did not tell us anything in 2013 we did not already suspect. When I came to Ireland in the 1990s the British government signals intelligence (SIGINT) centre at Cheltenham in England, GCHQ, was already well known, and was popularly assumed to be listening into and recording all telecommunications in the Irish Republic. It was assumed that because of the conflict in the six counties between Irish Republicans and the British state it was only to be expected that British Intelligence would listening to Ireland. This presumption was well founded.
Civil society is a naturally cautious and conservative set of relations and institutions, and when it is governed – if we can even describe such as governance – by the unambitious and women and men who are essentially followers of whimsical public demand it loses any forward momentum that theretofore existed. It gives way to socio-political inertia and begins to atrophy. There exists no better example of this than Brexit Britain.
Immense effort has been put into the unionist project of framing Scottish nationalism as the product of small-minded and petty Anglophobia. Both the Westminster establishment and the Scottish unionists have attempted, thankfully without much success, to paint the independence movement as a collection of under-educated and impoverished malcontents driven by a common hatred of the English. This could not be further from the truth.