Sunday, August 21, 2016

PETER HITCHENS: Gold For Synchronised Sunburn And Self - Delusion Goes To...

Rio games a disgusting spectacle of sleaze, avarice and sportsmanship beyond bad; a damning indictment on the corporate elites, government puppets and their MSM lackeys  

By Peter Hitchens

Imagine a country that isn’t very successful, but wants to boost its image in the world. Its economy is rocky, its cities grubby and run-down. Its education system isn’t much good.

Brazilian soldier on guard at Rio
So this country spends huge sums of scarce money and great effort to find young men and women who can win medals in sporting competitions. It carefully chooses sports where the competition is weak. It relentlessly drives the chosen athletes. And it works. At home and abroad, its image is transformed.

Its national media go into hysterics over each medal.

The people at home forget for a moment the dreariness of their lives.

The anthem plays and the flag flies high.

The country I am thinking of is East Germany, the self-styled ‘German Democratic Republic’. You may remember the superb figure skater Katarina Witt, who won Winter Olympic gold medals in 1984 and 1988, and a pile of other awards for her ghastly country in the years just before it collapsed in a cloud of rust.

What did her triumphs prove? Nothing much, except that state power can achieve sporting success. In which case, what is so joyous about it?

If sport is about anything, surely it is about individual achievement, not plans, budgets and political prestige.

German Democratic Republic - The Wall

What could be further from the burning individual talents and grit celebrated in Chariots Of Fire than some Ministry of Sport fulfilling its medal plan?

But what, deep down, is the difference between this episode and Sir John Major’s dash for Olympic gold which has now paid off in Brazil?

In fact, I think our state-sponsored medal programme may be worse in some ways than East Berlin’s because, as a free society, we had the power to question it and we didn’t.

It might also be worth recalling that Sir John’s much-praised initiative was financed mainly by the Lottery – in which a British government for the first time actively encouraged gambling, especially among the vulnerable poor, the main payers of this tax on false hope.

Indeed, Sir John’s legacy of gambling and debt, forced on students in the universities he so wildly expanded, may be his main memorial.

You may say, quite rightly, that I am jaundiced because I couldn’t care less about sport. My sympathies in Rio lie mainly with the empty, wet seats, which beautifully sum up my view of the Olympics.

But even if I were an enthusiast for Underwater Motorcycling, Bovine Ballet or Synchronised Sunburn, or whatever it is we currently lead the world in, I’d still have the same misgivings.

This is what failed and powerless countries do to make themselves feel better.

Brazil spends millions on Rio games while it's children swim in sewage 

It is an illusion, and when it ends, things will be worse than they were before.

Tragic Victims Of Our Deal With The Devil 

Who can fail to be moved and grieved by the sight of a small child in distress? But please do not let your emotions stop you thinking.

The picture of the shocked Aleppo survivor, Omran Daqneesh, like that of the drowned child Alan Kurdi last year, should not be allowed to enforce a conformist opinion on the world.

The death of Alan Kurdi did not mean that it was wise to fling wide the borders of Europe (as Germany’s Angela Merkel now well knows).

The rescue of Omran Daqneesh should not make us side with the bloody and merciless Syrian rebels.

Why is Aleppo a war zone in the first place? Do you know? I will tell you. Syria was a peaceful country until it was deliberately destabilised by Saudi Arabia and its fanatical, sectarian Gulf allies, consumed with hatred for the Assad government and, above all, its ally Iran.

Worse, this monstrous intervention was supported by the USA, Britain and France, all sucking up to the Saudis for oil, money and arms contracts.

In the hope of bringing down Assad, we made a devil’s bargain with some of the worst fanatics in the Middle East, people who make Anjem Choudary look like the Vicar of Dibley.

We know of Britain’s role for certain because of the very strange case of Bherlin Gildo, a Swedish man accused by British authorities of attending a terror training camp in Syria. His trial collapsed in June 2015 because his defence lawyers argued that the terror groups he was accused of supporting had been helped by British intelligence.

The Assad state, as you might expect, defended itself against its attackers, helped in the end by Iran and Russia.

And the war which followed was the ruin of Syria, whose innocent people found their peaceful cities and landscape turned into a screaming battlefield, as it still is.

If you are truly grieved by the picture of poor little Omran, just be careful who you blame.

Anjem Choudary, broadcasting’s favourite Islamist loudmouth, was and is a vain, bloviating, blowhard fraud, another boozy drug-taking low-life posing as a serious person. He found a role and fools to indulge him, many in the same media who now queue up to rejoice at his imprisonment.

But I do not feel safer from terror now that he is locked up. Worse, I feel less safe from Chairman May’s sour-faced surveillance state, which takes a dim and narrow view of free speech and liberty. Choudary has been locked up not for what he did but for what he said. Claims he influenced anyone into crime are thin. Even the sneaky wording of the Terrorism Act, in which he was charged with ‘inviting’ support for IS, is suspicious.

It sounds like ‘inciting’, and is meant to, for incitement to terror and murder is a real crime, even in free countries. But it isn’t the same as ‘inviting’, a much weaker word. You may gloat that Choudary is eating Islamic porridge. But be careful what you gloat over. A law as loose as this could easily be used against anyone the state doesn’t like. I predict that it will be, too.

By the way, I spent several hours last week circling Government offices trying to find out how many such charges there have been – the CPS sent me to the Justice Ministry, they told me to call the Home Office, who sent me back to the CPS. This pathetic pass-the-parcel evasion suggests they don’t care much. This stuff is propaganda, not genuine security.

A few days ago I took part in a recorded BBC debate on prisons, What Point Prison?, which will be transmitted on Radio 4 at 8pm on Wednesday. 

There was a startling exchange on capital punishment between me and Erwin James, a penitent convicted murderer much admired by liberals, who has now become a distinguished writer on prisons. You may be surprised at what he said.

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