Friday, September 12, 2014 

You exist within her shadow.


Somewhat typically, I'm not here next week. I might well pop in next Friday and indulge in a bit of schadenfreude, but otherwise that's your lot for 7 days.

And I'm sorry I'm such an utter gimp, despite my words having lost all meaning and power long ago.

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Thursday, September 11, 2014 

The new strategy is there is no strategy.

One thing is abundantly clear after President Obama set out his new strategy on "degrading and destroying" Islamic State: our politicians have been getting themselves in a tizzy for nothing.  Just as policy on Syria has long been to contain, if not actively prolong the civil war in the country, with the result being the rise not of moderates but the likes of the al-Nusra Front and IS, so now this will be extended into Iraq despite the containment strategy having singularly failed.  Got that?

There certainly isn't any other conclusion you can possibly reach after Obama's televised address.  The strategy he sets out is the same one his administration has long favoured, using drones and special forces while trying to empower the jihadists' foes on the ground.  This has "worked" in Somalia and Yemen, in the sense neither al-Shabaab or al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula have launched attacks on the west, despite the latter having made a number of attempts.  As for whether our allies in either country have been empowered, it's very much a secondary concern.  So long as the high-ups in the groups are thinned out every so often, as has just happened with al-Shabaab, it goes down as a success.

Why then all the rhetoric about destroying IS, it being a cancer needing to be cut out etc, when it's obviously a long-term aim?  Well, it's what he needed to do after he said previously there was no strategy, when he meant there was no new strategy.  There still isn't, it's just you can make it look as though he's proposing something different by ratcheting up the language, sending John Kerry round all the "friendly" American-allied despots and getting them to say they're going to do something when there's little evidence they will based on how some of them are just as much responsible for the rise of IS as the Ba'ath in Syria and the Americans themselves have been.

If this was the intention all along, it's not clear if the message got through to dear old Dave.  There he was declaring IS poses the greatest threat to the country since William the Bastard, with JTAC declaring it to once again be severe, and now it's not even apparent if the US wants us to help out by firing the odd Hellfire missile at a rag-tag bunch of wannabe headloppers.  Despite the media leaping at Obama saying he "will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria", that doesn't mean he's going to be authorising air strikes there any time soon.  Apart from the Russians making clear their displeasure, any sustained campaign against IS will only benefit Assad in the short-term.  If there really are "moderate" Syrian rebels currently being trained by the US, with Patrick Cockburn suggesting they amount to the last remnants of what was the Free Syrian Army, which was never an army in the first place, only now fully under the auspices of the CIA, the idea they can fight both IS and Assad at the same time is as ridiculous as it is amusing.  The US can't possibly imagine they'll make the difference either; the hope presumably is the Saudis, Qataris, Kuwatis etc will come round to the US approach and start funding their controlled rebels instead of the likes of the Islamic Front or IS itself.  This in turn will risk the non-IS jihadists going over to IS, but that apparently doesn't worry anyone.

The Syrian rebels are themselves still fixated on overthrowing Assad, not surprisingly considering that's err, why they rose up in the first place.  Sadly for them the mission's changed: once it was about getting rid of the Ba'ath, only the west soon realised the rebels weren't going to be any better than Assad, in fact probably worse.  Rather than admit we got all our predictions about the Syrian regime being doomed wrong, Assad "re-elected" and going nowhere, we settled on support for the rebels knowing full well neither they nor the government could strike a killer blow.  Only we didn't count on the apparently defeated and broken Islamic State of Iraq morphing into not just IS but also al-Nusra, or the Sunni Arab states using them in their proxy battle against Iran.  Or at least on IS becoming so powerful so quickly.

As for Iraq, the US is perfectly happy to send a few more units to the country, for allies to arm the Kurds and Iraqi government, and for neither to move all that quickly against the towns and cities IS controls.  Unlike the panic-mongers over here, Obama spelled out how IS currently doesn't have the intention of attacking the west, being far too busy in both countries.  No reason then to risk further unbalancing the fragility in Iraq; with the Yazidis mostly safe and other minorities having fled, the US is counting on IS once again outstaying its welcome amongst the Sunni tribes, just as it did back in 2007.

Moreover, Obama's reheated strategy is almost certainly the right one, despite its failure in Syria.  If the intention was to really deal with IS and right now it would mean temporarily allying with Assad, something we simply aren't prepared to do, both out of the sheer embarrassment it would involve and of course down to how he's a chemical weapon using tyrant.  Having morals is nice, but not losing face is far more important.

It would be great though if for once, just once, our leaders could admit how badly they've got things wrong.  We hold our hands up: we're just as responsible for the rise of IS as either Assad or the sectarian Iraqi government.  Now it's turned out this way, we're going to make it right by not making the same mistakes as we did before.  The Americans, against the odds and to their credit, have reacted in a far calmer manner than our politicians have, regardless of Cameron's rhetoric not matching the legislation proposed so far.  With the parties currently far more exercised by the little matter of Scotland potentially leaving the union, by the time parliament returns (assuming there is a no vote) the initial something-must-be-done stage might have passed.  Just don't count on it.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014 

In this post somewhere is a point struggling to get out.

My idea of love comes from / A childhood glimpse of pornography

One song on The Holy Bible I didn't mention on Monday is She is Suffering.  Not because it's a bad track by any means.  Its lyrics are some of the deepest on the album, the images Edwards paints among his most powerful, with only Die in the Summertime and Small Black Flowers from Everything Must Go eclipsing them.  It's that on this occasion Bradfield and Moore didn't quite capture the strength of the lyrics with their music.  Apart from the solo, it's just a bit too dank, and an odd choice for what turned out to be the last single from the album, albeit apart from Faster/PCP and Revol there weren't many other natural choices.  Ifwhiteamerica or Of Walking Abortion would probably have been better, but both are equally open to misinterpretation.

Which is also in part what's happened to She is Suffering.  She isn't a person, rather the personification of desire.  Edwards wrote "[I]n other Bibles and Holy Books no truth is possible until you empty yourself of desire.  All commitment otherwise is fake/lies/economic convenience."  Emptying yourself of desire is, of course, impossible, and it's that very impossibility Edwards is playing with, the suffering inevitably following the very attempt, as well as the pain that comes from desire.  The linking of desire with sin goes all the way back to the Christian creation myth (much farther in truth, but let's not get too bogged down), of Eve being tempted by the serpent, committing the original sin, of both going against God and daring to want to have the same knowledge as He.  Religions whether eastern or western have often insisted on the purity of those preaching, either through not taking wives or abstaining entirely, and the results have been all too predictable.

Edwards himself claimed to take little joy from sex, with the line "nature's lukewarm pleasure" thought to be his personal view.  He could do without it, quite happy to take fans who idolised him back to his hotel room even if he had no apparent intention of having sex with them.  For someone with such strong views on prostitution and the abuse of women, at least in song, he also visited a sex worker while in Thailand, although he "only" paid for a hand-job.  Asked why, he said maybe he was making a point about his sexuality.  "Perhaps, just that I don't regard paying for sex as being that different to sleeping with a groupie. It's all done on the same functional level."

Is this leading anywhere you're probably asking by this point, apart from Edwards being a terrible hypocrite and bit of a prick.  Shaming as it is to admit, I've been rather sucked in by a certain image board since I went back there, purely for research purposes, natch.  Despite it no longer being the modless place it once was, there's still something of the early internet about it, everyone anonymous, all of human life there in uncensored, disreputable glory.  It's all but impossible to know whether a post which on the surface looks serious is serious, or indeed whether one intended to be will be replied to in the same spirit.  One thread where the original poster asks for help from some of the least predictable individuals on the net might be met, no doubt to the incredulity of those whom regard the place as a cathedral of misogyny or worse, with tender, informed and compassionate responses, alongside the others telling the OP to kill himself at least, while another might just consist solely of the latter.  Evident amid the gore, lolicon and general porn threads is a sense of community not many forums can now boast of.  Even if that assessment ought to get me into Pseud's Corner.

It's led to me ruminating on what exactly desire now is when every perversion you can think of is but a click away.  The answer is probably much the same as it ever was, albeit with technology having supercharged the ability to both focus on the individual and to seek out ever greater amounts of what it is you think you want.  There are just as many threads on this image board devoted to Facebook friends and crushes as there are to people they don't personally know, social networking having made it so much easier to lust after and by the same measure, so much harder to forget about those we feel affection for.  It's there as a constant temptation, knowing with a few taps of the keyboard we can either reward or punish ourselves with their latest updates.

The hacking of the iClouds of celebrities just underlined what's going on below the surface of everyday lives: the sharing of photographs taken as part of a relationship, sometimes not even by jilted lovers but to show their partner off to the world.  A survey found 88% of young women had taken pictures of themselves naked, not always to share with anyone, but to simply record.  Nice as it would be to think the rise of the "amateur" or the "real" is a response to the fictional world of porn, whether it be the glossy or the gonzo variety, it's as much due to the spread first of digital cameras then smartphones as it is distaste for what an industry dictates turns us on.

Beauty she is scarred into man's soul.  I know all about the male gaze, how ludicrous it is that anyone could think of themselves as a victim purely down to how they can't turn away, as if the problem isn't theirs and theirs alone.  When I give in though, as I always end up doing, the only thought which occurs is, despite everything, this, she, is beyond compare.

All is vanity.

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Tuesday, September 09, 2014 

Cometh the hour, cometh Brownman.

Every so often a political crisis comes along that just can't be solved by the usual, ordinary methods.  In such times, there is but one man you can turn to.  He can't be reached by phone, his real identity is known only to a select few, and there's no guarantee then he will help out, liable as he is to years of sulking and plotting.  Your best bet of attracting his attention is to ask Commissioner Gordon Hogan-Howe to illuminate the brown signal.  For he is, and will always be, The Brownman.

Yes, now recuperated from the exertion of saving the world from financial meltdown in 2008, Brownman is back to smash the Salmon(d)'s nefarious plot to break Scotland away from the United Kingdom!  Could Brownman this time have left it too late however?  Should he rather than the Boy Darling have led the battle against the Salmon(d)?  And what of the swirling rumours Brownman is only intervening due to the machinations of Two-Face Cameron and Poison Crosby?

Describing the actions of Better Together over the past couple of days as panic doesn't just do a disservice to those who suffer from anxiety attacks, oh no.  We're talking full on, head-just-been-cut-off, running around the farmyard with blood spraying everywhere type attacks of fear-induced mania.  It speaks volumes of the confidence of the no campaign that a single, solitary, within the margin of error, with don't knows stripped out poll giving Yes its first ever lead causes a quite staggering outbreak of oh my god what are we going to do we must do something anything and right now-itis.  These, remember, are politicians meant to be calm, collected and resolute in the face of any threat.  Menaced by the divisions of YouGov they've turned tail and ran straight for the high road.

Leaving it till now, both to use a figure who might make a better emotional case than Alistair Darling and to set out exactly what a no will mean in the form of further devolved powers is baffling, except when you know what a basket case the no campaign has long been.  They believed they could just go on saying no to everything Yes said they could do, and that would be enough.  No currency union, no EU membership, no deals, no friendship, no help, no chance of Scotland becoming Norway.  In fairness, the polls suggested this approach worked, except until the vote got so close you could start to feel it, more people began paying attention and Salmond played the if-you-hate-the-Tories-even-if-you-don't-know-why-vote-Yes card (PDF).

I've tried not to pay too much attention to the Scottish independence campaign for the reason that both sides equally depress, or rather infuriate me.  Generally in politics and as I've often tried to argue here, all involved are ghastly but there's usually one slightly better than the rest, even if the differences between them are almost imperceptible.  Yes peddles a fantasy vision of a Scotland freed from the perfidious English establishment, a country where the sun will always shine, the oil will perpetually flow and the welfare system will forever be more generous and fairer than its south-of-Berwick equivalent.  Sure, every so often either Salmond or Nicola Sturgeon will say they're not claiming independence will be a panacea or transform the nation overnight, but it usually comes after a very particular flight of fancy.  No by contrast paints a picture of a nation too wee, too poor, too stupid to go it alone, one where London knows best and to prove exactly that point will block any proposal, however modest, to give the Scottish people more say.  This is without getting into the petty grievances of both sides, the dead horses beaten daily, the phony differences played up by those who really, really ought to know better, the we're more Scottish than you attitudes on display by all concerned.

Just as sad is how otherwise intelligent people have been sucked in by this cavalcade of bullshit.  Some of those on the left backing independence really seem to believe this is the first step on the road to socialism in one country.  Never mind that the SNP is about as radical as those people wooing and cheering as Apple launches yet another slightly better iPhone than the last one, a party that as Shuggy says has not during its 7 years in power instituted a single redistributive policy, that Salmond is more than happy to pal up with those pinkos Donald Trump and Rupert Murdoch, as once the independence deal is done and dusted they can elect someone better.  Like whom?  The Greens?  A reinvigorated Scottish Labour party, suddenly receptive and open to policies they weren't when tied to the English party?  Or do they seriously think the tax cutting yet still somehow able to spend more SNP will turn from yellow to red?  The notion Scotland is more left-wing than the rest of the country doesn't stand up to any kind of real scrutiny; hating Thatcher and not voting for the Tories in the same proportion as us southerners have certainly doesn't equal the same thing.

Yet it's also impossible not to see the attraction.  Forget the chest-beating nationalisms for a second, and why wouldn't you want to take a chance on independence when the alternative is more years of austerity, whether delivered either by a Tory-led or a Labour-led coalition?  No one seems to have connected the spectre of another war on the horizon with the leap in support for Yes, despite independence suggesting a break from the overseas adventurism of the recent past.  Listening to David Cameron speaking last weekend from the NATO conference was to hear a man suffering from the most extreme delusions of grandeur, imagining the nation he leads is still a world power, able to project itself around the world as it builds a second aircraft carrier and ensures defence spending remains at high percentage of GDP.  Who wouldn't want the insufferable, jumped-up arse to be forced to go to the Queen and tell her in the space of four years he's managed to oversee the dismantling of the union?  The idea he could stay as prime minister in such circumstances is laughable, as is the one the general election would go ahead next year as planned.  Besides, do you really want to align yourself with the gimps in power at Westminster, complacent with the apathy they usually encounter, until at last they realise the situation is far more serious than first thought?

The problem with this is both that it's a strange independence movement that wants to break up the United Kingdom yet keep the pound, if necessary without a currency union, all while staying in the European Union, and that even if we accept at face value most of the claims about the true potential of the Scottish economy, it still leaves the country facing an incredibly tough initial decade, such are the levels of debt the newly independent state would take on.  This is if everything goes smoothly in the negotiations between Scotland and rUK, of which there is absolutely no guarantee, with Mark Carney explicit today about the incompatibility of sovereignty and a currency union the SNP insists will happen.  It could just be my natural pessimism talking, but I'd like to think it's in fact realism.

All three main party leaders are then off north tomorrow in their bid to lovebomb Scotland into submission.  It's a pretty pass we've come to when unleashing Brownman is the more rational, more likely to have an impact stunt of the week.

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Monday, September 08, 2014 

A triumph of art over logic.



What's the greatest album of all time?  General consensus, at least among critics, usually offers up either Revolver, Pet Sounds or Sgt. Pepper.  For good reason: all three were released within a year, all during that point in the Sixties, 4 years after Philip Larkin was later to declare sexual intercourse began, and before the murder of Sharon Tate, Woodstock and then Altamont brought the decade to a close.  The advances in production techniques; willingness to experiment with those techniques; outside, at the time exotic influences; drugs; they all combined, and it's no coincidence so many of what are now deemed to the finest collections of music you can buy all came out within a 3 or 4 year time period.  Hendrix, Dylan, Velvet Underground, Van Morrison, Led Zeppelin at a stretch, all operating at more or less the same time, all delivering magnum opuses, all inspired by each other, sometimes directly competing against each other.

Why then go against this consensus and instead say the greatest album of all time came out 28 years later, with the 20th anniversary of its release having just passed?  Simple, really: The Holy Bible by Manic Street Preachers is a singular achievement, an album out of its time, a triumph of art over logic, as Keith Cameron has described it.  It's the greatest precisely because of its imperfections, as opposed to the perfection of Pet Sounds.  In its original mix it sounds muddy, flat, and it's difficult as ever to decipher exactly what it is James Dean Bradfield is singing.  It sounds that way because it's how the band wanted it to sound, although they later preferred the mix prepared for the never released US version by Tom Lord Alge.  It doesn't matter because the music and lyrics are visceral in their intensity, the sound of a band playing for their lives, rejecting their previous mistakes and operating at a peak.

There's no getting away from what The Holy Bible has come to signify above all else, which is the disappearance and almost certain suicide of Richey James Edwards.  Some of the comment and search for meaning in his lyrics, with Edwards writing almost the entirety of the words to Bradfield and Sean Moore's music, where previously he had collaborated with Nicky Wire on the band's two previous albums, misses the mark as the album was finished before he was admitted to a mental health ward in Cardiff, later receiving treatment at the Priory.  Nonetheless, it's difficult to read the lyrics to Yes, Faster and Die in the Summertime and not visualise a mind in tumult, the culmination of what Edwards had been trying to say previously with Wire and hadn't quite achieved.

The Manics were after all treated as a bit of joke by some critics, at least to begin with.  Understandably, considering Wire's boasts of releasing a double album as their debut, it selling sixteen million copies, and then splitting up.  Motown Junk contains the line "I laughed when Lennon got shot", and some missed the intentional ridiculousness of You Love Us.  At the same time as rave was crossing over, the Manics were wearing eye make-up, reviving punk and quoting every revolutionary and cultural icon they could lay their hands on.  Generation Terrorists is a flawed, brilliant record, Motorcycle Emptiness not requiring any explanation, while Little Baby Nothing, Edwards' first song about the abuse, commodification and exploitation of women, both features Traci Lords and has the "culture, alienation, boredom and despair" line that so epitomises everything the early Manics stood for.  Famously, in response to interview questions from Steve Lamacq about their authenticity, Edwards invited the NME hack backstage, where he proceeded to carve "4 REAL" into his arm.  Most versions of the story then omit how the next day, after getting stitched up, Edwards rang Lamacq to apologise.

Edwards' mental health problems had begun in earnest at university, where by his own admission he drank to get to sleep, cut his arm with a compass and at one point weighed just 6 stone.  Twice during his time with the band he went to a health farm in an attempt to recover from the worst of what he did to himself, with any improvement being short-lived.  His behaviour was treated by both some fans and sections of the press as a bit of laugh, or even to be emulated; the worries of his closest friends and bandmates were downplayed, although others saw the path of destruction he was on for what it was.  He both hated and fed off the attention of those who idolised him; given a set of knives by a fan in Thailand, he refused to cut himself on stage as she wanted, instead slicing his chest horizontally beforehand, coming on topless with the blood trickling down his body.  There's a shot of Edwards in the 10th anniversary edition of the album, emaciated, looking heavenwards, the scars on his upper body lurid red, appearing for all the world like Christ down from the cross.

Wherever Edwards' mind was he as wrote the album's lyrics, they feel like, are his gospel.  Faster is his song, his response to critics both real and imagined.  "I am an architect, they call me a butcher," it opens.  "Self-abuse is anti-social, aggression still natural," he later commented.  How Bradfield and Moore wrote music to some of the lyrics defies explanation in itself, Bradfield commenting how he called Edwards "a crazy fucker ... expecting me to write music to this" but he managed it.  Imbibing post-punk after Gold Against the Soul had gone glam to indifferent results, the scuzz at times practically drips from the speakers, only relenting for This is Yesterday, the album's most straightforward and by the same token least interesting song, if you can describe a song that attacks the comforts of childhood as false in such terms.

Viewed from 2014, the idea of a song criticising political correctness making the top 40 and getting played on the radio is laughable, let alone from a band known for its left-wing sympathies.  As a double A-side with Faster, PCP reached number 16 in 1994.  Equally out of place and out of time was Archives of Pain, Edwards taking Foucault's work on discipline and punishment and tongue-in-cheek using it as a justification for the death penalty, as well as being a reaction against the cult of the serial killer.  Ifwhiteamerica... is a more standard piece of anti-American, anti-imperialist agitprop, on which Wire did the most work of any song on the album, with the lines "Zapruder the first to masturbate / the world's first taste of crucified grace" staying in the mind.  Just to slam the message of brutality further home, there's not one but two songs addressing the Holocaust and man's inhumanity to man, both written after the band had visited Dachau and Belsen, as well as the museum at Hiroshima.  If Mausoleum is one of the album's weaker tracks, for all its bleak, beautiful imagery, then Intense Humming of Evil is among the best, haunting, respectful, necessary.  "6 million screaming souls / maybe misery - maybe nothing at all / lives that wouldn't have changed a thing / never counted - never mattered - never be".

As absurd as Faster and PCP getting radio play seems 20 years on, it was only Edwards' disappearance that prevented Yes from being released as a single.  Used as we all are now to cussing in tracks being masked for radio edits, quite how a song about prostitution and the commodification of everything written in the most unflinching terms would have gone down can only be imagined.  Opening with the line "For sale? Dumb cunts same dumb questions" and with the chorus featuring "He's a boy, you want a girl so tear off his cock / Tie his hair in bunches, fuck him, call him Rita if you want", it's just as much about Edwards himself as it is the other topics it addresses.  "Can't shout, can't scream, I hurt myself to get pain out" is almost the exact reasoning he gave when asked why he self-harmed.

Most important of all is 4st 7lbs, without a doubt Edwards' and also Bradfield's true masterpiece.  Told from the perspective of a young female anorexic, it nails the vanity of wanting to be "so skinny that I rot from view", while not for a moment either judging or glamourising that desire.  Two-thirds of the way through the track changes completely, slowing gradually to a crawl, mirroring the way life is ebbing from our narrator as she approaches 4st 7lb, the weight below which death becomes medically certain.  "Yeh 4st 7, an epilogue of youth / such beautiful dignity in self-abuse / I've finally come to understand life / through staring blankly at my navel".

It's still not properly known what triggered Edwards' admittance to hospital in August 1994.  Some have suggested it was a culmination of his self-harm, alcoholism and anorexia, while reports, denied at the time, of a suicide attempt could well be nearer the mark.  Certainly, if he really had wanted to Die in the Summertime, then he didn't have the weakness, the strength to succeed.  While Edwards claimed the lyrics were written from the perspective of a pensioner remembering his childhood, dying with the thoughts of his happiest time, it's not every OAP who would think "scratch my leg with a rusty nail / sadly, it heals" or "a tiny animal turned into a quarter circle".  Easy as it is to interpret it straight to Edwards' own thoughts knowing how events would turn out, in this instance it could well be the correct one.

Speaking a couple of years ago, Wire said had Edwards lived he expected he would have been "writing books ... an amazing artist ... I like to think still writing amazing lyrics with myself".  The "like" is key: both the rest of the band and Edwards without saying as much almost certainly realised things couldn't go on as they had.  The hospital admission had proved that.  The day before they were due to go to America in their first real attempt to make it there, Edwards disappeared.  His car was found at Severn View, formerly Aust services, near to the Severn crossing.  Apart from a few almost certainly wishful sightings, no trace of Edwards has been found since.  Although his sister continues to hope he will either be found or one day return, he was declared presumed dead in 2008.

Genius is a word thrown about far too liberally.  That it often goes hand in hand with "tortured" is almost always a cliché too far.  Depression, mental illness, they strike without discrimination; we just don't hear about the millions who kill themselves who aren't renowned.  The fascination with the famous or celebrities with personal deficiencies is part wanting to rationalise why it is they reached where they did, part wanting to think they aren't "better" than us and part not wanting their success due to its ill effects.  Edwards wasn't a genius in the true sense, nor was he anything other than a terribly flawed human being.  What he did have was a blinding intellect, a lyrical gift that blazed all too briefly.  The Holy Bible is his epitaph, like it or not.

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Friday, September 05, 2014 

Re-imagined.

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Thursday, September 04, 2014 

Desperate business.

It's a strange old world.  You might have thought for instance that regardless of how the SITE Intelligence Group, formerly the SITE Institute, is a self-started organisation that presents itself as an adjunct of the security services but in fact operates as the middle man between jihadis and the media and therefore needs to get more exposure, it wouldn't have plastered its logo all over the Islamic State's "Second Message to America" video.  It might not, as was the case in the previous video, actually show the beheading of Stephen Sotloff, but it most certainly does have the terrified, close to tears Sotloff reading out the statement demanded of him, before then cutting to an image of Sotloff's prostrate body, his severed, bloodied head placed on his back.  On the opposite side of the image to SITE's logo is the Islamic State's billowing black flag.  Still, it's good for business, right?

Equally odd is the idea a media blackout helps when it comes to those abducted in Syria or elsewhere.  Until Tuesday night when our new friend Jihadi John, as we apparently have to refer to him, was seen holding the scruff of David Haines's neck, we didn't have any idea there were Brits held by IS or any of the other groups.  The government and media did; they just felt it was better for all concerned if we were left in the dark.  Even yesterday, despite the rest of the world's media being understandably exercised by another westerner threatened with an especially grisly, brutal end, our own finest were pussyfooting around naming him.

As unlike our European counterparts we refuse to pay ransoms, failing a successful rescue operation David Haines faces the same fate as both James Foley and Sotloff.  It's true this might not have been the case until recently, as we don't know whether Foley, Sotloff or Haines were abducted by groups or rebel battalions other than IS and then sold onto them, and there might have been negotiations going on with them about possible deals not involving money, but if not IS has likely held these men with the intention of using them as pawns in a potential battle of wills with the west.  Media publicity before now might have made some sort of a difference, as it clearly did when Alan Johnston was abducted in Gaza, for instance.  It's certainly difficult to think of further harm it could have caused, unless the coalition is haunted by the memory of Ken Bigley and the pressure put on Tony Blair at the time over it.

Ah.

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