In the first article in this series, I referred to the way the “Justice Delusion” can lead people to believe things that they simultaneously know to be untrue, how faith or ideology can lead us to justify ‘the system’ in defiance of the evidence. I suggest in this article, that recent political statements have illustrated a similar technique of delusion. This may be self-delusion or simply an attempt to delude others, but it is the same mode of thinking that operates to maintain injustice at every level. In this article I will reflect on a few recent political postures and how this may parallel with the mode of thinking employed to sustain miscarriges of justice.
On the, now well distributed, LBC interview when asked if Israel has the right to cut off water and power to Gaza, Keir Starmer stated “Israel does have that right”. He has since back tracked on his apparent support for genocide by saying he was answering the previous question that was asked. Were this not so serious, it would be funny and reminiscent of the brilliant two Ronnies Mastermind sketch where the contestant answers the previous questions Here. But this is serious, much more so than Boris and his lockdown parties that we got so worked up about. Not only is the potential future prime minister lying (or deluded?) and supporting genocide but so is the current one: Rishi Sunak addressed Israel’s PM with the comment “I know you are taking every precaution to avoid civilian causalities”. Perhaps Mr Sunak does not take an interest in the news and has not seen the devastation of Gaza, the flattened neighbourhoods, and the human carnage. This lack of awareness is a little worrying for a Prime Minister!
The extraordinary thing about these comments, and so many others made by members of both political parties, is that they are usually followed by the caveat that these things must be done while observing International Humanitarian Law. Since when has massive bombing of densely populated civilian areas and cutting of water, power, food, and medicine to the communities affected, been within international law? Let’s be clear, Russia’s similar actions in Ukraine, Hamas’s appalling attack on Israeli civilians are against international law, but so are Israel’s genocidal actions in Gaza – the rules should not be different for them or anyone else. Russia’s attempts to occupy Ukraine are against international law and so is Israel’s occupation of Palestine and its 16-year blockade of Gaza. History did not start on 7th October 2023 as some commentators would have us believe.
To their eternal shame the government cannot even bring themselves to call for a cease fire (120 countries did at the UN but not the UK). Neither can the labour party – a party once associated with a degree of fairness and humanity. We are used to politicians lying and abandoning their principles for the sake of expediency and votes, but the moral bankruptcy of our current “leaders” and the absurdity of their lies has reached a new level. If they must lie to the people, they could at least show a little respect and try to make their lies vaguely plausible. Whatever your view of the current Middle East catastrophe the claim that Israel is “taking every precaution to avoid civilian casualties” as Mr Sunak suggested, is so demonstrably untrue that no serious observer could logically believe it.
What has all this got to do with miscarriages of justice? I am not making a direct comparison in terms of scale or context, which might justifiably be criticised as grossly insensitive and lacking in perspective. Where I do draw a comparison, however, is in the kind of thinking that is being employed to deny the obvious, even the irrefutable, while somehow holding onto the credibility (at least in the eyes of many) that is afforded to those in positions of power and influence. It is the same mode of thinking that maintains the convictions of innocence people by agencies and individuals that would claim they care about miscarriages of justice.
If in any doubt about this, please study the evidence which has accumulated over decades, thanks to the efforts of lawyers and campaigners, to obtain disclosure in the Jeremy Bamber case. Jeremy Bamber Campaign Official Web Site (jeremy-bamber.co.uk) The evidence of innocence is now overwhelming in many respects, not least the evidence that to commit the crime, Jeremy would have needed to be in two places at the same time. Most people still believe this to be impossible. Yet after 37 years Jeremy remains convicted and curiously, as far as we can ascertain, he has not beamed himself out of prison to live a parallel life while simultaneously remaining inside.
There are countless other cases, less obvious and less high profile, than that of Jeremy Bamber, that could illustrate this mode of thinking, they would take a book to begin to adequately describe. See for example my first article in this series (the Justice Delusion) on one word against another as amounting to “proof” and “being sure”.
“Justice” it seems requires the ability to believe the demonstrably untrue when it is necessary to preserve the system. George Orwell’s classic novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four” is again poignant: –
“The key word is ‘blackwhite’……this word has two mutually contradictory meanings. Applied to an opponent, it means the habit of impudently claiming that black is white, in contradiction to the plain facts. Applied to a Party Member, it means a loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party discipline demands this. But it means also, the ability to believe that black is white, and more, to know that black is white, and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary”.
George Orwell “Nineteen Eighty-Four” (1949 page 221)
Perhaps it is this technique or state of mind that enables political leaders and those in the legal system, who appear to be so committed to maintaining wrongful convictions, not just to make statements that are demonstrably untrue, but also to believe that the demonstrably untrue is true, while simultaneously knowing it is untrue. If that is the case my earlier use of the term “lies” should perhaps be replaced by the term “delusion”.
Perhaps however, I am overcomplicating the issue, maybe it is all just political expedience. Winston Churchill, I believe, once said, in the context of a wartime situation, that “the truth is so sacred that it must be protected by a bodyguard of lies”. At least in those days they tried to make the lies plausible, but now it seems even that is not necessary. “Truth is the first casualty of war” as the saying goes, and we should all be wise to that. One thing I have learnt over 30 years of involvement with wrongful convictions is that sometimes “Truth can be the first and the ongoing casualty of ‘justice’”.
To employ yet another aphorism, and end on a note of hope: Fortunately, it remains the case that “they can’t fool all of us all the time”.