Who Shot JFK?

Who shot JFK? It may be one of the enduring mysteries but at least there are theories as to the culprit. Which is more than can be said for the other unanswered question of our times: what is the Union good for?

So dense is the mystery that even its most ardent supporters are forced to appeal to the greatest minds to seek solutions. What can we come up with that will make an emotional case for the United Kingdom, they ask. Whose name can we stick on a 1000-word essay and make it look credible? Someone. Somewhere. Must have. Something to say. No?

The creation of a propaganda mini factory unit called These Islands is the clearest reminder of how intellectually bankrupt is the case for the UK in the modern era. They are reduced to force-feeding desperation into the machine and hoping for something coherent to be produced.

It recalls 2007 and the 300th anniversary of the Union when Gordon Brown put on his Stalin scowl and pretended it wasn’t happening to avoid the embarrassment of the Nationalists winning control of the Edinburgh government. If the Union meant anything it surely required celebration by the Unionist government of the day – still running Scotland three centuries later. Thanks were due to Queen Anne – and her spies and corrupters – for creating the Glorious Country in which it is our honour to live. Instead there was apologetic coughing and we all quickly moved along.

If there was an obvious reason for Union it would not require the saying – by definition, we would all know the truth without contrived arguments and PR campaigns.

These Islands, like other astro turf outfits such as No Borders before it, is the living proof that there is a black hole at the heart of Unionism and no one knows how to fill it. No matter how many voices you call in and no matter how many letters they have after their name, the fundamental point remains – you are begging as many people as possible to dream up some justification. How do you make the case for arguing there is no essential differences between Scotland and England and therefore an overwhelming English majority should be empowered to control Scottish affairs?

The first voice to be revealed is that of Anglo Scot Nigel Biggar, a man whose stated views would form a template for Richard Wilson in One Foot in the Grave. As an Oxford don, he is practiced in the arts of presenting a case in classic academic format so it reads like a reflective thesis. Examine the content though and what is revealed are the predictable tropes of old school Unionism including the threat of violent insurrection by Nationalists. I mean, you can never rule it out, can you? And why would you, if, like the regius professor, you believe in the justified war and the use of torture. Oh, and would you believe it? – he supports nuclear deterrence.

He is an apologist for the racist behaviour of Cecil Rhodes in Africa. He justifies the invasion of Iraq and British military intervention in general. He’s an Anglican priest so he thinks those suffering in agony should not be helped to die. To be fair to Nigel, he isn’t totally against abortion so there’s a strain of liberalism in there.

There is also a strong strand of wishful thinking, oddly from a man paid to confront moral dilemmas head on. In the spirit of debate I include a link to his article http://www.these-islands.co.uk/publications/i260/what_the_united_kingdom_is_good_for.aspx  

In the first paragraph he concedes it was dismaying how bankrupt was the Unionist case in 2014 (see above) but ascribes this, not to the lack of intellectual weight, but to our acceptance of the fundamental goodness of the Union being so blindingly obvious that no one has to articulate it. (Seriously)

He then outlines the main three reason for backing the Union – prepare to be surprised. ‘The greater external security of liberal democracy, a depth of multinational solidarity of which the European Union can still only dream, and the upholding of a humane international order. And all of that will remain true, whether or not Brexit comes to pass.’

It may be his theological background but it seems Nigel lives on a different plane. The UK’s claim to upholding liberal democracy stands up to scrutiny if contrasted with North Korea – with Scandinavia, not so much. Liberal democracies tend not to have massive unelected legislatures filled with party hacks and compliant goons – except the Chinese National Congress. They also tend to have representative voting systems – Westminster has no such thing.

Liberal democracies don’t casually hold referendums on matters of national interest without a fact-based campaign to inform the public and then (ironically for These Islands) treat with contempt the different votes in other nations. Nor, I suggest, do they wilfully keep from the people the content of damning reports on the effects of policy. I’m not sure what’s liberal about refusing to take in orphaned refugees or sending ‘home’ people who’ve made their lives here. Maybe Nigel will explain in a further essay from the godfront.

On which point, he really doesn’t make the case for Britain’s multinational solidarity when that’s the very issue that caused the Brexit debacle. He may be missing the news down there in Oxford but it is xenophobia and Little England voices that are shrilly calling us out of the EU where, whatever it’s difficulties on the policy front, they are at least holding to free movement irrespective of country of origin. He might want to examine Germany’s open doors to a million refugees. And isn’t it Scotland that is upholding the open doors policy in the UK and offering hope to EU citizens while welcoming all comers as Scots after independence?

The third prong of his trident is the usual right wing nuttery about wee Britain punching its weight through the UN and nuclear weapons and the failed neo liberal institutions like the G7. The old guard of Ukania can’t stand the idea of losing a Security Council seat if Scotland goes. They prefer the feeling of superiority privileged club membership brings and, despite the teachings of Christ, have a natural tendency to condescend to developing countries.

Anyway, read it yourself. That’s what it’s for. And make up your own mind.

There is nothing here about the dignity of people who feel connected to a Scottish identity seeking to fulfil the United Nations’ right of self-determination. And, worse, he makes the ‘emotional case’ sound fusty, hard-line, conservative, unyielding and institutional. He may inadvertantly be doing us a favour. That would be ironic – perhaps that’s Nigel’s real schtick.

But, to be honest, it would be a disappointment if this was the best the multitude of British Nationalists signed up can do. I’m tired and bored with the only case for the UK being one of fear. It is entirely based on threats of doom and warnings of everything always being worse under independence and it’s becoming increasingly hard to maintain when just about every argument is mirrored daily in the Brexit fiasco – isolation, no trade deals, international laughing stock, companies leaving, devalued currency, economic decline, terrorism.

Even if it is backed by hardliners, there has to be hope that among the brains they can find one argument that sounds modern, optimistic, liberal and inclusive – one that recognises and respects our differences and doesn’t pretend it’s all working fine if we’d just shut up. I welcome the idea of a forum for a positive debate but misrepresenting the present, as Biggar does by projecting what he’d like it to be, will do nothing except please the core vote.

And therein lies a problem for These Islands. If you produce a long list of the brainy and celebrated as your supporters, you really have to turn out the right quality of work – if you fall short, you are seen to fail. I mean, if all those bright types agree with you, why can’t they make the case? People will suspect there isn’t a case to be made.

And the truth is that an advisory body of this size will never meet, hardly any will ever communicate with each other – they’ll just individually pop some words in the post when they’re not doing work they’re actually paid for. (Which may explain why the guts of Nigel’s article first appeared in a letter he wrote to an Irish paper in 2014)

I foresee another danger, one that overtook the Better Together gang. This looks like a group of mostly outsiders pontificating from afar on the state of Scotland. Almost exclusively they will be middle class ‘experts’ like Nigel unwittingly talking down to Scots while having no actual experience of living here. Anecdotally, it was exactly this ‘We Know Best’ outpouring articulated by posh accents telling us what we couldn’t do and shouldn’t be allowed to do, that so infuriated some natural No voters that they turned into Yessers. There is a hidden danger in Professors and Dames writing patronising guff and then being questioned about it on television. You can almost see the eyes of the viewers’ narrowing. That right, aye?

These Islands may yet prove to be a bounty for the Yes campaign – at least it’s offering something beyond the sterile poverty argument that gets more threadbare by the day. (£30b worse after Brexit? Nae bother)

And who knows, maybe we’ll be honoured by a rational, even-handed assessment from advisory board member Brian Wilson.

By the way, I know who shot JFK. I haven’t time today but…

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20 thoughts on “Who Shot JFK?

  1. It was a truly wretched argument. Bullish and muscular but empty headed British triumphalism in the end.
    But what really got my goat was the arguments, which were essentially:

    1. Scotland may have developed a democracy on its own. but thanks to the Union it didn’t have to. The barely functional Scots were gifted with English laws and English culture. oh er I mean British Laws and culture and thus able to contribute with what little gifts they possess, to glorious fabric of the UK.

    2. This amazing union protected poor old Scotland from Enemies from without and within. This generous protection continues to this day. Without this assistance from our betters, who knows what would have become of us.

    3. We were allowed to trade and grow prosperous under the banner of the Union. The union jack as magic cloak to ameliorate the handicap of being Scottish.

    4. It stops the scots reverting to their basic instincts of hating the English and that can only be a good thing.

    Who would give up such a wonderous boon?

    But at no point in that waffle passed off as historical insight, were the insights as to what Scotland brought to the table. None. Not so much as a peep. He was clearly warming up to he favorite subject. Which is how awesome Britain/England is that he seemed to have forgotten that he was trying to “Big Up” the union.
    The word Union would imply that there are more than one party involved. But in his mind the Union is a one way street, were the more superior England gives unquestioningly, the fruits of its many favors to the begger at the gate…Scotland. Though to be fair to him, he did generously allow us the appellation of British when he basically describes us as being the cosh of empire. But even then, the implication is clear. Only Britian gave us this sense of purpose. We would still be in thrall to corrupt royalty and religious leaders and of no use to anyone. Thank the gods for the gift of union.

    You can at a glance see that I was not impressed. I am the Scot Derek spoke off. Reading this justification of England’s control of Scotland’s future, with eyes narrowed. thinking Is that right, aye?

    What to say of These Islands first salvo?

    They say first impressions are important. This one cements in my mind that no unionist can actually articulate a defence of the UK without making Scotland seem like an eternal supplicant. But I also have a suspicion that this defence of the UK is really an exercise in trolling yes voting Scots, and hopefully tempt them to attack these authors with intemperate language.

    I think this also lies at the heart of the Unionist dilemma. Their only argument for union is to attack Scotland and to that end they weaponised “Britishness” as the means with which they hope to sneer, smear, browbeat and hate us in wanting to be British. Somewhere in this nonsense was the stated belief that they think we have more in common than we think.

    The absolute state of these roasters.

  2. I had a look at the web site and the make up of the Advisory Board. Looks to be dominated by people who do not live and work in Scotland. Oddly enough one of the three founders of this not-for-profit company is someone called Tom Holland. I just wondered who he was and why he is getting involved in setting something like this up with Kevin Hague.

    Here’s a piece about his early years from wiki……
    Tom Holland was born in Oxfordshire and brought up in the village of Broadchalke near Salisbury, Wiltshire, England. He was educated at Queens’ College, Cambridge, where he obtained a double First in English and Latin.

    Impressive stuff – the double first is a great achievement – but I see nothing at all in his bio that entitles him to participate in a discussion about the self-determination of Scotland.

    So if anyone wants to invite me round to their house – I will bluntly tell them what colour scheme they should use to decorate their lounge. No actually I won’t, because that’s their decision and it is absolutely none of my business. I simply wish that Tom Holland (and any of his fellow advisory board members) would aspire to a similar level of self-restraint. Or alternatively they could all move up here, proving how much they believe in benefits of Scotland in Union and engage in the debate from within.

  3. Dear Derek, I’m immensely grateful to you for having the stomach to get through to the end of his piece and then spend some time analysing it. I started to feel angry near the start, where we read that an independent Scotland would “probably” opt for democracy, but as it went on I just felt sick. Many of us, myself included, have tried to express in writing the rational case for Scottish independence, invariably to be met with either emotional rubbish, such as Jane Merrick in the Independent (of all places) bleating that her grannie would now be buried in a foreign country (where’s your Rupert Brooke when you need him?) or personal abuse verging on racism. Best wishes and all strength to keep going, Ewan

  4. “…. – one that recognises and respects our differences and doesn’t pretend it’s all working fine if we’d just shut up.”

    With this in mind, I recall the following from the writings of Professor Colin Kidd, an historian at the University of St Andrews, and another who is closely associated with this new British Nationalist organisation. The extract below is from an essay published by Kidd in April, 2014 in the London Review of Books (Source: https://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n08/colin-kidd/a-british-bundesrat ). It appears to indicate views on the workings of the Union that are not quite so rosy and that the nations other than England do indeed have legitimate constitutional ‘grievances’.

    “…. Notwithstanding the current commotion about the prospects for enhanced devolution, federalism and an ill-defined devo-max, the constitution we have remains that of a Greater England. Strangely enough, the Treaty of Union which is constitutive of the British state enjoys no special constitutional standing. Our constitutional experts don’t seem to be much good at parsing what – it should be clear after four decades of debate about the Scottish Question – is manifestly a partnership founded on an international treaty. Yet from England’s enduring solipsism derive many of the constitutional problems which beset the United Kingdom.”

    And:

    “….. jurists and political scientists have over the years fixated on the question of what makes the British constitution a constitution. Rarely, if ever, have they confronted the less obvious question of what makes the British constitution British.”

    He goes on:

    “When did the English state become British? And what at that point became of the English constitution? In what ways was it transformed by the Union of 1707 which created a new British state?

    ….. It’s not that the Union is singled out deliberately for disregard but rather, that the impenetrable arcana and demanding idioms of British constitutional scholarship have allowed an instinctive, unreflective and arrogant anglocentricity to obscure the real nature of the constitution. The Union negotiated and ratified in 1706-7, which, one might suppose, gives our constitution being, lies – unnoticed – in its innermost recesses.”

    I’ll be looking out for Professor Kidd’s proposed remedy to the followers of this new organisation. I know what mine is.

    • I remember reading his book union and unionisms some years back. His description for why the union has lasted so long was interesting. He essentially described it as being liked faded old wallpaper that people have long forgotten about. In other words the Union existed so long, no one has bothered to ask if it should keep going. He referred to this as “Banal unionism”. He did suggest that the union could break if it was confronted by a rising awareness of the unions short comings and new found Scottish identity and at the same time a strident and loud English nationalism. Which is what I think we’re seeing with Brexit.

  5. Alasdair Macdonald

    And the unionist response to the £30 billion post Brexit black hole? – think of how much worse it would be if Scotland were independent!

    And, of course our post Brexit black hole is per capita greater than elsewhere, because of the pooling of our resources and sharing them elsewhere, particularly the financial sector. We get our share by continuing to house Trident, which precludes us from developing not just oil and gas fields in the Atlantic but tidal, wave and wind power, too.

  6. Really interesting read, Derek. I enjoyed it very much.

  7. An astonishing piece of work. Truly astonishing.

    From beginning to end this mans articles reeked of a smug self satisfied and patricianly arrogance.
    It wasn’t til I got to the end that I realised that I had just had the Scottish cringe mansplained to me.
    From his assertion that it was only through the union that Scotland became a civilised country to his equally insulting assertion that it is only the Union that keeps Scotland’s rampant anti-English racism in check, that I came to an epiphany.

    This is not a defence of union. Its a long winded old troll trying to wind up yes voters.

    The entire purpose of this site. Its very existence, is noting more than a way for some strident yoons to get a rise out of us. Maybe even trigger someone to use some intemperate language. The fact that it has been organised by a certain Dog food salesman, should warn you that this site is not on the up and up.

    So be warned. These Islands will be a place for a lot of unpleasant views from people who genuinely believe what they have written and posted by “These Islands” for the snark.

    In a way it does cut to the heart of the issue for unionists. There are none who can actually make a positive case for the union to exist. But the truth is they actually can’t be bothered. As far as they are concerned its perfectly acceptable that it exists because it exists. These people are viciously invested in their belief that Scotland should never have any agency in the UK at all. So when they come to defend the union, their only approach is to mock Scotland’s place in that Union, then present their handiwork as a reason as to why Scotland can never be independent. The 15 billion deficit acquired by simple virtue of being the UK being one example. But when the UK is clearly failing Scotland, No new ships for the clyde. A loss of 30 billion courtesy of Brexit and No power bonanza after brexit..we are then treated to a bewildering aggressive apathy.

    They simply don’t care. But they care enough to let you know how much they don’t care. Usually by telling you again that you lost so get over it already. This may speak to certain insecurities and doubts, but it is very telling that their method of coping is to lash out at Scotland and yes voters in general.

    What they have achieved is to weaponise their British identity. When they turn it on us, Its not a term of endearment or a welcoming hand. Its an insult. Its intended to cause offense. They won. So they gloatingly insult us by calling us British. Which is oddly self defeating. If we’re losers because we’re British now, what does that make these roasters?

    Are they really trying to reconcile yes voters to be British. Or are they in truth trying to convince yes voters to be losers like they are?

    Or do they not care but are just taking the piss – not caring what damage they’re doing or how foolish they look.

    I’m for the latter.

  8. I hope everyone will be understanding towards me because there’s not a chance in hell, Anglican or otherwise, that I am a) going to read the nutty professors diatribe, b) take these clowns seriously and c) devote any more time thinking about them.

    On a lighter note, so when are you coming clean about who shot JR? Erm…No I mean JFK!

  9. I’m sorry Trinny and Susanna aren’t on the advisory body along with Brian Wilson, who really does seem to enjoy the company of other rich multi-property owners like himself. I’m surprised he hasn’t been ennobled. Lord Wilson of Manhattan sounds very impressive.

  10. And liberal democracies do not allow unelected clerics of the Established Religion sit in parliament as of right like only the UK and Iran do. Apparently that makes Iran a theocracy so the UK is a theocracy as well. Add in that the unelected head of state is chief theocrat and we trump Iran in undemocratic systems. They elect their HoS.

  11. Thanks for this Derek. I absolutely agree. I can’t stomach researching These Islands – it sound like the usual guff – but the real issue is what is the positive case for staying in the Union? If it’s so overwhelming, why do the 45% still, and despite everything, exist?

  12. Brilliant piece, Derek. However I can’t bring myself to read anything by that “long winded old troll” – (David’s description). I find the arrogance of his type abhorrent.

  13. British nationalists can only rely on fear and negativity. They have nothing else to offer.

  14. Neatly done Derek and yes, Mr Biggar’s argument was beyond laughable. It was historically….. selective (cough) and wildly rose tinted. That’s about as kind as I’d be inclined to be. As for ‘These Islands’ as a concept? After the past decade of feeling the love from unionist parties, their media and the ignorant, arrogant indifference of Westminster toward Scotland. Well I couldn’t speak for anyone else, but I’m pretty much done listening to any more of their disingenuous, insulting, societally divisive, dangerous and destructive horse shit.

    They’ve lied. They’ve smeared. They’ve undermined and they’ve betrayed trust, pledge and assurance in equal measure. What possible reason or incentive could they possibly supply which would induce me to listen, never mind believe, a single word they utter ever again?

    The usual sophistry of ‘that’s just politics’ isn’t a reason. It’s an excuse. An excuse that that has ruined countless lives and fractured society along an equally countless number of lines. It was greed. It was self seeking careerism. It was thoughtless and empathy free dogma.

    It was wrong and it continues to be wrong.

    • Sam, they have sent people to premature deaths for their own petty little advancement.
      I can no longer tolerate listening to Davidson, Mundell, or Rennie any more.
      They are killing people and destroying Scotland.
      Rant over.

  15. I decided to have a look at the “These Islands” website, and, before long, the hallmarks of amateurishness became all too apparent. The first rule of launching a new website is to make sure everything is ready before the launch. That means avoiding – like the plague – the use of labels like “Page under Construction,” or promises of updates to pages, or invitations to “watch this space.” The “These Islands” website is littered with dead links to articles which have not yet been published but which – we are told – are “coming soon.”

    After reading the mind-numbing content of the site, I reached a very straightforward conclusion regarding those who have flung it together: these guys are kack-a-lack mental.

  16. On 2nd November 1917 Arthur James Balfour, Britain’s Foreign Secretary, wrote to Walter Rotheschild, an aristocrat and committed Zionist, a letter containing what has become known as the Balfour Declaration.

    “His Majesty’s Government views with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish People, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”
    That turned out well for the British Empire, eh?
    I gather that PM May is to attend a slap up meal commemorating this particular piece of British Imperial insurgency.

    The Black and Tans, fresh from their success in Ireland were sent to Palestine to police this quite remarkable episode of English Imperialism.

    David Cronin, in his insightful account of the good professor’s version of Britain’s/England’s benign imperialism in action, ‘Balfour’s Shadow’, writes of riots in in Nablus in 1922 sparked off by a Brit Imperial imposed census.
    He quotes a ‘gendarme’ involved in quelling the riots’

    He ‘produced a trophy from that joyous battle in a canteen the next day. the trophy consisted of ‘the brains of a man he had splintered with a rifle-butt, that the ‘gloating grog blossomed’ officer had stuffed into an old cigarette tin.’
    100 years later the UK Government back Nazi saluting Spain while their Black Shirts splinter pensioners’ head with knobkieries, a favourite club of the South African Apartheid boot boys.

    Derek, we are indebted to you for trudging through this pile of Jackie Baillie.
    It is quite obviously a cut and paste job, with the Professor’s name attached to gice it some sort on intellectual authority.
    But his sources are there for all to see.
    Gordon Brown, David Torrance, The Scotsman, the ONS who ‘lost’ nearly half a trillion of the UK’s assumed wealth, Michael Keating who holds three passports, such is his commitment to the UK.
    As Derek observes, this looks like a rehash of the Prof’s earlier letter, but there are tracts from Project Fear authors throughout this blindingly arrogant and seriously ill informed load of rubbish’
    To end a sentence with a preposition? Really.
    This is the death rattle of English Imperialism.
    Good to know you. We must meet up sometime for drinks..or maybe not.
    Derek, keep your eye on these chancers on our behalf. They are beneath contempt, and would send a gunboat up the Forth in a blink.

  17. Remember the Enlightenment? It must really grate with these Establishment lackeys that it is widely acknowledged that Scotland invented the modern world. It is really the Establishment cringe that causes them to lash out with such Jackie Baillie.

    We also have a legal system that demands judges pay attention to the merits of the case since Scots Law is based on Roman Law whereas English Law is precedent based. Is it not the case that these two systems are incompatible? One relying on statue and reason, the other on arcane precedent.Could that be the reason that such as the “good” professor are incapable of making a logical or even emotional case for the “union” – that it exists so must be right?

    Whatever the case, I am reminded that in the 2014 Referendum campaign, “Better Together” made every effort to avoid debating any case for “union”. More of the same methinks.

  18. Hi Derek, another great article, but you’ve fallen for one of the union’s most pervasive pieces of propaganda along the way. We must get used to referring to Trident as UK’s WMD’s. Even Michael Portillo (yes, I know) said, long after he was Minister of Defence, “Our independent deterrent is not independent and does not constitute a deterrent to any country that we would regard as an enemy.” Keep up the good work!

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