Wednesday, May 09, 2012

BRITAIN 2012 : Individuals are guilty until proven innocent ? Hype of ‘lone gunman with a grudge’ spurs UK’s quest for total surveillance

THE prospect of fitting a camera & listening device in every room of every property, every street, every car, every place, everywhere in the entire UK may well be one of the dreams of the current ConDem Government and the UK’s every hungry surveillance apparatus (which coincidentally numbers politicians, senior police officers & members of the judiciary from around the UK including Scotland among its commercial investors), however the threat of individuals who don't react well to the politics of exclusion, fear, repression, intimidation or such like is never too far away, according to a BBC News article on what appears to be rising fears of “lone gunmen”,

One ‘security expert’ quoted in the article’s theory says “…the only way you can tackle the threat is constant surveillance," which appears to coincide with attempts to criminalise the entire population of Scotland, England & Wales & Northern Ireland, in an effort to maintain the pecking order from the rich & political classes down to the half starved cancer patient lying on a bed in hospital while a Government contracted ‘healthcare firm’ signs him up for a ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ notice in order to save benefits payments the Government believe should be better spent on parties hosted at No 10 Downing Street..

An English based civil rights campaigner who is writing an article on the state v the public in these hard pressed times observed : “You can watch some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time but you cant watch all of the people all of the time, especially the ones who are wise to being watched, and those who tell no one what their intentions are.”

BBC News reports :

The spectre of the lone gunman

By Jon Kelly BBC News Magazine

Two hundred years ago, an assassin gunned down Prime Minister Spencer Perceval in the House of Commons. His death ushered in a threat that security services have struggled to deal with ever since - the lone gunman.

The killer stepped in front of the prime minister, blocking his path. Then John Bellingham stretched out his arm, pressed a pistol to the leader's chest and pulled the trigger.

Bellingham was a disgruntled merchant. The death of his victim, Spencer Perceval, on 11 May 1812 in the House of Commons was the last occasion on which a British premier was assassinated.

But the murder set a grim template over the following two centuries for a series of lone gunmen who attempted to further their own views by picking up a firearm and training it on their nation's ruler.

In the century after 1865, four US presidents died in such a manner. Although not technically a lone gunman, Gavrilo Princip altered the course of Western history by assassinating Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914. It was an event that sparked World War I.

The lives of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, US civil rights leader Martin Luther King and Swedish premier Olaf Palme were all cut short by a gun-wielding individual, as was that of Indian leader and activist Mohandas Gandhi.

When John Bellingham marched into the House of Commons in 1812 to shoot Spencer Perceval through the heart, the killer was no stranger to trouble and disappointment.

His first business venture, a tin factory on London's Oxford St, failed. A spell working as a merchant broker in Russia saw him end up in a rat-infested prison following charges of insurance fraud. They were eventually dropped.

Bellingham became bankrupt as a result of the accusation, and spent six years in jail. When he eventually returned to the UK, he demanded compensation from the government but none was forthcoming.

In April 1812, as Bellingham pursued his campaign in London, a civil servant told him he was at liberty to take whatever measures he thought proper. Two days later he bought two high-calibre pistols and arranged for a tailor to add a hidden pocket inside his coat.

After visiting a watercolour exhibition on 11 May, he casually announced that he had business to attend to. He was seized immediately after the shooting, tried at the Old Bailey and executed on 18 May.

One of his distant descendants, Henry Bellingham, is currently a foreign office minister and MP for North West Norfolk.

Perceval was not, of course, the first ruler to die at the hands of an assassin. Shakespeare immortalised the conspiracy that led to the stabbing to death of Julius Caesar.

Numerous other emperors and kings met their deaths in a similar fashion. But they usually fell at the hands of someone with privileged access - a member of the inner circle.

Nor was Perceval the first leader to die from an assassin's gunshot. The first Earl of Moray, Scotland's regent, is thought by historians to be the first head of state to have been killed by a firearm, in 1570.

But Perceval's death came at a watershed moment. Advances in breech-loading and flintlock technology in the 18th and 19th Centuries made the task of assassination far easier.

Unlike in the days when Roman conspirators had to get close enough to Caesar to stab him to death, the advent of the rifle meant loyal bodyguards were no longer a guarantee of safety.

And Bellingham can, like Princip and John F Kennedy's assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, be seen as a dark manifestation of the age of the individual.

"Bellingham was quite an intense character, he was an obsessive," says historian Andro Linklater, author of Why Spencer Perceval Had to Die. "He craved respectability. He was wrong-headed but logical.

"It's a very modern personality type - that curiously cold, obsessive, self-obsessed view of the world."

In this vein it's possible to view the rise of the lone gunman - inspired by the 19th Century anarchist proto-terrorist doctrine of the "propaganda of the deed" - as a perverse counterpoint to the steady growth of democracy across the West during the same period.

Just as ordinary citizens were winning the right to make their voice heard by their rulers, so too deranged loners had an opportunity to target the most powerful in society thanks to the accuracy of the rifle.

As democratic elections made it important for leaders to be able to go out among their electorates, the rise of accurate, deadly firearms gave those same leaders pause for thought.

The likes of Bellingham and Oswald - and those categorised as "spree killers" like Anders Behring Breivik - have always had a key tactical advantage.

While terrorist networks and conspiracies can be infiltrated, the solitary gunman with a grudge cannot - and authorities face the challenge of spotting them in the first place.

According to former Special Branch counter-terrorist detective David Lowe, now an expert in crime and security at Liverpool John Moores University, this fact alone makes them, in several key respects, more dangerous. "If you don't have intelligence, the only way you can tackle the threat is constant surveillance," he warns. "It's all about trying to spot this individual - keeping a watching brief for that one person who isn't behaving as everyone else is. Ultimately, you need an element of luck."

Consequently, the fear that such individuals could strike at any time has remained widespread .

In the era of the lone assassin, politicians' capacity to interact with the public they are supposed to represent is curtailed by the requirements of security and surveillance - a phenomenon given no better expression than the "Popemobile", the bulletproof vehicle designed to shield the Pope from attack. This sense of unease is one that popular culture has proved adept at exploiting.

Assassination that lit the tinder paper
Police in Sarajevo arrest a man after a failed assassination attempt on the life of Archduke Franz Ferdinand :
Archduke Franz Ferdinand and wife Sophie shot dead in their car on 28 June 1914 in Sarajevo
Assassin Gavrilo Princip one of group of seven Bosnian Serbs, who wanted independence from Austria-Hungary
One of the group had made failed assassination attempt earlier in the day
Each assassin equipped with a cyanide pill
28 June national holiday for Serbs and tensions running high
Austria responds angrily, bringing Russia, France and Germany into the conflict.
Germany declares war on Russia, 1 August 1914.

Even more enduring is Frederick Forsyth's 1971 novel The Day of the Jackal, subsequently turned into a film starring Edward Fox as the mysterious Englishman hired to kill the French president. As he wrote the book, Forsyth envisioned readers would identify with his detective hero. But the author found, instead, the assassin's allure as a kind of anti-James Bond was far greater. "I thought I'd created a big, bad villain in the Jackal," Forsyth says. "But when it came out, of course, no-one wanted to know about the nice, soft, gentle policeman. Everybody watching the film is gunning for Edward Fox." The reality of gunmen like Oswald or Robert Kennedy's killer Sirhan Sirhan is far less glamorous. It can be hard to believe that these unremarkable people were able to accomplish the assassination of a closely guarded person.

Little wonder then that conspiracy theories about assassinations have been so enduring given the shockwaves they have inflicted. "You can see the attraction of a better explanation than some pathetic character like Oswald having killed the president," says Sir Adam Roberts, Emeritus Professor of International Relations at Oxford University and president of the British Academy. "It's difficult to accept that history is chaotic."

If there is any consolation to be had, Roberts believes, it is the lack of success they have at fulfilling their stated goals. "I would say they almost never achieved their objectives," he says. "Gavrilo Princip started World War I, but he didn't intend to; he just wanted to kill an Archduke. He couldn't believe the mass carnage that had been caused by his act."

Lone gunmen, he adds, tend to share the mistaken belief that society's ills lie solely with the figurehead at the top. "In fact tyranny, or whatever form of government you have, usually has a broader social basis. The idea that one cleansing act of violence will transform the political landscape has been disproved time and time again because it has messier results."

It's not a conclusion Bellingham, who was executed a week after Perceval's assassination, lived long enough to draw. The aftershocks of the killing, however, are still being felt.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Long live the angry with a grudge for they may end up being our only check against total dictatorship