Comment at end
UPDATE: Fellow Blairite Julie has just informed me that another of the “we few, we happy view” band of brothers and sisters John Rentoul has numbered my question in his famous list. (It’s 270, not 384 as I plumped for here.)
Rentoul: ‘And this allows me to catch up with number 270, asked by Blair Supporter about the opening of the Blair-hating film, The Ghost Writer: Will Cherie sue Roman Polanski and Robert Harris? Not because the portrayal of her and her husband in the film is not defamatory, but because she is not mad.’
John – you have a concise and effective way of summarising.
ADAM LANG IS TONY BLAIR
WOW! THE SUN ALSO RISES
THE POISONOUS AFTER-EFFECTS OF THE DOCU-FICTION/-MOVIE
While Britain’s head is buried in the domestic politics of the election on May 6th – (don’t mention the war) – the rest of the world goes about its wider political interests.
The state of play in the Middle East and in Obama’s America will continue to top most of the world’s search engine queries. But there is something else going around the world of serious importance, much as it shouldn’t be. And it will hang around for years, decades, even centuries, much as it shouldn’t. What exactly? Books and then films which claim to be documenting history – docu-fiction. Topmost of these right now is the Harris/Polanski invention – The Ghost.
It seems to be accepted that in a free world this kind of “writing” is no more than opinion/interpretation. Made and meant without agenda or rancour but only for entertainment, it is deemed quite acceptable, even when about living people. Without agenda and rancour are the operative words. I haven’t read the book or watched the film and have no intention of spending money on such biased money-grubbing exercises. If you are in Dublin tonight you might be able to see this free. Wish I was there. I could just about stretch to ‘FREE’ for this.
Since this film is clearly ALL about Tony Blair –
WHY DOESN’T MR BLAIR SUE?
Simple. Tony Blair won’t sue because as a politician (even former) he has no human rights. Human rights exist to protect the rest of us from politicians, don’t you know? Never the other way round.
Still, it’s worth asking why those whose names and reputations are blighted by this sort of offshoot of the mad liberal anti-war press never seem to stand up to say “enough”. Later I will look at Cherie and the ‘will she/won’t she sue?’ question.
But first, it’s also worth asking why the question of this kind of propaganda is never addressed by the mainstream press. The present climate – anti-Iraq war, anti-politician, anti-everything and anything? Perhaps. Some political writers of quality have reviewed the film, but even they do not seem to realise that their reviews provide more questions than answers.
For instance, for the earth-shattering epitome of a statement of the obvious this is it: “Charles Moore finds that the spirit of Tony Blair pervades The Ghost Writer, Roman Polanski’s new film.”
What, Mr Moore? You mean wheels are round?
In his article – “The Ghost Writer: The secret life of the man who wasn’t there” – Moore says this (my bolding inside Moore’s parentheses):
[I too wrote about Lord Mandelson’s attendance at the British preview of The Ghost.]
Moore’s ‘conflicting reasons’? It seems it’s in the unlikelihood of the tale and also in its conclusion. The tale is more than just unlikely. It is fantasy. As for the ending – it’s hardly a secret. We all know that Blair … sorry, Lang gets his bloody comeuppance. But sometimes knowingly, sometimes unthinkingly our careless press and book & movie-writers make the second possibility real. They are as responsible as any Middle East war for the burgeoning costs of Mr Blair’s personal security. It is said to be somewhere between £2m and £6,000,000 per year.
Excerpt: ‘Dai Davies, a former head of Scotland Yard’s Royalty Protection Squad, said: “Because of his role in talking Britain into conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq, the potential threat he faces is very real.’
Mr Davies might also have added that Mr Blair probably feels safer in the Middle East than in “liberal” Britain.
Mr Moore’s two conflicting reasons for enjoying this film deserve further investigation. Moore lightly describes the ending as being ‘highly’ and ‘particularly’ improbable, even moreso it would seem than is the tale in relation to the real story of the real former PM:
“On the other hand, the tale is highly improbable, particularly in its denouement. Robert Harris – to whose book the director, Roman Polanski, is admirably faithful – has John Buchan’s gift of telling a story which could not possibly have happened, yet feels highly authentic.”
In the humble opinion of a Blair-watcher/Blair-haters watcher, I think that Mr Moore is wrong in the rather facile way he dismisses the ‘improbable’ elements of the story. The improbability seen through the fiction/faction eyes of the viewer is actually of no consequence. Largely thanks to the opining of the press and the liberal literati, particularly here in Britain, these unlikelihoods hardly even register. Instead the likelihood registers. Half of those interested enough to follow this disparagement of Tony Blair are expectantly awaiting such a denouement, tongues lolling. It could be argued that through the vehicle of such as this film there is almost an inevitability of tragic consequences.
“IT’S ONLY A MOVIE!”
If you dismiss this and are of the opinion that a film representation is of little significance, Moore also says –
“Instead of being undermined by improbability, reality becomes heightened by it.” And – “So who, apart from the ghost writer, is the ghost? The answer is Tony Blair, and not only in the obvious sense that he is the thinly veiled subject of the story. “
And the story behind the story? That senior politicians (sometimes known as “war criminals”, untried of course, but that’s another angle to the ‘point’ of the story) can run but they can’t hide from so-called “justice”. Somewhere, somehow, they will “account” or die trying not to, whichever comes first.
I contend that it is deeply shameful that writers use their privileged space in the papers to promote their own thoughts without considering how they themselves are stoking fires. For instance, Moore continues –
“But it turns out that Brosnan’s style fits the predicament of his character. His Lang/Blair is not a man who really decides things, but one to whom things happen. He is famous and controversial, but oddly passive. Although he sometimes gets angry under the extraordinary pressures that build up on him, he is, for the most part, almost detached – vain enough to care a bit about how he might appear in his memoirs, but not really all that interested. He retains an easy charm, an almost mocking vagueness.
It is the people around him – Amelia and, above all, Ruth, furiously jealous of Anna, and furious, indeed, about everything – who are so worked up. Lang/Blair is almost disembodied, the ghost of what he was.
What was he? That too, is not made clear. Robert Harris is one of many on the centre-Left who started by believing that Tony Blair was the shining light of their generation, and later came to see him merely as its shooting star.
But neither novel nor film version is an act of out-and-out revenge. As the story builds up, you expect that Lang/Blair is about to be exposed as the greatest traitor in British political history. I shan’t give away the ending, but that expectation is not fulfilled. Instead, you feel sorry for this trapped man – the object of so much passion for and against, and yet, when you get close to him, not quite there. Was the real Tony Blair always a sort of ghost?”
NOT “an act of out-and-out revenge”? What was it then? If the ‘dark’ hero/villain is not “the greatest traitor in British political history” that’s only because he is killed by the father of a dead soldier. So, is it in reality a kind of tragic love story? Yeah. Right.
As for this – “Was the real Tony Blair always a sort of ghost?”
If so, no problem. He’s only ‘dead’ … again.
These remarks point to subtly disturbing travesties of truth. They are fundamentally unfair and, yes, I repeat, dangerous. Although not seriously vicious – not vicious at all in Moore’s case – it is still one of the most intentional disparagements of the real Mr Blair that I have recently read, its subtlety being its shield. (More from Moore here at the Telegraph.)
And another thing …
WHY THE FILM’S ENDING? WHY WAS THE FORMER PM SHOT?
Why couldn’t he just have been carted off to The Hague where at least he’d have had a chance to defend his position? Before the hanging, of course.
Liberal luvvies want vengeance. Revenge. Not a fair hearing or even a fair trial. Fairness is only for those they DO believe, like illegal immigrants, fundamentalist Islamist terror aficionados or foreign refugees from Guantanamo returned here in order for us to cry “havoc”.
As far as some in Britain are concerned, the real-life tale has panned out this way and there may – will be more to come. Even the ending could actually happen. When this film is on general release on 16th April will we hear reports of chuckles, ‘aaahs’, and even laughter and cheers from Ghost watchers as the final curtain is drawn on the villain of the piece (er … ‘peace’)?
So, to answer my own question – why did the former PM in the book/movie have to die rather than end up in court? Simple.
If he was permitted to defend himself in court, he might have been found NOT guilty.
We can’t have that now can we? Better just do away with him, while we’re still ahead, OK Robert? OK, Roman.
So where was I? Oh, yes …
WILL/SHOULD CHERIE BLAIR SUE?
I’m half-expecting this question to be dismissed with a John Rentoul “number 384 to which the answer is no”, but, to continue…
Or go back to top if you got distracted by Cherie.
Cherie is an experienced, gifted and well-read barrister. She will have already looked at all of this, I’m sure. But the laws of defamation/libel/slander are notoriously unclear and an inconsistent minefield here in Britain. They are also peculiarly unsympathetic to politicians and former politicians.
This Wikipedia definition of “defamation” would on first reading indicate that in the Blairs’ position there is a case to answer. Or even several cases.
‘Defamation—also called calumny, vilification, slander (for transitory statements), and libel (for written, broadcast, or otherwise published words)—is the communication of a statement that makes a claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual, that may give an individual, business, product, group, government, or nation a negative image. It is usually, but not always, a requirement that this claim be false and that the publication is communicated to someone other than the person defamed (the claimant).
In common law jurisdictions, slander refers to a malicious, false and defamatory spoken statement or report, while libel refers to any other form of communication such as written words or images. Most jurisdictions allow legal actions, civil and/or criminal, to deter various kinds of defamation and retaliate against groundless criticism. Related to defamation is public disclosure of private facts, which arises where one person reveals information that is not of public concern, and the release of which would offend a reasonable person. “Unlike [with] libel, truth is not a defense for invasion of privacy.”
But it would seem that public figures are not protected in this way
Unlike the position for the rest of us, there are conflicts of interest.
The first conflict arises because “public interest” overrides other private or personal interests of the (political) individual. So if the press, some Liberal Democrats and others insist on describing Mr Blair as a “war criminal” that’s fine. They didn’t KNOW it wasn’t true! No malice aforethought.
My Great Aunt Fanny!
‘Special rules apply in the case of statements made in the press concerning public figures, which can be used as a defense. A series of court rulings led by New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964) established that for a public official (or other legitimate public figure) to win a libel case, the statement must have been published knowing it to be false or with reckless disregard to its truth, (also known as actual malice).’
And defamation claims in the EU have been restricted in recent years due to Human Rights laws. The internet’s power and how to deal with it, is still unsettled:
“Defamation laws may come into tension with freedom of speech, leading to censorship or chilling effects where publishers fear lawsuits, or loss of reputation where individuals have no effective protection against reckless or unfounded allegations. Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights permits restrictions on freedom of speech when necessary to protect the reputation or rights of others.
Jurisdictions resolve this tension in different ways, in particular in determining where the burden of proof lies when unfounded allegations are made. The power of the internet to disseminate comment, which may include malicious comment, has brought a new focus to the issue.
There is a broader consensus against laws that criminalize defamation. Human rights organizations, and other organizations such as the Council of Europe and Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, have campaigned against strict defamation laws that criminalize defamation. The European Court of Human Rights has placed restrictions on criminal libel laws because of the freedom of expression provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights. One notable case was Lingens v. Austria (1986).”
The clash seems to be between freedom of speech and the rights of the individual (political individual in this case).
Such conflicts can be seen in the general public arena too. Many of our present day freedoms seem to have resulted in conflicts which seem clearly unresolvable. For instance, whose rights should be uppermost here – the rights of a B & B landlord to decide who comes into his home, or the right of homosexual guests to be treated as heterosexual guests, with no let or hindrance as regards their human rights? Or, whose rights here – the right of children’s pupil representative groups, even those under 12, to have a serious input into who teaches them or the rights of adults with trained, professional knowledge and life experience?
For those who scream about Blair’s “breaking of international law” there’s this:
Article 17 of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states
- 1. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honour and reputation.
- 2. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
Another conflict? Yes, but … not that that would protect him from the press-/book-/film-riled assassin.
SO, WILL CHERIE SUE?
Cherie is not usually easily silenced. This Human Rights lawyer has sued the Dailies for saying far less than that she is having an affair, is a CIA spy, or has supported a husband who she “knew” had decided to kill people in what they all “knew” was an illegal war in Iraq.
I imagine she’ll be furious at this “affair” business in the film – hers, as well as Amelia’s. But I have to conclude that largely because press and therefore public opinion will not be on their side, but instead will be on the side of a sex offender (Polanski), it is highly unlikely that either of the Blairs will sue.
In the meantime, the press/book/film luvvies as a class/group will be held responsible if anything serious were ever to be attempted. They have been warned.
THE COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION
The court of public opinion is the sternest forum. That may be acceptable when information is balanced, fair and above all true. But the conduit for information is our press. So balanced, fair and true are clearly OUT. When it comes to Iraq and Blair our press has proven itself dangerously unbalanced. Its opining has replaced reportage. Its analysis seeks to analyse already-held positions. It is deeply unfair. It is unreliable, embellished evidence and yet is swallowed by many as the truth. And from them, many an untrue tales finds its way into print and screen. Remember this –
- It is only a short step from proclaiming that an individual has a hubristic tendency bordering on delusional to the public believing that he has a psychotic disorder. [Thus – We were led by a delusional madman.]
- It is only a flicker away from questioning, mocking or criticising someone’s religious beliefs to accusing them of an over-zealous religiosity intended to deceive and even to “murder”. [Thus – He was determined to act on ‘God’s command.’]
- It is perhaps literally but a heartbeat away from implying that an individual’s contacts and sphere of influence is such that despite the “truth” and the “facts” they will never be “punished” for their “crimes” to encouraging summary justice. [Thus – Since he is protected from getting his “just desserts” by the rich and powerful, it’s up to us.]
Perhaps when the Iraq Inquiry concludes – perhaps – and if a majority of the public and press are persuaded that Mr Blair is NOT criminally liable for decisions and/or actions over Iraq, the whole furore will subside. Perhaps.
It is clear that Mr Blair himself has not pursued his detractors the way many of us think he could have and perhaps even should have. The traducing of his motives, integrity and character have been relentless, and still are. He is even criticised for the major crime of burning the toast, and thus setting off an automatic fire alarm. (Their listed house in Wotton Underwood is a grade one listed building and thus is automatically linked to the local fire station on the release of any smoke.)
So Tony Blair’s approach to his many critics is to ignore their lies and rants. He returns to the press the disdain they hand to him.
And another thing …
Naughty Naughtie’s Tony Blair documentary dumped
WHY? “BBC ditches Blair and Bush drama that reopened Iraq dossier wounds”. Anything to do with the ongoing Iraq Inquiry? I sincerely hope so. That GHOST film could be stopped for the same reason, except for one thing; it would immediately become viewable on the internet – FREE to all! You can bet your bottom dolla … sex-offender’s directorial morality on that. More below the picture –
A draft script ordered by the BBC, seen by the Guardian, included a scene in which Blair and his director of communications, Alastair Campbell, urged the then chair of the joint intelligence committee, John Scarlett, to “sex up” the dossier on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction published in September 2002.
The drama took the name of, and was based on, The Accidental American – the 2004 book about Blair and Bush by BBC Radio 4 Today presenter James Naughtie. According to one source familiar with the project’s development, the revisiting of the “sexed up” dossier controversy – which led to the resignations of the BBC chairman and director general in early 2004 – was a factor in the drama not being commissioned.
It was also not commissioned because it clashed with a rival – and far less controversial – BBC film about Blair and Bill Clinton to which Naughtie is also an adviser, the source added. More here.
“There are two versions of defamation, libel and slander. Libel is when the defamation is written down (including email, bulletin boards and websites), and slander is when the incident relates to words spoken.
In the UK, if someone thinks that what you wrote about them is either defamatory or damaging, the onus will be entirely on you to prove that your comments are true in court. In other words, if you make the claim, you’ve got to prove it!
For example, if you said Peter Sutcliffe had never paid his TV licence in his life that would not be defamatory – or it is very unlikely to be. However, if you said the same about TV boss Greg Dyke, that would be.
Why? Because Peter Sutcliffe’s reputation will not be damaged by the TV licence revelation (he is after all a mass murderer). Of course, his lawyers would still be free to bring the case to court, but it is very unlikely they would succeed.
Greg Dyke, on the other hand, runs the BBC , so to say he wilfully doesn’t pay his TV licence could have a seriously detrimental effect on his career. He could be fired or his reputation damaged (note: Dyke has now left the BBC).
It is not for the judge or jury (at the outset) to decide how damaged he is – they just have to confirm that such accusations are false and damaging. Then the judge and/or jury decide on monetary damages. “
[So presumably you can say what you like about Blair as he is well-known to be a “war criminal” and is thus already damaged. Isn’t he?]
If something has been in the public domain for some time and no action has been taken then that means it becomes much harder for anyone to claim defamation.
If Mr Smith turns round in court and says, ‘but two years ago this was published in Magazine Y and you didn’t protest then, only when I put it in Magazine X,’ it is a strong line of defence.
[So, since this kind of defamation has been in the public domain for some years it’s too late anyway, Mr and Mrs Blair. Sorry. One of you should have seen a good lawyer years and years and years ago.]
However libel does not extend to the dead. Nor is being abusive libelous.
So I can say “Keith Moon was a smackhead lover of the highest order” and it’s no problem. In fact I could say “every human who ever existed was a smack dealing, gun running, uncle fucker.”
This is completely okay. That’s UK libel!
[So, abuse away, abusive kiddies.]
“As for the inheritance, who really wants to lay claim to that? Are we keen for another prime minister who will lead us into an illegal war? Do we want such decisions about life and a great deal of death to be made on the basis of mendacious exaggeration of the evidence?”
… I’d like to point him to this which explains in layman’s language that the ICC has already looked at and dismissed war crimes charges against Mr Blair. The BBC article does not dwell on the legality or otherwise of the whole operation. Suffice it to say that take Blair to court for that and the UN puts itself in the dock over its own inability/unwillingness/impotence to pursue peace by insisting on its own resolutions against Saddam’s Iraq – for all of 12 years.
6. Olivia Williams, the actress who plays Ruth Lang, aka Cherie Blair (odd that she should be called “Ruth”) says here.
Until that [sex charge] case has played out, it is unclear how Polanski can ever make another film. Williams is visibly appalled by the thought. “That would be a tragedy,” she blurts out, her composure blown, “a f—ing waste. Roman is one of the great masters of film; he is unlike any other director.
For those to whom REAL life matters more than the movies – I’ll re-write this:
Until that [political charge] case has played out, it is unclear how Blair can ever be released from political ostracism. Sane people are appalled by the thought. “That would be a tragedy,” they blurt out, their composure blown, “a f—ing waste. Tony is one of the great masters of politics; he is unlike any other politician.
7. Mr Brosnan doesn’t have the best of luck, it seems. Doth he protest too much?
Pierce Brosnan’s character in ‘The Ghost Writer’ is not based on Tony Blair.
‘Despite parallels between Blair and fictional Prime Minister Adam Lang – a Labour politician accused of war crimes and of being close to the US in the War on Terror – Brosnan insists the director Roman Polanski did not want him to be a caricature of Blair.
He [Brosnan] said: “Well, I read it as Tony Blair. All the emblems were there, but when I met with Roman the first thing I asked him was, ‘Do you want me to play Tony Blair?’ And he said, ‘No, it’s not Tony Blair.’ But everything points to Blair, and how could it not?”‘
How could it not indeed, Mr 006 and three-quarters?
Tags: Adam Lang, Amelia, Anji, Blair noose picture, book, Charles Moore, Cherie Blair, Chris, Chris Patten, Ewan McGregor, film, Ghost Writer, ICC, Iraq, John Rentoul, movie, Olivia Williams, Pierce Brosnan, Robert Harris, Roman Polanski, Ruth Lang, sue, The Ghost, Tony Blair, war crimes, war criminal