12 August 2010

Conspiracy Theories

Conspiracy theories often engender two pathologies. One is that of the deferential who accepts the official version of everything from 9/11 to the deaths of Dinah and Dr Kelly; the other is perennial paranoiac who never fails to sees the hand of omnipotent shadowy agents pulling the strings behind courts, the media and so on. (In fact the paranoia narrative is most common in the most deferential of countries the US where a regular film scenario is of trusting patriotic Joe stumbling on a web of government mis-doings and then being called on to put matters to right).

There are times when the conspiracy theorists are absolutely right (e.g. the Zinoviev Letter, 1924) but more often the unexplained and unexplainable would, if explained, show hitherto unknown details which at best would add a new dimension to the accepted master explanation. And I believe that is probably the case with the 9/11 events.

Every political event has unknown aspects and these unknown aspects throw up ‘clues’ which cannot be readily explained. It is job of historians and political scientists to probe, seek the facts and provide the best possible explanations.

2 August 2010

Fran Jenkin (died 23 July 2010)

I was extremely saddened to learn of Fran Jenkin's death.

I got to know Fran in the mid-1980s first through political activities and then personally. At the time I was one of the leading promoters of Devon Labour Briefing, a left-leaning but independent group of people, who were attempting to shift Exeter Labour Party to the left. Most of us were just out of university and winning support outside the Pennsylvania and St. Davids branch was proving difficult. Fran, then an Exeter College Teacher of English, joined us readily, became an active supporter of Devon Labour Briefing and felt at home in our company. Her house in Portland Street, which she shared with several cats, became an unofficial meeting place for us all.

Though her reputation established some years before in CND spared her from expulsion threats from the Labour Party, I still remember the battering she took at the General Management Committee meetings of Exeter Labour Party for her association with us. Animosity reached its height in 1987-88 when the Labour-led Exeter City Council sought to promote celebrations for the Tercentenary of the arrival in Brixton of king-to-be William of Orange. Fran, a passionate supporter of Irish nationalism, threw herself into the campaign to oppose the William of Orange celebrations.

Opposition is never painless. Though the police generally left us alone, Fran awoke one morning to have a team of police officers search her house. Why or what they were looking for we never discovered; and she alone suffered this indignity, but she emerged from it as cheerful as ever.

I felt particularly honoured when Fran turned to me to ask me to tutor her son, Larry, for his politics A-level. That led to a strange incident; one evening on returning home I found my metre-high poster of Karl Marx missing from the wall. My partner could offer no explanation and it remained a mystery until one day it was re-presented to me in a glass frame by Fran and her son. The framed photograph of Marx still hangs over my writing desk.

Sadly from the end of the 1980s Fran and I had no contact and I know nothing of the last two decades of her life.