Talk about Newsnight

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Friday, 16 May, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 16 May 08, 05:46 PM

Beatings, Torture and Horrific Violence in Zimbabwe:
zim_torture203.jpgTonight, an exclusive interview with the US ambassador to Zimbabwe. James McGee was held for investigating what he knew to be obscene and violent attacks on members of the opposition by Mugabe's ruling Zanu PF party. He graphically describes what he saw first hand - the vicious attacks on old women and young men alike - and his own response to the authorities that tried to detain him. Yet more proof of these attacks comes from the British journalist Peter Oborne who recently emerged from Zimbabwe with first hand accounts and the pictures to prove it. As the authorities set a date for the presidential run-off, finally, we bring you these distressing but crucial testimonies to the ongoing Mugabe reign of fear.

China and Burma:
One natural disaster with a death toll reaching into the tens of thousands is hard enough to contemplate. Two becomes unthinkable. Tonight our Diplomatic Editor Mark Urban assesses how changed each country will be by its own natural disaster and ask what the international communities' response should be. And what does an 'official death toll' really mean - how on earth do we start to grasp the hard facts when they're so hard to come by in each case?

And is our obsession with inflation well, a little over-inflated? Tonight we speak to the Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz who thinks we're in danger of missing the point. He says that inflation targets - such as that used by the Bank Of England - could push us into recession, sacrificing growth in a vain attempt to keep down prices. So does the Bank of England - which has warned of the end of the "nice decade" - need a radical change of plan?

Join me tonight at 10:30pm



  • Comment number 1.


    Whether Zimbabwe, Guantanamo, the Balkans or China (to name only a few) the truth of man’s veneer of higher function, overlaid on a very basic animal, is writ large. But we insist on calling ourselves ‘Human’ as if the whole organism is integral and humane. Then, living within that lie, we fantasise the UN, viable colonisation of space, and a golden global village, trading itself to an idyllic future.
    In truth, we are an ape rogered by some ancient panic-measure in the interest of survival. This gave us a big brain and language, and a measure of stupidity that beggars belief - and rules out ultimate survival. Now and again, in our history, a little wisdom has emerged, but it is not much in evidence these days. . .
    Probably our finest achievement, replicated in all areas of the globe, was the discovery of mind-altering substances to lick, sniff, chew, drink and inject. Bravo!
    We emerged inept, and went right on to incapable.

  • Comment number 2.

    A free access socialist society with everything owned in common and the end of trading has never been tried.The brutally competitive nature of capitalism and its brutal poverty, generates an environment of anti-social psychosis. By eliminating that anti-social environment, its socially-generated sickos will no longer be generated. It may be that some people will evidence horribly anti-social behaviour, no matter how sane a society we build. If so, how will that be different from today — except that there will be fewer sickos overall? Capitalism has not stopped the sickos.;

    In socialist society, if there are sickos, they will have to be dealt with to protect society. We are not going to try to predict the form that protection will take. Today we are all too ingrained with the brutality of capitalism to be able to know what people without that training in violence will choose to do.
    Is socialism impossible because of human nature?

    Almost everything which is alleged to be “human nature” is environmentally generated behaviour, not human nature. By creating an environment which will not generate “bad” behaviour, we will have solved the “problems” of our imagined human nature.

  • Comment number 3.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 4.

    I've now had a chance to watch tonight's edition which included a report on what I would characterise as Mugabe's terror
    tactics in Zimbabwe and while the moderators debate the pros and cons of an earlier posting by me in this forum in which I put forward the innovative idea of turning his regime into a television reality show I should just like to make a few more points before finally shutting up.

    I'd also like to make a suggestion about these blog pages in general.

    I confess to being a youthful sixties something and by way of a start would like to mention the lead story in a BBC News at Six (whenever then) some time back ago in
    1978 or 1979. This concerned a massacre of some civil protesters who had gathered on the cathedral steps of a city in one of the South American states at the time and was essentially entirely devoted to a film that had been shot of the massacre. It was disturbing footage and while not particularly 'graphic' by today's standards we were left in no doubt that we were witnessing a dreadful atrocity.

    And yet there was no follow-up story the next night (latest death toll, international reaction ... that sort of thing) nor can I remember any attempt to follow up the story subsequently or even to set it in some sort of context. The news story thus was bizarre and disturbing in its own right and I've always remembered it as an especially blatant example of what I suppose could be described as television sensationalism.

    Watching Newsnight's piece on Mugabe's regime tonight I found myself wondering whether the motivation for the piece was again essentially sensationalist.

    I'm content merely to suggest it and on this occasion at least I trust I may look forward to some follow-up pieces on the situation in Zimbabwe. I note from an internet search that Newsnight ran a piece about starvation in Zimbabwe on 16 December 2005 (graphic images again I expect) and that Newsnight did run that piece then is admirable. Let's have some more on our former colony and
    especially about the politics involved; some fat politicians round a table rather than always and ever those terrible images of emaciated babies in the dust, important though it is that we comprehend the scale and nature of the human suffering that bad politics can bring.

    On a tangentially related issue I was disappointed that the equally important piece about what comes next for us in the UK after economic NICEness was apparently cut short. The consternation on Joseph Stiglitz's face was evident as indeed to be fair was the embarrassment of the presenter Emily as she treated this fantastically distinguished and eminent economist so. Well I do hope (and again I merely suggest it) that that didn't come about because a producer wanted to make sure the Mugabe piece didn't stale over the weekend or worse get picked up by a

    Regarding these blog forums I do thoroughly approve of them (finally a chance for lamebrains lke me to get read ... well maybe and I'm emailing all my friends and
    relatives about these contributions from me to make sure) but why not have a flagship blog of blogs or something of the sort which is screened for editorial relevance in the
    same way as newspaper letter pages are? Of course contributors would have to accept waiting a day or so for their contributions to appear and it would be courteous if their piece isn't selected for them to receive an
    email to say so, perhaps suggesting one of the other forums for it.

    I should much like to see something of the sort and would avidly read it on a daily basis.

    I don't want to be seen as at all wishing to convey a negative impression about Newsnight. I think it's excellent, and the website too, and along with US Comedy Central's 'South Park' (definitely no ironic comparision implied) pretty well the only thing I ever regularly watch on TV.

    Thank you and OK promise to shut up now (well, for a bit anyway).

  • Comment number 5.


    I hold the view that in 100+ years of formalised psychological offerings, Eric Berne’s Transactional Analysis was the most accessible and illuminating in the every-day sphere. He gave us Parent, Adult and Child ego states (John Humphries exchanges with Maj Gen Patrick Cordingley, this morning, a perfect example of P meets A) to recognise in ourselves and others, and the concept of Games, so relevant to blogging!
    So much, SO VERY MUCH, the media could do to improve psychological awareness and functionality. I have posted over and over.
    Reprise: Hello bucket my old friend, I’ve come to shout in you again . . .

  • Comment number 6.

    Prolerat thinks that Socialism works in it's purest form, they also mention that it has never before occurred????.

    Perhaps Pol Pot and Mao's victims may like to disagree with your revisionist history?.

    Or ask the victims of that wonderful socialist paradise that was Eastern Europe?.

    Your manifesto that you seem to be spouting is a disgrace to all the victims of socialist state sponsered murder since the inception of the Red Terror under Lenin.

    If you are so in favour of socialist rule, I suggest that you take yourself to the library and start reading up on the following areas:

    1, the Gulags
    2, Mao's great leap forward
    3, Killing fields of Cambodia
    4, Stasi terror in the DDR
    5, Romanian secret police
    6, Polish secret police
    7, Albanian secret police

    Do you see where I am going with all this?, socialism does not work, instead it becomes a tool for governments to silence democracy and free speak. And people like you want us all to experience this demonic political strand.

    I should mention that I am biased on this topic as I have Polish and German family who were unable to correspond or visit my family once that wonderful anti-capitalist wall went up all across Europe, indeed if people like you were to spout your rhetoric to them, I can tell you that your opinions which may go down well within the pages of the Guardian would be treated with the contempt it deserves by all people who have actually experienced what socialist rule really means.

  • Comment number 7.

    Head in the clouds:

    Socialism on paper always appears the ideal form of govt and the not yet mature mind always have their clenched fist raised with the Citizen Smith mantra; "power to the people!"

    Working, raising children and paying a mortgage for say..TENTY YEARS!!..will erode any notion that socialism is the utopian dream any man should aspire to. You can get a man to wear a seat belt in his car but you can't get him to change his nature; self interest and self preservation is fundamentally hardwired in his very long evolved habits. Go ask Tony Blair or Bob Mugabe about socialism whilst they sit in their lavish surrounding and listen to them extolling the virtues of Socialism...not yet persuaded with the irony?....well, to echo one poster on here, read some history and as you do so you will find the terrors that have been inflicted on many nation states... the kind of terror that would make Hitler appear as if he was an under-achiever.

    I hope your bubble is burst and your somewhat enlightened to the folly of Socialist thinking; you are now set free, so rid yourself of the Che Guevar posters and badges and join the real world.. like the rest of us. Case closed.

    P:S suggested reading material:
    The John Prescott karma sutra
    by Kelvin Mackenzie.

  • Comment number 8.

    Newsnight Review
    Jarvis Cocker joins Kirsty Wark on this week's panel

    That graphic of Jarvis is a cross between Harry Potter and Alan Rusbridger !


  • Comment number 9.

    Looking at the long run of history- for example, China over 2,000 years- we see that capitalist excess
    led to a socialist reaction

    and socialist inefficiency eventually led to freer enterprise, etc.

    The solution depends on the circumstances

    and, most of all, on the intentions of the ruler.

    Those who respond from their particular ideological conditioning are but parroting set phrases.

    Seek a definition of "democracy" and you may come to the conclusion that it is "government for the benefit of the people"

    and not at all "by the people".

    Relax and think outside the cage of your ideological conditioning!

  • Comment number 10.


    I suspect the error lies in the act of definition itself? Perhaps democracy, like the Tao, connot be defined, only aspired to. We can only intuit that to which we aspire. Should the ultimate aim be 'people for the benefit of people', with government serving to facilitate this? My view, often expressed here, is that the full maturity of every individual underlies mankind's hope for tranquility as a whole, but the immature, needy and driven are routinely allowed to rise to power and instinctively suppress individual maturity.

  • Comment number 11.

    Some of the earlier posts cited Marxist-Leninist experience as typical of "socialism".

    Really, it was a secular religion.

    We tend to confuse "totalitarianism" with "socialism".

    A key sign of this tendency is the stated goal of making a "new man".

    We see examples in the past half century in Russia, Germany, Israel, Nicaragua, India, etc.

    Returning to #10: "if men were angels, government would not be required", etc.

    Confucianism and the Tao have arisen from long experience. Even 2500 years ago, Confucius placed great emphasis on the intentions of the ruler.

    Without such good intent, any system will disappoint.

  • Comment number 12.


    If the pool is uniformly muddy, and populated by 'poor fish', none will rise to the top with the qualities of a well intentioned leader?

  • Comment number 13.

    My basic point is that the leader is more important than the governmental system.

    Leadership selection:

    1) struggle among candidates to be the alpha.

    2) blood line.

    3) inter caste selection.

    4) training and education.

    5) testing and selection.

    Some combination of the above.

    Re #12.

    People are not "uniformly" anything and individual talents are quickly recognized in a small community.


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