Thursday, July 29, 2010

American views on compassion are based on "emerging evidence"

USA Today has published an opinion piece on the Megrahi case, which (as you can probably guess without even reading it) is full of the now-familiar ignorance and innuendo. They do, to be fair, reprint Alex Salmond's first letter to John Kerry as an 'opposing view' - although, mysteriously, it's very heavily edited. Anyway, I decided to leave my own comment...

"Perhaps Libya has a better hospice system than anyone realized, or perhaps Megrahi's failing body was revitalized by the hero's welcome he received when he returned home."

Or perhaps USA Today should have read the statement Kenny MacAskill made when he released Megrahi, making abundantly clear that it was possible he might live longer than three months. That was merely a reasonable estimate, based on the best medical evidence from impartial doctors. That's right - doctors. Not prophets.

"Emerging evidence suggests the release was, at best, based on misguided notions of sympathy and bad medical advice; at worst, it involved a sleazy deal by British businesses — including, yes, BP — to improve commercial ties with Libya."

What evidence? At what point did it "emerge"? This is the whole problem with much of the US media on this story - and indeed with many of your politicians. It's as if you just have to say the words "evidence" and "suspicions" often enough and that'll do to be getting on with. For the four Senators (who as Alex Massie has identified have been peddling almost laughable inaccuracies about this story from the beginning) it's apparently sufficient to point out that there is an awful lot of "coincidence" at play in this case. Well, I'll tell you the biggest coincidence of all - Megrahi just happened to become gravely ill at a time when BP were lobbying for the PTA to be concluded. By the senators' logic, does that mean God was also nobbled by BP?

In any case, how can there be "emerging evidence" that the compassion shown to Megrahi was "misguided"? If you think the values Scots Law is founded on are wrong, that's fine, but it's also an utterly subjective opinion, of no greater or lesser validity than anyone else's. It's not based on evidence, "emerging" or otherwise. An abuse of the language, by any standards.

Finally, if the only link anyone can find between the Scottish government and BP is a single ill-advised letter from Lord Trefgarne, expressly written on his own behalf as a member of the House of Lords as much as on behalf of a council of which BP is only one member, then this conspiracy theory really is looking pretty threadbare. That letter, incidentally, says a good deal more about Trefgarne - a senior member of David Cameron's Conservative Party - than it does about Kenny MacAskill, who I'm quite sure read it dutifully and then promptly disregarded it.


  1. USA today is from the same stable as The Herald.

    Wonder where they got their copy?

  2. The Trefgarne letter already had a full reply from MacAskill at the time stating it "will be one based on judicial grounds alone and that economic and political considerations have no place in the process". (see Newsnet Scotland for more)

    This has been purposely left out - unless the Senate are going solely after UK and not Scotland. They do now release there's two sides here and not one due to the playing tennis quote.

  3. Excellent reply.

    I suspect all politicians and the press, and to be fair, anyone deserately trying to make a dodgy case stick, use emotive language...

    'Emerging evidence' is designed to make people think that, despite their misgivings based on current evidence, something new (exactly what they are not sure) has come along to change the situation.

    'Hard-working British families' is often trotted out here in a similar ploy to sell us something that we really don't want to buy.

  4. Absolutely, Tris, the "hard-working families" line is one of my pet hates. Never mind the lazy, heaven help single people!

    "Emerging evidence" is a textbook example of weasel words, because it can imply that the evidence hasn't actually fully emerged yet, but they somehow magically know it's just about to. How terribly convenient.

  5. Ezio Auditore da FirenzeJuly 30, 2010 at 7:03 PM

    James, O/T, but I'd be interested to read your views on how the political system of an independent Scotland should change. STV for Parliamentary elections? Directly elected PM? Etc.

    Feel free to ignore, but always interested to read your views and it's something I've been thinking about lately.

    Your old chum


  6. Always happy to oblige, Ezio - I've written a new post!

  7. As families become fewer and fewer and single people more and more, perhaps they will see the error of that particular buzz word.

    I hate the way they choose their latest slogan and get it into every second sentence... Grrrrrr!

    Local champions anyone?