Author Archives: Robert Henderson

American Sniper misses  the target – film review

Robert Henderson

Main cast

Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle

Sienna Miller as Taya Renae Kyle

Max Charles as Colton Kyle

Luke Grimes as Marc Lee

Kyle Gallner as Goat-Winston

Sam Jaeger as Captain Martens

Jake McDorman as Ryan “Biggles” Job

Sammy Sheik as Mustafa

Mido Hamada as The Butcher

Director Clint Eastwood

This is a frustrating film.  Eastwood as the director  guarantees that it is technically well made. It moves at a good pace, taken individually the action scenes in Iraq are dramatic  and  the subject  (the role of the sniper) is interesting in itself  and has novelty because  it is  not often extensively examined in film. And yet, and yet ….American Sniper has an emptiness, the sum of its parts being decidedly less than the parts.  The film ends up teetering on the edge of boring.

The large  majority  of the film is devoted to Kyle’s four tours of Iraq, with much of that screen time devoted to sniping and house-to-house searches.   Therein lies the first problem with the film as drama. The action  scenes become  repetitive because there is not that much difference from watching Kyle shoot one person from the top of a building and him doing the same thing to quite a few people.  Similarly, the house to house searching has a sameness about it when the streets look the same and the outcome is always  either dead bodies after an exchange of gunfire or the taking of prisoners.

There are attempts to vary the emotional content of  the sniping , for example the first people Kyle  shoots are a young boy and  his mother who are attempting to use a grenade against US soldiers. There are  also subplots involving an Iraqi sniper known as Mustapha  who is portrayed  as having a  duel with Kyle  (which Kyle wins)  and a search to find the  al-Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi which involves track of   al-Zarqawi’s second in command who known as the Butcher for his delightful habit of torturing people with an electric drill.

But all this generates a  most curious lack of tension because the events are rarely develop into  more than snapshots. Nor is there any sense that anything Kyle or his  comrades has any real purpose beyond the immediate end of preventing American troops from being harmed.  Ironically, what the film unintentionally does  is to provide  a depressing essay on  exactly how futile not only the Iraq war but any war fought by Western Armies in Third or Second world countries is fated to be.

The sniping action scenes are rather strange. Often Kyle is shown shooting from the same position on more than one occasion. This is a no no for a sniper unless he really cannot help it. Understandably snipers are both hated and feared by the other side for the constant threat they offer not only in reality but in their enemy’s mind.  Consequently, the enemy will  make great efforts to locate and kill snipers and the most likely way of doing that is if a sniper stays in the same position and shoots more than once. Modern sniper rifles come with equipment to dull and distort the direction of  sound  and suppress the flash of a round being fired but it is not a complete solution to the problem of giving away your position. To remain in the same position and fire other shots after the first round has been fired is just asking to be located and killed.  There is also an absurd episode towards the end of the film when Kyle shoots the sniper Mustapha at well over 1,000 yards range and in doing so alerts Iraqi insurgents to Kyle and his fellow soldiers’ whereabouts who immediately attack the building in which Kyle and his comrades are hiding.

Another baffling part of Kyle’s behaviour in the film was when he left his sniping position on his own initiative to join in the house to house searching and suffered no disciplinary action. I would have thought that going from his sniper’s position without orders and leaving the soldiers without sniper protection would have been a court martial offence.  (The idea of sniper protection in this situation is that a sniper is put on a high building overlooking the area  being searched by troops and shoots anyone who appears to be ready to attack the soldiers).

Because the film is trying to pack so many  action scenes in there is little opportunity for character development  even of Kyle who is rushed from one action scene to another  with breaks every now and then for a return to the States for leave with his wife. Apart from Cooper the only other character with an extensive part is Sienna Miller as Kyle’s wife Taya.  She is adequate in the part but it really does not demand much of her beyond  her agonising over how Kyle “isn’t here”  even when he is home.  The rest of the cast does what it has to do well enough  in the very  limited and unvaried scenes  in which they appear.

There is also a frustrating   lack of  context  for Kyle being in Iraq. Kyle’s motivation is ostensibly a simple unquestioning God-fearing  patriotism built upon the Bush Administration’s  line that the USA was in Iraq to protect Americans in America. That is reasonable enough  for Kyle’s character but there is nothing to balance that mentality, no character to challenge his imple faith.

Finally, then there is the problem of Cooper as Kyle.  Cooper  strikes me as one of those actors who can only play himself. That is not necessarily a problem as many film stars have shown, but the person must have a quality which makes them interesting such as  charm, menace, sexual  attraction.   For me Cooper lacks any exciting or engaging quality.  In American  Sniper he is seriously wrongly cast for this requires not only a convincing tough guy but a character with some emotional hinterland.  Cooper is unconvincing as a hard man  and displays  as much psychological subtlety as a brick wall. His limitations are  particularly exposed   in those parts  of the film where Lyle is home on leave. These   are designed to variously show Kyle’s detachment from ordinary life and addiction to living in a warzone, but these are very cursory and unconvincing.   Ryan Gosling in the role would have made the film much more interesting because he has both psychological depth and is a convincing hard man.

The ending of the film is deeply unsatisfactory from a dramatic point of view.  Originally the ending  was going to be centred around Kyle’s shooting to death by a disturbed ex-marine Eddie Ray Routh who has just been found guilty of murder and sentenced  to life in prison without parole. But Kyle’s wife asked them to drop the scene  and the director substituted a tepid ending showing Kyle leaving with Routh  to travel to the shooting range where the killing took place with a very  anxious Sienna Miller looking on as if she had a premonition of what was to happen, something which must  surely have been a post hoc addition to the real-life  story.  One can understand the wife’s reluctance to have the murder scene  removed but presumably she must have originally given it the thumbs up.

Judged by  the box office takings American sniper has been immensely  in the USA and criticism  of the film’s subject matter  has generated violent responses in the mainstream and social media . In particular, there has been ill-judged criticism from the likes of Michael Moore that snipers are cowards because they kill without putting themselves in dange. This is double-dyed nonsense. To begin with snipers are always having to guard against being spotted and shot themselves.  In a war such as that in Iraq the risk and fear of being seen and killed is  enhanced  because it is a war fought in towns and cities where there is no readily recognised enemy who may be anywhere and come in any human form from  a young child to trained soldier.

To that rebuttal of the charge of coward can be placed a  more general  exculpation of snipers.  War has never been anything but ugly and unchivalrous.  When the crossbow was introduced in mediaeval times it was condemned  as illegitimate by the nobility because the armoured knight was vulnerable to its bolts. The weapon  also had a range   much greater than that of a conventional bow which introduced death meted out from a serious distance. Later the same sorts  of complaint were levelled at firearms.  Long before modern breech loading artillery was devised muzzle loading guns could send their shot miles.  By the late 19th century the machine gun had arrived with the capacity to mow down dozens of men quickly.  By the middle of the twentieth century  bombers were delivering  huge payload from a great height onto  civilian populations. Sniping is no more or less cowardly, no more or less brutal than war is generally.

More pertinent perhaps  are the criticisms that the Kyle of the film is a sanitised version of  what Kyle was, that Kyle was far from being the simple God-fearing patriot of the film. Indeed there are strong reasons that he was both a braggart and a fantasist who made up stories such as claiming to have gone down to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and killed many of the  “bad guys” who were looting.  Yet in the film he is shown as being intensely  embarrassed when an veteran of Iraq who has post a leg stops him in a store and praises him effusively for what has  done in Iraq.

Overall the film has a nasty whiff of being a propaganda film, not intentionally but in effect.   If you go to see it bear that in mind and treat it a primer for an understanding  of the ordinary American’s mind these days.

 

The Imitation Game – film review

Main Cast

Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing

Keira Knightley as Joan Clarke

Matthew Goode as Hugh Alexander

Mark Strong as Maj. Gen. Stewart Menzies

Charles Dance as Cdr. Alastair Denniston

Allen Leech as John Cairncross

Matthew Beard as Peter Hilton

Rory Kinnear as Detective Nock

Alex Lawther as Young Turing

Jack Bannon as Christopher Morcom

Director:

Like the recent Mr Turner this is a flawed  film which is worth seeing only because of the performance of the central character, in  this case Benedict Cumberbatch  in the role of the English mathematician, pioneering computer theorist and code breaker  Alan Turing. Moreover, it is worth seeing not because it represented Turing’s  personality and life faithfully,  but because the character on the screen was an eminently watchable antisocial monster, who generated both humour and pathos because he was unaware of his psychological deformity.

The main action takes place during  Turing’s time at the World War 2 Bletchley Park code breaking unit, with this topped and tailed by flashbacks to his schooldays at Sherborne where he forms an infatuation for a boy called Christopher Morcom who dies in  his teens  and flash-forwards to  his arrest and prosecution for indecency.  The schooldays and police  scenes add little to the film, indeed could be said to get in the way of Cumberbatch’s  portrayal  of a man breaking all the social rules not on purpose but simply because he does not understand how the game is played.

There is a good deal of humour in the film, most of it resulting from Turing’s supposed  extreme  antisocial personality traits.  This begins early on. When he meets  the head of Bletchley Park Commander  Alastair Denniston (Charles Dance) . Turing is his usual socially dysfunctional  self. After a few minutes Denniston  looks at Turing’s CV and says sardonically, “Ah, you’re a mathematician. Now why doesn’t that surprise me.”  Turing replies without a shred of awareness  at his literal mindedness  “Because you just read it on that paper?”  he ventures pointing at the CV in Dance’s hand.  The look on Dance’s face is  priceless.

One of the  most telling and saddest  scenes in the film is where Turing tells a joke. He tells it awkwardly which is doubly poignant, because of his extraordinarily clumsy  reaching out for normal human interaction  and because  the nature of the joke is such that it is easy to see why it would have been accessible to a mind like his who would generally have great difficulty in understanding jokes because of his l his lack of psychological awareness.  The joke is this. Two men are out in the wild and a bear spots them.  One of the two starts putting on his shoes while the other says in amazement  what on earth on are  you doing that for, you will never  outrun  the bear?   I don’t have to, replies the other, I only have to outrun you.  The joke suits the onscreen Turing because it presents  him with a binary choice: two men, one bear equals only one person caught and eaten and requires absolutely no psychological insight.

But entertaining as these aspects of the film are there is the problem of veracity. The primary difficulty is the character of Turing. A certain emphasising  of character traits is legitimate as a dramatic device,  but there is always the danger that the emphasis will become so exaggerated that the essence of a person is lost.   I suspect that is what happened here. The film  represents  him as  having a startling directness which could be hideously rude,  literal mindedness, childlike egotism and manic single-mindedness.    Whether Turing’s antisocial tendencies were so pronounced is dubious . He was certainly not the easiest person to get along with,  for example, his  habit of wanting to be hands on with machinery – he was never happier than when he had a soldering iron or  a pair of wirecutters in his hands  – regularly drove engineers mad as he fiddled  with what they made or set up. He was also undeniably single-minded when he was working on an intellectual task.  Nor did  he have a deeply rooted social life which suggests introspection. There was also his excruciatingly annoying high pitched laugh, a  behavioural trick the film surprisingly fails to utilise.  However, none of that adds up to someone  with whom it was  utterly impossible to work.  The Turing of the film would have been desperately difficult to tolerate at the personal level and very disruptive of work such the codebreaking because it requires intense concentration and the exclusion of  distractions.  The Turing of the film is a past master at creating emotional chaos.

The misrepresentation of reality does not stop there. The film is essentially a biopic and as so often with such films  the director and screenplay writer take very large liberties with the truth. A few important examples.  There is no evidence that  Turing ever had much if anything to do with  Stewart Menzies, head of the British Secret Intelligence Service Mark Strong) , but there’s was a relationship of some importance to the film.  Turing is also shown working with  closely  the traitor John Cairncross, discovering Cairncross’ treason  and Cairncross  gaining Turing’s silence about his treason for some time by blackmailing Turing  over his sexuality.  There is also no evidence for this. The mathematician  Joan Clarke is shown as meeting Turing for the first time when she answers a newspaper  advert Turing has placed asking  for people who were good at crosswords to attend an assessment interview where they are asked to do the Times crossword in eight minutes. In the film  Clarke does it quickest in six minute. The reality is that Clarke was recruited to Bletchley by her old  Cambridge   academic supervisor, Gordon Welchman.  The casting the very attractive Keira Knightly as Clarke who  was  something of a plain Jane is also problematic , because it alters the relationship between Clarke and Turing in the viewer’s mind.  One of the codebreakers in the film Peter Hilton (Matthew Beard ) is shown distraught when a German message is decoded and shows a convoy on which Hilton’s brother is travelling to be the target of coming  U-Boat action. Turing argues that the message must not be used to warn the convoy for fear of alerting the Germans to the fact that the code had been broken. In reality, Hilton had no such brother.  There is also the general point that perhaps Turing was given too much prominence with  contributions by others at Bletchley underplayed or ignored completely, for example, the Post Office engineer Tommy Flowers who designed  ‘Colossus’  – the world’s first programmable computer.

Does all of this matter? It depends whether the viewer treats the film as a biopic/historical drama, a fictional thriller or merely as a vehicle to display, whether accurate or not,  the character of Turing.  As  a biopic or historical drama  it is difficult to treat it seriously because of  the  liberties taken with facts.  As a thriller it never really takes off, not least because we know the ending and  little is made of Cairncross’ treason.  As a vehicle  for an arresting realisation of a complex, highly unusual  and fascinating character it succeeds.  It might even be described as a good if bizarre comedy of manners.

The actual work at Bletchley was by its nature  difficult for the film to make much of as drama  both because the work is esoteric and because a main thrust of the film was to show Turing’s intelligence. Portraying an educated  intelligence is one of the most difficult things in acting because  simply having a character spout a few  academic facts or theories   seems trivial to those  who understand the subject at which the intelligence is directed  and meaningless mumbo-jumbo to the  majority who come to the subject cold.  (Because of this the Eureka! moments in the film when breakthroughs were made clanked in a decidedly forced manner ). The quality of intelligence needs to be shown in the quickness and certainty of a character . Amongst  modern  British actors Ralph Fiennes and Cumberbatch are probably the best exponents because both have a donnish look and manner about them.  Here Cumberbatch’s natural reserve  also played to the isolated and distracted nature of the character.

The rest of the cast are , as one would expect from an ensemble  of British actors,  all good insofar as their roles allow.  But they are all, even Keira Knightly as Joan Clarke, utterly dwarfed by Cumberbatch.  They  simply do not have much chance than to be rather one-dimensional, although Charles Dance splenetic Commander Denniston  is an amusing turn and Mark Strong is his usual satisfyingly  sinister self.

Importantly the film does not spend an inordinate amount of time focused on Turing’s  homosexuality.  It  would have been very easy to make a film which was a piece of politically correct propaganda, full of angst about the treatment Turing received after being charged with gross indecency with a total disregard  for the context of the time when this occurred. But to make such a film would have been  to greatly diminish Turing as a  person, because what was really  important about him was  not his sexuality but his great  intellect and the  use he made of it. However, the film did mistakenly try to show Turing as suffering from a loss of intellectual power when Clarke visited him after his conviction for indecency. (Again, there is no evidence for this event).  The film implied that the diminished intellect was due to the hormonal treatment Turing had agreed to rather than go to prison. In fact, Turing retained his mental powers right up to his death ,  publishing an important paper on biological mathematics  The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis in 1952.

To read of Turing’s immense and broad ranging intellectual achievement, which covered mathematics, computing, code-breaking and  biological-related  mathematics  is to inevitably think of  the loss resulting from his death,  but the fact that he was prosecuted despite having like Othello  “done the state some service”  is reassuring because it shows no one was above the law.

Three-parent babies – Redesigning Nature

Robert Henderson

The House of Commons has voted  382 in favour to 128 against to allow babies with genetic material from three people to be born.  Scientists will be able to replace an egg’s defective mitochondrial  DNA with healthy mitochondrial DNA from a female donor’s egg to eliminate genetically  determined diseases such as muscular dystrophy.  This is germline  gene therapy which results in the  genetic alteration being passed on to any  children and their descendants. Britain is the  first country to legalise the procedure.

If it was merely a question  that  the technique  will be used to prevent children  being born without a serious disabling disease it would be emotionally  very difficult to argue against it simply because of the tremendous suffering  which  such diseases cause for both the children themselves and their families , whose lives are often turned upside down with the burden of caring with which they  are left.  Nonetheless, there are possible  biological dangers of genetic manipulation because material is being introduced into a body which is foreign to it. They could perhaps cause cancerous tumours or result in rejection by the immune system.

The thin edge of the wedge

It is a certainty that if three-parent children are allowed it will be the thin end of the wedge which leads  to much more radical alterations of a child’s genome. If gene replacement therapy is deemed ethically acceptable for preventing certain  inherited diseases,  there could be no absolute  moral bar to any manipulation of genes, whether this is  either be through the introduction of genetic material from one or more persons other than the parents into the egg or sperm or to methods of  genetic engineering of humans  which do not require  the introduction of genetic material from a person who is not one of the parents.  Moreover, it is probable that in the not too far distant future the manipulation of  a person’s genes will be done either by direct restructuring of the person’s genetic material (perhaps through the   re-writing of the code of a faulty gene) or the introduction of genetic material not taken from a human  being  but created artificially in a laboratory.

The effect on the children born of genetic manipulation.

Even at its most basic, such as the proposed replacement of mitochondrial DNA to prevent diseases such a muscular dystrophy,  is it not likely that a  child born from the procedure will feel  a freak knowing that they are the product of three people’s DNA, and have serious doubts  about their identity?  Could they ever  have the same relationship with their parents as a child conceived naturally?  That is debatable because the recipient of the replacement DNA  to correct a genetically determined illness might well view it simply as being equivalent to a transplant of a cornea or heart, although there would be the difference that the replacement DNA would be handed down the generations if the person receiving it had children.

But what if  the genetic modification was much more radical, for example,  determining elements of personality, intellect and physical appearance ? That would be much more  likely  to cause psychological disturbance in both the child and the parents.     The child might feel they were not people in their own right but simply the toys of their parents, machines cut to a template consciously planned by another.  If a child’s  life  did not go well,  would not they be inclined to blame their parents for making the genetic choices that they did?   Sadly, if genetically altered children do  blame the parents,  then it is all too easy to imagine that children would sue their parents for making what the children deemed to be bad choices.

The effect on the parents of children born of genetic manipulation

The parents  could also have psychological issues. It is one thing having a child naturally who is born disabled, deformed or just   turns out to be a disappointment in some way, quite another to have a child who disappoints after the parents have made decisions which helped  to shape the child’s physical and mental  qualities.  The parents would run the  risk of  not only being disappointed ,but of knowing they were in part responsible for what the child was, something  which could  engender either feelings of guilt or the anger which can arise when someone knows they are responsible for something but cannot accept that reality. Again, the law could come into play with parents suing the scientists who had performed the genetic manipulation for misleading them.

The creation of a genetic divide in a society

If a society leaves genetic manipulation to the market with only those with the means to afford it receiving the manipulation, the difference  between the haves and have-nots  could become  so large that there were objectively   two  grades  of human beings in the society.   The mere fact that some were genetically engineered and some were not could and probably would  result in an elite which was biologically as well as materially and intellectually different from those who had undergone genetic manipulation, a difference which could translate into a caste system with the genetically manipulated only breeding amongst themselves .   An alternative scenario could be the genetically unaltered have-nots – who would be in the large majority – seeing the elite as other than human and slaughtering them without compunction.

State interference

Would governments be able to resist insisting that characteristics such as intelligence were enhanced by the genetic manipulation  of all members of a society whether or not the parents wanted it?  A  dictatorship  could insist on certain characteristics being enhanced in all their population. Alternatively, the could deny such  genetic manipulation to all but those with power . A third possibility would be, in Brave New World style,  to use the technology  to have people genetically altered so that there were people with different abilities and personality traits produced in different quantities.

Even a representative democracy  might find itself driven to act in such an authoritarian way if it was feared that the society could not compete with other societies which adopted government inspired genetic changes.

Genetic manipulation after conception

Genetic manipulation will not stop at point of conception.   As the technology advances we can expect to see opportunities for much genetic manipulation from the foetus to the aged human. However, this would be  Somatic gene therapy which would be introduced into non-sex cells and would not , unlike germline gene therapy, become part of the person’s genome and consequently could not be passed on to any children or their descendants.

In the case of those old enough to give their consent to somatic gene manipulation  much of the psychological problem which exists with genetic manipulation of the sperm and egg is removed because adults, unless they are mentally handicapped or living in a society where the state forces all to undergo such procedures, they will be able to make the decision for themselves as to whether they have  such a procedure.  Even if they do not like the result of their gene manipulation  they would  not be in a worse psychological situation than someone who has had a replacement organ or plastic surgery which does not give them what they anticipated.

The dangers of a rapid genetic alteration within a population

Rapidly changing the proportions of  characteristics in  a population could  damage the viability of the society. Very little is understood about the importance of the distribution of different qualities and abilities within  a society. Suppose a society opts to rapidly increase the IQ of its people.  A society of highly intelligent people might not work because homo sapiens naturally forms hierarchies and if everyone is highly intelligent this might  make the creation of a stable hierarchy impossible.  .  Or suppose personality traits such as aggression, caution and extroversion could be  manipulated. If the choice was left to parents the favouring of one of such traits might make a society too aggressive or too placid.

What can be done to guard against the worst possibilities?

As genetic manipulation of humans will undoubtedly spread rapidly throughout the world, there will  be no realistic way of preventing  individuals from availing themselves of the technology short of closing the borders and allowing no one to travel out of the country to have the manipulation done abroad with regular checks on every individual to make sure there was no illegal operations being done

If gene manipulation  is banned in one country, but foreign travel is not, banned those  who can afford it and think it worthwhile will go abroad to have the procedure . It would be  possible for a country to make genetic manipulation a  crime regardless of where the act took place.  But that would open up a can of worms. The manipulation would have already have taken place.  The altered human being, whether child or adult,  would exist.  In the case of a child,  the individual would not have broken the law because the decision to have the procedure would not have been theirs. What would the state do?  Imprison for life every adult who had broken the law? Take every genetically altered child into care?   A ban on individuals seeking  gene manipulation would be a non-starter.  If it is widely seen a desirable thing, the only thing which might stop gene manipulation  would be a high proportion of procedures resulting in serious problems such as tumours or deformities dissuading most of the public against it.

Guarding against state enforced gene manipulation is a more practical proposition, but only  in countries with some regard for constitutionality and the law in general. It would be possible for such countries to include in their constitutions absolute bars on any state imposed genetic manipulation.

Islam is simply incompatible with Western society

Robert Henderson

Seventeen people have  been murdered in the two terrorist attacks in Paris  (between  7-9th January 2015). Ten were journalists, including some of France’s leading cartoonists,   working for the  French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. To them can be added two policemen, one policewomen and four  members of the general  public who happened to be unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  The attacks were made on the Charlie Hebdo offices and  the  Jewish supermarket Hyper Cacher. The policewoman was shot in a separate incident.

The terrorist acts  were coordinated to produce maximum effect. That on  Charlie Hebdo was by the  brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi , who were of Algerian ancestry.  A third  brother Mourad Hamyd aged 18  was at school at the time of the Charlie Hebdo attack and has spoken to but not been detained by the police. The attack on a Jewish supermarket  was undertaken by a Mailian  Amedy Coulibaly.  He also killed a policewoman before his attack on the Jewish supermarket.  Coulibaly’s wife, Hayat Boumeddiene, who is of Algerian ancestry,  is thought to be another Muslim fanatic with homicidal tendencies. She is believed to have fled to Syria after  the shooting of the policewoman.

Those who died  at the Charlie Hebdo office were slaughtered  by men  shouting Allahu Akbar (God is great), “We have avenged the prophet!”  [for cartoons of making fun of Mohammed published by Charlie Hebdo) and just to make sure the message got across “Tell the media that this is al-Qaeda in Yemen” .   Cherif Koachi also said in a telephone  interview with a magazine  after the killings that the plot was financed by  al Q aeda The Jewish supermarket killer  introduced himself to frightened hostages  with the words ‘I am Amedy Coulibaly, Malian and Muslim. I belong to the Islamic State’.  All three killers  either expressed a wish for martyrdom or  behaved in a way in which was guaranteed to get  them killed.   All three were shot and killed by French security forces.

Unless  you are a particularly stupid and self-deluding  liberal  and have either persuaded yourself  that  this was a black op and the killers were agents of the wicked old West or have fallen back on that old liberal favourite  that the killers  are not true  Muslims  – congratulations to the Telegraph’s Tim Stanley for being so quick off the mark with that piece of shrieking inanity   –  you will think these are Muslim terrorists.  (The next time you encounter someone spinning the “not true Muslims” line ask them whether  the Crusaders of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries were Christians).

Sadly there are many liberals who have not learnt the lesson dealt out by these atrocities. It is true that there has been almost complete condemnation of the killings by the liberal elites around the Western world, but one wonders how unqualified and sincere their regret and anger is.  Apart from the  liberal apologist  mantras  “not true Muslims”, “Just a tiny minority of Muslims” and “Islam is the religion of peace”   being  much in evidence, there has  been a disagreeable media eagerness to portray the killers as sophisticated military beasts. Here is a prime  example from the Telegraph:

“They wear army-style boots and have a military appearance and manner. One of the men wears a sand-coloured ammunition vest apparently stuffed with spare magazines. Some reports suggest that an attacker was also carrying a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.

“The men attacked the magazine’s headquarters with clinical precision, killing their victims and then shooting two police officers in the street outside.

“Amateur footage shows them using classic infantry tactics. They move along the street outside the office working as a pair: one advances while the other gives cover.

“Instead of spraying automatic gunfire, they fire two aimed shots at each target – a pattern known as “double-tap” firing – thereby conserving their ammunition.”

Shades of white liberals in the 1960s drooling over the Black Panthers in the USA  .

The truth is that the attackers did not behave like highly trained soldiers, and some of the reporting was simply wrong, for example, after the slaughter the killers,  as was widely reported , did not walk calmly back to the stolen  car  they were using but ran.  When they abandoned the car one of the killers left his identity card behind. After the murders at Charlie Hebdo the  two killers drove around  like headless chickens hijacking cars and holding up petrol stations to obtain food and water.  If they had really been cold, calculating beasts they would either have stayed where they were after the Charlie Hebdo killings and died in a firefight with the French police or arranged matters so that they had a hiding  place  to go to and  would  carried things like a little  food and water with them.  The widespread media  depiction of them as quasi-military figures glamourized and sanitised what they were.

The British political mainstream response

But it would be wrong to say nothing changed in Britain after the attacks. The Ukip leader Nigel Farage broke new ground for a mainstream British politician in modern Britain  by speaking of  a fifth column of people who hate us within Britain.

“There is a very strong argument that says that what happened in Paris is a result – and we’ve seen it in London too – is a result I’m afraid of now having a fifth column living within these countries.

“We’ve got people living in these countries, holding our passports, who hate us.

“Luckily their numbers are very, very small but it does make one question the whole really gross attempt at encouraged division within society that we have had in the past few decades in the name of multiculturalism.”

This was predictably  condemned by David Cameron, a  man who incredibly  still believes Turkey within the EU would be of great benefit to all concerned,  despite the anger and dismay in Britain about mass immigration generally making the prospect  of 70 million Turkish Muslims having a right to move freely within the EU certain to be  utterly dismaying to most native Britons. Interestingly, a would-be successor to Cameron as Tory leader, Liam Fox,  edged a long way towards reality in an article for the  Sunday Telegraph:

“All those who do not share their fundamentalist views are sworn enemies, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, Arab or non-Arab. It is the first lesson that we must understand – they hate us all because of who we are, our views, our values and our history. Western liberal apologists who tell us that the violence being directed at us is all of our own making not only fail to understand reality, but put us at increased risk.

“We must understand that there are fanatics who cannot be reconciled to our values and who will attempt to destroy us by any means possible. They are at war with us. They do not lack the intent to kill us, merely the means to do so, and our first response must be to deny them that capability. Sometimes that will require lethal force.”

The fact that Farage also condemned multiculturalism in no uncertain terms  provoked an automated politically correct response from the leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg:

“The Deputy Prime Minister hit out after Mr Farage suggested the attack on the offices of a satirical magazine should lead to questions about the UK’s “gross policy of multiculturalism”.

“I am dismayed that Nigel Farage immediately thinks, on the back of the bloody murders that we saw on the streets of Paris yesterday, his first reflex is to make political points,” Mr Clegg said during his weekly phone-in on LBC radio.

“If this does come down, as it appears to be the case, to two individuals who perverted the cause of Islam to their own bloody ends, let’s remember that the greatest antidote to the perversion of that great world religion are law-abiding British Muslims themselves.

“And to immediately … imply that many, many British Muslims who I know feel fervently British but also are very proud of their Muslim faith are somehow part of the problem rather than part of the solution is firmly grabbing the wrong end of the stick.”

Such  condemnations are of little account because Farage has spoken an obvious truth and the general public will understand that.  The promotion of multiculturalism has been generally pernicious because it wilfully creates serious divisions within a society,  but is unreservedly toxic in the case of Islam because Muslims,  violent and non-violent, believe in the supremacy of their religion.

The change of language by public figures particularly politicians is of the first importance because the general  public need a lead to be given where a matter is contentious. In these politically correct times it is particularly necessary  because the native population of Britain have been thoroughly intimidated by the totalitarian application of political correctness which has resulted in people saying non-pc things  losing their jobs, being arrested and,  in a growing number of cases , being brought before a criminal court to face charges.

Once things  forbidden by political correctness are  said by public figures change could be very fast. More and more people will embrace the forbidden words and ideas and, like a dam bursting, the  flood  of non-pc  voices will  overwhelm the politically correct restraints on speech and writing.

A tiny proportion of  Muslims

The  claim is routinely made by the  politically correct Western elites and “moderate” Muslims  that those committing terrorist atrocities are a tiny proportion of Muslims.  That is pedantically true but unimportant,  because it is to misunderstand the dynamic of terrorism which rests on a pyramid of commitment and support for the cause. At the top are  the leaders. Below them are those willing to carry out terrorist acts.  Supporting them will be those who make the bombs, acquire guns and so on. Below them will come those who are willing to raise funds through criminal behaviour such as extortion and drug dealing and administer  punishment – anything from death to beatings –  to those within the ambit of the group who are deemed to have failed to do what they were told or worse betrayed  the group.  Next will come those willing to provide safe houses for people and weaponry.  Then there are  those willing to provide information and come out on the streets to demonstrate at the drop of a hat.  At the bottom of conscious supporters will come the  “I disagree with  their methods but…”  people.   They say they support the ends of the terrorists but do not support terrorist  acts. This presses the terrorist demands forward because the public will remember their support for the ends and forget the means because it is the ends which engage the emotions . Those who are familiar with the Provisional IRA during the troubles in Northern Ireland will recognise this  character list  with ease. Moreover, even those from a community from which  terrorists  hail who refuse to offer conscious support  will   aid the terrorists’  cause by providing in Mao’s words “the ocean in which terrorists swim”.

There are differences in the detail of how terrorist organisations act, for example,  PIRA operated in a quasi-military structure  with a central command while Muslim terrorism is increasingly subcontracted  to individuals who act on their own. But however a terrorist movement is organised  the  general sociological structure of support described above is the same  whenever there is a terrorist group which is ostensibly promoting the interests of a sizeable minority and that minority has, justified or not, a sense of victimhood which can be nourished by the terrorists . Where the terrorists can offer a cause which promises not merely  the gaining of advantages by the group but of  the completion of some greater plan its potency is greatly enhanced.  Marxism had the communist Utopia and the sense of working towards final end of history; the great religions offer, through the attainment of some beatific afterlife, the favour of God’s will for their society and the completion of God’s plan.  Islam has those qualities in spades.

All this means that  though the active terrorists may be few , the effectiveness of the terrorist machine relies on large numbers who will offer some degree of support.   Consequently, the fact that the number of Muslims committing terrorist acts may be a tiny proportion of the total Muslim population is irrelevant. What matters is the pyramid of support which at its broadest will  include all Muslims because it is the total population which provides “the ocean in which the terrorist  may swim”.

There is also good evidence that large minority of Muslims in Britain support the methods of  Islamic terrorists, for example an NOP Poll in 2006 found that around a quarter of  British Muslims  said the  7/7 bombings in London in July 2005 were justified because of Britain’s involvement in the “War on Terror”.  There is also plenty of British Muslim support for the imposition of Sharia Law on Britain and some  Muslim children are confused as to whether it is Sharia Law or British Law  which is the law of the land. There are also growing numbers of Sharia Courts in Britain which allow disputes between Muslims to be decided outside of the British legal system.

Importantly,   it is not a case of just  the poor and the ignorant only holding  such views. Young educated Muslims are  if anything more enthusiastic than the average British Muslim to have Sharia Law with 40%  in favour and no less than 32% favouring killing  for Islam if the religion is deemed to have been slighted in some way. All of this points to a considerable reservoir of support for the ends of Muslim terrorists if not always the means.  Many Muslims in the West  would not be prepared to engage in violent acts themselves ,  but they would quite happily accept privileges for their religion and themselves won by the sword.

How should the West react to Muslim terrorism?

How should the West react?  In principle it should be simple. There is no need for gratuitous abuse, no need for laboured reasons why Islam is this or that. All that needs to be recognised  is that Islam is incompatible with liberal democracy because in its moral choices it is a belief system  which runs directly counter to liberal democracy and has as  its end game the subjugation  of the entire world.

What effective  action can Western governments do to prevent the gradual  erosion of  the values upon which their societies are built? ? There are three general  possibilities. These are:

  1. Logically, the ideal for any Western government committed to their country’s national interest would  be to expel all Muslims from their territory as a matter of policy with no legal process allowed.   That is because  (1) there is no way of knowing who will become a terrorist;  (2) a large population of Muslims provides the “ocean in which the terrorist swims “ and (3)  any action disadvantaging Muslims short of expulsion will breed terrorists.
  2. A less comprehensive programme would be to block all further Muslim immigration, ban all Muslim religious schools,  cease funding any Muslim organisations, deport any Muslim without British citizenship, remove the British citizenship of any Muslim with dual nationality and deport them back to the country  for which they hold citizenship.  The question of legal aid would not arise because  their would be no appeal allowed as the policy deals in absolutes: you are a Muslim either without British citizenship or with dual nationality and you qualify for deportation . The difficulty with that set of policies is it would  allow a large population to remain within the West and would create resentment amongst that population which could lead to terrorism.
  3. The least dynamic government action would be to implement programme 2 but allow any Muslim with British citizenship or long term residency to appeal expulsion through the courts. That would have the disadvantages of programme 2 plus the added opportunity for endless delay as appeals are heard and re-heard. Such a system would also require legal aid to be given if the judicial process was to be sound.

Will anything like this happen? Most improbable at least in the short term.  The West is ruled by elites who worship at the altar of  political correctness.  Theirs in a fantasy world in which human beings are interchangeable and institutions such as the nation state  are seen as  outmoded relics as homo sapiens marches steadily towards the sunlit uplands of a world moulded and controlled  by  the rigid totalitarian dicta of  political correctness .

For such people the mindset of anyone willing to die for an idea is simply alien to them.  Even more remote to these elites  is the belief that there is an afterlife which is much to be preferred to life on Earth. Most damaging of all they cannot conceive of people who have no interest in compromise and consequently will be remorseless in their pursuit of their goal. The liberal  mistakenly believes that simply by contact with the West will  the values the liberal espouses be transferred to the rest of the world. This incredibly arrogant fantasy can be seen at its most potent in their attitude to  China, which is  quietly but efficiently creating a world empire by buying influence, and in the Middle East and North Africa where the attempt to transfer liberal  values by a mixture of force and material aid has been a shrieking failure which mocks the liberal every second of every day.

Because of such ideas Western elites are only too likely to keep fudging the issue and conceding, not necessarily right away, more and more privileges to Muslins within their societies. They will also probably greatly increase funding for “moderate” Muslims to enter Schools and Mosques to teach Western values. This will drive many young Muslims towards extremism not away from it because however the teaching of British or Western values is conducted it will inevitably be seen as a criticism of Islam.  Older Muslims will also be angered at such  teaching of their children.  Anything the liberal is likely  to do will simply be throwing  petrol on the fire.

What is required is the replacement of the present elites either by removing them from power or by them changing their tune utterly.  The first is improbable in Britain because of the structure of the voting system  which hugely protects the status quo and a complicit mainstream media which shares the devotion to political correctness and manipulates access to favour parties and politicians which play the politically correct game.

But the changing of political tune is a real possibility because liberals are starting to get truly frightened as they realise things could get seriously out of control if Muslim terrorism continues to occur. There is also the fact that white liberals  recognise in some part of their minds that what they ostensibly espouse – the joy of diversity – is bogus.  This can be seen by how they so often arrange  their own lives  to ensure that they live in very  white and in England very English circumstances. The  massive white flight away from places such as  inner London and Birmingham bears stark witness to this.  Being capable of the greatest self-delusion they explain their hypocrisy by telling themselves that this is only because the great project of producing a country, nay a world, fit for the politically correct to love in, has tragically not been fully realised yet because  the outmoded non-pc  ideas and emotions still exists  as people have not yet been educated to see the error of their primitive ways such as believing in the nation state and a homogenous society. But in their heart of hearts they know they would dread to live in the conditions to which they have sanguinely consigned the white working class.

Liberals  may also have the beginnings of a terror that their permitting of mass immigration, the promotion of multiculturalism and the suppression of dissent from their own native populations will soon come to be called by its true name, treason. All these fears will act as a motor to drive the liberal elites to become more and more realistic about what  needs to be done.

The question every non-Muslim  in the West needs to answer is this, do you really believe that if Muslims become the majority in a Western country they will not do what Islam has done everywhere else in the world where they are  in the majority and at best place Islam within a greatly privileged position within the state or at worst create a Muslim theocracy?  Even Turkey, the liberals’ favourite example of a Muslim majority secular democracy, is rapidly moving towards a position when it cannot meaningfully be called a democracy or secular as Islamic parties gain more and more leverage and the Prime Minister Erdogan becomes ever more autocratic.

If a person’s answer to the question I posed is no, then they need to answer another question, do I want to live in such a society? If  their answer is no then they must  be willing to fight for their way of life or the “religion of peace” will change their society beyond recognition.

When I hear someone describing Islam as the “religion of peace”  I am irresistibly reminded of the aliens in the film Independence Day emerging from their spaceship yelling “We come in peace” before blasting every human in sight.  The white liberals who peddle into the “religion of peace” propaganda should be constantly called upon to explain why it is that a “religion of peace” can be so unfailingly successful in attracting people who say they subscribe to it yet are unremittingly cruel and violent.

Film review – CitizenFour

Main appearances

Glen Greenwald

Ewen MacAskill

Edward Snowden

Director: Laura Poitras

Running time : 114 minutes

Robert Henderson

This documentary about state surveillance revolves around Edward Snowden as interviewee  and the journalists Glen Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill  as interviewers . The interviews were primarily conducted in Hong Kong  to where Snowden fled before moving to Russia.

As a man who has been much in the news  since June 2013 but little seen and heard,  it is naturally intriguing to see what Snowden is made of when interviewed at length i with a further enticement to watch  being the  possibility that he might reveal some dramatic new details of state misbehaviour.  Consequently, it might be thought  the  film  would contain plenty to interest and alarm anyone worried about the imbalance between the power of the state and civil liberties.  Sad to say  there is little to excite  the  viewer because Snowden comes across as a distinctly colourless  personality  and there are no startling important new revelations. Worse,  there is something essential   missing: nowhere is there any serious  attempt to test either the veracity of the information Snowden made public or his declared motivation.

Whenever someone whistle blows on a  state apparatus those receiving the information are presented with what might be called the “double agent” problem. Is the whistle-blower what he seems? Is he telling the simple truth or is he working to his own or  another’s  agenda?  Snowden   could logically  be in any one of these situations:

  1. He is telling the truth about the information he provides and his motives.
  2. He is acting voluntarily as a covert agent of the US state.
  3. He is acting voluntarily as an agent of a foreign state.
  4. He is acting voluntarily on behalf of a non-state actor.
  5. He is acting under duress from any of the actors in 2-4.

I did consider  the useful idiot option but could not see how it  could exist in this case. Snowden is clear as to his ostensible motivation – horror at the gross breaching of personal liberty by his government – so it is difficult to see how he could have been duped in any way. He strikes me as politically naive but that in itself does not make him a useful idiot.

Possibilities 2-5 went unexplored. They did not even press  Snowden strongly on how he was paying his way since his flight. (Always ask about the money. I once badly threw David Shayler at a public meeting simply by asking how he was funding his life). Being on the run is an expensive business. Snowden  had quite a well paid job but not that well paid. It is possible that he might have stashed away, say, $50k but that would not last long when he is living in very expensive places such as Moscow and Hong Kong, especially as people would know who he was and be likely to bang up things such as rent. Unless he is getting help from the Russian government, a surrogate for the Russian government or from the media how would he survive? Until  we have solid proof of how he is existing his bona fides cannot be established.

That left only possibility 1, that   Snowden  was simply telling the truth. However, the film failed even there. The two interviewers simply asked Snowden questions and accepted his answers at face value.

How plausible is Snowden as the selfless idealist he portrays himself as?  In the film he  appears to be surprisingly little troubled by his  predicament.  This could be reasonably interpreted as someone who had his present position worked out in advance of his whistle blowing  (All the shuffling about in Hong Kong  before going to Moscow  could have just been to substantiate his claim that he was acting of his own volition or, less probably, perhaps China had agreed to give him sanctuary and then changed their minds).  Not convinced, then ask yourself how likely it is that anyone would have been willing to blow the gaffe on US state secrets without having the assurance that afterwards he would be in a place safe from the US authorities?  After all, If Snowden is  ever brought to trial in the US it would be more or less certain that he would get a massive prison sentence and , in theory at least, he might  be executed for treason.

Then  there  is Lindsay Mills, the partner  Snowden ostensibly left behind without explanation. She has  joined him in Moscow.  When Snowden speaks in the film of his decision to leave Mills  without explanation,   he tells the story with an absence of  animation that would not have disgraced a marble statue.  All very odd unless the story that he left her in the dark was simply a blind to both protect her and provide a veil of confusion as to his whereabouts immediately after the initial release of information.

As for Mills she made a number of entries to a blog she ran after Snowden’s flight to Hong Kong.  . Here’s an example:   “As I type this on my tear-streaked keyboard I’m reflecting on all the faces that have graced my path. The ones I laughed with. The ones I’ve held. The one I’ve grown to love the most. And the ones I never got to bid adieu.”  Would  someone who is supposedly seriously traumatised  produce such a studied attempt at what she doubtless sees as “fine writing”?  Anyone care to bet that she was not in on the plot all along?

Snowden also engages onscreen  in some very unconvincing bouts of paranoia such as covering his head with a cloth  in the manner of an old time photographer  to avoid a password he is putting in to his computer  being  read .  He also shows exaggerated  at a fire alarm going off repeated and unplugging a phone which keeps ringing on the grounds that the room could be bugged through the phone line. Well, it could be but so what? Provided  Snowden only said  what he was  willing to have included in the film it would not matter if his conversations with the documentary makers were  bugged. It all seemed very contrived.   I am an experienced interviewer and to me  Snowden’s behaviour was unnatural throughout and seemed to be  Snowden self-consciously  acting out what he believed would be the behaviour of someone in  his position.

The fact that he went untested by hard questioning in itself is  suspicious. One can allow a certain amount for the ineptness of the questioners (see below), but the only reason he was not pressed at all can only be that the makers of the film and Snowden agreed in advance that he would not be pressed.

Apart from the stark failure to press Snowden adequately, the questioning of Greenwald and  MacAskill’s   was  woefully inept.  Neither had any idea of how to build a line of questioning or how to play a witness.  For  example, one of the most difficult disciplines an investigator has to master is to allow the person being questioned to do as much of the talking as possible without being prompted .  That necessitates  being patient and tolerating  long periods of silence when the person being questioned  does not reply to a question quickly.  Those who have seen the film American Hustle  will remember the Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper characters.  The Bale character understands the art of taking your time, letting a mark come to you rather than you going to them. Cooper’s character is for ever messing up Bale’s plans by rushing in and pressing matters.  Obviously in a documentary you cannot allow silence to continue for very long, but even allowing a minute’s silence  can be very revealing of a  person who is failing to answer. Irritatingly, Greenwald would not let Snowden stew in silence for even a moment.

Greenwald’s  other major shortcoming is that he loves the sound of his own voice far too much and has an irritating habit of delivering platitudes in a manner that suggests he is offering ideas of the greatest profundity.   MacAskill  was palpably nervous and  routinely asked innocuous questions and,  after they were asked, seemed pathetically relieved that he had put a question, any question.

Apart from the interview with Snowden, there was little of interest to anyone who is seriously concerned about  state surveillance because it was all widely known material bar one item. This was a recording of a remarkable  court hearing in the USA which AT&T phone customers took action against the state  over unwarranted surveillance which showed the US government lawyer arguing in effect that  the case court had no jurisdiction over the matter and being soundly slapped down by one of the judges.

Is the film worth seeing?  Probably only as a documentation of Snowden’s personality.  It reveals nothing new about the extent of the misbehaviour the US state or properly examined why and how Snowden did what he did. Nor would the film  be likely to educate someone who was ignorant of the subject, because the details of what the US government  had been up to were offered in  too piecemeal a fashion for a coherent idea of what had happened to  emerge  for someone starting from scratch.

 

Out of Africa thesis for modern Man growing ever more dubious

Robert Henderson

A 400,000 year old  fossil shell with geometric-style  marks thought to have been deliberately made  on it by Homo erectus  has been discovered in  in Java.  If this is true, and the marks do indeed look  deliberate,  then it is strong pointer to a form of Homo  considered  decidedly primitive compared with modern Man  having an ability to think abstractly and to translate that thought into physical representation. The discovery is impressive because it pushes  back the possession of such an ability hugely beyond  the advent of  Homo sapiens  150,000-200,00 years ago.

If this is a correct interpretation of  the marks on the shell it has a profound  implication: the closer the shape of intelligence in older forms of Homo to those of younger  forms,  the stronger the likelihood of interbreeding because general behaviour  in  the older and younger forms would have had considerable similarities.

This is important both in itself and because it undermines the Out of Africa theory, which has been in the ascendency arguably since Darwin fingered Africa as the birthplace of Homo.   The latter reason has great political resonance in the West because it can be fitted neatly into the predominant liberal internationalist credo of the First World. It allows the liberal internationalist to place their claim that humanity is just one big family  without any meaningful difference on the supposed rock of a common ancestry. Even better for the liberal, the common ancestor happens to be found in the part of the world whose populations are  of particular interest to  the white liberal, namely, those of  black Africa.

When interbreeding of different species of Homo is introduced into the picture it shows  human populations living today  as being more genetically  diverse than the Out of Africa theory allows and removes the claim, overt or by implication, that ultimately all human behaviour  and achievement derives from  the descendants of Africans.  Most devastatingly for the liberal  it raises  the possibility  that the  widely differing cultures humans have created  are at least in part,   a consequence of   genetic differences between varieties of Homo.  Moreover, because Man is differentiated profoundly by culture, the widely accepted definition  of a species – a population of freely interbreeding organisms sharing a common gene pool –   is  unsatisfactory,  for  clearly Man is  more  than  an  animal  responding   to   simple  biological   triggers.  When   behavioural differences  are perceived as belonging to a particular group  by  that group  as differentiating  members of the group from other  men,    they perform the same role as  organic differences for  they divide Man  into cultural species.

It is true that so far the amount of genetic difference attributed to interbreeding is small, perhaps 1-3% of Neanderthal genes in  modern Man outside of Africa .  There are two points to bear in mind. First, a small difference in genetic profile could have a profound effect on ability and behaviour.  The most crippling and dangerous diseases can be the result of a single gene differing from the norm.

If it is accepted that genes have  a fundamental role in shaping behaviour and  general personality, then differences in genetic makeup, even if they only affect a small number of genes,  could be marked.  Do genes have such as  role? It is difficult to see how they could not,  because  to maintain that they do not  would in effect be to argue  that all parts of the body are subject to genetic control but those responsible for the functioning of the mind.  There is also the evidence from animal breeding  that  behavioural and temperamental traits can be successfully enhanced  through selection directed by humans, dogs being the prime example.  It would be very odd if the human template was so  completely different from that of  animals  that  in this one respect it was utterly  different.

But interbreeding could also  create important external physical changes which had the potential to alter behaviour both of those who acquired the changes and those  who did not. For example, analysis of Neanderthal DNA suggests that breeding between  Neanderthals and Homo sapiens in Europe and Asia  was at least partially responsible for modern  Europeans and Asians  having  lighter skins and possibly straight  hair.

The second consideration is that humans have been distinctly rare for most of human history.  Estimates are obviously very  difficult to  make for the distant past but, for example, the US census department gives an estimate of between 1-10 million for 10,000 BC.    A small population would be more susceptible to both a valuable mutation spreading  rapidly through it and to maintaining the mutation.  That would enhance diversity  within  a sizeable population in a specific area such as Europe..

The evidence for interbreeding  between different varieties of Homo  has been growing in recent years through the  vast technological improvements in DNA retrieval and reading.  From this comes  objective evidence that modern Man outside of Africa has Neanderthal ancestry.  The gene sequencing of a third species or subspecies of Homo, the Siberian Denisovans also shows evidence crossbreeding with Asians.  There is also a another  candidate for interbreeding  as  yet  unnamed.

This may just be the tip the  interbreeding  story because discovered  human fossils , though  much more plentiful now than they were even fifty years ago, are still very meagre.  Fossils are placed in  general type classifications such as  homo erectus and Homo habilis which may have substantial differences in form or are classified as this or that from very incomplete fossils.  Interbreeding could have been much more varied  than the present evidence shows.   If  so,  the amount of genetic mixing could be far greater than is presently imagined, because  it would not simply be a case of two distinct species or varieties of Homo mating,  but the descendants of  differing varieties of Homo who have mated then  mating with other hybrids whose hybridity is  of a different type.  For example, suppose there were four different types of Homo in the same geographical  area. Types 1 and 2 mate. Their children are hybrids. Types 3 and 4 mate. Their children are hybrids. The children of 1 and 2 then mate with the children of  3 and 4 producing further hybrids.  Of course, this type of interbreeding would apply to sub-Saharan Africa as well as the rest of the world, so that any emigrants from Africa into Eurasia would almost certainly be carrying a mixture of genes from various forms of Homo.

Another  interesting  trait  is that  members of a  species  will  have different  breeding  propensities  across its  distribution,  that  is, members of the supposedly single species will breed differentially with different parts of the total species population.  For example,  take an animal  which is common to Europe and bring individuals from  different geographical parts of the continent together and it may be that those found in the  East of  the distribution  will be less likely or refuse altogether to  mate with the those in the West.  These barriers to breeding are clearly not purely due to major differences in physical biology. Probably there is a strong component of behavioural difference which reduces the propensity to breed.

It  is worth adding that the traditional concept of a species is far from secure. It is a man-made classification which is often found wanting. For example,  the North American Ruddy Duck and the  European  White-Headed Duck are classified as separate species.  The introduction of the Ruddy Duck  to  Europe has resulted in widespread interbreeding  between  the supposedly  separate  species to the extent that  conservationists  now fear for the survival of the White Headed Duck.  It is also true that a growing  amount  of   traditional  taxonomic  classification  is  being overturned by DNA analysis.

There is nothing surprising about varieties of  Homo interbreeding.   Many animals of  closely related species could produce offspring if they were willing to mate as can be seen from the successful human instigated  inter-breeding  by artificial insemination of, for example, lions and tigers and inter-species mating in the wild.  The offspring  of such intra-species breeding , whether artificial or in the wild,  are  often sterile, but not invariably.

Animals use various triggers to breed: aural, chemical, condition of feathers  and so on. These are seemingly automatic processes whereby one individual responds to another without conscious thought. Even behavioural triggers such as mating rituals can be viewed in the same light, although in such cases the process of acceptance and rejection may include an element of  higher understanding  as such a ritual is often complex and it is not easy to see exactly how it could be a simple programmed response.

Man, although not divorced entirely from  such triggers, adds conscious thought to the process of mate selection. Does that  put Man in an entirely separate category to all other organisms, namely,  the one organism who can potentially breed freely across the entire species population?  Potentially yes but in practice no,  for Man’s capacity for conscious thought and decision making does not mean  his breeding is not constrained by the triggers which control other organisms, especially behavioural. For example, most people choose mates who are of the same race as themselves even when they have ample opportunity  to do otherwise.

Nonetheless,  any organism with a degree of self-consciousness and,  perhaps even more importantly,  language  could and almost certainly would go far beyond  the triggers to separation of animal species which  have neither significant consciousness nor,  most importantly, language.   The possession of language in particular would provide a means to overcome any reluctance to breed with those of a different variety of Homo, for it would not only allow a means to share and discuss ideas with their own tribe or band, but also to communicate with mates  of a different  variety.

Even if some or much of the interbreeding took place by force,  language would still be a facilitator because it would make the females seem to be similar to females from their own tribe.  There may even have been the practice of swapping females between tribes or bands of different varieties of human, a practice evident  amongst tribal peoples even today.

The cranial capacity of extinct t varieties of Homo is often used as the starting point for assessing their mental capacity. But size of brain is not everything. Oliver Cromwell had a cranial capacity of 2,000 cc; the novelist  Anatole France one of less than 1,000 cc.   Neanderthals had an average brain size larger than that of modern  humans.   The shape of a brain with differing emphases on its various functions is also taken as a pointer to mental capacity,  for example, Neanderthals  are routinely   said to have  more of the brain devoted to sight and body control, which  implies less  capacity for social interaction skills and abstract thought.  However,  this  supposed difference from Homo sapiens is still a matter of debate amongst academics and there is growing evidence  of Neanderthal cultural sophistication.  Indeed, research published in early 2014 concluded:

Modern humans are usually seen as superior in a wide range of domains, including weaponry and subsistence strategies, which would have led to the demise of Neanderthals.”

“We have found no data in support of the supposed technological, social and cognitive inferiority of Neanderthals compared to their contemporaries…their demise was clearly more complex than many archaeology-based scenarios of ‘cognitive inferiority’.”

If the mental capacity  and behavioural sophistication of older forms of Homo was much greater  than  has  often been conjectured,  the willingness and ability to mate  with them by more advanced forms would have been more frequent.  The evidence of the fossil  shell  mentioned at the beginning  points to behaviour which we would consider very human a very long time ago.  Another impressive  ancient example of ability in older forms of Homo has recently been found  at a 350,000 year-old  site in Israel  where there is evidence  of regular and controlled use of fire.   It may be that the likes of Homo erectus and  Homo habilis were far more like Homo sapiens than they are given credit for and  later forms ever more so the nearer they come to the present.

The times they are a-changing

Robert Henderson

What has changed over the past year?

I sense that political correctness has passed its high point. Like all totalitarian creeds,  it is in reality  failing when it is  seemingly at its most dominant. That is because  all totalitarian creeds become ever more obviously  detached from reality  as they invariably become ever more extreme as the practitioners and enforcers of the ideology compete to show who is the purest ideologue.  It is also catching more and more people who may have thought themselves safe from suffering any penalty from being non-pc in its clutches, for example, the Wigan FC chairman Dave Whelan, not least because of the  growing ubiquity of digital devices available to record  both the spoken and written word, so that even private utterances or writings are vulnerable to hacking, deliberate surreptitious  recording or  in the case of that which is written , the discovery of thoughts by third parties.

There has also  been a considerable change in the past twelve months   in the rhetoric on three vital matters: immigration, withdrawal from the EU and the political representation of England within a  devolved UK.   All have become much more in line with reality, both social and political.  The change in the case of immigration is especially striking.  None of this  has as yet been translated into practical action,  but honest talk about subjects for long treated as beyond the Pale by mainstream politicians and media  is encouraging and is an essential prelude to meaningful action.  The more the rhetoric moves towards reality, the harder will it be for the political elite to control matters.  There is a genuine  possibility of  both an IN/Out EU referendum in 2017 and  English Votes for English Laws after the 2015 General Election.

An EU referendum

Many of those  supposedly in favour of the UJK leaving the EU are fearful  or say they are that a referendum in the near future would be lost and talk of years of preparation of the electorate before a referendum is held. Richard North is a prime proponent of this argument.   It holds no water for two reasons. First,  if Britain remains within the EU we shall become ever more entwined in its coils to the extent that  Britain would l find it very difficult to legally leave the EU.  This process is  already well in hand  as the recent signing up to 35 Justice measures,  including opting in again  to the European Arrest Warrant, demonstrates.  This has happened despite  the profound implications of the  handing of such power to the EU. Why was there no referendum? Because  the European Union 2011  Act, only  makes the holding of a referendum  necessary  on  the granting of entirely   new powers to the EU and/ or extending existing powers if the powers are part of an EU treaty concluded after the Act passing into law in 2011.

This failure to refer very important  transfers of power to a referendum is no accident. There are no new treaties on the horizon for the very simple reason that the Eurofanatics fear they would l lose  any referenda on another treaty and they cannot avoid such referenda because some countries such as France, the Republic of Ireland  and now the UK  require a referendum on a treaty to transfer further powers to Brussels. (The UK  law could be repealed or amended  to restrict the opportunities for a referendum,  but that  is unlikely  because Ed Miliband has committed himself to it).

The second reason not to shy away from a referendum in the near future is simple. Suppose the worst happens and the  referendum is lost . That is not the end of the matter. Rather it is the beginning as the Scottish referendum aftermath has demonstrated.    A referendum would provide opportunities  to put forward the case for coming out  in depth  in the mainstream media over a sustained period and  to energise the electorate. That would provide the platform for future IN/OUT referenda. By its nature nothing is ever permanently settled in a democracy.

English votes for English laws

Even in its  purist form with only English seat MPs voting on English laws this is not a permanent solution, but it is a staging post to an English Parliament.   Once established it will quickly become clear that there will be perpetual dissent over what are English-only laws, squabbles over the continuing existence of the Barnett Formula and the practical difficulty of having a House of Commons where the majorities for UK business and English business might be different, for example, a  UK wide  majority for Labour  or Labour led coalition, either relying for MPs from seats outside of England for their majority and a Tory majority in England.

The Tory and LibDem proposals put forward by William Hague today in publication The Implications of Devolution for England  are messy with two of the  three Tory options  fudging  matters by not restricting the proposal and the voting on of English-only legislation to English-seat MP and  the  LibDem proposal   being a blatant attempt to smuggle in proportional representation by the back door by suggesting that an English Grand Committee be set up with its members selected to represent the proportion of votes each party . They also have a superb recipe for balkanising England by allowing different levels of  representation on demand with differing  powers  if a city,  council or region seek them. Labour have not put any proposals formally forward because they refused to join discussions on fitting England into the devolution mix.  I will deal with the subject in greater depth in a separate essay.

The most dangerous general global threats are plausibly  these in this order

  1. Mass immigration.
  2. Islam – It is a simple fact that serious unrest is found wherever there are large numbers of Muslims.   When I hear Muslims and their liberal supporters proclaiming that Islam is the religion of peace I am reminded irresistibly of the film  Independence Day in which the aliens emerge from their spaceship proclaiming “we come in peace”  before blasting everyone in sight to smithereens.

3 Uncontrolled technology, which leaves the developed world in particular  but increasingly the  world generally,  very vulnerable  to suddenly being left without vital services if computer systems fail naturally or through cyber attacks.  The glitch over the UK air traffic control gives a hint of  how vulnerable we are.

The most dangerous specific  threats to global peace and stability are:

–              The heightened tension between China and the rest of the far East (especially Japan) as a consequence of China’s flexing of territorial ambitions.

–              China’s extraordinary expanding  shadow world empire which consists of both huge investment in the first world and de facto colonial control in the developing world.

–              The growing power of India which threatens Pakistan.

–              The increasing authoritarianism of the EU due to both the natural impetus towards central control and the gross mistake of the Euro.  The Eurofanatics are playing with fire in their attempts to lure border states of Russia into the EU whilst applying seriously damaging sanctions to Russia. It is not in the West’s interest to have a Russia which feels threatened or denied its natural sphere of influence.

–              The ever more successful (at least in the short run)  attempt of post-Soviet Russia to re-establish their suzerainty over the old Soviet Empire.

 

Antibiotic resistance has the potential to be another man-made warming mania

Robert Henderson

A team led by the  economist Jim O’Neill has just published their findings  into a review of   the resistance to antibiotics by bacteria.  The review was ordered by David Cameron.

The research concluded that as things stand the growing inefficacy of antibiotics would result in as many as  ten million extra deaths a year  throughout the world by  2050 and an economic loss  from these deaths of  £64 trillion over the period  (or as much as £128 trillion if additional healthcare costs are added in).

Ominously O’Neill has consulted with Lord Stern, the global warming religionist, and likens the situation with antibiotic resistance to  that of  the manmade  global warming  mania:

“Mr O’Neill said he had consulted closely with Lord Stern, the President of the Royal Academy who carried out a landmark investigation into the threat from climate change for Tony Blair, about parallels between the two threats and possible responses.

“But he added that, despite the vastly higher public profile of climate change in comparison with drug resistance, there is greater consensus about the danger to humanity from the latter.

“It feels to me, from the scientific knowledge, that there is more certainty about this being a problem,” he said.

“Now I’m somebody that is very sympathetic to the climate change case … but, with the kind of debate that goes on and data, it feels to me that there is more certainty about this becoming a problem over a reasonably short time period.

“He added: “In some ways to try and solve is a little bit like climate change, because we are talking about the problem getting a lot bigger in the future than it is today and what we are presuming … that the cost of stopping the problem is significantly lower than the cost of not stopping it.”

He goes on to say that recommendations will be made next year as to what might be done to save us from this doomsday through international agreement on action, action which you can bet will be to reduce the use of antibiotics. It is also likely to result in yet more demands for Aid to the developing world because “  The inquiry’s initial estimates suggest that while the crisis will affect rich and poor countries alike the developing world will bear the brunt.”

O’Neill is correct in likening this threat to the man-made global warming circus, but not for the reason he believes.  Both are problems which are inherently unsolvable through the means of restricting  the use of the agents which produce the  supposed or real damaging effects.

The rule of Occam’s Razor (don’t multiply entities unnecessarily or keep things simple)  is in operation here in it most potent form.  In the cases of both global warming and antibiotic resistance the entities can be reduced to one: the size of the population outside of the First World  in the first case and the fact that bacteria know no geographical boundaries  in the second case.

For the man-made warming  problem the reducing emissions solution  fails because of the  size of the population in the world outside of the First World. There are approximately 7 billion humans alive today. At the most generous estimate only a billion of those live in the First World.  If the six billion people who do not live there raised their  carbon emissions to only half that of the average of  the First World,  the amount of carbon in the atmosphere  would greatly exceed the levels  judged to be dangerous by climate scientists.  Moreover, it is most unlikely that the carbon emission levels of the developing world  would  remain at only half the First World average. Indeed, they may well  end up exceeding the first world average as the developing world  generally uses dirty fossil fuels without regard to emissions.  Nor is there anything the First World can do to prevent  them continuing to behave like this.   Consequently, the only sensible course of action is to watch and see how things develop and devote resources  to ameliorating whatever ill effects may arise if  climate change,  whether natural or man-made,  produces  circumstances which threaten human environments.

The idea that bacterial immunity to antibiotics can be meaningfully prevented by restricting their use is  different from man-made global warming  in that it is an unequivocal fact that it exists.   But  like man-made global warming the remedy of  restricting its use  is a pipe dream  because all countries would have to agree to such a regime and enforce it.

In many countries, including a good number in Europe,  antibiotics do not require a prescription and they can be purchased as easily as a pack of aspirin in Britain. If one country or even a group of first world countries – say, the EU states –  were to restrict antibiotic use  it would make no difference in anything other than the short run  because bacteria know no boundaries.  Eventually, bacteria with immunity would take as hosts those whose countries had restricted the use of antibiotics.

The other fly in the ointment is the widespread use of antibiotics in animal husbandry.  When animal products from such animals  are eaten they will pass on small but significant   amounts of antibiotics. That will over time will build antibiotic resistance.

In both the case of restricting direct antibiotics to humans and in their indirect transmission through animal products , there is zero chance of getting global agreement to restrict their use and to take  serious action to enforce the restriction. Therefore, it is  pointless  to try to restrict their use. Therefore, it is  at best pointless to  discuss such measures and at worst a distraction from what needs to be done.

What should be done? Governments need to initiate a large and perpetual publicly funded  programme of research to firstly constantly search for new antibiotics and secondly to examine new approaches to attacking infections, for example, by discovering ways to destroy bacteria by  irradiation.   If it is left  to Big Pharma  the research they will undertake will be both insufficient in terms of unearthing new antibiotics and in investigating new approaches, viz:

“Drug-resistant bacteria, viruses and other pathogens are on the rise as the discovery of new medicines has failed to keep pace with the evolution of the bugs.

This is partly because the pharmaceutical industry moved out of antibiotic research en masse over the last decade and a half due to tough regulations and poor returns on investment, though the pattern has started to reverse.”

British Future report says 25% of British adults want all immigrants repatriated  

Robert Henderson

The think-tank British Future has recently published  the report How to talk about immigration based on research conducted by ICM, Ipsos MORI and YouGov. The report purports  to provide a blueprint for both the pros and antis in the immigration debate  to manage the subject  most effectively in public discussion.  This is not something which they achieve because they have bought into the internationalist agenda, viz: “Some three or four generations on from Windrush, it is now a settled and irreversible fact that we are a multi-ethnic society. Managing immigration effectively and fairly in the public interest  should and does matter to Britons from different ethnic backgrounds. We should be suspicious of approaches that sharply polarise British citizens along racial lines, in whatever direction”.

Nonetheless the research  does have much of interest.  One finding  is truly startling. Faced with the question  “The government should insist that all immigrants should return to the countries they came from, whether they’re here legally or illegally”  the result was Agree 25%, disagree 52% and neither 23%. (P17 of the report).  In addition, many of those who said no to forced repatriation were also firm supporters of strong border controls and restrictive  immigration policies.

The fact that 25% of the population have overcome their fear of  falling foul of the pc police and say that they do not merely want immigration stopped but sent into reverse is  stunning. Moreover, because political correctness has taken such an intimidating place in British society it is reasonable to assume that a substantial number of those who said they disagreed did so simply out of fear of being accused of racism.

The obverse of the immigration coin was shown by the question “In an increasingly borderless world, we should welcome anyone who wants to come to Britain and not deter them with border controls” (P16 of the report).  The results were 14% agree, 67% disagree and 19% don’t know.

That only 14% support such a policy compared to the 25% who  wished for forced repatriation is striking in itself, but  it is even better for the  opponents of immigration than it looks for two reasons. First, the 14%  of those who agreed with the question will be the honest figure because to say that you want open borders carries with it no penalties from the pc police  and will gain the person brownie points amongst the politically correct elite and their auxiliaries. Second,  as already mentioned, the 25% of those wanting forced repatriation of all immigrants will understate the true position because a significant proportion of those questioned with be lying out of fear.

The report also shows that older voters are more likely to be those who are most strongly opposed to immigration (P11 of the report).  That is important because older voters are the most likely to vote.

Taking all that into account  it is reasonable to assume that a referendum with the question “Do you wish to end mass immigration?”  would result in a solid probably overwhelming YES vote.

These facts  should persuade politicians that they would risk nothing if they move much further to restrict  immigration than they have already done and in so doing would  gain  considerable  extra electoral support.

This may well happen. Public rhetoric  about immigration is rapidly hardening There will come a tipping point where  the rhetoric  has departed so far from the politically correct position that serious  action to restrict immigration will occur because the stretch between rhetoric and action will  become too great to sustain in a society where governments are elected.

A party political  bidding process on the  subject of immigration is already taking place  and there will come a point where serious action has to follow  or there will be a very real chance that either one or more of the mainstream parties will become irrelevant and be superseded, or members of the mainstream parties will wrest control of these parties from their pc indoctrinated leadership  and adopt a policy on immigration  closer to what the public wants.

The other important effect of greater political honesty in political utterances about immigration is that it makes  it much easier for people generally to speak openly about their feelings on the subject and to lobby for radical action.   In  turn this will feed the desire of politicians to gain electoral credibility by being  ever former in their immigration policies.  Indeed, the only reason that the present immigration has been allowed to develop is because the subject has been effectively wiped off the public debate agenda since the 1970s.

Film Review – Fury

Main cast

Brad Pitt as US Army Staff  Sergeant. Don “Wardaddy” Collier

Shia LaBeouf as Technician Fifth Grade Boyd “Bible” Swan

Logan Lerman as Private  Norman “Machine” Ellison

Michael Peña as Corporal  Trini “Gordo” Garcia

Jon Bernthal as Private First Class . Grady “Coon-Ass” Travis

Jason Isaacs as Capt. “Old Man” Waggoner[

Director:  David Ayer

————————————–

Robert Henderson

“I am tired and sick of war. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, for vengeance, for desolation. War is hell. “General William Tecumseh Sherman

A director making a film about war should reflect Sherman’s simple truth that it is hell.   Anything short of that  is no more than  cruel propaganda. Fury does fall short in the end, although it contains much that rings  true.

It is Germany in April 1945. Staff Sergeant  Don Wardaddy Collier (Brad Pitt)  is captain of a Sherman tank nicknamed Fury.   Collier  and his crew of  four  of Swann, Garcia, Travis and Elllison  (respectively played by  LaBeouf,  Peña, Berthnal and Lerman ) are taking part  in the snuffing out of the last desperate throw  of  Nazi Germany.  All but Ellison have been with Collier fighting their  way from North Africa to Germany.

Whatever pity there  may have been in them has been leeched away by the brutality they have seen  and the primal desire to stay alive, the latter  fact made unusually pressing because  Sherman tanks were no match for the German Tiger tanks and had a nasty reputation for going up in flames with little provocation. (The Allied troops satirically named them Ronsons after   a popular lighter of the time which sold itself under the slogan “Lights up first time, every time”).

For an hour the film is just what a war film should be: full of the harsh dark humour of soldiers who live with  fear as their constant companion,  cruelly violent, horribly destructive of  men  and  a sentimentality  free zone.

Collier  displays a Patton-like harshness to  the new recruit  Norman Ellison.    He  is a very young soldier who is  replacing Fury’s  newly killed  assistant driver. He has zero experience of tanks, his  previous role in the army being  that of a clerk/typist . Why is he assigned to a tank? Because casualties make him Hobson’s choice.

Unsurprisingly Ellison’s is unfitted for the work not merely through inexperience but  psychologically.    His  first task is to clean up the mess in the tank left by the dead man’s wounds.  He vomits as he scrapes some flesh off his place in the tank.  In his first taste of real  warfare  he fails to fire on Germans which results in another  tank being destroyed.  The commander  of the tank falls out of the tank in a ball of flame and shoots himself in the head  with his pistol to stop the agony.

Collier slaps Ellison  around and tells him he has to learn to kill Germans or he is worse than useless . Soon  forces Ellison to shoot a defenceless  SS officer who has been captured, which Ellison does with the greatest reluctance  and only with Collier holding Ellison’s finger over the trigger and forcing him to fire the gun.   After a few more engagements  Ellison gets the message: kill or be killed and even admits that he enjoys slaughtering  Germans and becomes an accepted part of the tank crew, although he never quite seems to be at home in the tank as the other four crew members are unselfconsciously at home.

So far so good, but around  the hour mark sentimentality crashes into the action.    Collier and Ellison enter a German  home and find a woman in her thirties and her niece.  At first their meeting  is all tension. Then  Ellison sits down at a piano and starts playing music  from some German sheet music.  Unasked the niece comes across and sings the song  which belongs to the music. Before you  can say knife  the niece and Ellison disappear into a bedroom from which they  emerge  later as instant  sweethearts, having, it is implied, had sex.    This implausible nonsense is thankfully cut short by further fighting in the town which results in the niece being killed.  But the sentimental marker has been put down and stays with the film.

The final half hour or so is the plot of the Alamo adapted for  World War 2.   Fury hits  a mine, sheds one of its tracks and is immobilised.  Unable to move with the tank,  the crew find themselves  in the path of  a group of  SS  soldiers several hundred in number.  They are  seen  coming from a fair way off so tank crew have plenty of time to decide what to do. The sensible thing would be to retreat on foot.  Collier orders his crew to get going  whilst making it clear that he is staying to attack the column using the immobilised Sherman tank’s guns.  In true Boy’s Own fashion the other four men agree to stay.

The tank then  takes on the role of the fort in the Alamo.  The SS soldiers arrive and the tank crew are able to spring a surprise attack.  So far so realistic. We are then treated to some of the most preposterous  battle  scenes ever filmed.  SS men keep popping up obligingly to be machined gunned, shot with small arms or obliterated by the  tank’s cannon. For most of this action Collier is standing exposed on the top of the tank using its heavy machine gun.  But this being Hollywood he does not get hit until all but the one of his tank crew (Ellison) have been killed . Then, incongruously , in view of his long exposure to the enemy without a sniper taking a pot shot at him, he is shot twice by guess who, a sniper.

With Collier wounded  and now inside the tank , Ellison slips through  an escape hatch in the bottom of the tank and hides underneath it.  Collier is finally killed in the time honoured way infantry deal with tanks, namely, by climbing onto them, opening the command hatch, tossing a grenade in , closing the hatch and jumping off the tank before the grenade explodes.  Ellison hides  under the tank until the SS column has moved on, although not before a very young SS soldier sees him there but does not raise the alarm.  Ellison is found in the morning by  American troops and his survival is complete.

If the film ends  disappointingly by relapsing into Hollywood vacuity, there is sufficient in it to make it watchable. The main actors all give strong  performances.  Pitt is convincing as a tough as teak  tank commander ; the   LaBeouf character is one of those quietly  competent people any group in a tight corner is glad to have with them,  Peña  is louder but just as reliable  while  Berthnal  has something of the savage about him but nonetheless he is someone  would be glad to have by your side when there is danger about.    Lerman  is  the least likeable main character, not least because even when he has got over his reluctance to kill,  he always appears to be on the edge of  losing his nerve and in the context of the lives the tank crew are living his fear in some curious way seems to be a kind of disloyalty to the rest of the group.

The battle scenes are convincingly  done apart from the final “Alamo” stand. The most intriguing sequence is of the Sherman  Tank and a German Tiger  tank performing a two dimensional dog fight, with the more manoeuvrable  but inadequately armoured  Sherman desperately trying to get behind the less agile but much superior in armour and gunpower  Tiger to attack  the Tiger’s one weak spot ,  the rear of the tank. Shades of the old fighter pilot’s tactic of getting above and behind an enemy before attacking.

You will not be bored by this film, but a much superior tank centred story  is the Israeli film Lebanon (2009). This is set in the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 2002. The entire action is filmed from within the tank with any outside action being shot through the bombsight.  The film gives you much more of the claustrophobic  reality of being part of a tank crew.  All the good things about Fury are there  without the distraction of implausible battle scenes and unwonted  sentimentality .

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