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In this week’s New Statesman | The Summer of Blood

A first look at this week’s magazine.

5 SEPTEMBER 2014 ISSUE

COVER STORY: THE SUMMER OF BLOOD

FROM IRAQ TO AFGHANISTAN: THE BLACK HOLES WHERE THE NASTIEST GROUPS ARE THRIVING

John Simpson: the only credible response is to turn these
places back into proper countries

STEPHEN GLOVER: THE RIGHTEOUS MIND

The Guardian’s Nick Davies was courageous and correct
to expose phone-hacking – but he has crossed the line between reporter and campaigner

THE POLITICS ESSAY: THE TORY SCHISM

Tim Bale: From Robert Peel and the split over the Corn Laws
to the Ukip insurgency

Plus

DAVID PATRIKARAKOS IN UKRAINE: WHEN ONE SIMPLE MISTAKE
CAN LEAD TO CATASTROPHE

LETTER FROM EDINBURGH: ANGUS ROXBURGH BELIEVES SCOTS SHOULDN’T
BE AFRAID TO TALK ABOUT NATIONALISM

HELEN LEWIS: ONLINE ABUSE, LEAKED NUDES AND REVENGE PORN – THIS IS NOTHING LESS THAN TERRORISM AGAINST WOMEN

THE POLITICS COLUMN: SPLITS OVER EUROPE SHOW THAT THE TORIES ARE
LOSING – SO WHY DOESN’T IT FEEL LIKE LABOUR IS WINNING?

And

IN THE CRITICS: RACHEL COOKE ON THE STRANGE, DARK LIFE OF
JIMMY SAVILE
PETER WILBY WISHES THE ESTABLISHMENT
BY OWEN JONES WENT DEEPER TRACEY THORN WATCHES
KATE BUSH’S RETURN TO THE STAGE

 

 

COVER STORY: THE SUMMER OF ANFAL

The BBC’s world affairs editor, John Simpson, reports from Pol-e Khomri in northern Afghanistan, where he talks to Commander Mirwais, the local leader of Hizb-e-Islami, a Taliban group that once murdered a BBC journalist who was filming with them. “I know all about Isis,” the commander says, using the Arabic acronym for the group – “Daish”:

“We have links with some Daish members. Muslims are thirsty for an Islamic caliphate in the world. Daish is expanding, conquering entire parts of Syria and Iraq, and we are waiting to see if they meet the requirements for an Islamic caliphate.

“If they do, then we are ready to join them. They are great Islamic fighters, and we pray for them.”

If Islamic State (IS) were to begin operating in Afghanistan, Simpson writes, it would be harder than ever for the new government to take control of the country. He makes a connection between the campaigns by extreme Islamist groups across the globe. “They have become fiercer, more brutal and considerably more effective” in Libya, Gaza City (where the IS flag has been flying) and Nigeria, and are able to use the internet to follow one another.

“The more complex the population,” Simpson writes, “the greater the opportunity – especially when the existing government is incapable of defending its minorities.”

Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, Nigeria: in one way or another they are all in danger of becoming black holes in which the nastiest and weirdest groups can thrive. The only serious answer is to turn them back into real countries once again. But that takes long-term commitment from outside interests, especially (though not exclusively) the US and Europe. It certainly can’t be achieved by firing off a few rounds of missiles.

 

THE RIGHTEOUS MIND: STEPHEN GLOVER, CO-FOUNDER OF THE INDEPENDENT, ON THE REAL ENEMIES OF NICK DAVIES

In a vigorous and provocative essay, Stephen Glover, co-founder of the Independent and founding editor of the Independent on Sunday, says that even though he admires the Guardian journalist Nick Davies for exposing widespread phone-hacking by the tabloid press, Davies’s motivation has little to do with victims of the crime. He also argues that it’s a big mistake to regard Davies as an “unvarnished hero”:

Despite his prowess in unmasking wrongdoing, I see him in many ways as a destructive figure, consumed by unreasonable hatreds, whose motivation was not only to expose malpractice at the NoW but also to weaken much of the British press, in which task he has succeeded pretty well.

Davies’s target first and foremost, Glover writes, was Rupert Murdoch, owner of “the Sunday Times and Times and, more especially, the Sun and the now-defunct News of the World”. Glover defends Murdoch’s decision to move his papers to Wapping, because it “gave the press a vital lease of life”, and he tries to debunk the assumption that the media mogul has the power to throw elections:

Murdoch may have backed the winning side in eight successive elections but there is a strong argument that, with the possible exception of 1992, he was simply jumping on a bandwagon that was already heading in a particular direction.

Glover takes his argument further, suggesting that Davies harbours a “near-total contempt for the British press”:

He despises most journalists and hates most newspapers. He doesn’t express a single word of sympathy for innocent Sun hacks hauled out of bed and arrested by the police at the crack of dawn, or for those who have been kept on police bail for many months without charge. Only the Guardian is on the side of the angels, the chief reason being that it does not have to make money, as it has a huge trust fund behind it.

He highlights Davies’s suggestion that the former Observer editor Roger Alton allowed himself to be bullied by the Blair government into supporting the Iraq war: “the most heinous accusation one could make against an editor”. Glover says the idea is based on “shreds of tittle-tattle or hearsay” – perhaps of the same kind that led the Guardian to announce in a report by Davies that the New of the World had deleted messages left on the missing schoolgirl Milly Dowler’s phone, which raised her family’s hopes that she was still alive. The claim turned out to be false but Davies never apologised or retracted.

 

GEORGE EATON: THE POLITICS COLUMN

In his column this week, the NS political editor, George Eaton, argues that the “discipline, pragmatism and ruthless desire to win” that allowed the Conservative Party to govern for 57 years of the 20th century seem to be disintegrating, starting with the defection of Douglas Carswell to Ukip:

That the Tories are convulsed by an issue [Europe] that does not even feature in the top ten of voters’ concerns is a clear sign that the party has lost its winning instincts. Another was the willingness to relinquish the planned boundary changes in return for the abandonment of House of Lords reform. Another still is the decision of so many new MPs in marginal seats (nine) to stand down rather than take their chances with the electorate.

To understand the enemy better, Eaton writes, “GCHQ staff have been ordered to read Revolt on the Right, Matthew Goodwin and Robert Ford’s analysis of the rise of Nigel Farage. But the opposition cannot afford to be sanguine in the face of Ukip’s increasing popularity.

On the micro level, Farage’s party poses an immediate threat in target seats such as Thurrock and a longer-term one in Labour’s northern fortresses. On the macro level, the ascendancy of a party that trades in cynicism and anti-politics creates a culture ever less hospitable to a social-democratic idealist such as Ed Miliband. The Ukip insurgency has robbed Labour of the energy and momentum that ordinarily accrue to an opposition party on the road to Downing Street.

Eaton says that Labour strategists are “alive to the danger of winning the election by default, lacking a mandate for bold change and the popular support necessary to sustain a government through another parliament of austerity”:

“People aren’t yet convinced that we’re prepared to make the changes required. That’s why they’re playing footsie with Farage,” one shadow cabinet member tells me. To others, the Ukip surge is evidence of the need to offer reassurance, above all else, on the issues of the deficit, welfare and immigration.

The tension is greatest in the case of the NHS. The desire to sustain the health service (the issue on which Labour enjoys its largest poll lead) and to carve potent dividing lines with the Tories competes with the fear that a party devoted to reducing the “cost of living” cannot credibly commit to a rise in general taxation. The solution, combined with a definitive and radical policy on tuition fees, will likely form the centrepiece of Labour’s conference.

 

HELEN LEWIS: ONLINE ABUSE, LEAKED NUDES AND REVENGE PORN – THIS IS NOTHING LESS THAN TERRORISM AGAINST WOMEN

In her column – Out of the Ordinary – the New Statesman’s deputy editor, Helen Lewis, identifies a common thread in a series of appalling cases of online abuse, often aimed at women involved in the video-games industry. The cases include the leaking of nude photos of female celebrities, most recently the actress Jennifer Lawrence. “This is a form of terrorism,” Lewis writes.

What we are witnessing are deliberately outrageous acts, designed to create a spectacle and to instil fear in a target population. Where Osama Bin Laden watched in approval as every news network endlessly replayed the footage of a plane hitting a tower, the hackers and harassers must feel thrilled by all the carefully search-engine-optimised headlines above articles decrying the latest leaked pictures. It is a function of successful terrorism that the media become unavoidably complicit in spreading the terror. There is no way to report the story without increasing its potency. We cannot stop looking.

Lewis links the leaking of nude celebrity photos to the impetus behind revenge porn – men use it to “punish women who step out of line”. Online radicalisation is also a factor:

It would be hard to design a better echo chamber than a tightly knit, insular internet forum. We already know that groups tend to drift to extremes as members move with the prevailing wind (and moderates leave). Add a dash of alienation and a sprinkle of resentment and you have the perfect crucible for extremist behaviour.

There is a crucial difference between what has happened to [Anita] Sarkeesian, to Z [a games developer] and to the female celebrities and revenge porn victims, and the reaction to more conventional kinds of terrorism. I bet you no one involved in any of the former will be put under a control order or have their passport taken away. It’s only women living in fear, after all.

 

Plus

In Peter Wilby’s First Thoughts: A Tory-Labour grand coalition, generous
BBC pay-offs and why Isis will probably ignore Britain

Mehdi Hasan: Why is the Muslim world in thrall to conspiracy theories?

Jonn Elledge describes his itchy run-in with London’s bed-bug pandemic

Valerie Grove discusses J B Priestley’s politics with his son, Tom

The Science column: Michael Brooks on a dispute about how far away we are
from the stars that is souring transatlantic relations

Mark Lawson on Philip Seymour Hoffman and posthumous films

Ed Smith scrutinises Alex Salmond’s charm and his bully-boy tactics

Amanda Craig gets to grips with a ripping Arthurian satire – and Christopher Bray considers Marlon Brando’s physical power and intellect

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Why is it called Storm Doris? The psychological impact of naming a storm

“Homes being destroyed and lives being lost shouldn’t be named after any person.”

“Oh, piss off Doris,” cried the nation in unison this morning. No, it wasn't that everyone's local cantankerous old lady had thwacked our ankles with her stick. This is a different, more aggressive Doris. Less Werther’s, more extreme weathers. Less bridge club, more bridge collapse.

This is Storm Doris.

A storm that has brought snow, rain, and furious winds up to 94mph to parts of the UK. There are severe weather warnings of wind, snow and ice across the entire country.

But the real question here is: why is it called that? And what impact does the new Met Office policy of naming storms have on us?

Why do we name storms?

Storm Doris is the latest protagonist in the Met Office’s decision to name storms, a pilot scheme introduced in winter 2015/16 now in its second year.

The scheme was introduced to draw attention to severe weather conditions in Britain, and raise awareness of how to prepare for them.

How do we name storms?

The Name our Storms initiative invites the public to suggest names for storms. You can do this by tweeting the @metoffice using the #nameourstorms hashtag and your suggestion, through its Facebook page, or by emailing them.

These names are collated along with suggestions from Met Éireann and compiled into a list. These are whittled down into 21 names, according to which were most suggested – in alphabetical order and alternating between male and female names. This is done according to the US National Hurricane Naming convention, which excludes the letters Q, U, X, Y and Z because there are thought to be too few common names beginning with these letters.

They have to be human names, which is why suggestions in this list revealed by Wired – including Apocalypse, Gnasher, Megatron, In A Teacup (or Ena Tee Cup) – were rejected. The Met Office received 10,000 submissions for the 2016/17 season. According to a spokesperson, a lot of people submit their own names.

Only storms that could have a “medium” or “high” wind impact in the UK and Ireland are named. If there are more than 21 storms in a year, then the naming system starts from Alpha and goes through the Greek alphabet.

The names for this year are: Angus (19-20 Nov ’16), Barbara (23-24 Dec 2016), Conor (25-26 Dec 2016), Doris (now), Ewan, Fleur, Gabriel, Holly, Ivor, Jacqui, Kamil, Louise, Malcolm, Natalie, Oisín, Penelope, Robert, Susan, Thomas, Valerie and Wilbert.

Why does this violent storm have the name of an elderly lady?

Doris is an incongruous name for this storm, so why was it chosen? A Met Office spokesperson says they were just at that stage in their list of names, and there’s no link between the nature of the storm and its name.

But do people send cosy names for violent weather conditions on purpose? “There’s all sorts in there,” a spokesperson tells me. “People don’t try and use cosy names as such.”

What psychological impact does naming storms have on us?

We know that giving names to objects and animals immediately gives us a human connection with them. That’s why we name things we feel close to: a pet owner names their cat, a sailor names their boat, a bore names their car. We even name our virtual assistants –from Microsoft’s Clippy to Amazon’s Alexa.

This gives us a connection beyond practicality with the thing we’ve named.

Remember the response of Walter Palmer, the guy who killed Cecil the Lion? “If I had known this lion had a name and was important to the country or a study, obviously I wouldn’t have taken it,” he said. “Nobody in our hunting party knew before or after the name of this lion.”

So how does giving a storm a name change our attitude towards it?

Evidence suggests that we take it more seriously – or at least pay closer attention. A YouGov survey following the first seven named storms in the Met Office’s scheme shows that 55 per cent of the people polled took measures to prepare for wild weather after hearing that the oncoming storm had been named.

“There was an immediate acceptance of the storm names through all media,” said Gerald Fleming, Head of Forecasting at Met Éireann, the Irish metereological service. “The severe weather messages were more clearly communicated.”

But personalising a storm can backfire. A controversial US study in 2014 by PNAC (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) claimed that hurricanes with female names lead to higher death tolls – the more “feminine” the name, like Belle or Cindy, the higher the death toll. This is not because female names are attached to more severe storms; it is reportedly because people take fewer steps to prepare for storms with names they perceive to be unintimidating or weak.

“In judging the intensity of a storm, people appear to be applying their beliefs about how men and women behave,” Sharon Shavitt, a co-author of the study, told the FT at the time. “This makes a female-named hurricane . . . seem gentler and less violent.”

Names have social connotations, and affect our subconscious. Naming a storm can raise awareness of it, but it can also affect our behaviour towards it.

What’s it like sharing a name with a deadly storm?

We should also spare a thought for the impact sharing a name with a notorious weather event can have on a person. Katrina Nicholson, a nurse who lives in Glasgow, says it was “horrible” when the 2005 hurricane – one of the fifth deadliest ever in the US – was given her name.

“It was horrible having something so destructive associated with my name. Homes being destroyed and lives being lost shouldn’t be named after any person,” she tells me over email. “I actually remember at the time meeting an American tourist on a boat trip in Skye and when he heard my name he immediately linked it to the storm – although he quickly felt guilty and then said it was a lovely name! I think to this day there will be many Americans who hate my name because of it.”

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.