Tuesday, February 3, 2004

Entitled to trust

originally posted by John

My contention is that Aidan and Richard would do a better job of examining whatever trust relationship exists between the political process and the country’s ‘intelligence’ services than the Butler inquiry ever will. There are a million and one reasons why they’ll never get the chance to do this better job of course and all of them are to do with publicness.

In the sense that James P Carse uses the term in his book Finite and infinite games, Aidan and Richard have no ‘title’. Titles, Carse reckons, arise from past triumphs and as a result ‘There are precise ways in which one may no longer compete with (for example) the Dalai Lama or the Heavyweight Champion of the World’. Or, one might add, a former Cabinet Secretary and MI6. Publicness is itself a bullet-proof title with which one may not compete and for which, as a result, the notion of ‘conflict of interest’ cannot possibly exist.

According to Carse, titles – captain, sir, lord, professor, your excellency etc – signal not only a mode of address but also a manner of address – saluting, averting the eyes, bowing, respectful silence etc. Worst of all for trust in this specific instance and for its wider implications, titles signal a content of address – only certain subjects are suitable for discussion with an archbishop, an admiral or an inquiry judge who is a former Cabinet Secretary. Titles are the public face of publicness.

The idea that a process that readily gives rise to misleading intelligence (leading to the illegal invasion of a foreign country) is itself too important to have its secrets revealed for fear of destroying our trust in it is an irony that publicness has absolutely no difficulty swallowing. Publicness will swallow anything. In the end it feeds off itself.

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