While it can be gratifying to watch the performances of the best in any area of human endeavour, it can also be a jarring reminder of one’s own deficiencies. As I watched and listened to Craig Murray address assembled well-wishers and by way of various media, the world on his release from HMP Edinburgh yesterday (30 November 2021), I reflected on how I might behave were I in a similar position. I wondered if I could be so outwardly composed. I wondered if I might be as self-possessed. Imagining myself standing in Craig’s shoes, I contemplated whether I might be in such evident good spirits and good humour or if I would be so suffused with bitterness and anger as to be unable to disguise my feelings. I wondered if I might carry myself with such dignity.
As readers will surely be aware, Craig Murray was jailed for eight months having been deemed to have committed contempt of court in his efforts to report on proceedings in the trial of former First Minister Alex Salmond who was charged with a number of sexual offences. Salmond was acquitted of all charges and walked from court his character tainted only by such mud as his detractors could make stick. Allegations of certain kinds of conduct leave a stain no matter how thoroughly scrubbed by a court of law and a jury. Regrettably, there is a titillating sanctimony which lurks in the depths of human nature can all too often sully the supposed victim of such conduct almost as much as the accused. There’s an unfortunate tendency to suppose that the complainer might not have been a victim of the alleged behaviour had they not been behaving in a manner which invited or encouraged that behaviour.
Of course, the victim is an actor in their own life and by definition is involved in any reprehensible behaviour towards them. They may have arrived at the point of being a victim wholly or in part due to their own reckless or irresponsible conduct. But being guilty of carelessness or of having made unwise choices is not equivalent to being guilty of any offence committed against them by another. The perpetrator alone is culpable. It is the act which is the offence and not the actions of the victim no matter to what extent those actions may seem to have led to the act. It is nonetheless the case that such logic may carry little weight in shallower minds. More commonly than we’d hope, simplistic assumptions are made which associate the blameworthiness of the victim’s conduct prior to the act with the culpability of the perpetrator.
Recognising this tendency to blame the victim, the law offers the protection of anonymity to accusers in cases where this tendency is likely to cause them embarrassment or distress . No such protection is available to the accused although the embarrassment and distress caused to them by being falsely accused is surely greater by any relevant measure than that which might befall the accuser. Alex Salmond’s accusers were afforded the protection of a court order prohibiting their identification. They continue to be allowed this anonymity despite their accusations being deemed false – and in certain instances dishonest. Alex Salmond is left to bear the embarrassment and distress of being accused despite being deemed innocent of any offence. This is definitively unfair. But it is an unfairness we are told we must tolerate in the interests of justice.
There is a subjectively determined point at which unfairness shades into injustice. The words are different, but the underlying concept is the same. A person is wronged according to exactly the same principles whether this wrong is labelled unfairness or injustice. The words are, for most purposes, perfectly synonymous. So we have a situation in which we are told we must tolerate injustice so that justice can be served. Which makes no sense whatever outside a mind encased in some ludicrous wig.
An innocent man is condemned to endure his character being forever tarnished in full view of the public while those who gave false testimony against him enjoy the privilege of having their identities protected by the courts. Something is amiss here.
If Alex Salmond has borne remarkably well this and other injustices inflicted on him by the Scottish political establishment and justice system then Craig Murray must be said to have done so superbly. He is unbowed. And if he is embittered by having been subjected to a vindictive and selective prosecution so dubious the UK Supreme Court couldn’t bear to examine it, then he conceals it well.
A decent man was thrown into Saughton prison by powers to which he spoke truths they did not want spoken. A decent man walked out of Saughton on St Andrews Day 2021 bearing all the dignity which those powers sought to rob him of. In Craig Murray’s own words,
It’s been a hard four months. I’ve learned a lot, one thing I have learned is that dignity comes from inside.
Nobody can take away dignity from you if you don’t allow them to do so and those in the Scottish establishment who attempted to humiliate and degrade me only succeeded in humiliating themselves and sadly in bringing shame on Scotland internationally.
This is not the first time Craig Murray has said aloud what other journalists self-censor for reasons of self-interest. I’m sure it won’t be the last. His right to be the voice those other journalists decline to be must be defended. That voice is now to be found all but exclusively in the ‘new media’. Craig Murray’s imprisonment was a message to all journalists who work in the online media. It was an act intended to intimidate those the establishment media refer to dismissively as ‘bloggers’. They are now encouraged to do so by what may come to be known as the Dorrian Decree. (Of which more in subsequent articles.).
I do not regard ‘blogger’ as a pejorative term. On the contrary, it is the label ‘journalist’ that I am reluctant to wear – preferring to be known simply as a ‘writer’. I am aware that that it is increasingly to bloggers that people turn when they want something more than the narrative approved by the ruling elites. It is increasingly to bloggers that people turn when they seek different perspectives and challenging analysis. People look to bloggers for defiance in preference to the pusillanimous compliance of the corporate media. Were it not so, those ruling elites would have seen no need to imprison Craig Murray so unjustly.
I may speak for a significant proportion of those defiant bloggers when I say that we will not be intimidated the establishment’s treatment of Craig Murray. We will be defiant. We will be the voice of dissent that discomfits the powerful. The voice people want to hear. The voice democracy demands be heard. All we ask of the public in return is a little support when it is needed and such respect as may be our due. All we ask of the law is fairness such as is nowhere evident in the case of Craig Murray.
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