Reviewed by Sean Badal
Tariq Ali’s latest is a bit of a tirade. It is however a tirade that is gripping from start to finish. It’s a flimsy book (more of a pamphlet really – appropriate somehow as it recalls the great pamphleteers - Swift, Bageshot, Voltaire).
The title comes from Edward Thompson’s Customs in Common - ‘Rough music’ is a seventeenth century English term to denote mockery or hostility against individuals who offended against certain community norms.
It may have been written in haste, following the shooting of the Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell Underground station on July 22nd 2005, but the book provides a trenchant analysis of the pernicious rot that has set in into British politics. It has always been there of course – in the appendix there’s a shocking piece by Gerry Adam who writes (somewhat wryly, thirty-odd years on) of his experience of torture at the hands of the British military). If anything, it reads worse than the accounts by the Iraqi prisoners who were recently tortured.
Ali’s first target is the British media. Most of it is old hat. We all know how the Murdoch press and the “liberal” newspapers swung behind TB in his hour of need. Ali personalises it a bit, writing how Alistair Campbell (TB’s media rottweiler) rang Greg Dyke, the DG of the BBC, after the February 15 demonstration to denounce the BBC for saying that there were a million people out on the streets of London.
Dyke’s written response to Blair was revealing: 'Having faced the biggest ever public demonstration in this country and the biggest ever backbench rebellion against a sitting government... would you not agree that your communications advisers are not best placed to advise whether or not the BBC has got its balance right?'
If there is a man viler than TB in this nasty saga, it’s Campbell. How this pompous, lying twat of a Goebbels-like scumbug ever reached such a position of power in government is a mystery. Despite all the blood on his hands, he’s still out there plying his evil trade, doing his one-man shows around England, and still pontificating when the need arises. If there’s a disgruntled citizen who’s reading this,and happens to be an expert in one of those high-velocity rifles that causes heads to explode on impact, we’d be quite willing to have a whip-around…
Dyke off course lost his job. Funny how all the people who actually stood up to Blair and his motley crew up ended up losing their jobs and/or their lives. Dyke, Andrew Gilligan, David Kelly, Robin Cook (okay, that was a heart-attack but you never know).
Ali has a particularly vitriolic stab at the Guardian – and rightly so. The newspaper cravenly submitted to the will of it Downing Street when the crunch came. As Ali points out, if it weren’t for the Comment pages, there wouldn’t be much to it. Mmm…wonder how long he’s going to keep writing for them then.
On a more poignant note, the book is dedicated to the late, great Paul Foot, a man singularly did much to expose the shenanigans of the rich and the powerful over the years. He’s still vastly missed from the pages of Private Eye.
Pub Date: September 2005
Author: Tariq Ali
** Many thanks to Sean for providing this review - I get to read so little non-fiction these days that it is depressing and hopefully Sean will be contributing more to the blog soon.