Theatre in Wales

Commentary and extended critical writing on theatre, dance and performance in Wales

Glorifying Terrorism legislation and the threat to

PRESS STATEMENT BY DIC EDWARDS, LIBRETTIST OF Manifest Destiny

PRESS STATEMENT BY DIC EDWARDS, LIBRETTIST OF Manifest Destiny, CONCERNING THE NEW GLORIFICATION OF TERRORISM LEGISLATION AND THE THREAT POSED TO WRITERS, DELIVERED AT A PRESS CONFERENCE IN PARLIAMENT STREET, LONDON ORGANISED BY STOP THE WAR COALITION ON MARCH 30TH 2006

Because the term terrorism has tendentious appeal it cannot be defined and because you canít define it you cannot say what is and what is not glorification of it. Terrorism and terrorist are not terms of enlightenment. They donít describe they condemn. They are the terms of witch hunts. Their use is intended to shut down discussion rather than open it up. They are not terms that can be universally applied. For me, the massacre of Palestinian refugees by the Christian militia in the Sabra and Shatila camps in South Lebanon Ė an act sanctioned by Prime Minister Sharon when he was Israeli overlord there, was clearly an act of terrorism. But was George Washington a terrorist, fighting the oppression of the British (the legal government)? I donít think he was. For Blairís government, one the other hand, he may have been; is then the celebration of Independence Day the glorification of terrorism?

Blair reminds one of Harry Truman. Harry Truman was the Vice-President who came to power when Roosevelt died in office. Truman was a small man who was made big by history. Blair is a small man who will manipulate history to make himself look big. He begins by denying history as though he believed history begins with his premiership. In this way he doesnít have to concede that there are causes. Causes of what they call terrorism. An analysis of history will show that oppression causes what they call terrorism.
We know this law is unnecessary if its purpose is to stop people from inciting hatred and conflict Ė we already have laws for that. No, this law is designed to deflect attention from an analysis of those causes which have created it. In particular, the invasion of Iraq. The way you deflect is to stop discussion of the causes. But, significantly, discussion of the causes is likely to create a situation where through their work writers construct an analysis of history that shows, for example, that the oppression imposed by regimes like successive post-war America ones (Vietnam, Chile, Central America etc), and the regimes of Israel in the case of Palestine, create what they would call terrorism, and that a dramatic presentation of the oppressed Ė including their freedom fighters Ė as heroic, could lead to a charge of glorifying terrorism. But the ability to analyse history in this way is a vital tool of the creative artist.

Conveniently, as the parties all shift to the centre, significant opposition is severely compromised. Shelley said that the writers were the unacknowledged legislators. Certainly our aesthetic impulse demands that we search for the truth. In this case Shelley might argue that we have a duty to address the democratic deficit. Itís that democratic deficit which is the breeding ground of laws like this one. And so, as writers searching for aesthetic truths amongst historical causes we will come into conflict with it. You could say, we have a responsibility as writers to legislate for truth. All situations have historical causes. Part of our duty as writers is to analyse those causes and, in our case, to dramatise them. This will involve the theatricalising of certain uncomfortable truths. This legislation could be used to make that an offence.

And even if this law wasnít a direct threat to writers, it will affect their work indirectly because those who run our subsidised institutions will be afraid to produce anything that they feel might fall foul of a law whose real purpose is to create a climate of fear, repression and self-censorship.

This law will become a fundamental part of that ever deepening conspiracy against history. As language is defined by our understanding of history and its causes and as we cannot as writers do anything other than defend language we become vulnerable. Nevertheless, words like freedom, democracy, terror Ė have all been devalued or manipulated to the point of being meaningless; itís up to writers to reclaim language and to refuse to concede one inch to acts of what I call cultural terrorism.



author:Dic Edwards

original source:
31 March 2006

 

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