RSS

Author Archives: allantmoore

About allantmoore

If you want to know about me in more detail, please look in the 'Who is Allan T Moore' section.

Abusive comment that unwittingly proves one of the points I made regarding conditioning / Fanaticism

I made the conscious decision relating to my recent posts on my resignation from the Labour Party to approve and display all comments that people have made whether positive or negative. Again, for the purposes of being honest and transparent I don’t want to only post positive comments creating an illusion that everybody agrees with me. This has had the added benefit of to an extent validating one of the points that I made; that completely entrenched, tribal voting and not considering any of the underlying context has the danger of enabling or encouraging fanaticism / tribalism.

Take, for example, the following comment that I received (it is on my original post with the open letter to Richard Leonard):

Username: Momentum – September 30, 2018 at 11:21 am

‘Fuck off and join the tartan torries then class traitor. You along with your new sepretist friends will be killed off soon enough.’

 

I would ask who in their right mind that has not been subject, or subjected themselves to conditioning up to the level of Fanaticism would actually make such a ridiculous post? If anybody could genuinely read and understand the detail of what I have written previously and come to the short conclusion that I can be categorised simply as a ‘sepretist‘ (sic – separatist) then they clearly are not capable of taking part in any reasonable discussion on what is a complex issue.

So thank you to anonymous user ‘Momentum‘ for helping me to prove my point. You have been very useful in helping my cause with your abusive comment. Of course if you would like to come out from behind your anonymity and debate like a rational, polite human being should, then further discussion and debate is welcomed.

Advertisements
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 3, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

My Resignation from the Labour Party – A Follow-up and some more detail

I was not expecting to be sitting and writing this follow-up to my open letter of resignation from the Labour Party to Richard Leonard last week, as I had no idea it would be of such interest to so many throughout Scotland. However from the various comments I have received over the past few days, mainly positive, and some negative, especially in light of some questions being raised, I thought that it may be beneficial to expand and clarify on some of the thoughts I had been having for some time.

To go back to the beginning, I have been asked, or indeed by some I have been accused, in terms of why I supported Labour to begin with. To answer this question I would have to go back to my teenage years. Like many I suspect who may not admit it, I watched ‘Spitting Image‘ as a teenager, and this had the very real effect of capturing my interest in politics and in the various figures that operated within it. The caricatured versions of real people made me want to learn more about those people in real life. I grew up with Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister, and could see the negative effects that Conservative politics were having on Scotland throughout our social and economic existence. There was no devolution at that time to give any sort of meaningful voice to Scotland; all we had was the Scottish Office in Whitehall. When John Smith became leader of the Labour party in 1992 at a time I was in High School and very much in my formative years in terms of developing a world view, there seemed to be a real hope and a direction being instilled within the Labour Party, something that had been missing since the 1970s. Then following his sad and early death, there came Tony Blair. Now on reflection many of Blair’s policies and actions can be understood to have been massively flawed, however what is difficult to explain to a lot of people who may not have been politically engaged at that time, particularly during his first term in office from 1997, there was a genuinely positive outlook on both Tony Blair and ‘New’ Labour, particularly in Scotland. A referendum on devolution for Scotland was a Labour party manifesto promise when they came to power that year, and they did indeed follow through in every aspect of that promise, delivering a new Scottish Parliament and Executive (now Government of course). The Labour party’s work related to devolution and the creation of our own administration was a project that took two years of hard work. It was throughout this time and through a combination of my upbringing under a hugely damaging conservative party and the positive steps for Scotland carried out by Labour that I began to support the party.

On the lengths of time discussed within my resignation letter last week then, it should be clear where the ‘over 20 years of support’ comes from. In terms of my own membership to the Labour Party – I would need to log on to my space on the Party’s website to establish the exact year I joined as I cannot recall off of the top of my head (and I don’t think I will be able to do that now having resigned), however it was already over a decade at the time of the Brexit vote, and so I was being extremely conservative with that figure. It may have been thirteen or fourteen years ago. Certainly it was at a time that the Scottish Parliament was still a quite fresh institution and that there was still significant goodwill toward Labour through a large proportion of Scottish Society, even if there were signs of discontent and dissatisfaction in the air.

Here is where I would like to make one thing clear. I am not, and never have been an entrenched voter who blindly agrees with every area of policy that any party may have, whether that party be Labour, SNP, the Liberal Democrats, or the Green Party. I do not believe there is legitimacy or reality in agreeing in such a homogenous manner with everything anybody says – indeed those are hallmarks of a number of negative traits such as conditioning, brainwashing, or even fanaticism. I would class myself as being ideologically driven and context driven. For example, I could never, even vote for the Conservative Party, as their fundamental ideology is completely at odds with my own beliefs on how a society should be constructed. I am a socialist at heart and believe that there should be a redistribution of wealth through a fairer tax system, closing loopholes on tax avoidance for multi-national companies, and looking after the most vulnerable in our society. As such, I could only consider agreeing with, aligning myself with or voting for a party (and the people within it) who broadly share those ideologies. I believe disagreement with specific policies is a good thing and should be encouraged even within a political party in an open, calm, and transparent manner – this avoids any sensationalist headlines on ‘backroom bust-ups’ and the like. I don’t believe in the use of a three-line whip system unless it is a specific manifesto issue that a party ran their election campaign on. In addition, having such reasoned and evidence-based debate would help to ease out any opinions that do not hold water under genuine scrutiny – policies devoid of substance would be reduced significantly. Fundamentally I believe it is okay to disagree, and one should not be placed into political exile just because they disagree with a policy as long as they retain the core values necessary.

It is partly on these last few sentences that I began having frustrations regarding Labour both in Scotland and on the wider UK stage a number of years ago now. As mentioned (some above and some in my resignation letter last week); a refusal to entertain genuine debate within the party, a refusal to accept responsibility for their own downfall in Scotland, a number of areas of policy that simply do not stand up to close scrutiny, abandoning any form of support for Scotland should that differ in any way from UK national policy, and other misguided actions of late. Importantly, there has been no Labour Party leader in the past decade now that has truly stood up for Scotland either in that UK or Scottish specific sense. I believe the last was Jack McConnell who left office in 2007.

Now for my own background and why the EU issue resonates strongly with me. I am in the fortunate position of having gained a deep understanding of all aspects of EU (and indeed other international political organisations) policy, political institutions, and laws. This is due to having initially taken Advanced EU law as part of my undergraduate legal studies, and then on moving on to become a university lecturer being given ownership of all EU studies on the former degree programme I lectured on from 2007-2014. As such I was engaged with both teaching and research multiple aspects of the EU for a significant period of time during that timeframe in particular. From 2014 to date, I took a sideways step into the field of criminal justice, where I currently sit as programme leader for the Criminal Justice degree at UWS. On that degree I also lead the provision on both Comparative law and justice, and for Victimology and Victimisation – both of which contain numerous aspects of international law and policy. Indeed from a quality perspective I act as an external examiner (for those not familiar with academia – every university has a number of external contracted individuals to act as a sort of ‘quality control’ mechanism for their own degrees and assessments) for two postgraduate international law Masters programmes in England. I say I am fortunate to have gained such knowledge as I don’t consider making these claims as some sort of arrogance or as anything of superiority. Were it not for my own education and career, there is a good chance I would never have had the opportunity to acquire such an amount of experience of these areas in the manner that I have. I think of myself as extremely fortunate to be in the position that I am.

With all of the issues discussed here then, it should hopefully be fairly clear to readers as to why I feel as passionately as I do about retaining EU Membership, as I argue such from a position of education and experience in the issues involved. So when I see that there is a very real and present danger to our Status as members of the EU such as with Brexit, I am keen to explore all avenues open to potentially retaining or reacquiring that Membership. At present, the only way I can feasibly see this happening is through an independent Scotland making its own application to join, unless something remarkable in the sense of an about turn on Brexit happens at Westminster. As such, I cannot accept kneejerk responses such as those from both Kezia Dugdale in 2016 and Richard Leonard just two short weeks ago in automatically discounting independence without an evidence base to back up such an adopted position of certainty. This is simply playing politics with our country’s future and the future of our children. In 2016 and in the aftermath of the EU referendum, I emailed Kezia directly and implored her to not adopt such a stance and to at least commission an economic report on the implications of all sides of the issue; what would be the impact of remaining in the UK and out of the EU, what would be the impact of Scotland being independent and in the EU, or indeed what would be the impact of Scotland becoming independent and not part of the EU (which is a different scenario to what was envisaged in 2014 when a large part of the argument for staying in the Union was retained EU Membership). I emphasised that surely only once such an evidence base of the various impacts was gathered should she and the Labour Party adopt a formal stance. I would love for somebody to truly provide a rational argument to say that this approach should not have been followed, however I am yet to hear such an argument being presented, especially considering that Kezia did not have the courtesy to reply to my email.

On the other hand, I emailed Nicola Sturgeon at the same time, outlining that I was deeply concerned with what had happened with the Brexit vote, that I was aware of the Standing Council on Europe that was being formed to tackle the important issues that leaving the EU would require analysis of and associated action taken, and explaining that although I was not as high profile as some of those selected to be on that Council, I had significant experience of all of the issues within the Council’s remit and would be available to assist in any way that I could. I outlined to be clear that I was at that time a Labour Party member but that I believed the issue was bigger than that of Party Politics and would happily put any of those issues aside for the good of the country. Unlike the lack of response from Kezia Dugdale, a couple of weeks later I received not just a cursory acknowledgement and thanks for interest, but a detailed personal letter in response that (without breaching any confidentiality so sticking to generalities) directly referenced my specific offer of help, outlined the approaches planned by the Standing Council, outlined the Government’s general objectives relating to that remit, and returning to my offer of assistance assured me that it had been read in detail and may be taken up if the Standing Council were to explore areas that fell under my particular areas of expertise as well as for other potential future opportunities.

To emphasise and be concise. I received no reply from the party leader of the party to which I had been a member for over a decade relating to one of the two most major issues to face Scotland in the past forty-plus years. Yet I received a clear and detailed response from the leader of the ‘opposition’. To say I was disillusioned would be an understatement. So little did the Labour Party care about actually gathering evidence from those with knowledge and experience of key issues of national importance, in favour of pure opposition for the sake of opposition. It was (is) an obsession, and not a healthy one, perhaps more akin to a disease that has ravaged the Party of any true meaning and direction. In truth, though its own actions and not those of anybody else, the Labour Party is effectively dead in Scotland – further evidence of the disease analogy.

Moving forward to 2018, and as disillusioned as I had been, I had been clinging to hope that somehow Labour might somehow recognise their own failings, even admit that they had got a number of things wrong in Scotland in particular as the indisputable evidence of their own decline here continues. I had lingering hope that there might be a return to those roots of fighting for the people and realising that the Scottish context is different to the UK one and that different political approaches may be necessary. Instead, not only with Richard Leonard a fortnight ago did we receive yet another backward step, but one that has the potential to be even more damaging to Scotland than Kezia’s statements in 2016. I was astonished to read and hear Leonard’s intention not only to oppose a second Scottish independence referendum, but to actually have this included within the UK Labour Party Manifesto. Yet again with no evidence base, and yet again with no real substantive rationale beyond opposition for the sake of opposition. It was a step too far, a straw that broke a camel’s back, and one that to be honest I am glad in a way has happened, as it gave me that push to write the resignation letter that has been read as of the time of writing this follow-up over 15,000 times in the space of less than 72 hours.

I do not intend to immediately jump to total allegiance of another political party, as my experiences of Labour have left me with a horrible taste in my mouth of the realities of direct association. Instead I will do what I have set out earlier and what is in my nature – take a step back, a deep breath, and fully evaluate the context we currently find ourselves in. Once I have done this and feel comfortable in the direction of travel I truly believe we as a country should move in, I will make my honest feelings known, just as I have done over the course of the past week.

 

I thank you all for reading and the hundreds of comments I have received – most have been positive, some have been negative, but they all add to the conversation on the future of our nation which is good – and anything I might have said or done that has encouraged such a conversation I am happy about. I don’t expect everybody to agree with me – many may disagree – such is the nature of human experience and free thought, and that is absolutely fine. All I would ask is that comments are kept civil in nature and tone. Thank you all once again.  

 
3 Comments

Posted by on October 1, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

My resignation from the Labour Party – An Open Letter

Dear Richard Leonard,

You can accept this letter as my formal resignation from membership of the Labour Party. And you may not like to hear that you are the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Having been a Labour supporter for over 20 years, and member for over a decade, I have seen the party, particularly in Scotland, lose its identity, purpose, and relevance as it has moved toward becoming a party of sound byte policies, and pure opposition, devoid of any substance or reasoned opinion.

In the wake of the Brexit vote two years ago, I simultaneously sent formal communication to both Kezia Dugdale and Nicola Sturgeon. To Kezia I was imploring her not to play politics and not to immediately discount a future Scottish independence referendum without first taking stock and commissioning an evidence based economic report on the whole set of circumstances and likely costs and benefits to all potential outcomes. In other words, not to jump to a non evidence based position that could not be reasonably substantiated.

At the same time, in my email to Nicola Sturgeon I emphasised that I was not an SNP supporter, rather I was a Labour Party member, but that I was (I am) an expert on EU law and other aspects of international law, and that if required for any analysis in the aftermath of the Brexit result I would be willing to put party politics aside for the good of the country’s future.

The result of both of those emails? I received a timely and personally written response from Nicola Sturgeon, acknowledging my offer and outlining potential approaches that may have been taken. And from Kezia? No response at all and the actions that I suspected i.e. a kneejerk response to discounting a second independence referendum with no evidence base whatsoever.

I considered resigning from the party at that point, but convinced myself that things might improve. Sadly however, things have continued to go from bad to worse for the party I once loved, and your recent announcement of seeking to block another independence referendum by inserting it into the next manifesto is a step too far. Yet again, neither you nor the party (as far as I know) has conducted any real economic or social research that backs up the approach of automatically discounting such a referendum, and the only logical conclusion I can come to is that this is yet another cynical (and yet again horrendously misjudged) exercise in opposition for opposition’s sake.

Let me be clear. I did not vote for independence in 2014, but the circumstances HAVE changed. I’m afraid this is a point that cannot be rebutted, as there is no valid argument to the contrary. One of the main crucial arguments in 2014 was that remaining in the UK was the only way to definitely protect EU membership. And at the time that was absolutely correct. However that is no longer the case. Instead the only likely way for future EU membership for Scotland would be as an independent country, unless there is an almighty Westminster u-turn and somehow the UK does not depart the EU in 2019 as currently proposed. As such, and yet again, any hard decision to discount Scottish independence as of now without awaiting the eventual result of the Brexit process is indisputably premature. It is not something I will support (and nor should any reasonable individual who is not entrenched in rhetoric).

Sadly, these issues are so crucial that I cannot be party to, or complicit with their eventual outcome. Through your poorly judged approach to this issue, you have lost a formerly dedicated party member. My direct debit to the party will be cancelled with immediate effect.

Yours Sincerely,

Dr Allan T. Moore

Lecturer in Law and Criminology, UWS

External Examiner in Law, Glasgow Caledonian University

External Examiner in International Law and International Human Rights Law, De Montfort University

 
16 Comments

Posted by on September 23, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

Update – April 2018

Yet again there has been a lengthy amount of time since I have managed to post to this blog. With an exceptionally busy work and family life at present, finding additional time is not always easy!

As a general update, I was appointed Programme Leader for the Criminal Justice Programme at UWS in 2017, as well as taking on further responsibilities relating to the School of Media, Culture & Society international strategy as a lead on our strategy for Africa. I have also been taking part in an extremely high research workload with commitments in the UK, Rwanda, and Kenya. Whilst incredibly rewarding from a number of perspectives, the reality is that all of this has resulted in a very overloaded average working week – one of the perils of academia!

Back to the family side of things, my wife and I were delighted that a second son came along (Daniel) in February 2018.

I will return to blog again when possible.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 7, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

Comment on Britain leaving the European Union

I know that I have not updated my blog in quite some time – this past year has been by far the busiest of my life professionally, especially whilst going through the PhD thesis completion process (I am currently undertaking corrections to my thesis which will be submitted in a matter of weeks), leaving little time for additional writing such as on this blog. This is something I hope will be eased over the coming year allowing me some time to devote to it.

I could write a very large blog on the subject of this morning’s decision in the EU referendum to leave the EU, however I am already considering ways to edit an already drafted article to include discussion of this, so will leave the majority of what I could say for then.

I do want to go on record to say, however, that having taught different aspects of EU law, constitutional law, and other aspects of international law since 2007 (as well as acting as external examiner for these subjects at more than one other UK University during the past five years), I was distraught at the manner in which both the leave and remain campaign were conducted. No real factual information beyond the most basic was communicated, and each side relied on little more than who could scare the population the most into voting the way they wanted.

From a workers’ and more general human rights perspective, the so called brexit is nothing short of a disaster. The perception of many is that the EU ‘dictated’ laws to the UK – nothing could be further from the truth. The UK for decades, more specifically since the progression from EC to EU in the Maastricht Treaty, and again since the development of the current EU framework with the Treaty of Lisbon, has been fully involved in all major legislative programmes at EU Commission, Parliament, and Council level. The ordinary legislative process of the EU is also actually much more democratic than the mass media, and those with an agenda would have you believe; for example, most people do not realise that the entire Commission is accountable to the EU Parliament (the directly elected EU Institution), and this is not only a theoretical power – in 1999 the Santer led Commission was effectively forced to resign en mass; jumping before they were pushed by the Parliament. The only Commissioner that refused to resign, Édith Cresson, was taken to court in Case C-432/04 (Commission of the European Communities versus Édith Cresson), and judged to have been in breach of her obligations as a Commissioner.

The majority of EU laws from a rights perspective have been, are, and will continue to be to give a level of protection to EU Citizens; a set of minimum standards and protections that all Citizens can expect regardless of whether they are in Italy, Poland, Greece, or the UK.

These rights could be in the areas of employment and labour laws (an area I used to teach, and was still involved in external examining for until 2015, so am still very up to date with my knowledge of), or from my current professional interests’ perspective in the area of justice.

For example, one area that I did not see mentioned a single time during the EU debate was that the Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Act 2014, a piece of legislation that gives legally binding rights to victims of crime including the right for a victim to require that a decision not to prosecute an alleged offender is reviewed by the COPFS, and also gives legal recognition to the relatives of a deceased victim to be classed as victims in their own right, as well as numerous other positive legal rights, stems directly from the Directive establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime [Directive 2012/29/EU ]. The Scottish 2014 Act was created purely to comply with our EU obligation to improve legal rights and safeguards for victims of crime; prior to this the majority of policies relating to victims’ ‘rights’ were not legally enforceable and open to alteration at any stage by our domestic legislature. Without EU protection, this important legislation could be amended or abolished at any time – and to be clear I am not saying it will be – but the safeguard in place through the EU was one that ensured any changes to victims’ rights would have to be agreed by the other Member States of the EU, and as such any reduction in rights would be incredibly unlikely. Sadly, the citizens of the UK and Scotland will in the near future no longer benefit from this safeguarded position.

Again, I do not have a lot of time right now to devote to a more full blog on this issue, but wanted to at least leave something that shows my feelings on the matter. The next question to be answered is whether or not in light of the massive division in the ideology relating to this subject between Scotland and England (for any international readers – Scotland voted 62% to 38% in favour of staying in the EU, and with all constituencies without exception voting to remain, hence complete unanimity), there will be a real push for a further Scottish independence referendum and subsequent application to Join the EU as a Member State in its own right. Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has already discussed briefly that this is ‘on the table’, but the detail remains to be seen.

Hopefully I will manage to find the time to update again in the near future.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 24, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

General Update / PhD Thesis Submitted

There has been somewhat of a lengthy gap since I last posted anything here, mainly due to the last few months being the busiest I have ever had in some eight years at UWS. Since my last post I have been working in Rwanda, London, Aberdeen, Tilburg, the Hague, and will be travelling back to Rwanda in four weeks time. Lecturing, and in particular marking during the February – June semester was also significantly busier than had been predicted at the start of the year, leaving me little time for additional activities such as writing here.

Then came the summer and although I have taken a significant amount of annual leave, in reality I have only had one (yes one) week off since June, with the rest of annual leave having been taken in order to completely ignore all other work matters and concentrate on nothing else other than completing my PhD thesis (on the subject of contempt of court in facie curiae, courtroom environment, courtroom behaviour, Human Rights law, comparative law, and other linked areas). And so, for three weeks of annual leave taken I was in reality physically in my office with the door locked simply working in private. I am delighted to say that I successfully completed my thesis and submitted it just before the end of August. This should now be in the process of being sent to examiners to consider prior to a viva examination hopefully sometime around November.

Trying to complete a PhD whilst working full time has been the hardest thing I have ever had to do in a working sense, especially so with the exceptionally limited time that one is able to devote to it in reality during any of the teaching semesters. I would never say to anybody not to embark on this same endeavour, however I would make it absolutely clear that it will eat into your personal time significantly, it will require significant dedication and self-motivation, and it will in all likelihood leave you both physically and mentally exhausted at points. BUT – once it is all over, even in advance of any sort of result or feedback, it will feel worth it when you have a final bound thesis, effectively a finished book, in your hands, knowing that it was something that you created (albeit with some assistance) all by yourself.

Of course, whatever the result, good or bad, I will post here with an update in due course once the thesis has been examined and viva taken place.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 8, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Nether – Review – Duke of York’s Theatre – London

Warning – This review contains discussion around very sensitive subject matter of an adult nature.

The second show that I saw whilst working in London recently was one that I had not heard about prior to my visit, however on discovering the nature of the production it was one that I decided I had to see, as the subject matter is not one you would usually see so openly discussed in a west end theatre. The show is called ‘The Nether’, and what I have to start this review by saying is WOW! This was a phenomenally realised and balanced production that stayed away from a lot of the ‘mob’ mentality that traditionally follows around any mention of the core theme. Instead opting to examine many themes from a number of adult, genuinely debatable perspectives.

So what was the core subject? Paedophilia and the internet. Yes, you read that correctly.

IMG_20150221_154220

The Nether is set in a somewhat dystopian 2050 (not exactly light-years into the future), where the internet has continued to develop and advance at a frightening rate. Rather than logging in to the internet as we do now through a computer and search engine, in the 2050 created by writer Jennifer Haley and director Jeremy Herrin ‘we’ log on by placing our hand on a terminal and uploading our entire consciousness into an infinite number of ‘realms’ (virtual websites). Throughout the play, the real world is referred to as the ‘outer world’ and the internet as the ‘inner world’. Society is supposed to have developed to the extent that it is only the elite who can still have their children educated in the real world, with the majority being educated via virtual realms. When you think about it, the entirety of this future society is not that far fetched. Think about just how far the internet has developed in the past 20 years. In 1995 I knew of very few people who had any sort of internet access, search engines were in their infancy, websites were extremely crude and functional, and any actual engagement within a website (such as comments or interactivity) was highly unusual. Fast forward to 2015 where the internet is everywhere. Computers, mobile phones, televisions, in the classroom, and the vast majority fully interactive. So fast forward not just another 20 years, but nearly double that to 35 years and imagine where the internet could be if the rate of change continues.

The play starts with a man in his 50’s named ‘Sims’ (played by Stanley Townsend) in a room with a female agent; Morris (Amanda Hale). It is not immediately apparent either what sort of agency Morris represents, or indeed what Sims is being detained for. All that is revealed is that the agent is looking for information on the ‘Nether’ (future term for the internet) activity of Sims, but that she cannot get the evidence necessary unless Sims logs on, something that he has no intention of doing. Slowly relevant information is drip fed to the audience leading to the realisation that the agency is a recently developed criminal justice agency that was set up specifically in reaction to the advances in programming on the Nether. Until recently, although ‘virtual reality’, it was still quite clear to those ‘online’ that they were not in the real world; however Sims is a master programmer and has created a realm that is indecipherable from reality. Every sense is covered – touch, smell, taste, sight, sound. It is here that the moral and legal debate begins over the notion of ‘thought crime’, and whether virtual crimes carried out online could be treated in the same way as crimes on the outside. Previously, various crimes such as paedophilia would have been treated differently when online than in reality. Anybody viewing child pornography on the internet / the nether would only have been convicted of various publication type offences, the question here is whether due to advances in sensation effectively making ‘full contact’ possible, whether or not such actions in the nether could be treated the same way as similar crimes in the ‘real’ world.

wpid-img_20150222_152431.jpg

In order to test the sensation theory, the agency has sent an undercover agent to infiltrate Sims’ realm – which we have discovered is a hideaway for paedophiles who can go there, indulge in their fantasies, and even kill the virtual child, Iris (played in the show that I saw by Zoe Brough aged approximately 11, though through the run is played by four different girls – as well as Zoe Brough there is also Jaime Adler, Perdie Hibbins and Isabella Pappas)) with an axe at the end. The various questions raised (and debated in the holding cell / interview room between Sims and Morris) include the full sensation debate, whether or not the realm is actually a public service by allowing those with paedophilia tendencies to indulge in their fantasies and therefore prevent them from doing so in the ‘real’ world, whether or not there is a link between online activities and real world actions, and whether or not it is a crime if Iris is not even a real little girl, merely the image of one. Whether or not Iris feels real emotions and pain (when being murdered) is another area for discussion and debate. The form of the play is that the foreground is the interview room, and at various points the scene cuts away to the background which has been set up (in an incredibly intricate and ingenious way) as the virtual realm on the nether. In one of these cut scenes, the undercover agent directly asks Iris ‘do you feel pain?’ and ‘she’ interestingly answers ‘only as much as I want to’.

Bearing in mind the subject matter, it can be really quite uncomfortable viewing at times given the presence within the production of a young girl, especially in certain scenes where she (as supposedly programmed to do) has to allure the client into wanting to have sex with her. One scene in particular is difficult when in front of the client she ‘seductively’ removes her pinafore (with other undergarments still protecting her modesty thankfully) before the scene cuts back to the interview room. BUT – I have to stress that ALL scenes such as this are for a purpose, and each raise a huge number of questions all of which add to the overall production. There is absolutely nothing that could be called either obscene or ‘crossing the line’.

wpid-img_20150222_152523.jpg

Going back to the idea that the audience is drip fed information a bit at a time – you may think that you have a fixed opinion on all of the raised questions thus far, but there is more that is thrown into the mix. We progressively see more of Morris interviewing a second man, Doyle (David Calder), who we are initially led to believe may be one of the clients at the realm created by Sims, as he openly admits to his paedophilia fantasies. We also see more of the undercover agent, Woodnut (Ivanno Jeremiah) with flashbacks to his operation. In particular we see Woodnut starting off with a very professional outlook related to his investigation, but becoming more and more sucked in to the realm, eventually admitting that he has fallen in love with Iris.

Yet all is not as it seems. The twist comes when we discover that when a person logs on to the nether, they can appear within a realm with any appearance that they choose. We find out that Sims has in fact had a number of young girls before Iris, and that they were all given the same appearance by him. It transpires that she was made in the image of a previous neighbour’s daughter that he managed to prevent himself from abusing in the real world and has since been ravaged by guilt over the real life encounter that he halted before it progressed. It further is eventually revealed that there was no undercover agent – Mr Woodnut never existed; it was Morris herself uploaded in male form carrying out the investigation herself, and it is clear that she too feels numb with guilt at what she has done and how she has fallen. The final major twist is that Iris is not simply a virtual girl, but that rather than being a client of Sims, Doyle (a 65 year old man) had actually uploaded himself as Iris, a supposedly 8 year old girl. So of course this then raises the question of whether or not it can truly be classed as sexual activity with a child if in reality the activity is actually with a 65 year old man who simply looks like an 8 year old girl. Through all of this, Sims, who deeply cared for Iris, was completely unaware of ‘her’ true identity as Doyle, and the further question was raised over whether he could accept Iris for who ‘she really was’.

IMG_20150221_154425

There were some further details in the production, this summary by no means covers everything, but gives you the main points. Again – are the actions truly ‘criminal’ given the lack of ability to distinguish between real and virtual, are these realms helping prevent crime or enabling it, are there links between virtual lives and real ones, the corruption of previously ‘normal’ people after getting involved in the activities under investigation, as well as various other issues linked to identity and the context in which crimes take place.

The acting was absolutely superb from all in question, especially with the range of emotions required to be both displayed through performance and conveyed to the audience. These are not easy subject matters to try to garner sympathy or empathy for the ‘offenders’, and yet at times it was something they were successful in achieving.

I want to return to the ‘uncomfortable’ nature of some of the scenes that I mentioned previously just to mention that yes, it may have been uncomfortable at times, but this was a GOOD uncomfortable, as the reason for discomfort was that you were being forced to question or think about issues that our current society has always portrayed as being very black or white; made to consider things that you might not voluntarily consider if not faced by the issues so directly. The acting, writing, production and direction was brave, challenging, contemporary, and overall a breath of fresh air – totally outwith the normal comfort zone of a standard west end production (of which I have seen a great many to use as comparison over the past few years whilst working in London).

This is a production that deserves to win awards. It is that simple. It should be noticed and if there is any justice then it WILL be noticed. If it is not, then I can only surmise that it is because the various awards short-listers are fearful of any potential controversy due to the subject matter.

This is an absolute 5 star production – in truth I would give it more.

IMG_20150221_154318

Production photos from the official programme here are (C) Johan Persson, others including those of the theatre exterior were taken by me.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on February 22, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,