Peter Jackson on science and politics


Peter Jackson was a long term contributor to Comment is Free, making his first post on 8 June 2006. Since his obituary appeared in the Guardian yesterday, numerous posters have eulogised about his many and varied contribution, on both CiF and The Untrusted. But many of these posters hold views that are diametrically or obliquely opposed to Peter’s. Over the coming days I will illustrate this with some of what I consider are Peter’s best posts. It will make uncomfortable reading to some of those who now portray him as a political soul mate.

But to start here for me is one of Peter Jackson’s greatest posts on CiF and one so extraordinarily prescient to today’s news and encapsulating so many of the things he believed in and considered to be important.

@rudiroo, LaBufana

Interesting thoughts, thank you.

I think I can say I’ve never felt angry at having the illnesses I have. The body is an incredibly complex self-repairing system with billions of moving parts, and it does incredibly well at protecting itself most of the time. Sometimes major damage occurs that is irreparable, or the defence mechanisms are overwhelmed by superior force, or are suborned to attack rather than defend. There are so many things that can go wrong, and so many routes to partial or complete failure, that it’s pointless to blame the system, or your own behaviour, for bringing them about.

In my own case, a temporary biochemical problem caused mechanical damage during the automatic repair, which then had a knock-on effect on a major biochemical system that finally started to fail, but was so efficient that it masked damage to itself until it was too late and the repair system itself started to collapse and now can’t be fixed. A real ‘for want of a nail’ cascade process, and just one of those things.

So that’s one side of illness, the side comprising causes, symptoms, remedial measures, pharmaceutical doses and their effectiveness. That’s also the side that doctors and specialists concentrate on, because they have a lot of experience of similar cases and the various major ways that they can go. But they also know that the complexity of what they’re dealing with means that every patient is different, and that a lot of tinkering and experiment is required to find the best treatment for each one, and there’s often not a lot of time for that as the illness progresses at a higher speed. So I have no complaints about doctors or their concentration on the disease rather than the ‘whole patient’; that’s the most urgent job, and the one where they have most evidence to go on in working out the first things to try.

The other side of illness is the psychological side, which involves the reaction of the patient and the people around them to the process. The evidence for any psychological impact on disease itself is very fuzzy, and the ‘positive approach’ exhortations to ‘battle’ the illness are often counter-productive. But psychology is a major factor in how people actually feel from day to day, as the same symptoms can produce despair on some days and no more than slight irritation on others.

There are also major feedback loops in the psychology, as patients and those close to them interact. Pity can be corrosive to relationships, as can constant complaining no matter how understanding people think they are. My own feeling, as rudiroo says, is that there are days when hibernation is best and that that should be respected. Friends should also accept that when you say you can’t do something, you actually mean it; people are capable, despite themselves, of being egotistical enough to believe that you are just using illness as an excuse (and, being honest, can anyone here deny that they have sometimes done precisely that?).

This is getting too long. I think the general point is that illness isn’t visited on people, or brought down as a judgment, or caused by your own failings. It’s just a part of life that either happens to individuals or doesn’t. And if it does, then you and people around you will deal with it as they deal with anything else, based on a mixture of their own personalities, the methods they have developed to cope with other events and disappointments, and the understanding they have of their own emotions. So, for example, if you’ve never liked pets then getting a pet is unlikely to make you feel better no matter how much comfort other people may get from them!

Life, after all, is just one damned thing after another. Take it step by step, and don’t impose grand theories on it.

(There’s still a lot more to say. Perhaps I should consider doing a book instead.)

Perhaps in time we’ll know whether Peter got to do anything about that book. It would be good to know that he did.

Life, after all, is just one damned thing after another. Take it step by step, and don’t impose grand theories on it.

And here’s another great writer William Boyd on the same theme:

‘The pleasures of my life here are simple – simple, inexpensive and democratic. A warm hill of Marmande tomatoes on a roadside vendors stall. A cold beer on a pavement café of the Café de France – Marie Therese inside making me a sandwich au Camembert. Munching the knob off a fresh babuette as I wander back from Sainte-Sabine. The farinaceous smell of the white dust raised by a breeze from the driveway. A cuckoo sounding in the perfectly silent woods beyond the meadow. The huge grey, cerise, pink orange and washed out blue of a sunset seen from my rear terrace. The drilling of the cicadas at noon – the soft dialling tone of the crickets as dusk slowly gathers. A good book, a hammock and a cold, beaded bottle of blanc sec. A rough red wine and steak frites. The cool, dark, shuttered silence of my bedroom – and as I go to sleep, the prospect that all this will be available to me again, unchanged, tomorrow.’

and from the same book~:

– ‘That’s all your life amounts to in the end: the aggregate of all the good luck and the bad luck you experience. Everything is explained by that simple formula. Tot it up – look at the respective piles. There’s nothing you can do about it: nobody shares it out,  allocates it to this one or that, it just happens. We must quietly suffer the laws of man’s condition, as Montaigne says.’


Peter Jackson on science and politics

In February 2012 Jacqueline Windh wrote for CiF – Sugar: it’s time to get real and regulate

Peter Jackson referred readers to this piece by Christopher Snowdon on the origins of this story.

An SJWood39 challenged with this –

Not Christopher Snowdon of the Adam Smith Institute? Why bother these chaps wouldnt even bother regulating banks so all your going to get is a lot of ideological slop with little or no nutrional content.

to which Peter responded:

No, the Christopher Snowdon who has written for the Adam Smith Institute as a freelance, having also written three useful books on the perversion of science for political purposes. Are you one of those who avoids opinions other than reflections of your own?

To which MontanaWildhack replied:

Whether he’s freelance or not, he’s a right-wing journalist and I see no reason to think he’s any more reliable than any other journalist with an axe to grind. That blog post you linked to was an immature, hysterical rant, not an informed, factual disputation of the argument against sugar.

Look, I think this article is pretty batshit crazy and they’re going to have to pry my Pepsi out of my cold, dead hand, but that guy that you linked to is just another sneering right-wing asshole.

So Montana presumably accepts that she is “one of those who avoids opinions other than reflections of your own?”

Probably sums her up quite well.

PeterJackson on Rendition

It’s a shame that Mr Stafford Smith, in coming BTL, did not address any issues other than the financing of his cases.

Reading the case again, it seems clearer that the case has been brought here because it is the only possible wedge that can be driven into the undoubted rendition and torture of Mr Madni by Indonesia, the USA, Egypt and (probably) Afghanistan. None of these other countries would pay much attention to legal action, presumably. The only angle is that the plane carrying Mr Madni may have landed for refuelling at a US base on UK crown territory.

Well, fair enough, I suppose. Mr Stafford Smith must make his cases where he can. And he may well tie the UK Government into knots as it tries to protect what it regards as UK interests in the international arena. But the public will wonder exactly why the UK is the only fall guy in this entire process, and what Mr Stafford Smith would hope to be the best possible outcome of the case.

Peter Jackson on Islamophobia

Jonathan, thanks for your reply; it deserves a full response in turn.

First, there could be some nuance to our general agreement that there is a problem for Muslim communities, but we can leave that for now and say that yes, some people do hate Muslims for what they are and believe. Your research can provide some useful information on how widespread that hatred actually is, if you take care over your definitions.

No problem there. But the reason you and others are accused of peddling an Islamist agenda is not just because your backers are Islamists, or that your advisory board has some familiar Islamist names on it. It is because you take the notion of Islamophobia as hatred and expand it to make political points. For you, even calling Al Qaida and Al Muhajiroun ‘bad Muslims’ is questionable, and criticising the Muslim Brotherhood, Jamaat-e-Islami, HizbUtTahrir and other groups is Islamophobic, it seems.

Secondly, it’s true that Andrew Gilligan is never knowingly out-overblown. But attacking his programme as pure Islamophobia that should therefore be ignored also marginalises those Muslim voices in Tower Hamlets who are opposed to the political aims and methods of IFE. I hope that your rather cheap shot about instant media-and-wiki experts isn’t aimed at me; although I have not personally investigated IFE, I have read rather more widely than that.

Third, politically active Muslims are no problem at all. The more the better. But politically active Muslims whose activity is purely Muslim politics, not so good. Particularly when that politics is aligned not with UK parties and local concerns, but with wider international groupings.

Lastly, I don’t think our discussions are getting bogged down. I’m afraid I don’t know your own background in any great detail, Jonathan, but I have followed Dr Lambert’s progress with interest since his strategy of using Islamist groups as a buffer against Al Qaida proved, shall we say, less than ideal. If you stick to empirical research that gives us useful information on just how many people in the UK actively hate Muslims – really, truly hate Muslims as Muslims – then that will heip. Political pronouncements will get you into deeper waters.

One final thing; your last paragraph demonstrates exactly the kind of blurring that I have been talking about. I’d be grateful if you would avoid hints about latent or explicit support for the EDL in anything I’ve posted here.

Peter Jackson on Dictatorship

Pickled Politics on 11th October, 2006 at 8:21 pm

“The roots of my support for the Iraq invasion (such as that support was) goes a lot further back than Gulf War 1. Since I first became politically aware in the early 70s, I had seen dictators propped up, democratic movements crushed, and people enslaved in the name of crude anti-Communism. I had seen evil men like Sukarno, Pinochet, Videla, Assad pere, Saddam and the rest doing whatever they wanted with the support of Governments that supposedly supported opposite principles.

“Finally – I thought – finally, one of these arseholes was going to get what he deserved, and his serfs would have a chance to choose their own escape.

“I’m not especially proud of that feeling now, but I’m also not ashamed of the moral stance which I think I’ve held since the Chile coup. I still want to see the dictators overthrown.”

That was a good, honest post from Peter and one which must come as rather an embarrassment to those who see all intervention by the UN and NATO  as an expression of continued western imperialism and its unquenchable thirst for oil.

Peter Jackson on – The self-righteous left’s simplistic world

Peter responded to RHutton’s post on this thread following Carlo Strenger‘s article:


Far from being ‘ghostly and anonymous’, those making comments suggesting that Americans, Israelis, Jews and the British are fundamentally responsible for attacks on themselves have included (almost off the top of my head): Mary Beard in the London Review of Books; Rosie Boycott; John Pilger; Dario Fo; Robert Fisk; Susan Sontag; Juan Cole; George Galloway, of course; Noam Chomsky, of course; Seumas Milne, many times; and Islamists too numerous to list.

This is far from exhaustive; I’m sure I could find some more examples.

The initial passage you quote from Strenger’s piece seems to me like the simple truth.

And the initial passage of RHutton’s post that was the simple truth:

SLES, (short for Standard Left Explanatory System) when applied to the Middle East, is remarkably simple If Palestinians, Muslims or Arabs say something that isn’t nice (like “It is a religious duty to kill Americans”, or “Israel needs to be wiped off the map”), or do something even less nice (like blowing up the Twin Towers, killing entire families on the first evening of Passover in Netanya, or attacking London’s public transport system) you have a very quick explanation for it: “There is something that the Jews/Americans did that must have hurt him/her terribly. We must try to understand him/her.”

And as a fairly typical example of The Untrusted’s self-righteous left, here’s heyhabib:

SLES? But then again, perhaps you follow the childish rightwing argument perpetuation method, or CRAP, as it is known.


Peter Jackson on Steve Bell

Pride and anger for eight soldiers killed by Taliban in Afghanistan
15 July 2009 11:01PM

Steve Bell is free to draw whatever cartoons he likes, even when – as in this case – they are as simplistic and kneejerk as one of Banksy’s one-joke graffiti efforts.

On the other hand, I am equally free to dislike him just a little more for doing this one.

Which reminded me of an exchange with the Untrusted’s finest starting off with  Meerketjie attacking a post of mine: (posting as klavier4)

I had posted in response to Backtothepoint’s homage to Palestinian suicide bombers:

The intent of the suicide bomber is quite different to that of conventional military personnel, whose first intent is to survive.

To which Meerkatjie  replied:

Are you quite sure of this? Surely if their first intent is to survive, they’d be needlepointing at home? To suggest that the military aren’t trained to kill, and that they do not intend to do so seems a little disingenuous. “I became a soldier, but I didn’t think killing would be involved.”? Nah, come on.

BackToThePoint joined in with this crass question:

But are you saying that suicide bombers in restaurants and buses haven’t wanted to kill soldiers, but solely civilians. That given the choice, they’d have chosen to target non-combatants rather than combatants?

To which klavier4 responded

You display a stubborn insistence on refusing to recognise that the intent of the suicide bomber is quite different to that of conventional military personnel, whose first intent is to survive. And that survival means the possibility of facing international laws that govern military action and having to live with the consequences of their action. That goes for the humble foot soldier and the Commander in Chief. The war in Iraq has provided us with examples of the former and as we watch the outcome of Blair’s appearances before Chilcot, to some extent even the latter.

But no such qualms for the suicide bomber, the logic of whose philosophy is that human life is worthless, whose first intent is kill myself, as without achieving that objective, there is only failure.

Your explanation for refusing to recognise this crucial distinction is what? That you are a passionate admirer of suicide bombers and see them as the only means of advancing the Palestinian cause?

Followed by this piece of erudition from BeautifulBurnout


Strawman alert! Strawman alert!

I don’t recall Meerkatjie saying anything of the kind.

She simply suggested that if the first intent of soldiers was self-preservation, they would have stayed at home to do needlepoint.

To which klavier4 responded

She responded to my claim that in contrast to the suicide bomber, the first intent of conventional military personnel was to survive, with the following statements:

Are you quite sure of this? Surely if their first intent is to survive, they’d be needlepointing at home?


Yes, but your post still bears no relevance to my point – that if their FIRST INTENT was to survive, they’d have stayed at home with their knitting.

Now I think we can all agree that serving soldiers don’t have the option of going home to their knitting or any other hobby whenever they feel their lives might be threatened. And of course it’s an insult to their professionalism to suggest they might. As such Meerkatjie’s comments are both cynical and fatuous.

But maybe you know of British military strategists who advocate a different approach? One perhaps where loss of life of their own men and women is considered unimportant?

Backtothepoint had earlier posted:

Come on! All through history soldiers have volunteered for suicide operations, with about as much chance of surviving as a suicide bomber.

To which kalvier4 challenged:

Sheer utter nonsense – provide us with one example of a conventional military operation that has been planned and executed from this strategic assumption, that all combatants will kill themselves as a means of defeating the enemy.

And nothing came from BTTP

At which point katie60 joined in with this superb post:


The surreal quality of the debate you’re having with Cif’s deluded browbeaters is par for the course on these pages.

The inability of supposedly smart individuals to distinguish between suicide bombers and professional soldiers is just flat-out stupid. The inability to distinguish between the actions and motives of suicide bombers and professional soldiers is flat-out pernicious.

And the combination of pseudo and ignorant comment, laced with the likes of meerkatjie’s ridiculously laboured condescension and backtothepoint’s infantile allegiance to communism, is flat-out blogging fuckwittery.

And later Fencewalker with this:

There’s a rather sizeable difference between soldiers being sent on a mission which will involve heavy casualties, but who can at least hope (however mistakenly) to survive, and whose survival, if they have done their duty, is not considered discreditable, and a suicide bomber going out on a mission where if they survive they have failed.

And later still, this:

Really? I refer you to my previous post. Soldiers are allowed to survive missions; it’s even considered desirable. Soldiers may die in missions, but it does not mean that it’s their first intention. They accept when they join, presumably, that they might be injured or killed in the line of duty, but they won’t assume that it’s going to happen – most will be thinking ‘it’ll never happen to me’. And statistically, they’d be right. Are you seriously suggesting those attitudes are the same as a suicide bomber’s, because by definition, it will happen to him, and to others besides.

To which my conclusion is to question the honesty of these Untrusteds , along with MontanaWildhack in portraying their views as in anyway similar to those of Peter  Jackson’s.

Peter Jackson on the Left and Islam

PeterJackson, 29 January 2010 2:25PM  posting on “Muslims in the UK: beyond the hype”


Thanks for the reminder of that piece – I’d forgotten its risible suggestion that groups like the Muslim Brotherhood front MAB were happily working with feminists and gay groups in the Stop the War Coalition.

That’s turned out well too.

And the piece Damtheal linked to the article – Hamas is not al-Qaida posting among other things:

There is a whole coterie of academics, journalists, far-left agitators and politicians who want to paint the whole Muslim Brotherhood galaxy as fellow anti-imperialists rather than religious totalitarians’

A message the armchair politicals on the Untrusted might like to contemplate, the next time they’re about to praise Islam.

Peter Jackson on Intervention

In February 2012 Russia and China blocked a UN Security Council draft resolution on Syria which would have threatened sanctions on the country if demands to end the spiralling violence were not met. In response the Syrian government stepped up the bombardment of Homs and other cities, recapturing the Homs district of Baba Amr the following month. The UN said that more than 7,500 people had been killed since the offensive began.

On You Tell Us 6 February 2012 2:40PMPeter Jackson wrote this on international intervention and the response of the so called humanitarian left, especially those who inhabit CiF for much of their waking hours:

Ground rules:

1   Don’t intervene if Russia and/or China veto any UN Security Council resolution.
2   Don’t intervene if the Arab League is against it.
3   Don’t intervene if Iran will go apeshit and unleash Hezbollah and Hamas.
4  Don’t intervene if it will cause splits in NATO (vide Turkey).
5   Don’t intervene if the Saudis and the Gulf States don’t like it (depressing but true).
6   Don’t intervene if you’re the only ones who seem to be bothered about murderous oppression and humanitarian responsibility to protect (even more depressing, but still true).
7   Don’t intervene because it will give Seumas Milne the chance to drone on about imperialistic hegemony again, and Simon Jenkins the chance to drone on about how nobody should ever do anything.

That seems to cover it.


I also came across a memorable post from the late PeterJackson concluding:

“The idea of an energy-based Great Game being the reason for the UN’s persistence in Afghanistan seems less likely, believe it or not, than a real reluctance to abandon the Afghani population to a re-imposition of Taliban rule.”


The Guardian has published the obituary of Peter Jackson who posted on CiF from 8 June 2006, which makes him a slightly younger poster than me. Here’s his first ever post – about the competition to find the Biggest Blogger.

Big Blogger: vote or die 8 June 2006 7:03PM

As the system tells me I’ve already voted, I’d like to post one for (sadly) Francis Sedgemore.

At least it’s driven me to register for comments at last.

I’ll put some more here later.


The sheer hypocrisy of RichJames  who clearly has no shame, along with a very short memory.

RichJames 17 October 2012 7:27PM

It is easy to take friends and foes on CiF for granted, and expect them to be there day in day out. It’s only when people are gone that you realise how important they are – and how important it is to be kind and courteous, irrespective of differences.  (my emphasis)

RichJames 29 April 2012 5:24PM

Response to EmmaChisset, 29 April 2012 5:21PM

Personally, I look at it this way: if somebody is creepy and spiteful enough to resemble a notorious cyberstalker, they forfeit the right to whine when they’re mistaken for him.

And not only is Rich James a rank hypocrite, but my extensive search of Peter’s posts revealed only one addressed to him– this one, a gentle reprimand  about the Egyptian elections and the Muslim Brotherhood – manifesto entitled Jihad is the way.

Did you see the link to what seems to be its manifesto for the Egyptian elections?

So on what basis other than self-aggrandisement does RichJames consider himself either a friend or a foe?


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