Mick Hall argues that there is a clear line from the violence portrayed in the BBC's new serial Gunpowder and actions of the British state today.

A scene in which a Catholic woman is crushed to death.
There has been a brouhaha brewing about the violence in the BBC's new drama Gunpowder. It's critics claim it's unnecessarily portraying the graphic violence of the English state during the reign of James 1st. Written by Ronan Bennett, a man who has himself experienced the injustice and cruelty of the British State, although thankfully not as it's portrayed in Gunpowder.

One critic said:

I had a really strong reaction to seeing a middle aged woman stripped and tortured. And some longer shots of her nudity than were needed.

In my view the drama was all the better for that, as the woman actor portrayed the woman in her nakedness as haughty, proud and contemptuous of her tormentors. She knew what awaited her but in her mind her tormentors could do their worst as she was already in the safety of her god in heaven.  And I for one found it very moving as it showed the power of religion in some peoples lives.

Powerful stuff for sure but titillating and unnecessary violence no. Ronan is highlighting what makes ordinary, mainly young men and women into what are called today by the state, terrorists, and his drama does it in spades.

Going back centuries the British state has used gratuitous violence on it's own citizens/subjects and the peoples it has conquered by the sword and it still does today.

Legality rarely comes into it, and when it does a pliable and class ridden judiciary write tailor made laws to justify it.

Only this week Rory Stewart, a favorite of the liberal media glitterati and international development minister in the Tory government said:

The only way of dealing with most of the British Islamic State fighters in Syria is to kill them. They were absolutely dedicated, as members of the Islamic State, towards the creation of a caliphate. They believe in an extremely hateful doctrine which involves killing themselves, killing others and trying to use violence and brutality to create an eighth-century or seventh-century state. So I’m afraid we have to be serious about the fact these people are a serious danger to us, and unfortunately the only way of dealing with them will be, in almost every case, to kill them.

Even James 1 gave the captured gunpowder plotters a trial of sorts. And at the end of WW2 the worst of the Nazi leadership were put on trial at Nuremberg, but according to Stewart we have no need of such niceties today: we should just murder the Brits who joined Isis.

Never mind since 2003 the British government has time and again said it's engaged in a 'war' on terror, thus the defeated and captured Isis combatants should be either treated as prisoners of war or brought before a court of law for war crimes.

After all if Gunpowder tells us one thing it was not that long ago when those who headed the English state used an extremely hateful doctrine to create a state in their own image, which involved using violence, brutality and killing their own people because of their religion.

A tiny minority of British Muslims joined Isis because they believed their co-religionists were being treated appallingly by the West's coalition forces in places like Iraq. They may have been foolhardy, stupid or maybe some even wicked, but they were not wrong about the UK government's role in the middle east. It has proven disastrous for the people of that region.

Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, rendition, when with the British government's covert approval, one or more of the CIA's secret prisons across the globe were used to torture prisoners, often in the most obscene way.
All three became prime recruiting sergeants for Isis and other Islamic extremist groups.

It's as if the British governments never learn from their mistakes, from Kenya to Malaya, Ireland to north America, India to Burma, Iraq to Afghanistan, etcetera. Whenever the British state uses violence, brutality and killings, in the end they always make a bad situation worse.

Mick Hall blogs @ Organized Rage.

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Anthony McIntyre

Former IRA prisoner, spent 18 years in Long Kesh. Free Speech advocate, writer, historian, humanist, and researcher.

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