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Dog Days

The dog days of August are fast approaching, a time when the mind turns to whimsical thoughts to take to the beach.

One that I nurture is that many of the figures who dominate our televisions screens and newspapers will magically vanish without trace, at least for the month, if not forever.  A month will do for now.

For bringing misery to millions of their own people, not to mention the threat of medieval retribution to countless millions around the world, I start with the following: Al-Qaeda, Taliban, Hamas, Boko Haram, ISIS, Al-Shabaab.  I’ve named organisations rather than individuals, because terrorist groups endure even after their leaders have died or disappeared.  I think I’ve spelt them correctly.  Some of them sound like pop groups.  The message is mad, the messengers are murderous, but there is no answer to them, military, diplomatic or intellectual.  If anyone has a genie in a bottle, it’s time to summon it.       

For demeaning all of us who live in a society we desperately want to think of as civilized and caring:  Jimmy Saville, Rolf Harris and Cyril Smith.  There are many other star paedophiles waiting in the wings – some will soon be striding out onto the stage – but the three I’ve mentioned are those whose names will endure beyond their own sordid lifetimes as dismal icons of their time.  How they got away with their crimes for so long great minds are now examining.  The rest of us, meanwhile, feel a little grubbier for having had to share this island with them.

For contributing so tragically to the long slow descent of football as an agreeable national pastime: Hillsborough.  I’ve no idea what went on in that Sheffield stadium on the fateful day but nor, apparently, do the authorities.  I think there’s yet another official enquiry under way.  The police get most of the blame for the mayhem on the terraces, and the deaths that resulted, but many of us suspect that other, more anarchic forces were at work as well.  Sadly, we shall never know, however many enquiries look into it.  But still the story won’t go away.  Who is conning whom?

For attempting to break up the most successful nation-state in modern history: Alex Salmond.  He may be wily, as his admirers claim, but I think he’s just oily.  He’s the doorstep salesman who doesn’t exactly tell you lies about his product, but doesn’t quite get around to telling the truth either.  He’ll whip the drug-riddled layabouts in Glasgow into a frenzy of hate-filled patriotism, of course, and perhaps gather to the saltire an assortment of tartan-clad romantics and ambitious young politicos, but the mass of sensible Scots will tell him where to get off.  Or so we hope.  Some are beyond caring, which is even sadder.  Right now I fall between the two stools.  

For services rendered in the dubious causes of corruption, self-righteousness and immunity from blame: Sepp Blatter, president of FIFA.  He, like Hillsborough, will always be with us.  If he confessed to murdering his wife and children with an axe he would still be re-elected to his job.  Those committeemen at FIFA know which side their bread is buttered: on both sides.  The success of the World Cup in Brazil, which many predicted would be a disaster, makes him a virtual shoo-in – which means he’s going to be around for another seven years.

For constantly showing up at parties to which he’s not been invited: former Prime Minister Tony Blair.  Not content with disgusting us with the obscene fortunes he’s made from speaking engagements and property deals, he reminds us at every opportunity how right he and Bush were to invade Iraq, even as that country descends into bloody and incomprehensible anarchy.  He’ll always be with us, too, touting his faith and his wealth, as if the latter were a natural adjunct of the former.

For offences against taste, or morality, or just for being annoying, a sundry multitude of celebrities, or ‘slebs’ as we now call them: Pippa Middleton; Rihanna; Beyonce; Jennifer Lopez; Lady Gaga; Kate Moss; Gwyneth Paltrow; Luis Suarez; David and Victoria Beckham; Kevin Pietersen; Oscar Pistorius; Ed Miliband; Nigel Farage; John Bercow and wife; the Daily Mail; Game of Thrones.

The list is far from complete but that will do for a start.  By the time I’ve packed my bucket and spade, I’ll probably have a few more names to add – maybe hundreds.

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