Tuesday 15 November 2011


Suppose that, back in 1948, you had to tell someone involved in the London Olympics that, the next time our capital city hosted the Games - comfortably within a lifetime - surface-to-air missiles would be deployed in the interest of Olympic security. If you managed to convince them that this was true (and it would be hard), they would surely conclude that, in the intervening 64 years, the Olympics in particular and the world in general had gone stark, staring mad. And they would be right.


  1. I was part-way through a smile and a nod in agreement, Nige, when a voice said "Hold on, those who were adult and alive in 1948 had witnessed the rise of Hitler and had experienced or read about or viewed the horrors of six years of war: the Holocaust,the Blitz, the war at sea, the carnage in the East, the mind-numbing atrocities committed by Stalin, the Battle for Berlin, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Would they have been surprised at anything that was predicted of man's future activities?"

  2. Im with John on this one - even though i'm a youngster I certainly recall growing up surrounded by the fetishisation of military hardware as a part of the hangover of WWII and the cold war (big jets, bombs, guns tanks etc)Which I think was much stronger then than it is now. And after having V1's and V2's used on them 3 years before, I would think londoners would be quite accepting of the use of missiles to protect themselves from foe.

  3. Yes but the point is that the Olympics only needs this degree of security because it's grown into a monstrous mega-event attended by all the world's heads of state and grands fromages of every description. Compare and contrast the 1948 Games, where I imagine Security consisted of half a dozen bobbies. But then those Games were a sporting contest, unlike the corrupt commercial horror show about to be inflicted on London.

  4. I agree with them other two.

    What's more, in 1948 there's half of Europe emerging from the war only to be submerged by one of the most dangerous and vicious (not to say, stark, staring mad) regimes the world has ever seen.

    Then there's the truly disturbing madness of Berlin in '36, the massacre at Munich in '72 as well as all the various boycotts. Knowing Korea, Seoul must have had its special craziness - how many missiles were being pointed around there and thereabouts? And wasn't LA bonkers? And the Coke games?

    The Limpicks are a strange, distorted spectacle and seem to have been for an awful long time - and more egregiously. There does seem to be less real harm in the world around them though (fingers crossed).

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  6. Not so sure. I take Nige's point to be about the Olympics, not about National Defence in general. Surely our hardened, battle-weary citizens from 1948 would find all this passing strange in an era of general defence cuts.

  7. Skipper, I would if I could trust his figures, but they appear to be severely lacking in credibility: cf. http://bedejournal.blogspot.com/2011/11/steven-pinker-and-an-lushan-revolt.html and others.

  8. IMHO, Pinker does an outstanding job of hedging his bets on the data, to the extent that the numbers he does use are far more likely to be conservative than excessive.

    But even if we decide his numbers on the Lushan revolt are complete bunk, there is so much there that quite clearly isn't that his overall argument remains completely intact.

    What is most astonishing to me is how many different threads of evidence he pulls together. (I am halfway through the book.)

    Since the Enlightenment, and particularly over the last 50 years, there has been a huge reduction in violence across the board, a phenomena to which we are largely blind due to historical myopia.

    But it is there nonetheless.

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