Plebgate is a scandal that began with a politician (Andrew Mitchell) swearing at a police officer and having to resign. It then turned into the police investigating the honesty and integrity of its own officers (“plodgate”). On Wednesday (23/10/13), the Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) showed that there is more confusion between fact and fiction in this story than in a good Dan Brown novel. For example:
- Three Chief Constables apologised for their officers’ actions – but the officers refused to do so.
- The officers claimed they had been accurate, but most others agreed they had misled.
- The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), Senior Investigating Officer (SIO), and Chief Constables differed as to the charges that should be laid against the officers.
- The SIO disagreed with his own report, which he had signed as author.
- The way the SIO finalised the report’s conclusions was probably illegal.
- The Chief Constables disagree as to whether the report’s conclusions need to be reviewed.
How does mythology help explain this fog of confusion?
David Cameron recalled parliament this week to seek approval for military intervention in Syria. His motion was rejected, which has sparked a range of reactions – e.g. from people feeling proud to feeling ashamed of being British. In a few days, Barack Obama is going to ask Congress to approve US military action.
Analytical psychology has a lot to offer this debate because it explains the conflict between the differing views and – more importantly – offers some hope for a constructive way ahead.
Press freedom vs regulation
There is perhaps little doubt that the issues Leveson attempted to address in his report, published in 2012,1 are extremely difficult. There are some fundamental clashes of values, e.g. between freedom of the press and individual human rights, which are compounded by other factors, such as the rising tides of the internet and alternative forms of publishing.
The issues are of fundamental importance to all of us, even those who are not involved in public life or journalism. As C.G. Jung once pointed out, “politicians and journalists [can] unwittingly let loose psychic epidemics on the world” (Jung 1929, p. 37). Although such power/responsibility is now more widely shared, through globalisation and social media, the manner in which Leveson’s findings are being pursued may ultimately have a big impact on our social and cultural well-being and cohesion. However, from the perspective of analytical psychology, things are not heading in a good direction.
In 1948, C.G. Jung wrote to UNESCO describing how analytical psychology could help promote world peace (Jung 1948). He made some practical suggestions that they did not take up.
The nature of international conflict has changed significantly since then. There has been a shift in the balance from war towards terrorism, a shift that was predicted before the fall of the Berlin Wall by a Jungian Analyst (Bernstein 1989). Nevertheless, Jung’s proposals remain relevant today as they provide practical ways in which every citizen can play their part in developing world peace.
On the Sunday Politics recently, Andrew Neil called the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones an idiot, and made a circular motion pointing his finger at his own head to suggest Jones was crazy. You can see the 5 minute exchange using the BBC’s video clip (right, or at the BBC website).
To many viewers, it may have seemed a natural response for Neil to dismiss Jones as a crazy person. However, from the perspective of Jung’s analytical psychology, that would be to respond to an error with another error – because Neil allowed himself to get drawn into Jones’ black and white thinking. Also, there is something of potential value in Jones’ intensity of belief and breadth of support – because it suggests there is something else occurring at a much deeper, cultural level.