Have you ever watched the film “The Usual Suspects”? If you haven’t it’s great and go watch it and don’t read the rest of this article until you do, because I’m kind of giving the surprise ending away.
The film is about how the elusive criminal “Keyser Soze” is blamed for heinous acts of murder and how that all turns out to be a distraction from the guilt of the very visible Kint, played by Kevin Spacey. The trick he promotes is the myth of an imaginary devil figure everyone is afraid of and focussed on, thereby diverting the attention of those investigating the crimes in question from the obvious culprit – him.
Last week a very similar trick was pulled in our political process, not once but twice. The first was the report produced on Tuesday by Security Service on “paramilitary activity”. The report blames the bad boys and presents the state as neutrals and benign facilitators. There was a fair bit of media mainly focussed on the contested existence of the IRA.
The second was the reaction to the statement on Wednesday by the DPP referring for investigation the activities of the state agent known as “Stakeknife” and “any criminal activity that may have been carried out by Security Service Personnel”. There was less media, mainly focussed on the man pinpointed as being Stakeknife – Freddie Scappaticci.
On Tuesday morning RFJ produced a fact sheet of 40 facts about the writers of the report. It also applied to the people who devised, employed and directed “Stakeknife”. That did not get reported.
The trick is to divert attention. Don’t look at Security Service and focus instead on the “really evil” actors in the piece. On Tuesday we had the ludicrous situation where intelligence agencies were reporting on the activities of the UDA, an organisation they set up, armed and directed, and not one whitter of challenge about whether that was appropriate!
On Wednesday the activities of Stakeknife were removed from the context of the wider policies and practices of collusion during the conflict. Not one mention was made that this investigation arises from the Stevens investigations into collusion. Not one link was made to RUC Special Branch fixer unit WERC, which we now know is implicated in covering up killings of RUC members as well as civilians and active non-state actors! Instead we are told to look at Stakeknife in isolation and how one scary individual takes the blame for every killing of every alleged informer – look at collusion in its entirety however and the piece takes a very different shape.
Collusion was a war tactic. It was about the defeat of the IRA. And the same agencies are very active in the perpetuation of the cover up and diverting our attention from who is really responsible.
It is up to us whether we the public let them walk, like Kint did, free from accountability, scrutiny or truth to their victims. It is up to us to decide whether we fall for the trick.