A flying ship has plunged into a tall public building, causing panic.
Outside 10 Downing St., the media have been sat around for hours with their cameras trained on the closed black door, waiting for someone official to come out and hand them their version of events… which will, of course, be repeated verbatim as The Story.
Luckily for these relentless seekers after truth, a politician comes out to give them a press conference.
“Our inspectors have searched the skies,” he tells the journalists, “and they have found massive weapons of destruction, capable of being deployed in 45 seconds. We face extinction unless we strike first.” He goes on to beg the UN for “an emergency resolution” which will give them permission to launch this pre-emptive strike. His words are relayed on the TV news without comment… except by the Doctor and the other people watching.
As satire, this isn’t subtle. It’s like a sledgehammer to crack a nut… because that’s what the WMD story always was: an easily cracked nut. But in a world in which barely anyone in the global media is capable of cracking nuts even with a nutcracker, maybe it’s time to get out the sledgehammers… if only to make a sarcastic point.
As a satire of US/UK foreign policy in the wake of 9/11, it’s crude… but then US/UK foreign policy in the wake of 9/11 was crude. It didn’t need to be anything else. The media could be relied upon to discount the idea that respectable politicians in ‘democracies’ might have cynical or imperialistic motives. They could be relied upon to train their cameras at closed doors. They could be relied upon to accept the contents of press conferences as basic common sense, and then amplify those press conferences and call them The Story.
This is the aspect of RTD’s satire that is so often overlooked: what we might call ‘the Andrew Marr aspect’. Marr did a cutesy little cameo in this episode, in which he stands outside 10 Dowing St., wittering about personalities and process, while the government within – which now comprises evil, sniggering babies hidden inside the fleshsuits of respectable, well-groomed, sincere professionals – plots mass murder in order to make a killing on fuel profits. Again, about as subtle as the truth.
On April 9th 2003, as the invasion of Iraq proceeded, beginning a process which would lead to the takeover of Iraq’s economy and perhaps more than a million Iraqi deaths, Andrew Marr stood outside 10 Downing St. and said this:
Well, I think this does one thing – it draws a line under what, before the war, had been a period of… well, a faint air of pointlessness, almost, was hanging over Downing Street. There were all these slightly tawdry arguments and scandals. That is now history. Mr Blair is well aware that all his critics out there in the party and beyond aren’t going to thank him – because they’re only human – for being right when they’ve been wrong. And he knows that there might be trouble ahead, as I said. But I think this is very, very important for him. It gives him a new freedom and a new self-confidence. He confronted many critics.
I don’t think anybody after this is going to be able to say of Tony Blair that he’s somebody who is driven by the drift of public opinion, or focus groups, or opinion polls. He took all of those on. He said that they would be able to take Baghdad without a bloodbath, and that in the end the Iraqis would be celebrating. And on both of those points he has been proved conclusively right. And it would be entirely ungracious, even for his critics, not to acknowledge that tonight he stands as a larger man and a stronger prime minister as a result.