Since a few people have actually started to visit this blog I’ve been thinking that I should write a little about why I began it six weeks ago, and I suppose today is as good a day as any, because I probably wouldn’t be doing this if it weren’t for what happened on this day six years ago.
In 2001 I was working as a copy editor at a newspaper in Bristol in South-west England. I was doing a 2pm til 10pm shift, and I walked into the newsroom right at the moment when the second tower was hit. I started telling people it must be al-Qaeda. Most people in the office had no idea what I was talking about.
I watched events unfold on the TVs with my colleagues, we got the paper out and I went home. I’d recently split up with my then girlfriend, and while we still shared our house she was away on business, and I watched the coverage late into the night on my own. I remember crying when members of Congress came out and sang (I think) God Bless America. I’m trying hard not to start again now just thinking about it. I was profoundly upset and very angry.
I also knew that I had an aunt, uncle and cousins in Boston, and more cousins in New York. The family hails from Northern Ireland, and when I was younger we’d go over to the homestead every summer, and each year we’d meet some members of the US branch, but I hadn’t seen any of them for several years.
I phoned Ireland, got some numbers and started calling the States; it turned out that everyone was fine, and we did some catching up. Since then I’ve been to New York three times, Boston, Philly and Charleston,
to hang out with an uncle, aunts and vast numbers of cousins and their children, many of whom I might never have seen again, or met at all, if it hadn’t been for 9/11. So from my point of view a little good came out of an incomprehensible tragedy. And if you’re wondering why an English guy has such an interest in what’s going on in the States, that’s part of the reason (I’ll get to the other part shortly).
The sheer scale of the events that had taken place, and those that were obviously going to follow, made the job I was doing, on a small and not at all influential newspaper, seem pretty insignificant. I left my job a year later, planning to go to London, where I figured there’d be a bit more journalistic action, or even abroad. But around that time my mother’s health started to deteriorate, and I soon realised that I wouldn’t be able to go very far from Bristol. So I started doing freelance magazine work down the road in Bath, and spending a lot of time with mum (she passed away last year).
As the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq unfolded I watched every hour of news that I could, and started to discover the blogs. I didn’t think about blogging myself then, but as the wars ground on, and public opinion and the media began to turn against George Bush and Tony Blair, and the very idea that we were at war with radical Islam, I looked more to the blogs to get the other side of the story, and eventually began to think about starting one of my own.
Which pretty much brings us up to date. While I’m trying to mix things up a little at the Monkey Tennis Centre, I’m constantly drawn back to the battles still raging in the Middle East, and the wider war we find ourselves fighting.
I believe we will lose battles, and perhaps even the war, if people don’t understand what’s at stake. And I believe that a large number of people in politics and the media either genuinely don’t appreciate what is at stake, or do understand, but have decided that political or ideological considerations take precedence over articulating and confronting the threat of radical Islamic terror.
There are of course plenty who do get it. In politics there are the likes Blair, who I went from disliking intensely in his early years to admiring for his courageous and principled stance on the War on Terror, and Bush. And in terms of the media – well anyone who’s found this blog knows where they can go to get balanced and serious coverage.
I also believe that, in addition to America having to do most of the actual fighting in this war, the most important political and ideological battles of the next few years will be fought in the US, which is the other reason, along with family ties, that this blog has a very transatlantic tone.
The Monkey Tennis Centre – where I aim to share news and opinion, and call the media when they obfuscate, equivocate and just plain lie about what’s happening on the battlefield, and in the political arena – is my small contribution to the debate. I’ve had a great time these past few weeks, especially since some of the blogs that have inspired me over the past couple of years have started to send people my way, and even more so because those people have said some very kind things.
To my visitors from the States, and Canada, make the most of what’s left of September 11 2007.
Dean Barnett has a powerful piece on the anniversary, which I read just before starting this post. Hugh Hewitt’s blog, where Dean also writes, was one of the first that I started reading regularly, and along with sites such as NRO and The Weekly Standard, it’s one of the best sources of serious coverage of the war that there is.