Author Archives: David Langwallner

From top The Hacienda apartments, Manchester former home of the iconic nightclub of the same name; David Langwallner

I am presently doing a profoundly serious case, the sort of case that is an emblem of the social disintegration of our time, in Manchester Crown Court, though there are two crown courts. The old courts are in Minshull Street.

The history of the street near the historic centre says a lot about Manchester, as the heir to the Minshull fortune, at 65, married Roger Aytoun at the races in Salford, and after her death he used her fortune to fund a regiment. The two streets in celebration of dead lovers now parallel each other as you walk out of the court.

Manchester is a city of commerce and always has been. A Northern citadel. It is in effect The Chicago of the UK. The second great city of England. A short tram ride from Minshull Street is Salford where there is, among other things, The Lowry Museum.

LS Lowry is a great painter of the permanent semi-depression of the North whose wonderful miniatures portray the matchstick men and women and cats and dogs of that era and beyond and seem curiously relevant to our age. It is the capturing of the ordinary pleasures, the simplicity and the abruptness, including sudden death of working-class existence that Is so remarkable and that now perhaps include middle class existence. Sudden death in Covid time like a fog enveloping. And not just Manchester. Though one feels it sharply here. Particularly at night.

The Salford area where the museum is located is also the historic home of John Cooper Clark, alive and well and living in Chelmsford, and Mark E Smith, I believe dead though you never know it with the various reinventions of The Fall.

Surfaces are deceptive. The cosmetic revamp containing the Lowry Museum and The Imperial War Museum is a kind of hybrid between awful Irish financial services corporatism coupled with the remnants of old capitalist buildings. The juxtaposition particularly evident on the tram back,
makes Manchester in effect also look like Chicago with the new skyscrapers of capitalism alongside the historical medium size red brick structures of old capitalism.

The worst failure of urban planning in Manchester is the rebuilt Hacienda building, now apartments, with a semi-broken hologram to replace the famous Factory Records’ club. Memory and oral recollection are still prevalent up North and every taxi driver so far has a story, often-incredibly positive, about Mr. Manchester, Tony Wilson, founder of Factory records. He comes across less as a twat than a combination of visionary and loveable rogue.

I am staying in the historic centre in the Midlands Hotel one of the architectural jewels of Manchester, built in 1903 and beloved by Hitler, who, in the event of an invasion, coveted it. I was reminded of this not when staying here but but in the adjacent Mosley Street named after he family of Oswald Mosley or, as PG Wodehouse would have it, Sir Roderick Spode. I would imagine Mr. Manchester would have thoroughly approved of Wodehouse’s filleting in The Code of The Wooster’s

‘Don’t you ever read the papers? Roderick Spode is the founder and head of the Saviours of Britain, a Fascist organization better known as the Black Shorts. His general idea, if he doesn’t get knocked on the head with a bottle in one of the frequent brawls in which he and his followers indulge, is to make himself a Dictator.’ ‘Well, I’m blowed!’ I was astounded at my keenness of perception. The moment I had set eyes on Spode, if you remember, I had said to myself ‘What Ho! A Dictator!’ and a Dictator he had proved to be. I could not have made a better shot, if I had been one of those detectives who see a chap walking along the street and deduce that he is a retired manufacturer of poppet valves named Robinson with rheumatism in one arm, living at Clapham. ‘Well, I’m dashed! I thought he was something of that sort. That chin…Those eyes…And, for the matter of that, that moustache. When you say “shorts,” you mean “shirts,” of course.’ ‘No. By the time Spode formed his association, there were no shirts left. He and his adherents wear black shorts.’ ‘Footer bags, you mean?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘How perfectly foul.”

P.G. Wodehouse, The Code of the Wooster’s (1938).

One must laugh at fascists, what else is there to do. But not too loudly now. The Friends Meeting house of The Quakers is beside the hotel, with its optimistic sentiment of peaceful protest for change being the Quaker way. Not enough now.

There is an inscription close by commemorating the 1813 Peterloo massacre, where civil disobedience arising from an economic slump led to a massacre and the foundation of The Manchester Guardian, but oddly enough, not as a force of progress supporting the martyrs, but as a conservative abreaction against protest, strikes and agitation. Reactionaries thus founded The Guardian. The working-class Manchester and Salford Advertiser called The paper “the foul prostitute and dirty parasite of the worst portion of the mill-owners:.

Lowry,  of his greatest painting, Coming From the MIll (1930), said:

“As I left [Pendlebury] station I saw the Acme Spinning Company’s mill,” Lowry would later recall. “The huge black framework of rows of yellow-lit windows standing up against the sad, damp charged afternoon sky. The mill was turning out hundreds of little pinched, black figures, heads bent down. I watched this scene – which I’d looked at many times without seeing – with rapture.”

Manchester now is like a ghost ship or once grand vessel at half-mast. The case I am doing shows the multiple problems of our age and Manchester has the highest crime rate or one of them in the UK. The shards of light particularly in the evening piercing the skyline and the great civic building deliberately occlude, always have, an ugly reality. Increasingly apparent.

David Langwallner is a barrister, specialising in public law, immigration, housing and criminal defence including miscarriages of justice. He is emeritus director of the Irish Innocence project and was Irish lawyer of the year at the 2015 Irish law awards. Follow David on Twitter @DLangwallner

Pic Alamy Stock


From top: Dirk Bogarde in the 1971 film adaptation by Visconti of Thomas Mann’s novella ‘Death in Venice’; David Langwallner

I have been asked by several organs and journals to review Colm Tóibín’s book on Thomas Mann, The Magician, and it is, in my view, beautifully written. But that is an aside.

The reasons that I have been asked, so plentifully, to review are patently obvious in some respects and ought to dictate, in these perilous times, a level of circumspection.

In fact, modesty aside, and he was modest and hardworking, I am like a pale zeitgeist anomaly of Mann. I reserve it for Broadsheet, and it is an especially important text, The Magician, and says a lot by implication. In fact, it is one extended foreboding metaphor for our time.

The very civilised editor of one organ who has published me, although liking my content, does not like my prose style.

Let us remind ourselves this is what the magician Thomas Mann said about his prose style self reflexively and with innate protestant judgment and modesty. He said it is ponderous, ceremonious, and civilised. The same could be said about me. It is certainly not sexy.

Of course, Mann followed that observation with a very pregnant sentence: it is all the thing the fascists hate. Well Touché. That is because they burn books, peddle disinformation, do not like nuanced or reasoned argument and resort to hysteria. As a writer of prose, he is lesser than Kafka and Musil and Broch in the Austro German 20th century canon though he did win the Nobel prize and early (1929).

Buddenbrooks which won him the prize and The Magic Mountain – though suffused with good things – are written in terrible Hoch Deutsch Prussian turgid prose, stilted, civilised and bourgeoisie to quote himself on himself again. So, though much celebrated, they are not terrific books, which is not to diminish that they are particularly good Sehr Gut books of educational and instructional value. If that were all he would be a very minor writer indeed but that is not all. The best was yet to come, in exile.

Death In Venice, though earlier, is a terrific book is a kind of cry of his repressed same-sex attraction and of the end of that that hyper civilised aesthetic intelligence and it is a masterpiece. The film by Visconti with Dirk Bogarde, though laboured, also so. The film includes at length the famous adagio by Mahler and Mann knew Mahler. In fact, he knew everybody and was very catholic in his tastes and his company even extending to rum company.

The literary reputation of which Tóibín does not deal with deliberately is not just based on that short novella or other great short novellas such as Mario the Magician, but of his end-of-life books. Peripatetic and a moving target where he correctly saw himself as a potential golden prize for the fascists. Those late books are after the deluge where the Lübeck conservative let fly at all he hated.

The book traces in detail how the arch senatorial conservative and custodian of the system simply could not deal with Nazis. At an implicit or explicit level, it is a simply a judgment of taste and he had impeccable personal and aesthetic taste and was cosmopolitan but not decadent in same.

As an arch conservative from an arch conservative family, he saw no difficulty in marrying a converted Jewess who he was deeply in love with. At all levels, the book shows how conservative apolitical manners are a force for the good. The book constantly stresses from observation and quotation from his speeches and writings that he was a very apolitical and private man and often observed he was a social and family-oriented person focused on the work. He liked nothing better than to go out for walks with his wife after making love to her.

His mother was Brazilian and his father a toad and a martinet who dictated coercive tones towards family regulation on his death, as the book establishes. So, his attitude towards women was much better and he he disapproved of dissolute men from Oscar Wilde to his lesser writer brother, the fecklessly irresponsible Heinrich Mann.

The reason, I suspect, Tóibín has engaged in his subject, though not explicit in the text, is that Mann is central to our age. He faced an ethical dilemma. He was the famous and esteemed writer in Germany, but he could not abide the boorish and uncivilised Nazis, so he left for Switzerland, America and Switzerland again.. A forced Goethesque grand tour as I am sure he might have framed it. But it led to the greatness Tóibín only touches on.

Dr Faustus is one of the terrific books of all time written when he was near 80. It is a masterpiece. The book is about the composer Leverkuhn who sells his soul to the devil. Fascism. It is also about the corrupting influence of atonal music and its nihilistic dissonance which creates a valueless universe. As do the structuralists and deconstructionists of our age.

Also, I think, it is about Martin Heidegger as the two central intellectual figures in Germany they were both presented with a dilemma. Heidegger fell for the bait and took all the Nazi accolades. He took the Faustian pact even with a Jewish mistress, Hannah Arendt, who wrote eloquently subsequently about the banality of evil. Mann, though wealthy, did say no and there his greatness as a human being resides. In a speech in America, championed indirectly by Eleanor Roosevelt, he said:

“They cannot last, they must not last, they will not last/”

It is what is needed in our time and a kind of parable. The reassertion of civilised cosmopolitan tolerance. Of decency, rigour, and moderation. Of stable family structures and hardworking routines. Of civic decency and private ordering.

And when the magician, the most private of men, feels he must become public.,well that is also necessary for many now.

David Langwallner is a barrister, specialising in public law, immigration, housing and criminal defence including miscarriages of justice. He is emeritus director of the Irish Innocence project and was Irish lawyer of the year at the 2015 Irish law awards. Follow David on Twitter @DLangwallner


From top: First edition of ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens; David Langwallner

‘God rest ye merry gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember Christ our Saviour
Was born on Christmas Day
To save us all from Satan’s power
When we were gone astray
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy
Comfort and joy
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy’

Hymn featured in ‘A Christmas Carol’

I am a huge fan of Charles Dickens and, although many find his novels overly sentimental, as if that were a criticism, from the perspective of a lawyer, the second oldest profession as I must admit or confess to being a member, he is a treasure trove of insight.

Not that he cared for lawyers very much and, from those that populate his books, very few charitable evaluations of character are made. Lawyers appear in no less than 11 of his 15 novels. Some of them even resemble humans though, not pleasant ones. Uriah Heap (‘David Copperfield‘) is a “red-eyed cadaver whose “lank forefinger,” while he reads, makes “clammy tracks along the page … like a snail.” Mr. Voles (‘Bleak House’), “so eager, so bloodless and gaunt,” is “always looking at the client, as if he were making a lingering meal of him with his eyes.”

This is of course most evident in Bleak House and the epic suit of chancery that is Jarndyce v Jarndyce, a case that goes on for an eternity and ends in the liquidation of the client’s assets. The lawyers are enriched unjustly. The clients suffer.

Jaundice and Jaundice drones on. This scarecrow of a suit, has, in course of time, become so complicated that no man alive knows what it means. The parties to it understand it least; but it has been observed that no two Chancery lawyers can talk about it for five minutes, without coming to total disagreement as to all the premises.

The Christmas story nonpareil is his A Christmas Carol, with the figure of Ebenezer Scrooge the epitome, then and now, of dishonest business practices. A man dedicated to the pursuit of profit at the expense and exploitation of others. A corporate monster, like many of whom I have had the displeasure of meeting and serving.

He is of course not isolated in the collected Dickens oeuvre populated by a whole array of greedy Victorian businesspeople such as the infamous Mr. Gradgrind in Hard Times and a plethora of lawyers who, as a profession and as mentioned earlier, get the full force of Dickensian odium and contempt and rightly so. It is the culture of greed and human exploitation that most strokes his ire.

Of course, Dickens was the great chronicler of the instabilities and social malaise of Victorian society to which our present woe-begotten age is returning He is not isolated as such a chronicler and such later social realist writers as Orwell in How the Poor Die or depression-era literature such as The Grapes of Wrath said as much, but not with the same everlasting grip on the public imagination.

Dickens was the spokesperson for injustice in 19th century Victorian England. He was not just a writer but a speech and paper giver and the prototype of a public intellectual. His serialised books were followed avidly by a vast readership. Often there was a melodramatic quality of what would happen next, and Dickens was in effect the voice of the people. Vox Populism.

Mr. Micawber ends up in a debtor’s prison and in a reflective moment defines happiness and unhappiness. Happiness income one pound one shilling outgoings one pound unhappiness the obverse.

Thus, take care of the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves in classic Thatcherite terms but equally the commoditisation of human existence has clearly penetrated Mr. Micawber. In covid times, the awful truth is that frugality does or may not matter nor does pensions or education and many will be destroyed in covid and post covid era if there is such an era.

Micawber of course defined himself in terms of money and in that respect, he was a failure. Now no one may have much money or much worth anything. a devalued and debased universe of quasi-internment and the debtor’s prison or bankruptcy or in fact Malthusian death through suicide or mental health deterioration and indeed physical health decline.

And when anyone has the temerity to present themselves like Oliver Twist with his bowl of porridge and ask for more, then the authorities of the modern-day workhouses go berserk. Are you not happy with your existing pile of gruel? Well, not really. We need more to survive and have a decent standard of living and in Ireland and elsewhere that has created a society of artful dodgers and tax avoiders and just as in the world of Lionel Bart’s musical to survive, we must pick a pocket or two or as Stiglitz would have it, socialism for the rich plutocrats and capitalism for the poor.

Let us all visit the Ghost of Christmas future and mend the error of our ways and reflect on how incompetence, ideology, short termism, greed and neo liberal madness has destroyed our social fabric and, if we have any sense of individual or collective decency, let us all embark on  Scrooge’s voyage of purification and redemption and help the Bob Cratchits of this world and their families.

David Langwallner is a barrister, specialising in public law, immigration, housing and criminal defence including miscarriages of justice. He is emeritus director of the Irish Innocence project and was Irish lawyer of the year at the 2015 Irish law awards. Follow David on Twitter @DLangwallner

Pic: Wikipedia

From top: A still from John Huston’s 1987 film adaptation of James Joyce’s ‘The Dead’; David Langwallner

To my mother, Mai Cashman Langwallner.

A Broadsheet reader wanted a piece on Irish mothers but not just that. What about the disturbed Madonna/whore neo-liberal hierarchy that is Ireland? The missionary position to invoke, blasphemously, Hitchens. Also, dead.

And, of course, my mother floats across my consciousness. Songs my mother told me. Have I let her down? No. I have left and regained a measure or slice of life.

When I once lost a debating competition in Ireland, fixed in UCD, I could see her disapproval before the verdict. She loved Ireland and wanted so much to be someone in that infernal country. I saw her make a brilliant speech as head of a Fianna Fáil cumann – much better than all the plutocratic politicians surrounding her and patronising her when she had several strokes. Her love of Ireland was misguided; her dissatisfaction thus is part of my heritage. Songs my mother told me.

Her great gift to me though was, apart from supporting me through childhood, her intellect and her doting voice, under-recognised and under-appreciated in Ireland. Women of her generation without means and from certain backgrounds.

One also remembers others to use the imperial voice who have influenced us and, close to his death, orator and a gentleman Adrian Hardiman frequently spoke about his posthumously published book Joyce in Court.

I got around to reading this on Remembrance Day. There is only one page in it referencing the greatest Irish short story The Dead.

It is at Page 17, where the main protagonist Gabriel Conroy is evoked as a Castle Catholic, or that is the substance of the remark made to him for writing for the Protestant press. Adrian, conscious of proper traditions, is non-approving of the remark, implicitly so.

The Dead is about Gabriel Conroy attending with his wife Gretta at a dinner party, his dowager aunt’s annual mass ritual on St Stephen’s day or Boxing Day, and he, conscious of the snow, is reminded of an adolescent dead lover and his lust for his wife derailed that night by her and the realisation not helped by being with his elderly aunts and the ballad song that we are all soon to be dead. A gradual realisation more obvious than ever in Covid times. For many.

It is the most lyrical thing Joyce ever wrote, apart from Molly Bloom’s soliloquy. And it is a cornucopia of traditional Irish self-destructive obsessions, nationalism, sex, and death. The crucible of awfulness that is our unholy, or should that be holy, mess then and now. Freud would have a field day with Ireland. It is also about a mass-enforced social obligation and indeed personal inquisition and self-evaluation.

A time of remembrance and chastisement or, a non-Irish word, self-criticism. A time for the realisation that a relationship or marriage is not what it was or could be. Lachrymose, unfulfilled expectations in that most awful of places, Dublin, which has stoked the imagination of all. Awfulness does. As it does me. At Christmas.

Joyce buried in Zurich. Beckett buried in Montparnasse. Wilde in a gaudy grave in Per Lachaise. Yeats his bones contested in France and Sligo but, unlike Harry Gleeson, exhumed. Found.

The legendary actor Donal McCann, dead at 57, played Gabriel in John Huston’s final film and Huston, dying of emphysema, directed the film from an oxygen tent. Late emphysema, as people close to me have. Soon to be dead? Well, in his case, Dead before completion in fact.

The obsessions contained within the short story are a reflection then and now of the limitations of the Catholic bourgeoisie which Hardiman clearly saw. Nationalism and chauvinism, the national failing, leading to the destruction of Parnell also a short story in Dubliners (Ivy Day in The Committee Room) and that tribalistic chauvinism was nothing that Hardiman wanted part of, and rightly so, nor the grubby Fine Gael class.

Greasy, saving, cravenly praying. Sucking up to an ever more corrupt business class. The living dead, or the non-receptive living dead. Though much of the country and other countries in Covid times, without opportunity, enters the realms of the living dead?

And what is wrong and treasonable in writing for the British press? Well, taking the Queen’s shilling, as opposed to taking the shilling of the Irish state, the latter much worse it seems to me in context. The UK to adapt Shakespeare and John Mortimer has given me the lease of life and life is precious as is quality of life in these awful times of moral, economic and, above all, spiritual devaluation.

I should say I charge nothing for anything I write for Irish or UK publications so I’m immune from the rebuke to Gabriel. “The books he received for review were almost more welcome than the paltry paycheck.”

But I have taken the Queen’s shilling as a West Brit, whatever that means currently or, better still, work in a system which preserves under enormous stressors fair procedures and the rule of law which Ireland never has and now clearly does not.

Snow is unusual in Ireland hence the reference to even in The Bog of Allen where there are many dead bodies. And it is often, at one level, associated with cleansing, certainly Calvino’s novel Marcovaldo evokes that sense, snow also comforts. In the Cherokee Indian parable, the sparrow with the broken wing is protected and healed by the pine trees during the winter. Well, all god’s children have wings, and this is a time for healing.

The legendary Danish novel Ms Smilla’s Feeling for Snow is snow as purifier and a metaphor for the exposure of corruption. But snow passes and is ephemeral and thus, as Joyce understood, a metaphor for life as ephemerality in Briggs’ book The Snowman invokes. The death of the snowman as a metaphor for the death of all of us and let us try and pass something on as birds of passage.

Thus Christmas, on a positive note, is about also about renewal, birth, children, and resolutions of what should be done. Happy Christmas, war is over, as John Lennon indicated in a work of art as great as The Dead in a more compressed way.

So let us reflect at Christmas on tribalism, chauvinism, corruption, exclusion of others and the degradation of others and of our own people, the soon-to-be dead through unaffordable housing, living structures and dehumanisation and the virus with more to come, real or hyper real, and be conscious of its social effects.

So, we the living, not the dead, triumph and not dwell on dead lovers or us soon-to-be dead.

Snow as cleansing. But let us not forget the gift of the dead. The gift of knowledge and remembrance. The archaeology of knowledge in a forgetful age.

Time for those living resolutions then. And remember, but not obsess, with the dead for we owe them no obligation but remembrance. The reason we are kind to the dead, as Kundera remarked unkindly, is that we owe them no obligation.

But we do. We owe them the gift of remembrance and what those great ones have done to make things better for us and for the world. Better for the living.

David Langwallner is a barrister, specialising in public law, immigration, housing and criminal defence including miscarriages of justice. He is emeritus director of the Irish Innocence project and was Irish lawyer of the year at the 2015 Irish law awards. Follow David on Twitter @DLangwallner


From top: Anti covid mandate protest in Vienna, Austria on Saturday; David Langwallner

“After all it’s not that awful. You know what the fellow said – in Italy, for 30 years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had 500 years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”

Orson Welles in ‘The Third Man’ (1949).

Well, the Swiss are not the Austrians or Germans, but a similar gene pool and the focus of the world is now on that area of the planet.

Article 5 of The German Constitution and Article 13, unlucky for some, of the Austrian Constitution, protect in bland and qualified terms and, within the law in the Austrian case, Freedom of Speech.

Perhaps more pertinently in a qualified way, the Europan Convention of Human Rights through the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights was, at least historically, very protective, in a bright line way of the right to offend, shock and disturb, and the Americans have gone even further protecting even hate speech of there is not an imminent danger of lawless action.

All international constitutions, in fact, protect the satellite off-shoots of speech, protest, demonstrations, et al.

Now the people of Austria and Germany, with a bizarre double resignation leading to a new former army chancellor and minister for the interior, have until February, at the outer limits, to exercise, by speech and protest, acts to stop compulsory vaccination and a form of vaccine segregation in a world of deep scepticism of endless state compulsion over them and everybody else of their integrity, their choice, their travel. Their human identity, in fact, and if the Austrian precedent or German precedent is upheld, then a slippery slope.

Replication for all the world which surely seems to be an EU agenda. TINA to TINC. There is no alternative if there is no choice. A kind of, to coin a phrase, total spectrum dominance.

Dark atavistic forces in the authoritarian Germanic mindset have been reactivated but at least the Austrians are protesting.

So, let us remind ourselves of the source of Catch 22 (1961) by Joseph Heller, a crucial text for our time.

Now the premise is simple and that is that a service member during the second world war refuses to go on a flying mission, or indeed any other mission, with the certain prospect of death, as to do so would be insane unless, of course, you were a Japanese Kamikaze pilot.

Thus, the indication he would not want to do so is an exercise in rationality. The Catch 22 demonstrates his rationality and not insanity and thus he is trapped. Or an impossible universe creates the problem.

The book is populated by the sociopathy of generals, military officials, and the lunatic fringe, now the world leadership, trying to resolve or rather promote catch twenty-two. Well, where we are now with equally mad leaders. Above all corporate monsters.

So, stimulating the economy which is necessary, unless social distancing is strictly observed, which is not possible will be a disaster and what will follow with successive waves of the infection and mutant versions of the same resistant to vaccination of dubious utility and effectiveness.

The larger Catch 22 is that as depression looms, or is here, we must work but by working, unless privileged to do so, exclusively from the comfort of homes or sealed offices we are all part of Catch 22. That is those parts of the service and public service industry must work or the social structure and economy will collapse, and resources are dwindling, and we will not be bailed out.

That is, we the people, do work, we risk self-immolation with the dangers of various infections and the non-immunity of vaccines that are clearly non-protecting.

And it is small and little businesses that are stuffed by the golden turkeys of our universe. And those most likely to die. Social atomization and distancing also break down community and speech rights, another catch 22.

And Priti Patel, in the UK, wishes to curtail protest on the subjective assessment of a police officer.

John Gray, in evolutionary descriptive not evaluative terms, has spoken and written about a form of Malthusian population cull. Coronavirus achieves that in increments, as may austerity, depression, et al. This is a turning point, not for the good, in human affairs. Our virtual reality but very real economic and Malthusian Shoah. An ecocide of spaces and choice. Enter the zone or seclude yourself from the zone or stop-start. Work remotely, if you can, and occasionally in person and hope to survive.

Consider the percentages in Russian roulette land.

Or better still, protest to survive and secure your rights against the Leviathan and or regain gain a measure of choice.

The central hallmark of a democracy is freedom of speech. There is of course a defined link between speech and the upholding of democratic values and indeed their decline.

The late great Dworkin argues in a distant liberal egalitarian way that free speech is a condition of legitimate government. Stephen Sedley, a great English judge, called it the lifeblood of a democracy. It also opens government to intense scrutiny and indeed private powers. It is said from Locke onwards that it encourages diversity and tolerance.

Dworkin also emphasised the universality of speech and speech as a mode of rational discourse and scientific inquiry, speech as an empiricist scientific counterweight to hysteria or ,as another American theorist, Lewis called it, a search engine for the truth.

And of course, related to speech are the rights of protest and civil disobedience, now also crucially important an in our increasingly controlled and technocratic age. True, fearless, independent criticism is being expurgated from the culture. All of this is being augmented by the control of the press by vested corporate interests and the equally nefarious desperate search for balanced coverage, a non-descriptive comment which, in practice, means giving weight to utter nonsense.

Which undermines the legitimacy of speech or characterising all protesters as extremists left, or right. So, few now comply with the dictum of Walter Lippmann that there is no higher law in journalism than to speak the truth and shame the devil?

Habermas, the greatest living German intellectual at least, derived from Bentham’s speech acts, develops the crucial idea of ideal speech or communicative action which is, in effect, that speech, to be proper and non-ideological or tainted, should take place in ideal circumstances.

He also suggests that such shared speech in a replay of the enlightenment salon will provide optimum technical outcomes that are also morally purposeful.

And Habermas also argued for, the vital importance of civil disobedience in vitalising a democracy, but what Orwell called doublespeak and disinformation, it is everywhere in Covid times.

But to anticipate an objection, the ECHR and other international instruments restrict speech for public health and morals or order public, dangerous concepts often manipulated by state authoritarianism.

Well, as the Stephan Sedley remarked, freedom to speak inoffensively is not worth having and Dworkin argued, towards the end of his distinguished career, for the right to ridicule.

The question of civil disobedience has a long history. One of the first civil disobedients was Antigone who disobeyed against the will of the autocratic King Creon in Sophocles play in 430BC, invoking a distinction between positive law and the law of God.

The right to civil disobedience if that is what it is has never featured very prominently in much of Catholic theology and philosophy as those such as Thomas Aquinas, the official teaching of the church since 1893. Civil disobedience must be sacrificed on the altar of order public or one might say currently public health.

Well to disobey against tyranny is important, as Locke argued, and Gandhi and Martin Luther King, among others, implemented but is ever dwindling as people internalise obedience and engage in anticipatory obedience, as Gros recently argued.

One of the perennial problems of the dissident or the conscientious objector, or the protestor, is to accept at any level the legitimacy of their oppressor’s viewpoint.

This is a psychological condition or conditioning known as Stockholm syndrome and, in our age of compliance, it is to accept the legitimacy of a point of view devoid of rational foundation. To accept his torturer’s right to act.

Foucault also chastised against what many writers have termed blind obedience as did Hannah Arendt, increasingly a feature of our age, in the recent Gros book the question of surplus obedience is canvassed like surplus to requirements where one obeys for the rewards or pledges, assumed promises and out of a visceral sense of gratitude the sort of nonsense compliance that neoliberalism engenders from a fractured undeserving sense of noblesse oblige. Milgram’s experiment on people’s aptitude for sadism, a vicious compliance.

So, people of Austria and Germany, oddly enough many democratic principles are in your hands, and you are doing a good job thus far of ridding yourself of atavistic characteristics.

Protest to survive to achieve moderation against tyranny and a little bit of freedom in coronavirus catch 22.

David Langwallner is a barrister specialising in public law, immigration, housing and criminal defence including miscarriages of justice. He is emeritus director of the Irish Innocence project and was Irish lawyer of the year at the 2015 Irish law awards. Follow David on Twitter @DLangwallner


From top: Spencer Tracy in 1961’s  ‘Judgement At Nuremberg’; David Langwallner

“By the end of this Winter pretty much everyone in Germany will have been vaccinated, recovered or died”

Jan Spahn, German’s health Minister yesterday.

I am influenced by comments by recent readers about the dangers inherent in the recent Austrian decision to introduce compulsory vaccines and vaccine desegregation, and pen this accordingly.

I have written a piece hitherto for Broadsheet on a New Dark Age which captured some, but not all, of this. Any repetition is brought into primarily because you can only say something well enough once, and to not be self-reflexive is to disimprove it.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Stanley Kramer contributed a variety of films assessing in a critical way the key issues of that time.

One of the said films was “Judgment at Nuremberg” (1961). Now the film is not as obvious as you might think as it deals with subsidiary issues, or one of the trials that followed the main trial, the trial of the judges. Yes, judges, if complicit, can be put on trial.

This is a sage point worth noting by the readership in an age where many judges in many jurisdictions are bought and sold or told what to do.

In the film, the case it deals with is the trial of an erstwhile honourable man Professor Ernst Janning played by Burt Lancaster and others in a fictional representation of the judges’ trial for certifying various forms of treatment for mental defects, the infirm and the not fit enough.

The Nazis of course practiced euthanasia against the mentally infirm and gypsies, leftists and all who did not fit in within the Spenglerian racist orthodoxy. Such racist and judgmental evaluations are now a feature of these times and historical remembrance dissipated.

We are a forgetful and careless age, particularly in terms of remembrance. Historical remembrance. Social Darwinism and racial purity are unfortunately back in fashion, to coin an ugly phrase. As well as population entropy and liquidation by the virus, ineffective vaccines, and a very defined sense that for whatever reason those double vaccinated or boosted are suffering very severe after-effects at the very least.

And now the Austrians are compelling – potentially – vaccines.

Compelling invasions of rights of liberty, privacy, possibly internment, quarantine. And by what mechanism force, brute force?

In terms of forgetfulness as one of the last European Humanists intellects left Kundera remarked:

‘The first step in liquidating a people is to erase its memory. Destroy its books, its culture, its history. Then have somebody author new books, manufacture a new culture, invent a new history. Before long, that nation will begin to forget what it is and what it was. The world around it will forget even faster.’

Or destroy, by Facebook consumerism and unregulated information or disinformation in our post-truth universe. Packaged mediocrity and quantity replacing quality.

The film also has the paradigm of middle American decency, Spencer Tracy, playing the guileless and inexperienced and indeed humble American judge trying to evaluate how an erstwhile good man Janning had turned so bad.

One of the alive victims is played by a woman of enormous genius but also a tragic victim in her personal life Judy Garland which was intentional. The emotionally damaged can always become victims. Something all defence lawyers are aware of. The protection of the vulnerable and it is the vulnerable adults and children now who need most protecting.

In fact, many of the American judges at the main trial itself where the Nazi high command were put on trial were simply unprepared for the level of awfulness they encountered, especially Justice Jackson which says something for that residue of decency that did exist in the American character and still to some extent does. They simply could not comprehend evil of this magnitude. The experiences of such horrors may have led to Jackson’s premature death a few years later.

The fictitious judge played by Spencer Tracy, the paradigm of the conservative but liberal American conscience, does not die and is polite to all in a courtly way and especially so to Marlene Dietrich, the wife of an executed general.

His fact-finding mission is, in effect, to understand how a nation turned so bad. It is a judgment on the individual as part of the collective. An attempt to remember and understand and to judge. And judging is important. The great Russian Marxist Medvedev called his book on Stalin Let History Judge.

The historic flickering video footage of the war crimes court at Nuremberg gives the impression the court is larger than it is. It is, in fact, quite small as I saw in a visit. Thus the distances between the judges and the gallery of infamies, that were people like Goering condescending to the last, is noticeably short of a matter of ten feet.

They must have gotten close to each other and evaluated each other respectively. One crucial thought was, of course, that the very citadels of European civilization, the human rights charters, were set up after 1945 so this might never happen again and to some extent this was also the impetus behind the EU. How quaint this all sounds now as we are in a new dark age.

Of course, genocide and ethnic cleansing, resurfaced in former Yugoslavia which I subsequently visited and wrote about in Village magazine.

But such arguments could be dismissed as peripheral to the European experiment now on the brink of total failure and indeed economic and social meltdown in worldwide virus land. But of course, not just the EU but the entire neo-liberal world order.

The defense lawyer played incandescently by the poster boy of German cinema though Austrian, it should be patriotically stressed,  Maximillian Schell, in fact in the defence of Janning, shows how ideas of sterilisation of those that are defective or perceived as such was an idea of the time and, in defence of Janning, argued was most awfully expressed by the legendary US Supreme Court judge Oliver Wendell Holmes where Schell accurately points out he upheld the sterilisation of a young woman Carrie Buck as “three generations of imbeciles are enough.” Buck v Bell (1929).

So even the great intellect of the American Supreme Court and friend of Harold Laski was a proponent of Social Darwinism and eugenics.

Intellectuals can often flirt dangerously to the edge and indeed and especially scientists. The present grip of social Darwinism and Malthusian ideas in the English intellectual John Gray, however ambivalently expressed, is in my view, a case in point. A dangerous extension of ideas that may make transhuman coffee table sense but not humane real-world sense.

We are experiencing a race to the bottom and the gradual insidious destruction of the quality of life of many world citizens, longer working hours, short-term contracts, the quick replacement of the elderly, the diminution of health care, homelessness. Mass evictions and repossessions under the false paradigm and economic model of austerity. Particularly in countries without the remnants of the welfare state.

In effect, it is the infliction of poverty on the defenceless to facilitate the interest of those who caused the collapse. It need not be stressed that the fascist enclaves in Hungary, Poland and Italy are a by-product of this and thus Judgment at Nuremberg is an important reminder.

The concept of universal authority which the film is about attaches to a breach of an obligation erga omnes and that is an obligation owed to humanity. What is called Crimes Against Humanity. Initially, the list was such matters as genocide which ethnic cleansing broadly falls within, slavery and human trafficking were later added, and recent jurisprudence suggests rape also.

But such concepts should be extended in my view to economicide and ecocide, as the new crimes against humanity are the destruction of health care and housing rights by increments by the ruling corporatocracy hand in glove with the over broad extension of emergency powers and hyper-inflated virus that may, or in fact, has sleepwalked us into a new form of corporate fascism and or at least unemployment or underemployment.

As well as docile consumerist compliance in an increasingly accepting and non-critical age of, well, human destruction or consented to self-destruction. Be careful what you consent to or agree to but that is if you have a choice and from late February many Austrians may not.

To force someone to undergo any procedure, as I wrote hitherto for Broadsheet, is at the very least the breach of a liberty or privacy interest but depends on how invasive the procedure. To violate someone without their consent is inhuman and degrading treatment and perhaps, very frankly, torture which is a well recognised crime against humanity.

The voice of what Zizek calls, rightly, late end of days or dark capitalism and the pond scum, as is represented in The Gates Foundation, as it restricts the supply through Oxford of the vaccine to those who most need it, as India and Brazil and others die in droves.

And Gates is, it should be noted, obsessed with Malthusian population control, thinks in numbers and hygiene. I dislike intensely clean-cut bland Palo Alto consumerism. A meaningless mumbo jumbo of nonsense. Dangerous cult nonsense taken far too seriously as David Eggers novel The Circle demonstrates.

So, Judgement at Nuremberg ripples through the ages to get us to focus on when scientists, economists and indeed judges lose their individual and collective sense of humanity.

What they do not have is a Christian or secular moral compass and, in my view, are acting, as Habermas calls it, in a decisionist exclusively technical manner.

And who should be in the dock at Nuremberg? A list of candidates?

Perhaps we should start a game about this and the readers of Broadsheet can contribute. A counter game to the Hunger Games. The gallery of infamy?

But how do you indict a consensus of stupidity or indeed intentional or unintentional evil.

More likely we will be indicted, we the people. Or die in increments by their edicts. Berlin Alexanderplatz (1933) is the crucial Germanic novel of the Depression, dramatized by Fassbinder, in the peritectic chronicle of its everyman German Franz Bide Kopf convict, pimp, worker through the swathes of the Weimar republic is at one level a chronicle of our time.

Dubious associations, flirting with fascism and in passages most relevant and redolent in his panegyric against his erstwhile communist friends which shows how the everyman is seduced:

“We’ve got to have order, order, I’m telling you, order—and put that in your pipes and smoke it, order and nothing else . . . and if anybody comes and starts a revolution now and don’t leave us in peace, they ought to be strung up all along the street . . . then they’ll get theirs, when they swing, yes, sir. You might remember that whatever you do, you criminals”

The most important passages are the slaughterhouse and abattoir scenes, and they are most unsettling and relevant for our times. Equating in effect and dissecting the microscopic slaughter and costing of the slaughter of the animals with human slaughter. And the expiration of man and beast.

There is a famous book by The Portuguese novelist Saramago, recently deceased, called Blindness (1989) where a blindness epidemic takes sway and blindness becomes a communicable disease. The effect ever increasing is an escalated sense of panic. Individuals are quarantined and dehumanised.

Human nature descends to Hobbesian force and brutality. The concept of due process or fairness of legality or the rule of law or human rights goes out the window. Inept authorities make mistakes. Asylums are created for those quarantined and descend into murder and chaos. An armed clique gains control.

There is a window of time between now and February and the Austrians should use it well. The world is watching and this precedent should not be emulated.

David Langwallner is a barrister specialising in public law, immigration, housing and criminal defence including miscarriages of justice. He is emeritus director of the Irish Innocence project and was Irish lawyer of the year at the 2015 Irish law awards. Follow David on Twitter @DLangwallner


The Austrian flag; David Langwallner

This afternoon.

Further to Austria’s decision to make COVID-19 vaccines ‘mandatory by law’ and implement a full national lockdown starting Monday…

…Austro-Irish human rights lawyer David Langwallner writes:

1) This is a worrying extension of control and compliance and in breach of Article 8 (privacy rights). It is the negation of choice and a slippery slope and should not be followed in other countries.

2) This further accentuates a growing apartheid of people based on legitimate disgareement and concerns.

3) The Austrian right-wing People’s Party, though not a fascist party, are displaying deeply authoritarian tendencies.

4) Noticeably, the sensible Austrian people, by not taking up the vaccine in sufficient numbers, have displayed a degree of scepticism and doubt.

5) How do you enforce compulsory vaccination. By force? by internment? by imprisonment? By quarantine of the unvaccinated? By a round up? This creates all sorts of civil liberties issues and, for some Austrians, is history repeating.

David Langwallner is a barrister specialising in public law, immigration, housing and criminal defence including miscarriages of justice.

Earlier: No, Vienna!

Previously: David Langwallner: The Austrian Mind

From top: ‘Protect the Children of the Poor and Punish the wrongdoer’- Inscription outside the Old Bailey Central Criminal Court, London, England; David Langwallner

My mother brought me up to believe in the idea that the worst thing you could do was lie and, absent small lies, lying in general should be condemned – particularly the lying of the powerful who are too adept at getting away with lying.

Truth is not truth, as Mr Giuliani stated recently, and as all Neo Cons seem to adhere too closely, as they police the distinction between fact, semi-fact and the establishment of nonsense through social media and reverse social engineering in Covid times.

Well, to the temple of truth.

In my entire life and career, I have only appeared in the most famous court on Earth on three occasions – a slightly insignificant token appearance; a major trial victory; and, today, a sentencing with a packed gallery. Not me the case. My mother would not have believed it but would not have thought it enough either. Irish mothers!!!

Now the Gothic splendour outside is also mirrored by the cavernous darkness inside, particularly the first floor with all the inscriptions embossed in dark, foreboding letters relevant to our time

‘Protect the welfare of the people and the supreme law. ‘

‘Protect the rights of Londoners.’

As you leave the building and gaze upwards to see the famous balancing scales of justice, more important, though less imposing than the statue, are the words on the door, inscribed in 1912 as the motto of that court:

‘Protect the Children of the Poor and Punish the wrongdoer.’

So, protect the welfare of the people and the children of the poor and all Londoners and punish the wrongdoers. Quite Right. But, what is right and wrong?

As I did the case today, I was told The Krays were there and I once, in fact, represented the remnants of them. The Court also involved the farce and miscarriage of justice that was Edith Thompson. And I was told the very court I appeared in today, before I went in, was where Oscar Wilde lost his libel action.

The great British actor Charles Laughton, who memorably played an Old Bailey hack in Witness for The Prosecution, made one foray, in an illustrious career, into film directing and though a complete failure at the time it was his greatest achievement and one of the greatest films ever made, “The Night of The Hunter”. (1955) About the protection of children.

The face of the great silent movie actor Lillian Gish, unretired for this film, front ends the film with bright stars and children’s faces floating and twinkling all around her, as she issues a stern biblical warning about the good and evil of the world for children and it is children who are pursued and victimised in this film. Now what should children be warned about in our day and age and how should they be protected?

These issues are far from clear so let us impose some clarities, how do we protect The Children of The Poor as The Old Bailey motto says and against whom exactly?

More to the point, a child is a person who a certain type of nefarious adult patronises and indeed exploits.

So false sex complaints, in a skewed family law and criminal justice system, fanning the flames of public hysteria often for masked political reasons. And undermining the children of the poor by the nefarious rich. Take a bow Sergeant McCabe. Thus, our corporate bandits are involved in the grubby business of the destruction of the innocent.

In Schiff’s recent book about The Salem Witch Hunt (2015) Satan figures large. But who is Satan?

It is, at one level, noticeable how, in Freudian terms, the false allegations stemmed from a conversion disorder, a transformation or a sublimation which causes the hysteria of persecution and prosecution and of course, as the book makes clear, this hysteria is easily accomplished in this day and age among social workers and with the dubious enlistment of an authority figure such as a family lawyer or a police officer as a triage of police officers with overlapping roles and social workers often engaged in leading question. Getting the answer they want. Such issues in our twisted universe often arise when a relationship structure has broken down often due to financial considerations.

When hunger comes, love goes out the window (Mexican proverb) and the disposal of the no-longer-loved makes economic sense. The strange warping of our universe.

The process of establishing criminality is also deeply flawed in many legal systems. Given that the police either actively frame people or negligently do not know what they are doing, or simply do not care, I do think as elements of the Innocence Project have suggested that pre-charge disclosure of all police investigative techniques should be shared.

There are also stages of criminality. John Valjean from Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables (1862) was maliciously persecuted by a criminal prosecutor for many years for his theft of a loaf of bread.

Those that are systematically economically and environmentally destroying the world are not being prosecuted but manipulating governments with handouts and bribes. The lubrications of world capitalists and whistle-blowers are prosecuted.

Now the historical incident in Salem referenced above has plagued American society and consciousness ever since. Culturally thus, they are very conscious of the same and the modern variants are the communist persecutions both in the 1920s and 1950s, The McCarthyism Era.

The later political witch hunt led to Arthur Miller writing the famous play The Crucible (1953) using Salem as a historical metaphor for what happened then. Of course, Miller himself was targeted by the witch-hunt, as were many communists sympathisers, or indeed even those with a slight leftist tinge.

We are currently  living in an extreme age of demonisation. A new-born age of witches and witch hunts.  But the Old Bailey thinks otherwise, as do some Britons. The residue of Orwellian decency in English public life.

At least the Westminster magistrates court had the courage to stop the Assange prosecution. Though the American appeal is this week, and one wonders if the stressors and commitment to the rule of law of the UK system will hold. The glue is falling apart.

Thus, endorse the motto of the Old Bailey and bang the tin drum to protect the children and innocent of this world and to prosecute the guilty.

And why should Mr Assange be extradited to face 175 years and dehumanised incarceration for seeking to protect the innocent of the world?

What wrong has that done? He violated the laws of state criminals in a twisted universe.

David Langwallner is a barrister specialising in public law, immigration, housing and criminal defence including miscarriages of justice. He is emeritus director of the Irish Innocence project and was Irish lawyer of the year at the 2015 Irish law awards. His column appears here every Tuesday and Friday. Follow David on Twitter @DLangwallner


From top: Statue of Salzburg-born Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, located in the Burggarten in Vienna. In the background the Austrian flag flies above the Austrian National Library; David Langwallner

To My Daughter Lara.

“In those days before the Great War when the events narrated in this book took place, it had not yet become a matter of indifference whether a man lived or died. When one of the livings had been extinguished another did not at once take his place to obliterate him: there was a gap where he had been, and both close and distant witnesses of his demise fell silent whenever they became aware of his gap. When fire had eaten away a house from the row of others in a street, the burnt-out space remained long empty. Masons worked slowly and cautiously. Close neighbours and casual passers-by alike, when they saw the empty space, remembered the aspect and walls of the vanished house. That was how things were then. Everything that grew took its time in growing and everything that was destroyed took a long time to be forgotten. And everything that had once existed left its traces so that in those days people lived on memories, just as now they live by the capacity to forget quickly and completely.”

― Joseph Roth, The Radetzky March

“There still exists – even today – a yearning, a nostalgia for European solidarity, a solidarity of European culture. Regrettably, solidarity itself no longer exists, except in hearts, in consciences, in the minds of a few great men at the heart of each nation. European consciousness – or what one might call a ‘cultural European awareness’ – had been on the wane for years ever since the awakening of national identity. You could say that patriotism has killed Europe.”

– Also, Joseph Roth, On the End of the World

I am, of course, half-Austrian and love going to Austria at Christmas, if I can or could and, since now everyone is restricted in movement, the only visit can be a mental one and a feat of remembrance and imagination as the Roth quote from one of the great Austrian novels indicates and presages our awful times of casual forgetfulness and recrudescent chauvinism.

We are all now traveling in our minds and memories, not unlike Mr Proust. Remembering things past.

And I am coming to grips with that aspect of me that has always made me an outsider in Ireland and elsewhere, my Austrian mind; my left foot, in Irish terms.

So, this is obviously, at one level, a personal exploration. Like Lampedusa the Leopard (1959), the established work of Italian literature on times past, the passing of time and that which was lost in a new age. But now a feudal order is asserted quite different to that book which was, at one level, about the transition of Italy to democracy but also the abandonment of tradition.

Well, tradition and civility are now, yet again, being abandoned in a new dark age.

My childhood in Ireland, not unlike that of Hugo Hamilton in his narrative The Speckled People, something I have written hitherto about for Village magazine, involved casual racism and bullying.

My family, that I am close to, are from Salzburg, home of The Fespiele, and Mozart was, of course, born in Salzburg and a little museum in Salzburg glorifies his brief tenure on Earth. Bach aside, Mozart’s music combing lyricism, frivolity, dexterity, and profundity in equal parts is a useful starting point. But what does it say about the human condition is not just chocolate-box fripperies or the texture of lightness that is Eine Kleine Nachtmusik but an understanding of darkness. Darkness threads through the Austrian mind juxtaposed with light.

Thus, of the great operas Cosi Fan Tutti and The Marriage of Figaro are the intrigues and mishaps of sexual dalliances and the rites of spring. A ray of light and an understanding of human frailty. But there are darker themes in a mind of native ambivalence to quote Harold Bloom on Shakespeare and indeed FR Leavis.

Thus, Don Giovanni is about the destructive powers of rakish satanism, also evident in Zweig’s best book beautifully filmed by Max Ophuls’ Letters from an Unknown Women, where a seduced woman writes a letter to a man who has casually forgotten her. So, there is a level of moralism and condemnation in Austrian letters. A good thing and a sense of honour.

In Mozart is the incomparable Magic Flute splendidly rendered in a film by Bergman which, in effect, is about, at one level, the dubious justification of freemasonry which Mozart was but also, at a deeper level and a context of the time, a crier de coeur and assertion of a form of enlightened and tolerant monarchism against the vectors of state and, in particular, church authoritarianisms. Now needed again. The assertion of moderation against extremism. Including though against Freemasons. Indeed, our world is run that way. Corporate freemasons.

The Austrians, in fact, have not universally acclaimed the Catholic Church and a visit to an Austrian church for Sunday service is to experience splendid isolation and admire the architecture. The only good reasons for visiting a church, it might be said. But not necessarily by me.

The great enfant terrible of Austrian letters and its greatest post-war writer Thomas Bernhard was gloriously insulting about religion, though in words I partially endorse.

The Catholic Church is the world poisoner, the world destroyer, the world annihilator, which is the truth.And the Austrians believe in the truth and take it seriously, unlike the gradual decline in that in Ireland. The national psyche of Ireland is a society committed to post-truth, lies and propaganda and willing to accept anything that suits their agenda and to comply.

It must be said that Bernhard had such an ‘against everything’ quality that even the tolerant Austrian homeland banned, censored, or neglected, as well as lauded, him. His masterpiece Woodcutters is about a man in a chair at a party sipping Champagne, letting fly at bourgeoise hypocrisy and is one of the great Austrian books

A flavour of the Bernhard-like attack is the following:

“Everything about you, everything you are, has always been pretence, never genuine, never real.”

In his will, he ordered none of his works be performed in Austria. This has been deliberately avoided. All cultures have their tropes.

In terms of Salzburgian culture, The Merry Widow an exemplar of light operetta, like a jaded ritual, is still performed in The Lehrer Theatre in Bad Ischl and elsewhere. The last nostalgic remnants of modernist European civilisation. But always kitsch and certainly ritualised. And the Austrians do have an ambivalent relationship with kitsch. The Blue Danube is not unlike a classic Britpop song.

Even the great Herman Broch was fascinated by kitsch in a negative way, linking it to a decline in values.

“The maker of kitsch does not create inferior art, he is not an incompetent or a bungler, he cannot be evaluated by aesthetic standards; rather, he is ethically depraved, a criminal willing radical evil. And since it is radical evil that is manifest here, evil per se, forming the absolute negative pole of every value-system, kitsch will always be evil, not just kitsch in art, but kitsch in every value-system that is not an imitation system.”

In fact, in some respects the values vacuum, and the triumph of kitsch paves the way for Nazism as Broch and indeed Robert Musil both identified. Radical evil and kitsch is our age, so they were mystical to see it coming. Camp Fascism as Susan Sontag also identified. Varadkar to Gallagher and back again.

Welcome to Coronavirus Panopticon, you can checkout, but never leave; in fact the over-celebrated Klimt, a disturbed, dependent human being, is kitsch. A kind of postcard and coffee table art for a fundamentally illiterate generation, then and now, so let us not extol Austrian culture universally.

Beethoven was a German but, of course, lived and died in Vienna, raging at a storm it is said so I claim him falsely as an Austrian or at least a Viennese, though the two concepts must be kept separate. His darkness is a counterpart to Mozart. His deafness influences the isolated pessimism of the later atonal dark sonatas and are close to the finality of expression in musical terms that Beckett created in language.

His final string quartet is integral to Dr Faustus by Thomas Mann, where the satanic composer modelled on Heidegger sells his Faustian soul to the devil.

I have found that it must not be. The good and the noble, what they call the human, even though it is good and noble, what men have fought for, have stormed citadels for, and in their moment of fulfilment, have jubilant proclaimed it is not to be. It is not to be, it will be taken back. I will take it back.

Mann, the great German conservative, had the moral integrity to decamp to Switzerland when such ideas took hold, then and now. So, a crucial point to appreciate conservatism is not all bad if it conserves the good and the ethical. Mann is juxtaposed in this respect with Heidegger, also a potential, if not actual, inspiration for Dr Faustus.

The rise of Nazism is anticipated brilliantly in Broch’s The Sleepwalkers one of the great novels of Austrian heritage.

In the character of Hugenau, a man solely motivated by profit and homo economicus, to use the terms of the law and economics movement, we have a real sense in 1918 of a generation so brutal that the seeds of fascism were already there. The book culminates with murder of a journalist and the rape of his wife.

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The Fall (1956) by Albert Camus (top) is a crucial text for lawyers, argues David Langwallner (above)

Now, I have written about Camus before for Broadsheet. But this is in a different tone. The readers of Broadsheet have asked for a clinical piece, so here it is: clinical and theoretical.

The crucial text for all lawyers, in my view, is the French novelist Camus’s The Fall. The crucial man of reason. From his involvement in the French resistance to his controversial comments about the Algerian War, this was not a disengaged man of letters. He, unlike his protagonist in The Fall (1956), was not a hypocrite unlike his erstwhile friends De Beauvoir and Sartre.

Now, the longer political tracts on suicide The Myth of Sisyphus (1942), and the classic expression of his anti-authoritarian resistance mentality and his distrust of bloodletting and extremism The Rebel (1951), say multitudes in his classic French prose style and are crucial to our age. But it is the novels where the legacy rests.

The Plague (1947), of course, has brought Camus right back into focus and I have written about it hitherto, in Counsel magazine, and all it says about our present awful coronavirus times and The Outsider/Étranger (1942) has never been unfashionable and hotly debated by multiculturalists which I have also written about in Cassandra Voices.

Thus, the last published novel The Fall (1956) often gets overlooked, not least in that it is, in a way, monothematic unlike the other texts but that is its force, and it is about a lawyer, so hence clinical practice, and it is masterpiece. I would go so far as to say the greatest short novella of the 20th century; a secular version of St Augustine’s Confessions without the same atonement.

At the outset, to preface the book, Camus quotes Lermontov who said of his own epic A Hero of Our Time (1840) where the Byronic hero Parchorin is a superfluous nihilistic figure.

“It is in fact a portrait, not of an individual; it is the aggregate of the vices of our whole generation in their fullest expression.”

That I think is also what Camus is doing: etching a portrait, far from the flattering, of his generation. Perhaps through a lens darkly of many generations, including ours.

Short, crisp, and precise, the book is a detailed exposition on the lawyer as a professional hypocrite. In the Mexico City bar in Amsterdam, that city of half measures, compromises and ambiguity, both beautiful and repulsive, at once, the home of The Night Watch, the Van Gogh Museum and the drug trade and the red-light district. Thus, Jean Baptiste Clamence regales the assembled multitudes as a self-styled judge penitent and the book concerns one such dialogue, or should it be monologue, to a silent presumably willing listener.

Well, Gambon and John Hurt read Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape beautifully. And that is what it is like, a monologue. Maybe Gambon could be persuaded!

We, the readers, are the passive recipients. Just as to any client in the bar, he introduces himself unctuously at the outset of the book:

‘Monsieur, may I offer my services without running the risk of intruding.’

One is reminded of Uriah Heep and his incantation to be humble as a mask of self-deception.

Or later he describes himself as:

‘A charming Janus and a play actor so very much important in an advocate.’

His view of human society is venal, using the example of the piranha fish. It is, in effect, always a question of who will clean up or eat the other, or worse, or better, still depending on your view, comparing the holocaust to vacuum cleaning and admiring, on a purely professional level, the technique and the diligence. The relevance to our deregulated virus times should not go unnoticed.

The view of human nature in short is not benign. As a Parisian lawyer, the book in the classic, confessional French style highlights his own professional hypocrisy.

Often taking charitable cases to make himself look good. He had, he mulishly self-justifies to the reader, rightness of tone, appropriate emotion, persuasion, and warmth. Restrained indignation. The self-esteem of the putative righteous. F For Fake (1973) as the Welles film, set in the world of art forgery, shows. The art of illusion and fakery. And the book is very much one of Lost Illusions of a fake or a busted flush to use an American vernacular expression.

His representation of the innocent threads through the book, though he ambiguously notes that even those innocent of a crime accused have committed others, a dangerous line of argument often pursued by extremists of a religious or fundamentalist nature. The confusion of sin and criminality.

Clemence (Camus) is caustic about religious maniacs and, in a line, I must remember he argues that their moralising makes their Satanism virtuous. Or at least to them it does. It is a common failing of excessively religious people that they do not see the evil in themselves. I am reminded of several members of The Irish judiciary in that respect.

Clemence at least turns the lenses unsparingly on himself. The book, in an indirect way, reminds me of a recent book by a prosecutor of the Southern District of New York Doing Justice: A Prosecutor’s Thoughts on Crime, Punishment and The Rule of Law which, in the cosmos, I suppose has the moral significance of a Diary of a Nobody by Grossmith, but, no matter, also shows the effect of religious moralism in lawyer-dom with references in abundance to an entity called God.

The book argues that it is not enough that the convicted or soon-to-be convicted criminal be reformed and rehabilitated. It is not enough to admit what we already know. Freedom and absolution require more. You must confess all your sins. Well, that is certainly what Clamence is doing. To all and sundry, without restraint. Perhaps he should be reminded of the right to silence but perhaps not… I am sedulously of the view, at this stage, that the prosecutor mentality, evident also in Valjeart chasing Jean Valgena for the theft of a loaf of bread, is unsuitable for any position of institutional authority.

Jean Baptiste, of course, in his professional career began to look at himself as a delusion ally as a superman but is acutely conscious in hindsight of his own middle-class hypocrisy. In the text, he intimates he did not have, or rather has, no longer friends but accomplices and though he represented the innocent, and they were grateful, it was vanity.

Well, we should all be so reflexive. The reason we are kind to the dead, he argues, is that we owe them no obligation. Well, that is true and an Irish trait that it is the living we should care about which we are not.

The book has remarkably interesting things to say in our post-truth universe about how power determines truth. We are right because we are the powerful and we win.

Thus, our victory determines what is true or not, a dangerous vista in the fascist authoritarian creep that is now evident.

In fact, the protagonist, like the present author, does not like the police. Well, no defence lawyer really does. Clemence, in fact, in an ironic sense, starts to write An Ode to the Police.

The expression of how human society is structured on slavery is also pertinent, albeit slavery with a smile, perhaps a variation of service with a smile, our new corporate feudalism.

Also relevant to our present times, he draws the precise relationship between politics and gangsterism, save that politicians are the gangsters who win. And now it is, of course, corporate and political gangsterdom that rules our universe.

As a self-styled judge penitent, he, of course, now realises and argues that to judge one must first become a penitent. The kind of self-abnegation in the Tridentine and religious maniacs who adorn the Irish profession and trek off to churches in Rome and the Santiago De La Compost walk.

He also elaborates on how judging and condemnation involves crucifixion of a secular and perhaps quasi-religious form. All crucified, all judged. The sea change or the epiphany that leads to self-imposed exile in Amsterdam is his failure to assist a suicide victim who throws herself into the Seine.

Thus, this act of cowardice shows what he is genuinely like, to himself, and not a Good Samaritan and thus off to exile but not before decline. Months of orgy and excess lead to a slippage in the standard of his speeches.

The reference, purely verbal, that I often made to God in my speeches before the court awakened mistrust in my clients. They probably feared that heaven could not represent their interests as well as a lawyer

Though sometimes, it should be said, in a closing speech, God works. Marshall Hall QC at the end of a famous peroration in The Seddon case (1912) representing an old prostitute said:

God did not give her a chance, why do not you?”

And it worked. It often works in Ireland. In God We Trust Inc. But a Hail Mary should not be relied upon at the expense of the scientific and forensic dismantling of the evidence.

Jean Baptiste himself fears, though, the judgment of men not God and regards religion as a huge laundering in the soap sense or indeed money-laundering exercise so evident in mafiosa Catholic countries like Ireland and Italy.

We thus have the lawyer as monster, posing and preening, loquacious and fawning, with avowed but hypocritical good intentions and ostensible and indeed ostentatious charity but, self-serving. It says much for our time and the book concludes with a line worthy of Beckett:

“It’s too late now. It always will be too late. Unfortunately.”

Though Beckett, it should be said, might have said, fortunately. Thus, in 90-odd pages, the lawyer as demon is captured perfectly and the deep-seated hypocrisy of the profession exposed.

There is a certain family resemblance to elements of the Irish profession and the transgression of professional boundaries which allows and permits and endorses public servant barristers to do corporate nixers to serve the agenda of non-public service.

Thus, we should be self-reflexive, but it would be wrong to transliterate this to Mr Camus. He was the opposite. A just man.

But, in our present universe, are we more Jeans Baptise than Camus. That is the problem which Camus fully understood relevant then and now. Thus shallowness, ambition and fraudulence are matters that all lawyers should take account of and turn the lenses on themselves. Many prosecutors are peculiarly incapable of this.

Standards have fallen of the cliff. Worldwide and the narrow sliver that holds the platinum chip standard of justice, the English profession visibly creaking at the edges with the Jean Baptistes worldwide in the ascendant.

David Langwallner is a barrister specialising in public law, immigration, housing and criminal defence including miscarriages of justice. He is emeritus director of the Irish innocence project and was Irish lawyer of the year at the 2015 Irish law awards. His column appears here every Tuesday and Friday. Follow David on Twitter @DLangwallner