No More Cheating: Time to Apply the Rules of the Game to Politics

In his brilliant film, La Règle du Jeu, often considered one of the greatest ever made, the director, Jean Renoir, discusses the mores that specify proper behavior.  Each clique in the world has its own customs, mores, and language.  Breakage of those rules is seen as a moral transgression as well as outrageous cheating.

When should rules be enforced, and who should be punished?  Realistically, political and official organizations like human beings lie and cheat, tell white lies, utter what Winston Churchill once called "terminological inexactitudes," in conduct that contradicts generally accepted ethical codes but is not a cause for alarm or condemnation. 

This was not the case with the breakage of the rules of the game by the Australian cricket team playing in Cape Town in the third test match with South Africa.  Australia was losing and, in an act of desperation, deliberately tampered with the ball to get advantage.  Three members of the team conspired to use sandpaper to make the ball swing more than normal, making it more difficult to hit.  On March 25, 2018, the three responsible players of the test team were sent home in disgrace as a result of behaving "not in the laws of the game," euphemism for cheating.

Cheating of this kind is not unknown.  A particularly infamous incident in the U.S. was the scandal concerning the "golden boy" of football, quarterback Tom Brady, who was accused of conspiring to deflate footballs used in the AFL Championship game in January 2015 and who was suspended for four games for violating NFL policy on the integrity of the game.

The rules of the game are important for sport – so why not for politics?  The Australian captain confessed his responsibility for cheating and apologized.  The difference in political behavior is the unwillingness to admit breakage of the rules, or indeed even refusal to admit that they exist.  Many cases can illustrate this, but a few examples can suffice.

First is Russia, now accused by more than a dozen countries of using of a military-grade nerve agent in an attempt to murder a former Russian double agent and his daughter in Salisbury on March 4, 2018.  Russian authorities persist in denying any responsibility, protest the decisions to expel Russian diplomats, and threaten to retaliate against the actions of more than 20 countries and organizations in expelling more than 150 Russian diplomats and intelligence officers.

Russian assertions are shameless.  They say Russia does not have any information on the lives of Russian citizens on the territory of Britain.  Yet they know that the British intelligence special services played a role in the poisoning.  They argue that British authorities have acted at the expense of common sense, rules of civilized interstate dialogue, and principles of international law.  Russia denies the use of nerve gases, including Novichok, that target part of the body's nervous system, though the agent is made in the Russian lab Yasenevo, run by the SVR. 

Britain was slow to deal with the 14 suspicious deaths in the last decade of various Russians living in the country.  Now the U.K. has begun to implement the rules of the game.  It is beginning a counter-offensive against fake news by Russia as well as terrorists on social media to combat propaganda, misinformation, and extremist material.

The U.K. is also examining, as are U.S. authorities, the extent of money-laundering by anonymous owners in the country.  According to the U.S. Treasury, some $300 billion is laundered in the U.S. every year.  Estimates for the U.K. suggest $125 billion.  In both cases, it is probable that the largest share is held by Russians, including property transactions of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Unexpectedly, we have just learned that the rules of the game apply in the Far East.  The meeting on March 26-27 in Beijing of Chinese president Xi Jinping and North Korean president Kim Jong-un may have been harmonious and intimate, but the Chinese leader reminded his guest of the rules.  The elder generations of leaders of the two countries maintained cordial relations, trusted, and supported each other.  But Kim had broken the rules since he came to power in 2011.  He had purged officials close to Beijing; one of them was his uncle, Kim Jong-nam.

In the Middle East, the Palestinians also have been unwilling to recognize rules of the game.  Two instances need be mentioned.  One is that the U.S. Taylor Force Act suspends aid to the Palestinian Authority as long as it pays stipends. to the families of terrorists killed while attacking Israelis and to captured terrorists.  Yet the P.A. still pays directly to the families, providing $343 million, 7% of the P.A. annual budget.  A second issue concerns Hamas, which is organizing a March of 100,000 Gazans to storm the Israeli security fence around Gaza.  This is supposed to signify the return of Gaza "refugees" to their homes.  Left unsaid is the nonexistence of more than a few "refugees."  A refugee born on the same day of the creation of Israel on May 14, 1948 would be almost 70.

A third persisting issue in which the rules of the game are absent is the flagrant anti-Semitism in the British Labor Party, and the inability or unwillingness of the leader Jeremy Corbyn to deal with it, to condemn forthrightly manifestations of this disease, and to expel from the party those responsible for it.  Since he became leader in 2015, more than 300 cases of anti-Semitism by Labor Party members have been referred to Corbyn.

In recent weeks a number of breakage of rules have appeared.  An M.P. named David Lammy, one of the few black Labor M.P.s, was attacked by leftists in the party who want to deselect him from Parliament because he expressed solidarity with the Jewish population in his constituency.

It gets worse.  A few Labor websites have proclaimed that it was the Jews, in the form of the Israeli Mossad, who were responsible for the Salisbury poisoning.

A former mayor of Blackburn, the Pakistani-born Salim Mulla, declared that Israel was behind the recent school shooting in the U.S. and behind ISIS.  Worst of all, a more prominent person, Christine Shawcroft, member of the Labor executive committee, head of the "disputes panel" and director of the Trotskyist group Momentum, defended a former L.P. candidate who had posted on Facebook an article denying the Holocaust.  The candidate had been suspended for posting the article that was entitled "The International Red Cross confirms the Holocaust of 6 million Jews is a hoax."

Perhaps we need a new formula – a film, a documentary, even a musical – to explain the meaning and significance of the rules of the political game.  Our leaders must stress the importance of the principles that uphold moral conduct and punish without qualification the transgressors who break the rules.