2nd April 15:31
MI5 Persecution: Bernard Levin - The Times (31832)
Fanatic's Fare for the Common Man
Certainty level: 90%
The article reproduced below was penned by Bernard Levin
for the Features section of the Times on 21 September 1991. To my mind, it
described the situation at the time and in particular a recent meeting with
a friend, during which I for the first time admitted to someone other than
my GP that I had been subjected to a conspiracy of harassment over the
previous year and a half.
There is a madman running loose about London, called David Campbell; I have
no reason to believe that he is violent, but he should certainly be
approached with caution. You may know him by the curious glitter in his
eyes and a persistent trembling of his hands; if that does not suffice, you
will find him attempting to thrust no fewer than 48 books into your arms,
all hardbacks, with a promise that, if you should return to the same
meeting-place next year, he will heave another 80 at you.
If, by now, the police have arrived and are keeping a close watch on him,
you may feel sufficiently emboldened to examine the books. The jackets are
a model of uncluttered typography, elegantly and simply laid out; there is
an unobtrusive colophon of a rising sun, probably not picked at random.
Gaining confidence - the lunatic is smiling by now, and the policemen, who
know about such things, have significantly removed their helmets - you
could do worse than take the jacket off the first book in the pile. The
only word possible to describe the binding is sumptuous; real cloth in a
glorious shade of dark green, with the title and author in black and gold
on the spine.
Look at it more closely; your eyes do not deceive you - it truly does have
real top-bands and tail-bands, in yellow, and, for good measure, a silk
marker ribbon in a lighter green. The paper is cream-wove and acid-free,
and the book is sewn, not glued.
Throughout the encounter, I should have mentioned, our loony has been
chattering away, although what he is trying to say is almost impossible to
understand; after a time, however, he becomes sufficiently coherent to make
clear that he is trying to sell the books to you. Well, now, such quality
in bookmaking today can only be for collectors' limited editions at a
fearsome price - £30, £40, £50?
No, no, he says, the glitter more powerful than ever and the trembling of
his hands rapidly spreading throughout his entire body; no, no - the books
are priced variously at £7, £8 or £9, with the top price £12.
At this, the policemen understandably put their helmets back on; one of
them draws his truncheon and the other can be heard summoning
reinforcements on his walkie-talkie. The madman bursts into tears, and
swears it is all true.
And it is.
David Campbell has acquired the entire rights to the whole of the
Everyman's Library, which died a lingering and shameful death a decade or
so ago, and he proposes to start it all over again - 48 volumes this
September and 80 more next year, in editions I have described, at the
prices specified. He proposes to launch his amazing venture simultaneously
in Britain and the United States, with the massive firepower of Random
Century at his back in this country, and the dashing cavalry of Knopf
across the water, and no one who loves literature and courage will forbear
my situation. Nothing unusual about this you may think, plenty of people
have the same sort of ideas and obviously the papers aren't writing about
them, so why should my beliefs not be as false as those of others?
What makes this article so extraordinary is that three or four days
immediately preceding its publication, I had a meeting with a friend,
during the course of which we discussed the media persecution, and in
particular that by Times columnists. It seemed to me, reading the article
by Levin in Saturdayís paper, that he was describing in some detail his
"artistís impression" of that meeting. Most telling are the final
sentences, when he writes, "The madman bursts into tears, and swears it is
all true. And it is." Although I did not "burst into tears" (he seems to be
using a bit of poetic licence and exaggerating) I did try hard to convince
my friend that it was all true; and I am able to concur with Mr Levin,
because, of course, it is.
At the beginning of the piece Levin reveals a fear of being attacked by the
"irrational" subject of his story, saying "I have no reason to believe that
he is violent, but he should certainly be approached with caution". This
goes back to the xenophobic propaganda of "defence" against a "threat"
which was seen at the very beginning of the harassment. The impression of a
"madman running loose" who needs to be controlled through an agency which
assigns to itself the mantle of the "police" is also one which had been
In the final paragraph of this extract, his reference to Everymanís Library
as having "died a lingering and shameful death a decade or so ago" shows
clearly what sort of conclusion they wish to their campaign. They want a
permanent solution, and as they are prevented from achieving that solution
directly, they waste significant resources on methods which have been
repeatedly shown to be ineffective for such a purpose.
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