Sunshine Recorder

Link: Glenn Greenwald: Was the London killing of a British soldier 'terrorism'?

What definition of the term includes this horrific act of violence but excludes the acts of the US, the UK and its allies?

Two men yesterday engaged in a horrific act of violence on the streets of London by using what appeared to be a meat cleaver to hack to death a British soldier. In the wake of claims that the assailants shouted “Allahu Akbar” during the killing, and a video showing one of the assailants citing Islam as well as a desire to avenge and stop continuous UK violence against Muslims, media outlets (including the Guardian) and British politicians instantly characterized the attack as “terrorism”.

That this was a barbaric and horrendous act goes without saying, but given the legal, military, cultural and political significance of the term “terrorism”, it is vital to ask: is that term really applicable to this act of violence? To begin with, in order for an act of violence to be “terrorism”, many argue that it must deliberately target civilians. That’s the most common means used by those who try to distinguish the violence engaged in by western nations from that used by the “terrorists”: sure, we kill civilians sometimes, but we don’t deliberately target them the way the “terrorists” do.

But here, just as was true for Nidal Hasan’s attack on a Fort Hood military base, the victim of the violence was a soldier of a nation at war, not a civilian. He was stationed at an army barracks quite close to the attack. The killer made clear that he knew he had attacked a soldier when he said afterward: “this British soldier is an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”

The US, the UK and its allies have repeatedly killed Muslim civilians over the past decade (and before that), but defenders of those governments insist that this cannot be “terrorism” because it is combatants, not civilians, who are the targets. Can it really be the case that when western nations continuously kill Muslim civilians, that’s not “terrorism”, but when Muslims kill western soldiers, that is terrorism? Amazingly, the US has even imprisoned people at Guantanamo and elsewhere on accusations of “terrorism” who are accused of nothing more than engaging in violence against US soldiers who invaded their country.

It’s true that the soldier who was killed yesterday was out of uniform and not engaged in combat at the time he was attacked. But the same is true for the vast bulk of killings carried out by the US and its allies over the last decade, where people are killed in their homes, in their cars, at work, while asleep (in fact, the US has re-defined “militant” to mean “any military-aged male in a strike zone”). Indeed, at a recent Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on drone killings, Gen. James Cartwright and Sen. Lindsey Graham both agreed that the US has the right to kill its enemies even while they are “asleep”, that you don’t “have to wake them up before you shoot them” and “make it a fair fight”. Once you declare that the “entire globe is a battlefield” (which includes London) and that any “combatant” (defined as broadly as possible) is fair game to be killed - as the US has done - then how can the killing of a solider of a nation engaged in that war, horrific though it is, possibly be “terrorism”?

When I asked on Twitter this morning what specific attributes of this attack make it “terrorism” given that it was a soldier who was killed, the most frequent answer I received was that “terrorism” means any act of violence designed to achieve political change, or more specifically, to induce a civilian population to change their government or its policies of out fear of violence. Because, this line of reasoning went, one of the attackers here said that “the only reasons we killed this man is because Muslims are dying daily” and warned that “you people will never be safe. Remove your government”, the intent of the violence was to induce political change, thus making it “terrorism”.

That is at least a coherent definition. But doesn’t that then encompass the vast majority of violent acts undertaken by the US and its allies over the last decade? What was the US/UK “shock and awe” attack on Baghdad if not a campaign to intimidate the population with a massive show of violence into submitting to the invading armies and ceasing their support for Saddam’s regime? That was clearly its functional intent and even its stated intent. That definition would also immediately include the massive air bombings of German cities during World War II. It would include the Central American civilian-slaughtering militias supported, funded and armed by the Reagan administration throughout the 1980s, the Bangledeshi death squads trained and funded by the UK, and countless other groups supported by the west that used violence against civilians to achieve political ends.

The ongoing US drone attacks unquestionably have the effect, and one could reasonably argue the intent, of terrorizing the local populations so that they cease harboring or supporting those the west deems to be enemies. The brutal sanctions regime imposed by the west on Iraq and Iran, which kills large numbers of people, clearly has the intent of terrorizing the population into changing its governments’ policies and even the government itself. How can one create a definition of “terrorism” that includes Wednesday’s London attack on this British soldier without including many acts of violence undertaken by the US, the UK and its allies and partners? Can that be done?

I know this vital caveat will fall on deaf ears for some, but nothing about this discussion has anything to do with justifiability. An act can be vile, evil, and devoid of justification without being “terrorism”: indeed, most of the worst atrocities of the 20th Century, from the Holocaust to the wanton slaughter of Stalin and Pol Pot and the massive destruction of human life in Vietnam, are not typically described as “terrorism”. To question whether something qualifies as “terrorism” is not remotely to justify or even mitigate it. That should go without saying, though I know it doesn’t.

The reason it’s so crucial to ask this question is that there are few terms - if there are any - that pack the political, cultural and emotional punch that “terrorism” provides. When it comes to the actions of western governments, it is a conversation-stopper, justifying virtually anything those governments want to do. It’s a term that is used to start wars, engage in sustained military action, send people to prison for decades or life, to target suspects for due-process-free execution, shield government actions behind a wall of secrecy, and instantly shape public perceptions around the world. It matters what the definition of the term is, or whether there is a consistent and coherent definition. It matters a great deal.

There is ample scholarship proving that the term has no such clear or consistently applied meaning (see the penultimate section here, and my interview with Remi Brulin here). It is very hard to escape the conclusion that, operationally, the term has no real definition at this point beyond “violence engaged in by Muslims in retaliation against western violence toward Muslims”. When media reports yesterday began saying that “there are indications that this may be act of terror”, it seems clear that what was really meant was: “there are indications that the perpetrators were Muslims driven by political grievances against the west” (earlier this month, an elderly British Muslim was stabbed to death in an apparent anti-Muslim hate crime and nobody called that “terrorism”). Put another way, the term at this point seems to have no function other than propagandistically and legally legitimizing the violence of western states against Muslims while delegitimizing any and all violence done in return to those states.

Link: The Facts, the Myths and the Framing of Immigration

Today, the same arguments once used against Jews, and then against South Asian and Caribbean immigrants, are now raised against Muslims and east Europeans. However, Kenan Malik finds some comfort in reviewing the facts of the matter. He then tackles the illusions.

At the heart of the current debate about immigration are two issues: the first is about the facts, the second about the public perception of immigration.

The facts are relatively straightforward. Immigration is a good thing and the idea that immigrants come to Britain to live off benefits laughable. Immigrants put more money into the economy than they take out[1] and have a negligible impact on jobs and wages. An independent report on the impact of immigration commissioned by the Home Office in 2003, looked at numerous international surveys and conducted its own study in Britain. “The perception that immigrants take away jobs from the existing population, or that immigrants depress the wages of existing workers”, it concluded, “do not find confirmation in the analysis of the data laid out in this report”.[2] More recent studies have suggested that immigration helps raise wages[3] except at the bottom of the jobs ladder where it has a slight negative impact.[4] That impact on low paid workers matters hugely, of course, but is arguably more an issue of labour organization than of immigration.

Immigrants are less likely to claim benefits than British citizens. According to the Department for Work and Pensions, of the roughly 1.8 million non-British EU citizens of working age in this country, about 90,000, or around five per cent, claim an “out of work benefit”, compared with around 13 per cent of Britons. Migrants from outside the EU are also much less likely to claim benefits.[5]

The most comprehensive study to date of East European migrants in Britain concluded that “A8 immigrants who arrived after EU enlargement in 2004 […] are 60 per cent less likely than natives to receive state benefits or tax credits, and 58 per cent less likely to live in social housing”. The study also discovered that “in each fiscal year since enlargement in 2004, A8 immigrants made a positive contribution to public finance despite the fact that the UK has been running a budget deficit over the last years”. This was because “they have a higher labour force participation rate, pay proportionately more in indirect taxes, and make much lower use of benefits and public services”. They paid around 30 per cent more in taxes than they cost our public services.[6]

Whatever the truth about immigration, it is clear that there exists widespread popular hostility to immigrants. For some, often on the right, the hostility makes sense because, irrespective of its economic benefits, the social impact of immigration is destructive. For others, often on the left, such hostility exists because people are irrational and take little notice of facts and figures. Both arguments have little merit.

Immigrants, the critics insist, disrupt communities, undermine traditional identities, and promote unrestrained change. David Goodhart, director of Demos, whose book on immigration, The British Dream, is published on Monday, claimed last week that “Large-scale immigration has created an England that is increasingly full of mysterious and unfamiliar worlds”. As a result, “for many of the white people […] the disappearance of familiar mental and physical landmarks has happened too fast”. He quotes one man from Merton in south London: “We’ve lost this place to other cultures. It’s not English any more”.[7]

Had Arthur Balfour been able to read that, he would undoubtedly have nodded in agreement. Balfour was the Prime Minister in 1905 when Britain introduced its first immigration controls, aimed primarily at European Jews. Without such a law, Balfour claimed, “though the Briton of the future may have the same laws, the same institutions and constitution […] nationality would not be the same and would not be the nationality we would desire to be our heirs through the ages yet to come”. Two years earlier, the Royal Commission on Alien Immigration (an “alien” was, in the early twentieth century, both a description of a foreigner and a euphemism for a Jew) had expressed fears that newcomers were inclined to live “according to their traditions, usages and customs” and that there might be “grafted onto the English stock […] the debilitated sickly and vicious products of Europe”.

The sense that Jewish immigration was uncontrolled and that “We’ve lost this place to other cultures. It’s not English any more”, was palpable in the discussions. “There is no end to them in Whitechapel and Mile End”, claimed one witness giving evidence to 1903 Royal Commission. “These areas of London might be called Jerusalem”. The Conservative MP Major Sir William Eden Evans-Gordon expressed the same sentiment through a quite extraordinary metaphor. “Ten grains of arsenic in a thousand loaves would be unnoticeable and perfectly harmless”, he told Parliament, “but the same amount put into one loaf would kill the whole family that partook of it”.

By the 1950s, the Jewish community had come to be seen as part of the British cultural landscape. The same arguments used against Jews half a century earlier were now deployed against a new wave of immigrants from South Asia and the Caribbean. A Colonial Office report of 1955 echoed Arthur Balfour, fearing that “a large coloured community as a noticeable feature of our social life would weaken […] the concept of England or Britain to which people of British stock throughout the Commonwealth are attached”. There were worries, too, about the uncontrolled nature of immigration. “The question of numbers and of the increase in numbers”, Enoch Powell insisted, lie at “the very heart of the problem”. “Whole areas, towns and parts of England”, he claimed, were being “occupied by different sections of the immigrant and immigrant-descended population”. A decade later Margaret Thatcher gave a notorious TV interview in which she claimed that there were in Britain “an awful lot” of black and Asian immigrants and that “people are really rather afraid that this country might be rather swamped by people with a different culture”. The echoes are unmistakable both of the debate about Jews before and of the contemporary immigration debate.

Just as Jews became an accepted part of the cultural landscape, so did postwar immigrants from the Caribbean and the Indian subcontinent, though the acceptance was more grudging, and often not extended to Muslims. Today, the same arguments that were once used against Jews, and then against South Asian and Caribbean immigrants, are now raised against Muslims and East Europeans.

The idea that immigration is disruptive of culture, identity and social cohesion is, in other words, as old as immigration itself. Whether it is Irish or Jews coming to Britain, Italians or North Africans to France, Catholics or Chinese to America, every wave of immigration is met fear and hostility and a sense of being overwhelmed.

Portishead - Silence (from Third)

Portishead are a band from Bristol, United Kingdom, named after a small coastal town twelve miles west of said musical hotbed, in North Somerset. The band was formed in 1991 (Then later split in 2005 reforming in 2008), by keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist Geoff Barrow and singer Beth Gibbons. Barrow had previously worked with Massive Attack and Tricky whilst tape operator at Coach House Studios in Clifton. They were initially known for their use of jazz samples and some hip-hop beats along with various synth sounds and the hauntingly beautiful vocals of singer Beth Gibbons. Their current sound drops the samples in favour of a harder, more abrasive edge, but retains Gibbons’ vocals. Portishead may not have invented trip-hop, but they were among the first to popularize it, particularly in America. Taking their cue from the slow, elastic beats that dominated Massive Attack's Blue Lines and adding elements of cool jazz, acid house, and soundtrack music, Portishead created an atmospheric, alluringly dark sound. The group wasn’t as avant-garde as Tricky, nor as tied to dance traditions as Massive Attack; instead, it wrote evocative pseudo-cabaret pop songs that subverted their conventional structures with experimental productions and rhythms of trip-hop. As a result, Portishead appealed to a broad audience — not just electronic dance and alternative rock fans, but thirtysomethings who found techno, trip-hop, and dance as exotic as worldbeat.

"Anything but Square" by Tinyevilhog

"This house belongs to an old man who has only ever left the island once – to go to war. And each time I pass his house on my way home to Edinburgh I think about how much I want to stay. And how one day I just might."

Link: The West's Hypocrisy Over Pussy Riot Is Breathtaking

Anyone in England and Wales with a dog out of control can now be jailed for six months. If the dog causes injury, the maximum term is to be two years. I have no sympathy for such people. Keeping these beasts is weird, and those who do it probably need treatment. But the Defra minister, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, complained in May that fewer than 20 people were in jail for dangerous dog offences. The sentencing council has duly told courts to raise the threshold to two years, “to send a message”.

The same sentiment a year ago motivated magistrates to play to the gallery by jailing 1,292 people for stealing bottles of water or trainers or sending idiot incitements during the dispersed rampage dubbed “urban riots”. Hysterical ministers raced home from holiday to tell judges to send messages. Judges duly ruined the lives of hundreds of young people, at great public expense and to no advantage to their victims. I have no sympathy for these people either, but again the politicised response to crime was disproportionate.

A month before, a London court jailed a stoned Charlie Gilmour after he swung on a union flag from the Cenotaph and tossed a bin at a police car, thus causing widespread outrage in the offices of the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail. The judge sent him down for 18 months to send a message carefully designed to wreck his university career. Yet again we need have no sympathy for Gilmour. But there is no such thing as a rap over the knuckles in jail. Judges know that any term in prison is a sentence for life.

How can British politicians, whose statements clearly seek to influence pliable judges, criticise other sovereign states for doing likewise? Last week the Foreign Office professed itself “deeply concerned” at the fate of Russia’s Pussy Riot three, jailed for two years for “hooliganism” in Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral. They had staged what, by all accounts, was an obscene publicity stunt, videoing an anti-Putin song defamatory of the Virgin Mary in front of pious worshippers.

Good for free speech, we might all say. That the act outraged public decency is an understatement. In a Levada poll of Russian public opinion, just 5% thought the girls should go unpunished and 65% wanted them in prison, 29% with hard labour. Artists round the globe may plead free speech, but to treat the Pussy Riot gesture as a glorious stand for artistic liberty is like praising Johnny Rotten, who did similar things, as the Voltaire of our day. There can be disproportionate apologias as well as disproportionate sentences.

Artists can look after their own. For the British and US governments to get on high horses about Russian sentencing is hypocrisy. America and Britain damned the “disproportionate” Pussy Riot terms. In America’s case this was from a nation that jails drug offenders for 20, 30 or 40 years, holds terrorism “suspects” incommunicado indefinitely and imprisons for life even trivial “three strikes” offenders. Last week alone a US military court declared that reporting the Guantánamo Bay trial ofKhalid Sheikh Mohammed would be censored. Any mention of his torture in prison was banned as “reasonably expected to damage national security”. This has no apparent connection to proportionate punishment or freedom of speech.

There is of course a difference between the liberties enjoyed in most western democracies and the cruder jurisprudence of modern Russia, China and much of the Muslim world. It would be silly to pretend otherwise. But the difference is not so great as to merit the barrage of megaphone comment from west to east. Pussy Riot may have attacked no one physically, but no society, certainly not Britain, legislates on the basis that “words can never hurt”. If a rock group invaded Westminster Abbey and gravely insulted a religious or ethnic minority before the high altar, we all know that ministers would howl for “exemplary punishment” and judges would oblige.

Commenting on the social mores of other countries may offer an offshore outlet for the righteous indignation of politicians and editorialists. It has no noticeable effect. Western comments on the treatment of women in Muslim states, dissidents in China or drug offenders in south-east Asia are dismissed as imperial interference. But then how would we feel if Moscow or Singapore or Tehran condemned the treatment of Cenotaph protesters?

Brian Eno - Unfamiliar Wind (Leeks Hills)

On Land is arguably the “darkest” of Eno’s four as-titled Ambient albums and could be said to be an archetypal example of dark ambient, though it does possess a wistful, meandering, longing, organic quality as well. It is a mixture of synthesizer-based notes, nature/animal recordings, and a complex array of other sounds, most of which were unused, collected recordings from previous albums and the sessions that created them. As Eno explained, “… the making of records such as On Land involved feeding unheard tape into the mix, constant feeding and remixing, subtracting and “composting”. Eno actually found, in the three-year process of making the album, that the synthesizer came to be of “limited usefulness" and that his "instrumentation shifted gradually through electro-mechanical and acoustic instruments towards non-instruments like pieces of chain and sticks and stones … I included not only recordings of rooks, frogs and insects, but also the complete body of my own earlier work”. Despite the music’s dark leanings, it is in a sense still highly “ambient” in that the tracks tend to blend in to each other and thus fulfill all of Eno’s original expectations of what the term means. Nevertheless, there is still room for the occasional surprise, such as Jon Hassell’s recognisable effect-laden trumpet in “Shadow”. Eno, cognizant of the deeper aural qualities, said, “On the whole, On Land is quite a disturbed landscape: some of the undertones deliberately threaten the overtones, so you get the pastoral prettiness on top, but underneath there’s a dissonance that’s like an impending earthquake”. Eno also had something to say about how music—this album in particular—should be listened to. In the liner notes, he suggested (even going so far as to draw a diagram) “a three-way speaker system that is both simple to install and inexpensive, and which seems to work very well on any music with a broad stereo image”.

Entries to a Competition to Design a New Tower in London (1890)

A selection of the more inventive entries to a competition to design a new tower for London. The year previous, 1889, saw the hugely successful Eiffel Tower go up in the centre of Paris, and the good people of London, not to be outdone, decided to get one of their own. A wonderful array of designs were put forward. Many were suspiciously similar to the Eiffel Tower and many erred on the wackier side of things, such as Design no.19, the “Century Tower”, reminiscent of a huge screw, and London Vegetarian Society’s design for an “aerial colony” which came complete with hanging vegetable gardens and a one-twelfth scale replica of the Great Pyramid on its summit. The very practical design number 37 by Stewart, McLaren and Dunn was eventually chosen to be awarded the 500 guinea prize-money and built in Wembley Park. Construction began in 1892 but the company in charge of the erection, The Metropolitan Tower Company, soon ran into problems including falling chronically behind schedule due to marshy ground and then financial difficulties which eventually led to their liquidation in 1889. Construction ceased after only 47 metres had been completed. The abandoned ‘tower’ (known as the Watkins Folly, or The London Stump) remained a spectacle in the park for a number of years before being deemed unsafe and blown up in 1904. Wembley Stadium ended up being built over the site for the 1923 British Empire Exhibition. When the stadium was rebuilt in 2000, the lowering of the level of the pitch resulted in the concrete foundations of the failed tower being rediscovered. All images extracted from Descriptive illustrated catalogue of the sixty-eight competitive designs for the great tower for London compiled and edited by Fred. C. Lynde (1890). See the book in its entirety, including descriptions and more design entries, here.


World Press Photo of the Year (1969): A young Catholic wears a gasmask during clashes with British troops. People had been fleeing from teargas after a night of street fighting. 
During August 1969, N. Ireland was rocked by intense political and sectarian rioting. There had been sporadic violence throughout the year arising from the civil rights campaign, which was demanding an end to government discrimination against Irish Catholics and nationalists. Civil rights marches were repeatedly attacked by Protestant loyalists and by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), an overwhelmingly Protestant police force, who were viewed by nationalists as biased against the campaign. The disorder led to the Battle of the Bogside in Derry – this was a three-day riot in the Bogside district between the RUC and the nationalist/Catholic residents. In support of the Bogsiders, nationalists and Catholics launched protests elsewhere in Northern Ireland. Some of these turned violent and provoked attacks by loyalists. The most bloody rioting was in Belfast, where 7 people were killed and hundreds more wounded. Scores of houses and businesses were burned-out, most of them owned by Catholics. In addition, thousands of families were driven from their homes. The RUC was accused of helping the loyalists and of failing to protect Catholic areas. Events in Belfast have been viewed by some as a pogrom against the minority Catholic and nationalist community. The British Army was deployed to restore order and peace lines began to be built to separate the two sides. The events are widely seen as the beginning of the thirty-year conflict known as the Troubles. #

World Press Photo of the Year (1969): A young Catholic wears a gasmask during clashes with British troops. People had been fleeing from teargas after a night of street fighting.

During August 1969, N. Ireland was rocked by intense political and sectarian rioting. There had been sporadic violence throughout the year arising from the civil rights campaign, which was demanding an end to government discrimination against Irish Catholics and nationalists. Civil rights marches were repeatedly attacked by Protestant loyalists and by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), an overwhelmingly Protestant police force, who were viewed by nationalists as biased against the campaign. The disorder led to the Battle of the Bogside in Derry – this was a three-day riot in the Bogside district between the RUC and the nationalist/Catholic residents. In support of the Bogsiders, nationalists and Catholics launched protests elsewhere in Northern Ireland. Some of these turned violent and provoked attacks by loyalists. The most bloody rioting was in Belfast, where 7 people were killed and hundreds more wounded. Scores of houses and businesses were burned-out, most of them owned by Catholics. In addition, thousands of families were driven from their homes. The RUC was accused of helping the loyalists and of failing to protect Catholic areas. Events in Belfast have been viewed by some as a pogrom against the minority Catholic and nationalist community. The British Army was deployed to restore order and peace lines began to be built to separate the two sides. The events are widely seen as the beginning of the thirty-year conflict known as the Troubles. #

Link: BBC's In Our Time: Free Will

In the 500th edition of the programme, Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the philosophical idea of free will. Free will - the extent to which we are free to choose our own actions - is one of the most absorbing philosophical problems, debated by almost every great thinker of the last two thousand years. In a universe apparently governed by physical laws, is it possible for individuals to be responsible for their own actions? Or are our lives simply proceeding along preordained paths? Determinism - the doctrine that every event is the inevitable consequence of what goes before - seems to suggest so. Many intellectuals have concluded that free will is logically impossible. The philosopher Baruch Spinoza regarded it as a delusion. Albert Einstein wrote: “Human beings, in their thinking, feeling and acting are not free agents but are as causally bound as the stars in their motion.” But in the Enlightenment, philosophers including David Hume found ways in which free will and determinism could be reconciled. Recent scientific developments mean that this debate remains as lively today as it was in the ancient world. With: Simon Blackburn Bertrand Russell Professor of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge, Helen Beebee Professor of Philosophy at the University of Birmingham, and Galen Strawson Professor of Philosophy at the University of Reading.

Link: Quite Likely the Worst Job Ever

In 19th century London “toshers” roamed the sewers, searching for items of value. Biggest danger was not disease or death by suffocation but attacks by sewer rats.

To live in any large city during the 19th century, at a time when the state provided little in the way of a safety net, was to witness poverty and want on a scale unimaginable in most Western countries today. In London, for example, the combination of low wages, appalling housing, a fast-rising population and miserable health care resulted in the sharp division of one city into two. An affluent minority of aristocrats and professionals lived comfortably in the good parts of town, cossetted by servants and conveyed about in carriages, while the great majority struggled desperately for existence in stinking slums where no gentleman or lady ever trod, and which most of the privileged had no idea even existed. It was a situation accurately and memorably skewered by Dickens, who in Oliver Twist introduced his horrified readers to Bill Sikes’s lair in the very real and noisome Jacob’s Island, and who has Mr. Podsnap, in Our Mutual Friend, insist: “I don’t want to know about it; I don’t choose to discuss it; I don’t admit it!”

Out of sight and all too often out of mind, the working people of the British capital nonetheless managed to conjure livings for themselves in extraordinary ways. Our guide to the enduring oddity of many mid-Victorian occupations is Henry Mayhew, whose monumental four-volume study of London Labour and the London Poor remains one of the classics of working-class history. Mayhew–whom we last met a year ago, describing the lives of London peddlers of this period–was a pioneering journalist-cum-sociologist who interviewed representatives of hundreds of eye-openingly odd trades, jotting down every detail of their lives in their own words to compile a vivid, panoramic overview of everyday life in the mid-Victorian city.

Among Mayhew’s more memorable meetings were encounters with the “bone grubber,” the “Hindoo tract seller,” an eight-year-old girl watercress-seller and the “pure finder,” whose surprisingly sought-after job was picking up dog mess and selling it to tanners, who then used it to cure leather. None of his subjects, though, aroused more fascination–or greater disgust–among his readers than the men who made it their living by forcing entry into London’s sewers at low tide and wandering through them, sometimes for miles, searching out and collecting the miscellaneous scraps washed down from the streets above: bones, fragments of rope, miscellaneous bits of metal, silver cutlery and–if they were lucky–coins dropped in the streets above and swept into the gutters.