Category Archives: United Kingdom

Lab Rats for Corporate Profit: Pesticide Industry’s Poisoned Platter 

Newly released pesticide usage statistics for 2018 confirm that the British people are being used as lab rats. That’s the message environmentalist Dr Rosemary Mason has sent to Dave Bench, senior scientist at the UK Chemicals, Health and Safety Executive and director of the agency’s EU exit plan. In her open letter to Bench, Mason warns that things could get much worse.

In 2016, the UK farming minister said that the nation could develop a more flexible approach to environmental protection free of “spirit-crushing” Brussels directives if it votes to leave the EU. George Eustice, the minister in question, said that the EU’s precautionary principle needed to be reformed in favour of a US-style ‘risk-based’ system that would allow for faster approvals.

There is little doubt that Eustice had GM crops in mind: the Department of Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) says that the most promising crops suitable for introducing to England would be Roundup Ready GA21 glyphosate-tolerant crops as they synergise well with herbicides already widely used in the UK.

Similarly, Boris Johnson said in his first speech as prime minister in July 2019:

Let’s start now to liberate the UK’s extraordinary bioscience sector from anti-genetic modification rules and let’s develop the blight-resistant crops that will feed the world.

However, the ‘GM will feed the world mantra’ is pure industry spin. The technology has a questionable record and, anyhow, there is already enough food being produced to feed the global population, yet around 830 million are classed as hungry and two billion experience micronutrient deficiency. If Johnson wants to ‘feed the world’, he would do better by looking of the inbuilt injustices of the global food regime which is driven by the very corporations he seems to be in bed with.

Conservative politicians’ positive spin about GM is little more than an attempt to justify a post-Brexit trade deal with Washington that will effectively incorporate the UK into the US’s regulatory food regime. The type of ‘liberation’ Johnson really means is the UK adopting unassessed GM crops, using more glyphosate (or similar agrochemicals) and a gutting of food safety and environmental standards. It is no secret that various Conservative-led administrations have wanted to ditch the EU regulatory framework on GM for some time.

Unregulated chemical cocktail

Mason asks Bench why Defra and the Chemicals Regulation Division refuse to ban glyphosate-based herbicides in Swansea between 2014-2017 when she told them that it was poisoning her nature reserve:

Analysis of local tap water in August 2014 revealed a 10-fold increase since August 2013: from 30 ppt to 300 ppt.  I told them that these were of the order of concentrations found in a laboratory study in 2013 that showed that breast cancer cell proliferation is accelerated by glyphosate in extremely low concentrations. We had several neighbours who have recently developed breast cancer. Now, in 2019, with many scientific papers reporting apocalyptic insect declines around the world, we are facing a global Armageddon; yet the public has no idea, because the press has concealed it from them.

Bench is also asked:

Have you seen the pesticides usage statistics for 2018? They confirm what a European NGO said in 2013, that the British citizens are being used as lab rats!

Mason continues:

Dave Bench, you presented a paper at the Soil Association meeting on 20 November 2017… [it] showed that pesticide active ingredients applied to three British crops had increased between 6-18 fold between 1974 and 2016, rather than halved as farmers and industry had claimed!! As well as hearing this new evidence of increased pesticide use in the UK, the conference heard new scientific evidence from around the world showing that very low doses of pesticides, well below official ‘safety’ levels, pose a significant risk to public health via our food supply.

Were you shocked? Presumably you weren’t because you described the regulatory system for pesticides as robust and as balancing the risks of pesticides against the benefits to society. That statement is rubbish. It is for the benefit of the agrochemical industry. The industry (for it is the industry that does the testing, on behalf of regulators) only tests one pesticide at a time, whereas farmers spray a cocktail of pesticides, including over children and babies, without warning.

Ian Boyd, the former Chief Scientific Adviser to Defra, says pesticides, once they have been authorised, are never reviewed.

Mason adds there is consistent denial by the National Farmers Union (NFU), Defra and the agrochemical industry about the massive amounts of pesticides used on farmland and herbicides used in towns and cities on weeds; and there is silence from the UK corporate media.

She informs Bench that although glyphosate was relicensed in Europe by a “corrupt” group of individuals, it is distributed to every organ of the body and has multiple actions: it is an herbicide, an antibiotic, a fungicide, an antiprotozoal, an organic phosphonate, a growth regulator, a toxicant, a virulence enhancer and is persistent in the soil. It chelates (captures) and washes out the following minerals: boron, calcium, cobalt, copper, iron, potassium, magnesium, manganese, nickel and zinc.

In her previous reports, as in her letter to Bench, Mason has documented the consequences of this for human health.

Just as concerning is the UN Global Chemicals Outlook II report that indicates large quantities of hazardous chemicals and pollutants continue to leak into the environment, contaminating food chains and accumulating in our bodies, where they do serious damage. Estimates by the European Environment Agency suggest that 62 per cent of the volume of chemicals consumed in Europe are hazardous to health. The World Health Organization estimates the burden of disease from selected chemicals at 1.6 million lives. The lives of many more are negatively impacted.

Business as usual: public health crisis

Mason goes on to highlight numerous disturbing aspects of the revolving door between the pesticide industry and public bodies/government in the UK. She also notes that David Cameron appointed Michael Pragnell, founder of Syngenta, to Cancer Research UK’s (CRUK) board and awarded him a CBE in 2017 for services to cancer research.

Mason explains that the British government’s UK life sciences strategy is dependent on funding from the pharmaceutical sector which has links with the pesticide industry. In 2011, CRUK started donating money (£450 million/year) to the government’s ‘Strategy for UK Life Sciences’ while AstraZeneca (Syngenta’s parent company) was providing 22 compounds to academic research to develop medicines in the UK. She argues that Syngenta’s products cause diseases, while its parent company tries to cure them with synthetic chemicals. And CRUK is a willing enabler.

In 2014, the NFU, the Crop Protection Association (CPA) and Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC) launched ‘Healthy Harvest’ to safeguard the crop protection pesticide toolbox. The NFU and the agrochemical companies have continually defended the use of pesticides for economic reasons and complain about any attempt to restrict the 320-odd at their disposal. CPA, AIC and the NFU commissioned Andersons to write a report: ‘The effect of the loss of plant protection products on UK Agriculture and Horticulture’. Conveniently for the report’s commissioners, Andersons predicted dire economic effects on UK farming if pesticides were to be restricted.

And it is not that these powerful interests do not have the government’s full attention. Between May 2010 and the end of 2013, the Department of Health alone had 130 meetings with representatives of industry. According to Mason, it is business as usual and patently clear that the pesticides industry is being protected.

While continuing to ignore and side-line important scientific research findings which highlight inconvenient truths for government and the pesticide industry, prominent public officials and scientists as well as the media attempt to explain away all the diseases now affecting the UK as a result of individual behaviour: bad lifestyle choices.

In her various reports, Mason has discussed the importance of the gut microbiome and the deleterious effects of glyphosate which result in various health issues, such as obesity and depression. By 2018, CRUK was claiming that obesity caused 13 different cancers, but Mason argues that contamination by residues from 123 different pesticides on the fruit and vegetables supplied to schools by the Department of Health is the real reason for childhood obesity – not biscuits or poor choices.

Each year, there are steady increases in the numbers of new cancers in the UK and increases in deaths from the same cancers with no treatments making any difference to the numbers. While certain prestigious research centres are lavished with funding, Mason argues their work merely serves to strengthen the pesticide and pharmaceutical industries and implies the entire process is little more than a profitable racket at the expense of public health.

In finishing, let us remind ourselves of what the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, Hilal Elver, said in 2017:

The power of the corporations over governments and over the scientific community is extremely important. If you want to deal with pesticides, you have to deal with the companies…

Baskut Tuncak, the UN’s special rapporteur on toxics, added:

While scientific research confirms the adverse effects of pesticides, proving a definitive link between exposure and human diseases or conditions or harm to the ecosystem presents a considerable challenge. This challenge has been exacerbated by a systematic denial, fuelled by the pesticide and agro-industry, of the magnitude of the damage inflicted by these chemicals, and aggressive, unethical marketing tactics.

There is a lot more valuable information in Rosemary Mason’s 10,000-word open letter to David Bench, including many references and citations in support of her claims. Readers are urged to access ‘Pesticides usage statistics for 2018 prove that the British people are being used as lab rats’ via the academia.edu website.

Anti-semitism bandwagon rolled out again

For a few months over the summer the British corporate media largely lost interest in smearing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as an anti-semite. Maybe they had begun to worry that the constant drum-beat of the past three years was deadening the public’s sensitivity to such claims.

But an election is now weeks away, and the anti-semitism smear bandwagon is being rolled out once again.

Stephen Pollard, editor of the Jewish Chronicle (who also writes for the Tory-loving Mail, Express, Sun and Telegraph newspapers) has yet again been terrifying readers as best he can, implying not so subtly that voting for Labour might risk a genocide of British Jews. After several years of painting Corbyn – preposterously – as some kind of unkempt, grey-bearded leader of a British Gestapo-in-the-making, Pollard spent the past few days highlighting in the corporate media the predictable results of the latest survey of Jewish public opinion. It suggests that a growing number of Jews are considering leaving Britain if Corbyn manages to oust Boris Johnson from power.

That we have reached the point where so many British Jews have been persuaded that Corbyn’s vocal criticism of Israel’s oppression of Palestinians means his entire party is infected with a supposed hatred of Jews needs some explaining. It is something I have been trying to do regularly, and in real time, as life has been breathed into these various slurs, both by a corporate media that detests the fairer society a Corbyn party promises and by an Israel lobby that identifies so closely with Israel that it has completely dehumanised Palestinians, to the extent that the crimes against them can be entirely overlooked – treated as no more significant than stepping on an ant.

In the figure of Pollard, we have a journalist who merges both outlooks, typified in this extraordinary tweet last year that at the time stunned even some of his followers but has now become a staple of the campaign against Corbyn and his democratic socialist politics. Efforts by the left to highlight the class war waged by an elite that’s been sucking the life out of the British economy to enrich itself have been maliciously recharacterised by Pollard and other rightwing journalists (some of whom ensconced themselves in the Labour party during Tony Blair’s rule) as an attack on Jews. But it is not the left that conflates the corporate elite with Jews, it is right wing journalists like Pollard.

We shall return to this issue later in the post.

Jonathan Freedland’s libel

An incident at the weekend helped to illustrate just how organised and malevolent the anti-semitism smears against Corbyn truly are.
Jonathan Freedland, a supposedly liberal columnist at the Guardian newspaper and a BBC regular, again proved how he has been a key
figure in weaponising this allegation against a Corbyn-led party. So eager is he to damage Labour and make sure it is no position to end a decade of Tory-imposed austerity that he threw aside all normal journalistic caution and published a libellous claim of anti-semitism against a potential Labour candidate in the coming general election.

There were several revealing aspects to this incident. Freedland defamed Majid Mahmood, a Labour local councillor in Birmingham, without making even the most rudimentary factual checks that the highly damaging claim was actually true – a basic journalistic duty. He simply relied on the word of a “previously reliable Labour source” – in other words, one of the many Blairite enemies of Corbyn within the Labour parliamentary faction and party bureaucracy who have been briefing against the leader for the past four years.

(It is worth recalling that a prominent anti-racism activist, Marc Wadsworth, was hounded from the party last year, accused of anti-semitism, for warning that Blairite MPs like Ruth Smeeth were briefing against their own leader to journalists in the right wing press. Smeeth accused Wadsworth of anti-semitism because she is Jewish, though Wadsworth says he did not know that – and, of course, her Jewishness is irrelevant to the issue of whether she was seeking to malign her own party’s leader through the media. Wadsworth’s mistake, it seems, was to assume that corporate “liberal” journalists like Freedland were not also part of those smear efforts.)

In Mahmood’s case, it was an egregious example of mistaken identity. Freedland and his “source” had confused the Birmingham councillor with a London lawyer of the same name who was fined over anti-semitic comments four years ago. Such confusion was clearly neither accidental nor innocent. Mahmood’s case highlighted something that was already patently obvious: that anti-Corbyn groups have been trawling the histories and social media posts of Labour members in an organised effort to weaponise anything they can find against the Labour leader. The defamation of Mahmood was simply the latest smear to emerge from this campaign.

Smears from within Labour

But Freedland’s “defence” was itself telling. The person relaying the smear to him was, he said, from inside Labour and had been “previously reliable”. That meant someone fairly senior in the party – thereby explaining Freedland’s readiness to believe him uncritically – and someone who had passed on similar damaging information before. It was irrefutable confirmation that Corbyn’s most venomous opponents are not in the Conservative party but drawn from Labour’s own top ranks. They want a Corbyn-led party destroyed even if it means keeping the Brexit-backing, austerity-loving, racism-indulgent Tories in power.

There was another ugly aspect to the behaviour of Freedland and his “source”. It looked suspiciously like both had uncritically accepted the unfounded claim against Mahmood because he had a Muslim name. They both appeared to have assumed that Muslims are more likely to be racist towards Jews and therefore accepted the claim with a much lower standard of evidence than they would have been expected in the case of anyone else.

In fact, the councillor’s name is a Muslim equivalent of “David Brown” or “George Smith”. Can we really imagine Freedland libelling someone with either of those names so casually, without making even cursory checks to be sure he had identified the right David Brown or George Smith?

This kind of behaviour has a name: it is called racism. And it is quite extraordinary to see Freedland so susceptible, after he has made a journalistic career out of exploring the intricacies of racism when it applies to Jews. It almost leaves one suspecting that this paragon of liberal journalism is really a hypocrite.

Fears the free lunch will end

The anti-semitism smear campaign is being revived in the corporate media for good reason. The stakes could not be higher for Britain’s ruling class. As worried as many of them are by Brexit, Corbyn is seen as a bigger threat. He might call time on the banquet they have been gorging on for four decades uninterrupted.

If Corbyn shunts Boris Johnson and the Tories out of power, the millionaires and billionaires who control both the British print and broadcast media, including the BBC, fear the good times could come to an abrupt end. The Brexit threat pales in comparison. That would simply shift our primary economic allegiance from Europe to the United States, leaving the predatory capitalism on which the corporate class has grown unimaginably rich as strong as ever.

A Corbyn government, by contrast, is an unknown quantity. The free-lunch might end, or at least start to feel more like an unsatisfying snack.

In truth, given the bitter divisions tearing apart his own party – between most of the mass membership, who are behind him, and the holdouts from the Blair-Brown era that still dominate the parliamentary party – it is hard to imagine Corbyn being able to do as much as his critics fear.

He may manage to curb the worst excesses of the neoliberal financial system, he may block further privatisation of the NHS, even reverse it a little, and he may bring a few vital national industries back into public ownership. He may manage too to redirect some of the cream the fat cats have been lapping up back into the public coffers for a New Green Deal. All of that would be a relief after so many years of Tory-designed austerity for the many and state socialism for the few.

But the corporate class are now so greedy, so used to getting their way, that even the smallest diminishment of their power and wealth is seen as an unbearable offence against what they divine as the natural order.

A tool of class war

They are not about to leave anything to chance. Corbyn must be tarred and feathered again. Four years of experimenting with various smears have selected anti-semitism as the weapon of choice. That false accusation can most easily be disguised to ensure it does not look like what it is intended to be when used against Corbyn and Labour: a tool of class war.

Claims of anti-semitism have worked ideally in damaging Corbyn because no real evidence has been needed. In fact, such claims succeed even when opposed to the known evidence (as we shall see). They work chiefly by innuendo and emotion. And better still, they work even when those accused like Corbyn and his allies deny the accusation. As in all good witch-hunts, denial is proof of guilt, as an ally of Corbyn’s, the MP Chris Williamson, has repeatedly found out. He has been barred from standing in the election, and has now resigned from the party, after correctly noting that Labour had in effect made the anti-semitism smears appear more credible by constantly apologising over evidence-free claims of anti-semitism from those seeking to harm the party’s image with voters.

This is a winning formula for the ruling class because anyone who tries to argue that Corbyn’s opponents are weaponising anti-semitism through the corporate media is thereby proved to be an anti-semite. The smears are entirely resistant to all evidence that they are smears.

Survey: little anti-semitism on left

That the anti-semitism claims are slurs has been demonstrated over and over again. But paradoxically the latest refutation came last week from the corporate elite’s house journal, the Economist – though, of course, it was not presented that way .

The magazine published a new survey of British public opinion showing that an ideological group it labelled as “very left wing” – presumably the people who share Corbyn’s views – were among the least likely to hold anti-semitic opinions, even though they also had by far the most critical views of Israel (an outlook the Economist mischievously termed “highly anti-Israel”).

In other words, those people on the left who firmly oppose Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians were unlikely also to harbour anti-Jewish views. The great majority could clearly distinguish between Israel and Jews, and did not hold Jews responsible for the crimes committed by the state of Israel.

The same could not be said, however, of either the centre or the right. Supporters of the right were less than half as likely to adopt critical views of Israel as the left but were three and a half times more likely to hold anti-semitic views. Meanwhile, only a small number of centrists were critical of Israel, and an almost identical number held anti-semitic views.

What the figures reveal is the very opposite of the Labour anti-semitism narrative – unless we wish to argue improbably that Labour and its 500,000 members (the largest party in Europe) are entirely unrepresentative of the wider public that shares their ideological worldview. The left overwhelmingly opposes Israeli colonial oppression of Palestinians but very few blame Jews for Israel’s behaviour. Israel is seen as a political project, one driven by an ugly ideology of settler colonialism, not a project representing all Jews. The latter is an anti-semitic position that, paradoxically, is supported and promoted by Israel itself.

Conversely, the same figures suggest that there is an identifiable problem of racism and anti-semitism on the right, and a potential one among centrists too. Whereas the left understands that Israel and Jews are entirely separate and distinct categories, both the centre and right appear to share a tendency of conflating Israel and Jews.

Racism rife on the right

In the case of the right, the figures show a close correlation between opposition to Israel and anti-Jewish feeling. A significant portion of the right either blame Jews collectively for Israel’s crimes or dislike Jews and so oppose the state that claims to represent them. Even though you would never know it from the media coverage, which concentrates exclusively on a supposed problem within the Labour party, anti-semitism is rife on the right in a way that simply isn’t true on the left.

The survey also hints at the possibility of a more veiled problem of racism and latent anti-semitism among “centrists”, a group presumably represented politically by the Lib Dems and the Blairite wing of the Labour party. Very few in this group express anti-Jewish sentiments – in fact, exactly the same small proportion as on the left. (Tellingly, despite these identical results, the Labour party has been smeared as “institutionally anti-semitic”, whereas the centrist Lib Dems have not.)

Nonetheless, there is a significant difference between the two political blocks – and one that could reflect much less well on the centrists than the left.

A much larger proportion of the centrist group appear to harbour sympathies for Israel, or at least view it uncritically, despite the ever mounting  evidence of Israel’s record of human rights abuses and intensifying oppression of Palestinians.

Remember that large numbers of the centrist Blairite faction of Labour MPs (though not the wider Labour membership) belong to Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) and have proudly maintained their association with that organisation. They have continued to do so even after the LFI at first vigorously defended, then fell silent on Israel’s repeated massacres over the past 18 months of Palestinians protesters at the Gaza perimeter fence that encages them.

More than 220 Palestinians, including women, children, journalists, and medical staff, have been killed by Israeli snipers at the protests, while tens of thousands more have been maimed. But in a blatant example of anti-Arab racism, the LFI has blamed Hamas for these deaths, as though ordinary Palestinians in Gaza are simply pawns of Hamas and lack the volition to demand for themselves an end to an Israeli blockade that has imprisoned them for 12 years.

Centrists conflate Jews and Israel

Only a quarter as many centrists as leftists are critical of Israel, according to the Economist survey. In other words, a proportion of centrists appear to identify with Israel’s colonial oppression of Palestinians – possibly because they favour Jews over Arabs and Muslims (presumably as part of a “clash of civilisations” worldview) or maybe because they have positive feelings about Jews that translate into uncritical support for Israel, whatever it does to the Palestinians it rules over.

That could indicate a significant problem of anti-Arab or anti-Muslim prejudice among centrists, similar to the ugly assumptions made by Jonathan Freedland and his “source”. However, we can do little more than speculate on this point because the survey is concerned exclusively with Jews and Israel.

Nonetheless, the figures also allude to a potential anti-semitism problem in the ranks of the centrist camp. The stark lack of criticism of Israel among centrists, combined with little anti-semitism, suggests that a significant proportion of centrists, like right-wingers, consider Jews and Israel to be intimately connected – that they struggle to disentangle a political project (Israel) from an ethnic or cultural group (Jews).

There is only a narrow distinction between a right-winger who conflates Israel and Jews in a way that vilifies Jews and a centrist who conflates Israel and Jews in a way that venerates Israel.

Rejecting universal rights

The difference in the respective outcomes of this conflation could reflect differing understandings of what Israel does. Israel’s treatment of Palestinians – whether seen as justified or not – is then projected on to Jews. Once the conflation is accepted, Jews unfairly receive either credit (from centrists) or blame (from the right) for Israel’s actions.

Or, more likely, the right-wingers and centrists who conflate Israel and Jews – as a proportion appear to do – are equally indulgent of a particularist and regressive approach to rights. Instead of committing to universal human rights, shared by all alike, the particularists assign superior rights to those they think of as more like themselves. Right-wingers, it seems, tend to exclude Jews from this category, while centrists have a greater tendency to include them.

But the danger is that, if these centrists can be persuaded that Jews are not part of their in-group – for example, by undermining the idea of a supposed Judeo-Christian West, embodying the supposed values of “civilisation” – then they could be as susceptible as the right to a generalised Jew hatred. It is a commitment to universal human rights – a doctrine to which most on the left subscribe but which some on the right and the centre appear to reject – that provides the only sure-fire political inoculation against racism in general and anti-semitism in particular.

The Economist, of course, wishes to avoid drawing this very obvious conclusion, one implied by its findings, because that would wreck the narrative it and the rest of the corporate media have been constructing to damage Corbyn. In fact, the Economist poll echoes earlier research ignored by the corporate media, such as figures showing that instances of antisemitism in Labour amount to 0.08% of the membership,  and surveys demonstrating that the Tory party – and its “watermelon smiles” leader Boris Johnson – have a far bigger problem with racism, towards both Muslims and Jews.

Not a whiff of anti-semitism’

Not everyone in the political and media class is ready to dance to the same tune, as was made clear in an interview that gently turned the tables on Alastair Campbell, chief adviser to Tony Blair when he was Labour prime minister. Campbell helped Blair distort the intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq war in 2003 that gave superficial credence to a different but equally confected story: both that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and that those weapons were just a hair’s-trigger away from being fired at the UK. Up to 1 million Iraqis were killed as a result of that illegal war, and many millions more were driven from their homes.

Campbell, a man whose anti-Muslim, anti-Arab prejudices permitted him to help lay waste to another country on an entirely bogus pretext, and whose reputation in the corporate media suffered not a whit as a result, decided to use the interview to try to revive the Corbyn anti-semitism smears and undermine Labour’s chances of winning the election. Like other Blairites, Campbell has been an outspoken critic of Corbyn, even going public with the fact that he has started voting for the Lib Dems.

He asked his interviewee, John Bercow, the outgoing Speaker of the House of Commons and a Jewish member of the Conservative party, to comment on Corbyn and the anti-semitism allegations. Campbell’s transparent aim was to recruit Bercow to the smear campaign – both as a Jew and as someone who has come to be widely trusted since becoming House Speaker as an arbiter of an even-handed politics.

Bercow’s response was not what Campbell hoped for. The former Speaker answered cautiously, but observed: “I myself have never experienced anti-semitism from a member of the Labour party … I do not myself believe Jeremy Corbyn is anti-semitic … I have known him for the 22 years I have been in parliament … and I have never detected so much as a whiff of anti-semitism from him.”

Campbell’s face could barely conceal his disappointment.

The interview was another reminder that those leading the anti-semitism smear campaign often have, given their own histories, precisely zero credibility on the issue of racism, let alone class politics. Whatever they may think they believe, it is not racism that truly concerns Campbell or Freedland; it is their fear of a different kind of politics, one that requires from them an entirely different way of understanding British colonial history, of interpreting Britain’s role in the world, and of ending the UK’s gaping class divide. They, like so many others in the media and political elite, are frightened that a different kind of politics might force them to look in the mirror – and finally understand that long ago they chose to stand with the oppressors rather than the oppressed.

Unfree Media: State Stenography And Shameful Silence

A recent viral clip of Jeremy Corbyn featured vital truths about the corporate media that ought to be at the forefront of public consciousness in the approach to the UK General Election on December 12. The clip began:

A free press is essential to our democracy. But much of our press isn’t very free at all.

Corbyn continued:

Just three companies control 71 per cent of national newspaper circulation and five companies control 81 per cent of local newspaper circulation.

This unhealthy sway of a few corporations and billionaires shapes and skews the priorities and worldview of powerful sections of the media.

And it doesn’t stop with the newspapers, on and offline. Print too often sets the broadcast agenda, even though it is wedded so firmly to the Tories politically and to corporate interests more generally.

Corbyn’s words were not from a recent speech. They were actually delivered as part of his Alternative Mactaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh TV Festival in August 2018. But they remain as relevant as ever; hence being picked up anew by ‘Tory Fibs‘, a grassroots socialist Twitter account.

Corbyn shone a spotlight on the BBC:

The BBC should be freed of government control, democratised and made representative of the country it serves to help it do that.

The BBC is meant to be independent, but its charter grants governments the power to appoint the chair and four directors of the board and set the level of the licence fee.

As regular readers will be well aware, Media Lens has long highlighted the BBC’s lack of independence and, more particularly, the insidious role of BBC News in protecting the establishment, promoting deference to the royal family and class system, as well as deflecting scrutiny of state and corporate crimes.

Corbyn concluded on the state of the media today:

We need to set journalists and citizens free to hold power to account, by breaking the grip of tech giants and billionaires on our media.

All this is arguably never more evident than when a General Election is looming. Right now, established power is fighting tooth and nail to maintain its control on society. Corporate media, including gatekeepers like the BBC and the Guardian – ‘thus far and no farther’, in the words of Noam Chomsky – play a central role in maintaining the destructive status quo.

Filtering Facts

The state-corporate management and manipulation of ‘the news’ relies on a subtle filtering process whereby leading journalists select – consciously or otherwise – which facts are ‘fit’ to be reported, and which can or should be ignored.

Consider an item on BBC News at Ten last Thursday when political editor Laura Kuenssberg reported Boris Johnson’s visit to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge. She presented the Prime Minister in a favourable light, having amiable encounters with people in Addenbrooke’s. What the BBC did not show were the jeers of staff and patients ringing in Johnson’s ears as he left the hospital. Nor did Kuenssberg report on the young medical student who was ‘pushed aside by [a] Boris Johnson aide’ while attempting to challenge Johnson on the NHS and the climate crisis. Julia Simons, who is training at the hospital to become a doctor, called his visit a ‘PR stunt’.

We challenged the BBC political editor via Twitter:

Hello @bbclaurak,

Why did your @BBCNews at Ten piece on Boris Johnson’s visit to a Cambridge hospital omit the part where he left with jeers from staff and patients ringing in his ears?

Our tweet was ‘liked’ and retweeted hundreds of times, but there was no reply from Kuenssberg. Her Twitter bio states:

I know it’s fashionable, but even in 2019 there is nothing big or clever about shooting the messenger – tweets or retweets here aren’t necessarily my view

But, by heavily filtering the facts that Kuenssberg selects to tweet or retweet, ‘the messenger’ has transformed into an echo chamber and amplifier of government propaganda. This phenomenon of state stenography – which, of course, is far from new – was highlighted in an excellent article recently by Peter Oborne, former chief political commentator of the Daily Telegraph. Under the title, ‘British journalists have become part of Johnson’s fake news machine’, Oborne argued that:

From the Mail, The Times to the BBC and ITN, everyone is peddling Downing Street’s lies and smears. They’re turning their readers into dupes.

As Oborne noted, ‘mainstream’ political journalism too often relies upon whatever ‘a senior No 10 source’ says:

This modus operandi, which allow pro-government narratives to enter the public domain unmediated by proper interrogation, has become routine among political reporters since Johnson and his Vote Leave media team entered Downing Street.

Oborne observed:

There is an implicit deal. In return for access and information (much of it false) the political media spins a pro-government narrative.

As a recent example, Oborne pointed to the government’s deceitful response to the leaked ‘Yellowhammer dossier‘ setting out the damaging consequences of a no-deal Brexit on the UK – a news story that ‘deeply embarrassed’ Boris Johnson and senior ministers. Downing Street responded by feeding a false claim to compliant journalists that the leak happened on Theresa May’s watch; and that Remain-supporting ex-ministers led by Philip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer in May’s Cabinet, were responsible. Newspapers were full of convenient headlines and stories about the alleged leakers, distracting attention from the damaging analysis of the leaked dossier itself. As Oborne noted, it turned out that the leaked document was dated nine days after Johnson came to power: the leak had occurred under his watch, not May’s.

This issue of journalist access in return for maintaining a power-friendly narrative has long been known. The media’s heavy reliance on state and corporate sources is one of the five ‘news filters’ – along with corporate ownership, advertising, flak and ‘anti-Communism’ – in the propaganda model of the media introduced by Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky in ‘Manufacturing Consent’ (1988).

Focusing on the country’s two main political editors – the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg and Robert Peston of ITV News – Oborne added:

Political editors are so pleased to be given “insider” or “exclusive” information that they report it without challenge or question.

Oborne, as a senior journalist with experience and clout, was afforded follow-up media interviews to make his case. Perhaps the most noteworthy example was his fiery appearance on Radio 2 where he was interviewed by Amol Rajan, a former editor of the oligarch-owned Independent and now the BBC’s media editor. You do not get to such exalted positions in the corporate media, as Rajan has done, by being a thorn in the side of the establishment. In a remarkable exchange, not only did Oborne name and shame major political editors for cosying up to power, he directly, and correctly, accused Rajan of the same. (Click here, starting at around 1:09:20; or, once the BBC link has expired, listen to the relevant segment here)

Oborne commented:

You, yourself, when you were Independent editor, notoriously sucked up to power. You are a client journalist yourself…you were a crony journalist yourself. It’s time this system was exploded.

Rajan blustered:

It’s unbecoming of you, Peter, it’s unbecoming.

When Oborne added that Rajan had also ‘failed to notice’ stories as BBC media editor, there was a brief stunned silence.

In 2014, when Rajan was the Independent’s editor, he boasted of ‘our proud record on coverage of Iraq’. We responded at the time:

Sorry, we have analysed the Independent’s performance closely. Your record was and is shameful. Where to start?

Rajan did not reply. It was around this time that he blocked us on Twitter.

OPCW Whistleblowers Question The Douma Narrative

A further, grave example of present-day propaganda filtering involves the corporate media blanking of further proof that western powers, notably the US, have been manipulating the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

Last month, WikiLeaks published evidence from an OPCW whistleblower showing that the international chemical watchdog had suppressed evidence suggesting that the Syrian government had not, in fact, mounted a chemical weapons attack in Douma, Syria, on April 7, 2018. In other words, there is clear authoritative testimony from an OPCW insider contradicting the endlessly repeated narrative that ‘Assad used weapons against his own civilians’ in Douma. This state-approved script, propagated throughout the major western news media, served as the ‘justification’ for the US, UK and France to launch missile strikes on Syria seven days later.

Shockingly, as reported by WikiLeaks, a panel of experts convened by the Courage Foundation, an independent British civil society organisation, reported that:

Not only did the panel find that OPCW tampered with the evidence to produce an outcome desired by the geopolitical actors involved in this instance, it tried to silence its own senior civil servants.

One member of the panel, Richard Falk – an international law and international relations scholar who taught at Princeton University for forty years – noted that the credibility of the panel’s conclusions were strengthened by having José Bustani, a former Director-General of the OPCW, among its members.

Falk added:

Not only is there a lack of transparency and accountability with respect to the undertakings of major national governments, but there is a deliberate manipulation of evidence and obstruction of procedures designed to protect the citizenry against abuses of state, and in the case of major states, especially the United States, to protect the public interest.

This new testimony added to the earlier revelations in May that Ian Henderson, a senior OPCW scientist, had written a detailed report, suppressed by OPCW, calling into question the official version of events in Douma. As our media alert at the time noted, very little media coverage was devoted to this expert evidence questioning the Washington-stamped ‘consensus’ view.

Robert Fisk’s article in the Independent ten days after the Douma incident was a vanishingly rare exception. He interviewed a Syrian doctor who told him that the victims of the alleged chemical attack had actually suffered from hypoxia – oxygen starvation in the dusty tunnels where they had taken refuge from bombing– and not gas poisoning. As we also observed in our media alert, BBC Syria producer Riam Dalati stated on Twitter that after almost six months of investigation he had concluded that:

I can prove without a doubt that the Douma Hospital scene was staged.

Two days after the Douma attack, he had tweeted:

Sick and tired of activists and rebels using corpses of dead children to stage emotive scenes for Western consumption. Then they wonder why some serious journos are questioning part of the narrative.

Dalati later deleted his tweet and set his Twitter account to ‘private’ status (it has since become accessible to the public again).

Typically, the BBC sought to minimise any public doubts about the official narrative on Douma by including only Syrian and Russian claims of ‘fabrication’. There was little, or no, coverage of sceptical Western voices. In similar fashion, in the run-up to the Iraq war of 2003, BBC News and other ‘mainstream’ outlets had relegated credible allegations that the ‘threat’ of ‘Iraqi WMD’ was fake news to the ‘evil dictator’ Saddam Hussein.

Readers may recall that award-winning journalist Seymour Hersh had difficulty publishing his in-depth, sceptical reporting about an earlier alleged Syrian government chemical weapons attack at Ghouta in 2013. In the end, he had to publish in the London Review of Books, of all places (here and here).

This is so often the fate of the best journalism: pushed to the margins where it can be safely ignored.

Corporate Eyes Averted And Tongues Bitten

The fact that a second OPCW whistleblower has now revealed extremely serious manipulation of evidence surrounding what happened at Douma has been greeted by a wall of corporate media silence. However, it was mentioned briefly by Jonathan Steele, a former senior Middle East correspondent for the Guardian, in a radio interview with Paul Henley on the BBC World Service on October 27, 2019 (listen here; from around 11:00; if no longer available from the BBC, listen to the extract archived here by Caitlin Johnstone and read her article):

Jonathan Steele: I was in Brussels last week … I attended a briefing by a whistleblower from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. He was one of the inspectors who was sent out to Douma in Syria in April last year to check into the allegations by the rebels that Syrian aeroplanes had dropped two canisters of chlorine gas, killing up to 43 people. He claims he was in charge of picking up the samples in the affected areas, and in neutral areas, to check whether there were chlorine derivatives there …

Paul Henley: And?

JS: … and he found that there was no difference. So it rather suggested there was no chemical gas attack, because in the buildings where the people allegedly died there was no extra chlorinated organic chemicals than in the normal streets elsewhere. And I put this to the OPCW for comment, and they haven’t yet replied. But it rather suggests that a lot of this was propaganda…

PH: Propaganda led by?

JS: … led by the rebel side to try and bring in American planes, which in fact did happen. American, British and French planes bombed Damascus a few days after these reports. And actually this is the second whistleblower to come forward. A few months ago there was a leaked report by the person [senior OPCW scientist Ian Henderson – mentioned earlier in this alert] who looked into the ballistics, as to whether these cylinders had been dropped by planes, looking at the damage of the building and the damage on the side of the cylinders. And he decided, concluded, that the higher probability was that these cylinders were placed on the ground, rather than from planes.

PH: This would be a major revelation…

JS: … it would be a major revelation …

PH: … given the number of people rubbishing the idea that these could have been fake videos at the time.

JS: Well, these two scientists, I think they’re non-political – they wouldn’t have been sent to Douma, if they’d had strong political views, by the OPCW. They want to speak to the Conference of the Member States in November, next month, and give their views, and be allowed to come forward publicly with their concerns. Because they’ve tried to raise them internally and been – they say they’ve been – suppressed, their views have been suppressed.

PH: Very interesting.

(Transcript courtesy of Tim Hayward of the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media.)

In May, when the suppressed engineering assessment report on Douma by the OPCW’s Ian Henderson was leaked, Lyse Doucet, the BBC’s chief international correspondent, agreed that this was ‘an important story’. Despite polite nudges from Media Lens, and others, she said no more on the matter. Did BBC colleagues have a quiet word in her ear?

Following revelations of a second whistleblower last week, we challenged her once more. She again ignored us, but she did reply to one of our Twitter followers:

Thanks Philip. I’ve been in Canada this month reporting on elections & in Afghanistan for most of Sept. I did forward the earlier information to programmes but was away during more recent news so other teams /programmes would have looked at it.

While it is heartening to see any reply – perhaps a measure of Doucet’s desire to give at least the impression of being accountable to the public – it is a very evasive reply. It is remarkable that for five months she had not been around to report vital testimony from OPCW insiders blowing a hole in the official, US-friendly narrative used to ‘justify’ missile attacks on Syria. Clearly, she had decided it was not that important after all.

And what does ‘so other teams /programmes would have looked at it’ actually mean? What evidence did they examine? And how closely? Where are the BBC headlines and major coverage these revelations deserve? As far as we can tell, there has been no mention of the OPCW whistleblowers on the BBC News website; nor has there been any coverage on the main BBC News programmes. Our challenges to Paul Royall, editor of the BBC News flagship News at Six and Ten programmes, and Nick Sutton, editor of the BBC News website, have gone unanswered.

Meanwhile, the General Election on December 12 may well be, as Jeremy Corbyn says:

a once-in-a-generation chance to transform our country and take on the vested interests holding people back.

But time is rapidly running out for real change – whether that be on foreign policy, such as Syria, or the largest crisis now facing all of us. A global group of 11,000 scientists declared this week that the evidence is ‘clear and unequivocal’ that humanity is in a climate emergency. The stakes, then, are even higher than ‘once-in-a-generation’. As Extinction Rebellion have repeatedly warned, there may not be more than one new generation of humanity that will survive, given the severity of climate breakdown.

Agrochemical Apocalypse: Interview with Environmental Campaigner Dr Rosemary Mason  

The renowned author and whistleblower Evaggelos Vallianatos describes British environmentalist and campaigner Dr Rosemary Mason as a “defender of the natural world and public health.” I first came across her work a few years ago. It was in the form of an open letter she had sent to an official about the devastating environmental and human health impacts of glyphosate-based weed killers. What had impressed me was the document she had sent to accompany the letter. It was over 20 pages long and contained official data and referred to a plethora of scientific papers to support the case she was making.

For almost a decade, Rosemary Mason has been writing open letters and sending reports she has compiled to media outlets and prominent officials and agencies in the US, the UK and Europe to question their decisions and/or to inform them of the dangers of pesticides. She has been relentless in exposing conflicts of interest, fraudulent science and institutionalised corruption in regulatory processes surrounding glyphosate and other agrochemicals. Her quest has been fired by a passion to protect the natural world and the public but there is also a personal aspect: she is affected by a serious health condition which she attributes directly to the reckless use of pesticides in South Wales where she resides. And her assertion here is not based on idle speculation. In her reports, she has presented a great deal of evidence about the deterioration of the health of the British public and how agrochemicals play a major contributory role.

She recently sent me a report ‘How glyphosate-based herbicides poisoned our nature reserve and the world‘. It focuses on how she had set up a nature reserve in South Wales. What she and her husband (who has a professional background in conservation and nature) had achieved on that reserve was impressive. But thanks to the local council’s indiscriminate spraying of glyphosate-based herbicides, it was subsequently transformed from a piece of land teeming with flora and fauna into a barren wasteland.

What follows is an interview I conducted with Rosemary Mason about her nature reserve and her campaigning. We discussed her motivation, the support she has received and her feelings after almost a decade of campaigning.

Colin Todhunter:  Have you always had a passion for the natural environment?

Rosemary Mason:  I was born in the countryside during the war and my mother took us on walks and taught us about wildflowers, which was her passion. My brothers and I fished in the stream for minnows and sticklebacks and set nightlines for pike and chub (we never caught any). When I was a junior doctor, I became interested in bird watching and I am former chair of the West Area, Glamorgan Wildlife Trust. At that time, unlike today, farmland was full of lapwing, oystercatcher and redshank displaying and protecting their nests.

CT: Why did you decide to set up your nature reserve?

RM: In 2006, the Bumblebee Conservation Trust was launched in response to the massive declines in bumblebees, butterflies and insects in general, with the demise of traditional hedgerows, hay meadows, chalk grassland and wildflowers and the intensification of farming and the widening use of pesticides. At the same time, the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council perversely announced the closure of its wildlife research centres for ‘financial reasons’, a decision opposed by 99% of 1,327 stakeholders. Monks Wood centre, which hosted BBC’s Spring Watch, pioneered work on DDT and pesticides in the 1960s and more recently revealed how climate change is affecting wildlife, with spring arriving three weeks earlier. More significantly, the research centres were also involved in assessing the impacts of GM (genetically modified) crops on wildlife, with findings contradicting industry claims that no harm would be caused.

In response, in March 2006, my husband and I decided to establish our own small pesticide-free wildlife reserve after attending a joint meeting of the Welsh Ornithological Society and the British Trust for Ornithology in Aberystwyth.

CT: I have read your new report about your nature reserve. I would certainly encourage everyone to read it. It describes in some detail how you and your husband set about attracting an impressively wide array of bird, insect and plant species to the reserve, many of which had virtually disappeared from the British countryside, mainly as a result of intensive farming practices. What I found impressive is your knowledge of these species and how you were able to identify them. From the narrative provided (which at times reads almost like a novel) and the enthusiasm conveyed, you put in a lot of hard work developing the reserve and what you achieved there was impressive.

RM: In brief, it was a miracle. I think the next five years from 2006 were the most exciting and fulfilling of my life. At the end of 2009, I wrote an account of speckled bush crickets. Judith Marshall, working at the Natural History Museum, is a world expert on grasshoppers and bush crickets. She said it was the first monograph to be written on a single species.

CT: Can you say something about the demise of the nature reserve?

RM: We published a second photo-journal in 2010, ‘The year of the bumblebee: observations in a small nature reserve.’ But in 2011, I knew something was wrong. The moths were disappearing from the area and the orb web spider had gone from the hedge. We were aware that the local council was spraying glyphosate-based herbicides on Japanese knotweed in the valley below and close to our reserve. But we had to be sure.

So, in August 2013 and August 2014, we sent samples of river water and tap water to Leipzig to Prof Dr Monika Kreuger for analysis. Between August 2013 and August 2014, the levels of glyphosate in tap water had increased ten-fold, from 30 ppt to 300 ppt. These were of the order of concentrations that stimulated the growth of breast cancer cells in a laboratory setting.

In August 2013, we asked our then Welsh Assembly Member to request the council to stop spraying glyphosate-based herbicides on Japanese knotweed. The council said they would only stop if they were authorised by the Health and Safety Executive. So, I wrote to the HSE at the beginning of 2014 telling them about measuring increasing glyphosate levels in water and that we had had many cases of breast cancer in our area. They refused to do it because they said that glyphosate-based herbicides were still legal. I begged them to do it on several occasions, as we saw the biodiversity in our reserve plummeting. Finally, they said if I asked the same question again, they wouldn’t reply to me.

CT: You have engaged in a long struggle for many years, trying to get officials at local, national and European levels to act on pesticides. You have written many open letters to policy makers and key officials and have usually attached lengthy reports referring to data and scientific papers in support of your case. I think you began doing this in late 2010. Whose work have you taken inspiration from along the way?

RM: The work of Dr Henk Tennekes, the independent Dutch toxicologist, was a real eye opener for me. In 2010, he published a paper and wrote a book ‘The Systemic Insecticides: a disaster in the making’. It is about the loss of insects and insect-feeding birds in Europe, caused by neonicotinoid insecticides. The RSPB and the IUCN Charities refused to help fund the book because it ‘wasn’t scientific enough’.  We subsequently discovered that Syngenta had funded neonicotinoid seeds for the RSPB Hope Farm Reserve. Systemic neonicotinoid insecticides are still on the market in the UK and the US nine years later.

I found Henk’s work to be shattering. It actually changed the course of my life. The fact was that he’d worked out that the effect on the brains of insects was irreversible, cumulative and there was no safe level of exposure. What was worse was that the Chemical Regulation Directorate didn’t seem to take it seriously. So, I wrote to Europe and the US EPA and the response was the same: ‘there is no evidence that the neonics are harmful to honeybees.’ Henk had written this book with amazing pictures and artwork showing the impact on insect-feeding birds throughout Europe. Humans had the same receptors; so, imagine the effects on humans if there are lots of neonics around. By March 2011, Henk and I decided that there would be a chemical apocalypse. So here we are, eight years later and bingo, our predictions were spot on!

Francisco Sanchez-Bayo, a toxicologist living in Australia, wrote papers with Henk agreeing that neonicotinoids insecticides irreversibly damaged the brains of insects and that levels built up over time. In 2019, he wrote a paper with a colleague in China, which proved that insect losses were global and due to pesticides.

Then there was the late Dr Maewan Ho of the former Institute of Science in Society who helped me to publish an article in the ISiS magazine in September 2014: ‘How Roundup poisoned my nature reserve’. She sadly died on 16 March 2016 from advanced cancer. She was an amazing woman and gave me much encouragement.

Finally, Polly Higgins, a Scottish barrister and environmentalist, gave up her practice and set up an organisation to end ecocide (destruction of the environment). Polly Higgins was an inspiration and campaigned tirelessly against ecocide. She died from cancer aged 50.

CT: Given all the open letters you have written to officials over the years, I cannot but feel you have by and large been stonewalled. Where does the buck stop?

RM: With David Cameron, the Health and Safety Executive and Defra (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) . A ‘Letter from America’ was sent from nearly 60 million US citizens warning Europe not to authorise GM crops and Roundup because of the disastrous effects on human health and biodiversity. Wales and Scotland took that advice. David Cameron received it on 11 November 2014, but he and Defra ignored it on behalf of England and kept it secret from the public. Cameron also appointed Michael Pragnell, Founder of Syngenta, to be Chairman of Cancer Research UK, which I’ve written about.

The HSE refused to ask the Council to stop spraying GBH on our reserve because it was ‘still legal’. The European Commission and the European Food Safety Authority ignored the Letter from America too and kept on authorising GM crops for feed and food in the EU.

Of course, there are many others who should be held responsible too, such as Bernhard Url, chief executive of EFSA, and the recently retired Chief Medical Officer for England, Dame Sally Davies.

CT: How do you feel about the destruction of your reserve, the pesticides issue, the state of nature and those officials who have effectively ignored much of what you have said to them? Disappointed? Frustrated?

RM: Those are such inadequate words to express my feelings. I am devastated about the global losses of biodiversity and I weep for our reserve. Sometimes, I dream that it is all reversible, but I know it is not. I read books about nature as ‘comfort food’. I feel sorry for the children who may never see a butterfly or a bumblebee. Indeed, I am a bit disappointed about the lack of support I have had from certain environmental groups and media outlets that report on environmental issues. I would like the mainstream media to acknowledge the role of the pesticides industry, but I don’t suppose they ever will.

However, I have gained some satisfaction from receiving expressions of gratitude and praise via the academia.edu site where my work is archived. And at least Jon Snow (Channel 4 broadcast journalist in the UK) has revealed the chief cause of losses of biodiversity to be poisoning the land, not global warming.

How do I feel? Maybe ‘resigned’ would be the right word to use.

• All of Rosemary Mason’s work can be accessed on the academia.edu website here.

Open Letter to PM Boris Johnson, Priti Patel, Sajid Javid, and Kevin Hollinrake

Dear Boris Johnson, Priti Patel, Sajid Javid and Kevin Hollinrake,

I feel compelled to write to you over my extreme concern regarding the health and well-being of Julian Assange.

Please see the link below regarding the psychological torture that Julian Assange has been subjected to, both before leaving the Ecuadorean Embassy and since during his illegal detainment in Her Majesty’s Prison; Belmarsh. To witness a man of such high intellect, integrity and courage brought to this state of confusion where he could barely confirm his own name, should send a shudder through anyone who believes that democracy, free speech, and writing/publishing the truth relating to serious war crimes has any value.

I had naively believed that if someone wasn’t competent to stand trial they would not be forced to do so. I had also believed that the UK would not consider extradition under circumstances where it was clearly known that the defendant was wanted for his political action (i.e. publishing truthful information about a war crime plus other confirmed truths). Do we now also extradite people to countries where we have good reason to believe that they will not receive a fair trial and that they are likely to be subjected to cruel and inhuman treatment? (Well, maybe we do if it’s a country that we regard as being of strategic and economic importance.)

The only ‘crime’ so far as I can see that Julian Assange committed was skipping bail when he sought asylum in the Ecuadorean Embassy. For that he has already been punished. Although, seriously, what sane person wouldn’t ‘skip bail’ in those circumstances when it was so evident that all of these offences related to the US powers having been exposed in wrong doing and wanting to extract revenge.

This travesty of justice and subjugation to US power brings such a deep shame on the UK that I barely recognise it as the country that I grew up in. Is there any sovereignty left within the UK., I seriously wonder?

I ask you to immediately release Julian Assange. I ask you to look to your humanity, and to look into yourself to find the strength and integrity to challenge the US powers in order to protect a man who has shone a light for all of us to follow in upholding truth, justice and courage. I ask this not only for Julian Assange, but for all writers, publishers, truth tellers, for all of us within the UK and for the many good people within the US and beyond.

https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2019/10/assange-in-court/

Your sincerely,

Heather Stroud
Email: moc.loanull@rehtaehduorts

“This Is Oil Country!”: Climate Protests And The Left

The left has a dark secret that is becoming ever harder to ignore: it is riddled with climate scepticism, indifference and denial.

Pick your favourite left-progressive writers, check their Twitter timelines and published work for mentions of the climate crisis. Check their level of support for protesters who, despite being arrested and beaten, have finally forced the issue into ‘mainstream’ political awareness after thirty years of fatal indifference and hostility.

This week, a Canadian fossil-fuel enthusiast defaced a mural of Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, painting these words over her face:

Stop the Lies. This is Oil Country!!!

Remarkably, when it comes to their understanding of the climate issue, much of the left has long lived in ‘oil country’. Dissidents who exposed the West’s ‘humanitarian interventions’ in Iraq and Libya as oil grabs have themselves unwittingly been captured by oil industry propaganda presenting climate concern as a scam by money-grubbing scientists seeking research funds and ‘bourgeois’ cynics seeking new ways to exploit honest working people.

Last week, Julia Steinberger, Professor of Social Ecology and Ecological Economics at the University of Leeds, tweeted:

Yesterday morning, and during the whole day, #ExtinctionRebellion faced the City of London: the banks who are bankrolling and profiting from fossil industries and planetary devastation.

Yesterday evening, the human right of freedom of assembly was suspended in all of London.

As Steinberger added:

Yesterday’s action and reaction are not coincidental: this is what happens when people go up against power.

And the City of London, indeed, is the locus of corporate power in the UK. Journalist Jonathan Cook describes it as ‘a tiny, secretive enclave within Britain, a state within a state’. The protest ban signalled both the real power behind the parliamentary throne, and the depth of corporate opposition to the protests, giving the lie to the claim that they are the plaything of corporate marketing.

Leftists have been misled by a clear surge in media reporting of protests that are obviously hard to ignore (1.4 million protesters in Germany alone on a single day), and by unlikely support from some corporate media. This, it is claimed, indicates a hidden corporate agenda. The leftist website, OffGuardian, which hosts extreme climate denial (see here, here and here), commented this month:

Remember – when the MSM don’t want you to support a protest movement they just don’t tell you about it. Think #giletsjaune.

#ExtinctionRebellion is theatre – we’re invited to take sides, polarise, but never question what actually lies behind the movement

Ironically, this favoured left take is also popular with hard-right corporate media. A recent comment piece in the Telegraph was titled:

Extinction Rebellion exposes Left-wing activism as a global elite sham

In reality, ‘mainstream’ support for the protests is offset by fierce hostility from many media corporations and should be viewed in the context of decades of extreme media and political opposition. As recently as April 2019, even after the start of the mass climate protests one year ago, Colombia Journalism Review reported:

Yet at a time when civilization is accelerating toward disaster, climate silence continues to reign across the bulk of the US news media. Especially on television, where most Americans still get their news… Many newspapers, too, are failing the climate test. Last October, the scientists of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a landmark report, warning that humanity had a mere 12 years to radically slash greenhouse-gas emissions or face a calamitous future in which hundreds of millions of people worldwide would go hungry or homeless or worse. Only 22 of the 50 biggest newspapers in the United States covered that report.

As we have documented for a quarter of century, this is very much the long-term trend. In 2017, Media Matters found that US news networks, ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and PBS had collectively given coverage to climate change that totalled just 260 minutes in the entire year. Of this, 79 per cent, or 205 minutes, was focused on actions or statements by the Trump administration, rather than on climate change itself.

Noam Chomsky has accurately described the ‘schizophrenic’ nature of ‘mainstream’ coverage:

So, it’s as if on the one hand, there’s a kind of a tunnel vision — the science reporters are occasionally saying look, “this is a catastrophe,” but then the regular coverage simply disregards it, and says [of fracking], “well, isn’t this wonderful, we won’t have to import oil, we’ll be more powerful,” and so on.

Chomsky added:

It’s a kind of schizophrenia, and it runs right through society. Take the big banks, JP Morgan Chase, for example. They’re the biggest bank and CEO Jamie Dimon is an intelligent man. I’m sure he knows the basic facts about the dire threat of global warming, yet at the same time they’re pouring investments into fossil fuel extraction, because that’s the business model. They have to make a profit tomorrow.

The facts, then, do not indicate deep corporate support for climate activism, but patchy support by less fundamentalist individuals and corporations within a system that is designed down to the last nut and bolt to generate maximum profits in minimum time.

The left-sceptic take on the climate protests is as deluded as any notion that the West was ‘fighting for democracy’ in Libya, or acting to ‘liberate’ Iraq. It is an example of why environmentalists have long lumped left and right together as ‘grey politics’ subordinating the planet to fantasies of endless industrial ‘progress’ and ‘growth’. Consider, for example, the terrible record of the Labour Party on climate change until very recently. The truth is that, with honourable exceptions, the left has never had a problem with the concept of infinite growth on a finite planet, only with how the fruits of that growth are distributed. Along with the right, it has struggled mightily to abandon this article of faith, this now completely discredited conceit of ‘manifest destiny’ (see here for further discussion).

This week, Extinction Rebellion (XR) commented:

Total silence from the Government since Parliament’s declaration of an environment and climate emergency in May.1

The Tory Party is the party of corporate power, and this is where Big Business currently is on climate – it wants to make cosmetic changes, pretend nothing is happening and carry on regardless.

If we are able to maintain a finger-hold on reality, then we have to accept that climate science, based on elementary principles of physics, is not part of a corporate conspiracy, is not effete ‘middle class’ paranoia, and is not designed to exploit the public. At time of writing, more than 1,100 scientists have signed the ‘Scientists’ Declaration of Support for Non-Violent Direct Action Against Government Inaction Over the Climate and Ecological Emergency.’

This support for the protests, not positive comments from the Guardian, is what matters.

Message To The ‘Eco-Zealots’ – ‘We’ll Take You Down!’

On October 17, video footage emerged of a mob endangering the life of a peaceful XR climate protester by throwing him off the roof of a London tube train to the ground where he was then punched and kicked on the ground.

ITV showed additional footage of an XR camera team filming the same protest at London’s Canning Town station being punched and kicked on the ground by the mob. The Telegraph reported that people on the platform who ‘took matters into their own hands’ could be investigated by police, who said their actions were ‘unacceptable’. The protesters had held up the train for ‘a few seconds’ before they were attacked. XR responded:

The people involved today did not take this action lightly. They were a grandfather, an ex-buddhist teacher, a vicar and a former GP among others who acted out of rational fear for the future as this crisis deepens.

The Telegraph reported that one of the two activists who climbed on top of the train was 36-year-old Mark Ovland, who gave up his Buddhist studies to devote himself to climate change action. In a blogpost before the Canning Town action, Ovland wrote:

… sometimes the actions I choose to take part in won’t be popular, I know that. But I’m really not in this to be popular.

I’m in this because I love life so, so much, and I want it to continue and I don’t know what else to do. I’m wanting to help raise an alarm so loud that no one can ignore it.

Kerry-Anne Mendoza, Editor-in-Chief of The Canary, a leftist website that has strongly supported the protests, responded to the incident:

The XR stunt shows what happens when a movement for all gets dominated by middle class whiteness.

We’ve been raising these concerns for a while, and it’s overdue they be heard and acted upon. Precisely because the cause is so important and urgent. In solidarity

We responded on Twitter:

That’s a huge leap. People of all classes and colours are protesting and disrupting in numerous non-violent ways around the planet. This “stunt” delayed commuters for a short period of time. It’s a big deal because the protester was violently attacked – that’s what matters.

Mendoza replied:

I’d already posted about the violence being a) unacceptable, and b) not about a train delay, but a mob mentality that no one should be praising. I can do that, and raise an issue about how XR operates.

In fact, Mendoza’s first response to the sight of peaceful protesters being beaten and kicked was to blame the victims:

What a mess! A tone deaf move borne of XR’s blindspots on race & class.

As for the mob violence: ‘That’s not to be admired.’

Mendoza’s condemnation was entirely reserved for the protesters, describing them as ‘silly buggers [who] ended up blocking an electric train, in a working class community, and pissing off nearly everyone. The arrogance of privilege’.

The peaceful protesters, then, were ‘silly buggers’, the mob a ‘working class community’. Mendoza added of the people who had been attacked that they were ‘tone deaf middle class activists’ who were ‘stupid’.

The Canary published a report by Ed Sykes on the Canning Town incident, ‘which revealed an apparent disconnect between the movement and ordinary working-class communities’. Even BBC articles like to make some gesture in the direction of balance, but Sykes gave exactly one point of view over and over again –  XR’s ‘own goal’ had been foolish, risible: ‘the action had “alienated” working-class people… activists should focus their efforts “on politicians & the top of big corporations & banks”.’

By contrast, Jasper Jackson noted in the New Statesman that much of the criticism of the action had simply misunderstood the purpose of the protests:

Extinction Rebellion has been clear that its primary goal is not to secure majority support for taking the necessary action to tackle climate change.

There is good reason for this. Decades of campaigning have not thrust climate change to the forefront of political consciousness. People care about the environment and are worried about a warming planet, but not enough for most to make it the deciding factor in which way they vote.

Instead, XR’s goal is to cause enough disruption to the economy and the functioning of society that governments are forced to do what is needed to make a dent in global warming. If the cost of their protests and direct action outweighs the investment needed to turn us into a zero-carbon economy, the economic arguments should succeed where the existential and moral ones haven’t.

The campaign is based on research that suggests that mobilising just 3.5 per cent of the population can be enough for a movement to succeed – the ‘distracted and apathetic’ majority is not the target audience. The simple fact is that 30 years of effort has failed totally, so XR is trying something different. As Jackson concluded:

That is going to mean pissing a lot of people off. Going by recent history, their approach may be the only option left.

In 2014, ‘mainstream’ media responded with grim indifference after left-wing MP George Galloway was hospitalised by a brutal, politically motivated street attack. Remarkably, last week, Galloway retweeted an article celebrating the mob attack on the climate protesters published in The Sun by the infamous climate denier Mick Hume, who wrote:

And like those other passengers packed on the platform, Londoners were cheering the working-class commuters who showed the amazed eco-zealots exactly what we thought of their attempts to bring the Tube to a halt.

Hume, formerly editor of Living Marxism, newspaper of the now-defunct Revolutionary Communist Party, added:

The message from the rebelling masses was clear: Protest all you like — but try to mess with our grim morning slog to work and we’ll take you down!

Under a picture of an activist being dragged along the ground, a Sun caption read:

By targeting Canning Town, the middle-class activists demonstrated that their arrogance is only exceeded by their ignorance.

It goes without saying that this was poisonous propaganda likely to fuel further hatred for the protesters.

Above a video of the tube station violence, Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood tweeted:

This response in London today has my full support.

Tom Kibasi, director of the Institute for Public Policy Research, said it was good to see ‘working class Londoners… standing up’ for themselves. Kibasi later tweeted:

I regret tweeting in haste earlier this morning and went too far.

In the Telegraph, Charlotte Gill stuck her own boot into the victims of the attack:

Through their increasingly deranged requests, and middle-class obsession with their grandchildren’s futures, Extinction rebels have achieved something utterly extraordinary: they have turned climate change into a class war.

As this makes clear, the issue of class is a major line of attack for corporate media – aided, it seems, by many on the left – seeking to turn the public against the protests. Thus, Gill added:

Overwhelmingly, there’s a whiff of economic superiority about XR, expanded upon over the weekend when the Mail on Sunday revealed that activists have been paid up to £400-a-week for inflicting misery on Londoners. Rebels have become the darlings of the rich and famous, with oil heiress Aileen Getty giving them £500,000 in donations and 100 celebrities, including Lily Cole and Steve Coogan, signing an open letter (urgh!) urging the public to “educate” themselves on climate change.

Why don’t these self-regarding twerps “educate” themselves on what it’s like to be on the national living wage?

In the Independent, celebrity broadcaster and commentator Janet Street-Porter wrote under the following title, apparently without irony: ‘Pity the poor carbon-chomping celebrities who think they’re “just like us”‘. Street-Porter added:

You can’t help wondering if this is a demo dominated by the middle class.

In the Telegraph, Julie Burchill lamented hearing ‘the over-privileged and under-productive half-wits of Extinction Rebellion talk about economic growth as if it was child abuse’, revealing XR’s ‘contempt’ for working people.

The Evening Standard, a latter-day ‘penny dreadful’ distributed free to Londoners, opined:

A small number of idiots, claiming to protest on behalf of Extinction Rebellion, climbed on Tube trains and the DLR this morning in east London to stop people getting to work. It was risky, selfish and stupid and they deserved the contempt now being poured on them.

Yes, the reaction of some passengers at Canning Town, who dragged them off the top of Jubilee line carriages and began a fight, was contemptible too — brave station staff did their best to keep order. But it’s no wonder passengers were angry.

This did not vindicate the violence but affirmed the righteousness of the anger, which is bad enough.

More generally, the promotion of hatred of climate protesters is a primitive but popular theme in ‘mainstream’ discourse. Ezra Levant of Rebel News described Greta Thunberg as ‘a circus freak’ who had been ordered by her mother ‘to infect other children with terror & depression’.

British businessman and Brexit bankroller Arron Banks responded to news that Thunberg was sailing to the US to attend the UN Climate Action Summit, tweeting:

Freak yachting accidents do happen in August…

Matt Baish, a US teacher, said he would not attend a rally featuring Thunberg because he didn’t ‘have my sniper rifle’.

Fox News contributor Steve Milloy described Thunberg as a ‘teenage puppet’, adding: ‘Climate bedwetters… the world laughs at this Greta charade.’

All of this, remember, directed at a 16-year-old child.

The Moral Balance – What Action Is Legitimate?

So what rights do climate protesters have in seeking to avert the near-term extinction of all human and most other life on earth?

In wartime, states have, of course, repeatedly bombed, indeed nuked, whole civilian cities in the cause of ‘national defence’. When US leaders obliterated Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they did so on the declared, highly questionable pretext that incinerating hundreds of thousands of civilians was necessary to preserve the lives of US soldiers who would otherwise be killed invading Japan. At the time, the US mainland was facing no threat even of attack, much less of destruction and defeat. Millions of US citizens then (as now) considered these atrocities entirely justifiable. In our own time, consistently large numbers of British and US people express few or no qualms when their governments decide to bomb one more country in the Middle East.

A key reason for this complacency is that modern citizens have been persuaded to perceive the state as a uniquely qualified moral actor to which we should defer, with the military and political leadership (even Trump!) often deemed completely beyond reproach when war is waged. There is no rational basis for this exalted view of the state. Britain and the US, for example, have an appalling record in greed-driven mass murder and exploitation. These systems of power have far less moral credibility, far less right to act, than the average, non-psychopathic individual – all of us paragons of virtue by comparison.

Given that we really are facing extinction – the death of everyone we know and love, ourselves included – and given that, over the last thirty years, governments and corporations have completely ignored the entreaties of climate scientists and activists by powerfully accelerating, not restraining, the runaway corporate capitalist machine – then, adopting ‘mainstream’ standards, activists must be morally entitled to use violence, even extreme violence, in trying to prevent the elimination of life on earth. After all, people are already dying in large numbers. Misha Coleman, one of the authors of a study by Australia’s Monash University, commented last July:

There are absolutely people dying climate-related deaths, [especially due to] heat stress right now.

During the Black Saturday fires [in Victoria, Australia, in 2009] for example, we know that people were directly killed by the fires, but there were nearly 400 additional deaths in those hot days from heat stress and heatstroke.

There are numerous similar examples, but these deaths are tiny specks compared to what lies ahead. A 2018 report from the World Health Organisation predicted that between 2030 and 2050, climate change would cause an additional 250,000 deaths per year, some 5 million in total. But Frank Fenner, Emeritus Professor in Microbiology at the Australian National University and an authority on extinction, went much further when he predicted literally billions of deaths in an interview with the Australian newspaper in 2010:

We’re going to become extinct. Whatever we do now is too late. Climate change is just at the very beginning… Homo sapiens will become extinct, perhaps within 100 years… I try not to express that because people are trying to do something, but they keep putting it off. Mitigation would slow things down a bit, but there are too many people here already.

We abhor violence and are convinced that a resort to violence in the name of climate action would quickly alienate the public and generate a fascistic state backlash that would destroy any remaining hope of positive government action. It is absolutely not the answer. But the fact remains that all peaceful, non-violent actions must be deemed legitimate insofar as they obstruct the extinction of life on earth.

Climate science is not a class, race or gender issue. The idea that some kind of bogus class analysis can declare protesters ‘stupid’, ‘arrogant’ and ‘immoral’ for inconveniencing commuters, for costing working class people money, and even their jobs, is absurd. In fact, it is simply surreal, if – and it’s a big ‘if’ – we are able to grasp the almost unimaginable and imminent nature of the climate threat, and to weigh the merits of the competing moral claims, as we do in wartime. Millions of people cannot accept the need to kill and be killed in the hundreds of thousands, or millions, in defence of the nation, and then rail at the obstruction of public transport in the defence of all humanity. Of course, we can argue that protesters were naïve to risk their safety by provoking commuters in London’s notoriously tough East End, but that is not an argument about the ethics of the protest.

We understand that the people punching and kicking protesters in Canning Town likely had little understanding of the truth of our situation – dumbed-down state education, media distraction and a very real corporate conspiracy to deceive the public have seen to that. We understand that they would find our positing of the moral balance in these terms hysterical and absurd, perhaps a ‘middle class fantasy’. But, as ever, ignorance does not help them or us, and is no defence.

  1. XR, emailed press release, 22 October 2019.

XR Co-Founder Discusses Climate Emergency

Extinction Rebellion (“XR”) has hit the world stage like a flash of light with participants in more than 70 countries all within one year’s time. Its allure is simply “telling the truth” about the climate crisis… for a change. A breath of fresh air in a world filled with deceit and lies by people in positions of power.

Recently, Roger Hallam, an organic farmer and King’s College scholar and co-founder of XR, spoke at a gathering of local people in Penzance, Cornwall.

What follows is an abbreviated interpretation of that speech:

One of the biggest lies/misunderstandings about climate change is: “It’s complicated.” Meaning, only scientists and trained officials can deal with it because ordinary people cannot grasp the complexities. Whereas, the fact of the matter is: It’s not that complicated. Hallam expounded upon some simple, what he refers to as killer facts:

It’s undeniable that the Arctic is melting. “It’s too warm; it’s ice; it melts. You don’t need a degree in science to figure that one out.”

Unquestionably, the severity of the diminishment is horrifying. Seventy-five percent (75%) of the mass volume of Arctic ice has melted in the past 30 years. Stop and think about that for a moment… after thousands of years of thick multi-layered ice, it’s nearly all gone in only 30 short years. That’s well beyond the scope of natural behavior; it is catastrophic in many ways. After all, it’s not 10% not 30%; it’s 75%, which will ultimately bring torrential shifts in climate for the entirety of the Northern Hemisphere. In fact, it has already started.

Hallam mentioned a Harvard professor who recently claimed that there would be no permanent ice left in the Arctic by the summer of 2022. The professor said it’s a certainty. “It’s clear the summer ice is headed for zero within the next 1-5 years… it’s going to be happening. And, it’s a simple scientific law that says once you’ve removed the ice from dark water, you get the latent heat effect, which means that temperatures increase dramatically and suddenly.”

All of which disrupts upper atmospheric jet streams as the temperature differential between the Arctic and the tropics drops, so it slows down the jet streams, and creates weather blocks that terrorize farmers that depend upon predictable weather cycles, year-in, year-out. Nowadays, it’s the unpredictable; e.g., the 2019 Midwest massive flooding of farmland, unprecedented.

“Once the ice is gone, it’s going to be completely chaotic. Within the next ten years, this is what’s coming down the road.” (Hallam)

Hallam claims the Arctic is not a complicated issue. The ice goes and the entire Northern Hemisphere changes in ways that nobody knows because we’ve never been there before. It’s an unintended experiment that’s already gone off the rails.

He discussed the climate crisis in terms of temperature: Since pre-industrial times the temperature has increased 1.1°Centigrade. Some people think it’s a bit more, some people think it’s a bit less, but 1.1°C is in the ballpark. In that regard, the Paris climate agreement, “which I’ll suggest to you is the biggest example of a massive delusion in the history of humanity,” promotes the lie that we must stay below 2°Centigrade. But, the simple scientific fact is 2°C is already locked in.” It’s well known in academia that 2°C is already locked in. There are several reasons why:

  • Carbon Life – When carbon is put into the atmosphere, it doesn’t immediately heat up the earth. It takes 10 to 30 years to translate to higher temperatures. Therefore, even if carbon emissions stopped tomorrow, there’s still 10-30 years of carbon working its way through the climate system. A recent scientific peer-review paper projected that latent carbon cycle equal to 0.7°C no matter what mitigation steps are taken today. That means 1.8° is already locked in (adding 1.1°C to 0.7°C).
  • And, “global dimming” peer-reviewed papers say fossil fuel usage puts pollutants or particulate matter in the atmosphere that actually mitigates heating of the planet by reflecting solar rays back to outer space. So, once you get rid of the fossil fuels, and cease emissions, the sun’s rays will come thru unimpeded by fossil fuel particulates. It’s estimated to increase global temperatures by 0.7°C.

Inclusive of all above, 2.6C is locked-in even though part of the “lock-in” is removal of carbon emissions. Another recent peer-reviewed paper says carbon in soils will increase temperatures by another one degree centigrade by 2050 because once you heat up the earth, you heat up the soil, it releases more carbon, taking temperatures up over 3°C.

All of the above-mentioned climate disruption happens before human anthropogenic current activities are counted. Alas, carbon emissions are still going up at rates of 1.6 ppm as of a couple years ago, then, 2.7 ppm and then 3ppm. The growth rate is headed straight up, not down.

Thus, with global average temperatures already locked in at 2°C, it means portions of middle continents or mid latitudes will hit 4°C. According to NASA, global warming varies but is highest in Earth’s mid-latitude regions during the warm season. At 4°C in the middle continents you cannot grow grains at scale. That means one thing: Starvation.

Looking at the issue one more way: Pre-industrial CO2 in the atmosphere was 280ppm at its peak over the past 400,000 years, but it’s been growing much faster than ever before over that past 100 years and now at 415ppm. It wasn’t so long ago that people were saying 350ppm was the upper limit or danger zone when ecosystems would start to falter. But, atmospheric CO2 is already at 415. What about that upper limit and shouldn’t that be a call to action?  Nevertheless, there is no call to action, nowhere to be seen or heard. There is only talk interspersed with token dabbling in electric cars and solar panels and wind. The hard fact is fossil fuels were 80% of energy sourcing 50 years ago. Fossil fuels are 80% of energy sourcing today. Where’s the change?

In all, Hallam claims the “real bad news is: We’re facing social collapse. We are facing the end of civilization.” If you want to know what social collapse looks like, check out Somalia. Check out Afghanistan. Social collapse looks like an economic crisis when there is no longer any support for the poor. The schools won’t be able to run. The university courses will close. No beds available at hospitals. Food supplies run out, people starve and fight.

Last year for the first time ever a food-growing crisis hit all across the Northern Hemisphere, down 20% down in North America, Europe and Russia, all in one year!  If that were to happen three years running, there would be massive starvation in Europe. That analysis by a sustainability professor is based the most downloaded (450,000) academic paper in history.

Fifteen years ago, Hallam planted 20 acres of crops. Starting in early June, the rain continued for seven weeks, nonstop. He lost every single outdoor vegetable. He lost £100,000 and 20 people lost their jobs. But, nobody cared because if you can’t get your food locally, you can fly it in. And, the following year, it rained almost 7 weeks once again. That was followed by the warmest April ever in the UK; then the coolest August ever, then the coldest wet winter on record, and last year was the warmest summer on record in Wales. Climate change is real and unpredictable. Thus, farmers do not know what’s going to happen and many go out of business. Around the world, farmers are committing suicide in record numbers, and as for America:1

Still the worst consequence of the climate crisis, which is the real endpoint, will be war. What will happen when hundreds of millions of refugees are fleeing from the tropics because the heat is unbearable? There will be war. This will happen before flooding of major coastal cities, which is also “locked-in” to the climate system.

The climate crisis is absolutely real. It’s a climate emergency! Temperatures continue setting new records. It was over 44°C in Karachi last year and many people died of heat stroke, but nobody cared because it is Karachi. Heat hit 47°C in parts of India. (Body temps at 42.22°C can result in convulsions and death)

The risks can be explained by the theory of nonlinear dynamics in social and economic systems. First, a few hundred die from heat stroke, and then it goes up a little bit more and then a thousand die, up a little bit more and then three million people die in a few days. All of a sudden, it happens so suddenly!

Because of wet bulb effect, at a certain point the human body cannot survive heat and humidity and dies within 6 hours. It’s nonlinear. This is already happening in the animal kingdom. It happened in the Russian Steppes 2-3 years ago when 200,000 deer died in 3 days.

Hallam has talked to leading political economists around the world, and they all agree catastrophe is coming. “When it comes it’s going to be fast.” They all agree. Within weeks because everything is inter-connected, meaning, food supply and distribution throughout the world.

Hallam mentioned what he refers to as “a difficult discussion item” how to stop the misguided process. The social sciences provide answers. If you want to rapidly change the political direction of a society it only happens thru massive social disobedience. Period! It’s the only way, and it is what XR is all about.

Society has been trying to sort out the climate crisis for 30 years. Alas, it’s gotten nowhere. Meantime, since 1990 there’s been a 60% increase in carbon emissions. All efforts, meetings, and discussions have been a catastrophic disaster. One-half of the carbon emissions in the atmosphere by the human race have been since Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth was released. Still, it’s been followed by catastrophic failure, which is the starting point for thinking about what really works. And, what really works is what we haven’t been doing. We haven’t been “Causing a Fuss.”

On a personal basis, Roger Hallam admitted that he does not like causing a fuss. It’s not in his character, but it’s the only formula for success.

Civic disobedience works. The reason it works is because of two things: (1) Disruption… no one takes any notice unless you cause disruption. It increases the reputational and economic costs of the opponents. Whereas, “being nice doesn’t do anything.” Disruption creates attention, and attention is the first point at which people start to change their opinions. For an example of what doesn’t work, in 2003, one million people in London protested the Iraq war. The protestors waved banners and hollered and conjoined with like-minded, and then, they got on buses and headed home. What happened? Nothing happened because a march never causes disruption. It’s there and it’s gone. (2) Sacrifice without suffering there is no change. It’s when you go to jail that people take you seriously. What changes a person is seeing other people suffer for their beliefs.

XR involves arrest and going to prison. XR’s slogan is: Tell the truth and act as if it is real. Rebels have to be willing to upset people. XR has added 100,000 people to their mailing list in one year because people want to hear the truth.

The fight for civil rights in U.S. is an example of civic disruption working to the benefit of a cause. The Freedom Rider campaign of 1961 started with 25 students. MLK advised them not to do it. They did it and were surrounded by KKK, who set fire to their bus and beat up the students. Then, another 25 students came; followed by national press. President Kennedy noticed. The racist beat up his emissary. Hundreds more went to Mississippi… 500 people were put into prison doing hard labor. Prior to the Freedom Riders, 70 years of conventional protests did not work, did not move the civil rights needle. But, several weeks of Freedom Riders did the job. They caused a fuss.

The Children’s March- Birmingham circa 1963 is another example as 50 children, marching in opposition to segregation, went to prison after harassment by police, fire hoses and beatings because the kids simply walked in the streets. Then, 1,000 children in prison; then 3,000 in prison the next day, until the authorities give in. The chief of police caved in and Birmingham, Alabama agreed to desegregate the local stores. The children caused a fuss.

Radical political change works when participants have no fear. The children of Birmingham were fearless in civic disobedience.

At King’s College Hallam was suspended twice for pushing fossil fuel divestment. Eventually, King’s College said they would divest tar sands investments in a few years. Thereafter, Hallam and one other student started spraying signs around the campus. Then, eight more students joined, and they sprayed the campus. Then, the vice principal came within five minutes of a massive spraying. At the time, Hallam was suspended from King’s college. Still, he re-entered the property again and again. After 5 weeks, the university agreed to divest. According to Hallam, the willingness to personally sacrifice is key to success.

In April 2018 the upstart Extinction Rebellion ignored warnings from authorities. Within 8 days in London they had 1,200 arrested. It was the biggest civil disturbance in London in 50 years. Before the April civic disruptions, the general public did not have an opinion about climate change. After XR’s public disruptions, 67% of the UK population acknowledged the “climate emergency” and 50,000 people signed up for XR.

Disruption and sacrifice are the necessary ingredients. People get involved for a range of reasons. Including, (1) they are terrified about what’s going to happen with the climate crisis, knowing their careers and status won’t be there anyway if it’s not stopped (2) it is an act of conscience. It’s a sense of civic duty. (3) A sense of adventure by people who are already messed up in life and looking for redemption in their lives.

Extinction Rebellion intends to continue civil disobedience until governments of the world declare a “climate emergency.” It almost seems as if it’s their fate in life.

But, is there truly a climate emergency at hand?  Answer: It’s a given, study the science, and you’ll join in person or commit funds to XR. The science is 100% definitive, and it’s real scary!

  1. “Suicide Rates are Rising, Especially in Rural America” NBC News, September 6, 2019.

XR Co-Founder Discusses Climate Emergency

Extinction Rebellion (“XR”) has hit the world stage like a flash of light with participants in more than 70 countries all within one year’s time. Its allure is simply “telling the truth” about the climate crisis… for a change. A breath of fresh air in a world filled with deceit and lies by people in positions of power.

Recently, Roger Hallam, an organic farmer and King’s College scholar and co-founder of XR, spoke at a gathering of local people in Penzance, Cornwall.

What follows is an abbreviated interpretation of that speech:

One of the biggest lies/misunderstandings about climate change is: “It’s complicated.” Meaning, only scientists and trained officials can deal with it because ordinary people cannot grasp the complexities. Whereas, the fact of the matter is: It’s not that complicated. Hallam expounded upon some simple, what he refers to as killer facts:

It’s undeniable that the Arctic is melting. “It’s too warm; it’s ice; it melts. You don’t need a degree in science to figure that one out.”

Unquestionably, the severity of the diminishment is horrifying. Seventy-five percent (75%) of the mass volume of Arctic ice has melted in the past 30 years. Stop and think about that for a moment… after thousands of years of thick multi-layered ice, it’s nearly all gone in only 30 short years. That’s well beyond the scope of natural behavior; it is catastrophic in many ways. After all, it’s not 10% not 30%; it’s 75%, which will ultimately bring torrential shifts in climate for the entirety of the Northern Hemisphere. In fact, it has already started.

Hallam mentioned a Harvard professor who recently claimed that there would be no permanent ice left in the Arctic by the summer of 2022. The professor said it’s a certainty. “It’s clear the summer ice is headed for zero within the next 1-5 years… it’s going to be happening. And, it’s a simple scientific law that says once you’ve removed the ice from dark water, you get the latent heat effect, which means that temperatures increase dramatically and suddenly.”

All of which disrupts upper atmospheric jet streams as the temperature differential between the Arctic and the tropics drops, so it slows down the jet streams, and creates weather blocks that terrorize farmers that depend upon predictable weather cycles, year-in, year-out. Nowadays, it’s the unpredictable; e.g., the 2019 Midwest massive flooding of farmland, unprecedented.

“Once the ice is gone, it’s going to be completely chaotic. Within the next ten years, this is what’s coming down the road.” (Hallam)

Hallam claims the Arctic is not a complicated issue. The ice goes and the entire Northern Hemisphere changes in ways that nobody knows because we’ve never been there before. It’s an unintended experiment that’s already gone off the rails.

He discussed the climate crisis in terms of temperature: Since pre-industrial times the temperature has increased 1.1°Centigrade. Some people think it’s a bit more, some people think it’s a bit less, but 1.1°C is in the ballpark. In that regard, the Paris climate agreement, “which I’ll suggest to you is the biggest example of a massive delusion in the history of humanity,” promotes the lie that we must stay below 2°Centigrade. But, the simple scientific fact is 2°C is already locked in.” It’s well known in academia that 2°C is already locked in. There are several reasons why:

  • Carbon Life – When carbon is put into the atmosphere, it doesn’t immediately heat up the earth. It takes 10 to 30 years to translate to higher temperatures. Therefore, even if carbon emissions stopped tomorrow, there’s still 10-30 years of carbon working its way through the climate system. A recent scientific peer-review paper projected that latent carbon cycle equal to 0.7°C no matter what mitigation steps are taken today. That means 1.8° is already locked in (adding 1.1°C to 0.7°C).
  • And, “global dimming” peer-reviewed papers say fossil fuel usage puts pollutants or particulate matter in the atmosphere that actually mitigates heating of the planet by reflecting solar rays back to outer space. So, once you get rid of the fossil fuels, and cease emissions, the sun’s rays will come thru unimpeded by fossil fuel particulates. It’s estimated to increase global temperatures by 0.7°C.

Inclusive of all above, 2.6C is locked-in even though part of the “lock-in” is removal of carbon emissions. Another recent peer-reviewed paper says carbon in soils will increase temperatures by another one degree centigrade by 2050 because once you heat up the earth, you heat up the soil, it releases more carbon, taking temperatures up over 3°C.

All of the above-mentioned climate disruption happens before human anthropogenic current activities are counted. Alas, carbon emissions are still going up at rates of 1.6 ppm as of a couple years ago, then, 2.7 ppm and then 3ppm. The growth rate is headed straight up, not down.

Thus, with global average temperatures already locked in at 2°C, it means portions of middle continents or mid latitudes will hit 4°C. According to NASA, global warming varies but is highest in Earth’s mid-latitude regions during the warm season. At 4°C in the middle continents you cannot grow grains at scale. That means one thing: Starvation.

Looking at the issue one more way: Pre-industrial CO2 in the atmosphere was 280ppm at its peak over the past 400,000 years, but it’s been growing much faster than ever before over that past 100 years and now at 415ppm. It wasn’t so long ago that people were saying 350ppm was the upper limit or danger zone when ecosystems would start to falter. But, atmospheric CO2 is already at 415. What about that upper limit and shouldn’t that be a call to action?  Nevertheless, there is no call to action, nowhere to be seen or heard. There is only talk interspersed with token dabbling in electric cars and solar panels and wind. The hard fact is fossil fuels were 80% of energy sourcing 50 years ago. Fossil fuels are 80% of energy sourcing today. Where’s the change?

In all, Hallam claims the “real bad news is: We’re facing social collapse. We are facing the end of civilization.” If you want to know what social collapse looks like, check out Somalia. Check out Afghanistan. Social collapse looks like an economic crisis when there is no longer any support for the poor. The schools won’t be able to run. The university courses will close. No beds available at hospitals. Food supplies run out, people starve and fight.

Last year for the first time ever a food-growing crisis hit all across the Northern Hemisphere, down 20% down in North America, Europe and Russia, all in one year!  If that were to happen three years running, there would be massive starvation in Europe. That analysis by a sustainability professor is based the most downloaded (450,000) academic paper in history.

Fifteen years ago, Hallam planted 20 acres of crops. Starting in early June, the rain continued for seven weeks, nonstop. He lost every single outdoor vegetable. He lost £100,000 and 20 people lost their jobs. But, nobody cared because if you can’t get your food locally, you can fly it in. And, the following year, it rained almost 7 weeks once again. That was followed by the warmest April ever in the UK; then the coolest August ever, then the coldest wet winter on record, and last year was the warmest summer on record in Wales. Climate change is real and unpredictable. Thus, farmers do not know what’s going to happen and many go out of business. Around the world, farmers are committing suicide in record numbers, and as for America:1

Still the worst consequence of the climate crisis, which is the real endpoint, will be war. What will happen when hundreds of millions of refugees are fleeing from the tropics because the heat is unbearable? There will be war. This will happen before flooding of major coastal cities, which is also “locked-in” to the climate system.

The climate crisis is absolutely real. It’s a climate emergency! Temperatures continue setting new records. It was over 44°C in Karachi last year and many people died of heat stroke, but nobody cared because it is Karachi. Heat hit 47°C in parts of India. (Body temps at 42.22°C can result in convulsions and death)

The risks can be explained by the theory of nonlinear dynamics in social and economic systems. First, a few hundred die from heat stroke, and then it goes up a little bit more and then a thousand die, up a little bit more and then three million people die in a few days. All of a sudden, it happens so suddenly!

Because of wet bulb effect, at a certain point the human body cannot survive heat and humidity and dies within 6 hours. It’s nonlinear. This is already happening in the animal kingdom. It happened in the Russian Steppes 2-3 years ago when 200,000 deer died in 3 days.

Hallam has talked to leading political economists around the world, and they all agree catastrophe is coming. “When it comes it’s going to be fast.” They all agree. Within weeks because everything is inter-connected, meaning, food supply and distribution throughout the world.

Hallam mentioned what he refers to as “a difficult discussion item” how to stop the misguided process. The social sciences provide answers. If you want to rapidly change the political direction of a society it only happens thru massive social disobedience. Period! It’s the only way, and it is what XR is all about.

Society has been trying to sort out the climate crisis for 30 years. Alas, it’s gotten nowhere. Meantime, since 1990 there’s been a 60% increase in carbon emissions. All efforts, meetings, and discussions have been a catastrophic disaster. One-half of the carbon emissions in the atmosphere by the human race have been since Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth was released. Still, it’s been followed by catastrophic failure, which is the starting point for thinking about what really works. And, what really works is what we haven’t been doing. We haven’t been “Causing a Fuss.”

On a personal basis, Roger Hallam admitted that he does not like causing a fuss. It’s not in his character, but it’s the only formula for success.

Civic disobedience works. The reason it works is because of two things: (1) Disruption… no one takes any notice unless you cause disruption. It increases the reputational and economic costs of the opponents. Whereas, “being nice doesn’t do anything.” Disruption creates attention, and attention is the first point at which people start to change their opinions. For an example of what doesn’t work, in 2003, one million people in London protested the Iraq war. The protestors waved banners and hollered and conjoined with like-minded, and then, they got on buses and headed home. What happened? Nothing happened because a march never causes disruption. It’s there and it’s gone. (2) Sacrifice without suffering there is no change. It’s when you go to jail that people take you seriously. What changes a person is seeing other people suffer for their beliefs.

XR involves arrest and going to prison. XR’s slogan is: Tell the truth and act as if it is real. Rebels have to be willing to upset people. XR has added 100,000 people to their mailing list in one year because people want to hear the truth.

The fight for civil rights in U.S. is an example of civic disruption working to the benefit of a cause. The Freedom Rider campaign of 1961 started with 25 students. MLK advised them not to do it. They did it and were surrounded by KKK, who set fire to their bus and beat up the students. Then, another 25 students came; followed by national press. President Kennedy noticed. The racist beat up his emissary. Hundreds more went to Mississippi… 500 people were put into prison doing hard labor. Prior to the Freedom Riders, 70 years of conventional protests did not work, did not move the civil rights needle. But, several weeks of Freedom Riders did the job. They caused a fuss.

The Children’s March- Birmingham circa 1963 is another example as 50 children, marching in opposition to segregation, went to prison after harassment by police, fire hoses and beatings because the kids simply walked in the streets. Then, 1,000 children in prison; then 3,000 in prison the next day, until the authorities give in. The chief of police caved in and Birmingham, Alabama agreed to desegregate the local stores. The children caused a fuss.

Radical political change works when participants have no fear. The children of Birmingham were fearless in civic disobedience.

At King’s College Hallam was suspended twice for pushing fossil fuel divestment. Eventually, King’s College said they would divest tar sands investments in a few years. Thereafter, Hallam and one other student started spraying signs around the campus. Then, eight more students joined, and they sprayed the campus. Then, the vice principal came within five minutes of a massive spraying. At the time, Hallam was suspended from King’s college. Still, he re-entered the property again and again. After 5 weeks, the university agreed to divest. According to Hallam, the willingness to personally sacrifice is key to success.

In April 2018 the upstart Extinction Rebellion ignored warnings from authorities. Within 8 days in London they had 1,200 arrested. It was the biggest civil disturbance in London in 50 years. Before the April civic disruptions, the general public did not have an opinion about climate change. After XR’s public disruptions, 67% of the UK population acknowledged the “climate emergency” and 50,000 people signed up for XR.

Disruption and sacrifice are the necessary ingredients. People get involved for a range of reasons. Including, (1) they are terrified about what’s going to happen with the climate crisis, knowing their careers and status won’t be there anyway if it’s not stopped (2) it is an act of conscience. It’s a sense of civic duty. (3) A sense of adventure by people who are already messed up in life and looking for redemption in their lives.

Extinction Rebellion intends to continue civil disobedience until governments of the world declare a “climate emergency.” It almost seems as if it’s their fate in life.

But, is there truly a climate emergency at hand?  Answer: It’s a given, study the science, and you’ll join in person or commit funds to XR. The science is 100% definitive, and it’s real scary!

  1. “Suicide Rates are Rising, Especially in Rural America” NBC News, September 6, 2019.

Assange in Court

I was deeply shaken while witnessing Monday’s events in Westminster Magistrates Court. Every decision was railroaded through over the scarcely heard arguments and objections of Assange’s legal team, by a magistrate who barely pretended to be listening.

Before I get on to the blatant lack of fair process, the first thing I must note was Julian’s condition. I was badly shocked by just how much weight my friend has lost, by the speed his hair has receded and by the appearance of premature and vastly accelerated ageing. He has a pronounced limp I have never seen before. Since his arrest he has lost over 15 kg in weight.

But his physical appearance was not as shocking as his mental deterioration. When asked to give his name and date of birth, he struggled visibly over several seconds to recall both. I will come to the important content of his statement at the end of proceedings in due course, but his difficulty in making it was very evident; it was a real struggle for him to articulate the words and focus his train of thought.

Until yesterday I had always been quietly sceptical of those who claimed that Julian’s treatment amounted to torture – even of Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture – and sceptical of those who suggested he may be subject to debilitating drug treatments. But having attended the trials in Uzbekistan of several victims of extreme torture, and having worked with survivors from Sierra Leone and elsewhere, I can tell you that yesterday changed my mind entirely and Julian exhibited exactly the symptoms of a torture victim brought blinking into the light, particularly in terms of disorientation, confusion, and the real struggle to assert free will through the fog of learned helplessness.

I had been even more sceptical of those who claimed, as a senior member of his legal team did to me on Sunday night, that they were worried that Julian might not live to the end of the extradition process. I now find myself not only believing it, but haunted by the thought. Everybody in that court yesterday saw that one of the greatest journalists and most important dissidents of our times is being tortured to death by the state, before our eyes. To see my friend, the most articulate man, the fastest thinker, I have ever known, reduced to that shambling and incoherent wreck, was unbearable. Yet the agents of the state, particularly the callous magistrate Vanessa Baraitser, were not just prepared but eager to be a part of this bloodsport. She actually told him that if he were incapable of following proceedings, then his lawyers could explain what had happened to him later. The question of why a man who, by the very charges against him, was acknowledged to be highly intelligent and competent, had been reduced by the state to somebody incapable of following court proceedings, gave her not a millisecond of concern.

The charge against Julian is very specific; conspiring with Chelsea Manning to publish the Iraq War logs, the Afghanistan war logs and the State Department cables. The charges are nothing to do with Sweden, nothing to do with sex, and nothing to do with the 2016 US election; a simple clarification the mainstream media appears incapable of understanding.

The purpose of yesterday’s hearing was case management; to determine the timetable for the extradition proceedings. The key points at issue were that Julian’s defence was requesting more time to prepare their evidence; and arguing that political offences were specifically excluded from the extradition treaty. There should, they argued, therefore be a preliminary hearing to determine whether the extradition treaty applied at all.

The reasons given by Assange’s defence team for more time to prepare were both compelling and startling. They had very limited access to their client in jail and had not been permitted to hand him any documents about the case until one week ago. He had also only just been given limited computer access, and all his relevant records and materials had been seized from the Ecuadorean Embassy by the US Government; he had no access to his own materials for the purpose of preparing his defence.

Furthermore, the defence argued, they were in touch with the Spanish courts about a very important and relevant legal case in Madrid which would provide vital evidence. It showed that the CIA had been directly ordering spying on Julian in the Embassy through a Spanish company, UC Global, contracted to provide security there. Crucially this included spying on privileged conversations between Assange and his lawyers discussing his defence against these extradition proceedings, which had been in train in the USA since 2010. In any normal process, that fact would in itself be sufficient to have the extradition proceedings dismissed. Incidentally I learnt on Sunday that the Spanish material produced in court, which had been commissioned by the CIA, specifically includes high resolution video coverage of Julian and I discussing various matters.

The evidence to the Spanish court also included a CIA plot to kidnap Assange, which went to the US authorities’ attitude to lawfulness in his case and the treatment he might expect in the United States. Julian’s team explained that the Spanish legal process was happening now and the evidence from it would be extremely important, but it might not be finished and thus the evidence not fully validated and available in time for the current proposed timetable for the Assange extradition hearings.

For the prosecution, James Lewis QC stated that the government strongly opposed any delay being given for the defence to prepare, and strongly opposed any separate consideration of the question of whether the charge was a political offence excluded by the extradition treaty. Baraitser took her cue from Lewis and stated categorically that the date for the extradition hearing, 25 February, could not be changed. She was open to changes in dates for submission of evidence and responses before this, and called a ten minute recess for the prosecution and defence to agree these steps.

What happened next was very instructive. There were five representatives of the US government present (initially three, and two more arrived in the course of the hearing), seated at desks behind the lawyers in court. The prosecution lawyers immediately went into huddle with the US representatives, then went outside the courtroom with them, to decide how to respond on the dates.

After the recess the defence team stated they could not, in their professional opinion, adequately prepare if the hearing date were kept to February, but within Baraitser’s instruction to do so they nevertheless outlined a proposed timetable on delivery of evidence. In responding to this, Lewis’ junior counsel scurried to the back of the court to consult the Americans again while Lewis actually told the judge he was “taking instructions from those behind”. It is important to note that as he said this, it was not the UK Attorney-General’s office who were being consulted but the US Embassy. Lewis received his American instructions and agreed that the defence might have two months to prepare their evidence (they had said they needed an absolute minimum of three) but the February hearing date may not be moved. Baraitser gave a ruling agreeing with everything Lewis had said.

At this stage it was unclear why we were sitting through this farce. The US government was dictating its instructions to Lewis, who was relaying those instructions to Baraitser, who was ruling them as her legal decision. The charade might as well have been cut and the US government simply sat on the bench to control the whole process. Nobody could sit there and believe they were in any part of a genuine legal process or that Baraitser was giving a moment’s consideration to the arguments of the defence. Her facial expressions on the few occasions she looked at the defence ranged from contempt through boredom to sarcasm. When she looked at Lewis she was attentive, open and warm.

The extradition is plainly being rushed through in accordance with a Washington dictated timetable. Apart from a desire to pre-empt the Spanish court providing evidence on CIA activity in sabotaging the defence, what makes the February date so important to the USA? I would welcome any thoughts.

Baraitser dismissed the defence’s request for a separate prior hearing to consider whether the extradition treaty applied at all, without bothering to give any reason why (possibly she had not properly memorised what Lewis had been instructing her to agree with). Yet this is Article 4 of the UK/US Extradition Treaty 2007 in full:

On the face of it, what Assange is accused of is the very definition of a political offence – if this is not, then what is? It is not covered by any of the exceptions from that listed. There is every reason to consider whether this charge is excluded by the extradition treaty, and to do so before the long and very costly process of considering all the evidence should the treaty apply. But Baraitser simply dismissed the argument out of hand.

Just in case anybody was left in any doubt as to what was happening here, Lewis then stood up and suggested that the defence should not be allowed to waste the court’s time with a lot of arguments. All arguments for the substantive hearing should be given in writing in advance and a “guillotine should be applied” (his exact words) to arguments and witnesses in court, perhaps of five hours for the defence. The defence had suggested they would need more than the scheduled five days to present their case. Lewis countered that the entire hearing should be over in two days. Baraitser said this was not procedurally the correct moment to agree to this but she will consider it once she had received the evidence bundles.

(SPOILER: Baraitser is going to do as Lewis instructs and cut the substantive hearing short).

Baraitser then capped it all by saying the February hearing will be held, not at the comparatively open and accessible Westminster Magistrates Court where we were, but at Belmarsh Magistrates Court, the grim high security facility used for preliminary legal processing of terrorists, attached to the maximum security prison where Assange is being held. There are only six seats for the public in even the largest court at Belmarsh, and the object is plainly to evade public scrutiny and make sure that Baraitser is not exposed in public again to a genuine account of her proceedings, like this one you are reading. I will probably be unable to get in to the substantive hearing at Belmarsh.

Plainly the authorities were disconcerted by the hundreds of good people who had turned up to support Julian. They hope that far fewer will get to the much less accessible Belmarsh. I am fairly certain (and recall I had a long career as a diplomat) that the two extra American government officials who arrived halfway through proceedings were armed security personnel, brought in because of alarm at the number of protestors around a hearing in which were present senior US officials. The move to Belmarsh may be an American initiative.

Assange’s defence team objected strenuously to the move to Belmarsh, in particular on the grounds that there are no conference rooms available there to consult with their client and they have very inadequate access to him in the jail. Baraitser dismissed their objection offhand and with a very definite smirk.

Finally, Baraitser turned to Julian and ordered him to stand, and asked him if he had understood the proceedings. He replied in the negative, said that he could not think, and gave every appearance of disorientation. Then he seemed to find an inner strength, drew himself up a little, and said:

I do not understand how this process is equitable. This superpower had 10 years to prepare for this case and I can’t even access my writings. It is very difficult, where I am, to do anything. These people have unlimited resources.

The effort then seemed to become too much, his voice dropped and he became increasingly confused and incoherent. He spoke of whistleblowers and publishers being labeled enemies of the people, then spoke about his children’s DNA being stolen and of being spied on in his meetings with his psychologist. I am not suggesting at all that Julian was wrong about these points, but he could not properly frame nor articulate them. He was plainly not himself, very ill and it was just horribly painful to watch. Baraitser showed neither sympathy nor the least concern. She tartly observed that if he could not understand what had happened, his lawyers could explain it to him, and she swept out of court.

The whole experience was profoundly upsetting. It was very plain that there was no genuine process of legal consideration happening here. What we had was a naked demonstration of the power of the state, and a naked dictation of proceedings by the Americans. Julian was in a box behind bulletproof glass, and I and the thirty odd other members of the public who had squeezed in were in a different box behind more bulletproof glass. I do not know if he could see me or his other friends in the court, or if he was capable of recognising anybody. He gave no indication that he did.

In Belmarsh he is kept in complete isolation for 23 hours a day. He is permitted 45 minutes exercise. If he has to be moved, they clear the corridors before he walks down them and they lock all cell doors to ensure he has no contact with any other prisoner outside the short and strictly supervised exercise period. There is no possible justification for this inhuman regime, used on major terrorists, being imposed on a publisher who is a remand prisoner.

I have been both cataloguing and protesting for years the increasingly authoritarian powers of the UK state, but that the most gross abuse could be so open and undisguised is still a shock. The campaign of demonisation and dehumanisation against Julian, based on government and media lie after government and media lie, has led to a situation where he can be slowly killed in public sight, and arraigned on a charge of publishing the truth about government wrongdoing, while receiving no assistance from “liberal” society.

Unless Julian is released shortly he will be destroyed. If the state can do this, then who is next?

“A 1950s show trial”: John Pilger describes ‘disgraceful’ courtroom treatment of Julian Assange by UK judge

‘A 1950s show trial’: John Pilger describes ‘disgraceful’ courtroom treatment of Julian Assange by UK judge