RCP/LM watch

Keeping an eye on the RCP/LM and its fronts

Modern Movement: another RCP/LM front

As a direct reaction to the success of Plane Stupid, the RCP/LM has come up with yet another front organisation: Modern Movement. This takes a highly robust approach to critics of flying and airport expansion, unsurprising given the RCP/LM’s deep loathing of environmentalism in all its forms, and its plain denial of anthropogenic climate change [1]. How do we know it’s yet another RCP/LM front? Partly because two of its ‘co-founders’, Suzy Dean and Robin Walsh, wrote frequently for Spiked before MM was formed, none of which articles, interestingly, had anything to do with transport [2]. Mainly, though, because RCP stalwarts, notably including James Heartfield, right-hand man of Uncle Frank Furedi, appeared on the inaugural ‘counter-demo’ in favour of Heathrow expansion, pictures of which appear on the MM website. Some of the placards are particularly funny [3]. This demo was nicely ridiculed on the >Re: Photo blog, with photos, and the American Aboard blog reported that it had been “infiltrated” by Plane Stupid supporters, a nice case of the biter bit. . Heartfield also posts a good few comments on the MM Facebook Wall, which is an interesting place to visit because a few RCP opponents have also posted provocations. Given the RCP/LM’s attitude to public debate, after the disastrous (for them) forum experiment on the old LM website, we do wonder how long the Wall will remain active…

It’s quite likely that MM will get a fair bit of publicity, as print and broadcast journalists love contrarians, and more importantly often seek out opposing voices for ‘balance’. So it’s a cert that the next time Plane Stupid hit the headlines with another spectacular, MM will be approached for ‘balancing’ comment. The RCP/LM sure does know how to play the media game, and play it well.

PS: since the publication of this article, RCP Watch has engaged in an entertaining and occasionally informative spat with MM members on the Modern Movement Facebook Wall. This is a highly unusual occurrence to be able to debate openly online with the RCP/LM, as it’s usually very careful to control debate. For instance, the Spiked and Institute of Ideas websites have no fora, but rather invite emailed contributions to editors. This caution no doubt results from their disastrous, for them, experiment with open discussion on the now defunct LM website, which ran a forum to which critics and ex-RCP members and supporters posted damaging revelations. RCP Watch wonders quite how long the MM Facebook Wall will remain online…


[1] Such that the Spiked editor, Brendan O’Neill, likens the use of the term “climate change denial” to the incarceration by Soviet regimes of political dissidents in psychiatric hospitals. We’ve told you a million times not to exaggerate, Brendan… See Pathologising Dissent: Now that’s Orwellian in Spiked Online.

[2] Try a search of Spiked for “Suzy Dean” and “Robin Walsh” to bring up plenty of articles, none on flying/transport until very recently.

[3] For example: “99% of scientists can be wrong”. This from the organisation that runs the successful front Sense About Science, and is fervently pro-progress and pro-science.


Modern Movement website

Modern Movement Facebook Group

Modern Movement Facebook Wall


It’s not the end of the world as we know it. Robin Walsh (MM co-founder), Spiked Online, 4/3/09

>Re: Photo blog: Plane Stupid Modern Movement

American Aboard blog: Gate-crashing Greenies


March 17, 2009 - Posted by | RCP/LM, RCP/LM fronts | , , ,


  1. “For example: “99% of scientists can be wrong”. This from the organisation that runs the successful front Sense About Science, and is fervently pro-progress and pro-science.”

    As the third article you have cited, ‘American Abroad Blog’, clearly states, those placards belonged to members of Plane Stupid, not to MM. Your feeble attempts to string together a conspiracy theory are not even sustained by the very sources you use so selectively.

    Comment by RCP Watch Watch | March 18, 2009 | Reply

    • Nostra culpa. Even Homer nods. Nevertheless, MM is plainly a front, with Heartfield at its core, and so many Spiked contributors (Dean, Walsh, Boyes, et al) involved. And despite its seeming modernist worship of science the RCP/LM has always been very selective about the science it supports – anything supporting its lines is ’sound science’, anything it disagrees with is “Junk science”. Hence the constant denigration of climate change science, scientists and bodies, culminating in Martin Durkin’s infamous Global Warming Swindle polemic on C4. Of which more in a future post…

      On the whole, as befits an organisation which recruits students from ’soft’ academic disciplines, the RCP/LM has historically been scientifically illiterate. A situation partially remedied only recently by the formation of Sense About Science.

      Comment by rcpwatch | March 20, 2009 | Reply

  2. Some googling around Modern Movement Committee members as posted on their website shows that Helen Birtwistle is press officer for the Institute of Ideas, while Abigail Ross-Jackson is an assistant for the IoI and the Debating Matters schools debating competition that it runs in association with the pharmaceutical multinational Pfizer.

    Many of the other committee members appear to be student alumni of Debating Matters – though curiously this is not mentioned in any of the blurbs about them on the MM site.

    From Pfizer’s point of view, Debating Matters is no doubt an excellent way in which to influence public opinion (particularly amongst younger people) on issues such as genetic engineering and animal research, at the same time as projecting a public-spirited image. IoI’s agenda gels perfectly with Pfizer’s in this respect, and it seems Debating Matters also provides it with fertile ground in which to cultivate suitably impressionable young people to populate Spiked-LM’s various front groups.

    That said, it would appear that at least some of the students it has been targeting have retained an ability to think for themselves – and even go against Furedi dogma. MM Committee member Nathan Coombs, for instance, has an interesting piece on his blog in which he excoriates, from a revolutionary Marxist perspective, what he views as the bankruptcy of Spiked’s ‘liberal humanist’ position (an odd way to see it, given the RCP-LM group’s continuing attempts to deny the scientific evidence for anthropocentric global warming – by far the greatest threat to human well-being over coming decades).

    It will be interesting to see how long the IoI continues to tolerate Coombs as a contributor to its meticulously stage-managed ‘debates’.

    Comment by Tom Scott | March 20, 2009 | Reply

    • That’s a very interesting and useful contribution, Tom, for which many thanks. You’re right about Debating Matters, which does take up a large part of each IoI email bulletin so is plainly seen as important to the organisation. It would explain the young new recruits, such as Dean, Walsh and Jones, whom you wouldn’t think likely to be attracted to a sect run by a bunch of tired middle-aged ex-Marxists. It’s a neat, and cheap way of putting potential new recruits through their paces and cherrypicking the most intelligent and impressionable. Plus, of course, young people naturally gravitate to contrarian positions such as those taken up by the RCP/LM. The mystery is why some of them stick around once they see the intellectual shallowness of the ‘philosophy’ underlying those positions.

      Please post a link to Nathan Coombs blog as that’ll make interesting reading for sure. Not least because there aren’t many revolutionary Marxists around these days, and definitely not any who’d want to be a part of a right libertarian project even though it’s descended from an idiosyncratic Marxist analysis of Uncle Frank’s.

      Comment by rcpwatch | March 20, 2009 | Reply

      • “The mystery is why some of them stick around once they see the intellectual shallowness of the ‘philosophy’ underlying those positions.”

        Hypnotism? Perhaps that’s what happened to me.

        Comment by Pod | May 28, 2009

  3. Sorry – forgot to include the link. It’s at http://nathancoombs.wordpress.com/2008/11/04/the-bankruptcy-of-spikeds-liberal-humanism/

    Comment by Tom Scott | March 20, 2009 | Reply

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