RCP/LM watch

Keeping an eye on the RCP/LM and its fronts

Swine Flu and the “Culture of Fear” [TM]

The RCP/LM is big on exposing those it considers to be crying wolf, and swine flu (H1N1) has given it the opportunity to concentrate its withering humanist scorn on yet more “scaremongers”. Spiked has a full section entitled “Pandemic Fears” with essays from RCP Big Cheeses, including the Dear Leader himself, Frank Furedi, Dr Mike Fitzpatrick, and Mick Hume, who all go right back to the origins of the RCP. The keynote essay is by Furedi himself [1] which is characteristically wordy and rambling, but boils down to the simple view that “scaremongers” are conning us all about the dangers of swine flu to serve their own interest. He then provides a “guide” to the various “species” of “fear entrepreneurs” [2] who’re trying to scare the living beejaysus out of us all, a list of eight types of scaremonger who are actively and consciously promoting a false fear to serve their interests and control the population. An uncharitable critic might characterise this as yet another conspiracy theory, theories which the RCP/LM has always rubbished mightily, but the Culture of Fear [TM] is Uncle Frank’s Big Idea which he and his faithful followers have been selling for well over a decade so you can hardly blame him for using one of his house journals to let rip.

Other articles in the Spiked pandemic section (including those by Dr Mike Fitzpatrick who as a practicing GP should, and almost certainly does, know better) say much the same thing, in lots of words with much sneering and sarcasm – that swine flu is a minor sub-lethal infection that’s been blown up into a major health hazard to engender public hysteria and fear for the purposes of social control.

This obeisance to the Dear Leader’s Big Idea has been the sect’s stock response to all crises that have emerged in recent years, including the biggest of all, climate change. Furedi’s belief is that fear will restrict and obstruct human scientific, intellectual and material progress, and as such progress is paramount, anything that stands in its way must be fought in a “Battle of Ideas”. Whether or not climate change or avian flu or phthalates[3] (to name but a few of the ‘scares’ the RCP opposes) have any basis in reality, and regardless of their scientific validity (or otherwise), they have to be fought with all the RCP/LM’s might as they restrict human progress as defined by the ultra-humanist RCP.

With swine flu, though, the sect may well come unstuck. The scientific community has been warning for many years that a flu pandemic is overdue, and that avian flu was a wake-up call for states worldwide to prepare. Scientists are taking swine flu very seriously indeed, as unlike avian flu it’s human to human tranmissible and has already killed hundreds [4]. Just today the BBC reported that 14 patients in the UK have died after contracting swine flu, with some 335 in hospital, 43 of whom are in critical care [5]. This isn’t just a case of the sniffles, this is life-threatening. So far those who’ve died, according to official sources, had “underlying health problems” (ie they were a bit dicky to start with), but there’s a scientific consensus that the virus will emerge in a more dangerous form come the wet conditions of autumn and winter [6].

This may not happen, of course. The pandemic might fizzle out as did H5N1 (avian flu), and we all fervently hope it does and that the pandemic becomes another cry of “Wolf!”. There’s a decent probability, though, that the virus will increase in lethality, and that there will be deaths amongst otherwise healthy patients. If that were to happen, and the wolf really did turn out to be real, then the RCP/LM will be left with some serious egg on its collective face, in particular the Dear Leader himself who’s staked his whole intellectual reputation on the Culture of Fear [TM]. Truth may be an elastic concept to the sect, which judges the validity of an issue not on its ‘truth’ but on its utility, or otherwise, to the RCP/LM [7], but a virus will bite you on the bum (or more accurately cause a potentially lethal auto-immune reaction) – viruses are no respecters of party lines.

Let’s hope that H1N1 remains relatively mild, but if it doesn’t and the death toll rises, expect to see some serious finessing by the RCP/LM. Whilst no sect member will bluntly state that swine flu doesn’t exist as that would leave a massive hostage to fortune, there’s no question from the number and tone of ‘sceptical ‘ articles on Spiked that this is the sect’s line, and it would be plain sophistry for Furedi, Hume, Fitzpatrick et al to argue otherwise were the worst to occur. [8]

[1] What swine flu reveals about the culture of fear, Frank Furedi, Spiked Online, 5/5/09

[2] Furedi ibid

[3] Science by Committee: The Euro-ban on phthalates is a dangerous sign of the times. Spiked Online, 5/6/01. Also

[4] See, for example, New Scientist’s Epidemics and Pandemics section, with numerous articles on the virus.

[5] UK swine flu death toll hits 14, BBC News online, 9/7/09

[6] See for instance: Swine flu can turn more lethal in winter, Times of India, 21/6/09; Swine flu sweeps the Southern hemisphere, New Scientist, 9/7/09

[7] A view common amongst Trotskyist sects, which perhaps not unnaturally have a historical aversion to “truth” given how the concept was so obscenely abused by Stalin.

[8] LM carried out a similar strategy during the Bosnian wars of the 90s, when it never officially supported the Serb forces (though its Usenet propagandists were unrestrained, calling for “unconditional support” of Serbia against “Western imperialism”) yet routinely rubbished reports of Serb atrocities whilst playing up atrocity reports involving Bosniaks and Croats. It thus pretended that it was simply against Western intervention and was otherwise neutral. No-one who took an interest in LM at the time could be in any doubt as to their line on the war. See the letter by Martin Cohen to the Guardian, 17/3/00, as an example, but many quotes could be pulled from the postings of the RCP/LM’s Usenet warriors.


July 9, 2009 - Posted by | RCP/LM | , , , , ,


  1. OK.

    So if swine flu turns out to be no worse than seasonal flu will we see some “serious finessing” from RCP/LM watch? Of course you don’t “bluntly state” that swine flu will be a catastrophe as that would leave a massive hostage to fortune. But it seems pretty plain that you expect there’s a “decent probability” it will be worse. Perhaps it would even be sophistry to argue otherwise.

    Comment by Qubic | October 16, 2009 | Reply

    • That comment just doesn’t make any sense and just comes across as adolescent debating society semantic trickery. The situation’s simple enough: the RCP/LM routinely rubbishes ‘scare stories’ and regularly slags off ‘fearmongers’. This is very much the case with swine flu (see Uncle Frank’s diatribe on at http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php/site/article/6633/ for the definitive party line), and with global warming – nowhere will you find any RCP/LM writer stating “global warming is a myth”, but you’ve got to be pretty dense not to get that message from all the negative writing on climate change (the true party line was expounded in typically polemic fashion by the RCP’s tame TV documentary producer Martin Durkin in the contentious and mendacious The Great Global Warming Swindle, of which more anon). Similarly, the RCP never officially stated that it offered “unconditional support” to the Serbian forces in the Balkan Wars (though its Usenet representatives used that very phrase in their highly robust defences of Milosevic & Co) but no reader of LM could be in any doubt as to the organisation’s stance.

      So the RCP tries to have its cake and eat it. It gets all the kudos and publicity and infamy for being outrageously contrarian on topics like climate change and Bosnia, but can claim po-faced that it’s being studiously neutral in its official public positions.

      As for RCP Watch having to finesse on swine flu, it’s difficult to see what finessing is required. Swine flu has hit RCP Watch and friends and colleagues, and though it’s a serious enough dose of flu it’s not usually life-threatening and we wouldn’t be as perverse as to wish it to be simply to score a point against Furedi’s cult. RCP Watch has no party line.

      Comment by rcpwatch | October 26, 2009 | Reply

  2. >Swine flu has hit RCP Watch and friends and colleagues, and though it’s a serious enough dose of flu it’s not usually life-threatening…
    Is that why there’s not been a posting since July?

    Comment by Mag | October 29, 2009 | Reply

    • Nope, that’s because RCP Watch has a life outside of this blog in particular, and the Internet in general. Further posts will follow, assuredly, as the nights draw in and the weather comes down.

      Comment by rcpwatch | November 4, 2009 | Reply

  3. So, London is (finally) basking in warm April sunshine, and guess what? Swine flu was no more dangerous than ‘normal’ flu – which, we should remember, is never a case of the sniffles, and is always life-threatening to some more vulnerable people, hence vaccination drives and such. They’re obviously very wrong to lump this stuff in with climate change, which isn’t a ‘scare’ so much as, you know, the apocalypse. On swine flu, however, they were right – I was with them when the scare first broke and I’m not changing my opinion now.

    Comment by Harley Filben | April 12, 2010 | Reply

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