RCP/LM watch

Keeping an eye on the RCP/LM and its fronts

Another Moral Maze double act

Yep, not content with getting Fox and Malik on Radio 4’s Moral Maze as regular questioners (and frequent RCP/LM members/followers on as ‘witnesses’, including the Dear Leader himself), the sect has now got a third interrogator on the programme. Step forward James Panton, most (in)famous for his robust defence of animal experimentation and the eminence grise (“co-founder”, even) behind the reactive group Pro-Test – see the earlier post “RCP/LM at Oxford University“. He’ll be appearing on tonight’s Moral Maze on “net-based protest” with Kenan Malik, though without Claire “Her Master’s Voice” Fox for a change, and it’ll be interesting to see if Malik and Panton acknowledge each other as comrades/colleagues. Almost certainly not going by previous experience, as Malik and Fox have never, to RCP Watch’s knowledge, acknowledged each other as close comrades going back over two decades, so it’s doubtful that Malik will nod to his arriviste colleague Panton.

All we need now is for Fox to reappear with Malik and Panton and we’ll have 3 of a kind on the programme, leaving just one place for a full takeover of the Moral Maze. Will the RCP/LM try to slip another member in, or would that be too brazen even for them? Time will tell.

Quite what the MM producers are thinking is a mystery. Everyone and their uncle in the metropolitan meedja world knows of the RCP/LM and their members and tactics, not least because they’re guaranteed contrarians – if you want a wind-up merchant on your programme to generate controversy, the RCP/LM is an immediate goto, and they always produce the goods. Yet the MM producers have now allowed 3 RCPers to appear as interrogators, which begs the question: do they know what they’re doing, and if so do they give a monkey’s? The charitable answers would be no and yes, but chances are it’s vice versa.

Does it matter if a secretive authoritarian entryist sect takes over a crappy Radio 4 programme hardly noted for its intellectual rigour (any programme that has that reactionary thicket Melanie Phillips on has no claim to be highbrow)? Well, it is a primetime programme broadcasting to the very chattering ABC1 classes, aka ‘commentariat’, that the RCP/LM sees as its prime audience and recruiting ground, so it matters in that sense. And if you consider dishonesty and duplicity to be moral problems, it matters in that sense as well. If you’re a world-weary cynic then you’ll likely think ‘what the f*ck’ and ignore it, which might be the best move – who knows?

Links

Moral Maze on the BBC website

Pro-Test

James Panton staff page at St Johns College, Oxford University (with mugshot – tough lookin’ cuss, ain’t he?)

James Panton hagiography on the Battle of Ideas website

Shiraz Socialist blog: RCP hegemonise the Moral Maze

November 4, 2009 Posted by | RCP/LM | , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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]

References
[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 | , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Moral Maze: a RCP/LM double act

Yep, for your listening pleasure, the Moral Maze on BBC Radio 4 now features not one but two, yes two, RCP/LM members. Joining Claire “Her Master’s Voice” Fox on the panel we now have Kenan Malik, a long-time RCP then LM stalwart. Indeed, he predates Her Master’s Voice as in the 1987 UK General Election, he stood as a candidate of the Revolutionary Communist Party in Nottingham East. There are now  two ‘panellists’ on the Moral Maze singing from the same hymn sheet, thus narrowing the range of opinions down even further.

Does it matter that the RCP/LM has colonised the programme? In one sense probably not – MM is little more than a bear-baiting session for panellists to ride hobbyhorses to death, and Fox in particular is absolutely assiduous in pushing the RCP/LM line at every opportunity. The intellectual quality of the ‘debate’ is uniformly low, as befits panellists, such as the rabidly reactionary “social commentator” Melanie Phillips, who have no understanding of moral philosophy or ethics. In another sense maybe it does matter, because for all its intellectual vacuity, MM does go out on primetime on the middle class’s house radio channel, so will have some influence on the chattering classes.

What really burns, though, isn’t that the programme producers allow them both on the show knowing full well, as just about anyone in the meedja knows, that they’re RCP to the core. They give good radio, with Fox acting the rabid pitbull and Malik the considered intellectual, a sort of RCP/LM good cop/bad cop act, and the producers only really care about ratings. It’s the sheer dishonesty of neither of them even acknowledging that they’ve been mates and comrades for over two decades that really rankles. The two act as complete strangers. This dishonesty gives the impression that they’re two independent voices, and thus they lend spurious legitimacy to each other’s views.

There are a couple of blog posts on the same theme:

Indeed, if you do a search for “Kenan Malik RCP LM” you’ll get more than enough material to keep you going for days. Do the MM producers not know how to use Google, or has the RCP/LM assimilated them also? Curious minds want to know…

A new series of the Moral Maze starts this Wednesday, 3rd June, at 8pm on R4. If you can bear the gutter-low and intellectually puerile ‘moral debate’ then it’s worth listening to the RCP’s double act, at least in the opening and closing stages, to get an idea of the current party line on the programme topic.

May 31, 2009 Posted by | RCP/LM | , , , | 9 Comments

Rob Killick

It looks like we have another rising star to keep an eye on in the RCP/LM firmament. Step forward Rob Killick, CEO of cScape (note the uber-cool camelCase), slogan: “A passion for online excellence” (?!? – translation welcomed from fluent speakers of SuitSpeak). cScape is the major partner in the Institute of Ideas’ forthcoming biggie Battle For Ideas conference “The Battle for the Economy“. The usual suspects, including the Dear Leader himself, Uncle Frank Furedi, and Clare “Her Master’s Voice” Fox, will be there, along with up-and-comers like Suzy Dean. It’s not hard to figure what the major lines of the ‘conference’ will be – untramelled economic growth, unrestricted capitalism, and the Culture of Fear [TM]. In the words of Rob Killick:

The UK has become a risk averse and politically stagnant country where the state is intervening constantly at every level. Is it possible for genuine innovation and change to thrive inside a society which is wedded to risk aversion,state intervention and welfarism?.

To which the RCP answer is, obviously, no, otherwise they wouldn’t ask the question. Killick writes a busy blog called UK After the Recession, which touches on a number of RCP/LM lines, in particular anti-environmentalism, with entry titles such “What’s wrong with a Green New Deal” (parts 1 and 2), and “Say no to the politics of austerity”, plus big and frequent plugs for the Battle for the Economy conference. Flavours of his thinking:

Those of us who believe that economic growth is the basis for human freedom will have a tough task arguing against the new advocates of austerity (After the G20 – what next?)

But Marx never rejected the economic growth that capitalism can bring. He understood that freedom from want was the basis of civilisation and that remains true today. (Capitalism, anti-capitalism and the G20) (a nice interpretation of Marx to chime with Uncle Frank’s, erm, idiosyncratic and certainly revisionist Marxism).

Since the collapse of the left in the 80s the sphere of ideological disputation in political life has diminished consistently. (Politicians pay the price for the recession) (also fitting in nicely with Uncle Frank’s view that the Left is dead, so the only hope left for human progress is unrestrained capitalism)

According to the reliable Sourcewatch site:

Rob Killick, also known as Rob Knight, is a partisan of the libertarian LM network. He is CEO of cScape, an internet company he co-founded with RCP activist Keith Teare [1] and has spoken at events organised by Spiked Online [2].

A search for “killick” on Spiked Online brings up a good few articles he’s written for them. A name to keep an eye on, as the sect will likely wheel him out for public appearances on radio and TV related to the economy to counter recessionary doom and gloom, and especially any calls for slower/no growth and restrictions on business. We’ll be hearing his name increasingly frequently in the future, one suspects. Perhaps the RCP/LM will try to present him as a Robert Peston alternative?

This wouldn’t be the first time that the organisation has formed and used Internet companies. In the LM days, Easynet was known as the RCP’s ISP, and according to SpinProfiles’ page on Keith Teare:

In the mid-90s, with the RCP heading more and more in its new pro-technology, pro-enterprise direction, Teare helped set up a series of internet business ventures, including Cyberia, Easynet, and Cscape. These were mostly headed by and employed other RCP-ers.

See also Sourcewatch on Keith Teare.

May 12, 2009 Posted by | RCP/LM, RCP/LM fronts | , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Sense About Science

Sense About Science is one of the RCP/LM’s more successful and unassuming front organisations. Headed by the mild-mannered (at least on air) Tracey Brown, Sense About Science describes itself as “an independent charitable trust”, which does stretch the meaning of the word “independent” somewhat. SAS gets a lot of radio and TV airtime, and Press coverage, as it gives good copy [1] and publishes user-friendly guides to scientific topics that even scientifically-challenged journalists can understand. However,  according to the authoritative Sourcewatch profile of her:

“Tracey Brown and Frank Furedi have worked with both LM and Spiked and have also both worked with the Institute of Ideas, which has published a book co-authored by Brown: Compensation Crazy.”

SAS has a very impressive list of profs and docs on its trustee board and advisory council [2] which lends it legitimacy and gives the impression of independence and scientific rigour (although it is notable that long-time RCP/LM inner circle member Dr Michael Fitzpatrick is among the trustees). It’s also very well-funded from a wide range of donors [3]. Wisely, it eschews the aggressive anti-environmentalism of most other RCP/LM fronts for a more considered, softly softly approach, and consequently reaps the benefits of media respectability. A glance at the SAS website, though, shows a glaring omission: there’s nearly nothing on it about global warming, which has to rank in the top 5 of hot science topics these days. Compare this to the large Climate Change section on the website of New Scientist magazine. Why the omission? Because the RCP/LM is one of the most implacable ‘sceptics’ of climate change, as to accept that global warming is anthropogenic would necessarily conflict with the organisation’s raison d’etre, namely the promotion of unrestricted human material progress. If SAS were to pronounce on climate change it would have to repeat this hardline denial and blow its cover, as well as lose all respectability in the mainstream scientific community from which SAS draws its legitimacy. The closest SAS comes to a ‘position’ on global warming is its booklet “Making Sense of the Weather and Climate” (PDF) which has a decidedly sceptical tone, set by the contents page:

“We should distinguish between the possible effects of predicted climate change and the extreme weather that is part of the normal variability of the climate.” (emphasis in original)

On the whole, though, SAS soft-pedals climate change. It’s rather more forthright and positive about Genetically Modified crops, however. According to Sourcewatch:

“Tracey Brown is on the Stakeholder Platform of the Innogen Centre[6]– the ESRC Centre for Social and Economic Research on Innovation in Genomics – along with a number of other GM proponents, including Dr Andrew Cockburn of Monsanto, Phil Dale of the John Innes Centre and John Hillman of the Scottish Crop Research Institute.” [4]

This fondness for GM came to public attention in February 2009 following the publication of an article in the Times Higher Education magazine [5] which accused SAS of not disclosing that some authors of its recently-published guide Making Sense of GM (PDF) have links to the GM industry and pro-GM organisations. In her rebuttal of the article, Tracey Brown claimed that it relied on “tortuously indirect links, inaccurate information and positions many years out of date”, and described the accusations as “mischievous”[6]. Unfortunately for SAS, Private Eye picked up the story, and found that an unpublished draft listed an author with very direct and current GM links:

“But the Eye has a copy of an unpublished draft of the guide – and it seems it wasn’t just the industry links of some of its authors that didn’t appear in the final version. One of the guide’s listed authors, Andrew Cockburn, is also missing. Who he? None other than GM giant Monsanto’s former director of scientific affairs […]”. [7]

Egg on face time for Tracey Brown, and a dent in SAS’s facade of scientific respectability.

SAS has a sister organisation which is also a known RCP/LM front. The Science Media Centre is headed by Fiona Fox, the sister of the redoubtable rottweiler Claire (of Moral Maze and Question Time fame) who leads the Institute of Ideas. Both the SMC and SAS go some way to remedying the RCP/LM’s long-standing scientific illiteracy, a result of its almost exclusive recruitment of bright young graduates from ‘soft’ subjects.

References

[1] The uncritical Wikipedia entry on Sense About Science references a good number of Press stories related to SAS.

[2] Sourcewatch: Sense About Science

[3] ibid.

[4] ibid.

[5] Charity guide criticised for not declaring GM interests. THE, 19/2/09.

[6] SAS defends GM guide. THE, 26/2/09

[7] Private Eye, No. 1232, p.26

Links

Sense About Science website

Sourcewatch: Tracey Brown profile

Science Media Centre website

Lobbywatch: Fiona Fox profile

Lobbywatch: Science Media Centre

Fiona Fox’s blog: On Science and the Media

Times Higher articles:

March 28, 2009 Posted by | RCP/LM, RCP/LM fronts | , , , , , | 10 Comments

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…

References

[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.

Links

Modern Movement website

Modern Movement Facebook Group

Modern Movement Facebook Wall

Articles

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 | , , , | 6 Comments

RCP/LM at Oxford University

It’s interesting that the comment from "RCP Watch Watch", to the first post on this blog, was posted from a machine at Oxford University. The uni is these days quite a hotbed of RCP/LM activity, following the conversion of Politics academic James Panton to the cause. Panton is the eminence grise behind Pro-Test, a pro-vivisection group that got massive publicity in 2008 for publicly resisting animal rights activists who were targetting Oxford University. He’s since popped up at quite a few speaking venues around the country with RCP/LM members, including the Dear Leader himself,, as a simple web search shows.

An upcoming young recruit at Oxford is Lee Jones, a young academic in the same department as Panton, and author of a piece entitled "Slam-Dunk the Funk – Defending Progress in the Age of Environmentalism" on the Institute of Ideas site which ticks all the right boxes. He gets especial brownie points for mentioning "the decisive defeat of the organised working class in the 1980s" in the first sentence, which is the very basis of Uncle Frank Furedi’s project. A search for Lee Jones on the Institute of Ideas website shows that he’s been a starring speaker in quite a few RCP/LM events, and he’s written quite a few articles on the Battle of Ideas 2009, Culture Wars and Spiked sites – on "therapy culture", "eco-colonisation", and "growth" – which are right down the party line, so much so that they’re a reference for RCP/LM watchers. He’s certainly a future prospect for the organisation and a name to look out for, and intellectual and hard-working enough to make Uncle Frank’s inner circle in a few years if he plays his cards right.

February 10, 2009 Posted by | RCP/LM | , , , | 1 Comment

The 2-minute hate: get Monbiot!

An insight into the methods and nature of the RCP/LM can be had from the 2-minute hate which Spiked Online has prominently on its home page. Labelled as a “competition” and entitled “Why oh why does monbiot hate spiked?“, it invites Spiked adherents to email in their suggestions as to why George Monbiot has it in for the RCP/LM – sorry, Spiked – following his latest Guardian piece putting the boot into the RCP [1]. The published responses are illuminating. The biggest name in the responses is James Heartfield, one of the RCP/LM’s inner circle and Frank Furedi’s second-in-command, who writes a slur on Monbiot as an aristocratic fop. Other contributions include the usual RCP/LM themes, in particular that Greenery is “anti-human” and critics of the “cult” are practicing “McCarthyism”, and plainly many of the most vitriolic messages are written by new adherents, perhaps to prove their worth and zeal.

That the organisation feels it necessary to run a public and highly personal pillory of Monbiot is encouraging in that it shows that he must really be getting under their skin. When just about everyone else in the media has forgotten about LM and the RCP, he keeps on digging into its activities and publishing details in the Guardian and elsewhere, and plainly he’s becoming quite an irritant to an organisation that wishes to remain hidden behind its many ostensibly-independent front organisations. It is also, though, both ludicrous and sinister, and is reminiscent of the tactics of far-Right sects (and some Trotskyite sects in the day) who published the addresses of enemies and invited followers to ‘make their feelings known’. It wouldn’t be going too far to describe the tactic as stalinist. This is not the behaviour of a ‘responsible’ public organisation, but then Spiked was created to be the pit bull of the RCP/LM, with the Institute of Ideas its ‘respectable’ intellectual front.

Still, maybe Monbiot should count himself lucky that the RCP/LM is now ‘legit’ and has to behave itself within the law. In the old days, the RCP had a deserved reputation for streetfighting and ‘sorting out’ its enemies and critics, and even in the days of the “LM Project” its Usenet militants (particularly Gary Dale and Justin Flude) would use pretty ferocious tactics and language, and on occasion were reported to have threatened critics on the phone.

Of course, RCP Watch submitted its own email to the ‘discussion’ rather at variance to the tone of the other contributions, but naturally that’s disappeared into the ‘memory hole’. For all their championing of “freedom”, the RCP have always been very wary of free speech, particularly when it’s critical.

[1] Flying Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, the Guardian, 13/1/09. Published on monbiot.com.

January 29, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 6 Comments