Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

The First Science Fictional UFO Crash: Le Philosophe sans pretention

October 21, 2021

Ufology is full of stories of crashed alien spaceships. The best known is the Roswell UFO crash of 1947, in which the US air force under Hector Quintillana picked up the remains of a flying disc, complete with alien bodies, which came down on Mac Brazel’s ranch. The air force subsequently reversed their statement a day or so later, claiming that what had been recovered was merely a weather balloon, and released a photograph of Major Quintillana with something that certainly looked like the remains of one and not an alien spaceship. Many UFO investigators believe that a real alien spacecraft was recovered, though the late John Keel believed that it was probably a Mogul spy balloon used to gather information on Soviet nuclear tests. There are also stories that a secret autopsy was performed on the alien bodies. This was the basis for the notorious 1990s fake alien autopsy film released by Ray Santilli, and which in turn became the basis for the comedy Alien Autopsy starring Ant and Dec and Omid Djalili, amongst others. But long before the rise of the modern UFO phenomenon, earlier proto-Science Fiction writers were already penning tales of aliens travelling to Earth. One of these was Micromegalas, written by the French philosopher Voltaire. Another French writer, Louis Guillaume de La Follie wrote a similar tale about a scientist from Mercury who invents a spacecraft. This, however, is used by a colleague of the scientist to travel across space before finally crashing on Earth. I found this brief precis of the tale in Frederick I. Ordway’s and Randy Lieberman’s Blueprint for Space: Science Fiction to Science Fact (Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press 1992). This is a collection of papers tracing the development of space travel from the ancient world, through the rise of Science Fiction, including the pulp magazines, space art to the development of the rocket and real space vehicles. The passage reads

Some of the characteristics of the modern science fiction novel appeared in a 1775 French workk by Louis Guillaume de La Follie, Le philosophe sans pretention. A strange tale unfolds of Mercurian who arrives on Earth and relates his adventures to one Nadir, an Oriental. It seems that on the planet Mercury an inventor named Scintilla had created a marvelous flying chariot powered by electricity. Amid scorn and ridicule, he proved that his invention would work in an amazing test flight witnessed by members of the Academy. This unleashes a series of events that leads to Mercury’s first spaceflight. Though doubting the practicality of the invention, a colleague named Ormisais nevertheless tries it out and, to his great surprise, the device functions after all. So he flies away to Earth in Scintilla’s electric chariot and, after a fairly standard trip, crash-lands on our world.

There’s also an illustration from the book of the flying chariot, and a caption giving its full title and its English translation: Le philosophe sans pretension ou l’homme rare – The Unpretentious Philosopher or the Unusual Man.

One of the aspects of the UFO phenomenon I find particularly intriguing is the way so much of its resembles Science Fiction and traditional fairy and other supernatural lore. I’m strongly inclined towards the psychosocial view of the phenomenon, which states that it’s an internal, psychological event which uses the imagery and narratives of the wider culture. Thus, while once encounters with the supernatural/ cosmic took the form of the fairies, angels or demons, as society has become more scientific and secular so the experience now has the imagery of aliens and spacecraft. However, John Keel believed that there was a real force outside of our perceptions behind both the fairy and UFO phenomena, which might be using them as a control system for us. See his UFOs: Operation Trojan Horse and Disneyland of the Gods.

Even if the book and its narrative have absolutely no connection to the development of the UFO phenomenon – I doubt outside of a few SF aficionados and literature experts many people have heard of the book, let alone the people who actually witness UFOs – it is a fascinating example of how surprisingly modern the writers of past centuries were in their speculations about space and the inhabitants of other worlds.

Respect to William Shatner For Flying Into Space

October 14, 2021

Well, he’s finally done it! William Shatner, who played Captain Kirk in the Classic Star Trek TV series, has finally gone into space at the grand old age of 90. He was supposed to go up with a part of other astronauts aboard Jeff Bezos’ SpaceX rocket, but the launch was delayed due to high winds. They finally went yesterday, and it looks like it was simply a case of going up and back above the atmosphere. I found this video of the journey, and the astronauts’ greeting by Bezos as they returned to Earth, on GB News’ channel on YouTube. Yeah, it’s the right-wing channel set up by the Times to be the rival to the ‘woke, wet BBC’, which is being criticised and boycotted for its racist content. But this clip seems to be pretty good. Shatner also seems to be in very good condition for his age. The G-forces astronauts experience on lift can be a challenge. They go up to 3gs and more. But Shatner steps out of the capsule standing firmly upright. Not bad for a man of 90!

I can’t say I’m a fan of Bezos. I think he, like the other business moguls involved in this, should pay his workers and more and give them far better conditions. But he is opening space up so that one day ordinary people might be living and working on the high frontier, rather than just scientists and engineers. As for Shatner, Star Trek has inspired millions of people to take a serious interest in space and space colonisation. So much so that I don’t think it’s an accident NASA called one of their shuttles ‘Enterprise’. It’s a pity that more of the cast aren’t around to go on the journey too.

Myles Power Debunks Fred Leuchter’s Holocaust Denial: Part 2

October 13, 2021

A few days ago I put up a video from Myles Power, a YouTube vlogger who specialises in debunking pseudoscience. And some of the nonsense he debunks is really nasty. A couple of his videos attack the weird ideas of a Black American pastor, who seems to have been telling people to drink bleach. Another one also rightly attacks a similar weird cult that injected bleach into people in Uganda.

The video I put up was the third in a series of videos by him completely refuting the claims of Fred Leuchter, an engineer specialising in designing gas chambers for the American prison system, that Auschwitz wasn’t used to gas people. The video below is the second in the series, and I’m putting it up as it adds some more information about Leuchter and his claims. And it’s utterly damning.

First of all, it turns out that Leuchter doesn’t have any formal qualifications or training in engineering or chemistry. It turns out that he entered his highly limited profession as his father was a prison officer, who often got his son to help him. The young Leuchter got interested in methods of execution when one day he helped his father move the prison’s electric chair. Leuchter junior then started sending in suggestions for improvements, and his career went on from there. When it came to designing them, he got the job because real engineers, chemists or pharmacologists didn’t want it. And I’m not surprised. For a very long time Eire employed Britain’s hangman, Pierrepoint, to execute its murderers and other crims, because nobody in the Emerald Isle wanted the job. And I think Pierrepoint was the only person to apply for it in Britain.

Leuchter was employed by German-Canadian Nazi Ernst Zundl to go to Auschwitz to examine it in 1988 as part of his defence against a charge of anti-Semitism. Leuchter had no official permission to do any kind of scientific investigation, so he simply joined an ordinary tourist party. He scraped pieces off the walls in the gas chambers when nobody was looking, and in order to smuggle them in through customs wrapped them up in his dirty undies. He sent the samples away to a laboratory for analysis, but didn’t actually tell them what they were supposed to look for. This is important. In proper chemical analysis, the scientists are always given instructions on what they are supposed to look for and it what amounts. The laboratory didn’t find any traces of Zyklon-B, the gas used by the Nazis in their murder factories. Leuchter therefore declared that Auschwitz wasn’t used to gas people, and the results of his scummy investigation was published by the neo-Nazis as The Fred Leuchter Report.

In fact it isn’t surprising that he couldn’t find any trade of Zyklon-B. It doesn’t penetrate very far into masonry and brickwork, only a few micrometers. In the decades since the Second World War, the remnants of the gas would have been exhaled out into the atmosphere. Not that Leuchter’s testimony impressed the judge: he ruled it inadmissible because it was of such abysmal quality. One problem was that Leuchter simply wasn’t aware of the mass of documentary evidence supporting not just the Holocaust, but also Auschwitz itself. This includes testimony from its commandant, Rudolf Hoess. But as this video shows, it also includes plans and blueprints of the camp itself and its horrific machinery.

Leuchter also seems not to know how the gas was used to kill the millions of innocents murdered in the Holocaust. He seems to assume that the Nazis used a similar mechanism as that in American prisons to kill individual inmates. This, if I understand correctly, is by a pellet of the chemical dropped into a solution, which then produces the poison gas. Leuchter states that this method couldn’t have killed so many people, and so the Nazis weren’t gassing anybody. But the Nazis did, because that wasn’t the method they used. They pumped it into the chamber from cannisters. Incidentally, it says much for Power’s own humanity at this point in the video that he shakes his head, and says repeatedly, ‘This seems so wrong.’ You can understand why he is so uncomfortable. I think most decent people wouldn’t feel right trying to put themselves in the mental position of the Nazis and try to imagine the most efficient method of mass murder, even if it’s for a video debunking the denial of such horrific murders.

I think Power says, either here or in one of his other videos, that he’s particularly interested in Leuchter’s case, because Leuchter doesn’t seem to have been an anti-Semite or Nazi when he started out. Unfortunately, he certainly seems to have been sucked into that noxious milieu, as the video shows him trying to refute Power’s attack on his squalid claims in conversation with someone who definitely is a Nazi. The man’s clad in black, in a dark room, with a giant Nazi symbol in gold behind him. It’s the one of an eagle with the swastika in its claws. As the Nazis are also infamous for their notorious use of propaganda, that should simply on its own act as a warning to most people that lies and falsehoods were ahead.

As for Leuchter himself, I think there’s another moral here: you should know exactly what you’re getting into before becoming involved with extremists, if you don’t avoid it altogether.

The video also contains a wealth of additional information that is undoubtedly invaluable to anyone who wants a detailed refutation of some of the claims of the Holocaust deniers. It also shows you that there is serious money in American Nazism somewhere, as the quality of publication of the Leuchter Report seems high. It isn’t, unfortunately, a cheap pamphlet someone dashed off on their computer, or typed and then photocopied. And that high quality is dangerous, as it might impress some people that it is a serious document demanding proper respect and consideration.

Which makes videos debunking it, like Power’s, all the more necessary.

Keef Stalin Tells Press He Has the Same Nickname as Recreational Drug

October 11, 2021

This piece over at Mike’s blog has given me a not inconsiderable amount of amusement, as John Major may have said. Stalin was visiting a Kellogg’s factory when he decided to tell his audience that when he was young he had the nickname ‘Special K’. He was supposedly called it because the ‘K’ stood for ‘Kier’ and he was special. He obviously thought this story would impressed the assembled workers, as it’s the name of one of their breakfast cereals. One which was always being advertised as helping you watch your weight. However, as your super soaraway, poisonous rag, the Scum, reminded their readers, it’s also the nickname for ketamine, a horse tranquilliser also used recreationally by the drugs crowd. I got the impression that its side-effects included nightmares and paranoia. The psychologist John Lilley was on it. Lilley was the scientist, who first researched dolphin intelligence and investigated the use of the sensory isolation tank, going on inward voyages into the contents of his mind in it while also stoned on the drug. The horror film Altered States is based on him. Thanks to the drug, Lilley became paranoid and convinced alien computer civilisations were out in space conspiring against humanity. If Stalin was on the drug, it would explain so much, like the mass purges and the anti-Semitism against the ‘wrong kind of Jews’. You know, the type of Jews who don’t believe that Israel is the crowning achievement of Jewish history and that it’s wrong to persecute the Palestinians. Mind you, it doesn’t seem he would have been so far gone to start getting worried about a personal vendetta against him by all the computers out there.

However, faced with ridicule from Scum’s article, Stalin has doubled back and said he only made it up on the spur of the moment because he was caught off guard. Which is an admission that he lied. Well, it’s small one compared to all those he’s previously told.

The episode should be an object lesson to Starmer. He had a piece published in it last week, clearly trying to ingratiate himself with its readers just as Tony Blair managed to win over Dirty Rupe nearly a quarter of a century ago.

But the Scum is Tory through and through, and it doesn’t matter what you do if you’re on the left, they still aren’t going to respect you, and will turn and bite as soon as they get the opportunity.

Anton Petrov Explains New Advances in Artificial Cells

October 9, 2021

Anton Petrov is a science vlogger on YouTube. Always greetings his viewers with ‘Hello, wonderful person’, he mostly talks about recent advances in space exploration and astronomy. But occasionally he branches out into the other sciences. In this fascinating video, he talks about a recent development in the creation of artificial cells. These are tiny objects that mimic some of the functions of real cells. This new advance is the creation of a process that mimics the energy transfer within real, biological cells. He talks about how artificial cells are formed. They’re microscopically small with a tiny hole. This may allow them to be used as a method for delivering medicines more efficiently into the body. It may also allow them to be used a artificial white blood cells, in which they capture bacteria and viruses through the holes and keep them there.

Of course, we’re a very long way away from that level of technology, but it all reminds me of the artificial humans and animals – replicants – in Ridley Scott’s SF classic Blade Runner, based on Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? It’s also similar to the original robots in Karel Capek’s seminal SF play, R.U.R., or Rossum’s Universal Robots. This was the play which introduced the word robot to the English language. It’s Czech for ‘hard work’ or ‘drudgery’. It was also one of the first to portray a robotic revolt. The robots in the play are more like Scott’s replicants than modern robots. They are formed from an artificial substance which mimics biology, so that part of the process in the manufacture of the robots are mills spinning miles of artificial nerves.

A recent item on robots on one of the Beeb’s programmes – it may have been The One Show said that it might be a thousand years before we can create something like a replicant. But watching this video, I do wonder.

Black History Month Website Forced to Delete Article Describing Whites as ‘Genetically Defective Mutants’

October 6, 2021

October is Black History Month, set up to educate people, and particularly Blacks, about their history and achievements. And already the controversy has started. The Lotus Eaters put up a piece yesterday commenting on a report in Telegraph that the Black History Month website, which is not run by the government although it contains ads from various state organisations, had taken down a piece denigrating Whites that had been up for three years.

Posted in 2018, the article quoted American Frances Cress Welsing, who claimed that White people originally evolved as genetically defective mutants, who were driven out of Africa by the indigenous Blacks. Settling in Europe, their lack of melanin made them more immoral and their innate racism caused them to create White supremacy. It was only after an investigation by the Torygraph that this was taken down.

Clearly, this is pure hate and as evolutionary palaeoanthropology, it’s utter bilge. Sargon of Gasbag in his video commenting about it states that white skin evolved in northwest Europe 7,000 years ago to allow Europeans to absorb enough of the vitamins humans need from sunlight in the cold, overcast climate of northern Europe. I think the biology’s correct, but I’m not sure about the location or timescale on the grounds that many of the peoples of the Near East, like Turks, Arabs and Iranians can have White complexions. There have even been blondes in Syria and the Caucasus. But it is true that humans lost their initially dark complexions as they adapted to the European climate when they first entered the continent 60,000 or so years ago.

Welsing’s anti-White rant is typical of a Black ideology, Melanism, that’s been around for decades. Roughly speaking, Melanism states that Black people are physically, intellectually and spiritually superior to Whites because they possess a greater amount of the pigment melanin, which not only produces the darker skin colour, but is also found in the brain. There have been a number of Black writers promoting this anti-White nonsense, some of whom have been officially judged racist. Way back in the ’90s, biologist and snail expert Steve Jones met a group of British melanists in his series on genetics, In The Blood.

Welsing’s description of Whites as ‘genetically defective mutants’ is of kind with the weird views on the origins of Whites of the Nation of Islam, although far less bonkers. The Nation of Islam believe that Whites were created by the evil Mekkan scientist Shaitan 70,000 years ago in order to destroy the purity of the Black race. The Nation of Islam itself has precious little to do with real Islam. It’s based around the worship of W.D. Fard, a Syrian, who migrated to the US in the 1920s and who was worshipped as God. Its present leader, Louis Farrakhan, is extremely anti-Semitic and blames Jews for the slave trade. He also claims that a UFO landed while he was meditating on a Mexican mountain back in the ’80s-90s, and took him to a ‘mother wheel’ in space, where he was told that Fard, Jesus and other religious figures, who of course were all Black, are alive and well on Venus and directing the war against Whites. The Nation of Islam are also Black separatists, who want their own, Blacks-only state carved out of America. There’s been controversy about them in Britain. Back in 1980s Bernie Grant invited Farrakhan to come to Britain, despite the fact that Farrakhan despises the welfare state. Grant tried to excuse himself by saying that he regarded Farrakhan as an ‘elder statesman’ and didn’t endorse all his views.

The Nation of Islam, as far as I know, isn’t involved with Black History Month, or at least, not in any official capacity. But there clearly is a danger in that some of the organisations that want to be involved clearly do have very racist views. These should no more be tolerated than White Fascists.

Russians Now Shooting Film in Space – And I Predicted It!

October 6, 2021

Arthur C. Clarke was nicknamed ‘the space prophet’ because in the late 1940s he wrote an article for a radio magazine predicting communications satellites. He also wrote another later piece, with the title ‘How I Lost a $Billion in My Spare Time’ or something like that lamenting the fact that he lost millions by not copyrighting the idea. I had a similar experience last night when I saw on the news a piece about the Russians shooting a film aboard the International Space Station. Starring Yulia Persilda and directed by Klim Shlipenko, the film is about a doctor, who travels to the ISS in order to save one of the astronauts.

Years ago I presented a paper at a symposium of the British Interplanetary Society on the popular commercialisation of space. I suggested that one way to stimulate further interest in space exploration and development was to shoot a movie up there. The amount paid to some of Hollywood’s most popular actors, like Arnold Schwarzenegger, is almost that to cover the costs of launching a person into space. Arnie was paid $7 million for one of his movies, and it cost one of the first commercial space tourists, someone like Dennis Tito, $16 million to go into space aboard the Russian proton rockets. It therefore seemed to me to be entirely economical to send a film crew to the station, provided that only a limited number went. Say the star and a director/cameraman. I gather that Shlipenko’s crew numbers seven, which is larger than I had in mind, but still far from a cast of thousands.

My idea was printed in the BIS’ Journal, and I’ll try and dig that out at some point to show that I’m not spinning a yarn. And in the meantime, if any space company wants to take me on as a consultant or some other job, you can contact me here.

And best wishes to William Shatner, who today also ventures into the final frontier.

Shatner, as any fule kno, played Captain James T. Kirk in the original Star Trek series. ITV news reported yesterday that he too was heading into space aboard a rocket at the grand age of 90. I haven’t watched the recent iterations of Star Trek since Deep Space 9 ended, but the original series was definitely one of my fave programmes when I was a kid. It helped stimulate my interest in space and astronomy, as it did many thousands of others. And Star Trek’s portrayal of a world without racism, where women enjoy equality and poverty, starvation, crime and unemployment are things of the past is still inspiring. So I salute him as he makes his personal voyage into the Black.

And here’s the intro to the original series that started it all off in the early ’60s, which I found on dinadangdong’s channel on YouTube.

The CIA and the Assassination of Zairean President Patrice Lamumba

October 5, 2021

Brian Burden, one of the great commenters on this blog, posed this question on my review of History Debunked’s video about the real brutality and evil of the hero of the film Hotel Rwanda:

“My question is, what did the UN actually do to stop the massacres? Sod all, it seems. They did not even do the obvious thing and dynamite the radio-station which was pouring out non-stop incitement to the Hutus to go out and murder Tutsis. There is a pattern here. In 1960(?) UN peacekeepers, called into the Congo by elected leader Patrice Lumumba to quell a rebellion by the Civil Guard, confiscated their weapons on arrival, but shortly afterwards, on orders from above, handed them back! When UN representative Conor O’Brien took serious steps to end the illegal secession of mineral-rich Katanga, he was promptly recalled. Next, UN “peace-keepers” stood by while Katangese troops seized and beat Lumumba – the man who had called the UN in in the first place – and then took him away and murdered him. According to a report in the Sunday Express, UN troops riding in an open truck at the back of a passenger train they were supposed to be protecting, sat tight while rebels stopped the train and massacred the passengers. In 1967, UN peace-keepers occupying the border area between Israel and Egypt withdrew without a demur when Nasser ordered them out so that he could launch an attack on Israel. No thanks to the UN that Israel resisted and prevailed. Has there ever been a conflict where UN peace-keepers have justified their title? Were they in former Yugoslavia facilitating the bloodshed, I wonder? Can’t be bothered to check!”

This is deep question, one that probably needs a whole book to itself. I don’t think the Peacekeepers facilitated the horrors in the former Yugoslavia, but there certainly were occasions when they did absolutely nothing to stop them. The massacre of Srebrenica, which was supposed to be a safe haven, is an example of this. From what I gather UN forces simply left and let the Serbs enter and massacre at will. I have come across a book by a Muslim author suggesting that the UN and British presence in Yugoslavia is part of a covert plot to guard the oil pipeline coming up through the Balkans. The same book also suggests, however, that the 7/7 bombings were also a false flag operation by the intelligence services to provide a pretext for the various invasions, but I don’t really believe this.

However, Susan Williams’ book, White Malice, shows that Patrice Lamumba of Zaire was overthrown and murdered by the CIA. Zaire was the supplier of the type of uranium used in the Manhattan Project which created the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Americans were desperate to retain control of the mines producing the uranium and had Lamumba killed because he was felt to be too close to Communism.

Lobster quotes Williams’, showing that the Americans were operating secretly in the Congo with the CIA’s predecessor, the OSS.

“The OSS station in the Belgian Congo had a unique, top-secret mission: to protect the export of uranium from the Congo to America and to keep it out of enemy hands. Congolese ore was essential for the Manhattan Project, which produced the world’s first atomic weapons and was led by the United States, with some assistance from Britain and Canada. This uranium was used to build the first atomic bomb to be tested: the Trinity test in New Mexico, in July 1945, which launched the atomic age. It was also used to build the atomic bombs that devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki the following month—on 6 August and 9 August, respectively.

The source of the ore was the Shinkolobwe mine in Katanga, the southern province of the Congo. Shinkolobwe produced uranium that was far richer than any other uranium in the world: it assayed as high as 75 per cent uranium oxide, with an average of 65 per cent. By contrast, ores of marketable quality from the Colorado Plateau in the US and from Canada contained two-tenths of 1 per cent . . . .’ (pp. 30/31)”

The review states

“In retrospect it is obvious that any African leader in the Congo who didn’t swear allegiance to the American embassy and promise to let the US control the uranium was going to be disposed of. Patrice Lumumba, the nationalist Congolese leader at the time, didn’t understand this or didn’t care (which of
those isn’t clear to me) so he was ousted and killed. Williams devotes 250 pages to the Congo and the death of Lumumba. The events, military, political and diplomatic, preceding that murder are detailed day by day, sometimes even hour by hour. To justify the killing of Lumumba and the installation of an
American puppet, the CIA duly invented a ‘communist plot’.”

Lamumba is only one of a whole string of foreign politicians and heads of state, who have been assassinated or overthrown in American-backed coups. William Blum devotes a whole chapter to these in one of his books, and another chapter to US secret interference in foreign elections.


Lobster Review of Book on the CIA’s Massive Covert Activities in Post-Colonial Africa

October 5, 2021

Also in the latest issue of Lobster is main man Robin Ramsay’s fascinating review of Susan Williams’ White Malice: The CIA and the Covert Recolonisation of Africa, (London: C. Hurst & Co 2021). Ramsay begins by quoting Williams’ own summary of the book’s contents, which he says he can’t better. This summary says

‘Nevertheless, pressing on a range of sources has produced some extraordinary findings in relation to the Congo, Ghana and other African territories during their transformation from the status of colony, occupied by a European power, to independence. The best sources have been university archives and individuals who decided to speak about their past involvement with the CIA in Africa, most notably John Stockwell. It appears that the years of finding freedom—between the independence of Ghana in 1957 and the CIA-backed overthrow of Nkrumah in 1966—were also the years of an intense and rapid infiltration into Africa by the CIA. The agency’s operations took place in the territories themselves and at the
UN in New York.

The uncovered information reveals an extent and breadth of CIA activities in Africa that beggars belief. These activities took various forms and were performed by an extensive network that included Americans at agency headquarters in Washington; American agents operating under cover; American agents under non-official cover in the field and at the UN; Africans brought to the US and then recruited for use in various countries and situations, such as the Kenyan Washington Okumu; African assets recruited and used locally; third-country agents such as QJWIN and WIROGUE; and cultural patronage through Paris and elsewhere.

Underpinning the success of these activities were dollars. “Money ran the game”, notes [Lise] Namikas. “Even by 1960 standards the CIA had a reputation for spending”. Estimates of how much the CIA spent, she adds are hard to gauge. In 2014, Stephen Weissman wrote that between 1960 and 1968, CIA activity in the Congo “ranked as the largest covert operation in the agency’s history, costing an estimated $90–$150 million in current dollars”. But this did not include the cost of “the aircraft, weapons, and transportation and maintenance services provided by the Defense Department”.

CIA money was distributed, both within the US and in Africa, through a range of conduits, including dummy organisations and pass-throughs such as the Farfield Foundation. Bribes were handed out to selected politicians, to union leaders and to diplomats at the UN. CIA funds were
used to pay for soldiers’ wages and for weapons. They paid for front organisations, such as Imbrey’s public relations office in New York, Overseas Regional Surveys Associates. The funds were used to set up
airlines under cover and to buy and deliver aircraft, including the Fouga that may have shot down the plane carrying UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld.

Active intervention fostered division between different political groups, such as Holden Roberto’s UPA, heavily backed by the CIA, and the MPLA—both of which were fighting for the freedom of Angola from
Portuguese rule. The consequent strife sowed the seeds for decades of suffering in Angola.
Plans were implemented for assassinations. Governments were overthrown. The UN secretary general’s communications were accessed in real time in Washington, when he was on a flight in any part of the world, courtesy of the cipher CX-52 machine.

Propaganda and covert influence operations formed a thick web, frequently facilitated by CIA fronts dedicated to Africa, which were set up with the collaboration of powerful businessmen with interests in Africa. The fronts included the African-American Institute, with its headquarters conveniently located just minutes from UN headquarters in New York, and the American Society of African Culture. Both organisations published Africa-focused journals, perfect for covers and heavy with propaganda.
Highly respected organisations such as the American Fund for Free Jurists were penetrated by CIA officials using false pretences and were used to funnel funds secretly.

Cultural and educational centres, such as the Mbari Centres in Nigeria and the Institut d’Études Congolaises in Brazzaville, were set up. They organised conferences and events, such as the seminar in Ibadan, Nigeria, attended by an unwitting Lumumba, and the first Congress of African
Writers and Intellectuals at the University of Makerere, Uganda. Underpinning all these activities was the hand of the Congress for Cultural Freedom, a CIA front with an Africa programme based in Paris and with
fingers in most parts of the world.’ (pp. 509-11)

This shows just how extensive and nefarious the CIA’s activities were during this period of African history. Not that it was the Americans alone who were engaging in dirty tricks in Africa. Rory Cormac also describes the activities of the British state to manipulate African politics through vote rigging, espionage and propaganda in his book Disrupt and Deny: Spies, Special Forces, and the Secret Pursuit of British Foreign Policy.

No, Europeans Didn’t Introduce Ironworking to Africa during the Slave Trade

October 2, 2021

I have several times posted about and reposted some of the videos made by Simon Webb of the History Debunked channel. Those I’ve reposted are usually criticisms of Black Lives Matter or falsehoods repeated as truth in Black history. I’ve said that Webb should be taken with caution as he’s a Telegraph-reading Tory. Where he quotes historical and mainstream scientific texts, I think he’s correct. But occasionally he comes up with falsehoods of his own which show he needs checking. Yesterday he put up a video on the transatlantic slave trade and how it benefited west Africa. Now he’s right that the slave trade did bring some benefits to west Africa. The African states who supplied the European slave merchants, Dahomey and Whydah, for example, grew extremely rich. Duke Ephraim of Dahomey had an income of £300,000 a year, and the abominable trade plugged Africa into the wider global economy. According to mainstream academic historians, it introduced modern commercial methods into Africa and allowed capital accumulation.

But Webb seems instead to make a very curious claim. Noting that the Black African professionals people may meet tend to be Nigerian or west African, Webb says in this video that its because Europeans brought iron working and civilisation to Africa. Before the arrival of the Europeans, Webb claims, most buildings were made of mud. Bronze was used for decoration – I assume here he’s talking about the Benin bronzes, sculptured heads what were produced as shrines to the king’s spirit. But iron was unknown. This is bizarre, as it’s very much not the view of conventional historians and archaeologists.

I looked in Colin McEvedy’s The Penguin Atlas of African History (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1980) to see when sub-Saharan African entered the Iron Age. He notes on page 30 that iron-working communities emerged around Nok in what is now Nigeria c. 202 BC. Iron-working also existed in Nubia by AD 200. C. 200 AD is started reaching the rest of Africa as the Bantu peoples expanded east and south, pp. 34, 36. I don’t actually know why Webb should think that they only developed iron working with the slave trade. I think it perhaps comes from the fact that Europeans did trade iron bars for slaves. These were made into objects called manilas, shaped like bracelets. A few of them are on display in the slavery gallery in Bristol’s M Shed. Webb has said that metallurgical analysis has shown that some west African artefacts now at the centre of demands for repatriation, were ironically made using metals that could only have been introduced by European traders. I’ve no doubt this is true, but it doesn’t contradict the fact that Africans were perfectly capable of producing iron for themselves. It may just indicate that Africans were willing to import European iron because it may have been cheaper, better or more easily accessible than that domestically produced. Just a Britain now imports cars despite having a domestic car industry.

HIs claim that Africans also built in mud is also questionable. They certainly did in west and other parts of Africa, so that it’s largely true. The city of Whydah was built of wood, and the Dahomeyans certainly used mud brick to build their towns. But the Islamic states of the Sahara, including Nubia, built in stone. And the Swahili were using coral blocks to construct their cities from the 9th century onwards, roughly as the same time when the ancestors of the Shona built the fortress of Zimbabwe.

This seems to come from Webb’s view that Africa didn’t produce any real civilisations. This was very much the view of 19th and early 20th century historians. On the other hand, one commander of the West African Squadron, Captain Denman, testified to parliament that the mass murder of slaves by one of the African cultures was remarkable, given that the people there had made such progress in the arts of civilisation. Which shows that at that time in the 19th century, not all Europeans thought Africans were uncivilised savages.

I think its undoubtedly true that Europeans introduced modern science and technology to Africa during colonialism, even if this was to exploit the countries and their peoples. They also benefited from the introduction of modern education and literacy, when it was available. If Nigerians are more prevalent among Black African professionals in Britain, it may well be due to a number of factors that have little to do with the slave trade. It may simply be that Nigeria is a richer country than many other African nations, and so has a larger middle class able to afford an education. It also possesses its own university, though I don’t know if it has a medical faculty. It is certainly more populous than some African countries, with a population of about 100 million. It may also have stronger ties with the west and particularly Britain, so that it’s people go here rather than to France or Portugal, the other African colonial powers.

It is therefore far more likely to be due to the education, science and technology introduced to Nigeria and west Africa during colonialism, and the enduring ties with Britain forged during this period, that have led so many west Africans to migrate here rather than the slave trade. Which certainly did not, in any case, usher in the Iron Age in Africa.