Posts Tagged ‘Libel’

Daily Mail Estimates Libel Trial Against Mike Could Cost Riley £1 Million

May 16, 2021

As well as the I, the Heil also wrote a piece about Mike’s appeal court victory yesterday. It was briefly on the net, but I haven’t been able to find it today. So I’m afraid you’ll have to rely on what I can remember about the piece.

As well as reporting the basic details of the case, the Heil’s article also featured the opinions of a lawyer specialising in libel cases. He guessed that Riley had already spent £60-70,000 on suing Mike, and if she took this to trial this could end up costing her £1 million. The lowest cost for such a trial is £500,000, according to the expert, and most start at £1 million.

Zelo Street has also put up a great article about Mike’s case and the latest victory. The Sage of Crewe notes that Riley’s case is undermined somewhat by the fact that she hasn’t gone after the author of the original articles Mike also drew on for his. Shaun Lawson, the author, lives in Uruguay, and Riley and her team estimated that he didn’t have enough assets to justify suing him as they would not recover their losses. This conflicts with a statement from Mark Lawson, Riley’s lawyer, that this wasn’t about money.

The article also notes that Riley’s case against the barrister, Jane Heybroek, for retweeting a comment by Shaun Lawson linked to one of his articles, collapsed after Riley had spent £80,000 on it and was unable to show that that the tweet had caused her any reputational damage. See Zelo Street: Rachel Riley’s Court Case Conundrum (zelo-street.blogspot.com).

It therefore looks like any further action Riley carries on against Mike could be extremely expensive for her.

‘I’ Reports Mike’s Appeal Case Victory

May 15, 2021

The I newspaper has published an article on Mike’s victory in the courts yesterday appealing against a judge’s decision to have his defence against Rachel Riley’s libel action struck out. The article’s on the net, and can be read at Rachel Riley loses latest round of libel case with blogger Mike Sivier over claims she ‘harassed’ a teenager (msn.com)

The article, entitled ‘Rachel Riley loses latest round of libel case with blogger Mike Sivier over claims she ‘harassed’ a teenager’ begins

TV presenter Rachel Riley has lost the latest round of a libel case with a political blogger over an article which claimed she engaged in a “campaign of online abuse and harassment” against a teenager on Twitter.

Ms Riley, 35, the numbers expert on Channel 4’s Countdown, sued political blogger Mike Sivier after he published an article on his website Vox Political in January 2019 with the headline: “Serial abuser Rachel Riley to receive ‘extra protection’ – on grounds that she is receiving abuse”.

Mr Sivier defended what he published, arguing that it was “substantially true”, honest opinion, and a matter of public interest.

In January, a High Court judge ruled in favour of Ms Riley and dismissed Mr Sivier’s defences; Mrs Justice Collins Rice said he had “no prospect” of succeeding at a trial.

But three judges at the Court of Appeal, in central London, overturned the ruling on Friday and said Mr Sivier’s public interest defence should be heard in court.

Looking at the article, it appears to me to be a fair report of the case, rather than explicitly pro-Riley, as many of the news reports of her various libel actions against her opponents have been. It’ll be interesting to see if other papers have also reported on Mike’s appeal victory, and the effect the unbiased reporting of Riley’s conduct has on her public perception.

Congratulations! Mike Wins Appeal against Rachel Riley

May 14, 2021

Hearty congratulations to Mike over at Vox Political – he’s won his appeal against Rachel Riley. Riley had demanded that his defence against her libel suit against him should be struck out of court. The previous judge agreed, effectively preventing him from presenting any defence against her. Mike naturally appealed, and won. The appeal court judges have not on ruled in his favour, they have also stated that the case must now go to trial.

This is not an overall victory – it’s very far from that. But it is a victory and a setback to Riley. Mike has many supporters and has received many tweets supporting him from people tired of Riley’s bullying and smearing socialists, anti-racists and critics of Israel as anti-Semites, simply because they dare to criticise the country’s barbarous treatment of the Palestinians or wish to return to the social democratic consensus that gave working people dignity, jobs, a proper welfare state and the NHS.

Mike’s been fighting this case for four years now since 2017. It’s great to see him win this battle against Riley, and I hope this continues.

Twitter Peeps Educate Universities Minister About What Decolonising the Curriculum Really Means

March 3, 2021

It’s not about censoring history but about including the ignored or omitted perspectives of the colonised peoples themselves.

Zelo Street put up a brilliant piece on Sunday refuting nonsense printed in the Torygraph by their reporter Christopher Hope. Hope had been talking to the universities minister, Michelle Donelan, who was extremely concerned about the ‘culture war’ being waged in the universities. She was afraid that those unis, who were decolonising their curricula were engaged in a massive piece of historical censorship. Like the former Soviet Union, they were removing those incidents that were not regarded as stains. This greatly concerned her as a former history student who was also a vehement champion of preserving our history.

This provoked a number of academics and/or students, whose universities were involved in this restructuring of their history curricula, to put her right. They informed her that this wasn’t about removing awkward parts of British colonial history, but adding to it by including the perspectives of the subject peoples we ruled and all-too frequently abused and exploited.

Alex Stevens from the University of Kent put this up:

Dear [Michelle Donelan] ‘Adding stuff in to enrich our understanding’ is *exactly* what decolonising the curriculum is doing at my university”.

Edward Anderson of Northumbria University also agreed, posting the following

When we decolonise curricula, it’s almost always ADDING more stuff in: scholarship & perspectives from the Global South, source material of the colonised not just coloniser, etc. [Michelle Donelan] must know this, but chooses to peddle a straw man, fictitious idea of what uni’s do”.

Coventry University’s Andrew Jowett backed this up with his remark

She has no idea what she’s talking about. It’s not about ‘taking things out’ of the curriculum, it’s about contextualising what is taught and ensuring other cultures and indigenous peoples are represented in the curriculum. Maybe she should attend a webinar on it”. 

And then came Dr. Priyamvada Gopal, who teaches colonial literature at Cambridge

 “Let’s break this down for [Michelle Donelan]. When we ‘decolonise’, we put the ‘offensive’ bits BACK IN. To give a random example, we tell [the] story of Winston Churchill not just as unimpeachable war hero–but as a man of empire & race science. We don’t pander to white snowflakery”.

Gopal was the centre of controversy last summer in the Black Lives Matter protests, when she was falsely accused of hating Whites because she’d put up a tweet ‘White don’t matter as White lives’, which I think she intended to mean that White lives have no more or less intrinsic value than anyone else’s. Their value lay simply in being human lives. This was in response to an enraged White chap flying over a local football match on a plane towing the banner ‘White Lives Matter’. I think another of Gopal’s tweets had been altered and the fake version reproduced by the right-wing press to present Gopal as wishing for a real White genocide. Gopal sued for libel, and I believe won.

The comments about Churchill were provoked by the denunciation s of the Great Man at a conference on his legal at Churchill College, Cambridge. Churchill was denounced by some of the speakers as responsible for the horrific Bengal famine, which killed 3-6 million Indians, and a White supremacist. Kehinde Andrews, a prominent Black racial activist, was present at this event, who is notorious for claiming that the British Empire was worse than the Nazis.

This provoked a reaction from offended Tories, like Nicholas Soames, who declared that if they were going to denounce the British wartime PM, then they shouldn’t use his money. The right-wing historian of Africa and the British Empire, Andrew Roberts, also wasn’t impressed. He is the co-author of a paper, published by the right-wing think tank Policy Exchange, defending Churchill. But I think that the allegations against Churchill are absolutely correct. He was an imperialist and White supremacist. It was the dominant ideology of the time and obviously very strong in the British and colonial ruling class. He was also responsible for the Bengal famine through the sequestration of their grain in order to feed British troops in Europe. The result was mass starvation in India, while the emergency requiring its use never came. Nevertheless, Churchill refused to release it to where it was really needed, blaming the Indians themselves for their plight. It was all their fault for having too many children. His attitude shocked many senior British officers and colonial administrators, who compared him to the Nazis.

Zelo Street described Donelan’s interview and her views as

Once again, we have a Government minister apparently not in command of their brief, with their ignorance amplified by a shameless propagandist for the sole purpose of riling up his paper’s base and demonising purveyors of inconvenient thought.

He concludes that, as for her reference to the Soviet Union, that is exactly where her government is taking us, but you won’t read it in the papers. Quite. We have a very authoritarian government, which really is determined to censor history. And the press are right behind her.

This looks like an attempt by a failing government to whip up some popularity by playing the race card. The approved Tory view of the British Empire as essentially benevolent is under attack from evil lefties, and so must be defended at all costs. Just as Britain is being invaded by all those evil refugees crossing the Channel in dinghies.

Meanwhile, people continue to die from the Coronavirus, and the government is determined to push through the welfare cuts which Mike has documented as killing the poor, the disabled and the unemployed.

But we mustn’t look there. They’re just welfare scroungers. We must be worried about the attack on our imperial history and great leaders like Winston Churchill. Even when those attacks are historically accurate.

See: Zelo Street: Decolonising Drivel Deceives No-One (zelo-street.blogspot.com)

‘I’ Obituary for Stage Magician and Sceptic James Randi

October 26, 2020

Last Tuesday, 20th October 2020, the stage magician and sceptic James Randi passed away at the age of 92. Randy was a controversial. After starting out as a stage magician, Randi turned to exposing fake psychics. He was a prominent member of the Sceptics’ organisation CSICOP, the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims Of the Paranormal, along with scientist and broadcaster Carl Sagan and the mathematician Martin Gardner. CSICOP’s founders were alarmed at the growth of interest in the occult. Sagan, a Humanist, published his attack on the supernatural in the Demon Haunted World. He seemed to be frightened that we were entering a new Dark Age of superstition, where science and rationality would be forgotten, and in which people would begin their day by poring over their horoscopes.

The I published this obituary of Randi in their weekend edition for 24th-25th October 2020, reprinted from the Washington Post. It runs

James Randi, who has died aged 92, was an internationally acclaimed magician and escape artist who spent much of his career debunking all things paranormal – from spoon bending and water dowsing to spirit channelling and faith healing.

Randall James Ham Hamilton Zwinge was born in Toronto in 1928. A child prodigy, he was shy and often lonely. Bored by rote classroom learning, he sought refuge in the library. At a young age, he developed an interest in magic, and at 17 he dropped out of high school, turned down several college scholarships and joined a travelling carnival as junior magician.

He overcame a stammer and fear of speaking in public, affected a turban and goatee, and honed his illusionist skills under a series of stage names, including Zo-Ran, Prince Iblis, Telepath and the Great Randall.

After a stint at faking clairvoyance, in which many took his prophecies seriously – he correctly predicted the winner of baseball’s World Series in 1949, for example – he said he was unable to persuade believerss that his powers were strictly terrestrial. He said he “couldn’t live that kind of lie” and returned to conventional magic as The Amazing Randi.

He also became an escape artist and held Guinness world records for surviving the longest time inside a block of ice (55 minutes) and for being sealed the longest in an underwater coffin (one hour and 44 minutes), breaking a record set by Harry Houdini.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s Randi’s many appearances on television made him a fixture of prime time entertainment. In 1973 he toured with heavy metal rock star Alice Cooper as an executioner simulating the beheading of the singer at each performance.

Randi cheerfully described himself as a “liar” and “cheat” in mock recognition of his magician’s skills at duping people into thinking they had seen something inexplicable when it was, in fact, the result of simple physical deception. He was equally dismissive of psychics, seers and soothsayers. “The difference between them and me,” Randi told The New York Times in 1981, “is that I admit that I’m a charlatan. They don’t. I don’t have time for things that go bump in the night.”

Randi and the research organisation he helped found in 1976, the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, offered payouts ranging up to $1m (£77,000) to anyone who could demonstrate a supernatural or paranormal phenomenon under controlled conditions. While he had many takers, he said, none of them earned a cent.

In 2010, at the age of 81, Randi publicly announced he was gay. He married a Venezuelan artist, Deyvi Pena in 2013. The following year, film-maker Tyler Measom and Justin Weinstein released An Honest Liar, a documentary of Randi’s life.

I first became aware of Randi in the early 1980s, when he appeared in the pages of the Absurder attacking Doris Stokes. Stokes was a medium, who was then in news, much like Derek Acorah and other celebrity psychics a few years ago. Randi showed that much of her comments and remarks when she was supposedly getting in touch with the dead were ‘bunkum statements’. They sounded true and unique to the reader or listener, but they were actually vague and described the way most people felt. Her descriptions of the deceased and the questions she asked her audience were also so vague that they would apply to someone there, who would then become convinced that Stokes was genuinely in contact with a dead friend or relative.

Several times Randi’s own outspoken comment about those he judged to be frauds landed him in legal. In one case, he was sued for libel by a man he claimed was called by the police ‘the shopping mall molester’. Er, not quite. The target of Randi’s wrath had been arrested for sexually assaulting a 12 or 13 year old girl in a shopping centre. But he hadn’t been charged with the offence, as it was dropped due to plea bargaining. And because he hadn’t been charged with it, Randi’s comments were technically libel.

He also got into similar trouble with Uri Geller. He called him a fraud, at which Geller sued him in every country in the world. This resulted in Randi settling out of court with the notorious spoon-bender.

Actually, I think Randi is probably right here. Geller’s most famous trick of bending spoons has been around since at least in the 18th century. It’s mentioned in a book of such amusements from that time, Rational Recreations. Geller was also successfully sued in the 1970s or so by an Israeli engineering student for misleading advertising. Geller’s publicity claimed his act presented overwhelming proof of the paranormal. The student went to see it and wasn’t impressed. He sued, claiming that all he’d seen was standard stage magic. The beak concurred, and judged in his favour.

There was also a scandal a few years ago when it turned out that Randi’s partner was actually an illegal immigrant, who was living in the US under an identity he’d stolen.

Randi was a colourful figure, but I was never a fan of his. While I agree that fake psychics and mediums certainly exist, and should be exposed because of the way they exploit the grieving and vulnerable, I don’t share his dismissal of the supernatural. I think it’s genuine, but that its very nature makes scientific verification extremely difficult, if not impossible. CSICOP also came off as arrogant, smug and vindictive in their attacks on the paranormal and its believers and practitioners. So much so that they were seen as a kind of scientific witch hunt by their victims. A few years ago the organisation changed its name to CSI, which stands for the Committee for Scientific Investigation. And not Crime Scene Investigation. The name change was not occasioned because there was a cop drama with that acronym as its title playing at the time.

So RIP James Randi. He was a colourful character, who entertained millions, particularly in his bust-up with Geller. Gray Barker, the former Ufologist who began the Men In Black myth with his book They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers, took great pleasure in Randi’s antics, calling him ‘the Amusing Randi’. But I leave to the reader to decide for themselves whether the paranormal exists. And not everybody who believes in it deserves sneers and ridicule.

Karin Smyth Pushing Right-Wing Candidates in Bristol South Labour NEC Elections

September 23, 2020

Tomorrow Bristol South Labour Party is holding its elections for the party’s NEC. If you are a member of that constituency Labour party, please go ahead and register to vote before the meeting begins on Zoom. Registration stops at 6.45 when you should start signing on. It’s a closed meeting, and so people won’t be admitted after it begins at 7.00 pm.

Yesterday evening I and the other constituency party members got an email from our local MP Karin Smyth outlining what she’d been doing in parliament. She’s due to give her report at the meeting. She also told us who she hopes will win our votes for the NEC. And it looks like a pack of Blairites.

‘There are many excellent candidates and I am hoping Paula Sheriff, Theresa Griffin, Liz McInnes, Johanna Baxter, Ann Black, Terry Paul, Luke Akehurst, Gurinder Singh Josan and Shama Tatler will be successful.’

Now I’ll admit my ignorance. I don’t know most of these people, but one name stands out: Luke Akehurst. If you’ve been following Tony Greenstein’s excellent blog, you’ll know that he’s one of the true-Blue Blairites, and a fanatical Zionist. He’s one who has smeared and tried to purge party members as anti-Semites if they supported Jeremy Corbyn or dared to offer the mildest criticisms of Israel. I’m guessing that the others she’s promoting have similar views.

My was one of those smeared and expelled from the party by the NEC, simply because he had the temerity to show that Ken Livingstone was historically correct when he said that Hitler supported Zionism. The Nazi leader signed a short-lived pact with the Zionist organisations in Germany to smuggle German Jewish settlers to Palestine. This was the Ha’avara Agreement, which is recognised history and documented as such in the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem. 85 per cent of the initial founding capital for the Jewish state also came from Nazi Germany.

Mike was suspended from the party without being told on the evening before he was due to stand as a councillor in the local elections in his part of Wales. The NEC also went behind his back and told the press before they told him. This included Gabriel Pogrund, a hack with the Sunset Times, who then rang him up for an interview. The Sunset Times then showed its complete absence of any concern for truth by libeling him as an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier. Which he is certainly not, and has never been. These lies were repeated by other newspapers, including the Jewish Chronicle.

Before his expulsion, Mike, like so many other decent, left-wing, genuinely anti-racist members of the Labour party, was subject to a kangaroo court hearing. This was supposed to let him challenge the NEC’s decision, but is really just window dressing designed to put a veneer of justice on what is a flagrantly unjust procedure. The Party then released a statement which again totally ignored and misrepresented what Mike said in his defence. To show how completely uninterested they were in any kind of real justice, one of the members of the hearing said, when asked by Mike if he’d read the parts of his defence in which he showed that he wasn’t an anti-Semite, admitted he hadn’t. He’d been told by someone unnamed not to. And the head of the tribunal wanted to finish early because she needed to catch the train home to Scotland.

Mike is currently suing the Labour Party for breach of contract over his shabby treatment. The hearing is next months, and he’s invited the press. I hope he wins.

Smyth’s support of these scumbags disappoints and infuriates me, but I’m not surprised. She has struck me as something of a Blairite. She was one of those who stayed away when Jeremy Corbyn visited Bristol on the campaign trail next year.

I fully intend to vote for their candidates from the Labour Left if there are any put forward, and I strongly advise others to do the same.

That is if you want a Labour Party that really stands for working people, rather than a nest of Blairite intriguers determined to enforce Tory policies and expel on fake, trumped up charges anyone who opposes them.

PBS America Programme This Friday on Conspiracy Theories

September 19, 2020

According to this week’s Radio Times, the satellite/cable channel PBS America begins a new series this Friday, 25th September 2020, on conspiracy theories over on that side of the Atlantic. The programme’s entitled ‘United States of Conspiracy’, and begins with Alex Jones, the weird Texan internet radio and TV pundit. The piece about it by David Seale on page 106 of the RT reads

Contributing to this profile of the American broadcaster Alex Jones, British author Jon Ronson describes him as “the most… spiralling person I’ve ever met”.

Jones was a fringe figure until the confluence of 9/11 and the internet’s new power to build communities meant conspiracy theorists could band together and wield influence. Having turned fear and hatred into a lucrative commodity, Jones saw his tactic of repeatedly making wild statements with no supporting evidence enter the political mainstream.

Then in 2016, Donald Trump was elected President of the US and things really got weird.

Ronson was the director and presenter of two documentary series on Channel 4 about conspiracy theories and secret American military projects to develop psychic powers, The Secret Rulers of the World and Crazy Rulers of the World. He also wrote two books to accompany his series, Them: Adventures with Extremists, and The Men Who Stare At Goats. This last was made into a film a few years ago with Euan McGregor. It took its name from an American psychic warfare experiment, in which American squaddies tried to kill goats using only the power of their minds. I have no idea if they were ever successful, and did anything more than puzzle the goats, who may well have wondered why these men were staring at them.

I might be wrong, but I think Jones made his first appearance on British TV with Jonson on Secret Rulers of the World. He and Ronson sneaked into Bohemian Grove, the location of an annual gathering of America’s elite men that’s been held since the 19th century. As it’s an all-male party, you probably won’t be surprised that there have been allegations of sexual assault and harassment by some of these immensely rich geezers against the serving staff. It’s supposed to be a chance for the superrich running the country to network and let off steam during the summer. The culmination of the event is a piece of playacting called ‘The Sacrifice of Dull Care’. Or something like that. This involves an effigy representing Dull Care being ritually killed or burnt or otherwise sacrificed. There’s a widespread conspiracy theory, not just confined to America, that the world is run by a small cabal of immensely wealthy Satanists. Jones and others like him believe that this playlet is really a Satanic ceremony involving human sacrifice. Ronson and Jones filmed the ceremony, and it looked to me very much like it was only a effigy that was being ritually killed. But it was small, about the size of a child, and so to Jones and the others it really was a child, that was sacrificed to Satan by the elite men secretly ruling America. Jones was shown broadcasting this on his show, and then ranting to the camera about how Americans would never be forelock-tugging serfs and give up their guns.

Jones does a lot of ranting. And making bizarre, obviously fake smears against largely left-wing politicos and ordinary people. In one of his shows, he claimed that NASA had a secret base on Mars run by child slave labour. Which they obviously don’t, but the agency nevertheless felt that they had to issue an official denial. He also claimed that Barack Obama was the antichrist, ’cause he’s supposed to have smelt and had flies about him. Hillary Clinton was having a lesbian affair with one of her close political allies and is a witch practising black magic using human blood. She’s also either possessed by demons, or aliens, or is a robot from at least the waist down, because Jones reckons he saw something metal fall out of her trouser leg while she was out meeting the American public.

More seriously, Jones has made extremely dangerous, libelous claims that have caused innocent people great distress and nearly resulted in a shooting. He got sued a while ago by a Turkish businessman, who runs a yogurt factory in America. The man makes a point of employing immigrants and asylum seekers. The city where his business is located was hit by a series of rapes. Jones claimed they’d been committed by the Turkish bloke’s employees. They hadn’t, the man sued and won.

Then there was the Sandy Hook massacre, another school shooting. It’s a terrible tragedy, made worse by Jones’ paranoia. He’s convinced, or appears convinced, that such shootings are being deliberately staged to provide a pretext for the American government to pass legislation outlawing guns. From which the government will establish a dictatorship, forcing the American people into refugee and concentration camps. One of Jones’ nonsensical claims was that Barack Obama was going to declare a state of emergency and then have the American public rounded up into FEMA camps. Of course, no such thing has happened.

Jones claimed the Sandy Hook school shooting had similarly been staged, and that the parents shown grieving over the loss of their children were really ‘crisis actors’. It’s nonsense, and offensive nonsense, but that has stopped those who believe it pestering the parents to come clean and confess that it’s all fake.

And then there’s the incident when a gunman walked into a Boston pizza parlour looking for the kids that were allegedly being kept there ready to be abused by Democratic politicos. This was the rumour going round, according to which the abused kids were to be ordered up by their abusers with the pizza toppings used as a kind of code for what type of child the politicos wanted. In the meantime, the kids themselves were kept in an underground dungeon. A few years ago a bloke walked into the parlour off the street with a rifle demanding to be shown the dungeon so he could free the children. The parlour staff showed him that they didn’t have a dungeon, but only the cabinet where the business’ junction boxes were located, and a backroom which had their computer and lots of pizza boxes. All normal, no kids waiting for abuse. The gunman was satisfied with this, and gave himself up to the cops. It was a dangerous incident that very nearly could have ended in bloodshed. Even today, apparently, the parlour boss and his staff still get people demanding where they’re keeping the kids for abuse.

Jones has also appeared on British television. He turned up a little while ago on Andrew Neil’s show, where he started ranting about how Americans wouldn’t give up their guns, and 1776 would happen again if we tried to make them, before screaming nonsense like ‘metal shark!’ while the camera panned away to show Neil making the circling gesture around his temple with his finger showing precisely what he thought of Jones’ mental health.

No-one quite knows whether Jones believes the rubbish he spouts or not. Some people, who have met him personally say that behind the scenes he can be quite calm and rational. He has also formally deposed to the American courts that he doesn’t believe in what he broadcasts. His wife divorced him a few years ago, and sued for custody of their children. She was afraid for their mental health because Johnson’s TV studio was in their home. She was afraid that the children would come into it and hear all the terrifying, absurd gibberish that Jones and his guests and co-workers were broadcasting around America. Jones replied that he should retain custody of the kids, because he didn’t believe what he said. He was, he claimed, like a rodeo clown entertaining people.

I don’t know if Jones still is, but he was a staunch supporter of Donald Trump and several times had him as a guest on his show when he was campaigning for the presidency. It may therefore partly be thanks to the publicity Jones gave him that the Orange Generalissimo is in the White House.

Jones has more or less vanished from the airwaves in recent years. I think the bereaved parents of Sandy Hook took out a lawsuit against him, and as a result YouTube and other internet platforms decided he was too toxic and threw him off.

Jones is bizarre, and his antics entertaining if you’re not the one being libeled and smeared. But there’s a serious aspect to programmes like this, one which is not commented on by the mainstream media. There really are conspiracies and covert plots by the world’s governments, intelligence agencies and factions of businessmen. For example, there’s considerable evidence for the British state using loyalist paramilitaries to assassinate Republicans in Northern Ireland. One branch of the British secret services, the IRD, also forged material smearing Labour party politicos like Tony Benn as supporters of the IRA. Indeed, the entirely respectable academic historian Rory Cormac wrote a book about these very real conspiracies, Disrupt and Deny: Spies, Special Forces, and the Secret Pursuit of British Foreign Policy (Oxford: OUP 2018). But these aren’t covered when the media starts talking about conspiracies and conspiracy theories. Historians and researchers like Lobster’s Robin Ramsay aren’t invited onto any programmes. Instead, you get people like David Aaronovich, who blithely informs us all that there are no secret government conspiracies to deceive us going on, and we should all carry on trusting our rulers and betters.

The PBS America programme looks interesting, and these bogus conspiracies are interesting and important. While they aren’t real, they have real power because of the sheer number of people, who believe in them.

But there are also very real plots and conspiracies, like that al-Jazeera UK uncovered with Shai Masot at the Israeli embassy colluding with senior British civil servants over who should be in the cabinet. And the smears by the Integrity Initiative against Jeremy Corbyn, claiming that he was a Communist secret agent or collaborator with Putin. It’s these conspiracies that really do need careful analysis, dissection and exposure.

But that is precisely what the establishment does not want. And so for the moment conspiracy theories, as far as mainstream broadcasting goes, means the bizarre fantasies of people like Alex Jones.

Private Eye on Successful Campaign against Blairite Hospital Privatisation by Pro-NHS Group

July 24, 2020

One of the political developments prompted by New Labour’s wholesale adoption of the Tory programme of the destruction of the welfare state and privatisation, including that of the NHS, is that opposition to these policies moved away from the party to popular organisations set up by concerned professionals, activists and members of the public. This was particularly true of organised opposition to the privatisation of the NHS, which led to the formation of the NHS Action Party. In the same issue of Private Eye which revealed how Blair and his cronies in private industry wished to force through even more privatisation, 15-28 June 2001) the very first article was about how a New Labour politico had suffered a series of humiliating defeats at the hands of opponents of plans for the closure of beds at Kidderminster Hospital and the transfer of services to a new, PFI-funded hospital at Worcester. The article, ‘Wyre, Oh Wyre’, ran

The best election result by far was at Wyre Forest, where the ambitious junior minister at the lord chancellor’s department, barrister David Lock (10,857 votes) was hammered out of sight by the Health Concern candidate, Richard Taylor (28,487 votes).

The Eye was one of the first to appreciate the challenge from Health Concern. Under the heading Wyres Crossed way back in June last year, we traced the the circuitous record of David Lock over the key local issue of the proposed closure of all acute services at Kidderminster Hospital (Eye 1007). Lock was against the proposals when he stood for the seat and won it unexpectedly in 1997. But his enthusiasm for the campaign against closure waned as he climbed into the government.

His ire was directed against those who opposed plans for the new hospital, especially professor Allyson Pollock of the University College of London’s school of public policy. Mr Lock complained not to Prof Pollock herself but to the chairman of the University College council, Lord Young of Graffham.

The Eye article drew a mocking reply from the MP who proclaimed himself a regular Eye reader and bitterly attacked Prof Pollock, who, he wrote, “didn’t bother to check her facts with the health authority before going to print”. This letter drew a furious and devastating response from Richard Taylor, a retired consultant, whose letter (Eye 1007) exposed Mr Lock as, well, having been economical with the truth.

This was followed the following issue (1008) by a letter from Allyson Pollock pointing out that her facts about the hospital were quite correct. The cost of new PFI facility at Worcester replacing the services at Kidderminster had risen from £49m to £108m, all to provide 44 percent fewer acute beds for more patients.

So besieged was Mr Lock by the campaigner for the hospital that he resorted to his lawyers. Eye 1023 reported that he had threatened to sue Frank Baillie, a vice-chairman of Health Concern, for telling the left-wing weekly Tribune that Lock “had gone for promotion instead of standing side by side with the people of Wyre Forest”. Lawyers for the local authority (where Health Concern was and is the largest party) told Mr Baillie that they would not meet the costs of a libel action, and Baillie was forced to issue a grovelling and humiliating apology to Lock for saying something that was demonstrably true.

Mr Lock had not finished yet and his next assault on his critics won him the much-coveted spot of Man In The Eye (1026). He had rung a small publisher of a local magazine called For You who had had the nerve to reprint the Eye’s reports of the above events and as usual threatened them with a libel writ and demanded and an apology and substantial damages. He objected in particular to the observation: “It is a racing certainty that an Independent MP who will truly represent the wishes of the people will be elected.” Somehow the litigious MP did not get his apology or his damages before the election, when the magazine’s prediction came so handsomely true.

There is talk up in Kidderminster of a amss phone-in to the former MP demanding an apology and even substantial damages for contest the now rather obvious fact that enormous majority of his constituents did not agree with him.

Professor Pollock is the author of a series of works attacking the privatisation of the NHS, and I think she’s also a contributor to Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis superb NHS -SOS, which minutely describes and exposes it. I think Health Concerns victory at Wyre Forest may be exceptional, because of the difficulties in getting a small, independent party or organisation off the ground and gathering enough votes to challenge the big parties.

But unfortunately, as Starmer shows himself keen to push through the Blairite agenda of the early 21st century, this may be the only tactic available to people who really want to preserve the NHS, and the health, prosperity and welfare of their fellow citizens.

 

Hurrah! Katie Hopkins Evicted from Twitter

June 24, 2020

Earlier this week anti-racism activists finally succeeded in having hatey Katie Hopkins banned from Twitter. Hopkins started her notorious career as one of the contestants in the British version of The Apprentice. She was one of the runners-up, but her noxious right-wing beliefs nevertheless got her taken on as a columnist for the Scum and the Heil. She lost these thanks to her very outspoken racism.

In this clip from Novara Media’s Tysky Sour, Michael Walker and Aaron Bastani discuss her noxious career. This included such lows as her infamous description of immigrants and asylum seekers as ‘cockroaches’ for whom she had absolutely no love. This made that last sentiment very clear in a Tweet aimed at Philip Schofield after the sinking of a migrant ship and its human cargo in the Med. The newspapers covered this with a picture of a grieving father, who had stopped at Turkey, looking at the body of his infant son, which had just been washed up on the beach. Hopkins went on to say that illegal immigrants should be gunned down if they tried to cross into Britain. But perhaps the nadir came in a Tweet she made after the Manchester bombing in which she called for a ‘final solution’. This was too much even for whatever paper was then employing her, and she was given the heave-ho. But she was still free to spew her hate on Twitter. And now she’s lost even that.

Bastani and Walker agree that her banning is an open and shut case. She deserved it. But they also point out that the people who enabled her by giving her platforms and newspaper columns are still around. Stig Abell was the editor of the Scum who took her on. He hasn’t been damaged, and is now at the Times, where he’s pretending to be the voice of moderation. Well, I’ve absolutely no respect for the Times and its sister paper, the Sunday Times, because of their repeated smears and libels against the left, and particularly of Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters, including Mike. While they use a much more extensive vocabulary and are aimed at a far better educated readership than the Scum, those two rags are still utter, disgraceful trash. The time’s long past when all of the mendacious Tory press should have been cleaned out of his liars, propagandists and smear merchants.

I’ve no doubt that there are complaints against Hopkin’s ban as well as accusations of censorship, but I don’t think her defenders really have a case. There have been cases like Hopkins’ before, in which a right-winger with very racist or intolerant views has been banned from a social media platform like Twitter or YouTube. Their supporters have always tried to defend them on the grounds of free speech. But in America, this clause of the Constitution only applies to the government. They can’t imprison or persecute citizens for expressing their beliefs. But it doesn’t apply to private corporations.

Twitter is a private company. According to Conservatives and Libertarians, private industry should be left to do whatever it likes within reason in the pursuit of profit. Government should respect the rule of laissez faire economics and not interfere. But Twitter is a private company, and so it can, by the same reasoning, decide who or what it wants on its platform. And if it decides that hatey Katie has violated its terms and conditions, it has every right to throw her off. Also, Britain and other European countries don’t quite have free speech. A wide variety of opinions are permitted, but nevertheless it is an offence under British law to incite racial hatred. I’m not sure if someone has ever tried to prosecute her under the terms of the act, but she has certainly sailed close to the wind.

Hopkins has moved to Parler, which according to Zelo Street is rapidly becoming a cesspool full of racists like her and other extreme right-wingers, like the vile Toby Young. This is bad news for Hopkins as it means that she will probably never recover her popularity or audience. One of her fellows down there is Milo Yiannopolis, formerly of Breitbart. Yiannopolis is gay, half-Jewish and married to a Black man. But he’s another extreme right-wing propagandist, who made his name with attacks on ethnic minorities and feminism. All was going well for him. He had a speaking tour of American universities and a book deal with Simon & Schuster’s right-wing imprint. Then he appeared on the Joe Rogan Show and made comments suggesting he approved of paedophilia. At this point, it all vanished, including Yiannopolis’ invitation to CPAC or some other Conservative event. Yiannopolis tearfully retracted his comments, apologised and said that he now recognised that he also was a victim of child abuse. But it was to no avail. He was also turfed off Twitter, and has no joined in his fellow rightists in Parler.

Yiannopolis was also a massive grifter. He was also begging for money. One of his money-making schemes was appealing for donations for a bursary he was setting up so young White men could afford to go to college. He received plenty of money, but it all went straight into Yiannopolis’ own bank account. There was no bursary, and he never paid any aspiring underprivileged White male student anything. When last I took notice of him, Yiannopolis was claiming that he debts of £4 million. His chances of paying this off are slim. According to Zelo Street, his messages on Parler have included whinges that he now only has 1001 followers, who never go to anything he does, or buy anything from him. Well hard cheese. If only the same thing happened to others like him, who preached race hate and exploited the gullible. Now Hopkins is in the same boat, and likely to have the same difficulty recovering anything like her former success.

The only pity is that Abell and the rest of the ‘respectable’ Tory horrors that facilitated her haven’t also suffered the same treatment.

See also: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/06/parler-vous-racist-sewer.html

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/06/so-farewell-then-katie-hopkins.html

 

Hooray! Murdoch Papers Too Ashamed to Publish Pathetic Circulation Figures

May 22, 2020

Ho ho! Zelo Street yesterday published a very interesting and amusing article about the continuing decline of the lamestream press. Jim Waterson, a hack at the Guardian, posted a series of tweets about the latest circulation figures for British newspapers. And they aren’t encouraging. Zelo Street has said for the past couple of months that the press has been badly hit by the lockdown. People simply aren’t buying papers. It’s why the Murdoch rags, inter alia, have been pushing for the lockdown to be lifted and actually took to implore their readers and internet followers to #buyapaper. They’re not remotely interested in the welfare of the great British public. But they are worried about falling sales and what Murdoch and the other chief inmates of News International will do about them – like start laying people off.

Waterson tweeted that, although the newspaper sales figures were supposed to be out that day, the industry had insisted that they should no longer be published. The monthly ABC sales charts have also been permanently stopped because they give a ‘stimulus to write a negative narrative of circulation decline.’ Which in English, rather than the garbled version spouted Newslink’s yuppie manager in the comedy series Drop the Dead Donkey, means that it encourages people to write about how the press is in trouble. Nevertheless, most of the papers did publish their figures. The exceptions were the Times, Sunday Times, Torygraph and the Scum. And the paper with the highest circulation was the Daily Heil, with 944,981 copies sold.

Well, as the character, Gus, once said, I’ll just throw that into your intellectual wok and see if it stir fries.

Zelo Street points out that this is the first time no newspaper has sold less than a million a copies. It also suggests that this has happened to the Sun, which is why the super, soaraway Current Bun is not publishing its figures. It’s possibly been supplanted by the Heil for the first time in 40+ yearsThe Street also argues quite reasonably that both the Heil’s and Scum’s Sunday editions will have worse sales than the dailies. This means that the press is in terminal decline and we’re entering the endgame.

Novara Media’s excellent Aaron Bastiani put an additional boot into the Murdoch title’s shame. If newspapers won’t publish their sales figures, then the Beeb shouldn’t review their front pages every morning. Unless we know these papers’ reach, it’s just giving them free advertising.

Good point.

Zelo Street also states that the press is probably going to lose even more readers when they work out that the papers they support wanted the lockdown lifted for the sake of their own profits, not out of concern for the public’s wellbeing. A number of may well die from Coronavirus infections picked up when the papers told them that the disease was nothing to worry about. And their survivors will put two and two together and decide not to continue supporting them. Or even bringing a class lawsuit against them.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/05/press-heading-for-early-oblivion.html

My guess is that the reason the Torygraph and the Murdoch rags aren’t publishing their sales figures is partly economic. Apart from being embarrassed at how pathetically their mighty organs are doing, they’re also afraid of repercussions from advertisers. If they find out how low the newspapers are selling, they may well want the advertising rates reduced. This will mean a further drop in these newspaper’s income. Which means greater losses, and the threat of even more redundancies.

To many people it will come as absolutely no surprise that the Times and the Torygraph are in such a mess. Private Eye have covered many times their problems and falling circulation in its ‘Street of Shame’ column. In the case of the Torygraph, it’s problems are due to bad corporate management, including a devotion to internet gimmicks rather than solid news reporting and deliberately altering news content in their interests of the advertisers. This last policy so infuriated Peter Oborne that he left the paper and went instead to the Heil, making his own criticisms of it very public. There have already been redundancies and cutbacks, but these have failed to halt the paper’s continuing decline. The Eye has also said that the Times’ sales are now so low, that if it were any other paper it would either have been folded or put up for sale by its management years ago. But it’s the British paper of record, and so allows Murdoch to grab a place at the government table because of its prestige. Which means that if its circulation is so low that there’s no reason the Beeb, or anyone else, should take any notice of it, Murdoch’s ability to influence government decisions, even to act as kingmaker in his decision which party to support, is severely damaged.

Ditto with the Scum. It certainly didn’t have the Times‘ prestige or even its journalistic standards – indeed, it’s a matter of debate whether the scabrous rag had any standards at all. But it was Britain’s leading newspaper with a huge circulation, and more visibly influenced British politics through its shrill trumpeting of everything Thatcher and the Tories ever did, until Murdoch decided to flirt with New Labour. Now that’s also been seriously damaged.

Zelo Street is right in that these newspapers still have an influence beyond their print sales through their online presence, but there are problems here as well. Many of their articles are behind paywalls, which means that many casual readers won’t read them because they won’t want to pay or subscribe to the wretched rags. And if they are free, then it comes from money made from print sales. Which mean that when those go down, the paper’s ability to put up their articles free on the net also declines. The situation does not look good.

I’ve no sympathy for any of these foul rags. I suppose it’ll be a shame if the Times folds, after lasting for nearly 300 or so years. But as it, its Sunday counterpart and the Scum are just rightwing, Tory propaganda rags that lies, smear and libel decent people with absolutely no compunction, as far as I’m concerned it deserves to go under. Britain will be better off without them.

And while we’re on the subject, what about the sales figures for Private Eye? I know it’s a magazine rather than a newspaper, but much of it is news. My guess is that it’s circulation is also falling in line with the rest of the press. It’s hostility and snide remarks about left-wing news sites and internet organisations like The Canary and The Skwawkbox also seem to suggest that it’s afraid of their competition. Private Eye does publish some very good stuff, but it has also promoted the Blairites and the anti-Semitism smears against Corbyn’s Labour party, as well as other material which is utterly wrong. So I have very mixed feelings about it.

As for the rest of the press, their mostly right-wing propaganda rags, and so absolutely nothing worthwhile will be lost if they go under as well.