In the week of the tenth anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, GM WATCH has been looking at the genocide deniers who became biotech apologists. Here's the final piece in the series:
1.From 'Massacring the truth' to 'Rewriting Rwanda'
2.Institute of Ideas
3.LM front groups
For links to the other pieces in this series:
1. From 'Massacring the truth' to 'Rewriting Rwanda'
This is a story that began in 1995 with Fiona Fox's article, 'Massacring the truth in Rwanda'. Few realised then that Fox's dismissal of the world's concern over the slaughter of 800,000 Tutsis as an 'emotional overreaction' was but the first shot in a lengthy campaign - a campaign that continues to this day.
Take the just-published article 'Rewriting Rwanda' by Barrie Collins, a London-based South African. Collins continues Fox's historical revisionism, claiming, 'Today's accepted wisdom about Rwanda bears little relation to the real events of 10 years ago'.
Collins is also the author of the 1998 book, 'Obedience in Rwanda'. As with 'Rewriting Rwanda', this also bucked the historical mainstream, carefully avoiding the use of the word 'genocide' to describe massacres which were so rapid and so extensive that they outdid even the Third Reich in the resultant rate of extermination. Barrie Collins also put in appearances as a defence witness for some of those subsequently convicted by the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda of involvement in the genocide. http://www.ictr.org/ENGLISH/cases/Nahimana/decisions/260303a.htm
Collins also contributed a chapter on the lessons of Rwanda to a book edited by David Chandler, 'Rethinking Human Rights' (January 2003). Other contributors included Fiona Fox and Phil Hammond, who in a chapter looking at both Bosnia and Rwanda drew on Collins.
Phil Hammond was at one time part of the London Information Research Exchange (LIRE), whose members served as apologists for Serb nationalist war crimes. LIRE was an outgrowth of the Campaign Against Militarism which in turn connected to those behind LM magazine, which was the publisher of Fox's 'Massacring the truth in Rwanda'.
While those behind LM raise no objections to Western economic and corporate domination of other countries, which they seem to regard as a necessary corollary of 'progress', they have a libertarian contempt for Western armed intervention. This leads in turn to a concern about the way in which conflicts are reported.
Any portrayal of the Tutsis or the Bosnian Moslems as victims of horrific atrocities is seen as likely to fuel 'hysteria' or 'moral panics', leading to demands for greater outside intervention, both in those conflicts and elsewhere. The LM network have therefore fought to undermine such perceptions. The ways in which they do so are revealing.
Martin Cohen, the Editor of the journal of the Philosophical Society, The Philosopher, reports how at a talk he gave at Leeds University in the early months of the Bosnian war, members of the LM network sought to stifle debate and bury criticism of the Serbs 'in a cynically calculated bombardment of misinformation and propaganda.' From their perspective, he suggests, ' "truth" was a bourgeois notion, political power was the higher cause.' http://www.guardian.co.uk/letters/story/0,3604,184070,00.html
LM's 'battle of ideas' over Bosnia resulted in the magazine being successfully sued for libel by journalists working for the TV broadcaster ITN. Undaunted by the legal and financial setback of the verdict, LM's co-publisher Claire Fox - Fiona Fox's sister - launched the Institute of Ideas (IoI) on the very day that LM folded in the face of massive damages. Shortly afterwards, Mick Hume, LM's ex-editor and by then a Times-columnist, launched the website of a new online magazine, Spiked. Its managing editor was Helene Guldberg, LM's ex-publisher.
Barrie Collins article, 'Rewriting Rwanda' is published by Spiked. Spiked, like the Institute of Ideas, LIRE and the Campaign Against Militarism (CAM), is an example of the LM network's talent for spawning platforms and fronts with which to forward their agenda.
In the case of Rwanda, the network gave birth to Africa Direct, which claimed to be 'a network of people who promote critical journalism on African issues... and support individuals and organisations who are reclaiming African sovereignty'. In reality, it was yet another offshoot of CAM.
In July 1997 Africa Direct staged 'Rwanda: the Great Genocide Debate Conference'. The principal speaker at the event was one 'Barry Crawford'. It seems quite probable that 'Barry Crawford' may have been an alias of 'Barrie Collins', given that the use of a nom de guerre was standard practice amongst members of the LM network at this period. Hence Fiona Fox had published 'Massacring the truth' under the pseudonym 'Fiona Foster'. Claire Fox was 'Claire Foster', and so on.
Also part of Africa Direct was John Pender who writes on development issues for Spiked and who, like the Rwandan genocide deniers Barrie Collins and Fiona Fox, contributed to David Chandler's book 'Rethinking Human Rights'. Another contributor was Chris Gilligan. Among the articles just published by Spiked alongside Collins' 'Rewriting Rwanda' are ones by Chandler and Gilligan.
This incestuous and self-perpetuating world of undisclosed affiliations replicates what Brad K. Blitz found in his study of revisionism and denial in relation to the Bosnian conflict. Blitz considered the role of LM contributors like Joan Phillips (the pseudonym of Joan Hoey, the sister of former Labour minister Kate Hoey) and Thomas Deichmann, both part of LIRE, in the reporting of the conflict. Blitz noted how 'marginalized ideologies' are advanced through the 'incestuous nature' of what he calls 'the publication drive'.
The players are not, Blitz writes, 'advancing knowledge but are rather recycling the founding ideas of certain ideological arguments that mesh with their own political agendas. Phillips' outrageous comments (many of which came straight out of the government-controlled Belgrade media) are re-packaged... [in an article] in Foreign Policy... [which] is then cited by... Diechmann who also makes reference to Phillips' 20 Things You Know About the Serbs That Aren't True . Diechmann is Phillips' colleague who then promotes the work of another author... [who] himself cites... Phillips and again repeats the same accusations.' http://www.freeserbia.net/Documents/Lobby.html
In the interests of disclosing affiliations, below we provide a list of LM-related front groups and a profile of the Institute of Ideas (IoI) which regularly organises seminars and conferences, as to a lesser extent does Spiked, designed to promote the LM agenda. Genocide deniers like Fiona Fox, Barrie Collins, and Thomas Deichmann have all contributed to IoI events.
As a Guardian article notes of such events, 'From the platforms and the floor, the LM line is assiduously promoted by the magazine's supporters and contributors - often without clear attribution of their affiliations.' (Life after Living Marxism) http://www.gmwatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=78&page=L
2.Institute of Ideas - a GM WATCH profile
The Institute of Ideas (IoI) says its mission is 'to expand the boundaries of public debate by organising conferences, discussions and salons, and publishing written conversations and exchanges.' Papers arising out of its events have been published in book form as part of a series called Debating Matters. Among the titles are, Science: can we trust the experts?, Designer Babies and Compensation Crazy.
It has been successful in drawing in to its events not just well-known names but leading British cultural and scientific institutions, like the Royal Society of Arts and the Royal Institution. It has been equally successful at drawing in commercial support from major corporations. A Genes and Society Festival in London in April 2003, for example, was held 'in association with Pfizer', the biotech/pharmaceutical giant. Also thanked for its assistance was CropLife International - a 'global federation' led by BASF, Bayer, Dow, DuPont, Monsanto and Syngenta. Biotech/pharmaceutical giant Novartis has also been mentioned as a source of funding (see below).
The IoI was launched in the summer of 2000 by Claire Fox, the sister of Fiona Fox, the director of the Science Media Centre. Shortly afterwards, Helene Guldberg, who with Fox had co-published the magazine LM, helped to launch the IoI's sister organisation, the online 'magazine' Spiked. Both claim to be about encouraging free speeech and a much more open-minded approach.
IoI operates out of LM 's old offices in Smithfield in London. LM, in turn, was a reincarnation of Living Marxism, the monthly review of the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP). Both Fox and Guldberg were leading members of the RCP.
While IoI claims to be all about opening up public debate and taking it beyond 'contemporary orthodoxies' that 'narrow discussion,' in reality its events are carefully crafted to create an appearance of free and lively debate as a vehicle for communicating LM/IoI's own narrow orthodoxies.
The construction of the events follows a set pattern. Well-known figures, who will help to draw in audiences, are invited to take part in events designed to promote the LM agenda. Invitations to speakers are sometimes made via third parties. The news broadcaster Jon Snow, according to a Guardian article, withdrew from an event to which he had been invited by the Royal Society of Arts after realising the IoI's involvement. Snow felt there was a lack of transparency. 'I didn't have a clear idea of who they were,' he said. This lack of transparency affects almost every aspect of IoI events, as the article notes: 'From the platforms and the floor, the LM line is assiduously promoted by the magazine's supporters and contributors - often without clear attribution of their affiliations.'
In the book of the debate of Compensation Crazy, for instance, we get the views of one of the contributors, Tracey Brown, presented simply as those of a 'Risk Analyst'. There is no disclosure of her long-term involvement with the political network behind LM/Spiked and IoI, to all of which she has contributed over the years. Moreover, the views Brown sets out as her own in the debate coincide exactly with the 'LM line' on the issue. The members of the network never go beyond their own narrow orthodoxy.
Another example of how the IoI engineers events to promote its agenda is provided by its Genes & Society Festival in April 2003, an event organised by the IoI's Science and Society Director, Tony Gilland, assisted by Ellen Raphael, the Assistant Director of Sense About Science, amongst others.
Of the main contributors to the two day event around 15-20 are known to be part of the network behind LM/IoI. There was nothing in how they were presented, however, to alert either their fellow contributors or the audience to this. This is significant because those behind LM/IoI are fervently opposed to any restrictions on GM crops, cloning or other genetic technologies. But this shared vision is made to appear to the audience to be coming from a series of independent commentators presented as diverse individuals - a GP, a Professor of Sociology, a disability policy analyst, a science writer - or as representatives of diverse organisations - the Genetic Interest Group, Sense about Science, Cyberia etc.
IOI's Director, Claire Fox, said in an interview in The Times, 'The only explanation that some people can come up with for, for example, why I’m a relatively enthusiastic supporter of GM (genetically modified) food must be that I’m in the pay of the multinationals. It couldn’t possibly be that I have intellectually decided, having looked at the evidence, that GM might be a way of solving some of the problems of the developing world, might be at least something that should be looked at. It’s as though nobody believes any ideas any more. You must only have them because you’ve been bought off.'
When, however, she was asked in the same interview to name an IoI sponsor, she came up with, 'Novartis'. Asked who they were, she replied, 'Pharmaceuticals, I think. I don’t know who they are. That’s not very good for future sponsorship, is it?'
But corporate sponsorship aside, Fox's support for GM crops is not, as she suggests, the result of independent intellectual enquiry, but simply the LM 'party line'. The same Times article reports that, 'When it comes to her defining her current principles, Fox talks vaguely about "challenging orthodoxies" and promoting "the idea of the active subject".' These should not be mistaken for Fox's attempt to articulate a personal credo, they are simply the slogans of the LM network to which she and IoI belong. Fox's 'current principles' have all been coined by the group's policy guru Frank Furedi.
3.LM front groups
[for a history of the LM network see:
In the mid to late 90s the LM network set up all manner of front organizations and 'NGOs'. Some of these like the No More Hiroshimas campaign are reported to have been seen largely as money-raisers. Tin shaking in Convent Garden for No More Hiroshimas or Workers Against Racism - another front organization - meant asking for money on the most liberal and uncontroversial basis ('Could you spare a pound to protect Asian families from racist attack?') - in contrast to the normal LM tactics of extreme controversialism.
But the fronts were also part of the LM campaign to punch above their weight by providing themselves with useful platforms for promoting their own agenda. Sometimes this would involve placing their supporters in key positions in existing organisations, or helping to found organisations.
Biotech related examples include:
*Sense About Science
*Genetic Interest Group
*Progress Educational Trust
*Science Media Centre
Among the groups that have been viewed as largely LM front groups are:
*Africa Direct - denying the genocide in Rwanda
*Association of British Drivers - no to speed limits, yes to global warming and GM crops!
*Audacity.org - no restraints on devolopment, no to sustainability
*Campaign Against Militarism (CAM) - no to military intervention
*Families for Freedom - risks to children are grossly exaggerated
*Feminists for Justice - no laws on date rape
*Freedom & Law - no to state intervention
*Global Futures - concerns about risk are greatly exaggerated
*Internet Freedom - no restrictions on paedophilia, race hate etc.
*Irish Freedom Movement (IFM) - no to the peace process
*Libero! - libertarian football supporters network!
*The Litigious Society - no to a 'compensation culture'
*London International Research Exchange (LIRE) - denying Serb nationalist atrocities
*Transport Research Group - yes to big roads
*Workers Against Racism (WAR) - no to all immigration controls
*WORLDwrite - anti-green gap years, school exchanges etc.