1.Genocide? What genocide? From genocide revisionists to biotech apologists
This week marks the tenth anniversary of the start of the genocide that took place between April and June 1994 in the central African state of Rwanda. Those largely-systematised massacres left around one in ten of Rwanda's population dead and much of the remainder physically or emotionally scarred.
As the director of the Aegis Trust, a British-based charity, speaking at a conference in Rwanda's capital Kigali this weekend, has noted, "In this city, you know, there are still more nightmares than dreams, because you know personally, that just 10 years ago, someone hacked your father to death, sliced through your brother, raped your mother. Never forget Rwanda, let it be a dangerous, unsettling, unnerving memory."
Many accuse the rich world of doing precisely the opposite of remembering Rwanda - of first turning a blind eye to the genocide in the months in which it occurred and then ignoring its traumatised survivors. Some, however, have gone much further than mere indifference. Rather than just ignoring the horrors of the Rwandan genocide, they have become actual apologists for what occurred, even seeking to deny in racist terms the murder of around 800,000 people. This the revisionists dismiss as merely some sort of disorganised tribal bloodletting.
In March 2000 Guardian correspondent Chris McGreal wrote of this perspective, "Genocide is such a hard crime to deny that those who insist on doing so usually put themselves on the outer fringes of historical debate. How many people had heard of Living Marxism (LM) before the ITN reporters decided to prove the magazine lied about the camps in Bosnia? Obscuring the truth about Bosnia was not LM's only bid to rewrite history in favour of the murderers. It has also conducted a long campaign to deny there was a genocide in Rwanda. But while the magazine is of no great consequence, it is articulating a lie perpetuated by a host of more powerful interests..." http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,181819,00.html
In a recent article, Rotten to the Corp (Science in Society 21, Spring 2004), GM WATCH editors Claire Robinson and Jonathan Matthews examined how the LM network, which has now made promoting biotechnology its central preoccupation, continues to articulate lies on behalf of powerful interests - this time from within the very heart of the science-media establishment.
To mark the 10th anniversary of the start of the Rwandan genocide, we'll be taking a long hard look again at a network whose carefully placed members have been at the very heart of campaigns to bring us patents on life, embryo cloning and the commercialisation of GM crops.
Below is a GM WATCH profile of Science Media Centre director, Fiona Fox, responsible, as is noted below, for the first denial of the Rewandan genocide to appear in print in a widely sold English language publication.
Fox in many ways encapsulates the key issues. As the profile notes, "It is perhaps revealing that someone whose own immensely controversial journalism has been denounced as 'shoddy' and 'an affront to the truth', has been selected as the director of an organisation which claims the role of making sure that controversial scientific issues like GM crops are reported accurately in the media."
2.Fiona Fox - a GM WATCH profile
http://www.gmwatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=45&page=F (for all the links)
Fiona Fox is the director of the Science Media Centre (SMC).
Despite having no previous background in either science or science communication, Fox has been afforded, since her appointment in December 2001, the status of expert. She has, for example, been included in a working party on peer review set up by Sense about Science, and in a steering group on improving communication over science policy and risk set up by the Office of Science and Technology. In 2003 Fox delivered a lecture at Green College, Oxford, on the challenge of adapting science to the mass media.
Within a matter of months of Fox becoming director, the SMC was embroiled in controversy over its activities. It was accused of operating as 'a sort of Mandelsonian rapid rebuttal unit' and of employing 'some of the clumsiest spin techniques of New Labour'. There have also been controversies about both the SMC's funding and Fox's background.
According to the profile provided by the SMC, Fox previously ran 'the media operation at the National Council for One Parent Families' and was 'Head of Media at CAFOD, the Catholic aid agency'. In addition, the SMC says, Fox 'has written extensively for newspapers and publications, authored several policy papers and contributed to books on humanitarian aid.'
What they do not say is that throughout much of that time Fox led a double life. It's one which seriously undermines the SMC's claims to be open, rational, balanced and independent, not to mention its being in the business of ensuring the 'that the public gets access to all sides of the debate about controversial issues.'
It's a double life that connects the SMC's director to the inner circles of a political network that compares environmentalists to Nazis and eulogises GM crops and cloning. More disturbingingly it is a network whose members have a long history of infiltrating media organisations and science-related lobby groups in order to promote their own agenda. It is also a network that has targeted certain media organisations and sought to discredit them or their journalists.
Fox's double life was first exposed after an article entitled 'Massacring the truth in Rwanda' appeared in the December 1995 issue of Living Marxism. The magazine subsequently reported receiving 'a stream of outraged letters from the Nazi-hunters of the prestigious Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, the Rwandan embassy, the London-based African Rights group and others.'
Rakiya Omaar and Alex de Waal of African Rights wrote to the magazine to express their outrage at the article: 'Investigating crimes against humanity gives one a high threshold of shock. But the article by Fiona Foster on Rwanda (Massacring the truth in Rwanda, December 1995) was the sort of writing that we never expected to appear in print. We each read it with a growing sense of outrage, leaving us at the end simply numb. Had your paper been entitled Living Fascism we might have been less surprised, but even then we would have expected something a little more circumspect. Not only do you make an apologia for the genocide - the first to appear in print in a widely sold English language publication - but go so far as to question its very reality. This is not only an affront to the truth, in defiance of the fundamentals of humanity, but deeply offensive to the survivors of the third indisputable genocide of this century'.
Omaar and de Waal, who now works for the U.N., describe the article as 'shoddy journalism' and the ideas advanced in it as 'absurd'. All of which 'would matter less if you were not dealing with one of the greatest crimes of the century, and playing into the hands of genocidal killers'. Omaar and de Waal subsequently established that 'Fiona Foster', the author of the article, was Fiona Fox, then a press officer for CAFOD.
Those trying to understand Fox's bid, in the words of a Guardian article, 'to rewrite history in favour of the murderers', have focussed on her media role at a Catholic aid agency, linking this to the embarrassment of the Church over the role of some priests and bishops in the mass murder. What has received less attention is the nature of Fox's relationship with Living Marxism.
By the time of the Rwandan article Fox had, in fact, been regularly writing for the monthly review of the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) for at least two and a half years. Living Marxism was first published in 1987 and although the LM archive only goes back to 1992 and not all issues are accessible, it is clear that Fox's articles in Living Marxism stretch from at least 1992 to 1999, ie to not long before it was forced into closure. Indeed, prior to her Rwanda article, Fox was one of Living Marxism's most prolific contributors, on one occasion even contributing two articles to a single issue (LM 75).
Her use of the Fiona Foster alias may have reflected a need to keep her Living Marxism connections hidden, although the use of aliases was also a standard practice among leading RCP supporters. These aliases typically involved retaining first names and altering surnames. For instance, Frank Furedi was Frank Richards, James Hughes was James Heartfield, Joan Hoey was Joan Phillips, Keith Teare was Keith Tompson and Claire Fox, Fiona's sister, was Claire Foster.
The main focus of most of Fiona Fox's articles was the troubles in Northern Ireland. In her pieces Fox makes reference to both the Irish Freedom Movement and the Campaign Against Militarism, both of which were front groups for the RCP. The line Fox advances in the articles is precisely that of the RCP which unequiviocally supported the IRA in its armed struggle against 'British imperialism'.
According to a former RCP supporter, Fiona Fox became the head of the Irish Freedom Movement which had a position of never condemning the IRA even when its terrorist atrocities were aimed at civilian targets. In the end, her support for the 'armed struggle' was to outflank even that of the IRA.
After the start of the peace process, Fox's articles provided a platform for the dissident republican Tommy McKearney (See: Irish republican speaks out - LM 66, April 94 Opposing the 'peace process' - LM 75, January 95). Like the RCP McKearney saw the peace process as 'a historic defeat for the liberation movement', or as he puts it in one of Fox's pieces, 'a cynical ploy to dupe the republican movement' into surrendering unconditionally to the British.
"First and foremost I don't believe that it is a peace process at all."
That was how Tommy McKearney, a former IRA prisoner of war, began his speech to the Campaign Against Militarism conference at Wembley in March 1994. He concluded by calling on his audience to expose Britain as a warmonger not a peacemaker in Ireland.'
According to a former RCP supporter, '...there were some links with the IRA Continuity Council people/Real IRA etc, through Fiona Fox, but these links were being undermined by the RCP´s growing dismissal of all opposition politics as being old fashioned and “meanlingless.” ' It has obviously been impossible to confirm these links but they would not seem inconsistant with Fox's willingness to provide a platform for those opposed to the peace process and in favour of continuing the campaign of violence.
Ironically, in June 2003 Fiona Fox chaired a session at the two day conference Communicating the War on Terror which took place at the Royal Institution, as did Bruno Waterfield and Bill Durodié who organised the conference for the Centre for Defence Studies at Kings College London. All have had connections to RCP/LM as had conference speakers like Frank Furedi, Phil Hammond, Michael Fitzpatrick and Mick Hume, LM's former editor. LM contributor and Assistant Director of Sense About Science, Ellen Raphael helped Durodié organise the event. Their LM connections do not appear to have been disclosed to conference participants or fellow contributors.
Fox's last article for LM, which was on Africa, was in 1999 but she appears to have continued her conection with the group, chairing a meeting for the Institute of Ideas (IoI), the organisation formed by her sister Claire when LM was sued out of existence, as recently as February 2002.
Claire Fox's LM connections and role within the RCP have been much more public than her sister's, but to judge from Living Marxism, Claire may well have been drawn into the RCP in Fiona's wake. Claire Fox's contributions to Living Marxism do not begin until December 1993 - eighteen months after her sister's - and they are at first only very intermittent.
Fiona Fox's presence in the SMC also needs to be seen in the context of LM contributors holding senior positions, in a series of organisations which lobby on issues related to biotechnology, eg Sense About Science (director: Tracey Brown; assistant director: Ellen Raphael), Genetic Interest Group (policy director: John Gillott), Progress Educational Trust (director: Juliet Tizzard), and the Scientific Alliance (advisor: Bill Durodié).
This background has to be an immense cause for concern in relation to Fox's role as director of the SMC. Fox's Green College Lecture was titled, 'The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth: so where does that leave journalism?' But neither Fox nor the Science Media Centre have been willing to disclose any of the truth about her long years of involvement with a network of extremists who engage in infiltration of media organisations and science-related lobby groups in order to promote their own agenda. It is also a network which eulogises GM crops and cloning and is extremely hostile towards their critics.
Fox's own journalism might also suggest that she is none too fussy about either truth or openness when it comes to pushing her agenda. It is perhaps revealing that someone whose own immensely controversial journalism has been denounced as 'shoddy' and 'an affront to the truth', has been selected as the director of an organisation which claims the role of making sure that controversial scientific issues like GM crops are reported accurately in the media.