A couple of days ago I gave a talk initially entitled ‘Sleepwalking into Authoritarianism’ in the surreal setting of a sleepy Greek village. As is my wont I had made heavy weather of putting together the presentation. Even the day before the event the floor around my desk was laden with discarded attempts to write something worth hearing.
Amongst the many considerations influencing my weary way – I still handwrite and forever return to my varied beginnings to start afresh – were two in particular.
I felt overwhelmed with information. I didn’t view this mass of opinion as misinformed, disinformed or whatever. It was simply stuff I had to scrutinise to the best of my ability and in the full knowledge of my own ideological disposition. Somehow I had to pull something together that reflected my sense of what’s happening in society without boring folk to tears.
And the folk in question, so it proved, were a motley bunch with no shared background, expertise or experience. Even if a majority were retired immigrants from the UK, others present were younger, alongside those for whom English was a second language.
In the event, it seemed to go well. I was forgiven for my age-old habit of preparing flip chart prompts, only to overlook them completely. There was exquisitely timed melodrama. As I uttered the exclamation, ‘all hell was let loose’ a plastic chair, not for the first or last time on Crete, collapsed under poor Ralph sitting in the front row. He went down with quite a wallop, his coffee flying in all directions. As ever in such circumstances hilarity mixed with concern. However, Ralph quickly regained his composure, aided by the provision of two chairs in one. In accord with the adage, the show went on regardless. I hardly had time to take a breath.
In truth, if I dare use such an abused phrase, this lively moment was probably a blessed relief, given the doom-laden content of much of my offering. Nonetheless, a number of people responded positively to the idea of a monthly discussion group, to the opportunity of meeting regularly to converse critically about what’s going on in the world.
Thus I will write up my notes under the changed title, ‘Authoritarianism: Chains Loosened, Shackles Tightened’. and incorporate some of the telling points made in the Q&A end to the morning. Hopefully, I’ll sort this out in the next fortnight. All being well we will meet in the week beginning Sunday, March 19th. Further details will be circulated soon.
Thanks to all who came, to the committee of the Kalamitsi village for the use of the Old School and to Phil and Fran [Kalamitsi Arts Group] for the arrangements.
In an era within which the powerful fall over themselves to claim that they are the victims of misinformation and disinformation it is revealing to read Phil Scraton’s eloquent and painstaking dissection of the cover-up, following the tragic 1958 Munich air crash, an event deeply embedded in sporting history. It confirms the necessity to be ever wary of the official narrative, to preserve an intuitive mistrust of the State. In addition, see the post, Perverting the course of justice: “cover-up of the cover-up of the cover-up” which contains Phil’s chapter ‘Sanitising Hillsborough’ from his acclaimed book, ‘Hillsborough: the Truth’.
Munich 6 February 1958
The remarkable sequence of events that led to the crash-landing of a highly sophisticated British Airways’ Boeing 777 at London Heathrow on 17 January 2008 was greeted with astonishment by aviation specialists. Some two miles out from its destination, 500 feet above the ground, Flight BA03Munich lost the power necessary to land normally. It happened without warning and the alarm system also failed. The pilot manually glided the plane down, dipping its nose to maximise length and lifting at the last minute to hurdle the 3 metre perimeter fence. All energy lost to the final manoeuvre, the plane literally belly-flopped from 10 feet onto grass, severing the undercarriage and ploughing a 400 foot furrow to the edge of the runway. It was highly skilled flying demanding the calmest concentration. Without doubt, both pilots and the 14 person crew saved the lives of 136 passengers. In the immediate aftermath ‘experts’ theorised the most likely cause to be a freak, localised weather glitch or pilot error. Unanimously they agreed that a system failure within the plane was highly unlikely. They were wrong.
Over the last decade we have become so accustomed to flying, reassured by statistics proclaiming an impressive safety record well ahead of road or rail travel. Planes are technologically so advanced, runways kept in excellent condition, pilots highly trained and the aviation revolution has opened access beyond all expectations. While the cost to the environment and to communities is hotly debated the advances in safety are uncontested. Fifty years ago, however, things were massively different with much of the technology experimental, knowledge limited and conditions arbitrary.
Few people flew. As a young child I remember waving off my sister from Speke Airport, now a Marriott Hotel, as she left for Lourdes. She was the sole member of our extended family to have boarded a plane. Most of the men had been to sea, docking in ports throughout the world, but none had flown. I have flown more air miles in the last eight months than in the first 35 years of my life. Living in Belfast I fly far more than I use any other form of transport. Flying has become habitual and within advanced industrial societies it embraces all classes.
Back then, football was my passion and Billy Liddell my hero. Liverpool were in the Second Division and not doing so well. Most of my mates were Blues although those kids whose families were less committed supported Wolves or Spurs or whoever else was winning.
When Dad took me to Anfield he’d buy a seat in the main stand and lift me over the turnstile. I’d sit on his knee for the game. From the Main Stand, the Kop was unbelievable to watch. In the top right corner the ‘Boys Pen’ – girls not welcome – looked frightening but exciting. Wee scallies flicked lit matches down onto cloth-capped heads below safe in the knowledge that they were untouchable in the pen.
One day both would be my graduation although I’d sometimes slip into the Paddock, close to the halfway line. If Billy and our yellow jerseyed goalie, Tommy Younger, were special, I looked to United’s Duncan Edwards as an inspiration. If he could play for England so young, so could I! We didn’t have a telly but I read the reports and out the back of our house I imagined I had all the moves – I still do. How I wished Duncan had played for us …
It was a cold evening in February 1958 when the radio broke the news that a plane carrying Manchester United’s team had crashed at Munich airport. The manager, the likeable Matt Busby, and his renowned ‘Busby Babes’, were among the dead and injured. It was devastating news especially as playing in Europe was a recent development. We were stunned and I remember going to bed that night, looking at the pictures of the team in my Football Diary and praying that the great Duncan would be alright. Soon we knew. Seven players, three United staff, seven journalists and three others had died. Duncan Edwards and Matt Busby were critically ill. Among the journalists the legendary Frank Swift, former Manchester City goalie, was gone. I’d heard stories about his incredible agility and massive hand span. Duncan passed away 15 days later, and a co- pilot also died in hospital. Nine players, including the young Bobby Charlton, survived – as did the Captain, James Thain, and eleven others. While I was oblivious to what was happening in Manchester – despite it being just ‘up’ the East Lancs I’d never been there – the tragedy left an indelible impression on my childhood.
The European Cup had been introduced only three years earlier and in the 1956-7 season United were the first English team involved. They made it to the semis and lost to the brilliant Real Madrid who went on to win the trophy. The following year, having won the First Division, the Busby Babes were favourites. They beat Dukla Prague, the Czech champions, 3-1 on aggregate and in the quarter finals returned to the Balkans to play Yugoslavia’s Crvena Zvezda, known to us as Red Star Belgrade. On 14 January United beat Red Star 2-1 at Old Trafford.
The midwinter return was in Belgrade on 5 February. The club chartered a British European Airways’ 47 seater plane for players, staff and journalists and flew via Munich for refuelling. Both pilots were experienced captains and knew each other well. They landed the plane in Belgrade in challenging weather conditions. So serious was the situation that airport control was unaware of the plane’s arrival until it appeared from the gloom taxiing across the tarmac. The match was played and despite being 3-0 up at half-time United were held 3-3, winning the tie 5-4 on aggregate. Several others joined the return flight to Manchester bringing the passenger list to 38.
Landing at Munich the runway was laden with slush. It continued to snow. Before leaving for Manchester the crew checked the wings, ensuring no ice had formed. The pilots agreed de-icing was unnecessary. As Captain Thain had flown the outbound flight his friend Captain Rayment was at the controls and they had changed seats. As the plane accelerated along the runway the pilots realised there were problems with the engines and the pressure gauges on the instrument panel. They abandoned take-off and braked heavily, skidding to a halt through the slush. Apparently the cause was ‘boost-surging’ within the engines, a problem previously experienced with this type of airplane.
Clearance was given for a second take off attempt but again, as the plane picked up speed, the pilots aborted. This time the plane returned to the parking bay for checks. Photographs show clearly that there had been a fresh fall of snow on the tarmac adding to the slush. All passengers disembarked. The pilots and the station engineer decided against retuning the engines. A third take-off attempt was agreed. The wings were considered to be ice free but the runway was holding more snow together with an uneven distribution of slush. A quick inspection by airport staff, however, gave the go-ahead.
Reluctantly the team and other passengers returned to the aircraft. To overcome the engine problem the pilot opened the throttles slowly as the plane sped down the runway. It picked up speed towards take off and the pilots successfully dealt with some engine surging. Hitting the undisturbed slush, the plane lost speed, and running out of tarmac it ploughed across snow-laden grass, smashed the perimeter fence then hitting a house, a tree and a garage. The plane caught fire in small pockets but the main fuel tank remained secure.
What followed were moments of great heroism as uninjured staff and players climbed back into the plane to rescue those trapped and injured, including Matt Busby. Already 20 people were dead. Once the rescue services arrived the fires were doused and Captain Rayment was cut free. He died later.
That evening the German accident investigators arrived. Without proper lighting, they examined the wreck concluding that the wings were iced up, covered by the subsequent fall of snow. This early determination was established as the sole cause of the disaster. BEA sent an investigation team to Munich. It found no engine deficiencies. All indications, including the opinion of the station engineer, was that slush on the runway had caused the plane’s deceleration. Captain Thain agreed.
Yet the West German Traffic and Transport Ministry announced that ‘the aircraft did not leave the ground’ probably ‘as the result of ice on the wings’. Captain Thain was criticised for not providing a satisfactory explanation as to why he did not ‘discontinue the final attempt to take off’. Thus the blame was laid entirely at the door of the pilots. A finding of snow accumulation and slush on the runway, alongside inadequate inspection would have placed responsibility on the authorities.
In April 1958, behind closed doors, a full German Inquiry was held. The German senior investigator selected witnesses and, remarkably, the airport controllers were not called to give evidence. After much controversy and contradiction by ‘experts’ regarding ice on the plane’s wings it became clear that the Inquiry judge favoured icing as the disaster’s principal cause. ‘Other circumstances’ might have contributed, but it was now too late to determine their relevance. A year and a month after the disaster the Inquiry report was released. Ice on the wings was the ‘decisive cause’ and the pilots, Rayment (dead) and Thain (alive), were held responsible.
The BEA Safety Committee, however, refuted the report’s conclusions although it accepted that icing on the wings might have been a contributory factor. Slush on the runway, however, was judged crucial. Captain Thain was criticised for not occupying the seat in the cockpit appropriate for the senior captain. A devastated Thain, under suspension and his career in ruins, was determined to clear his name. Yet a further hearing in 1960 criticised his failure to ensure that the wings were free of ice and he was sacked. He had breached regulations by occupying the wrong seat. Manchester United’s negligence case against BEA was settled out of court.
As scientific knowledge developed further, investigative trials were held. In November 1965 a second inquiry was convened in Germany to consider the new evidence. Some consideration of slush on the runway was accepted but ice on the wings ‘was still to be regarded as the essential cause’. The following April the British Ministry of Aviation retorted that the ‘strong likelihood’ was ‘there was no significant icing during take off’ and ‘the principal cause of the crash was the effect of slush on the runway’. A decade beyond the disaster a British inquiry was convened. A key witness, previously not called – an aeronautical engineer first on the scene, stated categorically that the wings were not iced. Not only had the German authorities failed to call him to their inquiries but his written statement had been altered to omit a crucial element of his testimony.
Photographic evidence, it seemed, also had been altered. In 1969 the British inquiry report concluded that slush had impeded the nose wheel of the aircraft and the subsequent drag on all wheels was the ‘prime cause’ of its failure to lift off. Once deceleration had happened there was insufficient runway to pick up speed and ‘blame for the accident is NOT to be imputed to Captain Thain’. The German authorities rejected the findings. Captain Thain died of a heart attack at the young age of 54.
Mike Kemble, whose research has been extensive, states: ‘there is no doubt … that a cover-up was engineered by the West German authorities, possibly even as high as the Federal Government in Bonn. There was never going to be any doubt about the outcome from the first inspection of the crash site to the publication of the report’. He raises ten important unanswered questions regarding the disaster and its aftermath. His detailed research has drawn on many other sources including Captain Rayment’s son, Steve.
Reading Mike’s work and a range of other material for this overview has answered many of the questions and concerns that troubled me in the late 1960s. I have always been uneasy that Munich was considered an ‘accident’ due mainly to pilot error. My analyses of disasters over the last 20 years have shown a clear and unambiguous reluctance of authorities to accept responsibility for their culpable acts or omissions, for their institutionalised negligent custom and practice. It suits those in power, whether public bodies or private corporations, to lay blame with individuals at the coal face rather than look to their institutionalised failings.
What is clear from the above is the depth of injustice endured by the bereaved and survivors of Munich, not least Captains Thain and Rayment and their families who fought for so long to clear their names. The parallels with Hillsborough are clear, right down to the failure to call witnesses and the review and alteration of statements. It is my view, and one I hope that is shared by all who read this, that our commitment to Justice for the 96 should bring compassion for all who died and suffered in the cold of Munich 1958. Our common purpose should unite us. Life and justice is all – and football is but our shared passion. That passion, however, should never spill over into hatred, the vilification of the dead or exacerbating the suffering of the bereaved and survivors. As I write this my tears are in sadness for those lost and injured and for those whose lives were cut short by their pain. They are tears also in anger towards those from both cities who have dared taint the memory of the dead and desecrate the experiences of the bereaved and survivors.
Justice for Munich – Justice for Hillsborough Remembering those who died
Geoff Bent Roger Byrne (Capt) Eddie Coleman Duncan Edwards Mark Jones David Pegg Tommy Taylor Liam Whelan
Tom Cable (Club Steward) Walter Crickmer (Club Secretary) Tom Curry (Club Trainer) Alf Clarke (Manchester Evening Chronicle) Don Davies (Manchester Guardian) George Follows (Daily Herald) Tom Jackson (Manchester Evening News) Archie Ledbrooke (Daily Mirror) Bela Miklos (Travel Agent) Capt Ken Rayment (Pilot) Henry Rose (Daily Express) Willie Satinoff (Fan) Eric Thompson (Daily Mail) Frank Swift( News of the World) Bert Whalley (Club Coach)
Professor Phil Scraton is Professor of Criminology at the Institute of Criminology and Criminal Justice, School of Law, Queen’s University, Belfast. He is the author of two acclaimed works on the Hillsborough Disaster: “No Last Rights: The Denial of Justice and the Promotion of Myth in the Aftermath of the Hillsborough Disaster”and “Hillsborough: The Truth”.
What seems yonks ago, I excused my failure to engage with the harm being reeked via the COVID narrative by way of a self-centred concern about what people might think of my doubts. I got over the feeling or did I? In the last few months, I’ve found myself in danger of being in the same place re the Ukraine. All the more so as commenting on what were initially fast-moving events felt pompous and pretentious. Now we are 120 days in. There’s something about offering your thoughts on what’s going on in the world that suggests you are some sort of self-styled expert or a tiresome anorak, who has too much time on their hands; or someone, who is detached from everyday existence yet claims to understand it better; or indeed someone, who is deep up their own rectum.
No doubt I do spend too much time prostrate before the computer, suffering the relentless assault on my thoughts waged by the powerful before searching assiduously for alternative interpretations. In both cases, I try as best I can to be both critical of the competing sources and content, self-critical in terms of my own history, assumptions and prejudices. I try not to be a useful idiot in anyone’s pocket.
Outside of this political obsession, strange, though, it may seem, I do have other interests and concerns, many of them very ordinary. I was going to say normal but the word has latterly taken on a different emphasis. It is said to require capital letters, the New Normal, towards which we are being propelled – a world of increased surveillance and control for ‘our own good’. To think in terms of a return to lower-case normal is perceived as backward, whilst believing that perhaps there might be a liberating future Abnormal, within which the world is turned upside down, is scoffed at as mere utopianism.
And ordinary normal is. of course, contradictory. It is an expression of accommodation and resistance to the capitalist imperative, to relations of power. It can be both, at one and the same time, lifeless or lively. It is what on the ground makes the world go round. Thus in the last few weeks, to my astonishment I’ve celebrated with some caution my birthday in our beautiful garden, wallowing in the unique sound created by Maria Manousaki and the Hot Club de Grece – wonderful musicians confined to barracks for most of the last two years. Folk evidently enjoyed themselves. At the same time, I’ve observed believers in masks and social distancing, given the green light by the authority to whom they have been obedient, returning to some semblance of sense, casting off the muzzles, hugging one another, yearning to be human. I’ve accompanied Glyka, our ageing dog, morn and eve, on her leisurely and olfactory rambling, never a smell to be ignored. What tales she could tell. And, true to my long-standing athletic obsession, I’ve continued, aching joints aside, to walk, cycle and occasionally run along the olive-lined lanes beyond our house with only the bleating sheep and gymnastic goats for company. And, I continue to sing, of a fashion.
Our John, my son, is well-known for his frustrated turn of phrase, ‘it’s doing my head in’ when faced with the welter of contradictions life throws up. I share his exasperation. One minute we are told we are fighting a war against a life-threatening and cunning virus. Yet, in the time it takes to be jabbed, the advocates of COVID’s deadliness beat a tactical retreat. In the next moment, it’s said we are fighting a war against a demonic and cunning dictator. For now, a tragic stalemate hangs over the Ukraine. Almost seamlessly one tortured narrative of intertwined fear and anxiety, intertwined compassion and intolerance replicates the other. Rainbow NHS logos are replaced on Facebook by the colours of the Ukrainian flag. How many of those signalling their virtue defended the NHS against privatisation or indeed had until yestermonth not a clue about Ukraine’s whereabouts, never mind its turbulent history and politics. To question the unanimity of the orchestrated consensus around COVID or Ukraine, being relayed 24/7 everywhere from the supermarket to the sports stadium, is to expose oneself as an anti-vaxx conspirator or a Putin pawn. Or as the favoured fatuous and contemptuous dismissal of doubt goes, ‘don’t you care, people are dying?’ In some mysterious way, those signing up to the dominant orthodox narrative are touched with a sensitivity to the human condition denied to those of a marginal heterodox disposition. Only the former really care. Only they shed tears of authentic concern. As for analysis or indeed its conspicuous absence, I am told with a patronising sigh, empty of any meaning, that the world is crazy, more specifically to clinch the argument that it’s all down to Putin being a deranged narcissist. To be sure he’s mightily fond of himself and yet……
A simple Manichean scenario is proposed. Good is battling with Evil so what to do but side with the Good? Case closed, debate rendered superfluous. Forgive the repetition, to chat critically is regarded as deviant.
Yet, to an inquiring mind, aren’t there reasonable questions.?
Is it possible to grasp the contemporary situation in the Ukraine without an informed feel for a country’s turbulent history, which, as best I can see, is far from that of a freedom-loving democracy?
Was the dramatic 2014 change of government in the Ukraine an emancipatory ‘velvet’ revolutionary happening or an orchestrated anti-Russian coup supported by the CIA with the involvement of influential Far Right/Nazi forces?
Isn’t it stretching things to see the USA/NATO configuration as defensive and benign? Back in 2019 the Rand Corporation, widely regarded as the most influential think tank in North America, partially funded by the USA government itself, published a report entitled, Overextending and Unbalancing Russia, which argues a range of options necessary to keeping Russia in its place when it comes to the World Order. Is it ridiculous somehow to suggest that the USA/NATO military alliance appears to have been edging ever closer to encircling Russia with all its possible consequences?
Of course, my questions reveal a deep-rooted suspicion of the motives of American imperialism that dates back to Chile and Vietnam. Given the USA’s track record of blatant, oft barbaric interventions into the affairs of countries far from its shores, to mention only Libya and Iraq and its history of pursuing regime change whatever the cost, I do feel nauseous faced with the stench of hypocrisy emanating from the White House, the Houses of Parliament, the National Assembly, the Bundestag or its namesakes. None of this excuses Moscow’s aggression but it refutes the right of any party involved to be claiming the moral high ground.
Now, if anyone of import, perhaps one of either an ‘influencer’ or a fact-checker had the slightest interest in my observations I might well be outed as a purveyor of misinformation and/or disinformation. As I understand it, if I’m misinforming you it’s down to me getting hold of the wrong end of the stick. It’s a matter of ignorance or stupidity. If I’m disinforming you I am deliberately leading you astray up the proverbial garden path. It’s calculated deceit.
At this very moment, the European Union has published guidelines. entitled 2022 Strengthened Code of Practice on Disinformation.
“Disinformation related to the coronavirus crisis and Russia’s war in Ukraine clearly show that we need stronger tools to fight online disinformation. [Věra Jourová, Vice President of the European Commission for Values and Transparency]
It was very tempting to presume the code of practice was bureaucratic bollocks and be done with it. To my credit, eternal or otherwise, I downloaded and started to read. Forgive me, but I didn’t get to the end, the 48th page of painstaking instructions to relevant and compliant signatories. Not least indeed because it was in fact bureaucratic and disingenuous bollocks. Conspicuous by its absence was any definition of what constitutes disinformation. That is, apart from this really helpful explanation – ‘Disinformation, which for the rest of the Code is considered to include misinformation, disinformation information influence operations and foreign interference in the information space.’ However, do not fear, tucked away in a cascade of footnotes is to be found the following. ‘the notion of “Disinformation” does not include misleading advertising, reporting errors, satire and parody, or clearly identified partisan news and commentary, and is without prejudice to binding legal obligations, self-regulatory advertising codes, and standards regarding misleading advertising.” Fair enough I might be short of a few slices to fill a sandwich but, at first glance, I’m none the wiser. Isn’t all of this a contradictory mess? Of course, I’m being naive, this is the name of the game – creating confusion rather than clarity, being opaque as opposed to being transparent.
Other officious initiatives are also muddying the waters. In the UK we find something called ‘the counter-disinformation unit,’ set up by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport. The task of this unit is to identify ‘misinformation’ and then liaise with social media companies to make sure this content is removed. It appears all it takes for the unit to brand something as ‘misinformation’ and press the tech companies to censor, is that its staff find the content therein to be ‘inappropriate.’ I’ll resist lapsing into obscenity. This is banal and ludicrous – inappropriate in what sense? Over in the USA, the Biden administration put in place what it called a ‘Disinformation Board’, housed inside the Department of Homeland Security. Glenn Greenwald, dissident lawyer and commentator asked, under what circumstances is a domestic law enforcement agency allowed to decide what is true or false? Politico’s Jack Schafer wrote:
Who among us thinks the government should add to its work list the job of determining what is true and what is disinformation? And who thinks the government is capable of telling the truth? Our government produces lies and disinformation at an industrial scale and always has. It overclassifies vital information to block its own citizens from becoming any the wiser. It pays thousands of press aides to play hide the salami with facts….
In the event, the draconian initiative, following a vociferous backlash, is now ‘on pause’.
Over in New Zealand Te Pūnaha Matatini (TPM), a research group that receives Centre of Research Excellence government funding came up with the notion of ‘dangerous speech’, rhetoric that is a threat to us all. In essence, this catch-all concoction sought to silence any criticism of Jacinda Arden’s Zero-Covid policies. To return to the EU the bottom line of its Code of Practice is the necessity to cut off funding to what it deems to be ‘malicious actors’. Its goal is to demonetise dissident opinion. In terms of doing any disinforming not a single word of criticism is aimed at the mainstream or ‘legacy’ media. Not a single dilemma is raised about the financial and ideological control imposed on the mainstream by a handful of billionaire capitalists.
When push comes to shove ‘disinformation’ is whatever state or corporate power decides is at odds with their version of the truth. All else is ‘fake news’ – a meaningless construct if ever there was one.
The hardly hidden objective is to buttress government pronouncements and their sustenance by the mainstream media while systematically curtailing freedom of expression and critical analysis wherever it rears its awkward and annoying head. Obviously too it desires to prevent grass-roots financial support for dissent.
As to how we monitor what is right or wrong, a self-evidently simple task, the EU has the answer. It is the supposedly independent International Fact-Checking Network set up by the Poynter Institute for Media Studies. Amongst its impartial funders are the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Google, along with Omidyar Network. With this army of fact-checking journalists, Jack and Jills of one trade, masters and mistresses of none collaborating with Facebook, Google and company in defence of the truth, we can rest easy in our beds.
Enough is enough for now. I am weary from trying to keep up with the many sides of what’s going on. In the end, I am left thinking that I need return to what is meant by propaganda. How this concept relates to the discourse of ‘informations’? Not so long ago Propaganda Studies was a recognised field of intellectual and political exploration. It sought to scrutinise the contesting opinions on offer in the public sphere.Today this method of inquiry is rendered redundant by the rise of an army of ‘disinformation graduates and scholars’ whose raison d’etre is to define the boundaries of debate in accord with what is acceptable to the ruling class and its minions. I will endeavour to pursue.
Searching for Understanding in the face of Power and Propaganda Part Four: Who is misinforming Whom?
From the dramatic announcement of COVID’s deathly appearance at the beginning of 2020 trying to understand what’s been going on has been haunted by the dilemma of who to believe? The dominant narrative is said to be following the Science, absurd but monotonically repeated, its ridiculous simplicity hardly questioned by a compliant mainstream media. More or less any criticism of this narrative has been derided and defamed. Perfectly legitimate, informed and plausible alternatives proposed by scientists thinking differently censored.
None of the following is original and for some readers may seem tedious, even obvious. Yet, in my attempted conversations with others, particularly perhaps members of the better educated as they might put it, I’ve been struck by an unquestioning allegiance to the official line. Indeed implicit is their scarcely veiled view that considering and researching dissent is to sup with the Devil or even David Icke. Or perhaps more mundanely they indicate that such moidering about the nature of the pandemic is unnecessary and discomforting. As best I can, I’ve attempted to follow the dominant explanations of the threat posed by the virus, together with the rebuttals to this controlled consensus offered by a passionate and prestigious array of health professionals and others from across the globe. As it is I cannot possibly cover the range of medical and ethical dilemmas raised by this opposition. Thus I’m going to address the principal areas of contention that seem to come up in the everyday, often frustrating exchanges of the last 18 months. As I often excused myself to my dear late friend, Malcolm Ball, “it’s my best thinking thus far’ and it is in this provisional spirit that the following is offered.
The virus did not appear out of thin air. You and I might have been taken aback, having other stuff on our minds. On the contrary, the ruling class, fronted by its management team of arrogant CEOs, servile politicians and a motley crew of entrepreneurs, behavioural and medical experts, was in quite another place. Given the ongoing economic crisis, the ever-present risk of hyperinflation, the elite was sanguine re the prospect of emergencies, of pandemics. At the very least these occurrences offered both breathing space and a living laboratory within which to test out measures that might be in its interest.
Indeed the powerful had been disappointed by the failure of the 2009 Swine Flu to get off the ground. Vaccines aplenty gone to waste as the frightening forecasts of thousands dead did not materialise. Undeterred, in October 2019 the World Economic Forum and Johns Hopkins University organised Event 201. This was a training exercise based on a zoonotic coronavirus starting a worldwide pandemic. The experience was sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and GAVI the vaccine alliance. The organising executive published its findings and recommendations in November 2019 as a Public-Private Cooperation for PandemicPreparedness and Response: A Call to Action. One month later, China recorded its first case of “Covid”.
The idea of vaccine passports didn’t come out of the blue either. In the autumn of 2019 the European Union published its ‘Vaccination Roadmap’ a long-term policy plan to spread vaccine “awareness and understanding” whilst counteracting “vaccine myths” and combatting “vaccine hesitancy”. It mooted the feasibility of developing a common vaccination card/passport for EU citizens. On September 12, 2019 at the joint EU-WHO ‘Global Vaccination Summit’, they announced the ‘10 Actions Towards Vaccination for All’, which confirmed their shared sense of purpose. Without a doubt, they were ahead of the game.
CASES, CASES, CASES
“It’s just a process that is used to make a whole lot of something out of something. It doesn’t tell you that you are sick and it doesn’t tell you that the thing you ended up with was going to hurt you or anything like that.” [Dr Karry Mullis, Nobel Prize winner for his invention of the PCR test]
The inventor’s caveat has been wilfully ignored by the medical profession. His caution is unbeknown to most of us. The former hail the test as the ‘gold standard’. As for ourselves, bound to trust in the Science, we apparently believe that the test speaks the truth. The number of cases produced by the test, forever spiking and surging, rarely ebbing, represents the existential threat from which all compliance follows. In the mainstream media, for example, the Guardian has carried on its front page throughout a banner citing the number of cases found each and every day. It exudes anxiety. Elsewhere, on the internet’s COVID forums, the members seem to gather in a collective virtual breakfast to peruse the latest figures in their locality. Even a small increase is seemingly welcomed, proof that the followers of the masquerade are blessed to be the righteous and that the ill-disciplined maskless are the Devil’s work.
‘Detection of viral RNA may not indicate the presence of an infectious virus or that 2019-nCoV is the causative agent for clinical symptoms …this test cannot rule out diseases caused by other bacterial or viral pathogens.’ [USA Centre for Disease Control and Prevention]
Those convinced of COVID’s murderous intention shy away from the following concerns regarding its actual presence in our lives.
The PCR test is flawed, unreliable and never intended to be a diagnostic tool.
Insofar as it discovers something, a shred of material, it does not know if this is alive or dead, whether it is the common cold, flu, another respiratory virus or COVID.
Even discovering something depends on the amplification of the material in question, the number of cycles used – less than 30x is likely to produce a negative result, more than 35x likely to be positive. The NHS cycle threshold [Ct] is 40x. The World Health Organisation itself admits that ‘when specimens return a high Ct value, it means that many cycles were required to detect virus. In some circumstances, the distinctionbetween background noise and actual presence of the target virus is difficult to ascertain.‘
Mass testing flies in the face of the normal relationship between a medical practitioner and someone seeking help, advice and diagnosis. Put crudely healthy people with no symptoms do not go to the doctor. The mass testing of the population for a virus with a survival rate of well over 99% is a remarkable step to take. Inevitably the more the testing, the more the cases. Significantly the daily record of cases, seized upon by the media, is never broken down. What symptoms are being found and to what degree are these being displayed by those tested positive?
In fact, the majority of covid cases/infections seem to be asymptomatic with over 75% experiencing little or no symptoms. It is unsurprising that this awkward statistic has been buried and replaced by the outrageous deceit of ‘asymptomatic transmission’. Key to the spread of fear has been the notion that anyone, friend, neighbour or passer-by could be without anyone knowing dangerously infectious. This misanthropic myth continues to inform the belief that children are a threat to their elders, particularly the eldest, their beloved grandparents.
“From the data we have, it still seems to be rare that an asymptomatic person actually transmits onward to a secondary individual.” [Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, head of the WHO’s emerging diseases and zoonosis unit}
The WHO confirmed that asymptomatic spread was not a consideration when it stated in a media briefing in June 2020: ‘Based on our data, it seems unlikely that an asymptomatic carrier will transmit the infection to someone else. We have a number of reports from other countries. They monitor asymptomatic carriers, their contacts, and do not detect further transmission.’
Certainly, the issue of the number of people entering hospital as a result of COVID is acute. Yet even here all is not straightforward. According to Public Health England, a ‘Covid hospitalisation’ is anyone admitted to hospital for any reason within 28 days of a positive Covid test. This includes patients, who are admitted for other medical reasons and given the regularity of testing within a notoriously infectious institution have every chance of becoming a positive case.
Almost from the beginning of the ‘pandemic’ to demur from the official line has been met with the emotive cry, ‘there are people dying!’ The inference is plain and passionately declaimed. To be dissident is to display one’s callous indifference to loss of life. It is a charge that sticks in the craw, coming as it often does from people, who have turned their backs across the decades against the catastrophic consequences of capitalist exploitation and imperialist adventures – millions dead, the brutal legacy of its barbarism. It is a smear, all the more offensive, coming from people, who have voted without a moment’s doubt for the privatised dismembering of the NHS, prior to now ostentatiously clapping in orchestrated coordination for the poorly paid carers, to whom previously they’ve never given a fleeting thought of concern. Critically this wilful, deluded ignorance pays no attention whatsoever to the damage wrought by the one-sided policy, the lives lost and ruined by default. As I write no rigorous audit has been undertaken to weigh up the human costs on either side of the COVID balance sheet. Twenty months on, why hasn’t there been a serious cost-benefit anaysis?
Like it or not the number of heart-rending deaths from COVID is grossly inflated. Countries around the globe have been defining a ‘Covid death’ as a ‘death by any cause within 28/30/60 days of a positive test’. Removing any distinction between dying of COVID itself, and dying with COVID from something else distorts utterly the situation we are facing.
The vast majority of COVID deaths have serious underlying comorbidities. In March 2020, the Italian government published statistics showing 99.2% of their COVID death had at least one serious comorbidity. These included cancer, heart disease, dementia, Alzheimer’s, kidney failure and diabetes, among others. Over 50% of the deceased had three or more serious pre-existing health problems. This pattern seems to hold up across the globe. In the UK an October 2020 Freedom of Information request to to the Office of National Statistics revealed less than 10% of the official “COVID death” count at the time identified COVID as the sole cause of death.
Is it covidiotic to question whether COVID is the 21st-century version of the Great Plague of 1665, an explicit and implicit analogy utilised cynically by the army of doom-mongers in the service of the powerful?
‘Experience has shown that communities faced with epidemics or other adverse events respond best and with the least anxiety when the normal social functioning of the community is least disrupted’.[ Donald Henderson 2006 – architect of the victory over smallpox]
In Spring 2020, here on Crete, the first round of the general lockdown was surreal. By chance, I was in Chania, a big city by our standards, on the first day of restrictions. The atmosphere was light-hearted as the sophisticated Xaniots laughed and elbowed rather than hugged and kissed one another. Back in my rural village, a gentle philosophy prevailed. The almost deserted streets reminded the older residents of life in the 1960s – only the donkeys were missing. Quickly, though, the good humour evaporated as the impact of all but closing down people’s lives hit home. Family and community ties threatened. Children and young people’s education undermined. Small businesses devastated. Society’s good health on all sorts of levels, mental and physical visibly worsened.
Lockdowns do not prevent the spread of disease. There is scant evidence that this draconian intervention decreases the number of COVID deaths. Comparisons between regions that locked down and those that didn’t has revealed no discernible pattern.
In October 2020 Dr David Nabarro, World Health Organization special envoy for Covid-19 described lockdowns as a ‘global catastrophe[.
‘We in the World Health Organization do not advocate lockdowns as the primary means of control of the virus[…] it seems we may have a doubling of world poverty by next year. We may well have at least a doubling of child malnutrition […] This is a terrible, ghastly global catastrophe.‘
Unemployment, poverty, suicide, alcoholism, drug use and other social/mental health crises are, to borrow a term, surging all over the world. Meanwhile, missed, delayed surgeries and screenings are inevitably going to see increased mortality from such as heart disease and cancer in the immediate future….and inexorably increase the pressure on health services world-wide. Meanwhile in the UK as winter beckons, what’s new?
Yet we are constantly told that lockdowns will protect the NHS. Yet as part of its COVID policy, the NHS announced in Spring of 2020 that it would be “re-organizing hospital capacity in new ways to treat Covid and non-Covid patients separately” and that “as result hospitals will experience capacity pressures at lower overall occupancy rates than would previously have been the case.” Thus the NHS reduced the possible occupancy of beds in the face of a supposedly deadly pandemic. In addition, millions were spent on emergency ‘Nightingale’ hospitals, which never saw action in the war on COVID. Contradiction and inconsistency abound. Hypocrisy and opportunism ever present. Dedication and concern exhausted.
Lockdowns kill people. There is growing evidence that lockdowns – through worsening people’s social and economic circumstances – are deadlier than COVID with all its inevitable variants.
For those wedded to the official narrative wearing a mask has become the emblem of being responsible, of illustrating a philanthropic concern for the common good. For those of us at odds the donning of a face covering signals abject obedience to the State, a misanthropic mistrust of fellow human beings. Of course, life is more complicated and contradictory than this dualism. None of which prevents governments wheeling on stage the mask mandate whenever convenient.
On the ground, as ever, the ordinary reality defies the exhortations from the corridors of privilege. The ridiculous idea that people, as they go about their business, are split between the diligently covered and the negligently naked is forever exposed. On the streets of Chania, my nearest urban setting, the inhabitants wear masks or none, wear them below the nose, chin, hanging around their necks or wrists, wear them clean or mucky as they prefer. Some kilometres away, only the other day on a moon-lit evening in my village square we gathered together to celebrate the lighting of the Christmas Tree. With little sense of eccentricity or irresponsibility, almost none of us felt the need to hide our faces. I suspect that this mishmash of responses to the masking mandate is quite typical. Instinctively we mistrust this imposed relational barrier. At best we are half-hearted in our compliance. Most of the time we neither do it properly nor consistently. Against this messy backcloth, the idea that politicians and advisers can make positive claims about the efficacy of masking is absurd.
Three weeks before the UK’s first lockdown, the UK’s Chief Medical Officer advised that “In terms of wearing a mask, our advice is clear: that wearing a mask if you don’t have an infection reduces the risk almost not at all. So we do not advise that.” Then, with absolutely no new hard evidence to change that assessment, politics trumped science when masks were legally mandated on public transport in England on 15 June last year and then on 24 July in shops.
Masks don’t work. At least a dozen scientific studies have shown that masks do nothing to stop the spread of respiratory viruses. To add insult to injury masks aren’t that good for us. Wearing one for long periods, wearing the same one more than once is not so smart. I’ll leave till another day the obscenity of insisting that children are masked.
Masks aren’t great news for the planet. Millions upon millions of disposable masks have been used per month for over a year. A report from the UN found the COVID pandemic will likely result in plastic waste, notably in the form of face masks. more than doubling in the next few years.
In essence the mask seeks to muzzle us into obedience. It confirms that we are in dire danger. It demands that we police one another into compliance. It is the visible expression of the desire to divide us from one another, to undermine our humanity. It is about social and political control. It serves no other purpose.
I’m a post-Second World War child, never thought much about vaccinations. They seemed, as best I remember, a very good thing, giving long-lasting protection against threats such as measles and polio, the latter especially. Insofar as I thought about it, medical advance was to be welcomed. Later on, my naivete was briefly disturbed by the thalidomide tragedy, all the more so as I fell in love with the voice of Thomas Quasthoff.
I was moved by his fortitude and his amazing talent before shrugging my shoulders and hiding my head in the sands. Yet, somehow and from somewhere, when the ‘pandemic’ kicked off I was wary about the leading role being assumed by Big Pharma and the promise of vaccine salvation. In particular, I was struck by the lack of interest in finding immediate ways of ameliorating the symptoms of COVID infection.
The COVID ‘vaccines’ are unprecedented. Before 2020 no successful vaccine against a human coronavirus had been developed. While traditional vaccines work by exposing the body to a weakened strain of the microorganism responsible for causing the disease, these new COVID ‘vaccines’ are the product of a laboratory breakthrough in genomic sequencing. So far, so good and clearly there is much promise. However the inventor of the technology himself, Dr Robert Malone has expressed serious concern about its use in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
The mRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid) vaccines theoretically work by injecting viral mRNA into the body, where it replicates inside your cells and encourages your body to recognise and make antigens in response to the “spike proteins” of the virus. They have been the subject of research since the 1990s, but before 2020 no mRNA vaccine was ever approved for use.
Despite claims by corporate-funded fact-checking sites that everything about the ‘vaccines’, despite the rapidity of their evolution is above board, there is no getting away from the fact that the drugs are on trial. They are only in use because of enabling emergency authorisation provided by the United States Food and Drug Agency [FDA]. Confidence in the process is not enhanced when, for example, Pfizer admits:
‘The long-term effects and efficacy of the Vaccine are not currently known and that there may be adverse effects of the Vaccine that are not currently known’.
Such an admission troubles not our governments, granting vaccine manufacturers legal indemnity if unfortunately, their products inflict harm. The USA’s Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP) grants immunity until at least 2024. A similar EU licensing law offers the same protection, whilst the UK not to be outdone has agreed on permanent indemnity for any harm done when a patient is being treated for COVID.
At the centre of an utterly legitimate caution or refusal to be inoculated has been the complete ditching of the principle of informed consent. To take the obvious how many of those vaccinated were anything but the next in the queue? How many were involved in a serious conversation ahead of the jab about the ups and downs of being inoculated, about the possible immediate and longer-term consequences?
The public at large was encouraged to believe that it would be fully vaccinated after two jabs, the implication being that full protection would be forthcoming. In fact, the vaccine manufacturers themselves knew full well that the efficacy of their gene-based creations was based on ’reducing the severity of symptoms’. Indeed at a later moment conducive to its interests, they have granted that the ‘vaccines’ do not confer immunity or prevent transmission. From which sobering time we have entered the period of the much-needed 6 months, nay 3-month booster. Evidently, the protection from the vaccine wanes quickly after 90 days. Perchance the vaccine is not the triumph trumpeted. Perhaps we can imagine the setting up of a national vaccination subscription scheme. All of these developments are intimately related to the contrived anxiety about what are the inevitable appearance of variants.
Are we not allowed a wry smile at the calculated coincidence of circumstances? An Omicron variant of mild disposition triggers a global panic, lends fuel to renewed restrictions on social existence. Thankfully Big Pharma rides to the rescue, not only in the shape of today’s boosters but also tomorrow’s. BioNtech’s CEO steps up to the plate, announcing that his company will have an Omicron-targeted 3 dose [!] vaccine on the market by March! Surely, surely we smell a rat. Enough for now.
I’ve scribbled a number of versions of this post and binned them, All in danger of saying far too much and saying far too little. This effort could go the same way but it is what is, replete with weaknesses and silences. It will have to do for now. It is merely food for thought.
If I’m to recommend just one alternative source of information, analysis and opinion about COVID it is Swiss Policy Research
Amongst lacunae I hope to fill in a Part Five made up of shorter pieces are:
Masking and Vaccinating Children and Young People
The suppression of alternative treatments for COVID
The demise of the individual patient and her replacement by people as generalised infection risks
Focused Protection and Immunity
Big Pharma and Profit
Vaccination Passports and the pandemic of the vaccinated
Hopefully, the latter discussion will return me to my overwhelming concern – the character of the present profound social, political and economic crisis, the totalitarian intentions of the ruling class and the possibilities of collective resistance.
A final necessary confession. Back in June I succumbed to pressures largely of my own making and had the second of my Astra-Zeneca jabs. As a fit 74 year old I didn’t feel vulnerable but I wanted to travel to see family and dear friends. My rationalisation didn’t prevent me from shedding a few pathetic tears. Time does not stand still. I am not off the leash of principle. If I am to remain an approved member of society the Greek government demands that I have a booster in the next few months. We will see what transpires.