Unorthodox thinker or conspiracy theorist?

If we allow freedom of thought and ideas to be curtailed, we are embracing tyranny.

A clumsily-written article in the Independent newspaper (30th July 2015) reports on a university study that appears to link “conspiracy theorists” with violent extremists who go overseas to join foreign terrorist squads.

As part of his research into Vice Epistemology, Quassim Cassam, Professor of Philosophy at Warwick University, is studying what makes people believe in “certain theories”. Professor Cassam, according to the Independent, believes that “some people” are more vulnerable to “intellectual vices” such as dogmatism, gullibility and close-mindedness [sic], and is quoted as saying:

“For example take 9/11 conspiracy theorists. Why do they hold onto their conspiracy theory despite the fact that there seems to be overwhelming evidence that it wasn’t an American government conspiracy to bring down the towers?”

This stereotyping of everyone who questions the official reports of a particular event as thinking with one mind and behaving in exactly the same way is, to my mind, not very scientific.

I would fall into Prof Cassam’s blanket description, as one who has always questioned the official portrayal of the events of September 11, 2001. Doubts arose in my mind from the day it happened, because Osama Bin Laden was identified as the official culprit from day one, before any proper investigations had been carried out. I also wondered why air traffic control radar had not picked up the aberrant planes entering the world’s busiest airspace during rush hour.

I have never said categorically that Bin Laden was not involved, but I did feel that there was more to this than the mainstream media was telling us. The questions that arose in my mind on that day have never been fully answered to my satisfaction by the official explanations and investigations. However unlike some people, I don’t think I’m in a position to say what actually did happen. My views may change according to new details that emerge­. I don’t see that as “closed mindedness”.

There have been many other cases where I’ve questioned the “official” version of the facts. One example is the conviction of Barry George for the murder of the television presenter Jill Dando. This high profile murder was initially reported as a highly professional shooting, yet the man convicted of the killing was a strange loner with several different personality disorders who was obsessed with Gary Glitter and Freddie Mercury. Going by the reports of the case, it seemed obvious to me that either the initial reports were wrong or that George was not the killer. He was acquitted of Dando’s murder in 2008.

People are often labelled “conspiracy theorists” simply because they dare to question the official versions of events, even when the mass media doesn’t bother to question them. Many of these so-called conspiracy theorists do an enormous amount of research work to back-up their claims. A more suitable term, to my mind, would be “unorthodox thinking”.

Conspiracy fact: the CIA strategy to discredit critics of the Warren Report

CIA doc p1The phrase “conspiracy theory” is widely believed to have been coined by the CIA in 1967, following the Warren Commission investigation into the shooting of President John F Kennedy.

CIA Document 1035-960 “Concerning Criticism of the Warren Report” aimed to counter rising public scepticism towards the official version of events, as a spate of books and articles at the time were criticising the Commission’s findings, and in most cases were suggesting the existence of a conspiracy, often implying that the Commission itself was involved.

In addition, a recent public poll had revealed that 46% of Americans did not believe that Lee Harvey Oswald had acted alone in shooting the President.

The stated aim of the CIA dispatch was to “provide material countering and discrediting the claims of the conspiracy theorists, so as to inhibit the circulation of such claims in other countries.”

The document, which can be read in full here, presented several strategies designed to discredit the “critics”, such as the following:

“Our ploy should point out, as applicable, that the critics are (I) wedded to theories adopted before the evidence was in, (II) politically interested, (III) financially interested, (IV) hasty and inaccurate in their research, or (V) infatuated with their own theories.”

Dangerous developments

These strategies have been very successful over the years. But today, things seem to be taking a more sinister turn. Conspiracy theorists are not a political or religious faction. To be labelled one, all you have to do is express views that diverge from the mainstream way of thinking. If you don’t mind being laughed at, that’s fine – except that now the authorities are linking “conspiracy theorist” with “extremist”, which links to “terrorist”.

In my opinion, this is a very dangerous development, akin to the Nazis burning books and persecuting intellectuals. It’s an attempt to stifle independent thought. It effectively turns anyone who dares to challenge political orthodoxy or question the government into a heretic.

Totalitarian regimes don’t allow their citizens to question the political orthodoxies of the State. Freedom of thought is essential to a free society. If we allow freedom of thought and ideas to be curtailed, we are embracing tyranny.

Historic Parliamentary debate on money creation attracts less than 40 MPs

We have recently suffered the greatest recession since the 1930s and despite the efforts of the world’s greatest economists, the economic outlook for most countries is still shaky and in the UK an unprecedented number of people are dependent on the services of food banks.

A campaign group called Positive Money managed to garner enough public support for the first parliamentary debate on money creation in 170 years, the Money Creation & Society debate, which was held on Thursday 20th November.

 

2080 people (including myself) contacted their MPs to ask them to attend the debate. The result…

This: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EBSlSUIT-KM&t=17m40s

Out of 650 MPs, “more than 30” (which means less than 40) attended this important debate – considerably fewer than the number of MPs who turned up to debate their own pay rises. I wrote to my local MP, Gemma Doyle, to ask her attend, but I don’t think she did.

Those who did participate included Angus McNeil (SNP), Caroline Lucas (Green), Steve Baker (Con), Peter Lilley (Con), Austin Mitchell (Con), Andrea Leadsom (Con) Michael Meacher (Lab), Diane Abbott (Lab), Paul Flynn (Lab), Anne McKechin (Lab), Douglas Carswell (UKIP), Mark Durkan (SDLP). Well done them.

Notably absent were George Osborne, Danny Alexander and Ed Balls.

What are the actual advantages of being part of the EU?

Italian EuroPushing tribal loyalties aside, and the belief that left-wing people tend to be pro-EU while Eurosceptics are characterised as crazed blue-rinse Thatcherites, what are the good reasons that we should be part of the EU?

After all, if we were not part of the EU we’d still be able to trade with European countries. What are the actual trade advantages to being part of the EU?

Until recently I was in support of the EU, but it was more driven by my heart than my head. I thought the EU represented sensible modern values of equal opportunities with respect to trade as well as for ordinary people, and I thought that opposition to the EU was mainly based on xenophobia and a backward-looking love of the British Empire.

The EU seemed to help smaller countries like Ireland and Greece stand up for themselves with equal trading opportunities.

This myth has now, for me, been totally shattered – not least due to witnessing how the financial crisis of 2008 affected the smaller EU nations like Ireland and Greece compared with non-EU members such as Iceland.

I now see that the Euro currency helps level the competitive trading field to the advantage of the bigger, wealthier nations like Germany, enabling their goods to be cheaper in the international markets.

In this interview (from 12 mins in) Simon Rose, campaign manager for the cross-party group Get Britain Out, argues against being part of the EU. He makes some very valid points (despite the fact that the Get Britain Out website to my mind plays right into the hands of the pro-European agenda, as its predominant Union Jack imagery is likely to confirm the fears of left-wing Euro-doubters that any anti-European feeling can only be due to excessive patriotism.).

At 14.40 Simon Rose says: “People seem to think it is a free-trade union. It’s not – it’s a customs union and it’s a very bureaucratic… one… We actually run a trade deficit with the European Union.”

At 18.20 he says: “One of the rules is that you can’t have more than 6 percent trade surplus. Well, Germany is currently up to about 8 and a quarter, the highest ever in its history in proportional terms, so they (the EU) should actually be applying sanctions against Germany. Are they? No of course not.

640px-Ioannes_Claudius_Juncker_die_7_Martis_2014
Jean-Claude Juncker. He looks sensible enough – why not just let him get on with it?

“Given that Merkel actually helped [Jean-Claude Juncker] get the job, I can’t imagine that there’ll be very much chance that Junker will do that…”

He adds that Juncker is also very unlikely to help investigate EU tax havens, as the biggest by far is Luxembourg, and Juncker was in charge of this, as prime minister of Luxembourg for 18 years. (Juncker was also Luxembourg’s Minister of Finances from 1989 to 2009.)

19.25: Juncker has now been elected Head of the European Commission by secret ballot of MEPs on a candidature of just one, which is now the body that is investigating tax havens. “The man who was overseeing Luxembourg becoming a tax haven is now in charge of the investigation into tax havens, of which Luxembourg is the biggest,” Rose says.

20.50: Rose points out that our new EU Commissioner is the unelected Lord Hill (former Bell Pottinger lobbyist and co-founder of Quiller Consultants).

Finally, the film The Brussels Business demonstrates how corporate interests have hijacked the EU, taking advantage of the lack of democratic accountability. Since that film was made, it has been revealed that the highly corporate, undemocratic TTIP treaty is being negotiated, mainly in secret discussions.

So, taking all this into account, and pushing tribal loyalties aside, what are the actual benefits to ordinary people of EU membership?

 

Why Scotland has its first UKIP MEP – could it have something to do with the EU?

ECB_(3752876849)
The European Central Bank, Frankfurt, Germany.

It’s the day of the European Election results, and my Twitter feed is full of expressions of dismay that Scotland has its first UKIP MEP. Most see it as a move to the right, and are blaming the BBC and the 66 percent of Scots who did not vote.

I too am annoyed at the news that Scotland has its first UKIP MEP – however I don’t see this as necessarily a “move to the right”. I see these results as an expression of a growing dissatisfaction with and mistrust of the EU, a position that simply has no political voice in the moderate left and centre political parties. This, I believe, is why so few people “bother” to vote in European elections – and why some people I know who usually take voting very seriously admitted that they had “forgotten” to vote in this election. Maybe they are not actively against the EU, but they have a growing unease about it. Yet their “political tribe” supports it. So what do they do? Many of them clearly prefer not to think about it.

The mainstream media has turned the focus on UKIP into a single issue: immigration. UKIP’s central demand, that of independence from the EU, has been simply ignored.

I am not and have never been a UKIP supporter. But over the years I have come to distrust the EU, and I would now prefer not to be part of the EU in its current form. This has nothing to with immigration concerns or xenophobia. It is because the EU seems to be supporting and encouraging an increasingly pro-corporate, centralised government agenda.

380px-Council_of_the_EU_logo.svg
Logo of the Council of the European Union.

I want to be part of a European Union, but not this current European Union that negotiates secretive, undemocratic treaties like TTIP; that succumbs to corporate lobbying; that welcomed the Western-leaning Yatsenuk regime in Ukraine with open arms, while turning a blind eye to its fascist elements.

I have observed the debt crisis in Ireland and the southern European countries with alarm, noting how some of the wealthier EU leaders berated those countries for their financial mismanagement, using stereotypes like Angela Merkel’s “Swabian housewife” – while at the same time happily accepting their euromillions in payment for arms. While the people in those countries suffered financial disaster and social unrest, bankers chortled into their champagne as they referred to them collectively as the “PIIGS” (just an acronym for Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain, snort…). The PR machine has gone quiet on those countries now, in what seems to be a pretence that “the medicine has worked”, while in reality the economic hardship for many of their people continues.

Eurozone_Crisis_Saves_Germany_Tens_of_Billions
Cartoon from the Polandball blog. http://polandball-news.blogspot.com.au/2012/07/eurozone-crisis-saves-germany-tens-of.html

The debt crisis was the excuse for the imposition on Italy of an unelected “government of technocrats” led by Mario Monti in 2011. A general election was held two years later in which Monti’s party came fourth, but a precedent had been set.

Another precedent was the “bail-in” of the Cyprus Popular Bank, whereby money was taken from people’s bank accounts. This measure was imposed as a condition of a €10 billion bail-out by the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, as a result of the debt crisis.

Iceland on the other hand, which had a dramatic economic collapse in 2008, has made an equally dramatic recovery. Iceland is not tied to the Euro. Iceland’s citizens also suffered economic pain, but not as a result of dictats from the ECB and IMF.

Political spin merchants like to think that they can divert our attention away from these issues by thrusting the spotlight on immigration, but it’s not that simple. Many people have a growing unease about the EU as a result of these events, even if it’s only at a subconscious level, and I think this contributes to low voter turnout. Others will vote for UKIP – some because they want to see less immigration, but some of them as an anti-EU protest. The mainstream media has not only massively promoted UKIP – it has also lumped together anti-EU feeling with anti-immigration feeling.

In voting for the European Elections, I looked for a party that did not want to be part of the EU. The only anti-EU parties on the list were far right parties and one far left party, no2eu. I looked at the information for no2eu and found that it had support from the Communist Party. The Communist Party represents highly centralised government, which in my opinion is what the EU is offering. I want more decentralised government. I would have voted for the Pirate Party if it had been on the ballot list.

In effect, the political choice for anyone who does not support the EU in its current form, is limited to extremist and right-wing parties.

In the end I voted Green, because it is the only party that has actually spoken out strongly against some of the issues I have highlighted above. However, I don’t think the Green Party speaks out strongly enough on these issues, so in a way my vote was a compromise.

The Green Party made significant gains in the European Elections, but if they had spoken out more robustly against the undemocratic practices and pro-corporate policies of the EU, maybe Scotland would now have its first Green MEP. How many people looked at that ballot paper and thought, “I’m fed up with the way the EU is going, so I’m going to vote Green.”? Not many, I suspect.

This to me is why UKIP did so well in the European Elections and gained its first seat in Scotland. It also explains why the Scottish Conservatives did better than usual in this election. It’s not just about immigration. People are questioning what membership of the EU actually means, but this is being played down by the mainstream media and political parties. Ed Miliband has ruled out an EU referendum. The SNP often say that the Scots want to be part of Europe, as if we’re an amorphous mass.

The SNP did well in these elections, but there is no room for complacency in politics. The rising tide of votes for UKIP represents a rising tide of Euroscepticism that currently has no other viable political outlet.

 

 

Mainstream media censorship?

800px-KCC2008Wildwood174Ever wondered why the BBC news seems increasingly bland and irrelevant? According to the BBC’s Farming Today programme, there was an official media blackout on the pilot badger culls last year.

The president of the National Farmers Union said the decision not to communicate with the media during the pilot badger cull came “from the highest levels of government”.

The BBC tells the whole story here, from 9 mins in.

UKIP makes any criticism of the EU appear as crazed xenophobia

Translated into Glaswegian, this reads: "Support the EU or Nigel will come and get you!"
Translated into Glaswegian, this reads: “Support the EU or Nigel will come and get you!”

I popped into my mum’s flat today. She was out, but the postie had deposited two UKIP flyers bearing Nigel Farage’s smirking mug on the mat. (If you’re not from the UK, UKIP stands for “The UK Independence Party”, and Nigel Farage is its leader.)

UKIP has been achieving its aim of “ruffling a few feathers among the chattering classes” with the launch of a hard-hitting poster campaign which has been branded as “racist”, for the forthcoming European Elections on 22 May.

I expect the reaction of my mum, who lives in the west end of Glasgow, will be like that of most people who live in the west end of Glasgow – something along the lines of: “I’m not one of those crazed xenophobic immigrant-bashers! I’m voting for a party that supports the EU!”

So in my twisted, Machiavellian way of thinking, I’m starting to see the whole UKIP theatre as a political ploy to make voting in support of the EU appear to be the obvious “rational” option. If you are deeply distrustful of the EU – as I have come to be, partly due to the secretive and undemocratic TTIP treaty (and why is there an EU Minister for Enlargement?) – people will see you as a xenophobic, immigrant-phobic UKIP supporter. You will be seen as a pompous fuddy-duddy.

(Just in case there is any confusion, I will NOT be voting for UKIP, on 22 May or at any other time.)

Could the Green Party have the answer? Their stated policy on Europe is this:

The Green Party wants a reformed Europe with governing institutions designed to resist capture by corporations and instead work democratically and cooperatively in the public interest. We will promote self-determination of nations and regions acting independently on local issues, whilst protecting the ability to cooperate on global issues that affect us all, like fisheries protection, climate change or human rights.

Sounds a bit wishy-washy to me. I like the bit about resisting capture by corporations, but what is the Green Party going to do to achieve this? Pray?

The statement on the EU from the Pirate Party is more robust. I would vote for them if they had a candidate in my constituency, which, sadly, they don’t. I suppose there’s only one answer to that. I’ll think about it.

 

Why pro-indy does not mean anti-English

In a speech delivered at the Edinburgh Book Festival, the broadcaster Andrew Marr warned that the independence debate could unleash anti-English feeling.

The Herald newspaper reported him as having said:

“There is a very strong anti-English feeling [in Scotland]. Everybody knows it. There always has been.

“If you go back to the origins of the SNP, the origins of home rule, Anglophobia [sic] was as well-entrenched then as it is now.

“I don’t think it is particularly serious most of the time, but it can become serious; it can become toxic.”

I have no anti-English sentiments

I strongly support independence for Scotland, and I would like it put on record that I am half English and have no anti-English sentiments whatsoever. I love my English friends and relatives.

I have never heard any Anglophobia expressed in connection with the Scottish independence debate. I do not believe, as Marr apparently does, that the treatment of Nigel Farage when he was heckled on a visit to Edinburgh, had anything to do with Anglophobia. I do not know of any other English politicians who have been treated in this manner during a visit to Scotland. Farage’s treatment, whether right or wrong, was a reaction to his political views, not to his Englishness.

The main reason I want independence for Scotland is because the Westminster political system is corrupt and unrepresentative to Scotland.

The government won only one electoral seat in Scotland

Scotland has been ruled by governments that the majority of its population did not vote for for more than 34 of the 68 years since 1945. We are currently ruled by a government that only won one electoral seat in Scotland.

Scotland’s voting system is the Additional Member System, not first past the post. This allows more political change, more voter representation, and smaller political parties can get better representation in parliament. It’s fairer.

The UK political system is dominated by voting representation from the south of England. This is primarily why I want independence for Scotland. It has NOTHING to do with anti-English sentiment!

I don’t want to be part of France. That doesn’t make me anti-French.

The Scottish independence campaign needs to be more robust in countering these “anti-English” claims. We need to be even more vocal about the fact that while we are in many ways different from England we are completely supportive neighbours.

Sleepwalking into a police state is no joke

Most of our politicians and mainstream media clearly want us to think any concerns about the Bilderberg Group are a big joke.

But in my opinion, there are many recent developments in our society and in those that surround us which are far from being a joke, and to simply ignore the role that high-powered secret summits like the Bilderberg Group could be playing in all this would be extremely complacent.

The introduction of secret courts is one example. In this BBC radio programme, Ken Clarke, the Minister Without Portfolio and a member of the Bilderberg Steering Committee, puts forward the case for secret courts, saying that they are necessary to prevent other countries and terrorist organisations from learning our secrets, for example about the possible involvement of our secret services in torture.

The leader of the racist English Defence League was interviewed twice on the BBC yesterday. The BBC is meant to be a public interest broadcasting service.

A man who works for Scottish Water has launched a group that aims to revive Oswald Moseley’s violent Blackshirts, who terrorised Jewish people in the East End of London in the 1930s. Incitement to racial hatred and violence is a crime that can lead to imprisonment and extradition for some – this has unfortunately failed in the case of Abu Qatada, despite the government’s efforts. Yet a man who operates a website proclaiming his revival of the violent Blackshirts is allowed to operate freely and is employed by a taxpayer-funded public body.

In the radio programme “Disability, A New History”, episode 6, the presenter Peter White described the parallels between the 19th century and today as “striking” in that disabled people were having to make a case for the severity of their infirmities in order to receive welfare or be allowed leave to visit the doctor. White’s reaction shows how quickly even some people who have a disability, as White himself does, have come to see this situation as normal, when it is really an example of how sharply the political clock has been turned back to the days when disabled people were forced to either work or beg on the streets. Programmes like this effectively normalise drastic political change.

Perhaps most worryingly, Greece is to convert military camps into debtors’ prisons for people who are unable to pay their tax, even if those taxes are emergency property taxes. Imprisonment could be the penalty for those who owe 5000 Euros or more in tax, who might be incarcerated for up to 12 months.

This sets a very worrying precedent. Once the measures are in place, the penalty threshold could be reduced.

Greece’s deputy justice minister Kostas Karagounis said that the special prison for debtors would improve their detention conditions, and would be more humane as they would not be held in the same prisons as murderers, drug dealers or robbers.

In the 1930s the Nazis claimed that the concentration camps were simply work camps. “Arbeit Macht Frei” – “work brings freedom” is the famous slogan that was placed at the entrances to some of the Nazi death camps, including Auschwitz 1.

I am not trying to suggest that the Greek debtors prisons will be concentration camps, but that the Greek government may be trying to play down the true significance of these prisons. They could evolve into tax-debt-slave camps, where people who are brought down into indebtedness through excessive taxation become fodder for cheap labour programmes.

When the Nazi concentration camps were liberated at the end of the Second World War, people said “How could we have allowed this to happen?”

Let’s not be fooled again. Let’s hold our politicians to account and refuse to allow them to casually brush aside our serious concerns about where our society might be heading with a scornful smirk.

MPs laugh off questions about the Bilderberg Group

This film shows some of the infantile politicians who are meant to represent us, whose salaries we pay, casually laughing off valid, serious questions placed on behalf of ordinary people by Michael Meacher, one of the few politicians who actually tries to work for the electorate instead of a nice comfy future as a highly-paid consultant for a multinational.

Ken Clarke, Minister Without Portfolio, has his smug composure briefly shattered when Tom Watson MP asks him this very interesting question at 16.50 mins in:

“Can the Minister confirm that he declared his trusteeship of the body that funds the Conference to his Permanent Secretary when he was appointed by the Prime Minister?”.

Clarke turns into a gibbering wreck at this point. Needless to say, that bit was edited out of the BBC’s Today in Parliament show, which allocated just under 5 minutes to the issue, from 25 minutes in.

In this film from the protest group We Are Change, people explain their genuine concerns about the secretive Bilderberg Group meetings.

World government discussed in Watford

World leaders are gathering at The Grove country club near Watford, England, this morning, where this year’s meeting of the elite Bilderberg Group is being held. Delegates include Henry Kissinger, Robert Rubin and Google’s Eric Schmidt. Some of the UK’s most influential politicians are also said to be attending, including George Osborne, Ed Balls, Dame Shirley Williams and Ken Clarke. They will be rubbing shoulders with chairmen and CEOs of the world’s biggest multinational companies and financial institutions.

Yet when searching the BBC website for “Bilderberg” today yields no mentions after the 21st June 2012. In the “Elsewhere on the BBC” column, “Bilderberg” is mentioned in a Blog titled “Lady Gaga for IMF boss?”; in BBC Leeds Entertainment section, and in a local radio station covering BBC Three Counties.

Elsewhere in the British media, this global summit, held in the UK for the first time since 1998, is being treated with the type of gently condescending humour usually seen in animal stories or royal visits to small remote countries. Entertainment writers rather than top political correspondents have been enlisted to report on the meeting – ie, to report on which politicians are rumoured to be attending, and on the colour of the upholstery, and the exotic topiary. The implication is that anyone who thinks this event something worth bothering about must be a bit nuts.

Here’s the London Evening Standard’s hilarious take on the Bilderberg summit:

Russia Today takes a more serious view in this article. It makes the salient point, for example, that “Among the 12 “key topics” for this year’s conference are “developments in the Middle East” and “Africa’s challenges.” The inclusion of “Africa’s challenges” is an interesting choice, as the guest list is notably absent of any major (or minor) political or academic figures from that vast continent.”

The article adds that six Turkish invitees are said to be the only representatives from the Middle East.

There are many people who believe that the Bilderberg Group’s ultimate agenda is to introduce a One World Government and an end to democracy. This theory is widely lampooned as a conspiracy theory, which is surprising as it the collapse of democracy seems to be happening right in front of our eyes.

Whatever the truth is about a One World Government, Bilderberg summits do appear to have a major influence on world affairs, and this influence is ultra-secret and undemocratic. A recent article entitled “The True Story of the Bilderberg Group And What They May Be Planning Now” quotes a 2005 book by Daniel Estulin. The book says about Bill Clinton, who attended the Bilderberg Group in 1991,

“There, David Rockefeller told [Clinton] why the North American Free Trade Agreement….was a Bilderberg priority and that the group needed him to support it. The next year, Clinton was elected president,” and on January 1, 1994 NAFTA took effect. Numerous other examples are similar, including who gets chosen for powerful government, military and other key positions. 

This funny film highlights the extent of the secrecy surrounding the event. The lone film-maker tried to enter The Grove, the location of the summit, three weeks before the start of the event. He got as far as the walled garden before being kindly told to make himself scarce.

Protesters who include the group We Are Change are holding an alternative summit at a location near the conference.