The Field of “Permitted” Opinion Narrows Further 41

There has been an astonishing hype in the British media for the last fortnight around the “Riots” which have been predicted for the G20 summit for the last two weeks. It is a fortnight since the first “Riots” newspaper billboards appeared in London. The news bulletins yesterday were dominated by the boarding up of shops and by earnest “security consultants” advising that people in suits are likely to be attacked.

The BBC reported fears that demonstrators would “Create unrest” in the capital.

Actually they won’t create unrest. What they may do is manifest the unrest that already exists in the capital.

The entire torrent of demonisation of protest is part of a process of limiting the area of legitimate debate to the tiny gap that exists between the Labour and Conservative parties, with all other ideas portrayed not just as illegitimate but as disorderly and threatening. That governs the opinions which journalists are allowed to express and the selection of voices heard on the media. It is the intellectual equivalent of playing a game of cricket confined to the square, with the outfield behind the ropes.

This will be mirrored in the physical constraints placed on demonstrators today. The Metropolitan Police now have a well rehearsed system for dealing with such events. Each demonstration will be split up into several separated groups. Each group will be tightly corraled, penned in with barriers in an uncomfortable crush that feels threatening to those inside. Occasionally groups will be shuffled between pens. Most demonstrators will not be allowed to the destination point to limit the appearance of numbers at the rallies. Once it is over, people will be kept corralled for several hours, with no refreshment or (this is critical and no joke) toilet facilities.

The tactic appears designed to create confrontation as people try to get out of penned areas to hear the speeches they came to hear, to escape the crush or just to find a loo. At the same time the argie-bargie thus deliberately sparked is confined to small numbers the police can contain.

As for the G20 summit itself, diplomats designated as “Sherpas” will already have worked out and agreed between all participants the draft of a bland communique. It will be all things to all men and enable everyone to claim victory. Brown will tell us he saved the World again.

I am in favour of fiscal stimulus of the Keynsian kind, with public spending and jobs helping boost demand in recession. The problem is that Obama and Brown have conflated that idea with massive bail-outs to the bankers, which is a completely different thing.

No amount of banking regulation will compensate for the fact that we have created a position where the financial services industry is featherbedded above all others. It has no downside. Success brings individual rewards on levels you and I can only dream of, while failure means you and I will pick up the tab with – on average – 14% of our total personal wealth donated to the bankers so far.

The bank bailouts have been the biggest transfer of funds from the poor to the rich in human history. That is a fundamental and an irrecoverable disaster. We are going to get a depression whatever this summit does.

The real interest of this summit will take place in the behind the scenes meetings. It won’t be mentioned in the official communique, but China, Brazil and Russia, quietly egged on by France, will be chattering about replacing the dollar as the currency of note. It is China, which has a lot of eggs in the dollar basket, which is pivotal here.

Britain is nowhere near its climate change targets on renewable energy. In fact it is so far out as to be laughable. Climate change ought to be high on the agenda. But here there will be a divergence between public support for existing agreements, and behind the scenes talks which will focus on how to use the recession to excuse relaxing the targets.

Of all the issues the public are demonstrating about today, climate change is the one where the G20 will be most shameful and most hypocritical.

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41 thoughts on “The Field of “Permitted” Opinion Narrows Further

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  • eddie


    I have been on dozens of demos over the years. Can you name me a single peaceful demonstration that has ever had an impact on public policy? Would it not be a more constructive form of activism for these people to join a political party and start the long road to power, whether it’s in the parish council, the council chamber or the Commons? In other words, why don’t you urge all these people to get up off their metaphorical arses, stop snivelling, and engage with the REAl political process? As a good liberal surely you support parliamentary democracy?

  • KevinB

    Good post Craig but I’m not sure you’re right about the climate change issue.

    Many climate change scientists call the whole thing a ‘scam’. David Bellamy, for one, claims he was dropped by the BBC long before Al Gore’s film for challenging the science behind all the propaganda.

    That the earth’s resources should not be consumed at the present rate cannot be denied but there are many other justifications for severe conservation measures being put in place besides ‘climate change’.

    The very fact that the powers-that-be promote the issue so heavily makes me mistrust it. Carbon credits could well become the new ‘derivatives’ when banking gets back on its feet (i.e. the basis for creating another massive bubble and continuing to scam trillions of dollars off the top of the world’s wealth).

    What society and G20 politicians (some hopes) should be calling for is an end to usury (which was banned throughout christendom for so many centuries because it was seen, rightly, as a moral hazard). We should be demanding that private corporations not be allowed to create our money for us and charge us interest on it.

    Debt is slavery and the debtor is a slave to the lender. This is the mechanism by which the financial powers control us and own nearly everything.

    Many, if not most, people realise that these people OWN our governments. Politicians understand that they have to please this nebulous power before they even get a chance to get elected. Once elected the same rule holds to get into the cabinet etc….

    The government could easily create our money for us directly, interest free. A return to such a system would truly transform our world. We might get to decide the occasional thing for ourselves instead of having every detail of our lives ordered for us by some infernal corporate-funded think-tank.

  • Anonymous

    I am very confident that there will be a higher percentage of political party members among the demonstrators than among the general population.

    The growth of single issue politics is though a response to a lack of responsiveness from major political parties who are in hock to commercial interests and run by seedy and uninspiring people.

    I have no doubt there is a human contribution to climate change. But as you say, KevinB, even if there were not, the imperative to reduce environmental degradation would still be there.

  • Jives

    Yeah…the mainstream “news” is a pathetic joke.

    Dumbed-down beyond belief.

  • MJ

    KevinB: “The government could easily create our money for us directly, interest free”.

    Yes. Just like Lincoln did and JFK tried to do. But look what happened to them.

  • Craig


    Many commenters have a peculiar tendency to presume that anyone who has a different opinion is ill read.

  • MJ

    Eddie, you ask: “Can you name me a single peaceful demonstration that has ever had an impact on public policy?”

    Probably not. But I can cite a couple of less-than-peaceful ones: The Women’s Suffrage movement and the Poll Tax riots.

    The problem with your ‘constitutional’ solution is that democracy in this country is such an occasional thing. We get the opportunity to vote so very rarely. How else can the public express its views on current matters, as they arise, if not by demonstrating? It may not achieve much but at least it keeps the matter in the public eye and let’s individuals know that others share their concerns.

  • paul

    If they use the economy as an excuse to drop the GLOBAL WARMING (note: renamed to climate change since it became obvious the climate is cooling) nonsense then great, because its all unscientific politicised bullshit to control and tax us anyway.

  • Anas Taunton

    Craig and KevinB: spot on. Is there a pun intended in the ‘down’side of featherbedding the financial sector I wonder.

    If I had a say at the G20 it would be:

    1/ Let the final purchaser of products pay the carbon levy. We have evaded our planet resources responsibilities by getting Asian countries to dig up minerals, burn coal and make stuff for us without paying any levy on the resources.

    Brown keeps playing the Africa card, but the people of Africa know that the colonial mindset of this country has not changed one dot. Carbon trading is a good idea but has become post colonial con.

    2/ The plan to control the oil resources of the world in the Middle East and the former Soviet colonies, in order to curb the expansion of our political rivals the new Asian economies can backfire. The bankers, having shamelessly stolen the money from the banks can just as shamelessly sink the dollar and switch us to a new Asian currency. The fact that this has not happened yet tells me that Asia still respects the West. As soon as the West ceases to deserve that respect by engaging in torture and genocide, the bankers are ready to sell us down the drain.

    The big clean up for us is not carbon emissions, it is in politics. Myopic politicians like Brown and Blair have to heave on board that Asian countries will not listen to spin any more. It’s clean up our game or be subjected to a New world order under India and China. No more selling Eastern banks bangles of worthless mortgages and trinkets of high-minded policy ideas. Clean up Western politics or bust. If Gordon Brown hasn’t got the bollocks to do it, get out of the way and let real leaders take on the challenge. There are plenty of us out here.

  • paul

    Anyone who worships at the altar of AGW is by definition ill read (because if a rational person reads what I have read, they wouldnt believe in it), although being bombarded by propaganda about it from all sides 24/7 absolves them of most of the fault.

  • Strategist

    “we have created a position where the financial services industry is featherbedded above all others. It has no downside. Success brings individual rewards on levels you and I can only dream of, while failure means you and I will pick up the tab with – on average – 14% of our total personal wealth donated to the bankers so far.”

    Nicely put, Craig. Can you tell us a little more about your 14% calculation?

  • Craig


    I am working on a gobsmacking statistical exposition of the crisis at the moment.

  • eddie

    I’m surprised to see so many posts on here today. Shouldn’t you all be down in London smashing windows and knocking policemen’s helmets off? The media has been telling me that this would be happening today so jump to it.

    MJ I knew you would mention the poll tax riot which is why I used the word “peaceful”. The poll tax was bad policy and I think the tories realised it: it would probably have been scrapped regardless of the riot.

  • Ed Davies

    Researcher: sorry I haven’t read skeptics handbook 2.1. I did read the 2.0 version which put forward four key reasons not to believe in AGW. I don’t know enough to have an opinion on the first of these but the second, third and fourth were such obvious rubbish it’s not something I’m going to spend any more time on.

  • Vronsky

    Anent peaceful protests, they had no effect in Scotland against the poll tax. It was when the English rioted in the streets that the Tories took notice.

    I daresay Mrs Thatcher never took much interest in Scotland anyway. She did opine that the only vote in Scotland that mattered was the SNP vote, echoing an earlier post of Craig’s – so long as they vote Unionist it’s OK.

    I can’t think of an example of a single peaceful protest having any effect, but I suspect that the extended campaign of protest and education by CND probably rendered nuclear war less likely. Without this the government’s inane ‘protect and survive’ campaign (lean the table against the wall and get under it) might have allowed people to think that a nuclear attack was no big deal.

    So peaceful protest won’t work, violent protest is unpredictable in its outcomes, and the party political system has atrophied into a single party with different names – at least in England and Wales.

    Is there any way to breathe a little more life into the quest for Scottish separation?

  • Anas Taunton

    Only three Tory MPs stood against Mrs T about the poll tax, which is about the same number as stood up to Tony Blair about Iraq. When she fell the rats couldn’t get out of the ship fast enough. I am waiting for a repeat of the farce.

  • technicolour

    Re parliamentary democracy. I have an idea. Why doesn’t everyone just find out who the nicest/best candidate in their area is and support/vote for them, irrespective of parties?

    Someone pointed out on CiF that the great thing about British democracy is that we don’t have the presidential system. We elect individuals. So why not elect decent ones?

    You can check out your MP’s voting record on theyworkforyou. Mine happens to be Labour but since he has voted against just about every bad thing this government has proposed he’s effectively the opposition. As are Jeremy Corbyn, Paul Flynn etc etc. If I were in Oxford I’d vote for Caroline Lucas, though, since I’ve heard nothing bad about her. And quite a few Lib Dems with a chance are decent. And (yes) some Tories; I might go for Ken Clarke, after his sterling attacks on the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill, to my surprise. It would depend who he was standing against.

    Of course, this is terrible pragmatism, and my anarchic soul is somewhat ashamed. I would spoil my ballot but sadly the UK has no minimum turnout necessary for an election to be legal.

    As for the Poll Tax riots, although an amazing upsurge in popular people’s action, and a community routing of bailiffs all over the country, didn’t they just rename it the Council Tax?

    However (final thought) at the WTO talks in Cancun, where protestors attacked the fences and a farmer killed himself in protest, a minister from (I think) Brazil was quoted as saying that the protestors outside gave heart and courage to the countries inside trying to fight the US bloc for fairer treatment. The comment vanished from the wires soon after, but still.

  • mrjohn

    Have you noticed how many cameras there are, and how everyone politely stands aside for them, even when they are “clashing” with the police.

    People are angry, peaceful protests against the Iraq war were ignored and a million Iraqis died. Children died for no given reason. The anger has been building since then.

    The police might consider rethinking their tactics & strategy, bully boy works to a point, then it becomes counter productive. Most people are basically decent, treat them well and they will respond in kind, treat them with contempt and they will accept it to a degree. The question today is has the state isolated itself too much from its citizens. They may find themselves in a very lonely and friendless place.

    Why are we treated to so much exposure of the “leaders'” wives and husbands. It’s like cheap porn, “Leaders’ Wives”.

  • Ruth

    I no longer see any point in voting. If Blair could wage a war without any discussion on it in cabinet and MPs are cosying up to the Privy Council why waste one’s energy going up to the poll station. It would be better spent in other ways to achieve any say in our lives. Demonstrating en masse puts the fear of God into those who dupe us into believing we live in a democracy.

  • John D. Monkey


    “Anyone who worships at the altar of AGW is by definition ill read”

    Leave out the loaded put-downs “worships at the altar” and that means 95% of qualified scientists are ill-read, I guess.

    There is still a lot more to understand about GW and many people over-state the threat but I can’t see any reason to dispute the general thrust.

    Refusal to act on the evidence is an understandable policy, if selfish and short-sighted. Denial of the evidence for ideological or political reasons seems rather foolish…

    Go to Glacier National Park (where almost all the glaciers are gone) or southern Chile and see for yourself.

  • eddie

    “As for the Poll Tax riots, although an amazing upsurge in popular people’s action, and a community routing of bailiffs all over the country, didn’t they just rename it the Council Tax?”

    er, no. The poll tax was a tax on the person, the Council tax is a tax on the property, based on values.

  • technicolour

    Per person: well, you get a “reduction” for single person occupancy: two people pay more. And each individual has to register for it. It’s not as bad as making a family of six in a housing block in Glasgow pay the same as a family of six in a mansion in Battersea, I agree. But it is still crippling people in sink estates across the UK regardless.

  • Strategist

    “I am working on a gobsmacking statistical exposition of the crisis at the moment.”

    Looking forward to this enormously. Craig, you *will* get back on Newsnight – as the new Paul Mason if necessary…

    BTW, a good Newsnight tonight I thought – indeed one might almost say that today the Field of “Permitted” Opinion widened somewhat – and therefore today’s demos can be called a success.

    Mark Thomas is really emerging as a very good spokesman for the movement, he spoke passionately on tax havens and old miseryguts Paxman gave him the laurel for an unanswerable point on how the hell did it end up that HMRC’s offices are leased from a PFI concern based in a tax haven.

    However, Mark Thomas only gets second prize for the most passionate denouncer of tax havens, the top prize goes to Sarkozy, I take my hat off to the man, he has acted as a true leader today.

  • jason


    “In other words, why don’t you urge all these people to get up off their metaphorical arses, stop snivelling, and engage with the REAl political process?”

    You really need a grip on political theory.

    “The English nation thinks that it is free, but is greatly mistaken, for it is so only during the election of membes of Parliament; as soon as they are elected, it is enslaved and counts for nothing. The use it makes of the brief moments of freedom renders the loss of liberty well-deserved.” – Rousseau, The Social Contract

    The scenario he is illuminating there, of how the use of deputies is, de facto, a symptom of a decaying society, is not remedied by the people becoming representatives, as the society at this point is dominated necessarily by attending to private interests, with little time left to the majority to engage with public affairs.

    You perpetually act as an agent provocateur, but you genuinely possess no knowledge. You posit here some tenuous link between ‘supporting a liberal democracy’ and having to believe that change can only come about through participation in public life, at a time when, more than ever, people are concentrating more on surviving the economic crisis than attending council meetings.

    Somebody needs to join the dots and realise that the economic crisis and its drive towards further raising private interests as the be-all and end-all, will further disenfranchise the public from its own institutions. Many people have the tacit understanding that the state is working against them on a full-time basis, and that to attempt to dilute the barrel of bad apples with some good ones will take too long.

    I think Eddie works in some unemployment-immune government office, at a guess, somewhere dimly lit and out of the range of thinking people and books, and the day is spent tapping out comments on this site and watching torture videos.

  • nobody

    Ha ha! The battle for Craig’s soul continues. His climate change soul, that is.

    Me, I used to be that fellow who, regardless of what inconsistencies there were in the official argument, would still hang his climate change hat on the hook of _insert_climate_reality_here_. Glaciers sure, but for me it was those tropical islands slowly disappearing under the Pacific. This was a simple concrete proof. But proof of what? That the climate is changing obviously.

    But frankly that’s simplistic. It would also be true to say that it’s proof that ‘climate changes’. Both of these things are true, but there’s a BIG difference.

    Has anyone seen Michael Wood’s documentary for the Beeb, ‘The Story Of India’? Perhaps it’s old hat in the UK, but it only just started in Oz last week. It’s a cracker.

    The first ep started with the very beginnings of the Aryan people. Seems they didn’t start in India. Travel back over 2000 years to the Indus valley from which India got its name. A huge civilisation with palaces, temples and everything. And now it’s what? A dustbowl. Says Michael Wood – Climate change has happened before. Oh really? Don’t tell George Monbiot!

    But let’s jump again. The Indus wasn’t the Aryan’s starting point. For that we have to go back to Turkmenistan and another couple of millennia. More ruins of palaces and temples but this time we’re beyond dustbowls and are in a true flinty desert hell. But 5000 years ago there were rivers, forests and arable land. And then the climate changed.

    So – between the two facts, a) the climate is changing, and, b) the climate changes, which is more useful? What we know for sure is that the climate has changed before and these changes seemed to come thousands of years apart.

    And there I was impressed that assorted lesser Pacific islands are disappearing. Says the history books, the Polynesians and Melanesians on those disappearing islands have been there for less than a thousand years. Maybe as few as five hundred. They are the newest of all aboriginal people. And yep, they are absolutely flabbergasted that their islands are disappearing. But if the cycles of climate change came thousands of years apart, they would be wouldn’t they be? First they’ve heard of it.

    As for glaciers, I will concede that they are proof that the climate is changing. But is there anything about their shift that precludes their having changed before? Have they changed in their past without any help from man? Simple question.

    Plug it into other planets in the solar system with their temperatures rising and falling in concert with the earth, all without any contributions from us, and what do you get? The argument isn’t whether the earth’s climate is, or isn’t, changing. Nor is whether it’s capable of change. The argument is whether it’s humans that are making it happen.

    Here are the two positions –

    -The climate is changing and humans are at fault and therefore we need a new world order.

    -The climate changes, just like it has before and just like it’s doing now on other planets and no humans need apply. Not forgetting – Of course the new world order scumbags would lie about it!

    Honestly think of the lies we were told about WMD’s. How big was that marketing campaign? And it didn’t have a grain of truth in it and every dissenting voice was shut out. And that was a single war in a single country.

    Okay, so… to what lengths would they go for a one world government? And… given what we all know about WMD’s in Iraq, is it impossible that we’re being bullshitted to about global warming? Never mind ‘possibilty’, a more sensible discussion would pivot on ‘probability’. Hell! I’ll lay odds!

    PS Excellent concise deconstruction of government ‘riot’ control. Bravo.

  • Nemo

    There is no democracy.

    There is no freedom.

    Voting is pointless.

    Interest on loans should be illegal.

    Routes to change?

    Stop paying ALL debts and loans and credit cards.

    It will take approximately 500,000 people doing this to have a real effect.

    At 1,000,000 participants we have change for certain.

    Is it risky?

    Yes – change isnt easy or risk free – thats why it almost never happens.

    65,000,000 people in the UK, and all it takes is 1,000,000 to NOT pay their debts at all.

    Thats less than 1.5% of the population.

    Maybe 6% of the adult population.

    Its impossible of course – the UK cant even find 1.5% who care about much at all……

    Peaceful protest is a laughable oxymoron.

    The ‘political process’ is merely a gateway to slavery.

    Take away the Banks profits on loans, expose them for the loan sharks they are.

  • nemo

    Glaciers have melted and moved many times before – and are obviously continuing to do so.

    Soon Climate Change will be forgotten, like the ‘War on Drugs’, the ‘War on Terror’ and all the other nonsense.

    The only real constant is TV.

    If 1,000,000 adults throw away their TV sets, we will have change.

    1,000,000. Thats all.

    Protest is timid.

    Action is natural.

    Dont protest – just throw your TV into the nearest canal.

    Elimination wins.

    Noisy protests are continuous whining festivals – see what the absence of 1,000,000 TV’s will do.

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