Bothered By Midgies 392

In 13 years of running my blog I have never been exposed to such a tirade of abuse as I have for refusing to accept without evidence that Russia is the only possible culprit for the Salisbury attack. The abuse has mostly been on twitter, and much of the most venomous stuff has come from corporate and state media “journalists”. I suppose I am a standing rebuke to them for merely being stenographers to power and never doing any actual research, but that hardly explains the visceral levels of hatred exhibited.

Today they are all terrifically happy and sharing amongst themselves a lengthy twitter thread by a Blairite and chemist called Clyde Davis in which they all say I am “owned” and my article disproven. There are two remarkable things about this thread.

The first remarkable thing is the remarkably high percentage of those who are sharing it with commendations who are mainstream media journalists. Last I saw was George Monbiot five minutes ago, but there are dozens. I suppose it is important to them as validating their decision to support uncritically the government line without doing any actual journalism.

The second remarkable thing is that the thread they are all sharing misses out almost all my side of the conversation. An objective observer might think that made it hard to say who “won” the argument. To be fair, that is probably not deliberate but appears to be a result of how twitter does threading. Here I reconstruct by paste the thread with my responses. It may give a better idea of whether Mr Davis completely “destroys” my article, as the “professional” journalists are all claiming. And as Mr Davies is critiquing my article, perhaps you might refresh yourself on that first here.

Neither my reply nor Davies’ rejoinder are included in the thread which the mainstream “journalists” are circulating. Note that Davies responds to being challenged, with a riposte which is untrue. The OPCW have never changed their position on the physical existence of “novichoks” from the position I gave and referenced in my article. By contrast, Mr Davies gives no reference for his claim the OPCW has changed its mind. Personally I find it problematic that somebody like Mr Davies who blusters so loud on scientific method, responds to a challenge to his position with an apparent invention.

It is indeed true that Porton Down (which here means the British government), however, have changed their position since 2016 when, as I again demonstrated in my article with references, they said there was no evidence for the physical existence of “novichoks”. Now apparently they have said not only do they have one, but it is indubitably Russian. If a “novichok” is indeed in the possession of Porton Down, of course scientists, like diplomats and the others involved, will change their position on the existence of Novichoks. As will I. But that, in any sense, that will prove it is of Russian manufacture is a totally different question.

Then along came the man who really did put me to shame. A Mr Kevin Smyth who completely demolished Davis with a simple polite question:

That part of the exchange is also missing from the thread being circulated so gleefully at the moment.

So what does Davies tell us in this article delivered by twitter which “demolishes” my article.

1) Davies acknowledges that until recently Porton Down and OPCW doubted the physical existence of “novichoks”. He says they have now changed their minds. [Porton Down has indeed undergone a remarkable change of mind in the last week , but the OPCW has yet to see the evidence].
2) Davis states that chemists can tell if a compound corresponds to one of the “novichoks” described by Mirzyanov, but Davis specifically accepts that does not prove Russian manufacture.
3) Davis nevertheless states strongly it is Russia because he believes Russia has form and motive.

Nothing here can remotely be said to be conclusive. The question that puzzles me, is why are so many mainstream media journalists gleefully seizing on this series of tweets as a destruction of the need for sceptical inquiry? A possible answer:

1) Davies by claiming credentials as a chemist conforms to the corporate media urge for an appeal to authority. He validates the government line and he is a chemist. He can throw in the names of chemicals and molecular diagrams. That kind of thing impresses journalists. That he explicitly admits the chemistry cannot prove Russia did it, is apparently irrelevant.
2) Davies thus provides a smokescreen of respectability by which they can continue to advance their careers by cutting and pasting the government line without question.

In fact, all of Davies’ “chemistry” in this exchange sets out to prove something which was never disputed – that chemists are able to identify whether or not a substance is one of the “novichok” compounds described by Mirzyanov. But as he published the formulae two decades ago, and has been living in the USA, and as the US dismantled and studied the Nukus plant, and as Porton Down had never seen any evidence the Russians actually succeeded in synthesising “novichoks, this in no way adds up to evidence of Russian manufacture. As Davies, to his credit, finally acknowledged when confronted by an interlocutor for whom he did not have automatic hatred.

I can’t say the midgies bother me that much. But they are interesting to study.

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392 thoughts on “Bothered By Midgies

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  • Robert Graham

    You are not alone Craig , Peter Hitchens columnist with the Mail appears to be the recipient of the same treatment where anyone who voices an opinion on this drama suddenly becomes some kind of a supporter of Vladimir Putin . He goes further in his sunday column and voices real concern over this whole media tirade when in fact no evidence whatsoever has been shown ,just trust us we know more than you .
    This trial by media comes from the good people who gave us Afghanistan – Iraq – Libya – Syria of course we trust them i mean they must get it right sometime could this be the time .

  • R. Elgin

    I would ask then “who else would benefit from framing Russia in this attack, if it were not Russian in origin?”
    I can not imagine or think of a plausible answer to this question. Suggestions of the UK or Iran, which I’ve read are very much unlikely.
    IMHO, the nerve agent is far more likely to have originated from Russia.

  • Ike

    Clyde Davies is a scientist? He is a biased bigot who is unable to think logically. I am sorry someone with the moral courage of Craig Murray has to put up with this shit.

  • Ignacio

    “…evidence that Russia is the only possible culprit for the Salisbury attack”

    I’d rather use poisoning instead of attack. I doubt there has been an “attack”. The Skripals were poisoned but no physician has provided evidence on what kind of poisoning (food, whatever?).

    I have read your take on this affair with interest. Good Job Sir!

  • William Bennett

    Western governments and MSM form an instant unquestioning consensus that Russia is the perp.
    Dissident ex establishment experts, award winning real journalists and the alternative media form a consensus of logical questioning unresolved so far.

  • MightyDrunken

    OK this has probably been said already but I will comment.

    The exchange does seems to be a classic case of talking past each other. What Craig says is generally true and what Clyde says is generally true. It is a shame that political persuasion was dragged into it. The real question is where the chemical agent comes from and Clyde’s responses have nothing to do with chemistry.
    Did Russia do it? Likely but (public) physical evidence is lacking.
    Can chemistry help determine the source of the chemical?
    Yes, isotopic and trace chemical analysis can help, but you need known samples to compare to. As yet I have not heard any results regarding these sorts of test.

  • Internet Passerby

    I’ll hand it to you Mr. Murray, you’re eloquent and have some skill in rhetoric. But you’ve retreated to a meaningless nub of a point compared to your original argument.

    Let’s keep that in mind. Your click-grabbing claim was that this is a “Iraq WMD scam”. The article didn’t come close to meeting the burden of proof, relying heavily on de-contextualized, anodyne procedural comments from bureaucratic bodies that usually keep their statement and language on the conservative side.

    And by the end of your exchange with Mr. Davies you’ve retreated to “chemists can’t confirm location of production” — which is, of course, just one possible avenue for high confidence attribution of the attack.

    As a man who seems like he must be educated enough to know how cynical he’s being… I believe you should be ashamed for the sophism you’ve put on display here.

    • Nick Bardsley

      so what are the other sources of “high confidence”, “passerby”? Davies claims expertise as a chemist and implies this allows him to make inferences about the source of poisoning, so it seems entirely appropriate to interrogate whether there is any chemical basis on which to attribute location of production of an alleged substance.

    • Henry Balfour

      @Internet passerby. Gosh. Verbiage, and lots of it. I cannot deal with poly-syllabic verbiage. So, keep it simple for me OK? Simply put, you claim “The article didn’t come close to meeting the burden of proof,”… Well, allow me to retort (see I know some chemistry words too!)
      There has been ZERO ‘burden of proof’ shown by the UK Gubbermint for ANY of their allegations. Tissue of Fabrication, or a fabricated tissue – same difference. The Iraq WMD comparison is eminently justified – the same MO, the same desire to spread a blanket of ersatz officialdom over the allegations. The same motivation – to demonize an external “threat” to us, and make us compliant with Gubbermint foreign policy. I detest this sort of hubristic deception by the Brit Gibbermint, and recognize in it the tired formulae of 1984. You just disgraced yourself by showing that you are uncritical and credulous. Oh Noes…..

    • Lee M

      There are great parallels to Iraq’s WMDs. For starters, Iraq WMD’s were chemical weapons. Did you know the sources testimony to M16 (preceding the Iraq war) actually described a scene from the movie The Rock, starring Sean Connery! And this was the basis of attacking. MI6 knew this but still trotted off to war. The other detail that seems to be omitted is that Skripal is alive and his daughter has just been released from hospital. Not a really successful attack. And what about motive? Why on the eve of an election and hosting the World Cup would Russia do this? Russia needs the support of its people. Success on the international sporting stage galvanises the nation. And there is also that other minor detail, NATO has flanked Russia’s Western border and the $2B/day war machine needs feeding.

  • Fransiscus Theuns

    Motive, means, opportunity; Davies says they triangulate to the Russians. Motive: I could list more than a few countries that want to discredit Russia. Now we only have two to triangulate with. Means: Davies writes “No, it can´t be proven beyond doubt…” Now only opportunity remains to triangulate with. Silly Davies – If justice is what we want then we have to take seriously what we demand.

  • Peter

    It is strange that someone who is chemist allows to himself to be so self-misguided in reasoning about exact matters. After formula is being published it is question of time who could synthesize that poison. So, one can take substances from Russia and make it in order to “make argument”. However, such substances are manufactured elsewhere which is the point of such warfare.
    In addition, the chemist you mentioned in your article it seems to me does not know about Iranian chemist success in that regard as described on this link:,1,1,1,1&&tzcheck=1&tzcheck=1&tzcheck=1
    However, nobody wants to be idealistic on any government, but now it is obvious that the home of Scripals or rather the front door was poisoned which they touched and the substance entered body through their skin. When the spy-swaps are being made the both parties agreed on protection of swapped persons so the UK has had duty to take care on Scripal. As we see, that was not made. It is strange that such a person did not have video surveillance devices so anyone could come and do bad thing. That is quite extraordinary. Not being protected despite agreement, no video surveillance… Too much clumsiness in this case to conclude that it is committed by the Russian state officials/intelligence.

  • Lee M

    so deadly yet it’s target(s) are still alive!
    What motive does Russia have, particularly given the attack was on the eve of an election and preceded the World Cup in Russia. Russia, too needs the support of its people, so why, with its borders flanked by NATO would it antagonise the West? Nothing rallies a country together more than success in the International sporting arena so why jeopardise that? If your (Clyde Davies) mind is not inquisitive enough to question the act, at least question the timing of it. I think Mr Davies would benefit from reading Mein Kampf and the chapter on The Big Lie.

  • David Bailey

    It really doesn’t seem to me that Clyde Davies has much of importance to say about this subject. He re-published the formulae of these (and other) agents (which is potentially a dangerous thing to do) but everything else he said was basically bluster.

    His response to the fact that Novichok is supposed to be a binary weapon – stored as two far less toxic chemicals until ‘needed’ – was that even these binary components are pretty noxious chemicals! Well chemists work with lots of noxious chemicals -he specifically mentions HF (hydrogen fluoride) as one hazard of dealing with these binary components, but huge amounts of laboratory experiments have been done with HF, despite its obvious toxicity!

    Everything else that he says, relates to fields such as international relations, in which Craig Murray must be more qualified!

    Since US/UK did indeed start a major war based on false claims of WMDs, I think it is obvious where the blame may really lie.

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