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.

392 thoughts on “Bothered By Midgies

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  • Thomas D. Smart

    Don’t pay any attention to them Craig.
    There are many people, including myself , that support your very well written article.
    Until “they” produce any conclusive evidence,
    The Russians cannot and should not be accused or indeed blamed.

  • Tim Hoddy

    Davies is both rude and wrong.

    Even if his chemistry is correct, he has done nothing to persuade any reasonable person that the Russian State is the culprit.

    All his argument amounts to is that Russia has the “motive, means and opportunity”; I suspect there are many other state and non-state actors who could satisfy these three better than the Kremlin.

    Isn’t it astonishing how so many people are prepared to fit the facts around a predetermined conclusion? Remind you of anything?

  • Lady Muck o' Lochay (@Mae_Carson2)

    The minute I saw “In my book…………” I laughed, then the Kevin’s comment wiped me out! roflmao

  • FatCandy

    Seriously though, what motive does Russia have? And if anyone replies: “KGB handbook/calling card/past form” – I will scream.
    The best one I can think of is to be rid of toffee Tory politicians and royals at the World Cup.

    Also, if novichoks are more lethal than VX and a drop or two of VX in aerosol form can kill hundreds of thousands of people then by extension the ex-spy must have been exposed to negligible amounts.

    Not to trivialise the matter further, but has anyone checked the restaurant he and his daughter were at in case it’s food poisoning after the supply issues with the Beast From The East?

  • AdrianD.

    Excelent stuff Craig. I asked Davis what he thought the Birmingham Six might think of his ‘quacks like a duck…’ legal system. He said that Porton Down would have learned from that and other lessons and then went off in a huff.

  • Loony

    This is just an example of the all pervasive inanity that effects the educated classes.

    On the one hand you have a guy trained in science that bangs on about “testable hypothesis” and “inductive reasoning” and then completely abandons all rationality to hurl abuse and insults, to make wildly unfounded claims about the EU and concludes that Russia is responsible despite having absolutely no testable hypothesis whatsoever.

    Even if this person is bang on the money in every respect – then the question remains so what? What exactly are you going to do about it. Answer absolutely nothing. So piss off and stop wasting everyone’s time with your remarkably tedious knowledge of inductive reasoning that only applies when you decide that it should apply.

  • Node


    Davis is obscuring his lack of scientific evidence behind a facade of bluster. He’d rather reduce the discussion to an emotional level. You calling him a “right wing nutter” gives him the opportunity to trade insults rather than facts.

    Restraint, please 🙂

  • mike

    A chemical attack launched by a foreign tyrant; our US brothers “standing shoulder to shoulder” with their greatest ally; Prime Minister Tony Blair at the dispatch box, warning that “three kilograms of VX from a rocket launcher would contaminate a quarter of a square kilometre of a city” and that Gaddafi’s Viagra-primed troops were on their way to a field hospital in the Golan Heights, where they would chuck all Priti Patel’s babies out of their incubators and then blow themselves up in Manchester before poisoning a spy in…

    No, hang on, I’m getting my conspiracies and timelines mixed up here.

    I’ll get back to you.

  • Kempe

    ” Davis 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]. ”

    Nothing remarkable about it, it’s the way science works, you find new evidence, you change your mind. I will agree this approach is becoming increasingly rare in general life where people seem to decide what they want to believe than go looking for supporting evidence, quietly ignoring anything contradictory. I’m not sure OPCW doubted the existence of Novichoks, the scientific committee just said they’d seen no evidence and as any scientist will tell you absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence.

  • P

    And there you have it ………. focus moved.

    In countermeasure technology; distraction, confusion, seduction and decoy are used where applicable.

    Craig has tripped into the trap or jumped into it, the result is the same.

    Craig should have said they don’t know (the police, security services, Porton Down and Media .. And I don’t know either.

    But he didn’t and the bullshit he spurt flew back in his face.


    I’m not sure.

    • Baalbek

      What? Craig’s only real (minor) blunder was the ‘right-wing nutter’ remark but that doesn’t change the facts. You seem confused.

  • John Orr

    To defend the rule of law we must operate within the rule of law. Motive, opportunity and a terrible record are circumstantial and on their own are no more than speculation, gossip and rumour. We demand the due process of the judiciary examine the evidence and determine any required action not unqualified politicians acting on speculation.

  • John A

    I love this ‘if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck etc. etc.,’ line of argument, which presupposes everyone knows what a duck looks like.
    In the case of this novichok nerve gas, the initial story was that only Russia had it, could make it and it was all secret, which would almost certainly mean, no one else could, with any kind of high probability as May alleges, say that whatever substance the Russian pair were exposed to, looks like novichok, quacks like novichok, walks like novichok etc., and therefore is novichok.

    • Martinned

      Actually, none of that is the duck-point. I have no desire to read up on the intricacies of various countries’ chemical weapons programmes. I’ll leave that to people with even less of a life than me. The duck point is this:

      If it looks like a dead Russian, and quacks like a dead Russian, it’s probably a dead Russian.

      Anyone trying to argue for the innocence of the dictator-for-life of Russia had better have some seriously good arguments, in much the same way that the blame for a dead Uzbek would normally lie with Shavkat Mirziyoyev. It’s straightforward cui bono?

      • John A

        Wow, woosh, you’ve completely missed the point. Whatever you are talking about, be it a duck, a Russian, a dead Russian or even a dead duck. You need to know what this looks like.

        For instance, how about, “if it looks like a Martian, quacks like a Martian, walks like a Martian etc., then it’s a Martian”.
        Of course, I’ve seen ‘Martians’ in films, in science fiction series, comic books, as a kid we collected ‘Mars Attacks’ cards and watched ‘My favourite Martian’ on TV, but leaving aside the UFO fanatics, who could say with any probability, let alone high probability, that a particular object is a Martian?

  • Bob Apposite

    I don’t understand why Craig doesn’t just attempt to contact some Portdon Down scientists and ask them these questions before “announcing” that it’s a conspiracy/false-flag attack.

    I mean, did you consult ANY scientists before coming to your conclusion?

    • Bob Apposite

      And note, Craig has no problem believing “without any evidence” that this is a false flag attack.

      So, objections about “evidence” seem, at best, hypocritical.

    • Stonky

      “I don’t understand why Craig doesn’t just attempt to contact some Portdon Down scientists and ask them these questions…”

      What a great idea. It would have been even better if a single one of the massed ranks of our MSM – for example the BBC, who might actually have the clout to get a Proton Down scientist to talk to them – had done the same, before obediently falling in line behind the government like a squawky-parrot choir.

      • Harry

        Stonky, that article does not claim that it was a false flag attack. The claim, sustained by clearly presented facts, is that it is a bunkum accusation for political purposes, similar to the Iraqi WMD Scam. Craig does not claim that the Russians were not behind the poisoning, or that the Russians didn’t do something similar before. However, it is becoming increasingly doubtful that the Russian government was behind this attack.

      • Harry

        Oops sorry Stonky – I misplaced my above comment, I meant Bob not you (and I cannot edit my comment to correct it).

  • Paul Surovell

    Russiagate-UK apparently has the same logic as Russiagate-US: If allegation is against Russia then allegation is fact.

    • SA

      Monbiot has taken the establishment line in foreign policy especially with regards Syria.

      • RogerDodger

        And nuclear power. Which was quite the Damascene conversion from a die-hard environmental and renewables advocate.

      • Baalbek

        And in 2013 Monbiot used his Grauniad column to vent bile on Chomsky and Hermann, accusing them of being genocide deniers re. Serbia’s actions in the Balkan war.

    • Plod

      Martinned (Wait, rewind, George Monbiot is your example of an establishment journalist? Wow, that speaks volumes)

      Your comment reveals just how out of touch you are.

  • P Sued-O'Nymne

    Plod here. I believe a particularly brutal murder was committed the other day, somewhere or other, involving the use of a knife. As knives are produced in countries that border Russia, quite plainly the Russian government is not only involved, but at the highest level. By the way, I’m not prepared to produce the knife for forensic examination. And, if a chemist walks like a twat, and talks like a twat, then, QED, he’s a twat.

  • SA

    Are we fast approaching a point when dissent will not be tolerated? Watching the discussions in the Houses of Parliament and the demonisation of Corbyn on the BBC and of Seumas Milne, it is hard to see that soon actions may be taken against those w=ho do m=noy=t toe the patriotic party line.

  • Mike Healy

    There are many, many of us who were not fooled last times around and who will not be fooled again..keep up the good work…

  • John Goss

    Is it Davis or Davies? His tweets suggest Davies.

    “I suppose it is important to them as validating their decision to support uncritically the government line without doing any actual journalism.”

    I would not call it a “government line”. Surely you have one “n” too many for the phrase to ring true. It is a farce. I am so ashamed of my government (not Jeremy Corbyn) and its subservience to the USA. The US, itself subservient to its Zyonist puppeteers, has caused nothing but misery all over the world, including the US, and now its imperialism is on its last legs it is working through so-called NATO allies to create a non-existent enemy. It is not going well for them with an exodus of biblical proportion in South Ghouta.

    This Skripal affair is utter tosh. There are are so many unknowns. As I wrote on my FB page: “Over the last few days I have noticed reporters referring to the Skripals in the past tense. For example yesterday there was a reporter on Sky said that Yulia Skripal “lived” in Moscow and Sergei Skripal “lived” in Salisbury. Are they dead? I have never seen a doctor from the hospital give a breakdown on the state of their health. Something is very wrong with this story.” Subsequently I found this.

    Just what is going on?

    • Baalbek

      Also notice how the media almost never prefaces the accusations against Russia with ‘alleged’.

  • Made By Dom

    So glad you made the Popper Swans remark. I had exactly the same thought when I read him citing that duck cliche. My late father, who was a proper old school scientist often quoted Popper’s swans analogy. His other favourite that he often used to illustrate the importance of empirical evidence came from Aristotle (some say it’s apocryphal)… Aristotle claimed by simple observation that women had fewer teeth than men because their heads were smaller. He didn’t bother to test his theory.
    Seems quite apt really. To all who claim Russia are behind this… they might well be…. but, for the sake of the enlightenment, at least count the bloody teeth!

  • Xavi

    Monbiot is one intriguing figure. He’s established a career and prominent public persona by demanding that the world be saved from man-made climate destruction. Yet for the past several years now he’s been putting his shoulder to the propaganda wheel for confrontation with Russia.

    Surely he doesn’t need to have spelt out to him what nuclear winter would entail for the planet and for organised human life on it? Or has his eco-warrier persona just been a front all along?

    • Made By Dom

      I want to trust Monbiot but he does occasionally come out with total codswallop.
      I remember reading one article where he very proudly declared he was a vegetarian but then went on to say that he still eats meat, fish, dairy and eggs.

      • Xavi

        Woah! Quite a flexible version of vegetarianism he’s created for himself there! The plot thickens..

    • Shatnersrug

      I have said here before, Monbiot is wealthy, he lives in the exclusive Hyde park gate complex with a cool he calls cool and a nanny he calls nanny. There he has a private gallery stuffed full of priceless paintings by old and 20th century masters. He may own a farm in Wales but he certainly doesn’t live on it. That’s the true of Monbiot, I know I’ve been there.

      His public persona is a complete fabrication. His job is represent a subset of ‘tree hugging’ guardian readers (used to be quite a large demographic of post grads and a significant chunk of their base) and bring them into line for foreign policy matters. Providing he waffles on about planet saving and various ‘green’ issues its hoped that readers can be hoodwinked into supporting foreign wars and invasions.

  • Republicofscotland

    The establishment and its lickspittle media, and several 77th Brigade personnel in here are closing ranks to attempt to discredit you.

    Why? Well you’ve done a good job of exposing the real possibility that the Skripal event was staged, and they don’t like it one little bit.

    Meanwhile Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has announced a £48 million pound investment at Porton Down.

  • Brian Davey

    The former Moscow correspondent of the Irish Times thinks it unlikely Putin was behind the Salisbury attack. He appears to think it more likely that by hosting Russian oligarchs in London Britain has imported some dodgy people and

    “Perhaps it is time to realise that if your country becomes a haven for dodgy people like Berezovsky then dodgy things are likely to happen.”

  • Sharon

    The government has today announced millions in funding to Porton Down……….
    Maybe that greased the way….

    • P

      Some years ago Firemen / ladies / crews / lady boys were put onto a productivity bonus incentive scheme. Shortly after a number of unexplained and mysterious blazes occurred. When the productivity bonus was withdrawn the curious incidents ceased.

      I’m not saying there are are pay grievances at Porton (there are in nearly all work places) but that could be one avenue of exploration before we start nuking Moscow.

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