Index on Disgrace 215

The second half of my life has been a continual process of disillusionment with the institutions I used to respect. I suppose it started with the FCO, where I went from being Britain’s youngest ambassador to being sacked for opposing the use of intelligence from torture, at the same time having an insider view of the knowing lies about Iraqi WMD being used as a pretext for invasion and resource grab.

I still had some residual respect for the BBC, which respect disappeared during the Scottish independence referendum where BBC propaganda and disregard for the truth were truly shameless. My love of the universities was severely tested during my period as Rector of Dundee University, when I saw how far the corporate model had turned them from academic communities developing people and pursuing knowledge, to relentless churners out of unconsidered graduates and financially profitable research, with nearly all sense of community gone. My respect for charities vanished when I discovered Save the Children was paying its chief executive £370,000 and had become a haven for New Labour politicos on huge salaries, which was why it was so involved in pushing a pro-war narrative in Syria. When Justin Forsyth and Brendan Cox – both massively salaried employees who came into Save the Children from the revolving door of Gordon Brown’s office – were outed over sexual predation, that seemed a natural result of “charities” being headed by rich party hacks rather than by simple people trying to do good. As for respect for parliament, well the massive troughing expenses scandal and all those protected paedophiles…

It has become difficult to hang on to respect for any institution, and that is unsettling.

Which brings me to last week’s annual awards from Index on Censorship. The winners of the awards – from Cuba, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Honduras and Egypt – all seem worthy enough, and there is even some departure from the neo-con narrative in recognising a human rights problem in Egypt.

But the Chairman of Index on Censorship is, incredibly, Rupert Murdoch lead hack David Aaronovitch, and he presided over the awards, in the very week in which the newspaper for which he writes produced this appalling attack on freedom of expression:

Inside there was a further two page attack on named academics who have the temerity to ask for evidence of government claims over Syria, including distinguished Professors Tim Hayward, Paul McKeigue and Piers Robinson. The Times also attacked named journalists and bloggers and, to top it off, finished with a column alleging collusion between Scottish nationalists and the Russian state.

That the Chairman of “Index on Censorship” is associated with this kind of attack on freedom of speech, freedom of thought and freedom of research is sadly unsurprising. The guest list of the Index ceremony had a distinct right wing tinge including A C Grayling and Sara Khan, as well as a good smattering of the BBC, which was also represented on the judging panel. The irony of the state broadcaster being part of a panel on freedom of expression is plainly lost.

I realised something was very wrong with Index on Censorship when I contacted them over a decade ago, when Jack Straw attempted to ban the publication of my book Murder in Samarkand, after it had passed successfully through the exhaustive FCO clearance process over a time-consuming year. I tried to interest them again when my second book The Catholic Orangemen of Togo was dropped by my publisher following libel threats from mercenary commander Tim Spicer of Aegis/Executive Outcomes/Sandline. On both occasions I was told that then Chief Executive of Index, John Kampfner, did not regard these attempted book bannings as incidents of censorship. Presumably because they weren’t somewhere like Cuba or Zimbabwe…

The truly appalling Times attack on academics was part of a coordinated and government-led campaign to delegitimise anybody doubting the official narrative on Salisbury and Syria. The BBC weighed in with this horrible effort:

The government then issued a ridiculous press release branding decent people as “Russian bots” just for opposing British policy in Syria. In a piece of McCarthyism so macabre I cannot believe this is really happening, an apparently pleasant and normal man called Ian was grilled live on Murdoch’s Sky News, having been named by his own government as a Russian bot.

The Guardian uncritically published the government’s accusations in full, and astonishingly seemed proud that it had made no attempt to investigate their veracity but had merely published what the government wished them to publish:

The Guardian naturally was just as reliable as the BBC in driving home the message that anybody who doubted the government’s word on Syria was a flat-earth denier of the truth:

Mr Freedland is of course a perfect representation of an interesting fact. Those who are most active in telling us that we must attack Syria, and that anybody who questions the government’s pretexts is insane or evil, are precisely the same individuals who supported the war in Iraq and attacked those who doubted the existence of Iraqi WMD. indeed these people – Jonathan Freedland, David Aaronovitch, Oliver Kamm, Alan Mendoza, Andrew Rawnsley, John Rentoul, Nick Cohen – are the leaders of the tiny, insignificant number of people who still believe that the invasion of Iraq was both justified and beneficial in its result.

Yet these people of proven terrible judgement, they and others of their media class, are the arbiters who are allowed to dictate the terms of what is and what is not an acceptable public utterance on the situation in Syria.

When Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the opposition, one of two things had to happen. Either the Overton window had to shift to allow for the reflection of views held by the leader of the official opposition and his myriad supporters, or the leader of the opposition had to be castigated and humiliated as an unreasonable lunatic. Corbyn’s rational scepticism on British involvement in the conflict in Syria is a key moment in this process. Despite the fact Corbyn’s scepticism is supported by a wide swathe of diplomatic and military opinion within the UK, it has to be portrayed as fringe, extreme and irrational.

We thus have the extraordinary spectacle of a coordinated government and media onslaught on anybody who doubts their entirely fact free narratives. Those who were demonstrably completely wrong over Iraq are held up as infallible, and given full control of all state and corporate media platforms, where they deride those who were right over Iraq as crackpots and Russian bots.

Meanwhile public trust in the state and corporate media hits new lows, which is the happy part of this story.


Finally, a change of policy on this blog.

For thirteen years now it has operated with a policy of not accepting donations, except for occasional legal funds. It has now reached a size and cost, not least because of continual attacks, that make income essential. It is also the case that due to change in personal circumstance I am no longer in a position to devote my time to it without income – the need to earn a living caused the blog to go dark for almost five months last year, and the last six weeks this journalism has stopped me doing anything else to pay the rent. So, with a certain amount of pride swallowed, here is your chance to subscribe:

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215 thoughts on “Index on Disgrace

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  • Oliver Williams

    You are an excellent source of information and reasoned debate.
    I suscribe.

  • John Connor

    Glad to subscribe to keep your illuminating contributions out there challenging those who would deceive us in the service of corporatism and greed.

  • CornishMel

    Craig – I am a Save the Children volunteer and I was surprised by your statement that they pay the CEO as much as £370K. I understood it to be about £160K – still too much but a lot less than your figure. Can you give a reference for your number?

    • PJB

      A lot of these once great Western humanitarian organisations have been hijacked by the elite corporatocracy-Deep State. I noticed World Vision pushing the mainstream narrative on Syria this week. I’ve quit giving money to Amnesty International after supporting them for decades, Human Rights Watch, Avaaz and others all similarly compromised and controlled. Orwellian ‘newspeak’ and ‘doublespeak’ is everywhere. I suppose it’s easy for the elites with £Trillions to draw upon and a surveillance state to both bribe and threaten minions into sticking to the imperial narrative.
      Wonderful therefore to have brave voices like Craig Murray’s to remind us what Truth really is.

  • Stu

    The tax thing is a red herring. All that money makes it’s way back to the treasury anyway whether it’s spent on FOBTs or beer or petrol or milk.

    They haven’t banned it because the bookmakers have lots of money and throw it around

    “Sports and betting companies top the list of donors treating MPs to gifts and hospitality.
    The Ladbrokes Coral group appeared 15 times in the register of members’ interests, more than any other donor.
    Out of 187 donations from UK sources registered by MPs, 58 were from the world of sport. A further 19 were from betting companies.
    Ladbrokes Coral said it wanted MPs to take decisions “from a position of knowledge”.”

  • John Calvin's Ghost

    I could not believe my ears when the dopey cow on SKY actually asked the bloke if he was a Russian Bot. Does she even know what a bot is ? FFS .

  • Stonky

    Very happy to subscribe. I bet in a year or so you’ll be collecting more subscription money than the Guardian.


    This whole line is so depressing and has really come into full-bloom since the Brexit vote. The gloves are off, and anyone not prepared to toe the #BourgeoisLeft line is battered with every taboo-crime there is: racist, sexist, xenophobe, anti-Semite (Corbyn, right now, for insisting on due process for Russia in the Salisbury hoax), white supremacist (Bannon, Sessions, Charlottesville). Or no particular charge at all, but the curled lip of moral disappointment, in the deployment of which the BBC and New York Times set the gold standard.

    The neo-McCarthyite charges of Russia-bot-ism would seem easy to disprove, though they effectively waste time and distract to the point that one avoids the activity that provokes the charge (will the so-charged professors be so willing to engage in public debate next time, or express a free thought? I know I am sick of the pitchforks in The Times “reader comments” sections, so barely read the damned paper itself any more, let alone comment.)

    The chilling and Orwellian charge equating dissent with mental deficiency was put in bold print by the Establishment favourite, The Economist, in its (in)famous “Post-Truth” issue, as if dissent could only make sense as a departure NOT from self-serving orthodox Narratives, but from rationality itself. This has been elaborated over and over, with the mockery of President Trump and his surrogates’ “alternative facts,” or of his particular brand of New York braggadocio, as if a cafe in Brooklyn offering “the best bagels in the world” meant that to be taken literally, and required fact-checkers to set the record straight.

    The aggression and globality of the fight-back really must indicate something about the contest, namely that the Establishment sees loss of its dictatorial preeminence as a possibility as never before. The only way that possibility could really be closed is by shutting down social media more fully. In other words, not the mere muting, de-monetising, and censorship that already take place, but something more aggressive, which might even end the sort of interaction we are engaging in right now. I do not rule it out, but it would have extreme consequences. I was talking with someone recently about how the current atmosphere of public debate had fascinating parallels with the time of Tyndale and Luther. Bibles in the vernacular challenged the Truth-monopoly of the Church, and allowed an increasingly self-confident merchant class to call B.S. on the heretofore unassailable Church’s #FakeNews, like “indulgences” or opportunistic death taxes. My conversation-partner reminded me that however triumphant the moment might have been for the Lollards (if they avoided being burnt at the stake), it was followed by decades of horrible war. Indeed.

    • sszorin

      You picked very good examples of “challenge to Truth-monopoly”. The Lollards-Tyndale-Luther axis was an axis of manufacturing beautiful lies.

  • Ingwe

    Today, Tuesday 24th, the BBC Radio 4 has just run the most disgracefully one sided anti-Russian propaganda piece dressed as a quasi-historical comparison with events in the 1920s and now. Presented by the Zionist reactionary Jonathan Freedland, it puked up, as experts, the usual Russia-phobes including Ed Lucas and Tony Brenton. Called “The Long View”, if you missed it this morning, doubtless it will be repeated more than once, including probably on Pick of the Week. If ever proof was needed of the BBC’s grotesque bias and role as purveyor of Government propaganda, this is it. Enjoy!
    I’m now firmly of the view, that the BBC should no longer receive public money. I used to argue the contrary based on the error that however small, the BBC acted as some counterbalance to the rubbish pumped out my the newspapers. No more.

  • Phil Clarke

    Quote from article: “Yet these people of proven terrible judgement, they and others of their media class, are the arbiters who are allowed to dictate the terms of what is and what is not an acceptable public utterance on the situation in Syria.”

    The ‘terrible judgement’ is that they think their audience is stupid or blind and in their ignorance of how their propaganda is received by anyone remotely skeptical of the motives of government – who are probably already well familiar with their reputation as right-wing toadies. Are any of them NOT supporters of Israel?

    • Jo Dominich

      I think another thing is being missed here – is that the MSM really do believe, and if I am right in thinking, Murdoch actually said it some years ago, that it is the Press that run this country – they can get governments elected and/or destroyed through their Press coverage and reportage of scandals, smear campaigns etc (just like that which is happening to Corbyn now). So, it is not just that the MSM has now turned into one massive propaganda machine for the Tory Government but it is also that arrogant that it is a demonstration of their perceived power in this country that they are forcefully pumping out not only the Government’s agenda but wielding their own power over the people so to speak. Unfortunately for them, it seems to me the public, in the case of Skripal and Syria are simply not buying it so the more the public challenge their ridiculous stories the more vigorous they become in churning it out because, they do not reflect public opinion any more they truly believe they create and manage it.

  • Donna

    Craig swallow your pride no more. Your blog has become a vital part of my days enlightenment. My go to for impartial news that you provide has become a necessary part of my diet. I am happy to submit my gym membership for the gymnasium of the my mind that you put to daily exercise.
    Thank-you for your tireless work in seeking the truth in these days exasperating hopeless liars.

  • Steve Hayes

    What I find strange is the fact that you have reached this (limited) realisation of the extent of the sociopathy of the neoliberal globalist elite so recently. It is not like any of this is new. The English ruling elites have a long and consistent history of being utterly immoral. The history of the so called British empire is a history of horror, misery, exploitation and oppression. The domestic history is no better. The only limits to such savagery are those that have been imposed by the common people’s collective struggles.

  • Dumb Unicorn

    “the tiny, insignificant number of people who still believe that the invasion of Iraq was both justified and beneficial in its result.”

    I used to think that Tony Blair et al had failed spectacularly in Iraq, and could never understand why they didn’t express any kind of genuine regret at their failure. But then it hit me that I (and many others) had made a fundamentally incorrect assumption.

    At the time of the Iraq war I thought that their goal (albeit a misguided one and one which should never have been achieved via war) was to create a stable, democratic nation which would be a safe place for the Iraqis to live in and by default make the world safer. That was how it was sold to the public and I imagined that they thought they were saving Iraq, and would be hailed as heroes by the grateful Iraqis. But now I believe that was never the goal in the first place. The goal was to destabalise and destroy the country, to leave it weak and unable to function – and in that they succeeded. Those who do not see the Iraq war(s) as a failure are those who view its destruction as the end-game.

    The same pattern has been followed in Libya and Syria (and perhaps Yemen too). This has been planned for many years, and no matter who the ‘baddie’ of the day is, the result was always going to be the same. Al-Qaeda, Saddam, WMD, ISIS, Assad, Russia, Chemical Weapons, , are all just convenient excuses.

    As has been said countless times on here I’m sure – Cui bono?

    • Andyoldlabour

      I believe, that as ex general Wesley Clarke told us years ago, Iraq was simply a stepping stone, part of the aim of the Neocons to invade/occupy, change the regime of seven countries in five years.
      The countries included – Iraq, Libya, Syria, some others and finally Iran. This was to be the “New World Order” which Tony Blair talked about quite openly.
      It has proven to be the most chaotic, despotic adventure ever foisted on the Middle East.

  • Sebastian

    May/Johnson’s most entertaining attempt at a putsch to create and assume a prestigious post Brexit role as leaders of a crusade against the beast of the east seems to have faltered: With Jens Stoltenberg, a man never previously known to underplay the prospect of a role for NATO, saying that what happened in Salisbury was not article 5 worthy (after some little wait…).
    Whipping up a frenzy of onward and upward momentum with evidence free accusation and denouncement, in the tried and tested procedure of ritual defamation, inevitably brings into existence a cliff edge for the ensuing zombie apocalypse to charge over.(Wiley Coyote like, it can take a second….)
    I feel it will take much more than all the kings horses and men from Porton Down cleansing Salisbury with wet wipes for six weeks to restore what’s been entirely deservedly lost in the way of official credibility, of both politicians and media, in the eyes of a significantly increased audience.
    They wouldn’t be fussed about public perceptions if it was entirely, not just mostly, irrelevant.
    A brief foray into the hitherto (for me) unexplored territory of web metrics produced a chart showing an impressive increase in Craig’s web traffic from the end of February to end of March, at least. (best I got).
    The rather sparse information also included the factoid that the average duration of a visit was two and a halve minutes, suggesting to me that they may be counting in the DOS pings to produce the very scary (to some) appearance of a deluge of subversive activity. All the better to fuel the deafening chorus of calls for internet restrictions sure to follow very shortly, just as soon as they can fit it in the media programming schedule. TOR beckons. Clean out your cookies first, and then get over an internet speed reminiscent of 1995.
    Forward to our glorious future!

  • M.K. Styllinski

    Great summary of the very sorry state of the UK Establishment and its corrupted extension: the mainstream media. It seems to be getting worse and worse just as people slowly begin to wake up just how pathological our institutions really are.

  • David Kampfner

    ‘On both occasions I was told that then Chief Executive of Index, John Kampfner, did not regard these attempted book bannings as incidents of censorship. Presumably because they weren’t somewhere like Cuba or Zimbabwe…’ Enough said – more power to your elbow Craig

  • Keltro

    Lockerbie Bombing.
    I am surprised no one seems to comparing the Deep state/government conduct in the Skripal case to the Lockerbie disaster. Even though two Libyans were tried and one convicted I think most intelligent critics accept Libya had nothing to do with Lockerbie. The method is the same…. demonize a country over an incident with tunnel vision then when contradictory proof becomes available do everything to obfuscate and procrastinate.

  • Dennis Revell


    Great analysis as usual.

    For myself if I were to spread the net further into the international field, I would add the UN and the Nobel Prize Committee as outfits that even not-so-close examination reveal are no longer worthy of respect (if they ever were).


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