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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  • Sal Newton

    Good piece Craig. Bang on the nail as usual.
    More than happy to contribute when I can. Any chance you can add a “one of payment” option, as well as the subscription ones please?

  • Albert A

    Sadly I fear the OPCW will soon be added to the list of disillusionments. There is no way the OPCW even though it is not an UN organ will oppose thr prevailing orthodoxy after the physical strike by USA, FRANCE and BRITIAN.The report will say there WAS evidence of gas without committing an opinion as to its perpetrator, and this will be enough to keep the great Western media happy. I would be very surprised if William Hill would even quote odds for any other result.

  • Dom

    The Times is effectively outraged that a glimmer of critical thinking / deductive reasoning still exists in British universities. Aaronovitch clearly thinks it a disgrace that Britain’s institutions of highest learning should be polluted by people who don’t credulously accept every utterance of Theresa May and Boris Johnson.

  • Gill McCall

    I have only recently “discovered” you, by chance, on the WWW. My delight at meeting you at the premiere of Galloway’s fim, The killing$ of Tony Blair, was unbounded. Since then I have been reading your blogs voraciously, and often in preference to hard copy newspapers. As the weeks creep by, and I am increasingly infuriated by the lies, distortions and propaganda in The Giardian and The Observer, and my eyes strain on the small print, I hardly bother to read them: I turn straight to the cryptic crosswords, instead, and use the papers to lin the bins. I will happily subscribe, as along with news from RT, Al Jezeera, Skwawkbox, Canary, your blogs more than compensate for my second favourite part of the newspapers, the Editorials. Thank You.

  • Derek J. Smith

    The hard part, I find, is getting anybody to give a damn. I post kittens, I get 20 likes – I post injustice, not one. Perhaps we are made sheep in order to be shorn!

    • Hatuey

      Everybody is wrapped up in themselves. Those who are struggling are wrapped up in worry, and those who are doing good are wondering what they can buy to fill the void. Add football and soap operas to the mix and you can more or less rule out any sort of meaningful response from 90% of the population

      All in all though these are the best of times as far as communicating and publicising are concerned. Look at what Wings and others have achieved.

  • Sami

    Anyone with a minute amount of intelligence can come to the conclusion that no-one in position of authority in the western world gives a damn about the Syrian people on a humanitarian ground. Had these creatures have an iota of decency, they will not remain silent on other countries’ ghastly crimes in the region, most notably Saudi Arabia and Israel.
    Lastly, I add my voice to those who are only happy to subscribe to your blog which is a breath of fresh air in a sea contaminated with disgraceful brainwashing disinformation by most, if not all, the controlled mainstream media.

  • Alex

    You can un-swallow your pride, you and your site absolutely deserve support.

    Perhaps adding a one-time payment option (or placing it more prominently, should I have overlooked it) would generate more income. Many people are hesitant (myself included) about subscriptions.

  • Scott

    Hi Craig,

    As mentioned, there are alternative approaches to monetise your content like Patreon, that I think are worth looking at. In the meantime, happy to contribute. Your blog is a highlight for me.


  • Spaull

    I’ve just bought the new album by the Damned, called Evil Spirits. There is a track on there called “We’re So Nice”, whose lyrics seemed rather apt here.

    It takes a lot to make a nation want to fight
    But you can trust the daily news to put us right
    To point us where to go and who has got to die
    On a lie…

  • Oscar

    I am happy to contribute £2 a month, Craig. That’s only the price of a cup of coffee. I hope others can do the same. They can always switch off the recurring payments later if they wish.

  • Capella

    Well said, Craig. The megaphone propaganda levels are the worst I have ever seen and the creation of Russia as enemy-of -the-state is Orwellian. Though traditional too. It clearly indicates an attack is planned.

    Here is Chris Hedges and Mark Crispin Miller discussing this very topic. The parallels wiht Dr Goebbels techniques are highlighted, including the exclusion of any dissident voices from the media. 30 mins.

    • BarrieJ

      A fairly recent re reading of the history of the Third Reich illustrated frankly shocking parallels with Britain today.
      The corruption of offices of state and the complicit cooperation of the media.
      Opponents in the press and academia called out, isolated and in many cases humiliated by being forced from their jobs.
      I’d always suspected that MI5 and MI6 were not what the electorate believed them to be but recent events confirming my suspicions have nonetheless been very disquieting.

  • King of Welsh Noir

    The Orwellian Sky interview is proof, if any was needed, that the UK Govt and mainstream media have finally jumped the shark.

    Ian56 should have taken the piss and dressed up as a Cossack & had a Russian flag and a portrait of Karl Marx II hanging up behind him.

  • Cesca

    Brilliant article Craig, what the Govt is doing now by trying to control info/spread propaganda, is full on Fascism! Seriously doubt i’d agree with Ian’s political choices, would love the debate tho cos we’re both articulate and can defend our corner well. Kudos to him for his Sky interview, he made the presenters/stooges look like idiots. =)

  • Jane

    Jonathan Freedland, Nick Cohen and others are supporters of Israel. These days though, especially on certain alternative media sites, you get pro-Palestinians like for example Louis Proyect (The Unrepentant Marxist) who refuse to question a word of the mainstream narrative on Syria in particular and Russia in general and use their considerable writing skills to pour scorn on anyone who does. George Monbiot from the mainstream Guardian is also a pro-Palestinian who is trotted out from time to time to attempt to discredit alternative views on Syria, Russia, Rwanda, ex-Yugoslavia and other subjects on which he has no more direct knowledge than I do. Yet you get Peter Hitchens of the Mail on Sunday, who describes himself as a Zionist, and who expresses at length in his blog his doubts about what we are being told about Skripal and Syria. You see the same thing in France where I live. The other day I watched a speech on Youtube by none other than Marine Le Pen in which she tore into Emmanuel Macron for following the US blindly into war. A regular guest on French radio programmes, a gentleman called Raphaël Pitti, who describes himself as a humanitarian doctor and who is proud of having trained members of the White Helmets (!!) recently received much publicity for returning his Légion d’honneur to the government because of its unwelcoming immigration policy. The point I am making is that those on the side of the angels,holding pro-Palestinian, pro-refugee positions, are often the ones baying for blood when it comes to Russia and Syria. We live in strange times indeed.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain

      Jane, forgive me, but I think you have been led astray by practised dissemblers. There are so very many false facades being presented, although it is conceivable that some exotic mental process can lead one to ‘support’ the Palestinians and ‘support’ the Zionists’ cats-paws, the takfiri butchers, in Syria.

  • Hilary Cousen

    I would happily give a donation but being a woman who was a born in the 50’s I have very little cash to help.

  • MSG

    Craig Murray’s blog, together with a fair proportion of its accompanying comments, is worth far more to me than any daily newspaper – so I shall contribute accordingly.

  • Radar O’Reilly

    Perpetual PayPal payment processed, please persist, perspicacious Craig!

  • Sharp Ears

    On the previous thread, ‘Go Away and Shut Up’ revealed Sky’s attempt to rubbish Ian by Sarah Hewson and Alastair Bunkall.

    At the start of the video linked by Craig, Bunkall quoted the Atlantic Council as the source on ‘Russian bots’. LOL

    Kissinger is included in its roll call of ‘directors’. Cannot see Albright, Rove, Cheney, etc (has beens) but Chertoff and Petraeus are there and Powell and Condoleeza Rice are styled as ‘honorary directors’. A nest of PNAC/NWO vipers.

  • Ottomanboi

    The British state is in panic attack mode. Scottish nationalism threatens within. Brexit, terms indeterminate, threatens from without. The ghosts of imperial ‘glory’ hover over latest Commonwealth ‘do’ giving the establishment notions of importance: what we were, we might be again.
    Back to the future is the warcry. Mr Wells sir, how does one confect a time-machine?

  • M.J.

    I started my life not knowing that anything was wrong with the human race. But during my life, I have been shocked by what humans are capable of. (My own misdeeds are a reason for regret too, of course).
    Unfortunately I cannot leave the human race because I am one of them!
    So, I’ll just have to stay put and, despite my many imperfections, do what little good I can and wish to. 🙂

  • Ron

    Im a long time reader although I rarely comment.
    Unlike the pleading all over the Guardian website your request is welcome and I am happy to contribute modestly. Keep doing what you’re doing.

  • Sharp Ears

    Nevermind all of this,. Another prince or princess is on its way into the world today and another older prince is about to marry. In the local Sainsbury’s there is one of those temporary displays filled with all sorts of party trash for the ‘wedding’, all in red, white and blue of course.

    Meanwhile the 21.99% Qatari owed outfit is sacking thousands off its management staff.

    ‘Thousands of jobs are under the microscope at supermarket chain Sainsbury’s after it said on Tuesday it was shaking up the way its stores are run. The grocer is axing management roles across its 1,400 shops, including deputy managers, department managers and store supervisors, to keep a lid on costs. However, affected employees will be able to move into newly created roles. The alternative is to take a pay cut or potentially be made redundant.’

    So that’s OK then.

    Last year they sacked 2,000 from its HR and payroll divisions.

    BlackRock Inc own 5.01% of Sainsbury’s shares. They have just employed Gideon George Osborne on £660,000. He is also the editor of the Evening Standard. No irony there!

  • John Howley

    Good article.

    £2 per month is a cup of coffee -done.

    It’s in the interests of Israel to keep the Arabs at each other’s throats. Hence the support for anything which weakens the Muslim nations.

  • jazza

    What is there left to say about David Aaronovitch – a truly vile hypocritical zionist and warmonger

    • BarrieJ

      Agreed, I’d read nothing by him nor buy any publication in which he writes, although frankly the same applies to Freedland, Cohen, Rentoul and the American Hadley Freeman.

  • John O'Dowd

    Modest monthly contribution set up.

    It would be useful if a one-off arrangement could be set up in addition.

    Your website is an indispensable antidote to the corporate/neocon/neoliberal machine that dominates the corporate press and the State Broadcaster. Your insight, inside knowledge, superb analytical skills and personal probity are a priceless asset.

  • Clive P

    Craig – absolutely right. After 15 years in the ministry of defence I had had enough of the intellectual corruption of Whitehall and left in rather spectacular fashion. Then 15 years teaching at a university watching every academic value being trashed by the government. Failed academics going on to become administrators and paying themselves ridiculous salaries. The BBC is not just an establishment tool but now has the news values of a right wing tabloid – not surprising given the people in charge. Subtle, and not subtle, bias in a whole stream of so-called journalists. The Guardian is a curate’s egg but going down hill rapidly. It can still do good journalism e.g. Amerlia Gentleman’s superb series on the Windrush scandal which surely must win some prizes but it is so pro-Israel as to be ridiculous (the piece this weekend was beyond belief).
    Now surviving on pensions but happy to try and keep some dissent alive!

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