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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  • Ben

    Instant subscribe. This blog is at the pinnacle of vital New Left Media. With the continued disintegration of anything approaching integrity in the mainstream, self appointed ‘progressive’ press, we need the NLM, we need this blog. Happy to contribute to your continued ability to create this supremely important journalism.

  • Engine1944

    Please visit for potential help with your funding issue. They are a new platform dedicated to truth in journalism. They are structured to help solve journalists’ funding issues.

  • Rhys Jaggar

    I would like to share a few thoughts about Universities and charities, having studied, done research in universities, sometimes for charities and helped universities commercialise research (total time 25 year 18-44 yrs old):

    1) Universities displayed a biphasic schizophrenia during the period, particularly where research students and junior researchers were concerned.

    When I did my PhD 1986-89, pay was of the scandalously close to slave labour variety (£2756 per annum in 1986), training was mostly ‘here are some typed protocols, go and get on with it’. You could see this as a btprutal selection mechanism, but it is also destroyed many young people whose only crime was to loyally fit into the system from 4-21 yrs old that a very top down society had imposed upon them. It so happened the Research Institute I was at had a new head as I was finishing and I told him what I thought of the whole shebang (breaking the health of those in their early 20s hardly seemed a good strapline for those on a mission to cure illness was the gist of the message), allied to telling him my near-term plan was to recover my health and equilibrium spending a winter working in a ski resort. Cancer Research to holiday dogsbody, eh? It was a very shrewd move. Much like Mr Ambassador getting blackballed, young PhD student got the same treatment….

    What then happened in academia in the mid 1990s was a collective emotional hysteria and flipping completely the other way. Pay for students if anything got too high, students were treated like infants instead of graduates with at least a II/i and so instead of sink or swim, infantilisation was the result. PhDs became glorified Research Assistantships.

    I demonstrated in Oxford in 1996 that you could take a practically green highly intelligent postgrad and go from metaphorical nappy changing to mentoring of an independent lab member in well under 6 months. Dogma was absent, the sole criterion was: ‘how do I make this bookworm a functioning practical researcher ASAP?’

    Was I lauded for this, was I heck! Grateful student yes, otherwise the silence was deafening…

    2) Research Charities saw budgets like Sir Humphreys: the bigger your budget, the bigger your power. So innovating to reduce lab costs was not valued, as internal politics derided that. No one ever told all the little old ladies rattling cans how wasteful their beneficiaries were. But I noticed….that one I kept quiet about: not my battles to fight when I was at the coalface.

    3) Academics and charities had attitudes towards commercialisation which varied from hatred to disdain, until it looked like they might make some money. Then their attitudes changed. Oh, and often academics thought ideas of juniors were rubbish, but twelve months later they were great when it was their idea. It was a viscious irony when patent searches revealed that the intervening 12 months had seen a beknighted superhero file claims 6 months after we had enunciated just such claims to superiors……I kept quiet about that one too…

    So in 1997, I had had enough of research and moved toward business, returning to interface with academia some years later…..

    Career advice: do not be independent-minded AND in need of practical training if you wish to enter science research in academia. Academia either wants to ride the coat tails of a genius OR create a sycophantic hierarchy. It simply does not wish to develop each person to their optimal extent…….

    • SA

      I completely agree with you. My impression was that since the 1970s there has been a downward spiral in universities because they were increasingly forced to become self sufficient and rely on what became known as ‘translational research’ rather than basic research which is essential but now almost impossible to get funding for because of the lack of immediate commercial applicability. For a long time also all this chasing of money by university lead to teaching being treated as a second rate activity and much ignored and almost treated as a side-effect of universities. The rot really spread after introduction of student fees when the students then saw themselves as consumers, in charge of the service provided to them.

    • Sharp Ears

      I am sickened that war studies departments and military programmes are embedded in many British universities..

      eg Lincoln University boasting of theirs here.

      Kings College set up this outfit with Reid. Reid spoke to war studies students in 2006.

      He also set up a security studies dept at UCL. The undergraduates protested when BLiar initiated it. At least they could see it.

      Tony Blair jeered by UCL students
      Students and campaigners from Stop the War Coalition repeat call for former prime minister to be tried for war crimes

      Institute for Strategy, Resilience & Security

      The President and Provost of UCL from 2003-13 was Malcolm Grant. As a reward, he was given a knighthood and the job at the head of NHS England. Good work Malcolm. Carry on with the privatisation of OUR NHS. B***ards. The SoS for Health is not averse to some property dealing behind the scenes with the help of a Tory donor. That’s the way to do it!

      • Clive p

        This is nothing new. The ‘defence lectureships’ were set up by Healey in the 1960s. MOD pay for the first 10 years, and choose the lecturer, the university has to commit to making the post permanent afterwarda. No prizes for guessing the attitude of these people!

          • Dennis Revell

            To “IrishU” (but strangely no “Reply” button embedded in his/her comment):

            You should realise that you are contradicting information from Clive Ponting – one of the most honourable and truthful man to have ever graced a high governmental (civil service) position; and whistleblower par excellence – risking considerable jail time for that particular service to his country.

            Unless you have incontrivertible information to the contrary I suggest that it is YOUR response that is total nonsense, and that more generally you are most likely on most things full of shit.


  • nevermind

    I just had a comment deleted before it was posted???
    Any of the above journalists trying to hack this site? was it the capital kletters that are now banned?

    Thanks for your honesty and steadfast sensible opposition to the collective madness and media skew-width that are driving this right wing tantrum.
    I would love to pay a monthly amount, but not via Paypal, ever.
    Paypal stopped funds being directed to JA, wherever he may be now, and I will never use it.
    So I shall send you an annual cheque, on lets say May 1st.
    If you prefer a monthly donation I have to take out a direct debit agreement for which I need recipients info/acc.

    best wishes and good luck with it.

    • Robyn

      Agreed, nevermind. I, too, closed my Paypal account when they refused to take donations to Wikileaks.

  • AN

    “Those who are most active in telling us that we must attack Syria, and that anybody who questions the government’s pretexts is insane 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.”

    I’m not a big fan of Jonathan Freedland (who, did you know btw, was once chair of Index on Censorship), but as I understand it he was at least broadly opposed to the Iraq war.

  • John Leighton

    Hi Craig,
    Can’t commit to ‘monthly payments’ but would be happy to donate ‘one off’ amounts when I can
    Is this possible ?? ( not via PayPal)

    • Peter N

      Being in the precariat I can’t commit to monthly either. However, happy to donate via Paypal on one-off occasions. Please make that possible.

  • Ian

    Nobody should need reminding of what kind of 20th Century states scapegoated journalists, judges, academics or members of the public who opposed state policy. It seems to be new ‘taking back control’ which allies Murdoch/Dacre/Barclay Brothers with members of the government against any dissent, and urges the mob to see them as ‘traitors’, enemy agents, subversive elements and spies. Throw in the demonisation of ‘immigrants’ and the parallels are too disturbing. It should also be obvious how very dangerous such moves are. Brexit, along with Salisbury and Syria, has given them the perfect cover for these allegations. Nobody really believes the UK could become a right wing junta style state, but the signs are there. May’s open contempt for the parliamentary process, her constant moves to rely on royal prerogatives and refusal to listen to anything she doesn’t like, only gives succour and encouragement to the right in her party who clearly feel they are running the show – a small clique of people entirely unrepresentative of the population at large, and with an agenda with no mandate. Very worrying, as we slip further into a nightmare future.

  • Wilfrid Whattam

    Living on just on NZ Superannuation, I would like to make one-off donations occasional!y. Please make this option available.

  • anon

    Not to deepen your gloom, Mr. Murray, but to confirm your instincts.. here is a bbc report that despite decades of denials, MI5 has been vetting bbc journalists since its early days..

    and a George Orwell quote by moon of alabama,

    ‘ Early in life I have noticed that no event is ever correctly reported in a newspaper, but in Spain, for the first time, I saw newspaper reports which did not bear any relation to the facts, not even the relationship which is implied in an ordinary lie. I saw great battles reported where there had been no fighting, and complete silence where hundreds of men had been killed. I saw troops who had fought bravely denounced as cowards and traitors, and others who had never seen a shot fired hailed as the heroes of imaginary victories; and I saw newspapers in London retailing these lies and eager intellectuals building emotional superstructures over events that had never happened. I saw, in fact, history being written not in terms of what happened but of what ought to have happened according to various ‘party lines’. ‘

    George Orwell, Looking back on the Spanish War, Chapter 4

    crossreferenced with the saker

  • anon,

    The right response in such a world ?
    Perhaps gramsci
    ‘ Pessimism of the mind, optimism of the will ‘

    or Gandhi,
    ‘See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil ‘ i.e. first protect the good within yourself…keep it alive… after all the point of power, israeli hasbara, bellingcat investigations etc is to overwhelm your cognitive and moral capacities….

  • Hagar

    Hi Craig,
    You are one fucking slow learner! As are the majority of the population.

    Inside the SYSTEM and you could not see what was going on, until, you complained and told the truth. The rest is History.

    Even to-day you want to give our money to an American company, PayPal. Where does our Data go when we slide by without an account? What is wrong with keeping our money in our companies? Or, giving to you directly, and by doing so save/maximise the gift.
    Thatcher said, “buy British”. I say, “buy Scottish”.

    The truth is and has always been the enemy of ALL governments and their controllers.

    Ian56 got it right. I bet they regret having him on.

    Journalists are only obeying their masters orders. When challenged they lie like fuck to support their income/pay/salary.

    Finally, you do not let us discuss the root cause of the world’s problems, for fear of being sued.

    Start a fund for that purpose and let us name and shame. I must admit the shame bit would have no effect. Brass necks.

    Come on, let the battle begin.

    • Hatuey

      Why don’t you start a fund and set up your own website and “name and shame”?

      You have no excuse not to and you have no reason to expect others to engage in your battles for you.

  • Michael Westcombe

    Hi Craig.

    Very much enjoyed your blog over the past months. Would be pleased to donate.

    However, I am paid on commission, so my income necessarily varies from months to month. As a result, I am reluctant to commit to a Direct Debit. Would it be possible, for people like me, to have the option to make one-off donations, please? I do this with @skwawkbox, @MidWalesMike, sometimes @Rachael_Swindon, and occasionally with others, so I know that it is technically feasible.

    Best Wishes,

    • Michael Westcombe

      Oh, one more thing – I have had a couple of incidents with PayPal, so I will not rejoin them. The option to pay outside of their membership is crucial to me. The normal amount of my donations is £15.00. Thank you.

  • Peter Joyce

    Craig, I just tried to subscribe using a visa debit card. I tried multiple times but each time I was asked for information I’d already supplied and eventually I gave up. I’d like to subscribed can you find another way that I may do that?

    • TimH

      I had this same problem recently trying to donate to Jonathan Cook using a MasterCard Credit Card. It’s as if they don’t want you to donate this way.

  • Emorej a Hong Kong

    1-time donations need to be encouraged, mainly because Mr. Murray’s ability to receive funds electronically is likely to be blocked soon under current trends.

    At this moment, the value of this blog is particularly clear to an unusually high number of people, because the establishment’s lies and libels have been unusually transparent in a period of scrambling to respond to unexpected military failures in Syria and electoral failures in the Brexit, May/Corbyn & Hillary/Trump campaigns, not to mention whatever ridiculous comedy of errors initiated the Skripal incident.

    The establishment will eventually settle on internally consistent narratives which gain strength as memories fade about pre-consistency information. The Skripal incident is an extreme example of this, but the same basic process is relevant to virtually all politically important issues.

  • Sharp Ears

    Shock horror. ‘The Duchess of Cambridge is in labour’! That’s childbirth not the party.

    Two Sky News Harpies are in attendance OUTSIDE the Lindo Wing, together with a ‘royal correspondent’ from one of the tabloids. One of the harpies is Kay Burley, late of an attempted assassination of Craig. She is almost overcome with excitement. Are they given substances?

  • Lee Denness

    I’ve never read so many reasons to vote for Corbyn’s Socialist Labour Party and prize ourselves away from all the vested interests and corruption currently eating away at our society.
    Our current press is a disgrace. The BBC worse. They constantly encourage the poorly informed to vote against their own self interest.
    Only in power, can Labour change that, but Corbyn needs the people’s support to make that happen.
    As things now stand, what is the alternative?
    Once in power, the Labour Party needs to be convinced that P.R. is the way forward for a better and more representative nation.
    I am very happy to subscribe to this blog which is my main source of hope these days. Please not using PayPal though.

  • flatulence

    I wonder who’s sending these ddos attacks. Main culprits reported in the media used to be Anonymous, China and now our bad-guy-of-the-moment Russia. Oh and North Korea because they have a huge online presence, duhh. The UK and its allies don’t do such things of course.

    We are fed this backed up by undeniable evidence. Evidence we are not allowed to see for ourselves. Yet the evidence we can see are the cold hard facts, like for example, that none of the main stream media’s reported bad guys have any reason to send you ddos attacks yet. Not until you report something they don’t like. I don’t know any Russians personally, but in my ignorance, I imagine if you were reporting on them negatively, they wouldn’t give a toss. Unless you had a loud voice among their own population and they were actively trying to control their narrative, then they might if they were that way inclined. Oh, that sounds like the UK and it’s allies.

  • Sharp Ears

    Founded by several including Elon Musk,. PayPal once owned by Omidyar, Spun off from eBay into a separate entity.

    Net income $1.795billion.
    I will never use them for this reason:

    ‘Israel and Palestinian Territories
    PayPal is available in Israel but is not available in the Palestinian territories. Nor can Palestinians working in the West Bank or Gaza access it but Israelis living in settlements in the West Bank can use PayPal. This discrepancy has prompted tech companies to seek a policy change from PayPal.’

    What rogues.
    Purchase payments: There’s no fee to use PayPal to purchase goods or services. However, if you receive money for goods or services, the fee for each transaction is 2.9% plus $0.30 USD of the amount you receive

    OR maybe
    International sales
    4.4% transaction fee plus a fixed fee based on currency received.

    As clear as mud.

    so I will send a cheque to Craig at the address given at the time of the Wallis Simons libel lawsuit.

    • flatulence

      paypal sucks, but it is easy to set up if you are low on time and money. The lesser of two evils possibly? I’m sure Craig would like to implement other means of payment when time and money become available.

  • Jones

    i have long been disillusioned with politics/the establishment, or what is often just called the system, i think today’s rotten politics is a direct result of the Thatcher era when the callous pursuit of greed and self-interest was encouraged and rewarded, it seems some of those in politics today who grew up under Thatcher have adopted her disgusting religion of self-important and stamp on the rest attitude that prevails today, you can spot the worshipers a mile off they all display the same symptoms of their sickness, thankfully contagious though the sickness is there are still a few left who have not succumbed.

  • Wullie B
    Have you thought about using Patreon rather than Paypal Craig, many dont like that system as it is hacked continually, yes they do protect payment, but I wouldnt trust them now, wish I could afford to donate something, maybe once my fiction writing strts to pay off a bit more, good luck on getting funding sorted though,

  • Clavers

    Having recently cancelled my BBC Extortion and I would urge all free thinkers to to the same, I will have no issue making a monthly contribution. Our democracy was allowed by our controllers, to a certain extent, but they are in a blind panic now because of the freedom to challenge mainstream narrative that social media and the internet have brought. We are entering into dangerous times friends, our freedoms are being challenged daily. Time to support blogs like this, where radicals and truthseekers can meet….for now.

  • RD

    ‘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.’

    Is it really just ignorance and stupidity? Or a sheepish pack mentality? Maybe. Find that a little hard to believe though.

  • giyane

    ” Apologists for Assad ”
    The Zionist evil entity has caused maximum pain to Muslims over the last 30 years by financially and diplomatically supporting both sides of each and every country they eventually attacked. They supported Saddam Hussain in the ’80s and supplied him with the wherewithal to fire missiles at Israel, but then attacked for having such missiles. They provided Iran with nuclear secret technology but then attacked them for having it.
    Oh , sorry that hasn’t happened yet. In fact with military co-ordination between Tehran, Damascus, Moscow and Baghdad, we now live in a bi-polar world in which mutual global destruction or mutual peaceful co-operation are 50 50 bets.

    The anti-Semitic attacks seem to my rather visual imagination rather like a carburettor which is full of water rather than petrol. Of course we are going to attack all attempts by the pro-Israel, anti-Muslim establishment to decimate all believers in Islam. Why would we not? The car won’t go because the fuel has been replaced by rusty dross, the outpourings Zionist tripe by the neo-bonkers establishment.

    What is more disturbing than the all-pervading pong of Zionist racism against Muslims, is the pong of MPs having been entirely bought. in this case the metaphor to describe it is not rusty water making a dysfunctional world, but a fresh water source that has gone completely stagnant from want of exercise of the brain-cells of intelligent and eloquent men and women. Check you eggs, your milk and your water butts- all these sources of life will stink if not used by their sell-by-date.

    The total lack of exercise intellectual integrity by the politicians and media has caused them to pen and ink.

    • giyane

      In the case of political Islam , which claimed it could obtain success by climbing up the obscene tracts of the Zionist stink-tanks, the result has been the opposite of what they hoped, viz , that their con-federation of purpose with the Zionist neo-colonial enemies fo Islam has prompted China and Russia to mobilise against the West.

      Political Islam lost the Caliphate by backing the Nazis in WW1 and it has now backed the losers of today, the failed capitalist empires built on highly leveraged interest USUK France and Germany. they lost what they had and they lost what they always took for granted, the respect of ordinary Muslims, who have seen nothing but poverty and suffering from the gamble of siding with the enemies of Islam. Political Islam will be consigned to the dustbin of history when 71% of the USUKIS weapons get wiped out by Syrian pop-guns.
      they should have listened to the Qur’an they used as their false slogan for jihad.

  • Shatnersrug

    Pleasure to give you and other Indy journalists what money I used to spend on the guardian

  • crispin hythe

    The unabashed scoundrel Freedland and other garbage-shovellers are merely Israeli ‘helpers’ [hasbara]…’shed any blood except ours’.In a rational world, the presstitutes would carry badges of shame: ‘I am forced to tell lies because I have a family to feed’; ‘I really believe this nonsense’; ‘Israel uber alles’.
    ‘You cannot hope to bribe nor twist,
    Thank God, the British journalist;
    But, seeing what the brute will do
    Unbribed, there’s no occasion to.’

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