Genocide? What genocide? How historical revisionists became biotech apologists - pt 1 (5/4/2004)

1.Genocide? What genocide? From genocide revisionists to biotech apologists

This week marks the tenth anniversary of the start of the genocide that took place between April and June 1994 in the central African state of Rwanda. Those largely-systematised massacres left around one in ten of Rwanda's population dead and much of the remainder physically or emotionally scarred.

As the director of the Aegis Trust, a British-based charity, speaking at a conference in Rwanda's capital Kigali this weekend, has noted, "In this city, you know, there are still more nightmares than dreams, because you know personally, that just 10 years ago, someone hacked your father to death, sliced through your brother, raped your mother. Never forget Rwanda, let it be a dangerous, unsettling, unnerving memory."

Many accuse the rich world of doing precisely the opposite of remembering Rwanda - of first turning a blind eye to the genocide in the months in which it occurred and then ignoring its traumatised survivors. Some, however, have gone much further than mere indifference. Rather than just ignoring the horrors of the Rwandan genocide, they have become actual apologists for what occurred, even seeking to deny in racist terms the murder of around 800,000 people. This the revisionists dismiss as merely some sort of disorganised tribal bloodletting.

In March 2000 Guardian correspondent Chris McGreal wrote of this perspective, "Genocide is such a hard crime to deny that those who insist on doing so usually put themselves on the outer fringes of historical debate. How many people had heard of Living Marxism (LM) before the ITN reporters decided to prove the magazine lied about the camps in Bosnia? Obscuring the truth about Bosnia was not LM's only bid to rewrite history in favour of the murderers. It has also conducted a long campaign to deny there was a genocide in Rwanda. But while the magazine is of no great consequence, it is articulating a lie perpetuated by a host of more powerful interests..." http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,181819,00.html

In a recent article, Rotten to the Corp (Science in Society 21, Spring 2004), GM WATCH editors Claire Robinson and Jonathan Matthews examined how the LM network, which has now made promoting biotechnology its central preoccupation, continues to articulate lies on behalf of powerful interests - this time from within the very heart of the science-media establishment.

To mark the 10th anniversary of the start of the Rwandan genocide, we'll be taking a long hard look again at a network whose carefully placed members have been at the very heart of campaigns to bring us patents on life, embryo cloning and the commercialisation of GM crops.

Below is a GM WATCH profile of Science Media Centre director, Fiona Fox, responsible, as is noted below, for the first denial of the Rewandan genocide to appear in print in a widely sold English language publication.

Fox in many ways encapsulates the key issues. As the profile notes, "It is perhaps revealing that someone whose own immensely controversial journalism has been denounced as 'shoddy' and 'an affront to the truth', has been selected as the director of an organisation which claims the role of making sure that controversial scientific issues like GM crops are reported accurately in the media."

2.Fiona Fox - a GM WATCH profile
http://www.lobbywatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=45&page=F (for all the links)

Fiona Fox is the director of the Science Media Centre (SMC).

Despite having no previous background in either science or science communication, Fox has been afforded, since her appointment in December 2001, the status of expert. She has, for example, been included in a working party on peer review set up by Sense about Science, and in a steering group on improving communication over science policy and risk set up by the Office of Science and Technology. In 2003 Fox delivered a lecture at Green College, Oxford, on the challenge of adapting science to the mass media.

Within a matter of months of Fox becoming director, the SMC was embroiled in controversy over its activities. It was accused of operating as 'a sort of Mandelsonian rapid rebuttal unit' and of employing 'some of the clumsiest spin techniques of New Labour'. There have also been controversies about both the SMC's funding and Fox's background.

According to the profile provided by the SMC, Fox previously ran 'the media operation at the National Council for One Parent Families' and was 'Head of Media at CAFOD, the Catholic aid agency'. In addition, the SMC says, Fox 'has written extensively for newspapers and publications, authored several policy papers and contributed to books on humanitarian aid.'

What they do not say is that throughout much of that time Fox led a double life. It's one which seriously undermines the SMC's claims to be open, rational, balanced and independent, not to mention its being in the business of ensuring the 'that the public gets access to all sides of the debate about controversial issues.'

It's a double life that connects the SMC's director to the inner circles of a political network that compares environmentalists to Nazis and eulogises GM crops and cloning. More disturbingingly it is a network whose members have a long history of infiltrating media organisations and science-related lobby groups in order to promote their own agenda. It is also a network that has targeted certain media organisations and sought to discredit them or their journalists.

Fox's double life was first exposed after an article entitled 'Massacring the truth in Rwanda' appeared in the December 1995 issue of Living Marxism. The magazine subsequently reported receiving 'a stream of outraged letters from the Nazi-hunters of the prestigious Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, the Rwandan embassy, the London-based African Rights group and others.'  

Rakiya Omaar and Alex de Waal of African Rights wrote to the magazine to express their outrage at the article: 'Investigating crimes against humanity gives one a high threshold of shock. But the article by Fiona Foster on Rwanda (Massacring the truth in Rwanda, December 1995) was the sort of writing that we never expected to appear in print. We each read it with a growing sense of outrage, leaving us at the end simply numb. Had your paper been entitled Living Fascism we might have been less surprised, but even then we would have expected something a little more circumspect. Not only do you make an apologia for the genocide - the first to appear in print in a widely sold English language publication - but go so far as to question its very reality. This is not only an affront to the truth, in defiance of the fundamentals of humanity, but deeply offensive to the survivors of the third indisputable genocide of this century'.

Go to a Print friendly Page

Email this Article to a Friend

Back to the Archive