GM Watch part of (9/5/2007)

NOTE: GM Watch and others, including the writer and journalist George Monbiot, have been attacked in the most lurid terms by Frank Furedi, the 'Godfather' of the far right (and GM-loving) LM group, whose supporters have become the leading lights of pro-GM lobby groups like the Science Media Centre, Sense About Science etc. More below.

For more about the LM group:


*Paranoid politicing
*Politics of Fear
*Keeping abreast of dodgy conferences
*Pro-testing and the Manifesto Club
*Spiked's corporate backers

*Paranoid politicing

To celebrate his 60th birthday, Spiked has just published an interview with Frank Furedi in which he 'discusses environmentalism, conspiracy theories and the "network of McCarthyites" slurring his name'. This network, according to Spiked's editor Brendan O'Neill, is clustered around Guardian columnist George Monbiot and includes LobbyWatch (and GM Watch).

The Furedi piece seems to have been triggered by an interview we published in which George Monbiot discusses the politics and tactics of the LM group.

Furedi seems pretty miffed about it, comparing us not just to McCarthyites but to the Spanish Inquisition (!), not to mention anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists.

Warming to this theme, Spiked's editor suggests, 'the conspiratorially-minded amongst you might well spot some similarities between Monbiot and Co's conspiracies and those of anti-Semitic websites.' The fact that Furedi has 'Jewish origins' also gets a mention.

We were intrigued by this anxiety to paint Furedi as victim. Likewise George Monbiot, who told us, 'Fascinating, isn't it, how sensitive to criticism he is, and how the man who professes to wage war on victimhood turns out to have a monumental persecution complex.'

Furedi's self-pity needs to be measured against the real vilification and persecution experienced by those who've run up against the kinds of forces he and his followers have been happy to encourage and excuse - from ethically challenged corporations to the Serb and Hutu militias.

*Politics of Fear

Among the things Furedi seems most miffed about in his Spiked interview (see above) is our failure to pay attention to the 13 books he's so far published. Furedi attributes this failure to our 'severe intellectual limitations'.

Furedi's last book - Politics of Fear - was reviewed by John Dunn, Professor of Political Theory at King's College, Cambridge. Dunn describes the book as made up not so much of ideas as 'small clusters of verbiage' in loose association. Its arguments he found mostly fatuous or implausible. 'Read as a whole,' writes Dunn, 'it is a work of almost unrelenting vacuity.' (Reasons to be cheerful?, TLS March 3 2006)

Nick Cohen is equally blunt in his assessment of Furedi's contribution to another book - Debating Humanism: 'His essay shows in embarrassing detail the leader of the RCP isn't very bright.'

*'Something odd is happening at science policy meetings'

So begins an article by biologist and social scientist, Dr Tom Wakeford, in Science & Policy - a publication of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.

Wakeford continues, 'Every time a reasonable old soul turns up to suggest that everyday people are actually quite sensible in their attitudes towards science and technology, out comes a response from a stranger at the head of the table. "No," they say, "the public don't know enough. Listening to their ignorance and prejudice will lead to the end of civilisation."

' "Who is that?" you nudge the person next to you. "Oh, that's the Institute of Ideas / Sense about Science / Spiked person," comes the reply. "Can't remember their name - they're new here."'

Wakeford concludes that though he's all for free speech in debates on science and technology, he does have qualms about how this 'entryist clique can get so much money from large foundations and trans-national corporations, while also getting invited to major policy meetings by government departments'.

*Keeping abreast of dodgy conferences

Keeping abreast of the Furediites is given a whole new meaning by a conference on parenting at the University of Kent, Frank Furedi's base and key recruiting ground. Furedi's not only speaking at the event but is also one of its three 'coordinators' - the other two being Ellie Lee and Jennie Bristow, both ardent fans of Furry Frank: the former a director of the Institute of Ideas and the latter a commissioning editor for Spiked.

The conference appears to have grown out of some research on infant feeding by Furedi and Lee that explored the 'pressure' put on new mothers to breastfeed. It's only by working right down to the bottom of the small print for the conference, though, that you'll discover it's being sponsored by the infant feeding industry, ie the corporations normally accused of the hard sell to new and expectant mothers. And, as it happens, Furedi and Lee's research was funded by INFORM - a front group for the industry.

The antipathy towards breastfeeding is all part of the Furediites' attempt to break the basic bond with human life and nurturing. This, in turn, is necessitated by their extreme anti-nature, anti-humanist position.

*Pro-testing and the Manifesto Club

Blogger Chris Brooke suggests that the Pro-test group, which supports the new animal testing facility in Oxford, may have been infiltrated by Furediites. He notes the involvement of, amongst others, James Panton who's written for Spiked and done quite a bit of work for the Institute of Ideas, especially their Battle of Ideas events of which he was a co-convenor.

Panton's also a co-founder of the Manifesto Club whose steering committee includes Frank Furedi, Brendan O'Neill - editor of Spiked, Josie Appleton (Spiked/Institute of Ideas), Dolan Cummings (Spiked/research and editorial director of Institute of Ideas) and Bill Durodie (Living Marxism, Spiked, Institute of Ideas).

*Spiked's corporate backers

Louis Proycet's a Marxist who has long challenged the politics and tactics of the Furediites. Here he is on Spiked: 'I think it is wrong to look at spiked as simply a bunch of whores who write whatever evil corporations pay them to write. That is much more the model of their frequent collaborator, the Hill and Knowlton PR firm. You'll recall that Hill and Knowlton developed the propaganda campaign for the first Gulf War, which included the false allegation that Iraqi troops were pulling Kuwaiti infants out of their cribs in a hospital nursery and throwing them on the cold floor. I imagine that if the Iraqi government had been able to put together a bigger bundle of cash for Hill and Knowlton, they might have written something that Michael Moore would be proud of.

'No, I don't think we are dealing with payoffs here. Instead, it is a matter of deep conviction that anything that gets in the way of Exxon, Pfizer and Monsanto is an obstacle to progress. When Monsanto came up with GM crops, I am sure that created as much excitement in their ranks as did Cuban victory over South African soldiers at the battle of Cuito Carnevale for people like us. Once you are absolutely convinced that capitalism = progress, why would you refuse to discover ways to finance your activities through contributions from the Exxons, Pfizers and Monsantos of the world? Frankly, if a search of tax records revealed that Furedi's various think-tanks were being funded by such outfits, my reaction would be similar to Claude Rains's (as Colonel Renault) in Casablanca: "I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!"'


Back to the Archive