Spiked is an online magazine initially edited by Times columnist, Mick Hume, and later by Brendan O'Neill. It claims to be 'entirely independent'.
Spiked was launched in 2000 after the magazine Hume edited, LM, was sued out of existence in a libel action. Spiked's managing editor is Helene Guldberg, LM's ex-publisher. Her co-publisher launched Spiked's sister organisation, the Institute of Ideas (IoI) around the same time. The staff and many of Spiked's contributors are members of the same network of Living Marxism/Revolutionary Communist Party supporters (see also: Tracey Brown, Fiona Fox, John Gillott, Bill Durodié, Tony Gilland , Mike Fitzpatrick , Juliet Tizzard, Ellen Raphael).
As well as pro-GM articles, including ones by Vivian Moses of CropGen and the man at the heart of the notorious LM libel case, Thomas Deichmann, Spiked-online has carried reassuring articles about pesticide residues in food (nothing to worry about), and articles attacking organic food by Dennis and Alex Avery of the Hudson Institute.
Spiked has also run a series of online debates about the environment sponsored by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), a UK public funding body whose mission is to support independent scientific research in the environmental sciences.
One of the series was an online debate on GM. It was initiated with the opinions of 'five experts'. Three responses from other 'experts in the field' were also commissioned by Spiked. Of these eight experts selected by Spiked, only one has been known to take a critical attitude towards the technology. This seems difficult to square with such NERC watchwords as 'independent' and 'impartial'.
When the history of those behind Spiked was drawn to the NERC's attention, their Press Officer, Marion O'Sullivan responded, 'NERC is satisfied that there is no evidence suggesting that, on environmental matters, Spiked have any particular agenda.' (emphasis added)
In fact, those behind Spiked are fanatically pro-GM and oppose environmental concerns in almost any form. Two of the 'experts' contributing to the Spiked debate on GM (John Conroy, Tony Gilland) are part of the network behind Spiked but this is not made clear. Gilland's contribution entitled Let the Sowing Begin argued, 'The [GM]farm-scale trials are an unnecessary obstacle to the introduction of this beneficial technology.'
The other experts commissioned by Spiked included the biotech industry lobby group, the ABC, and the pro-GM lobbyists Greg Conko and CS Prakash who have also written articles for Spiked.
In addition, members of the LM network are among those who post comments on the debates. These invariably support the 'party line' but without revealing their affiliation. The same goes for many of the articles published by Spiked, which are penned by members of the LM network.
Spiked also operates offline, regularly organising seminars, often drawing in well-known figures to events carefully designed to promote its own agenda. In March 2003 it ran a seminar together with the the International Policy Network (IPN), entitled 'GM food: should labelling be mandatory?' at the London headquarters of PR firm Hill & Knowlton.
Spiked holds many of its seminars at Hill & Knowlton, a company which has 'a reputation for its highly political public relations work. This is the company that "managed communications" at the U.S. Three Mile Island nuclear power station and presented bogus evidence to a congressional meeting to get backing for the Gulf War... More recently, it has been hired "to salvage Enron Corp".' (Nicky Hager, Seeds of Distrust, 2002, p.34)
An article in The Sunday Times reported on one on the MMR vaccine. It noted that Hill & Knowlton's clients include 'the three drug companies that manufacture the triple vaccine'. On that occasion Michael Fitzpatrick led the discussion. According to the article, one of the things stood out about the seminar was 'its refusal to address the evidence that aroused public distrust [about MMR] in the first place. For these people, immunisation was an incontrovertible religious doctrine. Fitz