In 1997 television producer Martin Durkin from the TV company Kugelblitz made a series for Channel 4 called Against Nature, which targeted environmentalists, presenting them as 'the new enemy of science' and as comparable to the Nazis. They were responsible, the series argued, for the deprivation and death of millions in the Third World. (Crimes against Nature , The Revolution Has Been Televised )
Channel Four had to broadcast a prime-time apology after Against Nature drew the wrath of the Independent Television Commission which ruled, 'Comparison of the unedited and edited transcripts confirmed that the editing of the interviews with [the environmentalists who contributed] had indeed distorted or misrepresented their known views. It was also found that the production company had misled them... as to the format, subject matter and purpose of these programs.' (See CHANNEL 4 SAVAGED BY TELEVISION WATCHDOG )
Having seen the programes in advance, the Guardian's Environment correspondent, John Vidal, sought to identify the perspective from which the programmes had been made, 'I only know of one broad group which consistently uses this sort of argument about "environmentalism''. The Far Right. In the US, the Wise Use Movement is linked to the militias and its members beat up environmentalists who they call ''commies''. In South America and Asia, corporations and landowners spend millions killing them and bribing or influencing politicians against their arguments. Against Nature appears to peddle their line, yet C4 either can't see it or approves.'
Vidal's conclusion was understandable as the series provided a platform for a whole string of contributors from the Far Right but those behind Against Nature were not the usual right wing suspects. Rather, as Guardian columnist George Monbiot noted, the critical links were to a network then centered on the magazine LM, formerly known as Living Marxism , the monthly review of the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP).
Monbiot writes, 'The assistant producer of Against Nature, Eve Kaye, was one of the principal coordinators of the RCP/LM. The director, Martin Durkin, describes himself as a Marxist, denies any link with LM, but precisely follows its line in argument. The series starred Frank Furedi, previously known as Frank Richards, LM's regular columnist and most influential thinker, and John Gillott, LM's science correspondent, both billed as independent experts. Line by line, point by point, Against Nature followed the agenda laid down by LM: that greens are not radicals, but doom-mongering imperialists; that global warming is nothing to worry about; that "sustainable development" is a conspiracy against people; while germline gene therapy and human cloning will liberate humanity from nature.'
Durkin's hidden agenda and controversial methods did not stop Channel 4 from making further use of his services, as Private Eye noted in February 2000, 'What does Channel 4 do with programme makers condemned by the TV watchdog, the Independent Television Commission (ITC), for using underhand editing techniques? The answer is, er, hire them to make another programme... Despite the damning ITC judgement the programme was seen at Channel 4 as somthing of a triumph, and science programmes commissioning editor Sarah Ramsden recieved high praise. Now Durkin is back with TV company Kugelblitz to make another programme in defence of genetic modification for Channel 4's 'Equinox' series.'
'Modified Truth: The Rise and Fall of GM' was broadcast on March 20 2000. It presented GM food as perfectly safe and as much needed to feed the starving in the Third World. Dr. Tewolde Gebre Egziaber of Ethiopia was among multiple signatories from the Third World who complained in a joint letter following the programme that it was a propaganda vehicle that made use of the Third World's rural poverty to support the monopoly control and global use of genetically modified food production by transnational corporations and emotionally blackmail the UK public into using GM (Joint Letter).
Two scientists critical of genetic engineering who were invited to contribute to the programme, Dr Arpad Pusztai and Dr Mae-Wan Ho, both subsequently complained that they were misled about the content and were not given a chance to reply to attacks on their positions (Pusztai's comments). Dr Ho said , 'I feel completely betrayed and misled. They did not tell me it was going to be an attack on my position.'
They are far from the only ones to complain about Durkin's methods. Contributors to a Durkin-directed Equinox programme about breast implants, which argued implants reduce the incidence of breast cancer, complained of the programme makers' deceptive tactics: 'In discussions with Martin Durkin's "Kugelblitz" crew as to the content of their proposed "science documentary" on silicone breast implants last year, we were totally and unequivocally misled as to the intent and content of that piece.' Durkin's proposal for the programme had earlier been rejected by the BBC because it 'ignored a powerful body of evidence contradicting his [Du