BBC.co.uk

Talk about Newsnight

Terror threat

Richard Watson’s comment on the Policy Exchange row

  • Newsnight
  • 14 Dec 07, 06:07 PM

Our recent film about Policy Exchange’s report “The Hijacking of British Islam” certainly has provoked an angry response from this influential think-tank. Policy Exchange is accusing us of bad faith and of concentrating on what they seem to be suggesting is the trifling matter of some of the documentary evidence used to underpin their findings. They say we’ve missed the main point, that extremist books were recovered in any case.

A quick reminder: In what Policy Exchange billed as the most comprehensive academic study of its kind, four teams of two researchers, not on Policy Exchange’s staff but working on their behalf, had visited 100 mosques and found that in a quarter of the locations they were able to buy or acquire extremist literature. Their report can be read here.

Researchers were asked to obtain receipts to prove the books had been acquired in the relevant locations. Newsnight was going to run a story based on these shocking findings, which made front-page news. I asked to see the original receipts as part of our due diligence process and shortly after this the problems began to surface.

Before we broadcast a story based on their report, we wanted to give the institutions named and shamed in the report the right to reply – something which was not done by Policy Exchange. When we approached the Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre in west London they said they did not sell the books named in the report and they do not support the promotion of such literature. Most worryingly, they told us that the receipt provided by researchers working for Policy Exchange was not genuine and had basic errors such as Road was spelt Raod and Centre was spelt Center.

As we carried out other checks, further inconsistencies emerged and we took the entirely sensible decision not to broadcast our film while we investigated further.
Our investigation, which is set out in our film, led us to conclude that in five cases there were major conflicts and inconsistencies in the evidence: in three of these cases we even found evidence suggesting that receipts had been forged.

This is what Policy Exchange is saying about our case studies. And you can read my response to their points underneath.


Al-Manaar Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre, West London
Policy Exchange says: “Newsnight’s own reporter, Richard Watson, has told Policy Exchange that the management at Al-Manaar admits it has a problem with so-called ‘rogue traders’ operating within their institution. This is entirely consistent with our report which clearly states, “...the presence of this hidden literature may not always have been known to the mosque elders, who, at a minimum, are clearly in need of official support in the task of eliminating such material from their places of worship.”

The director of the Centre acknowledged as a general principle that it is possible that a rogue trader could have entered the mosque without his permission and sold books. The Centre occasionally holds book fairs. However on the date written on the receipt he categorically states that there were no book fairs because it was Ramadan and the mosque was extremely busy on that day.

Then there is the worrying fact, not addressed by Policy Exchange, that the hand-writing on this receipt is very similar – to my eye it looks identical - to the hand-writing on another receipt, said to have been obtained from a mosque in Leyton, 10 miles away. A registered forensic document examiner concluded that there was “strong evidence” that the two receipts were written by the same person.

Policy Exchange complains that they were not given the forensic scientist’s reports until shortly before transmission. But they had known about the conclusions for five days and failed to address the issues. On 7th December we sent them an email saying: “You should be aware that our research has revealed further doubts about the authenticity of some of the receipts. Professional analysis of two of the receipts has concluded that there is strong evidence that they were written by the same hand. This analysis also has concluded that another two receipts were together in the same location when one of them was filled in.” They made no attempt to answer these points in the days before transmission.

Masjid as-Tawhid, East London
“The Policy Exchange researcher who visited this mosque, when he requested Islamic literature that was in accordance with the mosque’s beliefs, was led to the bookshop and given a receipt in the name of the mosque, not the bookshop. Two of the three books identified in the report as obtained from Tawhid were written by the founding sponsor of the mosque. Newsnight’s reporter Richard Watson admits that he saw the duplicate of the receipt provided to our researchers in the bookshop’s receipt book bearing the name of the mosque, not the bookshop. The suggestion that the mosque and the bookshop are entirely separate entities does not bear scrutiny. The fact that extremist literature was available at the bookshop is not denied.”

The first receipt provided by the researcher was obtained from the bookshop, at 78 Leyton High Road. I did see the carbon copy of this receipt so we know the books were acquired from the bookshop. But both the bookshop manager and the mosque management categorically say they are two separate organisations.

Curiously, we were told that researchers were sent back at a later date to obtain a second receipt on headed paper and that document, printed on an ink-jet printer, introduced the word “mosque” into the receipt for the first time. The address is still given as that of the bookshop. But none of this addresses the worrying fact that the hand-writing on the printed receipt matches that on the receipt from the Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre, 10 miles away. A registered forensic document examiner, as I have said, wrote us a report concluding there was “strong evidence” that the two receipts were written by the same person. Policy Exchange told us researchers did not write out their own receipts - something of a mystery then.

UK Islamic Mission, North London
“Our report focuses on the UKIM institution at 202 North Gower Street, not the institution next door which featured in Newsnight’s film. The book obtained there was produced by the Saudi government with which UKIM is linked. Several of the extremist books found at other UKIM-run institutions are available on UKIM’s own website. Extremist literature is not just available ‘under the counter’ at UKIM missions: it is propagated by them.”

The Policy Exchange report names “Euston Mosque” as the source of its books in the report, therefore any reputational damage is done to that institution. A quick Google on “Euston Mosque” reveals its address as 204a North Gower Street, not 202 North Gower Street, which is the address given in the report and on the receipt. Extensive searches have failed to reveal evidence that the organisation based at 202 North Gower Street being known as “Euston mosque” the 202 North Gower Street. Why the researchers might have failed to undertake such a simple check is a mystery to me.

The elders at the Euston mosque (204a North Gower Street), who say they have never sold any books and certainly not the ones named in the report, are now worried about getting bricks through their windows because “Euston Mosque” has been named in the Policy Exchange report. This is a serious issue and one that we argue Policy Exchange cannot dismiss so lightly.

North Central London Mosque, ‘Finsbury Park Mosque’
“One of the mosque’s imams has not publicly denied the (possible) existence of extremist literature on the premises. The mosque has issued no previous public denial of Policy Exchange’s report’s findings. Three of the five books obtained there can be connected to the Muslim Brotherhood with which the Muslim Association of Britain, which effectively controls the mosque, is aligned. The mosque’s most prominent trustee, Azzam Tamimi, has praised suicide bombers thus undermining the mosque’s claim that it has no connection with extremism.”

In this case we are simply stating that the mosque denies selling the books and the receipt has, like the other disputed cases, been printed on a PC, home computer type printer. This amounts to a straight conflict of accounts, between the mosque management and the researchers working for Policy Exchange.

Al-Muntada, West London
“Al-Muntada has not denied the availability of extremist literature on its premises. That is to be expected: all of the five books found at Al-Muntada and mentioned in Policy Exchange’s report are available from Al-Muntada’s online bookshop.”

This receipt was again printed on an ink-jet printer. The forensic ESDA tests carried out by the registered document examiner concluded that this receipt was underneath the receipt from the Muslim Education Centre in High Wycombe when this latter one was written out. Once again the mosque management categorically told us that the receipt provided by the researchers was not a genuine document. Even if the books are available online, there are serious questions about the authenticity of this receipt.

High Wycombe Muslim Education Centre, Buckinghamshire
“Newsnight’s own programme contained film showing the existence of extremist literature on the shelves of the bookshop within the centre.”

The ESDA test carried out by the registered document examiner concluded with absolute certainty that this receipt was written out while resting on the receipt from Al Muntada mosque, which is 40 miles away in West London. The professional analysis we carried out was the last stage of our investigation. We first raised the fact that a receipt had been written out while lying on top of another receipt a full five days before our broadcast date. This point was not addressed by Policy Exchange and we are yet to receive an explanation from Policy Exchange why this was the case if, as they have insisted, researchers working for them did not fill out their own receipts.

True, Policy Exchange did not know this receipt was said to have come from High Wycombe, but neither did they ask us which mosque was involved after we raised the issue with them five days before transmission.

In conclusion, we have never sought to argue that the issue of the dissemination of intolerant and extremist material is unimportant in Britain. The kind of material presented in Policy Exchange’s report is damaging to social cohesion in my view. Any suggestion we have an agenda, beyond trying to establish what actually happened is nonsense; Newsnight has been at the forefront of reporting matters of public interest concerning Islamist extremism in the UK.

Policy Exchange seems to be arguing that their report does not depend on the receipts but on the evidence of the researchers and the fact that, we are told, books were recovered from the relevant mosques. The think tank’s website states:

“The receipts are not, however, mentioned in the report and the report’s findings do not rely upon their existence. The report relies instead on the testimony of our Muslim research team.”

But the fact remains that gathering receipts was a crucial element of the research methodology, otherwise why go to all the trouble? And if some researchers have fabricated even a minority of receipts then what reliance should the public place on the testimony of the research team? What is to be trusted and what is not to be trusted if this is the case? And what about any mosques which could have been named unfairly?

It should be pointed out that we have been trying speaking to Policy Exchange for weeks to try to resolve these various issues. We have repeatedly asked to speak independently and directly to the researchers who carried out the work.

Policy Exchange states that it “has facilitated interviews between our Muslim researchers and the Newsnight team, including one with the programme’s editor.” But this creates an impression which is very far from the truth. My editor, Peter Barron, was permitted to speak to one out of the 8 researchers, once, in a conference call, when the researcher at the other end of the line was with Policy Exchange. But that was at the time when we were still trying to broadcast the original story based on the report, before it was published. After that, when we made it clear we were unhappy about some of the evidence, we were not put in contact with any other researcher, despite repeated requests. One has to wonder why.

Policy Exchange states that “as a respected evidence-based think-tank, Policy Exchange takes the integrity and authority of our research very seriously. Accordingly, we shall investigate any outstanding allegations very carefully.”

We look forward to the outcome of Policy Exchange’s investigation and the answer to this most straightforward question, which the think-tank still has not provided: are some of the receipts faked? If they were faked then why couldn’t researchers get genuine receipts, if they did obtain the books from where they said they did in the report.

Ends

Comments  Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 08:07 PM on 14 Dec 2007,
  • Anita Bullock wrote:

Thank you for your clarification of the issue about your editor speaking to the researchers. This was one of the points that bothered me when I watched the programme. Jeremy should have been briefed enough to challenge Godson on this. Anyway I think you are doing an excellent job with this investigation. Please keep it uo and don't bow to intimidation from these bullies at the policy exchange.

  • 2.
  • At 08:27 PM on 14 Dec 2007,
  • Bedd Gelert wrote:

Well done, Mr Watson. It is important that the BBC continues to support such investigative journalism, and continues to provide the funds and resources to thoroughly research the veracity of material presented to it for transmission.

I would suggest that this episode should raise alarm bells about 'think tanks' across the political spectrum. Things like the Smith Institute also benefit from charitable status and should be seen to be meeting the high standards mandated by the Charity Commission.

Michael Crick did an investigation into this topic which raised many questions, and my view is that it is time to revisit the whole area.

What is very alarming about this episode is an article I read online this afternoon about one of the book shops seeking to rebut the report's allegations. Sadly, in the 'blog comments', there are remarks of the 'no smoke without fire' category.

The problem, as ever, is that a lie is half way round the world before the truth has put its boots on. An old adage which is even more true in the age of the internet, and which therefore calls for the highest standards of probity and accuracy from organisations making serious allegations through the mass media.

The BBC had to learn that lesson rather painfully through the Hutton report - one can only hope that the Policy Exchange learn similarly.

  • 3.
  • At 08:36 PM on 14 Dec 2007,
  • Adrienne wrote:

RESEARCH?

It may come as an unpleasant surprise to many working in the media (which include self-appointed NGO 'think-tank' staff) are not in fact academic 'researchers', they're reporters, investigators or just writers. Most of the scientific community still avoids the media for just this reason - most in the media don't understand what research is.

None of these NGO's/Third Sector's research is ever peer reviewed to my knowledge, nor is it strictly empirical, it's just their personal opinions is it not? The 202 page report from Policy Exchange is largely just a collection of extracts from books and pamphlets they have collected with Policy Exchange's personal views about their moral worth. Even if these books/pamphlets were found on any of the premises they say they were collected from, is it illegal to sell or distribute any of them? If not, is Newsnight not as guilty as Policy Exchange in stirring this up? If it is illegal why did you not report it to the police? If not, why are you doing this at all? You have provided no legal opinion one way or the other.

To what end? Is this just a perverse Socratic dialogue cooked up between Newsnight and Policy Exchange in order to help get Newsnight off the hook it impaled itself upon in the 'Extremist Library Books' story it did on 5th September?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/newsnight/2007/09/wednesday_5_september_2007.html

As others have lamented, the quality of research/scientific reporting appearing on Newsnight (and the BBC in general these days) is really quite appalling.

  • 4.
  • At 12:53 AM on 15 Dec 2007,
  • Steve Farr wrote:

Nothing written in the Policy Exchange report convinces me that extremism is taking over Islam as the title of the report suggests.

I fail to see any direct link between much of the quoted literature and terrorism. Just because the authors of extremist literature hold certain extreme views it does not mean they are inciting Muslims to engage in terrorism like that portrayed by 9/11 or 7/7.

The Policy Exchange report does not, for instance, tell us
- Whether or not the mosques actively promote or even agree with the extremist views expressed in the quoted literature.
- How often these books are read, borrowed or sold. As far as we know the Policy Exchange researchers are the only people to have actually bought these books.

We cannot actually say these books represent a threat, just by their mere existence. Before 9/11 it would seem that no one was the least bit interested in them.

So why the report? And why have the researchers gone to the extreme of forging documents to prove a point? What then is the point of the report and what is it trying to achieve? What is their agenda?

Many Christian sects have held extremist views down the years. Their views have been documented and you can read about them Christian bookshops. No one would deny that, and no one would care, because we are not told that Christians present a threat to national security. In modern times, nobody has linked the IRA with christianity in quite the same way as Alcaida has been linked to Islam.

I hope this does not end here. I hope that some sort of action is taken against the report publishers. They should understand the harm that these forgeries could have done if it were not for the intervention of BBC Newsnight. Worse, they have actually succeeded in persuading politicians to take unwarranted action at international level, in an already unstable world.

  • 5.
  • At 01:23 AM on 15 Dec 2007,
  • Omar wrote:

Re the comment on "Undercover mosque" documentary. I hear Policy Exchange were editorial advisors to Martin Bright, the programme-maker. Definitely worth re-visiting!

But shame on the BBC for not treating these types of reports with more scepticism earlier. The Centre for Social Cohesion (a masterclass in itself in Orwellian double-think) is another favourite with similar leanings whose output is swallowed uncritically. Caveat emptor.

  • 6.
  • At 01:27 AM on 15 Dec 2007,
  • Omar wrote:

Steve Farr, you ask the very valid question: "what is their agenda"? What indeed and definitely something which JP should have covered (he did look a little sloppy in not having properly briefed and I think this was unfortunate - what happened to the earpiece?). These links may provide some clues (the words neo-con feature prominently):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Policy_Exchange

and

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dean_Godson

  • 7.
  • At 07:32 PM on 15 Dec 2007,
  • csharp wrote:

can anyone define an extremist? In relation to what? Does it mean someone who breaks the law? or someone who thinks certain thoughts. If so is there a self appointed thought police? Which in itself is anti pluralist?

I could go into any high street bookshop and buy extremist literature from pro or anti abortion, animal rights, etc . I can listen to 'extremist' music on bbc 1 xtra .

In a pluralist society there will be all sorts of views that someone might consider extremist. To hold an idea is not to break the law. Only if acting on it can one break a law if there is such a rule.

Self appointed think tanks may wish to become self appointed thought police to persucute people for thinking thoughts but it is right and proper for free people to resist that kind of ideological curfew? McCarthyism punished people not for breaking any law but for thinking thoughts.

Will there one day be inquisition courts that ask 'Have you ever been a muslim or belonged to a muslim organisation'?

The antidote to self appointed groups with unknown fundraisers is public service broadcasting.

  • 8.
  • At 08:34 PM on 15 Dec 2007,
  • John Reith must be ashamed wrote:

Typical BBC, you attack the policy exchange for 5 dodgy receipts, yet you fail to give any time to the much more newsworthy fact that mosques across the UK are selling racist and disgusting books.

You also manage to attack the policy exchange on your main Editors Blog and also on the Newsnight blog, I feel that this is yet another example of your idiotic appeasement policy when it comes to anything Islamic, and I did not hear any of these mosques leaders deploring the selling of the books.

Luckily the newsnight viewers are NOT representative of the British public, and are not mislead by your attempts to gloss over the central thrust of the report, it seems that like the BBC in general Newsnight needs to be overhauled and start reflecting the opinions of the huge majority of the British public, and not the small but very vocal minority of left wing apologists that seem to inhabit Westminister and the blasted BBC.

Let's hope that the honesty course that the BBC are having to send employees on will address the fact that the BBC is out of touch, biased and virtually extinct and it is all down to the BBC's slavish devotion to political correctness and christian, west, woman, Israel and US phobia.

  • 9.
  • At 04:29 AM on 16 Dec 2007,
  • Steve Farr wrote:

The Hijacking of British Islam - The non-evidence based conclusion of an (apparently) evidence based report.

Quote from the Policy Exchange report:-

"It is worth underlining that in the majority of the almost one hundred mosques and other sites visited no offensive literature of any sort was discovered."

My conclusions therefore:-

1) Extremist literature is NOT subverting mosques in the UK! Contrary to the title/conclusion of the report which made the above assertion.

2) Mosques IN GENERAL ACROSS THE UK are NOT selling racist and disgusting books.

Ok, so lets ignore the counterfeiting of receipts by the researchers for one minute, and focus on the reports own findings. I conclude there is nothing to be worried about. I should not be afraid that my Muslim friends or work colleagues are going to suddenly turn against me.

However i do have a problem with the report. Having read it a few times now, it appears to me very much like so much anti-Islamic propaganda. The Policy Exchange hail the report as a major academic achievement, claiming that it “reveals the worrying extent of extremist penetration of mosques and other key institutions of the British Muslim community”.

But what has the report to say about the extent of penetration? Where are the statistics that tell me to what extent Muslims are actually taking and reading extremist literature? What indeed is the proportion of extremist to non-extremist literature available from mosques?

It is no great academic achievement to simply quote from the works of extremists, in the way this report does, repeatedly, over and over. This is blatant fear-propaganda. It is promoting the idea that it should be Ok to go ahead and systematically subject Islamic institutions, and therefore ordinary innocent peaceful Muslim people, to harassment on the basis of what a few extremists have said in the past.

I have personally seen and read Christian Protestant literature which has some very unsavoury things to say about Catholics. I have picked it up off the literature tables of some churches i have attended in years past. Thankfully i was able to remove the literature once I’d pointed it out to people in those churches who were embarrassed once they realised what it contained. At no time would i have ever considered that those churches were being subverted by extremists. And, by the way, i am not suggesting such literature should not be made available to those that have a legitimate need to read it (Eg. Think Tank researchers, etc.). No doubt the same extremist literature could have been found in the possession of a “Protestant” terrorist group, and equally the opposite be found in some “Catholic” terrorist group. Oops, there i go again linking religion and terrorism!

Our society it seems has a short memory, thinking back to times and events before 9/11 seems so hard to do, and we appear to have learnt so very little.

So politicians beware! There may be extremist Think Tank literature circulating within your institutions. To what extent does this penetration go? Should politicians even be aloud to read it? Who knows!

  • 10.
  • At 11:49 AM on 16 Dec 2007,
  • Adrienne wrote:

In place of a) methods, b) results, c) discussion followed by peer review, most of these so-called 'think tanks' use patronage, i.e celebrity product endorsement and rhetoric to persuade their customers to 'buy' their products (policies).

They tend to (fraudulently in my view) appropriate the language of science as a sales gimmick, but many of their clients, not being trained in scientific research, sadly don't see this. The salespersons know this. In recent years this has become a major problem, pentrating all areas of government. There was a revealing Parliamentary inquiry into 'The Infliuence of the Pharmaceutical Industry'. The Select Committee evidence sessions are worth reading for an appreciation of just how corrupt this gets.

All of this gives good researcher a bad name.

  • 11.
  • At 07:35 PM on 17 Dec 2007,
  • Adrienne wrote:

#6 If the general public does not share the views of the majority of the Newsnight commentators, I suggest that can only be taken as further evidence for the sad state of science (see PISA 2006) in the UK.

Here's the point which neither you nor Policy Exchange appear to have understood. In research, results (aka evidence) is critically related to the method of obtaining those results, so trained researchers look closely at how the reported data was collected. They CRITICALLY appraise the methods section of any papers they read. The inexperienced student or lay reader on the other hand, just reads the results and discussion.

The fact that Policy Exchange staff resent this criticism strongly suggests to the cognoscenti that Policy Exchange is not staffed (or led) by genuine researchers, but by political propagandists.

Any competent 1070s first year science student would have spotted the problem with the report independently of the receipts issue (which is just a clue), and they would have expected to have been hauled over the coals/failed for what Policy Exchange has marketed as research.

It really is THAT bad.

I hope this will be taken as a wake-up call by other 'think tanks' and that the Charity Commission will pull their socks up too. I have no illusions here though. It is THAT bad.

  • 12.
  • At 06:25 PM on 18 Dec 2007,
  • vikingar wrote:

Reading with interest the ongoing tussle between Policy Exchange & Newsnight, esp given the formers prominent article in The Daily Telegraph this week.

Either way, before the usual blinkered suspects & followers of the much derided sect of 'multicuturalism' dance around in premature joy …

..... who in the 21st Century UK does not believe that extremism & radicalism in on the rise & rife in Britain's Muslim communities (despite genuine efforts of some).

Or are the 2,000 Muslims who Mi5 state 'pose a terror threat', numerous investigations & exposés & actual/alleged Islamic terrorist plots & incidents since 2005 a figment of our collective imaginations.

Radicalisation (from self or via others) starts at home, in schools, in madrassas, in the mosques within Britain Muslim communities. The promotion, implementation, tolerance & acceptance of inhuman & unBritish behaviours are the first step to be conditioned to an acceptance of radicalism.

Still a chink of light as even British Muslim groups realised the stupidly of the Sudanese, Islam & The Teddy Bear issue.

Lets hope it’s the start of a real visible change in attitudes & realism in those emergent communities for their viable futures & the sake of continued tolerance in the host nation.

A change underpinned by the efforts of a minority of brave Muslims to expose those in their communities who are focused on radicalising further British Muslims.

vikingar

  • 13.
  • At 09:12 PM on 18 Dec 2007,
  • Adrienne wrote:

vikingar (#12) "Or are the 2,000 Muslims who Mi5 state 'pose a terror threat', numerous investigations & exposés & actual/alleged Islamic terrorist plots & incidents since 2005 a figment of our collective imaginations."

Very possibly:

http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2007/11/scare_early_for.html
http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2007/11/frank_goebbels.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Power_of_Nightmares


  • 14.
  • At 07:03 AM on 19 Dec 2007,
  • wappaho wrote:

If I go into a building society and the available cashier is veiled - do I have a right to wait for another cashier? Probably not. In my own country where I have campaigned for women's rights I now have to pay homage to mysogyny. Sad day for Britain.

  • 15.
  • At 09:17 AM on 19 Dec 2007,
  • Adrienne wrote:

wappaho (#14) Please explain how observing a woman wearing a veil is 'paying homage to mysogyny'.

Whilst you are at it, please explain how campaigning for women's rights has done anything more than expand the consumer market, make more money for some people as a consequence given ythey have a disposable income, and, most important of all, take the birth rate so far below replacement level (i.e. slowly kill off the population of your country) and brought about mass immigration to yet furter expand the impulsive consumer base.

Is auto-genocide what you were intentionally campaigning for, or were you perhaps just duped (like many of us) as 'a useful idiot'?

Before answering, look at the consequences, 'history does not walk on its head'.

Adrienne,

I do prefer "auto-genocide" to "dysgenesis" and your other terms.

xx
ed

  • 17.
  • At 02:19 PM on 19 Dec 2007,
  • Adrienne wrote:

Ed (#16). Is that not more evidence that you're more of a poet than a scientist?

The first (dramatic) term refers to longitudinal change in absolute frequency in a population with a suggested mechanism, the second (a conventional quantitative genetic term which accounted for the creation of the term eugenics) to what appears to be an unnatural change to the frequency distribution (of intelligence and other characteristics) in a population if it's left to its own 'free-market' liberal-democratic devices.

We now have a major problem with given the evidence (depending on what one takes to be the referent of 'we' of course). You might like to think about that when considering who is going to save the planet, and why science is in the doldrums. How much investment does Bangladesh, Nigeria, Pakistan, S Africa put into science?

What one likes (or dislikes), I suggest, has very little to do with what's true and false, it's just a limbic level of our (emotional/reptilian) behaviour which only serve to crudely allow us to be shaped by the consequences of some of our (shorter-term) behaviours but which also leave us open to being manipulated by ideologues, their PR advisors and others happy to expolit the opportunities which a free, de-regulated, market offers in conjunction with variation ('diversity') in populations. Focus on IQ/impulsivity/ADHD etc.

We don't live in natural conditions anymore, we have changed them, and this is having an far more dramatic impact on biological fitness than is widely appreciated (leave climate aside for a moment). When you look at the exponential rise in CO2 etc since the industrial revolution, look at population growth, and then bear in mind WHERE that growth has been, because since the demographic transition, the industrial world's population has been falling where it shouldn't have been, whilst growing where it shouldn't have been in terms of pre-demographic transition)see differential fertility). There's been a reversal. It isn't JUST about absolute numbers, it's WHERE in the cognitive ability distribution those numbers and changes have been taking place over many generations (as I've 'banged on about' many times now). Look at England 1950-2000 vs Pakistan, Nigeria, S Africa etc for the same period. Count the footprints,a nd look at the mean IQs.

When welcoming auto-genocide, just look where it's happening. How is that good for 'saving the planet' or for anything else? Just look at the recent ANC fiasco, the strife in Pakistan, the corruption in Bangladesh and Nigeria etc. How many of them do you think they will be turning up to the next Bali? Do you see them leading the research or action now?

I came across the following in the book I'm currently re-reading (with great pleasure):

"A think tank is an institution of closed learning, a miniature university whose students never come to class. The 'students,' in fact, are giant corporations, government agencies and foreign heads-of-state. But that doesn't tell you anything, does it? Look, it's this way. Life in the twentieth century is a great deal more complicated than the daily newspapers would have us believe, and as technology spreads in every direction - geometric as well as geographic - existence threatens to grow rapidly more complex. To cope with the nearly devastating effects of technological growth, government and business - man, himself - must have access to heavier and heavier loads of information and must be able to sift and sort that data and apply the best or most relevant of it to present-day problems and to projections for the future. Luckily, there were a few enlightwened men in government and industry, men who didn't accept the Candidean reality of the newspapers, who became aware some years ago of this situation. It was these men who stimulated the creation of think tanks - quiet, secure, scholarly institutions where resident thinkers of high intelligence, learned backgrounds and imaginative dispositions might, without commercial restrictions or academic fetters, mull over prospects in any number of given areas, shape hypothetical developments and recommend corresponding programs and actions. In this way, failures of planning, obsolete or premature notions of service and muddled or dangerously uninformed reactions to confrontations can possibly be avoided. Think tanks don't make the major decisions of the Western world but they advise and counsel those who do. They are terribly influential when it comes to policy-making in this country and abroad."
Tom Robbins, in "Another Roadside Attraction" 1971

I think many of the regular contributors to these columns would enjoy the book. It's a "romp".

The Los Angeles Times said, "Written with a style and humor that haven't been seen since Mark Twain...it is a prize."

Give yourself a merry Christmas!

xx
ed

Talk about return on investment! I give you one sentence and get back a treatise! (and get called a poet!)

Science and poetry are far from opposites or mutually exclusive.

xx
ed

  • 20.
  • At 08:59 PM on 19 Dec 2007,
  • Adrienne wrote:

Ed (#19) "Science and poetry are far from opposites or mutually exclusive."

Which reinforces my assessment that you're not a scientist by training, inclination or any other criterion.

They are literally poles apart on the ability/inclination spectrum.

It's why C P Snow wrote "The Two Cultures".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Two_Cultures

Alhough I'd credit Quine's "Two Dogmas of Empiricism" (1951) or "The Scope and Language of Science" (1957), both of which pre-dated Snow.

There's also a dramatic brain-gender difference (ceteris paribus). But don't let the facts of the matter get in the way of your good yarns ;-)

  • 21.
  • At 10:59 PM on 19 Dec 2007,
  • vikingar wrote:

Adrienne #13

"Very possibly"

What?

Ref 2,000 terrorist suspects (including logistical supporters) & actual/planned/distributed terrorist attacks in the UK

Too tired to state the obvious ref Islamic Terrorism in the UK so allow others to provide list of growing evidential trail of incidents & investigations.

A) List of terrorist incidents in the United Kingdom [1]

B) Terrorism & the Law (stats - home office) [2]

Q. your point being, Islamic terrorism is not happening and/or on the rise in the UK or what?

btw - yes, Craig Murray can be a competent writer [3]

vikingar

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_terrorist_incidents_in_the_United_Kingdom
[2] http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/security/terrorism-and-the-law/
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Craig_Murray

  • 22.
  • At 09:35 AM on 20 Dec 2007,
  • Adrienne wrote:

vikingar (#21) We send 80,000 people to prison each year (10% for 4 years plus). How many of that 8,000 have been dangerous 'Muslim extremists' foiled by MI5 etc and prosecuted/convicted?

Where do you get your information from? ;-)

Murray must have been competent at more than just writing to be made ambassador to Uzbekistan don't you think? The FCO only take the best (although having said that, the pool's getting a bit depopulated as I've said elsewhere).


Adrienne,

"They are literally poles apart on the ability/inclination spectrum."

Modesty forbids, but I'll just note that a 'spectrum' is a one-dimensional metaphor.

xx
ed

I can walk AND chew gum!

  • 24.
  • At 10:10 PM on 20 Dec 2007,
  • Glenn wrote:

Surely this is a matter for the police???

Well done Richard and well done Newsnight for not swallowing this bilge. well done also to Garry Smith at the 'Liberal Conspiracy' blog for enlightening me a bit more about this poisonous Dean Godson character.

I thought Id use Garry’s info to enlighten your readers here too…

Begin Garry Smith excerpt:

His appearance on Newsnight to defend P.E.’s report into extremist literature was quite extraordinary. Here are some interesting facts about Mr Godson

Most notably, he holds the extraordinary distinction of having lost his position at the Daily Telegraph because of his political views.

Back in 2004, Martin Newland, former Telegraph editor, explained to the Guardian: It’s OK to be pro-Israel, but not to be unbelievably pro-Likud Israel, it’s OK to be pro-American but not look as if you’re taking instructions from Washington. Dean Godson and Barbara Amiel were key departures Dean Godson was too pro-Likud and too subservient to the US government for the Telegraph.

Given the writers they happily still employ, you’ve got to wonder just how extreme his own views must be.

Mr Godson has also been reasonably open about the need for the US and UK government’s to deploy covert propaganda techniques. In an article for the Times in 2006, he wrote that
“During the Cold War, organisations such as the Information Research Department of the Foreign Office would assert the superiority of the West over its totalitarian rivals. And magazines such as Encounter did hand-to-hand combat with Soviet fellow travellers. For any kind of truly moderate Islam to flourish, we need first to recapture our own self-confidence. At the moment, the extremists largely have the field to themselves.”

The Information Research Department was a secret Foreign Office propaganda organisation which operated mostly in the developing world during the Cold War. It’s practices were modelled on psychological warfare operations. Typically, it covertly spoon fed “slanted” anti-communist stories to journalists to achieve the desired effect.

Encounter magazine, on the other hand, was funded by the CIA. Based in London and initially edited by Irving Kristol, it too was a covert Cold War propaganda tool. It’s primary function seems to have been to attempt to steer European left wing intellectuals down the “right” path (no pun intended). The “right” path was the path deemed most acceptable by right wingers in the CIA. The CIA funding was kept secret in order that readers wouldn’t know that attempts were being made to manipulate their views from across the pond.

Neither of the government funded organisations operated in a transparent manner. Quite the opposite in fact. Mr Godson, who worked for the Reagan administration, will almost certainly be aware of the covert nature of these organisations. In true neo-conservative style, this does not seem to bother him in the slightest.

This suggests rather strongly that Mr Godson is a believer in the idea of the political noble lie as a means to achieve social cohesion and national security.

And he is the “Research Director” of Policy Exchange, an organisation which purports to be “an independent think tank… committed to an evidence-based approach to policy development”.

Another interesting angle is Godson’s family connections. His father Joe was a US Labour attache who helped Hugh Gaitskell plan the expulsion of Aneurin Bevan from the Labour Party in the 1950s. His elder brother Roy is a pretty central figure in the neo-conservative movement, and the author of a book on covert action which includes a very full discussion of disinformation techniques.

End Garry Smiths excerpt:

So anyway Richard - given that inciting racial hatred is a crime, surely there has clearly been a crime committed here?? When you put the dodgy receipts and Godsons past ‘form’ when it comes to black propaganda together - even Yates of the Yard could get a conviction on this one!

Are you forwarding the evidence to the police?

Glenn Jenkins

  • 25.
  • At 11:21 AM on 21 Dec 2007,
  • Adrienne wrote:

#24 'Anti-communist' (anti-Stalinist) made strange bedfellows of Trotskyites, Schactmannites, Neocons and free-market anarcho-capitalists like Hayek of the Austrian (Von Mises) and Friedman of the Chicago School (the Neocons' nest) of economics.

Some odd folk still think that Trotsky's expulsion in the late 1920s, like the purges and Moscow Trials of the 1930s, were all part of a long range Soviet strategy to mislead and destabilise the West.

But like Angelton:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Jesus_Angleton#Increasing_paranoia

we all know now that they were just a bunch of paranoics, yes? ;-)

This post is closed to new comments.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites