August 02, 2011

Spiking Palestine solidarity

I often divide anti-anti-zionists into two groups, knaves and fools. I haven't read Spiked that much but what I had read was more foolish than knavish. Well Spinwatch has pulled all of the Spiked coverage of Palestine solidarity activism together and their hostility to Palestine solidarity looks too systematic to be mere foolery.
In a series of articles, Spiked writers have maligned activists using language as vituperative and categorical as the Israeli PR machine. The similarity between how the Israel lobby and Spiked describe the activists is remarkable: ‘a motley crew’ sporting a ‘weird mix of hippy, Islamist and imperialist sentiment,’ ‘a mish-mash of dinner-party liberals, radical Islamists and clapped-out left-wingers’, ‘Israel-bashers…European politicians, UN officials, left-wing activists, radical Islamists’)[1]. Neither is this an anomaly. Our investigation of Spiked’s output on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict reveals that elision of context (illegal occupation, creeping colonization, indiscriminate violence) and an obsessive focus on activists’ presumed motives are a perennial feature of its coverage. It therefore becomes important to ask how Spiked can maintain a contrarian veneer while reinforcing the suppositions of power.
The article's potted history of Spiked is informative:
Spiked is a website set up in 2000 following the demise of its predecessor LMmagazine, which was shut down after a libel action by Independent Television News following a dispute over its coverage of the war in Bosnia. LM had previously (until December 1996) been known as Living Marxism. Started in 1988, it was published by the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), an ultra-left organisation widely reviled on the rest of the left (both radical and reformist) because of its sectarianism and relentless attacks on the left itself, as opposed to its claimed enemies: capitalism and imperialism. Its positions, while sometimes having some purchase in the abstract, were often perceived as an indication that the RCP were objectively agent provocateurs. After the end of the Soviet bloc the party transformed itself, dropping Marxism in 1996—it thought the working class were not up to the job, thus the RCP dissolved them as an agent of history—along with the party name.[2] Between 1997 and 2000, the core of the party continued to organise together under the banner of LM magazine as a propaganda group promoting increasingly libertarian ideas. It has been well documented that they became very close to the libertarian right, opposing the green movement and allying with pro-corporate sceptics and Thatcherite free market think tanks on tobacco, climate, GM, food, alcohol and many other issues.[3]

Spiked emerged from the aftermath of the LM closure with another organisation called the Institute of Ideas; both remain based in the offices formerly occupied by Living Marxism/LM. They are still run by a core of interlocking personnel, almost all of whom were cadre of the RCP and include, in a variety of key roles, the former leader of the RCP and continuing guru, Frank Furedi, professor of Sociology at the University of Kent. This and the habit of creating a network of closely linked front groups, spin-offs and other ventures, with overlapping membership has led to them being dubbed the ‘LM network’.
They pursued and received corporate funding from the pharma, oil, food, alcohol  and other industries, including from Pfizer, Shell and Cadbury-Schweppes, whose activities are often criticised as harmful to public health and wellbeing or whose interests are threatened by activist campaigns. They also took support in cash or kind from controversial public relations firms such as Hill and KnowltonLuther Pendragon and TechCentralStation.[4]
This is another thing I got wrong about these rightists who talk leftish. I always think that their bogus politics are broadly linked to interests, not directly bought and paid for. Of course the broad interest thing holds for many bloggers, journos and academics but Spiked appears to have taken "the next step".

For the sake of completeness, here are the footnotes:
[1] Brendan O’Neill, ‘Gaza flotilla: invasion of the moral armada,’ Spiked, 2 June 2010; Brendan O’Neill, ‘The antithesis of anti-imperialism,’ Spiked, 6 January 2009.

[2] Dave Renton, ‘The new socialism of fools,’ DKRenton.co.uk, 7 February 2006; Renton, ‘Living Marxism, spiked online and the RCP,’ DKRenton.co.uk, 4-8 March 2006.
[3]George Monbiot, ‘Far Left or Far Right?: Living Marxism’s interesting allegiances,’Prospect, 1 November 1998;George Monbiot, ‘Flying Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,’ The Guardian, 13 January 2009;  Jenny Turner, Who Are They?, London Review of Books, 8 July 2010; Helge Ogrim, ‘Battle of Ideas, is the Revolutionary Communist Party still the vanguard?’ Norwegian Affairs, 6 November 2010.
[4] Spiked ‘Sponsorship packages’, http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php/about/article/340/

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