Spinning the G8
Spinning the G8
Blair's mixture of perplexity and faux naivety is no off the cuff response. There is a clear strategy unfolding before us. The Prime Minister and his cohorts in government and in the police, special branch and MI5 have been busy with their strategy of trying to undermine and marginalise protest against their failed policies when they meet at Gleneagles this summer. The first part of the strategy is to separate the 'good protestors' from the bad ones. This is done first, by whipping up fear about the prospects of trouble at the G8 summit and second by suggesting that New Labour is on the side of the angels. They are building on the 'progressive consensus' in the phrase recited by rote by Schools minister David Miliband.
We will come to the reality of New Labour policy shortly, but for the moment let's stay with the demonisation campaign. The aim is to suggest that anyone who protests against the G8 is illegitimate. The police have joined in enthusiastically encouraging increasingly wild media stories about anarchist training camps, plans for violent protests and the like.
But the government have appeared to be facing two ways on the issue. As early as January 2nd this year, Trade minister and Scottish MP Douglas Alexander could be found promoting the â˜massive rallyâ¦ planned for
Blair has endorsed this view in the interview cited above he noted 'There will be people who come out on the street in favour of the Make Poverty History campaign and that's a good thing.' The good protestors will be tolerated, but the bad protestors will not. â˜Asked whether [the government] would use the new anti-terror laws against G8 protesters, Blair said: âœI couldn't rule it outââ™  Even before being given the nod by the Prime Minister the police and intelligence services were preparing the ground to legitimise repression and police violence. This depends crucially on spreading fear and rumour about alleged threats from shadowy forces. The prize for the earliest reporting of â˜anarchistsâ™ and the 'environmental "dogs of war"' goes to the Glasgow Herald on 26 January 2004, more than a year and a half before the summit. This was followed in short order by reports of â˜thousands of violent anarchistsâ™ (Daily Star 27 January 2004), â˜Anarchists plotting to hijackâ™ the summit (Sunday Times, 13 June 2004), â˜Anarchists vow to storm Airport and block forth bridgeâ™ (Daily Mirror, 14 June 2004) 'Anarchists start school for havoc' (Scotland on Sunday, 12 December 2004), â˜anarchists planning violence protestsâ™ (Sunday Times, 17 October 2004) and so on. There is an apparent obsession with exaggerating every detail. Thus a publicly advertised workshop become a â˜secret campâ™ (
Much of the reporting results from briefings from police and intelligence sources with the line between legitimate mass protest and the alleged 'terrorist threat' being deliberately blurred. Thus the spooks â˜revealâ™ that â˜British intelligence agents are disguising themselves as down-and-outs in âœkey terrorist target areasâ as part of a nationwide surveillance operation to foil attacks by al-Qaeda.â™ This is reportedly in use in areas â˜considered to be potential terror targetsâ¦ such as around
The spiral of panic suits some very well, since they can make money out of it. Here is how the scam works. The press have repeatedly quoted 'Security consultants' about the risk of trouble around the summit. Two such are Clive Fairweather and Stuart Crawford, who regularly warn about a 'greater degree of organisation than had previously been recognised' amongst protestors which 'fuelled fears that violentâ¦ protests would erupt'(Crawford, Scotland on Sunday 12 December 2004) or that the protestors 'will be most interested in publicity' and so will focus their efforts on the 'temptation' of Edinburgh, Glasgow or Stirling' (Fairweather, Scotland on Sunday, 3 April 2005) or that 'I think it is far more likely there will be protests in cities like Edinburgh than at the summit itself' (Fairweather, Scotland on Sunday, 8 May 2005)
In fact both men work for Stuart Crawford Associates which describes itself as 'specialising in Scottish public affairs, security issues and media communications' - in other words public relations. The worse the warnings, the better the business. At present they are engaged in advising the Gleneagles Estates (bordering the Gleneagles hotel and owned by seriously old money) and possibly other business interests. Their background is in the British Army, Crawford is a former Lt Colonel and Fairweather a Colonel. He was second in command of the SAS when it raided the Iranian embassy in 1980,  killing all but one of the hostage takers and, according to eye witnesses, executing two of them after they had surrendered.  Amongst their former clients are the 'Scottish People's
In other words trained killers with dubious connections to far right politics are posing as security experts and briefing the media on the dangers faced from protests. The more the dangers are hyped the more likely it is that they might be hired. At best this is a conflict of interest, at worst a conspiracy against democratic protest for pecuniary interest. Certainly the media do not yet seem to see a story in the fact that trained killers are advising on the security response to protests at Gleneagles. They prefer to refer to 'military style' training given to 'anarchists' whose total tally of killing of civilians or military personnel in the last decade is zero. This compares very favourably with the tally attributed to US and
But the smearing of protestors as violent has been rebuffed to some extent by the G8 alternatives coalition which has applied for permission to demonstrate at Gleneagles. The police publicly accept the right to protest, but raise fears especially in off the record briefings about a minority bent on trouble. This translates in the media as shop smashing, police attacking, masked anarchists. But if one looks carefully at police statements there is cause for concern about their plans. Reports about the importation or authorisation of water cannon and plastic bullets , have fuelled fears expressed by the MSP for the Gleneagles area Roseanna Cunningham who noted â˜there is actually a real danger that all the talk of armed police, surface-to-air missiles and holding compounds will make the fears of violence, understandable after Genoa and Seattle, a self-fulfilling prophecy. Some of it looks suspiciously like the police effectively saying: âœCome on if you think you're hard enoughâ.â™  The line between protest (including non violent direct action) and violence is blurred deliberately by some sections of the police as a means of legitimating police aggression against demonstrators engaged in peaceful protest.
Can we discern the outlines of a strategy here? When Noam Chomsky visited
This is why a second element to the official strategy is their desperation to appear as if they are progressives and as a result to attempt to co-opt the Make Poverty History coalition. Blair has been sporting his white MPH wrist band, Bono refers to Brown and Blair as the 'Lennon and McCartney' of poverty reduction. Both Blair and Brown have been making speeches on their commitment to
On the launch of the Commission for Africa Report, the centrepiece of the governmentâ™s policy for the G8, the BBC listed eight findings requiring action by the West. They included doubling or trebling aid, forgiving debt, spend more on HIV/AIDS, fund African universities, remove trade barriers to African exports in the West.  Not much there to disagree with. But, in the report itself, a different picture emerges. Journalists need only read the summaries of the various chapters to get a clue about the real agenda. For example goals for economic growth in
Also closely involved with the work of the Commission for
The corporations involved can barely contain their excitement. The 'outlook' of the business community is a 'positive one' says one of the CFA commissioners. 'It believes
Amongst their duties in this adventure corporations 'should' sign 'leading codes of good social and environmental conduct'. The one apparent crumb of comfort is that 'Corporate governance principles should clearly identify and punish malpractice'. But this is a mirage as there is no requirement to sign and the codes noted (such as the UN global compact and the Global Reporting Initiative) are all voluntary and do not have any provisions or appetite for 'punishing' corporate wrongdoing.  This is their unifying and defining characteristic. Unsurprisingly, therefore we find that the corporations sponsoring the BAA conference are amongst the worst currently engaged in the exploitation of Africa including Shell (oil), Anglo American (mining), Rio Tinto (mining), De Beers (diamonds), Diageo, SAB Miller (both Drinks industry, use vast quantities of water), GSK (pharmaceuticals), British American Tobacco, and Unilever, (food and consumer products). Also involved are the providers of capital who profiteer from exploitation such as Standard Chartered bank and the venture capital fund Capital for Development. 
This pro-business agenda is nowhere clearer than in the statements of the IMF. Its International Monetary and Financial Committee, met on 16 April in Washington and reiterated the neo-liberal mantra that 'the key challenge remains to press ahead with reforms to strengthen the investment environment and foster private sector led growthâ™ The Committee â˜emphasizes that successful and ambitious multilateral trade liberalization is central to sustained global growth and economic development'. This is as unsurprising as it is damaging to
Brown's mention of
This is nowhere more apparent than in relation to aid, where the promised increases come with strings attached - they require liberalisation. Even worse, the Department for International Development aid budget directly funds privatisation PR campaigns run by the far right Adam Smith Institute and others.  In such obscene circumstances cutting aid to the developing world would be a better policy.
In fact the
Last year Forsyth left Oxfam to work as Blair's advisor of International Development. Meanwhile Brown's advisor on International Development, Shriti Vadera, described by the Guardian as 'tough-talking' and 'not suffering bright junior officials, let alone fools, gladly' is a former director at the US bank UBS Warburg and 'expert' on, and advocate of, 'the complex funding behind public-private partnerships'. Amongst her other roles Vadera sits on the Oxfam Council of Trustees, Oxfamâ™s the governing body. 
These relations are not necessarily corrupt, but the lack of critique of Brown and Blair and the apparent lack of recognition of the real agenda of the
The strategy to divide and rule is real and if we are to have any prospect of undermining the spin and building popular forces to turn back neo-liberalism, we should confront the failed policies of the G8 head on. This requires the broadest possible movement and in particular a battle on the terrain of politics and ideology. On the terrain of politics, the fact that we are many and they are few counts. Their policies on climate, on
David Miller is co-editor of Arguments against G8 (2005) published by Pluto and co-editor of Spinwatch http://www.spinwatch.org/ .
1. Cited in Lindsay McGarvie 'LABOUR IN
DETENTION WITHOUT TRIAL "'CANNOT BE RULED OUT EXCLUSIV"' Sunday Mail, March 6, 2005, Sunday, Pg. 2
2. Douglas Alexander, ' Let's Make History: Scots can feed the world' Sunday Mail, January 2, 2005, Sunday, Pg. 18
3. Sunday Mail, March 6, 2005, as above.
4.Liam McDougall and Neil Mackay 'The new weapon against terror: â˜trampsâ™: MI5 and Special Branch agents pose as vagrants to gather intelligenceâ™, Sunday Herald, 17 April 2005 http://www.sundayherald.com/49168
6.'SPOOKS BRIEFING ON TERROR', Daily Record, April 11, 2005, Pg. 19
7. â˜Gleneagles boss: G8 riots may cost millions' Sunday Herald, http://www.sundayherald.com/49325; â˜City petrol stations to shut during G8 protestsâ™ Scotsman, UK -
10.Peter Taylor, 'Six days that shook
11. Gethin Chamberlain, 'Doubts grow over validity of new party', The Scotsman, 22 January 2003, http://election.scotsman.com/topics.cfm?tid=84042003
12. DAN MCDOUGALL â˜Scottish police authorised to use baton rounds during the summitâ™ Sat 29 Jan 2005, http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/politics.cfm?id=110412005%22 ;Glenn Campbell, 'G8 officers consider water cannonâ™ BBC Online Friday, 11 February, 2005, 17:25 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/scotland/4258439.stm
13. â˜Ministers promise G8 demo rightsâ™ BBC Online, Thursday, 3 March, 2005, 17:12 GMT http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/scotland/4313323.stm
14. Mark Macaskill 'G8 summit protesters may force closure of Faslane' Sunday Times â“ Scotland, 17 April 2005,http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2090-1573093,00.html
15. Chomsky, N. Illegal but legitimate, A dubious doctrine for the times, Gifford Lecture,
16. â˜Bono praises Blair and Brownâ™ Daily Telegraph 29 September 2004 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2004/09/29/ubono.xml
17. Brown, G. 'Speech by the Rt Hon Gordon Brown MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer at a DfID/UNDP seminar - 'Words into Action in 2005', Lancaster House, London., 26 January 2005. http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/newsroom_and_speeches/press/2005/press_09_05.cfm
18.The Guardian's main report was subtitled 'on a report aiming to put an ailing continent on the road to recovery' hardly a balanced perspective. Ashley Seager and Charlotte Moore, the greatest tragedy of our time: how the world can help and why it must do so now' the guardian, 11 March 2005. http://www.guardian.co.uk/hearafrica05/story/0,15756,1435198,00.html
19.The Independent's leader described the report as a 'call to action - it must not go unheeded', again not much a of a critique there. The Independent, 11 March 2005. The Independent journalist Paul Vallely was seconded to the Commission for
21. Summary Chapter 7, Commission for
22. Summary Chapter 8, Commission for
23. Commission for Africa, 'Commission for
24.Business Action for Africa, Statement Issued by Business contact Group on Commission for
25.Commission for Africa, 'Commission for
27. Concluding Statement, as above
28. Concluding Statement, as above
29. Communique of the International Monetary and Financial Committee of the Board of Governors of the International Monetary Fund, 'The Global Economy and Financial Markets - Outlook, Risks and Policy Responses', Press Release No. 05/87, April 16, 2005. http://www.imf.org/external/np/sec/pr/2005/pr0587.htm
31. George Monbiot, On the Edge of Lunacy: British foreign aid is being directed to countries willing to sell off their assets to big business, Published in the Guardian 6th January 2004 http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2004/01/06/on-the-edge-of-lunacy/
32. Cited in Johann Hari. â˜The comfortable rich are being protected from the desperate poorâ™ Independent Wednesday, June 4, 2003.
33.Heather Stewart, 'Those who count in the Treasury', The Guardian, 15 April 2002, http://www.guardian.co.uk/budget2002/story/0,11219,684809,00.html ; http://www.oxfam.org.uk/about_us/trustees.htm#shriti