The runner-up spot: Green Party’s historic achievement in Davis byelection!

The Green Party stood in Haltemprice and Howden on a clear platform of being ‘to the left’ of David Davis on freedom in general and on civil liberties in particular (http://www.newstatesman.com/uk-politics/2008/06/civil-liberties-party-rights ). David Davis did all he could to marginalise and exclude us (http://www.newstatesman.com/uk-politics/2008/07/election-davis-green-debate ). The media didn’t help, painting the byelection as a freak show, because neither the LibDems nor Labour were standing while a huge field of also-rans were standing.

And yet we have come through well. The Green Party last night scored our highest-ever percentage in a byelection (beating our previous high, back in our best-ever-yet year of 1989), and claimed an unprecedented second place (see the full result and a pertinent comment from our candidate, here):

http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/3am-David-Davis-wins-Haltemprice.4276552.jp

What does this mean in terms of the Green Party’s electoral prospects? It is a strong sign of momentum. It suggests that we should be on track to win in our target seats, places where we are now very strong, such as Brighton Pavillion and Norwich South. We had hardly any members or local Party in Haltemprice, and hadn’t stood in the constituency for a generation; and yet, from this standing start, we came through to prove that the voters were identifying with our message of a serious challenge to David Davis’s message, not from the direction of greater authoritarianism, but from the direction of greater freedom. And that helps answer the question in turn of what this means for the debate that Davis helped to energise: We asked, in this byelection, why 28 days (Davis’s preferred number) was so infinitely better than 42, and suggested (as Liberty believe) that it cannot possibly be just in a civilised society to keep someone for more than a week without charge – that habeas corpus is incompatible with 28 days, let alone 42 days.

And this is what is so gratifying about the election result: that, while Davis was supported by a long list of celebs and of politicians from the old Parties – by Bob Geldof, Anthony Barnett, Martin Bell, Bob Marshall-Andrews etc. –, and naturally (with new- and old- media complicity) he romped home, the second place didn’t fall to someone (such as Jill Saward, an Independent who attracted a good deal of press coverage and tacit Labour support – but who lost her deposit badly) to Davis’s authoritarian ‘right’ on this issue, but to us, who took the risk of arguing that Davis wasn’t going nearly far enough.

 This vote is a vote for the Green Party, and it is also a highly-encouraging vote so far as the debate on civil liberties and freedom now stands: because it suggests that, as that debate goes on, after the byelection, Davis’s position is not (as many in the media have supposed) an extreme radical alternative to New Labour orthodoxy on this matter, marking the limit of how far a pro-freedom stance might go, but is rather merely a place to start the debate, and that the real interest of the debate is in how much further (in the direction of Green Party policy) we need to go, if we are to be taken seriously as a civilised country that is not happy lightly discarding its historic freedoms.

 As I have argued in my previous posts on this byelection (see e.g. http://www.opendemocracy.net/blog/ourkingdom-theme/rupert-read/2008/06/26/the-real-civil-libertarian-candidate-stands-up and http://www.opendemocracy.net/blog/ourkingdom-theme/rupert-read/2008/06/13/this-could-be-the-moment-the-freedom-debate-turns ), Davis ought to be thanked for providing this opportunity to change the terms and the momentum of the debate around civil liberties in this country. He and those who supported his stance ought to thank us too: for taking that debate in a more radical direction, and making clear that there is an appetite in this country not just for New Labour authoritarianism, but for true liberty and freedom, as in the Green Party view.

Save energy, save money

The Government’s recently-stated commitment to a major expansion of renewable
energy is welcome. Let’s hope this time it is for real, and not just a re-announcement of previous pledges… Achieving 15% of total UK energy supply from renewables by 2020 – and 30% of electricity – would be a step toward the ‘green revolution’ that the Green Party has been advocating for decades.

However, there is an equally large challenge which must be tackled at
the same time, to avoid the progress in renewables being undermined: The
UK needs to greatly improve efficiency to reduce demand across all
sectors. This will ensure that the switch to renewables can deliver
significant carbon reductions. Otherwise, gains in expanding renewables
could be lost to increasing demand and reliance on fossil fuels will
remain high. And that would mean more expensive food and fuel for all of us, forever…

The Government has a poor track record on energy efficiency and has
failed to understand that endless growth in demand is incompatible with a switch
to a green economy.

There is much the Government could do, but refuses to do. A policy of investing to save energy in all public buildings could dramatically cut energy consumption in the public sector – and reduce the wastage that taxpayers currently pay for. Requiring
energy saving in the commercial sector could prevent offices and empty
car parks blazing away all night – one of the most visible examples of
energy wastage that contributes to the UK night skies being some of the
worst polluted by wasted light in the whole of Europe. And, most crucial of all, we need to roll out a programme of free home insulation for all, so that our houses are no longer leaking sieves letting heat out all the time, pointlessly, into the sky.

As fuel and energy prices continue to soar, and the manmade climate
change threat looms ever larger, the need to switch away from fossil
fuels becomes ever more clear. The UK could pay a very high price for
the Government’s contradictory and slow response to these challenges.

By contrast, the Green Party can be trusted to rise to this challenge, and implement the needed measures – measures that will save not only the planet but also the hard-earned money in your pocket.

NEWS INTERNATIONAL THREATENS MEDIA LENS WITH LEGAL AND POLICE ACTION

http://www.medialens.org/alerts/index.php

The latest MediaLens alert is very important. Do go to their site to read it in colour with links etc. .
Or below:

MEDIA ALERT: NEWS INTERNATIONAL THREATENS MEDIA LENS WITH LEGAL AND POLICE ACTIONOn June 28 and July 3, Media Lens received repeated threats of both legal and police action from Alastair Brett, legal manager of News International's Times Newspapers.

Noam Chomsky described the threat, pithily, as "pretty sick." (Email, June 28, 2008) David Miller, professor of sociology at the University of Strathclyde and founder member of Spinwatch (www.spinwatch.org), commented:

"The response from the Times is an absolutely outrageous attempt to bully and censor you. It is not – unfortunately – surprising though, as the Murdoch empire is determined to attempt to snuff out those voices which try to bear witness to the truths of our age. Those that unmask naked power will be targeted by the Murdoch empire and its hench people. Maddox is the latest in a long line and is evidently a well networked member of the political elite – being a governor of the shadowy Ditchley Foundation. It is simply laughable that sending emails to complain about her distorted coverage constitutes harassment. Frankly, the drumbeat for war with Iran, to which she adds her voice, is much more like harassment, but of a whole nation. Its consequences are already more deadly serious for the people of Iran than any amount of emails from Medialens readers." (Email, July 8, 2008)

Brett claimed Times journalist Bronwen Maddox had been subject to "vexatious and threatening" emails from Media Lens readers, which constituted "harassment". If this did not stop, Brett told us, he would notify the police who might wish to investigate the matter with a view to bringing a criminal prosecution. As former New Statesman editor, Peter Wilby, noted in his Guardian article on the Times threat, this was no joke – prosecution for criminal harassment "can lead to six months' imprisonment or, if a court order is breached, up to five years".(http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2008/jul/07/pressandpublishing.advertising1)

Maddox claimed to have received "dozens of emails, many abusive or threatening". (Ibid)

Beginning with our very first media alert, published seven years ago yesterday, we have always advised our readers to treat journalists with respect (http://www.medialens.org/alerts/01/010709_US_UK_politicians_crimes.html):

"The goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality, compassion and respect for others. If you do write to journalists, we strongly urge you to maintain a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone."

As usual, many emails were copied or forwarded to us. We saw precisely one that could conceivably be described as "vexatious and threatening". The email read:

"You have know [sic] idea who you are dealing with here. But I do like to help. I suggest that you read this [an inaccessible Facebook website entry] very, very carefully and fully. You have until 4pm Monday to respond to my original email or I will deem you to be fired."

This was also the only email offered up as evidence to Wilby for his Guardian piece. Unprompted by us, the offending emailer had earlier written to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, informing one executive:

"If you take more than 1 working day to reply to this email without a reason that I consider acceptable you can consider yourself fired."

He also wrote to around 40 senior UK editors and journalists in June describing Media Lens as "a pack of absolute tossers".

Ironically, we have been subject to far worse abuse than Maddox and Brett, and at the hands of mainstream journalists. Before becoming editor of the Independent, the former Observer editor, Roger Alton, asked one of our readers:

"Have you just been told to write in by those c*nts at medialens?" (Email forwarded, June 1, 2006 – original uncensored. Changed here to avoid triggering spam filters)

An online Observer article by Peter Beaumont described Media Lens as "a curious willy-waving exercise… Think a train spotters' club run by Uncle Joe Stalin." (Beaumont, 'Microscope on Medialens,' June 18, 2006; http://observer.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1800328,00.html)

We have always found these insults more chucklesome than vexatious. Chomsky was once asked for his reaction to the abuse he receives:

"Man: 'Noam… You've been called a neo-Nazi, your books have been burned, you've been called anti-Israeli – don't you get a bit upset by the way that your views are always distorted by the media and by intellectuals?'

"Noam: 'No why should I? I get called anything, I'm accused of everything you can think of: being a Communist propagandist, a Nazi propagandist, a pawn of freedom of speech, an anti-Semite, liar, whatever you want. Actually, I think that's all a good sign. I mean, if you are a dissident, typically you are ignored. If you can't be ignored, and you can't be answered, you're vilified – that's obvious: no institution is going to help people undermine it. So I would only regard the kind of things you're talking about as signs of progress.'" (Noam Chomsky, Understanding Power, The New Press, 2002, pp.204-5)

Questions Of Copyright

Brett also claimed that we would be acting unlawfully by publishing an email from Maddox without permission. We sought advice and one legal expert told us:

"The Times has no case over the confidentiality of email correspondence. Email correspondence, in itself, is not considered confidential – unless the precise contents of an email are confidential."

Another suggested that the law is less clear and that the Times might carry out its threat. Another reminded us:

"Added weight to your cause is that the statements expressed and reproduced on your site represent important 'political commentary' (as opposed to artistic or commercial commentary). Political commentary is the most heavily protected type of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (via the Human Rights Act 1998 in the UK)."

Another lawyer cited a barrister friend who nutshelled his view of the credibility of the Times's case: "Tell them to f*ck off."

Douwe Korff, Professor of International Law at London Metropolitan University and an expert on the European Convention on Human Rights, commented:

"I find the stance of the Times appalling in moral terms and flimsy at best in law. Their legal position, if endorsed by the courts, would severely limit freedom of the press over issues of major public concern. Is that what they want? I have little doubt their arguments would be kicked out by the UK courts if they pursued them here; they would certainly not be upheld by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. This is simply an attempt by a heavy-weight corporation to brow-beat a small freelance news operation that dares to be critical of its editorial line. It is quite scandalous. The Times should be ashamed of itself." (Email to Media Lens, July 8, 2008)

Having minimal resources for fighting a court case, either in terms of time or money, we decided to delete Maddox's email from our media alert, 'Selling The Fireball', as demanded. You can see the amended version here:

http://www.medialens.org/alerts/08/080625_selling_the_fireball.php

We also published a message on our website emphasising the need for respectful communication with journalists. Coincidentally, we had previously discussed the issue at length in 'Compassionate Media Activism,' an interview with former Buddhist monk, Matthew Bain, published this week on the new Elephant Skin website: http://www.elephantskin.org/2008/07/06/compassionate-media-activism-by-media-lens/

The happy result of this episode is that a number of high-powered legal minds have offered us their services free of charge should the need arise in future.

Peter Wilby wrote about the Times' threat in the Guardian:

"We journalists are accustomed to dishing it out, but have the thinnest of skins. At the merest hint of criticism, we are apt to turn to our lawyers. One reason for this professional sensitivity, I suppose, is that journalists are insecure egotists who like to occupy the high moral ground. Criticism assaults their sense of self-worth and, since their colleagues and potential employers are assiduous consumers of print, it may damage their future prospects." (http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2008/jul/07/pressandpublishing.advertising1)

Wilby quoted from the banned email, perhaps thereby indicating his own feelings on the matter. But his piece was 'balanced'. He criticised us for not providing a link to Maddox's original article, for not urging readers to always read journalists' work before writing, and for not making clear to Maddox who we were when we wrote to her. He contrasted these "failings" with the Times's "professional sensitivities", which he suggested were over-developed.

There was something missing from Wilby's article, however: the human catastrophe that provides the moral backdrop to the entire debate. George Monbiot alluded to it in 2004 when he wrote: "the falsehoods reproduced by the media before the invasion of Iraq were massive and consequential: it is hard to see how Britain could have gone to war if the press had done its job." (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2004/jul/20/media.pressandpublishing)

Like the rest of the British media, the Times played a vital role in selling the public a pack of outrageous government lies that presented a totally non-existent and obviously risible 'threat' as somehow serious, plausible, and even (god help us!) urgent.

Many of the most sophisticated philosophies of human culture contend that rational understanding is the result, not just of wisdom, but also of compassion. This is certainly true of the current discussion. Brett's complaints that our actions caused distress to one of his journalists, and Wilby's 'balanced' response, can seem almost reasonable, until we focus our minds and hearts (if we are able) on a single overwhelming fact. In significant part as a result of the actions of the British media, more than one million human beings are now lying dead in Iraq. In fact, the entire country has been subject to unrelenting destruction and slaughter by two decades of Western policy rooted in selfish greed. All of this has been buried in official propaganda, media silence and compromised 'balance' – it barely exists for the public.

And of course there is more and worse. Almost unbelievably, the media's Iran focus 2008 is near-identical to the media's Iraq focus 2002-2003. It is entirely possible that hundreds of thousands of people will soon be lying dead in Iran as a result of sanctions and war, just across the border from Iraq.

The point is that we are unable to perceive the obscenity of the media silence surrounding this mass slaughter if we are unable to perceive the truth of those one million Iraqi deaths. And we cannot experience the truth of those deaths unless we have some compassion for our victims.

To understand what we have done to the Iraqi people, to feel something of their torment, casts the media silence in a very different light. It transforms, utterly, the actions of people like us trying to break that silence, as it does the actions of those who seek to stop us on the grounds that emailing journalists is "not proper behaviour" and makes "a mess of their inboxes". (Brett)

In truth, the steps we have suggested are pitiful in their timidity. We have always seen media activism as a small, energising contribution intended to inspire much wider, much more profound, political organisation and activism.

What we have done to Iraq is not a video game; it is not a Hollywood invention. We really have destroyed an entire nation and brought misery to millions. About that, this whole country should not be writing a few emails; it should be in uproar.

SUGGESTED ACTION

The goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality, compassion and respect for others. If you do write to journalists, we strongly urge you to maintain a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone.

Write to the Times letters page:
Email: letters@thetimes.co.uk

Please send a copy of your emails to us
Email: editor@medialens.org

Please do NOT reply to the email address from which this media alert originated. Please instead email us:
Email: editor@medialens.org

This media alert will shortly be archived here:

http://www.medialens.org/alerts/08/080710_news_international_threatens.php

The Media Lens book 'Guardians of Power: The Myth Of The Liberal Media' by David Edwards and David Cromwell (Pluto Books, London) was published in 2006. For details, including reviews, interviews and extracts, please click here:

http://www.medialens.org/bookshop/guardians_of_power.php

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GREENS ON COURSE TO GIVE DAVIS A SCARE

GREENS ON COURSE TO GIVE DAVIS A SCARE

[This just out from the national party Press Office]

The Greens are heading towards their best by-election result ever,
beating the 6.1% in Vauxhall in 1989, and in the process giving David
Davis and the Tories a scare in the Haltenprice and Howden by-
election. The Greens are the main challenger to Davis, challenging
his claim to be the defender of British civil liberties.

Dr. Derek Wall, who is campaigning in the constituency today, said

"David Davis may find that he will not have this
election completely his own way.

"Many voters find his illiberal stance on 28 days detention without
charge, support for capital punishment and support for Section 28 just
too much to swallow. The Greens' candidate Shan Oakes is the only
option available to those voters.

"There's more to civil liberties than one vote in Parliament; it's not
okay for the government to lock you up for four weeks without even
telling you what you're supposed to have done. It's not okay to deny
you a right to criticise the government within a mile of Parliament.
If a child is being bullied for being gay, it's not okay to order his
school not to have a policy to protect him.

"There is a real interest in Green Party policies in support of our
civil liberties, for the withdrawal of all our troops in Iraq and for
growing a green economy. Voters realise that Shan Oakes is the main
challenger to David Davis and Green Party support is growing rapidly."

As detailed in my earlier post, I visited ‘Camp Bling’ Road Protest camp in Southend last weekend.  I had a fascinating day, discussing Peak Oil (in the photo above we are watching the remarkable film ‘What a way to go‘ – which I highly recommend), seeing how people live and work at the Camp, and finding out about how Southend people are helping Camp Bling to achieve a so-far quite-remarkable success in stopping this dreadful road project that threatens to devastate the lovely Priory Park (that I also saw during my visit).

I highly recommend a visit to anyone interested in the future!

Tory eco flip-flopS

[Letter sent to the DAILY MAIL]:
 
Dear Sir;

As the oil price spirals upwards the Conservative Shadow Chancellor proposes (‘Tories offer to ‘share the pain’ of fuel bills with variable duty’, Monday July 7th) that the government should effectively fix the price of Petrol and Diesel by lowering duty on these fuels when the market price is this high, thus seemingly insulating car drivers from any international price rise.

The price of oil is rising because demand is rising, while oil production is not rising. If one reduces fuel duty when the price of oil rises, then one is in effect trying to hide from this underlying problem, of the finite supply of oil in the Earth. One is then blunting the ‘price signal’ that might actually reduce (that is already starting to reduce) the usage of oil; one is encouraging the guzzling of oil, at this time when its use at such high rates cannot be sustained. This is un-green politics at its worst.
Fuel used for transport accounts for over 20% of CO2 emissions in this country, and rising. So once again Mr. Osborne has seemingly forgotten the supposed Conservative pledge to safeguard the environment. The only thing that a temporary drop in fuel prices can do is to delay the much needed change of behaviour from all of us when it comes to our energy-intensive lifestyles.
The Shadow Chancellor is looking at the polls and not his supposed commitments. Who is wearing the flip-flops now?!