Over the years, there have been frequent allegations that rightwing millionaires or security agencies have funded Frank Furedi’s sect, which has morphed from believers in a sort of neo-Kautskyist belief in capitalist progress into full-bore libertarians. In other words, they have retained the breathless “Better Living Through Chemistry” and “What’s Good for General Motors is Good for America” part of the equation but dropped the inconvenient business about socialism.In today’s spiked-online, sect leader Brendan O’Neill tries to fend off these charges, which is something of a first for the sect, as far as I know:
There have been a fair few articles and rumours over the past few years accusing spiked’s editor Mick Hume and managing editor Helene Guldberg, as well as contributor Frank Furedi and Institute of Ideas director Claire Fox (with whom spiked shares an office), among others, of being involved in various conspiracies headed by everyone from the Serbian government to the drugs companies. Many of the arguments made by contributors first to Living Marxism and LM and later to spiked, all of which were edited by Hume, have been challenged, not substantially or politically, but by a kind of muck-raking search for the secret financer [sic] behind the arguments. Those who oppose what some of our writers have said about Western intervention, environmentalism and free speech have not taken up the arguments head-on but rather have said, ‘Well look who’s funding them….look who they have meetings with….what do you expect?’ These attacks should be understood as part of the broader climate of conspiracy-mongering today, where robust political debate has given way to a kind of cowardly dinner-party whispering campaign about individuals’ motives or personal interests and private lives.
To begin with, it has been years since anybody has attacked them for what they have written about Yugoslavia. Mostly, it is people like Diana Johnstone, Michael Parenti and Edward Herman who are the target of the Cruise Missile Left. In a way, it is unfortunate that there is so little in the way of anti-imperialism in spiked-online nowadays of any sort. Granted, they are anxious to put all that in the past, but there is no contradiction between being libertarian and being against the war in Iraq. Take a look at antiwar.com for one example.
The question of corporate ties to drug, petroleum and chemical companies is much more complex. I think it is wrong to look at spiked as simply a bunch of whores who write things whatever evil corporations pay them to write. That is much more the model of their frequent collaborator, the Hill and Knowlton PR firm. You’ll recall that Hill and Knowlton developed the propaganda campaign for the first Gulf War, which included the false allegation that Iraqi troops were pulling Kuwaiti infants out of their cribs in a hospital nursery and throwing them on the cold floor. I imagine that if the Iraqi government had been able to put together a bigger bundle of cash for Hill and Knowlton, they might have written something that Michael Moore would be proud of.
No, I don’t think we are dealing with payoffs here. Instead, it is a matter of deep conviction that anything that gets in the way of Exxon, Pfizer and Monsanto is an obstacle to progress. When Monsanto came up with GM crops, I am sure that created as much excitement in their ranks as did Cuban victory over South African soldiers at the battle of Cuito Carnevale for people like us. Once you are absolutely convinced that capitalism = progress, why would you refuse to discover ways to finance your activities through contributions from the Exxons, Pfizers and Monsantos of the world? Frankly, if a search of tax records revealed that Furedi’s various think-tanks were being funded by such outfits, my reaction would be similar to Claude Rains’s (as Colonel Renault) in “Casablanca”: “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!”