Hundreds of thousands of people in 99 countries have taken part in a coordinated global climate strike demanding urgent action to tackle the ecological crisis.
The strike on Friday, the first worldwide climate action since the coronavirus pandemic hit, is taking place weeks before the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow, UK.
In Germany, two days before the country’s general election, Greta Thunberg told a crowd of more than 100,000 people that “no political party” was doing enough.
The Swedish activist, whose solo strike in 2018 inspired the global Fridays for Future movement, told cheering supporters they needed to keep up the pressure on Germany’s political leaders past election day.
“Yes, we must vote, you must vote, but remember that voting only will not be enough. We must keep going into the streets,” she said.
Organisers of the global event said there were protests in more than 1,800 towns and cities around the world with large events in Europe, Africa and North and South America.
The United Nations warned Friday that the planet is barreling toward 2.7°C of warming by the end of the century, a nightmare scenario that can be averted only if policymakers take immediate and sweeping action to slash greenhouse gas emissions.
Even if the 191 parties to the Paris climate accord meet their current commitments, global greenhouse gas emissions will still rise 16% by 2030 compared to 2010 levels, according to a new report published by the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
“Failure to meet this goal will be measured in the massive loss of lives and livelihoods.”
The goal of the 2015 Paris agreement is to limit global warming to below 2°C—and preferably to 1.5°C—above pre-industrial levels. An analysis released earlier this week found that the climate targets and actions of just one country—The Gambia—are in line with the critical 1.5° goal.
“This is what betrayal looks like,” Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg tweeted in response to the latest U.N. findings. “Whatever our so-called ‘leaders’ are doing, they are doing it wrong.”
Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of U.N. Climate Change,
said in a statement that the international community must “peak emissions as soon as possible before 2030 and support developing countries in building up climate resilience.”
“The 16% increase is a huge cause of concern,” said Espinosa. “It is in sharp contrast with the calls by science for rapid, sustained, and large-scale emission reductions to prevent the most severe climate consequences and suffering, especially of the most vulnerable, throughout the world.”
The U.N. analysis came as U.S. President Joe Biden met with world leaders and announced that the United States is partnering with the European Union in an effort to cut methane emissions—a powerful driver of global warming—by nearly 30% by the end of the decade.
In its landmark report last month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) emphasized that a “strong, rapid, and sustained” reduction in methane emissions is necessary to prevent the worst of the planetary crisis.
The IPCC also estimated that keeping global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels would require a 45% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2030—a mark that the international community is currently on track to miss badly, according to the new U.N. report.
António Guterres, the secretary-general of the U.N., said in a statement Friday that 2.7°C of planetary heating would be “catastrophic” and that world leaders are “rapidly running out of time” to act.
“This is breaking the promise made six years ago to pursue the 1.5°C goal of the Paris agreement,” said Guterres. “Failure to meet this goal will be measured in the massive loss of lives and livelihoods.”
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As I have influence as a blogger I should be regarded as an influencer or celebrity as opposed to a potential terrorist. I am only regarded as a potential terrorist and potential other things to diminish my rights because I am opposed to you and your illiberal ways.
I have every right in the world to propose and argue that events are spun by corporate media and politicians to their own benefit. For example, I have every right to point out that you - Priti Patel - are beholden to Rupert Murdoch, that he backed you and you are Home Secretary only because you have his support and that similarly Boris Johnson is only the UK's prime minister because he has Murdoch's support, that you work for him instead of the UK electorate and population.
I have every right in the world to argue against the official conspiracy theories e.g. that 9/11 was not done by Islamic terrorists from a cave in Afghanistan and was instead done to enable the Neo-Cons pre-determined agenda and that the 7/7 London bombings were not bombings at all and were instead dust explosions that were only cast as bombings by the made for television bus explosion. Governments and corporate media lie and deceive to present a different, official conspiracy theory - a prime example of this is the Hillsborough disaster.
I do believe that it is inevitable that Capitalism will fail due to the climate crisis. People are not going to permit Capitalism to destroy the planet without fighting and that fight is going to increase as the situation deteriorates. Capitalism is all about a few people being immensely rich. It is the rich that are destroying the planet. These are facts. We can't afford that and people are going to realise and oppose it. The longer Capitalism continues, the more damage it is doing. This thesis has the status of social or sociological theory. It is not terrorism to say this.
Your government Priti is interfering with my life and human rights in an unacceptable way. You are doing this because I am opposed to you and your master Murdoch's politics. I have every right to say this in a liberal democracy.
Your government is interfering with my communications. I can see that you fekk about with my mail and interfere with my online communications. It looks as though I have my own cell tower a couple of street's away for fekk's sake. You're not interfering with my communications and relationships because I'm a potential terrorist.
Your intention is to obstruct and frustrate me because I am opposed to you. You don't fight terrorism by interfering with deliveries from ebay FFS. You shouldn't be doing it.
I'm finding that you are interfering with my relationships. It's bad enough that you watch everything I do, read all my emails, interfere with my post. You are interfering with consenting adult relationships. Liberal democracies are tolerant of glamorous and yakking relationships. Fekk off Priti, get your oar out.
Who's the Daddy?
Governments watch their opponents. Everything - even ice cream - is regarded as terrorism these days. Governments calling wolf enable them to disregard people's rights. It is expected that Priti Patel as Home Secretary regularly signs it off and I've noticed because it's implemented poorly and possibly intentionally.
20th anniversary of 911, insane politicians who should be serving long prison terms appearing in the corporate media, 3-character intelligence agencies promoting the official conspiracy-theory, fake-manufactured terrorism praised relentlessly, the last 20 years of Neo-Con dictated BS wars promoted.
It should be clear to any reasonably intelligent person that we were fed BS to pursue a pre-determined Neo-Con agenda … which means so many people willing to accept and promote tyranny over democracy.
Dozens of Extinction Rebellion activists have carried out a mass act of non-violent civil disobedience by breaking bail conditions ordering them to stay away from the City of London financial district.
The activists joined with hundreds of supporters in a low-key rally outside the Bank of England on Thursday afternoon, listening to speeches from a mobile sound system.
XR said they had targeted the Bank because of its new remit to take environmental sustainability into account in its activities, and that protesters were willing to stay until its governor and the prime minister declared an end to all new fossil fuel funding.
Those breaking bail advertised their civil disobedience with signs bearing messages such as “arrested for sitting in a road”, “arrested for conspiracy to commit climate justice” and “arrested for caring about my grandchildren”.
Among them was Etienne Stott, who won gold in the canoe slalom for Britain in the 2012 London Olympics. He gave a speech publicly telling the crowd he was breaking the law by violating the conditions of his bail.
He told the Guardian: “I’m fed up of being criminalised for acting for the future of all life on Earth in a peaceful, disobedient and responsible way, and it feels quite wrong that I’ve been criminalised for doing what’s so logically and obviously the right thing, given the emergency situation that we are in.
“It seems to me completely sensible that our government stops its fossil fuel investments immediately, and yet I know they have got plans for a new oilfield in Shetland [and] a coalmine that’s in train.
“It’s just so wrong. It’s the height of stupidity; it’s madness.”
Bolstering the case for meaningful climate action, a major report released Wednesday found that Earth’s atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations and sea levels both hit record highs in 2020.
“This situation is urgent, but it’s not hopeless. We have an opportunity to lead the global response in the fight against the climate crisis—we cannot afford to waste it.” —Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson
Based on the contributions of more than 530 scientists from over 60 countries and compiled by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), State of the Climate in 2020 is the 31st installment of the leading annual evaluation of the global climate system.
“The major indicators of climate change,” officials from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information pointed out in a statement, “continued to reflect trends consistent with a warming planet. Several markers such as sea level, ocean heat content, and permafrost once again broke records set just one year prior.”
“Annual global surface temperatures were 0.97°–1.12°F (0.54°–0.62°C) above the 1981–2010 average” in 2020, said NOAA, making last year one of the three warmest on record “even with a cooling La Niña influence in the second half of the year.”
Last year was the warmest on record without an El Niño effect, and “new high-temperature records were set across the globe,” NOAA said. The agency added that the past seven years (2014-2020) had been the seven warmest on record.
Although the coronavirus-driven economic slowdown resulted in an estimated 6% to 7% reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2020, the global average atmospheric concentration of CO2 increased to a record high of 412.5 parts per million. The atmospheric concentrations of other major greenhouse gases (GHG), including methane and nitrous oxide, also continued to climb to record highs last year despite the pandemic.
According to NOAA, last year’s CO2 concentration “was 2.5 parts per million greater than 2019 amounts and was the highest in the modern 62-year measurement record and in ice core records dating back as far as 800,000 years.” Moreover, “the year-over-year increase of methane (14.8 parts per billion) was the highest such increase since systematic measurements began.”
In addition, global sea levels continued to rise, surpassing previous records.
“For the ninth consecutive year,” said NOAA, “global average sea level rose to a new record high and was about 3.6 inches (91.3 millimeters) higher than the 1993 average,” which is when satellite measurements began. As a result of melting glaciers and ice sheets, warming oceans, and other expressions of the climate crisis, the “global sea level is rising at an average rate of 1.2 inches (3.0 centimeter) per decade.”
Other notable findings of the new report include:
Upper atmospheric temperatures were record or near-record setting;
Oceans absorbed a record amount of CO2, global upper ocean heat content reached a record high, and the global average sea surface temperature was the third highest on record;
The Arctic continued to warm at a faster pace than lower latitudes—resulting in a spike in carbon-releasing fires—and minimum sea ice extent was the second smallest in the 42-year satellite record;
Antarctica witnessed extreme heat and a record-long ozone hole; and
There were 102 named tropical storms during the Northern and Southern Hemisphere storm seasons, well above the 1981–2010 average of 85.
In contrast to the release less than three weeks ago of the latest assessment from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which warned that fossil fuel emissions are intensifying extreme weather disasters—provoking a flurry of reactions and even garnering a short-lived uptick in corporate media’s coverage of the climate emergency—NOAA’s new report was met with less fanfare.
In one of the few early statements issued by members of Congress in response to the report, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) said that “scientists sounded the alarm on the climate crisis again.”
“It is clear that without swift action, we can, unfortunately, expect to set new records like these every year,” said Johnson, chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. “The consequences of climate change impact every American—especially disadvantaged communities—across the country; from the devastating floods in Tennessee a few days ago to the record-breaking wildfires in the West.”
“Building a better future for all means acting on climate now,” the lawmaker added. “This situation is urgent, but it’s not hopeless. We have an opportunity to lead the global response in the fight against the climate crisis—we cannot afford to waste it.”
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The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report underscored the dire state of the climate crisis, concluding that “immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions” are needed to limit global warming even to 1.5°C or 2°C.
The world absolutely needs to reduce or eliminate emissions, and fast. But while many of the problems inhibiting effective climate action are political, they aren’t really about politicians failing to do anything. There has actually been plenty of climate action over the last couple of decades. So far, however, it’s largely failed.
Climate action for whom?
Different kinds of climate action have different costs and benefits for different people. Because of this, choices about what courses of action to pursue are profoundly shaped by relations of power.
We live in a world marked by severe disparities of wealth and power within and between countries, many of which are rooted in longer histories of colonialism and exploitation. These disparities have often allowed powerful companies in sectors like finance and energy to dictate the course of climate action. This has made it very difficult to pursue measures that might threaten their interests, but which would dramatically reduce emissions – like banning fossil fuel exploration.
Instead, we’ve had a slew of measures to address climate change which rely on making emissions reductions profitable. But the quickest ways to reduce emissions aren’t always the most profitable. And what is profitable for some can be harmful for less powerful people and communities.
One example is carbon credits – permits that allow firms and governments to meet emissions targets and offset their pollution by funding projects that reduce emissions elsewhere, mainly in developing countries. The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) organised by the UN was meant to help reduce emissions this way. As agreed in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the CDM was supposed to mobilise investment to install renewable energy, retrofit factories and restore habitats.
While a large market developed for carbon offsets, it failed to substantially reduce emissions. A major reason for this was its reliance on profit-seeking private investors. Many of the projects funded through the CDM were probably profitable on their own – the distribution of CDM credits very closely mirrors patterns of private foreign investment in developing countries, with the vast majority funding projects in China and India.
Only a narrow range of possible emissions reduction projects, which either delivered their own revenue or provided cost savings for existing businesses, were financed as a result. But even these efforts were hampered by the push to create secondary markets for carbon credits, in which banks and financial institutions speculated on the price of credits. This was supposed to create more accurate prices, but instead, it made them more volatile, inhibiting new projects, as it became hard to predict how much the carbon credits they generated were worth.
Carbon trading also privileged the interests of private investors over those of communities near CDM-funded projects. Windfarms built in southern Mexico and financed through the CDM, for instance, privatised communal land, displacing indigenous communities.
Another major plank of climate action so far has been incentivising the adoption of new technologies with lower emissions. Governments in developed countries have offered subsidies for people to buy electric cars, or increased funding for research and development of clean energy technology.
It is tempting to think public and private investment in renewable energy might allow governments, businesses and civil society to pull together and fight climate change. But there remain significant obstacles. For one, many of the major energy firms investing in wind and solar power, like Shell and British Petroleum, also supply oil and gas. As long as producing fossil fuels remains profitable, these firms will resist efforts to stop selling them.
More importantly, shifting to fully renewable energy sources would require mineral extraction on a truly massive scale to supply the materials for batteries, wiring and other components of solar panels and wind turbines. Recent estimates suggest that meeting current global energy demand with 100% renewable energy would take more cobalt, lithium, and nickel than is known to exist on earth.
A scramble for these minerals is already underway. Demand for batteries in phones, laptops, and electric cars has triggered a rush to establish industrial mines in the southeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the majority of the world’s known reserves of cobalt are found.
Foreign-owned industrial mines employ very few Congolese workers and the profits largely accumulate abroad. Some communities have been removed to make way for mining operations. Small-scale mining by local people, often operating without permits or formal mineral rights and using their own tools, has become the main means by which cobalt has benefited local livelihoods.
But according to media and activist reports, child labour is rife in these smaller mines. Meanwhile, the cobalt boom has been linked to landslides, river pollution, and deforestation, and locals have suffered widespread exposure to toxic mining dust in the air and in food and drinking water.
Some firms, including manufacturers of cars and electronics, as well as financial institutions involved in trading cobalt, have tried to minimise the negative effects of mining. Most of these programmes focus on tackling child labour, by certifying that cobalt was extracted from industrial mines rather than from the small-scale mines where most of the problem exists. But replacing smaller mines with industrial-scale ones wouldn’t necessarily benefit mining communities.
Climate action so far has failed to confront the interests of powerful businesses and governments, while passing costs on to vulnerable people and places which have contributed very little to the climate crisis. If we want results, we may need to go beyond simply demanding action and instead focus on changing the way the global economy is organised and governed.
Climate justice campaigners occupied the center of Zürich’s financial district Monday to demand that the two biggest banks in Switzerland divest from oil, gas, and coal.
Dozens of “singing and chanting activists” blocked entrances to the headquarters of Credit Suisse and a UBS office building on Paradeplatz square, Reutersreported. Police officers arrested about 30 people who refused to disperse during the peaceful demonstration.
Frida Kohlmann, spokesperson for the Rise Up for Change group, said in a statement that Credit Suisse and UBS have failed to respond appropriately to the climate emergency.
“That is why the climate justice movement is occupying the Credit Suisse headquarters and the nearby UBS office today to draw attention to the consequences of the Swiss financial institutions’ inaction,” Kohlmann said.
“Civil disobedience is our duty,” tweeted Collectif BreakFree Suisse, part of the movement to stop financial actors from continuing to fund dirty energy projects that are fueling extreme weather-related disasters. “Either phase out fossil fuels or face forest fires, famines, droughts, and floods.”
In response to the protest, UBS said in a statement: “Climate protection is a top priority at UBS… We are committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions across our business to net zero by 2050, with science-based interim targets for 2025, 2030, and 2035.”
Despite having “decreased fossil fuel financing by 73%, from $7.7 billion in 2016 to $2.1 billion in 2020,” UBS continues to invest money in “thermal coal mining, oil refining, shale gas drilling,” and more, according to a recent analysis by CNBC.
Credit Suisse asserted that it “is committed to climate protection and achieving the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement,” referring to the 2015 international treaty that seeks to reduce carbon pollution and limit global temperature rise to below 1.5°C.
On its “DisCreditSuisse” campaign website, Collectif BreakFree Suisse said that while “Credit Suisse claims to align itself with the objectives of the Paris Agreement… it is one of the banks that is fueling the climate catastrophe the most.” According to a recent analysis (pdf) of the world’s largest asset managers, the bank ranks 72 out of 75 in terms of responsible investing.
“Although Credit Suisse officially supports the objectives of the Paris climate agreement, it has been financing companies in the coal, oil, and gas sectors since 2015 with billions of dollars for the exploration, production, and processing of fossil fuels,” the group said. “Between 2016 and 2019, Credit Suisse invested (pdf) a total of $74.3 billion in fossil fuels. In particular, the bank provided almost $23 billion in financial support for global firms actively expanding their fossil fuels businesses.”
“The existing instruments and guidelines do not appear to have led to any changes in the bank’s decision-making processes,” the group added. “The bank’s loan and investment portfolios are simply not being decarbonized at a pace commensurate with IPCC recommendations and the climate crisis. The bank is thus discrediting itself.”
A massive “heat dome” of excessive heat will settle across the heart of the contiguous US from Monday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast, bringing elevated temperatures to the Great Plains, the Great Lakes, the northern reaches of the Rocky Mountains, the Pacific north-west and California.
Places used to more mild summers are set for punishing heat, with temperatures expected to breach 100F (37C) in the Dakotas and Montana, a state in which the city of Billings has already experienced 12 days above 95F (35C) this month. Areas of states including Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma may get “sweltering” temperatures reaching 110F (43C), Noaa said, while cities such as Des Moines, Minneapolis and Chicago will get significantly above-average heat.
Climate scientists have said the barrage of heatwaves over the past month, which have parched farms, caused roads to buckle and resulted in the obliteration of long-standing temperature records, are being fueled by predicted human-caused climate change – but admit to being surprised at the ferocity of the onslaught.
We’re at a crucial moment in history. Our climate is breaking down and life on Earth is dying: accelerated by our economic system and supported by politicians.
We need urgent change, and we need it yesterday. Because people everywhere in the world need us to step up; the future needs us to step up. — Once we begin to act the politically impossible can [dizzy: will] become inevitable.
So where do we go from here?
As we continue to burst out of lockdown measures with ferocity, it’s time to channel that momentum into plans for a mass Rebellion. Let’s bring everyone together again and let the government know we will not stand by while they continue to lie to us about their plans for tackling the climate and ecological emergency. As the UK moves further towards authoritarianism and business as usual carries on with force, we must rebel for all we hold dear.
So, SAVE THE DATE! We’re coming back together in London on….23 AUGUST!
On the one hand we have never before seen extreme temperatures in Canada and North-West of the States. On the other hand we have Ultra-rich Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson engaging in climate-destroying space tourism, Bezos’s new mega and mega climate-destroying superyacht is becoming ready and climate-destroying superyachts are getting produced like never before.
Seriously, how long do you expect the filthy rich climate destroyers to be tolerated?
Murdoch repeatedly meets UK prime ministers in secret. The deal is that Murdoch sets the agenda and provides support to these right-wing politicians in return for favourable treatment. It should be recognised and accepted that Murdoch is a foreign tax evading billionaire so politicians are promoting private foreign interests over those of their country.
4 January 1981 Margaret Thatcher and Rupert Murdoch meet in secret with the meeting repeatedly denied since. Thatcher agrees that Murdoch can aquire the Times and Sunday Times newspapers thereby controlling a huge proportion of UK newspapers without a referral to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission.
The News of the World phone hacking scandal damages Rupert Murdoch’s influence. The News of the World hacked the phones of murder victims and thereby damaged police investigations as well as hacking the phones of royalty and celebrities.
Murdoch’s political influence returns following the phone hacking scandal.
Murdoch owns prominent UK politicians Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Priti Patel. Boris Johnson gets the thumbs-up to be UK prime minister from Murdoch at the London Olympics, Priti Patel and Michael Gove attend Murdoch and Jerry Hall’s wedding celebrations in London. Priti Patel behaves as Rupert Murdoch’s private secretary e.g. here and here.
As of this writing, it has been three days since the Icelandic newspaper Stundin broke the story that a key witness in the US government’s case against Julian Assange had fabricated allegations against the WikiLeaks founder. And yet, somehow, Assange is still in prison.
Weirder still, not one major western media outlet outside of Iceland has reported on this massive and entirely legitimate news story. A search brings up coverage by Icelandic media, by Russian media, and by smaller western outlets like Democracy Now, World Socialist Website, Consortium News, Zero Hedge and some others, but as of this writing this story has been completely ignored by all major outlets who are ostensibly responsible for informing the public in the western world.
It’s not that those outlets have been ignoring Assange altogether these last few days either. Reuters recently published an interview with Assange’s fiance Stella Moris. Evening Standard has a recent article out on Assange’s plans to marry Moris in Belmarsh, as does Deutsche Welle. It’s just this one story in particular that they’ve been blacking out completely.
And it’s not that the mainstream press are unaware of this story. Mainstream western reporters spend a lot of time on Twitter, and Assange’s name was trending in the United States after the Stundin story broke. Tweets about the article by high-profile accounts like WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden have many thousands of shares each. They’ve all seen the article. They all know it’s newsworthy. They’re just choosing not to report on it.
It reminds me of the blanket media blackout that occurred while the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was hemorrhaging leaks revealing a US government-tied coverup in the alleged chlorine gas incident in Douma, Syria. Immensely newsworthy stories were breaking every few days on a major international scandal, yet not a peep was made about it by the mainstream press.
We are being lied to. Constantly, and in more ways than we realize. By omission, by distortion, by half-truths and by outright deception. Our minds are being actively messed with by powerful people with limitless resources to ensure their continued domination of the planet at any cost. Our very perception of reality is being assaulted on myriad fronts. Until humanity finds a way to wake itself up from its propaganda-induced coma, the abuses of the powerful will continue.
Caitlin Johnstone is a rogue journalist, poet, and utopia prepper who publishes regularly at Medium.
LABOUR MPs Richard Burgon and Diane Abbott handed a letter to the governor of HMP Belmarsh today, demanding permission for a meeting with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.
The two socialist MPs joined Mr Assange’s fiancee Stella Moris outside the prison to deliver the letter on behalf of a parliamentary working group.
Mr Assange remains locked up at the Covid-hit south London prison pending an appeal after he beat an extradition case brought by the US.
The letter is signed by 20 parliamentarians including former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, MPs Bell Ribeiro-Addy, John McDonnell, Zarah Sultana, Caroline Lucas, Claudia Webbe and members of the House of Lords.
Julian Assange’s case should’ve ended as soon as a UK judge denied his extradition to the US, Jeremy Corbyn, former Labour leader, told RT as he joined other MPs to demand a meeting with the WikiLeaks founder in a London prison.
Corbyn described Assange as “somebody that has stood up for truth around the world. He’s helped us to understand what happened in Guantanamo Bay and so many places around in the world where the US military has done terrible things. We think that he’s a journalist of distinction.”
When a man lies often enough, every now and then, something he says will turn out to be true. And so it happened with Boris Johnson. He said our country would be “record-breaking” in this pandemic and it has been, twice over: at one point, the UK had achieved the highest rate of COVID-19 deaths per capita in the world; and it also suffered the worst fall in GDP in Europe.
How have the Prime Minister and his Cabinet fared when it comes to telling the truth about the greatest disaster our country has experienced since the Second World War?
Privately, radio and television journalists will reel off what they think are the most outrageous lies of this Government’s Coronavirus catastrophe – how it claimed that it was simply ‘following the science’ or ‘protecting the NHS and care homes’ or awarding contracts for personal protective equipment (PPE) sensibly.
Back in autumn 2019, I condemned Boris Johnson as a known liar in the annual MacTaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh Television Festival. A number of my colleagues in broadcasting disapproved strongly even though they did not dispute the accuracy of my statement. That the Prime Minister is a notorious liar is accepted among journalists in the UK across the political spectrum.
Johnson was sacked by The Times early on in his career for an untruthful front-page story which he misattributed to his own godfather. As the Daily Telegraph’s Brussels’ correspondent between 1989 and 1994, he regularly disseminated ‘Euromyths’. He was sacked in 2004 as the Conservative Party’s vice-chairman and Shadow Arts Minister for dishonestly assuring the then leader Michael Howardthat reports he had had an affair with a columnist were an “inverted pyramid of piffle”.
Yet, almost all broadcast journalists believe that they should not use the ‘L’ word about Johnson.
Why? Firstly, it’s rude and we’re British. Secondly, they fear that the public could thereby think we have lost our impartiality. Well, that’s a risk we have to take. I am indeed not impartial between truth and lies. The public doesn’t have the wherewithal to research the facts about politicians’ statements and therefore judge accurately whether they are telling the truth. They rely on us for that.
Ministers have made untrue statements over and over again and it has worked for them. A significant proportion of the population has accepted these statements. This is partly because they sympathised with a Government dealing with a plague without precedent for which it could not be blamed. But this is also because broadcast journalists have not said that we have been lied to in significant ways.
Back in 2019, I was complaining about Johnson’s lies concerning EU rules on condoms and kippers. What halcyon days they were, pre-pandemic, when a politician lying about fish seemed like a big deal. Now, he and his Cabinet lie about life and death. Previously, his lies were specific. Now, they are are so vast in their ambition that they create a parallel universe.
In the past, lying politicians were held to account on television and radio. They were not named as liars, but their statements were analysed forensically in lengthy interviews. Not any more.
During the Coronavirus crisis, we have not seen Boris Johnson putting himself up for the sort of grilling to which, for example, Margaret Thatcher subjected herself over the Falklands. Johnson and senior Cabinet ministers have failed to appear on Newsnight or Channel Four News, the two programmes with the time to carry out in-depth interviews.
A leading broadcast journalist told me: “They just don’t believe in accountability. In one of the great crises of modern times, where is the major interview with the Prime Minister? I can’t think of a time when a Prime Minister in a crisis has put himself up so little. There is no proper scrutiny. It’s a complete contempt for accountability.”
This is an edited extract from ‘Populism, the Pandemic and the Media: Journalism in the Age of Brexit, COVID, Donald Trump and Boris Johnson’ to be published on 24 June 2021 by Abramis. Dorothy Byrne is a television journalist and producer. She was formerly editor-at-large at Channel 4 Television, where she previously served as head of news and current affairs