Today’s Update

The 77th Brigade Spied on Lockdown Sceptics, Including Me

By Toby Young

A shadowy unit of the British Army, as well as secretive ‘disinformation’ agencies within Whitehall, spied on British citizens who challenged the Government’s pandemic response, including Peter Hitchens and me. These revelations are contained in a report by Big Brother Watch due to be published tomorrow, which includes the results of subject access and freedom of information requests submitted by me and others. The Mail on Sunday has more.

A shadowy Army unit secretly spied on British citizens who criticised the Government’s Covid lockdown policies, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.

Military operatives in the U.K.’s ‘information warfare’ brigade were part of a sinister operation that targeted politicians and high-profile journalists who raised doubts about the official pandemic response.

They compiled dossiers on public figures such as ex-Minister David Davis, who questioned the modelling behind alarming death toll predictions, as well as journalists such as Peter Hitchens and Toby Young. Their dissenting views were then reported back to No. 10.

Documents obtained by the civil liberties group Big Brother Watch, and shared exclusively with this newspaper, exposed the work of Government cells such as the Counter Disinformation Unit, based in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and the Rapid Response Unit in the Cabinet Office.

But the most secretive is the MoD’s 77th Brigade, which deploys “non-lethal engagement and legitimate non-military levers as a means to adapt behaviours of adversaries”.

According to a whistleblower who worked for the brigade during the lockdowns, the unit strayed far beyond its remit of targeting foreign powers.

They said that British citizens’ social media accounts were scrutinised – a sinister activity that the Ministry of Defence, in public, repeatedly denied doing.

Papers show the outfits were tasked with countering “disinformation” and “harmful narratives… from purported experts”, with civil servants and artificial intelligence deployed to “scrape” social media for keywords such as “ventilators” that would have been of interest.

The information was then used to orchestrate Government responses to criticisms of policies such as the stay-at-home order, when police were given power to issue fines and break up gatherings.

It also allowed Ministers to push social media platforms to remove posts and promote Government-approved lines.

How did the Government manage to convince these supposedly independent state agencies, with powers to monitor the activities of British citizens, that critics of its barmy lockdown policy were enemies of the state? And does this mean James Delingpole has been right all along? We will discuss tomorrow on London Calling and I’m going to write about it for this week’s Spectator.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Jay Bhattacharya has done a good Twitter thread documenting similar attempts to suppress dissent across the Anglosphere.

Scientists Struggle to Understand Why Antarctica Hasn’t Warmed for Over 70 Years Despite Rise in CO2

By Chris Morrison

Scientists are scrambling to explain why the continent of Antarctica has shown Net Zero warming for the last seven decades and almost certainly much longer. The lack of warming over a significant portion of the Earth undermines the unproven hypothesis that the carbon dioxide humans add to the atmosphere is the main determinant of global climate.

Under ‘settled’ science requirements, the significant debate over the inconvenient Antarctica data is of necessity being conducted well away from prying eyes in the mainstream media. Promoting the Net Zero political agenda, the Guardian recently topped up readers’ alarm levels with the notion that “unimaginable amounts of water will flow into oceans”, if temperatures in the region rise and ice buffers vanish. The BBC green activist-in-chief Justin Rowlatt flew over parts of the region and witnessed “an epic vision of shattered ice”. He described Antarctica as the “frontline of climate change”. In 2021, the South Pole had its coldest six-month winter since records began in 1957, a fact largely ignored in the mainstream. One-off bad weather promoter Reuters subsequently ‘fact checked’ commentary on the event in social media. It noted that a “six-month period is not long enough to validate a climate trend”.

A recent paper from two climate scientists (Singh and Polvani) accepts that Antarctica has not warmed in the last seven decades, despite an increase in the atmospheric greenhouse gases. It is noted that the two polar regions present a “conundrum” for understanding present day climate change, as recent warming differs markedly between the Arctic and Antarctic. The graph below shows average Antarctica surface temperatures from 1984-2014, compared to a base period 1950-1980.

figure 1

The scientists note that over the last seven decades, the Antarctica sea ice area has “modestly expanded” and warming has been “nearly non-existent” over much of the ice sheet. NASA estimates current Antarctica ice loss at 147 gigatons a year, but with 26,500,000 gigatons still to go, this works out at annual loss of 0.0005%. At current NASA ice loss melt, it will all be gone in about 200,000 years, although the Earth may well have gone through another ice age, or two, before then.

Most alarmist commentary centres around the cyclical loss of sea ice around the coast and some warming on parts of the west of the continent. But sea ice cover is running at levels seen around 50 years ago, as the graph below shows. Small rises and falls in the early 2010s have been followed by a reversion to the mean. 

The warmth to the west, seen in the first graph, could have been caused by any number of natural localised events including warmer oceanic waters and the effects of under-water volcanic activity. It has, of course, attracted widespread alarmist interest – in particular, the fate of the Thwaites ice stream, also known as the ‘Doomsday Glacier’. However, recently a group of oceanographers discovered that Florida-sized Thwaites had retreated at twice the rate in the past, when human-caused CO2 could not have been a factor. The retreat could have occurred centuries ago and is said to have been “exceptionally fast”.

Much of climate science today seems to suffer from confirmation bias. Few grants are available to those who don’t start with the premise that the climate is changing mostly, or entirely, due to humans burning fossil fuel. But many present, historic and paleo climate observations fail to establish a clear connection between temperatures and CO2 levels. In the past, the life-enhancing gas has occupied a space in the atmosphere up to 20 times higher, without evidence of huge temperature rises.

Singh and Polvani’s explanation for expected warming in Antarctica is the depth of the continent’s ice. To this end, they use two climate models that purport to show that the “high ice sheet orography” robustly decreases the climate sensitivity to extra CO2, and that “a flattened Antarctic ice sheet would experience significantly greater surface warming than the present-day Antarctica ice sheet”. This conclusion comes from computer models, but later in the paper is an admission that they fail to agree on significant matters. It is revealed that one of the models predicts less sea ice retreat in a flattened Antarctica when CO2 doubles, and the other one, more retreat.

In the science blog No Tricks Zone there has been an interesting debate on the lack of Antarctica warming. It was noted that NASA also tends to support the role of higher elevation of the ice as an explanation. For the rest of the world, states NASA, “the greenhouse effect still works as expected”. The average ice thickness in Antarctica is about 2,160 metres and compares with Greenland at around 1,600. The fact that Greenland has warmed of late might lead to the cynical observation that Antarctica has the wrong type of ice. One correspondent summarised the paper as the “lack of warming in spite of greenhouse gases is the wrong conclusion. The lack of warming is because of the increased greenhouse gases.” Another sighting, it would appear, of the old chestnut, “global cooling is caused by global warming”.

The science, as always, must be out. Attempting to connect every natural variation in weather and long-term climate to just one trace gas produced by humans leads to some unconvincing explanations, not least when climate models are involved.

Chris Morrison is the Daily Sceptic’s Environment Editor.

Are We the Mainstream Media Now?

By Nick Dixon

The other day I saw a video on Twitter of parasites controlling a dead insect and making it walk around as if it were alive. 

I suddenly realised, to paraphrase an old Newman and Baddiel sketch: that’s our media, that is.

The legacy media now exists almost solely as a propped up corpse whose only function is to facilitate the formerly neoliberal, now woke elite. Rather than expose truth, its main purpose seems to be to suppress dissent, as became blindingly apparent during the Covid era.

But are we about to hit a tipping point where things like Twitter, and whatever similar platforms may emerge, will be considered the ‘real’ media? 

James O’Keefe of Project Veritas believes we’re already there. Someone on a Twitter space told him it was a shame their recent video exposé of Pfizer employee Jordan Walker hadn’t garnered much coverage in the mainstream media, to which O’Keefe countered that it had received over 20 million views on Twitter already. A quick check shows it is up to 38.6 million at the time of writing.

He challenged his interlocutor on what really constitutes the mainstream media now. Yes, the story was swiftly taken down by MailOnline and has been largely ignored by American legacy media platforms. But it’s already reaching a far greater audience on Twitter. 

It reminds me of the attempt to shut down Joe Rogan over his platforming of dissenting voices on Covid, such as Dr. Robert Malone. An attempt that comprehensively failed, leading to amusing memes like the one above, based on the movie Captain Philips.

Rogan had an estimated 11 million listeners per episode last year. It is probably higher now. In fact, it was probably higher even then.

Brian Stelter, who used his platform on CNN to attack Rogan, ended up being the one who had his show cancelled, and was last seen at the World Econonic Forum’s annual jamboree in Davos, hosting a panel entitled – wait for it – ‘The Clear and Present Danger of Disinformation’. You will be beyond parody, and you will be happy.

Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, and various other disappointing boomer icons also failed to stop Rogan, and his podcast juggernaut rolls on.

Of course, our media and political elite will continue to desperately hold onto power, with their sad meetings and threats to censor Elon Musk. But a large and ever-increasing number of people see through their nonsense, and now choose to get their information from sources like Twitter, Rogan and other podcasts, and even the humble Daily Sceptic. (On track to set a new site record, with >2.5 million page views this month).

So how long can the cadaver of the so-called ‘mainstream’ media stagger around before everyone realises the wretched creature is already dead? 

The tipping point is coming. 

Nick Dixon is Deputy Editor of the Daily Sceptic. You can follow him on Twitter and Substack.

How Scotland Became the Wokest Country in the World

By Nick Dixon

Just how did Scotland get so woke? We constantly hear about how unpopular Sturgeon’s mad policies are to voters, yet she continues to push the country into ever more radical territory. Jenny Hjul has explored this question in the Telegraph. Here’s an excerpt:

The fact that Scotland is at the epicentre of transgender politics is a turn of events that has probably taken most of its inhabitants by surprise. Scots, while far removed from the presbyterian stereotypes, are not so different from other Brits in their social mores.

How then did their country become known as the wokest in the world? A place where a rapist was sent to a female jail after identifying as a woman; where it will be possible, if the Government has its way, for people to change gender without a medical diagnosis; where social engineering has seen middle-class students seemingly outlawed by the top universities; and where the capital city regards meat as an evil to be eradicated from all public sector menus.

The most toxic area is obvious: the trans row. Just before Christmas, the devolved Government in Scotland almost succeeded in its mission to reform gender recognition legislation, removing the need for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria in order to receive a gender recognition certificate, and lowering the age for applicants to 16.

Hurried through, with a host of amendments shouted down, and passed in the Scottish parliament with the complicity of all but the Scottish Tories and a handful of brave renegades from the SNP and Labour, the bill was only halted when blocked by Westminster on the grounds that it would impact the U.K. Equality Act.

Because of laws passed in Scotland, girls’ schools throughout Britain would be guilty of discrimination if they refused entry to biologically male teenagers with gender recognition certificates from Scotland, and single-sex spaces such as hospital wards, changing rooms and toilets would also have to admit biological males.

Of greatest concern among women’s rights campaigners was that predatory men would be able to exploit the new rules to their own ends. However, protesters were branded transphobic for daring to raise such fears and an amendment to stop male sex offenders legally becoming women was thrown out.

But lo and behold! This week a transgender rapist who committed his attacks on vulnerable women as a man was sent to Cornton Vale women’s prison in Stirling to await sentencing.

After a public uproar, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was forced to overrule the Scottish Prison Service and order the prisoner’s relocation. But the fact that the Scottish justice system put a violent man in a women’s prison in the first place suggests a country in the grip of its own identity crisis.

That Scotland should be in the vanguard of such cultural upheaval is at odds with most people’s – including the Scots’ – perception of the Scots.

Hjul goes on to list the many ways Scotland has become hijacked by Sturgeon’s radical agenda. Even for those of us who follow this stuff for a living, it is pretty shocking.

Worth reading in full.

Nigel Biggar Hits Out at Bloomsbury Over ‘Cancelled’ Book on Empire

By Nick Dixon

The Times has another disturbing story about the woke takeover of publishing. It seems Nigel Biggar’s book about the British Empire was cancelled for not being sufficiently anti-Empire. Biggar made the mistake of giving a nuanced and fair account based on knowledge, research, and expertise, rather than blind adherence to anti-colonialist dogma. Here’s an excerpt:

One of Britain’s biggest publishers has been accused of cancelling a book on colonialism by an eminent Oxford academic that concluded the British Empire was not all bad.

Bloomsbury, which published the Harry Potter series, chose to pay off Professor Nigel Biggar rather than publish his book despite initially describing it as a work of “major importance”.

The Times has seen emails exchanged between Biggar and Bloomsbury, which show how the publisher went from enthusiastic to unwilling to publish in three months.

In 2018 the company approached Biggar, who was then regius professor of moral and pastoral theology at the University of Oxford, to write a book about colonialism following his research into “ethics and empire”. Terms were agreed and Biggar delivered the book, called Colonialism: A Moral Reckoning, at the end of 2020.

The book argues that despite grave mistakes and moments of gross injustice, the British Empire learnt from its errors and was increasingly propelled by humanitarian and liberal ideals, most notably through the abolition and suppression of slavery. It also examines the work of a number of historians who Biggar claims “overstate” the sins of British colonialism, concluding that they are sustained by contempt for the West.

After reading the manuscript, Biggar’s editor at Bloomsbury emailed him to say he was “speechless” with enthusiasm. He wrote: “Your research is exhaustive. Your argument is conveyed with care and precision. This is such an important book. I am now going to spread the good news around Bloomsbury about this exciting new project.”

However, three months later Biggar received an email from Sarah Broadway, the head of special interest publishing at the company, which said “conditions are not currently favourable to publication” and that she wanted to delay.

Biggar asked her to clarify what she meant but she offered only one sentence of explanation: “We consider that public feeling on the subject does not currently support the publication of the book and will reassess that next year.”

Biggar replied again, pointing out public feeling is “diverse” and asked again for clarification. He wrote: “Therefore, could you clarify for me, please: which public feeling concerns you; in what sense it is ‘unfavourable’ to publication; and what would need to change to make it ‘favourable’ again?”

Broadway wrote back, saying that Bloomsbury had “grappled with giving defined criteria” but found this “difficult to define objectively”. She said: “We have concluded that this subjectivity could lead to your book being in a limbo lasting more than a year or it might not but we don’t wish to put you in that position of uncertainty.” She explained this meant that Bloomsbury would like to release Biggar from his contract.

A publisher who struggles to express things in words, and relies on their subjective perception of the whims of ‘public feeling’. What could possibly go wrong? Biggar, on the other hand, had no trouble naming the problem:

Biggar, who was told by a source at Bloomsbury that senior executives chose not to publish because junior staff disliked his work, replied: “It is quite clear… the public feeling that concerns you is that of — for want of a more scientific term — the ‘woke’ Left.”

He added: “Rather than publish cogent arguments and important truths that would attract the aggression of these illiberals, you chose to align yourselves with them by de-platforming me. In so doing, you have made your own contribution to the expansion of authoritarianism and the shrinking of moral and political diversity.”

Very well put. But then, that’s what one would expect of a serious writer whose work deserves to be published by what used to be our most respected publishers. Luckily, the book is now being published by the apparently more sensible people at William Collins.

Worth reading in full.

News Round-Up

By Nick Dixon

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January 2023
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