The BBC/Searchlight 'Secret Agent' documentary on the BNP under the microscope, and the definitive analysis, warts and all, of the late Paul Foot's journalism.
While it has been some time, this issue illustrates with a resounding thud that we have not gone away, nor will we. A combination of technical difficulties and the need to delay till certain legal matters were clarified has led to this NFB being late.
It is the biggest yet, and a significant mile stone in the magazine's development. Just as well we are making waves--not only is the state coming up with more repressive measures weekly, resistance is inchoate. Liberty Director Swami Chakrabarti seems to favour both use of phone taps in court and free fake ID cards for spooks. Worrying.
For readers old and new, this number has treats in store. Since inception: NFB has been (to coin a phrase) 'tough on spooks & tough on the allies of spooks'. These include, and always have, large parts of the media. This issue breaks new ground, by actually defining (with some precision) exactly what we don't like about this alliance, and why. It corrodes the reality, and possibility, of rigorous and worthwhile journalism. The phrase coined is inelegant, but the reality even more so-- 'State Compromised Pseudo-Investigative Journalism', or SPIJ for short. This is elaborated towards the close of a detailed deconstruction (demolition) of the July 2004 BBC 'Secret Agent' documentary on the British National Party. The danger that the BNP poses makes it essential that opponents do not play into their hands either by encouraging a persecution complex or putting out shoddy TV programmes doing more harm than good to anti-fascism. We earnestly hope others will reflect upon, refine and utilise the SPIJ paradigm, to the benefit of all other than those compromised by the secret state (willingly or otherwise). It is a salutary comment on so-called 'media coverage' that we are the first to properly get a handle on esoteric debates concerning the BBC's future, as well as casting a critical eye on the often sub-standard people in charge of the outfit. We do not criticise for the sake of it--we remain incensed because genuine stories so-called 'investigative journalists' should be exploring, like the 1999 nail-bombing scandal (updated here), are swept under the carpet. For how much longer?
Rigorous does not mean boring, and hopefully the piece opposite analysing the war between the secret state and animal rights activists proves that. We like animal rights activists not just due to their cause, but because unlike much of the no-hoping Last Century Left they have verve, a sense of style, and willingness to learn both from each other and the enemy. NFB has always been ready to look in detail at events in specific geographical areas, often out of the mainstream media spotlight. Paul Marsh' review of a hitherto-neglected book on Manchester Gangs is timely, and will hopefully spur further research in that area. Manchester is a theme this issue, inasmuch as BBC 'Secret Agent' producer Simon Ford was previously responsible for 'Secret Policeman', involving infiltration of Greater Manchester Police, also dissected.
Paul Foot in life (and death) has enjoyed uncritical adulation as the epitome of an 'investigative journalist'. That adulation, and the deferential class aspect to it, sticks in the craw. Co-editor David Pegg investigates the Honourable's background, life and work, with intriguing and sometimes humourous results. More to our taste was the relatively unknown Gary Webb, who exposed CIA crack dealing in black US neighbourhoods. For this and similar he became a marked man, and on 10/12/04 was found dead, having supposedly shot himself twice in the face. Shades of Willie Macrae? Not credible. Speaking of zero credibility, like two bad pennies ex-MI5 officers David Shayler & Annie Machon are up to their old tricks, recently spreading smears about Tony Benn & former union leader Jack Jones. We analyse their latest manoeuvres and urge readers to closely monitor these troublesome cuckoos. When it comes to interlopers, current DPP Ken MacDonald's pretence he's still (was he ever?) a civil libertarian while spearheading increasingly repressive state measures is such blatant hypocrisy we couldn't let it pass without comment. So haven't. The war of position continues. Enjoy!! If new to NFB, don't read it all at once--the depth and rigour of research will blow your mind. Take it slowly, savour the experience and, once through, read it again. Then, relive the hit by ordering back issues.
Thanks to: Harry Ainsworth, Steve Booth, Deep Cough, Duncan Ferguson, Simon Forbes, Dave Hughes, Legal Eagle, Graham Macklin, Paul Marsh, the Northern Lights (our guiding star), Steve Patterson, David Pegg, Heidi Svenson, the Technical Department. Also Q for intelligence & editorial input. Continued thanks to Robin Whittaker & Rom for news clippings. 21/2/05
My Terrorist Hamster Ate Eliza Manningham-Buller
The Secret Agent: BBC Journo-Cops on the case? Click here to read extract from this article
The Mancunian Way: Review of Peter Walsh 'Gang Wars'
The Copeland Scandal Summarised & Updated Click here to read this article in full (minus graphics)
One (Paul) Foot in the Grave
The Curse of Gandalf: Ken MacDonald QC/DPP
David Shayler & Annie Machon:Ml5 Cuckoos in the Nest?
You can find all the issues featured in the section in our online shop.You can either order them as hard copies by mail order or as PDF downloads.
Click here to go to the shop
Notes from the Borderland -- The First Decade
This article first appeared in NFB issue 8 (2007 p.27-29) and is a useful history of where we came from and the contents of each issue....We are happy to report (and this site proves it) we have now resolved the technical difficulties alluded to in point 5 of the conclusion below. Click here to read