The right wing thinktank Policy Exchange that David Cameron refered to as "his favourite thinktank", also labelled the “neo-conservative attack dog” has released a baseless smear attacking the climate change activists known as Extinction Rebellion without any solid evidence. Unlike XR who are completely transparent about where their funding is coming from, the thinktank refuses to reveal its donors arguing that it is respecting its donors "right to privacy". However the reality is that unknown donors can have influence on the news narrative... One of policy exchange reports was recently on the front page of The Daily Mail.
According to The Guardian, American donors are giving money to US fundraising bodies that pass the donations to Policy Exchange, the Adam Smith Institute, The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), and the Legatum Institute in Britain. "A Guardian analysis has established that $5.6m (£4.3m) has been donated to these US entities since 2008." We have contacted Phillips 66, Lukoil Rosneft. Chevron. Total. BP Plc and ExxonMobil to ask if they fund Policy Exchange, but they have yet to respond. In the interests of transparency and democracy, we need to know who funds this organisation and what exactly their purpose is. What we do know about this thinktank is it has a radical free market agenda and that they push for reduced regulation.
Right-wing think tanks attacking climate change activists is nothing new. In fact it could be said they are hostile to the cause altogether. The Institute of Economic Affairs which faces an investigation by the Charity Commission into whether it is politically independent, but also into its charitable status, last year was accused of “pumping seemingly paid-for propaganda” into colleges. This was after it was uncovered that a free magazine it sends to student studying A-Level economics or business contained articles denying climate change. The articles also condemned tobacco taxes and made the case for privatising the National Health Service. As stated The Institute of Economic Affairs does not declare who funds it, however we know exactly whose interests they represent as it was uncovered that they have taken money from BP Plc. Last year it was revealed that they had released a report after taking money from the Jersey financial services sector. The report claimed "tax havens boosted the wider economy" and attempted to "discredit the idea that offshore financial centres were hotbeds of tax evasion”. They have also had funding from organisations which want to see the NHS privatised. In 2013 it was also revealed that both The Institute of Economic Affairs along with the Adam Smith Institute have received funding from from cigarette companies.
Richard Walton who co-authored the report smearing Extinction Rebellion was the head of the Metropolitan Polices Counter Terrorism Command. But he was suspended from his position in March 2014. The Independent Police Complaints Commission looked
into allegations of “discreditable conduct and breaches of honesty and integrity” by Walton after the publication of the Ellison report, which looked into the role of corrupt police officers in the Stephen Lawrence murder investigation. According to the report an undercover police officer had met with Walton in 1998. The report stated “We have found Mr Walton’s position concerning this meeting less than straightforward to establish and somewhat troubling”.
Earlier this year Walton co-authored an Islamophobic report called "Islamophobia – Crippling Counter-Terrorism." He claiming that a definition of Islamophobia proposed by the all-party parliamentary group on British Muslims would "cripple counter-terrorism". He also claimed adopting the definition could lead to "government departments, the police, intelligence agencies and other public bodies being branded institutionally Islamophobic". The current government has refused to adopt the definition. However The Labour party, the Liberal Democrats and all five major political parties in Scotland have adopted it in full.
Walton has recently written an article in The Telegraph regarding his report under the headline.
In his report claimed.
"The leaders of Extinction Rebellion seek a more subversive agenda, one that that is rooted in the political extremism of anarchism, eco-socialism and radical anti-capitalist environmentalism. The ‘civil resistance model’ they espouse is intended to achieve mass protest accompanied by law-breaking —leading eventually to the breakdown of democracy and the state. Obscured from public view, these objectives mark Extinction Rebellion’s campaign out as an extremist one that seeks to break down the established civil order and liberal democracy in the UK."
This is a standard tactic of the establishment. They smear their opponents and present a threat to their wealth and self interest as a threat to the national interest.
Walton argued in his report.
"Those who accept planned mass law-breaking in a liberal democracy to further a political cause, are effectively condoning the breakdown of the rule of law. They may assert breaking the law is a means to an end, there is a crisis that needs addressing and law-breaking is the only tactic that will change government policy, but in doing so they have become extremists for their cause."
Labeling Extinction Rebellion as extremist isn't just unfair but it's also extremely exaggerated as XR is clearly non violent. The tactics of the suffragettes could be seen as much more militant. Lets not forget that 300 suffragettes were jailed at HMP Holloway for arson and window smashing. Mary Richardson infamously caused thousands of pounds of damage to the Rokeby Venus oil painting at the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square to bring attention to the suffragette cause. Even the chartist leader Feargus O'Connor was an advocate of violence to demand the six points of the people's charter be granted, should it not be achieved by peaceful methods. We must never forget that everything we take for granted, votes for women, votes for the working classes wasn't just handed to us on a plate by the powers that be. It was achieved through class struggle.
The report reads.
"This new form of extremism needs to be tackled by Ministers and politicians, the Commission for Countering Extremism, police and the general public. The honeymoon that Extinction Rebellion has enjoyed to date needs to come to an end. Members of the public need to be made fully aware this is not an organisation whose strategy and tactics should be applauded and copied."
"The police response to law-breaking by demonstrators must be far more proactive in enforcing laws that relate to public protest, preventing Extinction Rebellion and other political activists from embarking on illegal tactics that cause mass disruption and significant economic damage."
"Legislation relating to public protest needs to be urgently reformed in order to strengthen the ability of the police to place restrictions on planned protest and deal more effectively with mass lawbreaking tactics (including incitement and conspiracy offences) such as road and bridge blocking, aggravated trespass and criminal damage."
It is clear why Extinction Rebellion are being labelled extremist. The powers that be will push this narrative in the media to manufacture public consent and to justify greater police powers to deal with the protests. Under current laws because the protests are peaceful the police have limited powers, however it will not be long until this situation comes to an end.
Walton writes in his report.
"Extinction Rebellion is now at a cross roads. If it persists in its current strategy of encouraging mass law-breaking in order to bring down the government in the furtherance of its cause, then it will be treated as an extremist organisation, lose its mainstream supporter base and all public sympathy for its environmental cause."
This should be seen as the objective or as the mission statement of the corporate establishment. Extinction Rebellion still enjoys much popular support. However we should never, misjudge the length wealth will go to protect itself. And lets never underestimate their most powerful weapon of all the corporate media. If they get their way they will have you believing that greed is good and necessary and that there is no other way. That living wages will ruin the economy. That a smaller state is an economic necessity. That anti-racists are racists. That the racist, divisive establishment media is the champion of minorities. That the receivers of international peace awards are a threat to the national security and support terrorism. And that climate change activists concerned for the planet are actually no better then terrorists.
It is clear that we are living in an age of much misinformation. Where unknown forces have to power to influence the public consciousness. Extinction Rebellions demands are a threat to wealth and power and this will never be taken lightly. Thinktanks like Policy Exchange enjoy exclusive access to the media and government ministers. All three have an undesirably close association. Together along with their donors they form the establishment. If Extinction Rebellion are to be successful then direct action alone cannot be enough. They must use the full force of social media to challenge the "extremist" narrative. Independent media must play a vital role in making this happen. Thinktanks such as these are falsely presented by the corporate media as neutral experts. They push for privitisation and deregulation as all they care about is profit at all costs. Whether its the expense of our health, finances or even the planet we live on. This is people versus profit, us verses them, good versus greed. And perhaps if we stand on the sidelines we are complicit. There is a lot at stake here and It's time to pick a side.