Peter Jukes' Blog
Peter Jukes

Peter Jukes


Monday, 30 December 2013 13:57

Finished

angelus-novus-de-paul-klee-y-retrato-de-walter-benjamin 

I’m out of luck again

And out of inspiration,

And Lenin is on his train

To the Finland station.

He knows what he’s doing

He knows what’s to be done,

And here I am still

Standing on the platform.

*

I feel the lure

Of the suburbs calling,

To be simple to be wise

A bartender - pretender

Living out his life

Without a hope or a prayer,

Season by season,

Here now invincibly

Without rhyme or reason.

But the rhyme and reason

Keep the locomotives  coming.

And the need to arrive somewhere

Goes ahead of everything.

The young poet

Walking out

Into the Finnish lake,

Another in the mental asylum

Too early far too late,

One  I admired counting out

His final days in cigarettes.

And my mentor buried alive each night

Recalling it all in the morning…

 

And then it  hits me like a train:

If everyone heads nowhere

Why am I so jealous?

What is the hurry to win?

Life is not a race across a field

Or a script being written by God,

There is no rhyme or reason

But the luggage you bring

When the train has already

Pulled out of  the station.

*

It doesn’t end;

The light-bulbs to be changed. Bed mites

In my pillow. Tides milling the shore.

They never end.

Car hire lease payments.

The fatuousness of fame. Replication of

Cancer cells. The best dying young:

The worst getting their own

Newspaper columns. Summer nights heavy

With the smell of bad barbecues:

Autumn with diesel, spring with cocaine.

It never ends. Idiots in the chancellery. Control freaks

In their driving seats. The plunder of the forests.

The selfishness of plankton. Suspicious border guards.

The questions and evasions.

Insects thriving. Continents colliding.

Mothers screaming at their kids.

Lovers arguing  in the streets….

They will never end.

 

But this

At least

Is finished.

 

 

 

In Memoriam Tony Judt 2009

Sunday, 29 December 2013 00:00

Contact

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If you want to make contact about any Non-fiction or Poetry item, you can contact me direct on peter at peterjukes dot com. Otherwise, when it comes to anything concerning Film, TV, stage or radio drama, the best first point of call is probably my UK agent. Howard Gooding at Judy Daish Associates (howard at judydaish dot com)

 

 

 2 ST CHARLES PLACE LONDON W10 6EG TEL: 020 8964 8811 FAX: 020 8964 8966

Since I started reporting on the hacking scandal and modern media, I have been interviewed on dozens of TV and radio stations in the UK, US, Australia and Europe. A selection of some of my CNN interviews below. 

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Nigel Farage
  Alex Robbins

It was one of the most memorable images of the last election. On the morning the polls opened in 2010, Nigel Farage, a British member of the European Parliament, was photographed in the wreckage of a small aircraft, which had crashed soon after takeoff when a banner for his UK Independence Party tangled with the plane’s tail. Though he suffered cracked ribs, a broken sternum, and a punctured lung, Farage soon bounced back, in the manner of Mr. Toad, a character from The Wind in the Willows who is ever-bumptious, misguided but irrepressible.

Three years on, that energy is paying off. In a recent by-election, caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat Chris Huhne, the former secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, who had to give up his seat after he admitted to lying about traffic offenses, Farage’s Independence Party increased its vote from 4 percent to 27.8 percent—what Farage immediately declared a “national political earthquake.” And certainly Prime Minister David Cameron and his Conservative Party, which was beaten into third place, have felt the tremors.

That Farage, with his private-school background and Home-Counties golf-club swagger, should become England’s foremost anti-establishment politician is largely a symptom of conservative discontent with the prime minister’s attempt to detoxify and modernize his party. In 2006, the year he won the leadership contest, Cameron tried to marginalize the party Farage helped to found by telling a radio station that “UKIP is sort of a bunch of ... fruitcakes and loonies and closet racists mostly.”

Farage defied that stereotype, and in the 2009 European parliamentary elections steered his party to the second-highest share of the popular vote, his 2 million votes exceeding those won by Labour and the Liberal Democrats. Though Euro elections have famously low turnouts, and mainly animate voters who are avidly anti-EU, UKIP is currently predicted to come first in next year’s elections.

Therein lies the paradox. Farage’s main platform is in the Strasbourg-based Parliament where, a few years ago, he famously described Herman Van Rompuy, the Belgian president of the European Council, as possessing the “charisma of a damp rag and the appearance of low-grade bank clerk.” The colorful personal attack delighted the British tabloids, and Farage’s call for complete withdrawal from the EU continues to appeal especially to older Brits who view the continent with suspicion. (A tell-tale sign of a UKIP supporter is the use of the phrase “EUSSR.”)

UKIP has never won a seat in the British Parliament, however, and still looks unlikely to do so. But while the U.K.’s electoral system tends to default to two main parties, third parties can play a crucial role, as evidenced by the last election, when the Conservative Party needed the Liberal Democrats to govern. However, since they entered the coalition government under the leadership of Nick Clegg, support for the Lib Dems has halved, giving the UKIP a play at the “none of the above” voter—at least in the Tory heartlands.

The threat to Cameron is palpable. But while the prime minister has tried to outflank Farage by promising a referendum on EU membership, this rightward turn seems to have done little to quell rebellions from Tory backbenchers on other issues such as gay marriage. Farage cleverly foments these divisions. His parliamentary candidates target Tory modernizers, bleeding them of support, and he has recently expanded his policy commitments to zero immigration, flat rate tax, and minimizing the government budget—except for military and prison expenditures.

Railing at wind farms from his perch in his favorite pub in the Kent countryside, Farage tries to articulate the fading voice of the English shires. Tilting at windmills may be a quixotic, outdated quest. But, when it comes to Cameron’s political future, Farage may still do considerable damage.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012 22:23

The Flame-Haired Martyr

rebekah-brooks-OVNB0322
Brooks: Trying out for a role in The Crucible?   Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

The dress she arrived in told it all. When Rebekah Brooks, former CEO of News International, posed on the steps of the Royal Courts of Justice two weeks ago, it was a red-carpet moment. The Leveson Inquiry into press standards taking place in London had already become the best show in town, with a glittering cast including Hugh Grant, Sienna Miller, and James and Rupert Murdoch—but Brooks was bound to take the starring role.

Presumably her lawyers had helped her with her lines. And her outfit would have been discussed with her PR adviser from Pottinger Bell, a company that has represented a host of potentates and their kin, including the first lady of Syria, Asma al-Assad; the deposed president of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh; and the late Chilean dictator, Augusto Pinochet. When the fallen Queen of Fleet Street turned up in a simple $800 black dress with a white Peter Pan collar, it was the carefully crafted image of maligned innocence.

Four days later, in a less polished performance, after she had been charged with three counts of perverting the course of justice, the victimhood strategy was still in place. Standing outside the offices of her lawyer, Brooks looked shaken. “I am baffled by the decision to charge me,” she said. Her husband, horse trainer Charlie Brooks, also arrested on two counts for allegedly hiding evidence from police, gallantly stepped forward. “I feel today is an attempt to use me and others as scapegoats ... to ratchet up the pressure on my wife,” he said, “who I believe is the subject of a witch hunt.” Suddenly that Peter Pan collar took on another dimension. The satirical magazine Private Eye immediately picked it up—it was 17th-century Salem, with Brooks as Goody Proctor in The Crucible. Last week in Cannes, it was announced that she was about to get the film treatment.

For Brooks, out on bail but still being investigated, aggressive victimhood has become the core of her legal case. Brooks’s lawyer, Stephen Parkinson, a specialist in human rights, maintains that because “so much prejudicial material has come into the public domain,” it is impossible for his client to get a fair trial in England. But a fair treatment was rarely afforded those who landed in her pages. Brooks was one of the youngest editors of the world’s best-selling English-language News of the World, and presided over the paper while phone hacking was rife. During her reign, the paper pursued victims aggressively for headlines, particularly for stories involving pedophilia, child murder, and child abduction. The obsession with such stories led one of her employees to hack the cellphone of murdered schoolgirl, Milly Dowler, in 2002. The exposure of this intrusion by The Guardian newspaper last summer shuttered the Sunday tabloid, and Brooks’s reaction to the closure of the 168-year-old paper was telling: as she told a gathering of journalists who had been fired—she was a victim, too.

After editing News of the World, Brooks became the first-ever female editor of the bestselling daily tabloid The Sun, which likewise thrived on celebrity scandals and salacious political exposés. Brooks complained to Lord Justice Leveson that much of the coverage about her was “gender-based” but by then the inquiry had heard plenty of other testimony: from the actress Sienna Miller, who had been pursued down the street by a pack of paparazzi and who thought her family had betrayed her because her phone was hacked; from the singer Charlotte Church, whose teenage boyfriend was offered hundreds of thousands of dollars for a kiss-and-tell, and whose mother was forced to tell Brooks’s tabloids about her suicide attempt, in part prompted by the News of the World’s exposure of her husband’s affair; from Gordon and Sarah Brown, who Brooks had called herself, telling them to go on the record about their 4-year-old son’s cystic fibrosis, because she was running the story on the front page of The Sun. Even Brooks, whose career was premised on privacy invasion, had to admit to the lead counsel of the media ethics inquiry, Robert Jay QC, that it was the “height of hypocrisy” to complain of being under the spotlight.

For Brooks the personal and political have long been indistinguishable, as she implicitly acknowledged when she observed that her relations to Rupert Murdoch and senior British politicians were “gossipy” and “personal.” During the late ’90s, she came to know the family through Matthew Freud, the PR scion, and his wife, Elisabeth Murdoch, Rupert’s daughter. Rapidly promoted by Les Hinton, one of Rupert Murdoch’s longest-serving lieutenants, Brooks became almost a family member of the media dynasty, working in tandem with James Murdoch when he launched the ill-fated $12 billion takeover of the lucrative satellite broadcaster BSkyB—his project to cement his status as heir.

A former senior member of News International told Newsweek how Brooks was “brilliant at the networking thing,” with a tremendous ability to charm and captivate. A Labour Party adviser who observed her working a conference party when Gordon Brown was still leader of the party says, “She goes towards the next whiff of power.” When Brown’s potential successor, David Miliband, turned up at the party, “suddenly Rebekah was at his side, leading him around the room. It was like ‘Gordon Who?’”

However, it’s Brooks’s relationship with the current prime minister in which the personal and the political collide fatally. What the inquiry has revealed is the depth of that relationship, with more meetings between the two than previously acknowledged. During just four days over Christmas in 2010, when News Corp.’s BSkyB bid should have been impartially adjudicated, the prime minister met with Brooks twice and talked about the bid. Her revelation that Cameron regularly sent her text messages signing them ‘LOL’ (which he thought meant ‘lots of love’ until she corrected him) caused much public mirth. But, like the disclosure that the prime minister used to ride a retired police horse loaned to Brooks by the metropolitan police, it was another damaging anecdote that painted the picture of a magic circle of power. According to a senior Labour Party source, “the court of Murdoch and the court of Cameron had become totally enmeshed.”

confidenceThe victim strategy might still work. For all her ruthlessness toward others, Brooks nevertheless displays a redoubtable ability to charm even would-be foes. Gordon Brown still turned up when she married Charlie Brooks, though her paper had painfully exposed his son’s medical condition. Even Rupert Murdoch, on the weekend he shuttered his first big foothold in the U.K. newspaper market, the News of the World, was more worried about his protégé’s confidence than the 200 journalists he had just sacked.

These days, though, Brooks can’t dictate the headline—and neither investigators nor courts are moved by self-pity. Though Brooks gave birth to a baby girl via a surrogate early this year, she is scheduled to appear in court on June 13, alongside her husband, her former assistant, her former chauffeur, and her former head of security. She faces a lengthy trial and possible jail time, and that’s just for the offenses she’s been charged with so far. Three major police investigations have been launched to look into alleged criminality at the two tabloids she used to edit. Though Britain has no explicit plea-bargain system, cooperation can be taken into account during sentencing by the presiding judge. But with a reported $3 million severance package from News International, plus the use of a chauffeur-driven car and a Mayfair office, the urge to stay loyal to her employer must be high. As a source close to the family told Newsweek, “When you’re facing charges, your loyalty is tested.” Her loyalty will indeed be tested, but Brooks is a wild card, capable of immense compassion, particularly for herself. Which leaves the question: how long will she play the martyr?

June 18th 201310:46 am
Charles Saatchi built up the world’s largest advertising firm and became the face of the swinging ’80s in London—only to be ousted from his own company. Peter Jukes on the reclusive man who now has been accused of choking his wife in public.

It makes Mad Men’s depiction of admen look tame. The backstory of Charles Saatchi, who was cautioned by police Monday night for allegedly repeatedly grabbing the throat of his wife, celebrity TV chef Nigella Lawson, during dinner at an exclusive London restaurant, is far more extraordinary than Don Draper’s—and he remains even more enigmatic and elusive.

Born in Baghdad to Iraqi Jews who fled to London in 1947, Charles and his brother Maurice built up the world’s largest advertising company, with over 600 offices, before they were 40 years old. Having turned modern advertising into an art form, the self-confessed “artoholic” Charles went on to establish himself as the most influential art collector of the last 25 years, creating the Young British Artist phenomenon—and launching the careers of Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst. For someone who has radically altered the visual perceptions of the public, Charles studiously avoids the limelight and has given only a couple of newspaper interviews. Compared with him, Svengali is an attention seeker.

But those who worked with Charles in advertising say that his avoidance of contact was not shyness, but a deliberate campaign. There are dozens of stories—some of them no doubt apocryphal—about his legendary dislike of his corporate clients in advertising, including that he had a special room to hide when in whenever they turned up and reportedly deliberately placed his office near some back stairs to make emergency escapes. After the brothers were ousted from their own company Saatchi & Saatchi and created a new agency, M&C Saatchi, in 1995, taking many of the previous clients, Charles didn’t even come into the office for five years, but would have campaigns and artwork biked over to his house. Some attribute this reclusiveness as his collector’s eye: Charles likes to see but not to be seen. Others put it down to a deep-seated dislike of social contact, somewhere between Molière’s Miser and his Misanthrope.

“He was the best adman of his generation,” is the general view, offered again and again by those who worked with him. From early iconic campaigns such as the pregnant-man ad for the Health Education Council, to the “Labour Isn’t Working” photomontage that helped Margaret Thatcher win the 1979 election (and was chosen as the best billboard ad of the 20th century), Charles created a new visual grammar in commercial art. Many of the campaigns drew on 20th-century surrealism, minimalism, and conceptual art: a famous campaign for Silk Cut cigarettes featured oblique images of slashed silk in the brand’s color scheme. But it was his younger brother Maurice who did the important work of wooing and schmoozing the clients. “Maurice could never have created the ads without Charles,” is how one industry insider explained it, “but Charles could have never created the agency without Maurice.”

During the ’80s, well connected through their work for the Conservative Party election campaigns and turbocharged by junk bonds and heavy leverage, the brothers began gobbling up other advertising companies and consultancies at a phenomenal pace. For Brits, and anyone working in the cultural industries, the name Saatchi became synonymous with high-octane acquisitive ’80s culture, our equivalent of the fictional character Gordon Gekko, played by Michael Douglas in Oliver Stone’s 1987 movie Wall Street. The company employed the best creative talents of the era and, during Conservative Party conferences of the time, threw the wildest and most enviable parties, where cabinet ministers rubbed shoulders with celebrities—rock and roll meets politics. However, the agency began to overstretch its finances and suffered heavy losses in the 1987 crash. Its prestige (if not its income) waxed and waned as Thatcherism died and the Blair era arrived.

It was then that Charles began to focus on his art collection and reinventing the image of British art. He’d begun collecting in the late ’60s under the influence of his first American-born wife, Doris Lockhart, and much of the profits of his burgeoning business went into purchasing American minimalism. According to employees at the time, much of the art on the office walls was actually marked on the back with “Bought by Doris Saatchi.” When he divorced Doris in 1990, Charles abjured the New York art market, sold most of his existing collection, and began to speculate on up-and-coming British artists. He launched the career of Damien Hirst in 1991 by funding his first big artwork: a shark in a glass tank of formaldehyde, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, a combination of caption and image worthy of any creative and copy writer.

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The name Saatchi became synonymous with high-octane acquisitive ’80s culture, our equivalent of the fictional character Gordon Gekko, played by Michael Douglas in Oliver Stone’s 1987 movie Wall Street.

But the cross-fertilization of advertising and art also worked the other way. While Hirst still reveres Saatchi for giving him the opportunity, other critics complain that Saatchi’s sharp eye created speculative bubbles rather than real artistic achievement. Careers rose and fell like ramped-up stock prices, and 20 years on, many of the works of the Brit art era look overpriced and overrated. Key works from the Saatchi collection, including Emin's “tent,” Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963–1995, were destroyed in a warehouse fire in 2004. In 2010 Charles donated his collection to the British nation.

To the non-art-buying public, Saatchi was best known for his wife, the celebrity cook and writer Nigella Lawson. Lawson, daughter of Margaret Thatcher’s chancellor of the Exchequer, Nigel Lawson, was known for her flirtatious manner, which won her the title “Queen of Food Porn.” But that fun, sensuous persona concealed a history of tragedy. Both Lawson’s mother and sister had died of cancer in her youth, and the father of her two children, the popular columnist and journalist John Diamond, died in 2001 after she had nursed him through four years of a very public—but also very poignant—attempt to recover from throat cancer.

Lawson’s relationship with Saatchi drew some public comment, partly because she moved in with him only nine months after Diamond’s death (and they married shortly thereafter, in 2003), but also because she was a liberal leftish icon and he represented the Thatcherite ’80s. No doubt there was also some jealousy, because Lawson was (and remains) one of the most attractive and friendly figures in media and literary circles. During the decade they’ve been together, she remains the socialite, whereas his “reclusiveness” has only increased.

Sometimes opposites attract; sometimes they repel. Sometimes they do both. Rumors of angry rifts in the marriage have surfaced only in recent years. Last year at the London restaurant Scott’s, Saatchi was pictured pressing his hand over his wife's mouth. But the graphic images revealed by the Sunday People over the weekend (actually taken at the same restaurant) show Saatchi forcibly gripping his wife’s throat several times and have been accompanied by reports of her distress and the shock of fellow diners. In the Evening Standard, Saatchi claimed the incident was a “playful tiff” and that his wife’s “tears were because we both hate arguing, not because she had been hurt." The police clearly didn’t agree and interviewed Saatchi for several hours Monday afternoon, issuing him an official caution.

Though Saatchi is reported to be worth over $150 million, Lawson is independently wealthy in her own right, with around $20 million in assets accrued mainly through her bestselling books and successful TV cooking series. She was recently seen leaving the family home with her teenage children, though Saatchi claims he “told Nigella to take the kids off till the dust settled.” She has made no comment since. Unlike a work of art or an ad campaign, the image of a happy couple—the outgoing wife and the quiet husband—will not be so easy to reassemble.

 

There are so many things we don’t know. 96% of the universe is missing – where is it?  How did sex and death evolve (they didn’t have to). And among those profound mysteries is the role of sleep and dreaming is one of the most mysterious of all.

Most animals and invertebrates sleep, and die quicker from sleep deprivation than starvation. All mammals seem to dream, and their minds are more active in REM sleep than when awake. But neuroscience and psychiatry is only beginning to scrape the surface of this dark nocturnal activity.

 

Dear Reader

First, let me thank you for your vital support in getting Fall of the House of Murdoch published this time last year.  It was the first book to cover both the Leveson Inquiry and the hacking scandal, and as that story rumbles on and on, it has become a major work of reference on one of the hottest political and media scandals of recent years. That’s all thanks to you.

Since publication I have come to know many of the players involved (politicians, journalists, victims) personally. I’ve spent quite a bit of time at the Old Bailey, and will be attending the forthcoming trials. The fruit of this will be a second edition of the book (in hardback, paperback and bigger print!)  sometime next year, and with much more detail, drama and nuance.

Meanwhile, I’ve also been busy with a new novel, and your support again will be vital.

The novel is called Sleeping Demons and it’s a contemporary psychological thriller about a combat veteran, his psychotherapist, recurrent nightmares and lucid dreams.

 

 

It may seem like a far cry from the journalism and non-fiction rigour of Fall of the House of Murdoch. But it isn’t.

In fact, everything in this thriller, from the fascinating therapies for different sleep disorders, to the current looting of Syria and the role of private security contractors, are based on hard research, neuroscience, and growing trends in international crime.

The heroine of my new book is a clinical psychologist who has a special talent for helping victims of post-traumatic stress (combat, torture, sexual abuse) deal with recurrent nightmares. Dr Sophie Lake helps her client defuse their fears and regain their mental health by rehearsing new endings, and sometimes waking up in the dream and influencing the outcome (Lucid dreaming). It’s a very successful established cure for recurrent nightmares…

Until she begins to inhabit a nightmare of her own.

Sleeping Demons draws on my background as a dramatist for stage, radio, and TV.  I wrote the opening episodes of the long running hit Waking the Dead, and wrote and devised other prime time thrillers such as In Deep, Inspector Lynley Mysteries and Sea of Souls.

Indeed, the premise of the book has already been optioned as the basis for a science based TV drama series, with funding from the Wellcome Foundation.

As far as I know, Sleeping Demons is the first detective thriller which makes a psychotherapist the lead investigator, and places dreams and the unconscious at the centre of the mystery.

If you support the book now, you will not only get your name in the back, but over the next few weeks, be able to take part in an international mystery hunt, with upgrades and prizes.

So please join me at my shed in the Unbound site, and let’s face down our fears and confront our inner demons.

Yours

Peter

PS: if you had any problems downloading your copy of the Murdoch book from the Unbound site, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012 10:51

Stop Blaming Newtown Tragedy On Mental Illness

From the Daily Beast

 

If mental illness were the key factor in multiple gun homicides, other countries would regularly experience similar acts of carnage. But they don’t.

 

In the wake of the terrible events of last Friday in Newtown, which left 27 dead—20 of them young schoolchildren—social media such as Twitter and Facebook played a key role in communicating the shocking news and expressing an international sense of outrage and grief. But they also spread misinformation and misapprehensions just as quickly. The gunman was initially misidentified, and his murdered mother was erroneously connected to Sandy Hook Elementary School. But while these errors of fact were soon corrected, a deeper misunderstanding took hold over the following few days as a shattered nation tried to understand an inexplicable tragedy.

 

 

 

 

Home in Newtown Connecticut

Writing is seen on a home in Newtown, Connecticut on Dec. 17, 2012. The two funerals on Monday ushered in what will be a week of memorial services and burials for the 20 children and six adults massacred when gunman opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown last Friday. (Eric Thayer/Reuters, via Landov)

 

 

 

 

 

An uncorroborated rumor about the gunman, Adam Lanza, suggested that he suffered from Asperger’s syndrome—a now out-of-use term for a higher-functioning form of autism. By Saturday, a blog post by Lisa Long—“I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother: A Mom’s Perspective On The Mental Illness Conversation In America”—had gone viral, been retweeted hundreds of thousands of times, and republished on Gawker, Britain’s Daily Mail, and on the Huffington Post. Long, the mother of a 13-year-old with behavioral problems, argued, “It’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness.”

There are various problems with Long’s impassioned piece when it comes to “talking” about mental illness, partly due to the fact it contained a slew of questionable diagnoses—Autism spectrum, ADHD, Oppositional Defiant, or Intermittent Explosive Disorder—which aren’t recognized as mental illnesses and better described as learning disabilities or disorders. Police Inspector Michael Brown, who runs the highly respected Mental HealthCop blog, called it “potentially the worst article I have ever read about mental health and violence following an atrocity.” Other critics took issue with the way Long had publically demonized her son as a potential mass murderer.  While some complained that Long herself was being demonized as a bad mother, the author from Boise, Idaho, issued a joint statement with one of her erstwhile critics about the need for accessible and affordable mental health care in the U.S.

The Huffington Post published a corrective article, “No Link Between Asperger’s Syndrome And Violence, Experts Say.” But to date, the corrective article has only received 2,500 Facebook “likes” compared to the more than a million received by Long’s original piece. The misinformation had circled the virtual world before the truth had even begun to get its cyber-boots on.

By Sunday, the line had grown into a swelling chorus. Erik Erickson, the founder and editor of the popular Republican website Redstate, was averring: “Discussions of gun control are easier to have than discussions about mental health.” The owner of one of the many gun ranges in the rural rolling hills around Newtown, Conn., was telling The New York Times: “A gun didn’t kill all those children, a disturbed man killed all those children.” David Rivkin, a constitutional lawyer who served in both the Reagan and Bush Sr. administrations, appeared on the BBC World Service to tell millions of listeners overseas: “It’s not about gun ownership, it is about mental illness.” “If there’s one unifying feature of all these atrocities,” Rivkin stated in an interview for the popular Newshour program on Monday night, “it’s that they were all committed by mentally unbalanced people who need to be confined for the protection of those around them and other people.”

Despite the promise of a conversation about mental health, misinformation and ignorance became the norm in the aftermath of the Newtown tragedy.

The only problem with this argument is that it has no basis in fact. If mental illness was the key factor in multiple gun homicides like Newtown, then other countries would regularly experience the kind of carnage visited on towns and cities in the U.S. on almost on a monthly basis. But they don’t. In Britain, an advanced study by Manchester University into “Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness” has found most people who kill more than one person are neither mentally ill, nor mental health patients, As Dr. David H. Barlow, a senior expert in comparative mental health-care systems and Emeritus Professor at Boston University, told The Daily Beast, “the incidence of mental illness is quite consistent across Europe and America.” Yet the statistics for the homicide and suicide rates are much higher in the U.S. than most of the rest of Europe, with Americans 100 times more likely to die to a gun-related death than in the U.K.

Despite the promise of a conversation about mental health, misinformation and ignorance became the norm in the aftermath of the Newtown tragedy.  British CNN host Piers Morgan suggested that anyone with a history of mental illness should be banned from owning a gun in the U.S., but that would include almost 50 per cent of Americans who are expected to suffer from some condition in their lifetime.  The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 25 percent of U.S. adults currently suffer from some kind of mental ilnness—though this would include phobias and obsessive disorders. In 2011, government data calculated that around 5 percent of the U.S. population suffered from severe mental illness, while Professor Barlow estimates that somewhere around 1 percent  of the U.S. population will be suffering from psychosis—including delusions and hallucinations—at any one time. “But even they show an only slightly elevated risk of violence,” Barlow told The Daily Beast, “with a small increased risk of around 5 or 10 percent above normal.” Meanwhile, those who suffer from psychosis are much more likely to be the victims of homicide or kill themselves.

For Dr. Nadine Kaslow, professor and chief psychologist at Emory University School of Medicine—who was recently elected to the presidency of the American Psychological Association—the recent spate of generalized and pejorative statements made about mental illness are “extremely unfortunate” as they “stigmatize a whole group.”

“When I talk to my patients after an incident like Newtown,” Kaslow told The Daily Beast, “my patients differentiate themselves from these killers, because they say these people lack empathy.” Though Kaslow acknowledges that those with learning disabilities or mood disorders can be aggressive and display challenging behaviors, this doesn’t translate into calculated acts of violence. “We really do not see any correlation between Asperger’s syndrome and gun violence,” Kaslow reiterated.

Those millions of Americans who suffer from mental illnesses and learning disabilities have therefore become collateral damage in the soul-searching since the Newtown massacre. What conditions Lanza suffered from, or didn’t, will take a long investigation, but like other multiple-gun homicides, his atrocity required almost military-style planning and execution, which is unlikely given the cognitive and emotional deficits of acute psychiatric illness. It was this element of forethought and calculation which led to Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian right-wing extremist who killed eight with a bomb in Oslo then shot dead 69, mainly teenagers, holidaying on UtøyaIsland in 2011, being considered sane enough to face trial and a prison term in Norway. Though Breivik’s Islamophobic ideology could be described as crazy, the means Breivik chose to pursue his apocalyptic race war were rational and deliberative given those precepts, and he showed no sign of clinical psychosis.

In this light, Long’s imprecation to “start talking about mental illness rather than guns” looks like a distraction from the more probable factor to explain America’s elevated homicide and suicide rates: the U.S. is a complete outlier compared to other industrialized nations in its startling, almost 90 out of 100, number of guns per capita. Apart from the extreme youth and number of his victims, the other hallmark of Lanza’s massacre was the use of a semi-automatic Bushmaster AR-15 assault rifle (which has horrifically doubled in price since the Newtown attack). Assault weapons were banned until 2004, when the Federal Assault Weapons Ban was not renewed—largely thanks to the lobbying power of the National Rifle Association.

In what must count as one of the most successful campaigns in U.S. history, the NRA has managed to reduce support for gun control in the U.S. by 50 per cent in the last 20 years. One of its key lines of argument throughout that time has been that, “It’s not guns that kill people, but people who kill people.” On Friday the NRA’s Facebook page was taken down, and its Twitter feed went silent, and the organization seemed to have no response to the mounting calls for gun control in the wake of the most recent tragedy.

According to Mark Borkowski, a British PR titan with extensive knowledge of crisis-management campaigns, “anybody in this territory is equipped to deal with extreme events like this, and defend against or capitalize on them depending on what happens.” “The key thing is to sow doubt,” Borkowski told The Daily Beast. “Doubt is a product, and you have sleepers and advocates who are well briefed to construct a counter-narrative in times of crisis.”

There is no evidence that the NRA or any of its lobbying arms has been involved in any kind of crisis management in the last few days. However, opponents of gun control are now using a variant of the old NRA adage, “It’s not guns who kill people, but mentally disturbed people who killed people.” In doing so they are perpetuating what is effectively a slur against millions of Americans who suffer from mental illness, and stigmatizing a group who already suffer enough.

Sunday, 22 September 2013 10:30

Mrs Gucci - the Concert

Come to the concert on October 13th

 

We're proud to announce the West End World Premier Concert Performance of Mrs Gucci at the Arts Theatre London on October 13th 2013.

After many years of development, the show is ready to go into production next year, and the one-off concert performance, lasting only an hour, will give you both a flavour of the music and the impetus of the narrative.

Julie Atherton will be singing the role of Patrizia Reggiani Martinelli (formerly Gucci) currently serving a 26 year prison sentence in San Vittore in Milan for murder. Her dead husband, former director of the famous fashion house, Maurizio Gucci, will be sung by Bart Edwards. His cousin, Paolo Gucci, will be sung by Graham MacDuff. The part of Patrizia's counsellor and psychic guru, Pina Auriemma, also serving a life sentence for murder, will be performed by Sophie-Louise Dunn.

The performance will commence at 6 O'Clock on Sunday 13th October, and last approximately an hour.

Click here to book tickets.

For more details how to get to London's famous Arts Theatre, click here.

Monday, 13 May 2013 14:53

Daniel Morgan Murder Inquiry

In light of the recently announced public inquiry into the murder of Daniel Morgan, I've copied below the MS portion of the chapter from my book The Fall of the House of Murdoch to aid the resource page set up by Jack of Kent. It could be a useful summation of events up to July 2012.

The Murder of Daniel Morgan: from "The Criminal Media Nexus" pp

Of all the many ‘falls’ in the fall of the House of Murdoch, Coulson’s is one of the most precipitous. Apart from editing the country’s most successful Sunday paper, his recruitment to head up communications for the Conservative Party in 2007 was celebrated in Tory ranks, with Matthew d’Ancona writing in the Sunday Telegraph : This is an unalloyed coup for the Tories, as Mr Coulson is one of the most formidable journalists of his generation, combining a sharp tabloid eye with a keen political intellect.  When the New York Times refuted the ‘rogue reporter’ defence in 2010, the prominent conservative blogger Iain Dale wrote ‘Coulson’s Accusers can Go to Hell:

 “Andy Coulson is bloody good at his job. That's why the likes of The Guardian, Alastair Campbell, Prescott and Johnson are doing their best to jump on the back of the New York Times story about an ex News of the World journalist who was sacked by the paper for persistent drug and alcohol problems. You don't think he might have a grudge, do you?....  They all want Coulson's scalp. Well, sod 'em… Coulson took responsibility for the episode at the time and resigned. What do they want him to do - resign a second time from a job which has nothing to do his previous incarnation?”

Coulson had famously been given a ‘second chance’ by David Cameron after his resignation from the News of the World and as if to show this generosity was a virtuous circle, two years previously Coulson had himself given a ‘second chance’ to someone else who had fallen from grace. He hired Jonathan Rees, private investigator, on his release from prison after serving five years for conspiring to fit up an innocent woman with cocaine in a child custody case. Rees was actually heard planning that crime while the police were investigating another – the bloody murder of his business partner in South London a decade earlier.

Coulson’s direct connection to a second private investigator thereby took the criminal associations of Senior News International management well beyond privacy intrusion. As a “close ally of the Prime Minister” admitted to the Guardian, senior Tories knew some things but not others - "hacking yes, axe murder no."

The axe murder in question was that of Daniel Morgan who has – in the words the authors of Dial M for Murdoch - one of the Britain’s biggest unsolved crimes  (Watson & Hickman, 2012, pp. 107-10, 167-181). Daniel’s case has undergone no less than five separate police investigations over the last quarter century at a cost of between £20-£40 million but still with no resolution for his brother, mother or children. The most recent murder trial of Rees and his associates collapsed in technicalities and the backlog of three quarters of a million pieces of paperwork as recently as March 2011.  Daniel’s family now accept that the entangled and knotted history of his case may now never be solved in a way to satisfy any criminal courts, but they still want a public inquiry at least to separate some threads. Of those threads the combination of News International involvement and extensive police corruption in South London are salient enough to justify the term ‘criminal media nexus’.

Daniel Morgan’s Southern Investigations was a small but successful private security company that investigated car theft by organised gangs. Work would often take him on travels abroad to investigate corporate fraud. As he got busier, Daniel formed a partnership with Jonathan Rees in the mid-eighties. However, tensions soon built up. According to his brother, Alastair Morgan, Daniel had always avoided jobs involving cash transits, and fell out with Rees when he undertook such a job and a large amount of cash went missing. (Morgan A. , 2012) By spring 1987, Daniel was even more concerned. The private detective told his brother how he’d discovered a network of corrupt police officers in London, led by a senior officer. A colleague of Daniel’s now claims Daniel planned to sell this story of police corruption to a newspaper, and was negotiating with the News of the World. Under Parliamentary privilege, the MP Tom Watson alleged that Daniel approached the tabloid’s crime reporter Alec Marunchak, who offered him £40,000 for the story. Marunchak has vehemently denied this.

On 10 March 1987, half an hour after he was seen drinking with Rees at the Golden Lion pub in Sydenham, Morgan was found dead in the pub car park next to his BMW with a large fatal axe wound to the back of his head. His trouser pockets were ripped, and notes that he had earlier been seen writing were missing.  Gone too was his watch, although Daniel’s wallet, containing a large sum of money, was still in his jacket pocket.

One of the first detectives assigned to the murder case, DS Sid Fillery stationed at Catford police station, turned out to have been moonlighting for Southern Investigations. In April, he, Jonathan Rees and two other police officers were arrested on suspicion of murder, along with Rees’ brothers-in-law Glenn and Garry Vian. All were then released without charge. By the time the inquest into Daniel Morgan's death took place the following year, Fillery had retired from the police, and replaced Daniel as Rees’ partner in Southern Investigations. The coroner heard claims that police officers were involved in the murder, and had tampered with evidence and interfered with witnesses: Hampshire police then launched their own investigation. In 1988 they arrested Jonathan Rees and charged him with the murder, but charges were dropped again soon because of a lack of evidence.

Meanwhile, Rees was pursuing a lucrative career working for Fleet Street, and soon was claiming the News of the World alone paying him more than £150,000 a year. All this emerged through the surveillance of Southern Investigation in a third secret police inquiry into the unsolved murder. But the third inquiry was interrupted when Rees was overhead planning to plant cocaine on a mother in a custody battle. Rees was arrested and in December 2000 sentenced for seven years imprisonment for attempting to pervert the course of justice.

While Rees was in prison, a fourth inquiry was launched in 2002-2003, led by David Cook. As his wife, Jacqui Hames, a former police officer, explained to the Leveson Inquiry, News International – who had unbeknownst to the police employed Rees extensively before his emprisonment - took an acute and disturbing interest in the case. Hames broke down as she told Lord Justice Leveson how her family was followed and their phones were hacked in a News of the World operation she claimed was led by Alex Marunchak. Coincidentally, Marunchak, with a Ukrainian background was also revealed in 2011 to have had a side line as translator for Scotland Yard for 21 years.

Marunchak’s boss, Rebekah Brooks, then editor of News of the World, was confronted about this surveillance both by Scotland Yard’s chief press officer, Dick Fedorcio, and Cook himself. On both occasions Brooks said the surveillance was only initiated because she believed Cook and Hames were having an affair. This was an “absolutely pathetic” justification according to Hames who went on to explain: "We had by then been married for four years, had been together for 11 years and had two children!" Hames contends that the real reason was to scupper the police inquiries: "I believe that the real reason for the NoW placing us under surveillance was that suspects in the Daniel Morgan murder inquiry were using their association with a powerful and well-resourced newspaper to try to intimidate us and so attempt to subvert the investigation."

After his release from prison in 2005, Rees began to work almost exclusively for News of the World where his main point of contact is reported to have been Alex Marunchak. The relationship was alleged to have been so close that Marunchak registered his company at the same address.

By the time Andy Coulson’s connections to Rees emerged, the former editor was Director of Communications for the Conservative Party, and the private investigator could not be named because of a new murder trial that had begun in 2008 and would continue for another three years.  When Andy Coulson entered Number Ten Downing Street in May 2010, the Guardian editor, Alan Rusbridger, made a personal call to a Cameron senior staff member to warn him of Coulson’s connection to Rees. It took until March 2011, when the case collapsed through failed disclosure and doubts about two supergrasses, for the truth to be made public. Nick Davies, who described Fillery and Rees as building an "empire of corruption" after getting away with Daniel Morgan's murder, wrote with Vikram Dodd in the Guardian:

“Rees, now aged 56, worked regularly for the Daily Mirror and the Sunday Mirror as well as for the News of the World. His numerous targets included members of the royal family whose bank accounts he penetrated; political figures including Peter Mandelson and Alastair Campbell; rock stars such as Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger and George Michael; the Olympic athlete Linford Christie and former England footballer Gary Lineker; TV presenters Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan; and people associated with tabloid story topics, including the daughter of the former miners leader Arthur Scargill and the family of the Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe.

Jonathan Rees paid a network of corrupt police officers who sold him confidential records. He boasted of other corrupt contacts in banks and government organisations; hired specialists to "blag" confidential data from targets' current accounts, phone records and car registration; allegedly used "Trojan horse" emails to extract information from computers; and – according to two sources – commissioned burglaries to obtain material for journalists...”

Looking back on Jonathan Rees’ proven criminal acts and allegations they dwarf in depth of criminality (if not in scale) any of the activities of Glen Mulcaire: yet, for reasons of their own, Operation Weeting team has excluded a large quantity of Rees’ material from their investigation. Just as the rogue reporter defence was never credible, the known facts about Rees prove that Mulcaire was not the sole private investigator hired by News International, let alone other Fleet Street papers. But the press’ reliance of covert and illicit sources of material has made them masters of selective disclosure – happy to reveal other people’s secrets, adamant about keeping their own. News International was certainly the market leader in this kind of criminal activity, but certainly – as both Steve Whittamore and Jonathan Rees demonstrate – not alone.

For the family of Daniel Morgan, however, a quarter of a century has passed with no resolution, and none in sight. Alastair Morgan is still campaigning for some kind of justice for his brother, and seeks a full judicial inquiry, hopefully to reach some kind of conclusion while his mother is still alive.  He still remembers one his last meetingss with Daniel at his office. Rees came in and took Daniel outside for 'private word'. When Daniel returned ten minutes later, he walked up to the window. Alastair asked if anything was the matter, and Daniel replied, concerned but not frightened: "Bent officers. They're all over the place down here." He then mentioned to his brother the name of a police officer at the heart of the corruption in the south London police. Alastair has wracked his brains many times to remember the name – it was very bland and unmemorable. He has heard several names since which sound familiar and though he wishes he could be sure what Daniel said, the passage of time has clouded his memory.

TV Pirates

 From the grim used-car lots and pub car-parks of South London, the taint of complicity in the bond forged between the police and News International during the Wapping conflict would continue into the blue skies of satellite broadcasting and the new frontiers of cybercrime. ....

English version of the article that first appeared in the Polish Magazine Krytyka Polityczna

Though it claims to be one of the world’s fasting growing religions, and now holds over $1 billion in liquid assets, last year wasn’t great for the Church of Scientology. The news that its most famous public adherent and advocate, Tom Cruise, was divorcing fellow actor Katie Holmes brought with it a rash of renewed criticisms of the futuristic religion, including a tweet from the media mogul Rupert Murdoch that it was “creepy - maybe evil’. This year started out even worse with the publication of a major expose into the practices of the religion. Lawrence Wright, who won the Pulitzer prize in 2007 for his analysis of Al Qaeda, The Looming Towers, has just released his next big opus: Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief. The book isn’t available in the UK thanks to our draconian libel laws, but Wright’s damaging allegations about bullying, mismanagement and intimidation have been widely reviewed and publicised. Rarely, in its 60 year history, has Scientology’s reputation in its American heartland and homeland been at such a low.

Nonetheless, a greater threat to the new age church may not lie in US free speech but in European legislation. A month ago, after five years of investigation, Belgian prosecutors announced they were charging the church as a ‘criminal organisation’ on the basis it practiced extortion, "pseudo-medicine" and the keeping of records that contravene privacy laws. Though there are only a five hundred Scientologists in Belgium, Brussels houses the church’s European HQ, and the legal case could be crippling to the group in Europe.

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