– By James Martin James Martin looks at conspiracy theories, and notices a worrying tendency for them to turn into fact. He develops a few conspiracy theories of his own. What do you think? “England is not the jewelled isle of Shakespeare’s much-quoted …

Walton Pantland

– By James Martin

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James Martin looks at conspiracy theories, and notices a worrying tendency for them to turn into fact. He develops a few conspiracy theories of his own.

What do you think?

“England is not the jewelled isle of Shakespeare’s much-quoted message, nor is it the inferno depicted by Dr Goebbels. More than either it resembles a family, a rather stuffy Victorian family, with not many black sheep in it, but with all its cupboards bursting with skeletons. It has rich relations who have to be kow-towed to and poor relations that are horribly sat upon, and there is a deep conspiracy of silence about the source of the family income. It is a family in which the young are generally thwarted and most of the power is in the hands of irresponsible uncles and bedridden aunts. Still, it is a family. It has its private language and its common memories, and at the approach of an enemy it closes its ranks. A family with the wrong members in control – that, perhaps is as near as one can come to describing England in a phrase” – George Orwell

‘No you’re not paranoid; people really are trying to kill you’ I mused with a few friends, my darker humour coming out of the woodwork for the god knows how many times that night. After that night we were half a century on since the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. With a recent CBS poll suggesting around 74% of the American public believe that Kennedy was not killed by Oswald and that there was an official government cover up, Kennedy’s death has become a rallying cry for open Government and the conspiracy movement. Our American brothers are not the only people that believe in official conspiracy though, with a recent YouGov poll suggesting 38% of Britons believe that the death of Diana Spencer was ‘not an accident’, why do so many of us believe in conspiracies? Why can’t we accept that things happen, because they happen?

In the UK as elsewhere, if you mention the term ‘conspiracy’ to someone you are likely to be frowned or laughed at. Politicians use it to lampoon other people’s claims and the news uses them to finish their headlines with something a little more ‘light hearted’. If someone told you the Queen was a lizard, you would probably look incredulously at the now ‘soothsayer’, yet when you are told a union wants to take over a political party it’s generally accepted by those not from a union background. We are willing to believe the plausible; the implausible however becomes marginalised and laughed at – that is, conversely, until it becomes plausible.

Imagine if I had said to you in say 2008, that the Government could read your emails and that journalists were hacking into phone messages, I think I would have had been laughed at. Yet, when the reports came flooding out that those scenarios were in fact true, many of my friends said ‘I knew it all along’ or that ‘It’s no surprise’. These were the same people that would have laughed at me those years ago. It seems to me that as public trust in Governments across the west has continued to erode, in the UK public trust in Government went from 43% to 38% in a year alone, the belief that ulterior motives are prevalent in Government has increased.

We need really to remove the disbelief that we have when you hear the term ‘conspiracy’. It is in fact one of the things we can do when we consider why ‘things happen the way they do’. When we hear that term, our first instinct is to dismiss it, only accepting the contents when the event happens. People said that JFK would be shot before he was, the public at first dismissed and then accepted he had been shot when it happened. By who still remains a matter of debate. In the UK, the Conservative government of the 1980s and 1990s said that privatising state industry would help reduce consumer costs and create a ‘shareholder democracy’, unions said it wouldn’t and that many vested interests would end up profiting from the sale of these industries (unions by the way were branded by some as conspiracy theorists at the time, therefore automatically dismissed by some). When privatisation came, and with some time added, the UK public accept that self-interest and exploitation had prevailed and that those lower prices never came. We need to snap out of the cycle of dismiss and accept by questioning events.

In the UK, Unite the union been involved in a campaign to bring more working class people in to politics by recommending joining the Labour Party, it has also been involved in an industrial dispute at Grangemouth over pay and conditions. Both have resulted in a line from the Government that has further sought to smear the union and its workers and is seen by some as another chance for the government to impose tougher laws against trade unions. Or is that just another a conspiracy theory? Let me give you some of the news headlines by the populist (usually right leaning) and widely circulated press, please make your own mind up:

Unite union accused of using bully tactics in Grangemouth dispute” – The Telegraph

Grangemouth row prompts review of industrial disputes” – The Herald

MP calls on police to probe Grangemouth union ‘bully boys’” – The Express

Terrorised by union bullies: How Labour’s Unite paymasters intimidated managers and their children in bitter oil refinery battle” – The Mail

People seem to be comfortable with the idea that large organisations have meetings in dark corridors and plot against the public. If I’m honest, I would agree with that for the most part, for a union however, I flatly refute that. Unions are organisation of the people, for the people, the most transparent organisation I have ever come across. I mean, if you have ever been represented by a union rep, I don’t think you will recall a conversation around plotting to take things over or do anything other than help you. Granted there are endless committees, but all scrutinised and in fairness, it’s more likely your rep would be complaining that an election couldn’t come sooner. Healthy democracy in action. Yeah, I know dark stuff huh?

Away from unions, there is a darker side to the system that we have in the west. More drama and intrigue than the court of Caligula I might say. It helps not to believe too much in coincidence. In Spain this week, a draft bill that would impose fines of up to €600,000 for protesting outside that country’s parliament or, up to €30,000 for insulting a police officer at a protest, was introduced by the Spanish Premier Mariano Rajoy who said that the bill would “guarantee the liberty and security of all of its citizens” and “protect citizens and not silence protesters”. I’m not sure that any protester I know has a spare €600,000, equally I’m not sure those that did would ever protest, just donate…and probably not to the protesters.

Is a conspiracy brewing in your mind? It is in mine. Whenever a government says it wants to ‘protect’ its citizens, I always look at which human right they are trying to take away from us. Call this a conspiracy if you will, but does anyone else think that the Spanish government is attempting to strip the right to protest from its citizens, therefore allowing the right wing Rajoy government to cut deeper in to Government expenditure without pesky protest? Or is he following a right wing agenda to gradually remove our democratic rights? The human right to join a trade union is next on the list maybe? Whatever your thoughts are, just remember our ‘rights’ take decades and often the lives of some to gain, can be removed at the stroke of a pen.

If that sounds like an unusual article to have read, it was even stranger writing it. I like most don’t think the Queen is a lizard (sorry I have been corrected…a reptile), or that the Moon has engines in it. But with, phone hacking, Jimmy Saville and West Yorkshire police, the LIBOR scandal, Edward Snowden and JFK in my mind, it seems that as much as we laugh at some of the wilder theories out there, we shouldn’t laugh too hard, there seems to be more truth in some of them than in the news headlines we read every day. So, I thought that I should have a go at writing some theories of my own, you might even want to let us know your thoughts on them on Twitter: (@cptjamesmartin @USiLive , #USiLive) or in the comments box:

1. The UK NHS will be sold off to private contractors, for private profit

2. Our rights are being eroded, soon Governments will ban trade unions

3. Big business runs Government, it operates in their interest not voters

4. There is an upcoming financial crisis that will dwarf the last 5 years

5. Big Pharma doesn’t release cures, it provides vaccines to make profit

6. People will be forever deliberately distracted to enable further erosion of rights

7. The poor are a threat to the wealthy, that’s why the media keep us divided, on low wages

They are just some of my own theories and all thought about when researching this article, which was originally going to be about house building or lack thereof.

The assassination of JFK may be 50 years on and to some it may be just another event whereby we ‘remember where we were’, but let’s park the conspiracies and remember that above all, he was the dad that his son and daughters had taken from them. How he died may be for us to speculate, I’m sure they have, for them we owe some consideration. After all, I’m not asking you to put on a tin-foil hat, Lady Gaga will have that covered, but I am asking that the next time you read a headline or hear a debate about ‘Strivers vs. scroungers’ or ‘benefit cheats’, question it, the next time someone says to you, ‘there is something else going on here’, don’t judge – do some research and make your own mind up. After all, they want to keep us uneducated in order to control us, someone has just told me. In unrelated news, the ice-cream truck that has been outside for the past 4 hours won’t sell any lollies in this weather.

The very word secrecy is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people, inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it. Even today, there is little value in opposing the threat of a closed society by imitating its arbitrary restrictions. Even today, there is little value in insuring the survival of our nation if our traditions do not survive with it. And there is very grave danger that an announced need for increased security will be seized upon those anxious to expand its meaning to the very limits of official censorship and concealment. That I do not intend to permit to the extent that it is in my control. And no official of my Administration, whether his rank is high or low, civilian or military, should interpret my words here tonight as an excuse to censor the news, to stifle dissent, to cover up our mistakes or to withhold from the press and the public the facts they deserve to know.” – John Fitzgerald Kennedy, ‘Conspiracy Speech’, 1961


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Walton Pantland

South African trade unionist living in Glasgow. Loves whisky, wine, running and the great outdoors. Walton did an MA in Industrial Relations at Ruskin, Oxford, and is interested in how trade unions use new technology to organise.

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