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Spiked (or Sp!ked if you're 13 years old) is a British online magazine of libertarian persuasion, founded in 2000. It has a curious history tracing back to a bunch of dissident marxists from the British Revolutionary Communist Party who previously wrote a magazine called Living Marxism. Spiked has a variety of eccentric contributors who have expressed contrarian opinions on topics such as child pornography, global warming, transphobia, feminism, corporate regulation, and hate speech. It opposes free speech restrictions on university campuses, such as no platforming, to which end it compiles annual Free Speech University Rankings. It is generally pro-science but is strongly anti-environmentalist even extending to global warming denialism as well as transphobic.
It is linked with a number of other organisations, many related to science and science policy, including Sense About Science. To its enemies (including George Monbiot, Nick Cohen, Peter Melchett, and public transparency campaigners Lobbywatch), these bodies form a vast secret network of entryists; to others, it's just "a loose, informal group of people, some of whom have known each other a long time".
In the mid-1970s, there were a series of splits in the International Socialists. One faction became the Revolutionary Communist Group, which in turn split and gave rise to the Revolutionary Communist Tendency, which later changed its name to the Revolutionary Communist Party (albeit not the only organisation to carry that name). The RCP was led by Frank Furedi, an academic in the sociology department at the University of Kent. (Another faction from the International Socialists formed the equally notorious Socialist Workers Party.) In the 1980s the RCP moved away from conventional left-wing politics: it opposed the British National Health Service, opposed the 1984-85 miners' strike, claimed the risk from HIV/AIDS was overblown and was being hyped up by charities and campaigners, and opposed environmentalism.
In 1988, the RCP launched a magazine called Living Marxism, which moved from orthodox left-wing politics to an increasing belief in the free market and right-libertarianism, and changed its name to LM in 1996. LM went bankrupt in 2000 after losing a libel suit against British broadcaster ITN, after LM claimed that ITN had faked evidence of the genocide of Bosnians by Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In the '90s, many "activist" left-wingers were inexplicably fond of Serbia and tried to ignore or deny its mass murder of Croats and Bosnians, in part to try and prevent military intervention by the west in the former Yugoslavia; in 1992, LM described Serbia as the "white niggers" of the new world order.
Out of the ashes of LM came Spiked, an online current affairs magazine first published in 2000. It had a lot of the same contributors as LM, including original editor Mick Hume, Furedi, Claire Fox, Brendan O'Neill, James Heartfield, Michael Fitzpatrick, and James Woudhuysen.
According to journalist George Monbiot, Spiked "appears to hate leftwing politics. It inveighs against the welfare state, against regulation, the Occupy movement, anti-capitalists, Jeremy Corbyn, George Soros, #MeToo, 'black privilege' and Black Lives Matter. … Its articles repeatedly defend figures on the hard right or far right: Katie Hopkins, Nigel Farage, Alex Jones, the Democratic Football Lads’ Alliance, Tommy Robinson, Toby Young, Arron Banks, Viktor Orbán."
It has taken an extreme libertarian view, opposing:
- gun control
- restrictions on tobacco and tobacco advertising
- taxes on sugar and other legislation to promote healthy eating
- all corporate regulation generally
- bans on child pornography
- legislation on hate speech and anything else that restricts freedom of speech even of the most unpleasant and hateful people
- The #MeToo movement, which it claims is misogynistic
- The European Union
It has argued that global warming could be a good thing — it has also hosted Bjørn Lomborg, who has tried to negate the problems of global warming by saying that there are more pressing issues, and defended Martin Durkin's climate change-denial documentaries such as Against Nature, which featured contributors from LM. Its anti-environmentalist message also featured on other BBC and Channel 4 programs including Equinox, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, Counterblast, and Zeitgeist. It also supports fracking and coal mining.
Breitbart has celebrated Spiked as part of a new range of "cultural libertarians" alongside Milo Yiannopoulos, Katie Hopkins, Carl Benjamin, Christina Hoff Sommers, Cathy Young, Bill Maher, Maajid Nawaz, Jon Ronson, and actor Adam Baldwin.
Free speech in universities
It has campaigned against no platforming and other actions which it sees as restricting freedom of speech on campuses; this includes defending the freedom of speech of very unpleasant people such as the BNP. Spiked publishes the Free Speech University Rankings which rate universities as to how much they regulate speech. The scoring system deducts points if universities ban anti-semitic speech, deliberate misgendering, transphobic material, offensive fancy dress, and secret dining clubs; anti-bullying and anti-harassment policies are also condemned as infringements on free speech.
However, the rankings' narrow focus ignores other pressures on free speech, such as the influence of commercial sponsorship, pressure from the press and politicians (e.g. the whip of the Conservative Party attempting to monitor what universities teach about Brexit in 2017), partnerships with undemocratic foreign governments such as overseas campuses, sacking or refusal of contract extensions for staff who criticise management, and the UK government's Prevent scheme which requires academics to report a wide variety of behaviours that might indicate potential Islamic radicalism but which has been reported as leading to self-censorship when discussing Islam and the Middle East.
As of 15 January 2019, the free speech rankings website "is currently down for maintenance"; it is unclear if a new batch of ratings are being prepared.
Ultimately, the only free speech they seem to care about is the freedom to further marginalise folk that are already feeling the pain of marginalisation.
- Frank Furedi: Hungarian-born sociologist, RCP leader, and founder of Spiked. Furedi has worked for the Centre for Policy Studies, a think tank founded by Keith Joseph and Margaret Thatcher, and written a book condemning the moral panic around the exposure of Jimmy Savile as a paedophile.
- Ann Furedi, a writer for Spiked and LM and chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service.
- Mick Hume: former editor of LM, later editor-at-large of Spiked, and correspondent for The Times. His books include There Is No Such Thing As a Free Press – and we need one more than ever (2012), an attack on press regulation in the UK.
- Brendan O'Neill: journalist; current editor of Spiked and contributor to the Spectator, The Guardian, American Prospect, Reason, et al Described by journalist Suzanne Moore as an "obnoxious intellectual wind-up merchant".
- Claire Fox: a teacher, RCP member, LM contributor, founder of the Institute of Ideas, and a panellist on BBC Radio 4's Moral Maze. She has defended the right to download child porn and the lyrics of reggae artist Beanie Man, which call for the murder of gay people. Stood as a candidate for Nigel Farage's Brexit Party in 2019, being elected to the European Parliament.
- Fiona Fox, Claire's sister, is involved in various organisations with links to Spiked/LM. In 1995, she wrote an article in LM denying the Rwandan genocide, attracting condemnation from the Simon Wiesenthal Center amongst others.
- Rob Lyons: runs the Spiked website.
- James Heartfield: writer and academic, has written on imperialism, creative industries, and intersectionality.
- Phil Mullan: formerly registrant of Spiked's website.
- Andrew Doyle: A douchebag "comedian" who came up with the persona of the infamous "Titania McGrath" supposedly as a way to mock the left .
It has links to several other associations and events, which are sometimes accused of forming a LM/RCP network in British society:
- The Institute of Ideas, founded in 2000 by Claire Fox and others, which ran the annual event Battle Of Ideas.
- Sense About Science (SAS), which has published work by Frank Furedi and is associated with several other Spiked and LM people. Tracey Brown of SAS wrote for LM, Spiked, and the Institute of Ideas.
- Global Futures, a publisher which shared an address with SAS, published Frank Furedi, and whose trustees included Spiked's Phil Mullan.
- Science Media Centre, ran by Fiona Fox and co-founded by Susan Greenfield (known for her controversial opinions on how social networks and video games are rotting children's brains, and her dispute with her former employer the Royal Institute); funded in the past by pharmaceutical and chemical companies including Astra Zeneca, Dupont and Pfizer
- The Manifesto Club, which fights "the hyper-regulation of public spaces."
British eco-journalist George Monbiot (himself an eccentric combination of eco-warrior, anti-corporate campaigner, and nuclear power enthusiast) has claimed that it is funded by the Koch brothers, specifically stating that the Charles Koch Foundation has given US$300,000 to its American subsidiary Spiked US Inc. Monbiot freely admits to years of conflict with Spiked owing to its opposition to environmentalism and the green movement.
There were earlier questions over the funding of LM, which seemed to do quite well despite having only 10,000 subscribers, and Living Marxism, which only had 3000 subscribers. Whether the funding came from wealthy communists or libertarians is unclear.
- Who Are They?, Jenny Turner, London Review of Books, Vol. 32 No. 13 (8 July 2010), pages 3-8
- , Based on their response to the JK Rowling debacle.
- Spiked, Media Bias/Fact Check, accessed 14 Jan 2019
- How US billionaires are fuelling the hard-right cause in Britain, George Monbiot, The Guardian, 7 Dec 2018
- Life after Living Marxism: Fighting for freedom - to offend, outrage and question everything, David Pallister, John Vidal and Kevin Maguire, The Guardian, 8 July 2000
- See the Wikipedia article on Living Marxism.
- See the Wikipedia article on Spiked (magazine).
- Invasion of the Entryists, George Monbiot, The Guardian, 9 Dec 2003, republished on monbiot.com
- The misogyny of #MeToo, Spiked, 11 Jan 2018
- Spiked Magazine Gets It Wrong On Brexit And Ireland, An Sionnach Fionn, 14 Feb 2018
- Spiked Online, Sourcewatch, accessed 14 Jan 2019
- Rise of the Cultural Libertarians, Breitbart, 24 Aug 2015
- IS SPIKED ONLINE EDITOR LUKE GITTOS A SEXUAL CUCKSERVATIVE?, Return of Kings, Sep 4, 2013
- Free Speech University Rankings 2017: the best universities, Times Higher Education, 10 Feb 2017
- Spiked’s Free Speech uni rankings punish unis for banning anti-Semitism, The Tab, 6 Feb 2018
- Here's why you shouldn't be outraged when you hear that over 60 per cent of UK universities 'severely restrict' free speech, Malia Bouattia, The Independent, 14 Feb 2017
- LGBTQ+ Soc slams red free speech ranking, Cherwell, 9 Feb 2018
- New free speech rankings: possibly too subtle and nuanced?, Paul Greatrix, Wonkhe, 6 Feb 2018
- Free speech? Not at four in five UK universities, Louise Tickle, The Guardian, 2 Feb 2015
- Universities deplore ‘McCarthyism’ as MP demands list of tutors lecturing on Brexit, The Guardian, 24 Oct 2017
- Prevent scheme 'fosters fear and censorship at universities', The Guardian, 29 Aug 2017
- Free Speech University Rankings, Spiked Online, accessed 15 January 2019
- Moral Crusades in an Age of Mistrust: the Jimmy Savile Scandal by Frank Furedi – review, Suzanne Moore, The Guardian, 13 Mar 2013
- See the Wikipedia article on Ann Furedi.
- See the Wikipedia article on Mick Hume.
- Full profile: Brendan O'Neill, The Guardian, 3 Jul 2008
- Twitter tyrants and social justice warriors beware! The libertarians are coming for you, Jason Wilson, The Guardian, 2 Sep 2015
- See the Wikipedia article on Claire Fox.
- Infamy's child, Stuart Jeffries, The Guardian, 19 Nov 2005
- European elections 2019: Brexit Party wins three North West seats, BBC, 27 May 2019
- See the Wikipedia article on Claire Fox.
- Fiona Fox, Lobbywatch
- Genocide? What genocide?, The Guardian, 20 Mar 2000
- See the Wikipedia article on Susan Greenfield, Baroness Greenfield.
- Home Page, Manifesto Club website, accessed 14 Jan 2019