Climate change denial has featured in almost every single issue of The Light. Other than the pandemic, it is probably the most common theme.
The Light does not discuss the existing harms of extreme temperatures, droughts, floods, or sea-level rise. Instead, it repeatedly asserts that climate change is a “hoax”, a “con”, a “scam”. It argues that claims that there is a climate emergency are part of a conspiracy by a shadowy global elite to extend their control over society and individuals. There is a consistent trashing of climate and environmental activists, and of even the limited and inadequate efforts by governments to limit climate degradation. There is even more scorn for any attempts at international coordination of such efforts, which are fitted into the overall narrative of a secret plan to impose a “world government”.
This might come as a surprise to those who think that The Light is somehow on the side of the “natural world” and against technological civilization, or those in Stroud who remember that The Beacon, the now-closed shop that became the centre of anti-vaccination and anti-lockdown activity in our town, was once the meeting place for Extinction Rebellion activists. Some of the people handing out The Light have in the past campaigned in favour of climate action. It might even surprise some of the people who hand out The Light – quite a few of them don’t seem to know what’s in the paper. It’s notable that The Light’s opposition to “big corporations” doesn’t extend to the fossil fuel industry. And it doesn’t have a bad word to say about the Koch brothers, the billionaires who fund climate change denial and misinformation and who also fund misinformation about the pandemic.
We think this is important. The basic science around the “greenhouse effect” and the role of atmosphere Carbon Dioxide and fossil fuels began to be understood as early as Svante Arrhenius’ work in 1896. The “greenhouse effect” is the way in which heat and energy are trapped close to Earth’s surface by particular “greenhouse” gases. The presence of these gases can be thought of as a blanket wrapped around Earth, keeping some heat and energy in – which would otherwise be radiated out into space. Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxides, and water vapour. Emissions and atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane have both risen dramatically during the industrial/capitalist era – leading to heating of the planet. It has been over 30 years since physicist James Hansen told a U.S. Senate committee that “global warming is now large enough that we can ascribe with a high degree of confidence a cause and effect relationship to the greenhouse effect.”
A 2021 review of 88,125 studies published since 2012 "conclude[s] with high statistical confidence that the scientific consensus on human-caused contemporary climate change — expressed as a proportion of the total publications — exceeds 99% in the peer-reviewed scientific literature."
And we know that the impacts of climate breakdown, now and in the future, are uneven. While everyone, everywhere will be affected, the effects are most significant in particular geographic areas, and hit harder where people are less able to adapt. Recent examples include flooding in Bangladesh and Assam in India, severe flooding in Sudan, drought in Chile and in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, landslides in Brazil, wildfire in Argentine wetlands and flooding in the Amazon.
Action is urgently needed – causing delay by spreading misinformation or undermining interest in developing solutions is harmful, indeed – arguably – complicity in genocide. This is an issue of justice as well as an environmental issue. The communities on the frontline of fighting climate change are often the same who have resisted centuries of colonialism, chattel enslavement and white supremacy, and who continue to fight against the ecocide of fossil fuel companies.
This is by no means “just one article”. Below we’ve made a list of the climate change disinformation that has appeared in the paper. If you want further information, the issue numbers and page numbers will help you find it. Before the list, a brief comment on rebuttal. We have not included an attempt to rebut the following claims here – we believe the overwhelming majority of people accept that global heating is occurring, is caused by the burning of fossil fuels, other industrial processes, deforestation and other changes to land use; and that a response by human societies is both necessary and urgent. The purpose of our list is only to make clear the depth of The Light’s commitment to disinformation on climate change. For those who may have been swayed by arguments in The Light, or are curious, we recommend the skepticalscience.com website which debunks climate misinformation by presenting peer-reviewed science and explaining the techniques of science denial in accessible language.
Examples include responses to common arguments that the "Climate's changed before", "There is no consensus" (both argument that distributors of The Light locally have made when we have raised this issue with them), "It's not bad", or that "Models are unreliable."
Also worth reading for context is a recent article by Italian climate journalist Stella Levantesi for the desmog.com webiste, which discusses the propaganda strategies of the fossil fuel industry, its allies and their efforts to delay and obstruct climate action. That theme is explored at greater length, with reference to previous examples such as the efforts of tobacco companies to deny well-established scientific knowledge, in the book and film Merchants of Doubt.
32 examples of disinformation on climate change / climate denial in The Light from their 23 issues to date (July 2022):
- Issue 3, page 10: Chart showing “fake” climate change as part of a web of deception
- Issue 4, page 8: Interview with anti-vaxxer “doctor” Vernon Coleman refers to “the climate change scam”.
- Issue 5, page 4: Far right former academic Niall McCrae writes in defence of “climate sceptic” Piers Corbyn
- Issue 7, page 7: Points out that critic of anti-vaxxer conspiracy theorists Dr Emily Grossman is a climate activist
- Issue 8, page 6: Full page article headed “Climate Change Fraud” by long-time climate change denier Tom Tamarkin.
- Issue 9, page 4: Article by far right former academic Niall McCrae and leader of far right political party Robin Tilbrook suggesting police favour climate change protesters compared to the way they treat “patriots and freedom marchers”
- Issue 10, page 16: Anti-vaxxer “doctor” Vernon Coleman writes of “the global warming pseudoscience –the hoax behind the covid hoax”
- Issue 11, page 3: Full page article headed “‘Climate Emergency’ driven by faulty models and fake news ” says “the idea of a ‘Climate Emergency’ is a deception”
- Issue 12, page 14: Attack on renewable energy by “Tyler Durden”, the fictional-character pseudonym of a climate change denial blogger
- Issue 13, page 16: Article claiming that US wildfires are not driven by climate change, by H Sterling Burnett, a staffer at the right-wing climate change denial promoting think-tank The Heartland Institute…known for its persistent questioning of climate science, for its promotion of ‘experts’ who have done little, if any, peer-reviewed climate research
- Issue 13, page 18: Anti-vaxxer “doctor” Vernon Coleman writes of “the non-existent problem of climate change”
- Issue 13, page 24: Ad for Vernon Coleman’s book about “the covid and climate change frauds”
- Issue 14, pages 6-7: Double page spread questioning the science of climate change by Ian Phillips (Chief Executive, Oil & Gas Innovation Centre)
- Issue 15, page 15: Article by fundamentalist Christian “Heart Publications” references discredited 2007 Channel Four documentary “The Great Global Warming Swindle; Heart Publications promotes climate change denial on its website.
- Issue 15, page 18: Full page article by “doctor” Vernon Coleman headed “Global warming lies, deceit and hypocrisy”, says “The covid-19 fraud was bad but it is nothing compared to the global warming fraud which is now well underway”
- Issue 16, page 2: Fascist leader Anne-Marie Waters writes “this time the fear will be created by the ‘climate change crisis’. It is yet another lie.”
- Issue 16, page 10: Connects Bill Gates conspiracy theory with climate change.
- Issue 16, page 15: Link promoting the website of antisemite Sandi Adams and her writing on “”The Green New Deal”, “Sustainable Development”, the “climate change” racket”.
- Issue 17, page 12: “Both covid and the climate change rhetoric use pseudo-scientific claims to appear scientific because it actually does not matter what is real or fake to all those on board.”
- Issue 18, page 1: Editor Darren Nesbit writes: “You could, for example, create a whole ‘climate crisis’ scenario in which the Earth is dying due to certain types of behaviour, and through your world organisations, multinational corporations, owned and operated national governments and media,badger people into believing living an advanced, industrialised life is a terrible thing and we should all go back to poverty.”
- Issue 18, page 3: Article by “Mark Moneycircus” locates concern about climate change in the context of The Great Reset, part of The Light’s uber-conspiracy
- Issue 18, page 13: Article criticising the Archbishop of Canterbury for supporting vaccination refers to his calls for action on climate change as “bizarre”
- Issue 18, page 20: “Doctor” Vernon Coleman says that the covid hoax was invented because the “climate change…myth” wasn’t working fast enough
- Issue 19, page 22: Vernon Coleman says “The climate change hoax that was planned back in the 1960s is the really big threat we are facing. Covid-19 was the warm up act for the big one – the global warming fraud.”
- Issue 20, page 22: Vernon Coleman says “Why does the BBC now ban any honest, open discussion about vaccines or climate change, when the science proves beyond doubt that the covid jabs are unsafe and ineffective and that climate change doesn’t exist?”
- Issue 21, page 4: Article by crank scientist J Marvin Hendon saying that IPCC’s failure to investigate “chemtrails” calls into question its findings and in its moral authority.
- Issue 21, page 7: Article in support of climate change denier Piers Corbyn, which refers to XR and Just Stop Oil as “controlled opposition groups” that are part of a strategy by the government to “sour public opinion and ripen them up to support more draconian laws”.
- Issue 21, page 12: Article about the covid and climate deceptions which says “covid-19 and man=made climate change are psy-ops”
- Issue 21, page 18: Niall McCrae says “Climate crisis actors will stop at nothing to make life hard and disorderly.”
- Issue 21, page 19: Editor Darren Smith refers to climate change as “a vague and unproven ideology”
- Issue 22, frontpage: Editor Darren smith says “a fake climate crisis means we have to source the most expensive ways of generating power” under the headline “Are we all being brainwashed?”
- Issue 23, page 6: In an article advertised in a banner on the front page as “exposing the man-made climate change fraud”, Daniel Thompson-Mills describes climate change as a “massive fraud” and “diversion” – claims “the notion of man-made climate change… is not actually supported by the data and evidence”. The article presents no evidence, instead referring only to the long-discredited “climategate” email controversy – into which eight committees have investigated and found no evidence of fraud or scientific misconduct.
Below is an image showing the headline from one example of the content listed above.
Article by “Dr” Vernon Coleman entitled “Global warming lies, deceit and hypocrisy” from Issue 15, in which he bizarrely claims “There is not one jot of real scientific evidence for the myth of man-made climate change” and concludes by writing “Global warming enthusiasts are a danger to you and your family’s health and future and a danger to mankind as a whole. Some are moronic, some mentally ill and some are evil”. As we discuss in a previous piece, Coleman has repeatedly downplayed HIV / AIDS and even suggests AIDS doesn’t exist, despite the disease having killed an estimated 37 million people.
Why are people in Stroud handing out a paper that defends Holocaust denial and antisemitism?
This is the first in a series of articles on why many local people do not want to see The Light being distributed in Stroud town centre. We have our own criticisms of the government’s approach to the pandemic. However, we are alarmed by the Light’s use of the pandemic to push support for racist hate speech – as well as for denial of climate change, NHS-bashing, and other reactionary views, which we will address later in the series.
This first article is about a piece in The Light’s November 2021 issue regarding an online radio host, Graham Hart (69), who has been jailed for 32 months after pleading guilty to eight counts of making a “programme in service with intent or likely to stir up racial hatred” (an image of the article is included at the end of this piece).
Before our article, a content warning. In order to make our case we have had to provide quotations regarding violent antisemitic language. This piece also discusses Holocaust denial, and some aspects of the Nazi genocide, in some detail.
The article in The Light, headlined “‘Hate speech’ pensioner jailed for 32 months” presents Graham Hart as a sympathetic character, “entitled to” his opinions. He is described as “question[ing] significant events throughout history”, and sharing “research findings”. The article uncritically reports his view that “his passion for the truth got the better of him and nobody was hurt or harmed by his sharing his opinion”. It does not question his claim that his efforts were motivated by an interest in “the truth”, nor tell you the truth of what the case was actually about.
The article suggests “his sentence poses serious questions about censorship and freedom of speech”. Given that the Light’s other articles generally focus on the idea that readers’ ‘free speech’ is also threatened, the overall impression given by this article is to invite readers to empathise with Hart.
In asking “How does it harm anybody else for him to have a different view of history?”, The Light misleads readers about the nature of Hart’s actions and the case against him. Hart did not only praise Adolf Hitler as “the greatest man of the twentieth century”. He broadcast that Jews were “like rats”, “filth” and needed to be “wiped out”. He made explicit threats of violence, saying, “If you’re listening Mr Jew we’re coming to get you. Let’s get rid of the Jews, it’s time for them to go. After Christmas I’m going to work, going on the attack because I’ve had enough. I don’t want bloodshed but if that’s what it takes to get it done.” He asked listeners to send him a gun. He said “that although baby rats look cute, they grow to be adult rats and that in a similar way, young Jews should also be killed.”
This list of disgusting racism is long enough, but it is incomplete – you can read further examples at the links. None of this information is in The Light’s article, however. Nor are any opinions from people who might find these things harmful, including Jewish people.
The article in The Light can only bring itself to say that “inciting people to violence in the name of anything is rarely a good idea”. It does not mention the word antisemitism, nor the comments of the Judge that Hart had “entrenched antisemitic feelings”. The article attempts to downplay the impact by misrepresenting the size of his audience, as “very niche” despite the fact his ‘Hoax train’ Holocaust denial song was viewed over 7,000 times on YouTube, for example. It says he “maintains he was just ‘mouthing off’”, but fails to mention that his own barrister said “He accepts racial hatred was likely to be stirred up”. For an organisation that describes itself as a ‘truthpaper’, these seem important truths that readers would want to be aware of. What purpose is served by leaving them out?
From Holocaust as metaphor to outright Holocaust Denial
It might seem particularly strange that the Light would seek to defend someone who’d enthusiastically praised Hitler, given that in previous issues The Light regularly suggests that our current political situation is comparable to the Nazi period – with headlines such as the “Nazification of the NHS”. Why would a paper that sees the Nazi period as their main metaphor for negative developments in society take such a sympathetic approach to someone that denies the reality and horror of the period and who, they note, urged people to “question the official account of the Holocaust”?
There is a link: antisemitism. The Light barely conceives of the Shoah (the Hebrew term for the Holocaust) as a real event. It is an event with an “official account”, rather than a genocide. The Light’s references to the Nazi period are not an effort to educate about oppression or genocide, but to harness an emotional response through a symbol of pure evil. They do not engage with it as a historical event that slaughtered millions, one that was situated in a context of a long history of antisemitism, racism, imperialism, oppression and genocide across the world. There’s more to say about how the Nazi period is often invoked in Britain in ways that avoid our state’s own role in this wider history, but writing antisemitism and the racism of the project of Aryan supremacy out of the history in the way The Light does is a particularly blatant attempt to manipulate people.
There are many criticisms that can be made of immunity/vaccine passports, but they are not the same as the yellow stars Jewish people were forced to wear in Nazi Germany. The yellow star was connected to centuries of European antisemitism, which had involved compulsion to wear distinguishing garments, mass deportations, and violent pogroms since the 13th Century (including in Britain). Immunity passports have been introduced during a pandemic, rather than following such a pogrom (Kristallnacht in November 1938). Death by shooting is not a punishment for not holding an immunity passport, as it was for Jews who did not wear a yellow star. There is societal debate about the effectiveness and ethical implications of immunity passports, and we can hope or expect them to be temporary measures. None of this was true of yellow stars.
Comparing NHS staff administering vaccines to the doctors who stood trial at Nuremberg for the experiments they conducted on concentration camp prisoners – as the Light and its supporters do repeatedly – is shamefully inaccurate and offensive.
The horrors Nazi doctors performed were brutal. The experiments involved investigating the limits of human endurance and existence, forcing people to stay outdoors at temperatures below freezing for hours while naked, for example. People were involuntarily infected with viruses including smallpox, or had bacterial infections, together with wood shavings and ground glass, inserted into wounds. There were grotesque transplantation experiments. People were burned with phosphorus, fed poison, or shot with poison-coated bullets. There was no regard for whether the people subject to these experiments lived or died, ‘experiments’ akin to torture were conducted without anaesthetic. The war crimes identified in the Nuremberg Indictments include the “systematic and secret execution of the aged, insane, incurably ill, of deformed children, and other persons, by gas, lethal injections, and diverse other means in nursing homes, hospitals, and asylums” [and] “the mass extermination of Jews.” Those who did not die were often disabled for life. Extreme pain and suffering was routine. None of this is comparable to the UK process for development or rollout of vaccinations against COVID-19.
As Hila Shachar has written: “the victims of the Holocaust continue to be “appropriated as political metaphors and dehumanised in the process”. As Jewish people and as their friends we have on multiple occasions pointed out that such analogies are inappropriate and offensive (whether in response to window displays, or a speaker at a local protest wearing a yellow star). Our complaints are always dismissed. We hope that this piece helps explain why we feel so strongly.
When The Light denies that blatant antisemitism of the kind expressed by Hart is harmful, it denies the humanity of Jewish people – it denies that they can be harmed. When it presents Holocaust denial as a “different view of history”, it denies the genocidal intent of the Nazis. It denies not only the murder of six million Jews, but the murder of millions of members of other groups persecuted by the Nazis – Roma and Sinti people (sometimes referred to as ‘Gypsies’), Black people, Slavic people (such as those from Poland and Russia), disabled people, gay people, and those with other political or religious beliefs – communists, trade unionists and social democrats, Jehovah’s Witnesses. When it claims that Holocaust denial is an “opinion” to which someone is “entitled”, it denies that it is antisemitic and morally repugnant.
Refusing reality, refusing to listen
These forms of denial are not the only ways in which The Light engages in denial of truth, rather than the pursuit of it. Nor is the article about Hart the only example of The Light platforming or defending people with racist and/or antisemitic views. It seems clear that freedom of speech is only of interest to The Light when it is the freedom to peddle hatred, misinformation, or falsehoods. When criticisms of this behaviour are made, the freedom of speech of those making criticisms isn’t welcomed. When local residents wrote and signed an open letter calling on organisers of an anti-lockdown rally to withdraw their invitation to another person who has published antisemitic content – Sandi Adams – was our use of freedom of speech welcomed and defended? The opposite. Despite acknowledging the difficulties caused by, and necessary debates about restrictions associated with, the pandemic, we were baselessly accused of being ‘government agents’, and told our piece was ‘libellous’ and should be taken down.
More recently, a number of people were arrested, and so far one jailed, for posting racist messages on social media in the aftermath of the Euro 2020 men’s football final. Politicians and the media certainly often perpetuate Islamophobia and anti-refugee sentiment (as well as other racism including anti-Blackness) in ways that are insufficiently challenged, even rewarded. But it’s not consistent to raise these issues only to excuse antisemitism. A consistent anti-racism condemns both Hart’s broadcasts and Boris Johnson’s history of racist remarks, for example. Being consistent as an anti-racist means opposing the racism of the attacks on Gypsies, Roma and Travellers in the Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill and the Holocaust denial that harms people in these groups as it harms Jewish people.
The article tries to imply that Jewish people are uniquely and specially protected against incitement to racial hatred – a common theme for antisemites. Why do this? How does it serve anti-racism, truth, or free-speech to mislead readers about antisemitic speech and threats of violence?
The article in The Light asks “What would George Orwell make of it?” In 1945 Orwell wrote that many people “will admit that they are frightened of probing too deeply into the subject… of discovering not only that antisemitism is spreading, but that they themselves are infected by it”.
We ask that readers of this piece confront this fear. We ask that you take the time to listen, to research the subject. We ask that you think very carefully about whether you want to continue reading, sharing – even writing for – The Light.
Whatever we think of how to best deal with Covid, none of us should have anything to do with a paper that defends spreading racist hate, and we don’t want to see it on our streets.
We invite people to join us in making our opposition to The Light being handed out locally clear by signing their statement at tinyurl.com/TheLightStatement