5G – Why are some folk so upset about it?

The BBC has the article on its website – see link below:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/newsbeat-52395771

I think I’ve only been asked about the safety of 5G once as a local councillor and on that occasion I suggested that the enquirer contact Sefton Council’s Environmental Health for help/information.

But apart from genuine enquiries from people wanting to know more about 5G where have all the conspiracy theories come from? Is it because our present health crisis makes folks are more vulnerable to those who make up scare stories? Indeed, some utterly ridiculous conspiracy theories try to link 5G to Covid 19! Could it be the Chinese connection with 5G and the concerns around the involvement of a major Chinese tech company? Why was there no fuss over 4G yet there is over 5G?

We’ve even now got to the stage of attacks on what are believed to be 5G tech facilities and threats to BT workers!

The problem with conspiracy theories is that they are hard to debunk because any argument against them is seen to be the establishment making up stories to defend what the believers of the theories think is true. The more ‘evidence’ that is presented the more it entrenches the belief that the ‘authorities’ are trying to hide a big secret. There are still people out there who think that man actually didn’t go to the moon. Alternatively, some think the there are humans living on the moon. I fear the 5G conspiracy theories are in the same league.

Remember over Brexit when a Senior Government MP said people have had enough of experts or words to that effect. That was the reaction of someone having their barmy Brexit theories challenged and hitting out at those who were offering a different evidence based alternative which they needed to to try to discredit. But daft things said by our leaders are not said in isolation or without consequences and some will say if the government does not believe in experts neither will I and we end up in a post-truth Trump-like society where conspiracy theories can all but become mainstream.

Readers of the-is blog site will know that I’ve been pondering on antisemitism and the appalling things that flow from it, having had it in previous generations of my own family I’m ashamed to say. What I’m learning is that antisemitic thinking is akin to those who pedal conspiracy theories as so many attacks on Jewish people are linked to such theories.

Am I a scientist or a tech expert? No of course I’m not. Do I believe there is scientific/health related problem with 5G? Well I’ve seen no credible evidence of such so why would I think there was and then tell others that I thought there was. Do I have any 5G concerns? Well yes but it’s with regard to those providing it and the support for it and whether it will lead to information being taken for inappropriate/illegal purposes but there are many of us who have that worry.

In life the vast majority of conspiracy theories are actually cock-ups but there are some completely made up theories that seem to take a hold in society and gain traction because some folk want to believe them. Brexit and the EU is one we’re presently living through. But just ask any Jewish person as they’ll probably tell you that they’ve had to live with conspiracy theories against them for generations upon generations and look what that led to in 1940’s German; except that some conspiracy theorists will actually say that the holocaust never happened!

Finally, social media has been a big help to those pedaling conspiracy theories as they can put stuff out there and then get us to pass it on simply because we have been taken in or because the message has fitted with our own ill-informed prejudice. If you’re asked to pass something on just think, is it really true or are you being used to pedal someone else’s conspiracy theory.

Johnson exposed by the Sunday Times?

I’ve read the Sunday Times article of yesterday and at face value our PM, our political leaders and Public Health England are being said to have been ‘asleep at the wheel’ with more than a little evidence to back that up. Yes it’s just one side of a story but tellingly that story was blasted out by a usually Conservative supporting newspaper.

Frankly, to me, the lengthy article reads like it was well researched although unsurprisingly not all sources are disclosed particularly the inside No.10 political ones.

I’m sure Conservative leaders will seek to say that the article is a hatchet job on Johnson and I note that one Minister referred to it as ‘grotesque’, one definition of which is ‘strange and often frightening in appearance or character’ according to the Cambridge Dictionary.

And it’s easy for me as a Lib Dem opponent of the Conservative Party to say that the article proves that our Tory Government is not in control of this pandemic or at least they weren’t when it really mattered at the start. Yet well before I read the sobering Sunday Times article I had been struggling to accept that Government was in control. Again though is that just my innate response to politicians whom I have fundamental disagreements with? I’ve droned on enough in the recent past about prejudiced thinking so am I been a victim of my own party political prejudices?

It’s also interesting though that Government has not responded to the article in any serious way. Some short sound bite dismissals but not much if any evidence that Government political attack dogs have been let loose to destroy the fundamental thrust of it. That tells me that the fundamentals are probably correct and Government just wants to move on so the accusations move to the back burner of our troubled lives at present.

Is it also the case that we as a general UK population are so distracted by what is happening to us presently that we are almost pushing such accusations onto the back burner ourselves as we feel we need to have confidence in our leaders so we have hope that all will eventually be well?

Readers of this blog site will know that I have long held the view that we should trust no one with power and that their every move should be scrutinised. I fear there is much to scrutinise and that saying things like ‘this is not the not the time to look at what has gone wrong’ is no more than burying our heads in the sand. No, we need hard nosed investigative journalism more now than at any time in living memory to expose propaganda, misinformation, and the missteps of our leaders.

And so to Rochdale (virtually) as reality precludes our planned visit

Rochdale town centre in 2016 after the River Roch was opened up following many years of it being underground.

Rochdale is famous for Gracie Fields, Lisa Stansfield and of course the Rochdale Pioneers who founded the first viable Co-Op. But there are others too who you may not know originated from or lived in the town such as:-

Colin Baker – actor known for playing Doctor Who on television
John Bright – radical; Liberal statesman
Don Estelle – Crumpsall-born actor and singer who lived for much of his life in Rochdale
Anna Friel – stage and screen actress
Sajid Javid – Politician and former Minister for the present Conservative Government
Bill Oddie – naturalist, comedian, musician and actor
Nigel Collison – my childhood chum – his Dad (Alan) was a Police Inspector

The Town is also famous for it’s wonderful cathedral-like Town Hall, which I have blogged about before – see link below:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2014/06/07/bootle-town-hallrochdale-town-hall-buildings-of-victorian-civic-pride/

And a previous posting about the Rochdale Pioneers:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2016/09/19/rochdale-pioneers-museum/

So if you’re still with me and have clicked on the links above you’ll be up to speed.

Having lived in the Town 1964 to 1968 (between the ages of 6 and 10) and been back on the odd occasion since I thought that like Bill Bryson (In his book Notes from a Small Island – he didn’t visit Rochdale I might add) I would like to do a proper valedictory tour of Rochdale as it is now or at least to compare the bits of it that I remember with the Town of today.

Here’s a video, which is kinder to the Town than many commentaries about it these days often are:-

www.youtube.com/watch?v=CxhybuU604A

So I planned to set off for Rochdale with daughter Jen in tow as she is both interested in my childhood and, because she’s a museum curator, she wanted to see Dippy the dinosaur which is presently spending a few months on display in Number One Riverside as a visitor from London’s Natural History Museum. So you could and probably would say, if you were were my daughter or one of my so called mates, one old dinosaur was going to see another.

But then our health crisis intervened so the rest of this posting relies on my memory:-

We arrived in Rochdale to find it raining. It rains a lot in Rochdale as the clouds empty out as they pass over the Pennine Range that the Town nestles below. Oddly though my childhood memories are of many sunny school holiday days playing out with my childhood chum Nigel Collison. My bad weather memories are of early morning smogs walking to school with a fluorescent bib over my coat so that I and all the other kids weren’t run over by the few cars around in the mid 1960’s. If memory serves the 1956 Clean Air Act (amended by the 1968 Act) was being implemented in the Town whilst we lived there so smogs, I guess, are now a thing of the past. I recall some real pea-soupers when you could hardly see your hand in front of your face but off I toddled to Lower Place Primary School each day on my own or with other kids.

Anyway what were Jen and I to look at? Where I lived, my old school, where my Dad worked, where my Mum was a rent collector, nearby Hollingworth Lake (where Nigel, my childhood friend, and I disappeared to one day whilst the Moors Murders were still far too fresh in the memory [of adults] and the Police were out looking for us!) and of course Dippy the dinosaur. Another visit (for me) to the Rochdale Pioneers Museum and a ride on a Metrolink Tram would mean a full day in my former stamping ground.

We lived on Weston Avenue and here’s a couple of photos of me with Dad & Mum outside the house:-

The house was and indeed still is on a junction with Buersil Avenue and back in the day there was a corner shop opposite our house run by the wonderfully named Mr. Bracegirdle, a rotund chap if memory serves. On the diagonal corner was a butchers shop, both are now long gone and have been converted into housing.

Dad worked at Thomas Cooks in the Town’s Drake Street where he was the manager. Mum at some point got a job collecting rent for Rochdale Council on the Kirkholt Estate with her friend Joyce Collison. They had leather satchels which held the rent books and the money and they went door to door collecting in cash. I think they then got the bus to Rochdale Town Hall to pay in the cash they’d collected. Can you imagine that form of rent/money collection today!

I, as mentioned above, was attending Lower Place Primary School which still stands on Kingsway. I have few memories of it although I did get my one and only gold star of my schooling days there for drawing a picture of Cutty Sark. I also went on a trip to London, by train from Manchester, with a couple of teachers and another child to pick up a prize for the School associated with something called Feed The or Their Minds. I wonder what that was all about?

I don’t recall knowing much if anything about the Moors Murders as a child but inadvertently Nigel and I created a big panic on a sunny school holiday outing when we took off for much of the day on our bikes to nearby Hollingworth Lake. I guess we were gone for some hours and the police were called to look for us because of parental concerns for our safety. By gum we were for it when we returned without a care in the world!

I suppose with hindsight my memories of Rochdale are actually of a small part of it i.e the area where we lived and I went to school, walking or taking the bus along Oldham Road into the town centre and endless hours playing on a big field behind Nigel’s house off Buersil Avenue. The field was owned by a Mrs Kay who in 1960’s parlance was an invalid. She lived next door to Nigel’s family and I recall we did some shopping for her at times and she gave us a sixpence each. The field now has a housing estate on it.

The challenge for Jen and I now is to make the planned valedictory tour when lock-down has safely ended and Dad and Jen can go back to having a day out 2 or 3 times each year. Here’s hoping…… although dear readers I must warn you as you’ll end up with a further Rochdale blog posting to follow up this one!

Propaganda, Conspiracy & Cock Ups

Our Health Crisis – My Perspective

When Government first started using wartime phraseology at the start of our present lock down my thoughts went straight away to propaganda. What will be true amongst what we hear from now on I pondered and what will be that which political leaders want us to hear/believe?

Yes of course we are always subject to propaganda it’s what politicians of all colours and indeed many journalists/newspapers/media outlets do day in day out when things are ‘normal’. However, in times of ‘war’ this gets ramped up and governments sometimes with collaborating media outlets produce agendas which are very much associated with what they want us believe. In other words they push the boundaries of what is acceptable deceit (is it ever acceptable?) much further. So to a free thinking mind, amongst all that we are been told, is what is truth and what is fiction?

Another word for our times is conspiracy. If you use social media you may well realise that folks invent utter rubbish and present it as fact for criminal purposes, to mislead, to give false hope or for other reasons. Conspiracy theories are rife about the origins of the virus, who can get it, what quack medicine protects us from it etc. etc. What’s more these conspiracy theories can sometimes look plausible at face value and we are urged to pass then on. Any tweet or facebook message which urges us to pass it on to our followers, friends and family should ring loud alarm bells but if we have found the message comforting or it fits with our own misinformed prejudices we can easily be hoodwinked into doing what we are asked rather than what we should be doing – deleting.

And what about cock-ups? Government has probably made many right from the start of the emergence of the virus either through lack of information, misinterpretation of data, ignoring data/facts, bad advice etc. etc. When this terrible period in world history is over and the actions of governments are assessed those which got things right and those who got it wrong will probably be exposed. The consequences of this could be dramatic and governments could fall if voters find out they were lied to on an industrial scale, were subject to unacceptable levels of propaganda and/or incompetent leaders.

But who amongst world leaders looks like they are making the least missteps? Trump is now little more than cringe worthy. Merkel, as always, looks calm cool and collected. The New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern is, as usual, a delight to listen to and like Merkel is seeming significantly trusted. On our own doorstep Rishi Sunak has come across well as for me did George Eustas on his one appearance in front of the cameras. Priti Patel, Dominic Raab and Matt Hancock look to be well out of their depth.

Government here looks far from confident or indeed competent. Even before the PM became ill he came over as someone well out of his comfort zone who was struggling with a situation he was not prepared for. As a populist politician, in some ways like to Trump, he seemed poor on detail. I wonder how he will emerge from his serious health scare and whether it will have changed him?

But my other great concern is about our journalists as few of them seem willing/capable of holding government seriously to account in our crisis. Far too many vague answers from Ministers are let go, far too many questions to Ministers are too rambling and imprecise. In short, to my mind, many journalists are simply not doing their job of cutting through the propaganda, exposing the cock-ups and most of all making our leaders feel the heat. As for all the adulation of Johnson by the media due to his unfortunate and obviously serious illness this has been very much over emphasised. And I say that not because the health of our PM is unimportant but because he is only one of many thousands of seriously ill and sadly dying people in the UK. Continually focusing on Johnson’s health has been lazy populist journalism which has been very useful cover for a weak government.

Funnily enough this crisis, falling as it has just after Brexit, could probably not have come at a worse time for the UK. A Government elected to deliver a fantasy anti-EU/little Englander world against an opposition which had thrown in the towel years ago has saddled us with many 2nd division politicians in high office. Our troubles now are built on the fact that we have few credible leaders in government or indeed in opposition as they were purged by our two main political parties as a consequence of Brexit.

The good news is what is happening despite government as many folk in communities across the land are rising to the challenge of our unprecedented health crisis to help those in need. There is indeed hope out there but little of it is coming from the UK’s political leaders………..

Maghull – Frank Hornby’s Meccano Factory products – Liverpool on Wheels

This is the last of my postings regarding the quite excellent new exhibition at the Museum of Liverpool which is presently inaccessible due to our health crisis of course.

Anything to do with Hornby and the products of his Binns Road factory interest me as a Trustee of the Maghull based Frank Hornby Trust so of course the section of the Liverpool on Wheels exhibition was always going to draw me to it. Here are my photos:-

Like the Museum of Liverpool the Frank Hornby Experience exhibition (within Meadows Leisure Centre) in his home town of Maghull is also presently closed but hopefully both will be accessible when we come out the other side of this dreadful health crisis. I’m guessing that the period the Liverpool on Wheels exhibition will be open could be extended? It’s presently due to close on 1st November………

My congratulations to Sharon Brown (Curator of Land Transport at NML) and her colleagues for an excellent exhibition.

Click on the photos to enlarge them