I was a fanatical reader of Lobster, the UK’s first journal of parapolitics, which ran in print form from 1983 to summer 2009.
Since that winter it has been available twice a year as a downloadable pdf, something that I must admit rather cooled my enthusiasm. You can’t read theory on line, indeed I would go as far as to venture that you cannot read seriously online. A few articles, a newspaper piece, a blog update – yes, but anymore than that does not seem to work. If someone bought me a Kindle I would give it back, even though deep down I know that we will all, eventually, be bounced into buying them by certain titles only being made available in that format.
Online Lobster is perhaps a curious beast. Issue 62 opens without any contents page or opening comments from editor Robin Ramsay, although the titles of the articles are listed on the front cover. The large font size makes it easier to read on-line, but is less practical for someone who quickly wants to print an article, or the whole thing, out. Don’t try this at home, as the saying goes.
One of the characteristics with this issue of Lobster is how Political (with a capital P) it is. The first two articles – William Clark on what he terms the ‘Cuntocracy’ and Dr T.P Wilkinson on the Tottenham riots and the era of George Soros shout at you in a way the print Lobster rarely did. Throw enough darts and you do eventually hit the bullseye – Wilkinson’s second article, on the manufactured figure of President Ronald Reagan contains a marvellous aside about Barack Obama’s lack of any political history. To see Obama as a synthetic figure, mentioned in the same breath as Reagan, is long overdue. Of Obama’s Presidential campaign, Wilkinson talks of a man “whose entire campaign relied on the illusion that there was a mass movement to which he did not even belong” (p.21) – has anyone summed up Obama better?
Some articles are still pure Lobster. Take T.J Coles on how the RAF attempted to interfere with the weather, leading to suggestions the Lynmouth flood of 1952 was man-made. This leads into a much wider consideration of weather modification as a method of warfare, and the restrictions that have been placed upon it. Old stagers also remain – Corinne Souza appears to have been writing on spook PR since I was in short trousers – although by covering the arrival and departure of Gadaffi’s spymaster Moussa Koussa she brings back to our attention a murky period in recent MI6 history.
It is still the case that the most cogent pieces in Lobster are those written by editor Robin Ramsay. His assessment of twenty plus years of the UK’s ever changing relations with Libya rather falls flat however – it is too short and ends before it gets going. Better is his analysis of the economic crisis and the problem it presents the Labour Party, which for a good 25 years has accepted the City as a force for good, and manufacturing as so ‘last century’. I had long forgotten Labour’s Bryan Gould – Ramsay takes us back to 1987 and Gould’s analysis which called for tougher action against bankers, and a Labour economic strategy in support of the domestic economy as opposed to the international. Gould’s arguments fell and stony ground within Labour (even though he had the initial interest of Neil Kinnock) and he eventually took his bat and ball home to his native New Zealand. Perhaps it is time Gould himself, or someone close to him, re-released his analysis? Those on the Labour left, such as Owen Jones, who at least appear interested in thinking differently from new Labour orthodoxy, may wish to consider it.
View From the Bridge remains Lobster’s highlight. Ramsay’s asides are often spot on politically, and as a source for stories you may have missed in the previous six months, there are few better. Importantly Ramsay is aware – on topics such as Carroll Quigley or the Bilderberg Group, that material can be ‘contaminated’ by conspiracy theorists, but that does not mean the issues themselves should be ignored permanently.
Here there is – at last – critical comment on the passing of Prof Paul Wilkinson, the doyen of UK Terrorism Studies researchers. Ramsay may not always have the energy to pick through contemporary issues, but when stirred on past events is often exemplary – his recall of Wilkinson’s role in smearing army whistleblower Colin Wallace brings much needed balance to some of the hagiographic obituaries since Wilkinson’s death in 2011. That Wilkinson lost his role as terrorism analyst to ITN for trying to foist dodgy information about Wallace onto Channel 4 should not be forgotten.
Elsewhere Tom Easton reminds us of the importance of alumni of the British American Project to not just the Labour party but the BBC, whilst the book reviews either make you want to go out and buy the book (Robert Green’s book on his aunt Hilda Murrell) or make you wonder if the reviewer could be bothered to read more than the introduction (Anthony Frewin on Mark Olden’s Murder In Notting Hill). John Newsinger’s analysis of former BP Chief Lord Browne saddens and infuriates at the same time. How many students, struggling to pay tuition fees, know the lineage of the man who headed the Committee employed to draft higher education reforms?
The review of Ken Livingstone’s memoir prompts the (probably accurate) assessment that he will leave no real legacy, something Simon Matthews explains – at least in part – to the political commitment Livingstone and others have had to regionalism, as opposed to a civil service/Treasury Home Counties domination of our politics. Matthews has the basis of a good future article in that very argument, yet it is worth noting that new Labour tried regionalism, with a referendum on a North East regional parliament – and it was soundly defeated.
In conclusion, if you can cope with reading a download rather than an actual bit of paper, Lobster remains important, with food for thought on (most) of its pages. I would still prefer a magazine though…..