King’s new clothes. The naked lie at the heart of the Novichok story

We went to war with Iraq on the basis of UK government lies about WMDs.

Now we’re being lined up for a hotter confrontation with Russia on the basis of UK government lies about Soviet-era chemical weapons being used on British soil.

Virtually nothing about the known effects on their victims of the Salisbury and Amesbury poisoning cases supports the government’s contention that the agent involved was the massively-lethal nerve agent Novichok.

Everything about the Sturgess/Rowley case points to it simply being one of the growing number of opioid overdoses among UK heroin users.

With the Skripals, the symptoms they exhibited – described by witnesses as hallucinations, rolled-up eyes and shortness of breath – led medics to treat them for fentanyl/Carfentanil/3MF poisoning.

They were thus treated. They did not die. Indeed, Yulia Skripal told her cousin there were no lasting effects. She appeared to be quite well in the brief media appearance she was afforded before she was ‘disappeared’ into some kind of protective custody.

Novichok on the other hand is an organophosphate-based poison that acts rapidly on the central nervous system (2-30 second onset after exposure). It typically produces seizures on the way to causing heart failure.

Survival of Novichok is extremely unlikely and is expected to be accompanied by permanent nerve damage – as was the case with Andrei Zheleznyakov, the only known human to live after exposure to actual Novichok. He was left with “chronic weakness in his arms, a toxic hepatitis that gave rise to cirrhosis of the liver, epilepsy, spells of severe depression, and an inability to read or concentrate that left him totally disabled and unable to work” until he died at his breakfast table a few years later.

There is a massive discrepancy between what we know happened in Salisbury and Amesbury and the government’s line that the chemistry involved was Novichok. But of course, there is a laughably simple explanation:

It. Was. Not. Novichok.

I’m going for fentanyl. Definitely in the Rowley/Sturgess case, and probably in the Skripal case.

With the Skripals, while the government’s Novichok story is clearly bollocks (which I bet a lot of senior politicians are now really regretting getting into), the person or persons who apparently deliberately attacked the ex-spy and his daughter might have used an incapacitating agent such as BZ (3-Quinuclidinyl Benzilate), which produces similar symptoms to a fentanyl overdose.

It was so incredibly stupid of the government to agree to go along with the Novichok angle it was sold by its spooks and military equipment suppliers after the Salisbury incident. And absolutely moronic to double down on the idiocy by dragging the Amesbury opioid overdose into an already-tottering narrative.

If the Russians had been behind the Salisbury incident, the UK government would have had legitimate grounds to condemn them whatever substance was sprayed on the Skripals, be it BZ, fentanyl or joke shop itching powder. Playing the Novichok card was as big an example of jumping the shark as Blair’s WMDs dossier.

The government has been able to sustain its ludicrous fairy tale about this miraculous instant/delayed-action, rain-proof/not persistent, deadly/not deadly ‘nerve agent’ and its elusive peekaboo container by browbeating civil servants (Of A Type Developed By Liars – Craig Murray), doubtlessly putting pressure on the police and medical services, and by relying on the media not to ask any hard questions – gagging them if necessary to close off key lines of enquiry.

The parallels to the tale of The King’s New Clothes are unmistakable. Sooner or later something will come out of left field to puncture the illusion. The government will doubtless shrug and say to itself ‘some you win, some you lose’. We don’t live in an age where lying to the public and screwing-over the population of a world-renowned historic city is reason for a government to fall.

How the mainstream media will justify its sorry connivance in the affair is another matter entirely.

Novichok. Novicheck. The UK government can’t even get the name of the alleged Salisbury nerve agent right

We can be pretty sure, thanks to the BBC’s extremely well-briefed security correspondent Frank Gardner, that police currently believe they are searching for a cosmetic spray bottle that was used to deliberately poison the Skripals and accidentally (it seems) fatally poison Dawn Sturgess and seriously injure Charlie Rowley with some kind of nerve agent.

We can also be absolutely sure that the police still haven’t found any evidence of who did it. It’s also abundantly clear that the substance in the missing perfume bottle, if said bottle exists, is highly unlikely to be the A234 ‘Novichok’ nerve agent, despite what the UK government claims.

From its symptoms and survivability, the apparently-not-Novichok agent used in Salisbury was quite likely something like trimethyl fentanyl (3MF) or Carfentanil; extremely powerful synthetic opioids which have been around since the 1970s and whose toxicity has been compared to that of nerve gas.

Carfentanil and 3MF produce initial symptoms similar to those reported by witnesses who saw the Skripals on the bench in March. Medical personnel in Salisbury initially diagnosed the Skripals as having taken fentanyl and they apparently treated them accordingly.

It is worth noting that the extreme toxicity of 3MF, Carfentanil and similar compounds available on the illegal drugs market requires medics, law enforcement personnel and clean up teams teams to to take maximum precautions. The familiar-looking photo below isn’t from Salisbury or Amesbury but from the US Drug Enforcement Administration’s briefing guide (PDF) for first responders specifically when dealing with fentanyl and its more-powerful derivatives.

dea-fentanyl-reponders

Not Novichok: this image is from the US DEA protection guidelines for responders dealing with suspected fentanyl

The Russian authorities used Carfentanil in aerosol form as an incapacitating agent in the botched operation to subdue Chechen terrorists during the Moscow theater hostage crisis in 2002. The 125 people who died in the theatre from respiratory failure were found to have died because the rescue teams underestimated the amount of Carfentanil antidote they needed to have on hand.

Although the Moscow theatre debacle does fit the UK government’s narrative about Russia having ‘form’ around using powerful narcotics in public places, it doesn’t in any way correspond to them allegedly using a massively-deadly, organophosphate-based military nerve agent on a supposed FSB target in an English shopping centre. But, as we’ve seen, the effects of whatever was used on the Skripals bear little resemblance to those of Novichok poisoning (i.e. rapid death or, in the unlikely event of survival, permanent damage to the central nervous system).

On the other hand, if the substance used on the Skripals was fentanyl or a super-strength fentanyl derivative, that would explain why the treatment for fentanyl poisoning that they initially received in Salisbury helped to prevent them dying.

Also bear in mind that the government identification of the Skripal substance was made from blood tests on the victims. We were told these tests revealed a very pure form of A234 Novichok. Which was odd, since A234 is so deadly that you’d expect a ‘very pure’ form of it to have killed them on the spot.

Indeed, it is this curious, delayed-action, deadly/not deadly behaviour of the alleged Novichok that has led the UK authorities such a merry dance around doorknobs and car ventilators, as well as around diametrically-opposed versions of the poison’s weather resistance, to explain its refusal to act like A234.

Even the docile BBC appears to have lost some of its willingness to stick to the ‘always blame Novichok but never give the same version of events’ narrative over the weekend.

On the BBC Radio 4 Today programme last Thursday (5 July), John Humphrys interviewed the UK security minister, Ben Wallace, MP, about the poisoning of two people in Amesbury. Humphrys began by lobbing the minister the softest of balls so that he could bat the blame squarely in the direction of the Kremlin:

Humphrys: Ben Wallace, good morning to you. Let’s deal with that Russian responsibility first. Obviously, if it’s Novichok, and we now know it was Novichok… It’s a fact, isn’t it? They have confirmed that? Just a ‘yes’ to that will do because Scotland Yard confirmed that last night. … presumably the government authorised it?

Ben Wallace: Yes it’s been confirmed that these two victims are suffering the consequences of exposure to Novicheck [sic] nerve agent.

Novicheck? Wallace has been in post since 2016.

John Humphrys: Right. And therefore it must be Russian because they’re the people who do it?

Ben Wallace: Based on the evidence we had at the time of the Skripal attack; the knowledge that they had developed Novichok; that they had explored assassination programmes in the past; that they had motive, form and stated policy, and that the targets were linked, we would still assert to a very high assurance that Russia was behind … that the Russian state was behind … the original attack.

Ah, now it’s Novichok, although it’ll go back to ‘Novicheck’ again later in the interview. Also note that Humphrys is assiduously framing the discussion around the ‘fact’ that, in his inelegant phrasing, “it must be Russian because they’re the people who do it.” Even then, the minister still equivocates: “…we would still assert to a very high assurance that … the Russian state was behind” the attack on the Skripals. Or as they say, “plausible, plausible, plausible”.

Craig Murray described back in April how senior civil servants were still deeply sceptical of Russian responsibility for the alleged ‘Novichok’ attack on the Skripals, despite intense Government pressure to point the finger at the Kremlin.

Earlier in last Thursday’s programme, Humphrys was assured by another regular player in the official Novichok narrative, Hamish ‘wanna buy a gas mask?’ de Bretton-Gordon, that both pairs of victims would have had to ingested the substance to be poisoned by it. Mere skin contact wouldn’t be enough, he said. This angle seems to be an attempt to reassure the long-suffering residents of Salisbury that they will be safe enough as long as they avoid licking their fingers after touching discarded perfume bottles.

However, the ingestion claim is absolutely not true of either Novichok or 3MF/Carfentanil, which can both be absorbed in lethal doses through the skin.

Ben Wallace, despite being unsure of the right pronunciation of the alleged Russian nerve agent, correctly answered this point. “Novicheck [sic] in the smallest form can kill thousands of people,” he told Humphrys.

“Your skin would fight it off,” persisted Humphrys.

“No, it would kill you,” countered Wallace, winning the argument with Humphrys but trashing much of the government’s wider Novichok narrative, since the Skripals are still very much alive in spite of allegedly encountering the agent in a very pure form (and likely inhaling it if it was administered as an aerosol spray from a luxury perfume bottle).

One might get the impression from Ben Wallace’s interview that he’s not as well briefed on the affair as some other people are. The BBC’s Frank Gardner sometimes seems so well-briefed that he could be part of the security services themselves – though now even he seems to be having trouble reconciling the proliferating contradictions in the official narrative.

During an interview with Gardner on this morning’s Today programme (9 July), John Humphrys did a reverse ferret;  now being as keen to point out that there’s no actual evidence the Russian state did it as he was keen last week to suggest the Kremlin were the most likely offenders:

John Humphrys: Part of the problem is, I suppose, though, we don’t have evidence – I stress evidence … the sort of evidence that would stand up in a court – that it was the Russians who did it?

Frank Gardner: That’s exactly the problem. It gives the Kremlin enough wriggle room to say: “It wasn’t us. There are lots of different theories.” You are absolutely right; I have still yet to see – obviously I talk to lots of people about this – I have yet to see any kind of real smoking gun as it were. There is nothing that… and they may never find it. I mean, some people I have spoken to are confident that even if it takes three years, they will find the culprits. I’m not so sure.

‘No evidence’ is a bit more than simply wriggle room, Mr Gardner, surely? And you assert that the people who say they’re sure they need to look for a perfume bottle or ‘luxury item’ actually haven’t the foggiest idea who carried out the Skripal attack and probably still won’t have in three years’ time. All we think we know is that someone tossed away a potentially deadly cosmetic item in an unknown location, where it was eventually found by Sturgess and/or Rowley.

Even that angle could be a red herring. Fentanyl-related deaths increased sharply among UK heroin addicts last year. Although the problem has been mainly associated with the north east of England, there are reports of heroin being mixed with Carfentanil in Wiltshire.

So here’s one hypothesis. Dawn Sturgess, tragically, is the latest in a growing roll call of British heroin addicts killed by the highly risky trend for mixing heroin with Carfentanil. The fatal agent in her case was the same as the one that poisoned the Skripals: just not a Novichok as was too-rapidly alleged by the spooks who sent the Government down this rocky road back in March.

That road is becoming a morass of contradictions, which the government can barely manage and which the media seems to be finding increasingly embarrassing to overlook, despite the two D-Notices slapped on it.

If the person or persons who poisoned the Skripals did indeed do it with an aerosol spray charged with a fentanyl derivative, then the perfume bottle/luxury item delivery system angle might be a surmise by the police, since that is the kind of object a homeless addict might pick up in the hope of selling it or just enjoying a touch of opulence.

Or the police could be searching for a bottle because the Skripals saw it and described it.

In the case of the couple from Amesbury, it looks even more like fentanyl was involved since they were, or had recently been, part of a section of the population where deaths from fentanyl/heroin are occurring more frequently. Ms Sturgess’s death may not be linked to the Skripal case in any way except that she happened to live in Salisbury.

Applying Occam’s razor to their situation; when someone with a history of heroin use falls ill with many symptoms of Carfentanil (or similar) poisoning, what is more likely? That they somehow stumbled across, then sniffed or licked, then lost, a luxury perfume bottle filled with possibly enough Novichok to murder a city, that had been heinously left lying around a park for four months by bumbling or utterly reckless FSB hit men?

Or that there was some China White mixed into their last hit? Or that they’d used straight fentanyl because it’s cheaper than smack?

Either way, the only thing we seem to be fairly sure of was that the Skripals were deliberately poisoned by someone. It doesn’t look like a Novichok was used. It does look very like a fentanyl derivative. Who did it and why are still questions that, per the extremely well-connected Frank Gardner, nobody but the perpetrator(s) knows the answer to.

The UK government can’t stop itself and its over eager media from handling the matter in a way that’s damaging to Britain’s credibility around the world and disastrous for Salisbury’s economy.

Perhaps the only hope is that, with her Brexit strategy falling apart at the seams and Boris Johnson finally gone from the Foreign Office, Theresa May will decide the Novichok malarkey is one mess too many on her plate, and allow the police to investigate the affair free from the constraints imposed by old style global paranoias.

I’m not holding my breath. Except when using an aerosol.

What a waste of a beautiful planet

From the poor to dirt rich
We all turn the same direction the earth twists.
….
Fuck spending my whole life in a job that I don’t like
To go buy shit that I don’t need.
It’s so easy to fall into the trap
I’m better than him, I got more crap.
Even if you’re not sure what you’re on this rock for,
You’re worth more than the money in your sock drawer

Seth Sentry. Simple Game

OK, got to get this off my chest or I won’t be able to focus on my Bullshit Job providing life support to the section of the auto business called the fleet industry.

The mountain of energy supporting our civilisation is beginning to erode away from the foundations.

erosion2

It doesn’t feel that way to most people yet. Like a cliff-top building that still 95% rests on solid ground, everything feels OK on the inside. Unless you go out of the back and look down into the dirt and waves boiling hundreds of feet below where the garden used to be, the only signs of trouble are occasional creaks and groans in the structure.

The building managers refuse to acknowledge the erosion threat. They prefer fighting among themselves to enlarge their personal corners of the structure. Each new story and cantilevered outcrop of high tech wizardry adds weight and erodes the energy base faster … bringing the toppling point nearer from both ends.

If someone does get them to listen to the creaks for a moment – climate change, loss of diversity, the fact that we’re burning fossil energy seven times faster than we’re finding it – they’re dismissive. Technology and human ingenuity will solve the problem. By which they mean that technology will magically insulate the managers at the top from the bruises inflicted on the bottom 90% by the accelerating cliff-fall.

And if this planet ungratefully fails to survive being relentlessly exploited, the crowd in the penthouse are pretty sure that clever Mr Musk will wisk them off to safety in a luxury gated community on Mars (despite his evident inability, on Earth, even to stop a modest motor business devolving into a kind of auto jumble in a big tent).

We’ve normalised excess. Gross excess. And we fight and kill and torture and imprison indiscriminately for the right to be the primary managers and beneficiaries of that excess. The complexity of the system is growing exponentially, already beyond the comprehension of the technicians, let alone the general managers and the ‘economic advisers’ whose voodoo religion provides them with a fantasy framework for managing.

There is no solution to this short of the managers changing their tune. If the 90% on the ground floors of the structure refuse to hold it up through turbocharged consumption, they know most of them will be crushed by the elites’ goon squads on the middle floors. But if they carry on consuming, they’ll undercut the foundations even sooner and end up going over the edge with the whole structure.

But like I said, the managers aren’t listening. Life is shiny and bright up where they are. And for now they’re succeeding in keeping the 90% if not happy then at least quiet with daily salvoes of hope and fear from their media flunkeys.

Will it come unstuck? My guess is they’ll keep throwing money at pointless projects, and repression at people, right up to the bitter end unless a significant country or region goes tits up so spectacularly and un-spinnably that they’re forced to acknowledge the fact that this is the only planet we’ve got and the time’s come to start behaving like that fact matters.

Snapper-uppers get to suck up what they suffer for believing what the press say about snapping stuff up

“Snapping up” is a term that particularly tweaks this writer’s irritation nodes. Per the Cambridge English Dictionary, “snap up” means to buy or get something quickly and enthusiastically because it is cheap or exactly what you want. The operative words are ‘cheap’ and ‘quickly’. Snapping-up is clearly something you’d expect people to do in a store sale or at a car boot.

These days, though, snapping up takes place largely in stories in the property, business and finance media, where the commodities being acquired with alleged haste and enthusiasm are the opposite of ‘cheap’. We’re talking homes, cars, old masters and other repositories for the cash of the ultra-wealthy.

Nor, when the stories are hyping investments in obscure, unproven (but nevertheless ‘revolutionising’) products or start-ups, can the things said to be being snapped up be described accurately as being ‘exactly what the buyer wants’ … unless the buyer is so rich they’re not concerned about the risk that their snap investment will soon become devalued and illiquid.

A Google news search on ‘snapping up’ produced just one story in the first page of results where the use of the phrase matched the context – a piece about bargain hunting for cheap frocks in High Street summer sales.

All the other hits were about multi-million dollar homes, multi-million dollar footballers, multi-million dollar business deals and multi-thousand dollar vehicles. Indeed, is there a talented footballer left on the planet who’s been merely signed by or purchased from a club, rather than snapped up?

To some extent, this is simply language evolving. Snap up could possibly turn into another slang synonym for purchase, like ‘cop’ in UK English or ‘grab’. And you could also argue that journalists are only trying to inject a note of excitement into copy about topics covered dozens of times every day.

But there’s also something mendacious about the relentless application of a phrase to situations where what’s happening is the opposite of the phrase’s meaning.

For example, you can bet your sweet bippy that Oprah Winfrey’s extremely astute acquisition of 10 per cent of Weight Watchers in 2015 bore none of the hallmarks of “snapping up” the shares as described in the piece in the link. Her move was very carefully thought-out and stealthily executed so as put $58 million of Weight Watchers shares in her hands before anyone found out about it, since it was obvious the share price would climb immediately the company had the power and reach of her TV brand behind it.

Nevertheless, dozens of stories trot out the line that Oprah ‘snapped up’ WW as if she woke up one morning, looked at thousands of unemployed greenbacks strewn across her bedroom carpet, had a flash of inspiration and then knocked over the night stand in her haste to call her broker.

Likewise, only a minority of the people supposedly snapping up crypto currencies, Florida beach-front properties or timeshares (remember them?) are scurrying to make a quick purchase of something that is – because they are well-placed and can afford to take risks with their ample wealth – cheap by their standards.

Many ordinary investors cash-in laboriously-acquired savings, investments and pensions to keep up with those whom the media describe as ‘snapping up’ these apparent bargains. And that’s the key to the mendacity of using the phrase snap up. It allows journalists to get away with implying that a particular commodity is cheap and in heavy demand whether that is true or not.

It’s the MSM’s preferred way of lying: by implication and by omission.

So just as the answer to any headline framed as a question is probably “no”, the one thing you can be sure of when you read about people snapping up homes or vintage wines or whatever is that the window for making real money has already closed.

95% of the snapper-uppers won’t make money or will lose out.

When you read of snapper uppers who actually did make a killing, like Oprah, you’re reading retrospective stories about the 5% – the ones who got in under the radar ahead of the game, before the business media presstitutes started bigging-up the so-called opportunity on behalf of the same first movers.

Whenever you see the words snapping up in a press article, go back to the beginning and prepend the article with the phrase “Dear sucker”.

Anyway, that’s enough for today. Down the road, our local supermarket is selling beautiful, ripe, large Costa Rican pineapples for 49 pence apiece. That price is a travesty if you’re a Costa Rican pineapple grower but, as time-limited bargains go, it is both absolutely and relatively cheap, and I do love fresh pineapple.

Will we see stories about people in England snapping up pineapples, though? No – because in this case they’d be true.

Humans. Clever enough to do anything. Dumb enough to try

mars-arms

What will eventually trip humanity up is not knowing where to stop.

It’ll be throwing money and ideas at every imaginable ‘problem’, regardless of whether there is any potential value in solving it.

Poverty, disease and war all look like problems that could do with the application of more human ingenuity than we’re giving them. Developing self-driving vehicles or living on Mars, not so much.

Yet when you look around, one of the main reasons why poverty, disease and war persist is because humans at the top of the pyramid are more interested in fighting for control of resources so they can pour them into into elite vanity projects like self-driving cars and sending people to Mars than they are in fixing the spreading fissures in the rest of the pyramid.

“Ah, but,” say the people developing a self-driving Mars module. “We have to go to Mars because it’s Mankind’s manifest destiny. Plus, so we’ll need a fresh start too because we’re working so hard to fry the Earth to a crisp in our eagerness to maintain a technological civilisation that’s sufficiently outsized to support a vanity project like putting humans on Mars. Isn’t our circular logic wonderful?”

No it’s not. In a better world you’d sort out the conditions of the 99% before diverting money and brainpower into Chimera-hunts like manned Mars expeditions or building an infallible computerised 3D model of the entire world so that autonomous vehicles can function properly.

It’s not even as if there’s a remotely realistic chance of getting a human colony to survive on Mars even if we can divert the obscene amount of time and energy needed to put it there. There’s no breathable atmosphere. No protection from solar radiation. The surface temperature is mostly below freezing but can shoot up by 170 degrees F.

And then there’s the small matter of highly toxic perchlorate, which carpets the entire planet at concentrations deadly to humans. That’ll require billions of extra dollars to design and deliver filtering and washing equipment just to give the Mars mission peeps a slim chance of not being poisoned on arrival.

But hey, let’s look on the bright side like Doug Archer, a scientist with the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science Directorate of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. Demonstrating a knack for understatement he may not be fully aware of, he told space.com in 2013 that perchlorate’s existence on Mars would have posed an even larger problem had it not been discovered.

“But now that we know it’s there, I am confident we will be able to design around it. I have a lot of co-workers here at Johnson Space Center who work in the human exploration side of things, and none of them seem to think perchlorate is a showstopper,” he concluded.

That’s a pretty-close approximation to Upton Sinclair’s dictum that you can’t get a man to understand something if his salary depends on him not understanding it. Not that engineers can’t design a way round everywhere outdoors being toxic, simply that everything new we find out about the Red Planet adds to the knowledge that it might as well have the words “YOU’VE GOT BIGGER PROBLEMS THAT NEED SOLVING ON EARTH” etched into its surface in 600-foot-deep letters.

Pedestrians to be preceded by a robot holding a red flag?

A RECENT edition of the BBC’s All in the Mind radio programme delved into the way humans react to self-driving vehicles.

A trial in London found that people crossing the road tended to give Autonomous Vehicles less room than normal cars once the pedestrians realised the AVs would always slow down or stop if a human got in their way.

The pedestrians figured that, since the AVs in the trial drove themselves slowly (max. 15mph) and deferred to other road user, a self-driving car environment would be place where vehicles picked their way through the pedestrians not the other way round.

This finding made the experts unhappy. Not about the possibility that the cars might make a mistake and hurt someone, but because people were exhibiting undesirable behaviour by showing insufficient deference to vehicles.

Such behaviour by pedestrians clearly won’t scale up into the picture of AV transportation the auto business wants to peddle, which is of super-dense vehicle traffic that’s both fast and safe thanks to the wonders of artificial intelligence. In urban settings, you can’t have safe AVs that aren’t also slow AVs.

Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. One thing you can do with AVs that you can’t with what one guy on the BBC programme called ‘driver cars’ is daisy-chain them together into mini convoys: slower but more efficient.

Even then, the best the professor running the London AV trial had to offer was ‘peaceful coexistence’ between AVs and pedestrians. Like, say, North and South Korea. Or driver cars and pedestrians at the moment.

The big lie about AVs is that they’ll suddenly be perfected and become ubiquitous overnight, enabling them to seamlessly take over an existing ecosystem. People are increasingly pointing out that this won’t happen and that, for instance, cities will need to make radical planning changes to accommodate driverless cars.

I fervently hope the planners come up with something more imaginative than the 60s/70s approach of using miles of railings to corral pedestrians on to narrow pavements to give traffic unimpeded access to lethal estuaries of tarmac sliced between shops, houses, parks and other human spaces.

The French are very good at altering streetscapes to accommodate pedestrians and vehicles equably but these schemes are expensive, no to mention predicated on a level of national/civic pride that Brits only seem capable of applying to royal weddings, not the places we live in every day.

While I believe that AVs’ progress will be slower, more problematical and ultimately much less complete than their fans expect, it will be a very good thing if they force a rethink around the place of mobile steel capsules in human spaces like cities.

If not, you can see some tech wizard coming up a red-flag-holding robot to walk in front of pedestrians to make sure we show the requisite deference for self-driving cars.

Truth lies gasping in Douma.

Martha Gellhorn. Chester Wilmot. Clare Hollingworth. All war correspondents admired for their independence and tenacity. When Gellhorn wasn’t selected to cover the Normandy landings in 1944, she got herself smuggled on to a beach on D-Day. Wilmot sacrificed his press accreditation in Papua in 1942 by refusing to keep silent about what he regarded as incompetence in the Australian forces’ generalship.

Then there’s Robert Fisk.

Robert who? You may well ask, given the complete lack of attention he’s afforded by the rest of today’s, mainly chair-bound, UK media. Fisk was one of the first journalists from a ‘western’ outlet to get on to the ground in Douma on Tuesday.

He looked for evidence of the alleged chemical weapon attack that the UK, US and France, used as the pretext for that rusty oxymoron, a ‘humanitarian missile strike’. Fisk went to the hospital where the video of children being sprayed with water was filmed. The scene was real, he was told by a doctor, but the people were actually being treated for hypoxia caused by inhaling dust and smoke created by a conventional bomb strike.

The panic and water spraying shown began when the person with the camera shouted ‘Gas!’ Then the camera person just left. Soon afterwards the ‘chemical attack’ video went online along with apparently-posed and re-posed photos of dead people at the alleged site of the ‘chemical’ attack.

Fisk talked to many people ‘amid the ruins of the town who said they had “never believed in” gas stories – which were usually put about, they claimed, by the armed Islamist groups’. He didn’t find any of the 500 people said by the World Health Organisation to have been treated in Douma for chemical weapon after-effects.

In short, Fisk did what a war correspondent should do. He went and saw for himself. Walked the streets. Talked to people. Checked out the scene of the ‘atrocity’.

He reported what he saw and what he was told by those who lived through the fighting in Douma between Syrian forces and the US and Saudi-backed Islamist rebels.

He found no evidence of the alleged chemical weapons attack, which the leaders of the UK, US and France – the FUKUS coalition – claimed to have been totally convinced about by their intelligence services and social media.

For reporting these things, Fisk is labelled by many fellow British journalists as an ‘apologist for Assad’ – that 21st century repackaging of the 1930s traducement, ‘appeaser.’ Journalists who would burst into tears of rage if you called them a useful idiot who served our own WMD dossier-concocting establishment are happy to call Fisk a useful idiot who serves Syria and its Russian and Iranian allies.

QuadRanting owes Robert Fisk an apology. Fifteen years ago, when QuadRanting was still fully immersed in the hologram, he switched from the Independent to another newspaper because he disliked Fisk’s polemical presentation of stories like his December 2003 report on the aftermath of what appeared to be a Coalition missile strike on a Baghdad marketplace crowded with civilians

It wasn’t that I didn’t believe it could have been one of ‘our’ missiles, or that I didn’t know that such incidents are a commonplace or war, or (especially) that I believed Tony Blair and his dodgy dossier designed to deal us into a war he must have known would kill hundreds of thousands of civilians.

It was because Fisk was telling the truth – that is the facts, truthfully with not just the blood and bandages but a palpable sense of the wrongness of what he’d witnessed. And at the time, to coin a phrase, I couldn’t handle the truth.

When Fisk filed his report from the market place at Shu’ale, he was holding a shard of metal from the missile: maybe weighing only a few ounces but nevertheless much, much more solid than the ‘evidence’ on which Mrs May based her personal decision to send in the Tornadoes this weekend.

We’ve rarely needed more than now to give ourselves time for sober reflection and to painstakingly strip away the noise to arrive at common interpretations of the signals before rushing to judgement and the missile launchers.

In the absence of state actors we can trust, and in the presence of a completely cognitively-captured mass media, we need the Robert Fisks and Patrick Cockburns of this world more than ever. Mr Fisk, I’m sorry for 2003.