Why we should be worried about the GB News-funded alt-right conference in London

This latest curious meeting of right-wing minds in a sold out inaugural conference at the world’s busiest concert venue, shows how much this form of cultural nationalism, which emphases the preservation of national identity, restrictions on immigration, and a rebuke of climate science, has become mainstream.

Right-Wing Watch

Forget your Beyonces and Bon Jovis, as this week, London’s 20,000-seat O2 Arena played host to a seriously disturbing ‘sold out’ spectacle.  

From October 30 to November 1, the Alliance for Responsible Citizenship (ARC) – run by the owners of GB News – held its inaugural conference in London and was fronted by some of the most prominent and influential names in climate change denial and alt-right thinking. The conference culminated with a high-profile ‘ARC at the O2’ event, which was headlined by Canadian climate science denier Jordan Peterson. 

The ARC Forum claims that over 1,000 international ‘experts’ and thought leaders were attending, including 100 parliamentarians from across Europe, the UK, and Australia, as well as a delegation of Congressional leaders from the USA. Paul Marshall, Kemi Badenoch, Miriam Cates, and even Michael Gove, were among the speakers, in what looked like a transnational re-run of the National Conservative (NatCon) Conference that took place in London in May.

Having only launched in March, right-wingers haven’t wasted any time in joining forces to address, what ARC describes as “solutions to defining challenges in areas such as the future of the family, free enterprise, affordable energy, environmental stewardship, and moral governance.” 

But with speakers dismissing the scale of the climate crisis and undermining the need for government policies to reduce CO2 emissions, it seems ARC is the latest attempt by a new shady group to undermine public trust in climate science.

Jordan Peterson

Jordan Peterson, alongside former Australian National Party leader and deputy Prime Minister John Anderson, and British think-tanker Baroness Stroud, founded the right-wing network.

The ‘snowflake’ berating Canadian psychology professor and ardent self-promoter, who everything from the Daily Mail to InfoWars wants a slice of, once referred to developing nations as ‘pits of catastrophe.’ He also claimed feminists have ‘an unconscious wish for brutal male domination,’ and said he supported ‘enforced monogamy.’ “The idea that women were oppressed throughout history is an appalling theory,” Islamophobia is “a word created by fascists and used by cowards to manipulate morons,” and white privilege is “a Marxist lie,” are among his crudest arguments.

He’s also been on an all-out attack on the science of climate change, spamming his 6.3 million YouTube subscribers with content entitled ‘The World is Not Ending,’ ‘Unsettled: Climate and Science,’ and ‘The Great Climate Con.’ In 2022, Peterson came under fire from climate scientists for claiming climate models were mostly useless. They said he had badly misunderstood how models work, with one saying: “He sounds intelligent, but he’s completely wrong.” Not that it did any good in discouraging him, as the same year Peterson wrote in the Telegraph that “eco-extremists are leading the world towards despair, poverty, and starvation.”

The Canadian rose, or should that be sank, to infamy in the UK during an interview with Channel 4 News, when Cathy Newman pressed him on his controversial views. Following the interview, Newman reportedly received so many death threats that she had to inform the police.

Author and podcaster Dorian Lynskey, described Peterson’s arguments as being “riddled with conspiracy theories and crude distortions of subjects.” Yet despite his vulgarity and distortions, he managed to command between £51 and £62 a ticket for speaking at what ARC claims was a sold out conference.

The speech, which GB News was keen to promote, contained the usual identity politics-attacking tripe you would expect to dominate a conference like this, which makes for very laborious reading.

Addressing the issue of identity politics, Peterson called for individuals to “take responsibility” for themselves.

He said: “Take responsibility for yourself. Why? Because in bearing that noble burden, you’ll find the self-regard that sustains you through catastrophe.

“And if you can take care of yourself, well, maybe you could dare to offer your hand to someone else, to your wife or to your husband – and you can say we can join together and as a unit we can be stronger and more responsible than either of us could be a part.”

It really does make you wonder who the hell would willingly go and listen to this drivel, let alone pay over £50 for a ticket? But that’s the really worrying part, the fact that people are lapping up the arguments of these individuals, who are so intent on being viewed as intellectuals and pioneering thinkers, they frame their political and cultural arguments around deliberate provocation.

The Canadian author-psychologist has even gone as far as to launch his own online university. The ‘Peterson Academy’ offers $4,000 bachelor’s degrees. As Fox News states in a gushing report on the course, it was launched to ‘counter left-wing indoctrination in the classroom.’

Any poor student wanting an unaccredited ‘general education degree’ from the Peterson Academy, will have to watch 90 eight-hour-long courses. In a course promo video, Peterson explains that the reason to get one is “because otherwise you’re going to be a useless, resentful, bitter, pointless, counterproductive lump.”

What a lovely man.

ARC and GB News

GB News’ loyal reporting of the ARC conference was not surprising given that the right-wing channel has extensive links to the new alt-right network. A DeSmog report reveals that, according to Companies House, the same five individuals who own GB News’s parent companies are the same people with significant control of the Alliance for Responsible Citizenship Limited – Paul Marshall, Alan McCormick, Richard Douglas, Mark Stoleson, and Christopher Chandler. McCormick, Chandler, and Stoleson are all executives at Legatum Group, the Dubai-based investment fund that, alongside Marshall, is a principal financial backer of GB News. 

And that’s not all. ARC’s co-founder and CEO, the Tory peer Baroness Stroud, was the former CEO of the Legatum Institute (LI) think-tank. LI was founded in 2007 by the Legatum Foundation, the philanthropic of GB News’ funders, the Legatum Institute. The FT described the LI as the “intellectual heart” of a “hard” Brexit. In 2018, the LI reportedly received $77,000 from the Charles Koch Foundation, which is linked to the CEO of the US-based Koch Industries fossil fuel dynasty.

In another promotional report on the ARC conference, GB News informs how Baroness Stroud delivered an ‘optimistic speech’ as she opened the event. She called for a society built upon “freedom of conscience, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly,” with individuals characterised by “kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

Somehow this platitudinous nonsense sounds nearly as mad as Jordan Peterson’s speech.

Sir Paul Marshall

Filthy rich hedge fund founder Sir Paul Marshall, who reportedly invested £10m in GB News when it first launched two years ago and now holds a 45 percent stake in the channel, is on the ARC’s advisory board. Talking to his audience at the ARC conference, Marshall hit out at “woke capitalism,” saying it is a phenomenon endorsed by “politically motivated bureaucrats.”

Addressing what he sees to be hindrances to its functioning, Marshall told delegates: “The third mutant sibling is woke capitalism.”

Like Jordan Peterson, Sir Paul Marshall is becoming something of a marvel in alt-right circles, touted as a media-mogul-in-waiting. As well as being a shareholder and director of GB News, Marshall owns the right-wing blog UnHerd, which regularly prints climate denial nonsense, including an article that claimed ‘global warming will save lives.’ Marshall is reportedly preparing to expand his media investments and is “readying a bid” for the Telegraph and Spectator titles, with are now officially up for sale. The hedge fund tycoon has also donated more than £500,000 to the Conservatives and £100,000 to the Vote Leave campaign and, as Byline Times reports, is one of the largest beneficiaries of post-Brexit chaos.

Marshall’s link to Michael Gove is also interesting. In 2016, he reportedly played a strategic role in persuading the then Justice Minister Michael Gove, to betray his longstanding friend David Cameron and lead the official Vote Leave campaign.

In his book, All Out War, Sunday Times’ chief political editor Tim Shipman explains how Gove “finally made up his mind to back Brexit on Thursday, 18 February, after calling Paul Marshall, a hedge fund manager he had got to know through his chairmanship of the Ark chain of academy schools.”
His close link to Marshall could explain why Gove, who does not exactly fit into the culture war stoking rabble of his national conservative peers, spoke at the ARC conference.

Though perhaps that is being a bit generous to Gove, as his presence at the event is not that surprising considering the cabinet minister also propped up the NatCon speaker panel in May. Though at that one, he did offer something of a different narrative to the overarching message of the five-day conference, saying that Tories need to recognise that elections are won on economics and public services rather than culture wars. Gove’s speech was seen as a rebuke to Suella Braverman, and her highly partisan delivery at the same event. This time round though and Gove seemed less at odds with his fellow speakers, and more au-fait with the central narrative. Railing against ‘cancel culture,’ the Secretary of State for Levelling Up called for a culture “free of censorship” in order to allow capitalism and democracy to flourish.

Addressing delegates, Gove said: “Economy and culture are inextricably linked.”

“You can only have a successful free market economy that favours the insurgent and the creator and those who generate value and innovation if you have a culture free of cancellation, free of censorship, free of the marginalisation of those who wish to challenge the current consensus. The two go together,” he said.

Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch used her speech to argue that “silly things like pronouns” are preventing the UK for dealing with challenges such as falling prosperity and the rise of China.

If these people think pronouns are so ridiculous, then why do they go on about them so much?

But the speech that gained the most attention, at least in the right-wing press, was that of Miriam Cates. The Telegraph, Express, and of course GB News reported on how the Tory MP had a ‘stark warning of ‘destabilising mass immigration’ and erosion of family life.

Resonating with her infamous ‘cultural Marxism is destroying our children’s souls,’ speech at the NatCon conference in May, the fertility trailblazer warned that the “social fabric” is “fraying around us”, calling for a reversal of the fertility decline.

“The fall in fertility rates across the West threatens the future existence of our society.

“If bringing a child into the world is a sign of hope for the future, then in the West that hope is in short supply,” Cates told ARC delegates.

Another notable orator was former speaker of the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, who has long embraced climate denial. Addressing the conference in person and echoing that hero of the right, Ronald Regan, he said: “Government isn’t the answer, government is the problem.”

He warned about the growth of “big Government”, the “false idols” of identity politics, socialism and cancel culture. Espousing the importance of freedom, he encouraged people to follow the example of former US president Reagan and former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, saying: “Surrender is not an option, and there is no alternative to the western civilisation.” 

All of which underlines just how odd all of this is. What might have appeared fresh thinking in 1980, is now clearly a busted flush. Fifty years of neoliberalism without sustained economic growth and catastrophic inequalities, have proved that. Learning from history might be challenging but these ARC folk take obtuseness to a whole new level.

This latest curious meeting of climate science critical, right-wing minds in an – apparently – sold out inaugural conference at the world’s busiest concert venue, shows how much this form of cultural nationalism, which emphases the preservation of national identity, restrictions on immigration, a rebuke of climate science, and, of course, resentment to so-called wokeness, has become mainstream. With leading Tory ministers appearing alongside the likes of Jordan Peterson and prominent members of the US Republican Party, if could be argued that the ARC conference once again suggests the Tories are convinced that Sunak is on track to lose the next general election. ‘We can’t win the election as we are, so let’s link with alt-right figures across the world and shift the party much further to the right,’ so to speak. It also gives us further cause to place more mistrust in the courteously mannered but cunningly manipulative Michael Gove, who let’s not forget was one of the architects of Brexit.  

Should we be worried? Hell, yes.

Right-Wing Media Watch – Tory press hound Cummings while standing by their man Boris 

The right-wing media’s love affair with Boris Johnson – and vice-versa – reared its head again this week.

On November 1, most of the nationals devoted their front pages to the Covid Inquiry, as Dominic Cummings and other key figures at No 10 gave evidence.

One of the most interesting revelations came from Lee Cain, Johnson’s former adviser and communications director. Cain suggested that when it came to vital decisions on lockdowns, Johnson was more interested in avoiding a backlash from the right-wing papers like the Telegraph, than being guided by scientific evidence.

And the coverage of the public hearings for ‘module 2’ of the Inquiry this week, shows the disgraced former PM still has the backing of much of the Tory press. Despite the damning evidence over Johnson’s leadership during the pandemic stacking up, including the ex-PM suggesting Covid was nature dealing with the elderly, they are sticking by their man Boris, while going all guns blazing on his then chief advisor, Dominic Cummings.

The Boris-backing Daily Mail, which maintained its support for the former PM even when other press allies turned their backs on him, and, of course, who Johnson now writes a column for, focused its front page on the former chief advisor.

“Now Cummings feels the heat,” splashed the headline.

Rather than reporting on the criticism surrounding Johnson’s handling of the health crisis, and the role Cummings played in it, the newspaper framed the narrative to make out that Cummings was the sole villain and Johnson an innocent bystander, the former having ‘lied to the PM’ about his lockdown trip to Bernard Castle.

Someone lying to a serial liar like Johnson, heaven forbid!

The Telegraph, another ally of Johnson, which, of course, gave him a job as an EU correspondent in the late 1980s, went for a similar angle.

‘Cummings ‘fed toxic, misogynist culture in No 10,’ was the headline. The report focuses on Cummings’ rants towards cabinet ministers, who he described as ‘f***pigs. ‘c***ts, and ‘feral,’ and how Johnson had bemoaned about how No 10 had become a ‘totally disgusting orgy of narcissism,’ instead of focusing on solving the ‘national crisis.’ The report does note how this week’s evidence echoed recent claims by inquiry witnesses who have questioned Johnson’s handling of the pandemic, with many revealing his greatest weakness to be how often he changed his mind on policy. Boris as a supermarket trolley with faulty wheels might just stick around as a metaphor for a while.

The Johnson-adoring Express, which regularly prints headlines alleging people’s love for the former PM (in May 2022 for example, the paper gushed ‘They love him! Boris Johnson ‘most popular person’ in Ukraine next to Zelensky,’) also went on the Cummings attack while effectively letting Johnson off the hook.

“Mr Cummings, who was axed in November 2020, could not hide his bitterness and rage,” read the Express’s report.

Meanwhile, the left-leaning Mirror didn’t show Johnson any mercy. Its front page read: “Boris: The old should accept their fate… ex-PMs’ cruel and reckless pandemic plans exposed by aides and advisors.”

But the ‘Boris, emperor with no clothes’ trophy should be awarded to the Star, which ran a photo of Johnson dressed as a clown, accompanied with: “The Star may have given the impression over the past few years that Boris and Co were useless, moronic, inept, pointless and pathetic clowns who were all out for themselves. It turns out they’re much, much, much, much worse than that. We are happy to set the record straight.”

Now that’s more like it.

Woke-bashing of the week – ‘Woke council’ is focus of breastfeeding media circus  

Councils are now woke, apparently. According to the Express and the Daily Mail, campaigners are hitting out at a council accused of ‘writing out women’ after it ‘purged’ the word ‘mother’ from its maternity policy.

The council in the firing line is Somerset. Its crime? Replacing the words ‘new and expectant mothers’ with ‘new and expectant parents.’ The authority’s HR committee explained its actions, saying that the words were changed to be “inclusive to all employees who are pregnant, have given birth in the last 6 months, and those breastfeeding, including transgender or non-binary people.”

Unimpressed with this reasonable and sensitive explanation, the reactionary right-wing newspapers went on the rampage about how the council’s New and Expectant Parents policy uses the word ‘parents’ 16 times but never mentions ‘mothers.’ Blimey, you’d have thought they had committed murder or something.

So, who are the so-called ‘campaigners’ making all the noise? They are from the Women’s Rights Network, whose member Claire Loneragan told the MailOnline: “Replacing the word ”mother” with ”parent” is not neutral. It changes the scope of the policy to include men. 

“But men – whether new parents or not – will never need the ‘place for pregnant and breastfeeding parents to rest’ that Somerset County Council will provide.”

A quick glance at the Women’s Rights Network (WRN) and all is explained. Its website brags how its main focus is ‘to defend the sex-based rights of women. The group’s aims are to retain the hard-won rights of women, prevent the introduction of self-identification in the Gender Recognition Act​, stop the medicalisation of children who are encouraged to believe that it is possible to change sex, and reinstate the words ‘sex’ and ‘woman/women’ into common language and law.

The group’s recent tweets are pretty dodgy too. “The devious@WelshGovernment plans to sneak in self ID with proposed legislation to improve the representation of women in political life have been dragged into the spotlight,” was one.

The post was in reference to another article in the Daily Mail citing the thoughts of the WRN, this time about the Labour-run Welsh government’s support of gender self-identification.

Back to breastfeeding. The act of feeding a newborn baby from the breast is natural and intimate and is something that all parents should be able to experience. It stands to reason that for parents who identify as non-binary, transgender, or gender-nonconforming, the language and cultural norms surrounding breastfeeding would feel exclusive and alienating. Hence Somerset Council’s move towards creating a more inclusive environment for all parents.

But for moralistic, trans-exclusionary radical feminist groups like the WRN, who love to stir up trouble whenever they can, it is another chance to push their anti-trans agenda. And the likes of the Express and Mail are more than willing to help them promote it.

Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

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