Review: Notes from the Borderland (edited and published by Larry O'Hara)
February 14, 2008 10:21 | Reviewed by Brian Precious
Is Notes from the Borderland (NFB) a magazine or a series of pamphlets? One could be forgiven for thinking the latter, since the first issue of this very substantial magazine came out in the Winter of 1997, and the latest issue, issue 8 , only came out last year. This has been the story all along for NFB readers, who have to wait approximately a year between issues, produced by Larry O'Hara (a regular contributor to Rob Ramsay's similar, now veteran, magazine Lobster) and the rest of the 'NFB Collective'. To what extent NFB is an offshoot of 'Lobster' this reviewer does not know. But NFB shares concerns with it's elder magazine in it's attempt to scrutinize the activities of the 'security services', their assets, and how they seek to maintain and project the power and privilege of the ruling class and the establishment,by various methods of subversion, infiltration, and manipulation of the agendas of progressive causes and movements.
From the outset, it has been clear that NFB has had no interest whatsoever in pandering to any mainstream aesthetic. NFB looks like it was produced on a shoestring by a bunch of anarchists, which is not a million miles from the truth.The front of NFB can either be a cartoon use of classic art - such as the first issue's use of Delacroix's 'Madame Liberté' - or more recently we have seen covers sporting a much more radical (not impossible!) version of the satirical covers used by Private Eye. Given that Larry O'Hara seems to view Private Eye as a source of semi-radicalism and security service disinformation, perhaps this is more than coincidence.
So is the annual release of the latest NFB worth the wait? Read on. The first issue of NFB is as good an introduction as any. It concentrates on news and investigations of various far-right and racist organisations, such as the International Third Position and those trying to export the Ku Klux Klan to the UK. It should be said from the beginning that NFB maintains that there is much more than meets the eye on the racist far-right,which NFB regards as a hot-bed of not only fascist but security service activity. Indeed, subsequently NFB has made a case that this is no surprise, given the usefulness of fascists to the secret state. (More on this below, when we come to the fascinating tale of -he whom NFB call- 'multi-party animal' Aidan Rankin, and the state-destabilisation of the UK Independence Party.)
Many on the left have had long experience, and longer suspicions of, the activities of state infiltrators and agents-provocateurs from demonstrations to picket lines to ordinary meetings of the local TU branch or CND. People who have become involved, for the first time, in such organisations have often had a rude and extremely disturbing awakening as to the kind of beast the British state and broader establishment really is, and the interests it really -and exclusively- serves. From the Gandalf trial to the experience of middle-England when involved in trying to stop live animal exports, the examples are numerous.
Enter Searchlight magazine. Suspicion of this magazine did not begin with NFB. But it should be pointed out that one of the very first articles to dissect Searchlight appeared more than 15 years ago in 'Lobster', written by one Larry O'Hara. NFB regard Searchlight as a 'honey trap' ie used to both attract and then spy on the left. Evidence for this began in Lobster a good few years ago, when it published the 'Gable Memorandum',in which Searchlight editor/founder confesses to years of spying on the left.
Issue 2 breaks the story of the NFB position on what it calls 'MI5 shyster' David Shayler, whose position, they say, does not add up - re his unwillingness to comment on ongoing state acts against dissidents and does he still say nothing on MI6?
Issue 3 investigates the strange aspects of soho nail-bomber David Copeland ie that the security services knew more than they let on and effectively did nothing while Copeland gave them the excuse to inflate their budgets.
Issue 4, from 2001-02, is the pièce de résistance for readers of Spectrezine.
In this issue, NFB gives us another lengthy and extremely well-researched article detailing many of the forces ranged against the left and other opponents of the pet-project of the British and European ruling classes: The European Union.
This superb article details not only the general way in which the state used it's assets on the far right to smear and discredit the UK Independence Party (UKIP), leading its founder, LSE academic Alan Sked, to withdraw, disillusioned, from politics, but also gives us a sidelight on how state assets work in the form of an analysis of a one Dr Aidan Rankin.
NFB declare that Rankin's career is so bizarre it would seem out of place in a Le Carre novel. Rankin has been a member of at least six political parties, from left to right: Labour,Tory,Albion Party, Third Way, Conservative Democratic Party and UKIP. Readers may recall an article in the New Statesman a couple of years ago, in which Rankin strongly protested the 'racism' of UKIP in order to politically discredit UKIP as much as possible. Well, here's what: Recall Third Way, of which Rankin is a former member. Third Way is a post-National Front grouping led by Patrick Harrington (is this the same Harrington who caused a scandal as a student for his fascist views?).What do you know, while a member of this far-right organisation, Rankin tried to move it's position from anti-EU to pro-EU, an attempt he has made in many if not all of the organisations of which he has been a member.
So precisely why is Rankin complaining about the alleged racism at UKIP when he himself was previously a member of a far-right organisation? More fundamentally, why has Rankin been all round the political houses, and why does he try to do the same thing in each house? Why does someone whose views on the EU fit with those of New Europe , then go and join UKIP?
Issue 5 continues with these themes and much more - including unearthing a secret Searchlight strategy dosument, written by leading Searchlight contributor Nick Lowles, on how to spread propaganda against the anti-EU movement, to 'influence and educate public opinion' by the 'drip flow of information'.
The full document is available for a couple of stamps, from the NFB address.
Issues 6,7 and 8 of NFB give us more of the same excellent in-depth coverage, all so exhaustively researched that NFB's opponents seem to know they are onto a loser if they try to take NFB on.Issue 8, the latest, features ex-MI5 head Eliza Manningham-Buller saying to her successor Jonathan Evans 'I'm sure you'll do as well as I did' , to which Evans replies 'That's what I'm afraid of'.
Give this unusual, committed magazine a try. It doesn't come out often, but it's worth the wait. All that research must surely take time!
Notes from the Borderland was reviewed by Brian Precious.