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In Defence Of Ex-England Footballer Rickie Lambert, The Most Recent "Conspiracist" Celebrity Target
Setting the record straight.
The Athletic produces some of the best sports journalism in the world.
Over the last few years, the outlet really gained traction. They identified something that was lacking in the marketplace - strictly objective, detailed, and data-driven analysis of football matches. So they produced just that.
We’re talking tactical breakdowns of presses, counter-presses, visualised heatmaps, patterns of ball progression, pass and shot percentages of specific players, etc. It was truly something to behold, catering to both strategic nerds and casual spectators alike.
And unlike other outlets, they did not discriminate. They applied this coverage to the small teams and the big. Think about your Manchester United’s and Arsenal’s versus your Ipswich Town’s and Burnley’s. No one was left out.
But shortly following the Russell Brand controversy, they broke from this approach.
A matter of days ago, slapped on their website’s front page was an article entitled, ‘Rickie Lambert, conspiracy theories - and why footballers are vulnerable’.
As you can probably infer, the article aimed to paint ex-England footballer Rickie Lambert as a victim of “conspiracism”. Because, you know, grown men questioning the official narrative can’t possibly have a point. They need to be frogmarched into the nearest asylum for reconditioning.
The author of the article, Simon Hughes, begins by setting the scene, describing a recent freedom movement protest in Liverpool that Lambert attended:
Right off the bat, it’s clear Hughes has no intention to deal with the subject matter with any degree of integrity. You see, the anti-fascist (Antifa) counter-protestors, fight against Liverpool’s “real” problems - Nazis. I must have missed - like all the millions of users on social media - footage of the troops of Hitler-sympathising bigots parading through Liverpudlian streets bearing Swastikas.
In reality, members of Antifa have acted more like fascists than their namesake ironically implies. Reporter Andy Ngo has documented their exploits in the U.S. in detail. Members are often seen enacting violence upon those who disagree with them. Their divisions in the UK exhibit similar behaviour.
In June this year, when a group of Anti-Drag Queen Story Time Hours protestors gathered outside the Honor Oak pub in London, several Antifa counter-protestors were recorded committing physical assault:
Reporter Sydney Jones, a young journalist who attends anti-gender grooming protests, recorded the footage showing members striking Anti-Drag Queen Story Time protestors with sticks. Last year, the group assaulted her father during a protest in Norwich.
In June 2022, the group tried to shut down a women’s rights protest in Bristol. The severity of the threats and intimidation grew so severe that the women required police protection.
That same month, thousands of activists congregated in London to march amid the cost-of-living crisis. Among them were dozens of masked Antifa members, cladded in black and red, chanting the names of violent Communist leaders like Joseph Stalin, Che Guevara, and Ho Chi Minh.
Does this mean every person associated with Antifa is some insane, violent radical? No. Although, to be honest, it is likely. But any journalist that would characterise them as harmless do-gooders should be considered with extreme suspicion.
According to his profile on The Athletic website, Hughes is a former employee of The Independent. Something that isn’t a particularly good marker for impartiality. As encapsulated so astutely by Maajid Nawaz on Joe Rogan’s podcast in 2022, when he revealed the outlet called Covid-vaccinated Olympic gold medal winner, Szilveszter Csollany, “anti-vax” after he died “of Covid”.
Hughes then moves on to 15-minute-cities. This was reportedly the main topic of contention at the protest Lambert attended. He writes:
Hughes’s simplified summary is just that, a simple summary. He neglects the intricacies of 15-minute-cities and overlooks the actions of local councils, which have implemented preliminary schemes to promote the concept of 15-minute-cities.
Oxfordshire Council came under heavy scrutiny this year for establishing Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs). The aim of these LTNs is to purge traffic from the city and “make residential streets safer and more comfortable for walking”. A pretty description given that councillors essentially designated certain areas no-drive zones, even blocking a number of roads with wooden bollards. Subsequently, when Oxford residents removed the barriers, the council responded by installing a system of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras, fining residents every time they drove into one of the zones.
Oxfordshire Council enacted the latter with no democratic mandate. In fact, various local consultations showed widespread disapproval of the plans.
Proprietor of the 15-minute-city model, Carlos Moreno, explicitly states that the schemes extend past urban design. Digitalisation is a key aspect. Kent Larson, who conceptualised a sister scheme, dubbed the “20-minute-city”, additionally talks of the need to integrate the necessary design, technology, and policy interventions to create "compact urban cells".
Earlier in May, the German Advisory Council on the Environment, a body of experts convened to advise the state on matters of environmental policy, floated the idea of imposing lockdowns to deal with environment-related crises. Their 200-page report, entitled, ‘The Obligation of Policymakers: Facilitating Environmentally Friendly Behaviour’ read:
Earlier, Germany imposed far-reaching pandemic measures to contain the spread of Corona. For example, since 2020, the stated adopted and imposed various lockdowns and social contact limitations. Both highlight the contribution of behavioural changes, whether in energy consumption or social behaviour, to the project of combating a collective problem…
The aforementioned measures doubtless demanded a lot from people and in the specifics of the necessary extent of the restrictions, they proved controversial, as also in their unequal impact on different social groups. Nevertheless, the two crises show that political measures to carefully restrict the behaviour of citizens are possible if the threat is correspondingly great and the importance of the protected good – in these examples, health and energy – is recognised.
Hughes then steers readers toward the Covid jabs. Again, he seemingly can’t be arsed to assess the validity of Lambert’s claims:
In October 2021, when the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) started dishing out the Pfizer shot to teenagers, the product was still in Phase 3 clinical trials. Hence why the Medicine and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) gave emergency authorisation.
At the time, questions arose about the vaccine’s benefit-to-risk ratio. The CDC’s annual death data from April 2021, after the more fatal variant circulated, showed that Covid was less of a risk to young teenagers than flu/pnuemonia, drowning, and vehicle accidents.
Likewise, there were troubling correlations concerning deaths among teenagers post-rollout. Data from the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) in October 2021 showed that teenage deaths over the summer increased significantly on the previous year. The marked divergence around week 23 broadly corresponded to when the vaccination programme among the age group was ramped up:
Then, various case reports like this emerged:
Earlier this year, researchers conducted an extensive autopsy on a 14-year-old Japanese girl who died two days after receiving her third dose of Pfizer’s BNT1262b2 mRNA vaccine. Since there was a complete absence of bacterial or viral infection, a past medical history suggestive of autoimmune disease, allergic reactions, and drug exposure, they deduced vaccine-induced myopericarditis as the cause of death.
Provided these reports were far from few and given the risk Covid infection posed to children, critics began to direct their outrage at jab-administering doctors. As early as mid-2021, it was also clear the vaccines did not prevent infection or transmission. Claims of community benefits were, as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would say, pure horse paste.
As for Hughes’ crass condemnation of the Covid vaccines having links to cancer progression, the story remains the same. There is no effort to investigate the nuanced truth.
Last week, The World Council For Health, an organisation designed to challenge the political World Health Organisation, convened to discuss the discovery of foreign DNA and SV40 in vials of the Pfizer and Moderna jabs. The expert panel concluded that the cancer-promoting genetic sequence SV40 found in the vaccines enhances the capacity to incorporate foreign genetic material into the recipients’ own chromosomes and potentially render them permanently genetically modified. Renowned cardiologist Dr Peter McCullough outlined integration of foreign DNA into the human genome disrupts existing natural genetic sequences, which carries further risk of disease, including cancer.
Next, we enter some extremely lazy journalistic territory. Hughes resorts to guilt-by-association, referencing Lambert’s association with various dissidents:
Hughes can’t even get the basics right. Andrew Bridgen MP did not compare the vaccine to the Holocaust. He quoted a Jewish scientist who made the original comparison. And Bridgen was seemingly expelled for “antisemitism”, not for his comments on the vaccine.
Following his suspension, several Jewish scientists publicly declared their support for Bridgen. Stating that they “proudly stand” by him.
Hughes continues by referencing Lambert’s association with fellow ex-England footballer Matt Le Tissier:
The Athletic writer doesn’t link an example, so it is hard to tell exactly what post of Le Tissier’s he is talking about, but if it is the tweet that hit headlines back in April 2022, it was a retweet. And that retweet did not deny there was a war in Ukraine. Le Tissier clarified the post was about “media manipulation”.
In February 2022, various Ukrainian sources claimed that 13 heroic men died defending Snake Island from Russian capture. President Volodymyr Zelensky even said, “all border guards died heroically but did not give up. They will be awarded the title of Hero of Ukraine posthumously”. Outlets like CNN, the BBC, and The Independent, all reported on the unverified story, with some arguably presenting it as fact:
But they were all spectacularly wrong. Ukrainian border guards disputed the story and footage later emerged of Russian soldiers giving food and water to the 82 men, not 13, stationed on the island after they surrendered.
In June 2022, the Ukrainian parliament fired a Ukrainian government official frequently cited as a source by the West for her allegations of Russian war crimes, precisely because she could not back up her claims.
Award-winning war reporter Eva K Bartlett has documented various genuinely misleading narratives deriving from Ukraine’s propaganda machine on her website In Gaza And Beyond.
Hughes perhaps reaches the apex of journalistic comedy when he cites employees from the “anti-fascist” organisation Hope Not Hate as if they’re an authority on truth:
In 2018, Hope Not Hate - remember “anti-fascist” - received bipartisan condemnation for issuing book ban lists to retailers hoping they would remove certain materials from their shelves. Joe Mulhall, Direct of Research at Hope Not Hate, who Hughes quotes, directly defended the move, stating, “there is a vast difference between saying Waterstones shouldn’t sell a book and saying that book shouldn’t exist!”.
Two years prior, the organisation made headlines when a report exposed their exaggeration of "hate speech" claims by over 3000 per cent after the murder of Jo Cox MP. They said 50,000 tweets were sent “celebrating” her murder or praising her killer. A more bipartisan reading of their own report, however, revealed it was closer to 1,500.
Celebrities wield significant influence over the public. In 2015, researchers carried out a comprehensive study on celebrity influence, analysing various scientific studies from diverse fields. Their findings showed that celebrity endorsements actually stimulate brain areas responsible for creating positive associations, fostering trust, and forming memories. The researchers specifically highlighted celebrities' powerful sway in health-related topics. Figures like Lambert and Brand represent a distinctive challenge for institutions striving to dominate narratives, particularly when comes to medical-related topics.
The extent of establishment concern over this from became evident most recently when British MP Caroline Dinenage, in an utterly unprecedented move, used her office to urge the YouTube alternative, Rumble, to demonetise vaccine-sceptic Brand solely based on allegations of sexual assault. This might also explain why a sports-focused outlet like The Athletic now entertains political hit-pieces by hyper-partisan, activist-journalists like Hughes - who I imagine wrote the op-ed in between sips of a tremendously frothy sugar-free, iced-vanilla soy latte, as is customary for Antifa members and their sympathisers.
The Athletic’s painful double-standards was perhaps best epitomised when they recently reported impartially on football manager Mauricio Pochettino’s belief in using lemons to "absorb negative energy", yet permitted Hughes to mock Lambert for discussing a study on the impact of human speech on water. The difference between Lambert and Pochettino is, of course, Pochettino is a not a political dissident.
As you can probably tell, the article triggered me a bit, maybe I’ll be in need of a similar Starbucks order to Hughes in the future. I obviously don’t know him, he could be a nice but simply misguided bloke. However, one would expect better of the editors at The Athletic, particularly given the objective nature of their content thus far.
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