Investigation: Professor Piers Robinson Leaves Sheffield Uni Post After Accusations Of Promoting Conspiracy Theories

Forge Press, Huffington Post

See this published for HuffPost UK

Following another of my exclusive investigations at university newspaper Forge Press, I was approached by HuffPost UK to work on an investigative news piece on Sheffield University senior lecturer Piers Robinson. I provided additional reporting through interviews with several students, contacting and developing a rapport over the story with Sheffield University’s press office, and contacting Piers himself for a right to reply.

My reporting for the university newspaper, receiving thousands of page views and hundreds of shares, combined with months of investigative work by HuffPost UK led to this academic ‘leaving’ his post two weeks after my report.

It was featured on HuffPost UK’s main Facebook and Twitter accounts, with millions of followers.

This Movember, Let’s Recognise The Volunteer Mental Health Groups Filling The Gaping Hole Of This Government’s Scandalous Neglect

Huffington Post

Austerity costs lives. Turn to men’s mental health and you’ll see how. The shattering regret, heartbreak and tears on thousands of faces. Those are the faces of mothers, fathers, siblings, sons and daughters, who can no longer see those eyes. Those are the eyes of thousands of men below 50, eyes once burning with ambition and pride, only to fade away, falling through the cracks of a broken system. That’s a system made of waiting lists, denialscries of wolf to deaf ears, and a failure to provide support, a voice, at the critical hours. It was then, every two hours in Britain last year, that a man took his life.

It’s a national tragedy. Between 2011 and 2016, a heartbreaking £105 million has been slashed in real terms from England’s mental health budget. Conservative government ministers sat in meetings and drew up this sickening list of priorities. This despite the male suicide rate rocketing between 2010 and 2013 at a rate unseen in nearly three decades.“We had to make some tough choices after the mess Lab-” yes we’ve heard the narrative, the fantasy story, enough times. But let’s be clear: Britain’s scandalous current mental health crisis is the result of political decision. Most prominent has been the spiralling inequality since 2010, building a country fit not for the future but for misery, a “punitive, mean-spirited and callous” countryfuelled by a devastating belief that community and compassion are for the birds – that’s the UN’s judgement not mine. Of the 5,821 suicides in the UK last year, three quarters were men.Many of those men could still be with us today.

It’s not just about funding, it’s about services targeting the needs of men. It’s when 271 vulnerable people with mental health difficulties pass away after going through NHS services, that we must realise that the current system is simply not grasping the complexity of men’s mental health. Women are more likely to be diagnosed with a mental health condition – so why is it disproportionately men who commit suicide? At a Sheffield Students’ Union guest lecture last week, campaigner and academic Brendan Stone and sociologist Will Mason were clear: our most vulnerable men desire community, and fall away from it very easily. In Will’s research into men’s mental health, the disappearance of pubs was “lamented”. Pubs are “like a church”, Brendan added, where men can meet, relax and connect. In Sheffield, a city that had its heart ripped out by deindustrialisation, the added impact of austerity and the resulting loss of this social infrastructure has been devastating. But pubs are just one victim of this cruel belief in individualism.

Mass budget cuts since 2010 have hit hardest those local authorities that were already most deprived.They’ve had to carry on funding the ringfenced areas such as child protection, so what gets cut? The early intervention services, like youth centres, community centres, and mental health services. Closed and gone. The spiral is catastrophic, like the 1,000 more pupils excluded from English state schools between 2016 and 2017. With the essential social network of school lost, the lapse into drug abuse, homelessness and violent crime is a well-trodden path. It is at this point when men need those community spaces and services to pick them up and prevent them falling through the net even further. But they’ve disappeared so we, men, are left with the palpable sense of feeling alone, folding into ourselves, with no voice and nobody to listen.

Sometimes careless governance brings out the best in people. Thousands of volunteer mental health groups and projects have sprouted in towns and cities across Britain, filling the cracks of a broken system. With the debate so focused on the national picture, the work of these local projects can be forgotten. Will volunteers at Unity Gym in Sheffield but it is community, not just weights, that fills the space. Trying to tackle the feeling of isolation in Broomhall, a troubled area of the city, the gym finds it better to let men choose how much they want to say, rather than forcing feelings out. The choice is empowering for them.

Then there’s the battle over ‘racialised’ men’s mental health. The moment violence erupts in Sheffield, a certain stigmatised racial group are plastered across The Sheffield Star, branded as ‘hoods’ – a label that these young people can all too easily internalise, falling into exclusion and the mental health spiral. But Will told me it’s these very young people who go along to the community homework club he volunteers at, cracking the stigma, resilient and determined to make a success of themselves. Brendan is involved with Sheffield Flourish, a charity running pioneering social enterprises to tackle mental health at the root – simple things like the ‘Open Door Music Group’, where anyone can come along to jam, be happy, and feel included. Our government has turned its back on the most vulnerable, but these volunteers are inspiring; they’re doing nothing less than saving lives.

Our hollowed out society is full of cracks, and many more young men have needlessly fallen through them since you began reading this. It shouldn’t be down to volunteers to compensate for a careless, despicable neglect of mental health among the people running this country. But we must recognise and respect these incredible groups in our campaign to end this national tragedy. Our efforts must outlast Movember, because no longer can Britain let the burning eyes of its young men fade.

@ewansomerville

 

Trump’s Assault On Climate Change Is Capitalism At Its Worst: Civil Society Must Resist

Huffington Post, Uncategorized

WRITTEN FOR HUFFPOST. SEE PUBLISHED ARTICLE HERE.

I have one thing to say to you, Donald Trump – you are a manipulative, bigoted and pathetic man. How, when it has been tried and tested that environmental sustainability accelerates economic growth can you claim the opposite? What is it about you that is so present-orientated, so short-sighted, so ignorant? The answers are clear, and it is not like we are all surprised at this. I have resisted until now the urge to spill out my seething anger with your clique of White, suited, wealthy men that now govern the United States, but this is the final straw. As a member of the Green Party and a passionate environmentalist, I cannot stay quiet any longer.

The announcement that the newly ‘elected’ (remember Russia? Most in the media have forgotten) White House is backtracking on Obama’s generational commitment to clean power was only to be expected, but it is no less scandalous. Obama’s clean power plan is set to reduce US carbon dioxide emissions by 32% below 2005 levels, and currently prevents more than 1.8bn tons of coal from some 24 mines, which if allowed to be burned would emit the carbon dioxide emissions equal to 700m cars, it is estimated. But despite its significance this is one environmental policy among many now under threat. Trump’s executive order also covers significant amounts of fracking regulation, the 2013 climate action plan, Obama’s 2015 rule requiring permits for any actions that may pollute major water sources, and the very existence of the Environmental Protection Agency, from which he outrageously announced yesterday’s executive order.

But we must not get carried away with glorifying Obama, for his record is by no means flawless. Although a Democrat, he like his predecessors since Ronald Reagan could not resist the urge of neoliberalism (based around free market capitalism) to undemocratically and unaccountably corrupt the globe. Indeed, a collaborative investigation between Columbia University and The Guardian found that during Obama’s two terms in office the US Export Import Bank – closely linked with the treasury – financed $34bn of fossil fuel coal plants, pipelines and refineries across the globe from Columbia to Australia. Nonetheless, Obama’s record was a marked improvement on his predecessors, such as his proposal of new fuel economy regulations for trucks and cars, set to reduce carbon emissions by 1.1bn tons. Perhaps most progressively, the Obama administration also showed the leadership on the global stage that was a long time coming for the world’s largest economy (albeit soon to be overtaken by China). This was apparent by Obama’s investment of $3bn into the Green Climate Fund, supporting environmentally clean economic growth in ‘developing’ countries, and of course the USA’s landmark commitment to the Kyoto Protocol at the Paris Agreement, ratified last year.

That every one of these measures is now under threat thanks to the deluded Trumpian drive towards some fantastical economic dream represents the worst face of predatory capitalism. Most in the media are too scared to say the word (apparently it’s too extreme), but lets call this out for what it is: predatory, uncompromising, dark capitalism. Since the abominable economic overhaul led by Thatcher and Reagan throughout the 1980s, the US, Europe and increasingly many new industrial powerhouses in Eastern Asia and Southern America have relied upon the neoliberal myth that the free market, deregulation, privatisation, and corporatisation are the only means for economic growth. Just look at the level of inequality across these continents, and between these countries and underdeveloped countries, maintained as poor and inefficient by the self-seeking neoliberal model, to see how far it has got us.

The Trumpian economic model is a variation of this, for his protectionism is somewhat unique. In many ways, this is worse as the Trump team are using a nationalist vision for US economic growth and US economic growth only as their justification for destroying the planet. But this vision is deeply flawed. A White House that really acts in the interests of American people would be leading the global effort for protecting this planet, its natural beauty, its species, and its natural resources for future generations to enjoy. Rather, we have a Trump administration that lies through its teeth that it is “bringing back our jobs, bringing back our dreams and making America wealthy again.” That Trump was surrounded by coalminers as he made yesterday’s announcement says it all. The White House proclaims that this is “put[ting] our coalminers back to work”. Get real.

Let’s be clear: this is not about workers. Wonder why businesses are ‘flooding back’, as Trump would say, to the US? Wonder why there is such a focus on coal? The corporates at the helm of these monstrous trans-national corporations are in Trump’s pocket. Indeed, this predatory capitalism has infected the very heart of the White House; many of the patriarchs in Trump’s cabinet are classic revolving door capitalists. As Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse (ironic!) puts it, “The most voracious and malign special interest in American politics – the fossil fuel industry – has captured the Trump administration” and is fighting anything and everything “that gets in the way of its profits.” This assault on environmental protection is part of a wider picture: taxes for wealthy individuals and businesses are plummeting; crucial regulations built over many years to protect the global economy and environment are being hacked away with bloodthirsty viciousness; workers’ rights are being decimated with alarming speed; inequality is becoming more profound (I wonder why…). Trump and his wealthy friends are ruling America, they’re ruling the world, and it is ordinary people globally that will suffer, for generations.

I joined the Green Party a fortnight ago because I care about our planet (and the Labour Party has become painfully ineffective opposition, but that’s for another time). A world-leading economy must be green and sustainable to survive. As economist Laurence Tubiana of the European Climate Foundation rightly put it yesterday, if it passes through the courts, this executive order “will hurt the vast majority of Americans as it will propel the economy backwards so it resembles something from the 19th century.” The regression is remarkable. The bigotry emanating from the White House is not something to banter about over pints or coffee. No, this is something civil society should absolutely be protesting against. As I have said, these measures will have an impact far beyond the shores of the states, and as a Briton, I fear that Theresa May’s substanceless, shambolic government will join the club. After all, we have the disgrace that is Liam Fox as International Trade Secretary. This fear is legitimised if one looks at how far we have trodden down the fateful path of neoliberalism so far. We must not accept this.

The beast of capitalism has slid under most noses for too long, but now it is exhibited within the White House for all to see. Trump and his team are not ‘maniacs’, the world has not ‘gone mad’. No these people know exactly what they are doing, and they love such escapist labels. It is precisely us, civil society, that must stop them in their tracks with this loud and clear message: you may have ruled the world until now, but no longer.

Contrary to the Headlines, Athletics Is Clean and Rio Will Be Incredible

Huffington Post

See this published – HUFFINGTON POST

With the Rio Olympics fast approaching, track and field athletics is once again embroiled in scandal, controversy, and disgust. Or in the media it is. On Friday night I was lucky enough to bear witness to the electricity meter at the London Olympic Stadium explode with the buzz of the Anniversary Games. It was just fantastic for the world to focus solely on the talent.

I’m 17 years old, and have been a dedicated club athlete for nearly a decade now. I know what it’s like for the 99.9% of athletes, all of whom compete clean. On those bitter winter nights when the wind is gusting and the nation’s hand is putting on the kettle, we’re out battling the elements, building strength and endurance.

It was heart-warming and actually quite emotional to be at the centre of such excitement, inspiration and acclaim at the Anniversary Games. The noise level was insane, light and colour brighter than one could describe. There was endless love and admiration for the world’s greatest athletes; personal bests, world leads, British records and even two world records, were set left right and centre. The tunnel of noise for Laura Muir, Jessica Ennis-Hill and Mo Farah was astounding. And what those watching on television didn’t see was the abundance of grassroots talent on show in the 4x100m relays for London athletes aged 12-20 earlier in the evening. What a night it was.

As one can only expect, those not involved in athletics often rely solely on trusted International media organisations for news about the sport. However, too often the only headlines written are those of disgust: alleged Russian state-sponsored doping, corruption embedded within the sport’s governing body the IAAF, alleged doping by Kenyan doctors working with certain British athletes and multiple-time drug cheats themselves, namely Justin Gatlin, being allowed to compete guilt-free on the global stage.

And what a great shame this is. The dopers form less than 0.1% of the sport, they don’t represent us – the real athletics community – and the authorities are constantly trying to eliminate them, as we saw with the decision by the International Olympic Committee to ban Russian track and field athletes from Rio. Yet, it’s of such media interest, whereas the countless achievements in recent times of the young, bright current British athletics team are shunned from the headlines.

The ultimate goal of every athlete is to reach the Olympics or Paralympics. At London 2012, the spotlight was firmly on the athletics, and what an oozing summer of joy and gratitude it was as a result. For this, that year was special. Just look to the scandals of Olympics and Paralympics past and present, even today the fears surrounding Rio 2016 – the event is all politicised by the media.

Yes, London 2012 had its security fears, but hysteria surrounding Rio has been taken to another level by news hacks. Exploited workers, incomplete stadiums, police injustice, rising crime, the threat of hostile social inequality spilling out from the favelas, a perilous government, an economy drowning in recession, a soft target for fundamentalist terrorism. It’s the real world, yes. But hey, never mind the talented, immensely dedicated athletes who have worked tirelessly for years to reach this point, let’s just focus on the rumbling politics.

Although, resting all blame on the media would simply be unfair. The starry eyes of the International Olympic Committee have a tendency to permit the games to take place in countries with political situations bound to distract from the talent. Maybe the IOC looks to FIFA for inspiration, which has ludicrously entrusted Russia, a haven of corruption and lies, and Qatar, a den of instability and exploitation, with the next two World Cups.

And this is what made the Anniversary Games so special for me – they were a true and much-needed celebration of British and worldwide athletics, in its own light. Those thirsty readers and watchers across the globe could , for once, appreciate track and field without distraction, perhaps awakening them to the true reality of the sport.

Athletes young and old nationwide are training right now, as you read. They are gritting their teeth reaching personal goals and breaking boundaries, whatever they may be, pursuing a sport that they love. Not only those club-affiliated, but running groups and casuals alike. They love running, jumping and throwing, we love it, and have every reason to do so.

At 9am every Saturday morning, runners from every walk of life, age regardless, ability regardless, turn up in parks across Britain to do a ‘Parkrun’. The free initiative sees thousands running a 5k, pushed all the way with friendly and confidence-boosting support from volunteers and the local community. Rain or shine, windy or still, warm or chill, they love it anyway, even if it may not feel like it in the last kilometre.

This is what athletics is about; this is our community. It’s not cheats, it’s not corruption, it’s not politics – it’s doesn’t even have to be about hurtling down a 100m straight in less than 10 seconds. It’s about you, your passion, commitment and enjoyment, and every one of us makes the sport that today more than ever inspires generations. If our media and the IOC could get their act together, we could inspire yet more, and as real athletes know all too well, anything is possible. Rio is special, the London 2017 World Championships are special, and we will make them amazing, as they deserve to be.