Monday, 11 March 2019

Fake Charities, 10 Years On


We reached a significant milestone recently which should not go unmarked. It was just over a decade ago that legendary blogger Devil's Kitchen and his co-author The Filthy Smoker began the fightback against the widespread abuse of government funding being handed to lobby groups to lobby government. 
2009-01-19T03:47:08Z 
That was the date and time that your humble Devil first registered the fakecharities.org domain—19th January 2009. I built the first fakecharities.org site that night, using a simple Open Source CMS called WebsiteBaker. 
I then populated this simple site with a few organisations that I, and Kitchen contributor the Filthy Smoker, had identified as being particularly egregious specimens of the type we called "fake charities"
The fake charities site may not be around now but it was the first step in shining a light on the sly deceit on the public that state-funded lobby groups had quietly worked to build for many years.

Even government ministers were not aware that taxpayer money was being shovelled to single interest lobby groups to spend on attacking the government and demanding legislation that the government - who awards the cash - wanted to see passed.

It is one of the most corrupt aspects of the way this country is run and should have been banned years ago. The blogosphere-originated fake charities site exposed the de facto corruption - because that's what it is in all but name - where mainstream journalism had not only failed to even notice it, but actively encouraged it whether unwittingly or not.

As DK explained in 2012, it was (and still is) a stain on the way the country is run.
Some years ago, your humble Devil and his Kitchen colleague, the Filthy Smoker, noticed that more and more charities were being cited by news media—and, most especially, the BBC—in connection with government initiatives. 
These charities almost always reinforced these policies: and these policies were almost always ones that aimed to reduce freedom and liberty in this country. 
Out of curiosity, we started to investigate these charities in a very simplistic way: when a charity was quoted as being in favour of yet more grossly invasive legislation, we went to the Charity Commission website and looked up the public accounts. 
In the majority of cases, we found that these quoted "charities" were, in fact, largely funded by the government whose policies they were enthusiastically endorsing. 
I would like to say that what we unearthed shocked us, but that would be a lie. What did surprise us was just how many of these organisations there were. 
People tend to think of charities as being... well... voluntary organisations, doing actual, physical good deeds in the community—whether that be running soup kitchens, cancer hospices or homeless shelters. 
But most of these organisations were indulging in little more than flat-out lobbying. And they were using our money to do it. In our view, these charities were being deliberately disingenuous. 
And we came up with a name for these organisations—"fake charities".
DK's initiative has since moved on and now these organisations are described more as "sock puppets". In 2012, a report detailing "how the government lobbies itself and why" eventually resulted in a law which caused uproar among those who were incensed that their mouths might one day be removed from the comfy taxpayer teat they had suckled on for years.

Naturally, the term fake charities was resisted by fake charities and the troughers tried every condescending trick in the book to derail any criticism of their grubby antics, as DK described in 2016.
When we were (inevitably) attacked in various articles by the BBC and the Third Sector, they tended to ignore the "lobbying" clause—we were horrible, sweary, libertarian bloggers who wanted to do down the valuable work that charities were doing. Nevertheless, all these protests did was to bring the concept of fake charities to a wider audience—with the phrase becoming regularly used amongst the politically-aware.
The rearguard action against this abuse of public money has continued and just last week an update on the corruption was produced by the IEA with a report named "Still Hand in Glove" (which you should read, by the way).

The ten year anniversary of the fake charities site is one that we should not forget for two reasons. Firstly, it highlights that only the blogosphere can highlight these things, the idea that mainstream journalists are somehow investigative and able to tackle abuse like this is a fantasy. There are no Woodward and Bernsteins around anymore, anything that pretends to be investigative journalism nowadays is more likely to be conspiracy bullshit directed at those who oppose a big state.

Far from exposing the corruption of government lobbying government, the mainstream press has singularly failed to get any handle on it at all. Even now we are seeing pliant articles from lazy hacks - who have lost the ability to distinguish between state-funded activism and real life fact - simply regurgitating press releases from organisations funded by the government, to lobby the government.

Secondly, just about every liberty that we have lost in the past 20 years has come about because of fake charities and sock puppets. Government has actively used fake charities by handing them cash to lobby for their latest public-bashing schemes as I illustrated during the plain packs 'debate' with the gloriously now defunct Smokefree South West.

Fake charities/sock puppets take your taxes and lobby for more government, more restrictions, more bans. Not one of them has ever lobbied for a liberalising of laws or a de-regulating of restrictions, and they never will. When government doesn't ban something they are in uproar, but even when the fake charity community is caught out, they just stay silent for a while and come back regardless. No-one is punished, no-one loses their job.

As I wrote just the other day, there is a huge elitist monolithic hegemony in the public sector which self-perpetuates and its existence depends on not upsetting the tax-funded apple cart. The result is rules being applied on a whim against our liberty while any relaxation of rules will be resisted as if their lives depend upon it. In the case of lobbyists whose income is in the fake charity sector, this is undoubtedly true from a financial standpoint. If their scam is extinguished they might have to go get a job that doesn't involve shitting all over the choices of ordinary people.

Fakecharities.org was a ground-breaking blog-led awareness raising campaign which opened many people's eyes to how government is feeding an unelected, unaccountable and unregulated prohibitionist gravy train with your money, whether you like it or not. It's creation 10 years ago was a much-needed breath of fresh air. 



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