Meet the Soviet-style anti-frackers

These three people are running the Lancashire anti-fracking campaign like Stalin, Yezhov and Shepilov.

 

At first glance, this may sound far-fetched, but the more we've come to know the various characters in the anti-fracking movement in Lancashire, the more we've come to realise that the behaviours of these three display an uncanny similarity to three of the USSR's key players during the Cold War: Joseph Stalin, Nikolai Yezhov and Dmitri Shepilov.

Everyone has heard of Stalin, the Soviet dictator. This is Tina Louise Rothery, who determines the overall mechanics and direction of the campaign and is its de-facto leader. She rules it with an iron fist, casting out anyone that dares disobey her.

John Hobson is the enforcer, the movement's equivalent of Yezhov. He is quick to hunt down anyone that expresses a contrary opinion to the official anti-fracking 'party line' and uses social media to trash their reputations, viciously and relentlessly trolling people wherever he finds them on the internet. It doesn't matter who they are, anti-fracker or pro-fracker.

And, last but by no means least, we have the movement's propagandist, Claire "Stevo" Stephenson who, much like Shepilov, dedicates herself to fashioning the narrative and controlling the local media. It's clear she has an unhealthy relationship with a certain journalist at the Blackpool Gazette which means their coverage of the issue is unquestionably biased.

Let's look at an example that really validates our assessment: Gazyer Frackman.

Gayzer was an early convert to the doctrine of fracktivism but unlike many others, he really does believe that shale gas extraction presents a real and immediate danger, and he's genuinely trying to prevent it. In the early days, he appeared to be one of the central players, but more latterly it's clear he's been exiled. 

Tina Louise Rothery has been scathing of Gayzer since the start of 2017, and it seems it's because he started to question her decision to enter into a pact with Cuadrilla and the police in which it was agreed she could lead a 15 minute "slow walk" of pad construction traffic heading into the Preston New Road site. Gayzer spotted straight away that these "controlled protests" would achieve nothing except for helping Tina to consolidate her grip on power. 

Once Tina made him an outcast, it was time for John Hobson to begin the business of attacking Gazyer on social media, using every opportunity to assassinate his character. On a number of occasions, he appeared on camera as Gayzer live-streamed from outside the Cuadrilla gates, and was horrible to Gayzer - openly mocking his appearance by commenting that Gazyer wears a sports cap to hide his balding pate. 

And it wasn't long before the propaganda machine was cranked-up, with Frack Free Lancashire statements about Gayzer's fundraising not being linked to the legal fighting fund for Preston New Road Action Group of the Roseacre Awareness Group to pay for their court challenges against the government's decision to award Cuadrilla planning permission on appeal. It was all very tawdry and designed to make Gayzer look as though he was pocketing donations for himself. The same has previously happened to Frances Leader who was openly accused of pilfering donations.

Now, it's important to recognise here that this was one of their own, a staunch anti-fracking campaigner really since 2011 or 2012. So, imagine the sort of treatment they reserve for their "enemies without" - those of us that are in favour of shale gas and those that perhaps have no opinion either way but are unhappy with the way the anti-fracking movement have been campaigning.

Well, you needn't imagine it, because there's a prime example in Babs Murphy, the boss of the North West Lancashire Chamber of Commerce.

In 2014, Tina led a rally of activists outside the Chamber's Blackpool offices. It was a glorious, sunny day, and while addressing her supporters, Tina essentially incited people to go after Babs. 

Cue John Hobson attacking the Chamber and its Bibas business awards in particular on social media, and Clare Stephenson pushing out negative propaganda at every opportunity, always with the same undertone: Babs is being paid to support Cuadrilla, Babs is on the make, Babs has been bought, Babs has been bribed. 

It really is quite insidious. 

But, turn the tables on them and attack any of them back, and they cry foul. They portray themselves as the victims, milking a sympathetic media, but simultaneously lashing-out in revenge.

So why are they doing it, what's in it for them?

Tina is, by her own admission, a life long activist that was one of the first protestors to set up a tent outside St Paul's Cathedral in London in 2011 as part of the Occupy movement, complaining about the banks and the government's support for them. Like Stalin, she has consistently consolidated her grip on the anti-fracking movement, but, to her, it's just a convenient platform for self-promotion and self-gratification. She's everyone's equal and yet she's purposefully not. 

John Hobson's motivations are much harder to discern, but it's clear he's a very bitter person and perhaps dishing out abuse from behind a keyboard in the safety of his bedroom somehow gives him a sense of self-satisfaction and an outlet for otherwise impotent anger. He has admitted many times that he is just a NIMBY that doesn't like the idea of a fracking industry anywhere near him (even though he lives nowhere near a fracking site, existing or planned) - in fact, he's become something of a serial complainer about development, being a noisy opponent of the Lytham Quays housing development about a quarter mile more more from his house.

Claire Stephenson, we have heard, has been able to monetise her propaganda skills and now looks after PR for Joe Corre's "Talk Fracking" campaign against shale gas that he formed with mummy, Vivienne Westwood the "fashion" designer, and so her motivation could be as simple as earning money for her opposition. 

Whatever their motivations, there is no doubt that they behave as though they are locked in a Cold War with the fracking industry and its supporters...

 


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  • Frances Leader
    Thank you. The accuracy of this article reveals that you have inside knowledge.
    Anti Fracking has been subjected to control and you have correctly identified a few of the team but there are several more.