Radio: I Discuss the Coronavirus Changing the World Irrevocably, Plus Guantánamo and WikiLeaks, with Chris Cook on Gorilla Radio

4.5.20

Andy Worthington calling for the closure of Guantánamo outside the White House on January 11, 2020, the 18th anniversary of the prison’s opening (Photo: Witness Against Torture).

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Last Tuesday, I was delighted to speak to Chris Cook, for his radio show Gorilla Radio, beaming out to the world from Vancouver Island, in western Canada. Our full interview — an hour in total — can be found on Chris’s website. It’s also available here as an MP3, and I hope you have time to listen to it. A shorter version — about 25 minutes in total — will be broadcast in a few weeks’ time. [UPDATE May 30: the shorter version is here. US peace activist David Swanson is in the first half; I’m in the second half].

Chris began by playing an excerpt from the new release by my band The Four Fathers, ‘This Time We Win’, an eco-anthem inspired by the campaigning work of Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion. [Note: In the edited version of the show, he plays the whole song, beginning at 31:25].

We then discussed my most recent articles about Guantánamo, A Coronavirus Lament by Guantánamo Prisoner Asadullah Haroon Gul and Asadullah Haroon Gul, a “No-Value Detainee,” and One of the Last Two Afghans in Guantánamo, Asks to Be Freed, both dealing with one of the many insignificant prisoners still held at Guantánamo, out of the 40 men still held — Asadullah Haroon Gul, whose lawyers are trying to secure his repatriation as part of the Afghan peace process.

13 minutes into the interview, Chris asked me to discuss my recent article, Nine Years Ago, Julian Assange and WikiLeaks Released the Guantánamo Files, Which Should Have Led to the Prison’s Closure, which I was happy to do, because I worked with WikiLeaks as a media partner for the release of classified military files relating to the Guantánamo prisoners in April 2011, and I’m appreciative of every opportunity to point out that the information contained in the files — about patently false, or otherwise unreliable statements made by the prisoners, about their fellow prisoners, often through the use of torture or other forms of abuse — destroys whatever shallow reasons the US government has cobbled together over the years to justify the prison’s ongoing existence.

19 minutes into our interview, we began discussing the coronavirus, with particular reference to my article, The Coronavirus Lockdown, Hidden Suffering, and Delusions of a Rosy Future. I castigated the Tory government, headed by Boris Johnson, for their failure to take the virus seriously back in February and March, noting a dreadful TV interview in which Johnson spoke about the government’s preferred “herd immunity” option, involving people, as he put it, “taking it on the chin”, and allowing the virus to pass through the population. It was, as I explained, actually “a recipe for maximum slaughter.”

I also spoke about how difficult it is, right now, to know what the future holds, given that so much “business as usual” has shut down, although I did note some positives: the revelation that key workers are actually the most important people in society, how many people are suddenly thinking about what life means, and are more relaxed now that the insane consumerist treadmill has, at least temporarily, come to an end, and how, for once, the sky in London — and other major cities — is clean.

Unfortunately, as I also noted, it’s also of great relevance that millions of people who were working — many in the entertainment and hospitality sectors — suddenly have no money, and are dependant for their survival on a lumbering and long-undermined welfare system. I also spoke about a particular problem that isn’t being discussed enough — involving rents, both in a domestic context, and also in relation to businesses, noting that the shutdown is a nightmare for the many independent businesses who had been clinging on by their fingernails before the virus hit, and are in no position to defer their rents, to be paid back later.

At this point, the interview that will be broadcast came to an end, but Chris and I continued talking for another 35 minutes, for the longer version linked to above, which took in all manner of other aspects of the coronavirus story: the British effort to frame it within a “plucky” wartime context, the role of Brexit, Britain’s ideological civil war, and fears of governments — not just the British — using the crisis as an opportunity for increased authoritarianism.

I also spoke about how important I think it is for us to think about and talk about the massive changes the coronavirus crisis has brought, which are not, in general, being covered in the mainstream media, and expressed my hope that what passed for our culture before the crisis — which seemed to be based on becoming “crazier, faster, angrier, more stupid, using up more and more of what we only have finite amounts of” — might finally be brought to to an end, as I discussed in my article, Health Not Wealth: The World-Changing Lessons of the Coronavirus — although it may be that this “opportunity to rein in our most suicidal stupidity”, as I put it, will be missed.

44 minutes in, Chris asked me about my photo-journalism project, ‘The State of London’, which gave me an opportunity to talk about my eight-year project of cycling around London’s 120 postcodes, taking photos, and how I have been responding to the coronavirus crisis, still cycling around taking photos, and being particularly drawn to the City and the West End (London’s banking centre and its main shopping and entertainment district), which have almost entirely shut down over the last six weeks, and are empty in a way that no one has ever seen before.

An empty Regent Street on April 17, 2020, photographed as part of Andy’s ongoing photo-journalism project, ‘The State of London.’

There is much more in the interview than I’ve managed to discuss above, so I hope that, if it sounds interesting, you’ll check it out, and will share it if you find it useful.

To reiterate: we need to think about and talk about this crisis, and what it means, and not leave that to our politicians and our mainstream media to resolve, because, for a variety of reasons, they are not necessarily trustworthy or reliable. “Business as usual” may be difficult to restore, but that isn’t going to stop the money people from trying to press the re-set button, and those of us who, in particular, realise that we were already accelerating towards extinction even before the virus hit need to be ready to argue for and agitate for a better world when we come out of this.

Thanks for listening!

* * * * *

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and see the latest photo campaign here) and the successful We Stand With Shaker campaign of 2014-15, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (click on the following for Amazon in the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here, or here for the US, or you can watch it online here, via the production company Spectacle, for £2.55), and for his photo project ‘The State of London’ he publishes a photo a day from seven years of bike rides around the 120 postcodes of the capital.

In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of the documentary film, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, about the destruction of council estates, and the inspiring resistance of residents, he wrote a song ‘Grenfell’, in the aftermath of the entirely preventable fire in June 2017 that killed over 70 people, and he also set up ‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’ as a focal point for resistance to estate destruction and the loss of community space in his home borough in south east London. For two months, from August to October 2018, he was part of the occupation of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, to prevent its destruction — and that of 16 structurally sound council flats next door — by Lewisham Council and Peabody. Although the garden was violently evicted by bailiffs on October 29, 2018, and the trees were cut down on February 27, 2019, the resistance continues.

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, The Complete Guantánamo Files, the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

3 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, linking to an hour-long interview I recently undertook with Chris Cook in Canada for his Gorilla Radio show, also featuring my own analysis and introduction.

    We discussed Guantanamo, the ninth anniversary of WikiLeaks’ release of classified military files relating to the Guantanamo prisoners (on which I worked as media partner), and the coronavirus, and how it has changed the world to an extraordinary extent (with both positive and negative repercussions).

    We also discussed my photo-journalism project, ‘The State of London’, in which, for the last seven weeks, I’ve been photographing London under lockdown, and Chris also played ‘This Time We Win’, the eco-anthem that is the new single by my band The Four Fathers.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Mansoor Adayfi wrote:

    Thank you Andy.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    You’re welcome, Mansoor. And thanks for all you’re doing too!

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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