Does it matter whether Milo Yiannopoulos’ promotion of far right ideas was, as he claimed, just to discombobulate the grandparents? It won’t have mattered to those who found themselves facing the sharp edge of modern fascism: the terrorism, the racism, the removal of agency from women. And it didn’t seem to matter to those, like Robert Mercer, who funded him. But it did matter to Yiannopoulos. A coquettish flirtation enabled him to avoid the scrutiny that a full blown declaration would require.
We’re right to ask these questions of those who seek seismic change from the right – questions about their true motivations and about who funds them and about who benefits from an ‘ironic when convenient’ stance. We rightly ask them of institutions like Policy Exchange and the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance and the so-called Institute for Economic Affairs.
But we’re also right to ask them of those who seek similar change from the Left.
Novara Media is the vehicle of the closest thing the United Kingdom has to a Milo figure – Aaron Bastani (shown below, sans clothing).
His antics – recent examples include suggesting we nationalise Airbus to stop it leaving the UK in the event of a no-deal Brexit and describing the Poppy appeal as “white Supremacist” – have earned him regular slots on the BBC.
But what makes him worthy of interest is his stance on communism.
Bastani is the author of “Fully Automated Luxury Communism” (apparently to be published by Verso Books in June 2019) and Novara Media offers for sale such merchandise as a ‘Fangirl Femme Tote’ (“I’m literally a communist”) and a “Tracksuit Communism” top.
And he and Novara regularly – in a style familiar to Milo watchers – express an ‘ironic’ support for communism. Indeed, he has made a conscious choice to position his support of communism thus.
But although we know who funded Milo we don’t know who funds Novara. All we do know is that Novara has gone to extraordinary lengths – including apparent criminality – to keep its funding and ownership structure in the dark.
Novara is not a small operation. This is what the New Statesman reported in September 2017:
Only a year later, in September 2018, Novara reported a more than 50% increase in the size of its core team and that some of those team were now paid.
All of this will involve significant expenditure – Novara rents an office and studio in fashionable Peckham with associated operating costs, pays part of its enormous core team, pays writers and videographers, will pay web and database hosting costs, and so on.
Where does this money come from? Perhaps there is an entirely innocent explanation – but if there is it renders inexplicable the efforts Novara has made to avoid public scrutiny.
Bastani co-founded Novara Media in 2011 along with James Butler. The website www.novaramedia.com was registered in 2012. Between its founding and August 2016 there is little or nothing in the public domain about its ownership. In August 2016 Aaron Bastani started a company called Novara Media Limited (“NML”) with a single £1 share. In October 2017 the Registar, believing that the company was not carrying on business, wrote to NML. And on 9 January 2018 NML was dissolved. Did it ever actually conduct the Novara business? We have no way of knowing.
What about now?
In an email exchange with me on 24 November 2018, Aaron Bastani told me that the company which now had responsibility for Novara Media was Thousand Hands Limited:
But Thousand Hands Limited was only incorporated in March 2018 with two members each guaranteeing liabilities of £1 each. Those two members are Craig Gent and Patrick Best who are also the only directors. Bastani denies being a shadow director of Thousand Hands Limited, declaring (with no apparent irony) that “the truth is out there”.
It is not clear why neither of the co-founders (Aaron Bastani or Patrick Best) have any interest in Thousands Hands Limited, either as owners or directors. It is not clear who carried on Novara prior to March 2018. Indeed, there is very little evidence, apart from Mr Bastani’s say so, that Thousand Hands Limited operates it now.
At the time of the twitter exchange set out above, the Novara Media website contained only one reference to Thousand Hands Ltd, in its personal data policy:
But at the date of writing, that reference has been removed.
Someone, somewhere has taken a deliberate decision to obscure Thousand Hands Limited’s connection with Novara – if such a connection in fact exists.
Its personal data policy, too, is with a legal chimera. And if you attempt to purchase something from Novara Media’s Online Shop, again, you appear to contract with the non-existent “Novara Media”.
This level of opacity is likely to involve significant illegality – if not criminality. I won’t run through those obligations in detail but most obviously the law imposes obligations on companies operating websites to disclose certain information. That obligation has been breached and, if Aaron Bastani told the truth when he said Novara was operated by Thousand Hands Limited, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that a criminal offence has been committed.
Bastani reasonably asks, who funds organisations like the IEA:
But isn’t it about time he came clean about Novara Media which is pushing change far more radical than the IEA? If he is to use Novara Media and the the national platform given to him by the BBC ‘ironically’ to push communism, should we not know who funds it and him?