Category: Propaganda

There is NO record on Corbyn – Ministry for State Security of East Germany

The following is an important press statement from the Federal Commissioner of Records of the State Security Service of the former German Democratic Republic, concerning the recent allegations made against Jeremy Corbyn:

Government Site Builder (Link to homepage)

For immediate release

Currently there is a debate in Great Britain about a possible documentation of activities of the Labour politician Jeremy Corbyn in the Stasi records. The Federal Commissioner for the Stasi Records (BStU) usually only releases information with connection to a person to journalists and researchers when records document an official or unofficial collaboration with the Ministry of State Security. Otherwise there is no further disclosure. But because speculations have risen because of this policy in the case of Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott, the BStU for this case makes the following statement:

The most recent researches in the written records of the Ministry for State Security of East Germany have not produced any records or any other information on Jeremy Corbyn or Diane Abbott.

Dagmar Hovestädt
press spokeswoman BStU

Photo of BStU-spokesperson Dagmar Hovestädt.

Over the past week the right-wing gutter press have published a series of completely false and ridiculous smears, claiming that Labour politicians are ‘traitors’ and  attempting to link them with Soviet bloc spies. Of course this is part of a broader strategy of tensiondesigned purposefully to create public alarm – to portray the left as a threat to the wellbeing and security of our society – and it has continued to reverberate around the media; used as part of an arsenal of pro-establishment, anti-progressive propaganda to discredit Corbyn and the left.

It’s a long-standing propaganda strategy from the right wing Westminster media bubble. 

On 8 October, 1924, Britain’s first Labour government lost a vote of confidence in the House of Commons. The next day the Foreign Office was evidently sent a copy of a letter, purportedly originally sent from Grigori Zinoviev, the president of Comintern, addressed to the central committee of the Communist Party of Great Britain. The letter urged the party to stir up the British proletariat and the military in preparation for class war.

On 25 October the fake letter appeared in the heavily Conservative-biased Daily Mail just four days before the election. The political and diplomatic repercussions were immense. 

The letter came at a sensitive time in relations between Britain and the Soviet Union, due to the Conservative opposition to the parliamentary ratification of the Anglo-Soviet trade agreement of 8 August 1924.

The publication of the fake letter was severely embarrassing to Prime Minister James Ramsay MacDonald and his Labour party. The chance of a victory was dashed as the manufactured spectre of internal revolution and a government oblivious to the “red peril” dominated the public consciousness, via the media. The Daily Mail published a series of sensationalist headlines, such as:

  • Civil War Plot by Socialists’ Masters
  • Moscow Order to Our Reds
  • Great Plot Disclosed Yesterday
  • Paralyse the Army and Navy
  • Mr. MacDonald Would Lend Russia Our Money

The more things change, the more they stay the same for the pro-establishment media mouthpieces. Of course this is propaganda, not journalism. The letter was confirmed as a forgery as well as a filthy, deceitful propaganda pre-election campaign. However, it was too late, as the damage was done to the Labour Party and affected the General Election outcome in 1924.

Jan Sarkocy, a former Czech spy who worked for the Statni Bezpecnost (StB) secret police during the Cold War, claims he met Jeremy Corbyn a number of times in 1986 and 1987 – including twice in the House of Commons and once in the Islington North MP’s constituency office. 

Svetlana Ptáčníková, who heads the Czech Security Forces Archive – which holds documents relating to StB spies and their contacts, also says the story about Corbyn isn’t true.

Mr. Corbyn was neither registered [by the StB] as a collaborator, nor does this [his alleged collaboration] stem from archive documents,” she told Czech News agency CTK.

 Ptáčníková, who heads the Czech Security Forces Archive that keeps documents of the now defunct StB, said that The Sun’s headline branding Corbyn a communist spy definitely does not correspond to reality.

Mr Corbyn was neither registered [by the StB] as a collaborator, nor does this [his collaboration] stem from archive documents,” Ptacnikova said.

On the contrary, the Czech archive keepers, who are studying the relevant files, have found signs showing that the StB tried hard to prevent Corbyn from uncovering the real identity of the Czechoslovak official he was meeting, Ptáčníková said. Dymic was a secretary at the embassy in London and he was meeting Corbyn in his capacity as a diplomat. He was expelled from Britain in 1989.

In a supreme act of self harm to his credibility, Sarkocy, who now lives in the Slovakian capital Bratislava, went on to claim that he personally organised the Live Aid concern in 1985, which he said was “funded by Czechoslovakia”.

Sarkocy, who operated under the name Jan Dymic, claims there were more than 10 meetings between the two.

He claims that the Labour MP was a “paid informant”, known by the codename Agent Cob (how very original), who passed on information as part of a process of “conscious cooperation”. However, records show there were only 3 meetings.

Czech authorities have also confirmed the meetings, but say that Corbyn was not an informant. There are signs that Czechoslovakian intelligence officials made attempts to hide Sarkocy’s true identity from the Labour MP, they said.

Furthermore, the Czech Prime Minister has described the spy who made the claims as “totally untrustworthy”.

Conservative MPs have ludicrously called on Corbyn to release his Stasi file, compiled by the east German secret police. The German authorities responsible for the Stasi archive confirmed on Tuesday that they had found no documents on Corbyn. (See opening paragraphs) and this included all files that can’t be released publicly for privacy protection reasons, spokesman Matthias Dziomba said.

Sarkocy has also made claims that Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis cooperated with the Czechoslovakian secret police – a charge Babis has long denied and which is the subject of a long running court case.

“Mr Sarkocy is lying,” Mr Babis told Czech tabloid CTK. “He is an absolutely untrustworthy person and I am shocked that Czech media consider him a relevant source of information.”

Sarkocy’s other claims have also remained completely unsubstantiated.

A spokesman for Jeremy Corbyn said: “The claim that he was an agent, asset or informer for any intelligence agency is entirely false and a ridiculous smear.

Like other MPs, Jeremy has met diplomats from many countries. In the 1980s he met a Czech diplomat, who did not go by the name of Jan Dymic, for a cup of tea in the House of Commons.

“Jeremy neither had nor offered any privileged information to this or any other diplomat.

“During the Cold War, intelligence officers notoriously claimed to superiors to have recruited people they had merely met. The existence of these bogus claims does not make them in any way true.”

A Labour Party spokesman dismissed Sarkocy as “a fantasist, whose claims are entirely false and becoming more absurd by the day”.

These ridiculous smears should be given no credence whatsoever,” he added.

Ken Livingstone, also claimed to have been involved in said he had “no recollection of meeting anyone from the Czech embassy” and dismissed the claims as a “tissue of lies”.

John McDonnell, it was claimed had met with a KGB agent also strongly denied this allegation.

He said: “These are ridiculous and false allegations. I have never met any Czechoslovak or Soviet agent, nor visited the Soviet or Russian embassy and have only visited Guildford once in my life, which was last year for a Labour Party public meeting.”

Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, has dismissed the claims. In a strongly worded attack on the newspapers reporting them, he said: “This journalism is not worth the paper it’s printed on. The only thing these articles reveal is just how concerned some tax dodging media barons are about a Labour government.

In an era when the traditional press is fighting for survival newspapers should be upping their journalistic standards not falling onto the wrong side of the fake news divide.

“These irresponsible scurrilous stories do a disservice to the titles they are printed in and undermine the British newspaper industry during a very febrile time. For newspapers to have a brighter future than they look to now, proprietors must focus on ensuring their publication’s long term health and reputation, rather than on cheap political attacks.”

Corbyn is telling the truth

Communist-era files from the intelligence agency of Czechoslovakia provide no evidence whatsoever that Corbyn was ever a spy or agent of influence, say experts and academic researchers who have reviewed the papers on Tuesday.

Radek Schovánek, an analyst with the defence ministry of the Czech Republic – which emerged, along with Slovakia, from the peaceful breakup of Czechoslovakia in 1993 – has spent 25 years researching documents filed by the now-defunct spy service. He told the Guardian the suspicions against Corbyn were unfounded, and the claims of Ján Sarkocy, a former intelligence officer expelled from Britain in 1989, to have signed the Labour leader up were false. 

Schovánek said Sarkocy’s assertions were at odds with the security files, which represented the definitive record on agents and contacts, and made no reference to Corbyn as a recruited agent, or to McDonnell or Livingstone.

Asked if he was calling the ex-intelligence officer, now living near the Slovakian capital Bratislava, a liar, Schovánek said: “When you compare the documents which he had written and signed himself with what he is saying today, based on that he is a liar. He signed a list of documents in the UK which said Corbyn was an intelligence contact, not an agent.”

Schovánek, 54, who secretly smuggled banned books from the west into Czechoslovakia during the cold war, said he felt compelled to speak out on Corbyn’s behalf, despite strongly disagreeing with the Labour leader’s left wing politics.

“I personally don’t like Corbyn. I’m Roman Catholic and conservative, but I think we have to defend people against a lie,” he said.

Daniela Richterová, a politics and international studies researcher at the University of Warwick, said the files showed the Labour leader was never a “source”. “We know how the process of arranging a collaboration works,” she said. There was “no evidence” Corbyn was recruited during four meetings with Sarcozy, she added.

These accounts resonate with Darren G Lilleker, associate professor at Bournemouth University and author of the 2004 book Against The Cold War: The History and Political Traditions of Pro-Sovietism in the British Labour Party, 1945-1989.

Lilleker said Corbyn was not among those Labour MPs who were sympathetic to the Soviet Union. “He was against both sides, the US and the Soviet Union, seeing them both as a danger to world peace.”

Conservatives are telling lies

Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn has demanded an apology and a donation to charity from a Conservative MP who claimed the Labour leader sold British secrets to “communist spies”. 

Ben Bradley, a Tory party vice-chairman, made the claim in a Twitter message which he subsequently deleted. Corbyn has branded newspaper allegations that he met with a communist spy during the Cold War “increasingly wild and entirely false”. Quite properly so.  

red brad

Lawyers acting for the Labour leader note that while the tweet has been removed, “serious harm has been caused by the libellous statement”.

In a four-page letter to the Mansfield MP, they demand that Mr Bradley:

  •  Confirms in writing that the defamatory statement will not be repeated in any form; 
  •  Tweets an apology and asks followers to retweet it;
  •  Makes a donation to a charity of Mr Corbyn’s choice in lieu of damages;
  •  And pays Mr Corbyn’s legal costs.

In Corbyn’s response to the right wing lies (see video below), he says:

“In the last few days The Sun, The Mail, The Telegraph and The Express have gone a little bit James Bond.”

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing

He goes on to say: We’ve got news for the billionaire, tax exile press barons: Change is coming.”

Quite right. It’s long overdue. It’s time we stopped permitting the one-party gutter press to stage-manage our democracy.

 

Andrew Neil, on the Daily Politics show today, accused the Conservatives  of “outrageous smears” and peddling “outright lies” about Jeremy Corbyn, as he dismantled Tory Brexit minister Steve Baker and handed him his ass over claims the Labour leader was connected to a communist spy. 

The video can be found here on the Huff Post, and it’s well worth watching.

Here is a copy of the letter to Ben Bradley from Corbyn’s solictor:

Dear Mr Bradley

OUR CLIENT: RT HON JEREMY CORBYN MP
DEFAMATORY TWEET

We act for the Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn MP.

This is a Letter of Claim for the purposes of the Pre-action Protocol for Defamation. The prospective Claimant is our client, the Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn MP. The prospective Defendant is you, Mr Ben Bradley MP.

Yesterday, 19 February 2018, you published the following tweet on your Twitter account, Ben Bradley MP (@bbradleymp):

“Corbyn sold British secrets to communist spies…get some perspective mate!! Your priorities are a bit awry! # AreYouSerious”

Your statement that our client sold British secrets to communist spies is untrue. The inference that our client, whom you know to be the Leader of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition and the Leader of the Labour Party, had engaged in criminal acts of treachery and spying could not be more seriously harmful of a British citizen, let alone such a prominent politician. As the vice-chairman of the Conservative Party you are fully aware of the serious harm that was caused or was likely to be caused to our client’s reputation by your defamatory statement.

The natural and ordinary meaning of your words is that our client engaged in criminal activity at the most serious level. For example, espionage and serious breaches of the Official Secrets Act 1911; that he acted in a manner which was/is prejudicial to the safety or interests of the United Kingdom; that he colluded with representatives of the secret services of foreign states to the detriment of the national interests of the United Kingdom, putting its citizens and its allies at serious risk of harm by passing confidential secret information to foreign agents/intelligence officers. Furthermore the natural and ordinary meaning of your words is that our client made financial gain for such criminal acts and espionage.

Our client’s reputation has been or is likely to be seriously harmed by your publication of the offending tweet and by re-tweets. Furthermore, your tweet has been quoted in full in the Guardian newspaper, the Mirror newspaper, the Huffington Post, Sky News, the Mail Online and has been paraphrased in other national print newspapers, and online, which is unsurprising given your own high profile within the Conservative Party and your status as an MP.

Our client instructed us yesterday evening and we advised his office to put out an immediate statement notifying you and others of the fact that he had taken legal advice and that the tweet should be deleted from your Twitter account. We note that you have removed the tweet but nevertheless serious harm has been caused by your libellous statement.

Next Steps

Our client requires you to immediately agree to take the following steps:

1. Provide a written undertaking, in terms to be agreed with us, that you will not repeat the defamatory statement identified above in your offending tweet or utter or publish any allegations/statements to similar effect about our client on Twitter or on any other social media platform or in any other form both written and oral.

2. Immediately agree to publish on your Twitter account an apology, in terms to be agreed with us, and with the additional statement that you will ask your followers to retweet your apology.

3. Agree to pay a sum of money direct to a charity of our client’s choice, in lieu of damages payable to our client for the injury you have caused to his reputation and also for the embarrassment and distress caused to him by your defamatory statement. We invite your proposals by return with regard to the amount that you will pay which we would expect to be substantial, as our client’s attitude towards the level of payment will take into account the speed with which you make sensible proposals or not. Our client does not seek any personal financial benefit from this litigation and if you force him to issue proceedings and recover substantial damages through the courts he will donate the damages to a charity of his choice.

4. Pay our client’s legal costs incurred in relation to this matter. If you delay the resolution of this case our client will commence legal proceedings against you in the High Court and our client will seek from you not only his basic legal costs but also a success fee (as our client has agreed a Conditional Fee Agreement which provides for a success fee) and payment of an after the event insurance premium. If proceedings are commenced legal costs payable by you will increase significantly, especially if the matter proceeds to a full trial. Your swift agreement to the matters set out in the numbered paragraphs above will assist you in limiting your exposure to our client’s legal costs. Any failure by you to respond swiftly will undoubtedly mean that our client’s legal costs will increase significantly.

We look forward to your immediate and positive response. If there is any delay our client reserves the right to commence legal proceedings against you for damages and ancillary relief for defamation without further notice. In that event, our client will rely on the terms of this letter and the lack of an adequate response, by drawing your conduct to the attention of the Court.

Please indicate if you intend to nominate solicitors to accept service of proceedings on your behalf, should you seek to defend this claim.

Finally, Jeremy Corbyn was actually in Derbyshire when ex-Czech spy claims they met in London, leader’s records show.


 

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The anti-social public relations of the PR industry

Magnifying glass over computer code spelling out "big brother is watching."

In the UK, we have a Government that are scandalised and outraged by any criticism whatsoever. Ministers refuse to analyse, reflect and act on legitimate negative appraisal; they prefer instead to adopt outrage, and portray any opposition at all as somehow pathological. However, opposition and critical scrutiny are essential elements of a fully functioning democracy. 

When a Government dismiss any criticism or challenge from academics, charities, social organisations, campaigners and ordinary citizens as ‘scaremongering’, when any and every amount of empirical evidence that their policies cause deep distress and harm to people is declined as merely ‘anecdotal’ and when attempts at rational and democratic debate are simply brushed aside or labelled in a derogatory fashion as ‘marxism’ , it can’t possibly end well for the UK. These are all the trademarks of an authoritarian government teetering on the brink of totalitarianism

Critical narratives that expose the fatal flaws in the governments’ administration of policies, founded on a pernicious and totalising neoliberal ideology, are being effectively stifled or censored. 

One of the key methods being used is a basic ad hominem approach, which consists of attempts to discredit those presenting the Government with critical analysis, democratic feedback and evidence that challenges the governments’ claims. It’s an argumentative strategy (as opposed to a debating strategy) that entails a legitimate criticism or proposition being rebutted and attention being diverted by an attack on the character, motive, or some other attribute of the person presenting the criticism, or persons associated with the criticism, rather than addressing the substance of the criticism itself.

Ad hominem is a fallacious technique of reasoning that may be better understood as a perversion or corruption of perfectly rational debate and this forecloses on the possibility of democratic, rational, meaningful, intelligent and constructive political discourse.

One particular variant of ad hominem is exemplified in the ‘poisoning the well’ tactic that Conservatives use by ridiculously accusing many of their critics of being ‘Marxists’, members of the ‘hard left’ or Momentum, or simply just ‘scaremongers’. Another is a “shoot the messenger”approach. This is just one kind of oppressive method among several that are being used to neutralise alternative narratives and repress a healthy political pluralism – which of course is essential to democracy. 

It isn’t only the ‘business friendly’ neoliberal government engaging in these kind of tactics. It’s something of an irony that Hayek argued against government planning and regulation, claiming that by crushing competitive individualism, it would lead inexorably to totalitarian control. Yet neoliberalism has reduced democracy to spectacle.  

When neoliberals mention ‘the market’ – which they see as a kind of idealised theatre for allocating rewards for competitive profit-seeking behaviours and punishments for citizens’ ‘bad choices’ (mostly in that they are simply poor) – what they tend to mean is simply a situation where corporations and those in positions of power get what they want. 

As the state extends deregulation and increases freedoms that permit corporations to profit without constraint, limitation and the safeguards required to protect the environment and citizens, it also needs to re-regulate citizens, limiting their freedoms, micromanaging their perceptions and behaviours to fit with neoliberal outcomes and a shifting power structure.

The changing neoliberal economy has required changing politics and society, reflecting shifts in discourse, ethics, norms, beliefs, behaviours, perceptions and power relationships. It has required the re-alignment of citizens’ identities with neoliberal goals. Those goals serve the interests of very few people.

The recent political emphasis on psychoregulation – expressed through the ‘behavioural change’ agenda of libertarian paternalism, for example, which is being embedded in public policy – is aimed at either enforcing citizen compliance or socioeconomic exclusion, if they resist.

At the same time, neoliberalism has permitted a few very wealthy and powerful people to rewrite rules, laws, social norms, economic processes, ethics and to place themselves pretty much beyond public visibility, democratic transparency and moral accountability. 

Technotyranny and psychoregulation

John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton wrote in their 1995 book Toxic Sludge Is Good for You!: “Movements for social and political reform have often become targets of surveillance. […] The public relations industry has developed a lucrative side business scrutinizing the thoughts and actions of citizen activists, using paid spies who are often recruited from government, military or private security backgrounds.”

Last week’s revelations from the Bureau of investigative Journalists and the Guardian show just how much that these underhanded tactics are very much in use today. They don’t just impact and damage the groups being infiltrated. By privileging corporate interests, effectively giving them the first and last word on public issues, they distort vital public debates and profoundly damage our democracy.

The leaked documents that the Guardian and Bureau revealed suggest the use of secretive corporate security firms to gather intelligence about political campaigners has been widespread. However, police chiefs have in the past raised a ‘massive concern’ that the activities of the corporate companies are barely regulated and completely uncontrolled. The police have claimed that commercial firms have had more spies embedded in political groups than there were undercover police officers.

The revelations are based on hundreds of pages of leaked documents from two corporate intelligence firms, that reveal the inner workings of a normally subterranean industry over several years in the 2000s. Major firms are hiring people from security firms to monitor and infiltrate political groups that object to their commercial activities. The security firms are spying on law-abiding campaigners and impeding their democratic rights. The spies are known to surreptitiously foster conflicts within campaigns, to set activists against each other, in order to wear them down and make them lose their political motivation. “People get tired of it, that’s their weakness,” one person told the Guardian. He worked for a corporate espionage company.

These are the sort of tactics that are also being used to intimidate some individual commentators. 

Depersonalising the personal

I wrote an article recently, which was published by Welfare Weekly, about the Work and Pensions Committee inquiry into Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) assessments. Someone called Lindsay McGarvie, who claimed to be a ‘representative of Atos’, contacted Steven Preece, the editor of Welfare Weekly, asking him to get me to phone him as a matter of ‘high importance’ to have a ‘quick chat’ about a ‘couple of points’ in my article that are ‘inaccurate’. 

It turns that out the ‘representative of Atos’ is actually the director of Atos’s Public Relations (PR) company, called called 3X1. According to his LinkedIn profile,  McGarvie’s specialisms include:

Strategic public affairs counsel
– Reputation management
– Devising and implementing proactive PR and public affairs campaigns
– Media Training
– Digital communications

McGarvie also had directorship of Bread Public Relations Limited, which delivered: “media, marketing, and employee engagement campaigns for public and investor relations. The company specializes in generating third party endorsements by getting the right people to say the right thing, at the right time, and to enhance business strategy. Its activities include media relations, reports, crisis communications, employee engagement, and media training.

The company was founded in 2009 and was based in Aberdeen, United Kingdom. As of September 21, 2015, Bread Public Relations Limited has operated as a subsidiary of 3×1 Limited.

By coincidence someone has also very recently ‘reported’ me to the Department for Work and Pensions, claiming that I am ‘working and being paid as a writer’ and that I am ‘not really disabled’, and ‘faking my illness’. Curious.

Over the last few years, I’ve encountered a small group of people who campaigned to discredit my work online, even claiming I was a ‘snout for the establishment’ on one occasion. Bullies often project their own issues onto their target. Some of the lies and smears I saw posted in groups about me were pretty outrageous. From ‘She voted UKIP’ and ‘Sadiq Khan employs her to spread anti-Green propaganda’ to ‘She has over 500 fake online identities’ and ‘She’s a bully and attacked some charity workers’. Most of the attacks were ad hominem. They also had a distinctive psy-ops character. 

This same group have also systematically bullied people for sharing my articles, and  for simply being a friend of mine on Facebook. Sadly a few of those people stopped coming on social media because of how thoroughly unpleasant and intimidating these experiences were at the time. 

The group of perpetrators are people who claim to be left wing campaigners, too. However I strongly suspect that at least some of them aren’t who they say they are. Their ad homimen approach doesn’t tally with their declared ‘socialist’ values and principles.

They ran a malicious smear campaign for quite a stretch of time, and occasionally, people tell me they’re still at it. I just block them now, and when a new account springs up making the same kind of attacks, using the same comments and outrageous lies, I keep blocking, because these are not people who are up for any kind of rational debate. They don’t play nicely at all. 

Just to clarify, Atos have already judged me as disabled on two occasions recently, in addition to my GP, 3 rheumatology consultants, a neurologist, a pulmonary specialist, a physiotherapist and 2 occupational therapists – one from the council, one that my GP sent out to my home.

I don’t get paid for writing articles, including those I contribute to Welfare Weekly. I don’t get paid for my research either. If I did, I would be permitted to earn a certain amount anyway. But I don’t. Having a voluntary donation button on my site doesn’t equal earning a salary. Nor does my writing somehow indicate I am faking my illness. I don’t think disabled people are prohibited from reading, having opinions or sharing them via social media. Not yet, anyway. 

I believe that the timing of the bogus complaint to the DWP was most likely calculated carefully by someone to coincide with Christmas – to cause as much misery and untimely financial hardship as possible. 

I don’t know who made the complaint. It can’t have been done by anyone who actually knows me. But I’ve no doubt that this was a malicious act.

However, it won’t stop me writing any time soon.

I appreciate that the ‘complaint’ to the DWP may have been a coincidence. I also understand that the discussion may even sound somewhat paranoid. However, these are not isolated events, and other campaigners and  groups have also been targeted by Atos.

The use of targeted political ‘dark ads‘ – using ‘big data’ harvesting and the identification and manipulation of distinctive ‘psychological profiles’  – and the tactical use of social media as a weapon in political discourse are examples of how social media is being used to create new marketplaces for political and corporate loyalty, providing the opportunity for shills and astroturfers to opt-in (and out) of identities. The increased use of psychological profiling with sophisticated, targeted and manipulative political techniques of persuasion and astroturfing campaigns has also corresponded with a commensurate decline in the standards and ethics of mainstream journalism. 

The private company Cambridge Analytica hit the news earlier this year because its alleged role in manipulating the voting decisions of citizens by using  detailed profiling of the personalities of individual voters to target them, to create large shifts in public opinion. The controversial company is partly owned by the family of Robert Mercer, an American billionaire hedge-fund manager who supports many neoliberal, politically conservative and alt right causes.

Social network media more generally is being used to construct and shape global politics and manage contemporary political conflicts through the conduction of intelligence collection, targeting, cyber-operations, psychological warfare and command and control activities.

Power and persuasion

PR is a persuasion industry. It involves the creation of powerful lobby groups to influence government policy, corporate policy and public opinion, typically in a way that benefits the sponsoring organisation. PR companies often use a ‘thought leadership’ approach, which usually refers to a potentially ‘winning’ strategy for paying customers, based on a notion of authority, rather than on intellectual reasoning, dialogue and rational debate. There’s a lot of talking at the public, rather than with them.

Money talks and bullshit walks. 

Many PR companies offer an ‘expertise’ in ‘behavioural insights’ to businesses, in order to help them ‘win’ and make profit. However, quite often ‘thought leadership’ entails using well-known marketing techniques to achieve the impression of being an erudite and rational presenter and speaker. It’s inane managementspeak and psychobabble that basically means finding ways of managing company reputations, damage limitation and managing public opinion, promoting corporate and/or specific political interests and making profits. In the same way that Behavioural Economics manages the reputation of Conservative/libertarian neoliberalism, promoting political and corporate interests and making fat profits. 

And stifling criticism. Many people quite reasonably associate PR with all things unethical – lying, spin-doctoring, and even espionage. Many critics argue that there can be no ethical public relations because the practice itself is all about manufacturing opinions, manipulation and propaganda. It’s about smoke and mirrors to hide the source of deception. Neoliberalism is toxic and rgeressive. It can’t offer the public anything whatsoever of value, so the state and corporations – the only beneficiaries of the now totalising imposition of this ideology – have to employ ‘specialists’ to sell it for them.

Selling neoliberalism to the public using techniques of persuasion and political psychoregulation is also very neoliberal, in that it makes fat profits while imposing  and justifying a hegemony of narrow private interests. 

3X1 is not the only PR company regularly accessing my articles. 

Over the last couple of years, my site has been visited using a portal from Edelman Intelligence, which is among the world’s largest PR companies. Either their staff or their clients have been quietly visiting my own humble WordPress site, the link (which I found on my web traffic and stats information page) shows they were referred to my site from Edelman’s own social media monitoring command centre. 

I know this because on my site’s traffic and stats pagereferrers are listed, such as Facebook, Twitter, search engines and so on. You can click on the link provided and it shows you were site visitors have come from.

Despite the fact that the CEO of the ‘largest PR agency in the world’ called for PR professionals to ‘adopt a new set of standards in the wake of the Bell Pottinger scandal’, Edelman have generated a few scandals of their own. 

The ultimate corporate goal is sheer self-interested profit-making, but this will always be dressed up by PR to appear synonymous with the wider, national interest. At the moment, that means a collective chanting of ‘economic growth’, low taxes, ‘freedom’, supply side ‘productivity’, implied trickle down, jobs and ‘personal responsibility’ – all a part of the broader business friendly neoliberal mantra. It’s like encountering Ayn Rand on steroids and in a very ugly mood.

Corporations buy their credibility and utilise seemingly independent people such as academics with a mutual interest to carry their message for them. Some think tanks – especially free-market advocates like Reform or leading neoliberal think tank, the Institute of Economic Affairs – will also provide companies with a lobbying package: a media-friendly report, a Westminster event, meetings with politicians, that sort of thing. The extensive PR industry are paid to brand, market, engineer a following, build trust and credibility and generally sell the practice of managing the spread of information between an individual or an organisation (such as a business, government agency, the media) and the public.

PR is concerned with selling products, persons, governments and policies, corporations, and other institutions. In addition to marketing products, PR has been variously used to attract investments, influence legislation, raise companies’ public profiles, put a positive spin on policies, disasters, undermine citizens campaigns, gain public support for conducting warfare, and to change the public perception of repressive regimes.

Money talks and bullshit walks, at the right price.

To paraphrase Seamus Milne, there is a revolving door of mutually exclusive political and corporate favour, ceaselessly spinning.

63606308539839586285265400_revolving-door (1).jpg

Our public life and democracy is now profoundly compromised by its colonisation, as corporate and financial power have merged into the state.

Edelman Intelligence and Westbourne, for example, are engaged in rebuttal campaigns and multimedia astroturfing projects to protect corporate interests:

Monitoring of opposition groups is common: one lobbyist from agency Edelman talks of the need for “360-degree monitoring” of the internet, complete with online “listening posts … so they can pick up the first warning signals” of activist activity. “The person making a lot of noise is probably not the influential one, you’ve got to find the influential one,” he says. Rebuttal campaigns are frequently employed: “exhausting, but crucial,” says Westbourne.” From The truth about lobbying: 10 ways big business controls government. 

The blogs (or ‘flogs’) Working Families for Walmart and subsidiary site Paid Critics were written by three employees of Edelman, for whom WalMart is a paid client. Richard Edelman, president and CEO of the PR firm, apologised on his own flog: “I want to acknowledge our error in failing to be transparent about the identity of the two bloggers from the outset. This is 100% our responsibility and our error; not the client’s.”  

Imagine that. Paying big bucks to a PR company, and yet you have know idea what they actually do for your company. 

It’s like a self perpetuating cycle of  ever-increasing corruption. Big companies wouldn’t need PR in the first place if they intend to be genuinely transparent and accountable. PR companies are pretty ruthlesness regarding the tactics they use to earn fat profits for themselves, and for their fellow free marketeers. 

The communications industry’s ethics came under scrutiny due to the fall of Bell Pottinger after the London-based firm was accused of conducting a ‘secret misinformation campaign’ on behalf of Oakbay Investments inflaming racial tensions in South Africa. UK-based industry body, the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) banned Bell Pottinger from trading for five years.

Motherboard (Vice) reports, in 2014, that documents obtained by Greenpeace illustrate the extensive, meticulous planning that has gone into at least one of Edelman‘s proposed astroturf campaigns, aimed at helping TransCanada mobilise ‘grassroots’ support for its effort to build a new pipeline that would carry tar sands oil from Alberta to Quebec.

Astroturfing is the increasingly popular tactic used by corporations to sponsor front groups or manufacture the appearance of grassroots support to simulate a genuine social movement that is rallying for goals in line with their profit motive. It’s the manufacturing of ‘consensus’ where none actually exists. In the past, astroturf efforts have used paid actors, company employees, and media-heavy websites. But the programme that Edelman pitches in its own reports goes even deeper.

The documents detailed an in-depth proposal—part sales pitch, part action plan—put together by Edelman‘s Calgary office, suggesting that TransCanada combat environmental groups by mounting one such manufactured “grassroots advocacy” campaign.

Those environmentalists were organising to oppose the Energy East pipeline, which TransCanada hoped would be an alternative to the long-delayed Keystone XL, on the grounds that it would disastrously boost carbon emissions and increase the likelihood of a major oil spill.

Edelman’s plan was specifically designed to “[… ] add layers of difficulty for our opponents, distracting them from their mission and causing them to redirect their resources,” according to the documents.

It stressed developing “supportive third parties, who can in turn put the pressure on, especially when TransCanada can’t.

In other words, the goal would be to attack environmentalists head on with supporters recruited by, but not necessarily directly affiliated with, Edelman and TransCanada

Greenpeace said: “Edelman’s plan involve a ‘seeding strategy,’aimed at getting trusted academics and TV shows to parrot pro-TransCanada propaganda. The plan rounds out it’s immersive assault on key communities using hyperlocal, geotargeted messaging to take over Facebook feeds and local TV programming… Edelman plans on using the astroturf plan to influence media, the public, politicians, and regulatory agencies.” 

With concerns about climate change and activism quite properly on the rise, along with the dire warnings from climate scientists, sophisticated PR campaigns to shut down opposition to fossil fuel and promote climate change denial has become almost a neccessity for companies like TransCanada

The Motherboard article also says that Edelman runs software called the ‘Grassroots Multiplier’ that it claims can ‘convert average citizens’ into pro-oil ‘true champions.’  Now that resonated with me. We know for sure that this company and its clients are spying on campaigners like me. I contacted Edelman earlier this year to ask them why they were interested in visiting my site. I had no response. 

In April 1998 the Los Angeles Times reported that Edelman had drafted a campaign plan to ensure that state attorneys-generals did not join antitrust legal actions against Microsoft. Documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times revealed that the astroturfing plan included generating ‘supportive’ letters to the editor, opinion pieces, and articles by freelance writers. 

USA Today said the plan included “unusual, and some say unethical tactics, including the planting of articles, letters to the editor and opinion pieces to be commissioned by Microsoft’s top media handlers but presented by local firms as spontaneous testimonials.”  

In 2008 Edelman’s work with E.ON, which planned to build a coal power station at Kingsnorth attracted protests at Edelman‘s UK headquarters. In 2009, to coincide with the weeklong ‘Climate Camp’ range of protests, a group of naked protestors occupied Edelman‘s reception, generating much media attention.

Edelman also provided ‘crisis management’ support and communications for Rupert Murdoch and News Corporation during the phone hacking scandal. 

Among the controversial aspects of Edelman’s history is its work for various tobacco companies in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s. Documents released under the Master Settlement Agreement revealed how the company played a key role in preventing effective legislation against the tobacco industry and manipulating public opinion on tobacco and its adverse effects on health in the US.

Other documents reveal how Edelman assisted transnational tobacco companies “to slow, to stop, to reverse the growing belief that smoking is harmful to the nonsmoker,” encouraging clients to “break out of the tried and true principles of Public Relations – 101 and massage some truly creative ideas.”

As late as the mid-1990s, Edelman was helping Philip Morris fight smoking bans and working to generate positive media coverage for Marlboro’s products. By then the risks of smoking – the health-damaging and life-limiting effects of tobacco – were widely known and scientifically verified several times over.

Other clients of Edelman have included the despotic and repressive government of Saudi Arabia. Mind you, our own government sells arms to the same government.

Cision are another PR company that provide social media ‘monitoring’ and I have had visits to my site from theirs. The company offers three web-based packages: the ‘CisionMarketing Suite’, the ‘Public Relations Suite’ and a ‘Government Relations and Political Action Committee Suite’The Cision ‘Public Relations Suite’ allows users to distribute press releases, access a database of bloggers and journalists, and monitor and analyse news and social media sites. 

The company’s ‘Government Relations Suite’ manages government contacts, analyses lobbying activity, facilitates communication with elected officials and provides PAC compliance software for filing reports to the FEC and state elections commissions (in US). Cision also have a UK base at Canary Wharf, London. They offer a service to businesses that enables business and other actors to “Monitor millions of social media, mainstream news and online news sources, to help you control your story.” 

Ultimately these strategies are all about public ‘knowledge management’ and manipulation.

A listed app called meltwater has also showed up on my stats page more recently. Outside Insight is Meltwater’s Media Intelligence and Social Media Monitoring tool. Their site says: “PR professionals lean on Meltwater’s product suite to help them boost their brand’s position and demonstrate their ROI (Return on Investment).”

Another app that is used to refer people to my site is from the People Pattern Corporation, which is a market research company that say: “While most social marketing tools focus on analyzing conversations about a brand, we know that the most valuable insights come from studying the people behind those conversations.”

I can’t help but wonder what they made of me and my humble, anti-neoliberal, unprepackaged, unsold, unsponsored, unspun, kiss-my-ass-rational, researched and evidenced analysis and commentaries. 

Then there is Falcon IO, also regularly visiting my site, who say: “Managing brand perception in a world of social and online sharing can seem daunting. Social listening is the first step to regaining control.” What strikes me is the complete lack of transparency surrounding the traffic being directed to my site from these PR companies. I can’t access any of the sites via the links in my traffic stats.

This company say they use behavioural insights to manipulate people’s opinion, using social media as a platform.

So do the Government. In 2008 one member of Boris Johnson’s campaign team was caught posting comments on blogs critical of his boss without sufficiently concealing their identity. A few years later, another member of Johnson’s campaign was found posing as a ‘concerned’ Labour supporter trying to prevent Ken Livingstone from being the party’s candidate for mayor. 

As Adam Bienkov says: “Twitter and blogging have given a voice to millions and allowed genuine opposition movements to take their case to the masses. Censorship of these movements has not always proved effective, with only authoritarian governments possessing the means and the will to implement it. For big business and less repressive governments, the alternative of simply crowding out your opposition online must seem a far more attractive prospect.”

It’s a lucrative business too. On Facebook, it’s commonplace for people with community pages to get a notification asking you to ‘boost’ your posts for a sum of money. This increases the reach of the post – more people see it. This means that those who can afford to pay the most to Facebook have the most prominent positions in newsfeeds, the biggest audiences and potentially, the greatest influence on opinion, as it simply crowds out alternative perspectives.

Even our views and beliefs are being subjected to market forces, as social media platforms are increasingly neoliberalised and thus become increasingly undemocratised. 

Attempts to manipulate the media and public opinion are on the rise – spurred on in part by the repressive political mood in the UK and the growing reach of the internet.

Green plastering the internet

Astroturfing has become a powerful and efficient public opinion management strategy for many organisations, and also for the state. Pre-written letters to an editor have turned into opinion-spamming and fake online reviews. The internet has offered a broad arena to practise astroturfing. It’s an irony that the agriculture world’s prince of darkness. Monsanto, invented the real ‘chemgrass’ asfroturf. And by coincidence, Edelman launched a charm offensive for the GMO giant, intimidating environmentally friendly bloggers and pointing out the occasional ‘couple of errors’ here and there. Seems like a commonly used PR tactic, then. Edelman got pretty much the same treatment that I’ve given 3X1. Quite properly so. I take this democracy and free speech idea very seriously, as it happens.

Astroturfing can range from a few forum posts online or comments praising a company or government ideology and policy to something rather closer to harassmentand abuse, and from genuine disagreement and independent troublemakers to organised ‘trolls’, and acutely personal and intimidating attacks from entirely fake campaigners.

Organisations involved in competition may also suffer substantially from astroturfing practices, when competitors are, for example, spreading false information and rumours about them.

But then, so do campaigners, grassroots groups and academic critics, increasingly. The difference between astroturfing and grassroots movements is that grassroots movements are authentic, created spontaneously and promote issues in the public interest, whereas fake grassroots movements are created artificially by, for example, organisations or the state. Astroturfing is all about promoting private interests.

Lobbyists and PR experts are usually behind fake grassroots movements. George Monbiot also adds the state as one of the actors behind astroturfing. Astroturfing is a weapon that state and corporate players use. Monbiot defines astroturfing as a technique, which mimics spontaneous grassroots mobilisations.

He says: “Companies now use “persona management software”, which multiplies the efforts of each astroturfer, creating the impression that there’s major support for what a corporation or government is trying to do.

 This software creates all the online furniture a real person would possess: a name, email accounts, web pages and social media. In other words, it automatically generates what look like authentic profiles, making it hard to tell the difference between a virtual robot and a real commentator.

 Fake accounts can be kept updated by automatically reposting or linking to content generated elsewhere, reinforcing the impression that the account holders are real and active.

 Human astroturfers can then be assigned these “pre-aged” accounts to create a back story, suggesting that they’ve been busy linking and retweeting for months. No one would suspect that they came onto the scene for the first time a moment ago, for the sole purpose of attacking an article on climate science or arguing against new controls on salt in junk food.

 With some clever use of social media, astroturfers can, in the security firm’s words, “make it appear as if a persona was actually at a conference and introduce himself/herself to key individuals as part of the exercise … There are a variety of social media tricks we can use to add a level of realness to fictitious personas.”

Perhaps the most disturbing revelation is this. The US Air Force has been tendering for companies to supply it with persona management software, which will perform the following tasks:

a. Create “10 personas per user, replete with background, history, supporting details, and cyber presences that are technically, culturally and geographically consistent … Personas must be able to appear to originate in nearly any part of the world and can interact through conventional online services and social media platforms.”

b. Automatically provide its astroturfers with “randomly selected IP addresses through which they can access the internet” (an IP address is the number which identifies someone’s computer), and these are to be changed every day, “hiding the existence of the operation”. The software should also mix up the astroturfers’ web traffic with “traffic from multitudes of users from outside the organisation. This traffic blending provides excellent cover and powerful deniability.”

c. Create “static IP addresses” for each persona, enabling different astroturfers “to look like the same person over time”. It should also allow “organisations that frequent same site/service often to easily switch IP addresses to look like ordinary users as opposed to one organisation.”

Software like this has the potential to destroy the internet as a forum for constructive debate. It jeopardises the notion of online democracy. Comment threads on issues with major commercial implications are already being wrecked by what look like armies of organised trolls – as you can sometimes see on guardian.co.uk.

The internet is a wonderful gift, but it’s also a bonanza for corporate lobbyists, viral marketers and government spin doctors, who can operate in cyberspace without regulation, accountability or fear of detection. In recent years, the lobbying game has changed because of social media websites, citizen journalism (described by one lobbyist as “a major irritant”), and online petitions capable of getting millions of signatures in a matter of hours. Among the lobbyists affected by this shift is James Bethell, whose firm, Westbourne Communications, is in the business of fighting back against what it calls the “insurgency tactics” of online campaigners.

Tamasin Cave and Andy Rowell, writing for Vice, say: Today, commercial lobbyists operate sophisticated monitoring systems designed to spot online threats. It you bad-mouth a large corporation in 140 characters, chances are the corporation’s social media people will find it. Their job, then, is to sift through the sea of online malcontents and find the “influencers.”

“The person making a lot of noise is probably not the influential one,” Mike Seymour, the former head of crisis management at PR and lobbying giant Edelman, told fellow flacks attending a conference across the road from UK Parliament in November 2011. “You’ve got to find the influential one, especially if they are gatherers of people against us.” His point was eloquently made by events happening across town—as he spoke, Occupy protests were creating headlines around the world. Seymour explained that once these influencers are identified, “listening posts” should be put out there, to “pick up the first warning signals” of activist operations. 

Once they have this intelligence, lobbyists can get to work. Part of Westbourne’s response to HS2 critics was to “zero in” and counter “inconsistent” press reports, as Bethell explained to high-speed rail advocates in the US. More broadly, Westbourne has advised US lobbyists of the need to “pick off” their critics with “sniper-scope accuracy” – to “shut them up,” as he explained to an audience of distinguished guests at a conference in 2012. Westbourne engages in aggressive rebuttal campaigns, which involves creating a feeling among opponents that everything they say will be picked apart. This is an “exhausting but crucial” part of successful lobbying, says Bethell.

This ‘exhausting but crucial part of successful lobbying’ includes injecting all sorts of false material onto the internet in order to destroy the reputation of targeted opponents; and the use of techniques drawn from the social sciences, linguistics, poropaganda and the advertising industry to manipulate and warp online discourse and activism to generate outcomes that PR companies’ clients – including governments and the corporate sector – considers desirable.

The corporate is also the political: the cosy relationship of shared totalitarian tactics

Glenn Greenwald is an American journalist and author, best known for his role in a series of reports published by The Guardian newspaper beginning in June 2013, detailing the US and UK global surveillance programmes, and based on classified documents disclosed by Edward Snowden.  

In June 2013, a visit by notionally jackbooted government national security agents to smash computer hard drives at the Guardian newspaper offices hit the news surprisingly quietly, when Snowden exposed a gross abuse of power and revealed mass surveillance programmes by American and British secret policing agencies (NSA and GCHQ

David Miranda, partner of Greenwald, Guardian interviewer of the whistleblower Snowden, was held for 9 hours at Heathrow Airport and questioned under the Terrorism Act. Officials confiscated his personal electronics equipment including his mobile phone, laptop, camera, memory sticks, DVDs and games consoles. 

This was an intimidation tactic, and a profound attack on press freedoms and the news gathering process. As Greenwald said: “To detain my partner for a full nine hours while denying him a lawyer, and then seize large amounts of his possessions, is clearly intended to send a message of intimidation.” Even the Telegraph columnist Janet Daley remarked that these events were like something out of East Germany in the 1970s. 

A couple of years back, Greenwald wrote: “Surveillance agencies have vested themselves with the power to deliberately ruin people’s reputations and disrupt their online political activity even though they’ve been charged with no crimes, and even though their actions have no conceivable connection to terrorism or even national security threats.  

“As Anonymous expert Gabriella Coleman of McGill University told me, “targeting Anonymous and hacktivists amounts to targeting citizens for expressing their political beliefs, resulting in the stifling of legitimate dissent.” Pointing to this study she published, Professor Coleman vehemently contested the assertion that “there is anythingterrorist or violent in their actions.”

Government plans to monitor and influence internet communications, and covertly infiltrate online communities in order to sow dissension and disseminate false information, had long been the source of speculation.

Harvard Law Professor Cass Sunstein, [co-author of “Nudge”, with behavioural economist Richard Thaler], a close Obama adviser and the White House’s former head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, wrote a controversial paper in 2008 proposing that the US government employ teams of covert agents and pseudo-independent advocates to “cognitively infiltrate” online groups and websites, as well as other activist groups.

Sunstein also proposed sending covert agents into “chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups” which spread what he views as false and damaging “conspiracy theories” about the government. Legitimate criticisms, in other words. I’ve suggested that nudge strategies are being deployed to influence political opinions online for some time. They are.

But the GCHQ documents were the first to prove that a major western government is using some of the most controversial techniques to disseminate deception online and harm the reputations of targets. Under the tactics they use, the state is deliberately spreading lies on the internet about whichever individuals it targets, including the use of what GCHQ itself calls “false flag operations” and emails to people’s families and friends.

Who would possibly trust a government to exercise these powers at all, let alone do so in secret, with virtually no oversight, and outside of any cognizable legal framework?

Then there is the use of psychology and other social sciences to not only understand, but shape and control, how online activism and discourse unfolds.

Greewald said in 2015: “Today’s newly published document touts the work of GCHQ’s “Human Science Operations Cell,” devoted to “online human intelligence” and “strategic influence and disruption”:

Under the title “Online Covert Action”, the document details a variety of means to engage in “influence and info ops” as well as “disruption and computer net attack,” while dissecting how human beings can be manipulated using “leaders,” “trust,” “obedience” and “compliance”:


The documents lay out theories of how humans interact with one another, particularly online, and then attempt to identify ways to influence the outcomes – or “game” it:

Claims that government agencies are infiltrating online communities and engaging in “false flag operations” to discredit targets are often dismissed as conspiracy theories, but these documents leave no doubt they are doing precisely that.

No government should be able to engage in these tactics: there can be no justification for government agencies to target people – who have been charged with no crime – for reputation-destruction, infiltratation [and sometimes destruction] of online political communities, and for developing techniques for manipulating online discourse. But to allow those actions with no public knowledge, informed consent or accountability is particularly dangerous as well as completely unjustifiable.

PR is concerned with selling products, persons, governments and policies, corporations, and other institutions. In addition to marketing products, PR has been variously used to attract investments, influence legislation, raise companies’ public profiles, put a positive spin on policies, disasters, undermine citizens campaigns, gain public support for conducting warfare, and to change the public perception of repressive regimes.

As I said in the opening paragraphs, these reflect the actions of a government (and state sponsors) teetering on the brink of totalitarianism.

 

Related 

Atos’s PR company director wants me to phone him about one of my articles

More allegations of Tory election fraud, now we need to talk about democracy

Social media is being used to stage manage our democracy using nudge-based strategies

Theresa May pledges to create new internet that would be controlled and regulated by government

The inexorable rise of the PR men

These astroturf libertarians are the real threat to internet democracy – George Monbiot

I share Monbiot’s observations that discussions of issues in which there’s little money at stake tend to be a lot more civilised than debates about issues where big business stands to lose or gain billions: such as climate change, public health, equality and corporate tax avoidance.

These are often characterised by incredible levels of abuse and disruption. I have also noted the strong association between this tactic and a clearly identifiable set of values that are pro-neoliberal. Such values would be remarkably self-defeating for ordinary citizens to hold – the equivalent of daily hitting yourself in the face while simultaneously simply handing out your income to the state and millionaires. These values are: pro-corporate, anti-tax, anti-welfare and anti-regulation.

Many ‘libertarians’ argue that reducing the state means liberation: ‘freedom’ for citizens to pursue their own interests. In an era of all-pervasive government social experimentation in behavoural economics,  citizen psychoregulation and micromanagement and increasing western political authoritarianism, that’s hardly likely to come to pass. The many libertarians I’ve enountered online have a profound dislike of the promotion of civil rights and genuine citizen freedoms. That’s just for ‘snowflakes’, apparently.

The US libertarians are invariably strident patriots,they defend the military and bang on about the right to own a gun so that they can defend their ‘private property’. You can point out to these often aggressive and abusive commentators who like to call you ‘snowflake’, ‘leftard’ , ‘do-gooder’ (absurdly), and ‘bleeding heart liberal’, that without a degree of welfare and healthcare, many can’t possibly be ‘free’, but to no avail.

They simply become more abusive, rational debate becomes impossible and subsequently predictably shuts down. It’s difficult to believe that these parading ‘ordinary folk’ despots are commenting with ordinary folk’s best interests in mind.

 


 

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The Electoral Commission has opened yet another inquiry into Momentum’s election spending

The Electoral Commission has launched another investigation into whether campaign group Momentum breached rules on spending at the last General Election.


The Commission issued a statement, which says:

“The rules governing spending at UK Parliamentary general elections by permitted participants, including non-party campaigners, are set out in the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA).

The investigation will look at:

  • whether or not Momentum spent in excess of the spending limits for an unauthorised non-party campaigner in the UK Parliamentary general election;
  • whether or not Momentum submitted a return that did not include accurate donation information and/or the required declaration stating that the donation return was complete and accurate;
  • whether or not Momentum submitted a return that was not a complete statement of payments made in respect of controlled expenditure;
  • whether or not Momentum submitted a return that did not include all invoices for payments of more than £200.

It is possible that during the course of the investigation, the Commission will identify potential contraventions and/or offences under PPERA other than those set out above.

All the Commission’s investigations are conducted in accordance with our Enforcement Policy.”

Bob Posner, the Electoral Commission’s Director of Political Finance and Regulation and Legal Counsel, said:

“Momentum are a high profile active campaigning body. Questions over their compliance with the campaign finance rules at June’s general election risks causing harm to voters’ confidence in elections. There is significant public interest in us investigating Momentum to establish the facts in this matter and whether there have been any offences.

“Once complete, the Commission will decide whether any breaches have occurred and, if so, what further action may be appropriate, in line with its enforcement policy.”

Rules for non-party campaigners

Rules have been in place since 2000 for all campaigners that spend money on regulated campaigning activities. These rules include campaigners and campaigning organisations which are not political parties but whose activities can be reasonably regarded as intending to influence voters in the run-up to an election.

The law enables non-party campaigners which wish to undertake ‘targeted spending’ – intended to influence people to vote for one particular registered political party or any of its candidates – to do so within prescribed spending limits. These are £31,980 in England; £3,540 in Scotland; £2,400 in Wales; and £1,080 in Northern Ireland. These limits apply during the regulated period which is 9 June 2016 to 8 June 2017.

Registered non-party campaigners are only entitled to spend above these limits if they have the authorisation of the political party that they are promoting. If that party provides authorisation, the registered non-party campaigner can spend up to the limit authorised by the political party. It is an offence to spend above the statutory limits without the party’s authorisation. Should the party provide authorisation for a higher spending limit, any spending by that non-party campaigner up to that limit would count towards the party’s national spending limit.

A spokesperson for Momentum said: “Momentum put a lot of effort and resources into detailed budgeting and financial procedures during the election to ensure full compliance.

“Our election campaign was delivered on a low budget because it tapped into the energy and enthusiasm of tens of thousands of volunteers across the country.

“Much of the Electoral Commission investigation refers to administrative errors that can be easily rectified. We have a good working relationship with the Electoral Commission, and will fully comply with the investigation going forward.”

Momentum have been under almost continuous investigation since 2015, following various complaints ranging from data mining to sending unsolicited emails. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), however, found no evidence to substantiate what was a handful of complaints. A disclosure from the ICO states: 

The ICO made enquiríes around Momentum using personal data to contact Labour part members following a small number of complaints December 2O15.

We did not find any breach of the Data Protection Act. 

Consequently there is no strong evidence in this case to indicate that Momentum has breached the DPA. We do not, therefore, intend to look further into this concern unless you can provide some evidence to indicate that Momentum did in fact obtain your personal data from the Labour Party. 

We are aware of media reports about this matter but the ICO works on the basis of evidence and to date we have not been provided with any such evidence. I should also explain that we do not have any wider concerns about Momentum’s information rights practice at this point. Therefore we have not raised your concern with Momentum on this occasion and are not taking any further action in relation to your concern.

However, your concern will be kept on file and this will help us over time to build a picture of Momentum’s information rights practices.

Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention.
Yours sincerely
Joy Corne
Lead Case Officer
Information Commissioner’s Office.

Following the General Election in July, the Electoral Commission highlighted “troubling” reports that a number of people (students) had voted twice in the election, saying evidence had emerged of people admitting to the offence online. 

An election analyst had cast doubt over claims that some Conservatives could have lost their seats in the General Election due to double-voting by students. 

More than 1,000 emails were sent to the watchdog by members of the public over the issue, while 38 Conservative MPs also complained about the alleged crimes. Of course the Commission found no evidence of double-voting.

It’s as if the Conservatives deliberately refuse to understand that some people don’t want to vote for them, especially groups that have been targeted for draconian Conservative policies. The Tories have not been kind to young people.

The Conservatives also have longstanding form in smearing and discrediting their opponents in the most outrageous manner. Disabled people can testify to that. As can jeremy Corbyn. Just a glance at the right-wing press tells you all you need to know about Conservative rumour-mongering, lies and utterly psychopathic ruthlessness.

Here is the outcome of a previous ECO inquiry:


Most media outlets have reported this second inquiry. The timing certainly draws a little fire away from the current catastrophic punch-drunk and incoherent stumblings of the Government. I predict that once the media have finished beating their drums, the matter will simply vanish from the public news radar, finally coming to rest in that graveyard where all dead cat strategies end up bouncing to. 

It’s in a tiny village in a City called ‘distraction’, a called ‘no evidence’ , where people speak the language misdirection.

Related

More allegations of Tory election fraud, now we need to talk about democracy

 


I don’t make any money from my work. But you can support Politics and Insights and contribute by making a donation which will help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others. The smallest amount is much appreciated, and helps to keep my articles free and accessible to all – thank you. 

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Social media is being used to stage manage our democracy using nudge-based strategies

 

Image result for Online propaganda

A study from the University of Oxford, published this month, has concluded what many of us already know: bots, shills and trolls are working together to spread propaganda and disinformation, disrupt discussions, discredit individuals and are attempting to manipulate social media users’ political views.

The report warns: “Computational propaganda is one of the most powerful new tools against democracy.” 

The Oxford Internet Institute says that computational propaganda is the use of algorithms, automation, and human curation to purposefully distribute misleading information over social media networks. Social media are actively used as a tool for public opinion manipulation in diverse ways and on various topics.

Bots and trolls work to stifle authentic and reasoned debate between people in favour of a social network populated by (usually aggressive) argument and soundbites and they can simply make online measures of social support, such as the number of  “likes” (which can, of course, be bought), look larger  – crucial in creating the illusion of consensus and encouraging a bandwaggon effect.

In democracies, social media are actively used for computational propaganda, through broad efforts at opinion manipulation and by targeted experiments on particular segments of the public (which is antidemocratic in itself). This strategy isn’t so far removed from the “big data” approach, where individuals are targeted in election campaigns to receive personal messages that are highly tailored, designed to appeal to certain categories of “personality types” as discerned by the use of extensive data mining and psychological profiling techniques. 

The report also says that “In every country we found civil society groups trying, but struggling, to protect themselves and respond to active disinformation campaigns.” 

The research team involved 12 researchers across nine countries who, altogether, interviewed 65 experts, analyzed tens of millions posts on seven different social media platforms during scores of elections, political crises, and national security incidents.

They say that in democracies, individual users design and operate fake and highly automated social media accounts. Political candidates, campaigns and lobbyists rent larger networks of accounts for purpose-built campaigns while governments assign public resources to the creation, experimentation and use of such accounts.

Ultimately the presence of bots, shils and trolls on social media is a right-wing bid to stage manage our democracy, in much the same way that the biggest proportion of the rabidly right-wing corporate media has, until recently.

The report describes online propaganda as a “phenomenon that encompasses recent digital misinformation and manipulation efforts”, which “involves learning from and mimicking real people so as to manipulate public opinion across a diverse range of platforms and device networks”.

According to the report, bots “played a small but strategic role” in shaping Twitter conversations during the EU referendum last year. Bots work most effectively and powerfully when working together with trolls.

Political bots, social media bots used for political manipulation, are also effective tools for strengthening online propaganda and hate campaigns. One person, or a small group of people, can use an army of political bots on Twitter to give the illusion of large-scale consensus. Bots are increasingly being used for malicious activities associated with spamming and harassment.

According to the report authors: “The family of hashtags associated with the argument for leaving the EU dominated, while less than one percent of sampled accounts generated almost a third of all the messages.”

Political bots, built to look and act like real citizens, are being deployed in determined anti-democratic efforts to silence oppostion and to push official state messaging. Political campaigners, and their supporters, deploy political bots – and computational propaganda more broadly – during elections in attempts to sway the vote and defame critics. 

Anonymous political actors harness key elements of computational propaganda such as false news reports, coordinated disinformation campaigns, and troll mobs to attack human rights defenders civil society groups, and independent commentators and journalists.

The report warns “Computational propaganda is one of the most powerful new tools against democracy.” Facebook in particular has attracted a great deal of criticism in recent months, due to the rise and promotion of fake news.

Mark Zuckerberg initially denied that false stories spread through the social network had an effect on the US Presidential election, but changed his stance soon after.

The University of Oxford report says social media sites need to redesign themselves in order to regain trust.

The role of Intelligence Services in the deployment of psy-ops

 

In 2015, Glenn Greenwauld published a series of documents from the Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG). He says that though its existence was secret until 2014, JTRIG quickly developed a distinctive profile in the public understanding, after documents from the National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that the unit had engaged in “dirty tricks” like deploying sexual “honey traps” designed to discredit targets, launching denial-of-service attacks to shut down internet chat rooms, pushing veiled propaganda onto social networks and generally warping discourse online. 

JTRIG’s tactics include seeding propaganda on social media, impersonating people online, and creating false blog posts to discredit targets.

A fascinating and must-read 42-page document from 2011 is particularly revealing, detailing JTRIG’s activities. It provides the most comprehensive and sweeping insight to date into the scope of this unit’s extreme methods. Entitled “Behavioral Science Support for JTRIG’s Effects and Online HUMINT [Human Intelligence] Operations,” it describes the types of targets on which the unit focuses, the psychological and behavioral research it commissions and exploits, and its future organizational aspirations.

The document is authored by a psychologist, Mandeep K. Dhami, a professor of  “Decision Psychology”. Dhami has provided advice on how JTRIG can improve its approach and attain “desired outcomes”, for example, by applying behavioural theories and research around persuasive communication, compliance, obedience, conformity, and the creation of trust and distrust.

Among other things, the document lays out tactics that the agency uses to manipulate public opinion, its scientific and psychological research into how human thinking and behaviour can be profiled and influenced, and the broad range of targets that are traditionally the province of law enforcement rather than intelligence agencies.

Since the general election in the UK, there has been a noticably massive increase in right-wing trolling presence and activity on Twitter. Most of the activity is directed towards discrediting Jeremy Corbyn. It’s very easy to spot a troll. They make outrageous claims that often read like tabloid headlines, resort quickly to personal attacks and attempts to discredit and smear when you disagree, and they never debate reasonably or evidence their comments.

In my experience, some, however, may initially engage reasonably, make a few concessions to evidenced debate, then suddenly show their true colours, by moving the goalposts of the debate constantly to include more disinformation, and by becoming aggressive, very personal and exceedingly irrational. My own management strategy is to address the claims made with a little evidence and fact, and block unhesitantly when it invariably turns ugly. 

The Oxford University research report concludes: “For democracies, we should assume that encouraging people to vote is a good thing. Promoting political news and information from reputable outlets is crucial. Ultimately, designing for democracy, in systematic ways, will help restore trust in social media systems. 

Computational propaganda is now one of the most powerful tools against democracy. Social media firms may not be creating this nasty content, but they are the platform for it. 

“They need to significantly redesign themselves if democracy is going to survive social media.”


Further reading

From the Intercept:

THE “CUBAN TWITTER” SCAM IS A DROP IN THE INTERNET PROPAGANDA BUCKET 

CONTROVERSIAL GCHQ UNIT ENGAGED IN DOMESTIC LAW ENFORCEMENT, ONLINE PROPAGANDA, PSYCHOLOGY RESEARCH

How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy Reputations – Glenn Greenwauld

Theresa May pledges to create new internet that would be controlled and regulated by government 

The media need a nudge: the government using ‘behavioural science’ to manipulate the public isn’t a recent development, nudging has been happening since 2010

 

Image result for online intelligence propaganda operations


I don’t make any money from my work. But you can support Politics and Insights and contribute by making a donation which will help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others. The smallest amount is much appreciated, and helps to keep my articles free and accessible to all – thank you.

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Theresa May voted against anti-terror legislation, Jeremy Corbyn signed a motion that condemned IRA violence in 1994

The Conservatives have conducted their election campaign with sneering contempt, meaningless soundbites, trivial glittering generalities and barely a veneer of democratic engagement.

The misleading comments, half-truths, out of context one-liners and misquotes that have dominated the Conservatives’ typically authoritarian approach are a disgrace to politics, and the media that has accommodated these deplorable tactics and vapid crib sheet insults without holding the government to account have also played a part in undermining our democracy and distorting the terms of debate.

Any question the Tories are asked that they would prefer not to answer is met with a descent into gossipmongering about Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott. And when pressed, the Conservatives are always conservative with the truth. They are masters at erecting fact proof screens. This shows that the Conservatives have nothing but contempt for our democratic process. 

The corporate media are providing fewer and fewer venues for genuine democratic deliberation of political issues. Ordinary citizens are most often being treated as passive receptacles of “information” provided by media networks. It’s all style over content, though. The media should never be reduced to being a front for Conservative fake news.

Indexing, and media framing means that large organizations authorised to advance a news agenda often take their direction from political elites, and rely on those elite actors as sources of “information.” Media literacy and public democratic debate has little room to thrive in such a media environment. That needs to change. The public’s trust in the media has already been undermined considerably over recent years. The biggest concern is the negative impact that this has on our democracy and on public interest.

The Tories have no decorum, nor do they offer any genuine discussion about the details of Conservative policies whatsoever. Even worse, the Conservatives are so arrogant, they don’t feel they have to discuss their policy intentions or behave in an accountable and transparent manner at all. This is a government that have got their own way for far too long. They have spent their campaign telling the public who they should and should not vote for.  To vote for anyone but the Conservatives, they say, is “dangerous”. 

Not if you happen to be sick and disabled, however. Ask the United Nations.

A strategy of tension and perpetuated myths

Despite what the Conservatives have been saying to the public, Jeremy Corbyn signed a motion in the House of Commons that condemned IRA violence and “extended its sympathy to the relatives of those murdered”. 

He supported an early day motion put forward by Labour MP David Winnick to commemorate the victims of the IRA bombing in Birmingham in 1974. 

The motion was tabled on the 20 year anniversary of the attack that killed 21 people and injured 182 others and was signed by Corbyn in November 1994.  

The motion said: “This House notes that it is 20 years since the mass killings of 21 people in Birmingham as a result of terrorist violence; deplores that such an atrocity occurred and again extends its deepest sympathy to the relatives of those murdered and also to all those injured. And strongly hopes that the present cessation of violence by the paramilitary organisations in Northern Ireland will be permanent and thus ensure that such an atrocity as took place in Birmingham as well as the killings in many other places both in Northern Ireland itself and Great Britain will never occur again.”

Despite the fact the Labour leader has said several times during televised interviews that he condemns “all bombing” that took place during that period, journalists, political editors and correspondents seem to nonetheless feel a need to constantly ask if he will “denounce” IRA terrorism. The Conservatives have been permitted to peddle untruths and manipulate half truths unchecked. It’s almost as if Lynton Crosby, the high priest of divisive politics, dead cats and dog whistles, has widely distributed a crib sheet of a limited range of limited questions to be repeated over and over, such as this one, to divert everyone from any discussion whatsoever about policies or anything remotely meaningful. 

I’m rather disgusted in our so-called “impartial” national media for allowing this to happen without any critical thought or investigation whatsoever. Or genuine facilitation of democratic debate. You know, those things that journalists and such are actually paid to do. 

If someone pressed me over and over to denounce the IRA and to imply that England were entirely blameless in the Troubles, I would have been much less polite than Corbyn. This was an absolutely disgusting manipulation of Corbyn’s integrity.

It is possible to feel sympathy for ALL of those deaths and those family and loved ones left behind, in such a tragic, violent and seemingly relentless ethno-nationalist conflict.

Despite the fact that the British government claimed neutrality and deployed military forces to Northern Ireland simply to “maintain law and order”, the British security forces focused on republican paramilitaries and activists, and the Ballast investigation by the Police Ombudsman confirmed that British forces colluded on several occasions with loyalist paramilitaries, were involved in murder, and furthermore obstructed the course of justice when claims of collusion and murder were investigated. 

The British Army shot dead thirteen unarmed male civilians at a proscribed anti-internment rally in Derry, on 30 January, 1972 (“Bloody Sunday”). A fourteenth man died of his injuries some months later and more than fourteen other civilians were wounded. The march had been organised by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA). 

This was one of the most prominent events that occurred during the Northern Irish Conflict as it was recorded as the largest number of people killed in a single incident during the period.

Bloody Sunday greatly increased the hostility of Catholics and Irish nationalists towards the British military and government while significantly elevating tensions during the Northern Irish Conflict. As a result, the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) gained more support, especially through rising numbers of recruits in the local areas.

It’s possible to recognise that those civilian deaths were an outrage and tragic. It’s possible to recognise the pain of their loved ones and families left behind. It’s also possible to condemn the acts of terrorism that left english civilians dead, too. It’s possible to honour ALL of those people who were killed in the conflict. I do.

Human lives are equally precious and have equal worth. It’s a mark of insighfulness, maturity and integrity to recognise this. History has a scattering of despots commiting atrocities and genocide, because they refused to consider all people as human beings. It seems we never learn, though. Holding this perspective does not mean that I cannot also condemn acts of despicable terrorism. 

The Good Friday Agreement in 1998 brought lasting peace. History actualy showed that Corbyn’s approach was the right one. So we need to ask ourselves why it is that Theresa May, her party, and the media are so fixated on events that happened over 20 years ago. For the record, Margaret Thatcher held secret meetings with the IRA to negotiate peace. John Major also had established links with the IRA for the same reason.

Quite properly so. It’s reasonable to expect our government to explore diplomatic solutions to conflicts in order to keep citizens safe.

It beggars belief that the media have permitted this opportunist political hectoring from the Tories to continue relatively unchallenged. It didn’t take a lot of  research – fact checking – to find this information, yet nobody else seems to have bothered.

It’s against the law for politicians to lie about their opponent’s character, or misrepresent them during an election campaign, by the way. I’m saving up all f those dark ads to send to the Electoral Commission with my complaint.

Just to emphasis how absurd the Conservative election campaign has become, it’s worth considering this:

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And this

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Does Prince Charles have “links with terrorists”?

FT5S-Gerry-Adams-Donald-Trump-Irish-Voice

How about Donald Trump?

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Gosh, I have a strong sense of deja vu

There is a picture of Corbyn circulating in both the mainstream media and on social media that was taken in 1995 with Gerry Adams, (of Sinn Fein), in an attempt to try to link Corbyn with IRA “sympathies”, albeit indirectly. The picture was actually taken after the Downing Street Declaration (an agreement between the UK and Ireland that the Northern Irish people had the right to self-determination) which led to the first IRA ceasefire, under Major’s government. Corbyn contributed to the debate by pushing the IRA to abandon the bombings and sit down to negotiate since the 1980s. He has made it clear that he prefers diplomatic solutions to war. Rightly so. War should only ever be considered as a last resort. Wars do not keep people safe, but sometimes they become necessary, of course.

Voting against Anti-Terrorism Legislation

Jeremy Corbyn has voted against Anti-Terrorism Bills. They are complex pieces of legislation which have sometimes presented human rights conflicts within the details, for example. Theresa May also voted against Anti-Terrorism Legislation in 2005. The Conservatives have certainly been conservative with the truth and misled the public, implying that Corbyn is “soft” on terrorism, but of course Theresa May isn’t. Strong and stable propaganda from the Selfservatives.

Amber Rudd said recently on the televised leader’s debate:“I am shocked that Jeremy Corbyn, just in 2011, ‘boasted’ that he had opposed every piece of anti-terror legislation in his 30 years in office.”

Much to Rudd’s discomfort, Corbyn has replied:

“Can I just remind you that in 2005 Theresa May voted against the anti-terror legislation at that time. She voted against it, as did David Davis, as did a number of people that are now in your cabinet, because they felt that the legislation was giving too much executive power.”  ( Jeremy Corbyn, BBC Election Debate.)

I looked at the voting records to fact check this. Corbyn is right, of course. Here is what I found:

On 28 Feb 2005: Theresa May voted no on the Prevention of Terrorism Bill — Third Reading 

On 9 Mar 2005: Theresa May voted no on Prevention of Terrorism Bill — Rejection of New Lords’ Amendment — Sunset Clause

On 9 Mar 2005: Theresa May voted no on Prevention of Terrorism Bill — Rejection of Lords’ Amendment — Human Rights Obligations

On 10 Mar 2005: Theresa May voted no on Prevention of Terrorism Bill — Insisted Amendment — on Human Rights Obligations 

Source: Theyworkforyou.  

Broadening my search, I also found:

Terrorism Act 2000 – legislation introduced by the Labour government which gave a broad definition of terrorism for the first time. The Act also gave the police the power to detain terrorist suspects for up to seven days and created a list of proscribed terrorist organisations.

May: Absent from the final vote.

Counter-terrorism Act 2008

This legislation gave powers to the police to question terrorist suspects after they had been charged. It also tried to extend detention without charge to 42 days, but the Labour government abandoned this after being defeated in the House of Lords.

May: Absent from the vote.

Political journalists are uninterested in serious political debate, and have permitted, fairly uniformly, Conservative propaganda to frame the debates, with the same misquotes, misinformation and misleading and trivial emphasis being repeated over and over. That the government are using such underhand tactics – mostly smear and fearmongering attempts – to win an election, unchallenged, is disgraceful. To witness such illiberal discussion taking place without a shred of concern is actually pretty frightening.

We have seen, over the last 7 years, the Conservatives’ authoritarianism embedded in punitive policies, in a failure to observe the basic human rights of some social groups, in their lack of accontability and diffusion of responsibility for the consequences of their draconian policies, and in their lack of democratic engagement with the opposition. Hurling personal insults, sneering and shouting over critics has become normalised by the Tories. People don’t recoil any more from what has often been dreadfully unreasonable hectoring. But they ought to.

Journalists may uphold public interest, they may contribute to the damage of democratic discourse, or they may remain indifferent. They make choices. One day the public will recognise those choices for what they are. The media have permitted a government to run an election campaign on simply telling people who they should not vote for, rather than one which informs people of policy choices, impacts and future political intentions. That is not healthy for democracy, which has been reduced by the Conservatives to gossipmongering, a lack of decorum, misquotes, dark ads and nudging people’s voting decisions.

You can learn such a lot about a person from the tone they use, and by a basic analysis of their language. The unforgettable slips by Iain Duncan Smith recently, when pressed about the triple tax lock and manifesto  – “Look, what we were trying to get away with… er… get away from, rather…” 

Who could forget Cameron’s slip: “We are saving more money for the rich”. A couple of moments of inadvertent truth.

Theresa May says “I will”.  A lot.

Jeremy Corbyn says “WE will”.

Only one of them is democratic and open to genuine dialogue. The other one is Theresa May.

 

Related

The biggest threat to our national security and safety is authoritarian Conservative posturing and their arms deals to despotic states

Theresa May lies about Labour Policy on Question Time 

Theresa May is ‘responsible’ for London terror attack and must resign says top David Cameron aide

I Served In Northern Ireland – And Corbyn’s Understanding Of The Troubles Has Been Proven Right By History

 


 

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Conservative dark ads on Facebook and the media commentaries grossly misrepresent Corbyn’s views on ‘national security’ issues

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                The real – Right wing authoritarian meets Pinochet

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The fake – Déjà vu: the Tories seem to imply that every Labour leader has “links” with the IRA and need a “coalition of chaos” to succeed. 

There is a picture of Corbyn circulating in both the mainstream media and on social media that was taken in 1995 with Gerry Adams, of Sinn Fein, in an attempt to try and link Corbyn with the IRA, albeit indirectly. The picture was actually taken after the Downing Street Declaration (an agreement between the UK and Ireland that the Northern Irish people had the right to self determination) which led to the first IRA ceasefire.

Corbyn contributed to the debate by pushing the IRA to abandon the bombings and sit down to negotiate since the 1980s. Margaret Thatcher held secret meetings with the IRA with the very same objective. By 1995, the Conservative Prime Minister John Major had taken the first hugely important steps towards peace in Northern Ireland. Blair built on that with the Good Friday Agreement, which led to lasting peace.

Corbyn has publicly denounced ALL acts of terrorism. Several times.

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You never hear of the Tories being “concerned” about Prince Charles’s links with the IRA, do you.

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Or Donald Trump’s

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and curiously, Boris Johnson’s (what a complete hypocrit).

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The Conservatives win general elections by using a combination of lying, smearing the opposition, misquoting the opposition and micro-targeted psychological manipulation that largely entails fearmongering and more lies.  Furthermore, much of this approach is being embedded in “dark ads” on social media, which target individuals, and are tailored according to the psychological profile of the recipient, to manipulate their perceptions. The profiling is based on “big data”, collected from a variety of sources, including social media platforms. The role of big data and social data and the micro-targeting of voters to influence voting decisions and election outcomes cannot be ignored.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), a public body in charge of data protection in Britain, began a formal investigation into the use of data analytics for political purposes last month. In a statement, an ICO spokesperson said:

“These tools have a significant potential impact on individuals’ privacy,” adding that public awareness about how personal data was being collected online was generally low.

“It is important that there is greater and genuine transparency about the use of such techniques.”

Facebook itself has declined to comment on its advertising sales strategy for the British election.

In 2015, I wrote an article about Cameron being subjected to much ridicule after he misquoted the leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, by taking his comments out of context, during the Prime minster’s Conservative party conference speech. This led to thousands of people sharing a video of Cameron himself describing Osama bin Laden’s death as “a tragedy.” 

Corbyn’s original comments had come from an interview with Iranian news channel, The Agenda. During the interview, Jeremy Corbyn, who was actually introduced as an “outspoken rebel in the Labour party’s ranks”, said:

“There was no attempt whatsoever that I can see to arrest him, to put him on trial, to go through that process.

This was an assassination attempt, and is yet another tragedy, upon a tragedy, upon a tragedy.

The World Trade Center was a tragedy, the attack on Afghanistan was a tragedy, the war in Iraq was a tragedy. Tens of thousands of people have died. Torture has come back on to the world stage, been canonised virtually into law by Guantanamo and Bagram.”

However the malicious Cameron made no show of an attempt at quoting Corbyn correctly and instead used the old quote out of context, to mislead people, claiming he felt Corbyn somehow constituted a “threat to national security.” This is a long running theme in Conservative propaganda.

BBC’s Steven Sackur has previously said that as soon as Corbyn was elected as Labour party leader, the Conservatives “issued propaganda” suggesting that Corbyn is a “threat” to national security. He also pointed directly to the government’s fundamental lack of accountability, transparency and democracy in the unprecedented move to refuse to share military and intelligence information in 2015, which is conventionally shared with the leader of the opposition.

“National security” is a theme that has run through the Conservatives campaigns and media commentary since. It works because it generates fear. It’s the political use of psychological manipulation at its very worst, as it presents an “enemy” for the public to vote against, rather than something inspiring to vote for. 

The Conservative party always emphasise and distort issues of national defense and magnify our perception of threat, whether of foreign aggressors, immigrants, terrorists, or “invading” ideologies like Socialism (see the Zinoviev letter, for example). They reduce and present the world as a frightening place, and justify authoritarian policies to remedy the perceived threats. This is then used to portray the party as “strong”, and any opposition as “weak”. 

The Conservatives, with the cooperation of much of the media, are using this strategy of tension, designed intentionally to create public alarm, to divide, manipulate, and control public opinion using fear, propaganda, disinformation, intensive psychological operations and false flags in order to achieve their strategic aims – to portray the left as a “threat” to the wellbeing of society – and it reverberates around the media, to be used as part of an arsenal of pro-establishment, anti-progressive propaganda to discredit Corbyn. That is before he even has an opportunity to put the record straight. Yet even a glance through the Labour manifesto shows that this “threat” patently untrue.

The Labour party has again accused the Conservatives of creating “fake news” after a Tory attack video that went viral was edited to show Jeremy Corbyn refusing to condemn the IRA, when in fact the Labour leader said: “I condemn all the bombing by the loyalists and the IRA.”

The 85-second montage of Corbyn’s quotes has been circulating online for the last week and has been viewed 5.3m times, three times more than any other political campaign video. The Conservatives are also paying Facebook to insert it into people’s news feeds. It is subtitled: “On June 9th, this man could be Prime Minister. We can’t let that happen.”

Actually, we can and must. The frightful and unthinkable alternative is an extreme authoritarian right wing government with clear fascistic tendencies. 

Another Facebook advert that was paid for by the Conservatives claims Corbyn wants to abolish Britain’s armed forces. This is false. The Labour manifesto pledges to spend 2% of GDP on defence and states: “We will ensure that our armed forces are properly equipped and resourced to respond to wide-ranging security challenges.”

A spokesperson for the Labour Party said: “The Conservatives are running a hateful campaign based on smears, innuendo and fake news.

“They do so because they have nothing to offer the British people and their super-rich donors fear Labour’s plan to transform Britain for the many not the few.”

For balance, the Guardian asked Conservative HQ if they wanted to highlight false claims in any Labour party advertisments, but it declined. 

The media don’t help people sift facts from fiction either. Home Secretary Amber Rudd has claimed several times that she is “worried” about Labour’s ability to deal with terror threats. She based her claim on Corbyn’s “voting record”, saying: 

“I am shocked that Jeremy Corbyn, just in 2011, boasted that he had opposed every piece of anti-terror legislation in his 30 years in office.”

Much to Rudd’s discomfort, Corbyn has replied:

“Can I just remind you that in 2005 Theresa May voted against the anti-terror legislation at that time. She voted against it, as did David Davis, as did a number of people that are now in your cabinet, because they felt that the legislation was giving too much executive power.”  Jeremy Corbyn, Labour leader, BBC Election Debate.

I looked at the voting records to fact check this. Corbyn is right, of course. Here is what I found:

On 28 Feb 2005: Theresa May voted no on the Prevention of Terrorism Bill — Third Reading 

On 9 Mar 2005: Theresa May voted no on Prevention of Terrorism Bill — Rejection of New Lords’ Amendment — Sunset Clause

On 9 Mar 2005: Theresa May voted no on Prevention of Terrorism Bill — Rejection of Lords’ Amendment — Human Rights Obligations

On 10 Mar 2005: Theresa May voted no on Prevention of Terrorism Bill — Insisted Amendment — on Human Rights Obligations 

Source: Theyworkforyou.  

Broadening my search, I also found:

Terrorism Act 2000 – legislation introduced by the Labour government which gave a broad definition of terrorism for the first time. The Act also gave the police the power to detain terrorist suspects for up to seven days and created a list of proscribed terrorist organisations.

May: Absent from the final vote (there was no Second Reading)

Counter-terrorism Act 2008

This legislation gave powers to the police to question terrorist suspects after they had been charged. It also tried to extend detention without charge to 42 days, but the Labour government abandoned this after being defeated in the House of Lords.

May: Absent from the vote

Character assassination

Character assassination is a deliberate and sustained process that destroys the credibility and reputation of a person, institution, or social group. The method involves a mix of open and covert methods, such as raising false accusations, planting and fostering rumours, and manipulating information. It may also involve exaggeration, misleading half-truthsto present an untrue picture of the targeted person. It is a form of defamation and typifies the Conservative overuse of ad hominem argument in debate.

The Labour leader’s rising popularity, particularly since his recent televised appearances, has led to the Conservatives stepping up their heavy targeting of Corbyn with nine out of 10 of their adverts attacking him, according to an analysis of 889 Facebook ads placed by the three main parties into the feeds of more than 8,000 voters. The data has been gathered by the Who Targets Me project and analysed by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

One ad is subtitled: “A leader who supports our armed forces or one who wants to abolish them? The choice is clear: Corbyn and your security is too big a risk.”

By contrast, the Labour party hardly Theresa May in its social media campaign with only 9% of the 136 different ads seen so far by Who Targets Me referring to the prime minister.

The adverts that Labour is promoting hardest are related to policy, but the majority are urging people to get out and vote. The next most common topics addressed in paid for ads by the party are the NHS and tuition fees. The Conservatives are focusing most on smearing Corbyn, Brexit, the economy and security while the Liberal Democrats are using Facebook ads to talk about Brexit and dementia but also to seek donations.

The fact that the Conservatives feel safe enough to reduce politics to little more than smear and fear campaigning, and accusing anyone opposing them as subverting “the people’s will” indicates just how dangerously authoritarian they are.

It’s not as if the Conservatives have demonstrated any such democratic accountability and actually care about what the wider public think, until the run-up to an election day. Nor do they listen to what we have to say. A plurality of perspectives and healthy debate are the foundation of democracy, yet the Conservatives don’t want that. 

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Elections are supposed to provide choices: the opportunity for voters to have a say on the big issues. There is no shortage of serious questions facing Britain in 2017 – not just what type of relationship we want with the European Union after we leave, but on a much wider range of important economic and social challenges, after seven years of an unsuccessful “long term plan” of austerity cuts. 

It’s time to ensure that your voting decision is based on real policy choices, a responsible decision that prioritises both societies’ and your own best interests, rather than on a fleeting emotional response from empty style-over-content marketing strategies, and superficial glittering generalities captured in a meaningess Tory slogan or meme. The Tories don’t do dialogue or democracy: they simply shout over their opponents and critics very loudly to stifle healthy debate. They also pay a lot of money to ensure that they saturate social media with toxic smear campaigns and lies.

Don’t let the Tories buy the election again.

 

 

vote_labour_red


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David Dimbleby says Jeremy Corbyn is treated unfairly by a biased right wing press

Image result for Biased media UK

David Dimbleby has confirmed what many of us already knew – that Jeremy Corbyn has been treated unfairly and misrepresented by the media.

Dimbleby will be interviewing both Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May for a Question Time special on Thursday. Dimbleby said that most British newspapers show a right wing bias and complained of their “lazy pessimism”.

He said: “I don’t think anyone could say that Corbyn has had a fair deal at the hands of the press, in a way that the Labour party did when it was more to the centre, but then we generally have a rightwing press.”

He also suggested the Labour leader has more support among the public than he does among the parliamentary Labour party.

He went on to say: “My own prediction is that, contrary to the scepticism and lazy pessimism of the newspapers and the British media, it’s going to be a really fascinating night, and it will drive home some messages about our political system and the political appeal of different parties that no amount of polling or reading the papers will tell us.”

Just four months ago, the BBC Trust found a BBC political editor inaccurately reported Jeremy Corbyn’s views about shoot-to-kill policies in the aftermath of the terror attacks in Paris. 

The broadcaster’s regulator concluded that Laura Kuenssbergs report for the News at Six in November 2015 breached the broadcaster’s impartiality and accuracy guidelines, in a ruling that triggered an angry response from the corporation’s director of news. 

The News at Six item included a clip of Jeremy Corbyn saying: “I am not happy with a shoot-to-kill policy in general. I think that is quite dangerous and I think can often be counterproductive.”

Kuenssberg had presented the clip as Corbyn’s response to a question put to him on whether he would be “happy for British officers to pull the trigger in the event of a Paris-style attack”, but the Trust concluded that Corbyn had been speaking in a different context.

The Labour leader had acually been responding to a question about whether he would be happy to order police or military “to shoot to kill” on Britain’s streets – and not specifically regarding a Paris-style terrorist attack in the UK. 

The Trust agreed with the complainant that the news report misrepresented the Labour leader’s views on the use of lethal force and that it had wrongly suggested he was against the additional security measures which the item had said the government was proposing. The Trust also found that the inaccuracy was “compounded” when Kuenssberg went on to claim that Corbyn’s message “couldn’t be more different” to that of the prime minister, who was about to publish anti-terrorism proposals. 

The Trust agreed with the complainant, pointing out that accuracy in any one programme rather than the entire output was particularly important when dealing “with a critical question at a time of extreme national concern”.

The news item was edited to mislead the public. It’s a curious thing that the Conservatives have frequently used the very same tactic of deliberately misquoting Corbyn to misrepresent his views in their election campaign. It’s time there were tighter laws on this kind of nasty manipulation of pubic perceptions and opinion. 

It was agreed that: “According to this high standard [of accuracy], the report had not been duly accurate in how it framed the extract it used from Mr Corbyn’s interview.”

Inaccurate portrayals like this have become normalised by the media and the government.

However, it isn’t just the way that responses are mispresented that is problematic. The framing of issues is also heavily biased, reflecting the permitted success of the Conservatives and a predominantly right wing press to shape the entire news agenda. What we hear and read is a long way from impartiality and accuracy. 

BBC’s Steven Sackur has said that as soon as Corbyn was elected, the Conservatives “issued propaganda” suggesting that Corbyn is a “threat” to national security. He also pointed directly to the government’s fundamental lack of accountability, transparency and democracy in the unprecedented move to refuse to share military and intelligence information in 2015, which is conventionally shared with the leader of the opposition.

“National security” is a theme that has run through the Conservatives campaigns and media commentary since. It works because it generates fear. It’s the political use of psychological manipulation at its very worst, as it presents an “enemy” for the public to vote against, rather than something inspiring to vote for. 

The Conservative party always emphasise and distort issues of national defense and magnifies our perception of threat, whether of foreign aggressors, immigrants, terrorists, or “invading” ideologies like Socialism (see the Zinoviev letter, for example). They reduce and present the world as a frightening place, and justify authoritarian policies to remedy the perceived threats. This is then used to portray the party as “strong”, and any opposition as “weak”. 

The Conservatives, with the cooperation of most of the media, are using this strategy of tension, designed intentionally to create public alarm – to portray the left as a “threat” to the wellbeing of society – and it reverberates around the media, to be used as part of an arsenal of pro-establishment, anti-progressive propaganda to discredit Corbyn. That is before he even has an opportunity to put the record straight. Yet even a glance through the Labour manifesto shows that this “threat” patently untrue.

The media does not engage the public, instead there is a pre-determined, biased and right wing agenda being imposed and then presented as a consensus. The media is   contributing significantly to public cynicism and alienation and sowing divisiveness. We are witnessing the erosion of the media’s role of watchdog, as a guardian of public interest, and as a conduit between the governing and the governed. We are witnessing the mainstreaming of democratic decay.

 

Related

Election coverage alert 30 May: Distorted debates, vacuous interviewing techniques and more fake news in the Telegraph – 

The erosion of democracy and the repression of mainstream media in the UK


 

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