Aletho News

ΑΛΗΘΩΣ

Jessica Ashooh: The Taming of Reddit and the National Security State Plant Tabbed to Do It

How and why did a hawkish young mandarin hothoused at elite universities and in the halls of state power end up an executive at an anarchic messageboard site with an anti-establishment reputation?

Photo | Graphic by Antonio Cabrera
By Alan Macleod | MintPress News | June 11, 2021

Reddit is one of the world’s most influential news and social media platforms. The website attracted over 1.2 billion visits in April 2021 alone, making it the United States’ eighth most visited site, ahead of other leviathans like Twitter, Instagram and eBay. Now majority-owned by a much larger corporate publishing empire, Reddit is also far ahead of more established news sites, garnering three times the numbers of Fox News and five times those of The New York Times.

That is why it was so surprising that so little was made of the company’s decision to appoint foreign policy hawk Jessica Ashooh to the position of Director of Policy in 2017, at which time it was also the eight most visited site in the U.S. Ashooh, who had been a Middle East foreign policy wonk at NATO’s think tank the Atlantic Council, was appointed at around the same time that the Senate Select Intelligence Committee was demanding more control over the popular website, on the grounds that it was being used to spread disinformation. In her role as Director of Policy, she oversees all government relations and public policy for the company, in addition to managing content, product and advertising. Yet a Google search for “Jessica Ashooh Reddit” filtered between late 2016 and early 2017 (after she was appointed) elicits zero relevant results, meaning not one media outlet even mentioned the questionable appointment.

This is all the more hair-raising, given her resume as a high state official — all of which raises serious questions about the extent of collaboration between Silicon Valley and the national security state.

A hawk’s talons on Syria

The Atlantic Council is the de-facto brains of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and takes funding from the military alliance, as well as from the U.S. government, the U.S. military, Middle Eastern dictatorships, other Western governments, big tech companies, and weapons manufacturers. Its board of directors has been and continues to be a who’s who of high U.S. statespeople like Henry Kissinger, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, as well as senior military commanders such as retired generals Wesley Clark, David Petraeus, H.R. McMaster, James “Mad Dog” Mattis, the late Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft, and Admiral James Stavridis. At least seven former CIA directors are also on the board. As such, the council chooses to represent both political wings of the national security state.

Ashooh’s LinkedIn resume epitomizes the troubling relantionship between think tanks and big tech.

Between 2015 and 2017, Ashooh was Deputy Director of the Atlantic Council’s Middle East Strategy Task Force, working directly with and under Madeline Albright and Stephen Hadley. This is particularly noteworthy, given both these individuals’ roles in the region. As Bill Clinton’s secretary of state, Albright oversaw the Iraq sanctions and the Oil for Food Program, denounced as “genocide” by the successive United Nations diplomats charged with carrying them out. In an infamous interview with 60 Minutes, Albright casually brushed off a question about her role in the killing of half a million children, stating “the price is worth it.” Meanwhile, Hadley was deputy or senior national security advisor to the government of George W. Bush throughout the Afghanistan and Iraq invasions, surely the greatest crimes against humanity thus far in the 21st century.

Ashooh appears to be as hawkish as her bosses. Her particular area of expertise is the war in Syria, regarding which she has been among the most belligerent voices, constantly calling for more American intervention to overthrow the government of Bashar al-Assad. In a 2015 interview with Al Jazeera, she praised the U.K. government’s decision to bomb the country, claiming that the British public was “coming around” to the idea of war. A shocked interviewer asked “how will the British airstrikes [on] Syria… make the British public any safer?” Ashooh replied that it was “generally a positive decision” because “it goes a long way in improving international consensus on the way forward on Syria,” although she lamented that there wouldn’t be “much improvement in the situation without ground troops.” There will be “no political solution without a military element,” she predicted, essentially making the pitch for war.

Ashooh has also constantly praised and supported Syria’s opposition forces. In 2016, she said that she was very happy that “fighters on the ground from a number of key factions” were uniting against the “Assad regime.” She condemned Russia for claiming these opposition forces were members of terrorist groups like Al-Nusra, Jaysh al-Islam or ISIS, insisting that these were “moderate” rebels.

Of course, the idea that there was still any measurable distance between “moderate” rebels and outright militant jihadists by 2016 was hard to maintain. Even The Washington Post by this time was admitting as much, noting that so-called moderates were now so “intermingled” with al-Nusra that it was difficult to tell them apart.

Nevertheless, the New Hampshire native took to the pages of The New York Times to demand that the U.S. arm the opposition. Of course, it was already doing so, the CIA spending $1 billion per year fielding rebel mercenary armies in the conflict — with one in every 15 dollars the agency spent going to this endeavor. All of this Ashooh surely knew, yet she maintained that the West must continue to “jack up the price” of Russia defending Assad. “As long as [Assad] remains in power and remains the figurehead of the Syrian government… this conflict won’t end,” she said, laying out her regime-change-or-bust position. Just weeks before unexpectedly taking over at Reddit, Ashooh seemed to still be in full foreign-policy-hawk mode, condemning Obama in the pages of The Washington Post for his apparent softness on Syria and demanding that Trump “restore U.S. credibility” by “order[ing] targeted, punitive strikes against the Assad regime.”

Jessica Ashooh

Ashooh attends British Polo Day at Abu Dhabi’s Ghantoot Racing and Polo Club. Photo | Ahlan

Dirty war, dirty warrior

Ashooh is actually even more involved in the Syrian conflict than one might realize from her hawkish opinions alone. Between 2011 and 2015, she worked for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates, in her own words, “[p]rovid[ing] senior decision makers with policy analysis and strategic advice, with a particular focus on Syria.”

At that time the UAE was using its enormous financial clout to arm and fund a myriad of jihadist groups attempting to overthow the secular strongman Assad and establish some kind of Islamic state. Far from a conspiracy theory, this comes straight from the horse’s mouth, as then-Vice President Joe Biden revealed in a Q&A session in 2014. The future president frankly stated:

The Saudis, the Emiratis, what were they doing?… They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad, except that the people who were being supplied were al-Nusra and al-Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world. “

Under pressure, he later apologized for his loose lips.

MintPress News asked the Emirati Ministry of Foreign Affairs to comment on precisely what Ashooh’s role was, but they failed to respond.

Jessica Ashooh Kurdistan

Ashooh is pictured during her time as a “consultant” in Iraqi Kurdistan. Photo | Academyalumni

Ashooh herself appears to have been a relatively major player in the Syrian Civil War. In her previously mentioned Washington Post article, she notes that her boss was a former Emirati Air Force General and that she was flown to Istanbul in 2013 to attend an emergency meeting with leaders of the Syrian opposition, as well as ambassadors from unnamed Arab and Western states, in order to plan a response to a reported chemical weapons attack and to help the U.S. “coordinate with the Syrian opposition.”

At the same time as she was advising the nation on Middle Eastern affairs, the UAE was widely accused of flying ISIS and al-Qaeda leaders into Yemen to help them intensify the Saudi-led onslaught on the impoverished nation and of smuggling U.S.-made weaponry — including small arms, TOW missiles and Oshkosh fighting vehicles — to the jihadist groups. While Ashooh’s writing is careful to maintain a distinction between the “moderate” rebels she supports and the fundamentalist radicals she does not, it certainly is noteworthy that the entities she worked for consistently seem to end up in league with the most regressive forces in the region. MintPress also reached out to Reddit for comment on why they appointed Ashooh, given her past history, and on the wider phenomenon of government penetration of social media. The company initially promised to issue a response to the inquiry but has not followed through with it.

Opposing some dictatorships, supporting others

Regime change is on the table for more than just one Middle Eastern nation. In a 2017 paper for the Center for the National Interest — a think tank established by former Republican President Richard Nixon and the “Godfather of Neoconservatism,” Irving Kristol — Ashooh explores the different options for forcing regime change in Iran, but concludes that overthrowing the “odious regime” is an impossible task right now, and criticizes the idea as a quixotic dream.

Nevertheless, she is far from an Iran dove. An Atlantic Council report she co-wrote insists that “Iranian interference in the Arab world must be deterred,” and that “America’s friends and partners must be reassured that the U.S. opposes Iranian hegemony and will work with them to prevent it.”

Ashooh’s commitment to fighting against Middle Eastern dictatorships might seem more principled if she did not appear so enamored of the least democratic one of them all. In 2016, she accompanied Albright and Hadley to Saudi Arabia and praised the monarchy’s dynamic leadership on the economy and its nurturing of a new generation. “It was really really exciting to see that level of energy and the level of government support for these young people who were interested in shaping their own futures… it was just wonderful,” she said. In an article about her experience for business news website Market Watch, she waxed lyrical about how forward-thinking the Saudi government is and how the country has become “a hub for the dynamic and positive change that is swelling up throughout the region.” Presumably, this excludes Yemen, a nation they were bombing relentlessly. In a 2020 interview, Ashooh revealed that her dream job would be U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia. One of her earliest comments on her public Reddit page (made before she began working there) is deflecting the Kingdom from criticism of its dreadful treatment of women.

As part of the Atlantic Council, Ashooh was tasked with envisaging a new Middle East for the 21st century. Given her output, it seems that she advocates for a transition towards a more privatized, free-market economic setup, not completely unlike the shock therapy tried in Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s. “We have to “encourage states to make the reforms that move economies from state-based to ones that support entrepreneurship, because the age of state-based economies is over,” she said at a talk at New York University in 2015, adding:

You’ve got to move to support entrepreneurship in the region and let people take advantage of the natural industrial tendencies of people in the Middle East. My God, if you’ve ever been to a Turkish bazaar or a market in Cairo you know that these countries are perfectly capable of having functioning market economies. But the state has gotten in the way.

Ashooh’s LinkedIn profile also notes that in 2010, she worked as an advisor to the Iraqi Ministry of Planning “on a variety of strategic and economic development issues,” but does not go into any more detail about what those issues were. A further biography merely states that her consultancy agency “provid[ed] strategic and management consulting services to the Ministry of Planning of the Kurdistan Regional Government in Northern Iraq.” Unsurprisingly, the organization has links to the U.S. military; the agency’s lead partner being a former Army captain.

Think Tankie

Ashooh comes from a relatively prominent New Hampshire family of Lebanese descent, the most notable of which is probably her uncle Richard. Richard Ashooh was Donald Trump’s Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Export Administration and a former executive at weapons manufacturer BAE Systems. Unlike her uncle, Jessica appears to lean more Democratic, having donated money to a number of local politicians, as well as to anti-Trump Republican groups aimed at convincing them to vote blue, such as Right Side PAC and the now infamous Lincoln Project. However, she also appears to have great respect for many Republicans, having written her doctoral thesis at Oxford University on the Middle East policy of the George W. Bush administration. She also stated that the person she would have most liked to have met was 41st President George Bush Senior, describing him as possessing “incredible amounts of strategy, finesse and restraint.” Thus, her political views appear to be exactly in the center of the neoliberal “blob” in Washington.

Ashooh also worked for the right-wing think tank the CATO Institute and is a Term Member of the more Democratic-aligned Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). The CFR’s term member program is intended to, in its own words, “cultivate the next generation of foreign policy leaders.”

Surveillance Valley

How and why, then, did a hawkish young mandarin hothoused at elite universities and in the halls of state power end up an executive at an anarchic messageboard site with an anti-establishment reputation? Virtually everyone else in senior roles at Reddit has relevant backgrounds in marketing or tech, having worked with comparable companies such as Yelp, Expedia and Snapchat.

Tom Secker — a journalist, podcaster and researcher who runs SpyCulture.com, an online archive about government involvement in the entertainment industry — was deeply skeptical. “That someone whose entire career has been in international relations and foreign affairs is now the senior policy wonk at Reddit is simply bizarre. Given her ties to the CFR, Atlantic Council and the like, it’s downright suspicious,” Secker told MintPress.

Underneath the surface, however, the Atlantic Council has been rapidly expanding its influence and control over big social media companies. In 2018, it announced that it would be partnering with Facebook to promote trustworthy sources and derank, demote and even delete low quality or fake news, thus effectively curating what the platform’s 2.85 billion worldwide users see in their news feeds. But the effect of recent algorithmic changes has been to throttle alternative media traffic in favor of establishment sources such as CNNFox News and The New York Times. Even such more mainstream liberal sites as Mother Jones have seen their numbers crater. Facebook later admitted that they were directly targeting Mother Jones because of its left-leaning content, raising the question that if such a middle-of-the-road liberal outlet was being penalized, wasn’t the collapse in traffic to more radical publications surely deliberate? Given the Atlantic Council’s funding and the identities of those on its board, their control over social media is tantamount to state censorship on a global level.

Earlier this year, Facebook also hired NATO press officer Ben Nimmo to be its intelligence chief, in another move that dismayed free-speech advocates. In the past, Nimmo has identified a Welsh pensioner and an internationally known Ukranian pianist as Russian bots, raising more questions about the suitability of the Atlantic Council to be an arbiter of truth online.

The Facebook-Atlantic Council link mirrors that of Microsoft with NewsGuard, a new piece of software purportedly trying to fight fake news by placing either green shields or red warning logos, corresponding to an outlet’s credibility, beside all links in its browser, Microsoft Edge — this credibility being decided entirely by NewsGuard itself. Newsguard pushed Microsoft to install the software on all its products as standard. Again, however, NewsGuard’s system rated establishment websites like Fox News and CNN as trustworthy but independent media as suspect. And again, a glance at its advisory board makes it clear that this is a state operation. Those in key positions included George W. Bush’s Secretary of Homeland Security and former NSA and CIA Director General Michael Hayden; ex-White House Communications Director Don Baer; and former Secretary General of NATO Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Worse still, NewsGuard is also linked to a PR agency employed in whitewashing the Saudi government’s human-rights record and its role in the carnage in Yemen.

Twitter, too, has some extremely troubling links with state power. In 2019 Gordon MacMillan, a senior Twitter executive responsible for the Middle East region, was outed as an active duty officer in the British Army’s 77th Brigade, a unit dedicated to online operations and psychological warfare. Far from causing a scandal, only one major U.S. outlet even mentioned the story, and the journalist in question resigned from the profession weeks later, claiming the existence of a network of top-down state censors who quash stories that threaten the power and prestige of the national security state. To this day, MacMillan remains in his post at Twitter, strongly suggesting the social media company knew of his role before he was hired.

Over the past few years, Twitter, Reddit and Facebook have announced the deletion of hundreds of thousands of accounts linked to sources in Russia, Iran, China and other enemy states, often on the recommendation of Western governments or state-sponsored intelligence organizations. However, they never seem willing or able to find any manipulation of their platforms by Western governments. Thus, the upshot of this has been to slowly dissuade critics of Western foreign policy from using their services.

“The mainstream media-politik establishment has managed to get a hold over Twitter, Facebook and Instagram — shadow-banning and downrating posts considered ‘Russian propaganda’ or whatever other excuse they use to marginalize perspectives and content outside of the mainstream,” Secker told MintPress. “Audiences for this sort of content are increasingly pissed off and alienated by the major social media sites.”

Increasingly, unwelcome political voices are either brushed off by centrist pundits as repeating Russian talking points or smeared as being amplified by Kremlin-based bot farms. The popularity of movements on the left like Black Lives Matter or the Bernie Sanders’ campaign were written off as partially linked to Russia, while others suggested that the January 6 insurrection in Washington was essentially a Russian operation.

The irony is that many of the wildest accusations against Putin that have fed this climate of suspicion began life in Atlantic Council documents. For example, the organization has published a series of studies that suggest that virtually every European political party challenging the neoliberal status quo in some way — from Labour and UKIP in the U.K. to Syriza and Golden Dawn in Greece and PODEMOS and Vox in Spain — are secretly controlled by Russia, functioning as the “Kremlin’s Trojan Horses,” in its words.

The Atlantic Council is also deeply intertwined with a U.K. government-funded organization called the Integrity Initiative, something that purports to be a group defending democracy from disinformation. However, in practice, it appears to be doing the opposite: planting disinformation about politicians’ supposed links to Russia in order to undermine them. The Integrity Initiative is a government-backed cluster of journalists who operate in unison to conduct propaganda blitzes on unsuspecting publics. In 2018, it launched a successful operation to prevent Colonel Pedro Baños being appointed Spain’s head of national security. Considering Baños too soft on Russia for the Atlantic Council and other hawks’ liking, the initiative sprung into action, creating a storm of protest that led to another individual being chosen.

Reddit actually played a key role in a 2019 propaganda blitz against anti-war Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. A few days before the U.K.’s general election, Corbyn promoted documents leaked on the platform that showed that Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson was negotiating with American companies, putting much of the country’s National Health Service up for sale. With just days to go before polls opened, it could have proved a game changer. Reddit quickly came to Johnson’s rescue, however, asserting that the documents were part of a Russian disinformation campaign. The story in the pliant British press switched from “Boris Johnson is selling off the NHS” to “Corbyn promotes Russian disinfo,” thus greasing the skids for an easy victory for the hardline anti-Russia Conservative Party, an outcome the hawks at the Atlantic Council were no doubt relieved by, given Corbyn’s open skepticism about war, empire and nuclear weapons. The veracity of the documents was not challenged.

For a while…

Founded in 2005, Reddit has grown to become one of the world’s largest and most influential websites. However, it began life as an anarchistic messageboard whose culture was profoundly libertarian and anti-establishment. For years, the company’s administrators took a near free speech absolutist position. Aaron Swartz, Reddit’s co-founder, was an open source hacktivist and even attempted to download and publish the entirety of academic publisher Jstor’s library. When authorities got wind of what he was doing, they threatened him with 40 years in prison, an action that caused him to take his own life in 2013.

Reddit’s own position on free information and free speech was often so extreme it caused huge controversy. The site became the internet’s largest source of child pornography. It was only after CNN began reporting on it to a nationwide audience that things began to change. Other, grossly offensive communities like /r/BeatingWomen and /r/CoonTown were also protected.

Nevertheless, the culture established by anarchistic tech bros remained for some years, with the site resembling darker corners of the internet like 4Chan and 8Chan as much as more family-friendly mainstream social media like Facebook.

Ashooh’s arrival in 2017 coincided with a new era in the site’s history. Gone were the days of protecting communities that would bring in bad publicity. Her team quickly brought in a new content policy and began to delete communities that violated it. Last year, she oversaw the banning of over 2,000 communities in a single day, including /r/The_Donald, the main Donald Trump subreddit, and /r/ChapoTrapHouse, the most active left-wing community. These decisions have helped the money flow in; since 2017 revenue has more than tripled.

However, what has been lost across the internet is the liberatory potential of these technologies. In the 1990s and 2000s, many predicted that the internet would usher in a new era of egalitarianism and genuine democracy, helping even to reduce barriers and tensions between nations. For a while, the new medium allowed political actors to challenge the status quo and gain huge followings quickly. Alternative media was easily outperforming legacy media, and challenging the status quo when it came to news. Seeing that, the reaction since 2016 has been swift, as the elite have moved to retighten their grip over the means of communication. Ashooh’s jump from national security state official to Reddit Director of Policy is just one more point of reference on that chart.

Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles

June 13, 2021 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Bellingcat Launders National Security State Talking Points into the Press

By Alan Macleod | MintPress News | April 9, 2021

AMSTERDAM — Investigative site Bellingcat is the toast of the popular press. In the past month alone, it has been described as “an intelligence agency for the people” (ABC Australia ), a “transparent” and “innovative” (New Yorker ) “independent news collective,” “transforming investigative journalism” (Big Think ), and an unequivocal “force for good” (South China Morning Post ). Indeed, outside of a few alternative news sites, it is very hard to hear a negative word against Bellingcat, such is the gushing praise for the outlet founded in 2014.

This is troubling, because the evidence compiled in this investigation suggests Bellingcat is far from independent and neutral, as it is funded by Western governments, staffed with former military and state intelligence officers, repeats official narratives against enemy states, and serves as a key part in what could be called a “spook to Bellingcat to corporate media propaganda pipeline,” presenting Western government narratives as independent research.

Citizen journalism staffed with spies and soldiers

An alarming number of Bellingcat’s staff and contributors come from highly suspect backgrounds. Senior Investigator Nick Waters, for example, spent three years as an officer in the British Army, including a tour in Afghanistan, where he furthered the British state’s objectives in the region. Shortly after leaving the service, he was hired by Bellingcat to provide supposedly bias-free investigations into the Middle East.

Former contributor Cameron Colquhoun’s past is even more suspect. Colquhoun spent a decade in a senior position in GCHQ (Britain’s version of the NSA), where he ran cyber and Middle Eastern terror operations. The Scot specializes in Middle Eastern security and also holds a qualification from the U.S. State Department. None of this, however, is disclosed by Bellingcat, which merely describes him as the managing director of a private intelligence company that “conduct[s] ethical investigations” for clients around the world — thus depriving readers of key information they need to make informed judgments on what they are reading.

Bellingcat fails to inform its readers of even the most glaring conflicts of interest

There are plenty of former American spooks on Bellingcat’s roster as well. Former contributor Chris Biggers, who penned more than 60 articles for the site between 2014 and 2017, previously worked for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency — a combat support unit that works under the Department of Defense and the broader Intelligence Community. Biggers is now the director of an intelligence company headquartered in Virginia, on the outskirts of Washington (close to other semi-private contractor groups like Booz Allen Hamilton), that boasts of having retired Army and Air Force generals on its board. Again, none of this is disclosed by Bellingcat, where Biggers’s bio states only that he is a “public and private sector consultant based in Washington, D.C.”

For six years, Dan Kaszeta was a U.S. Secret Service agent specializing in chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, and for six more he worked as program manager for the White House Military Office. At Bellingcat, he would provide some of the intellectual ammunition for Western accusations about chemical weapons use in Syria and Russia’s alleged poisoning of Sergei Skripal.

Kaszeta is also a fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, a think tank funded by a host of Western governments as well as weapons contractors such as Airbus, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon. Its president is a British field marshal (the highest attainable military rank) and its senior vice president is retired American General David Petraeus. Its chairman is Lord Hague, the U.K.’s secretary of state between 2010 and 2015.

Bellingcat Sergei Skripal

A Bellingcat article covering the alleged poisoning of Sergei Skripal, a story covered heavily by the organization. Alexander Zemlianichenko | AP

All of this matters if a group is presenting itself as independent when, in reality, their views align almost perfectly with the governments funding them. But yet again, Bellingcat fails to follow basic journalism ethics and inform readers of these glaring conflict of interests, describing Kaszeta as merely the managing director of a security company and someone with 27 years of experience in security and antiterrorism. This means that unless readers are willing to do a research project they will be none the wiser.

Other Bellingcat contributors have similar pasts. Nour Bakr previously worked for the British government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office while Karl Morand proudly served two separate tours in Iraq with the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division.

Government and intelligence officials are the opposite of journalists. The former exist to promote the interests of power (often against those of the public) while the latter are supposed to hold the powerful to account on behalf of the people. That is why it is so inappropriate that Bellingcat has had so many former spooks on their books. It could be said that ex-officials who have renounced their past or blown the whistle, such as Daniel Ellsberg or John Kiriakou, have utility as journalists. But those who have simply made the transition into media without any change in positions usually serve only the powerful.

Who pays the piper?

Just as startling as its spooky staff is Bellingcat’s source of funding. In 2016 its founder, Eliot Higgins, dismissed the idea that his organization got money from the U.S. government’s National Endowment for Democracy (NED) as a ludicrous conspiracy theory. Yet, by the next year, he openly admitted the thing he had laughed off for so long was, in fact, true (Bellingcat’s latest available financial report confirms that they continue to receive financial assistance from the NED). As many MintPress readers will know, the NED was explicitly set up by the Reagan administration as a front for the CIA’s regime-change operations. “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA,” said the organization’s co-founder Allen Weinstein, proudly.

Higgins himself was a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, NATO’s quasi-official think tank, from 2016 to 2019. The Atlantic Council’s board of directors is a who’s who of state power, from war planners like Henry Kissinger, Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell to retired generals such as James “Mad Dog” Mattis and H.R. McMaster. It also features no fewer than seven former CIA directors. How Higgins could possibly see taking a paid position at an organization like this while he was still the face of a supposedly open and independent intelligence collective as being at all consistent is unclear.

Bana Alabed, an outsoken anti-Assad child activist, promotes Bellingcat at an Atlantic Council event. Photo | Twitter

Other questionable sources of income include the Human Rights Foundation, an international organization set up by Venezuelan activist Thor Halvorssen Mendoza. Halvorssen is the son of a former government official accused of being a CIA informant and a gunrunner for the agency’s dirty wars in Central America in the 1980s and the cousin of convicted terrorist Leopoldo Lopez. Lopez in turn was a leader in a U.S.-backed coup in 2002 and a wave of political terror in 2014 that killed at least 43 people and caused an estimated $15 billion worth of property damage. A major figure on the right-wing of Venezuelan politics, Lopez told journalists that he wants the United States to formally rule the country once President Nicolas Maduro is overthrown. With the help of the Spanish government, Lopez escaped from jail and fled to Spain last year.

Imagine, for one second, the opposite scenario: an “independent” Russian investigative website staffed partially with ex-KGB officials, funded by the Kremlin, with most of their research focused on the nefarious deeds of the U.S., U.K. and NATO. Would anyone take it seriously? And yet Bellingcat is consistently presented in corporate media as a liberatory organization; the Information Age’s gift to the people.

The Bellingcat to journalism pipeline

The corporate press itself already has a disturbingly close relationship with the national security state, as does social media. In 2019, a senior Twitter executive was unmasked as an active duty officer in the British Army’s online psychological operations unit. Coming at a time when foreign interference in politics and society was the primary issue in U.S. politics, the story was, astoundingly, almost completely ignored in the mainstream press. Only one U.S. outlet of any note picked it up, and that journalist was forced out of the profession weeks later.

Increasingly, it seems, Bellingcat is serving as a training ground for those looking for a job in the West’s most prestigious media outlets. For instance, former Bellingcat contributor Brenna Smith — who was recently the subject of a media storm after she successfully pressured a number of online payment companies to stop allowing the crowdfunding of the Capitol Building insurrectionists — announced last month she would be leaving USA Today and joining The New York Times. There she will meet up with former Bellingcat senior investigator Christiaan Triebert, who joined the Times’ visual investigations team in 2019.

The Times, commonly thought of as the United States’ most influential media outlet, has also collaborated with Bellingcat writers for individual pieces before. In 2018, it commissioned Giancarlo Fiorella and Aliaume Leroy to publish an op-ed strongly insinuating that the Venezuelan state murdered Oscar Perez. After he stole a military helicopter and used it to bomb government buildings in downtown Caracas while trying to ignite a civil war, Perez became the darling of the Western press, being described as a “patriot” (The Guardian ), a “rebel” (Miami Herald ), an “action hero” (The Times of London ), and a “liberator” (Task and Purpose ).

Until 2020, Fiorella ran an opposition blog called In Venezuela despite living in Canada. Leroy is now a full-time producer and investigator for the U.K.-government network, the BBC.

Bad news from Bellingcat

What we are uncovering here is a network of military, state, think-tank and media units all working together, of which Bellingcat is a central fixture. This would be bad enough, but much of its own research is extremely poor. It strongly pushed the now increasingly discredited idea of a chemical weapons attack in Douma, Syria, attacking the members of the OPCW who came forward to expose the coverup and making some bizarre claims along the way. For years, Higgins and other members of the Bellingcat team also signal-boosted a Twitter account purporting to be an ISIS official, only for an investigation to expose the account as belonging to a young Indian troll in Bangalore. A leaked U.K. Foreign Office document lamented that “Bellingcat was somewhat discredited, both by spreading disinformation itself, and by being willing to produce reports for anyone willing to pay.”

Ultimately, however, the organization still provides utility as an attack dog for the West, publishing research that the media can cite, supposedly as “independent,” rather than rely directly on intelligence officials, whose credibility with the public is automatically far lower.

Oliver Boyd-Barrett, professor emeritus at Bowling Green State University and an expert in the connections between the deep state and the fourth estate, told MintPress that “the role of Bellingcat is to provide spurious legitimacy to U.S./NATO pretexts for war and conflict.” In far more positive words, the CIA actually appears to agree with him.

“I don’t want to be too dramatic, but we love [Bellingcat],” said Marc Polymeropoulos, the agency’s former deputy chief of operations for Europe and Eurasia. “Whenever we had to talk to our liaison partners about it, instead of trying to have things cleared or worry about classification issues, you could just reference [Bellingcat’s] work.” Polymeropoulos recently attempted to blame his headache problems on a heretofore unknown Russian microwave weapon, a claim that remarkably became an international scandal. “The greatest value of Bellingcat is that we can then go to the Russians and say ‘there you go’ [when they ask for evidence],” added former CIA Chief of Station Daniel Hoffman.

Bellingcat certainly seems to pay particular attention to the crimes of official enemies. As investigative journalist Matt Kennard noted, it has only published five stories on the United Kingdom, 17 on Saudi Arabia, 19 on the U.S. (most of which are about foreign interference in American society or far-right/QAnon cults). Yet it has 144 on Russia and 244 under its Syria tag.

In his new book “We Are Bellingcat: An Intelligence Agency for the People,” the outlet’s boss Higgins writes: “We have no agenda but we do have a credo: evidence exists and falsehoods exist, and people still care about the difference.” Yet exploring the backgrounds of its journalists and its sources of funding quickly reveals this to be a badly spun piece of PR.

Bellingcat looks far more like a bunch of spooks masquerading as citizen journalists than a people-centered organization taking on power and lies wherever it sees them. Unfortunately, with many of its proteges travelling through the pipeline into influential media outlets, it seems that there might be quite a few masquerading as reporters as well.

Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles.

April 15, 2021 Posted by | Book Review, Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The New Normal “Reality” Police

Credit: Kate Sheets/Flickr CC-BY-2.0
By CJ Hopkins | Consent Factory, Inc. | March 22, 2021

So, according to Facebook and the Atlantic Council, I am now a “dangerous individual,” you know, like a “terrorist,” or a “serial murderer,” or “human trafficker,” or some other kind of “criminal.” Or I’ve been praising “dangerous individuals,” or disseminating their symbols, or otherwise attempting to “sow dissension” and cause “offline harm.”

Actually, I’m not really clear what I’m guilty of, but I’m definitely some sort of horrible person you want absolutely nothing to do with, whose columns you do not want to read, whose books you do not want to purchase, and the sharing of whose Facebook posts might get your account immediately suspended. Or, at the very least, you’ll be issued this warning:

Now, hold on, don’t click away just yet. You’re already on whatever website you’re reading this “dangerous,” “terrorist” column on (or you’re reading it in an email, probably on your phone), which means you are already on the official “Readers of Mass-Murdering Content” watch-list. So you might as well take the whole ride at this point.

Also, don’t worry, I’m not going to just whine about how Facebook was mean to me for 2,000 words … well, all right, I’m going to do that a little, but mostly I wanted to demonstrate how “reality” is manufactured and policed by global corporations like Facebook, Twitter, Google, the corporate media, of course, crowdfunding platforms like Patreon and PayPal, and “think tanks” like the Atlantic Council and its Digital Forensic Research Lab (“DFRLab”).

First, though, let me tell you my Facebook story.

What happened was, I made a Facebook post, and a lot of people tried to share it, so Facebook and the DFRLab suspended or disabled their accounts, or just prevented them from sharing it, and sent them the above warning. Facebook didn’t suspend my account, or censor the post on my account, or contact me to let me know that they have officially deemed me a “dangerous individual.” Instead, they punished anyone who tried to “boost” my “dangerous” post, a tactic anyone who has been through boot camp or in prison (or has watched this classic scene from Full Metal Jacket) will be familiar with.

Here’s the “dangerous” post in question. (If you’re particularly sensitive to “terrorist” content, you may want to put on your “anti-terrorism” glasses, or take some other type of prophylactic measures to protect yourself from “offline harm,” before you venture any further.)

The photo, which I stole from Gunnar Kaiser, is of an art exhibit in Düsseldorf, Germany. My commentary is self-explanatory. As you can see, it is extremely “dangerous.” It literally radiates “offline harm.”

OK, before you write to inform me how this was just the work of a dumb Facebook algorithm, think about what I described above. If an algorithm was preventing sharing and suspending people’s accounts based on keyword spotting, it would have censored my original post, and presumably suspended my account. Or, if Facebook has an algorithm that recognizes certain “dangerous” phrases, and then censors or suspends the accounts of people who share a post including those phrases, but doesn’t censor the original post or suspend the account of the author of the post … well, that’s kind of strange, isn’t it?

In any event, shortly after I posted it, I started seeing reports like this on Facebook:

Those are just a few examples, but I think you get the general idea.

The point is, apparently, the Corporatocracy feel sufficiently threatened by random people on Facebook that they are conducting these COINTELPRO-type ops. Seriously, think about that for a minute. I am not Stephen King or Margaret Atwood. I’m not even Glenn Greenwald or Matt Taibbi. I’m a midlist-level author of unusual literature, and a political satirist, and a blogger, basically, and yet Facebook, and their partners at the Atlantic Council, and AstraZeneca, and Pfizer, and Moderna, and who knows which other global corporations and transnational, non-governmental entities like the WEF and WHO, consider someone of my lowly status enough of a threat to their “New Normal” narrative to warrant the attention of the Reality Police.

Now, let me be clear about who I’m talking about when I’m talking about the “Reality Police.” Facebook’s partnership with the Atlantic Council is only one example, but it is a rather good one. Here’s a quick profile of the Atlantic Council …

“The Atlantic Council of the United States was founded in 1961 as a think tank and anticommunist public relations organization to prop up support within the US for NATO in the post-World War II era … [its] current, honorary and lifetime directors list reads like a bipartisan rogues gallery of American war-criminals, including Henry Kissinger, George P. Shultz, Frank Carlucci, James A. Baker, R. James Woolsey, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Robert Gates and Leon Panetta. Among the former Atlantic Council chairman have been Obama administration officials James L. Jones, (national security advisor) and Chuck Hagel (secretary of defense). The chairman of the council is Brent Scowcroft, the retired US Air Force officer who held national security and intelligence positions in the Nixon, Bush I and Bush II administrations. [It] is funded by substantial government and corporate interests from the financial, defense and petroleum industries. Its 2017 annual report documents substantial contributions from HSBC, Chevron, The Blackstone Group, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and Ford Motor Company, among many others. Also listed is Google Inc. in the $100,000 to $250,000 donor category. Among the largest council contributors are the US State Department, The Foreign & Commonwealth Office of the UK, and the United Arab Emirates. Other contributors include Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Boeing, BP, Exxon and the US Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.” — Kevin Reed, World Socialist Website

These are the folks that are policing “reality” (the “reality” they have manufactured, and are manufacturing moment by moment), deciding what officially happened, and didn’t happen, and what it means, and who qualifies as an “authoritative news source,” and “fact-checking” everything we see on the Internet. It’s not a bunch of pimply-faced IT nerds writing sloppy code in Menlo Park. It’s GloboCap and the Military-Industrial Complex.

If you’re one of my “New Normal” ex-friends and colleagues (or one of my Facebook or Twitter trolls) who, for some unknown reason, is still reading this column, perhaps on your way to get experimentally “vaccinated” or report one of your neighbors for not wearing a mask or being outdoors without a valid reason, this is who has manufactured your “reality” and the so-called “science” you claim I am “denying,” even as reality stares you in the face …

This did not begin with the “New Normal,” of course. Every system of power manufactures its own “reality” (totalitarian systems more fanatically than others). No, I’ve been writing about the manufacturing of “normality,” and the War on Dissent and Populism that GloboCap has been relentlessly waging on anyone and everyone opposing its hegemony or refusing to conform to its ideology, since back when I was still writing heretical columns like this for CounterPunch … before the editors saw which way the wind was blowing and ideologically purged its roster to get back into the good graces of GloboCap (following which ideological purge, Google restored it to the ranks of “real news”).

And that is how reality-policing works. It’s a bullying operation, basically. The entire “cancel culture” phenomenon is. “Cancel culture” is a silly name for it. We are talking about a global empire imposing total ideological conformity (or, in simpler terms, its version of “reality”) on the entire planet through fear and force. The Nazis referred to this process as Gleichschaltung.

Global capitalism has reached the stage where it no longer needs to tolerate dissent (any kind of dissent, from any quarter) to maintain the illusion of “freedom and democracy,” because there is no alternative to global capitalism. It is everywhere. There is nowhere to run or hide. When the Reality Police find you, and threaten to “cancel” you, you have two choices … obey or be vaporized.

If you’re a Palestinian, a Syrian, a Yemeni, the president of an uncooperative African country, or some other type of non-Western person, you might very well be physically vaporized. For Westerners, vaporization is less dramatic and final. You will simply be disappeared from the Internet, fired from your job, socially ostracized, deemed a “dangerous individual,” a “racist,” an “anti-Semite,” a “conspiracy theorist,” a “white supremacist,” a “domestic terrorist,” an “anti-vaxxer,” a “Covid denier.”

If you’re a member of the independent media, or a prominent activist, or a lawyer, or doctor, or just someone with a big social media platform, and have not seen the “New Normal” light, you will be demonized, demonetized, deplatformed, censored, and subjected to the type of creepy COINTELPRO-type tactics I described above. If you don’t believe me, just ask Robert F. Kennedy JrRainer FuellmichVanessa BeeleyWhitney WebbJames CorbettKen JebsenCory MorningstarThe Last American VagabondGeopolitics & EmpireThe Centre for Research on GlobalizationOffGuardian, and countless other people and outlets that have challenged the official “New Normal” narrative.

Or have a look at this “warning” you get on Twitter if you attempt to read anything published by OffGuardian 

I could go on and on with this, and I’m sure I will in future columns. It’s kind of the only story at the moment, the changeover from simulated democracy to pathologized-totalitarianism as the governing structure of global capitalism. For now, I’ll just leave you with one more image in this already overly pictorial column. Don’t worry, it’s been thoroughly “fact-checked,” so there’s no need to read or question the fine print (even though I have a feeling you will) …

Do watch out for those “unrelated coincidences.” Some of them, I hear, can be rather nasty.

C. J. Hopkins is an award-winning American playwright, novelist and political satirist based in Berlin. His plays are published by Bloomsbury Publishing and Broadway Play Publishing, Inc. His dystopian novel, Zone 23, is published by Snoggsworthy, Swaine & Cormorant. Volumes I and II of his Consent Factory Essays are published by Consent Factory Publishing, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Amalgamated Content, Inc. He can be reached at cjhopkins.com or consentfactory.org.

March 22, 2021 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , | Leave a comment

Atlantic Council urges Biden to enforce regime change in Belarus

By Paul Antonopoulos | February 18, 2021

A recent online meeting hosted by the Atlantic Council think tank discussed ways to force regime change in Belarus. The think tank detailed a plan with the aim of removing Aleksander Lukashenko, the current president of Belarus, from power by utilizing sanctions and other methods of pressure.

The Washington-based Atlantic Council is affiliated with NATO and receives funding from international billionaires like Adrienne Arsht, global companies like Goldman Sachs, Facebook and Google, as well as the Rockefeller Foundation and the JPMorgan Chase Foundation. These are only a few examples of their extensive funding. Some of the most powerful and influential figures in the world participate in the operations of the think tank, as well as a representative of Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, Belarus’ main opposition figure.

Objectives of the virtual meeting, entitled “Biden and Belarus: A strategy for the new administration,” includes organizing Washington’s control over the Belarussian opposition movement. In addition, they suggest a new position for a senior organizer to administer and maintain sanctions against Minsk, and appoint a senior official to administer assistance to the opposition. Their agenda also emphasized recognizing Tikhanovskaya’s position as the true leader of Belarus and delegitimizing Lukashenko by relocating the newly appointed U.S. ambassador to the Belarussian capital of Minsk, Julie Fisher, to the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius.

The Atlantic Council also suggested that U.S. Congressional funding for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty must be doubled from its current $117.4 million. The think tank also called for the U.S. to offer more advice to Belarussian opposition leaders. John Herbst, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, suggested in the virtual meeting that Belarussian opposition leaders should reduce public expressions about their aspirations for Minsk to be involved in Western security councils like NATO and economic structures like the European Union so that they do not provoke any response from Moscow.

Economist Anders Åslund, who is a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, also suggested that sanctions should be applied to companies in Russia and not Belarus. He argued that if sanctions hit Belarus, Minsk would be more dependent on Moscow. He also advised the Biden administration to sanction hundreds of Belarussian officials, saying that the aim of the sanctions is to put enough pressure on Belarus so that Lukashenko has no choice but to relinquish power. Åslund emphasized that this is really a group of regime change sanctions. In addition, the think tank suggested that the U.S. should increase its funding of the Belarussian opposition from $60 million to $200 million, saying that this amount came from Belarussian activists themselves.

As Åslund himself says, these measures exist entirely to force regime change against a sovereign nation. The mission of the Atlantic Council is to encourage and embolden the U.S. to control the Belarussian opposition movement with the aim of overthrowing Lukashenko. At the same time, the think tank claims that it respects Belarus’ sovereignty. However, it is evident that the think tank does not respect the sovereignty or self-determination of the Belarussian people and simply wants the Biden administration to install a lackey into power to continue Washington’s campaign of pressure against Russia.

If the Biden administration adopts the recommendations made by the Atlantic Council, this would not only cause significant tensions and further divisions in Belarus, but would also increase tensions between Washington and Moscow, which are already extremely strained.

The Atlantic Council promotes Western hegemony and a U.S.-led unipolar world order. The think tank is ranked seventh in the category of “2020 Top Think Tanks in the United States,” and tenth globally. Along with funding from the world’s richest people and most powerful corporations, the Atlantic Council wields great influence in not only NATO, but also various U.S. power structures like the White House and the Pentagon. For this reason, there is every chance that at some point during Biden’s presidential mandate that he will engage in a significant campaign of pressure against Belarus with the ultimate aim of further isolating Russia in Eastern Europe.

As the Atlantic Council attempts to maintain a U.S.-led unipolar order, Russia is one of its main targets because the Eurasian country inhibits American dominance over large areas of the Caucasus, Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Because Belarus is the sole friendly state in Eastern Europe towards Russia, Lukashenko’s removal from power will open the path for Russia to be completely isolated in the region. Biden also champions a U.S.-led unipolar order, and because of this there is every chance that at some point in the future he will enact the Atlantic Council’s program against Belarus to target Russia.

Paul Antonopoulos is an independent geopolitical analyst.

February 18, 2021 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | 1 Comment

Leaked emails show Anders Aslund, the Atlantic Council’s Russia-basher in chief, tried to solicit funds from Russian billionaires

By Kit Klarenberg | RT | December 2, 2020

Internal Atlantic Council emails reveal the NATO-connected ‘think tank’ aggressively schmoozed the obscenely wealthy owners of Russia’s Alfa Bank, in order to secure a slice of their vast riches.

The communications have been released publicly as a result of the ongoing defamation case brought against Fusion GPS and its founder and chief Glenn Simpson in a Washington, DC court, by Mikhail Fridman, Petr Aven and German Khan, the owners of Alfa Bank. The three allege false allegations against them in the ‘Trump-Russia dossier’, produced for Fusion GPS by former MI6 operative Christopher Steele, damaged their reputation.

The now-notorious and utterly discredited dossier alleged they and the bank maintained a covert communications channel with Donald Trump, and moreover delivered “large amounts of illicit cash” to Vladimir Putin when he was deputy mayor of St. Petersburg in the 1990s.

In July, the trio were awarded damages in a separate action brought against Orbis Intelligence, Steele’s private espionage firm, in London after Judge Mark Warby ruled the dossier’s allegations were “inaccurate or misleading” and the former spy had failed to take reasonable steps to verify the claims.

‘We got nothing’

In May 2016, coincidentally around the same time the Democratic National Committee hired Fusion GPS to investigate Trump, the Atlantic Council caught wind of the fact Alfa Bank’s owners wished to give away the entirety of their fortunes to charitable causes while alive, and saw a prime opportunity for grift.

Writing to the think tank’s top executives, Council ‘senior fellow’ Anders Aslund lustily noted their intention, and respective net worth of Fridman ($15 billion) and Aven ($5 billion).

“This could open an opportunity. To date Fridman has been extremely stingy,” Aslund stated rapaciously. “Rich Burt represents both Fridman and Aven quite intensely. I shall tentatively have dinner with Aven in Moscow Sunday night so I might be able to ask him what he wants. As you remember, we hosted him here in November and got nothing.”

That the November 2015 event left the Council empty-handed was undoubtedly a crushing disappointment for Aslund, given he went to great lengths to be highly accommodating to Aven, letting him pick the time and format of his Council talk, the number of attendees, and more.

“Our preference would be a lunch talk, but please indicate what time that suits you. Do you want a private off the-record meeting with 20-24 people or a bigger public meeting? The choice is yours,” he wrote to Aven.

Aslund added chummily that whenever the billionaire had spare time in Washington, he and his wife Anna were “always happy” to see him. However, there were some organizational problems.

In an email to Council higher-ups, Aslund’s colleague Alison Perry suggests Aven wished to invite “former Russian propaganda minister” Mikhail Lesin to the meeting, to which Aslund initially agreed. However, the Council subsequently learned Lesin was under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for money laundering, and was forced to “find a polite way” of letting Aven know Lesin was no longer welcome.

The volte face was presumably begrudging in extremis, given Lesin’s purportedly immense wealth – five properties in California alone allegedly owned by companies affiliated with his family were worth a combined US$28 million. In a bizarre twist, the day after the Council event, he was found dead in a Washington, DC hotel room. Authorities concluded he died of blunt-force trauma to the head, induced by falling due to acute alcohol intoxication.

‘Nothing must be reported’

Fast forward to October 15, 2017, and Aslund’s gold-digging scheme was in full swing – he wrote to Council staff stating invitations for a “small, private, off-the-record breakfast” on October 26 with Fridman and Aven needed to be sent to a number of powerful individuals.

Proposed attendees included representatives of the US State Department, National Security Council, Treasury, Congress, Senate, and other influential government-funded think tanks, including the Council on Foreign Relations, Brookings Institute, RAND Corporation, and others. The senior fellow was keen to stress no journalists should be invited.

Aslund’s long-running effort to curry favor with Alfa Bank’s owners is highly ironic given his vociferous promotion of the Steele dossier, which in June 2017 he dubbed “outstanding intelligence.”

In February the next year, he wrote an essay for the Council stating the “reasons to believe Steele are multiple and overwhelming,” and slamming the refusal of the mainstream media to publicize the dossier during the 2016 presidential campaign due to the unverifiable nature of most of its contents.

Claiming news outlets had “confused the profession of journalism with that of prosecution,” Aslund also expressed contempt for the philosophy that “if not everything is proven correct, nothing must be reported” – a rather troubling indictment, given the Council’s ‘anti-fake news’ partnership with Facebook, and claims to be “on the front lines of disinformation.”

“The US media missed the greatest scandal of the 2016 election campaign because they were so stuck in medieval liturgy it rendered them incapable of reporting the truth… The question is not whether the Kremlin helped Trump win the election but whether it can be proved in court and whether it is punishable according to all too arcane US law, which could not even sentence Al Capone for anything but tax evasion,” he fulminated.

Strikingly, the essay has since been “retracted and removed” from the organization’s website.

What claims in the dossier can be verified have since been proven to be total fiction, its contents drunken tittle-tattle provided to Steele by Brookings Institute staffer Igor Danchenko. In interviews with the FBI in February 2017, he expressed dismay this gossip had been used to secure surveillance warrants against individuals connected to the Trump campaign.

Nonetheless, Aslund still views the dossier as “largely credible,” and has even praised the “excellent” and “knowledgeable” Danchenko, who somewhat amazingly was a student of his at Georgetown University.

‘Corrupt politically exposed persons’

Aslund’s fundraising activities are doubly ironic given in 2019 he authored ‘Russia’s Crony Capitalism’, a book documenting the country’s alleged descent from a “market economy to kleptocracy.”

In March this year, he predicted this shift would contribute to Russia’s economic collapse in the very near future. It was at least the fourth occasion Aslund has foretold the country’s impending and unstoppable implosion, having previously – and incorrectly – done so in 1999, 2001, and 2014.

All along, his willingness to personally profit from the very financial activities he condemns has endured untrammeled. In June 2018, Aslund was appointed to the supervisory board of Ukrainian state railway Ukrzaliznytsia – he resigned in September this year.

In explaining his decision, he claimed he was exposed to “excessive” legal risks by not being provided directors’ and officers’ liability insurance, and said many of the board’s decisions hadn’t been implemented by Ukrzaliznytsia’s management.

Principled enough, but there was also the small issue of directors not having been paid since April. Or, at least, not paid enough – earlier this year, President Volodymyr Zelensky capped salaries of public employees as well as members of management and supervisory boards of state-owned companies at 10 times the official minimum salary, about $1,700 a month, from April 1 to the end of quarantine.

In a statement to Interfax, Aslund moaned that while presented as a temporary emergency measure, “it might persist” even longer, an obviously horrifying and unacceptable prospect for the closeted kleptocrat.

“Members of parliament attack foreign members of supervisory boards of state-owned Ukrainian companies for being foreigners and having been paid too much, but we have been paid nothing since April,” he raged bitterly.

The month after his supervisory board appointment, BuzzFeed revealed Aslund was paid to write a paper alleging financial institutions in Latvia, long-lambasted as lairs of criminality and corruption, had made tremendous strides in enforcing anti-money laundering statutes – by the very banks involved. It was commissioned by Sally Painter, a lobbyist for Baltic banks and member of the Council’s board of directors.

The organizations that lined Aslund’s pockets included a subsidiary of ABLV Bank, which at the time was attempting to secure permission to establish an office in the US. The effort was ultimately unsuccessful, as the US Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network concluded ABLV was a bank of “primary money laundering concern.”

“ABLV executives, shareholders, and employees have institutionalized money laundering… Management permits the bank and its employees to orchestrate and engage in money laundering schemes; solicits high risk shell company activity that enables the bank and its customers to launder funds; maintains inadequate controls over high-risk shell company accounts; and seeks to obstruct enforcement of Latvian anti-money laundering rules in order to protect these business practices,” the Treasury ruled.

Some of this illicit activity, the Treasury alleged, involved transactions for parties involved in North Korea’s procurement and export of ballistic missiles, and money laundering for “corrupt politically exposed persons.” ABLV was accused of funneling billions of dollars “in public corruption and asset-stripping proceeds through shell company accounts,” and failing to mitigate risks stemming from these accounts, “which involved large-scale illicit activity connected to Azerbaijan, Russia, and Ukraine.”

Shortly after the Treasury’s findings were made public, ABLV was forced to close – but Aslund told BuzzFeed he stood by his report, as it was “factually correct.”

The paper was presented at a private Council event in October 2017, the same month he was arranging that “small, private, off-the-record breakfast” with Alfa Bank’s owners.

It was convened despite Aslund’s research not being an official Council publication, and the think tank claiming it was written and published without its input. Perhaps unsurprisingly, no reference to the report or the event can be found on the Council’s website.

Snouts in trough

The email tranche indicates Aslund wasn’t the only Council apparatchik determined to get the think tank’s proverbial mitts in the Alfa Bank till.

In July 2015, Council chief executive Fred Kempe emailed Petr Aven about a fully-fledged partnership between the Council and Letter One, an Alfa Bank affiliate, and suggested there was “a larger role” for him to personally play at the Council.

All the Council’s approaches to Alfa Bank were allegedly unsuccessful, but there’s no shortage of dubious institutions and individuals all too willing to lavishly bankroll the think tank. Its donors currently include the US embassies of UAE and Bahrain, Ukrainian oligarch Victor Pinchuk, defense giant Raytheon, the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO), and the US State Department.

From 2006 – 2016, the Council’s annual revenue leaped tenfold, from $2 million to $21 million – a period in which, concurrently and not coincidentally, corporate and state budgets typically reserved for lobbying firms were increasingly directed to think tanks.

Its board of directors comprises well-connected US government veterans Henry Kissinger, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Michael Hayden, David Petraeus, and many others. The emails related to Alfa Bank also name Council officials Richard Burt, Daniel Fried, John Herbst and Richard Morningstar, all previously US ambassadors to European and/or Eurasian countries.

Such close ties to the US national security state unquestionably allow for very effective, well-targeted lobbying on behalf of its bankrollers indeed. Except Alfa Bank refused to bite.

Kit Klarenberg is an investigative journalist exploring the role of intelligence services in shaping politics and perceptions. Follow Kit on Twitter @Kit Klarenberg

December 6, 2020 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Russophobia | , , , | Leave a comment

Does this explain why Facebook suppressed Hunter Biden revelations?

By Andrea Widburg | American Thinker | October 18, 2020

The moment the New York Post reported on some of the sleazy, corrupt details contained on Hunter Biden’s hard drive, Twitter and Facebook, the social media giants most closely connected to the way Americans exchange political information, went into overdrive to suppress the information and protect Joe Biden. In the case of Facebook, though, perhaps one of those protectors was, in fact, protecting herself.

The person currently in charge of Facebook’s election integrity program is Anna Makanju. That name probably doesn’t mean a lot to you, but it should mean a lot – and in a comforting way — to Joe Biden.

Before ending up at Facebook, Makanju was a nonresident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council. The Atlantic Council is an ostensibly non-partisan think tank that deals with international affairs. In fact, it’s a decidedly partisan organization.

In 2009, James L. Jones, the Atlantic Council’s chairman left the organization to be President Obama’s National Security Advisor. Susan Rice, Richard Holbrooke, Eric Shinseki, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Chuck Hagel, and Brent Scowcroft also were all affiliated with the Atlantic Council before they ended up in the Obama administration.

The Atlantic Council has received massive amounts of foreign funding over the years. Here’s one that should interest everyone: Burisma Holdings donated $300,000 dollars to the Atlantic Council, over the course of three consecutive years, beginning in 2016. The information below may explain why it began paying that money to the Council.

Not only was the Atlantic Council sending people into the Obama-Biden administration, but it was also serving as an outside advisor. And that gets us back to Anna Makanju, the person heading Facebook’s misleadingly titled “election integrity program.”

Makanju also worked at the Atlantic Council. The following is the relevant part of Makanju’s professional bio from her page at the Atlantic Council (emphasis mine):

Anna Makanju is a nonresident senior fellow with the Transatlantic Security Initiative. She is a public policy and legal expert working at Facebook, where she leads efforts to ensure election integrity on the platform. Previously, she was the special policy adviser for Europe and Eurasia to former US Vice President Joe Biden, senior policy adviser to Ambassador Samantha Power at the United States Mission to the United Nations, director for Russia at the National Security Council, and the chief of staff for European and NATO Policy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. She has also taught at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University and worked as a consultant to a leading company focused on space technologies.

Makanju was a player in the faux Ukraine impeachment. Early in December 2019, when the Democrats were gearing up for the impeachment, Glenn Kessler mentioned her in an article assuring Washington Post readers that, contrary to the Trump administration’s claims, there was nothing corrupt about Biden’s dealings with Ukraine. He made the point then that Biden now raises as a defense: Biden didn’t pressure Ukraine to fire prosecutor Viktor Shokin to protect Burisma; he did it because Shokin wasn’t doing his job when it came to investigating corruption.

Kessler writes that, on the same day in February 2016 that then-Ukrainian President Poroshenko announced that Shokin had offered his resignation, Biden spoke to both Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. The White House version is that Biden gave both men pep talks about reforming the government and fighting corruption. And that’s where Makanju comes in:

Anna Makanju, Biden’s senior policy adviser for Ukraine at the time, also listened to the calls and said release of the transcripts would only strengthen Biden’s case that he acted properly. She helped Biden prepare for the conversations and said they operated at a high level, with Biden using language such as Poroshenko’s government being “nation builders for a transformation of Ukraine.”

A reference to a private company such as Burisma would be “too fine a level of granularity” for a call between Biden and the president of another country, Makanju told The Fact Checker. Instead, she said, the conversation focused on reforms demanded by the International Monetary Fund, methods to tackle corruption and military assistance. An investigation of “Burisma was just not significant enough” to mention, she said.

Let me remind you, in case you forgot, that Burisma started paying the Atlantic Council a lot of money in 2016, right when Makanju was advising Biden regarding getting rid of Shokin.

In other words, there’s a really good chance that Sundance was correct when he wrote at The Conservative Treehouse:

That’s right folks, the Facebook executive currently blocking all of the negative evidence of Hunter and Joe Biden’s corrupt activity in Ukraine is the same person who was coordinating the corrupt activity between the Biden family payoffs and Ukraine.

You just cannot make this stuff up folks.

The incestuous networking between Democrats in the White House, Congress, the Deep State, the media, and Big Tech never ends. That’s why the American people wanted and still want Trump, the true outsider, to head the government. They know that Democrats have turned American politics into one giant Augean Stable and that Trump is the Hercules who (we hope) can clean it out.

UPDATE: It turns out that Makanju also has a Soros connection, for she received a fellowship from a foundation that Soros’s brother, Paul, and his wife, Daisy, created for immigrants and their children. It does not appear that Paul Soros was part of his brother’s empire, but the Soros connection is still intriguing, as well as being another reminder that, no matter where you look on the left, the same names keep turning up.

October 19, 2020 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | , , , | Leave a comment

Useful Idiot or Trojan Horse? Belarusian opposition figure Tikhanovskaya’s links to NATO’s Atlantic Council adjunct raise eyebrows

By Kit Klarenberg | RT | October 16, 2020

‘Accidental politician’ Svetlana Tikhanovskaya has captured the West’s imagination, her lack of political experience presenting an ideal blank canvas for news-narrative weaving – and all too easily manipulated by malign forces.

From the moment she announced her candidacy for the Belarusian presidency after her husband Sergey was spuriously jailed for electioneering activities that would be considered normal in the rest of Europe, Tikhanovskaya has been a darling of the Western media. With her improbable ascension from stay-at-home mother to leading opposition figure, then proto-revolutionary leader-in-exile, documented on an almost daily basis.

Along the way, Tikhanovskaya has been keen to stress the upheaval in Belarus is neither pro-Western nor pro-Russian in character, but pro-democracy, a key message reiterated uncritically over and again by mainstream journalists. However, not a single one has deigned to mention, much less question, the fact that one of her key confidantes, Franak Viacorka, is a ‘non-resident fellow’ at Atlantic Council, a think tank that aggressively propagandizes in support of NATO, and wider American financial, political, military and ideological interests in Europe and beyond.

This position isn’t mentioned in his Twitter bio, and it’s unclear precisely when he became Tikhanovskaya’s ‘international relations advisor.’ Viacorka’s Atlantic Council appointment was announced on August 15 – in a Washington Post op-ed published the same day, he and Melinda Haring, deputy director of the council’s Eurasia Center, painted a glowing, provocative portrait of the would-be president of Belarus, framing her as part of a wider feminist uprising against the country’s “deeply patriarchal” elite, an upheaval central to the radical shakeup of the country.

The council billed Viacorka as a “journalist from Belarus,” which is true, to an extent. A long-time anti-Lukashenko activist, his campaigning as a teenager in the run-up to the 2006   presidential election was even the subject of an award-winning documentary. Subsequently, he spent seven years at US government-controlled media outlets Radio FreeEurope and Radio Liberty, before moving to Washington DC in August 2018 to serve as Digital Media Strategist   for the US Agency for Radio Free Europe’s parent company US Agency for Global Media (USAGM), a role which ended just before he joined the Atlantic Council. In August 2018, USAGM’s then-CEO acknowledged its media outlets’ “global priorities reflect US national security interests.”

Founded in 1961, the council is best understood as NATO’s intellectual wing-cum-propaganda arm. Just as the alliance’s paradoxical purpose is, in the phrase of academic Richard Sakwa, “to manage the security risks created by its existence,” so too the organization exists to promote the notion of a Russian threat, in order to justify NATO’s post-Cold War endurance.

In this sense, the Atlantic Council is no different from most other ‘think tanks’ in that its raison d’etre is to defend and further the concerns of its financiers – in pursuit of that goal, as with most other lobby groups of this nature, it often publishes highly dubious, biased ‘research’ under the guise of objective academic inquiry, and recruits to its ranks individuals who advance its objectives in some way, promoting these as ‘independent experts.’

Some clue as to the council’s concerns and aims can be found in the publicly-available list of its key donors, which includes the US embassies of UAE and Bahrain, Ukrainian oligarch Victor Pinchuk, defense giant Raytheon, the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO), and the US State Department. From 2006  to 2016, the council’s annual revenue leaped ten-fold, from $2 million to $21 million – a period in which, concurrently and not coincidentally, corporate and state budgets typically reserved for lobbying firms were increasingly directed to think tanks. Its board of directors is likewise highly illustrative, a veritable ‘who’s who’ of warmongers, comprising Henry Kissinger, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Robert Gates, Michael Hayden, David Petraeus, and many others.

Despite a host of council apparatchiks frequently popping up in media reporting, and in turn influencing debate, public perceptions and government policy, one would be hard-pressed to find a single mainstream article making even passing reference to the organization’s politically-charged agenda and funding sources. Indeed, the Atlantic Council’s press relations strategy has been astonishingly effective, its in-house ‘fellows’ and Digital Forensics Lab (DFRLab) operatives universally positioned as experts in an array of fields, ever-ready to provide insight on pressing issues in the form of op-eds, marketable quotes and more.

There’s no more palpable example of this phenomenon than former DFRLab chief Ben Nimmo, who for years has been widely-touted as an eminent authority on Moscow’s ‘information warfare’ and ‘cyber operations,’ as well as on Kremlin strategy and thinking – despite boasting zero discernible acumen in Russian politics, data analysis, information technology, or social media. Despite his palpable lack of relevant skills, Nimmo’s tour of duty at DFRLab saw him appear in a panoply of articles, reports and academic papers on the threat posed to the world by Russian ‘disinformation,’ in the process disseminating a vast amount of damaging untruths himself.

He was also a pivotal player in the council’s ‘anti-fake news’ partnership with Facebook. Launched in May 2018, DFRLab was granted exclusive and unprecedented access to the social media giant’s private data, in order to identify and study “disinformation networks,” before earmarking particular accounts and pages for deletion and banning. That an effective wing of Western state power was afforded such capacity failed to provoke any mainstream alarm, even when the initiative got off to a highly inauspicious start – a number of accounts Nimmo identified as Kremlin-directed ‘bots’ and ‘trolls’ and which were subsequently banned by social networks turned out to be real people.

Since then, at intermittent intervals this partnership has led to the purging of untold numbers of pages and accounts from the social network, among them many alternative media outlets, independent journalists, political groups, and other legitimate information sources, highlighting issues and events the mainstream media consistently downplays or ignores, including US interventionism, drug legalization, police brutality and more.

Viacorka’s work for the Atlantic Council to date hasn’t been quite so destructive, authoring articles for its website, and making appearances on major news networks, promoting Tikhanovskaya as the legitimate president of Belarus and perpetuating disputed and extremely questionable claims that she’d received up to 70 percent of the vote in that country’s recent election – key messages the council itself began aggressively advancing the day after the election.

Ever since, Tikhanovskaya has repeatedly appealed to US and EU leaders to recognize her as the winner and duly-elected president of Belarus, claiming she’ll step aside within six months of taking office, but her call has been ignored by international bodies and every government in the world, bar that of Lithuania.

Instead, typically at most an election re-run has been called-for, a somewhat odd display of reticence, given Washington, London, Berlin and Paris have priors in formally recognizing individuals with far less legitimate claims than she as de-facto leaders of countries, such as Juan Guaido in Venezuela. This may suggest Western governments aren’t actually as convinced of her alleged landslide victory as they publicly profess to be, and fear Lukashenko’s removal from office by external and internal force and/or without a viable, stable alternative in place could mean the country descends into further chaos, and in turn becoming a fresh flashpoint in Europe.

Viacorka himself acknowledged the disorganized nature of the protests in an Atlantic Council article – while taking as inevitable Lukashenko’s ouster and Belarus’ transition to democracy, he bemoaned how “a lack of coordination between the different elements within the protest movement” had left it “vulnerable to the divide-and-conquer tactics of authorities.”

Viacorka went on to note that, in a bid to address this “absence of leadership,” Tikhanovskaya had founded a Coordination Council to serve as the country’s effective government in waiting. He dubbed the endeavor “the main threat to Lukashenko” and “the first attempt to create a credible alternative,” but his description raises serious questions about whether it’s a legitimate attempt to provide a coherent, tangible face to the movement, or an opportunistic hostile takeover.

“The Coordination Council provides a degree of clarity for government officials and international observers looking to gain a better understanding of who represents the diverse opposition movement… The Council must occupy the political vacuum at the forefront of Belarus’s democratic uprising. Leaderless street protests have shaken the Lukashenka regime to its foundations, but they are not enough to bring about the kind of historic transition to democracy millions of Belarusians now expect… The Council features a number of members drawn from the professional classes… who are expected to play important roles in the attempt to move beyond today’s mass protests towards a national political transition,” Viacorka wrote.

One wonders whether the coordination council was an idea Viacorka himself presented to Tikhanovskaya in his capacity as her ‘international relations advisor’ – and if, in turn, his thinking was in any way influenced by the Atlantic Council.

Whatever the truth of the matter, it’s almost certain the Atlantic Council’s meddling in Belarusian politics has a clandestine element, given the organization’s key role in the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) initiative Open Information Partnership (OIP). Officially, under its auspices DFRLab, Bellingcat, Zinc Network and Media Diversity Institute “work together through peer-to-peer learning, training and working groups to pioneer methods to expose disinformation,” in collaboration with a sizable network of NGOs across Europe.

However, leaked documents make clear the endeavor is, in fact, a secret UK government information warfare outfit seeking to covertly further Whitehall’s global policy objectives, by, among other things, influencing “elections taking place in countries of particular interest to the FCO.” A file setting out the terms of the project indicates Belarus is one of a dozen “high impact, priority countries” for the OIP, strongly suggesting this year’s presidential vote was very much “of interest” to the project.

The same document indicates DFRLab, Bellingcat, Zinc Network and Media Diversity Institute had conducted a secret operation in Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus in 2018, “delivering audience insights and recommendations to increase reach and resonance of selected independent media outlets.”

While innocent-enough sounding, examples offered of the organization’s work offered elsewhere in the file indicate OIP has engaged in numerous ‘astroturfing’ initiatives across Eastern Europe, helping organizations and individuals to produce flashy, FCO-funded propaganda masquerading as independent citizen journalism, which is then amplified globally via its NGO network and other channels.

For instance, in Ukraine the Open Information Partnership worked with a 12-strong group of online ‘influencers’ “to counter Kremlin-backed messaging through innovative editorial strategies, audience segmentation, and production models that reflected the complex and sensitive political environment,” in the process allowing them to “reach wider audiences with compelling content that received over four million views.”

In Russia and Central Asia, OIP established a covert network of ‘YouTubers,’ helping them create videos “promoting media integrity and democratic values.” Participants were also taught how to “make and receive international payments without being registered as external sources of funding” and “develop editorial strategies to deliver key messages,” while the consortium minimized their “risk of prosecution” and managed “project communications” to ensure the existence of the network, and indeed OIP’s role, were kept “confidential.”

Were similar efforts undertaken in Belarus at some point subsequently, and if so, how many of the citizen journalists on the ground covering the protests this year have received funding and training from OIP, and what role has the organization and its extensive pan-European NGO matrix played in promoting their “compelling content” the world over?

At the very least, another leaked FCO file indicates a number of organizations in the country had exploratory discussions with OIP, including the Belarusian Association of Journalists, and Euroradio – both were said to have “expressed an eagerness to be part of the network,” and to be operating in “the most vital space in the entire network.”

It may be significant that Franak Viacorka has been a prominent amplifier of Euroradio’s “fearless” coverage of the unrest that has engulfed the streets of Minsk for the past two months.

October 16, 2020 Posted by | Deception | , , | Leave a comment

The “Russia Report”: Deep State reinforcing delusion to spread fear and seize power

“Suppressed” report should be a lesson to those who begged for its release – be careful what you wish for.

By Kit Knightly | OffGuardian | July 22, 2020

The “Russia report” is an action plan for the intelligence agencies to hand MI5 direct control over the mechanisms of British democracy, and give the government legal power to control social media.

Nobody in the mainstream will tell you this. The media are going to tell you it’s a “shocking condemnation Britain’s vulnerability to hostile state actors” or something similar, the Remainers will tell you it’s cast iron evidence the Brexit vote was rigged, and Luke Harding will tell you it means “they” are all around us and you should buy a copy of his book.

The truth is it’s just the latest of the Deep State’s plays to secure as much power as possible as quickly as possible. If anything, it already feels old-fashioned, being authored in a pre-Covid world, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be put to use in service of the world’s “new normal”.

In terms of actual content, there’s nothing new here. It’s just a collection of familiar proven lies and unproven accusations in the service of four primary agendas:

  1. Invalidating the result of the Brexit referendum
  2. Boosting funding/resources for the UK’s “Cyber Offensive capabilities”
  3. Ceding more powers to MI5 to oversee and “protect” our democratic processes
  4. Creating a “protocol” that empowers the government/intelligence agencies to force social media companies to censor and/or ban certain material, opinions, websites or users

You can plow through the whole thing here if you really feel the need.

For those outside the UK, who may not be aware of this story, sometime last year it was “leaked” that the UK parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee had prepared a report on “Russian interference” in UK politics. In a brilliant piece of PR manoeuvring, Boris Johnson refused to make the report public.

This decision manipulated those who consider themselves “the left” in British politics to clamour for the release of the “Russia Report”, believing there would be something in it that Boris didn’t want us to see. This was an act of pure naivety by Corbynista influencers, and deliberate public manipulation by the “leftist” media.

Yesterday Boris Johnson’s government finally “caved” to this pressure, and released a “confidential report” which tells us nothing we haven’t been told a million times before. This apparently secret testimony has been blasted across headlines in every broadsheet and tabloid for years.

Russia is accused of poisoning the Skripals, leaking the DNC emails, using “bots and trolls” to influence public opinion…and so and so on.

The witnesses called are all either actual spies (Christopher Steele), or “journalists” heavily involved with the Integrity Initiative (Edward Lucas). No evidence is supplied, save the tired old links to “academic studies” conducted by bought-and-paid-for NATO shills like Ben Nimmo and Bellingcat (whose direct funding from the likes of the Atlantic Council and National Endowment for Democracy represents a massive conflict of interest that is never once mentioned in the report).

In that way, the report is massively dated. Its lies, worn smooth through repetition, are dry and stale.

But that’s not the point of this report. That’s the first part of the Hegelian Dialectic. The “problem”, long since mythologised, created by force of repetition without ever being evidenced. This report is far more concerned with generating a “reaction”, and the procuring consent for a pre-planned “solution” (the report doesn’t shy away from this obvious structure – using the terms “threat” and “reaction” instead).

In short, buried in the 55 pages of waffle, repetition and bureaucratic double-talk, are key suggestions to take a more warlike stance against Russia and parlay this into a simultaneous crackdown on dissent at home, all while securing shiny new powers for MI5.

Firstly, the UK plans to strike a new attitude on “attribution” of alleged cyber attacks, claiming, apparently with a straight face:

The UK has historically been reticent in attributing cyber attacks – as recently as 2010, this Committee was asked to redact mention of Russia as a perpetrator of cyber attacks, on diplomatic grounds.

But the UK’s “reticence” to blame Russia for cyber attacks is over, they now intend to “name and shame” foreign actors who carry out cyber attacks:

there has to now be a cost attached to such activity. When attacks can be traced back – and we accept that this is in itself resource-intensive – the Government must always consider ‘naming and shaming’.

[NOTE: This section on “attribution” would be an absolutely ideal time to mention that another state player – namely the US military – has the technology to carry out cyber attacks and make it appear to have come from somewhere else. We know they know, because of the Wikileaks Vault 7 leaks, but they don’t mention it.]

Oh, and they’re going to “leverage” their diplomatic relations to force those countries who would rather not start a new cold war based on the testimony of lunatics, fraudsters and underwear salesmen, to publicly blame Russia for… pretty much everything:

it is apparent that not everyone is keen to adopt this new approach and to ‘call out’ Russia on malicious cyber activity. The Government must now leverage its diplomatic relationships to develop a common international approach when it comes to the attribution of malicious cyber activity by Russia and others.

This is dishonest, and potentially dangerous, but this kind of geo-political positioning is very much the long game. It’s the short term stuff, the local stuff, we should really worry about.

Like handing over powers to “monitor” and “protect” the democratic processes of the country to MI5 [our emphasis]:

Overall, the issue of defending the UK’s democratic processes and discourse has appeared to be something of a ‘hot potato’, with no one organisation recognising itself as having an overall lead. Whilst we understand the nervousness around any suggestion that the intelligence and security Agencies might be involved in democratic processes […] that cannot apply when it comes to the protection of those processes […] Protecting our democratic discourse and processes from hostile foreign interference is a central responsibility of Government, and should be a ministerial priority. In our opinion, the operational role must sit primarily with MI5

They recommend this, based on MI5’s pre-existing “relationship built with social media companies”. They don’t mention, at this stage, how social media companies have “built a relationship” with MI5, or what role they might serve in “protecting democracy”, but it’s not hard to guess.

Social Media is an important theme in the report, actually, being mentioned fifteen times in 47 pages.

Firstly, we’re told that social media companies must bear the brunt of the blame for “hostile state activity” being at all effective:

we note that – as with so many other issues currently – it is the social media companies which hold the key and yet are failing to play their part

Before they add the government must seek a “protocol” by which social media companies remove any material the UK government deems “hostile state use” of their platform:

The Government must now seek to establish a protocol with the social media companies to ensure that they take covert hostile state use of their platforms seriously, and have clear timescales within which they commit to removing such material

Any companies who refuse to do this will be “named and shamed”.

You might think “well, this protocol could easily be used against people with no state affiliation whatsoever”, and you’d be right. It could. The government admits as much, but doesn’t seem to have a problem with it:

Such a protocol could, usefully, be expanded to encompass the other areas in which action is required from the social media companies, since this issue is not unique to Hostile State Activity

This would be a good time to note that the Atlantic Council employees this report cites have, in the past, labelled people “bots” who are definitely, provably not bots. This includes noted independent journalists and a world-renowned concert pianist.

The proposed “protocol” opens up an avenue for the state to silence dissident individuals by similarly “mistaking” them for state-backed agents.

Another thing the report is keen on is boosting the UK’s “Offensive Cyber” capabilities:

this is an era of hybrid warfare and an Offensive Cyber capability is now essential. The Government announced its intention to develop an Offensive Cyber capability in September 2013, and in 2014 the National Offensive Cyber Programme (NOCP) […]The UK continues to develop its Offensive Cyber capability.

What their offensive cyber capabilities ARE, and how they use them, is never described. Are they used solely against other states, or against domestic politic parties, organizations and individuals too? They don’t say.

Is cyberwarfare even legal under international law? Well, no. In fact, the way the report dances around the idea that cyberwarfare is actually potentially illegal under international law is a thing of beauty:

While the UN has agreed that international law, and in particular the UN Charter, applies in cyberspace, there is still a need for a greater global understanding of how this should work in practice […] Achieving a consensus on this common approach will be a challenging process, but as a leading proponent of the Rules Based International Order it is essential that the UK helps to promote and shape Rules of Engagement, working with our allies.

The fact that people out there can even begin to cite this report in earnest when it describes the UK as a “key defender of a Rules Based International Order” just boggles my mind.

The real scary stuff comes later though, in the “legislation” section.

The UK is already one of the most surveilled countries in the world, and the report happily mentions that last February, the UK police/intelligence agencies got [our emphasis]:

new powers to stop, question, search or detain any person entering the UK gained Royal Assent in February 2019; it is not necessary for there to be suspicion of engagement in hostile activity in order to use these powers.

Following on from this, the report recommends a new Espionage Act and a Foreign Agent Registration Act, to “crackdown” on espionage.

Hearings resulting from these acts could be “closed material proceedings” to protect national security.

For those who don’t know, in UK law a “closed material proceeding” is a hearing where a prosecutor presents some evidence directly to a judge which is kept secret from both the public and the defense counsel.

Until this new legislation is passed, the report warns, “the Intelligence Community’s hands are tied.”

To sum up, the long-awaited Russia report is – surprise surprise – not a trove of secrets and corruption which could bring down the Johnson government. It was never going to be that, despite what all the fake-left “journalists” were saying, and what all the Labour supporters who should know better were tweeting.

It was actually sickening to watch so many people, especially in Corbyn’s camp, cry-out for this report and not realise they were getting played. It’s the oldest trick in the book. Cheap reverse psychology that doesn’t work on children past the age of about five, but apparently does work on the majority of the members of the Labour party.

Thanks to their gullibility, no one is questioning the honesty, providence or intentions of a report which finds, in short:

  • MI5 should have more control over our democratic systems.
  • We should spend more money on developing cyber attack ability.
  • We should investigate and maybe overturn the Brexit vote.
  • We should pass authoritarian new legislation
  • Social Media companies should take down whatever the government says they should take down.

People who are supposed to guard against tyranny and hold power to account have abandoned their posts to take part in anti-Russia hysteria which endangers what remains of our civil liberties.

As a result, we’re getting headlines like this:

GUARDIAN : Report damns number 10 and spy agencies over Russia

And this:

MAIL : Now tame the Russian bear

And this:

THE TIMES : MI5 to get more powers

It’s the same old lies, on the same old topics, told by the same old people, for the same old reasons. The only difference is, this time, they managed to trick some of the gullible “woke” left into begging for it.

July 22, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Russophobia | , , | Leave a comment

Does Trump know his own government indirectly bankrolls some key promoters of the ‘Russiagate’ hoax?

By Bryan MacDonald | RT | May 13, 2020

US President Donald Trump was elected on a promise to “drain the swamp.” Almost four years later, the Washington think-tank racket is as murky as ever, and the gravy train keeps rolling.

The false ‘Trump/Russia collusion’ narrative has been dead for so long now that it’s hard to remember what killed it, whether it was the Mueller Report or simply death by a thousand cuts.

Here is what we know: ‘Russiagate’ was a giant scam, and many of those who promoted it knowingly lied for a considerable length of time. Their aim was either to undermine Trump’s presidency or prevent any improvement in US relations with Russia.

Most of the journalists who facilitated the hoax also knew it was nonsense. But their loathing of Trump – and in some cases Russia, too – trumped ethical considerations. Thus, much of the general public was, for years, fed a diet of grifters and washed-up old spooks pushing a scam.

Funded by the government

The crazy thing is that many of its chief architects work for Washington think tanks funded by the US government. Given Trump has taken no obvious steps to curtail public funding for these lobby groups, it means the president’s own cabinet has been effectively bankrolling activists who are out to smear and destroy him.

Take Evelyn Farkas. A rabidly anti-Russia official in Barack Obama’s government, she was subsequently looked after with a gig at NATO’s Atlantic Council adjunct. This has become a traditional route in DC. When one party loses power, its apparatchiks are placed in a sort of think-tank racket cryonics chamber from which they can be reanimated in future, if their own tribe gets back into the White House.

Farkas, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, told MSNBC TV in 2017 that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government to win the 2016 presidential election.

But, as Townhall reports, “during an interview with the House Intelligence Committee in June 2017, where she was under oath, she admitted she didn’t have any information about collusion during that interview.”

As its correspondent Katie Pavlich points out, “through dozens of House Intelligence Committee transcripts and after a lengthy Special Counsel investigation, it was clear from the beginning ‘Russian collusion’ with the Trump campaign was a made-up talking point that was used as a political weapon.”

Farkas’ involvement fits a pattern. Her dad came from an elite Hungarian family who had their status diluted after the Soviets installed a communist government in Budapest following World War Two. Farkas’ background is important, because US media ignores how many of the people who pushed the ‘Trump-Russia’ hoax come from East European migrant families with an axe to grind against ‘the Russians’.

‘Stolen’ emails

The idea that Russia stole emails from the Democratic National Congress (DNC) was based on information from CrowdStrike. This cybersecurity firm was the source of the allegation that Russian intelligence agencies had hacked the DNC’s servers. You may remember the ‘Fancy Bear’ and ‘Cozy Bear’ narrative which was popularised by US media at the time.

CrowdStrike’s co-founder Dmitri Alperovitch was born in Moscow and moved to the US with his family at the age of 14. Like Farkas, he is also attached to the Atlantic Council, and his first published involvement with the pro-NATO pressure group was in 2012.

Back in 2016, he was lionised by mainstream US media, with Esquire, for instance, saying he was “our special forces (and Putin’s worst nightmare)” and “leading the fight to protect America.”

It has now emerged that the following year, his partner at CrowdStrike Shawn Henry told Congress – in closed-door testimony, previously buried – that CrowdStrike had “no concrete evidence that the data was exfiltrated from the DNC.”

In other words, as journalist Aaron Mate has pointed out, “CrowdStrike, the very firm behind the accusation that Russia hacked & stole DNC emails, admitted to Congress that it has no direct evidence Russia actually stole (or) exfiltrated the emails.”

Pushing the hoax

Of course, promoting ‘Russiagate’ wasn’t limited to the immigrant community. The likes of Bill Kristol, Michael McFaul, John Podesta and Clint Watts are all connected to the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMFUS), another DC lobby group which receives US government funding.

Watts was front and centre in pushing the hoax, while McFaul was at one point ubiquitous on cable news shows waffling on about Russia helping Trump to win the 2016 election. Podesta, meanwhile, alleged his emails were hacked by Russia while he was chair of Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential campaign.

The GMFUS receives over $1 million annually from both the US State Department and USAID. Meanwhile, the Atlantic Council gets between $500,000 and $999,000 a year from the same State Department and $100,000 to $249,000 from each of the US Air Force Academy and the US Department of Defence.

Which means Trump’s government is partially funding the people who tried to destroy his presidency, based on a falsehood obvious to honest observers from the very start. So much for the US president’s campaign promise to “drain the swamp.”

Bryan MacDonald is an Irish journalist based in Russia. He has written for RT since 2014. Before moving to Russia, Bryan worked for The Irish Independent, the Evening Herald, Ireland on Sunday, and The Irish Daily Mail. Follow him on Twitter @27khv

May 14, 2020 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | , , , | 1 Comment

This Is Why You Can’t Trust The Fact Checkers

By Derrick Broze | The Last American Vagabond | May 11, 2020

For the last eight years I have worked as a writer, researcher, and investigative reporter for many well-known American independent media outlets. I have spent my time investigating digital surveillance technology, attacks on indigenous communities, and the overall growth of the government and corporate power. As someone working in this field, writing about topics which are often seen as controversial or “outside the mainstream” – censorship and personal attacks are part of the job description.

However, the attacks on independent media have rapidly increased in the last four years, with many formerly active journalistic outlets ceasing to exist due to lack of traffic and thus, lack of funds. We have seen outlets outright branded “fake news” or accused of collusion with the Russian government. Some channels and websites have been unable to apply for advertising or use certain digital products based on these labels. Some channels and reporters have been deleted off social media and other digital platforms altogether. And, if the social media managers don’t delete you, they might just use the algorithm to hide your posts, limiting your ability to interact with the public.

Attack of the “Fact” Checkers

Perhaps the most insidious method is the recent use of “fact checkers” to limit the reach of an outlet, or simply brand them with the fake news scarlet letter to discourage readers from engaging. This has been increasing in the last 2 years and I personally know of several remaining indy media outlets who have had to decide whether or not to run certain articles or video reports out of fear they might be censored or banned. Of course, with the algorithmic games being played by social media platforms, most outlets are reaching a tiny fraction of what they once were.

Case in point, The Mind Unleashed. I have been part of the TMU team on and off for the last year or so. In that time we have been struggling to reach a small fraction of our 9 million Facebook followers. Part of the reason we are struggling to reach people is because we have the dubious recognition of being labeled fake news by Facebook and affiliated fact checkers.

In a recent article published in Newsweek Espanol, in partnership with Newsguard, The Mind Unleashed is described as a “site that promises to ‘promote and inspire unconventional thinking,’ but is actually dedicated to publishing falsehoods.” The quote was in reference to a story TMU had written about the origins of COVID-19 and the potential for the virus to have been created as a bio weapon.

Newsguard is one of a number of “fact checker” services which has proliferated since the election of Donald Trump to U.S. President. Newsguard is a browser plug-in for Chrome and Microsoft Edge that gives trustworthiness ratings to most of the internet’s top-trafficked sites. It uses a color coded system to warn readers of an article or website’s trustworthiness. In a previous investigation, TLAV writer Whitney Webb exposed the neoconservative roots of the Newsguard team. Webb wrote:

“Newsguard’s advisory board makes it clear that Newsguard was created to serve the interests of American oligarchy. Chief among Newsguard’s advisors are Tom Ridge, the first Secretary of Homeland Security under George W. Bush and Ret. General Michael Hayden, a former CIA director, a former NSA director and principal at the Chertoff Group, a security consultancy seeking to “advise corporate clients and governments, including foreign governments” on security matters that was co-founded by former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who also currently serves as the board chairman of major weapons manufacturer BAE systems.”

Newsguard started as a partnership between Steven Brill and Louis Gordon Crovitz, with Crovitz appearing to be the connection to the world of finance, media, and geopolitics. Crovitz held a number of positions at Dow Jones and at the Wall Street Journal, is a board member of Business Insider, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and claims to have been an “editor or contributor to books published by the American Enterprise Institute and Heritage Foundation.” As Webb noted, “the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) is one of the most influential neoconservative think tanks in the country and its ‘scholars,’ directors and fellows have included neoconservative figures like Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, John Bolton and Frederick Kagan.”

Most recently, Newsguard has created a list of “Websites Publishing False Coronavirus Information” and a list “Super Spreaders” of false information. These lists include many well-known and credible independent media outlets. This is not to say that every website listed is credible and should be supported. The point is that these types of lists only serve to “blackball” certain outlets and schools of thoughts which counter the mainstream version of events.

Newsguard is not the only fact checker service operating in the current “post-truth era”. Social media companies like Facebook have partnered with several organizations with the stated aim of fact checking and debunking disinformation. Of course, these organizations tend to reinforce the narratives being woven by the mouthpieces in the corporate media and the puppet masters working the politicians.  For a moment Facebook partnered with reviled “fact checker” Snopes, but, after Snopes was discredited, Facebook has now partnered with companies like Lead Stories.

Lead Stories also “fact checked” The Mind Unleashed a couple times, always using arbitrary standards and semantics to make a story appear to be false or misleading. In one story, Lead Stories relies on data from the aforementioned Newsguard. So who is Lead Stories? The About page states that since January 2019 they have been a part of Facebook fact checker program. They describe the partnership as follows:

“Under the terms of this partnership we get access to listings of content that has been flagged as potentially false by Facebook’s systems or its users and we can decide independently if we want to fact check it or not. In addition to this we can enter our fact checks into a tool provided by Facebook and Facebook then uses our data to help slow down the spread of false information on its platform. Facebook pays us to perform this service for them but they have no say or influence over what we fact check or what our conclusions are, nor do they want to.”

Lead Stories is run by Perry Sanders Jr., an attorney known for representing the family of rapper Notorious B.I.G. after his murder, and Editor-in-Chief Alan Duke, who helped create Lead Stories after 26 years with CNN. Despite Duke’s bio stating that he “did ground-breaking investigative reporting on the Jeffrey Epstein sex trafficking scandal“, CNN is most known as a “super spreader” of propaganda and fake news. It is CNN, ABC, CBS, the Washington Post and others who actually helped cover up Epstein’s crimes. The entire Lead Stories team is filled with former and current CNN employees, as well as other MSM outlets.

Two other organizations that have partnered with Facebook and fact checked TMU are Science Feedback and Africa Check, both which claim to identify and expose the spread of disinformation. Science Feedback describes itself as “a worldwide network of scientists sorting fact from fiction in science based media coverage. Our goal is to help readers know which news to trust”. Africa Check says they are a non-profit attempting to “raise the quality of information available to society across the continent.”

As with Lead Stories and Newsguard, Africa Check uses semantics to label a story false or misleading. Science Feedback uses a similar strategy, casting The Mind Unleashed (and other alternative media sites) in a web of “disinformation” related to a report about the potential for a “mini ice age”.

Interestingly, Africa Check’s list of partners includes The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, yet another example of how the Gates’ spread their influence and agenda around the world – this time as part of an effort to control the dialogue around hot topics. Gates also funded the Event 201 pandemic simulation exercise which discussed the potential for censoring the internet or even arresting individuals who spread information that has been deemed false. Africa Check is also partnered with the George Soros-funded Open Society Foundations.

How to Limit Discussion and Control the Narrative

The strategy for the social media companies and fact checkers is simple: label someone fake news, lower their reach with algorithmic manipulation, force them to comply to arbitrary commands if they want the fake news label removed, control the narrative and shape the conversation.

Over the last two years I have seen good, hard working reporters and members of the independent/alternative media struggle to maintain integrity and report truthfully about controversial topics while also walking on egg shells in an attempt not to upset the fact checkers. For example, in late February, one writer had an article fact checked for discussing the various reports about COVID-19 being engineered in a lab. The Facebook fact checker stated:

“As explained in our fact-check, the claim that was reported in your article, namely that the coronavirus was created in a lab, is unsupported by evidence and is in fact contradicted by multiple scientific studies indicating that the virus originated naturally in wildlife.”

The writer of this particular order actually went to great lengths to make it clear that some sources disagreed with the claim, but according to Facebook’s fact checker, “it does not acknowledge that the claim is false to begin with, giving readers the misleading impression that there is legitimate scientific doubt over the issue when this is not the case.”

In other words, there is no reason to tell the public that some professionals and researchers have a different theory about the origins of the virus. No matter what was offered to the fact checker there was no compromise. Not only did they want the title to be changed and for an editor’s note to be attached acknowledging the apparently “false” claim, but they said they would not remove the fake news label if we took the article down. The options were essentially to keep the article up and comply, or keep it up, change nothing, and be labeled fake news.

In emails from Newsguard, TMU was admonished for “its history of promoting conspiracy theories related to the Sept. 11 attacks and the Douma, Syria chemical weapons attacks, as well as its promotion of marijuana as a cancer cure in stories”. It’s clear to see that anyone who does not buy the official narratives about the major geopolitical events of our day, or support the Big Pharma kool-aid – will be punished.

Unfortunately, the censors are winning because many in the alternative media are choosing to self-censor in the hopes that things will get better in the long run or that doing so will allow them to stay on the platform longer, and continue to reach more people. As we are now seeing, this is a losing strategy.

Two Years After the FB-Atlantic Council Partnership & the Independent Media Purge

What we are witnessing today, in May 2020, is the continuation of the fight against “fake news” which began immediately following the election of Donald Trump. In November 2016, Merrimack College associate professor Melissa Zimdars posted a public Google document titled, “False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and/or Satirical ‘News’ Sources” which went viral after being reported on by most corporate mainstream outlets.

Within a matter of weeks, a new list appeared online from an organization calling itself PropOrNot, an allegedly independent group of researchers trying to find the truth about the dissemination of Russian propaganda and fake news. This list also contained names of prominent independent media outlets like Anti Media, The Corbett Report, Mint Press News, and many others.

It was this combination of the Zimdars list and the PropOrNot list which had the immediate effect of placing a target on the vast majority of independent journalists and outlets who have also been accused of directly or indirectly conspiring with the Russians. Websites and social media pages for these outlets began to suffer a drastic reduction in reach and interaction with their audiences. Many websites have lost access to Google advertising money due to these false associations. The problem is that the majority of the mainstream media unquestionably reported on and repeated the claims made by these two lists without any attempt at investigative work.

In January 2018, PropOrNot would be exposed for their connections to The Atlantic Council, a think tank with connections to the western Military-Industrial Complex. Coincidentally, in May 2018, Facebook announced a partnership with the Atlantic Council, which officially claims to provide a forum for international political, business, and intellectual leaders. The social media giant said the partnership was aimed at preventing Facebook from “being abused during elections.”

The press release promoted Facebook’s efforts to fight fake news by using artificial intelligence, as well as working with outside experts and governments.

“Today, we’re excited to launch a new partnership with the Atlantic Council, which has a stellar reputation looking at innovative solutions to hard problems. Experts from their Digital Forensic Research Lab will work closely with our security, policy and product teams to get Facebook real-time insights and updates on emerging threats and disinformation campaigns from around the world. This will help increase the number of “eyes and ears” we have working to spot potential abuse on our service — enabling us to more effectively identify gaps in our systems, preempt obstacles, and ensure that Facebook plays a positive role during elections all around the world.”

The Atlantic Council of the United States was established in 1961 to bolster support for international relations. Although not officially connected to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Atlantic Council has spent decades promoting causes and issues which are beneficial to NATO member states. In addition, The Atlantic Council is a member of the Atlantic Treaty Organization, an umbrella organization which “acts as a network facilitator in the Euro-Atlantic and beyond.” The ATO works similarly to the Atlantic Council, bringing together political leaders, academics, military officials, journalists and diplomats to promote values that are favorable to the NATO member states.

Officially, ATO is independent of NATO, but the line between the two is razor thin.

Essentially, the Atlantic Council is a think tank which can offer companies or nation states access to military officials, politicians, journalists, diplomats, etc., to help them develop a plan to implement their strategy or vision. These strategies often involve getting NATO governments or industry insiders to make decisions they might not have made without a visit from the Atlantic Council team. This allows individuals or nations to push forth their ideas under the cover of hiring what appears to be a public relations agency but is actually selling access to high-profile individuals with power to affect public policy. Indeed, everyone from George H.W. Bush to Bill Clinton to the family of international agent of disorder Zbigniew Brzezinski have spoken at or attended council events.

In 2016, The New York Times wrote “The Atlantic Council, which has seen its annual revenue grow to $21 million from $2 million in the last decade, offers access to United States and foreign government officials in exchange for contributions. Individual donors, like FedEx, have also helped fund specific reports that align with their agendas.” The Times wrote that giving financial support is rewarded with “an ‘unprecedented level of information and access,’ including the chance to have a corporate executive, if the company donates at least $50,000 a year, speak at an Atlantic Council event ‘with top U.S. and foreign leaders’ present.”

According to their website, “The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab) has operationalized the study of disinformation by exposing falsehoods and fake news, documenting human rights abuses, and building digital resilience worldwide.” The DFRLab tracks global disinfo campaigns, fake news stories, and “subversive attempts against democracy while teaching the public skills to identify and expose attempts to pollute the information space.”

The Atlantic Council’s list of financial supporters reads like a who’s-who of think tanks and Non-Governmental Organizations. The Atlantic Council receives funding from the Brookings Institution, Carnegie Endowment, Cato Institute, Council on Foreign Relations, and the Rand Corporation, to name a few. In addition, various members of the Military-Industrial Complex are benefactors of the Atlantic Council, including Huntington Ingalls, the United States’ sole maker of aircraft carriers; Airbus, the plane manufacturer; Lockheed Martin, the shipbuilder and aviation company; and Raytheon, which makes missile systems. All of the companies have contracts with the U.S. Department of Defense and offer financial support to the Atlantic Council. The Council also receives support from Chevron and the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Finally, the Atlantic Council receives direct financial support from the U.S. Departments of the Air Force, Army, Navy and Energy and from the U.S. Mission to NATO.

By October 2018 – only five months after the Atlantic Council partnership with Facebook – the social media giant announced they were unpublishing, or purging, over 500 pages and 200 accounts who are accused of spreading political spam. Several of these pages and writers were also removed from Twitter on the same day.

“Today, we’re removing 559 Pages and 251 accounts that have consistently broken our rules against spam and coordinated inauthentic behavior,” Facebook stated in a blog post. Facebook states that the people behind this alleged spam “create networks of Pages using fake accounts or multiple accounts with the same names” and “post the same clickbait posts in dozens of Facebook Groups”.

Nearly 3 years later, we are still seeing the repercussions of the purge of independent media voices. In the wake of COVID-19 and calls for stemming the flow of “misinformation”, we will likely see more censorship and digital purging. Those who are attempting to stay informed and aware need to recognize that getting your news from Google, Facebook, YouTube, etc., will keep you trapped in a bubble of sanitized, state-approved information.

Step Outside the Matrix and Question Everything.

Question Everything, Come To Your Own Conclusions.

May 12, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Democrat advice for ‘combating online disinformation’ is common sense buried under hypocrisy and censorship

By Nebojsa Malic | RT | December 19, 2019

There is actually some good advice in the Democratic National Committee’s five suggestions for avoiding “disinformation” online. Too bad it’s buried in hypocrisy and promotion of literal disinformation shops, grifters and frauds.

On Tuesday, as Democrats launched their final impeachment push in the House of Representatives, the DNC posted a set of recommendations to its followers to protect themselves from “disinformation.” While the jokes about flogging the dead horse of ‘Russiagate’ write themselves at this point, some of the advice offered is actually quite solid.

For instance, it makes perfect sense to actively seek out information from multiple sources. The DNC spoils it, however, by insisting the sources have to be “authoritative.” As in what, approved by the Party? Well, no, merely by the self-appointed gatekeepers such as MediaBiasFactCheck and NewsGuard.

We’ve written about NewsGuard before. As for MBFC, it lists the Alliance for Securing Democracy – operators of the ridiculous Hamilton68 dashboard – and Bellingcat as “least biased” news sources. Enough said.

“Ask yourself who the author of online content is,” also amounts to good advice. That too is tempered by the realization that in its more commonplace, lazy form it amounts to identity politics: stuff “our” people create has to be correct, while anything done by “them” is suspect.

The third point is perhaps the strongest: “When you share, make sure you are sharing content that is true and helpful to others, not as a knee-jerk reaction to content that angers or scares you.”

One only wishes the Democrats would take their own advice, given how widespread the “woke rage clickbait” business model has become. A whole bunch of online outlets have catered to hate-clicks of Democrats perpetually aggrieved by Donald Trump’s presidency, until they went out of business and fired their staff.

The fourth piece of advice urges people to “try to inject truth into the debate” using fact-checkers like Snopes or PolitiFact. Leaving aside the proliferation of partisan fact-checkers and the whole industry of “arguments” based on redefining the meaning of words, this method is somewhat of a rare bird – mainly because of too many people following points two and three too literally, and generally launching personal attacks rather than debating the issues.

By far the worst offender, however, has to be the fifth point, urging DNC followers to “educate” themselves by reading a variety of articles, books and reports that actually peddle outrageous propaganda.

For example, one of the recommended resources is a report on disinformation by New Knowledge – a Democrat-funded shop that literally faked an army of Russian “bots” to sway a 2017 US Senate race in Alabama.

Another is a New York Times “documentary” on a Soviet conspiracy to “tear the West apart” that tells more about its authors than anything they claim.

Other recommendations include “smart civil society groups” that are literally disinformation shops run either by the Democrats themselves (Media Matters for America), or the Atlantic Council and NATO (Disinfo Portal). There is also Graphika, an outfit currently employing the Atlantic Council’s former chief troll-hunter Ben Nimmo, a disinformation story unto himself.

But wait, there’s more! Among the recommended authorities are Russiagate pushers Clint Watts and Malcolm Nance, CNN and MSNBC authorities on “disinformation” and “Russian bots” despite being repeatedly and colossally wrong on everything pretty much all the time.

Needless to say, DNC’s advice has attracted far more derision than appreciation on Twitter, with responses dominated by snark along the lines of “Tell us more about this and the Steele dossier,” or “disinformation [is] information that doesn’t lead to election of Democrats.”

Nor was all of the negative feedback from conservatives. “Coming from those who rigged the 2016 Democratic primary, no thanks. I don’t take advice from criminals,” quipped one diehard Bernie Sanders fan.

Tough luck, Democrats. Do better.

December 20, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sound familiar? Reddit says US-UK trade deal leaks may be tied to Russia, citing speculation from… of course, Atlantic Council

RT | December 7, 2019

A trove of secret papers cited by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in attacking the Tories may have links to Moscow, Reddit has announced. The proof? The US-UK-NATO-funded Atlantic Council says it isn’t sure but it might be true.

The leaked documents, which were shared on the discussion site several weeks ago, point to evidence that the United States would demand a market share in the UK’s National Health Service in any trade talks after Brexit. In a statement, Reddit said that it believed that the accounts that had shared the documents were “part of a campaign that has been reported as originating from Russia.”

The vague wording is further muddled by the source that Reddit cites: The Atlantic Council. Ben Nimmo, a senior fellow at the think tank, said that the leaks “closely resemble techniques” allegedly employed by Russia. He noted, however, that “we do not have all the data that allows us to make a final determination in this case.”

While media outlets rushed to hype the “findings” as definitive proof of Russia’s involvement, some journalists noted obvious holes in the story.

Aside from the Atlantic Council’s clear conflict of interest in the story (it’s a US and UK-funded think tank, allegedly investigating leaks that damage both governments), Nimmo’s prominence in this saga of alleged Russian meddling is also cause for concern. The self-professed disinformation fighter has links to the now-exposed Integrity Initiative, a shadowy group funded by the British Foreign Office that masquerades as an independent disinformation-busting ‘charity.’ In fact, Integrity Initiative even used its platform to spread talking points aimed at linking Corbyn to the Kremlin.

December 7, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Russophobia | , , , | 1 Comment