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the truth about Nazism in Ukraine: and why the media is (now) covering it up…

Russian President Putin has claimed that he ordered the invasion of Ukraine to “denazify” its government, while Western officials, such as former U.S. Ambassador to Moscow Michael McFaul, have called this pure propaganda, insisting, “There are no Nazis in Ukraine.”

In the context of the Russian invasion, the post-2014 Ukrainian government’s problematic relations with extreme right-wing groups and neo-Nazi parties has become an incendiary element on both sides of the propaganda war, with Russia exaggerating it as a pretext for war and the West trying to sweep it under the carpet.

The reality behind the propaganda is that the West and its Ukrainian allies have opportunistically exploited and empowered the extreme right in Ukraine, first to pull off the 2014 coup and then by redirecting it to fight separatists in Eastern Ukraine. And far from “denazifying” Ukraine, the Russian invasion is likely to further empower Ukrainian and international neo-Nazis, as it attracts fighters from around the world and provides them with weapons, military training and the combat experience that many of them are hungry for. 1

The paragraphs above form the introduction to a comprehensive and insightful piece written by Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies entitled “How the U.S. Has Empowered and Armed Neo-Nazis in Ukraine” published by Counterpunch on Friday 11th.

I will return to the conclusion of the article below but also encourage readers to follow the link to read it in full.

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In the summer of 2019, TIME Correspondent, Simon Shuster travelled to Ukraine to investigate the white supremacist militias that are recruiting people to join their fight:

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Embedded below is a speech made by Yevhen Karas, the leader of Ukraine’s neo-Nazi faction and youth wing C14 that he delivered on February 5th about a fortnight ahead of the Russian invasion.

Sat beside an effigy of notorious Nazi collaborator and war criminal Stepan Bandera, Karas brazenly dispels many of the narratives promoted by the mainstream media, European Union and US State Department claiming amongst other things that Ukraine is being armed as pawns of the West in order to destabilise Russia because “we have fun killing and we have fun fighting”:

 “LGBT and foreign embassies say ‘there were not many Nazis at Maidan, maybe about 10 percent of real ideological ones,’” Karas remarked. “If not for those eight percent [of neo-Nazis] the effectiveness [of the Maidan coup] would have dropped by 90 percent.”

The 2014 Maidan “Revolution of Dignity” would have been a “gay parade” if not for the instrumental role of neo-Nazis, he proclaimed.

Karas went on to opine that the West armed Ukrainian ultra-nationalists because “we have fun killing.” He also fantasized about the balkanization of Russia, declaring that it should be broken up into “five different” countries.

During the Maidan “Revolution of Dignity” that ousted Ukraine’s elected president in 2014, C14 activists took over Kiev’s city hall and plastered its walls with neo-Nazi insignia before taking shelter in the Canadian embassy.

As the former youth wing of the ultra-nationalist Svoboda Party, C14 appears to draw its name from the infamous 14 words of US neo-Nazi leader David Lane: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”

By offering to carry out acts of spectacular violence on behalf of anyone willing to pay, the hooligans have fostered a cozy relationship with various governing bodies and powerful elites across Ukraine. 2

The extracts above are taken from a recent Grayzone article which also reminds us of events that took place in early 2018 after Karas’ C14 gang signed an agreement with Kiev’s city government to patrol its streets. Months later it began a campaign of pogroms against Romani camps:

A March 2018 report by Reuters stated that “C14 and Kiev’s city government recently signed an agreement allowing C14 to establish a ‘municipal guard’ to patrol the streets,” effectively giving them the sanction of the state to carry out pogroms.

As The Grayzone reported, C14 led raid to “purge” Romani from Kiev’s railway station in collaboration with the Kiev police.

Not only was this activity sanctioned by the Kiev city government, the US government itself saw little problem with it, hosting [C14 activist Serhiy] Bondar at an official US government institution in Kiev where he bragged about the pogroms. C14 continued to receive state funding throughout 2018 for “national-patriotic education.”

Karas has claimed that the Ukrainian Security Serves would “pass on” information regarding pro-separatist rallies “not only [to] us, but also Azov, the Right Sector and so on.”

“In general, deputies of all factions, the National Guard, the Security Service of Ukraine and the Ministry of Internal Affairs work for us. You can joke like that,” Karas said.

Click here to read the full article entitled “How Ukraine’s Jewish president Zelensky made peace with neo-Nazi paramilitaries on front lines of war with Russia” written by Alexander Rubinstein and Max Blumenthal published on March 4th by The Grayzone.

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Eight years ago as the ugly truth about the Maidan slowly began to emerge even BBC Newsnight featured a handful of reports on the rise and influence of the “ultranationalists” including this segment (currently still available on Youtube) in which reporter Gabriel Gatehouse investigates the tightening links between the new Ukrainian government and neo-Nazis:

Halfway into his report, Gatehouse actually interviews Yevhen Karas about the role of his C14 movement when visiting its new base which had been the former headquarters of the Communist Party, but that had since been occupied by the far-right. Following the coup, the political party Svoboda, which is affiliated with C14, actually controlled four ministries in the new government including the Ministry of Defense. Two of its MPs had also been photographed brandishing well-known Nazi paraphernalia [5:00 mins into the report].

Karas told Gatehouse:

“Our general mission is to totally ruin chains that connect our country with the imperial power from the past.”

Gatehouse then prompts him: “… and that being Russia?”

Yes, said Karas, “Weaken the Russians –  not only Russia, Soviet Union.”

“Are you a Nazi?” Gatehouse asks directly. No, Karas replies smiling, “I don’t think I’m a Nazi – I’m a Ukrainian nationalist.”

Gatehouse prompts again: “And what does that mean?”

Karas continues: “The main confrontation is about that some ethnic groups have control: many business structures; some economics and political forces.”

Gatehouse again: “Which ethnic groups?”

Karas: “Russians and Jews. And it may be some non-Ukrainian group control a huge percent of some economic or political power.”

Finally, Gabriel Gatehouse rounds off the Newsnight report essentially confirming the opinion of Yevhen Karas with respect to the pivotal role played by neo-Nazis in the success of the coup:

“It’s clear that it was the radical groups who kept up the pressure on Viktor Yanukovych and many of them feel that this really is their victory – the question is how much power will that give the far-right in the new Ukraine.” [from 5:35 mins]

He adds: “With their anti-Russian rhetoric, events in Crimea will almost certainly play into the hands of the nationalists. No one knows exactly how strong they are in terms of numbers, but the influence of the far-right in Ukraine is growing.”

Eighteen months on, Gabriel Gatehouse then presented a follow-up BBC Newsnight report from Ukraine featuring arguably the most extreme “ultranationalist” group Pravyi Sektor (or Right Sector) as they marched on Kiev with neo-Nazi banners and chants of “Glory to Ukraine!”

At one point a commander of the Right Sector militia tells him: “I know the Chief of General Staff and all the armed forces, apart from a few generals; in principle they support us. The army will never go against us.” [from 7:00 mins]

Towards the end of his report, Gatehouse inspects a Right Sector banner which bears the Wolfsangel insignia saying “That’s a Nazi symbol, isn’t it?”

No, Dmytro Semen tells him disingenuously, “It means ‘idea of the Nation’, it’s not Nazi.” [from 7:35 mins]

As Gatehouse also acknowledges: “The revolution which is known here as Maidan overthrew the government and then set this country hurtling towards war. Just as it did during Maidan, the Right Sector has played a key role in the fighting in the east. Its members are more motivated than Ukraine’s conscripted regular army and the government relies on them to bolster their strength. Now they’re flexing their muscles.” [from 2:15 mins]

In April 2018, BBC Newsnight correspondent Jonah Fisher also reported on the increasing visibility of far-right groups in Ukraine. The National Militia brown shirts patrolling the streets and smashing up the premises of local businesses shouting “Glory to Ukraine”. Fisher acknowledges:

“The National Militia tell us they’re working alongside the police, but they have also on several occasions fought them. Here they brawled and used pepper spray on officers as they tried and failed to pressure a judge into keeping an allegedly corrupt politician in custody.”

Continuing:

“The National Militia are part of a group called Azov. Initially a volunteer military battalion, it has well established links to the far-right. Its founder this man Andriy Biletsky has in the past expressed racist and antisemitic views, and its logo [the Wolfsangel and Black Sun] has clear Nazi overtones.” [from 3:50 mins]

Vyacheslav Likhachev of the National Minority Rights Monitoring Group tells Jonah Fisher sardonically: “My favourite quote from Andriy Biletsky is that: ‘the destiny of the Ukrainian nation is to be in a vanguard in holy war of white people against under-humans [i.e., untermenschen] led by semites.’” [from 4:25 mins]

Fisher then explains that Biletsky “now denies he ever said that, but as this oath-making ceremony shows he’s not running away from the dubious imagery.”

Continuing: “Azov has now started a political party as well as launching the National Militia. The toxic racism has in public, at least, been replaced by patriotic nationalism.”

Speaking with leader of the National Militia, Ihor Mykhailenko, Fisher asks: “Do you now reject those values that you had in the past?”

Mykhailenko replies: “It’s been a long time, a lot has changed in Ukraine. We have always declared our lawful demand and desire that the country is governed by indigenous people.” [from 5:00 mins]

Deputy of Cherkasy City Hall, Olesksander Radutskyi, who has witnessed the takeover of his own council assembly by a gang of National Militia thugs, tells Fisher: “Cherkasy is now a training ground for a military coup in Ukraine.”

He continues: “This sort of thing can’t exist in Ukraine without the Interior Ministry’s approval. If [Arsen] Avakov decided that the National Militia with their balaclavas and uniforms shouldn’t exist, then it wouldn’t exist.” [from 6:45 mins]

Fisher points out that “Ukraine’s ambitious Interior Minister… links to the Azov group are well known. He’s put their fighters on the payroll of his ministry and appointed one of their commanders, Vadim Troyan, as his deputy.”

He continues: “The National Militia may well be the extreme right’s first move ahead of Ukraine’s elections next year, but it’s the uncertainty over who’s behind them that’s worrying people. Confidence in politicians and the police here is low, and for whatever reason the National Militia appear to have been given the nod to act outside the law.

Deputy of Cherkasy City Hall, Olesksander Radutskyi tells Fisher:

“History is repeating itself. If we look what happened in Germany when fascism was just rising up in the 1930s. That’s what I would compare this to.” [from 9:35 mins]

And Fisher concludes the report saying: “It’s an apocalyptic warning but, it’s a reminder that four years after Ukraine turned away from Russia towards Europe the struggle for its soul is far from over.”

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Here’s a report by Vice International released in May 2018 with the description: “In 2014, Ukraine was under siege and the military was unprepared. Desperate, the government urged anyone to get to the front and fight the Russian-backed separatists. As the war drags on, Ukraine claims their military is now in control and the volunteers have all been disbanded. But we tracked down some rogue volunteers still out there fighting, not prepared to hand over their weapons anytime soon.”

What the description above and the report curiously fails to mention is that these “rogue militia” and “volunteer brigades” are actually Right Sector neo-Nazis. The reporter, Ben Makuch, somehow manages to skirt around this issue entirely, even while showing fighters who are openly flaunting their “Blood and Soil” red and white flags and banners. Moreover, Oleksandr Turchynov who is interviewed close to the beginning of the film is a bit more than just “a controversial guy” who served as acting Ukrainian Prime Minister (2010) and then Chairman of the Verkhova Rada (Ukrainian parliament) in 2014 under President Poroshenko. In 2014 Turchynov also founded the ultranationalist People’s Front party along with Andriy Parubiy (Chairman of the Rada 2016–2019), who in turn had previously founded the Social-National Party of Ukraine (yes, the clue is in the name!) together with Oleh Tyahnybok.

Concluding his report, Ben Makuch joins a torchlight procession through Kiev on the annual “Day of the Defender” with thousands marching beneath neo-Nazi Right Sector and Svoboda banners, but still he only sees “a lot of angry yelling youths in masks and various forms of balaclava”. “What could possibly go wrong?” he asks rhetorically, while taking a selfie!

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And this is a Guardian report uploaded in September 2017 with the description: “In Ukraine, the far-right Azov militia is fighting on the frontline – and running a summer camp for children. The Guardian visited the camp and followed 16-year-old Anton through his experiences. Is Azov really a modern Hitler Youth organisation, or is it trying to prepare young Ukrainians for the tough reality that awaits them?”

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As Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies remind us in their latest Counterpunch article:

Despite Svoboda’s declining success in national elections, neo-Nazi and extreme nationalist groups, increasingly linked to the Azov Battalion, have maintained power on the street in Ukraine, and in local politics in the Ukrainian nationalist heartland around Lviv in Western Ukraine.

After President Zelensky’s election in 2019, the extreme right threatened him with removal from office, or even death, if he negotiated with separatist leaders from Donbas and followed through on the Minsk Protocol. Zelensky had run for election as a “peace candidate,” but under threat from the right, he refused to even talk to Donbas leaders, whom he dismissed as terrorists.

Continuing:

During Trump’s presidency, the United States reversed Obama’s ban on weapons sales to Ukraine, and Zelensky’s aggressive rhetoric raised new fears in Donbas and Russia that he was building up Ukraine’s forces for a new offensive to retake Donetsk and Luhansk by force.

The civil war has combined with the government’s neoliberal economic policies to create fertile ground for the extreme right. The post-coup government imposed more of the same neoliberal “shock therapy” that was imposed throughout Eastern Europe in the 1990s. Ukraine received a $40 billion IMF bailout and, as part of the deal, privatized 342 state-owned enterprises; reduced public sector employment by 20%, along with salary and pension cuts; privatized healthcare, and disinvested in public education, closing 60% of its universities.

Coupled with Ukraine’s endemic corruption, these policies led to the profitable looting of state assets by the corrupt ruling class, and to falling living standards and austerity measures for everybody else. The post-coup government upheld Poland as its model, but the reality was closer to Yeltsin’s Russia in the 1990s. After a nearly 25% fall in GDP between 2012 and 2016, Ukraine is still the poorest country in Europe.

As elsewhere, the failures of neoliberalism have fueled the rise of right-wing extremism and racism, and now the war with Russia promises to provide thousands of alienated young men from around the world with military training and combat experience, which they can then take home to terrorize their own countries.

The Soufan Center has compared the Azov Battalion’s international networking strategy to that of Al Qaeda and ISIS. U.S. and NATO support for the Azov Battalion poses similar risks as their support for Al Qaeda-linked groups in Syria ten years ago. Those chickens quickly came home to roost when they spawned ISIS and turned decisively against their Western backers.

Right now, Ukrainians are united in their resistance to Russia’s invasion, but we should not be surprised when the U.S. alliance with neo-Nazi proxy forces in Ukraine, including the infusion of billions of dollars in sophisticated weapons, results in similarly violent and destructive blowback.

Click here to read the full article by Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies entitled “How the U.S. Has Empowered and Armed Neo-Nazis in Ukraine” published by Counterpunch on Friday 11th.

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The following piece written by independent journalist Saj Awan was originally published on his website Burning Blogger on Saturday March 5th. It is reprinted below in full with all links and images retained.

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In December 2021 – just a few weeks before the Russian military incursion into Ukraine – something incredibly interesting happened.

A United Nations resolution was presented, its purpose being to condemn Nazism or the ‘glorification of Nazism’. Only two countries voted AGAINST the resolution. Guess which ones? It was the United States and Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Britain, Australia, Canada and the countries of the European Union were among those who abstained.

Just process this again, please. The US and Ukraine refused to condemn Nazism. While Canada, the UK and various European nations simply ‘abstained’ from having to do so. Fascinating, isn’t it?

Mere weeks later, Vladimir Putin is making a speech about ‘denazifying’ Ukraine (for which he was widely ridiculed in Western media), Russian forces were invading, and this whole disastrous situation unfolding.

Why would any government or nation, in this day and age, refuse to condemn Nazism – or even abstain from such a vote? Shouldn’t it be a simple, cut-and-paste matter? Apparently not.

Weeks later, all the world’s attention was fixed on the imminent Russian invasion of Ukraine.

In the wake of the Russian military operation in Ukraine, a concerted and calculated propaganda programme has encompassed all of Western media and commentary: one that has sought to completely whitewash Ukraine of any controversies or of any unsavoury elements – and to present all of Ukraine, including its militias and armed groups and its politicians, as absolute Good Guys and the Russians as the Absolute Villains.

The programme, in short, has been to present Ukraine as entirely untainted and those within the Ukrainian state and its society as being entirely devoid of any failings, wrongdoings or blame for the state of affairs that preceded the current crisis.

This is all about Russia’s aggression and Putin’s mania – and nothing else. Putin is the new Hitler.

That’s the programme: and every single major news broadcaster, media outlet or newspaper has adopted this narrative. Across all of both mainstream/corporate media and online social media, this whitewashing operation has been in full swing.

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Now, I will preface this article the same way as every other I publish on this subject: which is to clarify that I am not being a Putin apologist and I am not endorsing or defending the military violation of one sovereign state by another.

This article isn’t about endorsing the military offensive in Ukraine: or all of the destruction and casualties that inevitably go along with such an operation.

What it is about is exposing and confronting the mass media whitewashing of the Ukraine situation: and the highly selective narrative that is being presented by both media and governments.

In this article, we will establish that:

  1. this mass media whitewashing is deliberate; and even could be considered sinister, given that,
  2. there absolutely is a Nazi presence in Ukraine, and
  3. NATO governments absolutely know this: and are in fact covering for it.

Anyone reading this is of course entitled to disagree with those conclusions: but you will probably find it very difficult to.

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As for this whitewashing, it is absolute: every measure has been taken to present a highly sanitised image of Ukrainian society and politics.

In recent days, Facebook has reversed its ban on posts praising the Azov Batallion: it had previously (and correctly) regarded Azov as being in the same category as groups like Islamic State and the Ku Klux Klan – but, of course, the recent onset of pro-Ukraine mania in the West has seen the social media giant change its mind, apparently.

Moreover, Facebook and Instagram have both been hosting dozens of accounts that are raising funds and selling merch for openly Nazi and extremist groups. As reported, ‘the network of accounts’ promoting Nazi and white supremacist merchandise are ‘linked to two extremist groups operating out of Ukraine: Azov Battalion and Misanthropic Division.

Here are a couple of fine examples: note the Nazi/SS ‘wolfsangel’ symbol in the second item.

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wolfsangel-azov-battalion-ukraine-sword-wolf-anchor-t-shirts1747553-hoodies

You can buy your Azov merchandise all over the place these days, by the way: try here or here, for example. Now that everyone is all about celebrating the Ukrainian heroes, I suspect some of this merchandise is going to be selling really well.

Get your Azov merch, folks: it’s the hip new thing.

I’ve written about Azov before: here, for example. An openly Neo-Nazi organisation that has been involved in violence, hate crime and the Russia conflict ever since the events of 2014, in which the US/Western-backed ‘revolution’ helped create the situation that has existed in Ukraine to the present day.

When we’re talking Azov Battalion, remember that this is the same organisation whose mission (according to its founder) is to “lead the white races of the world in a final crusade… against Semite-led subhumans”.

Remember that. When someone says ‘oh, but they’re patriots and nationalists who are fighting for Ukraine’s independence’. Sure: and how precisely does fighting for Ukraine’s independence relate to leading ‘the white races of the world in a final crusade against sub-humans’…?

I mean, just a suggestion here: but couldn’t you fight for Ukrainian independence and, you know, NOT lead the white race in a final crusade against sub-humans?

And, just a reminder, get more Azov merch here. And here. Support the Heroes of Ukraine!

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Alright, so let’s recap a little bit about the Azov Battalion.

Azov was apparently founded by Andriy Biletsky, who – during the Maidan Revolution in 2014 – was actually freed from prison to take part in the ‘revolution’: having been otherwise serving a sentence for murder. So that’s a good start right there, isn’t it?

Among various other ultra-right-wing groups in Ukraine (Right Sector, Svoboda, National Corps, etc, all of which are basically connected), the Azov Battalion stood out because of its brazen brandishing and adoption of Nazi imagery and because of some of its reportedly brutal behaviour.

Ukrainian officials, Azov supporters and apologists, all like to say the regiment is misunderstood.

This is clearly bullshit. The regiment’s symbols, including wolf’s hook (or wolfsangel) and black sun, were Nazi SS symbols during World War II. Everyone knows this. Azov members have frequently been shown wearing Nazi insignia, riding around with swastika flags or patches, and making Nazi salutes.

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Apologists like to say the Azov and other Nazi militias are not state actors, but individuals and rogues. A few bad apples, right? Not true. Azov Battalion was formally incorporated into the National Guard and operates under the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Azov and other Nazis are therefore part of the state apparatus, legitimised by elements of the Ukrainian state.

If officials in Ukraine were embarrassed by or ashamed for the Nazis in their midst, why the hell would they incorporate them into the state? How can they be ‘rogue’ if they’ve been made part of the system?

Azov ‘patrols’ and the like also became commonplace, with members of the militia basically acting like a police force: in some cases to enforce the law, while in other cases to (predictably) intimidate or persecute ethnic minorities (including ethnic Russians).

If this is sounding a lot like a white/European version of ‘ISIS’, that’s something I’ve pointed out before: I argued back in 2018, in fact, that Ukraine is being turned into a European Syria-like situation, with Azov and other white nationalists being empowered to be the ‘white power’ equivalent of ISIS and other jihadists. Only instead of waving the ISIS black flag, they’ll be waving swastikas and wolfangel symbols.

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As Michael Colborne wrote four years ago:

‘Azov is trying – as one of their higher-ups has told me personally – to build a far-right “state within the state,” running everything from nationalist study groups and mixed martial arts training to free gyms for youth and programs for the elderly. They’re also trying to turn Kiev into a capital of the global far-right, inviting neo-Nazis and white supremacists from around the world to visit…’

Apologists also like to say that the Neo-Nazi militants and white supremacists are a minority and have very little influence. This is also bullshit.

As this article from TIME magazine as recently as January explained:

It has its own political party; two publishing houses; summer camps for children; and a vigilante force known as the National Militia, which patrols the streets of Ukrainian cities alongside the police… [Its military wing] has at least two training bases and a vast arsenal of weapons, from drones and armoured vehicles to artillery pieces

This isn’t some small network of troublemakers. Azov and its related far-right groups have connections across Ukraine’s institutions: including security services, police, military and government. They are prevalent across the society.

The Nazi-inspired ideology has apparently been quite prevalent too. Whether a group like Azov is a minority presence or not, it obviously has supporters and collaborators in all the places that matter – not just in Ukraine, but abroad.

But the involvement of foreign intelligence services and governments is something we’ll come to shortly.

And Azov, in fact, is only the most blatant and visible tip of the Nazi iceberg: this isn’t just about Azov.

As Atlantic Council noted in 2018:

Ukraine’s Ministry of Youth and Sports is funding the neo-Nazi group C14 to promote “national patriotic education projects” in the country.

The authors advised:

Government agencies at all levels should stop cooperating with far-right groups. In addition to the Youth Ministry’s problematic funding, C14 and a Kyiv city district recently signed an agreement allowing C14 to establish a “municipal guard” to patrol the streets; three such militia-run guard forces are already registered in Kyiv, and twenty-one operate in other cities as well…

While we’re on the subject of C14‘, the group’s leader, Yevhen Karas, was filmed giving a speech in early February at a Svoboda event.

You really need to listen to what he’s saying here, as it really does reveal the true nature of the Maidan events in 2014 and what’s happening now: because the media is certainly not going to show any of this type of stuff (“we have fun killing” is my favorite part). Basically, among other things, he boasts about all the weaponry Western allies have sent to them, gets excited about all the fighting that’s going to happen, and – crucially – explains that the ultra-right really was the chief beneficiary of Maidan.

Svoboda, for the record, is widely acknowledged as a Neo-Nazi party, and was founded by Oleh Tahnybok and Andriy Parubiy, the latter of whom was the chairman of Ukraine’s parliament until 2019 (and was invited to address the US Congress three years ago), and the former having been famously photographed with Senator John McCain during the events of 2014.

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To demonstrate just how omnipresent the fascist element is, the current Ukrainian President (and now worldwide hero) Volodymyr Zelensky (originally a comedy actor playing the fictional president of Ukraine in a TV show and then subsequently becoming the real president of Ukraine) has been presented as a heroic leader and figure since the events of the Russian incursion.

And not without justification. His actions have been admirable, brave and – for ordinary Ukrainians – inspiring. It’s no surprise he has suddenly becoming an iconic figure worldwide.

However, it was reported as recently as April 2021 that the ostensibly ‘liberal’ Zelensky wanted to appoint one Serhiy Sternenko (a former leader of the Neo-Nazi ‘Right Sector‘) as the head of the SBU (the Secret Service in Ukraine).

This despite Sternenko being under investigation for murder and for involvement in a massacre during the events of 2014.

If even Zelensky – the current and apparently ‘liberal’ president – is willing to be in alliance with Nazis and murderers (let alone to seek to place a Nazi and murderer in charge of, of all things, the Secret Service), then how much of a ‘minor problem’ or ‘minority’ presence can the Neo-Nazis and ultra-nationalists really be?

So then you might argue, ‘well, okay, there’s Nazis – but Ukraine isn’t a totalitarian state, at least’.

Well, sure, okay.

But, as the Georgetown Security Studies Review reminds us:

[I]n 2015 Ukraine passed a law recognizing controversial nationalist groups… as “independence fighters” and making it illegal to question the legitimacy of their actions.

It’s illegal to question the legitimacy of groups linked to white supremacy and Nazism? Well, that doesn’t sound promising, does it?

It’s not as if this stuff has been well hidden.

A key figure in Azov’s political wing, the National Corps Party, is Volodymyr Zelensky: who has been photographed with the swastika flag and doing a Hitler salute. She was invited to be a visiting fellow at the Vienna-based Institute for Human Sciences.

The evidence of Nazism or fascism in the Azov group and other related groups in Ukraine is endless: there’s been so MUCH of it that it became impossible to cover up or deny a long time ago. Hell, its members and supporters don’t even bother covering it up, they’re open about it, proud of it: that’s the whole point – for them, it’s all part of the glorious national (and racial) struggle.

They’ve held public marches and gatherings – out in the open. Often with state officials in attendance. These people aren’t in hiding. On January 1st this year, hundreds gathered in Kiev to celebrate World War II Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera, for example.

Yet, somehow, Western media and commentators are managing to ignore it entirely right now: the media line that been adopted since Russia’s build-up of military forces has been to pretend none of this is significant.

As Fair.org has pointed out, Western media has almost completely whitewashed the fascists from their coverage of the Ukraine crisis. As I’ve said, they’re presenting only a very measured and binary narrative of Russian aggression and Ukrainian heroism.

Remember the images of Valentyna Konstantynovska, the 79-year-old Ukrainian grandmother learning to handle an AK-47? Those images went viral in mid-February, as everyone applauded the brave Ukrainian citizens taking up arms to help defend their country.

And what could be more poignant than a sweet old lady doing it? It was practically begging to go viral, right? And of course it did – with hundreds of thousands of people sharing the story.

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But, as discussed in the article here on Friday, almost all of the media outlets running the story failed to mention that the sweet old lady was being instructed by members of the Azov Battalion.

As the Fair.org piece points out:

The BBC (2/13/22), for instance, showed a clip of “civilians lining up for a few hours’ military training with the National Guard,” with International Correspondent Orla Guerin describing Konstantynovska endearingly as “a granny with a gun.” Though Azov Battalion insignia was visible in the report, Guerin made no reference to it, and the report ends perversely with an NGU combatant helping a child to load an ammunition magazine…

It continues:

The printed press fared little better. On February 13, UK newspapers the London Times and the Daily Telegraph ran front-page spreads showing Konstantynovska preparing her weapon, without any reference to the Azov Battalion running the training course.

As the article points out, this is all the more perverse because both The Times and the Telegraph, along with the BBC and other organisations, had already in the past reported on the Nazi presence in Ukraine’s security apparatus and its militias, as well openly calling the Azov group a Nazi organisation.

I can attest to this: having read numerous mainstream news outlets in 2014 and 2015 acknowledging the true nature of groups like Azov and the involvement of Nazi groups and ideology in the new Ukraine. This included a number of BBC Newsnight reports from the time (which can still be found on YouTube: here’s an example).

And, again, if something as mainstream as TIME published an article on the matter as recently as January, then clearly the mainstream media establishment cannot claim ignorance. The Guardian, The New York Times, and various other major media companies have – at various times in the last several years – published articles addressing this fascist element in Ukraine: and yet, suddenly, no one wants to acknowledge the issue anymore.

Which means simply that they’ve all decided – in lockstep – to omit that information and context as of February 2022 and the Russian invasion.

To be clear, this means that the major media organisations across the Western world are acting in unison to present a manufactured and incomplete narrative. In effect, this is war-time propaganda we’re now seeing: where broadcasters like the BBC were once at least willing to acknowledge the presence of Neo-Nazis and white supremacists in this equation, now they’re covering it up completely.

This can only be policy: a policy of omission that has apparently been adopted across all Western media – in order to make sure this Russia/Ukraine conflict is presented in only a very specific way.

Not that the disease of Nazi-inspired ideology in Ukraine is in itself a justification for Russian invasion: but when Putin referred to the Nazi issue in his speech a week ago, the media and Western politicians decided to mock his claims and essentially suggest Putin is mentally unhinged – instead of confronting or debating the issue.

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In effect, the argument is that any time Putin mentions ‘Nazis’, he is obviously either delusional, suffering from psychological issues, or a fantasist living in the Soviet past.

As a case in point, while both social media and mainstream media is presently filled with stories about Russian aggression (somewhat justifiably, given that Russia has launched an invasion: though it’s worrying that even the term ‘war crimes’ is being used a lot now too) and being contrasted to the apparently heroic struggle by the Ukrainian resistance, possible dynamics that don’t fit this neat-and-tidy narrative are being removed from all discussion.

For example, during the Russian assault on Mariupol, which has a strong ethnic Greek population living there, one Greek resident told Greek City Times that ‘Ukrainian “fascists” are killing people for trying to leave the city.

Regarding the ongoing siege in Mariupol (where Azov is based), other claims to a similar effect have been reported: albeit mostly from Russian media sources, which admittedly makes them biased and unreliable. But the Greek source quoted above seems to be more independent.

Now, of course we don’t know if those stories are true or not: but, if they were true, would the media tell us about it? Or would they cover it up and keep bombarding us with headlines about indiscriminate Russian shelling and civilians being targeted, etc?

Again, in the fog of war and under war-time propaganda conditions, the truth is always difficult to ascertain. And, regardless, none of this necessarily justifies Russia’s military assault on Ukrainian cities: invading a sovereign state is still a breach of international law.

And what is happening to ordinary people in Ukraine, caught in the midst of all of this, is terrible.

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But why is the fascism problem in Ukraine being covered up?

And, coming back to the question we started this article with, why did Ukraine, the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and others refuse to condemn Nazism in the UN in December?

Meanwhile, the reality – and obvious danger – of the Azov Battalion and other white supremacist groups that are pervasive in the Ukrainian sphere isn’t just limited to Ukrainians. The Azov group and related fascist entities in Ukraine have been attracting foreign recruits for years.

We talked about this before: about Russia in fact complaining to various European states about the ‘volunteers’ going over to Ukraine to fight alongside the militias.

As explored in this older piece on the subject, this included people like Brenton Tarrant – the Australian who would go on to carry out the Christchurch Massacre in New Zealand: an act (a massacre at a mosque) that is entirely in keeping with ideology of Azov and other white supremacist militias.

Security expert Ali Soufan told TIME magazine that more than “17,000 foreign fighters have come to Ukraine over the past six years from 50 countries.”

Remind you of anything? Yeah, the Islamic State again, right? Hell, they even look the same, don’t they?

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As for the foreign fighter element, that’s going to increase exponentially now that the war is happening in Ukraine: and now that Zelinsky has called on foreign ‘volunteers’ from everywhere to come to Ukraine to help in the fight against the Russians. One British security expert has warned, in response to Foreign Secretary Liz Truss’s apparent encouraging of British ‘volunteers’ to go fight in Ukraine, that the danger of far-right terrorism coming back to the UK as a result of this is significant.

That is in fact precisely the scenario I predicted in this older article: that Ukraine would become the white supremacist equivalent of the ISIS ‘caliphates’ – a bloody battleground in which militants belonging to the same ideology can come and get real-world experience of warfare and violence… and then export that violence across the continent.

Whereas the ISIS fanatics did it in the name of the fundamentalist Islamo-fascist ‘caliphate’, the Neo-Nazis will do it to, as Biletsky said, “lead the white races of the world in a final crusade…”

Everything I’m seeing right now, as this current crisis unfolds, is reinforcing my longstanding suspicion that this has been part of the long-term plan of the various agencies or parties involved in this business.

Michael Colborne, writing for Foreign Policy in 2019, seemed to agree, and described Ukraine as “a dangerous neo-Nazi-friendly extremist environment” with “global ambitions“.

And remember that earlier quote too: that they are ‘trying to turn Kiev into a capital of the global far-right, inviting neo-Nazis and white supremacists from around the world to visit…’

You can probably see then, if you didn’t already, why I was so bitchy the other day about the ‘Glory To Ukraine’ memes and hashtags that are all over social media since the Russian military operations began. Again, “Slava Ukraini, heroyam slava!” (“Glory to Ukraine, glory to the Heroes!”) is a slogan that goes back to the 1930s and Ukraine’s Nazi collaborators who, among other things, were involved in genocide.

As this Georgetown Security Studies Review article from 2018 explains:

Rather than leave it as the people’s unofficial rallying cry, the Ukrainian government pushed to have it become the official greeting of the Ukrainian Armed Forces’: a proposal that was made law in October of 2018.

While it’s worrying enough, given all of the other context laid out in this article, that this phrase – with its connotations – has literally been made the official greeting of Ukraine’s Armed Forces: it’s even more disturbing to now see it being nonchalantly adopted by so many people around the world, most of whom don’t understand the context.

But then that brings us back to the fact that the mass media is deliberately failing to inform the general public of the full context of these things: and, more generally, the full context of the present crisis that we’re seeing reported on every day and night on our televisions.

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As for any notion that the Maidan Revolution or the ousting of Victor Yanukovych (whether he was a corrupt oligarch, a Russian puppet or whatever else) was a purely domestic affair, this was contradicted from the very beginning by the United States’ Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Victoria Nuland.

Nuland, who was on the scene for the Maidan protests (not unlike how the likes of Hillary Clinton were on the scene in Libya, parading with Libyan rebels), was public about the fact that America had spent five billion dollars on the regime change programme in Ukraine.

And everyone knew about the fascists and Nazis in the midst of things. Again, ignorance cannot be claimed.

The ‘revolution’ was co-opted and guided by those very groups: and it was always the fascists and ultra-nationalists who benefited most from those events. And just as the likes of Hillary Clinton and John McCain were in Libya meeting with so-called Libyan Rebels (often Al-Qaeda) trying to overthrow Gaddafi in 2011, in 2014 McCain was pictured in Kiev with Oleh Tyahnybok, a Nazi-saluting founder of the Svoboda party.

Like a great many Syrians and Libyans before them, any progressive or well-intentioned Ukrainian protesters involved in Maidan in 2014 were always going to be disappointed to find that the ‘revolution’ in fact was being stolen from them: that it didn’t really belong to them at all.

Ever since then, it’s been the thugs and militias that have had the run of the roost.

As Atlantic Council noted in this 2018 article, Amnesty International had warned that:

“Ukraine is sinking into a chaos of uncontrolled violence posed by radical groups and their total impunity. Practically no one in the country can feel safe under these conditions.”

Also it has to be borne in mind that the current state of affairs – the conditions created by the Russian military incursion – are exactly the kind of scenario the Neo-Nazi groups and militias have been waiting for. This situation – and the urgent need to defend Ukraine – will give them the opportunity to fully expand their influence and position within the society: even beyond that which the events of 2014 had already given them.

It’s exactly the same model by which Al-Qaeda, ISIS and other jihadist groups were able to thrive in the chaos and subsequent violence brought about by the so-called ‘Arab Spring’.

Remember what C14 leader Yevhen Karas said in the video from earlier: ‘We have fun killing, we have fun fighting…’

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And now it’s all about the fight: the ‘heroic struggle’. These fighters – and their foreign backers – have been preparing for this Russian incursion for a long time.

As far back as May last year, Arsen Avakov, the Minister of Internal Affairs (and affiliated with the Azov Battalion and other Nazis) was calling for ‘patriots’ to prepare to protect the Motherland from Russia. This Russian operation was clearly fully expected.

Moreover, the Nazi or fascist elements in Ukraine are not a rogue factor being overlooked by Western governments or intelligence services. The mass media’s current whitewashing of the Ukrainian situation is precisely to provide cover for our covert operations involving groups like the Azov Battalion and other fascists.

Research by the Institute for European Russian and Eurasian Studies at George Washington University revealed – as recently as September last year (PDF here) – that Canadian military were training Ukrainian students connected with the fascist organisation called ‘Centuria‘.

As this article from December informs us:

‘In April 2021, Centuria’s leaders boasted on Ukrainian social media that they “actively cooperate with foreign colleagues… participating in military exercises with France, Great Britain, Canada, the USA, Germany and Poland…” The same month, the group participated in a march glorifying the exploits of the 14th Division of the Nazi Waffen-SS, the “Galicia Division,” which was comprised of Ukrainian fascists. It honors this Nazi division because it “beat the Bolshevik contagion…”…’

Let’s reiterate that last bit: a march glorifying the Nazi Waffen-SS and its Ukrainian fascists. And again, this march – and others like it – have been held openly in Ukraine. These aren’t covert.

The same group also attacked an LGBTQ event in 2019, claiming to be defending the streets “from perverts”.

Concerning this Canadian and foreign military operation in Ukraine, WSWS.org reports that:

[T]he Ottawa Citizen reported that military and Defence Department officials attempted to conceal a 2018 meeting between a group of Canadian “officers and diplomats” and members of the Azov Battalion, an openly fascist group with members embedded in the Ukrainian National Guard. Fully briefed in 2017 on its Nazi ideology, Canadian officials were concerned only that the meeting remain secret. It was exposed when Azov boasted about it via social media…

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We’re further informed that the ‘Ukrainian Canadian Congress, which openly defends these Nazi veterans and glorifies the fascist World War II Ukrainian leader Stepan Bandera, wields considerable influence in Ottawa. The Deputy Prime Minister, Chrystia Freeland… is the granddaughter of one of the Waffen-SS Galicia division’s principal promoters, Mihailo Chomiak, the editor of a pro-Nazi newspaper in occupied Poland...’

This is true, about Chrystia Freeland – Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister: I didn’t know that until recently.

So Canadian military and defense officials not only were engaged with the Nazi Azov Battalion, but tried to cover it up.

Something virtually identical also happened with the British military.

Declassified UK revealed that ‘Ukraine’s National Guard says that in meeting last year the UK military agreed to start training its forces…’

As the piece shows, photos and details concerning this meeting in Kiev were published on the website of Ukraine’s National Guard – which includes the Azov Battalion. Despite this, the UK Ministry of Defence was angry that this ‘private’ meeting was publicised in Ukraine. And, as the Declassified UK article tells us, ‘There is no mention of the meeting in any UK records that are publicly available.’

This too was published in September 2021 – just a few months before this current Russian invasion.

Not that Western military agencies’ collaborations with Azov and other Ukrainian militias is new. In March 2015, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov had announced that the Azov Regiment would be among the first units to be trained by United States Army troops in their Operation Fearless Guardian training mission.

In fact, the US State Department has classified the Azov Battalion as a terrorist group. In 2018, the US House of Representatives passed a provision blocking training of Azov members by American forces, due to its Neo-Nazi links. However, extraordinarily, this ban was quietly lifted due to pressure from the Pentagon.

Obama had in fact blocked armed sales to Ukraine, presumably worried about the arming of Neo-Nazi units: but Trump and now Biden reversed this policy. Trump in fact approved the $39 million sale of defensive lethal weapons to Ukraine.

As noted in my 2018 article here, Israel was also reportedly selling weapons directly to the Azov group: that’s Israel selling weapons to Neo-Nazis. What a world.

Now, of course, in light of the current events, all kinds of weaponry is being openly sent to Ukraine. Everyone is sending weapons to Ukraine now (just look at this list) – even including countries like Germany and Finland.

Which is logical on one level – obviously everyone wants Ukraine to be able to defend itself against an invading aggressor. But you also have to ask precisely whose hands all the weapons are going to end up in: because, as we once saw with the Islamic State group, it’s usually the worst-case scenario.

It is clear, at any rate, that Western intelligence and military groups have been supporting and engaging with groups like the Azov Battalion: in spite of their openly Nazi ideology. No one is under any illusions about this.

It is now looking increasingly like Special Forces from various countries are arriving in Ukraine to fight the Russians. Israeli special forces, it is reported, are in Ukraine: so are Canadian special forces. And British SAS personnel are said to be headed to Ukraine. You know, let’s just assume everyone’s ‘special forces’ are arriving in Ukraine.

My question. given everything else, is how many of them are going to be colluding with the likes of Azov.

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To conclude here: no, Ukrainians aren’t all Nazi-loving white supremacists. Of course they’re not. It’s a country of 40 million people: most of them I’m sure have no affinity with the extremists, just as most people in Mosul had no affinity with the Islamic State militants.

But the evident and obvious Nazi presence in the affairs of the Ukraine/Russia/NATO conflict is too big and too significant to be so completely removed from the equation in the way the media is doing. The general public in most Western nations are not particularly versed in the details of the Ukraine/Russia situation or the recent history leading up to this present state of affairs: and generally do not know much about the Nazi resurgence or about the nature of groups like Azov – or our governments’ collusion in these matters.

And the mass media is making sure it stays this way: presenting the general public only with the context and ‘information’ that suits the present propaganda agenda. This policy of omission is either stupidly short-sighted or it’s actually sinister: draw your own conclusion as to which it is.

Click here to read the same article as it was originally published by S. Awan on his official website Burning Blogger on March 5th.

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1 From an article entitled entitled “How the U.S. Has Empowered and Armed Neo-Nazis in Ukraine” written by Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies published in Counterpunch on March 11, 2022. https://www.counterpunch.org/2022/03/11/how-the-u-s-has-empowered-and-armed-neo-nazis-in-ukraine/

2 From an article entitled “How Ukraine’s Jewish president Zelensky made peace with neo-Nazi paramilitaries on front lines of war with Russia” written by by Alexander Rubinstein and Max Blumenthal published in The Grayzone on March 4, 2022. https://thegrayzone.com/2022/03/04/nazis-ukrainian-war-russia/ 

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corona marginalia: Facebook v. the BMJ

“We should all be very worried that Facebook, a multibillion dollar company, is effectively censoring fully fact checked journalism that is raising legitimate concerns about the conduct of clinical trials. Facebook’s actions won’t stop The BMJ doing what is right, but the real question is: why is Facebook acting in this way? What is driving its world view? Is it ideology? Is it commercial interests? Is it incompetence? Users should be worried that, despite presenting itself as a neutral social media platform, Facebook is trying to control how people think under the guise of ‘fact checking.’”

— Kamran Abbasi, The BMJ’s editor in chief

“I worry about the amount of power placed in the hands of these third party groups. There’s no accountability structure. There’s no democratic process to this. And so, while I do see a role for fact checking and think it’s far superior to the alternative—which is Facebook just taking down content—I still worry about the effect that it can have on legitimate sources.”

— Jillian York, director for international freedom of expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation

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The British Medical Journal (BMJ) is a weekly peer-reviewed journal. Starting out as the Provincial Medical and Surgical Journal, it began publishing in 1840 and is one of the oldest and most prestigious medical journals in the world:

Over the decades, news of many important medical advances was broken in the pages of the journal. In 1847/48, the PMSJ carried a number of reports from pioneering anaesthetist Sir James Young Simpson urging the adoption and correct preparation and administration of undiluted chloroform for maximum benefit. Twenty years later, in 1867, The BMJ published the first of many seminal papers on antisepsis by Joseph Lister.

In October 1948, The BMJ published the first centrally randomised controlled trial (‘Streptomycin Treatment of Pulmonary Tuberculosis’— one of the authors being FRG Heaf of Heaf Test fame, which remained in use until 2005).

The journal also carried Richard Doll’s seminal papers on the causal effects of smoking on lung cancer and other causes of death in 1950 and 1954.

Click here to read more about the BMJ’s past achievements on its official website.

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Reputation notwithstanding, The BMJ has recently fallen foul of Facebook’s ever-vigilant arbiters of truth who are lodged deep in the bowels of FB’s infallible ‘fact checking’ HQ:

Beginning on 10 November, The BMJ’s readers began reporting a variety of problems when trying to share its investigation on Facebook. Some reported being unable to share it. Many others reported having their post flagged with a warning about “Missing context… Independent fact-checkers say this information could mislead people.” Facebook told posters that people who repeatedly shared “false information” might have their posts moved lower in its news feed. In one private Facebook group, of people who had long term neurological adverse events after vaccination, group administrators received a message from Facebook informing them that a post linking to The BMJ’s investigation was “partly false”

Readers were directed to a “fact check” performed by Lead Stories, one of the 10 companies contracted by Facebook in the US, whose tagline is “debunking fake news as it happens.” An analysis last year showed that Lead Stories was responsible for half of all Facebook fact checks.

Taken from The BMJ’s formal refutation of Facebook as published on January 19th, which continues:

The Lead Stories article, though it failed to identify any errors in The BMJ’s investigation, nevertheless carried the title, “Fact Check: The British Medical Journal Did NOT Reveal Disqualifying and Ignored Reports of Flaws in Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine Trials.”

The first paragraph wrongly described The BMJ as a “news blog” and was accompanied by a screenshot of the investigation article with a stamp over it stating “Flaws Reviewed,” despite the Lead Stories article not identifying anything false or inaccurate. Lead Stories did not mention that the investigation was externally peer reviewed, despite this being stated in the article, and had published its article under a URL that contained the phrase “hoax-alert.”

The BMJ contacted Lead Stories, asking it to remove its article. It declined. The author of the article, Dean Miller, replied to say that Lead Stories was not responsible for Facebook’s actions.

John Campbell picked up the story and offered his own thoughts on Feb 7th:

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The same BMJ piece also goes on to consider related and equally erroneous Facebook ‘fact checks’ that have resulted in a similar censorship drive against the no less prestigious British medical research organisation Cochrane:

Cochrane, the international provider of high quality systematic reviews of medical evidence, has experienced similar treatment by Instagram, which, like Facebook, is owned by the parent company Meta.

A Cochrane spokesperson said that in October its Instagram account was “shadowbanned” for two weeks, meaning that “when other users tried to tag Cochrane, a message popped up saying @cochraneorg had posted material that goes against ‘false content’ guidelines”. Shadowbanning may lead to posts, comments, or activities being hidden or obscured and stop appearing in searches.

After Cochrane posted on Instagram and Twitter about the ban, its usual service was eventually restored, although it has not received an explanation for why it fell foul of the guidelines in the first place.

The spokesperson said, “We think Cochrane was reported as it had published a review on ivermectin and was ironically supporting a campaign about spreading misinformation. It seems sometimes automation and artificial intelligence get it wrong. And user reporting and mechanisms can be used to block the wrong people.”

In response, BMJ editors Fiona Godlee and Kamran Abbasi wrote an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg calling Lead Stories’ fact checking “inaccurate, incompetent, and irresponsible” and asking Meta to review the warning placed on The BMJ’s article and the processes that led to it being censored.

Lead Stories is taking an editorial position on vaccination, York [Jillian York, director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation] says, one that echoes Facebook’s own position. “The broader issue at hand is that companies like Facebook and some of the traditional media establishments are reasonably concerned about vaccine misinformation but have swung so far in the opposite direction as to potentially shut down legitimate questions about major corporations like Pfizer,” she said. The medical industry has a history of suppressing certain information, and citizens need to be able to question it, she added.

Click here to read the full BMJ article entitled “Facebook versus the BMJ: when fact checking goes wrong” written by Rebecca Coombes and Madlen Davies.

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when is a whistleblower not a whistleblower? Facebook, Frances Haugen, Avaaz (again) and the billion dollar question

Facebook is not averse to censorship. Indeed, it has already been in the business of censoring political content for many years. Here is journalist Chris Hedges speaking out against its social media censorship twelve months ago:

Twitter and Facebook blocked access to a New York Post story about a cache of emails reportedly belonging to Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s son Hunter, with Twitter locking the New York Post out of its own account for over a week. This overt censorship is emblematic of the widening and dangerous partisan divide within the US media. News and facts are no longer true or false; they are divided into information that either hurts or promotes one political faction over another.

While outlets such as Fox News have always existed as an arm of the Republican Party, this partisanship has now infected nearly all news organisations, including publications such as the New York Times and the Washington Post along with the major tech platforms that disseminate news. The division of the press into warring factions shreds journalistic credibility, creating a world where facts do not matter, and where a public is encouraged to believe whatever it wants to believe.

The statement above provided the introduction to Chris Hedge’s interview with fellow journalist Matt Taibbi on his RT show On Contact broadcast on the eve of the US Presidential election [Oct 31st, 2020]. The show is also embedded above and you can click here to read an annotated transcript I posted a few days later under the title “Chris Hedges and Matt Taibbi on true ‘fake news’ and the monopolised censorship of the tech giants”.

However, Facebook’s censorship of political content enjoys a far longer history, as I already highlighted in an extended article published in March 2019 under the title “Gilet Jaunes, Avaaz, Macron & Facebook (or when grassroots ‘populism’ meets controlled opposition)”. In that piece I drew on revelations make public by Forbes magazine in April 2018 of secret rules for censoring posts:

The company has come in for a fair amount of criticism over the years for taking down perfectly innocuous content – everything from photos of classical statues to the famous picture of a napalmed child in Vietnam.

Now, users whose content has been taken down will be notified and given the chance to ask for a review; reviews will normally be carried out within 24 hours.

The policy will initially apply only to nudity or sexual activity, hate speech and graphic violence, says [VP of global product management Monika] Bickert.

But, she adds, “We are working to extend this process further, by supporting more violation types, giving people the opportunity to provide more context that could help us make the right decision, and making appeals available not just for content that was taken down, but also for content that was reported and left up.” 1

At that time and in response to Facebook’s announcement of its policy, the ACLU cautioned against this corporate censorship drive and clampdown on free speech:

If Facebook gives itself broader censorship powers, it will inevitably take down important speech and silence already marginalized voices. We’ve seen this before. Last year, when activists of color and white people posted the exact same content, Facebook moderators censored only the activists of color. When Black women posted screenshots and descriptions of racist abuse, Facebook moderators suspended their accounts or deleted their posts. And when people used Facebook as a tool to document their experiences of police violence, Facebook chose to shut down their livestreams. The ACLU’s own Facebook post about censorship of a public statue was also inappropriately censored by Facebook.

Facebook has shown us that it does a bad job of moderating “hateful” or “offensive” posts, even when its intentions are good. Facebook will do no better at serving as the arbiter of truth versus misinformation, and we should remain wary of its power to deprioritize certain posts or to moderate content in other ways that fall short of censorship. 2

Click here to read the ACLU statement in full.

In the same article, I also highlighted a fresh censorship drive that had been launched by Facebook back in October 2018:

People need to be able to trust the connections they make on Facebook. It’s why we have a policy banning coordinated inauthentic behavior — networks of accounts or Pages working to mislead others about who they are, and what they are doing. This year, we’ve enforced this policy against many Pages, Groups and accounts created to stir up political debate, including in the US, the Middle East, Russia and the UK. But the bulk of the inauthentic activity we see on Facebook is spam that’s typically motivated by money, not politics. And the people behind it are adapting their behavior as our enforcement improves.

The statement continues:

Topics like natural disasters or celebrity gossip have been popular ways to generate clickbait. But today, these networks increasingly use sensational political content – regardless of its political slant – to build an audience and drive traffic to their websites, earning money for every visitor to the site. And like the politically motivated activity we’ve seen, the “news” stories or opinions these accounts and Pages share are often indistinguishable from legitimate political debate. This is why it’s so important we look at these actors’ behavior – such as whether they’re using fake accounts or repeatedly posting spam – rather than their content when deciding which of these accounts, Pages or Groups to remove.

Today, we’re removing 559 Pages and 251 accounts that have consistently broken our rules against spam and coordinated inauthentic behavior. Given the activity we’ve seen — and its timing ahead of the US midterm elections — we wanted to give some details about the types of behavior that led to this action. 3

Click here to read the Facebook statement in full.

This clampdown was reported on by the Guardian in an article entitled “Facebook accused of censorship after hundreds of US political pages purged”, which included an interview with two disabled veterans, one of whom stated that:

“I don’t think Facebook wants to fix this… I think they just want politics out, unless it’s coming from the mainstream media.”

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Avaaz campaign Facebook knew

It is noteworthy, I think, that yesterday [Oct 27th] – a day that happens to coincide with the reopening of Julian Assange’s extradition trial – I received a new message from pressure group Avaaz. It reads [with all highlights retained from original]:

A brave whistleblower just leaked secret Facebook documents… and they’re shocking!

They show that Facebook knew. It knew that human traffickers used their platform to lure women into sexual slavery. It knew that it was being used to incite violence against minorities, which had already fueled death and displacement in the past. It knew that divisive lies and extremism were being promoted to millions all over the world. And it knew its systems were removing less than 1% of violent content.

Facebook knew all this. And yet, the whistleblower said, it has put “profits before people”.

As I say, it is interesting how the timing of this latest Avaaz campaign on the back of “whistleblower” Frances Haugen has coincided with the trial of the single most prominent whistleblower in the world today, Julian Assange.

I contend, however, for a variety of reasons I shall come to, that Frances Haugen is not a real whistleblower at all. After all, genuine whisteblowers lose their jobs, or still worse, they finish up in prison. And they always, more or less by definition, have something new to disclose.

Chelsea Manning is a real whistleblower. Likewise John Kiriakou, who exposed the use of waterboarding and served time in jail, and former UK ambassador Craig Murray, who testified to the UK’s complicity in the horrific torture of Uzbek dissidents (presenting evidence of victims boiled alive) and consequently lost his job and his health (today he languishes in prison after falling foul of unrelated charges).

There are countless examples of real whistleblowers, and arguably the most exceptional is Julian Assange himself, held in conditions described by the UN as “torture” inside max security HMP Belmarsh and facing extradition to the US for espionage.

As Jonathan Cook wrote in an article entitled straightforwardly “Haugen Isn’t Really a ‘Facebook Whistleblower’” at the beginning of this latest saga:

There are clues that Haugen’s “whistleblowing” may not be quite what we assume it is, and that two different kinds of activities are being confused because we use the same word for both.

That might not matter, except that using the term in this all-encompassing manner degrades the status and meaning of whistleblowing in ways that are likely to be harmful both to those doing real whistleblowing and to us, the potential recipients of the secrets they wish to expose.

The first clue is that there seems to be little Haugen is telling us that we do not already know – either based on our own personal experiences of using social media (does anyone really not understand yet that Facebook manipulates our feeds through algorithms?) or from documentaries like The Social Dilemma, where various refugees from Silicon Valley offer dire warnings of where social media is leading society.

We did not call that movie’s many talking heads “whistleblowers”, so why has Haugen suddenly earnt a status none of them deserved? (You can read my critique of The Social Dilemma here.)

Cook then correctly acknowledges that the immediate and prominent attention Haugen has received from both liberal media outlets and within political circles (especially on “the left” – i.e., Democrat rather than Republican) “does not mean that she is not drawing attention to important matters” (emphasis is mine), before adding:

But it does mean that it is doubtful that “whistleblowing” is a helpful term to describe what she is doing.

This is not just a semantic issue. A lot hangs on how we use the term.

A proper whistleblower is trying to reveal the hidden secrets of the most powerful to bring about accountability and make our societies more transparent, safer, fairer places. Whistleblowing seeks to level the playing field between those who rule and those who are ruled.

At the national and international level, whistleblowers expose crimes and misdemeanours by the state, by corporations and by major organisations so that we can hold them to account, so that we, the people, can be empowered, and so that our increasingly hollow democracies gain a little more democratic substance.

But Haugen has done something different. Or at least she has been coopted, willingly or not, by those same establishment elements that are averse to accountability, opposed to the empowerment of ordinary people, and stand in the way of shoring up of democratic institutions.

Jonathan Cook continues:

Our “Facebook whistleblower” is not helping to blow the whistle on the character of the power structure itself, or its concealed crimes, or its democratic deficit, as Manning and Snowden did.

She has not turned her back on the establishment and revealed its darkest secrets. She has simply shifted allegiances within the establishment, making new alliances in the constantly shifting battles between elites for dominance.

Which is precisely why she has been treated with such reverence by the 60 Minutes programme and other “liberal” corporate media and feted by Democratic party politicians. She has aided their elite faction over a rival elite faction.

Click here to read Jonathan Cook’s article published by Counterpunch on October 12th in full.

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Digging a little deeper, journalist Alexander Rubinstein reveals more about Haugen’s sudden emergence as the purported source of the leak quickly christened “The Facebook Files”. He writes:

Haugen first appeared in September 2021 as the supposed source of a leak called “The Facebook Files.” She was immediately hailed as a “modern US hero” in the media for secretly copying tens of thousands of internal Facebook documents and releasing them to the Wall Street Journal, which published a series of nine articles based on the documents.

The WSJ initially kept its source anonymous, rolling out the series two weeks before Haugen came forward in an October 3 interview with 60 Minutes. On camera, she complained that Facebook was “tearing our societies apart and causing ethnic violence around the world.”

“Ethnic violence including Myanmar in 2018 when the military used Facebook,” narrated 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley, to “launch a genocide.”

When pressed by 60 Minutes about what motivated her to leak the documents, Haugen answered vaguely: “at some point in 2021, I realized I’m going to have to do this in a systematic way and I have to get enough [so] that no one can question that this is real.”

Yet Haugen first divulged company information before 2021. In the final installment of the Journal’s series, the outlet revealed that Haugen first sent an encrypted text to one of their reporters on December 3, 2020.

That same article, published the day the 60 Minutes interview aired, reported that Haugen “continued gathering material from inside Facebook through her last hour with access to the system. She reached out to lawyers at Whistleblower Aid [more on this organisation below], a Washington, D.C., nonprofit that represents people reporting corporate and government misbehavior.”

Doors have been promptly flung open on both sides of the Atlantic, with Frances Haugen ushered to give testimony before lawmakers across Europe and in America. Having spoken with MPs in France and Britain as well as two members of the European Parliament on October 3rd, Haugen was also called on October 5th to testify before a Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection.

But who is Frances Haugen anyway? Well, this is you will learn from her current Wikipedia entry (all links retained):

After graduating from college, Haugen was hired by Google, and worked on Google Ads, Google Book Search, a class action litigation settlement related to Google publishing book content, as well as Google+.[7] At Google, Haugen co-authored a patent for a method of adjusting the ranking of search results.[11] During her career at Google, she completed her MBA, which was paid for by Google.[7] While at Google, she was a technical co-founder of the desktop dating app Secret Agent Cupid, precursor to the mobile app Hinge.[12][10][13]

She then moved to Google’s tech rival Facebook and became product manager on the newly-formed “threat intelligence unit” which comprised some 200 fellow employees. Rubinstein picks up the story again:

At Facebook, Haugen claimed she worked as product manager on a “threat intelligence unit” at the company. “So I was a product manager supporting the counter-espionage team,” she claimed to Sen. Sullivan. Part of her job included “directly work[ing] on tracking Chinese participation on the platform,” she claimed. Further, she alleged that Iran used the platform to conduct “espionage” on the platform.

“I’m speaking to other members of Congress about that,” Haugen acknowledged. “I have strong national security concerns about how Facebook operates today.”

As journalist Kit Klarenberg reported, the little-known Facebook “threat intelligence unit” where Haugen claimed to have worked is staffed by former CIA, NSA, and Pentagon operatives. Those who work at the unit must have “5+ years of experience working in intelligence (either government or private sector), international geopolitical, cybersecurity, or human rights functions,” according to a job posting.

Yet Haugen’s now-deleted blog and Twitter account feature no political content, nor does her resume.

In short, Frances Haugen’s profile has the telltale signs of an intelligence operative, while this latest tranche of document leaks has all the hallmarks of a limited hangout. Equally, and set alongside Haugen’s somewhat exceptional employment history, there are related questions that arise once we delve into the legal body that represents her, an organisation called Whistleblower Aid:

[T]he outfit was founded by a national security lawyer, Mark Zaid, who has been accused of ratting out his client, CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling, to his employers in Langley. Zaid is joined by a former State Department official and government-approved whistleblower, John Tye [more below], ex-CIA and Pentagon official Andrew Bakaj, and veteran US government information warrior, Libby Liu, who has specialized in supporting color revolution-style operations against China.

John Kiriakou, the CIA whistleblower jailed for exposing the agency’s role in the serial torture of terror suspects, commented to The Grayzone, “Mark Zaid presents himself to the public as a whistleblower attorney, however, he is anything but. Instead, he has betrayed his clients and come down on the side of prosecutors in the intelligence community. He is not to be trusted.”

Kiriakou continued, “My own personal belief is that he is the intelligence community’s preferred ‘whistleblower’ attorney because he’s willing to place their interests over his clients.”

Alexander Rubinstein continues:

Tech billionaire and media mogul Pierre Omidyar has provided funding to Whistleblower Aid, as well as to a public relations firm assisting Haugen. Omidyar has played his own role in US foreign interventionism, sponsoring anti-government media outlets and activists alongside US government agencies in states where Washington seeks regime change. […]

Whistleblower Aid bills itself as “a pioneering, non-profit legal organization that helps patriotic government employees and brave, private-sector workers report and publicize their concerns — safely, lawfully, and responsibly.”

But is this group truly the whistleblower protection outfit it claims to be?

In fact, Whistleblower Aid appears to have been modeled as a sort of anti-Wikileaks organization.  “Whistleblower Aid is not Wikileaks,” the “vision” page of the former organization insists. On another section of its website, it states, “No one should ever send classified information to Whistleblower Aid. Whistleblower Aid will never assist clients or prospective clients with leaking classified information.”

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Avaaz campaign Facebook knew - continued

Coming back to Avaaz’s email (see extract above): after vaingloriously promoting itself with claims such as “Avaaz has helped force Facebook’s shame onto the agenda of legislators across the world”, their latest message goes on remind us of the other threats we may face by not censoring online content:

We’ve seen, time and again, what devastating real-world consequences social media can have. In Myanmar, the military turned Facebook into a tool for ethnic cleansing, spreading hatred that fueled a bloodbath. In Palestine and Israel, viral lies are further inflaming the conflict. And all over the world, it’s become a Covid-conspiracy hotbed, with doctors warning against an ‘infodemic’ of fake news.

Nobody does overwrought rhetoric quite like Avaaz! (emphasis in keeping)

But seriously, does anyone actually believe social media is to blame in any way whatsoever for inflamed tensions between Palestine and Israel? If so, how? Surely it has a great deal more to do with the illegal occupation, the bombing of Gaza, the indiscriminate shooting of peaceful protesters and the daily oppression of Israel’s apartheid regime; none of which, judging by the campaigns it most actively promotes, Avaaz has any serious concern about.

And precisely what constitutes “a Covid-conspiracy hotbed”? Or put differently, how can social media firms be regulated to police every question relating to the risks, treatments (including vaccines), and importantly, the unknown origins of the pandemic? For that matter, and besides Avaaz and some in the media, who is issuing such dire warnings about a supposed ‘infodemic’ – doctors, which doctors? The fact is that a great many doctors and other medical experts are actively engaged in this vitally important debate and are very thankful to have access to public platforms across the internet.

Here is comedian and political commentator Jimmy Dore pointing out how Facebook’s so-called “independent fact checkers” – i.e., anonymous corporate gatekeepers – have just flagged up research in a published and peer-reviewed scientific study by Harvard scientists [warning: strong language]:

Intriguingly, Alexander Rubinstein’s own fact check into the background of ‘whistleblower’ Frances Haugen uncovers another link to Avaaz, since it transpires that “government-approved whistleblower”, John Tye – who, as mentioned above, was co-founder and chief disclosure officer of Whistleblower Aid, the legal nonprofit organisation assisting Haugen – had previously worked there too:

Shortly before leaving Avaaz, Tye responded to criticism of the billionaire-backed group’s advocacy for a [Syria] no-fly zone, writing “thousands and thousands of people will die, for years to come, if we turn away and wring our hands.”

As I explained at greater length in an extended article from March 2015, the term “no-fly zone” is both a misnomer and a euphemism. In fact it is a straightforward demand for sustained military intervention necessitating air strikes. By calling for “no-fly zones” Avaaz was deliberately helping to manufacture consent for US military intervention that sought regime change both in Libya and Syria.

But then, as Rubinstein points out, when it comes to these nonprofit wheels within wheels, they are all turning in much the same direction – ‘the nonprofit-industrial complex’:

Like his former client-turned-legal partner, Mark Zaid has clamored for ramped up US intervention in Syria, tweeting to then-President Trump “what are you going to do about Syria? It’s your problem now, We can’t stand by and let innocent people continue to be slaughtered.”

Click here to read Alexander Rubinstein’s full article entitled “Facebook ‘whistleblower’ Frances Haugen represented by US intelligence insiders” published by The Grayzone on October 21st.

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Which brings us to the billion dollar question: who really benefits from Haugen’s “disclosures”? Another independent journalist, Glenn Greenwald, sets out the case carefully in his own recent article published on Substack:

There is no doubt, at least to me, that Facebook and Google are both grave menaces. Through consolidation, mergers and purchases of any potential competitors, their power far exceeds what is compatible with a healthy democracy. A bipartisan consensus has emerged on the House Antitrust Committee that these two corporate giants — along with Amazon and Apple — are all classic monopolies in violation of long-standing but rarely enforced antitrust laws. […]

Facebook and Twitter both suppressed reporting on the authentic documents about Joe Biden’s business activities reported by The New York Post just weeks before the 2020 election. These social media giants also united to effectively remove the sitting elected President of the United States from the internet, prompting grave warnings from leaders across the democratic world about how anti-democratic their consolidated censorship power has become.

But none of the swooning over this new Facebook heroine nor any of the other media assaults on Facebook have anything remotely to do with a concern over those genuine dangers.

He continues:

Agitating for more online censorship has been a leading priority for the Democratic Party ever since they blamed social media platforms (along with WikiLeaks, Russia, Jill Stein, James Comey, The New York Times, and Bernie Bros) for the 2016 defeat of the rightful heir to the White House throne, Hillary Clinton. And this craving for censorship has been elevated into an even more urgent priority for their corporate media allies, due to the same belief that Facebook helped elect Trump but also because free speech on social media prevents them from maintaining a stranglehold on the flow of information by allowing ordinary, uncredentialed serfs to challenge, question and dispute their decrees or build a large audience that they cannot control. Destroying alternatives to their failing platforms is thus a means of self-preservation: realizing that they cannot convince audiences to trust their work or pay attention to it, they seek instead to create captive audiences by destroying or at least controlling any competitors to their pieties. […]

The canonized Facebook whistleblower and her journalist supporters are claiming that what Facebook fears most is repeal or reform of Section 230, the legislative provision that provides immunity to social media companies for defamatory or other harmful material published by their users. That section means that if a Facebook user or YouTube host publishes legally actionable content, the social media companies themselves cannot be held liable. There may be ways to reform Section 230 that can reduce the incentive to impose censorship, such as denying that valuable protection to any platform that censors, instead making it available only to those who truly allow an unmoderated platform to thrive. But such a proposal has little support in Washington. What is far more likely is that Section 230 will be “modified” to impose greater content moderation obligations on all social media companies.

Far from threatening Facebook and Google, such a legal change could be the greatest gift one can give them, which is why their executives are often seen calling on Congress to regulate the social media industry. Any legal scheme that requires every post and comment to be moderated would demand enormous resources — gigantic teams of paid experts and consultants to assess “misinformation” and “hate speech” and veritable armies of employees to carry out their decrees. Only the established giants such as Facebook and Google would be able to comply with such a regimen, while other competitors — including large but still-smaller ones such as Twitter — would drown in those requirements. And still-smaller challengers to the hegemony of Facebook and Google, such as Substack and Rumble, could never survive. In other words, any attempt by Congress to impose greater content moderation obligations — which is exactly what they are threatening — would destroy whatever possibility remains for competitors to arise and would, in particular, destroy any platforms seeking to protect free discourse. That would be the consequence by design, which is why one should be very wary of any attempt to pretend that Facebook and Google fear such legislative adjustments.

Taking the helicopter view, we might properly regard the tech giants and their billionaire owners as rivals only in the way the five mafia families of The Godfather are rivals. When they are not fighting turf wars, they are working hand in glove and functioning as vital components of the national security state which protects all of their interests as it maintains the status quo.

As Greenwald concludes:

There are real dangers posed by allowing companies such as Facebook and Google to amass the power they have now consolidated. But very little of the activism and anger from the media and Washington toward these companies is designed to fracture or limit that power. It is designed, instead, to transfer that power to other authorities who can then wield it for their own interests. The only thing more alarming than Facebook and Google controlling and policing our political discourse is allowing elites from one of the political parties in Washington and their corporate media outlets to assume the role of overseer, as they are absolutely committed to doing. Far from being some noble whistleblower, Frances Haugen is just their latest tool to exploit for their scheme to use the power of social media giants to control political discourse in accordance with their own views and interests.

Click here to read Glenn Greenwald’s full article entitled “Democrats and Media Do Not Want to Weaken Facebook, Just Commandeer its Power to Censor” published on October 5th.

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1 From an article entitled “Facebook Reveals Its Secret Rules For Censoring Posts” written by Emma Woollacott, published in Forbes magazine on April 24, 2018. https://www.forbes.com/sites/emmawoollacott/2018/04/24/facebook-reveals-its-secret-rules-for-censoring-posts/#40a453b56da4

2 From an article entitled “Facebook Shouldn’t Censor Offensive Speech” written by Vera Eidelman, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, published by ACLU on July 20, 2018. https://www.aclu.org/blog/free-speech/internet-speech/facebook-shouldnt-censor-offensive-speech

3 From a Facebook announcement entitled “Removing Additional Inauthentic Activity from Facebook” written by Nathaniel Gleicher, Head of Cybersecurity Policy and Oscar Rodriguez, Product Manager, posted by Facebook on October 11, 2018. https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2018/10/removing-inauthentic-activity/

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Filed under analysis & opinion, internet freedom, USA

Chris Hedges and Matt Taibbi on true ‘fake news’ and the monopolised censorship of the tech giants

Twitter and Facebook blocked access to a New York Post story about a cache of emails reportedly belonging to Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s son Hunter, with Twitter locking the New York Post out of its own account for over a week. This overt censorship is emblematic of the widening and dangerous partisan divide within the US media. News and facts are no longer true or false; they are divided into information that either hurts or promotes one political faction over another.

While outlets such as Fox News have always existed as an arm of the Republican Party, this partisanship has now infected nearly all news organisations, including publications such as the New York Times and the Washington Post along with the major tech platforms that disseminate news. The division of the press into warring factions shreds journalistic credibility, creating a world where facts do not matter, and where a public is encouraged to believe whatever it wants to believe.

This is Chris Hedge’s introduction to a recent interview with fellow journalist Matt Taibbi on his RT show On Contact broadcast Saturday [Oct 31st] on the eve of the US Presidential election. The show is embedded below with my own transcript provided:

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Chris Hedges: Let’s begin with 2016, which was awful, but now it’s worse. Can you talk about the progression?

Matt Taibbi: Sure. I mean I think what happened in 2016 – and it’s kind of been a story that’s assumed biblical importance for people in the news media – we had this episode where a cache of emails that had come from the Democratic National Committee [DNC] and had been from figures like Tony Podesta, came to be in the public sphere through groups like Wikileaks.

And this material was true – it wasn’t fake, it wasn’t what we would traditionally call disinformation or misinformation – and it was reported on in a small way but later blamed for helping to election Donald Trump. And, as a result, a kind of coalition of news media, tech platforms and politicians has since demanded that the next time a situation like this takes place, we have to make sure that nobody reports material like that.

And so we’re now in a semi-analogous situation, where there’s been an explosive report about some emails allegedly belonging to the nominee’s son, Hunter Biden; and there’s been suppression and the news agencies have essentially decided we’re not going to do what we did in 2016. We’re going to shut this off completely. [from 2:25 mins]

On October 22nd, Matt Taibbi was invited to speak on The Hill’s weekday morning show ‘Rising’ about the difference between how the mainstream media covered the Steele Dossier versus Hunter Biden:

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CH: But this wasn’t just Biden. They will run with stuff like the Steele dossier that obviously can’t be fact checked. They will trumpet that because it hurts Trump. And I’m not talking about partisan news agencies like MSNBC, which is just an arm of the Democratic Party, I’m talking about these old traditional media outlets like The New York Times: the kind of language that they’ll use; [how] they’ll marginalise any kind of news – even in this case of Hunter Biden’s laptop [when] no-one has denied its authenticity and yet the way they write about it will be to discredit it as black propaganda.

I think there’s kind of a sea change within that traditional media which I come out of; just a whole new ethic. I find days when I read The New York Times it’s unrecognisable in terms of how it writes, the language it uses, what it’s willing to say… it’s really a completely new organisation in many ways. Can you talk about that shift, because I find that very frightening.

MT: Sure, and of course you would know this better than I would, I think that traditionally what The New York Times would do with a story like this is; it would work very hard to ascertain first whether the material was real, and it would wait to come out with some kind of pronouncement about it news value until it had done that. And that is exactly what they don’t do anymore. You know, really in the first days after this story broke they already had a story by Kevin Roose in the paper that the headline was something along the lines of “There was a mistake in 2016, Facebook promised to fix it, well this is what the fixing looks like.”

And then the lead of that… [from 5:05 mins]

CH: Matt let me interrupt you because this is the headline… “Facebook and Twitter Dodge a 2016 Repeat, and Ignite a 2020 Firestorm

[Chris Hedges then reads from Matt Taibbi’s report published on taibbi.substack.com]

The Companies have said they would do more to stop misinformation and hacked materials from spreading, this is what the effort looks like. And then, I’m reading from your article: [Kevin] Roose, who you’ve just mentioned, notes that “politicians and pundits have hoped for a stronger response from tech firms, ever since Russian hackers and Wikileaks injected stolen emails from the Clinton campaign into public discourse.”

This again, a quote from him:

“Since 2016, lawmakers, researchers and journalists have pressured these companies to take more and faster action to prevent false or misleading information from spreading on their services.” The Podesta emails are not false – they’re real.

MT: No exactly, it’s a bait and switch. And this has been going on all across the media landscape. When they’re doing that… they’ve used the word disinformation, or misinformation, so many times that people associate those emails with words like that. And so they can get away with saying, “Well we have to do something to stop this misinformation or disinformation”. Even though, again, we are talking about things that are real and true, but just that it happened to come to the public through a means that is in their minds infamous.

So again, the traditional mission of an organisation like The New York Times – and they exist specifically because they have the resources and the training to hunt out whether or not stuff like this is real – they are just skipping straight past that and going to the editorial pronouncement about how this is the kind of material that should be suppressed, and this is what suppression looks like, and good for them, and that’s the angle that they’re taking right now, which is really extraordinary, it’s an amazing change.  [from 6:45 mins]

CH: Yeah, no it is seismic.

So Matt I want to ask you about this podcast because I don’t think it’s unrelated: ‘Caliphate’. It’s a five-part series [where] they interview [Abu Huzayfah] – it turns out that he’s an imposter – you call it, correctly, stuff of snuff films. He’s talking about stabbings. He claims to have been an al Qaeda murderer, putting people up on crosses and putting daggers in their hearts. It’s quite amazing – again, coming out of the culture of The [New York] Times.

It’s completely false. It’s rabidly salacious. You know the worse parts of tabloid trash television. But I think that that’s a piece of what’s happening here. Can you talk about that – especially back up a little bit for people who aren’t familiar with what happened.

MT: Sure, yes. They had what I think was a six-part podcast series, and the lead reporter was a pretty celebrated figure in the organisation: it’s Rukmini Callimachi… and she’s been a four-time finalist for the Pulitzer [Prize]. And they interviewed this character who’s a Canadian citizen, who’s a Muslim, who claimed to have gone over to Syria to become a soldier for ISIS, and in the process he accumulated all these tales of committing horrific acts of violence.

The podcast was essentially based around these graphic descriptions of what he had done while he was in Syria and in other parts of the Middle East, and then he was arrested by Canadian authorities for perpetrating a hoax under a law – I guess we don’t have an analogous law here in The States – but when The [New York] Times was presented with this news that their main source in this very acclaimed, significantly trafficked podcast had turned out to be an imposter; their immediate reaction was to deflect and say, actually one of the purposes of the podcast was to determine whether or not he was telling the truth, which is completely untrue.

As Eric Wemple of the Washington Post put it (who incidentally has been one of the few media critics who’s actually done real work on this kind of stuff), they spent the entire podcast really bolstering the credibility of this source and not calling it into question at all. Incidentally, what would be the worth of a podcast like that, if there was any question at all of whether or not it was true? It would be a complete waste of time to do the story.

So they undermined themselves rather than do what I think a traditional news organisation would do, which is to say “okay, we might have a problem here, we’re going to look into it – if necessary we’ll bring in an outside auditor to see what went wrong and we’ll come out with all the results of our investigation later, and in the meantime we apologise”; that’s exactly what they didn’t do.

They’ve learned that audiences now forgive this kind of thing, and if you just pretend that it didn’t happen you can just move along and just go to the next thing. And that’s now more the kind of modus operandi, which of course wasn’t what it was when you worked there and I think when a lot of other people entered The [New York] Times back in the day. [from 8:50 mins]

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Many of the media outlets that promoted Russiagate claims which helped to deflect attention from the contents of the DNC email leaks during the 2016 election, recently repeated the same ploy by reporting unsubstantiated claims made by former intelligence officials, including John Brennan and James Clapper, as well as of top Democrats, including Joe Biden and Adam Schiff, that the Hunter Biden laptop revelations are also “Russian disinformation”, even though no one from the Biden camp has disputed the authenticity of a single leaked email or document, or denied that the laptop belongs to Hunter Biden.

On October 23rd, The Grayzone’s Aaron Maté spoke to Ray McGovern, a former career CIA officer who served as chief of the CIA’s Soviet analysts division and chaired National Intelligence Estimates, about latest claims of “Russian disinformation”, and how these new allegations actually raise questions about the conduct of the intelligence officials behind the original Russiagate claims:

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CH: Well they will forgive it only if it bolsters the dominant narrative. If it doesn’t bolster the dominant narrative, they won’t forgive it. That’s why they’ve pushed you to the margins of the media landscape.

MT: Right, and you too obviously.

CH: Yes. So, on the one hand, you have the Podesta emails, the Biden [story], which is real, being denounced as “fake”. And you have a complete hoax defended – let’s call it what it is: fake news, sensationalist garbage – being perpetrated by The [New York] Times.

I just want to read a really great paragraph you wrote: Now the business (you’re talking about journalism) has reversed course, acting like a gang of college freshmen who’ve just read Beyond Good and Evil for the first time. Objectivity is dead! There’s no truth! Everything is permitted! The cardinalate has gone from pompous overconfidence in its factual rectitude to a bizarre postmodernist pose where nothing matters, man, and truth is whatever we can get away with saying.

I mean it’s funny, but it’s not. That is really what we’re documenting here.

What do you think the pressures were? Is it commercial? I think to an extent it must be commercial: The [New York] Times has bled advertising. It’s stumbling into a new media environment that it’s not familiar with. What do you think is causing this? Or maybe it’s just moral posturing, I don’t know.

MT: I think it’s a combination of all of those things. Clearly, the commercial aspect of it plays a strong role because – just to take an example of that ‘Caliphate’ podcast: here you’ve got somebody giving a first-hand account of crucifying a human being, and that’s what you’ve got to do to you know trend on Twitter for eight seconds now! You need to come up with stuff like that just to keep getting a requisite number of clicks. Just to not lose audience, you need to come up with sensational material because everybody’s hyping things left and right.

So there’s enormous pressure now to stretch the envelope of sensationalism in ways that probably didn’t exist when I first went into the business or you did. But that’s only part of the picture. The other part of the picture is there’s been this segmentation of audience.

You know the Pew Center did a study this summer where they asked people what their political affiliations were. If your primary news source was Fox, you know 93% of those people were Republican. If your primary news source was MSNBC, 95% of those people were Democrats. With The New York Times it was 91% of those people are Democrats. NPR are 87%.

So all of these news outlets are talking to one audience exclusively, and so they’ve learned that if they screw up and they make a mistake about the other audience, it’s not going to matter. So I think whether consciously or unconsciously, it’s sped up their fact checking process, or made it looser, because they know it doesn’t really matter. You know, if we make a mistake about this it’s not going to come and bounce back at us. If we predict that something’s going to happen – if we say the walls are closing in and they don’t – that’s not going to bounce back. So I think that’s a major, major part of this picture. [from 13:05 mins]

CH: Is this the death of journalism? I mean I don’t hold the commercial networks to the same standards (maybe it’s nostalgia) that I do for The [New York] Times. But, if you can’t communicate across these divides – which is essentially what’s happening – then the country just bifurcates into warring, antagonistic tribes, which is exactly what happened in Yugoslavia because you had competing ethnic groups seize rival media outlets, and speak only to their own and demonise the other.

But to see this happening in The New York Times and in the Washington Post: is this the end of traditional media?

MT: I think temporarily. I do believe – I mean I have maybe a naive hope – that some canny entrepreneur will realise that there’s a screaming need out there for a new kind of media product. I hear it every day from people sending emails: I just wish there was a place I can go to find out what happened, stripped of all the editorialising.

Like people want the old school boring when, why, where, how; third person; dead voice; that we used to get in all these newspapers. And they’re not getting that anymore because everything is highly charged and highly politicised and tailored for a political audience.

So I do believe that if somebody was smart they would create that outlet and there is some interesting stuff going on in independent media. But for the time being, the major commercial media outlets have become completely bifurcated as you put it. And it’s literally balkanising American society. I think you make a good point there.

I don’t think it’s an accident that we’re seeing groups of people who are marching around carrying AR-15s, really on both sides of the aisle, and that’s because we’ve developed different realities for different groups of people. And that’s very dangerous. [from 16:35 mins]

CH: It is: it’s very dangerous. And I will just throw in there that nobody in Yugoslavia thought they were going to have a war. You have people dressed up in camos posturing, but once that violence starts – we saw glimpses of it in Portland – once people start getting killed you open a Pandora’s Box that you can’t control.

I want to talk about the tech platforms because they’ve played a major role, I think a very pernicious role in all of this. You’ve also written about that. Can you talk about that?

MT: Sure. A couple of years ago when Alex Jones was thrown off basically all of the tech platforms in what was actually, in hindsight, kind of a remarkable moment, because it was clearly coordinated. All of the major platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Google, Spotify, Youtube – they all kicked of Jones at the same time. And sort of liberal America cheered: said, well this is a noxious figure; this is a great thing [that] finally someone’s taking action. What they didn’t realise is that we were trading an old system of speech regulation for a new one [and] without any real public discussion.

You and I were raised in a system where you got punished for speech if you committed libel or slander or if there was imminent incitement to lawless action: that was the standard that the Supreme Court set. But that was done through litigation; it was an open process where you had a chance to rebut charges. That is all gone now.

Now basically there’s a handful of these tech distribution platforms that control how people get their media and they’ve been pressured by The Senate, which has called all of their CEOs in and basically ordered them: we need you to come up with a plan to prevent the sowing of discord and spreading of “misinformation”.

And now I think this past week is when this has finally come to fruition, when you see an major reputable news organisation like the New York Post, you know with a two hundred year history, is now locked out of its own Twitter account and that story [of Hunter Biden] which has not been disproven – it’s not disinformation or misinformation – it’s been suppressed in the manner as you know it would be suppressed in a Third World country. Which I think – I don’t know what you think – I think it’s remarkable kind of historic moment for us. [from 18:35 mins]

CH: No, it is: it’s a very frightening historic moment.

These tech platforms are not neutral. They’re on one side of the political divide. And the danger in my eyes – I’ll get your opinion on this – is that if Trump loses the election, this platform and this old media, and whatever their veracity is about their critiques of Trump, will essentially be completely written off. You won’t be able to reach that segment of the population at all.

MT: Right, yes. Exactly.

And I know some of the people who are high-ranking executives at some of the companies, and I’ve had discussions with some of them in the last year or so, and one of the things that I’ve tried to communicate is that there’s no possible way to institute a standard of something like factual reliability that can be done in an even-handed way without an awesome amount of people going through each and every submission. And they’re clearly not doing that. They are clearly creating rules and selecting out some content that they don’t like and allowing other content that they do like go through.

There’s no possible way to do it either with AI or with manpower in any kind of even-handed way. It’s automatically either going to be a mess or a double-standard. Like whack-a-mole, or a double-standard. And I think in a post-Trump reality, the danger is that we end up with essentially like a one-party informational system, where there’s going to be approved dialogue and unapproved dialogue that you can only get through certain kind of fringe avenues. And that’s the problem, because we let these companies get this monopolistic share of the distribution system and now they’re exercising that power. [from 21:15 mins]

CH: And I know you lived in Russia – I worked in Eastern Europe – what are the political consequences of that, because you’ve seen it?

MT: Yes, I kind of lived in both versions of Russia. I lived in the Soviet times – I was a student during that time – and I was there when the media freed up. And a lot of my former colleagues (Russian colleagues) worked under the Soviet system. And the similarities are pretty striking because what ends up happening is that it’s really more of a psychological form of censorship than it is an overt top-down kind of pressure.

The reporters end up knowing ahead of time what kinds of things they can write and what kinds of things they can’t write. And if you’re worried about where the edge is with Facebook or Twitter, and your career depends on not being deplatformed by those companies, you just won’t go anywhere near where you think the line might be.

And already, you know somebody like myself, or you, or Glenn Greenwald, reputable journalists, we’re already within range of possible suppression, which I would have said was outlandish even six months ago. And that’s no longer the case. So that’s what you worry about – is where the fear is going to take hold of the business [of journalism] very quickly. [from 22:45 mins]

On October 30th, Glenn Greenwald was invited by The Hill’s morning show ‘Rising’ to explain why he took the decision to resign from The Intercept (the alternative news outlet that he had co-founded) following censorship of his own reporting on the Hunter Biden story:

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CH: Well doesn’t the fear come from the fact that critics such as you have credibility, and therefore are dangerous because as the kind of moral centre erodes within journalistic organisations, critics such as yourself, who point it out, are no longer a nuisance, they essentially can be fatal, and so the suppression becomes much heavier?

MT: Yeah, and that’s the reason why I think this censorship is so self-defeating; it’s such a mistake. Normally, if you just allow this kind of speech to be distributed freely, it’s not going to have the impact. But what ends up happening in societies like the Soviet Union – you know, nobody would use a Russian newspaper, or a Soviet newspaper, for anything but lining a bird cage, or anything like that. But people would treasure the Samizdat [self-published undercover publications] documents that would be handed from family to family because that was the actual truth.

And that’s going to end up happening in this country, if you have an approved dialogue that you can get on Facebook and Twitter, and then there’s this other thing that’s forbidden. People are going to flock to that, which is why I don’t understand the commercial decision that companies like The New York Times and the Washington Post are making to throw off the thing that made them most valuable to people, which was the institutional credibility they had for being a kind of political third-party that was neutral. That was what gave them all of their value and they’re throwing it away and I don’t understand it. [from 24:25 mins]

CH: I think they’re throwing it away because they’re bleeding money. And they’re frightened. I mean you’re right it’s ultimately self-immolation.

You write: The people who run this country have run out of workable myths with which to distract the public, and in a moment of extreme crisis have chosen to stoke civil war and defame the rest of us, black and white, rather than admit to a generation of corruption, betrayal and mismanagement.

And I think part of it is that organisations such as The New York Times do not shine a light on the corruption, the betrayal, and the mismanagement.

MT: That’s right, and so they’ve had to come up with some other thing to sell to the public as the reason for all of our troubles. After the election of 2016, where internally within The New York Times we now know there was a tremendous kind of come-to-Jesus moment where they realised we didn’t see this coming how could we possibly have let that happen? We have to hire more people like Bret Stephens because we’re so out of touch with conservative America.

That’s what they were saying internally, but externally they spent all of their energy building their newsroom around this fictitious Russiagate story, rather than doing things like let’s look at what’s happening with poor and middle class America, and the massive amounts of insecurity that led to Trump’s election. They didn’t do that at all. They went with this other story.

And then later when that story fell apart, they kind of threw their weight behind The 1619 Project and other issues, because that was preferable to telling dangerous truths about the neoliberal economics and other issues that were really concerning the country. So that’s the danger that you get: that when they’re afraid to tell you what’s actually happening, they end up coming up with alternatives that are not convincing. [from 26:20 mins]

CH: Right, The 1619 Project, which they then denied what they wrote.

MT: Yeah, exactly.

CH: That was also kind of bizarre.

MT: Totally.

CH: That was Matt Taibbi, one of the few real journalists left on the disintegrating media landscape in the United States. Thanks Matt.

MT: Thanks Chris.

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the united colours of Bilderberg — a late review of Montreux 2019: #4 the weaponisation of social media

Important note: As we approach the period spanning the end of May and beginning of June when Bilderberg meetings are ordinarily scheduled, it should be observed that the home page of the official Bilderberg website currently declares in bold capitals:

THE MEETING 2020 IS POSTPONED.

It does not say for how long.

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Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you

— Joseph Heller 1

This is the fourth of a sequence of articles based around the ‘key topics’ at last year’s Bilderberg conference discussed here in relation to the prevailing political agenda and placed within the immediate historical context.

This piece focuses on issues relating to the weaponsation of social media and cyber threats:


A schematically enhanced version of last year’s ‘key topics’

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Trolls R’ Us

JTRIG was in the business of discrediting companies, by passing “confidential information to the press through blogs etc.”, and by posting negative information on internet forums. They could change someone’s social media photos (“can take ‘paranoia’ to a whole new level”, a slide read.) They could use masquerade-type techniques – that is: placing “secret” information on a compromised computer. They could bombard someone’s phone with text messages or calls.

JTRIG also boasted an arsenal of 200 info-weapons, ranging from in-development to fully operational. A tool dubbed “Badger” allowed the mass delivery of email. Another, called “Burlesque”, spoofed SMS messages. “Clean Sweep” would impersonate Facebook wall posts for individuals or entire countries. “Gateway” gave the ability to “artificially increase traffic to a website”. “Underpass” was a way to change the outcome of online polls.

The Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG) is a unit attached to Britain’s GCHQ. The summary above is based on a slides leaked by Edward Snowden. It outlines the sorts of disinformation tactics being deployed against targets across the world (including domestic ones) as far back as 2013. Of course, this is long before mainstream reports of Russian troll farms and the consequent calls for active internet censorship to save us from the ever-present threat of “fake news”.

Entitled “Inside the British Army’s secret information warfare machine”, the same Wired report devotes its main attention to the slightly better known UK disinfo operation, the 77th Brigade, that was founded officially in January 2015, although its establishment had in actuality involved the rebranding of a different agency formerly known as the “Security Assistance Group” 2:

Walking through the headquarters of the 77th, the strange new reality of warfare was on display. We’ve all heard a lot about “cyberwarfare” – about how states could attack their enemies through computer networks, damaging their infrastructure or stealing their secrets. But that wasn’t what was going on here. Emerging here in the 77th Brigade was a warfare of storyboards and narratives, videos and social media. An engagement now doesn’t just happen on the battlefield, but also in the media and online. A victory is won as much in the eyes of the watching public as between opposing armies on the battlefield. Warfare in the information age is a warfare over information itself.

A few paragraphs down, we also learn that:

Inside the base of the 77th, everything was in motion. Flooring was being laid, work units installed; desks – empty of possessions – formed neat lines in offices still covered in plastic, tape and sawdust. The unit was formed in a hurry in 2015 from various older parts of the British Army – a Media Operations Group, a Military Stabilisation Support Group, a Psychological Operations Group. It has been rapidly expanding ever since.

In 2014, a year before the 77th was established, a memo entitled “Warfare in the Information Age” flashed across the British military. “We are now in the foothills of the Information Age” the memo announced. It argued that the British Army needed to fight a new kind of war, one that “will have information at its core”. The Army needed to be out on social media, on the internet, and in the press, engaged, as the memo put it, “in the reciprocal, real-time business of being first with the truth, countering the narratives of others, and if necessary manipulating the opinion of thousands concurrently in support of combat operations.” 3

Click here to read the full article in Wired magazine.

In March 2018, James Corbett foreshadowed the Bilderberg group with a broadcast of his own show entitled “The Weaponization of Social Media”:

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New America

The New America Foundation has received more than $21 million from Google; its parent company’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt; and his family’s foundation since the think tank’s founding in 1999. That money helped to establish New America as an elite voice in policy debates on the American left and helped Google shape those debates.

According to a New York Times article from August 2017 entitled “Google Critic Ousted From Think Tank Funded by the Tech Giant”. The critic in question was a scholar working for New America called Barry Lynn who posted a statement on the think tank’s website applauding European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager for levying a fine of 2.4 billion euros against Google for breaching EU antitrust laws.

The same NYT report continues:

“New America financial supporters have no influence or control over the research design, methodology, analysis or findings of New America research projects, nor do they have influence or control over the content of educational programs and communications efforts,” [New America’s executive vice president] Ms. [Tyra] Mariani said. She added that Mr. Lynn’s statement praising the European Union’s sanctions against Google had been temporarily removed from New America’s website because of “an unintentional internal issue” unrelated to Google or Mr. [Eric] Schmidt.

Ms. Mariani and Ms. [Riva] Sciuto [a Google spokeswoman] said Google is continuing to fund New America.

Hours after this article was published online Wednesday morning, Ms. [Anne-Marie] Slaughter announced that the think tank had fired Mr. Lynn on Wednesday for “his repeated refusal to adhere to New America’s standards of openness and institutional collegiality.”

Ms. Slaughter also wrote on Twitter that the article was “false,” but was unable to cite any errors. New America would not make Ms. Slaughter available for an interview. 4

So what? Why am I writing about this hand-in-glove relationship between tech giant Google and the Executive Chairman of its parent company Alphabet Inc., Eric Schmidt, with a think tank formerly known as New America Foundation but since renamed simply New America? The short answer is one man: Peter Warren Singer.

A strategist for America Foundation, P.W. Singer specialises in 21st century warfare. In a few years he has published nothing short of a small library of books on related topics ranging from the post-9/11 rise of the mercenary armies, child soldiers, military robotics, cybersecurity and cyberwarfare. Amongst his most recent publications, LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media (2018) is already regarded as a seminal work.

If “CyberWar” is about hacking networks, “LikeWar” is about hacking the people on the networks, driving ideas viral through a mix of “likes” and lies. And in these battles for virality, which can generate real world power, generating a sense of authenticity has become an important milestone for any online operation, be it selling an album, a political campaign, or an information warfare operation designed to cause your enemies army to run away (as in the #AllEyesOnISIS operation). 5

From an article by P.W. Singer and co-author Emerson Brooking entitled “What Taylor Swift Teaches Us About Online War” published around the time of the book launch by Defense One in October 2018.

Funnily enough, and only a few months later, Singer was invited to the 2019 Bilderberg gathering in Montreux, when one of the key topics happened to be “The weaponisation of social media”.

I wonder whether he contributed to the discussion at all, and found the time to chew the cud with Bilderberg warhorse and his New America Foundation benefactor and Chairman Emeritus, Eric Schmidt.

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(Everything is) LikeWar

The pattern of military hardware silhouettes above welcomes visitors to P.W. Singer’s official website. To judge from his CV, he very probably has the same wallpaper up in his bedroom.

In a recent interview he told Lauren Hepler:

Social media is not just a communication space and a marketplace. It’s also a battle space. You have sides that go back and forth. They use tactics and strategies to achieve their goals. We’ve seen its weaponization to target elections, to target military units. We’ve seen it used to target corporations to try to sabotage their share price, to harm the rollout of a new product. We’ve also seen it have a real and very sad impact on public health.

This is now a matter of life and death. The deliberate spread of misinformation on coronavirus didn’t just shape a laggard Trump administration response, but also shaped individual-level decisions that were irresponsible and dangerous. It cost lives.

Singer calls a response at all levels: individual, governmental and, importantly, corporate:

Then we had coronavirus breakout, and all of them [‘the platform companies’] again implemented things [forms of censorship] that were unthinkable, impossible for them to do just a few months earlier. They should be applauded for doing it, but as they take on more and more of a political role, they are forced to play politics. For example, when someone posts information about a medical treatment that is not effective and maybe even dangerous, they knocked offline certain individuals for doing that, but not others because they’re a little bit too prominent, and if we do, then it will look like we’re playing politics.

Singer’s view is that playing politics is fine, indeed something the tech giants “should be applauded for doing”, however in western democracies, maintaining appearances is of the utmost importance. He continues:

I’m incredibly empathetic toward these companies, because they’re being forced to play this role in the U.S. essentially because we have not updated our election rules. In other nations, the companies have more guidance.

Incredibly empathetic… well, you’re hardly going to bite the hand that feeds you! But what is Singer’s role here? As a former Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute and current Strategist for New America, whose major donors besides Eric and Wendy Schmidt also include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the US State Department, Singer is clearly in the business of shaping US government policy on behalf of corporate interests. In this instance, enjoining the government to issue “guidance” on censorship such that the tech giants are then able to distance themselves from policies deliberately brought in to marginalise dissident voices.

A Washington Post article published in late 2016 entitled “Why Facebook and Google are struggling to purge fake news” made the matter plain:

Facebook, Google and other Web companies have sought to walk a fine line: They don’t want to get into the practice of hiring human editors, which they believe would make them vulnerable to criticisms of partisan bias and stray from their core business of building software. Yet outsiders, as well as some within Silicon Valley, are increasingly clamoring for technology giants to take a more active role in policing the spread of deceptive information.

“It is very difficult for Facebook to say they are not a gatekeeper when they drive such an enormous share of the attention of most news consumers across the world,” said Joshua Benton, director of the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. “They need to figure out some editorial mechanism; with their scale comes responsibility.” 6

Singer admits:

A few weeks ago, there was a blast of kind-of-weird content moderation happening. It was because the platform companies had to send many of their people home, and they were using more and more AI that was understandably squirrelly. People were looking for conspiracy, when it was just AI doing its thing. 7

As an esteemed expert in his field Singer must know very well, of course, that this excuse of ‘squirrelly AI’ is actually a red herring. After all, the internet clampdown and “kind-of-weird content moderation” didn’t spring forth inadvertently on the back of the coronavirus lockdown a few weeks ago, but has been incrementally ratcheted up even before the first stirrings of the “Russiagate” hoax four years ago. As I pointed out in an earlier piece, fears of the fabled internet “kill switch” are a distraction, as the volume of dissident voices is being steadily turned down and the internet is slowly shut down by stealth.

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Project Birmingham: Alabama’s ‘fake news’ false flag

At least 1,100 Russian-language accounts followed Republican U.S. Senate nominee Roy Moore’s Twitter account over the past few days. Moore’s team says they want to know why.

So begins an article in local newspaper the Montgomery Advertiser entitled “Russian invasion? Roy Moore sees spike in Twitter followers from land of Putin”

Caption retained:
A screen cap of Republican U.S. Senate nominee Roy Moore’s Twitter followers on Monday, Oct. 16, 2017. Moore’s campaign accounts was followed by thousands of Cyrillic-language accounts in the days prior. The Moore campaign says they have asked Twitter to investigate. (Photo: Twitter)

Beneath a composite image showing just a few examples of this huge army of Russian Twitter bots (see above), the same report into the stormy Alabama 2017 senate race between Republican Roy Moore and rival Democrat Doug Jones continues:

“We had absolutely nothing to do with this,” said Drew Messer, a spokesman for the campaign, on Monday. “We’ve never purchased followers or dummy ads on Twitter. We’ve asked Twitter to look into this.”

The increase helped push Moore’s following on Twitter from about 27,000 accounts on Friday to over 47,000, ahead of Democratic nominee Doug Jones, who has about 39,000 followers on Twitter.

Adding:

The Jones campaign Monday evening said Moore was “embarrassing the people of Alabama with another disgusting and pathetic lie.”

“Maybe Moore should check with Vladimir Putin, who shares his views on depriving people of their civil rights,” the statement said.  8

Although Moore had been leading in the polls by six to eight points, it was finally Democrat Jones who went on to win the election. So had the disclosure of Russian influence during the campaign finally affected the result? Very possibly, although in the fullness of time something more extraordinary was revealed by an internal report. Those thousands of bots meddling in the campaign had not been Russian at all and had no connection whatsoever to Putin. Instead they were part of “an experiment”:

One participant in the Alabama project [aka ‘Project Birmingham’], Jonathon Morgan, is the chief executive of New Knowledge, a small cyber security firm that wrote a scathing account of Russia’s social media operations in the 2016 election that was released this week by the Senate Intelligence Committee. […]

The project’s operators created a Facebook page on which they posed as conservative Alabamians, using it to try to divide Republicans and even to endorse a write-in candidate to draw votes from Mr. Moore. It involved a scheme to link the Moore campaign to thousands of Russian accounts that suddenly began following the Republican candidate on Twitter, a development that drew national media attention.

“We orchestrated an elaborate ‘false flag’ operation that planted the idea that the Moore campaign was amplified on social media by a Russian botnet,” the report says.

The same piece includes a number of statements for Morgan, including this explanation:

Mr. Morgan said in an interview that the Russian botnet ruse “does not ring a bell,” adding that others had worked on the effort and had written the report. He said he saw the project as “a small experiment” designed to explore how certain online tactics worked, not to affect the election.

“The research project was intended to help us understand how these kind of campaigns operated,” said Mr. Morgan. “We thought it was useful to work in the context of a real election but design it to have almost no impact.” 9

Click here to read the full New York Times article published in December 2018 entitled “Secret Experiment in Alabama Senate Race Imitated Russian Tactics”.

Jonathan Morgan’s New Knowledge is a Texas-based cybersecurity firm, and behind it we find far larger concerns in the shape of American Engagement Technologies (AET) and for-profit investment management firm Investing In US. This is a trail I shall return to below.

However, it turns out that this phoney Russiagate operation was only part of the information warfare strategy. A separate effort had involved an elaborate fake campaign intended to convince voters of Republican candidate Moore’s supposed plans to reintroduce alcohol prohibition:

The “Dry Alabama” Facebook page, illustrated with stark images of car wrecks and videos of families ruined by drink, had a blunt message: Alcohol is the devil’s work, and the state should ban it entirely.

Along with a companion Twitter feed, the Facebook page appeared to be the work of Baptist teetotalers who supported the Republican, Roy S. Moore, in the 2017 Alabama Senate race. “Pray for Roy Moore,” one tweet exhorted.

In fact, the Dry Alabama campaign, not previously reported, was the stealth creation of progressive Democrats who were out to defeat Mr. Moore — the second such secret effort to be unmasked.

So who was behind these disinformation campaigns? The same NYT piece continues:

The revelations about the first project, run in part by a cybersecurity company called New Knowledge, led Facebook to shut down five accounts that it said had violated its rules, and prompted Senator [Doug] Jones to call for a federal investigation. There is no evidence that Jones encouraged or knew of either of the deceptive social media projects. His spokeswoman, Heather Fluit, said his legal advisers were preparing to file a formal complaint with the Federal Election Commission. […]

The first of the Alabama efforts was funded by Reid Hoffman, the billionaire co-founder of LinkedIn, who apologized and said he had been unaware of the project and did not approve of the underhanded methods. The second was funded by two Virginia donors who wanted to defeat Mr. Moore — a former judge accused of pursuing sexual relationships with underage girls — according to a participant who would speak about the secret project only on the condition of anonymity and who declined to name the funders.

The two projects each received $100,000, funneled in both cases through the same organization: Investing in Us, which finances political operations in support of progressive causes. Dmitri Mehlhorn, the group’s managing partner, declined to comment on whether he approved of the tactics he had helped pay for. 10

For the record, Investing in US was co-founded by Reid Hoffman and Dmitri Mehlhorn, a former senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute.

Click here to read the full NYT report entitled “Democrats Faked Online Push to Outlaw Alcohol in Alabama Race”.

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Pulling the strings back at Bilderberg

Reid Hoffman may be a name that is unfamiliar to you, even though he was co-founder and executive chairman of LinkedIn. As we learn from a NYT puff piece from 2011, after a shaky start, Hoffman was fortunate enough to have some well-connected associates:

In 1985, Mr. Hoffman enrolled at Stanford, where he majored in symbolic systems, the study of the relationship between computing and human intelligence. He soon befriended a fellow student, Peter Thiel, who would go on to found PayPal.

When his own social media start-up SocialNet flopped, Hoffman was invited to rejoin his old pal as Thiel was setting up PayPal:

As an executive vice president, it was up to Mr. Hoffman to manage external relations. “He was the firefighter in chief at PayPal,” Mr. Thiel says. “Though that diminishes his role because there were many, many fires.” 11

Click here to read the full NYT article entitled “A King of Connections Is Tech’s Go-To Guy”

Peter Thiel and Reid Hoffman today sit at the high table as Bilderberg regulars alongside Eric Schmidt – the trio of techies have each attended every conference during the last four years: Thiel going under the title President of Thiel Capital; Hoffman more self-effacingly as a ‘Partner’ at Greylock Partners; and Schmidt, evidently the most modest of the three, declaring himself a mere ‘Technical Advisor’ to Alphabet Inc.

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Please note: I started constructing this article as part of a larger review (that was subsequently broken down into this series of smaller pieces) many months prior to the current coronavirus crisis and lockdown.

1 Though it is not referenced by Wikiquote, there are a wide variety of sources including articles published by the Guardian and The Atlantic magazine that have attributed Joseph Heller’s novel Catch-22 as the original source of this quote. Variations of the same quote are also misattributed to American singer, songwriter, and musician, best known as the guitarist and frontman of the rock band Nirvana, Kurt Cobain.

2 https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2015-02-24/225283/

3 From an article entitled “Inside the British Army’s secret information warfare machine” written by Carl Miller, published in Wired on November 14, 2018. https://www.wired.co.uk/article/inside-the-77th-brigade-britains-information-warfare-military

4 From an article entitled “Google Critic Ousted From Think Tank Funded by the Tech Giant” written by Kenneth P. Vogel, published in The New York Times on August 30, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/30/us/politics/eric-schmidt-google-new-america.html?_r=0

5 From an article entitled “What Taylor Swift Teaches Us About Online War” written by Peter W. Singer & Emerson T. Brooking, published in Defense One on October 2, 2018. https://www.defenseone.com/ideas/2018/10/what-taylor-swift-teaches-us-about-online-war/151634/?oref=d-river

6 From an article entitled “Why Facebook and Google are struggling to purge fake news” written by Elizabeth Dwoskin, Caitlin Dewey & Craig Timberg, published in the Washington Post on November 15, 2016. https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/why-facebook-and-google-are-struggling-to-purge-fake-news/2016/11/15/85022897-f765-422e-9f53-c720d1f20071_story.html

7 From an article entitled “A futurist on Covid-19 and business: Pandora’s box is now open” written by Lauren Hepler, published in Protocol on April 19, 2020. https://www.protocol.com/cyberwar-expert-pw-singer-coronavirus

8 From an article entitled “Russian invasion? Roy Moore sees spike in Twitter followers from land of Putin” written by Brian Lyman, originally published in the Montgomery Advertiser on October 16, 2017 (updated December 12, 2019) https://eu.montgomeryadvertiser.com/story/news/politics/southunionstreet/2017/10/16/roy-moores-twitter-account-gets-influx-russian-language-followers/768758001/

9 From an article entitled “Secret Experiment in Alabama Senate Race Imitated Russian Tactics” written by Scott Shane & Alan Blinder, published in The New York Times on December 19, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/19/us/alabama-senate-roy-jones-russia.html

10 From an article entitled “Democrats Faked Online Push to Outlaw Alcohol in Alabama Race” written by Scott Shane & Alan Blinder, published in The New York Times on January 7, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/07/us/politics/alabama-senate-facebook-roy-moore.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

11 From an article entitled “A King of Connections Is Tech’s Go-To Guy” written by Evelyn M. Rusli, published in The New York Times on November 5, 2011. https://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/06/business/reid-hoffman-of-linkedin-has-become-the-go-to-guy-of-tech.html?pagewanted=all

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Gilets Jaunes, Avaaz, Macron & Facebook (or when grassroots ‘populism’ meets controlled opposition)

Gilet Jaunes

In late November last year a new grassroots movement took to the streets of Paris. Taking its name from the adopted emblematic apparel of hi-vis yellow vests which every French motorist is obliged to carry in their vehicles, early reports repeated the claim that the thousands of demonstrators had gathered for the rather limited mission of stopping the implementation a new fuel tax. As the weeks passed, however, and as the protests continued even after President Macron’s concessionary intervention to freeze the tax hike 1, it became evident that although elected to office just eighteen months previously, Macron was suddenly facing a very serious political crisis. One of the few political commentators to recognise the nature and the importance of the Gilets Jaunes was American author Diana Johnstone, who is based in Paris and wrote in early December:

Initial government responses showed that they weren’t listening. They dipped into their pool of clichés to denigrate something they didn’t want to bother to understand.

President Macron’s first reaction was to guilt-trip the protesters by invoking the globalists’ most powerful argument for imposing unpopular measures: global warming. Whatever small complaints people may have, he indicated, that is nothing compared to the future of the planet.

This did not impress people who, yes, have heard all about climate change and care as much as anyone for the environment, but who are obliged to retort: “I’m more worried about the end of the month than about the end of the world.”

After the second Yellow Vest Saturday, November 25, which saw more demonstrators and more tear gas, the Minister in charge of the budget, Gérard Darmanin, declared that what had demonstrated on the Champs-Elysée was “la peste brune”, the brown plague, meaning fascists. (For those who enjoy excoriating the French as racist, it should be noted that Darmanin is of Algerian working class origins). This remark caused an uproar of indignation that revealed just how great is public sympathy for the movement – over 70% approval by latest polls, even after uncontrolled vandalism. Macron’s Minister of the Interior, Christophe Castaner, was obliged to declare that government communication had been badly managed. Of course, that is the familiar technocratic excuse: we are always right, but it is all a matter of our “communication”, not of the facts on the ground.

Maybe I have missed something, but of the many interviews I have listened to, I have not heard one word that would fall into the categories of “far right”, much less “fascism” – or even that indicated any particular preference in regard to political parties. These people are wholly concerned with concrete practical issues. Not a whiff of ideology – remarkable in Paris! 2

Click here to read Johnstone’s full article entitled “Yellow Vests Rise Against Neo-Liberal ‘King’ Macron”.

Although there is a great deal of misrepresentation of the Gilets Jaunes, it isn’t very hard to trace their origins. We could go back fifty years to the same Paris streets and the anti-establishment uprising instigated by student protests that signalled the beginning of the end for Charles de Gaulle. However, there was a stronger ideological current in ’68 than now; the movement then stirred into being and driven by the purposefully obscure quasi-Marxist slogans of the Situationists, most famous for enigmatically declaring “Sous les pavés, la plage!” (“Under the pavement, the beach”).

Within a few decades following the dissolution of the Situationists, a more distinctly anti-capitalist movement began to emerge. Widely referred to at the time as anti-globalisation, for many years it was belittled and trivialised, characterised as directionless and quixotic. In fact it was simply ahead of its time, and with the millennium rapidly approaching, the mobilisation of many tens of thousands who steadily gathered outside the WTO convention in Seattle was about to seriously unsettle the western establishment.

On November 30th 1999, with the conference underway, the authorities reacted. Their response has since become a familiar one: blockades, pepper spray, tear gas and stun grenades rained down on what had been more or less peaceful demonstrations. Having provoked a response, the Mayor of Seattle, Paul Schell, subsequently declared a state of emergency, and then, the following day, State Governor, Gary Locke called in National Guardsmen to enforce a no-protest zone. At the height of what would later be known as the “Battle in Seattle” the streets were strewn with shattered glass just as the air was thick with teargas. The estimated costs to the city exceeded $20 million.

As it transpired, the protests Seattle represented the apogee of this first anti-globalisation movement, its growing strength abruptly snuffed out by the attacks on the World Trade Center. No movement so openly hostile to global trade could sustain itself in the immediate post-9/11 environment, and so it withered away as the peace movement would too; all anti-establishment causes becoming collateral damage. In fact it took nearly a decade for any comparable movement to re-emerge, and this time it was born in the shadow of the banking crisis and on the back of the “Arab Spring”.

It was not until 2011 before thousands in Spain and Greece finally took to the streets protesting against neo-liberalism and the “austerity measures” that were starting to cripple their economies and to undermine welfare and other state provision. This happened during the earliest days of this blog, and so I cut my teeth writing a sequence of articles which began with the first of the ‘los indignados’ protests on May 15th (also known as 15M). Shortly afterwards on July 25th, a small contingent of the burgeoning movement had embarked on a thousand mile march from Madrid to the European Parliament in Brussels in forlorn hopes of petitioning “the Troika” to end their measures.

Across the Atlantic, and inspired by popular uprisings now taking place around the Mediterranean (including the so-called Arab Spring revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt), Occupy Wall Street then commenced with its call for people to gather on September 17th. Just a month later, on Saturday October 15th (15-O), there was a coordinated day of international dissent called for by los indignados with rallies taking place not only in Spain (half a million in both Barcelona and Madrid), but also in Greece and the other “PIGS” (to use the vile and frankly racist acronym quite freely attached by the press), as well as in other major European cities and across the United States. The 15-O event actually sparked protests as far afield as Hong Kong, Tokyo, Mumbai, Canada, South America and Africa.

Click here to read a list of the 15-O Occupy protests around the world and here to read my own post about this first day of global outrage.

By the symbolic (if coincidental) date of November 5th, Occupy Sheffield sprang up too, when a small band of disillusioned strangers put together a makeshift protest camp outside the cathedral. Thus the Occupy movement that had been inspired by los indignados in Spring, and spread to Wall Street by mid-September, was within months recruiting fellow travellers in my home city as in other towns and cities of the UK including the capital.

For a brief moment, the Occupy movement became a global protest movement, and one that in superficial respects, resembles today’s Yellow Vest movement. It was horizontally structured, eschewed leadership and listed no formal demands. Finally, and in spite of its foundational and unswerving commitment to non-violence action, when the time came – in America especially – the police response was unrestrained and brutal. The largest encampment in Zuccotti Park would be swept aside within just a few hours on November 15th, scarcely two months after the protests had commenced.

It is true to say that los indignados slowly transformed into the new political party Podemos, and that the parallel protests in Greece likewise helped to trigger the rise of Syriza, however, once the last pockets of resistance were vanquished in other parts of the world, little more remained than a lasting slogan: “we are the 99%”. And so in spite of the tremendous enthusiasm and initial optimism, the revolution was cancelled. Doubtless in part it was doomed to fail if only because camping in the park – especially at the onset of Winter – was a desperately poor strategy to begin with, but more importantly, the movement had never managed to reach out to the wider populous, whether through trades unions, civil rights groups or by tuning in to the real concerns of disaffected groups beyond the large metropolitan centres.

I visited the camp at the Cathedral on a few occasions and at first was eagerly welcomed in, but as the weeks passed, the mood changed. The mix included students, the homeless, drop-outs and well-intentioned others, but rather than actively protesting, this in-crowd mostly spent their days cooking food, constructing shelters and sitting in meetings with comrades where decisions were made on a strict consensus basis, and nights hunkered down in tents or under tarpaulin. They had built makeshift libraries and hung up posters – I recall that one was for Avaaz – and they did workshops for anyone interested. In short, Occupy was always directed towards building a ‘community’ and as such was inward-looking. Outside the tents, the passersby passed by, and most were unimpressed by the genuine commitment shown by those who nightly sacrificed the warmth and comfort of a bed to sleep out on the streets.

Although the Gilets Jaunes are successors to the fin de siècle anti-globalisation movement that culminated in Seattle, and to the Occupy camps which disbanded a decade after, their anger is more palpable and their strength has been greatly reinforced due to support throughout the rural provinces. Unlike the earlier movements, the Gilets Jaunes are in fact marginalised in a different way: largely abandoned by the left-leaning intelligentsia, for better or worse, neither do they enjoy celebrity endorsements. Finally, at the extremes of the criticism they endure, they are disparaged as ‘populist’. This is actually their greatest strength, of course, and the biggest reason they are met with such hardline suppression by the authorities. It is also why both their political cause and the gatherings of thousands each weekend (especially when peace is maintained) have been dutifully downplayed by the corporate media.

In truth, this spontaneous and mostly leaderless movement is more straightforwardly working class, and it is this factor above others that singles it out and makes it significantly different from the earlier movements. Such an awakening of class consciousness also potentially makes it a genuine existential threat to the establishment.

Activist, writer and theoretical physicist, Jean Bricmont, a Belgian perhaps best known for his role in the ‘Sokal Affair’, is a leftist commentator who has actually participated in the Yellow Vest protests. In a recent interview with independent Algerian journalist, Mohsen Abdelmoumen, he outlined other ways in which the Gilets Jaunes radically differs from previous social uprisings:

[T]he movement is intensely patriotic – they sing the “Marseillaise”, wave the French flag, etc. It is an attitude that deeply disturbs the left.  The people show that they are attached to their country – as the Algerians are attached to Algeria, the French are attached to France –, which does not imply any hostility towards foreigners, but it implies a certain idea of national community and this is something that the left has hated for decades. It is the great problem of the left that it is cut off from the majority of people because it rejects this idea of a national community and puts forward its membership in Europe, globalization, etc. From this point of view, the left is completely cut off from the people.

According to Bricmont, the Gilets Jaunes confront the powers-that-be with what is for them an irresolvable crisis:

Yellow Vests ask such fundamental questions that no European government could answer them. Moreover, Macron is a prisoner of the European Union logic. He throws oil on the fire with his provocations, but the crisis is the result of decades of neoliberal politics, deindustrialization, destruction of public services, and so on.

Asked whether the emergence of the GJ movement is historical, Bricmont replies:

Yes, I think so, but it is very complicated to imagine the form by which the people would take power. They talk about the RIC (Citizens’ Initiative Referendum) and the European Union, but they are not at all clear on the latter issue. The problem is that it is a spontaneous and unorganized movement, so there are no leaders, no method for collective thought. There is collective thought developed by people discussing in the traffic circles and who think of alternatives, but the movement is not yet structured enough so that we could know where it will lead. I tend to think that we have to wait to know what will come of all this. For now, they are resisting, which is already remarkable, but where it will go, I do not know. 3

Click here to read the full interview in the American Herald Tribune.

Interestingly, although leaderless, as far back as December 5th a set of demands purporting to be an ‘official’ Yellow Vest manifesto appeared:

Soon after a translated version appeared too:

For alternative leftist analysis of the movement we may also turn to Serge Halimi, editorial director of Le Monde diplomatique, whose thoughts were published by Counterpunch on January 8th. Halimi writes:

The sudden emergence of the yellow vests, just as miraculous and much more powerful, demonstrates the gradual impoverishment of an ever-larger section of society. It also demonstrates the feeling of absolute defiance towards — almost disgust at — the usual channels of representation: the movement has no leaders or spokespeople, rejects political parties, keeps its distance from unions, ignores intellectuals and hates the media. This probably explains its popularity, which it managed to retain even after violence any other government would have capitalised on. 4

Click here to read the full article entitled “Forgotten France Rises Up”.

Another article that shines some clearer light on the rise of the Gilets Jaunes was written by Max Parry and published in Counterpunch on January 4th. He writes:

In less than two months, the yellow vests (“gilets jaunes”) movement in France has reshaped the political landscape in Europe. For a seventh straight week, demonstrations continued across the country even after concessions from a cowing President Emmanuel Macron while inspiring a wave of similar gatherings in neighboring states like Belgium and the Netherlands. Just as el-Sisi’s dictatorship banned the sale of high-visibility vests to prevent copycat rallies in Egypt, corporate media has predictably worked overtime trying to demonize the spontaneous and mostly leaderless working class movement in the hopes it will not spread elsewhere.

The media oligopoly initially attempted to ignore the insurrection altogether, but when forced to reckon with the yellow vests they maligned the incendiary marchers using horseshoe theory to suggest a confluence between far left and far right supporters of Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Marine Le Pen. To the surprise of no one, mainstream pundits have also stoked fears of ‘Russian interference’ behind the unrest. We can assume that if the safety vests were ready-made off the assembly line of NGOs like the raised fist flags of Serbia’s OTPOR! movement, the presstitutes would be telling a different story.

And he addresses the reason behind the mostly silent response coming from progressives within America:

While the media’s conspicuous blackout of coverage is partly to blame, the deafening silence from across the Atlantic in the United States is really because of the lack of class consciousness on its political left. With the exception of Occupy Wall Street, the American left has been so preoccupied with an endless race to the bottom in the two party ‘culture wars’ it is unable to comprehend an upheaval undivided by the contaminants of identity politics. A political opposition that isn’t fractured on social issues is simply unimaginable. Not to say the masses in France are exempt from the internal contradictions of the working class, but the fetishization of lifestyle politics in the U.S. has truly become its weakness. […]

In today’s political climate, it is easy to forget that there have been periods where the American left was actually engaged with the crisis of global capitalism. In what seems like aeons ago, the anti-globalization movement in the wake of NAFTA culminated in huge protests in Seattle in 1999 which saw nearly 50,000 march against the World Trade Organization. Following the 2008 financial collapse, it briefly reemerged in the Occupy movement which was also swiftly put down by corporate-state repression. Currently, the political space once inhabited by the anti-globalization left has been supplanted by the ‘anti-globalist’ rhetoric mostly associated with right-wing populism.

Globalism and globalization may have qualitatively different meanings, but they nevertheless are interrelated. Although it is shortsighted, there are core accuracies in the former’s narrative that should be acknowledged. The idea of a shadowy world government isn’t exclusively adhered to by anti-establishment conservatives and it is right to suspect there is a worldwide cabal of secretive billionaire power brokers controlling events behind the scenes. There is indeed a ‘new world order’ with zero regard for the sovereignty of nation states, just as there is a ‘deep state.’ However, it is a ruling class not of paranoiac imagination but real life, and a right-wing billionaire like Robert Mercer is as much a globalist as George Soros.

Ever since capitalism emerged it has always been global. The current economic crisis is its latest cyclical downturn, impoverishing and alienating working people whose increasing hardship is what has led to the trending rejection of the EU. Imperialism has exported capital leading to the destruction of jobs in the home sectors of Western nations while outsourcing them to the third world. Over time, deep disgruntlement among the working class has grown toward an economic system that is clearly rigged against them, where the skewed distribution of capital gains and widespread tax evasion on the part of big business is camouflaged as buoyant economic growth. When it came crashing down in the last recession, the financial institutions responsible were bailed out using tax payer money instead of facing any consequences. Such grotesque unfairness has only been amplified by the austerity further transferring the burden from the 1% to the poor. 5

Click here to read the full article entitled “Why France’s Yellow Vest Protests Are Ignored by ‘The Resistance’ in the U.S.”

*

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win” said Gandhi (or possibly somebody else 6), but that was old school in any case. In today’s ‘post-truth’ era, ‘they’ have been enabled both to ignore and to fight you simultaneously. And just as the Occupy movement was forcibly dismantled with the cameras turned away, so on the streets of France another unreported crackdown is being carried out right now.

On January 28th, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, who has “been keeping close track of the events linked to the ‘yellow vest’ movement in France since mid-November 2018” made an official visit to Paris, prompted by what she describes as an “increasing number of violent incidents, reported by a very large number of media outlets, confirmed by information passed on to her by national human rights bodies and borne out by evidence received directly by her Office”. A month later on February 26th, she released her damning report on “the circumstances of the use of force by law enforcement officers and some demonstrators, and assess[ing] the human rights situation in the context of the various forms of action linked to the yellow vest movement.” The following summary is directly quoted from that report (further extracts are reprinted in the footnote):

[A]ccording to figures from the Ministry of the Interior 12 122 LBD rounds [i.e., rubber bullets], 1428 instant tear gas grenades and 4942 hand-held sting grenades were fired or thrown between the beginning of the yellow vest movement and 4 February 2019. She is concerned at the high level of use of these so-called intermediate weapons despite the fact that their deployment is restricted and they can cause serious injury. The Commissioner notes that according to a count carried out by an independent journalist, at the time of writing, the three types of intermediate weapon referred to above had been involved in 253 of 428 reports made to him by persons claiming to be victims of police violence, which he himself had documented and cross-checked, confirming a high prevalence of LBDs, accounting for 193 of these cases. The count highlighted 38 wounds to upper limbs including 5 lost hands, 52 wounds to lower limbs, 3 wounds to the genitals and 189 head wounds including 20 people who have lost an eye.

In conclusion she says:

The Commissioner is extremely concerned about the number of serious, concurring and credible allegations of police violence causing mutilation and serious injury, particularly to the head. She considers that head wounds caused by LBD [rubber bullets] fire show a disproportionate use of force and the unsuitability of this type of weapon in the context of operations aimed at maintaining public order. 7

Investigative journalist Vanessa Beeley has witnessed the police violence first-hand and has been running regular columns throughout the already five months since the GJ first took to the streets. Back on January 31st, she reported:

Since the 24th November 2018 the violence witnessed on the streets of cities across France has escalated dramatically. One French independent journalist, David Dufresnes, has been recording all infractions committed by police and security forces and tweeting them to the Interior Ministry while giving interviews to a huge number of French media channels to raise awareness of the police brutality during peaceful protests. In the tweet below, infraction number 362 dated 26/1/2019, an off duty soldier is reported to be hit in the head by a police LBD40 rubber bullet as he is leaving a restaurant in Montpelier on his way to the nightclub with two of his colleagues:

Link to Tweet and video here.

Dufresnes has recorded 157 injuries to the head including 18 who have lost an eye, fractures of the jaw and comas in the most severe cases. 11 hand injuries, in 4 cases resulting in the loss of a hand. 8 back injuries, 28 injuries to the upper body, 40 lower limb injuries, 3 injuries to the genital area, 48 unspecified injuries and 55 cases of intimidation, insults, repression of press freedom infractions. One eighty-year-old was murdered on the 1st December 2018 in Marseilles – Zineb Redouane was killed when a tear gas grenade was thrown in her face by the security forces. According to Dufresnes this is the list of the more serious injuries, an estimated 2000 – 3000 more GJs have been “lightly” injured during the protests since November 2018.

Record of some of the appalling injuries inflicted upon unarmed civilians by police forces across France. (Photo: Desarmons.net)

Dufresnes argues that the police have already lost control of the situation and can no longer be legitimately claiming to “maintain law and order”. In one interview Dufresnes points out that the use of 10,000 tear gas grenades on one day of protests points to a “panic” situation among the security forces. During “Acte XI” of the protests on the 26th January the elderly man, Eric, in the photo below was hit on the head by a police truncheon in Marseilles. He has three fractures and is forced to eat only liquid food from the left side of his mouth for three weeks, according to his brother.

On February 11th, Venessa Beeley delivered a presentation at the Mot Dag Conference in Oslo and provided a powerful testimony of the state sanctioned violence against unarmed civilians in French cities:

Having cited other instances of entirely innocent protesters who have been maimed or otherwise seriously injured, Beeley writes:

Effectively the Gilets Jaunes have exposed Macron and his government for what it is. Macron is the President who was elected by the globalists, the capitalists and the ruling elite to protect their interests. A book recently published, authored by Francois-Xavier Bourmand, entitled “Emmanuel Macron the Banker who would be King” has investigated the corporatocracy who ensured Macron’s election win in order to expand their interests globally and to convert France from Republic into Plutocracy at the expense of the “dispensables”, the “little people”.

During one confrontation with a citizen at one of the Grand Debates, Macron is asked why he has failed to fulfill his pre-election promise of “no more SDF (homeless) on the streets of France – 580 SDF died on the streets of France in 2018. Rather than show compassion for the poverty-stricken and homeless, Macron defends his policies with accountant-speak, informing the audience that the elite must be protected in order to provide jobs for the “poor”.

If indeed Macron’s coterie in government are pushing for confrontation between the people and the security forces and introducing increasingly repressive measures to up the pressure on the protestors rather than trying to defuse matters, it is really ten minutes before midnight in France. The insanity of Macron supporting the “uprising” in Venezuela while sanctioning vicious reprisals against his own people at home is glaringly obvious to all but Macron and his backers. That is because Macron is doing his job and his job is to manufacture the conditions in which the privileged, wealthy ruling elite can thrive and further their globalist ambitions which includes military adventurism and resource theft from target nations that include Venezuela and Syria.

Violence will escalate in France because it is state-sanctioned. Unless the police wake up to their manipulation by the state and join forces with the GJs there is a risk of a serious confrontation in the very near future.

Click here to read Vanessa Beeley’s full article published on Patreon.

On January 28th, Vanessa Beeley, was interviewed on The Last American Vagabond about the “Yellow Vests” movement. She discussed the media suppression, police brutality and its subsequent cover up, and also spoke about the orchestration of an alternative so-called ‘Red Scarf’ resistance movement:

Then on March 10th, Vanessa Beeley appeared as a guest on George Galloway’s RT show ‘Sputnik’, were she again talked about the ‘Yellow Vest’ protests and the media silence:

Protests on consecutive weekends have now passed more than a hundred days, and with no sign at all that the movement is ready to fade away, the Macron government has been stepping up its strong-arm measures, including the deployment of the army on the streets of Paris. This latest move is justified on the basis of an abrupt escalation in violence and vandalism during the 18th act of the protests. However, as wsws.org reported on Thursday 21st, the crackdown comes in spite of widescale evidence of police collusion with black bloc and other agitators:

The escalation of repression by the Macron government after Saturday’s clashes with protesters on the Champs-Élysées in Paris, during the 18th weekly “yellow vest” protests, raises the most serious questions as to the government’s role. No evidence has been provided that the violence was caused by “yellow Vest” protesters. But the Élysée is seeking to tear up the right to protest on the basis of these murky events, which sections of the state apparatus itself have attributed to far-right forces.

On Monday, the government announced that protests could be banned in areas where violence had previously occurred, if police declare that “extreme elements” could be present among the protesters. But it is precisely the question of the police’s own role that is raised by Saturday’s events, which saw numerous buildings set on fire, notably Fouquet’s restaurant.

The police, which were filmed ransacking the merchandise store of the Paris Saint-Germain football club, are now threatening the “yellow vests” with a major escalation of violence. Frédéric Lagache, the general secretary of the Alliance police union which is tied to neo-fascists, called for the injuring of demonstrators: “We should be willing to clash with them and maybe cause some injuries. We’re not going up against choir-boys.”

The incriminating footage of alleged police looting can be found here:

[A] segment of a video originally live-streamed by Rémy Buisine, a journalist for the French news site Brut, has gone viral, garnering more than three million views. The footage shows an officer a few metres from the PSG shop entrance carefully folding what looks like club jerseys or white sweatshirts and putting them into a black bag.

Buisine is heard commenting that “some items were…” before being brusquely interrupted. As the camera shakes, Buisine says that he was clubbed by a police officer with a baton, although that isn’t clearly shown in the video. 8

The same wsws.org article continues:

On Saturday, the Socialist Party mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, reacted to the violence by declaring: “What I saw tonight were extreme right groups who want to destabilize democracy, and groups of looters.”

She also pointed to the responsibility of police for the violence that erupted on the Champs-Élysées: “It ought to be possible to take control of a situation like the one we just passed through.”

Naturally, Hidalgo chose her words and took care not to express herself in a way that would raise questions as to the role of the state machine, of which she is herself an important cog. But it is necessary to ask the questions which are directly posed by such statements.

If far-right groups are indeed responsible, then which far-right groups are they? Who are their leaders, and who gave orders to set different shops and buildings on fire? Are there ties between the far-right groups that ransacked the Champs-Élysées, according to Hidalgo, and those, for example, who are now appealing the conviction of their ex-members for the fascist murder of Clement Méric?

Given the vast powers that the state has to monitor electronic communications and mobile phones, how is it possible that they do not know the identities of those responsible?

And if, as Hidalgo claims, the responsibility for the violence lies with far-right forces that threaten democracy, what conclusions should one draw about the role of the government? Why are Macron and his ministers silent about the role of the far right, besides the fact that this discredits their claim that the “yellow vests” and those who support them—some 70 percent of the French population—are responsible for the violence? 9

Click here to read the full report entitled “Unanswered questions on French police role in Saturday ‘yellow vest’ clashes”.

On Saturday 23rd, ‘We Are Change’ released an extended interview with an anonymous Gilets Jaunes spokesman “Bob” who spoke to Luke Rudkowski about the violence of the previous weekend’s “18th Act”; the psychological problems suffered by police officers; the use of a new type of unknown ‘teargas’ agent; the deployment of troops; and the callous manipulation of the narrative by Macron. Both parts of the interview are embedded below [warning: the introductory music is unnecessarily loud]:

In short, fighting against what have been, for the most part, peaceful protests is in the long run a losing strategy, so it has been essential to denigrate the entire ‘Yellow Vest’ movement by tarnishing its reputation, whether by means agents provocateurs (Vanessa Beeley reported on this in early February) or else by branding its supporters as racists, or more specifically, accusing them of antisemitism – an increasingly prevalent trend which usefully serves also to reverse an otherwise defensive posture needed to protect Israel. As independent journalist Jonathan Cook wrote in an excellent piece entitled “France’s Macron leads the way as western leaders malevolently confuse anti-Zionism with antisemitism”:

Macron’s sleight of hand [“his repeated conflation of anti-Zionism and antisemitism”] has a related and more specifically self-serving agenda, however, as has become clear in the wider misuse – or weaponisation – of antisemitism slurs in Europe and the US.

Macron is faced with a popular revolt known as the Yellow Vests, or Gilets Jaunes, that has taken over high streets for many months. The protests are rocking his government.

Like other recent grassroots insurrections, such as the Occupy movement, the Yellow Vests is leaderless and its demands difficult to decipher. It represents more a mood, a spreading dissatisfaction with an out-of-touch political system that, since the financial meltdown a decade ago, has looked chronically broken and unreformable.

The Yellow Vests embody a grievance desperately searching to hitch its wagon to a new political star, a different and fairer vision of how our societies could be organised.

The movement’s very inarticulateness has been its power and its threat. Those frustrated with austerity policies, those angry at an arrogant, unresponsive political and financial elite, those craving a return to a clearer sense of Frenchness can all seek shelter under its banner.

But equally it has also allowed Macron and the French elite to project on to the Yellow Vests any kind of malevolent motive that best serves their efforts to demonize the movement. A charge spokespeople for the movement deny.

And given the rising tide of nativist, far-right movements across Europe, casting the Yellow Vests as antisemitic has proved difficult to resist for the embattled French president.

Just as Macron has presented leftwing and anti-racism activists supporting BDS as in cahoots with neo-Nazis, he has lumped together the Yellow Vests with far-right white nationalists. Much of the French media have happily recycled this mischief. 10

Click here to read Jonathan Cook’s full article.

There are few satirists who puncture the convoluted pomposity of today’s febrile political climate quite so astutely as playwright and novelist CJ Hopkins. Lately he has gone to town on the virulence of what he calls the “Anti-Semitic Pandemic” and in his most recent piece, wryly retraces its spread from latent seeds within British Labour Party out to the streets of Paris:

Emergency measures are now in effect. A full-scale Labour Party lockdown is imminent. Anyone not already infected is being advised to flee the party, denounce anyone who hasn’t done so as “a Hitler-loving Corbyn-sympathizer,” and prophylactically apologize for any critical statements they might have made about Israel, or “elites,” or “global capitalism,” or “bankers,” or anything else that anyone can construe as anti-Semitism (preferably in the pages of The Guardian).

Nor has the Continent been spared! What at first appeared to be a series of spontaneous protests against Emmanuel Macron, economic austerity, and global capitalism by the so-called “Yellow Vests” in France has now been officially diagnosed as a nationwide anti-Semitism outbreak. In a heroic attempt to contain the outbreak, Macron has dispatched his security forces to shoot the eyes out of unarmed women, pepper spray paraplegics in wheelchairs, and just generally beat bloody hell out of everyone.

Strangely, none of these tactics have worked, so France has decided to join the USA, the UK, Germany, and the rest of the empire in defining anti-Zionism as form of anti-Semitism, such that anyone implying that Israel is in any way inherently racist, or a quasi-fascist Apartheid state, or making jokes about “elites” or “bankers,” can be detained and prosecuted for committing a “hate-crime.” 11

Click here to read CJ Hopkin’s complete essay.

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Avaaz

On March 12th, Avaaz released a lengthy report entitled “Yellow Vests Flooded By Fake News: Over 100M Views of Disinformation on Facebook”. The cover page features the image below:

What this image is depicting is not entirely clear, however I suggest that we try to dissect it to see if we can uncover an underlying message. To begin then, who are the two screaming victims meant to represent and why are they in the throes of such extreme agony? Moreover, what is the unseen agency pulling at their strings? To my eyes the torment and the envisaged tormenter are conflated, deliberately so given how there is no other visible cause for their trauma. Presumably then the subliminal message is that the pain that is felt and expressed by the Yellows Vests is both the outcome and an expression of one source: ‘fake news’. Of course the main purveyor of this dread ‘fake news’ is then made clear in the accompanying caption:

“Avaaz calls on Facebook to Correct the Record ahead of EU Elections – with an in-depth study showing how fake news surrounding the Yellow Vests reached over 100 million views, and how Russia fueled the divide.”

[bold highlight added]

In short, Russia is to blame, and not just for somehow orchestrating mass demonstrations across France that have been ongoing since November, but for bringing such grief to the French people by generating and stoking their rage. You see the people who go out on the streets in their tens of thousands are actually dupes of the Kremlin – empty-headed pawns in a game that goes on entirely above their heads:

Yes, the image above is another one lifted from the pages of Avaaz’s report, and as if their message isn’t plain enough, there is a further accompanying statement that clarifies:

This new in-depth study by the global citizens’ movement Avaaz shows for the first time the unprecedented scale at which the Yellow Vest movement has been impacted by disinformation. According to its findings, fake news surrounding the French Yellow Vest movement has reached an estimated 105 million views on Facebook alone, in a country with just over 35 million Facebook monthly active users. 12

The report then highlights three prime examples of the kinds of disinformation inflaming the French protests:

• a post with images including bleeding ‘Yellow Vest protesters,’ which media and government allegedly hid from the public – when some of the photos were actually taken at different protests near Madrid or in Catalonia (136,818 shares, 3,511,456 est. views)

• a video of French President Macron dancing in the Middle East “while France suffers,” when the video was actually taken over a month before, during the Summit for the Francophonie in Armenia (183,390 shares, 5,700,000 views)

• an image of a Yellow Vest protest in Paris, with a caption alleging that the image had been censored on Facebook or elsewhere; Le Monde fact-checkers debunked the claim that the photo or the caption were deleted (349,403 shares, 8,967,432 est. Views 13

I wish to consider each of these items in turn, starting with the photo of an injured protester who is mistakenly identified as a victim of the recent violence in France when in fact she was a previous victim of police brutality in Madrid. It was late February when Avaaz launched their initial campaign on the back of this deception. The email they sent reads (and bold highlights are preserved from the original):

“This shocking photo of a young woman, left beaten and bleeding by police at a protest, went viral on social media in France.

It’s the sort of thing Avaaz might launch an urgent campaign on.

So let’s pause there, if only to bookmark this first claim before continuing…

“But there’s just one problem – the image has nothing to do with France. It was taken in Madrid, years ago. It’s fake. Untrue. A lie.

And it’s dangerous.

Where to begin? Well surely the first point is that the image is not in any literal sense fake at all. Indeed, no-one is actually claiming that the image has been photoshopped. All that is ‘fake’ is that it happened in a different place and another time when evidently – and in spite of all their frantic virtue signalling – Avaaz did not bother to launch a campaign in response to it. No, they waited. And it was not until they could reuse the image to push a new agenda when they finally decided to direct the world’s attention to it.

Now it might be the case that they simply hadn’t seen this image before, although if so, then one wonders how they so promptly identified it as “fake” upon its re-emergence. Although none of this really matters. The fact is, as Avaaz know full well, the Gilet’s Jaunes protesters have also been repeatedly “beaten, bloody and terrified” in staggering numbers by French police; many left permanently blinded or as amputees. I have covered this above, however, the following extract is taken from a mainstream article that published by the New Statesman as early as January 30th, and thus a whole month prior to the Avaaz email:

In the video that has stunned France, Paris’s Place de la Bastille is relatively calm, with gilets jaunes (yellow vests) protesters scattered around the square. Jérôme Rodrigues, a pacifist yellow vest figure, is filming 26 January’s “Act XI” on Facebook Live, greeting fellow yellow vests as his “family”, reminding them that they are “authorised” to be there (unlike previous ones, this march had been declared to the authorities) and regretting reports of violence elsewhere. At the nine-minute mark, police start closing in. An explosion goes off. Seconds later, Rodrigues falls to the ground, badly hurt in the eye as his friends call for help. The video has been watched more than 2.2 million times in less than a week.

Rodrigues, who may remain blind in one eye, is among dozens of protesters who have been severely injured by the French police since the start of the yellow vests movement last autumn. Unlike violence against the police, which has been sharply condemned by the government in several speeches — including president Emmanuel Macron’s new year’s address, in which he described protesters as a “hateful crowd” — police brutality against protesters went largely ignored by the authorities for months. Rodrigues’s footage, and his prominent standing within the movement, has shone a light on police violence and the horrific injuries their weapons have caused since the first protests in November. 14

Click here to read the full article entitled “The French police’s brutality against the gilets jaunes can no longer be denied”.

A similar report entitled “Police violence against gilets jaunes sparks broad backlash” was published by the New Internationalist literally one day before the Avaaz email arrived. It begins:

Since that now infamous Act 2 protest in Paris on the 24th of November in which the first riots erupted on the Champs Elysee, the gilets jaunes, or ‘yellow vests’, have been met by an increasingly heavy handed police response. The 15th of December in Paris saw this reach an absurd peak when there were 2,200 protestors on the streets and over 8,000 police. They were ubiquitous. On the 15th they were so numerous that they could consistently split groups of gilets jaunes from merging to form a bigger mass. Ironically, this was one of the calmer weekends in terms of crowd numbers, police violence and casseur presence. Other times though the police response was devastating.

Jacques Pezet, fact-checking Journalist for the CheckNews division of Liberation had, as of the 30th of January counted 144 verifiable cases of gilets jaunes and journalists severely injured by the riot police. At least 14 victims have lost an eye and 92 of the 144 have been shot by flashballs. Flashballs are rubber bullets fired from a tube like weapon with the stopping power of a .38 calibre handgun. At close range, as the French CRS (riot police) have used them, they can be particularly damaging. This violent misconduct by the CRS has sparked a wave of activism and created a new movement against police brutality within the gilets jaunes. 15

Click here to read the full New Internationalist article.

So when Christoph Schott at Avaaz warns us that “Disinformation like this has the power to turn protest violent…” I know that he is being duplicitous. That what he is saying is fake, untrue, a lie… and that it’s dangerous. Because that genuinely “shocking photo of a young woman” in Madrid was really nothing more than a decoy to draw attention from the horrific violence of the French police and the hundreds of victims like these:

Record of injuries from police use of disproportionate force against unarmed civilians during GJ protests. (Photo: Desarmons.net)

Now let us turn to Avaaz’s second example of “dangerous” disinformation: a video which purportedly shows Macron dancing “while France suffers”, but as Avaaz rightly contends, was in fact filmed during an event which took place on October 11th, and so roughly one month prior to the GJ protests. Here’s an upload for anyone who’s remotely interested in watching Macron strut his stuff:

The implication Avaaz makes here is that news of Macron’s detachment from the plight of the ordinary French citizen has been at best exaggerated and at worst fabricated. Yet once again this seriously and knowingly misses the essential point. So try this instead. Type into Google the words, “Macron let them eat cake” and then count the hits yourself. I will merely present a sample of the various tweets and articles you will instantly be linked to:

Instead of the confident leader, lecturing and preening on the global stage, he is barricaded in his palace, a sort of latter-day Marie Antoinette. French people can’t afford diesel? Let them buy Teslas. Others might compare him to Nero, fiddling with emission targets while Paris burns. 16

From an article published by The Spectator in December appropriately entitled “Let them buy Teslas! How Macron provoked an uprising”.

Also back in December, The Economist weighed in with this tweet:

And meanwhile the Guardian published:

It is feasible – indeed, desirable – to use the tax system to tackle climate change, but only if the hit to living standards is fully offset by cuts in other taxes. Otherwise it is simply more of the austerity that voters everywhere are rejecting. And it is politically suicidal to be known as the president of the wealthy and then tell voters angry about rising fuel prices to car share or take public transport. That’s not De Gaulle, that’s Marie Antoinette and “let them eat cake”.17

Click here to read the full Guardian article entitled “Macron’s politics look to Blair and Clinton. The backlash was inevitable.”

The backlash was indeed inevitable, and is nothing to do with the sorts of shadowy puppetry that are alluded to by Avaaz. Furthermore, Macron may or may not have been dancing during the protest, however, as Paris burned last weekend, he was most definitely in the Alps skiing:

Mr Macron was forced to cut short a skiing holiday and return to the capital as an 18th consecutive Saturday of demonstrations by the gilets jaunes or yellow vests turned into a riot on the Champs-Elysées. 18

Let them eat, drink and après-ski!

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Macron

Nominally anti-fascist, in reality, Avaaz is more straightforwardly pro-establishment globalist. While on the one hand it actively manufactures consent for pro-western regime change operations, on the other, it quietly supports neoliberal “centrism”. As its co-founding President and Executive Director, Ricken Patel, told the euobserver in an interview given last July:

“I think the people of Europe stand with Merkel. That doesn’t mean that every right-wing voter in Bavaria stands with Merkel’s positions, but the majority of people in Germany, and the majority people in Europe, stand behind her and she needs to lead with confidence, and with boldness, and with creativity to execute the solutions she is offering, because the other side is not offering any solutions.”

“They are offering fantasies and unworkable solutions and things that would destroy the laws and the values of the European project and liberal democracy. And I think she should continue to lead boldly.” 19

As with Merkel, so with Emmanuel Macron. Indeed, here is a campaign Avaaz ran in the lead up to the French presidential elections in 2017:

In less than 4 weeks, France will have a new President, and he or she will have an immense impact on how we work together to build the world most of us want to see.

We’re figuring out our next steps for engaging the 4 million-strong Avaaz community across France, and we need your help. If the election was held tomorrow, would you vote for Emmanuel Macron? If yes, sign the form!

Avaaz then released this video on its facebook page:

But the meddling in foreign elections doesn’t end here, because there is also Avaaz’s army of ‘elves’, who, as I discussed in a previous post, are in reality simply Cass Sunstein’s unwitting little helpers:

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Facebook

This brings me to Avaaz’s third and final highlighted instance of “disinformation” that is purportedly fuelling the current outrage in France. It takes the form of “an image of a Yellow Vest protest in Paris, with a caption alleging that the image had been censored on Facebook or elsewhere”. According to Avaaz, “Le Monde fact-checkers debunked the claim that the photo or the caption were deleted”. Now, rather than delving into this specific allegation which I see little reason to doubt, it is more worthwhile to consider this allegation in fuller context.

Firstly it is vital to understand how this entire Avaaz campaign is absolutely intent on lessening the impact of political content distributed on Facebook, and thus rather blatantly guilty of the kind of censorship it here alleges didn’t happen. It is important to stress therefore that Facebook is already charged with helping to silence political dissent, and that there is an abundance of available evidence to find the company fully guilty on that count.

In fact, it is nearly a year since Facebook first revealed its previously secret rules for censoring posts. As Forbes reported:

The company has come in for a fair amount of criticism over the years for taking down perfectly innocuous content – everything from photos of classical statues to the famous picture of a napalmed child in Vietnam.

Now, users whose content has been taken down will be notified and given the chance to ask for a review; reviews will normally be carried out within 24 hours.

The policy will initially apply only to nudity or sexual activity, hate speech and graphic violence, says [VP of global product management Monika] Bickert.

But, she adds, “We are working to extend this process further, by supporting more violation types, giving people the opportunity to provide more context that could help us make the right decision, and making appeals available not just for content that was taken down, but also for content that was reported and left up.” 20

In response to Facebook’s announcement of its censorship policy, the ACLU cautioned against what it saw as a clampdown on free speech:

If Facebook gives itself broader censorship powers, it will inevitably take down important speech and silence already marginalized voices. We’ve seen this before. Last year, when activists of color and white people posted the exact same content, Facebook moderators censored only the activists of color. When Black women posted screenshots and descriptions of racist abuse, Facebook moderators suspended their accounts or deleted their posts. And when people used Facebook as a tool to document their experiences of police violence, Facebook chose to shut down their livestreams. The ACLU’s own Facebook post about censorship of a public statue was also inappropriately censored by Facebook.

Facebook has shown us that it does a bad job of moderating “hateful” or “offensive” posts, even when its intentions are good. Facebook will do no better at serving as the arbiter of truth versus misinformation, and we should remain wary of its power to deprioritize certain posts or to moderate content in other ways that fall short of censorship. 21

Click here to read the ACLU statement in full.

More recently, and as it transpires immediately prior to the Gilets Jaunes protests, Facebook then announced a fresh censorship drive:

People need to be able to trust the connections they make on Facebook. It’s why we have a policy banning coordinated inauthentic behavior — networks of accounts or Pages working to mislead others about who they are, and what they are doing. This year, we’ve enforced this policy against many Pages, Groups and accounts created to stir up political debate, including in the US, the Middle East, Russia and the UK. But the bulk of the inauthentic activity we see on Facebook is spam that’s typically motivated by money, not politics. And the people behind it are adapting their behavior as our enforcement improves.

The statement was made last October and continues:

Topics like natural disasters or celebrity gossip have been popular ways to generate clickbait. But today, these networks increasingly use sensational political content – regardless of its political slant – to build an audience and drive traffic to their websites, earning money for every visitor to the site. And like the politically motivated activity we’ve seen, the “news” stories or opinions these accounts and Pages share are often indistinguishable from legitimate political debate. This is why it’s so important we look at these actors’ behavior – such as whether they’re using fake accounts or repeatedly posting spam – rather than their content when deciding which of these accounts, Pages or Groups to remove.

Today, we’re removing 559 Pages and 251 accounts that have consistently broken our rules against spam and coordinated inauthentic behavior. Given the activity we’ve seen — and its timing ahead of the US midterm elections — we wanted to give some details about the types of behavior that led to this action. 22

Click here to read the Facebook statement in full.

As the Guardian reported at the time:

As a private entity, Facebook can enforce its terms however it sees fit, says the ACLU attorney Vera Eidelman. But this can have serious free speech consequences, especially if the social network is selectively enforcing its terms based on the content of the pages.

“Drawing the line between ‘real’ and ‘inauthentic’ views is a difficult enterprise that could put everything from important political parody to genuine but outlandish views on the chopping block,” says Eidelman. “It could also chill individuals who only feel safe speaking out anonymously or pseudonymously.” 23

The same article, which entitled “Facebook accused of censorship after hundreds of US political pages purged” , interviewed Matt Mountain, the pseudonym of a disabled veteran who operated six leftwing pages subsequently purged, and Brian Kolfage, another disabled veteran who administered the Right Wing News page as well as three other conservative pages that were also removed. Kolfage said:

“I’ve talked with Facebook maybe 50 times in the last few months… Not once did they ever say we broke any rules or did something wrong. If they had an issue, they could have brought it up. We had a really close working relationship. That’s why this whole thing is a complete shock.”

‘Mountain’ told the Guardian:

“I don’t think Facebook wants to fix this… I think they just want politics out, unless it’s coming from the mainstream media.”

Predictably, the piece ends:

Facebook did not respond to requests for comment.

Click here to read the full Guardian article

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Real ‘fake news’

Every major U.S. war of the last several decades has begun the same way: the U.S. government fabricates an inflammatory, emotionally provocative lie which large U.S. media outlets uncritically treat as truth while refusing at air questioning or dissent, thus inflaming primal anger against the country the U.S. wants to attack. That’s how we got the Vietnam War (North Vietnam attacks U.S. ships in the Gulf of Tonkin); the Gulf War (Saddam ripped babies from incubators); and, of course, the war in Iraq (Saddam had WMDs and formed an alliance with Al Qaeda).

This was exactly the tactic used on February 23, when the narrative shifted radically in favor of those U.S. officials who want regime change operations in Venezuela. That’s because images were broadcast all over the world of trucks carrying humanitarian aid burning in Colombia on the Venezuela border. U.S. officials who have been agitating for a regime change war in Venezuela – Marco Rubio, John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, the head of USAid Mark Green – used Twitter to spread classic Fake News: they vehemently stated that the trucks were set on fire, on purpose, by President Nicolas Maduro’s forces.

Writes Glenn Greenwald at the top of a very detailed exposé of the latest US government lies to bring about a regime change. The truth was finally admitted by The New York Times a fortnight later – by which time the official story was deeply lodged in people’s minds – and you will find a video and accompanying article about it behind their paywall. Here is their belated headline:

The NYT piece gives proof that the convoys were in fact torched by anti-Maduro protesters, exactly as many independent reporters including Max Blumenthal were reporting on the day, however, as with the disclosure of other fake news stories perpetuated in the mainstream media, and unlike the original lies, the NYT retraction did not grab the wider headlines.  Although CNN, The Telegraph and the BBC all ran the original fake news story, they left NYT alone to publicly retract it.

As Greenwald points out in reference to the evidence for what really happened:

Those last two tweets [embedded below] – using video footage to debunk the lies spread by Marco Rubio, CNN and the U.S. Government – happen to be from a correspondent with RT America. Please tell me: who was acting here as lying propagandists and agents of State TV, and who was acting like a journalist trying to understand and report the truth?

So everything the New York Times so proudly reported last night has been known for weeks, and was already reported in great detail, using extensive evidence, by a large number of people. But because those people are generally skeptical of the U.S. Government’s claims and critical of its foreign policy, they were ignored and mocked and are generally barred from appearing on television, while the liars from the U.S. Government and their allies in the corporate media were, as usual, given a platform to spread their lies without any challenge or dissent, just like the manual for how to maintain State TV instructs. 24

Click here to read Glenn Greenwald’s excellent article entitled “NYT’s Exposé on the Lies About Burning Aid Trucks in Venezuela Shows How U.S. Government and Media Spread Pro-War Propaganda”.

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Final thoughts

Barring the singular exception of the West’s most unconscionable war, the Saudi-led genocide of Yemen, Avaaz has never seen an imperialist intervention, ‘colour revolution’, or other regime change operation it didn’t approve of. It campaigned vigorously for the ‘no-fly zone’ in Libya – this, the weasel word euphemism for airstrikes – and soon after Libya was bombed backed into the dark ages, demanded a ‘no-fly zone’ over Syria (read more here and here).

Less well-advertised, Avaaz was also deeply involved in Iran’s failed ‘Green Revolution’:

During the 2009 Green Movement uprising in Iran, for example, Avaaz set up a network of proxy servers to allow protesters to post videos from the streets. 25

Then in 2017, Avaaz went a step further when it financially backed its own candidate in the race for Democratic nomination for governor of Virginia. The candidate in question happened to be none other than former congressman Tom Perriello, one of Avaaz’s original founders, who, it was divulged, received a donation from Avaaz of $230,000. As the Washington Post reported:

As a 501(c)(4) charity, Avaaz is not required to disclose its individual donors, which it says come from among nearly 45 million members in 194 countries. The organization says it accepts no money from governments or corporations and itemizes any donations greater than $5,000 on its tax filing; in 2016, 26 such donations were reported, representing 0.7 percent of Avaaz’s total revenue.

Perriello co-founded Avaaz with two colleagues who had helped him start an earlier nonprofit called Res Publica, which was aimed at promoting international justice on behalf of the religious left, as Perriello told the National Catholic Reporter in 2004. One of those colleagues, Ricken Patel, a Canadian, is now Avaaz’s executive director. The organization was formed in collaboration with MoveOn.org, the Democratic online activist group that has received funding from billionaire George Soros — who also is a major Perriello campaign contributor. 26

Click here to read the full article published by the Washington Post.

Today Avaaz is fully in league with Bush-era hawk John Bolton, the unapologetic cheerleader for the Iraq War, and Elliot Abrahams, who aided death squads throughout Latin America and was afterwards convicted following his involvement in the Iran-Contra Scandal. In unison with “like-minded leaders” (in the words of John Bolton 27), President Ivan Duque of Colombia, and Jair Bolsonaro, President of Brazil, Avaaz is assisting in the attempted overthrow of the elected government of Venezuela. The empire has seldom been more brazen when it comes to singling out its latest “axis of evil” (i.e., Bolton’s “troika of tyranny”: Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua), yet this self-proclaimed non-partisan people’s movement is eager to lend support in the guise of faux-humanitarianism that distracts from US imperialism and bolsters the neo-con cause:

The image is captured from a translation of its Spanish campaign but you can also find the same campaign in English here:

It is also backing baseless claims that last year’s presidential elections were invalid.

Meanwhile, Avaaz is once again meddling closer to home. In the name of stemming the tide of ‘fake news’ it is preparing the way for greater internet censorship. As they concede in the report:

RT France has massively invested in coverage of the Yellow Vest protests, including hour-long live coverage videos, and as a result, dominated the debate about Yellow Vests on YouTube in France more than any other YouTube channel, let alone mainstream media.

If you imagined that “a global citizens movement” (as Avaaz markets itself) would be in favour of more rather than less coverage of the mass demonstrations across France and so would applaud RT or any other media outlet for providing it, you would be wrong. The fact is that they wish to bury any news of a popular uprising, smothering the truth with overblown allegations of ‘fake news’. So if you still haven’t figured it out, then allow me to spell it out instead: in contrast to the Gilets Jaunes themselves, Avaaz is not and never has been a grassroots movement. It was astroturfed from the get-go to provide controlled opposition, whilst its newest departure into ‘fake news’ surveillance represents a more sinister turn. Once again, I encourage every person of goodwill to unsubscribe from the Avaaz mailing list. I shall remain nominally affiliated just to keep an eye on future machinations – just so that you won’t have to.

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1

France’s gilets jaunes (yellow vests) have vowed to continue their high-profile protest campaign after forcing the French government into a U-turn on a controversial rise in fuel tax.

The movement behind three weeks of increasingly violent protests across the country declared it wanted more concessions from France’s leaders and would not accept “crumbs”.

From an article entitled “Gilets Jaunes protests in France to continue despite fuel tax U-turn” written by Kim Willsher, published in the Guardian on December 4, 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/dec/04/french-government-to-suspend-fuel-tax-increase-say-reports 

2 From an article entitled “Yellow Vests Rise Against Neo-Liberal ‘King’ Macron” written by Diana Johnstone, published in Consortium News on December 5, 2018. https://consortiumnews.com/2018/12/05/yellow-vests-rise-against-neo-liberal-king-macron/ 

3 From an article entitled “Dr. Jean Bricmont: ‘Yellow Vests Ask Such Fundamental Questions that No European Government Could Answer Them” written by Mohsen Abdelmoumen, published in American Herald Tribune on February 22, 2019. https://ahtribune.com/interview/2903-jean-bricmont.html

4 From an article entitled “Forgotten France Rises Up” written by Serge Halimi, translated by George Miller, published in Counterpunch on January 8, 2019.. https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/01/08/forgotten-france-rises-up/  

5 From an article entitled “Why France’s Yellow Vest Protests Are Ignored by ‘The Resistance’ in the U.S.” written by Max Parry, published in Counterpunch on January 4, 2019.  https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/01/04/why-frances-yellow-vest-protests-are-ignored-by-the-resistance-in-the-u-s/

6 Although in fact like so many of the best known quotes it is probably misattributed.

7

During her visit the Commissioner noted in particular that the validity of the use of rubber bullet launchers (LBDs) during demonstrations was contested by most of the people she met, who highlighted their unsuitability for the purposes of maintaining public order and the danger they posed in such contexts. In his report of December 2017 on maintaining public order with due regard for professional rules of conduct, the Defender of Rights recommended that a multidisciplinary study be carried out on the use of intermediate weapons and that LBDs should be removed from the range of equipment available to law enforcement agencies. The Commissioner notes that the Defender of Rights reiterated his recommendation for LBDs to be withdrawn in January 2019 and that many health professionals support him because of the sometimes irreversible injuries that can be caused by these weapons. Laurent Thines, Head of Neurosurgery at the University Hospital of Besançon, has even talked of the “extreme danger” of these launchers which he considers to have “all the features of weapons of war”. […]

The Commissioner notes that according to figures from the Ministry of the Interior 12 122 LBD rounds, 1428 instant tear gas grenades and 4942 hand-held sting grenades were fired or thrown between the beginning of the yellow vest movement and 4 February 2019. She is concerned at the high level of use of these so-called intermediate weapons despite the fact that their deployment is restricted and they can cause serious injury. The Commissioner notes that according to a count carried out by an independent journalist, at the time of writing, the three types of intermediate weapon referred to above had been involved in 253 of 428 reports made to him by persons claiming to be victims of police violence, which he himself had documented and cross-checked, confirming a high prevalence of LBDs, accounting for 193 of these cases. The count highlighted 38 wounds to upper limbs including 5 lost hands, 52 wounds to lower limbs, 3 wounds to the genitals and 189 head wounds including 20 people who have lost an eye. The Commissioner notes that many head wound victims attribute their injuries to intermediate weapons, particularly LBDs, whereas according to instructions reiterated by the Director General of the national police force on 16 January 2019, the use of LBDs must be “targeted”, with users aiming “only at the torso or the lower or upper limbs”. […]

[T]he Commissioner is concerned about the allegations of police violence targeting journalists which have been brought to her attention by professional journalists’ organisations and human rights groups and which are echoed by those of three photographers who claim that they were “deliberately” targeted by the police in Toulouse at a demonstration on 9 February 2019.

From a report by the Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe published on February 26, 2019. https://rm.coe.int/commdh-2019-8-memorandum-france-en/1680932f57

8 From an article entitled “French police accused of stealing PSG jerseys during Yellow Vest lootings”, written by Pierre Hamdi, published in France 24: The Observers on March 19. 2019. https://observers.france24.com/en/20190319-france-social-media-accuse-police-stealing-psg-jerseys-yellow-vests

9 From an article entitled “Unanswered questions on French police role in Saturday’s ‘yellow vest’ clashes” written by Anthony Torres and Alex Lantier, published in wsws.org on March 21, 2019. https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2019/03/21/fran-m21.html

10 From an article entitled “France’s Macron leads the way as western leaders malevolently confuse anti-Zionism with antisemitism” written by Jonathan Cook, published in Mondoweiss on February 27, 2019. https://www.jonathan-cook.net/2019-02-27/france-macron-zionism-antisemitism/

11 From an article entitled “Anti-Semitism Pandemic!” written by CJ Hopkins, reprinted in OffGuardian on March 12, 2019. https://off-guardian.org/2019/03/12/anti-semitism-pandemic/

12 From an Avaaz report entitled “Yellow Vest Flooded By Fake News” published on March 12, 2019. https://g8fip1kplyr33r3krz5b97d1-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/AVAAZ_YellowVests_100miofake.pdf.pdf.pdf

13 Ibid.

14 From an article entitled “The French police’s brutality against the gilets jaunes can no longer be denied” written by Pauline Bock, published in the New Statesman on January 30, 2019. https://www.newstatesman.com/world/europe/2019/01/french-police-s-brutality-against-gilets-jaunes-can-no-longer-be-denied

15 From an article entitled “Police violence against gilets jaunes sparks broad backlash” written by Oliver Haynes, published in the New Internationalist on February 27, 2019. https://newint.org/features/2019/02/27/police-violence-against-gilets-jaunes-sparks-broad-backlash

16 From an article published entitled “Let them buy Teslas! How Macron provoked an uprising” written by Jonathan Miller, published in The Spectator on December 8, 2018. https://www.spectator.co.uk/2018/12/let-them-buy-teslas-how-macron-became-the-enemy-of-the-french/ 

17 From an article entitled “Macron’s politics look to Blair and Clinton. The backlash was inevitable” written by Larry Elliott, published in the Guardian on Decmeber 6, 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/dec/06/macron-clinton-blair-backlash

18 From an article entitled “Macron under renewed pressure after another weekend of violence” written by Harriet Agnew, published in the Financial Times on March 17, 2019. https://www.ft.com/content/b774a756-48a7-11e9-8b7f-d49067e0f50d

19 From an article entitled “EU populists not actually that ‘popular’, says global activist” written by Lisbeth Kirk, published in the euobserver on July 3, 2018. https://euobserver.com/political/142242

20 From an article entitled “Facebook Reveals Its Secret Rules For Censoring Posts” written by Emma Woollacott, published in Forbes magazine on April 24, 2018. https://www.forbes.com/sites/emmawoollacott/2018/04/24/facebook-reveals-its-secret-rules-for-censoring-posts/#40a453b56da4

21 From an article entitled “Facebook Shouldn’t Censor Offensive Speech” written by Vera Eidelman, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, published by ACLU on July 20, 2018. https://www.aclu.org/blog/free-speech/internet-speech/facebook-shouldnt-censor-offensive-speech

22 From a Facebook announcement entitled “Removing Additional Inauthentic Activity from Facebook” written by Nathaniel Gleicher, Head of Cybersecurity Policy and Oscar Rodriguez, Product Manager, posted by Facebook on October 11, 2018. https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2018/10/removing-inauthentic-activity/

23 From an article entitled “Facebook accused of censorship after hundreds of US political pages purged” written by Dan Tynan, published in the Guardian on October 17, 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/oct/16/facebook-political-activism-pages-inauthentic-behavior-censorship

24 From an article entitled “NYT’s Exposé on the Lies About Burning Aid Trucks in Venezuela Shows How U.S. Government and Media Spread Pro-War Propaganda” written by Glenn Greenwald, published in The Intercept on March 10, 2019. https://theintercept.com/2019/03/10/nyts-expose-on-the-lies-about-burning-humanitarian-trucks-in-venezuela-shows-how-us-govt-and-media-spread-fake-news/

25 From an article entitled “How a New York City-Based Activist Group Became a Player in Syria”, written by Vivienne Walt, published in Time magazine on March 15, 2012. http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2109212,00.html

26 From an article entitled “‘Dark money’ vs. Corporate cash: Virginia Democratic rivals clash over funding” written by Gregory S. Schneider, published in the Washington Post on April 22, 2017. https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/dark-money-vs-corporate-cash-democratic-rivals-clash-over-funding/2017/04/21/cc91253c-25d7-11e7-a1b3-faff0034e2de_story.html?utm_term=.6d47c0cae4ab

27

“The recent elections of like-minded leaders in key countries, including Ivan Duque in Colombia, and last weekend Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, are positive signs for the future of the region, and demonstrate a growing regional commitment to free-market principles, and open, transparent, and accountable governance,” Bolton said in his speech at Miami-Dade College.

From an article entitled “Bolton praises Bolsonaro while declaring ‘troika of tyranny’ in Latin America” written by Julian Borger, published in the Guardian on November 1, 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/nov/01/trump-admin-bolsonaro-praise-john-bolton-troika-tyranny-latin-america

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Filed under analysis & opinion, campaigns & events, France, internet freedom, police state, Venezuela

forget ‘Russiagate’, why is no-one talking about ‘Israelgate’…?

The following is an extract drawn from an article posted last February entitled “‘fake news’ is the new blackwhite” – a reference to newspeak jargon from Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ .

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‘Russiagate’ has dominated the US news cycle for well over eighteen months in spite of the fact that after several investigations there has been an embarrassing failure to uncover substantiating evidence pointing to an actual Russian plot to “hack the election” as was so vigorously claimed. But the latest twist in the saga is arguably the lamest to date. It involves Robert Mueller’s indictment of thirteen Russian nationals for purportedly creating sockpuppet accounts on behalf of Trump (or else disparaging him – presumably for added confusion!), as well as (still more bafflingly) bolstering the campaigns of progressives Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein in the 2016 election. Missing altogether are any claims that Trump knew anything at all about the alleged Russian meddling, or that in fact “Russia hacked the election” – the very pivot about which Russiagate started spinning. As even the Guardian admits in its wholly uncritical account of Mueller’s findings which is excitedly titled “Putin’s chef, a troll farm and Russia’s plot to hijack US democracy”:

The indictment does not allege that any American knowingly participated in Russian meddling, or that Trump campaign associates had more than “unwitting” contact with some who posed as Americans. Trump quickly claimed vindication, noting in a tweet that the interference efforts began in 2014 “long before I announced that I would run for president”. He added: “The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong – no collusion!”

Nor does it have anything to say regarding the origins of ‘Russiagate’:

The indictment does not mention the hacking of Democratic emails, which then turned up on WikiLeaks. It does not mention the infamous Trump Tower meeting in June 2016. It does not mention the four Trump associates who are facing charges that range from money laundering to lying to the FBI about conversations with Russia’s ambassador. America, and the world, is waiting for Mueller to join the dots.1

The post continues:

In fact, both presidential candidates bent over backwards to secure the backing of AIPAC, the most formidable foreign lobby group in America, but that doesn’t count as meddling apparently.

Meanwhile, the bizarre claim that a handful of Russians threw the election process into confusion via social media platforms is an already laughably pathetic allegation, made worse for the simple fact that it is next to impossible to validate, since, as Mueller knows perfectly well, those named will never be extradited to face trial. And for what crime are they to be indicted exactly? For not being American citizens but writing about an US election without registering as a foreign agent. That’s certainly the precedent Muller is setting here. Moreover, the contention is not that this alleged ‘troll farm’ has been spreading falsehoods as such, but that they cunningly redeployed truth in order to deceive the ignorant masses.

Click here to read the full post.

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On August 13th, Jimmy Dore welcomed William Binney, NSA whistleblower and member of Veterans Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), to set the record straight about Guccifer 2.0 and Mueller’s indictments:

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Having trawled for evidence of “links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump” as the Mueller investigation was tasked to do, it instead uncovered actual evidence of complicity with Israel. These uncomfortable revelations have since been swept under the carpet by the corporate media, but are discussed in detail elsewhere. For instance, as far back as last December Max Blumenthal was reporting for Alternet:

Seven months later, after three indictments that did little, if anything, to confirm the grand collusion narrative, Mueller had former National Security Council advisor Michael Flynn dragged before a federal court for lying to the FBI. The Russia probe had finally netted a big fish.

As the details of the Flynn indictment seeped out into the press, however, the bombshell was revealed as another dud. To the dismay of many Trump opponents, nothing in Flynn’s rap sheet demonstrated collusion with Russia. Instead, the indictment undermined the Russiagate narrative while implicating another, much more inconvenient foreign power in a plot to meddle in American politics.

Blumenthal continues:

To be sure, Flynn indictment did contain a stunning revelation of collusion between Team Trump and a foreign state. But it was not the country that the national media has obsessed over for the past year.

Flynn was found by the FBI to have lobbied [Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey] Kislyak to exercise Russia’s veto against the passage of a United Nations security council resolution condemning the growth of Israel’s illegal settlements. And he did so under orders from Jared Kushner, the presidential son-in-law and Middle East fixer, who was himself acting on behalf of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Thanks to Flynn’s indictment, we now know that the Israeli prime minister was able to transform the Trump administration into his own personal vehicle for undermining Obama’s lone effort to hold Israel accountable at the UN. A clearer example of a foreign power colluding with an American political operation against a sitting president has seldom, if ever, been exposed in such glaring fashion. 2

Click here to read Blumenthal’s full article entitled “Michael Flynn’s Indictment Exposes Trump Team’s Collusion With Israel, Not Russia”.

Around the same time, a journalistic investigation of Israeli meddling in American politics was also secretly hushed up. As a sequel to its damning report on the Israel Lobby’s activities in Britain, Al Jazeera’s Director of Investigative Journalism, Clayton Swisher, announced in October 2017 that the Qatari satellite channel had embedded a different undercover journalist (called “Tony”) inside the US Israel lobby:

Swisher made the announcement soon after the UK’s broadcast regulator dismissed all complaints against Al Jazeera’s film The Lobby.

That documentary, broadcast in January 2017, exposed Israel’s covert influence campaign in the UK’s ruling Conservative and opposition Labour parties. The film revealed an Israeli embassy agent plotting with a British civil servant to “take down” a government minister seen as too critical of Israel.

Although Swisher promised the US film would come out “very soon,” nearly five months later it has yet to be broadcast. 3

Click here to read more on the announcement at The Electronic Intifada.

The documentary was never broadcast. However, based on newly leaked footage from this banned documentary, The Electronic Intifada published a follow-up article last week [Sept 13th] that discloses the operation of (what should be called) ‘troll farms’ operating under the cover of “The Israel Project” (TIP) using sockpuppets to sway public opinion and disseminate propaganda on the social media platform Facebook:

The Israel Project, a major advocacy group based in Washington, is running a secret influence campaign on Facebook.

The video above, exclusive to The Electronic Intifada, shows the latest excerpts to leak from the documentary.

Earlier leaked footage published by The Electronic Intifada and the Grayzone Project has already revealed underhanded tactics by anti-Palestinian groups planned and executed in collusion with the Israeli government.

In the newest clips, David Hazony, the managing director of The Israel Project, is heard telling Al Jazeera’s undercover reporter: “There are also things that we do that are completely off the radar. We work together with a lot of other organizations.”

“We produce content that they then publish with their own name on it,” Hazony adds.

A major part of the operation is the creation of a network of Facebook “communities” focused on history, the environment, world affairs and feminism that appear to have no connection to pro-Israel advocacy, but are used by The Israel Project to spread pro-Israel messaging.

The same piece continues:

One of these Facebook pages, Cup of Jane, has almost half a million followers.

Cup of Jane’s “About” page describes it as being about “Sugar, spice and everything nice.”

But there is no disclosure that this is a page run for the purpose of promoting Israel.

The “About” page does identify Cup of Jane as being “a community launched by TIP’s Future Media Project in DC.”

There is however no direct and explicit mention of Israel or indication that “TIP” stands for The Israel Project.

The Electronic Intifada understands that even this vague acknowledgment of who is behind the page was only added after The Israel Project learned about the existence of the Al Jazeera undercover documentary and presumably anticipated being exposed.

The Israel Project also added an acknowledgment on its own website that it runs the Facebook pages. However its website is not linked from the Facebook pages themselves.

There is no evidence in the Internet Archive of the page existing before May 2017 – months after “Tony’s” cover was blown.

According to [former employee Jordan] Schachtel, The Israel Project is putting considerable resources into producing Cup of Jane and a network of similar pages.

“We have a team of like 13 people. We are working on a lot of videos, explainers,” he tells Tony in Al Jazeera’s documentary. “A lot of it is just random topics and then maybe like 25 percent of it would be like Israel or Jewish-based.”

“Cup of Jane” is just one of many such fake websites:

Other pages identified by the censored Al Jazeera documentary as run by The Israel Project include Soul Mama, History Bites, We Have Only One Earth and This Explains That.

Some have hundreds of thousands of followers.

History Bites does not reveal its affiliation with The Israel Project, not even with the vague formula used by Cup of Jane and the other pages.

History Bites simply describes itself as conveying “The awesome of History in bite-sized chewable pieces!”

That page re-posted Cup of Jane posts presenting Golda Meir, the Israeli prime minister who implemented racist and violent policies against indigenous Palestinians, and viewed Palestinian women giving birth as an existential threat, as a feminist hero.

A 2016 This Explains That video spreads false Israeli claims that the UN cultural agency UNESCO “erased” Jewish and Christian reverence for holy sites in Jerusalem.

History Bites reposted the video last December stating that it “seems to support President Trump’s declaration today that Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish state of Israel.”

The video has received almost five million views.

Another video posted by History Bites attempts to justify Israel’s June 1967 surprise attack on Egypt, launching the war in which Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and Syria’s Golan Heights.

The video describes Israel’s military occupation of East Jerusalem as the city being “reunified” and “liberated.”

There is a great deal more detail in the article and I strongly encourage readers to read the piece in its entirety. It concludes where my own post begins – making a parallel reference to the furore surrounding the equivalent Russiagate allegations:

Since the 2016 US presidential election, Facebook has been accused of allowing its platform to be used for manipulative Russian-sponsored propaganda aimed at influencing politics and public opinion.

Despite the hype, these allegations have been grossly overblown or unsubstantiated.

Nevertheless, Facebook has partnered with the Atlantic Council in an effort to ostensibly crack down on “fake accounts” and “disinformation.”

The Atlantic Council is a Washington think tank that has been funded by NATO, the US military, the brutally repressive governments of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, European Union governments, and a who’s who of investment firms, oil companies, arms makers and other war profiteers.

As the apparent result of this partnership, a number of completely innocuous social media accounts with few or no followers were recently taken down.

More worryingly, pages run by leftist news outlets focusing on countries targeted by the US government, such as Venezuela Analysis and teleSUR, were suspended, though later restored.

Now with solid evidence of The Israel Project’s well-resourced and extensive influence campaign on Facebook, it remains to be seen if the social media giant will act to ensure that unwitting users are aware that what they are being exposed to is propaganda designed to boost and whitewash the Israeli state.

In response to a request for comment, a Facebook spokesperson told The Electronic Intifada the company would look into the matter. 4

Why is no-one talking about ‘Israelgate’? The question in the title to this post is rhetorical, of course, but we might easily answer it anyway. Russiagate was the cover story for why the Clinton campaign bombed so badly and then afterwards successfully reworked into the pretext to close down “fake news” websites. Talking about Israelgate on the other hand… what would that achieve?

Click here to read the full article entitled “Censored film reveals The Israel Project’s secret Facebook campaign.

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On Monday 10th, The Real News interviewed Ali Abunimah and Max Blumenthal about why Qatar bowed down to American pressure to censor the documentary. In particular they speak about leaked clips that show how the Israeli government was behind attacks on American pro-Palestinian activists and Black Lives Matter:

Ali Abunimah: We published on August 27th, the first leaked video from the film in which an official of The Israel Project names Adam Milstein, a pro-Israel financier based in California – real estate magnate who spent time in federal prison for tax evasion. In the film, Milstein is named as the funder of ‘Canary Mission’ [a blacklist for pro-Palestine activists] and for years now people have been trying to find out who is behind ‘Canary Mission’ other than a few snippets of information which came out this appears to be first major break in cracking who is behind this.

And what it also shows is that ‘Canary Mission’ is part of a much bigger effort, effectively orchestrated by the Israeli government, in which groups like the ‘Israel on Campus Coalition’ and ‘The Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ are acting as agents, or front groups, for the Israeli government, helping it to gather information on US citizens; to harass US citizens; and other activities – without being registered as foreign agents of the State of Israel. So this really I think explains why the Israel lobby put such intense pressure on Qatar and on Al Jazeera to censor the film. Because I think it reveals a lot of activity that they don’t want revealed.

And what’s ironic is that this film contains real evidence of foreign interference in American politics [and] in American civic life by a foreign state: orchestrated, funded and directed by a foreign state and it’s got no attention. The censorship has gotten very little attention in the mainstream media. Meanwhile, as you know very well, the mainstream media and mainstream politicians continue to chase the shadows of ‘Russiagate’ and Russian interference, which until now have proven to be just shadows, as opposed to this really powerful evidence of Israeli interference.

[from 1:55 mins]

Max Blumenthal: Well, Noah Pollak [Executive Director of the ‘Emergency Committee for Israel’] is part of the crew that Ali describes as essentially unregistered agents – Adam Milstein, Jacob Baime of the ‘Israel on Campus Coalition’ – that are effectively surveilling and attacking American students on behalf of the Israeli government. These are Likudnik operatives: figures who align with the ring wing in Israel, who are substantially funded by Milstein as well as Sheldon Adelson who is one of the largest donors to both Donald Trump and to the political empire of Benjamin Netanyahu.

And we reported based on leaked content from the censored Al Jazeera “Lobby USA” documentary that Noah Pollak had essentially been astroturfing a protest against a 2016 gathering of the ‘National Students for Justice in Palestine’ conference. It was in DC and basically Pollak went to the Hudson Institute, which is a pro-Israel think tank with very close ties of its own to the Israeli government, and said you know send us some of your campus fellows – basically like youth fellows – and they’re going to protest for us.

And the undercover reporter for Al Jazeera, James Kleinfeld, gets on the bus to this protest – he was interning for The Israel Project, another affiliated pro-Israel lobby group – and covertly films all of these young people, who are young conservative activists, saying we don’t really have any interest in going to yell at Arabs and that’s what we’ve been told to do: go shout at Arabs. And they’re driving around in a bus and getting lost and asking people “where are the Jihadis? We’ve just been told to go yell at Jihadis.” So you can see kind of the racism and Islamophobia behind the whole operation. But at the same time they’re saying basically we’re being forced to do this. We get paid like $50,000 a year as part of this fellowship and this is what we have to do – we’re selling our souls.

So it’s kind of amusing but at the same time you see how the Israel lobby operates. It essentially has to pay fake protesters because it has no grassroots support.

Then these campus fellows from this right-wing think tank show up at the conference where there are hundreds of young people, students who are organically drawn to Palestine solidarity activism [and] don’t have to be paid to be there. They themselves are paying their own way. And these fake protesters start shouting Islamophobic insults at them. Noah Pollak is screaming about child suicide bombers at young women and men, who are mostly students from immigrant backgrounds. So I thought it was a really scandalous scene and I chose to reveal at the Greyzone Project along with a more recent report that shows the phenomenon that Ali described which is the Israeli government actually coordinating directly attacks on American progressive social movements, which should be scandalous. If Russia was doing it, you know, you’d have the New York Times and Washington Post freaking out but in this case it’s silence.

I mean [the report] should have been explosive… if the FBI had been exposed for recruiting black establishment leadership to attack the Black Lives Matter movement and undermining Black Lives Matter events, you know, how much outrage would there be? Probably a lot but in this case all we’ve done is expose a foreign government – the apartheid government of Israel – for doing exactly the same and there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of outrage. The suppressed, censored Al Jazeera “Lobby” documentary shows scenes from a pro-Israel conference where a group of Israeli diplomats are essentially boasting about having recruited former civil rights leaders and established black activists as proxies to denounce Black Lives Matter as antisemitic. This was right after the movement for black lives had introduced its platform supporting BDS, denouncing Israel as an apartheid state, and accusing it of committing genocide against the Palestinian people. So there was a big priority not just for the Israel lobby but the Israeli government to undermine Black Lives Matter. And they not only claimed responsibility for op-eds in the Huffington Post by black civil rights leaders and in other publications attacking Black Lives Matter as anti-Semitic. […]

Then you have Eric Gallagher, who is the Director of development [of The Israel Project] who was filmed covertly by the undercover Al Jazeera reporter, James Kleinfeld, boasting of how The Israel Project had gotten a Black Lives Matter event cancelled – a fundraiser cancelled – in New York, right after it released its platform, basically by calling donors and then having them call a nightclub that they were affiliated with and the nightclub put the kibosh on the event. So all this goes back to the phenomenon that Ali described, which is the Israeli government interfering, not just in American politics, but in American life. Surveilling Americans and covertly undermining American progressive social movements that are dedicated to advocating for the equality of some of the most oppressed groups in the country.

[from 4:45 mins]

The transcript is my own.

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1 From an article entitled “Putin’s chef, a troll farm and Russia’s plot to hijack US democracy” written by David Smith, published in the Guardian on February 17, 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/feb/17/putins-chef-a-troll-farm-and-russias-plot-to-hijack-us-democracy

2 From an article entitled “Michael Flynn’s Indictment Exposes Trump Team’s Collusion With Israel, Not Russia” written by Max Blumenthal, published in Alternet on Decmeber 5, 2017. https://www.alternet.org/grayzone-project/flynn-indictment-exposes-collusion-israel

3 From an article entitled “What’s in Al Jazeera’s undercover film on US Israel lobby?” written by Asa Winstanley, published in The Electronic Intifada on March 5, 2018. https://electronicintifada.net/content/whats-al-jazeeras-undercover-film-us-israel-lobby/23496

4 From an article entitled “Censored film reveals The Israel Project’s secret Facebook campaign” written by Ali Abunimah and Asa Winstanley, published by The Electronic Intifada on September 13, 2018. https://electronicintifada.net/content/censored-film-reveals-israel-projects-secret-facebook-campaign/25486

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ex-miner John Dunn is guilty of speaking truth to power – so the Labour Party have suspended him!

John Dunn, a Labour Party member for 45 years, has suddenly been suspended. His infraction?

Well, back in late July, Dunn was out and about tackling Owen Smith – politely but firmly:

The two men spoke for a few minutes, before Mr Smith was bundled into the back of a car and driven away, his encounter now over with the very personification of the challenge he faces this summer. 1

An ex-miner, Dunn confronted Smith and accused him of “shamelessly exploiting” what had happened at Orgreave for his own political ends.

As you can see from the photo above, Dunn is proudly sporting a “Orgreave truth and justice campaign” T-shirt. Further evidence of his contumacy.

Dunn afterwards described the moment on his Facebook page:

Just back from running Owen Smith out of S Yorks.

So sick of him trying to shamelessly exploit our struggle that I felt compelled to dash off to Orgreave to politely (yes I can do polite!),and, as a striking miner, ask him to stop such shameless opportunism. He tried to tell me about his background in S. Wales so I replied that whilst he was making pharmaceutical companies rich we were struggling for justice and told him that it was disgusting that he would have such shame as to tarnish the defining moment in our strike, and if he was so committed to the Orgreave issue why had he not signed Ian Lavery’s early day motion, to which I got no response whatsoever.

I added that his actions in the PLP coup were no different to the UDM [Union of Democratic Minerworkers] scabs who undermined our strike. He scuttled into his car, wound the window up and wouldn’t speak to me anymore.

I personally saw John Dunn deliver a terrific speech, both poignant and hilarious by turns, in support of Jeremy Corbyn at last week’s Sheffield rally.

Unfortunately there is only limited footage I can find to embed, although there are plenty of tweets including this one:

And this image published in The Mirror:

Staunch support for the party’s leader appears to have been Dunn’s most egregious infringement of party regulations to date. The last straw, presumably, for Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC), although we will never know for sure because they have refused to comment on any decisions regarding individual members:

The Labour party say their validation process includes an electoral register check and a duplication check.

It also includes “verification all voters share the aims and values of the Labour Party”, but they have not revealed on what basis this is judged.

It’s been suggested that supporters’ social media accounts are being examined for words including “traitor”, “scab” and even “blairite”, though Labour would not confirm this.

A Labour Party spokesperson said: “We don’t comment on NEC decisions regarding individual members.” 2 

[bold emphasis added]

Defiant as ever, John Dunn vows to fight on:

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John Dunn is one of many members and activists now being suspended ahead of the leadership vote. Others excluded include Ronnie Draper, the General Secretary of the Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union, who says he is “disgusted and in shock”.

Although reminiscent of a previous Labour Party witch-hunt carried out under Neil Kinnock’s leadership during the mid-80s when members were expelled on the grounds of allegiance to Militant Tendency, in the case of today’s purges, the vast majority of members targeted are among the ranks of supporters of the party’s leader, and not those in alliance with any breakaway faction.

The media has indeed repeatedly tried to recast pro-Corbyn group Momentum as if it were comprised of Militant-like entryists, but the slur is much too obvious and doesn’t wash. The better comparison to the 80s infiltration by Militant in fact belongs to another fringe ‘ginger group’ Progress – an influential Blairite faction that the media assiduously fails to discuss.

Progress put forward its own candidate, Liz Kendall, during the last leadership contest. She was so unpopular that she won just 4% of the vote.

Click here to read an earlier post with more about the recent history of the Labour Party and how Peter Mandelson steered it away from its traditional trade union roots and towards the ‘extreme centre’ of British politics.

Finally, here’s a brief and incisive overview on “how to rig an election” from youtube vlogger James Prowse:

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1 From an article entitled “Labour leadership: Owen Smith attempts to woo Jeremy Corbyn backers” written by Chris Mason, published in BBC news on July 27, 2016. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-36909320

2 From an article entitled “long serving trade union leader banned from Labour Leadership vote” written by Mikey Smith, published in The Mirror on August 25, 2016. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/long-serving-trade-union-leader-8704495

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two little boys in Aleppo and what the corporate media don’t want you to see

Images of little Omran Daqneesh dazed and covered in dust and blood reminded us again of the horrors of war, however the mainstream media outlets who featured the video as their headline story, told us very little about its source, a man named Mahmoud Raslan (also Rslan). Had they dug just a little deeper, they would have quickly uncovered something immeasurably more horrific and sinister.

Here is Mahmoud Raslan standing in front of a tank captured by ‘the rebels’ in the Ramouseh district of Aleppo:

 

Below we find Raslan featured within a montage of four images. Top left, he is again the main subject of a selfie but standing in front of a different group of ‘rebel’ fighters taken from his Facebook page – these same friends are also seen in the adjacent image with arrows indicating who is who (I will come back to that in a moment). Bottom left, we find Raslan wearing his distinctive blue and white shirt, as he is in the accompanying photo (bottom right) which reveals him in the act of filming little Omran Daqneesh.

Now let’s return to the image above again (top right) which is a single frame captured from a ‘rebel’ video. It shows Raslan’s friends sitting in the back of a truck next to another little boy (his face blanked). This second boy is a 12 year old Palestinian child named Abdullah Tayseer Al Issa. Abdullah is about to be slowly decapitated with a knife. 1 The perpetrators of this sickening crime are the CIA-backed Nour al-Din al-Zinki Movement, a faction affiliated to the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA). 2

As a report by offGuardian explains:

So, the alleged event the MSM are doing their best to make a catalyst for more Western intervention in Syria, was filmed by friends of al Nusra, and its chief witness seems to be an associate of the worst and most depraved murderers in the region.

Is there any independent confirmation that this video [of Omran Daqneesh] is showing what it claims to show? Do we positively know the little boy was hurt by a bomb and not by any of his handlers?

Maybe those misguided people currently chiding and insulting us for daring to question the video should turn their attention to the real issues here. The boy in the video is fortunately alive. The one beheaded by Mahmoud Raslan’s chums is not. If your outrage is real and not feigned – turn it where it deserves to be. 3

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Additional:

The Canary also reported on the “brutal skeletons” in Mahmoud Raslan’s closet with further disturbing evidence taken from his Facebook page that reads [translated by The Canary]:

“With the suicide fighters, from the land of battles and butchery, from Aleppo of the martyrs, we bring you tidings of impending joy, with God’s permission”

And:

“Thousands of suicide fighters and tens of booby-traps are being prepared for the great battle in Aleppo, the first battle where I see men weeping because they can’t participate on account of the number of attackers.” 4

Click here to read the full report.

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 1 Warning: The video embedded below is by Mimi Al Laham (Syrian Girl). It carefully puts all the pieces of the story together, however, it also contains scenes so disturbing [from 5:30 on] that I cannot even bring myself to watch it in full:

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The men in the first video say he [little Abdullah] is a fighter from Liwa al-Quds (the Jerusalem Brigade), a Palestinian pro-government militia operating in the Aleppo area.

Enab Baladi, a pro-opposition news website, said the boy was captured in Handarat by members of a local rebel group, the Nour al-Din al-Zinki Movement.

It quoted Yasser Ibrahim Youssef, a member of the group’s political bureau, as saying on Facebook that an independent judicial commission had been appointed to investigate the incident. Anyone proven to have been involved in any violations would be referred to military justice, he added.

A legal adviser for the Western-backed Free Syrian Army was also cited by Enab Baladi as saying it would hold to account those responsible for such a violation. […]

A report published by the human rights group Amnesty International earlier this month detailed a series of violations allegedly committed by Nour al-Din al-Zinki Movement fighters, including abductions and torture.

The group is reported to have benefited from financial and military support from the US, UK, France, Turkey, Qatar and other Gulf Arab states in the past.

From a BBC news report entitled “Syria conflict: Rebels ‘filmed beheading boy’ in Aleppo” published on July 19, 2016. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-36835678

3 From an article entitled “An ID for ‘Mahmoud Raslan’” published by offGuardian on August 19, 2016. https://off-guardian.org/2016/08/19/an-id-for-mahmoud-raslan/ 

4 From an article entitled “The man behind the viral ‘boy in the ambulance’ image has brutal skeletons in his own closet”, written by Brad Hoff,  published in The Canary on August 19, 2016. http://www.thecanary.co/2016/08/19/the-man-behind-the-viral-boy-in-the-ambulance-image-has-brutal-skeletons-in-his-own-closet-images/ 

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