spin, lies and propaganda from yesterday, today and tomorrow – 8 ways of looking at fake news…

Many thanks to:

wall of controversy

https://wallofcontroversy.wordpress.com/2017/04/15/spin-lies-and-propaganda-from-yesterday-today-and-tomorrow-8-ways-of-looking-at-fake-news/

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  1. the big lie

“There were rumours emanating from those with radios, but we really didn’t know anything about it until half-time, when there was no score given for the Liverpool–Forest semi-final, and even then nobody had any real idea of the sickening scale of it all. By the end of our game, a dull, distracted 1–0 win, everyone knew there had been deaths.” — Nick Hornby 1

These measured words are taken from Nick Hornby’s book Fever Pitch. They form the opening to his chapter entitled simply “Hillsborough”, in which he describes the moments when he, along with hundreds of thousands of others at different football grounds across Britain, were first waking up to the dreadful news of what had happened earlier in Sheffield.

At this same time, and like many millions of others, I’d been watching the tragedy unfold live on TV. Cameras were there because the game between Liverpool and Forest was meant to have featured later on Match of the Day, but the game itself had barely kicked off before it had been abandoned. Rather than the beautiful game, we had instead watched in sorrow and disbelief, finding it hard to comprehend the sheer scale of the disaster. 96 innocent people who had gone out to enjoy a football match had lost their lives instead, and every other football fan felt the same, had the same thought: that there but for the grace of god go I.

The paragraphs above are ones from an earlier post written in light of the verdict of the Hillsborough Independent Panel in September 2012 and in tribute to the families who fought so valiantly and ultimately won justice for their friends and loved ones. The same piece continues:

Now, 23 years later, we have access to a little more of the awful truth, and not only regarding the failures of the police and other emergency services that had both caused and exacerbated the catastrophic sequence of events at Hillsborough, but also to the cover up that immediately followed. A conspiracy of silence that has since been maintained by the police themselves, was assisted by the deliberately distorted coverage of the press, and that had also involved the complicity of politicians all the way up to members within the cabinet of the Thatcher government.

Most disgusting of all was this now infamous headline story:

“The Truth” as sensationally portrayed by Murdoch’s The Sun headlines is an obscene and defamatory fiction: part of a co-ordinated effort that helped to derail the investigation and thus to pervert the course of justice. Not everyone was deceived. The people of Liverpool understood immediately and banished the newspaper from their streets in collective outrage.

Then, at the beginning of this year, Liverpool FC went further. With the 96 victims now fully vindicated, the club acted in solidarity by barring all Sun journalists from reporting on home matches at Anfield and denied all access to hold interviews with either the players or team manager. And everyone of goodwill loudly applauds the ban.

But the horrific events of April 15th 1989 (twenty-eight years today) that resulted in 96 totally avoidable deaths were also part of a greater tragedy – the last in a terrible series of football disasters that twice befell Ibrox (25 fatalities, 1902; 66 fatalities, 1971), Bolton in 1946 (33 fatalities) and then in very quick succession took 56 lives in the Bradford fire and, too often forgotten, at Heysel (39 fatalities) both in May 1985. So let us never forget that even such comparatively recent tragedies as Hillsborough, Heysel, and Bradford happened in a very different era: prior to the formation of the English Premier League and the Champions’ League, and in years preceding the spectacular TV deals and the phenomenal wealth that nowadays streams into football’s coffers. Grounds were mostly dilapidated, the facilities basic, and fans in their tens of thousands were routinely crammed in as tight as possible on stepped terraces behind crush barriers – past lessons were never learned.

But then, before the gentrification of the sport, football was chiefly the preserve of the working class; a lowbrow and uncultured spectacle. Respectable opinion held that football inevitably “attracted” hooliganism, and the rest of society – the middle class in particular (the strata of society I was born into) – was highly contemptuous toward anyone closely associated with the game, especially the fans. As a young supporter and grammar school pupil in Shrewsbury (Shropshire still maintained the 11+ system), I was more than conversant with attitudes of this kind……………

Many who had never entered a football stadium envisioned outbursts of violence at every match, when in reality such eruptions, especially inside the grounds, were rare and deeply shocking even to a regular goer – yet the presumption that all fans were “mindless animals” became commonplace. This judgement had been cultivated by the media (an extension of the middle class, of course) who fixated on football hooliganism, raising its significance far above other kinds of gang related violence. In some unaccountable but unique way, the media felt required to say, it is the nature of the game as such that triggers the violence. And this nonsense was widely echoed. (Nowadays religion, Islam in particular, comes in for the same flak.) But silently at root lay a perennial fear and loathing of the contemporary underclass – of yesterday’s ‘chavs’.

Then predictably, during the height of the Thatcher years when everything proletarian was despised, the authorities took a fateful decision and penned us – the “mindless animals” – in: constructing high perimeter fences around every ground, including the one that trapped the innocent victims at Hillsborough. Back in 1985, then-Chairman of Chelsea FC, Ken Bates, had seriously proposed electrifying the fences at Stamford Bridge. Fortunately, Bates was ignored.

Without the fences it is likely that no-one would have died at Hillsborough.

As we now know for certain, the disaster at Hillsborough was also an outcome of more direct criminal negligence: a combination of atrocious decisions taken by officials who didn’t care enough about the consequences of their actions. Afterwards, a false narrative was hastily concocted to put the blame on purportedly loutish behaviour and, most importantly, the drunkenness of the Liverpool fans. This was further embellished into the risible official story (just read the allegations in headline above) that lodged so deeply in the public consciousness thanks to a media that was so very eager to believe in it. Thus, a huge, disgusting lie manufactured to defame the 96 innocent victims was promoted at the very beginning of a sustained cover-up by senior officers of South Yorkshire Police and by an establishment which immediately closed ranks:

“I believe that there would have been no Hillsborough disaster if tanked-up yobs had not turned up in very large numbers to try to force their way into the ground.”

wrote Thatcher’s former Chief Press Secretary Sir Bernard Ingham in a letter dated December 30th 1996 to Liverpool fan Graham Skinner whose friend Eric Hughes died in the disaster. Ingham continued:

“I have no intention of apologising for my views which are sincerely held on the basis of what I heard first hand at Hillsborough. I have, however, one suggestion to make: for its own good, Liverpool – with the Heysel disaster in the background – should shut up about Hillsborough.” 2

Click here to read Ingham’s complete letter.

Those same foundational lies would later permit other establishment figures including Sir Oliver Popplewell, who chaired the public inquiry into the earlier Bradford Stadium fire, to dismiss the long-standing fight for justice and denigrate the Hillsborough families as ‘conspiracy theorists’:

“The citizens of Bradford behaved with quiet dignity and great courage. They did not harbour conspiracy theories. They did not seek endless further inquiries. They buried their dead, comforted the bereaved and succoured the injured. They organised a sensible compensation scheme and moved on.

“Is there, perhaps, a lesson there for the Hillsborough campaigners?” 3

As the unadulterated truth slowly came to light, the media remained rather muzzled in their opprobrium of fellows at the Sun and its self-seeking former editor Kelvin MacKenzie. Then, on the day of the Hillsborough disaster inquest verdict the Sun disgraced itself one last time by relegating the judgement to its inside pages 8 and 9, while its highbrow sister broadsheet The Times from the same Murdoch stable, did likewise. Meanwhile, Murdoch-ridden Sky News invited Sun‘s Political Editor, Tom Newton Dunn to discuss the day’s papers, and Newton Dunn actually had the temerity to defend their original fake news story, saying “I don’t think it should all be about the Sun – it was not us who committed Hillsborough”:

The Sun’s @tnewtondunn on Hillsborough: “The worst thing we ever did as a newspaper, our deepest shame” #skypapers

Others in the ranks of our corporate media dutifully looked on aghast of course. Indeed, they would have loved to have patted themselves on the back at the significant role they played in bringing justice to the families. In reality, however, the press mostly played a very different role, maintaining a conspicuous silence throughout more than two decades, and paying little regard to contradictory evidence as it slowly emerged.

The Hillsborough disaster offers a stark illustration of how pernicious ‘fake news’ – more accurately ‘big lies’ – can be. Causing irreparable harm to its victims, it can quite literally destroy lives:

Speaking in a personal capacity, Trevor Hicks, president of the HFSG [Hillsborough Family Support Group], whose teenage daughters Sarah and Vicki were among the 96 killed, said: “The Sun’s coverage did enormous damage to me, [his then wife] Jenni and all the families and caused us great distress. We tried to contact the Sun many years ago; we asked them to name their sources for the scurrilous stories, but we never got that and we have never moved on since.

“We did not accept that the apologies they have made were genuine, and we support Liverpool football club banning the paper. All the 96 people who died supported Liverpool, Anfield is our spiritual home, and there was an element of the place being besmirched by the presence of the Sun.” 4

So where was the orchestrated clamour to put a stop to fake news after the Hillsborough verdict? Ah, but this was corporate fake news. Apparently, there’s a difference.

To understand more about the government’s role, I recommend reading Craig Murray’s carefully considered appraisal of the released documents.

All of the revelations disclosed by the Hillsborough Independent Panel can be read online at http://hillsborough.independent.gov.uk/.

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  1. twisting the story

“The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.” — Milan Kundera 5

The 1980s was a defining period for modern Britain. A decade when the forces of capital led by Thatcher’s government cracked proverbial knuckles and set about crushing the trade union movement to establish permanent ascendancy over workers’ rights. One key part of this strategy involved the steady dismantlement of Britain’s industrial base and vital to this, since essential for all the heavy industry at the time, was ensuring the closure of the coal mines. To these ends Thatcher personally approved the appointment of Ian MacGregor to head the National Coal Board (NCB) – a known hatchet-man who was already responsible for drastic cuts to British Steel prior to its sell-off.

As MacGregor set about turning the NCB into a “profitable concern” laying out plans for a devastating programme of pit closures, the NUM, under the charge of its militant leader Arthur Scargill, laid down tools in an unballoted (but widely supported) all-out strike against “the American butcher of British industry”. 6 This move, although lacking in strategy (and Scargill was heavily criticized for his timing), had effectively been forced by the government, who were well-prepared for the showdown and, as we learned later, stockpiled coal to ensure that the lights remained on whatever happened.

Once the strike was called, the stakes could hardly have been higher for either side. Thatcher, determined to break the strongest of all the unions, would not have been the first Tory Prime Minister defeated by the miners. But the miners were fighting for their livelihoods and the future of their communities. Predictably, therefore, tensions quickly escalated. In response, police forces from Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire were given unprecedented new powers allowing them to restrict free movement and association, and they increasingly adopted a military style approach to smashing up the protests. The most violent of all the confrontations took place on June 18th 1984 outside the gates of the Orgreave coking plant near Sheffield again. It turned out to be pivotal moment in the dispute and in modern British history.

The “Battle of Orgreave”, as it is now known, began after a section of mounted police charged into pickets who were already corralled on an adjacent field. The miners retaliated with a barrage of missiles hurled at the police lines. On the BBC news report later, however, the course of events was replayed in reverse and so the film showed the miners throwing stones, and then police charging back on horses in response. History was thus reedited.

A Mike Figgis documentary entitled simply The Battle of Orgreave was broadcast on Channel 4 in 2001. Constructed around a re-enactment of the event, it includes an interview with the late Tony Benn – still a Labour MP at the time. Benn tells the filmmakers that he remembered the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) being “up in arms” because they “could see quite clearly that the police charge and then the miners threw stones, and were ordered to transpose the order in such a way as to give the opposite impression”. Benn’s remarks are substantiated by a caption that quotes an extract of a ‘BBC letter of apology’ dated July 3rd, 1991. It reads:

The BBC acknowledged some years ago that it made a mistake over the sequence of events at Orgreave. We accepted without question that it was serious, but emphasised that it was a mistake made in the haste of putting the news together. The end result was that the editor inadvertently reversed the occurrence of the actions of police and pickets.

Benn is then asked to respond to the BBC apology and says “they didn’t make a mistake… whoever gave the orders actually destroyed the truth of what was reported”.

Footage in The Battle of Orgreave from 13:40 mins:

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We later learned from David Hart, a political adviser to Margaret Thatcher, as well as Ian MacGregor and the NCB, that the Battle of Orgreave was “a set-up by us”. Hart said in an interview given in 1993:

“The coke was of no interest whatsoever. We didn’t need it. It was a battle ground of our choosing on grounds of our choosing. I don’t think that Scargill believes that even today. The fact is that it was a set-up and it worked brilliantly.”

Which tallies with MacGregor’s own remarks in his biography:

“It [Orgreave] became a cause célèbre for Scargill, a fight he had to win. We were quite encouraged that he thought it so important and did everything we could to help him continue to think so, but the truth was that it hardly mattered a jot to us – beyond the fact that it kept him out of Nottingham.” 7

Meanwhile, in 2012, the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign (OTJC) was formed, following the success of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign. It is campaigning for a full and independent public inquiry into the assaults, wrongful arrests of nearly a hundred miners and false prosecutions (all subsequent trials collapsed) which human rights lawyer Michael Mansfield QC later described as “the biggest frame-up ever”.

Photo by John Harris.

Mirror headline to story published in October, 2016. 8

Both cases [Hillsborough and Orgreave] involve the police colluding with the media to portray a false picture of events and blame the innocent so as to conceal their own wrongdoing and failings:

After Orgreave, encouraged by the police, the media unfairly vilified the miners for provoking the violence when in fact it was the police who instigated it;

After Hillsborough, egged on by the police, the media unfairly blamed the fans for the disaster, accusing them of being drunk, arriving late and trying to get into the match without tickets, an account which the Inquest jury has now roundly rejected.

In neither case has there been any proper accountability for what the police did wrong.

From the main statement on the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign (OTJC) website, which continues:

There is a clear and direct chronological link between the two events:

The way in which the police abused their power at Orgreave, lied about it and got away with it, fostered the culture of impunity which allowed the cover-up after Hillsborough to take place.

Had the police lies after Orgreave been properly and publicly addressed, the Hillsborough cover-up would never have been allowed to happen.

Click here to read the full OTJC statement.

It’s said (especially by journalists!) that “journalism is the first draft of history”. 9 I would merely add that historical revisionism likewise begins in those very same newsrooms. The events quickly reinterpreted according to the diktats of the establishment line.

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  1. being economical with the truth

“I watched him with some interest, for it was the first time that I had seen a person whose profession was telling lies — unless one counts journalists.”

 George Orwell 10

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Editors and producers are guilty of many sins. For my money, however, the biggest and lying-est are the big lies of omission that leave important facts unknown to the public for years and even decades, result in many deaths, and let the perpetrators off the hook both legally and historically.

writes Ted Rall in an excellent historical overview which catalogues just a few of the worst examples of mainstream media complicity by omission:

For the better part of a decade, American citizens paid good money for newspapers that purported to bring them the news from Vietnam. What those papers never told them was that the reason LBJ gave for entering the war, a 1964 attack on American ships in the Gulf of Tonkin, never happened. This isn’t controversial; liberal and conservative historians alike agree the war was sold on fake news.

Imagine if the media had begun every story about Vietnam with a Trump-era-ish reference to Johnson’s big lie? “Continuing Unprovoked Attack on North Vietnam, U.S. B-52s Rain Death on Hanoi Without Reason.” Significantly less than 58,000 Americans and 2 million Vietnamese might have died.

After the U.S. lost — which they reported as a withdrawal rather than what really happened — lazy and easily cowed journalists and editors let stand the canard that returning Vietnam War vets were spat upon, insulted as “baby killers” and generally mistreated by dirty leftie hippies waiting for them at the airport. It never happened. To the contrary, the antiwar movement was supportive of vets, running clinics and other facilities to help them out. The myth of the spat-upon hippie, it turns out, began with the 1982 movie “Rambo,” when Sylvester Stallone’s character says it — probably as a metaphor.

Afghanistan’s Taliban government had nothing to do with 9/11, but few Americans know that. Even the soldiers sent to fight, kill and die there thought they were avenging the attack on the World Trade Center — and why not? Thanks to the Bush-era fake news purveyors, few of even the best read and most informed Americans know that Osama bin Laden was already in Pakistan on 9/11, that the Taliban offered to arrest him and turn him over if the U.S. showed some evidence of his guilt, that Al Qaeda had fewer than 100 members in Afghanistan (the vast majority were in Pakistan, as were the infamous training camps), and that there wasn’t a single Afghan among the 19 hijackers.

Would Afghanistan have become America’s longest war if news headlines had read something like “Bush Promises To Hunt Down Bin Laden and Al Qaeda in Country Where They Aren’t, Sends Weapons and Cash to Country Where They Are”? Doubtful.

That the media fell down on the job during the build-up to the Iraq War is well-documented. Yet, even after the WMDs failed to turn up in that country after we destroyed it, the media never applied the standard they now stick on Trump, e.g. “Continuing Unjustified Assault on Innocent Iraq, Marines Prepare For Battle in Fallujah.” Talk about fake news — even if Saddam Hussein had had WMDs, Iraq’s lack of long-range ballistic missiles meant it never could have posed a threat to the United States.

The famous toppling of Saddam’s statue in Firdos Square heralded as a symbol of victory and given saturation media coverage was in reality a staged event – here’s the proof:

Alternative facts abounded under Obama.

Obama launched hundreds of drone attacks against Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen and elsewhere that killed thousands of people. Studies showed that 49 out of 50 people killed were innocent bystanders, and that the other 1 were local guerilla fighters who hated their own local governments, not anti-American jihadis coming to kill us here. Yet story after story about drone assassinations referred to victims as “militants” or even “terrorists,” without a shred of evidence. If you’re going to let your president kill people just for fun, the least the media as a watchdog could do is call it what it is: “President Murders 14 More Muslims Cuz Fun.” Did you know the military calls them “squirters” — because their heads, you know…? 11

Click here to read the full article by Ted Rall.

BBC coverage of Libyans celebrating “liberation” in Green Square Tripoli in August 2011 was even more fraudulent.

The flags being waved are not the King Idris Flag (red, black green) of ‘the rebels’ but Indian flags (orange, white and green) because the demonstrators are Indians in India…

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Brief update:

Here is incisive analysis by Jimmy Dore of more recent lies of omission by the corporate media:

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  1. fake news

“The same people pretending to be crusaders against fake news… are themselves disseminating it more aggressively than anyone else”

— Glenn Greenwald 12

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French journalists are teaming up with Facebook and Google to create a new fact-checking service aimed at tackling the rise of “fake news”.

Seventeen French newsrooms will be involved in the CrossCheck project, with a focus on the French elections. […]

The news organisations operating in France will collaborate with the two technology giants to debunk false information amid an increase in pressure in recent weeks to prevent the spread of fraudulent reports.

CrossCheck, a collaborative verification project aimed at helping French voters “make sense of what and who to trust online”, will offer users the option to identify and flag news stories as either “real”, “satire” or “fake”. 13

From a BBC news article written by an uncredited author (an increasingly common occurrence in these days of ‘fake news’) published on February 6th.

Facebook will enable users to flag information they suspect to be false, then make the links accessible to its partnered media outlets to verify the contentious article. If two media sources deem the information to be false, the post will appear on Facebook with a banner signalling that two fact-checkers have disputed its contents.

Facebook’s algorithm can then be altered to reduce the post’s circulation, the network said. […]

Last month, Facebook also set up an anti fake-news initiative in Germany, where politicians have expressed concerns false reports could influence federal elections in September. 14

From Politico.

If you follow this blog then you will perhaps be familiar with the name Crosscheck. As recently disclosed by investigative reporter Greg Palast, Crosscheck was the “Interstate Voter Registration” system that, under the direction of Kansas Secretary of State and Trump operative, Kris Kobach, purged millions of Americans – mostly Black and Latino – from the voter registers.

Given the narrowness of Trump’s victory, it is legitimate to say that Crosscheck won it. It a little curious therefore that this new initiative ostensibly to purge the internet of ‘fake news’ has also been given the name CrossCheck – this curious coincidence certainly helps to cover those “Interstate Voter Registration” tracks…

It’s once bitten, twice shy for Google and Facebook. Together they’re taking a stand against the fake news that helped skew the narrative of the 2016 US presidential election.

The two companies on Monday launched an initiative in Paris to tackle fake news stories that could arise around the upcoming French presidential election. The project, called CrossCheck, was announced at the News Impact Summit and will serve to help verify news stories being shared among the French electorate. 15

From cnet.com.

On Monday, Google announced a new endeavor it is calling CrossCheck, described as “a coalition news verification project.” Debuted at the News Impact Summit in Paris, CrossCheck is the product of a partnership between First Draft and the Google News Lab. […]

Google released a similar project called Electionland during the 2016 U.S. election, though fake news was still criticized during the American political showdown. Perhaps, however, this second iteration will prove more effective.

“With the French presidential election approaching, journalists from across France and beyond will work together to find and verify content circulating publicly online, whether it is photographs, videos, memes, comment threads, [or] news sites,” Google announced in a blog post. “CrossCheck partners will make use of the collective reporting in their own articles, television programs, and social media content.” 16

From Digital Trends.

So just who are the “CrossCheck partners”? Well, I searched and searched through the top searches on Google and could find only a few of the 17 newsrooms – here’s the most extensive list: AFP (Agence France-Presse), BuzzFeed News, France Médias Monde (via les Observateurs de France 24), France TélévisionsGlobal VoicesLibérationLa ProvenceLes EchosLa Voix du NordLe Monde (Les Décodeurs), Nice-MatinOuest-FranceRue89 BordeauxRue89 LyonRue89 StrasbourgStoryful, and StreetPress (courtesy of Digital Trends).

To find a fuller list of partners, however, it is far better to visit the Google blog from which this initial list is drawn and then to follow the link to ‘First Draft’ which is in partnership with Google. Here is the current crop of forty corporate media outlets that comprise its “global Partner Network of newsrooms, fact-checkers, human rights organizations and technology platforms”:

Amongst these self-appointed defenders of truth and warriors against ‘fake news’ are more than a few household names including media outlets with a less than reliable record of their own (the links provide examples of recent ‘inaccuracies’): BBC, the Washington PostThe New York TimesCNNChannel 4 newsAl Jazeera and Sky News17 More revealing, however, is that amongst the news agencies there is the Atlantic Council, and still more absurdly, listed as a founding partner alongside Google News Lab, there is also Bellingcat – read this first and then read on…

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Brief update:

On Wednesday 5th, Angela Merkel’s cabinet introduced new legislation ostensibly “to curb the spread of fake news and malicious posts ahead of Germany’s election on Sept. 24”:

Germany pushed ahead with legislation that threatens social networks such as Facebook Inc. with fines of as much as 50 million euros ($53 million) if they fail to give users the option to complain about hate speech and fake news or refuse to remove illegal content. 18

Click here to read a fuller report.

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  1. alternative facts

“Today we see a country that, in weaponising misinformation, has created what we might now see as the post-truth age. Part of that is the use of cyber-weaponry to disrupt critical infrastructure and disable democratic machinery” — Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon 19

Bellingcat, for those unfamiliar with one-man armchair “research group” Eliot Higgins, aka Brown Moses, is a “self-styled” (as the corporate media would describe him if he wasn’t one of the team) citizen journalist and blogger. He compares online images and leaps to conclusions that happen to serve the interests of the Western powers:

In the early, Brown Moses, days,Higgins used to make frequent appeals for finances, with support links prominently displayed. However, the current Bellingcat site doesn’t even appear to have a ‘donate’ / ‘support’ option. And Bellingcat has grown to an operation which lists itself as being run by ‘eight volunteers’ but is clearly far in excess of that – a professional website which is updated sometimes with several articles a day, on which extensive research has been expended. But when it’s Bellingcat, all the evidence shows that the research is done to back up a conclusion already arrived at, rather than arrive at a conclusion based on research.

Higgins now works not from home, but from an office, in his hometown of Leicester. So where’s the money coming from for Bellingcat, clearly now an operation requiring considerable financial support? That’s unclear, Higgins has yet to publish any record of where the finance comes from, all the ‘About‘ section of the Bellingcat site says is – ‘Bellingcat uses open source and social media investigation to investigate a variety of subjects, from Mexican drug lords to conflicts being fought across the world. Bellingcat brings together contributors who specialise in open source and social media investigation, and creates guides and case studies so others may learn to do the same.’

For a lot of people, it’s highly convenient that Eliot Higgins is an ‘expert’, and his agency Bellingcat taken seriously. This is a man who, with his agency Bellingcat, will absolutely always back the position of western governments, and powerful western organisations. And they’ll do whatever it takes to make sure he’s taken seriously, lay on all the trappings, auspices of highbrow, on trend terms like ‘open source investigation’ and ‘error level analysis‘, be sure he’s given awards, plaudits, made a ‘fellow’, ‘expert’, at sympathetic organisations, appears at the right seminars, conferences, everything to apply the sheen of credibility. […]

This recent, absolutely comprehensive, article makes the point, one yet to have penetrated the public perception of ‘open source investigation’, that all this new jazz can be used as the respectable front for one of the oldest scams, falsification – see this tweet on the theme.

Creating social media accounts to post misinformation, free of all the source checks, verification of other sources as this is ‘citizen journalism’ and all things cool, which can’t be questioned because a lot of people don’t really know what they are. This, then passed off, and on, into Bellingcat, and up it goes higher into the food chain of mass media, unquestioned, unchecked.

So you can see why a lot of people really have an interest in making Eliot Higgins out to be an authority, a reputed source, an expert. Have a look at his profile on the Atlantic Council site, an agency funded by governments across the world (25, no less), to promote their position under the guise of being a ‘think tank’. Higgins now works with them, and they call him. […]

Higgins has never been near the MH17 site, Syria, or anywhere else on where he’s an apparent ‘expert’. Higgins may not go to any of the places he ‘investigates’, but he does travel the world being an ‘expert’ at various conferences, receiving awards – all of these used (and used by Higgins himself, who doesn’t shy from self-promotion , making extensive mention on Twitter of his own participation at conferences, using a photo from such for his profile) to propagate ‘Higgins, the expert.’

It’s very handy for some people, having a guy who doesn’t need to be sent anywhere, who, from his sofa, can quickly come up with the conclusions so beloved of western press, and governments. He’s also clearly a hard worker, dogmatic, persistent, the man who used to spend endless hours gaming now happy to spend that time on Bellingcat ‘investigations’. Higgins took part in the official MH17 investigation, and even boasted about knowing the result of the MH17 report before it was released – so sure was he, he even challenged me to a bet over it (I declined).

So, make your own mind up.

Who is Eliot Higgins, and Bellingcat, really? Are they indeed the experts the western media would have us believe? Or are we being stitched up by a man either of limited abilities plunged into the limelight, making the most of all that goes with it – fawning western media write ‘He often doesn’t finish sentences, as if his mind is racing elsewhere’ – but could it be, that Higgins is actually rather simply rather a dim man, being used, and fine with that, by higher powers?

Or is Higgins actually an intelligent calculating individual, who has exploited the opportunity to make a name for himself, make a lot of money? One thing about Higgins is sure. He’s a liar. A conman. A charlatan. And whatever associations the name ‘Higgins’ and ‘Bellingcat’ have now, the future can surely only be these names associated with fabrication, fraud, a scam. All that will be debated, is whether Higgins is a latter-day Donald Crowhurst, a hapless man forced into a web of deceit, or a Bernie Madoff, who knew just what he was doing all along. 20

Click here to read the full article written by independent journalist Graham Phillips entitled “Eliot Higgins of Bellingcat, Who is He? Everything You Need to Know…”

For the record, when the report by the international Joint Investigation Team (JIT) on MH17 was released in the form of a letter sent to family members of the victims in February 2016, the Dutch prosecutor who led the investigation, Fred Westerbeke, wrote:

On December 26, 2015 Bellingcat has submitted a draft report to the JIT. The report has been gathered using social media and other public Internet sources, include information about members of a Russian military unit with, according to Bellingcat, a possible BUK-missile system in Ukraine. Many sources which Bellingcat relies on were known to the JIT. In addition, the research team still has more and other information on this subject, which is not mentioned by Bellingcat. Insofar as Bellingcat has offered new sources, they are examined and assessed for suitability for the criminal investigation. No evidence of direct involvement of individual members of this unit at the shooting of the MH17 follows from the report of Bellingcat. 21

[bold emphasis added]

When Fallon says “we see a country that, in weaponising misinformation, has created what we might now see as the post-truth age” he is deliberately spinning the official line that the information war is both a recent invention, and, more importantly, that it is purely the work of the Kremlin. A bizarre claim that in turn rests on entirely baseless accusations that ‘Russia hacked the US elections’; an allegation first formulated to protect the DNC from whistleblower leaks (see here) but endlessly echoed by a lazy and pliant media which discredits itself every time it repeats the story and further echoes the claims that it is fact-based.

In fact this entire “Russia-gate” fixation, which is so silly that it ought to be beneath contempt, distracts from the real and pernicious threat of actual manipulation of our democracies. As former CIA analyst Ray McGovern and NSA whistleblower William Binney point out in an excellent recent piece published by Consortium News, regarding the counter allegations made by Trump:

So, were Trump and his associates “wiretapped?” Of course not. Wiretapping went out of vogue decades ago, having been rendered obsolete by leaps in surveillance technology.

The real question is: Were Trump and his associates surveilled? Wake up, America. Was no one paying attention to the disclosures from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013 when he exposed Director of National Intelligence James Clapper as a liar for denying that the NSA engaged in bulk collection of communications inside the United States.

The reality is that EVERYONE, including the President, is surveilled. The technology enabling bulk collection would have made the late demented FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s mouth water. 22

Click here to read the full article entitled “The Surveillance State Behind Russia-gate”.

Another serious matter that ought to trouble us is that rather than seeking insight from recognised experts like McGovern and Binney, the corporate media turns to self-styled non-specialists such as Eliot Higgins aka Bellingcat or Rami Abdulrahman aka Osama Suleiman’s puffed up Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), who invariably tell them exactly what they want to hear.

*

  1. influence warfare

“An important question regarding the survival of our nation is how we answer the increasing threats that we face in the Information Environment from adversaries who range from nation states large and small to criminal or terrorist organizations to a handful of people with malicious intent”

— Rand Waltzman

The quote above is from a newsletter published by the American Foreign Policy Council published in September 2015.

As former head of the Social Media In Strategic Communications (SMISC), a programme within the Pentagon’s notorious Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Waltzman’s team were specialists in the spread of ideas and influence, including “how online videos affect emotions to how Twitterbots accelerate the spread of fake news” 23

Beneath the same section-header, “The Weaponization of the Information Environment”, Waltzman goes on to propose the establishment of a Center for Information Environment Security “to serve as a ‘network of networks of human efforts, technology development and technology transfer’ related to fighting foreign influence operations.” 24

Reading between the lines, Waltzman is advocating a new intelligence hub to spread influence throughout what he defines as the ‘Information Environment’: a new security agency that brings America closer to the neo-con dream of ‘full spectrum dominance’.

And so the stage was set: ready for the Friday before Christmas, when Obama duly obliged with the signing of National Defense Authorisation Act 2017 and its dreary and inconspicuous inclusion of a bipartisan bill ‘Countering Foreign Disinformation and Propaganda Act’ (CFDPA) written in March 2016 by Senators Rob Portman and Chris Murphy:

The passage of this bill in the Senate today takes us one critical step closer to effectively confronting the extensive, and destabilizing, foreign propaganda and disinformation operations being waged against us. While the propaganda and disinformation threat has grown, the U.S. government has been asleep at the wheel.

writes Senator Portman. His statement from December 8th continuing:

With the help of this bipartisan bill, the disinformation and propaganda used against our allies and our interests will fail.

And Senator Murphy writes:

Congress has taken a big step in fighting back against fake news and propaganda from countries like Russia. When the president signs this bill into law, the United States will finally have a dedicated set of tools and resources to confront our adversaries’ widespread efforts to spread false narratives that undermine democratic institutions and compromise America’s foreign policy goals.

So how does CFDPA (hardly the easiest acronym to recall) set about combating the scourge of ‘fake news’? Here is a little more information drawn from the same press release:

The bill would increase the authority, resources, and mandate of the Global Engagement Center to include state actors like Russia and China in addition to violent extremists. The Center will be led by the State Department, but with the active senior level participation of the Department of Defense, USAID, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the Intelligence Community, and other relevant agencies. The Center will develop, integrate, and synchronize whole-of-government initiatives to expose and counter foreign disinformation operations and proactively advance fact-based narratives that support U.S. allies and interests.

Moreover:

[T]he legislation seeks to leverage expertise from outside government to create more adaptive and responsive U.S. strategy options. The legislation establishes a fund to help train local journalists and provide grants and contracts to NGOs, civil society organizations, think tanks, private sector companies, media organizations, and other experts outside the U.S. government with experience in identifying and analyzing the latest trends in foreign government disinformation techniques. This fund will complement and support the Center’s role by integrating capabilities and expertise available outside the U.S. government into the strategy-making process. It will also empower a decentralized network of private sector experts and integrate their expertise into the strategy-making process. 25

Some are already describing this Global Engagement Center with its “decentralized network of private sector experts” as a Ministry of Truth:

[I]t seems reasonable to assume WikiLeaks-style journalism (like the email leaks during our “elections”) will now be considered “foreign propaganda and misinformation...”

If this isn’t a big enough red flag for you already, consider the fact that, not only does the new Ministry of Propaganda plan to “proactively advance fact-based narratives,” they plan on doing it with the help of both our schools & the private sector:

To establish cooperative or liaison relationships with foreign partners and allies… and other entities, such as academia, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector
— §1259C, a5

Or, in other words, they’ll be planting their people in academic situations & working with pretty much any industry they think will enhance their propaganda’s reach & effectiveness. The section even approves funding to spy on journalists, social media groups, political parties, & NGOs — all of this is to “proactively advance fact-based narratives,” of course. See for yourself — the NDAA lists one of the center’s functions as:

“Identifying current and emerging trends in… information obtained from print, broadcast, online and social media, support for third-party outlets such as think tanks, political parties, and nongovernmental organizations… and the use of covert or clandestine special operators and agents to influence targeted populations and governments…
— §1259C, b4

So writes independent journalist and activist, John Laurits, quoting and interpreting what he describes as “the fantastically boring depths of the 1,576-page NDAA”, who concludes the breakdown:

Lastly, I’d like to show you the part of all of this that, as a journalist, I find most worrying:

AUTHORITY FOR GRANTS.—The Center is authorized to provide grants or contracts of financial support to civil society groups, journalists, nongovernmental organizations, federally-funded research and development centers, private companies, or academic institutions for the following purposes:

[…]to counter efforts by foreign governments to use disinformation, misinformation, and propaganda to influence the policies and social and political stability of the United States

— §1259C, f(1) & §1259C, f(1)D

In plain English, this is saying that the US is going to start subsidizing journalists, researchers, and even schools who agree with the regime — which, incidentally, will punish and potentially threaten the viability of truly independent media altogether. 26

[all emphasis as in original]

Click here to read the full article entitled “Counter-Propaganda Bill Quietly Creates US Propaganda Factory”.

*

  1. the illusory truth effect

“You won’t have a shutdown of news in modern America – it is not possible. But you can have, as Frank Rich and Sidney Blumenthal have pointed out, a steady stream of lies polluting the news well. What you already have is a White House directing a stream of false information that is so relentless that it is increasingly hard to sort out truth from untruth. In a fascist system, it’s not the lies that count but the muddying. When citizens can’t tell real news from fake, they give up their demands for accountability bit by bit.”

— Naomi Wolf  27

The extract above is drawn from an excellent and extremely prescient article written by Naomi Wolf and published by the Guardian in 2007. It is entitled “Fascist America, in 10 Easy Steps”.

In 2011, I produced an updated version by taking Wolf’s analytical breakdown of the Bush years, applying her identified sequence of steps to Obama’s term in office. Here is what I wrote under Step #8. Control the press:

Five years on, and the mainstream media is no less bridled; the same small corporate cartel, that is bent on privileging the special interests of a few powerful owners and sponsors, maintains its dominance. And although, in the meantime, the challenge from independent voices has been steadily on the rise via the internet, it is in precisely these areas of the “new media” where controls are now being brought in.

But applying restrictions requires justification, and so these latest attacks against freedom of speech are couched as a necessary response to what the government deems, and thus what the public is encouraged to believe, to be a threat.

Following which I reminded readers of the Machiavellian role played by Cass Sunstein (married to warmongering former US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Powers), who, in September 2009, had been appointed as Obama’s Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. In 2008, Sunstein co-authored a paper with Adrian Vermeule, entitled “Conspiracy Theories,” in which they propose methods for dealing with the spread of faulty  information saying “the best response consists in cognitive infiltration of extremist groups”:

“Government agents (and their allies) might enter chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups and attempt to undermine percolating conspiracy theories by raising doubts about their factual premises, causal logic or implications for political action.”

The authors also advocate other methods for muddying the waters such as the recruitment of “independent experts”:

“government can supply these independent experts with information and perhaps prod them into action from behind the scenes… too close a connection will be self-defeating if it is exposed.”

Indeed, they provide no less than five alternative responses that the US government might take to hinder and restrain such unwanted freedom of speech:

We can readily imagine a series of possible responses. (1) Government might ban conspiracy theorizing. (2) Government might impose some kind of tax, financial or otherwise, on those who disseminate such theories. (3) Government might itself engage in counterspeech, marshaling arguments to discredit conspiracy theories. (4) Government might formally hire credible private parties to engage in counterspeech. (5) Government might engage in informal communication with such parties, encouraging them to help. 28

As I wrote in September 2011:

So which is the greater threat, a few people with alternative views and accounts, or the kinds of subversion of (or even outright clampdown on) free speech proposed, and now being put into effect by Cass Sunstein?

Simply being out of step with the official line is now enough to get you categorised as an “extremist”, and so a distinction that was once reserved for those who threatened the use of violent overthrow, is now directed against anyone who merely disagrees.

Click here to read my full post entitled “12 steps to tyranny – the state of America under Obama”.

*

  1. post-truth

“If everybody always lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but rather that nobody believes anything any longer”

— Hannah Arendt 29

No lesser authority than Adolf Hitler famously said “Propaganda must confine itself to very few points, and repeat them endlessly”. 30 And this “fundamental principle” as he called it has become the unsurpassed precept that now informs all PR, all advertising and infests every corner of our world with the hi-tech conjuring of (post-)modern propaganda. The Nazis lost the war, but in this regard their methods more than survived. In fact, they have been honed ever since.

With Trump in power, allusions to Hitler and fascism are all the more vogue. Drawing comparisons to twentieth century fascism is indeed the currency of right-minded liberalism in the West, and most especially amongst many who held their tongues throughout the duration of Obama’s tenure: turning a blind eye to “Terror Tuesdays”, failing to speak up against the silent menace of his drones, and content that the battlefields across Africa and the Middle East of his continuing “war on terror” were faraway and probably for the betterment of humanity. Whereas Trump is a racist, they rightly inform us today, forming an impossible distinction between two phases of the West’s “war on terror” which has always been racist in its conception.

Today there is another trope. Just like Brexit, these same liberal commentators now inform us, Trump’s victory is ample proof that we are living in a “post-truth” era. Oddly, this opinion is something that Trump, in his characteristically twisted fashion, appears to share. So whether by accident or design, he has already stolen much of the thunder simply by flinging his own accusations of ‘fake news’ at all and sundry. Did the liberal proponents of the meme really not envisage propagandistic blowback of this kind?

In 2003, when we were told that half the world could be obliterated by Iraqi weapons within 45 minutes, were we still in pre-post-truth politics? At the start of this decade, when governments across Europe did everything to convince us that a global financial crisis had been caused by giving too much money to disabled people—was that also part of the lost golden age? When we entered the First World War to stop Belgian babies from being impaled on bayonets? When kings ruled by divine right?

writes Sam Kriss in an piece entitled “The Biggest Political Lie of 2016”, continuing:

We have always been in post-truth politics. The first written texts of political theory are a lament that questions of government are no longer ruled by transcendent, objective fact. So many subsequent interventions tend to carry the same theme. John Stuart Mill and Alexis de Tocqueville warned darkly of the ignorant masses on the horizons, now terrifyingly sovereign. Kant saw humanity living deeply irrational lives in a state of self-imposed nonage, capable of being rescued only by an enlightened but autocratic ruler. Most revealingly, in his Reflections on the Revolution in France, Edmund Burke condemns radical and nonconformist preachers, who use their pulpits “not for the diffusion of truth, but for the spreading of contradiction.”

But then, as Kriss laments:

It’s not that facts aren’t good for anything, but a politics consisting of facts and nothing else isn’t politics, but management. This is what our politics are actually turning into: rule by experts and fatalism. […]

When truth is all that matters, there’s no room for any vision of a better life. All you end up with is a system in which the rulers are the ones with the most information, who know the ins and outs of the machine, and are sporadically capable of keeping it running. And if it’s a machine for grinding up human bodies into a profitable paste, then that’s just the reality of things. 31

Click here to read the full article.

*

“I think Donald Trump became president of the United States”

— CNN’s Fareed Zakaria responding to Trump’s airstrikes against Syria 32

In recent days, Trump’s foreign policy has swiveled 180 degrees. This apparent volte-face on Washington’s relations with Russia as well as Trump’s policy on Syria corresponds to a parallel shift in media coverage. From disputing his every tweet, overnight the chorus became ‘all hail the conquering hero!’

Of the top 100 US newspapers, 47 ran editorials on President Donald Trump’s Syria airstrikes last week: 39 in favor, seven ambiguous and only one opposed to the military attack.

In other words, 83 percent of editorials on the Syria attack supported Trump’s bombing, 15 percent took an ambivalent position and 2 percent said the attack shouldn’t have happened. Polls showed the US public being much more split: Gallup (4/7–8/17) and ABC/Washington Post (4/7–9/17) each had 51 percent supporting the airstrikes and 40 percent opposed, while CBS (4/7–9/17) found 57 percent in favor and 36 percent opposed.

From an article produced by US Media watchdog Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) published on Tuesday 11th.

The same piece concludes with comparisons of the media reaction immediately prior to the wars against Iraq and Libya:

The overwhelming [media] support for Trump’s Syria strikes—which open a whole new theater of potential war in the Middle East—is consistent with FAIR’s studies of media reaction to US military action. A 2003 FAIR survey (3/18/03) of television coverage in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, for example, found “just 6 percent of US sources were skeptics about the need for war. Just 3 of 393 sources were identified with anti-war activism.” As the US debated intervening in the civil war in Libya, pro-intervention op-eds outnumbered those opposed to or questioning intervention by 4-to-1 in the New York Times and Washington Post (Extra!5/11). 33

Click here to read the full article entitled “Out of 47 Major Editorials on Trump’s Syria Strikes, Only One Opposed”.

Propaganda is a vital weapon of modern warfare: insidious and strangely hard to detect, it is the dark agent that incites and cajoles a population to act against its own better judgement. For the greater part of a century we have all lived in the shadow of war: the Second World War bled out into the Cold War, the Cold War into this more perpetual blackness of the ‘War on Terror’. Tomorrow one can only dread to think. Throughout this same period we have been immersed in wartime propaganda. But like fish swimming in polluted water, we remain largely unaware of how it is suffocating us on a daily basis.

Yesterday’s villain was Stalin, then Brezhnev, Castro, Milošević, Saddam, Noriega, Ahmadinejad, and Gadaffi. Today it is Assad. Since hatred is better focused, we prefer to deal with our monsters one at a time.

In the meantime America and the West has courted friendly relations or even been close allies with Batista, Pinochet, Marcos, Suharto, Karimov, General Franco, the House of Saud and not forgetting our later villains Saddam, Noriega, Gadaffi, and Assad. Not that either list is exhaustive – for a more complete catalogue click here. The point is that there is no genuinely ethical component in the West’s choosing of sides. America, in particular, has a diabolical record of allying with despots to put down democratic forces.

What is truly alarming, however, is how easily amnesia sets in. That familiarity with what is an absolutely damning litany of recent lies and deceptions that propelled us into an expanding sequence of dirty wars beginning with Vietnam still fails as a safeguard against renewed propaganda offensives. Somehow in spite of the old lies, the new ones are able to sway and cajole enough of us by means of bogus pleas for justice and demands for ‘humanitarian intervention’.

The method is rather brilliantly encapsulated in a related article by Adam Johnson and also published by FAIR, again in response to the immediate tub-thumping in the aftermath of Trump’s airstrikes:

Dictator commits an alleged human rights violation, the media calls on those in power to “do something” and the ticking time bomb compels immediate action, lest we look “weak” on the “global stage.” Anything that deviates from this narrative is given token attention at best. 34

Lastly, it is instructive to draw attention to an earlier incident which the corporate media has determinedly kept the lid on – lies of omission have always been the greater part of all propaganda. As in Iraq and in Libya as well as in other warzones, America has been secretly and knowingly poisoning the people of Syria too. So here is the true measure of how little compassion the West really has for the lives of Syrians caught up in this terrible war:

The US has finally confirmed that it has fired DU ammunition Syria, after it had earlier stated that the weapons would not be used. US Central Command (CENTCOM) has acknowledged that DU was fired on two dates – the 18 and 23 November 2015. Between the strikes on the two dates, 5,100 rounds of 30mm DU ammunition were used by A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft. This equates to 1,524kg of DU. CENTCOM said that the ammunition was selected because of the “nature of the targets”.

The news comes as governments are debating a UN General Assembly resolution on DU weapons in New York. And, although DU use has only been admitted on two dates, ICBUW and PAX are concerned that this disclosure could be the sign that DU has, or will, be used more widely in the conflict. 35

Click here to read the full report entitled “United States confirms that it has fired depleted uranium in Syria” published by the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW) on October 21, 2016.

Read more about DU and its effects in this earlier post.

*

1 From Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch, published by Penguin in 1992. p 209

2 From an article entitled “Bernard Ingham still refuses to say sorry for blaming Liverpool fans despite inquest verdicts” written by Martin Bagot, published in the Liverpool Echo on April 26, 2016. http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/bernard-ingham-still-refuses-say-11244412

3 From an article entitled “Former judge tells Hillsborough families to drop ‘conspiracy theories’” published in the Guardian on Wednesday 19, 2011. https://www.theguardian.com/football/2011/oct/19/judge-hillsborough-families-conspiracy-theories

4 From an article entitled “Liverpool ban Sun journalists over Hillsborough coverage” written by David Conn, published in the Guardian on February 10, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/football/2017/feb/10/liverpool-ban-the-sun-newspaper-over-hillsborough-coverage

5 From “Part One: Lost Letters”, The book of laughter and forgetting [orig: Kniha smíchu a zapomnění] by Milan Kundera, first published in France in 1979.

6 “The head of the National Union of Mineworkers, Arthur Scargill, promptly dubbed him ‘the American butcher of British industry’.” Extract from BBC News obituary “Sir Ian: loved and hated” published Tuesday, April 14, 1998. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/78042.stm

7 Both quotes taken from Scargill: The Unauthorized Biography, by Paul Routledge (1993) London: HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-006-38077-1 [reprinted at the current wikipedia entry https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Orgreave]

8 Headline from a an article written by Paul Routledge, published in The Mirror on October 10, 2016. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/orgreave-police-told-hit-miners-9019414

9 Long-standing but frequently credited to Philip Graham on the basis of a speech he gave to the overseas correspondents of Newsweek in London:

“So let us today drudge on about our inescapably impossible task of providing every week a first rough draft of history that will never really be completed about a world we can never really understand…”

10 From Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell first published in 1938.

11 From an article entitled “Before Trump, the Media Loved ‘Alternative Facts’” written by Ted Rall, published in Counterpunch on February 16, 2017. http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/02/16/before-trump-the-media-loved-alternative-facts/

12 From a recent interview on Democracy Now! broadcast on January 5, 2017. https://www.democracynow.org/2017/1/5/glenn_greenwald_mainstream_us_media_is

Full quote reads:

“So let me just give you two examples of just the corruption that’s at play here. So, when the Post unveiled their huge story about Russia fake news based on this McCarthyite list that has been proven to be a fraud, they had Marty Baron, the executive editor, the widely respected executive editor of the paper, go onto Twitter and announce this huge exposé. And predictably, it got tweeted and retweeted and shared thousands and thousands of times by all of the biggest journalists with the biggest social media followings. When the story collapsed over the next two weeks and they appended this huge editor’s note, The Washington Post did nothing to bring anyone’s attention to the fact that the key claims of the story have been gutted. Marty Baron refused to answer any questions over that two weeks about what the paper did, and he uttered not one syllable on Twitter or anywhere else to tell all the followers that he alerted to this story that the story had collapsed.

“With the story that I just talked about over the weekend of the—of how Putin had wanted to steal the heat from Vermonters to make them suffer in the winter, Brent Staples, who works for The New York Times editorial page, went on Twitter and said, “Our friend Putin has invaded the U.S. electric grid.” And when that story collapsed and The Washington Post retracted it, he did something even worse: He just went and quietly deleted his tweet a day later, as though it never happened, and also failed to tell his 30,000 followers that what he had just told them the day before, that caused them to run around and share with all their friends on Facebook and Twitter that this has happened, was in fact a complete fiction.

“And you see this over and over and over again. And remember, these are the people who keep saying that fake news is a huge problem, that Facebook has to suppress it. And yet it’s America’s leading journalistic outlets that are doing more to disseminate false and deceitful stories than Macedonian teenagers by a huge amount. And when they do it and it turns out that the stories are discredited, they take very little to no steps to alert the people that they’ve misled about the fact that the stories were false. And it’s incredibly reckless journalistically. And these are the same people pretending to be crusaders against fake news, who are themselves disseminating it more aggressively than anyone else.”

13 From a BBC news article entitled “Fake news: Facebook and Google team up with French media” published on February 6, 2017. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-38882236

14 From an article entitled “Facebook partners with French media to fight fake news” written by Esther King, published in Politico on February 6, 2017. http://www.politico.eu/article/facebook-partners-with-french-media-to-fight-fake-news/

15 From an article entitled “Google and Facebook say ‘non’ to fake news in France” written by Katie Collins, published in cnet.com on February 6, 2017. https://www.cnet.com/uk/news/google-and-facebook-say-non-to-fake-news-in-france/

16 From an article entitled “Google Is Fighting Fake News In France With A New Project Called Crosscheck” written by Lulu Chang, published in Digital Trends on February 6, 2017. http://www.digitaltrends.com/web/google-fake-news-crosscheck/

17 In August 2011, both Al Jazeera and Sky News aired videos purporting to show rebels celebrating in Green Square, Tripoli after their rapid advance and victory against Gaddafi’s forces. Closer inspection of the images reveals however that these scenes were almost certainly faked. https://stopwarcrimes.wordpress.com/2011/08/22/al-jazeeras-fake-green-square/

18 From an article entitled “Merkel cabinet backs Facebook fines to stem fake news in Germany” by Bloomberg, published in the Gulf News on April 5, 2017. http://gulfnews.com/news/europe/germany/merkel-cabinet-backs-facebook-fines-to-stem-fake-news-in-germany-1.2006343

19 From an article entitled “Nato must defend western democracy against Russian hacking, says Fallon” written by Ewen MacAskill, published in the Guardian on February 3, 2017.https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/feb/02/nato-must-do-more-to-counter-russias-cyber-weaponry-says-fallon

20 From a post entitled “Eliot Higgins of Bellingcat, Who is He? Everything You Need to Know…” written by Graham Phillips, published in The Truth Speaker on February 28, 2016. https://thetruthspeaker.co/2016/02/28/eliot-higgins-of-bellingcat-who-is-he-everything-you-need-to-know/

21 https://bryanhemming.wordpress.com/joint-investigation-team-letter/

22 From an article entitled “The Surveillance State Behind Russia-gare” written by Ray McGovern and Bill Binney, published in Consortium News on March 28, 2017. https://consortiumnews.com/2017/03/28/the-surveillance-state-behind-russia-gate/

23 From an article entitled “The US Is Losing at Influence Warfare. Here’s Why” written by Patrick Tucker, published in Defense One on December 5, 2016. http://www.defenseone.com/threats/2016/12/us-losing-influence-warfare-heres-why/133654/

24 Ibid.

This author, as a program manager at the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), recently concluded what is probably the largest ever government sponsored research program in foundational social media technology, known as the Social Media in Strategic Communications (SMISC) program. SMISC researchers accomplished amazing things and significantly advanced the field resulting in over 200 publications in the open literature, as well as developing a number of groundbreaking technologies ready for application. At this point, the biggest fear is that, because of uninformed and antiquated policies and undue legal constraints, the principal beneficiaries of this work will end up being not the U.S. government but its adversaries.

To ensure this does not happen, the United States needs to create a new Center for Information Environment Security, the goal of which is to create and apply the tools needed to discover and maintain fundamental models of our ever-changing IE and to defend us in that environment, both collectively and as individuals. Such a Center would bring together experts in areas such as cognitive science, computer science, engineering, social science, security, marketing, political campaigning, public policy, and psychology, with the goal of developing a theoretical as well as an applied engineering methodology for managing the full spectrum of information environment security issues. The U.S. government has already laid the foundation for such a construct; now is the time to erect it.

25 From a press release entitled “Senate Passes Major Portman-Murphy Counter-Propaganda Bill as Part of NDAA” issued on December 8, 2016. http://www.portman.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/press-releases?ID=3765A225-B773-4F57-B21A-A265F4B5692C

26 From an article entitled “Counter-Propaganda Bill Quietly Creates US Propaganda Factory” written by John Laurits, published on December 10, 2016. http://www.johnlaurits.com/2016/12/10/disinformation-bill-propaganda/

27 “Fascist America, in 10 Easy Steps” by Naomi Wolf, published in the Guardian on April 24, 2007.

From Hitler to Pinochet and beyond, history shows there are certain steps that any would-be dictator must take to destroy constitutional freedoms. And, argues Naomi Wolf, George Bush and his administration seem to be taking them all

http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,,2064157,00.html

28 Conspiracy Theories by Cass Sunstein, Adrian Vermeule, published January 15, 2008. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1084585

29 Quote taken from an interview with the French writer Roger Errera published by The New York Review of Books on October 26, 1978. http://www.nybooks.com/articles/1978/10/26/hannah-arendt-from-an-interview/

Full quote reads:

“The moment we no longer have a free press, anything can happen. What makes it possible for a totalitarian or any other dictatorship to rule is that people are not informed; how can you have an opinion if you are not informed? If everybody always lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but rather that nobody believes anything any longer. This is because lies, by their very nature, have to be changed, and a lying government has constantly to rewrite its own history. On the receiving end you get not only one lie—a lie which you could go on for the rest of your days—but you get a great number of lies, depending on how the political wind blows. And a people that no longer can believe anything cannot make up its mind. It is deprived not only of its capacity to act but also of its capacity to think and to judge. And with such a people you can then do what you please.”

30

“No amount of genius spent on the creation of propaganda will lead to success if a fundamental principle is not forever kept in mind. Propaganda must confine itself to very few points, and repeat them endlessly. Here, as with so many things in this world, persistence is the first and foremost condition of success.”

From Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler (1925), as translated to English by James Murphy (February 1939).

31 From an article entitled “The Biggest Political Lie of 2016” written by Sam Kriss, published in Slate on August, 2016. http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2016/08/the_biggest_political_lie_of_2016.html

32

“I think Donald Trump became president of the United States” last night, CNN host Fareed Zakaria said when asked about the significance of Trump’s airstrikes on Syria (New Day4/7/17). “I think this was actually a big moment.”

From an article entitled “The Essential Pundit Take: ‘Trump Became President’ by Bombing Syria” written by Jin Naureckas, published by Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) on April 7, 2017. http://fair.org/home/the-essential-pundit-take-trump-became-president-by-bombing-syria/

33 From an article entitled “Out of 47 Major Editorials on Trump’s Syria Strikes, Only One Opposed” written by Adam Johnson, published by Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) on April 11, 2017.

http://fair.org/home/out-of-46-major-editorials-on-trumps-syria-strikes-only-one-opposed/

34 From an article entitled “Five Top Papers Run 18 Opinion Pieces Praising Syria Strikes – Zero Are Critical” written by Adam Johnson, published by Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) on April 7, 2017. http://fair.org/home/five-top-papers-run-18-opinion-pieces-praising-syria-strikes-zero-are-critical/

35 The same report continues:

In March 2015, and following the deployment of A-10s to the conflict, the US had confirmed to journalists that the aircraft would not be armed with DU, stating: “U.S. and Coalition aircraft have not been and will not be using depleted uranium munitions in Iraq or Syria during Operation Inherent Resolve.” Justifying the decision, CENTCOM public affairs explained that:  “The ammunition is developed to destroy tanks on a conventional battlefield; Daesh does not possess large numbers of tanks.”

IRIN news finally extracted the confirmation that DU had been used from CENTCOM on October 20, and after weeks of denials. The revelations first came to light after an aide to Congresswoman Martha McSally (Rep, AZ) – herself a former A-10 combat pilot – responded to a question from DU activist, and constituent, Jack Cohen-Joppa. However a number of CENTCOM sources initially denied that the information was accurate. Confirming that the data were indeed accurate, a spokesperson for CENTCOM said earlier denials were due to “an error in reporting down range.”

From a report entitled “United States confirms that it has fired depleted uranium in Syria” published by the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW) on October 21, 2016. http://www.bandepleteduranium.org/en/united-states-confirms-fired-du-syria

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