Category Archives: Propaganda
Deliberately down-played? Belatedly, MSM publishes limited accounts of a government-funded thinktank’s dubious activities
On the 2nd December the Daily Record revealed that Gateshead Mills in Fife, which ‘presents’ as a small ‘design and creativity charity’ operating from an old Victorian mill in Fife, has been revealed in leaked documents passed to the Sunday Mail – the sister paper of the Daily Record – as the base for The Institute for Statecraft, whose Integrity Initiative is run by military intelligence specialists and receives £2million from the Foreign Office.
Spokesman Stephen Dalziel said: “It (the IFS) was set up 14 years ago and the Integrity Initiative programme was started three years ago to look at disinformation and malign influence on democratic societies and it just so happens it’s the Russians who are doing most of that at the moment . . . What we have done is to set up this network across Europe of people who understand what the problem is”.
The Integrity Initiative claims to have built a network of networks of people who operate to counter Russia’s ‘disinformation’. The UK cluster has staff from the Institute for Statecraft, people representing hedge fund interests, think tanks like DEMOS, RUSI, Henry Jackson Society, European Council on Foreign Relations, and Chatham House, as well as from the Ministry of Defence (including EU Joint Headquarters at Northwood), the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and several journalists.
The link to the Daily Record article is no longer accessible but one dated a week later – and far less revealing – may be read here. Another article, first seen in NY Herald Tribune, reproduced with permission from the UK Column, presents a fully illustrated and even more revealing information and – to date – its link works.
Back to the currently inaccessible Daily Record. The leaks detail Government grant applications and the Foreign Office has now confirmed that they provided substantial funding to the Integrity Initiative. In response to a parliamentary question, Europe Minister Alan Duncan said: “In financial year 2017-18, the FCO funded the Institute for Statecraft’s Integrity Initiative £296,500. This financial year, the FCO are funding a further £1,961,000. Both have been funded through grant agreements.” A Foreign & Commonwealth Office spokesperson said: “The Integrity Initiative is a programme already in the public domain. Our funding helps ensure it can continue producing important work to counter disinformation and other malign influence.”
The investigation has found evidence that the programme’s official Twitter account has been used to attack Corbyn, his strategy and communications director Seumas Milne, the Labour Party and its officials.
Further leaked documents appear to indicate that the Integrity Initiative’s “Spanish cluster” swung into action on hearing that Pedro Banos was to be appointed director of the national security department. The papers detail how the Integrity Initiative alerted “key influencers” around Europe who launched an online campaign against the politician.
The manager of the Integrity Initiative ‘appears to be’ Christopher Donnelly.
A website biography states that he is a reserve officer in the British Army Intelligence Corps who previously headed the British Army’s Soviet Studies Research Centre at Sandhurst. Between 1989 and 2003, he was a special adviser to NATO Secretaries General and was involved in dealing with the disintegration of the Soviet Union and reform of newly emerging democracies in Central and Eastern Europe. He left NATO in 2003 to set up and run the UK Defence Academy’s Advanced Research and Assessment Group. In 2010, he became a director of IFS.
UK column adds many other staff names, including that of the active Andy Pryce.
Pryce had been making statements to the press about Russia (well worth reading in the light of this article), where he was described as ‘Head of Counter Disinformation and Media Development’ at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in September 2017. He is said to have taken part in:
- an event called ‘DEMOCRACY AND PROPAGANDA: Can independent media defend universal values?’, said to have been held in the Hilton Hotel in London, though the link advertises a Ukrainian location.. This was organised jointly by the European Endowment for Democracy and the EU Eastern Partnership, which, it turns out, is an FCO programme(link now not working) that “works to counter and reduce the effect of destabilising disinformation”.
- the first round of Ukrainian-British interagency consultationson countering cyber threats held in London in March this year,
- the 2018 EU DisinfoLab, in April and
- in October he took part in the Atlantic Council’s Global Forum on Strategic Communications and Digital Disinformationevent, held in Washington DC. Of note here is that this was a two-day event. Andy Pryce’s contribution came on day two, which has not been made available on video.
UK column journalist Mike Robinson made a FOI request for more information but this was refused on the basis of ‘national security’ – though he noted that the Freedom of Information act says that national security can only be used as grounds for refusal where intelligence services are involved. The FCO’s response is now under investigation by the Information Commissioner.
Some will want to read more about the Integrity Initiative, which appears to be acting in the way that western governments and media claim Russia is doing.
The UK Column adds other staff names, including:
- Ben Bradshaw MP, who has been promoting an anti-Russian outlook, including claiming that Russia “interfered” with the Brexit referendum,
- Sir Andrew Wood, former British ambassador to Russia, and one of the founders of Orbis Business Intelligence, the privatised British intelligence operation which features Christopher Steele, the author of the Trump ‘dodgy dossier’ and
- Oliver McTernan, a former Senior Adviser at the Club of Madrid and a Visiting Fellow, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University. In 2002, he initiated and participated in the first official high-level post conflict talks between NATO and the government in Belgrade. For 25 years he was Executive Committee Member, Pax Christi International, responsible for the movement’s East-West Dialogue programme during the Soviet period. He is the founder and a director of the St Sergius Trust Fund based in London and Moscow, and was earlier a Roman Catholic priest based in the diocese of Westminster.
David Miller, noted professor of Political Sociology in the School for Policy Studies at the University of Bristol, says that serious questions need to be answered:
“It seems extraordinary that the Foreign Office would be funding a Scottish charity to counter Russian propaganda which, for example, ends up soft-pedalling far-right politicians in the Ukraine because they happen to oppose Putin. It must raise questions with OSCR, the Scottish charity regulator, about breaching charitable rules. It would appear this organisation could have received almost £2million from the FCO, so people have a right to know what’s happening with their money.”
Labour MSP Neil Findlay added: “It would appear that we have a charity registered in Scotland and overseen by the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator that is funded by the UK Government and is spewing out political attacks on UK politicians, the Labour Party and the Labour movement. Such clear political attacks and propaganda shouldn’t be coming from any charity. We need to know why the Foreign Office have been funding it.”
Brexit, Boris and Trump head the Populus poll which asked which news story, political or otherwise, the public have paid most attention to during the course of that week.
Will Clothier, a senior research executive at Populus, reports in The Times that no more than 5% mentioned the antisemitism story at any point in the past month. In fact, it has never been mentioned by more than 5% since hitting the headlines months ago. He comments (ruefully?):
“ . . . right now this simply is not a big story for most people”
Brexit was outdone though in the second week of the month by one of its architects: the former foreign secretary. His comments about the burka made him the most memorable story of the week for 27% of people.
In August, with Trump’s former campaign manager and his personal lawyer both implicated in financial crimes, the president became the British public’s top story of the week for the second time this year on 20%.
The public may well have seen through the barrage of baseless allegation and innuendo in reports permeating mainstream media. Is their ‘hidden agenda’ now so obvious to the 95% – and even counterproductive?
Based in London, UK Policy Group is a research consultancy with affiliates in Washington, D.C., and Silicon Valley, which ‘brings clients the tactics and techniques of professional political campaigns’. https://ukpolicy.co.uk/about/ . It was founded last year by Matt Rhoades, Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign manager, and Joe Pounder, a former research director for the Republican National Committee. The pair also run a Washington-based public affairs company. UKPG’s staff includes former senior Tory advisers among its leadership team, including ex-director of policy and research Andrew Goodfellow and former staff from the Conservatives’ research department and media monitoring unit.
“Now the internet kids are coming of age, vetting must be taken more seriously,” Mr Goodfellow said in a post on the UKPG website.
As part of its broader corporate offering to British clients, UKPG offers vetting and due diligence services to high net-worth individuals who are considering becoming political candidates or donors. It can dig into a client’s past to show what a journalist or the cabinet office might uncover if they were to enter the political sphere or were nominated for a gong. UKPG also aims to explain to clients how some idiosyncrasies, such as unusual tax arrangements, might be interpreted in the press.
A classic Murdoch-Times headline: ‘How Tories could unleash US attack dogs to dig up dirt on Labour’
Lucy Fisher reports that this “opposition research” firm with links to Republican party figures and a controversial American campaign group has been hired by the Conservatives.
Their mission: “building up files on left-wing politicians that could potentially be deployed in attack campaigns ahead of elections”.
Ms Fisher continues “While both the Conservatives and Labour Party have in-house research units and media monitoring capabilities, the move to outsource these tasks signals an escalation in aggressive negative campaigning”.
Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ) already has sizeable files on Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and Diane Abbott so UKPG is “understood to be concentrating on creating opposition research books on figures such as Sir Keir Starmer, and other potential leadership candidates, who have received less scrutiny”.
Tamasin Cave of Spinwatch has branded opposition research tactics “anti-democratic”, arguing that “the free flow of opinions and debate; a robust political opposition; and a healthy media” can be undermined by it.
David Duckworth approved this move but added, “But there is risk if Labour do the same”
Hello Campers: On the other hand looking at the chart spending ££££££ to secure a ‘win’ regardless of ethics/morality/whatever looks as if it works (although not a lot).
Leicht Betrunkener Max: I guess good policies are too hard to come by these days
Mr. Robert Colledge: The same way all Murdoch papers do. Papers subbed by rich non-domiciled billionaire, have an interest in a grateful Tory party. All that money has to buy some influence…Remember It was the Sun that won it! The trouble is that the majority of the press are owned by rich non-domiciled magnates, they have no scruples about being impartial and even handed. Corbyn gets this more than anyone. It undermines democracy as we need more pluralism.
Bertierussell: If they did hire US companies and it became public it might not prove to be such a good idea. It’s just possible that the Tories have more dirt that can be dug up and when that sort of thing gets going it’s hard to stop it. Most organisations struggle to keep things secret; it’s almost as if saying “this is something we don’t want in the public domain” spurs on leakers and whistle blowers.
Tony Sutton: Won’t the Tories ever learn that negative campaigning costs them votes. Cameron and Co lost the referendum thanks to Project Fear and May lost her majority because she offered nothing more than “Corbyn is a commie and I’m strong and stable” The electorate are sick of negativity, back biting, point scoring & smears and are just waiting for a moderate party with well thought out, properly costed policies that will drag politics from the gutter.
As Simon Jenkins wrote last year: “the rats have gone to work . . .”
Mainstream media and careerist politicians are continuing to use those whom Jenkins described as “the Blairite retreads in his own party” to discredit the Labour leader whom many view as the country best, indeed – at the moment – only hope.
Today the Murdoch Times has its usual set of articles smearing Corbyn, who would not promote vested interests if elected. A peacemaker with concern for the least fortunate is so bad for business.
But has it gone further? Are the individual party members who make misogynistic, racial or anti-semitic remarks, infiltrators?
The use of arms-length agents is on record and further information about their activities continues to emerge. As many, including Dominic Casciani, the BBC’s Home affairs correspondent have reported, during the 40-year history of the Special Demonstration Squad – the unit at the heart of many of the allegations – police officers used 106 “covert identities”. Environmental and anti-war protestors were filmed, their mail and phone calls intercepted and undercover police officers (left) deployed to infiltrate protest movements.
Casciani confirmed that official reports had revealed the existence of some of these undercover officers – such as the one who was in a campaign group close to the family of Stephen Lawrence – who helped a senior officer to prepare Scotland Yard for the public inquiry into the London teenager’s murder.
He reported on the legal position adopted by the police and other security agencies in cases involving protection of undercover officers or sensitive sources: “Neither Confirm Nor Deny”.
In the Financial Times, Robert Wright reports Jeremy Corbyn’s offer to meet representatives of the Jewish community to rebuild confidence in Labour, saying. “We recognise that anti-semitism has happened within pockets within the Labour party … I am sincerely sorry for the hurt and pain which has been caused.”
And on Twitter, he speaks for himself: “I have written to the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council. I will never be anything other than a militant opponent of antisemitism. In this fight, I am an ally and always will be. Labour is an anti-racist party and I utterly condemn antisemitism, which is why as leader of the Labour Party I want to be clear that I will not tolerate any form of antisemitism that exists in and around our movement”.
Will this man’s integrity shine through the miasma of accusation and – as has happened to date – will he emerge all the stronger? Many fervently hope so.
Henry Mance wonders if the British tabloids (Ed: and Guido Fawkes) are trying to put Corbyn in power – this would happen, not because he is wiser but because his opponents are more stupid – adding “Perhaps they are the real secret agents”.
Last week, the Sun reported that Mr Corbyn met a Czech spy at least three times, starting in 1986. The meetings were noted in a document found in the Czech archives but the Czech archives contradicted the claim that Mr Corbyn had been paid.
Mance continues, “This did not stop the Sun, the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph from attacking Mr Corbyn and demanding that he allow the release of his Stasi file. Theresa May — the actual prime minister — said he should be “open and transparent”. This noble campaign only petered out when the Stasi archives in Berlin said they could find no evidence of any such file having existed”.
The Skwawkbox site adds that the Times and Fawkes have also published an article by a former Times Prague correspondent that attempts to damn Corbyn by association with the state violence that marred Czechoslovakia’s ‘Velvet Revolution’ transition to democracy. However, inconveniently for the Times and Fawkes, Jeremy Corbyn was one of only four British MPs at the time who felt strongly enough about that violence to sign an Early Day Motion (EDM 210, see snapshot on site) supporting the protesters against the ‘Stalinist bureaucracy’:
Henry Mance believes that Britain’s right-wing newspapers are actually defeating themselves: “Their strategy is now destroying the papers’ credibility. That is why Mr Corbyn did not implode at last year’s election”.
His conclusion: “In this episode, the joke is on the British newspaper industry”.
Setting aside the ‘left-wing’ partisan views, two BBC insiders – former senior BBC figures – have disputed the frequently brandished depiction of BBC ‘impartiality’.
Media Lens quoted Greg Dyke, a former BBC director general, who believes, ‘The BBC is part of a “conspiracy” preventing the “radical changes” needed to UK democracy.’ He says that a parliamentary commission should look into the ‘whole political system’, adding that ‘I fear it will never happen because I fear the political class will stop it.’ And recalled the words of Sir Michael Lyons, former chairman of the BBC Trust, who said there had been ‘some quite extraordinary attacks’ on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn by the BBC.
Reading ML’s (Killing Corbyn) dissection of the role played by BBC News – in particular, its political editor Laura Kuenssberg ‘fed’ by two public relations companies – recalls the classic display given as she attempted to ‘down’ Jeremy Corbyn. A would-be demolition expert, Laura completely abandoned her regular target after a good performance in the last general election and avidly described the losses and distress of Theresa May
In December it was reported that Labour MP Chris Williamson was invited to appear on the BBC’s Daily Politics programme to discuss the mainstream media ‘blackout’ of the news about Jeremy Corbyn’s award from the International Peace Bureau.
That ‘blackout’ would almost certainly still be in place if the award had not ‘gone viral’ on social media and it was pointed out that the MSM had given extensive coverage to Theresa May putting a star on a Christmas tree and to William and Kate receiving a Blue Peter badge.
Of late Momentum has been firmly in its sights – an easier target than Corbyn
Failing to toe the policy line, Norman Smith, the BBC’s Assistant Political Editor ‘tells it like it is’ – and describes meeting a group of Momentum supporters in Brixton and finding no-one fitting the hard-left stereotype:
“What Steve, Samira, Nadine and Roland (and we add hundreds of thousands) have in common is an enthusiasm fired by Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign. They are Corbyn’s foot soldiers. Steve – a self-confessed “middle aged, BBC Radio 4 addict”- says he joined the Labour Party ‘about 20 seconds’ after Mr Corbyn’s victory. Samira also joined after Mr Corbyn won. “For the first time”, she says, “I felt there was somebody I could stand behind and that I could trust”.
The latest issue: the BBC’s role in portraying opposition to gentrification profiting developers, evicting local residents, as a left-wing power grab
There is widespread opposition to the destruction of estates where thousands of families lived, small businesses trading for generations, in this case by a private fund, the Haringey Development Vehicle, owned jointly with the developer Lendlease. Read more here.
Last night the SKWAWKBOX published exclusive evidence showing a BBC journalist leaking sensitive information to an anti-Corbyn activist in the London borough of Haringey
It included the journalist’s personal opinions about the case and about statements made by the complainant against the councillor. It commented, “The leaking of the email and the information it contained raised serious questions about the ethics and appropriateness of sending it – and about the BBC’s impartiality in the way information and claims were presented”.
The identity of the journalist and councillor in question, along with details of the information and the untrue claim, will be released shortly in a separate Skwawkbox article.
The whole unspun truth is given briefly in the FT: “a ban on charges for paying via credit or debit card comes into force across the EU from Saturday, making it unlawful for retailers to charge customers additional fees for paying on plastic”.
Though the whole truth is too tall an order in matters of diplomacy, the government wold have been well advised to emulate the FT’s delivery.
No longer confined to the mainstream media, adventures with the truth are mercilessly mocked on social media and more radical media:
See Steve Walker’s shot of the official Conservative Twitter site:
The Independent’s gentler account quotes British MEPs who criticised the Government for claiming responsibility for the move, “which comes as part of a broad range of new payment regulations based on an EU–wide directive that was spearheaded by left-wing politicians in the European Parliament”.
We expect a jaded public response to this ‘business as usual’ spin. No longer has financial or political dishonesty the power to surprise.
May the British public one day routinely hear the truth – or would that be electoral suicide?
The BBC World Service radio this morning, Radio 4’s Broadcasting House – and other mainstream media – offered distorted reporting:
- first headlining the “iron fist” threat and repeating this several times, before acknowledging its conditionality ‘if political unrest continues’
- and failing to focus on the far larger rallies supporting the Iranian government
They stressed that the demonstrations erupted over falling living standards, but Iranian interior minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli said that those people in the larger demos realised this was due to imposed sanctions – but the BBC website chose only to report his words about the consequences of damage to public property, disrupting order and breaking the law.
The USA’s use of soft power to foment unrest has been effective with many worldwide
The use of soft power was touched on in a linked site in 2015. We quote: “Hard power is exerted by financial inducements, invasion and remote killing by drone aircraft. Soft power sounds quite benign, but as Joseph Nye points out in The Future of Power (2011, left), it can be wielded for good or ill: Hitler, Stalin, and Mao all possessed a great deal of soft power. He adds: “It is not necessarily better to twist minds than to twist arms”.
An illusion of a free society (‘liberating minds’) is presented and a consumerist culture cultivated. One actor in this drive is the Human Rights Foundation, whose approving Wikipedia entry emphasises its insistence on ‘economic freedom’. In Central and South America and the Middle East it has paved the way for the overthrow of regimes which would not co-operate.
Has it escalated in Iran after its threat to further ‘eliminate’ use of the dollar?
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said to Putin in November: “we can nullify US sanctions, using methods such as eliminating the dollar and replacing it with national currencies”. Forbes earlier reported that this policy would be implemented. Several countries have not fared well after ‘ditching the dollar’:
- In 2002 North Korea’s state-run Korean Trade Bank announced a ban on the use of US dollars in daily payment and settlement for its citizens and foreigners.
- In 2003 Coilin Nunan wondered: “Could one reason for the US wish for ‘regime change’ in Iraq and unprecedented European opposition to such a project be Iraq’s decision two years earlier to accept euros only as payment for its oil, instead of the customary dollars? Could America’s current focus on Iran be similarly explained?”
- In 2004 Fidel Castro decreed that the dollar would no longer be legal for commercial transactions.
It should be stressed that the soft power illusions of total normality, freedom and prosperity are a confidence trick. The unmentioned features of the USA, a country which young Iranians and others have been led by soft power to admire as ‘an ideal state of freedom’, include pollution, child abuse, violent pornography, inequality of opportunity, youth unemployment, high cost housing and military aggression.
The right-wing press, neoliberal politicians and corporates in Britain such as Foreign Minister Sir Alan Duncan, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable, Tory MP Mark Pritchard and Labour MP Frank Field, are firmly attached to the US-led global order which attempts to impose its will by propaganda and force – generally in oil rich countries like Venezuela. As MP Chris Williamson pointed out in his recent Newsnight interview, the US has a track record of interference at all levels, including military overthrow of inconvenient governments, in Latin America.
They have led repeated attacks on an absent Jeremy Corbyn for failing to cheer the US-led destabilisation of Venezuela. Labour List, which is clearly backing the Blairite wing, referred to ‘Nicolas Maduro’s violent suppression after a dirty election’. The Sun’s dig:
On his return, Mr Corbyn said: “I’m very sad at the lives that have been lost in Venezuela. The people who have died, either those on the streets or security forces that have been attacked by people on the street — all of those lives are terrible for the loss of them.” Repeatedly pressed to condemn Mr Maduro’s actions, he said: “What I condemn is the violence that’s been done by any side, by all sides, in all this. Violence is not going to solve the issue”, adding:
“We also have to recognise that there have been effective and serious attempts at reducing poverty in Venezuela, improving literacy and improving the lives of many of the poorest people.”
Using record-high oil revenues of the 2000s, the government nationalized key industries, created participatory democratic Communal Councils, and implemented social programs to expand access to food, housing, healthcare, and education. Venezuela used its oil revenue to make improvements in poverty, literacy, income equality, and quality of life.
James Tweedie effectively put the record straight in an interview on Radio 4’s Today Programme on 7th August, with the usually combative presenter failing to challenge even one of the facts he presented. In that and a recent article he made many points. Some of these follow:
- The opposition is led by representatives of wealthy families that have never been reconciled to losing power to a government committed to raising the majority from abject poverty.
- Tactics include factory-owners stopping production of products to create shortages in the shops. Food distribution giant Polar is accused by Mr Maduro’s government of orchestrating the food shortages that led to the current crisis, by hoarding stocks in its warehouses. Actions include blocking main roads, shutting down public transport networks and forcing shops to stay closed — exacerbating the shortages of food, medicines and other goods the opposition blame on the government. On Thursday night rioters burned some 40 tons of food out of 100 at a government distribution centre in eastern Anzoategui state destined for distribution to hungry families.
- Opposition supporters building barricades, blocking streets and attacking police during the constituent assembly election are routinely described in our mainstream media as “peaceful protesters”, though, as Sky News footage revealed, masked men were dressed in helmets, carrying full body shields carrying firearms and a roadside bomb blasting police motorcyclists.
The use of fire is a prime opposition weapon
- The opposition tactics are to engage in violent protests that force responses by the government and make the Maduro government look like an authoritarian regime.
- Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are taking a simplistic view of the intensifying crisis in Venezuela, ignoring appalling acts of opposition violence such as those detailed in this site which brings Spanish-language news in English.
- The country overwhelmingly believes the opposition lacks a plan for dealing with high inflation and the lack of state revenue for social services. They also oppose the violent tactics of the opposition (see poll results).
- The opposition agreed to take part in Vatican-mediated negotiations with the government but walked away from talks, adopting a new strategy of violent street confrontations to destabilise society.
- After all the executives of Smartmatic, an electronic voting company, left the country its CEO claimed at a press conference that the 8.1 million turnout figure in Sunday’s National Constituent Assembly election had been “tampered with” and inflated by about a million votes. No such report had been made to the Venezuelan authorities. (Smartmatic is owned by former MP Baron Mark Malloch-Brown, who has close links to George Soros – a major funder of New York-based Human Rights Watch and longstanding critic of Venezuela’s socialist government).
True socialism has been advancing in Britain over the past two years with Labour’s gains in the June election on an anti-austerity manifesto and the increasing public respect for Corbyn as leader. We can see, on the horizon, rejection of the current form of Western intervention which has gained adherents for extremist groups, destabilising many of the world’s regions, followed by collaboration with others to undertake the monumental task of rebuilding and reconciliation.