British universities have been advised to “manage” Palestinian activism on campus in order to comply with the UK government’s ‘Prevent’ counter-extremism strategy.
“Vocal support for Palestine,” “Opposition to Israeli settlements in Gaza,” and “Criticism of wars in the Middle East” are included in a list of “contentious topics” on the Safe Campus Communities website.
The website includes a training section set up by Universities UK and the government’s now defunct Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) to help staff fulfill their Prevent obligations.
Since 2015, Prevent has required public sector workers to “have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism.”
The website says the material is intended to promote free speech by encouraging universities to ensure “topics that may be seen as controversial” may be “debated in a safe environment.”
It advises institutions to take steps to manage events in which “extremist views are likely to be expressed” and ensure such views are challenged by “inviting additional speakers with opposing views.”
“Relevant higher education bodies also need to risk assess and manage events where these or similar views may be expressed,” it says.
Critics fear the guidance could stifle free speech and political expression, according to Middle East Eye.
On Tuesday, the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) canceled an ‘Israel Apartheid Week’ event organized for next week by Friends of Palestine because of concerns it would not be “balanced,” Middle East Eye reports.
UCLan said it was concerned that the event, called ‘Debunking misconceptions on Palestine and the importance of BDS [the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement]’, would fall foul of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism adopted by the UK government.
The IHRA defines anti-Semitism as “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred towards Jews,” including “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g. by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.”
UCLan said: “We believe the proposed talk contravenes the new definition and furthermore breaches university protocols for such events, where we require assurances of a balanced view or a panel of speakers representing all interests.
“In this instance our procedures determined that the proposed event would not be lawful and therefore it will not proceed as planned.”
Ben Jamal, director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said it was absurd to single out support for a Palestinian state or opposition to Israeli settlements as controversial or extremist.
“Given that all major political parties in the UK and the overwhelming majority of governments across the world support a Palestinian state and oppose settlements on the basis that they violate international law and are an obstacle to peace it is absurd to define these as extremist views.
“There is an urgent need for the relevant bodies to review these materials and ensure that any training offered to educational establishments truly reflects the stated intention to uphold academic freedom and freedom of expression,” he said.
Nothing in Trump’s campaign resonated with the American heartland quite like “America First”. But Trump wasn’t the first. Remember Charles Lindbergh? He put “America First” and paid the price.
Deir Yassin Remembered (DYR) also wasn’t first but neither were we last. The first DYR “America First” billboard went up in Detroit in November 2015. It didn’t last long but such is Jewish power.
It re-appeared on February 6 this year near Ann Arbor, Michigan but, just one week later, DYR received a call from Adams Outdoor Advertising General Manager Mike Cannon saying that the board had to come down. Such is Jewish power.
These tactics, known as ‘Dynamic Silencing”, are well-worn and well-described by Benjamin Ginsberg in his book The Fatal Embrace: Jews and the State, p. 124:
Working together, officials of the American Jewish Committee, the American Jewish Congress, and the ADL would approach the publishers of major newspapers and owners of radio stations in cities where Smith [substitute any “anti-Semite”] had scheduled appearances to ask that Smith be given no coverage whosoever. If newspapers and radio stations failed to cooperate on a voluntary basis, Jewish organizations were usually able to secure their compliance by threatening boycotts by Jewish advertisers.
So where now? Try another site? Turn it into a lapel pin? Put it on a truck and drive it cross-country?
Please send any ideas to us here.
Paul Larudee is one of the founders of the Free Gaza and Free Palestine Movements and an organizer in the International Solidarity Movement.
Western media are putting direct financial pressure on the RT broadcaster by calling up its advertisers and urging them not to sponsor “the Kremlin propaganda,” RT Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan said.
“There is a wonderful UK outlet that has called up all our advertisers in the United Kingdom and simply put them to shame, rebuked them, saying shame on you, you are sponsoring the Kremlin propaganda by advertising through a such-and-such broadcaster. Some of the advertisers left, naturally, having been scared away, because nobody wants bad publicity… This is direct financial pressure,” Simonyan said in an interview that will be aired on Russian NTV channel on Monday night, without specifying which UK media she was referring to.
She added that the The Wall Street Journal newspaper contacted US cable operators providing access to RT “trying to convey the same message: shame on you, you are spreading the Kremlin propaganda, you should immediately terminate the contacts.”
“Understandably, someone will get scared and will not renew a contract with us as soon as it becomes possible, because they are in it for business. They do not want to be enmeshed in a scandal, to be written about, in general, and to get bad press, in particular,” Simonyan said.
The RT editor-in-chief added that these tactics had not crippled RT’s revenue and had instead exposed new viewers to the broadcaster, people who “would not have come [to RT] otherwise, not its target audience.”
“[The media] do not understand that the more they try to undermine us, the more they advertise us, the more people who see that think, hey, why is everyone piling up on [RT], let’s see what is really going on,” Simonyan said.
She stressed that new viewers came as the result of Western media’s “primitive” and “undemocratic” fight against the RT.
Russian media have often been taken to task lately. In November, the European Parliament passed a resolution where it described the RT as a threat to Europe’s unity and drew a parallel between the broadcaster and propaganda disseminated by Daesh, a terrorist group outlawed in many countries, including Russia.
In a comment on the EP motion, Russian President Vladimir Putin praised the channel for doing a good job and said the resolution showed that the Western concept of democracy was apparently degrading.
As if the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign hadn’t been horrendous enough, here comes another one: in France.
The system in France is very different, with multiple candidates in two rounds, most of them highly articulate, who often even discuss real issues. Free television time reduces the influence of big money. The first round on April 23 will select the two finalists for the May 7 runoff, allowing for much greater choice than in the United States.
But monkey see, monkey do, and the mainstream political class wants to mimic the ways of the Empire, even echoing the theme that dominated the 2016 show across the Atlantic: the evil Russians are messing with our wonderful democracy.
The aping of the U.S. system began with “primaries” held by the two main governing parties which obviously aspire to establish themselves as the equivalent of American Democrats and Republicans in a two-party system. The right-wing party of former president Nicolas Sarkozy has already renamed itself Les Républicains and the so-called Socialist Party leaders are just waiting for the proper occasion to call themselves Les Démocrates. But as things are going, neither one of them may come out ahead this time.
Given the nearly universal disaffection with the outgoing Socialist Party government of President François Hollande, the Republicans were long seen as the natural favorites to defeat Marine LePen, who is shown by all polls to top the first round. With such promising prospects, the Republican primary brought out more than twice as many volunteer voters (they must pay a small sum and claim allegiance to the party’s “values” in order to vote) as the Socialists. Sarkozy was eliminated, but more surprising, so was the favorite, the reliable establishment team player, Bordeaux mayor Alain Juppé, who had been leading in the polls and in media editorials.
Fillon’s Family Values
In a surprise show of widespread public disenchantment with the political scene, Republican voters gave landside victory to former prime minister François Fillon, a practicing Catholic with an ultra-neoliberal domestic policy: lower taxes for corporations, drastic cuts in social welfare, even health health insurance benefits – accelerating what previous governments have been doing but more openly. Less conventionally, Fillon strongly condemns the current anti Russian policy. Fillon also deviates from the Socialist government’s single-minded commitment to overthrowing Assad by showing sympathy for embattled Christians in Syria and their protector, which happens to be the Assad government.
Fillon has the respectable look, as the French say, of a person who could take communion without first going to confession. As a campaign theme he credibly stressed his virtuous capacity to oppose corruption.
Oops! On January 25, the semi-satirical weekly Le Canard Enchainé fired the opening shots of an ongoing media campaign designed to undo the image of Mister Clean, revealing that his British wife, Penelope, had been paid a generous salary for working as his assistant. As Penelope was known for staying home and raising their children in the countryside, the existence of that work is in serious doubt. Fillon also paid his son a lawyer’s fee for unspecified tasks and his daughter for supposedly assisting him write a book. In a sense, these allegations prove the strength of the conservative candidate’s family values. But his ratings have fallen and he faces possible criminal charges for fraud.
The scandal is real, but the timing is suspect. The facts are many years old, and the moment of their revelation is well calculated to ensure his defeat. Moreover, the very day after the Canard’s revelations, prosecutors hastily opened an inquiry. In comparison with all the undisclosed dirty work and unsolved blood crimes committed by those in control of the French State over the years, especially during its foreign wars, enriching one’s own family may seem relatively minor. But that is not the way the public sees it.
It is widely assumed that despite National Front candidate Marine LePen’s constant lead in the polls, whoever comes in second will win the runoff because the established political class and the media will rally around the cry to “save the Republic!” Fear of the National Front as “a threat to the Republic” has become a sort of protection racket for the established parties, since it stigmatizes as unacceptable a large swath of opposition to themselves. In the past, both main parties have sneakily connived to strengthen the National Front in order to take votes away from their adversary.
Thus, bringing down Fillon increases the chances that the candidate of the now thoroughly discredited Socialist Party may find himself in the magic second position after all, as the knight to slay the LePen dragon. But who exactly is the Socialist candidate? That is not so clear. There is the official Socialist Party candidate, Benoît Hamon. But the independent spin-off from the Hollande administration, Emmanuel Macron, “neither right nor left”, is gathering support from the right of the Socialist Party as well as from most of the neo-liberal globalist elite.
Macron is scheduled to be the winner. But first, a glance at his opposition on the left. With his ratings in the single digits, François Hollande very reluctantly gave in to entreaties from his colleagues to avoid the humiliation of running for a second term and losing badly. The badly attended Socialist Party primary was expected to select the fiercely pro-Israel prime minister Manuel Valls. Or if not, on his left, Arnaud Montebourg, a sort of Warren Beatty of French politics, famous for his romantic liaisons and his advocacy of re-industrialization of France.
Again, surprise. The winner was a colorless, little-known party hack named Benoît Hamon, who rode the wave of popular discontent to appear as a leftist critic and alternative to a Socialist government which sold out all Holland’s promises to combat “finance” and assaulted the rights of the working class instead. Hamon spiced up his claim to be “on the left” by coming up with a gimmick that is fashionable elsewhere in Europe but a novelty in French political discourse: the “universal basic income”. The idea of giving every citizen an equal handout can sound appealing to young people having trouble finding a job. But this idea, which originated with Milton Friedman and other apostles of unleashed financial capitalism, is actually a trap. The project assumes that unemployment is permanent, in contrast to projects to create jobs or share work. It would be financed by replacing a whole range of existing social allocations, in the name of “getting rid of bureaucracy” and “freedom of consumption”. The project would complete the disempowerment of the working class as a political force, destroying the shared social capital represented by public services, and splitting the dependent classes between paid workers and idle consumers.
There is scant chance that the universal income is about to become a serious item on the French political agenda. For the moment, Hamon’s claim to radicality serves to lure voters away from the independent left-wing candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Both are vying for support from greens and militants of the French Communist Party, which has lost all capacity to define its own positions.
The Divided Left
An impressive orator, Mélenchon gained prominence in 2005 as a leading opponent of the proposed European Constitution, which was decisively rejected by the French in a referendum, but was nevertheless adopted under a new name by the French national assembly. Like so many leftists in France, Mélenchon has a Trotskyist background (the Posadists, more attuned to Third World revolutions than their rivals) before joining the Socialist Party, which he left in 2008 to found the Parti de Gauche. He has sporadically wooed the rudderless Communist Party to join him as the Front de Gauche (the Left Front) and has declared himself its candidate for President on a new independent ticket called La France insoumise – roughly translated as “Insubordinate France”. Mélenchon is combative with France’s docile media, as he defends such unorthodox positions as praise of Chavez and rejection of France’s current Russophobic foreign policy. Unlike the conventional Hamon, who follows the Socialist party line, Mélenchon wants France to leave both the euro and NATO.
There are only two really strong personalities in this lineup: Mélenchon on the left and his adversary of choice, Marine LePen, on the right. In the past, their rivalry in local elections has kept both from winning even though she came out ahead. Their positions on foreign policy are hard to distinguish from each other: criticism of the European Union, desire to leave NATO, good relations with Russia.
Since both deviate from the establishment line, both are denounced as “populists” – a term that is coming to mean anyone who pays more attention to what ordinary people want than to what the Establishment dictates.
On domestic social policy, on preservation of social services and workers’ rights, Marine is well to the left of Fillon. But the stigma attached to the National Front as the “far right” remains, even though, with her close advisor Florian Philippot, she has ditched her father, Jean-Marie, and adjusted the party line to appeal to working class voters. The main relic of the old National Front is her hostility to immigration, which now centers on fear of Islamic terrorists. The terrorist killings in Paris and Nice have made these positions more popular than they used to be. In her effort to overcome her father’s reputation as anti-Semitic, Marine LePen has done her best to woo the Jewish community, helped by her rejection of “ostentatious” Islam, going so far as to call for a ban on wearing an ordinary Muslim headscarf in public.
A runoff between Mélenchon and LePen would be an encounter between a revived left and a revived right, a real change from the political orthodoxy that has alienated much of the electorate. That could make politics exciting again. At a time when popular discontent with “the system” is rising, it has been suggested (by Elizabeth Lévy’s maverick monthly Le Causeur) that the anti-system Mélenchon might actually have the best chance of winning working class votes away from the anti-system LePen.
But the pro-European Union, pro-NATO, neoliberal Establishment is at work to keep that from happening. On every possible magazine cover or talk show, the media have shown their allegiance to a “New! Improved!” middle of the road candidate who is being sold to the public like a consumer product. At his rallies, carefully coached young volunteers situated in view of the cameras greet his every vague generalization with wild cheers, waving flags, and chanting “Macron President!!!” before going off to the discotèque party offered as their reward. Macron is the closest thing to a robot ever presented as a serious candidate for President. That is, he is an artificial creation designed by experts for a particular task.
Emmanuel Macron, 39, was a successful investment banker who earned millions working for the Rothschild bank. Ten years ago, in 2007, age 29, the clever young economist was invited into the big time by Jacques Attali, an immensely influential guru, whose advice since the 1980s has been central in wedding the Socialist Party to pro-capitalist, neoliberal globalism. Attali incorporated him into his private think tank, the Commission for Stimulating Economic Growth, which helped draft the “300 Proposals to Change France” presented to President Sarkozy a year later as a blueprint for government. Sarkozy failed to enact them all, for fear of labor revolts, but the supposedly “left” Socialists are able to get away with more drastic anti-labor measures, thanks to their softer discourse.
The soft discourse was illustrated by presidential candidate François Hollande in 2012 when he aroused enthusiasm by declaring to a rally: “My real enemy is the world of finance!”. The left cheered and voted for him. Meanwhile, as a precaution, Hollande secretly dispatched Macron to London to reassure the City’s financial elite that it was all just electoral talk.
After his election, Hollande brought Macron onto his staff. From there he was given a newly created super-modern sounding government post as minister of Economy, Industry and Digital affairs in 2014. With all the bland charm of a department store mannequin, Macron upstaged his irascible colleague, prime minister Manuel Valls, in the silent rivalry to succeed their boss, President Hollande. Macron won the affection of big business by making his anti-labor reforms look young and clean and “progressive”. In fact, he pretty much followed the Attali agenda.
The theme is “competitiveness”. In a globalized world, a country must attract investment capital in order to compete, and for that it is necessary to lower labor costs. A classic way to do that is to encourage immigration. With the rise of identity politics, the left is better than the right in justifying massive immigration on moral grounds, as a humanitarian measure. That is one reason that the Democratic Party in the United States and the Socialist Party in France have become the political partners of neoliberal globalism. Together, they have changed the outlook of the official left from structural measures promoting economic equality to moral measures promoting equality of minorities with the majority.
Just last year, Macron founded (or had founded for him) his political movement entitled “En marche!” (Let’s go!) characterized by meetings with young groupies wearing Macron t-shirts. In three months he felt the call to lead the nation and announced his candidacy for President.
Many personalities are jumping the marooned Socialist ship and going over to Macron, whose strong political resemblance to Hillary Clinton suggests that his is the way to create a French Democratic Party on the U.S. model. Hillary may have lost but she remains the NATOland favorite. And indeed, U.S. media coverage confirms this notion. A glance at the ecstatic puff piece by Robert Zaretsky in Foreign Policy magazine hailing “the English-speaking, German-loving, French politician Europe has been waiting for” leaves no doubt that Macron is the darling of the trans-Atlantic globalizing elite.
At this moment, Macron is second only to Marine LePen in the polls, which also show him defeating her by a landslide in the final round. However, his carefully manufactured appeal is vulnerable to greater public information about his close ties to the economic elite.
Blame the Russians
For that eventuality, there is a preventive strike, imported directly from the United States. It’s the fault of the Russians!
What have the Russians done that is so terrible? Mainly, they have made it clear that they have a preference for friends rather than enemies as heads of foreign governments. Nothing so extraordinary about that. Russian news media criticize, or interview people who criticize, candidates hostile to Moscow. Nothing extraordinary about that either.
As an example of this shocking interference, which allegedly threatens to undermine the French Republic and Western values, the Russian news agency Sputnik interviewed a Republican member of the French parliament, Nicolas Dhuicq, who dared say that Macron might be “an agent of the American financial system”. That is pretty obvious. But the resulting outcry skipped over that detail to accuse Russian state media of “starting to circulate rumors that Macron had a gay extramarital affair” (The EU Observer, February 13, 2017). In fact this alleged “sexual slur” had been circulating primarily in gay circles in Paris, for whom the scandal, if any, is not Macron’s alleged sexual orientation but the fact that he denies it. The former mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe, was openly gay, Marine Le Pen’s second in command Florian Philippot is gay, in France being gay is no big deal.
Macron is supported by a “very wealthy gay lobby”, Dhuicq is quoted as saying. Everyone knows who that is: Pierre Bergé, the rich and influential business manager of Yves Saint Laurent, personification of radical chic, who strongly supports surrogate gestation, which is indeed a controversial issue in France, the real controversy underlying the failed opposition to gay marriage.
The Deep State rises to the surface
The amazing adoption in France of the American anti-Russian campaign is indicative of a titanic struggle for control of the narrative – the version of international reality consumed by the masses of people who have no means to undertake their own investigations. Control of the narrative is the critical core of what Washington describes as its “soft power”. The hard power can wage wars and overthrow governments. The soft power explains to bystanders why that was the right thing to do. The United States can get away with literally everything so long as it can tell the story to its own advantage, without the risk of being credibly contradicted. Concerning sensitive points in the world, whether Iraq, or Libya, or Ukraine, control of the narrative is basically exercised by the partnership between intelligence agencies and the media. Intelligence services write the story, and the mass corporate media tell it.
Together, the anonymous sources of the “deep state” and the mass corporate media have become accustomed to controlling the narrative told to the public. They don’t want to give that power up. And they certainly don’t want to see it challenged by outsiders – notably by Russian media that tell a different story.
That is one reason for the extraordinary campaign going on to denounce Russian and other alternative media as sources of “false news”, in order to discredit rival sources. The very existence of the Russian international television news channel RT aroused immediate hostility: how dare the Russians intrude on our version of reality! How dare they have their own point of view! Hillary Clinton warned against RT when she was Secretary of State and her successor John Kerry denounced it as a “propaganda bullhorn”. What we say is truth, what they say can only be propaganda.
The denunciation of Russian media and alleged Russian “interference in our elections” is a major invention of the Clinton campaign, which has gone on to infect public discourse in Western Europe. This accusation is a very obvious example of double standards, or projection, since U.S. spying on everybody, including it allies, and interference in foreign elections are notorious.
The campaign denouncing “fake news” originating in Moscow is in full swing in both France and Germany as elections approach. It is this accusation that is the functional interference in the campaign, not Russian media. The accusation that Marine Le Pen is “the candidate of Moscow” is not only meant to work against her, but is also preparation for the efforts to instigate some variety of “color revolution” should she happen to win the May 7 election. CIA interference in foreign elections is far from limited to contentious news reports.
In the absence of any genuine Russian threat to Europe, claims that Russian media are “interfering in our democracy” serve to brand Russia as an aggressive enemy and thereby justify the huge NATO military buildup in Northeastern Europe, which is reviving German militarism and directing national wealth into the arms industry.
In some ways, the French election is an extension of the American one, where the deep state lost its preferred candidate, but not its power. The same forces are at work here, backing Macron as the French Hillary, but ready to stigmatize any opponent as a tool of Moscow.
What has been happening over the past months has confirmed the existence of a Deep State that is not only national but trans-Atlantic, aspiring to be global. The anti-Russian campaign is a revelation. It reveals to many people that there really is a Deep State, a trans-Atlantic orchestra that plays the same tune without any visible conductor. The term “Deep State” is suddenly popping up even in mainstream discourse, as a reality than cannot be denied, even if it is hard to define precisely. Instead of the Military Industrial Complex, we should perhaps call it the Military Industrial Intelligence Military Media Complex, or MIIMMC. Its power is enormous, but acknowledging that it exists is the first step toward working to free ourselves from its grip.
Diana Johnstone is the author of Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO, and Western Delusions. Her new book is Queen of Chaos: the Misadventures of Hillary Clinton. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Alison Weir provides the following report back on an event that almost didn’t happen:
After I was invited by the Social Justice Committee of the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists (BFUU) to give a public presentation, extremist pro-Israel activists went to work to get the event canceled. They put up blog posts and even a Craigslist advertisement attacking me, exaggerating inaccurate claims about me by the ADL and, especially, the widely refuted JVP-US Campaign dossier on me.
This has become standard practice for Israel partisans who wish to prevent audiences from hearing my presentation.
A few individuals within the BFUU then took up the JVP-USC false claims, trying to get the event shut down before anyone had the chance to hear me directly. This effort threatened to succeed, but ultimately failed when members committed to social justice and free speech refused to cave in.
Activist songwriter-musician Vic Sadot, former Social Justice Committee Chair Cynthia Johnson, human rights worker Tom Luce, and current Social Justice Committee Chair Gene Herman – all longtime, respected Berkeley human rights activists – didn’t give in to the significant pressure, took a great deal of heat for this, and the event went on.
Nevertheless, they were nervous, particularly after seeing the Craigslist ad that seemed designed to foment hate against me and possibly provoke violence. At a recent event elsewhere in the area, a similar smear campaign had been undertaken against me (including another Craigslist ad), and a few Israel partisans showed up to disrupt the event — to the degree that the police had to be called. One Israel partisan then hit a woman videotaping the incident.
Fortunately, no protesters showed up this time, and I again spoke to a full house. The audience included many members of BFUU – which has a long tradition of peace and human rights activism – who came to hear me for themselves.
At the end of the talk, I was honored and extremely grateful to receive a standing ovation. Numerous audience members said they appreciated the talk, had learned new information, and bought my book. One person told me she hadn’t known any of the information before.
This success only happened because Vic, Cynthia, Tom, Gene and others were willing to stick their necks out, and because the BFUU congregation came down on the side of free speech and against censorship.
It would have been much easier for them to cancel the event entirely, or to bring a less “controversial” speaker. But they didn’t.
This is an example of what a few brave souls can do. Thank you.
UPDATE: I’ve just learned that the event was co-sponsored by Norcal Sabeel, another committed and courageous group.
Israeli police delivered an order from Aryeh Deri, the far-right Israeli Interior Minister, to Salah’s home in Umm al-Fahm, on Tuesday night, banning him from travel or visiting Jerusalem, until 15 July 2017. The order comes as a renewal of the one-month travel ban slapped on Salah on 17 January 2017, immediately upon his release from Israeli prison from a nine-month sentence for “incitement,” for a sermon he delivered in 2007.
The order declares that Salah’s travel abroad poses a “real danger… to state security.” Salah is the leader of the Islamic Movement in Palestine ’48; in 2015, the Israeli state banned the Islamic Movement in an action condemned by Palestinian organizations across the political spectrum as an attack on all Palestinians in ’48 Palestine, who hold Israeli citizenship.
Throughout his imprisonment, Salah was held in solitary confinement and repeatedly interrogated; appeals to end his isolation were denied throughout that time. He was even denied access to magazines, books and other materials brought for him.
The media is unfair to the military, according to the Chief of Defence Staff. During a speech to the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade last week General Jonathan Vance slammed “very toxic narratives” in reporting on the Canadian Forces.
“If you’re paying attention to the news today, there are some very toxic narratives about the armed forces,” Vance said. “The narrative that seems to prevail right now is if you join the armed forces, you are going to be sexually assaulted, raped or you’re going to suffer from PTSD at some point and may commit suicide.”
Reporting the truth is toxic?
With the largest PR machine in the country, the CF aggressively always protects its image and promotes its worldview. As I detail in my latest book A Propaganda System: How Canada’s Government, Corporations, Media and Academia Sell War and Exploitation, the military runs a slew of journalistic, academic and cultural initiatives. The military produces dozens of publications and its numerous websites make articles, speeches, reports and other types of information easily accessible to the public. The Canadian Forces also employs YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms to promote its positions and recruit new members.
In 2010-11 the Canadian Forces admitted to spending $354 million on public relations and related military commemorations. Six hundred and sixty-one staff members worked on this effort. According to another 2011 report, the Department of National Defence’s Public Affairs department had 286 staff. Public Affairs Officers’ write press releases, organize press conferences, monitor the news, brief journalists, befriend reporters and editors, or perform various other media-related activities. A large proportion of the news stories about the military are based on CF statements and events.
But that clearly isn’t good enough for the Chief of Defence Staff. After taking charge of the CF, Vance immediately sought to reinforce their influence over news coverage of military affairs. In fall 2015, Ottawa Citizen military reporter David Pugliese revealed Canada’s top soldier’’ call for the “weaponization of public affairs.” Vance proposed a plan to induce positive coverage and deter critical reporting. Journalists producing unflattering stories about the military were to be the target of phone calls to their boss, letters to the editor and other “flack” designed to undercut their credibility in the eyes of readers and their employers.
While the “weaponization of public affairs” slogan was novel, Pugliese pointed out in a blog that “Vance isn’t the first to attempt to bring pesky journalists to heel. It was quite common for officials working for then Defence Minister Peter MacKay to phone editors of various publications to complain about reporters.”
The CF didn’t stop at complaining to journalists’ bosses. The top brass repeatedly asked the military’s National Investigative Service (NIS) to investigate reporters’ sources. In 2011 NIS investigated prominent CTV journalist Robert Fife after he uncovered documents about Chief of Defence Staff Walt Natynczyk spending over $1 million in public funds flying to hockey games and a Caribbean vacation. Pugliese described this as a blatant “intimidation tactic by the NIS against a journalist who was clearly not playing military cheerleader.”
In a similar incident, NIS spent more than a month investigating how Pugliese obtained information about a major Pacific Ocean military exercise in spring 2012. While the Ottawa Citizen defence reporter said the information came from a U.S. Navy release, which the NSI investigation ultimately supported, DND officials believed Pugliese was tipped off by a friendly Public Affairs Officer. Esprit du Corp editor Scott Taylor pointed out that the investigation had nothing to do with operational security. “No classified information was divulged. No operational security jeopardized. No Canadian sailors’ lives were put in peril as a result of Pugliese’s rather innocuous story, but [defence minister Peter] MacKay’s timetable for release [of the information] had not been strictly adhered to.”
According to Taylor, NIS was employed on at least four occasions to investigate the source of information for stories. Yet in none of these instances was classified material reported.
The military is sensitive about embarrassing leaks. A July 2014 Embassy story titled “DND points to ‘challenges’ with former soldiers talking to media” reported on ministerial briefing notes concerning the problem of “leaks.” A year earlier the CF required soldiers wounded in Afghanistan to sign a form saying they wouldn’t criticize senior officers on Facebook or other social media. Former soldiers are a concern since active CF members are restricted in what they can say publicly or post online.
An extremely centralized organization, the people at the top of Canadian Forces want to control everyone and everything.
To paraphrase a widely circulated quote: when you’re accustomed to shaping coverage, a bit of criticism can feel like a “toxic” media environment.
The launch of the Crosscheck project by Facebook and Google in collaboration with over a dozen French news outlets is an attempt to “fight the National Front” and prevent Marine Le Pen from winning the presidential election, Front National politicians told Sputnik.
On Monday tech giants Facebook and Google announced the launch of the Crosscheck project, an initiative ostensibly intended to prevent false news stories from being distributed on the internet.The launch of Crosscheck has been timed to coincide with France’s presidential elections. The first round of the election takes place April 23, followed by a run-off between the top two candidates on May 7 if no first-round candidate wins a majority.
The project is run by First Draft News, which bills itself as a “nonprofit coalition,” formed in June 2015 “to raise awareness and address challenges relating to trust and truth in the digital age.”
The project is being launched in France on February 27, where Crosscheck has made agreements with 16 French news outlets, including AFP, Le Monde and Buzzfeed News. These news websites have pledged to “ensure that accurate reports reach citizens across the country and beyond.”
Crosscheck is seen as a response to the recent election campaign in the US, where some news media expressed concerns that “fake news” distributed on Facebook persuaded the electorate to vote for Donald Trump over the overwhelming favorite for the Presidency, Hillary Clinton.
Many news outlets in Europe and the US are keen to draw parallels between Donald Trump and National Front leader Marine Le Pen, since they share a Eurosceptic, anti-immigration platform.
Davy Rodriguez, deputy director of the Front national de la jeunesse (FNJ), the youth wing of the right-wing party, told Sputnik Francais that the media involved in the Crosscheck initiative are interested in promoting their own candidates, at the expense of the National Front.
“We, in the National Front, are defending the idea of sovereignty. We are very concerned that giants like Google or Facebook are interested in these issues, and even more so that they are supported by media such as Libération, Rue89, Le Monde and La Voix du Nord. These are our political opponents, they openly oppose the National Front. This is media which supports a specific political camp,” Rodriguez said.
“The fact that major US corporations are relying on this type of media, to destabilize French politics, is very, very alarming. All the more so, because of fear after the UK voted in favor of ‘Brexit’ and Donald Trump won the election in the US. We don’t think it’s normal for large corporations, Facebook and Google, to act in such a way. In any case, they know who their opponent is. The participation of groups such as Libération shows that this was done in order to fight against the National Front.”
Rodriguez said that he opposes the interference of Google and Facebook in the French election, and cast doubt on the credentials of US companies to warn the French about “fake news.”
“The US is a country which specializes in fraud and misinformation. We have seen what kind of propaganda was promoted by them during the conflict in Syria, the conflict in Ukraine. We have seen how they carried out destruction and then said, ‘this is false information, this is disinformation.’ In any case, who can take it upon themselves to say what is true and what is false when they are two and a half thousand kilometers away from what is happening? This is a real problem.”
Gilbert Collard, French National Front deputy for the Gard constituency, told Sputnik Francais that Crosscheck is an “unacceptable” attack on free speech.
“This ‘police’ is on a par with the media, which sometimes support this or that political camp. We clearly see here a desire to restrain the extraordinary freedom of expression that exists in social networks.”
“This is an attempt to silence speech, to curtail the language of free speech. I find it absolutely outrageous. This is outrageous, not only because these online resources have assigned themselves the right to act in the role of the police, without having any qualifications to play this role, but they themselves can spread false information.”
“It seems to me that the media are afraid of losing power and have assigned themselves a kind of power of the Inquisition, which from a democratic point of view, no-one gave them. This is a roundabout way of putting pressure on public opinion and the electorate from above, with the help of the millionaires who own these media outlets, to support a particular candidate or particular opinion. This is largely about the desire to manipulate information and infringe on freedom of information,’ Collard said.
According to a recent opinion poll conducted February 6 by Ifop-Fiducial for Paris Match, iTélé and Sud-Radio, Le Pen is the leading candidate supported by 25.5 percent of voters.
In second place is former Economy Minister and En Marche! founder Emmanuel Macron with 20.5 percent. Center-right candidate Francois Fillon is supported by 18.5 percent, and Benoit Hamon of Francois Hollande’s Socialists is fourth with 15.5 percent support.
In spite of concerns over the impact of so-called “fake news” on the US election, a working paper from academics at the universities of Stanford and New York shows that social media played a much smaller role in the US election than some might think.
“A reader of our study could very reasonably say, based on our set of facts, that it is unlikely that fake news swayed the election,” said Gentzkow, an economics professor and senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR), in a press release.
Reprieve | February 5, 2017
UK authorities trained Bahrain’s police how to gather intelligence on protestors, and then tried to cover up the scheme, international human rights group Reprieve has found. The project took place after protestors in the Gulf kingdom were rounded up and sentenced to death.
Britain’s Foreign Office paid for half a dozen Bahraini police officers to visit Belfast in August 2015, where the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) shared its expertise on gathering intelligence ahead of demonstrations.
Protestors in Bahrain, such as Mohammed Ramadan, have been targeted by police and tortured into falsely confessing to capital crimes. Mr Ramadan, a father of three young children, is now on death row and could be executed at any time.
The training, which also included sessions on water cannons, dog handling and public order tactics, was kept secret. The UK government has repeatedly denied providing public order training to Bahrain.
The Cabinet Office claimed that “The UK does not fund any programmes in Bahrain focused on public order”. However, documents obtained by Reprieve show that Bahrain’s police received an “Introduction to Combined Operational Training with a focus on Public Order.”
The training was prepared by Northern Irish police officers during a week-long “scoping visit” to Bahrain over April-May 2015, where they assessed Bahrain’s public order systems. The Stormont-owned company NI-CO played a key role in organising all the training.
It has also emerged that Bahrain’s Chief of Police and his deputies visited Belfast in June 2014. The itinerary included another session with the PSNI on “Community Intelligence”. The police chief attended a “demonstration of PSNI Public Order systems” and received a “Tour of North and West Belfast ‘Flashpoints’ with 2 or 3 PSNI Armoured Vehicles”.
Bahrain’s Chief of Police had to postpone a visit to Belfast earlier in 2014 because there was a “security emergency in Bahrain at the moment and it is felt that the Chief of Police and other senior officers cannot leave the country at this critical time.” This was a month after death-row prisoner Mohammed Ramadan was tortured. “The situation on the ground is becoming increasingly tense”, an email explained.
Bahrain’s Chief of Police has command level responsibility for violations carried out by lower ranking officers. Months after the police chief visited Belfast for training, teenager Ali al-Singace was arrested and tortured by Bahrain’s police with electric shocks, until he made a false confession to a capital crime. He was executed by firing squad in January 2017.
Commenting, Maya Foa, a director of Reprieve, said:
“It is outrageous that the government has covered up this project, which risks supporting the execution of protesters in Bahrain.
“Bahrain is notorious for arresting, torturing and sentencing to death people involved in protests – such as Mohammed Ramadan, a father of three who is held on death row and faces execution at any moment.
“By training Bahrain’s police how to gather intelligence on protesters, there is a serious risk that Britain is helping them arrest and execute people who are guilty of nothing more than calling for reform. It is scandalous that the Government has sought to sweep this under the carpet.”
Following a year-long inquiry, German intelligence agencies have found no reliable evidence of a Russian “disinformation campaign” against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government, according to media citing cabinet and security sources.
The German intelligence service (BND) and the counterintelligence agency (BfV) had been searching for evidence of Russian interference in the country’s domestic affairs for nearly a year, Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported on Tuesday.
“We have not found any smoking gun,” a cabinet source told the paper.
The inquiry was similar to the US intelligence community’s efforts to attribute the notorious 2016 Democratic National Convention email leak to Russian ‘hacking groups.’
Initially, the secret services planned to release excerpts of their classified inquiry, but given the lack of evidence, the move would make Russian-German relations even more strained, according to the newspaper.
Chancellor Merkel’s office has, however, now directed the intelligence agencies to conduct a new inquiry. Notably, a ‘psychological operations group’ jointly run by the BND and BfV will specifically look at Russian news agencies’ coverage in Germany.
Despite the findings, the German intelligence services maintain that Russia has pursued a “more confrontational course” towards Germany since 2014, and call the coverage of Russian media, including RT Deutsch and Sputnik, “hostile.”
Germany’s intelligence community admits a difference between “excessive or false reporting” and “targeted disinformation,” Sueddeutsche Zeitung wrote.
The revelations do not sit well with previous statements by Bruno Kahl, the head of the BND, who claimed in November last year that his agency had obtained evidence that Russia may have manipulated the vote during the 2016 US election.
He alleged that “Europe, and Germany in particular, is in the focus of these experiments,” adding that German-language internet sites had also been increasingly targeted by so-called ‘troll factories’ distributing targeted misinformation.
“The perpetrators are interested in delegitimizing the democratic process as such, no matter who that subsequently helps,” he said in a rare interview with Sueddeutsche Zeitung in November. He also acknowledged that “[finding] an attribution to a state actor is technically difficult.”
Several British advertisers “panicked” and pulled airtime on RT UK after the Sunday Times called them to ask for comment for an upcoming article about RT, according to a sales house used by advertisers on the channel.
“The Agencies on behalf of their clients pulled their airtime for the reason that they had been contacted by the Sunday Times. The Sunday Times asked them to make comment on their advertising on RT for the Sunday 5th February edition. These advertisers have panicked about the content of the article and pulled their airtime,” the sales house said in comments on Tuesday.
“The sales house the advertisers use to order airtime on RT UK has informed us that several companies at once decided to break up with RT after phone calls from the Sunday Times,” RT Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan said.
“Meanwhile, the Sunday Times article alleges that the advertisers refused to cooperate with us because of ‘Kremlin propaganda,’ and it also cites a British MP urging to boycott RT, though in fact he didn’t say that,” she emphasized.
The RT Press Office said that “the calls from the sales house with requests to pull advertisements from several companies came shortly after the Sunday Times requested comment from RT for their story.”
In the article published on February 5, an investigative reporter for the Sunday Times, Josh Boswell, claimed that “top British brands are pulling their advertisements from the television channel RT UK amid accusations that it is spreading ‘propaganda and fake news’ for Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin,” naming the manufacturers of Gaviscon, Strepsils and Vanish and the make-up brand Max Factor among those advertisers.
Boswell goes on to claim that last weekend Damian Collins, chairman of the UK Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, “called for all British companies to boycott the ‘disinformation and propaganda’ channel.”
The MP is also quoted as saying that “British companies should not be advertising on channels that disseminate fake news designed to spread fear and confusion… I would call on any such company that has not already done so to withdraw their advertising.”
As the newspaper inserted the definite article ‘the’ into the explanatory sentence – “the ‘disinformation and propaganda’ channel” – the reader can’t help but draw the conclusion that the MP’s statement was made about RT.
However, when asked by RT to clarify the comment he made for the Sunday Times, Collins confirmed the statement contained no specific attribution, and was intended as a broader remark.
“Yes, I am happy for you to use the quotation from the Times. My comments were aimed broadly at any channel or website which produces and broadcasts fake news. I did not name any individual organization in my remarks,” Collins explained.
Before the article was published, Boswell contacted RT “to give you an opportunity to comment” on the story. The RT Press Office responded to the request with a comprehensive email, including an explanation of how the channel is publicly funded, much like the BBC and France 24, and how the channel’s mission is clearly stated as exploring underreported stories and providing more balance in the international news arena.
Boswell skipped most of this, however, and reduced RT’s response to a brief quote: “RT, formerly Russia Today, said it was an ‘editorially independent, autonomous non-profit global news organization.”
After RT asked the Sunday Times for comment, the newspaper’s public relations team answered: “Thank you for your enquiry. Due to the high volume of emails we receive, we will only be able to respond if we are in a position to help with your request.”
The Russian embassy in the UK has dismissed the Sunday Times article, writing in a statement: “We understand that not everyone in the UK is happy about the popularity of the Russian channel and the alternative worldview it represents. But this shouldn’t be a reason for a blatant crusade against the channel in such a foul fashion.”
Foreign policy analyst Michael Hughes told RT that the whole approach of the Sunday Times towards RT “is horrible, one-sided and biased.”
“They don’t treat any other stations this way except [RT]. It has nothing to do with the actual programming, they don’t like Russian policy, so they are doing whatever they can to target Russian stations right now.
“It is an obvious violation of the basic standards of journalism. You couldn’t be more obvious in violating journalistic integrity,” he added.
In the past there have been similar instances of Western mainstream media discussing the prospect of RT coverage being restricted, subjected to greater scrutiny or given less equal treatment.
In January, the Wall Street Journal speculated on what would happen if US pay TV operators were to consider dropping RT from their networks. The story followed the US intelligence community’s findings on alleged Russian interference in the American presidential election, with seven of the report’s 13 pages devoted to RT.
The prospect of dropping RT appeared unrealistic, however, with Frederick Thomas, chief executive of MHz Networks, saying: “The reality is we live in an age where every nth degree of opinion is available 24/7 and 98 percent of people know that you either just turn the channel off if it’s TV, or if it’s a website, you go to another one.”
In a separate article in January, the Atlantic noted that “RT stories regularly appear toward the top of Google search results,” and that there are more than 4 million ‘likes’ on RT’s Facebook page. The magazine asked Google for information on whether the company had any policies “for how to rank and display news stories and videos from state-sponsored outlets like RT,” but a spokesperson for the search engine declined to comment.
The Atlantic also contacted a spokesperson for Facebook to clarify “if articles or videos from state-sponsored outlets are treated the same way as content from the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal.”
Facebook responded by mentioning “changes the company has already announced, which suppress the circulation of links to news stories that users report as false.” However, RT stories “are more likely to be biased than to be ‘purposefully fake or deceitful,’” alleged the article’s author, Kaveh Waddell.