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
Western media accuses RT of ‘spreading fake news’ citing an Emmanuel Macron story RT never published.
The accusations against RT were leveled by Richard Ferrand, secretary-general of Macron’s En Marche! party, in an interview with the France 2 TV channel.
RT responded to the allegations that it had targeted French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron with “fake news” in a statement:
“RT adamantly rejects any and all claims that it has any part in spreading fake news in general and in relation to Mr. Macron and the upcoming French election in particular. Furthermore, we are appalled that such baseless accusations are taking place on a quotidian basis. Indeed, it seems that it has become acceptable to level such serious charges at RT without presenting any evidence to substantiate them, as well as to apply this ‘fake news’ label to any reporting that one might simply find unfavorable. It is both ironic and deeply disappointing that, in the noble fight against fake news, journalistic standards are so casually sacrificed when the conversation concerns RT.”
International news media outlets picked up the Ferrand interview, apparently without checking the facts.
Many outlets relied on Monday’s Reuters report, which claimed that RT ran comments by French National Assembly member Nicolas Dhuicq about Macron being an agent of ‘the big American banking system.’
The Reuters claim was entirely false as RT has never published such a report.
Reuters did not provide any other examples of RT’s supposed role in the “fake news” attack on Macron in its lengthy article on the subject.
Furthermore, the agency did not contact RT’s press office for comment to give the network the right of reply. Neither did almost all the outlets who reprinted the false claims.
Reuters amended their report and removed mention of RT from the discussion of Dhuicq’s comments only after RT representatives reached out to the news service. The Reuters website eventually added the RT statement to their report.
However, Reuters has not provided any indication that the original report was amended in any way, that it included uncorroborated statements about RT and, that the network was denied the right to reply to these allegations prior to the article’s publication.
In August 1951, inhabitants of the picturesque French village of Pont-Saint-Esprit were suddenly tormented by terrifying hallucinations. People imagined lions and tigers were coming to eat them. A man jumped out of a window thinking he was a dragonfly. At least seven people died, dozens were taken to the local asylum in strait jackets and hundreds were affected.
Almost immediately, wild theories started circulating to explain the this mysterious case of mass insanity. There were claims of poisoned flour, contaminated water and even witchcraft. But the truth was stranger than many of the theories: the CIA had spiked the local food with LSD as part of a mind control experiment at the height of the Cold War.
In this documentary, we reveal how for decades, the CIA has been using unconsenting people as guinea pigs in thousands of different experiments.
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.
The scope of various cyber operations carried out by different state players has recently become the cause of increasing tension amid international relations. For instance, at the end of 2016, the United States accused Russia of hacking the servers of the US Democratic National Committee, which resulted in the introduction of sanctions against a number of Russian intelligence services that were described as offenders in this recent incident. However, Washington to date, hasn’t presented any evidence to back up its claims.
At the same time, a considerable number of Western media sources, including Foreign Policy, have openly admitted Moscow was not accused of anything in America’s last election that Washington itself has not done elsewhere in the world.
Curiously enough, distinguished historian Marc Trachtenberg, professor emeritus at UCLA, has already stressed that this alleged interference is a type of behavior that the United States helped establish; since meddling in other countries’ politics has been an American specialty for decades. The Washington Times seems to be convinced too that America’s record of meddling in other countries and of leaders who have lied to Washington puts it in the position where it must tread carefully to avoid hypocrisy.
Those who complain about alleged Russian offenses must certainly know that the US government eavesdrops, as a matter of course, on the private communications of many people around the world. The National Security Agency, whose job it is to do this kind of eavesdropping, has a budget of about 10 billion dollars, and, according to an article that came out in the Washington Post a few years ago, intercepts and stores “1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications” everyday.
In terms of the development of so-called cyber armies – highly specialized units that can use cyberspace for both military or intelligence purposes – Russia may indeed be found in the top 5 states in the world in this domain, however, it’s lagging behind the US, China, Britain and South Korea. In general, such armies exist officially in a several dozen countries, as for the unofficial numbers, there’s hundreds of those, since the scope of information warfare operations has been increasing rapidly over the years.
It goes without saying that US cyber forces has been the most powerful in the world, with over 9,000 trained professionals in its ranks. As for the UK, the so-called Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) has been providing employment to over 6,000 servicemen. Out of this number, according to individual media reports, more than 2,000 servicemen are engaged in cyber warfare.
Additionally, it should be noted that cyber squads can be found in a number of armies around the world, but those are not “military hackers”, those are security specialist that are tasked with protecting digital assets and IT infrastructure, at least officially. Off of the top of one’s head one can name such units in South Korea, Israel, Iran and Estonia.
The question of whether or not these hackers are capable of influencing political processes and, in particular, one’s presidential campaign, has been broadly discussed at the latest 9th International Forum on Cybersecurity (FIC), which was held last January in the French city of Lille. For the first time the forum was held in 2007, following an initiative of the National Gendarmerie, and every year it has collected public authorities, private sector representatives, experts and civil society figures. In 2017, the forum aimed at discussing the issue of providing “reasonable security for IT assets.”
France’s Minister of Internal Affairs, Bruno Le Roux has stressed in his opening speech at the forum that IT systems are regularly becoming the target of attacks originating from criminal organizations and even from foreign states, which are showing great ingenuity.
But we must not forget that more often than not, it’s not foreign hackers that play the role of a destabilizing factor in the political life of any given society, but the hackers hired by opposition political parties of these very states. And the United State exemplifies this statement better that any, with Donald Trump announcing his concern over the leakage of the details of his telephone conversations with foreign political figures.
According to White House spokesman Sean Spicer, the Trump administration will have to exercise damage control after the leakage of the details of the discussions that Trump had over the phone with the leaders of Mexico and Australia. “This is a very disturbing fact,” – said Spicer in his recent statement. AP has allegedly acquired these tapes, so it now reports that Trump allegedly said in a conversation that the Mexican government is incapable of dealing with the “bad guys”. For sure, the Mexican Foreign Ministry has claimed that those reports are false, but what other choice did it have?
In addition, Trump has also been denying the claims distributed by the Washington Post that he had a very “bad talk” with the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. “Thank you to Prime Minister of Australia for telling the truth about our very civil conversation that FAKE NEWS media lied about ” – Trump wrote in his Twitter.
Jean Périer is an independent researcher and analyst and a renowned expert on the Near and Middle East.
Britain, the US, France and Australia are holding maritime military exercises in the Persian Gulf as Iran warns that it will not allow any intrusion into its territorial waters.
The three-day war games, dubbed the Unified Trident, started on Tuesday.
They involve British Royal Navy flagship HMS Ocean and Type-45 destroyer HMS Daring, US warships USS Hopper and USS Mahan as well as French anti-aircraft frigate FS Forbin.
Additionally, targeting Iranian combat jets, ships and coastal missile launching facilities will be simulated during the exercises, reports say.
“The exercise is intended to enhance mutual capabilities, improve tactical proficiency and strengthen partnerships” among the allies, a US Navy press release said.
Asked about the drills, Iran’s Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari (seen below) told the Mehr news agency on Tuesday that the Islamic Republic would not allow anybody to encroach on its territorial waters, which he described as the country’s “red line.”
Touching on the simulation of hitting Iranian targets, Sayyari said that Iran “does not care about who’s doing what,” adding, “For us, it is important to boost our defense capabilities to such a level that we can withstand any threats [posed against us from] anywhere,” he added.
The Iranian commander also noted that any exercises in high seas should comply with international law.
The Unified Trident drills come after a string of incidents, in which US vessels that sailed close to Iranian territorial waters were met with Iran’s befitting response.
Iran has repeatedly warned that any act of transgression into Iran’s territorial waters would be met with an immediate and befitting response.
In January last year, Iran’s Navy arrested the crews of two US patrol boats that had trespassed on Iranian territorial waters. Iran released them after establishing that they had done so by mistake.
Iran has invariably asserted that it only uses its naval might for defensive purposes and to send across the Islamic Republic’s message of peace and security to other nations.
Following rhetoric regarding Europe’s refugee crisis, one might assume the refugees, through no fault of Europe’s governments, suddenly began appearing by the thousands at Europe’s borders. However, this simply is not true.
Before the 2011 wave of US-European engineered uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) transformed into Western military interventions, geopolitical analysts warned that overthrowing the governments in nations like Libya and Syria, and Western interventions in nations like Mali and the Ivory Coast, would lead to predicable regional chaos that would manifest itself in both expanding terrorism across the European and MENA region, as well as a flood of refugees from destabilized, war-racked nations.
Libya in particular, was singled out as a nation, if destabilized, that would transform into a springboard for refugees not only fleeing chaos in Libya itself, but fleeing a variety of socioeconomic and military threats across the continent. Libya has served for decades as a safe haven for African refugees due to its relative stability and economic prosperity as well as the Libyan government’s policy of accepting and integrating African refugees within the Libyan population.
Because of NATO’s 2011 military intervention and the disintegration of Libya as a functioning nation state, refugees who would have otherwise settled in Libya are now left with no choice but to continue onward to Europe.
For France in particular, its politics have gravitated around what is essentially a false debate between those welcoming refugees and those opposed to their presence.
Absent from this false debate is any talk of French culpability for its military operations abroad which, along with the actions of the US and other NATO members, directly resulted in the current European refugee crisis.
France claims that its presence across Africa aims at fighting Al Qaeda. According to RAND Corporation commentary titled, “Mali’s Persistent Jihadist Problem,” it’s reported that:
Four years ago, French forces intervened in Mali, successfully averting an al Qaeda-backed thrust toward the capital of Bamako. The French operation went a long way toward reducing the threat that multiple jihadist groups posed to this West Africa nation. The situation in Mali today remains tenuous, however, and the last 18 months have seen a gradual erosion of France’s impressive, initial gains.
And of course, a French military presence in Mali will do nothing to stem Al Qaeda’s activities if the source of Al Qaeda’s weapons and financial support is not addressed. In order to do this, France and its American and European allies would need to isolate and impose serious sanctions on Saudi Arabia and Qatar, two nations which exist as the premier state sponsors of not only Al Qaeda, but a myriad of terrorist organizations sowing chaos worldwide.
Paradoxically, instead of seeking such sanctions, the French government instead sells the Saudi and Qatari governments billions of dollars worth of weaponry, proudly filling in any temporary gaps in the flow of weapons from the West as each nation attempts to posture as “concerned” about Saudi and Qatari human rights abuses and war crimes (and perhaps even state sponsorship of terrorism) only to gradually return to pre-sanction levels after public attention wanes.
The National Interest in an article titled, “France: Saudi Arabia’s New Arms Dealer,” would note:
France has waged a robust diplomatic engagement with Saudi Arabia for years. In June, Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visited France to sign deals worth $12 billion, which included $500 million for 23 Airbus H145 helicopters. Saudi and French officials also agreed to pursue feasibility studies to build two nuclear reactors in the kingdom. The remaining money will involve direct investment negotiated between Saudi and French officials.
The article would also note that Saudi Arabia’s junior partner in the state sponsorship of global terror, Qatar, would also benefit from French weapon deals:
Hollande’s address was delivered one day after he was in Doha, where he signed a $7 billion deal that included the sale of 24 French Rafale fighter jets to Qatar, along with the training of Qatari intelligence officers.
In order to truly fight terrorism, a nation must deal with it at its very source. Since France is not only ignoring the source of Al Qaeda’s military, financial and political strength, but is regularly bolstering it with billions in weapons deals, it is safe to say that whatever reason France is involved across MENA, it is not to “defeat” Al Qaeda.
The refugee crisis that has resulted from the chaos that both Western forces and terrorists funded and armed by the West’s closest regional allies, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, is a crisis that is entirely self-inflicted. The rhetoric surrounding the crisis, on both sides, ignoring this fundamental reality, exposes the manufactured and manipulative nature of French government and opposition agendas.
The chaos across MENA is so significant, and terrorism so deeply rooted in both Western and their Arab allies’ geopolitical equations that even a complete reversal of this destructive policy will leave years if not decades of social unrest in the wake of the current refugee crisis.
But for anyone genuinely committed to solving this ongoing crisis, they must start with the US, European, and Gulf monarchies’ culpability, and resist blaming the refugees or those manipulated into reacting negatively to them. While abuses carried out by refugees or locals are equally intolerable, those responsible for the conflicts and for manipulating both sides of this crisis are equally to blame.
Until that blame is properly and proportionately placed, and the root of the crisis addressed, it will only linger and cause further damage to regional and global security.
Governments are using media organizations as proxies in an effort to control the information citizens can get from the Internet, says former MI5 officer Annie Machon. The fake war against fake news is predicated on a big lie, she added.
RT has been blocked from posting content to its Facebook page during the live broadcast of Barack Obama’s final news conference over an alleged copyright infringement.
The suspension was triggered by one of the social network’s algorithms, which is alerted according to what’s being submitted.
RT has a contract with the Associated Press and streamed a news feed. The agency has confirmed RT had the right to retransmit the video, so the problem must lie with Facebook.
The head of Russia’s telecoms watchdog is warning of “active response measures” if RT’s work is restricted by the American media or the social networks.
Facebook has not replied to inquiries, and the restrictions on posting remain.
RT: The news outlet was mentioned as triggering a Facebook alert and says it’s not them. So just how sensitive has Facebook’s media clampdown tool become?
Annie Machon: I think this is the first blow in Facebook’s self-proclaimed war against so-called fake news. Both Facebook and Google in the wake of the shadowy PropOrNot list of 200 news organizations around the world that are supposedly peddling fake news, but actually just offering an alternative to the corporate US media, and RT was included in that. Facebook and Google in the aftermath said that they would start to censor all these outlets. I think that is what we are seeing with Facebook now is that they are using the excuse of copyright to censor legitimate news channel and stop them from covering a world event that the rest of the world is going to watch without any problem on other channels.
RT: At the World Economic Forum in Davos the Facebook representative said that their organization is dedicated, as they put it, to tackling so-called fake news and the whole phenomenon that we’ve heard of lately. Do you think this is part of that?
AM: I think it is part of that. And it is not just Facebook and Google who said they are going to take on the so-called fake news. It is also the European Union who issued a diktat last November saying that they were going to set up a body to counter fake news. We see countries like France and Germany already peddling this idea that there is going to be hacking and counter-democratic activity in the run up to their elections this year. So, they are using this. But I think it is interesting to see that the copyright has been used as a pretext for this censorship. I’ve been saying for years that the media organizations are being used by the governments as proxy organizations in terms of trying to control the information we can ingest over the internet and the information we can actually access over the internet.
RT: The suspension is imposed ahead of Trump’s inauguration and won’t be lifted until the day after it. What do you make of that? Is it a coincidence?
AM: Absolutely not. It is a first blow in the so-called battle – fake battle against fake news. And let’s just remind ourselves how this so-called concept of fake started. Somehow information was leaked from the DNC last year and the people who received that information, WikiLeaks said very clearly it was not a hack, it was actually a leak. And yet the corporate media in America has said again, “No, this was Russia hacking the DNC.” And then somehow it became Russia hacking the American elections, Russia hacking voting computers, Russia hacking the energy grid in America. None of this has been proven. Some of it has been actively proven to be false. But when Obama expelled the 35 Russian diplomats from America back to Russia before Christmas, that sort of solidified as fact that the Russians had done something wrong. There is no proof whatsoever. So this fake war against fake news is predicated on a big lie.
I think there are strings have been pulled in the background, shall we say. Particularly, in America. And the big media and internet corporations in America have been proven year after year to be very much in bed with the US state and with the US secret state. We know this of course because of the revelations of Edward Snowden. You know, all the big social media giants signed up to allow access to their databases by the secret agencies in America, starting with Microsoft back in 2006. We know that they are complicit; we know that they have been compromised. So, who can tell where this is going to go. There is a sort of all-out fight between the president-elect anyways and his so-called intelligence agencies.
RT: The original source mentioned as alerting Facebook denies it raised a copyright flag. AP confirmed RT had the rights for transmission. Facebook is the only entity yet to answer. Why isn’t it being more pro-active to remedy this considering this being a pretty big media news?
Chris Bambery, political analyst: It is pretty big media news, and I am really puzzled. Donald Trump is about to become President, and he is painted by much of the world’s media and spy agencies as being President Putin’s chum. And yet there is this continuing escalation of the Cold War with Russia, even hours before Trump is elected. Facebook is a giant American transnational. It is not known for its own transparency over these things. It does lead one to suspect that there are sections of our US elite who really do not like Donald Trump and want to create difficulties between the incoming presidency and Russia.
RT: RT’s troubles with Facebook come a day after the online news alert service Dataminr refused to renew our contract with them. That stems back to the CIA also being denied access and saying the same should apply to RT claiming we’re tied to Russian intelligence. Is that the real reason, do you think?
CB: On that basis, if you are being blocked because you receive state funding, the BBC World service is funded by the British Foreign Office, so why would that not be blocked? And I am sure Radio Free Europe and various other outlets have received funding from the American state. So, if that is to be criteria than a lot of leading news agencies would be off social media, and off air. This is going to feed into the conspiracy theories because it is so bizarre and strange.
Well, the biggest fake news story I’ve seen was the so-called dossier about Donald Trump, and they didn’t seem to be blocking that, which was all over Facebook. Again, I find it rather strange.
The French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has reiterated her support for Russia’s claim on Crimea in a newspaper interview in which she made another decisive tilt towards Moscow.
With three months before France goes to the polls, the Front National leader said she recognised Crimea as being part of Russia and if elected, she would push for a dropping of sanctions against Russia which France had backed simply because it was following German orders.
She told the Russian newspaper, Izvestia, that the referendum in the peninsula in 2014 to become part of Russia showed the “agreement of the people to join Russia”.
“Ukraine’s ownership of Crimea was just an administrative issue from Soviet times, the peninsula was never Ukrainian,” she said.
“I regret that the referendum, organised as a demonstration of the will of the people of the peninsula, was not recognised by the international community and the UN.”
Le Pen had made the comments about Crimea on French television earlier in January after which the Ukrainian security service SBU proposed banning her from entering the country for five years.
She described sanctions against Russia as “senseless” and “a pretty stupid method of diplomacy” and that “all countries should show respect for each other, to negotiate on equal terms and to accept a compromise solution acceptable to all”.
“We don’t have to have a situation whereby the major powers impose their policies on other states, behaving like stubborn children,” she told the paper.
( Image Credit: European Parliament/ flickr).
BETHLEHEM – In spite of the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority’s endorsement of a peace conference being held in Paris on Sunday, other Palestinian factions were opposed to the premise of the international summit, and said they were not expecting any diplomatic breakthroughs.
Kayid al-Ghoul, a senior leader in the Gaza Strip for the left-wing Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) told Ma’an on Sunday that he expected the administration of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to turn to the United States to foil any possible outcome, five days ahead of the inauguration of US President-Elect Donald Trump — a vocal supporter of illegal Israeli settlements.
Al-Ghoul told Ma’an that the premise of the conference, which is expected to recommend the resumption of peace negotiations toward a two-state solution, meant “bypassing the right of return and self determination” for Palestinians.
Similarly, Daoud Shihab, a senior Islamic Jihad official in Gaza, described the conference as merely another attempt to resume a peace process “that Israel has already killed and buried, while the international community still refuses to admit that Israel is the main source” of the crisis.
He also warned that Netanyahu’s “terrorist government” could react to the outcome of the conference with more demolitions of Palestinian homes and land confiscations in the occupied territory. Last month, Israel responded to a UN resolution condemning illegal settlements by approving new settlement units in occupied East Jerusalem.
A Gaza-based leader within the left-wing Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), Talal Abu Tharifa, also warned of a possibility that the conference may create “low standards” regarding Palestinian rights.
He highlighted Israel’s belligerent opposition to any international intervention in the peace process by pointing to how Israel has been outraged over the mere fact the conference was held in the first place.
In his weekly cabinet remarks on Sunday, Netanyahu slammed the Paris conference, calling it “useless.”
“I must say that this conference is among the last twitches of yesterday’s world. Tomorrow’s world will be different — and it is very near,” the Israeli prime minister ominously declared.
Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has welcomed the conference, and told French daily Le Figaro on Saturday that he believed the summit could be the last chance to implement the two-state solution, saying that “2017 has to be the year the occupation ends, the year of freedom and justice for the Palestinian people.”
However, an increasing number of Palestinians say the prospect of a two-state reality has become dimmer, amid an a growing extremism among Israel’s right-wing government and public, and a surge in illegal Israeli settlement construction that has now obtained the stamp of approval by US President-elect Donald Trump.
A number of Palestinian activists have criticized the two-state solution as unsustainable and unlikely to bring durable peace, proposing instead a binational state with equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians.
January 8, 2017
“If I want to send (a message to French politicians) I would say the self evident thing, that we have to work for the interests of the Syrian citizens, and for the last six years the situation is going in the opposite direction. The French politics harmed the French interests. For the French people, I would say the mainstream media has failed in most of the west, the narrative has been debunked because of the reality and you have the alternative media, you have to look for the truth.
Truth was the main victim of the events in the Middle East, including Syria.
I would ask any citizen in France, please search for the reality, for the real information, through the alternative media. When they search for this information, they can be more effective, in dealing with their government, or at least not allowing some politicians to base their politics on lies.” – Syrian President Bashar Al Assad