Category Archives: UK

Conversation: Rogue Diplomacy

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Oceania Saker.

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Conversation: ‘Weaponized media’ turns up heat, targets dissident thought

UK Column editor Mike Robinson with co-host Patrick Henningsen and guest geopolitical analyst Alex Thomson, breaking down this week’s news in Britain, Europe and Eurasia.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Oceania Saker.

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Syria,ISIS & The US-UK Propaganda War, by Eric Draitser

source: New Eastern Outlook

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With the war in Syria raging in its fifth year, and the Islamic State wreaking havoc throughout the Middle East and North Africa, it’s clear that the entire region has been made into one large theater of conflict. But the battlefield must not be understood solely as a physical place located on a map; it is equally a social and cultural space where the forces of the US-UK-NATO Empire employ a variety of tactics to influence the course of events and create an outcome amenable to their agenda. And none to greater effect than propaganda.

Indeed, if the ongoing war in Syria, and the conflicts of the post-Arab Spring period generally, have taught us anything, it is the power of propaganda and public relations to shape narratives which in turn impact political events. Given the awesome power of information in the postmodern political landscape, it should come as no surprise that both the US and UK have become world leaders in government-sponsored propaganda masquerading as legitimate, grassroots political and social expression.

London, Washington, and the Power of Manipulation

The Guardian recently revealed how the UK Government’s Research, Information, and Communications Unit (RICU) is involved in surveillance, information dissemination, and promotion of individuals and groups as part of what it describes as an attempt at “attitudinal and behavioral change” among its Muslim youth population. This sort of counter-messaging is nothing new, and has been much discussed for years. However, the Guardian piece actually exposed the much deeper connections between RICU and various grassroots organizations, online campaigns, and social media penetration.

The article outlined the relationship between the UK Government’s RICU and a London-based communications company calledBreakthrough Media Network which “has produced dozens of websites, leaflets, videos, films, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and online radio content, with titles such as The Truth about Isis and Help for Syria.” Considering the nature of social media, and the manner in which information (or disinformation) is spread online, it should come as no surprise that a number of the viral videos, popular twitter feeds, and other materials that seemingly align with the anti-Assad line of London and Washington are, in fact, the direct products of a government-sponsored propaganda campaign.

In fact, as the authors of the story noted:

One Ricu initiative, which advertises itself as a campaign providing advice on how to raise funds for Syrian refugees, has had face-to-face conversations with thousands of students at university freshers’ fairs without any students realising they were engaging with a government programme. That campaign, called Help for Syria, has distributed leaflets to 760,000 homes without the recipients realising they were government communications.

It’s not hard to see what the British Government is trying to do with such efforts; they are an attempt to control the messaging of the war on Syria, and to redirect grassroots anti-war activism to channels deemed acceptable to the political establishment. Imagine for a moment the impact on an 18-year-old college freshman just stepping into the political arena, and immediately encountering seasoned veteran activists who influence his/her thinking on the nature of the war, who the good guys and bad guys are, and what should be done. Now multiply that by thousands and thousands of students. The impact of such efforts is profound.

But it is much more than simply interactions with prospective activists and the creation of propaganda materials; it is also about surveillance and social media penetration. According to the article, “One of Ricu’s primary tasks is to monitor online conversations among what it describes as vulnerable communities. After products are released, Ricu staff monitor ‘key forums’ for online conversations to ‘track shifting narratives,’ one of the documents [obtained by The Guardian] shows.” It is clear that such efforts are really about online penetration, especially via social media.

By monitoring and manipulating in this way, the British Government is able to influence, in a precise and highly targeted way, the narrative about the war on Syria, ISIS, and a host of issues relevant to both its domestic politics and the geopolitical and strategic interests of the British state. Herein lies the nexus between surveillance, propaganda, and politics.

But of course the UK is not alone in this effort, as the US has a similar program with its Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC) which describes its mission as being:

…[to] coordinate, orient, and inform government-wide foreign communications activities targeted against terrorism and violent extremism… CSCC is comprised of three interactive components. The integrated analysis component leverages the Intelligence Community and other substantive experts to ensure CSCC communicators benefit from the best information and analysis available. The plans and operations component draws on this input to devise effective ways to counter the terrorist narrative. The Digital Outreach Team actively and openly engages in Arabic, Urdu, Punjabi, and Somali.

Notice that the CSCC is, in effect, an intelligence hub acting to coordinate propaganda for CIA, DIA, DHS, and NSA, among others. This mission, of course, is shrouded in terminology like “integrated analysis” and “plans and operations” – terms used to designate the various components of the overall CSCC mission. Like RICU, the CSCC is focused on shaping narratives online under the pretext of counter-radicalization.

It should be noted too that CSCC becomes a propaganda clearinghouse of sorts not just for the US Government, but also for its key foreign allies (think Israel, Saudi Arabia, Britain), as well as perhaps favored NGOs like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, or Doctors Without Borders (MSF). As the New York Times noted:

[The CSCC will] harness all the existing attempts at countermessaging by much larger federal departments, including the Pentagon, Homeland Security and intelligence agencies. The center would also coordinate and amplify similar messaging by foreign allies and nongovernment agencies, as well as by prominent Muslim academics, community leaders and religious scholars who oppose the Islamic State.

But taking this information one step further, it calls into question yet again the veracity of much of the dominant narrative about Syria, Libya, ISIS, and related topics. With social media and “citizen journalism” having become so influential in how ordinary people think about these issues, one is yet again forced to consider the degree of manipulation of these phenomena.

Manufacturing Social Media Narratives

It is by now well documented the myriad ways in which Western governments have been investing heavily in tools for manipulating social media in order to shape narratives. In fact, the US CIA alone has invested millions in literally dozens of social media-related startups via its investment arm known as In-Q-Tel. The CIA is spending the tens of millions of dollars providing seed money to these companies in order to have the ability to do everything from data mining to real-time surveillance.

The truth is that we’ve known about the government’s desire to manipulate social media for years. Back in February 2011, just as the wars on Libya and Syria were beginning, an interesting story was published by PC World under the title Army of Fake Social Media Friends to Promote Propaganda which explained in very mundane language that:

…the U.S. government contracted HBGary Federal for the development of software which could create multiple fake social media profiles to manipulate and sway public opinion on controversial issues by promoting propaganda. It could also be used as surveillance to find public opinions with points of view the powers-that-be didn’t like. It could then potentially have their “fake” people run smear campaigns against those “real” people.

Close observers of the US-NATO war on Libya will recall just how many twitter accounts miraculously surfaced, with tens of thousands of followers each, to “report” on the “atrocities” carried out by Muammar Gaddafi’s armed forces, and call for a No Fly Zone and regime change. Certainly one is left to wonder now, as many of us did at the time, whether those accounts weren’t simply fakes created by either a Pentagon computer program, or by paid trolls.

A recent example of the sort of social media disinformation that has been (and will continue to be) employed in the war on Syria/ISIS came in December 2014 when a prominent “ISIS twitter propagandist” known as Shami Witness (@ShamiWitness) was exposed as a man named “Mehdi,” (later confirmed as Mehdi Biswas) described as “an advertising executive” based in Bangalore, India. @ShamiWitness had been cited as an authoritative source – a veritable “wealth of information” – about ISIS and Syria by corporate media outfits, as well as ostensibly “reliable and independent” bloggers such as the ubiquitous Eliot Higgins (aka Brown Moses) who cited Shami repeatedly. This former “expert” on ISIS has now been charged in India with crimes including “supporting a terrorist organisation, waging war against the State, unlawful activities, conspiracy, sedition and promoting enmity.”

In another example of online media manipulation, in early 2011, as the war on Syria was just beginning, a blogger then known only as the “Gay Girl in Damascus” rose to prominence as a key source of information and analysis about the situation in Syria.The Guardian, among other media outlets, lauded her as “an unlikely hero of revolt” who “is capturing the imagination of the Syrian opposition with a blog that has shot to prominence as the protest movement struggles in the face of a brutal government crackdown.” However, by June of 2011, the “brutally honest Gay Girl” was exposed as a hoax, a complete fabrication concocted by one Tom MacMaster. Naturally, the same outlets that had been touting the “Gay Girl” as a legitimate source of information on Syria immediately backtracked and disavowed the blog. However, the one-sided narrative of brutal and criminal repression of peace-loving activists in Syria stuck. While the source was discredited, the narrative remained entrenched.

And this last point is perhaps the key: online manipulation is designed to control narratives. While the war may be fought on the battlefield, it is equally fought for the hearts and minds of activists, news consumers, and ordinary citizens in the West. The UK and US both have extensive information war capabilities, and they’re not afraid to use them. And so, we should not be afraid to expose them.

Eric Draitser is an independent geopolitical analyst based in New York City, he is the founder of StopImperialism.org and OP-ed columnist for RT, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Oceania Saker.

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Fear and Loathing in the Arabian Nights, by Pepe Escobar

Source: Sputnik News

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US President Barack Obama landed in Saudi Arabia for a GCC petrodollar summit and to proverbially “reassure Gulf allies” amidst the oiliest of storms.

The Doha summit this past weekend that was supposed to enshrine a cut in oil production by OPEC, in tandem with Russia – it was practically a done deal – ended up literally in the dust.

The City of London – via the FT – wants to convey the impression to global public opinion that it all boiled down to a dispute between Prince Mohammed bin Salman – the conductor of the illegal war on Yemen —  and Saudi Oil Minister Ali Al-Naimi. The son of  — ailing — King Salman has been dubbed “the unpredictable new voice of the kingdom’s energy policy.”

A famous 3 am call did take place in Doha on Sunday. The young Salman called the Saudi delegation and told them the deal was off.  Every other energy market player was stunned by the reversion. 

Yet the true story, according to a financial source with very close links to the House of Saud, is that “the United States threatened the Prince that night with the most dire consequences if he did not back down on the oil price freeze.”

So – predictably — this goes way beyond an internal Saudi matter, or the Prince’s “erratic” behavior, even as the House of Saud is indeed racked by multiple instances of fear and paranoia, as I analysed here.

As the source explains, an oil production cut would have “hindered the US goal of bankrupting Russia via an oil price war, which is what this is all about. Even the Prince is not that erratic.”

Iran had made it more than clear that after the lifting of sanctions it does not have any reason to embark on a production cut. On the contrary; oil contributes to 23% of Iran’s GDP. But as far as the House of Saud is concerned – feeling the pain of a budget deficit of $98 billion in 2015 — a moderate cut was feasible, along with most of OPEC and Russia, as Al-Naimi had promised.

Continue reading Fear and Loathing in the Arabian Nights, by Pepe Escobar

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Conversation: Opium Wars – A War Nerd Podcast

Source: exiledonline.com

The War Nerd – Gary Brecher – discusses British Imperialism in the context of the Opium Wars and other less often remembered wars.

Click below to listen to a great podcast.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Oceania Saker.

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GREAT BRITAIN & THE NEW THRESHOLD OF POWER, by Marcelo Gullo

Source: Katehon

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Great Britain & the Industrial Revolution

In his celebrated book Industry & Empire Eric Hobsbawn (1998:13) affirms: “The Industrial Revolution points out the deepest transformation experienced by human life in the history of the world, registered in written documents. During a short period this revolution coincided with the story of just one country, Great Britain. Upon it, or rather around it, an entire world economy was built, that allowed it to temporarily reach an influence and power previously unknown by any State of its dimensions”. It is in that historical moment when Great Britain emerges as the first great industrial State-nation in the world, a fact that raises the threshold of power to almost unreachable levels for the other States and that turns England into the greatsubordinating State of the international system:

There is a moment in universal history in which Great Britain can be described as the only workshop in the world, its only mass importer and exporter, its only imperialistic power, almost its only foreign investor; and for that same reason its only naval force and the only country with its own world policy. (Hobsbawm, 1998: 37)

Having completed the Industrial Revolution before any other State, Great Britain automatically elevated the threshold of power. As a logical consequence, from that moment on all other States of the international system that might desire to maintain their respective autonomies were obliged to carry out their own industrial revolution. To not become subordinated, all the States in the international system had to quickly industrialize. During the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century France had been the main rival of England, as much in politics as in economy. Until the mid-17th century, “France was richer than Great Britain, though its riches were more poorly distributed, and the peasants in particular found themselves overwhelmed with very steep taxes, in favor of a landowner class that was practically inactive. Until the Industrial Revolution, French industry had been ahead of that of the English in the employment of complicated machinery and in the development of large factories. But the weight of the prolonged wars weighed heavily on the French economic system and hindered post-war France from assimilating or applying new production techniques based on vapor energy, until far after its establishment in Great Britain” (Cole, 1985: 83). France clearly emerged impoverished from the wars of Napoleon. Nevertheless, it preserved its traditional supremacy in the silk industry, its possessed an industrial bourgeoisiewith a marvelous talent for production of small quantities of articles of high quality, good taste and sky high prices.1 What’s more, the country provided for its own needs, in agricultural material, in such a way that it reached a certain degree of prosperity and a great capacity of accumulation of capital, as soon as the effects of war wore off. Nevertheless, “Politically and economically France was poorly equipped to rival with Great Britain in the global market. Its coal stores were small.

[…] In those circumstances the ancient causes of rivalry between France and Great Britain tended to disappear for the most part. French and British industries had been developed following different lines, and it was improbable that the French would be able to effectively threaten English industry with its new production systems in the world market” (Cole, 1986: 84). To this acute observation of Cole’s it must be added that, despite the fact that France had institutions that were ideally apt for capitalistic development, despite the fact that the ingenious and inventiveness of its businessmen were unparalleled in Europe, despite the fact that Paris was and international financial center just as important as London, despite the fact that France possessed great capital reserves that it exported to the entire continent; the French business sector did not invest in national industry: “The prudent French businessman preferred to manufacture luxury products rather than products of mass consumption; the prudent financier preferred to promote industries abroad rather that in his own country” (Hobsbawm, 2006: 183). This explanation of this radical paradox, according to Eric Hobsbowm, in which “private initiative and economic progress only go hand in hand when the one provides benefits to the other that are higher than other forms of business. In France it did not happen as such, though through France the economic growth of other countries was fertilized” (183). Without and effective State impulse that would promote the development of an important industry, without a pro-industrial economic policy, without a financial policy that would channel credit towards the foundational industries, France was barely able to reach the present threshold of power (set by Great Britain) at a level high enough so as to not become a subordinated State, but it was absolutely incapable of challenging the English worldwide hegemony. Incredibly, the cause of this handicap was none other than neglect, on behalf of the French State, of that necessary State impulse to orient its policy and economy towards levels similar to those of Great Britain. From the different paths taken by the bourgeoisie and the French State in the orientation of its activities emerges the incapacity of arguing over world supremacy with Great Britain.2

Continue reading GREAT BRITAIN & THE NEW THRESHOLD OF POWER, by Marcelo Gullo

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The Rape of East Timor: “Sounds Like Fun”, by John Pilger

Source: counterpunch

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Secret documents found in the Australian National Archives provide a glimpse of how one of the greatest crimes of the 20th century was executed and covered up. They also help us understand how and for whom the world is run.

The documents refer to East Timor, now known as Timor-Leste, and were written by diplomats in the Australian embassy in Jakarta. The date was November 1976, less than a year after the Indonesian dictator General Suharto seized the then Portuguese colony on the island of Timor.

The terror that followed has few parallels; not even Pol Pot succeeded in killing, proportionally, as many Cambodians as Suharto and his fellow generals killed in East Timor. Out of a population of almost a million, up to a third were extinguished.

This was the second holocaust for which Suharto was responsible. A decade earlier, in 1965, Suharto wrested power in Indonesia in a bloodbath that took more than a million lives. The CIA reported: “In terms of numbers killed, the massacres rank as one of the worst mass murders of the 20th century.”

This was greeted in the Western press as “a gleam of light in Asia” (Time).The BBC’s correspondent in South East Asia, Roland Challis, later described the cover-up of the massacres as a triumph of media complicity and silence; the “official line” was that Suharto had “saved” Indonesia from a communist takeover.

“Of course my British sources knew what the American plan was,” he told me. “There were bodies being washed up on the lawns of the British consulate in Surabaya, and British warships escorted a ship full of Indonesian troops, so that they could take part in this terrible holocaust. It was only much later that we learned that the American embassy was supplying [Suharto with] names and ticking them off as they were killed. There was a deal, you see. In establishing the Suharto regime, the involvement of the [US-dominated] International Monetary Fund and the World Bank were part of it. That was the deal.”

I have interviewed many of the survivors of 1965, including the acclaimed Indonesian novelist Pramoedya Ananta Toer, who bore witness to an epic of suffering “forgotten” in the West because Suharto was “our man”.  A second holocaust in resource-rich East Timor, an undefended colony, was almost inevitable.

In 1994, I filmed clandestinely in occupied East Timor; I found a land of crosses and unforgettable grief. In my film, Death of a Nation, there is a sequence shot on board an Australian aircraft flying over the Timor Sea. A party is in progress. Two men in suits are toasting each other in champagne. “This is a uniquely historical moment,” babbles one of them, “that is truly, uniquely historical.”

Continue reading The Rape of East Timor: “Sounds Like Fun”, by John Pilger

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Academia: Hands off Revolutionary Philosophy!, by Andre Vltchek

Source: counterpunch

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Philosophers have been muzzled by the Western global regime; most of great modern philosophy concealed from the masses. What has been left of it, allowed to float on the surface is toothless, irrelevant and incomprehensible: a foolish outdated theoretical field for those few remaining intellectual snobs.

Philosophy used to be the most precious crown jewel of human intellectual achievement. It stood at the vanguard of almost all fights for a better world. Gramsci was a philosopher, and so were Lenin, Mao Tse-tung, Ho-Chi-Minh, Guevara, Castro, Frantz Fanon, Senghors, Cabral, Nyerere and Lumumba, to name just a few.

To be a thinker, a philosopher, in ancient China, Japan or even in some parts of the West, was the most respected human ‘occupation’.

In all ‘normally’ developing societies, knowledge has been valued much higher than material possessions or naked power.

In ancient Greece and China, people were able to understand the majority of their philosophers. There was nothing “exclusive” in the desire to know and interpret the world. Philosophers spoke to the people, for the people.

Some still do. But that whoring and servile Western academic gang, which has locked philosophy behind the university walls, viciously sidelines such men and women.

Instead of leading people to the barricades, instead of addressing the most urgent issues our world is now facing, official philosophers are fighting amongst themselves for tenures, offering their brains and bodies to the Empire. At best, they are endlessly recycling each other, spoiling millions of pages of paper with footnotes, comparing conclusions made by Derrida and Nietzsche, hopelessly stuck at exhausted ideas of Kant and Hegel.

At worst, they are outrightly evil – making still relevant revolutionary philosophical concepts totally incomprehensible, attacking them, and even disappearing them from the face of the Earth.

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Only the official breed, consisting of almost exclusively white/Western ‘thought recyclers’, is now awarded the right to be called ‘philosophers’.

My friends in all corners of the world, some of the brightest people on earth, are never defined as such. The word ‘philosopher’ still carries at least some great theoretical prestige, and god forbid if those who are now fighting against Western terror, for social justice or true freedom of thought, were to be labeled as such!

But they are, of course, all great philosophers! And they don’t recycle – they go forward, advancing brilliant new concepts that can improve life on our Planet. Some have fallen, some are still alive, and some are still relatively young:

Continue reading Academia: Hands off Revolutionary Philosophy!, by Andre Vltchek

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