Tag Archives: Media

Media manipulation – the tail wags the dog

The Integrity Initiative logo. Don’t be fooled by the words”democracy”: and “disinformation” – they often come out of the mouths of scoundrels these days.

Recent exposure of a shady organisation, the Integrity Initiative, has exposed how media, “think tanks” and politicians are mobilised in campaigns to manipulate public opinion and achieve political objectives. leaked documents show how this is funded by states (in this case the UK) as well as private interests.

Set up in 2015 by The Institute for Statecraft, the Integrity Initiative Describes itself as:

“a network of people and organizations from across Europe dedicated to revealing and combating propaganda and disinformation.”

And it describes its purpose as:

“To counter Russian disinformation and malign influence, and associated weapons of “Hybrid warfare”, in Europe and North America by: expanding the knowledge base; harnessing existing expertise, and; establishing a network of networks of experts, opinion formers and policy makers, to educate national audiences in the threat and to help build national capacities to counter it.”

Don’t be fooled by the term “Russian disinformation.” This really means any information the NATO states want to keep hidden or information with a different spin to that preferred by the NATO establishment.

The documents show the mechanism the Integrity Initiative uses to influence public and political opinions. This uses “clusters” of journalists, politicians, the staff of “think tanks” and state bodies like the Ministry of Defence. And no doubt intelligence agents will be in there somewhere.

They say:

“Members of Integrity Initiative clusters actively engage with policy-makers, and the wider public in their own countries to show them the damage which can be done to their societies by disinformation.”

The most public part of this “engagement” will be media campaigns.

An example of how these “clusters” work

Leaked documents from this groups give an example of one of their successful campaigns – the reversal of the planned appointment of Pedro Baños as Director of National Security in Spain.

First – this from the Wikipedia entry for Pedro Baños (machine translation from Spanish):

“[He] started working as an analyst at the General Secretariat of the Army Staff in 1999 and in 2001, for three years, he was Head of Counterintelligence and Security of the European Army in Strasbourg . 3 From 2004 to 2010 he served as Professor of Strategy and International Relations at the Higher School of the Armed Forces. From 2010 to 2012 he was assigned to the Strategic Affairs and Security Division of the General Secretariat for Defense Policy, as head of the Geopolitical Analysis Area, and in 2012 he moved to stand-by working later as an analyst and autonomous lecturer.

He has worked at the European Parliament’s headquarters in Brussels as a military adviser and has participated in three missions in Bosnia-Herzegovina ( UNPROFOR , SFOR and EUFOR ).

In 2017 he published the book Así se domina el mundo. Unveiling the keys to world power , a dissemination work on geopolitics, denouncing the “hypocrisy” of international politics in which it considers that “there are no good or bad” and that each country “seeks its interests”. 4

On June 7, 2018 it was announced that it would assume the National Security Directorate of Spain with responsibility for the secrecy of the Government’s communications, the coordination of the National Security, Maritime Security and Cybersecurity councils, as well as the management of migratory crises and energetics 6 days later he transpired that finally the President of Government Pedro Sanchez opted by the General Miguel Angel Ballesteros for the position.”

The news report Sanchez dismisses Pedro Baños as director of National Security and finally opts for General Ballesterosdescribes the event in the last sentence above.

Apparently, the decision reversal arose from a “barren polemic for his media profile and his opinions on international politics.” This polemic accused him of “having sympathy for the Russian President Vladimir Putin.”

See the problem? Because Pedro Baños recognised that in international relations “each country seeks its interests” he gets labeled as a supporter of Vladimir Putin and hence guilty of promoting Russian Disinformation.”

This documents from the Integrity Initiative reveals how this “barren polemic” was carried out:

Funding for the Integrity Initiative campaigns

This outfit claims private funding for the early years but is now funded by the UK government to the tune of over 2 million pounds per year. This is acknowledged by the outfit itself – a bit hard to deny as the leaked documents come largely from their funding applications.

The network revealed by cluster members

The leaked documents contain information for cluster groups in a number of European countries. I will just list one example here – the members of the UK cluster in its subgroups. The cluster is led by Keith Sargent – a member of The Institute for Statecraft according to his email address. (The leaked documents contain email address but I have not included them in the post as I hesitate to show personal information. However, readers can access the leaked document with these addresses here –392195849-UK-Cluster).

Office Core Team

This contains 15 staff and 3 fellows so gives some idea of the financial backing and size of the UK cluster.

I have provided names for members of the other clusters as readers will no doubt recognise some of these people.

UK General – Inner Core – Russia

William Browder
Mungo Melvin
Ben Nimmo
Ed Lucas
Anne Applebaum
Charles Dick
Euan Grant
Bobo Lo
John Lough
Vadim Kleiner
Drew Foxall
Vladimir Ashurkov
James Nixey
Craig Oliphant
James Sherr
Keir Giles
Kadri Liik
Igor Sutyagin
Andrew Wood
Peter Pomerantsev
Ian Bond
Nina Jancowicz

How many names do you recognise? William Bowder is a very active campaigner for Russian sanctions and promoter of the Magnitsky Act. Anne Applebaum can be relied on for frequent and rather naive anti-Russian media articles and books. Ben Nimmo works for the Atlantic Council in its Digital Forensic Research Lab and is well know for outing real live humans as automatic “Russian Bots.” The Digital Forensic Research Lab is contracted to work with Facebook to censor accounts and “fake news.”

UK General – Inner Core – Military & Defence

John Ardis
Rob Dover
Robert Hall
Dr David Ryall
Neil Logan Brown
Ahmed Dassu
Anonymous
Duncan Allen
Catherine Crozier
David Fields
Alex Finnen
Giles Harris
Charlie Hornick
Paul Kitching
Alan Parfitt
Andy Pryce
Arron Rahaman
Rob Sandford
Richard Slack
Nick Smith
Joanna Szostek
Nick Washer
Joe Green
Adrian Bradshaw
Jeremy Blackham
Andrew

The email addresses show a number of members of the Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence in this sub-cluster.

UK General – Outer Core – Russia

Roderick Collins
Julian Moore
Alexander Hoare
Graham Geale
James Wilson
Sir Adam Thompson
Alastair Aitken
Chris Bell
Robin Ashcroft
Alistair Wood
Orsyia Lutsevych
Ben Bradshaw
Baiba Braze
Nick Childs
Alzbeta Chmelarova
Zach Harkenrider
David Nicholas
Maya Parmar
Ellie Scarnell
Asta Skaigiryte
Gintaras Stonys
Ian Williams
Carl Miller
Clement Daudy
Gabriel Daudy
Lucy Stafford
Diane Allen
Alexandros Papaioannou
Paddy Nicoll

This list contains several members of parliament and staff of government departments. Baiba Braze’s email address is for the UK embassy in Latvia.

UK General – Outer Core – Military & Defence

Patrick Mileham
Agnes Josa
Steve Jermy
Steve Tatham
Primavera Quantrill
Lorna Fitzsimons

Agnes Josa’s email address is for the Government of Catalonia.

UK Journalists

Deborah Haynes
David Aaronovitch
Dominic Kennedy
Natalie Nougayrede
Bruce Jones
Neil Buckley
Jonathan Marcus

These journalists work for The Times, The BBC and the Financial Times.

Conclusion

It is naive to think that the frequent political campaigns we see arise spontaneously. These leaked documents provide one illustration of how such campaigns can be launched and coordinated. How they are facilitated by links between think tanks, military, and state departments, politicians and journalists. It is logical that these networks will also contain intelligence agents.

Although this organisation and similar ones promote themselves as fighting “disinformation” readers would be naive to taker them at their word. They often promote disinformation or fake news themselves, or at least provide a spin on events and news promoting a state and ideologically approved narrative.

The mainstream media is clearly integrated into such networks – which should make readers think twice about the news this media presents. My advice is to always approach the media, all media, critically and intelligently. And to include alternative sources of information in one’s day-to-day reading.

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Trump and the media – codependents wallowing in the mud

Now, this is what “doctoring” really looks like!

This whole Trump-Acosta issue got me thinking of an old warning: Don’t fight with pigs – you only end up getting dirty and the pig enjoys it anyway.

That certainly seems the case with Trump. He thrives on these conflicts – and truth be told it probably doesn’t harm his rating in any way. His supporters see these fights as him standing up to a biased press and doing a great job.

But, here’s the thing. Ever since the media and Trump got into a childish debate last year over the size of the crowds and TV audience for his inauguration I have thought that both sides were acting badly. The president was being unpresidential and the media unprofessional. The “alternative facts” story was played dishonestly – by both sides.

I think Trump loves such controversies and thinks they bring him support. And he is probably right. But what the hell are the media thinking?

In the end, the media should be reporting the news. Media personalities should stop thinking they are politicians and that it is their role to get into political debates. It isn’t.

Opponents of Trump may enjoy such confrontations but in the end, they just discredit the media.

If the media stuck with reporting the facts and opinions of the politicians they question, readers and viewers could make up their own minds. That is what being an adult is about – we don’t need the media to predigest our news or attack politician’s statements. We are not really interested in the biased opinions of the media personalities. Those media personalities may enjoy their grandstanding and minute of fame but this does not help the reader or viewer. In many cases it just turns them away from the mainstream media.

I can’t help feeling that both sides  Trump and the mainstream media are enjoying these fights.  But that just means both sides are getting dirty and both sides are failing at their jobs.

No wonder people are looking for alternatives – alternative politicians and alternative media.

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The main stream media is out of touch

I find the US mainstream media particularly boring and uninformative these days. It has become embedded in a partisan political campaign and seems to go into a frenzy over every bit of “evidence” or fake news it can garner, invent, or exaggerate in an apparent attempt to reverse the results of last year’s presidential elections.

I think many people must be heartily sick of this campaign. I would not be surprised if this is encouraging many to turn to alternative news sources and I suspect this media obsession is encouraging an increasing mistrust of the mainstream media.

But it is not just a matter of all the fake news and media lies. This political campaign is diverting media attention away from the things that really concern people. After all, they had their election last year and sensible presidential challenges should be off the burner until 2000. Meanwhile, there are all sorts of problems the ordinary person expects their government, and the media, to come to grips with.

So I am not surprised to see recent polling identifying a huge mismatch between the concerns of the media and the concerns of the public. Jon Gabriel’s Ricochet article What Americans Care About vs. What the Media Cares About illustrates this in the following graphic.

Constraining the President

Frankly, I think this US political hysteria is being produced by an alliance of the media, elements of the intelligence community and the “establishment” in general. For one reason or another, they just can not accept the result of the 2016 election and would like to see that result reversed. At the very least, they are using this artificial campaign to constrain the president in areas like foreign policy where they have big differences.

Perhaps pressure from the neocons and deep state to constrain and control a new president is not new. Certainly, we saw this with President Obama. But the campaigners have resorted to a more public and hysterical pressure in President Trump’s case because he is basically a political outsider. He came out of “left field,” was not part of the “acceptable” political establishment and is a maverick. His personality makes him difficult to control in the normal, behind the scenes, way.

Media does itself no favours

There are a number of objective factors creating turmoil for the mainstream media these days. transfer of advertising to social media, changes in technology and the loss of skilled reporters. But the old, established media is not doing itself any favours by diverting into a blatantly partisan political campaign and resorting to such bias in its reporting. And it harms society by encouraging the growth of neo-McCarthyism and supporting those who are working to reduce international cooperation and the relaxation of tension. That is dangerous for the American people – and in fact for the whole world.

But I guess the upside is that this self-exposure of bias is an education to the public. They may now search for alternatives – and that is a good thing. They will also be a lot more critical of what is delivered to them by the news media – and that is also a good thing.

The reader does need to beware – and to question more.

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Critical thinking, not censorship, is the solution to fake news

All this talk about fake news brings to my mind a picture of people in glass houses frantically throwing stones. The fact is that many of those complaining about fake news, especially those dominating our mainstream media, are guilty of promoting fake news – and have done it for years.

I can’t help thinking what really upsets them, is that their readership may be becoming a bit more critical and looking for other sources of news. They are trying to poison the water.

Edward Snowden’s interview from last December 13 is very relevant here. The above video is just a clip from the full video where he talks about fake news – why it’s happening and what to do about it. I really like his conclusions:

“The problem of fake news isn’t solved by hoping for a referee but rather because we as participants, we as citizens, we as users of these services help each other. The answer to bad speech is not censorship. The answer to bad speech is more speech. We have to exercise and spread the idea that critical thinking matters now more than ever, given the fact that lies seem to be getting very popular.”

This really is a time when we have to oppose attempts to limit our access to information. We must not allow the political and media elite to tell us what we can and cannot read and view. We must not allow them to tell us that some news sources ar “out of bounds.” We must not allow them to put blinkers on us.

Alternative media only part of the answer

Sure, accessing alternative new sources is not the full answer – it is only part of the answer. All news sources have a bias, an agenda. For the unthinking person, the solution might be to choose the news source which confirms their own bias or agenda. But that is really unthinking – and it certainly is not a defense against fake news. Quite the opposite. The unthinking acceptance of fake news only encourages it.

No, the answer is to resort to critical thinking. By recognising that all sources may be guilty of fake news – and all news sources have a bias and agenda – we can start thinking for ourselves. We develop the skills of listening and viewing these sources critically. Balancing the information from one source against another. Thinking about the credibility of news stories and the sources they rely on. Recognising bias and false news when we come across it.

Moving towards censorship?

Unfortunately, the political and media elite are working hard to discredit alternative news sources. And their attempts are determined, serious and occurring at a high level. It is hard to envisage truly democratic countries accepting the sort of censorship this seems to be promoting. But have a read of Putin’s Useful Idiots: Britain’s Left, Right and Russia.” Produced by the right-wing Henry Jackson Society this report actually advocates a range of extreme measures, including legislation, controlling the media appearances of politicians and the deliberate intensive undermining of the credibility of “non-approve” news media.

I have seen local journalists actually advocating measures as if they are lifted unchanged from this document – so much for a professional approach to their occupation. And this approach is inherent in the recently adopted resolution of the European parliament on the media and “anti EU-propaganda.”

It is hard to see how such censorship could even be effective in the age of the internet. But the incessant propaganda about false news and attempts to discredit alternative news sources – not for the news they carry but just because they are alternative – is encouraging forms of self-censoring for many individuals. People are being encouraged to reject information because it is from an alternative new source, and not because of the information itself. They are being encouraged into wearing blinkers.

Avoiding self-censorship

A simple exercise. How many time do you see a comment or piece of information on social media rejected out of hand because it was reported on RT, or another alternative news source? Then compare that with the number of times you have seen similar rejections because the report was carried by CNN, Al Jazeera, BBC, etc. Yet all those news media are just as capable of carrying false news as each other. One has only to have followed the US Presidential elections or the Syrian war to recognise that.

Full video

The full interview of Edwards Snowden by Twitter’s  Jack Dorsey and Snowden’s answers to Twitter questions is well worth watching. He is a very intelligent man and should not be ignored.

Here is the full video.

Conclusion

Again it is very much a matter of “reader beware.” We have to stop trusting news sources just because they are “mainstream”.”official,” or “approved.” We have to resist the pressure for self-censorship and the wearing of blinkers that the current political and media elite are promoting.

We should be unafraid and should take advantage of all the sources available to us in this age of the internet.

And, above all, we have to develop and protect our critical thinking skills so that we can use this media – mainstream and alternative – wisely.

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Studies show – or do they?

studies-show

This article from The Spud – Sentences that start with “studies show” usually followed by bullshit, study shows really resonates with me. I have had a gutsful of terms like “studies show” or “scientists have found,” etc. They are simply used to give authority to all sorts of claims – but authority requires the reader to do a bit of work. Check out these studies. Find out exactly what they do say. Don’t take such claims at face value.


A recent study in the Journal of Studying Studies, concluded that sentences which start with “studies show” tend to be followed by inaccurate information.“We looked at several health news stories, anti-vaccine websites, pseudoscience pages which cover things like homeopathy and naturopathic medicine, and found that in almost all cases when a story or headline begins with “studies show” it usually meant the studies were very poor and the author didn’t fully understand the evidence they were presenting,” said researcher Dr. Ernest Young.In response to this latest news, Natural News founder Mike Adams replied with “Studies show that almost all of the studies going against natural medicine are funded by big pharma and all part of the global conspiracy perpetuated by the Illuminati and Agenda 21. I know how to juggle.”The report will be available in next months issue.

Source: Sentences that start with “studies show” usually followed by bullshit, study shows – The Spudd

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The Bain illusion

Cover via Amazon

The recent media discussion of the “I shot the prick” is rather distasteful. That’s the discussion about a “hidden message” in the recording of David Bain‘s emergency phone call on the day his family was murdered.

Whether or not this should have been submitted as evidence during the trial there is no doubt that the interpretation is highly imaginative. Trouble is with these sort of things, once you are told what the alleged “hidden message” is there is no way you are not going to hear it. We are all very suggestible this way.

Michael Shermer describes a beautiful example of this illusion using the song Stairway to Heaven played backwards. Initially you don’t make sense of it but once you are told what the message is meant to be you can’t help hear hear demonic lyrics. He describes this phenomena, and other similar illusions in his TED talk “Why people believe strange things” in the video below. He also goes into this perception problem in his book Why People Believe Weird Things.

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