Saturday, April 07, 2018

Cambridge Analytica Is What Happens When You “Privatize Military Propaganda”

The CNN, BBC fake news media that cheerleaded the bogus wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will all be held collectively and individually responsible for war crimes at The Hague - and they know it  

By Adam Ramsay

The Gulf War Did Not Take Place.

This audacious claim was made by the French philosopher Jean Baudrillard in March 1991, only two months after NATO forces had rained explosives on Iraq, shedding the blood of more than a hundred thousand people.

To understand Cambridge Analytica and its parent firm, Strategic Communication Laboratories, we need to get our heads round what Baudrillard meant, and what has happened since: how military propaganda has changed with technology, how war has been privatised, and how imperialism is coming home.

Baudrillard’s argument centred on the fact that NATO’s action in the Gulf was the first time audiences in Western countries had been able to watch a war live, on rolling TV news – CNN had become the first 24-hour news channel in 1980.

Because camera crews were embedded with American troops, by whom they were effectively censored, the coverage had little resemblance to the reality of the bombardment of Iraq and Kuwait.

The events known to Western audiences as “The Gulf War” – symbolised by camera footage from ‘precision’ missiles and footage of military hardware – are more accurately understood as a movie directed from the Pentagon.

They were so removed from the gore-splattered reality that it’s an abuse of language to call them the same thing. Hence, the “Gulf War” did not take place.

Desert Storm’s First Apache Strikes

Not long after Baudrillard’s iconic essay was published, Strategic Communications Laboratories was founded.

“SCL Group provides data, analytics and strategy to governments and military organisations worldwide” reads the first line of its website. “For over 25 years, we have conducted behavioural change programmes in over 60 countries & have been formally recognised for our work in defence and social change.”

Of course, military propaganda was nothing new. And nor is the extent to which it has evolved alongside changes in media technology and economics. The film Citizen Kane tells a fictionalised version of the first tabloid (or, as Americans call it, ‘yellow journalism’) war: how the circulation battle between William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal and Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World arguably drove the US into the 1889 Spanish American War. It was during this affair that Hearst reportedly told his correspondent, “You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war”, as parodied in Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop. But after the propaganda disaster of the Tet offensive in Vietnam softened domestic support for the war, the military planners began to devise new ways to control media reporting.

As a result, when Britain went to war with Argentina over the Falklands in 1982, they pioneered a new technique for media control: embedding journalists with troops. And, as former BBC war reporter Caroline Wyatt blogged, “The lessons from embedding journalists with the Royal Navy during the Falklands war were taken up enthusiastically by military planners in both Washington and London for the First Gulf War in 1991.”

The UK defence secretary during the Falklands War when the use of embedded journalists was pioneered was John Nott (who backed Brexit). As my colleague Caroline Molloy pointed out to me, his son-in-law is Tory MP Hugo Swire, former minister in both the Northern Ireland Office and the Foreign Office. Swire’s cousin – with whom he overlapped at Eton – is Nigel Oakes, founder of Strategic Communications Laboratories. It’s not a conspiracy, just that the ruling class are all related.

But back to our history: by the time of the 2003 Iraq War, communications technology had moved on again. As the BBC’s Caroline Wyatt explains in the same blog, “satellite communications are now much more sophisticated, meaning we almost always have our own means of communicating with London. That offers a crucial measure of independence, even if reports still have to be cleared for ‘op sec’ [operational security]. The almost total control by the military of the means of reporting in the Falklands would be unthinkable in most warzones today.”

In February 2004, another major disruption in communications technology began: Facebook was founded. And with it came a whole new propaganda nightmare.

As the same time as this history was unfolding, though, something else vital was happening: neoliberalism.

Looked at one way, neoliberalism is the successor to geographical imperialism as the “most extreme form of capitalism”. It used to be that someone with a small fortune to invest could secure the biggest return by paying someone else to sail overseas, subjugate or kill people (usually people of colour) and steal them and/or their stuff. But they couldn’t keep expanding forever – the world is only so big. And so eventually, wealthy Western investors started to shift much of their focus from opening new markets in ‘far off lands’ to marketising new parts of life at home. Neoliberalism is also therefore this process of marketisation: of shifting decisions from one person one vote, to one pound (or dollar or Yen or Euro) one vote. Or, as Will Davies puts it: “the disenchantment of politics by economics”.

The first Iraq War – the one that “did not take place” – coincided with a key stage in this process: the rapid marketisation (read ‘asset stripping’) of the collapsing Soviet Union, and so the successful encirclement of the globe by Western capital. The second Iraq War was notable for the acceleration of another key stage: the encroachment of market forces into the deepest corner of the state. During the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, according to War on Want, private military companies “burst onto the scene”.

The Privatisation of War

In a 2016 report, the campaign group War on Want describes how the UK became the world centre for this mercenary industry. You might know G4S as the company which checks your gas meter, but they are primarily the world’s largest mercenary firm, involved in providing ‘security’ in war zones across the planet (don’t miss my colleagues Clare Sambrook and Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi’s excellent investigations of their work in the UK).

In Hereford alone, near the SAS headquarters, there are 14 mercenary firms, according to War on Want’s report. At the height of the Iraq war, around 80 private companies were involved in the occupation. In 2003, when UK and US forces unleashed “shock and awe” both on the Iraqi people and on their own populations down cable TV wires, the Foreign Office spent £12.6m on British private security firms, according to official figures highlighted by the Guardian. By 2012, that figure had risen to £48.9m. In 2015, G4S alone secured a £100m contract to provide security for the British embassy in Afghanistan.

And just as the fighting was privatised, so too was the propaganda. In 2016, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism revealed that the Pentagon had paid around half a billion dollars to the British PR firm Bell Pottinger to deliver propaganda during the Iraq war. Bell Pottinger, famous for shaping Thatcher’s image, included among its clients Asma Al Assad, wife of the Syrian president. Part of their work was making fake Al Qaeda propaganda films. (The firm was forced to close last year because they made the mistake of deploying their tactics against white people).

Journalist Liam O’Hare has revealed that Mark Turnbull, the SCL and Cambridge Analytica director who was filmed alongside Alexander Nix in the Channel4 sting, was employed by Bell Pottinger in Iraq in this period.

The psychological operations wing of our privatised military: a mercenary propaganda agency.

Like Bell Pottinger, SCL saw the opportunity of the increasing privatisation of war. In his 2006 book “Britain’s Power Elites: The Rebirth of the Ruling Class”, Hywel Williams wrote “It therefore seems only natural that a political communications consultancy, Strategic Communications Laboratories, should have now launched itself as the first private company to provide ‘psyops’ to the military.”

While much of what SCL has done for the military is secret, we do know (thanks, again, to O’Hare) that it’s had contracts from the UK and US departments of defence amounting to (at the very least) hundreds of thousands of dollars. And a document from the National Defence Academy of Latvia that I managed to dig out, entitled “NATO strategic communication: more to be done?” tells us that they were operating in Afghanistan in 2010, and gives some clues about what they were up to:

“more detailed qualitative data gathering operation was being conducted in Maiwand Province by a British company, Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL) is almost unique in the international contractor community in that it has a dedicated, and funded, behavioural research arm located in the prestigious home of British Science and research, The Royal Institute, London.”

In simple terms, the SCL Group – Cambridge Analytica’s parent firm – is the psychological operations wing of our privatised military: a mercenary propaganda agency.

The skills they developed in the context of warzones shouldn’t be overplayed, but nor should they be underplayed. As far as we can tell, just as the Pentagon used simple tools like choosing where to embed journalists during the Gulf War to spin its version of events, so they mastered the tools of modern communication: Facebook, online videos, data gathering and microtargeting.

Such tools aren’t magic (and Anthony Barnett writes well about the risks of implying that they are). They don’t on their own explain either Brexit or Trump (I wrote a plea last year that Remainers in the UK don’t use our investigations as an excuse for failing to engage with the real reasons for the Leave vote). I wouldn’t even use the word “rigging” to describe the impact of these propaganda firms. But they are important.

As the Channel 4 undercover investigation revealed, this work has often been carried out alongside more traditional smear tactics, and – as Chris Wylie explained – in partnership with another nexus in this world: Israel’s conurbation of private intelligence firms, a part of a burgeoning military industrial complex in the country which Israeli activist and writer Jeff Halper argues is a key part of the country’s “parallel diplomacy” drive.

(Of course, this isn’t unique to the UK and Israel. Until Cambridge Analytica achieved global infamy last week, the most prominent mercenary propaganda firm in the world was Peter Theil’s company Palantir (named after the all-seeing eye in Lord of the Rings). Theil, founder of PayPal (with Elon Musk) and an executive of Facebook, wrote a notorious essay in 2009 arguing that female enfranchisement had made democracy untenable and that someone should therefore invent the technology to destroy it. Palantir’s most prominent clients are the United States Intelligence Community, and the US Department of Defence. Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Chris Wylie claimed this week that his firm had worked with Palantir. It’s also noteworthy that one of Palantir’s shareholders is Field Marshal Lord Guthrie, former head of the British Army, and adviser to Veterans for Britain, one of the groups which funnelled money to AggregateIQ ahead of the European referendum. Guthrie also works for Acanum, one of the leading private intelligence agencies, who, in common with Cambridge Analytica’s partners Black Cube, listed Meyer Dagam, the former head of Mossad, as one of their advisers, until he died in 2016. Again, it’s not a conspiracy, it’s just that these guys all know each other. But I digress.)

Back to SCL: why are NATO’s mercenary propagandists getting involved in the US presidential election and – if the growing body of evidence about the link between Cambridge Analytica and AggregateIQ is to be believed – Brexit?

The obvious answer is surely partly true. They could make money doing so, and so they did. If you privatise war, don’t be surprised if military firms start using the tools of war on ‘their own’ side. When Eisenhower warned of the Military Industrial Complex, he was thinking about physical weapons. But, just as unregulated semi-automatics invented for soldiers end up going off in American schools, it shouldn’t be any kind of surprise that the weapons of information war are going off in Anglo-American votes.

But in a more general sense, this whole history is exactly what Brexit was about for many of the powerful people who pushed for it. As we’ve been investigating the secret donation which paid for the DUP Brexit campaign, we keep coming across this web of connections. Priti Patel worked for Bell Pottinger in Bahrain. Richard Cook, the front man for the secret donation to the DUP, set up a business in 2013 with the former head of Saudi intelligence and a Danish man involved in running guns to Hindu radicals who told us he was a spy. David Banks, who ran Veterans for Britain, worked in PR in the Middle East for four years – and Veterans for Britain more generally is full of these contacts.

I could go on. My suspicion is that this isn’t because there’s some kind of conspiracy revolving around a group of ex-spooks. It’s about the fact that power comes from networks of people, and the wing of the British ruling class which was in and around the military is moving rapidly into the world of privatised war. And those people have a strong ideological and material interest in radical right politics.

“The Most Corrupt Country on Earth”

Another way to see it is like this: Britain has lost most of its geographical empire. And most of our modern politics is about the ways in which different groups struggle to come to terms with that fact. For a large portion of the ruling establishment, this involves attempting to reprise the glory days by placing the country at the centre of two of the nexuses which define the modern era.

The UK and its Overseas Territories have already become by far the most significant network of tax havens and secrecy areas in the world, making us the global centre for money laundering and therefore, as Roberto Saviano, the leading expert on the mafia argues, the most corrupt country on earth. And just as countries with major oil industries have major oil lobbies, the UK has a major money laundry-lobby.

Pesky EU regulations have long frustrated the dreams of these people, who wish our island nation to move even further offshore and become even more of a tax haven. And so for some Brexiteers – this money laundry lobby – there was always strong incentive to back a Leave vote: European Research Group statements going back 25 years show as much.

But what the Cambridge Analytica affair reminds us of is that this is not just about the money laundry lobby (nor the agrochemical lobby). Another group with a strong interest in pushing such deregulation, dimming transparency and turning peoples against each other is our flourishing mercenary complex – one of the only other industries in which Britain leads the world. And so it’s no surprise that its propaganda wing has turned the skills it’s learned in towards its desired political outcomes.

In his essay, Baudrillard argued that his observations about the changes in military propaganda told us something about the then new post-Cold War era. Only two years after Tim Berners Lee invented the World Wide Web, he wrote a sentence which, for me, teaches us more about the Cambridge Analytica story than much of the punditry that we’ve seen since: “just as wealth is no longer measured by the ostentation of wealth but by the secret circulation of capital, so war is not measured by being unleashed but by its speculative unfolding in an abstract, electronic and informational space.”

Cambridge Analytica is what happens when you privatise your military propaganda operation. It walked into the space created when social media killed journalism. It is yet another example of tools developed to subjugate people elsewhere in the world being used on the domestic populations of the Western countries in which they were built. It marks the point at which neoliberal capitalism reaches its zenith, and ascends to surveillance capitalism. And the best possible response is to create a democratic media which can’t be bought by propagandists.

This news bureau contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc.  We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

15th Anniversary Of The Bush/Cheney Invasion Of Iraq

Bush/Cheney criminals, CNN, MSM fake news lied and shilled Americans into this illegal, immoral war for oil and are responsible for each and every U.S. military death  

By Veniamin Popov

Some 15 years ago the American-British campaign aimed at discrediting Iraq reached its apogee. Washington used every trick in the book to persuade the world that the then ruler of Iraq Saddam Hussein was in possession of weapons of mass destruction, while possessing a desire to unleash it deadly force upon the world. 

People of the world were being prepared for yet another illegal armed aggression, with Iraq and its people found themselves staring down the barrel of a gun. But to pull out something like this crime, the West had to accuse Hussein of all the sins it could come up with.

The main goal of the US invasion was to show the world who was the ultimate alpha dog. After the tragic events of 9/11 a great many countries had their doubts about this. 

The calculation was that since Iraq was a major oil producer the revenue from taking over its natural resources would cover the costs of the military adventure Washington was about to embark on.

Anti-Iraqi hysteria reached enormous proportions when the former US Secretary of State Colin Powell demonstrated test tubes of unknown origin at the meeting of the UN Security Council that were allegedly containing dangerous chemical substances. Today pretty much the whole world knows that this was nothing but a con. 

Powell delivering his infamous Iraq WMD speech at the UN

The invasion of Iraq would result in 4,500 dead American servicemen, with nearly 600,000 more reported as “gravely injured” after military campaigns against Iraq and Afghanistan. However, most Western media sources don’t not believe that it’s worth reporting that Iraq suffered a death toll of over a million people as a result of American invasion. 

Yet, for the sake of objectivity, one should note that a popular American general medicine journal The Lanset published a study that stated that by 2006 some 655,000 Iraqis were killed in the course the Western aggression.

The military adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan has resulted in Washington wasting at least 2 trillion dollars in total on killing people that had no intension of harming America, which has been reported by a handful of US media sources. This monstrous Anglo-Saxon act has had catastrophic consequences. For instance, Al-Jazeera would describe at as the greatest sin of the 21st century. 

And even though American and British politicians were well aware of the fact that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, they still used those weapons as a pretext for the invasion. 

A few years later, a special commission of the British Parliament would condemn UK’s participation in this military adventure, but without allocating any responsibility on political figures like Tony Blair, who was British Prime Minister at the time of the invasion. 

Neither he nor US President George W. Bush were declared war criminals, in spite of the repeated demands to bring them to justice voiced by various international and national organizations.

The invasion of Iraq resulted in a number of terrorist organization raising their heads deep within its territory, including Al-Qaeda and ISIS, with the latter declaring the creation of an Islamic Caliphate to be its ultimate goal. 

American aggression against Iraq has given a powerful impulse to the growth of extremist sentiments across the region, with the world still struggling to recover from this impulse. At the same time, we cannot forget that innocent people across the globe are still suffering from the consequences of this ill-convinced invasion.

Among the consequences of this despicable act one can mention a new wave of migration, which has taken its toll on the EU and a great many of other countries of the world.

Finally, all of these events have led to a radical change in the balance of forces in the Persian Gulf, along with the aggravation and emergence of new ethnic conflicts both within the region and across the globe.

As a result, Iraq has been turned into a festering wound that is plagued by constant never-ending fighting that leads to further misery and destruction.

Today the results of this thieving act of aggression are well-known:
  • Iraq is a torn country that cannot recover from all the death and destruction unleashed upon it;
  • Washington has handed over all power to the Shia majority, which led to a sharp increase in Iran’s influence, the country that Washington despises the most;
  • The invasion of Iraq has led to an abrupt increase in radical sentiments which, in turn, resulted in the establishment of ISSI Caliphate that would control territories populated by almost 9 million people for years. But for Russia’s interference in the military conflict in Syria in 2015, this Caliphate would have been controlling the better part of the Arab world by now;
  • The so-called War on Terror has led to a colossal spike in the number of terrorist attacks all across the globe.

It should be noted that during his time in office George W. Bush would repeat repeatedly that his task was the people of Iraq with all the freedom they could get, noting that America was entering Iraq to ensure that the hungry were fed, everyone who required medical attention may receive it, and so that the young may be properly educated. 

Time and time again American officials would ensure the world that Iraq is going to become a model of democracy after the American invasion and serve as a “beacon of the Middle East.” Yet, the world has seen nothing but miser, death and destruction so far.

The Foreign Affairs has recently published article noting that today’s instability in the region has nothing to do with Tehran’s regional aspirations, since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 tipped the scales of the regional balance, allowing chaos to spread across the region. 

As Iran found itself at the forefront of the struggle against Sunni terrorism, it was inevitable that it would enjoy more influence once it succeeds.

The world is still unable to overcome the consequences of this terrible gamble. However, the West does not want to admit its responsibility, choosing to employ double speak in a bid to push the blame on somebody’s else shoulders.

This news bureau contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc.  We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

Train Hauling 10 Million Pounds Of New York Sewage Stranded In Alabama

Crap train befouls small town    


A train carrying 200 containers, or 10 million pounds of New York City sewage sludge (i.e. shit) is stuck in an Alabama rail yard, leaving a small town of around 1,000 people choking on the foul stench.

The poop train has sat for months in limbo in a Parrish, Ala. trainyard, just two hours north of Montgomery, after a legal dispute arose between waste management facilities in New York and New Jersey, which originally shipped the biowaste to Big Sky Environment landfill in Adamsville, AL. When neighboring West Jefferson filed and won an injunction against Big Sky in January to prevent the "shit train" from evacuating its fecal freight, the load was moved to Parrish, where there are no zoning laws against keeping it there - and where it has sat ever since. 

"People need to understand that this waste does not need to be in a populated area," said Parrish Mayor Heather Hall. "There are places to put it, industrial places. We're a very small town caught in the middle of this, and I feel like that's part of the issue here. This shouldn't be happening."

“It greatly reduces the quality of life,” Hall said. “You can’t sit out on your porch. Kids can’t go outside and play, and God help us if it gets hot and this material is still out here.” On Tuesday the temperature in Parrish reached 81 degrees.

“You can’t open your door because that stuff gets in your house. It’s really rough,” Parrish resident Robert Hall told WVTM. Other residents said the waste smelled like dead bodies.

Hall said many as 252 tractor-trailer loads of feces was stockpiled in the Parrish rail yard adjacent to a baseball field - permeating the entire two-mile-wide town with the fetid fallout. The mayor said she expected the poo train to be moved within days of its February arrival. She met with Alabama Governor Kay Ivey and other state lawmakers last week in order to try and find a solution to the fecal fiasco.

The Mayor was assured by the EPA that the waste is not dangerous. "Other than it smelling absolutely terrible, I have to trust them that it's not going to hurt you." She also said she's been asked by colleagues in the capital city of Montgomery not to file an injunction of the landfill - as it would likely guarantee the poo train wouldn't move until the trial is over. 

When will this be over? In short, nobody knows. “I’m just getting little bits and pieces of information, and I cannot tell you how frustrating it is,” Hall said. “My understanding is, they are really trying to work on the problem, and they keep telling us the situation is almost over.”

While temperatures in Parrish are in the 70's right now, they are expected to rise into the low 80s by the end of the month - and hit the mid 90's by July. 

This news bureau contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc.  We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.



The real truth on 9/11 slowly continues to bleed out

Technical experts are mounting major challenges to official U.S. government accounts of how three World Trade Center skyscrapers collapsed in near-freefall after the 9/11 attacks 15 years ago.

Many researchers are focusing especially on the little-known collapse of



The Geopolitics Of The United States, Part 1: The Inevitable Empire

The Empire and the inevitable fall of the Obama criminal regime

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Like nearly all of the peoples of North and South America, most Americans are not originally from the territory that became the United States.



Geopolitics Of The United States Part 2: American Identity And The Threats of Tomorrow

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We have already discussed in the first part of this analysis how the American geography dooms whoever controls the territory to being a global power, but there are a number of other outcomes that shape what that power will be like. The first and most critical is the impact of that geography on the American mindset.



By Robert S. Finnegan

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The 5th Estate has just purchased a library on H5N1 "Novel" virus pandemics, there are dozens of PDF and Exel documents we feel will assist you in saving lives following intentional releases of the H5N1 and now MERS viruses; we will begin by printing those that appear to be extremely relevant here: H5N1 Kobe-Kawaoka-Ernala series continues soon with more "Smoking Gun" e-mails from Teridah Ernala to The 5th Estate . . .



By Robert S. Finnegan

On October 12, 2002 the Indonesian island of Bali experienced a terrorist attack that rocked the world. It was unquestionably well-coordinated and executed, the largest in the country's history.