Perhaps the two biggest and most-disputed news stories of 2010 have been the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and the Wikileaks publication of the Afghan War Diary. The exact nature of both events is uncertain, and their motives and causes are the subject of some speculation. For the most part the mainstream media have portrayed the Deepwater oil spill as an accident. The dispute within the mainstream media has largely revolved around nationalistic prejudices - the US media blaming BRITISH petroleum for the largest oil spill in history, the British media objecting. This particular spin appears to have been an attempt by Barack Obama to appear more nationalistic, to recover some of the centre ground the 'right wing' have gained since the 2008 election. As this chart from pollster.com shows, the Obama-fronted administration is suffering from serious mid-term ratings trouble.
Traditionally, two years into an administration is a difficult time for new presidents, but given the success of the populist, cult of personality election campaign (that won awards from the advertising industry) times look tough for Barack. Nonetheless, he came out fighting. He visited Louisiana, the area most heavily afflicted by the spill, taking care to be pictured on the beach, literally getting his hands dirty.
This was in stark contrast to George W Bush's visit to New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He was criticised for a doing a flyover of the flood-stricken city from Air Force One.
Obama's 'tough' approach to the problem of the oil spill included a highly embarrassing moment when the niggercommunistmuslimantichrist claiming he visited the area because the locals could tell him 'whose ass to kick'.
Very shortly, and not inspired at all by Gulf of Mexico fisherman put out of work by the spill, Barack started to kick some ass, and he opted for BP. Labelling them a British company and saying it was entirely their 'recklessness' that had led to the disaster, he adopted a policy not dissimilar to that of the Bush administration when launching the War on Terror. He turned BP, and in particular chief executive Tony Hayward, into the villains of the story he helped paint himself as the hero. However, as the chart above shows, his ratings continue to fall. Now, Hayward deserves no sympathy, he is, or at least was until the scandal forced him to step down, an overpaid executive of one company in an elite oil cartel who control the West's energy supplies. The arrogance of being a 'member of the club' was amply demonstrated by BP Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg referring to the afflicted as 'small people'. For all they have had to play the villains in this pantomime, the company is ultimately protected, and will no doubt recover its share price and position in the 'market'.
The whole story is ridiculous. 'BP' is only 40% British owned, and an equal share is held by Americans. BP's partner in the deep-drilling rig operation was the Texas-based Anadarko. In a memo obtained by TPMMuckraker BP attempted to bill Anadarko for $272 million, but the American company refused to pay. They claim it was entirely BP's recklessness that was to blame. However, the much-maligned Halliburton were at least partly responsible for the safety procedures that allegedly failed, and so we have a triumvirate of not particularly British companies in the firing line. But there are indications, largely buried by the transatlantic dick waving, that it was no accident, and this isn't just about corporate greed.
Several weeks before the 'blowout' Tony Hayward sold £1.4 million in BP shares, at the same time as the company were officially pinning their future on deepwater drilling. In the three months prior to the explosion, insider trading specialists Goldman Sachs sold 58% of their holdings in BP, worth around a quarter of a billion dollars. When you factor in that Goldman Sachs chairman and managing director Peter Sutherland is a former chairman of BP, as well as a Bilderberg attendee, European Chairman for the Trilateral Commission and financial advisor to the Vatican, the possibility of an inside job looks very plausible. Why did BP bend over backwards to pay up the $20 billion demanded by the US congress? Just as the insurance companies paid out after 9/11 for the destruction of three World Trade Center skyscrapers without the slightest investigation, BP have simply folded and given in.
Why might they have done this? According to Japan-based journalist Ben Fulford it was a reaction to the Chinese slowing down their buying of US debt. In his view, the blowing up of the rig and the initial failure to do much about it was the US saying 'if you do not give us the money, we will destroy the planet’s eco-system.' There are other possible reasons, and some distinct parallels with 9/11 that bear thinking about, aside from the insider trading that betrayed foreknowledge, and the apparent acceptance of financial liability after the event of a company powerful enough to fight their corner. Just as military and counterterrorism exercises were apparently exploited to help facilitate the 9/11 attacks, alarms and safety mechanisms on the Deepwater Horizon rig were switched off. This was done 'to help the workers sleep', but left the rig open to accident or sabotage.
There is also the visual nature of the event. On May 12th, weeks after the initial explosion and sinking of the rig, BP released footage of the spill as it progressed underwater. By May 21st they 'bowed to pressure' and produced a live feed of the spill. For weeks people could tune in to youtube and watch as underwater clouds of mud and oil flowed from the busted pipes. The comparison with 9/11 is quite simple. Though the timeframes for the oil spill were much longer, a simple pattern was followed. An initial explosion on the rig (the 'plane' hitting the South Tower) followed by the rig sinking and collapsing (the twin towers 'collapsing') followed by a billowing pyroclastic flow of oil and mud (the flow of the debris from the towers covering lower Manhattan).
On June 14th, President Obama explicitly compared the spill to the terrorist attack, calling it an 'environmental 9/11'.
The disaster will "shape how we think about the environment... for years to come", he told US website Politico. - BBC
This is entirely in keeping with comments made in the aftermath of the failure of the Copenhagen conference to reach anything even approaching a binding agreement on emission reductions. The failure of that much-hyped conference, along with the increased scepticism of climate science in the wake of the climategate scandal, meant that getting the carbon economy back on the agenda was going to be difficult. Back in January, things were looking so bad that banks were withdrawing from the carbon market that had seen such heavy investment over the previous two years. By June, and shortly before Obama's 9/11 comment, Reuters reported that they were once again actively investing. Not long afterwards, it was reported that a ban on offshore drilling enacted in response to the spill was going to result in a rise in the price of oil.
The need for a crisis to help reinvigorate this long-held agenda was flagged by prominent academics just prior to the events in the Gulf of Mexico. James Lovelock, the author of the Gaia hypothesis (which in most respects contradicts the climate change doommongers) gave a highly convenient interview to the Guardian:
Humans are too stupid to prevent climate change from radically impacting on our lives over the coming decades. This is the stark conclusion of James Lovelock, the globally respected environmental thinker and independent scientist who developed the Gaia theory.This followed on from comments made by BBC climate correspondent Richard Black and Financial Times Environment correspondent Fiona Harvey. During a question and answer session at Oxford University on February 26th they were asked about Met Office forecasts, and what would convince 'sceptics and deniers':
It follows a tumultuous few months in which public opinion on efforts to tackle climate change has been undermined by events such as the climate scientists' emails leaked from the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the failure of the Copenhagen climate summit.
"I don't think we're yet evolved to the point where we're clever enough to handle a complex a situation as climate change," said Lovelock in his first in-depth interview since the theft of the UEA emails last November. "The inertia of humans is so huge that you can't really do anything meaningful."
One of the main obstructions to meaningful action is "modern democracy", he added. "Even the best democracies agree that when a major war approaches, democracy must be put on hold for the time being. I have a feeling that climate change may be an issue as severe as a war. It may be necessary to put democracy on hold for a while."
Lovelock, 90, believes the world's best hope is to invest in adaptation measures, such as building sea defences around the cities that are most vulnerable to sea-level rises. He thinks only a catastrophic event would now persuade humanity to take the threat of climate change seriously enough, such as the collapse of a giant glacier in Antarctica, such as the Pine Island glacier, which would immediately push up sea level.
"That would be the sort of event that would change public opinion," he said. "Or a return of the dust bowl in the mid-west. Another Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report won't be enough. We'll just argue over it like now." - Guardian
Q: What will persuade sceptics and deniers?Much like PNAC called for a 'New Pearl Harbour' and Zbigniew Brzezinski spoke of the need for a 'widely perceived direct external threat' for the US to adopt a more aggressive foreign policy, these statements evoke the need for a climate catastrophe to get the carbon economy and emissions policies back in the public minds. The world's biggest ever oil leak? Not a bad effort. There was steady increase in stories of how bad it was, from initial estimates of 1,000 barrels a day soon becoming up to 100,000 barrels per day. Oil industry whistleblower Lindsey Williams got in on the act, going on the Alex Jones show saying his contacts in the industry were worried about poisonous gases emanating from the site of the spill. He appeared on the Jeff Rense show with much the same story. In keeping with his somewhat curious religious views he portrayed the disaster as being of biblical proportions, and that it would require a nuclear explosion to seal up the ocean floor. The possible use of a nuke was officially denied just as Williams was feeding the story to the alternative media. This was in June, and he was talking about four months being required to do the preparatory work before the nuke would be detonated. A couple of weeks later, BP announced that they'd stemmed the flow of oil. By August Obama and his daughter were pictured on holiday, swimming at Alligator Point in Florida. It seems unlikely that if toxic gases were spewing up out of the water than the President would be allowed to go swimming on the Northern shore of the Gulf of Mexico. That said, BP are allegedly still spending nearly $100 million a day on dealing with the leak, so though it appears Lindsey Williams had been given misinformation it remains to be seen what happens.
BJ: It’s curious how Met Office and WMO predictions on AGW came out in the week of CH (some audience disagreement as to whether there had been a change from their normal timetable). It was at least bad timing for organisations that value integrity. They should distance themselves from advocacy. The Met Office is ahead of the science.
FH: FT readers are versed in risk and probability which are difficult to communicate in the rest of the media. Climate scientists aren’t generally newsworthy; sceptics, IPCC problems and emails are making the news. “Climate – guess what? Still changing” is an unlikely headline. A short-term disaster is needed to guarantee coverage as people aren’t good at processing information about there being no ice at the poles in 30 years. Or get David Attenborough as the front man because everyone trusts him.
RB: I agree that a short term disaster would be effective in persuading people. - Bishop Hill blog
By the end of July the mainstream was reporting that the oil spill, though huge, may not have been as catastrophic as previously thought. Perhaps as a bolster against this, at the same time a joint report by the UK Met Office and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the US declared itself the 'best evidence yet' of global warming, and that the evidence was 'unmistakable'. In the midst of the oil spill Professor Phil Jones, who was sacked to help manage the PR during climategate, was reinstated after yet another inquiry found he'd done no wrong in refusing FOIA requests, suggesting colleagues destroyed the data, and generally refusing to make public any of the information or analysis that had produced 'evidence' of global warming. A month later, as it appeared that oceanic bacteria were degrading the spilled oil much faster than anticipated, the EU's top climate official called for a reworking of the carbon markets. Connie Hedegaard, another Bilderberg attendee, called for an overhaul of the 'Clean Development Mechanism' to 'make the carbon market an even more powerful instrument to reduce emissions'. If the stories about the oil spill not being as bad as it was portrayed are true, that may help explain why another rig has just exploded.
The second biggest leak of the year was Wikileaks' publication of the Afghan War Diary. The 'compendium' of around 91,000 documents largely consisting of basic military intelligence reports has offered a more detailed view of the Afghan War than any prior coverage. The simultaneous reporting 'scoop' by the Guardian, Der Spiegel and the New York Times catapulted Wikileaks, and Julian Assange, into the limelight. Disputes began immediately. The Pentagon responded in typical fashion, saying that Wikileaks had 'blood on their hands' because they'd exposed sensitive information. Given the actual tedium of sifting through the documents to try to find strategically useful information, this is complete horseshit. The insurgency in Afghanistan, now 'spilling' into Pakistan, would be better off just looking on the ground with their own eyes than spending weeks poring over files on the internet. If Wikileaks starts broadcasting a live feed from the US's Predator drone aircraft then that's a different matter, and I for one would find it a lot more riveting than the oil spill. And herein lies one of the more prominent criticisms of the Wikileaks War Diary story, that it may in fact be a carefully manipulated internet-era psychological operation, carried out by the very people who it apparently damages.
Suspicions were raised by the fact that two themes are relatively prevalent throughout the documents - ISI sponsorship of the insurgency, and intelligence maintaining the idea that Osama Bin Laden is actually still alive. To anyone who has actually been following the War on Terror with any integrity or critical faculties, that the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence bureau are in the habit of sponsoring various militant/terrorist groups comes as no surprise. And yet, the Guardian, Der Spiegel and the NY Times all presented the story as though it were something new and outrageous. Of apparently less concern was the actions of a US Special Forces group called Task Force 373, basically a commando unit used for assassination missions. This is extra-judicial murder, like killing senior Nazis at the end of World War 2 instead of capturing them and putting them on trial. The NY Times reported that these missions frequently 'go wrong' and end up killing civilians. The net effect of this coverage is to maintain the notion of an 'us' and a 'them'. Now the 'them' who are inflicting the dreadful threat of terrorism on the West (not actual terrorism, just the threat of it) has been expanded to include Pakistan.
In all likelihood, the Brzezinski plan for Pakistan is to use them against Iran. Though there are fresh murmurs of a war against Iran, it remains highly unlikely given the US deficit and given how badly the existing wars are going. However, the murmurs do indicate that the neocons are taking ground from the Obama administration, since invasion of Iran is their policy. Brzezinski, ever the chess player, favours hiding behind proxies and manipulating the situation geopolitically, and hence wants to use the only existing Muslim nuclear power (Pakistan) to counter Iran's rather obvious efforts to become a nuclear power. So, they ratchet up the sponsorship of groups like Jundullah and Jaish-e-Mohammed to try to destabilise Iran and monopolise their military intelligence assets in fighting a dirty war. The problem with this is that the insurgency in Afghanistan becomes more powerful. In trying to deal with the Iran problem, the Obama administration has made the war in Afghanistan unwinnable. Hence, the neocons are able to seize some power saying that the only option is an all-out strike on Iran to take them out of the picture. In the midst of this struggle, Obama announced the 'end of combat operations' in Iraq. Not the end of the war. Not the end of the US occupation. But the end of 'combat operations'. Remind you of anything?
The other common criticism of the Wikileaks War Diary is that it promulgates the myth that Osama Bin Laden is still alive and causing trouble, and is a reason to be as afraid as you can manage. Even Fidel Castro got involved, saying that the Wikileaks documents 'prove' Bin Laden is a US spy. Either Castro is just being a cantankerous old Commie or he's being very clever in suggesting the presence of Bin Laden in the documents is reason to believe that his reputation as an international terrorist is one created and advanced by Western intelligence for their own ends. Either way, good on him. The world won't be quite the same when Fidel Castro isn't in it anymore.
One of the better critiques of this story is offered by Brendon O'Neill of Spiked:
[I]t’s worth noting that the documents reveal little that we didn’t already know, or couldn’t have guessed was happening...
...Truth is not something that is handed to us on a silver platter by know-it-all whistleblowers. It is something we discover for ourselves through a process of critical investigation and by quizzing and querying received wisdoms. The media’s pant-wetting excitement about these leaked documents only shows what a parlous state journalism is in, and how much journalists have become the passive recipients of information rather than active seekers of the truth...
...In equating Truth with exposure – so that Truth becomes something which is revealed to us by a supposedly heroic individual in the corridors of powers – journalists and editors are compliant in the denigration of the meaning of Truth. Truth becomes, not something we find out through critical study and investigation, but something we are handed by external forces who apparently have always pure, unimpeachable motives...
...Waiting for the Truth to be revealed is always a fool’s errand – whether you’re waiting for God to reveal it, or, even worse, some sap in a suit in the Pentagon who one morning has a very belated pang of guilt about his role in the destruction of Afghanistan. - Spiked
Giving credence to the notion that Wikileaks is an earnest website, working to put information in the public domain, who are seen as a threat by the CIA and Pentagon, is the treatment of Assange. On August 2oth, he was charged with rape in Sweden. However, within a day the arrest warrant was canceled and the charges dropped. Then at the beginning of September a 'top Swedish prosecuter' said that the case had been re-opened. So, is Assange being stigmatised and branded a rapist in order to try to discredit Wikileaks? It's possible. However, if anything the stories about Assange being charged, then the charges being dropped, then being potentially brought up again, all mentioned the War Diary as part of their coverage. It's almost as if they wanted us to make the connection, and presume the rape allegation false, and a concoction of Assange/Wikileaks apparent enemies.
A couple of days after the charges were dropped, Wikileaks published a new CIA document on their website. They pre-announced the publication on Twitter. The entries (reverse chronological order) read:
The possible prosecution of WikiLeaks | Antiwar http://bit.ly/dx2nc3Clearly Wikileaks wanted the publication of the CIA document to help distract from Assange's legal trouble, and firmly placed it in the context of them fighting back against 'prosecution' from outside. The document itself is from the CIA's 'Red Cell', supposedly responsible for 'outside the box' thinking. It's subject is the US 'export of terrorism', i.e. US citizens who'd gone and been involved with terrorism in other countries. The memo mentions several examples, and concludes that the PR damage of the rest of the world recognising that terrorism can originate in the US could undermine legal efforts to get foreign nations to extradite suspects to the US, and in general make US agents abroad into targets for retribution.
9:53 AM Aug 25th via bitly
WikiLeaks to release CIA paper tomorrow.
11:53 PM Aug 24th via bitly - Wikileaks on Twitter
Perhaps the most interesting and revealing aspect of this memo is what it doesn't say. It talks of the US 'export' of terrorism. Not sponsorship. Not control or manipulation. 'Export'. One of the examples mentioned is that of David Headley from Chicago, who helped Lashkar-e-Taiba carry out the 2008 Mumbai attacks. However, the US refused to let Headley be interrogated by Indian authorities investigating the attacks, leading them and many others to believe he is in fact a CIA operative. They did eventually hand him over to the Indian authorities, but only after extensive interrogation (or debriefing) by US agents. Headley certainly worked for the Drug Enforcement Administration as an informant for years, including paying visits to Pakistan on their behalf and he may have been recruited from their by intelligence agencies higher up the food chain, such as the CIA. Though he ended up pleading guilty, just like Ali Mohamed there is no report of him actually being sentenced, and according to his lawyer this won't happen until next year when the trial of one of his co-accused is completed.
While it is not surprising to find the CIA not explicitly referring to their own sponsorship of terrorists, if Wikileaks were honest in their coverage of the issue of terrorism you would expect them to mention that Headley was probably CIA, and certainly a secret agent of some type. But they didn't. This suggests that the publication of the CIA memo was part of a media campaign aimed at taking attention away from the rape allegations, and restoring credibility to Wikileaks in a period of criticism. But who is ultimately pulling the strings? Was this just a self-protectionist move by Wikileaks, or a more subtle propaganda strategy? Is the aim to grant credibility to Wikileaks only insofar as they continue to ignore the very biggest questions? Are they a product of the people they supposedly seek to expose? Certainly Webster Tarpley thinks so. If the aim here is to promote and cultivate Wikileaks in such a way as to discredit and marginalise 'conspiracy theorists' then this leak is an excellent means of doing that. In the second part of the above video, Tarpley rightly asks of Assange 'who pays you?' Similar document-publishing, whistleblowing website Cryptome recently
If the aim here is to promote and cultivate Wikileaks in such a way as to discredit and marginalise 'conspiracy theorists' then this leak is an excellent means of doing that. In the second part of the above video, Tarpley rightly asks of Assange 'who pays you?' Similar document-publishing, whistleblowing website Cryptome recentlypublished a series of messages purportedly posted by Wikileaks insiders on an encrypted messageboard. Though cryptome cast doubt on the authenticity of the messages, but they include demands for a full audit of Wikileaks finances, allegations of Wikileaks manipulating their releases, and of the organisation having a 'pyramid structure'. How Wikileaks has determined that it needs $5 million a year is a question worth asking when all they ostensibly do is host a website and pay for Assange's travelling expenses. Whether these messages are authentic is virtually impossible to say, but they do make some important points. Nonetheless, Cryptome officially supports Wikileaks.
If Wikileaks has been created, infiltrated, or otherwise been manipulated by Western military intelligence then it is in keeping with strategies outlined in various significant reports. As outlined in David Ray Griffin's new book 'Cognitive Infiltration', Obama appointee Cass Sunstein advocated the covert infiltration of groups and movements deemed 'conspiracist' and therefore a threat. He did this in a 2009 paper published in the Journal of Political Philosophy titled 'Conspiracy Theories: Causes and Cures'. I've yet to find a fully available copy of the paper, but it is likely a rehash of his 2008 paper 'Conspiracy Theories'. In it, Sunstein attributes belief in conspiracy theories largely to psychological bases. The paper trots out the usual crap about how difficult it is for conspiracies to be real in an 'open society':
Consider all the work that must be done to hide and to cover up the government’s role in producing a terrorist attack on its own territory, or in arranging to kill political opponents. In a closed society, secrets are not difficult to keep, and distrust of official accounts makes a great deal of sense. In such societies, conspiracy theories are both more likely to be true and harder to show to be false in light of available information. But when the press is free, and when checks and balances are in force, government cannot easily keep its conspiracies hidden for long. These points do not mean that it is logically impossible, even in free societies, that conspiracy theories are true. But it does mean that institutional checks make it unlikely, in such societies, that powerful groups can keep dark secrets for extended periods, at least if those secrets involve important events with major social salience. - Sunstein, 2008What this commonly repeated attempt to refute conspiracy theories in general is missing is that in fact, even in open societies, secrets are kept as a matter of routine. As the CIA loves to remind us, we know about their failures, but we'll never hear about their successes. Military secrets are routinely kept not only from opponents on the battlefield but from the very public they are supposedly protecting. Leaks such as the Wikileaks Afghan War Diary are 'sexy' media stories precisely because we live in a society where we basically know sod all about what our soldiers and spies are really up to. On the contrary to sort of argument put forth by Sunstein, in an open society where you can obfuscate, bury bad news, or just flood people with information so they can't process it in a meaningful way, it's actually rather easy to plan and carry out (for example) false flag terrorist attacks. In the case of 7/7, virtually no forensic evidence has been leaked into the public domain, making it impossible to draw any evidence-based narrative of what happened. Those claiming to know that 7/7 was an inside job are making a leap, but no greater leap than those who claim to know that it wasn't.
Sunstein moves on to the general ignorance of people, and finds in this another cause for conspiracy theories to be believed.
Some beliefs are also motivated, in the sense that people are pleased to hold them or displeased to reject them.35 Acceptance (or for that matter rejection) of a conspiracy theory is frequently motivated in that sense. Reactions to a claim of conspiracy to assassinate a political leader, or to commit or to allow some atrocity either domestically or abroad, are often determined by the motivations of those who hear the claim. These are points about individual judgments, bracketing social influences. But after some bad event has occurred, those influences are crucial, for most people will have little or no direct information about its cause. How many people know, directly or on the basis of personal investigation, whether Al Qaeda was responsible for the 9/11 attacks, or whether Lee Harvey Oswald killed President Kennedy on his own? - Sunstein, 2008In fact, the majority of people who believe that Al Qaeda were not responsible for 9/11 and that Oswald didn't kill JFK believe so on the basis of investigation. How rational that investigation is, how sound the evidence and how logical their conclusions are as to what really happened are all a matter of considerable dispute. But the sorts of people who affirm that 9/11 was an inside job typically have far more information about the event than they do about any other given major news event. They even have a tendency to bombard those who are unconvinced with information and arguments in attempts to convince the '9/11 truth sceptics'. So, the answer to Sunstein's rather rhetorical question is 'quite a lot, actually'.
Sunstein goes on to describe several possible responses by governments concerned about conspiracy theories.
What can government do about conspiracy theories? Among the things it can do,
what should it do? We can readily imagine a series of possible responses. (1)
Government might ban conspiracy theorizing. (2) Government might impose some kind of tax, financial or otherwise, on those who disseminate such theories. (3) Government might itself engage in counterspeech, marshaling arguments to discredit conspiracy theories. (4) Government might formally hire credible private parties to engage in counterspeech. (5) Government might engage in informal communication with such parties, encouraging them to help. Each instrument has a distinctive set of potential effects, or costs and benefits, and each will have a place under imaginable conditions. However, our main policy idea is that government should engage in cognitive infiltration of the groups that produce conspiracy theories, which involves a mix of (3), (4) and (5). - Sunstein, 2008
The idea of a tax on conspiracy theorists is truly wonderful, and could only ever be the product of a mind reaching for a predetermined conclusion with all its might, without caring how stupid the person it belongs to ends up looking. It would lead to a lengthy legal battle on the definition of a conspiracy theory, since there are dozens of official conspiracy theories that presumably would deserve to be taxed too. Maybe it isn't such a stupid idea after all.
He goes on to explain what this strategy of 'cognitive infiltration' might look like.
By this we do not mean 1960s-style infiltration with a view to surveillance and collecting information, possibly for use in future prosecutions. Rather, we mean that government efforts might succeed in weakening or even breaking up the ideological and epistemological complexes that constitute these networks and groups...
...We suggest a role for government efforts, and agents, in introducing such diversity. Government agents (and their allies) might enter chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups and attempt to undermine percolating conspiracy theories by raising doubts about their factual premises, causal logic or implications for political action. - Sunstein, 2008
As I imagine Griffin's book will discuss, infiltrating perceived dangerous social movements is not a new strategy, and if anything the likes of Sunstein talking about it so explicitly is itself an attempted psychological operation. By advocating the policy in such clear terms he is trying to make it seem normal, rational, and inevitable. It is the just response of a sensible government in the face of a menace.
The same basic thesis can be found in more recent report, which reference Sunstein's work. Supposedly 'third way' think tank DEMOS recently published 'The Power of Unreason: Conspiracy Theories, Extremism and Counter-Terrorism'. Even more so than Sunstein, they identify belief in conspiracy theories with 'extreme' beliefs and ultimately with terrorism. They note how groups from the Ku Klux Klan to Aum Shinrikyo have believed they were the targets of persecution, or that they were a vanguard against the onslaught of tyrannical government. They note how anarchist group the Angry Brigade sent communiques 'bursting with conspiracy':
Communique 7: …THEY shoved garbage from their media down our
throats. THEY made us obscure sexual caricatures, all of us men and
women. They killed, napalmed, burned us into soap, mutilated us,
raped us. It’s gone on for centuries. Slowly we started understanding
THE BIG CON
Communique 9: We are slowly destroying the long tentacles of the
oppressive state machine…bureaucracy and technology used against
the people…to speed up our work, to slow down our minds and actions,
to obliterate the truth. - Angry brigade communiques, cited in The Power of Unreason
Frankly, however stupid and counterproductive and needlessly violent I think terrorism is, there's a lot to identify with in the statements, however 'conspiratorial' their tone. DEMOS show much the same sort of intellectual dishonesty as Sunstein, describing the story of US group MOVE thus:
MOVE – an anarcho-primitivist group involved in a policeDEMOS's analysis is almost entirely inaccurate. Several members of the commune were involved in a shootout where a police officer was killed, but that was in 1978, not 1985. Completely ommitted from the analysis above is the fact that the MOVE commune in was subjected to a horrific siege by Philadelphia police in 1985. Tear gas canisters were hurled in, the house was drenched with water cannons, thousands of rounds were fired at the building and then to cap it all a helicopter dropped a bomb primarily made of C-4 on top of them, killing 11 people including 5 children, and causing fire and destruction that ultimately consumed 65 houses. That's a pretty good psychological motivation for people to believe the state is capable of terrorism against its own people. Echoing Sunstein once more, DEMOS cite the Wikileaks War Diary as an example of how hard it is to keep secrets:
shooting in 1985 in the United States – spoke of government
corruption and blamed all the world’s ills on technology. - The Power of Unreason
It is also becoming more difficult for security services to operate
behind a veil of secrecy. The recent leaking of thousands of
classified US intelligence documents to Wikileaks highlights
mounting challenges. - The Power of Unreason
To respond to this, DEMOS advocate policies entirely similar to those offered by Sunstein:
Government agents or their allies should openly infiltrate the
Internet sites or spaces to plant doubts about conspiracy theories,
introducing alternative information. - The Power of Unreason
However, they did add a new policy:
As the government conducts its review of counter-terrorism powers,
it should consider how the intelligence agencies and other counterterrorism
operations could be more transparent...
---Make intelligence announcements more explicit.
In Denmark, intelligence agencies publish an unclassified
assessment of their judgement of the threats facing the country.- The Power of Unreason
Not only do they suggest the infiltration of 'undesirable' groups, in physical and cyberspace, but also that the intelligence agencies should provide more information and be more explicit about the threats we face. Now, if this were done in anything even approaching an honest fashion, it might be a somewhat sensible strategy. Stability via transparent government. But in reality, that isn't going to happen, and what DEMOS is really advocating is that intelligence agencies see conspiracy theories as an ideological enemy, to be confronted and eliminated. I'm no fearmonger, but this is all getting a bit KGB for my liking.
One final document also suggests that the Wikileaks storm might be taking place in the Pentagon's teacup. The Joint Special Operations University published a report in 2006 called Blogs and Military Information Strategy. It outlines how the blogosphere, as a synecdoche of the internet in general, is a new battleground for the US Army, and in particular the implications blogs have for 'influence operations', one category of psychological operations. It includes some rather natty diagrams and graphs, including W.L. Bennet's model of the infosphere.
The JSOU report explains a complex set of strategies to deal with the problems posed by blogs (and therefore all independent news sites) with regard to 'influence operations. It says:
Information strategists can consider clandestinely recruiting or hiring prominent bloggers or other persons of prominence already within the target nation, group, or community to pass the U.S. message. In this way, the U.S. can overleap the entrenched inequalities and make use of preexisting intellectual and social capital...
...An alternative strategy is to “make” a blog and blogger. The process of boosting the blog to a position of influence could take some time, however, and depending on the person running the blog, may impose a significant educational burden, in terms of cultural and linguistic training before the blog could be put online to any useful effect. Still, there are people in the military today who like to blog. In some cases, their talents might be redirected toward operating blogs as part of an information campaign. If a military blog offers valuable information that is not available from other sources, it could rise in rank fairly rapidly...
...There are certain to be cases where some blog, outside the control of the U.S. government, promotes a message that is antithetical to U.S. interests, or actively supports the informational, recruiting and logistical activities of our enemies. The initial reaction may be to take down the site, but this is problematic in that doing so does not guarantee that the site will remain down. As has been the case with many such sites, the offending site will likely move to a different host server, often in a third country. Moreover, such action will likely produce even more interest in the site and its contents. Also, taking down a site that is known to pass enemy EEIs (essential elements of information) and that gives us their key messages denies us a valuable information source. This is not to say that once the information passed becomes redundant or is superseded by a better source that the site should be taken down. At that point the enemy blog might be used covertly as a vehicle for friendly information operations. Hacking the site and subtly changing the messages and data—merely a few words or phrases—may be sufficient to begin destroying the blogger’s credibility with the audience. Better yet, if the blogger happens to be passing enemy communications and logistics data, the information content could be corrupted. If the messages are subtly tweaked and the data corrupted in the right way, the enemy may reason that the blogger in question has betrayed them and either take down the site (and the blogger) themselves, or by threatening such action, give the U.S. an opportunity to offer the individual amnesty in exchange for information...
...There will also be times when it is thought to be necessary, in the context of an integrated information campaign, to pass false or erroneous information through the media, on all three layers, in support of military deception activities...
...Credibility is the heart and soul of influence operations. In these cases, extra care must be taken to ensure plausible deniability and nonattribution, as well as employing a well-thought-out deception operation that minimizes the risks of exposure. Because of the potential blowback effect, information strategy should avoid planting false information as much as possible. - JSOU Report 06-5 Blogs and Military Information Strategy
So even if Wikileaks is not a pure creation of military intelligence, the question remains as to whether it has been given undue prominence via the publication of the Afghan War Diary as part of an influence operation. To take the website offline would be a relatively simple matter for the US Army, but as noted in this paper that wouldn't solve the problem, and manipulation of the website, its content, and how it is perceived is a more sophisticated and effective strategy. Nonetheless, Assange might not even be aware of this, and might be perfectly honest in saying he is 'annoyed' by the 9/11 Truth movement. He may simply be an egotistical, unwitting pawn in a propaganda game that extends far beyond his influence.
In both of these stories there is much that remains uncertain, and while the people pulling the strings may still be in the shadows, the agendas being advanced via these major news events are quite obvious. What is certain is that these are stories of and for the internet age. Though they affect very real events, the video stream of the oil spill that turned it into an issue of global opinion, and the documents published by Wikileaks are things that happened online, and could only have happened online. Given the open concern about 'conspiracy theories' and the policies already adopted by military intelligence institutions, we need new strategies to counteract the effects. To that end we need 100 sites like Wikileaks, offering places for the disaffected who work in these institutions to help lay bare how they really work. Thus whether or not Wikileaks is a CIA operation would be irrelevant, because they would be but one site among many, rather than the world's premier online resource for whistleblowers. What we must also do as a critically concerned public is to remember that any individual news story produces easy, comfortable heroes and villains. We need to study these stories in context, because no one story ever explains that much, however big it is. We need to look for trends, connections across time and space, use our lateral thinking skills to always be able to consider what it beyond what we're being told. We also need to demand and expect more of investigative journalists, who will pro-actively seek out secret information rather than waiting to copy-paste it from Wikileaks. It is a dying art, but one absolutely crucial if democracy is to mean anything at all. Ultimately, we cannot trust the authorities who dominate the airwaves, because by their own confession they are more interested in deception than they are in truth.