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Illiberals and autocrats unite to craft a new world media order

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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Underlying global efforts to counter fake news, psychological warfare and malicious manipulation of public opinion is a far more fundamental battle: the global campaign by civilisationalists, autocrats, authoritarians and illiberals to create a new world media order that would reject freedom of the press and reduce the fourth estate to scribes and propaganda outlets.

The effort appears to know no limits. Its methods range from seeking to reshape international standards defining freedom of expression and the media; the launch and/or strengthening of government controlled global, regional, national and local media in markets around the world; acquisition of stakes in privately-owned media; advertising in independent media dependent on marketing revenue; demonization; coercion; repression and even assassination.

Recent examples abound. They include a more aggressive Chinese approach to countering critical coverage of the People’s Republic that violates international norms of diplomatic conduct, the use of technology to spy on journalists, researchers and activists by, for example, the governments of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia; the jailing of journalists across the Middle East and North Africa and in countries like Myanmar and Bangladesh, US President Donald J. Trump’s identification of mainstream media as “the enemy of the people,” and the killing of journalists across the globe including the murder last year of Jamal Khashoggi.

The effort to create a new world media order is enabled by a tacit meeting of the minds among world leaders as well as conservative and far-right politicians and activists that frames global jockeying for power in a world order that would replace the US-dominated system established in the wake of World War Two and take into account the rise of powers such as China, India and Russia.

The emerging framework is rooted in the rise of civilisationalism and the civilizational state that seeks its legitimacy in a distinct civilization rather than the nation state’s concept of territorial integrity, language and citizenry.

It creates the basis for an unspoken consensus on the values that would underwrite a new world order on which men like Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Victor Orban, Mohammed bin Salman, Narendra Modi, Rodrigo Duterte and Donald Trump find a degree of common ground. If anything, it is this tacit understanding that in the shaping of a new world order constitutes the greatest threat to liberal values such as human and minority rights as well as freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

To be sure, independent media have often made life easier for those seeking to curb basic press freedoms. Valid criticism has put the media on the defensive. The criticism ranges from coverage of US special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into now apparently unfounded allegations that Mr. Trump and his 2016 election campaign had colluded with Russia to false assertions in the walk-up to the 2003 Iraq war that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.

The nuts and bolts of creating a new world media order are highlighted in a recent report by Reporters Without Borders that focuses on efforts by China, a key driver in the campaign, to turn the media into a compliant force that serves the interest of government rather than the public.

The 52-page report asserts that “over the course of the last decade, China has actively sought to establish an order in which journalists, scholars and analysts are nothing more than state propaganda auxiliaries.”

While the report focuses on China, the issues it raises in terms of what constitutes journalism and the role of the media as the fourth estate that holds power to account and ensures that the public has access to accurate information and continued snapshots of history as it unfolds go far beyond Beijing’s efforts.

So does the lifting of the asylum and arrest in Britain this week of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. The Assange case raises issues of definitions of journalism. It also shines a spotlight on the field of tension between a free press and illiberal, autocratic and authoritarian leaders and governments that increasingly dress up their attempts to curb media freedom in civilizationalist terms.

The Assange case forces both the media and government, particularly in democratic societies, to determine the boundaries between journalism and whistleblowing.

Leaving aside allegations that Wikileaks played a role in alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election and criticism of Assange’s style and personality, Wikileaks operated as a channel and post office box for whistle-blowers and as a source for media that independently authenticate and asses the news value of materials presented. In doing so, Wikileaks provided a service rather than added-value journalism.

To be fair, some of the issues raised in the Reporters Without Borders report pose broader questions about the standards on which proper journalism should operate rather than the right of governments, irrespective of political system, to try to ensure that their views and positions are reflected alongside their critics in media reporting.

The report lists among Chinese efforts the lavishing of money on modernizing and professionalizing China’s international television and radio broadcasting, investment in foreign media outlets, buying of vast amounts of advertising in foreign media, and invitations to journalists from all over the world to visit China on all-expense-paid trips.

The report also notes that China organizes its own international events as an additional way of promoting its repressive vision of how the media should function.

Hardly unique, these aspects of the Chinese effort, while noteworthy, primarily pose issues for the media. They raise questions about the standards to which media owners should be held, the way politically and geopolitically driven advertisement should be handled and whether journalists and independent media, or for that matter analysts and scholars, should accept paid junkets or avoid any potential jeopardizing of the integrity of their reporting and analysis by paying their own way.

More troublesome is the report’s assertion that China does not shy away from employing what it describes as “gangster methods.”

The report asserted that “China no longer hesitates to harass and intimidate in order to impose its ‘ideologically correct’ vocabulary and cover up the darker chapters in its history. International publishing and social network giants are forced to submit to censorship if they want access to the Chinese market.”

Moreover, Chinese embassies and Confucius Institutes serve as vehicles for attempts to impose China’s will and counter perceived persecution by what it sees as hostile Western forces that seek to tarnish the People’s Republic’s image.

China’s vision of a new world media order is grounded in a 2003 manual for Communist Party domestic and external propaganda published with a foreword of then party secretary general Hu Jintao.

The manual sees journalists as government and party propagators who exercise self-censorship by “handling properly the balance between praise and exposing problems.” Mr. Xi amplified the message in 2016 during a rare, high-profile visit to the newsrooms of China’s top three state-run media outlets, the party newspaper People’s Daily, news agency Xinhua, and China Central Television (CCTV).

“The media run by the party and the government are the propaganda fronts and must have the party as their family name. All the work by the party’s media must reflect the party’s will, safeguard the party’s authority, and safeguard the party’s unity. They must love the party, protect the party, and closely align themselves with the party leadership in thought, politics and action,” Mr. Xi told media workers, the term China increasingly is using to replace journalists as a designation.

Chinese journalists have been banned from writing personal blogs, are advised daily by the party about which stories to emphasize and which to ignore and obliged to attend party training sessions.

The title of Reporters Without Borders’ report, ‘China’s New World Media Order’, borrowed a phrase coined by Li Congjun, a member of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee and former head of Xinhua.

Writing in The Wall Street Journal in 2011, Mr. Li cast the need for a new media order in civilizational terms. Media of all countries had the right to “participate in international communication on equal terms” and should respect the “unique cultures, customs, beliefs and values of different nations,” Mr. Li said.

Mr. Li’s argument and language were straight out of the civilisationalists’ handbook that employs the theory of cultural relativism to oppose universal definitions of human rights and basic freedoms and argue in favour of such rights being defined in terms of individual civilizations. Civilizationalists also use cultural relativism to justify their tight control of the Internet that ranges from blocking websites to creating a Chinese wall between national networks and the worldwide web.

Mr. Li was two years later even more straightforward about what China was trying to achieve. “If we cannot effectively rule new media, the ground will be taken by others, which will pose challenges to our dominant role in leading public opinion,” he asserted.

China’s purpose was also evident in Mr. Li’s systematic reference to the media as a mass communication industry rather than journalism as a profession. “This is not insignificant,” the Reporters Without Borders report said. “By treating the media as an industry whose mission is to exercise influence on the state’s behalf, (Li’s) ‘new world media order’ abolishes the watchdog role the media are meant to play.”

Foreign affairs columnist Azad Essa discovered just how long the Chinese arm was when Independent Media, publisher of 18 major South African titles with a combined readership of 25 million, fired him for writing about the crackdown on Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang.

Mr. Essa was told his column had been discontinued because of a redesign of the groups’ papers and the introduction of a new system. China International Television Corporation (CITVC) and China-Africa Development Fund (CADFUND) own a 20 percent stake in Independent Media through Interacom Investment Holdings Limited, a Mauritius-registered vehicle.

Mr. Essa’s experience notwithstanding, Chinese efforts to create its new world media order have produced mixed results.

Various autocrats such as Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman and the United Arab Emirates’ Mohammed bin Zayed have bought into the order’s coercive and surveillance aspects.

The two crown princes have In some ways been at the blunt edge of efforts to create a new world media order with their demand that Qatar shut down its state-owned Al Jazeera television network as one of their conditions for the lifting of the Saudi-UAE led diplomatic and economic boycott of the Gulf state that has been in place since June 2017.

They also put themselves at the forefront by employing cutting edge Israeli technology and former US intelligence personnel to spy on journalists and dissidents across the globe.

For their part, Chinese technology companies that would provide much of the new world media order’s infrastructure have had something of an uphill battle.

Attempts by Baidu, China’s leading search engine, to establish local language versions in Japan, Brazil, Egypt, Thailand and Indonesia flopped commercially.

Ironically, the very freedoms China was trying to curtail worked in its favour when a US federal court in the southern district of New York ruled against pro-democracy activists who were seeking to restrict Baidu’s ability to delete from searches terms censored in China. The court argued that Baidu’s filtering of terms was a form of editorial judgment.

Similarly, Chinese technology giants like Tencent with its unencrypted WeChat instant messaging app and controversial telecom equipment and consumer electronics manufacturer Huawei have scored where Baidu has failed.

WeChat, whose traffic passes through Tencent’s China-based servers that are accessible to Chinese authorities, claims to have more than one billion users, ten percent of which are outside China. Huawei, that accounts for 15 percent of the world’s smartphone market, has been accused of providing surveillance technology to Iran as well as Xinjiang and is suspected by a host of Western nations of posing a risk to national security. The company was accused of installing a “backdoor” in some of its products that allows secret access to data.

Even more fundamental than the role of technology providers in the creation of a new world media order, is China’s ability to persuade nations in Asia and Africa to emulate its draconic laws governing cybersecurity and the Internet.

Chinese tech start-ups such as Leon, Meiya Pico, Hikvision, Face++, Sensetime, and Dahua have achieved unprecedented levels of growth on the back of more than US$7 billion in government investments over the last two years.

Export of those technologies have prompted countries like Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Nigeria, Egypt, Uganda, Zambia and Tanzania to introduce or contemplate introduction of legislation authorizing measures ranging from obliging Internet companies to store data on local servers to criminalizing content that authorities deem to be propaganda, calls for public gatherings or cause for disruption or divisiveness

CloudWalk, a Guangzhou-based start-up has finalized a strategic cooperation framework agreement with Zimbabwe to build a national “mass facial recognition program” in order to address “social security issues.” Zimbabwe has installed a Chinese system that allows the government to monitor passengers at airports, railways, and bus stations.

If the Reporters Without Borders report proves anything, it is that China is a major source of the problem. It is however but one source. China may have significant clout and considerable resources, but it is not alone in its civilizationalist approach towards crafting a new world media order. Its aided by autocratic and authoritarian regimes as well as the world’s illiberal democrats.

Finnish paper Helsingin Sanomat drove the point home when Mr. Trump met Mr. Putin in Helsinki in July of last year. Some 300 of the paper’s billboards, lining the road from Helsinki airport to the summit, welcomed the two men “to the land of free press.”

Headlines on the billboards reminded them of their recent attacks on the media. Said one billboard: “Media-critiquing Trump has changed the meaning of fake news.”

Helsingin Sanomat editor Kaius Niemi added in a statement that the paper wanted to remind Messrs. Trump and Putin of the importance of a free press. “The media shouldn’t be the lap dog of any president or regime,” Mr. Niemi said.

Dr. James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog, a book with the same title, Comparative Political Transitions between Southeast Asia and the Middle East and North Africa, co-authored with Dr. Teresita Cruz-Del Rosario and three forthcoming books, Shifting Sands, Essays on Sports and Politics in the Middle East and North Africaas well as Creating Frankenstein: The Saudi Export of Ultra-conservatism and China and the Middle East: Venturing into the Maelstrom.

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War of shadows: The psychological and media dimension of future clashes

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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The Soviets called it “the shadow theatre”, i.e. the set of  psychological warfare techniques of the time, in the Cold War world.

Maskirovka, in particular, e.g. everything is camouflage, deception, real psychological warfare, disinformation.

 In fact, if we analyze the psywar techniques currently used, we realize that we are still at the Cretaceous period.

 No sectoral influence operations, no action on subjects or public targets, little knowledge of the new discoveries of social psychology and biopsychic evolution.

 The scenario of Western psywar operations is still not very brilliant.

 Obviously, explaining to the Defense Ministers of Western countries what these operation are about is a very difficult mission that few people would be able to accomplish successfully.

Actually, nowadays the old maskirovka is not the cover, the shell of real operations, but its true essence.

 Just as today’s industrial production is, above all, communication, induction of a certain behaviour, identification of a target of customers, development of a product that meets their psychological and symbolic needs, currently also war is above all maskirovka well before being military and destructive struggle.

 Nobody cares where engines are produced, which are now all the same, but certainly the market is interested in the symbolism of goods, in its evocative potential and in the ability to define the status of those who buy them.

Furthermore, in an old CIA manual, the Soviet “active measures” were defined and classified as follows: a) the Center gives the green light for a strategic disinformation campaign; b) the news, which is never entirely true or entirely false, is prepared and packed; c) the dezinformatsja news is disseminated abroad so as to later check the results.

The results are eminently practical: the “Euromissile battle” narrated by Michel Tatu, the long end of the Vietnam war, the management of Soviet foreign policy after the Helsinki Treaty.

 But that is not all: currently, the intelligence mainly consists of economic effects, which are continuous and complex. The shift from the Soviet “active measures” and from the political-military clash to the industrial one marks a large part of the post-Cold War period.

All true psychological warfare is active and proactive, but  the whole Western warfare doctrine is defensive and passive,  which means it does not exist.

Hence it is not necessary to wage war manumilitari, for the additional reason that the enemy’s enterprises and infrastructure will be good also for us. At a time when the value chains are now fully global, when cars are manufactured in Spain for the German market and in China for the Indian one – not to mention drugs, the active ingredients of which are produced in India for the French market and even in Mexico, but for the Canadian one.

 All contemporary intelligence, however, is targeted to the economic and technological resources of the possible enemy and operates – 24 hours a day – on the Web and also in the traditional media machinery.

Hence, those who win are not those who have the best weapons or the best products, but those who creates the best and most convincing storytelling around them.

 It is therefore useful to see how the old “shadow theatre” is being changed and perfected.

 This is what is needed in a situation of actual integration of all large companies, not only global but also national ones.

 In the field of social media, for example, the most widespread tactics are those of “selective censorship”, or the hacking of sensitive information, which becomes hegemonic in the common discourse, or even the manipulation of the Internet search algorithms, with a view to linking some content to other one, in a completely unreasonable way.

30-40% of the news that can be found online is designed to deceive at least some of the readers.

 Deception: not to mention something and tell the truth about everything else or, instead, to create a storytelling in which real things appear surrounded by completely fake data.

How so?

By changing the perception of facts, or the news about the facts, with strong or weak adjectives and nouns, or with universal symbols, and even with references to people or things of great fame, either negative or positive.

 15% is the average quota of experts taken out by the automated texts that can be found on the World Wide Web, while about 60% of all readers are usually put on the spot by the texts and news available on the Web.

 The Canadian Services have provided this statistics.

The operating techniques are now known to everybody: a) the Bot, a software that automatically operates on the Web, by selecting the content; b) the countermessage, indeed a message that offers the “true” or “fake” version of what has been said previously; 3) the Denial of Service (DOS), the temporary disruption of the Web for a certain user, and the  old Disinformation; 4) the Noise that covers the relevance of the data sequence useful for understanding a certain message; 5) the Search Engine Optimization (SEO), the optimization of the number of visitors to any website.

On the technical and ideological levels, there are other online practices that are used daily by the authors of Disinformation: a) the BOTs coordinated with each other, which create a series of cross-references that reinforce the (fake) news that is to be spread; b) the use of false Internet “domains” in which websites and content similar to those of the “enemy” are created; c) the use of e-mails or websites that are pirated and disseminate news opposite to those that the primary user would like to spread.

 Contradiction, lie, defamation.

  We are still at the old theme of the aria “La Calunnia” (“slander is a little breeze”) of the Barber of Seville, as well as the “flower duet” of Madama Butterfly, but all with a firepower that Rossini or Puccini could not even imagine.

There are two profound and conceptual limits to these operations. The first is that, in spite of all possible technological refinement, the basic psychological mechanisms are always the same: personal defamation by sexual or other means- just think of the “Tangentopoli” operation in Italy (the judiciary probe known as Bribesville)  at the end of the Cold War and, finally, of the elites’ structural inability to separate wheat from chaff,  news from disinformation.

 If we do something to help a government and then it falls into the trap of dezinformatsja, everything is useless. And this has often happened.

Ministers who tell you that they read it in the newspaper  “Corriere della Sera” (bravo!) or that it was whispered to them by some intelligence agents without any qualification – and hence you need to check whether, as Harlequin, they are Servants of two Masters. It has often happened.

Hence, in many cases, currently the maskirovka strikes back and negatively changes the decision-making of those who have carried it out.  The ruling classes that know it can save themselves, while the others and their countries are bound to become “servant of two masters” and, in any case, irrelevant.

 There are also the undesired effects.

For example, it happened that the reputation of a ruling class was tarnished by convincing citizens that all politicians were “dishonest and thieving” and later we needed to stabilize a country in disarray and adrift without a guide, possibly recovering some of those who had been dismissed as “thieves”, thus creating a cognitive dissonance with the previous message conveyed.

 However, how can we optimally develop the possibility of an IT attack (but not necessarily this type of attack only) on the decision-making system and on the public of a target country?

 The attack will be successful if, for example, there are no useful sources of good information.

 Without a reserve of serious, objective and truthful news and interpretations, the whole public and private system of security and education will fail in the long run.

 Another excellent condition to launch an attack is uncertainty: in a phase of financial, geopolitical, technological and even military insecurity, with terrorism any news – regardless of its importance -can generate  innumerable domino effects.

Probably those who maintain uncertainty have a return –  in this case mainly and economic and industrial one.

 Nor should we neglect the fact that, if there is a lack of  effective information available, the media channels can be bought and sold, infected by adverse agents and induced to acquire information only from certain sources, which are already compromised.

 If the commercial goal is the target and above all the audience, everything becomes possible for a foreign operator with bad intentions.

 No country, not even those which control the Web at best, is protected from similar operations.

With a view to keeping the situation under control – and this applies above all to those who deal with State Security – we need, at first,  to ascertain who makes disinformation.

Very often an individual or a private organisation.

 Then, obviously, the exact opposite must be done, but  preferably using different mechanisms of action: a similar  and possibly “fake” website in case of a Bot, or a personal attack if we are faced with a press campaign.

Hence never use the same usual means and mechanisms.

Generally, abstract and political motivations should not be overlooked: there are NGOs, States, political parties, and companies that usually keep on misinforming.

 And often they are not even traced by the intelligence Services.

 Obviously, there are also terrorists – but in this case we are talking about another communication system.

 Who can say, for example, that German cars are better than Italian ones? Yet it is common sense, albeit wrong.

Nowadays all the environmental propaganda consists of behaviours that favour some countries and companies instead of others. But no one tells you so.

Indeed, this is the real news.

 Fake news to be spread, of course, but also generic discontent and uncertainty.

 A mass perception that a great Portuguese poet, Pessoa, would have defined as desassosego (disquiet and restlessness).

 Obviously, it is even better to let all disinformation go on, with its parallel and unexpected processes, so as to see who makes it and what goals are pursued.

Usually such operations end quickly, but neither the perpetrator nor the victim knows their effects or duration.

Hence the primary goal of all dezinformacja techniques is  the partial or complete alteration of the perception of reality.

It is therefore essential to understand the divisions within the opponent’s field.

 Popular or elitist.

 If we believe that all enemies are the same, we operate for their propaganda and any operation of “psychological warfare” is always inhibited to us.

 An essential resource in this field is the conspiracy theory.

  The field of others is segmented, but the absolute uniqueness of those who generated the content we do not like or that harm us is assumed.

 A well-managed conspiracy manages to work well where few other maskirovka techniques do so.

Perfect for simplifying all matters, it immediately identifies the aim of each psywar: to find the enemy, either true or false.

 Another procedure is usually to use entities that everybody deems “third parties” to spread messages against the enemy (once again the current ecologism is full of examples in this regard) and then reinforce their message through other information sources: truth comes from repetition and the mind learns not from a single fact or event, or from a single person, but always from what Fritj of Capra called the mental ecosystem.

 The human brain is made in such a way that it tends to believe both in repetition, but also in similarity and homogeneity.

Our brain has evolved only among human groups already formed. It is not by chance that, unlike what happens to animals, our brain maturation must take place in a post-natal social, family and group context.

Otherwise – as Nietzsche said – to live alone, one must be either a beastor a god.

 Another factor not to be overlooked is that, as in all  Gestalt psychologies, what counts is not only what you see, but also what you do not see.

 As in the Rorschach test, the inkblots can be perceived either as a glass or two butterflies, but it is the outline, not the inside of the image that can suggest one answer or the other.

However, how can we counteract such an operation? Denial is always the best answer.

 But it is simple and repetitive, always prone to others’ psyops.

We can simply deny having received funding from a certain country.

Mere denial stops the game of cross-references and shadows that would develop if the victim of the operation were to dwell and go into explanations that 87% of the audience – on the Webor even in the old media, never follow. Those who justify themselves are always wrong.

Denial is used to make a quick fix, but it is certainly not a stable and definitive answer.

 Another technique is to defame and attack those who make  disinformation.

It works well, but once again it is a mechanism that does not last long.

 A disinformation campaign is never opposed with  temporary and limited makeshift interventions and stopgap  measures.

Dezinformatsja is always a potentially endless flow, to which we must respond by creating a state of mind (not  “news”, but a stable and possibly ungrounded mental state) that is always potentially and equally endless.

 It should also be added that our intelligence Services know nothing about these things. We are still focused on the  protection of redundant critical infrastructure and possibly even of selected military and information networks. Everything is even too obvious.

Nevertheless, how can we avoid the defamation of one of our most famous chocolate creams in China?

  Furthermore no one will be able to tell you what happens when there is defamation against our production system, as well as against our political system, which is, in fact, also a critical infrastructure.

 Goodness knows what happened to our rubber before Pirelli’s deal with ChemChina. And it was not China that took the first step.

 If we also study the issue of the F-35 fighter that was not acquired by the German Armed Forces, you will also understand the resulting weakness of Chancellor Merkel and her “heir”, as well as the short-lived successes of the Right, which always remains under the threat of being dismissed as neo-Nazi.

The neo-Nazis, however, were still pasture land mainly for the  Eastern and Russian intelligence Services.

Hence using the professional ignorance of our politicians to defame our intelligence Services –  as is currently happening – is certainly a perfectly orchestrated defamation operation.

 A cheap politician who uses the intelligence Services to protect himself is like the main character of the “Manuscript Found in Saragossa”, who files the silver ball he will put into the gun to commit suicide.

 In a different way and with different effects, Italy is drifting to a condition very similar to Great Britain’s in the  Brexit phase.

 A slow and subtle Italian destabilization, with a terrible and useless fragmentation of the voters and the political classes.

Nowadays in Italy there is a sort of geopolitical strike: the country is on the sidelines and reluctant to understand the reality of power relations and national interests.

In the case of the operations carried out by China, however, we have a completely different picture.

It should be recalled that, as early as 2014, China established the Central Leading Group for Internet Security and Informatization, chaired directly by Xi Jinping, in  addition to the Cyberspace Administration of China. The  Chinese leaders’ central idea is to make national sovereignty possible in cyberspace.

This is not easy, but it can be achieved with technological hegemony and strategic wisdom.

 Hence the importance of Huawei’s 5G  global fight and the concrete possibility of “controlling world innovation”, as some Chinese leaders say.

 Therefore, in the “war of shadows”, we currently have to deal with the great influence operations, which are actions of cognitive modification, i.e. actions to change the perceptions, behaviours and decisions of certain target groups, in the country to be influenced, which can be changed to the benefit of the acting Power.

 Or even very broad operations, which regard the whole  political audience.

Conversely, the “influence campaigns” are operations carried out by an adverse and alien Power that tend to put together various small-scale and sectoral influence actions, which may have common goals or, in any case, not contradictory and opposed goals.

 This means that through “influence operations”, we can influence the actions of the rulings class, as well as all or part of the public in a country, or the activities of an allied country.

Influence actions are always linked to strategic deception and the possibility of exploiting the enemy’s weaknesses, particularly those typical of moralism.

Currently moralism is a tool used by some countries against others.

Hence influence operations are certainly deception, but above all they mark a new Intention, or an Interference.

Nevertheless everything happens in the epistemic chain formed by single individuals, and then in the social or para-social sphere, characterized by the real relations among individuals, the real public sphere, the media, the elites, the “experts”, the scientific and technical system of a country.

Currently all Western media are ever weaker and often not very attentive to influence operations because they are subjected to a very fast change of technologies, as well as a quick commercial trend of the system. We are all market oriented in the short term, and currently all the influence operations made so far exploit above all the technological, legal and economic weaknesses of the various countries to reach their own aims.

 The vulnerability of the public is yet another issue. Considering the new technologies, there is not only the possibility for each psywar operator to change the perception of others’ world, but also to do so in a covert way. 

This applies to any Internet operator and any millennial kid.

 And that is what counts. One hundred “denials”, however developed, are always news.

 There is also a psychological problem.

The above mentioned evolution has not provided us with a brain that always seeks the objective truth of facts, but we have a cognitive system that finds an acceptable reality day by day.

Phylogenetically, the conformity to a group is more important than a subjective psychology that always seeks only truth, be it objective or linguistic.

In economics as in politics, free riders always have a hard life. And they are always those who define a new paradigm. Enzo Ferrari invented luxury sports cars against everything and everyone. Some pasta makers in Northern Italy discovered they could sell dried Italian pasta any where in the world.

Not to mention advanced technologies, where Italian companies were bought to be destroyed (Hewlett-Packard with Olivetti, for example) or to be put out of business, or the export of mass technologies, such as Piaggio in India.

Hence we often have to deal with the confirmation bias, i.e.  the psychological tendency to ignore information that goes against accepted beliefs, or with the creation of a protective apparatus against threats to identity and team spirit.

Therefore we have to do with a series of mass influence actions that are now typical:

a) Terrorism. Creation of fear, an essential element of influence operations, but also of the radicalization of certain themes. A primitive, but very effective solution. In this respect, just consider the case of Italy in the 1970s and in the 80s. The sword jihad is a different story, but often not dissimilar to that of “red” terrorism in Europe.

b) The operations of para-State organizations, i.e. criminal structures and vast organized crime. Or do you really think that the international crime organizations have been created and have become powerful on their own, like the Baron  Munchausen, who rescued himself from quicksand by pulling himself out at his own hair? All criminal organizations have always been influence instruments.

c) There are also hackers, who operate divided to strike together. Consciously or not, 78% of them are operators of the Powers that support their projects.

d) Not to mention hackers having only economic goals. After making money they, too, are not aware of the fact  they have resold their data to some countries, but not always those they like.

Hence how can you create a “narrative” for influence operations?

Nowadays you can certainly create a consistent, long, credible and wide-ranging storytelling.

Conversely, “negative” techniques tend to disrupt the narrative over a long period of time.

 There is also distraction, the creation of an external objective far from the themes discussed.

 Therefore, we propose to create an Agency or a unit of it   dealing with the disruption of influence operations which, before the end of the Cold War, Italy hosted like no other country in the world to later maintain its Kantian “minority status” in the following years.

 An Agency that can really carry out influence operations – actively, with no curbs and restraints other than the operational and technical ones.

Therefore, in terms of protection of Italy’s industrial values, patents, as well as “reputation” of the country and its brands, even the less famous ones, we are now almost at death’s door.

Hence it will be good to quickly reverse the course.

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Update on the MH17 Case

Eric Zuesse

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image source: wikipedia

The Netherlands Government is resisting an effort by Dutch victims’ families to find out why Ukraine’s Government, on 17 July 2014 — when the Malaysian airliner MH17 was shot down while flying over Ukraine’s civil-war zone — this passenger-plane had been guided by Ukraine’s air-traffic control to fly through, instead of around (as it instructed other airliners), the war-zone. On 1 October 2019, now more than five years after 196 Dutch nationals had died from that incident, Holland’s RTL News headlined (as autotranslated into English) “Cabinet considers research into Ukraine’s role in disaster MH17”, and reported that “The cabinet will examine whether further research is possible on the role of Ukraine in the disaster with flight MH17,” because “A proposal … for the investigation received the support of all Parties present in the second chamber” of Holland’s parliament. This news-report said that, “So far, the cabinet has not taken any steps against Ukraine. As far as we know, nothing is happening behind the scenes.” Furthermore: “Last year, the Netherlands, together with Australia, decided to make Russia as a country liable. For the liability of Ukraine, according to the cabinet, there was ‘no evidence’ and also ‘no research needed’.” Moreover, Dutch Foreign Minister Stefan Blok said that “We don’t see any reason for an investigation” into that, because “The government is trying to maintain its relationship with Ukraine,” and “because then both the airspace of Ukraine and that of Russia should be looked at,” and because “there are still no indications that Ukraine can also be held liable.” But actually, from the very start of that investigation, there has been a secret agreement not to blame Ukraine for anything having to do with the incident. This agreement is kept secret from the Dutch people. Blok, in resisting to investigate why the MH17 was guided over the civil-war zone, was simply adhering to the secret agreement that Netherlands had signed with Ukraine on 8 August 2014. If he were to agree to the families’ demand, he still would be obligated, by Holland’s 8 August 2014 agreement with Ukraine, to find Ukraine not to have perpetrated the downing. But the families don’t know this.

As I reported back on 24 August 2014, a secret agreement had been signed on August 8th between Netherlands, Ukraine, Belgium, and Australia, that Ukraine would have veto-power over any finding that their official “Joint Investigation Team” (“JIT”) would issue regarding the shoot-down of the MH17. Malaysia was excluded from the Team, but was finally admitted, after agreeing to their secret terms — including not to blame Ukraine. Russia’s RT headlined on 20 November 2014 “Dutch government refuses to reveal ‘secret deal’ into MH17 crash probe” and revealed that the Dutch Government was refusing to comply with its own Freedom of Information law by keeping this agreement secret. On 14 June 2016, the website “What Happened to Flight MH17” headlined “The vague role of Malaysia in the Joint Investigation Team” and reported that the JIT had actually been officially formed on 7 August 2014, and noted that, “In the limited number of public communications by JIT it is not mentioned what the role of Malaysia is in the criminal investigation.” (Malaysia, unlike those other four nations, isn’t a member of America’s core anti-Russia alliance, which includes NATO and Australia, but is instead a neutral nation and therefore considered untrustworthy by the others.) Subsequently, on 21 July 2019, John Helmer and Max van der Werff revealed that Malaysia’s Government rejects the ‘findings’ by the JIT (which, with no reservations, blame Russia for downing the MH17), but that Malaysia isn’t violating the 8 August 2014 secret agreement, since Malaysia isn’t saying Ukraine did it. Instead, Malaysia is saying that further investigations are needed, and that Malaysia possesses the black boxes and other crucial evidence.

The present report is an update regarding the entire matter of the shoot-down on 17 July 2014 of the MH17 Malaysian airliner over the breakaway Donetsk region of Ukraine. The additional facts which will be reported here regarding the MH17 incident shock me. I knew that U.S. President Barack Obama had become desperate for something to happen that would persuade German Chancellor Angela Merkel to endorse added sanctions against Russia regarding Ukraine, but I had had no idea, until now, as to what direct involvement, if any, he had had in the actual setting-up of the MH17 shoot-down. All of the source-evidence for the following can be clicked-through-to here by the reader, and this is important to do, for any reader who is skeptical (as all ought to be) and who wants to see source-evidence, for any assertion that seems outlandish. It’s important especially because the case which will be presented here stuns even me, who had voted three times for Obama, first in his 2008 primary against Hillary Clinton, then once again in his 2008 general election contest against Republican John McCain; and then, finally, once more, yet again, in his 2012 general election contest against Republican Mitt Romney (who, incidentally, right now, is arguing for Trump’s impeachment and replacement by Mike Pence; and who is famous for having said, in his 2012 campaign against Obama, that “Russia, this is, without question, our number one geopolitical foe”). I knew that Obama was the lesser of two evils, but I now recognize that I had had no idea of how evil that actually was. Here I shall report what I now know. This extensively documented reconstruction, of the MH17 incident and of how it came about, seems to me to disprove the fundamental Western ‘historical’ narrative about contemporary international relations, and to signal the necessity for a fundamental rewrite of the mainstream view of world history in our era. At the very least, it disproves that view — the mainstream view or ‘history’ of our time. Whatever the truth might be, it certainly cannot be anything even approximating that ‘historical’ mainstream. Mainstream recent ‘history’ is, now more clearly than ever before, a sinister and carefully orchestrated myth, as will be demonstrated here in what follows. 

The essential background information regarding the MH17 must be presented at the start, and it’s accurately portrayed in an 11-minute video. The first-ever news-report to display and assemble in an easily comprehensible way all of the crucial facts constituting the background context that’s necessary in order to understand the MH17 event and what caused it, was an 11-minute video compilation, which was uploaded to youtube on 12 March 2014, and which you can see here. It’s 100% true, nothing at all deceptive in any way, and it still remains, in my opinion (after my seeing it around 50 times and considering it from a multitude of different perspectives), absolutely a masterpiece, the only perfect public-affairs video that I have ever seen. Beyond that essential background information to the MH17 event, now follows (and entirely within that factual background-context), a summary in more detail, focusing in, or zooming onto, the MH17 event itself, more closely: 

This will be a summary, which — since it might seem incredible to anyone who doesn’t already know the evidence — will immediately be followed by the evidence, all clickable here to each source (though not necessarily via only a single click). The first sentence of the summary will summarize the essential background information to the MH17 event — meaning here only information on the background that’s essential in order to be able to understand the context in which the information that is to be newly introduced here regarding the MH17 event will fit into that bigger picture — and this opening sentence will therefore itself be linked to more-detailed summaries of key aspects of that background part, each aspect of which itself contains links to all of the source-evidences there regarding that aspect of the deepest background, so that the full background will be accessible from the links that are provided here, and the new information, which is to be provided at the end, will be entirely understandable within the context of that full background. 

Here, then, is the overall summary, including the heavily-linked opening sentence regarding this event’s deep background:

President Obama not only perpetrated the February 2014 bloody coup in Ukraine which he had started by no later than 2011 to plan and placed into operation on 1 March 2013 inside the U.S. Embassy in Kiev (months before the democratically elected Ukrainian President whom he was to overthrow decided for Ukraine not to accept the EU’s offer of membership), but Obama and his NATO were so determined to reverse the coup’s resulting breakaway, from Ukraine, of Ukraine’s two most anti-nazi districts, Crimea and Donetsk, that Obama and his NATO then set up the shoot-down of the MH17 airliner by Obama’s newly-installed nazi Ukrainian government, with the objective being to promptly blame it against Russia. Obama was, at that time, in early July 2014, desperate for there to be a pretext on which the European Union would join the U.S. in greatly hiking sanctions against Russia regarding Ukraine. What the most-recent information will show is this: Obama and his NATO were intending to use this false accusation against Russia as a pretext not only to hike anti-Russia sanctions but ultimately to invade both Donetsk and Crimea and risk WW III in order to coerce those two regions back again into Ukraine — now to become (like the rest of Ukraine) under the control of the U.S. regime. The reasons why that plan failed (was aborted) were, first, that Malaysia’s Government held in international law the unchallengeable right of ownership over the airliner’s black boxes; and, second, that there was especially one member of NATO, Angela Merkel, who refused to risk WW III and to join into Obama’s extremely psychopathic scheme, since it risked the whole world over his determination to grab the entirety of Ukraine. Obama always refused to proceed forward with a geostrategic plan if it was strongly opposed by at least one core ally — in this particular instance, he knew enough not to drive Germany to abandon NATO and to ally with Russia (especially since Russia itself was his actual target in his coup to take over Ukraine). By declining to move forward without Merkel, all of those immediate risks to the world were avoided. Furthermore, Malaysia’s holding the black boxes was especially a problem for Obama and NATO, because any preparation for a U.S.-NATO invasion of Donbass and Crimea would spark Malaysia to go public with what it already knew about the U.S.-NATO lies regarding the MH17 incident. Obama possessed no ability to prevent that response from Malaysia. Not only Germany, but also Malaysia, possessed power in this situation, and Obama, fortunately, yielded to it. (Of course, the great worry about Trump is that if he gets into a similar situation, he might move forward regardless.) 

Also noteworthy — especially for Dutch citizens and the families of the passengers on that airliner — the Netherlands Government had been one of the largest financial backers of the February 2014 U.S.-planned overthrow of Ukraine’s democratically elected President. For example, it was the largest single donor, listed at $793,089, to Hromadske TV, which was the leading station that advocated for forcing that President out of power. Whereas the U.S. Government had organized and ran the overthrow, and spent far more on it (over $5 billion) than did any other nation or individual, the U.S. was only the second-largest donor to that station, at $399,650. So: Holland’s government had a significant investment in the post-coup regime, even before that post-coup regime shot down the MH17 plane and thereby slaughtered its 283 passengers, of whom 196 were Dutch. This is yet another reason why the Dutch Government’s heading this investigation in which Ukraine — another member — should be a suspect but is instead a juror, nullifies any rational authority to its ‘findings’.

One of my more important early news-reports regarding the MH17 case was the 24 August 2014 “MH-17 ‘Investigation’: Secret August 8th Agreement Seeps Out”, which article, referenced near the opening of the present article, documented that the secret agreement amongst the 4-party official MH17 ‘investigative’ team — Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, and Ukraine — gave each one of those governments an absolute veto over any public announcement or ‘finding’ from the ‘investigation’, so that if Ukraine, which was a prime suspect in the incident, were to disapprove a ‘finding’, then the team wouldn’t be allowed to issue it. This is like giving a murder-suspect veto-power over the investigation into the murder. It shows how poisoned that whole official ‘investigation’ was, even at its very start. This is important to understand.

Another especially relevant news-report from me was the 7 June 2015 “Obama Sidelines Kerry on Ukraine Policy”, which noted that Obama supported the position of Victoria Nuland, the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, who favored the U.S. backing an all-out invasion of Crimea and Donbass by Ukraine, and that Obama rejected the position of her boss, John Kerry, the Secretary of State, who opposed that policy. “Kerry, for his part, now faces the decision as to whether to quit … or else for Kerry to stay in office and be disrespected in all capitals for his staying on after having been so blatantly contradicted by his subordinate.” (This wasn’t the only instance when Obama trashed Kerry’s work: he likewise did it when Kerry favored the U.S. agreeing with Russia that, in a Syrian-war cease-fire, not only ISIS but also Al Qaeda-led forces in Syria could continue to be bombed. Russia was bombing both, but Obama refused to accept a ceasefire in which Russia would be allowed to continue its bombing of Al Qaeda, not only of ISIS. It was the ultimate humiliation of Kerry, and effectively ended his career in government.) This displays Obama’s profound hatred of Russia. 

My last major report on MH17 was on 31 December 2018, “MH17 Turnabout: Ukraine’s Guilt Now Proven”. That presents conclusive checkmate against the U.S.-NATO case blaming Russia for MH17 (that case being run by the Netherlands Government, which simply ignores its case having become disproven by that evidence). 

Here’s the more-recent report, what I did not previously know, which comes from the great independent Western journalist living in Moscow, John Helmer; and presented here are the highlights from his report — a report that fills-in crucial additional details ofthe same historical narrative that I have previously documented regarding the MH17 incident

“MH17 Evidence Tampering Revealed by Malaysia – FBI Attempt to Seize Black Boxes; Dutch Cover-Up of Forged Telephone Tapes; Ukrainian Air Force Hid Radar Records; Crash Site Witness Testimony Misreported” John Helmer, 21 July 2019

A new documentary from Max van der Werff, the leading independent investigator of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 disaster, has revealed breakthrough evidence of tampering and forging of prosecution materials; suppression of Ukrainian Air Force radar tapes; and lying by the Dutch, Ukrainian, US and Australian governments. An attempt by agents of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to take possession of the black boxes of the downed aircraft is also revealed by a Malaysian National Security Council official for the first time.

The sources of the breakthrough are Malaysian — Prime Minister of Malaysia Mohamad Mahathir; Colonel Mohamad Sakri, the officer in charge of the MH17 investigation for the Prime Minister’s Department and Malaysia’s National Security Council following the crash on July 17, 2014; and a forensic analysis by Malaysia’s OG IT Forensic Services of Ukrainian Secret Service (SBU) telephone tapes which Dutch prosecutors have announced as genuine.

Watch it in full here. …

The film reveals the Malaysian Government’s evidence for judging the [Joint Investigative Team] JIT’s witness testimony, photographs, video clips, and telephone tapes to have been manipulated by the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU), and to be inadmissible in a criminal prosecution in a Malaysian or other national or international court.

For the first time also, the Malaysian Government reveals how it got in the way of attempts the US was organizing during the first week after the crash to launch a NATO military attack on eastern Ukraine. The cover story for that was to rescue the plane, passenger bodies, and evidence of what had caused the crash. In fact, the operation was aimed at defeating the separatist movements in the Donbass, and to move against Russian-held Crimea.

The new film reveals that a secret Malaysian military operation took custody of the MH17 black boxes on July 22, preventing the US and Ukraine from seizing them. The Malaysian operation, revealed in the film by the Malaysian Army colonel who led it, eliminated the evidence for the camouflage story, reinforcing the German Government’s opposition to the armed attack, and forcing the Dutch to call off the invasion on July 27. …

Although German opposition to military intervention forced its cancellation, the Australians sent a 200-man special forces unit to The Netherlands and then Kiev. …

The new film reveals in an interview with Colonel Mohamad Sakri, the head of the Malaysian team, what happened next. Sakri’s evidence, filmed in his office at Putrajaya, is the first to be reported by the press outside Malaysia in five years. A year ago, Sakri gave a partial account of his mission to a Malaysian newspaper.

“I talked to my prime minister [Najib],” Colonel Sakri says. “He directed me to go to the crash site immediately.” At the time Sakri was a senior security official at the Disaster Management Division of the Prime Minister’s Department. Sakri says that after arriving in Kiev, Poroshenko’s officials blocked the Malaysians. “We were not allowed to go there…so I took a small team to leave Kiev going to Donetsk secretly.”

Sakri goes on to say he was asked by the [nominally nonpartisan] OSCE’s special monitoring mission for Ukraine to hand over the black boxes; he refused. He was then met by agents of the FBI (Min 6:56). “They approached me to show them the black box. I said no.” He also reports that in Kiev the Ukrainian Government tried “forcing me to leave the black boxes with them. We said no. We cannot. We cannot allow.”

The handover ceremony in Donetsk, July 22, 2014: on far left, the two black boxes from MH17; in the centre, shaking hands, Alexander Borodai and Mohamad Sakri. …

Van der Werff and Yerlashova contracted with OG IT Forensic Services, a Malaysian firm specializing in forensic analysis of audio, video and digital materials for court proceedings, to examine the telephone tapes. The Kuala Lumpur firm has been endorsed by the Malaysian Bar. The full 143-page technical report can be read here.

The findings reported by Akash Rosen and illustrated on camera are that the telephone recordings have been cut, edited and fabricated. The source of the tapes, according to the JIT press conference on June 19 by Dutch police officer Paulissen, head of the National Criminal Investigation Service of The Netherlands, was the Ukrainian SBU. Similar findings of tape fabrication and evidence tampering are reported on camera in the van der Werff film by a German analyst, Norman Ritter. …

CLOSING NOTE: The present article was offered as an exclusive to virtually all mainstream news-media in the U.S. and its major allied countries, none of which responded. It therefore is not copyrighted, and is instead available to all news-media, free of charge, for publication. Readers are therefore encouraged to distribute it to others without any limitation.

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Intelligence

Iranian intelligence agents operating via Iranian embassies

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The United States recently designated the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the military arm of the Iran regime, as foreign terrorist organization (FTO). Is this move enough to weaken Iranian regime’s terror network globally?

With this terror-designation, only one element of Iran regime’s terror capability is checked. Now this move must be followed by several other measures in order to ensure incapacitating the regime’s terror activities completely.

One of such measures would be to curtail the finances, international mobility and, most importantly, the operational capabilities of other elements of the regime’s terror network. Limiting the ability and scope of the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) operatives, many of who operates via Iranian embassies across the world, could be the first step towards this end.

It is worth noting here that while Iranian regime uses the IRGC to recruit, expand and spread its terrorist proxies primarily across the Middle East, it uses the MOIS for fulfilling its global agenda and for carrying-out hostility in other parts of the globe in cooperation with the IRGC.

MOIS involved in thwarted Paris explosion plot

On July 1, 2018, an Iranian diplomat, who was alleged by the U.S. and European officials of being the station chief of the MOIS, was arrested in Germany for his alleged involvement in a plot to bomb a huge rally of Iranian dissidents in Paris. He was later extradited to Belgium, where two others, who were suspected to be his associates in the planning, were detained.

The rally was eventually attended by thousands of people, including the U.S. President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani.

The diplomat, Assadollah ­Assadi, who had been a high-ranking official in Vienna’s Iranian embassy since 2014, was under surveillance for some time prior to his arrest.

This thwarted Paris explosion-plot gives a clear picture of how the MOIS agents operate, via Iranian embassies, inside other countries.

Regime could use MOIS against U.S., Europe

As the Iranian leaders are now feeling the pressure of the full sanctions on Iranian oil and IRGC’s terror-designation, they will try and shift much of the IRGC’s human resources and assets into Iranian intelligence service that operates under the MOIS.

What’s worse, amid the current rising tensions between the West and Iran, the regime in Tehran could use MOIS against Western assets and interests — particularly those of the U.S. and the UK — not only in Western cities, but also in countries which are friendly to both West and Iran, including Indonesia, India, Malaysia and Pakistan.

In this context, if the Western governments in North America and Europe — particularly the U.S. and the UK governments — designate the MOIS as terrorist organization, this would effectively limit the ability and scope of the MOIS operatives to conduct a hostile act in the Western cities and on the Western interests and assets in other countries. Otherwise, the West might not be able to prevent any potential Iranian hostility conducted by the MOIS operatives.

In addition, the U.S., alongwith the international community, must make it clear to Iranian regime that if evidence of any MOIS activity is found in any country, actions would certainly be taken against the Iranian embassy in the host country, including expelling the Iranian ambassador from that country.

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