WARNING: DO NOT VOTE FOR THIS WOMAN.
Wake Up, Britain, you’re being Disrupted!
We have less than a week to go before May triggers Article 50 to take us out of the EU.
Once that happens we’re bound on an irreversible course that will almost certainly lead to the breakup, not only of Europe, but of the UK. I bogld about that last bit in The Pumpkin – Issue 13, if you care to look; and how a Belfast-born political disruptor, anti-abortion fanatic and alt-right website owner based in Eastern Europe, Jim Dowson, backed by a Christian-right Russian billionaire close to Putin, is now set on splitting Scotland away.
“Millionaire” Mr Dowson also boasts of his work on-line, encouraging people to vote for Brexit. Have his claims resulted in the merest suspicion that the referendum may not have been conducted “on the square”, as the Freemasons put it? Or is it simply accepted that in a democracy people are free to campaign for any cause they believe in, in any undeclared, underhand way they please – even the overthrow of the State?
A clue to Mr Dowson’s activities and interests (other oligarchs are available) may be found in a Guardian article of 20 March. I warn you, they are somewhat incoherent:
“I have been a fanatical defender of the union, but I am a pragmatist, and England is finished. It is not just finished because of the Muslim problem and immigration, but also because as of now we are looking at permanent Tory rule … This is a global network that I believed helped elect Donald Trump and backed Brexit to win. “
So did Dowson interfere in the referendum process as an undeclared pro-Leave lobbyist? Was he acting alone?
Nobody picked up on it.
A few months ago, the BBC’s Chief Political Correspondent, Laura Kuenssberg, who has since been subjected to a campaign of vilification in social media, published a piece on the BBC website speculating about the clandestine use of ‘bots’ by the Leave side in the EU referendum campaign. This followed an earlier report in June of a disrupt:
“An online petition calling for a second EU referendum has been hijacked by automated bots adding false signatures. Posts on the 4chan** message board indicated that some users had scripted programs to automatically sign the petition. Thousands of signatures appeared to have come from people in Vatican City and Antarctica.
“The House of Commons petitions committee said it had removed 77,000 signatures and was investigating.” (BBC News)
Did this indicate a level of external interference in the referendum itself? Resulting, perhaps, in the crashing of the voter registration website in the last 48 hours of registration and the addition of another two million voters who appeared to come from nowhere?
Nobody picked up on it.
A couple of months later, an article in The Guardian referred to a US company, Cambridge Analytica, owned (possibly) by the Breitbart News backer and ultra-rightwing multi-billionaire IT whizz, Robert Mercer, that had apparently been ‘data-harvesting’ millions of voters in the UK, secretly analysing their likely voting intentions and responding with a flood of personalized disinformation bots on behalf of the Leave campaign (about whose real intentions the BogPo has already intensively, and with fruity swearing, speculated). CA has downplayed but not denied the allegation.
Cornell University (ironically founded by a great-uncle of Kathy Cornell Gorka, a White House advisor on the dangers of Muslims – See Pumpkin 13) has conducted a study of the use of bots in political campaigning: arxiv.org/abs/1606.06356
The opening summary paragraph states:
“Political bots are automated accounts that are particularly active on public policy issues, elections, and political crises. In this preliminary study on the use of political bots during the UK referendum on EU membership, we analyze the tweeting patterns for both human users and bots. We find that political bots have a small but strategic role in the referendum conversations: (1) the family of hashtags associated with the argument for leaving the EU dominates, (2) different perspectives on the issue utilize different levels of automation (i.e. it’s an iterative process. Ed.), and (3) less than 1 percent of sampled accounts generate almost a third of all the messages.”
Nobody picked up on it.
Now, all this activity is not illegal, but it’s unfair, because it’s not what people are used to. Voters get used to election tactics, but this is something new, when someone from your Contacts folder pops up to tell you, by the way, such-and-such a candidate is a child-killer and a drug addict, you’re inclined to believe it. False: it’s not anyone you know, it’s a bot. And when both sides are bludgeoning you incessantly with the phonus-bolonus, it can get wearing – people will switch off.
And that’s the idea. Boredom brings down democracies.
On Monday, Mr James Comey, the head of the FBI, answered a question at a Congressional hearing to obtain confirmation that the security services were investigating both Mr Trump’s claims of having been “””wiretapped””” by President Obama*, and possible ties between the Trump campaign and the Russians.
The question from the excellent inquisitor, Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff was, did he think the Russians were interfering elsewhere, as perhaps with the Brexit referendum?
And the equally excellent, and imposingly tall Mr Comey replied ‘Yes, I do’.
And nobody, not even the media, has picked up on it.
Now there is evidence that not only was Russian military intel, the GRU, ‘Guccifer 2’ hacking the Democratic party servers for info useful to the Trump campaign, but they then ‘weaponized’ the data against the Clinton campaign, using bots to flood social media with misdirection in response to individual voting preferences. They also did this to supporters of Bernie Sanders, with a massive campaign of disinformation helping to persuade his voters, who, you may remember, he had asked to vote for Hillary when he gave up his bid for the White House, not to vote for her.
So we know they can do it. And the aforementioned Irish ‘millionaire’ Dowson (I can find no evidence that he is a millionaire. Where does that come from?), who has extensive East European, English nationalist and Russian connections, has boasted of the disruptive ‘meme’ he created on his US Patriot News website, alleging the existence of a worldwide paedophile ring involving Clinton. Did they do it here too?
Nobody in Britain has yet picked up on it, to join the dots; or seems to understand that the FBI believes the EU referendum was in all likelihood interfered with by the Russians as a disruptive tactic in their new-style hybrid warfare, as well as by rightwing US ‘disruptors’ linked with wealthy, non-official Leave campaigners in the UK; and that the BBC and the Guardian and even Cornell University know there is evidence the EU campaign was targeted in a campaign of disinformation by automated computer-generated bots masquerading as genuine information sources:
Yet nobody has picked up on it.
Because, as the following instructional clip from Rachel Maddow on MSNBC (21 March) explains,
That’s what the Russians DO.
And for a more official summary nearer to home, of the unofficial ‘dark money’ campaign that helped swing the UK referendum for the Disruptors, read:
So will somebody in authority, like Parliament, the police or MI5, the Electoral Reform Society – anybody – please pick up on it?
Because we’ve been conned!
Is the Government blind to this? Does it just not want to worry the British people that the Russians and their fifth-columnists on the alt-right are even now waging cyberwar on us? Have they just not picked up on it? Or has the Thing, this global crusade for racial and religious purity and the confusing disruption of our political, economic and social institutions funded by Russian ‘laundromat’ money, prising open the divisions and contradictions in our liberal democracy, already penetrated the higher echelons of the British government to put the blinders on – as it has the White House?
Mrs May, you were in charge of the national security apparatus for six years, can you tell us, possibly?
And here’s another story worth reading, concerning Russia’s disruption tactics, on the BBC News website, two days after Article 50 got triggered – and no mention of interference in the referendum:
Postscripta, please add to brain:
*Mr Trump is now claiming he was at least partly right about being wiretapped – having been informed by the CIA that, yes, they did listen in to some conversations in which he was a participant. Unfortunately for the President, a man for whom the word ‘consequences’ seems fraught with difficulty, it has not apparently occurred to him why his voice was inadvertently recorded on those CIA files?
It was because, not him, but the thus-far anonymous people he was conversing with, were themselves suspects under surveillance.***
That did not however stop the sucky little asshole with the terrified eyes, Congressman Nunes, inexplicably Republican chair of the Intelligence Committee, from immediately running down to the White House on the orders of the doe-eyed Congressional leader Paul Ryan, who is in deep doo-doo with Trump over his crappy American Healthcare bill, that seems likely to disaffiliate millions of poorer Trump voters, to show Orange Satan the CIA report, in clear breach of his duty of confidentiality to the committee – and then unilaterally cancelling the second hearing.
Most of the unfolding disaster is being put down to ‘inexperience’. Right, we’ve never experienced incompetence and venality on this scale, anywhere.
**The 4Chan site has been linked to Internet subcultures and activism, most notably Anonymous, the alt-right and Project Chanology. (Wikipedia). An open website guaranteeing anonymity and storing no data, 4Chan is an ideal breeding ground for disruptors.
***And it now appears accusations of British snooping were also partly accurate, in that the initial intercepts of conversations between the Trump camp and the Russians came from standard traffic monitoring by GCHQ, who are miffed that they passed the intel on to the CIA, the FBI, the NSA in late 2015 and no-one took any notice, presumably because they were focussed on their own monitoring of Mr Carter Page, a deniable, no-account former Trump campaign advisor, self-imagined man of mystery and go-between on ‘foreign relations’.
Both Mr Page and Russian spokes deny Page ever met with ‘oil’igarch, Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin, which probably therefore means that he did.
BIG DADA: A Guide
Who are the Disruptors?
The Pumpkin identifies disruptors as political activists with no party allegiance who seek to disrupt conventional channels of communication and institutions in order to bring about change in random and unspecified directions and create chaos, from which a ‘new politics’ will emerge.
Funded in part by a flood of Russian money, the Disruptor movement is being enabled and amplified by borderless communications and social media networks.
In that sense they resemble the artists, writers and musicians of the late 19th and early 20th century, mostly from Central Europe, inspired by political revolution and the emerging horrors of industrialized warfare, who promoted manifestos calling for the destruction of conventional society and the creation of a new order arising from the wreckage: groups like the Futurists, the Stridentists, Wyndham Lewis’ Vorticists, the Ashcan School and most successfully the Dadaists, building on the writings of Kropotkin and other anarchist or nihilist movements.
Some disruptors will by the nature of the activity simply be ‘merry pranksters’ – teenage hackers, acting with no more ultimate motive than to do some mischief and earn kudos. Others however find the internet and its influence on, especially, the millennial generation a useful vehicle for turning teenage anarchy to their advantage in putting forward an alt-right, Christian-right, racial purity, revivalist agenda.
There is in the view of The Pumpkin little difference in execution between the cynical radicalisation programmes of extreme Islam and the attempts by the alt-right, etc., to engage the idealism, naivety and adventurous spirits of young people via their social media for some dark project leading to supposedly exciting and beneficial social change, exploiting their hormonal uncertainty and natural altruism; like the recruitment tactics of religious cultists such as the Moonies and the Scientologists; the Hitler youth or the Comsomol.
(The symmetry between the Disrupt and IS is there to see. It’s always about the corruption of innocence.)
There is evidence of Russian, Balkan, North Korean and Chinese State involvement in disruptive tactics – not only the ceaseless hacking and probing denial of service attacks on banks and hospitals and utilities and local authorities and transport undertakings, but the further weaponization by the military of Big Data. Under the so-called Gerasimov Doctrine of hybrid warfare we will not be conquered by invasion, or by counterproductive nuclear strikes; rather by an insidious process of undermining our faith in our institutions.
Others in the background, ‘useful idiots’ – very wealthy (mostly) men – seek to advance their own private networks by destroying the centrist, liberal-democratic consensus they perceive is weak, failing – corrupted by multiculturalism – but which nevertheless persists in its attempts to rein-in their lucrative transactions. The suspicion must be that some at least of the $billions pouring out of Russia from the criminal skimming of former State-owned assets through dodgy banks, offshore trusts, insanely overpriced art auctions, arms traffic and property megadeals is being used to fund these willing and greedy Western accomplices in the takedown of the West.
Disruption is the modern equivalent of the old military tactic of ‘harrying’ – mounting low-cost, lightning raids here and there along the enemy’s defensive lines, to disrupt communications and movements; to take a few prisoners, seize supplies; to demoralise and test the strength of the enemy. If my personal data were among the millions of mobile phone company records seized in some spectacular hacking operation, as I’m sure they must have been (I was a Yahoo! subscriber for years) I shouldn’t be too concerned: the Russians probably aren’t going to do much with the information, they just want to send a message that our Western technology is weak and cannot protect us; but they will use it if provoked.
This is polygonal politics: economic, religious and cultural warfare in the internet era, and our politicians had better understand it and find ways to combat it, soon.
At last, I am vindicated!
A woman in Australia has walked free from court after her baby died when she forgot he was in the car, on a hot day.
It is not a precedent one would wish to set, obviously. People have a natural attachment to babies, a protective, hopeful instinct that ignores the awful teenagers they will grow into one day, the drug addicts, jihadis, corporate lawyers and US Presidents they go on to become. People still get upset, hearing about babies left to die like dogs in hot cars.
It’s a brave jurist who exonerates a parent for such a careless approach to their duties. The poor woman, what was her name? Lindy Chamberlain, who battled for years to explain that they went for a picnic in the Outback and a dingo must have taken her baby while her back was turned? The poor woman went through hell for years, accused of all sorts. ‘A Psychologist’ had not yet been born who would tell the court, yes, there is such a thing as ‘Taken baby syndrome”.
Australia often has hot days, I’m told, so one might think the Coroner would have asked the obvious question; not: “Why did you forget your baby was in the car?” but: “Why did you leave your baby in the car in the first place?”
But then, I wasn’t there. I cannot account for the circumstances; unlike in my own situation.
The BBC reports:
“A psychologist told the inquest he believed Ms Zunde suffered a memory lapse called “forgotten baby syndrome”.
“If you are capable of forgetting to post a letter, you are capable of forgetting to take your baby out of the car,” said Matthew Mundy, an associate professor at Monash University. “Your memory is limited, it’s limited in the number of things you can remember at any given time, and it’s limited in the amount of time you can remember a thing for. Your brain at the neural level doesn’t discriminate between [posting] a letter, a baby or remembering to pick up your mobile phone.
“In his opinion the lapse could happen to anyone, he said.”
So my reprehensible behaviour in frequently forgetting to collect my infant son from his nursery during those months of turmoil, when my business was failing and I was stuck in meetings with the bank for hours while struggling to meet all my other commitments to creative output and to pay the staff wages, so that I would often of an evening find myself having to do a U-ey and hurtle at illegal speed the twelve miles back from my home driveway where the realization usually dawned, to find the poor mite cradled in the arms of a fuming ‘pudding’, as I called the dumpy little creche nurses, sitting locked-out on the doorstep, finally has a name! A syndrome!
That’s one in the eye for the wife:
“Forgotten baby syndrome”.
It explains, certainly, why I have no idea currently where I have left my mobile phone. I haven’t seen it for days. The battery will be flat by now, so there’s no point in emailing my son – about whom I still forget for long periods – and getting him to phone it, so I can identify its whereabouts.
Letters, too, sit in the Documents file on muh li’l laptop, unprinted – perhaps I have forgotten that the toner has run out again – or in envelopes ready to go, with expensive first-class stamps on, on the bureau, unposted, until I think better of sending them and tear them up. Complaining to utility companies and writing to my MP about the traffic makes no difference, they shrug it off, the world turns, a politely worded but anodyne defence is received, no action taken – why create all that aggro? Just forget it.
Unposted letter syndrome, lost phone syndrome… life’s a beach, ain’t it? I spent the better part of £600 on a new laptop three weeks ago. I still haven’t found the energy, the commitment to spend another week setting up all those files, the passwords, the lost data, the fumbling back and forth to read the instructions from one machine screen to another. It’s just sitting there, one tiny light winking futilely. Soon it will vanish under the pile of angry letters accumulating around, the cat sleeping on top of it and be forgotten.
“Forgotten laptop syndrome” will be added to the list of my many syndromes, exculpating me from the failing memories of my past, the unbidden responsibility to the future. Life can be so simple with the right diagnosis.
“Simple life syndrome”.
The joy of letting go.