‘Taking Back Control’ – Falling For The Greatest Con Trick Ever
By TruePublica: Politico has an interesting article about how the government is trying to tackle the growing threat of right-wing extremism. It highlights many of the problems facing not just the government but society as a whole. Dig a little deeper and the story hides an uncomfortable truth about what is really going on away from public scrutiny.
Politico’s story starts in No10 Downing Street, where the press office has a large wall mounted TV scrolling through the most popular of social media’s shared content, trending topics and conversations.
The really big worry politically for government officials, it says, is the incessant rise of new populist news sites. In their eyes, these news websites are pushing out nothing but conspiratorial, anti-establishment content and doing so outside the channels of mainstream media that the government has some control over.
In the past, especially since Tony Blair’s time in office, No10 has used the tactics of bullying, intimidation, exclusion and threats to keep the mainstream media in line. But news outlets springing up more recently are uncontrollable. There is a department within no 10 – the Digital Communications Office – a “rapid response unit” spread across No. 10 charged with attempting to manage stories on social media going against the government narrative.
The stories being monitored other than from the mainstream media emanate from news outlets most politicians have never heard of – but they do know it is a rising threat to them losing control.
Political sites like the Canary on the left and Westmonster on the right are of concern, with extreme right-wing content coming from the likes of PoliticalUK.co.uk and Politicalite.com – and it is here where serious political problems in the UK are becoming more widespread.
The populist right-wing media is “huge” in the U.K., said Paul Quigley, CEO of NewsWhip, a U.S.-based social media monitoring company, which carried out extensive research for POLITICO journalists.
His company has noted spikes of online interest in once-fringe figures like the anti-Muslim street activist Tommy Robinson, that sometimes eclipse the numbers for mainstream politicians such as May, former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson or Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. “People are extremely engaged,” he said.
Brexit takes centre stage in this new level of discourse. A second referendum has sparked accusations of “betrayal.” Ministers, government officials and analysts fear any successful bid to overturn Brexit would provide the populist right the ammunition needed. And as Politico says this would be “a potentially toxic new grievance upon which to build a movement from the ashes of Nigel Farage’s UKIP.”
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Part of the problem is that the Conservative party are pandering to the hard-right within their own party and frightened of them publicly.
Ian Dunt at Politics.co.uk wrote a few days ago – “it is clear beyond all doubt now, (the Government) is to supplicate itself before the right-wing elements of the Conservative parliamentary party. Jeremy Corbyn sent May a letter last week outlining what Labour would need to back a deal. He required customs union membership and a closer connection to the single market. She dismissed it and is instead fleeing back to the deranged malcontents of the ERG.”
The evidence is all around us – the government is now more frightened of the hard-right wing element of their everyday life and it is shaping political policy in Britain at this crucial time.
It was apparent to the nation after the illegal invasions of Iraq, Libya and Syria that the mainstream media, gatekeepers of the narrative, were starting to lose their extensive grip. They were the first mouthpieces of the government. With wars in far off lands, journalists did not challenge the lies of government and their security officials – they brought us an incessant round of fake news, propaganda and disinformation. Disastrous foreign policy decisions were aided by the mainstream media.
This is exactly what encouraged the emergence of online news outlets, irrespective of the controls government has tried to bring to silence them. Social media and the Internet has broken some of the silence of truth but brought with it the rapid emergence of extremism.
Politico reports that – “News, fake news, information and disinformation now reaches voters through a collection of social media pages, messaging apps, video platforms and anonymous websites spreading content beyond the control of anyone in Whitehall — or the Élysée in France, as Emmanuel Macron is discovering. “Who do you ring?” asked one exasperated No. 10 official when asked about these sites. “You don’t know who these people are.”
The rise of extremist political content can now be attributed to its place in a much larger network of sites and social media pages, and video accounts, each amplifying the next with an extraordinary following through a web of interconnected networks – hence, the government now feels it has already lost control.
Right-wing extremism as bad as terrorism
It was the Conservative party that let out the Brexit genie, it has gone mainstream and getting out of control. And as Politico also says – “For those in the British government monitoring developments on the internet, worries about right-wing radicalism are joining concerns about Russian interference and Islamic terrorism.”
The panic is palpable. “This is a really big problem,” said Damian Collins, a Conservative MP, who has been investigating the growing influence of fake news, disinformation and social media on British democracy. “Social media is used as a cheap and effective way of influencing people by feeding them a hyper-partisan diet. These are the tactics the Russians have been deploying for some time now. We have to fight back.”
Once again, the Tories are refusing to accept what has happened and are attempting to shift blame.
Politico itself reports that social media is transforming the populist far-right in particular, according to analysts and government officials. But what they also say is that “it is often aided by influential and wealthy supporters in the United States.”
“This is a separate ecosystem, with its own rules, its own communities and its own influencers,” said Ben Nimmo, an expert in online disinformation and manipulation at the Atlantic Council’s digital forensic research lab. “What we’re seeing is the internationalization of nationalism.”
By connecting the dots we arrive at an uncomfortable truth. We have the ‘ultras’ – a band of Brexiteers whose dedication and loyalty to America’s free-market neoliberal model is undeniable. They, in turn, are supported by so-called think tanks and front charities who are funded by opaque American right-wing Tea-Party fundamentalists, who are funded by transnational corporations using platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter – all of which are American corporations and interests. The common denominator should clear by now to anyone with an internet connection – It is America.
Right-wing extremism is a “growing threat” in the U.K.,” Home Secretary Sajid Javid told POLITICO. “The far right will go to any length to spread hate, exploit grievances, distort the truth and undermine the values that hold us together.” And yet – Javid knows full well that people like Tommy Robinson who fuels the anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant hatred and violence we are seeing on Britain’s streets – is receiving financial, political and moral support from a broad array of non-British groups and individuals. These consist mainly of American think tanks and US billionaires – many associated with getting Trump into office. Together, they are funding the destabilisation of Britain to see the deregulation festival that Brexit will bring.
David Toube, director of policy at the counter-extremism think tank Quilliam, said the greatest threat today, across all parts of the political spectrum, was “the growth of conspiracism, feeding into political polarization and potentially street violence and ultimately terrorism.”
Syria and Social Media – but no-one listening
For the time being it is business as usual. Selected journalists and commentators are invited in for briefings at No. 10 – those that go against the government narrative are not invited. Information is distributed to dutifull and loyal supporters of the government – the editors and major TV stations.
Politico used a Freedom of Information request and discovered that the government were using artificial intelligence to analyze social media to find out what the country is talking about.
“Inside No. 10, the frequent complaint is that nothing it announces seems to register with the public at large, bar an awkward prime ministerial jig in Africa or a hand-holding episode with Donald Trump. The government is happy if its “top of the grid” announcement that day was shared 5,000-10,000 times on Facebook, the official said.”
The loss of media control is having a real effect on the government’s ability to act, officials said. Amazingly, another admission is made. “At the height of the Syria crisis in April when the U.K., France and the U.S. weighed airstrikes on the Assad regime over its use of chemical weapons, the Rapid Response Unit noticed the government’s case for intervention was being drowned out online. The government took the extraordinary step of buying a top Google search result to get its message out, one official said.” It is clear that the ‘chatter’ on social media has the potential to influence the government.
And while the government are working on the wording of new legislation to disable the voice of social media’s loudest speakers – it does itself use the same strategies.
According to accounts published last Monday, published on Politico, the government was the highest spending political advertiser on Facebook in the U.K. in the first week of December. It spent £97,000 in one week, of taxpayers money, on the social network seeking support for its deal taking Britain out of the European Union. The same one that was emphatically rejected by parliament. There’s an irony here, completely lost on the hapless Theresa May and her team.
The battle is lost
And as Politico concludes – “many in Whitehall think the battle is lost.”
“What is the point, some officials ask in private, of social media buys and a five-strong unit when you’re dealing with millions of websites, bloggers, Facebook groups and YouTube channels, all feeding off each other in an ecosystem beyond state control?”
And there you have it. Far from ‘taking back control’, Britain is going through a programme of economic regime change and is going along with it because it perceives it has run out of safe choices.
What we are seeing in Britain today is an international effort to destabilise the country in favour of a shift to an economic model of ultra-conservatism. This the is the ultimate neoliberal wet dream and all the cards are stacked in their favour.
The British Conservative party is now finished as a modern, centre-ground political force. They have all but admitted defeat. The American’s are coming and there’s not much that can be done about it now because social democracy, the story that protected Britain from extreme capitalism for the last 70 or so years is now going through a period of collapse.
Brexit is the gateway to a new form of economic exploitation that hides behind the politics and social perceptions of uncontrolled immigration. It propagates hatred by nationalists and even highlights the hardship felt by the weakest in society suffering from the ideology of austerity. This was indeed its greatest con-trick – convincing those that need the most protection from what is coming next that they will somehow be better off in a world driven by increased competition and profit at all costs.