TROLLING ALONG: If the conflicting data feel like a stream of dissonance, ask yourself why.

trollfinnPortrait of a troll (above)….the Finnished article

Ever since Moses came back down with Ten Commandments and claimed they were from God, it’s been difficult to get at the Truth. But the complexity and subtlety of contemporary disinformation make it well-nigh impossible to get anywhere near it. The Slog explains why this is happening, who’s doing it, and what they’re trying to achieve.

‘Eurozone output rose greater than expected in the month of February,” wrote Reuters this morning. By gum, one thinks, things might be looking up. And Reuters suggests such a thought might indeed be appropriate: the data, it reports, are ‘giving hope the currency bloc will return to growth this year’.

Except, of course, it’s complete bollocks. Almost all of it is energy production – because Europe just had one of the coldest winter/spring spells on record. What’s more, whereas German production is up 95, ClubMed’s is down….especially in Italy at -8%. Which, of course, simply exacerbates the problem the eurozone already already has. Overall, real factory production continued to fall compared to data from a year ago.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that ‘Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem said “everything is in place” for euro-area officials to sign off on a 10 billion-euro rescue for Cyprus’……the only snag being that Nicosia doesn’t agree: it thinks it needs more. Or does it? Lest we forget here, Cyprus’s contribution to its own rescue has risen from €7bn to €13bn. Cyprus isn’t as yet asking for anything from anyone, because it is rescuing itself, remember? In fact, didn’t Cyprus decide to use its own gold to raise the new larger amount? No actually, it didn’t: it was told to by the Troika. And then this morning, Mario Draghi ordered the Cypriot government not to sack Panicos Demetriades, the central bank governor, over his handling of Cyprus’ worsening financial crisis.

Over his handling of the crisis? Wasn’t the confidence crisis set off by the Troika’s haircut idea? Nonononononono….that was Nicosia’s idea. Well, that is…er, after it turned up a week last Thursday and was told to find a way to cut 40% of depositor hair by the FinMin’s eurogroup.

OK fine, but at least Brussels is trying to sort out the mess, right? The Wall Street Journal ran a big piece today saying ‘Europe is embarking on a new attempt to pull its banks out of the molasses of its debt crisis, hoping an aggressive cleanup of toxic assets will get banks to lend again and kick-start its flailing economies. The push is being led by several key officials in Brussels and Frankfurt, who want to see a new round of much-tougher stress tests before the European Central Bank becomes the euro zone’s main banking policeman next year, according to four European officials familiar with the talks. They are backed by the continent’s richer countries, including Germany, the Netherlands and Finland.’

Ah. This is a new one on me. Or rather, it isn’t: the same story was salted out all over the place on February 26th. Then it appeared again on March 18th. Now here it is yet again on April 12th. But it’s bullsh*t: I have yet to find anyone in a position to know who has seen or read anything about such a new stress test.

But nihil desperandum friends, because ‘EU’s Rehn Calls for Faster Banking Union’ wrote the WSJ yesterday. Ollie can call all he likes, but his calls rarely seem to be answered: the same story appeared last June at Reuters and in the New York Times. It’s cobblers: the pace remains that of a snail on Valium, because half the people supposed to be in the damn thing are insolvent anyway.

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There are three factors at play in all this misreporting. First, it tends almost always to appear on mainstream American news sites. Second, it is represents almost nothing beyond some eurocrat’s wishful thinking. And third, in the eurozone theatre it follows an obvious pattern most of the time: the deliberate sowing of confusion.

Why is this? It’s simple really…and I’ve observed it so many times now, I will not countenance any of the ‘just a conspiracy theory’ tripe – if only because that sort of trollesque assertion is part of the same process.

These are the reasons it happens. First, the US is desperate to keep American investors calm about what’s happening in the eurozone. Second, most Americans are very badly informed about Europe. Third, all US news sites and stations are under enormous pressure to fill time and space with apparent ‘news’. Fourth, a helluva lot of journalists are lazy and superficial – especially econo-financial journalists. Fifth, Paris, Brussels, Frankfurt and Berlin are at loggerheads most of the time, and brief against each other 24/7. And finally, it suits the European Commission press room to run about carrying mirrors and trailing smoke: this creates controversy, disagreement, and multivariate interpretation….it provides the distraction and distortion to line up the deception.

Some fifteen months ago – well before the triumphant return of Barack O’Drama to the Oval Office was assured, I kept being told by American sources about professional troll swarms being employed by the White House to go into GOP sites and spread mayhem by attacking threaders, authors and each other. It all sounded a bit far-fetched and paranoid to be honest: it proved to be anything but. It is in fact extremely sophisticated, and has since spread into almost every sphere of what gets ‘reported’ online.

Ever since being attacked here last year, I have to spend about half an hour a day monitoring new threaders, and checking their IP addresses. In the last eight months alone I have banned and spammed out a staggering 5,723 obvious plants either commercial or political. One still misses a few of course – seasoned bloggers email me now and again to point them out. Sometimes I ban them too: sometimes I leave them in, string them along, even agree with them now and then. After all, I don’t see why disinformation-spreading should be all one way.

The net effect is that nobody knows who to trust any more….and this too is entirely intentional. The Stasi in East Germany not only corrupted citizens by getting them to spy on neighbours or else…it benefitted massively from spreading distrust and suspicion….because that led to more ‘credible deniability’. (An invention of that nice Nixonian Mr Haldeman, by the way).

Nowhere is this pernicious practice of troll swarming more commonplace and obvious than in ClubMed – and especially in Greece. A lot of it is laughably amateurish: Turks calling themselves Demetriou or Maria turn up talking rubbish and barely able to spell, and Germanic-origin mercenaries thread complete tosh that gives away their ignorance of all things Hellenic. I do too occasionally, but that’s because I am ignorant about Greece: I love the country and its people, but I rely upon a small regiment of helpers to politely point out when I’ve written something culturally daft.

Just as annoying is the time I devote to checking the provenance of something given to me discreetly. One has to do that every time of course, but now the process has become ridiculous. Reports are falsified, newspaper dates doctored, Wikipedia entries altered….on and on it goes. And of course, that’s the idea: ‘better not write that, it may be a trap’. They slow you down, and make you cautious. I have been suckered twice since Christmas. It’s not good for morale, I can tell you.

Most of the Anglo-Saxon media were reeled in by Lord McAlpine in this manner. He spotted a silly BBC error about paedophilia, and he plus other allies have been bashing them for it ever since. Yet again today, McScalpine pitched up saying he was “absolutely astonished” that the Beeb was allowing an anti-Maggie song to be broadcast. What is he after, soviet censorship? Of course he is, the crafty old bugger: he wants his enemies to demoralised, and thus easier to annihilate. Alf McAlpine isn’t astonished by anything. Except, perhaps, how easy it is to take people in.

The Left, meanwhile, has been running pieces over the last 48 hours claiming that Buckingham Palace ‘disapproves’ of the choice of St Paul’s Cathedral for Baroness Thatcher’s funeral service. I disapprove too, but I’ve been trying to stand up the reports and I don’t believe a bloody word of it. However, it suits the Mirror and the Guardian to remind people about Maggie’s delusions of grandeur….every bit as much as it suits the Telegraph and the Express to use verbs like ‘snub’ and ‘refuse’ when it comes to reporting on the BBC’s unwillingness to go along with brainless idolatry.

I posted about the Baroness three days ago. My verdict, and the preference for brevity, still stand. I am at Thatchuration point with all this propagandic mud-slinging. But yes, OK – I too am trying to persuade: I used to be one of those ghastly advertising men building brands and creating jobs, oh woe is me, what a capitalist swine I was. But my persuasion is now as it was then: open, honest, and well-intentioned. I find it sweetly ironic that those claiming to be anti-Stalinist (it’s an easy position to adopt, after all) increasingly use the Brechtian Good Lie to make their ‘case’.

Two opposing lies make only a cacophony of noise to drown out the truth. They require us to be vigilant at all times.

Earlier at The Slog: We’ve had the Fat Cats, now stand by for their Fat Tax