This weekend starts, as usual, with a cacophony of news information on hotly debated subjects. In Northern Ireland, a paedophile who served a jail sentence for a catalogue of abuse has now been granted permanent anonymity by a judge, who found in his favour and against a blogger concerned that parents should know of his real nature. Spain officially said to hell with Germany’s austerity, and announced it would delay achieving Europe’s deficit target by two years, pushing it back to 2016. For this it will not be punished: try that in Cyprus, and you’d wind up under a motorway bridge’s foundations. But if you if you have over €50,000 in any account in Spain, you must fill in an obligatory census questionnaire saying where all you other loot is as well. Uh-oh.
The evidence of judicial and political cover-up of systemic paedophila is hard to dismiss in the light of what the Catholic Church tried to do for more than half a century. And more recently, the insatiable State desire for more and more financial information about us adds further credence to go on top of the clear evidence from fifteen major nations which, over the last ten days, admitted Open Bank Reconciliation really means a plan to steal your money.
Yet there are still academics who would pretty much dismiss all conspiracy theory as a form of mass madness. Predictably, they get a voice without any difficulty in the increasingly odd comment columns of the Guardian: one such piece appeared by Karen Douglas a week last Friday, in which she opined that ‘Over the years, accusations of conspiracy have surrounded many significant political and social events, and recent examples include the Sandy Hook elementary school shootings, and the explosion of the fertilizer plant in Waco, Texas. The bottom line is that the official account of events – if one exists – should always be questioned because governments in general cannot be trusted to tell people the truth’.
I always question everything every government says nowadays, because past behaviour suggests their lying is pathologically habitual and endemic. But Ms Douglas sees it primarily as a psychological phenomenon: so much so that her Kent University lecturer cv describes her interest as a ‘focus on beliefs in conspiracy theories. Why are conspiracy theories so popular? Who believes them? Why do people believe them? What are some of the consequences of conspiracy theories and can such theories be harmful?’ The underlying assumption here is that this is a medical condition. As such, it is almost Soviet in its willingness to see belief in skullduggery as insanity.
There is, without doubt, a mentality which has to see everything as a conspiracy. The fastest way to get thousands of hits is to tag something JFK plot outed, Maddie McCann new clues emerge, Blair link to Ghanian money proved….and so on, and so on. One of the problems of investigating genuine paedophile rings and cases of State child-napping, for example, is that some of the victims of it have themselves only a tenuous grip on reality. Their chaotic lives got them into the State’s clutches in the first place; it also means their credibility can be easily dismissed. Sometimes it means they are completely mad.
Not only does this make the investigator’s work doubly difficult, perhaps more importantly it allows the Darker Forces within Establishments to depict the lunatic fringe as a major phenomenon, and smear everyone uncovering a real conspiracy with being a ‘mad conspiracy theorist’. As I have written many times before, once some solid facts emerge, a conspiracy isn’t a theory any more – it’s a fact: a reality with which somebody must deal.
When social networks and ‘going viral’ were in their infancy six or seven years ago, Lord Mandelson and his knitting coven inside New Labour were way ahead of the curve. Mandelson and his ilk realised very early on that a dangerous mélange of media distraction, time-starvation, and internet accusation-contagion could squash a news story, allow a lie to go uninterrogated, and destroy a reputation within days. That ‘days’ has since become hours.
Thus in 2008 I was dubbed a ‘far Right blogger’ by Mandelson and the Labour spin-doctor gargoyle Charlie Whelan for revealing the true state of Gordon Brown’s mental and opthalmic health. I was even given a fresh identity (same surname, different bloke) so liberal folks could quickly go to ‘my’ site (not my site at all) and see what a card-carrying Nazi I was. Whelan then slandered me on an LBC show, as did Ben Bradshaw live on the BBC’s Question Time two nights later. By the following weekend, the New York Times had been fed the same bollocks by The Guardian. For the liberal Left, in just four days I became globally infamous as “Brown on pills blogger who accused PM based on wild guesswork”.
Since those early Wild West days of disinformation, the distractions have become more profound and widespread (econo-fiscal meltdown), the time starvation has become greater, the media even faster (mobile internet), and social networks both much bigger and more sophisticated. The result is twofold: truth has become relative, and disinformation’s source virtually invisible.
The bottom line is that more and more people are putting less and less trust in what people conclude on the basis of information received, investigations made, or ‘smoke signals’ detected. This suits the economic Establishment-global banking-large State-security agency-media billionaire agendas down to the ground. Anyone with access to viral contagion and apparent ‘facts’ can spray weedkiller or Miracle-Gro on any information – and by the time it’s stone dead or rampantly alive, the provenance is well-nigh impossible to establish.
Hi-speed electronic technology has had precisely the same effect in the financial markets. Lightning trades, deep liquidity pools, hacked company information, and State complicity in electronic fraud have been mixed with twisted product syntax and ‘glitches’ to ensure that – for example – the price of gold can fall two hundred bucks….but nobody can be certain which of a dozen or more factors caused it. This in turn then enables those working the scam to dismiss such perfectly possibly hypotheses as yet more insane conspiracy theories.
The confusion around the world about what is and isn’t ‘the reality’ of any situation is now so total, the explanations put out by the authorities can be increasingly idiotic and/or illogical in their content. Cast-iron examples on a grand scale are easy to find and interrogate; but once that’s been done, more seemingly plausible ‘facts’ are tossed in to muddy the waters further. In just the last year alone, a representative list of such news ‘stories’ would include ‘falling UK unemployment’, ‘future growth potential in the Greek economy’, ‘Twitter ruined Lord McAlpine’s life’, ‘America returns to Growth’, ‘Britain avoids double-dip recession’, ‘the NHS doesn’t care about patients any more’, ‘The BBC paedophile ring led by Jimmy Savile’, ‘Spanish bank liquidity shows marked improvement’, ‘ClubMed deficits are falling’, ‘The Olympic effect’, ‘RBS returns to health’, ‘The Osborne austerity strategy is working’, ‘UK housing market bounces back’, ‘Cyprus depositor haircuts were Nicosia’s idea’, and ‘Boris Johnson is the Man we need in Number Ten’.
Sometimes it seems one can be optimistic about where this is all going, if only because a clutch of data pops up to illustrate beyond reasonable doubt that the ‘official line’ is complete tosh. After many years of being dismissed as far-out looney fringers, those of us who blogged endlessly about the manipulation of gold prices and libor rates, Wall Street and global investment bank criminality, phone hacking, the dearth of real manufacturing in Britain, Banks defrauding SMEs, secret Family Courts, lunatic bank debts and unrepayable Sovereign debts have now been – more or less – vindicated. But the sheer spread, amount, change-rate and inconclusive nature of global data means that, despite that result, little has moved on in terms of Estabihsment behaviour: Friedman is still revered, laissez-faire economics are still assumed to be The Only Way, banking reform has withered on the vine, scorched-earth ClubMed madness continues, Stephen Hester is still running RBS, we await the first arrest (with waning hope) in relation to the Elm House paedophile cover-up, Murdoch is still as insidiously powerful in global media as he ever was – and worst of all, Quantitative Easing is still being presented as a viable policy of economic stimulation.
The bitter irony is this: technology designed to make things go faster has become an agent of stifling change and slowing down the process of analysis. The formula can be summarised as:
Volume of information + speed of delivery + ease of disinformation + time-starved analysis + mass distraction = dissension + uncertainty + dysfunctional Establishment survival = snail’s pace change = socio-econo-political stagnation
The best example of a self-styled élite using this reality to great (but disastrous) effect is the painfully slow emergence of reality among EU member States, since 2009, about the dysfunctional nature of the euro. Basically, those running the show have been able to use this information tug-of-war to “buy time”….which, they still believe, is all they need.
It isn’t: it is the last thing they should be wasting, because it is the most precious commodity in the current global environment. But in this process, the supine and generally lazy approach of many among the MSM’s ranks has made their task of can-kicking terrifyingly easy. Just as process so often substitutes for creativity in our politics and marketing, so too is reportage seen to suffice in the mass media….when what we really need is critical analysis.
Slowly and perhaps not entirely surely, much of the drivel that has gone unquestioned since 2008 around the globe is now being revealed as such. In the 2012 Presidential election, Barack Obama’s reaction to this emerging awareness was to counter it by the systematic use of trolls. This too was dismissed as bonkers conspiracy paranoia, but it is anything but. Not only is the evidential experience of bloggers in relation to organised troll swarms undeniable, at last the MSM is starting to write about it – this time in the EU context. Two months ago, the Daily Telegraph’s Bruno Waterfield (notably more alert than most specialist hacks) wrote an excellent column revealing with crystal clarity an EU-wide coordinated plan to stop the euro-rebellion gaining ground across the continent. His desk had been leaked Brussels documents about an ‘unprecedented propaganda blitz ahead of and during European elections in June 2014…..Key to a new strategy will be “public opinion monitoring tools” to “identify at an early stage whether debates of political nature among followers in social media and blogs have the potential to attract media and citizens’ interest”.’
Mr Waterfield is one of only 22 people I follow on Twitter, because he is of this planet when it comes to State spin. He concluded in the article linked above that the plans would ‘violate the neutrality of the EU civil service by turning officials into a “troll patrol”, stalking the internet to make unwanted and provocative political contributions in social media debates. Under the spending plans, cash for “seminars, symposia and cultural activities will swell by 85 per cent”. It was clear that these were Orwellian euphemisms. Paul Nuttall, UKIP’s deputy leader, said at the time, “Spending over a million pounds for EU public servants to become Twitter trolls in office hours is wasteful and truly ridiculous”. But the key point here is that folks of experience and level-headedness now accept that yet another ‘looney conspiracy theory’ is very real indeed.
But things can go onto another even more impenetrable level when bloggers point up such reality. My email here has been inundated over the last few days with emails dismissing the use of disinfo-trolls as – here we go again – ‘delusional fantasy’. But the provenance here becomes so multi-layered, it really is in the territory of double and triple agents in the murky world of Smiley’s People. One example will perhaps suffice.
I received a rambling diatribe from a correspondent using the email ISP riseup.net last night. This organisation looks at first sight like a location for the guys in the white hats: it describes itself as providing ‘online communication tools for people and groups working on liberatory social change. We are a project to create democratic alternatives and practice self-determination by controlling our own secure means of communications.’
So then, it’s a libertarian site. But at the About Us page, the dead drone of Dirk Stalinline syntax hoves into view pretty quickly:
‘The Riseup Collective is an autonomous body based in Seattle with collective members world wide. Our purpose is to aid in the creation of a free society, a world with freedom from want and freedom of expression, a world without oppression or hierarchy, where power is shared equally. We do this by providing communication and computer resources to allies engaged in struggles against capitalism and other forms of oppression.’
So then, it’s a radical Hard-Left site peddling the usual Utopian aspirations that always lead to dystopian reality. Either way, I decided to complain about the correspondent using their ‘collective’ in its bid to ‘engage in struggles for human liberation, the ethical treatment of animals, and ecological sustainability. We join in the fight for freedom and the self-determination of all oppressed groups. We oppose all forms of prejudice, authoritarianism, and vanguardism.’
Trouble is, to complain about its members, you have to join them. It’s a sort of openly secretive narrow-minded worldwide thingy existing ‘to create revolution and a free society in the here and now. We promote social ownership and democratic control over information, ideas, technology, and the means of communication.’ I’ve always been something of an uncontrolled vanguardist myself, so my desire to sign up with these folks was never going to get beyond minus 4,590. But it’s a classic example of what I’m on about: trying to work out the real agenda here is like lassoing ether.
For instance, if they are a crypto-Stalinist bunch of hairies carrying placards inviting us all to ‘Smash’ stuff, do they I wonder know that one of their members – who styles himself jet.stream – is a neo-Nazi accusing me of being something of a Commie as well:
‘Well Mr Ward, your soap box seems to be inundated with “trolls”,
according to you. But of course if you bothered to look up the term
on Google, you’d soon discover the sorts of people that you call
“trolls” aren’t really trolls at all. No way. They’re simply
people who think you talk a lot of bollocks and make it up as you
I agree with them. I’d add that your choice of subjects is
knowingly very selective to ensure you throw shit at and libel
those people who you despise and hate. Thus, the “real” troll is of course yourself. That’s been obvious
to a growing number of people for a long time and it explains why
your soap box has fewer and fewer informed commenters on it
nowadays and more and more sycophantic Lefty blimps, like
Morningstar & others of his ilk. Many of whom were scooped up
from Twitter’s trashcan where you do a lot of self-promotion.
You should stop making stupid
comments about subjects you know little or nothing about. That
would have the added benefit of reducing the output of garbage
articles from you by about 80%+….you are a little dictator with fixed views and opinions, most
of which are little more than disguised Left-wing rants.’
You really are quite a nasty and dishonest person, aren’t you.
As for your “sources”, I’ve never believed you have any that are
worth a daylight. They are simply low-level people who peddle
their own opinions to you for publication on your soap box. But
you’re too fucking dumb to see how you’re being used as a conduit,
because it suits you to big-up your bloated ego by claiming that
you have “sources”, like a real journalist might have.
I notice your “bankguy in brussels” “source” has posted once or
twice recently on zerohedge with links to your soap box.
How much are you paying him??? or what’s the quid pro quo???
That’s enough for now.’
Well jet-stream, I concur 100% with the last line there, although I’m not sure that ‘jet’ is the right prefix for your stream. It’s amusing and all that, but if Sloggers can sort out who is on whose side in that particular maelstrom of libertarian bolshevik animal-rights Nazi-Greenpeace trolling, than you are a better man than I. The entire thing feels like Brechtian subterfuge towards a Huxleyan nightmare within a Kafka trial rewritten by Solzhenytsin.
Over the last seven years, I have been courted as a potential mouthpiece by every shade of opinion online – from rabid libertarians via Colin Jordan clones and genuinely loopy paranoiacs all the way through to the Liberal Democrats, the Socialist Workers’ Party, Greek Nazis, and the German Hard Left. While this is inevitable if one genuinely rejects all rigid political ideology and polemics (people read what they want to read) the real problem any seeker after empirical reality and radically practical reform faces in 2013 is answering the oldest questions of all, “Who are you, and what do you want?”
Divining the verity or otherwise of the answer to that has never been more tricky than it is today. Certainty has been all but obliterated, and uncertainty leads to lack of action…and that in turn leads not to the survival of the fittest, but rather the hegemony of the thickest.
As no essay as generalising as this one should be entirely divorced from day-to-day examples, here’s a couple more to add to the ones with which I started.
The Greek Environment and Energy Ministry is planning to impose an extraordinary levy on rooftop solar systems used for the production of electricity – following pressure from the Troika to bring the electricity market’s deficit down to zero by 2014.
Er, right. Here we have an environmental agency being prodded by a deregulatory neocon Troika to improve the State’s fiscal position by forcing citizens to buy more electricity from the grid. I’m sorry, I really can’t join up the dots on that one.
Yesterday, Germany’s central banking institution The Bundesbank leaked a point by point assault on every claim made by ECB chief Mario Draghi to justify emergency rescue policies – or Outright Monetary Transactions (OMT) – unveiled last summer to stop Spain’s debt crisis spiralling out of control.
“It is not the duty of the ECB to rescue states in crisis,” wrote the Bundesbank in a lengthy document obtained by Handelsblatt.
Now then: how to interpret that little nugget. Draghi wants to reduce wages in ClubMed and thus help the eurozone to export, which in turn should protect the troubled currency. But a faction in Germany doesn’t like that. However, it’s hard to tell which one: the leak was to Handelsblatt, but not to the Bankfurters’ preferred medium, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. However, the source is the Bundesbank – increasingly anti-euro – and Merkel last week gave a speech saying eurozone bailout costs must be reined in or Germany would say “Genug schon”. So is this Schäuble leaking to encourage conformity with his austerity ideas? Or is it German bankers leaking to put pressure on Merkel to make more speeches like that one? And how does that link to the rapidly-growing new anti-euro Party, AfD? Is Draghi now isolated and about to be handed the blame for everything by the MerkeSchäuble…or is he so powerful, this is a vain attempt by the Germans to regain some lost power?
As the weekend proceeds, you can be reasonably certain that there will be denials and shocked surprise from every quarter about it. And unless one has the total inside track – if there is one – then what we have here is an inexplicable event. That will produce a confused but still relatively calm european bond market, which is anyway still scratching its head trying to work out HTF Italian bond yields have remained so low. Slot fifteen of your own hypotheses into that one, and see what’s worth saluting.
Enough discussion: here’s my conclusion. Maybe it’s an insight, maybe it isn’t…but I’ll present it anyway. Disinformation and obfuscation are antithetical to the promotion of firm, decisive action. They buy time, but the Time is counterfeit currency. With every week that passes, ‘less and less time’ is morphing more and more certainly into ‘far too late to do anything’.
Recent trolling here ridiculed my prediction that the Easter break was the perfect time for the ECB to introduce draconian capital controls. That ridicule nevertheless missed the point I was making: it didn’t happen, but “hahahaha” is only going to give sad folks like pgfnctouydspowell a hard-on. The fact is that Draghi et al missed the boat. As a result of that, huge amounts of liquidity leaked away from the eurozone. The ECB’s answer has been to hide the data proving it. Thus the result remains unclear, and panic has been avoided. But far from being solved, the problem has been rendered insoluble.
The people who style themselves as in charge are rapidly working out how to use faster information flow to delay action and spread blame. But they’re being found out, and so the next move will be to hugely restrict the flow of that information to those who would critique it. Rather, they will let it flow even more quickly to their allies in banking, business and the MSM who would exploit it. The two-speed Web to which we are now heading was always going to be about this. The next stage will be a series of National Emergencies, and censorship: rationalised – just as the CCTV cameras are today – in terms of being for the protection of the citizen.
But actually it will be yet more self-protection for the sclerotic duffers at the top. And in the end, it will make violent revolution – something nobody with a brain should desire – all the more inevitable.
Yesterday at The Slog: How Nicosia’s leaders signed the Troika deal before Parliament even voted on it