I’ve noticed a significant change among the Forces of Darkness over the last 4-5 weeks, and I can’t believe it’s just me spotting it. I’ve dubbed it ‘goading’.
It’s more subtle than most trolling, and much harder to spot than ‘spam-praise’. But it does appear in the comment threads. The email addresses look genuine, and the entries are quite well written. The format, however, rarely changes.
There is an opening bit arguing that the point one is making may well be true. This is followed by a degree of impassioned rage at what “they” are up to. Finally, the pay-off line is ‘here’s a link to more evidence’. This turns out to be a site (to date, its always a different one) in which one article is linked…..making a strong allegation against somebody or about something. The comment ends with something like ‘would love to see your take on this’.
I rumbled it five weeks ago when I penned a private email reply thanking the commenter for her/his opinion. The email address bounced my billet doux straight back. It later transpired that the address was a clever fake. Last night, when it happened for the seventh time, I decided this was too much of a coincidence. I’d arrived back after a large dinner and was tired, but saw the latest goad. I replied and, hey presto, it bounced back.
I then went back to the links, and checked them out. They ranged from dodgy to believable. Waking this morning and applying the Overnight test, I very much doubt the ‘more evidence’ posts have any validity. I think probably two things are going on here: first, an attempt to push bloggers into defamation; and second, an attempt to generate publication which can then be vilified as nonsense.
This is an interesting development in the ongoing attempt to either bully bloggers with legal threats, or via Government attempts to pass the Charter for the Litigious such as the one we saw tried on by Camerlot last month. The task of a troll has always been (a) to set the threaders at each others throats and (b) to cast doubt about the research capabilities of the blogger. It is the natural continuation of Mandelson’s fiction five years ago that I was the Nazi blogger John M Ward who was thrown out of the Kent Tory Party: the aim being to cast the Truth as out-there madness from a nutter with an agenda.
Trolls are easy to spot and fairly easy to dump. The worst one I ever had was the owner of 37 IP addresses, but if one puts all the elements of the name avatar in the blockage sinbin as well, they can normally be stopped within hours. Also, bloggers have wised up to the reality of anti-validity attacks: two years ago they were a conspiracy theory, now their existence is accepted and admitted by all concerned.
But ‘goading’ is something that, in the excitement of the chase, could damage a reputation carefully nurtured over five years. In extreme cases, it can make one’s site worthless as a source overnight. (“Oh, ignore it,” said one comment thread at the Guardian five years ago, “This is that Nazi that made up the Brown-on-pills rubbish”). So I warn all of you in the blogosmear: think before you act.
In the Owellian world we now inhabit, however, a piece of information is near-impossible to prove right or wrong….which is of course exactly what the fat controllers want permanently from now on: a reasonable doubt. If one takes the main blogosphere obsessions of the last few years, pretty much every topic has wound up in validity No Man’s Land: climate change, systemic paedophilia, the real state of the economy, how much gold the US really has, who did what in Syria, what Hunt’s up to with the NHS, the real value of the euro, who’s doing what in Ukraine….and on and on ad infinitum.
We exist in a permanent state of trying to tell propaganda from empiricism, or opinion from paid-for placement. And the persuasion dons better and better disguises as the years pass.
I think the best example of a supremely well carried-out black op of Truth destruction was Lord Alistair McAlpine’s comprehensive con of the media into believing that he was shocked, appalled and outraged by the BBC and ITV’s ‘clear’ defamation of him. In fact, people had been defaming his alleged sexual preferences for years – in some cases since 1991 – but he ignored it. Only when the prize – an annihilated BBC – was big enough did Chemical Ali steam in and take advantage of two idiots: one a supplier of ‘news’ to Newsnight, and the other John Bercow’s wife Sally.
On Radio Four, McAlpine blatantly misled listeners by suggesting he hadn’t a clue how the rumours had started – when I would venture to suggest that he knew perfectly well that an outrageous paedophile from the far side of his family, Jimmie McAlpine, had been actively buggering kids until his death twenty years ago. Either via conspiracy or opportunism, a grateful Newscorp then leapt onto the BBC mythical Unicorn Sink of Filth, and in turn the Met police piled in to start making ludicrous accusations about BBC Radio DJs and other assorted celebrities.
At that time, The Conservative Party, Newscorp and the Met were all under equal (and many think, linked) pressure to own up to the appalling collusion between them – and the associated attempt to tilt Britain’s media landscape in favour of their favourite person, Rupert Murdoch. McAlpine saw his opening, and routed all before him. It was a quite remarkable display of skilled chutzpah, media manipulation, and thespian talent. On arriving at the Ritz following the R4 broadcast, the old boy was given a standing ovation. He was a phoney who got away with it…but in doing so, he was no better or worse than Mandelson, Alistair Campbell, Johnson, Yeo, Hunt, Balls and all the rest of the people whose continued access to power depends on making the truth harder to lasso than ether.
Whether McAlpine simply saw his opportunity and went for it is something we will never know for sure, as the old rascal has since gone to where they don’t have spin doctors. And that too remains his grisly achievement: to have muddied the truth so totally, it is hidden forever.
If one takes the simple past, present and future context in which to measure ‘truth’, then for its first few years (beginning properly in the early 1990s) manipulation of it was largely confined to the present: we need to pretend that we are no longer the Labour Party, we need to make a case for the Iraq War, we need to pretend we are no longer the Nasty Party, we need to pretend the austerity strategy is working, we need to suggest Assad is using chemical weapons, we need to pretend we want nuclear power for peaceful purposes and so on. But in order to be successful, such truth-reversing must of course be tied to the future in some way: we need to suggest Saddam will use chemical weapons, that we won’t overspend, that we will protect the NHS or – the original Thatcherite con – privatisation will bring you cheaper bills and greater choice.
Complication as a means of obfuscation can then be applied to muddy the waters still further – changes in data collection criteria, changes in baskets of goods to be measured, varying inflation rates, wrongly suggested causality – when people finally catch on to the fact that past predictions about everything from the EU to the National Debt have proved utterly wrong. This works to keep at least nine out of ten citizens and commentariat members arguing the toss about the issue forever…the result being that the Truth recedes further and further away, until one day it sinks beneath the horizon forever.
But for one in ten – the terriers, obsessives, committed activists, and good investigative journalists – even this won’t suffice. It was to keep these people under control that, in George Orwell’s novel 1984, the Socialist Überklass had founded the Ministry of Truth, whose sole job was to rewrite the past…while the Thought Police denied access to any files offering a modicum of Truth about it.
Every major Government and political Party of any note in the West – or freelance online worker on their behalf – is now doing both on an industrial scale. The Conservatives were caught late last year erasing all references to policies they’d espoused and then forgotten to do anything about. Tweeters like Mark Williams-Thomas take down daft defamations when they’re pointed out, and hide behind Police regulations to disguise their pasts. Both the Bank of England and the Foreign Office have had to own up to file-shredding. Humberside police destroyed the records of Ian Huntley – a paedophile network ruse that ended up killing two little girls in Soham. Boris Johnson’s MO is simply to switch the recorder off in his Mayoral office. Ed Balls has buried his role in the CoOp fiasco under a turd-mountain of Ed to the Rescue drivel. Civil Servants change the name of a department, and then use that as the excuse for trashing all the records. Mandelson got the EU’s cooperation in censoring all evidence of his Trade misdeeds under the guise of ‘security’. And of course, we still don’t know what happened in three May 1940 Cabinet sessions.
Piece by piece, chip by chip, the nihilistic anti-sculptors are reducing the evidence that there was once (every now and then) a statue called Beauty & Goodness behind the Statutes our legislatures passed. They are now very close to the level of confusion, control and evidence destruction required to do the following forever:
i. Persuade almost everyone that nothing has changed and/or things are getting better
ii. Everything they’re doing now is entirely above board, and will bring benefits to all of us in the future
iii. Opponents are lying or misinformed when they suggest that benefits were hyped in the past, because there is no evidence to support their claims.
The BSkyB bid, the NHS subterfuges (for example, the Dorset competition scam), the Bank of England’s complicity in the Libor fraud, the location and size of US gold reserves, the sudden ‘recovery’ in bond prices that suggests ClubMed has turned the corner…..all these can be deconstructed by The Slog and a million other websites. But 10 million disunited bloggers and hidebound political activists will never be able to decisively influence an already distracted and time-starved Western citizenry – even if they were genuinely interested in the first place.
I have made this plea before, and I will keep on making it until the Resistance wakes up. Only very large, big-readership and responsible investigative online news using a broad affiliation of anti-neoliberal crookery reporters stands even the ghost of a chance of changing anything.
The Corporatocracy holds all the cards: Establishment access and bribery, media ownership, ISP collusion and surveillance 24/7 by the organs of the State. Once net-neutrality goes (as it will) and once The Guardian and The Independent collapse (as they almost certainly will) an uphill struggle for the Decency Alliance will turn into an ascent of the Eiger’s north face.
But the point of this essay is to use another aperture to remake the main point The Slog wants to ram home: we do not have political, economic and military enemies any more: we should be about the business of cultural and constitutional change. Our task is now nothing less than the excavation of Truth, and its installation in a globally accessible block of amber in perpetuity.
Anything less than at least a united aspiration towards success in that venture will fail. A new dark era will be upon us; one so dark, it will be impossible to discern what happened before, where we are headed, and even the room we are in.
That room will be numbered 101. And its rats will scurry about on our chests. You have been warned.
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