Print Propaganda 101

So it’s finally happened. With the DOJ, FBI and committee Democrats holding out until the eleventh hour, the controversial FISA memo has at last been revealed in all its Machiavellian splendour. You can click this link to read the original document should you wish.

Predictably, the spin masters in the paid-for corporate media are working overtime to downplay, minimise, ridicule and dismiss this official document as a nothingburger, after giving huge amounts of free airtime to those dedicated to preventing its publication in the first place. It’s been especially instructive to see how the mainstream media is operating right now, with any pretence of objectivity or even reasoned opinion suddenly swamped by a surge of increasingly blatant and desperate propaganda pieces.

There is no better illustration than an opinion piece by Walter Shapiro for the Guardian. It’s a classic by-the-numbers propaganda device designed to frame anyone who pays even the slightest attention to this recently de-classified document as some kind of swivel eyed conspiracy theorist.

Let’s unpack just some of the propaganda contained within.

Before we even get to the article, we’re confronted by the title: The Nunes memo shows Republicans buy their own conspiracy theories. This leaves the reader in no doubt that the Nunes memo should be associated with some kind of serious yet unspecified political paranoia.

Note also how the FISA memo has suddenly become the Nunes memo. By shifting the language away from a secretive and murky judicial procedure and pinning it to the Committee’s Republican chairman, the author reinforces the headline’s strong message of partisan shenanigans. At this point it’s important to remember that calling it the Nunes memo is not actually a falsehood, as it was in fact written and signed by Devin Nunes. This is exactly how persuasive propaganda and spin are supposed to work. By subtly shifting attention away from some ideas and favouring others, the author attempts to convince the reader that his interpretation of the world is the most plausible and trustworthy one.

After reading the headline, the next thing we see is a lengthy strapline that reads: Ever since Watergate, the standard for any scandal is whether there is a smoking gun left next to a corpse. In the case of the Nunes memo, we lack a body and the gun is a child’s toy pistol. This is actually a short paragraph culled from the article itself, but by placing it front and centre, the author makes sure you see his amusing if largely irrelevant analogy twice. Thus, before even starting in on the article proper, the reader has been primed to equate ideas of irrationality, childishness and partisanship with more serious claims of state-sponsored malfeasance arising from the memo’s, you know, actual contents. It’s not clear whether the strapline was Shapiro’s own choice or an editorial decision by the Guardian, but neither would surprise me.

As an interesting aside, you can tell we live in fascinating times when a paper like the Guardian rushes to defend the honour of highly secretive, opaque and immensely powerful US government agencies. But I digress.

Shapiro’s article begins with two paragraphs discussing the widely known hoax known as the Piltdown Man. Clearly the Piltdown Man has nothing to do with a recently de-classified US government memo, but psychologically linking these unrelated ideas is yet another method of suggesting that said memo, and those associated with it, might not be altogether on the level.

To sum up, we have a highly emotive title, a lengthy strapline which is repeated later, and an opening not suggesting, but outright declaring a commonality between the Nunes memo and the Piltdown Man hoax.

The rest of the article is an illuminating and subtly crafted blend of known facts, interwoven with a narrative of conjecture and outright speculation. It’s well worth reading if you really want to see some modern propaganda with your own eyes.

Another way to discern deliberate, targeted propaganda from ordinary opinion is to look for what isn’t there. For example, Shapiro’s piece completely fails to mention that the DOJ and FBI were threatened with contempt proceedings for witholding information legally demanded by Committee subpoena. Devin Nunes’ letter summoning both the Attorney General and the FBI Director to appear before the House Intelligence Committee to explain their intransigence is not referenced once in the article. You’d think Shapiro would want to mention it, because that letter specifically requested the very same information which is basis for the FISA memo.

If that ain’t hardcore damage control, then I don’t know what is.

As for me, my personal biases lead me to wonder just how the publication of a government memo can magically change from “extraordinarily reckless”
before its release, to a “nothingburger” immediately after publication.

Ask yourself the same question.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at

Donald Trump’s Media Masterclass

Psst, I’ll tell you a secret.

It’s something I’ve suspected for quite a while now, and the more I’ve observed, the more I’ve come to realise the startling, astonishing and almost unbelievable truth.

Donald Trump is a master communicator.

That’s right, you heard me. The man who was dismissed as a vainglorious clown by virtually the entire political and media establishment has consistently outmanoeuvred nearly all of them; which goes a long way to explaining their visceral and, by this point, completely irrational hatred for him.

Don’t believe me? Fine, I don’t blame you, but come along with me and witness a masterclass of 21st century social media manipulation. Blink and you’ll miss it, but it’s there all the same.

Anyone who knows anything about American politics is aware that the imminent release of the controversial FISA memo is consuming the entire continent’s media and political energies. Democrats, Republicans, the media class and the MAGA populists are all jockeying for position during what might turn out to be one of the biggest political scandals of our age.

A detailed knowledge of the issue isn’t needed for what I’m about to show you, but Newsweek have summed it up pretty succinctly.

So here we all are, trapped inside a pressure cooker of high-stakes political drama; and what does big, stoopid, unthinking Donald decide to do on this game-changing day? Why, he fires off an irresponsible tweet of course, straight from the hip, and in the process he lets an important and easily spotted error pass through unchecked.

Anyone with even the slightest understanding of the issue knows full well that the name of the research firm involved is Fusion GPS,
and not GPS Fusion as Trump’s written it. What a dummy! Only a sloppy, irresponsible fool would do such a thing…right?

Wrong! Trump knows exactly what he’s doing.

Donald Trump is well aware that a huge slice of the political establishment, media elite and grassroots Democrats have spent the last year feverishly fashioning themselves into one-dimensional caricatures, defined only by their unending and unconditional hatred for the democratically elected President of the United States.

Trump knows this only too well, and rather than trying to convince his intractable foes that he’s not a monster, he’s chosen to harness their hatred and bend that endless energy supply to serve his will. To that end,Trump’s seemingly endless army of hardcore haters now face a very simple choice. They can either let this “accidental” typo pass unchallenged, or they can mock Trump’s inability to even send a single tweet without somehow screwing it all up. They can laugh, deride and spread his stupid, stupid mistake to the farthest reaches of the globe, faster and far more efficiently than any TV station or national newspaper could ever do.

Of course, in their haste to present themselves as so much smarter than the leader of the free world, they’re doing a fine job of reminding that world exactly what the words Fusion GPS mean, and how they relate to the whole FISA memo issue.

Congratulations guys, all you clever people are now doing your sworn enemy’s bidding. On your own time, and for free!

Who’s the smart one?

Image courtesy of Gabriella Fabbri at

Somebody’s fibbing…but who?

“Like a Child.” “They say he’s a moron.” “An idiot.” “This man does not read, does not listen.” “He cannot do this job.”

Those are just a few soundbites from a recent Today interview with man of the moment Michael Wolff, discussing his sensational new book, Fire & Fury: Inside the Whitehouse.

Unsurprisingly, the dirt is flying and virtually the entire commentariat is wondering whether this book will actually bring down the presidency as Wolff has publicly claimed.

The media aristocracy have never forgiven Trump for making them look so foolish during the 2016 general election, and so they’re busier than ever repeating the mantra that the President may be mentally unstable, and therefore unfit to hold office. This is clearly just the latest attempt to dislodge a democratically elected head of state from office, now that the whole Russia collusion narrative has blown up in their faces.

Alas, for them anyway, this latest co-ordinated attempt to unseat Trump will end in much the same way.

Let’s assume for a moment that every last word of Wolff’s salacious new gossipfest is completely true. Then, how is it that a “moron” has managed to outsmart both the Republican and Democrat parties, while simultaneously blindsiding almost the entire mainstream media machine, entrenched business interests and the almost omnipotent US donor class?

Call this wild speculation if you like, but I’m willing to bet that morons and idiots who can’t do their jobs will never out-manoeuvre the entire establishment of the world’s richest and most powerful nation. If Trump’s an idiot, what does that make them? If you got thrashed at chess by Forrest Gump, would you really spend the next year whining about your opponent’s alleged stupidity? Well, maybe, if you were desperately trying to hide your own epoch-making incompetence.

Is Trump eccentric? Probably. Is Trump semi-literate? I sincerely doubt it. Is Wolff’s new book some smoking-gun evidence of Trump’s mental instability? Well, it’s a pile of steaming something all right, but anyone waiting for this orgy of anonymous source sensationalism to trigger the 25th Amendment will be sadly disappointed, no matter how many tame “experts” are wheeled out to pontificate on primetime TV.

Think what you will of Trump, it’s not my job to convince you he’s a great guy, but one thing I can say with confidence is that someone’s about to be exposed as unbelievably short-sighted and slow-witted…I’m just not sure it’s going to be the guy sitting in the Oval Office.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at

North Korea’s A-Team H-Bomb

Where the hell did that come from?

North Korea’s alleged H-bomb test seems to have taken the world completely by surprise. Indeed, when it comes to constructing impossible devices with no resources, Big Kim and his boys would surely give the A-Team a run for their money.

There are two possibilities here. Firstly, that a nation instructing its soldiers to “steal corn from the fields” has somehow managed, in complete secrecy, to expedite such a rapid development in its nuclear program that the power of its weapons has increased fivefold in eighteen months.

The second possibility is that they’ve had outside help.

Given that Pyongyang’s gloating publicity pictures immediately made me think that Sean Connery was about to burst in and beat up the bad guys, I’m pretty confident that, as usual, China is the hidden director behind this latest international drama.

Let’s look at the evidence. China controls roughly 90% of North Korea’s trade and supplies aid directly to Pyongyang, thus bypassing the United Nations. To put it another way, North Korea is completely dependent on China for its continued existence. Despite it endless propagandising, the DPRK is in fact a Chinese franchise state, almost completely under Beijing’s control. The North Koreans literally do not eat without the continued support and goodwill of the Chinese Communist Party.

This inconvenient truth naturally raises another important question. Why is China giving material support to North Korea, and thus encouraging this dangerous escalation of tensions between (alleged) nuclear armed states? Surely China’s interests lie in keeping their impoverished neighbours on short rations. Business as usual has been very lucrative for the Chinese, as they circumvent UN sanctions by plundering North Korea’s mineral wealth and laundering it through their massive manufacturing sector. That rather grubby practice has given Western consumers cheap iPads, funded China’s continued military expansion and made a handful of merchant banks and global corporations rich beyond the dreams of avarice. Everybody’s happy, except the starved and brutalised peasantry of the North Korean gulag. Hey ho.

Instead of continuing to grow ever wealthier and more powerful, China suddenly seems willing to risk all that by pushing its most closely controlled vassal state into a game of nuclear brinkmanship with unknowable outcomes. For some reason, Beijing now believes this is the right path to follow.

What has changed? What could possibly be at stake to risk such a hazardous and uncertain course of action?

I believe the answer lies here, in plain sight.

With little fanfare and even less mainstream publicity, a press release recently appeared on the official White House website. In part it says that “President Trump is signing a Presidential Memorandum to direct the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to examine whether China should be investigated for unreasonable or discriminatory policies that may harm American [intellectual property] rights, innovation, or technological development.”

The memorandum itself specifically states that China has “implemented laws, policies, and practices and has taken actions related to intellectual property, innovation, and technology that may encourage or require the transfer of American technology and intellectual property to enterprises in China or that may otherwise negatively affect American economic interests.”

In other words, China stands accused of wholesale appropriation and outright theft of huge amounts of intellectual property from Western companies, developers and agencies. Unsurprisingly, Beijing has bristled at the mooted enquiry, denouncing it as a “unilateral and protectionist practice.” However, an Associated Press article claims that “more than 20 percent of 100 American companies that responded to a survey by the U.S.-China Business Council, an industry group, said they were asked to transfer technology within the past three years as a condition of market access.” The article goes on to say that “foreign business groups complain companies are being squeezed out of promising Chinese markets or pressured to hand over technology for electric cars and other emerging industries.”

No wonder the Chinese have released their snarling attack dog to threaten the current cosy world order, the very foundations of their suspiciously swift economic and military growth are under real threat, perhaps for the very first time.

The information war has finally arrived in the real world, and it could get bloody.

Image courtesy of Idea go at

Is “Rudderless” Trump Preparing to Outflank the Establishment?

At first glance, that seems like an outrageous question with a self-evident answer, but the last two years should caution us all against taking anything for granted. Received wisdom just ain’t what it used to be.

As I’ve watched the US media establishment abandon any pretence of objectivity to declare war on their elected head of state, it’s been tempting to buy into the narrative that President Trump is indeed an overgrown man-baby who is morally and intellectually incapable of holding high office.

Tune into CNN,
MSNBC or ABC; visit the New York Times, the Washington Post or any other mainstream media outlet and we basically hear the same story. This week has been Trump’s worst. It’s a disaster. His White House is ineffective and chaotic. Staff are fighting each other and the leaks just won’t stop. He’s bound to fall at any moment. Stay tuned…here it comes…

Sure, on the face of it that seems like a pretty reasonable assessment, but the normal rules no longer apply and this president is following a different playbook.

Does anyone else think it strange that Trump continually goes out of his way to pick fights with an unashamedly partisan media class?


Why would anyone deliberately antagonise such a powerful and influential group? Either this president is too stupid to understand the damage he’s doing to himself, or perhaps he’s deliberately goading the commentariat to ensure they stay good and mad at him for the foreseeable future.

Something’s been bothering me about Trump for a long time now. It’s been at the back of my mind and on the tip of my tongue ever since he took office. He reminded me of someone, but I couldn’t quite figure out who it was. Then at last the answer came to me, and his actions during the last month or so have solidified that idea.

I’ll ask those readers who are old enough to cast their minds back to Gulf War one, and what was arguably the world’s first live-streamed media conflict. Enter one General Norman Schwarzkopf, or stormin’ Norman as he was colloquially known. Bull-necked and large of stature, Schwarzkopf was almost a walking stereotype. A loud, brash, rootin’ tootin’ hip shootin’ American that we oh so cultured Europeans look down our noses at. A cab driver with stars on his collar. How ridiculous, and how embarrassing for the civilised world

History has since disproven that undeservedly condescending assessment. In fact that loud, brash and caricature-ish facade disguised a razor-sharp intellect and a superb tactical mind. Schwarzkopf used the media saturation of that conflict to hoodwink the entire world and pulled off a brilliant flanking manoeuvre. By swinging up through the empty desert of western Iraq, Schwarzkopf ensured the destruction of Iraqi forces fleeing Kuwait and the successful encirclement of the elite Republican Guard. Only politics saved them.

The political events of the last fortnight have led me to wonder if we aren’t seeing a similar manoeuvre unfolding on the media and cultural battlefield.

Let’s look at the facts. Bannon is back at Breitbart where he belongs, and now Gorka is suddenly gone. Despite previous statements to the contrary, more troops are heading to Afghanistan and Donald Trump has spoken at length about healing and togetherness. This has coincided with a significant uptick in antagonism towards entrenched political and media interests, just to keep them boiling with rage at the very idea of President Trump even existing.

Instead of analysing every tweet and condemning every word not spoken as they believe it should be, what remains of the credible media might want to take a look at that dust cloud forming on the horizon. There may be nothing to it, but they’d best send some scouts out to check. It just might be evidence of Trump’s considerable cultural forces advancing to occupy the centre ground they’ve so recklessly abandoned in their obsessive pursuit of him. If that is the case, and if the mainstream media don’t change course fast, then they can expect to find themselves stranded on America’s lunatic fringe just in time for the midterm elections.

If that really is Trump’s strategy and the establishment refuses to adapt to a changing reality, there will be a cultural and political bloodbath the likes of which any nation seldom sees. The war will be over. For good.

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Why this statue’s fall should concern us all

Following the bloody events in Charlottesville over the weekend, the Durham (North Carolina) branch of the Workers World Party (WWP) held a rally of solidarity in support of those “anti-fascist” protesters who clashed with Unite the Right marchers on that tragic day.

The WWP website reports that there were over 100 protesters present at this solidarity rally, during which a statue dedicated to the Confederate soldiers of the Civil War was pulled off its plinth and onto the ground. Video of the incident was uploaded to the internet and has since become worldwide news, clocking up well in excess of 100,000 views.

To the credit of local law enforcement, one of the main instigators of this illegal act has since been arrested and charged with various offences such as incitement to riot and damage to property.

Regardless of anyone’s opinion on the merits of Confederacy monuments, the County Sheriff’s office were absolutely right to take action against the main instigator of this event, WWP member Takiya Fatima Thompson. She remains predictably unrepentant, and she has amassed an army of online cheerleaders to help fight her cause. This glaring example of highly selective and conditional support for the rule of law is indicative of a growing and disturbing trend within Western civilisation generally and the US in particular.

I’m going to spell it out here, because it’s so fundamentally important. Simply not liking the guy who sits in the Oval Office is no justification for activists to thumb their noses at the law because they feel strongly about a particular issue; and it makes no difference even if they really, really can’t stand the current President. The strength of someone’s feelings is not magically connected to their obligation to behave legally.

Supporters of Takiya Thompson are predictably falling back on the argument that citizens have a moral duty to resist tyrannical and oppressive regimes, and they might have a point if we were discussing arbitrary arrests or the suspension of habeas corpus; but we’re not anywhere near that. We are in fact talking about a bronze statue that’s been standing quietly in North Carolina since the 1920s. Whatever its faults, that statue has never harmed anyone, abused their rights, selectively enforced the law or ended someone’s career for daring to express an opinion which does not conform to some inflexible and yet ever-changing criteria.

The Durham statue incident perfectly illustrates the rise of a new and pernicious tyranny which comes, as always, dressed in the disguise of justice and progress. Whether it’s hounding law abiding citizens out of their jobs, protesting the results of legitimate plebiscites or tearing down legally erected statues, the same hollow arguments ring out from megaphones across the civilised world as an increasingly self-righteous and self-regarding minority seek to impose their will through brute force and social intimidation.

If the North Carolina legislators have any regard for their own authority then the Boy in Gray must rise again. In time he may fall, but let him fall lawfully and with honour. Let him not be spirited away to some undisclosed warehouse, hidden from polite society as an inconvenience to be avoided rather than a sacred principle to be defended.

According to CNN, the assembled crowd chanted “we are the revolution” as the statue fell. If, as I suspect, that plinth remains empty, then a legitimately selected legislature will have allowed the Workers World Party to decide which images the good people of North Carolina may and may not look upon as they go about their lawful business.

With results like that, who needs elections?

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at

Revealed: The World’s Biggest Blowhard (and it’s not Donald Trump)

Either large swathes of the media class have lost their ability to reason clearly, or they are deliberately choosing to ignore the wealth of evidence that suggests North Korea is nowhere near as combat ready as it would have the world believe.

Now I’ll admit that’s a pretty bold statement, but that insular country’s latest missile launch is a perfect example of rhetoric leaving reality far behind. Let’s abandon the spin and consider the known facts for a moment.

We know that on Tuesday morning, North Korea launched what appears to be some kind of intercontinental ballistic missile. Given that country’s pathological propensity for pretentious self-aggrandisement, does anyone think it a little odd that the only record of that momentous, paradigm shifting event is a single series of still photographs? I do.

Let’s not forget that we’re talking about a country whose biggest export appears to be video footage of its seemingly endless parades celebrating this or that glorious revolutionary whatever. We’ve all seen those terrifying looking trucks trundling past the camera dozens of times now…trundling past mind, not actually performing in the field anywhere. For a nation that defines itself by its military might, its air force seems painfully shy at these bombastic occasions…funny that.

North Korea reminds me of the blotch-faced blowhard at the end of the bar. He always has a lot to say about this or that conflict somewhere in the world, based on his own extensive experience in Iraq, or was it Afghanistan; you know, while he was in the Army, or was that the Navy? The details are always just vague enough to be unverifiable.

Whatever you may think of his North Korea policy, President Trump has now sent two (or maybe three) US carrier groups to that part of the world, and they are bringing a clear message with them. That message is clear because US carrier groups have seen action in the past, their activities and capabilities are known and have been recorded countless times. In other words, the existence of US carrier groups has been proven beyond any doubt. The same cannot be said of North Korea’s alleged conventional forces, let alone its alleged nuclear capabilities.

Does anyone think, for one second, that if big Kim possessed anything like a US carrier group that there would be any doubt as to its real-world existence? It would be steaming across the globe and causing a nuisance everywhere it goes; and as for the accompanying propaganda, my God, we’d never hear the end of it. Even microscopic life outside this galaxy would be aware that chubby Kim junior has a got great big boat and he’s not afraid to use it.

However, recorded and verified history tells a very different story of North Korea, revealing a country that simply cannot continue to exist without outside help. That lack of self-reliance was tragically demonstrated after the Soviet Union collapsed, leading to a famine in which hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions perished. Today it continues to rely on foreign aid from its avowed enemies, and still can’t manage to pour concrete in a straight line. Here’s a link to some footage of them apparently building a massive apartment complex in Pyongyang, but look closely, what’s wrong this picture?

There are hardly any machines! Where are the diggers, the earth movers and the core drillers? The official State news channel is probably the only place you’re likely to see any technology of that kind hard at work. Are we really expected to believe that a nation unable to muster a modest amount of construction equipment is capable of producing a miniaturised atomic device, and fitting it to a missile that can break orbit and then descend to a pre-designated point? In other words, real rocket science. That’s without even mentioning all the sprawling secondary industries required to support such a technically demanding endeavour. I’m calling bull**** on this whole Potemkin pretence right now!

Don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe that North Korea has indeed launched some kind of missile, but I’ll bet real, folding money that they didn’t build it themselves. It’s worth noting that the top secret, uber secure launch site is less than forty miles from the Chinese border. That can’t be a coincidence.

For all China’s public protestations about North Korea’s belligerent behaviour, nobody in that insular and impoverished nation so much as puts food in their own mouths without Beijing’s blessing. It is a terrible indictment of our current world order that a permanent member of the UN Security Council has knowingly kept the North Koreans on starvation rations for nearly a quarter of a century, all in the name of keeping US troops far away from its own borders. In reality, North Korea is just one huge Chinese buffer zone, and always has been.

This latest missile launch is not a show of strength, it’s a sign of desperation. There is no way that either Pyongyang or Beijing would risk the ire of the most powerful military the world has ever known, unless they believed their decades long bluff was about to be called.