Almost everyone who has something to do with media, particularly, the UK-based parallel media, is but familiar with the 'Integrity Initiative'. In truth, this is a distortion campaign, that was perhaps funded by the British foreign office, courtesy of the (muffle-sounding) Institute for Statecraft...and its job had been to spatter people, who may be opposed to Theresa May's government!
The sheer gravity scale of the scandal has not been appreciated by the public, thanks to the mute posture retained by the mainstream media. However, it appears that the British foreign office had apparently used public money, to have the intelligence agencies smear the opposition. Should this be good enough reason, to bring down an elected government?
Thanks to some excellent performance of people who work in the shadows of the parallel media, and also by some British Parliamentarians, the 'Integrity Initiative's' website is currently blank, for a good reason...pending an investigation of data theft. As a matter of fact, this had already become the source of embarrassment, to all of us in the industry.
I believe this 'entity' will most likely disappear now, in the media frenzy, only to launch itself back again in future, under a new caption. Perhaps they may have already done so. As for now, the Integrity Initiative has jumped sky high, with the rising wind.
A lesser known entity in this country is the New Knowledge, directly, a US-based body, functioning parallel to UK's Integrity Initiative. They are known to have been conducting 'counter-propaganda' and 'social media experiments' in the US since 2015. In four years time, word of mouth has spread and now, they seem to have hit the headlines.
Who are the thinkers that constitute the 'think-tank' outfit that we know now, as the New Knowledge'?A good question - and nobody, really knows the answer! Their official website has claimed to have thousands of volunteers. And, this may or may not be true -we only have three people who may be identified, and are known to belong here.
Believe me, they are a bewildering threesome: Jonathon Morgan, formerly of the State Department and Brookings Institute. Ryan Fox, also a former operative of military intelligence. Renee DiResta, who had worked formerly in the Wall Street.
So, we see that, it really is the honeymoon of the former employees of The US State Department, the UK's military intelligence and America's Wall Street...the obvious, unholy trinity!
Ostensibly, some questions have presented themselves that I need to share. To elaborate these: Primarily, are all those 'formerlies' stated above, trustworthy and reliable? How did these three happen to together in unison, and start this project? How did the trio come to know each other? And finally, also importantly, where do their fundings come from?
I am afraid I am unable to provide these answers to you, as of now. We simply don't know. Not even little. What we do know is that, somehow, these three whimsical 'kids' had got together and decided to use their money (we don't know where they got it from) and their army of volunteers (we don't know who they are) to combat disinformation. A noble goal indeed!
Why is New Knowledge in the news?
This think-tank had recently made the headlines in the US, because they were 'trapped', attempting to manipulate the Alabama Senatorial election. This is not a fringe 'conspiracy theory' claim - it has been published on two occasions, in the New York Times.
It is also on everyone's lips now, that the New Knowledge had participated in various social, media-based attempts to swing the Alabama senate race in favour of Democrat Doug Jones. These efforts were varied and odd. They included creating a fake Facebook page, purporting to be a group of Baptists who supported Republican candidate Roy Moore. This was done because they believed he would help them ban alcohol statewide.
They also encouraged independent candidates from the conservative right, in their efforts to split the Republican vote.We really do not know what impact it had - but Jones actually, did win a very narrow victory over Moore (fewer than 22,000 votes).
However, this was - by far - the most important facet of this story:It involved a scheme to link the Moore campaign to thousands of Russian accounts that suddenly began following the Republican candidate, notably on Twitter. This indeed, was a development that drew national media attention.
The New Knowledge had pretended to be Russians, supporting a Republican candidate in order to discredit him by association. And this had been freely admitted: 'We orchestrated an elaborate 'false flag' operation that planted the idea that the Moore campaign was amplified on social media by Russian planted computer moles'!As of now, this does seem to be something other than combating disinformation,' because the New Knowledge had actively spread disinformation, to achieve political objectives.
They are reportedly staffed by the State Dept. and intelligence agency veterans. And they have reportedly spread false information to swing elections. Do their practices make them 'Psy-Ops'?Psychological operations (PSYOP) are organized efforts to convey selected information and indicators to audiences to influence their emotions, motives, and objective reasoning, and ultimately the behaviour of governments, organizations, groups, and individuals.
The reaction was mixed and mild...and very disappointing. On multiple levels.Just like the Integrity Initiative coverage in the UK, the wider implications of corruption were completely ignored. The story was always framed in terms of 'fighting back against the Kremlin' or 'turning Putin's methods against him'. The coverage focused on this was a wonderful 'gift for the Kremlin', because it appeared to undermine the claims of people connected with Russia Gate.
The New Knowledge (NK), spokespersons of course, denied they were attempting to corrupt democracy in Alabama. Morgan had called the Alabama operation an 'experiment', testing the effectiveness of oft- repeated, Russian methods. They had earlier claimed, it was specifically designed to have as little impact as possible. How can you test the effectiveness of something designed to have no impact is, very unclear to me!
No evidence has been furnished to corroborate Morgan's version of events. In fact, there is no reason to think this is a one-off, at all. This is just the one we know about. Perhaps we have an idea that Deep State psy-ops are like ants. That is, for every one you see…there's a hundred you don't. A single sighting means there's a whole colony nearby.
All of the national media and pundits resolutely ignored the very large elephant in the very small room - NK have lived and breathed and existed since 2015...to be accurate, before the 2016 Presidential election. The NYT had warned that these tactics could make the 2020 election ugly - but they do not relate it back to the 2016 election at all.
All this is not about Russia 'corrupting our practices' or us 'employing Russian methods'. This is the evidence that possibly there never was any 'Russian interference'. And that 'Russia's methods are actually similar to the America's own methods. This is the smoking gun 'evidence' that has been exhibited to claim that Russia gate" is a Deep State psy-op, designed to discredit and control Donald Trump's administration.
Rather predictably, none of the media articles have taken this approach. And, unlike the Integrity Initiative, New Knowledge's website is very much alive and well. Outside of reported political corruption, there exist also, perhaps known levels of financial corruption. New Knowledge CEO, Jonathon Morgan is also one of the manufacturers of Hamilton 68 -- a program which claims to track Russian "bot" activity.
On one hand, he works for a think-tank which fakes bot activity, while on the other, he charges people for a product he has claimed to track bot activity. There is, perhaps a massive opportunity for fraud and corruption there.But, far from being rebuked, sanctioned, or punished in any way - New Knowledge seems to be functioning just as before.
In fact, NBC News already ran a story claiming progressive Hawaiian Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is being backed by the Russian 'propaganda machine'.They have cited New Knowledge, as an expert witness.In summary, a shadowy think-tank, staffed entirely by State Department and intelligence veterans is using funding from unknown sources and volunteers of unknown identity, to pretend to be Russians on social media.
This had been done, in order to discredit politicians and political movements in the United States. This should have been an issue of a Congressional hearing. But instead, it became a back-page 'Oh! did you know' story.
Just like the Integrity Initiative, New Knowledge operates by concealing its true nature and intentions. It is layer after layer of deception and darkness. Can this entity be truly unmasked -- by bringing this out into the open, and exposing its lies, to the beam of truth?
The writer is a former educator
based in Chicago
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