Monday, December 10, 2018

The British establishment's propaganda problem

From 1948 to 1978, the UK Foreign Office ran a secret domestic propaganda operation, the Information Research Department, which targeted UK trade unions and left politics under the guide of "countering communism". Forty years after that operation was shut down, it looks like they're at it again:

A secret UK Government-funded infowars unit based in Scotland sent out social media posts attacking Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party.

On the surface, the cryptically named Institute for Statecraft is a small charity operating from an old Victorian mill in Fife.

But explosive leaked documents passed to the Sunday Mail reveal the organisation’s Integrity Initiative is funded with £2million of Foreign Office cash and run by military intelligence specialists.

The “think tank” is supposed to counter Russian online propaganda by forming “clusters” of friendly journalists and “key influencers” throughout Europe who use social media to hit back against disinformation.

But our investigation has found worrying evidence the shadowy programme’s official Twitter account has been used to attack Corbyn, the Labour Party and their officials.

Now there's a surprise. Because when the establishment funds propaganda ostensibly against a foreign target, it always seems to turn into propping up the establishment and the government-of-the-day at home.

Obviously, this is completely contrary to both public service neutrality and democratic values. The Foreign office needs to shut this operation down. But more than that, it needs to be open about what other propaganda it is funding, and shut that down too. Government officials simply should not be engaging in propaganda against the political opponents of the government-of-the-day.