WAtching the Disinformation Watchers

The Roman poet Juvenal was a curmudgeonly old sod. Rome was going to the dogs, he thought. Things were better in the good old days, when men were men, people had a sense of duty, and there was an all round understanding of the importance of public morality. Foreigners, women, homosexuals – you mention it, Juvenal disliked it (one has to wonder if it’s still permissible to get students to read him nowadays). He also wasn’t too fond of soldiers, and in his final (incomplete) satire complained that it was impossible to get redress against them. ‘Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?’ (‘Who guards the guardians themselves?’) he asked, and never has a more pertinent question be posed.

As I’ve mentioned before, the fight against alleged Russian disinformation, electoral ‘meddling’, and so on, has led to the creation of a large and well-funded disinformation industry devoted to controlling what the rest of us can read and hear, in accordance with the industry’s own understanding of reality. Canada, where I live, now has its own branch of the industry in the form of an organization called Disinfowatch, which is reported to be funded by the Ottawa-based Macdonald-Laurier Institute and the US government.

So, who watches Disinfowatch?

I do! And these particular guardians of the truth certainly need some guarding. For the thing is that a lot of these self-appointed disinformation warriors, not just here in Canada but in general, are not objective, unbiased observers of reality. Of course nobody is, but these people are all too often driven by strong ideological and political agendas that make them entirely unsuitable for the role of censor.

Disinfowatch, for instance, is the plaything of the Russia-bashing, Baltic diaspora leader Marcus Kolga. I have no doubts about Kolga’s commitment to liberal values, human rights, and all the rest of it. All very admirable. But when it comes to anything to do with Russia, I wouldn’t trust him an inch. He’s just not a fair and unbiased observer, in short not the kind of guy one wants dictating what you, me, and everyone else should be allowed to read.

Disinfowatch was in the news today, in the form of an article in Canada’s leading newspaper, The Globe and Mail, entitled ‘Canada target of Twitter accounts closed for Kremlin links.’ This tells us that Disinfowatch has examined a set of accounts recently closed by Twitter for alleged connections to the Russian government and for supposedly ‘undermining faith in the NATO alliance and its stability’. Why the latter is considered a reason for censorship, I cannot imagine – is the existence of NATO not a subject one is allowed to question?? But that’s by the by, the key point is that when it looked at the closed accounts, Disinfowatch discovered that, SHOCK, HORROR, between 2009 and 2021 they had mentioned Canada a grand total of 327 times!

Think of what that means. In all the billions of Twitter posts in the twelve years between 2009 and 2021, accounts allegedly connected to the Russian government mentioned Canada 327 times! 327 times. Be afraid, very afraid. As Kolga told The Globe and Mail, the Tweets ‘clearly demonstrate that the Russian government has been targeting the Canadian government, elected officials and issues of Canadian national interest.’

Actually, it seems to me that 327 Tweets in 12 years shows that the Russians hardly give a damn about us. But for Kolga it’s a reason to demand that ‘the Canadian government expand efforts to counter foreign information operations and influence operations.’ Because Canada is obviously so frail and vulnerable that 327 Tweets threaten our very way of life.

But that’s just a matter of numbers. What was in these deadly examples of foreign influence peddling? The Globe and Mail tells us:

One Twitter account called then-foreign affairs minister Chrystia Freeland a ‘shameless warmonger’ a few weeks before the 2019 federal election. Another used an expletive to say Prime Minister Justin Trudeau doesn’t care ‘about the lives of indigenous children.’ Another account, attacking Ottawa’s criticism and sanctions against Venezuelan officials over their undemocratic conduct, said ‘Canada is really showing its war criminal colours as a colony of the United States empire.’

I admit that this is somewhat intemperate language. I’m really not a fan of Chrystia Freeland, but I wouldn’t go as far as calling her a ‘shameless warmonger’. And, likewise I’m not a fan of Canada’s policy towards Venezuela, but I don’t think that we are a ‘colony of the United States empire’ (although I do think that our current leadership is altogether too subordinate to our southern neighbours).

But here’s the thing: the comments aren’t disinformation, because they are not statements of fact, but opinion. No doubt Disinfowatch disagrees with those opinions, but they are not per se disinformation. Moreover, although the language is extreme, the basic sentiment behind them is quite legitimate and certainly within the confines of reasonable democratic debate. After all, the Canadian government’s support for the Ukrainian government, its policy of supplying weapons to Saudi Arabia, and its sanctions against Venezuela, that have contributed to the impoverishment of the Venezuelan people, are surely something that not only Canadians, but also people outside Canada (including Russians) should be allowed to criticize.

In any event, The Globe and Mail and Disinfowatch are being rather disingenuous in saying that it was Russian Twitter accounts who were saying these things. If you look at Disinfowatch’s website, you find something very different. For what you see there is this picture showing a woman at a meeting in Toronto holding a sign saying ‘Freeland is a warmonger in Venezuela, Haiti, Palestine, Eastern Europe, Yemen.’ Some alleged Russian account has then posted this picture with the comment, ‘Today in Toronto, conscientious Canadians told Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland that she is a shameless warmonger.’

Which is true, because as the picture shows, that’s what happened. It’s not Russians saying that Freeland is a warmonger, it’s Canadians!! Are they not allowed to say this?

Disinfowatch also has a go at the Valdai Club, a high-profile Russian think tank that invites guests from around the world, including respected academics and members of the mainstream Western media. The Valdai Club’s Twitter account was among those banned, and Disinfowatch includes the following picture of Valdai Club Tweets as evidence of its wrongdoing:

As you can see, once again what you have is not disinformation, but opinion, and fairly uncontroversial opinion at that: some comments to the effect that the Magnitsky Act ‘is unlikely to achieve the desired results’ (100% true, in my opinion) and that it is ‘a textbook case of seeking power without responsibility’ (debatable, but definitely not out to lunch). What exactly is wrong with any of that? How does that undermine Canadian democracy, threaten the country’s national interests, or any way harm Canadians? I cannot imagine.

In short, it’s much ado about nothing, but a nothing that is being used to paint Canada as under serious attack, and to demand government action in retaliation. As such, we ought to be decidedly concerned about it.

Beyond that, it’s also all rather silly. ‘Tweets from the suspect accounts sometimes push narratives with no proof,’ complains The Globe and Mail. Good God, you don’t say! People on Twitter say things without proof. Whoever would have guessed?? Come on guys, people, including yourselves, say things without proof all the damned time! If we cancel everyone who says something he or she can’t prove, we’ll have to cancel everyone, yourselves included.

And there we have it. The world of the disinformation watchers verges on the ridiculous. Unfortunately, as the Globe article reveals, our media prefers to repeat their claims without question. In the process, the media seems to have given up on its job of guarding the guardians. It’s up to the rest of us to do their job for them.

26 thoughts on “WAtching the Disinformation Watchers”

  1. Marcus Kolga chimes in on Artemi Panarin with propagandistic BS:

    Thew fact based slam on his disinformation:

    https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2021/02/27/putting-artemi-panarin-situation-in-proper-perspective/

    As NY post writer Larry Brooks noted on WFAN Radio, many if not all major sports journos covering the Panarin situation are ignorant of the related particulars. Contrary to Michael Kay and his sidekick Don La Greca on ESPN Radio, Russian mass media isn’t so restrictive. They’ve reported Panarin’s situation objectively. If anything, Nazarov is the one looking foolish.

    As for Panarin, there’s good reason to believe that he’s gas lighting the situation, in the form of getting time off from hockey, as the depicted evil Putin is blamed – something that fits in with Panarin’s views.

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    1. Curious:

      the Russians are imperialists?

      Interesting RT article by Malić, Olbermann sounds pretty German to me. But on American grounds matters can get more difficult. As I once discovered. But curious indeed. I stopped paying attention to him a long time ago.

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      1. Keith Olbermann is mostly of a German background. Never once has he referred to “German scum”, or having the “stain of German heritage” – much unlike his bigoted anti-Russian comments.

        I make this observation as someone who doesn’t collectively blame Germans for what happened during WW II. At last notice, the hypocritically PC censoring TWITter hasn’t ended Olbermann’s account, or deleted his bigoted Tweet.

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      2. I managed to find Nebojsa’s article republished here:
        https://anti-empire.com/the-olbermann-stain-bigotry-against-russians-is-perfectly-fine-in-woke-america
        One commentator there claims that Olbermann is not of German heritage, but rather Ashkenazi Jewish, despite what public info has to say about him (I’m only reiterating what someone else said, so don’t quote me on it). While there are certain Jews who have German(-sounding) surnames, I’m not sure to which degree that applies to Olbermann – is there any first-hand info from the man himself?

        Also, if Olbermann were to live to see the day Nord Stream 2 becomes complete and/or Germany decouples from the US/EU/NATO, how do you reckon he would react?

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      3. One commentator there claims that Olbermann is not of German heritage,

        Does it matter? Loads of Olbermann‘s in Germany. The double ‘nn’ in the end suggests a German origin of the name. And yes some of them could even have wound up in Russia at one point in time. Jewish or not.

        What matters: It’s one of the most silly statement I have ever read. I completely forget, did this state of mind already show, when he was a more familiar name? His Russian origin was a stain? But his German one wouldn’t have been?

        Russophobia? That’s a Russian invention, declares the EU East Stratcom Taskforce; What association does the image trigger on your mind?

        https://euvsdisinfo.eu/who-is-afraid-of-russophobia/

        *******
        This was on my mind. I once translated something for a US scholar in Judaism. A text by one of the people who brought Reform Judaism to the US. He still wrote in German. The scholar had what felt like a German name. Obviously I asked him If his family had a German background. No, he told me, they had in fact a Slavic family name. We didn’t dwell on the topic. A Slavic family name that had some centuries before been German? Or Yiddish, that was changed to Slavic as the family moved or was forced to move Eastward. And back to its earlier roots once entering the States?

        Ury Avnery was born in Beckum as Helmut Ostermann. Nothing specifically Jewish about the name. Neither is Weiss a Jewish family name, but a rather frequent German one.

        The origin of why later all Jewish man had the name “Isidore” added as second name in their identity papers, the females “Sarah”:
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernhard_Wei%C3%9F_(police_executive)#Confrontations_with_Joseph_Goebbels

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      4. Addendum: In the end, I suppose we can agree that him being of German descent means zilch. Any statements about a particular nationality being “scum” and the “stain” of a national heritage are already bigoted in of themselves regardless of the nationality of the speaker or the target.

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  2. “Actually, it seems to me that 327 Tweets in 12 years shows that the Russians hardly give a damn about us”

    That simply is unacceptable for any true blooded hyphenated Canuck. They mentioned Canada, and of course we should feel threatened.

    Imagine how serious it would have been not to mention us at all! Just hiding in the internet bushes and by devious means spoil the precious bodily fluids of any Canuck worthy his Globe and Mail or the National Post or CBC….the HORROR

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    1. They mentioned Canada, and of course we should feel threatened.

      I could not agree more. We must step up our propaganda efforts until we, al least, get one tweet a day. It is an insult to all Canadians that our tweet rate is so low!

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  3. “The Roman poet Juvenal was a curmudgeonly old sod. Rome was going to the dogs, he thought.”

    Well, that’s another way to say “survived through some very INTERESTING times in the Roman history to the ripe old age”, but, yeah, sure.

    As our dear Host and Prepreitor of the Blog sets up such a high plank of culture from the very beginning by referencing Classics ™, it’s only appropriate and quote some more relevant lines from the same author:

    “When you go on a night journey, though you may have only a few small treasures with you, you’ll take every stirring shadow, each moonlit reed for a sword or cudgel. But the empty-handed traveler whistles his way past any highwayman.”

    Methinks personnel manning the ramparts of the “disinformation watching industry” are likewise burdened… with heavy conscience.

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  4. When (real) journalist Max Blumenthal reported that MI6 (a subsidiary of the American CIA) employed an astonishing number of 15,000 fake/corrupted journalists to spread pro-NATO propaganda, this was … well, really astonishing. I didn’t even know there were that many fake journalists in the whole world!

    The Orwellian, totalitarian rot has gotten so stinky that even a magazine like “Scientific American” has been corrupted. Which has caused me to cancel my subscription, so there, you bastards!

    For years and decades they reported on on things like asteroids, chemicals, octopus DNA, that sort of thing. But in recent years started opining about “Russian disinformation” while spreading conspiracy theories like RussiaGate and endorsing Joe Biden for President, while pretending this was “real science”, etc. The Max Blumenthal expose explains exactly why this sort of thing is happening: Every mainstream newspaper or magazine in the U.S. (and probably Canada as well) has a CIA spook literally sitting in on the editorial weekly meetings and dictating decide which content to produce. The explanation is as simple as that.

    The solution is also obvious: The real writers and journalists should simply walk up to the CIA spook, grab him by the collar, and toss him out of the room before the meeting even begins!

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    1. To be clear here, the corrupt is Reuters itself, not necessarily every single of the 15k jornalists it employs. Most of them probably simply write short reports, or cover sports or something. Those who get to write actual articles about politics are much fewer in number. Plenty of corruption among them though!

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      1. Hi, Aule, did I read that article wrong? If so, I apologize for spreading disinformation – LOL!
        🙂
        I had the impression the 15,000 were ALL compromised. Re-reading that sentence several times, now I am not so sure, I think you are correct that is just Reuters total number of assets which they are bragging about:

        Reuters responded to both calls by the FCO with detailed tenders. In its first bid, the media giant boasted of establishing a global network of 15,000 journalists and bloggers through “capacity building interventions.” In Russia, it claimed at least 400 journalists had been cultivated through its training programs.

        Still, this could be read more than one way. Reuters certainly imply, in their bid, that all 15,000 journalists could be turned on a dime to spread MI6 propaganda.
        Also certainly implies that the 400 assets in Russia are all suspect. I certainly would not trust them, nor any of the overall 15,000 to report the truth on a sensitive subject; well maybe on a sports competition; but even there, the sports writer might be told by his editor to write “that the Russian team cheated…”

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    2. When (real) journalist Max Blumenthal reported that MI6 (a subsidiary of the American CIA) employed an astonishing number of 15,000 fake/corrupted journalists to spread pro-NATO propaganda, this was … well, really astonishing.

      haven’t read Max’ article, but scanning it, this may be on your mind:

      In several proposals to the British Foreign Office, Reuters boasted of a global influence network of 15,000 journalists and staff, including 400 inside Russia.

      Well, if you apply to your government to financially help you out with a little money to sponsor some of your foreign contact, training, staff and stinger network expenses, you automatically turn them into spooks? I doubt it is that easy. The war drums need more than simply spooks on the media staff, they need creativity occasionally, that’s not the expertise of the media it feels. More of public relations and marketing.

      But yes, overall an interesting topic foreign psych-ops versus “ours” or British and American in that case. From Operation Mockingbird, the cia and influence operations more generally up to now.

      ************
      Our friend Kolgas though, seems to be a natural propagandist. No further training needed:
      Marcus Kolga, Senior Fellow Expertise: Russian foreign policy, Central and Eastern European politics, human rights, disinformation/propaganda, cyber issues Email: brett.byers-lane@macdonaldlaurier.ca

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  5. Ukranian Nazi diaspora is a poison in Canada. Trudeau is an idiot completely out of his depth doing nothing other than as he is told by the US, the oil companies, anyone with enough clout gets to ride roughshod over pretty, pathetic daddys boy. His father would be appalled. The only glue holding the West together is lies and they are unravelling quicker than they can tell them (because their lies are always the same and much like their countries, haven’t changed in 70 years) This stuff is laughable really and simply doesn’t have much to do with the reality of what is happening, how the world is changing and how it is collapsing and most importantly who is going to be left standing when it has. It isn’t going to be the UK or the US and certainly not Canada.

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  6. Just a quick look at disinfowatch reminds me of climate deniers and anti-vaxers. The same level of logic and “aha” accusations.

    Unfortunately there always seems a market for these types of craziness. Nanoparticles in the vaccine, Russians dominating twitter. Personally I think TicTok is a Kremlin plot carefully hidden under a Chinese identity.

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  7. Ha-ha-ha! Verily, verily I say onto you – when you’ve been caught off guard with your pants down, shitting yourself, pretend that you were not. When your “hero” did everything in his power to discredit himself, making a fool of your and other Adorable selfs – don’t switch the gears of the propaganda engine. When someone – high above in the pecking order of the Hierarch of the Democratic Good – is urinating right in your eyes, proclaim the liquid nourishing thee she and conscientious liberal countenance, to be nothing less than a “God’s dew” (c)

    Finally!

    “Amnesty argue that comments made by Navalny about migration around fifteen years ago disbar him from the claim to be a prisoner of conscience today.

    Here ‘prisoner of conscience’ is a label that Amnesty Internatonal declare or revoke as they wish, apparently to support their advocacy of human rights. It is merely a subjective decision for them alone, but given their prestige, and Navalny’s fame, their announcement about Navalny has become a global news story with a cascade of negative consequences.

    By any reasonable standard, if anyone in the world today is a prisoner of conscience, it is Aleksei Navalny. Who else has acted with such courage and at such grave personal risk in the defence of a political campaign that incorporates human rights?”

    Yeah, after trying to “Jewash” his via Maria Alexandrovna Gessen’s major artillery piece, now small caliber propa-condoms are giving their barrages. And to think that you promoted Mark. B. Smith’s book on this very blog, Professor And to think that you, Lola, liked this “author”!

    P.S. What if I tell you (and then provide a tangible proof) that Navalny had held the same politically incorrect views re: “Racial question” not just 15 years ago, but much, much more recently? What if I tell you (and then, against, provide a proof) that so-called “Russian” “liberal” community knew about it all these years… and that now they appear dumb-deaf-mute on the issue?

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