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For The Record #1016 Miscellaneous Articles And Updates

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This broadcast was recorded in one, 60-minute segment.

Introduction: As indicated in the title, this show updates some paths of inquiry and introduces others.

Anton Reinthaller, first leader of the FPO

Discussion begins with the origins of the Austrian Freedom Party (FPO). The party has its genesis with post World War II Third Reich veterans. Its first head was SS General Anton Reinthaller: ” . . . .  an honorary Brigadeführer (Major General) in the SS.[1] Having initially joined the SS in December 1938 (with the membership number 292,775)[2] he achieved his highest rank on 30 January 1941. . . . Reinthaller was brought before the Austrian People’s Court and accused of ‘high treason against the Austrian people’, with the three [defendants] labelled as being those most responsible for the Anschluss [Nazi Germany’s annexing of Austria–D.E.] . . . .”

Further analysis of the development of the FPO, notes that the party was founded by Third Reich veterans and Reinthaller’s successor was also an SS officer. ” . . . . The party was founded by the original Nazis in the 1950s and led by Nazis until the 1980s. . . . Reinthaller died in 1958 and was succeeded as Freedom Party leader by Friedrich Peter, another former Nazi Party member and an officer in the SS. Peter ran the party formally until 1978 and then played an informal role well into the 1980s. . . .”

Against the background of the genesis of the FPO, we note that Herbert Kickl a former speech writer for Jurg Haider is now the interior minister of Austria.

The FPO’s Herbert Kickl is described as the “mastermind” behind the electoral successes of the FPÖ that allowed it to enter into a coalition government.

In March, a police unit headed by a Freedom Party member raided the homes of four staffers and an office of the BVT (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz und Terrorismus Bekämpfung, i.e., Federal Bureau for the Protection of the Constitution and for Counterterrorism). The BVT is the bureau that deals with right-wing extremism.

FPO head Jurg Haider

The head of the BVT was fired several days after the raids. He had been the object of a virulent campaign by a website unzensuriert.at which is known as “the Austrian Breitbart”. The former editor in chief of unzensuriert.at is now Kickl’s communications director.

As the article points out, having the far right in charge of Austria’s and Italy’s domestic intelligence agencies doesn’t just put the anti-extremist operations of Austria and Italy at risk. Because of data-sharing agreements across Europe, they’re also learning what other intelligence agencies of other European countries (such as Germany) decided to share with Austria and Italy.

Key points of this story include:

  1. ” . . . . In Italy, far-right politician Matteo Salvini now serves as head of Italy’s interior ministry, which handles internal security and terrorism. . . . “
  2. ” . . . . In Austria, the specific incident that has crystallized wider concerns in the world of espionage and counterespionage as well as counterterror was a series of raids ordered by the far-right interior minister earlier this year on the offices of the professional domestic intelligence chief, whose organization had in the past conducted and coordinated with Germany its surveillance of right-wing extremists. . . .”
  3. ” . . . . as one long-time security adviser to several French presidents told The Daily Beast, ‘The Austrian operation against the intelligence service by the ministry of interior had an impact on every other intelligence service in the West.’ . . . .”
  4. [German politician Andrej] Hunko tells The Daily Beast he is specifically concerned that Kickl and his people would be able to acquire intelligence about leftist activists who oppose right-wing extremism: ‘It is unthinkable what would happen if secret information about anti-fascist activities falls into the hands of the extreme right via Austria’s conservative-far right government.’ . . .”

Jarrod Ramos, the alleged shooter at the Maryland newspaper The Capital Gazette was influenced by a theocratic neo-Confederate ideology espoused by League of the South.

Specifically, Ramos is a believer in the worldview expressed by League of the South leaders Mike Peroutka and Michael Hill, for whom a Biblical fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible is the only REAL law and individuals are empowered enforce their interpretation of Biblical law on their own.

Hill has also called for the formation of death squads to target journalists, elected officials, and other members of “the elite”. Hill has called for young men of “Christendom” to become “citizen-soldiers” to destroy the “galloping tyranny” of our time.

” . . . . The League is a theocratic, secessionist organization whose leader, Michael Hill, had called for the formation of death squads targeting journalists, elected officials and other members of ‘the elite.’ In his essay ‘A Bazooka in Every Pot,’ Hill described such an assassination campaign as part of ‘fourth-generation warfare,’ a style of decentralized conflict that blurs the lines between war and politics, combatants and civilians. . . . .”

Mike Peroutka was one of the only politicians Ramos tweeted about (he was supportive of Peroutka). The other politician was Donald Trump.

The author notes a possible pair of events that may have catalyzed the shooting: Three days before the shooting, President Trump once again demonized member of the media as “enemies of the people,” at a big outdoor rally in California. The next day, Mike Peroutka lost his 2018 re-election bid in the Republican primary.

As Ramos’s social media posts reveal, another influence on Ramos is the “Berserk” bloody anime movie. He made numerous references to Berserk in his posts, including the last tweet made minutes before the shooting. He even described himself as playing a role in the world of “Berserk”, a world that includes vigilante “hands of God”.

In FTR #756, we noted the strong overlapping connections between Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, Ron Paul and the League of the South.

Ramos appears to have manifested the “lone wolf/leaderless resistance” strategy. ” . . . . ‘Ramos came to see himself as some kind of vigilante for righteousness, casting himself for example as a ‘crusader’ . . . . Political Research Associates analyst Frederick Clarkson told Salon. This vision was ‘not unlike the militaristic, millennial vision of Michael Hill,’ he continued. . . .”

In FTR #888, we noted that Glenn Greenwald ran legal interference for the leaderless resistance strategy, freeing up the likes of Michael Hill from civil liability for their advocacy of mayhem. Greenwald is, in effect, an accessory to the bloodshed allegedly realized by Ramos and others like him.

Next, we turn to the subject of Hindutva fascism. (For more about this subject, see, among other programs, FTR #’s 988 and 989990, 991992, and 1015.

In FTR #1015, we highlighted the “cow vigilantes” in India–Hindutva fascist gangs perpetrating violence on Muslims and lower-caste Hindus. WhatsApp is fueling the violence.

The mayor of Jaipur, Ashok Lahoty, shared the rumor about beef being served at the hotel on a BJP WhatsApp group.

It appears that the BJP is behind much of the rumor campaigns as part of its Hindu nationalist agenda. ” . . . . Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has largely remained silent about the problem, and analysts say there’s a reason for that: Much of the fake news now spreading like wildfire has been promoted, if not created, by some of Modi’s most fervent supporters. . . .”

Modi has a well orchestrated machine for disseminating BJP’s fake news: ” . . . . In her book, ‘I am a Troll: Inside the Secret World of the BJP’s Digital Army,’ journalist Swati Chaturvedi explains how the party orchestrates online campaigns to intimidate perceived government critics through a network of trolls on Twitter and Facebook. And she cites multiple people who worked inside the BJP’s social media machine to make her case. . . . Chaturvedi’s findings were backed by another former BJP cyber-volunteer, Sadhavi Khosla, who left the party in 2015 because of the constant barrage of misogyny, Islamophobia, and hatred she was asked to disseminate online. And Prodyut Bora, one of the masterminds of the BJP’s early technology and social media strategy, recently offered a similar outlook. He described his creation as ‘Frankenstein’s monster,’ and said that it had morphed from its original aim of better connecting with the party’s supporters. ‘I mean, occasionally, it’s just painful to watch what they have done with it,’ he told HuffPost India last month. . . .”

Turning from the subject of fake news in India to fake news in the U.S., we conclude with a look at what “deep fake” video technology may harbinger.

When the ‘deepfake’ video technology develops to the point of being indistinguishable from real videos, the far right is going to go into overdrive creating videos purporting to prove virtually every far right fantasy you can imagine. Among the memes that might be reinforced by such technology is the ‘PizzaGate’ conspiracy theory pushed by the right wing in the final weeks of the 2016 alleging that Hillary Clinton and number of other prominent Democrats are part of a Satanist child abuse ring.

Right wing polemicist Liz Crokin is repeating her assertions that video of Hillary Clinton – specifically, Hillary sexually abusing and then eating the face of a child is floating around on the Dark Web is definitely real. Crokin is now warning that reports about ‘deepfake’ technology are disinformation stories being preemptively put out by the Deep State to make the public skeptical when the videos of Hillary cutting the face off of a child come to light.

1a. Discussion begins with the origins of the Austrian Freedom Party (FPO). The party has its genesis with post World War II Third Reich veterans. Its first head was SS General Anton Reinthaller: ” . . . .  an honorary Brigadeführer (Major General) in the SS.[1] Having initially joined the SS in December 1938 (with the membership number 292,775)[2] he achieved his highest rank on 30 January 1941. . . . Reinthaller was brought before the Austrian People’s Court and accused of ‘high treason against the Austrian people’, with the three [defendants] labelled as being those most responsible for the Anschluss [Nazi Germany’s annexing of Austria–D.E.] . . . .”

“Anton Reinthaller;” Wikipedia

. . . . Following this he was appointed Undersecretary of State to the Reich Ministry of Food and Agriculture under his old friend Darré, and went on to fill a number of positions for the Nazi government, including Gauamtsleiter of the Lower Danube Landvolk, head of the Landesernährungsamt Donauland (regional Food Office) and an honorary Brigadeführer (Major General) in the SS.[1] Having initially joined the SS in December 1938 (with the membership number 292,775)[2] he achieved his highest rank on 30 January 1941. . . .

. . . . Along with Rudolf Neumayer (Finance Minister) and Guido Schmidt (Foreign Minister under Schuschnigg), Reinthaller was brought before the Austrian People’s Court and accused of “high treason against the Austrian people”, with the three labelled as being those most responsible for the Anschluss. Reinthaller was found guilty of lesser charges and sentenced to three years imprisonment, serving the sentence from 1950 when he was released from American custody. . . .

1b. Further analysis of the development of the FPO, notesthat the party was founded by Third Reich veterans and Reinthaller’s successor was also an SS officer. ” . . . . The party was founded by the original Nazis in the 1950s and led by Nazis until the 1980s. . . . Reinthaller died in 1958 and was succeeded as Freedom Party leader by Friedrich Peter, another former Nazi Party member and an officer in the SS. Peter ran the party formally until 1978 and then played an informal role well into the 1980s. . . .”

“The Far Right Is Now In Power in Austria” by Jordan Stancil; The Nation; 12/29/2017.

. . . . The leader of the Freedom Party and the new vice chancellor of Austria, Heinz-Christian Strache, has been photographed more than once participating in paramilitary exercises with banned Nazi groups. Newspapers in Munich and Vienna published these photos along with Strache’s case-by-case denials, which usually amounted to vague explanations about “paintball games” that he had not realized were “political.” Also, Strache was once arrested by police in Germany for marching with neo-Nazis there, and he participated in the shouting-down of a performance of Thomas Bernhard’s famous 1988 play Heroes’ Square, which criticized Austria for its failure to deal with its Nazi past.

The Freedom Party has long been at the center of this failure. Some media in the United States, including The New York Times, have said that the party was founded by neo-Nazis. This is inaccurate. The party was founded by the original Nazis in the 1950s and led by Nazis until the 1980s. Technically, they were ex-Nazis, but the “ex” applies only because Hitler’s Germany, of which Austria was a province, had been defeated.

The first chairman of the party was Anton Reinthaller. He started as a Nazi activist opposed to Austria’s First Republic after World War I, then became a member of the Reichstag after the country joined Nazi Germany in 1938. He went on to hold numerous high-level positions in Hitler’s government, including in the cabinet. For this, he served a jail sentence under American occupation forces. Reinthaller died in 1958 and was succeeded as Freedom Party leader by Friedrich Peter, another former Nazi Party member and an officer in the SS. Peter ran the party formally until 1978 and then played an informal role well into the 1980s. This is the political lineage of Vice Chancellor Strache. . .

1c. Against the background of the genesis of the FPO, we note that a former speech writer for Jurg Haider is now the interior minister of Austria.

The FPO’s Herbert Kickl is described as the “mastermind” behind the electoral successes of the FPÖ that allowed it to enter into a coalition government.

In March, a police unit headed by a Freedom Party member raided the homes of four staffers and an office of the BVT (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz und Terrorismus Bekämpfung, i.e., Federal Bureau for the Protection of the Constitution and for Counterterrorism). The BVT is the bureau that deals with right-wing extremism.

The head of the BVT was fired several days after the raids. He had been the object of a virulent campaign by a website Unzensuriert.at which is known as “the Austrian Breitbart”. The former editor in chief of unzensuriert.at is now Kickl’s communications director.

As the article points out, having the far right in charge of Austria’s and Italy’s domestic intelligence agencies doesn’t just put the anti-extremist operations of Austria and Italy at risk. Because of data-sharing agreements across Europe, they’re also learning what other intelligence agencies of other European countries (such as Germany) decided to share with Austria and Italy.

Key points of this story include:

  1. ” . . . . In Italy, far-right politician Matteo Salvini now serves as head of Italy’s interior ministry, which handles internal security and terrorism. . . . “
  2. ” . . . . In Austria, the specific incident that has crystallized wider concerns in the world of espionage and counterespionage as well as counterterror was a series of raids ordered by the far-right interior minister earlier this year on the offices of the professional domestic intelligence chief, whose organization had in the past conducted and coordinated with Germany its surveillance of right-wing extremists. . . .”
  3. ” . . . . as one long-time security adviser to several French presidents told The Daily Beast, ‘The Austrian operation against the intelligence service by the ministry of interior had an impact on every other intelligence service in the West.’ . . . .”
  4. [German politician Andrej] Hunko tells The Daily Beast he is specifically concerned that Kickl and his people would be able to acquire intelligence about leftist activists who oppose right-wing extremism: ‘It is unthinkable what would happen if secret information about anti-fascist activities falls into the hands of the extreme right via Austria’s conservative-far right government.’ . . .”

“Nazi Sympathizers Pushing to Take Over Europe’s Spy Agencies” by Christopher Dickey, Josephine Huetlin, Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian; The Daily Beast; 06/26/2018.

A slow-simmering scandal in Austria has brought into public view potentially disastrous divisions among Western intelligence agencies. As far-right politicians have joined coalition governments in Austria and Italy and taken ministerial positions in charge of security and law enforcement, concerns have grown among intelligence professionals that they will ignore or even encourage the threat of violent ultra-right extremists.The extreme right is now in charge of the interior ministries in both Vienna and Rome, putting conspicuous pressure on the intelligence services. In Austria, there have even been police raids on the homes and offices of top intelligence service staffers.

Already, at least some intelligence sharing between Germany and Austria appears to have been curtailed, and the relationship between Italy’s extreme-right-wing interior minister Matteo Salvini and other major European countries is severely, publicly strained. French President Emmanuel Macron last week likened the rise of such populists to “leprosy all across Europe.” . . . .

. . . . Two years ago, Patrick Calvar, the then-head of France’s General Directorate of Internal Security (DGSI), warned a commission at the National Assembly in Paris that European society was at a tipping point after the January 2015 massacres at the Paris offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and at a kosher supermarket, the November 2015 carnage at Paris cafés and the Bataclan concert hall and other incidents. And the problem was not just with Muslim terrorists, but with anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant extremists on what he called the “ultra-right.”

Calvar’s closed-door session with the parliamentary committee reportedly painted an extremely bleak picture: “We are on the verge of a civil war,” he said. His public testimony was hardly more optimistic. “Europe is in great danger,” Calvar said. “Extremism is rising all over and we are—we, the internal security services—are in the process of redeploying resources to focus on the ultra-right that is waiting for nothing but a confrontation.”

Also in 2016, German spy chief Hans-Georg Maassen warned that right-wing extremists in Germany were now networking with similar groups across Europe.

Just last weekend, 10 people were arrested in France under suspicion they were planning attacks on mosques, radical muslim leaders, and women wearing veils picked at random. Their website, called “Guerre de France,” or war for France, advocates preparation for the war to come, and not only against Muslims but against Jews as well.

In Italy, far-right politician Matteo Salvini now serves as head of Italy’s interior ministry, which handles internal security and terrorism. Salvini, who assumed office on June 1, previously has called for “mass cleansing, street by street, quarter by quarter” to get rid of migrants. One of his first acts as interior minister was to announce a census for the Roma minority, declaring that Roma without Italian citizenship would have to leave the country.

In Austria, the specific incident that has crystallized wider concerns in the world of espionage and counterespionage as well as counterterror was a series of raids ordered by the far-right interior minister earlier this year on the offices of the professional domestic intelligence chief, whose organization had in the past conducted and coordinated with Germany its surveillance of right-wing extremists.

Although there is no official confirmation, several reports indicate Germany has since quit sharing such sensitive information with Austria. And as one long-time security adviser to several French presidents told The Daily Beast, “The Austrian operation against the intelligence service by the ministry of interior had an impact on every other intelligence service in the West.” It was seen as, potentially, the shape of things to come.

Austria’s far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) gained control of the interior ministry in December, after the center-right party agreed to form a ruling coalition with the once-scorned FPÖ.

Founded in 1956, the FPÖ has a strong Nazi pedigree. Its first leader was a former SS officer and the party has never really strayed far from its roots.

The annual Ulrichsberg gathering for the “reconciliation” of World War II veterans in the southern Austrian province of Carinthia was for a long time a nostalgia-fest for former SS officers and other Nazi collaborators from across Europe. In recent years a new generation of right-wing extremists have joined in, too.

The golden days of Ulrichsberg featured the charismatic but self-destructive leader of Austria’s far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ), Jörg Haider, who gave an infamous speech in 1995 praising SS veterans as “decent men of character” who “stand by their convictions even in the strongest headwinds.” To say otherwise, according to Haider, was to be “politically correct.” 

Haider was killed in a car crash in 2010, but the gathering in Ulrichsberg already had been canceled the year before because one of the organizers was caught trading Nazi memorabilia on the internet (a swastika and various medals, all advertised as being “original and in excellent condition”). By 2012 it was starting to make a comeback, however, and one participant is among the most notorious figures of the German-speaking neo-Nazi scene: Gottfried Küssel was twice imprisoned in Austria for “Nazi revivalism” and his rotund body, it has to be said, is rather reminiscent of the late Hermann Göring’s.

The first time the FPÖ entered government, in 2000, it caused a major continent-wide crisis. The European Union levied sanctions on Austria. Amid international pressure, Haider ceded the chancellorship to a less controversial figure. The sanctions were lifted only after the FPÖ demonstrated that it met certain human rights standards.

But the political winds have changed dramatically since then. The FPÖ joined the ruling coalition in December 2017, after political star Sebastian Kurz revitalized Austria’s failing center-right party by diluting far-right policies to make them more palatable for the general populace. When the FPÖ came in second, a coalition with Kurz’s party seemed natural. And with far-right populist parties advancing across the continent, Europe was in no position to sanction Austria this time around.

Since December, the FPÖ’s Herbert Kickl has been Austria’s interior minister. Kickl, whose lean, grizzled face and wire-rim glasses make him look like a radical conspirator out of central casting, used to write speeches and gags for Haider. The former president of the Viennese Jewish community, Ariel Muzicant, said in 2009 that Kickl’s texts reminded him of Joseph Goebbels.

In 2016, Kickl appeared at an extreme-right congress dubbed “Defenders of Europe.” The attendees were a mix of pan-Germanist frat-boy types who work for the Freedom Party, “new right” bloggers with university degrees who call themselves “identitarians,” and editors from various German and Austrian alternative news outlets. One was a publishing company from Graz that described National Socialism (that is, Nazi ideology) as “Europe’s attempt to prove itself against international superpowers in the east and west.” Kickl gave the keynote speech and told the crowd: “I see the audience that I wish for here, better than in the parliament.”

Today, Kickl often is described as the “mastermind” behind the electoral successes of the FPÖ that allowed it to enter into a coalition government with the somewhat more mainstream Christian Democratic Party of Prime Minister Kurz.

As junior coalition partner, the Freedom Party now controls the defense, interior and foreign ministries. Kurz has been credited by some with besting the far right by embracing its agenda, which is a dubious proposition when talking about a party that has never really shaken off its Nazi heritage. (Hackers discovered that the party’s chairman, Johann Gudenus, who is not in the current government, once had the Facebook password “ heilheil ”). . . .

. . . . In March this year, a police unit headed by a Freedom Party member raided the homes of four staffers and an office of the domestic intelligence agency known as the BVT (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz und Terrorismus Bekämpfung, i.e., Federal Bureau for the Protection of the Constitution and for Counterterrorism). The bureau deals with, among other things, right-wing extremism. . . .

The raids were justified as part of an investigation into alleged corruption in the BVT. But this “investigation” was based on dubious “insider info”: documents that contained embarrassing tales of sex parties and cliquishness but hardly any legally relevant information about actual operations of the BVT. The material, supposedly written by a BVT employee, was first offered around to the press in Vienna a year ago, but no one was interested—until Kickl took over the interior ministry. Since he took over, he has appeared intent on discrediting the BVT and replacing its leadership with people loyal to the FPÖ.

Peter Gridling, known as the stubborn but politically colorless head of the BVT for the last 10 years, was fired several days after the raids. He had been the object of a virulent campaign by the website unzensuriert.at (known as “the Austrian Breitbart”). The former editor in chief of unzensuriert.at is now Kickl’s communications director.

Gridling, along with intelligence chiefs Calvar in France and Maasen in Germany, warned in 2016 about a “dramatic rise” in right-wing extremist crime. Sibylle Geissler, who directed the BVT’s operation watching right-wing extremism, wrote a report about unzensuriert.at and the 2016 “Defend Europe” conference mentioned earlier.

Geissler reported that the Defend Europe congress is a “networking for the extreme right scene” and that unzensuriert.at publishes content which is “in part extremely xenophobic” and has “anti-Semitic tendencies.” . . . .

. . . . Some of Geissler’s files were taken in the police raids launched by Kickl this year. And last month she wrote in an email, which was leaked to the Austrian weekly magazine Falter, that she is now subject to a “witch hunt” by the interior ministry, which prevents her from continuing to do her job effectively.

The police raids were clumsy, but Kickl’s interior ministry still appears to have succeeded in obstructing the surveillance of right-wing extremism in Austria.

After the news went public, the German intelligence service (BfV) asked the Austrian service if the prosecutors had seized any of Germany’s shared intelligence during the raids. The German interior ministry told the German Left Party politician Andrej Hunko that if this is the case, then “there needs to be a new inquiry about how cooperation with the BVT can be continued in the future.”

Austria and Germany also trade intel via international forums like the CTG (Counter Terrorism Group). In a more recent inquiry by Hunko about the CTG, the German interior ministry confirmed that a foreign intelligence agency that passes on German intel to a third party, domestic or foreign, without Germany’s permission is a likely deal breaker, but said that one concern about ceasing cooperation was that the leak or sharing with undesirable third parties could be made worse.

Hunko tells The Daily Beast he is specifically concerned that Kickl and his people would be able to acquire intelligence about leftist activists who oppose right-wing extremism: “It is unthinkable what would happen if secret information about anti-fascist activities falls into the hands of the extreme right via Austria’s conservative-far right government.”

He adds: “The same applies for Italy, above all with the neo-fascist Salvini. I know that the German intelligence has written reports on the sea rescuers, some of whom are left-wing activists. It is a big problem, if the heirs of fascist parties and movements now control the intelligence services and can pursue these activists with this information.”

A few days after the BfV’s request in March for more information about what the police took from the intelligence agency, Christian Pilnacek, the secretary general of the Austrian Ministry of Justice, denied that any German intel was taken in the raids. But last week, Pilnacek admitted that officers took a DVD labeled “Photos Ulrichsberg 2015,” which came originally from the BfV. The disc apparently shows which people took part at the 2015 Ulrichsberg gathering in Carinthia. Pilnacek said that, from the DVD’s title, it was not clear that this was Germany’s information. And he said that the DVD has now been returned to the BVT extremism department. But of course the police under Kickl may now know details about German sources and methods they might not have known before.

In the raid, the prosecutors also took data from the “Neptune” network, which the BVT uses to communicate with other European intelligence agencies.

In light of the BVT affair, opposition parties tried unsuccessfully to pass a motion of no confidence against Kickl. “No sane intelligence service in the world will continue to share information with us, apart from maybe the weather forecast,” said Jan Krainer from the Social Democrats.

BVT boss Peter Gridling, now reinstated, told the Ö1 Morgenjournal (the morning news) on Monday that “without a doubt” cooperation with foreign intelligence has become “difficult.” . . . .

Jarrod Ramos

2.  Jarrod Ramos, the alleged shooter at the Maryland newspaper The Capital Gazette was influenced by a theocratic neo-Confederate ideology espoused by League of the South.

Specifically, Ramos is a believer in the worldview expressed by League of the South leaders Mike Peroutka and Michael Hill, for whom a Biblical fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible is the only REAL law and individuals are empowered enforce their interpretation of Biblical law on their own.

Hill has also called for the formation of death squads to target journalists, elected officials, and other members of “the elite”. Hill has called for young men of “Christendom” to become “citizen-soldiers” to destroy the “galloping tyranny” of our time.

” . . . . The League is a theocratic, secessionist organization whose leader, Michael Hill, had called for the formation of death squads targeting journalists, elected officials and other members of ‘the elite.’ In his essay ‘A Bazooka in Every Pot,’ Hill described such an assassination campaign as part of ‘fourth-generation warfare,’ a style of decentralized conflict that blurs the lines between war and politics, combatants and civilians. . . . .”

Mike Peroutka was one of the only politicians Ramos tweeted about (he was supportive of Peroutka). The other politician was Donald Trump.

The author notes a possible pair of events that may have catalyzed the shooting: Three days before the shooting, President Trump once again demonized member of the media as “enemies of the people,” at a big outdoor rally in California. The next day, Mike Peroutka lost his 2018 re-election bid in the Republican primary.

As Ramos’s social media posts reveal, another influence on Ramos is the “Berserk” bloody anime movie. He made numerous references to Berserk in his posts, including the last tweet made minutes before the shooting. He even described himself as playing a role in the world of “Berserk”, a world that includes vigilante “hands of God”.

In FTR #756, we noted the strong overlapping connections between Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, Ron Paul and the League of the South.

Ramos appears to have manifested the “lone wolf/leaderless resistance” strategy. ” . . . . ‘Ramos came to see himself as some kind of vigilante for righteousness, casting himself for example as a ‘crusader’ . . . . Political Research Associates analyst Frederick Clarkson told Salon. This vision was ‘not unlike the militaristic, millennial vision of Michael Hill,’ he continued. . . .”

In FTR #888, we noted that Glenn Greenwald ran legal interference for the leaderless resistance strategy, freeing up the likes of Michael Hill from civil liability for their advocacy of mayhem. Greenwald is, in effect, an accessory to the bloodshed allegedly realized by Ramos and others like him.

“Exclusive: Inside Accused Annapolis Shooter’s Alt-Right Theology of Mass Murder” by Jonathan Hutson; Salon; 07/22/2018.

When news broke of an active shooting at the Capital Gazette, my local newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland, I tweeted editor Rick Hutzell to ask if he was safe, and how I could help. When police announced the arrest of 38-year-old Jarrod Ramos as the suspect in the mass shooting, I, like many others, delved into his Twitter accounts.I was shocked when I realized that Ramos – whom a grand jury just indicted on 23 charges, including five counts of first-degree murder – had contacted me two years ago. He taunted me in response to the Capital’s March 2015 report about how I had helped law enforcement thwart a mass shooting threat made on Twitter against grade school kids and Jews in Kalispell, Montana, by a man named David J. Lenio.

What I learned about Ramos, as I followed his Twitter trail, reveals as strange a worldview as one could imagine informing a mass-murder scenario. There are at least two main influences evident in Ramos’ tweets. One is a worldview taken from the theocratic wing of the alt-right, and the other comes from a violent anime subculture centered around a popular manga, anime and film series titled “Berserk.” Taken together, they provide a Rosetta Stone that allows us to translate the significance of two religious visions, in relation to each other, as they existed in Ramos’ mind.

I believe these mutually informing visions allowed Ramos to cast himself as a vigilante hand of God. His theocratic worldview, combined with his immersion in the world of “Berserk,” helps to solve the mystery of his cryptic, final tweet and illuminate his possible motive for mass murder.

For all of Ramos’ vividly imagined righteousness, this story begins with a woman-hating, angry man. That there is a misogynist root to Ramos’ rage-filled rampage is no surprise. Numerous male mass murderers have backgrounds of stalking and harassing women, especially online. Ramos’ beef with the Capital goes back to his ill-conceived defamation suit against the paper, its publisher and a columnist for reporting on his guilty plea for the online harassment of a woman he had known slightly in high school. In court documents he objected to the Capital’s report that, after he had not heard from the woman in months, he told her, “Fu ck you, leave me alone.” Ramos told the judge that he felt it unfair that the reporter had not allowed him to offer an explanation. He complained to the judge, “That carries a clear implication that something is wrong inside my head, that I’m insane.”

Whether Ramos is sane is a matter for the court to determine. But there is an explanation for these hostile words – which he cribbed from the protagonist in “Berserk” – and it has to do with Ramos’ worldview, which needs to be more clearly understood.

The alt-right half of the Rosetta Stone

I believe Ramos contacted me initially because the Capital had reported on my connection to David Lenio, a white nationalist who had tweeted threats of a possible mass shooting, and also because I was researching and writing about ties between a local politician named Michael Peroutka and a right-wing group called the League of the South.

The League is a theocratic, secessionist organization whose leader, Michael Hill, had called for the formation of death squads targeting journalists, elected officials and other members of “the elite.” In his essay “A Bazooka in Every Pot,” Hill described such an assassination campaign as part of “fourth-generation warfare,” a style of decentralized conflict that blurs the lines between war and politics, combatants and civilians.

Hill wrote: “To oversimplify, the primary targets will not be enemy soldiers; instead, they will be political leaders, members of the hostile media, cultural icons, bureaucrats, and other of the managerial elite without whom the engines of tyranny don’t run.”

That was not Hill’s only overt call to violence. He followed up with another essay calling for young men of “Christendom” to become “citizen-soldiers” to destroy the “galloping tyranny” of our time.

As for Peroutka, he is a neo-Confederate theocrat who thinks that the wrong side won the Civil War and that our real national anthem is “Dixie.” He is also a former board member of the League, which had endorsed his successful 2014 campaign for a seat on Maryland’s Anne Arundel County Council, running as a Republican. This is the same League that helped organize the infamous torch-lit Unite the Right march in Charlottesville, Virginia, last summer.

Over a period of nearly seven years, Peroutka is one of only two politicians whom Ramos tweeted about – the other being Donald Trump, who has repeatedly vilified journalists.

Jarrod Ramos is not affiliated with any political party, and there is no evidence that he was politically motivated or that he acted on anyone’s orders. On the other hand, as Salon’s Paul Rosenberg has reported, he was influenced by the rhetoric and ideology of the racist alt-right. And like Hill, Ramos showed bold belligerence toward managerial elites whom he viewed as enemies.

For example, Ramos wrote in his @EricHartleyFrnd Twitter bio (which he named in apparent mockery of a former Capital columnist whom Ramos had sued unsuccessfully for defamation), “Dear reader: I created this page to defend myself. Now I’m suing the shit out of half of AA County and making corpses of corrupt careers and corporate entities.”

Justice and public safety require that we consider the context, including multiple influences and possible triggers, when a suspect faces mass murder charges. Therefore, it is fair and necessary to ask whether President Trump’s demagoguery against journalists could trigger some lone nut to murder them. . . . Sociologists call such a violent response to coded rhetoric “scripted violence” – and “heroes know which villains to kill.” Followers thus don’t require specific orders, but gather a sense of validation and righteousness in carrying out a violent campaign of societal purification against people designated as corrupting influences.

This suspect had a simmering feud for seven years with the Capital, its former publisher and Eric Hartley, the former columnist whom he had sued unsuccessfully. Ramos created a website on which he posted documents and communications about his case, describing himself as an agent of “the Inquisition” and “a crusader” who answered to a “Higher Authority” than civil government and who meted out literal “carnage” to his foes.

Ramos wrote of his perceived enemies: “The authority that permits their power also stands poised to punish its abuse. Even kings must answer to God, and a modern day Inquisition is at hand. The potential judgement is no less severe; the carnage differs only in literal terms. As this search for Truth commences, a crusader they could not kill approaches.”

His crusade targeted court officials as well as journalists, whom he considered dishonest. For example, Ramos tweeted a quote from German poet Paul Gerhardt: “When a man lies, he murders some part of the world.” Ramos concluded, “Time to slay some murderous shitbag esquires.” In another tweet criticizing “inequity in the MD justice system,” he said: “Here’s to Higher Authority hearing and #hurting.”

To Ramos, defamation is a violation of common law but, more important, a violation of God’s law that is worthy of hellfire.

For example, he once tweeted: “Catholicism still says liars go to hell.”

He also tweeted, without attribution or citation, a quote from a 16th-century church court case: “Again, my unruly tongue, if it were not punished, it would not only set more of you on fire, but it would bolden others to do the like.” This quote is from a confession to defamation in Mitford v. Shaw, an ecclesiastical court case from 1569-70. Church courts in England had jurisdiction over cases of defamation when the plaintiff’s claim was not for money damages but for the correction of a sin. (Common law courts oversaw claims for money damages.) Church courts sentenced violators to do public penance, on pain of excommunication.

In the Mitford case, when the church court found Charles Shaw guilty of slander, he did penance by standing up in church, wearing linen apparel, and reading his confessional statement, which equates slander to murder, worthy of divine retribution.

Shaw stated, “I acknowledge thus to slander my Christian brother is an heinous offence, first towards God, who hath straightly forbidden it in his holy laws, accounting it to be a kind of murdering of my neighbor, and threatening to punish it with hellfire and the loss of the kingdom of heaven.”

Modern-day theocrats, such as Peroutka, would like to see ecclesiastical courts replace the American judicial system. At a 2016 Summer of Justice rally in Wichita, Kansas, which took place the same week as the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Peroutka called on his fellow Christian nationalists to “take dominion over these positions of civil authority” in order to “interpose” against laws that don’t square with their notion of God’s law.

Peroutka claimed that the only valid laws are ones which adhere to this fundamentalist vision of the Constitution and the Bible. “What if the Congress did pass a law allowing abortion? And then what if a sitting president signed it and a sitting court validated it?” he asked. “Would it be the law? No, of course not.” Then he slung on his guitar and filmed the crowd for a video for his new song, “Courts cannot make law.”

Near the end of the Summer of Justice, the anti-abortion group Operation Save America staged a kangaroo “ecclesiastical court” which declared that Supreme Court rulings on abortion rights, LGBTQ rights, marriage equality and the removal of government-sponsored prayer in schools were contrary to God’s law. Eight “judges” took turns reading “charges” against the Supreme Court and then declared their decisions “null and void.”

The judges included the Rev. Matt Trewhella, leader of the Milwaukee-based Missionaries to the Preborn, who had signed a statement in 1993 declaring that the murder of abortion providers was “justifiable homicide.” Convicted murderers Paul Hill and Michael Griffin later unsuccessfully used “justifiable homicide” defenses in their trials for killing abortion providers.

Ramos’ tweets make clear that in his theological view, journalists who had allegedly framed him and court officers who had supposedly lied about him were as guilty as murderers and would ultimately answer to God. He saw himself as an agent of divine retribution. He was not subtle about how he would punish the sin of defamation.

He tweeted: “Awaiting reprisal, death will be their acquisition.” This is a misquoted lyric from a thrash metal song by Slayer, “Raining Blood.” The actual line is: “Awaiting reprisal, death will be their acquittance.” The song ends with a vision of victims’ blood deluging a revenge-driven killer: “Raining blood from a lacerated sky, bleeding its horror, creating my structure. Now I shall reign in blood!”

“Ramos came to see himself as some kind of vigilante for righteousness, casting himself for example as a ‘crusader’ and gunning down innocent people in a newsroom,” Political Research Associates analyst Frederick Clarkson told Salon. This vision was “not unlike the militaristic, millennial vision of Michael Hill,” he continued. “Last year [Hill] rallied what he calls the Southern Defense Force, which he envisions as not just a modern Confederate army but the ‘Army of the True Living God.’”

So it makes sense that Ramos, who has metaphorically casts himself as a Christian holy warrior, would identify with Peroutka, a dyed-in-the-wool theocrat who has argued that civil servants must disobey any laws believed to be contrary to God’s law. Ramos tweeted three times in defense of Peroutka, once to crow to Rema Rahman, a journalist at the Capital, about Peroutka’s 2014 election to the Anne Arundel County Council. He tweeted: “Peroutka won and you lost @remawriter. Get over it. You’re already going to Hell, so why not concern yourself with more relevant matters?”

He tweeted again to tell Rahman to “shut the fu ck up” after she wrote a piece reporting that illegal robocalls might have helped put Peroutka’s campaign over the top. He said: “It’s not your place, so shut the fu ck up @capgaznews. Peroutka’s columns don’t get the pickled shit sued out of him.”

He also tweeted: “Why are they so obsessed about Peroutka @capgaznews?” He added the hashtag #CapDeathWatch.

Ramos, who nursed grievances against perceived injustices, and who had sued a newspaper for defamation, also identified with Donald Trump. In response to an opinion column in the Capital that questioned Trump’s qualifications for the presidency, he tweeted a warning: “Referring to @realDonaldTrump as ‘unqualified’ @capgaznews could end badly (again).” His tweet linked to a Wall Street Journal article about Trump’s lawsuit against Univision, claiming breach of contract and defamation.

The next day, Ramos tweeted: “Fu ck you, leave me alone,” and linked to a Maryland appellate court document upholding the dismissal of his defamation case against the Capital. It is reasonable to assume that this angry comment was directed at the journalists and newspaper who had bested him in court, and perhaps also at attorneys and judges.

The embittered suspect with a vendetta against a local newspaper the justice system had been simmering since 2011. What triggered him in 2018? I don’t know. But shortly before the massacre, two things happened that could have been factors. Three days before the shooting, Donald Trump had pointed out members of the news media at a big outdoor rally in South Carolina, demonizing them as “enemies of the people.” This is a phrase that demagogues throughout history, from the French Revolution to Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia, have understood and used as an incitement to violence. A day later, Peroutka was defeated in his 2018 re-election bid, losing to a female candidate in the Republican primary.

The “Berserk” half of the Rosetta Stone

The other, seemingly unrelated element of Ramos’ worldview is drawn from the world of anime, the source of his final, cryptic tweet, approximately three minutes before the shooting began. It was a peculiar expression he had used before: “Fu ck you, leave me alone.” This world of manga and anime informed the suspect’s hero-versus-villain worldview and also the way he expressed it through language and religious symbolic imagery. While his tweets referenced mainstream sci-fi touchstones, such as “Star Wars” and “Star Trek,” his primary influence was the universe of “Berserk,” a blood-and-guts manga, anime and movie series that has also inspired several video games.

Ramos tweeted numerous references to “Berserk” characters, paraphrased quotes from them, and used symbolism drawn from the series. He described himself as playing a role in the world of “Berserk” and hinted that an understanding of its fictional world was key to understanding his “psyche.” Indeed, in a letter he wrote stating his intention of “killing every person present” in the Capital newsroom, he quoted from “Berserk.” As mentioned above, he did so again in his final tweet before the shooting began.

Ramos tweeted to ask whether Eric Hartley, the former Capital columnist, was “Ordained to Be Murdered by the God Hand?” In “Berserk,” the God Hand is a group of the five most powerful demons. The photo on Ramos’ Twitter avatar was the face of Hartley, with a Berserk symbol pasted over it – a brand that marks victims for demonic sacrifice.

He tweeted, “Judge Nick doesn’t believe in the God Hand. I play a well-established part of that system by tweeting of it.” It appears that Ramos identified with the world of “Berserk” and saw himself as playing a part in it.

Ramos also marked former Capital Gazette publisher Thomas Marquardt — whom he nicknamed “Evil Tom” — with the demonic brand, in the banner image for the Twitter account @EricHartleyFrnd. To Ramos, the brand signified that it was “Open Season” to hunt and kill. He tweeted, “Another stooge @capgaznews says Evil Tom is going on his own terms? That mark on his head is called Brand of Sacrifice; or now, Open Season.” He also tweeted a YouTube link to the song “Murder” from the “Berserk” soundtrack.

He repeatedly referenced a vampire character from “Berserk,” Nosferatu Zodd, and tweeted an image of Zodd. He tweeted: “If you think this man [wants to be] your friend, know this: when his ambition crumbles, death will come for you — a death you cannot escape.” This is a paraphrased quote from Zodd, who said, “If you consider this man your true friend, and regard him as a brother, then know this. When this man’s ambition crumbles, it is your destiny to face your death. A death you can never escape!”

Ramos also identified with “Berserk” characters on several other occasions. He tweeted, “I told you once. I will have my own kingdom. Nothing has changed.” This is a close paraphrase of a quote from the character Griffith, who said, “I told you once, I will get my own kingdom. Nothing has changed.”

He tweeted, “I’m Femto. I can also do whatever I want. I will have my own kingdom. I will choose the place you die,” adding a link to a trailer for “Berserk.” Griffith dies and is reborn as Femto, a member of the God Hand, who is undeterred by moral inhibitions. Femto becomes the spearhead of the God Hand’s schemes.

Ramos tweeted the anime cover art from “Berserk – The Golden Age Arc Movie Collection” on DVD, which features the protagonist Guts. He twice quoted Guts, a swordsman motivated by revenge whose left forearm is replaced by a prosthetic which can be fitted with a cannon. Guts kills many enemies, including his primary antagonist, Bishop Mozgus, who is a demon spawn with angelic wings. Before delivering the coup de grâce, Guts tells Mozgus, “If you meet your God, say this for me … Leave me the hell alone!”

The latter is one of the most popular quotes among “Berserk” fans. However, some translate the quote, or paraphrase it differently. For example: “If you meet your God, tell him to leave me the fu ck alone!”

Or, as Ramos tweeted, some three minutes before the shooting: “Fu ck you, leave me alone.” He then added another of his Twitter handles, @JudgeMoylanFrnd, which features the face of Charles Moylan, the judge who had dismissed his defamation case, marked with the brand of sacrifice.

Guts’ message for Mozgus to take to his god is a familiar trope in action movies, the sort of comment that a protagonist makes before dispatching a villain, such as “I’ll see you in Hell,” “See you on the other side,” or “Hasta la vista, baby.” However, this “Leave me alone” message is not meant for the people whom the protagonist is about to kill; it is for them to carry to their god.

In light of Ramos’ having previously tweeted this same language in anger at both the Capital and Maryland court officials, and that this closely tracks what Guts tells his primary antagonist before delivering the killing blow, Ramos was making clear his intent to kill. In the context of scripted violence, as when a politician uses his office to demonize journalists, individuals who view themselves as holy warriors or heroes motivated by a sense of grievance know which villains to kill.

Ramos, who represented himself in his defamation case against the Capital, insisted that he was sane and that he had not been merely fantasizing online about being a predator. He wrote on his website, “I’ve been learning law for a different kind of game. It’s no publicity stunt, nor clinical insanity, nor predatory Internet fantasy, but very dangerous indeed.”

In the same document, he wrote, “Much like a life, what is the price of a name? Are these even two different questions?” Like the 16th-century English penitent who confessed to defamation in Mitford v. Shaw, calling it a kind of murder, Ramos equates the loss of his good name with the loss of a life. This is akin to the reasoning of those who kill abortion providers: If, according to their understanding of God’s law, abortion is murder, then those who provide abortions are subject to death. Likewise, if a theocrat believes defamation to be a kind of murder, then what is the penalty?

After years of build-up, Ramos became a self-righteous, avenging character he had invented for himself, and announced his intent to kill, writing to the newspaper’s former attorney and to Maryland court officials that he was on his way to the Capital newsroom “with the objective of killing every person present.” They received the letters after the massacre. In a letter to Judge Moylan, he wrote, “Welcome, Mr. Moylan, to your unexpected legacy: YOU should have died.” He signed off, “Friends forever, Jarrod W. Ramos.”

Here again, Ramos is quoting from Berserk.

Guts’ adoptive father Gambino blames him for the death of his wife. So he tries to kill Guts, while telling him, “You should have died.” In self-defense, Guts kills Gambino. But he feels guilty and conflicted about this deed. A recurring nightmare of an army of skeletons haunts him, their eyeless orbs glaring as they chant over and over, “You should have died.”

This message is not for the people whom the protagonist has killed, nor for the people he would have liked to kill. It is for Guts himself – a killer who felt justified but also conflicted and guilty even as he killed.

Ramos seems to be suggesting that, like the “Berserk” protagonist he referenced in his final tweet, he felt conflicted about killing. It appears that just prior to the mass murder, Ramos signaled his realization that, like Guts, he would feel guilty about it. This suggests that he knew right from wrong, and therefore supports the argument that, as Ramos himself has insisted, he was sane. While his final tweet indicates a rationale that he must defend himself from perceived oppression and injustice (“Leave me alone”), his letter to the judge indicates that he anticipates feeling haunted by the consciousness of guilt (“You should have died”).

Lessons learned

As our family members, friends and colleagues die in one mass shooting after another, we urge ourselves to understand what we could do differently as a society. Why did this suspect do what he did? Each time, we come away with at least as many questions as answers. I don’t claim to know the right questions, let alone the answers. We all have a lot of work to do. But I have learned a few things from my research into Jarrod Ramos’ world. One of them recalls Maya Angelou’s famous quote, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

Ramos showed himself to the world before he acted. He collected a grab bag of grievances out of which he tried to forge a rationale, arguably a theology, that would give his revenge tale a transcendent meaning: It would be the story of his life. He revealed himself often; society chose not to see or was unable to, or at any rate did not take him seriously. He recognized this fact. After the mass murders, his letters reminded us all, “I told you so.

Ramos’ worldview is clearly derived from multiple, esoteric sources – sources he may not have accessed all by himself. This does not mean that he did not act alone; it does mean that he did not come to such sources as 16th-century ecclesiastical court records by himself. Someone pointed him in this direction. Ramos is probably not the only one who has been directed to such material in search of the will of God in the 21st Century and one’s role in God’s plan.

Ramos called himself “an arrogant auto-didact,” with reference to how he learned how to represent himself (however unsuccessfully) in court. There is a rich history on the far right of individuals — including self-proclaimed “sovereign citizens” and theocrats advocating Higher Law — who defend themselves by cobbling together supposed legal precedents, divine authority and ill-conceived justifications for illegal and sometimes violent acts.

There are also Christian nationalist think tanks, such as Michael Peroutka’s Institute on the Constitution, that peddle books and courses to self-taught advocates on how to “defend against those in opposition to God’s Word.” However out of the mainstream they may be, such people should be properly understood and taken seriously. They say what they mean; they mean what they say. When someone speaks out about meting out carnage in service to Higher Authority, let’s all pay attention.

Ignoring an injustice collector who views himself as the hand of God doesn’t work. Ignoring the women he harasses doesn’t work. Coddling him in the courts despite his overt law-breaking doesn’t work. Ignoring the multiple cultural influences that shape and validate his viewpoint doesn’t work. . . .

3. In FTR #1015, we highlighted the “cow vigilantes” in India–Hindutva fascist gangs perpetrating violence on Muslims and lower-caste Hindus. WhatsApp is fueling the violence.

“India’s ‘cow vigilantes’ hotel in the clear”; BBC; 05/10/2017.

A hotel owner in the Indian state of Rajasthan has expressed his frustration over the fact that his hotel has been closed for weeks over false accusations that it had served beef on the premises.

Police on Tuesday said forensic tests on meat seized from the Hayat Rabbani hotel in March showed it was definitely not beef, but chicken, the Hindustan Times reported. . . .

“From the very first day, I have been saying that it was chicken but no one from the administration listened to me,” hotel owner Naeem Rabbani told the paper. “The report confirms all allegations levelled on us were false.”

The hotel was closed after a group of “cow vigilantes” protested in front of it for hours in March, chanting nationalist slogans.

The Indian Express website cited a member of the group saying they had gathered there after reading about rumours of a beef party at the hotel on WhatsApp, allegedly sent by Jaipur’s mayor.

Such vigilante groups have been involved with several incidents of violence in India, particularly after the Hindu nationalist BJP party came to power in 2014. Last month, police investigated the death of a Muslim man who was attacked by a vigilante group while transporting cows in Rajasthan. . . .

4.  As the following article notes, the mayor of Jaipur, Ashok Lahoty, shared the rumor about beef being served at the hotel on a BJP WhatsApp group.

“Beef Rumours: Dadri Averted, Police Watched Mob Beat Us, Say Jaipur Hotel Owner, Manager” by Hamza Khan; Indian Express; 03/022/2017.

The manager of a Jaipur hotel that was laid siege to by cow vigilantes over rumours of serving beef on Sunday night has alleged that after taking him into custody, police brought him back among the protesters “to calm them down” and he was slapped around and manhandled in police presence.The owner of Hotel Hayat Rabbani, Naeem Rabbani, who held a press conference with his staff here on Monday, said “a repeat of Dadri had been averted”. Police, which reached the hotel in Sindhi Camp a few minutes after the crowd surrounded it, has said that the meat they seized appeared to be “chicken legs”, and it had been sent for testing to the forensic lab to placate tempers. However, hours after the incident, Jaipur Mayor Ashok Lahoty shared a message on a BJP media cell WhatsApp group saying the hotel had been sealed for “feeding beef to cows”. 

At the press conference, Rabbani said that on Sundays, they prepare special chicken for their nine staff members, and it was this that the crowd had mistaken for beef. He said they never serve beef. . . .

. . . .Mayor Lahoty admitted he had sent the WhatsApp message saying it was beef. “Hotel Hayat dwara gaumata ko beef khilane k dus-sahas karne par… hotel ko seize kiya gaya hai (Hotel Hayat has been seized for daring to feed beef to cows),” the message said. “I received the message so I forwarded it,” he told The Indian Express. . . .

5. It appears that the BJP is behind much of the rumor campaigns as part of its Hindu nationalist agenda. ” . . . . Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has largely remained silent about the problem, and analysts say there’s a reason for that: Much of the fake news now spreading like wildfire has been promoted, if not created, by some of Modi’s most fervent supporters. . . .”

Modi has a well orchestrated machine for disseminating BJP’s fake news: ” . . . . In her book, ‘I am a Troll: Inside the Secret World of the BJP’s Digital Army,’ journalist Swati Chaturvedi explains how the party orchestrates online campaigns to intimidate perceived government critics through a network of trolls on Twitter and Facebook. And she cites multiple people who worked inside the BJP’s social media machine to make her case. . . . Chaturvedi’s findings were backed by another former BJP cyber-volunteer, Sadhavi Khosla, who left the party in 2015 because of the constant barrage of misogyny, Islamophobia, and hatred she was asked to disseminate online. And Prodyut Bora, one of the masterminds of the BJP’s early technology and social media strategy, recently offered a similar outlook. He described his creation as “Frankenstein’s monster,” and said that it had morphed from its original aim of better connecting with the party’s supporters. “I mean, occasionally, it’s just painful to watch what they have done with it,” he told HuffPost India last month. . . .”

“India’s Fake News Epidemic Is Killing People, and Modi’s Government Has No Plan to Stop It” by David Gilbert and Zeenat Saberin; Vice News; 07/17/2018

. . . . Mob lynchings fueled by fear-mongering rumors on WhatsApp have surged across the subcontinent in recent months, sparking hysteria and violence, baffling police, and leaving a trail of 18 dead since the beginning of May, with dozens more seriously injured.

Yet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has largely remained silent about the problem, and analysts say there’s a reason for that: Much of the fake news now spreading like wildfire has been promoted, if not created, by some of Modi’s most fervent supporters.

“While the media in India and elsewhere have focused on WhatsApp deaths, we have to realize that this is only a specific way in which fake news is being spread by right-wing Hindu supremacists, many of them closely linked to the ruling BJP and its parent body, the openly fascist RSS,” Amrit Wilson, a writer and activist, told VICE News.

WhatsApp told VICE News it has offered to meet with the Indian government over the issue, but a source at the company with knowledge of its dealings said they have yet to receive a response. . . .

. . . . analysts in India say there is reason to believe that Modi’s BJP party is behind much of the fear-based fake news being pushed on WhatsApp and other social media platforms. Modi’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this story.

Recently, the main opposition party hit out at Modi for “aiding and abetting” the spate of lynching links to rumors spread via WhatsApp.

“When the state gives the ‘License to Kill’ with impunity and abdicates its solemn responsibility to uphold the ‘Rule of Law,’ resulting in vigilantism, death, and merciless killings of innocent lives, then each one of us should castigate it, decry it, and question it,” Abhishek Singhvi, spokesperson for the National Congress Party, told reporters.

Facebook’s struggles to track and effectively curb fake news are amplified on WhatsApp, where messages are encrypted so that even WhatsApp can’t see their content. While it is one of the app’s biggest selling points, the added layer of security makes it almost impossible for the company to track and remove fake news. In India, where many users are illiterate and don’t have access to the wider internet, this means WhatsApp rumors spread like wildfire. . . .

. . . . the advent of WhatsApp, combined with increased access to the internet, means rumors and fake news in India spread to all parts of the country with a speed never before seen.

Troll armies like those used by Modi’s BJP have taken advantage of the platform’s closed messaging to push divisive, ethnically charged content with the desire to stoke fear and discord.

When the body of 11-year-old Purna Biswas was found near his home of Mohanpur in West Tripura last month, no one knew why he had been killed. Hours later, Ratan Lal Nath, a local BJP politician, appeared at the boy’s home and falsely claimed that his kidney had been cut from his body by organ traffickers. A day later, the police had arrested the two murderers who revealed Biswas’ death was related to a family land dispute.

This was hardly the first time BJP attempted to use dangerous social media rumors for its political gain; it has been at the bedrock of the party’s staggering success in recent years.

In her book, “I am a Troll: Inside the Secret World of the BJP’s Digital Army,” journalist Swati Chaturvedi explains how the party orchestrates online campaigns to intimidate perceived government critics through a network of trolls on Twitter and Facebook. And she cites multiple people who worked inside the BJP’s social media machine to make her case.

They’re not alone. Chaturvedi’s findings were backed by another former BJP cyber-volunteer, Sadhavi Khosla, who left the party in 2015 because of the constant barrage of misogyny, Islamophobia, and hatred she was asked to disseminate online. And Prodyut Bora, one of the masterminds of the BJP’s early technology and social media strategy, recently offered a similar outlook. He described his creation as “Frankenstein’s monster,” and said that it had morphed from its original aim of better connecting with the party’s supporters. “I mean, occasionally, it’s just painful to watch what they have done with it,” he told HuffPost India last month.

Right-wing publication Postcard News — dubbed “a mega factory of fake news” — hit the headlines in March when its founder, Mahesh Vikram Hegde, was arrested for spreading false information about a Jain monk being assaulted by a Muslim youth. The monk was in fact injured in a minor road accident, and police said Hegde was fully aware of this fact when he made his claim.

Despite trying to incite religious conflict between two communities — or perhaps because of it — Hedge and Postcard News received robust support from the BJP’s social media network. Within hours, the #ReleaseMaheshHegde hashtag was trending on Twitter. As of this week, prominent BJP politicians were still promoting stories from Postcard News. . . .

. . . .This network is an example of what Harsh Taneja, an assistant professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, describes as the “hierarchical tree-like structure” of the BJP’s social media machine.

The highly structured nature of the network allows national messages to flow down to every district in the country, and conversely for a local volunteer to flag something up to the national conversation, Taneja explained.

“It is very well-structured, it is well-funded, and they have a lot of volunteers,” Rohit Chopra, a media studies professor at Santa Clara University, told VICE News of the BJP social media machine. “There are people who see themselves as dedicated warriors.”

While the rumors on WhatsApp warn of child abductors and cow killers, the messages often also come tinged with anti-Muslim or anti-Christian sentiment, and fit into the wider policy of Hindu nationalism that Modi’s government has been accused of promoting above all.

“While there is no evidence of it being organized, there are all the symptoms of it being organized,” said Pratik Sinha, who runs the fact-checking website AltNews.com. He cited the fact that every time an election approaches, the level of fake news he has to deal with increases.

Government silence

For all the deaths, the government has said very little. . . .

6. When the ‘deepfake’ video technology develops to the point of being indistinguishable from real videos, the far right is going to go into overdrive creating videos purporting to prove virtually every far right fantasy you can imagine. Among the memes that might be reinforced by such technology is the ‘PizzaGate’ conspiracy theory pushed by the right wing in the final weeks of the 2016 alleging that Hillary Clinton and number of other prominent Democrats are part of a Satanist child abuse ring.

Right wing polemicist Liz Crokin is repeating her assertions that video of Hillary Clinton – specifically, Hillary sexually abusing and then eating the face of a child is floating around on the Dark Web is definitely real. Crokin is now warning that reports about ‘deepfake’ technology are just disinformation stories being preemptively put out by the Deep State to make the public skeptical when the videos of Hillary cutting the face off of a child come to light:

“Liz Crokin: Trump Confirmed The Existence Of A Video Showing Hilary Clinton Torturing A Child” by Kyle Mantyla; Right Wing Watch; 07/12/2018

Right-wing “journalist” Liz Crokin appeared on Sheila Zilinsky’s podcast earlier this week, where the two unhinged conspiracy theorists discussed Crokin’s assertion that a video exists showing Hillary Clinton sexually abusing and torturing a child.“I understand that there is a video circulating on the dark web of [Clinton] eating the face of a child,” Zilinsky said. “Does this video exist?”

“Yes,” responded Crokin. “There are videos that prove that Hillary Clinton is involved in child sex trafficking and pedophilia. I have sources that have told me that; I trust these sources, so there is evidence that exists that proves that she is involved in this stuff … I believe with all my heart that this is true.”

After claiming that “the deep state” targeted former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn for destruction because he and his son “were exposing Pizzagate,” Crokin insisted that media reports warning about the ability to use modern technology to create fake videos that make it appear as if famous people are saying or doing things are secretly a part of an effort to prepare the public to dismiss the Clinton video when it is finally released.

“Based off of what lies they report, I can tell what they’re afraid of, I can tell what’s really going on behind the scenes,” she said. “So the fact that they are saying, ‘Oh, if a tape comes out involving Hillary or Obama doing like a sex act or x, y, z, it’s fake news,’ that tells me that there are tapes that incriminate Obama and Hillary.”

As further proof that such tapes exist, Crokin repeated her claim that President Trump’s tweet of a link to a fringe right-wing conspiracy website that featured a video of her discussing this supposed Clinton tape was confirmation of the veracity of her claims.

“When President Trump retweeted MAGA Pill, MAGA Pill’s tweet was my video talking about Hillary Clinton’s sex tape,” she insisted. “I know President Trump, I’ve met him, I’ve studied him, I’ve reported on him … I’ve known him and of him and reported on him for a very long time. I understand how his brain works, I understand how he thinks, I understand ‘The Art of War,’ his favorite book, I understand this man. And I know that President Trump—there’s no way that he didn’t know when he retweeted MAGA Pill that my video talking about Hillary Clinton’s sex tape was MAGA Pill’s pinned tweet. There is no way that President Trump didn’t know that.” . . . .

 

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