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FTR #948 Walkin’ the Snake with Breitbart: The Gathering Sturm

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

Serpent's WalkIntroduction: The title of the program refers to the Nazi tract Serpent’s Walk. The back cover of that book sums up the essence of the tome: ” . . . It assumes that Hitler’s warrior elite – the SS – didn’t give up their struggle for a White world when they lost the Second World War. Instead their survivors went underground and adopted some of their tactics of their enemies: they began building their economic muscle and buying into the opinion-forming media. A century after the war they are ready to challenge the democrats and Jews for the hearts and minds of White Americans, who have begun to have their fill of government-enforced multi-culturalism and ‘equality.’ . . .”

The “opinion-forming media” in 2017 has crystallized into a frighteningly dominant entity, the Breitbartian engine of Steven Bannon, Robert Mercer, Cambridge Analytica and the latter’s parent company SCL. An article from The Guardian sets forth this terrifying development. (Note that, due to the limitations of time, we were not able to read the entire story. The article will be the centerpiece of a follow-up program.)

Cambridge Analytica and its parent company SCL, specialize in using AI and Big Data psychometric analysis on hundreds of millions of Americans in order to model individual behavior. SCL develops strategies to use that information, and manipulate search engine results to change public opinion (the Trump campaign was apparently very big into AI and Big Data during the campaign).

Individual social media users receive messages crafted to influence them, generated by the Nazi AI at the core of this media engine, using Big Data to target the individual user!

As the article notes, not only are Cambridge Analytica/SCL are using their propaganda techniques to shape US public opinion in a fascist direction, but they are achieving this by utilizing their propaganda machine to characterize all news outlets to the left of Brietbart as “fake news” that can’t be trusted.

In short, the secretive far-right billionaire (Robert Mercer), joined at the hip with Steve Bannon, is running multiple firms specializing in mass psychometric profiling based on data collected from Facebook and other social media. Mercer/Bannon/Cambridge Analytica/SCL are using Nazified AI and Big Data to develop mass propaganda campaigns to turn the public against everything that isn’t Brietbartian by convincing the public that all non-Brietbartian media outlets are conspiring to lie to the public.

This is the ultimate Serpent’s Walk scenario–a Nazified Artificial Intelligence drawing on Big Data gleaned from the world’s internet and social media operations to shape public opinion, target individual users, shape search engine results and even feedback to Trump while he is giving press conferences!

We begin the program with a “sign of the times.”  Something of a barometer for the present political climate is New York Times columnist Paul Krugman’s recognition that: Are you angry about the white nationalist takeover of the U.S. government? . . . Does anyone doubt it? And given this reality, it’s completely reasonable to worry that America will go the route of other nations like Hungary, which remain democracies on paper but have become authoritarian states in practice. . . .”

After discussing Breitbart alumnus Sebastian Gorka’s role as the point man for the Trump administration’s counter-jihadist strategy, the program further develops his roots in Hungarian fascism, past and present. ” . . . . But an investigation by the Forward into Gorka’s activities from 2002 to 2007, while he was active in Hungarian politics and journalism, found that he had close ties then to Hungarian far-right circles, and has in the past chosen to work with openly racist and anti-Semitic groups and public figures. Gorka’s involvement with the far right includes co-founding a political party with former prominent members of Jobbik, a political party with a well-known history of anti-Semitism; repeatedly publishing articles in a newspaper known for its anti-Semitic and racist content; and attending events with some of Hungary’s most notorious extreme-right figures. . . . In the United States, Gorka, who was appointed deputy assistant to the president on January 20, is known as a television commentator, a professor and an “alt-right” writer who describes himself as a counterterrorism expert. A close associate of Stephen Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, Gorka is now part of Bannon’s key in-house White House think tank, the Strategic Initiatives Group. The newly formed group consists of figures close to Trump and is seen by some as a rival to the National Security Council in formulating policies for the president.”

Turning to the well-publicized issue of what is portrayed as “anti-illegal” immigrant policy, we note DHS Secretary John Kelly’s recruitment of local law enforcement officers as federal immigration enforcers, a significant step from a standpoint of the constitution.

The Trumpenkampfverbande is moving to publicize crimes actually, or allegedly, committed by illegal immigrants, a tactic that was used by Hitler to maximize anti-Semitism in Germany. When the German populace proved insufficiently responsive to Nazi anti-Semitic policy, crimes committed by Jews became a high-profile propaganda feature of the Reich. “ . . . . In The Nazi Conscience, Duke historian Claudia Koonz notes that the Nazi newspaper Der Sturmer ran a feature called ‘Letter Box,’ which published readers’ accounts of Jewish crimes. When the Nazis took power, the German state began doing something similar. Frustrated by the failure of most Germans to participate in a boycott of Jewish businesses in April 1933, Adolf Hitler’s government began publicizing Jewish crime statistics as a way of stoking anti-Semitism. In Nazi Germany and the Jews: The Years of Persecution, the historian Saul Friedlander notes that, until 1938, Hitler’s Ministry of Justice ordered prosecutors to forward every criminal indictment against a Jew so the ministry’s press office could publicize it. . . .

Program Highlights Include:

  • The Trump administration’s apparent intent to stop monitoring the activities of domestic fascist and white supremacist hate groups.
  • The League of the South’s formation of a paramilitary cadre, designed with an eye to being deputized as enforcers by federal, state or local governments.
  • The Lithuanian celebration of Third Reich collaborator Kazys Skirpa, who was portrayed as Pepe the Frog, an American “Alt-Right” meme.
  • The appointment of Chrystia Freeland as Canadian Foreign Minister–her grandfather was a major Ukrainian fascist and Nazi collaborator. This appears to have minted her anti-Russian dogma.

1a. Something of a barometer for the present political climate is New York Times columnist Paul Krugman’s recognition that: Are you angry about the white nationalist takeover of the U.S. government? . . . Does anyone doubt it? And given this reality, it’s completely reasonable to worry that America will go the route of other nations like Hungary, which remain democracies on paper but have become authoritarian states in practice. . . .”

“The Uses of Outrage” by Paul Krugman; The New York Times; 2/27/2017.

Are you angry about the white nationalist takeover of the U.S. government? . . . Does anyone doubt it? And given this reality, it’s completely reasonable to worry that America will go the route of other nations like Hungary, which remain democracies on paper but have become authoritarian states in practice. . . .

1b. In FTR #947, we highlighted Sebastian Gorka, a Breitbart alumnus and Hungarian fascist. Gorka is now the Trump administration’s point man working against terrorism. His view (and Bannon’s) that we are engaged in an historic clash of civilizations. That is precisely the point of view expressed by ISIS and will play into their hands.

That, in turn, will help propel the U.S. into more endless wars on the periphery of our empire, ultimately sapping the nation’s vitality and leading to the fall of the U.S. in a manner delineated in FTR #944.

“The Islamophobic Huckster in the White House” by Steven Simon and Daniel Benjamin; The New York Times; 2/24/2017.

The new point man for the Trump administration’s counter­jihadist team is Sebastian Gorka, an itinerant instructor in the doctrine of irregular warfare and former national security editor at Breitbart. Stephen K. Bannon and Stephen Miller, the chief commissars of the Trump White House, have framed Islam as an enemy ideology and predicted a historic clash of civilizations.

Mr. Gorka, who has been appointed deputy assistant to the president, is the expert they have empowered to translate their prediction into national strategy. Mr. Gorka was born and raised in Britain, the son of Hungarian émigrés. As a political consultant in post ­Communist Hungary, he acquired a doctorate and involved himself with ultranationalist politics. He later moved to the United States and became a citizen five years ago, while building a career moderating military seminars and establishing a reputation as an ill-­informed Islamophobe. (He has responded to such claims by stating that he has read the Quran in translation.) . . .

2. It turns out Sebastian Gorka has a long and extensive relationship with the Hungarian far-right, including founding a Hungarian political party with two prominent members of Jobbik. In FTR #947, we noted that a member of Jobbik had written a glowing preface to a volume authored by fascist ideologue Julius Evola, one of the philosophical ifluences on Stephen Bannon.

“Exclusive: Senior Trump Aide Forged Key Ties To Anti-Semitic Groups In Hungary” by Lili Bayer; Forward; 2/24/2017.

When photographs recently emerged showing Sebastian Gorka, President Donald Trump’s high-profile deputy assistant, wearing a medal associated with the Nazi collaborationist regime that ruled Hungary during World War II, the controversial security strategist was unapologetic.

“I’m a proud American now and I wear that medal now and again,” Gorka told Breitbart News. Gorka, 46, who was born in Britain to Hungarian parents and is now an American citizen, asked rhetorically, “Why? To remind myself of where I came from, what my parents suffered under both the Nazis and the Communists, and to help me in my work today.”

But an investigation by the Forward into Gorka’s activities from 2002 to 2007, while he was active in Hungarian politics and journalism, found that he had close ties then to Hungarian far-right circles, and has in the past chosen to work with openly racist and anti-Semitic groups and public figures.

Gorka’s involvement with the far right includes co-founding a political party with former prominent members of Jobbik, a political party with a well-known history of anti-Semitism; repeatedly publishing articles in a newspaper known for its anti-Semitic and racist content; and attending events with some of Hungary’s most notorious extreme-right figures.

When Gorka was asked — in an email exchange with the Forward — about the anti-Semitic records of some of the groups and individuals he has worked with, he instead pivoted to talk about his family’s history.

“My parents, as children, lived through the nightmare of WWII and the horrors of the Nyilas puppet fascist regime,” he said, referring to the Arrow Cross regime that took over Hungary near the very end of World War II and murdered thousands of Jews.

In the United States, Gorka, who was appointed deputy assistant to the president on January 20, is known as a television commentator, a professor and an “alt-right” writer who describes himself as a counterterrorism expert. A close associate of Stephen Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, Gorka is now part of Bannon’s key in-house White House think tank, the Strategic Initiatives Group. The newly formed group consists of figures close to Trump and is seen by some as a rival to the National Security Council in formulating policies for the president.

Gorka, who views Islam as a religion with an inherent predilection for militancy, has strong supporters among some right-leaning think tanks in Washington. “Dr. Gorka is one of the most knowledgeable, well-read and studied experts on national security that I’ve ever met,” Joseph Humire, executive director of the Center for a Secure Free Society, told the Forward. Humire has known Gorka for nearly a decade, and considers him “top-notch.”

Born in London to parents who fled Hungary’s post-World War II Communist regime, Gorka has had a career that’s marked by frequent job changes and shifting national allegiances. The U.S. government is the third sovereign state to hire him in a national security role. As a young man, he was a member of the United Kingdom’s Territorial Army reserves, where he served in the Intelligence Corps. Then, following the fall of Communism in Hungary, he was employed in 1992 by the country’s Ministry of Defense. He worked there for five years, apparently on issues related to Hungary’s accession to NATO.

Gorka’s marriage in 1996 to an American, Katharine Cornell, an heir to Pennsylvania-based Cornell Iron Works, helped him become a U.S. citizen in 2012.

A Web of Deep Ties to Hungary’s Far Right

It was during his time in Hungary that Gorka developed ties to the country’s anti-Semitic and ultranationalist far right.

During large-scale anti-government demonstrations in Hungary in 2006, Gorka took on an active role, becoming closely involved with a protest group called the Hungarian National Committee (Magyar Nemzeti Bizottság). Gorka took on the roles of translator, press coordinator and adviser for the group.

Among the four Committee members named as the group’s political representatives was László Toroczkai, then head of the 64 Counties Youth Movement. Toroczkai founded that group in 2001 to advocate for the return of parts of modern-day Serbia, Slovakia, Romania and Ukraine to form a Greater Hungary, restoring the country’s pre-World War I borders.

In 2004, two years before the Movement’s involvement in the 2006 protests, Hungarian authorities opened an investigation into the Movement’s newspaper, Magyar Jelen, when an article referred to Jews as “Galician upstarts” and went on to argue: “We should get them out. In fact, we need to take back our country from them, take back our stolen fortunes. After all, these upstarts are sucking on our blood, getting rich off our blood.” At the time of the article’s publication, Toroczkai was both an editor at the paper and the Movement’s official leader.
Gorka co-founded his political party with three other politicians. Two of his co-founders, Tamás Molnár and Attila Bégány, were former members of Jobbik. Molnár, a senior Jobbik politician, served as the party’s vice president until shortly before joining Gorka’s new initiative, and was also a member of the Hungarian National Committee during the 2006 protests, issuing statements together with extremist militant figures such as Toroczkai.
Toroczkai currently serves as vice president of Jobbik and is the mayor of a village near the border Hungary shares with Serbia. Last year, he gained notoriety in the West for declaring a goal of banning Muslims and gays from his town.

In January 2007, inspired by the 2006 protests and his experience with the Hungarian National Committee, Gorka announced plans to form a new political party, to be known as the New Democratic Coalition. Gorka had previously served as an adviser to Viktor Orbán, now Hungary’s right-wing nationalist prime minister. But following Orbán’s failed attempts to bring down Hungary’s then-Socialist government, Gorka grew disenchanted with Orbán’s Fidesz party.

In his email exchange with the Forward for this article, Gorka explained: “The Coalition was established in direct response to the unhealthy patterns visible at the time in Hungarian conservative politics. It became apparent to me that the effect of decades of Communist dictatorship had taken a deeper toll on civil society than was expected.”

Gorka co-founded his political party with three other politicians. Two of his co-founders, Tamás Molnár and Attila Bégány, were former members of Jobbik. Molnár, a senior Jobbik politician, served as the party’s vice president until shortly before joining Gorka’s new initiative, and was also a member of the Hungarian National Committee during the 2006 protests, issuing statements together with extremist militant figures such as Toroczkai.

Jobbik has a long history of anti-Semitism. In 2006, when Gorka’s political allies were still members of Jobbik, the party’s official online blog included articles such as “The Roots of Jewish Terrorism” and “Where Were the Jews in 1956?”, a reference to the country’s revolution against Soviet rule. In one speech in 2010, Jobbik leader Gabor Vona said that “under communism we licked Moscow’s boots, now we lick Brussels’ and Washington’s and Tel Aviv’s.”

In founding the New Democratic Coalition, Gorka and the former Jobbik politicians aimed to represent “conservative values, decidedly standing up to corruption and bringing Christianity into the Constitution,” according to the party’s original policy program. At the time, Hungary’s constitution was secular.

The party’s founders did not see themselves as far right or anti-Semitic.

“I knew Gorka as a strongly Atlanticist, conservative person,” Molnár, the former Jobbik vice president and co-founder of Gorka’s party, told the Forward in a phone conversation. He added that he could not imagine Gorka having anti-Semitic views.

Molnár first met Gorka at a book launch event for Gorka’s father, Pál Gorka, in 2002. The younger Gorka and Molnár became friends, bonding over their shared interest in the history of Hungary’s 1956 revolution and the fact that both had parents who were jailed under the country’s Communist regime.

Molnár became involved with Jobbik in 2003, in the far-right party’s early days, and quit in 2006. In his words, “Jobbik went in a militant direction that I did not like.”

Gorka rejects the notion that he knew any of his political allies had connections to the far right.

“I only knew Molnár as an artist and Bégány as a former conservative local politician (MDF if I recall),” Gorka wrote in response to a question regarding the Jobbik affiliations of his former party co-founders. “What they did after I left Hungary is not something I followed.” (MDF is an acronym for the Hungarian Democratic Forum, a now-defunct center-right party.)

In fact, both Molnár and Bégány were members of Jobbik before, and not after, they founded the new party with Gorka. Molnár was Jobbik’s high-profile vice president until September 2006, before he, Gorka and Bégány launched the New Democratic Coalition in early 2007.

Gorka appeared at a press conference with Molnár on September 21, 2006 — one day after Molnár resigned his position as Jobbik’s vice president. Gorka was also photographed on September 23, 2006, wearing a badge with the Hungarian National Committee’s logo as he was standing next to Molnár at a podium while Molnár briefed the press on the Committee’s activities. At the time Gorka was making these public appearances with the Hungarian National Committee’s leadership, extreme-right leader Toroczkai was already a top member of the Committee.

Bégány, meanwhile, had indeed been a member of MDF for a time, but in 2005 he joined Jobbik and served formally as a member of Budapest’s District 5 Council representing the far-right party. Bégány’s formal party biography, posted on the Jobbik website in 2006, said it is his “belief that without belonging to the Hungarian nation or to God it is possible to live, but not worth it.” Like Molnár, Bégány left Jobbik only a few months before starting the new party with Gorka.

Molnár, Bégány and the Hungarian National Committee were not Gorka’s only connection to far-right circles. Between 2006 and 2007, Gorka wrote a series of articles in Magyar Demokrata, a newspaper known for publishing the writings of prominent anti-Semitic and racist Hungarian public figures.

The newspaper’s editor-in-chief, András Bencsik, is notorious in Hungary for his own long-standing anti-Semitic views. In 1995, the Hungarian Jewish publication Szombat criticized Bencsik for writing that “the solid capital, which the Jews got after Auschwitz, has run out.” That same year, Szombat noted, Bencsik wrote in Magyar Demokrata, “In Hungary the chief conflict is between national and cosmopolitan aspirations.” In Hungarian society, “cosmopolitan” is generally a code word for Jews.

In December 2004, the U.S. State Department reported bluntly to Congress that, “the weekly newspaper Magyar Demokrata published anti-Semitic articles and featured articles by authors who have denied the Holocaust.”

In the summer of 2007, Bencsik became one of the founders of the Hungarian Guard, a now-banned paramilitary organization known for assaulting and intimidating members of Hungary’s Roma community. The perpetrators in a spate of racially motivated murders of Roma in 2008 and 2009 were found to have connections to the Guard.

Gorka’s articles for Magyar Demokrata focused not only on decrying Hungary’s then-Socialist government, but also on highlighting the perceived injustices of the Treaty of Versailles, the post-World War I agreement that led to the loss of two-thirds of prewar Hungary’s territory.

“We fought on the wrong side of a war for which we were not responsible, and were punished to an extent that was likely even more unjust — with the exception of the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire — than any other punishment in the modern age,” Gorka wrote in a 2006 article in Magyar Demokrata.

Asked about his choice of journalistic outlets, Gorka wrote, “I am […] unfamiliar with Bencsik. I believe it was one of his colleagues who asked me if I wanted to write some OpEds.” Gorka told the Forward that his writing at the time shows “how everything I did was in the interests of a more transparent and healthy democracy in Hungary. This included a rejection of all revanchist tendencies and xenophobic cliques.”

Gorka’s claim to be unfamiliar with Bencsik must be weighed against his deep immersion in Hungarian politics and Benscik’s status as a major figure in Hungary’s right-wing political scene. At the time, Gorka gave public interviews as an “expert” on the Hungarian Guard, which Bencsik helped to found. In one 2007 interview, Gorka clarified his own view of the Guard, saying, “It’s not worth talking about banning” the group. Despite its extreme rhetoric against minorities, Gorka said, “The government and media are inflating this question.”

An Affinity for Nationalist Symbols

It was in mid-February that Gorka’s affinity for Hungarian nationalist and far-right ideas first came to the American public’s attention. Eli Clifton of the news website Lobelog noticed from a photograph that the new deputy assistant to the president had appeared at an inauguration ball in January wearing a Hungarian medal known as Vitézi Rend. The medal signifies a knightly order of merit founded in 1920 by Admiral Miklos Horthy, Hungary’s longtime anti-Semitic ruler and Hitler’s ally during World War II. Notwithstanding this alliance, and the group’s designation as Nazi-collaborators by the U.S. State Department, many within Hungary’s right revere Horthy for his staunch nationalism during the overall course of his rule from 1920 to 1944.

Breitbart, the “alt-right” publication, where Gorka himself served as national security editor prior to joining the White House staff, defended his wardrobe choice, writing on February 14 that, “as any of his Breitbart News colleagues could testify, Gorka is not only pro-Israel but ‘pro-Jewish,’ and defends both against the threat of radical Islamic terrorism.”

“In 1979 my father was awarded a declaration for his resistance to a dictatorship, and although he passed away 14 years ago, I wear that medal in remembrance of what my family went through and what it represents today, to me, as an American,” Gorka told Breibart on February 15, as the controversy regarding his choice to wear a Horthy-era medal intensified.

But the medal was not the first time Gorka expressed appreciation for symbols that many associate with Hungary’s World War II-era Nazi sympathizers. In 2006, Gorka defended the use of the Arpad flag, which Hungary’s murderous Arrow Cross Party used as their symbol. The Hungarian Arrow Cross Party killed thousands of Jews during World War II, shooting many of them alongside the Danube River and throwing them into the water. Gorka told the news agency JTA at the time that “if you say eight centuries of history can be eradicated by 18 months of fascist distortion of symbols, you’re losing historic perspective.”

Gorka’s Unlikely Transformation

After the failure of his new party in 2007, Gorka moved to the United States and over the past 10 years has worked for the Department of Justice, Marine Corps University, National Defense University, and Joint Special Operations University.

Former colleagues in the States questioned the quality of Gorka’s work on Islam, and said that he shied away from publishing in peer-reviewed journals, according to the Washington Post.

Retired Lt. Col. Mike Lewis told the Post that when Gorka was lecturing to members of the armed forces, he “made a difficult and complex situation simple and confirmed the officers’ prejudices and assumptions.”

But Humire, of the Center for a Secure Free Society, defended Gorka’s worldview. “Since I’ve known him he has been emphasizing a point that is not properly understood by most conventional counterterrorism experts,” said Humire, “that the modern battlefield is fought with words, images, and ideas, not just bombs and bullets. If you study asymmetric war, this emphasizes the mental battle of attrition and the moral battle of legitimacy over the physical battle for the terrain. Dr. Gorka understands this at a very high level and has taught this to our war fighters for several years,” said Humire.

3. The sustenance of Nazi/fascist orientation through generations is evident in the heritage of Christia Freeland, a Ukrainian descended from, and deeply influenced by, her grandfather, an OUN/B fascist who worked with the Nazis.

“. . . . Chrystia Freeland’s dark family secret is that her grandfather, Mykhailo Chomiak, faithfully served Nazi Germany right up to its surrender, and Chomiak’s family only moved to Canada after the Third Reich was defeated by the Soviet Union’s Red Army and its allies – the U.S. and Great Britain.

Mykhailo Chomiak was not a victim of the war – he was on the side of the German aggressors who collaborated with Ukrainian nationalists in killing Russians, Jews, Poles and other minorities. Former journalist Freeland chose to whitewash her family history to leave out her grandfather’s service to Adolf Hitler. Of course, if she had told the truth, she might never have achieved a successful political career in Canada. Her fierce hostility toward Russia also might be viewed in a different light. . . .

. . . . After the start of World War II, the Nazi administration appointed Chomiak to be editor of the newspaper Krakivski Visti (News of Krakow).

So the truth appears to be that Chomiak moved from Ukraine to Nazi-occupied Poland in order to work for the Third Reich under the command of Governor-General Hans Frank, the man who organized the Holocaust in Poland. Chomiak’s work was directly supervised by Emil Gassner, the head of the press department in the Polish General Government.

Mikhailo Chomiak comfortably settled his family into a former Jewish (or Aryanized) apartment in Krakow. The editorial offices for Krakivski Visti also were taken from a Jewish owner, Krakow’s Polish-language Jewish newspaper Nowy Dziennik. Its editor at the time was forced to flee Krakow for Lviv, where he was captured following the occupation of Galicia and sent to the Belzec extermination camp, where he was murdered along with 600,000 other Jews. . . .

. . . . As the war turned against the Nazis and the Red Army advanced across Ukraine and Poland, Nazi propagandist Emil Gassner took Mykhailo Chomiak in 1944 to Vienna where Krakivski Visti continued to publish. As the Third Reich crumbled, Chomiak left with the retreating German Army and surrendered to the Americans in Bavaria, where he was placed with his family in a special U.S. military intelligence facility in Bad Wörishofen, a cluster of hotels situated 78 kilometers from Munich in the foothills of the Alps. . . .”

“A Nazi Skeleton in the Family Closet” by Arina Tsukonova; Consortium News; 2/27/2017.

On Jan. 10, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau replaced Foreign Minister Stephane Dion with Chrystia Freeland, a former journalist proud of her Ukrainian roots and well-known for her hostility toward Russia. At the time, a big question in Ottawa was why. Some analysts believed that Trudeau’s decision may have started when it still seemed likely that Hillary Clinton would become the new U.S. president and a tough line against Moscow was expected in Washington. . . .

. . . . People who have followed Freeland’s career were aware that her idée fixe for decades has been that Ukraine must be ripped out of the Russian sphere of influence. Her views fit with the intense Ukrainian nationalism of her maternal grandparents who immigrated to Canada after World War II and whom she has portrayed as victims of Josef Stalin and the Red Army. . . .

. . . . By the next decade, working as the U.S. managing editor of The Financial Times, she proudly interviewed then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, who had won control as a result of the 2004 “Orange Revolution.” In her approach to journalism, Freeland made clear her commitment to foment Ukrainian-Russian tensions in any possible way. Indeed, during her journalistic career, which ended in 2013 when she won a seat in Canada’s parliament, Freeland remained fiercely anti-Russian.

In 2014, Yushchenko’s rival Viktor Yanukovych was Ukraine’s elected president while Canadian MP Freeland urged on the “Euro-Maidan” protests against Yanukovych and his desire to maintain friendly relations with Moscow. On Jan. 27, 2014, as the protests grew more violent with ultra-nationalist street fighters moving to the forefront and firebombing police, Freeland visited Kiev and published an op-ed in The Globe and Mail blaming the violence on Yanukovych.

“Democratic values are rarely challenged as directly as they are being today in Ukraine,” Freeland wrote, arguing that the protesters, not the elected president, represented democracy and the rule of law. “Their victory will be a victory for us all; their defeat will weaken democracy far from the Euromaidan. We are all Ukrainians now. Let’s do what we can — which is a lot — to support them.” . . .

. . . . Chrystia Freeland’s dark family secret is that her grandfather, Mykhailo Chomiak, faithfully served Nazi Germany right up to its surrender, and Chomiak’s family only moved to Canada after the Third Reich was defeated by the Soviet Union’s Red Army and its allies – the U.S. and Great Britain.

Mykhailo Chomiak was not a victim of the war – he was on the side of the German aggressors who collaborated with Ukrainian nationalists in killing Russians, Jews, Poles and other minorities. Former journalist Freeland chose to whitewash her family history to leave out her grandfather’s service to Adolf Hitler. Of course, if she had told the truth, she might never have achieved a successful political career in Canada. Her fierce hostility toward Russia also might be viewed in a different light.

Freeland’s Grandfather

According to Canadian sources, Chomiak graduated from Lviv University in western Ukraine with a Master’s Degree in Law and Political Science. He began a career with the Galician newspaper Dilo (Action), published in Lviv. After the start of World War II, the Nazi administration appointed Chomiak to be editor of the newspaper Krakivski Visti (News of Krakow).

So the truth appears to be that Chomiak moved from Ukraine to Nazi-occupied Poland in order to work for the Third Reich under the command of Governor-General Hans Frank, the man who organized the Holocaust in Poland. Chomiak’s work was directly supervised by Emil Gassner, the head of the press department in the Polish General Government.

Mikhailo Chomiak comfortably settled his family into a former Jewish (or Aryanized) apartment in Krakow. The editorial offices for Krakivski Visti also were taken from a Jewish owner, Krakow’s Polish-language Jewish newspaper Nowy Dziennik. Its editor at the time was forced to flee Krakow for Lviv, where he was captured following the occupation of Galicia and sent to the Belzec extermination camp, where he was murdered along with 600,000 other Jews.

So, it appears Freeland’s grandfather – rather than being a helpless victim – was given a prestigious job to spread Nazi propaganda, praising Hitler from a publishing house stolen from Jews and given to Ukrainians who shared the values of Nazism.

On April 24, 1940, Krakivski Visti published a full-page panegyric to Adolf Hitler dedicated to his 51st birthday (four days earlier). Chomiak also hailed Governor-General Hans Frank: “The Ukrainian population were overjoyed to see the establishment of fair German authority, the bearer of which is you, Sir Governor-General. The Ukrainian people expressed this joy not only through the flowers they threw to the German troops entering the region, but also through the sacrifices of blood required to fight Polish usurpers.” (Because of Frank’s role in the Holocaust, the Nuremberg Tribunal found him guilty of crimes against humanity and executed him.)

Beyond extolling Hitler and his henchmen, Chomiak rejoiced over Nazi military victories, including the terror bombings of Great Britain. While praising the Third Reich, Krakivski Visti was also under orders by the German authorities to stir up hatred against the Jewish population. Editorial selections from Chomiak’s newspaper can be found in Holocaust museums around the world, such as the one in Los Angeles, California.

The Nov. 6, 1941 issue of Krakivski Visti ecstatically describes how much better Kiev is without Jews. “There is not a single one left in Kiev today, while there were 350,000 under the Bolsheviks,” the newspaper wrote, gloating that the Jews “got their comeuppance.”

That “comeuppance” refers to the mass shooting of Kiev’s Jewish population at Babi Yar. In just two days, Sept. 29-30, 1941, a total of 33,771 people were murdered, a figure that does not include children younger than three years old. There were more shootings in October, and by early November, Krakivski Visti was enthusing over a city where the Jewish population had “disappeared” making Kiev “beautiful, glorious.” Chomiak’s editorials also described a Poland “iinfected by Jews.”

 

According to John-Paul Himka, a Canadian historian of Ukrainian origin, Krakivski Visti stirred up emotions against Jews, creating an atmosphere conducive to mass murder. In 2008, the Institute of Historical Research at Lviv National University published a paper co-authored by Himka entitled “What Was the Attitude of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists toward the Jews?” The paper states that, by order of the German authorities, Krakivski Visti published a series of articles between June and September 1943 under the title “Yids in Ukraine” that were written in an extremely anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi vein. The Canadian historian writes that Jews were portrayed as criminals, while Ukrainians were portrayed as victims.

Refuge in Canada

As the war turned against the Nazis and the Red Army advanced across Ukraine and Poland, Nazi propagandist Emil Gassner took Mykhailo Chomiak in 1944 to Vienna where Krakivski Visti continued to publish. As the Third Reich crumbled, Chomiak left with the retreating German Army and surrendered to the Americans in Bavaria, where he was placed with his family in a special U.S. military intelligence facility in Bad Wörishofen, a cluster of hotels situated 78 kilometers from Munich in the foothills of the Alps. . . .

4a. DHS secretary John Kelly has implemented an “anti-immigrant” offensive that provides for the de facto federal deputization of local law enforcement officers as enforcers of immigration law. This is an enormous legal/constitutional step. It is one that might be viewed as creeping martial law.

In FTR #864, among other programs, we highlighted how nativist, “anti-immigrant” sentiment was a fundamental part of the fascist world view in the 1930s and 1940s.

“Mr. Trump’s ‘Deportation Force’ Prepares an Assault on American Values;” The New York Times; 2/21/2017.

The homeland security secretary, John Kelly, issued a remarkable pair of memos on Tuesday. They are the battle plan for the “deportation force” President Trump promised in the campaign.

They are remarkable for how completely they turn sensible immigration policies upside down and backward. For how they seek to make the deportation machinery more extreme and frightening (and expensive), to the detriment of deeply held American values.

A quick flashback: The Obama administration recognized that millions of unauthorized immigrants, especially those with citizen children and strong ties to their communities and this country, deserved a chance to stay and get right with the law. It tried to focus on deporting dangerous criminals, national-security threats and recent border crossers.

Mr. Kelly has swept away those notions. He makes practically every deportable person a deportation priority. He wants everybody, starting with those who have been convicted of any crime, no matter how petty or old. Proportionality, discretion, the idea that some convictions are unjust, the principles behind criminal-justice reform — these concepts do not apply.

The targets now don’t even have to be criminals. They could simply have been accused of a crime (that is, still presumed “innocent”) or have done something that makes an immigration agent believe that they might possibly face charges.

Mr. Kelly included a catchall provision allowing Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers or Border Patrol agents — or local police officers or sheriff’s deputies — to take in anyone they think could be “a risk to public safety or national security.” That is a recipe for policing abuses and racial profiling, a possibility that Mr. Kelly will vastly expand if Congress gives him the huge sums required to hire 10,000 ICE officers and 5,000 Border Patrol agents.

He wants to “surge,” his verb, the hiring of immigration judges and asylum officers. He wants to add processing and detention centers, which surely has the private-prison industry salivating at the profits to come.

He wants to ramp up programs deputizing state and local law enforcement officers as immigration enforcers. He calls them “a highly successful force multiplier,” which is true if you want a dragnet. It’s not true if you want to fight crime effectively and keep communities safe. When every local law enforcement encounter can be a prelude to deportation, unauthorized immigrants will fear and avoid the police. And when state and local officers untrained in immigration law suddenly get to decide who stays and who goes, the risk of injustice is profound.

So is the danger to due process. Current procedure allows for swiftly deporting, without a hearing, immigrants who are caught near the border and who entered very recently. But Mr. Kelly notes that the law allows him to fast-track the removal of immigrants caught anywhere in the country who cannot prove they have been here “continuously” for at least two years. He’s keeping his options open about whether to short-circuit due process with a coast-to-coast show-me-your-papers policy.

He plans to publish data on crimes committed by unauthorized immigrants, and to identify state and local jurisdictions that release immigrants from custody. Why? To promote the false idea, as Mr. Trump has shamefully done, that immigrants pose particular safety risks and to punish so-called sanctuary cities that, for reasons of public order and decency, are trying to disconnect themselves from ICE.

This is how Mr. Trump’s rantings about “bad hombres” and alien rapist terrorists have now been weaponized, in cold bureaucratic language.

Mr. Kelly promised before his confirmation to be a reasonable enforcer of defensible policies. But immigrants have reason to be frightened by his sudden alignment with Mr. Trump’s nativism. So does every American who believes that the country is, or should be, committed to the sensible, proportionate application of laws, welcoming to immigrants, and respectful of the facts.

4b. The Trumpenkampfverbande is removing federal scrutiny of white supremacist groups.

“ ‘Trump Is Setting Us Free:’ White Supremacists  Celebrate Reports that Trump Will Dial Down Scrutiny” by Laurel Raymond and Alan Pyke; Think Progress; 2/3/2017.“This

Is Absolutely a Signal of Favor to Us”

Online neo-Nazi and white supremacist forums have been unmistakably jubilant lately, as web chatter moved from celebrating President Donald Trump’s electoral victory to celebrating individual cabinet appointments and policy proposals.

On Thursday, internet racists celebrated another perceived victory: Reports that President Trump will soon remove white nationalist groups from a federal effort to study and neutralize extremist radicalization, and rebrand the program to focus solely on groups associating themselves with Islam.

“Yes, this is real life. Our memes are all real life. Donald Trump is setting us free.”

The Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program partners government agencies with community organizations in hopes of preventing people from being radicalized into various types of terror and hate groups. Its primary focus has always been in Muslim communities, but the Obama administration designed it to also encompass the American far-right groups that propagandize to people like Dylann Roof.

News of Trump’s plan to reverse that symbolic recognition of right-wing threats prompted a wave of celebration in white nationalist circles.

“Donald Trump wants to remove us from undue federal scrutiny by removing ‘white supremacists’ from the definition of ‘extremism,’” the founder and editor of the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer (which takes its name from a Nazi propaganda publication) wrote in a post on the site. “Yes, this is real life. Our memes are all real life. Donald Trump is setting us free.”

This interpretation overstates the scope of Reuter’s report somewhat. The meme-filled Daily Stormer post alleges that changing the CVE program and renaming it to focus solely on “Islamic extremism,” as Trump puts it, would also extend to to calling off FBI scrutiny and taking white supremacists and neo-Nazis off of extremist databases. That would actually require separate action from Trump.

But in Trump’s move to take even some measure of scrutiny off of far-right extremism, The Daily Stormer sees a direct parroting of their own writing and a reward for the far-right’s role in getting Trump elected.

“It’s fair to say that if the Trump team is not listening to us directly (I assume they are), they are thinking along very similar lines. We helped get Trump get [sic] elected, and the fact of the matter is, without Alt-Right meme magick, it simply wouldn’t have happened,” the post continues. “This is absolutely a signal of favor to us.”

Another neo-Nazi site that associates itself with the so-called “alt-right,” Infostormer, celebrated the news and took it as a sign of support. “We may truly have underestimated President Trump’s covert support of our Cause (at least in some form), but after this proposal, I am fully ready to offer myself in service of this glorious regime” the post reads.

This celebratory coverage of the news spread widely through white nationalist forums and chat rooms.

Commenters at Stormfront rejoiced.

“Amazing my government no longer targets me as an enemy,” wrote one. “It’s now officially understood at the the highest levels that we are soooo much better than the kidnapper terrorist pedophile left,” wrote another.

On the messaging service Gab, which has become a favorite of white nationalists after Twitter started closing some high-profile accounts for hate speech, users gleefully posted links to the Infowars coverage of the news, mainstream news coverage, and the Daily Stormer article, often tagging the posts #MAGA and editorializing their celebration of the news.

Trump’s presidency has been met with widespread celebration by white supremacist groups, many of which recognized Trump’s “America first” rhetoric as their own.

Civil liberties organizations and libertarian observers have long criticized the CVE program as a counterproductive whitewash of government surveillance of Muslim communities. A former official with the program told CNN that in practice, the controversial program has always focused on Muslim communities, and thus that Trump’s most substantial proposed change is the renaming of the program. According to Reuters, Trump would rechristen it the “Countering Islamic Extremism” or the “Countering Radical Islamic Extremism” program.

Much of the white supremacist celebration seems to revolve around the proposed name change alone.

Only one organization has thus far won a CVE grant for work focused on hate group de-radicalization. Life After Hate, founded in 2009 and run by a small staff of men and women who were once part of skinhead, Aryan, and other violent extremist organizations, has yet to receive the grant it was awarded last summer.

Life After Hate co-founder Christian Picciolini called Trump’s reported plan “extremely troubling,” citing the signal it sends to hate groups.

“It sends a message that white extremism does not exist, or is not a priority in our country, when in fact it is a statistically larger and more present terror threat than any by foreign or other domestic actors,” LAH’s Christian Picciolini told ThinkProgress. “We have hundreds of thousands of homegrown sovereign citizens and militia members with ties to white nationalism training in paramilitary camps across the U.S. and standing armed in front of mosques to intimidate marginalized Americans.”

“It sends a message that white extremism does not exist.”

With the proposed change, Picciolini worries Trump could even end up increasing the likelihood of violence within our borders if he does alter the program to ignore white supremacists, militia groups, and so-called “sovereign citizens.” Since 9/11, attacks from right-wing organizations have killed far more Americans than groups claiming to be Islamic, according to data from the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The move “could bolster and legitimize violent white extremism while also potentially serving to radicalize disaffected fringe elements within Muslim communities,” he said.

“This decision, if true, would severely harm or destroy any community-led efforts to helping people disengage from violent extremism and potentially stop future terrorist acts.”

4c. The League of the South has formed a vigilante “Southern Defense Force,” intended to combat “the leftist menace.” But it’s not exclusively intended to be vigilante in nature. If state and local authorities ever feel the need to deputize private citizens, this new ‘Southern Defense Force’ is planning on filling that role too.

The potential deputization of the “Southern Defense Force” should be evaluated against the background of the martial law contingency plans developed by Oliver North. Those plans, as discussed most recently in FTR #945, involved the deputization of paramilitary right-wingers and their use as federal enforcers in the event of an “emergency.”

“League of the South Announces Formation of ‘Southern Defense Force’” by Hatewatch Staff; Southern Poverty Law Center; 2/6/2017.

Edging closer to militancy, the neo-Confederate League of the South says it’s forming a force to combat the ‘leftist menace to our historic Christian civilization.’

In a military-styled order titled “Directive 02022017,” Michael Hill, president of the neo-Confederate League of the South (LOS), announced Friday the formation of a new vigilante “defense force.”

[T]he League of the South is calling for all able-bodied, traditionalist Southern men to join our organization’s Southern Defense Force for the purpose of helping our State and local magistrates across Dixie combat this growing leftist menace to our historic Christian civilization. As private citizens in a private organization, we will stand ready to protect our own families and friends, our property, and our liberty from leftist chaos. Moreover, we will be ready to assist our local and State authorities in keeping the peace should they find it necessary to “deputize” private citizens for that purpose.

It remains to be seen what actions the new “Southern Defense Force” [SDF] will take to “plan for contingencies – natural or man-made –– that might affect the Southern people.” But announcements of plans to militarize the League are not new.

In 2014, the group began developing and training a paramilitary unit called the “Indomitables” to advance a second secession, though such efforts fizzled quickly.

Promising increased LOS militancy has cost the group and led to faltering membership. Since Dylann Roof’s massacre of nine congregants at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church in 2015, Hatewatch has documented a string of high-profile departures.

Hill’s announcement closes by directing recruits to contact the League using a web form reserved for normal members. “Are you ready to be a man among men?” Hill asks. “Join the League and its Southern Defense Force today!”

The phrase “man among men” is a reference to propaganda posters for the Rhodesian Army during the Rhodesian Bush War, a civil war from 1964-79 in the unrecognized country of Rhodesia that remains a popular reference for white nationalists. The conflict inspired Dylann Roof, who named his blog “The Last Rhodesian” and posed for pictures on social media with the Confederate Battle Flag while wearing a jacket patched with a Rhodesian flag.

It seems to have inspired Hill, too. He has echoed the Rhodesian mythos in a series of social media posts and on the LOS website, typifying the loss of political hegemony by whites in that war as tantamount to racial genocide.

While Hill is just one voice in a growing chorus contributing to an escalation of violent rhetoric across the South and the United States, the formation of the SDF represents something else, too –– a desperate promise of armed resistance from an aging radical on the fringe of a movement he once dominated.

4d. “The League of the South is calling for all able-bodied, traditionalist Southern men to join our organization’s Southern Defense Force for the purpose of helping our State and local magistrates across Dixie combat this growing leftist menace to our historic Christian civilization. As private citizens in a private organization, we will stand ready to protect our own families and friends, our property, and our liberty from leftist chaos. Moreover, we will be ready to assist our local and State authorities in keeping the peace should they find it necessary to “deputize” private citizens for that purpose.

Michael Hill, president of the League of the South, is making an overtly white-nationalist dog-whistle when he asks: “Are you ready to be a man among men?”, here’s his declaration immediately following election day about how no mercy should be shown towards “Jews, minorities, and anti-white whites”:

“League Of The South Hails Trump, Wants ‘No Mercy’ Towards ‘Jews, Minorities And Anti-White Whites’” by Brian Tashman; Right Wing Watch; 11/10/2016.

As white supremacists and neo-Nazis celebrate the results of the presidential election, Michael Hill, president of the neo-Confederate League of the South, reacted to Donald Trump’s victory yesterday by vowing to show “no mercy” to “the enemies of our God, our Folk and our civilization” and to finally “drive a stake” through the heart of “the globalist-progressive coalition of Jews, minorities, and anti-white whites.”

Once the globalist-progressive coalition of Jews, minorities, and anti-white whites stops reeling in confusion from the results of yesterday’s election, we can expect them to start striking back with trickery and violence. Thus, we as Southern nationalists face both danger and opportunity.

Now, more than ever, we need tight organization and numbers to help drive a stake through Dracula’s heart and keep him from rising once again to menace our people and civilization. No mercy should be shown to the enemies of our God, our Folk, and our civilization. None would be afforded us.

Today, Hill warned neo-Confederate activists that if “you don’t finish the job by routing your enemies and driving them into the sea while you have the chance, they will re-group and be back at your throats in no time! You have been given a reprieve by God (probably undeservedly so); do not give your enemies and His a reprieve.”

He said that a Trump presidency may represent a God-given “short reprieve” from the “demise of old white America,” telling members that they must use this opportunity to fight for and build “White Man’s Land.”

So here is my warning to the victors: do not go back to sleep and think all is well. If you don’t finish the job by routing your enemies and driving them into the sea while you have the chance, they will re-group and be back at your throats in no time! You have been given a reprieve by God (probably undeservedly so); do not give your enemies and His a reprieve.

Their goal is to dispossess you of everything. If you have not heard that over the past year, then you have not been listening. Just what the hell do you think multiculturalism, diversity, and tolerance are all about? Your enemies care nothing about those things. They are merely used as weapons against you for your dispossession and ultimate destruction. The sum of their effect is White Guilt.

These media elites (and others of their elite ilk) look forward to the demise of old white America and the rise of a new paradigm in which they will hold sway. You will be dispossessed, sequestered in the equivalent of ghettos, and will be a despised and hated minority in the country your ancestors built.

You, by God’s grace, may have been given a short reprieve from this scenario. Redeem the time! As for me, I recommend that we get busy with Southern independence. We need our own country, and it must be run by us for our own interests. It must once again be White Man’s Land.

4e. Donald Trump gave his first speech to Congress, a speech that was largely and bizarrely hailed by the press and polls as ‘optimistic’, despite being a pack of lies that was only slightly less dark and inflammatory than his ‘American carnage’ inauguration speech.

If you’re a fan of a creeping Hitlerian agenda, it definitely was an optimistic speech.

“ . . . . In The Nazi Conscience, Duke historian Claudia Koonz notes that the Nazi newspaper Der Sturmer ran a feature called ‘Letter Box,’ which published readers’ accounts of Jewish crimes. When the Nazis took power, the German state began doing something similar. Frustrated by the failure of most Germans to participate in a boycott of Jewish businesses in April 1933, Adolf Hitler’s government began publicizing Jewish crime statistics as a way of stoking anti-Semitism. In Nazi Germany and the Jews: The Years of Persecution, the historian Saul Friedlander notes that, until 1938, Hitler’s Ministry of Justice ordered prosecutors to forward every criminal indictment against a Jew so the ministry’s press office could publicize it. . . .

In a manner reminiscent of the Third Reich’s treatment of Jews (as excerpted above), a new DHS department will be focused on immigrant crimes and “providing a voice to those who have been ignored by our media, and silenced by special interests” (yes, he managed to suggest that there’s a conspiracy to not report crimes by immigrants).

“First, they came for the ‘illegal’ immigrants. . . .”

In short, Trump is using his new DHS program to demonize non-whites and immigrants and blanket the airwaves with stories about immigrant crimes in his 2020 reelection bid, that office is going to be used by GOPers all over the country, especially in TV ads reminiscent of the infamous ‘Willie Horton’ ad.

So, get ready for ‘dangerous violent (non-white) immigrants are coming for you and your family’ to be the GOP’s theme for the foreseeable future. And get ready for the billions of dollars in political advertising to make sure that Americans receive that message over and over. Feeling optimistic?

“Trump Scapegoats Unauthorized Immigrants for Crime” by Peter Beinart; The Atlantic ; 3/1/2017.

The president’s focus on crimes committed by members of one particular group singles them out for blame.

Donald Trump is worried about violence by unauthorized immigrants. When he spoke before a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night, he invited three relatives of people that unauthorized immigrants had killed to attend as his guests.

In that speech, he calledfor the Department of Homeland Security to create an office focused on the victims of immigrant crime. And in a January 25 executive order, he instructed the Homeland Security Secretary to “make public a comprehensive list of criminal actions committed by aliens.”

On its face, this is odd. As far as researchers can tell, unauthorized immigrants commit crimes at a lower rate than the American population at large. A 2007 National Bureau of Economic Research Paper by Wellesley College economist Kristin F. Butcher and Rutgers economist Anne Morrison Piehl found that “immigrants have much lower institutionalization (incarceration) rates than the native born.” (The discrepancy, they noted, could not be explained by the fact that the government deports some immigrant criminals, thus sparing them incarceration in the U.S.). A review of census data between 1980 and 2010 revealed that while non-citizens comprised 7 percent of the U.S. population, they comprised only 5 percent of those in America’s prisons.

Trump’s allies may believe that sneaking into the United States, or using a fake social security number to get a job, predisposes people to rob, rape, or kill. But the evidence does not bear this out. So if Trump’s goal is increasing public safety, publishing a list of crimes committed by unauthorized immigrants is irrational. It’s like publishing a list of crimes committed by people with red-hair.

If, however, Trump’s goal is stigmatizing a vulnerable class of people, then publicizing their crimes—and their crimes alone—makes sense. It’s been a tactic bigots have used more than a century.

Using crime to incite hatred has a long history in the United States. Khalil Gibran Muhammad, a professor of history, race, and public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, notes that for at least a century after the end of slavery, northern newspapers generally identified African Americans accused of committing crimes as “negro” or “colored.” Southern newspapers generally referred to the offender as a “negro criminal” in bold—using the individual’s name and “the negro” interchangeably in the story. White criminals, by contrast, were not identified by race. (This tradition continues at Breitbart, which has a special category for “black crime.”)

Government crime statistics reflected ethnic and racial fears too. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, notes Muhammad, when native-born Americans were growing alarmed by mass immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe, big city police forces broke down crime statistics by European nationality: Russian, German, Italian, etc. As nativist fears receded following the shutdown of such immigration, the FBI began lumping all European nationalities into the category “foreign born” beginning in 1930. By 1940, the European foreign born were subsumed into “white.”

In The Nazi Conscience, Duke historian Claudia Koonz notes that the Nazi newspaper Der Sturmer ran a feature called “Letter Box,” which published readers’ accounts of Jewish crimes. When the Nazis took power, the German state began doing something similar. Frustrated by the failure of most Germans to participate in a boycott of Jewish businesses in April 1933, Adolf Hitler’s government began publicizing Jewish crime statistics as a way of stoking anti-Semitism. InNazi Germany and the Jews: The Years of Persecution, the historian Saul Friedlander notes that, until 1938, Hitler’s Ministry of Justice ordered prosecutors to forward every criminal indictment against a Jew so the ministry’s press office could publicize it.

Trump’s defenders might claim that what he’s doing differs from these prior examples. He’s publicizing the crimes of a legal group—illegal immigrants—not a religious, ethnic, or racial one. But in the United States in 2017, talking about “illegal immigrants” is like talking about “welfare mothers” or “crack dealers” in 1987. The racial implication is clear. Trump made it so himself in his announcement speech when he said that, “When Mexico sends its people…They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

Trump is scapegoating in the classic sense. He’s taking the sin of crime and associating it with one, already stigmatized, group, thus allowing native-born Americans to consider themselves pure. In Leviticus, the high priest takes a goat, “confess[es] over it all the iniquities and transgressions of the Israelites” and then sends it into the wilderness so it won’t contaminate them. When it comes to unauthorized immigrants, Trump is reenacting that ritual. Americans will soon learn just how harsh his legal and moral wilderness is.

5. Another example of the global nature of the “Alt-Right’s” attempts to rebrand far-right ideologies. Check out the image on the main banner used in a Lithuanian far-right march celebrating the WWII pro-Nazi collaborationist Kazys Skirpa: Pepe the frog. Or, more precisely, Kazys Skirpa as Pepe the frog.

“ . . . The banner also included a quote attributed to the Pepe-like portrait of Skirpa, an envoy of the pro-Nazi movement in Lithuania to Berlin, that read ‘Lithuania will contribute to new and better European order.’ . . . ”

As we can see, the “Alt-Right” Pepe-fication of Europe is well underway, and it’s going to include Europe’s many WWII historical revisionism movements: all of those Nazi collaborators were actually misunderstood freedom fighters. Here’s a fun “Alt-Right” meme about them. But don’t call them Nazis.

“Lithuanian Nationalists Celebrate Holocaust-era Quisling, Pepe the Frog Near Execution Site:” Jewish Telegraph Agency; 2/17/2017.

Lithuanian ultranationalists marched near execution sites of Jews with banners celebrating a pro-Nazi collaborationist who called for ethnic cleansing and a symbol popular with members of the U.S. “alt-right” movement.

Approximately 170 people attended Thursday’s annual march in Kaunas, Lithuania’s second city that is also known as Kovno, the website Defending History reported.

The main banner featured a picture of the collaborationist Kazys Skirpa modified to resemble Pepe the Frog, a cartoon figure that was used by hate groups in the United States during the 2016 presidential elections, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

The banner also included a quote attributed to the Pepe-like portrait of Skirpa, an envoy of the pro-Nazi movement in Lithuania to Berlin, that read “Lithuania will contribute to new and better European order.”

Skirpa, who has a street named for him in Kaunas, “elevated anti-Semitism to a political level” that “could have encouraged a portion of Lithuania’s residents to get involved in the Holocaust,” the Genocide and Resistance Research Center of Lithuania asserted in 2015. But Skirpa “proposed to solve ‘the Jewish problem’ not by genocide but by the method of expulsion from Lithuania,” the center said.

The procession passed near the Lietovus Garage, where in 1941 locals butchered dozens of Jews. Thousands more were killed in an around Kaunas by local collaborators of the Nazis and by German soldiers in the following months.

“Kaunas is ground zero of the Lithuanian Holocaust,” Dovid Katz, a U.S.-born scholar and the founder of Defending History, told JTA on Friday. He condemned local authorities for allowing the march by “folks who glorify the very Holocaust-collaborators, theoreticians and perpetrators who unleashed the genocide locally.” Katz was one of five people who attended the march to protest and document it.

Lithuania is the only country that officially defines its domination by the former Soviet Union as a form of genocide. The name of the state-funded entity that wrote about Skirpa in 2005 refers both to the Holocaust and the so-called Soviet occupation.

The Museum of Genocide Victims in Vilnius, which until 2011 did not mention the more than 200,000 Lithuanian Jews who died in the Nazi Holocaust, was established in 1992 to memorialize Lithuanians killed by the Nazi, but mostly Soviet, states.

6. The Guardian has a long and critical piece on Robert Mercer and the Mercer clan’s role in the rise of Breitbart as the dominant ‘outsider’ conservative media outlet, and how deeply intertwined that endeavor is with the Mercers’ other big investments.

Of particular interest are the firms Cambridge Analytica and its parent company SCL, where Cambridge Analytica specializes in using AI and Big Data psychometric analysis on hundreds of millions of Americans in order to model individual behavior. SCL develops strategies to use that information, and manipulate search engine results to change public opinion (the Trump campaign was apparently very big into AI and Big Data during the campaign).

As the article notes, not only are Cambridge Analytica/SCL are using their propaganda techniques to shape the US public opinion in a fascist direction, but this formidable phalanx is going about achieving this shift in attitudes by utilizing its propaganda machine to characterize all news outlets to the left of Brietbart as “fake news” that can’t be trusted.

Only far-right media can be trusted. That’s the meme disseminated by this the Mercer/Bannon meme-machine.

In short, the secretive far-right billionaire (Robert Mercer), joined at the hip with Steve Bannon, is running multiple firms specializing in mass psychometric profiling based on data collected from Facebook and other social media. Mercer/Bannon/Cambridge Analytica/SCL are using Nazified AI and Big Data to develop mass propaganda campaigns to turn the public against everything that isn’t Brietbartian by convincing the public that all non-Brietbartian media outlets are conspiring to lie to the public.

This is the ultimate Serpent’s Walk scenario–a Nazi Artificial Intelligence drawing on Big Data gleaned from the world’s internet and social media operations to shape public opinion, target individual users, shape search engine results and even feedback to Trump while he is giving press conferences.

And you were worried about the NSA. Worry about THIS!

“Robert Mercer: The Big Data Billionaire Waging War on Mainstream Media” Carole Cadwalladr; The Guardian; 2/26/2017.

With links to Donald Trump, Steve Bannon and Nigel Farage, the rightwing US computer scientist is at the heart of a multimillion-dollar propaganda network

Just over a week ago, Donald Trump gathered members of the world’s press before him and told them they were liars. “The press, honestly, is out of control,” he said. “The public doesn’t believe you any more.” CNN was described as “very fake news… story after story is bad”. The BBC was “another beauty”.That night I did two things. First, I typed “Trump” in the search box of Twitter. My feed was reporting that he was crazy, a lunatic, a raving madman. But that wasn’t how it was playing out elsewhere. The results produced a stream of “Go Donald!!!!”, and “You show ’em!!!” There were star-spangled banner emojis and thumbs-up emojis and clips of Trump laying into the “FAKE news MSM liars!”

Trump had spoken, and his audience had heard him. Then I did what I’ve been doing for two and a half months now. I Googled “mainstream media is…” And there it was. Google’s autocomplete suggestions: “mainstream media is… dead, dying, fake news, fake, finished”. Is it dead, I wonder? Has FAKE news won? Are we now the FAKE news? Is the mainstream media – we, us, I – dying?

I click Google’s first suggested link. It leads to a website called CNSnews.com and an article: “The Mainstream media are dead.” They’re dead, I learn, because they – we, I – “cannot be trusted”. How had it, an obscure site I’d never heard of, dominated Google’s search algorithm on the topic? In the “About us” tab, I learn CNSnews is owned by the Media Research Center, which a click later I learn is “America’s media watchdog”, an organisation that claims an “unwavering commitment to neutralising leftwing bias in the news, media and popular culture”.

Another couple of clicks and I discover that it receives a large bulk of its funding – more than $10m in the past decade – from a single source, the hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer. If you follow US politics you may recognise the name. Robert Mercer is the money behind Donald Trump. But then, I will come to learn, Robert Mercer is the money behind an awful lot of things. He was Trump’s single biggest donor. Mercer started backing Ted Cruz, but when he fell out of the presidential race he threw his money – $13.5m of it – behind the Trump campaign.

It’s money he’s made as a result of his career as a brilliant but reclusive computer scientist. He started his career at IBM, where he made what the Association for Computational Linguistics called “revolutionary” breakthroughs in language processing – a science that went on to be key in developing today’s AI – and later became joint CEO of Renaissance Technologies, a hedge fund that makes its money by using algorithms to model and trade on the financial markets.

One of its funds, Medallion, which manages only its employees’ money, is the most successful in the world – generating $55bn so far. And since 2010, Mercer has donated $45m to different political campaigns – all Republican – and another $50m to non-profits – all rightwing, ultra-conservative. This is a billionaire who is, as billionaires are wont, trying to reshape the world according to his personal beliefs.

Robert Mercer very rarely speaks in public and never to journalists, so to gauge his beliefs you have to look at where he channels his money: a series of yachts, all called Sea Owl; a $2.9m model train set; climate change denial (he funds a climate change denial think tank, the Heartland Institute); and what is maybe the ultimate rich man’s plaything – the disruption of the mainstream media. In this he is helped by his close associate Steve Bannon, Trump’s campaign manager and now chief strategist. The money he gives to the Media Research Center, with its mission of correcting “liberal bias” is just one of his media plays. There are other bigger, and even more deliberate strategies, and shining brightly, the star at the centre of the Mercer media galaxy, is Breitbart.

It was $10m of Mercer’s money that enabled Bannon to fund Breitbart – a rightwing news site, set up with the express intention of being a Huffington Post for the right. It has launched the careers of Milo Yiannopoulos and his like, regularly hosts antisemitic and Islamophobic views, and is currently being boycotted by more than 1,000 brands after an activist campaign. It has been phenomenally successful: the 29th most popular site in America with 2bn page views a year. It’s bigger than its inspiration, the Huffington Post, bigger, even, than PornHub. It’s the biggest political site on Facebook. The biggest on Twitter.

Prominent rightwing journalist Andrew Breitbart, who founded the site but died in 2012, told Bannon that they had “to take back the culture”. And, arguably, they have, though American culture is only the start of it. In 2014, Bannon launched Breitbart London, telling the New York Times it was specifically timed ahead of the UK’s forthcoming election. It was, he said, the latest front “in our current cultural and political war”. France and Germany are next.

But there was another reason why I recognised Robert Mercer’s name: because of his connection to Cambridge Analytica, a small data analytics company. He is reported to have a $10m stake in the company, which was spun out of a bigger British company called SCL Group. It specialises in “election management strategies” and “messaging and information operations”, refined over 25 years in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan. In military circles this is known as “psyops” – psychological operations. (Mass propaganda that works by acting on people’s emotions.)

Cambridge Analytica worked for the Trump campaign and, so I’d read, the Leave campaign. When Mercer supported Cruz, Cambridge Analytica worked with Cruz. When Robert Mercer started supporting Trump, Cambridge Analytica came too. And where Mercer’s money is, Steve Bannon is usually close by: it was reported that until recently he had a seat on the board.

Last December, I wrote about Cambridge Analytica in a piece about how Google’s search results on certain subjects were being dominated by rightwing and extremist sites. Jonathan Albright, a professor of communications at Elon University, North Carolina, who had mapped the news ecosystem and found millions of links between rightwing sites “strangling” the mainstream media, told me that trackers from sites like Breitbart could also be used by companies like Cambridge Analytica to follow people around the web and then, via Facebook, target them with ads.
[Wow–Google and Facebook dominated by Cambridge Analytica–D.E.]

On its website, Cambridge Analytica makes the astonishing boast that it has psychological profiles based on 5,000 separate pieces of data on 220 million American voters – its USP is to use this data to understand people’s deepest emotions and then target them accordingly. The system, according to Albright, amounted to a “propaganda machine”.

A few weeks later, the Observer received a letter. Cambridge Analytica was not employed by the Leave campaign, it said. Cambridge Analytica “is a US company based in the US. It hasn’t worked in British politics.”

Which is how, earlier this week, I ended up in a Pret a Manger near Westminster with Andy Wigmore, Leave.EU’s affable communications director, looking at snapshots of Donald Trump on his phone. It was Wigmore who orchestrated Nigel Farage’s trip to Trump Tower – the PR coup that saw him become the first foreign politician to meet the president elect.

Wigmore scrolls through the snaps on his phone. “That’s the one I took,” he says pointing at the now globally famous photo of Farage and Trump in front of his golden elevator door giving the thumbs-up sign. Wigmore was one of the “bad boys of Brexit” – a term coined by Arron Banks, the Bristol-based businessman who was Leave.EU’s co-founder.

Cambridge Analytica had worked for them, he said. It had taught them how to build profiles, how to target people and how to scoop up masses of data from people’s Facebook profiles. A video on YouTube shows one of Cambridge Analytica’s and SCL’s employees, Brittany Kaiser, sitting on the panel at Leave.EU’s launch event.

Facebook was the key to the entire campaign, Wigmore explained. A Facebook ‘like’, he said, was their most “potent weapon”. “Because using artificial intelligence, as we did, tells you all sorts of things about that individual and how to convince them with what sort of advert. And you knew there would also be other people in their network who liked what they liked, so you could spread. And then you follow them. The computer never stops learning and it never stops monitoring.”

It sounds creepy, I say.

“It is creepy! It’s really creepy! It’s why I’m not on Facebook! I tried it on myself to see what information it had on me and I was like, ‘Oh my God!’ What’s scary is that my kids had put things on Instagram and it picked that up. It knew where my kids went to school.”

They hadn’t “employed” Cambridge Analytica, he said. No money changed hands. “They were happy to help.”

Why?

Because Nigel is a good friend of the Mercers. And Robert Mercer introduced them to us. He said, ‘Here’s this company we think may be useful to you.’ What they were trying to do in the US and what we were trying to do had massive parallels. We shared a lot of information. Why wouldn’t you?” Behind Trump’s campaign and Cambridge Analytica, he said, were “the same people. It’s the same family.”

There were already a lot of questions swirling around Cambridge Analytica, and Andy Wigmore has opened up a whole lot more. Such as: are you supposed to declare services-in-kind as some sort of donation? The Electoral Commission says yes, if it was more than £7,500. And was it declared? The Electoral Commission says no. Does that mean a foreign billionaire had possibly influenced the referendum without that influence being apparent? It’s certainly a question worth asking.

In the last month or so, articles in first the Swiss and the US press have asked exactly what Cambridge Analytica is doing with US voters’ data. In a statement to the Observer, the Information Commissioner’s Office said: “Any business collecting and using personal data in the UK must do so fairly and lawfully. We will be contacting Cambridge Analytica and asking questions to find out how the company is operating in the UK and whether the law is being followed.”

Cambridge Analytica said last Friday they are in touch with the ICO and are completely compliant with UK and EU data laws. It did not answer other questions the Observer put to it this week about how it built its psychometric model, which owes its origins to original research carried out by scientists at Cambridge University’s Psychometric Centre, research based on a personality quiz on Facebook that went viral. More than 6 million people ended up doing it, producing an astonishing treasure trove of data.

These Facebook profiles – especially people’s “likes” – could be correlated across millions of others to produce uncannily accurate results. Michal Kosinski, the centre’s lead scientist, found that with knowledge of 150 likes, their model could predict someone’s personality better than their spouse. With 300, it understood you better than yourself. “Computers see us in a more robust way than we see ourselves,” says Kosinski.

But there are strict ethical regulations regarding what you can do with this data. Did SCL Group have access to the university’s model or data, I ask Professor Jonathan Rust, the centre’s director? “Certainly not from us,” he says. “We have very strict rules around this.”

A scientist, Aleksandr Kogan, from the centre was contracted to build a model for SCL, and says he collected his own data. Professor Rust says he doesn’t know where Kogan’s data came from. “The evidence was contrary. I reported it.” An independent adjudicator was appointed by the university. “But then Kogan said he’d signed a non-disclosure agreement with SCL and he couldn’t continue [answering questions].”

Kogan disputes this and says SCL satisfied the university’s inquiries. But perhaps more than anyone, Professor Rust understands how the kind of information people freely give up to social media sites could be used.

“The danger of not having regulation around the sort of data you can get from Facebook and elsewhere is clear. With this, a computer can actually do psychology, it can predict and potentially control human behaviour. It’s what the scientologists try to do but much more powerful. It’s how you brainwash someone. It’s incredibly dangerous.

“It’s no exaggeration to say that minds can be changed. Behaviour can be predicted and controlled. I find it incredibly scary. I really do. Because nobody has really followed through on the possible consequences of all this. People don’t know it’s happening to them. Their attitudes are being changed behind their backs.”

Mercer invested in Cambridge Analytica, the Washington Post reported, “driven in part by an assessment that the right was lacking sophisticated technology capabilities”. But in many ways, it’s what Cambridge Analytica’s parent company does that raises even more questions.

Emma Briant, a propaganda specialist at the University of Sheffield, wrote about SCL Group in her 2015 book, Propaganda and Counter-Terrorism: Strategies for Global Change. Cambridge Analytica has the technological tools to effect behavioural and psychological change, she said, but it’s SCL that strategises it. It has specialised, at the highest level – for Nato, the MoD, the US state department and others – in changing the behaviour of large groups. It models mass populations and then it changes their beliefs.

SCL was founded by someone called Nigel Oakes, who worked for Saatchi & Saatchi on Margaret Thatcher’s image, says Briant, and the company had been “making money out of the propaganda side of the war on terrorism over a long period of time. There are different arms of SCL but it’s all about reach and the ability to shape the discourse. They are trying to amplify particular political narratives. And they are selective in who they go for: they are not doing this for the left.

In the course of the US election, Cambridge Analytica amassed a database, as it claims on its website, of almost the entire US voting population – 220 million people – and the Washington Post reported last week that SCL was increasing staffing at its Washington office and competing for lucrative new contracts with Trump’s administration. “It seems significant that a company involved in engineering a political outcome profits from what follows. Particularly if it’s the manipulation, and then resolution, of fear,” says Briant.

It’s the database, and what may happen to it, that particularly exercises Paul-Olivier Dehaye, a Swiss mathematician and data activist who has been investigating Cambridge Analytica and SCL for more than a year. “How is it going to be used?” he says. “Is it going to be used to try and manipulate people around domestic policies? Or to ferment conflict between different communities? It is potentially very scary. People just don’t understand the power of this data and how it can be used against them.”

There are two things, potentially, going on simultaneously: the manipulation of information on a mass level, and the manipulation of information at a very individual level. Both based on the latest understandings in science about how people work, and enabled by technological platforms built to bring us together.

Are we living in a new era of propaganda, I ask Emma Briant? One we can’t see, and that is working on us in ways we can’t understand? Where we can only react, emotionally, to its messages? “Definitely. The way that surveillance through technology is so pervasive, the collection and use of our data is so much more sophisticated. It’s totally covert. And people don’t realise what is going on.”

Public mood and politics goes through cycles. You don’t have to subscribe to any conspiracy theory, Briant says, to see that a mass change in public sentiment is happening. Or that some of the tools in action are straight out of the military’s or SCL’s playbook.

But then there’s increasing evidence that our public arenas – the social media sites where we post our holiday snaps or make comments about the news – are a new battlefield where international geopolitics is playing out in real time. It’s a new age of propaganda. But whose? This week, Russia announced the formation of a new branch of the military: “information warfare troops”.

Sam Woolley of the Oxford Internet Institute’s computational propaganda institute tells me that one third of all traffic on Twitter before the EU referendum was automated “bots” – accounts that are programmed to look like people, to act like people, and to change the conversation, to make topics trend. And they were all for Leave. Before the US election, they were five-to-one in favour of Trump – many of them Russian. Last week they have been in action in the Stoke byelection – Russian bots, organised by who? – attacking Paul Nuttall.

You can take a trending topic, such as fake news, and then weaponise it, turn it against the media that uncovered it

“Politics is war,” said Steve Bannon last year in the Wall Street Journal. And increasingly this looks to be true.

There’s nothing accidental about Trump’s behaviour, Andy Wigmore tells me. “That press conference. It was absolutely brilliant. I could see exactly what he was doing. There’s feedback going on constantly. That’s what you can do with artificial intelligence. You can measure ever reaction to every word. He has a word room, where you fix key words. We did it. So with immigration, there are actually key words within that subject matter which people are concerned about. So when you are going to make a speech, it’s all about how can you use these trending words.”

Wigmore met with Trump’s team right at the start of the Leave campaign. “And they said the holy grail was artificial intelligence.”

Who did?

“Jared Kushner and Jason Miller.

Later, when Trump picked up Mercer and Cambridge Analytica, the game changed again. “It’s all about the emotions. This is the big difference with what we did. They call it bio-psycho-social profiling. It takes your physical, mental and lifestyle attributes and works out how people work, how they react emotionally.”

Bio-psycho-social profiling, I read later, is one offensive in what is called “cognitive warfare”. Though there are many others: “recoding the mass consciousness to turn patriotism into collaborationism,” explains a Nato briefing document on countering Russian disinformation written by an SCL employee. “Time-sensitive professional use of media to propagate narratives,” says one US state department white paper. “Of particular importance to psyop personnel may be publicly and commercially available data from social media platforms.”

Yet another details the power of a “cognitive casualty” – a “moral shock” that “has a disabling effect on empathy and higher processes such as moral reasoning and critical thinking”. Something like immigration, perhaps. Or “fake news”. Or as it has now become: “FAKE news!!!!”

How do you change the way a nation thinks? You could start by creating a mainstream media to replace the existing one with a site such as Breitbart. You could set up other websites that displace mainstream sources of news and information with your own definitions of concepts like “liberal media bias”, like CNSnews.com. And you could give the rump mainstream media, papers like the “failing New York Times!” what it wants: stories. Because the third prong of Mercer and Bannon’s media empire is the Government Accountability Institute.

Bannon co-founded it with $2m of Mercer’s money. Mercer’s daughter, Rebekah, was appointed to the board. Then they invested in expensive, long-term investigative journalism. “The modern economics of the newsroom don’t support big investigative reporting staffs,” Bannon told Forbes magazine. “You wouldn’t get a Watergate, a Pentagon Papers today, because nobody can afford to let a reporter spend seven months on a story. We can. We’re working as a support function.”

Welcome to the future of journalism in the age of platform capitalism. News organisations have to do a better job of creating new financial models. But in the gaps in between, a determined plutocrat and a brilliant media strategist can, and have, found a way to mould journalism to their own ends.

In 2015, Steve Bannon described to Forbes how the GAI operated, employing a data scientist to trawl the dark web (in the article he boasts of having access to $1.3bn worth of supercomputers) to dig up the kind of source material Google can’t find. One result has been a New York Times bestseller, Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich, written by GAI’s president, Peter Schweizer and later turned into a film produced by Rebekah Mercer and Steve Bannon.

This, Bannon explained, is how you “weaponise” the narrative you want. With hard researched facts. With those, you can launch it straight on to the front page of the New York Times, as the story of Hillary Clinton’s cash did. Like Hillary’s emails it turned the news agenda, and, most crucially, it diverted the attention of the news cycle. Another classic psyops approach. “Strategic drowning” of other messages.

This is a strategic, long-term and really quite brilliant play. In the 1990s, Bannon explained, conservative media couldn’t take Bill Clinton down because “they wound up talking to themselves in an echo chamber”.

As, it turns out, the liberal media is now. We are scattered, separate, squabbling among ourselves and being picked off like targets in a shooting gallery. Increasingly, there’s a sense that we are talking to ourselves. And whether it’s Mercer’s millions or other factors, Jonathan Albright’s map of the news and information ecosystem shows how rightwing sites are dominating sites like YouTube and Google, bound tightly together by millions of links.

Is there a central intelligence to that, I ask Albright? “There has to be. There has to be some type of coordination. You can see from looking at the map, from the architecture of the system, that this is not accidental. It’s clearly being led by money and politics.”

There’s been a lot of talk in the echo chamber about Bannon in the last few months, but it’s Mercer who provided the money to remake parts of the media landscape. And while Bannon understands the media, Mercer understands big data. He understands the structure of the internet. He knows how algorithms work.

Robert Mercer did not respond to a request for comment for this piece. Nick Patterson, a British cryptographer, who worked at Renaissance Technologies in the 80s and is now a computational geneticist at MIT, described to me how he was the one who talent-spotted Mercer. “There was an elite group working at IBM in the 1980s doing speech research, speech recognition, and when I joined Renaissance I judged that the mathematics we were trying to apply to financial markets were very similar.”

He describes Mercer as “very, very conservative. He truly did not like the Clintons. He thought Bill Clinton was a criminal. And his basic politics, I think, was that he’s a rightwing libertarian, he wants the government out of things.”

He suspects that Mercer is bringing the brilliant computational skills he brought to finance to bear on another very different sphere. “We make mathematical models of the financial markets which are probability models, and from those we try and make predictions. What I suspect Cambridge Analytica do is that they build probability models of how people vote. And then they look at what they can do to influence that.”

Finding the edge is what quants do. They build quantitative models that automate the process of buying and selling shares and then they chase tiny gaps in knowledge to create huge wins. Renaissance Technologies was one of the first hedge funds to invest in AI. But what it does with it, how it’s been programmed to do it, is completely unknown. It is, Bloomberg reports, the “blackest box in finance”.

Johan Bollen, associate professor at Indiana University School of Informatics and Computing, tells me how he discovered one possible edge: he’s done research that shows you can predict stock market moves from Twitter. You can measure public sentiment and then model it. “Society is driven by emotions, which it’s always been difficult to measure, collectively. But there are now programmes that can read text and measure it and give us a window into those collective emotions.”

The research caused a huge ripple among two different constituencies. “We had a lot attention from hedge funds. They are looking for signals everywhere and this is a hugely interesting signal. My impression is hedge funds do have these algorithms that are scanning social feeds. The flash crashes we’ve had – sudden huge drops in stock prices – indicates these algorithms are being used at large scale. And they are engaged in something of an arms race.”

The other people interested in Bollen’s work are those who want not only to measure public sentiment, but to change it. Bollen’s research shows how it’s possible. Could you reverse engineer the national, or even the global, mood? Model it, and then change it?

“It does seem possible. And it does worry me. There are quite a few pieces of research that show if you repeat something often enough, people start involuntarily to believe it. And that could be leveraged, or weaponised for propaganda. We know there are thousands of automated bots out there that are trying to do just that.”

THE war of the bots is one of the wilder and weirder aspects of the elections of 2016. At the Oxford Internet Institute’s Unit for Computational Propaganda, its director, Phil Howard, and director of research, Sam Woolley, show me all the ways public opinion can be massaged and manipulated. But is there a smoking gun, I ask them, evidence of who is doing this? “There’s not a smoking gun,” says Howard. “There are smoking machine guns. There are multiple pieces of evidence.”

“Look at this,” he says and shows me how, before the US election, hundreds upon hundreds of websites were set up to blast out just a few links, articles that were all pro-Trump. “This is being done by people who understand information structure, who are bulk buying domain names and then using automation to blast out a certain message. To make Trump look like he’s a consensus.”

And that requires money?

“That requires organisation and money. And if you use enough of them, of bots and people, and cleverly link them together, you are what’s legitimate. You are creating truth.”

You can take an existing trending topic, such as fake news, and then weaponise it. You can turn it against the very media that uncovered it. Viewed in a certain light, fake news is a suicide bomb at the heart of our information system. Strapped to the live body of us – the mainstream media.

One of the things that concerns Howard most is the hundreds of thousands of “sleeper” bots they’ve found. Twitter accounts that have tweeted only once or twice and are now sitting quietly waiting for a trigger: some sort of crisis where they will rise up and come together to drown out all other sources of information.

Like zombies?

“Like zombies.” . . .

 

 

Discussion

One comment for “FTR #948 Walkin’ the Snake with Breitbart: The Gathering Sturm”

  1. With the Trump administration rolling out the presumably-less-unconstitutional revised version of its ‘Muslim ban’ today, it’s probably a good time for another peek into Steve Bannon’s psyche. Which unfortunately means we have to take another peek into far-right hate literature:

    The Huffington Post

    This Stunningly Racist French Novel Is How Steve Bannon Explains The World

    “The Camp of the Saints” tells a grotesque tale about a migrant invasion to destroy Western civilization.

    By Paul Blumenthal, JM Rieger
    03/04/2017 05:00 pm ET | Updated 10 hours ago

    Stephen Bannon, President Donald Trump’s chief strategist and the driving force behind the administration’s controversial ban on travelers, has a favorite metaphor he uses to describe the largest refugee crisis in human history.

    It’s been almost a Camp of the Saints-type invasion into Central and then Western and Northern Europe,” he said in October 2015.

    “The whole thing in Europe is all about immigration,” he said in January 2016. “It’s a global issue today — this kind of global Camp of the Saints.”

    “It’s not a migration,” he said later that January. “It’s really an invasion. I call it the Camp of the Saints.”

    “When we first started talking about this a year ago,” he said in April 2016, “we called it the Camp of the Saints. … I mean, this is Camp of the Saints, isn’t it?”

    Bannon has agitated for a host of anti-immigrant measures. In his previous role as executive chairman of the right-wing news site Breitbart — which he called a “platform for the alt-right,” the online movement of white nationalists — he made anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim news a focus.

    But the top Trump aide’s repeated references to The Camp of the Saints, an obscure 1973 novel by French author Jean Raspail, reveal even more about how he understands the world. The book is a cult favorite on the far right, yet it’s never found a wider audience. There’s a good reason for that: It’s breathtakingly racist.

    “[This book is] racist in the literal sense of the term. It uses race as the main characterization of characters,” said Cécile Alduy, professor of French at Stanford University and an expert on the contemporary French far right. “It describes the takeover of Europe by waves of immigrants that wash ashore like the plague.”

    The book, she said, “reframes everything as the fight to death between races.”

    Upon the novel’s release in the United States in 1975, the influential book review magazine Kirkus Reviews pulled no punches: “The publishers are presenting The Camp of the Saints as a major event, and it probably is, in much the same sense that Mein Kampf was a major event.”

    Linda Chavez, a Republican commentator who has worked for GOP presidents from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush but opposed Trump’s election, also reviewed the book back then. Forty years later, she hasn’t forgotten it.

    “It is really shockingly racist,” Chavez told The Huffington Post, “and to have the counselor to the president see this as one of his touchstones, I think, says volumes about his attitude.”

    The plot of The Camp of the Saints follows a poor Indian demagogue, named “the turd-eater” because he literally eats sh it, and the deformed, apparently psychic child who sits on his shoulders. Together, they lead an “armada” of 800,000 impoverished Indians sailing to France. Dithering European politicians, bureaucrats and religious leaders, including a liberal pope from Latin America, debate whether to let the ships land and accept the Indians or to do the right thing — in the book’s vision — by recognizing the threat the migrants pose and killing them all.

    The non-white people of Earth, meanwhile, wait silently for the Indians to reach shore. The landing will be the signal for them to rise up everywhere and overthrow white Western society.

    The French government eventually gives the order to repel the armada by force, but by then the military has lost the will to fight. Troops battle among themselves as the Indians stream on shore, trampling to death the left-wing radicals who came to welcome them. Poor black and brown people literally overrun Western civilization. Chinese people pour into Russia; the queen of England is forced to marry her son to a Pakistani woman; the mayor of New York must house an African-American family at Gracie Mansion. Raspail’s rogue heroes, the defenders of white Christian supremacy, attempt to defend their civilization with guns blazing but are killed in the process.

    Calgues, the obvious Raspail stand-in, is one of those taking up arms against the migrants and their culturally “cuckolded” white supporters. Just before killing a radical hippie, Calgues compares his own actions to past heroic, sometimes mythical defenses of European Christendom. He harkens back to famous battles that fit the clash-of-civilizations narrative — the defense of Rhodes against the Ottoman Empire, the fall of Constantinople to the same — and glorifies colonial wars of conquest and the formation of the Ku Klux Klan.

    Only white Europeans like Calgues are portrayed as truly human in The Camp of the Saints. The Indian armada brings “thousands of wretched creatures” whose very bodies arouse disgust: “Scraggy branches, brown and black … All bare, those fleshless Gandhi-arms.” Poor brown children are spoiled fruit “starting to rot, all wormy inside, or turned so you can’t see the mold.”

    The ship’s inhabitants are also sexual deviants who turn the voyage into a grotesque orgy. “Everywhere, rivers of sperm,” Raspail writes. “Streaming over bodies, oozing between breasts, and buttocks, and thighs, and lips, and fingers.”

    The white Christian world is on the brink of destruction, the novel suggests, because these black and brown people are more fertile and more numerous, while the West has lost that necessary belief in its own cultural and racial superiority. As he talks to the hippie he will soon kill, Calgues explains how the youth went so wrong: “That scorn of a people for other races, the knowledge that one’s own is best, the triumphant joy at feeling oneself to be part of humanity’s finest — none of that had ever filled these youngsters’ addled brains.”

    The Camp of the Saints — which draws its title from Revelation 20:9 — is nothing less than a call to arms for the white Christian West, to revive the spirit of the Crusades and steel itself for bloody conflict against the poor black and brown world without and the traitors within. The novel’s last line links past humiliations tightly to its own grim parable about modern migration. “The Fall of Constantinople,” Raspail’s unnamed narrator says, “is a personal misfortune that happened to all of us only last week.”

    Raspail wrote The Camp of the Saints in 1972 and 1973, after a stay at his aunt’s house near Cannes on the southern coast of France. Looking out across the Mediterranean, he had an epiphany: “And what if they came?” he thought to himself. “This ‘they’ was not clearly defined at first,” he told the conservative publication Le Point in 2015. “Then I imagined that the Third World would rush into this blessed country that is France.”

    Raspail’s novel has been published in the U.S. several times, each time with the backing of the anti-immigration movement.

    The U.S. publishing house Scribner was the first to translate the book into English in 1975, but it failed to reach a wide audience amid withering reviews by critics. A rare favorable take appeared in National Review. “Raspail brings his reader to the surprising conclusion that killing a million or so starving refugees from India would be a supreme act of individual sanity and cultural health,” then-Dartmouth professor Jeffrey Hart wrote in 1975. “Raspail is to genocide what [D.H. Lawrence] was to sex.” Hart added that “a great fuss” was being made over “Raspail’s supposed racism,” but that the “liberal rote anathema on ‘racism’ is in effect a poisonous assault upon Western self-preference.”

    The book received a second life in 1983 when Cordelia Scaife May, heiress to the Mellon fortune and sister to right-wing benefactor Richard Mellon Scaife, funded its republication and distribution. This time it gained a cult following among immigration opponents.

    May’s money has also been instrumental in funding the efforts of John Tanton, the godfather of the anti-immigration movement in the U.S. Tanton, who began as an environmentalist and population control proponent, founded a host of groups focused on restricting immigration, including the Federation of American Immigration Reform, the Center for Immigration Studies, NumbersUSA and U.S. English. May’s fortune has fueled these groups with tens of millions of dollars in contributions over the years.

    Linda Chavez was recruited in 1987 to head U.S. English, which advocates for English to be designated the country’s official language. But then a series of disturbing stories painted Tanton’s motives in a racial light. Among other issues, Chavez said she learned that his funding came from the pro-eugenics Pioneer Fund and from May, who Chavez knew had helped publish The Camp of the Saints. Chavez recalled seeing Tanton’s staffers carrying the book around their offices. She quit the group.

    Tanton, who insists his opposition to immigration is not connected to race at all, told The Washington Post in 2006 that his mind “became focused” on the issue after reading The Camp of the Saints. In 1995, his small publishing house, Social Contract Press, brought the book back into print for a third time in the U.S., again with funding from May. Historians Paul Kennedy and Matt Connelly tied the book to then-current concerns about global demographic trends in a cover story for The Atlantic.

    “Over the years the American public has absorbed a great number of books, articles, poems and films which exalt the immigrant experience,” Tanton wrote in 1994. “It is easy for the feelings evoked by Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty to obscure the fact that we are currently receiving too many immigrants (and receiving them too fast) for the health of our environment and of our common culture. Raspail evokes different feelings and that may help to pave the way for policy changes.”

    In 2001, the book was republished one more time, again by Tanton, and again gained a cult following among opponents of immigration like the border-patrolling Minutemen and eventually the online “alt-right.”

    Bannon’s alt-right-loving Breitbart has run multiple articles over the past three years referencing the novel. When Pope Francis told a joint session of Congress that the U.S. should open its arms to refugees in September 2015, Breitbart’s Julia Hahn, now an aide to Bannon in the White House, compared his admonition to Raspail’s liberal Latin American pontiff. And the novel’s thesis that migration is invasion in disguise is often reflected in Bannon’s public comments.

    The refugee crisis “didn’t just happen by happenstance,” Bannon said in an April 2016 radio interview with Sebastian Gorka, who now works for the National Security Council. “These are not war refugees. It’s something much more insidious going on.”

    Bannon has also echoed the novel’s theory that secular liberals who favor immigration and diversity weaken the West.

    Now Bannon sits at the right hand of the U.S. president, working to beat back what Bannon calls “this Muslim invasion.” And Trump is all in on the project. During the campaign, he called for a ban on all Muslims entering the country. His Jan. 28 executive order, since blocked in the courts, turned this campaign idea into executive policy.

    Trump has continued to defend the executive order as a life-or-death national security issue. “We cannot allow a beachhead of terrorism to form inside America,” he said in his first speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday.

    Five days earlier, Trump had called his immigration enforcement efforts a “military operation.”

    Although Department of Homeland Security officials walked back that statement, the president’s conflation of immigration with warfare did not go unnoticed.

    “They see this as a war,” Chavez said.

    Chavez, who supports some of Trump’s economic policy proposals, called the direction the White House is taking on immigration and race “extremely dangerous.” She said Trump’s immigration moves are “a kind of purging of America of anything but our Northern European roots.” Bannon, she added, “wants to make America white again.”

    The Camp of the Saints — which draws its title from Revelation 20:9is nothing less than a call to arms for the white Christian West, to revive the spirit of the Crusades and steel itself for bloody conflict against the poor black and brown world without and the traitors within. The novel’s last line links past humiliations tightly to its own grim parable about modern migration. “The Fall of Constantinople,” Raspail’s unnamed narrator says, “is a personal misfortune that happened to all of us only last week.””

    Yeah, that definitely sounds like the kind of book we might find on Steve Bannon’s bookshelf. Or Trump’s bookshelf, right next to the book of inspirational speeches.

    In tangentially related news, Ben Carson gave his first official address as Housing and Urban Development secretary today. The topic of non-white immigration to the US came up during the speech. And while he didn’t exactly have a Bannon-esque view on the topic, it didn’t go very well.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 6, 2017, 9:03 pm

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