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FTR #949 Walkin’ the Snake with Breitbart, Part 2

Dave Emory’s entire life­time of work is avail­able on a flash dri­ve that can be obtained HERE [1]. The new dri­ve is a 32-giga­byte dri­ve that is cur­rent as of the pro­grams and arti­cles post­ed by ear­ly win­ter of 2017. The new dri­ve (avail­able for a tax-deductible con­tri­bu­tion of $65.00 or more.) 

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This broad­cast was record­ed in one, 60-minute seg­ment [5].

Serpent's Walk [6]Intro­duc­tion: 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 the 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 [7], 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 in FTR #948 [8].)

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 (in effec­tr) 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. [7]

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 note that SCL, the par­ent com­pa­ny of Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca, has been deeply involved with “psy­ops” in places like Afghanistan and Pak­istan. Now, Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca, their Big Data and AI com­po­nents, Mer­cer mon­ey and Ban­non polit­i­cal savvy are apply­ing that to con­tem­po­rary soci­ety.

At the end of the pro­gram we note that Ban­non had turned Bre­it­bart toward sup­port­ing Naren­dra Mod­i’s BJP Par­ty [9] in India.

Pro­gram High­lights Include:

1. 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. [7]

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. [7]

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 [10]. “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 [11] – 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 [12] – a sci­ence that went on to be key in devel­op­ing today’s AI – and lat­er became joint CEO of Renais­sance Tech­nolo­gies [13], 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 [14]); 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 [15] 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 [16] 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 [17] 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 [18] 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 [19], sit­ting on the pan­el at Leave.EU’s launch event [20].

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 [21], 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 [22], “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 [23] 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 every 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. [Ser­pen­t’s Walk sce­nario with Bre­it­bart becom­ing “the opin­ion form­ing media”!–D.E.] 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 [24]”.

Johan Bollen [25], 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.” . . .

2. Here’s a reminder that Steve Bannon’s vision of an inter­na­tion­al net­work of Bre­it­bart branch­es push­ing a far-right, pro-cor­po­ratist eth­no-nation­al­ist agen­da – in oth­er words, cor­po­ratist glob­al­ism with an eth­no-nation­al­ist pati­na – isn’t lim­it­ed to Breitbart’s expan­sion into Europe [26]. Bre­it­bart India is on the agen­da too and has been for a while [9].

This dynam­ic also bears exam­i­na­tion in the con­text of Tul­si Gab­bard, one of the dri­ving forces behind the Bernie Sanders phe­nom­e­non and a net­work­ing part­ner of Ban­non, Modi, the BJP and the RSS. (We dis­cussed Gab­bard in FTR #‘s 941 [27], 942 [28] and 945 [29].)

In FTR #795 [30], we not­ed that Naren­dra Modi was polit­i­cal­ly evolved from the Hin­du nationalist/fascist milieu of the RSS. (An “alum­nus” of that polit­i­cal envi­ron­ment mur­dered Gand­hi.) In addi­tion, we have seen that Mod­i’s elec­tion was heav­i­ly but­tressed [31] by Ebay’s Pierre Omid­yar, who has under­writ­ten Glenn Green­wald’s recent jour­nal­is­tic ven­tures and par­tial­ly bankrolled [32] the 2014 Ukraine coup that brought the heirs of the OUN/B to pow­er.

For an overview of the res­o­nance between the RSS/BJP and Ital­ian and Ger­man fas­cism, check out this post [33].

“Inside Steve Bannon’s Failed Bre­it­bart India Scheme” by Asaw­in Sueb­saeng; The Dai­ly Beast; 3/02/2017. [9]

Before he was the president’s right-hand man, Steve Ban­non was bent on world dom­i­na­tion of a dif­fer­ent kind.

If Stephen K. Ban­non [34] had had his way, there would already be a Bre­it­bart India.

Well before he entered the Trump White House with an eye toward influ­enc­ing and affect­ing [35] for­eign pol­i­cy, Ban­non was already try­ing to wield his Bre­it­bart media empire to influ­ence the pol­i­tics of for­eign democ­ra­cies, in favor of right-wing nation­al­ist upheavals.

Until he became Pres­i­dent Trump’s chief strate­gist, Ban­non was on a mis­sion to open new Bre­it­bart oper­a­tions in sev­er­al Euro­pean coun­tries. Accord­ing to mul­ti­ple reports, he want­ed these for­eign offices opened for the pur­pose of [36] back­ing nation­al­ist, anti-immi­grant polit­i­cal par­ties such as the Nation­al Front in France.

Anoth­er coun­try Ban­non had eyed for set­ting up shop was India, so his right-wing news and pro­pa­gan­da net­work could lend its sup­port to Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi, anoth­er [37] nation­al­ist, huge­ly con­tro­ver­sial fig­ure whom Ban­non has come to admire great­ly.

“On Novem­ber 17 2015, I sat oppo­site Steve Ban­non in [a New York City] office as he asked me if I’d be inter­est­ed in start­ing Bre­it­bart India,” Mum­bai-based writer Amit Var­ma wrote in a lit­tle-noticed blog post [38] late last year.

“A lady who was one of the fun­ders of [Bre­it­bart], and of cer­tain lead­ers in the Repub­li­can Par­ty, got in touch with [oth­ers] to ask if she could meet me. (It’s not fair of me to name her because she’s not real­ly a pub­lic fig­ure.),” Var­ma con­tin­ued. “She’d been impressed by my speech, and thus this meet­ing [with her and Ban­non].”

Though Var­ma declined to name the “lady,” two sources, who request­ed anonymi­ty, with knowl­edge of the meet­ing con­firmed to The Dai­ly Beast that the woman present in the room with Ban­non was in fact Rebekah Mer­cer [39], the Repub­li­can megadonor with deep ties to Trump and Ban­non. Last week, Bre­it­bart con­firmed that the Mer­cer fam­i­ly does in fact co-own [40] Bre­it­bart.

Mer­cer did not respond to requests for com­ment on this sto­ry. Nei­ther did Ban­non.

Var­ma blogged that he “didn’t know much about Bre­it­bart” or the Amer­i­can alt-right [41], though he knew right off the bat that launch­ing Bre­it­bart India wasn’t the gig for him. Bre­it­bart was a con­ser­v­a­tive vehi­cle, both in the Unit­ed States and at its off­shoots abroad. Var­ma iden­ti­fies as a pro-immi­gra­tion, pro-gay-rights lib­er­tar­i­an. More­over, he says that he advised them that there wasn’t even a point to hav­ing a web­site like Bre­it­bart col­o­nize India.

“It’s incon­gru­ent,” he recalled telling Ban­non and Mer­cer. “There is no ana­log of Amer­i­can con­ser­vatism in India. The Indi­an right is dri­ven by big­otry and nativism, with no deep­er guid­ing phi­los­o­phy behind it. [Con­sid­er the irony of these words.] You will not find any Burkean con­ser­v­a­tives here. Don’t come.”

“Well, we think that Modi is India’s Rea­gan,” Ban­non replied, accord­ing to Var­ma.

Var­ma writes that he “laughed” in Bannon’s face when he said that, and had to tell them that “Modi was no Rea­gan.”

Sub­se­quent­ly, “the lady” present attempt­ed to con­vince Var­ma that she was “actu­al­ly” a lib­er­tar­i­an, as well, before launch­ing into “dia­tribes” against same-sex mar­riage and “immi­grants in Amer­i­ca, and how the cul­tur­al fab­ric of Europe was being torn apart by their immi­grants.”

Fol­low­ing Trump’s elec­tion-night upset, Var­ma wrote that he is “still glad that I didn’t explore their offer fur­ther. I could have been some­what rich­er, maybe even influ­en­tial, if I’d tak­en it up—but I sleep well at night now, and that’s what mat­ters.”

In a brief phone con­ver­sa­tion, Var­ma told The Dai­ly Beast that he did not wish to com­ment fur­ther than what he wrote in his orig­i­nal post, but added that he found Ban­non to be warm and “very nice to me.”

Modi is a con­tro­ver­sial [42] nation­al­ist, right-wing leader. The U.S., along with Eng­land and oth­er West­ern coun­tries, had imposed a visa ban on him after human-rights orga­ni­za­tions impli­cat­ed Modi in a 2002 slaugh­ter of Mus­lims [43] in his state. The Indi­an Supreme Court even­tu­al­ly exon­er­at­ed Modi years lat­er, but by then many wit­ness­es had been tam­pered with, had died, or had been killed.

Dur­ing a con­fer­ence held inside the Vat­i­can in 2014, Ban­non praised Modi, a Hin­du nation­al­ist, for being at the cen­ter of a transna­tion­al “revolt.”

“That cen­ter-right revolt is real­ly a glob­al revolt,” Ban­non said [44], accord­ing to Buz­zFeed. “I think you’re going to see it in Latin Amer­i­ca, I think you’re going to see it in Asia, I think you’ve already seen it in India. Modi’s great vic­to­ry was very much based on these Rea­ganesque prin­ci­ples, so I think this is a glob­al revolt, and we are very for­tu­nate and proud to be the news site that is report­ing that through­out the world.”

The inter­sec­tion of pro-Modi and pro-Trump sen­ti­ments with­in Trump’s inner polit­i­cal cir­cle didn’t stop there. The Repub­li­can Hin­du Coali­tion (RHC), which was very sup­port­ive of Trump’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign and was favor­ably cov­ered on Bre­it­bart mul­ti­ple times, has been in close con­tact with Ban­non, via its leader and GOP donor [45] Sha­l­abh “Shal­li” Kumar.

In mid-Octo­ber of last year short­ly before the elec­tion, Kumar orga­nized an RHC event in New Jer­sey fea­tur­ing and cel­e­brat­ing Don­ald J. Trump. The event also includ­ed Kumar, as well as “Bol­ly­wood Stars, and major Hin­du spir­i­tu­al lead­ers,” accord­ing to the invi­ta­tion.

Kumar, chair­man of the Repub­li­can Hin­du Coali­tion, told The Dai­ly Beast this week, that Ban­non worked with him to get the event planned around the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nominee’s busy sched­ule.

“I have had sev­er­al inter­faces with [Steve Ban­non] in per­son, as well as over the phone and over email,” Kumar said.

Kumar said that he first met Ban­non in late August 2016, and that he was a “very, very nice guy”—not the the “rude, angry-type per­son” he had seen por­trayed in the news [46]. Dur­ing his August vis­it to Trump Tow­er to plan the Bol­ly­wood-tinged, pro-Trump event, Kumar met with Kellyanne Con­way and Ban­non.

“Gen­er­al­ly, we were talk­ing about the reach­ing-out to Hin­du Amer­i­cans, and [Ban­non] was all for it—I do remem­ber him being inter­est­ed in talk­ing to the pow­ers at be from India,” Kumar recalled. “At the end of the meet­ing, Kellyanne had to dis­ap­pear for a moment into a dif­fer­ent room, and I had for­got­ten to ask her some ques­tions… So Steve went with me from room, to room, to room [in Trump Tow­er] to find her to get my ques­tions answered.”

Kumar said he chat­ted with Ban­non mul­ti­ple times regard­ing the impor­tance of a “nation­al­ist econ­o­my,” Indi­an pol­i­tics, and tak­ing “tough stands against rad­i­cal Islam­ic ter­ror­ism.”

“[Steve] had a clear phi­los­o­phy that you could still be in nation­al­ism, and still be a glob­al pow­er,” he con­tin­ued.

Kumar says he is still in touch with Ban­non, and com­mu­ni­cat­ed as recent­ly as last month. When asked about the for­mer Bre­it­bart chief’s plans to try to mount a Bre­it­bart India, Kumar said he had not heard about them, but that it “would be great” if Bre­it­bart did do that.

“Steve Ban­non is the guy who straight­ened out the Trump cam­paign in August,” the Indi­an-Amer­i­can busi­ness­man said. “He almost seemed like a mil­i­tary com­man­der… One of my favorite guys in his­to­ry is Gen. Pat­ton, and—you know—he could be like Gen. Pat­ton [47].”

3. 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, Kazy Skir­pa as Pepe the frog. [48]

“ . . . 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 [49] 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. [48]

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 [50].

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 [51] 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 [52] 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 [53] 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.