Lies of Our Times: Fake News & the Weaponisation of (Dis)Information

From New Dawn 173 (Mar-Apr 2019)

According to an aphorism attributed to Benjamin Disraeli and later popularised by Mark Twain, there were three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies and statistics. To this might be added a fourth category: the lie by omission.

They may, of course, be linked. An initial lie is told, but when information later comes to hand that discredits the initial untruth, that information is concealed or withheld from publication, or alluded to, but discredited with some epithet such as ‘it’s just a conspiracy theory’.

The past 100 years have seen multiple examples of this form of information management. So prevalent has it become that ‘news organisations’ are no longer properly labelled as such, but rather more accurately referred to as ‘news management’.

The first Great War, 1914-18, owed more to the machinations of the British and the French seeking to thwart Germany as a competitor to their colonial ambitions, as McGregor and Docherty1 comprehensively reveal, than it did to any assassination of a minor royal in an obscure Bosnian city. Yet we are still regaled with folk mythology, variously blaming the Turks, the Germans and even the Russians. Military disasters, such as Gallipoli, are lauded as a colonial coming of age.

The Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 gave rise to a ‘Red Scare’ campaign that persists to this day. One early illustration of this, which as we will see has contemporary echoes, was the Zinoviev letter. This was a letter allegedly written by Gregory Zinoviev, the head of the Comintern (Communist International) in 1924, outlining a Bolshevik plot to paralyse the UK Army and Navy and plunge the UK into civil war.

The faked Zinoviev letter was published in the Daily Mail on 25 October 1924.

The UK Daily Mail, to this day a regular source of fake news, released the letter four days before the UK general election in October 1924. The aim was clearly to discredit the minority Labour government of Ramsay MacDonald. The letter was a fake, most likely written by Ivan Pokrovsky, an anti-Bolshevik former Tsarist officer with connections to British Intelligence.

According to a new book by British scholar Gill Bennett,2 the most likely leakers of the letter to the Daily Mail were Desmond Morton and Joseph Ball, the then heads of what were to become MI6 and MI5 respectively. Again, there are echoes with relevance to the present day.

UK intelligence agencies made similar attempts against Harold Wilson (UK Prime Minister 1964-70 and 1974-76), Michael Foot (prominent Labour frontbencher) and Jeremy Corbyn ([former] UK Labour leader), all smeared as “Russian agents,” “puppets of the Kremlin” or, ironically borrowing Lenin’s phrase, “useful idiots.”

At the time of writing, there is a similar extraordinary campaign being waged against US President Donald Trump, with at least one aim, as US scholar Stephen Cohen points out,3 of destroying normal diplomatic contacts between the US and Russia, with the added danger of the risk of a nuclear war.

The Big Lies of the 60s

The 1960s provided a number of classic examples of the big lie, the illicit involvement of State agencies, and an extended cover-up of the truth in which the so-called mainstream media were more than willing accomplices.

On 22 November 1963 US President John F. Kennedy was shot by multiple gunmen. The fatal shot was fired from in front of Kennedy, blowing out the back of his skull.4 The evidence is now overwhelming that the CIA was the chief plotter against Kennedy, although multiple others were involved, and none of them by the name of Lee Harvey Oswald.5

All of this is now well documented in many scholarly studies,6 yet those books are not reviewed in the mainstream media, and the forensic, medical and other proofs established are never discussed in the mainstream media. Although most of the principals involved are now long dead, the cover-up continues, including the blatant refusal of the CIA to release documents mandated for release under the JFK Records Act.

Five years later, on 5 June 1968, JFK’s younger brother Bobby was also assassinated in Los Angeles while celebrating his victory in the California primary race. As with his brother, a patsy was readily identified and languishes in jail to this day.

On 5 June 1968, US presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy was mortally wounded shortly after midnight at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. 

Sirhan Sirhan was in front of Kennedy, and it is not disputed that he fired several shots. He was certainly influenced by some external forces, a classic Manchurian candidate. More shots were fired than Sirhan’s gun was capable of firing. The fatal wound was from a bullet of a different calibre than Sirhan’s gun.

The LA County Coroner, Thomas Naguchi, concluded from the post mortem examination that the fatal shot to Senator Kennedy’s head was from behind at a distance of less than 5 cm. The firer of that fatal shot was identified as Thane Eugene Cesar, a security guard and right-wing extremist with known CIA ties.7 His gun was recovered from a lake some years later and forensically matched with Kennedy’s fatal head wound.

Naguchi’s report with its damning evidence has never received the attention it deserved. Neither has the fact that the LAPD destroyed the crime scene, including removal of the evidence of multiple gunshots from different guns.

Two months before Bobby Kennedy’s death, civil rights leader Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. Again, a patsy, James Earl Ray, was blamed.

Thane Eugene Cesar

Thanks to the efforts of the King family and a British barrister William Pepper, a civil trial (King v Jowett) was held in Memphis, Tennessee in 1999. After a three-week trial, which heard from 70 witnesses, the jury took less than three hours to find for the King family as plaintiffs. They effectively exonerated Ray and found that a conspiracy existed that included agents of the city of Memphis, the State of Tennessee and the US government.

Only two news media representatives attended the trial. One was Wendell Stacey, the local Memphis anchorman. None of his reports from the trial were broadcast or published. The other was James Douglass, later the author of the seminal book on the JFK assassination.8 The mainstream media, which ignored the trial, immediately attacked the verdict, criticising the judge, the defence counsel and the jury. Well-known apologists for the government such as Gerald Posner were given huge air and TV time. It was yet another classic example of news management at the expense of the truth. In this case, yet again, the government had violently removed a troublesome critic or threat to its agenda.9

The pattern was repeated in the attacks on 11 September 2001 (‘9/11’). The government expounded a fantastic tale. That key elements of the official conspiracy theory10 were literally impossible was ignored. When the FBI gave evidence at the trial of Zachariah Moussaoui, the so-called 20th hijacker, that evidence destroyed key parts of the government’s version, especially the alleged phone calls from the planes that formed a substantial portion of the 9/11 Commission Report.11 That evidence was not reported.

This false flag attack was used to justify the ‘war on terror’ that thus far has resulted in the invasion and destruction of at least four countries (Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya); the creation of terrorist groups (many as proxies of the US and its allies) and the deaths and injuring of millions; as well as creating a refugee crisis of unprecedented proportions.

But the official mythology lives on. The mainstream media refuse to publish anything that contradicts the government’s version of what happened on 9/11 and belittle and denigrate those who raise well-founded objections. This cannot be by chance.

Dangerous Statecraft Plots & Lies

Double agent Sergei Skripal was once a colonel in Russian military intelligence.

In March 2018, former Russian spy and traitor Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found in an incapacitated state on a park bench in Salisbury, England. Within a very short time, UK Prime Minister Theresa May was making a statement in the House of Commons that the Skripals were the victims of a dastardly Russian plot involving the use of nerve agent Novichok.

As a result of these allegations, for which there is no evidence that would withstand examination, sanctions were applied to Russia, and the already substantial vilification of that country was stepped up, following the reabsorption of Crimea into the Russian Federation.12

More than 20 countries allied to the UK (including lapdog Australia) expelled Russian diplomats. Each and every element of the UK government’s allegations against Russia has collapsed. The story itself has descended to farcical proportions. The UK government continues to offer different and conflicting versions of what allegedly happened.

As with the Kennedy and King assassinations, and 9/11, the absurdities and impossibilities in the official stories were simply ignored by the mainstream media.13

The significance of one event, the prompt issuing of a D Notice by the British government suppressing the naming of one of the parties involved, Pablo Miller, was only appreciated in the light of subsequent revelations.

Miller was a friend and neighbour of Skripal. He was the link man to Skripal for MI6 when Skripal worked for Russian intelligence and betrayed his country. Miller worked on the Skripal betrayal with his friend and colleague Christopher Steele. Steele is the supposed author of the dossier commissioned (through cut-outs) by the Hillary Clinton campaign to discredit Trump in the unlikely event – so they thought – that he would win the 2016 US presidential election.

Far from being retired and living quietly in Salisbury (where he went after a spy swap with the Russians), Skripal appears to have been actively working for MI6. According to at least one scholar, a native Russian speaker wrote the “Steele dossier.”14 That person may have been Skripal who was undoubtedly linked with all the principals involved in that dossier, as well as having contacts in and knowledge of Russian intelligence. Russian sources were used for some of the more lurid allegations made in the dossier.

That much is no more than informed speculation and is likely to remain so as the Skripals have in essence been kidnapped and remain incommunicado, not least to Russian consular authorities, a breach of international law.15

There continue to be further twists to the Skripal tale. In January 2019 it was revealed that a person described as a “nurse” who “happened” to be at the scene where the Skripals were found incapacitated, was not just a “nurse.” She was, in fact, Colonel Alison McCourt, the head of the Nursing Unit of the British Army and a senior consultant to the Ministry of Defence.16

Colonel McCourt is the holder of an OBE, awarded for services in combatting the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone. In that role, she had regular contact with the biological unit at Porton Down, the British facility for chemical and biological warfare research, which just happens to be close to both Salisbury and Larkhill where McCourt lives.

Sunday Mail newspaper story about leaked documents that revealed the Integrity Initiative – which is funded by the UK Foreign Office and run by military intelligence specialists – led a disinformation attack on UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

At about the same time as these revelations came to light, an anonymous leaker disclosed details of a hitherto unknown organisation called the Institute for Statecraft (“I for S”), and its subsidiary arm the “Integrity Initiative.” The “I for S” is a charity registered in Scotland, although its address in official records is an abandoned derelict building in Fife. The real headquarters are in Temple Place, the Embankment district of London, a decidedly more expensive piece of real estate.

The “I for S” and the Integrity Initiative claim to be set up to promote “western values” and to counter Russian and other unfriendly countries’ “propaganda and disinformation.” In a written reply in the House of Commons, a Foreign Office Minister, Sir Ian Duncan, admitted that the “I for S,” “whose work seeks to improve governance and national security,”was financed in part by the Foreign Office to the tune of just under two million pounds sterling in the 2018-2019 financial year.

We now know that this Institute has other sources of income, including from NATO, the US Department of State, and the Lithuanian government. The Director of the Institute is Christopher Donnelly who holds the rank of Colonel in British Intelligence. Members of the advisory board include Howard Body, Assistant Head of Scientific Support at Porton Down; Helen Boaden, a senior executive with the BBC; Duncan Allen from the Foreign Office; Zachary Harkenrider (likely CIA station chief in London), and no less a person than Pablo Miller.

In the Bond film ‘Goldfinger’, based on Ian Fleming’s book of the same name, the eponymous villain says to Bond: “In Chicago they have a saying: once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, the third time is enemy action.”

The interplay of various characters, only some of whom are named here,17 definitely puts the events into the realm of enemy action.

Contrary to its protestations, the “I for S” is not just seeking “to improve governance and national security.” As admitted by its head Donnelly,18 it relies on “clusters” of individuals in various countries, including academics, journalists, military personnel and politicians, to conduct campaigns.

These campaigns include the blocking of dissenting voices, overt attacks on critics of government policy (including smearing people such as Jeremy Corbyn as noted above), promoting anti-Russian propaganda, and what Donnelly refers to as “waging a new kind of warfare in which everything becomes a weapon, including disinformation which gives conflict a third dimension.”19

The Institute for Statecraft also has links with a US company with similar aims, the Rendon Group, which played a prominent role in ‘selling’ the Iraq war.20

A Catastrophe “to wake people up”

A further extraordinary coincidence is found in a briefing paper prepared for the Institute in early 2015 in which they called for “a catastrophe to wake people up and demand a response.”21 This is reminiscent of the 2001 Project for the New American Century (PNAC) paper, ‘Rebuilding America’s Defences’, which called for a New Pearl Harbor. That paper was immediately followed by 9/11.

The 2015 Institute paper called for steps to be taken in the event of this “catastrophe” occurring, including the mass expulsion of Russian diplomats and other actions against the Russian government. An attack on individuals or institutions in the UK was seen as a possible trigger.

Those steps were taken following the “catastrophe” of an alleged nerve agent attack on persons in the UK by or at the instigation of the Russian government. That those steps were taken without a shred of evidence that Russia was indeed involved (as seems the remotest of possibilities) is as telling as the fact that immediately before the Skripal incident then Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was in the UK.

Notwithstanding the legal training both he and the (then) Foreign Minister Julie Bishop have, they were remarkably quick to condemn Russia for its alleged involvement. Their disregard for basic legal principles such as the presumption of innocence, and the requirement of admissible evidence to a high standard as prerequisites for conviction, is on a par with their alleged adherence to international law when joining illegal ventures such as attacking Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

The Institute for Statecraft is far from benign. Its agenda, personnel, its connections and its modus operandi, all point to it being a malign influence on the flow of information, respect for international law, and the proper conduct of relations between nations.

A Google search in the Guardian Australia, ABC, SBS, News Corporation and Fairfax Media websites reveal not a single mention of the Institute for Statecraft or the Integrity Institute. This is unlikely to be a coincidence. This is an important story, the surface of which has barely been scratched. As with the long history of the suppression of vital information, some examples of which are cited above, this is another illustration of that fourth type of lie: the lie by omission.

If the current remnants of our democracy are not to be completely demolished, this latest version of Operation Mockingbird22 – where the mainstream media were thoroughly infiltrated by ‘journalists’ whose primary role was to faithfully reflect whatever version the government of the day proffered – must be exposed for the insidious danger that it is – and destroyed.

This article was published in New Dawn 173.
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1. G. Docherty & J. Macgregor, Hidden History: The Secret Origins of the First World War,MainstreamPublishing 2014
2. G. Bennett, The Zinoviev Letter, Oxford University Press 2018
3. S. Cohen, War with Russia?, Hot Books 2018
4. C. Crenshaw, JFK: A Conspiracy of Silence, Mass Market 1992; J. de Eugenio, Reclaiming Parkland, Skyhorse 2013
5. J. Armstrong, Harvey & Lee, Quasar 2003
6. J. De Eugenio, Destiny Betrayed, 2nd ed., Skyhorse 2011
7. for copious citations
8. J. Douglass, JFK and the Unspeakable, Simon & Schuster 2010
9. W. Pepper, The Plot to Kill King,Skyhorse 2016
11. D Griffin & E. Woodworth, 9/11 Unmasked: An International Review Panel Investigation, Olive Branch Press 2018
12. M Kramer, ‘The Transfer of Crimea from Soviet Russia to Soviet Ukraine’, www.wilson, 19 March 2014
13. R. Slane, ‘Summing Up the Official Claims in the Salisbury Poisonings’,, 9 January 2019
14. J. Gilbert & J Cashill, ‘Did Christopher Steele Write His Dossier or did a Russian Associate’,, 19 January 2019
15. Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, 1963
16. ‘Coincidence?’, 19 January 2019
17. For a comprehensive listing, see P. McKeigue, et al., ‘Briefing Note on the Integrity Initiative’,, 21 December 2018
18. T. Kevin, ‘Dad’s Army’s Cover Blown’,, 8 January 2019
19. Ibid
20., 10 January 2019
21. K. Klarenberg, ‘Anonymous Exposes UK Hybrid Warfare Project’,, 4 January 2019; T. Secker, ‘Was the Integrity Initiative Behind the Salisbury Poisoning’,, 4 January 2019
22. C. Bernstein, ‘The CIA and the Media’,, 20 October 1977

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About the Author

James O’Neill (d.2022) was a Barrister-at-Law who wrote on geopolitical issues with a particular emphasis on international law. Born in New Zealand, James travelled and lectured around the world at different universities. He also worked at the UN in Geneva as a consultant. He became a senior lecturer at the University of Waikato, and completed law degrees at the University of Auckland, being admitted to the bar in 1984. James later practised at the bar, first in NZ and from 2002 in Brisbane. His special areas of interest were international law, human rights and the law of war. James was a regular contributor to New Dawn magazine and online journals such as New Eastern Outlook, Independent Australia, and Gumshoe News, and many others. An article on his passing can be viewed here:

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