On Covid-19 and beyond, Western democracies are deploying military-grade propaganda to fight dissent
Thanks to a whistleblower, we now know that critics of Covid-19-related lockdowns and vaccine mandates — including prominent journalists and politicians — were monitored by the UK army’s information warfare brigade.
One of the military units reportedly deployed in the activity was the 77th Brigade, created in 2015 and described by the media at the time as comprised of “warriors who don't just carry weapons, but who are also skilled in using social media such as Twitter and Facebook, and the dark arts of "psyops" - psychological operations.”
These big guns — backed by artificial intelligence surveillance tools — were trained on experts and authoritative voices who deviated from the conventional Covid-related narratives promoted by the state, with the collected data used to craft government propaganda. As we now know, any dissent during this period was often dismissed as disinformation, quashing legitimate scientific debate along with conspiracy theories and harmful misconceptions. Pre-Covid, it had emerged that an executive in charge of European editorial at Twitter was also serving as a part-time officer of the 77th Brigade. And apparently Twitter didn’t have a problem with that.
We already knew from former US intelligence community contractor Edward Snowden that domestic spying by Western governments was rampant. But these latest revelations now indicate that the data is being weaponized and turned back on the same citizens for the purpose of imposing groupthink and portraying anyone who doesn’t fit into their intellectual straitjacket as crazy.
And the UK is hardly an anomaly in the Western world. The Canadian military was also caught using propaganda techniques honed on the battlefield in Afghanistan to shape the Covid debate. The military figured that it was “needed to head off civil disobedience by Canadians during the coronavirus pandemic and to bolster government messages,” according to the Ottawa Citizen, citing an internal army investigation. Launched in April 2020, the army claimed to have shut it down, but the newspaper has recently revealed that the Canadian military is still financing social media information and data collection operations to the tune of millions of dollars invested in the military industrial complex, for Canadians to spy on themselves, apparently so they can be better brainwashed by their own government under the guise of national security.
A report published last December by the Associated Press found that the Covid crisis permitted the expansion of this kind of global surveillance, with police in multiple countries — including Australia, Israel, India, and the US — using “technologies and data to halt travel for activists and ordinary people, harass marginalized communities and link people’s health information to other surveillance and law enforcement tools. In some cases, data was shared with spy agencies.”
It’s not like the folks who are supposed to be focused on protecting the homeland from actual threats to life and limb, rather than just from opinions that diverge from the government diktat, are going to just begin and end with Covid, either. Last June, the Canadian Armed Forces Tweeted: “We’re working with international partners to detect, correct, and call out the Kremlin’s state-sponsored disinformation about Ukraine.”
Last April, US President Joe Biden tried to create a new “Disinformation Governance Board” under the Department of Homeland Security, headed up by a former communications advisor to the Ukrainian foreign ministry — a move so grotesquely biased that the whole project was eventually scrapped. That doesn't mean that domestic information warfare activities have stopped, though. DHS came into existence itself under the pretext of better coordinating national security for the global war on terror. And now that surveillance arsenal is used on citizens who merely have different views. Twitter file releases under new owner, Elon Musk, have shed light on the cozy relationship between government officials — including those working for the Pentagon, CIA, and FBI – and big US social media outlets like Twitter, which routinely cooperated on certain narratives about geopolitical competitors (like Russia) under the guise of fighting “disinformation”.
What’s really the point of all this heavy-handed domestic narrative control? French senator, Jean-Raymond Hugonet of the center-right Republican Party, provided a glimmer of insight during hearings into China’s social credit system. “It is very interesting to see the way in which China, which has a population infinitely larger than that of European countries, is tackling the treatment of a virus much more important than the Covid, which will overwhelm us — namely the anomie, that is to say the absence of recognition, by a human being or by a society, of the rules and laws,” Hugonet said. “We have seen the yellow vests and are witnessing manifestations of anomie in France every day.”
If dissent is on the rise, as Hugonet fears, then it’s a clear sign of disconnect between the democratic will of the people and those elected to serve them. Which begs the question — who exactly are these elected officials answering to, if not the people? For all their constant talk of freedom and transparency, Western officials have become obsessed with manufacturing consent, and clearly willing to deploy the army to enforce it. They denounce and sanction other nations for authoritarianism, while ignoring that they're becoming what they claim to loathe.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.