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2 Dec, 2020 16:31

UK wants to use literal army to fight ‘anti-vaccine propaganda’ online. Are we in a budding totalitarian state?

UK wants to use literal army to fight ‘anti-vaccine propaganda’ online. Are we in a budding totalitarian state?

With the impending rollout of a Covid-19 vaccine, a UK military cyber unit has been tasked to crack down on “online propaganda against vaccines.” Questioning something that will be injected into your body is now deemed radical.

With the anti-lockdown narrative beginning to become more prominent throughout the UK following the arrest of 150 people over the past weekend, a clampdown on independent thought is looming. The arrests were made because of anti-lockdown protests in London, and the heavy-handed nature of dealing with these protests is extraordinarily alarming.

Now the crackdown is moving online, where the gradual destruction of free speech is becoming ever more blatant and cynical. The Sunday Times reported that there is even a brazen operation to suppress people’s fundamental right to express their opinion.

The UK authorities intend on literally using military intelligence brigades to manage the elimination of free speech. The primary target of this military operation is what the Times calls “anti-vax militants” and supposed propaganda content across the internet and social media.

Info-warriors to battle stations

The unit that will be leading this operation are the renowned 77th Brigade. The 77th Brigade has been mobilised to conduct information warfare and was initially conceived to assist in operations against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. The covert unit often works in cohesion with psychological operations teams within the army.

The 77th Brigade is a unit that combines the Army and Army Reserves for the purpose of non-lethal warfare and behavioural influence. The unit is currently based at Denison Barracks in Berkshire. It bills itself as “an agent of change” that uses “targeted information” activity and online outreach to assist with military objectives. The use of psychological operations to influence the narrative across social media platforms to ensure that the general conversation reflects the desired viewpoint is a powerful tool. Throughout 2020 the 77th Brigade has been coordinating with the Cabinet Office to counter ‘misinformation’ related to Covid-19.

It is interesting to note that the recently appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Covid Vaccine Deployment, Nadhim Zahawi, is the co-founder of YouGov. Targeting online polls is a specific method of psychological impression, as when people see their view is not the common understanding of reality, they may begin to reassess their opinion on a specific topic.

The interpretation of who is deemed to be an “anti-vaccine militant” is subjective, and there is certainly a wide scope for the abuse of such operations. Authorities have their own distorted idea of what constitutes ‘propaganda’ – and the damning label can potentially be slapped on anyone who dares to raise concerns about the imminent vaccines that have been developed within an unprecedented timeframe. Critiquing or even questioning any potential side effects or the motives behind the vaccine could result in the abolition of your name from the internet.

The irony of calling this an operation against “propaganda content” must not be lost on those who are executing it. Such an operation is an attempt to control free speech, it is an extraordinarily dangerous precedent to set and the death of debate is a very slippery slope. Sliding into a dictatorial state where people cannot oppose the authorities’ actions or plans leaves us all at risk of losing our fundamental human right to freedom of speech.

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Nefarious ‘state actors’ or legitimate concerns?

An elite force, that from conception has been trained to control minds, is now being utilised against ‘state actors’ spreading ‘anti-vaccine propaganda’. The Ministry of Defence claims the UK population will not be targeted, but we have all seen how easy it is for the government to ascribe any dissent to malign foreign influence, thus devaluing any legitimate concerns of its citizens.

This is a terrifying example of UK authorities manifesting the totalitarian power that they believe they possess. The silencing of those who legitimately are sceptical about the circumstances in which a vaccine has been produced are being denied the right to voice their fears. No matter how mad a conspiracy theory or how deluded an individual may be, they should always retain the right to speak their mind without fear of retribution, so long as they are not doing so in a threatening manner.

The UK is purchasing over 350 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine from various pharmaceutical companies. The panic in which the vaccine was formulated and subsequently approved should lead to questions about its efficacy and safety. In any other situation, these would be seen to be perfectly reasonable concerns.

In the world we live in, every decision you make is recorded and watched, and a calculation as to why you elected to make that decision is made. Many of your thoughts are predetermined and fabricated before you even think them, you do not even question whether they are your own. Advertising so imperceptible, you are often blissfully unaware of how easily and comprehensively your personality is understood.

Society is starting to truly appreciate the power that data can hold. It is widely accepted that large technology companies are abusing the control they have obtained and are diminishing their user’s right to privacy. We are seeing various technologies being maltreated by publicly listed corporations for profit, and the control they can have over your daily life grows with every second you engage with their technology.

Now, just imagine the power a state-backed cyber warfare unit could have. The mission that the 77th Brigade is on and its methods are still only vaguely understood – but the state already possesses a wide range of methods for covert information warfare. GCHQ’s Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG), for example, boasts an arsenal of over 200 “info-weapons,” ranging from spoofed SMS messages to artificially increasing traffic to a specific website and manipulating online polls. With society’s growing reliance on technology to guide our collective consciousness, controlling this battlefield could be a means to conquer our minds and effectively police our thoughts. Thinking the wrong thing could become a crime, and we could find ourselves living in a state of perpetual anxiety where the defiance of compliance will never go unpunished.

Also on rt.com EU watchdog calls for longer-but-better Covid vaccine approval process after UK grants quick authorization

A screen-addicted society is easy to control

The ever-darkening addiction to a glass screen that’s on your person 24 hours a day and knows who you are with more precision than you know yourself is not natural. Promoting products you didn’t realise you needed until they were thrust before your eyes. Reading various articles all presented at particular moments on specific platforms to ensure the commentary results in you attaining the preferred conclusion.

The majority of many people’s lives are now spent interacting with screens and lockdown has only enhanced this phenomenon. It is therefore understandable why the UK authorities choose to focus their attention on controlling what is permitted to be shared online. By controlling these mediums of communication with subtle manipulation that is invisible, the illusion of control can be achieved by phantom force that remains intangible. Using technology to understand how modern society thinks and behaves enables state actors to accurately predict their population’s reaction to specific information and prepare for the outlawed conjecture. This, in combination with silencing the critics, allows a single narrative to form which is taken as gospel by a large proportion of society.

The power to infect people’s minds is unlike any political tool in history. Creating the realms of perception and concocting the premeditated response enables the infiltration of free thought. What news-related media impacts your impression of reality and the ability to impact what you believe to be your individual opinion cannot be underestimated. Your activity and behaviour online provides a more precise picture of who you really are than your ego would ever allow. Therefore, those with the access to your data can ascertain what truly motivates you and what your core beliefs are. If these do not correlate with their own ambitions, a campaign of misinformation and manipulation can be initiated to attempt to alter these points of view.

Fear hangs heavy in the air and the greatest fear of all is, no one is sure what they are afraid of. The revelation about the conduct of the 77th Brigade sheds some light on the concise operation against free thought, yet the most horrifying elements of control remain disguised in broad daylight and inconspicuous in the shadows.  

Freedom is never free; you have to fight for it.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.