I am stunned that the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, compared the struggle of the Ukrainian people against a Russian invasion, support for which is bolstered by a massive disinformation campaign by Vladmir Putin, to Britain voting for Brexit.
These issues are part of a sickening tree which shares the very same roots, the seeds for which were planted by oligarchs, be they British or Russian, in the hope of gaining some sort of control. This includes the keys for number 10 Downing Street, the role of Prime Minister, financial control to escape EU tax avoidance directives to save themselves millions in taxation (Rees Mogg), the disaster capitalists who gained financially from Brexit (Crispin Odey, who made 200 million on Brexit night), and Putin, who it emerged paid for Nigel Farage’s services on the state owned Russia Today.
Russia Today and Nigel Farage
RT is a massive news outlet which provided not only financial resources for Farage, but more importantly as far as his campaign went, media limelight on TV and internet, with which to spread lies. Farage was paid 2,000 pounds per appearance on the show, which had previously engaged UKIP hero Gerard Batten, from 2011. Carole Cadwalladr recently posted a social media thread on Twitter which drew together staggering narrative parallels between the words of Nigel Farage on Brexit, and migrants and the exact narrative strategies of Vladimir Putin as applied to the situation of cleansing the Ukraine of fascism.
Britain has a Russia problem. And his name is Nigel Farage. Today, Ofcom finally banned RT eight long years after Russia illegally invaded Crimea. But this is their man. RT – whose editor described it as a “weapon” of the Russian state – is what made Farage into who is today.
Russia Today had a particularly strong foothold in cyberland, given its vast use of YouTube. It is not just a TV channel. It’s at centre of a whole ecosystem of Kremlin propaganda. Clips uploaded to YouTube were laced between mesmerising videos of tsunamis & tornadoes. It was clickbait wizardry.
And who was RT’s favourite man in the West? It’s not just that Farage was paid by Russia Tpday – the Russian state – for appearances over years. Though he was. It’s that Russia Today – the biggest news channel on YouTube – made him a star.
The Daily Mail engaged older British readers, but You Tube was a master stroke, which allowed UKIP and Farage to reach out to a much younger audience, sewing the divisive disinformation seeds. Cadwalladr exposes how she found younger people at a Farage event in Melbourne, drawn by his You Tube presence, promoted by Russian Today. Russia Today replayed clips of Farage in the EU parliament from their platform on You Tube. An EU staffer who used to upload Farage’s videos to YouTube was as she points out, ” a frequent visitor to the Russian embassy.”
Emails revealed that same EU staffer who The Guardian had shown linked to Russian embassy was using Farage clips to fuel an entire fake news ecosystem.
We recall those posters of migrants queuing up to enter Britain, the scroungers and criminals as they were described by Farage, a narrative shot down with a dose of truth on LBC by Femi Olowule, in which he corrected Farage. All EU members, Britain included at the time of the discussion in 2016, could have applied article 7 of the EU citizens’ rights directive, whereby any European migrant had to prove possession of sufficient financial resources and medical insurance, in order to spend over three months in another member state if they do not have a job. Farage, himself an MEP, conveniently forgot to mention these legal provisions on Russia Today or elsewhere in the beams of media limelight.
Theresa May could have used that law as PM. She did not.
We can deconstruct those Farage claims: the queues of refugees, millions in a matter of weeks, entering Poland are repelled from their homes by Russian bombs. Their hearts break because they would like to go back home. Lives destroyed, in some cases literally blown up. Recent media reports which are extremely harrowing mention exhibitions featuring the empty prams and buggies left behind by children killed during this war, painful empty spaces in families…
The Tory Party Spring conference, where Johnson made this nonsensical comparison, is therefore peppered by yet more of the same strategy: that which propels disinformation onto centre stage.
In utter stupidity and way out of context, Mr Johnson mentioned that he practised a media strategy of a series of confusion gaffes: this has to be one of the largest.
Ed Davey commented:
“To compare a referendum to women and children fleeing Putin’s bombs is an insult to every Ukrainian. He is no Churchill: he is Basil Fawlty.”
It is similarly out of context to draw parallels between Brexit and Britian’s support for freedom against the right wing extremists of Nazi Germany. Churchill was one of the founders of what became the European Union, ensuring that those who were living in Europe would be able to feel free and be themselves, ideas which he exposed in a famous speech in the Ridderzaal in The Hague on 7 May 1948.
The decision of many of those people who voted leave in the referendum is not an act of freedom: their minds were kidnapped by disinformation, spread out around social media by Putin’s foot soldiers. (See my recent piece on his IRA). If employees of the IRA behind their desks were foot soldiers, then we would have to compare the dialogue of Farage and his media platforms to that of a large bomb which was about to crumble the foundations of our democracy.
Brexit and the march of Putin are founded on one and the same narrative: divisive disinformation. Johnson’s comment is not only an insult to Ukranian people and each and every person whose lives have been impacted by the conflict, it is an insult to every British person whose economic and personal lives have been ruined at the hands of this British (and Russian political elite)
The Prime Minister lacks the intellect and intelligence to lead this country, especially given the complexities of political and legal treaties with the European Union in the TCA, a trading relationship which has been ruined by the lack of knowledge on the part of British negotiators, one which is coming back to haunt each and every one of us whose lives, work and economic sustenance has been blown up by journalistic narratives funded by Putin and Russian interference.
If we too want to stand up and stand with Ukraine, we need to tackle this disinformation and set the situation to rights. Divisive narratives funded by oligarchi of any sort, do not belong in 21st century politics any longer, be that on migrants or climate change. If we are to learn anything from the conflict in Ukraine, let us take that message away: we can stand with the good, be there for fellow humans at a time of great need, or stand on the wrong side.
Disinformation is such a powerful tool: ignoring reality, the failure to inform ourselves about what is going on, sleepwalking hurts not only ourselves but those around us.
We as citizens have a duty to counteract disinformation. We must not accept disinformation, sleepwalking or inertia from those in office of our government either. Britain has a Russia problem, its name is Nigel Farage…. Britain has a huge political problem, who is equally linked to Russia, and his name is Boris.
Margarita Simonyan. Russia Today’s editor in chief was present at a Putin rally in Moscow. She’s called RT “a weapon” in Russia’s information war. A war she brought to the West. With the UK govt’s consent & approval (Cadwalladr).
If parliament sits back and takes no action, it too becomes responsible for disinformation. Time to set the record straight and remove remaining security risks from our democracy. That Russia Report is long overdue.