Several years ago I wrote about the Soviet counterintelligence state, whose principal intelligence organ underwent numerous mutations from 1917 to 1991, becoming successively the Cheka, the OGPU, the MGB, the NKVD, and various other acronyms before it settled into its final form as the KGB in the 1950s. The state intelligence apparatus did not dissolve after the Soviet Union collapsed, but was reorganized as the FSB, and still serves as the security service for the Russian Republic.
In addition to enforcing total Bolshevik control within Soviet Union, the KGB was tasked with sowing confusion, conflict, destabilization, and revolution abroad. Ten broad classes of counterintelligence were conducted abroad by Soviet agents and their proxies:
|5.||agent of influence (agent vliyaniya or agent po vliyaniyu)|
|6.||clandestine work (konspiratsiya)|
|8.||wet affairs (mokrye dela)|
|9.||direct action (aktivnyye akty)|
As Ion Pacepa notes in his superb book Disinformation, #7 dezinformatsiya was considered by the Soviets to be the most effective tool of subversion against the capitalist world. The dissemination of disinformation absorbed more resources and manpower than traditional espionage (that is, the collection and analysis of the enemy’s secrets). The acquisition of the H-bomb was a crucial necessity, but so was causing disgust, doubt, and despair in the hearts of ordinary Westerners.
Interestingly enough, a wave of disinformation recently surfaced here in the comment threads at Gates of Vienna. I didn’t pay much attention to it at first; it took me a while to catch on to what the new commenters were up to. They obeyed our rules and didn’t engage in ad hominem attacks — their comments were just hostile, and I’m used to that.
The new trolls asserted various negative things about Christians, white people, Europeans, etc. They left information contradicting the post or other commenters in ways that made Muslims look good or non-Muslims look bad, but without providing any links.
What made me start paying attention was the issue of the teenage girl in New Zealand who was forced to wear a burka to cover up her injuries after her father beat her up. Several commenters — who may have been sock puppets for a single operative — appeared on the news feed thread and stated that the information in this news story was incorrect, that the family were Maoris and not Muslims. They reported that major media outlets in New Zealand had in fact run corrections. They even named specific media outlets, but supplied no links.
By this time I had realized we were being trolled, and deleted all the new instances of such comments. While I was at it, I took the trouble to look more deeply into the New Zealand story. After extensive searching through media reports, I concluded that no such corrections existed. There weren’t any stories that contradicted the initial reports from The New Zealand Herald.
This confirmed that we were the target of a deliberate, sophisticated disinformation campaign.
From then on I watched carefully for new troll comments of this sort. As they continued to come in, I noticed that the same IP addresses appeared repeatedly, but with different nicknames and email addresses.
A day or two after the first report, a follow-up story from the The New Zealand Herald was published. It reported that the (definitely Muslim) father of the abused girl had been arrested. I featured it in the news feed that night as bait for the disinformation trolls, hoping that I could lure them back. Sure enough, one of them showed up and said, “…it was reported today on APN that she was a Maori and that she’d been kidnapped.” I deleted his comment, and did another search on news stories about this from media outlets in New Zealand and Australia. Once again, it was absolutely certain: no such corrections or counter-reports existed.
I called the troll out on his behavior, and surprisingly enough he responded, confirming that he had indeed been trolling us. It was interesting that he would own up to it. I let that particular comment stand, and also a later one in which he spoofed himself — it was amusing, so I let it be.
He was only one of a half dozen or more disinformation trolls operating from different locations and using various sock puppets. I didn’t have the time or energy to root out all the older comments, so readers who are interested can go back and read them.
I draw several conclusions from all this:
|1.||These are professional trolls. Their comments are carefully written to appear credible. They are not filled with insults or invective. Someone is paying people to sow this disinformation on various websites.|
|2.||These comments seem to serve several purposes. They sow dissent, discord, and doubt among anti-Islam factions. They tend to pit Catholic against Protestant, Orthodox against Catholic, Christians against Jews, secular people against believers, gays against straights, French against Germans, etc.|
|3.||They leave patently false information, but always without any links. If enough such items are left in enough places, it raises the Google profile of the false meme, causing it to appear in searches alongside factual reports. This gives the falsehoods more currency than they would otherwise have, undermining the truth.
“But Baron,” you say, “these commenters are sticking to the rules. They are being civil, temperate, on-topic, and decorous. In the interests of free speech, shouldn’t you allow them to have their say?”
In a word: No.
The purpose of this blog isn’t to allow commenters to say whatever they want, it is to serve the interests of the Counterjihad. The dissemination of false information that creates discord and confusion in the ranks most emphatically does not serve the interests of the Counterjihad.
The pseudo-facts left by these trolls may seem innocuous, and if there were only one or two of them every couple of weeks, their presence would indeed be inconsequential.
But this disinformation is being pushed en masse by multiple commenters. I presume they are tasked with doing the same at other blogs and forums. If enough false information of this type collects in enough places, it can supplant the facts. What begins as fabrication can metamorphose into settled truth, at least within certain circles, among people who are already inclined to believe it.
In just such a manner the Soviet dezinformatsiya machine created the meme that Pope Pius XII was a Nazi sympathizer who did nothing to help the Jews. This “fact” was not true; it was launched to damage the Catholic Church, which the Soviets feared more than any other Western institution. The false meme about Pope Pius was one of the KGB’s greatest successes, as evidenced by the number of people who still cite it as fact even today.
In the same way, the story about the Muslim man in New Zealand who broke his daughter’s nose with an umbrella, broke her teeth with a stick, and nailed a door shut to keep her in the house may become the story of a Maori girl who was kidnapped — provided that enough instances of the falsehood appear in enough places.
And the same goes for innumerable other stories about sharia-controlled zones, sex-slavery gangs, honor killings, female genital mutilation, lawfare, armories in mosque basements, and all the other news reports that are gathered and disseminated by various Counterjihad sites. If each of these has a contradictory meme competing with it, and enough such memes gain currency in the cyber-world, then the falsehoods may eventually overwhelm the factual accounts.
I won’t enable such a process at Gates of Vienna. Therefore, every comment that makes my spider sense tingle — and has no links to back it up — becomes suspect. My new policy is: “No links — no post!”
These more stringent standards are a regrettable necessity. It’s unfortunate if anyone posting here in good faith has had comments deleted because of this policy, but that’s just the way it goes.
Consider yourselves collateral damage in the New Disinformation War.