‘Responding to extremisms: media roles and responsibilities’

‘Responding to extremisms: media roles and responsibilities’, Bournemouth University, 15 July 2011

The oxygen of publicity or the right to a platform? How are different forms of extremism covered in our national media, and does this serve to marginalise or legitimise extremist groups? What are the media strategies of these groups, and what potential do social media have to change their prospects? What are or should be the relations between media professionals and police and security services, community organisations and other stakeholders? How will the media influence the success or otherwise of the soon to be revised PREVENT strategy?

On Friday 15th July, Bournemouth University hosted a one-day conference at Bournemouth University’s Executive Business Centre. The conference focused on extremism and in particular the media roles and responses to extremism. It was organised by Bournemouth University’s Media School and was run by CERB, the Containing Extremism Research Briefing (http://www.cerb.ws).

CERB is a growing database of summaries of research articles related to various forms of contemporary extremism, with focus on its psychosocial dimensions and the role of the media. The CERB conference brought together various academics, journalists and speakers involved in responding to political or violent extremism, discussing such topics as:

–  How should media report the EDL?

– Freedom of Information vs National Security: Why Wikileaks adds a new dimension to an old dilemma

– What do the public think? Attitudes to extremism, violence and freedom of speech

– Counter-terrorism and the media

– Responding to the BNP: the media and the Far Right in contemporary Britain

The conference was be covered live all day, so those who were unable to make it in person could follow the debate live. Check out CERB_WS on Twitter for the tweets or go to the CERB archive for the tweets in chronological order.

For full coverage of the conference, including blogs, videos and podcasts, go to cerb.ws/conference/blog.

The photos, tweets, blogs, videos and podcasts were put together by a team of students from Bournemouth University’s Media School (including myself)

The conference is linked to the development of a web-based resource for people working in this area, the Containing Extremism Research Briefing.

Anonymous, ‘The Hydra’, warns NATO: “This is no longer your world”

KTTV Fox 11 investigative report on Anonymous.

Image via Wikipedia

In a response to a recent NATO security report regarding ‘Anonymous‘, the mysterious online ‘organisation’ (I use the term loosely) has posted a lengthy public response cautioning NATO that “This is no longer your world”. [The full response will be posted at the end of this article, for the website that it was posted on is currently experiencing server issues]

The underground group – responsible for the attacks on MasterCard, Visa, PayPal, Amazon and, allegedly, Sony – posted the public message as a response to NATO’s report, issued last month, which warned about the rise in politically-motivated cyberattacks and singled out Anonymous as the most well-known and sophisticated of the so-called ‘hacktavist’ groups.

The NATO report stated that: “Today, the ad hoc international group of hackers and activists is said to have thousands of operatives and has no set rules or membership. It remains to be seen how much time Anonymous has for pursuing such paths. The longer these attacks persist the more likely countermeasures will be developed, implemented, the groups will be infiltrated and perpetrators persecuted,” the report read, also asking, “Can one invoke Article 5 of the Washington Treaty after a cyber attack? And what response mechanisms should the Alliance employ against the attacker? Should the retaliation be limited to cyber means only, or should conventional military strikes also be considered?”

Recently, the UK and US have suggested that they consider such cyber-attacks as actual acts of warfare. The Washington Post reported that “The Pentagon has concluded that computer sabotage coming from another country can constitute an act of war, a finding that for the first time opens the door for the U.S. to respond using traditional military force.”

“If you shut down our power grid, maybe we will put a missile down one of your smokestacks,” said a military official.

Meanwhile, the Guardian reported that “The UK is developing a cyber-weapons programme that will give ministers an attacking capability to help counter growing threats to national security.”

“The armed forces minister, Nick Harvey, told the Guardian that “action in cyberspace will form part of the future battlefield”, and though he said cyber-weapons would not replace traditional weapons, he admitted he now regards them as “an integral part of the country’s armoury”. It is the first official acknowledgment that such a programme exists.”

Anonymous’ response to NATO began by stating: “you have singled out Anonymous as a threat to “government and the people”. You have also alleged that secrecy is a ‘necessary evil’ and that transparency is npt [sic] always the right way forward.”

The public statement laid out clearly that Anonymous and Wikileaks are “distinct entities”, describing how they were not working together but that they do share a common attribute: “They are no threat to any organization – unless that organization is doing something wrong and attempting to get away with it.”

Anonymous continued by seemingly berating NATO for acting as if the organisation were some kind of cyber-terrorist organisation, or were somehow acting for their own agenda and not for the good of the masses: “We do not wish to threaten anybody’s way of life. We do not wish to dictate anything to anybody. We do not wish to terrorize any nation.

“We merely wish to remove power from vested interests and return it to the people – who, in a democracy, it should never have been taken from in the first place,” the statement continued.

Anonymous also state: “You know you do not fear us because we are a threat to society. You fear us because we are a threat to the established hierarchy. ”

The statement concludes with the warning: “Do not make the mistake of challenging Anonymous. Do not make the mistake of believing you can behead a headless snake. If you slice off one head of Hydra, ten more heads will grow in its place. If you cut down one Anon, ten more will join us purely out of anger at your trampling of dissent.

“Your only chance of defeating the movement which binds all of us is to accept it. This is no longer your world. It is our world – the people’s world.”

I shall post the full response below. It is well worth a read, and it will be interesting to see whether NATO responds with a statement in return, or whether they ignore it. Time will tell, but it is clear that we are entering an age where, truly, “action in cyberspace will form part of the future battlefield” – for good or for evil.

The public statement:

Greetings, members of NATO. We are Anonymous.

In a recent publication, you have singled out Anonymous as a threat to “government and the people”. You have also alleged that secrecy is a ‘necessary evil’ and that transparency is npt always the right way forward.

Anonymous would like to remind you that the government and the people are, contrary to the supposed foundations of “democracy”, distinct entities with often conflicting goals and desires. It is Anonymous‘ position that when there is a conflict of interest between the government and the people, it is the people’s will which must take priority. The only threat transparency poses to government is to threaten government’s ability to act in a manner which the people would disagree with, without having to face democratic consequences and accountability for such behaviour. Your own report cites a perfect example of this, the Anonymous attack on HBGary. Whether HBGary were acting in the cause of security or military gain is irrelevant – their actions were illegal and morally reprehensible. Anonymous does not accept that the government and/or the military has the right to be above the law and to use the phoney cliche of “national security” to justify illegal and deceptive activities. If the government must break the rules, they must also be willing to accept the democratic consequences of this at the ballot box.We do not accept the current status quo whereby a government can tell one story to the people and another in private. Dishonesty and secrecy totally undermine the concept of self rule. How can the people judge for whom to vote unless they are fully aware of what policies said politicians are actually pursuing?

When a government is elected, it is said to “represent” the nation it governs. This essentially means that the actions of a government are not the actions of the people in government, but are actions taken on behalf of every citizen in that country. It is unacceptable to have a situation in which the people are, in many cases, totally and utterly unaware of what is being said and done on their behalf – behind closed doors.

Anonymous and WikiLeaks are distinct entities. The actions of Anonymous were not aided or even requested by WikiLeaks. However, Anonymous and WikiLeaks do share one common attribute: They are no threat to any organization – unless that organization is doing something wrong and attempting to get away with it.

We do not wish to threaten anybody’s way of life. We do not wish to dictate anything to anybody. We do not wish to terrorize any nation.

We merely wish to remove power from vested interests and return it to the people – who, in a democracy, it should never have been taken from in the first place.
The government makes the law. This does not give them the right to break it. If the government was doing nothing underhand or illegal, there would be nothing “embarassing” about Wikileaks revelations, nor would there have been any scandal emanating from HBGary. The resulting scandals were not a result of Anonymous‘ or Wikileaks’ revelations, they were the result of the CONTENT of those revelations. And responsibility for that content can be laid solely at the doorstep of policymakers who, like any corrupt entity, naively believed that they were above the law and that they would not be caught.

A lot of government and corporate comment has been dedicated to “how we can avoid a similar leak in the future”. Such advice ranges from better security, to lower levels of clearance, from harsher penalties for whistleblowers, to censorship of the press.

Our message is simple: Do not lie to the people and you won’t have to worry about your lies being exposed. Do not make corrupt deals and you won’t have to worry about your corruption being laid bare. Do not break the rules and you won’t have to worry about getting in trouble for it.

Do not attempt to repair your two faces by concealing one of them. Instead, try having only one face – an honest, open and democratic one.

You know you do not fear us because we are a threat to society. You fear us because we are a threat to the established hierarchy. Anonymous has proven over the last several years that a hierarchy is not necessary in order to achieve great progress – perhaps what you truly fear in us, is the realization of your own irrelevance in an age which has outgrown its reliance on you. Your true terror is not in a collective of activists, but in the fact that you and everything you stand for have, by the changing tides and the advancement of technology, are now surplus to requirements.

Finally, do not make the mistake of challenging Anonymous. Do not make the mistake of believing you can behead a headless snake. If you slice off one head of Hydra, ten more heads will grow in its place. If you cut down one Anon, ten more will join us purely out of anger at your trampling of dissent.

Your only chance of defeating the movement which binds all of us is to accept it. This is no longer your world. It is our world – the people’s world.

We are Anonymous.
We are legion.
We do not forgive.
We do not forget.
Expect us…

Secret cables reveal US concerns for post-quake militant occupation of Haiti

Debris in the streets of the Port-au-Prince ne...

Image via Wikipedia

Washington began deploying 22,000 troops to Haiti after the January 12, 2010 earthquake despite there being no serious security problem, according to secret US cables released by Wikileaks and provided to Haiti Liberte.

After the 7.0 earthquake struck, decimating the Haitian capital and surrounding areas, the capital Port-au-Prince “resembled a wazone”, Haiti Liberte reports. “Bodies lay strewn, collapsed buildings spilled into dust-filled streets, while Haitians frantically rushed to dig out survivors crying out from under hills of rubble.

“But the one element missing from this apocalyptic scene was an actual war or widespread violence. Instead, families sat down on the street, huddled around flickering candles with their belongings.”

Washington responded by sending thousands of armed troops in what would be the third US military intervention in Haiti in the last 20 years. The decision drew criticism from aid workers and government officials from around the world. The militarised response to a humanitarian crisis was not looked upon kindly by many in the international community, who seemed to view such a response as being inappropriate and counterproductive.

French Cooperation Minister Alain Joyandet stated that international aid efforts should be “about helping Haiti, not about occupying Haiti.”

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez similarly denounced the decision to send “Marines armed as if they were going to war. There is no shortage of guns there, my God. Doctors, medicine, fuel, field hospitals, that is what the United States should send. They are occupying Haiti in an undercover manner.” Continue reading

Secret cables reveal US opposed paltry minimum wage rise in Haiti despite hunger and rising cost of living

    Recently released Wikileaks cables show that the United States worked to aggressively oppose a ‘paltry’ minimum wage rise for Haitian assembly zone workers.

The US embassy worked closely with factory owners contracted by Levi’s, Hanes, and Fruit of the Loom to block a wage rise, according to secret US State Department cables obtained by Haiti Liberte and The Nation magazine.

The factory owners refused to pay $0.62 an hour, or $5 per 8-hour day, as decreed by a measure unanimously passed by Haiti’s parliament in 2009. The cables show that, in the background, the factory workers were backed by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the US embassy in Haiti.

The minimum daily wage before the rise was a mere $1.75 a day. Haiti is already the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and also one of the most unequal. The CIA ‘world factbook’ recognises that “Poverty, corruption, and poor access to education for much of the population are among Haiti’s most serious disadvantages,” though it also states that Haiti “enjoys the advantages of low labor costs and tariff-free access to the US for many of its exports.”

The factory owners opposed to the minimum wage increase told parliament they were willing to accede to a paltry 9 cent per hour pay rise for workers (totalling a mere $0.31 per hour) as they toiled in factories making T-shirts, bras and underwear for US clothing companies.

The US State Department stepped in, urging the then-Haitian president Rene Preval to intervene.

In a June 10, 2009 cable to Washington, US ambassador Janet Sanderson said: “A more visible and active engagement by Preval may be critical to resolving the issue of the minimum wage and its protest ‘spin-off’ — or risk the political environment spiraling out of control.”

A mere two months later, President Preval negotiated with Parliament to secure a deal to introduce a two-tiered wage rise: one for the textile industry at $3.13 a day and another for all other industrial/commercial sectors at $5 a day.

Despite the two-tiered proposal, the US embassy was still not satisfied. Deputy chief of mission David Lindwall said the $5 a day minimum wage “did not take economic reality into account”, but was a populist measure aimed at appealing to the “unemployed and underpaid masses”. Haitian supporters of the minimum wage rise stated that, actually, the rise was necessary to keep pace with inflation and rising costs of living.

As stated, Haiti is the poorest country in the hemisphere and many struggle with hunger and poverty. The CIA ‘world factbook’ website states that Haiti is already: “the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere with 80% of the population living under the poverty line and 54% in abject poverty” – so why did the US intervene so aggressively, opposing the minimum wage increase? Their own intelligence agency plainly states on their website that they recognise that Haiti struggles with such levels of poverty.

According to a 2008 Worker Rights Consortium study, a working class family of one working member and two dependants requires a daily wage of at least $13.75 to meet normal living expenses – and this was in 2008. 3 years later, Haitians are describing the difficulties in meeting the rising cost of living.

In response to a request for a statement regarding these cables and alleged US intervention, the US embassy’s Information Officer Jon Piechowski told Haiti Liberte: “As a matter of policy, the Department of State does not comment on documents that purport to contain classified information and strongly condemns any illegal disclosure of such information. In Haiti, approximately 80% of the population is unemployed and 78% earns less than $1/day – the U.S. government is working with the Government of Haiti and international partners to help create jobs, support economic growth, promote foreign direct investment that meets ILO labor standards in the apparel industry, and invest in agriculture and beyond.”

The Haiti cables also reveal how the US embassy closely monitored pro-wage increase demonstrations and how there were worried about the political impact of minimum wage increases. UN troops were called in to quell student protests, sparking demands for the end of the UN military occupation of Haiti. Does this suggest that the UN was working on behalf of US interests, ignoring the interests of the poverty-stricken Haitians?

Due to the fierce protests of workers and students, sweatshop owners and Washington won only a partial victory in the minimum wage battle, delaying the $5 a day minimum for one year and keeping the assembly sector’s minimum wage a notch below all other sectors. In October 2010, assembly workers’ minimum wage rose to $5 a day, while in all other sectors it rose to $6.25.

The Haitian Platform for Development Alternatives said in June 2009: “Every time the minimum wage has been discussed, [the assembly industry bourgeoisie in] ADIH has cried wolf to scare the government against its passage: that raising the minimum wage would mean the certain and immediate closure of industry in Haiti and the cause of a sudden loss of jobs. In every case, it was a lie.”

Barack Obama: Nobel Peace Winner. War President.

President Barack Obama addresses the House Dem...

Image via Wikipedia

“I will promise you this, that if we have not gotten our troops out by the time I am president, it is the first thing I will do. I will get our troops home. We will bring an end to this war. You can take that to the bank” (Obama, 2007)

Hope. Change. Peace.

Barack Obama’s presidential campaign focused on the principles that changes were needed, and if he were given the chance, it would be possible under his leadership. He promised a ‘change’ from the Bush-era politics, an end to the Middle Eastern wars, and the closing of Guantanamo Bay. The emphasis was on hope. The emotive theme was peace. His inspirational rhetoric echoed around the world. The focus was not on the fact that he was the first black president of the USA, but rather that he was so vastly different from the militaristic George W. Bush. Whereas Bush inspired anger, even ridicule towards the end of his office, Obama inspired hope in millions simply through his rhetoric. In October 2009, Obama was named the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, a gesture that would never have been given to his predecessor.

Yet beneath all the spin, the PR tactics and the powerfully emotive rhetoric encompassing such  words as “hope” and “change”, Obama’s policies are not so dissimilar to those that the Bush-era enacted. Some even claim that Obama may even be worse. He is certainly more charming, intelligent and emotive than Bush ever was, and this may be why he is able to captivate people’s hearts so. His eloquence with words and his calm, rational demeanor can potentially be very disarming; and if his policies are not so dissimilar to his predecessor’s, then his ‘promises’ for change are simply empty rhetoric, possibly designed to provide a smokescreen for what is essentially a continuation of the Bush-era politics that many Americans began to despise. Continue reading

US orders Twitter to hand over private information

A member of parliament in Iceland is starting a legal fight to stop the US getting hold of her private information and messages.

Birgitta Jonsdottir, an Icelandic MP, was a former WikiLeaks volunteer. This alone has led to the US justice department issuing a subpoena directly to Twitter to get hold of her information. Jonsdottir said on Twitter that the “USA government wants to know about all my tweets and more since november 1st 2009. Do they realize I am a member of parliament in Iceland?”

She said that the US was “just sending a message and of course they are asking for a lot more than just my tweets.” Demanding a meeting with the US ambassador to Iceland, she adds “the justice department has gone completely over the top.” US authorities had requested personal information from her as well as private messages from Twitter, and she is now considering her legal position.

It’s not just about my information. It’s a warning for anyone who had anything to do with WikiLeaks. It is completely unacceptable for the US justice department to flex its muscles like this”, Jonsdottir stated.

The US has already investigated people who have merely donated to WikiLeaks via Mastercard, Visa and PayPal, however the online watchdog the Electronic Privacy Information Centre (EPIC) has already requested that the US authorities hand over information regarding their investigations into people who have donated. Marc Rotenberg, president of EPIC, said it appeared as if the US justice department was looking at building a case against WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, though Rotenberg added that it seems “unlikely” that a lawful prosecution could be brought against WikiLeaks.

Those who read my post Facebook Law Enforcement should be aware that the US authorities are already monitoring social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and users should be aware that the much-heralded rise in social networking can have detrimental effects as well as beneficial ones. Your personal information is very valuable in the 21st Century, where information is becoming a new currency, and not even foreign members of parliament are safe.

Remember, this is coming from the country who ordered the spying on fellow UN members, and who requested personal biometric data from various African leaders, according to leaked diplomatic cables. They do not respect private, personal information. Yet they are well aware of its importance.

Facebook Law Enforcement

Tony Blair called in to face Iraq Inquiry

Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair. Blair was...

Image via Wikipedia

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair is to face the Iraq Inquiry for a second time as the committee desires “more detail” in some key areas.

Branded by some as a war criminal, Tony Blair led the UK into the Iraq War which has been claimed by many to be an “illegal” war. A number of former government lawyers have also argued that it was an unlawful act, and the UN security council did not support the invasion.

Blair is one of a number of individuals who have been asked to re-appear before the committee; other key figures asked to give evidence include former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell, former Chief of Defence Staff Lord Bryce, Lord Turnbull and Lord Wilson.

The committee has questioned many members and former members of the Labour Cabinet, as well as senior military commanders, civil servants, and diplomats. However, the Inquiry requires “further evidence” on certain matters and key areas, as there are gaps or certain aspects that need clarifying. It has been revealed that Tony Blair will appear before the committee on 18 January 2011.

It is interesting to note that WikiLeaks has released a cable that shows that the UK was resorting to measures to protect “US interests” during the Iraq Inquiry. Released on 22 September 2009, the cable shows how Jon Day, the MOD’s Director General for Security Policy, promised US diplomats that the UK had “put measures in place to protect your interests during the UK inquiry into the causes of the Iraq War”. Day explained that while “Iraq seems no longer to be a major issue in the US”, it would soon become a big issue – a “feeding frenzy” – in the UK “when the inquiry takes off.”

It is clear, therefore, that on some level the UK government deliberately intervened in the Iraq Inquiry to protect US interests, however it is not clear whether the diplomatic cable has had any effect on the decision by the Inquiry to call in key governmental figures and witnesses once more.

Sir John Chilcot, Chairman of the Iraq Inquiry, has stated that the final report will be “full, thorough, evidence-based and frank”, and said he is “committed to taking the majority of this evidence in public.”

The report is to be published sometime in March. Sir Chilcot stated that the committee is “independent of government and will not shy away from criticising if we find fault or if we conclude that errors have been made. We are determined to produce a report that will be useful to future governments”