Britain Raises Army of Troll Troopers to Battle Environmental Activists On Social Media. Will Australia Follow Suit?

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by Des Pensable (c) 2015

“The British Army will revive one of the most contentious special  forces units of the second world war, the Chindits, as a new generation of “Facebook” warriors who will wage complex and covert information and subversion campaigns. As many as 1,500 troops will make up the reincarnated 77th Brigade, which is due to come into active service in April, the army said.” stated the Financial Times but what it didn’t say was against who these brave troll troopers would be fighting.

So why is the government setting up a military based cyber warfare dirty tactics unit?

Dr Tim Stevens of Kings College London, who studies cyberwar and strategy is quoted in the Guardian as saying “The current furore over inter-state cyberwar is probably not where the game’s at. What is far more likely is that states will seek to influence their own populations and others through so-called ‘cyber’ methods, which basically means the internet and the device du jour, currently smartphones and tablets.”

Well it seems that social media has changed the whole game of governing the UK population. The threat to the UK is no longer perceived to be from foreign sources but from within the British population itself. The same applies in the USA.

Social media has changed the game. Information and ideas can spread very quickly. Through Face book Twitter and the other forms of social media, any individual can communicate with potentially large numbers of others.  This is of course is a problem when they start forming special interest and activist groups that might interfere with government or commercial interests.

The obvious threats to the government and commercial interests are the massive environmental campaigns against coal seam gas mining; the resistance to the TTIP / TPP; and  the movements  demanding action on Global Warming.

The press about the social media being used to successfully organise the removal of repressive authoritarian governments in what has been termed the Arab Spring has also got the British, the USA and other western governments deeply concerned. Both Western and Eastern governments are beginning to fear social media.

The response in the USA, Britain and Europe has been to offer funding to university Social Science and Psychology departments to study the social behaviour and interaction of people and groups on the social media. However this has taken a nasty turn to the dark side.

“Cyber warfare of the future may be less about hacking electrical power grids and more about hacking minds by shaping the environment in which political debate takes place,” said Dr Stevens

The current research is on how to control and subvert the behaviour and emotions of individuals and groups on social media that might have differing opinions to the prevailing government policy. This work is creating real dangers to our western democratic concepts of privacy, freedom and free speech.

For example, there are a number of social media analysis programs such as sentiment analysis which determines whether people have positive or negative opinions on virtually any topic. Other studies have been carried out on how to control and change people’s emotions and even how to use small programs pretending to be humans called bots that can seek out, befriend and coerce individuals.   These combined with metadata collected by government and commercial sources enable individuals and groups to be readily profiled and targeted.

The USA seems more paranoid  than other countries. “The Minerva project paid Cornel University researchers to find out when social movements reach a “critical mass” of people – a “tipping point” at which they become a threat to the powers-that-be. In the language of “terrorism studies,” the human beings involved in these social movements are “contagions,” as in vectors of disease . Neutralizing them becomes a job for “war fighters.”

Data released by Edward Snowden showed that the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand had access to “The Art of Deception: Training for Online Covert Operations.” which was a training program designed to train troll troopers on  how to identify individuals and organisations considered to be extremists, then target,  infiltrate  and disrupt them by any means (legal or otherwise).

A USA company has created a program that allows a single troll trooper to control up to 10 false identities allowing the British unit of 1500 troopers to have the presence of 15,000 troll troopers all dedicated to mayhem on the British and presumably European Social media.

If that’s not bad enough Edward Snowden recently released information that the USA and British government spy agencies have stolen a billion commercial SIM encryption keys to mobile cell phones enabling them to circumvent any country’s privacy laws and listen to virtually any conversation at any time and you have a serious problem for not only civilian use of social media but also unions and political opposition parties as well. (see also here and here).

Britain has shown how easy it is for a democratic / oligarchic country to define any environmental activist group such as an anti CSG mining or Global Warming mitigation group as an extremist group. They can then be targeted by every level of government police and security agency and treated as if they were terrorists rather than citizens exerting their rights to object to destructive environmental laws and practices.

It’s no secret that the social media in Australia is very politically active. It was used extensively by the Rudd Labor government. The Victorian LNP government were worried about its influence before they were recently defeated.

It’s also arguable that the massive anti Newman government social media campaign to save the Great Barrier Reef and stop the proposed Galilea basin coal mines carried out jointly by the Greens and a consortium of environmental activist groups made a significant difference in the recent Queensland election winning the election for a surprised Labor.

If we consider that the Abbot government has a very negative attitude towards Global Warming and the environment ;  the PM believes that Global Warming  is “crap” and is in favour of selling more coal to the world even though the world is taking urgent measures to reduce carbon emissions at Paris this year.

If we also consider that the Abbot government likes military posturing as it has appointed a military general in charge of the operation to stop the asylum seeker boats; it has ordered new air force planes, new submarines and drones to protect Australia; it has threatened  to “shirtfront” President Putin of Russia; joined the war against ISIS  ; introduced  extreme anti terrorist laws in Australia and is going down the road towards militarization of Global Warming and pathological authoritarianism.

The question then is not will but when will the right wing Abbot government form a unit of Aussie troll troopers to harass green groups on Australian social media. How will we know, as the Australian government has introduced such extreme terrorist laws that any information about such a unit will surely be classified as secret.

The whole concept of any country using military troll troopers in peace time to target its own citizens is totally immoral and anti-democratic. How will Aussie diggers accept  the political role of carrying out covert psychological  operations against Aussie citizens especially those trying to help mitigate a world Global Warming disaster? That remains to be seen.

Its times like these that Australia really needs a Charter of Human Rights and a sane clear thinking stable government that cares for Australians like you and me.

 

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Be sure to watch this video about metadata.

Read more articles by Des Pensable.

Civil Disobedience and Disco Dancing at the Leard Forest

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Photo and story Des Pensable (c) 2015

I spent the weekend at the Bat Attack event at a new green front line action camp called Camp Kashmir, protesting about the destruction of over a thousands hectares of the Leard State Forest by Whitehaven Coal. They are building a controversial massive coal mine located near Boggabri in mid-western NSW, to supply coal to a diminishing market in a world concerned about Global Warming when Australia needs to keep 95% of its known reserves in the ground.

The event was originally planned to be held at Camp Wando which is private property owned by a local farmer who has been objecting to the damaging effects that the mine is having in the local environment. He and many of his fellow farmers are concerned about the dust, the noise and how it is destroying the homes of many endangered species. It’s also ruining the underground aquifer for all the farmers in the district that rely on it for water in the dry season and even more so in droughts.

The event was moved to another farmer’s place after the Council tried to stop it from happening at Camp Wando. The Councillors seem to be for some reason working in the best interests of the coal company rather than the local farmers. The situation is complicated by the fact that local farmers would normally complain to their local politicians but not in this case.

It might be no surprise that their politicians are National Party MPs who are not interested in any farmers complaints as the political head of Whitehaven Coal is Mark Vaile, formerly head of the National Party and Deputy Prime Minister under the Howard government. The stench of political corruption is overwhelming with the mine having been approved by the corrupt Eddie Obeid and Ian Macdonald.

Unfortunately the mine is continuing, destroying a beautiful rare forest and producing coal to the detriment of Australia’s international image while making the world’s Global Warming problem worse.

On the positive side we had a wonderful time. As always, visiting a greenie front line action camp is like visiting your own family. People you do know are overjoyed to see you again and even people you don’t know greet you with a hug. We had a bonus, two of our good friends and great poets from Sydney, Candy Royalle and Dave (DC) Carter were a part of the entertainment line-up.

We arrived late on Friday night as did many others after a difficult job finding Kamp Kashmir. It seems someone had sabotaged the road signs making it difficult for newcomers to find the place. But true to form the camp had hot drinks and hot food waiting for all comers no matter how late they arrived.

Setting up a tent in the dark can be quite taxing. Fortunately my partner Jo and I have had plenty of experience camping and managed quite well after first quaffing a couple of glasses of a nice fruity white wine. The sky was amazing, bejeweled with countless stars. The Milky Way was exposed in all its glory, a sight rarely seen in the city owing to an excess of light from street lights and buildings.

In the morning we discovered that we were among about 150 people camped in the farmer’s home paddock which was about 10 hectares in size and covered in dry native grass. We were just up from a dry creek bed but in the shade of a large tree which made the 30 C midday heat bearable. The surprise was that there were no showers owing to the fact that they had to move camps at such short notice. No one complained as real Aussies are made of tough stuff.

At the communal breakfast we met old friends and dozens of new ones, we went over the camp rules which were simple enough, no drugs, alcohol only in moderation, minimal politics and good will all around. The newbies were moved off to workshops on the Leard forest and its biota; the politics of coal mining and Global Warming; the concepts of non-violent civil disobedience and the legal ramifications of it, which took most of the day.

After a communal dinner that evening the farm took on a new persona for the first time ever, it became a disco. The entertainment line-up was huge with more than a dozen bands and groups busting to make a noise and they did from dark into the early hours of the morning. What an intriguing concept, civil disobedience classes during the day and dancing the night away. It worked marvellously well. Candy Royalle and Dave Carter added to the magic with great performances.

The next day the enthusiasm was infectious, many were keen to protest about the destruction of the forest. Some had decided that they were prepared to be arrested and decided to have a mass lock on to Whitehaven equipment destroying the forest. Others including Jo and I who weren’t prepared to get arrested but still wanted to have a protest decided to go to one of the Whitehaven entry gates and stage a protest there. Still others stayed behind to help in running the camp.

Both protests were greatly successful with 10 people locking onto the bulldozers and stopping the destruction of the forest for a day. The people were arrested by police but most released without charge.  In the other protest over 90 people protested loudly to the Whitehaven company staff at a company mine road entrance and were recorded by an ABC TV crew for a documentary to be shown at a future date.

The fun continued on for the next few days with more people arriving every day. So how did everyone survive without a shower? Well many traveled about 10 km to the nearest river and swam in the cool refreshing water there. Others rediscovered one of the greatest joys of life, It rained on Sunday and people all over the camp danced in the rain, got soaking wet, laughed and ran around like kids enjoying being a part of nature again.

Every week, more ordinary people both young and old around the country are objecting to our state and federal politicians who deny the effects of Global Warming on our great land. These new green Aussie activist heroes are having fun socializing with others while trying to save our world from the Fossil Fools like Whitehaven that wish to destroy it for profit. Why don’t you join  a green activist group us and help save the planet!

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To get the emotional feeling of being on a protest action check here.

More stories, poetry and philosophy by the author are available here.