Now and then
That the now infamous activities of the so-called Integrity Initiative have been revealed is a good thing, although nobody should be surprised that the British state has spent millions on what is effectively a mercenary disinformation and smear machine created to whittle away the reputations of our supposed political adversaries, at home and abroad. Such activities, I was reminded whilst reading 1941 Fighting the Shadow War: How Britain and America Came Together for Victory by Marc Wortman (Atlantic Books, 2017) have never ceased. He briefly relates the story of the ‘British Security Coordination’ (BSC) organisation in the U.S. in 1940 which was charged by Churchill to influence American opinion which was then overwhelmingly isolationist. It used all sorts of methods to do so, and it had to perform its mission in the utmost secrecy, since it was illegal under the U.S. Foreign Espionage Act. One thing it sought to do was influence the outcome of the 1940 presidential election. Plus ca change. Fake news? The novelist William Boyd wrote about it in the Guardian in 2006 (19th Aug.):
BSC's media reach was extensive: it included such eminent American columnists as Walter Winchell and Drew Pearson, and influenced coverage in newspapers such as the Herald Tribune, the New York Post and the Baltimore Sun. BSC effectively ran its own radio station, WRUL, and a press agency, the Overseas News Agency (ONA), feeding stories to the media as they required from foreign datelines to disguise their provenance. WRUL would broadcast a story from ONA and it thus became a US "source" suitable for further dissemination, even though it had arrived there via BSC agents. It would then be legitimately picked up by other radio stations and newspapers, and relayed to listeners and readers as fact. The story would spread exponentially and nobody suspected this was all emanating from three floors of the Rockefeller Centre. BSC took enormous pains to ensure its propaganda was circulated and consumed as bona fide news reporting. To this degree its operations were 100% successful: they were never rumbled.
Fascinating stuff. It’s worth reading the full Boyd article and the Wikipedia entry for the BSC. Quite how many other similar outfits we don’t yet know about would be an interesting research topic. I suspect there’s plenty of them. And if we're so worried about El Trumpo's isolationism . . .
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