First, I must offer an explanation. Although this blog is about Andrew Gilligan, the subject of this blog is not related to Life On Gilligan’s Island, which is a series that takes a look at what our dogged reporter serves up in his blogs for the Daily Telegraph and elsewhere. In this blog I want to explore three things: 1. the connection between Gilligan and kennite, 2. his denial that he is a propagandist and 3. how trolls and sockpuppets act as instruments of propaganda
With regard to the first point, Gilligan has denied that he is “kennite”. However while performing periodic trawl of the internet for useful information, I stumbled upon this article by Decca Aitkenhead (the article is well worth a read by the way) of The Guardian on 30/4/08 in which she says,
We meet at his home in Greenwich, south London, where he lives alone…
On Dave Hill’s blog on 3/11/08, Gilligan, using his real identity, says,
Kennite is my partner. Is that allowed? I’ve always been perfectly happy, as you acknowledge, to point out the shortcomings in your journalism under my own name. Even by the standards of the Ken Left, it strikes me as more than usually bizarre to accuse me of concealing my true views about our former mayor and his online fan club.
It’s also good to see such a sure sense of priorities. On the day of a major mayoral policy launch about a trivial subject like knife crime, you’re focusing on the issues that really matter.
Call me old-fashioned but the word “partner” tends to imply two things: a partner is someone who is domicile with another (there is usually a sexual relationship involved) or someone with whom one is engaged in some form of enterprise. I am not certain whether the information of his domicile status that Aitkenhead has presented was volunteered to her or deduced by her. At this point it may be useful to establish a time-line for kennite. His activity on The Guardian’s Comment is Free section can be found here. Kennite’s first post is on 20/4/07 to this article, which is critical of Boris Johnson who was, at the time, a mayoral candidate.
Neal Lawson credits Ken with the Freedom Pass; in fact, he has nothing to do with this pass, which has been in existence since the early 1970s and has been provided and paid for by the London boroughs since 1986. The Mayor’s only involvement with the Freedom Pass is to set the charges which the boroughs must pay to reimburse TfL for the OAPs’ free travel. Like so many other charges levied by Ken, these have risen hugely in recent years, placing real financial pressure on the scheme.
“Free travel” for under-18s on the buses is a Ken initiative, but it is not, of course, free. It is simply paid for by other travellers, who were hit with an overnight 25% increase in the Oyster single bus fare in January 2007 in order to raise the money for the “free” child fares.
Anyone who actually uses the buses detests the “free” child concession, because it has led to a significant increase in anti-social behaviour on board, has caused massive overcrowding at schooltimes and has made many fare-paying travellers’ lives a misery. In an age of growing concern about child obesity, it also seems utterly perverse to subsidise children not to walk and cycle.
That comment was posted nearly a year before the Aitkenhead interview. On 20/4/08, a year to the date of the first comment, kennite replies to the editors blog
If you add up the pieces written on CiF, the charge of bias is irrefutable. Since Boris Johnson emerged in the Mayoral race in July 2007, CiF and the Guardian’s politics blog have published at least 63 pro-Ken or anti-Boris articles, including 13 by Ken Livingstone himself. Twenty-four CiF contributors have written broadly pro-Ken/ anti-Boris pieces.
The number of pro-Boris articles or anti-Ken articles (including those in support of Brian Paddick) totals 15, from a total of five contributors.
Nobody outside the ranks of Ken Livingstone supporters would accept your principal commentator, Dave Hill, as “independent”. He has repeatedly attacked Johnson, found endless inventive ways to repeat the “racist” slur about him, done his very best to downplay the importance of the LDA grants scandal and made clear his delight at polls showing Ken closing the gap.
The Guardian’s news coverage has also been obviously slanted against Johnson – as, for instance, when the paper devoted a entire page 3 to the fact that he had missed one of the dozens of hustings organised during the campaign. The Guardian first ignored, then dismissed, the most significant story of the campaign, the Lee Jasper affair.
There is nothing wrong with any of this – newspapers are allowed to be biased. What is wrong is to maintain a dishonest pretence that you are impartial.
Just a point about the comment first: it ignores the evident bias against Livingstone in the Tory press. The accusation of bias does not stand up to scrutiny. This is an example of blatant propagandization that on the one hand complains of “pro-Ken bias” in The Guardian while pretending that there was no “pro-Boris campaign” being waged in the Tory press. Onward. Kennite commented on Dave Hill’s blog on 1/7/08 and was later identified as a possible sockpuppet.
The role of the sockpuppet or internet troll is consistent with the modus operandi of a propagandist. In this way, albeit self-referentially, Gilligan’s blogs and comments as “kennite” also conform to Chomsky and Herman’s propaganda model. Chomsky and Herman posit that consent is manufactured in the public mind by the media in order to prepare it, in this case arguably, for a war with Iran. The production of scare stories about creeping Islamification, Sharia Law, Islamic extremism in local government, town hall coups des etats staged by politicians associated with Islamist groups, Islamist entryism and so forth are part of the ongoing process of demonization that is deemed necessary to convince the public of the need for war. These narratives are often framed in the neoliberal notions of freedom, liberty and choice which are depicted as polar opposites to Islam in general. Scare stories work wonders and Gilligan is producing these stories in line with his master’s wishes. Indeed it could be argued that in a Lacanian sense, the master discourse is being articulated through Gilligan in the form of flak and scare stories which are couched in the presentational style of investigative journalism. The Telegraph doubtlessly would like to see a war that crushes Iran and by extension the Islamism that is thought to have sprung from there.
Gilligan’s attacks on other journalists, notably Dave Hill and Mehdi Hasan should be regarded as forms of flak. This is quite unprecedented behaviour for a journalist – especially one who has been given a British Journalist of the Year Award. We can regard this as part of his duties as a propagandist, which he denies. He also claims to have successfully sued someone simply for suggesting he is a propagandist.
Mr Hasan also includes a number of other claims – that I am a “propagandist” for instance – which are untrue and for which I have successfully taken legal action against one of my other critics.
Critics are not tolerated and will either be smeared or threatened with legal action. So much for free speech.
It may be useful to remind ourselves what the propaganda model is and how Gilligan’s activities submit to this thesis. There are 5 filters,
5. Anti-ideologies; substitutes for anti-communism
In the case of the last filter we can substitute “anti-communism” for “anti-Islam”. Like any religion, Islam is ideological. That is not in question. Like other religions, Islam has its schools of thought, its sects, its various interpretations of scripture and its tensions. So do many other religions. In the hands of the propagandist, Islam becomes a single, homogenized religion where one sect is indistinguishable from another. For instance, in the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” furore, the Sufis who will occupy the cultural centre are presented by certain journalists, their trolls, sockpuppets and angry correspondents as the same as Shia and Sunni and share with them a desire to take over the planet. This is little different to the anti-communist rhetoric of the Cold War.
Working our way backwards up the list, we come to flak which is self-evident in Gilligan’s case. Then there’s sourcing much of which comes from press handouts from government departments and elsewhere. The funding is obvious, that comes from advertisers. Money from advertisers will quickly dry up if the paper takes a certain position on say, the arms trade, which may or may not be supported by some of the advertisers. In a global economy, the connections between diverse forms of trading activities often converge through mergers and acquisitions. EMI, the electrical manufacturer and music company was, for instance, involved in the defence industry and was also involved with supply of components for weapons systems to apartheid-era South Africa. The position of both the Thatcher government and the paper on sanctions against South Africa is well documented.
One of the Telegraph’s biggest advertisers is Cap Gemini who, among other things, are involved in the defence industry. Wars mean profits for companies associated with defence. A constant drip feed of Islamopbobic blogs and articles is a form of support for both the warmonger’s case and that of the defence industry. The Telegraph is owned by the Barclay Brothers who support the Conservative Party. The party is generally sympathetic to any form of action that is taken against what it sees as ‘enemies of freedom’, this includes Muslims many of whom Gilligan paints as “Islamists” or “Islamist sympathisers”. The latter reads like the Cold War term of abuse for civil rights activists and others as “useful idiots”, a phrase which has made an unwelcome return in the comments section of Gilligan’s blogs. Words like “dhimmitude” are bandied about to create a picture of a people cowed by an ‘alien’ religion. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The anti-Iranian propaganda campaign began sometime around 2005 or 2006. This article from Globalresearch is instructive,
Not only is the anti-Iranian propaganda based upon a brazen, historic lie but, if the western public were to know just what kind of military scenario is envisaged, would be seen as a terrifying imperial escalation in the kind of (nuclear) blitzkrieg tactics that the West and NATO are now prepared to use.
Of course I am not suggesting that Ahmadinejad or the rest of the Iranian state is not brutal and dogmatic. But how much of what is reported by the media with regards to Iran is factual and how much of it is made up? It is difficult to tell.
Gilligan’s latest blog is typical of the ongoing campaign of vilification of Muslims which it is hoped will form an image in the public mind that the only way to stop this ‘creeping Islamification of Europe’ is to wage war on Iran. While Gilligan doesn’t say this in his blogs, the underlying discourse is there.