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QAnon Changes Strategies and Spreads Globally

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 17/11/2021 - 11:35pm in

QAnon Changes Strategies and Spreads Globally

CJ Werleman reports on how the appeal of the baseless conspiracy theory is taking hold in Australia, where anti-vaxxer protestors are using QAnon to speak out against lockdowns

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The 6 January attack on the US Capitol by Donald Trump supporters, white supremacists and QAnon conspiracy theorists has inspired like-minded individuals throughout the Western democratic hemisphere.

This includes the anti-vaccine protestors staging a four-day protest outside Melbourne’s state parliament building since Saturday. Roughly 3,000 anti-vaxxers have marched through the city’s central business district, carrying asinine placards, waving Trump and right-wing American libertarian flags, wearing red MAGA (‘Make America Great Again’) caps and chanting QAnon slogans.

In both style and substance, Australia has witnessed a bizarre and terrifying re-enactment of the violent attempt to overthrow the US Government.

In the same way that pro-Trump Americans built a gallows, while chanting “hang [Vice President] Mike Pence” 10 months earlier, the protestors in Melbourne carried a prop gallows with three nooses hanging from it, as a woman with a megaphone said “I look forward to the day I see you dance on the end of a rope” – referring to the Victoria state Premier Dan Andrews – as onlookers cheered. 

Similar calls for Andrews’ death were echoed on social media, among these self-described “freedom” protestors, who fail to realise that the city’s world-record long lockdown and stringent social distancing measures, have melted away because 90% of the state has now been fully vaccinated. 

The Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has mimicked Trump in refusing to condemn those threatening the lives of elected law-makers.


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While they claim to be only “concerned citizens”, the appearance of dozens of placards, carrying QAnon slogans – including ‘Save Our Children’ and ‘We Don’t Take Orders from Paedophiles’ – tells a entirely different story, one signalling the growing reach and influence of the US-based conspiracy movement, which has seamlessly and strategically embedded itself within anti-vaccine and white supremacist movements and groups during the Coronavirus pandemic.

QAnon is a baseless far-right conspiracy theory that posits cannibalistic paedophiles are operating a global child sex trafficking ring, which Donald Trump was working to defeat.

“COVID-19 restrictions are being exploited by extreme right-wing narratives that paint the state as oppressive, and globalisation and democracy as flawed and failing,” warned ASIO, the country’s top intelligence agency, earlier this year. “We assess the COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced an extreme right-wing belief in the inevitability of societal collapse and a ‘race war’.”

In May, ASIO director-general Mike Burgess told a Senate hearing that the threat from right-wing “racists and nationalists” represents roughly 50% of its current counter-terrorism onshore caseload, saying that “this reflects a growing international trend as well as ASIO’s decision to allocate more resources to the threat”.

This threat is metastasising in the form of both formal and informal right-wing groups and movements, including QAnon and neo-Nazi organizations, which have taken full advantage of conspiracy theories that have spread throughout the Australian community during the crisis, particularly those related to vaccines and 5G technology. 

“As these conspiracy groups have grown and inspired rallies around the country, members of the far-right are working to bring people across to right-wing extremist ideology,” observes investigative journalist Mario Christodoulou.

Cam Smith, a researcher and journalist, has monitored the growth of QAnon in Australia since he first noticed the conspiracy group popping up in local communities and in his Facebook feed in 2018. Having tracked their online conversations, he told the Guardian how a group of QAnon believers drove nearly 2,000 km from Queensland to Victoria to protest against Melbourne’s lockdown in July 2020, “filing themselves and expounding their theories as they went”.

By clicking on their posts, and engaging with QAnon believers, Smith quickly learnt how Facebook algorithms were contributing to the conspiracy movement’s rapid rise during the pandemic, observing that one click on a “small anti-vaccine community” led to Facebook recommending more extreme political content.

With Australia’s two largest cities – Melbourne and Sydney – experiencing more than 250 and 150 days of lockdown respectively during the past two years, millions of citizens have been “trapped at home with a lot of frustration – and the internet – for months at a time,” writes Van Badham in her book, QAnon and On: A Short and Shocking History of Internet Conspiracy Cults.


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It is little wonder that the UK-based think tank, the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, found Australia to be the fourth-largest producer of QAnon content, globally, after the US, UK and Canada. “This content is recycled, derived from other geographical contexts – primarily the US – and often dates back to earlier in 2021 and even 2020,” it has said.

“Taken as a whole, however, the content being shared does not spin a coherent narrative. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter much whether the conspiracy revolves around Premier of Victoria Dan Andrews working with the Chinese Communist Party to microchip the population via the vaccine and bring in the ‘Great Reset’, or Prime Minister Scott Morrison selling military bases to Pfizer and forcing people into death camps. The importance of these conspiracy narratives is that they reiterate the alleged existence of a secretive, sinister ‘they’, and ‘they’ are lying to you.”

The ugly, violent and anti-democratic protests held in Melbourne in recent days have not only been the manifestation of these conspiracy narratives, but also the validation of a warning by the ASIO director-general several months ago, when he said: “Given the growth we’ve seen in nationalist and racist violent extremism, we anticipate there will be a terrorist attack in this country in the next 12 months.”

The QAnon threat did not go away after it wrongly predicted that Donald Trump would win the 2020 US Presidential election. It has changed and adopted new strategies to gain political power in the US and now Down Under.

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The Radical Right Interests Behind the School Boards Race Row

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 15/11/2021 - 10:06pm in

The Radical Right Interests Behind the School Boards Race Row

Steve Bannon is leading an attack on the US education system. But who are the radical right interests behind ‘concerned moms’? And will this new front in the culture wars spread to the UK?

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Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon has been charged with contempt of Congress – but while he now risks a prison stay, the chaos and cruelty he advocated for is taking hold of the US school system.

Speaking on his podcast in May, Bannon explained how “the path to save the nation is very simple – it’s going to go through the school boards.”

Those school boards have now become a target for far-right groups such as the Proud Boys, with the Republican Party and its base turning education – and particularly education on race – into its latest front of the culture war.

That war is inflaming real-life violence at schools across the country. The violence has included deposits of dead rodents on school board members’ doorsteps and the unfurling of Nazi flags at meetings.

Last week, members of the neo-Nazi group showed up at a New Hanover County school board meeting. They covered their faces, which was ironic considering the meeting was to discuss mask mandates.

In response to the increased aggression, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) wrote to President Joe Biden asking him “to deal with the growing number of threats of violence and acts of intimidation occurring across the nation.” Some members have reported suicidal thoughts.

Writer and journalist Alexandra Alvarova, who grew up in Soviet-era Czechoslovakia, told Byline Times how during Communist rule, a similar structure to school boards existed, known as “trust committees”. The people on these committees, she explained, “were extremely fanatic. Their main qualification was aggressive behaviour and support of the regime. Teachers were scared s***less.”

Central to the row in US schools is the accusation that students are taught critical race theory (CRT) – an academic discipline that explores ideas about white privilege and institutionalised racism. The NSBA letter explained how “many public school officials are facing physical threats because of propaganda purporting the false inclusion of critical race theory within classroom instruction and curricula” even though “critical race theory is not taught in public schools.”

This has not stopped right-wing and white supremacist actors from launching attacks on the US school system which they accuse of indoctrinating children. One headteacher has lost his job, after being accused of teaching CRT. And while many of these groups appear to be grassroots efforts led by “concerned moms”, the reality is a complex web of dark money, radical-right foundations and Trump-linked activists. 

Meanwhile, here in the UK, critical race theory remains a controversial topic. In 2020, the Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch argued that “any school which teaches these elements of critical race theory, or which promotes partisan political views such as defunding the police without offering a balanced treatment of opposing views, is breaking the law.”

Toby Young’s Free Speech Union has the subject in its sights, calling it “political indoctrination” and presenting schools minister Nadhim Zahawi with a dossier of 15 examples where schools have allegedly partaken in “politicised teaching”. The Henry Jackson Society’s executive director Dr Alan Mendoza has also attacked the subject, calling it “new-age hokum“. The Society published an article by conservative commentator Calvin Robinson which claimed hard-left groups “are campaigning for schools to teach Critical Race Theory (CRT), in an attempt to over-compensate for what they judge to be centuries of inequality.”

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The Mom Army

Leading the charge against CRT Parents Defending Education (PDE), a self-described “national grassroots organisation working to reclaim our schools from activists promoting harmful agendas.” It provides its members with guides on how to expose “the hijacking of our schools, the politicisation and corruption of our educational system.”

The people behind PDE are experienced political operators with links to billionaire disaster capitalists the Koch Brothers and the Trump regime. 

The organisation’s President, Nicole Neily, has worked for a range of Koch-linked projects. The Koch family are fossil fuel billionaires who fund a range of anti-rights causes in the US and globally, are pro-Hard Brexit and anti-government intervention. 

Her roles include President of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, the Cato Institute’s manager of external relations, and the coalition relations manager for FreedomWorks’ Center for Global Economic Growth. Neily was the sole employee of Speech First, and served as a board member for Koch-affiliated Young Voices and Young Americans for Liberty.

Neily also has links to the Independent Women’s Forum, an anti-feminist organisation predominantly funded by right-wing foundations, including the Koch brothersClaude R. Lambe Foundation

The Independent Women’s Forum condemns the teaching of critical race theory, saying its premises “necessarily make CRT a revolutionary ideology incompatible with the American system”. It seeks to “purge the influence of CRT.”

Its chair is Heather Higgins – a “gold circle” member of the Council for National Policy (CNP). The organisation brings together radical, religious and far-right powers including anti-gender organisations Alliance Defending Freedom and the Liberty Counsel, radical-right think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation, and Trump staffers Kellyanne Conway and the DeVos Family – Betsy DeVos was Trump’s Education Secretary. 

DeVos’s father, Edgar Prince, was one of the founding donors of the Family Research Council (FRC) – a CNP organisation with CRT in its sights. The FRC has launched a campaign titled “For The Sake Of Our Children”, claiming CRT has “taken over society and invaded our schools” and that “our kids are constantly bombarded with an anti-biblical worldview.”

FRC’s founder, James Dobson, also set up the Focus on the Family. The Prince and DeVos families have donated $70 million and $100 million respectively to both organisations.

The CNP has played a crucial role in mobilising the anti-CRT movement through media platforms such as the Daily Caller and Salem Media, which amplify the partisan messaging to their audiences in the guise of ‘news’. Both are headed by CNP members.

Niely’s colleague at PDE is Aimee Viana, executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics under Trump. Her husband, Jose Viana, is another successful political operative, while his brother-in-law Matthew Schlapp (married to Jose Viana’s sister), is an influential lobbyist and the chairman of the American Conservative Union, which organises the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

Senior fellow at PDE, Elizabeth Schultz, was appointed by Betsy DeVos to be deputy director of an office within the Education Department.

Then there’s Rachel Hannabass, who previously worked for the Leadership Institute. The organisation which was set up to train conservative activists counts Trump’s Vice President Mike Pence in its alumni, while the UK’s Vote Leave founder Matt Elliott has attended at least one of its events. The Institute runs a campus watch project to expose left-wing academics and provides training to people on winning school board seats.

A further group is Moms for Liberty, whose members proudly claim “we do not co-parent with the Government.”

It boasts 140 chapters in 32 states with roughly 60,000 active members. It denies being funded by dark money and laughed when a reporter asked if it was receiving financial support from Republican donors.

Republicans have praised Moms for Liberty for generating support for the GOP. Christian Ziegler, vice chairman of the Florida Republican Party and a Sarasota County commissioner, credits the group and the broader issue of “parental rights” for bringing in new voters. Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has said he will get the “political apparatus involved so we can make sure there’s not a single school board member who supports critical race theory.”


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The Fox Effect

As with Parents Defending Education, Moms for Liberty presents as a grassroots group but its leaders boast political credentials. The group’s Quisha King, who has appeared on Fox News, was a Republican strategist and regional engagement coordinator for the Republican National Committee in 2020. Bridget Ziegler (wife of Christian), another Fox News guest and formerly part of Moms for Liberty, is a Republican activist.

Fox has played a vital role in presenting anti-CRT voices as grassroots. It billed Deborah Flora as a “mother of two” – she is in fact director of Parents United America and hosts her own right-wing radio programme on a station owned by the CNP-linked Salem Media Group. 

Since the start of 2021, Fox News has posted about CRT 85 times on Facebook, leading to more than 1.5 million interactions. Its presenter Sean Hannity has posted 33 times with 1.8 million interactions.

Trump’s favourite TV station also hosted Elana Fishbein, who launched the group No Left Turn In Education and appeared on Tucker Carlson Tonight. Fishbein claims the education system is pushing an “outright rejection of values which have long been at the core of the American experience”. The group shares extreme memes on social media and has become one of the largest groups targeting school boards.

Fishbein has also won support from the CNP-linked Heritage Foundation. She claims to have taken part in a private briefing hosted by the Heritage Foundation during the spring. The briefing featured lawmakers from Idaho, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Texas and other states to discuss model legislation to block critical race theory. 

British Conservative MPs have close ties to the Heritage Foundation – Liam Fox and Owen Paterson have addressed the organisation, as has Foreign Secretary Liz Truss. 

Following Fishbein’s appearance on Carlson’s show, personal injury lawyer Jonathan O’Brien volunteered to help out with No Left Turn, assisting in a legal case against a charter school where pupils were asked to disclose disabilities, ethnic and sexual identity. 

The charter school’s CEO called the suit an “ill-intentioned” attack by activists on “any conversation about racism or slavery that paints aspects of our country’s past in a negative light.” The litigation continues, although the district has asked that it be dismissed.

The case garnered the attention of right-wing forces, with O’Brien joining a legal coalition focused on CRT. The coalition includes Christopher Rufo, of the Manhattan Institute, who claims he was in touch with Donald Trump’s staff before the President issued an executive order in September 2020 that banned critical race theory’s use by federal agencies. Rufo famously tweeted that the strategy was to “decodify” the term CRT to drive up negative perceptions and make it “toxic.” 

It was Rufo who “initially exploited the term ‘Critical Race Theory,’” author of Shadow Network, Anne Nelson, explained to Byline Times. “He appeared on Fox News and started talking about it, artificially connecting the concept to various events that were creating anxiety in swing voters. That includes our polarising conversation about race, as well as parents’ struggles with their children and Covid-19, and the pressure working parents feel with school closures. The radical right activists go to school board meetings and focus all of this anxiety on something called ‘CRT’ that few of them can even define. It puts a convenient label on everything they’re uncomfortable with.”


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From Lock Her Up to School Boards

These are just a few of dozens of activist groups, astroturf or grassroots, radicalising parents against critical race theory. 

But the involvement of 1776 Action shows how right-wing actors can evolve to use their resources to focus on a new line of attack. Originally called the American Legacy Centre, the nonprofit “dark money” organisation – which is not required to disclose its donors – campaigned against Clinton in 2016 and Democrat candidates in 2018. Set up in 2014, the activists raised over $2.3 million over the next five years.

Now rebranded 1776 Action, it uses its platform to attack critical race theory – and it is backed by powerful political operatives. It has ties to several of former President Donald Trump’s allies, including Newt Gingrich and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson. 

Other organisations include Fight for Schools, Massachusetts Parents United, EdFirstNC, the Eagle Forum-linked Parents Rights in Education.

“The problem is that the radical right is using this language as an effective electoral mechanism,” Anne Nelson said to Byline Times. “And that could make future advances in racial justice impossible.”

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The Fantasy of War: The Far Right and the Military

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 11/11/2021 - 2:59am in

The Fantasy of War The Far Right & the Military

An undercover investigation by Byline Times reveals military personnel and veterans on far-right Telegram channels, and how the far-right in the US and UK use military tropes to recruit and spread their message

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“We haven’t won two world wars through talking and protesting … violence solves things!” 

So writes a man claiming to be a member of the British Army, posting on “Tommy Robinson News” – a Telegram channel devoted to far-right activist Stephen Yaxley-Lennon. Undercover research by Byline Times shows how ‘Andy G’ joins other men claiming to be serving or veterans in the US and UK military personnel posting on the channel.

Our investigation comes the week Defence Secretary Ben Wallace addressed military leaders regarding a series of scandals dogging the Armed Forces. It also comes as a former green beret – a member of the US Special Forces – was arrested after accidentally revealing his illegal cache of explosives while trying to sell his home on Zillow. Jeremy Brown was a self-described “Oath Keeper”, a right-wing US militia and is serving a jail term for his involvement in the 6 January Capitol Riots.

Much of the recent conversation on the analysed Telegram channel has focused on vaccinations, with one poster who identifies as “SS” and claims to be in the British Army writing how the “military is finished” due to the high take-up of the vaccine. Another claiming to be an RAF veteran said if he had been made to take the vaccine when in service he would have left. 

A man claiming to be an army veteran posting on Tommy Robinson’s Telegram channel

‘Jack’, who claims to have been in the RAF during the late 1990s, writes how back when he was serving “white people weren’t p*****s”. A man named Richard Hogarth says he is ex-Army, but modern-day SAS “can suck my c**k” because they are “p*****s”. Andy Thomas, allegedly “a former British vet in my 30s”, responded to a photo of a beauty pageant contestant saying he and his colleagues would “smash the life outta that.”

The nature of Telegram means it is difficult to know if these men truly are military personnel, or Walter Mitty-style fantasists. What we do know is members of the armed forces have been referred to counter-extremism for far-right views. In June 2021, it was reported that 16 military personnel had been investigated since 2019 by Prevent.

An example of a man claiming to be military personnel posting on Tommy Robinson’s Telegram channel

In 2018, Yaxley-Lennon posted a video where he was flanked by trainee soldiers singing his name. That same year, Corporal Mikko Vehvilainen was jailed for his involvement in the banned far-right group National Action. In 2019, serving army soldiers showed an anti-left sentiment when they used a picture of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for target practice.

Meanwhile, the far-right terrorist advocate The British Hand encouraged his followers to “hide their political views in order to enlist in the military”. The 15-year-old leader and one other member of the group appeared to be in the Army Cadets, with another member mentioning the Cadets as a place where he found friends who had similar political views to his own.

In France, police foiled a far-right plot to overthrow the Government that had succeeded in enlisting army officers, while in Germany an entire commando unit was disbanded due to its endemic far-right culture. 

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Join the Militia!

The attempted insurrection at the US Capitol on 6 January 2021 threw the spotlight on the Oath Keepers, a well-established militia group infamous for vigilantism. Group members pledge to resist if the Federal Government imposes martial law, invades a state or takes people’s guns – all notions linked to extremist right-wing conspiracy theories. 

A leak of its 35,000 strong membership revealed that at least 133 members of the Oath Keepers had US military email addresses – meaning they are serving military personnel. A previous leak of the 25,000 registered members between 2009-2015 put the numbers of those with military links much higher – with two-thirds having a background in the military or law enforcement. About 10% were found to be on active duty.

Another military presence at the Capitol in January was the Veterans in Defence of Liberty – an organisation run by shadowy radical-right network Council for National Policy (CNP) member Dr Scott Magill. CNP’s membership includes radical-right actors, donors and Trump allies.

Magill emailed his “fellow warriors and friends” to answer Trump’s “clarion call” and to “not concede.” He argued that “we are in an undeclared civil war.”

This civil war is sometimes code-named “boogaloo” on far-right channels. Byline Times looked at groups with Boogaloo-related names on Gab – a social network notorious for hosting far-right content – to find they share far-right and Nazi memes, anti-vaxx conspiracy theories, fantasise about violence and praise formerly fascist regimes in Spain and Portugal. 

One post appeared across two groups and purported to be a quote from a Turning Point USA meeting. It featured a person asking “when do we get to use guns” against the Government, which it accuses of stealing elections. 

Military structures have long been attractive to far-right or fascist movements. Groups like the Oath Keepers using militaristic structures, costumes and language. In the UK, the pseudo-military outfit the British Street Commandos (BSC) calls its members Commanders and Captains. It was set up by former English Defence League leader Tim Ablitt.

The British Hand also used militaristic language to recruit followers. One post shared on social media featured a soldier aiming a rifle, with the caption “this is how real men take the knee”. According to HOPE Not Hate, “enlisting in the Army is a frequent topic of discussion, with two members saying they have concrete plans to do so”. As per the veterans on Telegram, some British Hand members argue that the Army does not represent them anymore. However, “they agree on the view that the Army can teach them useful skills.”

These men enact a fantasy of militaristic violence. Crucially, these are movements that work within a military set up precisely because the modern thought-architecture of fascism focuses on preparation for a global ethnic war. 


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The ‘Gloo’ of Big Data

The leak of 2009-2015 Oath Keepers membership data helped to reveal how men entered the militia. The number one gateway, according to analysis by Mother Jones, was Facebook, with variants of the platform’s name mentioned in almost 1,000 entries. Mother Jones points out that, while there are questions to be asked about Facebook’s role in radicalisation, the prominence in the list “could simply be a reflection of their prominent role in the flow of information.”

There is growing concern that radical-right organisations are using big data to target military families with their messaging. While these organisations are not far-right or blatantly fascist, they use data to target anti-Democrat, pro-right wing views to military personnel. 

Central to this strategy is Gloo, a data platform that has been accused of targeting the vulnerable and mentally ill in order to recruit them to US mega-churches which they can then monetise with donations. Gloo is linked to both the radical-right Koch Foundations and to disgraced data firm Cambridge Analytica. Its Board’s Chair is Intel’s Pat Gelsinger.

A Koch Foundations-funded charity commissioned Cambridge Analytica and Gloo to build a software platform that could be used by churches in order to target vulnerable people. The man who commissioned Cambridge Analytica and put money into Gloo is a member of the CNP.

Gloo partners with an organisation called Cru, which runs a military mission. The latter describes its vision as seeking “God’s help in facilitating movements throughout the global military community so that everyone knows someone who truly follows Jesus.”

The partnership involves an app “designed to help military members grow in their faith and stay connected to God’s people”. The app enables Gloo to harvest data on military personnel – which its clients can then target with their religious-right messaging. 


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Gloo’s focus, academic Brent Allpress told Byline Times, “is on vulnerable active service individuals suffering from deployment and relationship stress, depression, anxiety and PTSD.”

“They have an active veterans programme,” Allpress expanded. “This is a cause for concern given the rise of extremism amongst highly trained veterans. The events on 6th January involved radicalised veteran groups. Any potential links between those organisations and Gloo operations should be investigated.”

While the short-term goal is to monetise the data to increase far-right wing church wealth and membership, the longer term goal according ​​to special adviser to the UK Parliament on disinformation and co-director of the documentaries Dis/Informed and People You May Know, Dr Charles Kriel, is to identify them so they can be “recruited into the politics of the far-right.”

According to Allpress, who has worked with Kriel on People You May Know, “the explicit ideology of Gloo partner Cru Military is Dominionist. God’s soldiers, Crusaders. Cru is a truncation of Crusade. The mission describes Roman Generals who conquer territory and then take on a Governing role.”

“This absolutely aligns with the politics of white Christian nationalism,” Kriel told Byline Times. “And the optics couldn’t be worse. Recruiting and geotracking the military in the field through an organisation and app named for the Crusades? It’s a very bad look.”

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Fake News: Greece’s Proposed Law Threatens Press Freedom

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 05/11/2021 - 3:06am in

Fake News Greece’s Proposed Law Threatens Press Freedom

Increasingly, right-wing and authoritarian governments are taking action to stop the spread of disinformation – while using fake news themselves to sow distrust and entrench power

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“That’s complete fake news,” the Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said to Sky News’ Kay Burley, after the presenter asked her whether the Government “agreed to take out any specific mentions” of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.  

It was, in fact, reported in September that the UK “cut climate pledges to clinch Australia trade deal”. An email leaked to Sky News involved Truss, who was then Trade Secretary, and Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, agreeing to ditch references to the targets of the Paris Agreement on climate change to sweeten the Australian trade deal.

This is not the first or last time an MP has unfairly accused the media of misinforming its audience about its decisions. In the aftermath of the Parliamentary vote on former Environment Secretary Owen Paterson’s suspension, Andrea Leadsom accused the media of “misrepresenting” the debate, before the Government swiftly performed a u-turn. 

Since the term “fake news” was first bellowed by President Donald Trump at US journalists, it has become increasingly used by political leaders keen to escape scrutiny of their actions. 

Now the Greek Government, led by right-wing New Democracy Party, has proposed an amendment to the criminal code which would impose fines on and even jail journalists guilty of disseminating “false news”. The law claims to be aimed at tackling disinformation. But critics are worried this is an attack on press freedom from an increasingly authoritarian leadership.

In an open letter, the International Press Institute has stated the Greek Government “must withdraw its amendment” on false news, as “the draft law’s vague definition and punitive sanctions would undermine the freedom of the press and have a chilling effect at a time when independent journalism is already under pressure in Greece.”

While acknowledging the dangers of disinformation, the letter’s authors fear “the passing of heavy-handed legislation by governments which grants regulators or prosecutors the power to decide true from false and levy punitive fines on the press is not the correct response and would result in more harm than good.”

The Institute raises the alarm over the amendment’s vague wording which fails to define “false news”, before explaining how “particularly problematic is the sanctioning of reports ‘capable of causing concern’ or which ‘undermines public confidence’ in state authorities. Journalism which holds power to account naturally shakes the public’s trust in government, just as investigative reporting causes legitimate public concern or anger. Under such a vaguely worded law, this kind of vital watchdog journalism could be targeted by political leaders intent on limiting criticism of their policies.

Greek journalist union ESIEA has added its voice in opposition to the proposed amendment, writing “there is a danger that Justice will intervene and restrict the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech and expression of opinions about what is happening around us.”

The move follows attempts in Romania and Bulgaria to tackle misinformation during the pandemic – attempts that were shut down after criticism from the European Union. Hungary, however, succeeded in criminalising the spread of misinformation deemed to undermine the authorities’ fight against the Coronavirus with fines and prison sentences.

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Politicians and Accusations of Fake News

While there is no doubt that disinformation is rife online, the term “fake news” is increasingly used by politicians around the world to undermine investigative reporting and potentially embarrassing revelations. 

Earlier this year, the editor of the Yorkshire Post, James Mitchinson, accused UK MPs of “taking a leaf out of Donald Trump’s Fake News playbook” after his paper published a story about vaccines being diverted to regions where fewer people had accessed the jab.

“Never in my career as a journalist have I come under such a coordinated attack from those in power,” Mitchinson wrote. “They [UK MPs] wanted you to believe them, not us. The experience has left me with a deep sense of unease.”

Back in 2018, when he was Housing Minister, Dominic Raab accused Inside Housing of “peddling fake news” after it reported he hadn’t attended a Housing Taskforce. Raab explained he was needed in Parliament to respond to an urgent question, while Inside Housing said “it was not inaccurate to report that Raab did not attend the meeting, nor was it improper to simply pose the question why in our morning news round-up.”

The backbench MP Andrew Bridgen called reporting on Cambridge Analytica “fake news”, while leading Brexiteer Arron Banks has called Channel 4 News responsible for “fake news” after it exposed how Leave.EU faked a viral video of ‘migrants.’  

Outside of the UK, the term was most commonly used by Trump to rile up his base against the mainstream media, attacking CNN and Buzzfeed as “fake news”. Authoritarian Brazilian leader Jair Bolsonaro has also attacked critical media by claiming he is “at war with fake news”. In Australia, conservative politicians such as Malcolm Turnball have accused media outlets of publishing “fake news” to satisfy what the right believes to be “leftist agendas”. In Europe, Hungarian Government spokesperson Zoltan Kovacs said the organisation Reporters Without Borders should be renamed “Fake News Without Borders,” while Orbán in 2018 told reporters “I won’t answer to fake news factories.”

Other Conservative attacks on journalism include Jacob Rees-Mogg calling the Huffington Post deputy political editor of being “either a knave or a fool”; Matt Hancock referring to The Guardian as a “rag”; and Kemi Badenoch saying that Nadine White’s emails requesting comment on a story were “creepy and bizarre.”

It may not have used the inflammatory term “fake news”, but the Cabinet Office dismissed a Mail on Sunday report on a probe into foreign collusion in Downing Street, saying there was “never such an investigation”. The Mail on Sunday stands by its story. Meanwhile, then Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove accused openDemocracy’s reporting into freedom of information of being “ridiculous and tendentious.” 

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) safety survey, published in November, showed 98% of respondents believed politicians should avoid dismissing journalistic work as fake news as they have a leading role to play in maintaining high standards of public discourse.


Priti Patel, Nigel Farage, and the Fake News Around Asylum Claims
Sian Norris and Jake Tacchi

The Real Purveyors of Fake News?

Right-wing governments like New Democracy in Greece threaten to jail journalists for writing “false news”, and Conservative Cabinet ministers accuse news anchors of repeating “fake news”. But often the sources of disinformation come from politicians themselves. 

In fact, it’s often those crying “fake news” at journalists who are most reliant on disinformation to maintain their grip on power. 

In December 2020, the Labour Party asked for an inquiry into a newsletter sent by Wellingborough Conservatives that urged members to “weaponise fake news” and “make enough dubious claims” to ensure “honest speakers are overwhelmed” and “crowd out” the truth.

One year earlier, and the Conservative Party faced criticism for renaming its Twitter account to make it look like a fact-checking service during a leaders’ debate in the run-up to the 2019 election.

The newly-appointed Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary of State, Nadine Dorries, has also been under fire for spreading fake news after she shared a doctored video featuring Labour leader Keir Starmer. Dorries was told to check the validity before sharing future social media content. Lucy Allan and Maria Caulfield also shared the clip. 

In Europe, despite outlawing disinformation on the Coronavirus, press outlets loyal to Orbán have been accused of becoming factories of fake news, with disinformation cited as a “tactic” in the Prime Minister’s armoury. 

Bolsonaro may have railed against the “fake news media”, but has been accused of spreading misinformation in a systematic manner as a central part of his strategy in achieving power. Similarly, Trump and his supporters flooded the infosphere with fake memes, stories and disinformation to inspire his base – the greatest, of course, being the lie that he had won the election. This lie cost people’s lives and threatened to overturn democracy, during the 6 January 2021 attempted insurrection. 

A CNBC analysis of President Trump’s tweets since January 2017 found that his most popular and frequent posts largely spread disinformation and distrust.

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Far Right IED Attacks Increased Under Donald Trump

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 29/10/2021 - 9:18pm in

Far Right IED Attacks Increased Under Donald Trump

As Trump continues his violent rhetoric, new data from Action on Armed Violence show a rise in improvised explosive device attacks by right wing extremists during his Presidency

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Far-right attacks involving improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in the US increased dramatically under President Trump’s leadership – raising questions as to whether his inflammatory rhetoric that appealed to an extremist base led to a rise in violence.

Since Trump’s departure from the White House, the recent number of attempted and successful explosive attacks appears to have fallen. 

There were 83 attacks or attempted attacks by far-right groups or individuals in the US over the last decade, according to research carried out by London-based charity Action on Armed Violence (AOAV). Nearly half (41) took place in the four years of Trump’s presidency; during his time in office the number of right-wing explosive attacks per year was double than under President Obama. 

Since Biden took office there have been three incidents of far-right terror IED attacks. 

2018 was the most violent year, with 17 attacks. This compares to 38 attacks during Obama’s Presidency between 2008-17. Such attacks are of note as explosive violence is inherently indiscriminate.  According to AOAV’s data when explosive weapons are used in towns or cities, over 90% of people in the last decade reported being harmed by such weapons have been civilians. 

According to the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) Hate Extramism AntisemitismTerrorism (HEAT) map, there was a noticeable increase in white supremacist propaganda and protests in 2018. 

The majority (33 or 40%) of the attacks were recorded as “anti-Government” incidents. A quarter (21) were carried out by known white supremacist movements, a further 16 were “pro-Trump” bombings and six (7%) were anti-abortion terror attacks. 

Rising bomb violence is part of a pattern of increased right-wing extremism fuelling terrorist violence in the US and the US. 2020 saw the highest number of overall right-wing terrorist attacks in the country for over 25 years, with the far-right movement currently posing the largest threat to domestic terrorism in the US.

Who are the Bombers and their Victims? 

Across the 83 attacks, the perpetrators identified as being anti-police, anti-LGBTIQ, anti-Semitic, anti-abortion and anti-Government. One individual who identified as pro-Trump was responsible for 15 incidents in October 2018. 

While some of the incidents involved a person acting alone, groups linked to the attacks included Forever Enduring Always Read (FEAR) militia group; Sovereign Citizen; Veterans United for Non-Religious Memorials; White Rabbit Three Percent Patriot Freedom Fighters Militia; and United Aryan Empire.

Others were attached to the “boogaloo” movement – boogaloo is a code word for restarting the American Civil War in order to create monoethnic states. 

Six of the 83 foiled and successful attacks events resulted in someone being killed or injured, with four fatalities and 11 injuries. 

Half of those killed were murdered in an anti-abortion terror attack in North Carolina in 2010. The perpetrator was a member of the Army of God Anti-Abortion group. 

Overall, 10 people were harmed (one killed and nine injured) in attacks that targeted the police specifically.

Many of the attacks did not result in any casualties – in part because plots were foiled in advance of the incident, and also because perpetrators saw the IED attack as a way to “send a message” rather than to kill.

However, this is not to underestimate the deadly violence of the US far-right with numerous mass shootings linked to white supremacy, extremist misogyny, and right-wing groups. Indeed, just over 10% of the IED attacks also involved firearms.

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Of the 83 incidents, 25 focused on Government buildings or infrastructure, with a further 12 aimed at the police. Religious buildings, such as mosques and churches, also proved to be targets. Seven of the attacks were targeted at abortion clinics, while a further four focused on businesses. IED attacks also targeted black and minority ethnic movements or spaces, as well as racialised violence against Mexican immigrants and threats against journalists. 

The attacks were widespread – occurring in over half of the states in the United States. Many took place in small towns, which could explain why they attracted far less attention than other forms of terrorism, most notably Islamic terrorism.

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Facebook’s Big Lie is Finally Being Exposed

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 13/10/2021 - 10:30pm in

Facebook’s Big Lie is Finally Being Exposed

Kyle Taylor puts the social media platform’s recent scandals into context and argues that the House of Zuckerberg is slowly crumbling

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The events of the past couple of years have exposed the fundamental fragility of our political and economic systems. From COVID-19 to Brexit, the status quo has struggled to cope.

Hidden by the grinding of these tectonic plates, however, has been the slow but steady demise of the world’s largest social media platform – Facebook.

We have grown accustomed to scandals in modern politics. The actions of Donald Trump’s former administration in the US, mirrored by Boris Johnson in the UK, have desensitised us to chaos. The strategy of populists is to move the bar so low that terrible begins to feel normal.

The same is true of Facebook.

2021 started with an insurrection and attempted coup at the US Capitol. Hundreds of these domestic terrorists told the US Department of Justice in their depositions that they either heard about the insurrection or actually organised it on Facebook and Instagram, which is owned by Facebook.

Shortly after, Facebook turned off access to news in Australia. This was part of its failed attempt to bully the Government into abandoning its plan to ask Facebook to pay news providers for their content. In Facebook’s haste to flex its muscles (even before the legislation had passed), the platform turned off vital alerts including fire warnings during bushfire season.

We also learned that the data of 533 million Facebook users was leaked without consent and that an ethical hacker had warned Facebook of the issue in 2017. The company had chosen to do nothing about it. For context, that’s more than six times the amount of data that was taken without consent by Cambridge Analytica.

Former Facebook employee-turned-whistleblower Sophie Zhang also revealed that Facebook had ​​constructed loopholes to protect dangerous world leaders, allowing them to spread harmful content. She noted that Facebook only responds when something is seen as a “PR risk”.

Facebook continues to allow organisations associated with Trump – who was given an ‘indefinite suspension’ from the platform for at least two years – to advertise and fundraise on the platform. Meanwhile, parcels of the Amazon Rainforest were being sold in Facebook’s marketplace and more than two-thirds of all Coronavirus disinformation in the US comes from just 12 Facebook accounts: the so-called ‘disinformation dozen’.

This is a familiar cycle, involving revelations, public outrage, congressional hearings – and yet no action. It has been repeated several times in recent years, yet not a single law has been passed in the UK or the US to meaningfully curb the power of a company that holds the attention of 2.8 billion people every single day.


‘Facebook Nation’May Be Closer Than We Think
Kyle Taylor

The Facebook Files

Then, last month came the Wall Street Journal’s Facebook Files – a series of stories based on thousands of internal Facebook documents, provided by a whistleblower, which show categorically that the platform knowingly misled, and in some cases outright lied, to the public and to governments about the impact of its products.

More than two million celebrity users globally are completely exempt from Facebook’s terms and conditions through the site’s ‘XCheck’ programme, intentionally giving some people – often those most able to create harm – more freedom of speech than ordinary users. 

Facebook turned a blind eye to human trafficking, with a “weak” response the norm internally, the documents reveal. With more than 90% of Facebook’s users living outside of the US, this is an enormous dereliction of duty.

The company, facing an onslaught of bad press, launched an initiative to push pro-Facebook content into people’s newsfeeds, effectively manipulating the way that people view the platform.

Perhaps most upsettingly, the documents showed that a third of all teenage girls who felt bad about their bodies felt worse due to Instagram – and Facebook executives knew that this was the case. Shockingly, in his defence of the company, Facebook’s communications chief Nick Clegg – also the UK’s former Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Liberal Democrats – said that only 1% of teenage girls had suicidal thoughts because of Instagram. Imagine if only 1% of all coffees sold by Starbucks poisoned people – that’s not a victory; it’s a disgrace.

The whistleblower was subsequently revealed to be Frances Haugen, a former employee on the company’s ‘civic integrity team’ who said that she realised that Facebook elevated profit above public safety.

Herein lies the crux of the problem. When it comes to big tech, we have been sold the myth that companies such as Facebook are somehow more than just private businesses trying to maximise profits; that they have a greater social mission. But this is a lie.

Facebook, like most private companies, focuses solely on generating as much profit as possible. Its goldmine consists of billions of users who believe that they are using a free service but in actual fact pay in the form of their data – information about their habits, occupations and beliefs – that is sold to advertisers.

This series of stories appears to have finally broken the camel’s back. Legislators around the world seem to be paying more attention to Facebook and its abuses. The need for independent, democratic, statutory oversight has never been greater. Our lives and our democracies depend on it.

Ultimately, the end of Facebook’s unchecked power may be the defining moment of 2021. Regulation is the only remaining option. And if not now, when?

Kyle Taylor is the project director of the Real Facebook Oversight Board and director of Fair Vote UK, which was central to uncovering the Cambridge Analytica and Vote Leave scandals. His guide, ‘The Little Black Book of Data and Democracy’, is published by Byline Books

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Conservative Donors, Turning Point USA and the US Capitol Attack

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 12/10/2021 - 8:36pm in

Conservative Donors, Turning Point USA and the US Capitol Attack

A man charged with assaulting police officers in Washington D.C. on 6 January arrived at the riot on a bus organised by Turning Point USA. Sian Norris explores the transatlantic background of the youth conservative group

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A retired firefighter charged with assaulting police officers at the US Capitol on 6 January has revealed that he attended the riot on a bus organised by youth conservative group Turning Point USA. 

Court papers show how 55-year-old Robert Sanford – who has no previous criminal history – “travelled to the District on a bus organised by Turning Point USA, a mainstream young conservative organisation, with approximately 50 other people”. They also state that Sanford “did not travel to the Capitol with an extremist group”.

Turning Point has been a vocal supporter of former US President Donald Trump on both sides of the Atlantic.

In 2019, the group launched a UK branch, previously chaired by George Farmer – son of top Conservative Party donor Lord Michael Farmer. Analysis by the Byline Intelligence Team and The Citizens found that Lord Farmer has donated more than £6.5 million to the Conservative Party since 2010, making him the party’s largest donor. 

George Farmer has also donated significant amounts to the Conservative Party, including a £5,000 donation to MP Ben Bradley. The ex-Bullingdon Club member’s support for the Conservatives led to him becoming the youngest-ever member of the Leaders’ Group – an elite organisation of donors who give more than £50,000 a year and are offered privileged access to the Prime Minister and other high-ranking Cabinet ministers. In 2019, Farmer switched his political support to the Brexit Party

George Farmer is married to Turning Point USA’s former communications director, Candace Owens, who resigned from the position in May 2019. Owens caused controversy when she made comments about Hitler, saying that it would have been “okay” if he had just wanted to “make Germany great”.

Farmer was no longer chair of Turning Point UK at the time of the Capitol riots, having stepped down in April 2019. He was appointed CEO of controversial social media company Parler in May this year. The app had been temporarily removed from Apple’s App Store following the attack on the Capitol, having been accused of fostering calls for violence. 

There is no suggestion of complicity for Sanford’s actions on the part of Turning Point UK or its figures. Rather, the associations between the two groups reveal an interesting and significant accord between avid Trumpism on both sides of the pond.

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Turning Point USA

In a now-deleted tweet from a few days before the attempted insurrection in Washington DC, Turning Point USA’s founder Charlie Kirk said that the group’s affiliate organisation Turning Point Action would be sending more than 80 buses filled with Trump supporters to the capital. He also shared an advert promising free accommodation to attendees.  

“The historic event will likely be one of the largest and most consequential in American history,” Kirk tweeted. “The team at @TrumpStudents & Turning Point Action are honoured to help make this happen, sending 80+ buses full of patriots to D.C. to fight for this President.”

Kirk set up Turning Point USA (TPUSA) aged just 18, using seed funding from Foster Friess – a conservative donor linked to the radical right Koch Brothers. The latter billionaire family made its money from fossil fuels, while its foundation has funded anti-gender actions in Europe. 

Indeed, TPUSA has received funding from a range of Koch-connected groups, including the Foundation For Economic Education (FEE), which sponsored TPUSA’s Student Action Summit. FEE’s development director Justin Streiff was on TPUSA’s advisory board

Another TPUSA partner is the Heritage Foundation – an anti-LGBTIQ, anti-abortion and pro-fossil fuel think tank that has been in receipt of Koch funding. It announced the partnership on 6 January 2021 – the day of the Capitol Riots – though this is a coincidence. Various UK politicians have connections to the Heritage Foundation, including Conservative MP Liam Fox, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and MP Owen Paterson, all of whom have spoken at its events. 

TPUSA is known for its ‘Professor Watchlist’, which names academics it considers to be promoting “leftist propaganda in the classroom”. It is known to generate a lot of its content from the Leadership Institute’s Campus Reform project. The Institute, which trains conservative activists, is well-connected with the Trumpian right, counting Vice President Mike Pence as an alumni. The pro-Brexit activist Matthew Elliott attended a Leadership Institute event in 2013.

TPUSA has also been embroiled in various racism scandals, with its former field director Crystal Clanton writing in a text message to another Turning Point employee that “I hate black people. Like f**k them all… I hate blacks. End of story”.

The group encourages its members to host ‘Affirmative Action Bake Sales’ that charge students different cake prices based on race, to demonstrate “the unfairness and inadvertent racism of affirmative action”. Its only black field director, Gabrielle Fequiere, has since left the organisation, saying that “looking back, I think it was racist”. Kirk called her accusations “absolutely baseless and even absurd”.


UK Conservative Political FiguresLinked to US Anti-Abortion Drive
Sian Norris and Heidi Siegmund Cuda

Turning Point UK

The UK spin-off, Turning Point UK, was launched in February 2019 with George Farmer as chair. Its early members included Brexit campaigners Darren Grimes and Tom Harwood.

Its launch event was attended by Leave.EU campaigner Andy Wigmore and James Delingpole, executive editor at Breitbart London. The former executive chairman of Breitbart, Steve Bannon, was President Trump’s former chief strategist.

Also attending was Paul Joseph Watson, the YouTuber who has worked with InfoWars, a website criticised for spreading extremist conspiracy theories.

Farmer and Watson have been pictured having drinks together. When questioned about his relationship with Watson in an interview with The Times, Farmer said: “I have no interest in conspiracy theories and I have never watched [those] videos… Paul was a conspiracy theorist. He then spent a long time debunking a lot of the conspiracy theories he used to promote. I’m not an Infowars guy. What I am is Paul’s friend and I think his videos are fantastic. They are on point, but quite funny”. Candace Owens has interviewed Watson on her podcast

Alt-right YouTuber Paul Joseph Watson with former Turning Point UK chair George Farmer, Nigel Farage’s press officer Dan Jukes, and former Brexit Party MEP Michael Heaver

Farmer has called the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, a “cuck” and a “t**t” – the former is an alt-right term short for “cuckold” and is used to describe men as weak or “beta”.

This language did not prevent the Leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, from sharing the organisation’s recruitment video a month later, with Home Secretary Priti Patel saying that the group represented a “new generation” of Conservative values. Conservative MP Chris Green wrote “choose your side and I’m with Turning Point UK”, while the Brexit Party’s Nigel Farage said he was “thrilled” by the launch and made a video for the group. 

One of the key figures behind the Turning Point UK launch was John Mappin, a scientologist who runs a Camelot-themed hotel in Cornwall and who in 2016 awarded Donald Trump an “Honorary Camelot Castle Knighthood”. Brexiter Arron Banks called Mappin “a total fruit loop”.

Speaking at the 2019 launch, Candace Owens told her audience that “we very much believe that we are in the midst of World War 3… it is an ideological war we are fighting for Western values, America represented sort of the last stand and then Trump came and now we’re turning an understanding that in the past wars were won when the UK and the USA allied together and fought and that’s what we need to do here”.

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Ali Alexander subpoenaed by CongressExposed as instigator behind illegal Jan 6 march on Capitol

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 08/10/2021 - 2:01pm in

Today, Congress finally subpoenaed Ali Alexander, whom our investigation exposed as the instigator of the illegal January 6 march on the capitol. We had, on January 8 also disclosed that the Georgia Republican Party had officially sponsored Alexander despite his threats of violence if Trump were not declared re-elected. The Select Committee to Investigative the January 6th Attack filed... READ MORE

Scott Morrison’s coercive control of women (part 3)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 24/09/2021 - 7:00pm in

By Tess Lawrence   Women live with Mandemic virus Scott Morrison’s coercive control of women In this third and final excerpt of her treatise, Tess Lawrence takes no prisoners but leaves no woman behind. In the face of the Mandemic, she calls for women – and the world – and politicians to all woman up. (Please…

The post Scott Morrison’s coercive control of women (part 3) appeared first on The AIM Network.

Scott Morrison’s coercive control of women (part 1)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 22/09/2021 - 7:00pm in

By Tess Lawrence   Tess Lawrence is not known for holding back when holding forth. In this first excerpt from a longer treatise she calls out Prime Minister Scott Morrison, accusing him of both implicit and complicit coercive control over women in Australia, including female cabinet ministers as well as complainants of alleged rape and other…

The post Scott Morrison’s coercive control of women (part 1) appeared first on The AIM Network.

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