Saturday Commentary and Review #82
The Forces Aligned Against Elon Musk, Big Tech Marriage to Arms Industry, Germany's Warmongering Greens, The Canadian "Norman Brigade" in Ukraine, Pancho Villa!
If you’re not on Twitter, the name only exists as a reference to another piece of social media alongside Instagram, Facebook, and the rest. If you’re on Twitter, you rather quickly learn that it IS the place where stories are broken, and in other cases, where reputations are destroyed. It is the public square, the commons.
Serving as the commons, Twitter is also the place where narratives are distributed seemingly at the speed of light, to be upheld, to be subverted, or to fail completely. It is precisely because of this that Twitter represents another facet of American power. I have written about this elsewhere on this Substack, but suffice it to say that the “weaponization” of Twitter served US foreign policy interests in the Arab world, in Iran, and do so now in Ukraine.
This may sound ridiculous to those of you who are not on Twitter, but it is the case. And because this is the precisely the case, it is a situation of grave worry and concern for those used to having Twitter push their own narratives over the past decade that an “upstart” such as Elon Musk is daring to upset the apple cart by buying it and pledging to reform it to make it “more fair” to those whose voices are continuously drowned out. It’s a 5 alarm fire, and it means all hands on deck, to purposely mix metaphors.
One of this Substack’s most avid commenters, The Long Warred, recently asked the question: “Who is standing behind Elon Musk in his bid for Twitter?” This is an excellent question, because it understands that Twitter is too valuable a tool of soft power abroad, and more firm power domestically, to allow to let slip from one’s own grasp. It also acknowledges that there must be a segment of powerful people standing behind Elon, willing to lend him political support, as he by himself can be destroyed just as quickly as the Trump Administration was by these very same people. The answer to his question will come out soon enough. For now, we can read this piece by Armin Rosen on who is funding the anti-Elon Musk campaign to prevent him from purchasing Twitter.
The Axis of Anti-Muskory:
On May 3, a trio of so-called “advocacy groups” sent a letter to Twitter’s major corporate advertisers, including image-conscious and regulation-sensitive heavyweights like Coca-Cola and Disney, urging them to pull their business from Twitter if Musk proves unwilling to censor speech on the platform to those organizations’ satisfaction. “Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter will further toxify our information ecosystem and be a direct threat to public safety,” began the missive, distributed under the letterhead of Media Matters for America, Accountable Tech, and UltraViolet, and co-signed by another two dozen groups, including the Women’s March, Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, and NARAL Pro-Choice America. These groups are promising to mobilize their activists, and whatever other resources they might have, to punish companies that will stick by Twitter if it junks its pre-Musk content moderation regime. The pitch was a simple one: Nice store you got there. It would be a shame if someone threw a rock through your window.
Arms of the Democrat Party:
Media Matters for America, Accountable Tech, and UltraViolet are all led by former senior Democratic staffers in Congress, the executive branch, and major political campaigns. They all receive funding from liberal foundations that donate widely to Democrats, or from advocacy organizations, like labor unions, that are deeply involved in Democratic Party politics. All three are creatures of the broader Democratic Party apparatus. They are the party’s attack arm.
Media Matters, the David Brock-led bulwark against Fox News, is by far the best known: The organization launched in 2004 with help from the Center for American Progress, Hillary Clinton, and Clinton’s 2016 campaign manager, John Podesta, and apparently received $1 million from George Soros. With over $14.1 million in revenue reported in 2019, according to their latest available 990, Media Matters represents the mainstream face of center-left advocacy. Former Democratic National Committee Chair and Obama Labor Secretary Tom Perez, and former Planned Parenthood chief Cecile Richards, are on the group’s Board of Directors; CEO Angelo Carusone served as “deputy CEO for finance & administration of the 2016 Democratic National Convention.”
Accountable Tech represents the Democratic Party’s online dark-money operation. Ironically for a group with the word “accountable” in its name, Accountable Tech is a 501(c)(4), meaning it doesn’t have to disclose its donors. No matter: As right-wing “investigative think tank” Capital Research Group discovered, Accountable Tech is one of the Washington, D.C.-registered alternate names of the North Fund, an advocacy group that received $19.3 million in 2020 from something called the Sixteen Thirty Fund—an outfit which The Atlantic described as the “indisputable heavyweight of Democratic dark money.”
UltraViolet, the third member of the Let’s Break Elon’s Windows gang, is funded through groups like the American Federation of Teachers and the Libra Foundation, the donor organization for a billionaire member of the left-wing Pritzker family. UltraViolet is unique in the staid world of NGOs for sharing a name with an Andy Warhol superstar (given name: Isabelle Collin Dufresne). The group was #MeToo before #MeToo existed, getting the sneaker company Reebok to drop the rapper Rick Ross as a pitchman in 2013 over his purported support of “rape culture,” and lobbying the next year for TBS to cancel CeeLo Green’s show over his alleged misogyny.
But the foundation does more than target successful Black musicians. The height of the hallucinatory Brett Kavanaugh sexual assault uproar saw UltraViolet-trained activists bracing then-Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., in a Capitol Hill elevator, manufacturing an instantly viral moment amid one of the most unhinged political episodes of the entire Trump era.
I have no doubt that this only scratches the surface of the forces aligned against Elon Musk in his bid to buy Twitter. You can take it to the bank that the overlap between those in the intel services that helped subvert the Trump Administration and those supporting from the rear in this instance is somewhere near 100%.
One of the themes of this Substack is the marriage of US Big Tech with the security state and media. This union is a key concept in what I have called “Turbo America” (check out my recent piece if you haven’t already). The ruling elites, working together, to pursue their own interests, which happen to align with US foreign policy objectives. This equation makes for one fuck of a strong regime, despite the naysayers (and there are plenty).
Self-interest is key here as the idea that these actors can be altruistic (if you agree with US foreign policy) is rather laughable. Eli Clifton argues that Big Tech’s self interest in ramping up the perceived threats from Russia and China to the USA serves as a strategy to avoid industry regulation.
Not a bad position to argue:
In 2020, Facebook, which changed its name to Meta in October, 2021, launched American Edge, a political advocacy group claiming to represent “a coalition dedicated to the proposition that American innovators are an essential part of U.S. economic health, national security and individual freedoms.”
“With direct financial ties to the Chinese Communist Party, many Chinese companies present threats to America’s national security but some Washington politicians are pushing for new laws that will empower Alibaba, Tik Tok and other Chinese companies at the expense of America’s tech innovators,” says an American Edge YouTube ad from January that ran between 100,000 and one million times in the greater Washington, DC area. Edge spent over $1.4 million running that ad and similar ones on Facebook.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Edge quickly leveraged Russia’s devastating attack on Ukraine to justify an anti-regulatory agenda.
“As Russia plows forward in its invasion of Ukraine, the stakes cannot be understated, nor can the need for U.S. lawmakers to get it right be more urgent,” said a March 30 statement, which concluded with a swipe at members of Congress who support regulatory reforms.
“Efforts to push anti-innovation legislation that is rushed and short-sighted could undo America’s global competitive edge in technology, endanger our national security, and hand China and other authoritarian regimes a permanent geopolitical advantage – to the detriment of the United States, democracy, and the entire free world,” the statement concluded.
A March 9 Facebook post by the group drew a direct link between the coalition’s business interests and the war in Ukraine, writing, “As Russia continues to attack Ukraine, the stakes cannot be understated, nor can the need for U.S. lawmakers to get it right be more urgent.”
Edge concluded with a clear effort to use the war in Ukraine to push back on potential regulatory action, writing, “Pursuing laws that would undermine American innovation will offer a leg up to techno-autocracies and embolden their pursuits.”
Anti-monopolists aren’t having it:
“On its face, big tech firms are trying to leverage fear and the authority national security arguments tend to have in the national discourse to violate antitrust law and engage in a host of irresponsible and dangerous behavior,” said Sarah Miller, executive director and founder of the American Economic Liberties Project, a group promoting the anti-monopoly movement and strengthening anti-trust regulation.
“I don’t think we should listen to a set of corporations who have engaged in likely criminal activity,” added Miller, referencing allegations that Facebook and Google engaged in bid rigging against advertisers and Facebook committed criminal fraud against investors.
Clifton states that Big Tech has as a silent partner in its quest to avoid regulation the powerful arms industry:
Lockheed Martin, whose annual Pentagon contracts are one-and-a-half-times the combined budgets of the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, funded at least two of the coalition’s members: Lexington institute and Women Impacting Public Policy. “The coalition and its members will tell the story about the positive impact technology and innovation have on America’s economy and businesses, particularly small ones, and how they enhance freedom of expression and our nation’s overall security,” according to Edge.
Edge’s narrative that China’s threat to U.S. national security necessitates inaction by antitrust regulators is nearly identical to the argument made by James Taiclet, Lockheed’s CEO. Taiclet told investors last year that antitrust regulators should “look through the lens of great power competition and how we compare to the defense industrial base certainly of China” when they assess whether to allow Lockheed’s acquisition of Aerojet Rocketdyne, the only major independent supplier of solid-fuel rocket engines in the United States.
The Facebook-led group’s “National Security Advisory Board” includes Frances Townsend, who also serves on the board of Leonardo DRS, a weapons firm that manufactures military aircraft, heavy equipment transporters, and drones.
She is joined by Lockheed board member retired general Joseph F. Dunford and former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell, who serves as an advisor to Beacon Global Strategies, a firm founded in 2013 to provide consulting services to defense contractors.
Until last year, the advisory board also included James Stavridis, a retired admiral and currently an executive at the Carlyle Group, a major investor in weapons firms and the defense industry.
None of the board members’ professional ties to the weapons industry are disclosed in their Edge bios but their economic interests appear to be sprinkled across Edge’s work products.
“It does show who [big tech companies] are willing to partner with to meet their objectives and that doesn’t seem to be a very savory partnership,” said Miller. “It doesn’t surprise me at all that Lockheed and Facebook would be joining forces to forestall or smear antitrust efforts across the board.”
There have been moves in Congress towards regulation in the Big Tech sector. However, many of those in Congress owe their entire presence there due to political donations from either (or both) Big Tech and the arms industry. I know who I am betting on to win.
It was only a few months ago that Angela Merkel was been hailed as the “states(wo)man of our time” by all of the proper and accepted mainstream media outlets. A Chancellor without any ideology, her entire history in Germany’s most powerful office consisted of her choosing the path of least resistance, while waiting for media furor to die down before putting the first foot forward. When she tried to show initiative, she completely fucked up. One need only look at how her invitation to 3rd world migrants to come to Europe resulted not only in the rise of the populists and far right across the European continent, but also put pro-Brexit forces over the top in the UK.
Nevertheless she was feted officially for her “leadership”, but what she was really being celebrated for was for being a local branch manager of US Empire. Quite ironic how her reputation now lies in tatters thanks to Germany’s short-sighted decommissioning of its nuclear reactors in a fit of misguided (but well-intended) environmentalism.
The German Branch Officer Manager of US Empire did her bosses one last, big favour: thanks to the oppressive COVID-19 regime instituted and maintained in Germany, she tanked her party’s polling so much that they lost power. By doing this she opened the door to government to the now-preferred party of the USA’s CIA and State Department: the German Greens.
“Green”. One automatically associates this with environmentalism, and in this case it is partially true as the German Greens have their roots in the anti-nuclear activism of Cold War West Germany in the 1970s and 1980s. Where once they were “Eurohippies”, and “bleeding hearts”, they are now the party of radical liberal social indoctrination, and even worse, the vocal proponents of US-led global intervention.
I’ve written in the past about the Greens’ sordid history of promoting paedophilia (search Germany Greens on this Substack). But up until the leadership of the party passed to Joschka Fischer in the 1990s, the Greens were considered by most to be a relic of the “soft on the Soviets” Cold War era. Fischer, by supporting the involvement of German military forces in the US occupation of Kosovo, ushered in a new era where the Greens are the rabid German attack dogs of US Empire.
This piece is from Politico, so please adjust your reading for their obvious slant:
That accusation is very much a fringe view, voiced in the northern city of Kiel by a few dozen protesters with far-right and pro-Russian sympathies. But it reflects a major shift: Russia’s war in Ukraine has prompted Germany’s Greens to take another big step away from their pacifist roots and emerge as the most hawkish members of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s coalition government.
Habeck, the economy and climate minister, and Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock — the Cabinet’s leading Greens — helped overturn a long-standing policy, of both Germany and their own party, to send defensive weapons to Ukraine. And they have since gone significantly further — pushing Social Democrat Scholz publicly and privately to send heavy weapons to aid Kyiv.
The shift is the latest chapter in the relatively short history of a party that grew out of environmental, pacifist and anti-nuclear movements in the late 1970s and early 1980s and has now begun its second spell in national government.
“In this situation, where people are defending their lives, their democracy and their freedom, Germany and also the Greens must be ready to deal with the reality — and this reality is a reality that must reject an aggressor,” Habeck told the hecklers in a market square in Kiel.
“The people in Ukraine are also dying for freedom and democracy, to be not overrun by armed force,” he added, winning applause from the other participants at the rally.
The Greens’ embrace of military power to counter Russia in Ukraine marks another chapter in a decades-long journey away from the pacifism that was once a central part of their identity.
A previous watershed came in 1999, when the Greens agreed to back NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia to end Serbian repression of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo — but only after a fierce and bitter debate within the party.
At a party convention, an anti-war protester even flung a red paint bomb at Green Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, who ultimately prevailed in getting the party to back the position of the Social Democratic-led government under Chancellor Gerhard Schröder.
The Greens’ current stance on Ukraine and Russia represents a further evolution — this time, they are out in front of their SPD chancellor in demanding tough military measures.
And there is hardly any internal dissent in a party that was long divided between two powerful camps — the pragmatist realos, or realists, and hard-line fundis, the fundamentalists.
Now, the man generally seen as the leader of the fundis, Anton Hofreiter, has become the party’s most vocal advocate of swiftly supplying Ukraine with heavy weapons.
A look at the Greens’ first election program from 1980 highlights how far they have come: Back then, the party demanded the “dismantling” of the German army, the Bundeswehr, and “to immediately begin the dissolution of military blocs” like NATO and its Soviet-dominated counterpart, the Warsaw pact. The party was tapping into a sizeable pacifist movement in Germany — the following year, hundreds of thousands of Germans demonstrated against a decision to upgrade NATO’s nuclear arsenal.
Although the party gave up such radical demands a long time ago, its election program from last year still called for “no German weapons to war zones” and a “new push for disarmament” — policies that were included in the government’s coalition agreement but now stand in stark contrast to the arms deliveries to Ukraine and to Berlin’s decision to swiftly upgrade its military with a special €100 billion fund.
This is the party of the activist, of the young urbanite in Germany. They are slowly eating away at the SPD’s numbers, as that party’s supporters age out and die. The German Greens are what happens when the SJW gets a taste for “humanitarian interventionism” in its mouth. Their presence in German Government bodes ill for Europe’s short-term future (and possibly long-term as well).
Wartime means adventurism, and that is something that still flows through the blood of men, despite western society’s attempts to feminize them.
The war in Ukraine is no different than any other conflict in this respect. Volunteers are showing up on both sides, some for ideological reasons. Others as agents of states who want to use volunteers to allow for plausible deniability, still others come for money. Every foreign volunteer has their own reason for showing up to the fight.
Not all outfits are equal, however. Some are better equipped than others. Some are more paramilitary or private in orientation (and goals). Still others are fully integrated into existing command structures. Canada’s National Post takes a look at the Norman Brigade, a unit fighting on the Ukrainian side composed of Canadians led by a man with the nom de guerre “Hrulf”, and the accusations of non-professionalism are ugly:
Infantry veterans themselves, they allege that the brigade run by Hrulf — a nom-de-guerre he adopted for security reasons — is reckless, has little weaponry or protective equipment for the soldiers he recruits and no official relationship with the Ukrainian forces.
Hrulf is essentially building a “private army” with volunteers from around the world to defend the village of his Ukrainian wife and children, they charge.
“He’s endangering the lives of unsuspecting young Canadians who just want to go and see combat,” says Paul, an Ottawa-based civil servant who was the brigade second-in-command before quitting and joining Ukraine’s official International Legion. “It’s not right, it’s completely irresponsible, especially for a person claiming to be a commander.”
Ukraine wants to channel experienced foreign fighters into the International Legion:
Businessman Chris Ecklund of Hamilton, Ont., who set up the FightforUkraine.ca organization to support Canadians who take up arms there, said he’s recommending that would-be defenders avoid the Norman Brigade for now, citing a “huge lack of equipment.”
“Until these things can be rectified, it’s probably not a good idea that you apply and head over.”
Ecklund said he’s always urged Canadians wishing to battle the Russian invaders to apply to the official International Legion for the Territorial Defence of Ukraine through the Ukrainian embassy in Ottawa. The Legion says more than 500 Canadians have joined via a system that screens applicants and now rejects those without combat experience.
But Ecklund said he regularly encounters people with little or no military background who insist on travelling to Ukraine and joining an unofficial foreign fighter unit.
“There has been a lot of people heading over doing things they shouldn’t be doing,” he said. “Daily I’m basically talking people out of going, which to me is a success.”
Paul says the Norman Brigade lacks the kind of formal links to the Ukrainian armed forces that Ecklund recommends foreigners seek out, just a “hand-shake agreement” with local militias.
Hrulf responds that the brigade is in fact embedded with a battalion of the volunteer Ukrainian army, works with the country’s Territorial Defence Force and is well known to the Defence Ministry. Neither the ministry nor the defence attaché at Ukraine’s Ottawa embassy responded to requests for comment on the brigade.
It does seem to have developed a prominent profile internationally, mainly through a Facebook page complete with fundraising sales of T-shirts and other merchandise.
General location and criticism from within:
The unit is based in a southeastern Ukrainian municipality relatively close to fierce fighting, but the National Post has agreed not to disclose the exact location for security reasons. Hrulf described to the Post how he and one other brigade member took part in a Ukrainian military operation on March 26, briefly re-capturing a village occupied by the Russians.
But five other former brigade members — men from Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States who all say they’re combat veterans — each voiced concerns about how the unit was run.
Paul, 27, said he knew the commander from his time in the French Foreign Legion and organized recruitment from Canada, before travelling to Europe on April 9 with a fellow Legion veteran from B.C.
The accommodation Hrulf arranged in the city was like a “dungeon,” he said. They had to sleep on the floor and were given two meals a day — often just a thin soup — by Ukrainians who had no idea why they were there. Eventually numbering close to 30, the Norman Brigade recruits moved to a converted school house that was to be their training camp but was so drafty and damp, many of the soldiers fell ill, says Paul.
Hrulf told them to train on Ukrainian weapons, but among almost 30 soldiers there were just seven or eight AK-47 assault rifles and a paltry 30-60 bullets per person, says John, the B.C. man.
“That is just insanity, actual suicide when you’re talking about (fighting) the Russian military.”
At one point they discovered that Hrulf had a tattoo on his hand of a “black sun,” a symbol used by the SS in Nazi Germany and sometimes by the Neo-fascist movement, Paul and John recalled.
“My friend James who was there literally spat on the ground in front of him … and said ‘this is everything our grandfathers fought against in the Second World War.’”
Asked about the ink work, Hrulf said he has runic, Scandinavian and a mix of Indo-European and Japanese tattoos. And he says he came heavily armed to that meeting at the base in case Russian paratroopers launched an attack behind Ukrainian lines and he met them on the three-hour drive there.
Joe, a New Zealand infantry veteran, said he showed up with another group of mainly “green-as-grass” Canadian army reservists. Hrulf announced there were weapons for only 30 per cent of them. Those who weren’t armed were told to move closer to the front lines and dig trenches, he said.
“It was disgusting, absolutely … disgusting,” says Joe, 44, who eventually joined the International Legion.
Paul says he also ran into a group at the base who had been sent to the front unarmed to have a photograph taken for the brigade Facebook page.
There’s more. Some of this reminds me of the various rag-tag volunteer units that showed up in Croatia to support it fight against the JNA and Serb irregulars in 1991.
This week we end with a bit of history: Pancho Villa of Mexico, and how he ran riot through the north of that country, making himself a folk hero in the process.
Villa generated the adoration of northern Mexico’s peasantry by fashioning himself against the Díaz regime. Keen to be seen as a “man of the people” and champion of the underclass, Villa embraced a “Robin Hood” persona. Legend holds Villa would strut the streets of Chihuahua, risking capture, handing peasants stolen wads of pesos and bricks of gold. Northern Mexico’s poor returned the favor by misinforming rurales of his whereabouts and providing his gang supplies.
Still, Villa was an unrepentant barbarian. He was known to execute captives, loot mercilessly, and burn. In one particularly gruesome account, he ordered his men to cut the feet off of a wealthy landowner who refused to hand over property. In another, Villa forced a man to dig his own grave before shooting him. While Villa commanded the sympathies of northern Mexico’s peasantry, most remained ambivalent or furiously hostile to the warlord.
Read the rest here.
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