Cambridge Analytica: how big data-assisted behavioural micro-targeting facilitated the Trump & Brexit victories
Speaking at a Sydney event last month, Cathy Vogan, founder of thing2thing.com and author of ‘The Wikileaks Tapes’, offered a comprehensive view of how the use of behavioural micro-targeting, big data and psychometrics by Cambridge Analytica got Donald Trump elected, and led to a vote for Brexit.
I opened by addressing some of the claims made by Hillary Clinton in a recent ABC interview. It was to point to the content of the Podesta emails, as resumed by Julian Assange in an interview with John Pilger. I somewhat ridiculed Clinton’s suggestions that Wikileaks had been involved in the spread of fake news.
“An organization with a sterling reputation for providing the public with accurate information about secret government and corporate activities was used to launder conspiracy theories that helped elect a racist, sexual predator president of the United States.”
My exposé on Cambridge Analytica concluded on a similar note, with an audience member at their show in Germany pointing out to CEO Alexander Nix, that there is no glory in assisting a “misogynist buffoon into power… who is fucking up our lives” [audience cheers]. Since Trump Jr has made public his Twitter communications, it now appears that Wikileaks did communicate with the Trump campaign.
While there was nothing to do with Pizzagate in those DMs, the Intercept has recently amplified the accusation Clinton made on ABC Australia, that Wikileaks’ co-orchestrated the spread of “these preposterous conspiracy theories”. Not buying that one yet Hillary… but it’s clear the leak about Assange and Trump Jr’s communications is looking even more effective than the Russian scenario, in deflecting attention away from the content of Podesta’s emails – and Clinton’s disastrous foreign policy.
That, times Pizzagate, is hammering the credibility of the organisation that published them.
He said no, he forgets and I'm saying nothing...
The Intercept notes, by way of remarkable omission:
“the hacked emails were used to reverse-engineer preposterous conspiracy theories, like the imaginary pedophilia scandal called Pizzagate”
We need a fact check here – firstly, with the inappropriate use of the word “hacked”. Former NSA technical director, William Binney, has interpreted the forensic evidence available, and said that the rate of transfer of that data could only have been to a USB stick. That means the files were copied in-house, not hacked. So despite conflicting evidence, The Intercept is still pushing the DNC’s hacking scenario. That’s strange.
Secondly, the Intercept is not saying the Podesta emails revealed nothing more than this. They are just high-lighting some harmless emails that were “used” to refute preposterous interpretations of them. Clinton’s Pizzagate accusation remains as groundless and offensive as when I cross-cut between it in my talk, and the ISIS links discussed by Pilger and Assange.
What I didn’t get time to mention was the death of tens of thousands of Lybians at Hillary’s hands; and the disgusting pay-for play that was revealed in the Podesta emails. The Intercept has also backed Clinton in suggesting there was nothing incriminating there. This has unsurprisingly aroused suspicion of participation in a hit piece – with a strong message to suspect ulterior motive behind everything Wikileaks releases – and value allegiance over fact? I don’t think so.
Still, hearing that Assange had communicated with Trump was understandably too much for some to assimilate with their values; and those of the Wikileaks-inspired transparency “movement”. Given, that the idea of the “Truth Man” in league with a serial liar would do many a head in… in the eyes of many Wikileaks supporters, political chicanery and opportunism is evidenced by the machiavellian tactics employed by Assange in his support for Trump’s ascendency to the White House. It is sadly reminiscent for them of the cynical act of betrayal in Stalin’s signing of the Nazi-Soviet pact (“The Devil’s Alliance”) in 1939, which had a demoralising effect and also broke up the “movement” of anti-fascist Popular Fronts.
Barrett Brown, one of Wikileaks most heroic and prominent allies, who went to jail for 4 years for co-ordinating the supply of material to Wikileaks, has compared their communications with the Trump campaign advisor, to those that preceded the taking over of Poland… Oh dear.
Barrett Brown and The Intercept are done, it would seem, with “the movement”; but there are still people who say: “Why Everyone Should Do What WikiLeaks Did”, who are well worth reading for a broader perspective on the organisation’s activities, and a different angle on the Trump Jr DMs. One would hope for Assange’s comments quite soon, on why he did it – although one suspects it might be better to take the Fifth in relation to the thin-skinned…
The Intercept do have a point, about how Wikileaks (and the Wikileaks Party) tend to ‘sleep with dogs’, and damage their support base. Such folly indeed… but none of this points to Russia, or towards the real problem of ‘What Happened’ to two democracies. I’ve discovered that recent Oxford university studies do; Tim Berners Lee does; and so do pending legal proceedings against Cambridge Analytica.
In the longer term, I think it’s not going to be about who’s supporting whom; or financial corruption; or excess spending – as the current thrusts of Transatlantic political and legal enquiry would suggest. Money issues are simply the most viable way in at the moment. But the freshly-launched British Electoral Commission enquiry, into excessive Leave EU campaign spending and collaboration between multiple campaigns, can at best, only point to everyone spending their money in the same shop. They are not tackling the more serious problem of what that shop is selling.
The case of Professor David Caroll vs Cambridge Analytica takes us much closer to the heart of the problem that ‘we the people’ now have. It concerns an individual’s privacy, and promises to be a landmark case, if sufficiently funded…
Professor David Carroll vs Cambridge Analytica (via SCL parent company)
Sir Tim Berners Lee, inventor of the world wide web, is worried that the democratic platform he gifted humanity with, is failing. He lashes out at Facebook & Twitter, for facilitating the spread of misinformation, and condemns the trafficking of “weaponised AI propaganda”. The quote in that article comes from Berit Anderson’s “The Rise of Weaponised AI Propaganda’. I cited Berit in my exposé of Cambridge Analytica:
“By leveraging automated emotional manipulation alongside swarms of bots, Facebook dark posts, A/B testing, and fake news networks, a company called Cambridge Analytica has activated an invisible machine that preys on the personalities of individual voters to create large shifts in public opinion. Many of these technologies have been used individually to some effect before, but together they make up a nearly impenetrable voter manipulation machine that is quickly becoming the new deciding factor in elections around the world.”
The use of armies of bots has now been proven (by Oxford University researchers into computational propaganda) to have had a profound effect in setting the agenda for political debate during the 2016 US Presidential campaign. In fact it “throttled out” the voice of humans and gave such a false sense of source diversity and consensus, they largely followed its lead. Of particular interest in that study, is that the technology is open to anyone. There was a chain reaction to the bots among ordinary citizens.
“… democratization of online propaganda is also an especially salient issue. While government departments, academics, and journalists continue to search for evidence that campaigns used these means to manipulate public opinion, they tend to ignore the fact that anyone can launch a bot or spread fake news online. It was these citizen-built bots that probably accounted for the largest spread of propaganda, false information, and political attacks during the 2016 election.”
Indeed the ‘hive-mind’ has become the “Wild West’, and “The Law” has not yet ridden into town. The Oxford study revealed more inter-connectedness between the Trump campaign and its citizen-generated bot networks, than with those associated with the Clinton campaign. Maybe that was because so many DNC supporters preferred to “Feel the Bern”, and the party was divided – or maybe they were more scrupulous. I think the study shows, in any case, that citizen recruitment in the spread of false information and propaganda is the principle catalyst for political chaos in the UK and the US.
A foreign power, and Wikileaks, may have influenced the outcomes of the US elections, but domestic armies of bots and bot-meisters did much more so. To focus so much on foreign influence, we risk to assume that anything local is fair dos, even when technology is used by everyman, to disinform and persuade. Theoretically, we can all play, but it is no longer an even playing field when humans are being driven or drowned out by armies of propaganda bots. Tim Berners Lee also believes that highly-funded dark political messaging threatens democracy and net neutrality:
“We have these dark ads that target and manipulate me and then vanish because I can’t bookmark them. This is not democracy – this is putting who gets selected into the hands of the most manipulative companies out there,”
Cambridge Analytica boasts the use of ‘dark strategy’ for the Trump campaign – that practice of dividing the political offer on the basis of information obtained about the target’s personality type. On their advice, the Leave EU campaigns did the same, sending a billion psychologically tailored messages to the British public. Both were were focusing on those who were undecided about their vote, and thus ‘persuadable’.
The Russian troll influence has been exposed in the US, via targeted social media advertising – for a very nominal sum of money. Their targeting techniques are being exposed as shocking, but as if they apply uniquely within the Russian context. The elephant in the room is that the Trump and Brexit campaigns spent millions using the same techniques! Figure it out. Is it not our own back yards that been occupied, and that are sorely in need weeding?
Dark Strategy on Facebook - the dividing of the political offer
Considering that the company who persuaded impressionable people to vote Trump and Leave EU, themselves claim to have a 25 year record of performing similar psychological operations on populations for governments around the world, I suggest that ‘What Happened’ in the US and UK is more akin to a military coup, primarily funded by the playful and principled western oligarch – Robert Mercer, and that his ‘MI6 for Hire’ people at SCL need to be stopped, before they break any more democracies.
What we should be examining is the abuse of power, in locating and propagandising impressionable people, and those who could be identified as ignorant of politics. This would have made targets of the BeLeave campaign, who were very young, especially vulnerable to manipulation.
One is suddenly reminded of Assange’s words in 2013, during his Australian Wikileaks Party campaign speech:
“When all of the communications – heart-felt – the inner core of our life – communications between boyfriends and girlfriends – between husbands and wives, sons and daughters – between business partners – even between bureaucracies and states – when all of those communications are swept up, hoovered up, into a vast collection apparatus – indexed and stored for all time – available only to a select few – then we are in a situation where we have a tank on the street of the inner core of our lives – a soldier under the bed, listening…”
I’m not sure Assange anticipated back then, what the “select few” would say back to the masses, after the indexing of that vast collection was complete. He knows now.
After a 20-year hiatus, Australia’s most notorious populist Far Right politician has risen to power again. Pauline Hanson came out of the woodwork in 2016 to run for the Australian Senate, and win 6 seats for the Pauline Hanson One Nation Party.
One Nation has been accused of “xenophobia”, homophobia, climate denial and contempt for Aboriginals, welfare recipients and trade unionists. Hanson’s career began in the mid 1990s, when she asserted that Australia was being overrun by Asians. Today, it’s Muslims, and Senator Hanson’s call for a halt to Muslim immigration has fuelled Islamophobic sentiment around the country, and divided the nation.
‘ We’re coming after you and your jobs’
Pauline has recently declared: ‘”We’re coming after you and your jobs” to the current political leaders of her home-state Queensland, where she has garnered her strongest support to date. The One Nation leader has rallied an army of 36 candidates for the 2017 state election. Given that over half a million Australians voted One Nation in to the Senate at the 2016 Federal election, both of mainstream parties have good reason to quiver in their boots…
On the eve of the Icelandic Elections… WITHER DEMOCRACY, by Professor Lawrence Lessig, speaking from the University of Iceland.
Lessig explains how democracy has failed the US and other citizens of the world, and how Iceland is on the brink of implementing an entirely new and improved system, based on a PEOPLE’S CONSTITUTION. Yes, it’s a world first, but then Iceland was the first country ever to form a parliament.
Lester Lawrence “Larry” Lessig III is an American academic, attorney, and political activist. He was the co-founder, with our beloved Aaron Swartz, of Creative Commons. He is the Roy L. Furman Professor of Law at Harvard Law School; and the former director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University.
The founder of Tesla Motors, co-founder of Paypal, and CEO/CTO of the company SpaceX, Elon Reeve Musk, aims to establish a colony of 80,000 humans on Mars by 2040. While fixing his short-term goals on sustainable energy production, Musk believes that life must ultimately become multi-planetary, to reduce the “risk of human extinction” due to global warming. Interestingly, Musk’s preference for Martian government is direct democracy “because the potential for corruption is substantially diminished in a direct versus a representative democracy”.
That truism was suppressed about 2500 years ago, when Sparta crushed the selectively direct democracy of Athens. Curiously, the exclusively adult, male slave-owners who ran Athens around 500 BCE, were quite close in number to the future demos of Mars. That land however, will impose absolute consensus on the direct democracy of ‘Elon and the Elites’. No more talk of fossil fuels being good for humanity. They require oxygen to burn.
Build a Wall!
Crazed bargaining is predictable, as Earth’s denizens enter the third ‘stage of grief’ over the presumptive loss of Mother Earth. Musk’s exit strategy brings to mind The Hanged Man, as he plummets, head down, from the Twin Towers. At least he doesn’t fry. As least he gets to fly. Unfortunately the 68th wealthiest man in America, who has stated that he wants to die on Mars, but “not on impact”, will also be cursed by gravity.
Wir sind die Hautkrankheit der Erde
(We are the Earth’s skin disease) Günter Gras, ‘Dairy of a Snail’
The Mask of the Red Death?
The Washington Post reported that as climate departure looms, a year has been pinned to every major city in the world, and Kingston, Jamaica’s number is 2023. The subject of liquid democracy becomes a talking point, as the ‘plebs’ conclude that representative politics has bleached us. Might as well try something else, to delay that tipping point for a few years…
(Black as the ace of spades)
Michael Hart and Antonio Negri, in their books ‘Empire’ and ‘Multitude’, describe how a potentially new type of society is maturing inside the womb of the old; how the rise of the ‘multitude’, in the midst of capitalism, “makes democracy possible for the first time”. And how, historically, democracy was constrained by systems of political representation and hierarchically centralised state structures (‘‘the form of the One”).
The development of new forms of ‘immaterial labour’ corresponds with the rise of the ‘multitude’, who produce “not just goods or services; the multitude also and most importantly produces cooperation, communication, forms of life, and social relationships”. What thereby emerges is a vast new domain – the ‘commons’ – comprised of shared knowledge, revolutionary new forms of cooperation, social interaction, information and communications technology, etc; and this new domain is seriously at odds with the private ownership of the means of production by a privileged elite.
Directly socialised, immaterial production renders owners progressively superfluous – (good job, if they’re leaving for Mars!). The objective, material conditions therefore exist for an ‘absolute democracy’, where the associated producers directly regulate their social relations without the interference of democratic ‘representation’.
Professor Simon Tormey, in ‘The End of Representative Politics’, his study of the Arab Spring, Occupy, Anonymous and, in particular, ‘The Spanish Laboratory’, describes how ‘vertical’ systems of political representation are being subverted and overtaken by ‘horizontal’ political movements. Tormey celebrates:
“…a plethora of forms and styles of what might be called immediate or non-mediated politics: direct action, flash protests, Twitter-led mobilizations, pinging, hacking, squatting, boycotting, buy-cotting, occupying and other interventions of a direct, practical kind. Increasingly, politically engaged citizens don’t vote, they act. They don’t join mass parties contesting power; they create their own initiatives, ‘micro-parties’, networks, affinity groups, deliberative assemblies, participatory experiments. They don’t wait for elections; they seek to make their views, anger, displeasure, known immediately, now. They don’t read the media, They (to quote Indymedia) are the media.”
In his 1929 short story, Chains (Láncszemek), Frigyes Karinthy first introduced the notion of ‘six degrees of separation’– where everyone is potentially connected, via ‘friends of friends’ through a maximum of six intermediaries. In 1990, we still thought that idea equally viable, or dubious. Four years later, author Kevin Kelly would write ‘Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems, and the Economic World’, which would predict our post-millennial vision of ‘Chains’, as a Hive Mind. One giant leap for mankind, that would disrupt all manner of hierarchy and ruse…
Brigitta Jónsdóttir – former Wikileaks associate, co-founder of the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative and leader of Iceland’s Pirate Party – is likely to become the country’s Prime Minister this November.
The Pirates were already well ahead in the polls before the current coalition government’s PM, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, was named in the Panama Papers in relation to the offshore secretion of funds. Although he allegedly did not break Icelandic law, almost 10% of the population took to the streets outside of Parliament to oust him. Gudni Johannesson, historian at the University of Iceland, and man most likely to become the next President of Iceland, explains:
“His message to the country was more or less that we should all be together, we are all in the same boat, but at the same time he had taken a boat of his own, filled it up with gold and moved it abroad.”
Same old same old… Dr Aleks Kotaris, who created the series: The Virtual Revolution, advances the notion that the greater the number of people who contribute to a body of knowledge, the more reliable that body of knowledge becomes, if it is structured to ‘self-correct’. She was alluding to Wikipedia, which in its nascence was scorned, but which rose over time to be 1% more reliable than Encyclopædia Britannica.
So, the panopticons of power, media and knowledge seem to be crumbling… Bring it on! It is perhaps time to pool together to ‘future proof’ our communities, education and planet. Clive Hamilton, at the launch of his book Requiem for a Species said it would take thousands of years to undo the damage Capitalism and the Industrial Age has done to our eco-system, even if we were to drastically reduce our carbon emissions tomorrow. We won’t, while “Coal is good for humanity” continues to dominate our airwaves, and Trump convinces 40% of his followers that climate change still isn’t real.
Mr Assange once made a rather cynical comment, that it wasn’t so important who was telling the truth, as who had the biggest megaphone. My first port of call, within the context of this project, will be Iceland, to visit my friend, ‘The Mouse That Roared’ – Birgitta Jonsdottir. She and the Pirate Party have agreed to welcome me, and it is my intention to document the events leading up to the November Elections. The world has its eyes on Iceland. Not only did they refuse to bail out their ‘banksters’ after the GFC; not only did they jail them and go on to successfully re-build their economy… should the Pirates win, this will be the first government in the world to operate on a model of Liquid Democracy.
‘Liquid’ is a form of Direct Democracy, on an interactive, online platform; where (rightfully!) informed citizens can discuss, approve and create policy directly – or nominate ‘floating’ representatives whose expertise they trust on a given issue. I’ll be looking at the efficiency of specific platforms, such as Liquidfeedback, which was developed in Germany, as well as DemocracyOS, which is used by Pia Mancini and the Net Party in Argentina.
As for my own position within the ‘hive mind’, I became a citizen journalist in 2010, in the wake of the Wikileaks revelations, and I played my part in the genesis of a people’s movement that concerned itself with holding power to account. Over the next few years, I wrote around 200 articles on my citizen journalist’s blog Thing2Thing.com (see ‘Archives’), and self-produced about 80 films, including a DVD edition entitled The Wikileaks Tapes. It took little time (given my skills, media strategy and deep investment) to attract the attention of those who would provide wind for my sails.
This review of The Wikileaks Tapes tells much of my story, and style… During my travels to put this production together, I surprisingly befriended people who had changed history, such as Daniel Ellsberg; I collaborated with other citizen journalists, such as Alexa O’Brien, who ‘self-produced’ the daily transcripts of Bradley Manning’s trial; and I recorded the laments of many professional journalists and members of the legal community. This was a big labour of love; I did a pretty good job; and I kept the connections open…
The Next Generation
Briefly, I also plan to re-visit my friends in the US, including a number of whistle-blowers, film-makers and writers. Ecuador is also on the wish-list, to examine how their 2009 constitution is panning out, particularly in relation to the laws governing media ownership. Finally, there is much to document regarding the congregation and cross-talk between social movements in Australia; from the Climate Angels to the Knitting Nannies; from Lock the Gate to Stop the War; from WACA to RACS. It’s a small world after all, and although ‘we the people’ will be hard put to save it, there appears to be much that can be done to mitigate the worst effects of inclement weather. We will not despair. We will not accept…
Irony on Mars
My crowd-funder film to attend COP21, the 2015 Paris climate conference.
Special thanks to Chris Hedges.
After a blistering scare campaign from the Right just before the Icelandic elections, the Pirate Party did less well than expected, but they nevertheless tripled their votes from the last election, and won 10 out of the 63 seats.
Disgraced Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson’s former Progressive Party won only 8 seats, thus leaving the ‘winner’ of the elections, the Independence Party with 21 seats, impotent in forming government with them, as they had done before. 32 of the 63 are required.
Initially the Independence Party could find no other allies among the five other parties, so the mandate to form government was passed on to the Left. Given the numbers, all five parties would have to unite to table a majority.
Both the Left Green Party and the Pirates attempted to manage this, but failed. Finally, on January 17th 2017, a Coalition emerged, composed of the Independence Party, Bright Future and the Reform Party.
The new Prime Minister of Iceland is Bjarni Benediktsson, the leader of the Independence Party. He was one of the high-profile Icelandic politicians who managed to stay afloat, after being named in the Panama Papers. He is alleged to have buried a report on the names of other Icelanders with offshore accounts until after the elections. Benediktsson has recently come under heavy criticism from the Green Left Party and the Pirates. To be continued…
“I have been filming in the Marshall Islands, which lie north of Australia, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Whenever I tell people where I have been, they ask, “Where is that?” If I offer a clue by referring to “Bikini”, they say, “You mean the swimsuit.”
Few seem aware that the bikini swimsuit was named to celebrate the nuclear explosions that destroyed Bikini island. Sixty-six nuclear devices were exploded by the United States in the Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1958 – the equivalent of 1.6 Hiroshima bombs every day for twelve years.
Bikini is silent today, mutated and contaminated. Palm trees grow in a strange grid formation. Nothing moves. There are no birds. The headstones in the old cemetery are alive with radiation. My shoes registered “unsafe” on a Geiger counter.
Standing on the beach, I watched the emerald green of the Pacific fall away into a vast black hole. This was the crater left by the hydrogen bomb they called “Bravo”. The explosion poisoned people and their environment for hundreds of miles, perhaps forever.
On my return journey, I stopped at Honolulu airport and noticed an American magazine called Women’s Health. On the cover was a smiling woman in a bikini swimsuit, and the headline: “You, too, can have a bikini body.” A few days earlier, in the Marshall Islands, I had interviewed women who had very different “bikini bodies”; each had suffered thyroid cancer and other life-threatening cancers.
Unlike the smiling woman in the magazine, all of them were impoverished: the victims and guinea pigs of a rapacious superpower that is today more dangerous than ever.
I relate this experience as a warning and to interrupt a distraction that has consumed so many of us. The founder of modern propaganda, Edward Bernays, described this phenomenon as “the conscious and intelligent manipulation of the habits and opinions” of democratic societies. He called it an “invisible government”.
How many people are aware that a world war has begun? At present, it is a war of propaganda, of lies and distraction, but this can change instantaneously with the first mistaken order, the first missile.
In 2009, President Obama stood before an adoring crowd in the centre of Prague, in the heart of Europe. He pledged himself to make “the world free from nuclear weapons”. People cheered and some cried. A torrent of platitudes flowed from the media. Obama was subsequently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
It was all fake. He was lying. The Obama administration has built more nuclear weapons, more nuclear warheads, more nuclear delivery systems, more nuclear factories. Nuclear warhead spending alone rose higher under Obama than under any American president. The cost over thirty years is more than $1 trillion…”
Hey folks, I’m fundraising to go to our most critical climate conference ever, COP21, with a troupe of visionary Australian artists called THE CLIMATE ANGELS. My purposes is to make a documentary about climate change, and take part in onsite creative projects that will engage the media. I believe that strong voices and imagery will incite the world to read about the science… COP21 is happening in Paris (my home-town for 16 years) from Nov 30 to Dec 11 2015. 12 days only, to save the planet… Please help.
Australia used to be a leader in the fight against climate change, but in a short time, and a change of government, we became the most negligent country in the world of global warming. COP21 delegates fear strong opposition from our current leader who believes, or says he does, that coal is good for humanity. We want to assure the world that Australians are not all mad. We know that if our Galilee Basin is emptied of all its coal, and that is burned, goodbye to life on earth…
After 16 years of living there, I’m going to back to Paris with some of Australia’s best climate activists, and we are a loud and very creative team. We need your help to fund our events, and my film.
We need so little to get going…
$5K may seem like a small amount, but I have spent my life becoming technically independent, and I teach others to be the same. I have form as an award-winning film-maker since 1984 – see vogania.com – and for the last 5 years, I’ve been an independent journalist here at thing2thing.com where I’ve assembled a comprehensive archive about Wikileaks, and demonstrated at various moments that one person really can make a difference.
Dr Arthur Chesterfield-Evans is running for pre-selection as an Australian Greens Senate candidate. For you Greens members out there, 60% of whom apparently don’t vote at the pre-selection stage, TODAY IS THE DEADLINE, so after you learn who this man is, off your asses immediately and get your approval in before 5pm (in that special envelope). You might also like to visit Arthur’s website and hear the man speak, with a moving introduction from John Kaye, who called upon Arthur to join the Greens.
So… I just had a read of Arthur’s mission statement, and he says:
“As a young surgeon, I worked hard to save lives. But as I saw cancer ravaged bodies and broken lives of my patients and their families, caused by tobacco, I realised that I had to get into tobacco use prevention. I joined anti-tobacco group, BUGA UP. I risked it all, got arrested, but it was worth it, because our anti-tobacco campaign paid off – now Australia has one of the best anti-tobacco laws and lowest tobacco-related cancer mortality rates in the world.”
I remember the early days of BUGA UP, and how this grassroots movement took Australia by storm, more than 30 years before social media was invented. This was one of the earliest examples of ‘Culture Jamming’ in the world, and it was a clear case of the people versus noxious advertising, particularly from Big Tobacco. I remember how we would laugh and give directions, each time they buggered up another one of those slick Marlborough Man billboards. We’ve always hated bull-shit in Australia, and regaled in seeing it painted over with the naked truth.
In an interview I did with Daniel Ellsberg in 2012 about whistle-blowing, he said that tobacco companies had known cigarettes were carcinogenic and addictive for half a century before that secret went up in smoke, thanks to the leaks of the late Merrell Williams. Merrell’s files also revealed that the nation’s third-largest tobacco company, Brown & Williamson, had been targeting kids!
Yes, corporations can be bloody disgusting, as we still see today, but the outcome of that ‘kick-against the-pricks’ was a settlement agreement in 1998, in which 46 US states would recover tobacco-related health costs estimated at $246 billion over 25 years from the country’s four largest tobacco companies.
BUGA UP were also victorious in their mission of civil disobedience. Their activities and reputation spread rapidly around Australia, thanks largely to our very own doctor, Arthur Chesterfield-Evans, who according to Simon Chapman’s historical record, “gave a vivid presentation on BUGA UP at the Fifth World Conference on Tobacco and Health in Winnipeg in 1983 where he received extensive international press coverage.”
Arthur says he joined the Greens because he doesn’t want Mr. Abbott to get re-elected. Cute, but he certainly has the form to convince when he adds:
“I joined because I care about people. I have always cared about people…”
I believe Arthur. Today, he continues his preventive medicine efforts, working as a doctor in occupational medicine. As a scientist and medical researcher, he is engaged in fighting Big Pharma fraud, with a simple dictum in mind:
MEDICINE FOR HEALING, NOT HUGE PROFITS
But there’s more. Arthur also has form as a seasoned politician. He informs us about a long history already, as a member of the Australian parliament:
I was 9 years a NSW Democrat MLC. “I was the only Democrat there, so every issue was my issue, and every electorate was my electorate. I gained tremendous political experience, including in cross-benching, and worked really well with The Greens.”
Finally, the good doctor asks for our trust to steer Australia back on to a humane course, towards a healthy and more equitable future:
“I’m asking you to vote for me because there is still much more to be done – and that’s why I got into politics in the first place. We need to continue to promote fairness and equality. I was NSW President of Doctor’s Reform Society and I am a great supporter of Medicare. I believe that we have to have a…
HEALTH CARE SYSTEM BASED ON HOW SICK YOU ARE, NOT HOW WEALTHY YOU ARE
We need to fight for community where we take care of those less able than ourselves. I would like to be part of that work in Senate. I am asking you to vote for me in the preselection. Remember, you have to get the vote received by 5pm on this Friday 24th July. So please do it in the special envelope ASAP!
Pro-Palestinian activists shut down Israeli arms manufacturer Elbit Systems, on the anniversary of Israel’s ‘Protective Edge’ assault on GAZA.
Melbourne activists shut down Elbit Systems' drone factory
NOTE: This action is currently ongoing at 235 Ingles St Port Melbourne.
At 8am members of the Melbourne Palestine Action Coalition (MPAC) shut down the headquarters of Israeli arms manufacturer, ELBIT SYSTEMS, at 235 Ingles St Port Melbourne to mark the first anniversary of the 2014 Israeli ‘Protective Edge’ assault on Gaza. The group have blockaded access to the building and currently have two people locked on to the entrance gate, who state that they are prepared to remain there as long as possible. This is the second time the pro-Palestinian group has disrupted Elbit Systems, the first time being in August 2014 when they occupied the building’s roof and blockaded the entrance to Elbit during the 2014 Israeli attack on Gaza. (see more photos of the previous action)
MPAC spokesperson Kat Moore explains:
“This blockade is part of an International campaign to shut down Elbit Systems and coincides with events in London later today, to mark the anniversary of the deadly assault on GAZA last year. We are here today to demand the Australian Government end military trade deals with Israel and cancel all domestic contracts with Elbit Systems. We, like many other groups around the world, call on the UN and all governments to take immediate steps to implement a comprehensive and legally binding military embargo on Israel.”
Braving the cold and the cold-hearted, Melbourne activists lock on to a shut factory gate at Elbit Systems
Elbit Systems is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of unmanned aerial drones used by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in their ongoing siege and frequent military offensives in Gaza. MPAC are also targeting the arms manufacturer over domestic contracts with the Australian military and federal police. The group claim the Australian government have awarded 185 procurement contracts to Elbit Systems since 2007 totalling $704,728,650* of Australian tax payer dollars, during a period which saw the most egregious crimes against the Palestinian people in the near 50-year illegal Israeli occupation of their lives and territories, including;
“Israel’s ability to launch such devastating attacks with impunity largely stems from the vast international military cooperation and trade that it maintains with complicit governments across the world, one of the most vigorous funders being the Australian Government. By importing and exporting arms to Israel and facilitating the development of Israeli military technology, governments are effectively sending a clear message of approval for Israel’s military aggression, including its war crimes and possible crimes against humanity”
In the final report from the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict, issued on June 22, 2015, the UN state “serious violations of international humanitarian law” that “may amount to war crimes” and that “impunity prevails across the board” regarding the actions of Israeli forces in Gaza.
UN Representative for the report, Ms. McGowan Davis, hopes the report will persuade governments to address “the crying need” for changes in policies regarding the use of weapons with a wide-area effect in densely populated areas. The commission said that “the scale of the devastation was unprecedented” in Gaza, where it counted 2,251 Palestinian deaths and 18,000 homes destroyed.
MPAC spokesperson Sam Castro stated:
“This is just the beginning of a global campaign to stop the war profiteering of private corporations off the people of Palestine and others around the world. Israel’s military technology is marketed as “field-tested” and exported across the world. Military trade and joint military-related research relations with Israel embolden Israeli impunity in committing grave violations of international law and facilitate the entrenchment of Israel’s system of occupation, colonisation and systematic denial of Palestinian rights.