The De-Briefing (Guido and his political astro-turfers)

This entry was posted on
Monday, January 22nd, 2007
at
11:24 am and is filed
under The Political Weblog Movement.

Ministry Of Truth – Generation Gap: There are definable limits to what Tim could reasonably hope to achieve by taking an open pot-shot at Guido, which I’m sure he’s perfectly well aware of, and, for now, the best that he could hope for is to open a few eyes, show Guido up for who and what he really is and, yes, take a fair bit of flak in the process from some of Guido’s camp-whores – the latter aspect of all this is unpleasant (especially if you’re on the receiving end of it) but none the less instructive, as it does serve to illustrate and validate much of what Tim has had to say about the manner in which Guido operates, and while some might consider that Guido has more or less ‘ blown off’ Tim’s ‘ attack’ with barely a hint of being ruffled, quite as few others will have been looking at his reaction and making a mental note or two for the future having been even less impressed with Guido’s arrogance – and his antics – than usual.

Before I take what might appear to be a pointless detour into local matters, I want to ask you a question:

Have you ever watched a politician who has been caught bang to rights maintaining ‘a dignified silence’ while their chums are all over the media pushing forward pissweak defences and/or briefing against the source(s) of the damaging information?

You have? Oh, good. We can move on, then…

Anne Milton.

I began by suspecting that Anne’s election campaign wasn’t all that it seemed, but I pretty much let her get on with it until she made the mistake of thinking she could afford to lie to me. It was at that point I decided to take a closer look at her campaign, using a purpose-built weblog to scrutinise Milton’s activities and publish my findings.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I hit a rich seam of paydirt in two of my earliest posts; the outing of one activist (posing as an independent supporter) and the antics of another (publishing and distributing dangerously misleading literature). After this, many of Milton’s questionable tactics as a candidate were highlighted (pretty much every ‘independent supporter’ shown in her pamphlets was a ringer, and she even flaunted electoral guidelines by posing as a local through the use of a single-bedroom flat), but somehow she managed to squeak past the post with a 347-strong margin.

Since then, I’ve published evidence that clearly shows her to be a shiftless, witless and deceitful MP.

Now comes the interesting bit… watch the pattern:

First, I was asked by one of her flunkies why I didn’t have anything better to do. When the matter became impossible to ignore, Milton herself feigned disinterest and sought to cast me as ‘an angry young man’. Soon after, her activists went to work; primarily in an anonymous capacity, on my site and others. When it became clear to them that they would usually lose in a fair debate (and/or dump themselves in it in the process), they reverted to spending most of their time briefing against me via a series of anonymous comments and websites; their two main weapons were repeated suggestions about my sexuality and state of mind, and repeated attempts to pass off the Anne Milton weblog as a personal attack and/or a party-political one. Before too long, they grew tired of compromising other people’s weblogs and instead decided to start fucking about with Wikipedia. Sooner or later (it had to happen) I was clearly libelled. While all of this was going on, Anne Milton could afford to sit back and play the victim.

Now, onto my decision to scrutinise Paul Staines’ activities and publish my findings:

First, I was asked by one of his flunkies why I didn’t have anything better to do. When the matter became impossible to ignore, ‘Guido’ himself feigned disinterest and sought to cast me as ‘an angry young man’. Soon after, his activists went to work; primarily in an anonymous capacity, mostly on other peoples’ websites. When it became clear to them that they would usually lose in a fair debate (and/or dump themselves in it in the process), they reverted to spending most of their time briefing against me via a series of anonymous comments and websites; their two main weapons were repeated suggestions about my sexuality and state of mind, and repeated attempts to pass off the ‘Plonker’ post as a personal attack and/or a party-political one. Before too long, they grew tired of compromising other people’s weblogs and instead decided to start fucking about with Wikipedia. Sooner or later (it had to happen) I was clearly libelled. While all of this was going on, Paul Staines could afford to sit back and play the victim.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is called ‘briefing’ or, when in full flight, ‘negative campaigning‘ of this variety… and in each case, a small number of players sought to cover as much ground as possible under a variety of pseudonyms, which is why it also classifies as something we like to call ‘astro-turfing‘ (i.e. creating the false impression of a grass-roots movement).

This same gang of thugs used similar techniques to launch/support attacks on Bob Piper and Tom Watson. If you scoot back in time in both cases, you’ll be able to watch ‘Guido’ playing Mr Nice Guy in both affairs, leaving his flying monkeys to do his dirty work for him. A lot of familiar names will crop up when you do so… along with an unknown number of anonymous contributors.

In the case of the Watson/Simon affair, they happened across a pretty easy dual target. As far as most people in Westminster were concerned, Tom Watson and Sion Simon were part of a Brownite plot against Blair; half of the village hated them for trying, and the other half hated them for failing. Before too long, useful idiots like Jack Straw popped up, and the rest – as they say – is history.

(Jack Straw condemned Sion Simon’s video without watching it and said; “I believe we have to ensure that political discourse is at the highest level.” Jack Straw was also the man who was less than comfortable with the revelations coming from his own ambassador in Uzbekistan and decided to deal with these revelations by undermining the source with a smear campaign! In August 2003, Craig Murray, the ambassador to Uzbekistan, was confronted with 18 charges, the most serious of which involved “hiring dolly birds for above the usual rate” for the visa department and granting UK visas in exchange for sex. Murray was forbidden from discussing/challenging the charges under the Official Secrets Act, but that didn’t stop a certain interested party from leaking those charges to the press… because shit sticks, even if the charges don’t. All but two of the most minor charges were dropped, and the Foreign Office eventually exonerated Murray of all 18 charges… but not before the smear campaign had taken a drastic toll on Murray’s health and reputation. Eventually, he was removed from his post for “operational” reasons.)

Another notable thing about the ‘public’ reactions to the Sion Simon video was the number of people operating anonymously under comments at the Guido Fawkes site who were outraged at Simon’s ‘personal attack’ one minute and banging on about his piggy eyes and floppy hair the next.

(In my view, Sion Simon’s video was not funny, but that did not make it worthy of outrage. And it was not a personal attack, it was valid criticism. David Cameron’s Webcameron stunt was just that; a stunt. He could have engaged directly and honestly via text alone and done something no-one at this level had done before, but instead he tried to invent credibility out of thin air by being caught ‘unscripted’ at home. In doing so, he willingly prostituted his family.)

This same gang of thugs also contribute to Paul Staines’ already-skewed agenda-friendly comments set-up; many people have reported being shouted down on those occasions when they haven’t been deleted. If you attempt to press your point, you run the risk of these bastards slipping their chains and coming after you.

Meanwhile, Paul Staines not only gets to sit back and play Mr Nice Guy, he also gets to claim that there is very little interest in or support for your opinion.

While I’ve got you in a private moment in front of your computer, I’d like to ask you to put your hand up if you’re one of the people who haven’t got involved because you’re afraid of what Team Guido might do to you.

Nothing to be ashamed of if you are… I’d just like to request that you spend some time thinking about what can be done to reign these bastards in before they start doing some real damage.

Moving on…

The advantage you have when operating under a number of pseudonyms is that you can be a total hypocrite without being called on it. Happily, some members of Team Guido have started taking pleasure in traffic generated by individual semi-established identities, which allows me to do this:

PragueTory: Clearly shown to be an active Tory briefer and astro-turfer, but he moans about anti-Tory astro-turfing and then bans me from his weblog for politely calling him on it. Hypocrite.

[MINI-UPDATE – This post is mostly for those ‘in the know’, but PragueTory’s responses in the comments under this post can be appreciated even by the casual bystander.]

Dizzy: Pledged to allow me to continue to comment on his website. Hasn’t said a word against ‘Guido’ after Staines suggested that homosexuals near children is a bad thing, but seems to think John Prescott is worthy of a bashing after he suggested that homosexuals near him is a bad thing (check the linked thread at the head to see him skip right over my question, then check this comment thread for a veiled threat and this one for Dizzy’s ‘explanation’). Hypocrite.

[MINI-UPDATE – Finally, an answer (of sorts) from Dizzy. It was all an innocent mistake, of course.]

OutFromUnder: Same thing, but with one subtle difference; he’s learned a little trick from Staines, and so has not only ignored my comment, but also taunted me for sending him traffic in a pathetic effort to stop me from doing it again.

‘Peter Hitchens': According to ‘Guido’ “took it upon himself to try to broker a peace deal.” Sent a direct email or two and played nice. (I’ve been trolled before, PH… and by better players than yourself.) Claimed that ‘Peter Hitchens’ was just a character he played for a bit of a laugh… but when I too played a character for ‘a bit of a laugh’ he responded with an angry ‘the gloves are off now’ email. Hypocrite.

Folks, I’m really sorry about all the shouting that’s gone on this past week, but if it’s any consolation, I’ve done my best to ensure that it was my website and my reputation that bore the brunt of it.

Sadly, the same cannot be said for Paul Staines, who has sought to rule out any intelligent discussion of my concerns on his website and – at the same time – deliberately played the part in a way that he knew would rev up his thugs… who are now popping up everywhere with all sorts of briefs against me.

Yes, I expected this. No, I didn’t expect them to make my point quite so clearly. I really thought I’d have to do most of the work myself.

To close:

I suppose it could be said that “On the internet, nobody knows if you’re an attack dog”… and I’d like to do something to change that.

Beta-testing of National Service begins soon. One very important aspect of it will be a totally organic (and not at all fascist) way of identifying bloggers with credibility.

I plan to make life very difficult for astro-turfers (of both the amateur and the professional variety); hopefully in time for the next general election.

[Psst! What I have in mind is nothing like this… but you’ll want to read the related post anyway.]








About Tim Ireland

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