MY good friend Toby Young has written a piece in the Spectator bigging up the Big Brother Watch report on how Covid dissidents were spied on by UK state agencies, including the disinformation branch of the military known as 77th Brigade.
For me the stand-out line is this one: ‘But, frustratingly, there’s no single revelation scandalous enough to trigger an official inquiry.’ Yes, Tobes. You’re getting there. Could the reason for this frustration perhaps be that the report was designed that way?
I certainly believe so. Big Brother Watch’s report – sexily titled ‘Ministry of Truth: the secretive government units spying on your speech’ – comes across to me like a textbook example of ‘limited hangout’. That is, snippets of hitherto ‘secret’ information are drip-fed into the public consciousness with the intention not to illuminate but to limit, cover up and deceive.
Like ‘conspiracy theory’, limited hangout is a phrase popularised by the CIA. Suppose, say, the Deep State have been up to no good and after months or years being fobbed off with official denials the public is about to discover the ugly truth. What their propaganda units will do at that point is to permit a tactical leak of curated information which appears to spill the beans. While the public is busy getting worked up about this watered-down version of the scandal, the more damaging stuff remains in the shadows.
In this light, let’s examine some of the headline claims made in this ‘investigative’ report. Here is the first of its ‘key findings’:
‘Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, Conservative MPs David Davis and Chris Green, high-profile academics from the University of Oxford and University College London, and journalists including Peter Hitchens and Julia Hartley-Brewer, all had comments critical of the government analysed by anti-misinformation units.’
That paragraph already is a massive red flag. What on earth is Covid authoritarian Sir Keir Starmer doing on a list of supposed dissidents? Why is vaccine enthusiast Julia Hartley-Brewer (the single most oft-cited victim in the report) given such prominence? And what is it with this word ‘analysed’, whose measured neutrality barely hints at the skulduggery now regularly practised at the expense of law-abiding British people by state agencies?
Here is the second key finding: ‘Target speech included public criticism of the government’s pandemic response – particularly lockdown modelling and vaccine passports – as well as journalists’ criticism of the withdrawal from Afghanistan and MPs’ criticism of Nato.’
Note how the Afghanistan and Nato issues are slipped in to muddy the waters. Note also the distracting emphasis of ‘lockdown modelling and vaccine passports’ – important issues, certainly, but not nearly as important as the most aggressively censored form of dissidence, namely criticism of these alleged vaccines and their potentially lethal effects.
And here is its third key finding: ‘Soldiers from the Army’s 77th Brigade, tasked with “non-lethal psychological warfare”, collected tweets from British citizens posting about Covid-19 and passed them to central government – despite claiming operations were directed strictly overseas.’
There has been much, misplaced excitement about this ‘revelation’. For example, in the Mail on Sunday’s double-page-spread coverage (itself another red flag), it was the headline story: ‘Army spied on lockdown critics: Sceptics, including our own Peter Hitchens, long suspected they were under surveillance.’
In the Daily Sceptic, Tobes headed his version ‘The 77th Brigade spied on lockdown sceptics, including me.’ And YouTube medical podcaster Dr John Campbell broadcast to his alleged 2.66million subscribers that he had once put into the ‘conspiracy theory bucket’ the notion that a unit of the Army would be spying on its own citizens but that he now realised it was true.
So it’s good news, right? All those of us tinfoil-hat loons who’ve said from the start that the 77th have been infiltrating online chat groups, posing under fake identities to promote the government’s Covid agenda, trolling sceptics, smearing vaccine critics and so on: we’ve finally been vindicated.
You hear this line quite a lot from people in Awake circles. And if you tell them that they’ve just fallen victim to a military grade psyop they get quite upset and defensive. I can understand this totally. When your side appears to have scored an unequivocal win – in this case waking up the Normies to the damage being done by 77th Brigade and other malign state agencies – it’s jolly annoying when some killjoy replies that, no, this was actually all part of the Enemy’s plan.
Unfortunately, though, that’s exactly how limited hangouts work. The information being selectively leaked out isn’t wholly worthless. (If it were, no one would buy the cover story). Rather, it is information that has reached its sell-by date. The people who are leaking it have taken a tactical decision: it was going to come out anyway; at least this way, by releasing it on their terms, they can maintain a degree of control over the narrative.
It’s not what they are revealing but what they are NOT revealing that is the problem here. Suppose you were coming at this story for the first time, what would you learn? Well, you’d hear about an Army unit which, at the government’s behest, was spying on British citizens. ‘Whoa! This sounds serious!’ you might think. But then you’d read on and your anxiety would quickly diminish because the charges laid against 77th (and the various other named state agencies, such as the Counter Disinformation Unit, the Rapid Response Unit, etc) seem so innocuous.
One of the report’s prize exhibits is a short essay from an anonymous Army whistleblower who was attached to 77th Brigade and now claims to be ashamed of his involvement. But it reads less like a confession than a carefully worded damage limitation exercise. These samples may give a taste:
‘We were sent on basic training including the use of anonymised laptops and many legal briefs to ensure we knew how to remain legal.’
‘They had been told what was legally allowed, such as a “scrape” whereby we searched online platforms for keywords; and what was illegal, such as repeatedly looking at a named UK individual’s account without authorisation, although some people would do that from their accounts after their shift.’
Note here the stress on the unit’s allegedly strenuous attempts to keep everything above board and legal. Note too how any breaches of this are attributed to a few rogue operators who, for some unexplained reason, liked to carry on working, after hours, on their own time and equipment.
This damage limitation tactic is also evident in the section on the Counter Disinformation Unit which, so we’re asked to believe, tied itself in knots worrying about freedom of speech issues when debating whether to report some tweets by Toby Young: ‘Extracts from internal emails show CDU staff debated whether to flag several of his tweets to Twitter as a potential breach of its terms. In considering what action to take, staff note that reporting the journalist would “require further analysis of FoS [freedom of speech] implications”.’ The report is at pains to tell us that there is no evidence that any of Tobes’s tweets were flagged.
Perhaps you’re beginning to see how the technique works. In the guise of telling us how terrible these various agencies are, what the report actually tells us is how innocuous they are. They were, we are repeatedly told, scrupulous about observing legal niceties. When they did overstep the mark, it was down to individual overzealousness or incompetence, rather than malign intent. As for this widely reported charge that they ‘spied’ on British subjects? Well, we’re hardly talking wiretaps here, are we? Or being tailed by men in shabby raincoats. Nope, about the worst these spy agencies did – so the report claims – is that they ‘monitored’ a few people’s social media posts. The same thing, you might note, that every regular user of Twitter does every single day.
In other words, this supposed investigative report might better have been titled Big Fat Nothingburger – because that is the extent of its shocking revelations. If you still believe otherwise, and want to make your impassioned case that ‘No, it’s good. Thanks to this report, loads more people are now awake to what is going on,’ I’d just like to remind you of a few things.
First, the report adds little to what Laura Dodsworth already told us in her May 2021 bestseller State of Fear. The fact that newspapers such as the Mail on Sunday are reporting now what has been well in the public domain for over 18 months is not, then, a sign of some glorious new information breakthrough. Rather it is a sign that the Establishment is finally ready for the next stage of its controlled information release.
Second, think for a moment of what this Nothingburger report is NOT telling us. As everyone in dissident circles has long been aware, the activities of 77th Brigade and related state agencies are considerably more aggressive and objectionable than anything revealed in the report. Consider Mike Yeadon, ex-Pfizer-VP turned vaccine whistleblower: his Twitter account was hijacked, he was discredited with a tirade of foul-mouthed, anti-Islamic tweets, and more or less driven off social media.
The simple fact is that the British government – like governments across the world – has been waging war on its citizenry. It has bullied, cajoled and tricked them into taking vaccines they didn’t need. It has lied to them about the nature of the threat posed by the ‘pandemic’, about vaccine safety, about vaccine deaths and injuries. And it has enforced its mendacious narrative by buying the silence of the mainstream media (using taxpayers’ money, natch) and by smearing, marginalising and censoring sceptics. A key part of this ugly, utterly immoral, thoroughly anti-democratic black ops campaign are all those agencies now effectively whitewashed in this limited hangout report.
Before I read their report when it was published last Sunday, I was agnostic about Big Brother Watch, an organisation of which I knew very little. Since then, I have heard much that troubles me: about their funding sources, about the people involved, and so on. But to me, all the evidence you need that this report cannot be trusted is contained in the report itself. It reveals nothing of real value (at least nothing that wasn’t going to come out soon); it sullies the vaguely useful information by interspersing it with irrelevancies; it plays down the seriousness of the threat posed by the organisations involved by making them sound at once scrupulous and amateurish. The whole thing stinks.