Propaganda and the media: Counter-Jihad and the ‘Decent’ Left

11:30 am - March 23rd 2009

by Tom Griffin    

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Over at the Yorkshire Ranter, Alex Harrowell comments on the ongoing story of Glen Jenvey, who featured as an anti-terrorist ‘expert’ in a Sun story about threats, which it now appears he posted himself, against public figures on a Muslim web forum.

It’s a very good question just how many terrorism stories (especially ones that have the “Internet” flag set – it means “stuff I don’t understand” to a lot of editors) are the work of these people, whether the upscale, Decent version or Jenvey’s Comedy Gladio.

There are indeed some interesting connections between the kind of right-wing “CounterJihad” networks represented by Jenvey and the so-called “decent left“.

But before that, all this reminds me of a quote from former Pentagon Neocon Abram Shulsky:

Soviet front groups might have been more effective, but Stalinist paranoia made impossible the operational autonomy needed to succeed. To the extent that future practitioners of this type of propaganda have learned lessons from the Soviet experience, we may expect that the nonstate groups will be controlled in a more sophisticated manner and their ties to a given state will be less obvious.

New methods of spreading propaganda (such as via Internet web sites of Non-governmental organizations [NGOs], or specialized email lists) allow a deceiver to reach target audiences via multiple channels. Many of these channels may remain relatively invisible to the public at large. (Elements of Strategic Denial and Deception by Abram Shulsky in Strategic Denial and Deception: The Twenty-First Century Challenge, edited by Roy Godson and James J. Wirtz, Transaction books, 2002, p23.)

Shulsky went on to note that “Despite the media’s self-image of hardheaded cynicism, it is relatively vulnerable to this type of manipulation.” (p24.)

The Sun’s story, which claimed that British Muslims were preparing a ‘hit-list’ against prominent British Jews, and is now being sued by Alan Sugar over it, seems to bear this theory out.

Would this apply to the ‘decent left’ too? Note, for example:

– Glen Jenvey’s ally Paul Ray AKA Lionheart was interviewed by Phyllis Chesler, who also hosted a party in New York for Democratiya editor Alan Johnson.

– The notionally left-wing Democratiya recently featured an interview with Andrew Bostom, a member of the CounterJihad Europa network. This extreme right grouping was created with the help of Christine Brim, who also happens to be a senior figure in a Washington neoconservative think-tank, the Center for Security Policy (CSP).

– The CSP advocates ‘political warfare‘ against Islam, and its head, Frank Gaffney, is at the center of a number of Islamophobic networks in Europe and the US. Most recently, he hosted Geert Wilders during his recent trip to Washington. (Chesler and Bostom were in attendance on the New York leg of Wilders’ US tour).

– CSP legal counsel David Yerushalmi heads the Society of Americans for National Existence, which produced some of the material which ended up in Policy Exchange’s controversial briefing against the Global Peace and Unity event in London.

– Frank Gaffney’s sister Devon Gaffney Cross runs the Policy Forum on International Security Affairs, a neocon propaganda outfit, partly funded by the Pentagon, which has targeted the European media in recent years.

– In 2004, the FT’s Christopher Caldwell noted that Cross planned to bring to London, “the widest possible variety of foreign-policy voices, from Bush Republicans (she has invited the under secretary of defence, Paul Wolfowitz, to participate) to Clinton Democrats (such as the former CIA director James Woolsey) to the human-rights activists of the Democratic left (who cluster around the Freedom House Foundation and American organised labour).”

In reality, all the elements of this ‘varied coalition’ were identifiably neoconservative. According to the Forum’s website:

The response to our efforts, among the media, has been both prompt and enthusiastic. Editors of The Financial Times, The Daily Telegraph, The London Times, The Economist, The Sun and The Spectator have all participated in our discussions.

– I wonder whether the Policy Forum had something to do with the occasion at Annabel’s recounted by Cristina Odone?

It was here that Thatcher’s makeover was plotted; here that, when Paul Wolfowitz asked to meet some of Britain’s leading journalists, The Observer’s Nick Cohen found himself sitting next to John Lloyd and Charles Moore, drinking champagne.

More recently, I raised the same question last week over at the Next Left blog in the context of the Fabians’ dispute with Nick Cohen about the best way to engage moderate Muslims.

It was also highlighted by Sunny at Pickled Politics:

Who was the “pleasant American” lady who invited [Cohen] to meet Paul Wolfowitz at Annabel’s? (Nick Cohen, Evening Standard, 21 June 2005).

Is she by any chance related to the lady who’s been running “cozy, off-the-record briefings by senior Pentagon officials, fellow-neo-cons and fellow members of the Defense Policy Board (DPB) for select British and European reporters in exclusive clubs and cafes in London and Paris”. (

Some answers would be nice.

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About the author
This is a guest post. Tom Griffin is a freelance writer and researcher. He is currently undertaking a Ph.D on neoconservative networks in Europe at the University of Strathclyde. He writes on his eponymous blog.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Foreign affairs ,Media ,Realpolitik ,Terrorism ,Think-tanks ,United States

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Reader comments

With interest, I read a piece in this week’s Time Europe, about the survival of NATO in spite of the collapse of the USSR. How it’s actually got stronger, despite all other alliances collapsing soon after mutual goals had been achieved.

Alliances die when they win. Take away the enemy, and you take away the glue that holds a coalition together.


Yet instead of taking its final bow, NATO expanded. In 1994, the alliance sent out invitations to the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland; five years later, all three were in. Sixty years ago, NATO started out with 12 members; today it has 26. Not bad for an outfit that, according to theory, should have breathed its last once the Soviet Union had capitulated.

One wonders, when these characters are so committed to a continued American hegemony, if they haven’t got a vested interest in the continued threat of radical Islam?*

*rhetorical question

2. formerlyipswich

You knock Nick Cohen, and yet the list of people below – who signed the Guardian letter – are the same old gang of deadbeat, throughly westernized old crocks who are laughed at by fundamentalist type Moslems. They represent the very poison that Islamists in the west hold up as examples of Westernism.
Do you imagine that Yasmin Alibhai-Brown brings a shudder of fear from the collective in Oldham, Manchester or east London? Cohen is right.

Sunder Katwala Fabian Society; Navid Akhtar; Fareena Alam, Fuad Nahdi Radical Middle Way; Yasmin Alibhai-Brown; Anthony Barnett Convention for Modern Liberty; Farmida Bi Progressive British Muslims; Yahya Birt, Usama Hasan, Asim Siddiqui City Circle; Rachel Briggs; Tony Curzon-Price openDemocracy; Sunny Hundal Liberal Conspiracy; Dilwar Hussain Policy Research Centre; James MacIntyre New Statesman; Dr Nasar Meer, Prof Tariq Modood Bristol University; Peter Oborne; Ed Owen; Chuka Umunna Labour ppc for Streatham; Stuart Weir Democratic Audit

“Editors of The Financial Times, The Daily Telegraph, The London Times, The Economist, The Sun and The Spectator have all participated in our discussions.”

Was this still in 2004? The editor of the Spectator at that point being one B. Johnson, esq., later much championed and assisted into office by Policy Exchange, Cohen, Gilligan, Lynton Crosby etc. Now, however, Boris not having worked out as a neocon stooge, they’re busily trying to gee up an acceptable Labour Mayoral candidate for 2012. Sir Alan Sugar, for instance. The key thing about these bastards is that they’re avowedly post-political party people, but I’d still like to know what the hell they’re doing and why.

Chesler dropped “Lionheart” when his BNP-praising past came to light, although she’s still awful:

And David Yerushalmi is off the wall:

You knock Nick Cohen, and yet the list of people below – who signed the Guardian letter – are the same old gang of deadbeat, throughly westernized old crocks who are laughed at by fundamentalist type Moslems

In case you forgot, the whole spat was about who on the liberal-left supported liberal/progressive Muslims, not who supported the fundamentalist types. So if the Anjem Choudhary crew are dismissive, that means we’re doing something right.


Fair point about Chesler. She did seem to take a fair amount of prodding though. Her initial response (which refers to Lionheart’s pro-BNP comments) was very interesting:

“I myself no longer demand purity or conformity in my political alliances. I think we are at war and we must make alliances with people with whom we may not agree on every issue. However, others believe that there are some people who, no matter what, are “off-limits” where civilized political and military alliances are concerned.”

(She doesn’t seem to have done herself any favours in that the later response you refer to is gone and doesn’t seem to be archived anywhere.)
This is reminiscent of the language coming from people like Christine Brim:

“We suggest looking for the possible movement of Le Pen’s political party Front National towards the center-right, as they may change their platform to pro-active support to improve the situations of European Jews and Israel. The same trend is happening in Austria, and with the BNP in the UK (also not invited and did not attend the conference). If such parties specifically state pro-Israel positions, and take real actions opposing anti-semitism and disavowing previous positions – and reach out to Jewish constituents and encourage Jewish participation in party positions – these are real actions to observe, and to approve. They have not done this yet – but are starting.”

The IPS and RUSI articles above are good on the rapprochement between some neoconservatives and the European far right which is reflected in organisations like CounterJihad Europa and the International Free Press Society.

It seems that concerns about ‘Islamofascists’ don’t necessarily extend to actual European fascists.

This is arguably consistent with a ‘political warfare’ ethos:

“Some Western conservatives will oppose aid to labor and socialist groups, while more liberal politicians and their staffs will oppose aid to conservative intellectual, media, and business groups. These are political obstacles that potential sponsors will have to overcome if they are looking for geostrategic advantages.” (Roy Godson, Dirty Tricks or Trump Cards, p.151.)


I’m not sure of the date of the Spectator comment. It’s from the Policy Forum website, which seems to have gone down in the past few days. There’s a google cached version here:

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