British security services are recycling Cold War methods in a propaganda war against Muslims.
As a Tory candidate in 1997, Richard Chalk said he was fuelled by “religious conviction” and a “passionate rejection of the dogma and dangerous idealism of a Socialist agenda”.
These beliefs serve him well today as head of the Research, Information and Communication Unit (Ricu), the British state’s propaganda department.
A new report by detainee rights organisation Cage has shown how this sprawling empire works. It brings together spooks, “grassroots” front organisations and a film company which an employee claimed was guarded by the Official Secrets Act.
Intellectual ballast is provided by Bob Lambert, the notorious spy cop who infiltrated the environmental and anti-racist movements.
His “Lambertism” is a strategy of infiltrating communities. As head of the Metropolitan police’s Muslim Contact Unit (MCU), Lambert was tasked with forging relationships with “community leaders” to stop “radicalisation”.
Ricu collects information on target audiences, which means “looking at the online behaviour of young Muslims” and “how language used by the government is received and understood”. This analysis is then used to pump out propaganda, euphemistically called Strategic Communication (or Stratcom).
In steps secretive PR firm Breakthrough Media. In September 2015 it produced a film called Faith on the Frontline about Asim Hafiz, a British Army Muslim chaplain in Afghanistan.
Its client was the Armed Forces Muslim Association (AFMA), a front organisation set up to “celebrate” Muslims in the army.
We’re told, “As well as the spiritual guide for the 650 British Muslim soldiers, Asim’s duties extend to gaining the trust of the very people the British troops have been sent to help.”
Breakthrough Media has now partnered up with right wing PR giant M&C Saatchi to cash in on growing demand for “counter narratives”.
Ricu is based on the Information Research Department set up by Labour in 1948. “It does sound horribly Cold War,” one Ricu official admitted in 2008.
After the 7/7 bombings in London, New Labour adopted a double edged approach in the “war on terror”. As senior officials said, “We must talk in a language that’s not offensive … the terrorist threat must not be described as a ‘Muslim problem’.”
Yet according to the Ricu worldview, Muslims at best turn a blind eye to “extremism” and at worst are potential terrorists.
Another front group, Faith Associates, supports mosques and other Muslim organisations against “extremism”. Its flagship Imams Online website declares “British Values are Muslim Values”.
It’s setting up training programmes to make sure mosques comply with the “Prevent” programme.
First set up by New Labour in 2007, Prevent has forced public sector workers to spy for signs of “radicalisation” since 2015.
The propaganda and snooping goes hand in hand with overt, violent oppression, right up to cops kicking down doors and shooting people. The aim is to keep Muslims divided and cowed and use Islamophobia to justify British imperialism.
The Tories’ plans for an Extremism Bill could ramp this up further. Only reforging that powerful alliance of the left and Muslims that opposed the Iraq war can beat them.
The West and Russia vie for dominance
At the crossroads of imperialism
Struggling inside the Labour Party isn’t the solution for the left