Sunday Times, Russian social media bots, and vulture capitalists in Ukraine

Murdoch rag The Sunday Times led with an absurd story yesterday that claimed automated social media accounts (bots) based in Russia had posted thousands of messages in support of Labour ahead of the 2017 general election.  The ridiculous claims induced mirth and snorts of derision.  There are so many reasons why the story is clearly bunkum:

  • The Russian government prefers a Tory government not Labour
  • Russian criminal oligarchs, associated with Putin, have made many large donations to the Tory party and to individual Tory MPs
  • When Tory mayor of London, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson assisted the sales of property to Russian criminals and their laundered cash
  • In the story, the ratio of alleged bots to alleged automated messages suggests each “bot” sent only one or two messages in total 
  • The Sunday Times is owned by News International which is aggressively opposed to Jeremy Corbyn’s politics
  • The Sunday Times is owned by News International which is notoriously dishonest and unashamedly inventive

The two most obvious motivations for The Sunday Times’ steaming pile of horse manure are another attempt at smearing Labour ahead of the May 3rd council elections alongside an attack on social media activism.  Social media has been used very well by left-wing activists, including supporters of the Labour leadership, and this worries the Tories and their associates.  Depicting online activists as automated accounts from another country is a standard tactic to distract and denigrate.

Collusion with vulture capitalists
Staff at The Sunday Times colluded with two members of staff from the University of Swansea, Professor Oleksandr Talavera and Tho Pham.  Talavera is a co-creator of  VoxUkraine, a team of analytical economists who aid those who seek the imposition of elite-focussed extreme free-market capitalism in Ukraine: “We decided to increase the level of education and economic debate in Ukraine.”

Professor Oleksandr Talavera

VoxUkraine claimed that it “is not related to any Ukrainian political party or movement. Businessmen, government officials, or politicians have no impact on our work,” but it is blatantly promoting a political outlook and a system of economic fiscal management:

Our mission is to improve the level of the economic debate in Ukraine. We believe this will improve the quality of economic decisions in Ukraine and have a positive impact on the welfare of millions of our compatriots.  We will achieve this through a quality economic debate, economic policy analysis, independent evaluation of economic reforms, and Ukraine’s integration into the global network of economists and political leaders.”

When financial vultures use the word “reform” they always mean theft of public services and theft of publicly owned infrastructure.  For example, Reforming a Country in War is Difficult, but There Is No Other Way by Rostyslav Averchuk, published by VoxUkraine last October, sought to ram home the need for such “reform,” particularly “land reform.”  Land reform, of course, means the handing over of publicly owned land to vultures and thieves.

Ukraine, embroiled in a civil war and with an unstable corrupt government peopled with far-right rabble-rousers, has a struggling fiscal economy that makes the country’s public services into prime targets for vulture capitalists.  The aim of VoxUkraine is to prepare the groundwork for such vultures to operate successfully.  VoxUkraine’s analysis and advice is concentrated on forcing the Ukrainian government to acquiesce to the demands of privateers.

Clearly, the focussed political stance of VoxUkraine is opposed to the left-wing politics of Jeremy Corbyn.  Professor Talavera would have no qualms about inventing analysis to assist a Murdoch rag to smear Labour a few days before the council elections.  However, VoxUkraine receives considerable funding from the National Endowement For Democracy (NED).  The NED’s aims – “dedicated to the growth and strengthening of democratic institutions around the world” – suggest that it should not fund an organisation that has wilfully tried to interfere in an election in Britain.

Sunday Times, Russian social media bots, and vulture capitalists in Ukraine

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