person:steve bannon

  • View from Nowhere. Is it the press’s job to create a community that transcends borders?

    A few years ago, on a plane somewhere between Singapore and Dubai, I read Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities (1983). I was traveling to report on the global market for passports—how the ultrawealthy can legally buy citizenship or residence virtually anywhere they like, even as 10 million stateless people languish, unrecognized by any country. In the process, I was trying to wrap my head around why national identity meant so much to so many, yet so little to my passport-peddling sources. Their world was the very image of Steve Bannon’s globalist nightmare: where you can never be too rich, too thin, or have too many passports.

    Anderson didn’t address the sale of citizenship, which only took off in earnest in the past decade; he did argue that nations, nationalism, and nationality are about as organic as Cheez Whiz. The idea of a nation, he writes, is a capitalist chimera. It is a collective sense of identity processed, shelf-stabilized, and packaged before being disseminated, for a considerable profit, to a mass audience in the form of printed books, news, and stories. He calls this “print-capitalism.”

    Per Anderson, after the printing press was invented, nearly 600 years ago, enterprising booksellers began publishing the Bible in local vernacular languages (as opposed to the elitist Latin), “set[ting] the stage for the modern nation” by allowing ordinary citizens to participate in the same conversations as the upper classes. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the proliferation (and popularity) of daily newspapers further collapsed time and space, creating an “extraordinary mass ceremony” of reading the same things at the same moment.

    “An American will never meet, or even know the names of more than a handful of his 240,000,000–odd fellow Americans,” Anderson wrote. “He has no idea of what they are up to at any one time.” But with the knowledge that others are reading the same news, “he has complete confidence in their steady, anonymous, simultaneous activity.”

    Should the press be playing a role in shaping not national identities, but transnational ones—a sense that we’re all in it together?

    Of course, national presses enabled more explicit efforts by the state itself to shape identity. After the US entered World War I, for instance, President Woodrow Wilson set out to make Americans more patriotic through his US Committee on Public Information. Its efforts included roping influential mainstream journalists into advocating American-style democracy by presenting US involvement in the war in a positive light, or simply by referring to Germans as “Huns.” The committee also monitored papers produced by minorities to make sure they supported the war effort not as Indians, Italians, or Greeks, but as Americans. Five Irish-American papers were banned, and the German-American press, reacting to negative stereotypes, encouraged readers to buy US bonds to support the war effort.

    The US media played an analogous role in selling the public on the 2003 invasion of Iraq. But ever since then, in the digital economy, its influence on the national consciousness has waned. Imagined Communities was published seven years before the fall of the Berlin Wall, twenty-two years before Thomas Friedman’s The World Is Flat, and a couple of decades before the internet upended print-capitalism as the world knew it (one of Anderson’s footnotes is telling, if quaint: “We still have no giant multinationals in the world of publishing”).

    Since Trump—a self-described nationalist—became a real contender for the US presidency, many news organizations have taken to looking inward: consider the running obsession with the president’s tweets, for instance, or the nonstop White House palace intrigue (which the president invites readily).

    Meanwhile, the unprofitability of local and regional papers has contributed to the erosion of civics, which, down the line, makes it easier for billionaires to opt out of old “imagined communities” and join new ones based on class and wealth, not citizenship. And given the challenges humanity faces—climate change, mass migration, corporate hegemony, and our relationships to new technologies—even if national papers did make everyone feel like they shared the same narrative, a renewed sense of national pride would prove impotent in fighting world-historic threats that know no borders.

    Should the press, then, be playing an analogous role in shaping not national identities, but transnational ones—a sense that we’re all in it together? If it was so important in shaping national identity, can it do so on a global scale?

    Like my passport-buying subjects, I am what Theresa May, the former British prime minister, might call a “citizen of nowhere.” I was born in one place to parents from another, grew up in a third, and have lived and traveled all over. That informs my perspective: I want deeply for there to be a truly cosmopolitan press corps, untethered from national allegiances, regional biases, class divisions, and the remnants of colonial exploitation. I know that’s utopian; the international working class is hardly a lucrative demographic against which publishers can sell ads. But we seem to be living in a time of considerable upheaval and opportunity. Just as the decline of religiously and imperially organized societies paved the way for national alternatives, then perhaps today there is a chance to transcend countries’ boundaries, too.

    Does the US media help create a sense of national identity? If nationalism means putting the interests of one nation—and what its citizens are interested in—before more universal concerns, then yes. Most journalists working for American papers, websites, and TV write in English with a national audience (or regional time zone) in mind, which affects how we pitch, source, frame, and illustrate a story—which, in turn, influences our readers, their country’s politics, and, down the line, the world. But a news peg isn’t an ideological form of nationalism so much as a practical or methodological one. The US press feeds off of more pernicious nationalisms, too: Donald Trump’s false theory about Barack Obama being “secretly” Kenyan, disseminated by the likes of Fox and The Daily Caller, comes to mind.

    That isn’t to say that global news outlets don’t exist in the US. When coaxing subscribers, the Financial Times, whose front page often includes references to a dozen different countries, openly appeals to their cosmopolitanism. “Be a global citizen. Become an FT Subscriber,” read a recent banner ad, alongside a collage featuring the American, Chinese, Japanese, Australian, and European Union flags (though stories like the recent “beginner’s guide to buying a private island” might tell us something about what kind of global citizen they’re appealing to).

    “I don’t think we try to shape anyone’s identity at all,” Gillian Tett, the paper’s managing editor for the US, says. “We recognize two things: that the world is more interconnected today than it’s ever been, and that these connections are complex and quite opaque. We think it’s critical to try to illuminate them.”

    For Tett, who has a PhD in social anthropology, money serves as a “neutral, technocratic” starting point through which to understand—and tie together—the world. “Most newspapers today tend to start with an interest in politics or events, and that inevitably leads you to succumb to tribalism, however hard you try [not to],” Tett explains. “If you look at the world through money—how is money going around the world, who’s making and losing it and why?—out of that you lead to political, cultural, foreign-policy stories.”

    Tett’s comments again brought to mind Imagined Communities: Anderson notes that, in 18th-century Caracas, newspapers “began essentially as appendages of the market,” providing commercial news about ships coming in, commodity prices, and colonial appointments, as well as a proto–Vows section for the upper crust to hate-read in their carriages. “The newspaper of Caracas quite naturally, and even apolitically, created an imagined community among a specific assemblage of fellow-readers, to whom these ships, brides, bishops, and prices belonged,” he wrote. “In time, of course, it was only to be expected that political elements would enter in.”

    Yesterday’s aristocracy is today’s passport-buying, globe-trotting one percent. The passport brokers I got to know also pitched clients with the very same promise of “global citizenship” (it sounds less louche than “buy a new passport”)—by taking out ads in the Financial Times. Theirs is exactly the kind of neoliberal “globalism” that nationalist politicians like Trump have won elections denouncing (often hypocritically) as wanting “the globe to do well, frankly, not caring about our country so much.” Isn’t upper-crust glibness about borders, boundaries, and the value of national citizenship part of what helped give us this reactionary nativism in the first place?

    “I suspect what’s been going on with Brexit and maybe Trump and other populist movements [is that] people. . . see ‘global’ as a threat to local communities and businesses rather than something to be welcomed,” Tett says. “But if you’re an FT reader, you see it as benign or descriptive.”

    Among the largest news organizations in the world is Reuters, with more than 3,000 journalists and photographers in 120 countries. It is part of Thomson Reuters, a truly global firm. Reuters does not take its mandate lightly: a friend who works there recently sent me a job posting for an editor in Gdynia, which, Google clarified for me, is a city in the Pomeranian Voivodeship of Poland.

    Reuters journalists cover everything from club sports to international tax evasion. They’re outsourcing quick hits about corporate earnings to Bangalore, assembling teams on multiple continents to tackle a big investigation, shedding or shuffling staff under corporate reorganizations. Perhaps unsurprisingly, “more than half our business is serving financial customers,” Stephen Adler, the editor in chief, tells me. “That has little to do with what country you’re from. It’s about information: a central-bank action in Europe or Japan may be just as important as everything else.”

    Institutionally, “it’s really important and useful that we don’t have one national HQ,” Adler adds. “That’s the difference between a global news organization and one with a foreign desk. For us, nothing is foreign.” That approach won Reuters this year’s international Pulitzer Prize for uncovering the mass murder of the Rohingya in Myanmar (two of the reporters were imprisoned as a result, and since freed); it also comes through especially sharply in daily financial stories: comprehensive, if dry, compendiums of who-what-where-when-why that recognize the global impact of national stories, and vice versa. A recent roundup of stock movements included references to the US Fed, China trade talks, Brexit, monetary policy around the world, and the price of gold.

    Adler has led the newsroom since 2011, and a lot has changed in the world. (I worked at Reuters between 2011 and 2013, first as Adler’s researcher and later as a reporter; Adler is the chair of CJR’s board.) Shortly after Trump’s election, Adler wrote a memo affirming the organization’s commitment to being fair, honest, and resourceful. He now feels more strongly than ever about judiciously avoiding biases—including national ones. “Our ideology and discipline around putting personal feelings and nationality aside has been really helpful, because when you think about how powerful local feelings are—revolutions, the Arab Spring—we want you writing objectively and dispassionately.”

    The delivery of stories in a casual, illustrated, highly readable form is in some ways more crucial to developing an audience than subject matter.

    Whether global stories can push communities to develop transnationally in a meaningful way is a harder question to answer; it seems to impugn our collective aptitude for reacting to problems of a global nature in a rational way. Reuters’s decision not to fetishize Trump hasn’t led to a drop-off in US coverage—its reporters have been especially strong on immigration and trade policy, not to mention the effects of the new administration on the global economy—but its stories aren’t exactly clickbait, which means ordinary Americans might not encounter them at the top of their feed. In other words, having a global perspective doesn’t necessarily translate to more eyeballs.

    What’s more, Reuters doesn’t solve the audience-class problem: whether readers are getting dispatches in partner newspapers like The New York Times or through the organization’s Eikon terminal, they tend to be the sort of person “who does transnational business, travels a good deal, is connected through work and media, has friends in different places, cares about what’s going on in different places,” Adler says. “That’s a pretty large cohort of people who have reason to care what’s going on in other places.”

    There are ways to unite readers without centering coverage on money or the markets. For a generation of readers around the world, the common ground is technology: the internet. “We didn’t pick our audience,” Ben Smith, the editor in chief of BuzzFeed, tells me over the phone. “Our audience picked us.” He defines his readers as a cohort aged 18–35 “who are on the internet and who broadly care about human rights, global politics, and feminism and gay rights in particular.”

    To serve them, BuzzFeed recently published a damning investigative report into the World Wildlife Fund’s arming of militias in natural reserves; a (not uncontroversial) series on Trump’s business dealings abroad; early exposés of China’s detention of Uighur citizens; and reports on child abuse in Australia. Climate—“the central challenge for every newsroom in the world”—has been harder to pin down. “We don’t feel anyone has cracked it. But the shift from abstract scientific [stories] to coverage of fires in California, it’s a huge change—it makes it more concrete,” Smith says. (My husband is a reporter for BuzzFeed.)

    The delivery of these stories in a casual, illustrated, highly readable form is in some ways more crucial to developing an audience than subject matter. “The global political financial elites have had a common language ever since it was French,” Smith says. “There is now a universal language of internet culture, [and] that. . . is how our stuff translates so well between cultures and audiences.” This isn’t a form of digital Esperanto, Smith insists; the point isn’t to flatten the differences between countries or regions so much as to serve as a “container” in which people from different regions, interest groups, and cultures can consume media through references they all understand.

    BuzzFeed might not be setting out to shape its readers’ identities (I certainly can’t claim to feel a special bond with other people who found out they were Phoebes from the quiz “Your Sushi Order Will Reveal Which ‘Friends’ Character You’re Most Like”). An audience defined by its youth and its media consumption habits can be difficult to keep up with: platforms come and go, and young people don’t stay young forever. But if Anderson’s thesis still carries water, there must be something to speaking this language across cultures, space, and time. Call it “Web vernacular.”

    In 2013, during one of the many recent and lengthy US government shutdowns, Joshua Keating, a journalist at Slate, began a series, “If It Happened There,” that imagined how the American media would view the shutdown if it were occurring in another country. “The typical signs of state failure aren’t evident on the streets of this sleepy capital city,” Keating opens. “Beret-wearing colonels have not yet taken to the airwaves to declare martial law. . . .But the pleasant autumn weather disguises a government teetering on the brink.”

    It goes on; you get the idea. Keating’s series, which was inspired by his having to read “many, many headlines from around the world” while working at Foreign Policy, is a clever journalistic illustration of what sociologists call “methodological nationalism”: the bias that gets inadvertently baked into work and words. In the Middle East, it’s sectarian or ethnic strife; in the Midwest, it’s a trigger-happy cop and a kid in a hoodie.

    His send-ups hit a nerve. “It was huge—it was by far the most popular thing I’ve done at Slate,” Keating says. “I don’t think that it was a shocking realization to anyone that this kind of language can be a problem, but sometimes pointing it out can be helpful. If the series did anything, it made people stop and be conscious of how. . . our inherent biases and perspectives will inform how we cover the world.”

    Curiously, living under an openly nationalist administration has changed the way America—or at the very least, a significant part of the American press corps—sees itself. The press is a de facto opposition party, not because it tries to be, but because the administration paints it that way. And that gives reporters the experience of working in a place much more hostile than the US without setting foot outside the country.

    Keating has “semi-retired” the series as a result of the broad awareness among American reporters that it is, in fact, happening here. “It didn’t feel too novel to say [Trump was] acting like a foreign dictator,” he says. “That was what the real news coverage was doing.”

    Keating, who traveled to Somaliland, Kurdistan, and Abkhazia to report his book Invisible Countries (2018), still thinks the fastest and most effective way to form an international perspective is to live abroad. At the same time, not being bound to a strong national identity “can make it hard to understand particular concerns of the people you’re writing about,” he says. It might be obvious, but there is no one perfect way to be internationally minded.

    Alan Rusbridger—the former editor of The Guardian who oversaw the paper’s Edward Snowden coverage and is now the principal at Lady Margaret Hall, a college at Oxford University—recognizes the journalistic and even moral merits of approaching news in a non-national way: “I think of journalism as a public service, and I do think there’s a link between journalism at its best and the betterment of individual lives and societies,” he says. But he doesn’t have an easy formula for how to do that, because truly cosmopolitan journalism requires both top-down editorial philosophies—not using certain phrasings or framings that position foreigners as “others”—and bottom-up efforts by individual writers to read widely and be continuously aware of how their work might be read by people thousands of miles away.

    Yes, the starting point is a nationally defined press, not a decentralized network, but working jointly helps pool scarce resources and challenge national or local biases.

    Rusbridger sees potential in collaborations across newsrooms, countries, and continents. Yes, the starting point is a nationally defined press, not a decentralized network; but working jointly helps pool scarce resources and challenge national or local biases. It also wields power. “One of the reasons we reported Snowden with the Times in New York was to use global protections of human rights and free speech and be able to appeal to a global audience of readers and lawyers,” Rusbridger recalls. “We thought, ‘We’re pretty sure nation-states will come at us over this, and the only way to do it is harness ourselves to the US First Amendment not available to us anywhere else.’”

    In employing these tactics, the press positions itself in opposition to the nation-state. The same strategy could be seen behind the rollout of the Panama and Paradise Papers (not to mention the aggressive tax dodging detailed therein). “I think journalists and activists and citizens on the progressive wing of politics are thinking creatively about how global forces can work to their advantage,” Rusbridger says.

    But he thinks it all starts locally, with correspondents who have fluency in the language, culture, and politics of the places they cover, people who are members of the communities they write about. That isn’t a traditional foreign-correspondent experience (nor indeed that of UN employees, NGO workers, or other expats). The silver lining of publishing companies’ shrinking budgets might be that cost cutting pushes newsrooms to draw from local talent, rather than send established writers around. What you gain—a cosmopolitanism that works from the bottom up—can help dispel accusations of media elitism. That’s the first step to creating new imagined communities.

    Anderson’s work has inspired many an academic, but media executives? Not so much. Rob Wijnberg is an exception: he founded the (now beleaguered) Correspondent in the Netherlands in 2013 with Anderson’s ideas in mind. In fact, when we speak, he brings the name up unprompted.

    “You have to transcend this notion that you can understand the world through the national point of view,” he says. “The question is, What replacement do we have for it? Simply saying we have to transcend borders or have an international view isn’t enough, because you have to replace the imagined community you’re leaving behind with another one.”

    For Wijnberg, who was a philosophy student before he became a journalist, this meant radically reinventing the very structures of the news business: avoiding covering “current events” just because they happened, and thinking instead of what we might call eventful currents—the political, social, and economic developments that affect us all. It meant decoupling reporting from national news cycles, and getting readers to become paying “members” instead of relying on advertisements.

    This, he hoped, would help create a readership not based on wealth, class, nationality, or location, but on borderless, universal concerns. “We try to see our members. . . as part of a group or knowledge community, where the thing they share is the knowledge they have about a specific structural subject matter,” be it climate, inequality, or migration, Wijnberg says. “I think democracy and politics answers more to media than the other way around, so if you change the way media covers the world you change a lot.”

    That approach worked well in the Netherlands: his team raised 1.7 million euros in 2013, and grew to include 60,000 members. A few years later, Wijnberg and his colleagues decided to expand into the US, and with the help of NYU’s Jay Rosen, an early supporter, they made it onto Trevor Noah’s Daily Show to pitch their idea.

    The Correspondent raised more than $2.5 million from nearly 50,000 members—a great success, by any measure. But in March, things started to get hairy, with the publication abruptly pulling the plug on opening a US newsroom and announcing that staff would edit stories reported from the US from the original Amsterdam office instead. Many of the reasons behind this are mundane: visas, high rent, relocation costs. And reporters would still be reporting from, and on, the States. But supporters felt blindsided, calling the operation a scam.

    Today, Wijnberg reflects that he should have controlled the messaging better, and not promised to hire and operate from New York until he was certain that he could. He also wonders why it matters.

    “It’s not saying people who think it matters are wrong,” he explains. “But if the whole idea of this kind of geography and why it’s there is a construct, and you’re trying to think about transcending it, the very notion of Where are you based? is secondary. The whole point is not to be based anywhere.”

    Still: “The view from everywhere—the natural opposite—is just as real,” Wijnberg concedes. “You can’t be everywhere. You have to be somewhere.”

    And that’s the rub: for all of nationalism’s ills, it does instill in its subjects what Anderson calls a “deep, horizontal comradeship” that, while imagined, blossoms thanks to a confluence of forces. It can’t be replicated supranationally overnight. The challenge for a cosmopolitan journalism, then, is to dream up new forms of belonging that look forward, not backward—without discarding the imagined communities we have.

    That’s hard; so hard that it more frequently provokes a retrenchment, not an expansion, of solidarity. But it’s not impossible. And our collective futures almost certainly depend on it.
    #journalisme #nationalisme #Etat-nation #communauté_nationale #communauté_internationale #frontières #presse #médias

  • First-ever private border wall built in #New_Mexico

    A private group announced Monday that it has constructed a half-mile wall along a section of the U.S.-Mexico border in New Mexico, in what it said was a first in the border debate.

    The 18-foot steel bollard wall is similar to the designs used by the Border Patrol, sealing off a part of the border that had been a striking gap in existing fencing, according to We Build the Wall, the group behind the new section.

    The section was also built faster and, organizers say, likely more cheaply than the government has been able to manage in recent years.

    Kris Kobach, a former secretary of state in Kansas and an informal immigration adviser to President Trump, says the New Mexico project has the president’s blessing, and says local Border Patrol agents are eager to have the assistance.

    “We’re closing a gap that’s been a big headache for them,” said Mr. Kobach, who is general counsel for We Build the Wall.
    #privatisation #murs #barrières_frontalières #USA #Mexique #frontières #business #complexe_militaro-industriel
    ping @albertocampiphoto @daphne

    • The #GoFundMe Border Wall Is the Quintessential Trump-Era Grift

      In 2012, historian Rick Perlstein wrote a piece of essential reading for understanding modern conservatism, titled “The Long Con” and published by the Baffler. It ties the right’s penchant for absurd and obvious grifts to the conservative mind’s particular vulnerability to fear and lies:

      The strategic alliance of snake-oil vendors and conservative true believers points up evidence of another successful long march, of tactics designed to corral fleeceable multitudes all in one place—and the formation of a cast of mind that makes it hard for either them or us to discern where the ideological con ended and the money con began.

      Lying, Perlstein said, is “what makes you sound the way a conservative is supposed to sound.” The lies—about abortion factories, ACORN, immigrants, etc.—fund the grifts, and the grifts prey on the psychology that makes the lies so successful.

      Perlstein’s piece is all I could think of when I saw last night’s CNN story about the border wall GoFundMe, which seemingly has actually produced Wall. According to CNN, the group We Build the Wall says it has produced a half-mile of border wall in New Mexico. CNN was invited to watch the construction, where Kris Kobach, who is general counsel for the group, spoke “over the clanking and beeping of construction equipment.”

      #Steve_Bannon, who is naturally involved with the group, told CNN that the wall connects existing fencing and had “tough terrain” that means it was left “off the government list.” The half-mile stretch of wall cost an “estimated $6 million to $8 million to build,” CNN reported.

      CNN also quoted #Jeff_Allen, who owns the property on which the fence was built, as saying: “I have fought illegals on this property for six years. I love my country and this is a step in protecting my country.” According to MSN, Allen partnered with United Constitutional Patriots to build the wall with We Build the Wall’s funding. UCP is the same militia that was seen on video detaining immigrants and misrepresenting themselves as Border Patrol; the Phoenix New Times reported on the “apparent ties” between the UCP and We Build the Wall earlier this month.

      This story is bursting at the seams with an all-star lineup of right-wing scammers. The GoFundMe itself, of course, has been rocked by scandal: After the effort raised $20 million, just $980 million short of the billion-dollar goal, GoFundMe said in January that the funds would be returned, since creator Brian Kolfage had originally pledged that “If for ANY reason we don’t reach our goal we will refund your donation.” But Kolfage quickly figured out how to keep the gravy train going, urging those who had donated to allow their donations to be redirected to a non-profit. Ultimately, $14 million of that $20 million figure was indeed rerouted by the idiots who donated it.

      That non-profit became #We_Build_The_Wall, and like all good conservative con jobs, it has the celebs of the fever swamp attached to it. Not only #Kris_Kobach, a tenacious liar who failed at proving voter fraud is a widespread problem—but also slightly washed-up figures like Bannon, Sheriff David Clarke, Curt Schilling, and Tom Tancredo. All the stars are here!

      How much sleazier could it get? Try this: the main contractor working at the site of New Wall, according to CNN, is Tommy Fisher. The Washington Post reported last week that Trump had “personally and repeatedly urged the head of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers” to give the contract for the border wall to the company owned by Fisher, a “GOP donor and frequent guest on Fox News,” despite the fact that the Corps of Engineers previously said Fisher’s proposals didn’t meet their requirements.

      Of course, like all good schemes, the need for more money never ceases: On the Facebook page for the group, the announcement that Wall had been completed was accompanied with a plea for fans to “DONATE NOW to fund more walls! We have many more projects lined up!”

      So, what we have is: A tax-exempt non-profit raised $20 million by claiming it would be able to make the federal government build Wall by just giving it the money for it and then, when that didn’t happen, getting most of its donors to reroute that money; then it built a half-mile of wall on private land for as much as $8 million, which went to a firm of a Fox News star whom President Trump adores.

      Perlstein wrote in the aforementioned piece that it’s hard to “specify a break point where the money game ends and the ideological one begins,” since “the con selling 23-cent miracle cures for heart disease inches inexorably into the one selling miniscule marginal tax rates as the miracle cure for the nation itself.” The con job was sold through fear: “Conjuring up the most garishly insatiable monsters precisely in order to banish them from underneath the bed, they aim to put the target to sleep.”

      The Trump era is the inartful, gaudy, brazen peak of this phenomenon. This time, instead of selling fake stem cell cures using the language of Invading Liberals, the grifters are just straight-up selling—for real American dollars—the promise of building a big wall to keep the monsters out.

    • Company touted by Trump to build the wall has history of fines, violations

      President Donald Trump appears to have set his sights on a North Dakota construction firm with a checkered legal record to build portions of his signature border wall.
      The family-owned company, #Fisher_Sand_&_Gravel, claims it can build the wall cheaper and faster than competitors. It was among a handful of construction firms chosen to build prototypes of the President’s border wall in 2017 and is currently constructing portions of barrier on private land along the border in New Mexico using private donations.
      It also, however, has a history of red flags including more than $1 million in fines for environmental and tax violations. A decade ago, a former co-owner of the company pleaded guilty to tax fraud, and was sentenced to prison. The company also admitted to defrauding the federal government by impeding the IRS. The former executive, who’s a brother of the current company owner, is no longer associated with it.
      More than two years into his presidency, Trump is still fighting to build and pay for his border wall, a key campaign issue. After failing to get his requests for wall funding passed by a Republican-held Congress during his first two years in office, Trump has met resistance this year from a Democratic-controlled House. His attempt to circumvent Congress through a national emergency declaration has been challenged in the courts.
      On May 24, a federal district judge blocked the administration from using Defense Department funds to construct parts of the wall. The Trump administration has since appealed the block to the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals and in the interim, asked the district court to allow building to continue pending appeal. The district court denied the administration’s request.
      Despite the uncertainty, construction firms have been competing to win multimillion-dollar contracts to build portions of wall, including Fisher Sand & Gravel.

      Asked by CNN to comment on the company’s history of environmental violations and legal issues, the company said in a statement: “The questions you are asking have nothing to do with the excellent product and work that Fisher is proposing with regard to protecting America’s southern border. The issues and situations in your email were resolved years ago. None of those matters are outstanding today.”
      Catching the President’s attention
      The company was founded in North Dakota in 1952 and operates in several states across the US. It’s enjoyed public support from North Dakota Republican Sen. Kevin Cramer, who as a congressman invited the company’s CEO, Tommy Fisher, to Trump’s State of the Union address in 2018. Cramer has received campaign contributions from Fisher and his wife. A photo of the event shared by Fisher in a company newsletter shows Tommy Fisher shaking Trump’s hand.
      The Washington Post first reported the President’s interest in Fisher. According to the Post, the President has “aggressively” pushed for the Army Corps of Engineers to award a wall contract to Fisher.
      The President “immediately brought up Fisher” during a May 23 meeting in the Oval Office to discuss details of the border wall with various government officials, including that he wants it to be painted black and include French-style doors, according to the Post and confirmed by CNN.
      “The Army Corps of Engineers says about 450 miles of wall will be completed by the end of next year, and the only thing President Trump is pushing, is for the wall to be finished quickly so the American people have the safety and security they deserve,” said Hogan Gidley, White House deputy press secretary.
      A US government official familiar with the meeting tells CNN that the President has repeatedly mentioned the company in discussions he’s had about the wall with the head of the Army Corps of Engineers, Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite.
      Fisher has recently made efforts to raise its public profile, both by upping its lobbying efforts and through repeated appearances on conservative media by its CEO, Tommy Fisher.

      In the past two years, for example, the company’s congressional lobbying expenditures jumped significantly — from $5,000 in 2017 to $75,000 in 2018, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-profit that tracks lobbying expenditures.

      When asked about Fisher Sand & Gravel’s lobbying, Don Larson, one of Fisher’s registered lobbyists, said: “I am working to help decision makers in Washington become familiar with the company and its outstanding capabilities.”
      Media Blitz
      As part of a media blitz on outlets including Fox News, SiriusXM Patriot and Breitbart News, Tommy Fisher has discussed his support for the border wall and pitched his company as the one to build it. In a March 5 appearance on Fox & Friends, Fisher said that his company could build 234 miles of border wall for $4.3 billion, compared to the $5.7 billion that the Trump administration has requested from Congress.
      Fisher claimed that his firm can work five-to-10 times faster than competitors as a result of its construction process.
      The President has also touted Fisher on Fox News. In an April interview in which he was asked about Fisher by Sean Hannity, Trump said the company was “recommended strongly by a great new senator, as you know, Kevin Cramer. And they’re real. But they have been bidding and so far they haven’t been meeting the bids. I thought they would.”
      Despite the President’s interest, the company has thus far been unsuccessful in obtaining a contract to build the border wall, beyond that of a prototype.

      Earlier this year, Fisher put its name in the running for border wall contracts worth nearly $1 billion. When it lost the bid to Barnard Construction Co. and SLSCO Ltd., Fisher protested the awards over claims that the process was biased. In response, the Army Corps canceled the award. But after a review of the process, the Army Corps combined the projects and granted it to a subsidiary of Barnard Construction, according to an agency spokesperson.
      It’s unclear whether the project will proceed, given the recent decision by a federal judge to block the use of Defense Department funds to build parts of the border wall and the administration’s appeal.
      Fisher, which has a pending lawsuit in the US Court of Federal Claims over the solicitation process, is listed by the Defense Department as being among firms eligible to compete for future border contracts.

      It has moved forward with a private group, We Build the Wall, that is building sections of barrier on private land in New Mexico using private money raised as part of a GoFundMe campaign. Kris Kobach, the former Kansas Secretary of State who is now general counsel for the group, said a half-mile stretch is nearly complete, at an estimated cost of $6 million to $8 million.

      In a statement, a Customs and Border Protection spokesperson said Fisher Industries has told them that the company has begun construction on private property along the border “in the approximate area of a USBP border barrier requirement that was not prioritized under current funding.”
      The spokesperson added: “It is not uncommon for vendors” to demonstrate their capabilities using “their own resources,” but the agency goes on to “encourage all interested vendors” to compete for border contracts “through established mechanisms to ensure any construction is carried out under relevant federal authorities and meets USBP operational requirements for border barrier.”
      In responses provided to CNN through Scott Sleight, an attorney working on behalf of the company, Fisher maintained that it’s “committed to working with all appropriate federal government officials and agencies to provide its expertise and experience to help secure America’s southern border.”
      The company says it has “developed a patent-pending bollard fence hanging system that [it] believes allows border fencing to be constructed faster than any contractor using common construction methods.” It also added: “Fisher has been concerned about the procurement procedures and evaluations done by the USACE to date, and hopes these issues can be remedied.”
      Relationship with Sen. Cramer
      A month after attending the 2018 State of the Union address with Cramer, Fisher and his wife, Candice each contributed the $5,400 maximum donation to Cramer’s campaign for the US Senate, Federal Election Commission records show.
      Fisher also donated to several Arizona Republicans in the 2018 election cycle, including giving the $5,400-maximum donation to Martha McSally’s campaign, records show.
      A recent video produced by Fisher Sand & Gravel demonstrating its ability to construct the wall includes a clip of Cramer at the controls of a track-hoe lifting sections of barrier wall into place, saying “this is just like XBOX, baby.” Cramer was joined at the demonstration by a handful of other Republican lawmakers from across the country.

      Cramer has been publicly critical of how the Army Corps has handled its border wall construction work, arguing that it has moved too slowly and expressing frustration over how it has dealt with Fisher. In an interview with a North Dakota TV station, Cramer said that he believes the corps “made a miscalculation in who they chose over Fisher” and that the company had been “skunked so to speak.” Cramer added that Fisher “remains a pre-qualified, high level, competitor.”

      In an interview with CNN, Cramer said that the company has come up in conversations he has had with administration officials, including the President and the head of the Army Corps, but while the senator said that he would “love if they got every inch of the project,” he added that he has “never advocated specifically for them.”
      "Every time someone comes to meet with me, whether it’s (Acting Defense Secretary) Shanahan, General Semonite, even with Donald Trump, they bring up Fisher Industries because they assume that’s my thing," Cramer said.
      “One of the things I’ve never done is said it should be Fisher,” Cramer said. “Now, I love Fisher. I’d love if they got every inch of the project. They’re my constituents, I don’t apologize for that. But my interest really is more in the bureaucratic process.”
      According to an administration official familiar with the situation, Cramer sent information about Fisher to the President’s son-in-law and White House adviser Jared Kushner, who then passed it along to the Army Corps of Engineers for their consideration. The source tells CNN that Kushner was not familiar with the company prior to getting information about them from Cramer.
      Cramer said he does recall passing along information about the company to Kushner, but that he did not know what Kushner did with the information.
      On May 24, Cramer told a North Dakota radio station that the President has asked him to examine the process of how federal border wall projects are awarded.
      “We’re going to do an entire audit,” Cramer said. “I’ve asked for the entire bid process, and all of the bid numbers.” Cramer told CNN the President said he wanted the wall built for the “lowest, best price, and it’s also quality, and that’s what any builder should want.”
      Asked about aspects of the company’s checkered legal record, Cramer said “that level of scrutiny is important, but I would hope the same scrutiny would be put on the Corps of Engineers.”
      Environmental violations
      Though its corporate headquarters are in North Dakota, Fisher has a sizable footprint in Arizona, where it operates an asphalt company as well as a drilling and blasting company. It’s there that the company has compiled an extensive track record of environmental violations.
      From 2007 to 2017, Fisher Sand & Gravel compiled more than 1,300 air-quality violations in Maricopa County, culminating in the third highest settlement ever received by the Maricopa County Air Quality Department, according to Bob Huhn, a department spokesperson. That’s a record number of violations for any air-quality settlement in the county, Huhn said. The settlement totaled more than $1 million, though the department received slightly less than that following negotiations, Huhn said.
      Most of the violations came from an asphalt plant that the company was running in south Phoenix that has since closed. While the plant was still running, the City of Phoenix filed 469 criminal charges against the company from August to October of 2009, according to a city spokesperson.
      According to a 2010 article in the Arizona Republic, Fisher reached an agreement with Phoenix officials to close the plant in 2010. As part of the deal, fines were reduced from $1.1 million to an estimated $243,000 and all criminal charges were reduced to civil charges.
      Mary Rose Wilcox was a member of the Maricopa Board of Supervisors at the time the city and county were fighting Fisher over the asphalt plant, which was located in her district. “They tried to persuade us they were good guys since they were a family-owned company. But they were spreading noxious fumes into a residential area,” Wilcox said. “We tried to work with them, but their violations were just so blatant.”
      Michael Pops, a community activist who lived in the area around the plant, remembers fighting with Fisher for six years before the plant finally shut down. “The impact they had on this community was devastating,” Pops said, adding many low-income residents living near the asphalt plant were sickened from the fumes the plant emitted.
      The company has also racked up more than 120 violations with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality from 2004 until as recently as last summer, according to the department.
      In 2011, Fisher agreed to a Consent Judgement with ADEQ over numerous air quality violations the company had committed. As part of that settlement, Fisher agreed to pay $125,000 in civil penalties, and that it would remain in compliance with state air quality standards. Within two years Fisher was found to be in violation of that agreement and was forced to pay an additional $500,000 in fines, according to the state’s attorney general’s office.
      Legal trouble
      Internally, the company has also confronted issues.
      In 2011, Fisher Sand & Gravel agreed to pay $150,000 to settle a sexual discrimination and retaliation suit filed by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The lawsuit charged that the company violated federal anti-discrimination laws when it “subjected two women workers to egregious verbal sexual harassment by a supervisor and then fired one of them after she repeatedly asked the supervisor to stop harassing her and complained to a job superintendent.”
      The settlement required Fisher to provide anti-discrimination training to its employees in New Mexico and review its policies on sexual harassment.
      Micheal Fisher, a former co-owner of Fisher and Tommy’s brother, was sentenced to prison in 2009 for tax fraud, according to the Justice Department. Fisher pleaded guilty to “conspiracy to defraud the United States by impeding the [Internal Revenue Service], four counts of aiding in the filing of false federal tax returns for FSG and four counts of filing false individual tax returns,” according to a Justice Department release.
      The company also admitted responsibility for defrauding the US by impeding the IRS, according to the DOJ. Citing a long standing policy of not commenting on the contracting process, the Army Corps declined to comment on whether Fisher’s history factored into its decision not to award Fisher a contract.

    • Private US-Mexico border wall ordered open by gov’t, fights back and is now closed again

      The privately funded portion of the U.S.-Mexico border wall is now fully secure and closed again after one of its gates had been ordered to remain open until disputes about waterway access could be resolved.

      “Our border wall & gate are secure again and we still have not had a single breach. I want to thank the IBWC for acting swiftly and we look forward to working with you on our future projects,” triple amputee Air Force veteran Brian Kolfage posted to Twitter on Tuesday night.

      Kolfage created We Build The Wall Inc., a nonprofit that is now backed by former Trump Administration Chief Strategist Steve Bannon. The group crowd-funded more than $22 million in order to privately build a border wall and then sell it to the U.S. government for $1.

      A portion of that wall has been constructed in Texas for between $6 and $8 million. The 1-mile-long wall is located on private property near El Paso, Texas, and Sunland Park, New Mexico.

      However, the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) had ordered a 33-foot gate within the private border wall to remain open – not locked and closed – over a waterway access issue, according to BuzzFeed News. The IBCW addresses waterway issues between the U.S. and Mexico.

      “This is normally done well in advance of a construction project,” IBWC spokesperson Lori Kuczmanski said. “They think they can build now and ask questions later, and that’s not how it works.”

      BuzzFeed reported that the IBWC said the gate “had blocked officials from accessing a levee and dam, and cut off public access to a historic monument known as Monument One, the first in a series of obelisks that mark the U.S.–Mexico border from El Paso to Tijuana.”

      By Tuesday night, the IBWC said the gate would remain locked at night and issued a statement.

      “The U.S. Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission (USIBWC) will lock the privately-owned gate on federal property at night effective immediately due to security concerns,” it said.

      The statement continues:

      The USIBWC is continuing to work with We Build the Wall regarding its permit request. Until this decision, the private gate was in a locked open position. We Build the Wall, a private organization, built a gate on federal land in Sunland Park, N.M., near El Paso, Texas, without authority, and then locked the gate closed on June 6, 2019. The private gate blocks a levee road owned by the U.S. Government. After repeated requests to unlock and open the private gate, the United States Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission (USIBWC), accompanied by two uniformed law enforcement officers from the Dona Ana County Sheriff’s Office, removed the private lock, opened the gate, and locked the gate open pending further discussions with We Build the Wall. The gate was also opened so that USIBWC employees can conduct maintenance and operations at American Dam.

      The USIBWC did not authorize the construction of the private gate on federal property as announced on We Build the Wall’s Twitter page. The USIBWC is not charged with securing other fences or gates as reported by We Build the Wall. The international border fences are not on USIBWC property. The USIBWC did not open any other gates in the El Paso area as erroneously reported. Other gates and the border fence are controlled by other federal agencies.

      When the proper documentation is received for the permit, USIBWC will continue to process the permit application.

      Before the statement had been released, Kolfage posted to Twitter.

  • Steve Bannon, le populiste qui fait trembler les élites, en Europe pour aider à remporter les Européennes (Le Figaro)

    Ses adversaires le décrivent comme l’ « idéologue le plus dangereux d’Amérique ». Après avoir contribué à faire gagner Donald Trump, Steve Bannon prétend aider les populistes européens à remporter une victoire historique lors des élections de mai prochain.

    L’ activiste dit « sulfureux » était interviewé par Le Figaro magazine. Le Figaro magazine. – Comment vous définissez-vous idéologiquement ? Comme un populiste ? Un nationaliste ? Un national-populiste ? Un conservateur ? Un national-conservateur ? Steve Bannon. – Je dirais que je suis à la fois populiste, nationaliste et souverainiste, avec une tendance traditionaliste dans la mesure où je défends la structure familiale et les valeurs traditionnelles. C’est le principe même du mouvement dont je fais partie que de réunir tous ces courants idéologiques. Je tiens (...)

    #En_vedette #Actualités_internationales #Actualités_Internationales

    • Des milliardaires américains financent discrètement des campagnes de désinformation en Europe
      (Nooooon !?)

      Un petit groupe de très riches américains soutient indirectement plusieurs sites de « réinformation » et de campagnes publicitaires en ligne en Europe.

      Il n’y a pas que les Etats qui mènent des opérations de désinformation. Depuis plusieurs années, un petit groupe de milliardaires américains, qui financent dans leur pays l’aile droite du Parti républicain, ont aussi soutenu des campagnes de diffusion de fausses informations dans plusieurs pays de l’Union européenne.

      Contrairement aux agents de l’Internet Research Agency – l’organisation russe de propagande en ligne –, ces hommes d’affaires ne disposent pas d’équipes nombreuses, ni d’armées de faux comptes sur Twitter ou Facebook. Mais leur argent leur permet de financer de petits groupes d’activistes et des entreprises de communication politique spécialisées, dont l’action est ensuite démultipliée en ligne par l’achat de publicités sur les réseaux sociaux pour diffuser leur message.

      Au cœur du dispositif se trouve notamment Robert Mercer, le codirigeant du puissant fonds d’investissement Renaissance Technologies, et sa fille Rebekah, qui ont financé le lancement de Breitbart News, le site conspirationniste fer de lance de l’« alt-right » (« droite alternative », mouvance d’extrême droite) et de la campagne de Donald Trump. Steve Bannon, l’ancien conseiller du président, en était le rédacteur en chef. « Ce sont les Mercer qui ont posé les bases de la révolution Trump, expliquait M. Bannon en 2018 dans un entretien au Washington Post. Si vous regardez qui sont les donateurs politiques de ces quatre dernières années, ce sont eux qui ont eu le plus grand impact. »

      Vidéos des « gilets jaunes »
      Mais la générosité des Mercer ne s’arrête pas aux frontières des Etats-Unis. Ils financent également l’institut Gatestone, un think tank néoconservateur orienté vers l’Europe, qui publie des articles dans de nombreuses langues, dont le français. Mais aussi le média canadien The Rebel, qui s’intéresse beaucoup à l’actualité du Vieux Continent.

      #paywall (frustrant, vu l’intertitre…)

    • Des milliardaires américains financent discrètement des campagnes de désinformation en Europe (in extenso)

      Un petit groupe de très riches américains soutient indirectement plusieurs sites de « réinformation » et de campagnes publicitaires en ligne en Europe.

      Il n’y a pas que les Etats qui mènent des opérations de désinformation. Depuis plusieurs années, un petit groupe de milliardaires américains, qui financent dans leur pays l’aile droite du Parti républicain, ont aussi soutenu des campagnes de diffusion de fausses informations dans plusieurs pays de l’Union européenne.

      Contrairement aux agents de l’Internet Research Agency – l’organisation russe de propagande en ligne –, ces hommes d’affaires ne disposent pas d’équipes nombreuses, ni d’armées de faux comptes sur Twitter ou Facebook. Mais leur argent leur permet de financer de petits groupes d’activistes et des entreprises de communication politique spécialisées, dont l’action est ensuite démultipliée en ligne par l’achat de publicités sur les réseaux sociaux pour diffuser leur message.

      Au cœur du dispositif se trouve notamment Robert Mercer, le codirigeant du puissant fonds d’investissement Renaissance Technologies, et sa fille Rebekah, qui ont financé le lancement de Breitbart News, le site conspirationniste fer de lance de l’« alt-right » (« droite alternative », mouvance d’extrême droite) et de la campagne de Donald Trump. Steve Bannon, l’ancien conseiller du président, en était le rédacteur en chef. « Ce sont les Mercer qui ont posé les bases de la révolution Trump, expliquait M. Bannon en 2018 dans un entretien au Washington Post. Si vous regardez qui sont les donateurs politiques de ces quatre dernières années, ce sont eux qui ont eu le plus grand impact. »

      Vidéos des « gilets jaunes »

      Mais la générosité des Mercer ne s’arrête pas aux frontières des Etats-Unis. Ils financent également l’institut Gatestone, un think tank néoconservateur orienté vers l’Europe, qui publie des articles dans de nombreuses langues, dont le français. Mais aussi le média canadien The Rebel, qui s’intéresse beaucoup à l’actualité du Vieux Continent. En 2017, l’un de ses salariés, Jack Posobiec, avait très largement contribué à la diffusion des « MacronLeaks », ces e-mails volés à plusieurs membres de l’équipe de campagne d’Emmanuel Macron publiés en ligne deux jours avant le deuxième tour de la présidentielle française. M. Posobiec avait été l’un des premiers à évoquer la publication des documents, et permis leur diffusion très rapide dans les sphères de la droite américaine.

      Lire sur le sujet :
      « MacronLeaks », compte offshore : l’ombre des néonazis américains
      La longue traîne des activités de Rebel Media Group, l’éditeur de The Rebel, s’étend sur plusieurs pays. En France, récemment, le site a envoyé son correspondant à Londres, Jack Buckby, et l’une de ses collaboratrices, Martina Markota, pour filmer des vidéos sensationnalistes des manifestations des « gilets jaunes ». Martina Markota, qui est Américano-Croate, mène aussi d’autres projets en Europe pour Rebel Media, comme ces vidéos consacrées à la « résistance culturelle » en Pologne ou sur les « mensonges des médias sur la patriotique Croatie ».

      La ligne du site et de ses différentes filiales est proche de celle de Breitbart News : ses articles dénoncent pêle-mêle l’immigration, l’islamisme, les gauches américaines, canadiennes, européennes… Le site dépeint une Europe au bord de l’effondrement, notamment à cause de l’immigration, et a fait campagne pour le Brexit.

      Sollicité par Le Monde, Ezra Levant, le fondateur de Rebel Media, n’a pas répondu à nos questions. Dans un courriel, il a estimé que « Le Monde qui fait un article sur l’ingérence étrangère, c’est comme si Harvey Weinstein dirigeait une enquête sur le harcèlement sexuel ». Il a par ailleurs demandé s’il devait transmettre ses réponses « à votre agent traitant à l’ambassade de Russie » – référence à une supposée instrumentalisation du Monde par le KGB pendant la guerre froide.

      « Haine et désinformation »

      Rebel Media bénéficie d’un autre soutien financier de poids. Le milliardaire Robert Shillman, qui a fait fortune dans les machines-outils avec sa société Cognex, a contribué à payer les salaires de journalistes du site. M. Shillman finance de très nombreux projets anti-islam, dont le centre Horowitz, décrit par l’organisation de lutte contre la haine SPLA comme la source « d’un réseau de projets donnant aux voix antimusulmanes et aux idéologies les plus radicales une plate-forme pour diffuser la haine et la désinformation ».

      Si l’investissement détaillé de M. Shillman dans Rebel Media n’est pas connu, en revanche, il est public que le milliardaire a financé les salaires de plusieurs « Shillman Fellows », qui travaillent ou ont travaillé pour Rebel Media. Par ses différentes fondations et des attributions de bourses (« fellowships »), M. Shillman a ainsi financé plusieurs groupes et militants d’extrême droite en Europe. Aux Pays-Bas, il est un important soutien du chef de file d’extrême droite Geert Wilders, qui reçoit depuis des années des aides par le biais de la fondation Horowitz. L’extrême droite américaine, qui admire M. Wilders et voit dans les Pays-Bas un terrain de lutte privilégié, y finance divers canaux de propagande politique.

      L’institut Gatestone, par exemple, qui a financé la production de vidéos dans le pays par Rebel Media, et notamment Gangster Islam, un petit film anti-immigration du journaliste Timon Dias, « fellow » rémunéré de l’institut. M. Dias a depuis lancé un projet de site anglophone d’actualité « branchée » et très à droite, The Old Continent, et travaille en parallèle pour Geenstijl (« aucun style », en néerlandais), un blog « politiquement incorrect » régulièrement accusé de sexisme et de racisme.

      Mais le rôle de Rebel Media et de ses généreux donateurs est encore plus surprenant dans les pays anglophones d’Europe. Fin 2018, The Times révélait que quatre militants de l’extrême droite britannique avaient bénéficié d’une bourse financée par Robert Shillman, et avaient été salariés par Rebel Media avec un financement du milliardaire américain. Ce petit groupe était dirigé par Tommy Robinson, fondateur du groupuscule d’extrême droite English Defense League et proche du parti UKIP et de son ex-chef Nigel Farage.

      Publicité anti-IVG

      Le groupe écrivait des articles et des vidéos anti-immigration et pro-Brexit. Le projet a tourné court en mai 2018, quand M. Robinson a été arrêté et condamné à treize mois de prison pour un reportage provocateur et islamophobe.

      Après son arrestation, Tommy Robinson a été l’objet d’articles prenant sa défense dans l’ensemble des médias financés par Robert Shillman ; le think tank Middle East Forum, qui compte parmi ses principaux contributeurs les frères Charles et David Koch, des milliardaires américains ultraconservateurs, a financé ses frais de justice, comme il l’avait fait en 2009 pour ceux de Geert Wilders.

      Le 26 février, Facebook a annoncé avoir supprimé les comptes de M. Robinson sur Facebook et sur Instagram, en raison de « violations répétées de nos règles, de la publication de contenus déshumanisants et d’appels à la violence contre les musulmans ». La mesure est exceptionnelle pour une figure politique connue ; son compte Facebook comptait plus d’un million d’abonnés ; il ne conserve que sa chaîne YouTube.

      Un autre compte Facebook a été brièvement inaccessible ce 26 février, géré par un homme qui apparaissait souvent dans les vidéos de M. Robinson et faisait partie du petit groupe financé par M. Shillman : Caolan Robertson. Cet ancien salarié de #Rebel_Media, qui a depuis claqué la porte avec fracas en accusant son ex-employeur de malversations financières, est un jeune militant de l’« alt-right », coutumier des coups d’éclat en ligne. En avril 2018, alors que l’Irlande s’apprête à voter pour le référendum sur le droit à l’avortement, sa silhouette apparaît subitement dans les fils Facebook de milliers d’internautes. Dans une vidéo publicitaire, on voit le jeune homme interpeller des femmes qui manifestent en faveur du droit à l’IVG ; le montage est conçu pour leur donner l’air ridicule.

      En quelques semaines, la #vidéo a été vue plus d’un million de fois – dans un pays de 4 millions d’habitants. Qui a financé cette publicité ? M. Robertson a affirmé qu’elle avait été payée par « une entreprise américaine ». Quelques semaines avant le vote, face au tollé suscité en Irlande par les nombreuses campagnes financées par des groupes étrangers et notamment américains, Facebook avait annoncé bloquer toutes les « publicités étrangères » et promis de publier les données liées à ces publicités. Près d’un an plus tard, les données sont toujours en cours de compilation, explique Facebook au Monde, mais devraient être mises en ligne « dans les prochaines semaines ». La vidéo où apparaît Caolan Robertston, elle, est toujours en ligne.

      #moneymakestheworldgoround (sometimes) #conspirationnisme

  • The Mystery of the Exiled Billionaire Whistle-Blower - The New York Times

    From a penthouse on Central Park, Guo Wengui has exposed a phenomenal web of corruption in China’s ruling elite — if, that is, he’s telling the truth.

    By Lauren Hilgers, Jan. 10, 2018


    On a recent Saturday afternoon, an exiled Chinese billionaire named Guo Wengui was holding forth in his New York apartment, sipping tea while an assistant lingered quietly just outside the door, slipping in occasionally to keep Guo’s glass cup perfectly full. The tycoon’s Twitter account had been suspended again — it was the fifth or sixth time, by Guo’s count — and he blamed the Communist Party of China. “It’s not normal!” he said, about this cycle of blocking and reinstating. “But it doesn’t matter. I don’t need anyone.”

    Guo’s New York apartment is a 9,000-square-foot residence along Central Park that he bought for $67.5 million in 2015. He sat in a Victorian-style chair, his back to a pair of west-facing windows, the sunset casting craggy shadows. A black-and-white painting of an angry-looking monkey hung on the wall to Guo’s right, a hat bearing a star-and-wreath Soviet insignia on its head and a cigarette hanging from its lips. Guo had arrived dressed entirely in black, except for two silver stripes on each lapel. “I have the best houses,” he told me. Guo had picked his apartment for its location, its three sprawling balconies and the meticulously tiled floor in the entryway. He has the best apartment in London, he said; the biggest apartment in Hong Kong. His yacht is docked along the Hudson River. He is comfortable and, anyway, Guo likes to say that as a Buddhist, he wants for nothing. If it were down to his own needs alone, he would have kept his profile low. But he has a higher purpose. He is going to save China.

    Guo pitches himself as a former insider, a man who knows the secrets of a government that tightly controls the flow of information. A man who, in 2017, did the unthinkable — tearing open the veil of secrecy that has long surrounded China’s political elite, lobbing accusations about corruption, extramarital affairs and murder plots over Facebook and Twitter. His YouTube videos and tweets have drawn in farmers and shopkeepers, democracy activists, writers and businesspeople. In China, people have been arrested for chatting about Guo online and distributing T-shirts with one of his slogans printed on the front (“This is only the beginning!”). In New York, Guo has split a community of dissidents and democracy activists down the middle. Some support him. Others believe that Guo himself is a government spy.

    Nothing in Guo’s story is as straightforward as he would like it to seem. Guo is 47 years old, or 48, or 49. Although he has captured the attention of publications like The Guardian, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, the articles that have run about him have offered only hazy details about his life. This is because his biography varies so widely from one source to the next. Maybe his name isn’t even Guo Wengui. It could be Guo Wugui. There are reports that in Hong Kong, Guo occasionally goes by the name Guo Haoyun.

    When pressed, Guo claims a record of unblemished integrity in his business dealings, both in real estate and in finance (when it comes to his personal life, he strikes a more careful balance between virility and dedication to his family). “I never took a square of land from the government,” he said. “I didn’t take a penny of investment from the banks.” If you accept favors, he said, people will try to exploit your weaknesses. So, Guo claims, he opted to take no money and have no weaknesses.

    Yet when Guo left China in 2014, he fled in anticipation of corruption charges. A former business partner had been detained just days before, and his political patron would be detained a few days afterward. In 2015, articles about corruption in Guo’s business dealings — stories that he claims are largely fabrications — started appearing in the media. He was accused of defrauding business partners and colluding with corrupt officials. To hear Guo tell it, his political and business opponents used a national corruption campaign as a cover for a personal vendetta.

    Whatever prompted Guo to take action, his campaign came during an important year for China’s president, Xi Jinping. In October, the Communist Party of China (C.P.C.) convened its 19th National Congress, a twice-a-decade event that sets the contours of political power for the next five years. The country is in the throes of a far-reaching anti-corruption campaign, and Xi has overseen a crackdown on dissidents and human rights activists while increasing investment in censorship and surveillance. Guo has become a thorn in China’s side at the precise moment the country is working to expand its influence, and its censorship program, overseas.

    In November 2017, the Tiananmen Square activist Wang Dan warned of the growing influence of the C.P.C. on university campuses in the United States. His own attempts to hold “China salons” on college campuses had largely been blocked by the Chinese Students and Scholars Association — a group with ties to China’s government. Around the same time, the academic publisher Springer Nature agreed to block access to hundreds of articles on its Chinese site, cutting off access to articles on Tibet, Taiwan and China’s political elite. Reports emerged last year that China is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars quarterly to purchase ads on Facebook (a service that is blocked within China’s borders). In Australia, concerns about China’s growing influence led to a ban on foreign political donations.

    “That’s why I’m telling the United States they should really be careful,” Guo said. China’s influence is spreading, he says, and he believes his own efforts to change China will have global consequences. “Like in an American movie,” he told me with unflinching self-confidence. “In the last minutes, we will save the world.”

    Propaganda, censorship and rewritten histories have long been specialties of authoritarian nations. The aim, as famously explained by the political philosopher Hannah Arendt, is to confuse: to breed a combination of cynicism and gullibility. Propaganda can leave people in doubt of all news sources, suspicious of their neighbors, picking and choosing at random what pieces of information to believe. Without a political reality grounded in facts, people are left unmoored, building their world on whatever foundation — imaginary or otherwise — they might choose.

    The tight grip that the C.P.C. keeps on information may be nothing new, but China’s leadership has been working hard to update the way it censors and broadcasts. People in China distrusted print and television media long before U.S. politicians started throwing around accusations of “fake news.” In 2016, President Xi Jinping was explicit about the arrangement, informing the country’s media that it should be “surnamed Party.” Likewise, while the West has only recently begun to grapple with government-sponsored commenters on social media, China’s government has been manipulating online conversations for over a decade.

    “They create all kinds of confusion,” said Ha Jin, the National Book Award-winning American novelist born in China’s Liaoning Province, and a vocal supporter of Guo. “You don’t know what information you have and whether it’s right. You don’t know who are the informers, who are the agents.”

    Online, the C.P.C. controls information by blocking websites, monitoring content and employing an army of commenters widely known as the 50-cent party. The name was used as early as 2004, when a municipal government in Hunan Province hired a number of online commenters, offering a stipend of 600 yuan, or about $72. Since then, the 50-cent party has spread. In 2016, researchers from Harvard, Stanford and the University of California-San Diego estimated that these paid commenters generated 448 million social-media comments annually. The posts, researchers found, were conflict averse, cheerleading for the party rather than defending it. Their aim seemed not to be engaging in argument but rather distracting the public and redirecting attention from sensitive issues.

    In early 2017, Guo issued his first salvos against China’s ruling elite through more traditional channels. He contacted a handful of Chinese-language media outlets based in the United States. He gave interviews to the Long Island-based publication Mingjing News and to Voice of America — a live event that was cut short by producers, leading to speculation that V.O.A. had caved to Chinese government pressure. He called The New York Times and spoke with reporters at The Wall Street Journal. It did not take long, however, before the billionaire turned to direct appeals through social media. The accusations he made were explosive — he attacked Wang Qishan, Xi Jinping’s corruption czar, and Meng Jianzhu, the secretary of the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission, another prominent player in Xi’s anti-corruption campaign. He talked about Wang’s mistresses, his business interests and conflicts within the party.

    In one YouTube video, released on Aug. 4, Guo addressed the tension between Wang and another anti-corruption official named Zhang Huawei. He recounted having dinner with Zhang when “he called Wang Qishan’s secretary and gave him orders,” Guo said. “Think about what Wang had to suffer in silence back then. They slept with the same women, and Zhang knew everything about Wang.” In addition, Guo said, Zhang knew about Wang’s corrupt business dealings. When Zhang Huawei was placed under official investigation in April, Guo claimed, it was a result of a grudge.

    “Everyone in China is a slave,” Guo said in the video. “With the exception of the nobility.”

    To those who believe Guo’s claims, they expose a depth of corruption that would surprise even the most jaded opponent of the C.P.C. “The corruption is on such a scale,” Ha Jin said. “Who could imagine that the czar of anti-corruption would himself be corrupt? It is extraordinary.”

    Retaliation came quickly. A barrage of counteraccusations began pouring out against Guo, most published in the pages of the state-run Chinese media. Warrants for his arrest were issued on charges of corruption, bribery and even rape. China asked Interpol to issue a red notice calling for Guo’s arrest and extradition. He was running out of money, it was reported. In September, Guo recorded a video during which he received what he said was a phone call from his fifth brother: Two of Guo’s former employees had been detained, and their family members were threatening suicide. “My Twitter followers are so important they are like heaven to me,” Guo said. But, he declared, he could not ignore the well-being of his family and his employees. “I cannot finish the show as I had planned,” he said. Later, Guo told his followers in a video that he was planning to divorce his wife, in order to shield her from the backlash against him.

    Guo quickly resumed posting videos and encouraging his followers. His accusations continued to accumulate throughout 2017, and he recently started his own YouTube channel (and has yet to divorce his wife). His YouTube videos are released according to no particular schedule, sometimes several days in a row, some weeks not at all. He has developed a casual, talkative style. In some, Guo is running on a treadmill or still sweating after a workout. He has demonstrated cooking techniques and played with a tiny, fluffy dog, a gift from his daughter. He invites his viewers into a world of luxury and offers them a mix of secrets, gossip and insider knowledge.

    Wang Qishan, Guo has claimed, is hiding the money he secretly earned in the Hainan-based conglomerate HNA Group, a company with an estimated $35 billion worth of investments in the United States. (HNA Group denies any ties to Wang and is suing Guo.) He accused Wang of carrying on an affair with the actress Fan Bingbing. (Fan is reportedly suing Guo for defamation.) He told stories of petty arguments among officials and claimed that Chinese officials sabotaged Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which disappeared in 2014 en route to Beijing, in order to cover up an organ-harvesting scheme. Most of Guo’s accusations have proved nearly impossible to verify.

    “This guy is just covered in question marks,” said Minxin Pei, a professor at Claremont McKenna who specializes in Chinese governance.

    The questions that cover Guo have posed a problem for both the United States government and the Western journalists who, in trying to write about him, have found themselves buffeted by the currents of propaganda, misinformation and the tight-lipped code of the C.P.C. elite. His claims have also divided a group of exiled dissidents and democracy activists — people who might seem like Guo’s natural allies. For the most part, the democracy activists who flee China have been chased from their country for protesting the government or promoting human rights, not because of corruption charges. They tell stories of personal persecution, not insider tales of bribery, sex and money. And perhaps as a consequence, few exiled activists command as large an audience as Guo. “I will believe him,” Ha Jin said, “until one of his serious accusations is proved to be false.”

    Pei, the professor, warns not to take any of Guo’s accusations at face value. The reaction from the C.P.C. has been so extreme, however, that Pei believes Guo must know something. “He must mean something to the government,” he said. “They must be really bothered by this billionaire.” In May, Chinese officials visited Guo on visas that did not allow them to conduct official business, causing a confrontation with the F.B.I. A few weeks later, according to The Washington Times, China’s calls for Guo’s extradition led to a White House showdown, during which Jeff Sessions threatened to resign if Guo was sent back to China.

    Guo has a history of cultivating relationships with the politically influential, and the trend has continued in New York. He famously bought 5,000 copies of a book by Cherie Blair, Tony Blair’s wife. (“It was to give to my employees,” Guo told me. “I often gave my employees books to read.”) Guo has also cultivated a special relationship with Steve Bannon, whom he says he has met with a handful of times, although the two have no financial relationship. Not long after one of their meetings, Bannon appeared on Breitbart Radio and called China “an enemy of incalculable power.”

    Despite Guo’s high-powered supporters and his army of online followers, one important mark of believability has continued to elude him. Western news organizations have struggled to find evidence that would corroborate Guo’s claims. When his claims appear in print, they are carefully hedged — delivered with none of his signature charm and bombast. “Why do you need more evidence?” Guo complained in his apartment. “I can give them evidence, no problem. But while they’re out spending time investigating, I’m waiting around to get killed!”

    The details of Guo’s life may be impossible to verify, but the broad strokes confirm a picture of a man whose fortunes have risen and fallen with the political climate in China. To hear Guo tell it, he was born in Jilin Province, in a mining town where his parents were sent during the Cultural Revolution. “There were foreigners there,” Guo says in a video recorded on what he claims is his birthday. (Guo was born on Feb. 2, or May 10, or sometime in June.) “They had the most advanced machinery. People wore popular clothing.” Guo, as a result, was not ignorant of the world. He was, however, extremely poor. “Sometimes we didn’t even have firewood,” he says. “So we burned the wet twigs from the mountains — the smoke was so thick.” Guo emphasizes this history: He came from hardship. He pulled himself up.

    The story continues into Guo’s pre-teenage years, when he moved back to his hometown in Shandong Province. He met his wife and married her when he was only 15, she 14. They moved to Heilongjiang, where they started a small manufacturing operation, taking advantage of the early days of China’s economic rise, and then to Henan. Guo got his start in real estate in a city called Zhengzhou, where he founded the Zhengzhou Yuda Property Company and built the tallest building the city had seen so far, the Yuda International Trade Center. According to Guo, he was only 25 when he made this first deal.

    The string of businesses and properties that Guo developed provide some of the confirmable scaffolding of his life. No one disputes that Guo went on to start both the Beijing Morgan Investment Company and Beijing Zenith Holdings. Morgan Investment was responsible for building a cluster of office towers called the Pangu Plaza, the tallest of which has a wavy top that loosely resembles a dragon, or perhaps a precarious cone of soft-serve ice cream. Guo is in agreement with the Chinese media that in buying the property for Pangu Plaza, he clashed with the deputy mayor of Beijing. The dispute ended when Guo turned in a lengthy sex tape capturing the deputy mayor in bed with his mistress.

    There are other details in Guo’s biography, however, that vary from one source to the next. Guo says that he never took government loans; Caixin, a Beijing-based publication, quoted “sources close to the matter” in a 2015 article claiming that Guo took out 28 loans totaling 588 million yuan, or about $89 million. Guo, according to Caixin, eventually defaulted. At some point in this story — the timeline varies — Guo became friends with the vice minister of China’s Ministry of State Security, Ma Jian. The M.S.S. is China’s answer to the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. combined. It spies on civilians and foreigners alike, conducting operations domestically and internationally, amassing information on diplomats, businessmen and even the members of the C.P.C. Describing Ma, Guo leans back in his chair and mimes smoking a cigarette. “Ma Jian! He was fat and his skin was tan.” According to Guo, Ma sat like this during their first meeting, listening to Guo’s side of a dispute. Then Ma told him to trust the country. “Trust the law,” he told Guo. “We will treat you fairly.” The older master of spycraft and the young businessman struck up a friendship that would become a cornerstone in Guo’s claims of insider knowledge, and also possibly the reason for the businessman’s downfall in China.

    Following the construction of Pangu Plaza in Beijing, Guo’s life story becomes increasingly hard to parse. He started a securities business with a man named Li You. After a falling-out, Li was detained by the authorities. Guo’s company accused Li and his company of insider trading. According to the 2015 article in Caixin, Li then penned a letter to the authorities accusing Guo of “wrongdoing.”

    As this dispute was going on, China’s anti-​corruption operation was building a case against Ma Jian. In Guo’s telling, Ma had long been rumored to be collecting intelligence on China’s leaders. As the anti-corruption campaign gained speed and officials like Wang Qishan gained power, Ma’s well of intelligence started to look like a threat. It was Guo’s relationship with Ma, the tycoon maintains, that made officials nervous. Ma was detained by the authorities in January 2015, shortly after Guo fled the country. Soon after Ma’s detention, accounts began appearing in China’s state-run media claiming that Ma had six Beijing villas, six mistresses and at least two illegitimate sons. In a 2015 article that ran in the party-run newspaper The China Daily, the writer added another detail: “The investigation also found that Ma had acted as an umbrella for the business ventures of Guo Wengui, a tycoon from Henan Province.”

    In the mix of spies, corrupt business dealings, mistresses and sex scandals, Guo has one more unbelievable story to tell about his past. It is one reason, he says, that he was mentally prepared to confront the leaders of the Communist Party. It happened nearly 29 years ago, in the aftermath of the crackdown on Tiananmen Square. According to Guo, he had donated money to the students protesting in the square, and so a group of local police officers came to find him at his home. An overzealous officer fired off a shot at Guo’s wife — at which point Guo’s younger brother jumped in front of the bullet, suffering a fatal wound. “That was when I started my plan,” he said. “If your brother had been killed in front of your eyes, would you just forget it?” Never mind the fact that it would take 28 years for him to take any public stand against the party that caused his brother’s death. Never mind that the leadership had changed. “I’m not saying everyone in the Communist Party is bad,” he said. “The system is bad. So what I need to oppose is the system.”

    On an unusually warm Saturday afternoon in Flushing, Queens, a group of around 30 of Guo’s supporters gathered for a barbecue in Kissena Park. They laid out a spread of vegetables and skewers of shrimp and squid. Some children toddled through the crowd, chewing on hot dogs and rolling around an unopened can of Coke. The adults fussed with a loudspeaker and a banner that featured the name that Guo goes by in English, Miles Kwok. “Miles Kwok, NY loves U,” it said, a heart standing in for the word “loves.” “Democracy, Justice, Liberty for China.” Someone else had carried in a life-size cutout of the billionaire.

    The revelers decided to hold the event in the park partly for the available grills but also partly because the square in front of Guo’s penthouse had turned dangerous. A few weeks earlier, some older women had been out supporting Guo when a group of Chinese men holding flags and banners showed up. At one point, the men wrapped the women in a protest banner and hit them. The park was a safer option. And the protesters had learned from Guo — it wasn’t a live audience they were hoping for. The group would be filming the protest and posting it on social media. Halfway through, Guo would call in on someone’s cellphone, and the crowd would cheer.

    Despite this show of support, Guo’s claims have divided China’s exiled dissidents to such an extent that on a single day near the end of September, two dueling meetings of pro-democracy activists were held in New York, one supporting Guo, the other casting doubt on his motivations. (“They are jealous of me,” Guo said of his detractors. “They think: Why is he so handsome? Why are so many people listening to him?”) Some of Guo’s claims are verifiably untrue — he claimed in an interview with Vice that he paid $82 million for his apartment — and others seem comically aggrandized. (Guo says he never wears the same pair of underwear twice.) But the repercussions he is facing are real.

    In December, Guo’s brother was sentenced to three years and six months in prison for destroying accounting records. The lawsuits filed against Guo for defamation are piling up, and Guo has claimed to be amassing a “war chest” of $150 million to cover his legal expenses. In September, a new set of claims against Guo were made in a 49-page document circulated by a former business rival. For Ha Jin, Guo’s significance runs deeper than his soap-opera tales of scandal and corruption. “The grand propaganda scheme is to suppress and control all the voices,” Jin said. “Now everybody knows that you can create your own voice. You can have your own show. That fact alone is historical.” In the future, Jin predicts, there will be more rebels like Guo. “There is something very primitive about this, realizing that this is a man, a regular citizen who can confront state power.”

    Ho Pin, the founder of Long Island’s Mingjing News, echoed Jin. Mingjing’s reporters felt that covering Guo was imperative, no matter the haziness of the information. “In China, the political elite that Guo was attacking had platforms of their own,” Ho said. “They have the opportunity, the power and the ability to use all the government’s apparatus to refute and oppose Guo Wengui. So our most important job is to allow Guo Wengui’s insider knowledge reach the fair, open-minded people in China.” Still, people like Pei urge caution when dealing with Guo’s claims. Even Guo’s escape raises questions. Few others have slipped through the net of China’s anti-corruption drive. “How could he get so lucky?” Pei asked. “He must have been tipped off long before.”

    At the barbecue, a supporter named Ye Rong tucked one of his children under his arm and acknowledged that Guo’s past life is riddled with holes. There was always the possibility that Guo used to be a thug, but Ye didn’t think it mattered. The rules of the conflict had been set by the Communist Party. “You need all kinds of people to oppose the Chinese government,” Ye said. “We need intellectuals; we also need thugs.”

    Guo, of course, has his own opinions about his legacy. He warned of dark times for Americans and for the world, if he doesn’t succeed in his mission to change China. “I am trying to help,” he told me. “I am not joking with you.” He continued: “I will change China within the next three years. If I don’t change it, I won’t be able to survive.”
    Correction: Jan. 12, 2018

    An earlier version of this article misidentified the name of the province where the Chinese government hired online commenters in 2004. It is Hunan Province, not Henan.

    #Chine #politique #corruption #tireurs_d_alarme

  • L’extrême droite américaine lorgne sur l’Europe, mais peine à y étendre son influence

    Après avoir conquis la Maison blanche aux côtés de Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, conseiller providentiel auprès du président américain, mais aujourd’hui en disgrâce, rêve désormais de fédérer les extrêmes-droites européennes à l’approche du scrutin du 26 mai. Si des liens s’esquissent, notamment via des think-tanks et des financements, les poids lourds du nationalisme européen restent à ce jour plutôt rétifs à l’entreprise de séduction initiée Outre-Atlantique. Une internationale des extrêmes-droites prend (...)


    / A la une, #Droites_extrêmes, Élections , #Europe, #Amériques, Quel avenir pour la construction européenne ?, (...)

    #Élections_ #Quel_avenir_pour_la_construction_européenne_ ? #Enquêtes

  • Gilets jaunes : Steve Bannon, l’ex-conseiller de Donald Trump, tacle violemment Emmanuel Macron

    Après Naomi Klein c’est au tour de Steeve Bannon de s’exprimer sur Macron

    Steve Bannon

    Dans le cadre d’une interview accordée à l’Express, Steve Bannon, l’ancien proche du président américain, n’a pas été tendre avec Emmanuel Macron.

    Le président de la République Emmanuel Macron a été violemment critiqué ces dernières semaines sur sa gestion de la crise des Gilets jaunes par des dirigeants politiques étrangers comme en Italie ou en Turquie. Le dernier exemple en date concerne l’ancien conseiller de Donald Trump. Steve Bannon vient d’accorder un entretien à la rédaction de L’Express. Il a été très critique envers la politique et les actions menées par Emmanuel Macron.

    Steve Bannon n’a pas été tendre avec Emmanuel Macron et sur sa gestion de la crise des Gilets jaunes :

    "Son vrai visage est (...)

    #En_vedette #Actualités_françaises

  • Steve Bannon qualifie les « gilets jaunes » d’« inspiration pour le monde entier »

    Les « gilets jaunes » à ses yeux ont « remporté le premier round contre les élites » quand Emmanuel Macron a annoncé le 10 décembre plusieurs mesures en faveur du pouvoir d’achat. « Au pays de la Révolution française, le mouvement des “gilets jaunes” mène aujourd’hui la mère des batailles. Ils sont une inspiration pour le monde entier », a déclaré l’ancien stratège de Donald Trump Steve Bannon, dans un entretien à l’hebdomadaire L’Express paru jeudi 7 février.

    « Ces perdants de la mondialisation, paupérisés comme jamais, se réveillent et crient “stop !”. La beauté de leur action est qu’elle réunit des gens de droite comme de gauche ; ce qui est la définition du peuple et du populisme », ajoute l’ex-conseiller du président américain, qui fut l’invité vedette du congrès du Rassemblement national en mars 2018, et a lancé à Bruxelles la fondation The Movement pour mettre en réseau les partis nationalistes et populistes.

    Selon lui, le président français est « un pantin ». « Il est hors sol. Sous son costume, il n’y a rien », il est « un peu le Barack Obama français », dit celui qui entend fédérer les formations nationales populistes en Europe en vue des élections européennes de mai.

  • FYI France: Tom Paine!

    Une lecture critique du livre «Révolution Paine» (C&F éditions) par Jack Kessler depuis San Francisco.

    A new book which can remind us all, again, of what France and the US have in-common... at a good time for remembering all this, on both similarly-beleaguered sides of The Pond right now...

    Révolution Paine: Thomas Paine penseur et défenseur des droits humains, by Thomas Paine, Peter Linebaugh (pref.), Nicolas Taffin (dir.),

    (C&F éditions, 35 C rue des Rosiers, 14000 Caen, t., fx.,; août 2018) ISBN: 978-2-915825-85-5

    Tom Paine was British, it must be remembered — but then so were we all, back then, in revolutionary “America”, citizens of an empire which spanned the globe until very recently, our “shots heard round the world” the first of many which ultimately would bring that empire and others to heel and create new ways of thinking about government for the modern world.

    In all that mælstrom we very much needed ideas, and cheerleaders, for encouraging and inspiring ourselves and our fellow citizens, and Tom Paine was that. Whatever his opponents and most severe critics — and there were many — thought of him, and even friends and fans worried about him, but he was encouraging and inspiring, and for careful and conservative American “colonists” like the wealthy plantation-owner George Washington and the gentleman-printer Benjamin Franklin and the Boston lawyer John Adams, Paine’s encouragement and inspiration were enough, and at times they were very badly needed in fact.

    And the French were there for us, very different but close in spirit to the Americans, and always needed, for their spirit & their money & their guns & for many other resources and reasons — at the very least they were enemies of our enemies and so our friends, on whom we could rely for insight, breadth of vision, even occasionally at their own ruinous expense...

    France entertained Paine the rebellious Brit after the excitements of the British colonies had hosted him for a long while — in both places his own exciting language and the clarity of his vision helped citizens greatly, in the great troubles of their times — so now a glimpse of Tom Paine may help again, both to see our current troubles more clearly too, and to remember what we and the French share in-common in all this. When things change, for the US and France, neither of us is ever alone.

    The book is a “reader” — not a compendium, but a comfortable and thoughtful armchair-piece to browse-through and then keep handy, as headline-events of current troubled-times pour in, descending upon us daily.

    First comes a preface — avant-propos — by Nicolas Taffin, outlining why and how the idea for the book occurred to him: 2018 saw the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, he says, and still we face troubles that first were defined for us by events of 1789 — after such a long time the birthday-celebration required a renewal of the effort, he thought, and who better than Tom Paine who first inspired it, in both the US and France, and the “Human Rights” and “Commons” forms in which the ideas were first presented.

    Then comes an elegant introduction to Paine and his works by historian Peter Linebaugh, translated from l’américain...

    It is a useful thing, to know Paine’s history, as he landed somewhat un-announced upon the Americans with his outrageous views and funny accent (?) and stunning phrasings. That he had a tradition, and a context, back home in also-turbulent England, only makes sense — and that early-on England experimented with many of the ideas the colonists were confronting later in their own contests with the Crown, deserves recalling, many of the same conflicts were heard before in early Industrial Revolution England, as workers and owners confronted one another, and governments moved to tax and otherwise control the new techniques.

    Paine and his East Anglia neighbors had rehearsed many of the confrontations he was to witness and comment upon in his sojourns in the American colonies — the issues were similar, new techniques & how to cope with change & the sharing of burdens and benefits & working conditions & and of course taxes... not exactly “taxation without representation”, there at-home in England, but taxation all-the-same...

    Whether Paine was a Che Guevara, as Linebaugh I-hope-playfully suggests, whether the Introduction successfully demonstrates that Americans of that time, “ambitiously risked class warfare on a global scale”, well, other readers will have to read and judge... Linebaugh, described by Wikipedia as a “Marxist historian”, does weave through initial attributions of Paine’s ideas to his having been, “conscious of classes, sensible to differences in power and wealth” — he describes Paine’s concerns for “Agrarian Justice” as involving “class injustice”.

    It matters that Paine’s life in mid-18th c. England greatly preceded the writings of Marx a century later; but also of course there may have been historical connections, workers’ lives a century earlier were very much what the historicist Marx was interested in and wrote about. Linebaugh carefully outlines that Paine, “lived at the time of an industrial revolution, of commercial expansion & urbanization & population increase” — he grants that Paine’s views did not fall cleanly into any contest between “communism and capitalism”, terms which, apparently per Edmund Burke, were, “still cartilaginous, not yet well defined or formed”.

    But Paine had a good sense for “the commons”, he insists, “and of its long presence in English history”, a matter which he says has not been well considered in previous studies of Paine. “A long anti-capitalist tradition in England”, Linebaugh believes he’s found, through Tom Paine, “one which contributes to our understanding about current notions of ‘revolution’ and ‘constitution’ in modern Britain” — for this suggestion alone, Linebaugh’s Introduction makes for some very interesting reading.

    Beyond this Introduction there are excerpts, then, from Paine’s own “Rights of Man” — fascinating, the differences, between one culture’s “emotive” language and another’s — French easily is the equal of English in this regard...

    And finally a fascinating Post-Script by editor Nicolas Taffin: he takes “Tom Paine of Thetford” several significant steps further than the little local American Revolution — several steps further, even, than the nascent Class Warfare of the Levellers and workers’-revolts of East Anglia which maybe-led to the Marxian revolutions of the 19th century — Taffin going-further finds, in Paine, the freeing of the human imagination, from the illusory securities and comforts and oppressions of the previous era’s religion-controlled philosophies, the emergence of the Enlightenment’s idealisms into a modern world of “real” rights and responsibilities and true-freedom, governed by reason alone...

    Paine may have had a glimmer. The American Founders who fought our little revolution here certainly had some glimpse as well... Certainly the young Virginia lawyer who boldly wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident” and then chafed as the elders to whom he submitted that draft picked it apart... Jefferson had read much of what the young Paine had read as well — in 1776, when arguably they both were at their most-inspired, Jefferson was age 33, Tom Paine was age 37 — as Wordsworth observed of youth in a slightly-later revolution, “Bliss was it in that Dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven”.

    But the true significance of what they all were doing did not emerge until much, much later... as late as the 1820s the two then very elderly American patriots Jefferson and Adams, both preparing for death and fondly reminiscing in their dotage-correspondance, could recall what they had done for the little United States, and for Britain, but only the more daring Jefferson seriously considered what they may have done ‘way back then to, “free the human spirit in general”...

    Taffin gives Paine the greater credit. Well, history has benefit of hindsight... Whether Paine himself, or truly his contemporaries, really understood what he was accomplishing with his amazing writings, back then, seems questionable. There are crackpots writing this sort of thing about The Future today — just as there were in East Anglia long before Paine’s birth there, which later he read, a few of them, in the Old School at Thetford — so qua-dreamer Paine’s contribution may well have been fortuitous, simply a matter of good timing... The poet appears to have felt this about his own contribution to the French Revolution, and others have suggested Paine contributed little there too...

    But ideas have lives of their own, and History has control of this. Taffin doubtless is correct that if we are “free” today — universally — then some part of that is due to the writings of Tom Paine, almost regardless of how exactly that happened and what agencies promoted it and why, Marxist or Liberal or French, English, American, or other... Mao Tse Tung and Ho Chi Minh both are said to have read Tom Paine, I expect Steve Bannon has as well, and Marion (Le Pen) Maréchal (age 29) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (age 29) are reading Paine now...

    So the mystery of origins and influences continues, but so do the ideas. Read Taffin’s fascinating rendition here of Tom Paine’s context and continuing influence, and see what you yourself think... it is what many of us are worrying about in both the US and France, now, & that particular “common-concern” coincidence has made vast historical waves before...


    And now a Note:

    Tom Paine in epigrams, 1737-1809: & now I understand better why Ben Franklin must have enjoyed his company so much... —

    “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.”

    “I love the man that can smile in trouble, gathers strength from distress, and grows brave by reflection.”

    “If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace.”

    “To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead.”

    “The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion.”

    “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.”

    “Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.”

    “’Tis the business of little minds to shrink; but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death.”

    “Reputation is what men and women think of us; character is what God and angels know of us.”

    “Reason obeys itself, and ignorance submits to whatever is dictated to it.”

    “Moderation in temper is a virtue, but moderation in principle is a vice.”

    “Belief in a cruel God makes a cruel man.”

    “The most formidable weapon against errors is reason.”

    — and the following three Tom Paine épigrammes seem of particular relevance to our present Franco & américain mutual Times-of-Troubles —

    “Character is much easier kept than recovered.”

    “A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right.”

    “We have it in our power to begin the world over again.”

    Jack Kessler

    #Révolution_Paine #C&F_éditions #Peter_Linebaugh #Droits_humains

  • Comment résoudre un litige entre Marine Le Pen et Steve Bannon
    Migration : à Bruxelles, un propriétaire et un locataire dénoncent le « pacte avec le diable »

    Fin du grand supermarché des visas pour les migrants
    l’OCDE pointe l’intégration insuffisante des riches étrangers au Royaume-Uni

    La Russie devient bipolaire, schizophrène et perverse narcissique.
    Deuxième producteur d’armes au monde, c’est vite dit.

    Nikol Pachinian devient le deuxième producteur d’armes au monde
    La Russie change le visage politique de l’Arménie.

    « Gilets jaunes »…, c’est vite dit
    Macron, bipolaire, pervers narcissique et schizo s’adressera à la nation lundi à 20 heures.

    L’héritage, mis en examen au Japon
    Carlos Ghosn, un sujet tabou en France.

    Les gilets jaunes s’accumulent sur Macron à Nation.
    La croissance mondiale s’adressera aux nuages lundi à 20 heures


  • Il y a eu une rapide séquence médiatique, en début de semaine, qui me semble intéressante, avec une ligne d’attaque basée sur la dénonciation d’un complotisme des Gilets jaunes, et l’échec (voire le retournement) presque immédiat de cet axe de communication.

    Après les événements de samedi, le premier axe de communication médiatique a été la dénonciation des violences des manifestants. Mais dès le dimanche, sur les réseaux sociaux, il y a eu un contrefeux très efficace en ligne dénonçant les violences policières.

    Et du coup, il y a eu ce court épisode, je dirais lundi et mardi, durant lequel le discours s’est focalisé sur le complotisme et les fake news (en ajoutant de la dénonciation de RT dedans pour faire bonne mesure), qui circulent sur les réseaux des Gilets jaunes. Avec, explicitement, la dénonciation de fake news qui, de manière fausse donc, montreraient des images de violences policières. (Et donc évidemment, dans le même temps, dénonciation du rejet des médias par les GJ.) J’ai vu plusieurs flux Twitter sur cet axe.

    Sauf que dès mardi après-midi, mercredi matin, l’accusation de fake news et de complotisme s’est retournée très violemment :
    – d’abord parce que les équipes Macron sont elles-mêmes tombées dans le complotisme à deux balles (épisode « les Frères musulmans », épisode « le nom de domaine déposé », et donc « quel est le rôle de Steve Bannon là-dedans », épisode « c’est Poutine qui veut la guerre civile en France »…). Tout ça par des gens très officiels ou très mainstream… et immédiatement ridiculisés sur les réseaux sociaux ;
    – et parce que les images du Burger King ont été « validées » par Libé, et les images des lycéens alignés, à genoux, par l’AFP.

    De fait :
    – la dénonciation de la violence devient inopérante, parce que la violence d’État est « officiellement » avérée, après avoir tenté de se cacher derrière une dénonciation de pseudo-fake news,
    – la dénonciation du complotisme et des fake news est également inopérante, puisque le pouvoir s’y est lui-même livré d’une manière totalement parodique.

  • The Economic Crisis Is Over. Populism Is Forever. – Foreign Policy

    This is the phenomenon we face today in the United States, where the economy has rebounded more quickly than it has elsewhere in the West yet the forces of nationalism have not abated a whit. Donald Trump has not even campaigned on the economy or the stock market, an utterly bewildering choice by classical political standards. At first the president focused on his nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, which drew attention to his crusade against abortion, the great values issue of the last generation. But recently he has switched to immigration, turning the caravan of mothers and children seeking refuge from the violence and poverty of Central America into a threat to national security and identity.

    Steve Bannon has claimed that the American electorate is dividing between “nationalists” and “cosmopolitans.” Trump plainly agrees, and he knows his base. A 2017 survey found that “fears about immigrants and cultural displacement were more powerful factors than economic concerns in predicting support for Trump among white working-class voters.” Almost half of such voters agreed with the statement, “things have changed so much that I often feel like a stranger in my own country”—an echo of the title of Arlie Russell Hochschild’s study of working-class Louisiana whites, Strangers in Their Own Land. Hochschild observes that the stoical, self-reliant code of her Cajun subjects cannot be wholly reduced to racism and xenophobia, even if it contains elements of both.

    What this means for liberals is that a program of economic justice will not be enough to reach alienated whites. It means as well that a politics of identity that emphasizes the particularity of every group and subgroup, the right of each to stand apart from the straight white male default, will only further inflame the yearning for an atavistic whites-only identity. Liberals must find a national language that speaks to a national, inclusive identity. French President Emmanuel Macron has very consciously sought to position himself in the tradition of Charles de Gaulle as a patriot and the incarnation of an idea of France, though a far more up-to-date idea than de Gaulle’s 19th-century grandeur. (So far, it must be said, Macron has gained a reputation more for grandeur than for patriotism.) Perhaps the gap between the Democrats’ old New Deal base and the new race- and gender-conscious one is simply too large to be bridged.

    Liberals are inclined to regard their own values as universal and self-evident, unlike the so-called subjective ones that arise from religion or custom. The cosmopolitan cherishing of diversity is an intrinsic good, while the yen for the familiar constitutes a repudiation of reality. In fact, both are preferences, though very deep ones that sharply divide those who hold them. The globalization of people, goods, jobs, and ideas has brought out that difference in sharp relief and thus redefined the politics of the West. Liberals can’t abandon their own values, but they must acknowledge them. And they must take seriously the views of those who do not share those values.

  • Discussion sur twitter autour du fait que la #Oxford_Union ("students society") de l’#université de #Oxford ont invité #Steve_Bannon à donner une conférence...
    voici l’annonce :

    Voici une première réaction sur twitter :

    @OxfordUnion has invited Steve Bannon to speak this Friday-16th November. You guys can’t find anyone better than an anti Semitic, racist, domestic abuser to speak? Stop normalizing fascists @UniofOxford #Oxford

    Et la réponse de l’université de Oxford :

    Hi Samira, The Oxford Union is independent of the University of Oxford, and Oxford Brookes University, and as an organisation we have no power to regulate their activities.

    Et dans un deuxième tweet :

    While the University has no involvement, we appreciate opinions often differ on the speakers invited and would add that students can attend these talks to challenge speakers, rather than agree with them.

    Et la réaction de #Polly_Wilkins :

    This seems to be a theme whereby universities take no responsibility for the hate speech and normalisation of fascism resulting from the platforms given to racists, anti-Semites, and misogynists when these people are invited by students.

    If a university will not stand up against rising fascism then it suggests it has no interests in defending itself. There is no possibility for academic freedom under fascism.
    #liberté_d'expression #fascisme #normalisation #banalisation #xénophobie #racisme #liberté_académique

    • La chasse à l’homme. Dans une approche manichéenne du monde, l’élite autoproclamée de la Ve République a décidé de se lancer dans la chasse aux populistes – comme il y avait la chasse aux sorcières -, cette vermine qui ose remettre en cause les dogmes de l’économie mondialisée et de l’Europe libérale. Cette quasi-injure – sorte de liturgie des temps modernes qui se véhicule par le truchement du tweet – s’accompagne d’autres qualificatifs aussi dégradants pour celui qui en est affublé : souverainistes, nationalistes, fachistes… Pour être bien considéré, il faut être « progressiste », concept qui ne veut rien dire, pas plus que celui de « populiste » (une sorte de vérité révélée par le flou). Tels sont quelques-uns des qualificatifs qui font florès dans le langage jupitérien mais aussi dans celui de ses fidèles courtisans aplaventristes. Comme le souligne justement Steve Bannon – il lui arrive, comme à Donald Trump sur la menace chinoise, de tenir parfois des propos raisonnables et frappés au coin du bon sens –, « Les élites disent que la démocratie est en panne simplement parce que le peuple ne vote plus pour elle »3.

  • Donald Trump Spell-Check : Why Does Our Leader Insist on Capitalizing ’Country’ ? | Alternet

    Trump’s bizarre spelling choices may seem amusing. But stop laughing: His use of “Country” has a hidden meaning

    By Chauncey DeVega / Salon
    October 26, 2018, 3:06 AM GMT

    There is nothing funny about Donald Trump. Like other autocrats and political thugs he thrives on being underestimated. Last week there was another example of this error by Donald Trump’s detractors and others who oppose him.

    On Twitter, his preferred means of communication, Donald Trump proclaimed last week:

    When referring to the USA, I will always capitalize the word Country!

    Trump was mocked by comedians on late night television for this supposed gaffe. Other prominent voices pointed to Trump’s “misspelling” as further proof that he is a dolt and a fool. By implication, his voters are fools and dolts as well. This version of liberal Schadenfreude is a defining feature in the Age of Trump.

    It is small comfort which ignores the fact that Donald Trump’s grammatical errors and odd spelling are — as admitted by White House insiders some months ago — strategic choices designed to make him appear more “folksy” and “authentic.” Trump’s faux-populist appeal depends upon his ability to relate to his supporters by sharing their grievances and hostility toward those liberals and progressives they perceive as looking down on “real Americans.”

    To understand Donald Trump, one must begin with the fact that he is an American fascist — an autocrat and authoritarian by instinct, behavior, and values. This is the nucleus of his being. This is the prism through which to best understand Donald Trump.

    I asked several leading experts on fascism and authoritarianism to help me understand Trump’s conversion of “Country” into a proper noun.

    Ruth Ben-Ghiat, professor of history and Italian studies at New York University, author of the forthcoming book “Strongmen: How They Rise, Why They Succeed, How They Fall,” and featured commentator in Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”:

    Trump’s statement that he’ll capitalize the word Country represents yet another attempt to polarize the American population and set up one half as “moral,” "just" and politically and, above all, racially acceptable. It is a technique used by every authoritarian leader, often with success. Some may look at this tweet as just another quirky Trump language proposition, but nothing he does is accidental, including his capitalization strategies.

    Richard Frankel, professor of modern German History at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, an expert on the rise of Nazism in Germany whose work has also been featured in Newsweek and on the History News Network:

    I see it as another way of saying “America First.” He’s putting the emphasis on country, on nation, on America before anything else. He’s contrasting himself and his followers with those who see America as part of a much larger community of nations, in which cooperation, not confrontation, is what is what’s best for everyone. Those who see it his way are the “real Americans.” Those who don’t are the enemy. It’s the pitting of “America Firsters” against the dreaded “Globalists.” It’s another way to divide the country — inclusion through exclusion.

    Jason Stanley, professor of philosophy at Yale University and author of “How Propaganda Works” as well as the new book “How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them”:

    Via linguistic style and repetition, Trump is inculcating his followers with an ethic of authoritarian nationalism. Organized religion is a local authoritarian structure; the authority of God is signaled linguistically, by capitalizing “God” or not completely spelling out the word. According to Trump, like “God,” "Country" should be capitalized. This is a linguistic means of signalizing the quasi-religious authority of the nation. And since the nation is not a person, or even a person-like figure, that religious authority should be transferred to its leader, Donald Trump.

    It (again) reminded me of this quote from Victor Klemperer’s “Language of the Third Reich”: “Nazism permeated the flesh and blood of the people through single words, idioms and sentence structures which were imposed on them in a million repetitions and taken on board mechanically and unconsciously … language does not simply write and think for me, it also increasingly dictates my feelings and governs my entire spiritual being the more unquestioningly and unconsciously I abandon myself to it.”

    Several days after Trump made his declaration about the correct spelling of our “Country,” he announced that he was a proud “nationalist.” Because Trump is a racial authoritarian — and a student of “alt-right” guru Steve Bannon as well as White House adviser Stephen Miller, principal architect of his nativist immigration policy — his brand of nationalism is in no sense “neutral.” It is in reality white nationalism, whether called by that name or not. Donald Trump may evade or deflect from that fact. But it is true nonetheless. This is evident through his repeated and overt hostility toward nonwhites and Muslims.

    An embrace of nationalism by Donald Trump fits neatly within his logic for capitalizing the word “Country” when referring to the United States of America.

    Benjamin Hett, professor of history at Hunter College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York, author of “Burning the Reichstag: An Investigation into the Third Reich’s Enduring Mystery” as well as the new book “The Death of Democracy: Hitler’s Rise to Power and the Downfall of the Weimar Republic”:

    This is language I do not remember hearing from any other president. And this is where the significance of “Country” comes in. Trump the “nationalist” with his capital C in “Country” uses “globalist” as a pejorative. He is step by step dismantling the international infrastructure which the United States created after the Second World War to maintain a democratic and prosperous global order. Just recently he has begun dismantling the key INF treaty with Russia, another horrifically dangerous step. This is all reminiscent of the nationalism of the German administrations of the early 1930s, up to and including Hitler — turn away from the world, turn away from crucial international connections, turn away from peace and democracy. We know, or should know, that this cannot and will not lead anywhere good.


    Some people laugh when they are terrified. It is not that the situation is funny; rather, their brains process existential dread through the physical act of laughter. This is why so many of us laugh at Donald Trump’s supposed gaffes and misspellings, and his other crude and boorish behavior. Donald Trump’s America is a real thing. We are stuck in it and many of us still cannot believe this has all come to pass. In the final analysis, laughter provides some short-term relief during the walk to the political gallows. The laughter feels good. The noose is still waiting.

    #Trump #Fascisme #Typographie #Histoire #Linguistique

  • The State of Israel vs. the Jewish people -
    Israel has aligned itself with one nationalist, even anti-Semitic, regime after another. Where does that leave world Jewry?
    By Eva Illouz Sep 13, 2018

    Orban, left, and Netanyahu, in Jerusalem in July 2018. DEBBIE HILL / AFP

    An earthquake is quietly rocking the Jewish world.

    In the 18th century, Jews began playing a decisive role in the promotion of universalism, because universalism promised them redemption from their political subjection. Through universalism, Jews could, in principle, be free and equal to those who had dominated them. This is why, in the centuries that followed, Jews participated in disproportionate numbers in communist and socialist causes. This is also why Jews were model citizens of countries, such as France or the United States, with universalist constitutions.

    The history of Jews as promoters of Enlightenment and universalist values, however, is drawing to a close. We are the stunned witnesses of new alliances between Israel, Orthodox factions of Judaism throughout the world, and the new global populism in which ethnocentrism and even racism hold an undeniable place.

    When Prime Minister Netanyahu chose to align himself politically with Donald Trump before and after the U.S. presidential election of 2016, some people could still give him the benefit of doubt. Admittedly, Trump was surrounded by people like Steve Bannon, the former head of Breitbart News, who reeked of racism and anti-Semitism, but no one was sure of the direction the new presidency would take. Even if Trump refused to condemn the anti-Semitic elements of his electoral base or the Ku Klux Klan, which had enthusiastically backed him, and even if it took him a long time to dissociate himself from David Duke – we were not yet certain of the presence of anti-Semitism in Trump’s discourse and strategies (especially since his daughter Ivanka was a convert to Judaism).

    But the events in Charlottesville in August 2017 no longer allowed for doubt. The neo-Nazi demonstrators committed violent acts against peaceful counter-protesters, killing one woman by plowing through a crowd with a car (an act reminiscent in its technique of terrorist attacks in Europe). Trump reacted to the events by condemning both the neo-Nazis and white supremacists and their opponents. The world was shocked by his conflation of the two groups, but Jerusalem did not object. Once again, the indulgent (or cynical) observer could have interpreted this silence as the reluctant obeisance of a vassal toward his overlord (of all the countries in the world, Israel receives the most military aid from the United States). One was entitled to think that Israel had no choice but to collaborate, despite the American leader’s outward signs of anti-Semitism.

    This interpretation, however, is no longer tenable. Before and since Charlottesville, Netanyahu has courted other leaders who are either unbothered by anti-Semitism or straightforwardly sympathetic to it, and upon whom Israel is not economically dependent. His concessions go as far as participating in a partial form of Holocaust denial.

    Take the case of Hungary. Under the government of Viktor Orban, the country shows troubling signs of legitimizing anti-Semitism. In 2015, for example, the Hungarian government announced its intention to erect a statue to commemorate Balint Homan, a Holocaust-era minister who played a decisive role in the murder or deportation of nearly 600,000 Hungarian Jews. Far from being an isolated incident, just a few months later, in 2016, another statue was erected in tribute to Gyorgy Donáth, one of the architects of anti-Jewish legislation during World War II. It was thus unsurprising to hear Orban employing anti-Semitic tropes during his reelection campaign in 2017, especially against Georges Soros, the Jewish, Hungarian-American billionaire-philanthropist who supports liberal causes, including that of open borders and immigration. Reanimating the anti-Semitic cliché about the power of Jews, Orban accused Soros of harboring intentions to undermine Hungary.

    Whom did Netanyahu choose to support? Not the anxious Hungarian Jewish community that protested bitterly against the anti-Semitic rhetoric of Orban’s government; nor did he choose to support the liberal Jew Soros, who defends humanitarian causes. Instead, the prime minister created new fault lines, preferring political allies to members of the tribe. He backed Orban, the same person who resurrects the memory of dark anti-Semites. When the Israeli ambassador in Budapest protested the erection of the infamous statue, he was publicly contradicted by none other than Netanyahu.

    To my knowledge, the Israeli government has never officially protested Orban’s anti-Semitic inclinations and affinities. In fact, when the Israeli ambassador in Budapest did try to do so, he was quieted down by Jerusalem. Not long before the Hungarian election, Netanyahu went to the trouble of visiting Hungary, thus giving a “kosher certificate” to Orban and exonerating him of the opprobrium attached to anti-Semitism and to an endorsement of figures active in the Shoah. When Netanyahu visited Budapest, he was given a glacial reception by the Federation of the Jewish Communities, while Orban gave him a warm welcome. To further reinforce their touching friendship, Netanyahu invited Orban to pay a reciprocal visit to Israel this past July, receiving him in a way usually reserved for the most devoted national allies.

    The relationship with Poland is just as puzzling. As a reminder, Poland is governed by the nationalist Law and Justice party, which has an uncompromising policy against refugees and appears to want to eliminate the independence of the courts by means of a series of reforms that would allow the government to control the judiciary branch. In 2016 the Law and Justice-led government eliminated the official body whose mission was to deal with problems of racial discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance, arguing that the organization had become “useless.”

    An illustration depicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shaking hands with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki in Auschwitz. Eran Wolkowski

    Encouraged by this and other governmental declarations and policies, signs of nationalism multiplied within Polish society. In February 2018, president Andrzej Duda declared that he would sign a law making it illegal to accuse the Polish nation of having collaborated with the Nazis. Accusing Poland of collusion in the Holocaust and other Nazi atrocities would be from now prosecutable. Israel initially protested the proposed legislation, but then in June, Benjamin Netanyahu and the Polish prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, signed an agreement exonerating Poland of any and all crimes against the Jews during the time of the German occupation. Israel also acceded to Poland’s move to outlaw the expression “Polish concentration camp.” Moreover, Netanyahu even signed a statement stipulating that anti-Semitism is identical to anti-Polonism, and that only a handful of sad Polish individuals were responsible for persecuting Jews – not the nation as a whole.

    A billboard displaying George Soros urges Hungarians to take part in a national consultation about what it calls a plan by the Hungarian-born financier to settle migrants in Europe, in Budapest. ATTILA KISBENEDEK / AFP

    Like the American, Hungarian and Polish alt-right, Israel wants to restore national pride unstained by “self-hating” critics. Like the Poles, for two decades now, Israel has been waging a war over the official narrative of the nation, trying to expunge school textbooks of inconvenient facts (such as the fact that Arabs were actively chased out of Israel in 1948). In order to quash criticism, Israel’s Culture Ministry now predicates funding to creative institutions on loyalty to the state. As in Hungary, the Israeli government persecutes NGOs like Breaking the Silence, a group whose only sin has been to give soldiers a forum for reporting their army experiences and to oppose Israeli settlers’ violence against Palestinians or the expropriation of land, in violation of international law. Purging critics from public life (as expressed in barring the entry into the country of BDS supporters, denying funding to theater companies or films critical of Israel, etc.) is an expression of direct state power.

    When it comes to refugees, Israel, like Hungary and Poland, refuses to comply with international law. For almost a decade now, Israel has not respected international conventions on the rights of refugees even though it is a signatory of said conventions: The state has detained refugees in camps, and imprisoned and deported them. Like Poland, Israel is trying to do away with the independence of its judiciary. Israel feels comfortable with the anti-democratic extreme right of European states in the same way that one feels comfortable with a family member who belches and gossips, losing any sense of self-control or table manners.

    More generally, these countries today share a deep common political core: fear of foreigners at the borders (it must be specified, however, that Israelis’ fears are less imaginary than those of Hungarians or Polish); references to the nation’s pride untainted by a dubious past, casting critics as traitors to the nation; and outlawing human rights organizations and contesting global norms based on moral principles. The Netanyahu-Trump-Putin triumvirate has a definite shared vision and strategy: to create a political bloc that would undermine the current liberal international order and its key players.

    In a recent article about Trump for Project Syndicate, legal scholar Mark S. Weiner suggested that Trump’s political vision and practice follow (albeit, unknowingly) the precepts of Carl Schmitt, the German legal scholar who joined the Nazi Party in 1933.

    “In place of normativity and universalism, Schmitt offers a theory of political identity based on a principle that Trump doubtless appreciates deeply from his pre-political career: land,” wrote Weiner. “For Schmitt, a political community forms when a group of people recognizes that they share some distinctive cultural trait that they believe is worth defending with their lives. This cultural basis of sovereignty is ultimately rooted in the distinctive geography… that a people inhabit. At stake here are opposing positions about the relation between national identity and law. According to Schmitt, the community’s nomos [the Greek word for “law”] or sense of itself that grows from its geography, is the philosophical precondition for its law. For liberals, by contrast, the nation is defined first and foremost by its legal commitments.”

    Netanyahu and his ilk subscribe to this Schmittian vision of the political, making legal commitments subordinate to geography and race. Land and race are the covert and overt motives of Netanyahu’s politics. He and his coalition have, for example, waged a politics of slow annexation in the West Bank, either in the hope of expelling or subjugating the 2.5 million Palestinians living there, or of controlling them.

    They have also radicalized the country’s Jewishness with the highly controversial nation-state law. Playing footsie with anti-Semitic leaders may seem to contradict the nation-state law, but it is motivated by the same statist and Schmittian logic whereby the state no longer views itself as committed to representing all of its citizens, but rather aims to expand territory; increase its power by designating enemies; define who belongs and who doesn’t; narrow the definition of citizenship; harden the boundaries of the body collective; and undermine the international liberal order. The line connecting Orban to the nationality law is the sheer and raw expansion of state power.

    Courting Orban or Morawiecki means having allies in the European Council and Commission, which would help Israel block unwanted votes, weaken Palestinian international strategies and create a political bloc that could impose a new international order. Netanyahu and his buddies have a strategy and are trying to reshape the international order to meet their own domestic goals. They are counting on the ultimate victory of reactionary forces to have a free hand to do what they please inside the state.

    But what is most startling is the fact that in order to promote his illiberal policies, Netanyahu is willing to snub and dismiss the greatest part of the Jewish people, its most accepted rabbis and intellectuals, and the vast number of Jews who have supported, through money or political action, the State of Israel. This suggests a clear and undeniable shift from a politics based on the people to a politics based on the land.

    For the majority of Jews outside Israel, human rights and the struggle against anti-Semitism are core values. Netanyahu’s enthusiastic support for authoritarian, anti-Semitic leaders is an expression of a profound shift in the state’s identity as a representative of the Jewish people to a state that aims to advance its own expansion through seizure of land, violation of international law, exclusion and discrimination. This is not fascism per se, but certainly one of its most distinctive features.

    This state of affairs is worrisome but it is also likely to have two interesting and even positive developments. The first is that in the same way that Israel has freed itself from its “Jewish complex” – abandoning its role as leader and center of the Jewish people as a whole – many or most Jews will now likely free themselves from their Israel complex, finally understanding that Israel’s values and their own are deeply at odds. World Jewish Congress head Ron Lauder’s August 13, 2018, op-ed in The New York Times, which was close to disowning Israel, is a powerful testimony to this. Lauder was very clear: Israel’s loss of moral status means it won’t be able to demand the unconditional loyalty of world Jewry. What was in the past experienced by many Jews as an inner conflict is now slowly being resolved: Many or most members of Jewish communities will give preference to their commitment to the constitutions of their countries – that is to universalist human rights.

    Israel has already stopped being the center of gravity of the Jewish world, and as such, it will be able to count only on the support of a handful of billionaires and the ultra-Orthodox. This means that for the foreseeable future, Israel’s leverage in American politics will be considerably weakened.

    Trumpism is a passing phase in American politics. Latinos and left-wing Democrats will become increasingly involved in the country’s politics, and as they do, these politicians will find it increasingly difficult to justify continued American support of Israeli policies that are abhorrent to liberal democracies. Unlike in the past, however, Jews will no longer pressure them to look the other way.

    The second interesting development concerns Europe. The European Union no longer knows what its mission was. But the Netanyahus, Trumps, Orbans and Morawieckis will help Europe reinvent its vocation: The social-democrat bloc of the EU will be entrusted with the mission of opposing state-sanctioned anti-Semitism and all forms of racism, and above all defending Europe’s liberal values that we, Jews and non-Jews, Zionists and anti-Zionists, have all fought so hard for. Israel, alas, is no longer among those fighting that fight.

    A shorter version of this article has originally appeared in Le Monde.

    • Eva Illouz : « Orban, Trump et Nétanyahou semblent affectionner barrières et murs »
      Dans une tribune au « Monde », l’universitaire franco-israélienne estime que l’alliance du gouvernement israélien avec les régimes « illibéraux » d’Europe de l’Est crée une brèche au sein du peuple juif, pour qui la lutte contre l’antisémitisme et la mémoire de la Shoah ne sont pas négociables.

      LE MONDE | 08.08.2018 à 06h39 • Mis à jour le 08.08.2018 à 19h18 | Par Eva Illouz (directrice d’études à l’Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales)

      Tribune. Un tremblement de terre est tranquillement en train de secouer le monde juif. Lorsque le premier ministre israélien, Benyamin Nétanyahou, choisit de soutenir Donald Trump avant et après l’élection présidentielle américaine de 2016, certains pouvaient encore donner à ce dernier le bénéfice du doute. Certes, Trump s’était entouré de gens comme Steve Bannon dont émanaient des relents antisémites, certes, il refusait aussi de condamner sa base électorale sympathisante du Ku Klux Klan, mais personne n’était encore sûr de la direction que prendrait sa nouvelle présidence.

      Les événements de Charlottesville, en août 2017, n’ont plus permis le doute. Les manifestants néonazis commirent des actes de violence contre des contre-manifestants pacifiques (tuant une personne en fonçant dans la foule avec une voiture), mais Trump condamna de la même façon opposants modérés et manifestants néonazis.

      Le monde entier fut choqué de cette mise en équivalence, mais Jérusalem ne protesta pas. L’observateur indulgent (ou cynique) aurait pu interpréter ce silence comme l’acquiescement forcé du vassal vis-à-vis de son suzerain : de tous les pays du monde, Israël est celui qui reçoit la plus grande aide militaire des Etats-Unis.

      Cette interprétation n’est désormais plus possible. Il est devenu clair que Nétanyahou a de fortes sympathies pour d’autres dirigeants qui, comme Trump, front preuve d’une grande indulgence vis-à-vis de l’antisémitisme et dont il ne dépend ni militairement ni économiquement.
      Une statue à Budapest

      Prenons l’exemple de la Hongrie. En 2015, le gouvernement y annonça son intention de dresser une statue à la mémoire de Balint Homan, ministre qui joua un rôle décisif dans la déportation de 600 000 juifs hongrois. Quelques mois plus tard, en 2016, il fut question d’ériger à Budapest une statue à la mémoire d’un des architectes de la législation antijuive durant la seconde guerre mondiale, György Donáth....

  • Affaire Facebook/Cambridge Analytica : le lanceur d’alerte s’explique

    Christopher Wylie accuse l’entreprise britannique d’avoir utilisé les données de millions d’individus pour manipuler les élections et construire « l’alt-right » aux Etats-Unis.

    Un mois après avoir été embauché en juin 2013 par l’entreprise qui allait devenir Cambridge Analytica, Christopher Wylie a pour la première fois compris qu’il ne s’agissait peut-être pas d’une société comme les autres. « Mon poste de directeur de la recherche était vacant parce que mon prédécesseur était mort dans des conditions inexpliquées dans sa chambre d’hôtel à Nairobi, alors qu’il travaillait pour Uhuru Kenyatta [actuel président du Kenya] », explique-t-il.

    Le Canadien, petit génie de l’informatique, qui a appris tout seul à coder, alors âgé de 24 ans, a progressivement découvert qu’il travaillait pour une firme qui siphonnait les données personnelles de millions de personnes sur Facebook, avait comme vrai patron un certain Steve Bannon, cherchait à manipuler les élections à travers le monde et poussait sur Internet les théories du complot pour développer « l’alt-right », les mouvements d’extrême droite américaines.

    Cambridge Analytica a ensuite aidé Donald Trump lors de la campagne présidentielle américaine et à influer au Royaume -Uni en faveur du Brexit. Ayant quitté l’entreprise fin 2014, mais ayant longtemps gardé d’étroits contacts, M. Wylie a désormais décidé de révéler tout ce qu’il savait. « On ne peut pas défaire ce qui a été fait, mais il faut alerter. »

    Surveillance de masse

    Désormais, il ne fait plus que ça, dénonçant une société qui met en danger la démocratie, selon lui. Une semaine après avoir parlé pour la toute première fois au New York Times et au Guardian, le lanceur d’alerte a longuement rencontré dimanche 25 mars un groupe de huit journalistes européens, dont Le Monde. Depuis plusieurs mois, il travaille aussi avec les autorités britanniques, qui enquêtent contre Cambridge Analytica. Mardi 27 mars, il témoignera devant un comité parlementaire britannique, et a accepté de faire de même devant le Congrès américain.

    A écouter M. Wylie, le scandale qu’il dénonce présente un parallèle à celui qu’Edward Snowden a mis à jour en 2013. L’Américain avait montré comment les agences d’espionnages, notamment la NSA (National Security Agency) ou son équivalent britannique Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), utilisaient Internet pour mettre en place une surveillance de masse de leurs citoyens. « Mais la NSA ou GCHQ sont encadrés, alors que les entreprises privées peuvent collecter des données sur les citoyens comme elles le veulent. [Cambridge Analytica] a fait disparaître la frontière entre espionnage et recherche marketing traditionnelle. »

    Il faut réguler

    Pour lui, les données personnelles, qui s’accumulent à vitesse exponentielle, sont « la nouvelle électricité » du XXIe siècle, quelque chose indispensable à la vie quotidienne mais qu’il faut réguler. « Les données sont un outil, comme un couteau qui peut être utilisé pour préparer un repas trois étoiles au Michelin ou pour commettre un meurtre. En tant que telles, elles ne sont pas un problème. Mais ce que Cambridge Analytica met au jour est l’échec des législateurs et de la société à mettre des limites à leur utilisation. »

    Retour à mi-2013. M. Wylie est arrivé à Londres depuis trois ans, pour étudier le droit à la London School of Economics. Techniquement, Cambridge Analytica n’existe pas. L’entreprise qui l’embauche s’appelle SCL. Sa création remonte aux années 1960, et l’entreprise est spécialisée dans le secteur de la défense, travaillant particulièrement dans les pays émergents. Sa spécialité : mener des campagnes de désinformation à l’ancienne. Envoyer une prostituée chez un opposant politique et filmer la scène à son insu est une technique favorite. Mais SCL perçoit qu’Internet est le nouveau champ de bataille et veut s’y développer.

    M. Wylie aide à créer Cambridge Analytica, pour en faire une filiale de l’entreprise. Il fait pour cela appel à un professeur de l’université de Cambridge, Aleksandr Kogan, un neuroscientifique, qui met au point un petit quiz sur Facebook qui permet d’évaluer le profil psychologique de ceux qui le remplissent. L’application est très populaire et 270 000 personnes l’utilisent. Ce qu’elles ne savent pas est que leurs données ne sont pas utilisées par des raisons de recherche, comme promis, mais par Cambridge Analytica, qui va les utiliser à des fins commerciales. Pire encore, le quizz donne l’autorisation de télécharger les données de tous les amis sur Facebook de ceux qui ont rempli le questionnaire. Cambridge Analytica siphonne ainsi les données détaillées de plus de 50 millions de personnes, essentiellement aux Etats-Unis.

    « Une autre façon d’approcher les choses »

    Ce trésor est la base de l’entreprise. Cela lui permet de cibler de façon extrêmement précise des sous-groupes sur Facebook. La pratique de ciblage est courante, utilisée de tous les publicitaires. Mais cette fois-ci, en plus des données démographiques (âge, sexe, etc.), l’entreprise a le profil psychologique des individus.

    De ce côté-là, la recherche sur Facebook impressionne. Des scientifiques ont démontré qu’avec une dizaine de « likes », un ordinateur peut comprendre le profil psychologique d’une personne mieux que son propre collègue de bureau ; à 70 « likes », la machine le comprend mieux qu’un ami ; à 150 « likes », elle dépasse la perception d’un membre de sa famille ; à 300 « likes », elle excède la compréhension de son propre époux ou épouse.

    C’est alors qu’arrive Robert Mercer et Steve Bannon. Le premier est un milliardaire américain, qui a fait fortune grâce aux algorithmes utilisés sur les marchés financiers. Le second veut mener une « révolution culturelle » dans la politique et il s’est fait connaître avec Breitbart News, un site d’information proche de l’extrême droite. Il deviendra ensuite l’éminence grise de Donald Trump, avant la rupture entre les deux hommes.

    En 2013, M. Mercer investit dans l’entreprise et met M. Bannon aux commandes du conseil d’administration. « Bannon venait au moins une fois par mois à Londres, raconte M. Wylie. Et tous les lundis matins, on avait une conférence téléphonique avec lui et Bekkah Mercer [la fille du milliardaire]. »

    Leur objectif ? « Développer l’alt-right », explique M. Wylie. « Steve Bannon pense que pour changer la politique, il faut changer la culture. Mais Breitbart était resté un site relativement petit. Il cherchait d’autres outils pour mener sa guerre culturelle. Pour lui, SCL, qui faisait de la propagande militaire, était une autre façon d’approcher les choses. »

    Théories du complot

    A l’époque, il n’est pas question d’élections ni de Donald Trump. Les deux Américains utilisent Cambridge Analytica pour travailler en profondeur. Ils surveillent les théories du complot qui circulent, pour les amplifier. Ainsi, fin 2014, des rumeurs circulent : Barack Obama, aurait commencé à amasser des troupes au Texas pour ne pas partir de la présidence américaine. L’entreprise britannique vise les gens qu’elle sait intéressés par les théories du complot et pousse ce message vers eux. « Ensuite, ces gens voyaient ce genre d’information sur Facebook, mais rien de tout cela en regardant CNN ou les médias traditionnels. Et ils se disaient : pourquoi CNN me cache-t-elle des choses ? »

    Bien plus tard, Donald Trump a embauché Cambridge Analytica pour mener à bien sa campagne numérique. Et du côté du Brexit, la société a travaillé gratuitement et pendant quelques semaines auprès de, l’un des organismes faisant campagne pour le Brexit. Une société canadienne qui lui est proche, AggregateIQ, que M. Wylie a aidé à créer, aurait aussi travaillé indirectement pour Vote Leave, un autre organisme pro-Brexit, contournant ainsi le plafond des dépenses de la campagne électorale.

    Pour M. Wylie, les agissements de Cambridge Analytica ont pipé les dés de la démocratie. Mais beaucoup d’experts mettent en doute cette idée. Après tout, l’influence d’une chaîne d’information comme Fox News aux Etats-Unis, ou la campagne anti-européenne menée par le Daily Mail et le Sun depuis trente ans au Royaume-Uni, ont certainement eu une influence profonde dans ces élections. Facebook n’est pas le seul facteur.

    « Il faut réparer Facebook, pas effacer Facebook »

    Dominic Cummings, qui dirigeait Vote Leave, estime que l’argument de M. Wylie, repris initialement par le Guardian, est une sorte de théorie du complot des anti-Brexiters. « Leur fantasme est que le référendum a été perdu parce que (…) les “fake news” et Facebook auraient pris en traître des millions d’ignorants qui ne comprennent pas la réalité. (…) Ce fantasme est plus pratique que de reconnaître que leur campagne a perdu alors que presque toutes les forces du pouvoir et de l’argent au monde étaient de leur côté. »

    M. Wylie reste convaincu que l’influence de Cambridge Analytica a été déterminante. Mais il ajoute un argument plus large. « C’est comme le dopage. Si un athlète gagne les Jeux Olympique en se dopant, on peut toujours dire qu’il aurait gagné même sans se doper. Reste qu’on lui enlève quand même sa médaille, parce que ça remet en cause l’intégrité de tout le processus démocratique. »

    Le lanceur d’alerte canadien ne demande pas pour autant la fin des réseaux sociaux ou l’interdiction de l’utilisation des données privées. « Il faut réparer Facebook, pas effacer Facebook. » Pour lui, les plates-formes sur Internet doivent être régulées comme des entreprises d’utilité publique, par exemple comme les fournisseurs d’électricité ou d’eau. « Il est devenu impossible de vivre sans ces plates-formes, mais il faut les encadrer. » Impossible, trop complexe ? « Pas du tout. Facebook et Google sont plein de gens intelligents, qui savent comment repérer si du micro-ciblage a lieu. Elles pourraient dire par exemple : attention, ceci est une publicité, vous avez été visé et voilà qui paie pour ça. » En sortant de l’ombre et en parlant, il espère que le débat sur la régulation des réseaux sociaux est désormais ouvert.


      L’entreprise d’analyse de données Cambridge Analytica, qui a notamment travaillé pour la campagne présidentielle de Donald Trump en 2016, est soupçonnée d’avoir recueilli sans leur consentement les informations personnelles de 50 millions d’usagers du réseau social Facebook. Le but de l’opération ? Élaborer un logiciel prédictif permettant d’influencer le vote des électeurs, comme l’ont révélé le New York Times et The Observer, l’édition dominicale du quotidien britannique The Guardian, dans une enquête commune.

      Facebook a annoncé avoir « suspendu » les accès de Cambridge Analytica de la maison mère de la société, Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL), ainsi que ceux d’Aleksandr Kogan, psychologue à l’université de Cambridge.
      En accord avec le réseau social américain, ce dernier a convaincu, en 2014, près de 270 000 personnes de participer à un test de personnalité, lui donnant ainsi accès à leurs réponses mais aussi à leurs données Facebook (nom, géolocalisation, likes) et à celles de leurs amis, dans une mise à profit des réglages très permissifs du réseau. À partir de ces 270 000 participants, Kogan a ainsi obtenu les informations de 50 millions d’utilisateurs.

      Paul Grewal, vice-président et directeur juridique adjoint de Facebook, a annoncé vendredi dans un communiqué que le réseau social avait été trompé : « En 2015, nous avions appris qu’Aleksandr Kogan nous avait menti et avait violé la politique de la plateforme en transmettant les données récupérées sur une application utilisant une interface de connexion de Facebook à SCL/Cambridge Analytica. »

      Filiale américaine de la société britannique de marketing ciblé SCL, Cambridge Analytica aurait ensuite utilisé ces bases de données à des fins électorales. L’entreprise est connue pour sa participation à la campagne de Donald Trump mais aussi pour avoir fourni, pendant la campagne du groupe pro-Brexit Leave.EU, des solutions de collectes de données et de ciblage d’audience.

      L’entreprise a été financée à hauteur de 15 millions de dollars par Robert Mercer, un homme d’affaires américain qui a fait fortune dans les hedge funds et qui est l’un des principaux donateurs du Parti républicain.

      Selon The Observer, elle a aussi été dirigée par Steve Bannon, l’un des plus proches conseillers de Donald Trump avant d’être évincé de la Maison Blanche à l’été 2017.

  • Revealed : 50 million Facebook profiles harvested for Cambridge Analytica in major data breach

    Whistleblower describes how firm linked to former Trump adviser Steve Bannon compiled user data to target American voters The data analytics firm that worked with Donald Trump’s election team and the winning Brexit campaign harvested millions of Facebook profiles of US voters, in one of the tech giant’s biggest ever data breaches, and used them to build a powerful software program to predict and influence choices at the ballot box. A whistleblower has revealed to the Observer how Cambridge (...)

    #CambridgeAnalytica #Facebook #algorithme #élections #manipulation #électeurs #marketing

  • Revealed: 50 million Facebook profiles harvested for Cambridge Analytica in major data breach | News | The Guardian

    The data analytics firm that worked with #Donald_Trump’s election team and the winning #Brexit campaign harvested millions of F#acebook profiles of US #voters, in the tech giant’s biggest ever data breach, and used them to build a powerful software program to predict and influence choices at the ballot box.

    A #whistleblower has revealed to the Observer how #Cambridge_Analytica – a company owned by the hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer, and headed at the time by Trump’s key adviser Steve Bannon – used personal information taken without authorisation in early 2014 to build a system that could profile individual US voters, in order to #target them with personalised political advertisements.

    Christopher Wylie, who worked with an academic at Cambridge University to obtain the data, told the Observer: “We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people’s profiles. And built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons. That was the basis that the entire company was built on.”

    Documents seen by the Observer, and confirmed by a Facebook statement, show that by late 2015 the company had found out that information had been harvested on an unprecedented scale. However, at the time it failed to alert users and took only limited steps to recover and secure the private information of more than 50 million individuals.

  • Revendiquer son #racisme : les limites de la méthode #Steve_Bannon en #France

    Marine Le Pen et l’ancien conseiller stratégique du président des États-Unis, Steve Bannon, le 10 mars © Reuters En exhortant les militants du #Front_national à porter « comme une marque de fierté » leur racisme, l’ancien conseiller de Trump se réapproprie les codes d’une contre-culture forgée par des groupes minoritaires. Retour sur un rapt.

    #Homophobie #Minorités

  • Erik Prince, un « chien de guerre » dans les arcanes de la Maison Blanche

    Cet ancien militaire et fondateur de la société privée de sécurité Blackwater, jugée responsable d’exactions en Irak, a désormais ses entrées à Washington et envisage de se lancer en politique.

    Certains épisodes d’une vie ont l’apparence d’une incroyable répétition. Le 30 novembre 2017, la fine fleur du renseignement américain a les yeux rivés sur le Congrès, à Washington. Erik Prince, costume sombre et cravate rouge, cheveux ras, est convoqué par une commission d’enquête de la Chambre des représentants. Le fondateur de société militaire privée Blackwater et frère de la ministre de l’éducation Betsy DeVos est soupçonné d’avoir rencontré un financier russe aux Seychelles, neuf jours avant l’investiture du président Donald Trump, dans le but de créer un canal de communication discret entre le nouveau président des Etats-Unis et Vladimir Poutine. Cette rencontre, révélée en avril 2017 par le Washington Post, a encore un peu plus épaissi la ténébreuse affaire dite du Russiagate, l’enquête sur les interférences russes durant la présidentielle américaine.

    Devant une vingtaine d’élus, Erik Prince apparaît droit dans ses bottes, raide dans ses commentaires, sûr de lui. Lui, le baroudeur, l’ex-commando du corps d’élite des Navy Seals, l’ancien patron de l’armée privée la plus puissante au monde, le généreux donateur du Parti républicain et conseiller officieux du président. Il arbore un léger sourire en coin, presque hautain, impatient. Devant les élus, il ne dira pas grand-chose. Erik Prince accusera l’administration Obama de l’avoir surveillé illégalement, sans donner ses sources, ni convaincre les congressistes.

    Le rendez-vous aux Seychelles n’aurait, lui, duré qu’une demi-heure, peut-être même moins. Le temps d’une bière au bar d’un hôtel de luxe, « quatre étoiles ou plus », mais dont le nom lui échappe. Une discussion banale en somme, entre deux hommes d’affaires : « Je me souviens lui avoir dit que si Franklin Roosevelt a pu travailler avec Joseph Staline pour battre les nazis, alors Trump pourrait certainement travailler avec Poutine pour vaincre le fascisme islamique. Il semblait d’accord. » Rien d’autre. Pas de deal, aucun autre rendez-vous. Il ne se souvient même pas avoir échangé une carte de visite.

    « Rencontre d’affaires informelle »

    Le fait que son interlocuteur, Kirill Dmitriev, soit le patron du Fonds russe d’investissements directs, un consortium sous le coup de sanctions américaines depuis 2015, n’a pas l’air de l’émouvoir. Tout comme le fait que ce même Dmitriev, issu des premiers cercles de Poutine, croisera à Davos, une semaine après leur rencontre, Anthony Scaramucci, alors conseiller du président Trump avant de devenir brièvement son porte-parole.

    Le feu roulant de questions n’a pas d’effet. Erik Prince reste flou sur l’initiateur de la rencontre, « un des frères », se souvient-il vaguement, du prince héritier d’Abou Dhabi, Mohammed Ben Zayed. Un prince héritier présent lui aussi sur l’île des Seychelles le jour de la rencontre et avec lequel Prince dit s’être entretenu un peu plus tôt dans la soirée pour « parler affaires de manière informelle » et « partager quelques points de vue » sur le théâtre du monde, « ou ce genre de choses comme le terrorisme en Somalie, en Libye, au Nigeria ».

    Erik Prince restera tout aussi évasif sur une éventuelle intermédiation d’un de ses proches, Steve Bannon. L’éminence grise et directeur de campagne de Donald Trump avait rencontré discrètement l’homme fort d’Abou Dhabi en décembre 2016, à New York, dans la Trump Tower, en compagnie du gendre du président, Jared Kushner, et de Michael Flynn, alors futur conseiller à la sécurité nationale, aujourd’hui poursuivi dans l’enquête du Russiagate.

    Zones d’ombre

    Etrange prestation. L’audition aura duré plus de trois heures sans qu’Erik Prince ne dévoile quoi que ce soit. Trois heures pour protéger ses réseaux et défendre ses proches. Tout comme il l’avait fait il y a dix ans, ici même, au Capitole, devant une autre commission de la Chambre, le 2 octobre 2007. Ce jour-là, pour la première fois, le nom de M. Prince renvoyait à un visage. Et il affichait déjà un aplomb déconcertant. Jeremy Scahill, auteur à l’époque d’une somme sur le personnage (Blackwater : l’émergence de l’armée de mercenaires la plus puissante au monde, Actes Sud, 2008), dira même qu’il était « provocant ». Lui était là pour répondre sur les agissements de sa société Blackwater devenue le symbole d’une entreprise de cow-boys hors de contrôle et profiteurs de la guerre en Irak. Deux semaines plus tôt, le 16 septembre, une de ses équipes avait tué 17 civils irakiens place Nisour, en plein centre de Bagdad.

    Dix ans séparent les deux auditions. Dix années truffées de zones d’ombre. Comme si la vie d’Erik Prince n’était qu’une longue nage en eaux troubles, jalonnée de hauts et de bas, mais jamais terminée. Assis au bar du Mayflower, hôtel iconique de Washington, surchauffé en cette froide journée de janvier, l’homme sourit en attendant son rendez-vous avec Le Monde. Pendant tout l’entretien, il ne prononcera pas un mot de plus sur son escapade dans l’océan Indien. « Tenez-vous en au transcript de l’audition », conseille-t-il. Et puis ceci :

    « On me prête beaucoup, surtout les médias de gauche qui sont le plus grand fléau de notre démocratie. Ils cherchent à faire leurs choux gras sur mon nom depuis tant d’années. Oui, je représente tout ce que les démocrates aiment détester. »
    Pour comprendre ce qui anime Erik Prince, il faut explorer son histoire personnelle, démêler aussi les liens qu’il a tissés au fil de son ascension avec la frange la plus religieuse et conservatrice du Parti républicain, aujourd’hui au pouvoir. Né en 1969 à Holland, dans un quartier calme et tranquille, le jeune Prince appartient à une très riche et puissante famille de l’Etat du Michigan. Son père, Edgar, qui s’engagea deux ans dans l’US Air Force, fait fortune en créant une entreprise de pièces détachées pour automobiles, la Prince Manufacturing. Il sera l’inventeur du pare-soleil au miroir éclairé par un spot lumineux, un accessoire qui allait équiper pratiquement chaque voiture dans le monde et envoyer la famille Prince dans la sphère des milliardaires.

    Figure paternelle forte

    Les journées de seize à dix-huit heures ont raison de la santé du père, frappé au début des années 1970 par une crise cardiaque, à laquelle il survit. Déjà très croyant, Edgar Prince se rapproche encore un peu plus de Dieu. « C’est à ce moment-là, allongé dans son lit d’hôpital à méditer sur tout ce que son labeur lui avait apporté qu’il a renouvelé sa foi en Jésus-Christ », dira l’ami de la famille, Gary Bauer, un des leaders de la droite religieuse et fondateur du lobby chrétien de droite, le Family Research Council.

    Fidèle soutien du Parti républicain, adepte d’une économie de libre marché et désormais grand propagandiste des valeurs chrétiennes, l’industriel marie sa fille Betsy, sœur aînée d’Erik, à Dick DeVos. Le père du jeune homme, Richard DeVos, est le fondateur d’Amway, le géant de la vente directe en réseaux. Une entreprise qui deviendra dans les années 1990 une des sociétés les plus actives dans le processus électoral américain, en utilisant son infrastructure comme un réseau d’organisation politique. Unis, les clans DeVos et Prince deviennent également les principaux financiers du Forum familial du Michigan (MFF), la branche locale de Focus on the Family de James Dobson, une puissante organisation de la droite religieuse et des extrémistes chrétiens.

    Erik Prince est très proche de son père. Dès son enfance, il règle son pas sur le sien. « Je passais des heures à parler avec lui », se souvient-il. Jeune sportif, il joue au foot et au basket dans les écoles chrétiennes de Holland, soutenues financièrement par sa famille. Dans l’entreprise paternelle, il se familiarise avec les principes de la firme reproduits dans ses brochures : « Ce sont les gens qui font la différence » ou encore « l’excellence est le résultat de l’engagement et du dur labeur de personnes dévouées ». « Je crois que j’ai toujours sa voix au-dessus de ma tête, affirme Erik Prince. Cette idée d’être toujours le bon gars dans ce qu’on fait, faire le plus avec ce que l’on a. »

    « Vision du Bien et du Mal »

    Pour ses 7 ans, il s’envole avec ses parents en Europe. Au programme, les plages de Normandie, Munich et le camp de Dachau, Berlin et son Mur : « Cela a marqué le gamin que j’étais. Cette haute muraille, les champs de mines, les pièges à chars, les barbelés et tous ces fusils m’ont renvoyé l’image d’une nation devenue une gigantesque prison. La vision du Bien et du Mal s’est ancrée en moi, même si celle-ci s’est nourrie d’un peu de cynisme avec le temps. »

    Dans la maison des Prince, Erik croise régulièrement un nouvel ami de la famille, Chuck Colson, l’ancien conseiller spécial de Richard Nixon, perçu par beaucoup comme le « génie du mal » de l’ancien président. Colson fut la première personne à être condamnée dans l’affaire du Watergate après avoir plaidé coupable d’obstruction à la justice. Une fois sorti de prison, il écrivit Born Again, un livre évoquant sa conversion, et deviendra une des voix les plus influentes des mouvements évangéliques.

    Après le lycée, il rentre à l’Académie navale du Maryland. L’atmosphère ne lui plaît pas, trop dilettante et en même temps trop politiquement correcte à ses yeux. Il démissionne pour s’inscrire au Hillsdale College du Michigan, l’établissement le plus conservateur du pays d’après un classement de la Princeton Review. « Erik Prince était brillant et parlait bien, déclarera un de ses professeurs d’économie. Ce qui est bien chez lui, c’est qu’il comprend la relation entre le marché et le système politique. »

    Engagement politique

    Avec l’âge, Erik s’engage de plus en plus en politique. Il décroche un stage de six mois à la Maison Blanche sous George Bush père. Il a 19 ans et fait son premier don, d’un montant de 15 000 dollars, au Comité national républicain du Congrès. Un soir, sur une piste de bowling, il croise l’élu républicain californien Dana Rohrabacher. Prince lui fait part de ses critiques à l’égard d’une administration qu’il trouve trop peu conservatrice. Alors assistant spécial et rédacteur des discours de Ronald Reagan, il l’invite à travailler un temps dans son bureau. Les deux hommes ne se perdront plus de vue.

    Au cours de la première audition d’Erik Prince au Congrès, Dana Rohrabacher le soutiendra à sa manière, affirmant que son ami « était sur la voie pour devenir un héros américain tout comme l’était Oliver North », l’ancien colonel de l’armée américaine impliqué dans le scandale de l’Irangate au milieu des années 1980. L’élu ultraconservateur se rendra célèbre par la suite pour ses prises de position pro-russes. Plus récemment, il essaiera d’obtenir la grâce de Julian Assange, le fondateur de WikiLeaks, auprès du président Trump. Depuis décembre 2017, Rohrabacher fait partie de la liste de personnalités interrogées dans le cadre de l’enquête russe.

    En 1992, Erik Prince s’emballe pour le candidat Pat Buchanan qui se présente avec un programme d’extrême droite, contre l’immigration, contre l’avortement et contre les homosexuels. La même année, il intègre les commandos Seals. Il servira en Haïti, en Bosnie et au Moyen-Orient, la plupart des points chauds du premier mandat Clinton. C’est durant ces quatre années, entre 1992 et 1996, qu’il rencontrera la plupart des personnes avec lesquelles il lancera Blackwater.

    Rester lié à l’armée

    Avec la mort de son père et un cancer en phase terminale diagnostiqué chez sa première femme, Erik Prince quitte les Seals en 1996 pour revenir auprès de sa famille. Celle-ci décide de vendre la société au groupe Johnson Controls pour 1,35 milliard de dollars, cash. « Je voulais rester lié à l’armée, expliquera Erik Prince quelques années plus tard. J’ai donc construit un complexe pour offrir un site de première classe aux militaires américains et aux alliés étrangers, ainsi qu’aux organismes de maintien de l’ordre, privés et gouvernementaux, qu’ils puissent se préparer à affronter le Mal. » En clair, un centre d’entraînement, qu’il inaugure en décembre 1996, à Moyock (Caroline du Nord), dans une immense tourbière située près de la base navale de Norfolk. L’année suivante, il acquiert plus de 2 000 hectares dans les comtés de Currituck et Camden voisins.

    L’époque est porteuse. Blackwater naît au moment d’une privatisation massive et sans précédent de l’armée, un mouvement lancé entre 1989 et 1993 par Dick Cheney du temps où il était le secrétaire à la défense de Bush père. Le budget de la défense est réduit de 10 milliards de dollars. Le nombre de soldats passe de 2,2 à 1,6 million. « L’idée était de réserver les troupes régulières pour le combat, tandis que les soldats privés s’occuperaient de la logistique à l’arrière-plan », écrit Dan Briody dans son livre The Halliburton Agenda (John Wiley and Sons Ltd, 2005, non traduit) sur l’entreprise Halliburton, premier fournisseur de matériel pour l’armée, que Cheney, futur vice-président de Bush fils, dirigea entre 1995 et 2000...

    Grâce à ses relations nouées dans l’armée, et aussi à celles tissées par son père et la famille DeVos au sein du Parti républicain, Erik Prince obtient rapidement des contrats avec le département de la défense, le renseignement et la police. En octobre 2000, l’attaque-suicide lancée par Al Qaida contre le destroyer USS Cole dans le port d’Aden (Yémen) jette une lumière crue sur les besoins en matière de protection de la marine américaine. Blackwater y gagne un contrat de 35,7 millions de dollars. Le 11-Septembre provoquera, lui, une nouvelle accélération cette privatisation de la chose militaire, reprise à son compte par le nouveau secrétaire à la défense, Donald Rumsfeld.

    Proche d’une « société secrète »

    Prince est dans son élément. L’administration Bush fait appel à la droite la plus conservatrice et aux chantres du moins d’Etat. Le jeune homme d’affaires a maintenu des relations très proches avec certains acteurs du Conseil de la politique nationale (CNP), une organisation quasi secrète considérée comme l’un des piliers de la nouvelle droite, décrite par le New York Times comme « un club peu connu de quelques centaines des plus puissants conservateurs du pays qui se retrouvent derrières les portes fermées dans des lieux non divulgués pour une conférence confidentielle ».

    Le père Prince y avait exercé la fonction de vice-président. George W. Bush s’adressa au groupe en 1999, à la recherche de soutiens pour sa candidature. Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, John Bolton, ambassadeur des Etats-Unis à l’ONU, et John Ashcroft, procureur général, participent à ses réunions, tout comme un certain Dan Senor, qui deviendra le premier assistant de Paul Bremer, le « pro-consul » américain en Irak de 2003 à 2005.

    Erik Prince est également un proche d’Alvin « Buzzy » Krongard, le directeur exécutif de la CIA. A l’époque, l’agence a besoin de protection en Afghanistan. Elle manque de personnel, tout comme l’armée, qui manque d’agents de sécurité statiques. Krongard signera plusieurs contrats avec Blackwater pour la protection de sites secrets ou stratégiques de la CIA aux quatre coins du globe, en pleine « guerre contre la terreur ».

    « Mr. Fix-it »

    Dès 2001, Blackwater devient un des principaux supplétifs de l’armée en Afghanistan, puis en Irak deux ans plus tard. Erik Prince passera également de multiples contrats avec le département d’Etat pour assurer la sécurité de ses agents et diplomates. Dans l’administration, on le surnomme « Mr Fix-it » (M. Le Réparateur). Il trouve les failles, pointe les erreurs des déploiements militaires, formule des propositions clés en main.

    « Le Pentagone a construit une puissance militaire considérable ces soixante-dix dernières années pour vaincre l’URSS, explique-t-il. Mais utiliser ces tactiques, ces équipements, ce potentiel pour combattre des gars en pick-up chaussés en tongs, cela ne marche pas. Comment expliquer que, pour un soldat américain déployé en première ligne, il faut douze hommes derrière ? Qu’un ravitaillement opéré par des hélicoptères sur des navires nécessite 35 hommes de la Navy alors que nous le faisons avec huit ? Blackwater était là pour fournir des approches viables et à moindres coûts. Notre business avait l’avantage d’être un mélange de mentalité de commando et des meilleures pratiques commerciales existantes. »

    Jusqu’au point de rupture. En 2007, 177 « sociétés militaires privées » (SMP) exercent en Irak. Près de 48 000 contractuels y sont répertoriés, soit quasiment un privé pour un soldat. Blackwater fait alors partie des trois plus importants fournisseurs avec 1 200 hommes en permanence sur place, 155 véhicules et 26 aéronefs. Cette année-là, la société d’Erik Prince atteint le chiffre record d’un milliard de dollars de contrats signés avec le gouvernement, cinq fois plus qu’en 2000.

    La bavure de la place Nisour

    Le carnage du 16 septembre 2007 à Bagdad marquera le début de la fin. Blackwater est mis en cause dans une dizaine d’incidents meurtriers depuis son arrivée en Irak. Mais cette fusillade est le scandale de trop. L’audition au Congrès d’Erik Prince n’y changera rien. Tout comme sa tentative de rebaptiser la firme Xe en 2009. Outre l’impunité, le grand public a pris en aversion Blackwater pour s’être enrichi sur le dos du contribuable et avoir profité des guerres en Irak et en Afghanistan. « Une armée à ce point fidèle aux causes de l’extrême droite qu’elle en est devenue une garde du Parti républicain », écrit la journaliste et essayiste Naomi Klein. Pour l’ancien ambassadeur américain en Irak Joseph Wilson, « l’histoire de cette entreprise de mercenaires démontre clairement les graves dangers qu’entraîne la sous-traitance de l’usage de la force qui est un monopole de l’Etat. »

    En 2010, Erik Prince vend la société et ses filiales pour au moins 200 millions de dollars, selon différentes sources. Deux ans plus tard, il trouve un arrangement avec le gouvernement fédéral à hauteur de 50 millions de dollars pour une longue liste de violations commises entre 2005 et 2008 au regard du droit américain. S’ensuit une longue procédure durant laquelle quatre membres de son équipe responsable de la fusillade à Bagdad seront lourdement condamnés par un tribunal de Washington. Leurs peines sont en cours de révision.

    Lui n’en démord pas. « Il n’y avait aucune raison de s’en prendre ainsi à Blackwater », soutient-il, avant d’accuser les politiques. « Il fallait cibler Erik Prince. Dès que l’administration Obama a été mise en place, j’ai subi d’énormes pressions fiscales, des audits. La justice ici n’est pas aveugle, elle est politique, qu’elle aille au diable ! »


    Erik Prince prend le large. Il s’installera trois ans à Abou Dhabi. Le temps d’élargir ses réseaux et trouver de nouveaux ancrages. En 2011, le New York Times révèle qu’il a signé un contrat de 529 millions de dollars pour mettre sur pied une armée secrète de 800 mercenaires pour le compte des Emirats arabes unis. D’après le quotidien, ce bataillon est chargé de mener des opérations spéciales à l’intérieur comme à l’extérieur du pays, de défendre les oléoducs et les gratte-ciel contre d’éventuels actes terroristes et de réprimer les révoltes intérieures. Les officiels émiratis confirmeront dans un communiqué l’existence d’un contrat, signé avec Prince, de « formation, d’entraînement et de soutien opérationnel » à leur armée.

    Lui investit, s’essaie à la finance, crée des holdings, plusieurs sociétés écrans aussi. D’Asie en Afrique, en passant par l’Europe de l’Est et le Moyen-Orient, il se diversifie et brouille les pistes. En 2013, il crée Frontier Services Group (FSG), une société installée à Hongkong et spécialisée dans la logistique, les services de sécurité et d’aviation. Les premiers responsables sont, comme Prince, d’anciens soldats américains. Quelque 15 % du capital sont détenus par Citic, un important fonds d’investissement public chinois, très présent en Afrique. Dans la foulée, Prince achète des compagnies d’aviation au Kenya, des sociétés de transports au Congo.

    « Nous voulons être la première entreprise de logistique à couvrir l’ensemble du continent africain, même où cela semble dangereux », dit-il.
    En Autriche, il acquiert 25 % de la société d’aviation privée Airborne Technologies, spécialisée dans la transformation d’avions d’épandage agricole en vue d’une utilisation militaire ou de surveillance. Il acquiert encore 25 % encore des parts d’une entreprise chinoise ISDC, basée à Pékin, et présentée comme l’une des principales écoles de formation dans le domaine de la sécurité dans le monde.

    De nouveau, Prince est sur le devant de la scène. Le magazine Vanity Fair écrit qu’il travaille pour la CIA, Buzzfeed qu’il convoite les métaux rares en Afghanistan. Le quotidien espagnol ABC évoque un projet, financé par les Emirats arabes unis, d’invasion du Qatar, par l’armée privée de Prince. The Intercept, qui le suit à la trace, affirme que plusieurs enquêtes judiciaires américaines auraient été lancées contre lui pour avoir essayé de vendre des prestations militaires à des gouvernements étrangers. « Tout cela n’est que foutaises ! », écarte-t-il d’un revers de main. Il ne dira rien de plus.

    Le retour d’Erik Prince aux Etats-Unis correspond peu ou prou à la victoire de Donald Trump. Et visiblement, il fourmille d’idées. Au quotidien italien Corriere della Sera, il parle d’un projet destiné à résoudre la crise migratoire en Europe en créant une force de police de 650 hommes, formés par ses soins et postés à la frontière sud de la Libye. Dans un texte publié dans le Wall Street Journal, il expose un plan pour l’Afghanistan. « C’est la plus longue guerre de notre histoire, celle qui a coûté la vie à plus de 2 000 soldats américains et englouti près de 45 milliards de dollars de notre budget annuel pour un résultat désastreux », souligne-t-il. La solution passerait, selon lui, par le déploiement de moins 5 000 soldats contractuels, moins de 100 avions, pour un coût total d’à peine 10 milliards de dollars. Le pouvoir serait, lui, entre les mains un « vice-roi » américain nommé par l’administration Trump, à l’image des anciennes colonies britanniques.

    Candidat potentiel

    Le plan a été soumis à la Maison Blanche par l’entremise de Jared Kushner et Steve Bannon, qui y est très favorable. Les spécialistes l’ont vivement critiqué, le Pentagone l’a catégoriquement rejeté. « Les généraux sont très conventionnels », ironise l’homme d’affaires. De son côté, Donald Trump aurait dit à deux de ses conseillers d’examiner attentivement le projet. D’une source proche de la Maison Blanche, le secrétaire à la défense, le général issu des Marines James Mattis, aurait même apprécié l’état des lieux formulé par Prince, tout en écartant la solution proposée. « Ça viendra, glisse-t-il. La guerre a duré dix-sept ans, il faudra bien un jour ou l’autre explorer d’autres approches pour y mettre fin. »

    D’ici-là, Erik Prince dit ne pas écarter l’idée de se présenter à la primaire républicaine du Wyoming contre le sénateur sortant, le très populaire John Barrasso. Une candidature ardemment encouragée par l’ex-conseiller ultranationaliste Steven Bannon, inlassable pourfendeur de l’establishment républicain. « Le Wyoming est un des Etats les plus conservateurs du pays », explique l’ancien PDG de Blackwater, avant d’ajouter en forme d’autoportrait : « Il est composé d’hommes robustes. Les hivers y sont rudes. C’est un Etat qui a besoin d’un battant. » Les hostilités reprennent.