Bell Pottinger’s downfall is not the end of the high tech Gupta propaganda machine

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If you aren’t into politics or don’t know much about South Africa then you probably don’t care, or haven’t paid attention to the Bell Pottinger disaster that has been playing out for months now. Here’s a decent write up of the most recent events which have resulted in Bell Pottinger being kicked out of the UK’s Public Relations and Communications Association.

For many in South Africa, they thought it could be the end of the alleged unrelenting attacks on our economy, country and people by the powerful Gupta family. However while browsing the Destiny 2 Reddit subform this morning I noticed an odd promoted link at the top

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Cyril Ramaphosa (pictured above) is the Deputy President of South Africa and is one of the politicians in the running to be elected as the next President of South Africa. Mr Ramaphosa is not known to be allied to the Gupta family, and over the weekend a huge news story broke from out of nowhere regarding how he has been having multiple extra marital affairs over the years. There was some debate in the country whether this news story was real or not – and if not then who would have been behind it. Was it the Democratic Alliance (the official opposition party of South Africa) or the loyalists to President Zuma who would like to see someone else succeed him. Or was it a third party?

The Reddit user who promoted the post was a throwaway account with absolutely no activity on Reddit bar this promoted article. If you head over to the article itself you will quickly see it’s a garbage story that is a blatant hack job on the man.

However when you scroll down you can guess who is actually behind this attack.

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So why are we even talking about this?

Well because it’s a major problem in the world right now. We see world leaders all over the planet being elected or getting into power on the back of basic lies, attacks and unbelievable inconsistencies. The easiest example is President Trump who did nothing throughout his election campaign other than deride the media, attack anyone who wasn’t part of his inner circle and then blatantly lie, over and over again. In previous years these lies would have seen the person lose quite quickly. However, there’s a certain brilliance in this strategy.

If you can convince people that the media is corrupt and lying to them then when they do their job and call you out on your countless lies, your support base will simply ignore them. It’s not a simple task though and it takes years concerted effort to pull off.

In our South African example, the local media houses and large corporations have been part of a sustained attack by unnamed parties on all fronts. We see journalists being attacked on Twitter, Facebook and in the real world by paid-for protestors.  They have set up hundreds of fake news websites so if you want to fact check certain things there will be hundreds of articles all backing up the false point. Bell Pottinger was caught with their pants down, literally writing speeches for politicians which were then backed up by random fake news sites.

This unrelenting attack on the truth is enough to wear down anyone who isn’t invested in the truth, which then allows the politicians to get away with daylight robbery. The perfect example is that whilst Bell Pottinger has been found guilty – twice –  local authorities have not yet taken any action against the Gupta family or the named politicians.

So how do we fight back against this unrelenting propaganda? I honestly don’t know. The Gupta family, or whoever is behind this onslaught, has unlimited finances to create thousands of media websites, twitter bots, Facebook accounts and they have even gone as far as creating their own 24/7 news channel which routinely publishes absolute garbage. They are the Fox News of South Africa.

However, there is one obvious way this can be fixed, or at least curbed. The large internet companies Google, Facebook and Reddit need to change their advertising policies and no longer flight false adverts like this. Yes, it’s a muddy line – but recently Facebook announced they will start blocking adverts from pages that spread false news and this is something that Google, Reddit and any other media company needs to start doing. There is a difference between someone having a different viewpoint and blatant propaganda.

The ANC (South Africa’s ruling party) also, until recently, had full control over what was broadcast on the local terrestrial networks which were forced to only show what they felt were acceptable stories. If the world’s largest super power, the United States of America, was brought to their knees via this policy what chance does a country the size of South Africa have? Let’s not start on Brexit either.In closing, be careful of what you see, hear and read online and off.

It’s becoming virtually impossible to tell what is the truth anymore and it’s not going to get better any time soon.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Critical Hit as an organisation.

Last Updated: September 6, 2017

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