Who Is Taking Over the Internet?
June 12, 2021 (EIRNS)—Reddit is one of the world’s top internet sites, with 1.2 billion visits in April 2021, making it the eighth most visited site in the United States, ahead of Twitter, Instagram, and eBay (not to mention Fox News and the New York Times). Therefore, why has so little attention been paid to who runs it? In 2017, a foreign policy hawk from NATO’s Atlantic Council think tank, Jessica Ashooh, was appointed to be Reddit’s Director of Policy.
Prior to her promotion to Reddit, Ashooh was Deputy Director of the Atlantic Council’s Middle East Strategy Task Force, working with and under Madeleine Albright and Stephen Hadley. Albright considered the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children a “price” that was “worth it,” while Hadley was Condoleezza Rice’s Deputy National Security Adviser —at the time of the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq—and in 2005-09 became George W. Bush’s National Security Adviser.
Ashooh’s particular fixation appears to be Syria. She has called for bombings, the overthrow of Bashar al-Assad, and military support for the (fictional) “moderate” rebels trying to take over the country: “As long as [Assad] remains in power and remains the figurehead of the Syrian government ... this conflict won’t end,” she wrote in the New York Times. In the Washington Post, she condemned Obama for being too soft on Assad, and demanded that Trump “restore U.S. credibility” by ordering “targeted, punitive strikes against the Assad regime.”
She comes from a New Hampshire family of Lebanese descent. In her doctoral thesis at Oxford, she wrote about George W. Bush’s Middle East policy. She wrote that she would most liked to have had the chance of meeting George H.W. Bush, who she described as being possessed of “incredible amounts of strategy, finesse, and restraint.”
So how did this person, with no particular internet or marketing background, become a top executive at an anarchic message board created with a devotion to free-speech and an anti-establishment reputation? Simple—to change Reddit’s character. (EIR readers may recall Reddit’s cancellation of an ask-me-anything webinar with National Security Agency whistleblower, former NSA Technical Director Bill Binney.)
Reddit is not alone in becoming staffed with intelligence hawks. In 2018, Facebook and the Atlantic Council announced a partnership for checking for misinformation, to decide which sources are “trustworthy.” Earlier in 2021, Facebook hired NATO press officer Ben Nimmo as its intelligence chief. And we can recall that earlier this month, former U.K. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg was the Facebook official who announced the two-year duration of former President Trump’s sentence in Facebook prison.
Microsoft has worked to install in its Edge browser a piece of software called NewsGuard, which displays little green and red badges for trustworthy and naughty news sites. Who runs NewsGuard? Former Homeland Security Secretary, NSA Director and CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden and former Secretary General of NATO Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
A senior Twitter executive responsible for Southwest Asia was outed in 2019 as an active duty officer in the British Army’s 77th Brigade, which is devoted to online operations and psychological warfare.
The NATO-British-Atlantic Council links are even more directly seen in the Atlantic Council’s partnership with the Integrity Initiative—a British group that purports to defend democracy from disinformation, while serving mainly to plant disinformation of the “everyone we disagree with is a Russian bot” variety.
A 2019 story about Reddit is reminiscent of the censorship of news about the Hunter Biden laptop, and claims that reporting about it were Russian intelligence operations. A few days before the 2019 U.K. general election, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn promoted documents leaked on Reddit that showed that his Tory opponent Boris Johnson, was negotiating with American companies, putting much of the U.K.’s National Health Service up for sale. This could have severely damaged Johnson’s standing in the election, but Reddit came to the rescue, claiming that the documents were part of Russian disinformation. Headlines that could have read “Johnson Selling Off NHS” were transformed into “Corbyn Promotes Russian Propaganda.”
So, what did Ashooh do at her new position at Reddit? Just last year, she oversaw the banning of over 2,000 communities in a single day, including /r/The_Donald and /r/ChapoTrapHouse.
The Reddit co-founded by free speech absolutist Aaron Swartz, who, charged with attempting to download and publish the entirety of Jstor, committed suicide when faced with a 40-year prison sentence—that Reddit is no more.
The internet as a cultural phenomenon was seen decades ago as the potential great equalizer, a forum for all views to be discussed, and for people from around the world to come to better understand each other.
The transformation of Reddit is just one example of the brazenly direct takeover of media by military and intelligence agencies, along the hiring of spooks by the dozens for MSNBC, CNN, and other agencies, the deranking of alternative media, and the attacks on independent source of news and commentary, such as substack.
This is emphatically not an issue of private companies making private choices, independent of the First Amendment. It is the same slime mold, centered in London, Wall Street, and Washington, that exerts such financial, military, and ideological power.