The EU’s fact checker program is called Soma | By Norbert Häring

… like the people’s pacification drug in “Brave New World”.

By Norbert Häring.

As part of its extensive activities against dissent and information, the EU funds the EU Observatory against Disinformation. Its short name “Soma” is, piquantly, the name of the drug used in the dystopian novel “Brave New World” to sedate the population, both chronically and acutely, when it comes to emotional outbursts or deviant behavior of a crowd.

If you call up the website disinfobservatory.org, the logo “Soma” greets you.

It’s so ironic that you just have to point it out. If it were accidental, it already showed a considerable degree of ignorance, “Brave New World” being one of the most influential novels of the 20th century. If it was intentional, it shows a fair amount of cynicism, since Soma is a central element of population control and management in a totalitarian society, by well-meaning, dictatorial technocrats.

Wikipedia writes about the novel “Brave New World” and Soma:

„Brave New World is a dystopian social science fiction novel by English author Aldous Huxley, written in 1931 and published in 1932. Largely set in a futuristic World State, whose citizens are environmentally engineered into an intelligence-based social hierarchy, the novel anticipates huge scientific advancements in reproductive technology, sleep-learning“

Common to all castes is the conditioning to permanent gratification through consumption, sex and the drug soma, which deprives the members of this society of the need to think critically and question their world order. The government of that world is formed by controllers, alpha-plus-men, who are worshipped by the population like idols. (…) In order to avoid major emotional fluctuations that can lead to negative moods, people regularly take Soma, a drug that has a mood-lifting and stimulating effect and is also used as an aphrodisiac.

Under the Soma logo, people are informed that it is time to act and are invited to join the “European Observatory against Disinformation,” thereby gaining access to powerful media monitoring tools.

The long form of Soma can hardly be that.

Scrolling further down, one encounters a video titled “Social Observatory for Disinformation and Social Media Analysis.” Soma does not stand out as an abbreviation, but you can at least find the letters in it.

It is not entirely clear what this “Social Observatory against Disinformation and Social Media Analysis” is. One is always only asked to join the other association, the “European Observatory against Disinformation” and only this one is talked about. Was EOD not cool enough and they tinkered until they had a long form of Soma? Anyway, Soma or EOD (I’ll call it that) is the mothership of the fact checkers. Funded by the EU, the program networks and supports fact checkers loyal to the authorities with the appropriate, already formulated narratives on anything. It counts 60 fact-checker organizations as members. EOD also targets media outlets, social media innovators, researchers, and policymakers.

There’s quite a bit on Covid-19, for example, including a dossier on “Three common strands linking anti-lockdown protests in Europe.” Assuming that our media and fact-checkers have drawn from here for their many recent reports on the subject, one is no longer surprised at their lousy fact base. What is offered is a narrative, substantiated only very thinly with the odd press report or claim by an official. One of the strands is that while the demonstrators are usually peaceful, the demonstrations are often used by rioters and right-wing extremists to raise a ruckus and spout slogans. This is a problem that very many protest demonstrations of all kinds have. Somehow, though, this is intoned as a specific right-wing problem of the anti-lockdown protesters.

This is garnished with the completely unsubstantiated claim that QAnon plays a major role as an infiltrator, which I would simply highly doubt for Europe. I can’t prove it, but the burden of proof is actually on the side of those who claim something so drastic. A first link just leads to a Reuters fact check showing that Covid-19 is not a fabrication.

It says that a group called Pagella Politica conducted joint research on the protests with other members of the Soma network. One does not learn anywhere who these members of the Soma network are, nor is there a link to the analysis as far as I can see. One should be satisfied with the thin gruel of allegations one is presented with. The media and fact-checker community apparently is, if one takes the result as a benchmark.

CORRECTIV’s anti-journalists and their peculiar fact-checking methods.

An excerpt:

(translation)

“Journalists with professional ethics see themselves as the fourth power, watching over the powerful. Anti-journalists see themselves as allies of the powerful, ensuring that they can get their messages across to the people as unquestioningly and unrivaled as possible. Anti-journalists work at CORRECTIV. CORRECTIV has published a number of investigative stories with merit. Many fact-checks are also decent. There are many examples, for example, CORRECTIV shows that in a video the statement was not done at all, which someone makes a scandal out of in social media. Or they show that it was said in a completely different context and with a different meaning. But anti-journalists show their true colors when things get difficult, when it comes to discrediting certain undesirable interpretations of facts or opinions because they have a wide circulation on the Internet.

That wouldn’t be a bad thing if it were just a matter of opposing one extreme view or interpretation with another. But what CORRECTIV is doing has a very different, sinister quality. The operators of social media platforms, especially Facebook, are under pressure from those in power to suppress critical opinions and alternative facts. CORRECTIV gets paid by Facebook to put a negative stamp on undesirable posts. This negative stamp has the effect of censoring a post in an opaque way, with the operators of the major social media ensuring that it receives less circulation. It’s a pretty effective form of censorship.”

For the claim of mass infiltration by QAnon, one link is to an NBC post proclaiming in large letters that QAnon supporters had joined thousands of demonstrators at a demonstration in Germany. One had been spotted holding up the placard “End this pandemic now.” Linked as a second piece of evidence is an equally unspeakable Politico article that suggests just that in its title and run-up, but admits at the back: “In Europe, the movement so far remains limited to the edges.”

Still, there are many paragraphs in the report on QAnon. The initial thesis is only supported by the fact that everything that is somehow critical of the authorities is sold as an “element of the QAnon ideology” that is spreading in Europe. It could hardly be more dubious. Great research by Pagella Politica and the other unnamed fact checkers! It certainly impressed me. What the three unifying elements of the protests are, however, did not become clear to me, even in the summary, which again announces three elements, and then lists two, extremist violence and QAnon. Math doesn’t seem to be every fact checker’s cup of tea.

Censorship reports of the platforms

On the Soma website, one also finds links and a summary to the September reports of the social media platforms that have been EU-coerced into censoring more that doesn’t toe the official line, or, as the EU puts it, “content liable to cause physical harm or impair public health policies”

One learns, among other things, that Google Search, Google’s dominant global search engine, shows articles from EU fact-checking organizations preferentially. Also the other forced signatories of the “Code of Practice on Disinformation” write down what they have done to spread the official line and to push back non-authorized opinions and information, as there are Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, TikTok and Mozilla.

Sources:

  1. https://www.disinfobservatory.org
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brave_New_World
  3. https://www.disinfobservatory.org/the-three-common-threads-that-link-anti-lockdown-protests-in-europe/
  4. https://correctiv.org/faktencheck/
  5. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/qanon-supporters-join-thousands-protest-against-germany-s-coronavirus-rules-n1238783
  6. https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/news/first-baseline-reports-fighting-covid-19-disinformation-monitoring-programme

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This article first appeared on 17.12.2020 at norberthaering.de

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Thanks to the author for the right to publish the article.

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Picture source: Dilok Klaisataporn / shutterstock

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