The ISD’s Belated Introduction
Baron George Weidenfeld lived a rather charmed life in his 90 years on earth. An Austrian émigré turned renaissance man for modern times, Weidenfeld was a linchpin of post-war European diplomacy, an architect of the Israeli state and powerhouse for English language publishing with his famous ‘George’ Dinners attracting the great and the good of Anglo-American high society, the Maxwell family included.
Rubbing shoulders with Charles de Gaulle and many others during his wartime exploits in the British information services, he subsequently picked up a role as a cabinet advisor in the new Zionist state, maintaining a hawkish attitude towards neighbouring Arabs. A Zionist till his deathbed, he would famously respond to any criticism of Israel with the words ‘my country right or wrong’
Crafting a nexus of think tanks and social networks that functioned as a potent subterranean force in Western politics, Weidenfeld’s pet political project (alongside Zionism) was administering post-war German and Austrian governments, with every Chancellor from Konrad Adenauer to Angela Merkel paying specific homage and always a phone call away.
Concerened by the rise of militant Islam and the threat it posed to not just his prized open society but the state of Israel, in 2006 he founded the rather banal sounding Insittute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD)-not to be confused by the Institute for Strategic Studies notoriously tied to Britain’s foreign intelligence service MI6.
Consorting with nation states, corporations and intelligence services galore, ISD has taken prime of place in the post-2016 information war whether it be against Islamists, the Western far right or Kremlin proxies.
Going into overdrive with the Christchurch massacre, work from home ISD reps have been active throughout lockdown and the recent war in the Donbass on the airwaves and compiling media syndicated reports.
A member of the European Council on Foreign Relations, ISD’s CEO Sasha Havlicek splits her time condemning nationalists in the West while bringing the world closer to nuclear apocalypse through her stridently Russophobic line.
Austrian ISD operative Julia Ebner raised some ethical concerns for her undercover work amongst European Identiarians -wherein she developed a rather amusing tradwife fetish as a consequence. Previous to this she was tasked with infiltrating jihadist groups online.
A brief glance at ISD’s recent output illustrates increasing working relationships with the sulphur-smelling UK intelligence organisation Hope not Hate, criticised by even Labour MPs for their alleged symbiotic relationships with intelligence services both domestic and Levantine based.
Therein lies (some) of historic backstory (or at least that which is fit to print) when it comes to the ISD and their global output.
Scarcely known in the public arena prior to 2020 but now omnipresent on the airwaves, this week their Irish affiliate and Donegal snowboarding enthusiast Aoife Gallagher dropped a new book documenting her research experience with the Irish conspiracy scene and semi-adjacent far right.
Against my better judgement I dropped the best part of 20 quid purchasing it.
The Conspiracy Theories of Yesteryear
Reading like an earnest Leaving Cert assignment, the significance of Web of Lies is that it constitutes the first stab at an analysis of the contemporary Irish far right in physical print. We’ve seen the media reports, inched our way through various studies and skimmed through brainless academic seminars on the topic, but this to my knowledge is the first time the topic has been broached through the printed word.
Wading through a variety of genuine sadcases and cranks around the Irish anti-vax movement before giving a crash course in anti-masonic / communist conspiracy theories and a recap of the American alt right for good measure, Web of Lies doesn’t stray from the path of what’s expected of it as a coffee table filer for the midwit class.
Beginning with Gallagher’s youthful dalliances with 9/11 truth videos (alas what could have been) before moving headlong into the genesis of various conspiracy theories, Gallagher gives her own account of the anti-lockdown period from the ISD vantage point.
To her credit, she does appear to display a degree of compassion towards the broken souls who slide into the more demented brands of conspiracism though not without infantilising some of the arguments presented.
Truth be told, prior to covid I’d have been on the same page as Gallagher when it came to anti-vaccine campaigners, certainly wishing to detach conspiracy theorists from the populist right in Ireland.
However, while I’m far from getting my health advice from Dolores Cahill and don’t believe the vaccinated are sterilised and waiting, advanced scepticism towards the jab let alone the failed policy of lockdown is more than vindicated.
The threat to free society comes not from 4chan or maverick UCD professors but from the men in white coats and government lackies who for whatever reason halfway drove our society into the abyss from March 2020 on.
There is a book or two to be written about lockdown in Ireland but it’s not this one. A braver writer than Gallagher would raise their pen against out of control state technocrats, dodgy statisticians, profiteering gombeens and the moral travesty of vaccines passports in an allegedly free society-and expect far fewer appearances on Newstalk for their efforts.
Trawling through the expected topics of Qanon, 4chan and genuine medical charlatans who profited off the anti-vaccine movements my ears perked at Gallagher’s treatment of historic conspiracy theories around anti-masonry, anti-semitism and anti-communism as well as the domestic origins of far right politics in Ireland.
With left historian Brian Hanley parachuted in to put historic meat on the bones for Gallagher’s analysis, figures from Fr Fahey rightwards are mentioned in her genealogy of the Irish far right. If Gallagher was intellectually honest she’d have concluded that these views, so abhorrent now, were commonplace even among educated elites until the day before yesterday.
On the dismissal of masonic conspiracy theories, while the old lodges are merely shadows of their old glory Gallagher fails to grasp the true historical malignancy of Freemasonry or why Catholics took particular umbrage to the square and the compass.
From the illumnism of the modern French state, to the Whiggish commercialism of the British Empire or even the rites and rituals of loyalism which Gallagher’s Donegal ancestors endured, an understanding of masonry and its impact on world history is essential (without going off your rocker).
With its ambiguous origins and general thrust towards a naturalism, the masonic mystery schools of the 18th century birthed the Enlightenment project both sides of the Atlantic and with it a tide of anti-Catholic villany.
From Robspierre’s Cult of Reason to modern dark rumblings within the 1980s Italian deep state Masonry is better understood in non-Anglophone nations where its impact is much more overt and spoken about in respectable society.
So much of what we call ‘modern’ was cooked up on the fringes of international masonry with the revolutionary movements including the IRB in Ireland owing some lineage to masonic structures.
Educated Catholics in France, Spain and South America are conscious of their history in direct combat with masonic governments, with Irish Catholics dealing with the issue by proxy through the Orange Order and British imperial administration.
As to Qanon while there probably aren’t any kids being held under pizza parlours in Dublin our recent history of clerical abuse nevermind the Savilles and Epsteins of this world make me hesitant to dismiss those who decry elite led child abuse outright.
While lesser minds understandably go loco at the reality, child abuse has been the common currency for intelligence agencies from Kincora House to Epstein island and beyond.
The onus placed on Qanon is almost done so to preemptively discredit the idea that elites are indeed abusing children at an industrial scale. Whether it began as an online troll or a disinformation operation from the start, Qanon has become a buzzword to discredit the notion that yes the elites are abusing kids
Anti-communist Red Scares of the 1930s and McCarthyism are also brought up, including the burning of Communist premises at Connolly House by Catholic militants. Rightly or wrongly, when Dublin Catholics burnt Connolly House, clerics and members of their faith faced the Gulag or pogrom (such as in Spain) by an ideology that would go on to enslave millions, a slight bit of historical context which is lacking in Gallagher’s prose.
We remember McCarthyism in a negative light precisely because his opponents triumphed in framing the period, ignoring the serious ideological and institutional penetration communists made in the New Deal Era and security threat this posed. McCarthyism also pales in comparison to the targeting of isolationist voices in pre-war America.
Michael Davitt earns mention by Gallagher for his stance against anti-Jewish pogroms in Tsarist Russia though surely his utterances on international jewry and the Boer War would have earnt him a place on an ISD watchlist?
All in all I appreciated the historic detour down memory lane through older conspiracy theories of yesteryear, though the primary thrust of the book is targeting more modern iterations using the same tired cliches.
An t-Athsholáthar Mór
My interest was spurred in Web of Lies primarily for its take on the last few years of the contemporary Irish far right.
While there is a canned summary of the US alt right from Pepe to Charloteseville, Gallagher also gives a recent account of protests against Direct Provision, the O’Gorman/ Peter Tatchell saga and emergence of anti-migration sentiment in Ireland.
With clear axe to grind, Hermann Kelly is uncharitably compared to white nationalist terrorist David Lane (for insisting a nation must produce children no less) , while poor Gearóid Murphy is portrayed as a Leeside Mussolini for leading the charge against DP centres.
Per expectation, the term Great Replacement features (used more in counterextrenism circles than the far right these days), with poor Renaud Camus taking some heat for the massacres in Christchurch and Utoya island.
To be clear, there is no one size fits all conspiracy to subdue the West operating out of a smokey room in Washington, Brussels or Tel Aviv.
What there is however is the greatest demographic change since Late Antiquity and one in which Europeans are rebelling against in the form of populism and pivots to the right. As results this week in Italy alone attests this notion is not the stuff of fantasists but the electoral platforms on which serious governments are now elected on.
Using phrases like ‘Great Replacement Conspiracy Theory’ ad infinitum no longer cuts the mustard when our societies are changing before our very eyes and on the census figures. When I walk down O’Connell Street to buy this book I do so on a street and part of my city that is demographically unrecognisable and fading fast with more and more people across the West falling into the same category. The contention we make on the nativist right is that these changes can, should, and will be stopped, ideally at the ballot box, lest our societies crack.
My country and my people right or wrong to paraphrase Mr Weidenfeld.
As to the O’Gorman/Tatchell controversy, a Minister for Children rubbing shoulders with a man of Tatchell’s history is a clear resignation issue to the eyes of most parents.
While conscious of defamatory claims against O’Gorman’s character, accusations of the promotion of paedophillia among the European Green movement are not just accusations – as the experience of Germany, France and Britain from the 1980s onwards shows.
As evidenced by TENI Ireland, from which Gallagher draws comment regarding transphobia, there is a form of State capture in this country by a homosexual mafia intent on waging war on traditional norms of the family and Chirstian life.
Conclusion: Sympathy for the Fact Checker?
One would have to pity anyone contractually obliged to wade through the sludge on the Irish Qanon scene. While Burkean student writers lived large on PUP payments and periodic Garda baton charges, Gallagher and friends were chained to the desk monitoring your aunt Mary’s ramblings on Qanon and Tony Holohan.
Focusing on the online utterances of anti-vaxxers seems like a tawdry way to spend lockdown, mostly involving a lot of punching down towards the crazier elements of the anti-vaxx community.
Whether Bill Gates was pulling strings in the shadows is irrelevant to the fact Irish society was needlessly put on life support and mortgaged to a hilt upon the altar of lockdown.
The litany of civil society groups, fact checkers and sweet talking NGOs (ISD one among many) did nothing against the levantine state running rampant under the media gaze. The media was and is very much a political virus when it comes to protecting actual freedoms despite all pretences of leaving the shadow of Ultramontanist Catholicism,
Gallagher as far as these operatives go aren’t the worst but the intent remains the same even if she and her Donegal accent could pass for a Leaving Cert pal girl in the Coppers cloakroom.
There are not enough smug fact checks the world over to pave over the fact progressives and the dark forces behind them are driving us all to a very dark place. If opposing this makes me a conspiracy theorist I may just pop down to Aldi for some extra tinfoil now.
Mercifully short on descriptions on the lives of far right incels in Ireland, ‘Web of Lies’ is available from all good bookshops now.