Bahrain Summer – Mad dogs, Englishmen and organised trolling

Its summer; time to tinker in the garden with a small trowel, to weed out the flower beds and let the blossoms shine through, sadly not so in Bahrain. August is the worst time for the garden with its high temperatures and humidity, in my flowerbeds not much survives. The roads are quiet too, so many people having escaped to cooler climes, even worksites go eerily quiet in the afternoon as the excessive heats puts an end to the normal clamour in line with Bahrain’s labour laws. Tomorrow will be another fine day is the weather forecast for the coming month; another fine day, who is kidding who, with apparent temperatures pushing 50c, mad dogs and Englishmen have no relevance here during August.

With time to spare, time to visit hatch tag Bahrain on twitter and scroll through the blogs on social media to see who is still around. Locals are in short supply so it’s hard to miss the mass of anti government trolls, critics of the Kingdom, the regime and its political system that dominate the time line at this time of the year all writing and still tweeting away yet so few based in Bahrain. With time to spare and my gardening hat on, when one back tracks a little on the timeline, checking which seeds sown in the spring, flourished and which didn’t take root, the first thing you’ll notice is there is little difference then as now. It is the same western based people shoveling sh-t that were present in the spring, as were digging over the ground even in the previous fall, the same avatars with the same old crap. With so many locals missing in the time line, the obvious becomes clearer, we have a clear case of “organized trolling“.

Nothing new in that, I have written about it before, it has been going on since before 2010 and the so-called Arab Spring, it’s just currently far more obvious. Never heard of a project instigated as part of to the US State Departments’ Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) policy, a program intended “to alter the internal politics of targeted countries” “using dissidents to undermine and destabilize the countries of the Middle East to bring about Regime change”, a program that has been active in the MENA (Middle East/North Africa) region since 2002. Now recognized as the organization and funding force behind the Arab Spring it was a program wrapped for legitimacy in democratic gobbledygook for western and “UN World” consumption; its primary function was to demonize countries like Bahrain and legitimize those that opposed the Regimes. In the case of Bahrain it is an ongoing program.

Bahrain’s anti government trolls are part of MEPI, are a collaborative movement utilizing a mix and match selection of fact and fiction to influence social media and any public discourse on the Kingdom. Like all trolls they use manipulative tools, exploiting the vulnerabilities of Internet and social network media remorselessly exploiting the failure of local media to be insightful only reactive, aided further by a total lack of investigative interest in the validity of any of their output by mainstream international media. One of their most potent weapons remains their ability to denigrate, to nullify any dissenting voices particularly those locally that support the Kingdom. Working with a common language and vocabulary, one of marginalization, discrimination, exclusion and abuse, they continue to push a dissident agenda as being one that is representative of the highest democratic ideals. They never directly admit to being supportive of local terror or sectarian groups only of being representative of a majority, of representing “the people”. As supporters of or opponents to the government in Bahrain missing in their narrative is the obvious. Despite claims to the contrary they seek the removal of the monarchy by any means, its replacement by a sectarian Islamic Republic, aligned not with the adjacent Sunni Arab world but with Iranian Shia aspirations across the Gulf that include the domination of both Islam and Arabia, a policy that today that is consistent with Obama’s Middle East program of empowering Iran and Shia ascendancy. They will never admit to being a minority even when this is proven to be the case. A substantial majority of people, 54% turned out in support of the status quo in last year’s general elections, Bahrain’s anti government trolls who had supported the opposition boycotted of the process, cried foul. Having claimed internationally to be the people’s sole representatives they could not handle such rejection or face the fact that their claimed 70% percentage representation had simply evaporated at the ballot box. Bahraini trolls having supported if not initiated this mythical percentage were caught napping, caught with their pants down, they came out in force to slag off both the election process and its results.

The people of Bahrain had spoken in the most democratic way possible at the ballot box, I often wonder how many dull light bulbs were burning long into that night as a strategy was formulated to counter the developing situation; the legitimacy of the results had to be smothered swept under the carpet, swamped by other news. Step forward B, a plan for a prison riot linked to manipulative tales of torture and abuse, an ever-changing scenario of misinformation that swept through social media for months this spring until the Ministry of Interior finally had the common sense to release actual CCTV video showing the truth of the situation. Unfortunately retrospectively this was too little too late, the damage done by the activists campaign fermented by the trolls had been allowed to run far too long, the harm to the Kingdoms image yet again allowed to fester, to become a repetitive tool in the trolls arsenal.

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Last week we saw a further ugly episode with the use of high explosive to attack and kill 2 policemen and seriously injure others. The 15 and 16th to die at the hands of claimed peaceful protesters. The condemnation by anti government trolls was muted and rather than place the blame squarely where the fault lies with the bombers and their Iranian sponsors most followed the lead taken by Brian Dooley of Human Rights First who sought to place the blame on government intransigence as justification for the atrocity. Worse still Dooley’s manipulative narrative outlined the format we can expect to see in response on social media to the authorities as they undertake the investigations. He ends as follows

  • This, sadly, will almost certainly mean prosecutions based on unfair trials and convictions likely based on confessions the defendants will say were tortured out of them. Bahrain’s criminal justice system has such a poor record of impartiality or and evidence-based judgments that convictions for the killings of the policemen today will be viewed by large parts of the community as unsafe and likely false.

To see the professionalism of the now UK trained Criminal investigation branch of the police and the results of the investigation called into question in such a blatant way on the day of the attack even before the process had began is despicable but given Dooley’s track record on Bahrain not totally unexpected.

It should be noted that the UK besides being critical of Bahrain when necessary has stood the test of time as a true friend, investing time money and manpower in providing ongoing training for police, the Judiciary and staff at the office of the Ombudsman’s, a fact that Dooley and those that follow his lead conveniently choose to ignore. Bahrain has moved on since 2011, its time MEPI trolling pawns did the same.

Bahrain like all countries does have its problems but is far from being unstable, it certainly is neither in crisis however can the same be said about the street opposition. In excluding themselves from this period of real change in Bahrain by boycotting dialogues and elections they have created a vacuum in their villages which hard core, foreign sponsored terrorists are only too happy to fill.

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