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The NO Side – Beta Testing the Next General Election

Before a video-games company releases a new title, they open up the game to pre-selected players to test the product. This is known as beta-testing. It’s virtually free testing for the developer and allows any troublesome kinks to be ironed out before launch. We will have a General Election here in Ireland in the next couple of years. And for many nefarious organisations and shadowy groups, the upcoming Abortion Referendum is their beta-testing scenario.

In an attempt to explain how I believe this to be the case, I must direct you to the Twitter feed of Gavin Sheridan (@gavinsblog). Over the past few days, Gavin has meticulously and forensically examined the threat posed by various far-right and Christian groups, who are attempting to influence the vote in the Referendum. He was ably supported by another Twitter account (@theliberal_x). Between them they made great strides in seeking who are the sources of funding for strong Anti-Choice/Pro-Life advertisements on Facebook. Much of it is quite technical, hence the reason why I’m going to try to break it down for you all. From this, I’ll extrapolate and determine why this information will affect a future General Election.

What the guys examined were a series of ads which suddenly popped up on Facebook in the past few days. At a basic level, the ads seemed fairly innocuous. They were aimed at people who might be “undecided” when it came to voting on the 25th of May. The prime example was a page called “undecided8” which displayed Pro-Life leanings in the messages they were delivering. Subtle? Definitely. Misleading? Certainly. Ethical? Hardly.

There was also an advertisement placed on TheLiberal.ie Website purporting to show people where their local polling station was. When people clicked on this, they were directed to a site called Protectthe8th.ie. Yet another highly misleading and deceitful situation. It’s important to note that this was not a generic “Google Ad” on TheLiberal website but one that was deliberately placed by the website owner, Leo Sherlock. Whether he received funding to place this ad and from whom is undetermined but it’s unlikely this was done for free. The organisations which I’m about to mention would have recognised the anti-choice leanings of Sherlock and the large, unwitting base of followers he possesses. As far as they were concerned, it would be money well spent.

So which groups have been uncovered so far. The 2 main ones are : Catholic Mutual Group based in the United States and Family and Life here in Ireland. The latter is allegedly being funded by the former. These are behind the various Pro-Life ads on Facebook as well as registering many website addresses linked to saying NO in the referendum. What disturbing is CMG’s attempts to influence a democratic process in a different country. It’s also been revealed in the Twitter feeds above that these groups, in conjunction with the LoveBoth campaign have hired a company called Futazi, a group similar to Cambridge Analytica but with a strong Catholic bias. We know from recent news cycles just how shady and underhand the operations of these groups can be.

We’ve also seen ads on Facebook pretending to be RTE News reports and as well as ads targeting children on Youtube, particularly being placed on the videos of gaming vloggers. Ultimately, you, your friends and family and your wider circle are being subjected to exactly the same type of propaganda that manipulated the result in the US elections 17 months ago. It’s important that you understand this IS happening and will continue, at increased rates of exposure, in the coming weeks.

So there’s the current picture in a nutshell. How does this fit into my assertion that this will have ramifications for a General Election? Think about what we’ve witnessed across Europe and the world in general the last few years. I’ve riffed on this topic many times since the inception of Feck News. Heck it’s even in my About section at the top of the webpage. The ideologies of the far-right are growing stronger and stronger, as evidenced by electoral successes of hardline, anti-immigrant groups or by authoritarian leaders acting as the populist antidote to normal politicians. They espouse rigid nationalist views and are constantly denigrating values such as free speech or basic human rights.

Imagine something similar happening here in Ireland. It’s hard isn’t it? We have mainly a range of fairly centrist parties, with the extreme fringes limited to a few individuals. We don’t have a BNP, UKIP , AFD or Lega Nord (Lega) group here, at least with any kind of sway. Yet, there is a growing undercurrent of this type of belief system in Ireland, propagated by sites/social media pages such as TheLiberal, Alternative View Ireland, Identity Ireland and more.

Image result for Justin Barrett

What I can also tell you is that all of these sites are unequivocally supporting a NO vote in the referendum. They are avowedly anti-anything regarding any change which enhances the rights of individuals or groups. They are behind much of the appalling imagery used online to support the LoveBoth and Savethe8th campaigns. Therein lies the nub of my argument: what would happen if they were succesful at running a campaign based on lies and false information? A campaign of smear, slander and scaremongering?  I can guarantee they would be emboldened to expand their efforts at introducing their putrid views into our own society and democracy.

Over the top analysis of a basic referendum decision? I genuinely don’t think so. When these groups in Ireland are so closely interlinked in terms of belief, contemplate what would happen if they managed to gain a foothold in our collective thoughts and minds? Combine this with tools they will have seen are proven to work, and we will have a problem on our hands. Our Government and the political system may not be perfect, but it certainly better than having sociopaths such as Sherlock, Justin Barrett or those who believe in an Irish Exit from Europe running the show.

Time will tell. On the 25th May Vote Yes. Not just for your sisters, girlfriends, mothers and daughters but also to prevent the lunatic fringes of the “Ireland for the Irish” brigade from leaving their caves. The NO campaign are spending millions to keep our progressive little country in the dark ages. In more ways than one.

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