‘Digital diplomacy’: Harper government’s new weapon for subversion


AMIDST revelations about U.S.-led global espionage and cyber warfare and other wrongdoings coming to light during the past year, the Harper war government is expanding its own participation in social media and electronic subversion of foreign states trying an independent path of development and deemed hostile to the interests of the US and NATO bloc.

On February 7 Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird visited the headquarters of Google and Twitter in Silicon Valley, California, where he mapped out how “digital diplomacy” will be added to the weapons of armed subversion such as covert operations, “aid,” and secret diplomacy that are already being used internationally by the Harper government against targeted countries.

“Digital diplomacy” is cyberwarfare. It is a new buzz word to go along with “direct diplomacy” and the “public diplomacy” embraced by the Obama Doctrine, the U.S. State Department and NATO to rationalize the creation of mechanisms whereby the United States gives itself the right to deal directly with citizens of various countries and NGOs that do its bidding and completely bypass sovereign governments. 

Harper’s digital diplomacy is the extension into the Foreign Service and international affairs of the direct involvement in government of privileged private interests such as Google, Twitter and Amazon. The latter monopoly, for instance, has a $600 million contract with the CIA to provide the agency with “cloud” computing services. When taken into context of Harper’s “new economic diplomacy” (see below), international affairs generally and members of the Foreign Service are to work directly to promote the global private interests of the most powerful monopolies within the United States of North American Monopolies – as well as act against anti-imperialist social movements and governments.

According to a news release circulated by his department, Baird stated:

“The fast and free exchange of information is changing the nature of diplomacy and foreign affairs, just as it is changing industries. The closed world of démarches, summits and diplomatic dinners is no longer sufficient to project our values and interests.

“Diplomacy may never live up to the Silicon Valley mantra of ‘move fast and break things,’ for various reasons. But in the environment of instant communication and social media, we do have to move faster and not be afraid to try new things or to make mistakes.

“Using social media and insights from big-data analytics, we can engage in direct diplomacy, not just elite diplomacy. Social media mapping exercises at Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada have helped us to reach out to civic actors who seek to bring about positive social and political change in the countries they live in.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Development (DFATD) is already using social media as a virtual “listening post” to analyze political patterns in target societies and movements in other countries. Now it is to directly intervene in the internal affairs of other countries and engage “civic actors,” a code word for those activating for regime change – those actors that Canadian embassies and other agencies have located on the “social media map.”

Canadian cyberwarfare: Intervention in the internal affairs of Iran

According to an article by Roland Paris of the Centre for International Studies at the federally-funded University of Ottawa hailing the initiative, the Harper government is already directly intervening in the internal affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran, a sovereign government, pushing its own political agenda in the name.

“In addition, it partnered with the Munk School at the University of Toronto to create the Global Dialogue on the Future of Iran, which uses social media technology to circumvent Iranian government censorship, thus permitting Iranians, both inside and outside Iran, to freely communicate with each other.  Although some questioned whether such an initiative belonged at a university – and wondered if the Munk School had allowed itself to become a de facto instrument of the government’s Iran-obsessed foreign policy – the initiative nevertheless represented a creative use of digital tools to promote the maintenance of an open Internet.”

Intervention in the affairs of a sovereign country is then called the defence of freedom, “open society” in the manner of the Soros gobalist network, and “a creative use of digital tools.”

To this end, Dr Paris reports that “in the last six months, the foreign ministry has launched 60 new accounts on Twitter and another 50 on Facebook.”

Changing gears, Baird then declared in his statement with a cynicism that is beyond belief:

“Tools for freedom can also become tools of repression.

“Closed and unstable governments fear the voice of their own citizens and are no longer content to leave the Internet alone. They respond by using the power of technology to try to block access to information, restrict free expression and target dissent.

“Canada and the United States must continue to work together to safeguard an Internet that remains innovative, free and open for the social and economic benefit of all users. And we will only succeed in this if government works hand-in-hand with the private sector and civil society.” (My emphasis.)

Not only has it been revealed that the largest security consortiums themselves hack into the security systems of rival states, Baird then blames the target states’ security services for blocking cyberwarfare, all for purposes of having businesses and governments trust them to protect them against counter-spying.

A tool of “economic diplomacy”

“Digital diplomacy” is an integrated tool of Harper’s “new economic diplomacy,” which dictates a  change in how the resources of Canada’s foreign affairs and diplomatic missions are deployed.

Following the 2011 electoral coup bringing a Conservative Party majority to power, Prime Minister Harper ordered newly appointed Minister of International Trade, Ed Fast, to guide the changes towards what he calls a “New Economic Diplomacy.”

In a detailed commentary, TML Weekly Information Project reported on January 11:

In a speech delivered to the Economic Club of Canada November 27, 2013, Ed Fast said he assembled ‘an advisory panel made up of leading business and industry leaders. These leaders included national associations such as the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, the Canadian Agri-food Trade Alliance, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, and Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters.’

The panel prepared a plan of action called the Global Markets Action Plan, the equivalent of a foreign policy white paper. The Action Plan instructs the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, ‘to entrench the concept of ‘economic diplomacy’ as the driving force behind the Government of Canada’s activities through its international diplomatic network. All diplomatic assets of the Government of Canada will be marshalled on behalf of the private sector.’ The Action Plan directs Canadian diplomats and other officials to accept as their core mandate to “open doors, generate leads and resolve problems” for North American-based monopolies.

According to the Globe and Mail in an article on the Global Markets Action Plan, ‘Stephen Harper’s Conservative government will make ‘economic diplomacy’ in the service of private industry the centrepiece of this country’s foreign policy, marking a historic shift in Canada’s approach to the world.’

Emphasizing that the ‘new economic diplomacy’ politicizes the international private interests of the most powerful businesses headquartered within the United States of North American Monopolies, Mr. Fast said in his speech, ‘Our government’s Economic Action Plan 2012 committed to building on the success of the Global Commerce Strategy by consulting extensively with Canada’s business community to identify new markets, strengths and opportunities…. Couple this with a global marketplace in which the free flow of goods and services — and the proliferation of global value chains — predominates, and you will conclude that we truly are doing business within a completely new paradigm…. In short, the Plan will play to our strengths and ensure that all diplomatic assets of the Government of Canada are harnessed to support the pursuit of commercial success by Canadian companies and investors.” (TML emphasis.)

“Digital diplomacy” is subordinated precisely to “Canadian companies and investors” – both their immediate needs and their strategic agenda.

The privileged private interests who benefit from Harper’s actions are monopolies that tolerate no opposition in their pursuit to maximize their rate of profit around the world.


“Digital diplomacy” is a euphemism for cyberwarfare through the use of anti-social media as well as hacking and other means.

The anti-social media such as the Twitter service being embraced by the Harper government is integrated with the U.S. state military and espionage agencies. The service plays an increasing role in U.S.-led regime change and fomenting of violent tribal, religious, ethnic and other clashes. The U.S. imperialists have successfully used Twitter and Vine to spread gossip, rumours and disinformation in small, unchallengeable and unverifiable chunks of words and Youtube video.

Its covert intervention in Syria, Venezuela, Iran, Egypt and Venezuela provide textbook examples of this modus operandi, which have become a matter of public record. Recent examples of fake images in Syria may be seen here and in Venezuela here, where images of police oppression in places like Brazil, Spain and Chile were passed off as images of Venezuela, and circulated through Twitter. By the time these cruel hoaxes were exposed, the images had been circulated around the world. This aided the U.S. intelligence services and military to generate chaos and upheaval in the targeted countries. This activity is also aimed at generating support for big power intervention in sovereign countries such as Syria, Venezuela and Ukraine under the imperialist hoax of “responsibility to protect.” (TML Daily, November 13, 2013)

Examples of disinformation being sown on social media by reactionary opposition forces in Venezuela. Photos from around the world are misused and said to show government repression. Image on left is actually from Bulgaria.

Image above is from Egypt.

Canada, too, knows how to wage internet campaigns and will not be left behind, writes Gerard Di Troulio, on the appointment of Canada’s new ambassador to Venezuela, Ben Roswell, at the end of February, in the wake of Baird’s announcement of the “digital diplomacy” policy. Roswell is the Harper government’s first overseas “digital warrior” and corporate playstation.

Within Canada

Harper’s “Digital Diplomacy”, “Direct Diplomacy”, and “New Economic Diplomacy“ has not been debated in Parliament or presented broadly within the mass media or any Canadian public institution. Harper has used his executive power to dictate changes in international policy.

The Canadian state highly values Twitter. Furthermore, it wants to see it grow within Canada as well as abroad as a weapon of the ruling circles in their overt and covert fight as part of the imperialist system of states, and to subvert the people of Canada in their fight to defend their security and rights, and for an anti-war government.

One does not have far to look for a textbook example of the use of anti-social media in the preparation of fascism. A noticeable modus operandi is the use of the anti social media by the crisis-ridden Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and his brother councillor who, in the tradition of their deceased father, a Mike Harris MPP, have been champions and promoters of the neo-liberal, anti-social austerity agenda of the first order.

Mobile phones, Twitter, and Youtube videos are the instrument to create seemingly spontaneous “flash mobs” to emerge from the recesses of the “Ford Nation” to instantly engulf and gladhand the “embattled” mayor wherever he appears as, for example, last fall’s playoff game at the Rogers Centre between the Toronto Argonauts and the Hamilton Tiger Cats in the eastern division of the Canadian Football League.

Ford had actually arrived at the Rogers Centre at the beginning of the game, as evidenced by an interview with U.S. Fox News. He then deliberately waited until the half time break to take his seat, whereupon he was seemingly spontaneous engulfed by fans.

The scene was then featured on stadium Jumbotron by Rogers and simultaneously on the TSN national broadcast (owned by Bell Media), falsely advertising his “grassroots” popularity and popular sympathy with the plight of the embattled politician due to “attacks from the liberal media.”

Twitter pics are even incorporated into news flashes issued by the Toronto media to broadcast Ford’s schedule in advance.

A global offensive

Twitter also spreads celebrity worship of leading figures of U.S. imperialist culture.

Twitter and other U.S.-controlled media weaken targeted states and pave the way for subversion and direct U.S. military involvement throughout the world – especially at this time in South America, West Asia and throughout Africa – and to wreck public opinion opposing imperialist war and violation of the sovereignty of nations.

The drive for U.S. world hegemony in which the annexed Canadian monopolies and state participate is aimed at seizing control of markets, sources of raw material, workers and strategic regions.

Related reading on this website

New ambassador modernizes Canada’s hidden agenda in Venezuela, Gerard Di Troulo, March 19, 2014

For your information

From an article by Roland Paris, June 19, 2013 documenting “how far Canada had fallen behind its closest allies in the use of social media tools. The United States and Britain recognized the importance of digital diplomacy years ago, encouraging their ambassadors and missions to engage directly through social media with the public and policy leaders of other countries.”

In other words, the Anglo-American imperialists set the standard and it is the task of the Canadian state to slavishly emulate, modernize and match:

It is also unclear if all four of Canada’s ambassadorial Twitter accounts were operating with official sanction.  The DFAIT webpage listed only two of these accounts.

Moreover, the total number of “followers” of Canada’s ambassadorial Twitter accounts is tiny compared with the number following British and American ambassadors, as Figure 2 illustrates.  This is not surprising, given the relatively small number of Canadian accounts, but it illustrates the impact of this gap in terms of the size of the audience reached by these accounts.

Figure 3 drills down further, displaying the average number of followers per ambassadorial Twitter account.  Not only does Canada have very few tweeting ambassadors, but those who do tweet have a very small number of followers, on average, compared to their American and British counterparts.

Some might react to this data by asking if Canada’s embassies, in contrast to its ambassadors, are doing a better job of engaging in social media diplomacy, but Figure 4 demonstrates that Canada lags far behind its US and UK allies on this score, too.  Only 18 Canadian embassies operate one or more digital media streams (again, either Twitter, Facebook, or a blog) in the name of the embassy, compared with 126 UK embassies and 165 US embassies.

Figure 5 looks more closely at the social media reach of embassies on Twitter.  It shows the relatively small total number of followers of Canadian embassy-run Twitter accounts relative to their UK and US counterparts.

Figure 6 suggests that Canadian embassy Twitter accounts have a more limited reach not only because Canada operates fewer accounts, but because these accounts have been significantly less effective at attracting followers than those of British and US embassies.

To determine if similar patterns also apply to embassy-run Facebook pages, we need to look at the number of “likes” for these pages.  (By “liking” a Facebook page, a user effectively subscribes to information posted on that page.)  In Figure 7, we see that the total number of “likes”’ on Canadian embassy-hosted Facebook pages is a small fraction of the total number for American and British pages.  This is primarily due to the smaller number of Canadian embassy Facebook pages (13) relative to the US (163) and UK (113).

For Your Information: Cyberwarfare and “swarming” to produce regime change

In his new book, Full Spectrum Dominance: Totalitarian Democracy in the New World Order, F. William Engdahl explained a new form of US covert warfare – first played out in Belgrade, Serbia in 2000. What appeared to be “a spontaneous and genuine political ‘movement,’ (in fact) was the product of techniques” developed in America over decades. According to Stephen Lendman:

In the 1990s, RAND Corporation strategists developed the concept of “swarming” to explain “communication patterns and movement of” bees and other insects which they applied to military conflict by other means. In his book, Full Spectrum Dominance, William Engdahl explains the RAND Corporation’s groundbreaking research on military conflict by other means. He cited researchers John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt’s 1997 “Swarming & The Future of Conflict” document “on exploiting the information revolution for the US military. By taking advantage of network-based organizations linked via email and mobile phones to enhance the potential of swarming, IT techniques could be transformed into key methods of warfare.”

In 1993, Arquilla and Ronfeldt prepared an earlier document titled “Cyberwar Is Coming!” It suggested that “warfare is no longer primarily a function of who puts the most capital, labor and technology on the battlefield, but of who has the best information about the battlefield” and uses it effectively.

They cited an information revolution using advanced “computerized information and communications technologies and related innovations in organization and management theory.” They foresaw “the rise of multi-organizational networks” using information technologies “to communicate, consult, coordinate, and operate together across greater distances” and said this ability will affect future conflicts and warfare. They explained that “cyberwar may be to the 21st century what blitzkrieg was to the 20th century” but admitted back then that the concept was too speculative for precise definition.

The 1993 document focused on military warfare. In 1996, Arquilla and Ronfeldt studied netwar and cyberwar by examining “irregular modes of conflict, including terror, crime, and militant social activism.” Then in 1997, they presented the concept of “swarming” and suggested it might “emerge as a definitive doctrine that will encompass and enliven both cyberwar and netwar” through their vision of “how to prepare for information-age conflict.”

They called “swarming” a way to strike from all directions, both “close-in as well as from stand-off positions.” Effectiveness depends on deploying small units able to interconnect using revolutionary communication technology.

Stephen Lendman, “Color Revolutions, Old and New”, Global Research, 1 July 2009

What works on battlefields has proved successful in achieving colour revolution regime changes, or coup d’états by other means, in several countries such as Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine but unsuccessful in Iran.

The same strategy appears in play with the project at the Munk School. For the past 35 years, the United States backed by Canada has targeted the Islamic Republic for regime change to control the one of last major countries in a West Asia, over which it seeks unchallenged dominance.

About Roland Paris

Paris is a state and NATO academic, University Research Chair in International Security and Governance at the University of Ottawa, founding Director of the Centre for International Policy Studies, and Associate Professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. Before joining the University of Ottawa in 2006, he was Director of Research at the Conference Board of Canada, the country’s largest think tank; foreign policy advisor in the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Privy Council Office of the Canadian government. In 2014, the Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization appointed him to a ten-member international panel of experts to advise on the future of NATO. He is also a fellow of the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute.

Paris is a Liberal warmonger and annexationist. In a 2012 article for Postmedia News, he argued  “The case for armed drones in Canada” (August 31, 2012): “With drones considered powerful weapons in coalition warfare, Ottawa is reportedly considering purchasing them for the Canadian Forces.”

Along with Janice Gross Stein of the Munk School of Global Affairs (University of Toronto), Paris is the only Canadian member of the Policy Agenda Working Group of the Halifax International Security Forum, whose headquarters are located in Washington, DC. He has been replaced on the 2014 Agenda Working Group by Dr. Ian Brodie, who worked for Prime Minister Stephen Harper for six years, including three years as his chief of staff and two years as executive director of the Conservative Party of Canada.

Postscript. In November, 2015 Paris was appointed Justin Trudeau’s senior foreign policy advisor. A more complete and uptodate treatment of his views can be seen here.


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