On the effect of Robert Mercer’s funding of both Young Americas Foundation and Young Britons Foundation — or, The three pronged strategy of Steve Bannon’s influence on both Brexit and Trump.
First published in April 2018.
The first strategy is the Tea Party-style insurrection from the right. (Raheem Kassam and Nigel Farage were inspired to invent their own British Tea Party until they realised that it was a rebellion against the Brits).
Just like the Tea Party in the U.S., the Young Britons Foundation and Conservative Way Forward organised their own slate of councillors, aldermen and MPs which they lavished with attention, online dirty tricks and activism.
This was aided by endless spuriously funded Astro turfed campaigns and think tanks on both sides of the Atlantic, and a dedication to trolling new media outlets like Breitbart or Guido Fawkes.
Students, of course, were a key target. They were leveraged — as we say in the Tory bullying scandal — to provide incentives for middle aged MPs, and plenty of... Kompromat.
But the other key tactic, apart from entryism, was a divide and rule attitude to other splitting up parties. The Republicans’ greatest fear was Trump running as an independent. In the UK, it became UKIP.
Key members of the Young Britons Foundation went over to UKIP, including Raheem Kassam and Matt Richardson, around 2013, after Bannon attended the 10th YBF anniversary.
This disruptive right flank attack was well thought out, and clearly approved of by key members who stayed within the Conservative Party, like Matt Elliott. It gave YBF alumni a classic pincer movement on moderate Tories.
And just as Trump is ‘talking’ to Putin during the Miss Universe contest in 2013, so too many YBF members make visits to Moscow, often via the Conservative Friends of Russia group, closed down because of espionage concerns.
With many of the YBF executives — particularly Matt Richardson and Matt Elliott — there was an early realisation of the power of digital campaigning around this time or earlier.
And this is where things really converge, quite apart from the Bannon/Kassam/Farage love in. The use of Cambridge Analytica, the Mercer owned electoral machine, which included Steve Bannon and Michael Flynn as advisors.
Despite ostensibly belonging to different parties (Matt Richardson to UKIP and Matt Elliott to the Conservatives), despite helping to run different campaigns, Vote Leave and Leave EU, both men used the services of Cambridge Analytica or its subsidiaries.
So, the first two prongs, entryism and ‘splitting’, from these Mercer backed groups, are finally turbo charged with Breitbart propaganda combined with weaponised dark ads from Mercer’s analytics firm.
So, the much vaunted antipathy between Vote Leave and Leave.EU is surface only: they have the same mentors, funders, personnel, dark money and digital campaigning. They were the same project all along.
Two things remain unclear to date: why was Cambridge Analytica repeatedly offering help to Julian Assange over Russian hacked emails? And how deep do those Russian connections go with Brexit?
However, there is little doubt that the Russian colonisation of UKIP really does begin soon after Nigel Farage becomes friends with Steve Bannon, in 2012, who then recruits Kassam to Breitbart.
First, there was the research work by ‘dissident’ Pavel Stroilov, the mysterious Zatuliveter case involving Arron Banks Russian wife, the expelled ‘agent’ Sergey Nalodin, and finally, in 2013, Nigel Farage meets Ambassador Yakovenko and gets regular RT spots.
It is around then, in 2013, that Nigel Farage goes in to full Putin fan boy mode. But why? What was the quid pro quo?
Daily Express, 1 June 2014.
But for all the Putinophilia, don’t forget the real origin of this: Nigel Farage’s friendship with Steve Bannon — a man he admired so much he gave him a painting depicting him as Napoleon.
(Editor's Note: There is no photo of the actual portrait Nigel Farage offered to Steve Bannon, however photoshop memes shared onsocial media, such as the one below, appeared to depict what the very portrait might look like...)
The other Russia connections, like Dana Rohrabacher, prove the wider point. This whole scandal is created by the alliance between dark money in both U.S. and Russia.
Sometimes there is an ideological alliance over ‘nationism’ or white supremacy, climate change, gun control, illiberalism or libertarianism, but two things never change in this YAF/YBF spawned takeover of classic conservatism: Dark money and deep data.
These two consistent threads which link back to Robert Mercer’s RenTech: and even to former YBF President Daniel Hannan’s praise for the ‘blue eye sheikhs’ of Iceland banking before the crash.
And paradoxically, by following the data and the money, US law enforcement is wrapping up and neutralising a large part of this network. However, no one has begun this process in the UK.
▫ Peter Jukes, Author, journalist, Executive editor of Bylinetimes.com director of Byline.com & Bylinefestival.com.
[This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article on 12 April 2018 with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected, and published with the author’s consent. | The author of the tweets writes in a personal capacity.]
(Cover: Dreamstime/Prat Kitchatorn.)