A lot has been said in recent years about ‘foreign election interference’. Without any fair trial, Russia has been held guilty by the ‘free press’ and every election outcome that did not conform with the will of the Left was blamed on ‘election interference’ by Russia. From the election of Donald Trump as the President of the United States to Brexit, Russia was blamed for people exercising their democratic right to vote. Nevertheless, foreign political interference is very much real and today, we shall discuss one particular entity in connection to it: Stop Funding Hate.
Contrary to what western powers would have us believe, political interference is a regular feature by means of which countries attempt to influence politics in other countries in order to gain leverage. And it is also true that election interference is not the only tool through which foreign elements attempt to gain leverage in countries. Political interference is a far more common tool.
It is through an extensive network of ‘civil society organisations’ that western powers attempt to ensure that western dominance is not challenged and potential rivals never fulfil their potential. On certain occasions, such NGOs also indulge openly in election interference but mainly they attempt to influence politics by ensuring that their preferred narrative is not challenged.
The Campaign Against OpIndia orchestrated by Stop Funding Hate
One such organisation that has come to our notice in recent times is ‘Stop Funding Hate’. It’s a community interest company that is registered in the United Kingdom. Recently, they orchestrated a targeted campaign against OpIndia and are still going at it. Their objective is to stop advertisements on OpIndia so that the website cannot earn revenues from them.
Hi @OxfordSBS we’re guessing you’re unaware that your advertising is appearing on this article seeking to justify discrimination against Muslims? https://t.co/4ryRo14aht Will you take action to exclude OpIndia from your online advertising programme? – cc @NUSUK pic.twitter.com/IGLMweYcDj— Stop Funding Hate (@StopFundingHate) May 29, 2020
The reason for it is pretty clear. OpIndia is a right-wing media portal that regularly offends the orthodoxy of the Left and naturally, the Left cannot have that. It seeks to establish an unchallenged hold over narratives so that people are exposed to information only through Leftist lenses. Should anyone decide to not play by their rules, they wish to damage their revenue earning capacity so that they do not earn enough revenues to be able to run their operations. Whether they can, or cannot, has already been answered here, but try they do.
Should they succeed in their objectives, the end result of it all would be that rightwing media would cease to exist and the dominance of the Left on narratives would be unchallenged. The inevitable consequence of it on politics is not hard to guess. In India, bad-faith actors in the media regularly publish unmitigated fake news against Hindutva organisations which Opindia regularly busts.
Stop Funding Hate isn’t too fond of Republic TV either and appears to be encouraging those who wish to bully those who show their advertisements on the channel where Arnab Goswami is the Editor-in-Chief.
A lively debate going on at @RedditIndia following reports that Renault have pulled their advertising from Republic TV amid concerns over anti-Muslim coverage: https://t.co/57WDW4mdu1 pic.twitter.com/Ts6DF9JsCB— Stop Funding Hate (@StopFundingHate) May 26, 2020
The global criticism of Stop Funding Hate
SFH has tried its bullying tactic in the UK as well, against newspapers such as The Sun, Daily Mail and the Daily Express. In response, they were subjected to much criticism although the usual Far-Left echo chamber cheered them on relentlessly. Dominic Ponsford, writing for the Press gazette, said, “The Stop Funding Hate campaign strikes me as an illiberal way to set about achieving the liberal objective of less negative press coverage around immigration.”
Ponsford added, “Those seeking to silence the Daily Mail should perhaps also remember that in addition to its hard line stance on immigration, it has successfully campaigned to get justice for Stephen Lawrence, ban free supermarket plastic bags and to get the last UK Guantanama Bay inmate, Shaker Aamer, freed.”
Naomi Firsht said that the entire campaign was about press censorship. She said, “This Christmas, Stop Funding Hate’s heartwarming, festive message is that millions of tabloid readers cannot be trusted to think for themselves, so it is best that the bien pensant society censor the press for their good.” Brendan O’Neill, writing for The Spectator, described the campaign as a “nasty, elitist campaign for press censorship”.
It is important to understand the issues due to which SFH targeted Daily Mail and The Sun. They were targeted due to their coverage of Brexit and immigration, two of the hottest political issues in the UK. The coverage of the tabloids was not in concordance with the orthodoxy of the Left and hence, the attempt at censorship.
As an organisation registered in the UK, SFH has every right to participate in the political debates of their country. However, an attempt to silence media portals in India due to their personal political preferences is a direct attempt at interfering with the politics of our country. It is as sinister as election interference that the Left rails against. However, it sees no issue at all in targeting media portals abroad which would definitely impact political debates in the country.
How does the campaign describe itself?
The campaign says on its website, “We’re making hate unprofitable by persuading advertisers to pull their support from publications that spread hate and division.” They partner with organisations such as National Union of Students, Accord, Citizens UK, Tell MAMA among others. All of these are far-left organisations with no representation at all from the other end of the political spectrum. It also partners with the Centre for Hate Studies of the University of Leicester.
It says about itself, “Stop Funding Hate began when a group of people came together online to express concern at the way certain newspapers were using hate and division to drive sales. Advertisers are a major part of this business model of hate. As newspaper sales decline, their ads fund the hate that is being printed.”
SFH adds, “Sadly, this is nothing new. Minorities and vulnerable groups have been experiencing hate in the media for decades. In 2015 the UN Human Rights Chief, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, made a powerful statement about these newspapers, urging the UK to examine incitement to hatred in the UK media, and specifically calling out the Sun, Daily Mail and Daily Express for their sustained attack on refugees and migrants.” All of this is, of course, blatant political propaganda.
Who are the people behind Stop Funding Hate?
Stop Funding Hate has in its board members associated with far-left organisations. They have been described as ‘far-left Corbynistas’ in numerous publications. Richard Wilson, one such board member, has been formerly associated with Amnesty International, the dubious NGO which is under investigation in India for alleged violation of FCRA laws and has a history of links with Radical Islamic organisations.
Richard Wilson, during an interview, went so far as to assert, ‘The end point for us is a media that does the job we all want it to.’ There’s only one conclusion to be drawn from this: ‘Publish what we want you to publish, write what we want you to write, or we will go to war against you’. Quite clearly, press censorship and political partisanship are the norm for this campaign.
Another individual in its Board is Rosey Ellum, one of the co-founders of the campaign. According to Daily Mail, she is an NGO worker and ‘professional cat-sitter’. She has campaigned against Israel’s ‘illegal occupation of Palestine’ and share petitions of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which has Corbyn as one of its patrons.
Catherine Taylor, who the Daily Mail probably means when they refer to Cate Taylor as one of the directors of the campaign, resigned as the Director in 2019. She is a long-standing Labour activist and has worked as a political adviser to Labour’s then Shadow Scottish Secretary. A fourth director is Iman Atta OBE and she is a person of particular significance here.
Iman Atta is the “Director of the anti-Muslim hate crime monitoring organisation Tell MAMA (part of Faith Matters CIC)” as per website of the campaign. One of the patrons of Tell MAMA is Reverend Mark Oakley who is “responsible for the educational and outreach activities of the Cathedral through the work of its Schools and Families Department and the St Paul’s Forum” after being ordained by St. Paul’s in 1993.
A second patron is Canon Dr Giles Fraser who happens to be a priest in the Church of England and a columnist and editorial board member of The Guardian. It is to pertinent to mention here that the interference of Christian organisations abroad in the domestic affairs of India is not a secret. Furthermore, it also needs to be remembered that the Labour Party took anti-India positions in the aftermath of Article 370 and the Guardian has been regularly peddling anti-India propaganda in its columns.
The Hateful Supporters of Stop Funding Hate
The people who support this campaign aren’t much different either. According to Daily Mail, one of their supporters, Sheila Sullivan, a supporter of far-left British politician Jeremy Corbyn, has called former British Prime Minister ‘Cruella De Vil’ [ann evil character in One Hundred And One Dalmatians], said that former Chancellor Philip Hammond ‘looks like he has died and been dug up’, and branded George Osborne a ‘slimy git’.
She has also frequently called Conservative voters as ‘f***ing thick’ [she did not use asterisks] and claimed that she would ‘disinherit’ her children if they married one. Apart from such vile insults, she has also spread antisemitic conspiracy theories. Unfortunately, she is not the only Stop Funding Hate supporter who has trafficked in hate. The entire campaign itself appears to be propelled by hateful individuals.
The supporters of the campaign have called their political opponents ‘f***ing scum’, ‘f***ing tw*t’ and called people who voted to leave the European Union ‘Xenophobic retarded sheep’. They have also called Tory voters ‘filth’ and ‘d*cks’. Some of them have also indulged in composing poems fantasising about violence against Conservative politicians. And this is not remotely close to being a comprehensive list.
The political nature of Stop Funding Hate
The campaign initiated one of its drives against the Daily Mail after the tabloid published a report revealing that the British government had launched an investigation into an alleged collusion between anti-Brexit MPs and leaders of the European Union. The Daily Mail was accused of apparently stirring up ‘hate’ against the said MPs.
When the Daily Mail called the Judges who gave a verdict that went against Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was pushing for a Brexit then, the ‘Enemies of the People’, Stop Funding Hate tweeted a photograph of the front page to the government as well as the advertisers calling for them to boycott, Naomi Firsht reported.
Combined with the association of its members with the Labour Party and its strident opposition to Brexit, the far-left political nature of its campaign cannot be ignored. Also, the timing and issues regarding which it has campaigned also makes it evident that it has little to do with stopping hate and more to do with politics. Furthermore, the hateful nature of its supporters proves once and for all that it has nothing to do with with stopping hate at all.
Why India should be concerned
Stop Funding Hate is closely linked to the Labour Party, has a history of antisemitism and has on its board members who seek to impose their own will on politics. It is important to understand here that SFH is no different from FCRA NGOs such as Amnesty which openly attempt to influence the politics of the country, which is extremely problematic considering its links to the British government. It is no different from Oxfam India which had urged the Congress party to form an ‘alliance’ with ‘civil society organisations’.
If foreign organisations can dictate what Indian media can speak about or not, then it’s an extremely disturbing trend for our national interests as the media is rightly referred to as the fourth pillar of democracy. If foreign organisations can influence the coverage of Indian media, then it is easy to see how the politics of the country will be affected.
Furthermore, we have no clear information yet on who funds the campaign. While the campaign claims to operate through crowdfunding, it could very well be that Stop Funding Hate is being funded by organisations that are inimical to Indian interests. There is no transparency at all regarding the nature of its funding. Under such circumstances, organisations such as the SFH do pose a new dimension of threat to the very functioning of our democracy.