My special guest tonight is here to discuss false flags and some that he believes are used to influence the public for a bigger agenda.
A false flag operation is an act committed with the intent of disguising the actual source of responsibility and pinning blame on another party. The term "false flag" originated in the 16th century as an expression meaning an intentional misrepresentation of someone's allegiance. The term was famously used to describe a ruse in naval warfare whereby a vessel flew the flag of a neutral or enemy country in order to hide its true identity. The tactic was originally used by pirates and privateers to deceive other ships into allowing them to move closer before attacking them. It later was deemed an acceptable practice during naval warfare according to international maritime laws, provided the attacking vessel displayed its true flag once an attack had begun.
The term today extends to include countries that organize attacks on themselves and make the attacks appear to be by enemy nations or terrorists, thus giving the nation that was supposedly attacked a pretext for domestic repression or foreign military aggression. Similarly deceptive activities carried out during peacetime by individuals or nongovernmental organizations have been called false flag operations, but the more common legal term is a "frameup", "stitch up", or "setup"
In espionage, the term "false flag" describes the recruiting of agents by operatives posing as representatives of a cause the prospective agents are sympathetic to, or even the agents' own government. For example, during the Cold War, several female West German civil servants were tricked into stealing classified documents by agents of the East German Stasi intelligence service pretending to be members of West German peace advocacy groups (the Stasi agents were also described as "Romeos", indicating that they also used their sex appeal to manipulate their targets, making this operation a combination of the false flag and "honey trap" techniques).
According to ex-KGB defector Jack Barsky, "Many a right-wing radical had given information to the Soviets under a 'false flag', thinking they were working with a Western ally, such as Israel, when in fact their contact was a KGB operative."
The term is popular amongst conspiracy theory promoters in referring to covert operations of various governments and claimed cabals. According to Columbia Journalism Review, this usage mostly "migrated to the right", however because some historical false flag incidents occurred, historians should not fully cede the usage of the term to conspiracy theorists. Perlman says "The real danger is if we use the nonattributive 'false flags' as shorthand for conspiracy theories, without explaining what they are and who is promoting them." At the same time, Perlman writes that "people yelling that any attack attributed to someone on 'their side' was committed by 'the other side' drown out the voices of reason."
Political campaigning has a long history of this tactic in various forms, including in person, print media and electronically in recent years. This can involve when supporters of one candidate pose as supporters of another, or act as "straw men" for their preferred candidate to debate against. This can happen with or without the candidate's knowledge. The Canuck letter is an example of one candidate's creating a false document and attributing it as coming from another candidate in order to discredit that candidate.
In 2006, individuals practicing false flag behavior were discovered and "outed" in New Hampshire and New Jersey after blog comments claiming to be from supporters of a political candidate (Charles Bass) were traced to the IP address of paid staffers for that candidate's opponent (Paul Hodes).
On 19 February 2011, Indiana Deputy Prosecutor Carlos Lam sent a private email to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker suggesting that he run a "'false flag' operation" to counter the protests against Walker's proposed restrictions on public employees' collective bargaining rights:
If you could employ an associate who pretends to be sympathetic to the unions' cause to physically attack you (or even use a firearm against you), you could discredit the unions ... Employing a false flag operation would assist in undercutting any support the media may be creating in favor of the unions.
The press had acquired a court order to access all of Walker's emails and Lam's email was exposed. At first, Lam vehemently denied it, but eventually admitted it and resigned.
Some conservative commentators suggested that pipe bombs that were sent to prominent Democrats prior to the 2018 mid-term elections were part of a false flag effort to discredit Republicans and supporters of then-President Donald Trump. Cesar Sayoc, motivated by his belief that Democrats were “evil”, was later convicted of mailing the devices to Trump's critics.
On the internet, a concern troll is a false flag pseudonym created by a user whose actual point of view is opposed to the one that the troll claims to hold. The concern troll posts in web forums devoted to its declared point of view and attempts to sway the group's actions or opinions while claiming to share their goals, but with professed "concerns". The goal is to sow fear, uncertainty, and doubt within the group often by appealing to outrage culture. This is a particular case of sockpuppeting and safe-baiting.
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