Friday, January 22, 2010


BC Rail: Conspiracy theories, online government spooks

 and Cass Sunstein - Part 2

By Peter Ewart

NEWS 250 - January 22, 2010

Reprinted here by kind permission of Peter Ewart. 

In the first article in this series (see Part 1), we noted how various governments are using the blanket term “conspiracy theory” in attempts to denigrate and dismiss opposition.

Indeed, a top government official in the U.S., Cass Sunstein, has gone so far as to write a paper advocating that undercover government agents should “cognitively infiltrate” online chat rooms, social networks and other groups in order to undermine and disrupt what he terms “percolating conspiracy theories” with dirty tricks of various kinds.

He also proposed to enlist so-called “independent experts”, who are supported by the government behind the scenes, to carry out similar activity.

So what does that have to do with Canada or British Columbia or the city of Prince George?

Well, let’s imagine a “hypothetical” conspiracy theory. What if a political party, when in opposition, promised not to sell a publicly-owned provincial railway, but turned right around and did exactly that when it seized the reins of power? What if there was opposition to this sale which was causing political damage to the government? What if police who were on the trail of a drug conspiracy happened to bug the phones of some government aides to the Minister of Transportation and uncovered what they allege to be bribery and breach of trust in regards to the sale of the railway?

What if this same telephone bugging revealed that the government aides and the Minister had been involved in a scheme to call into rural talk shows and, as Sunstein might advocate, “undermine percolating conspiracy theories” about the sale? What if the police later swept in and raided government offices in the provincial legislature and charged the aides with breach of trust and other offences?

This “hypothetical” conspiracy theory certainly sounds like material for a potboiler of a Hollywood movie, full of mystery and intrigue, and exciting twists and turns.

Except it is not hypothetical, and it is not a movie. I am speaking, of course, about the ongoing BC Rail scandal which has gripped the province of British Columbia for the last 6 years and which will be coming to trial probably in the next few months. As transcripts of the police bugging appear to reveal, the editor of Opinion250, Ben Meisner, and his Prince George radio talk show at that time, were one of the targets of the phony call-in scheme by government officials.

Indeed, the whole BC Rail affair reeks of a number of conspiracies against the people of the province, the alleged activity of the government aides being only one small sliver. And it is not just a few journalists and so-called “conspiracy theorists” who believe this. For example, CP Rail, one of the leading bidders in the sale of BC Rail, alleged in a letter that there was a “lack of fairness” in the bidding process, and subsequently withdrew its bid. Clearly, there was something very smelly about the process.

There are a number of other puzzling events that have taken place regarding the sale of BC Rail that also belong in a “mystery” or “conspiracy” movie, but might not make it because the Hollywood writers could well judge them too “unlikely” or “bizarre”, and would thus strain the “credulity” of the audience too much.

For example, let’s look at still another “hypothetical” scenario. A reporter writes a number of hard hitting articles for online publications about the controversial sale of the provincial railway, as well as the subsequent raid on provincial government offices and the upcoming breach of trust trial of two government aides. These articles embarrass the government.

One morning, the reporter comes into his office to find that it has been broken into. Although nothing is stolen (despite the fact there were many items of value in the office, including computers, printer, scanner, etc.), the reporter’s files are ransacked.

A cryptic “message” is left. The press kit for a fictional book written about a certain railway scandal and the subsequent police raid of government offices is removed from the reporter’s desk and precisely placed “on top of the broken acoustic tiles from [the] ceiling – where the criminal or criminals entered.”

To the reporter (and many others), it looks very much like a message, or better yet, a threat, being sent by powerful forces – a kind of “dirty trick” against another purveyor of “percolating conspiracies”.

This “scenario”, of course, was also not hypothetical, but very real. It happened to reporter Bill Tieleman in his Vancouver, BC, office and was reported by him on his blog and other news sites on December 3, 2007.

And then perhaps there is the biggest mystery of all. The leader of the Liberal Party opposition promised in the 2001 election that BC Rail would not be sold, and thus the people of the Interior of the province should vote for him. The Liberal Party was subsequently elected. Of course, within two years, the promise was reversed and the railway was auctioned off. Did leading Liberal Party officials know in 2001, or before, that, once in office, they were going to do the exact opposite of what they had promised?

According to a “leading legal scholar” like Cass Sunstein, posing a question such as that amounts to propagating a “conspiracy theory”, and thus government should have the right to “undermine” and “disrupt” online chat rooms, talk shows, or any other social venue that discusses such a question.

It appears though, from all that has happened in this particular affair, that government officials in BC have been one step ahead of Sunstein.

Now the BC Rail issue is only one example of where government officials, big business and other powerful forces appear to have conspired against their own citizens. Indeed, the way things go these days, a diligent researcher can practically foray out into his or her backyard, scratch around, and uncover some very real sort of conspiracy, whether it involves the White House in Washington, the Parliament buildings in Ottawa, the BC Legislature, or the boardroom of a multinational corporation.

Take the 2009 provincial election in this province. A big question coming out of that event has to do with what the government knew, both during and before the election campaign, about the huge deficit that was looming.

Furthermore, many analysts allege that the government must have been holding secret consultations about imposing the highly unpopular HST tax. It was only after the election was over that the people of the province learned about both the deficit and the new tax.

Was there a “conspiracy of silence” among many top government officials to keep these two issues under wraps while the election was proceeding?

And this is where things get so disturbing regarding what the “leading legal scholar” and top U.S. government official, Cass Sunstein, is advocating. According to his logic, concerns that people in Canada, the U.S., and other countries, have about issues like privatization of public enterprises, budget deficits, taxes, and so on, should simply be categorized as “conspiracy theories” by government.

Furthermore, that government should, with taxpayers’ money, mobilize overt and covert actions, as well as hire online undercover agents and so-called “independent experts”, etc. to “undermine” and “disrupt” such “theories”.

In the next installment in this series, Part 3, we will discuss why Sunstein may have written his paper and why the whole issue of “conspiracy theories” is coming to the fore at this time.

Peter Ewart is a columnist, writer and community activist based in Prince George, British Columbia, Canada. He can be reached at:

Thanks for reporting the story...Scary stuff...How far will the BC mob go?

Break n enter..Phone taps...Threats of violence..Or more?

When talking multi million dollar deals if not billion dollar deals are we in the bloggosphere anything but.....

Not surprised one bit. Everyone should be up in arms on what this government is doing and has done and is planning on still doing! And not just the BC Lieberals. Harper's gang is just as dangerous, pandering to the "corporation."
I have to wonder if David L (the former Privacy Commissioner) now working right along side Gordie and his buds in Victoria was brought in for a reason? You think?
Keep up the good work !! Obviously it's working, we just have to bide our time.

(I would prefer a Canadian quote)

“The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it comes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism - ownership of government by an individual, by a group,”
Franklin D. Roosevelt quotes

We the public are generally in reaction to while, as you can tell by the above quote, governments are organised and primarily by corporations

B C Born
Good point, BC Born,

and Canada is in a particularly vulnerable position,

having almost been born out of the original Hudson's Bay Company,

then the Northwest Fur Trading Company,

then the railways,

interlaced with the highly organized religions. Maybe this is our time to learn how to push back.
Don't stop posting such articles. I love to read blogs like that. By the way add more pics :)
More pictures are coming ... wow, you won't believe what's coming,

but I need a little help from my friends for that.

Meantime, here's something to look at:

There's something wrong with that link. Sorry.

Computer/internet gremlins today.

Try this:

The sound is poor, but fun is intended.
Pardon my pretentiousness re: wording
The scheme is of Brobdingnagian proportions and received legal status in the USA in the 1800.

BC Born
My apologies BC M,I'm a Big Picture guy

All North America is at risk
The Three Amigos,in reality the Three Banditos renewed the threat

How Corporate Personhood Threatens Democracy Contents: UU World Back Issue

How Corporations Became 'Persons'

The amazing true story of a legal fiction that undermines American democracy.

"People now tend to be amazed to learn that the British colonies were corporations chartered by the king and given the right to govern—such as the Virginia Corporation and the Massachusetts Bay Company—and that British law forced the colonists to trade under disadvantageous terms with the East India Company, the mother of all British crown corporations."

BC Born
undercover government agents should “cognitively infiltrate” online chat rooms, social networks and other groups in order to undermine and disrupt what he terms “percolating conspiracy theories” with dirty tricks of various kinds.

I can tell you straight out that it's clear as day that this went on in UseNet for many years, and is now not only evident in various online forums - including obvious sallies against such as Laila and Mary - but throughout Wikipedia; there they've "learned the ropes" well in many cases, as well as bringing in their own particular form of both deceptiveness and nastiness, hiding behind etiquette and rules and disingenuity to pretend innocence...I'm not going to start citing case examples, but this article resonated with me quite a bit, and not just about BC articles (e.g. China/Tibet articles - which I stay away from but monitor - and drug policy, military history etc).
Suffice to say certain kinds of personality attacks used by such as Dave Basi and Erik Bornmann and other Mariseen proteges turn up regularly in Wikipedia; others are more official in tone/style but the upshot is the same...the talkpage bloodbath over the article on last fall's proroguing was classic in both regards...
And Mary: quick correction:

The North West Company and Pacific Fur Company where "here" first, the NWC in New Caledonia at Ft McLeod in 1805, other posts up that way in subsequent years, the PFC at Ft Okanogan (now in Washington) and Ft Shuswap (Kamloops) in 1811. The PFC was owned by the American Fur Company of John Jacob Astor but sold its operations to the North West Company in 1813 (also sold was Fort Astoria, renamed Fort George under NWC tenure but "returned" the PFC with the Treaty of Ghent (the rest of that part of the story is too complicated to begin explaining but it didn't end the NWC's presence - nor British claims - south of 49).

The coast of British Columbia had also seen active trading by Boston based fur traders from the time of Vancouver and Quadra onwards.

The Hudson's Bay Company only "came" to the region west of the Rockies with the forced merger with the NWC in 1821.

And, though you make no mention of it, it was the Fraser Gold Rush of 1858 (not the Cariboo Gold Rush of 1861, as commonly misconstrued) that created the Colony of British Columbia (what the Cariboo rush did was bankrupt BC so bad it was forced to join Confederation....)
And for anyone who might see it at a video store or in a library video department:

"Secret Nation"

"A graduate history student returns to her native Newfoundland, searching for proof of a conspiracy surrounding the referendum that saw Newfoundland join Canada. "

And oh yeah, finds one, does he ever. Riveting, one of the only political thrillers of note of any kind in the Canadian English cinema (why there aren't more is subject to, maybe, a "conspiracy theory" about the true aims of the NFB, CBC and Telefilm.

Always pleased to see you setting out the historical record.

However ...

I wasn't thinking of B.C. at all, when I made that broad comment. My thoughts were back in time with young David Thompson and the days when Hudson's Bay factors ran the business from central Canada, with the Jesuits hurrying between settlements and writing our history.

B.C. development always seemed very different to me -- outside the basic outlines of the national evolution.

And although that comment of mine (above) was very broad ... I'd stand by it, saying that our nation developed out of corporations HBC & NWCo., the NWMounted Police, the church ... all highly organized in the corporate mold. That's all.
The foundations of the modern centralized nation-state, as historian Colin McEvedy noted in a brief passage in his Historical Atlas of Medieval Europe (Pelican/Penguin) are to be found in the legitimization of what was effectively an extortion racket run by the Danish Dukes of Normandy and its transformation into a highly-organized system of centralized government, which became translated into the way both the kingdoms of France and England were structured; that's the foundation of the corporatist legacy, and any read of economic history since about 1600 makes it pretty clear that, especially in England, it was corporations who helped define the legal system by way of empowering colonialism outside of Europe, especially, was inherently corporate-based, whether it was French, British, Dutch or Russian...the Portuguese and Spanish imperial systems may have been somewhat different, I'm not qualified enough to say....the churches, particularly the Catholic and Orthodox churches, are based on the corporate structure of the Roman Empire, which they helped create as a consequence of the Conversion....Protestant churches were formed in an era when corporatism was first-born, and were even more materially-oriented in their organization....

But about the term "conspiracy theory", which is bandied about b y denialists as if the alleged conspiracies weren't real, i.e. they use the term "theory" to mean it's not true. But "theory of relativity" doesn't mean relativity's not real, while "economic theory" of course rarely described reality....but in most cases "theory of gravity", "theory of light", "theory of music" describe quantifiable, observable realities...

Tom Pynchon, in one of the Proverbs for Paranoids scattered through Gravity's Rainbow, says that true conspiracy theorists know that the conspiracy is real, but there's nothing you can do about it, because of the sweeping nature of the conspiracy. The conspiracy, effectively, holds all the chips, and is also both the dealer and the bank.....
Gravity's Rainbow explores Pynchon's analysis of World War II as a commodities/trade scam jointly by Dupont and IG Farben, the two major paint/chemicals/explosives manufacturers of the time.....well, it's not just about that, but it's part of the fabric of the tale, and underscores the reality that industry has no side in any war except its own, and that war and politics are only about business.

If you go digging around in history you'll find the same to be true about the Franco-Prussian War, the Crimean War, the Napoleonic Wars and of course such as the Opium Wars. It's always been about corporatism, but decked out with nationalism and, before that, dynastic honour etc.

And is it just me or does anyone else here feel the profiles of Canadian Olympic athletes now airing have more than a tinge of quasi-Neitzschean (i.e. fascistic) fervour, and also something of the look of Leni Riefenstahl's imagery? Something starkly absolutist, as if being an athlete were all that mattered, and somehow this is the only way our "nation" can gain honour and prestige??

You make history do its proper work, in such an agreeable style ... how I envy you!

Especially, I hadn't articulated the Leni Riefenstahl imagery but I understood you, the moment I read this comment ...

I have long had a sick feeling because it's obvious that "being an athlete being all that mattered ... and the only way our "nation" can gain honour and prestige ..."

I've actually viewed these games as an abuse of young athletes who are pushed to inhuman lengths, producing casualties along the way.

Yes, it's there to be seen -- just as the corporate vandalism like Coca Cola's is there to be seen --

leaving each of us to find some tolerable way to come to grips with all that.
"undercover government agents should “cognitively infiltrate” online chat rooms, social networks and other groups in order to undermine and disrupt what he terms “percolating conspiracy theories” with dirty tricks of various kinds."

If it wasn't for the PAB the traffic at the House of Infamy would drop by half, or so it seems. Visits from the legislature network, from BC Systems, from various government agencies and various PR firms that do business with the Campbell Crime Family may actually outnumber those from "civilians."

Even though Google Blogger provides the service for free, it seems that folks like Mary, Grant and myself actually wind up paying (through our taxes) for a large proportion of the time visitors spend visiting and reading our blogs. It is really not that different than China, it is just done in a more subtle manner. But when a government spends so many resources keeping track of what its citizens are saying and thinking and trying to mould public opinion rather than performing the services that we intended our government to do, it can only be called fascism!

It's pretty clear to me that our governments both in Ottawa and Victoria are more interested in serving themselves and their friends than their constituentcies.

If anyone doubts that this is a police state, just check out the pictures of the unfortunate and innocent Mr. Wu who was beaten the other night by the VPD. And of course the whole issue will be "investigated" internally by who else but the VPD! The RCMP can kill pretty much anyone they want with no accountability, so it is hard to imagine a member of the VPD would be held accountable for merely beating the crap out of sommeone!
"(also sold was Fort Astoria, renamed Fort George under NWC tenure but "returned" the PFC with the Treaty of Ghent (the rest of that part of the story is too complicated to begin explaining but it didn't end the NWC's presence - nor British claims - south of 49). "

According to George Bowering, the NWC moved its headquarters to Victoria from Astoria because at least the Strait of Georgia would be an impediment to the covered wagons from the eastern US that had overpowered the British inflence in Oregon Territory during the period when it was open to settlement from both the US and Britain.
The mention of Gravity’s Rainbow brings to mind the quote

“If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about answers.”

All too often ‘they’ have been able to get ‘us’ asking the wrong questions and a simple online course in Critical Thinking remedies that. One needn’t be the sharpest knife in the drawer, and the knowledge of critical thought certainly aids cutting through the crap.

BC Born
BC Born,

Is that like saying we've been asking the wrong questions?

Which ones?

How about you showing us the correct questions, then, OK?
“Is that like saying we've been asking the wrong questions?”


“Which ones?”

The ones that allowed them to play the games they do

“How about you showing us the correct questions, then, OK?”

Have done. Considered off topic.
Your Blog, your rules

BC Born
Can't take the heat, eh?
kootcoot: Bowerin'gs history is a farce full of half-baked ideas, poorly written accounts, and bad analyses, and full of pat put-downs of this and that based on modern prejudices and fashionable p.c.-think. Barely worth paper it's printed on. "Swashbuckling" it's anything but.

The Hudson's Bay Company (not the NWC) moved its regional operations to Fort Vancouver in 1821 (today's Vancouver WA), and that remained HBC headquarters until the creation of Fort Victoria in 1843.

While the influx into the Columbia District via the Oregon Trail was a factor in the pressure to settle the Oregon Dispute, the location of Fort Victoria was chosen because the British, at the time, still insisted that the line of the Columbia would be the boundary and the retention of the Puget Sound/Olympic Peninsula and the north bank of the Columbia, at least from the Dalles/Gorge westwards, was expected to be the boundary. The US, at the same time, was still pushing for 54-40; one of their counter-proposals wanted to bisect Vancouver Island at the 49th Parallel, largely with the intent to cut the British off from any usable port and thereby squeeze them out entirely. Access by the wagon trains had nothing to do with it; what the wagon trains did was bring in settlers that influenced that, for sure, the area south of the Columbia would become American (even though until then all trade and settlement in the area had been British). There was in fact only one settler in the Puget Sound region at the time of the Oregon Provisional Government, one George Washington Bush, no less, a black British subject with a native wife (his support for union is alleged by the US, but upon the creation of the State of Oregon and I think the earlier Oregon Territory, blacks were on the "not wanted" list of Oregon settlers. Like other Britons, he chose to remain in the US (upon Puget Sound becoming Washington Territory, i.e. not Oregon) because the HBC - which didn't want settlers - wanted extortionate prices for the land vs. the free land sections available under US territorial law. The HBC exception was John McLoughlin, boss-man at Ft Vancouver, who encouraged the Americans in the lower Columbia and Williamette (instead of shutting them out from supplies, as was actually the company's standing orders re American settlement).

Bowering and his evil twin Barman are chock-full of facts strung together by a lack of in-depth understanding. If you want to read a proper account of early British Columbia, look up Frederic W. Howay & E.O.S. Scholefield's British Columbia: From the earliest times to the present and another book by Alexander Begg by the same title, both of them online at Bancroft's American-flavoured histories are also available there, as well as via the Bancroft Collection of the University of California, which is also online. Begg's works on the Alaska Boundary Dispute are also at

That Bowering and Barman are used as texts in post-secondary history curriculums, and used as references by journalists, is a complete travesty. They get so many things wrong I can't read one page of either without wanting to retch.
Post a Comment

<< Home