The former British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has been caught up in a vicious defamation campaign run by right wing bloggers in the United States and then reproduced in Malaysia online.
According to research by this blog, which is edited by Brown’s sister in law, Clare Rewcastle Brown, the far Republican blog, New Ledger, has been hired by Taib to run a sustained defamation campaign against herself, which has implicated Brown.
The Dirty Tricks campaign has also included placing negative and defamatory entries on Wikipedia about Brown and his familiy.
Dirty tricks in Taib’s ‘cyber-war’ campaign
Our findings show that New Ledger, which poses as a platform for genuine right wing thinking in the United States, is in fact part of a dirty tricks outfit, taking money from clients, who are seeking to attack and defame their enemies via comment on the internet. In the case of New Ledger those clients are members of the BN government, including Taib Mahmud.
We base our evidence on clear links between New Ledger and a series of articles that have appeared in a so-called piggy-back site, set up to undermine Sarawak Report. Adopting a near identical name to our own, ‘Sarawak Report(s)’, it makes no secret of its main target and it forms a key part of Taib’s proclaimed ’cyber-war campaign’ against those who have criticised him for corruption and the destruction of Sarawak’s unique environment and cultures.
The Taib-sponsored Sarawak Report(s), which is hosted in America, claims to provide an “unbiased view” on issues in Sarawak, but in fact it represents a thinly disguised attack on Rewcastle Brown’s integrity and that of her brother in law the former UK Prime Minister. The remainder of the site is devoted to unquestioning propaganda material promoting Taib, who has clearly been wounded by international criticism of his environment record.
The site’s current headline consists of yet another attack on Brown called “Sarawak continues its clean environment drive; Gordon Brown asleep for comment”! Meanwhile, its Home Page purposely features a prominent link called “The File on Clare Rewcastle Brown and Gordon Brown”, directing readers to a series of aggressive articles, which seek to question her honesty and the honesty of Gordon Brown.
Many of the articles were first uploaded on New Ledger and then fed into the Sarawak website to give the impression that they represent a strand of genuine mainstream opinion in the US. However, in fact, these ‘articles’ are merely negative PR items commissioned by Taib.
In a further dirty tricks move, New Ledger/Sarawak Report(s) continuously repeat an acknowledged falsehood that was quickly withdrawn by British newspapers two years ago. At the height of the UK parliamentary expenses scandal some newspapers had implied that the Prime Minister had passed public money to his brother (husband of Clare Rewcastle Brown) to do his cleaning! This allegation was soon admitted to be untrue, however the Taib-backed site has republished the retracted stories.
How Taib’s site libels the Browns
For example, one article by American Rachel Motte on 28th March unequivocally states that the British PM unethically paid his sister-in-law and her husband for house-cleaning bills. This story was first placed on New Ledger and then reproduced on the Sarawak blog, as if it was a genuine article from the United States.
This deliberate attempt at defamation ignores all the online clarifications, which have been posted by the Daily Telegraph newspaper, which ran the original story. Far from supporting such claims by Motte, The Telegraph publicly confirmed way back in May 2009 that it rejected any suggestions that the Prime Minister or his brother had engaged in any impropriety whatsoever. This acknowledgement, which remains prominent in Google Search states:
“For the avoidance of doubt, The Daily Telegraph does not allege that the Prime Minister’s brother, Andrew Brown, received any improper benefit from the Prime Minister’s expense claim for cleaning services.
The Daily Telegraph accepts that the sums received by him from the Prime Minister were duly paid to their shared cleaner for services rendered to the Prime Minister and his wife”.
At the time damages were obtained by the Browns from a number of news organisations who had published these allegations. The rest withdrew the story when the inaccuracies became clear. However, two years later, Taib’s site has nevertheless gone out of its way to re-published many of the most inaccurate of those stories.
The US connection
The purpose of placing such articles first into New Ledger, is so that they can then be presented in Sarawak Report(s) as if they were credible commentaries written by established journalists in the United States. We can show that in fact the writers of these articles are not established journalists, but rather PR writers hired by Taib.
For example, the New Ledger/Sarawak Report(s) writer, Rachel Motte, pens articles attempting to belittle Clare Rewcastle Brown’s lengthy career as an on-screen TV news reporter, parliamentary correspondent and investigative consumer correspondent for Sky TV and ITV in London, calling her “an obscure relative” of Gordon Brown. On the other hand Motte admits in her own blog that she herself is still “hoping” for a job in journalism.
Motte also confirms in her blog that, since ”beggars cannot be choosers”, she is meanwhile working on a project concerning Malaysia. The implication of her remarks (below) is that Motte has taken badly-paid work in Malaysia, which we can clearly see involves working on New Ledger/Sarawak Report(s) for Taib Mahmud.
A further team member on the New Ledger/Sarawak Report(s) assignment is another American called Christopher Badeaux. Badeaux has written a number of furious attacks on behalf of New Ledger clients, as if he was authoring unbiased and disinterested comment.
His articles like to claim that critics of corruption in Sarawak (specifically Clare Rewcastle) “want the people to live in grinding poverty” and “die at 40″. However, Mr Badeaux does not declare his interest in these articles, which is that he has been commissioned to write them by Taib, who therefore is paying him out of the fruits of that corruption.
Clare Rewcastle Brown, on the other hand, has confirmed that she has not received any income from any of her commentaries on Sarawak.
Time to declare Malaysian sponsorship
The matter raises a serious issue. Blogs are unregulated on the internet. However, those seeking respectability and a reputation for integrity, follow the accepted practice that any advertising or sponsorship should be openly declared. Despite this, New Ledger never admits these articles have been sponsored
To the contrary New Ledger promotes itself as a genuine American news site targeted at Americans, containing ”right of center opinion articles by free-market minded moderates, libertarians and conservatives”. Pretentiously, its mission statement claims:
“Our goal is to sift through the noise to bring your attention to the news you need and want, in order to better understand the times we live in.”
The site’s Wikipedia entry further states it is “an American web publication”and claims it is “not a political activism site”, although “articles are typically strongly opposed to President Barack Obama’s domestic and economic policies particularly criticizing the government takeovers of Chrysler and GM”.
What all of this fails to mention however, is that the bulk of New Ledger’s articles have little to do with matters of interest to local Americans, because they are largely focused on Malaysia, where so many of the articles are then reproduced!
Sarawak Report challenges the managers and writers of New Ledger/Sarawak Report(s) to publicly deny that they have been commissioned, either directly or indirectly, by Taib or other figures in BN to write articles about Malaysia. We also challenge Taib Mahmud to deny that he funds the articles (for which he would appear to be the sole target reader).
How earlier attacks on the former US Ambassador to Malaysia backfired
Taib has commissioned the American team in the hope that their ‘cyber-war’ attacks can change public opinion in his favour. However, such dirty tricks can often dangerously backfire.
Rachel Motte demonstrated this danger when one of her attacks went spectacularly wrong. Writing in New Ledger in February she defamed another senior public figure who had annoyed her Malaysian clients. This time it was the former US Ambassador to Malaysia, John Malott. Malott had questioned the Malaysian Government’s treatment of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim in the respected US publication The Wall Street Journal. In her enthusiasm to carry out her job of casting slurs against those whom she is paid to attack, Motte said this of the Ambassador in New Ledger:
”Now the question must be asked, why Malott chose to advance a negative and inaccurate picture of the country where he once served as Ambassador. The answer is a simple one that can be seen in his own hand. John Malott is a pet of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. A long defender of Ibrahim, Malott has taken to the press before in defense of a man who has been charged twice with sodomy, a serious crime in Malaysia, and who was convicted of corruption”.
This aggressive and unsubstantiated attack was quickly removed from New Ledger, in an embarrassing move made clearly under pressure. However, Sarawak Report can confirm that another BN sponsored blog for which Rachel Motte also supplies ‘articles’ continues to carry the offensive item.
Malaysia Watcher, which focuses on attacking PKR opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, is also run by the same dirty tricks team. Once again this site uploads articles that first appeared on New Ledger, to make it appear as if they reflect an aspect of mainstream opinion in the United States. Once again the whole exercise is nothing more than a dirty tricks campaign waged on the internet. There are a number of other similar blogs operated by the same team.
Yet more dirty tricks by Taib’s web team against Gordon Brown – Wikipedia
The web team hired by Taib have meanwhile also extended their dirty tricks to the Wikipedia online encyclopedia. Beginning on 30th March, shortly after their Sarawak campaign was launched, a single operator with the ID Yaya222010 carried out a series of malicious actions.
First, they created a Wikipedia entry for ‘Clare Rewcastle Brown’, focusing on Sarawak and on the false accusations made during the expenses scandal. This negative entry is full of links and referrences to the Taib-backed blog, Sarawak Report(s), encouraging browsers to read the defamation on that site.
Then on 16th April, the same operators left their fingerprints on a number of other maliciously motivated activities. That day they added and updated their attacks on the negative site they had created against Clare Rewcastle Brown and then went on to link a number of other sites to it. For example they added links from the Radio Free Sarawak Wikipedia site to their new creation.
Also on the same day, the same Yaya222010 went about altering the existing Wikipedia entry for Andrew Brown, husband to Clare Rewcastle Brown, in order to draw readers’ attention to the long discredited ‘cleaning’ stories, over which Brown had won a libel action back in 2009. Yaya222010 added content that repeated the substance of the libels and also created a new link from his site to the entry they had created against his wife Clare. They also added further links to Sarawak Report(s).
The clear purpose of this malicious activity was to lead readers to the conclusion that the long-since discredited and withdrawn allegations about Andrew Brown were in fact true, despite the substantial damages that that the Browns have already won. Taib’s web team clearly believe that they are shielded by anonymity.
The same dirty tricks were even played by the same operator on the same day on the Wikipedia website of the former UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. The history of the site shows that Yaya222010 went in to his site to create new links from his page to their Wikipedia entry about Clare Rewcastle Brown, where he is defamed.
That very same day Yaya222010 also linked Taib Mahmud’s own Wikipedia site to their entry on Clare Rewcastle Brown!
Other Wikipedia pages that were tampered with that day by the same people include site of the famous Malaysian opposition blogger, Raja Petra Kamarudin. Yaya222010 also linked his site to Sarawak Report(s) which attacks him also.
There can be little doubt that these activities have been part of a deliberately orchestrated and malevolant campaign to attack the author of Sarawak Report and that it is being paid for on behalf of Taib Mahmud.
Another expensive dirty trick, on which the Chief Minister’s web team spent what is likely to have been public money, was placing ads for their piggyback site on the google search page for Sarawak Report during the election period. This was presumably in the hope of confusing surfers into reading their fawning site supporting Taib, instead of the latest revelations on SR.
It would appear that Sarawakians were not fooled since during the election SR’s daily hits went up to 100,000 compared to negligible interest in the copycat site. This was, of course, despite the relentless barrage of hacking and distributed denial attacks that were unleashed by Taib’s “Cyber War Team” during this period.
Once again, we point out that this form of dirty tricks campaign is very expensive indeed, so from where was Taib getting the money to fund the series of Distributed Denial attacks on Sarawak Report? Was it his own modest salary? Was it a helpful business crony and if so what incentive had that crony been offered? or was it the Sarawak taxpayer and if so how could that be justified?
Vindication for Sarawak Report
Meanwhile, it has of course now been officially announced by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) that Taib is currently the subject of a formal investigation. That investigation will be to a considerable extent informed by the material publicised by this blog, none of which has been countered or disproved by Taib’s expensive ‘strategic media’ operation.