Editorial: This story originally appeared on the blog in late 2017. I decided to take it down after receiving a complaint. But in retrospect, I guess I will post it again.
I feel the story is potentially important for highlighting a counter-intuitive ‘dialectic of conspiracism’ between the legally and financially beleaguered left-leaning Newsweek magazine’s operations and right-wing nationalist figures close to Russia who operate(d) the conspiratorial pro-Russian, English-language publication ‘Russia Insider’ (which may itself connect the publication’s post-2014 resurgence to Kremlin strategy in Ukraine and their invasion of that country).
This may further give Newsweek’s operations and possible behind-the-scenes relationships with Russia similarity to those conducted by the KGB and World Council of Churches albeit today via the World Evangelical Alliance and Olivet University (not to mention the ‘Moonie’ parallels).
In addition, also see Newsweek’s status as a publicly left-of-center publication which was an early Bitcoin ‘finance hyper’ (cryptocurrency is traditionally considered to be right-wing conspiratorial) as another example of how it strangely may ‘play both sides’ — plausibly in service to Russia’s propaganda interests. It seems almost always when Newsweek has a ‘right wing’ connection, it will be a ‘clandestine’ one.
The LinkedIn-Newsweek story may be tinged by my own dislike for my former LinkedIn acquaintance Giles Raymond DeMourot — as well as the Newsweek reporter who wrote the story — but I think it is important to share this in the public interest since the ‘influence attempts’ which led to me taking it down consistently came from close to the Mueller-investigated firm: Wikistrat. This would be apparent in the press within only a few days of said attempts.
Many of the people from the LinkedIn story were banned from the site before and after the story broke. One even told me privately he had lost his security clearance in a honeypotting scandal.
Is it real? Does the history which connects Giles to a legacy of leftist (and even Communist politics) matter? Does the overlap with Aldrich Ames’ case matter? Does the history of Cold War ‘plants’ and seeming consistency with modern ‘fake’ personas connected to the story matter? You decide.
This is a piece based on personal experience. In August 2017, Newsweek ran a story about LinkedIn users being terrorized offline by Russian assets. I’ve seen this article bandied around a lot, and I have interacted with a lot of the characters involved. However, here I will present an argument that the Newsweek story should not be taken at face value, despite the very real threat of non-linear Russian information warfare and disinformation online.
Clearly the most concerning claim in the article was that the politically left-leaning American expat Giles Raymond DeMourot was assaulted in a supermarket near his French home in an ‘umbrella attack’ reminiscent of the Bulgarian assassination of dissident Georgi Markov at the height of the Cold War. The article claimed Giles had been attacked with a “wooden needle” “impregnated” with “carbapenem-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a potentially lethal superbug”. In the article it was implied that the bacteria was used as a biological weapon against Giles, a supposed former American diplomatic asset. (While he takes pains to say he was not CIA in this article, he had implied so to me previously that he came from an intelligence background in more than one private LinkedIn conversation when he “checked” to see if he could share some supposedly formerly classified/sensitive info with me. Initially this all struck me as quite unprofessional for a former intelligence agent, most of whom are notoriously tight-lipped.)
I am not a biologist, but my research shows that Pseudomonas aeruginosa is not a good candidate as a biological warfare agent because it really only affects people with compromised immune systems. It is one of the most common bacteria associated with pneumonia.
Mr. DeMourot is 70+ years of age and so certainly could be a candidate for a compromised immune system. Beyond this, there is no corroborating evidence of an actual “umbrella attack” against him, or a “wooden needle” which he was attacked with. He did have a doctor’s note about “splinters” though which came from an “external” source. Newsweek apparently saw this as evidence fit to print of an analogy with one of the Cold War’s most notable assassinations. The story did not include any references to other witnesses to the supposed attack, or a police report.
Well, if Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a common bacteria in the environment associated with infections, and you get a splinter, and you’re old or otherwise immune compromised — there is simply a good chance you’ll get an infection. That seems like a bit of parsimony to me. More reasonable anyway than assuming a Russian conspiracy to carry out an assassination using what would be a relatively ineffective method…
The threat of Russian information warfare is real, and spillover into the real world is real, but in my opinion there is more to Mr. DeMourot than meets the eye and the Newsweek story is seemingly poorly-sourced in this respect; though I have little doubt about the truth of what the other people who are quoted said.
Perhaps I have a bit of disdain for Giles because he blocked me from communication with him when I questioned him about his inconsistencies. In conversations with me, he has vigorously defended Orson Welles (who he says he knew personally) against claims he was a Russian asset, as well as emphatically denied Putin was the first leader to contact Bush on 9/11, and claimed Alexander Litvinenko was wrong that Ayman Al-Zawahiri had been trained by Russia.
With the exception of my personal beliefs on Orson Welles, the Putin-Bush and Litvinenko claims are backed by basic facts in the press. Of course accepting these facts would indicate Russia had some kind of involvement in 9/11. (According to my records, Giles did helpfully recommend I publish my findings in the ‘Journal of Imbecilities’. Touche.)
All this opposition to novel theories on Russian information warfare, despite Giles being one of the loudest voices about Russian information conspiracies online, and a clearinghouse for every Trump:Russia collusion story out there during the campaign (the exception to this would be his distinct downplaying of the Steele Dossier). And to top it off, while being an encyclopedic source of knowledge on Trump:Russia collusion, he quickly descended into influence tactics like shaming and ad-hominem attacks when confronted with inconvenient truths. Eventually rather than address any of these inconsistencies, including my questions about whether he was actually a Russian troll, Giles blocked me.
The first way I came to meet Giles was because I had posted a comment critical of Russian information warfare on LinkedIn. DeMourot approached me with a “Russia Insider” ( https://russia-insider.com/en/politics/hating-russia-trolls-ipredators-inhabit-linkedin/ri15931) article which he showed as proof of the troubles he and his clique were facing online from Russia-friendly assets.
Nobody I know has ever met Giles. Have you? He claims to use a different name than when he was a professional (where he apparently advised the far-left Socialist government of Francois Mitterand, which was notable for its employ of Communists). How can we trust anything he says?
All of this left me wondering if there was more to Giles than meets the eye. Did he just tell tall tales or did he have an agenda? Another LinkedIn acquaintance I met offline in Dublin (who never met Giles in person but is a big believer in him) told me that Giles had been the “architect of two major wars”, certainly lending credence to the former “full of merde” theory. Others had followed up his claims about work in intelligence agencies, but the people there claimed to have never met Giles (and this source had worked in that agency).
Is Giles Raymond DeMourot an online PLANT ???
There is a nearly slavish devotion to the idea of Giles and his crew among some folks, and it seems at this point to be a purely psycho-social phenomenon. I suppose it is based on nothing but the collective public fascination with intelligence agencies and the fancy of feeling important by aligning oneself with one. I cannot otherwise understand the reflexive protection for – and belief in – someone nobody has even met and who has such a dubious background and apparent agenda to influence.
In my opinion, Giles, much like a suspicious email, text, or phone call — needs a “two factor” authentication to prove to me his persona (not his person) is not some similar digital deception or “spoof” (perhaps based on available historical information, WikiLeaks, etc.). He has given me too many reasons on a personal level to doubt his integrity.
LinkedIn is easily one of the most troll-free large public communities you’ll find online; some of this perhaps due to the fact that users are pressured to use a real identity. Though it isn’t perfect, it is still a lot better controlled than the memetic battlegrounds of Facebook or Reddit. Moreover we have seen Russia take out aggression on LinkedIn by banning it in Russia. This can only be seen as evidence that “Russia and LinkedIn don’t get along”.
LinkedIn has simply been silencing people exacerbating the situation, which is reasonable given they are a company up against a nation-state, and would probably legitimately like to provide their services to Russian customers again someday. LinkedIn’s actions have been COMPLETELY reasonable from a business perspective (although I feel some of their bans have been regrettable / shortsighted).
Giles and his friends continue to lead a campaign against LinkedIn’s banning of figures close to their movement contemporaneous to the site being banned in Russia, with a narrative alleging that LinkedIn is favorable to Russia. Is something going on?