For weeks, the China Daily and other top Chinese news organizations have been reporting on “secret meetings” between Hong Kong democracy advocates and US organizations such as the Washington, DC-based National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and its subsidiary, the National Democratic Institute.
The “secret meetings,” which have actually been reported routinely in Hong Kong’s press, supposedly have been uncovered by what is described as an authoritative and respected Bangkok-based researcher named Tony Cartalucci. The problem is that as nearly as can be told, there is no such person as Tony Cartalucci. And what “Cartalucci” appears to have done is to have created a chain of biased or bogus online stories that travel in a circle from Bangkok to Moscow to Beijing to Hong Kong in an effort to discredit the Occupy Central movement.
“Tony Cartalucci” is believed to be a pseudonym made up by Michael Pirsch, who in an abbreviated biography on the website Truthout.com, describes himself as a former “union activist and union organizer for more than 25 years and a DJ on Berkeley Liberation Radio, a pirate radio station” who now lives “as an economic refugee from the United States in Thailand.”
Repeated efforts to contact Pirsch/Cartalucci by email at his Bangkok blog “Land Destroyer” and to his personal email address failed to elicit a reply. Land Destroyer is published not only in English but Arabic, Russian and Thai, indicating a considerable amount of resources.
The leaders of Occupy Central have reacted to Cartalucci/Pirsch’s allegations with irritation, saying they are perfectly capable of running their own protest and they don’t need advice or funding from US agencies.
However, in recent days Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has picked up the allegations, telling reporters that “it is not entirely a domestic movement, for external forces are involved.” He will identify the “external forces” when the time is right, he said. Pro-government politicians Regina Ip and Starry Lee, both stalwarts of the Establishment, have made reference to an “online source” for the rumors and Cartalucci’s allegations have been widely circulated within Hong Kong’s police force and repeated by Lau Nai-keung, a leader of the anti-Occupy movement and frequent commentator in the South China Morning Post.
If indeed Leung and the others are depending on Cartalucci/Pirsch’s reporting, there is plenty of it, a lot of it recycled to Moscow through a website called New Eastern Outlook, a propaganda outlet of the Russian Institute of Oriental Studies, a division of the Russian Academy of Sciences. New Eastern Outlook, where Cartalucci is a prolific writer, delivers a daily menu of reports charging the West with a long string of terrible things. On Oct. 25, for instance, the site intimated that the British SAS special forces are behind the ISIS beheadings of British and American hostages, that the US is lying in various permutations about the Ebola virus, that it is a “documented fact” (by Cartalucci) that the US is behind ISIS, that the young Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai “was set up…as a part of a propaganda ploy by British news network, the BBC.”
Other Cartalucci articles are cycled through GlobalResearch, a leftist Canadian website that, for instance, reported on Oct. 1 that “as the US admitted shortly after the so-called Arab Spring began spreading chaos across the Middle East that it had fully funded, trained, and equipped both mob leaders and heavily armed terrorists years in advance, it is now admitted that the US State Department through a myriad of organizations and NGOs is behind the so-called Occupy Central protests in Hong Kong.”
That is news to the US State Department, which as nearly as we can see has never made any such assertions.
In Cartalucci’s eyes, as reported in Land Destroyer, GlobalResearch and New Eastern Outlook, “The goal of the US in Hong Kong is clear – to turn [Hong Kong] into an epicenter of foreign-funded subversion with which to infect China’s mainland more directly.”
The Congressionally funded National Endowment for Democracy, which assists a myriad of civil society groups including some in Hong Kong, is a favorite target of pro-Beijng and pro-Moscow conspiracy theorists but in fact its budget is modest and it constantly battles to maintain its funding.
New Eastern Outlook’s current home page has a story saying, “Protesters of the ‘Occupy Central’ movement in Hong Kong shout familiar slogans and adopt familiar tactics seen across the globe as part of the United States’ immense political destabilization and regime change enterprise. Identifying the leaders, following the money, and examining Western coverage of these events reveal with certainty that yet again, Washington and Wall Street are busy at work to make China’s island of Hong Kong as difficult to govern for Beijing as possible.”
Cartalucci identifies all of Occupy Central’s leaders as stalking horses for the US. Tackling one of the lead organizers of the movement, he writes, “Benny Tai regularly attends US State Department, National Endowment for Democracy [NED] and its subsidiary the National Democratic Institute [NDI] funded and/or organized forums. Martin Lee, Jimmy Lai, and [Cardinal] Joseph Zen are all confirmed as both leaders of the ‘Occupy Central’ movement and collaborators with the US State Department.
“Martin Lee, founding chairman of the Democratic Party in Hong Kong, would even travel to the United States this year to conspire directly with NED as well as with politicians in Washington.”
Although Cartalucci describes the meetings by Lee and former Hong Kong Chief Secretary Anson Chan as “secret,” they have been widely reported in Hong Kong’s press including the South China Morning Post and Chinese-language papers.
Cartalucci has other targets as well. He is a staunch defender of the Thai army’s coup and In 2013, he excoriated Thomas Fuller of the New York Times for allegedly showing bias towards the forces controlled by Thailand’s fugitive billionaire Thaksin Shinawatra, but adds: “I admit it is difficult for a journalist employed by the NYT to write a story that doesn’t conform to the narrative of the US Empire… Thaksin allowed torture centers to be operated by the Empire, and he sent Thai troops to fight in Iraq. Both decisions are unpopular in Thailand. Therefore, the protestors must be misrepresented and their goals ridiculed.”
On the Truthout website, he also took after former Reuters correspondent Andrew MacGregor Marshall, the author of an authoritative new book on the Thai kingdom, alleging he was too closely connected to Robert Amsterdam, Thaksin’s London-based lawyer. Marshall forced him into a retraction.
Also listed on Land Destroyer’s website is Nile Bowie, described as “an independent journalist and political analyst based in Kuala Lumpur” whose articles “have appeared in numerous international publications, including regular columns with Russia Today and newspapers such as the Global Times, the Malaysian Reserve and the New Straits Times.” Bowie is also described as a researcher with the International Movement for a Just World, an NGO based in Kuala Lumpur and founded by activist professor Chandra Muzzafar.
But as with Cartalucci in Bangkok, few people in the small journalistic community of Kuala Lumpur appear to have ever heard of Nile Bowie despite his description of himself as a journalist, leading to questions whether Bowie’s name is a nom de plume as well. His affiliation with Global Times, however, puts him in company with the most virulently anti-western English-language publication in China
From Nile Bowie:
An article recently appeared on the Asia Sentinel by John Berthelsen titled, ‘Conspiracy Oracle Backs Beijing from Bangkok’, which briefly mentions me in relation to blogger Tony Cartalucci. I don’t appreciate how I was characterized in the piece, and I don’t see any reason why I was mentioned. I do not write under a pseudonym, and since the author of the piece failed to do basic research about me, I will use this opportunity to set the record straight.
I have never met Tony Cartalucci. My articles and blog posts appeared on his widely read blog on the occasions where we agreed on certain issues in 2012 and even less in 2013. I personally disagree with the way Cartalucci characterizes certain issues, which at times is highly reductionist and lacking analytical nuance. I feel that is particularly true with his recent articles about Hong Kong.
I rarely contribute to Cartalucci’s blog, and I’ve repeatedly asked him to remove my name from the contributor list because I don’t feel that listing me is warranted. I have written about the Hong Kong protests from my own perspective, which you would also disagree with. I also take issue with Western democracy promotion through NGOs, however I believe my articles focus on the broader picture of Hong Kong’s demographics, and the substance of the Basic Law. I take a sympathetic prospective toward the protests, which are clearly rooted in very legitimate grievances.
However, I don’t think it’s warranted for protestors to disrupt order for such a prolonged period when there is a notable lack of consensus among Hong Kongers on this issue. I have worked as a freelance journalist in Malaysia for the past two years. I write editorials, some of which have appeared in the New Straits Times and other publications that you would discredit.
I believe in the plurality of opinion, and we are equally entitled to it. I understand that my name appears on the Land Destroyer website, but my articles on the subject have not. I don’t see how your mention of me adds any substance your the article. It is only used to cast doubt on the credibility of those who have a different position on this issue.
I am a young journalist, much like yourself once, who is keen to understand these significant developments. With persistence, I believe my name could one day be at least as well known as yours in Kuala Lumpur’s small journalistic community.
From John Berthelsen: If you are a young journalist keen get your name recognized as legitimate, you had better ask Tony Cartalucci to remove all of your posts from his site.