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By John Helmer, Moscow

Marcus Kolga,  author of a new Canadian report claiming “Russian influence operations” threaten the minds of Canadian voters and “digitally illiterate” Canadian children has a Nazi grandfather problem just like Canada’s deputy prime minister, Chrystia Freeland.

Freeland’s grandfather, Mikhail Chomiak from Lvov, Ukraine, was a paid spy and propagandist of the German Army and occupation authority in Poland and Ukraine during World War II; that is according to Polish police, US Army, Canadian and Ukrainian records. They report he stole an apartment, a printing press, antiques, and a car from Jews whose murder in a nearby concentration camp Chomiak promoted in his publications. He also supported the liquidation of Russians and Poles.    

Kolga’s grandfather, Eduard Kolga, born in Estonia, was a volunteer with anti-Soviet, pro-German Estonians in the Forest Brothers movement (Metsavennad) which fought with the Germans against  Soviet forces during World War II and in the years following the defeat of the Wehrmacht and of Germany.    Eduard Kolga spent part of the war in a Russian prison camp from which he claims to have escaped in 1942 and to have returned to Estonia. What he did in collaboration with the Germans for the two years remaining before they were forced out by the Russians, and what he then did in Estonia until 1951, remain undisclosed by his grandson Marcus, who has made a documentary film about him.

Eduard Kolga arrived with his wife and two sons in Halifax, Canada, in 1951; his grandson Marcus was born in Toronto in 1973.  In the latter’s Wikipedia profile he identifies Canada as a geographic location for him to conduct Estonian business, and himself as “an Estonian journalist and political scientist in Canada.”

Both grandfather and grandson have played active roles in the Estonian diaspora in Canada. Both have represented the same virulent Russia hatred as Chomiak and Freeland have in the Ukrainian diaspora. Chomiak and Freeland and the two Kolgas have advocated war against Russia as Canadian policy for the benefit of their countrymen in the Ukraine and Estonia, and for the advancement of themselves in Canada. Both Freeland and Kolga are named on the Russian Foreign Ministry list of Canadians banned from entering Russia.

“I had two death sentences issued against me by the Soviets because I fought with the Forest Brothers (Metsavennad), a partisan group battling against the Soviet invaders,” Kolga senior acknowledged in his grandson’s 2005 documentary.  What he did as an anti-Russian partisan after the Wehrmacht retreated from the Red Army,   he has not acknowledged publicly, and his grandson has not reported.

Although Marcus “doesn’t speak Estonian properly”, according to a fellow Estonian,   he has made  a career as a leader of the Central Council of Estonians in Canada,   and in Canadian government-financed research as an expert on Russia.

But Kolga isn’t an expert on Russia. What Kolga says is that he is paid by Canadian think tanks with funding from Canadian, US, and other government agencies to target Russia for information warfare — his war against theirs.  

“In 2007”, he recently wrote, “Russia tested its new information and cyber capabilities by targeting Estonia… Since then the Russian government and its proxies have meddled in over a dozen elections worldwide…including the 2016 US presidential election. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Russian information operations amplified and promoted vaccine hesitancy and anti-lockdown narratives in Canada… There is growing that Russia ramped up its information operations as it ordered military buildup along its western border… in the latter half of 2012.”

Kolga is an information warfare soldier against Russia; a mercenary because he is paid to fight. Financing him are the “research partners” he lists on his website, Disinfowatch.org, led by the US Embassy in Ottawa;  the State Department’s Global Engagement Center;  a NATO agency in Riga, Latvia; the European Union;  and state-funded think tanks in Lithuania, Czech Republic, and Sweden, which report in turn their funding by US, Estonian, British,  and other NATO government agencies.

Follow the fighter to his paymaster, and you will understand what the fight is for. Follow the fighter to his grandfather, and you will understand this is a blood feud.

Marcus Kolga has revealed almost nothing about his birthplace, his education, or his employment – until he became an expert on Russian disinformation financed by the anti-Russian government coalition. In 2019, a more detailed account of Kolga’s career followed the publication of a report by Kolga, sponsored by the Canadian think tank, the Macdonald-Laurier Institute.  The history of Eduard Kolga in the Forest Brotherhood wasn’t known at the time.   

Left: For a report on the propaganda warfighting role of state-financed think tanks, click to read. Centre: Marcus Kolga; Right: Eduard Kolga (1914-2007). Kolga Senior was 27 when joined the Forest Brotherhood to fight against the Russians. In this obituary film about his life, there are no photographs or references to that decade-long period from 1941 to 1951, no mention of the Forest Brotherhood or the Germans in Estonia. According to Marcus Kolga, “many citizens, primarily men, fled into the woods and swamps to hide from Soviet authorities as did my grandfather and his brothers. In order to survive, they were compelled to liberate food and other materials from known communists and soviet collaborators.”  Estonian collaborators with the German Army and the SS, and officials who ordered the murder of Estonian Jews, communists, Russians, and gypsies were not prosecuted after the war.  In Eduard Kolga’s version, the Russians were the enemies of Estonia, and Kolga’s arrest and imprisonment in Russia in 1941-42 unexplained. Click to watch.

Watch Kolga’s 2005 film about Eduard Kolga here.  This obituary film of 2014 was more revealing than the earlier one; it has been viewed 103 times.

Marcus Kolga lists his current employment as a senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute in Ottawa. This think tank draws just over C$3 million in annual revenue from corporations, foundations and government agencies. It then pays small stipends to a large group of senior fellows – less than C$30,000 for Kolga per annum.   Kolga’s Disinfowatch website is his second source of employment. The site reports that its team has one member – Kolga. He lists its sources of income in this table:

Source: https://disinfowatch.org/about/  

 The Global Enagement Center (GEC) at the State Department is currently getting $150 million in annual budget “in order to counter propaganda and disinformation from countries like China and Russia, as well as foreign non-state actors, as part of the United States Innovation and Competition Act of 2021 (S. 1260). This authorization more than doubles the amount Congress appropriated for the GEC in FY21”.  According to one of its congressional sponsors, the GEC “is not really doing sort of direct counter propaganda work. They’re going out and you know, making sure that independent journalists and truth tellers, and folks who are rooting out propaganda have the support to do so.”  Kolga qualifies for State Department funding as an “independent truth teller”.

He’s not the only one behind the new report, titled “Enemy of my Enemy: Russian weaponization of Canada’s farright and far left to under mine support to Ukraine.” The report was published on March 30.    It has not been published by the MacDonald-Laurier Institute;  in its press releases for March and April, the think tank has not referred to it at all. Instead, on March 28, the think tank published a news release reporting Kolga as announcing “the growing threat of Russian information operations against Japan.”  It says it was paid for by the Japan Foundation.  The Taiwan government also pays the think tank to produce reports and commentaries for the Canadian press on what Kolga has called “Chinese interference in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections”.  

The publisher of record of Kolga’s Russian disninformation report turns out to be the Centre for Artificial Intelligence, Data and Conflict (CAIDAC)   and an entity calling itself Digital Public Square.   The second of these doesn’t say where its money comes from;  CAIDAC is more revealing.

“We created CAIDAC to pioneer the AI [Artificial Intelligence] tools necessary to analyze the weaponizing of social media,” the group’s website claims.   “The idea of CAIDAC and its mission was born from our experience living in communities affected by violence and civil war. We watched as social media transformed how armed groups recruited, fundraise, and terrorized global audiences in ways unimaginable only a few years ago.” Based in Regina, western Canada, CAIDAC also conceals its money. But it identifies five co-founders —   Laura Courchesne, Denilson Barbosa, Brian McQuinn, Cody Buntain, and Matthew Taylor.

Buntain says he is a junior US academic with a mission to make “the online information ecosystem a more informative, higher-quality space and enhancing its resilience to manipulation.”   Buntain sells this through a four-year old consulting company called Bunta.in LLC. He has also been employed by the US arms manufacturer Raytheon and a Pentagon-funded research consultancy called Giant Oak Inc.

Another of the CAIDAC founders is Brian McQuinn. He says he was in Libya collecting field intelligence during the NATO operation to overthrow and kill Muammar Qaddafi. McQuinn claims he was researching “in Misrata, Libya from July 2011 to March 2012. He investigated the genesis and evolution of the 236 fighting groups that emerged during the uprising in Misrata.”  Misrata (Misurata) was the sector of the anti-Qaddafi operation run by the British military and intelligence services from Malta and from Italy and Cyprus.  This was code-named Operation ELLAMY.   McQuinn’s commencement date indicates he was dropped into Misrata when British naval and airforce units were  attacking Libyan army units there.  MI6 operations at the time to penetrate the anti-Qaddafi rebel units in the area have been partially disclosed here.  

According to McQuinn,  his Libya research was paid out of a $3 million grant from a British government research fund,  from C$40,000 from the Canadian government, and $85,000 from the Berghof Foundation. This is a Berlin channel for the German, Swiss, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish foreign ministries  

Another source of money and advice for Kolga’s new report is acknowledged by CAIDAC to be Max Schmeiser. He’s a Canadian from Regina, who has been employed as a data management expert at Twitter, then Netflix.  

Another of the founders at CAIDAC, Denilson Barbosa,  is selling his research  through a California commercial start-up called Diffbot  Diffbot has announced it makes its money in “an official partnership with the European Journalism Centre to combat fake news. The company is the only other US company aside from Microsoft and Google to crawl and index the entire web to create its Knowledge Graph.” The European Journalism Center is paid for by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, George Soros, Google and several German foundations.  

Top left: Brian McQuinn in Libya during the war run by the US and NATO military and intelligence services against Muammar Qaddafi .  Top right: Max Schmeiser, one of the “generous supporters” of the CAIDAC  study. Schmeiser has worked at the US Federal Reserve Board, Amazon, and Twitter. He is currently in charge of “content and studio data science” at Netflix.   Below: Left: Denilson Barbosa. Right: Diffbot, a California company which has been financing CAIDAC to report on Russian propaganda.  According to Barbosa’s Twitter account, he supports a “Diffbot team to automatically track sanction responses related to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. We are using the Diffbot Knowledge Graph and the Diffbot Natural Language API for this.”  

The 23-page report says that six months were spent investigating 200,000 Twitter accounts to find 48, then 90 “most influential accounts”. These formed the core of the “supportive ecosystem…amplifying pro-Russian narratives in Canada”.  The calculation of this “ecosystem” reportedly “use[d] various methods such as mapping all accounts that retweeted the most influential accounts at different points in time.” The report claims “network mapping software” was used to identify the “most influential accounts”, but this isn’t explained. Instead, Kolga made the selection with McQuinn and the others subjectively. “Our analysts were familiar with most accounts, having tracked Russian influence operations in Canada for the last three years”.

“Russian influence”, “Russian influence narratives”, “Russian-aligned posts” and “active pro-Putin narratives” were selected  out of the Twitter stream for communicating the following  ideas, messages, or opinions:

The report adds that “there are also narratives of eroding trust in Canada’s democratic institutions.” Exactly what the investigators meant by this is not defined.

Also according to Kolga, “Russian influence” was targeted if tweets mentioned Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and Canadian Army general Trevor Cadieu. “The most obvious examples include influence campaigns targeting specific Canadians. For example, one of the most consistent targets was Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland. The focus on Ms. Freeland is likely a result of her prominent role in the government, previous public support for Ukraine, and family ties to Ukraine. But it is also likely that Ms. Freeland is a target because of her potential candidacy as NATO’s next Secretary-General. Other examples include disinformation campaigns related to former Canadian General Trevor Kadier [misspelled] and other Canadians fighting in Ukraine.”

For more on Cadieu in the Ukraine, open the archive.  

The entire research turns out to start with Kolga’s personal targeting. “This method relies on conflict experts to identify prominent accounts in a network and then uses those accounts to map the broader ecosystem engaging with those accounts. The method differs from from other Canadian studies that relied on data sets identified by others or used key phrases or hashtags to identify content related to Russian disinformation.” In other words, Kolga decided in advance that the eight sentences were Russian disinformation, and his colleagues then used their computer software to produce colour coded,  dot and line illustration of “the Russian aligned ecosystem”.

Click to enlarge and view: https://www.tracesofconflict.com/_ – page 12.

This is a cartoon – there are no measurements of magnitude, reach, penetration, or audience size.

In fact, when the report reported on what it calls “the most active [Russian information] accounts – those driving much of the traffic – [they] are a tiny percentage of the ecosystem (far less than 1 percent). Within the supportive ecosystem of 200,000 Twitter accounts, 83.4 percent of the audience have fewer…1,318 followers.” Reading the texts which Kolga and CAIDAC pre-selected isn’t measured, and so there is no evidence of impact. The finding of how small the alleged Russian influence is in the “ecosystem” contradicts the theory with which Kolga and the research financiers started, and the conclusion they reach on the Russian “threat”.

Instead, they fabricate a distinction between “active” accounts and “passive” followers. In this way, they claim to have uncovered a Russian conspiracy. “One insight from this report… is how a small network of active pro-Putin acccounts can co-opt and engage passive followers. Without this tacit and usually unknowing support, such pro-Putin narratives would not be amplified in Canadian online spaces communities to the extent they are.”

To the evidence of how small the Russian propaganda reach is among Canadians, this is acknowledgement that the audience is “unknowing”. How an influence operation can be regarded as a threat when it is ignored by the audience is not explained in the report until it comes to the recommendations section. “It is especially crucial”,  Kolga  and his associates propose, “that children develop the necessary skills to inoculate them against information operations. The Canadian government should folliow the example of Finland and the Baltic states by indlcuding digital media literacy awareness in all school curricula from early childhood.”

This section of the report is illustrated by page-size photographs of damaged apartment buildings. Other illustrations include the muzzle and breach of a heavy weapon, a Ukrainian motherland statue,  a Ukrainian solider in Kharkov, and grid maps of Kiev.  

For additional analysis, read this report by Canadian lawyer and former Green Party politician Dimitri Lascaris.  

For the short-distance job or commute broadcast, click to listen to the broadcast discussion with Chris Cook starting at Minute 32:06:

Source: https://gorilla-radio.com

For the long-haul version, and for the fresh discussion of the impact of the new Pentagon Papers on the political survival of Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, listen to the full hour when it is posted tomorrow.  

Since October, Gorilla Radio has been banned from broadcasting by Radio CFUV 101.9 FM in Victoria, British Columbia. The Gorilla Radio transcripts are published on the blog.  For Chris Cook’s broadcast archive, click to open.

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