Authors: Raffaele Riccardo Buccolo and Leonardo Delfanti
Digital Communication Network (DCN) Global
Summary of the article:
- Who is Marcello Foa?
- What does international direction stand for?
- Why is it an error to identify Aileen Getty’s face with the Getty family
- The Climate Emergency Fund and the organizations it supports
- The voice of Ultima Generazione
- No evidence of KGB-like mental manipulation patterns but only a common purpose, as CEF psychologist Salamon explains
Italy has proved particularly vulnerable to recent climate crises threatening the future of the country’s economic and cultural system that makes beauty and its exaltation the backbone of its image abroad. In an atmosphere of increasing tension and mistrust, movements such as Extinction Rebellion and Ultima Generazione have begun to gather more and more support, especially among young people and academics, the two bands of society that are the least represented by the Italian political elite.
In this article, we will analyse a new narrative related to environmental activism. “An international direction behind the eco-vandals: they use the same techniques as the KGB”, published by Il Giornale, one of the twenty most widely read newspapers. The interview was done on the occasion of the launch of the book Il sistema (in)visibile by Marcello Foa. Thanks to a series of accusations ranging from the use of hidden funds to the techniques of mental manipulation of the KGB, it aims to bring labels such as vandalism and green violence to Ultima Generazione. The evidence, however, shows that the information in the article is so summarised and inaccurate to the point of creating an image that can be disinformative.
Who is Marcello Foa?
Long time into Il Giornale and former director of RAI, the Italian Marcello Foa, has recently published a book entitled Il Sistema (In)Visibile. Perché non siamo più padroni del nostro destino, in which he wants to demonstrate how supranational entities in modern times nullify the decision-making power once held by Western democracies.
Foa, whose figure has also been the subject of an analysis by the British newspaper The Guardian, appears among the names in the 2020 report Cogito Ergo Sum by the Italian Openpolis, an independent foundation working on transparency and democratic participation through the creation of free and open databases for citizens.
Cogito Ergo Sum aims to reveal the political role of think tanks and political associations to understand their influence on Italian power dynamics better. According to Openpolis, the reasons for such interdependencies are to be sought “on the one hand because they are part of think tanks, foundations and political associations accredited in the fields of power certain figures, on the other because the structures surveyed trying to increase their influence by appointing internally people who are already in positions of economic power and public administration”.
In the case of Marcello Foa, Vice-President of the eurosceptic a/symmetry think tank until December 2018, It is interesting to analyze how his professional figure is strongly linked to the party of the League and how his resignation occurred following the promulgation of the law “Spazza Corrotti” (Sweeps Corrupt) of late 2018, criticised as too easy to circumvent.
A/simmetrie was founded in 2013 by the economist and Leghist MP Alberto Bagnai. Foa and Bagnai (former president of the finance committee of Palazzo Madama) led the association intending to study economic asymmetries in the context of the eurozone crisis.
Foa became president of RAI as a Eurosceptic sovereignist after a long career as a Moscow correspondent. In this capacity, in 2015, Foa declared that “since the fall of communism, Russia has done nothing to be a geostrategic problem”. His name is so well known to many Italian debunkers that VICE dedicates an article titled “Hoaxes and Sovereignism: 10 tweets to meet the new president of RAI”.
Several articles describe the former RAI director as loyal to Matteo Salvini, Minister of the current Italian government accused of having obtained illicit funds from Russia to destabilise the eurozone. Foa was also criticised for putting his son on the staff of “The Beast”, the social propaganda machine of the Lega.
What does international direction stand for?
The analysed article, “An international direction behind the eco-vandals: they use the same techniques of the KGB”, was published on January 11, 2023, by Il Giornale, one of the leading newspapers of liberal orientation in Italy.
The reference to an “international direction” suggests to the reader the manipulation and subversion of the environmental cause destabilise national security.
In particular, it should be noted that many governments, including the Italian one, are adopting coercive techniques to suppress movements that often affect heterogeneous sections of the population precisely because of their strictly territorial nature. For example, this is the case with recent ministerial decrees to increase sentences for those participating in demonstrations.
The first element which strikes the reader is the decision to link the Italian environmental movements to the semantics of armed street gangs. The author talks about “eco-vandals” and “ultrà environmentalists” whenever he refers to climate activism. The choice would seem to suggest a violent narrative and legitimate criticism of the Italian environmental movements.
Why is it an error to identify Aileen Getty’s face with the Getty family
When a reporter writes, “The funding comes from Getty, from Disney,” it is assumed that this shows a precise, clear, data-driven vision. Yet, again, we are confronted with evidence that needs more data in a form that lacks substance.
It is necessary to perform a meticulous operation which requires an analysis on several levels, which needs to be included in this article. First, by taking it for granted and building an assumption that the entire Getty family is acting and will act in a controversial manner and out of self-interest, we are not only creating a severe cognitive bias, but we are nurturing a label based on no evidence.
Here you can learn more about the figures that make up the Getty family. In this interview, it is said that the A22 network’s finances come, in part, from this family. This is not true. Financial resources come from the Climate Emergency Fund (CEF) where, among others, there is Aileen Getty, daughter and heiress of the American oil family Getty who has devoted a large part of her heritage and her life to supporting dozens of human and social rights battles. It’s important to list some of them in order to understand why oil interests are distant from the intentions and actions of heiress Aileen Getty.
Aileen Getty is an American philanthropist, activist and socialite who has dedicated herself to many charitable and advocacy battles over the years. She has actively advocated HIV/AIDS research and treatment, LGBT rights and mental health promotion. She also founded the AIDS Foundation in Los Angeles and has been involved in other organisations such as Project Angel Food, the LGBT Center in Los Angeles and the National Alliance on Mental Health. It is so clear that the claim that climate activists are behind “the economic interests of the Getty family” is false.
The Climate Emergency Fund and the organisations it supports
The Climate Emergency Fund (CEF) is a philanthropic organisation founded in 2019 to support a wide range of efforts to address the urgent threat of climate change. The fund is focused on providing financial support to organisations and initiatives working to accelerate the transition to an economy.
After a careful semantically analysis of the texts of CEF’s site, we believe that the phrase “Mass recruitment” highlighted in the article of the newspaper can be born after a superficial reading of the following text on the site of the CEF: “Hundreds of meetings on and offline have to be organised in a systematic way to recruit people to engage in the campaigns of civil disobedience”. We hypothesise that this may have induced the interviewee to activate a false cognitive bias concerning the word “mass recruitments” and “to recruit people”. However, it all refers to the critical activities that the centre supports in dozens of countries worldwide involving thousands of people.
In this link, it is possible to read the Aileen Getty foundation 2020 charitable distribution report. As shown on page 11, funding for $1,867,000 was distributed over five influential organisations: the Africa Foundation, the amfAR Foundation for AIDS Research, The Center for Books Arts and The Climate Mobilization Project.
Climate Mobilization project – U.S Emergency declarations 2017-2021
CEF was founded just a few months after the creation of the movement Fridays for the Future, born from the 2018 protests triggered by the young Greta Thunberg outside of the Swedish Riksdag (parliament), holding a sign with the phrase “Skolstrejk för klimatet” (“School strike for climate”).
The activity of the Climate Emergency Fund is dedicated to an article entitled “Aileen Getty and Rory Kennedy lead the New Climate Fund to support activists and protesters” of The Chronicle of Philanthropy. These movements will lead to growing awareness and information from the world population and political elites who will increasingly introduce the word “climate” and “climate change” into their agendas. Below you can see the high progress of research on global warming in Italy from 2018.
As can be seen from the website, their board is formed by film producers, philanthropists, scientists and psychologists. Among the consultants is Bill McKibben, author and environmentalist winner of the Right Livelihood Award. This international award annually identifies prominent personalities who “offer practical and exemplary answers to the most urgent challenges we face today”. Bill is also one of the founders of 350.org, the first global climate change movement, which has organised twenty thousand rallies worldwide, and the first to have supported the rapidly growing fossil fuel divestment movement.
Here, here and here are some of the profiles of scientists, environmentalists and climate activists who today actively support non-violent advocacy activities to raise awareness about the reduction of hyper-consumer actions that lead to projections of catastrophic activities.
One internal voice in the Ultima Generazione
To look internally at the movements, we reached a spokesperson of Ultima Generazione. This organisation is part of the 11 realities of the A22 network funded by the CEF and accused in the article by Andrea Indini.
According to their spokesperson, it is wrong to identify the CEF as the only financier of Last Generation, information that can be deduced from the article in the analysis since “there are companies that for years have dedicated part of their profits to finance those who act on these issues, Patagonia for example. Moreover, those of us who have an income and can afford it participate freely in financing the expenses of the campaigns”.
It is also wrong to say climate activists are a means to achieve global destabilisation because, as confirmed by the internal contact in ultima Generazione, they are almost always movements that already exist to finance themselves and receive donations from different organisations. In the case of the Last Generation, the A22 network was joined only in April 2022 after attracting attention to the actions carried out at the PreCop of October 2021 with efforts of roadblocks and contamination.
As for how operations are devised, “there are no guidelines. There is a vision of what can be effective and each group experiences and shares what worked for them. But that is not said to work in other countries”.
This shows that the line is not dictated from above, as Marcello Foa tries to demonstrate in the article when he speaks of “international direction”, but is the result of the creativity and intuition of individual groups of local activism.
No evidence of KGB-like mental manipulation patterns but only a common purpose, as CEF psychologist Salamon explains.
The article cites the former secret agent about the association with the KGB. Bezmenov was among the first to show the functioning and operating methods of the techniques of social destabilisation that the Russian KGB carried out in the 1980s.
According to Bezmenov’s theory, the KGB sought to destabilise western democracies through various tactics, including media manipulation, promoting identity policy and social division, and infiltrating educational institutions and other cultural centres.
According to Salamon, board director of CEF, it is not a question of approving the actions of activism groups but of collecting the results: “these approaches bring results”, she says. The psychologist also wants to associate the attention to issues related to climate change that the protests have gathered in the world with the approval last year of the Inflation Reduction Act 2022, a law that will go to collect 738 billion dollars which 391 billion dollars in spending on energy and climate change. Here you can see all the programs with their allocated budgets.
Foa’s interview is misleading and misinformative because there is no evidence of illegal lobbying, destabilisation and correlation to the KGB’s social manipulation dynamics.
This publication has been funded by the European Union under the project FENCE “Building resilience for safeguarding political debates in EU Southeast frontiers”, Agreement number LC-01682257. The publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.