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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 28 May 2018

Facebook scandal takes new twist with campaigners Hitler comments

Parallels have long been drawn between Nigel Oakes and James Bond but the UAE-based veteran campaigner has now been pitched into spotlight

Nigel Oakes
Nigel Oakes

He has been dubbed the 007 of data analytics and once was pictured in the society pages as the boyfriend of Queen Elizabeth’s cousin.

Nigel Oakes has a track record of working in politics, psychological operations and media campaigns that stretches from post-Asian financial crisis Indonesia to conflict zones to African democracies and the last US presidential election.

Registrations with the British corporate register at Companies House list, Mr Oakes as based in the United Arab Emirates from where he has given addresses for subsidiaries of the Strategic Communications Laboratories (SCL) enterprises that he founded.

The manner in which he was trust into the spotlight on Tuesday added a new twist to the running saga of Cambridge Analytica, an SCL venture, which is alleged to have used Facebook data to assist the astonishingly effective campaign of Donald Trump to win the US presidency.

Emma Briant, an academic at University of Essex, submitted recordings to a House of Commons committee of discussions with Mr Oakes and Andy Wigmore, a British political campaigner, in which the parallels between Mr Trump’s campaign and methods Hitler were discussed.

“It’s the things that resonate, sometimes to attack the other group and know that you are going to lose them is going to reinforce and resonate your group,” said Mr Oakes. “Which is why, you know, Hitler, got to be very careful about saying so, must never probably say this, off the record, but of course Hitler attacked the Jews.

“He didn’t have a problem with the Jews at all, but the people didn’t like the Jews. So he just leverage[d] an artificial enemy. Well that’s exactly what Trump did. He leveraged a Muslim- I mean, you know, it’s - It was a real enemy. ISIS is a real, but how big a threat is ISIS really to America? Really, I mean, we are still talking about 9/11, well 9/11 is a long time ago.”

Mr Wigmore, who was one of the so-called “Bad boys of Brexit” along with the insurance salesman Arron Banks and Nigel Farage, the former leader of Ukip, and others, also brought up the topic.

“The propaganda machine of the Nazis, for instance – you take away all the hideous horror and that kind of stuff – it was very clever, the way they managed to do what they did,” he said. “In its pure marketing sense, you can see the logic of what they were saying, why they were saying it, and how they presented things, and the imagery.”

Damian Collins, the chair of the committee said the messaging was “extreme” around immigration. “These statements will raise concerns that data analytics was used to target voters who were concerned about this issue, and to frighten them with messaging designed to create ‘an artificial enemy’ for them to act against,” he said.

Mr Oakes did not comment on the material but Mr Wigmore said the discussion had been stripped of its historical context. He took to Twitter on Tuesday to demand a right of reply. “Damian you are an absolute liar - you should now call both Arron and I to your #FakeNews @CommonsCMS or do you not want to be shown up for the complete anti-Brexit fool you are,” he said.

A product of the elite English school Eton College, Mr Oakes moved into broadcasting and then campaigns. His dalliance with Lady Helen Windsor, the daughter of the Duke of Kent, the cousin of the Queen, was reported in the 1980s. A LinkedIn page under his name described him as an industry pioneer. “Nigel Oakes is a British political scientist whose ideas have laid the foundation for many significant developments both in military influence and population analysis,” it said.

Brittany Kaiser, a former SCL employee, describe the techniques as a crossover between military methods and politics in an appearance at the committee on Tuesday. She claimed the firm informed the British government it was using the tactics overseas.

“The methodology was considered a weapon, weapons-grade communications tactics, which means that we had to tell the British government if it was going to be deployed in another country outside the United Kingdom,” she said.