Reuters; A Lesson in Controlling the Narrative

Artwork by Jennifer Faust. More can be found on her Facebook Page

By Patrick Brogan

Knowledge is power, but there is a specific type of knowledge that holds real power. That is knowledge ordinary people cannot fathom even exists. The people that held this knowledge became very powerful indeed. In a sense, they can create a version of reality people buy into. While this version of reality may seem very real because it may have one or two elements of the truth it is false to its core.

People with this ability, those who could bend the truth the way a farrier can with a horseshoe, became very wealthy off of this cunning tactic. The era of the robber barons. Rockefeller, Morgan, Astor, Carnegie… it’s a long list. All of these men used information as a weapon to vastly increase their power in society. They were not the first to do so, but it came at a time when technology was taking a giant leap. To control this technology meant controlling vast swaths of the population.

What about a man whose organisation specialised in getting information? How powerful would he be? Powerful enough to control a country.

Israel Beer Josaphat

The man who would later become Baron von Reuter was born Israel Beer Josaphat in Kassel in 1816 and was a Rabbi’s son. He worked as a clerk in the banking industry under his uncle’s direction. He later married the daughter of a prominent banker and changed his name to Paul Julius Reuter and converted to Protestantism. While working under his uncle in Göttingen, he met the mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss when he was experimenting with electrography. This must have at least pricked the interest of the young man.

He found himself in Paris after leaving his native land because he spread democratic leaflets and would have ended up in trouble with the law had he stuck around. While in France, he became a translator for Agence Havas, later to become Agence France-Press, which was his first foray into the news agency world. This inspired him to set-up his own agency when he moved back to Germany and he had some degree of success.

When the Dover-Calais line was laid, he moved his operations to London in 1851. This would go on to be called Reuter’s Telegram Company Ltd. Eventually, it would become Reuters News Agency, but its first focus was on commercial telegrams. He later laid line down to the US. This led to a secret agreement between his old employer Havas, Wolff in Germany and then later Associated Press in Illinois, a secret news cartel. They divided up the news world between them with Reuters focusing on the British Empire.

He was later made a baron in Germany and this was eventually recognised in England, too. The company he set up would later become the largest satellite and cable company in the 21st Century. Why the need for information? Well, we have to go back to his roots in Germany.

Kassel

This is a historic town in central Germany. It has been the birthplace of kings and princes. The area also has an important connection with storytelling through its association with the Brothers Grimm. Another highly significant citizen of this town was the Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel. There was a number of these, but one, in particular, had a Court Jew that would go to impact on the future of global banking. Mayer Amschel, the patriarch of the Rothschild family. Relax, I’m not going to delve into the world of conspiracy theory.

The Rothschilds are an interesting family, though. One of the key reasons they rose to prominence was their ability to control information. There is the story of Nathan Rothschild knowing about the result of the Battle of Waterloo before anyone else in England through his network of spies and communication and then made a killing on the financial markets. Indeed, their own archive suggests this might be true as letters between the brothers in the months after mention this, so there is at least some truth to this story.

Certainly, growing up in this part of Germany at that time, Reuter would have been aware of the importance of controlling information. He might have even been inspired by the Rothschild mythology. One element would say he was; that is his own news agency he set-up when he returned to Germany from Paris. His agency used carrier pigeons to disseminate information between Aachen and Brussels. This was something that the Rothschild family were known for doing.

Iran

By the 17th Century, Iran had granted European colonial powers many rights including the use of their own weights and measurements and being tried by their own people if committing a crime, rather than the Iranian authorities. All on top of controlling the economy of what was then Persia. This continued on into Reuter’s own time and beyond, in fact, it was this craving up of Iran that led the toppling of the Shah and the rise of the Ayatollahs.

By time Nasser al-Din Shah Qajar was in power it was no different. In 1872, he was so broke, and corrupt, he effectively handed over power of Persia to Reuter for a few pieces of silver. The Reuter Concession as it came to be known was described as “the most complete grant ever made of control over its resources by any country to a foreigner” by Lord Curzon. So, how much control was he given? This should answer the question; “Baron Julius de Router (q.v.); for a period of seventy years he was to have the sole right to exploit most of Persia’s natural resources; to build dams, bridges, roads, railways, and factories; to farm the customs; and to exercise the first option should the government decide to establish a national bank.”

He controlled the industry and nearly all the means of production and if a central bank was created he got first dibs, meaning he would have controlled the very issuing my money itself. Nobody in any country has held so much power in relatively recent times. Needless to say, there was huge resistance to this in Persia. He was distrusted because he was a Jew, but leaving that aside, his control over the country would have been unimaginable.

Russia also was worried as this region was part of the Grand Chessboard it was vying for control of. Britain didn’t back up his claims as they more than likely feared one individual having so much power and would rather divvy up the country between numerous private enterprises. Given the lack of support by the British, pressure from the Russians and the volume of animosity at home, the Shah had to cancel concession just one year after it was made. The above quote and more information on Persian concessions to European powers can be found on this site.

Fake News

In a sense, we are all subjected to the possibility of so-called fake news, whilst those that created it divide the world up amongst themselves, the example of Baron von Reuter shows this is nothing new and is old as the corporate media itself and was conceived with this very much in mind. Reuter picked up the power of information and the lessons of secrecy from the region he grew up in and transplanted it to a global scale. Think Varys from Game of Thrones. This illusion of truth reminds me the video of that cat trying to grab the fish from the screen on a tablet. It looks so real; how can it be fake? This is something we all must be wary of.

Tempting as it is to say this is all in the past, this is untrue. People using information as weaponry is very much happening now. A few months back we spoke about how companies like Cambridge Analytica and Palantir use online information and then distort it for their own gains in this article. As Wendall Philips once said; “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty; power is ever stealing from the many to the few.”

 

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