TBI’s Disinformation Campaign- Part 1

Disinformation is intentionally false or inaccurate information that is spread deliberately. It is an act of making deceptive and false statements to convince someone of untruth. Disinformation should not be confused with misinformation, information that is unintentionally false.

Unlike traditional propaganda techniques designed to engage emotional support, disinformation is designed to manipulate the audience at the rational level by either discrediting conflicting information or supporting false conclusions. A common disinformation tactic is to mix some truth and observation with false conclusions and lies, or to reveal part of the truth while presenting it as the whole”.

The Usual Suspects

This definition of disinformation (not misinformation) provides an excellent overview of TBI’s response to the revelations made on this blog. Much of it has been made from people, notably Matthew France, who were very close to Luke Preece, the TESOL con man who took over effective control of TBI between 2010 by 2011 by getting all expat managers except himself (and his best friend, Scott Martin) fired. In one case, misleading accusations were actually traced to the TBI email of Luke Preece himself, with him posing as a female teacher from Bandung under the alias of Michelle. In another case, one of our supporters traced 3 online aliases to a single computer at Jakarta Japanese School, where a close buddy of Luke Preece’s is employed.

This post aims to give an overview of TBI’s efforts of disinformation, most of them traceable to Preece or his close associates. The likelihood that the entire campaign was orchestrated by Luke Preece himself is very high, as not only has the disinformation campaign frequently used the exact same emotive terms (such as “vendetta”, “smear campaign” and “bogus claims” over and over again) but avatars, email addresses and hex codes of posts from the disinformation agents have often ended up being traced to a small group of people, all of them members of Preece’s inner clique. They have merely used a large number of aliases to make themselves seem more broadly representative of public opinion. But whenever they slip and a traceable email appears, it is always one of the usual suspects.

It is worth noting that many of these people, Preece himself and Matthew France included, do not even have degrees in any subject and are breaking Indonesian law by even working in Indonesia. This dubious status doubtless provides part of the basis of their collusion. Luke Preece has long used his ‘lady friend contact’ at Penabur to swing jobs for people without the proper qualifications. Preece also has contacts at the West Java Immigration Office who have provided KITASes for unqualified teachers. These contacts are useful in the calling of favours against his enemies. We know for a fact that rigging appointments and faking testimonials to get people fired have long been part of Preece’s repertoire of toxic behaviours at TBI. Just how far his network of deceit extends is anybody’s guess.

The First Living in Indonesia Disinformation Campaign

Let’s look at any example of this disinformation campaign. Starting in March 2012, the Living in Indonesia forum filled up with three whole pages of comments, including from Luke Preece’s degreeless crony ‘Jef Dam’, which condemned this blog as nothing but lies and fabrications. Here we saw the disinformation campaign kicking into gear. Here we had a very clear example of “false or inaccurate information that is spread deliberately”. However, for the attentive reader, there soon began to appear contradictions in this narrative. For example, if you looked closely, some of these ‘outraged commentators’ let their guard slip and admitted that the information was real and was coming from sources within TBI. For example, Tudor wrote:

What I find particularly surprising about this blog is that there appears to be someone inside TBI drip-feeding them information about the latest happenings within the organisation – talk about turkeys voting for Christmas!

In other words, someone within TBI is giving us information about the latest scams and goings-on, but they are mad to do it, as self-interest dictates they support their employer, even if TBI is morally in the wrong. That’s a VERY long way from the initial claims that this blog was just pure fiction, isn’t it? But that was nothing compared to what came next.

VardBon- the one who had started the disinformation campaign on the thread- then started inviting people to send in fake stories to this blog, so we would print them, thereby discrediting us. He and his friends / supporters also started writing hateful posts vilifying the authors of this blog, 5 of which had to be removed due to trolling, homophobic abuse and threats of violence, and that wasn’t all. One attentive user, AkuTonpa, noticed that VardBon, the ringleader of the whole circus, was using a TBI email address. In other words, someone within TBI was actively encourage people to send it troll stories to this blog as part of a disinformation campaign.

I had a look at the blog to check out what you said. It said your prank email was sent from a TBI email address. Do you have a hidden agenda to persuade users of this forum send fake stories to the bloggers?

At that point the Living in Indonesia forum moderator stepped in and shut down the entire thread because a TBI employee had been caught red-handed encouraging people to ‘troll’ this blog as a way of discrediting us. Though the moderator was still not even-handed or open-minded in his approach to this case, he realized that there were people at TBI who were deliberately trying to deceive other teachers in Jakarta and he was forced to shut down a thread full of ‘trolling’. If he had thought it through, this was actually another chunk of evidence to support our argument that TBI was filled with professionals liars who deliberately set out to deceive people. While he maintained his belief that TBI was probably the wronged party, he accepted that their representatives were lying and trolling, and issued a stern warning. Here is what he wrote:

Dear VardBon,

The Living In Indonesia Expat Forum has no interest in promoting trolling, or hosting users who find trolling amusing, whatever the motivation. We understand that …the blog creates potential trouble for a school and teachers, but cannot condone any form of trolling in any forums or blogs. Blogs having an agenda, as the blog has, are in our opinion, best ignored.
Please consider this a warning and understand that breaching our Posting Guidelines can lead to infractions and potentially exclusion from the forum.

Please take the time to read our Posting Guidelines
John Madden
From the Moderator Team
Living in Indonesia Expat Forum

Just two weeks after this blog started, and TBI representatives were already being chastised for trolling on Jakarta’s premier expat forum. The official TBI disinformation campaign had hit its first snag.

Screen of TBI's warning for trolling

Screen of TBI’s warning for trolling

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