Many people have asked who John Simpson is, as one of the prime movers in a Facebook group now called BrexitHQ, and which is now totally closed to non-believers, notably over the multiple posts that seem impossible for one person, or the poor English of some of them. But perhaps rather than a made-up personality, the Moscow-Based Simpson is real, but helped – a composite based around a real person.
What do we know? His profile claims him to be a Moscow-based Teacher of English as a Foreign Language, but he maintains a very very prolific presence on social media, especially Facebook, where he runs a pro-Brexit group (now a closed group) called ‘Brexit HQ’. He posts day and night, and speculation is rife he is in fact, one of Russia’s ‘army of trolls‘ accused of influencing the US election and probably the UKs referendum on membership of the EU (see http://www.rferl.org/a/how-to-guide-russian-trolling-trolls/26919999.html).
The public information shows a Moscow-based tutor of ten years standing, teaching English as a Foreign Language (TFL), although his activity seems low. However, with an age reported as 61, this may indicate someone who can afford to be semi-retired and/or to dedicate a lot of time to campaigning for Brexit. One of the teaching sites he is listed on, wiziq, shows no activity since 2014. There are two Linked-In profiles that seem to match what we know.
His presence in Moscow is most interesting, in these days of rumoured Russian hacking and disinformation. Are the troll factories using the same accounts, with or without consent, to spread pro-Brexit messages? The Kremlin is after all greatly interested in reducing the European Union’s power and influence and its Eastern spread. Let us remember that the EU has absorbed many ex-Soviet satellites, peacefully (chalk one up to the EU), and that Russia’s take over of the Crimea and intervention in Ukraine is in response to EU influence in Kiev. The KGB and its successors also have form on disinformation and destabilisation activities. Someone not so well known would be ideal for leading useful campaign groups around something such as Brexit.
Mr Simpson is certainly a very paranoid man, who believes so-called ‘remoaners‘ are out to get him and is preparing, apparently, ‘a prosecution file‘ on those criticising him, criticism that he labels a ‘criminal activity‘. (a court case would certainly be one way to find out more about him).
Laughable, right? Except for the many many people who believe the Brexit arguments.
His profile also claims he studied at Cambridge University. However, the Facebook link to his business does not work. He follows groups linked to Jayda Fransen (Britain First) and Donald Trump, and others very much on the populist end of the spectrum, and supports Glasgow Rangers. Another group he follows is called Traitors of the British Isles, and rather bizarrely he also seems interested in anti-hunting and badger culling groups ( doubt Nigel Farage approves). He is apparently Scottish, and anti-independence.
He is also member of a group supporting an organisation called United Commonwealth, that wants to have a Commonwealth government, ‘The governing body will look to hold control over foreign policies such as trade, “some” immigration, and military. We believe nations must maintain their sovereignty, and their governments. ‘. All fine, except that there is a plan to merge Britain with the ‘white’ commonwealth nations (Australia, New Zealand, Canada…). Which sounds even more like a government than the European Union, does it not (See http://www.theunitedcommonwealth.org/)? This would include a Commonwealth army (sound familiar?), and a plan to take Hong Back from China, too. This shows how many Brexit supporters are motivated by the nostalgia for empire, more than anything else – the same empire that was so successful millions of Britons were forced to emigrate by poverty or by committing crimes linked to poverty, an empire built on slavery, and exploitation.
But he does know the quitling’s jargon: ‘A person who cries over spilt milk. Get over it! Accept the British people’s democratic decision. We leave all of the EU as soon as possible.‘, and like them, does not understand that democracy is a process, and that nothing ends after a vote.
He may be a real person – but today’s Russia is the inheritor of the old Soviet Union, whose KGB did not only recruit among the elites but among ordinary people too. Who is this John Simpson, what was he in the UK, and how did he come to be in Moscow as a TEFL teacher? Why is he spreading disinformation, and how come our government is acting out a damaging policy based on a referendum won on disinformation, spread by people another age might justifiably have called traitors?
Author: Simon Ferrigno