Category Archives: Censorship

An Open Letter to Science and Global Security

Dear Editors at Science and Global Security

Science and Global Security (SGS) has been publishing technical articles on arms control and related issues since 1989. I urge you not to succumb to political censorship.

Recently it was announced you are withholding publication of an article titled “Computational Forensic Analysis for the Chemical Weapons Attack at Khan Sheikhoun on 4 April 2017.” The article presents evidence that a crater in the road in the town of Khan Sheikhoun (Syria) could have been caused by an “improvised rocket-propelled artillery round with a high explosive warhead” rather than an aerial bomb dropped by a Syrian plane. The paper was authored by seven scientists from prominent universities and laboratories in the USA and China and based on advanced modelling techniques and computer simulations.

According to the article “Scientists clash over paper that questions Syrian government’s role in sarin attack” a campaign to stop you from publishing the analysis was launched by Gregory Koblentz. He is a political scientist not an engineer or physical scientist. His criticism of the article is because of the conclusion.

The political bias of Koblentz is clear from his article titled “Syria’s Chemical Weapons Kill Chain.” It accuses the Syrian government of using chemical weapons and speculates on the chain of command. It distorts the findings of the UN report on the attack of August 21, 2013. Actually, the UN lead investigator, Ake Sellstrom, suggested that it was a “fair guess” that the rockets carrying the sarin travelled 2 kilometers. This would have put the launch firmly in opposition held territory, directly contradicting Koblentz’s assertions that the Syrian government was to blame.

Facts and Investigations

You may not be aware of the following facts:

* The report of the Joint Investigative Mechanism was definitive about the crater. On page 7/33 it says, “the Mechanism assessed that the crater was most probably caused by a heavy object travelling at a high rate of velocity, such as an aerial bomb with a small explosive charge…The Mechanism also examined whether an IED could have caused the crater. While this possibility could not be completed ruled out, the experts assessed that that scenario was less likely….. ” (emphasis added).

* Some of the most proven investigative journalists have concluded that the incident was staged by the opposition. For example, the late Robert Parry wrote an article titled “Did Al Qaeda Dupe Trump on Syrian Attack.” He noted that “Buried deep inside a new U.N. report is evidence that could exonerate the Syrian government in the April 4 sarin atrocity.” As Parry wrote, “More than 100 patients would appear to have been exposed to sarin before the alleged warplane could have dropped the alleged bomb and the victims could be evacuated, a finding that alone would have destroyed the JIM’s case against the Syrian government. But the JIM seemed more interested in burying this evidence of Al Qaeda staging the incident …”

* Seymour Hersh is another proven journalist. His research confirmed that no chemical bomb was used at Khan Sheikhoun. The Russians had even informed the US military ahead of time that they would be bombing an important meeting of groups that even the US defined as “terrorist”. Hersh’s conclusions are outlined in the article “Hersh’s New Syria Revelations Buried from View.”

* Yet another proven journalist, Gareth Porter, did a detailed investigation including confidential interviews with scientists with close ties to the OPCW. His in depth report is titled “Have We Been Deceived Over Syrian Sarin Attack? Scrutinizing the Evidence ….” Among many points he debunks the notion that the crater could have been caused by a chemical weapons bomb which is designed to release chemicals and NOT burn them in a large explosion.

* Finally, yet another proven journalist, Robert Fisk, has written about bias at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). One year after the incident at Khan Sheikhoun, another chemical weapons incident happened in Syria. In his article titled “question “the value of publishing the article given the sensitive and contested issue of the use of chemical weapons in Syria.” That is precisely the reason that you SHOULD publish the article, to be relevant and contribute to important public debate.

Global security is being threatened by claims and counter-claims about weapons of mass destruction. The 2003 invasion of Iraq was based on such claims. The “intelligence community” was certain but wrong. Now, in Syria there are similar claims and counter-claims. Two nuclear armed countries, the US and Russia, are involved.

The US has already attacked Syria on the basis of media reports to the approval of people like Gregory Koblentz. The pattern of aggression on the basis of dubious or false evidence is very dangerous and could lead to much greater conflict.
Political censorship does not serve science or global security. Publish the article.

At UN Session, US Empire In Decline And Global Solidarity On The Rise

As the United Nations General Assembly conducts its fall session, Popular Resistance is in New York City for the People’s Mobilization to Stop the US War Machine and Save the Planet. Themes of the mobilization are connecting militarism and climate change and raising awareness that the United States regularly violates international laws, including the United Nations Charter. These laws are designed to facilitate peaceful relationships between countries and prevent abuses of human rights. It is time that the US be held accountable.

The People’s Mobilization arose out of the Embassy Protection Collective after the US government raided the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington DC last May in blatant violation of the Vienna Convention to install a failed coup and arrested Embassy Protectors even though they were in the embassy with the permission of the elected government of Venezuela. This was an escalation of US regime change efforts – the coup failed in Venezuela but the US recognized the coup leader and started turning Venezuela’s assets over to him anyway. Members of the Collective sought to bring the message that it is dangerous for the world and a threat to the future of all of us if the US continues on its lawless path.

Join the Embassy Protection Defense Committee to organize around the federal prosecution of the final four Embassy Protectors and donate to their legal defense. Take action here.

We participated in the Climate Strike on Friday where our messages about the impact of US militarism on climate were well-received. On Sunday, we held a rally in Herald Square and on Monday, we held a public event: “A Path to International Peace: Realizing the Vision of the United Nations Charter.” We need to build an international people’s movement that complements work the Non-Aligned Movement and others are doing to bring countries together that are dedicated to upholding international law and take action together to address global crises.

In front of the United Nations after the rally and march with our message (By Yuka Azuma).

The US Military is a Great Threat to our Future

We wrote about the connections between militarism and the climate crisis in our newsletter a few weeks ago so we won’t go too deeply into those details here. The US military is the largest single user of fossil fuels and creator of greenhouse gases on the planet.

It also leaves behind toxic pollution from burn pits and weapons such as depleted uranium (DU). The use of DU violates international law, including the Biological Weapons Convention. As described in David Swanson’s article about a new study, which documents the horrific impact of DU on newborns in Iraq, “…every round of DU ammunition leaves a residue of DU dust on everything it hits, contaminating the surrounding area with toxic waste that has a half-life of 4.5 billion years, the age of our solar system, and turns every battlefield and firing range into a toxic waste site that poisons everyone in such areas.”

The US military poisons the air, land, and water at home too. Pat Elder, also with World Beyond War, has been writing, speaking and organizing to raise awareness of the use of Per and Poly Fluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) by the military across the US and the deadly effects it has. Elder states that the military claims to have “sovereign immunity” from environmental laws. In other words, the US military can poison whomever and wherever it chooses without risk of legal consequences.

As scary as the climate crisis and a toxic environment are, another existential threat is a nuclear war. The US military is upgrading its nuclear weapons so it can use them. The US National Security Strategy is “Great Power Conflict” and the new National Security Adviser to Trump, taking John Bolton’s place, Robert C. O’Brien, advocates for more military spending, a larger military and holding on to US global domination. These are dangerous signs. How far is the US military willing to go as US empire clings to its declining influence in the world?

In “Iran, Hong Kong and the Desperation of a Declining US Empire,” Rainer Shea writes, “There’s a term that historians use for this reactive phase that empires go through during their final years: micro-militarism.” Alfred McCoy defines micro-militarism as “ill-advised military misadventures… [that] involve psychologically compensatory efforts to salve the sting of retreat or defeat by occupying new territories, however briefly and catastrophically.”

Micro-militarism is on display in Venezuela, where the US has been trying for two decades to overthrow the Bolivarian Process without success. It is on display in US antagonism of Iran, a country that has never attacked the US and that upheld its end of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. When the US called for countries to join its escalation of military presence in the Straits of Hormuz, there was little enthusiasm from European allies. And when the US tried to blame the attack on Saudi oil refineries on Iran, even Japan refused to go along. Now, Iran is participating in INSTEX, a mechanism for trade that bypasses institutions controlled by the US.

Micro-militarism is manifested in the US’ failed attempts to antagonize China. With KJ Noh, we wrote an Open Letter to Congress, explaining why the Hong Kong Human Rights Act must be stopped as it will further entangle the US with Hong Kong and Mainland China, providing a foundation for US regime change campaign there. As China celebrates 70 years as the Peoples Republic of China, which ended over a century of exploitation by imperialists, it is in a very strong position and indicates it has no interest in caving in to US pressure. Instead, China is building its military and global relationships to rival US hegemony.

Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese at the People’s Mobe Rally (Photo by Ellen Davidson).

Holding the US Accountable

Micro-militarism is a symptom of the ailing US empire. We are in a period where the US military and government behave in irrational ways, consuming US resources for wars and conflicts that cannot be won instead of using them to meet basic needs of people and protection of the planet. The US is blatantly violating international laws that make regime change, unilateral coercive measures (aka sanctions) and military aggression illegal.

The US is conducting economic terrorism against scores of nations through illegal unilateral coercive measures (sanctions).  In the case of Cuba, the economic blockade goes back nearly six decades since the nation overthrew a US-backed regime there. The US blockade cost Cuba $4.3 billion in 2019, and close to $1 trillion over the past six decades, taking into account depreciation of the dollar. In Iran, sanctions have existed since their independence from the Shah of Iran’s US dictatorship in 1979 and in Zimbabwe, sanctions go back to land reform that occurred at the beginning of this century. The United States is conducting ongoing regime change campaigns in multiple nations among them Venezuela, Nicaragua, Iran and now Bolivia.

The US is also abusing its power as the host country of the United Nations by ordering diplomats out of the country for spurious reasons and curtailing the travel of diplomats of countries the US is targeting. This week, the US ordered two Cuban diplomats to leave the United States. The reason was vague; i.e., their “attempts to conduct influence operations against the US.” This undefined phrase could mean almost anything and puts all diplomats at risk if they speak in the US outside of the UN. We expect this is one reason diplomatic representatives from some of the countries that planned to participate in the Monday night event stayed away.

Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza was the first Foreign Minister to be sanctioned while he was in the United States on official business.  Arreaza was sanctioned on April 25, just after he spoke to the United Nations General Assembly as a representative of the Non-Aligned Movement denouncing the US’ attempts to remove representatives of the sovereign nation of Venezuela from the UN.

On July 30, the US imposed sanctions on Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif saying he was targeted because he is a ‘key enabler of Ayatollah Khamenei’s policies.’  Does that mean the Foreign Minister was punished for representing Iran? When Zarif came to the UN for official business this July 14, the US took the unusual step of severely restricting his travel, limiting him to travel between the United Nations, the Iranian UN mission, the Iranian UN ambassador’s residence, and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. Traditionally, diplomatic officials were allowed a 25-mile radius around Columbus Circle. The US said Zarif “is a mouthpiece of an autocracy that suppresses free speech” and suppressed his freedom of speech in response.

As the United States becomes more brazen and ridiculous in its attempts to stay in control, it is driving other countries to turn away from the US and organize around it. There are growing calls for the United Nations to consider leaving the US and reestablish itself in a location where the US cannot sanction people for its own political purposes. Perhaps there is a need for a new international institution that does not enable US domination.

Civil society panel at the Path to International Peace event (by Ellen Davidson).

People are Uniting For Peace, Security and Sustainable Development 

The US’ actions point to the need for peace and justice activists to build an international network to demand the upholding the rule of law. Popular Resistance and its allies are contributing to the formation of that transnational solidarity structure through the new Global Appeal for Peace.

This July, delegations from 120 countries of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) united to oppose US policy against Venezuela and demand an end to sanctions as part of The Caracas Declaration.  NAM was founded in 1961 and the UN General Secretary described the importance of the movement highlighting that “two-thirds of the United Nations members and 55% of the world’s population” are represented by it, making it the second-largest multinational body in the world after the UN.

From August 29 through September 6, 38 countries and hundreds of foreign and local companies participated in Syria’s 61st Damascus International Fair despite the threat of US economic sanctions against corporations and countries that participated. The Damascus International Fair is considered the Syrian economy’s window to the world, re-started in 2017 after a 5-year hiatus due to the war against Syria. Despite a NATO bombing of the Fair in 2017, people kept coming and the Fair has continued.

Countries are also working to find ways around US economic warfare by not using the US dollar or the US financial industry to conduct trade. China is challenging the US by investing $400 billion in Iran’s oil and gas industry over 25 years and has added $3 billion investment in Venezuelan oil in 2019. Russia has also allied with Venezuela providing military equipment, and porting Navy ships in Venezuela as well as providing personnel. France has called on the EU to reset its relationship with Russia, and Germany and Russia are beginning to work together to preserve the Iran nuclear agreement.

The Global Appeal for Peace is uniting people to demand of our governments in their interactions with all nations – for the sake of world peace, international security and peaceful co-existence  – to respect the principles of the United Nations Charter and to follow and defend international law. The Global Appeal urges people to immediately join this initiative and help redirect the world toward an era of global stability and cooperation.

Sign on to the Global  Appeal for Peace: Take action to tell your government to respect and uphold the United Nations Charter as a tool for maintaining peace, guaranteeing human rights and protecting the sovereignty of nations.

We seek to build a transnational movement that is multi-layered. People and organizations from civil society representing different sectors, e.g. laborers, academics, doctors, lawyers, engineers, as well as representatives of governments impacted by violations of international law by the United States, need to join together. The seeds of such a network have been planted and are sprouting. If this transnational network develops and the rule of law is strengthened internationally, we will be able to achieve the goals of peace, economic sustainability, and human rights and mitigate the impacts of a dying empire gone rogue.

Watch part of the People’s Mobe Rally here:

 Watch the People’s Mobe March here:

Watch the “Path to International Peace” here:

Laws that Punish for Hypothetical Harm Must be Abolished

Given the state of laws in Canada, it has become necessary to state the obvious:

An individual legitimately can be punished solely for proven actual harm that is also proven to have been caused by the individual.

In a free and democratic society, laws that punish an individual for harm that is hypothesized to have occurred, or hypothesized to have been caused by the individual, or hypothesized to have both occurred and been caused by the individual, are pathological in that such laws attack democracy itself in its foundation, as explained below.

Canada and institutions and corporations sanctioned by the State enforce many laws and rules that punish individuals for hypothesized harm, in which the State or State-sanctioned actor does not have to prove actual harm or actual cause.  With these laws, proving actual harm is not relevant in the prosecution, and is considered inadmissible and unacceptably wasteful of court and tribunal resources.

Instead, the prosecutor merely needs to argue that there is “likelihood” that unspecified harm has occurred to unspecified “victims”, which is caused via an unspecified mechanism by the accused. Here, the prosecutor can rely entirely on the “judgement” of the court or tribunal, or can bring an “expert” witness to give opinion evidence about the said “likelihood” of harm.

No victim will testify or be cross-examined. No evidence of actual harm, physical or psychological, will be entered. No victim will even be named or identified to the court. There is a total absence of evidence of actual harm caused by the accused person.

The proceedings are separate and distinct from any criminal proceedings of responsibility for actual physical or psychological harm against an actual and identified victim.

What are these laws, you ask? These are the so-called “hate speech” laws, the codes of conduct, and also the common law of defamation.1,2.3  These laws include:

  • “hate speech” provisions of the Criminal Code
  • censorship codes, rules or “guidelines” enforced by social-media corporations
  • censorship rules and practices of employers regarding the personal actions of employees
  • professional-ethics codes or rules regarding personal expression on public media
  • codes of conduct on campuses
  • common law of defamation

In all of these laws — in a total absence of proven actual harm, from mere expression of comment, opinion, thought or belief, excluding criminal harassment, intimidation or threat against any actual and specific person, often made through the filter of a public social-media platform rather than any face-to-face interaction — the punishments range from fines, to unlimited “damage” awards, to workplace or professional-association discipline, to loss of access to education, to loss of employment, to loss of professional certification, to lengthy jail terms or house arrests, and include gag orders or compelled speech enforced by imprisonment.

Such is the status of Canadian law, despite the fact that Canada has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which expressly prohibits all such written or unwritten censorship laws.1,2.

As a result, Canada has spawned a legal landscape not unlike that of past eras having blasphemy laws to prevent the alleged deleterious effects of the most offensive and subversive utterances of the day. This legal landscape vitiates the fundamental right of freedom of expression and incapacitates democracy itself.

The fundamental right of freedom of expression is the right that allows the individual free expression, and the personal agency that derives from free expression, even though the individual is confined by society’s changing and democratically agreed-upon rules.  Free expression is the right to express.  It is essential for personal development and emancipation.  It does not, in itself, confine others, and it is up to the individual to seek and secure receptive listeners. This is the essence of both personal growth and society.

Beyond person growth within the fabric of society, freedom of expression plays a second role that is equally important. Democracy is susceptible to capture by a self-interested elite, and politics must not be solely a contest between dominant-elite special interests. The balancing force against runaway capture, in a democracy, is freedom of expression, together with freedom of association, which permit effective democratic participation, and are the true sources of the often touted “transparency” (whistle blowing) and “accountability” (popular opinion making).

Censorship, including censorship actuated with the pretext of preventing hypothetical harm, does not protect the individual.  It is a lockdown designed to frustrate the essential democratic process of expression, discussion, debate and argument, in an increasingly illegitimate and intolerant system. Its use by politicians in exploiting the oppression Olympiad in their partisan manipulations is unconscionable, as is its use in special-interest propaganda by litigation.

For these reasons, the State must not provide laws that enable an influential elite in-effect to neuter vehement individual expression that has transformative potential. The State must not be allowed to thus erode and suppress individual agency. Instead, it is the duty of the State to protect individual freedom of expression. If democracy cannot be trusted, then there is no democracy.

Relation to recent work

In her 2018 book,3 Nadine Strossen brilliantly reviews the research showing that “hate speech” laws are harmful to society. While this scholarship brings current empirical support for abolishing “hate speech” laws, I don’t find it to be satisfying. We should not be reduced to making policy arguments regarding harm reduction in order to justify preventing the State from suppressing fundamental human freedom, or preventing the State from enabling elite interests and corporations from suppressing the said freedom. If history itself and the study of sociology4 cannot inform us about the necessity to safeguard the fundamental human right of freedom of expression, then we are lost.5

Opposing “hate speech” law is not “free-speech absolutism”

Unfortunately, in the present climate of clamouring to ask the State to limit fundamental personal freedoms “for our own safety”, the arguments become polarized, and many have used the sophistry that the position of opposing the aberrant inherent features of “hate speech” law is equivalent to advocating for “free-speech absolutism.” This is a false equivalency.

If the State were to strike down all “hate speech” laws, limit the codes of conduct to exclude “hate speech”, and strike down the common law of defamation (which presumes falsity, damages and malice), then there would still independently exist: the civil tort of malicious falsehood, the Criminal Code provisions against threats, coercion, intimidation, harassment, and so on; and all the laws against discrimination. The individual would not lose any of these common law, statutory and constitutional protections.

Limiting the State’s power to prosecute victimless speech crimes (presuming harm at large, and presuming causation) does not limit the State’s power to enforce crimes that have proven victims and cause, irrespective of the role of expression in these offences, and does not limit the individual’s means to obtain redress.

  1. Canadian defamation law is noncompliant with international law”, by Denis Rancourt, Ontario Civil Liberties Association report, 1 February 2016.
  2. Towards a Rational Legal Philosophy of Individual Rights”, by Denis Rancourt, Dissident Voice, 15 November 2016.
  3. HATE: Why We Should Resist It with Free Speech, Not Censorship”, by Nadine Strossen, Oxford University Press, 2018, ISBN 978-0-19-085912-1.
  4. Self-organization and time-stability of social hierarchies”, by Joseph Hickey and Jörn Davidsen, 29 January 2019, PLoS ONE 14(1): e0211403.
  5. Cause of USA Meltdown and Collapse of Civil Rights”, by Denis Rancourt, Dissident Voice, 7 September 2017.

In Defense of Cory Morningstar’s Manufacturing for Consent Series

Good investigative journalism doesn’t only reveal hidden mechanisms of our time;  it also exposes those who refuse to confront the mechanisms. Remember when the late Bruce Dixon courageously and cogently called Bernie Sanders “a sheep dog candidate”? Remember when Eva Bertlett, Vanessa Beeley and others truly stood with Syrian people in opposing the western intervention?  I do. Those who could not face the reality came up with all sorts of profanities and ill conceived theories to demonize the messengers.

Cory Morningstar has been a dedicated environmental activist with a sound track record, who has closely worked with various NGOs. She is a mother. She is an avid gardener. She is an honest person with empathy, passion, love for people, love for our fellow creatures and love for nature.  Her human character and sense of justice has culminated in her keen insights, observations and analyses.  Her writings have inspired many of us to see the depth and scope of capitalist institutions as part of the social dynamics affecting our consciousness.  Her meticulous pursuit of facts in illustrating mechanisms of our world evokes a sense of awe. She is a respected colleague in our struggle toward a better tomorrow.

While her latest series, “The Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg—for Consent:  The Political Economy of Non Profit Industrial Complex Volume I and Volume II”, has been wildly praised as a ground-breaking milestone in depicting the vast mechanism of exploitation and subjugation involving the Non-Profit Industrial Complex, it has been also maliciously misrepresented.

One of the very common, yet blatantly erroneous criticisms, centers around the series’s focus on the young activist. Why do they attack the author as a child abuser? The series does not attack the 16 year old activist at all. It points out those organizations and individuals which closely surround her in forming a momentum for their agenda. It delineates how the mobilization fits within the larger framework of corporate “environmentalism”, colonialism, global capitalism and imperialism.  The trickery of the accusation that the work attacks a child and smears the youth-led activism follows the same pattern of lies and deceptions unfolding against serious journalism for some time.  It reflects how establishment successfully dominates our minds as it dominates the hierarchy of money and violence.  The ruling class actually abuses children by making them pawns for lucrative business projects — such as carbon capture and storage, “renewable energy” schemes, carbon trading and so on (the series discusses why they do not work extensively). They trick the innocent youth into digging their own graves while making profits out of it.

Remember people called you racist, when you pointed out President Obama’s drone killings? Remember people called you misogynist when you criticized Secretary Clinton’s colonial policies? Those who did didn’t mind brown people blown into pieces, and didn’t mind the colonial oppression of women in colonized lands.  The capitalist hierarchy structurally forces us to embrace the values, norms and beliefs of the ruling class, as it trains people to climb the social ladder as expected.  The momentum to accuse Morningster’s work as a child abuse stems from the same psychological projection of accusers’ own complicity in consecrating a teenager as an invincible saint of their movement.

Then there is the most typical argument to condone obvious institutional tendencies of inhumanity: “things aren’t always black and white”.  Of course, there are good environmentalists doing good work as well.  We have gone through this in so many incarnations. When we point out police brutality, we hear “not all police officers are bad”. When we point out obvious racism among us:  “not all white people are racist”.  Those are certainly true.  But could we also say “not all slave masters were evil”, “not all Kings and queens were evil”, “not all colonizers were evil” and so on? Well, sure.  But does that mean we can bring back slavery, feudalism or colonialism?  No.

Refusal to talk about the systematic inhumanity inflicted by the system tolerates the status quo as acceptable. And please do stop with “but the movement gives us hope” nonsense.  What happened when we were sold “hope”, “change” and “forward”, and received colonial wars, big bank bailout, global surveillance and loss of legal protections during the Obama presidency?  We got Donald Trump.  When the system squeezes already oppressed people while shuttering their hope and making them embrace fear, people try their best to hold on to whatever they have.  They embrace an illusion of salvation in authoritarian lies and hatred against “others”. It is extremely important that we strive to discuss such a mechanism among us instead of jumping into the same momentum. We must discuss the true hope of building a momentum moving beyond the lies and deceptions coming out of the destructive hierarchy.

Morningstar states in “The Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg—for Consent:  The Political Economy of Non Profit Industrial Complex Volume II Act IV”:

Consider that collectively, the populace appears to believe that not only is it possible to colonize another planet, but that we will do so in the not-so-distant future. This is incredible considering the massive odds of and colossal barriers to such an endeavour succeeding. Thus, it is alarming, that this same populace appears not to believe it is not possible to create new societies where necessity is detached from want (superfluous consumer goods). This begs the question – have we been fully conditioned to believe only those that represent hegemonic interests? It is a sound question considering the billionaires of the world are currently petrified of the capitalist system collapsing – while those oppressed by the capitalist system believe it cannot be dismantled. Yet we can dismantle institutions. We can dismantle the capitalist economic system devouring what remains of the natural world – but not if we identify with our oppressors and the very system that enslaves us. It is our natural world and her living natural communities that sustain us. Not industrial civilization – not technology.

Hopelessness and cynicism do creep up to justify the status quo. But we also must recognize that such a position does away with putting our efforts toward standing with the truly oppressed ones.

Morningstar’s series meticulously documents how powerful global organizations seek ways to cultivate a consensus for their trajectory. And it carefully states, with facts, why the trajectory does not lead to achieving their promises — preventing climate change and other environmental calamities.  The illustrated mechanism has been revealed over and over through their past crimes—the coordinated actions of industries, bankers, politicians, NGOs, UN, global financial institutions and media have culminated into colonial wars, coverups of nuclear disasters, regime change, and other corporate, colonial and imperial policies. There is nothing speculative, coincidental or conspiratorial about the series. It is based on careful research, honesty, courage to face the real issue and true love for humanity. It is again curiously indicative that those who engage in a conspiracy to mobilize the people according to their agendas accuse those who see through the attempt as “conspiracy theorist”. The use of the derogatory term invented by the US intelligence agency to label dissidents as tin-hat wearing nuts jobs hardly proves their legitimacy.

Moreover, I must say that it is extremely odd and disingenuous that the series has been portrayed as a refusal to take any action, instead insisting on ideological purity. Such an attack has been coming out of those who have been pointing out the same moneyed network in forwarding corporatism, colonialism and militarism by manipulating popular opinions.  What is the difference between opposing destructive colonial wars and opposing colonization of nature/co-optation of activism?  More specifically, what prompts some of them to say “what is your solution?”, “we can’t wait for capitalism to be overthrown to solve climate change” and so on.

The obvious falsehood of such an angle is the stark absence of solutions within their own “green momentum”. Morningstar’s research does not talk about the necessity of establishing a communist statehood or overthrowing capitalism in order to solve the impending crisis.  It simply states facts in a cohesive manner. Consequently, it certainly indicates the systematic structural issues presented by the hierarchy of money and violence. The research clearly names individuals and organizations that are involved in mobilizing the population in installing government policies that are lucrative to the associated corporations and beneficial to the imperial framework. Capitalist hegemony does present itself as a source of predicaments of our time.  But is that new to us?

Needless to say, for those of us who believe in the Marxist perspective, the solution amounts to a structural transformation of our society into one that doesn’t monopolize the means of production for the ruling class. The economic activities must be subservient to harmonious existence of the people, environment and other species. And our social interactions must be under a control of such aims, instead of financial and social power of the ruling class. But make no mistake that that is simply an ultimate direction. Just as we voice our objections against any form of inhumanity regardless of our systematic problem, when we see certain environmental policies being subservient to the corporate agenda, likely to result in worsened conditions for the people, we discuss them.

There shouldn’t be anything different about pointing out the US military aggression and the fallacy of US environmental policies, especially when they are forwarded by the same western establishment.  When we find the carbon capture schemes to be disingenuous, for example, we simply point it out.  We demand an answer to why corporate “solutions” are upheld as people’s “solutions”. And people who buy into false narratives should be noted as not credible leaders in people’s movement. So the question “what is your solution?” really should be directed at those who subscribe to those erroneous “solutions.”  They need to be asked how those solutions would be a worthy cause at the first place, and why cogent criticisms against implementations of destructive schemes can not be embraced because “we can’t wait for a socialist revolution”.

What people desperately need today is good investigative reports like the one presented by Cory Morningstar, along with our educational efforts to reveal the mechanisms of our time.  We must learn how the unprecedented wealth accumulation among the very few ends up protected by layers and layers of moneyed social institutions coordinating to perpetuate the system, while progressively oppressive financial pressure and state violence against already oppressed people keep herding people into the capitalist framework. When we face the sad reality of people embracing policies that allow the powerful minorities to exploit and subjugate them over and over, what we need is not a popular mobilization guided by vague slogans easily subsumed by the imperial framework. Such a method would lead to draconian enforcement of corporate “solutions” according to their definition of “problems”. It is a recipe for bringing about a fascist order. What we need is openness and willingness to learn how we are domesticated by the authoritarian framework so that the actions are guided by the interests of the people in forming a society that allows true liberation of the people in a mutually respectful and harmonious manner.

Please do read “The Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg—for Consent: The Political Economy of Non Profit Industrial Complex” Volume I and Volume II. It gives us an excellent starting point in learning how to build a better tomorrow for all of us.

American Psychopathy

Not only are we not going to have wars between major powers in this era of fascist upsurge (of course, as will be discussed, we shall have other wars), but, by the same token, this fascist upsurge will not burn out through any cataclysmic war. What we are likely to see is a lingering fascism of less murderous intensity, which, when in power, does not necessarily do away with all the forms of bourgeois democracy, does not necessarily physically annihilate the opposition, and may even allow itself to get voted out of power occasionally. But since its successor government, as long as it remains within the confines of the neoliberal strategy, will also be incapable of alleviating the crisis, the fascist elements are likely to return to power as well. And whether the fascist elements are in or out of power, they will remain a potent force working toward the fascification of the society and the polity, even while promoting corporate interests within a regime of globalization of finance, and hence permanently maintaining the “partnership between big business and fascist upstarts.
— Utsa Patnaik and Prabhat Patnaik, Monthly Review, July 1st, 2019

The poor shall inherit the earth or there will be no earth left to inherit.
— John Bellamy Foster, Monthly Review, 2019

The people want wholesome dread. They want to fear something. They want someone to frighten them and make them shudderingly submissive.
— Ernst Rohm, Hitler’s chief of the SA

There seems to be two branches of what I see as a drive toward global domination, global hegemony, by the ruling class. One is the Trump phenomenon and the narratives and political actions that accompany his presidency (often in the background). Second is the new ruling corporate control of environmentalism.

I quote Cory Morningstar a lot and that is with good reason. It’s nearly impossible to pull quotes from her work because there are too many choices. Read the entirety of it.

There is a lot to read and it might be useful to start at the end, with the most recent material, and work backwards. But I will return to this. The linkage between Trump’s cartoon presidency and the corporate takeover of environmentalism is anchored in recognizing the magic thinking involved, but more, to stop and recognize that the manufacturing of narratives here is really about a manufacturing of obedience to authority. Especially in our post modern (sic) epoch, *institutional authority*. And to see that Trump is only carrying out policy sanctioned and supported by the ruling class (and perfectly amenable to the DNC). Now one need look no further than Hollywood to see the outlines of narrative change. The rehabilitation of fascism is everywhere. In everything. The normalizing of fascist style helps normalize and make coherent the presidency of Don Trump.

Much has been written about the CIA and Department of Defense infiltration of Hollywood. There are numerous obvious storytelling staples; the problems in any global situation are the result of a few bad apples or rogue agents. It is never that the institution is corrupt or intentionally causing death and suffering.

The content of film and television is directly, regularly, and secretly determined by the US government, led by the CIA and Pentagon. More visible since the 1980s is what we identify as a distinct genre: ‘national security cinema’—namely, those films that follow self-serving official histories and exalt in the righteousness of US foreign policy. ( ) National security entertainment promotes violent, self-regarding, American-centric solutions to international problems based on twisted readings of history. However, even those products that don’t meet such a lamentable yardstick are still to some degree designed to recruit personnel and, in doing so, must adhere to the desired self-image of the national security state.
— Matthew Alford, Tom Secker, National Security Cinema – Government Control in Hollywood

There is a constant pro war slant to nearly all films that even indirectly touch on U.S. politics and/or the government. The first given is that war is inevitable and when involving the U.S. military it is a necessary and beneficent activity. There is a tacit and often openly direct support and praise of mass surveillance — even on ordinary citizens or citizens of friendly nations. The world is depicted as if threat existed on every corner and such trifles as torture or political manipulations are both routine and absolutely crucial to keep you, the viewer, safe. The message is always that new dangers are unprecedented and unique. Civil liberties are treated with the same contempt Obama showed for them. The exaggeration of threat, in fact, runs through nearly everything in mass media. There is also an exaggeration of the abilities of the surveillance industry (one aspect of the new magical thinking).

But the really pernicious aspect of government influence in media comes in more subtle forms. The most prominent of which is the normalizing of not just illegal military or CIA activity, but the normalizing of and encouragement to fawn before authority, to trust said authority, and to feel OK about one’s own attraction to those knee high Nazi jack boots, or the shiny nickel plated Sig Sauer 9mm the hero is fondling. So routine is the seduction of the audience with technologies of violence that it passes without comment. Directors and DPs automatically default to having the camera caress the gun, tank, rifle, or uniform. This extends to domestic U.S. police forces, too. It is allowable to show sadistic cops on occasion because sadism itself is acceptable, and even sort of sexy. It is allowable to show the U.S. interfering in the political elections of foreign sovereign states because any nation not the United States (and U.K.) will benefit from said interference. And here another branch of this propaganda should be noted (which will segue nicely back to Trump and environmentalism) and that is white supremacism. The single constant in narratives from Hollywood is that of American exceptionalism. And, really, the examples are just too numerous to list. The ideological footprint of ruling class values is indelible and unchanging. Wealth is a virtue and the rich are responsible, and when they are not they are punished by others in the 1%. Just like the new corporate environmentalism, the message is, let the ruling class decide.

The values of the ruling classes in the U.S. and U.K. are always evident if one only looks. (So much has changed since those emigre German Jewish directors fled to Hollywood in the 40s). And, of course, lip service is, to a degree, paid to fairness and equality, but never to any idea of economic equality or social influence. That is the province of the very rich and aristocratic. Which is why I find it so curious that many of the left (pseudo or soft left) don’t even blink when those with honorifics before their name, with royal titles, issue proclamations about climate change or overpopulation or new Green corporate solutions. These are always white people, mind you. I mean African Kings don’t count. Tribal elders don’t count. The British aristocracy are very big on preserving their privileges at game preserves and France remains a colonial administrator in its former African holdings (see Uranium mining). But more than that, of course, the ruling class is the face of the new environmentalism. Unless it’s an Asperger’s fifteen year old who increasingly (and painfully) appears in distress and cognitive confusion. This is not an attack on Greta, that attack is being carried out by the white billionaire faces of western capital. But I will be accused of attacking her, and that in itself is an aspect of how the new propaganda works.

Which reminds me, where are all the black (African or otherwise) climate experts? The only one, really, is Warren Washington. The new Green feels very white. Facing monumental problems of pollution, both on land and perhaps especially in oceans, people have retreated to very non political positions that are either a kind of Hollywood disaster apocalypse fantasy, or new age smart phone Gaia anthropomorphism. I wrote before about the demand that everyone submit to the consensus- – meaning not that the earth is getting warmer or even why, but the moral hand wringing and outrage at those not submitting. The demand is that one join in the outrage and alarmism. The very term *denialism* suggests the typical bourgeois response to anything disruptive of their privilege. The constant outpouring of articles, in mainstream glossy magazines (and their cyber equivalents) and news outlets are always framed a certain way. A recent social media post by Keith Harmon Snow on a lay out in National Geographic laid it out this way.

With help from National Geographic and Proctor and Gamble (P&G), you can save the world. ACTIVATE. Be a good Global Citizen.

This is corporate greenwashing and corporate capitalism steering or creating “social justice” movements that will serve capitalism, while expropriating true social justice and true social justice movements, and thereby diffusing and destroying any valid legitimate meaningful POTENTIAL social movements. P&G is a nasty chemical/pharmaceutical/medical industrial giant responsible for Toxic carcinogenic products, price-fixing, palm oil monoculture plantations, child slavery, media propaganda, testing on animals, false advertising and massive pollution and other forms of destruction of the environment. Did you know that P&G produced the first home radio and TV serials, and because P&G was known for manufacturing detergents, these became known as “Soap operas”?

This is racist white supremacist whitewashing. Using images of smiling indigenous people, in full (airbrushed) color, in their natural or unnatural environments, for malicious propaganda purposes. Propaganda = perception management. National Geographic is a racist corporate platform that cannot ever be trusted. (Pretty pictures, though; though generally and almost always decontextualized).

The entire thrust of the new corporate and billionaire-backed projects on climate action are there to preserve a hierarchical status quo. It is to rescue Capitalism itself. And the implications of much of it are near genocidal. I think it is not an accident that the grave problems of industrial pollution (just think the waste sites for cyber technology) are relatively forgotten in these narratives from the ruling class. Those waste sites are in the poorest countries on earth, they are not outside Bethesda, Maryland or in Connecticut. And these new marketing campaigns, employing massive guilt-inducing techniques of persuasion, have created a fairly safe and morally superior niche psychic space for the haute bourgeoisie to look down on the problems that their class created and attribute them to either the poor, or just the anodyne *everyone*.

The term 6th Mass Extinction gets a lot of usage. It’s a marketer’s dream, actually. In fact, the first time I heard that term I thought, wow, that is gonna have traction. If you just said oh, we’re all going to die off in a half century you would not garner this kind of following. But give it a kind of pseudo brand, specify it, make it special — not just extinction, but SIXTH mass extinction….and the white boogie class will fall over themselves salivating. It’s pure seduction. It’s like a kind of generalized identification with something bigger than you. Even though it’s also a sort of pessimism selfie. It sounds smarty pants to say, too. Oh, we’re in the SIXTH mass extinction, don’t you know.

There is almost no dialogue about this stuff. There are proclamations. Public life is carried out by proclamation and twitter. Meanwhile the U.S. election season has arrived. And never before, perhaps, has the Democratic Party put on such a pathetic show. Joe Biden can barely speak. It’s senile gibberish half the time. The other front runner — and clearly now the candidate of western capital, is Elizabeth Warren. I’m wondering how those rimless spectacles will play west of the Rockies. Not well …which is fine because the Democrats don’t want to win this one. This is Trump time. For only a man mentored at the feet of Roy Cohn could so effortlessly usher in the theatrical presentation of full blown fascism to America. Trump normalizes old school fascism. Everything can be blamed on Trump. And that is what the ruling class wants, you see. If Biden has an embolism and Warren turns out to be just too bookish (appearing) then there is always the black cop, Kamala Harris (whose future is likely as a federal DA) or Bernie. Except Bernie doesn’t want the nomination. That’s not his gig. The loud mouthed and utterly opportunistic shill will be what he always was, a ballot bag man for the more telegenic DNC candidates of choice. There is also the potential for a late comer to the DRC party. Too early for AOC (who may be, actually, too dumb for national electoral politics. And that bar has been set very low. Think Dan Quayle) and Chelsea (Clinton not Manning, although…), but it’s not impossible to think someone out there might provide better optics than Biden or Warren.

The debates themselves are so idiotic, so inane and nearly literally infantile, that it is hard to gain a clear picture of what the public thinks they are watching. But then the sub-literacy of America is stunning to behold. And perhaps the loss of even the most basic moral coherency among the bourgeoisie is resulting in the stultifying character of the Spectacle these days. The sordid and unsettling saga of cheerleader and killer (er…corpse abuser) Skyler Richardson is sort of the avatar for this era. A society that produces a Skyler Richardson …and one that cannot find the means to deal with her crimes…is a terribly sick place. But then this is also the era of drone assassination on order of the President (Obama) which took the life of a teenage citizen of the U.S. This is the era in which Julian Assange is driven toward complete physical and mental collapse by the state, for releasing the truth to the public while Mike Pompeo brags about lying. An era of wanton wholesale lying at the state level (think the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Syria, Venezuela, North Korea, Iran). Wholesale lying of a kind that the public is now utterly inured to –a lying that is expected and anticipated. A persistent assault of lies and distortions that have all but eroded the very idea of the truth. But then this an era in which transparent visible stupidity is more asset than detriment. And the problem is that crimes and viciousness of those in power …both in the U.K. and U.S. is just not answered. The Grenfell Tower fire is another avatar of class violence today. Boris Johnson (Kipling admirer and open OPEN overt racist) now is the head of state for Great Britain. But he is the shadow of Trump. A pale homunculus version of the Donald. And the hair. I mean, the hair?

But the vast militarism of the U.S. and its proxies is polluting enormous areas of earth, killing sea mammals and indoctrinating hundreds of thousands of ill educated poor kids to the joys of shooting Arab families, the pleasures of torture, and career building bullying seems to have exceeded all limits of rationality. A military system that teaches hate and racism and xenophobia. A system that tolerates (at the very least) rape. A military that gets something like 5 billion dollars a day to play with. And all those democrats on stage this week, ALL of them signed off on more militarism.

Someone said to me this week, when I mentioned Bernie’s attack on Maduro and Chavez, ‘well, he has to say that, he’s trying to win an election’. He *HAS* to say it. He is forced to lie. They have a gun to his dog’s head. Or, more likely, that bellowing fool probably believes it. Why does anyone like Bernie? Honestly, I get Liz Warren. The college educated white liberal finds their mirror ideal image in Warren. I get Biden even. He is familiar. And shit, Reagan was senile and barely able to actually speak in complete sentences and yet he was labeled ‘the great communicator’. So senility has its charms for America it seems. But Bernie is so nakedly disingenuous and mendacious. I don’t get it.

Transformations in the economic base of the system and its accompanying class structures have changed the conditions for the exercise of power. Political domination is now expressed through a new-style “political class” and a media clergy, both dedicated exclusively to serving the abstract capitalism of generalized monopolies. The ideology of the “individual as king” and the illusions of the “movement” that wants to transform the world, even “change life”(!)—without posing the question of workers and peoples seizing power—only reinforce capital’s new methods of exercising power.
— Samir Amin, Monthly Review, July 2019

The above paragraph is a useful description of contemporary capitalism and a cogent comment on the various new green deals or extinction rebellions etc. And set against the surreal comedy of the U.S. election season, the new Corporate environmentalists are paving the way for normalizing a global state of emergency. If one thinks back just a bit, the Boston Marathon bombing was the front edge for testing how compliant the population might be when their city is being shut down. Totally compliant was the answer. And this is going to be the tactic. Declare a state of emergency that is for your own good.

The sober images of Thunberg, as depicted and shared by the Climate Group, and the media at large, are very much intentional as outlined in the document “Leading the Public into Emergency Mode: A New Strategy for the Climate Movement“ published by The Climate Mobilization:

The way we respond to threats — by entering emergency mode or by remaining in normal mode — is highly contagious. Imagine the fire alarm goes off in an office building. How seriously should you take it? How do you know if it is a drill or a real fire? Those questions will be predominantly answered by the actions and communications of the people around you, particularly people designated as leaders. If they are chatting and taking their time exiting the building, you will assume that this is a drill. If people are moving with haste, faces stern and focused, communicating with urgency and gravity, you will assume there is real danger and exit as quickly as possible.
— Cory Morningstar, (Ibid.)

Just the title, We Mean Business. None of this, of course, has anything to do with saving life and protecting the planet. None has anything to do with a radical de-militarizing of the Imperialist states. Nobody is suggesting the rich change the way they live. You poor folks, well, yeah, you might have to change a little (and oh, live in a FEMA camp, but not forever….we don’t think). Allow me to just pick one bio here, from Morningstar’s work, to illustrate the fascistic ideology of those driving so much of this new marketed environmentalism. Executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) from 2010 to 2016, is the very privileged Christina Figueres, late of Georgetown and the London School of Economics, an anthropologist and economist who presided over the UN climate negotiations that culminated in the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Although meticulous in detail, Figueres biography on her personal website neglects to disclose her royal connection to Costa Rica. On Figueres’ lengthy Wikipedia entry, it is disclosed, in a single sentence, that her father, José Figueres Ferrer, served as President of Costa Rica on three separate occasions. In August 1953, the Guatemalan Communist paper, Octubre, characterized the new president of Costa Rica, José “Don Pepe” Figueres, as an “unconditional servant of American imperialism” and the latest “United Fruit Company President.” Both pro-American and anti-communist, José Figueres supported the 1954 Guatemalan coup d’état overthrowing Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán, President of Guatemala from 1951 to 1954. [Further reading: Resistance and Accommodation: The United States and the Nationalism of José Figueres, 1953–1957.]

Figueres’ mother, Karen Olsen Beck, served as Costa Rican Ambassador to Israel in 1982 and was a member of the Costa Rica Legislative Assembly.

Figueres’ brother José María Figueres also served as President of Costa Rica from 1994 to 1998. In 2013, he co-founded the Global Ocean Commission, an initiative funded by the Pew Charitable Trust, the Adessium Foundation in the Netherlands, and U.S. philanthropic group Oceans 5. Former Greenpeace adviser Simon Reddy would serve as the commission’s executive secretary. [Source] María Figueres serves as chair to the Global Ocean Commission (since rebranded to Mission Ocean) with David Miliband (recently featured on the Global Optimism podcast series), and Trevor Manuel (one of South Africa’s longest serving Ministers of Finance, now Minister in the Presidency and head of the National Planning Commission). The original members of the Global Ocean Commission remain unchanged in 2019 with one member having deceased. Members include John Podesta (chair of the Center for American Progress and a former White House chief of staff and member of the ClimateWorks board of directors), Sri Mulyani Indrawati (managing director and chief operating officer of the World Bank Group), Pascal Lamy (former director-general of the World Trade Organisation) and other high profile individuals. María Figueres is also the co-founder of Ocean Unite. This is important, as the oceans are set to be privatized under the “New Deal For Nature” scheme.
— Cory Morningstar, (Ibid.)

Again, anti-communism, and all the usual fingerprints of U.S. imperial foreign policy. It’s like six degrees of fascist separation. And yet I guarantee you will read her quotes in any number of articles on climate change and green new deals. For again, the template has always been, let the ruling class decide.

Figueres is also a “distinguished member” of Conservation International — along with chairman for Northrop Grumman, and Al Gore, and oh, a former Walmart chairman. Not to mention Figueres married Konrad Von Ritter of the World Bank. But yeah, I’m sure Greta knew all this when she accepted the invite.

Infantile and intoxicated with an almost masochistic love of authority. That is the average American today. The problem with the new (sic) environmentalism is that it is driven by western interests, and the narrative shaped by western interests. There is more than just a residual racism involved, it is there at the very most basic level. The narratives that are shaping today’s generation are largely the products of Langely and the DoD, and increasingly they feature a nostalgic rehabilitation of fascist style (at first) and now content. Fascism is becoming fashionable. It’s cool. And the fascism of Trump is a bit like the McGuffin of this master narrative. Trump’s cartoon twitter fascism is decried while legitimate fascist principles are being more inextricably and quietly baked into daily life.

The U.S. Imperialist state knows a global crises is coming. And probably the most acute area will be water. When there is a clear unanimity among global capitalists, one should see this as a symptom — and distrust the narrative. Whatever the exact degree of environmental harm due specifically to climate change, there is the undeniable desperation among the ruling elite. And an undeniable crises of pollution. If royalty and billionaires are flocking to exploit the Greta phenomenon (and to help shape that narrative), one should be highly suspicious of the solutions and strategies being offered. The fact that militarism and the packaging industry are relatively ignored in the presentation of the new green movement suggests more suspicion. Instead of *everyone* not using straws or single use plastic bags, how about just stop producing them.

The ruling class today has doubled down on smearing communism and socialism. The manufacturing of new kitsch demonized bios of Mao or Ho Chi Minh or Thomas Sankara… or even the Black Panthers suggests fear. Substitute Ocasio-Cortez for real socialism, call Bernie a socialist, too, and then pretend much of the new faux left (infiltrated by crack pot LaRouche-ites and various forms of libertarianism) is oppositional and argue with it — the better to disappear real socialist literature (see Google and Facebook censorship). Praise the most innocuous apolitical philosophy (or just the Nazi metaphysics of Heidegger) of post structuralism while, again, disappearing the work of Marx or Lenin and discredit an Adorno or a Gramsci. Or, make sure such work is taken out of context. And in fine arts applaud identity-based banality and then disappear the working class voice. And then keep prescribing mind numbing drugs. Reduce public education to simple training in compliance. And keep praising those in uniform. Always.

Thus madness reappears in the very posture which pretends to fight it.
— Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle

Despite this opposition, neoliberal capitalism cannot ward off the challenge it is facing for long. It has no vision for reinventing itself. Interestingly, in the period after the First World War, when capitalism was on the verge of sinking into a crisis, the idea of state intervention as a way of its revival had already been mooted, though its coming into vogue only occurred at the end of the Second World War. Today, neoliberal capitalism does not even have an idea of how it can recover and revitalize itself. And weapons like domestic fascism in the third world and direct imperialist intervention cannot for long save it from the anger of the masses that is building up against it.
— Utsa Patnaik and Prabhat Patnaik, (Ibid.)

I keep reading about how unprecedented was Hurricane Dorian. Well, no. The legendary Galveston hurricane of 1900 remains the single greatest natural made tragedy in U.S. History (and the second greatest was The Okeechobee Hurricane of 1928, and then Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Maria along with the The Chenière Caminada Hurricane of 1893). The environmental crises is real. The marketing of it is not necessary. Why then does it exist?

Once upon a time they wrote songs about human tragedies. Dylan might be the last songwriter to address tragedy.

As Sam Collins wrote on the You Tube video of Sin Killer Griffin’s recording of Wasn’t it a Mighty Storm, a song about the Galveston tragedy, courtesy of John Lomax…

There were many songs. But the one that has endured, deservingly, is called “Wasn’t That a Mighty Storm” – which, from what we know, began life as a spiritual in the black church.

At least the church seems to be the first place it surfaced into public view. Back in those days, almost every major public event inspired songs, which spread like text messages spread today, so the precise origin of songs is often hard to pin down.  But “Wasn’t That a Mighty Storm” fit perfectly into the black spiritual tradition – a tale of hardship and trouble and the sometimes inscrutable hand of God with which we troubled sinners in this hard mortal world simply had to live.

Part of it went like this:

Galveston had a seawall
To keep the water down,
But the high tide from the ocean
Washed water over the town.
Wasn’t that a mighty storm!
Oh, wasn’t that a mighty storm with water!
Wasn’t that a mighty storm
That blew all the people away!
Their trumpets gave them warning,
“You’d better leave this place.”
They never thought of leaving
Till death looked them in the face.
Death like a cruel master,
As the wind began to blow,
Rode out on a train of horses.
Death calls, you gotta go.

It was not a happy song. But then, it was not a happy event – and topical songs of the early 20th century thrived on unhappy events. There were literally hundreds of songs about the sinking of the Titanic, dozens about the killer Mississippi floods of 1927.

The song was apparently first recorded in 1934 by Library of Congress folk song collector John Lomax on a visit to Darrington State Farm, a prison in Sandy Point, Tex.

Lomax’s recording was by a preacher named Sin-Killer Griffin, with the prison inmates serving as his congregation.  Sin-Killer was a well-known preacher, with a mesmerizing delivery and full confidence in the name he had given himself. Death was a subject on which he preached frequently.

Relatively little is known about his life, which makes it all the more intriguing that back in 1889, in Denton, Tex., a “Sin-Killer Griffin” tried to organize black Americans to invade Africa.

There is some evidence this was the same Sin-Killer Griffin who resurfaced before John Lomax 45 years later, though we have no way of knowing for sure.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2XHOi-hG3Y0

The United States: A Nation on Suicide Watch

The Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan required major shifts in national resources from civilian to military purposes and contributed to the growth of the budget deficit and public debt. Through FY 2018, the direct costs of the wars will have totaled more than $1.9 trillion, according to US Government figures. Pollution is a serious issue. The United States (US)  is a “large emitter of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels; deals with water pollution from runoff of pesticides and fertilizers; has limited natural freshwater resources in much of the western part of the country that require careful management. Deforestation; mining; desertification; species conservation; and invasive species (the Hawaiian Islands are particularly vulnerable) are widespread. Long-term problems for the US include stagnation of wages for lower-income families, inadequate investment in deteriorating infrastructure, rapidly rising medical and pension costs of an aging population, energy shortages, and sizable current account and budget deficits.

The onrush of technology has been a driving factor in the gradual development of a “two-tier” labor market in which those at the bottom lack the education and the professional/technical skills of those at the top and, more and more, fail to get comparable pay raises, health insurance coverage, and other benefits. But the globalization of trade, and especially the rise of low-wage producers such as China, has put additional downward pressure on wages and upward pressure on the return to capital. Since 1975, practically all the gains in household income have gone to the top 20% of households. Since 1996, dividends and capital gains have grown faster than wages or any other category of after-tax income…In December 2017, Congress passed and President Donald TRUMP signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which, among its various provisions, reduces the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%; lowers the individual tax rate for those with the highest incomes from 39.6% to 37%, and by lesser percentages for those at lower income levels…The new taxes took effect on 1 January 2018; the tax cut for corporations are permanent, but those for individuals are scheduled to expire after 2025. The Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) under the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the new law will reduce tax revenues and increase the federal deficit by about $1.45 trillion over the 2018-2027 period.

Are those the words of some left wing liberal publication or fake news from the mainstream media or conspiracy tinfoil hats? No, they are excerpts from the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) 2019 World Factbook, an unflinching look at all the planet’s nations and their political systems, military expenditures, resources and internal and transnational troubles.

We’re Number One! We’re Number One!

Yes, indeed, the US has real problems, not imagined, as Republicans, Democrats and those with “Star Spangled Eyes” like to claim otherwise. “The US is the greatest country in history with the world’s most powerful military. God Bless America!” they shout out or proclaim after every speech.

Perhaps at one point in history’s past the nation had a shot to be the greatest of all time, at least in this solar system. Maybe that could have come after WW II, or the end of the Vietnam War, or even the largely successful Civil Rights movement. But now the country and its people are delusional in thinking that “everything’s groovy”.

What’s to worry about? Gas prices are low, the National Football League season is underway and the Major League Baseball playoffs are just around the corner. What fun to watch these sporting events as military aircraft fly overhead and 20-something millionaires run around the baseball diamond or up and down the football field in stadiums, by the way,  largely financed by the public. Who cares about lead infused water in Newark, New Jersey; Flint and Detroit, Michigan; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania?

And what can be said about the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria? Where’s the victory to put in the US “Win” column? The American public has largely forgotten these tragic conflicts save those whose families have made a sacrifice. But sacrifice for what? Testing out new equipment, technology and war fighting doctrine? The War on Terror has siphoned off cash badly needed for US infrastructure repairs and has taken the lives of thousands of Americans.

Yes, it is correct that there has been no repeat of the 911 attacks, but the US is dealing with its own home grown terrorist problem: active shooters. Is the US military going to start hunting them down here like they do Islamic State terrorists in the Middle East and Africa?

Hell on Earth

At any rate, the only maniacs who want US personnel to remain in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, three hell-holes created, in part, by the US, are zealous military leaders, defense contractors/suppliers, corrupt officials the US has propped up in the three countries, and black market operators eager to steal American weapons and sell them to the Taliban or groups like the Islamic State.

Oh, and let’s not forget that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (the Baron Harkonenn of the US government) and his boss President Donald Trump who are eager for war with Iran (which borders Iraq and Afghanistan, among other nations). That push has already started with the US exiting from the nuclear accord with Iran (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) in May 2018. The Trump administration has since unleashed punishing economic sanctions, and has adopted a blind-support policy for Israel and the bloodthirsty Saudis who would like nothing better than to have the US go to war with Iran. Yes, lets “do Iran” if not by direct military action then through subterfuge and dicey intelligence likely to be used to justify an ill-advised invasion.

The attack-Iran crowd has been singing the same old tune for at least 40 years now and it should have long ago been dust-binned. But here we are, again, moving toward the precipice of conflict.

According to the National Iranian American Council:

The past 40 years in U.S.-Iran relations have been riddled with missed opportunities. While the Iranians and Clinton administration failed to initiate serious dialogue after Mohammad Khatami’s election, the George W. Bush administration pocketed Tehran’s assistance after the U.S.invasion of Afghanistan, put the country in its “axis of evil,” and ignored its offer for a grand bargain. Under the Trump administration, however, we are likely witnessing the greatest missed opportunity in four decades: a failure to capitalize on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, aka the Iran nuclear deal.

War planners in the US have already sorted through all the airstrike contingencies and have plans, classified, of course, for air/missile strikes. But you need not wait for the day when the aircraft and missiles take to the skies over Iran and the talking heads from left, right and center media rant and rave about a brand new war, or retired generals show up to blather about this and that weapon system. Prepare yourself now. Be an educated armchair warrior by reviewing Anthony Cordesman’sOptions in Dealing with Irans Nuclear Program. It addresses the use of conventional and nuclear weapons by the US and Israel.

What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?

It is commonplace for Americans to lionize US military leaders and look to them as calming voices, counterweights to warmongering government officials and their advisors. Ironic, isn’t it? Can we look to our divine US military leaders to change the current thinking of the war hawks in the administration, congress and the think tanks that dot the Washington, DC Metro region?

Nope.

Consider this review by William Bacevich, a decorated combat veteran, of the newest US Central Command boss, Marine Corps General Kenneth McKenzie. McKenzie’s area of responsibility (AOR) includes Iran.

General Kenneth McKenzie became the twenty-fourth commander of CENTCOM (more formally known as United States Central Command).  On May 8, at an event sponsored by the Institute for the Perpetuation of War and the Promotion of Regime Change, more formally known as the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), he outlined his plans for building on the legacy of his 23 predecessors.  None of those predecessors, it should be acknowledged, succeeded in accomplishing his assigned mission. Nor, I’m willing to bet, will he.

The essence of that mission, according to General McKenzie himself, is to promote stability. “A stable Middle East underpins a stable world,” he announced, and “our steady commitment to our allies and partners provides a force for stability.” As to how the region became unstable in the first place, he offers no opinion, leaving listeners with the impression that previous exertions by CENTCOM forces in invading, occupying, bombing, and otherwise spilling blood throughout his Area of Responsibility (AOR) had nothing to do with the absence of stability existing there today…This much seems clear: To listen to McKenzie, Iran is the ultimate source of all evil. To cite just one example, during Operation Iraqi Freedom, the general charges that “at least 600 US personnel deaths in Iraq were the result of Iran-backed militants.” This was indeed nefarious, and one is hard-pressed to think of a comparable episode in recent military history, although US support for Saddam Hussein pursuant to his war of aggression against Iran might fill the bill.”

Don’t Bogart that Joint, My Friend

How are we faring in that other Long War, the War on Drugs?

The Office of National Drug Control and Policy’s (ONDCP) 2019 National Drug Control Strategy document describes the massive US local, state, and federal machinery set up to defeat drug trafficking organizations from getting their products to US streets and into the bodies of American citizens.

The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) Program provides assistance to law enforcement agencies operating in areas determined to be critical drug-trafficking regions of the United States. HIDTAs provide an umbrella to coordinate Federal, state, local, and tribal drug law enforcement agencies’ investigations, and act as neutral centers to manage, de-conflict, analyze, provide intelligence, and execute drug enforcement activities in their respective regions. With the recent inclusion of Alaska, the first new HIDTA in 17 years, the 29 regional HIDTAs now include designated areas in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia. The regional HIDTAs bring together more than 21,000 Federal, state, local, and tribal personnel from 500 agencies through 800 enforcement, intelligence, and training initiatives, all designed to disrupt illicit drug trafficking and dismantle criminal and drug trafficking organizations.

The US military, of course, plays a key role in the US War on Drugs, supporting HIDTA’s among other activities. Take, for example, US Southern Command’s (SOUTHCOM) role in the Joint Interagency Task Force-South (JIATF-South). A 2005 briefing by former US Coast Rear Admiral Jeffrey Hathaway shows that no less than 14 agencies worked, and likely still do, chasing down illicit drugs in the SOUTHCOM AOR. These include the National Security Agency; the US Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines; the US Coast Guard,  and the National Reconnaissance Office, among others. According to one of Hathaway’s slides, every step involved in JIATF-South operations from interdiction to prosecution leads to intelligence. That is an interesting point. So 14 years later and all the intelligence collected has led to what, exactly?

Let’s revisit the CIA’s 2019 World Factbook for a read on how the War on Drugs effort is going. The US is the “world’s largest consumer of cocaine (shipped from Colombia through Mexico and the Caribbean), Colombian heroin, and Mexican heroin and marijuana; a major consumer of ecstasy and Mexican methamphetamine; a minor consumer of high-quality Southeast Asian heroin; an illicit producer of cannabis, marijuana, depressants, stimulants, hallucinogens, and methamphetamine. It is also a money-laundering center.”

Great!

This piece could go on and on citing data from a myriad of sources showing, among other things, the 500% growth rate of the US prison population, income inequality according to the Gini Coefficient which sees the US (41.5) right near Iran (40), or that one in six children in the US live in hunger. But, hey! The stock market is up, unemployment is down, and the dollar menu at McDonald’s is fabulous.

The forever wars on Drugs and Terror, or the trumped up wars to come; income equality; homelessness; hunger, infrastructure collapse and the fracturing of US society into tribes is clearly a nationwide social, political and cultural sickness: perhaps mental illness. Even the Internet/World Wide Web, once viewed as a global unifying/liberating force for change/good has become what is termed the Splinternet, reflecting large in-group fanaticism, censorship and a polarization of political beliefs. It is now polluted with advertisements just as radio and television are.

But there’s still time left on the clock to change the direction of the country. Who or what will do that and when it will happen I’m not sure. But I take heart in Robert F. Kennedy’s insight below that there are many who long to make “life worthwhile” for everyone in America, once again.

For Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross national product…if we should judge the United States of America by that—counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead, and armored cars for police who fight riots in our streets. It counts Whitman’s rifle and Speck’s knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.

Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it tells us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.

The West Oppressed The Third World For So Long That It Became Third World Itself

Many have already noticed: The U.S. really, really doesn’t feel like the world leader, or even as a ‘first world country’. Of course, I write that sarcastically, as I detest expressions like ‘first world’, and the ‘third world’. But readers know what I mean.

Bridges, subways, inner cities, everything is crumbling, falling apart. When I used to live in New York City, more than two decades ago, returning from Japan was shocking: the US felt like a poor, deprived country, full of problems, misery, of confused and depressed people, homeless individuals; in short – desperados. Now, I feel the same when I land in the US after spending some time in China.

And it gets much worse. What the West used to accuse the Soviet Union of is now actually clearly detectable in the United States and the United Kingdom themselves: surveillance is at every step these days; in New York, London, Sydney, and even in the countryside. Every move a person makes, every purchase, every computer click, is registered somewhere, somehow. And this monitoring is, mostly, not even illegal.

Speech is controlled by political correctness. Someone behind the scenes decides what is acceptable and what is not, what is desirable or not, and even what is permissible. You make one ‘mistake’ and you are out; from the teaching positions at the universities, or from the media outlets.

In such conditions, humor cannot thrive, and satire dies. It is not unlike religious fundamentalism: you get destroyed if you ‘offend’. In such circumstances, writers cannot write ground-breaking novels, because true novels offend by definition, and always push the boundaries. As a result, almost nobody reads novels anymore.

Only toothless, ‘controlled humor’ is permitted. No punches can be administered intuitively. Everything has to be calculated in advance. No ‘outrageous’ political fiction can pass the ‘invisible censorship’ in the West (and so, novels as a form have almost died). Those who read in Russian or Chinese languages know perfectly well that the fiction in Russia and China is much more provocative and avant-garde.

In the West, poetry has died, too. And so has philosophy, which has been reduced to a boring, stale and indigestible academic discipline.

While Hollywood and the mass media keep producing, relentlessly, all sorts of highly insulting and stereotypical racist junk (mainly against the Chinese, Russians, Arabs, Latinos and others), great writers and filmmakers who want to ridicule the Western regime and its structure have already been silenced. You can only humiliate non-Westerners in a way that is approved (again: somewhere, somehow), but God forbid, you dare to criticize the pro-Western elites who are ruining their countries on behalf of London and Washington, in the Gulf, Southeast Asia or Africa – that would be ‘patronizing’ and ‘racist’. A great arrangement for the Empire and its servants, isn’t it?

We all know what has happened to Julian Assange, and to Edward Snowden. In the West, people are disappearing, getting arrested, censored. Millions are losing jobs: in the media, publishing houses, and in the film studios. The Cold War era appears to be relatively ‘tolerant’, compared to what is taking place now.

Social media constantly represses ‘uncomfortable’ individuals, ‘unacceptable’ media outlets, and too ‘unorthodox’ thoughts.

Travel has become a boot camp. This is where they break you. Move through the Western airports and you will encounter the vulgar, insulting ‘securistan’. Now, you are not just expected to pull down your pants if ordered, or take off your shoes, or throw away all your bottles containing liquids: you are expected to smile, to grin brightly, like an idiot. You are supposed to show how eager, how cooperative you are: to answer loudly, looking straight into the eyes of your tormentors. If you get humiliated, still, be polite. If you want to fly, show that you are enjoying this stupid and useless humiliation, administered for one and only reason: to break you, to make you pathetic and submissive. To teach you where you really belong. Or else. Or else! We all know what will happen if you refuse to ‘cooperate’.

*****

Now, ‘they’ will use double-speak to let you know that all this is for your own good. It will not be pronounced, but you would be made to sense it: ‘you are being protected from those horrible Third World monsters, madmen, perverts.’ And, of course, from Putin, from the Chinese Communists, from the butcher Maduro, from Assad, or from the Iranian Shi’a fanatics.

The regime is fighting for you, it cares for you, it is protecting you.

Sure, if you live in the UK or the US, the chances are that you are deep in debt, depressed and with no prospects for the future. Maybe your children are hungry, maybe, in the US, you cannot afford the medical care. Most likely, you cannot afford housing in your own city. Perhaps you are forced to have two or three jobs.

But at least you know that your ‘wise leaders’ in the White House, Congress, Pentagon and security agencies are working day and night, protecting you from countless conspiracies, from vicious attacks from abroad, and from those evil Chinese and Russians, who are busy building progressive and egalitarian societies.

Lucky you!

*****

Except: something does not add up here.

For years and decades you were told how free you were. And how oppressed, unfree, those against whom you are being protected, are.

You were told how rich you are and how miserable “the others” were.

To stop those deprived and deranged hordes, some serious measures had to be applied. A right-wing death-squad in some Central American or Southeast Asian country had to be trained in US military camps; a thoroughly absolutist and corrupt monarch had to be supported and pampered; a military fascist coup had to be arranged. Millions raped, tens of thousands of corpses. Not pretty at all, but you know… necessary. For your own good, North American or European citizens; for your own good…. Even for the good of the country that we designated for our ‘liberation’.

Few dissidents in the West have been protesting, for decades. No one has been paying much attention to them. Most of them became ‘unemployable’, and were silenced through misery and the inability to pay their basic bills.

But suddenly…

What happened, suddenly? Because something really happened…

*****

The Empire got tired of plundering the non-Western parts of the world, exclusively.

Well-conditioned, brainwashed and scared, the Western public began to get treated with the same spite as people in the plundered and miserable parts of the world. Well, not yet, not exactly. There are still some essential differences, but the trend is definitely there.

The Western public cannot do too much to protect itself, really. The regime knows everything about everybody: it spies on every citizen: where he or she walks, what he or she eats, drives, flies, watches, consumes, reads. There are no secrets, anymore.

You are an atheist? No need to ‘confess’. You are confessing every minute, with each and every computer click, by pressing the remote control button, or by shopping on Amazon.

Is Big Brother watching? Oh no; now there is much more detailed surveillance. Big Brother is watching, recording and analyzing.

General Pinochet of Chile used to brag that without his knowledge, no leaf could ever move. The old, fascist scumbag was bragging; exaggerating. On the other hand, Western rulers say nothing, but they clearly know what they are doing. Without their knowledge, nothing moves and nobody moves.

Arriving from China, from Russia or Cuba, the first thing that strikes me is how disciplined, obedient and scared, the Europeans and North Americans really are. They subconsciously know that they are being controlled and cannot do anything about it.

When trains get delayed or cancelled, they sheepishly murmur half-audible curses. Their medical benefits get reduced; they accept, or quietly commit suicide. Their public infrastructure crumbles; they say nothing, remembering the ‘good old days’.

Why is it that I feel hope, I laugh with the people, in Mexico City, Johannesburg or Beijing? Why is there so much warmth in the geographically cold cities of Vladivostok or Petropavlovsk in Kamchatka? Why are the people of London, Paris, Long Angeles looking so concerned, so depressed?

Some historically poor countries are on the rise. And the people there show appreciation for every tiny improvement. Nothing is more beautiful than optimism.

The West has fought the so-called “third world” for many, long decades; oppressing it, tormenting it, looting it, violating its people. It prevented them from choosing their own governments. Now it has gone overboard: it is attempting to control and to oppress the entire world, including its own citizens.

As various countries all over the world are getting back onto their feet, resisting pressure from Washington, London, Paris and Berlin, people in the West are increasingly getting treated by their governments with the spite that used to be reserved exclusively for the “under-developed nations” (yes, another disgusting expression).

Clearly, the West has “learnt from itself”.

While countries like Russia, China, Vietnam, Mexico, Iran and others are surging forward, many previously rich colonialist and neo-colonialist empires are now beginning to resemble the “Third World”.

These days, it is very sad being a writer in New York City or in London. Just as it is frightening to be poor. Or being different. All over the world, the roles are being reversed.

• First published in New Eastern Outlook (NEO), Magazine of the Russian Academy of Sciences

Questioning the Extremely Online

This essay is in regard to a crime that too often goes unmentioned when the conversations turn towards political analysis, the contemporary journalistic scene, and broader social critique: the crime of being extremely online.

What does it mean to be extremely online? It mostly is as straightforward as it sounds. Generally, activities such as spending too much time on the web, scrolling through social media feeds out of habit, checking email or notifications dozens of times a day, all are symptoms of the extremely online person. Particularly, too much smartphone use is a devastating problem.

There is also a more specific version, which both mainstream journalists and alternative media commentators employ on both the right and left: constantly posting every news update; sharing a gazillion times every day each and every version and opinion on a current event/post/tweet about the lead news stories of the day, whether it is something interesting about global warming or something as ignorant and banal as the president’s tweets; prognosticating about the presidential election a year and a half before it happens;  using dubious polls or statistics to bolster weak arguments; and basically reacting to every media spectacle with behavior including, but not limited to, juvenile tantrums, posturing, faux outrage, jaded cynicism, pompous virtue-signalling, ironic detachment, and narcissistic self-aggrandizement.

Quite a few alternative media commentators tend to replicate and mimic the 24/7 spectacle that is mainstream news. That is to say, many have internalized the messaging style; the hyper-fast response time to current events…generally speaking, the norms of mainstream commentary and thus bourgeois values are being internalized. The more time spent posting for an online following on social media, the stronger the pull of an affinity to a certain type of power. Digital hierarchies become hardened, and the bourgeoisification of the web intensifies. As we shall see below, even those who identify as anti-capitalist or socialist are not immune.

The types of online behaviors regarding political debate exhibited above may be the exception, but with the expansion of social media along with its hyper-stratified tendencies, it may soon become the norm.

What research has shown is that digital literacy creates a path towards more open attitudes towards digital technology, which can be called Technophilia.1 This research points towards entertainment as one of the key drivers in promoting positive emotions and behavior when using digital technology, which results in a positive feedback loop leading to more intense and rewarding use.

If you extrapolate from this a bit, I’d suggest that the top online influencers in various political schools of thought will be more predisposed towards promoting digital technology, simply because they are benefitting from it financially. We have a situation where the most popular commentators are economically tied to social media, but there are plenty of reasons to believe that their naïve optimism regarding the power of digital media will not stop there, but rather, the naivety extends to industrial society as a whole.

The social media environment creates a logic of its own, just as most modern technology does. One obvious materialist analogy is to the medical industry. As long as for-profit companies are allowed to dominate pharmaceutical and research endeavors, the logic of the system will mean that more people are made sick, anxious, depressed, etc., to make more money for corporations. With social media, the logic of its internal dynamics precludes nuanced, informed, lengthy public deliberation in favor of sound-bite quotes, sloganeering, and focusing on personalities, along with the most shallow forms of identity politicking. Its logic depends on divisive, sensational, hateful, and ultimately fascistic rhetoric dominating political discourse.

Since the scope of Technophilia broadens and intensifies with continued use of labor-saving devices made under exploitative conditions, it ultimately results in many self-proclaimed anti-capitalists falling under the sway of propaganda emanating from mainstream technological society, as we shall see below.

Class is never taken seriously in our society. In many rural areas around the USA broadband internet access is still out of reach, and is expensive for many poor urban Americans as well, creating a digital divide. Thus it is no wonder that the rich and middle-classes are more “open” towards the web and smart-phone use. They derive more pleasure from them in terms of entertainment, increased digital literacy, and monetary success. The flip side of being more open is being more immature and blind to dangers, however. In contrast the poor and working classes respond to the digital life-world with more skepticism, as the above study indicates.

My contention here is that this digital literacy creates a new form of “digital spectacle” for technophilic Westerners on both the political right and left, especially for the middle classes. The elite implicitly understand that in a society based on artificial scarcity, only a certain amount of online influencers can vie for position in digital media. The professional and managerial classes, and their children ensconced in privilege, all too easily fall under the sway of the competitive forces in online media as well.

The poor and working class understand that in regarding to digital media, they are getting crushed under the weight of start-up costs, social capital which is either unobtainable or sleazy to get, and various online fees and hurdles to make it in a new rigged game of digital society. The digital divide is becoming a chasm, because it too it based on market forces.

As alluded to above, election cycle mania, the fascination with polling data, as well as fixation of GDP, job growth, and many other factors which the mainstream media focuses on are now internalized across the political spectrum, included much of Western Left analysis. This isn’t to say that socialists overly reliant on statistics and polling are wrong; simply that it’s mostly ineffective, as the tone is technocratic, academic, and is filled with the jargon that turns off the average citizen, even some of what is written here. I am not immune, this is a self-criticism as well, as the lack of engagement and overly analytical framework extends throughout journalism and academia across the entire social body.

Most of this behavior has been internalized and learned from mainstream media, which creates a market and manufactured interest in nonsensical statistics and banal news trivia, as Neil Postman points out:

Statistics create an enormous amount of completely useless information, which compounds the always difficult task of location that which is useful to a culture. This is more than a case of ‘information-overload.’ It is a matter of information-trivia, which has the effect of placing all information on an equal level.2

Once data becomes transmuted into a sort of holy substance, it is wielded by both the political Right and Left as a weapon: statistics back their cause and any deviation from the issue is irrational and illogical. This sets the table for false binaries and political polarization across the spectrum of political thought.

What being extremely online has done is given the very few big “influencers” in mainstream media as well as alternative spaces huge egos and warped their ability to think critically. This is most clearly seen in our “troll in chief”, Donald Trump. Time, space, and perception are distorted and it has led to a predictable and unimaginative online discourse.

When a post appears on social media, often if you know the contributor and some of the followers/friends, you can glean and predict what the reaction is going to be and who is going to say what. Depending on the news of the day, I can guestimate what the “takes” will be of my various friends and those I follow. I admit this can be sometimes comforting given the horrendous news we deal with daily. However, it also kind of implies that real people are reacting, thinking, and forming commentary algorithmically, as if our thoughts now mimic apps like Spotify and Pandora which play tracks from one’s favorite musicians; or at least similar artists which won’t offend the listener’s taste. How banal and horrifying all at once.

With podcasts or Youtube videos, as well as message boards, one can see political commentary forming a script, where individuals rattle off reels of their “greatest hits” of points, observations, and reflections, rather than engaging with the subject matter. No matter how hard we try, social media can never replicate oral traditions and real-life conversations. Dysfunction is baked into modern capitalist-based digital communication.

How being extremely online works to the advantage of the few at the expense of the many is easy to ascertain. We are told we are living in an “attention economy” and the extremely online predicate their behavior on this premise, even those who ostensibly identify as anti-capitalist. The extremely online mimic the 24/7 blather of mainstream media discourse, because nothing is too insignificant not to post, nothing too small not to get out in the lead as being “on top of” any given issue or current event. This is the sort of competitive striving absolutely essential to capitalism.

Outrage, shock, compassion, repulsion, empathy, and even “rational, objective” sober media analysis vie for our attention spans, and the extremely online prey upon those among their followers who due to loneliness, emotional issues, or escapism already spend too much time online, and are thus more vulnerable to screen addiction, sensationalist appeals, fear-mongering, gossip, consumer trends, etc.

Of course, the mainstream outlets have been deeply complicit, as it suits their financial interests. As seen by the CNN executive during the 2016 election gloating that the insane coverage of Trump was horrible for the country, but good for their bottom line, or something to that effect.

As for the reaction time of news sources, and thus political commentary, it may strain one’s memory to recall, but only twenty years ago any major news stories that broke after the evening news broadcast did not appear until the next morning, nearly an eight to twelve hour delay

Now, every media outlet is constantly bombarding us with every update and crisis in real time. The main reaction to this (notwithstanding the many sincere alternative media, community-level, and individual critiques) in the collective consciousness is shock and numbness, and it only compounds daily.

Now, many leftists tend to unconsciously mimic the same tendencies of mainstream media. This is done by copying the tactics of mainstream online influencers who use marketing, PR, and advertising firms to get ahead. This is done by pandering to the crowd and reacting to every Trump and establishment faux pas, whether Democrat or Republican. This is done by opportunistic virtue signaling and online activism viewed as a substitute for in person organizing. The virtual becomes more real than the real. Egos become more tied to the digital social environs, a derivative of a derivative.

Apparently the twisted logic is that if the extremely online use social media as a way for exposure and fame, it’s worth it. Social media becomes a tool, a means to an end to uproot the system. The downside tends to be that we become instruments of social media itself, not a new phenomenon in Western Civilization.

Posting dozens of times a day on social media simply is not in anyone’s best interest. It is in the best interest of capital, however. Why else would one post 30, 50, a hundred times a day if not to create an attention economy around oneself, to gain digital “followers” whose gaze will be diverted from possibly more important issues closer and dearer to their hearts…as well as to one’s family and friends, one’s material reality and ability to help the vulnerable and those in need close to them.

What should be obvious is every moment spent online is time away from the natural world and thus a huge time-suck where we exist as zombified, trance-induced crazy people for more information, useless updates, more drivel-data and bits of trivialities that do not change a thing.

Being online means being on the grid and the computing power needed to keep our information superhighway running is increasing like a runaway train. Despite the relatively low cost of powering one’s individual smartphone and computer/laptop/tablet etc., the internet via server farms, cell towers, etc. uses approximately 10% of the world’s total electricity consumption and the total energy use for the web increases by about 20% each year. The rollout of harmful 5G technology and internet of things only will accelerate the technological dystopia we’re enmeshed in.

Regardless of what technophiles and delusional people want to think, modern industrial civilization is a fad. We are going to have to go through an extended period of degrowth and lowering our power consumption and that will have to include less internet use. Most especially, too much smartphone use must be addressed head-on. Smartphones need to go away, for good, and it’s not too hard to imagine a workable society without them. It existed twenty years ago.

This should be simple enough to understand, but again, chronic habitual internet use and social media creates a form of addiction which leads to denialism. For those that do partake in nuanced forms of online discussion, in message boards or even in comment sections, yet limit, self-reflect, and moderate your use, congratulations. This is not directed at you. This is written is response to the serial social media addicts. For those in this group, I’ll posit that one of the root reasons for this malady is that our addict-Left comrades unconsciously identify with the system.

This isn’t meant to sound callous, these people are suffering to different degrees, and I do empathize. Boredom, loneliness, and lack of in-person human connection are endemic to our culture and these factors shouldn’t be minimized when understanding addictive behavior.

Part of the problem is the speed of society now. It’s understandable, people want to keep up with events and chime in with their two cents. It’s a human reaction. Part of the problem is also that the people who have convinced themselves they are part of the solution remain part of the problem. Mainly, because they are unable or unwilling to critically examine the technophilic ideology at the heart of the capitalist-based internet.

The “Left-opinion makers”, as the Situationists were wont to call them, thus fall hopelessly further into the spectacle.

Caveat

Social media use is not a horrible thing in and of itself. Although much of its use tends to replicate competitive and hierarchical relations, there are alternative visions of what the web could be like. Internet and social media companies could have been, and should be now, directed through public funding and non-profit models decades ago to engage and educate working class people, to provide jobs and new opportunities, and to raise the consciousness of the public sphere. This could easily be done even within the confines of a social-democratic system.

What we have now is a web and social media landscape that is largely, but not completely, irredeemable. Again, this does not mean one should completely ignore it, only that social media should be seen as a vessel to get people out of their homes and into the streets: like we saw in Tunisia, in Egypt and many other nations during the Arab Spring.

I don’t know if this metaphor is useful at all, but social media could be used as a sort of liberatory portals or gateways, networks to awaken the masses from their slumber, to take them out of the virtual and into the “natural” world. Web and social media technology can be used to “tune in” people to serious movement-building, to Marx, to environmental protests, to issues like climate change and nuclear war, through digital communication; but eventually there has to be a period when citizens step through to the other side and “drop out” to take the struggle onto the public squares. The thing is, many of those involved in just such struggles seem hopelessly “addicted” or too enamored with the power of internet technology itself, much like what has happened with the fetishization of the internal combustion engine, the printing press, the personal computer, and many other examples.

The Professional Bloviators

Sadly, quite a few self-professed anti-capitalist public intellectuals seem to be ensnared by bourgeois ideology today. Many rightly view our political and economic systems as hopelessly corrupt, yet still cling to the privilege, perks, and soapboxes offered by their academic positions (tied to student and faculty exploitation, which is either conveniently unmentioned or under-emphasized), viewing their own credentials as somehow a basis for a true and fair meritocracy, as if academia is somehow above the vagaries of blind chance, sheer luck, white privilege, and jockeying for power.

Any academic worth their salt should be either heavily insinuating, or outright stating to their students, that college is a huge waste of time and money, depending on how much “free speech” they can actually afford to say without getting canned. Universities function today as huge indoctrination camps to train the next generation of good “liberals” (or good Germans, it might be more appropriate to say) who will never question or threaten to overturn the system: the professional-managerial upper-middle class technocrats, financiers, doctors, lawyers, etc.

Thus, even some dissident academics manage to paint themselves into a corner with ineffectual arguments backing the college system, turf wars, theatrical posturing, lack of engagement with the working class, etc. This has all been said before, but again, it may be worth repeating. For instance, in 2011 in the US there were some “socialists” and “anarchists” supporting the US/UK/French bombing of Libya, and a few who equivocated and vacillated, citing the responsibility to protect civilians, parroting State Department propaganda. Oy vey.

The internet and social media has accelerated this trend, making things worse among the wider population, as even those with core anti-capitalist ideas fall into internecine bickering. This is peak aspersionary politics, or passive-aggressiveness if you prefer, which apes wider bourgeois culture. To recast Allen Ginsberg’s opening line of Howl for today, and I only mean this half-jokingly, we can think of something like: “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by social media.” Some Left twitterati self-identify as being “extremely online”: brazenly, unashamedly, and unreflectively revealing the depths of their own screen addictions.

Aldous Huxley described the brain as a “reducing valve”, yet I’ve not heard a fully-encompassing phrase for the situation created by a digital milieu where web algorithms which reinforce harmful beliefs and behavior, prey on our addictions, amplify hatred, sow discord, polarize media and community; by devices that seize and sustain our attention long after we realize it no longer serves our interests; by neurotransmitter hijacking, empathy-deadening, critical-thinking atrophying smartphones and media built explicitly to mine us for money, use our thoughts/photos/creativity/etc. as free content while social media companies and those who advertise on the platforms make billions, and generally to simultaneously distract, outrage, and numb us. “Limbic capitalism3 is the closest term I’ve come across, but perhaps the more brutal, if less artful, phrase is more apt: mind control.

There is less and less nuance and space for radical dissent as many left-leaning alternative media and social media influencers close ranks and offer only very mild criticism of social democratic policies. Again, the striving is self-evident, is it not?

These are symptoms of unhealthy minds, formatted/manipulated/brainwashed to choose between false binaries no matter what contradictions follow from the starting premises of whatever topic is at hand. For instance, take the so-called socialist opportunists who offer very mild public criticism of the Green New Deal, or those who don’t mention the huge cuts in military spending needed to give the deal teeth, so as not to seem confrontational or radical, or perhaps to save what’s left of their perceived (yet, worthless) reputations. In other words, their take is: we don’t have time to build real socialism. Let’s form a coalition with the new social democrats, as if that didn’t end in complete disaster over 100 years ago.

Paths Forward

Now, of course it’s true that reform can indeed broaden and deepen the prospects for revolution, and it is not an either/or proposition, as Rosa Luxembourg explained so well. Yet, we cannot let the crass opportunism and striving for attention on digital media to enact important reforms derail us from steeping workers, students, minorities, and women in the rich intellectual tradition woven by the anti-capitalist Left.

Right in the introduction to the Social Reform or Revolution, Luxemburg states: “The entire strength of the modern labor movement rests on theoretic knowledge.” Despite big advances in the last three years, clearly there is a need for the deep type of work involving the framework for constructing and advancing a truly emancipatory Green New Deal, as well as fighting for open borders, the abolition of prisons and police, and the military-industrial complex.

Anything less than a systematic and intersectional approach will do a huge disservice to the movement and will replicate the cloistered, privileged milieu which unduly benefits the extremely online and their techno-utopian backers.

Reform is welcome because it can lead to tolerance, and its eventual byproduct, solidarity. Solidarity is a radiating emotional, behavioral, and intellectual stance from which flow social bonding and necessary healing mechanisms for our culture. The main ideals of environmental, social, and economic justice revolve around solidarity. Which gives us space to breathe, and here I’m reminded of Eric Garner’s last words. The minorities and the poor in this country have been suffocating for centuries. With no mass base, even the good intentions of those in Congress, such as the “Squad” who advocate for redistributive measures, will be for naught.

If some of today’s US socialist “thought leaders” are so spineless to feign from even mentioning how the prospect of renewable energy corporations left in the hands of private control will end in utter disaster, or to simply pretend it won’t, there’s not much left to say to these people. Then there are US socialists who advocate insanely for nuclear power. Forget theoretical knowledge.  This is basic common sense.  Nuclear energy is dangerous and should be avoided at all costs. If there is intimidation by peers, or simply self-censorship, or to maintain a lifestyle by promoting such anti-life policies on the Left, well, it’s entirely understandable, predictable, and wretched. It’s also an abdication of responsibility: clearly these are bourgeois stances.

To sum up, pointing fingers at the ruling classes’ blatantly obvious sociopathic tendencies provides the convenient scapegoats and diversionary tactics from confronting the holes in many of our own thinking

Back to theoretic knowledge for a minute. First, we have to take into account the anti-intellectual climate here in the US. One encounters quite a few semi-influential figures, especially on the right but increasingly in anti-capitalist outlets, which are quick to criticize French postmodernists, or the Frankfurt School, or various strains of thought which are deemed too obscure or weighty.

There’s no time for theory is one of their complaints, because it is too time-consuming or turns off too many people. So whatever is too complicated for the gate-keeping digital left-liberal editors is thrown by the wayside, but it ain’t clear where this process is headed other than an even more dumbed-down society. What is clear is we are dealing with lightweights.  It’s pretty paternalistic too, because the subtext seems to be that regular people are just too dumb to be introduced to “Theory” and serious academic work.

The other side to this is that many of the same people who are wonderful at explaining theory or offering political critique, many of the “the Left opinion makers”, have absolutely no environmental or ecological knowledge base. You wouldn’t trust them with a shovel; never mind on a factory floor, a communal farm, starting an activist movement or union, or organizing a cooperative. The materialism part of the equation never kicked in. It’s a function of middle-class squeamishness that needs to be squashed.

Another point I want to mention is the US and UK analytic preference for social critique and philosophical investigation, in contrast to the continental style. And I cannot emphasize enough that the dominant Anglophone trend is to turn socialism into an equation, a formula. Put another way, to offer models of governance and even to organize in the technocratic style. Not only that, but to uncritically accept a model for the future based on unrestrained use of technology, with very little understanding of environmental impacts,  conservation, or basic ecology in general.

We see this techno-fetishism in some of the ideas floating around such as “Fully Automated Luxury Communism”, notably Aaron Bastani’s recent work of the same title. Bastani is close to Jeremy Corbyn and Labour. And look who gives a plug for the book, Bhaskar Sunkara. And if you follow these connections down the rabbit hole you’ll see Sunkara’s most recent work gets a plug from Ezra Klein of Vox. So there are all these ties from UK socialists to US democratic socialists to elitist technocratic liberals. And what is in common is a shared naivety regarding technology.

Again, ideas around degrowth are never discussed by the automation admirers. It’s clearly a total dismissal of the idea to preserve their own affluence. Total energy use in the West will have to decrease immensely. The economy, which is inexorably tied to energy use, will have to contract. Nearly all large buildings will have to be retrofitted to remain cooler in the summer and warmer in winter using natural insulation methods. Many large office buildings, skyscrapers, malls, etc. will simply have to be abandoned because there is no way to heat/cool them even remotely efficiently. Modern agriculture will have to be dismantled and converted to decentralized permaculture community-worked gardens.

None of this is even mentioned by the automators. This is because their thinking, their ways of being online, have already started to slip into the manner of the automaton. Which many people acknowledged, where Brzezinski dispassionately saw it as an inevitability of modern life, and famously Marcuse saw it as a downright horror in his One Dimensional Man.

The majority of the world can see through all of this talk of AI, robot, quantum computer, 5G drivel. Most people understand, even if they cannot quite communicate their ideas as coldly or eloquently as the technophiles, that the mind cannot be reduced to a mechanical device or a computer processor. As below, so above, society cannot be viewed or treated as a factory floor for renewable energy powered robots to bring us to some Jetsons or Star Trek lifestyle.

The opportunities for control and manipulation of minds have already grown at a frightening pace in the past fifty years. Even further automation would simply open up more avenues for alienation and exploitation. Here’s how. A pro-automation society would be more open to new hierarchies created by divides among the digitally literate, could empower the pharmaceutical companies to create dangerous new drugs to control moods and perception, could open up more geo-engineering of the planet, to more spying and tracking of individuals, and generally more of the full-spectrum digitization of our lives.

This isn’t to suggest that those among the extremely online don’t have any good ideas, or that the FALCers don’t either. It’s simply a reminder that some of these people are being very naïve in regard to the future of technology, some are materially benefitting from the current toxic social media environment and are therefore biased, and others do not realize the internal logic of the system which engenders some of the very barriers they wish to destroy. In most cases high technology acts as a drug, with an intelligence of its own, and once you’re on the ride you don’t control where you’re going to get off.

  1. Ronit, Purian, “Technophilia: A New Model For Technology Adoption” (2011), UK Academy for Information Systems Conference Proceedings 2011, Paper 41.
  2. Postman, Neil. Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology. Vintage Books, New York, 1992.
  3. Courtwright, David. “How ‘Limbic Capitalism’ Preys on our Addicted Brains”, Quillette, May 31, 2019.

United Church of Canada should Come Clean on Anti-Palestinian Accord

Toronto church Trinity-St. Paul’s shameful suppression of a Palestinian youth cultural event highlights anti-Palestinian rot festering in the United Church of Canada. It ought to also shine a light on a little discussed anti-Palestinian accord UCC leaders signed with Israel lobby groups five decades ago.

Under pressure from B’nai B’rith and the Jewish Defence League the Trinity-St. Paul Centre for Faith, Justice and the Arts recently canceled a room booking “to celebrate the artistic and cultural contributions of Palestinians in the diaspora.” The Palestinian Youth Movement’s spoken word event was to “showcase the winners of the Ghassan Kanafani Resistance Arts Scholarship”, which the JDL and B’nai B’rith chose to target on the grounds the famous novelist was a spokesperson for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in the early 1970s. After Kanafani and his 17-year old niece were assassinated by the Mossad in Beirut, Lebanon’s Daily Star labeled the novelist “a commando who never fired a gun, whose weapon was a ball-point pen, and his arena the newspaper pages.”

As I detailed in this article Trinity-St. Paul’s spiritual leader is anti-Palestinian leftist Cheri DiNovo. Since publishing that piece the former NDP MPP admitted — to vicious anti-Palestinian/Islamophobe Toronto Sun columnist Sue-Ann Levy, of all people — that she forwarded B’nai B’rith’s concerns to the church’s board, which then cancelled the event. Dropping her progressive standing further, DiNovo unfriended a number of individuals on Facebook who politely questioned her role in suppressing the Palestinian cultural event.

To be fair to DiNovo she isn’t the only Progressive Except for Palestine voice in the UCC. “What happened at Trinity St. Paul’s is not isolated”, wrote Karen Rodman, an ordained UCC minister and prominent Palestine solidarity activist. Last year the UCC seminary at the University of Toronto’s Victoria University withdrew from a Palestinian Liberation Theology program with Reverend Naim Ateek. According to Rodman, work had been underway on Emmanuel College’s continuous learning initiative with Ateek for a year when pressure was brought to bear by Israeli nationalist groups.

Resolutions endorsed at UCC conventions in the 2000s called on Palestinians to recognize Israel as an ethnic/religious supremacist state. The 2009 motion called for “the emergent State of Palestine” to recognize “Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state within safe and secure borders.” In an interview after the 2009 convention Palestinian Canadian journalist Hanna Kawas complained the UCC was asking the victims of a European colonial movement to endorse the supremacist ideology that dispossessed them. In 2012 the UCC “advised against the use of ‘the language of apartheid’ when applied to Israel” and called for a solution to the Palestinian refugees’ right of return so long as it “maintains the demographic integrity of Israel.”

In another sign of the church hierarchy’s encouragement of a colonial ideology, Rodman was harassed and bullied for supporting Palestinian rights. Church officials purportedly called her a “terrorist” for traveling to the West Bank. In response to attacks and biased review process, Rodman filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) against the UCC for discriminating against her anti-Zionist worldview. Last year the HRTO granted Rodman a hearing, which awaits scheduling, to show her anti-Zionist worldview/creed is not just a political view.

(The UCC has supported labelling settlement goods and condemned other aspect of Israel’s occupation. But these resolutions have not been implemented. As an example, no congregation or UCC body implemented a 2012 resolution calling for divestment from companies profiting or supporting the occupation even though a resolution was passed at the subsequent General Council requesting implementation of the 2012 resolution.)

An anti-Palestinian deal UCC leaders brokered decades ago has influenced the church’s indifference to the plight of Palestinians. In the 1950s and 60s the UCC passed a number of resolutions upholding the rights of Palestinians, including those of the refugees to return to their homes. More significantly, the UCC’s influential magazine championed the Palestinian cause. With a circulation of 350,000 in the early 1970s, The Observer criticized Israeli human rights violations. But editor Rev. A.C. Forrest’s support for Palestinians prompted vicious attacks. Emboldened by the blow Israel delivered against pan-Arabism in the 1967 war, B’nai B’rith dubbed Forrest a “Haman”, “Pharaoh” and “anti-Semitic”.

In response, Forrest threatened to sue for libel. B’nai B’rith countersued. A high-profile battle between B’nai B’rith and the UCC ensued. But, new UCC leaders didn’t care much about Palestinians and opposed Forrest, as well as a pro-Palestinian resolution passed at the 1972 UCC convention. Moderator Bruce McLeod and General Secretary George Morris soon sought a “gentleman’s agreement” in which both the UCC and B’nai B’rith would drop the lawsuits. Couched in the language of interfaith sensitivity, the 1973 “peace pact” was about deterring criticism of Israel. As then Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) President Sol Kanee wrote in a private letter, “it would appear the United Church is determined to chart a more positive course with regard to Israel and the Jewish people, which we hope will be reflected in the ‘Observer.’”

Dozens of pages detail the B’nai B’rith-UCC battle at the Canadian Jewish Archives in Montréal. In one internal file CJC officials say only part of the B’nai B’rith-UCC agreement was published (a similar agreement is thought to have been made between the UCC and CJC and/or Canadian Council of Churches). Part of the “peace pact” published noted, “we recognize and appreciate the interests of Jews everywhere and of the United Church for the events in the Middle East and in the survival of Israel.”

As part of the agreement, the UCC seems to have committed to inform B’nai B’rith/CJC about Israel related affairs or even seek their consent before implementing policy approved by the grassroots. A 2009 Globe and Mail article reported that UCC general council officer Bruce Gregersen indicated that CJC president Bernie Farber “gave his blessing to the UCC resolution” on Israel.

Rodman and others have pushed the church hierarchy to reveal whether the anti-Palestinian agreement is still respected. But UCC leaders have failed to release the full agreement or say it is no longer being followed.

The agreement with B’nai B’rith/CJC has undercut grassroots initiatives within the church that challenge Canada’s complicity in Palestinian dispossession. But, the decision to succumb to B’nai B’rith’s disingenuous attacks 45 years ago has had another equally damaging impact on Palestinians. It has emboldened the anti-Palestinian group to make evermore outrageous demands.

After a half-century more of Israeli land theft and violence, B’nai B’rith demanded a Toronto church suppress an event because it included the name of a famous novelist driven from his home as a child and then blown up by Israel (a quintessential victim of terrorism). If Kanafani’s name “glorifies terrorists and murderers”, as B’nai B’rith claims, then what should we say of a group that defends every act of Israeli violence, including the assassination of a novelist and his niece?

If the UCC won’t have anything to do with a Palestinian youth group that mentions Kanafani’s name they sure better sever all ties to groups promoting Israeli “terrorists and murderers”.

Inside the Submissive Void: Propaganda, Censorship, Power, and Control

Nothing appears more surprising to those who consider human affairs with a philosophical eye, than the easiness with which the many are governed by the few; and the implicit submission, with which men resign their own sentiments and passions to those of their rulers.

— David Hume, “Of the First Principles of Government”, 1768.

Brief: The use of propaganda and censorship is more frequently associated with totalitarian, corrupt and/or despotic regimes, not modern democracies in the West. Yet the history of how western governments and their ever vigilant overlords in the media, financial and business spheres have controlled the political narrative of the time via these means is a long, storied and ruinous one, going back well before 1914. Along with serving the contemporaneous political objectives of its perpetrators as contrived, such activities often continue to inform our understanding, and cement our interpretation, of history. If as the saying goes, “history repeats itself”, we need look no further as to the main reason why. In this wide ranging ‘safari’ into the disinformation, myth-making, fake news wilderness—aka The Big Shill—Greg Maybury concludes that “It’s the narrative, stupid!”

Controlling the Proles

The following yarn may be apocryphal, but either way the ‘moral of the fable’ should serve our narrative well. The story goes like this: sometime during the height of the Cold War a group of American journalists were hosting a visit to the U.S. of some of their Soviet counterparts. After allowing their visitors some time to soak up the media zeitgeist stateside, most of the Americans expected their guests to express unbridled envy at the professional liberties they enjoyed in the Land of the Free Press.

One of the Russian scribes was indeed compelled to express his unabashed ‘admiration’ to his hosts…in particular, for the “far superior quality” of American “propaganda“. Now it’s fair to say his hosts were taken aback by what was at best a backhanded compliment. After some collegial ‘piss-taking’ about the stereotypes associated with Western “press freedom” versus those of the controlled media in the Soviet system, one of the Americans called on their Russian colleague to explain what he meant. In fractured English, he replied with the following:

It’s very simple. In Soviet Union, we don’t believe our propaganda. In America, you actually believe yours!

As highly amusing as this anecdote is, it masks a disturbing reality—the Russian journo’s jibe doesn’t simply remain true now; that ‘belief’ has become even more delusional, farcical, and above all, dangerous. One suspects that Russian journos today would think much the same. And in few cases has the “delusional”, “farcical”, and “dangerous” nature of this conviction been more evident than with the West’s continued provocations of Russia, with “Skripalgate” in Old Blighty (see here, and here), and “Russia-Gate” stateside (see here, and here) being prime, though far from the only, exemplars we might point to.

Of course, just recently we were all subjected to the ludicrous dog n’ pony show that was the much touted London “media freedom” conference, organised under the auspices of the so-called Media Freedom Coalition (MFC), a UK/Canadian ‘initiative’. As the name suggested, this was the establishment’s lip-service effort to be seen to be supporting or ‘defending’ media freedom, and initiating strategies and frameworks for the ‘protection’ of journalists. For my part I can’t recall another recent event that so perfectly embraced the Orwellian playbook, absent any hint of irony or embarrassment from the parties involved.

To illustrate, after noting that ‘the world is becoming a more hostile place’ for journalists, the MFC website then righteously intones:….’[they face dangers beyond warzones and extremism, including increasing intolerance to independent reporting, populism, rampant corruption, crime, and the breakdown of law and order….’. The cynic might be tempted to add: ‘And that’s just in our Western democracies!’

And who can forget the fatuous “integrity initiative” that preceded it, whose lofty ambitions aimed to ‘defend democracy against disinformation’? This is elite code for limiting free speech, already happening at a rate of knots, with the powers that be ‘setting up new perimeters’ online and offline. The prevailing efforts by a range of people to make it a crime to criticise Israel or boycott the country is arguably the most insidious, egregious example. As well, the attempts by the MSM to designate genuine, independent analysis by alternative media as “fake news” is another one.

Such is the sophistication and ubiquity of the narrative control techniques used today—afforded increasingly by ‘computational propaganda’ via automated scripts, hacking, botnets, troll farms, and algorithms and the like, along with the barely veiled censorship and information gatekeeping practised by Google and Facebook and other tech behemoths—it’s become one of the most troubling aspects of the technological/social media revolution. (See also here, here, here, and here.)

Notably, the MFC conference came and went after organisers saw fit to exclude legitimate Russian news outlets RT and Sputnik, an ideological ‘fashion statement’ thoroughly at odds with the purported premise upon which it was instigated. Moreover, there was little mention of the ‘elephant in the room’ Julian Assange—the person who embodies foremost the disconnect between the practice and the preaching of Western media freedom, to say little of underscoring the irony, self-serving opportunism, and double standards that frequently attend any mainstream debate about what it actually means.

Put bluntly, “media freedom” in the West is increasingly ‘more honoured in the breach than in the observance’, with the London confab all about keeping up appearances to the contrary, an event we might say was conceived of by soulless, demented, establishment shills, ‘…full of sound and fury, signifying nothing’. The surreal spectacle, though, must have induced cognitive dissonance even amongst the pundits, and many head-shaking moments for Assange supporters and genuine truth-seekers alike.

As for Wikileaks and Assange himself, it’s worth noting the attitude of the national security state toward him. After accusing Assange of being a “narcissist”, “fraud”, and “a coward”, and labelling WikiLeaks a “hostile intelligence service”, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared he [Assange] was eager to do the bidding of Russia and other American adversaries.Either way, his comments can be taken as more or less representative of Beltway and broader Western opinion, including in my own country Australia. Along with noting that official Washington’s hatred of Assange ‘borders on rabid’, Ted Carpenter offered the following:

[Assange] symbolizes a crucial fight over freedom of the press and the ability of journalists to expose government misconduct without fear of prosecution. Unfortunately, a disturbing number of “establishment” journalists in the United States seem willing—indeed, eager—to throw him to the government wolves.

Lapdogs for the Government

Here was, of course, another surreal spectacle, this time courtesy of one of the Deep State’s most dangerous, reviled, and divisive figures, a notable protagonist in the Russia-Gate conspiracy, and America’s most senior diplomat no less. Not only is it difficult to accept that the former CIA Director actually believes what he is saying, well might we ask, “Who can believe Mike Pompeo?”

And here’s also someone whose manifest cynicism, hypocrisy, and chutzpah would embarrass the much derided scribes and Pharisees of Biblical days. We have Pompeo on record recently in a rare moment of honesty admitting—whilst laughing his ample ass off it should be noted, as if he was recalling some “Boy’s Own Adventure” from his misspent youth with a bunch of his mates down at the local pub—that under his watch as CIA Director, ‘…We lied, cheated, we stole…we had entire training courses.’ It may have been one of the few times in his wretched existence that Pompeo didn’t speak with a forked tongue.

At all events, his candour aside, we can assume safely that this reactionary, monomaniacal, Christian Zionist ‘end-timer’ passed all the Company’s “training courses” with flying colours. According to Matthew Rosenberg of the New York Times, all this did not stop Pompeo, however, from name-checking Wikileaks when it served his own interests. Back in 2016 at the height of the election campaign, he had ‘no compunction…about pointing people toward emails stolen by Russian hackers from the Democratic National Committee and then posted by WikiLeaks.

And this is, of course, The Company we’re talking about, whose past and present relationship with the media might be summed up in two words: Operation Mockingbird (OpMock). Anyone vaguely familiar with the well-documented Grand Deception that was OpMock, arguably the CIA’s most enduring, insidious, and successful psy-ops gambit, will know what we’re talking about. (See here, here, here, and here.) At its most basic, this operation was all about propaganda and censorship, usually operating in tandem to ensure all the bases are covered.

After opining that the MSM is ‘totally infiltrated’ by the CIA and various other agencies, for his part former NSA whistleblower William Binney recently added, ‘When it comes to national security, the media only talk about what the administration wants you to hear, and basically suppress any other statements about what’s going on that the administration does not want get public. The media is basically the lapdogs for the government.’ Even the redoubtable William Casey, Ronald Reagan’s CIA Director back in the day was reported to have said something along the following lines: We know our disinformation program is complete when almost everything the American public believes is false.’

In order to provide a broader and deeper perspective, we should now consider the views of a few others on the subjects at hand, along with some history. In a 2013 piece musing on the modern significance of the practice, my compatriot John Pilger recalled a time when he met Leni Riefenstahl back in 70s and asked her about her films that ‘glorified the Nazis’. Using groundbreaking camera and lighting techniques, Riefenstahl produced a documentary that mesmerized Germans; as Pilger noted, her Triumph of the Will ‘cast Adolf Hitler’s spell’. She told the veteran Aussie journalist the “messages” of her films were dependent not on “orders from above”, but on the “submissive void” of the German public.

All in all, Riefenstahl produced arguably for the rest of the world the most compelling historical footage of mass hysteria, blind obedience, nationalistic fervour, and existential menace, all key ingredients in anyone’s totalitarian nightmare. That it also impressed a lot of very powerful, high profile people in the West on both sides of the pond is also axiomatic: These included bankers, financiers, industrialists, and sundry business elites without whose support Hitler might’ve at best ended up a footnote in the historical record after the ill-fated beer-hall putsch. (See here, and here.)

Triumph” apparently still resonates today. To the surprise of few one imagines, such was the impact of the filmas casually revealed in the excellent 2018 Alexis Bloom documentary Divide and Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailesit elicited no small amount of admiration from arguably the single most influential propagandist of recent times. (Ed. Note: Readers might wish to check out Russell Crowe’s recent portrayal of Ailes in Stan’s mini-series The Loudest Voice, in my view one the best performances of the man’s career.)

In a recent piece unambiguously titled “Propaganda Is The Root Of All Our Problems”, my other compatriot Caitlin Johnstone also had a few things to say about the subject, echoing Orwell when she observed it was all about “controlling the narrative”. Though I’d suggest the greater “root” problem is our easy propensity to ignore this reality, pretend it doesn’t or won’t affect us, or reject it as conspiratorial nonsense, in this, of course, she’s correct. As she cogently observes:

I write about this stuff for a living, and even I don’t have the time or energy to write…about every single narrative control tool that the US-centralized empire has been implementing into its arsenal. There are too damn many of them emerging too damn fast, because they’re just that damn crucial for maintaining existing power structures.

The Discreet Use of Censorship and Uniformed Men

It is hardly surprising that those who hold power should seek to control the words and language people use’ said Canadian author John Ralston Saul in his 1993 book Voltaire’s Bastards–the Dictatorship of Reason in the West. Fittingly, in a discussion encompassing amongst other things history, language, power, and dissent, he opined, ‘Determining how individuals communicate is’…an objective which represents for the power elites ‘the best chance’ [they] have to control what people think. This translates as: The more control ‘we’ have over what the proles think, the more ‘we’ can reduce the inherent risk for elites in democracy.

Clumsy men’, Saul went on to say, ‘try to do this through power and fear. Heavy-handed men running heavy-handed systems attempt the same thing through police-enforced censorship. The more sophisticated the elites, the more they concentrate on creating intellectual systems which control expression through the communications structures. These systems require only the discreet use of censorship and uniformed men.’ In other words, along with assuming it is their right to take it in the first place, ‘those who take power will always try to change the established language’, presumably to better facilitate their hold on it and/or legitimise their claim to it.

For Oliver Boyd-Barrett, ‘democratic theory presupposes a public communications infrastructure that facilitates the free and open exchange of ideas.’  Yet for the author of the recently published RussiaGate and Propaganda: Disinformation in the Age of Social Media, ‘No such infrastructure exists.’ The mainstream media he says, is ‘owned and controlled by a small number of large, multi-media and multi-industrial conglomerates’ that lie at the very heart of US oligopoly capitalism and much of whose advertising revenue and content is furnished from other conglomerates:

The inability of mainstream media to sustain an information environment that can encompass histories, perspectives and vocabularies that are free of the shackles of US plutocratic self-regard is also well documented.

Of course, the word “inability” suggests the MSM view themselves as having some responsibility for maintaining such an egalitarian news and information environment. They don’t, of course, and in truth, probably never really have! A better word would be “unwilling”, or even “refusal”. The MSM all but epitomise the “plutocratic self-regard” that is characteristic of “oligopoly capitalism”. Indeed, the MSM collectively functions as advertising, public relations/lobbying entities for Big Corp, in addition to acting as its Praetorian bodyguard, protecting their secrets, crimes, and lies from exposure. Like all other companies they are beholden to their shareholders (profits before truth), most of whom it can safely be assumed are no strangers to “self-regard”, and could care less about “histories, perspectives and vocabularies” that run counter to their own interests.

It was Aussie social scientist Alex Carey who pioneered the study of nationalism, corporatism, and more so for our purposes herein, the management (read: manipulation) of public opinion, though all three have important links. For Carey, the following conclusion was inescapable: ‘It is arguable that the success of business propaganda in persuading us, for so long, that we are free from propaganda is one of the most significant propaganda achievements of the twentieth century.’ This former farmer from Western Australia became one of the world’s acknowledged experts on propaganda and the manipulation of the truth.

Prior to embarking on his academic career, Carey was a successful sheep grazier. By most accounts, he was a first-class judge of the animal from which he made his early living, leaving one to ponder if this expertise gave him a unique insight into his main area of research! In any event, Carey in time sold the farm and travelled to the U.K. to study psychology, apparently a long-time ambition. From the late fifties until his death in 1988, he was a senior lecturer in psychology and industrial relations at the Sydney-based University of New South Wales, with his research being lauded by such luminaries as Noam Chomsky and John Pilger, both of whom have had a thing or three to say over the years about The Big Shill. In fact, such was his admiration, Pilger described him as “a second Orwell”, which in anyone’s lingo is a big call.

Carey unfortunately died in 1988, interestingly the year that his more famous contemporaries Edward Herman and Chomsky’s book Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media was published, the authors notably dedicating their book to him. Though much of his work remained unpublished at the time of his death, a book of Carey’s essaysTaking the Risk Out of Democracy: Corporate Propaganda Versus Freedom and Liberty—was published posthumously in 1997. It remains a seminal work. In fact, for anyone with an interest in how public opinion is moulded and our perceptions are managed and manipulated, in whose interests they are done so and to what end, it is as essential reading as any of the work of other more famous names. This tome came complete with a foreword by Chomsky, so enamoured was the latter of Carey’s work.

For Carey, the three “most significant developments” in the political economy of the twentieth century were:

 a) the growth of democracy;

  1. b) the growth of corporate power; and
  2. c) the growth of propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy.

Carey’s main focus was on the following:

  1. a) advertising and publicity devoted to the creation of artificial wants;
  2. b) the public relations and propaganda industry whose principal goal is the diversion to meaningless pursuits and control of the public mind; and
  3. c) the degree to which academia and the professions are under assault from private power determined to narrow the spectrum of thinkable (sic) thought.

For Carey, it is an axiom of conventional wisdom that the use of propaganda as a means of social and ideological control is ‘distinctive’ of totalitarian regimes. Yet as he stresses: the most minimal exercise of common sense would suggest a different view: that propaganda is likely to play at least as important a part in democratic societies (where the existing distribution of power and privilege is vulnerable to quite limited changes in popular opinion) as in authoritarian societies (where it is not).’ In this context, ‘conventional wisdom” becomes conventional ignorance; as for “common sense”, maybe not so much.

The purpose of this propaganda barrage, as Sharon Bader has noted, has been to convince as many people as possible that it is in their interests to relinquish their own power as workers, consumers, and citizens, and forego their democratic right to restrain and regulate business activity. As a result the political agenda is now…confined to policies aimed at furthering business interests.’

An extreme example of this view playing itself right under our noses and over decades was the cruel fiction of the “trickle down effect” (TDE)—aka the ‘rising tide that would lift all yachts’—of Reaganomics. One of several mantras that defined Reagan’s overarching political shtick, the TDE was by any measure, decidedly more a torrent than a trickle, and said “torrent” was going up not down.

This reality as we now know was not in Reagan’s glossy economic brochure to be sure, and it may have been because the Gipper confused his prepositions and verbs. Yet as the GFC of 2008 amply demonstrated, it culminated in a free-for all, dog eat dog, anything goes, every man for himself form of cannibal (or anarcho) capitalism—an updated, much improved version of the no-holds-barred mercenary mercantilism much reminiscent of the era of the Gilded Age and the Robber Barons who ‘infested’ it, only one that doesn’t just eat its young, it eats itself!

Making the World Safe for Plutocracy

In the increasingly dysfunctional political economy we inhabit then, whether it’s widgets or wars or anything in between, few people realise the degree to which our opinions, perceptions, emotions, and views are shaped and manipulated by propaganda (and its similarly ‘evil twin’ censorship,) its most adept practitioners, and those elite, institutional, political, and corporate entities that seek out their expertise.

It is now just over a hundred years since the practice of propaganda took a giant leap forward, then in the service of persuading palpably reluctant Americans that the war raging in Europe at the time was their war as well. This was at a time when Americans had just voted their then president Woodrow Wilson back into office for a second term, a victory largely achieved on the back of the promise he’d “keep us out of the War.” Americans were very much in what was one of their most isolationist phases, and so Wilson’s promise resonated with them.

But over time they were convinced of the need to become involved by a distinctly different appeal to their political sensibilities. This “appeal” also dampened the isolationist mood, one which it has to be said was not embraced by most of the political, banking, and business elites of the time, most of whom stood to lose big-time if the Germans won, and/or who were already profiting or benefitting from the business of war.

For a president who “kept us out of the war”, this wasn’t going to be an easy ‘pitch’. In order to sell the war the president established the Committee on Public Information (aka the Creel Committee) for the purposes of publicising the rationale for the war and from there, garnering support for it from the general public. Enter Edward Bernays, the nephew of Sigmund Freud, who’s generally considered to be the father of modern public relations. In his film Rule from the Shadows: The Psychology of Power, Aaron Hawkins says Bernays was influenced by people such as Gustave le Bon, Walter Lippman, and Wilfred Trotter, as much, if not more so, than his famous uncle. Either way, Bernays ‘combined their perspectives and synthesised them into an applied science’, which he then ‘branded’ “public relations”.

For its part the Creel committee struggled with its brief from the off; but Bernays worked with them to persuade Americans their involvement in the war was justified—indeed necessary—and to that end he devised the brilliantly inane slogan, “making the world safe for democracy“. Thus was born arguably the first great propaganda catch-phrases of the modern era, and certainly one of the most portentous. The following sums up Bernays’s unabashed mindset:

The conscious, intelligent manipulation of the organised habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.

The rest is history (sort of), with Americans becoming more willing to not just support the war effort but encouraged to view the Germans and their allies as evil brutes threatening democracy and freedom and the ‘American way of life’, however that might’ve been viewed then. From a geopolitical and historical perspective, it was an asinine premise, of course, but nonetheless an extraordinary example of how a few well chosen words tapped into the collective psyche of a country that was decidedly opposed to any U.S involvement in the war and turned that mindset completely on its head. ‘[S]aving the world for democracy’ (or some ‘cover version’ thereof) has since become America’s positioning statement, ‘patriotic’ rallying cry, and the “Get out of Jail Free” card for both its war and its white collar criminal clique.

At all events it was, by any measure, a stroke of genius on Bernays’s part; by appealing to people’s basic fears and desires, he could engineer consent on a mass scale. It goes without saying it changed the course of history in more ways than one. That the U.S. is to this day still using a not dissimilar meme to justify its “foreign entanglements” is testament to both its utility and durability. The reality as we now know was markedly different, of course. They have almost always been about power, empire, control, hegemony, resources, wealth, opportunity, profit, dispossession, keeping existing capitalist structures intact and well-defended, and crushing dissent and opposition.

The Bewildered Herd

It is instructive to note that the template for ‘manufacturing consent’ for war had already been forged by the British. And the Europeans did not ‘sleepwalk‘ like some ‘bewildered herd’ into this conflagration. For twenty years prior to the outbreak of the war in 1914, the then stewards of the British Empire had been diligently preparing the ground for what they viewed as a preordained clash with their rivals for empire, the Germans.

To begin with, contrary to the opinion of the general populace over one hundred years later, it was not the much touted German aggression and militarism, nor their undoubted imperial ambitions, which precipitated its outbreak. The stewards of the British Empire were not about to let the Teutonic upstarts chow down on their imperial lunch as it were, and set about unilaterally and preemptively crushing Germany and with it any ambitions it had for creating its own imperial domain in competition with the Empire upon which Ol’ Sol never set.

The “Great War” is worth noting here for other reasons. As documented so by Jim Macgregor and Gerry Docherty in their two books covering the period from 1890-1920, we learn much about propaganda, which attest to its extraordinary power, in particular its power to distort reality en masse in enduring and subversive ways. In reality, the only thing “great” about World War One was the degree to which the masses fighting for Britain were conned via propaganda and censorship into believing this war was necessary, and the way the official narrative of the war was sustained for posterity via the very same means.

“Great” maybe, but not in a good way!

In these seminal tomes—World War One Hidden History: The Secret Origins of the First World War and its follow-up Prolonging the Agony: How the Anglo-American Establishment Deliberately Extended WWI by Three-And-A-Half YearsMacgregor and Docherty provide a masterclass for us all of the power of propaganda in the service of firstly inciting, then deliberately sustaining a major war. The horrendous carnage and destruction that resulted from it was, of course, unprecedented, the global effects of which linger on now well over one hundred years later.

Such was the enduring power of the propaganda that today most people would have great difficulty in accepting the following; this is a short summary of historical realities revealed by Macgregor and Docherty that are at complete odds with the official narrative, the political discourse, and the school textbooks:

  1. It was Great Britain (supported by France and Russia) and not Germany who was the principal aggressor in the events and actions that led to the outbreak of war;
  2. The British had for twenty years prior to 1914 viewed Germany as its most dangerous economic and imperial rival, and fully anticipated that a war was inevitable;
  3. In the U.K. and the U.S., various factions worked feverishly to ensure the war went on for as long as possible, and scuttled peacemaking efforts from the off;
  4. key truths about this most consequential of geopolitical conflicts have been concealed for well over one hundred years, with no sign the official record will change;
  5. very powerful forces (incl. a future US president) amongst U.S. political, media, and economic elites conspired to eventually convince an otherwise unwilling populace in America that U.S. entry onto the war was necessary;
  6. those same forces and many similar groups in the U.K. and Europe engaged in everything from war profiteering, destruction/forging of war records, false-flag ops, treason, conspiracy to wage aggressive war, and direct efforts to prolong the war by any means necessary, many of which will rock folks to their very core.

But peace was not on the agenda. When, by 1916, the military failures were so embarrassing and costly, some key players in the British government were willing to talk about peace. This could not be tolerated. The potential peacemakers had to be thrown under the bus. The unelected European leaders had one common bond: They would fight Germany until she was crushed.

Prolonging the Agony details how this secret cabal organised to this end the change of government without a single vote being cast. David Lloyd George was promoted to prime minister in Britain and Georges Clemenceau made prime minister in France. A new government, an inner-elite war cabinet thrust the Secret Elite leader, Alfred Milner into power at the very inner-core of the decision-makers in British politics. Democracy? They had no truck with democracy. The voting public had no say. The men entrusted with the task would keep going till the end and their place-men were backed by the media and the money-power, in Britain, France and America.

Propaganda Always Wins

But just as the pioneering adherents back in the day might never have dreamt how sophisticated and all encompassing the practice of propaganda would become, nor would the citizenry at large have anticipated the extent to which the industry has facilitated an entrenched, rapacious plutocracy at the expense of our economic opportunity, our financial security, our physical environment, and increasingly, our basic democratic rights and freedoms.

We now live in the Age of the Big Shill—cocooned in a submissive void no less—an era where nothing can be taken on face value yet where time and attention constraints (to name just a few) force us to do so; [where] few people in public life can be taken at their word; where unchallenged perceptions become accepted reality; where ‘open-book’ history is now incontrovertible not-negotiable, upon pain of imprisonment fact; where education is about uniformity, function, form and conformity, all in the service of imposed neo-liberal ideologies embracing then prioritising individual—albeit dubious—freedoms.

More broadly, it’s the “Roger Ailes” of this world—acting on behalf of the power elites who after all are their paymasters—who create the intellectual systems which control expression through the communications structures, whilst ensuring…these systems require only ‘the discreet use of censorship and uniformed men.’ They are the shapers and moulders of the discourse that passes for the accepted lingua franca of the increasingly globalised, interconnected, corporatised political economy of the planet. Throughout this process they ‘will always try to change the established language.’

And we can no longer rely on our elected representatives to honestly represent us and our interests. Whether this decision making is taking place inside or outside the legislative process, these processes are well and truly in the grip of the banks and financial institutions and transnational organisations. In whose interests are they going to be more concerned with? We saw all this just after the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) when the very people who brought the system to the brink, made billions off the dodge for their banks and millions for themselves, bankrupted hundreds of thousands of American families, were called upon by the U.S. government to fix up the mess, and to all intents given a blank cheque to so do.

That the U.S. is at even greater risk now of economic implosion is something few serious pundits would dispute, and a testament to the effectiveness of the snow-job perpetrated upon Americans regarding the causes, the impact, and the implications of the 2008 meltdown going forward.

In most cases, one accepts almost by definition such disconnects (read: hidden agendas) are the rule rather than the exception, hence the multi-billion foundation—and global reach and impact—of the propaganda business. This in itself is a key indicator as to why organisations place so much importance on this aspect of managing their affairs. At the very least, once corporations saw how the psychology of persuasion could be leveraged to manipulate consumers and politicians saw the same with the citizenry and even its own workers, the growth of the industry was assured.

As Riefenstahl noted during her chinwag with Pilger after he asked if those embracing the “submissive void” included the liberal, educated bourgeoisie? “Everyone,” she said.

By way of underscoring her point, she added enigmatically: ‘Propaganda always wins…if you allow it’.