Category Archives: Propaganda

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

Stockholm Syndrome: Julian Assange And The Limits Of Guardian Dissent

Nothing happened on September 2 in central London. Roger Waters, co-founder of Pink Floyd, did not initiate a protest outside the Home Office. He did not sing and play the Floyd classic ‘Wish You Were Here’, or say:

Julian Assange, we are with you. Free Julian Assange!

The renowned journalist and film-maker John Pilger did not say:

The behaviour of the British government towards Julian Assange is a disgrace – a profanity on the very notion of human rights.

It’s no exaggeration to say that the persecution of Julian Assange is the way dictatorships treat a political prisoner.

None of this happened for any major UK or US newspaper, which made no mention of these events at all. Readers of Prensa Latina, Havana, were more fortunate with two articles before and after the event, as were readers of Asian News International in New Delhi. Coverage was also provided by Ireland’s Irish Examiner (circulation 25,419) in Cork, which published a Press Association piece that was available to the innumerable other outlets that all chose to ignore it.

Four months after he was dragged from the Ecuadorian embassy, Assange is still locked up in solitary confinement for 21 hours a day or more. He is still being denied the basic tools to prepare his case against a demand for extradition to the United States where he faces incarceration and torture. He is not allowed to call his US lawyers, is not allowed access to vital documents, or even a computer. He is confined to a single cell in the hospital wing, where he is isolated from other people. Pilger commented at the protest:

There is one reason for this. Julian and WikiLeaks have performed an historic public service by giving millions of people facts on why and how their governments deceive them, secretly and often illegally: why they invade countries, why they spy on us.

Julian is singled out for special treatment for one reason only: he is a truth-teller. His case is meant to send a warning to every journalist and every publisher, the kind of warning that has no place in a democracy.

On the Sydney Criminal Lawyers website, journalist Paul Gregoire discussed Assange’s declining health with his father, John Shipton, who said:

His health is not good. He’s lost about 15 kilos in weight now – five since I last saw him. And he’s in solitary confinement for 22 hours a day, in the hospital ward of the gaol.

Gregoire responded:

‘As you’ve just explained, Julian is being held in quite extreme conditions. He’s isolated from other inmates. And as well, his visits are restricted and so are his communications with his legal representation. Yet, he’s only being held for breach of bail, which is a rather minor charge.’

‘Yes, very minor.’

‘How are the UK authorities justifying the restrictions around his imprisonment seeing he’s being incarcerated on such a minor offence?’

‘I don’t know if they feel the necessity to justify these decisions. Their decisions are arbitrary.’

‘So, they’re giving no explanation as to his treatment.’

‘No.’

It does seem extraordinary, in fact, medieval, for such brutal treatment to be meted out to someone for merely breaching bail, with almost zero ‘mainstream’ political or media protest. This is only one reason, of course, why the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, penned an article titled, ‘Demasking the Torture of Julian Assange’. Melzer commented:

What may look like mere mudslinging in public debate, quickly becomes “mobbing” when used against the defenseless, and even “persecution” once the State is involved. Now just add purposefulness and severe suffering, and what you get is full-fledged psychological torture.

Investigative journalist Peter Oborne courageously challenged conventional wisdom on Assange this month in a British Journalism Review piece titled, ‘He is a hero, not a villain’. Oborne described how, in July, the Mail on Sunday had published a front-page story revealing the contents of diplomatic telegrams – ‘DipTels’ – sent to London by the British ambassador to the US. The memos described President Trump’s administration as ‘inept’ and Trump himself as ‘uniquely dysfunctional’.

All hell broke loose. The May government announced an official leak inquiry. The Metropolitan Police launched a criminal investigation. The intelligence services got involved.

The Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner Neil Basu warned the press not to publish any further documents as this could “constitute a criminal offence”. The Mail on Sunday paid no attention. It published further leaks and other papers came to its support. So did politicians. Tory leadership candidates Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt were among those who criticised Basu’s comments.

Hunt, who was then foreign secretary, said: “I defend to the hilt the right of the press to publish those leaks if they receive them and judge them to be in the public interest…

Meanwhile, that leaker-in-chief Julian Assange continued to languish in Belmarsh prison, where he is serving 50 weeks for skipping bail…

Julian Assange is a controversial figure, to be sure. Many of those who have dealt with him have found him difficult. But I find myself wondering what exactly the difference is between his alleged crime of publishing leaked US diplomatic cables and the Mail on Sunday’s offence of publishing leaked Foreign Office cables.

Why is Assange treated by the bulk of the British media as a pariah? And the Mail on Sunday as a doughty defender of press freedom? After all, Julian Assange is responsible for breaking more stories than all the rest of us put together.

Oborne commented:

This looks to me like a monstrous case of double standards, even by the ocean-going standards of Britain’s media/political class.

Focusing on Other Issues

Assange was offered rare ‘mainstream’ support on September 12 when Guardian columnist George Monbiot tweeted:

Never forget: #JulianAssange is still in Belmarsh prison, facing the prospect of extradition and life imprisonment in the US, for the “crime” of releasing information that governments have withheld from us. This is not justice.

Tweeter jaraparilla was quick to spot what happened next:

George Monbiot just posted this tweet supporting Julian Assange then deleted it within minutes (before I could respond).

We asked Monbiot what had happened. He replied:

I realised that the US extradition issue was tangled up with the Swedish one, and that I don’t yet know enough about Assange’s legal situation, exactly what he is awaiting and why. I will read up and return to the issue.

In response, we recommended Melzer’s superb work in challenging the establishment smear campaign. Monbiot replied:

Thank you. Has he written a paper on the subject? I find it much easier to absorb information in writing.

We answered:

Amazed you need to ask, have you really not been following his interviews and written pieces? Mind you, according to ProQuest, @NilsMelzer has been mentioned twice in the Guardian this year – so maybe it’s not so strange. See here, for example

Monbiot tweeted: No, I’ve been focusing on other issues.

We commented again:

True enough. According to the ProQuest newspaper database, you’ve never mentioned Assange in your Guardian column. Is that right?

Monbiot confirmed: Yes, that is correct.

It was curious that Monbiot felt the need to ‘read up and return to the issue’. After all, as jaraparilla noted, Monbiot has tweeted about Assange and WikiLeaks dozens of times. Many of these comments make for grim reading. For example:

Moral line on #Assange is crystal clear: we shld support qu-ning on rape charges & oppose any extrad attempt by US. #wikileaks

In his latest piece on Assange, Oborne discussed this egregious error:

His critics attach special weight to rape charges laid against Assange in Sweden. But it’s important to remember there have never been any “charges” in Sweden.

This is a myth reported literally hundreds of times. There has only ever been a “preliminary investigation” in Sweden looking into allegations of rape.

In 2011, Monbiot tweeted:

To me Assange looks unaccountable, paranoid, controlling and prone to blame others for his mistakes. #wikileaks

As we now know, Assange’s ‘paranoia’ was actually astute awareness that ‘they’ really were out to get him.

And: ‘Why does Assange still have so much uncritical support? Seems to me he’s acting like a tinpot dictator.’

And: ‘#JulianAssange takes Kremlin’s dollar, reversing all he claimed to stand for: bit.ly/wT4PoO Love #wikileaks, not Assange’

To his credit, Monbiot subsequently tweeted the deleted tweet defending Assange a second time.

In April 2019, Monbiot won huge applause for using harsh language and calling for the overthrow of capitalism. He insisted that, to save the planet, we need to forget ‘pathetic, micro-consumerist bollocks’:

We have to overthrow this system which is eating the planet with perpetual growth…. We can’t do it by just pissing around at the margins of the problem; we’ve got to go straight to the heart of capitalism and overthrow it.

And yet, as Oborne noted, Assange is ‘responsible for breaking more stories than all the rest of us put together’, ‘each and every one in the public interest’, ‘which any self-respecting reporter would sell his or her grandmother to obtain’. One could hardly think of a more powerful example of someone not ‘pissing around at the margins of the problem’.

Monbiot is hardly alone in ‘focusing on other issues’, year after year, while Assange rots. Fellow Guardian great white leftist hope, Owen Jones, last mentioned Assange in his Guardian column in 2014. In fact, this was his only ever mention in the paper, a single comment in passing focused on then Respect MP George Galloway:

his past praise for dictators and appalling comments about rape following allegations against Julian Assange have left him largely isolated.

Like Monbiot, Paul Mason – a former BBC and Channel 4 broadcaster who has somehow reinvented himself as a war-supporting, NATO-loving, Trident-renewing ‘man of the people’ (with 618,000 followers on Twitter) – has never mentioned Assange in the Guardian.

It seems likely that Guardian columnists have felt under increasing pressure to back off from supporting Assange over the last five years. As Matt Kennard and Mark Curtis reported this month:

The Guardian has lost many of its top investigative reporters who had covered national security issues… The few journalists who were replaced were succeeded by less experienced reporters with apparently less commitment to exposing the security state. The current defence and security editor, Dan Sabbagh, started at The Guardian as head of media and technology and has no history of covering national security.

‘It seems they’ve got rid of everyone who seemed to cover the security services and military in an adversarial way,” one current Guardian journalist told us.

Kennard and Curtis concluded:

The Guardian had gone in six short years from being the natural outlet to place stories exposing wrongdoing by the security state to a platform trusted by the security state to amplify its information operations. A once relatively independent media platform has been largely neutralised by UK security services fearful of being exposed further.

Venezuela, Gaza and Yemen

This pattern of sparse, or non-existent commentary extends to other issues. In 2018, Monbiot tweeted of the Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro:

Just because Maduro claims to be on the left does not mean we should support him. There are far better ways of breaking the power of the old elites. #Venezuela

Monbiot thus simply wrote off the democratically elected President of Venezuela who had won entirely credible elections after the death of Hugo Chavez. Because Monbiot is respected by many readers as an honest, principled progressive, this will have looked to many like the final nail in the coffin of Maduro’s credibility. Many doubtless assumed that Monbiot knows and cares a great deal about Venezuela, that he has strongly supported the Bolivarian revolution. And in 2015, Monbiot did write this in the Guardian:

Between 1989 and 1991 I worked with movements representing landless rural workers in Brazil. As they sought to reclaim their land, thousands were arrested; many were tortured; some were killed…

In Bolivia, Argentina, Ecuador, Venezuela, Uruguay and Chile, similar movements transformed political life. They have evicted governments opposed to their interests and held to account those who claim to represent them. Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain have been inspired, directly or indirectly, by the Latin American experience.

Many readers will have hailed these comments as evidence that Monbiot is an outspoken leftist. After all, in 2003 he had written in the Guardian:

While younger activists are eager to absorb the experience of people like Noam Chomsky, Tariq Ali, Lula, Victor Chavez, Michael Albert and Arundhati Roy, all of whom are speaking in Porto Alegre [the World Social Forum], our movement is, as yet, more eager than wise, fired by passions we have yet to master. (Our emphasis)

But according to the ProQuest media database, the single sentence from 2015 contains Monbiot’s only mention of Venezuela in his Guardian column in the last ten years. Monbiot has mentioned Hugo Chavez’s name exactly twice, in passing, in two articles. He has mentioned Maduro – who is facing relentless internal and external state-corporate attempts at regime change, not least by means of US sanctions – once, in passing, in July 2019. Monbiot has said not a word to challenge the military, economic and propaganda campaign to overthrow Maduro.

According to ProQuest, Owen Jones has never mentioned the Venezuelan President in his Guardian column. Paul Mason’s only mention of Maduro in the Guardian damned Maduro’s use of the ‘repertoire of autocratic rule’ in his supposed ‘crackdown’, being ‘clearly engaged in a rapid, purposive and common project to hollow out democracy’.

Ironically, corporate dissidents like Monbiot, Jones and Mason benefit enormously from the fact that they are published by tyrannical, monopolistic, unaccountable, power-friendly media that filter ‘all the news fit to print’. How so?

It is precisely because these systems of power function as such forensic, long-armed Thought Police that even tiny crumbs of compromised dissent – a single sentence on ‘landless rural workers’ here, a four-letter word on the need for revolution there – elicit pitiful shrieks of delight and admiration from corporately incarcerated consumers who need to believe that ‘mainstream’ media are not that bad, not that destructive. In other words, public awareness is heavily skewed by a version of ‘Stockholm syndrome’.

Consider Gaza as a further example. Again, we can find this dissenting comment from Monbiot in the Guardian in 2006:

I agree that Hizbullah fired the first shots. But out of the blue? Israel’s earlier occupation of southern Lebanon; its continued occupation of the Golan Heights; its occupation and partial settlement of the West Bank and gradual clearance of Jerusalem; its shelling of civilians, power plants, bridges and pipelines in Gaza; its beating and shooting of children; its imprisonment or assassination of Palestinian political leaders; its bulldozing of homes; its humiliating and often lethal checkpoints: all these are, in Bush’s mind, either fictional or carry no political consequences.

Again, leftists will have lapped up this rare supportive comment in a major UK newspaper. A search for further comments finds this sentence from Monbiot in November 2007:

In February 2001, according to the BBC, it [Israel] used chemical weapons in Gaza: 180 people were admitted to hospital with severe convulsions.

And a sentence from September 2013, when Monbiot wrote in passing of how Israel ‘refuses to ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention’ having ‘used white phosphorus as a weapon in Gaza’. A further sentence appeared in September 2014:

In Gaza this year, 2,100 Palestinians were massacred: including people taking shelter in schools and hospitals.

Monbiot wrote again one month later:

Israeli military commanders described the massacre of 2,100 Palestinians, most of whom were civilians (including 500 children), in Gaza this summer as “mowing the lawn”.

But, remarkably, these are the only substantive comments Monbiot has made about one of the great crimes and tragedies of our time. The last quote above, his most recent, was published nearly five years ago, in October 2014.

While other progressives like Noam Chomsky, John Pilger, Norman Finkelstein, Jonathan Cook and others have written whole books, made whole films, and written reams of articles about the catastrophe being inflicted on the people of Gaza, Monbiot has said virtually nothing.

According to ProQuest, Owen Jones’ sole, substantive article devoted to Israel’s assault on Gaza came in July 2014. Even this was a philosophical piece on the ‘moral corruption that comes with any occupation’, with few details about the suffering in Gaza. Stockholm syndrome ensured that the title alone, ‘How the occupation of Gaza corrupts the occupier’, persuaded many readers that here was a stellar example of a principled journalist who really cared about Gaza, who was shouting the truth from the rooftops. Jones’ last mention of Gaza in the Guardian was also five years ago, a mention in passing in August 2014.

Paul Mason’s last substantive mention of Gaza was, again, five years ago, in November 2014, an emotive reference to a harrowing report he made from Gaza while working for Channel 4 News, with little detail on conditions. Mason referenced the same Channel 4 coverage in August 2014.

Or consider Yemen – how much have Monbiot, Jones and Mason written about the blood-drenched, UK-backed Saudi Arabian war that began in 2015? Monbiot wrote in June 2017 of then Prime Minister Theresa May:

She won’t confront Saudi Arabia over terrorism or Yemen or anything else.

Ironic words, given that, according to ProQuest, this is Monbiot’s only meaningful comment on the Yemen war (in April 2019, he noted in passing that climate change ‘has contributed to civil war’ in Yemen). In the Morning Star, Ian Sinclair reported that the editor of the Interventions Watch website had conducted a search of Monbiot’s Twitter timeline in December 2017:

He found Monbiot had mentioned “Syria” in 91 tweets and “Yemen” in just three tweets.

To his credit, Owen Jones has written several substantial pieces focused on the war in Yemen here, here and here. In June 2017, Paul Mason wrote one substantial paragraph on the conflict:

Saudi Arabia is meanwhile prosecuting a war on Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen, using more than £3bn worth of British kit sold to it since the bombing campaign began. In return, it has lavished gifts on Theresa May’s ministers: Philip Hammond got a watch worth £1,950 when he visited in 2015. In turn, Tory advisers are picking up lucrative consultancy work with the Saudi government.

Again, we can celebrate an example of superficial dissent, or reflect on the fact that this is Mason’s only comment on the Yemen war in the Guardian.

It is important to remember that the most popular and revered British dissidents – including radical comedians like Russell Brand, Frankie Boyle and Eddie Izzard – were made famous by corporate media. The difference between a ‘cult’ following and national fame is often the difference between popular and ‘mainstream’ support. People willing to compromise from the start, to jump through the required corporate hoops to achieve fame, are (often unwittingly) stooges of a system that must allow glimpses of dissent, a semblance of free and open discussion.

The system needs an occasional honest paragraph on Gaza from a Monbiot, a comment on Yemen from a Mason, if it is to retain credibility. Nobody is fooled by total silence, by a complete lie – a half-lie is far more potent. We are complicit in this charade when we make dissident mountains out of molehills, loaves out of corporate crumbs, and keep buying the product.

How to find a Tiger in Africa

Agostinho Neto declaring independence of Angola 11 November 1975

What I want to do here is something very simple. I want to explain how I began to search for Agostinho Neto. I also want to explain the perspective that shapes this search.1

When I was told about the plans for a colloquium I was asked if I would give a paper.2 I almost always say yes to such requests because for me a paper is the product of learning something new. So I went to the local bookstores to buy a biography of Dr Neto. The only thing I found available was a two-volume book by a man named Carlos Pacheco called Agostinho Neto O Perfil de um Ditador, published in 2016. The subtitle of the book is “A história do MPLA em Carne Viva”. When I went to the university library I found another book, a collection of essays by Mr Pacheco and a book by Mr Cosme, no longer in print.3

Obviously the sheer size of Mr Pacheco’s book suggested that this was a serious study. Since these two ominous tomes were the only biography I could find in print in a serious bookstore, it seemed to me that the weight of the books was also designed as part of Mr Pacheco’s argument. The two volumes, in fact, comprise digests of PIDE4 reports and Mr Pacheco’s philosophical musings about politics, culture, psychology etc. There is barely anything of substance about the poet, physician, liberation leader and first president of Angola, Agostinho Neto, in nearly 1,500 pages.

As I said, I knew little about Dr Neto, but I knew something about Angola and the US regime’s war against the MPLA.5 I was also very familiar with the scholarship and research about US regime activities in Africa since 1945—both overt and covert. I also knew that dictators were not rare in Africa. However, in the title of Mr Pacheco’s book was the first time I had ever heard Dr Neto called a dictator. What struck me was that Dr Neto was president of Angola from the time of independence until his death in 1979—a total of four years. In contrast his successor remained president for almost 40 years. So my intuition told me if Agostinho Neto was a dictator he could not have been a very significant one. However, I wanted to know what the basis of this charge was. Certainly he was not a dictator on the scale of his neighbour, Joseph Mobutu.6 I reasoned that Agostinho Neto was called a dictator for the same reason all heads of state are called “dictators” in the West—because he held office by virtue of processes not approved in London, Paris or Washington. In the jargon of the “West”—a euphemism for the post-WWII US Empire—anyone called a communist who becomes a head of state must be a dictator, since no one in their right mind could elect a communist and no communist would submit to an election.

However, there was apparently more to this accusation than the allegation that Dr Neto must be a communist and therefore a dictator. Agostinho Neto had good relations with the Cuban “dictator” Fidel Castro and he enjoyed the support of the Soviet Union. When there still was a Soviet Union, anyone enjoying its support, no matter how minimal or ambivalent, could be considered at least a “potential dictator”. Then I read about a brief but serious incident in 1977, an attempted military coup against the Neto government on 27 May, led by Nito Alves and José Van Dunen. The coup was defeated and all sources agree there was a purge of the MPLA and many were arrested and killed. Writers like Mr Pacheco argue that Dr Neto directed a blood bath in which as many as 20-30,000 people died over the course of two years. There appears to be agreement that many people were arrested and killed but the exact figures vary.7

However, I still wondered whether this incident and its apparent consequences were enough to justify calling Dr Agostinho Neto, dictator of Angola.

While researching for this paper, while searching for Agostinho Neto, I found many people who had an opinion about him but very few who actually knew anything about Neto, and often they knew very little about Angola.

First I would like to deal with the coup attempt and the aftermath because that is the most immediate justification for this epithet. I am unable to introduce any data that might decide the questions I feel must be raised, but that does not make them less relevant to an accurate appraisal of Dr Neto’s four years in office.

  1. How, in the midst of a civil war, and military operations to defend the country, including the capital from a foreign invader—the Republic of South Africa—are the casualties and deaths to be distinguished between police actions and military actions? What reasonably objective apparatus existed to produce the statistics upon which the count could be based?
  2. What was the specific chain of command and operational structure in place to direct the purge on the scale alleged by Dr Neto’s detractors? What was the composition of the forces operating under government direction during this period? What was the composition of the command at local level?

Without claiming to answer these questions—they would have to be answered by research in Angola—there are some points that make the bald assertions of those like Mr Pacheco, who claim Dr Neto is responsible for the violent aftermath, for the thousands of victims, far from proven.

Casualty reporting during war is highly unreliable even in sophisticated military bureaucracies like those of the US or Britain. There were rarely bodies to count after saturation bombing or days of artillery barrage. To add a sense of proportion Sir Douglas Haig, commanding the British Expeditionary Force at the Somme during World War I, ordered the slaughter of nearly 20,000 British soldiers in one day with total casualties of some 50,000—the excuse for this was war.8 One’s own casualties are usually a source of embarrassment. But in Angola, like in other African countries, the presence of a stable and professional bureaucracy capable of generating any kind of statistics was certainly sparse. Whether those statistics can be deemed objective is another issue.

The absence of written orders or minutes is not by itself proof that no orders were given. In fact, as has been established in the research on the whole sphere of covert action, written orders can be issued “for the file” while operational orders are transmitted—deniably—by word of mouth.9 Then the question has to be answered in reverse: how did the actual enforcement officers receive their instructions and from whom? Here it is particularly important to note that the MPLA could not have replaced all police and other security force rank and file with personnel whose loyalty to the new Angolan government was certain. This means that many police or other security personnel had been performing under orders of the New State officers until independence and were still on duty.10 The actual relationships these personnel had to the people in the districts where they were deployed would have been known, if not notorious. It is not unreasonable to infer that a general purge would give opportunities to people at all levels to solve “problems” arising from the fall of the Portuguese regime.

Then there is one other factor—a question raised by the fact that Mr Pacheco’s book relies almost entirely on PIDE reports about the MPLA. One can, in fact, read in several accounts of the independence struggle that the MPLA was thoroughly infiltrated by PIDE operatives. So do we know if the orders which rank and file personnel took were issued by bona fide MPLA cadre acting on instructions from the president or issued by PIDE operatives within the MPLA command structure? In fact, it is a highly practiced routine of covert operations, also by the PIDE during the independence war, to appear and act as if they were the MPLA while committing acts intended to discredit it.11 While it is true that the Salazar/ Caetano regime had collapsed the people who had maintained the regime—especially in covert operations—did not simply disappear. Moreover, the world’s premier covert action agency, the CIA, was an active supporter of all MPLA opposition and certainly of factions within the MPLA itself. We know about IA Feature because of the revelations of its operational manager, John Stockwell.12 We also know that the PIDE and the CIA worked together and we know that the US ambassador to Portugal during the period (1975 to 1979) was a senior CIA officer.13 We also know many details about the various ways in which covert operations were run then.14 What we do not know is the extent to which it may have been involved in the coup against Dr Neto. But there is room for educated guessing.

I do not believe it is possible to reconstruct the events of the purge with evidence that can provide reasonable assurance of what responsibility Agostinho Neto bears for the deaths and casualties attributed to that period—beyond the vague responsibility which any head of state may have for actions of the government apparatus over which he presides. There, are however, grounds for a reasonable doubt—for a verdict at least of “not proven”.

Which brings me to my second argument: from what perspective should the brief term of Agostinho Neto as president of the Angola be examined.

First of all we must recognise that Angola prior to 1975 was a criminal enterprise.

It began with the Atlantic slave trade, which really only ended in the 1880s (although slavery did not end). Then, like in all other colonies created by Europeans, a kind of licensed banditry was practiced, euphemistically called “trade”. By the end of the 19th century most of this organised crime was controlled by cartels organised in Europe and North America.15

Why do I call this organised crime and not commerce? First of all if one uses force to compel a transaction; e.g., a gun to make someone give you something, this is generally considered a crime and in Europe and North America usually subject to punishment as such. To travel to a foreign land with a gun and compel transactions, or induce them using drugs or other fraudulent means, does not change the criminal character—only the punitive consequences.

Angola’s economy was based on stolen land, forced labour, unequal/ fraudulent trading conditions, and armed force, the colour of law not withstanding. Neither Portuguese law (nor that of any other European state) would have permitted inhabitants of Angola to come to Portugal, kidnap its youth or force its inhabitants to accept the same conditions to which all African colonies and “protectorates” were submitted.

In other words, Agostinho Neto was the first president of an Angolan state. He, together with his supporters in the MPLA, created a republic out of what was essentially a gangster economy protected by the Portuguese dictatorship in Lisbon. Does this mean that all European inhabitants of Angola were gangsters? Certainly it does not. However, it can be argued that many Europeans or children of Europeans who were born in Angola recognised this when they began to demand independence, too. Some demanded independence to run their own gangs free of interference from abroad and some certainly wanted an end to gangsterism and the establishment of a government for the benefit of the inhabitants.

The performance of Dr Neto as president of Angola has to be measured by the challenges of creating a beneficial government from a system of organised crime and defending this effort against foreign and domestic armies supported by foreigners, specifically the agents of the gangsters who had been running the country until then.

But stepping back from the conditions of Angola and its plunder by cartels under protection of the New State, it is necessary to see Dr Neto’s struggle and the struggle for independence in Angola within the greater context of African independence. Like Nkrumah, Lumumba, Toure, Nasser, Qaddafi, Kenyatta, Nyerere and Cabral, what I would call the African liberation generation, Neto was convinced that Angola could not be independent without the independence of all Africa.16  In other words, he was aware that the independence from Portugal was necessarily only partial independence. Like the others of this generation Neto rejected race as a basis for African independence.

The position of African liberation leaders who rigorously rejected racialised politics has often been criticised, even mocked as naïve. It has often been pointed out—accurately—that the African states were created by Europeans and hence the ethnic conflicts that have laid waste to African development are proof that these liberation leaders were wrong: that either Africa could not transcend “tribalism” or that the states created could not manage the inherited territories in a modern way.

On the contrary, the African liberation generation was well aware of the problems inherited from European gangster regimes. Moreover they understood quite well that race was created by Europeans to control them, that there was no “white man” in Africa before the European coloniser created him. The “white man” was an invention of the late 17th century. First it was a legal construct—the granting of privileges to Europeans in the colonies to distinguish and separate them from African slave labourers. Then it was elaborated into an ideology, an Enlightenment ideology—white supremacy. By uniting the colonisers, who in their respective homelands had spent the previous thirty odd years slaughtering each other for reasons of religion, ethnicity, language, and greed, the Enlightenment ideals of ethnic and religious tolerance or even liberty bound Europeans together against slave majorities. By endowing these European servants with the pedigree of “whiteness” the owners of the plantation islands could prevent them from siding with other servants—the Africans—and overthrowing the gangsters and their Caribbean drug industry. The white “identity” was fabricated to prevent class alliances against the new capitalists.17

It is not clear if the African liberation generation understood the impact of African slavery in North America. Many post-war liberation leaders have admired the US and seen in it a model for independence from colonialism. Perhaps this is because in the preparations for entering WWI, the US regime undertook a massive propaganda campaign of unparalleled success in which the history of the US was virtually re-written—or better said invented. There are numerous stories about photographs being changed in the Soviet Union under Stalin to remove people who had fallen from favour or been executed. There is relatively little attention devoted to the impact of the Creel Committee, a group of US advertising executives commissioned by President Woodrow Wilson to write the history people now know as “the American Dream” and to sell it throughout the world.18 This story turns a planter-mercantile slaveholder state into an “imperfect democracy” based on fine Enlightenment principles of human liberty. In fact, the contemporaries of the American UDI saw the actions in Philadelphia and the insurgency that followed in the same terms that people in the 1970s saw Ian Smith and his Rhodesian National Front. It is very clear from the record that the US regime established by the richest colonials in North America was initiated to avert Britain’s abolition of slavery in its colonies. It was not an accident that African slaves and Native Americans were omitted from the protections of the new charter. On the contrary the new charter was intended to preserve their exclusion.

Which brings me to my concluding argument. I believe there are two widely misused terms in the history of the post-WWII era, especially in the histories of the national liberation struggles and so-called Third World: “Cold War” and “anti-communism”. Since the end of the Soviet Union it is even very rare that these terms are explained. The reintroduction of the term “Cold War” to designate US regime policies toward Russia is anachronistic and misleading.

To understand this we have to return to 1945. In San Francisco, California, shortly before the end of formal hostilities representatives of the Allies met and adopted what would be called the Charter of the United Nations. Among the provisions of this charter were some ideas retained from the League of Nations Covenant (which the US never ratified) and some new ideas about the future of what were called non-self-governing territories (i.e. colonies, protectorates etc.) The principle of self-determination, a legacy of the League used to carve up Austria-Hungary, Germany and the Ottoman Empire, was to be extended to all empires. After the propaganda war by which colonial troops (natives) were deployed in masses against Germany, Italy and Japan, to defend freedom and independence, it became clear that the exhausted and even more heavily indebted European colonial powers could not return to the status quo ante. Britain was incapable of controlling India and with the independence of India it would become increasingly difficult to justify or sustain rule of the rest of the empire. The Commonwealth idea basically kept the “white” dominions loyal.19 But how were the “non-whites” to be kept in line? The US regime made it clear that there would be no support for European empires of the pre-war type. So the stated policy of the Charter was that independence was inevitable—meaning that all those who wanted it had a license to get it.

At the same time, however, an unstated policy was being formulated—penned largely by George Kennan—that would form the basis for the expansion of the US Empire in the wake of European surrender. That unstated policy, summarised in the US National Security Council document0 – NSC 68 – was based on some fundamental conclusions by the regime’s policy elite that reveal the essential problem with which all liberation movements and new independent states would be faced but could not debate. NSC 68 was promulgated in 1947 but remained secret until about 1978.

Kennan who had worked in the US mission to the Soviet Union reported confidentially that the Soviet Union, although it had won the war against Germany, was totally exhausted and would be incapable of doing anything besides rebuilding domestically, at least for another 20 years! In another assessment he pointed out that the US economy had only recovered by virtue of the enormous tax expenditure for weapons and waging WWII. It would be devastating to the US economy—in short, a massive depression would return—if the war industry did not continue to receive the same level of funding (and profit rates) it received during the war.

Furthermore, it was very clear that the US economy consumed about 60 per cent of the world’s resources for only 20 per cent of the population. Kennan argued the obvious, that this condition could not continue without the use of force by the US regime.

Although the US appears as (and certainly is) a violent society in love with its military, in fact, foreign wars have never enjoyed great popularity. It has always been necessary for the US regime to apply extreme measures—marketing—to generate support for wars abroad. The war in Korea was initially just a continuation of US Asia-Pacific expansion (aka Manifest Destiny).20 When US forces were virtually kicked off the Korean peninsula, the machinery that had sold WWI to the masses was put in motion and the elite’s hatred of the Soviet Union was relit in what became known as the McCarthy purges. The McCarthy purges were necessary to turn the Soviet Union—an ally against Hitler—into an enemy even worse than Hitler (who, in fact, never was an enemy of the US elite, some of whom counted the Führer as a personal friend.21  It was at this point that anti-communism became part of the arsenal for the unstated policy of the US regime. Anti-communism was enhanced as a term applicable to any kind of disloyalty—meaning failure to support the US regime in Korea or elsewhere. It also became the justification for what appeared to be contradictions between US stated anti-colonial policy and its unstated neo-colonialism.

The term “Cold War” has been attributed to US banker and diplomat Bernard Baruch and propagandist Walter Lippman. It has become accepted as the historical framework for the period from 1945 until 1989.  However, this is history as propaganda. The facts are that as George Kennan and other high officials knew in 1947, the Soviet Union posed absolutely no threat to the US. On the contrary the secret (unstated) policy of the US—declassified in the 1990s—was to manufacture enough atomic weaponry to attack the Soviet Union twice. Generals like MacArthur and Le May were not extremists. They simply discussed US strategy openly.22 The point of the “Cold War” was to create a vision, which would explain the non-existent Soviet threat as a cover for the unstated policy of US imperial expansion—against national liberation movements—while officially supporting national liberation.

Together with anti-communism, the Cold War was a propaganda/ marketing strategy for undermining what every member of the African liberation generation knew intuitively, that the liberation of Africa depends not only on the liberation of every African country on the continent but on the liberation of the African diaspora. Anti-communism and the Cold War myth successfully isolated African-Americans and Afro-Caribbeans from the international struggles for liberation and human dignity and an end to racist regimes.23 In that sense anti-communism is a direct descendant of white supremacy and served the same purpose. It is particularly telling that Malcolm X, who had matured in a sectarian version of black consciousness- the Nation of Islam—was assassinated after he returned from Mecca and an extensive tour of Africa and began to argue not only that African-Americans must demand civil rights, but that they must demand human rights and that these are ultimately achieved when humans everywhere are liberated.24 Malcolm was murdered not just for opposing white supremacy but also for being an internationalist.

If we look at the fate of the African liberation generation we will find that those who were committed internationalists and non-racialists were also socialists and not did not confuse possessive individualism with human liberty. We will also find that all the leaders of newly independent African states who were most vilified, deposed or murdered were those who did not surrender those ideals or the practices needed to attain them. They were not Enlightenment leaders building on European hypocrisy. They were Romantic revolutionaries who knew that there was no salvation—only honest struggle for liberation.25 I believe that Agostinho Neto was one of those Romantic revolutionaries. And the honest struggle is not over.

Neto’s Funeral in September 1979

• Photos courtesy of Fundação Antonio Agostinho Neto

  1. Monty Python’s Meaning of Life (1983) includes an episode set in South Africa as a parody of the film Zulu (1964). The upshot is that an army medical officer suggests that a tiger could have bitten off the leg of a fellow officer in the night. To which all respond, “a tiger in Africa?!”. Of course, tigers are indigenous to Asia but not Africa. Salazar was also to have attributed the indigenous opposition to Portuguese rule in Africa as “coming from Asia”. See also Felipe Ribeiro de Meneses, Salazar A Political Biography (2016).
  2. Presented at the colloquium “Agostinho Neto and the African Camões Prize Laureates” at the University of Porto, Portugal, on the 40th anniversary of Agostinho Neto’s death.
  3. Leonel Cosme, Agostinho Neto e o sua tempo (2004).
  4. PIDE, Polícia Internacional e de Defesa do Estado, Salazar secret political police, also trained in part by the Nazi regime’s Geheime Staatspolizei (Gestapo).
  5. MPLA, Movimento popular de libertação de Angola: Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola.
  6. (Joseph) Mobutu Sese Seko, (1930 – 1997) dictator of Republic of the Congo (Zaire), today Democratic Republic of the Congo, aka Congo-Kinshasa to distinguish it from the French Congo/ Congo Brazzaville, previously Congo Free State and Belgian Congo. Mobutu seized power in the wake of the overthrow and murder of Patrice Lumumba and ruled from 1965 until 1997. See Georges Zongola-Talaja, The Congo from Leopold to Kabila (2002).
  7. Alberto Oliveira Pinto, História de Angola (2015); Adrien Fontaellaz, War of Intervention in Angola (2019),
  8. Jacques R. Pauwels, The Great Class War 1914-1918 (2018).
  9. Ludo De Witte, The Assassination of Lumumba (2001) originally De Moord op Lumumba (1999). The Belgian foreign minister during the “Congo Crisis” wrote several memoranda in which the government’s position was that no harm should come to Patrice Lumumba while the Belgian secret services were actively plotting his kidnapping and assassination. Historical research generally privileges documents and they survive eyewitnesses.
  10. Estado Novo, the term used to designate the Portuguese regime under the dictatorial president of the council of ministers (prime minister) Antonio Salazar Oliveira from 1932 until 1968 and then under Marcelo Caetano until April 1974.
  11. This is also discussed in Fernando Cavaleiro Ângelo, Os Flêchas: A Tropa Secreta da PIDE/DGS na Guerra de Angola 1969 – 1974 (2016) history of the PIDE’s Angolan counter-insurgency force. Since the concept and organisation of the Flêchas bears considerable resemblance to the PRU formed by the CIA in Vietnam under the Phoenix Program, it would not be surprising ifCIA cooperation with the PIDE extended to “Phoenix” advice (see Valentine, 1990 p. 159 et seq.).
  12. John Stockwell, In Search of Enemies (1978) Stockwell had left the agency before the extensive covert support for UNITA was enhanced under Ronald Reagan, despite the Clark Amendment. However, Stockwell noted that when he had returned from Vietnam duty and before getting the paramilitary assignment for IA Feature, he noticed that the busiest desk at headquarters was the Portugal desk.
  13. Frank Carlucci (1930 – 2018), US ambassador to Portugal (1975 – 1978), Deputy Director of the CIA (1978 – 1981).
  14. Philip Agee, CIA Diary (1975), and Douglas Valentine, The Phoenix Program (1990) and The CIA as Organized Crime (2017) Douglas Valentine uses the terms “stated policy” and “unstated policy” to show the importance of overt and covert language in the conduct of political and psychological warfare.
  15. See Eric Williams, Capitalism and Slavery (1944) and Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (1982).
  16. Ghana, Congo-Kinshasa, Guinea-Conakry, Egypt, Libya, Kenya, Tanzania and Guinea Bissau, Mozambique: Nkrumah was overthrown by a military coup and forced into exile. Lumumba was deposed and murdered by a Belgian managed corporate conspiracy with US/ UN support. Cabral was assassinated. Both Mondlane and Machel were murdered. Years later Qaddafi would be overthrown after massive armed attacks, tortured and murdered by US agents. The general attitude rejecting “race” and “racialism” can be found in the speeches and writings of these leaders, esp. those delivered on the occasion of independence. See also CLR James, Nkrumah and the Ghana Revolution (1977) and A History of Negro Revolt (1985) See also Jean-Paul Sartre Kolonialismus und Neokolonialismus (1968) in particular “Der Kolonialismus ist ein System” and “Das politische Denken Patrice Lumumbas” originally published in Situations V Colonialisme et Neocolonialisme.
  17. For a thorough elaboration of this see Gerald Horne, The Counter-Revolution of 1776 (2014) and The Apocalypse of Settler Colonialism (2018).
  18. George Creel, How We Advertised America (1920) also discussed in Stuart Ewen, PR: A Social History of Spin (1996).
  19. “Dominion” status was granted under the Statute of Westminster 1931 to the “white colonies”: Canada, Irish Free State, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. This gave these colonies so-called responsible government based on local franchise, largely eliminating the jurisdiction of the British parliament in London.
  20. US war against Korea, combined with a Korean civil war, began in June 1950. A ceasefire was agreed on 27 July 1953. However, the war has not officially ended and the US regime maintains at least 23,000 personnel in the country—not counting other force projection (e.g. regular manoeuvres, atomic weapons and naval power, etc.).
  21. Prescott Bush, father/grandfather of two US Presidents Bush, was nearly prosecuted for “trading with the enemy” due to his dealings with the Nazi regime. Henry Ford had even been awarded a decoration by the regime. These were the most notorious cases in the US. There were many other forms of less visible support to the Hitler regime from US corporations before, during and after the war. The fact is that the US did not declare war against Hitler’s Germany. Hitler declared war on the US in the vain hope of bringing Japan into the war against the Soviet Union. See Jacques R. Pauwels, The Myth of the Good War (2002) The US war against Japan was a continuation of its standing objectives for expansion into China—see also Cummings (2009).
  22. This argument has been made and documented in the work of Bruce Cummings, The Origins of the Korean War (1981, 1990) and Dominion from Sea to Sea (2009).
  23. Gerald Horne, White Supremacy Confronted (2019).
  24. Also formulated very clearly in his Oxford Union speech, 3 December 1964. Malcolm X was assassinated on 21 February 1965.
  25. For an elaboration of the term “Romantic revolutionaries” see the work of Morse Peckham, especially a collection of essays, Romantic Revolutionaries (1970).

Will NPR Now Officially Change Its Name to National Propaganda Radio?

Back in the 1960s, the CIA official Cord Meyer said the agency needed to “court the compatible left.”  He knew that drawing liberals and leftists into the CIA’s orbit was the key to efficient propaganda.  Right-wing and left-wing collaborators were needed to create a powerful propaganda apparatus that would be capable of hypnotizing audiences into believing the myth of American exceptionalism and its divine right to rule the world.  The CIA therefore secretly worked to influence American and world opinion through the literary and intellectual elites.

Frances Stonor Saunders comprehensively covers this in her 1999 book, The Cultural Cold War: The CIA And The World Of Arts And Letters, and Joel Whitney followed this up in 2016 with Finks: How the CIA Tricked the World’s Best Writers, with particular emphasis on the complicity between the CIA and the famous literary journal, The Paris Review.  By the mid-1970s, as a result of the Church Committee hearings, it seemed as if the CIA, NSA, FBI, etc. had been caught in flagrante delicto and disgraced, confessed their sins, and resolved to go and sin no more.  Then in 1977, Carl Bernstein wrote a long piece for Esquire – “The CIA and the Media” – naming names of journalists and media (The New York Times, CBS, etc.) that worked hand-in-glove with the CIA, propagandizing the American people and the rest of the world.  It seemed as if all would be hunky-dory now with the bad boys purged from the American “free” press.  Seemed to the most naïve, that is, by which I mean the vast numbers of people who wanted to re-stick their heads in the sand and believe, as Ronald Reagan’s team of truthtellers would announce, that it was “Morning in America” again with the free press reigning and the neo-conservatives, many of whom had been “converted” from their leftist views, running things in Washington.

So again it is morning in America, this September 6, 2019, and the headline from National Public Radio announces the glad tidings that NPR has named a new CEO.  His name is John Lansing, and the headline says he is a “veteran media executive.”  We are meant to be reassured.  It goes on to say that Mr. Lansing, 62, is currently the chief executive of the government agency, The U.S. Agency for Global Media, that oversees Voice of America, Radio and Television Marti, and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, among others.  We are furthermore reassured by NPR that Lansing “made his mark in his current job with stirring defenses of journalism, free from government interference.” The announcement goes on to say:

Lansing has earned an advanced degree in political agility. At the U.S. Agency for Global Media, Lansing championed a free press even as leaders of many nations move against it.

Governments around the world are increasingly cracking down on the free flow of information; silencing dialogue and dissent; and distorting reality,’ Lansing said in a speech he delivered in May to the Media for Democracy Forum. ‘The result, I believe, is a war on truth.’

He continued: ‘Citizens in countries from Russia to China, from Iran to North Korea, have been victimized for decades. But now we’re seeing authoritarian regimes expanding around the globe, with media repression in places like Turkey and Venezuela, Cambodia and Vietnam.

So we are reassured that the new head of NPR, the chief of all U.S. propaganda, is a champion of a free press.  Perhaps NPR will soon enlighten the American public by interviewing its new head honcho and asking him if he thinks Julian Assange and Chelsey Manning, by exposing America’s war crimes, and Edward Snowden, by exposing the U.S. government’s vast electronic surveillance programs of its own citizens, deserve to be jailed and exiled for doing the job the American mainstream “free press” failed to do. What NPR failed to do. Perhaps they will ask him if he objects to the way his own government “interfered” in the lives of these three courageous people who revealed truths that every citizen of a free country is entitled to.  Perhaps they will ask him if the U.S. government’s persecution of these truthtellers is what he means by there being “a war on truth.”  Perhaps they will ask him if he thinks the Obama and Trump administrations have been “distorting reality” and waging a war on truth.

Perhaps not. Of course not.

Don’t laugh, for the joke will be on you if you listen to NPR and its sly appeal to “liberal” sensibilities.  If you are wondering why we have had the Russia-gate hoax and who was responsible (see/hear Russia expert Prof. Stephen Cohen here) and are now involved in a new Cold War and a highly dangerous nuclear confrontation with Russia, read Lansing’s July 10, 2019 testimony before the House Appropriations Sub-Committee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs: “United Sates Efforts to Counter Russian Disinformation and Malign Influence.” 

Here is an excerpt:

USAGM provides consistently accurate and compelling journalism that reflects the values of our society: freedom, openness, democracy, and hope. Our guiding principles—enshrined in law—are to provide a reliable, authoritative, and independent source of news that adheres to the strictest standards of journalism….

Russian Disinformation.  And make no mistake, we are living through a global explosion of disinformation, state propaganda, and lies generated by multiple authoritarian regimes around the world. The weaponization of information we are seeing today is real. The Russian government and other authoritarian regimes engage in far-reaching malign influence campaigns across national boundaries and language barriers. The Kremlin’s propaganda and disinformation machine is being unleashed via new platforms and continues to grow in Russia and internationally. Russia seeks to destroy the very idea of an objective, verifiable set of facts as it attempts to influence opinions about the United States and its allies. It is not an understatement to say that this new form of combat on the information battlefield may be the fight of the 21st century.

Then research the history of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Voice of America, Radio and Television Marti, etc.  You will be reassured that Lansing’s July testimony was his job interview to head National Propaganda Radio.

Then sit back, relax, and tune into NPR’s Morning Edition.  It will be comforting to know that it is “Morning in America” once again.

Western “Progressives” Support Yet Another Color Revolution in Hong Kong

Misinformed “progressive” western “activists” and pundits are putting down their remote controls and organic smoothies just long enough to tweet out that Hong Kong protesters need to be supported as paragons of virtue and justice. Some have even blogged and bloviated about the importance of these protests as a struggle for freedom against “dictatorship.”

Most of these individuals never question why, out of the thousands of daily protests, or the 200-plus ongoing global independence movements, or the 50-plus ongoing violent conflicts, why this particular struggle has been curated to penetrate the thick fog of their ignorance and their flashbulb-short attention span.

Most of these individuals wouldn’t be able to distinguish Hong Kong from Hokkaido, and couldn’t tell Putonghua from Toisanhua from Cantonese. Most have never seen or spent a day in China. In fact, you know it’s not a real color revolution until the stupid section of the western “progressive” blogosphere gets to cheerleading.

This is what they are willfully missing:

1.      It’s not a progressive popular uprising if the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) is involved. The NED is the soft-power coup arm of the US government, doing what the CIA used to do–regime change and dirty tricks–by other means.  The NED is crawling all over this.  This is an off-the-rack NED project.

2.      It’s not a progressive popular uprising if the key funder and fluffer is a fascist media billionaire with close ties to the most reactionary elements of Western right-wing reaction: Hong Kong’s Rupert Murdoch, Jimmy Lai, the owner of the misogynist, racist, xenophobic, Next Media/Next Digital Corporation/Apple Daily is the driver of this.

3.      It’s not a progressive popular uprising if the key leaders are racist, anti-immigrant, secessionists that court and consort with powerful rightwing extremists and regime change ideologues in the US (John Bolton, Paul Wolfowitz, Mike Pence, Mike Pompeo, Marco Rubio, Eliot Engel, Larry Diamond, etc). John Bolton, for God’s sake?

4.      You know it’s not a progressive popular uprising when foreign powers (US Congress, State Dept) proclaim their ardent support for the protestors, write bills, make threats, and threaten consequences if the protests are not allowed by the government.  When was the last time the US government actually supported a real populist movement?

5.      You know it’s not a popular progressive uprising—or one with a shred of sense—when the protesters make appeals for US intervention or want to go back to being a colony: a shamelessly white supremacist, colonial Apartheid state without a hint of democracy or representation.

6.      Popular progressive uprisings don’t wave US flags, UK flags, chant colonial slogans, use swastikas and alt-right symbols, terrorize children, spew hate speech (“Chee Na”), or beat unconscious people with US flags.  Fascists do.

7.      Popular progressive movements for democracy and free speech don’t try to shut down free speech and terrorize all who disagree with them.

Let’s say you missed all of these.  Here are some other things to note:

1.Protest-in-a-box, for free: There has been incredible preparation, logistics, organization, and funding.  Apologies to dear Rosa Luxembourg, revolutions in this era don’t just happen by themselves, and they certainly don’t fund themselves.  Tens of thousands of protestors, prepared with a flush kit of hardhats, gas masks, filters, goggles, zip ties, staves, lasers, gloves, and body armor don’t just appear spontaneously. They don’t just improvisationally start creating complex logistics lines using predetermined hand signals while brandishing slick, corporate-designed banners, logos, animation, and soundbite-catchphrases in English. That requires incredible organization, training, and funding. See 1 & 2 above.

2. The Sudden Color of Violence: Note the Blitzkrieg-fast turn to violence. The Modus Operandi for color revolutions is to first instigate mass protests over a minor pretext (here, a carefully crafted extradition bill, already suspended), followed by a very quick, prepared escalation to violence: US supported color revolutions need to escalate to violence quickly, the better to crowd out critical reflection, drown the mediascape with emotional images and riot porn, the better to “catapult the propaganda,” the better to create chaos and confusion, the better to bring down, paralyze, render impotent the government by shock; or to trigger a crackdown, thereby bringing down global censure.  Above all, they need and rely on disruptive terror to intimidate and paralyze: to create confusion for ongoing sabotage–to throw sand in the gears–and to create structural friction in the conditions of living that render ordinary existence intolerable and unbearable.

In other words, this is not about making demands for creating change: this is shock therapy designed to create a legitimation crisis for a state: render the state impotent or ungovernable, or morally untouchable.

These are well-honed NED/CIA regime change tactics, practiced and documented all over the world, designed to inflame discontent, outrage, and protests. These tactics of geometric escalation, designed to instigate an overreaction by the authorities, the better to use in propaganda and to trigger more agitation are happening as we speak. (The NY Times’ disingenuous “Marginal Violence theory” is a red herring to distract you as the violence assaults the core, moves asymptotically towards unrestrained urban warfare).

Here are some of the specific tactics, right out of the color revolution template:

Mass Violence: including attacking police, cars, and bystanders with Molotovs, blinding lasers, air guns, grenade launchers, sling shots, bricks, steel pipes, sharpened steel bars, baseball bats, sledge hammers, knives, and caustic lye, etc. Bombs, automatic weapons, and axes have also been found and confiscated.

Mass Terror Tactics: violent bullying and intimidation, of passers-by, Krystallnacht-style trashing of stores, Rodney King-type beat downs, “Pulp Fiction”-style torture (kidnapping, lynching, and torture of journalist [mass beatings/revival with water/further beatings]); Terrorizing of “opponents” and “non-sympathizers” through leaks, doxing, threats, cyberthreats, and boycotts, and attacking families and their residences (the dorms where the children and wives of the police live).  Open incitement on how to kill police and attempted murder through ambush attacks.

Infrastructure Attacks: attacks on buildings (police stations, legislative chambers, government buildings, dorms), mass disruption of traffic, transportation, and logistics (airports, subway and subway infrastructure, tollbooths, violent roadblocks, setting fires to barricade in police, massive street fires, coordinated sabotage of traffic lights (to create accidents), cameras, and streetlights.

If a tiny fraction of these types of actions had been unleashed in New York, DC, or London, “democratic” western authorities would have seen fit to let loose with lethal force 13 weeks ago. In fact, as a point of reference, in France, police have killed protestors, blinded 24, and injured 2200 in the Gilets Jaunes/Yellow Vest protests.

3. Fetishistic Demands: These are demands that don’t address the actual conditions that have created the legitimate discontent—rampant inequality and the festering structural violence of a financialized neoliberal state–but rather uncritical, rhetorical, virtue-signaling ad-campaign slogans that can’t or won’t be met, all the better to justify continued chaos, outrage, and violence.

This is not to say that the working classes of Hong Kong don’t have legitimate grievances to protest. One of the most unequal states in the world–a paradise for billionaires–Hong Kong is a case study in the nihilistic despair of a neoliberal Capitalist state dominated by corporations, high finance and real estate. Due to its history as a capitalist tax haven, with no capital gains, dividend, estate, or value-added taxes, the government derives much of its revenue from selling land to real estate barons, colluding to render housing beyond the reach of most Hong Kong residents and relegating the vast majority of dwellers to claustrophobic subdivided apartments that are the residential equivalent of a subway car at rush hour. The Chinese government, if they are to be blamed, should be blamed for not immediately shutting down this parasitic legacy system of the colonial era—and demonstrating that another way is possible as they have all over the mainland. This legitimate anger at structural Capitalist violence is the outrage and despair that has been diverted and harnessed into anti-immigrant, pro-colonial, anti-Chinese sentiment, serving the color revolution agenda of the West.

4. Intense, Hyper-coordinated Information Warfare: coordinated, directed, saturated messaging and censorship in the western press and media:

  • One-sided blasting of protest porn or decontextualized police violence, with non-stop pro-protestor commentary and editing;
  • Endless, mindless, China-bashing echo-chambering in the media;
  • Coordinated, mass white-washing, justification, and erasure of the protestors’ over-the-top violence;
  • Censorship and mass erasure of almost all voices critical of the protests on the MSM, YouTube,  FB, and Twitter: over 200,000 twitter accounts pre-emptively and instantaneously suspended on grounds of supposed “coordination” and undermining legitimacy and political positions of the protest movement on the ground”. This coordinated, mass censorship happened the exact moment some glimmers of truth started to come out and started to discredit the protests (as the gruesome airport torture images started to circulate). Note that grassroots protest movements don’t have direct access to the Silicon Valley kill switch if unfavorable information comes out.  If there was any doubt as to whether US social media companies function as the subcontracted perception management arm and gatekeepers of the globalized US security-surveillance state, you have here your proof.

Compare this saturated, single-message, biased coverage also with the minimal coverage of the current or recent situations in:

  • Kashmir, which Indian troops are currently blockading and violently occupying (where the special autonomous status of the region has been already revoked),
  • France’s Gilets Jaunes, an ongoing popular protest, where 24 people have been blinded, 2200 injured, and 11 have died,
  • West Papua & Papua, Indonesia, where Indonesian troops are currently on a murderous rampage,
  • Catalonia, where an independence movement successful at the ballots was violently put down,
  • South Korea’s Candlelight revolution, a massive populist uprising in South Korea, almost completely ignored until the government was brought down,
  • Almost any other popular protest around the world.

To ask sincerely why Hong Kong is receiving saturation coverage, “moral” support, and an unprecedented media platform–out of all the other movements and struggles—gives you a framework for understanding the scale, scope, and stakes of what this is about. This is a geostrategic, geopolitical information warfare, no longer—if ever–grassroots popular agitation.

Full Spectrum Resistance

In the post-Soviet era, the Pentagon and its allies came up with the doctrine of “Full Spectrum Dominance.” This is a war doctrine that aims for total domination in all spheres and battle spaces: dominance, not just in kinetic military conflict, but also in the domains of civil disturbance, information warfare, and social perception, in particular network-centric “operational narrative dominance.” This is what’s going on here.

Progressives–if you actually are that–you need to keep your eyes open, your minds alert, and think sharply, critically, objectively as you wander into this battlespace.

Color revolutions and regime change operations simply can’t happen without you: they need you to become the blind chorus, the vapid echo chamber, the ditzy cheerleaders, and the jaundiced, prejudiced, ignorant umpires in this dirty game of information warfare. If you don’t want to become a vector of propaganda and a host of disinformation in this ugly viral warfare, you need to think critically, reflexively, dialectically when you tweet, blog, agitate, or speak out. Lives and nations rest in the balance.

Hollywood reboots Russophobia for the New Cold War

​It is an age-old question as to the extent art reflects the world we live in. Bertolt Brecht allegedly said to the contrary that art was “not a mirror held up to reality but a hammer with which to shape it.” The Marxist German playwright devised theatrical methods designed to distance the audience from the staged drama while drawing self-reflexive attention to the contrived nature of the spectacle itself. The idea was that by estranging the spectator and encouraging critical examination, they would come to view society’s manmade injustices as similarly unnatural and be given agency to transform them in the real world. One of the implications of Brecht’s notion was that art in its more conventional forms often functions as a tool of mass persuasion for those in power to reinforce those inequities. Marx and Engels themselves professed to have learned more about the contradictions of French society from the novels of Honoré de Balzac, which upheld the monarchy and the Church, than any historians or philosophers of their day. At its very worst, artistic mediums can be used by governments to manipulate a nation’s attitude towards other countries in order to justify war.

Brecht’s life and work coincided with the development of the film industry. However, most productions influenced by his ‘epic theatre’ were art-house and foreign films while commercial, mass-market Hollywood movies placed greater emphasis on appealing to the emotions over intellect. However, there were some exceptions such as Charlie Chaplin who not coincidentally was persecuted for his politics by the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) during the Red Scare. In the Cold War, Tinseltown played an important role in the cultural battlefield against the USSR and anti-Soviet paranoia was an ever-present theme in American cinema for decades, from the McCarthy era until the Berlin Wall fell. Contemporaneously, a revival of geopolitical tensions between the United States and the Russian Federation — which many have dubbed a second Cold War — has seen the return of such tropes on the silver screen. Most recently, it has resurfaced in popular web television shows such as the third season of Netflix’s retro science fiction/horror series Stranger Things, as well as HBO’s miniseries Chernobyl, which dramatizes the 1986 nuclear accident in Soviet Ukraine.

It was a famous cinematic work that many believe ominously foreshadowed Chernobyl in Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1979 science fiction film, Stalker, less than a decade prior to the calamity. It is unlikely that HBO would have been as interested in green-lighting a five-part program on the disaster without the current hysteria surrounding the unproven allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and ‘collusion’ between Moscow and the Trump campaign. ‘Russiagate’ has become a national obsession and suddenly the very idea of corruption and intrigue has been made synonymous with the Kremlin. Hollywood liberal figures have been some of the hoax’s biggest proponents, including the show’s writer, Craig Mazin. It is equally as hard to imagine Americans themselves being as captivated by a re-enactment of the nuclear accident without the current political climate of fear-mongering bombarding them every day in corporate media. From the perspective of the U.S. political establishment, what better way to deflect attention away from its own sins than onto a manufactured adversary?

For instance, a recent Columbia University study found that sections of the Marshall Islands, which the U.S. acquired from Japan following WWII and conducted countless nuclear tests nearby in the Pacific, is significantly more radioactive than Chernobyl. The highest radiation levels were found on the Bikini atoll, where evacuated islanders were initially told they could return shortly after tests began in 1946 but have been waiting more than seventy years to come home. On other coral atolls in the island country such as Rogelapp, the U.S. Navy allowed the native population to return too soon knowing full well the food and water were highly contaminated, resulting in a generation with high birth defects and cancer rates. The U.S. ceded the territory in 1994 only after the Marshallese negotiated a meager $150 million in damages for their mistreatment while permitting the establishment of a U.S. ballistic missile defense test site targeting China. Unfortunately, the presstitutes are too preoccupied with sensational coverage of the recent accident at the Russian military base in Nyonoska, salivating at another prospective Chernobyl. Not to mention, the ongoing cover-up of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011 in the U.S. vassal state of Japan.

Already featuring a non-native cast and in the English language spoken with British accents, HBO’s Chernobyl is loaded with historical inaccuracies. The narrative takes many liberties both for the purpose of entertainment value and to create blatant propaganda seemingly as intent on discrediting socialism as it is in demonizing Moscow. This is unsurprising considering that screenwriter Craig Mazin is not only an establishment liberal with Putin derangement syndrome but a vocal critic of Bernie Sanders who has even ludicrously attempted to tie the Senator from Vermont to Russiagate on social media. Mazin has virtue signaled about the show as a parable about global warming (“the flaws that led to Chernobyl are the same flaws shown by climate deniers”) while simultaneously denouncing the candidate in the 2020 Democratic field with arguably the most comprehensive climate plan, leaving aside whether Sanders’ New Dealism is genuine socialism. For centre-rightists, the climate crisis is not tied to capitalism which as Marx reportedly said, “tends to destroy its two sources of wealth, nature and human beings” but is merely the failure of individual corrupt leaders like Trump. Early on in the series, Mazin invents a fictional elderly Soviet official who points to a bust of Vladimir Lenin while invoking socialism to silence those urging an immediate evacuation of Pripyat in the initial days of the disaster.

Mazin takes further artistic license to assign a protagonist in the story in Valery Legasov (played by Jared Harris), the high-ranking chemist who led the inquiry of the disaster and testified before the International Atomic Energy Agency before committing suicide in 1987. The story deviates from factual events in order to portray the scientist as a honest official blowing the whistle on a bureaucratic government. While his sworn statement was indeed straightforward, in real life Legasov did not blame reactor design flaws and deviate from the official government account of “human error” or breach of protocol as portrayed in the series, nor was he a witness in the trial of the nuclear plant operators who were found to be at fault. This is entirely a work of fiction designed to depict an incompetent and secretive Soviet government to be the cause of the accident. One would have no idea this same state was capable of inventing human space travel or industrializing an agrarian society in a single decade, a feat which took the British more than a century to accomplish. Not to mention that the accident occurred while the USSR was undergoing market-oriented reforms, a period in which the Soviet economy was at its most de-centralized and on the verge of collapse during perestroika.

At every turn, Legasov is up against cartoonish authoritarian officials who attempt to cover-up the severity of the catastrophe, including one particularly absurd scene when a Soviet apparatchik threatens to throw him out of a helicopter to his death if he does not explain how a reactor works. The Soviet working class are not spared either, as miners are coerced at gunpoint by Soviet troops at the order of the coal minister to dig a sarcophagus underneath the reactor to prevent radioactive contamination of the country’s water supply with the promise of financial reward. However, by all accounts no such use of the military ever took place and is contradicted by Legasov’s own statements which were not nearly as critical of state management as represented. The scientist had also attempted to take his own life once before while in the hospital suffering from radiation exposure, a more likely motive for his suicide. It is also rumored that the real reason for the Kremlin’s ‘secrecy’ about Chernobyl was that Pripyat was home to more than just a reactor-grade power station but possibly an undisclosed missile launching site or a facility producing warheads, with the meltdown a case of deliberate cyber sabotage by the C.I.A..

The series even finds time to rewrite WWII history in a scene where a stubborn babushka refuses to evacuate Pripyat, claiming to have endured worse surviving the Banderite hoax of the Holodomor. There was indeed a famine (throughout the entire USSR), but using the reconstruction of the tragedy to insert Ukrainian nationalist propaganda and Nazi myths of deliberate starvation is part of the West’s ongoing whitewashing of Ukrainian Nazi collaborators whose ultra-right descendants were instrumental in the 2014 Maidan coup. It is an insult to the Soviet people who sprung to action voluntarily and heroically to prevent the disaster from worsening to what could have left much of Europe uninhabitable, killed millions and caused incalculable damage to the environment. Then again, the West has never given the Soviets credit for defeating Germany, so it is to be expected they wouldn’t truly acknowledge the sacrifices made in Chernobyl.

During the 1980s as the Cold War reached a crescendo, Hollywood was churning out anti-Soviet movies marketed at teens like Red Dawn where a group of adolescents defend their small midwestern town from a fictional Soviet invasion. The same premise has been recycled for the most recent season of Netflix’s popular Stranger Things, a sci-fi horror vehicle carrying on the genre’s legacy of association with cold war paranoia going back to the 1950s with classics like Invasion of the Body Snatchers which evoked domestic fears about communist infiltration in the form of an alien invasion.Stylishly imitative of the 1980s with a synth-heavy soundtrack, the first two seasons saw its young characters living in a fictional Indiana town, some of whom possess telekinetic powers, who battle paranormal beings from another dimension called the “Upside Down” on which a nearby U.S. Department of Energy facility has been secretly performing experiments.

The third season takes a different turn, however, where the adolescents go up against “evil Russians” and “Soviet scum” infiltrating the U.S. Perhaps it was for the better that Chernobyl decided to use British actors speaking in their own tongue because the Russians in Stranger Things are cartoonish, brute thugs that resemble Ivan Drago from Rocky IV. Even more absurdly, the children discover that a new local shopping mall in the town putting mom-and-pop stores out of business has been constructed by Russian operatives (not by multinational chains as it was in real life under Reaganism) to hide an underground laboratory. The preposterous sequence can only be interpreted as an expression of the anxiety underlying the U.S. decline and fear of the ascendancy of Moscow on the international stage. Like Chernobyl, the nostalgia-driven program disparages socialism as much as it villainizes Russia, including one ludicrous scene where a 10-year old black girl agrees to help the other kids on the condition they agree to give her free ice cream from the mall shop where several of the teens work. She then proceeds to lecture them on the purported benefits of trickle-down theory, because if anyone can appreciate the alleged rewards of Reaganomics with the reduction of social programs and spending cuts, it would be an African-American child during the 1980s.

It is apparent that the caricature of the Soviet Union in both productions is really a stand-in for the present-day Russian government under Vladimir Putin. As only American exceptionalism could permit, Hollywood did not hold the same disdain for his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, whose legacy of high inflation and national debt have since been eliminated. In fact, most have forgotten that the same filmdom community outraged about Russia’s supposed interference in the 2016 U.S. election made a celebratory movie back in 2003, Spinning Boris, which practically boasted about the instrumental role the West played in Yeltsin’s 1996 reelection in Russia. The highly unpopular alcoholic politician benefited from a near universal media bias as virtually all the federation’s news outlets came under the control of the ‘oligarchs’ (in America known simply as billionaires) which his economic policies of mass privatization of state industry enriched overnight. Yeltsin initially polled at less than 10% and was far behind Communist Party candidate Gennady Zyuganov until he became the recipient of billions from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) thanks to his corrupt campaign manager, Anatoly Chubais, now one of the most hated men in all of Russia. After the purging of votes and rampant ballot-box stuffing, Yeltsin successfully closed the gap between his opponent thanks to the overt U.S. meddling.

Spinning Boris was directed by Roger Spottiswoode, who previously helmed an installment in the James Bond series, Tomorrow Never Dies. The 1997 entry in the franchise is one of thousands of Hollywood films and network television shows exposed by journalists Matthew Alford and Tom Secker as having been influenced or directly assisted by the Pentagon and CIA in their must-read book National Security Cinema: The Shocking New Evidence of Government Control in Hollywood. Based on evidence from documents revealed in Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, their investigation divulges the previously unknown extent to which the national security complex has gone in exerting control over content in the film industry. While it has always been known that the military held sway over movies that required usage of its facilities and equipment to be produced, the level of impact on such films in the pre-production and editing stages, as well as the control over non-military themed flicks one wouldn’t suspect to be under supervision by Washington and Langley, is exhaustively uncovered.

As expected, Hollywood and the military-industrial complex’s intimate relationship during the Cold War is featured prominently in Alford and Secker’s investigative work. It is unclear whether HBO or Netflix sought US military assistance or were directly involved with the national security state in their respective productions, but these are just two recent examples of many where the correlated increase in geopolitical tensions with Moscow is reflected. The upcoming sequel to DC’sWonder Woman set to be released next year, Wonder Woman 1984, featuring the female superhero “coming into conflict with the Soviet Union during the Cold War in the 1980s”, is yet another. Reprising her role is Israeli actress and IDF veteran Gal Gadot as the title character, ironically starring in a blockbuster that will demonize the Eurasian state which saved her ethnicity from extinction. Given the Pentagon’s involvement in the debacle surounding 2014’s The Interview which provoked very real tensions with North Korea, it is likely they are at least closely examining any entertainment with content regarding Russia, if not directly pre-approving it for review.

Ultimately, the Western panic about its imperial decline is not limited to assigning blame to Moscow. Sinophobia has manifested as well in recent films such as the 2016 sci-fi film Arrival where the extra-terrestrials who reach Earth seem more interested in communicating with Beijing as the global superpower than the U.S. However, while the West forebodes the return of Russia and China to greater standing, you can be certain its real fear lies elsewhere. The fact that Chernobyl and Stranger Things are as preoccupied with portraying socialism in a bad light as they are in rendering Moscow nefarious shows the real underlying trepidation of the ruling elite that concerns the resurgence of class consciousness. The West must learn its lesson that its state of perpetual war has caused its own downfall or it could attempt a last line of defense that would inevitably conscript all of humanity to its death as the ruling class nearly did to the world in 1914 and 1939.

Lies of the Victors

Julian Barnes’ Man Booker Prize winning novel, The Sense of an Ending, reads as a meditation on the reliability of memory. Or even as a bill of indictments against the self-serving selectivity of memory. The book beautifully, if kaleidoscopically, reveals how an older man misremembers events of his youth, how his memories cast him in the warmth of the sun rather than cool shadow, as it were, until the actual character of his early behavior, and its consequences, is revealed by a figure from his past. The revelations force the narrator to reevaluate the narrative of his life, not always with kind effect.

So often what we experience at the individual level is reflected on a collective plane. What Barnes imagined at a micro-level in his searching novel, the political left has mined at a macro-level, calling attention to an increasingly obvious, “plutocratic propaganda system” disseminated round the clock through mainstream media. Noam Chomsky calls it our, “doctrinal system.” Louis Althusser wrote about it as an, “ideological state apparatus.” Evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers argues these elite-crafted forms of consensus are often, “false historical narratives.” Robert Creel headed a commission for Woodrow Wilson that successfully used systemic mass messaging to shape the opinions of ordinary Americans — from pacifist to warlike. The McCarthy Era, once an unimaginable epoch of almost farcical credulity, generated media-driven fright that had millions cowering before the threat of communism. Russiagate has renewed the emotional traumas of McCarthyism for a new generation.

After researching evolutionary selection pressures for lying, the biologist Trivers discovered that one of the advantages of self-deceit is that it makes one’s lies more convincing. It’s hard to be a persuasive liar if you are intensely conscious of your own fakery; but if you believe what you’re saying, watch out. The tics of the amateur con vanish into the ether. True conviction emerges. In politics, the field where undetectable falsification is a desired skill set, this may indicate that the purveyors of false historical narratives genuinely believe their own forgeries and fabrications. Donald Trump believes, in his race-obsessed mind, that immigrants are an existential threat to the nation (of privileged whites). He doesn’t see it as race baiting. Barack Obama believed that a compromising incrementalism was the best path forward and that the military-industrial-intelligence community should largely be left to its own devices. He didn’t regard it as devastating capitulation. Nor did he appear particularly unsettled by the human cost of unrestrained militarism. Ronald Reagan doubtless feared the communist hordes as he sent a river of arms into Central America. Yet he didn’t recognize his own fearsome paranoia.

In The Sense of an Ending, the narrator has reshaped his personal history in self-flattering fashion, stripping away the pernicious elements of his actions, leaving a clean tale intact. His complicity in a suicide and birth of an unwanted child elude his memory. In the same way, a president’s internal narrative may allow him to sleep comfortably at night, despite the crimson stains on his record. In Sense, this allows the central character to effectively evade any reckoning he’d have had to make with his self-image as a decent human being. This rings true to life. How many people do you know that believe they are genuinely good people? Who conveniently erase facts that complicate the narrative? Likewise, how many nations do you know that believe they are on the right side of history?

A few examples snatched from the headlines should suffice to indicate the general level of popular deceit at work in the national narrative:

According to FAIR, the state propaganda radio network NPR has smeared Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and the government no less than 26 times since December with such choice epithets “authoritarian” and “regime,” while elections are cleverly discredited when baseless terms like “fraud” are regularly peppered into the script. All this despite Maduro’s greater claim to electoral legitimacy than Donald Trump. Naturally, NPR has spent little time depicting the impact of U.S. sanctions on the Venezuelan economy. A massive food shipment was recently detained in the Panama Canal. Tens of thousands are said to have died thanks to Washington’s bitter, fear-driven siege against the socialist Bolivarians. And still millions of American liberals take their morning tea with this soothing NPR drivel, swallowing its deceits with the ease of their daily medications, both ensuring a robotic response to the day’s news.

Independent reports on YouTube reveal that the Google-owned video platform is suppressing millions of viewers from seeing independent news and analysis. No surprise, since Google itself has already been outed as a thoroughly biased search engine throwing its algorithmic magic behind Democrats and all manner of corporate media propaganda. A recent search for Jeffery Epstein news returned dozens of mainstream videos but not a single alternative newscast. How comical that this search monopoly once premised its existence on the credo, “Don’t Be Evil.” In any case, all the views that used to find their way to independent content have apparently now been redirected to CNN, MSNBC, and FOX channels. You have to hand it to the ruling class; they understand class solidarity.

In Brazil, the entire professional class appears to loathe the worker’s party, Partido de Trabalhadores, or PT, as somehow worse than the disastrously corrupt neoliberal governments that preceded it. This largely thanks to media that framed the PT in such a manner. But Glen Greenwald’s reportage at The Intercept has now demonstrated what many on the left thought all along, that the entire Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva crime scandal was a judicial farce, much like the Dilma Rousseff impeachment. The latter was a constitutional coup that removed a sitting president while the former was an illegal frame-up designed to bar Lula from running for president again. Now a fascist thug rules with a volatile confection of racist tropes, laissez faire concessions, and military jingoism. Perfect.

Yet we wonder why Americans are so out of step with world opinion, so comprehensively ignorant of world affairs, not least the notorious actions of their own government abroad. Reuters buried a story on deaths caused by U.S. sanctions in Venezuela. A pittance of reportage was done on the fairly huge story of some 120 countries backing the Venezuelan government. That meeting of the nonaligned movement certainly garnered less coverage than the Obama administration alone dismissing Venezuelan elections in 2013 and Trump preemptively rejecting them last year. Did anyone see news on the large recent anti-imperialist protests in Venezuela as well? Where is the ongoing coverage of the Gilets Jaunes in France, who continue to protest for the 40th consecutive week? No, only when the state forces of a target nation swing into action, and the spectre of repression materializes, are cameras hoisted on shoulders and microphones lifted to babbling lips. That means a story is at hand. If there’s state violence afoot, the automaton journalists can unpack their favorite tropes about Latin caudillos and shaky democratic institutions.

Unlike the hush that has fallen over French discontent, the hyperventilating coverage of the Hong Kong protests have blanketed the mainstream press. By design. The target is China, the aim to discredit the Communist government and reduce the mainland’s control over Hong Kong. The tactics employed by the protestors derive from Gene Sharp’s blueprint to provoke harsh reprisals from sitting governments. The protestors are lavishly funded by the West, namely the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the Orwellian soft power apparatus created by the Reagan administration to effect internal rebellions in target nations. Of course, as is always the case, roiled protestors have some real grievances. Housing costs are some 70 percent of the median income.

Not only that, but we are balefully purblind about our own form of government. Thanks to Russiagate, millions of Americans believe “our democracy” (a nonexistent phantom in its own right) has been attacked by some devilish collection of rogue Slavs headed by Vladimir Putin. This rejuvenated cliché of the externalized other is misdirection. Rather than focus on the systemic flaws of our government, we direct our fears and scorn at Moscow and at the vicious oaf in the White House. Both are easy targets.

We often digest these false story lines because they coincide with an underlying strata of deeper historical untruth that forms the bedrock of the national narrative. Given the human proclivity to dodge cognitive dissonance, our acceptance of this afternoon’s fake news is predicated on the fake news of fifty years ago. The triumphalism of the post-World War Two era has continued through today. The stories line up. We fought for freedom from totalitarian regimes during the Cold War. We war for our democratic freedoms today.

This is partly why it can be so difficult for us to even consider with any degree of sincerity the arguments of someone like Gerald Horne, prolific Moores Professor of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston, who concludes that the American Revolution was largely ignited by a desire among slave owners and slave traders to protect their burgeoning super profits from an UK government that had incentives to abolish the practice of slavery. In fact, a London judge outlawed slavery just five years before the American revolt. British elites also knew that abolition would have devastated the colonial economy, which was becoming a dangerous competitor to the crown. Horne’s monograph is powerful, his contentions incendiary. Yet they undermine the soaring rhetorical odes that flicker through our minds when we hear the national anthem or glimpse the rippling flag. And so we scarcely hear his name.

Perhaps the larger point one can make in this regard is that to understand the deceits that inform our national narrative is to accept the possibility, or rather the likelihood, that the United State is on the wrong side of history. This thesis is nothing precious to African-Americans or other marginalized citizenries. But among libertarian-minded blue-collar patriots or liberal professionals it is seldom voiced, a recidivate notion dismissed as daft or conspiracy laden. But it is precisely this questioning consciousness that will need to spread more powerfully among all elements of the population before radical change can occur. A revolution in consciousness always precedes apostasy. Heresy begins between the ears.

At one point early in the Barnes novel, a character muses that history is a combination of “the lies of the victors” and the “self-delusions of the defeated.” If we want any chance at progressive triumph, we ought first to dispense with the delusions of our self-flattering mythos.

NPR Mocks Cancer Survivor in Drumbeat of Syria Propaganda

Asma al-Assad, First Lady of Syria (from released Syrian Presidency Facebook page)

It may be a new low in propaganda. National Public Radio (NPR) used the news that Syrian First Lady Asma al-Assad had overcome breast cancer to mock her and continue the information war against Syria. They interviewed a Human Rights Watch staffer named Lama Fakih who is an American from Michigan now based in Beirut.

Do you believe Ms. Fakih in Beirut or do you believe people who live in Syria who say we are being lied to?  Lilly Martin is such a person. Although she is American from Fresno California, Lilly has lived in Syria for nearly 25 years. She is married to a Syrian and has two Syrian sons.  Dr. Nabil Antaki is another such person. He is a medical doctor in Aleppo, fluent in English and French as well as his native Arabic.

While NPR snorts about Asma al-Assad “sporting a chic blonde pixie cut”, Lilly Martin points out that she was recently bald while fighting for her life.

While Ms. Fakir in Beirut says that there is “quite a lot of anger” because Asma al-Assad has conquered cancer, Dr. Antaki says that Syrians are happy at the news.  Asma al-Assad is First Lady, mother to three children, and known for her compassion. Lilly Martin says that even while she battled cancer Mrs. al-Assad continued her charitable work.

While Ms. Fakih says that the “Assad government has been systematically targeting medical facilities and medical personnel”,  Dr. Antaki, who has remained in Aleppo throughought the conflict, says this is not true. While there are many western accusations that the Syrian government attacks hospitals, the evidence is remarkably thin.  One of the most highly publicized cases was regarding “Al Quds Hospital” in east Aleppo. In April 2016 there was a media blitz about this hospital having been destroyed by the Syrian Army. Following  the departure of the “rebels”, it was discovered that “Al Quds Hospital” was an unmarked portion of an apartment building, that it had NOT been bombed and was the LEAST damaged building in the area. It was determined that the nearby Nusra (Al Qaeda) headquarters and ammunition depot was the Syrian army target.  Accusations that “Al Quds Hospital” was bombed were false. It was a media stunt.

Ms. Fakih says that “Syrians have not been able to benefit from medical care in Syria since the beginning of the uprising in 2012”.   Lilly Martin simply says “This is factually untrue. The Syrian system of national hospitals, free services to the public, are in every area of Syria and have run continuously throughout the war.”  Dr. Antaki is an example; he is one of THOUSANDS of doctors working at HUNDREDS of hospitals throughout Syria. But you would never know it from NPR or Ms. Fakih.

It is true that there have been disruption and damage to many hospitals, as demonstrated in this jihadi assault on Al Kindi Hospital.  These are the “rebels” supported by Ms. Fakih and Human Rights Watch. They effectively supported them in east Aleppo until they were expelled from the city. Now Ms. Fakih and HRW are supporting the “rebels” in their last redoubt in Idlib.  There are countless videos demonstrating the cruelty and fanaticism of the “rebels”.  For example, the aftermath of the above assault on Kindi Hospital and the execution of the Syrian soldiers who defended the hospital.  Those who are cheerleading for the “rebels” and trying to prevent the Syrians reclaiming Idlib should look at the execution video to see what they are supporting.

The West has provided weapons and other support to the “rebels”. In parallel, there has been a campaign to whitewash the “rebels” and demonize the Syrian government.  On top of this, the USA has imposed crushing sanctions on Syria which make it difficult or impossible to get critical medicines and replacement parts for western medical equipment. Dr. Antaki says it took him 1.5 years to obtain a replacement part for a Japanese medical instrument.  I had my own experience with the draconian and inhumane sanctions. It took one year and endless hassle to send hearing aid batteries to help a deaf child in Syria.

This is one among hundreds of Syria “regime change” propaganda pieces broadcast on NPR. Behind a facade of authority and objectivity, there is bias and misinformation along with crocodile tears.  As Lilly Martin says, “While the Syrian government medical system has tried to meet all the needs of Syrian civilians during 8 years of armed conflict, still there are numerous cases where the needs were not met and Syrians have suffered, and that blame must be shouldered by every person who held a gun against Syria and their foreign supporters who have succeeded in bringing the Syrian people into the depths of destruction and despair.”

As to Asma al-Assad and her integrity, it is best to listen and judge for yourself.  At about 5:30 of the interview she speaks of the families of 100 thousand Syrian martyrs who died defending their country. “On a personal level, I am humbled by their determination, by their resilience, and by their love of Syria. They are my biggest source of strength and hope for the future.”

The sneers, misinformation, unverified accusations and de facto defense of Nusra/Al Qaeda by NPR and Lama Fakih stand in stark contrast.

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.