Category Archives: FBI

So You Go Deaf at a Protest: *MIC/MICC* at the Helm

*Military Industrial Complex, or Lawrence Wilkerson’s, Military Industrial Congressional Complex*

You get a story on the supposed Havana Syndrome, and then you also get the concept of mass psychogenic illness (you know, it’s all in your head, buster, those heart palpitations, the sweats, the throbbing veins, after getting mRNA “vaccinated”) explained, and, well, no huge outrage on these weapons of mass destruction created by USA, Israel, UK, France other shit-holes. None. Yes, of course, China and Russia, they have their directed energy weapons, their lasers, their rail guns.

As a collective, we just take it up the rear end daily, a thousand times, with these illustrations of the perversion of the inventors (scientists) and the CEOs and their armies of Eichmanns and then their armies of wrench turners and computer motherboard makers to help build these tools of oppression and murder. .

Get this one here:

The United Kingdom deployed an American-made Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD), in essence, a sound cannon, during the London 2012 Olympics. Products like LRAD represent a shift from military to domestic usage of directed energy weapons, Dawson noted, explaining:

DEW manufacturers seem to be developing more hand-held versions of what was industrial-scale military weaponry. So they are transitioning from something that was the size of a truck used in Afghanistan or Iraq and turning it into something more like a taser that can be held by a police officer. In fact, the Taser Corporation, as well as other manufacturers of crowd-control weaponry, are listed in the WikiLeaks files as being manufacturers of directed energy weapons.”

LRADs are used at airports to deter wildlife from runways. But they are also commonly used by law enforcement against protestors, such as at Occupy Oakland, the George Floyd protests, and at the 2017 Women’s March.

 EU police officer deploys an LRAD

[An EU police officer deploys an LRAD near a popular refugee crossing point on the Greek – Turkish border, May 21, 2021. Giannis Papanikos | AP]

LRAD focuses a piercing and unbearable noise at those at whom it is pointed, leaving targets dizzy and suffering headaches. It is undoubtedly effective, but also poses a risk to human health. The National Institutes of Health advises that permanent hearing loss can begin when exposed to sounds of more than 85 dB. Yet police LRADs are capable of producing sounds of higher than 150 dB. There are serious concerns that the LRAD will be used liberally and illegally to disperse peaceful demonstrations. This is already happening: in 2017, the city of New York was forced to pay $748,000 to Black Lives Matter protestors targeted with LRAD. The NYPD suspended its use.

So, look at the thug, with earplugs and fake mask on, while using a weapon turned on refugees. Now if this is not a picture of the Great White Sadistic Race, then, I can’t begin to help you, kind reader.

Our tax dollars at this murderous work —

Read Alan MacLeod’s piece here — Havana Syndrome, Directed Energy Weapons, and the New Cold War

It’s the supplements, stupid!

So, from illegal and unethical and monstrous weapons against we the people, to the power of the Food and Drug Administration’s prostitutes in the employ of Big Pharma and Big Med:

Yep, emergency use authorization to approve the universal jabbing of hundreds of bottles of boosters on the wall, that FDA is something else —

Resveratrol, a plant-derived polyphenol found in grapes, could be eliminated in supplement form like pyridoxamine (B6) was a number of years ago due to an FDA back-channel that lets Big Pharma turn supplements into drugs. If Big Pharma asks the FDA to remove resveratrol, the agency’s job of eliminating these supplements is made much easier if it gets the “mandatory filing” requirement that it wants. We need to fight for major changes in the law and to block this “mandatory list” from ever passing to protect our access to important supplements.

Resveratrol has been available as a supplement for years. But we know from FDA documents that the agency rejected a “new supplement” notification for resveratrol, stating that resveratrol doesn’t meet the legal definition of a supplement because a drug company started investigating it as a drug in 2001, and the agency has no evidence that resveratrol was sold as a supplement before that date. This means that the drug company could, at any time, petition the FDA to remove resveratrol supplements from the market. This is what happened to pyridoxamine, a form of B6, and it still isn’t available as a supplement even though no drug ever came to market; it could also happen to CBD and l-glutamine.

So, imagine, all those supplements, all those proven natural elements to keep us out of the medical system. Out of the death chambers of doctors’ offices and mass murder hospitals. You know, this FDA and CDC and NIH group of liars, or in some camps, poison delivery villains:

Rumble — Expert Testimony provided by Dr. Christina Parks, Ph.D, to the Michigan House of Representatives in hearing on HB 4471. This is an unedited screen recording. This science of viruses, what they can and cannot do, and that is a huge discussion point, though I see this doctor talking to glazed eyes in the Michigan House — Eight minutes to get illuminated so please, watch. This absurdity, using boosters of those mRNA jabs to stop the Delta Variant? Makes zero sense. Listen, watch, and enlighten yourself.

If there are no national leaders, folks with bully pulpits, with media stages, to really drill down on the absurdity of this country, these trillions lost/stolen of our tax dollars, then the cascading number of stories will continue to come out with no umph, no fanfare, no repercussions.

The Pentagon doesn’t care that it snuffed out innocent lives in an airstrike; it does that all the time and its officials would do it a lot more if that’s what it took to secure their futures as lobbyists, consultants, board members and executives for defense industry corporations after they retire from the military. And the mass media don’t care either; they only cared about this one particular highly politicized airstrike during a withdrawal from a military engagement the mass media vehemently opposed.

“Pentagon acknowledges Aug. 29 drone strike in Afghanistan was a tragic mistake that killed 10 civilians.” Can you believe that headline? Not “admits” but “acknowledges”. Not “killed children while targeting an aid worker based on flimsy evidence” but “was a tragic mistake”. How many times did New York Times editors rewrite this? Imagine if this had been a Russian airstrike.

It’s the CIA (and assassinations) Stupid! 

And so, we get back to the USA, CIA, all those nefarious mutants from the UK, Israel, et al. I was almost five when Dag Hammarskjoild was murdered (1961). This documentary goes around the evidence, gets into the ugly reality of MI6 and CIA and apartheid whites wanting to eradicate the Blacks in, well, Black Africa. Lo and behold, the documentary that looks into the UN chief’s murder exposes another reality — a clandestine group using fake medical doctors and fake clinics to inoculate Blacks (poor, of course) with HIV, to help spread the deadly virus.

Former President Harry Truman told reporters two days after Dag Hammarskjöld’s death on Sept. 18, 1961 that the U.N. secretary-general  “was on the point of getting something done when they killed him. Notice that I said ‘when they killed him.’”

The mystery of the second U.N. secretary-general’s death festered until the 2011 book Who Killed Hammarskjöld? by British researcher Susan Williams, who uncovered new evidence that pointed to the likelihood that U.S., British and South African intelligence had a hand in his death in a plane crash in Northern Rhodesia, today’s Zambia. He was on his way to negotiate a cease-fire in Katanga’s separatist war from the Congo.

Williams’ findings led to an independent commission that called on the U.N. to reopen its 1962 probe in the killing, which ended with an open verdict. “The possibility … the plane was … forced into descent by some form of hostile action is supported by sufficient evidence to merit further inquiry,” the commission concluded.

All roads lead to hell, when it comes to USA, Israel, UK, EU and Canada. Exterminate all the Brutes!

“I wanted to push the boundaries of conventional documentary filmmaking and find a freedom to tell this story by any means necessary.” Director Raoul Peck sits down to discuss the creative intentions behind documentary series Exterminate All the Brutes.

Check out more on Dag over at Consortium News —

Oh, the truths of the day, around 6 million people dead because of the War on Terror. Six million!

New Byline Times report which found that

“at least 5.8 to 6 million people are likely to have died overall due to the War on Terror – a staggering number which is still probably very conservative.”

Image

 

The post So You Go Deaf at a Protest: *MIC/MICC* at the Helm first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Authoritarians Drunk on Power: It Is Time to Recalibrate the Government

The executive power in our government is not the only, perhaps not even the principal, object of my solicitude. The tyranny of the legislature is really the danger most to be feared, and will continue to be so for many years to come. The tyranny of the executive power will come in its turn, but at a more distant period.

― Thomas Jefferson, (Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville(

It is time to recalibrate the government.

For years now, we have suffered the injustices, cruelties, corruption and abuse of an entrenched government bureaucracy that has no regard for the Constitution or the rights of the citizenry.

By “government,” I’m not referring to the highly partisan, two-party bureaucracy of the Republicans and Democrats. Rather, I’m referring to “government” with a capital “G,” the entrenched Deep State that is unaffected by elections, unaltered by populist movements, and has set itself beyond the reach of the law.

We are overdue for a systemic check on the government’s overreaches and power grabs.

We have lingered too long in this strange twilight zone where ego trumps justice, propaganda perverts truth, and imperial presidents—empowered to indulge their authoritarian tendencies by legalistic courts, corrupt legislatures and a disinterested, distracted populace—rule by fiat rather than by the rule of law.

This COVID-19 pandemic has provided the government with the perfect excuse to lay claim to a long laundry list of terrifying lockdown powers (at both the federal and state level) that override the Constitution: the ability to suspend the Constitution, indefinitely detain American citizens, bypass the courts, quarantine whole communities or segments of the population, override the First Amendment by outlawing religious gatherings and assemblies of more than a few people, shut down entire industries and manipulate the economy, muzzle dissidents, reshape financial markets, create a digital currency (and thus further restrict the use of cash), determine who should live or die, and impose health mandates on large segments of the population.

These kinds of crises tend to bring out the authoritarian tendencies in government.

That’s no surprise: power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Where we find ourselves now is in the unenviable position of needing to rein in all three branches of government—the Executive, the Judicial, and the Legislative—that have exceeded their authority and grown drunk on power.

This is exactly the kind of concentrated, absolute power the founders attempted to guard against by establishing a system of checks of balances that separate and shares power between three co-equal branches: the executive, the legislative and the judiciary.

“The system of checks and balances that the Framers envisioned now lacks effective checks and is no longer in balance,” concludes law professor William P. Marshall. “The implications of this are serious. The Framers designed a system of separation of powers to combat government excess and abuse and to curb incompetence. They also believed that, in the absence of an effective separation-of-powers structure, such ills would inevitably follow. Unfortunately, however, power once taken is not easily surrendered.”

Unadulterated power in any branch of government is a menace to freedom.

There’s no point debating which political party would be more dangerous with these powers.

The fact that any individual—or branch of government—of any political persuasion is empowered to act like a dictator is danger enough.

So what can we do to wrest back control over a runaway government and an imperial presidency?

It won’t be easy.

We are the unwitting victims of a system so corrupt that those who stand up for the rule of law and aspire to transparency in government are in the minority.

This corruption is so vast it spans all branches of government: from the power-hungry agencies under the executive branch and the corporate puppets within the legislative branch to a judiciary that is, more often than not, elitist and biased towards government entities and corporations.

We are ruled by an elite class of individuals who are completely out of touch with the travails of the average American.

We are viewed as relatively expendable in the eyes of government: faceless numbers of individuals who serve one purpose, which is to keep the government machine running through our labor and our tax dollars. Those in power aren’t losing any sleep over the indignities we are being made to suffer or the possible risks to our health. All they seem to care about are power and control.

We are being made to suffer countless abuses at the government’s hands.

We have little protection against standing armies (domestic and military), invasive surveillance, marauding SWAT teams, an overwhelming government arsenal of assault vehicles and firepower, and a barrage of laws that criminalize everything from vegetable gardens to lemonade stands.

In the name of national security, we’re being subjected to government agencies such as the NSA, FBI and others listening in on our phone calls, reading our mail, monitoring our emails, and carrying out warrantless “black bag” searches of our homes. Adding to the abuse, we have to deal with surveillance cameras mounted on street corners and in traffic lights, weather satellites co-opted for use as spy cameras from space, and thermal sensory imaging devices that can detect heat and movement through the walls of our homes.

That doesn’t even begin to touch on the many ways in which our Fourth Amendment rights are trampled upon by militarized police and SWAT teams empowered to act as laws unto themselves.

In other words, freedom—or what’s left of it—is threatened from every direction.

The predators of the police state are wreaking havoc on our freedoms, our communities, and our lives. The government doesn’t listen to the citizenry, it refuses to abide by the Constitution, which is our rule of law, and it treats the citizenry as a source of funding and little else. Police officers are shooting unarmed citizens and their household pets. Government agents—including local police—are being armed to the teeth and encouraged to act like soldiers on a battlefield. Bloated government agencies are fleecing taxpayers. Government technicians are spying on our emails and phone calls. Government contractors are making a killing by waging endless wars abroad.

In other words, the American police state is alive and well and flourishing.

Nothing has changed, and nothing will change unless we insist on it.

We have arrived at the dystopian future depicted in the 2005 film V for Vendetta, which is no future at all.

Set in the year 2020, V for Vendetta (written and produced by the Wachowskis) provides an eerie glimpse into a parallel universe in which a government-engineered virus wreaks havoc on the world. Capitalizing on the people’s fear, a totalitarian government comes to power that knows all, sees all, controls everything and promises safety and security above all.

Concentration camps (jails, private prisons and detention facilities) have been established to house political prisoners and others deemed to be enemies of the state. Executions of undesirables (extremists, troublemakers and the like) are common, while other enemies of the state are made to “disappear.” Populist uprisings and protests are met with extreme force. The television networks are controlled by the government with the purpose of perpetuating the regime. And most of the population is hooked into an entertainment mode and are clueless.

Sounds painfully familiar, doesn’t it?

As director James McTeighe observed about the tyrannical regime in V for Vendetta, “It really showed what can happen when society is ruled by government, rather than the government being run as a voice of the people. I don’t think it’s such a big leap to say things like that can happen when leaders stop listening to the people.”

Clearly, our leaders have stopped listening to the American people.

We are—and have been for some time—the unwitting victims of a system so corrupt that those who stand up for the rule of law and aspire to transparency in government are in the minority. This corruption is so vast it spans all branches of government—from the power-hungry agencies under the executive branch and the corporate puppets within the legislative branch to a judiciary that is, more often than not, elitist and biased towards government entities and corporations.

We are ruled by an elite class of individuals who are completely out of touch with the travails of the average American. We are relatively expendable in the eyes of government—faceless numbers of individuals who serve one purpose, which is to keep the government machine running through our labor and our tax dollars.

What will it take for the government to start listening to the people again?

In V for Vendetta, as in my new novel The Erik Blair Diaries, it takes an act of terrorism for the people to finally mobilize and stand up to the government’s tyranny: in Vendetta, V the film’s masked crusader blows up the seat of government, while in Erik Blair, freedom fighters plot to unmask the Deep State.

These acts of desperation and outright anarchy are what happens when a parasitical government muzzles the citizenry, fences them in, herds them, brands them, whips them into submission, forces them to ante up the sweat of their brows while giving them little in return, and then provides them with little to no outlet for voicing their discontent: people get desperate, citizens lose hope, and lawful, nonviolent resistance gives way to unlawful, violent resistance.

This way lies madness.

Then again, this madness may be unavoidable unless we can wrest back control over our runaway government starting at the local level.

How to do this? It’s not rocket science.

There is no 10-step plan. If there were a 10-step plan, however, the first step would be as follows: turn off the televisions, tune out the politicians, and do your part to stand up for freedom principles in your own communities.

Stand up for your own rights, of course, but more importantly, stand up for the rights of those with whom you might disagree. Defend freedom at all costs. Defend justice at all costs. Make no exceptions based on race, religion, creed, politics, immigration status, sexual orientation, etc. Vote like Americans, for a change, not Republicans or Democrats.

Most of all, use your power—and there is power in our numbers—to nullify anything and everything the government does that undermines the freedom principles on which this nation was founded.

Don’t play semantics. Don’t justify. Don’t politicize it. If it carries even a whiff of tyranny, oppose it. Demand that your representatives in government cut you a better deal, one that abides by the Constitution and doesn’t just attempt to sidestep it.

That’s their job: make them do it.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, all freedoms hang together. They fall together, as well.

The police state does not discriminate. Eventually, we will all suffer the same fate.

The post Authoritarians Drunk on Power: It Is Time to Recalibrate the Government first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Thordarson’s Fabrications: Another Hole in the Julian Assange Prosecution

The tyrannical, brutal cynicism of keeping Julian Assange in Belmarsh prison remains one of the more inglorious marks of the British legal system and, it should be said, its sponsors and colluders. Having won his case against extradition to the US, if only in deeply qualified terms, the UK keeps the WikiLeaks publisher banged up as the appeals process stutters.

The case against Assange could have been thrown out under any number of grounds. Unfortunately, the judgment halting his extradition to the US on 17 charges based on the Espionage Act and one charge of computer intrusion was framed in purposely narrow terms, ignoring the patently political nature of the proceedings.  Were it not for District Judge Vanessa Baraitser’s January 4 ruling accepting the state of his precarious health, risk of suicide and the dangerous conditions he would face in the US legal system, the publisher would no doubt be facing special administrative measures and, most likely, the life-sucking interior of a supermax.

A central, and impairing problem in the ruling, was its comfortable acceptance of virtually everything submitted by the prosecution, including the contention that Assange was no journalist, and that he conspired with various associates to hack and make off with classified material.  The judgment also refused to consider – given the ongoing investigation in Spain against the security firm UC Global – that the Central Intelligence Agency had compromised the legal credibility of proceedings by bugging Assange’s privileged conversations in the Ecuadorian embassy.  “This court has no access to the information discovered from this investigation,” reasoned a dismissive Baraitser.  Sordid proposals by US intelligence officials to abduct or assassinate Assange, adduced in court by two anonymous witnesses formerly in the employ of UC Global, could be dismissed as having no bearing on the case.

As if this was not sufficient to sink the matter and open the prison doors of Belmarsh to the founder of WikiLeaks, another dire revelation was made in the Icelandic biweekly Stundin on June 26.  A vital prosecution witness wished to come clean on his testimony.  Sigurdur “Siggi” Thordarson, that sketchiest of characters, admitted that the testimony gleefully used by US prosecutors had been riddled by fabrications.

In 2011, Thordarson piqued the interest of the FBI after planning a DDoS attack on an Icelandic website in concert with Hector Xavier Monsegur (“Sabu”).  Monsegur, posing as a member of the hacking outfit LulzSec, had become an informant for the FBI.  With touted links to WikiLeaks and Assange (Thordarson was not the shy, retiring type), the FBI sought the teenager’s services.  Thordarson had, in fact, been a noisy volunteer tasked with raising money for the organisation.  During the course of his revenue raising operations, he embezzled over $50,000.

Not content with these additions to his resume, the teenager shamelessly rode the WikiLeaks reputation train, making contacts with journalists, being subsidised on trips where he could claim to be an official representative of the organisation.  During this time, he pilfered material from WikiLeaks, copying the documents of Renata Avila, a lawyer assisting Assange and the organisation.

The DoJ indictment does not explicitly name Thordarson or the Icelandic nexus, but little is left to the imagination, given that Assange was visiting Iceland “in early 2010” to aid the country’s politicians and media outlets prepare the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative.  The IMMI resolution, unanimously adopted in the Icelandic Parliament on June 16, 2011, aimed to make Iceland a safe haven for journalists and whistleblowers by protecting freedom of expression and freedom of information.

The indictment alleges that Assange, in early 2010 and while in contact with Chelsea Manning for reasons of obtaining “classified information […] met a 17-year old in NATO Country-1 (‘Teenager’), who provided [him] with data stolen from a bank.”  The indictment goes on to claim that Assange asked the “Teenager” in question “to commit computer intrusions and steal additional information, including audio recordings of phone conversations between high-ranking officials of the government of NATO Country-1, including members of the Parliament of NATO Country-1.”

This nasty filling to the superseding indictment expanded the allegedly conspiratorial nature of Assange’s conduct, a measure undoubtedly designed to tag a few more years to any prison sentence that would be handed down.  This would also blacken Assange’s journalistic credentials and any claims to free speech protections.

No longer a callow teenager and having served time for financial fraud and sexually abusing minors, Thordarson told Stundin “that Assange never asked him to hack or to access phone recordings of MPs.”  He now insists that he had “received some files from a third party who claimed to have recorded MPs and had offered to share them with Assange without having any idea what they actually contained.”  Thordarson failed to go through the files, or even verify whether they had audio recordings as claimed by the third party source.  The allegation that Assange instructed him to access computers in order to find such recordings is also dismissed as false.

The Stundin article also delves into the chat logs and new documents “never before published”.  While Thordarson did gather them himself – a warning of self-partiality there – they do cover conversations with WikiLeaks staff and his unauthorised contact with various hacking groups, connections made when moderating the online IRC WikiLeaks forum.

The logs are not flattering.  They reveal a person prone to embellishment and mendacity.  The big headed “Siggi” considered himself a “chief of staff”, the fictional director of communications in WikiLeaks, and second in pecking order in terms of finding recruits for the organisation. Independently of WikiLeaks, he urged hackers to target Icelandic entities and websites with distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks.  Thordarson, roguishly, gives the impression that such conduct was expected of him by Assange, though there is no evidence that he was ever spurred on to do so.  Further to that point, any purported instructions by Assange to pursue such an enterprise would have been at odds with his fruitful relationship with Icelandic politicians and press outlets at that point.

The sinister conclusion to draw here, notably through the FBI link, is that a DDoS attack was conducted against the websites of several Icelandic government entities with the approval of US authorities.  Linking Monsegur to the supposedly WikiLeaks-directed Thordarson would be one way of implicating Assange.  The US authorities, reasons Ögmundur Jónasson, Iceland’s Interior Minister at the time, “were trying to use things here [in Iceland] and use people in our country to spin a web, a cobweb that would catch Julian Assange.”

Despite having chalked up a decent prison record and possessing the profile of a fully-fledged sociopath, Thordarson was revisited by US authorities in 2019.  The prosecution of Assange, seen as a legal and risky cul-de-sac by Obama era officials, became a priority for President Donald Trump’s Attorney General William Barr.  In May 2019 Siggi was offered an immunity deal by the DoJ’s deputy assistant attorney general in the department’s National Security Division, Kellen S. Dwyer.  In addition to giving Thordarson immunity from prosecution by US authorities for his testimony, Stundin revealed the guarantee by the DoJ that they “would not share any such information to other prosecutorial or law enforcement agencies.”  Iceland’s law enforcement authorities would be kept in the dark.

The Stundin exposé might have been an early birthday present of sorts for Assange, who turned 50 on July 3.  But instead of hearing news of an impending release, the Australian publisher had to content himself with faithful commemorations held in his honour and sketchy coverage about these latest revelations in the mainstream press.  The UK continues to remain Washington’s deputised jailor, while Thordarson, emboldened by his agreement with the DoJ, continues his habitual forgeries.

The post Thordarson’s Fabrications: Another Hole in the Julian Assange Prosecution first appeared on Dissident Voice.

A Remarkable Silence: Media Blackout After Key Witness Against Assange Admits Lying

As we have pointed out since Media Lens began in 2001, a fundamental feature of corporate media is propaganda by omission. Over the past week, a stunning example has highlighted this core property once again.

A major witness in the US case against Julian Assange has just admitted fabricat­ing key accusati­ons in the indictment against the Wikileaks founder. These dramatic revelations emerged in an extensive article published on 26 June in Stundin, an Icelandic newspaper. The paper interviewed the witness, Sigurdur Ingi Thordarson, a former WikiLeaks volunteer, who admitted that he had made false allegations against Assange after being recruited by US authorities. Thordarson, who has several convictions for sexual abuse of minors and financial fraud, began working with the US Department of Justice and the FBI after receiving a promise of immunity from prosecution. He even admitted to continuing his crime spree while working with the US authorities.

Last summer, US officials had presented an updated version of their indictment against Assange to Magistrate Court Judge Vanessa Baraitser at the Old Bailey in London. Key to this update was the assertion that Assange had instructed Thordarson to commit computer intrusions or hacking in Iceland.

As the Stundin article reported:

‘The aim of this addition to the indictment was apparently to shore up and support the conspiracy charge against Assange in relation to his interactions with Chelsea Manning. Those occurred around the same time he resided in Iceland and the authors of the indictment felt they could strengthen their case by alleging he was involved in illegal activity there as well. This activity was said to include attempts to hack into the computers of members of [the Icelandic] parliament and record their conversations.

‘In fact, Thordarson now admits to Stundin that Assange never asked him to hack or access phone recordings of MPs.’

Judge Baraitser’s ruling on 4 January, 2021 was against extradition to the US. But she did so purely on humanitarian grounds concerning Assange’s health, suicide risk and the extreme conditions he would face in confinement in US prisons.

The Stundin article continued:

‘With regards to the actual accusations made in the indictment Baraitser sided with the arguments of the American legal team, including citing the specific samples from Iceland which are now seriously called into question.

‘Other misleading elements can be found in the indictment, and later reflected in the Magistrate’s judgement, based on Thordarson’s now admitted lies.’

The Stundin article further details Thordarson’s lies and deceptions, including mispresenting himself as an official representative of WikiLeaks while a volunteer in 2010-2011, even impersonating Assange, and embezzling more than $50,000 from the organisation.

By August 2011, Thordarson was being pursued by WikiLeaks staff trying to locate the missing funds. In fact, Thordarson had arranged for the money to be sent to his private bank account by forging an email in Assange’s name. That month, Thordarson sought a way out by contacting the US Embassy in Iceland, offering to be an informant in the case against Assange.

Stundin noted:

‘within 48 hrs a private jet landed in Reykjavik with around eight [US] agents who quickly set up meetings with Thordarson and with people from the Icelandic State Prosecutors office and the State Police Commissioner.’

But it turned out that the US officers did not have permission from the Icelandic government to operate in the country and Ögmundur Jónasson, then Iceland’s minister of interior, ordered them to leave. Meanwhile, the FBI were allegedly complicit in DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attacks on the websites of several Iceland government institutions. The FBI had then approached Icelandic authorities, promising to assist them in preventing any future such attacks. In reality, the approach was a ruse to fool Iceland into cooperation in an attempt to entrap Assange.

Jónasson said that the Americans:

‘were trying to use things here [in Iceland] and use people in our country to spin a web, a cobweb that would catch Julian Assange.’

The US officials left Iceland, flying to Denmark, but taking with them their new informant and ‘star witness’, Thordarson.

Stundin reported:

The meeting in Denmark was the first of a few where the FBI enthusiastically embraced the idea of co-operation with Thordarson. He says they wanted to know everything about WikiLeaks, including physical security of staff. They took material he had gathered, including data he had stolen from WikiLeaks employees and even planned to send him to England with a wire. Thordarson claimed in interviews he had refused that particular request. It was probably because he was not welcomed anymore as he knew WikiLeaks people had found out, or were about to firmly establish, that he had embezzled funds from the organization.’

However:

‘After months of collaboration the FBI seem to have lost interest. At about the same time charges were piling up against Thordarson with the Icelandic authorities for massive fraud, forgeries and theft on the one hand and for sexual violations against underage boys he had tricked or forced into sexual acts on the other.

‘After long investigations Thordarson was sentenced in 2013 and 2014 and received relatively lenient sentences as the judge took into account that he changed his plea at court and pleaded guilty to all counts.’

The article continued:

‘Incarceration did not seem to have an intended effect of stopping Thordarson from continuing his life of crime. It actually took off and expanded in extent and scope in 2019 when the Trump-era DoJ [Department of Justice] decided to revisit him, giving him a formal status as witness in the prosecution against Julian Assange and granting him immunity in return from any prosecution.’

A ‘Sociopath’ Who ‘Lied To Get Immunity’

Under President Obama, the US Department of Justice had decided against indicting Assange, despite devoting huge resources to building a case against him. The stumbling block was ‘The New York Times Problem’: the difficulty in distinguishing between WikiLeaks publications and NYT publications of the same material. In other words, prosecuting WikiLeaks would pose grave First Amendment risks for even ‘respectable’ media such as the NYT.

But this changed after Trump took office. Stundin explained:

‘President Donald Trump’s appointed Attorney general William Barr did not share these concerns, and neither did his Trump-appointed deputy Kellen S. Dwyer. Barr, who faced severe criticism for politicizing the DoJ on behalf of the president, got the ball rolling on the Assange case once again. Their argument was that if they could prove he was a criminal rather than a journalist the charges would stick, and that was where Thordarson’s testimony would be key.

‘In May 2019 Thordarson was offered an immunity deal, signed by Dwyer, that granted him immunity from prosecution based on any information on wrong doing they had on him. The deal, seen in writing by Stundin, also guarantees that the DoJ would not share any such information to other prosecutorial or law enforcement agencies. That would include Icelandic ones, meaning that the Americans will not share information on crimes he might have committed threatening Icelandic security interests – and the Americans apparently had plenty of those but had over the years failed to share them with their Icelandic counterparts.’

Thordarson’s offer of an immunity deal came the month following Assange’s forced removal from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, most likely with US connivance, and subsequent incarceration in the high-security Belmarsh prison.

It is not clear from the Stundin article why Thordarson has now decided to come clean. But the Stundin journalists noted that a psychiatric assessment that had been submitted to an Icelandic court before he was sentenced diagnosed him as a sociopath:

‘incapable of remorse but still criminally culpable for his actions. He was assessed to be able to understand the basic difference between right and wrong. He just did not seem to care.’

In a new blog piece discussing these revelations, Craig Murray, who had reported from the Old Bailey during the Assange extradition hearing, referred back to the final day of proceedings. Magistrate Baraitser had refused to accept an affidavit from Assange’s solicitor Gareth Peirce addressing the updated indictment on the grounds it was out of time:

‘The affidavit explained that the defence had been unable to respond to the new accusations in the United States government’s second superseding indictment, because these wholly new matters had been sprung on them just six weeks before the hearing resumed on 8 September 2020.

‘The defence had not only to gather evidence from Iceland, but had virtually no access to Assange to take his evidence and instructions, as he was effectively in solitary confinement in Belmarsh. The defence had requested an adjournment to give them time to address the new accusations, but this adjournment had been refused by Baraitser.

‘She now refused to accept Gareth Peirce’s affidavit setting out these facts.’

Even before the Stundin article was published five days ago, Thordarson’s testimony should have already been recognised as suspect, to say the least. As WikiLeaks noted last year:

‘The “Star Witness” of the new superseding indictment is a diagnosed sociopath/ convicted conman/ child abuser/ FBI informant who was found guilty in Iceland of impersonating #Assange

The recent Stundin revelations that the updated US indictment against Assange rests on now-admitted lies means that the FBI case is demonstrably a travesty.

US policy analyst Gareth Porter noted:

‘It’s now clearer than ever before that the U.S. indictment of #Assange is based on fraud. A key accuser admits he lied to the help set up Assange. How much evidence does the Justice Department need stop this criminal abuse of power?’

As the famous US whistleblower Edward Snowden tweeted:

‘This is the end of the case against Julian Assange.’

Or, as journalist Glenn Greenwald followed up, more realistically:

‘It should be.’

Jennifer Robinson, a human rights attorney who has been advising Assange and WikiLeaks since 2010, told Democracy Now:

‘The factual basis for this case has completely fallen apart.’

Robinson pointed out:

‘the evidence from Thordarson that was given to the United States and formed the basis of the second, superseding indictment, including allegations of hacking, has now been, on his own admission, demonstrated to have been fabricated [our emphasis]. Not only did he misrepresent his access to Julian Assange and to WikiLeaks and his association with Julian Assange, he has now admitted that he made up and falsely misrepresented to the United States that there was any association with WikiLeaks and any association with hacking.

‘So, this is just the latest revelation to demonstrate why the U.S. case should be dropped.’

Robinson expanded:

‘it’s significant that the initial indictment for Julian Assange related only to the publications back in 2010, 2011, the Chelsea Manning publications. It was a second, superseding indictment, introduced by the Trump administration, which was based upon Thordarson’s evidence [our emphasis]. Now, any lawyer and even any layperson would be looking at evidence from a convicted felon, who had been convicted of forgery, fraud and sexual abuse allegations associated with minors. That is a problematic source. Now we have him admitting that he lied to the FBI about that evidence. This raises serious concerns about the integrity of this investigation and the integrity of this criminal prosecution, and serious questions ought to be being asked within the Department of Justice about this prosecution and the fact that it is continuing at all.’

The headline of the article accompanying Robinson’s interview put it succinctly:

‘U.S. Case Against Julian Assange Falls Apart, as Key Witness Says He Lied to Get Immunity’

Tumbleweed In The ‘MSM’

But all of this is seemingly of no interest to the ‘mainstream’ media. We have not found a single report by any ‘serious’ UK broadcaster or newspaper. Journalist Matt Kennard, head of investigations at Declassified UK, observed fully two days after the story broke:

‘I don’t think one US or UK newspaper has reported this. The free press is incredible.’

Several days on, the ‘mainstream’ media silence is truly remarkable. As we remarked via Twitter:

‘The discipline, or blindness, to ignore awkward facts is a reliable feature of corporate “journalism”’

Of course, it is possible that we have missed something, somewhere in the ‘MSM’; perhaps a brief item at 3am on the BBC World Service. But in a sane world, Stundin’s revelations about a key Assange witness – that Thordarson lied in exchange for immunity from prosecution – would have been headline news everywhere, with extensive media coverage on BBC News at Six and Ten, ITV News, Channel 4 News, front-page stories in the Times, Telegraph, the Guardian and more. The silence is quite extraordinary; and disturbing. Caitlin Johnstone described it as a ‘weird, creepy media blackout’:

‘not one major western media outlet outside of Iceland has reported on this massive and entirely legitimate news story. A search brings up coverage by Icelandic media, by Russian media, and by smaller western outlets like Democracy NowWorld Socialist WebsiteConsortium NewsZero Hedge and some others, but as of this writing this story has been completely ignored by all major outlets who are ostensibly responsible for informing the public in the western world.’

Johnstone continued:

‘It’s not that those outlets have been ignoring Assange altogether these last few days either. Reuters recently published an interview with Assange’s fiance Stella Moris. Evening Standard has a recent article out on Assange’s plans to marry Moris in Belmarsh, as does Deutsche Welle. It’s just this one story in particular that they’ve been blacking out completely.’

She offered an explanation for the silence across the media:

‘they’re all generally following the lead of just a handful of top-tier publications like The New York TimesThe Washington PostThe Wall Street Journal and The Guardian. If just those few outlets decide to ignore a major news story that’s inconvenient for the powerful (either by persuasion, infiltration or by their own initiative), then no one else will either. As far as the media-consuming public is concerned, it’s like the major news story never happened at all.’

More fundamentally:

‘Western mass media outlets are propaganda. They are owned and controlled by wealthy people in coordination with the secretive government agencies tasked with preserving the world order upon which the media-owning plutocrats have built their kingdoms, and their purpose is to manipulate the way the mainstream public thinks, acts and votes into alignment with the agendas of the ruling class.

‘You see this propaganda in the way things are reported, but you also see it in the way things are not reported. Entire news stories can be completely redacted from mainstream attention if they are sufficiently inconvenient for the mechanisms of empire, or only allowed in via platforms like Tucker Carlson Tonight and thereby tainted and spun as ridiculous right-wing conspiracy theories.’

Our polite challenges to Paul Royall, editor of BBC News at Six and Ten, and Katharine Viner, editor of the Guardian, went unanswered, despite multiple retweets and follow-up queries by other Twitter users. Of course, this is the standard non-response of even the ‘best’ state-corporate media to uncomfortable questions.

As we have often observed, the establishment media relentlessly warn of the insidious nature of ‘fake news’: a claim that does have a seed of validity. But it is the state-corporate media themselves who are the primary purveyors of fake news. As Tim Coles, author of ‘Real Fake News’, commented:

‘Whenever people in power tell you that fake news is undermining democracy, they really mean that alternative sources of information are challenging their grip on power.’

In fact, the most dangerous component of ‘MSM’ fake news is arguably propaganda by omission. In ostensible ‘democracies’, the public cannot make informed decisions, and take appropriate action, when the crimes of ruling elites are kept hidden by a complicit media.

The post A Remarkable Silence: Media Blackout After Key Witness Against Assange Admits Lying first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Wither Encryption: What Operation Trojan Shield Reveals

My, were they delighted!  Politicians across several international jurisdictions beamed with pride that police and security forces had gotten one up on criminals spanning the globe.  It all involved a sting by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, led in conjunction with a number of law enforcement agencies in 16 countries, resulting in more than 800 arrests.  The European Union police agency Europol described it as the “biggest ever law enforcement operation against encrypted communication”.

The haul was certainly more than the usual: over 32 tonnes of an assortment of drugs including cocaine, cannabis, amphetamines and methamphetamines; 250 firearms, 55 luxury cars, and some $48 million in cash, both tangible and digital.

Operation Trojan Shield arose because of a grand dupe.  It involved recruiting an FBI informant who had developed an adulterated version of the encryption technology platform Anom, to be used on modified cell phones for distribution through a range of organised crime networks.  The platform included a calculator app that relayed all communications sent on the platform back to the FBI.   “You had to know a criminal to get hold of one of these customised phones,” the Australian Federal Police explained. “The phones couldn’t ring or email.   You could only communicate with someone on the same platform.”

The users were none the wiser.  For three years, material was gathered and examined, comprising 27 million intercepted messages drawn from 12,000 devices.  This month, the authorities could no longer contain their excitement.

While the criminals in question might well have been mocked for their gullibility, the trumpeting of law enforcement did not seem much better.  A relentless campaign has been waged on end-to-end encryption communication platforms, a war against what policing types call “going dark”.  To add some light to the situation, the agencies pine for the creation of tailored back doors to such communications apps as WhatsApp, iMessage and Signal.

Few could forget the indignant efforts of the FBI to badger Apple in 2016 to crack the iPhone of Syed Farook, the San Bernardino shooting suspect.  Apple refused.  The battle moved to the courts.  In what has become something of a pattern, the DOJ subsequently dropped the case by revealing that it had “successfully accessed the data stored on Farook’s iPhone and therefore no longer requires the assistance of Apple Inc.”  The DOJ then requested that a court order of February 16 demanding Apple create software with weakened iPhone security settings be vacated.  By refusing to reveal how it had obtained access to the phone, government authorities had thrown down the gauntlet to Apple to identify any glitches.

In 2020, a number of international politicians with an interest in the home security portfolio released a joint statement claiming to support “strong encryption, which plays a crucial role in protecting personal data, privacy, intellectual property, trade secrets and cyber security.”  A casual glance at the undersigned would suggest this to be markedly disingenuous.  Among them were: Priti Patel, UK Home Secretary; William P. Barr, US Attorney General; Peter Dutton, Australian Minister for Home Affairs.

Having given nods of approval for encryption as “an existential anchor of trust in the digital world”, the ministers took aim at the various platforms using it.  On this occasion, it was the “challenges to public safety” posed by the use of encryption technology, “including to highly vulnerable members of our societies like sexually exploited children.”  (The battle against solid encryption is often waged over the bodies and minds of abused children.)  Industry was urged “to address our concerns where encryption is applied in a way that wholly precludes any legal access.” This would involve companies having to police illegal content and permit “law enforcement to access content in a readable and usable format where an authorisation is lawfully issued, is necessary and proportionate, and is subject to strong safeguards and oversight”.

Cases like Anom demonstrate that there is seemingly no need for such intrusions, bells of alarm, and warnings about safety.  The police have sufficient powers and means, and more besides.  As with such matters, the danger tends to be closer to home: police zeal; prosecutor’s glee; a hatred of privacy.  Joseph Lorenzo Hall, senior vice president at the non-profit Internet Society, is convinced of that fact.  “When law enforcement agencies claim they need companies to build in backdoors to help them gain access to the end-to-end encrypted communications of criminals, examples like Anom show that it’s not the case.”

John Scott-Railton of the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy makes the same point.  “What this case shows is that global law enforcement is perfectly capable of mobilising a multiyear caper to get around exactly the kinds of problems about encryptions that they’ve been talking about without breaking the encryption of the apps that keep you and [me] private.”

The Australian wing of the operation had even greater extant powers of access to encrypted messages.  The Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Act 2018 is one of those beastly instruments many law enforcement agencies dream about.  It might also suggest why Australia, a nominally small partner, might have been asked by the FBI to be involved in the first place.  When asked if this was the case, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison suggested that the question be put to US authorities.  For him, the AFP’s hardly impressive technical efforts were to be praised.

None of this is enough for the Morrison government, which is intent on further pushing the surveillance cart in such proposed laws as the Surveillance Legislation Amendment (Identify and Disrupt) Bill 2020, and the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (International Production Orders) Bill 2020 (IPO Bill).  The former would permit the AFP and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission to issue a new range of warrants for combating online crime; the latter would create a system by which Australian agencies would be able to access stored telecommunications from identified foreign communication providers in cases where Australia has a bilateral agreement.

Operation Trojan Shield has again shown that calls for weakened encryption are to be treated with due alarm.  Almost silly in all of this was the fact that the FBI and fellow agencies made it a demonstrable fact, undercutting their very own arguments for a more invasive surveillance system. The next play is bound to come from the criminal networks themselves, who, wounded by this deception, will move towards more conventional encryption technologies. The battle will then come full circle.  In countries such as Australia, where privacy is a withering tree, the encryption debate is a dead letter.

The post Wither Encryption: What Operation Trojan Shield Reveals first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Socialist Rhetorical and Dialectical Communication: Overcoming Brainwashing, Propaganda, Entertainment

Orientation

How effective is the socialist left at winning over people in public meetings who are not already socialists? I would think that being socialists would make the people practicing socialism very good at being social. How true is this? There are two purposes in this article. One is to identify the similarities and differences between six forms of information control. The second part is to assess how good leftists are in using the two forms of control called “rhetoric” and “dialectic” at making their points. My claim is that the socialist left knows or cares little for these argumentation forms. This is one of many reasons why it is difficult to persuade or convince the public to become socialists or support socialist programs. These attempts could be in public gatherings such as rallies, city council meetings or in the workplace.

Six forms of information control

In my last article, I contrasted seven theories of propaganda, highlighting the work of sociologist Jacques Ellul. But as it turns out, propaganda is one of six forms of information control. Moving from right to left, from most to the least authoritarian we have:

  • Brainwashing
  • Propaganda
  • Mass entertainment
  • Public entertainment
  • Rhetoric
  • Dialectic

Brainwashing is the most conservative form of information control because it uses force to change minds. Propaganda, as we have seen in my last article, can be used by both conservatives and liberals. Both forms of entertainment are really politically apathetic, as they try to distract and provide escape from political and economic realities. Rhetoric is the essence of liberal viewpoints dating all the way back to debate among the classical Greeks. Dialectic was also used among the Greeks. It was used for conservative purposes by Plato and later by Hegel while Marx used dialectic to understand capitalism along with human history.

As in my article on propaganda, this article will cover information control that existed before the world-wide web and the rest of interactive media was created. Interactive media introduces a whole new level of interaction, which I am not experienced to comment on.

Origins of the terms

Of all the forms of information control, “brainwashing” is the most recent on the scene. It was coined by a CIA agent, William Hunter, in the early 1950s to describe the interrogation methods of Chinese Communists on American soldiers during the Korean War. The first use of the term “propaganda” was in early modern Europe by the Catholic Church to characterize the Protestant methods of conversion through print media.  The term “entertainment” was first used in the 17th century to describe activities in Europe that were considered to be amusement. Both rhetoric and dialectic have their beginnings in ancient Greece in the context of either developing an argument through one-on-one exchange (dialectic) or in persuading a public audience (rhetoric). Rhetoric settings were law courts. Aristotle and the Sophists were early theoreticians. Dialectic was originally associated with the dialogues connected to Plato and Socrates.

Overcoming bad reputations

Interestingly enough, all forms of information control except entertainment have bad reputations and are mostly used for political purposes by the Yankee state. For example, the word “brainwashing” was imagined as a product of seedy conspiracies of communist governments and practiced on dissidents. The movie The Manchurian Candidate most obviously depicts the fantasies of what the US state imagined the communists were doing. As can be seen by Robert J. Lifton’s book Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism, this had little resemblance to what the Chinese were really up to. As I said in my article on propaganda, the stereotype of propaganda, at least in Yankeedom, is the picture painted of it by reactionary conservatives. They say propaganda is solely political and it is engaged in by foreign, usually “authoritarian” governments. This stereotype also implies that there is no propaganda engaged in by the Yankee state. Of course, there are six other schools of propaganda, but the stereotype that is most powerful is the reactionary conservative one.

The last form of information control used by Yankeedom for political purposes is the stereotype of “dialectic”. Here, dialectic is associated with Hegel’s concept of the state being rational and self-justifying. Reactionary ideologists imagine that Hegel was anticipating the authoritarian states of Russia, China or Cuba. In history, the dialectical process was imagined by them to be a rigid description of a spiral of stages of human society being driven by conflict and taking the same of thesis-antithesis and synthesis. There was no room for individual freedom.

The stereotype of the term “rhetoric” usually means “empty words”, which usually are contrasted with taking action. Rhetoric is also contrasted with content, being form with no content, being superficial, or shallow. Rhetoric is usually associated with deception, exaggeration or the use of emotions, prejudices or sex. Plato has had a heavy hand in giving rhetoric a bad name.

Entertainment is the only form of information control that does not have a bad reputation to overcome. Its definition is to hold attention and divert it to something that is pleasing. It could be at a public event such as puppet shows, musical concerts, sporting events, theme parks, amusement parks, casinos, or circuses. In the case of mass media, there is amusement through movies, radio or television. Public and mass entertainment are created for the purpose of making money through delivering an experience or selling a product or a service.

Defining Brainwashing Propaganda, Rhetoric and Dialectical 

Paraphrasing Kathleen Taylor’s book Brainwashing: The Science of Thought Control, brainwashing is a physiological attempt to do three things:

  • Erase existing thoughts, memories and cognitive content
  • Replant in the brain new content
  • Control the person’s actions remotely so they will obey without the presence of the persecutor

In a case of the pot calling the kettle black, some of the most extensive attempts at actually brainwashing people did not come from communist countries. It came from a Canadian psychiatrist Ewen Cameron in the 1950’s (see Adam Curtis’ Documentary, Century of Self II) who was eventually on the CIA payroll. The tale of Cameron is also documented in the book Brainwash by Dominic Streatfeild and in Journey into Madness: the True Story of CIA Mind Control and Medical Abuse, by Gordon Thomas. The CIA conduced its own experiments in Brainwashing as did the British physiologist, William Sargant in his book Battle for the Mind. Typically, brainwashing in its most severe forms takes place in hospitals, prisons, and the military in the form of torture. It also occurred at the hands of Catholic or Protestant religious institutions in early modern Europe. Its victims were heretics or witches.

The bad news for these terrorist spy organizations and the psychiatrists who worked with them is that they have been unsuccessful. The techniques of brainwashing described in the books have been successful in turning people into vegetables, making them dysfunctional. But they haven’t been successful in erasing, replanting and controlling people remotely.

Paraphrasing the Jowett and O’Donnell book Propaganda and Persuasion, propaganda is the deliberate, systematic and often covert attempt by institutional elites to control:

  • Perceptions
  • Cognitions
  • Emotions
  • Behavior

Who are they controlling?  Masses of people through mass media, while censoring, hiding, restricting, distorting or exaggerating the claims and evidence of their opposition. Propaganda can be white, gray, or black. (See Jowett and O’Donnell’s book for more information, along with my previous article). Propaganda can be easily found during political election campaigns, inaugural speeches, religious recruiting, news reporting, film and, some say, sports.

Rhetoric is the systematic and overt study by an individual speaker of the strategies and techniques for how to convince (change the mind) or persuade (take action) a public audience on a controversial issue.  This is done through the use of Aristotle’s “rhetorical triangle” of argument which consists of logos (the evidence, facts) ethos (having credible sources) and pathos (the appeal to emotions and imagination). It is practiced in courts of law, political debates, scientific conferences and at public community meetings such as city councils.

Dialectic is most clearly present in educational institutions while at their best between teachers and students. Dialectic is the co-creative process by which educators and sometimes debaters:

  • Encourage and bring out the experiences of individual students for public discussion
  • Encourage students’ self-reflection on the relationship between cultural information and their personal experience
  • Face honestly the contradictions which may arise between their personal experience and cultural institutions
  • Feed-forward (plan) and integrate the work experience school has trained them to do into the cultural pool of knowledge and expertise for the next generation

The heart of an active dialectic process is that through constructive creative conflict between teacher, student, a cultural body of knowledge and work experience, a synthetic body of knowledge arises with is more than either educators (as the transmitters of cultural information), students or a public audience had when they first started.

Setting, Intention of the Influencer and Dynamics of Information Flow 

Settings

It is important to understand who is interacting with who; i.e., whether the sender and receiver of information are elites, individuals, the public or a mass. In the case of brainwashing, it is an elite interrogator interacting with an isolated individual. In the case of propaganda and entertainment elites attempt to influence either masses of people or publics. In the case of both rhetoric or dialectic a single speaker appeals to the public or another individual.

Intentions of the Influencer

In brainwashing, the purpose of the psychiatrist or interrogator is to change people by force in the hopes of changing their mind and their actions. In the case of propaganda, the propagandist wants to narrow the focus of the mind or their actions so there are only two choices. Propagandists want to control people by setting up parameters, not to force them to do one thing. The creators of both mass and public entertainment are not interested in changing minds, but they are interested in persuading people to act. In the case of mass entertainment, they hope that the associations between the celebrity and the product they are trying to sell will stick in the minds of the audience. In public entertainment, the hope is to have the audience swept away either by a very competitive ball game or the daring-do of a circus performer. Rhetoric’s emphasis is to open minds and change behavior. Dialectic more than any other source of information control wants to open minds as a way of life.

Dynamics of information flow

In terms of the dynamics of the information flow, the most asymmetrical exchange is in brainwashing where elites have all the power, and the victim is in some kind of forced restraint. In the case of both propaganda and mass entertainment, the relationship between elites and masses is asymmetric but the masses do give some feedback in terms of statistics such as votes received, tickets sold, or products bought. Public entertainment and rhetoric are still asymmetrical but less so because both the performer (music) or public speaker (rhetoric) does receive feedback in terms of audience responses, whether booing, silence, cheering and in the body language of the audience. When teachers are committed to having participatory classroom, dialectic is the least asymmetrical because part of education is to bring out the past experience and current work history of the individual into the public discussion.

Mediums

In terms of mediums used, brainwashing and public entertainment have a lot in common. They both hope to disorient the public. In casinos, clocks are removed, exits are difficult to find, loud music blares, free drinks are offered by sexually provocative wait staff, extra oxygen is pumped into the building to cause lightheadedness, and there are faked sounds of customers winning filling the air.

In brainwashing spatial and temporal disorganization are key. Both propaganda and mass entertainment use movies, radio, television and billboards. Public propaganda is more likely to use billboards. Public entertainment is more likely to use images and various theatrical tricks such as lighting, stage sets in addition to electronic billboards. Both rhetoric and dialectic are critical of the use of mass media because it tends to draw attention away from the relationship between speaker and public and the individual. The medium for rhetoric is the words of a speaker with no more technology used than a microphone. Dialectic uses writing exercises, small group work along with debates.

Quality, timing of Evidence, Alternative Views

Brainwashing is the least likely to provide real evidence. Because of the compromising position they have their victim in, they can engage in character assassination, manufacturing false evidence, distorting or omitting evidence. There is literally no opportunity for the victim to weigh or integrate the information. The torturer is likely to withhold information or time the deliverance of information in a predetermined way. In brainwashing, there is no alternative source of information provided. What alternatives are available are in the memory of the victim before they were captured.

As I discussed in my previous article on propaganda, propaganda can be based on facts or lies (black propaganda). It too can also distort or omit evidence. Like brainwashing, in propaganda evidence does not flow in a spontaneous manner. Information is withheld or released at the most opportune time. For example, declarations of war are rarely timed just before an election. Because propagandists cannot completely control their masses, alternative sources of information are available, but the propagandists will do everything they can to censor, minimize, exaggerate, distort or vilify their opposition. Capitalism’s treatment of socialism and communism are some of the clearest examples.

With mass entertainment, the only evidence presented is what fits with the stereotypes people have of how celebrities are supposed to act. So, in the 3rd Hunger Games episode, Katniss has to have a baby because the producers of the movie have no confidence that the audience can tolerate a female heroine without children. All mass entertainment has to be sensitive to current fads and fashions, in the case of movies, or the existing consumer patterns in the advertisements that are linked to the radio or television programs. Unlike either brainwashing or propaganda, mass entertainment has to compete with other forms of mass entertainment so they cannot transmit a single message to their audience. Public entertainment also must conform to stereotypes of the audience as well, but there is more room for unconventionality because public entertainment is not quite as heavily scripted. In addition, public entertainment has to be more sensitive of the collective emotions of the audience that go with the seasons and the holidays. In public entertainment the information flow to the public is more focused since at a musical concert or a circus, you cannot change the channel.

Both rhetoric and dialectic are far more rigorous in their expectations about evidence. In good rhetoric, it is expected that the evidence follows Aristotle’s rhetorical triangle, and that the presentation of the evidence considers the time, place and circumstance. The idea is to maximize the chances of being convincing and persuasive. Rhetoric at its best will not rest itself on representing one other viewpoint.  It may include other viewpoints before attempting to refute them. Lastly, dialectic will most actively cultivate many viewpoints. For example, in the fields of sociology, psychology and philosophy there are generally 4-6 schools within a field. In an educational setting, the teacher should be able to present all the schools and compare them to each other. The quality of the research in dialectic educational setting should come out of the research in textbooks which are cross-culturally and historically sensitive. Dialectic is less sensitive than rhetoric in consideration of time, place and circumstance because the goal is to change minds, not behaviors, so it wants to cultivate self-reflection, rather than getting the audience to do something.

Appeal to Audience, How the Audience is Treated, Outcome Expected

Psychological hopes for the audience

What does the controller of information hope to do to their audience psychologically? In brainwashing the purpose is to create fear, desperation and ultimately dependency, as in the Stockholm syndrome. The victim has no privacy. The propagandist appeals to the lowest common denominator in people, demagoguery related to racism, nationalism and religious fanaticism. People have some privacy and they have some power to distance if they need to. But usually not for long. If the political propagandist wants to get people to feel a narrow range of emotions deeply, both mass and public entertainment appeals to the surface of emotions: what is insipid, petty, and needy. They both pander to unrealistic desires and vicarious living in the audience, all grounded in immediate gratification. In both mass and public entertainment, the audience can gain privacy by either turning off the radio or TV or to leave the entertainment site. Both rhetoric and dialectic at their best appeal to what is good for people in the long-run and each respects the privacy of the audience’s thoughts.

How is the audience characterized?

In brainwashing, the victim is treated as a pawn in a much larger game. They are demonized and treated as less than human. In propaganda, the audience is treated as a target, as a means to a larger end. In mass and public entertainment, the audience is considered passive, naive, gullible, stupid (Bernays) and lacking in long-term judgement. In rhetoric, the public audience is treated respectfully and capable of participating in decision-making. In dialectics, the audience is treated the best, as ends in themselves.

What is the audience expected to do?

The hopes of CIA brainwashing attempts were to find a drug that could erase the memories of the retired spies to reduce the chances of then turning against their masters and spilling the beans. Generally, the ultimate hope of religious brainwashers is to get the heretic to give up previous beliefs and be converted to new beliefs. Once that happens, they want the converted to stay passive and frightened so they can be controlled, even when there are no authorities around. In political propaganda the expectation is either to vote a certain way, go to war or to support the overthrow of another state. For mass entertainment, if the program is ongoing, the intention is to leave the audience partly satisfied but still wanting more. In the case of public entertainment, the entertainers want the audience to be fully satisfied, and hopefully talk to others about the event in the hopes of expanding the audience for the next public event. In the case of rhetoric at its best, the speaker hopes the audience will seriously consider mentally what was expected and then act accordingly. Lastly, in the case of dialectic, the hope of the teacher is that the student will become more curious, wonderous, critical and creative in their outlook towards the world and themselves.

Brain Routes, Minds and Impact on Thinking

In cognitive psychology there are two brain routes. The central brain route and the peripheral brain route. When people receive new information, they have to decide how seriously to take it. When people are experienced in a subject, they have a great stake in the outcome. They have some training in the subject and the problem may be complex but comprehensible. They are likely to use their full deliberation and critical thinking processes (central brain route). However, when people don’t have experience or training in a subject, they have little personal stake in the outcome and the problem seems convoluted. They are then likely to use what is called the peripheral brain route. This is also called using mental shortcuts.

Suppose I take my friend’s car to a mechanic. The engine light is on and I ask the mechanic to take a look at it. I know next to nothing about cars and neither does my friend. Two hours later the mechanic calls me back with a very technical description of what is wrong, along with the cost of fixing the problem. The problem seems convoluted to me and I don’t have a much of a personal stake in it. What I will likely do is use the peripheral brain route. What this means is I will move from using my own mind, to go to another source. I will contact other car mechanics, get a second opinion and find out what they would charge to fix it. There is nothing wrong with using the peripheral brain route under these conditions.However, there are five other conditions under which people will use the peripheral brain-route that are counterproductive, and these conditions are what propagandists and entertainers will promote to get people to by-pass the central brain route. They are:

  • If there is time pressure (in sales, “time is running out”)
  • Volume scarcity (in sales, “get the commodity now, while they last”)
  • Sensory overload (as described in my casino example earlier)
  • Emotional appeal is superficial (titillation, sentimentality, infantile fantasies)
  • If the person is fatigued

The job of the propagandist and the entertainer is to create the five conditions above that will increase the chances of using the peripheral brain route rather than the central brain route where critical thinking takes place. The ultimate hope of the brainwasher is to restructure the brain itself by using drugs and sleep deprivation. If they cannot do that, they will also hope to keep the victim using the peripheral brain route constantly. Rhetoric at its best, as well as dialectic, will strive to build the self-confidence of the audience or the student so that they always use the central brain route as much as possible.

Ideology, Mythology

All forms of information control are either directly or indirectly connected to liberal conservative, socialist or fascist ideology and some of them also contain mythology. If we look at the practice of ideology, political attempts to brainwash are mostly related to fighting communism. Brainwashing experiments in prison, including experiments with LSD, were connected to the conservative belief that blacks were inferior so using them as guinea pigs was acceptable. Political propaganda is used by all four political tendencies to start and sustain wars, to influence voting or overthrow regimes.

Neither mass nor public entertainment have a political ideology to support them, but both forms of entertainment have mythologies designed to sweep people away. For example, the Lord of the Rings stories and characters, Harry Potter and Star Wars not only sweeps people away during the movie, but they set up future episodes with suspenseful endings. In public entertainment we have sports teams with stirring stories played out in pennant races stretching the drama out over seven months. Sports figures of the past and present are treated as modern day gods and goddesses by their fans.

Rhetoric is clearly identified with the liberal ideology of truth being found from debating different points of view, where controversies are the norm, and no single authority has all the answers. Rhetoric is a monologue where the speaker, at least initially, argues two or three points of view before determining their effect on the audience. The Sophists and Aristotle represented this rhetorical tradition while Plato stood for the conservative authority who does have all the answers.

Dialectic begins conservatively where learning the truth is not the result of the interacting of viewpoints, but as already contained in the authority of Socrates. The heart of dialectic is dialogue back and forth between two people. Later in history, dialectic becomes more liberal with the back-and forth no longer necessarily involving one authority figure. In the hands of pragmatic dialecticians, dialectic is not only connected to content but to process. Dialectic involves rules of conversation. Whereas in rhetoric, logical fallacies are more connected with the qualities of reasoning or tricks played on an audience, in dialectic fallacies are detected in the violations of the rules of dialogue. More on this later.

Symbiotic and Sensual Orchestration

Sensual orchestration

Sensory orchestration is the manner in which the senses are controlled to create altered states of consciousness. The two extremes are sensory deprivation with all the senses but one turned off, or sensory saturation where all the senses are used and they are intensified. Brainwashing involves sensory deprivation with gagging, being blindfolded, and living in solitary confinement. Religious propaganda can be used to saturate the senses. Examples of this are the Catholic Church with its stained-glass windows, incense, church music, holy communion, rich wood and fabrics all being part of the atmosphere of the Mass.

Mass entertainment is often designed to create sensory overload with special effects and multiple sounds coming at the audience in a disorganized way to create astonishment and a diffused attention-span. This encourages using the peripheral brain route when being sold commodities during the show. Public entertainment is more guided, at least in terms of musical concerts and sporting events with the hope of providing vicarious satisfaction, inspiration or awe. Both rhetoric and dialectic look down upon the manipulation of the senses as taking the audience away from using their reasoning processes. They are content with the moderate use of the five senses to experience the world as it really is rather than through what they consider to be “smoke and mirrors”.

Symbolic orchestration

Religious and political symbols are very powerful in motivating people to fight and die for their political beliefs or religion. The crucifix, the American flag, the bible or the Quran exert a great hold over the emotions of an audience, a target or a victim. That’s why in brainwashing torture situations, the victim’s religious books will be torn or flushed down the toilet and their flags will be burned, defecated upon or used as rags. In propaganda, these same flags and books will be used to mobilize people to action.

Mass entertainment will include corporate logos which are stolen from political and religious symbols which have already built up a collective association in people’s minds. For example, look at the colors of the Bank of America or a Chevron credit card. In public entertainment, sports contain the heaviest dose of symbolic orchestration. Think of the baseball caps and jerseys the players wear as part of every major league team. This is part of the major league pantheon that fans participate in when they go to sporting goods stores and buy these hats and jackets, put bumper stickers on their cars and live and die with every win and loss if their team is lucky enough to compete for the pennant. Both rhetoric and dialectic steer clear of all symbols because they appeal to unreasonable elements that will distract from critical reasoning.

Use of Space, Architecture, Monuments

With the exception of mass entertainment, forms of information control are rooted in space and architecture and these containers can accentuate or dampen the form of information control. For brainwashing, the most effective spatial arrangement is solitary confinement before interrogation begins. Rooms have no windows and are poorly ventilated. A space that has windows reminds the victim there is life beyond the prison or hospital. Religious propaganda is most successful in cathedrals which overwhelm the devotees with their scale and high ceilings. Religious propaganda in cozy churches with modest decoration are likely to be less successful. Political propaganda is most effective near patriotic scenes—Bunker Hill, Lincoln Memorial or Mount Rushmore. In addition, Ellul’s sociological propaganda is at work when streets are named after presidents and monuments are made of them.

Public entertainment is made more powerful when held in stadiums which can accommodate thousands. Much of public entertainment is not just this particular concert or this particular ballgame. Rather it is a reflection of the history of the field. This includes the Cooperstown Baseball Hall of Fame, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, or the Country Music Hall of Fame. In movies, the reflective day of reckoning is at the Academy Awards.

Rhetoric outdoors is a special challenge because there are not the indoor spatial acoustics to contain the voice even with a microphone or a loudspeaker. Since the heart of dialectic is small groups or one-on-one and held indoors, in educational settings the spatial concerns should be a quiet room with a horseshoe-shaped seating.  This allows for dialectical crosstalk between members, rather than only a one-to-one relationship between the student and the educator.  

Theoreticians 

There are many theorists for all six forms of information control. I will limit myself to the most famous and theorists and practitioners of late 19th and 20th century. For brainwashing, the Canadian psychiatrist Ewen Cameron and the British psychiatrist William Sargant are probably the best representatives. For propaganda, there are Edward Bernays, Herbert Lasswell and Jacques Ellul. For mass entertainment, there are Ivy Lee, Ernest Dichter, Bernays along with by Paul Lazarsfeld. Two of the masters of public entertainment were P.T. Barnum and Walt Disney. Rhetoric has a long and interesting history of theories, but the most famous theorists in the 20th century would be Kenneth Burke, Chaim Perelman and Stephen Toulmin. The realm of dialectic has been recently given a shot in the arm by two prolific schools. One comes out of Amsterdam and headed by Frans van Eemeren and Rob Grootendorst. The other school in Canada was founded by Douglas Walton.

How Good are Socialists at Convincing and persuading the Public at Rallies, City Council Meetings and Workplaces?

In everything that follows I will be speaking only from my personal experience watching and participating in rallies, organizing meetings, city council meetings and workplaces on and off for fifty years in the United States. 

Rhetoric for Radicals

Starting on time and welcoming

As I said earlier, rhetoric comes out of a liberal tradition and there is a great deal of research about how to convince and persuade an audience (Billig, Arguing and Thinking, Mccroskey Introduction to Rhetorical Communication). Do socialist organizers know about this research or pay any attention to it? Unfortunately, the answer is “no”. In political organizing meetings run by radicals, they ignore the protocols of good speech-making. One is starting on time. The anarchists especially make it a badge of honor and a sign they are not “uptight” or “hierarchical” by not starting the meeting on time. Secondly there is little or no welcoming of strangers. Religious organizations such as the Unitarians, know better. There are greeters who welcome people as they come in, help them find seating and ask them if they had been there before. What do these socialists who claim to be social do? There is usually no greeter. Newcomers have to find their own way. Socialists already there talk to each other and ignore new people. This is true of anarchists and all the various kinds of Leninists groups I have experienced. I have to say that the Social Democrats are better about these formalities and generally have better social graces.

Five canons of rhetoric

Now let us look at the structure of the speaker’s talk. In addition to a political meeting run by radicals, let us add imagining the socialist speaker is addressing a city council meeting. In rhetoric there are five canons of classical rhetoric:

  • Invention (deciding on a claim and marshalling evidence)
  • Arrangement (deciding the order of placement of the evidence based on the audience)
  • Style (choice of language and expressive devices)
  • Delivery (the speaker’s clothing, use of voice and body movement on the stage)
  • Memory (the use of mimetic devices to help the person remember their speech so they don’t have to read it)

How do socialists do with these canons? Not very well, I’m afraid. While the intention is usually good, socialists usually have no knowledge of the research on the primacy effect or the recent effect in deciding where to place their pieces of evidence. They usually have no justification for the sequencing of their evidence in particular places. The style of socialists is usually insensitive to the choice of words. The language remains pretty much the same regardless of the audience and socialists very often know nothing about expressive devices. Most socialists have bad delivery styles. They don’t dress for the occasion, imaging that such preoccupations are “bourgeois”. They mostly don’t have command of the stage and their movements are awkward. Most socialists I have watched do not commit their speech to memory and simply read it off a paper, breaking consistent eye contact with their audience.

Setting the right atmosphere

Radicals inadvertently carry over Plato’s hostility to rhetoric. Plato saw Truth as independent of time, place and circumstance. Like Plato, too many socialists are convinced they have the truth and do not want to waste time spoon-feeding it to people or finding out what the masses think. Good form, stage presence, flowers, inspiring decorations are seen as superficial and not to be taken seriously. So, it is no problem that chairs are broken-down or uncomfortable, podiums are made out of plywood, there is bad lighting and acoustics. These things are not seen as having any relevance to the content of the message.  The talks are often not well-organized and go on too long. Breaks are not built into the meetings.

Importance of charisma

Most socialists do not understand that there is a rational basis for charisma. Charisma is not just linked to spiritual possession, speaking in tongues and inviting people to fall apart. As I remember it, something like 90% of the presidents who won elections were the taller of the candidates. Why is this? Because there is unconscious evolutionary psychology at work. People judge taller people as having better genes. The same is true with body shape – wide shoulders, narrow waist for men and large breasts and wide hips for women. Facial symmetry, hair sheen are all factors that make someone politically appealing as a speaker. Any leftist political candidates who ignore physical appearances may congratulate themselves in being politically correct, but they are working against the unconscious preferences of the overwhelming majority of humanity. Whatever we think of Obama politically, he had charisma and all the trappings of a good rhetoricians. How many socialists can match this? Richard Wolff, Cornell West – not many more.

Sympathetic, neutral and hostile audiences

Rhetoric theorists divide audiences into sympathetic, neutral and hostile. At rallies I’ve seen socialist speakers give the same speech assuming the audience is sympathetic and make no effort to reach liberals in the crowd who are neutral. City council meetings are the most demanding for a socialist speaker because both the public audience, as well as the city council members, are not socialists, and some will be conservative. Will the socialist have something to offer a conservative, hostile audience? The answer, I think, is they will have nothing.

Grabbing and holding attention

In rhetoric it is normal to expect that when people first come into the room, their attention is elsewhere, and the speaker has to earn the attention of the audience. About the worst offender of this is Noam Chomsky, who regardless of time, place and circumstance starts droning on as if the audience was already captured. Only a tenured academic with a captive audience of students could get away with this anti-rhetoric. In a large group of people, especially strangers, some kind of icebreaker, joke, or inspirational quote needs to be given to get the audience warmed up and focused.

Defining key terms

One of the major steps in making an argument is to define key terms. In argumentation theory, a person’s claim usually has a word or two that needs definition because the word has many meanings and can easily be misunderstood. So, in any presentation about, say, pornography, the word must be carefully defined before an argument proceeds. Most of the time socialists do not do this. They just assume words like “imperialism”, “neoliberal” and “working class” are self-evident.

The rhetorical triangle

In terms of the rhetorical triangle we discussed earlier, socialists are not well-rounded in covering all three parts. Often the pathos part of the argument – the appeal to emotions and imagination – are ignored, as mass psychologist Wilhelm Reich pointed out in the 1930s. The Nazis were far smarter than the socialists in understanding that audiences can be moved by the worst kind of emotions – racism, blind loyalty to the state and infantile wishes of superiority. All the facts and the right sources are not enough.

Appealing to the short-term self-interest in the audience

Those on the left mostly do not appeal to the short-term self-interest of the audience because they think that would be selfish.  Everyone is assumed to be an altruist. There is an absence of understanding that the audience attended to get something tangible from the meeting before leaving. The appeal is often to far-away places and middle or long-term time frames. This leaves most audiences cold and unlikely to return.

Making predictions

Leftists do not attempt to treat the argument they are making as subject to any expectations approaching the scientific method. For example, there is no promised follow- up to see whether what one is proposing was successful or not. Just like bourgeois politicians, there is little attempt to put parameters around the claim, like the exceptional circumstances in the present that might come up that would make the speaker withdraw the claim. There is little quality control in leftist arguments, at least the public ones.  Neither does the leftist make a prediction of falsifiability. Falsifiability means, if the claim was put into practice what are the conditions under which you can be proven wrong?

Having transition plans

The final part of a good rhetorical argument is to have a plan: a step-by-step procedure for how to get from where we are now to where we want to be. This includes a three to five step process for putting the claim into practice, including a timeline. The plan would need to include the costs of all the steps, a feasibility analysis and the benefits to the audience. All this is essential strategy if leftists want to appeal to anyone who is not already convinced. Leftists are very weak in presenting the methods of how to realize the goal with given a set of procedures. The Trotskyists’ call for a transition program is one step in this direction but it lacks the concreteness of my description. The weaknesses of radicals in relation to rhetoric has come to the attention of Jason Delgado, who has written a book about it, Rhetoric for Radicals.

Dialectical Dialogue for Radicals

Marxists claim the word dialectic as their own and imagine that if they have read Hegel and Marx, they know everything there is to know. Typically, dialectics refer to a way of thinking about how capitalism works, or it refers to a stage theory of history. But what the overwhelming number of Marxists don’t know is there is a history of dialectics that has an entire field of speech communication. That means how people talk to each other interpersonally.

Presenting the maximum number of viewpoints

As mentioned earlier, in educational settings dialectics will present between 4-6 points of view because in many human sciences from psychology to sociology to economics to politics, there are usually 4-6 theoretical schools. Do socialists in any setting present four to six schools in addition to their own? No, they don’t. They merely present a capitalist opposition, and then present their own theory. Leftists cannot even bring themselves to treat fairly the positions of contending socialists, let alone liberals and conservatives.

Supporting individual self-development

Referring back to our definition of dialectics earlier, do socialists attempt to bring out the experiences of individuals in public in order to give them an opportunity to self-reflect on their own life? No, they don’t. They may use the life of a single individual preselected in the audience to make a point. Everyone else remains passive. Rarely are individuals invited into the sweep of history. They may refer to history, but the present audience is rarely invited in.

Questions from the audience and cooperative argumentation

The heart of dialectics is question, answer, deeper questions, deeper answers and so on. Most radicals do not invite questions from the audience, in some cases because they think they already have the answers (many Leninists) or because they are afraid of losing control of the audience. In some sense, this is understandable because at city council meetings or at rallies the audience does not know how to ask open-ended questions. They want to make speeches themselves. But in what is called “cooperative argumentation” by argumentation theorists, the conflict between speaker and audience leads to synthetic knowledge which is new and more than what either the speaker or the audience possessed before the discussion began.

Types of dialogue

In his book The New Dialectic, Douglas Walton identifies seven types of dialogue: pedagogical (teaching), deliberative (politics), debate (law), inquiry (science), information seeking (interview or advice), negotiation (business transactions like making deals) and persuasive dialogue (advertising). All these types of dialogue have their own set of rules, customs and violations. Do socialist organizers know about the seven types of dialogue? They may know something about dialectical deliberation, but I would be very surprised if they knew about any of the others, let alone knowing how using the other types selectively may improve their own deliberative dialogue.

Understanding fallacies as mistakes in the process of conversations

Most socialist organizers have probably taken a class in college in critical thinking and/ or public speaking and have learned the various kinds of thinking fallacies. Others have gone on to be lawyers and have training in debate. But virtually no one has learned that the fallacies can be organized according to violations in conversation rules. In their book Argumentation, Communication and Fallacies Frans van Eemeren and Rob Grootendorst identified ten rules for critical discussion. Instead of thinking of fallacies as intrapersonal thinking mistakes, the founders of the pragma-dialectical perspective organize all the fallacies as violations of the ten rules of critical discussion. These fallacies are linked to include unauthorized changes in the situation and roles; changes in topics; changes in the physical setting; changes in goals; changes in methods; and changes in rules.

Do socialist organizers know anything about either of the two dialectical schools of speech communication, their principles and methods? I have never met or seen a socialist organizer who knew about this.

Conclusion

In the first two thirds of this article, I compared the similarities and differences of six schools of information control. In the last third of my article, I examined how knowledgeable socialists are about the two forms of information control which are the most anti-authoritarian: rhetoric and dialectic. Sadly, what I’ve found is that most socialists, even socialist organizers, have not systematically used nor continue to use research on rhetoric and dialectic in their work, whether it be rallies, city council meetings or community or labor organizing. I find this very sad and ridiculous considering that socialist claim to be social while ignoring knowing little about research in two of the most prominent fields in speech communication, rhetoric and dialectic. 

• First published in Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism

The post Socialist Rhetorical and Dialectical Communication: Overcoming Brainwashing, Propaganda, Entertainment first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Jacques Ellul: Controversies in the Rise of Propaganda

Orientation

Controversies within propaganda theory

When I was preparing for a course I had created, “Brainwashing, Propaganda and Rhetoric: Dark Psychology in the 20th Century” I came across the name Jacques Ellul over and over again. Many of the quotes from his book Propaganda amazed me, considering the book was written almost 60 years ago. Still, when I decided to read the book, I had some reservations, thinking it would be dated in many places. In this article I hope to show that not only is it not dated, but it is still among the top theories in propaganda today.

Before we can begin to compare the propaganda theory of Jacques Ellul to other theories, we must address issues within propaganda theory. After doing that we will be able to see how the seven theories of propaganda (including Ellul’s) line up in relation to the controversies. How do we define propaganda? Is propaganda always bad?  What is not propaganda? Most people think propaganda is fundamentally irrational. But can propaganda be rational too?

How far does it reach? Does propaganda exist in all countries or are some more likely to use it than others?  Does propaganda try to change society, or does it reinforce what is already there? Is propaganda limited to the printed word and to images, or can it include monuments, music, coins, postage stamps or billboards? Does propaganda’s intent to change attitudes or behavior, or both? Are some social classes more susceptible to propaganda than others? Are people more vulnerable to propaganda in collectivist societies than individualists’ societies or is it the reverse?

Is all propaganda covert or is some of it out in the open? Is propaganda about facts, interpretations or evaluations? Can propaganda be truthful in fact or is it all lies?  How do propagandists treat their audience? What is propaganda’s relationship to political ideology? In other worlds do liberals, conservatives, fascists and socialists all use propaganda or do some use it more than others? Are propagandists Machiavellian, cynical manipulators behind the scenes or do they really believe in their propaganda? How fast does propaganda work? Is it a gradual process or does it impact its audience suddenly, like a conversion experience? Typically, propaganda is thought to exist in “authoritarian” states. But what about bourgeois representational “democracies”.

My sources for this article are Jacques Ellul’s great book, Propaganda, two terrific books by J. Michael Sproule Channels of Propaganda and Propaganda and Democracy and Jowett and O’Donnell’s textbook Propaganda and Persuasion.

The seven schools of propaganda

Moving from the right wing of the political spectrum to the left there are at least seven schools of propaganda:

  • Reactionary conservative political:

In the 1930s and 1940s this would include Thurman Arnold, Huey Long, Father Charles Edward Coughlin, the Radio priest. In the 1950s there was Joseph McCarthy and William F. Buckley. Contemporary examples might be Bill O’Reilly and the shock jocks like Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage and Glenn Beck. They are also consistent with neoconservatives or religious fundamentalists.

  • Commercial practitioners:

In the 1920s there was Ivy Lee, and George Creel and most famously, Edward Bernays, who for propaganda reasons changed his advertising campaigns from “propaganda” to “public relations”. These are typically advertisers.

  • Mass communication scientists:

These are the liberal institutions that do polling, most famously the Gallup Poll. Theorists include Paul Lazarsfeld, Elton Mayo, the later Walter Lippmann and Harold Lasswell. Often these are mass media academics who accepted grants from the state or from capitalists such as the Harvard Business School or the Carnegie Corporation.

  • Critical thinking movement:

In the center-left of the political spectrum is the critical thinking movement. Unlike all other schools, this movement says that the issue is less the presence of propaganda than it is the lack of critical thinking schools that can see through the propaganda. Theorists include the later John Dewey, Monroe Beardsley and Robert Ennis. Most often these theorists are college instructors.

  • Reform oriented liberals:

These are the writers and journalists that back in the day were called “muckrakers”. They think that all that is needed is for propaganda to be exposed. After that the critical thinking skills of the masses would take over. The first theorists included Upton Sinclair, the early work of Walter Lippmann, Alfred Lee (the director of the short-lived organization that conducted propaganda analysis), Robert Staughton Lynd and Vance Packard.

  • Sociological school:

This is the school of Jacques Ellul that I shall highlight in this article. Ellul thought that propaganda is the inevitable byproduct of a division of labor in society. He believed it is due to modernization and mass technology. Others with a sociological orientation included Charles Merriam and Graham Wallas.

  • Radical left:

These folks, like the extreme right-wing, think propaganda is the result of class warfare driven by capitalists. The anarchist, communist left was slow to develop theories of propaganda. One of the first was Start Ewing. Noam Chomsky is the most famous example, but his theory was developed in 1988, too late for the research referred to in this article. Besides college instructors, the radical left includes self-educated anarchists and feminists as well as others from different social movements.

The time span for this article is from World War I through the early 1970s. My focus is on mass media and does not include interactive technological breakthroughs such as the internet and various social media such Facebook and Twitter. The forms of media propaganda referred to here will be soapboxes, newspapers, magazines, radio, television, polls, books and film. I think you will find that mass media is a foundation for whatever additional forms of electronic media propagandizing that follow.

Most Provocative Points of Ellul’s Propaganda Theory

  • Unlike other theorists, Ellul argued that propaganda served both the upper classes and the lower classes for different reasons.
  • Unlike other theorists, he understood propaganda as inevitable in modern societies. There is no getting around it.
  • Unlike most other theorists, he saw masses of people as complicit in their own subordination. He saw them neither as victims of circumstance nor heroic masses.
  • He distinguished between hard, fast, political propaganda and soft, slow sociological. He called political propaganda “agitation”. Education is not outside propaganda. It is sociological propaganda.
  • He identified two techniques of propagandizing the masses. First kind is mithridatization which acts like a sedative and sensibilization which is about riling people up.
  • Unlike most other theorists of propaganda, Ellul followed Joseph Goebbels and said that the best propaganda is based on facts. It becomes propaganda with the interpretation of facts. Propaganda based on lies is a sign of weakness.
  • Most propaganda theorists thought the working class was most impacted by propaganda. Ellul argued that it is the upper-middle classes that create the propaganda and that is most likely to believe it.
  • Ellul distinguished horizontal propaganda, which was made inside the group, from vertical propaganda, which uses centralized power. An example of horizontal propaganda was the educational groups of Yankee soldiers organized by the Chinese communists.
  • For Ellul, propaganda does not come from the ruling class, but from the upper-middle class.
  • Industrialist capitalist “democracies” need propaganda because they depend on public opinion, which is disorganized. It requires propaganda to compete with socialist societies.
  • Unlike other theorists, Ellul makes a distinction between ideology and myth and argues that myth is more powerful.
  • His concept of crystallization claims that the individual has latent drives and stereotypes which are vague (based on the work of Karen Horney), and they then become the foundation of propaganda.
  • Unlike other schools of propaganda, Ellul argues that quantitative study of propaganda isn’t effective. One cannot tell how many people are reached and how effective white vs black propaganda is. At what point do you say it failed? At what point does the payoff justify the cost?
  • According to Ellul, psychological propaganda in foreign countries does not work. Propagandists are too ignorant of the attitudes, centers of interest, presuppositions and suspicions of the foreign population.

Definition, Purposes, Fields of Operation and Pervasiveness

Definition

As might be expected, there are considerable differences among the schools over whether propaganda is sinister or benign. Both the reactionary conservatives and the radical left sees propaganda as a product of primarily economic forces. The radical left sees the use of propaganda by capitalists to maintain control of their wealth. The radical right thinks propaganda is necessary to fight against the forces of communism. Both consider propaganda as immoral as the message, source and means are used by either communists or capitalists to perpetuate their power.

The muckrakers are critical of propaganda and see it as used in a wider span of areas, such as advertising, religion and sports, not just in the service of economics. They believe propaganda is immoral because its message, source and means are used to protect the status quo as it pollutes public opinion and undermines democratic thinking. The critical thinking movement agrees with the muckrakers.

Both the commercial practitioners and the mass communications theorists see propaganda as benign and moral. Bernays sees “public relations” as an outgrowth of more successfully circulation of commercial products to a larger audience. They think there is nothing wrong with that. For people like Bernays, propaganda is only immoral when it fails to disclose the source of information.

Mass communications theorists see propaganda as a benign alternative to force and for this reason, they believe it is moral. They think the polls are designed so political leaders can better control their population in order for the population not to resort to violence. The critical thinking movement interestingly points to the collusion of masses of people in propaganda. If the average person had good critical thinking skills, no one would pay attention to propaganda. Surprisingly, Ellul, as a sociologist, does not see propaganda as a product of class forces. He thinks, as I said above, propaganda is inevitable in any mass society just because people need to know what is going on politically and economically, and they can no longer find out through face-to-face contact. For him, propaganda might not be very moral, but it is necessary.

Manipulable use of the word “propaganda”

There are six forms of information control. On a spectrum they can be lined up according to the extent to which they have control over people. On the extreme right, we have brainwashing. Moving towards the left we have propaganda, then rhetoric (or persuasion), then mass and public entertainment. On the extreme left, and the least controlling, is “dialectic”. I will not define these words here except to say that most of them have negative connotations and so all propaganda theorists have a stake in mixing them together.

For reactionary conservatives, propaganda is mixed with brainwashing on the right and dialectic on the left, Since the CIA used the term “brainwashing” to describe what the Chinese did with Yankee soldiers during the Korean War, communist propaganda is mixed up with brainwashing techniques. At the same time, reactionary conservatives lump in the dialectical view of history as some vast mechanical system used by the communists to explain the world. For them dialectic is a vast, controlling philosophy.

Commercial practitioners like Bernays wanted no part of the word propaganda and turned it into “public relations” which was presented as a form of persuasion, or mass entertainment. Mass communication theories also avoid the term propaganda and suggest that news is simply “information” and movies are entertainment. The critical thinking movement also avoids the word “propaganda” by using the social psychological terms “mass persuasion” or “coercive persuasion”. All three propaganda theories on the left are not bashful about using the term propaganda to describe dominant power. The radical left uses the term dialectic as an alternative to propaganda. The muckrakers and the critical thinking advocates are more sensitive about distinguishing propaganda from what they advocate, which is rhetoric and dialectic. Both rhetoric and dialectic are used by journalists and in argumentation and critical thinking classes.

Purpose

The purpose of propaganda also has a wide variation of stances. The purpose for both the extreme left and extreme right is to unmask either the communist or capitalist threat. For the commercial practitioners the purpose of propaganda is to sell products. For the Mass Communication theorists, propaganda is to act as a safety valve to let the leaders know what the public wants or doesn’t want. For critical thinking theorists, their purpose is to expose the informal logical fallacies that typically go with interpreting propaganda. This might include ad hominem arguments, “either or thinking”, bandwagon and conflict of interests within the authorities. For the muckrakers, exposure is the name of the game whether it be the corporations or the state. Ellul has something interesting to say about this. He says the purpose of propaganda is a) to support existing elites in their competition with other elites and b) it is used by the masses that need propaganda to help them understand the complexities of large-scale social life.

Fields of operation

All three theories on the right of the political spectrum in the fields of operation argue that propaganda is only political. Bernays and his followers would sinisterly deny that propaganda is political, even though Bernays himself used propaganda to convince the American public to go to war (World War I) and to support the United Fruit Company against the Guatemalan government in the early 1950s. Mass communication theorists did not really focus on the impact of propaganda outside of politics. All four of the other theories argue that propaganda is present in advertising, television, and movies.

Discontinuous vs pervasive

How well can propaganda be combatted? Not surprisingly, reactionary conservatives, commercial practitioners and mass communication scientists think that propaganda is discontinuous rather than pervasive. The reactionary conservatives think propaganda is limited to the competition between left and right political wings. All other social institutions are neutral. For the commercial practitioners, propaganda is used by advertising companies and in the competition between them, there is no single message that is communicated. In other words, propaganda cancels itself out and the consumer wins! The mass communications theorists think that science is an island immune from the impact of propaganda. The critical thinking movement argues that educational institutions are less likely to be impacted by propaganda. All left wing propaganda theorists think propaganda is pervasive, but it can be combated by political agitation.

Orchestrated or competitive

How systematic are the propaganda mechanisms? As might be expected, right-wing reactionaries think that communist propaganda is seamless and all-controlling. The commercial practitioners think propaganda is very systemic in communist countries, grinding down the population into mindless robots. But in capitalist “democracies” the competition between Republicans and Democrats cancels each other out and the voter is free to decide. In advertising, commercial practitioners deny any orchestration. Advertising techniques are a set of gimmicks and recipes. For mass communication theorists, competition between fields of science allows no overall propaganda that crosses fields. Critical thinking theorists, muckrakers and radical leftists think that propaganda is systematic and orchestrated. Ellul’s sociologist theory has the most to say about this. For him, propaganda is carefully drawn from sociology and psychological research about the needs and psychological mechanisms of the public. There is knowledge about groups and its laws of formation and dissolution. Propaganda is also based on the Pavlov’s laws of association.

Is mass media a tool of control or is it neutral?

Reactionary conservatives say mass media is a passive tool used by liberals and communists. It accuses mass media of a “liberal bias”. Both commercial practitioners and mass media communications theories see mass media as a pure clearing house for finding out either what consumers want economically or what they want politically (through polling). For critical thinking advocates, all forms of mass media are designed to make people take cognitive shortcuts. Muckrakers think that mass media owners have their own self-interests in making money and they are not completely beholden to the ruling class. As left liberals they might point at neoconservative media like Fox News as controlling mass media. Like reactionary conservatives, radical leftists think of mass media as having no independent power and are the tools of ruling class or conservative forces.

Epistemology, Irrationality and Psychological Mechanisms

Is propaganda about lying?

Both the right-wing reactionaries and the left-wing socialists naively think that propaganda is about lies and that truth has no element of propaganda in it. For commercial practitioners’ propaganda is white propaganda – white lies, tall stories, euphemisms and cliches. Mass communications theorists say propaganda is lies about facts. They agree that propaganda could never be based on the truth. Muckrakers also tend to believe propaganda is usually about incorrect facts. Critical thinking theorists think that propaganda can be about lies or about the truth. Ellul’s understanding was the most sophisticated. He followed what Goebbels said about propaganda. The best propaganda is based on facts. Where the propaganda enters is in how the facts are interpreted. Like stereotypes, no propaganda could stick in people’s minds if there wasn’t more than a grain of truth to them.

Is propaganda about rationality or irrationality?

So, is propaganda rational or irrational? Right-wing reactionaries think that communist propaganda is super-rational and fail to take into consideration the emotional side of humanity. Left-wing socialists think that the appeal of reactionary conservatives, whether religious fundamentalists or fascists, is emotional and irrational. Appeals to God and country, blood and soil have no rational basis. Commercial practitioners and mass communication theorists both agree that propaganda is irrational. Commercial practitioners argue their techniques are to appeal to infantile fantasies, as we will see. Mass communication theorists think that anything outside their realm of science is potentially irrational. They think that privately people are more likely to be rational than as a mass. Both critical thinking theorists and muckrakers understand that propaganda can be both rational and irrational. Ellul agrees, adding that propaganda is mostly rational and that irrational propaganda (citing his book written in 1960) is a thing of the past.

What is the relationship between message, source and medium?

Reactionary conservatives are old-fashioned. They focus on the message and who the source is (is the source a front group for communists?) but they don’t’ take a stand as to whether the propaganda is from books, radio or television, or movies. Radical leftists are in the same boat except that they seek out which capitalist corporations might be behind the message. Commercial practitioners think the message, source and medium are not problematic. All are neutral and individuals are free to make up their own minds. Mass communications theorists are not critical of the message or the medium. They think of mediums as interchangeable. However, they do care about the source of the message and how well the message was received by the masses.

Critical thinking advocates are critical of messages and the political leanings of the sources. They are sensitive to which medium the message comes through because fast mass media will not allow people to digest the information and take it apart critically.  It is the muckrakers who are the most critical of all three. As journalists, they are very aware that movies have enormous propaganda potential for storytelling. Television and radio communicate more quickly and there is little time to think. Books, newspapers and magazines have less propaganda potential because the audience can regulate the information at their own pace. The sociological school of Ellul is more critical of the message and the medium but pays less attention to the source.

Does propaganda want to change attitudes or change actions?

Commercial practitioners were among the first theorists to understand that it is much too difficult to try to change people’s attitudes. It was only later that the reasons came out. Attitudes are based on long-standing socialization processes involving family, friends, religious training and elementary education. These socialization processes are too deeply ingrained to change with any short-term propaganda. Therefore, these practitioners target reinforcing existing attitudes but with a slight twist that might provide an impetus to buy something.

Reactionary fascists like Goebbels also understood this and simply reinforced what the German masses seemed to believe. Ellul agrees that propaganda is not about changing attitudes but rather about strengthening what is already there. Mass communications theorists were not really interested in getting people to act, but they hoped that by studying attitudes of masses in polling, leaders could better match the wants of the masses so that they did not lead to destructive collective behavior. The radical left has been historically the most naïve about this, thinking that working class people’s attitudes could be changed towards socialism. 

Propaganda mechanisms used

As far as the precise mechanisms used to propagandize people, only three of the seven theories have mechanisms identified. Commercial practitioners largely depend on both Pavlov in his laws of association and also Skinner’s rewards and punishment scheduling. Lastly, they used an early version of Bandura’s social modeling, having models who are attractive, powerful and seem to have expertise in the products they are advertising. This social modeling will cue the shortcuts of peripheral brain routes. Mass communications theorist Herbert Lasswell had a lot to say about techniques. In addition to working in mass communication he was also involved with the State Department. Lasswell identified three kinds of symbols:

  • Symbols of demand – the aspirations of the group seeking to produce events
  • Symbols of identification – defining the needs of the protagonist and the antagonist
  • Symbols of expectation – presenting facts as immediate or future objectives

Mass communication theorists also used Festinger’s cognitive dissonance theory, which involved manipulating the desire for cognitive consistency.

Ellul also relied on conditioned reflexes but then added two other processes:

  • Mithridatization which acted like a sedative
  • Sensibilization which acted like a stimulant

To paraphrase, Ellul (183) mithridatization (the sedative part) is a toxin antitoxin process whereby a person is rendered immune to a poison by tolerating gradually increased doses of it. Closing up, he becomes insensitive to propaganda as a result of past shocks. He no longer looks at posters. He no longer reads the newspaper, but skims distractedly over it. Yet he continues to obey the catchwords of propaganda.

In a mass communication society, the individual no longer has either the independence or the choice of activities sufficient to release his tensions in an appropriate way. He is forced to keep them inside. Goebbels writes that propaganda should reduce frustrations and artificially resolve real problems and anticipate the frustrations to come when they cannot avoid them. Propaganda is like a cure that would numb the liver of an alcoholic in such a way that he could continue to get drunk without feeling pain in his liver, even though it would still kill him. Propaganda suppresses the warning signals that his anxieties, maladjustments, rebellions and demands once supplied. Now he is no more himself than he is when he reacts biologically to a tranquilizer. Propaganda will appear to be a true remedy, but for a sickness deliberately provoked to fit the remedy. Propaganda will intervene as the fake instrument for reducing these tensions by external action. They will flee contradictions by escape through the contemporary ideology of happiness.

If mithridatization is cooling people out, sensibilization is riling people up. Sensibilization is the increase of sensitivity or susceptibility to stimulation. Ellul says the individualist is more sensitive, not to the content but to the impetus it gives him for the excitement it makes him feel. He needs refreshment, a booster shot. When he goes to political movies it gives an outlet.  Propaganda offers release on a grand scale. Just like in Orwell’s 1984 two-minute hate rants, it will permit hatred and provides an object of hatred. It points out enemies to be slain – Jews, bourgeoisie, or communists. Authoritarian governments allow satirical journals attacking the authorities or a wild holiday paid for by the dictator (The Friday of Sorrows in Guatemala). The bureaucrat becomes the scapegoat, while the party remains above reproach. Letters to the editor by the public serve a similar function in Yankeedom. The sensibilization process has a freshness and novelty which correspond to new situations and gives the individualist the impression of having invented new ideals. It provides humanity with a high ideal and permits him to give into his passions while seeming to accomplish a great mission.

How quickly does propaganda work?

All schools of propaganda agree that propaganda works slowly. However, reactionary conservatives imagine that propaganda can also work suddenly as in a religious conversion. Commercial advertisers know that success is not getting someone to buy a new product but to influence an audience to change brands within a product the person buys regularly. They well understand that their propaganda does not stay with the masses for long. Mass communications theorists agree. Speaking politically, muckrakers understand that propaganda cannot dictate what a person thinks. However, through censorship, they can limit the parameters of what an audience can think about. In other words, political propaganda in Yankeedom cannot convince you to vote Republican or Democrat. However, by their refusal to allow third parties into debates they can define the parameters of what audiences think about. The viability of the capitalist system, the imperialist wars overseas and the prison industrial complex are issues outside the Republican-Democrat parameters, so they get no airtime.

For its time, the most sophisticated dynamical version of the relationship between the speed at which propaganda works is Ellul’s distinction between sociological propaganda and political propaganda. Political propaganda works quickly, attempting to spread a doctrine, dividing and excluding people, as in wars and revolutions. The language is emotional loaded with virtue and vice words. Political propaganda works best in public settings where people are at the same place and the same time. People are swept out of everyday life into a kind of adventure. Political propaganda may be overt at the culmination of a campaign, but much of political propaganda is covert beforehand.

At the other extreme, sociological propaganda attempts to unify rather than divide people. It works slowly and methodically. No crisis is at hand and society is moving along at a normal pace. Whereas political propaganda spreads a political doctrine, sociological propaganda spreads a way of life. While political propaganda works best in public, sociological propaganda does not require being in the same place and the same time. Masses take in sociological propaganda over months and even years. Sociological propaganda such as advertising, movies, sports and education is overt in part because it is not perceived as propaganda. The language of sociological propaganda is not inflammatory. It acts as a sedative, using euphemisms, clichés or vague terminology. The purpose is to support the existing system rather than overturn it. Please see Table A for a full comparison.

How Are the Dominant Institutions and the Public Perceived?

Dominant institutions: Controlling or neutral?

Reactionary conservatives are paranoid, thinking that dominant institutions have been taken over by socialists or communists. The radical left-wingers of propaganda theory think that the state, mass media, the educational system and religious institutions are all determined by capitalists’ drive for profits. They follow a version of Marx’s dominant ideology theory where the ideas of the ruling class became the predominant ideology of the workers.

Both the commercial practitioners and mass communications theorists think these dominant institutions are just fine. Commercial practitioners think these institutions are simply quantitative outgrowths of free speech. Mass communication scientists think state, media, education and religious forces all compete and so there is no central control. Critical thinking theorists will be moderately skeptical of these social institutions, but they say the main problem is people’s emotionalism and suggestibility. Muckrakers are cynical about these institutions because they organize themselves to influence the public in a certain direction before the public can formulate and articulate its own needs. This takes place through think tanks, lobbyists and foundations.

Ellul argues that all the dominant institutions are there to perpetuate their own existence and this applies to both capitalist and socialist societies. Surprisingly, Ellul says that it is not the ruling class that is responsible for mass propaganda. They are too remote to understand how to influence the lower classes. Instead, it turns the job over to the upper-middle class. But as Ellul points out, the upper-middle class does not do a good job with it. The lower classes do not read newspapers or magazines. The lower classes are more susceptible to TV, especially to shows depicting upper-middle class life. The lower classes have their own music and sports which the upper-middle class does not understand or belittles.

Masses: passive, active, neutral?

Up to now, we haven’t clarified how well or badly propaganda works with the masses. Are masses passive, active, neutral or passive and active together? Reactionary conservatives do not trust masses because they are distrustful of mass society. For them, masses are dupes of communist ideology. They believe they are also dangerous when manipulated by communists. It is only at the individual level that the average person thinks more clearly, so they follow a version of Gustav LeBon’s crowd theory.  The commercial practitioners look at the targets of their advertising campaigns as passive and hedonistic. They also agree with Veblen’s emulation theory that masses want to “keep up with the Joneses”. But at the same time, they cynically present the masses as freely choosing consumers. Ellul is rather hopeless about the masses, seeing them as disorganized and passive.

Mass communications theorists are more hopeful about the masses. They are passive but can become active once the facts are given to them by the polls. For critical theorists, there is a big difference between publics and masses. Publics have more potential because they meet in face-to-face gatherings. Masses cannot see each other face-to-face and can be active only if they have overcome the reasoning fallacies. Muckrakers think of the masses as temporarily foolish but as potentially active, capable of cooperation, but simply lack information about how dominant organizations obstruct their judgment. The job of muckrakers is to expose dominant institutions. The radical left understands the public most dialectically. They see the masses as victims of capitalist institutions. But they can become active and revolutionary when not oppressed by capitalist forces.

Dynamics between dominant institutions and masses: mechanical or dialectical?

There are two ways to imagine how the relationship between the dominant order and the masses can be conceived: either mechanically or dialectically. Both the radical right and the radical left have a mechanical understanding of the relationship. Both have what is called a hypodermic needle picture. The reactionary conservatives think that people are helplessly injected with communist propaganda unless combated by the forces of anti-communism. With the exception of mass psychologist Wilhelm Reich, leftist until the 1970s saw masses of people brainwashed by capitalist institutions which could only be overcome by the agitation of socialist organizers.

The commercial practitioners talk out of both sides of their mouths. They present the masses of people as being in control of their desires (the consumer is king) while the advertising agencies are simply doing the bidding of the public. So, the masses are the ones injecting the passive advertisers. But behind closed doors, advertisers think the masses are stupid. However, in practice they are always surprised that their advertising campaigns often fail. Mass communication scientists, critical thinking advocates and muckrakers all agree that the dominant institutions have the power, but the power is not so extreme that it can be called a hypodermic needle. Mass communications theorists understand the people in polls do not always go along with these institutions. The critical thinking movement argues that by utilizing more critical thinking tools masses can resist propaganda. Muckrakers also see people banding together and forming alternative media sources. Ellul sees the relationship between propagandists and masses as mutually constitutive. Masses need propagandists in order to understand more simply the complexity of the world. Propagandists need the masses to fight wars and produce profit.

Who is Most Susceptible?

Which social classes are most susceptible?

Earlier I said that reactionary conservatives had a rather cynical attitude towards the lower classes, dismissing them as dupes. However, they also think that it is the middle-class and upper-middle class intellectuals who promote communism, get carried away with the ideology they create and spin unrealistic prospects for a utopian future. Ellul agrees. He also says the social class most susceptible to propaganda is the upper-middle class for they are the ones who are creating the symbol systems and they are the most enthralled with them. He believes that they are more interested in the social issues that the propagandists target and because they are convinced of their own superiority in understanding them. They are more vulnerable to propaganda because they think they are beyond it.

The commercial practitioners also think the middle and upper middle classes are better targets because they have the money to buy the products. Advertisers spend much less of their money targeting the lower classes because the profit margins are too low. Mass communication theorists think the lower classes are more vulnerable because they are not interested in science and are irrational. Critical theorists think working-class, and especially poor, people fall for propaganda because they are less likely to have gone to college and been more likely to learn critical thinking skills. Radical leftists think working-class people are most vulnerable because they do not have the leisure time to understand precisely how they are being manipulated.

Are collectivists or individualists more vulnerable to propaganda?

Reactionary conservatives think that the individualism of industrial capitalist societies make people more vulnerable to propaganda because city living creates rootless individuals who are alienated from the religions that once gave them comfort. Conservatives don’t think that religion in itself is a form of propaganda. Ellul agrees, saying masses of people are more vulnerable to propaganda than the face-to-face public relations of people living in collectivist societies.

Commercial practitioners agree that the lack of mass media in agricultural or tribal societies make them less vulnerable. People in pre-industrial societies do not seem to have the “infinite needs” of individualists in industrial capitalist societies, most of which is created by advertisers in the first place. Mass media communications theorists, on the other hand, think propaganda is more prevalent in collectivist societies (religious beliefs, superstition) and that democratic processes in industrial capitalist societies would train them to be less vulnerable. Critical thinking theorists think collectivists’ lack of training in critical thinking would make them more vulnerable to propaganda.  Both the muckrakers and the radical left think the individualists of industrial capitalist societies are more vulnerable because they think they are too smart to be propagandized.

Who is easiest to mobilize: the committed, the indifferent or the undecided?

All seven propaganda theorists agree that people who are already committed to a position cannot be propagandized. They have too much of a stake in what they already believe to change. At the other extreme, it is too difficult to move people out of a position of indifference. When people don’t care, something dramatic has to happen like a natural disaster, a stock market crash or a revolution to make them care. Propaganda is not strong enough by itself. The people who are most likely to be moved to change propaganda are those who are mobilized but haven’t made up their minds. This is one reason why politicians in Yankeedom work harder to appeal to voters in swing states. They don’t bother with people who have demographically been shown not to vote, nor with states that have a history of voting consistently for Republican or Democratic candidates.

What is the Relationship Between Democracy and Propaganda?

Superficially it would seem that democracy and propaganda are at opposite points on the spectrum. Societies that were democratic would not have propaganda and those who had propaganda were in some ways not democratic. But the problem is that the seven theories of propaganda do not agree about what democracy is.

Most agree that democracy is defined politically as the right to vote. However, both commercial practitioners and the radical left think of democracy as economic, rather than political. Commercial practitioners think democracy is about consumption, having infinite choices in commodities is what democracy is all about. The radical left think democracy is about controlling the workplaces and deciding economically what is produced, how it is produced and where it goes. Mass communication theorists are the most middle of the road, thinking that democracy is having two political parties and voting for them. Critical thinking advocates think that democracy is less about parties and more about issues. Thus, critical thinking texts often have a section with perhaps, ten or twelve of the typical issues Republicans and Democrats argue about in Congress. The job of a critical thinker is to use critical thinking skills to write about or debate the issues. Muckrakers go further and argue that party debate or examining the issues are both done by individuals. For them democracy is about learning how to participate in small groups, coming to group decisions. An example of that is something called “participatory budgeting” where at city council meetings citizens come together to decide on the priorities of a city budget.

Both Ellul and reactionary conservatives think that democracy doesn’t work, but for different reasons. Ellul simply thinks democracy is impossible in a modern society and the word itself is used for propagandistic purposes to give people the illusion of choice. For the reactionary conservatives, democracy is looked upon as an unfavorable turn of events at the end of the 19th century. For political conservatives there is a natural hierarchy, placing people with superior talent and good breeding at the top and their inferiors at the bottom.  Democracy is understood as the rule of a mob that should never rule. Ortega Y Gasset would be the appropriate theoretician for this view.

Please see Table B for a summary of the seven propaganda theorists and their books spanning from the 1920s to the 1960s.

* First published in Socialist Planning After Capitalism

The post Jacques Ellul: Controversies in the Rise of Propaganda first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Assassination and Resurrection of Martin Luther King, Jr.

I don’t believe in death without resurrection. If they kill me, I will rise again in the Salvadorian people…
– Archbishop Oscar Romero, martyred, 24 March 1980

Whether we are aware of it or not, we live by stories. We live by others’ stories while we tell our lives by how we live.  Our actions tell our stories.  Then when we die, others tell our stories as they wish.

This is the spiritual thread that links the meanings of our lives.  It is the way we pass over to other lives and return to our own. But without truth, we end up in the wrong place, living the wrong stories.

And don’t the stories of certain special people inspire us to carry on their legacies because their spirits are far stronger than death?  Their courage contagious?   Their witness the triumph of life over death?

Don’t they challenge us to imitate them, to kindle in us the fire of their resurrected spirits?

For Christians, Holy Week is the time for deep reflection on the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus and what they mean for us today.  This year, the anniversary of the murder of the Christian prophet and martyr, Martin Luther King, Jr., falls on Easter Sunday, April 4, which gives rise to doubly deeper thoughts that cross religious boundaries where people of all faiths or none can unite in the spirit of non-violent resistance to the forces of war, poverty, racism, and materialism – violence in all its forms.  Everything that stands in the way of what King called “the Beloved Community.”

That Jesus met violence with non-violent love and voluntarily entered the darkness of death and abandonment is at the heart of the Christian faith.  So too his Resurrection.  If the Jewish radical Jesus had not been executed by the Roman state occupiers of Palestine, if all hope for his followers had not seemingly been lost, then his Resurrection could not have given birth to hope in his followers to carry on his spirit of love for the poor and downtrodden and resistance to violence.

Like Oscar Romero in El Salvador, gunned down by U.S. trained death squads at the altar while offering Mass and subsequently named a saint by the Roman Catholic Church, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s witness and the truth about his death should be a central meditative focus this year. For the convergence of King’s death on April 4, 1968 with Easter this April 4th and the last day of Passover offers us a way to contemplate what is now demanded of all people who yearn for the end to hatred, violence, and injustice, and the creation of a beloved world community where love and kindness reign.

The spirit of all the prophets and martyrs is about now, not then; about us, not them; it confronts us with the challenge to interrogate ourselves.

Shall we turn away from their witness?  What truly animates our souls?  Where do we stand?  Do we support the state’s power to kill and wage war, to deny people freedom, to discriminate, to oppress the poor?

It is always about now; the living truth is now.

To contemplate the lives of the prophets takes us very deep into the darkness where we encounter the murders of Jesus, King, Romero, and all those who have died trying to make peace and justice a reality.  But only if we go into the darkest truths will we be able to see the light that leads us to accept the resurrected spirit of their resistance to evil.

Another prophet of our broken world, the Hindu Mohandas Gandhi, soul brother to King, echoed the words that many have heard, that “God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong,” when, in crossing over to the Christian tradition, he told us: “We dare not think of birth without death on the cross.  Living Christ means a Living Cross, without it life is a living death.” 1

So what do we need to know about MLK, and why does it matter?

King’s True Story

Very few Americans are aware of the truth behind the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the United States’ celebrated civil rights icon.  Few books have been written about it, unlike other significant assassinations, especially JFK’s. For more than fifty years there has been a media blackout supported by government disinformation to hide the truth.  And few people, in a massive act of self-deception, have chosen to question the official explanation, choosing, rather, to embrace a mythic fabrication intended to sugarcoat the bitter fruit that has resulted from the murder of one man capable of leading a mass movement for transformative change in the United States.  Today we are eating the fruit of our denial as racial discrimination, poverty, and police violence garner the headlines.

After more than a decade as America’s best-known and most respected civil rights leader, by 1968 Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. had increasingly focused on poverty issues and publicly declared his intense opposition to the U.S. war against Vietnam in a famous speech “Beyond Vietnam: The Time To Break the Silence” at New York’s Riverside Church on April 4, 1967, one year to the day before he was assassinated.2

MLK speaking at Riverside Church, NYC, 4 April 1967

Having won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, he emerged in the mid-1960s as an international figure, whose opinions on human and economic rights and peaceful coexistence were influential world-wide. Shortly before his assassination, he was organizing the Poor People’s Campaign that would involve hundreds of thousands of Americans who would encamp in Washington, D.C to demand the end to economic inequality, racism, and war.

At the same time, Reverend King was hated by an array of racists throughout America, especially in the American South. Among his greatest declared enemies was FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who seemed convinced that King’s backers were Communists out to damage America’s interests. In the late 1960s, the FBI’s COINTELPRO program created a network of informants and agent provocateurs to undermine the civil rights and anti-war movements with a special focus on King.3

After King’s “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963, William Sullivan, the head of the FBI’s domestic intelligence division, wrote in a post-speech memo:

Personally, I believe in the light of King’s powerful, demagogic speech that he stands head and shoulders over all other Negro leaders put together when it comes to influencing great masses. We must mark him now, if we have not done so before, as the most dangerous Negro of the future in this Nation from the standpoint of communism, the Negro and national security.4

The FBI, after extensive eavesdropping on King, subsequently sent him an anonymous letter urging him to kill himself or else his extramarital sex life would be exposed.  The FBI’s and its Director J Edgar Hoover’s hatred for King was so great that nothing was too low for them.5

This history is common knowledge as reported in the Washington Post, The New York Times, etc.

During the Senate Church Committee hearings in the mid-1970s, a parallel group within the CIA, code-named CHAOS, was uncovered.  Despite its charter disallowing it from operating inside the United States, the CIA similarly used illegal means to disrupt the civil rights and anti-war movements.

Because MLK, in his Riverside Church speech, spoke clearly to what he identified there as “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today – my own government” and continued to relentlessly confront his own government on its criminal war against Vietnam, he was universally condemned by the mass media and the government that later – once he was long and safely dead and no longer a threat – praised him to the heavens.  This has continued to the present day of historical amnesia.

Today Martin Luther King’s birthday is celebrated with a national holiday, but his death day disappears down the memory hole.  Across the country – in response to the King Holiday and Service Act passed by Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton in 1994 – people are encouraged to make the day one of service (from Latin, servus = slave).  Etymological irony aside, such service does not include King’s commitment to protesting a decadent system of racial and economic injustice or non-violently resisting the warfare state that is the United States. Government sponsored service is cultural neo-liberalism at its finest.

The word service is a loaded word; it has become a smiley face and vogue word over the past thirty-five years.  Its use for MLK Day is clear: individuals are encouraged to volunteer for activities such as tutoring children, painting senior centers, delivering meals to the elderly, etc., activities that are good in themselves but far less good when used to conceal an American prophet’s message.  After all, Martin Luther King’s work was not volunteering at the local food pantry with Oprah Winfrey cheering him on.

But service without truth is slavery.  It is propaganda aimed at convincing decent people into thinking that they are serving the essence of MLK’s message while they are following a message of misdirection.

Educating people about who killed King, and why, and why it matters today, is the greatest service we can render to his memory.

What exactly is the relationship between King’s saying that “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today – my own government” and his murder?

Let’s look at the facts.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968, at 6:01 PM as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. He was shot in the lower right side of his face by one rifle bullet that shattered his jaw, damaged his upper spine, and came to rest below his left shoulder blade. The U.S. government claimed the assassin was a racist loner named James Earl Ray, who had escaped from the Missouri State Penitentiary on April 23, 1967. Ray was alleged to have fired the fatal shot from a second-floor bathroom window of a rooming house above the rear of Jim’s Grill across the street. Running to his rented room, Ray allegedly gathered his belongings, including the rifle, in a bedspread-wrapped bundle, rushed out the front door onto the adjoining street, and in a panic dropped the bundle in the doorway of the Canipe Amusement Company a few doors down. He was then said to have jumped into his white Mustang and to have driven to Atlanta where he abandoned the car. From there he fled to Canada and then to England and then to Portugal and back to England where he was eventually arrested at Heathrow Airport on June 8, 1968, and extradited to the U.S. The state claims that the money Ray needed to purchase the car and for all his travel was secured through various robberies and a bank heist. Ray’s alleged motive was racism and that he was a bitter and dangerous loner.

When Ray, under extraordinary pressure, coercion, and a payoff from his lawyer to take a plea, pleaded guilty (only a few days later to request a trial that was denied) and was sentenced to 99 years in prison, the case seemed to be closed, and was dismissed from public consciousness. Another hate-filled lone assassin, as the government also termed Lee Harvey Oswald and Sirhan Sirhan, had committed a despicable deed.

Ray had received erroneous advice from his attorney, Percy Foreman. Foreman had a long history representing government, corporate, intelligence, and mafia figures, including Jack Ruby, in cases where the government wanted to keep people silent. Ray was told that the government would go after Ray’s father and brother, Jerry, and that he’d get the electric chair if he didn’t plead guilty,

Ray initially acquiesced. He entered what is known as an Alford plea before Judge Preston Battle. In making his plea, Ray did not admit to any criminal act and asserted his innocence. The following day, he fired Percy Foreman, who, by offering money to induce a guilty plea, had committed a criminal offense. Foreman had also lied to Judge Battle about his contract with Ray. And, the transcript of Ray’s testimony was doctored to help support the government’s case. Ray was sentenced to life in prison. After three days, Ray tried to retract his plea and maintained his innocence for almost 30 years until his death.

The United State government’s case against James Earl Ray was extremely weak from the start, and in the intervening years has grown so weak that it is no longer believable. A vast body of evidence has accumulated that renders it patently false.

But before examining such evidence, it is important to point out that MLK, Jr, his father, Rev. M. L. King, Sr, and his maternal grandfather, Rev. A.D. Williams, all pastors of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, were spied on by Army Intelligence and the FBI since 1917.6 All were considered dangerous because of their espousal of racial and economic equality. None of this had to do with war or foreign policy, but such spying was connected to their religious opposition to racist and economic policies that stretched back to slavery, realities that have been officially acknowledged today. But when MLK, Jr. forcefully denounced unjust and immoral war-making as well, especially the Vietnam war, and announced his Poor People’s Campaign and intent to lead a massive peaceful encampment of hundreds of thousands in Washington, D.C., he set off panic in the inner sanctums of the government.  Seventy-five years of spying on black religious leaders here found its ultimate “justification.”

The corporate mass media has for more than fifty years echoed the government’s version of the King assassination. Here and there, however, mainly through the alternative media, and also through the monumental work and persistence of the King family lawyer, William Pepper, the truth about the assassination has surfaced. Through decades of research, a TV trial, a jury trial, and three meticulously researched books, Pepper has documented the parts played in the assassination by F.B.I. Director J. Edgar Hoover, the F.B.I., Army Intelligence, Memphis Police, and southern Mafia figures.  In his last two books, An Act of State (2003)  and later The Plot to Kill King (2016), Pepper presents his comprehensive case.

William Pepper’s decades-long investigation not only refutes the flimsy case against James Earl Ray, but definitively proves that King was killed by a government conspiracy led by J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI, Army Intelligence, and Memphis Police, assisted by southern Mafia figures.  He is right to assert that “we have probably acquired more detailed knowledge about this political assassination than we have ever had about any previous historical event.” This makes the silence around this case even more shocking.

This shock is accentuated when one is reminded (or told for the first time) that in 1999 a Memphis jury, after a thirty-day trial with over seventy witnesses, found the U.S. government guilty in the killing of MLK.

In that 1999 Memphis civil trial (see complete transcript) brought by the King family, the jury found that King was murdered by a conspiracy that included governmental agencies. 7   The corporate media, when they reported it at all, dismissed the jury’s verdict and those who accepted it, including the entire King family led by Coretta Scott King8 as delusional. Time magazine called the verdict a confirmation of the King family’s “lurid fantasies.”  The Washington Post compared those who believed it with those who claimed that Hitler was unfairly accused of genocide.  A smear campaign ensued that has continued to the present day and then the fact that a trial ever occurred disappeared down the memory hole so that today most people never heard of it and assume MLK was killed by a crazy white racist, James Earl Ray, if they know even that.

The civil trial was the King family’s last resort to get a public hearing to disclose the truth of the assassination. They and Pepper knew, and proved, that Ray was an innocent pawn, but Ray had died in prison in 1998 after trying for thirty years to get a trial and prove his innocence. During all these years, Ray had maintained that he had been manipulated by a shadowy figure named Raul, who supplied him with money and his white Mustang and coordinated all his complicated travels, including having him buy a rifle and come to Jim’s Grill and the boarding house on the day of the assassination to give it to Raul.  The government has always denied Raul existed.  Pepper proved that that was a lie.

Slowly, however, glimmers of light have been shed on that trial and truth of the assassination.

On March 30, 2018, The Washington Post’s crime reporter, Tom Jackman, published a four-column front-page article, “Who killed Martin Luther King Jr.?  His family believes James Earl Ray was framed.”  While not close to an endorsement of the trial’s conclusions, it is a far cry from past nasty dismissals of those who agreed with the jury’s verdict as conspiracy nuts or Hitler supporters.  After decades of clouding over the truth of MLK’s assassination, some rays of truth have come peeping through, and on the front page of the WP at that.

Jackman makes it very clear that all the surviving King family members – Bernice, Dexter, and Martin III – are in full agreement that James Earl Ray, the accused assassin, did not kill their father, and that there was and continues to be a conspiracy to cover up the truth.  He adds to that the words of the highly respected civil rights icon and now deceased U.S. Congressman from Georgia, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who said:

I think there was a major conspiracy to remove Dr. King from the American scene.

and former U.N. ambassador and Atlanta mayor Andrew Young, who was with King at the Lorraine Motel when he was shot, who concurs:

I would not accept the fact that James Earl Ray pulled the trigger, and that is all that matters.

Additionally, Jackman adds that Andrew Young emphasized that the assassination of King came after that of President Kennedy, Malcolm X, and a few months before that of Senator Robert Kennedy.

“We were living in a period of assassinations,” he quotes Young as saying, a statement clearly intimating their linkages and coming from a widely respected and honorable man.

In the years leading up to Pepper’s 1978 involvement in the MLK case, only a few lonely voices expressed doubts about the government’s case, such as, Harold Weisberg’s Frame Up in 1971 and Mark Lane’s and Dick Gregory’s Code Name “Zorro” in 1977.  While other lonely researchers dug deeper, most of the country put themselves and the case to sleep.

As with the assassinations of President Kennedy and his brother, Robert (two months after MLK), all evidence points to the construction of scapegoats to take the blame for government executions.  Ray, Oswald, and Sirhan Sirhan all bear striking resemblances in the ways they were chosen and moved as pawns over long periods of time into positions where their only reactions could be stunned surprise when they were accused of the murders.

It took Pepper many years to piece together the essential truths, once he and Reverend Ralph Abernathy, Dr. King’s associate, interviewed Ray in prison in 1978.  The first giveaway that something was seriously amiss came with the 1979 House Select Committee on Assassinations’ report on the King assassination.  Led by Robert Blakey, suspect in his conduct of the other assassination inquiries, who had replaced Richard Sprague, who was deemed to be too independent, “this multi-million-dollar investigation ignored or denied all evidence that raised the possibility that James Earl Ray was innocent,” and that government forces might be involved.  Pepper lists in his book over twenty such omissions that rival the absurdities of the magical thinking of the Warren Commission. The HSCA report became the template “for all subsequent disinformation in print and visual examinations of this case” for the past forty-two years.

Blocked at every turn by the authorities and unable to get Ray a trial, Pepper arranged an unscripted, mock TV trial that aired on April 4, 1993, the twenty-fifth anniversary of the assassination.  Jurors were selected from a pool of U.S. citizens, a former U.S. Attorney and a federal judge served as prosecutor and judge, with Pepper serving as defense attorney.  He presented extensive evidence clearly showing that authorities had withdrawn all security for King; that the state’s chief witness was falling down drunk; that the alleged bathroom sniper’s nest was empty right before the shot was fired; that three eyewitnesses, including the New York Times’ Earl Caldwell, said that the shot came from the bushes behind the rooming house; and that two eyewitnesses saw Ray drive away in his white Mustang before the shooting, etc.  The prosecution’s feeble case was rejected by the jury that found Ray not guilty.

As with all Pepper’s work on the case, the mainstream media responded with silence.  And though this was only a TV trial, increasing evidence emerged that the owner of Jim’s Grill, Loyd Jowers, was deeply involved in the assassination.  Pepper dug deeper, and on December 16, 1993, Loyd Jowers appeared on ABC’s Primetime Live that aired nationwide.  Pepper writes:

Loyd Jowers cleared James Earl Ray, saying that he did not shoot MLK but that he, Jowers, had hired a shooter after he was approached by Memphis produce man Frank Liberto and paid $100,000 to facilitate the assassination.  He also said that he had been visited by a man named Raul who delivered a rifle and asked him to hold it until arrangements were finalized …. The morning after the Primetime Live broadcast there was no coverage of the previous night’s program, not even on ABC …. Here was a confession, on prime-time television, to involvement in one of the most heinous crimes in the history of the Republic, and virtually no American mass-media coverage.

In the twenty-eight years since that confession, Pepper has worked tirelessly on the case and has uncovered a plethora of additional evidence that refutes the government’s claims and indicts it and the media for a continuing cover-up.  The evidence he has gathered, detailed and documented in An Act of State and The Plot to Kill King, proves that Martin Luther King was killed by a conspiracy masterminded by the U.S. government.  The foundation of his case proving that was presented at the 1999 trial, while other supporting documentation was subsequently discovered.

Since the names and details involved make clear that, as with the murders of JFK and RFK, the conspiracy was very sophisticated with many moving parts organized at the highest level, I will just highlight a few of his findings in what follows.

  • Pepper refutes the government and proves, through multiple witnesses, telephonic, and photographic evidence, that Raul existed; that his full name is Raul Coelho and that he was James Earl Ray’s intelligence handler, who provided him with money and instructions from their first meeting in the Neptune Bar in Montreal, where Ray had fled in 1967 after his prison escape, until the day of the assassination.  It was Raul who instructed Ray to return from Canada to the U.S. (an act that makes no sense for an escaped prisoner who had fled the country), gave him money for the white Mustang, helped him attain travel documents, and moved him around the country like a pawn on a chess board. The parallels to Lee Harvey Oswald are startling.
  • He presents the case of Donald Wilson, a former FBI agent working out of the Atlanta office in 1968, who went with a senior colleague to check out an abandoned white Mustang with Alabama plates (Ray’s car, to which Raul had a set of keys) and opened the passenger door to find that an envelope and some papers fell out onto the ground. Thinking he may have disturbed a crime scene, the nervous Wilson pocketed them.  Later, when he read them, their explosive content intuitively told him that if he gave them to his superiors they would be destroyed.  One piece was a torn-out page from a 1963 Dallas telephone directory with the name Raul written at the top, and the letter “J” with a Dallas telephone number for a club run by Jack Ruby, Oswald’s killer. The page was for the letter H and had numerous phone numbers for H. L. Hunt, Dallas oil billionaire and a friend of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.  Both men hated MLK. The second sheet contained Raul’s name and a list of names and sums and dates for payment.  On the third sheet was written the telephone number and extension for the Atlanta FBI office. (Read James W. Douglass’s important interview with Donald Wilson in The Assassinations, pp.479-491.)
  • Pepper shows that the alias Ray was given and used from July 1967 until April 4, 1968 – Eric Galt – was the name of a Toronto U.S. Army Intelligence operative, Eric St. Vincent Galt, who worked for Union Carbide with Top Secret clearance. The warehouse at the Canadian Union Carbide Plant in Toronto that Galt supervised “housed a top-secret munitions project funded jointly by the CIA, the U.S. Naval Surface Weapons Center, and the Army Electronics Research and Development Command …. In August 1967, Galt met with Major Robert M. Collins, a top aide to the head of the 902nd Military Intelligence Group (MIG), Colonel John Downie.”  Downie selected four members for an Alpha 184 Sniper Unit that was sent to Memphis to back up the primary assassin of MLK.  Meanwhile, Ray, set up as the scapegoat, was able to move about freely since he was protected by the pseudonymous NSA clearance for Eric Galt.
  • To refute the government’s claim that Ray and his brother robbed the Alton, Illinois Bank to finance his travels and car purchase (therefore no Raul existed), Pepper “called the sheriff in Alton and the president of the bank; they gave the same statement. The Ray brothers had nothing to do with the robbery.  No one from the HSCA, the FBI, or The New York Times had sought their opinion.”  CNN later reiterated the media falsehood that became part of the official false story.
  • Pepper shows that the fatal shot came from the bushes behind Jim’s Grill and the rooming house, not from the bathroom window. He presents overwhelming evidence for this, showing that the government’s claim, based on the testimony on a severely drunk Charlie Stephens, was absurd. His evidence includes the testimony of numerous eyewitnesses and that of Loyd Jowers (a nine-and-a-half-hour deposition), the owner of Jim’s Grill, who said he joined another person in the bushes, and after the shot was fired to kill King, he brought the rifle back into the Grill through the back door. Thus, Ray was not the assassin.
  • He presents conclusive evidence that the bushes were cut down the morning after the assassination in an attempt to corrupt the crime scene. The order to do so came from Memphis Police Department Inspector Sam Evans to Maynard Stiles, a senior administrator of the Memphis Department of Public Works.
  • He shows how King’s room was moved from a safe interior room, 201, to balcony room, 306, on the upper floor; how King was conveniently positioned alone on the balcony by members of his own entourage for the easy mortal head shot from the bushes across the street. (Many people only remember the iconic photograph taken after-the-fact with Jesse Jackson, Andrew Young, et al, standing over the fallen King and pointing across the street.)  He uncovers the role of black Memphis Police Department Domestic Intelligence and military intelligence agent Marrell McCollough, attached to the 111th MIG, within the entourage.  McCollough can be seen kneeling over the fallen King, checking to see if he’s dead.  McCollough officially joined the CIA in 1974 (see Douglass Valentine’s “Deconstructing Kowalski: The DOJ’s Strange MLK Report“.)
  • Pepper confirms that all of this, including that the assassin in the bushes was dutifully photographed by Army Intelligence agents situated on the nearby Fire House roof.
  • He presents evidence that all security for Dr. King was withdrawn from the area by the Memphis Police Department, including a special security unit of black officers, and four tactical police units. A black detective at the nearby fire station, Ed Redditt, was withdrawn from his post on the afternoon of April 4th, allegedly because of a death threat against him.  And the only two black firemen at Fire Station No. 2 were transferred to another station.
  • He confirms the presence of “Operation Detachment Alpha 184 team,” a Special Forces sniper team in civilian disguise at locations high above the Lorraine Motel balcony, and he names one soldier, John D. Hill, as part of Alpha 184 and another military team, Selma Twentieth SFG, that was in Memphis.
  • He explains the use of two white mustangs in the operation to frame Ray.
  • He proves that Ray had driven off before the shooting; that Lloyd Jowers took the rifle from the shooter who was in the bushes; that the Memphis police were working in close collaboration with the FBI, Army Intelligence, and the “Dixie Mafia,” particularly local produce dealer Frank Liberto and his New Orleans associate Carlos Marcello; and that every aspect of the government’s case was filled with holes that any person familiar with the details and possessing elementary logical abilities could refute.
  • So importantly, Pepper shows how the mainstream media and government flacks have spent years covering up the truth of MLK’s murder through lies and disinformation, just as they have done with the Kennedy and Malcom X assassinations that are of a piece with this one.

There is such a mass of evidence through depositions, documents, interviews, photographs, etc. in Pepper’s An Act of State and The Plot to Kill King that makes it abundantly clear that the official explanation that James Earl Ray killed Martin Luther King is false and that there was a conspiracy to assassinate him that involved the FBI and other government agencies. Only those inoculated against the truth can ignore such evidence and continue to believe the official version.

Martin Luther King was a transmitter of a radical non-violent spiritual and political energy so plenipotent that his very existence was a threat to an established order based on institutionalized violence, racism, and economic exploitation.  He was a very dangerous man to the U.S. government and all the institutional and deep state forces armed against him.

Revolutionaries are, of course, anathema to the power elites who, with all their might, resist such rebels’ efforts to transform society. If they can’t buy them off, they knock them off.  Fifty-three years after King’s assassination, the causes he fought for – civil rights, the end to U.S. wars of aggression, and economic justice for all – remain not only unfulfilled, but have worsened in so many respects.

They will not be resolved until this nation decides to confront the truth of why and by whom he was killed.

For the government that honors Dr. King with a national holiday killed him. This is the suppressed truth behind the highly promoted MLK Day of service.  It is what you are not supposed to know.

But it is what we need to know in order to resurrect his spirit in us, so we can carry on his mission and emulate his witness.

The time is now.

• Many thanks to my dear friends Dave Ratcliffe and Jim Douglass for all their help.

  1. As quoted in James W. Douglass, The Non-Violent Cross, New York, 1968, p. 57.
  2. See “50 Years Ago: Riverside Church and MLK’s Final Year of Experiments With Truth,” David Ratcliffe, rat haus reality press, 4 April 2017.   A significant moment in Dr. King’s odyssey occurred on 14 January 1967 when he first saw a photographic essay by William Pepper about the children of Vietnam. Initially, while he hadn’t had a chance to read the text, it was the photographs that stopped him. Bernard Lee, who was present at the time, never forgot Martin King’s shock as he looked at photographs of young napalm victims: “Martin had known about the [Vietnam] war before then, of course, and had spoken out against it. But it was then that he decided to commit himself to oppose it.” The truth force in these photographs led directly to Dr. King’s Riverside Church exhortation in April.   See “The Truth of The Children of Vietnam: A Way of Liberation – How Will We Challenge Militarism, Racism, and Extreme Materialism?, David Ratcliffe, rat haus reality press, 30 November 2017.
  3. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Case Study, US Senate, Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities (“Church Committee”), Final Report – Book III: Supplementary Detailed Staff Reports on Intelligence Activities and the Rights of Americans, 23 April 1976, pp. 79-184.
  4. MLK’s speech attracted FBI’s intense attention,” Tony Capaccio, Washington Post, 27 August 2013.
  5. What an Uncensored Letter to M.L.K. Reveals,” Beverly Gage, New York Times, 11 November 2014.
  6. Army feared King, secretly watched him, Spying on blacks started 75 years ago,” Stephen G. Tompkins, The Commercial Appeal, 21 March 1993.
  7. An overview of the trial with links back into the court transcript is “The Martin Luther King Conspiracy Exposed in Memphis,” Jim Douglass, Probe Magazine, Spring 2000. Apart from the courtroom participants, Douglass was one of only two people who attended the entire thirty-day trial.
  8. See Transcript of the King Family Press Conference on the Martin Luther King Assassination Conspiracy Trial Verdict, Atlanta, Georgia, 9 December 1999.
The post The Assassination and Resurrection of Martin Luther King, Jr. first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The U.S. Pivot to Asia: Cold War Lessons From Vietnam for Today

There were Cold War preparations underway as early as August 1945 and the two regions selected, Korea and Vietnam, were pre-planned years in advance before the actual wars were to take place, Cynthia Chung writes.

*****

In Part One of this series I discussed how a massive U.S. arms stockpile in Okinawa, Japan that was originally intended to be used for the planned American invasion of Japan was cancelled once the two atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

L. Fletcher Prouty, who served as Chief of Special Operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Kennedy and was a former Col. in the U.S. Air Force, remarks in his book The CIA, Vietnam and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy, that these massive arms shipments were not returned to the United States but rather, half were transported to Korea and the other half to Vietnam.

The implications of this are enormous.

It signifies that there were Cold War preparations already underway as early as August 1945 and likely much earlier, and that the two regions selected, Korea and Vietnam, were pre-planned five years in advance and the other ten years in advance respectively, before the actual wars were to take place.

What this means is that the official narrative for why the Korean War and the Vietnam War were fought are fabrications of the Cold War “reality.”

Therefore, it should be asked, what was the real reason that Americans entered these two brutal wars? Why did leading figures among the American elite, many who were so adamant on not joining in the combat against fascism in WWII, become so quickly convinced that everything having to do with communism was their personal responsibility to destroy?

These questions will be answered in this series titled “The Fascist Roots of the CIA.”

The CIA and the Pentagon: A Tale of Two Star Crossed Lovers

As discussed in part one of this series, with the Eisenhower-Nixon victory in 1952, the culmination of years of political strategizing by Wall Street Republican power brokers, the new heads of the State Department and the CIA were selected as none other than Foster and Allen Dulles respectively; and they would go on to direct the global operations of the most powerful nation in the world.

It is for this reason that the 1952 presidential election has gone down in history as the triumph of “the power elite.”

The entire period of April 12th, 1945 to that fateful Election Day can be best understood as the first stage of America’s coup. This is especially clear between the period of 1945 and 1949, when a number of new pieces of legislation were passed which successfully reorganised the departments within the United States such that much of the government and military decisions would be beholden to the authority of a few men, men who were much more powerful than the president himself.

The National Security Act of 1947, a Trojan horse, was one of the first of this new breed of legislation and led to the creation of the Central Intelligence Agency, placing it under the direction of the National Security Council.

Although it did not explicitly authorize the CIA to conduct covert operations, Section 102 was sufficiently vague to permit abuse. By December 1947, (less than four months after the creation of the CIA), the perceived necessity to “stem the flow of communism” in Western Europe—particularly Italy—by overt and covert “psychological warfare” forced the issue and NSC 4-A was born.

NSC 4-A was a new directive to cover “clandestine paramilitary operations, as well as political and economic warfare.”  This provided the authorization for the intervention of the CIA in the Italian elections of April 1948.

It was understood that the U.S. military could have no “direct” role in covert operations, since that would defeat the purpose of deniability.

The Communist Party of Italy, admired for leading the fight against Mussolini, was expected to win in Italy’s first post-war election. This, of course, was considered intolerable under the Iron Curtain diktat and American covert operations were deployed to block the anti-fascist victory. Investigative journalist Christopher Simpson writes in his book Blowback, how a substantial part of this funding came from captured Nazi assets. This intervention, according to Simpson, tipped the balance in favour of Italy’s Christian Democrats Party, which hid thousands of fascists in its ranks.

In just a few months from its creation, the CIA went from what was supposed to be a civilian intelligence gathering arm of the government to being responsible for covert operations including “psychological warfare.” This was a far cry from what had organised the United States prior to WWII, and which relied on a civilian army. Such a government mandate for cloak and dagger operations during a time of peace would have been considered unthinkable.

But that is why the Cold War narrative was so imperative, since under this paranoid schizophrenic nightmare, it was thought the world would never be at peace until a significant portion of it was wiped out. The Cold War defined a pixelated enemy that was under-defined and invisible to the eye. The enemy was what your superiors told you were the enemy, and like a shape-shifter could take the form of anybody, including your neighbour, your colleague, your partner…even the president.

There would always be an enemy, because there would always be people who would resist the Grand Strategy.

NSC 4-A was replaced by NSC 10/2, approved by President Truman on June 18th 1948, creating the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC). NSC 10/2 was the first presidential document which specified a mechanism to approve and manage covert operations, and also the first in which the term “covert operations” was defined.

From 1948-1950 the OPC was not under CIA’s control, but rather was a renegade operation run by Allen Dulles. OPC was brought under CIA control in October 1950, when Walter Bedell Smith became Director of Central Intelligence, and it was renamed the Directorate of Plans.

Although the CIA was strictly in charge of covert operations, it often needed the military for additional personnel, transport, overseas bases, weapons, aircraft, ships, and all the other things the Department of Defense had in abundance. In reality, the military, whether it liked it or not, found itself forever in the embrace of its toxic lover, the CIA.

Prouty writes in 1992:

OPC and other CIA personnel were concealed in military units and provided with military cover whenever possible, especially within the far-flung bases of the military around the world… The covert or invisible operational methods developed by the CIA and the military during the 1950s are still being used today despite the apparent demise of the Cold War, in such covert activities as those going on in Central America and Africa…the distinction between the CIA and the military is hard to discern, since they always work together.

A Daring Declaration

On Sept. 22nd, 1945, Ho Chi Minh signed the Declaration of Independence for a new nation, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, which stated the following lines:

A people who have courageously opposed French domination for more than eighty years, a people who have fought side by side with the Allies against the Fascists during these last years—such a people must be free and independent.

Ho Chi Minh had been leading the nationalist Viet Minh independence movement since 1941 against the colonial rule of Japan. Like most of the world, Ho Chi Minh viewed the war against the fascists as aligned to a war against imperialism. He believed that if the world was to finally make a stand against such tyranny, than there would be no place for colonialism in the post-war world. The world would have to be organised according to the recognition and respect of independent nation states, along the lines of Roosevelt’s post-war vision.

After a long and horrific battle against the ruthless Japanese fascists, with support during the war from the United States and China, it was the hope of Ho Chi Minh that Vietnam could return to its former days of peace with its new-found independence from colonial rule.

The Japanese had surrendered and were leaving. The French had been defeated by the Japanese and would not return—or so it was thought.

Vo Nguyen Giap, Ho Chi Minh’s brilliant military commander, while serving as Minister of the Interior of the provisional government, delivered a speech describing the United States as a good friend of the Viet Minh. That, too, was in September 1945. Ho Chi Minh had been supplied with a tremendous stock of military equipment by the United States, and he expected to be able to administer his new government in Vietnam without further opposition.

But on September 23, 1945, shortly after the Democratic Republic of Vietnam had issued its Declaration of Independence, a group of former French troops, acting with the consent of the British forces (who had been given jurisdiction of the area from the Potsdam Conference) and armed with Japanese weapons stolen from surrender stockpiles, staged a local coup d’état and seized control of the administration of Saigon, in South Vietnam, known today as Ho Chi Minh City.

By January 1946, the French had assumed all military commitments in Vietnam and reinstalled the French government.

It should be understood that the removal of the French presence in Indochina was no small feat, since it was not only their military presence that had to be dealt with, but also its business interests including French banks, among the most powerful in Asia. The French had imposed its colonial presence in Indochina since 1787.

Negotiations between the French and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam began early in 1946. Ho Chi Minh traveled to Paris, but the conference failed due to French intransigence.

The French Indochina War broke out in 1946 and went on for eight years, with France’s war effort largely funded and supplied by the United States.

In 1949, Bao Dai, the former emperor who spent most of his time in the lap of luxury in Paris, France, was set up by foreign interest to be the puppet government of the State of Vietnam (South Vietnam).

On May 8, 1950, Secretary of State Dean Acheson announced that the United States would give both economic and military aid to France and to the State of Vietnam. The value of this military assistance surpassed $3 billion.

There was never any official reason for why the United States changed its allegiance from Ho Chi Minh to the French colonial interests and their puppet government. Although Ho Chi Minh’s belief in communism was used to justify this betrayal, the truth was that he was a threat because he considered himself first and foremost a nationalist, who believed that the Vietnamese people were one and that his nation deserved independence from colonial dominance.

It was this nationalism that could not be tolerated in areas of the world which were regarded as imperial territories and subject lands. It is for this very same reason that MI6 and the CIA staged a coup against the beloved nationalist Mosaddegh in Iran, a non-communist who held a Ph.D. in law and was well on his way to removing all British imperial claims on oil in the country after winning his case against the British at the Hague and at the UN Security Council in 1951.

This is why the interests of imperialism and fascism were often linked hand in hand, as seen with Edward VIII (though he was not alone in the British Royal family in his views), the Vichy government in France, King of Italy Victor Emmanuel III who appointed Benito Mussolini as Prime Minister in 1922 (who only deposed Mussolini in 1943 when it was clear they were going to lose the war) and Imperial Japan under Emperor Hirohito.

It is for this reason that we saw, before WWII was even over, the imperialists and the fascists in discussion with each other as to what would form the post-war world. It is for this reason that the countries chosen to oversee this Grand Strategy would be the U.S., Britain, France, Germany and Japan, rather than Roosevelt’s choice of the U.S., Russia, Britain and China.

It is for this reason that the Iron Curtain, that was originally announced, not by Churchill, but rather by German Foreign Minister Count Lutz Schwerin von Krosigk, reported in the London Times on May 3, 1945, was to announce the terms of an indefinite war against communism. In reality, it meant any country opposed to imperial rule, opposed to the idea that some were born to rule and others to be ruled, in other words, imperialism and sovereign nation states could not co-exist.

Ho Chi Minh was an ally to the Americans under the leadership of Roosevelt. However, with Roosevelt’s death and the soft coup that followed, Ho Chi Minh was now an enemy.

The Saigon Military Mission

On January 8, 1954, at a meeting of the National Security Council, President Eisenhower made his views clear that Americans did not belong in the Vietnam War. But that did not really matter.

Eisenhower, who was used to people diligently following his line of command as a General of WWII, was soon to learn that this did not apply as President of the United States.

Among those at the January 8, 1954 meeting of the National Security Council were Allen W. Dulles and his brother John Foster Dulles. There was no way that the Dulles brothers could have misunderstood the words of President Eisenhower.

Yet, on January 14, 1954, only six days after the President’s “vehement” statement against the entry of U.S. armed forces in Indochina, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles said:

Despite everything that we do, there remained a possibility that the French position in Indochina would collapse. If this happened and the French were thrown out, it would, of course, become the responsibility of the victorious Vietminh to set up a government and maintain order in Vietnam…[I do] not believe that in this contingency this country [the United States] would simply say, “Too bad; we’re licked and that’s the end of it.

Thus, the seed was planted. If the French were forced out, which was rather predictable, it was understood that the U.S. would not engage in open warfare with the Viet Minh. However, it could carry out clandestine operations against Ho Chi Minh’s forces so as to cause them trouble, or in the words of Foster Dulles “to raise hell.”

This is how American intervention and direct involvement in the Vietnam War began, a war in which the Americans had been arming both sides since 1945 and to which there was no official military objective except “to raise hell.”

According to a record of the January 14, 1954 National Security Council meeting, it was:

Agreed that the Director of Central Intelligence [Allen Dulles], in collaboration with other appropriate departments and agencies should develop plans, as suggested by the Secretary of State [John Foster Dulles], for certain contingencies in Indochina.

And, just like that, the entire overseeing of the Vietnam War was placed into the hands of the Dulles brothers.

Two weeks later, on January 29, Allen Dulles, selected Colonel Lansdale to head the team that was going to be deployed in Vietnam “to raise hell.”

Edward G. Lansdale, chief of the Saigon Military Mission, arrived in Saigon on June 1, 1954, less than one month after the defeat of the French garrison at Dien Bien Phu, for the purpose of a covert operation to conduct psychological warfare and paramilitary activities in South Vietnam.

Prouty writes:

It was not a military mission in the conventional sense, as the secretary of state had said. It was a CIA organization with a clandestine mission designed to “raise hell” with “guerrilla operations” everywhere in Indochina, a skilled terrorist organization capable of carrying out its sinister role in accordance with the Grand Strategy of those Cold War years.

…With this action, the CIA established the Saigon Military Mission (SMM) in Vietnam. It was not often in Saigon. It was not military. It was CIA. Its mission was to work with the anti-Vietminh Indochinese and not to work with the French. With this background and these stipulations, this new CIA unit was not going to win the war for the French. As we learned the hard way later, it was not going to win the war for South Vietnam, either, or for the United States. Was it supposed to?

It should be noted here that although NSC and Department of State records show that the Saigon Military Mission did not begin until January 1954, there were other CIA activities in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos (such as the White Cloud teams) long before 1954, and some members of the SMM had participated in these earlier activities as far back as 1945.1

These penniless natives…were herded into Haiphong by the Saigon Military Mission and put aboard U.S. Navy transport vessels. About 300,000 traveled on the CIA’s Civil Air Transport aircraft, and others walked out. They were transported, like cattle, to the southernmost part of Vietnam, where, despite promises of money and other basic support, they were turned loose upon the local population. These northerners are Tonkinese, more Chinese than the Cochinese of the south. They have never mixed under normal conditions. wherever these poor people were dumped on the south were given the name ‘‘Communist insurgencies,” and much of the worst and most pernicious part of the twenty years of warfare that followed was the direct result of this terrible activity that had been incited and carried out by CIA’s terroristic Saigon Military Mission.

…Nothing that occurred during these thirty years of warfare, 1945-75, was more pernicious than this movement of these 1,100,000 “Catholics” from the north to the south at a time when the government of the south scarcely existed. ”

Though Lansdale is listed as a U.S. Air Force Col. who was put in charge of the SMM, this was just a ploy. He would continue in Vietnam, as he had in the Philippines, to exploit the cover of an air force officer and to be assigned to the Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) for “cover assignment’’ purposes. He was always an agent of the CIA, and his actual bosses were always with the CIA.

With Ho Chi Minh’s defeat of the French in 1954 at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, ending the First Indochina War, it was understood that new oppositional leadership would be required if Ho Chi Minh were to be prevented from taking control of South Vietnam.

Ngo Dinh Diem would oust Bao Dai in a rigged referendum vote in 1955, becoming the first President of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam). The South Vietnamese were not interested in either candidate.

The reader should take note here that South Vietnam (otherwise known as Cochinchina for centuries), had never had a real form of government because it had never been a nation in its entire existence but rather had been made up of ancient villages for several centuries with relatively little change. There was no congress, no police, and no tax-system – nothing essential to the function of a nation. Diem’s “government” was nothing but a façade of bureaucracy.

Despite this, Diem’s Republic of Vietnam was treated as an equal member of the family of nations, as if it could stand on its own two feet and respond accordingly to the crisis its people were being thrown into. The Vietnamese government that Eisenhower believed ought to be fighting the Viet Minh on its own behalf did not exist.

The choice of a predominant number of Indochinese was overwhelmingly for Ho Chi Minh. They felt no loyalty to Bao Dai, who lived in Paris, and they hated the French. Ngo Dinh Diem was a nobody, who never accomplished anything to win the hearts of his people.

The Vietnam War, as it is understood today, was full of oversights. But perhaps the most serious oversight of all was that not one of the six U.S. administrations who oversaw the Vietnam War ever stated a positive American military objective for that war. The generals sent to Saigon were told not to let the “communists” take over Vietnam, period. As Prouty stated repeatedly in his book, this does not constitute a military objective.

The Saigon Military Mission was sent to Vietnam to preside over the dissolution of French colonial power. The Dulles brothers knew, by January 1954 if not long before that, that they would be creating a new Vietnamese government that would be neither French nor Vietminh and that this new government would then become the base for continuing the decade-old war in Indochina.

That was their primary objective.

The Geneva Conference, A Genocidal Exodus

The defeat of the French resulted in the Geneva Accords in July 1954 which established the 17th parallel as a temporary demarcation line separating the military forces of the French and the Viet Minh. Within 300 days of the signing of the accords, a demilitarized zone, or DMZ, was created, and the transfer of any civilians who wished to leave either side was to be completed.

Ho Chi Minh and all northern Vietnamese believed the nation to be “one.” They did not want a division of their country, as the Geneva Agreements had guaranteed.

The closing article of the Geneva Agreements, Number 14, a scarcely noticed few lines, read; “…any civilians residing in a district controlled by one party, who wish to go and live in the zone assigned to the other party, shall be permitted and helped to do so by the authorities in that district.

The ominous meaning of this was concealed under the guise of humanitarian words. The American-British note spoke of a “peaceful and humane transfer,” as if they were being kind and sensitive to the situation at hand, ready to uproot people who had lived all their lives in a settled village that had existed for tens of thousands of years.

The people of the world, most of whom had no knowledge of the Tonkinese, were led to believe that this offer was a most compassionate gesture. And, what is worse, the planners of this sinister plot were certain that the people of the world would never learn the truth, that this movement of one million North Vietnamese was really intended to be the kindling that would set the country on fire. It was a set-up and would lay the essential groundwork for America’s direct entry into the war.

The mass exodus of North Vietnamese to South Vietnam would be orchestrated by the Saigon Military Mission. This was a terrible upheaval for these people but it was sold to the West as if they were refugees fleeing Ho Chi Minh. In reality, they were fleeing the “psychological warfare” and “paramilitary tactics” today called “terrorism” that the SMM were unleashing in these small Northern villages.

In their own words, as found in documents released with the Pentagon Papers, leaders of the SMM wrote that the mission had been sent into North Vietnam to carry out “unconventional warfare,” “paramilitary operations, ” “political-psychological warfare,” and rumor campaigns and to set up a Combat Psy War course for the Vietnamese. The members of the SMM were classic “agents provocateurs.”

Prouty writes:

This movement of Catholics—or natives whom the SMM called “Catholics”—from the northern provinces of Vietnam to the south, under the provisions of the Geneva Agreement, became the most important activity of the Saigon Military Mission and one of the root causes of the Vietnam War. The terrible burden these 1,100,000 destitute strangers imposed upon the equally poor native residents of the south created a pressure on the country and the Diem administration that proved to be overwhelming.

These penniless natives…were herded into Haiphong by the Saigon Military Mission and put aboard U.S. Navy transport vessels. About 300,000 traveled on the CIA’s Civil Air Transport aircraft, and others walked out. They were transported, like cattle, to the southernmost part of Vietnam, where, despite promises of money and other basic support, they were turned loose upon the local population. These northerners are Tonkinese, more Chinese than the Cochinese of the south. They have never mixed under normal conditions. wherever these poor people were dumped on the south were given the name ‘‘Communist insurgencies,” and much of the worst and most pernicious part of the twenty years of warfare that followed was the direct result of this terrible activity that had been incited and carried out by CIA’s terroristic Saigon Military Mission.

…Nothing that occurred during these thirty years of warfare, 1945-75, was more pernicious than this movement of these 1,100,000 “Catholics” from the north to the south at a time when the government of the south scarcely existed.

It didn’t take long before the disturbance caused by the Diem-favored northern intruders onto the southern natives broke out into violence. Before long, the “friends,” according to the Diem government and its CIA backers were the one million northern Catholics, and the “enemy”—or at least the “problem”—was the native Cochinese of the south.

The time was right to fan the flames into war and to bring in the Americans.

• Part three of this series “The Fascist Roots of the CIA” will discuss the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations in relation to the Vietnam War and Kennedy’s last stand against Allen Dulles before he was gunned down on the streets of Dallas, Texas in broad daylight.

• Read Part One here

  1. L. Fletcher Prouty The CIA, Vietnam and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy, p. 61.
The post The U.S. Pivot to Asia: Cold War Lessons From Vietnam for Today first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Digital Trails: How the FBI Is Identifying, Tracking and Rounding Up Dissidents

Americans deserve the freedom to choose a life without surveillance and the government regulation that would make that possible. While we continue to believe the sentiment, we fear it may soon be obsolete or irrelevant. We deserve that freedom, but the window to achieve it narrows a little more each day. If we don’t act now, with great urgency, it may very well close for good.

—Charlie Warzel and Stuart A. Thompson, New York Times

Databit by databit, we are building our own electronic concentration camps.

With every new smart piece of smart technology we acquire, every new app we download, every new photo or post we share online, we are making it that much easier for the government and its corporate partners to identify, track and eventually round us up.

Saint or sinner, it doesn’t matter because we’re all being swept up into a massive digital data dragnet that does not distinguish between those who are innocent of wrongdoing, suspects, or criminals.

This is what it means to live in a suspect society.

The government’s efforts to round up those who took part in the Capitol riots shows exactly how vulnerable we all are to the menace of a surveillance state that aspires to a God-like awareness of our lives.

Relying on selfies, social media posts, location data, geotagged photos, facial recognition, surveillance cameras and crowdsourcing, government agents are compiling a massive data trove on anyone and everyone who may have been anywhere in the vicinity of the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

The amount of digital information is staggering: 15,000 hours of surveillance and body-worn camera footage; 1,600 electronic devices; 270,000 digital media tips; at least 140,000 photos and videos; and about 100,000 location pings for thousands of smartphones.

And that’s just what we know.

More than 300 individuals from 40 states have already been charged and another 280 arrested in connection with the events of January 6. As many as 500 others are still being hunted by government agents.

Also included in this data roundup are individuals who may have had nothing to do with the riots but whose cell phone location data identified them as being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Forget about being innocent until proven guilty.

In a suspect society such as ours, the burden of proof has been flipped: now, you start off guilty and have to prove your innocence.

For instance, you didn’t even have to be involved in the Capitol riots to qualify for a visit from the FBI: investigators have reportedly been tracking—and questioning—anyone whose cell phones connected to wi-fi or pinged cell phone towers near the Capitol. One man, who had gone out for a walk with his daughters only to end up stranded near the Capitol crowds, actually had FBI agents show up at his door days later. Using Google Maps, agents were able to pinpoint exactly where they were standing and for how long.

All of the many creepy, calculating, invasive investigative and surveillance tools the government has acquired over the years are on full display right now in the FBI’s ongoing efforts to bring the rioters to “justice.”

FBI agents are matching photos with drivers’ license pictures; tracking movements by way of license plate toll readers; and zooming in on physical identifying marks such as moles, scars and tattoos, as well as brands, logos and symbols on clothing and backpacks. They’re poring over hours of security and body camera footage; scouring social media posts; triangulating data from cellphone towers and WiFi signals; layering facial recognition software on top of that; and then cross-referencing footage with public social media posts.

It’s not just the FBI on the hunt, however.

They’ve enlisted the help of volunteer posses of private citizens, such as Deep State Dogs, to collaborate on the grunt work. As Dinah Voyles Pulver reports, once Deep State Dogs locates a person and confirms their identity, they put a package together with the person’s name, address, phone number and several images and send it to the FBI.

According to USA Today, the FBI is relying on the American public and volunteer cybersleuths to help bolster its cases.

This takes See Something, Say Something snitching programs to a whole new level.

The lesson to be learned: Big Brother, Big Sister and all of their friends are watching you.

They see your every move: what you read, how much you spend, where you go, with whom you interact, when you wake up in the morning, what you’re watching on television and reading on the internet.

Every move you make is being monitored, mined for data, crunched, and tabulated in order to form a picture of who you are, what makes you tick, and how best to control you when and if it becomes necessary to bring you in line.

Simply liking or sharing this article on Facebook, retweeting it on Twitter, or merely reading it or any other articles related to government wrongdoing, surveillance, police misconduct or civil liberties might be enough to get you categorized as a particular kind of person with particular kinds of interests that reflect a particular kind of mindset that might just lead you to engage in a particular kinds of activities and, therefore, puts you in the crosshairs of a government investigation as a potential troublemaker a.k.a. domestic extremist.

Chances are, as the Washington Post reports, you have already been assigned a color-coded threat score—green, yellow or red—so police are forewarned about your potential inclination to be a troublemaker depending on whether you’ve had a career in the military, posted a comment perceived as threatening on Facebook, suffer from a particular medical condition, or know someone who knows someone who might have committed a crime.

In other words, you might already be flagged as potentially anti-government in a government database somewhere—Main Core, for example—that identifies and tracks individuals who aren’t inclined to march in lockstep to the police state’s dictates.

The government has the know-how.

It took days, if not hours or minutes, for the FBI to begin the process of identifying, tracking and rounding up those suspected of being part of the Capitol riots.

Imagine how quickly government agents could target and round up any segment of society they wanted to based on the digital trails and digital footprints we leave behind.

Of course, the government has been hard at work for years acquiring these totalitarian powers.

Long before the January 6 riots, the FBI was busily amassing the surveillance tools necessary to monitor social media posts, track and identify individuals using cell phone signals and facial recognition technology, and round up “suspects” who may be of interest to the government for one reason or another.

As The Intercept reported, the FBI, CIA, NSA and other government agencies have increasingly invested in corporate surveillance technologies that can mine constitutionally protected speech on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in order to identify potential extremists and predict who might engage in future acts of anti-government behavior.

All it needs is the data, which more than 90% of young adults and 65% of American adults are happy to provide.

When the government sees all and knows all and has an abundance of laws to render even the most seemingly upstanding citizen a criminal and lawbreaker, then the old adage that you’ve got nothing to worry about if you’ve got nothing to hide no longer applies.

As for the Fourth Amendment and its prohibitions on warrantless searches and invasions of privacy without probable cause, those safeguards have been rendered all but useless by legislative end-runs, judicial justifications, and corporate collusions.

We now find ourselves in the unenviable position of being monitored, managed and controlled by our technology, which answers not to us but to our government and corporate rulers.

Consider that on any given day, the average American going about his daily business will be monitored, surveilled, spied on and tracked in more than 20 different ways, by both government and corporate eyes and ears. A byproduct of this new age in which we live, whether you’re walking through a store, driving your car, checking email, or talking to friends and family on the phone, you can be sure that some government agency, whether the NSA or some other entity, is listening in and tracking your behavior.

This doesn’t even begin to touch on the corporate trackers that monitor your purchases, web browsing, social media posts and other activities taking place in the cyber sphere.

For example, police have been using Stingray devices mounted on their cruisers to intercept cell phone calls and text messages without court-issued search warrants. Doppler radar devices, which can detect human breathing and movement within a home, are already being employed by the police to deliver arrest warrants.

License plate readers, yet another law enforcement spying device made possible through funding by the Department of Homeland Security, can record up to 1800 license plates per minute. Moreover, these surveillance cameras can also photograph those inside a moving car. Reports indicate that the Drug Enforcement Administration has been using the cameras in conjunction with facial recognition software to build a “vehicle surveillance database” of the nation’s cars, drivers and passengers.

Sidewalk and “public space” cameras, sold to gullible communities as a sure-fire means of fighting crime, is yet another DHS program that is blanketing small and large towns alike with government-funded and monitored surveillance cameras. It’s all part of a public-private partnership that gives government officials access to all manner of surveillance cameras, on sidewalks, on buildings, on buses, even those installed on private property.

Couple these surveillance cameras with facial recognition and behavior-sensing technology and you have the makings of “pre-crime” cameras, which scan your mannerisms, compare you to pre-set parameters for “normal” behavior, and alert the police if you trigger any computerized alarms as being “suspicious.”

State and federal law enforcement agencies are pushing to expand their biometric and DNA databases by requiring that anyone accused of a misdemeanor have their DNA collected and catalogued. However, technology is already available that allows the government to collect biometrics such as fingerprints from a distance, without a person’s cooperation or knowledge. One system can actually scan and identify a fingerprint from nearly 20 feet away.

Developers are hard at work on a radar gun that can actually show if you or someone in your car is texting. Another technology being developed, dubbed a “textalyzer” device, would allow police to determine whether someone was driving while distracted. Refusing to submit one’s phone to testing could result in a suspended or revoked driver’s license.

It’s a sure bet that anything the government welcomes (and funds) too enthusiastically is bound to be a Trojan horse full of nasty, invasive surprises.

Case in point: police body cameras. Hailed as the easy fix solution to police abuses, these body cameras—made possible by funding from the Department of Justice—turn police officers into roving surveillance cameras. Of course, if you try to request access to that footage, you’ll find yourself being led a merry and costly chase through miles of red tape, bureaucratic footmen and unhelpful courts.

The “internet of things” refers to the growing number of “smart” appliances and electronic devices now connected to the internet and capable of interacting with each other and being controlled remotely. These range from thermostats and coffee makers to cars and TVs. Of course, there’s a price to pay for such easy control and access. That price amounts to relinquishing ultimate control of and access to your home to the government and its corporate partners. For example, while Samsung’s Smart TVs are capable of “listening” to what you say, thereby allowing users to control the TV using voice commands, it also records everything you say and relays it to a third party, e.g., the government.

Then again, the government doesn’t really need to spy on you using your smart TV when the FBI can remotely activate the microphone on your cellphone and record your conversations. The FBI can also do the same thing to laptop computers without the owner knowing any better.

Drones, which are taking to the skies en masse, are the converging point for all of the weapons and technology already available to law enforcement agencies. In fact, drones can listen in on your phone calls, see through the walls of your home, scan your biometrics, photograph you and track your movements, and even corral you with sophisticated weaponry.

All of these technologies add up to a society in which there’s little room for indiscretions, imperfections, or acts of independence, especially not when the government can listen in on your phone calls, monitor your driving habits, track your movements, scrutinize your purchases and peer through the walls of your home.

These digital trails are everywhere.

As investigative journalists Charlie Warzel and Stuart A. Thompson explain, “This data—collected by smartphone apps and then fed into a dizzyingly complex digital advertising ecosystem … provided an intimate record of people whether they were visiting drug treatment centers, strip clubs, casinos, abortion clinics or places of worship.

In such a surveillance ecosystem, we’re all suspects and databits to be tracked, catalogued and targeted.

As Warzel and Thompson warn:

“To think that the information will be used against individuals only if they’ve broken the law is naïve; such data is collected and remains vulnerable to use and abuse whether people gather in support of an insurrection or they justly protest police violence… This collection will only grow more sophisticated… It gets easier by the day… it does not discriminate. It harvests from the phones of MAGA rioters, police officers, lawmakers and passers-by. There is no evidence, from the past or current day, that the power this data collection offers will be used only to good ends. There is no evidence that if we allow it to continue to happen, the country will be safer or fairer.”

As I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, this is the creepy, calculating yet diabolical genius of the American police state: the very technology we hailed as revolutionary and liberating has become our prison, jailer, probation officer, Big Brother and Father Knows Best all rolled into one.

There is no gray area any longer.

  • Image credit: K-Plex
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