Category Archives: Propaganda

Palestinians “Are Not Animals in a Zoo”: On Kanafani and the Need to Redefine the Role of the “Victim Intellectual”

Years before the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, US media introduced many new characters, promoting them as ‘experts’ who helped ratchet up US propaganda, ultimately allowing the US government to secure enough popular support for the war.

Though enthusiasm for war began dwindling in later years, the invasion of Iraq had begun with a relatively strong popular mandate that allowed US President George W Bush to claim the role of liberator of Iraq, the fighter of ‘terrorism’ and the champion of US global interests. According to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll conducted on March 24, 2003 – a few days after the invasion – seventy-two percent of Americans were in favor of the war.

Only now are we beginning to fully appreciate the massive edifice of lies, deceit and forgery involved in shaping the war narrative, and the sinister role played by mainstream media in demonizing Iraq and dehumanizing its people. Future historians will continue with the task of unpacking the war conspiracy for years to come.

Consequently, it is also important to acknowledge the role played by Iraq’s own ‘native informants’, as late professor Edward Said would describe them. The “native informant (is a) willing servant of imperialism”, according to the influential Palestinian intellectual.

Thanks to the various American invasions and military interventions, these ‘informants’ have grown in number and usefulness to the extent that, in various western intellectual and media circles, they define what is erroneously viewed as ‘facts’ concerning most Arab and Muslim countries. From Afghanistan, to Iran, to Syria, Palestine, Libya and, of course, Iraq, among others, these ‘experts’ are constantly parroting messages that are tailored to fit US-western agendas.

These ‘experts’ are often depicted as political dissidents. They are recruited – whether officially via government-funded think tanks or otherwise – by western governments to provide a convenient depiction of the ‘realities’ in the Middle East – and elsewhere – as a rational, political or moral justification for war and various other forms of intervention.

Though this phenomenon is being widely understood – especially as its dangerous consequences became too apparent in the cases of Iraq and Afghanistan – another phenomenon rarely receives the necessary attention. In the second scenario, the ‘intellectual’ is not necessarily an ‘informant’, but a victim, whose message is entirely shaped by his sense of self-pity and victim-hood. In the process of communicating that collective victim-hood, this intellectual does his people a disfavor by presenting them as hapless and having no human agency whatsoever.

Palestine is a case in point.

The Palestine ‘victim intellectual’ is not an intellectual in any classic definition. Said refers to the intellectual as “an individual endowed with a faculty for representing, embodying, articulating a message, a view, an attitude, philosophy or opinion”.  Gramsci argued that intellectuals are “(those) who sustain, modify and alter modes of thinking and behavior of the masses”. He referred to them as “purveyors of consciousness”. The ‘victim intellectual’ is none of these.

In the case of Palestine, this phenomenon was not accidental. Due to the limited spaces available to Palestinian thinkers to speak openly and truly about Israeli crimes and about Palestinian resistance to military occupation and apartheid, some have strategically chosen to use whatever available margins to communicate any kind of messaging that could be nominally accepted by western media and audiences.

In other words, in order for Palestinian intellectuals to be able to operate within the margins of mainstream western society, or even within the space allocated by certain pro-Palestinian groups, they can only be ‘allowed to narrate’ as ‘purveyors’ of victim-hood. Nothing more.

Those familiar with the Palestinian intellectual discourse, in general, especially following the first major Israeli war on Gaza in 2008-9, must have noticed how accepted Palestinian narratives regarding the war rarely deviate from the decontextualized and depoliticized Palestinian victim discourse. While understanding the depravity of Israel and the horrondousness of its war crimes is critical, Palestinian voices which are given a stage to address these crimes are frequently denied the chance to present their narratives in the form of strong political or geopolitical analyses, let alone denounce Israel’s Zionist ideology or proudly defend Palestinian resistance.

Much has been written about the hypocrisy of the West in handling the aftermath of the Russia-Ukraine war, especially when compared to the decades-long Israeli occupation of Palestine or the genocidal Israeli wars in Gaza. But little has been said about the nature of the Ukrainian messaging if compared to those of Palestinians: the former demanding and entitled, while the latter mostly passive and bashful.

While top Ukrainian officials often tweet such statements that western officials can “go f**k yourselves”, Palestinian officials are constantly begging and pleading. The irony is that Ukrainian officials are attacking the very nations that have supplied them with billions of dollars of ‘lethal weapons’, while Palestinian officials are careful not to offend the same nations that support Israel with the very weapons used to kill Palestinian civilians.

One may argue that Palestinians are tailoring their language to accommodate whichever political and media spaces that are available to them. This, however, hardly explains why many Palestinians, even within ‘friendly’ political and academic environments, can only see their people as victims and nothing else.

This is hardly a new phenomenon. It goes back to the early years of the Israeli war on the Palestinian people. Palestinian leftist intellectual Ghassan Kanafani, like others, was aware of this dichotomy.

Kanafani contributed to the intellectual awareness among various revolutionary societies in the Global South during a critical era for national liberation struggles everywhere. He was the posthumous recipient of the Afro-Asia Writers’ Conference’s Lotus Prize for Literature in 1975, three years after he was assassinated by Israel in Beirut, in July 1972.

Like others in his generation, Kanafani was adamant in presenting Palestinian victimization as part and parcel of a complex political reality of Israeli military occupation, western colonialism and US-led imperialism. A famous story is often told about how he met his wife, Anni, in South Lebanon. When Anni, a Danish journalist, arrived in Lebanon in 1961, she asked Kanafani if she could visit the Palestinian refugee camps. “My people are not animals in a zoo,” Kanafani replied, adding, “You must have a good background about them before you go and visit.” The same logic can be applied to Gaza, to Sheikh Jarrah and Jenin.

The Palestinian struggle cannot be reduced to a conversation about poverty or the horrors of war, but must be expanded to include wider political contexts that led to the current tragedies in the first place. The role of the Palestinian intellectual cannot stop at conveying the victimization of the people of Palestine, leaving the much more consequential – and intellectually demanding – role of unpacking historical, political and geopolitical facts to others, some of whom often speak on behalf of Palestinians.

It is quite uplifting and rewarding to finally see more Palestinian voices included in the discussion about Palestine. In some cases, Palestinians are even taking center stage in these conversations. However, for the Palestinian narrative to be truly relevant, Palestinians must assume the role of the Gramscian intellectual, as “purveyors of consciousness” and abandon the role of the ‘victim intellectual’ altogether. Indeed, the Palestinian people are not ‘animals in a zoo’ but a nation with political agency, capable of articulating, resisting and, ultimately, winning their freedom, as part of a much greater fight for justice and liberation throughout the world.

The post Palestinians “Are Not Animals in a Zoo”: On Kanafani and the Need to Redefine the Role of the “Victim Intellectual” first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Severodonetsk: Deciphering News of the War in Ukraine

Unless the Ukrainians have a decisive victory or a Russian advance is too great to hide, news of the war follows a pattern of headlines:

Russians shell dozens of Ukrainian towns in the Donbas

Casualties rise as Russia makes incremental gains in east

From the New York Times “The ruined industrial city in eastern Ukraine fell after months of Russian bombardment and weeks of urban combat. Like Mariupol, it became emblematic of the savagery of the war.”

Read similar articles and learn the content rarely follows the headline. Search Google and try to find images of a ruined and severely shelled Severodonetsk. Well, here is one. Take this headline from WION – World Is One News with global headquarters in New Delhi.

Satellite images reveal widespread destruction in Ukrainian industrial city of Sievierodonetsk

“High-resolution images collected by Maxar Technologies over a period of 24 hours on Monday show damaged buildings from artillery shelling in downtown Severodonetsk and around a hospital. From a hole in the roof, to charred buildings, the images showcase how the area has been laid waste by constant shelling.”

Note: Several online media published the exact same display of images and commentary.

Well, let’s see. Here is the first image.

Satellite image shows destroyed buildings in Rubizhne, Ukraine, near Sievierodonetsk.

Oh, not Sievierodonetsk, but a village near Sievierodonetsk.

This same photo has appeared under other headlines, such as: The Washington Post, Severodonetsk defenders holding out under merciless shelling, mayor says

“Severodonetsk, an industrial hub, is key to Russia’s plan as its fall would open up the route to Kramatorsk, the main city of Donetsk. At least 70 per cent of Severodonetsk is reported to be under Russian control, though the Ukrainian forces are fighting back. Ukraine repelling Russian attacks. The regional governor, Serhiy Haidai said tough street battles were continuing with varying degrees of success. ‘The situation constantly changes, but the Ukrainians are repelling attacks,’ he said.”

Next image.

A 40-meter crater can be seen next to destroyed buildings.

Evidently, this is not the industrial city of Sievierodonetsk.

“Sievierodonetsk important for Putin. Russia seeks victory in Sievierodonetsk, which would give it full control of Luhansk province. When Vladimir Putin began his invasion on 24 February, he pledged to “liberate” the parts of Donetsk and Luhansk where were in separatist hands.”

Next image.

This image shows a field peppered with craters caused by artillery, northwest of Slovyansk

“Russian forces have been focused for weeks on seizing Sievierodonetsk, which was home to some 106,000 people before Moscow invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, but the Luhansk region’s governor said Ukrainian forces would not surrender the city.:

Next image.

This image shows active artillery shelling in the town of Bogorodichne, Ukraine, northwest of Slovyansk

Where are photos of Sievierodonetsk?

“Widespread destruction (of Sievierodonetsk?)”

O.K.

This satellite image shows damaged buildings around a hospital in Sievierodonetsk, Ukraine

Wait a second!

(1) Where is the widespread destruction? I only see one possible bomb hit. Other dark spots are shadows.

(2) Is that really a hospital? The Red Cross is on top of vegetation. Has it been photoshopped? Note there is no parking lot nor cars parked by the “hospital.” Don’t people work there or visit?

CNN published the same image under the headline, “At least 2 hospitals hit by military strikes in Severodonetsk and Rubizhne, new satellite images show.” Does the image show a bombed hospital?

There must be some images of this heavily shelled Severodonetsk. Googled “heavily shelled Severodonetsk.”

Came up with the same previous image provided by Maxar Technologies, which showed destroyed buildings in Rubizhne, Ukraine near Severodonetsk. All other images were those of smoke rising over Severodonetsk. None of the images showed damage to the city.

Smoke rises during shelling of the city of Severodonetsk in eastern Ukraine on May 21

Tried YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tuC7zqWtEpw, which featured a video of Ukraine: images of shelling over Severodonetsk | AFP

The YouTube video showed only some noise and smoke, no extensive damages

Washington Post

“Ukrainian soldiers in Severodonetsk, the eastern city under continuous Russian bombardment, are holding their positions despite relentless shelling, and troops are “doing their utmost to defend the city,” its mayor, Oleksandr Stryuk, said Tuesday. The satellite images show fields full of artillery craters, city blocks reduced to rubble and a 130-foot bomb scar.

The Ukrainian government has said that about 90 percent of the buildings are destroyed.”

Press on the link The satellite images show and it will return to the articles – no images, that’s right, no images, and no “about 90 percent of the buildings are destroyed. ”

Conclusion

Western media, which tends to always degrade its adversaries, as long as they continue to be adversaries — Russia, China, Iran. Gaddafi Libya and not the post-Gaddafi Libya — report a one-sided view of the war. Other media, attempting to capture audience, sensationalize catastrophes. Obtaining credible reports of the war in Ukraine requires shuffling through several accounts and piecing them together to make a logical analysis. Undoubtedly, Severodonetsk suffered from shelling and had some serious, but not extensive damage. The Russians encircled the city, destroyed the bridges, and then entered the city, which the Ukraine army was not equipped to defend. After two weeks of retreating within the city, the remnants of the Ukrainian army left.

The post Severodonetsk: Deciphering News of the War in Ukraine first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Is Noam Chomsky a Qualified Military Analyst?

Renowned progressive intellectual Noam Chomsky, author of over a 100 books, was recently interviewed by AcTVism. The entire interview is interesting, but the focus here is on the first 20 minutes where the situation in Ukraine is discussed.

Chomsky lays out the US directive to NATO in the proxy war: “The war must continue until Russia is severely harmed.”

The professor scoffs at Russian military might. He says that western European countries “are gloating over the fact that the Russia military has demonstrated to be a paper tiger, couldn’t even conquer a couple of cities a couple of kilometers from the border defended mostly by a citizens army, so all the talk about Russian military power was exposed as empty…”

I grant that Chomsky is indeed a polymath, but is he an expert on military operations? Scott Ritter and Brian Berletic, on the other hand, are Americans steeped in militarism. Berletic is a former US marine and Ritter is a former intelligence officer for the US marines. Both of them explain the Russian strategy in shaping the battlefield. The reason for this is to minimize Russian casualties and Ukrainian civilian casualties. This is unlike American Shock and Awe warfare where “collateral damage” (as killing of civilians by US military is trivialized) is accepted to attain US military objectives. Moreover, since Donbass was the industrial heartland of Ukraine, as well as part of the wheat belt, it is in Russia’s interest to protect the infrastructure and agriculture, as well as protecting the, largely Russian speaking, people of Donbass. However, the perceived slowness of implementing the Russian strategy — surrounding enemy fighters in siege warfare and compelling their surrender — seems to make Russia a paper tiger in Chomsky’s estimation.

If Russia is a paper tiger, then what does that make Ukraine? Ukraine was trained by NATO, armed by NATO, and fed intelligence by NATO, as well as outnumbering Russian fighters while fighting on home turf?

Yet Russia has destroyed most of the Ukrainian fighters (including Ukrainian Nazi fighters), obliterated most of their weaponry, including resupplies by NATO, and has liberated Donbass and conquered other parts of Ukraine (a country on the verge of potentially becoming landlocked if it persists in fighting a losing battle).

Chomsky characterizes western countries as “free democratic societies.” [sic] He follows this by stating, “There is no conceivable possibility that Russia will attack anyone [else]. They could barely handle this [fight with Ukraine]. They had to back off without NATO involvement.”

The fighting was personalized by Chomsky as Putin’s “criminal aggression” and that Putin acted “very stupidly” because he “drove Europe into Washington’s pocket”: “the greatest gift he could give the United States.” Chomsky would heap more ad hominem at Putin’s “utter imbecility.”

“The United States is utterly delighted,” states Chomsky. The military-industrial complex is “euphoric.” “Fossil fuel companies are delighted… It’s almost unbelievable the stupidity.”

Chomsky acknowledges that Ukraine cannot defeat the paper tiger, Russia, and supposedly Russian military actions have united the western world against Russia, as if the western world were not already arrayed against Russia. Yes, Germany backed out of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline for delivery of gas to the German market. But who was hurt more by this?

Fossil fuel prices have soared and Russia is the beneficiary. Despite sanctions, the Russian ruble is strong. While the western Europeans have remained fidel to their American masters, Africa, South America, and Asia have ignored the sanctions. China, Pakistan, India, among others, have stepped in to import Russian oil and gas.

While Chomsky points out that the US military-industrial complex and Big Oil are overjoyed by the Russia-Ukraine warring, unmentioned is that average American citizens (and their European counterparts) are not feeling particularly gleeful at spiking gas costs and burgeoning inflation.

Chomsky keeps his focus on the invasion. “There is no way to justify the invasion. None!” Talk of justification is “totally nonsense,” says Chomsky. He admits that there was “provocation” by the US for ignoring Russian security concerns. “But provocation does not yield justification,” he asserts. “There is nothing that can justify criminal aggression.”

Why does Chomsky not mention the 8 years that Ukraine had been aggressing Donbass, criminally, where a reported 14,000 Donbass citizens were killed? Russia refers to a genocide perpetrated by Ukraine in Donbass. Russia justified its “special military operation” (what Chomsky calls a criminal aggression) by recognizing the sovereignty of the Lugansk and Donetsk republics and entering into a defensive pact (what NATO is supposed to be about).

War is anathema, but when diplomacy fails and you are faced with a violent, belligerent hegemon, then sometimes war becomes a necessity. When an animal is backed into a corner, it will come out fighting for its life. The writing was on the wall when the US, a serial violator of international agreements, broke its promise to Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would not move one inch further eastward and then expanded to the Ukrainian border, a red line for Russia. Russia was being backed into a corner. Speaking to the initiator of the war in Ukraine, a question arises: is the animal backed into a corner by a predator an aggressor for realizing that fighting was the only option?

But no lives needed to have been lost. No territory needed to have been lost (aside from Crimea which had held a referendum in which the population overwhelmingly voted to join Russia; it is a United Nations recognized right of a people to self-determination). And to think that all of this could have been averted if Ukraine had upheld the Minsk agreements that they signed granting autonomy to Donbass, nixed seeking NATO membership, and declared themselves neutral. In other words, honor a contract and use money allotted to militarism for other ends (say, for example, education, employment, and social programs). Sounded like a no-brainer from the get-go, and this has been magnified since the special military operation. But it does not seem to be sinking in to the Russophobia-addled brains of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his coterie.

All this is missing from Chomsky’s analysis. The Nazified Ukrainian government somehow escapes criticism. The US does not escape criticism, but this is mild compared to the name calling and criticism of Russia. It may not be surprising considering that Chomsky has been criticized for a biased and inaccurate version of Soviet/Russian history.

The post Is Noam Chomsky a Qualified Military Analyst? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

National Security State Censoring of Anti-Imperialist Voices

The US rulers use many tools to disrupt and disorganize the anti-war and anti-imperialist left. Three discussed here include: (1) corporate control of the news media gives them free reign to spread disinformation and fake news against foreign and domestic targets; (2) they use government and corporate foundation resources to fund and promote a compatible left to counter the anti-imperialist left; and (3) the rulers use their control of social media and internet to censor those voices.

Since 2016 their censorship of websites, Facebook pages, Twitter, and Paypal accounts has escalated alarmingly. They target those who counter the narratives the government and big business media feed us, whether it be US intervention and attempted overthrow of other governments, Covid, or stories of Russian interference.

With the Ukraine war, the US government and corporate media immense propaganda power has been directed against Russia and intensified on an overwhelming scale.

As the US empire began the Cold War soon after the end of World War II, with the rise of McCarthyism (which predated Joe McCarthy), news manipulation and suppression often fell under the control of the CIA’s Operation Mockingbird. The corporate media followed CIA directions in representing the interests of the US rulers. The CIA secretly funded and managed a wide range of front groups and individuals to counter what the US rulers considered its enemies. It encouraged those on the left who opposed actually existing socialism, seeking to foster splits in the left to undermine the communist and build the non-communist left.

Significant liberal and left figures who worked with the CIA included Gloria Steinem, key feminist leader, Herbert Marcuse, considered a Marxist intellectual, Walter Reuther, president of the United Auto Workers Union (1946-1970), David Dubinsky, president of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (1932-1966). The CIA collaborated with Baynard Rustin, Socialist Party leader and close associate of Martin Luther King, with Norman Thomas and Michael Harrington, who became the fathers of the third campist (“neither Washington nor Moscow”) Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). Likewise, Carl Gershman, a founder of Social Democrats, USA, and later founding director (1983-2021) of the CIA front National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

Through  the Congress for Cultural Freedom, the CIA underwrote the publishing of leftist critics, such as Leszek Kolakowski and Milovan Djilas’ book The New Class. The CIA aided the “Western Marxism” of the Frankfurt School, which included Theodore Adorno and Max Horkheimer, former director of New School of Social Research, also subsidized by the Rockefeller Foundation.

Corporate foundations, such as the Rockefeller, Ford, Open Society, and Tides foundations, among many others, funneled CIA money to progressive causes. The Cultural Cold War (pp. 134-5) noted that from 1963-66, nearly half the grants by 164 foundations in the field of international activities involved CIA money. The Ford Foundation continues as one of the main financers of progressive groups in the US; for instance, both Open Society and Ford foundations have heavily funded Black Lives Matter.

The CIA is regarded as a ruthless organization overthrowing democratic governments that US corporations considered a threat to their profits. While true, overlooked is “gentler” CIA work: underwriting and encouraging a compatible left, one which looks to forces in the Democratic Party for political leadership. This third camp left provides an alternative to an anti-imperialist or a communist left, and yet appears progressive enough to lure radicalizing youth, activists and intelligentsia. This cunning CIA strategy has fostered confusion, dissension, and divisions among these sections of the population.

These secret US government and CIA operations have been detailed in The Mighty Wurlitzer: How the CIA Played America, Finks: How the C.I.A. Tricked the World’s Best Writers, The Cultural Cold War, and AFL-CIO’s Secret War against Developing Country Workers: Solidarity or Sabotage?

In 1977 Carl Bernstein revealed CIA interconnections with the big business media. More than 400 journalists collaborated with the CIA, with the consent of their media bosses. Working in a propaganda alliance with the CIA included: CBS, ABC, NBC, Time, Newsweek, New York Times, Associated Press, Reuters, United Press International, Miami Herald, Saturday Evening Post and New York Herald Tribune. The New York Times still sends stories to US government for pre-publication approval, while CNN and others now employ national security state figures as “analysts.”

Reuters, BBC, and Bellingcat operate similarly, participating in covert British government funded disinformation programs to “weaken” Russia. This involves collaboration with the Counter Disinformation & Media Development section of the British Foreign Office.

The CIA pays journalists in Germany, France, Britain, Australia and New Zealand to plant fake news. Udo Ulfkotte, a former editor at Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, one of the largest German newspapers, showed how the CIA controls German media in Presstitutes: Embedded in the Pay of the CIA. Ulfkotte said the CIA had him plant fake stories in his paper, such as Libyan President Gaddafi building poison gas factories in 2011.

The CIA was closely involved with the long defunct National Students Association and with the trade union leadership. The AFL-CIO’s American Institute of Free Labor Development, received funding from USAID, the State Department, and NED to undermine militant union movements overseas and help foment murderous coups, as against President Allende of Chile (1973) and Brazil (1964), as well as defended the rule of their masters at home. This continues with the AFL-CIO Solidarity Center, which receives $30 million a year from NED.

The CIA created publishing houses, such as Praeger Press, and used other companies such as John Wiley Publishing Company, Scribner’s, Ballantine Books, and Putnam to publish its books. It set up several political and literary journals such as Partisan Review. This CIA publishing amounted to over one thousand books, mostly geared to a liberal-left audience, seeking to bolster a third camp left, and undermine solidarity with the once powerful world communist movement.

That mission largely accomplished years ago, today the national security state works to undermine the anti-imperialist left and build up a left inclined towards the “lesser evil” Democratic Party.

Recent US Government and Media Thought Control Measures

CIA use of corporate media to undermine perceived threats to the national security state escalated with Obama signing NDAA 2017, which lifted formalistic restrictions on security state agencies feeding fake news directly to the US population. The Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act in the NDAA, which went into effect in the early stages of Russiagate, created a central government propaganda organ:

to counter active measures by the Russian Federation to exert covert influence over peoples and governments (with the role of the Russian Federation hidden or not acknowledged publicly) through front groups, covert broadcasting, media manipulation, disinformation or forgeries, funding agents of influence, incitement, offensive counterintelligence, assassinations, or terrorist acts. The committee shall expose falsehoods, agents of influence, corruption, human rights abuses, terrorism, and assassinations carried out by the security services or political elites of the Russian Federation or their proxies.

Glen Ford observed:

Every category listed [above], except assassinations and terror, is actually a code word for political speech that can, and will, be used to target those engaged in ‘undermining faith in American democracy’ — such as Black Agenda Report and other left publications defamed as ‘fake news’ outlets by the Washington Post [article on PropOrNot].

This Disinformation and Propaganda Act created the innocuously named Global Engagement Center, operated by the State Department, Pentagon, USAID, the Broadcasting Board of Governors [renamed US Agency for Global Media], the Director of National Intelligence, and other spy agencies. This Center oversees production of fake news supporting US imperial interests, focused primarily against Russia and China (such as Uyghur genocide and Russiagate), but also against Nicaragua, Venezuela, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria, and others. Verifiable reports exposing US regime change operations and disinformation are often outright censored or labeled pro-Russian or pro-Chinese propaganda.

The Global Engagement Center finances journalists, NGOs, think tanks, and media outlets on board with campaigns to vilify non-corporate media reporting as spreaders of foreign government disinformation. This may shed light on the origins of smears that opponents of the US regime change against Syria or in Ukraine are Putinists, Assadists, tankies, Stalinists, part of a red-brown alliance.

National security state propaganda against Russia surged after it aided Syria in thwarting the US-Saudi war against the Assad government. It reached levels of hysteria with the fabricated Russiagate stories designed to sabotage the 2016 Trump presidential campaign. Seymour Hersh disclosed that the widely covered news of Russian hacking of DNC computers in 2016 was CIA disinformation. Hersh confirmed from FBI sources that Hillary Clinton’s emails were taken by Seth Rich and offered to Wikileaks for money, and that the fake news story of Russian hacking was initiated by CIA head John Brennan. However, exposures of the Clinton-neocon-national security state Russiagate fake news were themselves written off as disinformation concocted by pro-Russian operators.

An example of Global Engagement Center work may be a recent smear against anti-imperialists as agents of Russia appeared in The Daily Beast. It targets Lee Camp, Max Blumenthal, Ben Norton, and others: “propaganda peddlers rake in cash and followers at the expense of the truth and oppressed people in Ukraine, Xinjiang, and Syria” because of their accurate reporting that goes against the US propaganda line.

Other articles may indicate this government Disinformation Center use of the third camp left in the tradition of Operation Mongoose. George Monbiot’s article in The Guardian fit the billing:

We must confront Russian propaganda – even when it comes from those we respect – The grim truth is that for years, a small part of the ‘anti-imperialist’ left has been recycling Vladimir Putin’s falsehoods.

Louis Proyect crusaded for Syria regime change, and against those opposing the US war on the country as being part of a “red-brown alliance.” Proyect often relied on British Foreign Office funded Bellingcat for his articles, writing, “The Bellingcat website is perhaps the only place where you can find fact-based reporting on chemical attacks in Syria.” Proyect defended “Syrian revolution” “socialist” Anand Gopal, of the International Security Program at the New America Foundation, funded by the State Department and corporate foundations, and run by Anne-Marie Slaughter, former State Department official.

Democracy Now, which also repeatedly relied on Anand Gopal as a news source, has long received foundation money, and we see the self-censoring effect this has on its former excellent anti-war journalism degenerating into compatible leftism.

Another product of this government-corporate aid for this Democratic Party “lesser evil” left may be NACLA’s articles smearing the Nicaraguan government. NACLA Board Chair Program Director is Thomas Kruse of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. In 2018, NACLA, New York DSA, and Haymarket Books hosted anti-Sandinista youth activists while on a tour paid for by right-wing Freedom House.

In These Times, which receives hundreds of thousands in foundation money, ran similar articles smearing socialist Cuba. It claimed Cuba was “the Western Hemisphere’s most undemocratic government” – not Bolsonaro’s Brazil, Chile with its police who blinded pro-democracy protesters, not Colombia’s death squad supporting government, nor Honduras’ former coup regime, or Haiti’s hated rulers.

Haymarket Books, which produces many third camp left books, receives Democratic Party aligned think tank and nonprofit money via the pass through Center for Economic Research and Social Change. The Grayzone reported that the DSA, Jacobin Magazine, and Haymarket sponsored Socialism conference featured NED and State Department funded regime-change activists.

Jacobin editor Bhaskar Sunkara is former vice-chair of the Democratic Party’s reform oriented DSA. In 2017 the Jacobin Foundation received a $100,000 grant from the Annenberg Foundation, set up by billionaire publisher and Nixon administration U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain Walter Annenberg.

This milieu includes New York’s Left Forum, and the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, underwritten by the German government.

Bob Feldman revealed corporate financing for the Institute of Policy Studies, The Nation, In These Times, NACLA, Middle East Research & Information Project (MERIP), Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR), Progressive, Mother Jones, AlterNet, Institute for Public Accuracy, among others.

The US Chamber of Commerce discovered that foundations gave $106 million to workers centers between 2013-2016, and concluded that the worker center movement was “a creature of the progressive foundations that encouraged and supported it.”

These are but a few examples of US ruling class financing of anti anti-imperialist leftists, an effective means to channel and organize the left milieu into an opposition that poses no real threat to their control.

An essential characteristic of this milieu is looking to the Democratic Party as a lesser evil ally.

Alexander Cockburn  pointed out the dangers of this financing back in 2010:

The financial clout of the “non-profit” foundations, tax-exempt bodies formed by rich people to dispense their wealth according to political taste… Much of the “progressive sector” in America owes its financial survival – salaries, office accommodation etc — to the annual disbursements of these foundations which cease abruptly at the first manifestation of radical heterodoxy. In the other words, most of the progressive sector is an extrusion of the dominant corporate world, just as are the academies, similarly dependent on corporate endowments.”

Right after Trump’s surprise 2016 election win, the Washington Post cranked up the anti-Russia McCarthyism by introducing PropOrNot. ProporNot’s catalog of supposed Putin-controlled outlets sought to resurrect the witchhunts of the Red Scare era,  when 6.6 million people were investigated just between 1947-1952. The PropOrNot blacklist includes some of the most alternative and anti-war news sites on the web, including Anti-war.com, Black Agenda Report, Truthdig, Naked Capitalism, Consortium News, Truthout, Lew Rockwell.com, Global Research, Unz.com, Zero Hedge, and many others.

PropOrNot asserted 200 websites were “Russian propaganda outlets.” No evidence was offered. PropOrNot refused to reveal who they were or their funding. Alan Mcleod recently uncovered: “A scan of PropOrNot’s website showed that it was controlled by The Interpreter, a magazine of which [Michael] Weiss is editor-in-chief…[a] senior fellow of NATO think tank The Atlantic Council.” The Atlantic Council itself is financed by the US government and Middle Eastern dictatorships, weapons manufacturers Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin, Wall Street banks such as Goldman Sachs; and petrochemical giants like BP and Chevron. Mcleod concluded, “Thus, claims of a huge [foreign] state propaganda campaign were themselves state propaganda.”

Soon after PropOrNot, the German Marshall Fund, largely financed by the US government, concocted Hamilton 68: A New Tool to Track Russian Disinformation on Twitter. This identifies supposed “accounts that are involved in promoting Russian influence and disinformation goals.” Daniel McAdams of Ron Paul Liberty Report noted, “They are using US and other government money in an effort to eliminate any news organization or individual who deviates from the official neocon foreign policy line on Russia, Syria, Ukraine, etc.”

This year, the Department of Homeland Security presented a new censorship and disinformation organ, allegedly to combat pro-Russian fake news, the Disinformation Governance Board. As the Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act and PropOrNot showed, what challenges US national security state narratives is often labeled Russian disinformation. Glenn Greenwald forewarned, “The purpose of empowering the Department of Homeland Security to decree what is and is not “disinformation” is to bestow all government assertions with a pretense of authoritative expertise and official sanction and, conversely, to officially decree dissent from government claims to be false and deceitful.”

The national security state, which lied about Russiagate, lied about National Security Agency’s 24/7 spying on the US population, lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, plans to decide what is true and false, and enforce that on big business and alternative media outlets.

Thus, the CIA’s secret Operation Mongoose, devoted to encouraging hostility to actually existing socialism among the left, has morphed into official, public US government McCarthyite agencies directed at shutting down or smearing outlets and activism opposing the US empire and its wars.

What Corporate Social Media instruments are targeting which anti-war outlets?

This joint US government corporate media censorship has become an increasingly open attack. Paypal has allied itself with the Zionist Anti-Defamation League to “fight extremism and hate through the financial industry and across at-risk communities… with policymakers and law enforcement.”

Twitter has shut down many political accounts, even possessed the power to suppress the President of the United States’ account. In 2020, Twitter deleted 170,000 accounts “spreading geopolitical narratives favorable to the Communist Party of China,” and in 2021, it deleted hundreds of accounts for “undermining faith in the NATO alliance and its stability.” The company has hired a number of FBI officers for this censorship work. Twitter executive for Middle East is British Army ‘psyops’ soldier Gordon MacMillan of the 77th Brigade, which uses social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to conduct “information warfare.”

Google and Youtube executives team up with government spy agencies to censor anti-imperialist voices. Google’s “Project Owl,” designed to eradicate “fake news,” employed “algorithmic updates to surface more authoritative [compatible] content” and downgrade “offensive” [anti-imperialist] material. As a result, traffic dropped off to websites such as Mint Press News, Alternet, Global Research, Consortium News, liberal-left Common Dreams and Truthout.

Wikipedia censors articles on its website, as Ben Norton notes:

The CIA, FBI, New York Police Department, Vatican, and fossil fuel colossus BP, to name just a few, have all been caught directly editing Wikipedia articles.

A minor player,  NewsGuard, “partners” with the State Department and Pentagon to tag websites that deviate from the establishment line.

Facebook relies on PropOrNot’s Atlantic Council to combat reporting contrary to the US government line. Facebook later announced it would further fight “fake news” by partnering with two propaganda organizations sponsored by the US government: the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI). The NDI was chaired by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, while Senator John McCain was the longtime IRI chair.

Just as The Mighty Wurlitzer, The Cultural Cold War, and Bernstein’s The CIA and the Media showed with the big business print media, we are witnessing an integration of social media companies into the national security state.

Who have been censored by this corporate media and social media integration with the national security state? 

Like with any censored book list, national security state targets provide a Who’s Who of what we should be reading and watching: The Grayzone, TeleSur,  Venezuelanalysis, Lee Camp, By Any Means Necessary, Caleb Maupin, Syria Solidarity Movement, Consortium News, Mint Press News, Abby Martin, Chris Hedges, CGTN and other Chinese media, George Galloway, Pepe Escobar, Scott Ritter, ASB Military News, RT America, Strategic Culture Foundation, One World Press, SouthFront, Gonzalo Lira, Oriental Review, Revolutionary Black Network, Sputnik News, Ron Paul’s Liberty Report.  Youtube warns us of watching Oliver Stone’s Ukraine on Fire. Journalists who have collaborated with a Russian media outlet are now dubbed “affiliated with the Russian government.”

The FBI directly shut down American Herald Tribune and Iran’s Press TV. RT and Sputnik are already shut down in Europe. PropOrNot listing of 200 media sites catalogs for us what the national security state doesn’t want us to read, listen to, know, or think.

Since the beginning of the first Cold War, there has been a continuous CIA-national security state operation to neutralize, marginalize, and create disunity among its opponents, often with the collaboration of the left that consider the Democratic Party a lesser evil. This strategy includes extensive foundation financing of leftist outlets and NGOs in order to tame them.

Therefore, it is mistaken to fault the US left for its weakness. The CIA and the foundations have been key players in covertly manipulating opposition to US imperial rule, in part by strengthening the left soft on the Democrats to undermine any working class or anti-US empire challenge. To date, this national security state mission has also shown considerable success.

The problems of building a working class left-wing partly results from the US rulers’ decades long campaign to disrupt the movement. This involves not just imprisoning and killing activists, such as Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, or the Black Panthers, but also big business media marketing disinformation as news, their funding of a compatible left, and the present social media and internet censorship of anti-imperialist voices. Rebuilding an anti-war and working class left wing requires us to directly address and navigate through this maze ruling class sabotage has created.

The post National Security State Censoring of Anti-Imperialist Voices first appeared on Dissident Voice.

British “watchdog” journalists unmasked as lap dogs for the security state

Events of the past few days suggest British journalism – the so-called Fourth Estate – is not what it purports to be: a watchdog monitoring the centers of state power. It is quite the opposite.

The pretensions of the establishment media took a severe battering this month as the defamation trial of Guardian columnist Carole Cadwalladr reached its conclusion and the hacked emails of Paul Mason, a long-time stalwart of the BBC, Channel 4 and the Guardian, were published online.

Both of these celebrated journalists have found themselves outed as recruits – in their differing ways – to a covert information war being waged by Western intelligence agencies.

Had they been honest about it, that collusion might not matter so much. After all, few journalists are as neutral or as dispassionate as the profession likes to pretend. But along with many of their colleagues, Cadwalladr and Mason have broken what should be a core principle of journalism: transparency.

The role of serious journalists is to bring matters of import into the public space for debate and scrutiny. Journalists thinking critically aspire to hold those who wield power – primarily state agencies – to account on the principle that, without scrutiny, power quickly corrupts.

The purpose of real journalism – as opposed to the gossip, entertainment and national-security stenography that usually passes for journalism – is to hit up, not down.

And yet, both of these journalists, we now know, were actively colluding, or seeking to collude, with state actors who prefer to operate in the shadows, out of sight. Both journalists were coopted to advance the aims of the intelligence services.

And worse, each of them either sought to become a conduit for, or actively assist in, covert smear campaigns run by Western intelligence services against other journalists.

What they were doing – along with so many other establishment journalists – is the very antithesis of journalism. They were helping to conceal the operation of power to make it harder to scrutinize. And not only that. In the process, they were trying to weaken already marginalized journalists fighting to hold state power to account.

Russian collusion?

Cadwalladr’s cooperation with the intelligence services has been highlighted only because of a court case. She was sued for defamation by Arron Banks, a businessman and major donor to the successful Brexit campaign for Britain to leave the European Union.

In a kind of transatlantic extension of the Russiagate hysteria in the United States following Donald Trump’s election as president in 2016, Cadwalladr accused Banks of lying about his ties to the Russian state. According to the court, she also suggested he broke election funding laws by receiving Russian money in the run-up to the Brexit vote, also in 2016.

That year serves as a kind of ground zero for liberals fearful about the future of “Western democracy” – supposedly under threat from modern “barbarians at the gate,” such as Russia and China – and about the ability of Western states to defend their primacy through neo-colonial wars of aggression around the globe.

The implication is Russia masterminded a double subversion in 2016: on one side of the Atlantic, Trump was elected US president; and, on the other, Britons were gulled into shooting themselves in the foot – and undermining Europe – by voting to leave the EU.

Faced with the court case, Cadwalladr could not support her allegations against Banks as true. Nonetheless, the judge ruled against Banks’ libel action, on the basis that the claims had not sufficiently harmed his reputation.

The judge also decided, perversely in a British defamation action, that Cadwalladr had “reasonable grounds” to publish claims that Banks received “sweetheart deals” from Russia, even though “she had seen no evidence he had entered into any such deals.” An investigation by the National Crime Agency ultimately found no evidence either.

So given those circumstances, what was the basis for her accusations against Banks?

Cadwalladr’s journalistic modus operandi, in her long-running efforts to suggest widespread Russian meddling in British politics, is highlighted in her witness statement to the court.

In it, she refers to another of her Russiagate-style stories: one from 2017 that tried to connect the Kremlin with Nigel Farage, a former pro-Brexit politician with the UKIP Party and close associate of Banks, and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been a political prisoner in the UK for more than a decade.

At that time, Assange was confined to a single room in the Ecuadorian Embassy after its government offered him political asylum. He had sought sanctuary there, fearing he would be extradited to the US following publication by WikiLeaks of revelations that the US and UK had committed war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

WikiLeaks had also deeply embarrassed the CIA by following up with the publication of leaked documents, known as Vault 7, exposing the agency’s own crimes.

Last week the UK’s Home Secretary, Priti Patel, approved the very extradition to the US that Assange feared and that drove him into the Ecuadorian embassy. Once in the US, he faces up to 175 years in complete isolation in a supermax jail.

Assassination plot

We now know, courtesy of a Yahoo News investigation, that through 2017 the CIA hatched various schemes either to assassinate Assange or to kidnap him in one of its illegal “extraordinary rendition” operations, so he could be permanently locked up in the US, out of public view.

We can surmise that the CIA also believed it needed to prepare the ground for such a rogue operation by bringing the public on board. According to Yahoo’s investigation, the CIA believed Assange’s seizure might require a gun battle on the streets of London.

It was at this point, it seems, that Cadwalladr and the Guardian were encouraged to add their own weight to the cause of further turning public opinion against Assange.

According to her witness statement, “a confidential source in [the] US” suggested – at the very time the CIA was mulling over these various plots – that she write about a supposed visit by Farage to Assange in the embassy. The story ran in the Guardian under the headline “When Nigel Farage met Julian Assange.”

In the article, Cadwalladr offers a strong hint as to who had been treating her as a confidant: the one source mentioned in the piece is “a highly placed contact with links to US intelligence”. In other words, the CIA almost certainly fed her the agency’s angle on the story.

In the piece, Cadwalladr threads together her and the CIA’s claims of “a political alignment between WikiLeaks’ ideology, UKIP’s ideology and Trump’s ideology”. Behind the scenes, she suggests, was the hidden hand of the Kremlin, guiding them all in a malign plot to fatally undermine British democracy.

She quotes her “highly placed contact” claiming that Farage and Assange’s alleged face-to-face meeting was necessary to pass information of their nefarious plot “in ways and places that cannot be monitored”.

Except of course, as her “highly placed contact” knew – and as we now know, thanks to exposes by the Grayzone website – that was a lie. In tandem with its plot to kill or kidnap Assange, the CIA illegally installed cameras inside, as well as outside, the embassy. His every move in the embassy was monitored – even in the toilet block.

The reality was that the CIA was bugging and videoing Assange’s every conversation in the embassy, even the face-to-face ones. If the CIA actually had a recording of Assange and Farage meeting and discussing a Kremlin-inspired plot, it would have found a way to make it public by now.

Far more plausible is what Farage and WikiLeaks say: that such a meeting never happened. Farage visited the embassy to try to interview Assange for his LBC radio show but was denied access. That can be easily confirmed because by then the Ecuadorian embassy was allying with the US and refusing Assange any contact with visitors apart from his lawyers.

Nonetheless, Cadwalladr concludes:In the perfect storm of fake news, disinformation and social media in which we now live, WikiLeaks is, in many ways, the swirling vortex at the centre of everything.”

‘Swirling vortex’

The Farage-Assange meeting story shows how the CIA and Cadwalladr’s agendas perfectly coincided in their very own “swirling vortex” of fake news and disinformation.

She wanted to tie the Brexit campaign to Russia and suggest that anyone who wished to challenge the liberal pieties that provide cover for the crimes committed by Western states must necessarily belong to a network of conspirators, on the left and the right, masterminded from Moscow.

The CIA and other Western intelligence agencies, meanwhile, wanted to deepen the public’s impression that Assange was a Kremlin agent – and that WikiLeaks’ exposure of the crimes committed by those same agencies was not in the public interest but actually an assault on Western democracy.

Assange’s character assassination had already been largely achieved with the American public in the Russiagate campaign in the US. The intelligence services, along with the Democratic Party leadership, had crafted a narrative designed to obscure WikiLeaks’ revelations of election-fixing by Hillary Clinton’s camp in 2016 to prevent Bernie Sanders from winning the party’s presidential nomination. Instead they refocused the public’s attention on evidence-free claims that Russia had “hacked” the emails.

For Cadwalladr and the CIA, the fake-news story of Farage meeting Assange could be spun as further proof that both the “far left” and “far right” were colluding with Russia. Their message was clear: only centrists – and the national security state – could be trusted to defend democracy.

Fabricated story

Cadwalladr’s smearing of Assange is entirely of a piece with the vilification campaign of WikiLeaks led by liberal media outlets to which she belongs. Her paper, the Guardian, has had Assange in its sights since its falling out with him over their joint publication of the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs in 2010.

A year after Cadwalladr’s smear piece, the Guardian would continue its cooperation with the intelligence services’ demonization of Assange by running an equally fabricated story – this time about a senior aide of Trump’s, Paul Manafort, and various unidentified “Russians” secretly meeting Assange in the embassy.

The story was so improbable it was ridiculed even at the time of publication. Again, the CIA’s illegal spying operation inside and outside the embassy meant there was no way Manafort or any “Russians” could have secretly visited Assange without those meetings being recorded. Nonetheless, the Guardian has never retracted the smear.

One of the authors of the article, Luke Harding, has been at the forefront of both the Guardian’s Russiagate claims and its efforts to defame Assange. In doing so, he appears to have relied heavily on Western intelligence services for his stories and has proven incapable of defending them when challenged.

Harding, like the Guardian, has an added investment in discrediting Assange. He and a Guardian colleague, David Leigh, published a Guardian-imprint book that included a secret password to a WikiLeaks’ cache of leaked documents, thereby providing security services around the world with access to the material.

The CIA’s claim that the release of those documents endangered its informants – a claim that even US officials have been forced to concede is not true – has been laid at Assange’s door to vilify him and justify his imprisonment. But if anyone is to blame, it is not Assange but Harding, Leigh and the Guardian.

Effort to deplatform

The case of Paul Mason, who worked for many years as a senior BBC journalist, is even more revealing. Emails passed to the Grayzone website show the veteran, self-described “left-wing” journalist secretly conspiring with figures aligned with British intelligence services to build a network of journalists and academics to smear and censor independent media outlets that challenge the narratives of the Western intelligence agencies.

Mason’s concerns about left-wing influence on public opinion have intensified the more he has faced criticism from the left over his demands for fervent, uncritical support of NATO and as he has lobbied for greater Western interference in Ukraine. Both are aims he shares with Western intelligence services.

Along with the establishment media, Mason has called for sending advanced weaponry to Kyiv, likely to raise the death toll on both sides of the war and risk a nuclear confrontation between the West and Russia.

In the published emails, Mason suggests the harming and “relentless deplatforming” of independent investigative media sites – such as the Grayzone, Consortium News and Mint Press – that host non-establishment journalists. He and his correspondents also debate whether to include Declassified UK and OpenDemocracy. One of his co-conspirators suggests a “full nuclear legal to squeeze them financially.”

Mason himself proposes starving these websites of income by secretly pressuring Paypal to stop readers from being able to make donations to support their work.

It should be noted that, in the wake of Mason’s correspondence,  PayPal did indeed launch just such a crackdown, including against Consortium News and MintPress, after earlier targeting WikiLeaks.

Mason’s email correspondents include two figures intimately tied to British intelligence: Amil Khan is described by the Grayzone as “a shadowy intelligence contractor” with ties to the UK’s National Security Council. He founded Valent Projects, establishing his credentials in a dirty propaganda war in support of head-chopping jihadist groups trying to bring down the Russian-supported Syrian government.

Clandestine ‘clusters’

The other intelligence operative is someone Mason refers to as a “friend”: Andy Pryce, the head of the Foreign Office’s shadowy Counter Disinformation and Media Development (CDMD) unit, founded in 2016 to “counter-strike against Russian propaganda”. Mason and Pryce spend much of their correspondence discussing when to meet up in London pubs for a drink, according to the Grayzone.

The Foreign Office managed to keep the CDMD unit’s existence secret for two years. The UK government has refused to disclose basic information about the CDMD on grounds of national security, although it is now known that it is overseen by the National Security Council.

The CDMD’s existence came to light because of leaks about another covert information warfare operation, the Integrity Initiative.

Notably, the Integrity Initiative was run on the basis of clandestine “clusters,” in North America and Europe, of journalists, academics, politicians and security officials advancing narratives shared with Western intelligence agencies to discredit Russia, China, Julian Assange, and Jeremy Corbyn, the former, left-wing leader of the Labor Party.

Cadwalladr was named in the British cluster, along with other prominent journalists: David Aaronovitch and Dominic Kennedy of the Times; the Guardian’s Natalie Nougayrede and Paul Canning; Jonathan Marcus of the BBC; the Financial Times’ Neil Buckley; the Economist’s Edward Lucas; and Sky News’ Deborah Haynes.

In his emails, Mason appears to want to renew this type of work but to direct its energies more specifically at damaging independent, dissident media – with his number one target the Grayzone, which played a critical role in exposing the Integrity Initiative.

Mason’s “friend” – the CDMD’s head, Andy Pryce – “featured prominently” in documents relating to the Integrity Initiative, the Grayzone observes.

This background is not lost on Mason. He notes in his correspondence the danger that his plot to “deplatform” independent media could “end up with the same problem as Statecraft” – a reference to the Institute of Statecraft, the Integrity Initiative’s parent charity, which the Grayzone and others exposed. He cautions: “The opposition are not stupid, they can spot an info op – so the more this is designed to be organic the better.”

Pryce and Mason discuss creating an astroturf civil-society organization that would lead their “information war” as part of an operation they brand the “International Information Brigade”.

Mason suggests the suspension of the libel laws for what he calls “foreign agents” – presumably meaning that the Information Brigade would be able to defame independent journalists as Russian agents, echoing the establishment media’s treatment of Assange, without fear of legal action that would show these were evidence-free smears.

‘Putin infosphere’

Another correspondent, Emma Briant, an academic who claims to specialize in Russian disinformation, offers an insight into how she defines the presumed enemy within: those “close to WikiLeaks,” anyone “trolling Carole [Cadwalladr],” and outlets “discouraging people from reading the Guardian.”

Mason himself produces an eye-popping, self-drawn, spider’s web chart of the supposedly “pro-Putin infosphere” in the UK, embracing much of the left, including Corbyn, the Stop the War movement, as well as the Black and Muslim communities. Several media sites are mentioned, including Mint Press and Novara Media, an independent British website sympathetic to Corbyn.

Khan and Mason consider how they can help trigger a British government investigation of independent outlets so that they can be labeled as “Russian-state affiliated media” to further remove them from visibility on social media.

Mason states that the goal is to prevent the emergence of a “left anti-imperialist identity,” which, he fears, “will be attractive because liberalism doesn’t know how to counter it” – a telling admission that he believes genuine left-wing critiques of Western foreign policy cannot be dealt with through public refutation but only through secret disinformation campaigns.

He urges efforts to crack down not only on independent media and “rogue” academics but on left-wing political activism. He identifies as a particular threat Corbyn, who was earlier harmed through a series of disinformation campaigns, including entirely evidence-free claims that the Labour Party during his tenure became a hotbed of antisemitism.

Mason fears Corbyn might set up a new, independent left-wing party. It is important, Mason notes, to “quarantine” and “stigmatize” any such ideology.

In short, rather than use journalism to win the argument and the battle for public opinion, Mason wishes to use the dark arts of the security state to damage independent media, as well as dissident academics and left-wing political activism. He wants no influences on the public that are not tightly aligned with the core foreign policy goals of the national security state.

Mason’s correspondence hints at the reality behind Cadwalladr’s claim that Assange was the “swirling vortex at the centre of everything.”

Assange symbolizes that “swirling vortex” to intelligence-aligned establishment journalists only because WikiLeaks has published plenty of insider information that exposes Western claims to global moral leadership as a complete charade – and the journalists who amplify those claims as utter charlatans.

In part two, we will examine why journalists like Mason and Cadwalladr prosper in the establishment media; the long history of collusion between Western intelligence agencies and the establishment media; and how that mutually beneficial collusion is becoming ever more important to each of them.

First published in Mint Press

The post British “watchdog” journalists unmasked as lap dogs for the security state first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Federal Republic of New Normal Germany

So, the government of New Normal Germany is contemplating forcing everyone to wear medical-looking masks in public from October to Easter on a permanent basis. Seriously, the fanatical New Normal fascists currently in charge of Germany’s government — mostly the SPD and the Greens — are discussing revising the “Infection Protection Act” in order to grant themselves the authority to continue to rule the country by decree, as they have been doing since the Autumn of 2020, thus instituting a “permanent state of emergency” that overrides the German constitution, indefinitely.

Go ahead, read that paragraph again. Take a break from the carnage in non-Nazi Ukraine, the show trials in the US congress, monkeypoxmania, Sudden Adult Death Syndrome, Sudden Bovine Death Syndrome, family-oriented drag queens, non-“vaccine”-related facial paralysis, and Biden falling off his bike, and reflect on what this possibly portends, the dominant country of the European Union dispensing with any semblance of democracy and transforming into a fascist biosecurity police state.

OK, let me try to be more precise, as I don’t want to be arrested for “spreading disinformation” or “delegitimizing the state.” Germany is not dispensing with the semblance of democracy. No, the German constitution will remain in effect. It’s just that the revised Infection Protection Act — like the “Enabling Act of 1933,” which granted the Nazi government the authority to issue any edicts it wanted under the guise of “remedying the distress of the people” — will grant the New Normal German government the authority to continue to supersede the constitution and issue whatever edicts it wants under the guise of “protecting the public health” … for example, forcing the German masses to display their conformity to the new official ideology by wearing medical-looking masks on their faces for six or seven months of every year.

In addition to a ritualized mass-demonstration of mindlessly fascist ideological conformity (a standard feature of all totalitarian systems), this annual October-to-Easter mask-mandate, by simulating the new paranoid “reality” in which humanity is under constant attack by deadly viruses and other “public health threats,” will cement the New Normal ideology into place. If not opposed and stopped here in Germany, it will spread to other European countries, and to Canada, and Australia, and the New Normal US states. If you think what happens in Germany doesn’t matter because you live in Florida, or in Sweden, or the UK, you haven’t been paying attention recently. The roll-out of the New Normal is a global project … a multi-phase, multi-faceted project. Germany is just the current “tip of the spear.”

Sadly, the majority of the German masses will mindlessly click heels and follow orders, as they have since the Spring of 2020. They’re all enjoying a “summer break” at the moment, but come October they will don their masks, start segregating and persecuting “the Unvaccinated,” and otherwise behaving like fascists again. I hesitate to blame it on the German character, because we’ve witnessed the same mindlessly fascistic behavior all around the world over the past two years, but, I have to admit, there is something particularly scary about how the Germans do it.

Meanwhile, Germany’s FBI (der Bundesverfassungsschutz, or BfV) is hard at work enforcing the new Gleichschaltung. According to a report in Die Welt, the BfV is not just surveilling people who use terms like “Corona dictatorship” (and presumably a long list of other “wrongspeak” words), but it is also “surveilling people and groups that disseminate conspiracy theories, or call the democratic nature of the state into question.” Politicians are insisting that the BfV “toughen up the classification of political crime, especially regarding the Corona deniers.”

Yes, that’s right, publicly challenging the official Covid-19 narrative, or protesting official New Normal ideology, is a political crime here in New Normal Germany. It has been since May 2021, when the Bundesverfassungsschutz established a new official category of domestic extremism … “Anti-democratic or Security-threatening Delegitimization of the State.” I covered this in one of my columns at the time (“The Criminalization of Dissent” ) as did some corporate press, like The New York Times (“German Intelligence Puts Coronavirus Deniers Under Surveillance“), but, for some reason, the story didn’t get much traction.

“Delegitimization of the State” … let that language sink in for a moment. What it means is that anyone the New Normal authorities deem to be “delegitimizing the state” can be arrested and charged as a “political criminal.” I wasn’t entirely clear on what is meant by “delegitimizing,” so I looked the word up, and the definition I found was “to diminish or destroy the legitimacy, prestige, or authority” of something, or someone, which … I don’t know, sounds a little overly broad and subject to arbitrary interpretation.

For example, if I, right here in this column, were to propose that the German government had no legitimate reasons whatsoever for locking down the entire population, forcing everyone to wear medical-looking masks, and demonizing and segregating “the Unvaccinated,” that might make me a “political criminal.” Likewise, if I were to describe Karl Lauterbach, the Minister of Health of New Normal Germany, as a fanatical fascist, and a sociopathic liar, that might make me a “political criminal.” Or, if I were to point out how the German state media have deceived and gaslighted the German public for over two years like the proverbial Goebbelsian keyboard instrument, that might make me a “political criminal.” Or, if I were crazy enough to publish a book of essays written over the past two years documenting The Rise of the New Normal Reich, including essays about New Normal Germany, that might also make me a “political criminal.”

Naturally, I am a little uneasy, living in a former-Nazi country where I could be classified as a “political criminal” for my activities as an author and a political satirist … which, of course, is the point of the new classification. It is meant to scare dissidents like me into silence. Or … OK, it isn’t meant for me. It is meant for German dissidents like me. I’m an American, not a German citizen. So the chances of a heavily-armed “Special Commando” team storming my apartment in the wee hours of the morning and arresting me on trumped-up weapons charges — as they recently did to Dr. Paul Brandenburg, an outspoken opponent of the New Normal Reich — are probably (hopefully) fairly remote.

In any event, I would never do that; i.e., attempt to diminish the prestige or authority of the Federal Republic of New Normal Germany, or in any way compare it to Nazi Germany, or any other totalitarian system, or describe it as a nascent biosecurity police state wherein the rule of law has been supplanted by the arbitrary edicts of fascist fanatics, because that would just be asking for trouble. After all, if we’ve learned anything from history, the smart thing to do during times like these is to keep one’s mouth shut and follow orders, and if you hear a train coming … well, just look the other way.

The post The Federal Republic of New Normal Germany first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Monkeypoxmania

Lock yourselves down inside your homes! Break out the masks and prophylactic face-shields! Switch off what’s left of your critical faculties and prepare yourselves to “follow the Science!”

Yes, that’s right, just as the survivors of The Simulated Apocalyptic Plague of 2020-2021 were crawling up out of their Covid bunkers and starting to “build the world back better,” another biblical pestilence has apparently been unleashed on humanity!

This time it’s the dreaded monkeypox, a viral zoonotic disease endemic to central and western Africa that circulates among giant pouched rats, squirrels, dormice, and other rodents and has been infecting humans for centuries, or millennia. Monkeypox causes fever, headaches, muscle aches, and sometimes fluid-filled blisters, tends to resolve in two to four weeks, and thus poses absolutely zero threat to human civilization generally.

The corporate media do not want to alarm us, but it is their duty as professional journalists to report that THE MONKEYPOX IS SPREADING LIKE WILDFIRE! OVER 100 CASES OF MONKEYPOX have been confirmed in countries throughout the world! MONKEYPOX TASK FORCES are being convened! Close-up photos of NASTY-LOOKING MONKEYPOX LESIONS are being disseminated! The President of the United States says “EVERYBODY SHOULD BE CONCERNED!”

The WHO is calling it “a multi-country monkeypox outbreak!” Belgium has introduced a mandatory quarantine. The CDC has gone to “Alert Level 2!” “Enhanced precautions” are recommended! In New York City, the nexus of probably the most paranoid, mask-wearing, quadruple-“vaccinated” New Normal fanatics on the face of the planet, the Department of Health is instructing everyone to wear the masks they are already wearing to protect them from both Covid and monkeypox, and smallpox, and largepox, and airborne cancer, and God knows what other horrors might be out there!

Here in the capital of New Normal Germany, Karl Lauterbach, who, despite wasting hundreds of millions of Euros on superfluous “vaccines,” attempting to compulsorily “vaccinate” every man, woman, and child in the country, and otherwise behaving like a fascist lunatic, remains the official Minister of Health, is excitedly hopping up and down and hooting like a Siamang gibbon about “recommendations for isolation and quarantine,” and other “monkeypox containment measures.”

As Yogi Berra famously put it, “it’s like déjà vu all over again.”

Except that it isn’t … or it probably isn’t. Before I could even finish this column, the United GloboCap Ministries of Truth started dialing down the monkeypox panic. It appears they’re going with “it’s a gay pandemic,” or an “LGBTQ pandemic,” or an “LGBTQIA+ pandemic,” or whatever the official acronym is by the time I click the “publish” button, and making other noises to the effect that it might not be absolutely necessary this time to order a full-scale global lockdown, release the drones and robotic dogs, inject everybody with experimental drugs, and start viciously persecuting “monkeypox deniers.”

You didn’t really believe they were launching a shot-by-shot remake of Covid, did you? The showrunners at GloboCap may be preternaturally evil, but they aren’t stupid. Only the most hopelessly brainwashed New Normals would go along with another “apocalyptic pandemic” before the current one has even been officially cancelled. No, unfortunately, odds are, we’re just getting a preview of what “life” is going to be like in the New Normal Reich, where the masses will be perpetually menaced by an inexhaustible assortment of exotic pathogens and interchangeable pseudo-pathological threats.

The New Normal was never about Covid specifically. It was always about implementing a new “reality” — a pathologized-totalitarian “reality,” not so much ruled as discreetly “guided” by unaccountable, supranational, non-governmental governing entities, global corporations, and assorted billionaires — in which Covid, or monkeypox, or kangaroopox, or any other viral zoonotic disease, or any climate-related or economic development, or aberrant ideological or behavioral tendency, could be used as a pretext to foment another outbreak of mindless mass hysteria and impose additional restrictions on society.

That new “reality” has been implemented … perhaps not as firmly as originally intended, but implemented nonetheless. We are being conditioned to accept this new “reality,” as we were conditioned to accept the War on Terror “reality,” to pointlessly remove our footwear at the airport, place our liquids in travel-size containers, submit to groping by “security staff,” and otherwise live in a state of constant low-level fear of a “terrorist attack,” as we are now being conditioned to wear masks where we are told, submit to mandatory “vaccination,” and live in constant low-level fear of the next purportedly deadly pathogen.

Sadly, most of us will accept this conditioning, and adapt to the “minor inconveniences” that are being imposed on us at every turn. After all, what difference does it really make if we have to wear a little mask on an airplane, or on public transport, or at the doctor’s office? And is it really such a breach of our fundamental rights to freedom of speech, freedom of movement, association, privacy, and basic bodily autonomy if we have to allow governments and global corporations to censor our political opinions, prevent us from traveling, forbid us to protest, and force us to submit to invasive medical treatments in order to hold a job? We got used to taking off our shoes at the airport and watching the “security staff” fondle our kids’ genitals, and invading and bombing other countries and murdering whole families with drones, didn’t we? Surely, we’ll get used to this.

Or … OK, I won’t, and neither will you, probably, but the majority of the masses will. They just demonstrated that pretty clearly, didn’t they? As they demonstrated it during the Global War on Terror. As they demonstrated it during the Cold War. As they demonstrated it … oh, never mind.

Sorry, I really wanted to end this column on a positive note. All right, here’s one! A little good news, finally! According to the professional fact-checkers at Reuters, it turns out “there is no evidence at all that the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting [which is taking place in Davos right now] was scheduled to coincide with these outbreaks of monkeypox,” and anyone who says there is, or implies there is, or who deviates from or questions the “facts,” or the “Science,” or whatever, is a “monkeypox-denying, conspiracy-theorizing, anti-vax, Putin-loving disinformationist,” and so everything is actually hunky-dory, or it will be as soon as we teach those evil Rooskies a little thermonuclear lesson!

I don’t know about you, but that’s a load off my mind. For a moment there, I thought we were in trouble.

The post Monkeypoxmania first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Intellectual Prostitutes Call Critics Foreign Agents, Useful Idiots

A military funded academic, working at a school launched by Condoleezza Rice, claims leftist and anti-war journalists engage in Russian disinformation. His report doesn’t provide any evidence or refute anyone’s argument, but the legacy media laps it up.

On Thursday the University of Calgary School of Public Policy released “Disinformation and Russia-Ukrainian war on Canadian social media”. With the exception of a blog by Dimitri Lascaris that dismantled its absurd ideological premises, coverage of the report was almost entirely uncritical. Headlines included: “Canada target of Russian disinformation, with tweets linked to foreign powers” (Globe and Mail), “Why is Canada the target of a Russian disinformation campaign?” (CJAD Montréal) and “Canada is target of Russian disinformation, with millions of tweets linked to Kremlin” (City News Toronto). The report’s lead author Jean-Christophe Boucher was a guest on multiple TV and radio outlets, labeling those who question the role of NATO expansion, the far Right and 2014 coup against an elected president in understanding the war in Ukraine “useful idiots” of Vladimir Putin.

Boucher and his co-researchers claim to have mapped over six million tweets in Canada about the conflict in Ukraine. They claim over a quarter of the tweets fall into five categories they label “pro-Russian narratives”. But they don’t even attempt to justify the five categories. Instead, they simply list the most prominent commentators and political figures promoting these ideas under the rubric of “Top Russian-influenced Accounts”. The list includes leftist journalists Aaron Maté, Benjamin Norton, Max Blumenthal, Richard Medhurst and John Pilger. But no evidence is offered to connect these individuals to Russia.

While “Disinformation and Russia-Ukrainian war on Canadian social media” reveals little, it has served its political purpose. It will further insulate Canadian officials from criticism of their policies by suggesting anyone questioning Ottawa’s Ukraine/NATO policies are part of a Russian disinformation campaign.

Boucher is a product of the Canadian military’s vast publicly financed ideological apparatus, which I detail in A Propaganda System: How Canada’s Government, Corporations, Media and Academia Sell War and Exploitation. He has been a fellow at the military and arms industry funded Canadian Global Affairs Institute and Dalhousie Centre for the Study of Security and Development. He advocates theories amenable to the military’s interests, including “strategic retrenchment: falling back on the people you can really trust”, which is a sophisticated way of saying Canada should deepen its alliance with the US empire. His academic profile says Boucher “is a co-lead of the Canadian Network on Information and Security, funded by the Department of National Defence” while his Canadian Global Affairs Institute bio notes that “he is currently responsible for more than $2.4M of funding from the Department of National Defence (DND) to study information operations.”

The military put up the money to establish the Canadian Network on Information and Security (CANIS) as a joint project between the University of Calgary’s Public Policy Institute and Centre for Military, Security and Strategic Studies. A 2020-21 DND report labels CANIS among three initiatives “launched to tackle DND/CAF’s most pressing challenges.”

The University of Calgary School of Public Policy is essentially a right-wing think tank housed at a university, according to Donald Gutstein, author of two books on Canadian think tanks. It was set up in 2008 with $4 million from leading oil and gas lawyer James Palmer and launched at a $500-a-plate gala that included a keynote speech by George W. Bush’s Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

The supporters of militarism would like us to believe that anyone criticizing Canada and NATO’s policies on Ukraine is a Russian agent or a useful idiot. But people being paid to promote opinions favourable to arms makers, the US empire and powerful individuals should have little credibility when it comes to criticizing the motivation of others.

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Educating Journalists about Canada’s Propaganda System an Eyeopener

Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.
—Noam Chomsky, Media Control:  The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda, April 1, 1997

 Propaganda isn’t a euphemism for how the other side controls information. Nor is it simply about jailing journalists or shuttering media outlets. A serious discussion of the matter must look at the broader forces shaping information dissemination and suppression.

On May 22 I spoke on a panel at the Canadian Association of Journalists conference titled Censorship, Journalism and War. The Ukraine-focused exchange climaxed with journalist Justin Ling asking if I was “ashamed” for having been interviewed by RT. Nope.

The CEO of Ethnic Channels Group, Slava Levin, launched the discussion by describing how broadcasters Rogers, Bell and Shaw summarily removed RT from their networks. As the distributor of RT and many international channels in Canada, Levin pointed out how the decision subverted the regulatory process.

The broadcasters and Liberals indifference to the regulatory process warrants criticism but I sought to drive the discussion away from RT, Russia, China and authoritarian enemies. Even without formal restrictions, the corporate media (and CBC) permit only a narrow spectrum of opinion regarding Canadian foreign policy, as I detail in my 2016 book A Propaganda System: How Government, Corporations, Media and Academia Sell War and Exploitation. Various internal and external factors explain the media’s biased international coverage. Most importantly, a small number of mega corporations own most of Canada’s media and depend on other large corporations for advertising revenue. Less dependent on advertising, CBC relies on government funds and has long been close to the foreign policy establishment. All major media firms rely on easily accessible information, which is largely generated by US wire services, Global Affairs, DND, internationally focused corporations and a bevy of think tanks and academic departments tied to the military, arms industry and corporate elite. Finally, the military, foreign affairs, organized ethnic lobbies and major corporations have the power to punish media that upset them.

In their coverage of Russia’s war with Ukraine/NATO the Canadian media and RT are the mirror image. They are exceedingly one-sided and their divergent reactions to antiwar disrupters highlight the point.

At the panel, I contrasted the Canadian and Russian ‘propaganda systems’ reaction to my March 21 interruption of foreign affairs minister Melanie Joly on Canada’s role in escalating violence in Ukraine, opposing the Minsk peace accord and promoting NATO expansion. With the exception of a short clip by CTV News World, Canadian media outlets that covered Joly’s speech on Ukraine ignored my intervention.

The Russian media treated the intervention differently. They portrayed me as an important author with a number of the top Russian channels inviting me on to comment. Russian media treated my disruption in a similar way to how the North American media covered Marina Ovsyannikova two weeks earlier. After she held a “no war” sign on Russia’s Channel One the western media hailed Ovsyannikova.

I told the audience that the CBC refuses to offer vital context. Just prior to the Russian invasion I wrote about senior CBC military writer Murray Brewster, who published a slew of reports in the proceeding weeks portraying Canada/US positively and Russia negatively while failing to report information he’d previously revealed that undercuts the notion that Canada is on the side of angels in the Ukraine crisis. In 2015 Brewster revealed that the protesters who overthrew elected President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014 were stationed in the Canadian embassy in Kyiv for a week. That year Brewster also reported that Canadian soldiers trained neo-Nazi political forces in Ukraine and in 2008 that Canada pushed Ukraine’s adhesion to NATO against Russian, French and German objections. These measures increased tensions, led to war in the east part of the Ukraine and helped precipitate Russia’s illegal invasion.

In his intervention senior CBC international correspondent Saša Petricic described how in countries with more repressive media climates that an “atmosphere” of self-censorship develops. In response I asked who in the room had heard of the Ottawa Initiative on Haiti?

In 2003 Canadian officials brought together top representatives of the US and French governments to discuss Haiti’s future without inviting anyone from that country’s government. According to the March 15, 2003, issue of L’Actualité (Quebec’s equivalent to Maclean’s), they discussed ousting elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, putting Haiti under UN trusteeship and re-creating the disbanded Haitian army. Thirteen months later what was discussed largely transpired yet the dominant media largely ignored the Ottawa Initiative meeting. A Canadian Newsstand search I did in 2016 while writing A Propaganda System found not one single English-language report about the meeting (except for mentions of it by me and two other Haiti solidarity activists in opinion pieces). It wasn’t until 2020 that Radio-Canada’s flagship news program “Enquête” finally reported on the meeting, interviewing the minister responsible for organizing the meeting Denis Paradis.

What type of “atmosphere” exists in the Canadian media that would lead it to ignore this important meeting Haiti solidarity activists raised repeatedly?

I asked the room of 30 journalists if they knew which institution has the largest public relations apparatus in the country. No one answered. The Department of National Defence/Canadian Forces (CF) has the largest PR (propaganda) machine in Canada, employing hundreds of “public relations professionals” to influence the public’s perception of the military. Last fall the military, reported the Ottawa Citizen, established “a new organization that will use propaganda and other techniques to try to influence the attitudes, beliefs and behaviours of Canadians.” Previously the head of CF called for the “weaponization of public affairs”, which proposed a plan to induce positive coverage and deter critical reporting. Journalists producing unflattering stories about the military were to be the target of phone calls to their boss, letters to the editor and other “flack” designed to undercut their credibility in the eyes of readers and their employers.

The editor in chief and executive director of CBC news, Brodie Fenlon, told the room it didn’t matter that DND had the largest PR apparatus in the country since they don’t determine what’s covered. True enough. But historically the public broadcaster’s close ties to the military have made it highly deferential to the CF. According to Mallory Schwartz in War on the Air: CBC-TV and Canada’s Military, 1952-1992, “When CBC-TV produced programs that raised controversial questions about defence policy, the forces or military history, it did so with considerable care. Caution was partly a result of the special relationship between the CBC and those bodies charged with the defence of Canada.” CBC’s ties to DND sometimes translated into formal censorship. After broadcasting The Homeless Ones in 1958 Deputy Federal Civil Defence Co-ordinator Major-General George S. Hatton requested the film’s withdrawal from the NFB Library and the public broadcaster cancelled its planned rebroadcast. Hatton insisted the CBC clear all content on civil defence with his staff.

The public broadcaster’s independence from DND has increased over the years. But since its inception the government has appointed CBC’s board and provided most of its funds.

Another element that helps make sense of Fenlon downplaying the importance of the CF’s PR machine is his (positive) assessment of the institution. But, as I pointed out, the CF is deeply integrated with the biggest purveyor of violence the world has ever seen — US military — and Canada has only fought in one war that could even be argued was morally justifiable. Sudan, South Africa, World War I, Korea, Iraq, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Libya were not morally justifiable wars.

Fenlon is, of course, unlikely to have risen to a position of influence within CBC news if he shared my assessment of the Canadian military’s ties to the US Empire.

As I was leaving the room, a young CBC journalist came over to say how much she appreciated my work. She then laughed and said she hoped her boss hadn’t heard her.

 

The post Educating Journalists about Canada’s Propaganda System an Eyeopener first appeared on Dissident Voice.

“Damned Fun”: “Top Gun: Maverick” And The Military-Entertainment Complex

In 1990, Tom Cruise, star of the 1986 blockbuster, ‘Top Gun’, said:

Some people felt that “Top Gun” was a right-wing film to promote the Navy. And a lot of kids loved it. But I want the kids to know that’s not the way war is – that “Top Gun” was just an amusement park ride, a fun film with a PG-13 rating that was not supposed to be reality. That’s why I didn’t go on and make “Top Gun II” and “III” and “IV” and “V.” That would have been irresponsible.

It would indeed, and one can only admire Cruise’s honesty and selfless determination… in 1990…  not to mislead young people.

Why, then, 32 years later, would Cruise decide to appear in ‘Top Gun: Maverick’? The Daily Mail provides a clue:

The 59-year-old superstar was “only” paid $13million, although he will also earn a percentage of every dollar taken at the global box office. He made $100million for the original Mission: Impossible film – and could earn even more if Top Gun: Maverick is a box office smash.

Which it is already. Associated Press reports:

Top Gun: Maverick” has already grossed $548.6 million worldwide, making it easily one the biggest hits of Cruise’s career.

His earlier refusal to be ‘irresponsible’ was in response to claims that Cruise’s bright, shining film was, in reality, a propaganda fecalith expelled from the bowels of ‘the Military-Entertainment Complex’. Thus, director Oliver Stone, in 1998:

“Top Gun,” man – it was essentially a fascist movie. It sold the idea that war is clean, war can be won … nobody in the movie ever mentions that he just started World War Three!’

In 1986, Time magazine reported that for the cost of just $1.8 million, the US Department of Defense allowed the Top Gun producers ‘the use of Miramar Naval Air Station’ as well as ‘four aircraft carriers and about two dozen F-14 Tomcats, F-5 Tigers and A-4 Skyhawks, some flown by real-life Top Gun pilots’.

The Washington Post reports:

It’s unlikely the film could have gotten made without the Pentagon’s considerable support. A single F-14 Tomcat cost about $38 million. The total budget for “Top Gun” was $15 million.

It wasn’t Catch-22, but there was a catch: in exchange for this lavish military support, the producers agreed to let the US Department of Defense make changes to the script. The changes were substantial but trivial compared to the real issue missed by almost all ‘mainstream’ journalists; namely, that the US war machine would not have spent millions of dollars subsidising a movie unless the core themes of the story provided a powerful propaganda service to the US war machine. And such, indeed, was the case:

The film conquered the box office, as well as the hearts and minds of young Americans. Following its release, applications to become Naval Aviators reportedly jumped by 500 percent. To capitalize on the craze, some enterprising Navy recruiters even set up stands outside theaters.

Time summed it up:

The high-flying hardware turns Top Gun into a 110-minute commercial for the Navy – and it was the Navy’s cooperation that put the planes in the picture.

No surprise, then, as The Washington Post reported:

Top Gun” (1986), turned out to be so influential it set the blueprint for a new kind of corporate movie product fusing Hollywood star power with the U.S. military’s firepower. Think “Black Hawk Down,” “Transformers” or “American Sniper.”

Donald Baruch, the Pentagon’s special assistant for audio-visual media, commented that the US government ‘couldn’t buy the sort of publicity films give us’. In reality, they do, in effect, buy this publicity:

Before a producer receives military assistance for a TV or movie project, the screenplay is reviewed by officials at the Department of Defense and by each of the services involved. The Pentagon ends up rejecting many projects that come its way on the grounds that they distort military life and situations.

Movies critical of the military will be difficult to make,” says former Navy Lieut. John Semcken, who served as the liaison on Top Gun.

The War Zone website provides some details behind military backing for the new, follow-up film, ‘Top Gun: Maverick’:

The War Zone obtained the official production assistance agreements, 84 pages in total, in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Office of the Secretary of Defense…

The documents confirm that filming was conducted on location at Naval Base Coronado, Naval Air Station (NAS) Fallon, NAS Lemoore, Naval Air Facility (NAF) El Centro, Naval Air Weapons Station (NAWS) China Lake, and Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island. Fallon is home to the Navy’s real-life Topgun program.’

How many aircraft carriers were thrown in?

The Nimitz class aircraft carriers USS Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt were also made available. Some filming even took place inside Roosevelt’s Combat Direction Center, which is the ship’s nerve center.

The War Zone adds:

Two different agreements say that the Navy was expected to provide between four and 12 actual F/A-18 fighters for film, “dependent on availability of aircraft.” There is at least one scene in the trailers that have been released so far showing a row of these jets, including one wearing a special paint job created specifically for the movie.

In addition, the Navy was to “allow for the internal and external placement of the Production Company’s cameras on F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets and Navy helicopters with the approval of the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR).

And:

There are some details about set construction in various locations, including the complete transformation of a hangar and squadron spaces belonging to Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 30 (VRC-30) at NAS North Island, part of Naval Base Coronado, for the movie.

While the recent, 75th Cannes film festival banned any official delegations or reporters from Russia, ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ was massively promoted. The Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the gala opening of the festival on a huge screen via a video link from Kyiv. Drawing heavily on Charlie Chaplin’s classic film, The Great Dictator (1940), Zelensky said:

If there is a dictator, if there is a war for freedom, once again, everything depends on our unity. Can cinema stay outside of this unity?

Quoting directly from Chaplin’s anti-war speech at the end of the film, Zelensky said:

In the end, hatred will disappear and dictators will die.

On The World Socialist Website, Stefan Steinberg responded:

The Ukrainian president’s duplicitous speech was then given a standing ovation by the well-heeled audience of film celebrities, super-models, media figures and critics gathered at the festival’s Grand Théâtre Lumière…

Zelensky, whose government’s promotion of unfettered free market capitalism and extreme nationalism includes full support for the notorious fascist Azov battalion, and his US-NATO backers stand for everything that Chaplin abhorred. In fact, what would a Chaplin make out of the self-satisfied rubbish about “poor, defenseless little Ukraine,” armed to the hilt and financed by the biggest imperialist robbers on the planet?

The Independent reports that the ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ film has come at just the right time:

In April, state senators were told how the US army faced a “war for talent” amid shrinking battalion numbers, echoing admissions from air force officials that its own pool of qualified candidates had fallen by half since the beginning of Covid. Things haven’t looked rosy for the navy either, which declared in February that it was 5,000 to 6,000 sailors short at sea. ..

Little wonder, then, that Uncle Sam once again welcomed Paramount Pictures with open arms for Maverick, granting director Joseph Kosinski and his crew all-access passes to highly sensitive naval facilities, including a Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. World-class technicians provided cast members with top-level fighter pilot training right down to seat ejection…

Happily, press reports inform us:

The US Navy is [again] setting up “recruiting stations” in cinema foyers across America. After the first film there was a 50 per cent increase in applications to join the Navy’s fighter programme. A spokesman said: “Obviously we are hoping for the same outcome this time around.”

If any readers notice any journalists asking Tom Cruise if he still wants ‘the kids to know that’s not the way war is’, that ‘Top Gun’ is just an amusement park ride’ that is ‘not supposed to be reality’, and that it would be ‘irresponsible’ to make ‘Top Gun III’ and ‘IV’ and ‘V’ – do let us know (gro.snelaidemnull@rotide).

The Guardian’s Mark Kermode – ‘I Give Up’

Given the military involvement in both ‘Top Gun’ films and the massive impact of the first film on US military recruitment, a natural concern for anyone reviewing the new film would seem to be the role of the US military since 1986.

A really salient fact about the world since the mid-eighties, as we all know – as our newspaper front pages, echoing ‘Top Gun’ heroics, never tire of telling us – is that the US has been relentlessly bombing countries like Serbia, Panama, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia and Pakistan ever since. In 2015, a study by Physicians for Global Responsibility reported:

The purpose of this investigation is to provide as realistic an estimate as possible of the total body count in the three main war zones Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan during 12 years of “war on terrorism”. An extensive review has been made of the major studies and data published on the numbers of victims in these countries… This investigation comes to the conclusion that the war has, directly or indirectly, killed around 1 million people in Iraq, 220,000 in Afghanistan and 80,000 in Pakistan, i.e. a total of around 1.3 million.

Of course, even these vast numbers omit the untold carnage inflicted by the US military between 1986-2001, and since 2015, but they do give an idea of what ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ and its admirers are actually celebrating.

In the Guardian, film critic Mark Kermode supplied a summary of the plot:

Maverick has in fact been called back to the Top Gun programme – not to fly, but to teach the “best of the best” how to blow up a uranium enrichment plant at face-melting velocity, a mission that will require not one but “two consecutive miracles”.’

As we know, ‘Real men go to Tehran’ – and Iran clearly is ‘the enemy’ here. The Independent acknowledged as much in noting that the US navy was given script approval:

This might also explain why Top Gun: Maverick never goes into detail about its villains – instead, audiences are simply informed that “the enemy” is a rogue state hellbent on uranium enrichment. Let’s assume it rhymes with “Diran”.

When Iran is bombed in real life, Westerners will cheer because they’ll think they’re watching their movie heroes annihilating The Bad Guys. When ‘the best of the best’ move on to trash the whole country, the public will have been so brainwashed, so desensitised, they will rate the ‘action’ on a par with something they saw on the silver screen. The same thing happened during the Gulf War that began in January 1991. One of us saw a spoof ‘Iraqi calendar’ behind the bar of an English pub, which showed the year ending for Iraq on January 16, the date the US-UK attack was launched.

When the state-corporate culture of a highly aggressive imperial power produces war films that deliberately blend fiction and reality, there are real-world consequences. Actual high-tech death and destruction are made to seem ‘cool’, ‘fun’ – an impact that no serious reviewer can ignore. Assuming, that is, we reject the idea that a review in a corporate viewspaper is mere ‘entertainment’ that has nothing to do with the real world it so clearly impacts. Assuming, further, that we reject the idea that we should function as passive, apolitical, amoral consumers manipulated by powerful elites who are not themselves passive or apolitical at all, but who work relentlessly to extend their influence, wealth and power.

As though spoofing, Kermode concluded his review:

Personally, I found myself powerless to resist; overawed by the “real flight” aeronautics and nail-biting sky dances, bludgeoned by the sugar-frosted glow of Cruise’s mercilessly engaging facial muscles, and shamefully brought to tears by moments of hate-yourself-for-going-with-it manipulation. In the immortal words of Abba’s Waterloo, “I was defeated, you won the war”. I give up.

Kermode gave up. In reality, the outcome of his personal ‘Waterloo’ was never in doubt. As Noam Chomsky famously told the BBC’s Andrew Marr:

… if you believed something different, you wouldn’t be sitting where you’re sitting.

Kermode’s review bowed down to an intellectually and morally castrated version of what it means to be a film critic, one that casually waves away the appalling, real-world impact of propaganda efforts like ‘Top Gun: Maverick’. It’s a version of film criticism that just happens – ‘My, my!’ – to align itself with the agenda of the consistently pro-war Guardian newspaper and wider corporate media system that makes him wealthy and famous for the back-breaking task of writing a few clever, filtered words every week.

In the Telegraph, Boris Starling managed to recall some military history:

Since then [“Top Gun”, 1986] we have had two wars in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, 9/11, Syria, and of course the current Russian invasion of Ukraine – all of which have, one way or another, dented the concept of unfettered American military might.’

Clearly, Nato’s devastation of Libya – executed with the assistance of more than a dozen US navy ships and a similar number of aircraft – never happened.

Starling’s distorted vision of history reminds us of the BBC’s unfortunate animated web article: ‘The Incredible Change The Queen Has Seen’. Reviewing major international political events since 1952, the BBC comments:

Russia invades Ukraine twice, bringing it into conflict with the West once again.

According to the BBC, then, no-one spread death and destruction in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Iraq, Libya, Syria… on and on. The BBC piece concludes:

Happy Jubilee Ma’am

The fact, as we have discussed, that the West got its hands on both Iraqi and Libyan oil challenges Starling’s idea that ‘unfettered American military might’ has been ‘dented’.

In a parallel universe, a film critic might have reflected on whether the vast death toll from US wars has ‘dented’ the ethical status of films like ‘Top Gun’ and ‘Top Gun: Maverick’. Instead, Starling noticed a different problem with the new film:

But at a time when a real conflict with unimaginable casualties and featuring medieval levels of brutality is taking place on NATO’s border – a conflict into which the US is still refusing to countenance direct military intervention – Top Gun: Maverick may be construed in certain quarters as borderline tasteless.

In other words, the problem with the ‘Top Gun’ franchise is not that the US military machine has been blitzing the world before and since 1986. The problem is that, after all that good work, it is refusing to ‘countenance direct military intervention’ in Ukraine – having merely sent $60 billion in ‘aid’, most of it military – making the latest ‘Top Gun’ heroics somewhat embarrassing. This is what passes for ‘mainstream’ ethical discussion in our high-tech, neon-lit dark age.

Another piece by the Telegraph’s chief film critic, Robbie Collin, notes:

The assignment involves neutralising a uranium enrichment plant somewhere overseas, though we’re told details about the enemy regime behind it are “scarce” – as they have to be these days when you’re trying to sell a blockbuster into as many overseas markets as possible.

Presumably, any Iranians wishing to see the film will be too dumb to realise what is blindingly obvious to everyone else:

Certain military details suggest it might be Iran, but it doesn’t matter either way: the film is low on militaristic swagger, and instead focuses on Maverick’s missionary-like determination to have these youngsters not just reach their potential but surpass it, with the help of their extraordinary aircraft.

Yes, who cares? We all know it’s Iran; so what if that background awareness makes it easier for the public to applaud when Iran receives a generous dose of ‘humanitarian intervention’? Collin concluded by heaping praise on ‘this absurdly entertaining film’.

And that’s all that matters – it’s ‘entertaining’. It’s also somehow ‘low on militaristic swagger’, despite being jam-packed with gleaming warplanes, aircraft carriers and military uniforms. Needless to say, it wouldn’t have mattered how ‘absurdly entertaining’ the film was, if it had depicted Iranian or Russian pilots heroically preparing to bomb the US.

In the Independent, Geoffrey Macnab’s article did manage to reference some history, but only in the sense suggested by the title: ‘Why Tom Cruise’s latest thrill ride is a take-off of traditional Hollywood flying movies’:

These films have a poetical dimension you don’t find in conventional earthbound war movies. Their protagonists are young and courageous, performing their own ethereal, Icarus-like dances with death. They’re fighting as much against the elements as against their enemies.

Again, no concern for the front-page carnage inflicted year after year.

Also in the Independent, Clarisse Loughrey supplied the standard, faux-feminist ‘dissent’, commenting on the new film’s compassionate treatment of its male characters :

The film, unfortunately, doesn’t extend as much of a loving hand toward the women of Top Gun – neither McGillis nor Meg Ryan, who played Rooster’s mother, make any kind of return.

But this shouldn’t be allowed to spoil the party:

Again, there’ll come a time when we need to talk about why Hollywood only accepts older women who look a certain way. Until then, who can be blamed for getting swept up by a film this damned fun?

In the Daily Mail, Jan Moir noted Cruise’s fearlessness in performing his own stunts, adding:

But there is one thing this Hollywood hero is scared of – old ladies! That’s where he draws the line – at the genuine and the realistic. And that is his biggest crime of all in my book… where are the women from the 1986 original? Excuse me. Simply nowhere to be seen. Vaporised by the Hollywood Age Patrol, the girls have somehow fallen off their perch and simply ceased to be.

There is one thing that Moir, like essentially all of corporate journalism, is scared of – the dead, injured, grieving and displaced victims of the West’s endless wars of aggression. The victims are not allowed to exist or matter. They’re not allowed to spoil the celebration of this ‘damned fun’, of the state-corporate fundamentalist faith that ‘we’ are The Good Guys.

But anyway, is it really such ‘damned fun’? Somehow managing to defy the corporate hypegeist, A.O. Scott of the New York Times writes of the new film’s characters: ‘the world they inhabit is textureless and generic’, ‘the dramatic stakes seem curiously low’, the movie is ‘bland and basic’. Scott’s conclusion:

Though you may hear otherwise, “Top Gun: Maverick” is not a great movie. It is a thin, over-strenuous and sometimes very enjoyable movie.

The post “Damned Fun”: “Top Gun: Maverick” And The Military-Entertainment Complex first appeared on Dissident Voice.