A spectre is haunting Western democracy — the spectre of “divisiveness.” After eight blessed years of peace and prosperity under the glorious reign of Obama the Benevolent, suddenly, we find ourselves besieged on all sides by Russian-sponsored sowers of “discord,” disseminators of “disinformation,” inculcators of “confusion” and “chaos,” and other enemies of our “democratic values.” These devilish instigators of “disunion” and “distrust” are determined to deceive us into doubting “the truth” by exposing us to “divisive ideas” and seducing us with their cynical skepticism into questioning the integrity of our political leaders, our intelligence agencies, and the corporate media, who would never, ever dream of lying to us … or so goes the new official narrative being rolled out by the corporatocracy.
It is utterly stupefying to watch as millions of Americans conform their beliefs and behavior to this official narrative like Inner Party Members in 1984. Apart from the fact that its storyline is simplistic and childish to the point of absurdity, it has only been roughly sixteen years since the corporatocracy introduced the beta version of this same official narrative, to which millions of Americans obediently conformed … which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands, the destabilization of the entire Middle East, and the transformation of most Western societies into militarized surveillance states.
As I outlined at length in part one of this essay, the War on Dissent being rolled out currently is an expansion of the “War on Terror” narrative, the storyline of which was equally childish, and simplistic, and blatantly fabricated. Though it is fashionable these days for the politicians and corporate media propagandists who sold the “Saddam has WMDs” story, and the “Iraq is linked to al Qaeda” lie, and the “we’re fighting terrorism in Afghanistan” fairy tale, to regret how they “misinterpreted the intelligence” that led to the “unfortunate blunder” that launched the global corporatocracy’s occupation and restructuring of the Middle East (which continues unabated to date), anyone with half a brain could see what was really going on at the time. You didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that the “War on Terror” was not a war on terrorism (the concept is nonsensical on its face), but rather, was just the official narrative that would allow the global capitalist ruling classes to (a) employ the United States military to pursue their aims throughout the world with more or less complete impunity, and (b) designate anyone opposing the hegemony of global capitalism a “terrorist.”
Several million of us figured that one out … or at least figured out that the US government, the “intelligence community,” and the corporate media were using Americans’ emotional response to the September 11 terrorist attacks to con us into supporting the invasion and destabilization of the Middle East for reasons that had nothing to do with terrorism. So we did what Americans are taught to do. We peaceably assembled to petition our government, as did millions of people across the world, and otherwise raised as much ruckus as we could about how folks were being manipulated, and were denounced as “traitors,” “terrorist sympathizers,” and “conspiracy theory nuts” for our efforts … and not just by the corporatocracy, also by regular Good Americans.
All these years later, knowing what we know, you might assume that all those Good Americans who rushed out to buy American flags to wave as our troops destroyed a country that posed no threat to us whatsoever (and had nothing to do with the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001) because the corporate media and the “intelligence community” told them Saddam was going to nuke Kansas City … you might assume that all these Good Americans, ashamed at having been made fools of by a bunch of television talking heads and “papers of record” like The New York Times … you might think these folks, who, after all, are not complete idiots the corporatocracy can just hoodwink over and over again using more or less the same bag of tricks … you might naturally assume that these Good Americans would give us the benefit of the doubt this time, i.e., those of us who are challenging the narrative the corporate media has been ramming down our throats since Hillary Clinton lost the election. But, no … nothing of the sort. No, this time, we’re not “terrorist sympathizers.” We’re “Putin sympathizers,” “Russian operatives,” or at the very least we’re “useful idiots” who are helping Russia destroy democracy by “sowing discord,” “disunity,” “division,” and other forms of dissent throughout the West.
This is the essential feature of our new and improved official narrative. The basic storyline has not changed. It’s still “Democracy versus The Terrorists.” The global capitalist ruling classes are simply expanding the already arbitrary and meaningless definition of “terrorism” (or rather, and more broadly, “extremism”). This is a natural, predictable progression, which the ruling classes have been preparing us for. After sixteen years of living in fear of “the terrorists” who “hate us for our freedom,” we are being introduced to a new official enemy. A new, yet familiar official enemy. An official enemy all Good Americans are pre-programmed to hate and fear.
Yes, that’s right, folks, the Rooskies are back, only this time without the Communism. No, this time, their diabolical goal is the destruction of “democracy” itself! Why, exactly, the Rooskies want to destroy democracy is not entirely clear, especially as it would collapse their economy, not to mention precipitate a nuclear war that would wipe out most forms of life on the planet. But, you know, they’re inscrutable, those Rooskies.
According to experts in the corporate media, and our corporate-sponsored representatives in government (and, it goes without saying, the “intelligence community”), the primary weapon the Rooskies are using to destroy democracy, and life on Earth, is this sowing of “divisiveness” and “discord,” and “distrust” of our government and corporate elites, who love us as they love their own children, and who would never try to manipulate us, or treat us like interchangeable commodities, or bankrupt us with their Ponzi schemes, or debt-enslave our families for profit, or any other horrible things like that.
This is the type of mindless hogwash Americans are being pressured to swallow, and in fact are swallowing, millions of them. But then, this is how propaganda works. It doesn’t have to make any sense. In fact, it’s usually more effective if it doesn’t. In profoundly authoritarian cultures like the contemporary USA, people tend to believe the authorities, particularly when they’re all repeating the same simple message over and over. People want to believe the authorities. They want to because they’ve been conditioned to want to from the time they were children by their parents, teachers, political leaders, the corporate media, television, Hollywood, cultural icons, and more or less every other ideological organ of “normal society.”
This is why, when it’s time to whip up popular support for a war of aggression (or a war against anyone expressing dissent), all the ruling classes have to do is make up an emotionally-loaded narrative with a halfway-believable official enemy and have their “authoritative media sources” repeat it, over and over and over, in a thousand different iterations, each repetition reifying the others, until the narrative becomes the axiomatic “truth,” which no respectable, normal person would ever even think of wanting to question. In fact, once an official narrative has become the axiomatic “truth,” it can be rather dangerous psychologically if these “respectable persons” are confronted with evidence that demonstrates that the official narrative (or, in other words, their “reality”) is based on … well, a load of horseshit, as by this time they’ve forgotten it is fiction, and thus genuinely believe the lies they’re telling.
If you’d like to see an example of this in action, take a few minutes and watch what happens to Luke Harding, author of the book Collusion, when he is interviewed by Aaron Mate. What you will witness is Harding melting down as his “collusion” narrative (i.e., the premise of his book) falls to pieces under Mate‘s questioning, which remains collegial and calm throughout. Clearly, it had never occurred to Harding that anyone would question the “RussiaGate” narrative, and especially not someone else in “the business,” as mainstream journalists are trained to accept and parrot whatever the ruling classes tell them. When he finally realizes what is happening, (i.e., that his “reality” is melting away like your face in the mirror on a bad acid trip), he calls Mate a “collusion rejectionist,” and abruptly ends the interview.
This is just the kind of thing the corporatocracy wants to eliminate, or relegate to the margins of the Internet. They can’t have journalists like Aaron Mate running around punching holes in their narrative, or at least not where normal Americans can see it. It’s all fine and good to have folks like Hannity and Alex Jones jabbering about deep state conspiracies, as normal Americans don’t take them seriously, but rational journalists like Mate, if they’re not going to cooperate with the official narrative, well, then they need to be censored, or algorithmically deranked, or otherwise marginalized, and the sooner the better. Which is exactly what the corporatocracy is doing, and what they intend to continue doing until “unity,” “harmony,” and “trust” is restored.
And this is just the beginning, folks. If you want to get a glimpse of our dystopian future, read this recent piece in The Atlantic. It’s by Representative Will Hurd, of Texas, but it conveys the sentiments of the corporate ruling classes and their loyal servants in government, generally. I won’t spoil it for you, but here’s one quote:
“To address continued Russian disinformation campaigns, we need to develop a national counter-disinformation strategy. The strategy needs to span the entirety of government and civil society, to enable a coordinated effort to counter the threat that influence operations pose to our democracy. It should implement similar principles to those in the Department of Homeland Security’s Strategy for Countering Violent Extremism, with a focus on truly understanding the threat and developing ways to shut it down.”
The emphasis is mine. The Orwellianism is Hurd’s. The message couldn’t possibly be clearer.
If you’ve enjoyed the Department of Homeland Security over the course of these last sixteen years, the constant low-level paranoia, the invasive searches, the body scans, the TSA agents groping your kids, the cops and soldiers standing around in public places in body armor with their assault rifles in the “sling-ready” position, the NSA listening in on your phone calls, and all the other features of The War on Terror … you’re going to love The War on Dissent.
Photo: Irish Defence Forces CC-BY 2.0
First published in CounterPunch, February 16, 2018.
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