The one for our minds.
15 JULY—As some readers may have noticed, Antony Blinken has the State Department festooning its embassies around the world with “BLM” banners and the rainbow flag of the sexual identity movement known commonly as LGBTQI+. As our virtuous secretary of state explained in April, when he authorized these advertisements for America’s splendidly raised consciousness, the BLM pennant commemorates the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last year; the familiar LGBTQI+ colors will fly on our flagpoles in foreign capitals “for the duration of the 2021 Pride season.” So our guitar-strumming chief diplomat put it when announcing this… this policy, I suppose we are to call it.
Turning a just cause into cover for an extremely aggressive foreign policy makes for a pretty weird sight, if you have seen any of the pictures. Then again, so does our Tony as he flits around the world on the wings of an angel.
In the same line, there is that CIA recruitment advertisement made public in May, the instantly infamous “woke video.” This is an absolute doozy, as all who have given it the 2 minutes 26 seconds it requires seem to agree. I am a woman of color, I am the daughter of immigrants, I understand complicated policy questions but can belt out a folk song in Spanish, I suffer a trendy form of anxiety, “I earned my way up the ranks of this organization,” and I am a spook: This is the gist, as insidious as it is hopeless.
“The intelligence community,” we are reminded, is an equal opportunity employer. One is not surprised: It has long been evident there are simply not enough Yalies to get done all the subversions, coup-fomenting, drug-dealing, assassinations, and media corruption the agency is charged with executing—all in its defense of democracy, of course.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, those among us with the shrill voices of children continue to defend the veracity of a chemical weapons attack in Syria three years ago even as the evidence of a put-up job and the corruption rife at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is open-and-shut. Aaron Maté has owned this story since his reports in The Grayzone appeared earlier this year, though others, including your columnist, were on the case at the time the false flag was hoisted.
To be noted: The mainstream press has scandalously left the OPCW story unreported. It is independent media, or allegedly independent media, that smear Maté and others with the usual light-as-air charges—creatures of Assad, paid by the Russians, and so on. An especially vulgar commentator who goes by the Twitter name Vaush—and who poses as a “libertarian socialist,” we must not miss—now takes to comparing “Assadists” such as Maté, whose reporting has been exemplary, with Holocaust deniers.
Out in Silicon Valley, we have Reddit, among the most influential social media platforms now active, censoring thousands of users whose views do not conform to official versions of events and to our official ideology altogether. This is evidently the work of one Jessica Ashooh, a 30–something who moved over from the Atlantic Council—NATO–funded, U.S. government–funded—five years ago to serve as “director of policy.”
Ashooh’s background, which includes a spell as a propaganda adviser in Abu Dhabi, is strongly suggestive of spookery, or, at a minimum, objectionable collaboration with intelligence agencies.
The New Yorker published a squeaky-clean account of Ashooh’s censorship regime as she arrived at Reddit. Alan Macleod, an admirably scrupulous reporter for MintPress News, dispensed with the fluff and fog in a straight-ahead piece on Ashooh published a month ago.
There are numerous other such cases. Notable among them is YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki’s recent explanation, in an interview at the World Economic Forum, the Google-owned video platform’s conscientious efforts to direct viewers away from independent news sites in favor of “responsible sources”—this in the interest of our democracy, like everything else in this line one reads about these days:
The sooner we recognize these and many similar events as disparate dimensions of a concerted war waged against us, the better we will understand the air we breathe and the water we drink. The sooner we cast these events in an historical context, the more readily will we grasp the gravity of our circumstances. Given the remarkable speed with which this war proceeds in the wrong direction, I count these circumstances very near to dire.
Control of perception and control of information are the fields on which this war is waged. What is at issue? What is the prize?
For well more than a century, foreign policy has been the purview of sequestered elites—white, WASP, typically of New England background. America’s conduct abroad was their purchase. There was no need to defend this arrangement because no one challenged it, with exceptions such as the Anti–Imperialist League at the turn of the last century. In a series of books published in the 1920s, notably The Phantom Public (Macmillan, 1927), Walter Lippmann fairly celebrated the state of ignorance this imposed on the public:
The private citizen today has come to feel rather like a deaf spectator in the back row…. Public affairs are in no convincing way his affairs. They are for the most part invisible. They are managed, if they are managed at all, at distant centers, from behind the scenes, by unnamed powers.
Lippmann was writing about the cultivation of ignorance to the advantage of the elites whose ordained right to govern without popular knowledge or interference was a running theme in his many books.
During the Cold War, with the emergence of news departments at the new television networks and later on new communications technologies, maintaining this ignorance required a certain measure of conscious effort. It was during this period culture itself was turned to the state’s purposes.
The results are before us. They are two.
One, the extent to which most Americans are utterly oblivious to what goes on in the world around them is not short of astonishing. Even the educated, above-average reader of The New York Times typically has not the foggiest idea of the truths Maté unearthed in his OPCW reporting, or the Pentagon and the CIA’s support of the fanatical jihadists who have sought the downfall of the (secular) government in Damascus for the past decade, or the immense fraud of Russiagate, or countless other matters of consequence.
Read the above-noted New Yorker piece on censorship at Reddit. Side-by-side and without a pause, read Alan Macleod’s MintPress piece on the same topic. This is the manufacture of ignorance as plainly as it can be displayed. It is by way of this prevalent ignorance that the U.S. has turned itself from republic to imperial power in the course of seven decades while uttering the word “empire” is counted evidence of a deranged mind. Who? Us?
Two, as the reading exercise just recommended will indicate, our prevalent ignorance is now challenged—and again, new technologies are the vehicle by which this challenge is pressed. And to challenge American ignorance is more or less inevitably to challenge American empire.
Take note: Your Times-reading friends, all those addicted to the baby talk of NPR, the silliness of MSNBC, and the faux seriousness of CNN will proceed happily in the dark, having nothing to worry about because they do not know anything and do not want to be disturbed. No, it is the producers and consumers of independent media who are the concern of those elites defending themselves against the scrutiny of a threatening minority of people who have learned the value of thinking and seeing for themselves.
Those of a certain age should have no trouble recalling the extensive FBI and intelligence programs fashioned to infiltrate the left (as it was then), to plant agents provocateurs, to cultivate sectarian division and violence (just as the CIA did and does in nations it wishes to destabilize). The soporific suburbanites washing their cars on Saturday afternoon were not the Cold War-era worry. Those with their eyes opened or opening were the worry.
This was the nature of the war then and it is the nature of the war now.
There is no left in our time—there is only the “left.” It is now mere fashion statement to identify oneself as “leftist.” Gore Vidal once remarked, “We don’t have politics in America. We have elections.” To borrow and bend the phrase, We don’t have a left in America, we have passingly stylish poseurs, almost invariably ill-educated and ill-read.
Given how lost these people are in the quite beyond belief rubbish of “wokery” and all the bunkum attaching to identity politics—an ignorance of another order—our “left” is a sitting duck for those intent on leading it down harmless paths and away, far, far away from all questions to do with power.
Keep those flags flying, Tony: Bomb Syrians and sanction Venezuelans in the name of black and gay people. Tape pitiable people in the CIA’s corridors as they spout all the coded language of identity, a language without meaning. Keep the poseur pundits and their audiences—“I’m progressive,” “I’m a leftist,” “I’m a socialist,” “I read The Nation”—harmlessly preoccupied with the distractions they need to assuage the emptiness of their lives.
Keep everyone calm as you tell them that protecting them from the perilous impurities of free speech only looks like censorship.
This is the war some Americans, a few, wage against most Americans in the service of an empire that must be occluded so long as this is possible. This is how it is waged, and where. Understanding this is the first step out of our darkness and toward some flickering light.