The conformity is startling. Russia is the new enemy, Putin is Satan and everyone agrees.
Watching it I can only marvel at the efficiency of the American propaganda machine, finely tuned after a century of application. I have been studying propaganda since my time in the military when I realized that our government lies religiously and I’ve never seen anything like what is happening with the coverage of the Ukraine.
I’m blown away by the complete unity and consensus in U.S. political and media circles. It is as close to a unanimous and dissent-free discourse as anything in memory, certainly since the days following 9/11. After 9/11 we were bombarded with messaging about a sinister foreign leader, creating an environment of shrill hysteria that was very hard to stand up against. This was used to whip up support for pre-existing objectives of US geo-strategic dominance.
Russia-gate is the new variant separating the aftermath of 9/11 from the current moment. Starting in mid-2016, the Democratic political and media class fixated on convincing Americans to view Russia as a grave threat to them and their lives by implying that Trump was a secret Russian agent. They created a climate in Washington in which any attempts to forge better relations with the Kremlin or even to open dialogue with Russian diplomats and even just ordinary Russian nationals was depicted as inherently suspect if not criminal. All of that primed American political culture to react with contempt and rage toward Russia, and once they invaded Ukraine, virtually no effort was needed to direct that long-brewing hostility into an uncontrolled quest for vengeance and destruction.
What’s still amazing is the climate that arises whenever a new war erupts, instantly creating propaganda-driven, dissent-free consensus. It seems that there is no propaganda as potent or powerful as war propaganda. It seems that one must have lived through it at least once, as an engaged adult, to understand how it functions, how it manipulates and distorts, and how one can resist being consumed by it.
In war, truth is the first casualty, and is replaced by lies that go something like this: We do not want war. The opposite party alone is guilty of war. The enemy is inherently evil and resembles the devil. We defend a noble cause, not our own interests. The enemy commits atrocities on purpose; ours are “collateral damage”. The enemy uses forbidden weapons. We suffer small losses, those of the enemy are enormous. Recognized artists and intellectuals back our cause. Our cause is sacred. All who doubt our propaganda are traitors.
During war, propaganda is invariably accompanied by censorship.
“I’m concerned about Russian disinformation spreading online, so today I wrote to the CEOs of major tech companies to ask them to restrict the spread of Russian propaganda,” US Senator Mark Warner tweeted on Friday.
I guess it’s only propaganda when it’s Russian propaganda, the US would never propagandize its population, now would they?
For years US lawmakers have been using threats of onerous regulation to pressure Silicon Valley companies into limiting online speech in a way that aligns with the interests of the US empire, effectively creating a system of government censorship by proxy. It would appear that we’re seeing a new expansion of this phenomenon today. This latest blitz is all about the the agenda to continually expand and normalize the censorship of unauthorized speech. That’s what it was about when they were pretending it was about fighting Covid misinformation before that, and when they were pretending it was about the need to fight domestic US extremism before that, and when they were pretending it was about the need to defend election security before that, and when they were pretending it was about the need to fight Russian propaganda the first time before cycling around to a new Cold War.
Given the scant attention most Americans pay to world affairs, they usually lack the proper context or history to understand the character of any conflict that makes the news cycle. For many Americans the US instigated coup in 2014 is distant history, and they know nothing of the anti-Russian provocations and attacks on the Donbass, or that the CIA has been overseeing a covert training program for Ukrainian intelligence operatives and special ops forces since 2015. Hence the Russian invasion of Ukraine gets reduced to a Manichean struggle between pure good and unspeakable evil.
Anyone who deviates from the propaganda barrage must be attacked or smeared: either get on board or stay silent lest you be similarly vilified. And that, in turn, means there are fewer and fewer people willing to publicly question prevailing narratives, which makes it in turn far more difficult for anyone else to separate themselves from unified group-think.