White Helmets

I learned a lot about US and UK propaganda from the Syrian civil war, where western narrative managers advocated for military intervention and regime-change.

And now we’re seeing the same kinds of media deceptions and full-throated propaganda in Ukraine. With the so-called “Bucha massacre” we’re in the midst of another false-flag incident, which many have predicted. All of the usual suspects from the deep state and corporate media are working overtime to project the new narrative in order to predictably call for large-scale escalation.

Unsurprisingly, within minutes of the “breaking news”, western leaders–heads of state, foreign ministers, former politicians–popped up with statements duly kept ready and only based on the videos and photos ready to pour accusations. Meanwhile, in a stunning bit of projection, both the New York Times and Washington Post, the house organs for the national security set, refer to past Russian dismissals of alleged chemical weapons attacks in Syria as false flags used to frame Damascus, while of course making no mention of the mountains of evidence that this has indeed occurred.

Anyone paying-attention will not miss the striking similarity between these incidents and the numerous put-up jobs that featured in Washington’s covert operation in Syria and the campaign of those famous “moderate rebels” and their accomplices, the White Helmets, who just happened to be at the perfect place to capture evidence of Syrian or Russian perfidy while rescuing cute babies and who desperately, desperately wanted to draw the U.S. into the conflict. 

Just like in Syria, where the White Helmets were created by an ex-British intelligence officer, there are unconfirmed reports that Britain’s MI6 concocted this macabre theater with the Ukrainian service.

If you will recall from the way-back machine, President Donald Trump bombed Syria with cruise missiles in the wake of a fabricated report that Bashar al-Assad had used such weapons in an attack on Khan Shaykhun in 2017. It turned out that the anti-regime terrorists (read al Qaeda) who were occupying the city at the time had themselves staged the attack and deliberately blamed it on the Syrian government to produce an expected US response.

The Russian “intervention” in the Syrian civil war and “intervention” in Ukraine can be thought of as a Russian counter-offensive against the US empire and it’s NATO allies in response to the ongoing attempt to regime-change the Putin administration as well as their unceasing hostility. What I find particularly fascinating is that in both cases the US utilized proxies as their shock-troops. In Syria the US was employing al Nusra, the Syrian al Qaeda franchise, while in the Ukraine it’s the Neo-Nazi Azov Regiment. Also, it seems that whenever US proxies are in peril there’s a strong possibility of a false-flag event used to galvanize US public support for American intervention. You know–a no-fly zone.

It’s almost surreal the way in which the media manipulation template for Syria has morphed into the portrayal of Russian actions in Ukraine. The Mariupol maternity hospital “bombing” was a staged media operation closely resembling the White Helmets in Syria, as were claims of Russian airstrikes on the theater in the same city which was proclaimed to have been holding thousands of civilians at the time. The western headlines ran with accusations of Russians slaughtering civilians from the sky.

However, when the government and corporate media are trying to get us on board with some agenda, we should always ask–qui bono–who benefits? Funny how all of the recent “so-called” false-flag events all seem to point in one direction–towards official enemies, like Russia, China, Iran, etc.

The propaganda war is not the war, but the propaganda war is useful in shaping US security elite behavior and responses while rallying the hysterical masses who will believe any media headlines they see. This sophisticated operation has produced a steady stream of sophisticated propaganda aimed at stirring up public and official support. I sometimes think there just has to be a Ministry of Truth somewhere deep in the bowels of the State Department. You know– “War is Peace,” “Freedom is Slavery,” and “Ignorance is Strength.”

It’s been obvious for a long time that the US empire has been working overtime to shore up narrative control to strengthen its hegemony via internet censorshippropaganda, tech algorithm manipulation, and the normalization of the persecution of journalists like Julian Assange. We may now simply be at the stage of narrative control where they can begin openly condition the public to be lied to for their own good.

Indeed, the claim that “The Bucha Massacre” is a Russian war crime is so patently false that a rational observer can only be left astounded by the combination of bare-faced nerve and slapdash incompetence displayed by the media outlets and politicians pushing this disgusting smear.

Unfortunately all too many Americans are ready to be lied to.

Update: “One of the advantages of having power – especially when it is power over narratives – is that the perception of any real-world event can be shaped in ways that serve the interests of power.”

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Russia-gate revisited

The Russian invasion of Ukraine puts Russia-gate into a whole new light and strongly suggests that the proxy-war conflict in Ukraine between Russia and the US/NATO is the culmination.

In all the outrage over Ukraine we’ve been experiencing lately, it’s easy to forget how the narrative that the Kremlin had infiltrated the highest levels of the US government dominated news coverage and political discourse for years on end. But in light of the fact that today’s major headlines now revolve around that exact same foreign government, this fact is probably worth revisiting.

The Russia-gate story fits neatly into a geopolitical strategy that long predates the 2016 election. Since Wall Street and the U.S. government lost the dominant position in Russia that existed under the pliable President Boris Yeltsin, the strategy has been to put pressure on getting rid of Vladimir Putin to restore a U.S. friendly comprador in Moscow. Russia is correct to be extremely worried about American designs for Putin now that loose-lips Biden put an exclamation point on it. “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.”

Indeed, it’s fair to state that while Putin is responsible for choosing to launch an invasion of Ukraine, the US empire is responsible for deliberately provoking that invasion with the express goal of removing Putin.

It’s hard to believe that Donald Trump spent four years pouring weapons into Ukraine, shredding treaties with Russia and ramping up cold war escalations against Moscow which helped lead us directly to the extraordinarily dangerous situation we now find ourselves in, and yet mainstream liberals spent his entire administration screaming that he was a Kremlin puppet. Meanwhile, Russia-gate turbo-charged the neocons and their six-year project of ingratiating themselves back into American liberalism with their performative anti-Trump agitprop and deep state machinations.

The most important thing to understand about the Trump-Russia collusion narrative is that it began with western intelligence agencies (read US and UK), was sustained by western intelligence agencies, and in the end resulted in belligerent cold war escalations against a government long targeted by western intelligence agencies. It was the US intelligence cartel who initiated the still completely unproven and severely plot hole-riddled claim that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to benefit Trump. It was a “former” MI6 operative who produced the notorious and completely discredited Steele Dossier which birthed the narrative that Trump colluded with the Kremlin to steal the 2016 election. It was the FBI who spied on the Trump campaign claiming it was investigating possible ties to Russia. It was the US intelligence cartel which produced, and then later walked back, the narrative that Russia was paying Taliban-linked fighters to kill allied occupiers in Afghanistan which was leveraged by Democrats to demand Trump escalate further against Putin. It was even a CIA officer who just so happened to be in the right place at the right time that kicked off the flimsy impeachment narrative that Trump had suspended arms deliveries to Ukraine.

Do you detect a pattern here?

Russia-gate led directly to this point where the US is ready to risk nuclear conflagration with Russia. In sum, the Biden administration is doing exactly that which former President Obama warned in 2016 should never be done: risking war between the world’s two largest nuclear powers over Ukraine. Yet if any dominant narrative defines the last five years of U.S. mainstream discourse, it is that any claim that undercuts the interests of U.S. liberal elites–no matter how true–is dismissed as “Russian disinformation.”

Guilty as charged.

The grave dangers of the world’s two largest nuclear-armed powers facing off over Ukraine extend far beyond any intention by the U.S. to deliberately engage Russia directly. Such a war, even with the U.S. waging it “only” through its proxies, severely escalates tensions, distrust, hostilities, and a climate of paranoia. That is particularly true given that ever since Democrats decided to blame Putin for Hillary’s 2016 loss at least half of Americans have been feeding on a non-stop, toxic diet of anti-Russian hatred under the guise of “Russia-gate.” As recently as 2018, almost 70 percent of Democrats believed that Russia hacked into voting machines and altered the 2016 vote count to help Trump win. This cultivation of extreme anti-Russian animus in Washington has been made even more dangerous by the virtual prohibition on dialogue with Russian officials, which during Russia-gate was deemed inherently suspect if not criminal.

I wrote about this endlessly and it’s infuriating to watch how liberals have been transformed into little Nazi-loving, cold-warriors due to their intense hatred of Donald Trump. The joke was and is on them. It’s clear that Russia-gate was never about removing Trump, it was about making sure Trump played along with neocon regime change plans for Moscow and manufacturing mainstream consent for the escalations we’re seeing today.

During the early stages of Russia-gate I joked that if Hitler were somehow reanimated and denounced Trump he would have been rehabilitated into the liberal fold like so many of the loathsome neocons have been.

Now that liberals have rehabilitated real Ukrainian Nazi’s in their sacred proxy-war against Putin and Russia it’s not that funny.

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Weapons of Financial Destruction

The US is waging a new kind of Cold War against Russia where the weapons are financial instead of kinetic. The corporate media won’t tell you this but the US and all its imperial member states are attempting to strangle Russia’s economy in response to a war they provoked because Putin threatens US unipolar planetary domination and the supremacy of American global capitalism.

These financial weapons exist in tandem with the US empire’s other tools. Narrative management constructs like Silicon Valley, Hollywood and the oligarchic corporate media play an even greater role in upholding the US-centralized empire than the US military.

The basic neocon plan was to sanction and seize the assets of the Russian oligarchs so that they would rise up and overthrow Putin and replace him with a more compliant comprador along the lines of a Navalny-like puppet. The US also froze $300 billion in Russian central bank assets and seized an undetermined amount of gold that the Russian had stored in western banks.

However, it’s become clear that our foreign policy and economic elite have made a serious miscalculation in thinking economic sanctions on Russia would bring them to their knees. The opposite is true. Russia is largely self-sufficient and is not dependent on imports. Meanwhile, its exports are critical to the economic well-being of the West. If they withhold wheat, potash, gas, oil, palladium, finished nickel and other key minerals from the West, the European and U.S. economies will be savaged.

The unprecedented sanctions against Russia have pushed energy costs higher in Europe and the US, driving record inflation and making it ever more expensive for farmers and truckers to fuel their machinery, afford fertilizer or keep up with other costs. In Europe, which is dependent on Russian energy and minerals, the sanctions have worsened an energy supply crunch that has driven up costs for households and businesses. And now Russia launched what amounts to a counter-sanction by mandating that all payments for Russian gas from “unfriendly countries” be made in rubles. 

All of this has officials in western countries worried. “Global economies will be rethinking how safe it is to rely on the US dollar in their foreign currency holdings”, the deputy head of the International Monetary Fund, Gita Gopinath, said on Tuesday. The statement comes after half of Russia’s forex holdings were effectively confiscated by international financial institutions amid sanctions placed on Moscow following the launch of its military operation in Ukraine. The IMF isn’t the only institution to highlight this trend. Just the other day, Goldman Sachs released a note warning that “the twilight of the US dollar’s global hegemony could be at hand”, citing the possibility of Saudi Arabia accepting yuan for oil instead of dollars–“leading to deep fissures in the edifice of the petrodollar”– as evidence.

Warning such as these are hardly unprecedented. For more than a generation the most prominent U.S. diplomats have warned about what they thought would represent the ultimate external threat: an alliance of Russia and China dominating Eurasia.

Watching all of this unfold one senses an air of desperation in Washington. There is fear that the U.S. “financial leadership” is under threat–fears that have been magnified by the way US and EU sanctions against Russia, particularly the confiscation of a large chunk of Russia’s foreign currency reserves have backfired, encouraging not just Russia but countries like China to seek out an alternative to the US dollar as the world reserve currency. Perversely, America’s economic sanctions and military confrontation have driven these two countries together, and are driving other countries into their emerging Eurasian orbit.

A little history is probably in order. The United States maintained the dollar as the worlds reserve currency after WWII by being the largest holder of gold and the key creditor. When the US went off the gold standard in 1971 due to the balance of payments deficits, thanks to Vietnam war spending, the new US Treasury bill standard freed the economy from having to do what other debtor countries must do when they run payment deficits–raise their interest rates and impose austerity to balance their international payments.

Heterodox-economist Michael Hudson’s Super Imperialism, published in 1973, described how this came about. “Foreign central banks no longer are able to hold America to account by cashing in their surplus dollars for gold or for appropriation of US assets. As America’s balance-of-paymets deficit widens, foreign central banks simply add the surplus dollars to their reserves, mainly in the form of US Treasury IOUs. Other countries monetary assets are thus America’s monetary debt. Instead of undercutting America’s economic power, the US deficit has siphoned off other countries surpluses, exploiting them financially–as a debtor, not as a creditor as in times past. This unique American strategy is still not widely understood, mainly because it seems to at odds with most peoples ideas of what is fair and equitable. And, of course, it’s not in American interests for it to be widely understood.”

The key to this financial control is the petrodollar that came into existence in 1973 in the wake of the collapse of the international gold standard which was created in the aftermath of WWII under the Britton Woods agreements. These agreements also established the US dollar as the reserve currency of the world. The Nixon Administration thought that the collapse of the gold standard system would cause a decline in the global demand for the US dollar. So, the United States under Nixon struck a deal in 1973 with Saudi Arabia, essentially substituting oil for gold to help maintain demand for the dollar, because other countries who wanted to purchase oil had to purchase dollars first.

Under the terms of the deal, the Saudis would agree to price all of their oil exports in US dollars exclusively and be open to invest their surplus oil proceeds in US debt securities. In return, the United States offered weapons and protection of Saudi oil fields from neighboring countries including Israel. For the Americans, the petrodollar increases demand for the US dollar and also for US debt securities and allows the US to buy oil with a currency it can print at will. In 1975, all of the OPEC nations agreed to follow suit.

Maintaining the petrodollar, as Saddam Hussain and Mu’ammar Al-Qadhdhāfī could attest, is one of the absolutely crucial pillars of US foreign policy.

But now, thanks to the sanctions crazy foreign policy elite, all that is turning to dust.

No wonder US officials are freaking out.

Hudson lays out the future: “To escape from an intrusive world financial order based on the current US free lunch, China, Russia and other countries are moving to create alternative regional currency blocs so as to de-dollarize their trade and payments. America’s response has been to impose punitive sanctions to deter such moves. This has brought about precisely what its diplomats most feared. For instance, threats to starve Russians by blocking food exports to them, and to cut them off from the SWIFT bank-clearing system, have obliged them to become self-sufficient in these areas. Avoidance of reliance on imports from the US and its allies is now an irreversible trend.”

Can you say–cutting off your nose to spite your face?

I have stated this before but it’s more evidence that we have a decadent and decaying feral-elite feebly attempting to manage complex systems they don’t understand.

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Real Men go to Tehran

What small subset of the US national security state has been responsible for the series of stunning foreign policy catastrophes over the last 20 years?

Give yourself a cookie if you answered the neoconservatives.

As former investigative journalist par-excellence, Robert Parry, puts it: “There is a “little-old-lady-who-swallowed-the-fly’ quality to neocon thinking. When one of their schemes goes bad, they simply move to a bigger, more dangerous scheme.

If the Palestinians and Lebanon’s Hezbollah persist in annoying you and troubling Israel, you target their sponsors with “regime change” in Iraq, Syria and Iran. If your “regime change” in Iraq goes badly, you escalate the subversion of Syria and the bankrupting of Iran.

Just when you think you’ve cornered President Barack Obama into a massive bombing campaign against Syria with a possible follow-on war against Iran Putin steps in to give Obama a peaceful path out, getting Syria to surrender its chemical weapons and Iran to agree to constraints on its nuclear program.

So, this Obama-Putin collaboration has become your new threat. That means you take aim at Ukraine, knowing its sensitivity to Russia. You support an uprising against elected President Viktor Yanukovych, even though neo-Nazi militias are needed to accomplish the actual coup. You get the U.S. State Department to immediately recognize the coup regime although it disenfranchises many people of eastern and southern Ukraine, where Yanukovych had his political base.

When Putin steps in to protect the interests of those ethnic Russian populations and supports the secession of Crimea (endorsed by 96 percent of voters in a hastily called referendum), your target shifts again. Though you’ve succeeded in your plan to drive a wedge between Obama and Putin, Putin’s resistance to your Ukraine plans makes him the next focus of regime change.”

Being such a small cohort, the neocons, in concert with the corporate media, have become adapt at pushing the noble lie. Indeed, in this milieu, where a sizable segment of Americans have been abandoned, a noble lie can be used to give a rules-based order a last gasp. Its inherent power can be harnessed to whip Americans into a war fever. After all, what better unifying force than the grand American project of war to energize one’s desire for a reappropriated national significance.

The noble lie is designed to obfuscate any notion of an American empire, the neocon plan to control the Eurasian landmass, the way in which Ukraine is the key to such control, the eastward expansion of NATO, how the US has trained and armed Ukrainian Neo-Nazi para-militaries to such ends, etc. Instead it’s simply the diabolical Putin and aggressor Russia attacking innocent, defenseless Ukraine, placing the liberal, international order in grave peril.

Even with 9/11 I have never seen the U.S. media so united in pressing a case–in this instance persuading the people that the expansion of NATO is not an aggressive thing, but that Russia is the aggressor.

During the Cold War the neocons demonized labor, independent media, human rights organizations, and those who opposed the permanent war economy and the militarization of American society as soft on communism. That is why they have resurrected the new, and improved Cold War against Russia. In our brain-addled, propagandized milieu, it’s child’s play

Understanding this dynamic helps explain the neocons antipathy towards Trump, who articulated an old-fashioned America-first semi-isolationism that was highly cautious of foreign adventurism. Although it’s hard to tell if he was serious, Trump campaigned on the idea of returning the USA to an “American first” outlook by cleaning up its own internal messes, extracting CIA operations from the military, cutting the USA out of the Big Pharma-led World Health Organization, defunded regime change organizations like NED abroad and returning to a traditionally American policy of protective tariffs were all extremely important initiatives that Trump put into motion, and set a precedent which must be capitalized upon by nationalist forces from all parties wishing to save their republic from an oncoming calamity. To the neocons, who at heart are very much interventionists and empire builders, these were fighting words.

Hence the attacks on him as a Russian puppet.

Indeed, I’ve come to believe that the events of the last few weeks are the culmination of Russia-gate, where the neocons destroyed not only Trump, but any of the semi-isolationist sentiments any of the MAGA supporters might still harbor. The neocons’ propensity to hurl treason accusations at anyone opposing their wars is part of what made them so despised before they were re-branded as liberal heroes of the #Resistance after Trump’s election.

The point here is not just what happens when these realities inherent in the neocons noble lie collide, but what happens when this hyper emotional, moralizing narrative is forced into full consciousness as having been wrong? To wit, while the US and NATO are winning the propaganda war, Russia is succeeding in its kinetic war. This is the break in the matrix problem brought about by taking the hyper-moralizing information dominance up to 11.

It poses a question. In what way will American public opinion turn if all the hype falls flat, and the “bad guys” win the game, especially as gas goes to $7 a gallon? Presently our neocon influenced politicians and corporate media have whipped the public into such a Russia-hating frenzy that I don’t see a way back. Will people turn against their present leaderships, or opt to double-down, demanding more “war” as instincts rebel against any the realization of failure inflicted upon settled quasi-religious convictions? The outcome to this psychic dilemma may determine whether we are heading to escalation and extended war, or not.

All of these machinations run the risk of nuclear conflagration, but the neocons and the always-war corporate media apparently think the risks are well worth it.

But we might remember what happened to the little old lady in the ditty, when she swallowed the horse.

She was dead, of course.

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You shall know them by their actions

It’s become blindingly obvious that our two political parties and the factions that control them could give a rats-ass about the American public, beyond the increasingly hollow democratic ritual every 2 years. The Biden Administration campaigned on improving Americans lives with programs like Build Back Better but instead busied themselves with provoking a war with Russia while letting detractors like Senator Joe Manchin torpedo the domestic program over perceived cost. Promising to be an ethical alternative to Trump, only to perpetuate many of Trump’s policies, isn’t really what we were looking for.

They would like you to believe different but this is Joe Biden and the Democratic Party’s actual record: No real climate action. No minimum wage hike. No serious student debt cancellation. No effective pandemic strategy (more deaths than Trump). No Medicare For All–or the promised public option. No filibuster reform, just a lot of talk. No voting rights protection, just more impassioned speeches. No court expansion, just a sham commission. No end to racist policing. No end to gun violence. No end to deportations & abuse of asylum-seekers. No end to cages for migrant children. No end to brutalizing Afghanistan and Yemen. No end to droning civilians in Third World countries. No end to massive military budgets. No end to arming oppressive regimes. No end to oil drilling and fossil fuel subsidies. No end to poverty, hunger, and homelessness. No end to massive billionaire subsidies.

It is clear that the Democrats and their funders have far different priorities than you and I. Heterodox economist Michael Hudson says that, “It is more realistic to view U.S. economic and foreign policy in terms of the military-industrial complex, the oil and gas (and mining) complex, and the banking and real estate complex than in terms of political policy of Republicans and Democrats.” And for these sectors, war is always at the top of the list. For instance, there’s now talk of rebranding weapons-manufacturer stocks as “socially responsible” investments in light of the Russian invasion. And, of course, war is big business for fossil fuel companies, with the Pentagon the world’s largest institutional consumer of petroleum. 

But Kidd, wasn’t this a completely unprovoked invasion by the evil Russians, led by the demonic Putin?

Not exactly. It’s useful to remember that the US chose this conflict, and it was all planned years in advance. The US empire has had a standing policy of preventing the rise of any rival superpowers since the USSR collapsed, by which I mean that policy was explicitly laid out in writing within months of the Soviet Union’s dissolution. Indeed, the US used Ukraine as a pawn, stuffing it full of advanced weapons and military advisors, in an attempt to draw Russia into a costly invasion and occupation, all to tie them down with a a long, bloody insurgency that is planned against the invaders backed by billions of dollars in US funding.

These consequences cannot really be deemed “unintended.” Too many observers have pointed out exactly what would happen – headed by President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov explaining just what their response would be if NATO insisted on backing them into a corner while attacking Eastern Ukrainian Russian-speakers and moving heavy weaponry to Russia’s Western border. The consequences were anticipated. The neocons in control of U.S. foreign policy simply didn’t care. Recognizing Russian concerns was deemed to make one a Putin-apologist or voicing  “Russian misinformation”.

So although it was Russian troops who crossed the Ukrainian border, a strong case can be made that they did so only after the most extreme provocations, and these may have been deliberately intended to produce exactly that result. Sometimes the parties responsible for starting a war are not necessarily those that eventually fire the first shot. It would not be stretch to say that the Russian invasion, unlike the US invasion of Iraq, was a case of self-defense. There is strong evidence that the Ukrainian army, led by the Neo-nazi elements, was planning on attacking the two breakaway republics of Lugansk and Donetsk in the eastern Donbas region. Ukrainian president Zelensky threatened to renew their nuclear arsenal. And now, the Russians have discovered the existence of a network of biowarfare labs in Ukraine, funded by the Pentagon and allegedly working with anthrax and plague. 

The bi-warfare sites claim could simply be Russian propaganda, however the situation drastically changed on Tuesday, due to the Congressional testimony of Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, chief architect of our Ukraine policy and super-neocon. She seemed not only to acknowledge the existence of those Ukrainian bio-labs but was also apparently concerned that their dangerous contents might fall into enemy hands, thereby seeming to completely confirm those shocking Russian accusations. Given that Ukraine ranks as one of Europe’s most corrupt states, word of these projects surely leaked out, and it’s easy to understand why the Russians took a very dim view of it, certainly contributing to their decision to invade. How would America react if a rabidly-hostile Mexican government backed by China were developing deadly bioweapons near the American border?

Crazy, huh?

These are the actions of our sociopathic leaders. The objective is not just power for its own sake but power to control the world’s natural resources and markets, power to privatize and deregulate the economies of every nation in the world, and ultimately the power over a global “free market.” The end goal is to ensure not merely the supremacy of global capitalism as such, but the supremacy of American global capitalism by preventing the emergence of any other potentially competing superpower.

In the meantime, it sure sucks to be an apostate in the most propaganda laden environment I can recall. The hypocrisy, dishonesty and phoniness over Ukraine is one of the most distasteful things that I have ever witnessed. The rank hypocrisy is stunning. Some of the same officials that orchestrated the invasion of Iraq, who under international law are war criminals for carrying out a preemptive war, are now chastising Russia for its violation of international law.

Update: This seems appropriate–“No matter your views on the war, there is a massive escalation in state and corporate censorship regimes in the West justified in the name of this war. How does that not deeply disturb those claiming they’re fighting for freedom and democracy?”

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Psychological Warfare

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.

Sound familiar?

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.

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R2P

Karma sure is a bitch.

R2P. Responsibility to protect. It’s the fatuous excuse that US foreign policy elite have used for decades to justify their destruction of other countries. It has been a stock part of international discourse on interventions in the post–Cold War period, tied to the doctrine of protecting ethnic groups within a foreign country.

But now that Russia is invoking the concept to recognize the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk and deploying a peacekeeping mission to those areas, the US is bleating about “sovereignty”.

Predictably, Western corporate media has already gone totally berserk branding it as the much-awaited Russian “invasion” to destroy “democracy”.

Here’s Biden. “Who in the Lord’s name does Putin think gives him the right to declare new so-called countries on territory that belonged to his neighbors? This is a flagrant violation of international law and it demands a firm response from the international community.”

I would be remiss if I neglected my senator–Mittens: “Putin’s Ukrainian invasion is the first time in 80 years that a great power has moved to conquer a sovereign nation.”

The hypocrisy is laughable. The US is the very last government on this entire planet who has any business talking about respecting the sovereignty of other nations. Has everyone forgotten about the invasion of Iraq? What about the present US occupation of Syria? After all, the Americans are still illegally occupying a section of Syrian territory and stealing their oil.

That’s some respect for sovereignty there.

Then there’s the historical precedent much closer to Russia. By formally recognizing the independent Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, Putin and his national security team are following the lead of how the US handled the break up of Yugoslavia into three separate republics. Essentially, Russia is borrowing from the West’s “humanitarian intervention” playbook and calling these “peacekeeping” forces.  NATO describes how its role as a “peace keeper” preceded the establishment of Kosovo. Moreover, in diplomatic discourse, this recognition can be likened to the precedent that the United States and its NATO allies set when they recognized the independence of Kosovo from Yugoslavia. The justification then was alleged genocidal intentions of the Serbs, the very same issue that Putin has raised with regard to Kiev’s intentions in Donbas.

The Russian president officially signed the decree recognizing the independence of two breakaway regions earlier on Monday. He has instructed the Russian Defense Ministry to send peacekeepers into the Donbass, while telling the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to establish diplomatic relations with both Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics. For Russia, this is their “humanitarian intervention.” Putin probably appreciates the irony. Here’s the clincher, directly addressing imperial support for the killing of ethnic Russians in Donbass: “The main task of our decision [on recognizing independence] was to preserve and protect these lives. This is more important than all your threats.”

This is what R2P looks like from a Russian perspective. If NATO refuses to pressure Ukraine to implement Minsk, and refuses to offer any assurances on NATO membership and is going to sanction Russia anyway, then why not just recognize the breakaways independence and have them invite in Russian “peacekeepers”?

I really wish our political and media pundits would provide a little bit of history and context in their pronouncements. You can’t smash up up countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria Libya, Panama, etc. then whine about sovereignty and act all butt-hurt when other countries take actions to protect their security.

Who am I kidding? The Blob and US corporate media can lie with impunity, describe the US, NATO and Ukraine as pure as driven snow, while depicting Putin and Russia as the personification of evil, and Americans will nod in agreement.

The rest of the world, however, understands very well that now the rules have changed.

Update: It’s on. Russia has launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the goal of which Putin claims is not to occupy the country but to “demilitarize” and “de-Nazify” it.

The Russian invasion the corporate media has been shrieking about for months has finally happened. Of course a stopped clock is right twice a day too.

And, while right on the invasion, the corporate media is wrong or lying on the reasons why. For instance, they are trying to censor any talk about the known actions by NATO powers and Ukraine which experts have long warned would lead to this situation. You’re not allowed to talk about the known US/NATO/Ukraine actions which demonstrably led us to where we’re at. You’re only allowed to say Putin attacked Ukraine completely unprovoked, in a vacuum, solely because he is evil and hates freedom.

The propaganda in our country is brutally effective. Americans, especially liberals, have spent the last few years being persuaded to hate Russia through hatred of Trump and Russia-gate. Conservatives are just as persuadable. The usual approach is to sucker people into believing they are defending freedom, protecting democracy or destroying tyranny.

I witnessed it yesterday in a conversation with a normally rational and skeptical friend, who became heated and claimed that the Russian invasion of Ukraine was like so totally different than the US invasion of Iraq. It just was and there was nothing I could say.

So why did Russia finally invade?

I believe that Ukrainian President Zelensky’s comments at the Munich Security Conference in favor of acquiring nuclear weapons was one of the decisive factors, but the fact that Ukraine is already a de-facto member of NATO, while being pumped full of advanced weapons and military trainers, surely played a part in Putin’s decision.

Stay tuned.

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Mis, Dis and Mal-information

A recent Homeland Security alert made me laugh. “The United States remains in a heightened threat environment fueled by several factors, including an online environment filled with false or misleading narratives and conspiracy theories, and other forms of mis- dis- and mal-information (MDM) introduced and/or amplified by foreign and domestic threat actors. These threat actors seek to exacerbate societal friction to sow discord and undermine public trust in government institutions to encourage unrest, which could potentially inspire acts of violence.”

Talk about projection.

Of course, the corporate media is filled with mis, dis and mal-information, but they do so in a manner to advance state propaganda so it’s all good.

We’ve reached a late stage period where the managers of the US empire have only a tenuous grasp over reality, and have failed to notice that the dogs are refusing to eat the dog-food. In other words, the all encompassing propaganda is having a declining efficiency. For example, Forbes recently reported that “Fewer Americans than ever before trust the mainstream media.”

That’s brought about the frantic efforts at censorship. It’s not about Joe Rogan. It’s not about Covid misinformation. It’s not about QAnon, Russian trolls, domestic extremists or election security. It’s about ruling power structures needing to normalize and expand the regulation of online speech in order to manufacture consent for the status quo.

Which happens to be war. All the fucking time, in case you have somehow managed to miss the non-stop Russian invasion story.

Anyone who disputes any part of this official story is peddling misinformation, or is a Russian bot, or is an anti-semite, or is a dangerous extremist, or is mentally ill, or is whatever they need to be in order to ensure that they are never taken seriously by anyone and are silenced on social media and are never given a mainstream audience. 

Like yours truly.

It’s clear that the corporate media simply acts as gatekeepers for the establishment economic and political actors and disseminates an approved narrative. Despite all the outrage over fake news or dis-information, the corporate media, on both sides of the tribal divide, are all making bank from selling controversy, garbage, and fake outrage. And it’s not a surprise that the loudest of them screaming about censorship have had little to say about the most pervasive censorship of all–corporate media’s near-complete erasure of economic and anti-corruption reporting that might offend business sponsors.

You see, the powers that be don’t care if what you’re sharing is fact or fiction or something in between. What they care about is whether what you’re sharing has the potential to make people think for themselves and, in the process, question the government’s propaganda.

Honestly, the Russian-invasion propaganda has grown so unhinged that I think our elite are losing it

US warns war could be ‘imminent’ in Ukraine – Politico, Feb 11, 2022

Russian invasion could begin at any time, White House says – Reuters, Feb 14, 2022

WSJ NEWS EXCLUSIVE–U.S. Warns of Imminent Russian Invasion of Ukraine With Tanks, Jet Fighters, Cyberattacks

Maybe the propaganda blitz is all about domestic politics? Presently, the Democrats are battling for their political lives with midterm elections fast approaching in November. Facing rising inflation, the ravages of Omicron, blame for the withdrawal from Afghanistan and the failure to get the full support of his own party for the Build Back Better legislation, the Biden administration is staggering under sagging approval ratings just as it gears up for this year’s congressional elections.

Or maybe the Blob is flailing about attempting to maintain global hegemony in a multipolar world? Former MI-6 analyst Alastair Crooke points to this motive: “The U.S. is instigating conflict in Ukraine in order to tighten bloc discipline – to corral European States back into the U.S.-led fold. No doubt, China makes the connection that Ukraine provides the perfect pivot for shepherding Europe towards America’s next stage of requiring a united front with the U.S. for the later task of barricading-in China, behind her borders… The formula has acquired today a greater import, and a new twist: To keep Germany ‘down and price uncompetitive’ versus U.S. goods; to keep Russia ‘out’ from being Europe’s source of cheap energy; and to keep China ‘fenced out’ from EU–U.S. trade.”

I think that’s right. The geo-strategic reality is that the US would never would allow European-Russian, European-China relations to develop to such a degree that they would challenge the US’s political, economic or military primacy and hegemony on the European continent. Such a development will be prevented by all necessary means, if necessary by provoking a war in central Europe. 

Anyway, something is going on that has our elite freaking out, and I believe that’s why they are lashing out at any unauthorized narrative with a particular ferocity. 

The danger to the ruling elite is that any counter narrative that shines a light on their propaganda threatens their hold on power. The status quo is held in place by psychological compartmentalization. It’s held in place by propaganda and brute force, naturally, but it’s also equally propped up by the basic human tendency to avoid sincerely engaging with information that threatens to destroy our worldview.

Few people understand just how important it is for the powerful to control the narrative about what’s going on in the world. It’s the primary thing standing between the status quo and revolutionary change.

To paraphrase George Orwell–In a time of mis, dis and mal-information, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.

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Culture War

So much of our political discourse focuses on cultural issues like race, sex and identity, rather than on class. Why is that?

Maybe the ongoing culture war is designed to obscure an enormous asset price bubble fueled by two years of stimulus money, that exists uneasily with an incredibly tenuous, pandemic-wracked real economy? Maybe it’s because both political parties remain incapable of providing tangible material benefits to the average American, while instead showering largess on the wealthy and the rapacious, monopolistic corporations who control them?

A functional nation would end gerrymandering, pass campaign finance reform, end the filibuster, abolish the undemocratic U.S. Senate, tax great wealth, institute public healthcare and build a social safety net to ensure that no one in our very wealthy country slipped all the way through the financial cracks of life and was ruined.

But that’s not the American way. The American way is to cheer on the few lucky ultra-rich people, and fete them as heroes, and aggressively encourage all Americans to emulate them, although such a thing is mathematically impossible. Since the 1970’s the wealthy and corporations they own have waged a vicious class war against American workers. America has de-industrialized as a deliberate policy of slashing production costs as its multinationals have sought low-wage labor abroad, most notably in China. This shift was not a rivalry with China, but was viewed as mutual gain. The rivalry was between U.S. employers and U.S. labor, and the class-war weapon was offshoring and, in the process, cutting back government social spending. This policy had the affect of deterring U.S. wages from rising by providing a source of low-priced labor to enable American manufacturers to offshore and outsource their production.

Meanwhile, you know that saying “They got you fighting a culture war to stop you fighting a class war” is something we’ve got to take seriously. You can’t just dismiss it. Because if any of this is true then the liberal identity politics is completely fucked and ultimately power-serving. Of course you can’t reduce everything to class. Racial and sexual power dynamics are very real. The issue would be if those in power kept everyone focused on culture war dynamics instead of class, and kept the discourse from threatening real power.

It seems to me that a majority of our political process concerns endless cultural issues designed to obscure the enormously important political and economic issues of the day while pitting American workers against each other so that they’re not able to focus their anger against the real villains–US bi-partisan elite.

In fact the Democrats–ostensibly the party of labor–were just as gung-ho for the cultural war as the Republicans, once they kicked workers to the curb for Wall Street. Hence the PR problem from hell. After all, if the Democrats are not for the little guy then what the hell good are they? The truth is that the Democrats are just fine with the results of their betrayal. The new constituents in finance, who provide them with millions in donations, are cool with cultural liberalism as long as Democrats don’t take away their carried interest loophole.

Meanwhile, the Republicans, have been perfecting their version of the cultural war since Richard Nixon ran on the Southern Strategy, where he used race to peel away Southern white voters from their traditional Democratic party. After Trump, the GOP has transformed into a proto-fascist, reactionary movement that stands against the institutions of our democratic society. This has been effective, ironically, because the sort of healthy institutions that would prevent culture war politics from being so powerful are the very institutions that are withering away or were deliberately jettisoned. Technological changes and the atomization of mainstream media have intensified our division into warring political camps, identity-based tribes that further radicalize electoral politics, and are in turn radicalized by it in a non-virtuous cycle.

The foundation of everything happening now is a sort of late capitalist nihilistic politics fueled purely by culture wars–an almost primitive flight from rationality driven by a half century of rising inequality and crumbling faith in ineffective public institutions. The US has become a “predator state” in which finance has gained the upper hand and co-opted democratic institutions to forward its narrow interests. The American dream is dead: Children no longer do reliably better than their parents. The dream of a one-income supported household is over. In its place have sprouted the gig economy, crushing student debt, the death of unions and generalized precarity. The rich are unimaginably richer, and everyone else is spinning their wheels.

This political/economic reality has left us vulnerable to right ring agitation in ways we really weren’t in the past, because the social contract has been broken. And with liberals solidly neoliberal and primarily concerned with identity politics, the hard-core of the left’s old power: people like truckers and miners and farmers have slipped over to the right, even though their material interests, at least, largely aren’t served there. The right panders to them culturally and not materially, while liberals despise them as uneducated and deplorable.

This has brought about a dynamic where the right is able to protest more effectively, (with the obvious example the ongoing truckers strike in Canada), while the left remains obsessed with identity politics.

Ian Welsh explains–“One of the reasons I didn’t condemn the strategy used by the truckers is simple: for a couple decades now I’ve been saying that this general sort of thing is what the left should do. Change happens only when you inflict real pain. In fact, the trucker protests aren’t that new, this sort of thing happens in France all the time. Truckers have big vehicles they can use to block roads in a way that’s harder to stop than a bunch of people just lining up or even chaining themselves up…In the neoliberal world order the right is legitimate, and so are neoliberals (our “center”) but the left and unions aren’t. It is OK to mess other people up in the name of right wing values, but not in the name of the left wing (economic, not social) values. There’s some tolerance for cultural left-wingism, since neoliberal elites are more than good with it, but not for economic left-wing populism.”

Since the onset of the pandemic, we’re starting to see a lot more left-wing labor agitation, but if American workers want change they too will have to inflict real pain on their corporate and political overlords.

That’s a topic for another time.

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Triple Play

Since 9/11 there have been three massive propaganda campaigns aimed at the American public.

The first one was the concerted effort to invade Iraq, where Bush’s chief of staff Andrew Card, let the cat out of the bag with his admission that you “don’t introduce a new product in August.” The product being war, of course.

Then there was Russia-gate, where liberals were whipped into an FBI, CIA loving, war frenzy due to their overarching hatred of Donald Trump. Indeed, one of the most bizarre but important dynamics of Trump-era U.S. politics is that the most fanatical war-hungry neocons, who shaped Bush/Cheney militarism, have become the most popular pundits and thought leaders in American liberalism. They have not changed in the slightest as they are employing the same tactics they have always invoked, and for the same causes, but they have correctly perceived that their agenda is better served by migrating back to the Democratic Party which originally spawned their bloodthirsty ideology.

There’s been a lot of rehabilitation.

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And now there’s the hysterical propaganda campaign to bring about war with Russia over Ukraine, largely sponsored by the same fucking, bi-partisan cast of characters. It really is a Blob. All of the usual suspects are claiming that Russia has amassed over 100,000 combat troops near Ukraine’s eastern border and is threatening to invade and that Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to rebuild the Soviet Empire by expanding Russia’s territory beyond its borders.

But in truth the Blob and their corporate media buddies have concocted a fake storyline about a “Russian invasion” to divert attention from the US’s long-term geopolitical strategy of encircling, weakening and ultimately, splintering Russia into smaller pieces in order to become the dominant player in the development of Central Asia and in order to exert greater control over China’s explosive growth. Paging Halford Mackinder.

The invasion propaganda is also designed to obscure Moscow’s reasonable demands for legally-binding security guarantees that address the pressing issue of hostile foreign armies (NATO) and nuclear missiles on Russia’s doorstep. Russians do not want to live with nuclear missiles aimed at their Capital and located just a few hundred miles from their targets. That’s unacceptable. Nor do Russians want hostile armies and military bases looming on their western flank in Ukraine. 

Our official propagandists never let the reality get in the way of a good narrative, one that’s designed to “scare hell” out of the American public. “I think we’re basically just on the cusp of war,” retired lieutenant colonel Alexander Vindman, best known for his role in the Trump impeachment, told MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace on Friday. “I think it’s all but certain in my mind that there’s going to be a large European war on the order of magnitude of World War II, with air power, sea power, massive ground force offensives, and my concern right now is making sure that the United States is postured for that outcome. I think there’s little to be done to avoid it at this point.”

Think about it. If Vindman’s claims are true then we should all be freaking-out and demanding our governments do everything possible to prevent a possible nuclear war from being unleashed upon our world. However, if his claims are not true then a US news network just aired brazen propaganda to further the war agenda. We should take very seriously the fact that they are working to insert these propaganda narratives into public consciousness.

Washington think-tanks and their corporate media fan-boys exist to factory-generate intellectual justifications for foreign interventions and wars, while attacking the appearance of ideas like the “peace dividend” that threaten to move any of their funding to some other constituency. Meanwhile, the neocon members of the Blob believe themselves impervious to error, and take extraordinary offense to challenges to their judgment, which is pretty fucking amazing given the spectacular failures in every arena from Iraq to Libya, Afghanistan to Syria.

And, what’s depressing is that after the invasion of Iraq and Russia-gate you would think Americans would have learned. Instead, American’s, as a general rule, remains absolutely clueless. Politicians and pundits feel free to claim with absolute certainty that Russia is about to launch an unprovoked invasion of Ukraine because five years of Russia hysteria have taught them that they will suffer exactly zero professional consequences when they’re proven wrong.

But there is no threat of a Russian invasion. Once again, it’s a massive propaganda campaign designed to stampede us to war. The only narrative, hammered 24/7, is “Russian aggression”. The corporate media is shaping a narrative to fit the policy which is the very description of state propaganda. Remember kids, in a corporatist system of government, corporate media is state media

Orwell would be impressed. Big Brother has been privatized.

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