The ruling class of the U.S./NATO empire justifies the heinous actions of its military forces, the brutality of its internal police states, and the cruelty towards the poor of its neoliberal economic deprivation by claiming that everything it does is necessary to combat some grand evil. Whether this evil is Islam, or communism, or the very presence of opposition to Washington’s war narratives, the threat is portrayed as being so all-encompassing and enormous that it should solely occupy our political concerns.
This is the logic that President Biden just went off of when he bombed Syria while killing a proposal to raise the minimum wage even to the meager level of $15. This is the logic that’s behind the 21st century’s era of austerity and war, an era that the propagandists for imperialism and capitalism want us to accept as something which will remain present for the rest of our lives.
In a 2011 column defending the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan —which is still going on —the neoconservative demagogue Christopher Hitchens ridiculed the idea that Washington’s current wars should have an end, reasoning that
“Human history seems to register many more years of conflict than of tranquillity. In one sense, then, it is fatuous to whine that war is endless. We do have certain permanent enemies — the totalitarian state; the nihilist/terrorist cell — with which ‘peace’ is neither possible nor desirable. Acknowledging this, and preparing for it, might give us some advantages in a war that seems destined to last as long as civilization is willing to defend itself.”
There’s the essence of the Big Lie that the arbiters of capital and war tell us, the great threat that they hang over our heads to shut down the proposals for a better system: without the perpetuation of war, the forces of evil will win, and an even worse world will come. Observing this in his essay Snowpiercer and Necrofuturism, Gary Canavan writes that
“Necrocapitalist practices are thus reinforced on the level of ideology by a wonderful and terrible double-bind of perpetual threat: things must be this necrocapitalist because, if they were not, our society would be even more necropolitical and wretched than it is now. That is: necrocapitalism’s own horrors are perpetually taken as proof of necrocapitalism’s necessity, even its own self-prophlyactic. We ingest the poison to keep ourselves from becoming even sicker.”
The evidence to disprove this narrative is readily available. Just look at the hundreds of thousands of Covid-19 deaths that socialist China has avoided relative to the pandemic epicenter the United States. Just look at how China, through the anti-poverty measures of its workers democracy, has raised its standard of living in this last year while around 150 million in the capitalist world have recently slipped into extreme poverty. Look at how much China has reduced carbon emissions in comparison to the U.S., whose bloated military is the world’s single largest polluter.
The ruling class in the imperialist bloc can’t have the people become aware of these realities, can’t allow us a proper standard of comparison and see what our lives could be like. So they’re perpetually spewing lies about China interning “millions” of Muslims, even while U.S. migrant concentration camps are currently being expanded. And they’re continuously tightening censorship against the anti-imperialist voices who dare challenge these lies, getting state-run information warfare teams to target alternative media and having tech companies suppress content deemed to be helping Washington’s rivals. This week, when Twitter removed dozens of accounts that it said “amplified narratives that were aligned with the Russian government,” it made clear the intentions of this censorship campaign by saying that these accounts were “undermining faith in the NATO alliance and its stability.”
In the age of the new cold war, this kind of unapologetic suppression of information which contradicts Washington’s narratives is normal. Since 2013, when the National Defense Authorization Act officially legalized the U.S. government targeting the U.S. population with covert propaganda, pro-war messages have been integrated into U.S. media outlets on a scale never seen before. The unprecedented campaign to censor the internet that we’ve seen since the outset of the Trump era, characterized by shadowy government counter-propaganda programs, Justice Department moves to force outlets from Washington’s rivals to register as foreign agencies, efforts to demonetize alternative media content creators, algorithm manipulations that sabotage disfavored news sources, and sweeping deletions of hundreds of social media accounts at a time, expanded upon this. The goal has been to harness the vast social influence scope of the online sphere towards assimilating the masses into the pro-imperialist cultural hegemony.
These manipulation efforts have been defined by a lack of transparency and accountability on the part of the institutions carrying them out. Since the 2016 Countering Disinformation and Foreign Propaganda Act created a state-run information warfare outlet called the Global Engagement Center, officials have refused to say whether this entity has been targeting Americans. Amid the Trump-era media proliferations of neoconservative militarism and anti-Russian paranoia, the NATO-tied think that the Atlantic Council began a partnership with Facebook to censor material which conflicted with these narratives the council was seeking to normalize. Under FBI orders, last year Facebook and Google removed the American Herald Tribune for publishing material critical of U.S. foreign policy, one part of the intelligence community’s open war on anti-imperialist journalism.
The technocrats behind this war against dissent have made their intentions clear: to snuff out information which could fuel revolutionary mobilization against the paradigm of austerity and war. In a January 2017 report on Russia, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence portrayed Russian state-run media as a threat specifically because it had expressed views such as “the US two-party system does not represent the views of at least one-third of the population and is a ‘sham,” and because it represented “the United States as a ‘surveillance state’ and allege widespread infringements of civil liberties, police brutality, and drone use.”
This clear desire to shield the population from ideas which go against capitalism and empire was reflected by a 2018 statement from Richard Stengel, who was recently the head of the Joe Biden transition team for the U.S. Agency for Global Media: “I’m not against propaganda. Every country does it, and they have to do it to their own population. And I don’t necessarily think it’s that awful.”
What kinds of propaganda do the Biden White House evidently believe are necessary to impose upon the U.S. population? Propaganda which, in one way or another, reinforces the poisonous lie that Hitchens put forth about endless war being the practical cost of civilization. In the last several months alone, we’ve seen revelations of a massive covert campaign funded by the U.K. Foreign Commonwealth Office to manufacture consent for regime change in Syria, of a conspiracy between Reuters, the BBC, and Bellingcat to participate in a U.K.-funded campaign towards anti-Russian disinformation, and of Twitter’s Latin America coordinator being a right-wing operative amid a purge against accounts which supported Mexico’s progressive president.
The coordinations between think tanks, intelligence agencies, media outlets, and tech companies are constant, all for the purpose of steering the masses away from figuring out the deceptions behind the Big Lie.
The hope is that as the capitalist world slips ever-deeper into economic, health, and climatic crisis, the masses won’t be sufficiently mobilized to resist the drastic neoliberal shock doctrine tactics which will continue to be applied. They want us to remain socially fragmented, unaware of the geopolitical and socioeconomic realities behind why our conditions are like this, and disengaged from potential revolutionary socialist organizing. We have to build up pockets of resistance to the militarized corporate tyranny that’s determined to retain a grip over our lives.
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