Monday, November 19, 2018

In A Paradigm Of Total War, Totalitarianism Becomes A Looming Threat

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The mass media doesn’t want the public to be aware of this right now, but our government is openly preparing for a war of unprecedentedly tragic proportions. Last week, a bipartisan panel appointed by congress declared that it was time to support the Pentagon’s plans for a “great-power” war with Russia and/or China. The report predicted that American civilians will be attacked in this war, that it will include “rapid nuclear escalation,” and that it will likely start within the next four years.

Already, we’ve effectively entered into a cold war between the major world powers. Last month, Trump pulled out of a landmark U.S.-Russia nuclear treaty, which has enabled a new atomic arms race that creates an unprecedented threat of nuclear war. NATO troops have been assembled near Russia’s borders. The Pentagon has long been preparing for a war with Russia and China, and those countries are making similar plans.

How should Americans view these events, and how should we respond to them? Here’s where people need to be careful about which information they’re being exposed to when it involves the threat of war. Because during wartime, governments always try use people’s confusion and fear to create support for repressive measures. And I believe this is what our government officials and media outlets are doing right now.

As we navigate the current political and news landscape in this time of crisis, here are some important facts to remember in order to avoid being deceived by the people in power.

America’s intelligence agencies and government officials have consistently lied to manufacture support for war

World War II is the last instance of American military involvement that was (arguably) justified. All U.S. wars since then have been started through lies. When you add these illegal military interventions to the acts of political sabotage, economic warfare, and coups that the CIA has carried out, the U.S. has interferedwith the governments of 81 countries in the last 73 years.

The lies behind these interventions have included the false charge that the North Vietnamese fired first in the Vietnam War, the Iraq WMD hoax, the false incubator testimony that was used to start the Persian Gulf War, and the false claim that Gaddafi ordered mass rapes. So when the very same authorities which made these claims are saying that Assad is gassing his people, claiming that Putin is “hacking” our elections, and pushing other narratives that are being used to justify foreign intervention, shouldn’t we at least take a look at potential counter-evidence?

Everyone should have asked themselves this as soon as we started hearing the U.S.’ recent charges against these governments. But as always happens during a campaign to manufacture war, most people have been persuaded to accept the government’s claims as fact.

And the contradictions in the current war narrative have developed in the same way they did during the post-invasion exposing of the Iraq WMD hoax. When four U.S. intelligence agencies initially made the claim that Russia had worked with WikiLeaks to publish Democratic Party emails, their evidence was shoddy. The case for Russia being behind the DNC leak has since gotten weaker, with the NSA still refusing to produce evidence of Russia’s role despite the NSA having revealed its sources and methods during the Sony hack. The claim further fell apart last summer, when Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity ran tests showing that the DNC’s software didn’t appear to be compatible with any overseas hack.

Other glaring problems have appeared in the claim that Russia hacked voter registrations, that Russia poisoned the Skripals, and that Russia swung the election through social media. The same is true for the chemical attacks that Assad has supposedly committed, which all evidence now says are the work of Syria’s chemical weapon-armed rebel terrorist factions.

The war propaganda narratives-particularly the one which presents Russia is a threat-have been sustained through endless bombardments of baseless but confidently repeated claims. This is how authoritarian regimes have imposed their worldviews on populations throughout history. And it applies to Joost A.M. Meerloo’s assessment of propaganda, as quoted from his book The Rape of the Mind: The Psychology of Thought Control, Menticide, and Brainwashing:

Logic can be met with logic, while illogic cannot—it confuses those who think straight. The Big Lie and monotonously repeated nonsense have more emotional appeal in a cold war than logic and reason. While the enemy is still searching for a reasonable counter-argument to the first lie, the totalitarians can assault him with another.

Behind this wall of deception and distractions, satisfactory profits are being made for the military-industrial corporate complex. In 2016, the director of the Arms & Security Project at the Center for International Policy William Hartung said that as U.S./Russia tensions escalated, weapons companies would be “knocking at the door, looking to sell everything from fighter planes to missile defense systems...Russian saber-rattling has additional benefits for weapons makers because it has become a standard part of the argument for higher Pentagon spending.”

During wartime, dissenters are treated as enemies

These undeniable contradictions in the story that our government is telling us about the new cold war aren’t the only reason to feel uneasy. Not only are our leaders lying to us, but they’re telling us to turn against anyone who doesn’t accept their lies.

And this war on dissent has been carried out the same way that persecution campaigns have historically unfolded, with the authorities targeting the disfavored people step-by-step. As the West’s anti-Russia campaign was reignited during Russia’s supposed invasion of Crimea, pro-war politicians and pundits started to attack their opponents as agents of the Kremlin. One example is when John McCain responded to Abby Martin’s exposing his massive war crimes by tweeting in 2015: “Vladimir continues his attacks on me - I am honored.”

Red-baiting from neoconservatives like McCain continued throughout the 2016 election, with the Clinton campaign and its supporters having tried to paint Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein, and Donald Trump as Russian agents without evidence. One of the clearest attempts at this McCarthyism came from MSNBC’s Malcolm Nance, who falsely claimed in August 2016 that “Jill Stein has a show on Russia Today.” Even worse was when The Washington Post published a blatantly inaccurate list from the shady outlet PropOrNot, which claimed that, TruthDig, and other top alternative media sites were “Russian propaganda.”

This attack strategy was very useful, since it also let the political and media establishments baselessly paint their arch-nemesis Julian Assange as a Russian operative. But quickly, the anti-Russia rhetoric went from a mere propaganda campaign to a tool for censoring voices of dissent.

Shortly after The Washington Post legitimized PropOrNot’s lies in November 2016, a bill was introduced which would create a State Department-run authority called the Global Engagement Center. This agency has since worked as an unaccountable and shadowy propaganda factory for the U.S. government. And its mission of state control over information was codified under December 2016’s Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act, which would advance “fact-based narratives” whose content was then to be decided by the Trump administration.

And it’s gotten much worse since then. U.S. officials haven’t said whether the Global Engagement Center is targeting Americans, making its already dubious pretense of “fighting foreign propaganda” a potential cover for spreading propaganda in the homeland. The Justice Department’s move last year to force RT to register as a foreign agent-even as other foreign outlets like the BBC haven’t been met with this requirement-also represents the state’s recent war against alternative information.

Meanwhile, amid pressure from the intelligence agencies for online companies to censor disfavored content, corporate censorship has reached unprecedented levels. Google has changed its algorithms in ways that have massively brought down the viewership of alternative media sites. Twitter has been shadow banning independent journalists and unsubscribing their followers. YouTube has been demonetizing these same journalists. Facebook has been working-often directlywith the FBI-to censor content that’s deemed to be “Russian propaganda.” Censorship like this has always been going on, since large companies have a natural incentive to work with and appease the interests of the government. But it’s gotten much worse in the last two years.

The most alarming recent trend has been the mass social media purges of disfavored content. In August, Facebook took down the pages of Telesur and Venezuela Analysis. Then in September, Facebook censored a Think Progress article. This was followed by a purge last month of 800 Facebook pages, including The Free Thought Project and Police the Police.

The precedent for this was set in early August of this year, when social media companies banned the easy censorship target Alex Jones. The dangerous consequences of targeting Jones were made apparent when Senator Chris Murphy promised that “Infowars is the tip of a giant iceberg of hate and lies that uses sites like Facebook and YouTube to tear our nation apart. These companies must do more than take down one website. The survival of our democracy depends on it.”

Throughout these attacks on the free press, Facebook has worked with government-funded organizations like the Atlantic Council, which has been advising Facebook on which sites to target. This is not a case of a private company making decisions about who to feature on their platform. This is the same as state censorship, because the corporations are working with the state. Mark Weisbrot, the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, agreed with this assessment when he tweeted in September: “Wow, this is pretty Orwellian: Facebook chooses 2 US-government-funded organizations who specialize in overseas propaganda and sometimes regime change to fight ‘malicious propaganda.’”

Total war means totalitarian control

I feel it’s important for me to include so many details about these recent events, because authoritarianism takes hold through the little changes that people don’t notice until it’s too late. In addition to these censorship measures, the military/intelligence complex has been recently expanding its powers to surveil and police the population, and to engage in warfare around the globe.

In an appropriate parallel to the fact that generals usually take control in military dictatorships, generals and intelligence officials have been given unprecedented power in the last two years. President Trump, who certainly isn’t competent enough to run law enforcement or foreign policy, has let his generals and intelligence officers make most of the executive branch’s decisions about these issues.

The result has been an expansion of Obama’s infamous military campaigns, with the drone kill rates under Trump being 80 times greater than they were under Bush, Trump’s military dropping bombs on an average of every 12 minutes, and the U.S. having bombed eight countries in the last two years (now including Niger).

Yet even as the annual “defense” budget for these offensive wars has been increased to $717 billion under Trump, the Pentagon and the corporate media continue to implicitly push for greater military spending by claiming that America would lose a war with Russia and China. What these statements about America’s supposedly weak military leave out is that America would only lose an offensive war with these countries. These countries are not going to attack without provocation, and they’re mainly building up their defenses in response to U.S. belligerence.

Pro-war politicians, including the Democrats who’ve voted for the military budget increases, are using this supposed Russian and Chinese “saber-rattling” to push for more militarization and more aggression. Trump’s Syria strikes have been the resultof pressures from Russiagate proponents to “get tough on Putin.” When Trump approved an arms deal to Ukraine last year-something so dangerous that even Obama backed down from doing the same-it was done after neoconservatives like Adam Schiff used the “Russia collusion” charge to pressure Trump into carrying out this act of aggression against Russia.

Meanwhile, as America’s seventeen year era of war continues, the security state is becoming more oppressive. The NSA collected more than 534 million phone records throughout last year, which is more than three times the amount that was collected in 2016. The Trump administration has continued Obama’s war on whistleblowers by prosecuting Reality Winner and James Wolfe. Last year the Center of Development for Security Excellence effectively redefined the word “whistleblowing” by putting up a fascistic propaganda poster which says: “Unauthorized Disclosure of Classified Information to the news media or other outlets is not whistleblowing-IT’S A CRIME.” Bit by bit, our freedoms are being further and further eroded.

Ironically, the Trump team’s use of the phrase “deep state” in their rhetoric is entirely applicable to the political order that they’re carrying out. The deep state is defined as “a clandestine network entrenched inside the government, bureaucracy, intelligence agencies, and other governmental entities.” Also called the “permanent state,” this situation where corporations, intelligence agencies, and the military control the country’s policies is unmistakably America’s system of government. And as the spectre of total war has returned, the deep state is taking more and more control.

We can fight back

Right now, the deep state is close to prosecuting Julian Assange, and thus to solidifying this paradigm of tyranny. The Trump administration has prepared charges against Assange, Ecuador’s president is being intimidated by the U.S. into extraditing Assange, and Democrats are supporting this effort from the Trump White House to arrest a journalist who’s guilty of nothing more than exposing the secrets of the powerful. If Assange is arrested, it will also give the government the precedent to prosecute any other person who publishes leaks.

But if we can free Assange, it will turn the power dynamic upside down. It’s time for everyone to organize protests in support of Assange, share information about Assange’s persecution online, or donate to the organization Justice4Assange. With enough people involved in these efforts, the White House will be intimidated into dropping its charges against Assange.

This would save a major part of press freedom, negate the power of the propaganda machine that’s tried to defame Assange, and show that the people are more powerful than their government. We’ve got to take action on this now though, because we’re running out of time.

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