Saturday, October 31, 2020

How Far-Right Propaganda Has Brought America To The Brink Of Massive Violence

The United States hasn’t just become a powder keg for social unrest because of the widening of wealth inequality and the crash of the economy, which have been leading to revolts that defy the police state and give the lower classes more power. With the country’s neoliberal deterioration has also come the rise of reactionary sentiments and movements, ones which seek to make history’s next chapter not one of socialism and equality but one of fascism and war.

This ominous development has been in progress for decades with the rise of patriot militias, the presence of right-wing terrorists like Timothy McVeigh, and more recently the rebranding of the neo-Nazi movement into the “alt-right.” What’s the ultimate goal of the people at the forefront of these radical reactionary strains? It varies among the different ideological sects, but a picture of their general vision can be gleaned from examining the sects among them that have become the most relevant.

QAnon: a conspiracy theory whose followers want to carry out a violent coup

A recent survey revealed that one in ten Americans now identify as supporters of QAnon, the 4Chan figure who claims that Trump is battling to take down “Satanic” pedophiles within Washington’s elite circles. The survey also showed that those who share this belief in Q’s stories are three times more likely than the general population to think violence should used to in order to defend what one believes in. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

To understand the depth of the pathology that QAnon has created among its believers, we should assess what its end goal is: a grand apocalyptic event, called “The Storm,” where the righteous will be vindicated and the evildoers will be eliminated. In other words, a repackaged version of the Christian doomsday belief that’s always driven the American religious right. It’s fitting that just as QAnon persuades its followers to support Trump blindly, even consciously accepting outright misinformation and countless false predictions in the process, the Biblical end times prophecy has long persuaded evangelicals to be loyal to the world’s reactionary powers. Especially Israel, which is supported by many of these evangelicals paradoxically because they think a catastrophic battle will need to be fought within Israel in order for the world to be reborn.

Amid the introduction of QAnon, this obsession with shaping world affairs based off of a desire to kickstart divine destruction has become tailored for Trump’s America. Tailored in a way that’s been able to propagandize millions of people into seeing Trump as a kind of American end times Jesus Christ, one who’s waiting to purge the country of corruption. It’s not hard to jump to some alarming thoughts while examining what Q followers believe; their worldview is a carbon copy of the white supremacist mythology about how the U.S. is controlled by a cabal of Jews whose Zionist Occupied Government (ZOG) can only be defeated through violent insurrection.

Looking at this Q post from three years ago, it indeed becomes very apparent that Q’s followers are expecting a vast campaign of violence in order for the evils within the country to be vanquished:

My fellow Americans, over the course of the next several days you will undoubtedly realize that we are taking back our great country (the land of the free) from the evil tyrants that wish to do us harm and destroy the last remaining refuge of shining light. On POTUS’ order, we have initiated certain fail-safes that shall safeguard the public from the primary fallout…On POTUS’ order, a state of temporary military control will be actioned and special ops carried out…However, the atmosphere within the country will unfortunately be divided as so many have fallen for the corrupt and evil narrative that has long been broadcast. We will be initiating the Emergency Broadcast System (EMS) during this time in an effort to provide a direct message (avoiding the fake news) to all citizens. Organizations and/or people that wish to do us harm during this time will be met with swift fury — certain laws have been pre-lifted to provide our great military the necessary authority to handle and conduct these operations (at home and abroad).

A state of military control? Messaging that’s forced by the government onto the masses? A lifting of basic civil liberties? Brutal suppression of those who oppose the regime? If these ideas don’t make you feel uneasy, you must already be down the Q rabbit hole, where anything can be rationalized as long as it serves the end goal.

Falun Gong: a cult that believes Trump is fulfilling an end times prophecy where communism will be destroyed

What’s important to understand about these reactionary conspiracy theories is that they aren’t emerging from random 4Chan trolls or clickbait pseudo-news sites in Macedonia. They’re being amplified by, and in many cases directly produced within, the propaganda centers of the state’s intelligence agencies. As WikiLeaks has assessed, QAnon is very likely a “pied piper” operation by U.S. intelligence, making it no coincidence that former U.S. director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell recently retweeted one of the largest QAnon accounts. It’s also no coincidence that Q’s explosive rise throughout 2020 has largely been the result of law enforcement members throughout the country coming to believe in the conspiracy.

The same dynamic of CIA-created disinformation being promoted by the centers of power is behind this year’s rise of anti-Chinese paranoia. And like is the case for Q, the anti-Chinese propaganda is tied in with a religious ideology that anticipates an apocalyptic confrontation.

Falun Gong, which is behind the increasingly prominent pro-Trump news outlet The Epoch Times, is a China-centered religious group which believes that “Trump was sent by heaven to destroy the Communist Party.” Last year the China Tribunal, one of Falun Gong’s front groups, published a “report” which baselessly claimed that China has been systematically stealing organs from the members of Falun Gong.

The alarming thing about lies like these is that since they serve to advance the U.S. cold war against China, they’re regularly promoted and portrayed as serious by all of the mainstream American news outlets. Even this year’s absurdly misleading claims from The Epoch Times about how China “covered up” Covid-19 have been amplified by a media landscape that’s eager to scapegoat China and communism in general. Like has also been the case for Q, the Trump White House has worked to leverage the lies of Falun Gong in its favor; as soon as Covid-19 began wreaking havoc upon the U.S., Trump started enacting a propaganda program to blame China for the crisis, persuading all of Trump’s allies in the right-wing media to parrot the new series of anti-Chinese talking points.

The goal of the Washington imperialists who propagate these narratives is to economically and geopolitically subdue China. The goals of these religious fanatics at the forefront of the anti-Chinese propaganda war go even further; they’re the Q followers of the American Sinophobic crowd, complete with their own end times prophecies. As Helen Farley wrote in the 2014 paper Falun Gong: a narrative of pending apocalypse, shape-shifting aliens and relentless persecution:

Few people outside of China fully understand the full scope of Falun Gong. Practitioners adhere to a complex theology replete with shape-shifting aliens, multiple planes of existence and warnings of an impending apocalypse brought about by extreme moral degradation which only a lucky few will survive. In this worldview karma plays a pivotal role, but not the abstract karma of Buddhism, but rather a tangible sticky black substance which can be at least partially removed by practising five physically demanding yet meditative exercises.

We keep seeing the ideological threads which link these rising reactionary strains to the evangelical end times prophecy. We also keep seeing what Umberto Eco described in his listed characteristics of a fascistic mentality: a tendency to simultaneously portray one’s enemies as strong and weak, a view of life as one long war between the in-group and the out-group, a disgust with perceived moral impurities, and an “obsession with a plot, possibly an international one. The followers must feel besieged.”

Neo-Nazi accelerationists: a group that wants a fascist revolution

The Nazis provide the kind of outlet for taking power that the Q believers, the Falun Gong followers, the Christian zealots, and the other paranoid reactionaries are ultimately looking for. As the YouTube channel Innuendo Studios observes in their video The Alt-Right Playbook: How to Radicalize a Normie, those who’ve been radicalized towards the far-right find themselves fundamentally dissatisfied with the power that their movement is currently able to wield. The propaganda they’ve absorbed has filled them with a fanatical rage, and leaves this rage unquenched save for when they get some momentary victory like a won election.

And even after they win an election, as they did in 2016, they’re presented with a multitude of new things to rage against: feminism, racial justice movements, queer liberation movements, etc. What perpetually enrages them is the fact that any opposition to their camp exists. Even the centrist and ineffectual Democratic Party is a plague upon the country in their minds, as evidenced by Trump’s absurd demonizations of Biden as some sort of radical socialist. When the very idea of opposition to their Christian chauvinist and racist ideology sends them into perpetual hysteria, the only thing that can satisfy them is a brutal fascist coup.

As Raul Diego of MintPress News writes in his analysis of QAnon, the philosophy behind this sense of rage was part of the American mainstream even before Trump ran for president:

QAnon simply overlays a direct political layer to this ideology using Trump as a savior figure. Any tolerance their followers show towards Israel and the president’s Jewish son-in-law is only part of the “plan” they must trust, and not a departure from the staunchly xenophobic movement, which is ultimately a modern form of what has been termed “British Israelism” — the belief that the Anglo Saxon race is the true chosen people — which runs deep in American Settler psychology and is expressed not only via QAnon messaging, but through far more mainstream media sources like Ann Coulter and Fox News; both of whom target the rust and bible belts where versions of the QAnon narrative have been amalgamating for years as people try to cope with their increased disenfranchisement.

The American neo-Nazis groups, with their recent coordinations of secretive paramilitary training throughout the country and their goal of purging society of “degeneracy,” present a political line that reflects this desire. More frighteningly, they present a political line that’s already triumphed in many countries throughout history, from Hitler’s Germany to Pinochet’s Chile to Ukraine under neo-Nazi rule. These are the groups that are making the risk of violence following the 2020 election so high. They, along with ideologically adjacent “alt-light” paramilitaries like the Proud Boys, are who are preparing to create many more Kyle Rittenhouses should Trump lose and declare the vote count “rigged.”

If they don’t succeed in keeping Trump from having to leave office, they’ll continue to mobilize in the coming years towards some even more far-reaching goal. If right-wing terrorists plotted to kidnap the governor of Michigan this last month, who knows how far they’ll aim in 2024. If neo-Nazi accelerationists have been discussing strategic acts of violence during the Covid-19 pandemic, who knows how they’ll try to exploit the coming climate-related crises of the 2020s. 

In any case, QAnon will continue to aid these terrorist operations through propaganda and perhaps also through direct military backup; QAnon has already been found to be a partial motivation behind a series of violent crimes in the last several years, something made even more alarming by Q’s Nazi-modeled symbolism (“The Storm” is suspiciously close to Stormtroopers, “the cabal” is similar to “ZOG,” etc).

Where is this all leading?

This is what it looks like when the groundwork is being laid for a fascist takeover, such as the one that Ukraine has experienced since its 2014 neo-Nazi coup and its subsequent rise of impune fascist paramilitary groups. It’s started with the selling of coded fascist propaganda to a mass audience, reinforced by a culturally ingrained religious fanaticism and by the proliferation of geopolitically motivated xenophobic lies. In the last decade, while the internet has helped give rise to right-wing mass shooters like 2019’s Christchurch killer and 2018’s synagogue killer, the poisonous ideas behind them have proliferated among a wider and wider part of the populous.

Will the Nazis succeed in carrying out a revolution? Not for as long as the state remains strong, though given current trends this certainly shouldn’t be counted on. Either way the Nazis, along with the other strains I’ve mentioned, will continue to gain traction whether or not the current state remains in place-and certainly whether or not the current presidential administration remains in office. To varying degrees, these strains serve to strengthen the capitalist state under the present conditions, which is why the capitalist state often coordinates with them and amplifies their messages. And the institutional measures that supposedly weaken them, such as tightened online censorship and greater police powers, are tending to mostly harm the left rather than the right.

Behold the derangements and frightening political beasts that are emerging in the United States amid the fall of its global empire. This country’s foundations of capitalism, imperialism, and settler-colonialism are creating a feedback loop, one where the population and the state engage in ever-heightening reaction. As Colin Horgin wrote in his 2018 essay QAnon, Slender Man, and Our Paranoid Surveillance Society, fear is the driving force behind it all:

At the heart of QAnon, just as at the heart of Slender Man, is the story of a society filled with individuals feeling helpless and anxious. In the case of Q, these feelings have warped into a uniquely bizarre urban legend, prompted by Trump’s promise of relief: that power would once again return to political office to deliver clarity and freedom from a corrupt, controlling, and faceless entity that haunts their lives. “For those who have been following the QAnon posts, or ‘breadcrumbs,’ on 8chan, Twitter, Facebook or Youtube, the name itself is loaded with meaning, curiosity, and, perhaps most of all, HOPE,” one follower wrote in March.

Fear that, while often based in legitimately scary things about where our world is headed, leads to dangerous and made-up fears when one lacks the education to discern fantasy from reality.

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If you appreciate my work, I hope you become a one-time or regular donor to my Patreon account. Like most of us, I’m feeling the economic pinch during late-stage capitalism, and I need money to keep fighting for a new system that works for all of us. Go to my Patreon here.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

The Beginning Of The End For U.S. Imperialism’s Grip Over Latin America

The dominoes have begun to fall for Washington’s paradigm of domination over Latin America. Countries like Argentina and Mexico may still be fairly far away from a revolutionary scenario, but the recent victories for the liberation movements in Bolivia and Chile represent an overall tipping point for the region. One which has been made possible by the previous triumphs for socialism and anti-imperialism in Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela.

In Bolivia, Movement for Socialism (MAS) candidate Luis Arce is to be inaugurated next month after having won the country’s election. This demonstrates the militant strength that the movement has in the face of imperialist violence, with the U.S.-installed coup regime having been forced by the movement into holding new elections. Since the regime has shown itself to be too weak to rig an election or suppress a lower class revolt, it’s certain that the socialists will ultimately continue to triumph even when the imperialists next try to carry out a coup.

In Chile, the people just voted by more than two-thirds to throw out the constitution which was created for them during the Pinochet dictatorship. This means that the era of dictatorship can now honestly be considered over, and that the neoliberal policies which the old constitution enforced are vulnerable to being eliminated by the democratic will of the population-which has suffered on a unique scale from Covid-19 due to these policies.

This development has a limited ability to improve Chile’s material conditions. The proposed new constitution won’t be voted on until 2022, and the country’s capitalist state will put up obstacles towards making the constitution include all the human rights it will ideally enforce. But these roadblocks to equality won’t afflict Chile or the rest of Latin America’s capitalist countries forever. Because the U.S. empire, whose dozens of Latin American interventions in the last century have held most of the region back from developing towards socialism, is on its way towards falling.

The vote in Chile is indicative of the empire’s fall because it represents a larger trend towards anti-imperialist revolt throughout Chile and the rest of the region. Chile’s oligarchic government only agreed to hold this constitutional referendum after anti-austerity protests overwhelmed the country last year, showing that the forces of class struggle are capable of further challenging the country’s capitalist state in the years to come. Across the rest of the region, class struggle is showing the same type of growing strength amid the capitalist world’s descent into economic depression and public health crises.

Less than a year after 2019’s vast wave of Latin American protests died down, new revolts are breaking out. This week, Colombia underwent a national work stoppage over the government’s attempts to reopen schools with little protective measures, as well as protests from indigenous peoples over the country’s human rights abuses. Haiti has been facing near-continuous protests over its illegitimate president’s cancellation of elections. At this rate, it could be only a matter of months before post-Covid oubreak revolts appear in Honduras, Ecuador, Brazil, and the other countries in the region which are suffering under state violence and neo-colonialist overexploitation.

Ollie Vargas, one of the journalists who’s covered Bolivia’s anti-coup resistance movement, remarked something to the same effect this last week: “Yesterday Bolivia, today Chile, tomorrow Ecuador. It’s possible for popular movements to win. Latin America has shown that numerous times in the past 20 years.” The class struggle in Ecuador is already moving towards a victory similar to the recent ones in Bolivia and Chile; Michael Otto of Workers World wrote this week about Ecuador:

This year, the mobilization of the entire police force shows how much the Moreno regime fears a popular uprising. What he fears most is an uprising that unites his two main enemies: the progressive RC [Citizens’ Revolution party] and the Indigenous peoples…his policies of privatization and the government’s inept and criminal handling of the COVID-19 crisis have alienated greater and greater sections of the population…In contrast, [RC candidate] Andrés Arauz has been welcomed by the people wherever he goes. The latest polls indicate that Arauz will defeat right-wing banker Guillermo Lasso on the first ballot, just as Luis Arce won in Bolivia. In both Ecuador and Bolivia, however, the real struggles for power are in the streets.

Across the region, these types of struggles will continue in the coming years. Ones where the indigenous, pro-worker, environmental, and human rights movements carry out uprisings to try to get their governments to elect leftist candidates or enact policy concessions. The perpetual drawback to these types of efforts towards achieving change is that they’re functioning within the confines of the capitalist state, and therefore can’t be revolutionary until the capitalist state within each given country is overthrown. Even in Venezuela, where the anti-imperialist Chavista movement continues to hold onto power after two decades, the fact that the anti-imperialists are working within a bourgeois state gives the country’s forces of reaction a great deal of leverage over the economy and the media.

Racist state violence, bourgeois dictatorship, and capitalist exploitation won’t be banished from the region until socialists, both within Latin America and within the imperial core, gain the strength to carry out a wave of proletarian revolutions. If the U.S. government were to be overthrown, the imperialist power that props up Latin America’s neoliberal regimes and wages war against liberated Latin American countries will be no more. And if communists in Chile, Brazil, and elsewhere in the region succeed at overthrowing their governments, the region will gain powers that function under the formidably strong socialist model of Marxism-Leninism.

Until such victories occur, the best option for the region’s liberation fighters is to work with the immediate practical realities; Bolivia may still be a capitalist state, but the MAS can most quickly gain power through achieving electoral victories like the one it just did. Chile may be a ways away from a proletarian revolution, but this won’t stop the country’s popular movements from perpetually acting to counter the country’s ruling oligarchy. The responsibility of us communists within the U.S. is to sabotage the imperialist machinations of our government best we can, using civil disobedience, propaganda, and ultimately governmental overthrow efforts of our own to weaken the beast.

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If you appreciate my work, I hope you become a one-time or regular donor to my Patreon account. Like most of us, I’m feeling the economic pinch during late-stage capitalism, and I need money to keep fighting for a new system that works for all of us. Go to my Patreon here.

Monday, October 26, 2020

The Coming New Coup Attempt In Bolivia

Make trouble, fail, make trouble again, fail again . . . until their doom- that is the logic of the imperialists and all reactionaries the world over in dealing with the people’s cause and they will never go against this logic. This is a Marxist law. When we say “imperialism is ferocious”, we mean that its nature will never change, that the imperialists will never lay down their butcher knives, that they will never become Buddhas, till their doom. Fight, fail, fight again, fail again, fight again . . . until their victory; that is the logic of the people, and they too will never go against this logic.

-Mao Zedong

Bolivia is one of the crucial pieces in the U.S. empire’s plan for continued vitality amid the shift towards a multi-polar world. Under the current Washington-installed regime, it provides lithium to U.S. plutocrats like Elon Musk (who’s said about last year’s Bolivia coup that “We will coup whoever we want), it provides Washington with geopolitical support for its plans to invade Venezuela, and it provides the U.S.-centered corporatocracy with more exploitable workers in a time when capitalist profits are declining. Retaining control over Bolivia is essential if the empire doesn’t want to become further economically weakened and forced into turning inward.

So even after the Bolivian coup regime was forced by the country’s proletarian movement into holding new elections, and after the regime has been shown to be too weak to stop the socialist candidate Luis Arce from winning the election, the imperialists refuse to give up. They’re now planning to carry out a new coup attempt, one which they hope will bypass the pitfalls which the last one fell into.

We know this because of a series of emails among U.S. security specialists, ones which were leaked when it became apparent that the socialists couldn’t be stopped from winning last week’s election. The Canary reported about these emails this week that:

The private correspondence, which has already been reported on by Morning Star, and which hasn’t yet been fully verified, doesn’t offer specific details of what’s to take place and when. However, it does make clear something significant, and highly sinister, is in the works in the country. And apparently has been for some time, with around 1,500 mercenaries signed on to contracts of up to seven months for the operation. The deployment of these mercenaries was delayed by the elections being moved from 6 September to mid-October. This suggests that whatever’s to take place is intimately tied to the crunch vote.

The fact that this operation has been intended to take place specifically after the election, rather than before, shows that the people planning them have decided upon a compromise: they’ve known Bolivia’s coup regime is too weak to prevent Arce from winning the election itself, so they’ve aimed to sabotage Arce after he wins. The specifics of this plan are still secret, but we can already be certain that it will involve violence, and that it will be better coordinated than Bolivia’s previous coup was.

According to Joe Milligan, one of the apparent ringleaders in what’s referred to as the “Bolivia project,” 250 U.S. law enforcement professionals in the periphery of himself have been signed up to “go south,” pose as inconspicuous visitors, and train for some unspecified further actions. Around 1,500 mercenaries overall are signed up for the job, a far greater number of participants than was the case in this May’s failed mercenary coup attempt in Venezuela (which provoked 99 arrest warrants in the first weeks after Maduro discovered the plot). This plot is also supported by a constituent headquarters in Bolivia to help assist the operation, one which exists because a pro-Washington regime is already in power within the country.

It’s possible that the mercenaries will spring into action sometime before the planned inauguration day of November 8th. But assuming they’re confident enough to feel that their members will remain hidden after Arce comes into office, and that Arce won’t track them down and arrest them, they’ll try something bolder. Something that harkens back to the 1973 Chilean CIA coup where the democratically elected socialist president Salvador Allende was ousted and killed by the country’s military, and where the Pinochet dictatorship was established.

Whether or not something like this happens may depend on whether Arce’s government immediately purges the military of members who may join a future coup attempt. We won’t be able to know whether Arce will do something along these lines until he starts to govern, and if he doesn’t, we’ll have to understand that he’s in a compromising position given the violent power that the Bolivian right displayed just a year ago. Like was the case during when Morales was in office, the MAS will have many limitations on its control, and the coup plotters will exploit these weaknesses as best they can.

But these obstacles for the MAS stem from the bourgeois nature of the Bolivian state, not from any weaknesses within the popularity or organizing structure of the movement behind the MAS. In this last year, as pro-MAS crowds have shut down infrastructure and engaged in armed struggle and deprived the coup regime of large sections of land, the country’s indigenous and pro-worker movements have shown just how formidable they are. The regime had no choice but to call new elections, because if it hadn’t, its fraudulent president Jeanine Áñez would likely have been forced to flee the capital in a helicopter amid irrepressible revolts. And as a result of the coup, the militancy power of the MAS has strengthened, with Morales having called on the radio this year for his movement’s members to organize into armed militias.

So let these overconfident Yankees try to take on the MAS. Let them see how far they get before they’re defeated like the leaders of the last coup have been. At the end of it all, the opponents of imperialism worldwide will again be singing these lyrics from the anti-Pinochet protest song The People United Will Never Be Defeated:

Arise, fight

the people are going to win.

The life to come

will be better.

To conquer

our happiness.

And a clamor

of a thousand fighting voices will rise,


a song of freedom.

With determination

the fatherland will win.

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If you appreciate my work, I hope you become a one-time or regular donor to my Patreon account. Like most of us, I’m feeling the economic pinch during late-stage capitalism, and I need money to keep fighting for a new system that works for all of us. Go to my Patreon here.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

How Liberal Capitalism Has Devolved Into Open Tyranny

Liberalism, particularly the type of liberalism from after World War II, has advertised itself as the only alternative to chaos and barbarism. As Henry Kissinger said in order to rationalize helping the side of the liberal geopolitical bloc:

In every era, humanity produces demonic individuals and seductive ideas of repression. The task of statesmanship is to prevent their rise to power and sustain an international order capable of deterring them if they do achieve it. The interwar years’ toxic mixture of facile pacifism, geopolitical imbalance, and allied disunity allowed these forces a free hand.

These words, which come from a man who’s responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands and for propping up dictatorships like the Pinochet regime, betray their own hypocrisy. Liberalism doesn’t necessarily protect human rights, equality, or democracy, and Kissinger knows it. Liberalism’s goal is to maintain the capitalist and imperialist power structure, which in recent years has required liberalism to morph ever more into something openly tyrannical and repressive.

After the torture, mass surveillance, erosions of civil liberties, and blatant wartime censorship that appeared in the first years following 9/11, the ruling class tried to act like the U.S./NATO bloc was as “free” and “democratic” as ever. But the conditions had changed from the more stable decades of the mid to late 20th century, and the state could only respond by making society less and less free. Due to its reckless invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and its growing rivals Russia and China, Washington was experiencing a decline of its global hegemony. So its wars had to be perpetually continued and expanded, meaning that anyone who sought to expose the atrocities within those wars or counter the lies behind them had to be dealt with.

In 2010, when Chelsea Manning used WikiLeaks to expose atrocities that had been committed by U.S. armed forces, the government started a campaign to make an example of her and all other whistleblowers. They convicted her of having “published on the internet intelligence belonging to the US government, having knowledge that intelligence published on the internet is accessible to the enemy” even though this was essentially a made up offense. They put her into solitary confinement for the purpose of trying to get her to implicate others, an act of physical and psychological coercion that constituted torture. In 2013, they sentenced her to 35 years in prison, with Obama only having pardoned her as a way to look good while leaving office. Last year, they jailed her again for refusing to testify in a secretive grand jury, amounting to what the UN special rapporteur on torture calls “an open-ended, progressively severe measure of coercion fulfilling all the constitutive elements of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” This year, Manning tried to kill herself in prison.

This war on whistleblowers has allowed Western institutions, with their supposed ideals about protecting liberties and rights, to redefine what these terms mean. In the society that the imperialist governments and their media propagandists have created, it’s acceptable for Julian Assange to suffer years of medical neglect and torture through solitary confinement. It’s also acceptable for Edward Snowden to be under threat of similar types of torture should the U.S. capture him. No matter how sadistic or extreme the tactics used in this war become, it’s all worth it for the cause of “national security.”

With Assange’s treatment in this last year in particular, the fraudulence of the West’s ideals have become boldly obvious. As The Intercept’s Charles Glass wrote this month:

Over the 17 days of Julian Assange’s extradition hearing in London, prosecutors succeeded in proving both crimes and conspiracy. The culprit, however, was not Assange. Instead, the lawbreakers and conspirators turned out to be the British and American governments. Witness after witness detailed illegal measures to violate Assange’s right to a fair trial, destroy his health, assassinate his character, and imprison him in solitary confinement for the rest of his life. Courtroom evidence exposed illegality on an unprecedented scale by America’s and Britain’s intelligence, military, police, and judicial agencies to eliminate Assange.

How has the ruling class tried to preserve liberalism’s facade of legitimacy amid these total breakdowns of civil and human rights protections? The same way they’ve dealt with the baggage from the 2011 NATO invasion of Libya that’s destroyed the country, or the U.S.-created war in Syria, or the 2014 U.S. coup in Ukraine that’s given rise to a genocidal neo-Nazi regime, or this last year’s Washington-orchestrated Bolivia coup that’s resulted in massacres and torture: conceal the inconvenient facts from the public.

In 2013, while the hybrid war on Syria was in full swing and Washington was quietly preparing to carry out a coup in Ukraine, the U.S. government took a large step to expand its information control heading into a new cold war with Russia. It repealed a ban on the government from covertly spreading propaganda to American citizens, which has since resulted in a noticeable increase of pro-war narratives within the U.S. media. Especially in the wake of the U.S. proxy war in Ukraine, Russia was intensely vilified, and an atmosphere of neo-McCarthyism started to creep in.

Then in 2016, when the election of Trump served as a catalyst for the further weakening of U.S. global influence, the ruling class clamped down not just through propaganda but through greatly intensified online censorship. At the end of his term, Obama signed the “Countering Foreign Disinformation and Propaganda Act” into law, creating a program for controlling information that Lambert Strether of Corrente concludes is undeniably an erosion of press freedom:

A careful reading of the “Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act” shows there is good reason to fear an impact on American independent or alternative media. As these numerous small web outlets are “non-state actors,” the Act can be colorably construed to apply to them, and many of the Act’s functions and funding opportunities impact them.

Throughout the last four years, there have also been numerous waves of online censorship from Google, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, which have acted on behalf of their partners in the U.S. intelligence agencies. They’ve sabotaged social media accounts from anti-imperialist outlets like Venezuela Analysis, as well as purged accounts from VenezuelaChina, and other U.S. rivals for supposedly promoting “disinformation.” Top neoconservatives have been in on this censorship campaign, and they’ve often been able to help directly orchestrate it through think tanks like the Atlantic Council. It’s all served to make people less likely to notice the human rights abuses, civil liberties violations, dishonest state propaganda, and perpetual warfare that have been carried out by Washington and its proxies during these last several years.

As inequality and poverty continue to increase throughout the Western world during the pandemic, and the U.S. empire invests in increased militarism over helping the people, these propaganda and concealment measures serve to keep the population pacified. The ruling class hopes that society will remain detached from the ongoing creep towards tyranny, and that the state has already been fortified enough.

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