Editor’s note: DGR stands in strong solidarity with indigenous peoples worldwide. We acknowledge that they are victims of the largest genocide in human history, which is ongoing. Wherever indigenous cultures have not been completely destroyed or assimilated, they stand as relentless defenders of the landbases and natural communities which are there ancestral homes. They also provide living proof that not humans as a species are inherently destructive, but the societal structure based on large scale monoculture, endless energy consumption, accumulation of wealth and power for a few elites, human supremacy and patriarchy we call civilization.
By Boris Wu
On Thursday, January 14th 2021, 46 people belonging to the ethnic minority of the Pygmies were killed by suspected rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). The massacre happened in the village of Masini, Badibongo Siya group, chiefdom of Walese Vonkutu in the territory of Irumu, province of Ituri.
The murders were committed by men armed with machetes and firearms. According to the coordinator of the French NGO CRDH (C.R.D.H./Paris Human Rights Center), the men were identified “as Banyabwisha disguised as ADF / NALU rebels”. Many of the bodies have been mutilated. Two people, a woman and a child of about two years, have been injured although escaped the attack. The surviving woman identified the attackers as Banyabwisha.
Adjio Gidi, minister of the interior and security of the province, confirmed the information about the massacre, but rather attributes this attack to real ADF / NALU rebels. The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) is an Ungandan armed group that is suspected to have carried out a series of massacres in eastern Congo, according to U.N. figures killing more than 1,000 civilians since the start of 2019.
The eastern borderlands of the Democratic Republic Congo with Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi are home to over 100 different constellations of militias, many of them remnants of the brutal civil war that officially ended 2003. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for many suspected ADF attacks in the past, but so far, according the U.N., there is no confirmation of a direct link between the two groups.
Violent conflicts between the ethnic minority of the indigenous Pygmies and the ethnic majority of the Bantu, which includes several ethnic groups like the Luba, have been going on for centuries. The Pygmies in the Congo are semi-nomadic hunter-gatherers, traditionally living in dense forests. The Luba live in neighboring towns and villages, largely making a living by trade and commerce. The pygmies have been discriminated for a long time by different ethnic groups of the Bantu majority. This includes forcing them to leave their ancestral lands, which are rapidly being destroyed by deforestation.
More recently, pressure and violence towards the Pygmies has been rising due to the government setting up national parks in areas that are the ancestral home of the pygmies, such as the Kahuzi-Biega National Park. This situation leads to increasingly violent conflicts between Pygmies and park guards. Foreign companies operating in this region fuel further (often violent) conflict by exploiting the countries natural resources with logging operations, mining concessions and carving out farm plots.
The pygmies, making up less than 1% of Congo’s population (with the Luba making up about 18% and the overall Bantu-majority about 80%) want to be represented by quotas in government. They have been victims of racial discrimination for a long time, even categorized as “sub-human” by the Belgians who colonized this area.
The atrocities towards these indigenous peoples must stop.
Our members of DGR Africa are documenting and speaking out about the ongoing violence in the region.
You can support our ally and DGR community in The Congo in their indigenous community forestry program. Donate to CAPITA ASBL via Bank Transfer to:
USD, Intitulé CAPITA ASBL V/C USD*
Featured image: Pygmy settlement in the rainforest
JMGRACIA100, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons
- Report by Rossy, DGR Africa (personal communication)
- Forty-six civilians feared killed in eastern Congo attack, official says
- Kahuzi-Biega National Park – RFI
- Dozens massacred, bodies mutilated in DR Congo ethnic clashes
Editors note: We are publishing this release because we support all movements against extractive industries. But we want to make clear that bypassing safety precautions is standard for the oil industry and extractive corporations around the planet, and that even when the best available technologies and precautions are used, these things still kill the planet by their very nature. For example, it’s not gas drilling “done irresponsibly” that is the problem. It’s gas drilling as a whole, and by extension the entire industrial economy.
Featured image: Okavango River by Dr. Thomas Wagner, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
ReconAfrica fails to place a leack proof lining system in the drilling fluid containment pond. Drill site 6-2 Kavango Namibia
ReconAfrica is a Vancouver based Canadian petroleum exploration company that has acquired an exploration licence for the PEL 73 area located in Kavango East and West in Namibia. Drilling of the first of two permitted exploration boreholes began in December 2020. The borehole, referenced BH 6-2 is situated approximately 600m from the ephemeral river Omatako Omarumba, and all earthworks required to facilitate the drill rig have been completed. This includes a below ground level drill fluid containment pond.
The pond is approximately 45m in length, 30m in width and some 3m in depth and capable of holding almost 4.2million liters of liquid waste It is not known if the capacity of the pond has been designed to contain at least 110% of the largest expected wastewater volume at any given stage as is standard practise. During the drilling process waterbased drilling fluids are used to provide lubrication to the drill bit and to stabilise the borehole amongst other reasons. The drilling fluids are circulated down the borehole and pumped back to the surface for storage in the containment pond.
As drilling progresses the borehole will initially intersect shallow ground water aquifers that typically occur at a depth of 10 to 30m below ground level, At greater depths, at the base of the Kalahari beds and beyond into the underlying Karoo formations, beyond an anticipated depth of about 900m, highly saline groundwater will be intersected. This was revealed in the Environmental Impact Report prepared by Risk Based Solutions. As drill fluids circulate they will bring rock cuttings and a quantity of groundwater back to the surface which is stored in the containment pond built for the purpose. Due to the proposed ultimate borehole depths of 2500m, hypersaline fluid brine will be intersected in the deep Karoo sediments. The return drill fluids that will be placed in the containment pond will therefore contain drilling mud and rock cuttings from the Karoo sediments that are known to contain natural occurring radioactive materials (NORMS), and hypersaline brine – a cocktail that must be treated as hazardous liquid waste.
An onsite visual assessment of the containment pond located adjacent to BH 6-2 has revealed that the containment pond has not been lined with an appropriate water proof barrier system. Although not explicitly stated as a requirement in the Environmental Management Programme prepared by Risk Based Solutions, the requirements for a liner are implied. The report makes it a requirement of ReconAfrica to “…Never allow any hazardous substance to soak into the soil”. Furthermore, the document also requires that upon completion of the drilling, ReconAfrica must “… allow the pollution control dam to evaporate completely, scrape all waste that has collected in the pond and dispose of these and the pond lining at a suitable site”
No lining or efforts to render the containment pond impervious have been made despite the implied requirement that there should be at least a single pond liner. As reported by National Geographic on 29th January 2021 a spokesperson for ReconAfrica indicated in a written reply in October 2020 that potentially toxic drill cuttings from the oil test wells “will be managed in lined pits, cleaned, and disposed of offsite as per company and regulatory requirements.”
Given the vulnerability of groundwater at this site, it would be expected that a double lining system would be required, coupled with monitoring of the pond lining, the interstitial pond fluid (i.e. the fluid between the two liners), the returned wastewater quality for selected parameters such as electrical conductivity (EC) and radioiactivity. Regular monitoring of the groundwater quality in the immediate vicinity of the site must also be implemented.
Management guideline for saline fluids for hydraulic fracturing published by the British Oil and Gas Commission in April 2019 provide detailed requirements for the impoundment of saline flowback such as anticipated in Kavango East and West. Among the many design requirements specified in Canada some include:
The primary synthetic liner must be a minimum of 60 mil (1.5 mm) thick, have hydraulic conductivity of 10-7cm/s or less and must have properties that are fit for the purpose intended and conditions and temperature extremes encountered.
The secondary synthetic liner must be a minimum of 60 mil (1.5 mm) thick, have hydraulic conductivity of 10-7cm/s or less.
The design must incorporate a leak detection system within the engineered seepage pathway leading to at least one leak detection well, vault, or port. This must allow for water sampling from the lowest point of the pond, positioned between the primary and secondary liners and be designed for accurate measurement of leakage rate.
The BC Oil and Gas Commission also provide guidelines for the management of containment ponds which include some of the following actions:
The pond must be constructed and bermed in a manner that does not allow surface runoff from the site to enter the pond. A minimum of 1.0 m freeboard must be maintained within the containment pond at all times. The primary containment liner be regularly inspected for evidence of leaks and damage and that records of issues related to inspections and corrective actions be maintained.
A groundwater monitoring program must be developed by a qualified professional to evaluate potential groundwater impacts that could be associated with the pond. Monitoring wells must be used to establish baseline conditions for groundwater levels and chemistry prior to use of the containment pond and the baseline monitoring. Samples from the leak detection system and sub-drain must be collected and analyzed on a weekly basis.
Visual evidence obtained from the site indicate that ReconAfrica are not in compliance with their own declarations made in October 2020, and do not comply with the requirements of the EMPR. They are therefore in violation of the Environmental Compliance Certificate issue by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism. In addition, ReconAfrica have chosen to ignore Canadian industry approved guidelines issued by the Oil and Gas Commission in British Columbia, the state in which the companies head offices are located.
Despite the fanfare and extensive publicity that ReconAfrica have generated over the drilling of water wells adjacent to each exploration borehole will be made available to the communities once the exploration holes are completed – there will be no benefit accrued if the groundwater is contaminated by drilling effluent. The conclusions and inferences that can be drawn from the cavalier attitude of Recon Africa is that there is a lack of respect for the rural indigenous people of Kavango East and West who’s livelyhoods are total dependent on access to clean groundwater.
END OF RELEASE
by _anonym / Countercurrents
Let’s take that infamous PropOrNot List article apart, along with the growing social media censorship surrounding it, and this whole subject of alternative media being “infiltrated” by “Russian Propaganda”—just to clear the missile strewn air a wee bit insofar as that may be possible what with hardened silos on either side.
The List article begins with the not-so-subtle subtitle “An Initial Set of Sites That Reliably Echo Russian Propaganda.” Let’s stop right there and ask: what is propaganda?
Wikipedia defines the term:
“Propaganda is information that is not objective and is used primarily to influence an audience and further an agenda, often by presenting facts selectively to encourage a particular synthesis or perception, or using loaded language to produce an emotional rather than a rational response to the information that is presented. Propaganda is often associated with material prepared by governments, but activist groups, companies and the media can also produce propaganda.”
Let’s accept that definition, because what we are talking about here is not merely what’s defined, but a full-scale, bona fide propaganda war. The List article itself satisfies this definition of propaganda in every detail, and admits as much, obliquely:
“Americans have the right to echo, repeat, be used by, and refer their audiences to Russian official and semi-official state media, including ‘fake news’ propaganda—just as we have the right to analyze and highlight that, without fear or favor.”
They’re writing US Government propaganda, and they know it—which is not to say it is untrue for that reason alone.
The fact that a piece of writing is propaganda simply has no bearing on its veracity. Let that concept sink in. Propaganda may be shoddy and obvious, but effective propaganda relies on at least a modicum of truth as a platform for its persuasive agenda, and it stands to reason that, given a democracy and freedom of speech, which is to say absent the use of force, suppression and censorship, there should ultimately be a winner in a propaganda war: the side with the preponderance of veracity. False constructs can only survive so long before collapsing of their own dead weight.
One can well argue that all writing, whether by assertion or by omission, whether deliberate or coincidental, is propaganda. A children’s fairy tale is propaganda insofar as it redirects the readers consciousness away from the systemic evils of the real world and encourages acceptance of the status quo. Every Op-Ed or opinion piece in every publication on earth which argues against a systemic evil is likewise propaganda against that system.
Here, the Russophobic propaganda of The List presents facts selectively to encourage a particular perception, using loaded language to influence the reader and to further the American deep state’s anti-Russian propaganda. It does not matter whether or not the authors have a contract with the FBI or the CIA or the DHS to do so, or whether they freely choose to echo, repeat, be used by and refer the reader to official anti-Russia bias of the official American propaganda machine. They surely cannot make any plausible claim to “objectivity.” The List is as cynically calculated a propaganda hit piece as anything in Russia’s bag of tricks. Naturally enough, in the blind box of US propaganda talking points, only content which originates from Russia is propaganda. Are they stupid, or just how stupid do they think we are?
As for the use of loaded language to produce an emotional rather than a rational response, The List effectively seeks to shame you by framing you as a dupe, a stooge, a tool, an agent, and quite possibly a traitor if you share a piece of Russian propaganda with which you happen to thoroughly agree, and which presents an argument you believe others will benefit from reading. To an avid reader, it is of no consequence whether the behavior of a website or one or more of its writers is dogmatically or opportunistically regurgitating Russian propaganda, any more than if it were UK propaganda, or Chinese, or Israeli, or German, or Palestinian, or American.
One may take some intellectual pride in being an equal opportunity reader of propaganda, and in disseminating that which makes a compelling claim with which one, with an open mind, thoroughly agrees. Some struggle to form an opinion, too many others merely join in whatever peerage choir surrounds them. For some of us, however, text fairly withers under our gaze and gives up its propagandist ghost immediately without struggle, so content can be weighed on its merits. Far too many, especially in propaganda-saturated countries like North Korea and America, lack the basic ability to separate bias from truth, weigh opposing sides of an issue, and thus properly form a balanced opinion. That does not stop them from having one, unfortunately. The fact is that challenging ideas provoke a painful cognitive dissonance, the mind tends to close, and if it does, argument turns pointless, tribal belligerence and hatefulness set in, and intellectual rigor mortis follows. Thus it is with dogmatic capitalism in all of its guises and forms, and the guises and forms of all dogmatism, political or religious. A side is taken, an enemy is born. Let loose the dogs of hatred and war.
A great many patriotic Americans genuinely hate capitalism, morally, intellectually and emotionally, and suffer daily having to live effectively imprisoned in what is to them a transparently sick, brutal culture. Poverty is undeniably a gulag whatever one’s politics. Jobs are too often experienced as enslavement for survival. “America, my America, I have no choice but thee…” —while pretty much any country in Europe, despite being utterly capitalist, seems to those condemned to America’s barbaric culture like an oasis of civilization in comparison.
Persuasive writing demands “loaded language to produce an emotional rather than a rational response.” Persuasive writing, indeed, all purposeful writing, is therefore propaganda. As a writer, feel free to call me a propagandist, hopefully an effective and entertaining one, no less so for employing the imagination and Eros in storytelling.
Where The List becomes offensive is in blurring the distinctions between propaganda, disinformation, and fake news. Again, propaganda is most often true, if only a partial, one-sided truth, sincerely or cynically employed as bait to alter your Weltanschauung. It is rarely malicious disinformation, and almost never a factual hoax that will inevitably backfire. However, The List offers not a single example of actual factual disinformation, defined as false information that is intended to mislead, nor a single example of fake news, defined as made-up “facts” written and published with the intent to mislead in order to damage an agency, entity, or person. Sure, propaganda, disinformation and fake news can overlap, as do fiction and fact, but please do show us at least some example, beyond your say so, of deliberately spreading false facts or a manufactured news hoax with malevolent intent, that is false beyond disagreeing, perhaps even vehemently, with your capitalist fundamentalism. If such examples can be found, they will be found among the the right-wing junk news sites on the The List, nary a single one from the intellectual left outlets maliciously lumped in with them.
Despite the gravity of this attack on free speech in social media and its dangerously biased anti-Russia fear mongering, one may be hard-pressed to read The List (“Your Friendly Neighborhood Propaganda Identification Service Since 2016” ) without laughing all the way through. The transparency of its distortions, the barefaced and shameless pro-capitalist propaganda piece that it is, is ultimately more risible than frightening. One can hardly help being reminded of the Christmas ditty, “Making a list, checking it twice—gonna find out who’s naughty and nice…Santa Claus is coming to town…”
A great many of the alternative news outlets on The List‘s list, most likely including the one where the words you’re now reading are published, may well be on your regular reading list as they are on mine. I have not once encountered a deliberate factual falsehood, or a fabricated factual hoax. That’s not to say there is not a wide range in the quality of the writing, the editing is often lax or non-existent, the text error-prone, some little more than emotional ranting to the choir, some very few I wish weren’t there, at least in their current incarnation—but it is laughably blatant propaganda to tar every author published in The List‘s outlets as witting or unwitting Russian agents regurgitating malicious factual hoodwinking.
The light in which capitalist behavior is cast by the anti-capitalist perspective may seem shockingly untrue, and cause the capitalist true believer some uncomfortable dissonance, but these are mere matters of opinion about the nature of the facts, not the facts themselves. “The US military aggression…” may well be a loaded phrase about some American military action, but it is an opinion of that action, not an intentional lie or a National Enquirer-style hoax about some event that may not even have taken place. More and more in American society, people of every background are encountering other people “who live in a completely different world…” simply because they actually do!
The Russian government uses propaganda just as the American government does. Indeed, at least 28 governments do, America, UK and Russia foremost among them. Here are some snippets from Armies of Cyber-Troops Manipulating Public Opinion:
“The Computational Propaganda Research Project (COMPROP) investigates the interaction of algorithms, automation and politics. This work includes analysis of how tools like social media bots are used to manipulate public opinion by amplifying or repressing political content, disinformation, hate speech, junk or fake news.
In their most recent report COMPROP have identified how organizations, often with public money, have created a system to help ‘define and manage what is in the best interest of the public.’
COMPROP have compared such organizations across 28 countries…”
The COMPROP report goes on to expose the following:
“- The earliest reports of organized social media manipulation emerged in 2010, and by 2017 there are details on such organizations in 28 countries, including the US and UK.
– Looking across the 28 countries, every authoritarian regime has social media campaigns targeting their own populations, while only a few of them target foreign publics. In contrast, almost every democracy in this sample has organized social media campaigns that target foreign publics, while political-party-supported campaigns target domestic voters.
– Authoritarian regimes are not the only or even the best at organized social media manipulation. The earliest reports of government involvement in nudging public opinion involve democracies, and new innovations in political communication technologies often come from political parties and arise during high-profile elections.
– Over time, the primary mode for organizing cyber troops has gone from involving military units that experiment with manipulating public opinion over social media networks to strategic communication firms that take contracts from governments for social media campaigns.”
The phrase that stands out in all of the above, which otherwise comes as no surprise whatsoever, is that COMPROP has identified how organizations, often with public money, have created a system to help “define and manage what is in the best interest of the public…” That is rich, isn’t it? Propagandists on all sides, here both the Russians and the jingoist authors of The List, are just doing what’s in the public’s best interest, which is to say they are making your mind up for you in advance because, silly child, you don’t know what’s good for you.
However, behind this big brotherly solicitude on behalf of our “best interest” there is always an implicit threat, and often an explicit one—enter the United States government:
“Led By Thune, Senate Commerce Committee Examines Extremist Propaganda on Social Media Platforms“
U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today chaired a hearing titled, “Terrorism and Social Media: Is Big Tech Doing Enough?” The hearing examined the steps social media platforms are taking to combat the spread of extremist propaganda over the internet. During the hearing, Thune questioned witnesses from Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook on how they are working to better identify and remove extremist content online.”
Here’s an excerpt from Thune’s opening remarks:
“These [social media] services have thrived online because of the freedom made possible by the uniquely American guarantee of free speech, and by a light touch regulatory policy. But, as is so often the case, enemies of our way of life have sought to take advantage of our freedoms to advance hateful causes.”
There is a skillful dog whistle just out of hearing in that statement, a call to lump say, every leftist journalist retweeting a critique of capitalism together with masked head-chopping ISIS propagandists. As for the “hateful cause” dumpster, if you think about it, what might not be tossed in there? It would be a shorter list to find causes which do not hate what is perceived as evil in the world, whether politics or religion or some ungodly combination of the two.
You will find a great many strange bedfellows in the “hateful” dumpster, too. Indeed, many Americans regard the ideology [theology?] of the Republican Party as a “hate crime” in and of itself, in much the same way that Republican anti-Islamists view that theology as hateful; and Republicans surely do themselves hate people and things, like Muslims and Islam, rather a lot, quite openly and without reservation, and that on behalf of a great many other causes solely in their own private vested class interest, the public interest be damned. Ditto die-hard Democrats, one must hasten to add.
There is not likely an American alive today who does not honestly and deeply hate at least something about capitalism, at least some of the time, and a great many Americans feel utterly betrayed and victimized but do not recognize the culprit to call it out as capitalism per se. There are others still who understand the capitalist system all too well, and loathe it utterly and consistently, most if not all of the time, whether propelled intellectually by study, emotionally by experience, or morally bearing witness to its endless, cynical, and systemic rot.
Most anti-capitalists can begrudgingly admit to a few things that capitalism gets right, like freedom of speech, including the rapidly shrinking freedom to utterly despise capitalism in all of its guises and forms. Communism, where it still purports to exist, as in China, has much to learn from capitalism in that single regard. Free speech is just vacant hot air venting until it becomes organized into a movement and an electoral force, a difficult thing to do, but only then does it achieve moral force in a society, and become in fact a survival mechanism for that society. To suppress it is tantamount to national suicide.
We propagandists are busy trying to bring about exactly that transformation from hot air to moral force. The “hate” of the anti-capitalist generally proceeds in fact from love of humankind, particularly those most abused by capitalism, though nearly everyone, including the idle rich (though they may not know it) are to some degree its victim. On the other hand, the hate of the capitalist generally proceeds from contempt of humankind, especially the great unwashed masses, as well as from the very real arrogance of an imagined superiority.
The American propaganda machine seems to assume, correctly if tragically, that we are thoroughly indoctrinated into its domestic propaganda, and even if we are not, we have no choice but to work “for the man” in order to survive, and that in effect achieves all the self-censorship and mind control the powers that be could ever hope for via mainstream propaganda. Foreign policy, however, seems to be another matter, and that is where the US propaganda machine knocks itself out trying to convince Americans, and the rest of the world, that its interventions and wars are just, humanitarian, and necessary given the “evil axis” of China and Russia and nations like Iran and Syria and Cuba and Venezuela in their orbit.
In terms of foreign policy, American mainstream media is the most powerful arm of the US propaganda machine, with scarcely a breach in its wall of support for “Pax Americana” and the whole can of ideological worms which that entails. Even Bernie Sanders, an eloquent spokesman for America’s domestic woes—indeed, he echoes and seemingly regurgitates much of what one may find in Russian propaganda outlets such as Russia Today and Sputnik with regard to US domestic policy—even he seems to buy into mainstream American foreign policy myths. (Perhaps that is why he is not singled out for criticism along with independent leftist publications online?)
The American political and media establishment would seem to consider domestic policy—outside of our pathetic dollar-denominated duopoly elections mind you—as fair game for foreign opposition, but US foreign policy, including our own propaganda interventions in Russia and around the world under the “jurisdiction” of the CIA—not so much. And it is apparently not so much what Russian propaganda is saying about our foreign policy, but the bare fact that it is the Russians who are saying it. What is that if not Russophobia? Or some bizarre kind of nationalist or ethnic prejudice? It’s not like Russia is any longer a communist country locked in existential battle with the United States, on the contrary:
“We are currently in some sort of crisis of capitalism, as the concentration of wealth continues apace and the general population of western countries increasingly feel insecure, exploited and alienated. It is still very hard for voices that reject the neoliberal establishment view to get a media platform, but Russia does provide comparatively small platforms in the West – like Russia Today and Radio Sputnik – which allow greater democratic freedom than western media in the range of views they invite to be expressed. So the ultra-wealthy, their politician servants and media lackeys view Russia as some kind of threat to the dominance of neo-liberalism .
There are a number of ironies to this, not least the very real deficiencies in Russia’s domestic democracy and media plurality, and the fact Russia has an even worse oligarchic capitalism than the West and has a 1% completely integrated with their Western counterparts. But despite these ironies, the Western 1% perceive Russia as some sort of threat to their dominance. This leads in to the intellectually risible attempts to prove that Russia somehow “fixed” Trump’s election, for which no solid evidence can ever be adduced as it did not happen; but nevertheless vast resources continue to be spent in trying.”
[ from The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming! ]
Thus we have a propaganda war with both sides pointing at the other and proclaiming, “Fake News!”
Yes certainly the perspective cuts both ways—a far lengthier list of American mass media outlets spewing forth pro-capitalist propaganda and US jingoism, often government-supplied, could surely be compiled. Most mainstream media regularly dispenses, not only propaganda, but disinformation—especially via the omission of facts—as well as using loaded language to make a predominantly emotional appeal, and in a few extreme cases outright factual hoax news can be found, as in funky pro-capitalist stalwarts like the National Enquirer and some Tea Party publications. An Oxford University study notes:
“The [Donald] Trump Support group consumes the highest volume of junk news sources on Twitter, and spreads more junk news sources, than all the other groups put together. This pattern is repeated on Facebook, where the Hard Conservatives group consumed the highest proportion of junk news.”
Celebrity, escapist, and “junk” news coverage in general, whether or not it is actually fabricated news, fills up a consciousness that might otherwise encounter something meaningful, instead of a fantasy confirmation of the great American delusion: “I am not an exploited proletariat, I am temporarily embarrassed millionaire” (to paraphrase John Steinbeck). Celebrity culture in particular is a broad hoax perpetrated on Americans in that it hogs the cultural news, occupying virtually the whole cultural space. All escapist media, whether print or film, serve the deflective and tranquilizing purposes of propaganda.
So, where do we stand? If everything is propaganda, then nothing is? Is it then just a matter of distinguishing quality propaganda from the shameless and shallow kind? Don’t you have to pick a side eventually?
The government of the United States, as a creature of its corporate lords, is ratcheting up the pressure on the public to pick a side so they can acquire absolute hegemony over your thinking, and harass or terrorize you if you resist. Can they really be so afraid of truth on the fringes of media? It certainly does look so. House and Senate intelligence committee leaders have pressured social media executives to compile lists of accounts within their services which disseminate “Russian Propaganda,” and to their shame the technology companies have enthusiastically complied.
Twitter, Google and Facebook representatives have been summoned before the Senate Commerce Committee, like wayward school children to the principle’s office, to be chided on their laxity in keeping the hegemony of American propaganda intact for “the public good.” And they have acceded to this pressure without question.
Here’s the letter Twitter has sent out to offending accounts like our own EpiphanyOnWallStreet @NineInchBride account, which opposed both “Shillary Clinton” and “Donald tRump” in equal measure in 2016:
As part of our recent work to understand Russian-linked activities on Twitter during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, we identified and suspended a number of accounts that were potentially connected to a propaganda effort by a Russian government-linked organization known as the Internet Research Agency.
Consistent with our commitment to transparency, we are emailing you because we have reason to believe that you either followed one of these accounts or retweeted or liked content from these accounts during the election period. This is purely for your own information purposes, and is not related to a security concern for your account.
We are sharing this information so that you can learn more about these accounts and the nature of the Russian propaganda effort. You can see examples of content from these suspended accounts on our blog if you’re interested.
People look to Twitter for useful, timely, and appropriate information. We are taking active steps to stop malicious accounts and Tweets from spreading, and we are determined to keep ahead of the tactics of bad actors. For example, in recent months we have developed new techniques to identify accounts manipulating our platform, have improved our process for challenging suspicious accounts, and have introduced new measures designed to identify and take action on coordinated malicious activity. In 2018, we are building on these improvements. Our blog also contains more information about these efforts.
People come to Twitter to see what’s happening in the world. We are committed to making it the best place to do that and to being transparent with the people who use and trust our platform.
The double-speak is one up on Orwell’s 1984: “Information Quality Initiative” is used for intimidation and the implied threat of censorship for speaking truth to power, while “the public good” is here again invoked “to detect and prevent bad actors from abusing our platform.” If you follow their blog link you’ll find several offensive but ultimately iinnocuous tweets by such “bad actors” specifically regarding the election of 2016, which, as commonplace as these or similar tweets are among real Americans, compel one to believe the days of free speech in America are woefully numbered. According to twitter, our account has been so foolish as to retweet one or more of the accurate comics unfavorable to Clinton.
“If we do not believe in freedom of speech for those we despise, we do not believe in it at all,” as Chomsky has so ably pointed out. That’s democracy, the worst of systems—but for all the others. All voices have the right to be heard, no matter how sick or depraved. These will surely fall by the wayside in the course of time, and the idea that some aggregate of these shallow, tasteless efforts at exciting right-wing nut jobs to vote for Trump has actually led to putting the scoundrel in office is risible at best, at worst a naked excuse for forcible intimidation and suppression of free speech in America.
It is worth noting that the Russians only preferred Trump, as did so many Americans, because Clinton was perceived to be the worse war-monger. For the Russians she was plainly a greater existential threat to them, but also, I suspect, the Russians foresaw the degrading spectacle of a Trump presidency, and the laughing stock militarist America would become in the eyes of the world. It is also worth highlighting that their propaganda, being not only hysterically anti-Clinton, but preposterously pro-Trump, has exposed itself to the American left as utterly authoritarian by aligning with the capitalist obscenity that is Donald Trump.
This friendly “big brother” alert “for your information only” from Twitter management, under pressure from the Senate Commerce Committee, is itself “anti-propaganda” propaganda just as The List article is, and uses much of the same language in its defense. The recent Mueller indictments of Russian Twitter-bot propagandists show that “witting or unwitting stooges of Russian propaganda” surely do exist, especially within America’s political right oddly enough, but there is not likely a single anti-capitalist (i.e. “left”) American writer within these grey-listed publications or among these censured social media accounts, and ultimately, even the content promulgated by ideological “stooges” may contain valid arguments insofar as they go. It seems the problem for American propaganda is not that there exists Russian propaganda, but that their modest effort is effectively stealing its own native right wing audience and base out from under them. That is unacceptable.
On the other hand, it would surprise me not at all to learn there are Russians who can extract some truthful perspective from the CIA’s hypocritical critique of the Russian capitalist oligarchy via the Voice of America and similar propaganda incursions into their domestic culture, just as Americans can learn and grow in their understanding of the root of America’s evils from Russia’s exportation of anti-capitalist (or even anti-Clinton) propaganda, hypocritical as it may be given their capitalist (and militarist) autocracy at home. Let information flow freely without advantage or disadvantage, that’s the only way democracy can work.
Many if not most of the publications on The List feature sterling and thoroughly American leftist writers, often with an internationalist perspective, and none of these writers are “unwittingly” regurgitating Russian “propaganda” that is not painfully and incisively true from their own perspective. This simple fact is clear and bears repeating: If the truth about capitalism is sown by a hireling of the Russian government, it is no less true. If a lie about capitalism is sown by American mainstream media it is no less a lie.
American culture places an extreme emphasis on the right to hold an opinion with next to none on the actual ability to form one. We are, as a people, uneducated for democracy, which is to a large extent why we do not have one, and why the powers that be feel obliged to rely on censorship: people can’t be trusted to think for themselves. If Americans have neither the moral nor intellectual capacity to distinguish truth from lies, good argument from cheesy propaganda, enter the “anti-propaganda” propagandist and “censor-as-a-public-service” to tell them what to believe.
Thankfully there is a large and ever growing number of Americans with no such moral or intellectual deficit, who have educated themselves for democracy since the system does not. It is the abject betrayal of mainstream media, including National Public Radio, the Public Broadcasting System and other purportedly civic non-profit media venues, which fails to provide a viable platform for the legitimate American anti-capitalist voice, that in turn gives rise to the profusion of non-commercial alternative news outlets noted in The List.
Please do feel the heat of this problem as one of the more aggrieved and eloquent victims of this mainstream exclusion, Chris Hedges, rails forth. This is a prized American journalist whose only uncensored platform options are those in The List‘s list, including Russia Today, better known as RT where his video program On Contact is aired. Surely something is deeply rotten in America when even a highly credentialed journalist must resort to a foreign adversarial media outlet in order to take an anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist political stance.
Twitter’s email is, in no uncertain terms, a chilling tap on the shoulder from FISA-abusing deep state security agencies evangelizing the Russophobic rhetoric from The List: Is It Propaganda Or Not?—which, despite the question mark, has plainly decided that it is, not only “propaganda,” but disinformation and cynically constructed “fake news” master-minded by evil Russians using silly, gullible you as their stooge and mouthpiece. You’re on the naughty list.
Recently Twitter has been busy catching up with Google and Facebook’s algorithmic censorship based on this infamous List. Not only have they stooped to the scare tactic of the above warning letter, but now they are overtly deleting or suspending more and more accounts under the guise of their being Russian bots—or supportive of them. They have also taken to playing this clever game of “zeroing out” an account’s Following list as a punishment to certain accounts. This causes your followers to unfollow you in return as they become aware you have “unfollowed” them, which is what Twitter has done to you. (Don’t fall for it. If you follow an account and suddenly you find their Following list drops to zero, don’t unfollow, unless you want to be Twitter’s “stooge.” Their Following list will be reinstated at some point later on with you still in it.)
Now that some 677,775 US Twitter accounts have been singled out to receive this “we’re watching you” email—coal in the stocking from our malevolent corporate Santa Claus (incidentally, make of it what you will, that number is a hair under 1% of the current 69 million active users in the US). If these users persist in opposing mainstream media’s jingoism with critical truth from the only sources extant—Russian or otherwise—what then is next? A Pinochet-like “virtual disappearance” of all 677,775 voices on the Twitter platform?
We’ve got your number, they’re plainly telling us, we can kill your account in a blink if we choose, and feel patriotic about doing so. Perhaps they’ll be supplying government security agencies with your account data, if they are not already, which may or may not produce a knock on your door by FBI or DHS agents some quiet evening—curious about something you tweeted yesterday, or a year ago… (A native-born American citizen, I was myself visited one quiet evening, not by two or three, but a gang of four FBI agents on a fishing expedition over a separate but similar First Amendment issue…this sort of scare tactic, an abysmal waste of taxpayer money, is already going on!)
America tragically seeks to become a closed-mind, a pro-capitalist and anti-Russian hegemony, the “marketplace of ideas” be damned no less here within our cynical duopoly than in North Korea, China, or the former Soviet Union.
The answer to abusive authority is to refuse to buy into their threats, veiled or explicit. They threaten because they are themselves fearful. Laugh out loud at their “best interest of the public” propaganda (this drives them crazy). Tell them flat out you refuse to live in fear of them or to join them in complicity. Howl against their algorithms, demand the government cease leaning on these corporations for ever greater thought-policing.
Whether writer or reader, declare yourself a truth seeker, wherever that takes you, whatever its source. Make The List your reading list! Read and tweet and share its articles widely. Should micro-blogging and alternative news sharing on social media prove no longer viable, we shall find or found other means to be heard.
_anonym is a native-born American citizen living in New York, NY, and the anonymous author of An Epiphany On Wall Street and Suited For War, books one and two in the Nine Inch Bride series of political novels.