Americans are sick of fighting a 20-year war against an undefined enemy they can’t seem to beat. With morale and recruitment scraping bottom, the world’s best-funded military reckons that, if it can’t win, it can at least look like a winner.

The US Army looked to World War II, the last war the US could decisively be said to have “won,” for inspiration when designing its new service uniform to invoke “the most prominent time the Army’s service to our nation was universally recognized,” as sergeant major Daniel Dailey, the Army’s highest-ranking enlisted soldier, told the New York Times. But the specter of World War II – when Americans were hailed as “the good guys” – was conjured up long before the military decided to reenact its golden age through cosplay. Indeed, the US has been borrowing from the WWII playbook since before the War on Terror officially began.

Like WWII, the US’ forever-war, which has long since spilled beyond the Middle East, is being fought on multiple fronts against countries that, left alone, would pose no threat to the US. In both cases, the American people had to be tricked into supporting long, bloody, expensive conflicts that served little strategic purpose for the US – but strongly benefited their allies.

Neocon think tank Project for a New American Century (PNAC) infamously called for a “new Pearl Harbor” to advance its foreign policy goals, and the attacks of September 11 were used to shred the Constitution and pitch the country headlong into nearly two decades of unparalleled destruction, destabilizing the Middle East for generations and bankrupting the US. Neither attack happened without plenty of warning, however, and both were arguably permitted to take place in order to manufacture consent for extremely unpopular wars.

With the US barely out of World War I, President Franklin Roosevelt faced a population 80 to 90 percent opposed to entering another global conflict; he even ran on the promise that “your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars.” Not only did Roosevelt deliberately place the US’ Pacific fleet in harm’s way by anchoring it in Pearl Harbor against the advice of fleet commander Admiral James Richardson; he relieved Richardson of his command for complaining, reportedly telling him “Sooner or later the Japanese will commit an overt act against the United States and the nation will be willing to enter the war.” US military intelligence, which had cracked the Japanese encryption codes, intercepted radio messages indicating Japan planned to attack Hawaii. The attack was allowed to happen, and overnight, a population allergic to war was baying for Japanese blood.

Several government agents, including FBI Minneapolis field office chief counsel Coleen Rowley and FBI Special Agent Robert Wright, came forward before September 11, troubled by evidence that seemed to point to a foreign group planning an attack on American soil. Saudi nationals training at flight schools and Israeli “art students” probing security vulnerabilities in government buildings set off alarms in government agencies all over the country.  But the administration of President George W. Bush, packed with PNAC alumni, ignored and even punished these whistleblowers. The Twin Towers were destroyed, the PATRIOT Act (pre-written and ready to go) was rammed through a docile Congress and, less than a month later, according to General Wesley Clark, the decision to invade Iraq had been made, even as hostilities had barely commenced in Afghanistan. Clark was told of a classified memo from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that described how “We’re going to take out seven countries in five years,” and while their timetable is a little behind, Iran is the only country on that list where the US and its allies haven’t attempted a regime change.

It’s worth looking at what triggered the Pearl Harbor attack, because it is happening again. When Japan refused to pull its forces out of China, the US imposed an oil embargo on Japan, cutting the nation off from 80 percent of its oil supply and leaving it no choice but to seek fuel elsewhere. The closest oil was in then-Dutch Indonesia, but US-controlled Philippines physically barred the way. The US had thus almost guaranteed Japan would have to attack the US, allowing Washington to enter the war with the American people’s approval in order to fight Germany, whom Roosevelt perceived as the “real” enemy.

The US has imposed the strictest sanctions on Iran yet, repealing the last waivers last week in the hope of forcing the country into a similarly suicidal act. Iran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz if it is blocked from using the waterway, which sees 20 percent of the world’s oil traffic. US officials have deemed such a move “unacceptable,” suggesting massive retaliation would follow, and a US carrier strike group is on its way to the region, supposedly acting on a "credible threat" that Iran plans to target US interests. Regardless of who fires the first shot - and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has warned Trump a false flag attack is extremely likely - war with Iran would be the result, and Americans would be cheering it on. The question is not if, but when.

War with Iran wouldn’t benefit the US at all – a 2002 Pentagon wargame simulation has even indicated the US would lose. But Iran is the strongest enemy of Israel left standing, and Trump's inner circle – like the neocons at PNAC (whose members included John Bolton) – has made it clear where his priorities lie. Just as laying waste to Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Yemen only created an endless supply of enemies for the US while crossing Israel’s regional rivals off the list, attempting to destroy Iran will have devastating repercussions for the US while ensuring no one is left to challenge Israel’s regional dominance. It is no coincidence that the intel suggesting Iran was plotting an attack on American targets in the Middle East - the tip that triggered the deployment of the carrier strike group Abraham Lincoln to the region last month - came from the Mossad, the Israeli intel agency whose motto is "by deception, thou shalt do war." Israel has been lying about Iran's ambitions for decades. In the same way, Britain, not the US, stood to benefit from the US attacking Germany in WWII. While the US did eventually profit from Germany’s defeat, splitting a destroyed Europe with the Soviets, Britain needed US intervention if it hoped to survive at all.

World War II was a golden era for propagandists on both sides, and the US’ reliance on the art has only grown since the days when buck-toothed racist Japanese caricatures spoke to American civilians in broken English and riding alone meant riding with Hitler. And Hitler remains the exemplar of evil in the American mind only because history is written by the victors – Stalin, whose body count was significantly greater, was cast as kindly Uncle Joe, until the military-industrial complex required a new enemy to maintain military spending levels and the Soviet Union was transformed from powerful friend into formidable foe. Anti-Nazi propaganda has flourished since the war's end, with lurid tales of lampshades and soap made from concentration camp victims, and "Nazi" itself has become shorthand for anyone we disagree with politically.

Americans are told again and again that military intervention is the only way to “save” the people of Libya, Syria, or Iraq, especially their women and children. While Libya may have taken the cake for most bizarre propaganda narrative yet, with stories that Muammar Gaddafi was doling out Viagra to his soldiers to ensure they were at the top of their rape game, the terrorist White Helmets in Syria won an Oscar for their convincing portrayal of a noble civil defense force, convincing the folks back home that Bashar Assad was a gas-happy monster instead of the cosmopolitan statesman who’d received the French Medal of Honor just a few years before.

An important part of both eras' successful propaganda campaigns was bringing the war closer to home. Most Americans couldn’t care less about what is happening halfway around the world, no matter how many babies are supposedly being thrown into ovens or out of incubators. During WWII, this was accomplished with a speculative story in Life magazine on how the Nazis might invade the US. One of the routes took the Nazis up through Mexico. The narrative hasn’t changed much since then, except now it’s ISIS camped out at the border, lustily eyeing our "freedoms."

Trump isn’t the only American aware that the US is no longer “winning.” But enacting the rituals of the last time it tasted victory is not going to catapult the world back into the golden age of the American empire. Those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it – worse, they are doomed to think repeating it is a good idea.



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The New York Times has begged forgiveness for printing a cartoon that supposedly "included anti-Semitic tropes" in its international edition, but no amount of shameless groveling will stop the Israeli weaponization of the "anti-Semitism" smear as it steamrolls America's once-sacred First Amendment freedoms. This is a crusade to silence all legitimate criticism of a criminal regime, and if the Times has anything to apologize for, it is its complicity in that quest.

The offending cartoon depicts President Donald Trump as a blind man being led by a guide dog with the face of Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, identified by a star-of-David collar. It's unclear what the "anti-Semitic trope" in this case is supposed to be - the collar is arguably necessary to confirm the dog is Netanyahu, and the reader would have to be a political illiterate to interpret that as a stand-in for "all Jews." The Times' willingness to slap the "anti-Semitic trope" label on the cartoon anyway should put to rest the ridiculous "anti-Semitic trope" trope that is tirelessly deployed to smother accusations of wrongdoing by Israel or its lobbying organizations inside the US. 

Netanyahu himself has boasted that Trump acted on his orders when he declared Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization earlier this month, and Trump's willingness to flout international law to unilaterally "give" the Golan Heights to Netanyahu as a re-election present shocked the world, unsettling even some Zionists who believe the land is rightfully theirs but worry the US' official declaration will galvanize regional opposition to the occupation. Netanyahu's last election campaign was arguably based on his ability to "lead" the US president blindly off the edge of a geopolitical cliff. Is he guilty of perpetuating anti-Semitic tropes for bragging about it?

Most papers only apologize when they've printed something erroneous. The Times has chosen instead to issue a correction for one of the few accurate depictions of the relationship between Israel and the White House, a glimmer of truth even more notable for its contrast with the paper's usual disinformation painting Trump as some sort of foaming-at-the-mouth anti-Semite.

The Times' decision to apologize for this cartoon while remaining silent when a cartoon depicting Trump in a gay love affair with Vladimir Putin was condemned by LGBT readers last year betrays the editorial board's high moral dudgeon as the most transparent hypocrisy. US media has long smeared Putin's government as homophobic, yet here they were presenting him half-clothed in a stomach-turning romantic embrace with Trump - a president who, it should be noted, has presided over the deterioration of US-Russia relations to levels not seen since the Cold War. But LGBT Twitter ultimately has little power in society, unlike the Israeli lobby, and the unfavorable depiction of Trump ensured most influential LGBT organizations steered clear of criticizing the cartoon. Outrage has become yet another commodity to be traded, not a genuine response to offense.

If it's in a repentant mood, however, the Times could apologize for its one-sided coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - much of it fed to them by The Israel Project, which skews US coverage of the facts on the ground in Israel by supplying American reporters with talking points in order to "neutralize undesired narratives." From these spinmeisters we get the passive voice used to frame IDF soldiers mowing down unarmed protesters as "clashes occurred" and "Palestinian protesters were killed," as well as breathless coverage of tunnels, kites, and rocket attacks that rarely seem to hit anyone. 

The Times could apologize for its failure to expose the global campaign to redefine "anti-Zionism" as "anti-Semitism," instead of playing into it by pretending a truthful cartoon is somehow an affront to Jews - as if all Jews support the racist policies of the Israeli government. Indeed, to assume all Jews back the criminal Netanyahu regime in its openly genocidal campaign to eradicate the Palestinians from the few enclaves of the West Bank in which they remain while maintaining an open-air concentration camp in Gaza is wildly anti-Semitic.

The Times could apologize for failing to report on the massive Israeli spying operation - funded, in no small part, by the US taxpayer - targeting American activists on American soil, exposed in detail in the suppressed al-Jazeera documentary "The Lobby," which leaked last year to deafening silence in the media. Journalist Max Blumenthal actually spoke with a Times journalist who wanted to cover the explosive revelations of the documentary, but no story ever appeared. As Ali Abunimah, founder of the Electronic Intifada, has pointed out, the suppression of the documentary should have been a story in and of itself - and would have, had it involved any other country. 

"Imagine that this had been an undercover documentary revealing supposed Russian interference, or Iranian interference…in US policy, and powerful groups had gone to work to suppress its broadcast and it had leaked out. Just that element of it - the suppression and the leak - should be front page news in the Washington Post and the New York Times," he told Chris Hedges, whose RT program was the closest thing to mainstream coverage the documentary received in the US. 

The Times instead chooses to cover up the actions of groups like the Israel on Campus Coalition as they surveil and smear pro-Palestinian activists - college students, professors, and others sympathetic to Israel's sworn enemy - using a strategy the ICC's executive director Jacob Baime admits is based on US General Stanley McChrystal's counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq. "The Lobby" revealed that agents working for the Israeli government infiltrate pro-Palestinian, pro-peace groups using fake social media accounts and report their findings back to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a shocking fact that none of the organizations named in the film have disputed. A foreign government operating a military-style surveillance network to target and smear American citizens in their own country - for nothing more than exercising their freedom of speech - gets a pass from the Times, but a cartoon showing Trump's blind loyalty to Israel for what it is must be condemned.

It's tough to electrify an outrage mob based on a story that wasn't printed, but the Times' failure to address the very real threat to Americans exercising their free speech - a threat all the more dire because it is funded by US tax dollars to the tune of $3.8 billion per year - merits at least a full-page apology. Compounding the insult is a domestic economic crisis, with many American cities facing record homelessness, skyrocketing cost of living, a dearth of secure employment and an excess of exploitative "gig economy" temp work, and a rapidly-disappearing social safety net. Israel is a wealthy country, as Netanyahu often boasts, a successful country. Only a truly blind government could continue to fork over such enormous sums of money while Americans languish in poverty.

"The anti-Semitism smear is not what it used to be," one lobbyist laments to al-Jazeera's hidden camera-equipped reporter. Perhaps this is why the state of Florida has advanced a bill to criminalize "anti-Semitism," now broadly redefined to include "alleging myths…that Jews control the media, economy, government, or other institutions." The bill passed the House unanimously, the one holdout bullied into submission when she voiced concerns about its incompatibility with the First Amendment, yet to point out - as AIPAC does - that this bipartisan approval exists because the Israeli lobby has influence over both parties, or that this influence can make or break a candidate, is about to become illegal. When even a milquetoast like Democratic congressman Beto O'Rourke has stuck his neck out to call Netanyahu a racist - and he receives more money from the Israeli lobby than most of his House colleagues - the Times should be ashamed of itself for pushing the fiction that criticism of Israel and its iron grip on the US government is equivalent to anti-Semitism.

The Times' own article about its apology quotes an interview with the "guilty" party, Portuguese cartoonist Antonio Moreira Antunes, from the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attack, when four cartoonists and the magazine's editor were murdered, supposedly for printing an offensive cartoon. There is a definite parallel with the Zionist outrage mobs calling for Antunes' head - figuratively, if not yet literally; many are unsatisfied with the Times' apology and insist Antunes suffer for his insolence by losing his job, if not his life. Antunes, in the interview, called his job "a profession of risk," but states "there is no other option but to defend freedom of expression." 

The New York Times, and everyone else who demanded they apologize for a truthful cartoon while ignoring their failure to oppose genuine bigotry in the Netanyahu regime and supporters of Zionism, clearly do not agree that freedom of expression is worth defending. A press that cannot even defend itself does not deserve to be called "free.'

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Former president and smooth (war) criminal Barack Obama paid a visit to his old pal Angela Merkel in Germany this week, reminiscing about the good old days when NATO could declare a no-fly zone in order to wipe out a Middle Eastern nation without a whiff of protest - and collecting a fat check for a speech at a "leadership conference."

Merkel looked pleased as punch to see her old pal from the pre-Trump era, flashing an unusually genuine smile during their embrace as he left the chancellery. Obama, for his part, has called Merkel one of his "favorite partners" during his two terms in office. Her "hands-off" style of governance dovetailed perfectly with his "speak suavely, but carry a big drone" model of foreign policy - the velvet glove placed over the Bush-era iron fist in order to repair the damage done to the US' international standing by Dubya's uncouth stampede to make his daddy proud by finishing off Saddam Hussein.

The pair reportedly discussed "trans-Atlantic relations" during their meeting. The nostalgia session must have proved therapeutic for Merkel after being taken to task by Obama's successor Donald Trump over Germany's failure to cough up the two percent of GDP expected from NATO member countries as tribute to the aging military alliance, which just celebrated 70 years of standing tall against an enemy that no longer exists, but remains very much alive in the minds of the military-industrial complex and its media enablers.

And trans-Atlantic relations aren't in the best shape, with the Trump administration promising recriminations for Germany's resistance to the non-stop flood of US sanctions against trading partners like Russia and Iran. Certainly, Obama has been much better than his successor at buttering up the German leader, giving her a Presidential Medal of Honor in 2011 - while Trump infamously chucked Starburst candies in her direction during the most recent G7 summit. 

But what did they really talk about during their meeting? Merkel could have allayed her fears that Germany would be cut off from US intelligence over its determination to purchase Huawei 5G tech, with Obama reminding her that US intel isn't all it's cracked up to be - with the NSA's notorious "Stellar Wind" program failing to stop a single terrorist attack even as it had Merkel's own phone tapped for over a decade. And most of the "terrorism" that takes place in Europe is committed by NATO's Operation Gladio stay-behind networks anyway, so joke's on whoever's tasked with sifting through the "chatter" in the name of national security! They could have shared a big chortle over that one.

And speaking of "terrorists" real and imagined, Obama could have congratulated Merkel on finally admitting that the US was running its drone warfare operations out of Rammstein air base - how brilliant of her to drop that bombshell after Trump's election and thus focus popular anger on him, as if the drones hadn't been coming and going for over a decade, mowing down wedding parties and journalists alike as they ticked names off Obama's infamous "disposition matrix!" He may also have dispensed some sage advice on defanging the local anti-war movement, which got a shot in the arm from the news that Germany was implicated in the extrajudicial US killings that skyrocketed under Obama's watch. 

And Obama might have given Merkel some friendly advice on her love life, advising on her burgeoning relationship with the Obama-like pretty-boy-with-Wall-Street-ties president of France, Emmanuel Macron (we already know he has a thing for older women - you go, Angie!) - or just advised her how to relax and learn to love Germany being permanently swamped with refugees created by the wars his administration began or continued.

If the talk drifted to intra-EU politics, Merkel could rely on Obama to lend a sympathetic ear to her complaints about Greece's failure to show gratitude during her recent visit for the austerity measures imposed by the EU with Germany at the helm, which have placed one in three Greeks in poverty or close to it, ten years later. Under Obama, most Americans never recovered from the 2008 crash either, with nearly 4 out of 5 reporting in 2017 that they were living paycheck to paycheck. But Wall Street is doing better than ever, and that's what's important, Obama could have consoled her - what's the little guy gonna do, blog about it?

But Obama wasn't just in town to flirt with the outgoing German chancellor - he had a paycheck to collect, courtesy of the World Leadership Summit in Cologne, where attendees paid anywhere from €85 to €5,000 for the chance to hear the former president pontificate on such pressing issues as climate change, feminism, activism, and - of course - leadership.

The €5,000 VIP ticket not only gave them a chance to watch a person who used to be president eat, but a chance to be photographed alongside the last US leader to enjoy teen-idol levels of international celebrity, on the off-chance some of that fabulousness would rub off on them. Those unable or unwilling to shell out the big dollars reportedly crowded toward the stage, attempting to selfie their way into the president's aura. As is to be expected from an event billed as a "global leadership summit," Obama had plenty of vague platitudes for the audience, which lapped them up graciously.

"A good leader is someone who listens and feels what people feel. What drives you forward as leader is the work, not the applause, so focus on what you want to do and not what you want to be," Obama told the packed hall, to thunderous applause.

He continued his pattern of passive-aggressive treatment of Trump, refusing to speak his successor's name while making it clear exactly on whom he was throwing shade. "I'm a friend of the facts," he said, to applause from the similarly fact-loving audience. "This is a table," Obama then said, indicating the object next to him that was indeed a table. "If somebody says it's a tree, what, yeah, what should I say?"

Obama was also asked to weigh in on one of the more controversial aspects of his presidency, the 563 (known) drone strikes he oversaw that left between 384 and 807 civilians dead, not including the thousands of casualties inflicted in "active battlefield" countries such as Afghanistan, Syria, Libya and Iraq - or deaths not reported as civilian casualties, a persistent problem during his presidency, with records showing up to 90 percent of those killed in such strikes were not the intended targets. Obama admitted the decision to rain fiery death hadn't been an easy one, but said that ultimately he believes drones led to less collateral damage than if he had sent troops into all the places he bombed. Refraining from bombing at all apparently didn't cross his mind. 

"To be effective today, people have to relate to you," Obama told his adoring fans, and nothing says relatable like a €5,000-a-head VIP dinner. No wonder the ruling class is nostalgic for the days the American Way had such a smooth salesman at its helm - for all Trump's determination to sell the US out, he can barely get his foot out of his mouth long enough to seal the deal.

(originally published in heavily-abridged form at RT. photos © Reuters)

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The US is so enamored of its role as sole world superpower that it thinks nothing of mistreating allies, never believing they might tire of the abuse and run away – into the arms of China, or – perish the thought – Russia.

The Trump administration has never met a failed policy it wouldn’t embrace, from attempting to ignite a color revolution in Iran (after stamping out actual democracy there half a century ago), to throwing good money after bad in the two-decade-long quagmire of Afghanistan. With a stranglehold on the world’s reserve currency, even the most expensive mistakes – and at $22 trillion in debt, a lot have been made – have largely theoretical consequences, and just as Wall Street is able to outsource risk to Main Street, the US can sleep well at night knowing the fallout of its bad decisions is unfolding largely outside its borders.

Bristling with nuclear enthusiasm after throwing aside the INF with a Strangelovian flourish, promising to take its bloated and over-equipped military to space “the better to menace you with,” brutalizing even its own citizens both physically and psychologically with constant surveillance, and wielding punitive sanctions against putative allies for daring to defy its petty economic vendettas, the US is the geopolitical equivalent of an abusive romantic partner. And its allies are finally waking up to the realization that perhaps it’s time to break things off.

The biggest indignity yet was the ludicrous demand that NATO allies pay to host the American troops permanently garrisoned there – to essentially bankroll their own occupations. Last week, it was reported the US would begin asking some of its most hospitable allies – those nations home to hundreds of thousands of soldiers – to foot the bill for the cost of keeping them “safe.” While the cost breakdown hasn’t been decided yet, it may include the actual salaries of the soldiers stationed there – which would make the “quartering” policy that helped set off the American Revolution look positively civilized in comparison. Over two-thirds of the residents of Okinawa, where the US wants to relocate a military base, voted against the plan in a referendum last month. Construction is going ahead anyway. With allies like these, who needs enemies?

Adding insult to this financial injury, those countries whose policies “align closely” with the US would get an unspecified “discount” on their occupation bill – while those countries who didn’t play ball would, presumably, face the prospect of hundreds of thousands of disgruntled, well-armed American troops on their soil. “Gee, that’s a nice country you got there. Would be a real shame if something happened to it.” The US has been accused of acting like a mafia state before, but prior to Trump, its leaders seldom embraced the designation with such zest. One has to respect his honesty, at least – as Ilhan Omar said (and then quickly tried to un-say), Barack Obama’s policies were almost indistinguishable, except they were delivered by a pretty face, with a smile capable of speaking in complete sentences.

And where would an abusive relationship be without gaslighting? The US insists, to all who will listen, that its puppet Juan Guaido is recognized the world over as the legitimate ruler of Venezuela, even though no more than 54 countries have fallen in line behind his self-appointed leadership. Even the mainstream US media – hardly a pack of truth-tellers – has come under attack by Sen. Marco Rubio, who accused CNN of Russian collusion for referring to Guaido as the “self-proclaimed” president of Venezuela. Not to be outdone, Abrams has threatened second-order sanctions against those nations that refuse to declare 2 + 2 = 5 and embrace the unelected frontman for another good old-fashioned South American resource-grab. Never mind international law – second-order sanctions are not, in fact, a thing – but almost three-quarters of the UN still backs Nicolas Maduro, the elected President of Venezuela.

Like any abusive partner, the US is wildly jealous. Germany is the primary target of its covetous rages, courted as it is both by Russia, with the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, and China, whose Huawei is currently in talks to build 5G wireless infrastructure. Huawei has even opened a “cybersecurity and transparency center” in Brussels in a bid to sway the whole EU into acknowledging its technological superiority, even as the US attempts to jail the company’s CFO and ban its products across the western world. So far, this is a battle the US is losing, despite their efforts to convince allies that Huawei is secretly a Chinese spy plot – concerns Berlin perhaps feels justified in ignoring since learning that US intelligence spent over a decade listening in on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone calls – so on Monday they upped the ante, issuing an ultimatum to Berlin that should they scorn the wishes of the world’s only superpower, the US would no longer be able to cooperate with German security agencies. Officially, this is because of the risk of Chinese backdoors built into the equipment. Realistically, this is the behavior of a petty, jealous lover. Germany can do so much better. So can the rest of the world.
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The myth of American exceptionalism has been busted. An era of global hegemony, fueled by rapacious growth and backed by military muscle, built the world’s largest echo chamber, reassuring Americans of their greatness even as their country crumbled into a shadow of its former self. The ruling class became complacent, relying upon an increasingly threadbare series of clichés, magic words and images without substance (democracy! humanitarian intervention! tolerance!). These talismans worked to keep us alienated and powerless: too busy to notice the bodies piling up in the street, and too demoralized to speak up when we did.

Then came 2016. Too late, the ruling class realized that the powers they had harnessed after 9/11 to shred the Constitution and impose police-state totalitarianism could not be taken for granted and might even have escaped their control, particularly with the rise of social media facilitating the dissemination of alternate narratives even as it enabled the unprecedented growth of the surveillance state. In an effort to stop reality from poisoning the narrative, President Barack Obama authorized the establishment of a Ministry of Truth as he walked out the door in December 2016, his parting gift to a government in the throes of utter existential panic - but it was too little, too late. Narrative supremacy has become such a crutch for our foreign and domestic policies that the country is no longer capable of functioning if when we say jump! the rest of the world does not obediently shout how high? 

Thus, what was supposed to be a morale-boosting quickie regime-change operation to cheer up the rank and file on the road to Tehran - the overthrow of Nicolas Maduro’s sanctions-starved socialist state in Venezuela, the oil-rich fly in the ointment of “our own backyard” - has become just another entry on a long list of ignominious failures. Even the truest of true believers can no longer pretend that the US is in the business of spreading democracy - not when all the evidence and information available points the other way. The only remedy left for the “sole superpower” is to cut off the flow of information entirely and build an informational Iron Dome, an epistemological missile shield capable of withstanding all truth.

Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?

Lazy propaganda is largely to blame for the lapse in narrative superiority. The same tawdry psy-ops are recycled again and again, as we see now in Venezuela, where Iran-Contra felon and smirking genocide enthusiast Elliott Abrams has been wheeled out of cold storage to work his death-squad magic on a population we’ve already tried and failed to hypnotize with the promises of neoliberalism. Just as the one-two punch of fake Iranian revolutions made the fatal error of running the same script twice in most “protesters’” lifetimes, the attempt to overthrow Maduro comes less than two decades after the US-backed effort to overthrow Chavez – also led by Abrams – and it’s not fooling anyone. It doesn’t help that the total nobody they picked to lead the charge was a stranger to 80% of all Venezuelans, or that John Bolton couldn’t even keep from blurting out the truth - that this entire pantomime of humanitarian intervention is being conducted to pillage Venezuela’s sweet, sweet oil, which has the gall to sit beneath one of the last socialist holdouts in the western hemisphere. The Milton Friedman-style, “make the economy scream” model that worked so well in Chile and Argentina fell flat in Venezuela in 2002 - the people did not trust an opposition movement willing to tank the economy in order to take over, and refused to vote for the barbarians at the gate, no matter how slickly produced their “revolution.” With even Washington’s subservient allies in the Lima Group refusing to back military action, elections would be Trump’s only way to climb out of this hole gracefully, short of Libya-style indiscriminate slaughter - and that option is far too tempting for a country whose very existence is an affront to neoliberalism, as evidenced by the chillingly sociopathic tweets of Marco Rubio.

With Abrams at the helm, we know what's next. There will be no graceful extrication. Trump has said over and over that there's no going back, and the loss of face after such a public coup attempt would make him a laughingstock among his neocon pals, if not his dwindling base. Abrams’ Central American genocides of the 1980s are not forgotten, and the same old script is playing out - Venezuelan authorities have already caught a CIA-linked airline unloading crates of weapons bound for the opposition in Valencia. Buying elections is not an option - Venezuela's electoral system is markedly less corrupt than the American model, and the slickly-produced Juan Guaido - who might as well have been grown in a vat at Langley - would never prevail in an electoral contest. The Lima Group - a body created with the sole purpose of de-legitimizing Maduro's government! - will not green-light the military invasion the US is so desperately itching to conduct as its regime-change operation melts down. Even Brazil - whose leader, Jair Bolsonaro, served under the last crop of military dictatorships imposed on the country and prefers such a model to democracy - has categorically refused to allow US forces to use its borderlands as a staging ground for invasion. A UN resolution calling for Maduro to step down was blocked last week. Absent a spectacular false flag - not really Abrams' specialty - only a sustained, high-level propaganda campaign can win the hearts and minds of the “broad coalition” Bolton now says the administration wants.

One must give the establishment media credit for working with the few scraps of plausibility they’re thrown - CNN has featured entire segments on Venezuelan military defectors who are neither Venezuelan, nor in the military. We are told again and again they are eating dogs, they are eating zoo animals, they are eating rats (the “babies flung out of incubators” Wag the Dog myth of the 21st century). Wikipedia, Facebook and Instagram all stamped their seal of approval on Guaido the moment he became the Emperor Norton of the southern hemisphere - sometimes before. Richard Branson was pressed into service, bringing his (uneaten) dog-and-pony show to town as soundtrack to the Standoff On The Bridge that was supposed to be Maduro’s Waterloo. The myth unraveled quickly as the opposition was caught on film fire-bombing a USAID truck, then trying to blame the conflagration on Maduro’s forces. Maduro staged his own musical intervention to drown out Branson’s sparsely-attended PR stunt. Colombian hirelings and provocateurs threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at the looming squadron of US aid delivery vehicles (cluelessly labeled USAID - as if everyone in South America isn’t aware of what it means when USAID shows up in your country) while Guaido’s “human avalanche” evaporated into a trickle when the Boy Wonder himself vanished at the height of the action. The Abrams brigade was caught disguising themselves as Red Cross workers, lest a distinct brand lead to White Helmets-style infamy if one were to be caught mid-atrocity.


Venezuelan foreign minister Jorge Arreaza accused the US of staging the bombing of the aid convoy and exposed the "humanitarian" fraud for what it is - a pastiche of photo-ops, “crumbs” of spoiled food, expired medicine, barricade-construction materials, and weapons for the opposition framed as manna from heaven; the Venezuelan regime depicted as selfish and self-sabotaging, valuing their pride over the full bellies of their people. Meanwhile, millions of dollars in aid continues to pour in from Russia, Turkey, China, and other countries that aren’t interested in installing a pliable puppet to plunder petroleum. The Potemkin aid supply operation - complete with fake crowd numbers for Branson’s concert, fake atrocities to protest against, even fake terrorist collaborators (watch Rapture Mike Pompeo bloviate about Hezbollah) - would have been laughable if it were not so deadly serious.

The UN human rights rapporteur Alfred De Zayas has exposed the fraud that is the Venezuelan “humanitarian crisis,” demanding the US answer for its own violations of international law in creating the situation. “I see human rights more and more being instrumentalized to destroy human rights,” he told Abby Martin - not the UN, which isn't interested in hearing his recommendation to haul the US before the International Criminal Court for the sanctions he calls a "crime against humanity" as well as its violation of Venezuela's sovereignty. This is to say nothing of Venezuela’s stolen gold, a crime which bodes ill for every other country that has ever stored its bullion with the Bank of England. Even Australia, one of the Five Eyes, has never been permitted to fully audit its gold reserves there, raising the question: does the City of London no longer care, with the dollar due to collapse at any minute, whether its customers find it trustworthy? Or has the gold long since been sold or traded to points east?

“Progressive” stooges are deployed at home to sell this war to Americans, and the 2020 hopefuls (except Tulsi Gabbard) have all scored media points shilling for regime change. Bernie Sanders, whose last act as a 2016 candidate was to sell his supporters out to his erstwhile enemy Hillary Clinton, has dragged his feet jumping on the regime-change bandwagon, but at the same time refuses to support Maduro - despite ostensibly sharing his socialist values. Even Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the progressives’ Great Brown Hope, has been less than forthcoming in her support for Maduro and the poor Venezuelans whose interests he represents. But then, she’s more Guaido’s hue anyway. Not even the most virulently anti-Trump US lawmakers are willing to publicly question the idea that putting a loaded gun to a country’s head and demanding they swear fealty to a total stranger is “democracy.” Twitter, ever the helpful servant of the ruling class, deleted thousands of pro-Maduro accounts in January in an effort to manufacture consent while permitting doxxing and hacking attacks on pro-regime entities and even the Venezuelan currency itself by a dodgy group of Venezuelan expats called DolarToday - the very “coordinated inauthentic behavior” Maduro’s supporters are blamed for. Facebook and Instagram signed off on Guaido’s legitimacy with blue check-marks they withheld from Maduro - and Wikipedia declared Guaido President before Guaido had a chance to do it himself. The propaganda operation is running at full capacity, 24/7 – so why isn’t it working?

Crisis of Quality

When you tell a population the sky is orange, they must never be permitted to look out the windows, lest they catch even a glimpse of blue. With the quality of American propaganda at an all-time low, the delivery systems are on overdrive, with the knowledge that full Orwellian totalitarianism is the only way the ruling class can ever hope to regain control of the narrative. Mainstream media is taking a cue from the politicians it protects to shore up its dying credibility, hoping the illusion of a personnel shakeup will inspire renewed trust. Mass layoffs - over a thousand in one week alone at Buzzfeed, Vox, Gannett, Verizon, and Vice - gave the impression of clearing out dead wood, even as nervous Mockingbirds framed the losses as a crisis of democracy. They may be untrustworthy as hell - a Gallup poll found just 33% of Americans trust journalists, while 34% don’t - but they’re still doing better than Congressmen, who have an 8% trustworthy-58% untrustworthy ratio, worse than used-car salesmen. Edelman’s yearly “trust barometer” bristled with pearl-clutching about a “distrust crisis” last year, with 20 of 28 countries studied soundly in “distruster territory” and the US experiencing a sharper decline in institutional trust than any other country. Worse, the sharpest declines were among the “informed public,” who apparently know when they're being lied to. Pollsters from the Knight Foundation were dispatched to tell Americans that 2/3 of them still rely on TV news “a great deal” for staying informed, despite record-low ratings across networks, and that TV and newspapers are “most trusted.”  Despite rumors that the Center for Information Analysis and Response - the American Ministry of Truth - had run out of cash, there’s always money in the budget for war, and the Pentagon itself has said lies are cheaper than bombs. We can expect a closer-than-ever collaboration between cash-strapped mainstream media and their Defense Department sugar daddies.

Given the shoddy quality of official propaganda, the average internet user must be prevented at all costs from reading the truth. The blacklist model that was debuted after the 2016 election - “other,” smear, deplatform - is fraying at the edges, having fallen far since the fake news panic of 2016 convinced the gullible that there were Russian bots and Macedonian spammers lurking behind every off-brand Facebook post. There’s still a fake news panic - Edelman says 73% of us are lying awake at night worrying fake news is being weaponized against us - but mainstream credibility is so devastated that merely declaring a site blacklisted, as Washington Post attempted to do by uncritically republishing the infamous Ukrainian “PropOrNot” smear of the 200 most popular independent media sites as Russian stooges after Trump was elected, is not enough to keep people away. Indeed, that list served as a resource for those who, distrusting mainstream media (which after all had just predicted a landslide victory for a losing presidential candidate), weren’t sure what else was out there. Two years later, with Russiagate so thoroughly discredited even its biggest cheerleaders are quietly backing away, a new battle plan is needed.

Weaponizing "Fake News"

Facebook attempted to leverage the Fake News panic early on by adopting the Wikipedia model of propaganda, sheep-dipping approved neoliberal narratives in the wisdom of "the crowd" by allowing users to flag “untrustworthy” stories. They soon realized users were more likely to flag stories they didn’t like, or stories posted by users they were feuding with, than news they thought was fake, and had to modify the algorithm and bring in third-party fact checkers like Snopes and the Associated Press to lend their imprimatur to the checks. Even then, users actually clicked on flagged stories morenot trusting the scandal-soaked social media firm. So Facebook hid the "trust" ratings altogether, down-ranking or boosting content based on "user surveys" they may or may not have actually conducted concerning those outlets' trustworthiness - a black-box model perfect for squelching dissent. At the same time, they officially partnered with the Atlantic Council - the shadowy NATO-backed think tank that has pushed Russiagate and other recycled Cold War cold cuts - to ensure no wrongthink slipped through the cracks.

With NATO’s goons at the helm, armed with their “Digital Forensics Research Lab” in which every post not toeing the line of western imperialism is the work of Kremlin agents, the Great Deplatforming began. It was chillingly effective for a while, because those deprived of a platform are necessarily unable to refute whatever slander the ruling class and its media mouthpieces perpetuate about them. Alex Jones served as an ideal test case - while enormously popular among Trump supporters, most of the mainstream media’s core audience only knew of him secondhand, and it was easy to put the most abhorrent words in his mouth and induce cheers for censorship from the Left - once the most stridently anti-censorship part of the political spectrum. After Jones, hundreds of other users winked out of existence as Facebook covered up the carnage with some bland language about inauthentic behavior and a report on Iranian spam accounts from a captive cybersecurity firm. The deletions were coordinated - users took to Twitter to complain their Facebook was gone, only to be locked out of there as well. Those without millions of followers were un-personed as effectively as if Stalin himself had purged them. Jamie Fly, of the neocon Alliance for Securing Democracy, proclaimed this was “only the beginning” in an ominous soundbite clearly meant to be whispered about in underground meetings.

Mass deplatformings work well to spread panic and induce self-censorship in some content creators, but they only work on one end of the information consumption circuit. NewsGuard went live in December as the ultimate individualization of the police state, a pocket-snitch that lives in your phone and decides what sites you can and cannot access. NewsGuard’s blacklist does not offer the user a choice. It inhabits their browser, silently recording their browsing habits and location and reporting back to a command center whose advisory board includes such gargoyles as Michael Hayden - the former CIA and NSA director who’s never met a civil liberty he didn’t want to squash - and Tom Ridge, the former secretary of Homeland Security who devised the color-coded terror warning system that eventually exhausted the American amygdala in the aftermath of 9/11. While color-coded warnings were poorly suited to a concept like “terrorism,” in which it’s wise to maintain fear levels at a low boil lest one’s target run out of fear and cease quivering abjectly at the mere mention of Muslims with boxcutters, they’re ideal for a “trust rating” system like NewsGuard, where it’s desirable to create a Pavlovian aversion to “fake news.”

As if the presence of these two police-state thugs isn’t ominous enough, former Time editor Richard Stengel - now a “distinguished fellow” at the Atlantic Council, where Hayden is also a fellow - sits on NewsGuard's advisory board. Stengel, who also worked as undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy during the Obama presidency, described his duties as “chief propagandist.” “Every country creates their own narrative story. I’m not against propaganda. Every country does it, and they have to do it to their own population, and I don’t think it’s that awful," he told the Council on Foreign Relations, further lamenting that “the [news] cartels don’t have hegemony like they used to.” In light of these comments, NewsGuard’s slavish adherence to the primacy of death’s-door dinosaur media over internet news sources makes perfect sense.

MintPress has done the hard work of digging up the dirt on NewsGuard, and there are several bulldozers’ worth. One of its major investors is the Publicis Groupe, whose subsidiary Qorvis took $6 million in 2017 to whitewash Saudi Arabia’s odious human rights record as the kingdom starved half the Yemeni population to the brink of death. Publicis also represents Monsanto, Merck, Pfizer, Eli Lilly, Procter & Gamble, and the government of Australia, among other dystopian conglomerates. Another major donor is the Blue Haven Initiative, run by the Pritzker family, the second-largest donor to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. The site’s investors and advisors couldn’t be more cartoonishly evil if they tried - yet they hope to sit in judgment of what is Truth. 

Armed with a made-to-order poll declaring 89% of users thirsted after a built-in browser babysitter, NewsGuard was midwifed into the American consciousness by Microsoft, whose unconditional support includes packaging the plugin with its “Edge” browser in all new Windows 10 installations as part of its not-at-all-Orwellian “Defending Democracy Program.” Why a software company should be involved in defending democracy is never explained, but it doesn’t have to be. Microsoft’s operating system runs the lion’s share of the world’s computers, and even though its browser - a zombie revamp of Internet Explorer - is not popular, it’s worth remembering that Microsoft was also the first to join the NSA’s PRISM program, way back in 2007 when Big Tech still hesitated before running roughshod over its customers’ civil liberties. It was soon followed by Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Apple. Now that these companies know they face no repercussions from trampling on their users’ rights - that indeed they will be rewarded handsomely with government contracts for doing so – it’s easy to see how widespread adoption of NewsGuard might not be far behind.

PRISM has been largely forgotten in the wake of more recent NSA/CIA scandals, but at the time of its exposure, Facebook and Google were in the process of creating secure portals to allow the NSA to more easily access their data, and it’s absurd to think they halted that project because of a silly leak. The Snowden revelations managed to change precisely nothing about how Americans interact with the security state, except to erode the expectation of privacy we once had. A browser plugin, backdoored to the NSA, tracking one’s un-American activities, is the setup for the worst kind of Minority-Report-esque pre-crime detention. And thanks to the same National Defense Authorization Act that allowed the Pentagon to turn its venerable propaganda apparatus on American citizens, the security state can detain us indefinitely without a warrant should the mood strike - even mow us down like dogs in our homes if it doesn’t like our web history.

NewsGuard itself is supposedly staffed by “real journalists” as opposed to the algorithm that protects us from conspiracy theories on YouTube, and it has already been exposed as hopelessly corrupt. Those in the mainstream media who’ve heard of NewsGuard were perplexed by its rating of Fox News as “trustworthy,” believing a right-leaning network could not possibly rate the coveted green checkmark. All was made clear when Fox broadcast a puff piece hailing NewsGuard as the “killer app” that would save journalism - a clip NewsGuard immediately added to the list of "endorsements" on their website. You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.

This corruption became even clearer when NewsGuard was persuaded to change its “untrustworthy” rating of the Daily Mail, the British tabloid which was also the first mainstream news source to be declared untrustworthy by just a handful of editors on Wikipedia. The Mail, for all its flaws - and there are many - has more traffic than any other online news outlet (not counting aggregators like Drudge). When an anonymous Mail editor wrote a polite point by point refutation and sent it to NewsGuard, their rating was changed to green, ensuring the Mail would not publish a scathing attack on the noble censor - which could have smothered it in its cradle - while also making the plugin look eminently reasonable (see, they do change their ratings if they’re wrong!). Everybody wins! MintPress, of course, tried the same thing months ago, only to be ignored and vilified.

Breitbart, miffed after being slighted by the NewsGuard team despite their diligent cheerleading for every neocon regime-change operation, compiled a telling list of proven hoaxes the extension has approved. More than anything else, the list highlights the obvious perils of a blacklist - scare stories like the Washington Post’s infamous “Russia hacked Vermont utilities” are never properly retracted because they’re designed to percolate in the reader’s subconscious so the next time they read about Russian malfeasance they’re more favorably inclined toward the idea. Facts are stupid things that merely get in the way of a good narrative. In the same way, a story published on Breitbart or RT - even if it came from ur-Reliable Source the Associated Press - gets the scarlet shield of shame through guilt by association. NewsGuard is laughably, irredeemably flawed, and no intelligent person would ever download it.

Locked in the Echo Chamber

That’s why they don’t have to. It isn’t just Microsoft’s built-in browser that’s forcing the new extension down users’ throats. NewsGuard has been diligently targeting libraries and school systems across the country for the better part of a year, trying to force its browser extension on unsuspecting students (hook ‘em while they’re young, etc). Libraries in Hawaii and Illinois have installed the extension, and other states are sure to follow. NewsGuard itself is quite certain of its success, and given its impressive pedigree, why shouldn’t it be? These are individuals familiar with all the dirty tricks that enable American power. “NewsGuard will be available on mobile devices when the digital platforms such as social media sites and search engines or mobile operating systems add our ratings and Nutrition Labels directly,” newsguardtech.com predicts - meaning Facebook, Google, Twitter, and so on are next in line to integrate the app into their very fabric.

When Snopes and AP both announced they had ended their fact-checking partnerships with Facebook last month, releasing carefully-worded statements that left open the possibility of future collaboration, Facebook was deep in the throes of a multifaceted PR disaster that has been raging for months. It was easy to think the companies were merely extricating themselves from a sinking ship. But Snopes VP Vinny Green spilled the Orwellian beans when he told Poynter that rather than checking individual “facts” - an inefficient, time-consuming model that allowed metric tons of misinformation to slip through - “fake websites” should “just be reported through other means” - accompanied, of course, by “a body of evidence that these people shouldn’t be on your platform because of their nefarious activity.” This is NewsGuard’s business model - all that remains to be seen is whether the erstwhile Facebook fact checkers are building their own NewsGuard for the platform or merely integrating into the national security state’s version. The social media platform has already admitted it has developed a “trust rating” for users, and Zuckerberg has let slip on more than one occasion that he wants the site to be an “internet drivers’ license.” The dots are not difficult to connect here.

But there have been hints that all is not going well for the 21st century blacklist. In a presentation last month before EU authorities, Brill attempted to sell NewsGuard by claiming it had already been sold - alleging it would be fully operational in the UK, Italy, France and Germany by April while at the same time expressing hope that EU-funded and -connected fact checkers would sign on and lend their credibility to the platform. It’s very likely this is the same kind of psychological operation they deployed to sell the plugin in the States, in which the intolerable prospect is presented as a fait accompli and the brain sets to work reframing it as a tolerable, if undesirable, reality. Still, Brill's desperation glistened – had someone called his bluff, all those surveillance-state backers’ cash would have gone up in smoke, and he’d probably end up succumbing to a mysterious heart attack.

NewsGuard isn’t completely DoA in the US, of course - it merely hasn’t found much love among the big tech companies whose financial backing is necessary for it to turn a profit. Microsoft’s good example has not been followed by Facebook, Google, or Twitter - perhaps because they too remember PRISM, see NewsGuard’s NSAesque collection of location and browsing-history data (totally unnecessary to operate the plugin, but perfect for a surveillance state looking to target dissidents for special attention) plus the presence of Mr. NSA data-collection himself, Michael Hayden, on the board, and think better of taking on another guaranteed PR disaster. And if it is adopted by the EU, American tech companies could be forced to embrace it anyway, having signed on to the EU's Code of Practice on Disinformation, a formal promise to curtail the spread of "fake news" on their platforms. At any rate, Microsoft’s operating systems are installed on the vast majority of the world's computers, and most people are too lazy or tech-illiterate to take the time to install a second browser or find a workaround if NewsGuard is integrated into the default setting. When an option is presented as the default, the lion's share of humanity does not question it or even realize there is something to question. 

For now, NewsGuard is a mere visual annoyance, dogging wrongthink sites with its patronizing nutrition labels. It would be too Orwellian even for the most oblivious individuals to start out by blocking all access to dissident sites. But once all devices and new computers are running this literal spyware, this Pocket Stasi, there is nothing to stop the developers from forcing an “upgrade” that blocks devices from accessing the blacklisted sites altogether. Facebook has already intimidated the mainstream media into paying it protection money - now it has to deliver a VIP experience. NewsGuard make no secret of its affection for the police state, either - “A SWAT team of NewsGuard analysts operates 24/7 to identify suddenly trending purveyors of unreliable news among sites that NewsGuard has not yet rated and warn internet users about them in real time." Nor does it conceal its ambitions regarding world domination: "After launching in the U.S., NewsGuard will expand to serve the billions of people globally who get news online.”

Stopping the Content Before It's Created

Content creators, don’t think the ruling class has forgotten about you. The Department of Homeland Security began building its global database of journalists and media professionals last year, and the Anti-Defamation League is hard at work with UC-Berkeley to stop dissenters in mid-sentence with the dreaded “hate speech” label. Like quicksand, being smeared as a “hater” only destroys you more quickly if you struggle - best to go under gracefully, or so this anti-speech mafia would like us to believe - maybe they'll let you back on social media after you've served an appropriate time-out. The next step is to criminalize so-called “hate speech,” the definition of which changes daily, making it the perfect crime. Like the witch trials of old, all a hate speech case needs is an accuser. Stalin would be kicking himself for not thinking of the idea first.

France is serving as a testing laboratory for some of the most extreme measures. With his approval rating at subterranean levels, it is no wonder President Emmanuel Macron has tried every weapon in the ruling class arsenal to dispose of the Yellow Vests, now in their fourth month of protest against his soulless sellout regime, from tarring them as Putin's puppets to smearing them as virulent anti-Semites. Last month, his psychosis crackled with genius, as the media declared a wave of antisemitism had crested over Paris. Anti-Zionism, the Rothschild puppet declared, would now translate to antisemitism. He would rewrite no laws - even “Jupiter” knows his limits - but the dictionary was fair game. Police and educators would be advised that millions of antisemites had just been created out of whole cloth, and the time had come to silence them. Now, finally, here was a weapon to crush those protesters' pesky populism, and ensure their rebellious spirit would not infect other nations. There are some talismanic words that haven’t lost their effect, particularly in Europe.

Because Macron doesn’t just want to criminalize the movement - he’s already tried that, with a law passed earlier this year that makes non-state-sanctioned protests and the wearing of masks illegal. Thousands of protesters have been arrested and thousands more injured, some gravely, but still they protest as his approval rating declines further with every eye blown out by a gendarme’s rubber bullet. Macron sees no way out but depriving these unruly plebeians of the social media they use to organize. Now, those convicted of "hate speech" - which now includes anti-zionism - will be banned from social media entirely, if the measure passes Parliament in May.

In a groveling, sycophantic speech before France's largest Jewish organization CRIF, Macron likened such an unprecedented ban to barring football hooligans from stadiums, declaring the internet had to be re-civilized, and the EU's own heavy-handed crackdown on "hate speech" was moving "too slow." When his minister of digital culture piped up with an admission that France lacked the technology to stop someone from merely creating another account to circumvent the ban, he declared social media platforms should demand identity documents from individuals creating accounts - even suggested France do away with anonymity on the internet altogether. His sinister proposal has elicited drools of envy from across the Atlantic, where groups like the Alliance for Securing Democracy helped him smear his enemies as Russian bots. Of course all he’d really need to keep tabs on social media users trying to create new accounts to get around a ban is a little browser plugin, maybe one that tracks users’ browsing history and reports back to NSA HQ…

It was Macron, after all, who was able to do what US elites could not, barring "antagonistic" media like RT and Sputnik from his press briefings on the grounds that they were (what else?) "fake news" - his hands unchained by any Bill of Rights, his ego free to run roughshod over his people's liberté. The ominous “fake news” law passed in France in November was openly aimed at RT and Sputnik and allows any candidate or party to appeal to a judge to silence any media outlet in the three months preceding an election; while it was perceived as largely unenforceable, even counter-productive, it demonstrated the lengths the government would go to silence all dissenting narratives.

Not to be outdone, the UK has actually proposed criminal charges for social media platforms that don’t remove wrongthink quickly enough, taking the already-draconian German hate speech law - which calls for €55 million fines for those who don’t dance to the hate speech tune - and throwing in a pair of handcuffs. The UK law doesn’t stop at “illegal hate speech,” either - “problematic” content and “misinformation” are also fair game for soaking Facebook, Google, or whatever platforms pop up to replace them for up to 4% of their global revenue and hauling their executives into court. While the likelihood of Mark Zuckerberg spending one second in a London dungeon over some Facebook user’s post, we can be sure this law will be used to silence dissent on both sides of the Atlantic, just as Israel and the US’ own deplatforming demands have resulted in enforcement far beyond their borders.

Coming Soon to the Land of the Free

The US, for now, can only dream about such power. Hampered by the Bill of Rights, it must collaborate with the social media companies instead of threatening financially-ruinous enforcement measures. For this reason, every tough-talking prosecutor who talks about grilling Zuckerberg or Jack Dorsey over their horrific abuses of users’ privacy, or their privileging of the neoliberal center over the Left and Right, is spitting into the wind - even if they’re sincere, their bosses know they need Silicon Valley’s cooperation to do an end-run around the First Amendment and silence those nasty dissidents. For now, the US must settle for cooperating with the corporations like the fascists of old.

Perhaps ironically for a state embracing the governing style made famous by the Nazis, the US has decided it has its own “problem” with “antisemitism.” Despite all the money flowing in from the Lobby that dare not speak its name, Congress can barely pass a law shredding the Constitution in order to ban participation in the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement! AIPAC’s lackeys shot themselves in the foot when they pounced on Ilhan Omar for accusing the lobby of doing its job too well, revealing where their true loyalties lie, and thus another hasty round of legislation was prepared to try to bring the American definition of antisemitism in line with the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition. This sprawling gag order not only conflates anti-zionism with antisemitism but also forbids comparison of Israel to apartheid or Nazism (though, it's true, the Nazis only had a few years to experiment on their concentration camp inmates - Israel has been using the Palestinians as pharmaceutical guinea pigs and outdoor weapons labs for over half a century) and the questioning of lawmakers’ dual loyalty. AIPAC, meanwhile, launched a fundraising campaign on Omar’s back, and both houses of Congress introduced resolutions handing Israel sovereignty over the long-occupied Golan Heights - a parting ‘fuck you’ to Syria in retaliation for vanquishing the might of the best mercenaries Israel’s money doesn't have to buy. 

The constant hammering at hate speech has crowned groups like the ADL and SPLC, which rely on bigotry to fill their coffers, as the arbiters of what can and cannot be said. PayPal is openly collaborating with the SPLC to deplatform “haters,” while Chase Bank has picked up the baton and actually started closing the bank accounts of “haters.” We are well on our way to a two-tiered society and lest you think yourself safe because you do not “hate,” YouTube has declared war on “borderline" videos - those that don’t break any rules but express some form of wrongthink - and declared that even playing host to off-color comments can get one booted from the platform. Facebook and YouTube have both announced a crackdown on vaccine-skeptical content (are pharmaceuticals a protected class, now?). This has nothing to do with hate speech (whatever the definition is today), yet it is enough to get one deplatformed, now that all the haters have been driven underground. Freedom of speech is a distant memory. The question becomes whether we have the courage to take it back before AI prevents us from even expressing such a possibility.

Because the next step is for this censorship to operate in real-time. Facebook has been using AI to “more effectively block fake accounts” alongside its government collaborations, while Google’s shadowy “Jigsaw” arm recently conducted a successful behavior-modification experiment, ostensibly to redirect potential ISIS recruits to more wholesome pursuits through gentle suggestion in the form of Google AdWords. A later incarnation of that program even included online “social workers” masquerading as their fellow forum members, and the program’s director openly admitted to assisting law enforcement in apprehending these “dangerous” folks for their wrong-think google searches. They proudly announced their next target was American far-right extremists, and with "alt-right" rivaling "Russian bot" for most frequently-misapplied epithet, the collateral-damage body count is sure to be immense. The ADL is collaborating with Berkeley in order to redirect “haters” in real time, though its methodology has not yet been made public; we can assume, fed reams of comments sections from Wikipedia and Reddit, that it has internalized a strong pro-establishment bias, and the friendly lady in the instructional video says the next step is to turn it loose on “targeted populations,” other social media platforms, and use it “more broadly” (even though it is only 85% accurate at best). Like Macron, the ADL just wants to “bring more humanity to the internet” - no matter how many humans are sacrificed in the process.

While we wait for our AI overlords to tell us what we cannot say, different strains of fascism compete to silence us in the interim. Rania Khalek and Anissa Nouai's pages were booted off Facebook without warning after a desperate-sounding non-story report by CNN based on publicly-available information revealed that their company, Maffick Media, was 51% owned by RT video agency Ruptly. Despite everything about the company being legal, Facebook took its cue from CNN's “journalists” and silenced the immensely popular duo, allegedly because it did not disclose that ownership, even though this was not mandated. Maffick was only able to get its pages back by agreeing to include ownership information in their bio, a line which no other state-backed media has ever been forced to include. They are not the first to be deplatformed for breaking a rule that didn’t exist at the time they were silenced, nor will they be the last. CNN had acted on a “tip” from the Alliance for Securing Democracy - the same group behind the notoriously bogus Hamilton68 “Russian bot” dashboard whose own creator has since disavowed it. The ASD is backed by the German Marshall Fund, which is funded by the US and German governments. This kind of collaboration is the definition of fascism: governments and corporate interests working together to silence opposition, manufacturing consent through absolute control of all information channels. When the process is complete, you will not realize 2+2 could equal anything other than 5.

No matter what well-intentioned rationale individual governments give for this crackdown, no matter how high a legislative wall they build out of hate speech codes, the core act of censorship remains an intellectually dishonest, craven cosmic copout. The ruling class has lost control of the narrative, and this full frontal assault on freedom of speech is their panic as they try with all their might to regain it. Once tasting freedom, who would voluntarily return to servitude, unless they were unaware it was happening? 

When you tell a person the sky is orange, it’s imperative to block out the windows so that they don’t accidentally catch a glimpse of blue. But better yet is to build the house with no windows at all.
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The US’ support for Venezuelan National Assembly leader Juan Guaidó’s coup may not be as solid as it looks. While Vice President Mike Pence personally gave Guaidó the go-ahead to declare himself president in a phone call earlier this week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo apparently doesn’t even know the American puppet’s name, referring to him as “interim president Juan Guido.”

“We’ll have announcements from…other places later today, talking about how we anticipate interim president Juan Guido will have the resources he needs to lead the government of Venezuela forward,” Pompeo announced in a press conference, looking somewhat dyspeptic while mangling the name of the man Washington has chosen to lead the Venezuelan people into a shiny, democratic future - minus the actual democracy.

“Guido,” once a racial slur used in the US against Italians, has more recently been reclaimed by reality TV fans to describe tanned, over-muscled hair-gel aficionados of all ethnicities, but no one ever looked at the cast of Jersey Shore and thought, "That's who I want to lead my coup!" Until now.

Even mainstream media admits Guaidó was an “unknown figure on the international stage” until last week, and it’s entirely possible no one had heard of him in Washington until then, either. Pompeo and equally rabid anti-Maduro national security adviser John Bolton have a bad habit of rushing to support literally any group willing to oppose a regime they dislike, which has led to some questionable alliances in Iran, Syria, and everywhere else they’ve chosen to aim their peculiar brand of ‘freedom.’

However, it’s important to make your chosen patsy feel needed - loved, even. Hence Bolton’s chummy speeches to Iranian-exile terror cult Mujahedin e-Khalq and the late John McCain posing for photos with "moderate rebels" linked to al-Nusra in Syria.

Pompeo seems to understand on some gut level that Guaidó isn't going to be around for too long. Why bother learning his name when he's destined for the scrap-heap that has claimed so many others anointed by Washington to lead the Venezuelans out of the frying pan of socialism into the towering inferno of neoliberalism? 

Guaidó's first act as self-appointed leader - to apply to the IMF for a loan with the promise of privatizing Venezuela's vast oil reserves (the largest in the world) - bears this theory out. Even he knows he has a limited window of opportunity. The Venezuelan army remains loyal to President Maduro, who recently won his second term in an election the opposition boycotted in order to deem it illegitimate. As former Venezuelan minister Moises Naim told a Davos panel, "guys with guns" are largely responsible for what happens next in Caracas. While Pompeo has blustered that "no options are off the table," the US is unlikely to run a full-scale ground invasion in Venezuela when their usual Latin American takeover model has worked so well in the past, especially now that they've gotten Iran-Contra ghoul Elliot Abrams out of cold storage and named him "special envoy" to the country.

Still, Pompeo isn’t the only one tongue-tied over the Venezuelan boy wonder. Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benítez also struggled to get Guaidó’s name out, and he speaks the same language and lives on the same continent.


The speed at which the western hemisphere recognized Guaidó without, apparently, knowing who he is raises a few questions. Did the State Department send out a chain letter to South American governments warning “Forward this to five other countries or Trump will sanction you?”


(a version of this article appeared on RT.com)

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Facebook purged more than 800 accounts earlier this week, continuing its scorched-earth campaign of eradicating dissent as Americans prepare to go to the polls. The social media platform is nicely settling into its role as official censor, working hand in glove with the imperialist Atlantic Council to silence all popular voices to the left and right of neoliberal orthodoxy. As the boundaries of acceptable political discourse narrow online, Big Tech has been drafted to do Big Brother's dirty work - the methodical dismantling of First Amendment protections using the smokescreen of private enterprise.

On Thursday, the social media platform issued a press release explaining that the offending pages were engaged in "coordinated inauthentic behavior" - self-promoting with fake accounts and circular links, a practice common to many news pages on Facebook - and even admitted that such behavior was "often indistinguishable from legitimate political debate." There was no explanation of how they distinguished the behavior of, say, a progressive antiwar blog from a Washington Post columnist, or why they would censor the former and not the latter.

Establishment media outlets like the New York Times eagerly parroted the press release, dismissing the purge victims as dishonest spammers preying on impressionable users, even opining that there was something awfully Russian about the whole business, as if the Kremlin had invented clickbait. But many of the deleted pages were genuine alt-media sites with hundreds of thousands, if not millions of followers - from AntiMedia and Free Thought Project on the Left to Nation in Distress and RightWingNews on the Right. Popular pages dedicated to exposing the horrors of the American police state like Cop Block and Police the Police also got the boot. When they took to Twitter to protest, many were removed from there as well - AntiMedia and Free Thought Project had their Twitter accounts suspended within hours of the Facebook purge, as did AntiMedia publisher Carey Weidler. 

One Twitter user received a followup message thanking them for a report against AntiMedia they did not make, indicating there might be more going on here than meets the eye. The message is especially intriguing given recent admissions from Facebook that at least 90 million accounts may have been hacked. If certain entities are spoofing abuse reports in order to have pages deplatformed whose politics they disagree with - or actually hacking third parties in order to use their accounts to report those pages - users need to know (I have personally heard from a few others who received these messages - if this has happened to you please send me your story, with screenshots if possible). 

Facebook's press release states that "people will only share on Facebook if they feel safe and trust the connections they make here." Facebook has proven since the very early days that they are anything but trustworthy - from Mark Zuckerberg's disparaging assessment of his users as "dumb fuckers" to his eager collaboration with the NSA's PRISM program to the partnership with the pro-NATO Atlantic Council to the platform's ultimate admission that basically everyone's data has been compromised at this point. Anyone who "shares" on Facebook at this point is deliberately ignoring reams of proof that the platform is not "a place for friends."

While Facebook has always been in the pocket of the security state, its alliance with the Atlantic Council earlier this year ushered in an Orwellian new era. A press release gushed that the think tank, which boasts such esteemed warmongers as Henry Kissinger, Brent Scowcroft, and Condoleezza Rice on its Board, would serve as the "eyes and ears" of Facebook so the platform could play a "positive role" in ensuring democracy was practiced correctly in the future. Since then, its news feed has been cleansed of actual news and political writers have seen their audience numbers plummet as their posts are hidden for running afoul of proprietary algorithms.

In August, hundreds more accounts got the axe after cybersecurity firm FireEye linked them (very tenuously, in some cases) to Iran and Russia. The smoking gun? "Coordinated inauthentic behavior" geared toward "shaping a message favorable to Iran’s national interests." Anti-war activists were put on notice. One need only post "anti-Saudi, anti-Israeli, and pro-Palestinian themes" to have one's Facebook account - which Zuckerberg wants to see become an internet drivers' license - yanked for failure to toe the line.

As Americans, denial is our national pastime, and plenty of Facebook users will remain on the platform until they themselves are caught in the wrongthink dragnet. The use of "spam" as the rationale for removing these pages is no accident - like "hate speech," the term inspires a visceral negative reaction while lacking a definite meaning. "Spam" conjures up penis enlargement ads, misspelled offers for cheap prescription drugs, Nigerian money laundering scams. Spammers are less than human - often automated bots that seem to exist just to irritate us. We do not care what happens to spammers, any more than we care what happens to the "haters" we hear about in the news but have never met. The mainstream media encourages this mentality by smearing the deplatformed users as the equivalent of 2016's Russian trolls - worse, because they're essentially betraying their government by promoting wrongthink in their fellow Americans. 

It doesn't take a genius to understand why the media establishment might be cheering on and enabling Big Tech's censorship of alternative voices. As the election approaches, the establishment is panicking because they have been unable to fully regain control of the discourse. Having long since jettisoned fact-checking and journalistic integrity in order to more effectively fearmonger, mainstream media lacks any concrete advantage over the competition, and more people than ever are turning to independent media for their news. As a result, the establishment has lost every single pitched information battle since the election. Kavanaugh's confirmation? The media wanted to see him strung up by the balls without so much as an indictment, let alone a trial, even though as a Bush minion he was effectively one of theirs, but he's now ensconced in the Supreme Court. The Helsinki summit? The media shrieked for a solid week that Trump had sold the nation out to Putin for a football and a pat on the head; missing evolutionary link John Brennan all but called for a military coup, but nothing happened. Both media events revealed just how impotent they have become regarding their ability to change the facts on the ground.

This is not to say they have no influence, however. The nation remains crippled by the military-industrial leeches sucking it dry through multiple wars, many undeclared. The media marches in lockstep cheering on every increase in military spending, every missile dropped on a Yemeni wedding party or Syrian child. Americans have become hyper-partisan even in our personal lives, a self-perpetuating feedback loop the media set off in 2016 with a dozen "Boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse like Trump? Dump that piece of shit!" articles, no doubt due for a revival with thoughtful meditations on how we should avoid family at Thanksgiving if they voted the wrong way a few weeks before. The establishment media and Big Tech are collaborating to foster this ugly with-us-or-against-us climate, forcing us to choose between a "blue wave" or "red wave" when both are repulsive tides of sewage, reassuring us all will be well if we just hold our noses and vote the party line.

Only independent media permits sanity and reality to intrude on the delusional fantasy fed us by the ruling class. Dismissing the victims of the latest Facebook purge as "spammers" is the cowardly act of a dying species. The New York Times, CNN, and the rest of the hagiographers of hegemony must join the rest of the dinosaurs.

(I originally covered the latest skirmish in the Great Deplatforming for RT here.)

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It’s almost election time, and lest you forget, American democracy has never been in greater peril. Not from inaccurate, insecure voting machines a schoolchild can hack; nor from bought-off candidates who leave voters cold; but from Russian agents probing the fabric of our society, looking for weaknesses. It is up to us, as patriotic Americans, to defend our beloved institutions against the Red Menace.

So writes Susan Landau, a "cybersecurity expert" (professional fearmonger) with funding links to Big Tech and the military-industrial complex, at least. Landau warns that the same Russians whose interference in the 2016 presidential election was never conclusively proven are burrowing further into American society, emboldened by the absence of a decisive response to their prior meddling. 

Perhaps realizing that Americans are running low on fear – twenty years fighting a losing War on Terror have inured us to the threat of jihad, and it was only through appeals to Cold War-era pop culture that our Russophobia was so easily resuscitated – Landau plays dirty with the one card left in her propagandist’s deck. The Russians aren’t just targeting our “civil society” organizations; they want our boy scouts. 

Such allegations are calculated for maximum emotional impact. Even the most avowedly liberal American parents feel a twinge of discomfort at the rapid pace of social change over the last decade, and the scouts – no longer boy scouts in our brave new world – have been ground zero for much of this change. America has morphed from a society that guardedly accepts sexual variation into a neurotically permissive society terrified of offending members of genders not yet invented. Facebook offers the user over 70 gender options, an all-you-can-be buffet of identity politics. To question this paradigm is considered intolerant.

By linking the gender-neutral Scouts with the Red Menace, Landau is offering progressive parents a "get out of bigotry free" card. It's OK to be uncomfortable with the queering of the Boy Scouts, as long as the Russians are behind it!

Almost exactly a year ago, she wrote a piece for Foreign Policy warning that the Russians were plotting an assault on our cherished civil institutions and that should they succeed in infiltrating them, they might…cause us to lose trust in our government! That threat clearly didn't galvanize the Resistance, because this year, she’s kicking things up a notch: it’s now “extremely likely” that Russians are targeting civil society groups, which are the only thing standing between us and abject barbarism. 

Landau has no proof that Russians have captured our institutions, as gay scoutmasters or otherwise, but she won’t let that stand in the way of a good story. Lacking Russian examples, she claims Facebook turned a German town into refugee-attacking hatemongers and points to a spoofed text sent to undocumented supporters of Texas senate candidate Beto O’Rourke as something Russia “could” do. In an effort to bridge these logical chasms, she links to a Brookings Institute report that depicts Russian use of US social media platforms in terms normally used to describe thermonuclear war (“An attack on western critical infrastructure seems inevitable"). 

Like the January 2017 “Intelligence Community Assessment” from which she derives her certainty that Russians are infiltrating civil society organizations, Landau’s article treats Russian interference in the 2018 election as a foregone conclusion despite the lack of evidence, pointing to Microsoft’s claim that Russia “hacked” two conservative think tanks and two Democratic senate campaigns as proof that Putin has “our democracy” by the throat yet again.

Coverage of Microsoft’s “discovery” reads like a press release for its new AccountGuard initiative, seemingly designed to profit off candidates’ fears of Russian meddling while offering no proof of actual Russian involvement. The company also called for greater cooperation between corporations and the government, though as the first eager collaborator with the NSA’s Orwellian PRISM program way back in 2007, Microsoft could hardly cooperate any more than it already has.

The most disturbing outgrowth of the entire Russian bot narrative is the adoption of “sowing discord” as a new social sin, a crime worthy of de-platforming citizens from social media - or worse. The phrase is relatively new to the American lexicon, but one finds it in authoritarian countries like Saudi Arabia or Kazakhstan, where it is used as a catch-all charge to imprison journalists and activists whose work inconveniences the regime. 

With McCarthyite organizations like PropOrNot collaborating with the mainstream media to smear independent journalists as useful idiots and traitors, the US doesn’t need Russians to sow discord. Years of dishonest divide-and-conquer media narratives have completely alienated us from our fellow man. Nothing - not even the threat of Boris and Natasha filling our children’s heads with gender theory around the campfire - can rescue our national solidarity. 2016’s status-quo candidate, Hillary Clinton, said as much when she denounced half the electorate as a “basket of deplorables" - and conservatives took that ball and ran with it, denouncing the Left as mentally ill “snowflakes” and violent Antifa goons.

As if Big Tech’s censorship wasn’t onerous enough, Landau implores Americans to censor themselves online so as not to contribute to the Russian discord-sowing operation. It’s the same line we were fed when the bogeyman was Islamic terrorism: They hate us for our freedom! So we’re going to take away your freedom in the hope they’ll go away! Or, in her words, “It’s time for Americans to change their behavior.” We’re supposed to keep our politics to ourselves, lest it get back to Putin that American civilization has its discontents.

Landau is right about one thing. It reflects poorly on American society that all that is needed to bring the whole house of cards down is for a few well-placed “wrongthink” social media posts to go viral. But this is less the fault of Russia than of America’s homegrown oligarchs, who have exploited the people so thoroughly that even the robust psychological defense mechanisms we’re taught as children to combat cognitive dissonance can only keep reality at bay for so long. Everyone has their breaking point, and America’s is fast approaching. Blame-the-Russians propaganda is the last gasp of an empire in decline, and even propagandists like Landau don’t believe it anymore. A propagandist with no audience is just a liar.


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If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. The American Empire doesn’t handle failure well, and their repeated failures to oust Syrian president Bashar al-Assad have driven them into a frenzy where good judgment and logic are a thing of the past. Russian military intelligence predicts a false-flag chemical attack in Idlib which will be pinned on the Assad regime and used to justify “retaliation” orders of magnitude greater than April’s Tomahawk tantrum. This time, if the words of the Wicked Witch of the UN are any indication, Iran and Russia will also be blamed. While the US has mostly abandoned hope for regime change in Syria, it will not look a gift horse in the mouth, and is gathering aircraft carriers and bombers to the region while pumping out tear-jerking propaganda about Idlib residents fearing for their lives. If the false flag fails, they can always send those bombers to Iran...

Such an attack is very much on the table, with the groundwork being laid in the pro-war press. John Bolton promised the MEK, a “corrupt, criminal cult” of Iranian exiles which bribed its way off the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations in 2012, regime change by 2019, and the clock is ticking. Attempts to foment a color revolution have failed repeatedly, because Iranians aren’t stupid and remember what happened the last time the US overthrew their government. But Benjamin Netanyahu has been baying for Iranian blood for almost three decades, and Bolton cares little for more clear-headed military personnel’s warnings that invading Iran would be a costly, unwinnable nightmare - Real Men Go To Tehran, as they used to say in the halcyon days of the Axis of Evil.

Prelude to War: Iranian Bots

The ruling class understands Americans are wary of another Middle Eastern war and must be convinced they're under attack. Hence the new bogeyman, just in time for Election 2018: Iranian Meddling. Twitter, Facebook, and Google took time out from deplatforming anti-establishment commentators to delete over a thousand accounts between them after cyber-security firm FireEye released a report detailing a far-reaching “Suspected Iranian Influence Operation.” With only “moderate confidence,” FireEye pointed to “coordinated inauthentic behavior” geared toward “shaping a message favorable to Iran’s national interests” as the smoking gun. Washed-up former intelligence operatives Ron Hosko and Larry Pfeiffer (ex-FBI and ex-CIA, respectively) smugly added that if we hadn’t let Russia get away with their (still unproven) interference in the 2016 election, Iran would never have been so emboldened as to pour $12,000 of cold, hard cash into this social media offensive in order to portray itself favorably to western audiences. 

Facebook, eager to behave, took down 652 offending accounts before the government could even react to the news. FireEye’s report points accusingly to the accounts’ promotion of “anti-Saudi, anti-Israeli, and pro-Palestinian themes, as well as support for specific US policies favorable to Iran,” implying Facebook users should be suspicious of anyone else espousing these views (and warning Iranian and Palestinian sympathizers and other pro-peace activists to shut up, or they’re next). An important step in laying the groundwork for an unpopular war is to “other” and ultimately demonize the enemy, and FireEye’s suggestion that those with pro-Iranian views aren’t even real humans is classic wartime propaganda for the digital age. In addition to three groups of Iranian accounts, FireEye claims it caught some Russians “attempt[ing] to influence politics in Syria and the Ukraine.” This group “was linked to sources that Facebook said the US had linked to Russian military intelligence.” How many hops of truth distortion are too many for even the terminally credulous establishment media?

Perhaps anticipating users’ bewilderment - the offending accounts had broken no laws, were promoting no political candidates, and in many cases had not even bought ads - Zuckerberg explained around a mouth full of jackboot that “These were accounts that were misleading people about who they were and what they were doing. We ban this kind of behavior because authenticity matters. People need to be able to trust the connections they make on Facebook.” Lest users make the mistake of trusting Facebook, however, he added that the company would be “working more closely with law enforcement, security experts and other companies,” turning over more user data than ever in its quest to make privacy obsolete. When law enforcement calls on Facebook to create a backdoor in its Messenger program - thus defeating the purpose of “encrypted chat” - does anyone really expect Zuckerberg to stand fast for privacy rights? 

Not to be outdone, Twitter deleted 770 accounts based on the FireEye report, noting that only 100 of these ostensibly Iranian accounts had misrepresented their location and not even all of these had shared “divisive social commentary,” while a single account had purchased $30 in ads. This means over 600 Twitter accounts were deleted for the crime of geography alone (collateral damage?). But Twitter has always gone above and beyond the call of duty, announcing in May that to promote “healthy” conversations it would begin de-ranking users for engaging in “suspicious behavior.” Users who tweeted at many accounts, had multiple complaints against them, or retweeted material tweeted by banned accounts were shadowbanned indefinitely as persona non grata. Since November, Twitter and Facebook have both been turning over information on users who post “divisive” content of the sort promoted by “Russia-linked accounts” to congressional investigators even though a creator of “Russian bot tracker” Hamilton68 admits the accounts his tool tracks are not necessarily bots, or even Russian - “some are legitimately passionate people,” as if passion is an un-American trait. 

Last year, the FBI launched a Foreign Intelligence Task Force to work with US tech firms to combat “foreign influence actors.” With bots and their ilk operating all over the world, the decision to single out Russia and Iran has obvious foreign policy motivation (Bolton also claims that China and North Korea are up to no good on social media). All of this avoids naming the elephant in the room. Even though Israel meddles loudly and proudly in US elections, Facebook openly collaborates with Netanyahu’s government. Beyond removing posts and banning accounts, Facebook even turns over user information to Israeli authorities to facilitate prosecution of Palestinian activists for “incitement,” sometimes over nothing more than a “like” or a “share.” Adding insult to injury, Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs has weaponized the diaspora’s ennui - often caused in no small part by young Jews’ discomfort with the crimes their government commits in their name - with the social media equivalent of a Predator drone. Act.IL is an app that allows the user to participate in the “brigading” (mass-reporting for spurious violations) of hapless strangers for “incitement” - supporting the BDS movement, say, or implying that Palestinians are human rather than a “lawn” to be “mowed.” In a rare case of instant karma, the app was found to be leaking users’ email addresses. A nation where the government and citizen “enforcers” are working together to silence dissent sounds like an authoritarian nightmare, but this is our “democratic” Middle Eastern ally.

Origins of Totalitarianism

Israel is the missing link that explains how “sowing discord” - an offense few Americans had ever heard of until 2016 - entered our national vocabulary. The modern “fake news” panic has its roots in the totalitarian tradition. Words like “inciting,” “fomenting,” and “sowing” “discord” and “subversion” are very versatile weapons in the hands of authoritarian regimes. This language was previously uncommon in the US, but its emergence became inevitable when the “new Pearl Harbor” of 9/11 opened the door to the creation of the modern American police state. Social media are now just extra bars on the cage - the tools we once believed could liberate us, during the promising early months of Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring, are now used to silence us. The US, following a blueprint for legal censorship set by post-WW2 Europe, is taking on the totalitarian trappings of China, of Burma, of the central Asian “stans” and of Saudi Arabia. Kazakhstan calls it “inciting national discord,” with the variations “ethnic discord” and “religious discord” applicable as needed to whatever activist, journalist, or trade unionist the regime needs to put on ice for a few years. It’s called “inciting religious hatred” or “ethnic hatred” in Azerbaijan, which also permanently bans 5 major media outlets for reasons of “national security.” Uzbekistan arrests journalists for “extremism.” China targets activists of all stripes for “inciting subversion.” Burma, which is cracking down hard on the press as it seeks to keep its Rohingya ethnic cleansing quiet, criminalizes “speech that is likely to cause fear or harm and incites classes or groups to commit offenses against each other.” Egypt detains lawyers, journalists and activists under charges of “propagating false news.” Saudi Arabia recently put a Shi’a religious leader to death for “sowing discord” and “undermining national unity.” American dissenters, this is your future.

I have already explained how the Great Deplatforming represents the triumph of the repressive concept of Hate Speech over Free Speech, and how this - not Trump blustering about that wall he’ll get around to building someday - is what fascism looks like. The US government uses friendly corporations as workarounds for the constitutional limits on its power. This technique was deployed against the Second Amendment in Citibank and Bank of America’s post-Parkland refusal to process financial transactions from firearm manufacturers, and is being deployed against the First Amendment here. Such corporate-state fascism is very effective, and the ruling class has seen fit to share it with the other “Five Eyes” intelligence partners, all of whom share information gathered by their Panopticon surveillance agencies. This week, ministers from the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand met in Australia to condemn hostile nations who “sow discord, manipulate public discourse, bias the development of policy, or disrupt markets” through their manipulation of social media platforms; they also implored Big Tech to allow law enforcement “targeted” access to users’ encrypted data. Flexing the thuggish muscles of the world’s greatest carceral state, the group acknowledged “individual rights must be protected” (and presumably snickered before adding) “privacy is not absolute” and warning that encryption was being exploited by criminals. 

The Iranian Meddling affair is a perfect distraction from the real malfeasance at Facebook, where Zuckerberg is bringing back Stasi-style crowdsourced secret policing. The company is assigning “trust ratings” to users based in part on their willingness to report their friends for posting “fake news,” fostering a climate of distrust and fear meant to instill reflexive self-censorship. As in East Germany, the central authorities can’t possibly police everyone all of the time, and it is much more advantageous for them to outsource surveillance to the people, since one who cannot trust his neighbor will not unite with him to overthrow the state. Accordingly, Facebook admits that “some users” abuse Facebook’s reporting system, dubbing stories or users they don’t like “fake news” - but don’t worry about those miscreants, because Facebook compensates for their actions with thousands (!) of other measures that go into calculating the trust rating. No user can see his or her own report - that would be telling - so we’re encouraged to tread carefully to avoid running afoul of the ever-shifting Rules. Jordan Peterson, conservatism’s favorite intellectual, delivers his marching orders in a video he posted last week - “nothing is ever simple,” he pleads as he tells his fans that he’s reached an understanding with Zuckerberg, a “very straightforward person” who really just wants to keep his users safe from bad guys like ISIS recruiters. And Iran. Because they’re terrorists, you know?

The police state is no longer necessary when you have internalized the police. “Media censorship is a shift in the flow of information, while self-censorship is a shift in consciousness.” When the government has convinced citizens to do its job - reporting friends and neighbors for "hate speech," "sowing discord," and "incitement" on social media, for example - a free society is impossible. 

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