By Rainer Shea – Mar 23, 2021
With COVID-19, the coming of the 2020s “Greater Depression,” and the climate catastrophe that’s increasingly afflicting our society with disasters like last month’s Texas blackouts, class conflict in the United States has reached the highly intensified state that was destined when neoliberalism first became implemented. You can’t drive down the living standards of the masses this much without provoking an ever greater series of uprisings, as shown by the unprecedented amount of participants that last year’s Black Lives Matter protests gained.
In this environment of ever-heightening potential for popular revolt, the U.S. ruling class can only stave off revolution by intensively working to sabotage the process towards the formation of a revolutionary force. Everything that the U.S. national security state does is centered around preventing a scenario where the country’s proletariat builds up a vanguard capable of overthrowing and replacing the capitalist state. This is why, in every respect, the disinformation that the state’s propaganda organs put forth ultimately serves to demonize Marxism-Leninism, the revolutionary model that’s already succeeded at putting state power into the hands of the proletariat within numerous countries.
Such is the nature of the ideological battle that the state is going to wage with increasing intensity in the coming years and decades, as class discontent continues to approach boiling point.
Media hoaxes designed to turn the masses against revolutionary socialism
This central goal that the national security state has of preventing Marxism-Leninism’s ideological rise is most apparent in the fabricated stories about China that we’re being inundated with these days. Since 2018, when every major U.S. media outlet uncritically promoted a shoddily sourced claim about how China had interned “one million” Uyghurs, Americans have been constantly bombarded with the same idea: that China is committing a genocide comparable to that of Nazi Germany. The rise in anti-Asian hate crimes during the last year that this inflammatory propaganda has helped produce is collateral damage in the U.S. empire’s relentless campaign to stir up anti-communist paranoia, American chauvinism, and cold war fever.
As Ajit Singh of The Grayzone has observed about the most recent report that the U.S. media has used to promote the “Uyghur genocide” claim, every part of the scant “evidence” that supposedly supports the narrative comes from sources which are heavily vested in advancing Washington’s imperialist subversion goals. Singh writes about the integrity of this “independent” study from the Newlines Institute:
Newlines’ report relies primarily on the dubious studies of Adrian Zenz, the US government propaganda outlet, Radio Free Asia, and claims made by the US-funded separatist network, the World Uyghur Congress. These three sources comprise more than one-third of the references used to construct the factual basis of the document, with Zenz as the most heavily relied upon source — cited on more than 50 occasions. Many of the remaining references cite the work of members of Newlines Institute’s “Uyghur Scholars Working Group,” of which Zenz is a founding member and which is made up of a small group of academics who collaborate with him and support his conclusions. As The Grayzone has reported, Zenz is a far-right Christian fundamentalist who has said he is “led by God” against China’s government, deplores homosexuality and gender equality, and has taught exclusively in evangelical theological institutions.
An equivalent disinformation campaign has been waged against the DPRK, another socialist country whose system of workers’ democracy has much to teach U.S. proletarians who want to take power. If the victims of our electorally dysfunctional corporate oligarchy were to learn how functional and transparent the DPRK’s voting system is, and how effective it’s been at advancing the interests of the Korean proletariat, eagerness to build a Marxist-Leninist vanguard party would explode. But the masses are systematically deprived of this knowledge. They’re fed a demagogic story about how the DPRK is a “monarchy” where Kim Jong Un holds total power, and where the people are frequently tortured and arbitrarily imprisoned. As journalist Tony Cartalucci has written, these claims are entirely lacking in evidence, with all the sources of the abuse claims coming from the North Korean defectors who are paid extravagant sums of money to make up atrocity stories:
The “pattern” Washington Post writer Anna Fifield and many others claim to have spotted is merely a pattern of unverified claims being made by Western media — built upon previously and likewise unverified claims, creating a cartoon-like vilification of a state writers at the New York Times and Washington Post know readers are unfamiliar with. Western media understands their narratives are difficult for the public to question without conducting their own, extensive and time-consuming research. They depend on readers not clicking links — if links are even included — to long UN reports and understanding the paper-thin credibility of such reports when built entirely on “witness testimony.”
The imperialist media also fabricates outlandish claims like men in the DPRK being forced to get the same haircut as Kim Jong Un, or like wildly violent public executions taking place within the country. These serve to sow a general sense of confusion surrounding the DPRK, as war propaganda is so often meant to do. An especially absurd example of this happened last year, as explained by journalist Ben Norton:
The “hipster arm of the empire” [VICE NEWS] published an article trumpeting, “A Prominent North Korean Defector is ‘99% Certain’ Kim Jong Un Is Dead.” Its source was a defector trained and funded by the NED. Days before, the US government-funded Daily NK had also praised VICE for producing a slick documentary that effectively amounts to fawning PR for the disinformation outlet, in a perfect circle of propaganda. Then on May 1 — the same day VICE News claimed there was a 99 percent chance Kim was dead — the house of cards came crumbling down, as DPRK state media published photos of the leader cutting a ribbon at a fertilizer plant.
This is a media that’s relentlessly intent on distorting reality when it comes to Washington’s communist rivals. The impacts of these perpetual disinformation campaigns on our society’s political consciousness are predictably noxious.
Fostering a culture where anti-communism is embraced across the entire political spectrum
Despite the indications that the “Uyghur genocide” is the Iraqi WMDs hoax of our time, and the evidence that virtually everything our media says about the DPRK is a lie, the CIA has gotten those within almost every part of the country’s political spectrum to unquestioningly accept these lies as truth. In addition to the bipartisan consensus that these ridiculous reports are credible and that China needs to be sanctioned for “crimes against humanity,” the supposedly left-wing social democrats who seek to make the Democratic Party more progressive are promoting the “China genocide” hoax as well; in line with Bernie Sanders, the leading social democratic publication Jacobin absurdly claimed last year that China’s Uyghurs are “suffering in mass concentration camps.”
Even in supposedly “radical” spaces like the online anarchist community, belief in these lies are widespread, with the anarchist subreddits regularly producing posts like “Debunking Uighur Genocide Denial” and “how do you combat uyghur genocide denial?” More notably, when U.S.-funded reactionaries began carrying out terrorism within Hong Kong two years ago, the anarchist site LibCom took the opportunity to reinforce the “Tiananmen Square Massacre” narrative in an attempt at lending legitimacy to the anti-CPC agenda of the Hong Kong protests. It didn’t matter that the accounts of the “massacre” have been so thoroughly debunked that this word doesn’t even truthfully apply to what happened in the square; attacking China’s government was more important than the truth.
This is the political culture that the CIA has succeeded at creating within the U.S., and within the other imperialist countries that are participating in Washington’s cold war against China. A culture where the world’s largest workers’ democracy is denounced as a genocidal dictatorship, or at least as an oppressive oligarchy, even by many of those who consider themselves leftists. Of course, this culture has long had ideological basis; as Michael Parenti wrote in Left, Right and the “Extreme Moderates” about how the anti-Leninist left has long sided on geopolitical issues:
There is also a more ideologically oriented component of the left composed mostly of Trotskyists, anarchists, anarcho-syndicalists, “libertarian socialists” and others who will not figure in this discussion given their small numbers and intense sectarian immersion. What they all have in common is an obsessional anti-communism, a dedication to fighting imaginary hordes of “Stalinists” whom they see everywhere, and with denouncing existing communist nations and parties. In this they resemble many centrists, social democrats, and liberals…It wasn’t the leftists or rightists who waged a war against Yugoslavia, with its repeated bombings of civilian populations and its military assistance to ex-Nazi Croatian and Muslim Bosnian separatists. It was that paragon of centrism Bill Clinton and all the centrists and moderate liberals who stood shoulder to shoulder with him and with NATO and the CIA (along with a gaggle of those anarchists and Trotskists I mentioned earlier who convinced themselves that the destruction of the Yugoslavian social democracy was a blow against Stalinist communism).
As is still the case, these anti-Leninist ideological factions within the left aren’t the ones facilitating the war efforts against communist countries, but they are fulfilling an important role in the sabotage of revolutionary energy within the U.S. This is the role of ideologically policing the class struggle so that it doesn’t gain an accurate understanding of geopolitics, and therefore doesn’t oppose the CIA regime change narratives designed to prevent proletarian revolution. If people think China is an equivalent to the Third Reich, they won’t join with the Chinese masses in embracing the immortal science of Marxism-Leninism. The same consequences come from the proliferation of the fabricated reports about the DPRK, or the demagogic media narratives that paint Cuba as undemocratic. As well as the endlessly recycled Cold War-era myths about Stalin and Mao having “killed millions.”
All of these CIA lies are proliferated by rightists, liberals, and anti-Leninist leftists alike, and all of them serve the same goal: to keep the proletariat powerless and demobilized while the capitalist class continues to loot and economically deprive the population. Our hyper-militaristic, neoliberal dystopia is preserved through propagating the belief that the examples of existing socialism are tyrannical, and that the system we live under therefore isn’t worth replacing because it might simply lead to something even worse. As the Marxist writer Andre Vltchek has observed, nihilism is the essence of this worldview:
All this is not just propaganda anymore; it is the true art of indoctrination. It hardly ever misses its target. And even if it fails to convince some strong individuals completely, it always leaves a mark on the psyche of even those who are struggling to be different and ‘independent.’…The most powerful and repulsive weapon, so far, has been constant injections of lies, contradictions, and nihilism. Just look at Hong Kong! Nihilism is deadly. It destroys enthusiasm, and it robs countries of confidence and courage. And that is precisely what the West is trying to achieve: to derail progressive socialist countries from marching forward and prevent nations oppressed by neo-colonialism from dreaming, hoping, resisting.
The arbiters of today’s anti-communist propaganda campaign want to snuff out the revolution before it even begins, to preemptively fill the people’s heads with emotionally charged outrage stories about communist countries so that they’ll refuse to join up with the revolutionary socialists.
The question is, will this campaign succeed?
Tightening the domestic grip of the imperialist thought police
In the face of capitalist collapse and rising class struggle, the bourgeois propagandists have sought to stoke zeal among the established anti-communist ideological groups (the reactionaries, the liberals, the anti-Leninist leftists) while inculcating the less ideologically inclined individuals with a uniform set of false beliefs about socialist countries (“China is committing genocide,” “North Korea is a human rights abuser, etc). It’s an operation to make the U.S. population police itself at a time when our ruling class seeks to impose unprecedented austerity and state control.
The CIA is very conscious of what it’s doing with this tactic. As The Art of War says, “All warfare is based on deception,” and the U.S. national security state’s goal for the coming years and decades is to wage an ever-intensifying internal class war. This will entail importing the approaches towards propaganda and disinformation that the CIA has utilized in imperialist interventions abroad, similarly to how Israeli-style repressive tactics are being normalized among U.S. police forces or to how Pinochet-style extrajudicial imprisonments have been normalized within the War on Terror. In every sense, U.S. imperialism’s means for exerting control around the globe are in the process of being brought home.
In 2016, the U.S. Army War College as much as expressed this in a report, stating that the growing unemployment and natural disasters of the next few decades will result in “class conflict” within the U.S. that must be crushed through domestic military occupations. According to the war college’s report, these invasions of the country’s urban areas will entail not just mass surveillance of the occupied population, heavy censorship potentially to the point where the internet in the occupied zones gets shut off, and warfare tactics that parallel Israel’s approaches towards suppressing Palestinian uprisings, but a careful narrative management campaign. As the report says:
Presenting compelling narratives can enhance legitimacy and authority in the eyes of many stakeholders (such as the urban populations). Understanding the utility and power of digital media, therefore, allows for enormous reach and breadth that can indirectly alter the battlefield. The user-friendliness of mass media and mobile technology allows adversaries to manipulate and garner favorable public opinion and recruit support. For these reasons and more, civilian and military leaders cannot afford to ignore the requirement for compelling narratives…In the final analysis, the battle of narratives and the contradictions of security are likely to be at the forefront, especially as the most likely contingencies will be humanitarian or stabilization operations. Moreover, such operations could even take place within the continental United States, as demonstrated by the Los Angeles riots and the responses to Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy. Presenting a positive image of the military to the American public is indispensable for continued support.
Such is the task that the capitalist state needs to take on: maximize the exposure that the U.S. population has to the propaganda narratives of the imperialist war machine, and make these narratives as emotionally manipulative as possible. Since the 2013 lifting of a law that made it (officially) illegal for the CIA to covertly target American citizens with propaganda, this need for a ubiquitous mind-influencing network within our society has been fulfilled. There’s no longer even the semblance of a check on the internal powers of the U.S. government’s propaganda organs. As journalist Whitney Webb has observed about the consequences of this propaganda free-up:
Since 2013, newsrooms across the country, of both the mainstream and “alternative” variety, have been notably skewed towards the official government narrative, with few outside a handful of independently-funded media outlets bothering to question those narratives’ veracity. While this has long been a reality for the Western media (see John Pilger’s 2011 documentary “The War You Don’t See”), the use of government-approved narratives and sources from government-funded groups have become much more overt than in years past…state-crafted information originally intended for a foreign audience is now being used domestically. [Filmmaker Robbie Martin] noted that this has become particularly common at some “pseudo-alternative” media organizations — i.e., formerly independent media outlets that now enjoy corporate funding. Among these, Martin made the case that VICE News stands out.
And right on schedule with the development of Washington’s geopolitical rivalries, in recent years VICE has been amplifying disinformation about the DPRK. Disinformation that perfectly fits the vein of strategic deceptive tactics in wartime; convincing the population that the leader of a socialist workers’ state has died is a good way to try to demoralize and confuse the members of the revolutionary socialist movement. I won’t be surprised if the CIA puts out an equivalent story when the U.S. is undergoing the internal class revolt that the war college predicts.
These disinformation campaigns of the country’s near-future are going to be as calculated and strategically targeted as the CIA’s operations to elect pro-U.S. Latin American candidates through fabricated media stories, or the foreign U.S. propaganda network’s efforts to confuse Asia’s population through alarming made-up news reports during the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. They seek to sabotage the fighters in the class war, making us unable to garner sufficient support for the revolutionary socialist cause or operate based on an objective picture of our conditions.
The extreme censorship measures and online shutdowns outlined in the war college’s report are some parts of this. Another part is the micro-targeting approach of the country’s cybersecurity system, which keeps growing more sophisticated as AI and quantum computing get perfected. As journalist Raul Diego wrote earlier this month, the U.S. national security state aims to establish an all-encompassing online apparatus where people’s thoughts can be steered away from disfavored opinions:
People’s search habits, social media post history, and even retail transaction details are among the many kinds of data up for sale in our cybernetic Elysian Fields, to which advertisers, hackers and political operatives can all gain access in order to sell us a coffee maker, extort money from us, or ostensibly change our vote in an election. The solution, according to cyber-defense researchers, is the development of regulatory frameworks that can parse through the content and designate its appropriateness for mass consumption. A “Ministry of Truth,” so to speak, that can mitigate any disruptions to the status quo that might seep through in the Wild West of social media platforms.
As Vltchek concluded last year, “The Western firewall is complete.” In preparation for the coming class war, the U.S. national security state has constructed a labyrinth of propagandistic indoctrination, fabricated stories designed to confuse, and censorship against foreign media and anti-imperialist journalists. And to preemptively retain support for the U.S. military during their planned domestic occupations, they’ve utilized the tactic of projection, accusing Washington’s rivals of all the genocidal and anti-democratic actions which Washington itself has perpetrated. Such is the environment that revolutionary socialists in the heart of the imperialist beast must overcome.
Featured image: File photo.