2020-11-23

Propaganda Today: New Targets and Deflections

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by Neil Godfrey

Glenn Greenwald has an interesting take on what is happening with mainstream media lately.

In the 1950s and 60s we had

— just as they did in the Cold War with domestic Communism

— and after the Oklahoma City bombing when the Clinton Administration demanded backdoor internet access in the name of stopping right-wing militias

— and again after 9/11 when people like Newt Gingrich wanted to curb free speech in the name of stopping the threat of Islamic radicalism inside the U.S.

Continuing the above pattern, Greenwald fears,

Even with Trump gone, [corporate media in league with national security state and the neocon-backed and corporate-funded Democratic Party] are going to use every FBI tactic to exaggerate the threat of these domestic movements [e.g. QAnon, Proud Boys and the Boogaloo Bois, “Trump supporters” and Russian social media plants] to keep you in such a state of fear that you acquiesce to whatever powers they claim they need to defeat these forces of domestic right-wing darkness. 

This playbook is as old and obvious as it is pernicious.

An excerpt from the article that shows the coalition of media, corporate and political interests working to maintain America’s military presence in Afghanistan:

This is not the first time the Trump administration has been condemned after unveiling its plans to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. In July, pro-war Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee, led by their Lockheed-and-Raytheon-funded Chairman Adam Smith, partnered with Congresswoman Liz Cheney and her pro-war GOP allies to block the use of funds for removing troops (not only from Afghanistan but also Germany), as part of a massive increase in military spending. The oppositional left-right coalition of anti-war Democrats such as Ro Khanna and Tulsi Gabbard and America-First Trump supporters such as Matt Gaetz were no match for the bipartisan pro-war coalition which attempted to block any end to the war.

A crucial weapon which Smith, Cheney and the other anti-withdrawal Committee members wielded was a widely-hyped New York Times scoop published days before the Committee vote, which — in its first paragraph — announced:

American intelligence officials have concluded that a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing coalition forces in Afghanistan — including targeting American troops — amid the peace talks to end the long-running war there, according to officials briefed on the matter.

Repeatedly citing this New York Times story, based on the claims of anonymous “intelligence officials,” the bipartisan pro-war wing of the Committee insisted that to leave Afghanistan now would be particularly inappropriate and dangerous in light of this dastardly Russian interference. (Top military officials and the commander in Afghanistan later admitted the bounty program “had not been corroborated by intelligence agencies and that they do not believe any attacks in Afghanistan that resulted in American casualties can be directly tied to it,” but by then, the job was done).

And thus did this union of pro-war Democrats, Cheney-led neocons, the intelligence community and their chosen mainstream media outlets succeed in providing the perfectly crafted tool at the most opportune moment to justify blocking an end to America’s longest war. That is precisely the same coalition that drowned U.S. politics for more than three years in the sustained, monomaniacal disinformation campaign about Putin’s takeover of the U.S.

Much of the rest of the article is about the power mainstream media and Silicon Valley interests have exerted in censoring social media. Meanwhile, the corporate media giants that were identified as the main propaganda agents in Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent are now increasingly seen as bulwarks of “objective news reporting” and guardians of truth against

fringe groups of fat middle-aged guys in the deindustrialized, decimated, deprived interior of the country cosplaying as militiamen, or random, anonymous MAGA and QAnon trolls.

Perspective. I am not sure I have it right, yet. I thought the far right and their alternative reality campaigns are a lot more of a serious threat than Greenwald seems to allow. But at the same time, I cannot deny the ease with which the mainstream media appear to be getting a free pass to spread the propaganda interests a “new coalition of power”:

Here we see the new coalition of power that has formed during the Trump era: hawkish and corporatist Democrats, united when necessary with pro-war/neocon Republicans, Bush/Cheney operatives, the national security state and large corporate media outlets outside of Fox News.

The article is The New Ruling Coalition: Opposition to Afghanistan Withdrawal Shows Its Key Factions

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Neil Godfrey

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11 thoughts on “Propaganda Today: New Targets and Deflections”

  1. A central question for me has been how much real power does a US president have, given the corporatocracy (leaders of the banks, congress and big companies) who control their financial system, money supply and entrenched surveillance networks ? If their presidents are indeed just flower-pot men put up to give the common people a false sense of democracy then I think this adds to Greenwald’s fears that seem to me to be concerned with a deep state, subtle propaganda machine defended by the US military industrial complex.

  2. While I agree that some views can be deemed dangerous it seems to me hegemonic control of public discourse by corporate-owned media giants is by far more of a threat than ‘fringe’ figures.

  3. One of the few things I support, that Trump adopted, was 1) an aversion to “endless wars.”

    Still, I’m very aware that 2) in the Middle East specifically, whenever we pulled out, local crazy rival factions tried to take over. And resumed killing each other in large numbers.

    1. In 2016 I knew nothing of Trump’s background but did like his campaign promise to pull out of Middle East wars, too. But if we take a little time to study what those “local crazy factions” are all about we will see that they are not so “crazy” after all. Very often there are serious injustices that are seeking redress and there are wars for freedom from tyranny and terror. Those “Middle Easterners” are not so crazy to justify Westerners thinking they have to decide between “sorting out their problems” or “leaving them to their madness”. There are very often just ways to help just causes without deciding to take options that will kill more people and benefit certain moneymaker and power interests on our side.

      1. …. that, and the fact that Russia and Iran will step in to help “their side win again” whenever they suffer setbacks and Turkey and Saudi Arabia do the same for “their side” so it never ends….

        1. Sounds about right.

          I should add something here which might help for some though. In the case of Afghanistan, and some other countries, after our being heavily involved, eventually we stabilized the country reasonably well. And can maintain that with a relatively small force.

          It is only if we pull out entirely that the old local conflicts resume.

          So we are still useful specifically there, possibly, at least. As a classic “peacekeeping” force?

    2. James, I know that is the conventional perception, accepted and even appealing to some on the left here in the US, that Trump was opposed to foreign wars, citing some of his words plus that the US did not get involved in a major war during Trump’s term. However I question the accuracy of that conventional interpretation. (1) Trump wanted to escalate in Syria but was talked out of it by generals; (2) Trump seriously, passionately lusted to invade Venezuela and take its oil, and that did not happen only because all advisors and military people basically told him it should not be done. (3) Although it is hypothetical and to a certain degree never will be known, I think in the early days of the administration when Trump was threatening North Korea in the most inflammatory language and privately gave an order to withdraw families of US personnel from Seoul–an order which simply was not carried out and he forgot about it, according to reports, which would have looked to North Korea like war was imminent–and Trump’s inquiry entering office of “why do we have nuclear weapons if we can’t use them?”–I do not think it is a foregone conclusion that North Korea could not have gone in a different way if it had been left up to Trump, i.e. if Trump had had full control of the executive branch. (4) Trump has consistently, from day one, advocated taking oil in other lands around the world–he thought the US should take Iraq’s oil; he thought the US should take Syria’s oil; he wanted to invade Venezuela and take Venezuela’s oil. Unilateral taking the oil in these three nations is not in keeping with avoiding foreign wars. And finally, (5) after Trump lost the election to Biden by millions of votes and four states but before the vote was certified, it was credibly reported that Trump was considering or seeking to launch an unprovoked attack on Iran starting a major conflagration there–that in just the past days. That did not happen, perhaps (speculation) because it was quietly told to Trump that the military would not carry out such orders. The White House’s position is Trump considered it and decided not to do so.

      Trump dramatically escalated the military budget during his tenure. When the parliament of Iraq responding to popular pressure voiced intent to request US forces to leave Iraq, Trump responded by threatening Iraq with economic sanctions “like they’ve never seen before”–responding to a nation’s desire to end being protected by US forces as an insult meriting catastrophic and horrific punishment on that nation’s civilians in the form of crippling economic sanctions. And Iraq is an ally!

      So I do not buy the conventional wisdom of Trump as less willing to enter foreign wars. What Trump did show was less interest in defending allies, such as NATO and South Korea. That instinct of Trump I believe was for real. But staying out of foreign wars? I think Trump’s behavior is best interpreted as a more focused America-First imperial ideology in foreign affairs, not less warlike. I think Trump was restrained because he did not have full control of the executive branch and the military during his term as president.

      1. Hi Gregory,

        I agree with your assessment, though I do vacillate between wondering if Trump’s aggressive foreign policy is of his own creation, or if he’s being pressured into that stance. It’s often been claimed that he tends to be persuaded by the last person to whom he speaks (neo-cons/neo-libs, Israeli lobby, Saudi lobby, pro-Zionist evangelical lobby, corporate America lobby, etc.).

        Whatever the case, rumblings of war against Iran are coming are becoming louder, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s recent “tour” of the Middle East is somewhat foreboding:

        https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/trump-military-move-against-iran

        https://news.antiwar.com/2020/11/25/israeli-military-prepares-for-possibility-trump-will-attack-iran/

        Richard G.

      2. I agree we were lucky.

        I might also suggest that Trump selectively cut back on American military operations that bordered and slowed Russian hegemony.

  4. I think a decent case can be made that Trump was opposed to starting wars to the extent that that stance made him popular; if he thought wiping out Iran or Venezuela would make him more popular he’d go for it. But he was talked out of either by those who could see that a Trump-initiated war would not have a “good look” internationally. Better to wait for a more “respectable” looking president, a Biden or Obama type, to be the American face in new wars if the international community is going to consider them “respectable” and “just” in any way at all.

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