Image from Project Censored
When the U.S. empire launched a campaign after the 2016 election to intensively censor anti-imperialist online content, it was reacting to a development which it knew had put its own future in peril. This development was the decline of U.S. hegemony, which by that time even the Pentagon’s analysts were openly recognizing. When the empire’s internal oligarchy had produced an ongoing economic crisis, and the political order had consequently underwent an upset in the form of Trump’s election, the ruling class didn’t respond by undoing the socioeconomic injustices behind this new instability. They couldn’t, because at this stage in capitalism’s collapse, profits have overall fallen too much for social democracy to again be compatible with bourgeois rule. They instead responded the only way they could: by waging war against the forces that threaten their power, starting with the sources of anti-imperialist online news and education.
The intelligence community, conjuring scenarios of social media discord leading to civil war, called for tech companies to make the internet even more closed off and corporate-controlled than it had already become by then. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google all in their own ways worked to suppress anti-imperialist voices, utilizing every censorship tool from algorithmic manipulation to mass bans to demonetization. We know the purpose of these measures was to go after anti-imperialists in particular, rather than the reactionary right like these companies claimed, because even when the reactionaries have been at their most aggressive and destructive in recent years, it’s anti-imperialists who’ve primarily been penalized by the ensuing censorship. When the January 6th attack happened, Palestinian accounts got punished for it, an absurdity that only makes sense when you see that our ruling institutions don’t view reactionaries as their enemies. The ones they’re most threatened by are those who expose the crimes of U.S. imperialism, whether those crimes be supporting Israeli colonialism, carrying out airstrikes under false pretenses, occupying Africa for the sake of waging a new cold war on China, or aiding Ukraine in shelling Donbass civilians.
If someone with an anti-imperialist perspective challenged the Russiagate narrative, in which the Democratic Party claimed the Trump campaign had colluded with Putin to interfere in the 2016 election, they were to be targeted as national security threats. Not necessarily in the “enemy combatant” way where citizens got indefinitely detained on spurious grounds, though we have seen an equivalent of that in Julian Assange’s illegal incarceration and torture. The way the state has primarily been targeting anti-imperialists during the new cold war is through a combination of systematic silencing, and psyops designed to place a stigma upon their ideas. As anti-imperialists have been deplatfpormed via a new thought framework, where what they say gets categorized as “disinformation” or “fake news,” this framework gets used to convince those within the propaganda bubble that anyone who challenges the empire isn’t worth listening to. The purpose of the Russiagate psyop was to propagate the idea that opposition towards the American war machine, the intelligence entities, and the capitalist order in general is not an organic phenomenon. That anyone who deviates from the CIA/CNN orthodoxy can’t have come to their conclusions independently, but was convinced to by Washington’s geopolitical rivals.
When I recognized this scheme against the antiwar and workers movement, I saw the militaristic motive behind Russiagate’s creation, and developed beyond my initial naive view about how the idea appeared to have a factual basis. Anything can appear to have a factual basis, all you need to do is present the public with what looks like “evidence” for it. To the casual observer, it doesn’t matter that this evidence can’t pass a test of scrutiny. When I stopped observing things in a shallow way, and educated myself about the context behind why we were being sold a vilifying narrative about a U.S. rival, I joined the information battle against this and the other psyops.
This new thought framework I adopted, where I trained myself to assume that an accused country is innocent unless a serious investigation can prove the charges correct, has informed the ways I’ve analyzed the psyops which have been created since then. When the Syria psyop got replaced by the Ukraine psyop as the dividing barrier between the imperialism-compatible “left,” and the principled anti-imperialists, I scrutinized the U.S. narrative to the effect that I view Russia’s intervention in Ukraine as justified. This is the optimal stance to take on the issue when one’s goal is to defeat the state, as articulating this stance makes one of the state’s biggest foreign policy narratives able to be questioned to its core. The same benefit comes from articulating the stance that Taiwan is a part of China. These ideas are so effective for advancing our cause because they go beyond merely decrying American militarism in Ukraine or Taiwan, and call into doubt the reasons why the empire claims its involvement in these places is justified.
When one neglects to learn about or combat the psyops behind U.S. foreign policy, they end up undermining whatever opposition towards imperialism they claim to have. They can even be led to support these policies as an “exception,” since they accept the distorted accounts of events that make America’s involvement appear okay. This was shown when Noam Chomsky and other “progressives” called for U.S. military involvement in Syria due to this supposedly being crucial for saving the Kurds. As Whitney Webb observed about the contradictions in this argument:
Since the rise of Daesh (ISIS) in the Syrian conflict, Western media has placed the Kurds on a pedestal and has long treated them as the only “effective” fighters against the terrorist group. However, praising the local Kurdish militias for their fighting prowess has since given way to praising the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), even though the two could not be more different. While the SDF does boast a significant portion of Kurds among its ranks, it is not expressly Kurdish and is an umbrella group of several militias. Though this itself is not concerning, the identities of many of its Arab fighters do give cause for concern. For instance, one of the groups operating under the SDF’s banner is the Deir Ezzor Military Council (DMC) — a group whose fighters were former members of Daesh and al-Nusra (Syria’s Al-Qaeda affiliate), who were “retrained” by U.S. forces in Northern Syria after surrendering to the SDF and U.S.-backed forces in Raqqa. In addition, tribes that were formerly allied with Daesh have joined forces with the SDF over the past year.
Other complexities the imperialism-compatible left ignores are that Rojava is not a socialist society by any means, but rather an ethnic nationalist project akin to Zionism that’s committed numerous war crimes and carried out cultural erasure. As well as that these terrorists (because what else can we call them?) have been enabling the U.S. military’s ongoing theft of Syrian oil. The Kurd psyop’s promoters act like Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman colonization project justifies the U.S. military’s actions and makes the Rojavans heroes, when the reality is a more complicated one. One where rival imperial powers are vying for who gets to carve up a country which Washington started a proxy war against.
I’ve repudiated the Kurd psyop because it’s still a relevant one, and therefore is a narrative that the state has an urgent interest in defending. If this and the other ideas justifying American foreign policy get widely recognized as misleading, then the class struggle will greatly escalate. It will escalate because under our conditions of extreme class contradictions, where around two-thirds of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, revolutionary politics has an opportunity to rise. An opportunity that’s been made more substantial by the reality that the inflation crisis, and its destructive impacts on working people’s lives, has been vastly worsened by the war machine. The imperialism-compatible left is a major part of the initial layer in the counterinsurgency the state is using to hold back revolution, if not synonymous with this layer. That’s because this type of controlled opposition is what keeps organizing spaces, the outlets through which the people try to fight the ruling class, controlled by the ruling class.
When imperialism’s psyops have been sufficiently deprived of their influence over these spaces, we’ll clear an obstacle in our task of overthrowing the state. The war against dissent has centered around suppressing anti-imperialist perspectives because it’s these perspectives that can lead to a change in the balance of power. That can create an independent element of the labor movement, one which isn’t a front for the Democratic Party. When we’ve built up this force enough, it will not just give a voice to the working class, but be able to act in a way that actually advances the proletariat’s interests. It won’t be constrained by the liberalism that necessarily comes with accepting the narrative premises upon which U.S. foreign policy is built.
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