UPRISING: Narrative Control Operations Escalate as America Burns

Caitlin Johnstone confronts the imperialist slant of Silicon Valley tech giants. 

Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter, and mainstream media are falling all over themselves with censorship and spin jobs to get the narrative back under control as mass protests continue to sweep across America.

In 2017, representatives of Facebook, Twitter and Google were instructed in a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that it is their responsibility to “quell information rebellions” and adopt a “mission statement” expressing their commitment to “prevent the fomenting of discord.”

“Civil wars don’t start with gunshots, they start with words,” the representatives were told by Cold Warrior think tank denizen Clint Watts. “America’s war with itself has already begun. We all must act now on the social media battlefield to quell information rebellions that can quickly lead to violent confrontations and easily transform us into the Divided States of America.”

“Stopping the false information artillery barrage landing on social media users comes only when those outlets distributing bogus stories are silenced — silence the guns and the barrage will end,” Watts added.

Those words rattle around in the memory now as America burns with nationwide protests demanding an end to the police state, and as narrative control operations ramp up with frantic urgency.

The Grayzone reports that it has been blacklisted as a source on Wikipedia following a concerted campaign by a suspicious-looking group of editor accounts, many of whom appear to have ties to the right-wing opposition in Venezuela. Wikipedia, whose co-founder once told the U.S. Senate that the online encyclopedia project “may be helpful to government operations and homeland security,” has added The Grayzone to a very short list of outlets that are never to be used under any circumstances, claiming on apparently no basis whatsoever that it publishes false information.

“In fact, in its more than four years of existence, including its first two years hosted at the website AlterNet (whose use is not forbidden on Wikipedia), The Grayzone has never had to issue a major correction or retract a story,” Grayzone’s Ben Norton says in its report on the matter. Norton documents how the Wikipedia editors are unable to cite any actual false information in any of the outlet’s publications in their arguments, leaving only their objection that Grayzone doesn’t parrot U.S. government-approved narratives like The New York Times, Bellingcat, and Wikipedia’s other designated “reliable sources.”

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Norton also notes how Wikipedia has designated the leak publication outlet WikiLeaks an unreliable source despite its nearly 14-year record of authentic publications. Wikipedia designates WikiLeaks as “generally unreliable,” making the utterly baseless claim that “there are concerns regarding whether the documents are genuine or tampered.”

“The internet encyclopedia has become a deeply undemocratic platform, dominated by Western state-backed actors and corporate public relations flacks, easily manipulated by powerful forces. And it is run by figures who often represent these same elite interests, or align with their regime-change politics,” Norton writes.

Norton’s breakdown of the ways Wikipedia is slanted to consistently favor pro-Establishment narratives is comprehensive, and well worth reading in its entirety. This short Mintpress News article by Alan MacLeod on the way this same monopolistic editing dynamic has seen Mintpress, teleSur English, and Venezuela Analysis blacklisted from Wikipedia in the same way is also worth a look.

This all comes out as we learn that Facebook is attaching warning labels to posts from outlets sponsored by governments which have not been absorbed into the U.S.-centralized empire like RT and CGTN, but attaching no such label to outlets funded by imperial governments like BBC and Radio Free Europe. There is not any discernible difference in the degree of bias shown in state media from unabsorbed nations like Russia and China than there is in state media from the U.S. and U.K. (or oligarchic media from the U.S. and U.K. for that matter), but Facebook causes its 2.6 billion active users to look at one with suspicion but not the other.

This also comes out at the same time we learn that Twitter has deleted over 170,000 accounts for “spreading geopolitical narratives favorable to the Communist Party of China.” CNN reports (in an article which also cites the analysis of the scandal-ridden narrative manager Renee DiResta) that the accounts were determined to be “tied to the Chinese government” by “experts” who we learn later in the article are none other than the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), a think tank geared explicitly toward fomenting anti-China sentiment in Australia.

“Former Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr has slammed ASPI for pushing a ‘one-sided, pro-American view of the world’, while the former Australian ambassador to China Geoff Raby added that ASPI is ‘the architect of the China threat theory in Australia’,” journalist Ajit Singh noted on Twitter, adding, “Australian Senator Kim Carr has slammed ASPI for seeking to ‘promote a new cold war with China’ in collaboration with the US. In February, Carr highlighted that ASPI received $450,000 funding from the US State Department in 2019–20.”

This blatant imperialist narrative manipulation operation are the “experts” Twitter consulted in determining which accounts were “tied to the Chinese government” and therefore needed to be silenced. Twitter meanwhile continues to allow known fake accounts like the MEK propaganda operation “Heshmat Alavi” to continue inauthentically posing as real people, even when their propaganda is publicized by the president of the United States, because such accounts toe the imperialist line against empire-targeted governments. This pro-imperialism slant is standard for all Silicon Valley tech giants.

This also comes out at the same time the mass media are warning us that Russia, China and Iran are “employing state media, proxy outlets, and social media accounts to amplify criticism of the United States related to the death of George Floyd and subsequent events.”

“As protesters hit the streets in cities across the country, America’s foreign adversaries have flooded social media with content meant to sow division and discord in the wake of George Floyd’s death, according to a U.S. government intelligence bulletin obtained by ABC News,” we are told by the Disney-owned ABC.

“These actors criticize the United States as hypocritical, corrupt, undemocratic, racist, guilty of human rights abuses and on the verge of collapsing,” the bulletin reads, which to anyone who’s been paying attention is obviously true. This is a news story about people from other countries saying true things about the United States of America.

“This is yet another indicator that Russia is using the combination of overt propaganda and covertly disseminated disinformation to sow discord across our populace, expand the cracks in our society, and undermine the credibility of the U.S. government,” former senior Department of Homeland Security official and current ABC News contributor John Cohen informs us.

Ahh, okay. Cool. Thank you for the information, former senior Department of Homeland Security official and current ABC News contributor John Cohen. Man it sure is a good thing America doesn’t have state media. Think about how bad the disinformation would be.

Social media outlets were told that they need to censor their platforms to “prevent the fomenting of discord,” but obviously they didn’t move quickly enough, because the discord has been well and truly fomented. And now they are in a mad scramble to prevent Americans from hearing what people in foreign nations have to say about that, still apparently laboring under the delusion that this is anything other than homegrown, purebred, cornfed, American-as-apple-pie discord.

The most distinctive feature of the last four years has been expanding consciousness. Expanding consciousness of media corruption, of DNC corruption, of government corruption, of the excessive amount of power wielded by the U.S. presidency and the absurd esteem people used to have for that position, of the abuse of immigrants, of police militarization, of unhealed racial wounds, etc.

This is encouraging, because you can’t fix something you haven’t made conscious. This is true of our own unresolved psychological issues, and it’s true of our unresolved collective issues as well. The first step toward a healthy world is expanded consciousness.

This is why increasing government opacity, internet censorship, and the war on journalism are so dangerous. Corruption and abuse thrive in darkness, and corrupt abusers want to keep that darkness intact. They want to keep things as unconscious as possible.

It’s beginning to look like that cat’s out of the bag, though, and I would be very surprised if they ever manage to get that sucker back in there.

What an exciting time to be alive.

Caitlin Johnstone is a rogue journalist, poet, and utopia prepper who publishes regularly at Medium. Follow her work on Facebook, Twitter, or her website. She has a podcast and a book, Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers.” 

This article was re-published with permission.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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13 comments for “UPRISING: Narrative Control Operations Escalate as America Burns

  1. DW Bartoo
    June 18, 2020 at 12:01

    Among my collection of books about U$ history, there is a slim paperback of 87 pages, entitled “The Book of Great American Documents”, edited by Vincent Wilson, Jr.

    On page 15, in the section dealing with the Declaration of Independence, we find these statements:

    “By their actions, the men who signed the Declaration, for the first time in history, made revolution an instrument that could be used by honorable men for a just cause. … at that dramatic moment in the summer of 1776 when the Declaration was passed, the ageless tyranny of despotic rule was, at one blow, formally denounced and broken. The echo of that blow will surely ring down through the ages.”

    This is, of course, very typical jingoistic bombast, found in most hagiographic history always so much in favor in U$ history classes and political rhetoric.

    The shining city on the hill and all that.

    The assumption is that, for all time, “freedom” has been achieved, justice has been done (and nobly served) and that all domestic tyranny has been vanquished forever.

    That is the beginning of the Myth.

    Many here are more than a little bit acquainted with its expansive permutations and the terror and destruction visited upon nations and peoples ever since the Calvinistic Europeans set foot on what is known as the U$.

    Yet a question, which is not really new, has become most necessary to consider, has become critically important and can no longer be dismissed as either unrealistic or unreasonable as, too often, it has been, usually with a sneering, “Love it or Leave it!” dismissal

    What if it is the U$ which has become a “tyranny of despotic rule”?

    Has Revolution become dishonorable?

    Is Revolution a just instrument of humanly necessary change?

    Or has it always been just a stirring word used to cleverly hide intentional elitist control established to maintain domination of a society, removed from clutches of one group of tyrants, simply to be enforced and enjoyed by another?

    Those who have successfully been taught to believe the U$ is the greatest nation the world has ever known, will find such a consideration revolting.

    Those who have been encouraged to develop and practice honest and independent critical thinking skills,
    may well have already reached a similar perspective.

  2. Anonymous
    June 17, 2020 at 11:15

    I may sometimes disagree with your articles, Ms. Johnstone, but this one is absolutely on the mark in my opinion.

    I’ve experienced – as I’m sure many other readers have – just how eager Americans in general are to dismiss anything that doesn’t fit a “knight in shining armor” narrative, and there’s no doubt that people (and not just official and public institutions) are not ready to actually listen.

    The truth is that things here have been much closer to the children’s stories told about the “evil communists in Russia” for a long time than anyone wants to admit – but we turn our heads and say “not us, not America”. We’re far closer to all the supposed “evil” we’ve chased – because this country constantly projects everything it doesn’t like about itself onto its targets and hunts scapegoat after scapegoat down rather than actually addressing the issues at home.

    Pretty ironic for a country that imprisons, drugs, and often irreversibly alters people against their will over “mental health” concerns, wouldn’t you say?

    But now that the coercion isn’t even being passed off under another name – now that companies like Twitter and Facebook are so brazen about it, one has to wonder how far off we really are from becoming the dystopia we’ve been warned about by authors for so many decades…

  3. Aaron
    June 16, 2020 at 14:25

    Well this raises the much-debated question, who was right about our descent into the dsytopic abyss, Orwell or Huxley? While atm, it may seem more like Orwell, I opine that in the long run it’s all about Huxley’s vision, he was right. Because, while these incidents of censorship are chilling, I think there is plenty of truth and info available to the average Joe than there has ever been, with the internet, and documentaries and just what media there still is. That is, if they choose to read and learn it, really learn it. I think most folks are too addicted to their phones/social media and from a distance, seeing all the protestors holding their phones to document stuff and posting it to their social media, it’s almost like that is more important than the overall meaning, it’s very, very paradoxical, we have to realize, how can it possibly can be, that since the invention of the internet/smart phones, with so much digital info, that we march inexorably toward fascism and complete dystopia, and indeed to the end of life on earth, even if it’s just from climate change alone. It’s irreversible. The efficacy of this movement to me, remains dubious. And while everybody paradoxically records stuff with their Chinese-communist made phones, factory workers hired by American oligarchs(but that’s not considered ties to communists somehow?), and feel empowered because of the drama/spectacle/size of it all, the Keeling curve continues/accelerates, we get to fight each other over whose better, Trump or Biden, and so a few cops are arrested, and some procedures are banned with fanfare, and the celebrations are meticulously recorded by billions of phones and posted to Silicon Valley’s servers and we celebrate, and, well, yeah, Huxley was so right.

    “Got me twisted, jammed into a PARADOX…
    Maybe that’s the plan, and I don’t understand,
    Goddamn, you got me sinkin’ in quicksand” – Ice T

  4. jimmy
    June 16, 2020 at 10:57

    Pressure creates heat. The real question is: is violent discord what the powerful want? It has worked to establish the iron fisted governments in many nations, states, and street gangs.

    • Jams O'Donnell
      June 16, 2020 at 11:43

      You can second-guess yourself into a hole in the ground quite easily. You must first have a theory of how and why such a policy would benefit the establishment, and whether the reverse is more likely, before you go putting it up on the web.

      Against your theory are a whole host of examples where violent ‘discord’ has achieved great and positive benefits, while crawling back into a shell and doing as you’re told has not.

    • Anonymous
      June 17, 2020 at 11:21

      I think acute violence has long been acceptable to ruling parties in general as long as it doesn’t instill change – it blows off steam that would otherwise be channeled to longer-term movements that could lead to real political shifts.

  5. AnneR
    June 16, 2020 at 10:30

    P.S. We – the vox populi – clearly cannot be “trusted” to form our own opinions, worldviews, perspectives on what we read, see and hear about what – perhaps especially – we are doing to other peoples across the world as well as back home. We *have* to be fed the POV that our ruling elites insist that we take in, absorb, believe to be “true” even if that so-called information is all lies, whitewashing, codswallop.
    Perhaps that’s why it has been necessary to weaken education over the past few decades – a population raised and maintained in ignorance is all too malleable outlook-wise. Orwell’s rewriting of history (something that we used to accuse the Soviets of, I do believe…)

  6. AnneR
    June 16, 2020 at 10:23

    Thank you muchly, Ms Johnstone. A truthful and deeply depressing piece about the increasingly (is that even possible?) propagandistic, Orwellian “state/state oriented media” here in the US and UK (and doubtless EU and assuredly Occupied Palestine).

    Yes – we *only ever* hear from *one* side when Russia, China, Iran, Occupied Palestine, Venezuela and all and any of the other countries, large and small, which dare (HOW dare they?) to resist, to the best of their ability, being forced into compliance with western imperial demands; which dare to try and go their own way.

    Of course that side we hear about is the anti-Russian, anti-Chinese etc., etc., present government, governing structure…and as I have noted before, just about all, if not all, those who are pro-western, anti-their own country/society as it exists strangely seem to be exceedingly well educated, English speakers, almost certainly members of the bourgeoisie who benefited when the west (e.g. the US or/and UK) controlled/inserted the earlier governing structure. We never, ever hear from such as the Palestinians whose homes have been deliberately bull-dozed, whose family members have been shot, run down, imprisoned and tortured without trial, whose lands -still – are being stolen, crops burnt; from the poor working folks of Venezuela about their experience of life since Chavez was first elected, let alone being reminded (regularly) that we in the west have imposed heavy economic sanctions on Venezuela since the early 2000s and that those sanctions are the *main* cause of the cost of and reduced food supplies, medical supplies. No, never mentioned.

    The imprisonment of people in China, Iran and Russia and their treatment therein – ever commented on, discussed as if we in the US didn’t have the largest prison population, just about all of whom have to work as slaves (miniscule payments in some states; in others no pay) for corporations, whose imprisonment is for profiteering by prison companies (and the Fed). And do we hear about Guantanamo?

    This list of omissions is long while the expressed anti-“news/info” is totally one sided: ours.

    While NPR/PBS are not fully state media (though I would argue that their funding is largely corporate, rather akin to that of the supposed governing bodies, directly and via so-called foundations plus direct government funds) they might just as well be given their distinct Orwellian biases and Bernaysian propaganda.

    I have found it to be very difficult to access the very latest news on such as Presstv – no surprise, of course. But having grown up in the UK where the newspapers openly leant in this or that political direction (there used to be a Communist one as well), the notion that you cannot access the widest variety of worldviews, understandings, perceptions, perspectives on what is going on in the world at large and in one’s own place of existence is untenable.

    • June 16, 2020 at 21:10

      Interestingly, USA and Russia started this millennium with very similar incarceration rates, but Russia reduced it my more than 1/3, while USA reduced it very little if at all — there was a peak in 2008, and the latest statistics were missing in the table I have found. In general, Russia is most comparable to USA with incarceration rates and many problems, although they do not seem to use solitary confinement as a “discipline tool”. That seems an unfortunate American peculiarity.

    • AnneR
      June 17, 2020 at 06:50

      Piotr Berman – Solitary Confinement is hardly just an “unfortunate American peculiarity.” It is a deliberate and conscious psychological torture technique, as the US government, so-called “justice” system and prison “authorities” (be they private or publicly owned).

      That it is torture is well known in psychology circles, written up about in respected peer reviewed journals and so judged by the UN special rapporteur on torture and many human rights organizations. And in not a few US prisons (Rikers for instance) it was used against juveniles, not “only” adults. It definitely is still used against adults in US prisons.

      But willy-nilly of whether or not Russia and China (or anywhere else in the world) has a large prison population and these countries treat their prisoners badly – we here should *not* only be fed the propaganda that these other countries are the bad bad people while at the same time we are given the impression that we are as pure as the driven snow via complete omission of inquiries into what our government permits/does in our prisons (including Guantanamo). A lot of very noisy, hypocritical finger-pointing at those we choose to hate amid total silence on our egregious, inhuman treatment of our prisoners.

    • Anonymous
      June 18, 2020 at 00:07

      Everything is a “discipline tool” here – it’s just a matter of how far down the (social) ladder you happen to be. These psychologists you so respect, AnneR, are quite involved in much of it.

  7. Zhu
    June 16, 2020 at 04:23

    Yep, sounds about righty.

  8. Moi
    June 16, 2020 at 03:04

    MSM Quote: Former CIA Director and now Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: “We lied, we cheated, we stole. It’s – it was like – we had entire training courses.”

    Clint Watts: “Civil wars don’t start with gunshots, they start with words … Stopping the false information artillery barrage landing on social media users comes only when those outlets distributing bogus stories are silenced…”.

    Obviously this mean that the US government (CIA, State, et al) and their false narratives should be banned from social media.

Comments are closed.