Caitlin Johnstone: Just Who Values ‘Western Values’?

It’s the critics of Western empire who actually embody values such as truth, free speech, equality, accountability for the powerful and adversarial journalism.

“Free Speech *Conditions Apply” by Fukt. (wiredforlego, Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0)

By Caitlin Johnstone

Listen to a reading of this article.

Have you ever noticed how those who shriek the loudest about tyranny in foreign countries are the same people calling for the censorship and de-platforming of anyone who criticizes the Western empire?

It’s a ubiquitous mind virus throughout Western society. Anyone — and I do mean anyone — who aggressively and consistently criticizes the foreign policy of the U.S. and its allies in front of a sizeable audience gets branded a Russian agent by empire apologists, and this consensus is accompanied by the steadily growing opinion that Russia’s operatives and useful idiots should be banned from Western platforms.

Defenders of the Western empire won’t admit to wanting all empire critics silenced, but that’s what you get when you combine (A) the fact that they view everyone who criticizes the empire with sufficient aggression as a Russian agent with (B) their opinion that those given to Russian influence ought to be censored.

Whenever I criticize the foreign policy of the Western empire I get its apologists telling me I’d never be allowed to criticize my rulers like that if I lived in a nation like Russia or China, when they know full well that if it were up to them I wouldn’t be allowed to criticize the Western empire here either. They are the same as the tyrants they claim to despise.

The trouble with “Western values” is that Westerners don’t value them.

They think they value them, but all that reverence for free expression and holding power to account with the light of truth goes right out the window the second they see someone saying something that sharply differs from what their rulers and their propagandists have told them to think. Then they want that person silenced and shut down.

In truth, the most forceful critics of the Western empire actually embody these Western values infinitely more than empire apologists do.

It is the critics of empire who value free speech and holding the powerful to account. It’s the brainwashed bootlickers of the U.S.-centralized empire who are calling for censorship and shouting down anyone who directs fierce oppositional scrutiny toward the most powerful people in the world.

August 2014: Wired magazine with Ed Snowden on cover. (Mike Mozart, Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

People tell me “Move to Russia!” or “Move to China!” depending on what aspect of the empire’s global power agendas I happen to be criticizing at the moment, and I always want to tell them, no, you move to Russia. You move to China. You’re the one trying to suppress dissent and criticism of the powerful.

I’m the one who is living by Western values, as they were sold to me, and demanding normal scrutiny of the most powerful empire that has ever existed. You don’t belong here.

In school we are taught that our society values truth, free speech, equality, accountability for the powerful and adversarial journalism. Then we grow up and we see everyone rending their garments because institutions like CBS News or Amnesty International let slip one small report which doesn’t fully comply with the official line of our rulers.

We see Russian media banned and censorship protocols expanded to the enthusiastic cheerleading of mainstream liberals. We see astroturf trolling operations used to mass report and shout down those who scrutinize the establishment line about Ukraine on social media. We see Julian Assange languishing in Belmarsh Prison for the crime of unauthorized journalism.

It’s obvious with a look around that the “Western values” we’re all told about are not actually terribly common in the West.

Look at the West’s major media platforms and they virtually never platform anyone who is meaningfully critical of the real centers of power in Western civilization. Look at Western governments and they continually dance to the beat of oligarchy and empire regardless of how people vote in their supposedly free democratic elections.

Look at the internet and it’s actually very difficult to find authentic criticisms of imperial power unless you already know where to look.

Some of us bought into those Western values we were taught about in school, but it’s not the people you’ve been trained to expect. It’s we marginalized outsiders who are adamantly opposing censorship, propaganda and the empire’s war on the press while continuously working to shine truth on the mechanisms of power from the fringes, while we are being yelled at and accused of treason by mainstream sycophants who have far more in common with the autocrats they claim to oppose, than with the Western values they purport to uphold.

Caitlin Johnstone’s work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, following her on FacebookTwitterSoundcloud or YouTube, or throwing some money into her tip jar on Ko-fiPatreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy her books. The best way to make sure you see the stuff she publishes is to subscribe to the mailing list at her website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything she publishes.  For more info on who she is, where she stands and what she’s trying to do with her platform, click here. All works are co-authored with her American husband Tim Foley.

This article is from and 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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22 comments for “Caitlin Johnstone: Just Who Values ‘Western Values’?

  1. WillD
    September 16, 2022 at 23:23

    The more Westerners bang on about ‘western values’ the less they stick to them, and the more their opponents adopt them.

    So, we see a full reversal – the collective west becoming more repressive and the rest of the world less so. Russia has come a long way since the Soviet era, and tolerates far more internal criticism and dissent than westerners realise.

    • Common Sense
      September 18, 2022 at 18:11


  2. susan mullen
    September 16, 2022 at 20:27

    Contrary to propaganda, Russia still allows US regime change/destabilization group NED, Nat. Endowment for Democracy, to incite dissent and hate on the ground in Russia as of 2022. Trump even increased NED’s yearly funding by 66% to $300 million/yr. in Dec. 2019 to the thrill of Gershman (then its head) and others. Several million a year of this is spent in Russia. 2016 Trump voters had hoped for the exact opposite, that Trump would cancel NED entirely but Trump turned out to be another McCain. Since Mr. Putin continues to allow this group in his country, I can only assume that he doesn’t have the power everyone says he has.

    • Jessupe
      September 17, 2022 at 15:04

      They were banned in 2015.

      • Common Sense
        September 18, 2022 at 18:09

        Thank you for exposing ^^ :)

  3. Rudy Haugeneder
    September 16, 2022 at 13:46

    America, actually, is a fine example of how a tiny group of free thinkers can defeat even the perceived super, super power of the day — the British. Unfortunately, America gradually took its place and is fighting desperately to maintain that position that, if history is an example, ultimately fails, and is replaced by get another ghoul, unless Nature, in its wisdom, says “no more”.

  4. Shep
    September 16, 2022 at 13:12

    Thank you! You are so right

    • Caroline
      September 17, 2022 at 16:33

      Agree Shep, fantastic article from Caitlin succinctly stating the massive hypocrisy we face daily.

  5. firstpersoninfinite
    September 16, 2022 at 11:54

    This is a great “The emperor has no clothes!” article. I fear that the powers entrenched in our government (makes no difference which party) will resolve this inescapable truth by making all of us naked – as in made pliable by naked fear. The more we are made divided by our institutions and the media into iron-clad personas, whether by color, sex, suspected dissenters and extremists, etc., the more we can be victimized by economic forces now hardened into laws as codified in one direction as anything in the Justinian Code. Spengler had it right: the culture of Western Civilization ends around 2000 A.D., and the sterile intellectuality represented by late-stage Civilization begins. The great graveyards of the great cities grow outward, money is worshipped for itself and not for what it can buy, and anything alive is discussed until it is dead and buried. We “provincials,” those of us who live outside the major terminuses of the megalopolitan order, will have to find our own path forward, into a new culture of life with an indisposable future. One life spent in the bright light of truth is worth all the babbling brooks flowing monotonously into the same, dark sea. We must learn to abhor spectacle at all costs. It is the one thing which authoritarians cannot allow.

  6. Vera Gottlieb
    September 16, 2022 at 11:48

    Western ‘values’ mean different things to Westerners…Pick and choose.

    • robert e williamson jr
      September 16, 2022 at 18:29

      Vera ma hat’s off to you!

      And why is that? According to the values expressed in the Constitution “picking and chewing” can legitimately an freedom being expressed. However in this case, since money rules everything, those with the most “coin” subvert the system, legally, because they can.

      That means what? Maybe Re-programing at least 110 million human brains here in the good ole US OF A.

      Regardless, you hit this one out of the park! We have met the enemy and they are us!


      Thanks CN

  7. Jeff Harrison
    September 16, 2022 at 10:56

    “The presence of such attributes as freedom, equality, and justice in a society are present in inverse proportion to the frequency with which they are proclaimed.”

    JJ Norris, A History of Venice.

  8. Claudette Tremback
    September 16, 2022 at 10:37

    You might think you are talking to a brick wall — but you are not. My brain synapses are starving for attention and you provide what’s needed in large doses. Keep it up.

  9. September 16, 2022 at 10:28

    Great writers of truth have had problems with totalitarianism posing as democracy for a long time. Caitlin Johnstone is among the greats and tells truth clearly. I appreciate Caitlin’s writing and Consortium News for publishing it.

  10. Father Blue
    September 16, 2022 at 10:15

    When someone speaks of ‘Western Values’, I hear in my head the voice of George Carlin, speaking about the big club that hits you over the head. If you are a worker who lives in the West, you get hit over the head with ‘western values’ every day … and twice on Sunday if you have to work a railroad worker’s attendance schedule.

    Western Values is Joe Biden and the Party of Wall Street demanding that no American worker get a pay raise that actually keeps up with inflation. It is better for Wall Street if American workers take a real pay cut. That’s what the west values.

    “Greed is Good” —- that famous line shouted from an Oliver Stone flick describes the one Western Value that actually applies. Or Roger Waters, with his line “But if you ask for a raise it’s no surprise, That they’re giving none away”. A pair of famous western writers writing about ‘western values’. One does not have to look very far at all to see the Golden Calf that the west values worships as holy.

    I am reminded of the quote attributed to Ghandi, paraphrased for this occasion …. “Western Values? I think they would be a good idea.”

  11. Michael Perry
    September 16, 2022 at 09:40

    By design, it has to eat more, than it did yesterday.
    Even, if it is wrongfully justified by ISIS, Al Queda, Nazi’s, Mercenary’s, etc..

    … and Empire…
    The worst wars have to be the Civil Wars.
    But a Super Power War – that makes me shake…

    The commie card comes out when, the country dosn’t capitulate for the investor..

  12. Henry Smith
    September 16, 2022 at 09:32

    When did the West ever believe in its ‘Western Values’ ? It’s all just PR.
    Prior to the ‘internet age’ it was just the same, the difference being we weren’t so aware of the corruption and hypocrisy.
    Magna Carta, 1776, WW1,WW2, Nurnberg, Vietnam, Iraq, Ukraine, etc, etc. the lies just keep coming.
    Can you actually fix a system that’s always been broken ? What do you want Democracy or Freedom ? You can’t have both in the West.

  13. susan
    September 16, 2022 at 09:11

    I LOVE this Caitlin: “It’s the brainwashed bootlickers of the U.S.-centralized empire who are calling for censorship and shouting down anyone who directs fierce oppositional scrutiny toward the most powerful people in the world.” This country will not survive if we let these factions control the American narrative!

  14. Dfnslblty
    September 16, 2022 at 08:33

    Speaking truth to all. Some will listen and understand. Others will listen and find their comfort displaced.
    Stop Wars. Stop Wars.
    Keep writing. Keep speaking against western hypocracy.

  15. michael888
    September 16, 2022 at 06:29

    Always liked Bertrand Russell’s quote: “In a democracy it is necessary that people should learn to endure having their sentiments outraged.” Of course, NYC refused to let him teach in 1940; they weren’t about to tolerate having THEIR sentiments outraged. And now it’s no longer parochial local censoring, it’s national and the means toward the end of an intolerant Empire.

    SCOTUS has always ruled that HATE SPEECH = FREE SPEECH (Glenn Greenwald has expounded on this eloquently. So he is now a pariah.) Only when accompanied by imminent and local violence is hate speech not allowed, theoretically. Of course words themselves are considered violent nowadays, particularly if aimed upwards at the Rich and Powerful. Hurtful, embarrassing words; virtue signalling to those who have small feelings and cannot be allowed to “lose” a discussion or debate. I can remember when racist WORDS (wielded well by comedians for shock value) were boorish , but tolerated, but no longer. You can lose your job for “free speech” and soon no doubt your assets will be frozen. Racist ACTIONS, like much of Government’s FOREVER (just look at Flint and Jackson, Mississippi water supplies) are normalized (as are our funding of UkroNAZIs and apartheid Israel.)

    America is now Consensus policy and speech. Because Committees and Bureaucrats are so much more effective at helping the bottom 90% of Americans than Real Leaders?

  16. September 16, 2022 at 04:24

    It is always worth scrutinizing just how wide-ranging the spectrum of unrestrained opinion (i.e., the “Overton window”) actually is in any given society relative to others, how significant the qualitative differences between the state of permissible discourse in those respective societies really are (or are not) when push comes to shove, and the way these variables ebb and flow with the passage of time:

    “Though he’s been unswervingly critical of U.S. foreign policy, Costa-Gavras savors America’s enormous freedom of expression. After his years of location scouting it’s no surprise–he’s been forced to hurl most of his cinematic barbs at a distance.

    ‘Z’ was set in Greece, but filmed in Algeria. ‘State of Siege,’ set in Uruguay, was shot in Chile. ‘Missing’ was set in Chile, shot in Mexico. ‘The Confession’ was set in Czechoslovakia, shot in France. . . .

    ‘It’s true, I don’t usually get to work this close to my subject,’ he said. ‘That’s what is so extraordinary about your country–that you have this tradition of such free speech.'”

    Patrick Goldstein, “Costa-Gavras on State of America: Director’s Film ‘Betrayed’ Covers Racism in U.S.,” Los Angeles Times, August 24, 1988

    “‘Top Gun: Maverick’ is a box-office smash, a massive hit with both critics and the public alike. Navy and Air Force units across the country have set up recruitment stalls inside movie halls, hoping to sign up individuals buzzed after watching the high-paced aviation action. But documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that the movie was made only after an agreement was signed between Hollywood and the Pentagon, with the Navy insisting on ‘weav[ing] in’ their ‘key talking points’ in exchange for granting the production company extensive access to military hardware.

    Investigative journalist Tom Secker, author of ‘National Security Cinema: The Shocking New Evidence of Government Control in Hollywood,’ was one of those who obtained the documents. Secker explained that ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ was made with an explicit agenda behind it, telling MintPress:

    ‘It’s about rehabilitation of the military’s image in the wake of numerous failed wars. The film also helps foreground human pilots flying an actual combat mission – something very rare in these days of high-altitude airstrikes and drone warfare. It helps distract from all the drone pilots who’ve spoken out about the misery and horror inherent in that job.’


    In over 100 pages of contracts, the military agreed to allow Paramount access to a mountain of their most expensive hardware in exchange for what amounts to significant editorial control over the content and tone of the movie – an arrangement that is remarkably common in today’s environment.”

    Alan MacLeod, “‘Top Gun: Maverick’ is Military Propaganda: Official Documents Prove It,” MintPress News, June 13, 2022

    “Presidential Adviser Hessamodin Ashna and Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Mousavi have criticized Iran’s state TV for airing a controversial series that has allegedly showed President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in a bad light.


    The Iranian TV on Tuesday July 8 aired the 30th and final episode of ‘Gando.’


    The series alleges several times that all reporters are spies, members of the Rouhani administration are pro-Western conformist compromisers and that the IRGC intelligence knows everything about everyone in Iran and watches them all the time on gigantic big brother style monitors.”

    “Controversial TV Series Enrages Rouhani Administration Officials,” Radio Farda, July 9, 2019

    • September 16, 2022 at 05:08

      Aaron Maté: “I think you are getting wrong a very basic principle – that if you do not support free speech for those whose views you oppose, then you are not for free speech. I personally believe in free speech. I think that it is a very fundamental right, and I am very grateful that I live in a country that generally respects it.

      By your standards – that a station should be taken off the air for pushing pro-state misinformation – every single news network in the United States that pushed the Iraq War lies, that pushed the lies that brought us into Libya, should be taken off the air. Every single Saudi Arabian television network that is justifying the genocide going on right now with US support in Yemen should be taken off the air. Every single Israeli network that whitewashes the decades-long occupation of Palestinian land should be taken off the air. I do not want those networks taken off the air. I do not agree with what they might say, but the way to counter anything you disagree with is to oppose it.

      On that front, I do not even accept your characterization of RT. I am sure there is plenty of Russian state propaganda on RT as you describe, but also, I can think of voices of dissent like Afshin Rattansi. He hosts a show called ‘Going Underground.’ A few days ago, he had on a former Russian lawmaker [Natalia Narochnitskaya], and he extensively challenged her on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”

      “Should RT Be Removed From US Carriers?,” Dan Abrams Live on NewsNation, March 2, 2022

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