The “fight for democracy” grows ever-more tyrannical, says Caitlin Johnstone. Now we learn that the U.S. intelligence cartel has been working intimately with online platforms to regulate the “cognitive infrastructure” of the population.
By Caitlin Johnstone
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So it turns out the U.S. intelligence cartel has been working intimately with online platforms to regulate the “cognitive infrastructure” of the population. This is according to a new investigative report by The Intercept, based on documents obtained through leaks and an ongoing lawsuit, on the “retooling” of the Department of Homeland Security from an agency focused on counterterrorism to one increasingly focused on fighting “misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation” online.
While the DHS’s hotly controversial “Disinformation Governance Board” was shut down in response to public outcry, The Intercept report reveals what authors Lee Fang and Ken Klippenstein describe as “an expansive effort by the agency to influence tech platforms” in order to “curb speech it considers dangerous”:
“According to a draft copy of DHS’s Quadrennial Homeland Security Review, DHS’s capstone report outlining the department’s strategy and priorities in the coming years, the department plans to target ‘inaccurate information’ on a wide range of topics, including ‘the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic and the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines, racial justice, U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the nature of U.S. support to Ukraine.’ ”
Docs show Facebook and Twitter closely collaborating w/ Dept of Homeland Security, FBI to police “disinfo.” Plans to expand censorship on topics like withdrawal from Afghanistan, origins of COVID, info that undermines trust in financial institutions. https://t.co/Zb3zmI1dQF
— Lee Fang (@lhfang) October 31, 2022
The report reveals pervasive efforts on the part of the DHS and its Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), along with the F.B.I., to push massive online platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to censor content in order to suppress “threats” as broad as fomenting distrust in the U.S. government and U.S. financial institutions.
“There is also a formalized process for government officials to directly flag content on Facebook or Instagram and request that it be throttled or suppressed through a special Facebook portal that requires a government or law enforcement email to use,” The Intercept reports.
“Emails between DHS officials, Twitter, and the Center for Internet Security outline the process for such takedown requests during the period leading up to November 2020,” says The Intercept. “Meeting notes show that the tech platforms would be called upon to ‘process reports and provide timely responses, to include the removal of reported misinformation from the platform where possible.’”
While these government agencies contend that they are not technically forcing these tech platforms to remove content, The Intercept argues that its investigation shows “CISA’s goal is to make platforms more responsive to their suggestions,” while critics argue that “suggestions” from immensely powerful institutions will never be taken as mere suggestions.
“When the government suggests things, it’s not too hard to pull off the velvet glove, and you get the mail fist,” Michigan State University’s Adam Candeub tells The Intercept. “And I would consider such actions, especially when it’s bureaucratized, as essentially state action and government collusion with the platforms.”
This is absolutely wild. The government is secretly transforming "national security" agencies into a new Narrative Police.
“If a foreign government sent these messages,” said the former ACLU president, “there is no doubt we would call it censorship.”
Read the story: https://t.co/9bMjDKSmcd
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) October 31, 2022
The current CISA chief is seen justifying this aggressive government thought policing by creepily referring to the means people use to gather information and form thoughts about the world as “our cognitive infrastructure”:
“Jen Easterly, Biden’s appointed director of CISA, swiftly made it clear that she would continue to shift resources in the agency to combat the spread of dangerous forms of information on social media. ‘One could argue we’re in the business of critical infrastructure, and the most critical infrastructure is our cognitive infrastructure, so building that resilience to misinformation and disinformation, I think, is incredibly important,’ said Easterly, speaking at a conference in November 2021.”
Another CISA official is seen suggesting the agency launder its manipulations through third-party nonprofits “to avoid the appearance of government propaganda”:
“To accomplish these broad goals, the report said, CISA should invest in external research to evaluate the ‘efficacy of interventions,’ specifically with research looking at how alleged disinformation can be countered and how quickly messages spread. Geoff Hale, the director of the Election Security Initiative at CISA, recommended the use of third-party information-sharing nonprofits as a ‘clearing house for trust information to avoid the appearance of government propaganda.’”
But as a former American Civil Liberties Union president tells The Intercept, if this were happening in any government the U.S. doesn’t like there’d be no qualms about calling it what it is:
“ ‘If a foreign authoritarian government sent these messages,’ noted Nadine Strossen, the former president of the American Civil Liberties Union, ‘there is no doubt we would call it censorship.’”
Indeed, this report is just another example of the way Western powers are behaving more and more like the autocracies they claim to despise, all in the name of preserving the values the West purports to uphold. As The Intercept reminds us, this business of the U.S. government assigning itself the responsibility of regulating America’s “cognitive infrastructure” originated with the “allegation that Russian agents had seeded disinformation on Facebook that tipped the 2016 election toward Donald Trump.” To this day that agenda continues to expand into things like plots to censor speech about the war in Ukraine.
Other examples of this trend coming out at the same time include Alan MacLeod’s new report with Mintpress News that hundreds of former agents from the notorious Israeli spying organization Unit 8200 are now working in positions of influence at major tech companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon (just the latest in MacLeod’s ongoing documentation of the way intelligence insiders have been increasingly populating the ranks of Silicon Valley platforms), and the revelation that The Grayzone’s Max Blumenthal and Aaron Maté were barred from participating in a Web Summit conference due to pressure from the Ukrainian government.
Hundreds of former agents of a notorious Israeli spying organization are now working in key positions at the world’s biggest tech/comms corporations, including Google, Facebook and Microsoft.
My new investigation for @MintPressNews: https://t.co/blv2ieGOmS
— Alan MacLeod (@AlanRMacLeod) October 31, 2022
We’re destroying Western values to defend Western values. To win its much-touted struggle of “democracies vs autocracies,“ Western civilization is becoming more and more autocratic. Censoring more. Trolling more. Propagandizing more. Jailing journalists. Becoming less and less transparent. Manipulating information and people’s understanding of truth.
Any journalists or press freedom advocates out there care about a US gov’t ally, Ukraine, pressuring a media conference to cancel two journalists? https://t.co/sPwaQAIiTV
— Aaron Maté (@aaronjmate) October 31, 2022
We’re told we need to defeat Russia in Ukraine in order to preserve Western values of freedom and democracy, and in order to facilitate that aim we’re getting less and less free speech. Less and less free thought. Less and less free press. Less and less democracy.
I keep thinking of the (fictional) story where during World War II, the U.K. Prime Minister Winston Churchill is advised to cut funding for the arts to boost military funding, and he responds, “Then what are we fighting for?” If we need to sacrifice everything we claim to value in order to fight for those values, what are we fighting for?
Dissent is becoming less and less tolerated. Public discourse is being more and more aggressively disrupted by the powerful. We’re being shaped into the exact sort of homogeneous, power-serving, tyrannized, propagandized population that our leaders criticize other nations for having.
If the powerful are becoming more tyrannical in order to fight tyranny, what’s probably actually happening is that they are just tyrants making up excuses to do the thing they’ve always wanted to do.
As Westerners in “liberal democracies” we are told that our society holds free speech, free thought and accountability for the powerful as sacrosanct.
Our leaders are showing us that this is a lie.
The problem with “Western values” is that the west doesn’t value them.
In reality, those who best exemplify “Western values” as advertised are the ones who are being most aggressively silenced and marginalized by Western powers. The real journalists. The dissidents. The skeptics. The free thinkers. The peace activists. Those who refuse to bow down to their rulers.
Our ongoing descent into tyranny in the name of opposing tyrants calls forth a very simple question: if defeating autocracy requires becoming an autocracy, what’s the point of defeating autocracy?
Caitlin Johnstone’s work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, following her on Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud or YouTube, or throwing some money into her tip jar on Ko-fi, Patreon 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 CaitlinJohnstone.com and re-published with permission.
The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.
Dissent is never tolerated.
Dissent always has to be over the opposition of the powerful. It is never any different. The peasants marching on the castle with pitchforks and torches never had the occupants of the castle helping them along. It don’t work that way.
There is of course Fake Dissent, which is tolerated, and can in fact become a career. That is the dissent that only makes a bit of noise, but never actually threatens to change anything important. That sort of Dissent is tolerated, in fact there are usually a few millionaires around who went that deceitful route. But actual Dissent is never tolerated. Not if it is real.
The strange part is that people somehow believe that the powerful will accept their dissent without them having to make the powerful do so. Can’t think of too many times it has ever worked that way. It did not work that way with King George. Those dissenters had to pledge their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to be able to dissent.
BTW, for those of you who think that this is something new, you might read Carl Bernstein’s “The CIA and the Media”, published in Rolling Stone in 1977. And yes, that’s the Bernstein from Woodward and Bernstein, the one who didn’t sell out, at least not nearly as much as the one who became the official purveyor of official lies.
“After leaving The Washington Post in 1977, Carl Bernstein spent six months looking at the relationship of the CIA and the press during the Cold War years. His 25,000-word cover story, published in Rolling Stone on October 20, 1977, is reprinted below.
THE CIA AND THE MEDIA
How Americas Most Powerful News Media Worked Hand in Glove with the Central Intelligence Agency and Why the Church Committee Covered It Up”
BY CARL BERNSTEIN
Those of us who grew up with the threat of the Vietnam Draft hanging over our heads had to learn at a very early age how the media and the government combine to lie to harm us. These modern people need to learn the same, but since the Doomsday Clock is down to about 3, you’d better do so quickly. Since time is of the essence, you may not need to learn the history of what has been learned before. But names like “Church Committee” and “House Committee on Assassinations” are good terms to know, and that have been disappeared out of the modern media.
“Well, the point is that YOUR autocracy will rule the world!”
… at least for those big enough and powerful enough to own their own autocracy.
Since that is at most a very small handful of very rich people, everyone else is just being cannon-fodder for that very small handful. Please stop. Its easy if you try.
‘”Dissent is becoming less and less tolerated. Public discourse is being more and more aggressively disrupted by the powerful. We’re being shaped into the exact sort of homogeneous, power-serving, tyrannized, propagandized population that our leaders criticize other nations for having.”
Actually I no longer hear “our” leaders doing any serious criticism of any but a small handful of nations which are purported to or actually do blatantly suppress dissent or free expression using everything from social media to torture, or by simply shooting down journalists. Even journalists who are British, Australian, or American citizens have been jailed, tortured and shot.
This criticism of speech suppression was common in years past but is now restricted to some of the least suppressive nations compared to say the Phillipines, Israel, Egypt, Myanmar. Not only this but new modes of suppression are being used by the Anglo powers as they seize bank accounts and modes of financial support. Apparently corporations, led by arms dealers, media monopolies, mining interests and big oil gain citizenship rights even as Truckers, Palestinian journalists, journalists who decide to report from the Donbass side of Ukraine, those who have the audacity to question the motives of big pharma to look closely at medical statistics, and those who would like to avoid nuclear holocaust are losing theirs without anything like due process of law.
I did not noticed that, but I guess you are right (I do not follow news and media enough to be sure). There was some sinister evolution of phraseology in recent years. Examples:
rule based world order (no longer liberal)
“narrative” replacing falsehood and truth as concepts, preferred language is “our narrative” and “X narrative” where X is an enemy, typically “Putin” or “Russian”
at some point, doubting “info” from intelligence, even if rendered by vague “officials” or sources of uncertain characters (wraiths? ghouls? but “informed”) became a though crime, those sources determine the current “our narrative”, that was glaring during Trump years, as Trump doubted “interagency consensus”, disdaining what became holy than Oracle of Delphi, there were opinions that this IN ITSELF deserves impeachment.
This leads to somewhat murky mental landscape with co-existing narratives, in USA, “Demo(n)crats”, “Repu(gnant)blican” and the most distilled b..t, “bipartisan consensus”.
“If defeating autocracy requires becoming an autocracy, what’s the point of defeating autocracy?” You missed the point Caitlin. It was never about defeating Autocracy. It was about defeating their autocracy so that our autocracy prevails.
What are “our values”? Judging by evidence, they are lying, stealing, overthrowing elected governments, starting “color revolutions” to destabilise designated enemies, invading and occupying other countries, refusing discussions, let alone diplomacy, with those we choose to blame, and many other free and democratic “humanitarian interventions”.
And we should mention the KILLING of Million entirely innocent.
Hard to believe but obviously true, that this is going on for many decades (if not centuries) already and none of this criminals has been hold accountable.
The appaling thing about Snowden’s Twitter is the number of people who tell him, ‘you’re a Russian now’. And one person told Aaron Maté ‘you’re not a journalist, you’re a pro-Russian activist.’ And even more appalling is the ignorance behind such desperate belief in the basic goodness of ‘America.’ It proves that total control of the narrative is not being put in place; it’s been in place for a long time already, with the complicity of the controlled. At best it’s being fine-tuned.
The long term solution is to give people the tools with which to evaluate and think, not to autocratically police what is being thought and taught. However, the power implications of such an approach, making education from infancy to postgraduate work under the influence of the best of philosophical and scientific epistemology, is to remove power from political figures and place it in institutions responsive to social and biophysical realities, not the desires and impunities of narrow ideologies; but, this seems extremely unlikely given the present political and economic momentum.
i don’t know about you, but my entire schooling (barring philosophy, which i had to choose to take actively and intentionally) was learning one catechism after another.
and never while attending religious schools.
the instructors all claimed their role was to “make critical thinkers”, but did not appreciate that going on while class was in session. instead, it was one class after another of trying to stuff 20lbs of “facts” into a 5lb sack with holes punched in the bottom.
a few times, especially in psychology or the cognitive science classes, the instructor would admit that.
critical thinkers are born. not made by a system. systems only know how to reproduce themselves.
My experience was quite different, but I understand what you are describing; not from experience as a student, but as a teacher in university…and one of the reasons I left academia. First, I was utterly recalcitrant as a learner and thus selected teachers by that habit: I had several wonderful mentors. Second, I was in school 60 years ago. My argument is absolutely utopian: using the best of our epistemological sophistication to inform the process of education: becoming committed to this process as a belief system rather than believing and acting on sets of static ‘facts’ and certainties.
” if defeating autocracy requires becoming an if defeating autocracy requires becoming an autocracy, what’s the point of defeating autocracy?”
Well, the point is that YOUR autocracy will rule the world!
When does a conspiracy theory involving the federal government, Silicon Valley, and the American MSM become just a simple organized criminal conspiracy? Moreover, who trusts the integrity or moral character for anyone working in any of these seditious organizations anymore?
[File under: Fed up enough yet? VOTE!]
“vote” for whom? more of the same?
there’s only SPAM in this chip shop.
As a retired previously minor but rebellious journalist, I am watching it happen, including in Canada where free speech is often condemned not only by the government and its agencies, including the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), but by the complacent and increasingly brainwashed public itself. There is an increasing and endless list of examples, but generally speaking, very, very few care. That’s life in the 21st Century, not that the previous hundred years were very good.