Caitlin Johnstone: Pentagon’s Propaganda Push in Ukraine

The U.S. military’s push to “counter disinformation” actually has nothing to do with “taking apart Russian propaganda” and everything to do with suppressing dissent.

Screen display during U.S. Ambassador Bridget Brink’s visit to Ukraine’s Ministry of Digital Transformation in Kiev, June 15, 2022. (U.S. Embassy Kyiv Ukraine, Flickr, Public domain)

By Caitlin Johnstone

A Washington Post article, “Pentagon looks to restart top-secret programs in Ukraine” contains some interesting information about what U.S. special ops forces were doing in Ukraine in the lead-up to the Russian invasion last year, and what they are slated to be doing there in the future. 

“The Pentagon is urging Congress to resume funding a pair of top-secret programs in Ukraine suspended ahead of Russia’s invasion last year, according to current and former U.S. officials,” writes the Post’s Wesley Morgan. “If approved, the move would allow American Special Operations troops to employ Ukrainian operatives to observe Russian military movements and counter disinformation.”

Much further down in the article we learn the specifics of what those two top-secret programs were. One entailed U.S. commandos sending Ukrainian operatives “on surreptitious reconnaissance missions in Ukraine’s east” to collect intelligence on Russia. The other entailed secretly administering online propaganda, though of course The Washington Post does not describe it as such.

“We had people taking apart Russian propaganda and telling the true story on blogs,” WaPo was told by a source described as “a person in the Special Operations community.”

U.S. special ops forces “employing Ukrainian operatives” to “take apart Russian propaganda” and “tell the true story on blogs” is just U.S. special ops forces administering U.S. propaganda online.

Whether or not they actually see themselves as “telling the true story” or “taking apart Russian propaganda” does not change the fact that they are administering U.S. government propaganda. A government circulating media that advances its information interests is precisely the definition of state propaganda.

The U.S. government is theoretically prohibited from directly administering propaganda to its own population (though even that line has been deliberately eroded in recent years with measures like the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act and U.S. government infiltration of the mass media and Silicon Valley), but there’s nothing stopping the funding and directing of foreign bodies to circulate propaganda on the internet, which has no national borders.

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Back when U.S. propaganda was limited to old media like the C.I.A.’s Radio Free Europe and Radio Free Asia it was possible to claim that the propaganda was solely targeting populations where that media was broadcast, but propaganda circulated online will necessarily trickle over everywhere, including to U.S. audiences.

The Washington Post explains that these secret programs were discontinued ahead of the Russian invasion last year because a stipulation in the 2018  National Defense Authorization Act which, while permitted their funding, forbids their use during a “traditional armed conflict.”

The Pentagon is working to persuade Congress to repeal that condition. Part of its sales pitch to restart these secret operations is that they will be “what the U.S. military calls ‘non-kinetic’ — or nonviolent — missions,” which would cover the administering of propaganda.

As we discussed recently, it’s very silly that there’s a major push in the U.S. power alliance to begin administering more government propaganda in order to “counter Russian propaganda” when Russian propaganda has no meaningful influence in the Western world. 

Before RT was shut down it was drawing just 0.04 percent of the U.K.’s total TV audience. The much-touted Russian election interference campaign on Facebook was mostly unrelated to the election and affected “approximately 1 out of 23,000 pieces of content” according to Facebook, while research by New York University into Russian trolling behavior on Twitter in the lead-up to the 2016 election found “no evidence of a meaningful relationship between exposure to the Russian foreign influence campaign and changes in attitudes, polarization, or voting behavior.”

A study by the University of Adelaide found that despite all the warnings of Russian bots and trolls following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the overwhelming majority of inauthentic behavior on Twitter during that time was anti-Russian in nature.

In reality, this push we’ve been seeing to pour more and more energy into propaganda, censorship, and other forms of narrative control has nothing to do with “taking apart Russian propaganda” and everything to do with suppressing dissent. 

March 3, 2016: U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter on a tour of the Microsoft Cybercrime Center in Seattle as part of a trip to strengthen ties between the Department of Defense and the tech sector. (DoD/Tim D. Godbee)

The U.S. empire has been frantically ramping up propaganda and censorship because the “great power competition” it has been preparing against Russia and China is going to require economic warfare, massive military spending, and nuclear brinkmanship that no one would consent to without lots of manipulation.

Nobody’s going to consent to being made poorer, colder and less safe over some global power struggle that doesn’t benefit them unless that consent is actively manufactured.

That’s why the media have been acting so weird lately, that’s why dissident voices are getting harder and harder to find online, that’s the purpose of the new “fact-checking” industry and other forms of narrative control, and that’s why the Pentagon wants congressional funding for its propaganda operations in Ukraine.

The empire’s “great power competition” happens to be occurring at the same time as widespread access to the internet means that drastic measures must be made to ensure its information dominance so it can march the public into playing along with this agenda. The more desperate our rulers grow to secure unipolar planetary domination, the more important controlling the narrative becomes.

Caitlin Johnstone’s work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, following her on FacebookTwitterSoundcloudYouTube, 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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7 comments for “Caitlin Johnstone: Pentagon’s Propaganda Push in Ukraine

  1. robert e williamson jr
    February 17, 2023 at 12:04

    Dissent is patriotic!

    But non of the B>S> being pulled by Biden is about being patriotic. It is all about empire and licking the boots of the Billionaires of the DeepState.

    The good news is that our government is way ahead of schedule, the bad news is that same government has lost it’s way. Exactly what the DeepState wants.

    Now after the Patriot Act and the Office of Homeland Security power grabs I have a question.

    Feeling any safer than you did before 911? I didn’t think so.

    I thought maybe after he got his physical the POTUS would get his head out of his ass.

    Guess not!

    Thanks CN

  2. Tony
    February 17, 2023 at 08:35

    Yes, but public opinion is seen as a problem and a potentially very serious one:

    Here is Andrew Rawnsley, chief political commentator at the Observer, writing in the most recent edition:

    “It is a concern that a substantial minority – an average of 42% across 28 democracies surveyed by one pollster – agree with the statement: “The problems of Ukraine are none of our business and we should not interfere.”

    He does not name the pollster which suggests that it might well be secret government polling or similar.

    (“Putin’s war has reinvigorated the west’s defence of liberty. That unity must not crack now.”)

  3. James White
    February 17, 2023 at 06:40

    When they say ‘counter disinformation,’ what they really mean is providing their disinformation to counter the obvious facts. Only landslide political results can put the Psychological Operations known quaintly as ‘Perception Management’ out of business. The investigation of the Biden family corruption is the logical starting point if there are still any Republicans left who dare to go against the uniparty. Time will tell. We have reached a very dangerous precipice. If the Biden crime family is exposed, what will the desperate coterie who are really running the country do to disrupt their inevitable fall. These people have proven capable of absolutely anything to retain their hold on power. Until Biden is removed from office, nothing can be ruled out. No matter how insane the act or disastrous the results.

  4. Anon
    February 16, 2023 at 14:02

    Getting so f****** weary… Same Truths over & over…
    tnx Caitlin CN (& fellow commenter’s)…
    gotta be same 4 y’all (considering $TAKES!)

  5. Mary Caldwell
    February 16, 2023 at 13:59

    To paraphrase Howard Zinn, Obedience to government is not being patriotic. In fact when the government becomes destructive to the basic principles of Life , Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, support of such a government is not being patriotic, in fact just the opposite.

    The tool to disobey such a government is………..dissent. It is the tool that the government attempts to smash, often times through censorship.

    Even Seymour Hersh and Jeff Gerth published their articles in “alternative” media because the MSM in collusion with the government will do most anything to impede dissenting voices.

    Any form of solidarity will be a threat to its control, thus the manipulation of our daily “news.”

      February 16, 2023 at 14:49

      The Columbia Journalism Review, where Gerth published his series, is a long-standing establishment publication.

      • Mary Caldwell
        February 16, 2023 at 15:11

        Indeed, and in my haste to offer an opinion I made an error. Thank you .

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