Black lists matter
There’s a scene in Aaron Sorkin’s critically acclaimed political drama, The West Wing, where President Bartlet, (played by Martin Sheen) is in an argument with his communications director, Toby Ziegler, (played by Richard Schiff) over a speech he has to write condemning Hollywood for its gratuitous use of sex and violence in entertainment.
“…If I were an actor or a writer or uh, uh, uh, a producer in Hollywood and someone were to start coming at me with lists of things that were American and un-American I’d start to think that this was sounding eerily familiar.”
Bartlett replies: “Do I look like Joe McCarthy to you?”, to which Ziegler responds: “Nobody ever looks like Joe McCarthy, Mr President. How do you think they get in the door in the first place?”
Well, I’m afraid to say, Democracy 2.0 is having its own, new, modern-day McCarthy moment.
Some very disturbing things happened this week which I have been trying to high-road by ignoring and getting on with the job, but this has really stuck in my craw:
About a week ago, gazillionaire, George Soros, became a modern-day MCCarthyist by publishing a report and accompanying excel document via European think tank “European Values”, listing hundreds of writers, journalists, celebrities, authors, academics, experts and ‘miscellaneous persons’ that have ever appeared on the Russia’s public broadcaster, Russia Today, tarring them as ‘useful idiots undermining Western democracy’. RT is often accused of acting as a propaganda mouthpiece for Putin and his ‘lackeys’. More on this shortly.
The report lists 2327 US and UK politicians, political figures, diplomants and military leaders that have appeared on the the channel including US representative Ron Paul, Jill Stein, Ralph Nader, Bernie Sanders, former Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, Lawrence Wilksinson, US Representative and Deputy Chair of the DNC, Keith Ellison and Michael Flynn, US National Security Advisor.
British figures named include Nigel Farage, Jeremy Corbyn, former Mayor of London, Ken Livingston, British MP, Vince Cable and former Deputy Labour Prime Minister John Prescott.
The many, many, names ‘gracing’ Soros’ excel spreadsheet include my colleague and mentor, economist Professor Steven Keen, Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, economist Michael Hudson and feminist author and intellectual, Germaine Greer. Celebrities on the blacklist include SNL stars Fred Armison, Bill Hader and Alec Baldwin, Seinfeld star, Jason Alexander, Patricia Arquette and Christina Ricci. Fox News host Ann Coulter, journalist Seymour Hersh and MIT linguist, Professor Noam Chomsky are also named. It even lists CEOs such as Richard Branson and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. Even the Dalai Lama rates a mention. Download the full list for yourself here.
The blacklist is designed to discourage advertisers from doing business with RT, discourage broadcasters from hiring anyone that has ever appeared on the channel, and create an environment that discourages journalists, actors and academics from putting their career at risk by associating themselves with the network. This is textbook McCarthyism. That this list even exists, and that it has barely rated a mention among the mainstream press should scare the living shit out of us. Historically, creating lists of people designated as official enemies of the state has not ended well, and we certainly shouldn’t be encouraging it now. This leads nowhere good, fast.
Yesterday, Twitter announced it would ban RT and Sputnik from advertising on the social network, on the baseless grounds it was involved with disrupting the 2016 Presidential election. The decision to censor RT from its network follows in the wake of a 2016 Department of National Intelligence report that named RT and Sputnik as “implementing state-sponsored Russian efforts to interfere with and disrupt the 2016 Presidential election.”
Among its many accusations, the report said RT was guilty of airing two news shows critical of the US government, publishing reports on the vulnerabilities of US election machines, broadcasting, hosting and advertising debates between third party candidates, covering Occupy Wall Street, criticising the US surveillance state, economic system, Wall Street greed, currency policy and environmental degradation. It also claimed alleging widespread infringements of civil liberties, police brutality and drone use.
About a month ago, YouTube demonetised RT despite the fact that the channel reaches more viewers than any other on its platform.
Oh, and last year, NatWest closed all of RT’s bank accounts without explanation beyond that it would “no longer provide these facilities“.
It is not as though Soros is alone in these kind of anti-democratic activities.
The Australian, beloved newspaper of a one Rupert Murdoch, ran a headline last week that New Zealand had ‘elected a commie’, referring to the swearing in of new Labor Prime Minister, Jacinda Arden, who ran on a platform of government that – radically – supports the financial and economic needs of the people who elected it.
Luke Rudkowski, a journalist tarred with the ‘alt-news’ brush for simply reporting on the status-quo had hundreds of his videos censored and demonetised by YouTube with no explanation or warning. He is not the first and he will not be the last.
In Australia, the Australian Workers Union offices were raided by the Australian Federal Police for the third time in as many years, on a search for documents that could prove it was a secret associated entity associated with independent progressive action group, GetUp!. Never mind the documents were already on the public record and that Getup! has twice been investigated for these claims and twice the AFP came up with sweet-eff-all evidence. GetUp! has been targeting Liberal MPs who support offshore detention, old-growth logging and the adani coal mine so for this they deserved a third round of public humiliation. Worse, an employee within Employment Minister, Michalia Cash’s office tipped off the media – supposedly without her knowledge – *cough* nobody believes you *cough – so that the footage of the raids would be splashed across all the major news channels.
In Britain, journalists can go to jail for seven years for receiving documents from whistleblowers. Australians can go to prison for 10 years for reporting on issues of national security. And while Americans have whistleblower protection laws, they have been circumvented so many times that the three key whistleblowers of the past decade: Edward Snowden and Julian Assange have had to flee their countries to avoid lengthy jail terms, and in the case of Chelsea Manning she spent seven years in the slammer for having the audacity to reveal just how brazen her government has been in violating international law, rigging elections, and assassinating civilians in the Middle East.
So between locking up journalists for reporting on matters of state pertaining to the public interest, social-media and internet that is being heavily censored while amplifying and sympathetic publications and voices that convey a narrative that most conveniently suits the needs of the ruling class, those with power have the game all locked-up. It has been rigged from the start. Readers are being deprived of key information for making sense of the world around them. What’s worse is so few seem to notice, or even care. Far too many people believe the system has always worked this way, all evidence to the contrary.
I have become obsessed. It is becoming increasingly difficult not to pull my television off its hinges and throw it out the nearest window, along with my phone, computer and every other electronic device that I own.
Most news and news media does not even remotely inform anyone of what is happening now, let alone provide any kind of context or analysis of the variables that led to the greatest political crisis since WWII.
Even the very basics like how money is created is barely covered at all, let alone accurately. If I hear the term ‘tax payers money’ again, or read another op-ed on ‘how are we going to pay for it?’, I think I might lose it. Our taxes do not pay for services. Taxes address inflation. How are audiences meant to understand how to be financially responsible if they do not know how taxation works? Readers look to news organisations and experts to provide guidance and are left with a set of myths that encourage people to take on more and more private debt in lieu of government spending. Either news channels don’t understand how money works or they are being deliberately deceptive. And I don’t know which is worse.
News organisations may like to convince themselves they are serving some public interest, while using the same deceptive language as the governments they’re meant to be reporting on. There is no questioning of underpinning assumptions. They accept the premise of the argument hook, line and sinker with no thought to the implications.
Meanwhile, Google, Facebook and Twitter have become unofficial state-regulators, denying advertising and actively censoring those who publish information that runs contrary to the government line.
And corporate news media are so desperate for survival that they allied themselves with the very powers they’re meant to be objectively reporting on.
The Fourth Estate has largely become a mouthpiece for state media.
And anyone who dares disagree with the mainstream is branded as some kind of enemy of the state.
The betrayal of democratic liberalism
It’s a disturbing new trend in democratic liberalism that once fought against segregation, censorship and civil-rights violations but now embraces the very same concepts it once opposed to preserve its grip on power.
You’d like to think that these public figures, journalists, academics, authors, celebrities named by Soros would stand up and say they won’t be quite so publicly blackmailed, but I’ve yet to read a single response from any of the personalities gracing his blacklist. And while there has been some outcry against the disturbing attempts by both financial institutions and social platforms to shut down access to networks airing content critical of the US government narrative, this disturbing turn of events has not been given the order of magnitude it deserves.
This is the digital equivalent of burning books. That censorship is their only refuge should demonstrate to the public just how broken the system is: It proves their arguments do not pass muster. Confident there are no words that could justify the virtues of the global economy, it has no choice but to stifle those who present alternatives.
At the same time, there is something deeply pathetic about a millionaire paying a bunch of interns and assistants to troll RT’s website and social channels, compiling lists of names of perceived media enemies. I’d like to believe that it signifies the beginning of the end of the neo-liberal order. Democratic liberalism is out of arguments. It has given up entirely on social justice and has resorted to inflaming identity politics as a distraction for its Wall Street ties. With no credible defence against those who oppose late-stage capitalism, it has no choice but to censor those whose ideas pose an existential threat to the status-quo.
America censors foreign public broadcaster
The First Amendment of the US Constitution guarantees that: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
But conveniently, the Constitution does not apply in Russia and America apparently has no problem dictating what should and should not air on the public broadcaster of a foreign nation.
Now, I have a couple of points to make on RT:
Is it a state-sponsored news channel? Yes. So is PBS. And ABC. And the BBC. And Al Jazeera (which, incidentally, is funded by the Muslim Brotherhood, but for some reason no social media organisation seems to have any issue with it continuing to broadcast and advertise on its platforms. Could it be that it is supported by a government which advocates for free-trade neoliberalism?)
Does the Russian government have issues of corruption? Yes. So does The White House, (Campaign funding anyone? Google alone spent $6 million dollars in three months lobbying Washington).
Does Russian democracy have ‘issues’? Yes. So does America.
Does Russia have issues of freedom of the press, arguably. So does America. And the UK. And Australia. And most democratic governments around the world.
Has America rigged and ‘interfered’ with elections around the world since time immemorial? Yes. So has Britain. So has Australia. What is it about alleged Russian interference – though there has yet to be a single shred of any evidence – that makes it so unique?
Every country has a right to a public broadcaster. Arguably, RT gives airtime to ideas, stories, experts and voices that are largely ignored and maligned by their other media competitors, Renegade Inc is among them. (It licenses the show, though our content is produced entirely independently).
Renegade, incidentally, is censored and shadow-blocked on every one of the social media channels. And depending on your geography will largely determine what can be viewed on YouTube.
What does it say about the strength of the ideas we broadcast and write about, that the only refuge of the mainstream media and the corporate conglomerates that control their existence is to censor us?
It’s worth adding, that if the situation happened in reverse and YouTube and PayPal and Twitter and Facebook were Russian companies that conspired with the Kremlin to decide what could and could-not be broadcast on American TV networks the government would lose its damned mind. The US has no right to decide what ought to be broadcast on foreign news channels. (But it’ll try its darndest anyhow).
It is rapidly becoming clear that the old adage: ‘if you’re not paying for it, you’re the product’ has come home to roost. Bigly.
As rogue journalist, Caitlin Johnstone rightly points out:
“Your true rulers do not oppose RT and Sputnik because they want to protect you from propaganda and psy-ops, they oppose RT and Sputnik because they gum up the gears of the propaganda and psy-ops you’re meant to be consuming. The 2017 DNI report essentially admits this.“
The world’s social media giants – Google, Facebook and Twitter – have become privately outsourced state regulators and better yet, the state has somehow got our corporate media giants to pay them to do it.
There is a reason that most of the news we have access to is free. And it’s not only because of broken business models.
Never has there been a more important time for subscription journalism.
The unfortunate byproduct of Media 3.0 is that the truth of how the world really works will only be accessible to those who can afford to pay for it.
Well I’m here to tell you: We are not the enemies of democracy but of late-stage capitalism. Soros and his liberal allies ought to be afraid. The jig is up. Besides, it is not democracy Soros and his ilk are fighting for: it’s capitalism and the continuity of the status-quo. Most of us cannot afford the ‘democracy’ Soros and Co claim to be fighting for: a world of more debt and more lies, more deregulation and disinformation, of private media controlled by the state, of wealth that trickles only upwards, and blacklists of those of us who try to point this out.
This is not the social contract we signed up for. Yet too many of us still can’t tell the difference.
Liberalism has completely given up on social justice, and the social contract implicit in all democratic societies.
Corporate media cannot save us. And its campaign of censorship and content control is only further proof of an establishment fast losing control of the narrative.
Part of the reason I setup Hello Humans was to provide a remedy to the propaganda exercises playing out across social media and the mainstream press. But I need your help. Your subscriptions not only keeps my lights on, it pays pay for my lawyers.
There has never been a more important time to be an informed citizen. And the only way to do that, increasingly, will be to subscribe.
A 12-month subscription is the perfectly passive-aggressive present for that one smug friend or relative, desperately in need of better news sources and the perfect remedy for tedious Christmas, Kwanza and Chanukah lunch conversations.
A Hello Humans newsletter subscription costs $4.50 a month (US) or $54 a year.
Give the gift of knowledge this holiday season.