Where were you?



We are living through what Antonio Gramsci described in 1930 as ‘The Interregnum’ – a time of monsters. “The old world is dying, and the new world struggles to be born.” The old represents the status-quo which it won’t give up without a fight.

The next 20 years will be deeply troubling, challenging and potentially exhilarating, but whether we can get to the other side of this political crisis depends very much on the monster within us all that fails to come to terms with our present reality.

There is a deeply worrying and dangerous contradiction at play when progressives and conservatives are aligned in their bid to actively censor the news media and de-neutralise what is left of the democratic web.  Those who express concern at this disturbing turn of affairs are at best met with a shrug and a ‘meh’, and at worst are classified as some kind of  conspiracy theorist or ‘Russian stooge’.

After failing to elect Hillary Clinton because apparently Americans are done with the financial devastation wrought by the establishment, the apathy on display over attempts to starve populations of information that allows them to make empowered decisions  worries me greatly.

Around the world, governments have been working with the private sector to clamp down on information that does not suit their interests.

Over the last week, Google announced it would hide articles by RT and Sputnik to protect users from “misinformation”, (having already censored its search results of progressive publications and services including, but not limited to, Amnesty International and the Southern Poverty Law Centre, Alternet, CounterPunch, my employer, Renegade Inc, and the World Socialist Website). Facebook announced its intention to create a social media tool that allows users to understand which of the posts they have accessed are Russian propaganda. Neither company has offered to do the same to help identify American or British propaganda, or Saudi Arabian propaganda for that matter, (up until recently Saudi Arabia’s Prince Alwaleed bin Talal was Twitter’s primary investor, that was until he was arrested and his accounts frozen by decree of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in a reported ‘corruption crackdown’. Emphasis on ‘reported’).

Speaking of Twitter, the social media platform has begun de-badging anti-establishment figures on the left and right, has cracked down on parody accounts and those with ties to violent groups (keeping in mind the FBI has classified Black Lives Matter as a ‘violent extremist group’).

Iranian journalist Behrouz Boochani was arrested on Manus Island by PNG’s ‘mobile squad’, a band of hired goons paid for by Peter Dutton’s Immigration Department to secure the camps, for reporting on the closure of its offshore, privatised refugee detention centres and its abuse of 690 detainees who have been left with nowhere to go after the Australian government abandoned them with no food, access to running water or medical supplies. The paramilitary police unit is notorious for “rapes, murders and other serious human rights abuses”, according to a 2013 Age report.

Only the most sympathetic reporters have been granted visas to visit the detention centres (and I could count those ‘journalists’ on one hand), and any Australian who reports on it at all risks 10 years in jail on the grounds of “national security”.

Around the world voters are rejecting the establishment, sometimes in favour of progressive parties  and candidates that represent their financial interests, (Jeremy Corbyn & Bernie Sanders for example), other times in favour of Neo-Nazi, White Supremacist parties which claim to represent their financial interests but don’t (Le Pen, Golden Dawn, National Revival, Trump), all while their governments clamp down on information that allows people to tell the difference. And because their business models are so very, very broken, the news media have all but welcomed the charge.

In the UK, Theresa May’s expected electoral landslide was bled away to Jeremy Corbyn whose own party of Blairite neocons despise him for the consideration he is giving to his constituents, along with fully costed policies that support the working and middle-class. Australia’s Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, haemorrhaged almost his entire majority at the last election and has since lost what was left of it altogether to the citizenship crisis. (Turns out, Australia is a nation of migrants. Who would’ve thunk it?!) Arguably Jeremy Corbyn has far stronger economic alternatives than Australia’s opposition leader, Bill Shorten, who, despite his fondness for unions, can’t quite kick his addiction to neoliberal capitalism. Outside of having actual policies on the environment and support for marriage equality, Australian Labor’s economic policies are all but indistinguishable from the current government. And despite apologies from three predecessors – Keating, Hawke (and Bob Carr at a state level) for their role in launching neoliberalism from the left, the Labor Party has been unable to find the balls to make a case for why economic alternatives are essential, let alone have any economic alternatives.

Trump was elected off the back of his promise to ‘drain the swamp’ and restore the US government to its original design of: ‘by the people, for the people’, and subsequently handpicked six Goldman Sachs employees for his cabinet along with many of the same military and intelligence veterans that fictionalised justifications for the Iraq War invasion with bogus weapons of mass destruction claims. (Not to mention attempted to stage coups in Cuba and Venezuela, employed terrorists to destabilise leftist regimes across Latin America (and now Syria), staged bombings in Iran and Italy to make it look as though the Commies did it, bombed five ships of Holocaust survivors fleeing Germany, Austria and Poland for Palestine and  blaming it on the Palestinians, manipulated data to make it look as though North Vietnamese boats fired on a US naval ship, creating justification for the Vietnam War and had its own scientists launch anthrax attacks on its own citizens, on US soil after 9/11 and blamed it on Al Qaeda).  And this is just the stuff US intelligence services admit to.

And while many US citizens joined Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania by marching for ‘Muslim and Jewish genocide’, the Trump administration just voted against a resolution to condemn the glorification of Nazism at the UN. All while continuing to support Roy Moore despite numerous allegations of rape and sexual assault of teenage girls.

Meanwhile the Democrats have yet to make an intelligent case against the Trump administration and finds itself relying entirely on identity politics to distinguish itself, having also failed to admit its complicity in the current crisis, destroying what little hope it had for a Democratic victory in Bernie Sanders by locking him out of the primaries. Nor has the party expressed any desire to unshackle itself from the lobbyists and special interest groups that fund its economic policies which, unsurprisingly, also do not differ in any meaningful way from the Republicans.

So how wonderful then that Trump and his administration have found an issue we can all get behind: censorship and the deconstruction of the First Amendment.

And the press, with their failing business models, apparently feel they have no choice but to ally themselves with the governments on which they are meant to be reporting objectively. Both the New York Times and the Washington Post, The Atlantic, Vox, CNN, MSNBC and plenty of outlets in-between have donned the pom-poms and joined the ra-ra Cold War chorus, characterising anyone who dare question their editorial strategy as a Russian stooge or worse, conspiracy theorist.

Less than a year ago, progressives would be lining up to condemn Google, Facebook, Twitter, not to mention the Trump administration for concocting this whole ‘fake news’ concept in the first place, let alone the danger their activity poses to the First Amendment.

Today, many of our so-called progressive allies are silent and welcome this brave new world of information deprivation with open arms.

If you are not a total hypocrite and are as concerned with election tampering as many of those crying ‘Russia did it’, then you have no choice but to demand that our own governments are held to the same standard.

(Let’s remember of course that we have yet to see a single shred of evidence of any kind of Russian interference in the US election and this remains the single principle on which this censorship is occurring).

And if you or they bring up Crimea or Ukraine, one is naturally obliged to mention Mexico, Alaska, Hawaii, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, The Philippines, The Samoan Islands, Wake Island, The Dominican Republic, the Panama Canal and The Virgin Islands – all territories and countries annexed by the US. That is if you are truly concerned about illegal incursions, invasions, and annexations and do not want to appear a total hypocrite.

The current political crisis cannot be understood without reference to the Western alliance’s intervention in the political affairs of almost every country in the world in the name of their own selfish economic interests. Thirteen economic wars have been fought over the last 30 years under the guise of democracy building. History is being rewritten as you read this.

They say that seizing the airwaves is the first stage of a coup d’etat. Turns out we don’t even need military intervention anymore when we can rely on private enterprise to do the government’s bidding.

As it stands, our major communications platforms and news media are acting as state regulators, such that there is almost no distinction. No one voted for these companies. Nobody consulted us over changes to our right to freedom of information and no new laws have been passed (yet) formalising this information coup.

The current crisis is about the role of government itself. Trump, Turnbull and May all want to be President and Prime Minister while deconstructing the governments they represent. How can you crave power and hate the institution you are elected to serve at the same time?

Why even have governments if they’re going to outsource their duties to the private sector? We may as well vote to appoint the CEOs of Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan*. It would be a more honest form of government than the ones we have now. *Not suggesting we actually do this.

If you insist that Trump is a better alternative to ‘Shillary’, if you insist that democracy is broken and that governments should represent the interests of the people who elect it, then this information warfare must be met with the full force of our protest.

Too many people already have enough problems distinguishing truth from propaganda. If these attempts to censor both the internet and news media are successful, then the terms of our enslavement will be complete and we will have allowed it to happen. It won’t be long before they come for the rest of us.

What will you tell your children when they ask what you did to prevent this?