by CJ Hopkins
OK, here’s one from the archives for you. It’s a column I wrote way back in 2017, when CounterPunch was still running my columns. I’ve pulled it out of the archives because (a) I think it’s particularly apropos, given the amount of ridiculous official propaganda we are being barraged by at the moment, (b) I am down with a nasty bug, and thus (c) I don’t have the energy to attempt to deceive you into believing that I just came up with this analysis today by rewriting what I wrote back in 2017 but replacing the references to Russiagate with references to Israel’s liquidation of Gaza.
If you’ve been following the news — which I suspect you have — you’re familiar with the ridiculous official propaganda that the State of Israel has been brazenly pumping out, which at this point has gotten so blatantly ridiculous that even the BBC has been forced to debunk it.
So I trust you can switch those references yourself. If you need a little inspiration, you can watch this Mehdi Hasan interview with Mark Regev, a senior advisor to Benjamin Netanyahu, which could hardly be more brazenly ridiculous, especially the part where Regev denies that the IDF has killed any Palestinian children, and implies that Hamas has killed them all.
Of course, if you’re one of the scores of people who have furiously unsubscribed from my Substack because I’ve suddenly morphed from the anti-Covidian freedom-fighting satirist that you knew and loved into an anti-Semitic Hamas-loving commie with a big portrait of Osama bin Laden in my office (but you’re still secretly reading my columns, despite your furious unsubscription), you probably want to give that interview a miss.
OK, without further ado, here’s that old column.
For students of official propaganda, manipulation of public opinion, psychological conditioning, and emotional coercion, it doesn’t get much better than this. As Trump and his army of Goldman Sachs guys, corporate CEOs, and Christian zealots slouch toward inauguration day, we are being treated to a master class in coordinated media manipulation that is making Goebbels look like an amateur. This may not be immediately apparent, given the seemingly risible nature of most of the garbage we are being barraged with, but once one understands the actual purpose of such official propaganda, everything starts to make more sense.
Chief among the common misconceptions about the way official propaganda works is the notion that its goal is to deceive the public into believing things that are not “the truth” (that Trump is a Russian agent, for example, or that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, or that the terrorists hate us for our freedom, et cetera). However, while official propagandists are definitely pleased if anyone actually believes whatever lies they are selling, deception is not their primary aim.
The primary aim of official propaganda is to generate an “official narrative” that can be mindlessly repeated by the ruling classes and those who support and identify with them. This official narrative does not have to make sense, or to stand up to any sort of serious scrutiny. Its factualness is not the point. The point is to draw a Maginot line, a defensive ideological boundary, between “the truth” as defined by the ruling classes and any other “truth” that contradicts their narrative.
Imagine this Maginot line as a circular wall surrounded by inhospitable territory. Inside the wall is “normal” society, gainful employment, career advancement, and all the other considerable benefits of cooperating with the ruling classes. Outside the wall is poverty, anxiety, social and professional stigmatization, and various other forms of suffering. Which side of the wall do you want to be on? Every day, in countless ways, each of us are asked and have to answer this question. Conform, and there’s a place for you inside. Refuse, and … well, good luck out there.
In openly despotic societies, the stakes involved in making this choice (to conform or dissent) are often life and death. In our relatively liberal Western societies (for those of us who are not militant guerillas), the consequences of not conforming to the official narrative are usually subtler. Despite that, the pressure is still intense. Conforming to the consensus “reality” generated by these official narratives is price of admission to the inner sanctum, where the jobs, money, professional prestige, and the other rewards of Capitalism are. Conforming does not require belief. It requires allegiance and rote obedience. What one actually believes is completely irrelevant, as long as one parrots the official narrative.
In short, official propaganda is not designed to deceive the public (no more than the speeches in an actor’s script are intended to deceive the actor who speaks them). It is designed to be absorbed and repeated, no matter how implausible or preposterous it might be. Actually, it is often most effective when those who are forced to robotically repeat it know that it is utter nonsense, as the humiliation of having to do so cements their allegiance to the ruling classes (this phenomenon being a standard feature of the classic Stockholm Syndrome model, and authoritarian conditioning generally).
The current “Russian hacking” hysteria is a perfect example of how this works. No one aside from total morons actually believes this official narrative (the substance of which is beyond ridiculous), not even the stooges selling it to us. This, however, is not a problem, because it isn’t intended to be believed … it is intended to be accepted and repeated, more or less like religious dogma. (It doesn’t matter what actually happened, i.e., whether the “hack” was a hack or a leak, or who the hackers or leakers were, or who they may have been working for, or what whoever’s motives may have been. What matters is that the ruling classes have issued a new official narrative and are demanding that every “normal” American stand up and swear allegiance to it.)
The ruling classes are not exactly making it easy for their followers this time. Their new official narrative (let’s go ahead and call it “The Putinist Putsch to Destroy Democracy”) is so completely fatuous that it’s beyond embarrassing. The plot is more or less what you’d expect from a mediocre young adult novel or a Game of Thrones-type fantasy series. And if that wasn’t already humiliating enough for the liberals being asked to pretend to believe it, the PR folks in charge couldn’t even be bothered to assemble a new collection of liars to market their childish fairy tale for them. Not only are they insisting that liberals take the word of the “Intelligence Community” and the mainstream media that sold the world the “Saddam Has Secret WMDs” hoax, they actually dispatched James R. Clapper to sit there, in more or less the same spot he sat in the last time he lied to Congress, and do his dog and pony show again.
Meanwhile, the ruling classes’ papers of record, which cosmopolitan liberals rely on to provide a simulation of “serious journalism,” highbrow “arts and culture,” and so on, have descended to the level of the National Enquirer. Among the recent highlights was The Washington Post‘s “Russians Hacked the Vermont Power Grid” story, which it turned out involved neither Russians nor hackers, nor the Vermont power grid’s actual computers, and was basically just another made-up story, like the one about Putin’s Fake News Army. The New York Times, which has also been dutifully rolling out the new official narrative, has taken the leash off Charles M. Blow (aka “The Withering Gaze”), who is accusing Trump of being Russia’s appointment” and proclaiming his election “an act of war.” And now, as I was writing this piece, they hit us with the “Golden Showers” story, in which Trump paid a bunch of Russian hookers to pee on the bed where Obama slept. Any day now we are going to be told that Elvis is secretly working with Putin to deploy a Zhirinovskian gravitational weapon in a UFO disguised as Jesus that Assange and Snowden will personally pilot across the Atlantic to sink America. It’s like some kind of loyalty test in which the ruling classes are trying to determine just how far they can go with this crap before liberals refuse to salute any more of it.
The point of all this propaganda is to delegitimize Donald Trump, and to prophylactically reassert the neoliberal ruling classes’ monopoly on power, “reality,” and “truth.” In case this wasn’t already abundantly clear, the neoliberal ruling classes have no intention of giving up control of the global capitalist pseudo-empire they’ve been working to establish these last sixty years. They’re going to delegitimize and stigmatize Trump (and any other symbol of nationalist backlash or resistance to transnational Capitalism), bide their time for the next four years, and then install another of their loyal servants … after which life will go back to “normal,” and liberals will do their best to forget this unfortunate period where they pretended to believe this insipid neo-McCarthyite nonsense.
If I wasn’t worried that Trump is going to launch an all-out War on Islam, or that one of “our boys” in the tanks Obama has theatrically ordered to the Russian border was going to go bonkers and try to “git some” for Clinton, I’d be looking forward to seeing just how batshit crazy it’s going to get.
The Liberty Beacon Project is now expanding at a near exponential rate, and for this we are grateful and excited! But we must also be practical. For 7 years we have not asked for any donations, and have built this project with our own funds as we grew. We are now experiencing ever increasing growing pains due to the large number of websites and projects we represent. So we have just installed donation buttons on our websites and ask that you consider this when you visit them. Nothing is too small. We thank you for all your support and your considerations … (TLB)
Comment Policy: As a privately owned web site, we reserve the right to remove comments that contain spam, advertising, vulgarity, threats of violence, racism, or personal/abusive attacks on other users. This also applies to trolling, the use of more than one alias, or just intentional mischief. Enforcement of this policy is at the discretion of this websites administrators. Repeat offenders may be blocked or permanently banned without prior warning.
Disclaimer: TLB websites contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available to our readers under the provisions of “fair use” in an effort to advance a better understanding of political, health, economic and social issues. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving it for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than “fair use” you must request permission from the copyright owner.
Disclaimer: The information and opinions shared are for informational purposes only including, but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material are not intended as medical advice or instruction. Nothing mentioned is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.