June 12, 2021
Marx very truly said that the greater the development of the contradiction between the growing productive forces and the existing order, the more does the ideology of the master class become imbued with hypocrisy. The more the falseness of this ideology is revealed by life, the more elevated and virtuous does the language of that class become. (Fundamental Problems of Marxism, G. Plekhanov)
It bears noting that the last time that the media and officialdom have taken unidentified flying objects (UFOs) seriously was at the height of the 1950s Red Scare. With batches of military screen shots of objects flying at hyper-speed, darting mysteriously, and astounding experienced pilots, and with the habitually sober and circumspect former President Obama endorsing the sightings, something similar to the mass hysteria of the Anti-Communist inquisitions may be afoot today.
In the post-war period, UFO sightings were a barometer of gullibility. But more importantly, for the sponsors of the Cold War against Communism, accounts of UFOs, movies about space invaders, tales of aliens among us, and a variety of other-world threats offered near-perfect counterparts to the fears mustered about the Red threat. Moreover, they served to gin up fear and hostility to the novel, the different, the “alien.” Whether the “alien” was extraterrestrial or ideologically different, an atmosphere of anxiety, distrust, and terror ensued. The return of Marvel “superheroes” signals a similar return to the “good versus evil” mindset.
Without International Communism as an immediate threat, the purposeful manipulation of fear for political ends becomes a greater challenge to the US ruling class and its elite circle of influencers. Nonetheless, it has managed to draw on fear of Islam throughout the early decades of the twenty-first century, abandoning their erstwhile fundamentalist allies in the twentieth-century Cold War against the Soviet Union, particularly in the war to thwart the Soviet effort to defend a progressive, secular regime in Afghanistan.
Turning on a dime, US rulers unleashed the same crazed religious zealots who were painted as terrorists after September 11, this time in Syria and Libya, painting the mercenaries as freedom fighters. Thousands of these mercenary zealots sit idly in camps in Syria guarded by another opportunistic US ally, the Kurdish self-styled Syrian Defense Forces, awaiting the call to destabilize another independent, secular country.
Today, Chinese efforts to neutralize similar fundamentalist attacks on their secular state are portrayed as oppression of an entire population, the Uighurs.
Through the twists and turns, the massive and powerful US propaganda apparatus shows its mettle. It is easy to underestimate the power concentrated in the monopoly capitalist media and its dedication to a narrow, uniform set of ideas, especially regarding any and all challenges to the smooth operation and dominance of its corporate counterparts (See John LaDue’s insightful video).
Despite the realities of FBI, NSA, and CIA mischief, the media corporations create a fictionalized picture of youthful idealism, diversity, and devotion to justice through television and film. Network television offers the masses a host of shows depicting dedicated public servants relentlessly pursuing evil — a picture that whitewashes the truth of ruthless service to capital and empire. In the US, an entertainment curtain effectively descends over the truth.
Of course, flipping the truth is nothing unusual for US opinion makers. The news factories line up dutifully behind the campaigns to make heroes out of marginal dissenters in distant lands that dare to defy the US. The US security services honed these skills by enlisting liberal academics to elevate dissatisfied Eastern Europeans to martyr status throughout the Cold War.
Alexi Novalny, a Russian now well known in the West, enjoys this special status, despite the fact that the vast majority of Russians pay little attention to him. Yet if upper-middle class US liberals bemoaning his treatment would steal an hour from listening to NPR and search the internet, they would find that Novalny’s actual political views are most illiberal, the kind of views that would end their brunches in a shouting match.
Roman Protasevich, the hero of the Belarus “resistance,” has an even more sordid biography. His penchant for violating his “journalistic” facade and joining with Ukrainian fascists is well established, though largely unmentioned in Western hagiography.
It’s a curious oversight; Western admirers never ask how it is that these persecuted figures are able to travel extensively, maintain staffs, organize, and establish “independent” media sites, though they have no discernable means of support. Could it be that Western media, should they be interested, might be embarrassed to discover where the money comes from?
If UFOs and superheroes signal a new Cold War, there is no question who US rulers are targeting. The fact that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) escaped both the capitalist crisis of 2007-2008 and the pandemic relatively unscathed and now challenges or exceeds the US economically, has not gone unnoticed by the guardians of US capitalism. As the PRC economy surges ahead and the US economy is plagued by serious imbalances, the machinery of demonization churns out more and more outrageous charges.
Of the many absurdities– technology theft, spying, aggression, human rights violations — none shout hypocrisy more than the Great Covid Origin Turnaround. When the media sought to mock Trump’s outlandish claims, there was unanimity around Covid’s natural arrival; nearly all authorities attested to an animal-to-human transference of the virus. Trump was written off as a conspiracy theorist.
But with Trump gone, his “outlandish claim” has become a certainty; the US and its servile allies have now concluded that PRC irresponsibility, even perfidy, have created the Covid virus and endangered the whole world.
The mighty megaphone of elite propaganda can only engineer such a total turnaround in opinion by undermining the public’s capacity for independent, evidence-based thought. That they have done so is proven by the wild swing in popular attitudes towards the PRC. From 2002 to 2020, negative views of the PRC have shifted from 35% to 73% of those polled! In only three years (2018-2021), respondents who “feel ‘cold’ toward China” have leaped from 46% to 67% (Pew Research)! Cold War hysteria has successfully been reproduced.
Shamelessly, the liberal media denounce the sharp rise in anti-Asian hate, a product that they pretend they did not encourage.
Yet the ideological armor constructed by the media has weaknesses. Without Trump to embrace or despise, cable news television has suffered a collapse. May figures show that in the critical 25-54 demographic, Fox News fell 38%, CNN dropped 51%, and MSNBC slid 39% from a year ago. As former CBS CEO Les Moonves giddily said “It [the Trump phenomena] may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.”
Consequently, media executives are trying to rekindle interest in Trump (he has his pants on backwards) or promote a new provocation.
One day, historians will recall, with some amusement and even greater disappointment, an image of Chuck Schumer, the leader of the Democrats in the Senate, returning from a meeting with Elizabeth MacDonough. Ms MacDonough, a pleasant, youngish former Justice Department attorney, had just told the powerful Senate leader that the Democrats could not use a maneuver to bypass the archaic filibuster process and enable a straightforward vote to secure passage of the President’s tepidly progressive legislative agenda.
Ms. MacDonough, the Senate “parliamentarian,” was never elected by the people; she bore no powers guaranteed by the Constitution, nor certified by the “Founding Fathers;” yet she could forestall one of the two or three most powerful leaders in the US and its highest legislative body from a democratic vote on a bill “…because it would change the culture of the institution…”
The media greets this outrage with a shrug, continuing to hail “our democracy.” As Marxist Eric Hobsbawn noted, the US is the only country in the world to make a fetish of the “Founding Fathers.” But the Founding Fathers never gave an iota of power or recognition to a parliamentarian. Instead, they granted the legislature the right to set (or change) their internal rules at will.
The picture of Schumer dejectedly accepting a decision by a petty bureaucrat would be hilarious, if not so tragic.
The fight against hypocrisy is an unequal fight, but a fight we must wage.