Manufacturing Normality

QuestionEverything2
Source: Counterpunch.org
CJ Hopkins
December 6, 2016

Sometime circa mid-November, in the wake of Hillary Clinton’s defeat (i.e., the beginning of the end of democracy), the self-appointed Guardians of Reality, better known as the corporate media, launched a worldwide marketing campaign against the evil and perfidious scourge of “fake news.” This campaign is now at a fever pitch. Media outlets throughout the empire are pumping out daily dire warnings of the imminent, existential threat to our freedom posed by the “fake news” menace. This isn’t the just the dissemination of disinformation, propaganda, and so on, that’s been going on for thousands of years … Truth itself is under attack. The very foundations of Reality are shaking.

Who’s behind this “fake news” menace? Well, Putin, naturally, but not just Putin. It appears to be the work of a vast conspiracy of virulent anti-establishment types, ultra-alt-rightists, ultra-leftists, libertarian retirees, armchair socialists, Sandernistas, Corbynistas, ontological terrorists, fascism normalizers, poorly educated anti-Globalism freaks, and just garden variety Clinton-haters.

Fortunately, for us, the corporate media is hot on the trail of this motley of scoundrels. As you’re probably aware, The Washington Post recently published a breathtaking piece of Pulitzer-quality investigative journalism shamelessly smearing hundreds of alternative publications (like the one you’re reading) as “peddlers of Russian propaganda.” The piece, a classic McCarthyite smear job perpetrated by the Post‘s Craig Timberg, was based on the groundless, paranoid claims of what Timberg unironically describes as “two teams of independent researchers,” The Foreign Policy Research Institute, a third-rate, former anti-Communist think tank, and an anonymous website, propornot.com, that no one had ever heard of prior to its sudden appearance on the Internet last August, and which, based on the tenor of its tweets and emails, appears to be run by Beavis and Butthead.

The Washington Post has been catching some flak for taking this courageous “pro-Truth” stand against the forces of Putinist falsehood and fakery. A host of dangerously extremist publications, like CounterPunch, The Intercept, Rolling Stone, The Nation, The New Yorker, Fortune Magazine, Bloomberg, and US News & World Report, have lambasted The Post for its “shoddy,” “lazy,” or otherwise sub-par journalism practices. The Post, of course, is “backing its boy,” and refusing to apologize for defending democracy, as it has throughout its storied history, like when it smeared Gary Webb as retribution for reporting the CIA-Contra connection, more or less destroying his career as a journalist, or when it blatantly shilled for Hillary Clinton throughout her ugly, fear-mongering campaign, notably publishing sixteen negative pieces on Sanders in sixteen hours, or when it ran this piece on how Clinton might have been poisoned by secret Putinist agents … and these are just a few of the highlights.

But I don’t want to single out The Washington Post, or its Executive Editor, Marty Baron, who is clearly a paragon of journalistic ethics. The rest of the corporate media have also been mercilessly flogging the “fake news” hysteria, and the “Putinist propaganda” hysteria, and the “normalizing of fascism” hysteria, and beating the “post-Truth” drum to death. The Guardian, The New York Times, et al., NPR, the TV news networks, the entire mainstream media chorus is barking out the message in perfect synch. So what is really going on here?

As I suggested in these pages previously, what we are experiencing is the pathologization (or the “abnormalization”) of political dissent, i.e., the systematic stigmatization of any and all forms of non-compliance with neoliberal consensus reality. Political distinctions like “left” and “right” are disappearing, and are being replaced by imponderable distinctions like “normal” and “abnormal,” “true” and “false,” and “real” and “fake.” Such distinctions do not lend themselves to argument. They are proffered to us as axiomatic truths, empirical facts which no normal person would ever dream of contradicting.

In place of competing political philosophies, the neoliberal intelligentsia is substituting a simpler choice, “normality” or “abnormality.” The nature of the “abnormality” varies according to what is being stigmatized. Today it’s “Corbyn the anti-Semite,” tomorrow it’s “Sanders the racist crackpot,” or “Trump the Manchurian candidate,” or whatever. That the smears themselves are indiscriminate (and, in many instances, totally ridiculous) belies the effectiveness of the broader strategy, which is simply to abnormalize the target and whatever he or she represents. It makes no difference whether one is smeared as a racist, as Sanders was during the primaries, or as an anti-Semite, as Corbyn has been, or a fascist, as Trump has relentlessly been, or peddlers of Russian propaganda, as Truthout, CounterPunch, Naked Capitalism, and a number of other publications have been … the message is, they are somehow “not normal.”

Why is this any different from the shameless smear jobs the press has been doing on people since the invention of the press and shameless smear jobs? Well, hold on, because I’m about to tell you. Mostly it has to do with words, especially binary oppositions like “real” and “fake,” and “normal” and “abnormal,” which are, of course, essentially meaningless … their value being purely tactical. Which is to say they denote nothing. They are weapons deployed by a dominant group to enforce conformity to its consensus reality. This is how they’re being used at the moment.

The meaningless binary oppositions that the neoliberal intelligentsia and the corporate media are supplanting traditional opposing political philosophies with (i.e., normal/abnormal, real/fake), in addition to stigmatizing a diversity of sources of non-conforming information and ideas, are also restructuring our consensus reality as a conceptual territory in which anyone thinking, writing, or speaking outside the mainstream is deemed some kind of “deviant,” or “extremist,” or some other form of social pariah. Again, it doesn’t matter what kind, as “deviance” in itself is the point.

Actually, the opposite of deviance is the point. Because this is how “normality” is manufactured. And how consensus reality as a whole is manufactured … and how the manufacturing process is concealed. Apologies for getting all Baudrillardian, but this is actually how this stuff works.

The media’s current obsession with “fake news” conceals the fact that there is no “real news,” and simultaneously produces “real news,” or, rather, the simulation thereof. It does so by means of the binary opposition (i.e., if such a thing as “fake news” exists … then, ipso facto, “real news” exists). Likewise, the focus on “not normalizing Trump” conceals the fact that there is no “normality,” and simultaneously manufactures “normality” … which is always only a simulation.

Similarly, the stigmatization of Trump as a modern-day Hitler, or Mussolini, or some other type of fascist dictator, conceals the fact that the United States is already virtually a one-party system, with concentrated ownership and control of the media, an omnipresent militarized police force, arbitrary enforcement of the rule of law, the maintenance of a more or less permanent state of war, and many other standard features of authoritarian systems of government. At the same time, this projection of “fascism” conjures, or manufactures, its opposite, “democracy” … or the simulation of democracy.

This neoliberal simulation of democracy, and normality, and reality, is what the corporate media, and the entire neoliberal intelligentsia, is desperately working to shore up at the moment, as they took quite a hit with this election mess. Trump was not supposed to win. He was supposed to be another Hitlerian bogeyman that the neoliberals could save us all from, but then, well, look what happened. The problem for the neoliberal ruling classes, and the mainstream media, and liberals generally, having gone balls out on the Hitler schtick, is that they pretty much have to keep it up now, which is going to get increasingly weird as Trump turns out to not be Hitler, but, rather, just another Republican plutocrat, albeit one with zero government experience and some certified bull goose loonies on his staff. I’m sure Trump will want to help them out, though (i.e., his neoliberal “enemies”), with the occasional racist or misogynist tweet, as he will need to maintain his “white working class” creds, at least until the “War on Islam” gets going.

In any event, we can all look forward to some serious pathologization of dissent throughout the coming four (and perhaps eight) years. And I’m not referring to Trump and his boys, though I’m certain they’ll be in there slinging it too. I’m referring to our friends in the corporate media, like Marty Baron and his smear machine, and the Guardians of Reality at The New York Times, The Guardian, and other “papers of record.” WNYC is already airing a daily “descent into fascism” segment. And of course the neoliberal left, Mother Jones, The Nation, et al., and The New York Review of Books, apparently (they just can’t get enough of this Hitler stuff), will be monitoring liberals’ every thought to ensure that fascism does not get normalized … which God have mercy should that ever happen. Who knows how America might end up? Torturing people? Attacking other countries that pose no threat to it whatsoever? Indefinitely imprisoning people in camps? Assassinating anyone the president deems a “terrorist” or an “enemy combatant” with the tacit approval of the majority of Americans? Surveilling everyone’s phone calls, emails, tweets, and reading and web-browsing habits?

Imagine the dystopia we would all be living in … if things like that were considered “normal.”

Read More At: Counterpunch.org
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C. J. Hopkins is an award-winning American playwright and satirist based in Berlin. His plays are published by Bloomsbury Publishing (UK) and Broadway Play Publishing (US). He can reached at his website, cjhopkins.com, or at consentfactory.org.

Senate Quietly Passes The “Countering Disinformation And Propaganda Act”

Source: ZeroHedge.com
December 12, 2016

While we wait to see if and when the Senate will pass (and president will sign) Bill  “H.R. 6393, Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017″, which was passed by the House at the end of November with an overwhelming majority and which seeks to crack down on websites suspected of conducting Russian propaganda and calling for the US government to “counter active measures by Russia to exert covert influence … carried out in  coordination with, or at the behest of, political leaders or the security services of the Russian Federation and the role of the Russian Federation has been hidden or not acknowledged publicly,” another, perhaps even more dangerous and limiting to civil rights and freedom of speech bill passed on December 8.

Recall that as we reported in early June, “a bill to implement the U.S.’ very own de facto Ministry of Truth has been quietly introduced in Congress. As with any legislation attempting to dodge the public spotlight the Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act of 2016 marks a further curtailment of press freedom and another avenue to stultify avenues of accurate information. Introduced by Congressmen Adam Kinzinger and Ted Lieu, H.R. 5181 seeks a “whole-government approach without the bureaucratic restrictions” to counter “foreign disinformation and manipulation,” which they believe threaten the world’s “security and stability.”

Also called the Countering Information Warfare Act of 2016 (S. 2692), when introduced in March by Sen. Rob Portman, the legislation represents a dramatic return to Cold War-era government propaganda battles. “These countries spend vast sums of money on advanced broadcast and digital media capabilities, targeted campaigns, funding of foreign political movements, and other efforts to influence key audiences and populations,” Portman explained, adding that while the U.S. spends a relatively small amount on its Voice of America, the Kremlin provides enormous funding for its news organization, RT.“Surprisingly,”

Portman continued, “there is currently no single U.S. governmental agency or department charged with the national level development, integration and synchronization of whole-of-government strategies to counter foreign propaganda and disinformation.”

Long before the “fake news” meme became a daily topic of extensive conversation on wuch mainstream fake news portals as CNN and WaPo, H.R. 5181 would rask the Secretary of State with coordinating the Secretary of Defense, the Director of National Intelligence, and the Broadcasting Board of Governors to “establish a Center for Information Analysis and Response,” which will pinpoint sources of disinformation, analyze data, and — in true dystopic manner — ‘develop and disseminate’ “fact-based narratives” to counter effrontery propaganda.

* * *

Fast forward to this past Thursday, December 8, when the “Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act” passed in the Senate, quietly inserted inside the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Conference Report.

Here is the full statement issued by the generously funded Senator Rob Portman (R- Ohio) on the passage of a bill that further chips away at press liberties in the US, and which sets the stage for future which hunts and website shutdowns, purely as a result of an accusation that any one media outlet or site is considered as a source of “disinformation and propaganda” and is shut down by the government.

Senate Passes Major Portman-Murphy Counter-Propaganda Bill as Part of NDAA

Portman/Murphy Bill Promotes Coordinated Strategy to Defend America, Allies Against Propaganda and Disinformation from Russia, China & Others

U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) today announced that their Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act – legislation designed to help American allies counter foreign government propaganda from Russia, China, and other nations – has passed the Senate as part of the FY 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Conference Report. The bipartisan bill, which was introduced by Senators Portman and Murphy in March, will improve the ability of the United States to counter foreign propaganda and disinformation by establishing an interagency center housed at the State Department to coordinate and synchronize counter-propaganda efforts throughout the U.S. government. To support these efforts, the bill also creates a grant program for NGOs, think tanks, civil society and other experts outside government who are engaged in counter-propaganda related work. This will better leverage existing expertise and empower local communities to defend themselves from foreign manipulation.

“The passage of this bill in the Senate today takes us one critical step closer to effectively confronting the extensive, and destabilizing, foreign propaganda and disinformation operations being waged against us. While the propaganda and disinformation threat has grown, the U.S. government has been asleep at the wheel. Today we are finally signaling that enough is enough; the United States will no longer sit on the sidelines. We are going to confront this threat head-on,” said Senator Portman. “With the help of this bipartisan bill, the disinformation and propaganda used against our allies and our interests will fail.”

“Congress has taken a big step in fighting back against fake news and propaganda from countries like Russia. When the president signs this bill into law, the United States will finally have a dedicated set of tools and resources to confront our adversaries’ widespread efforts to spread false narratives that undermine democratic institutions and compromise America’s foreign policy goals,” said Murphy. “I’m proud of what Senator Portman and I accomplished here because it’s long past time for the U.S. to get off the sidelines and confront these growing threats.”

NOTE: The bipartisan Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act is organized around two main priorities to help achieve the goal of combatting the constantly evolving threat of foreign disinformation. They are as follows:

  • The first priority is developing a whole-of-government strategy for countering foreign propaganda and disinformation. The bill would increase the authority, resources, and mandate of the Global Engagement Center to include state actors like Russia and China in addition to violent extremists. The Center will be led by the State Department, but with the active senior level participation of the Department of Defense, USAID, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the Intelligence Community, and other relevant agencies. The Center will develop, integrate, and synchronize whole-of-government initiatives to expose and counter foreign disinformation operations and proactively advance fact-based narratives that support U.S. allies and interests.
  • Second, the legislation seeks to leverage expertise from outside government to create more adaptive and responsive U.S. strategy options. The legislation establishes a fund to help train local journalists and provide grants and contracts to NGOs, civil society organizations, think tanks, private sector companies, media organizations, and other experts outside the U.S. government with experience in identifying and analyzing the latest trends in foreign government disinformation techniques. This fund will complement and support the Center’s role by integrating capabilities and expertise available outside the U.S. government into the strategy-making process. It will also empower a decentralized network of private sector experts and integrate their expertise into the strategy-making process.

* * *

In other words, the Act will i) greenlight the government to crack down with impunity against any media property it deems “propaganda”, and ii) provide substantial amounts of money fund an army of “local journalist” counterpropaganda, to make sure the government’s own fake news drowns that of the still free “fringes.”

So while packaged politely in a veneer of “countering disinformation and propaganda”, the bill, once signed by Obama, will effectively give the government a full mandate to punish, shut down or otherwise prosecute, any website it deems offensive and a source of “foreign government propaganda from Russia, China or other nations.” And since there is no formal way of proving whether or not there is indeed a foreign propaganda sponsor, all that will be sufficient to eliminate any “dissenting” website, will be the government’s word against that of the website. One can be confident that the US government will almost certainly prevail in every single time.

Read More At: ZeroHedge.com

The Abnormalization of Dissent

Source: TheCorbettReport
James Corbett
December 13, 2016

SHOW NOTES: https://www.corbettreport.com/?p=20792

The spin, lies, manipulation and deceptions are coming so fast and thick it’s increasingly difficult to document them all, let alone analyze them. But in the broad sweep of recent events we can see a common theme emerging: the abnormalization of dissent. And when political ideology boils down to nothing more than “real” and “fake” the control of political discourse through language itself is almost complete. Can outright censorship be far behind?

Koch Bros. & PropOrNot: Feud Explodes Through the Pages of History

competinghistory
Source: TheDailyBell.com
December 12, 2016

The Martens find PropOrNot background ties to the billionaire Koch brothers, to the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, to the Sarah Scaife Foundation (the Mellon fortune), ExxonMobil, US Senators Chris Murphy and Rob Portman, who tie into Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, “two Wall Street behemoths that would very much like to pivot the national debate to anything other than Wall Street power and corruption.” –Paul Craig Roberts

The recent naming of 200 websites and writers by PropOrNot as agents of Russian disinformation can only be fully appreciated as an explosion ripping through the pages of history and revealing a millennia-old struggle between freedom and repression.

The Koch Brothers and Scaife exercise considerable control over the “moderate” libertarian media including the famous Cato Institute think tank and the leading libertarian magazine Reason.

Meanwhile, the more vigorous and successful (in the 21st  century) faction of libertarianism has been anarcho-capitalism, championed notably in modern times by Lew Rockwell and his mentor Murray Rothbard, an important student of the great Ludwig von Mises himself.

Mises’s writings further established the problems of state control by analyzing them through the lens of human action, marginal utility and business cycles. These are explosive insights that are once again under formal attack in some quarters even though the marginal utility, especially, is accepted throughout modern economics. (You can see recent articles of ours here and here.)

Rothbard in fact helped found the Cato Institute before leaving after a fight with the Koch Brothers over ideology and direction. Rothbard and Rockwell then founded the Mises Institute. Lew Rockwell went on to found LewRockwell.com, the eponymous and successful libertarian web-publication.

It never made sense that LewRockwell.com was listed on the PropOrNot website as a disseminator of Russian propaganda (not that any of it makes sense). But if the Koch Brothers and Scaife (through his foundation) are behind PropOrNot it all becomes a lot clearer. At least partially, this would seem to be a furtherance of the Koch vs. Rothbard feud. Congressman Ron Paul, a good friend of Rothbard’s was listed as well.

One way or another many of the often important and passionate websites on the PropOrNot list are grounded (whether they know it or not – or even would admit it) in the Austrian, free-market vision so eloquently (and often voluminously) documented by Mises in such great works as Human Action.

Mises’s books have had such an impact – once the Internet came along and they censorship ceased to be effective – because his codification of  human action and business cycles rehearse the age-old confrontation between freedom and tyranny and even, in its largest application, good and evil.

The PropOrNot list is therefore history’s reverberation, an echo of these larger confrontations. It is so very shocking because it confronts us once again with humanity’s larger struggle.

Meanwhile, there are other issues to consider that are slightly more mundane however. Again, both Roberts (above) and the Martens believe the Kochs and Scaife are behind PropOrNot, especially based on PropOrNot’s recommendations and the language used in some of PropOrNot’s statements – among other reasons. If this is so, then both Cato and Reason (the magazine and Foundation) are in some sense participative in the libel of some 200 websites and a former almost-successful presidential candidate Ron Paul.

If this is true, shouldn’t Cato and Reason make every effort to find out the truth? If it is true, shouldn’t they then disassociate themselves from Koch and Scaife and refuse further funding? Prominent libertarian and free-market scholars sitting on the boards or trustee organizations of these groups should also try to find out what’s going on and speak out on the subject.

We’ve mentioned Rand Paul in particular, see here. As a Senator whose father has been directly attacked by PropOrNot, shouldn’t he do what he can to find out who’s behind PropOrNot and if it really is the Kochs and the Scaife Foundation?  The silence seems well … “deafening,” yet the issues could not be more important. They are as old as time and as integral to humanity as history itself.

These are important days – see here, the Internet Reformation. The Gutenberg press ushered in convulsive changes that echoed for some 500 years. Books circulated to the general public changed society and then culture. The process helped expand the Renaissance and eventually created the US republic and its “united States.”

The elites of the day were powerless to combat the tumult (though they did try to co-opt certain parts of the press’s impact). Additionally, various elements of freedom were lost as society became more centralized after the so-called Dark Ages. But science was to a degree re-established, along with philosophy and the arts.

Conclusion: The changes wrought by the Internet have hardly begun to be felt. They cannot be stopped without stopping human history. If the Kochs and Scaife are really involved in trying to stop what’s occurring, it’s very sad. And those with any involvement in it, even tangentially, should not be silent. If the Scaife Foundation and the Kochs are not involved, they should speak up and help us understand what’s going on.

Read More At: TheDailyBell.com

War on fake news is an assault on free speech – Ron Paul

Source: RTAmerica
December 13, 2016

Former Congressman Ron Paul has called the war on alleged fake news websites and assault on the first amendment in his recent article. Paul believes it is not the place of the government to tell people what they can or cannot read.