It's right out there in the open. They view ordinary people with opinions as a disease, a scourge that must be wiped out so that billionaires, corporations, military leaders, weapons manufacturers and their partners in political crime can get on with ruling the world and everyone in it.
The Council, already in the forefront of recent censorship efforts related to "fake news" and fomenting conspiracy theories about Russian meddling in elections and infiltration in both right and left-leaning Internet news sites, has just issued another manifesto pressuring establishment news organizations to play even more of a "gatekeeper" role than they are already do.
The defiantly militant title of a recent strategy paper says it all: "Whose Truth? Sovereignty, Disinformation, and Winning the Battle For Trust."
To make its scary point, the piece is preceded by a photograph of Japanese citizens having the gall to protest a US military installation in their country more than 70 years after the end of World War II. If it were not for the Internet, the Japanese would never know that the US was still occupying their country, apparently.
It is a war of the ruling class against the rest of us, poor befuddled mortals who are so overloaded with choice that our heads are spinning. As author John T. Watts synopsizes a ruling class sovereignty "Challenge" conference held last spring, the masters of the universe must walk a fine line between cracking down on independent thought and dissent and not appear to be cracking down on independent thought and dissent.
Watts, a former Australian military officer who now "consults" with the Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security, bemoans the erosion of public trust in the media, which has dropped a full nine percentage points -- from 52 percent to 43 percent -- in just the past year, along with a 30 percent decrease in trust in government. He blames this not on widening wealth disparity directly caused by policies devised to serve only the interests of the wealthy and corporations at the expense of poor and working people, but on the "partisanship" fomented by disinformation campaigns from unregulated sources.
He also blames Julian Assange and the Wikileaks revelations of war crimes and corruption in high places, and without providing one iota of evidence, ties these leaks directly to Russia. If that weren't enough, too many people trust their "peers" more than they trust the proper authorities. The proles are talking too much among themselves, and the leaders are worried.
"Without shared facts," Watts complains, "society lacks the basis for a rational discourse."
The implication is that minds must therefore be better controlled with the proper, prescribed content from ruling class sources.
While bemoaning the lack of proper local news sources, he does not delve into the reasons why these local news sources have disappeared: the creative destruction of them by media moguls like Rupert Murdoch and Gannett, and their ultimate consolidation into only five or six corporate entities. He notes only that this disappearance has created a vacuum being filled by "unqualified" bloggers and "irresponsible" information sites:
Those who can generate the most attention by playing to the audience's greatest fears, bias, and ignorance will generate more revenue. In this environment - where any individual can generate, modify, or subvert facts for material political gain - there are multi-tiered incentives for individuals and groups around the world to generate misinformation and disinformation for little cost and significant reward. In contrast, truth telling and fact checking are expensive and of arguably less material value.Watts could just as well be describing Fox, CNN, MSNBC, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. If these media giants aren't ginning up war fever and Russiagate paranoia and big bucks with their reporters and on-air personalities just sitting around a table and interviewing each other rather than gathering information out in the field and talking to regular people, they're inviting government consultants like Watts to join them and hand-wring about how both Donald Trump and those useful Kremlin idiots of the renegade media are going beyond the bounds of good taste. That is, of course, before they take frequent breaks from their discussions to broadcast the latest Donald Trump Nuremberg-style rally or run commercials for oil companies and overpriced drugs.
So what is to be done to draw all those straying eyeballs away from the Internet and back to corporate and weapons industry-sponsored information sites where they belong?
Censorship, censorship, censorship!
It's not enough that Facebook and Google have already agreed to infiltration by thousands of law enforcement and military "gatekeepers" to monitor content in order to keep the minds of the globe sufficiently and pliantly narrow enough to soak up all the approved propaganda.
The self-appointed censors of the Military-Industrial Complex must appeal even more to the greed of such establishment organs as the Times, warning that their failure to disseminate the right propaganda might cause their advertisers to bolt. Therefore, the Atlantic Council is prevailing upon those advertisers themselves to demand more control of the news:
Advertisers would get greater return on their investment if their message was attached to better quality material that properly engages the reader. Their brand can also suffer harm if it is associated with poor quality or misleading material. By demanding that their advertising is proven to be associated with high quality material, they will eventually realign some of the market forces and shift the incentives of the producers.Translation: there can never be enough corporate control of our lives. If journalists and editors persist in maintaining the red line between their news and advertising divisions, a line which has always been the hallmark of a free press in democratic societies, the oligarchs will see to it that these noncompliant news organizations fail. Advertisers, not journalists and editors, must determine what is and what is not "high quality material." This is perhaps the most chilling of the Atlantic Council's prescriptions. It is an open threat to the First Amendment.
It gets worse. Watts also considers the readers who comment on articles to be "diverse threat actors" and as such, establishment news sites should consider completely disabling reader commentary on articles. Too often, independent voices refute the corporate-funded and Pentagon-engendered propaganda on the news pages, or else they add supplementary erudite information (facts) not consistent with the narrow narrative. This outside commentary is becoming unduly influential.
Media producers need to recognize that adversaries are out there and actively seeking to cause harm through their medium. They have a responsibility to respond to threats and raise awareness of the incidents occurring, both because it is their business to do so and because of a larger duty of care. In doing so, they need to be careful not to 'carry the virus' as one speaker put it. This means they should consider disabling commentary systems - the function of allowing the general public to leave a comment beneath a particular media item.Adolf Hitler and other fascist demagogues also have used the term "virus" to describe Jews and minorities and perceived outside "threats," which paved the way for their expulsion and eventual extermination.
And as Andre Damon notes, "What Watts outlines in his document is a vision of a totalitarian social order, where the government, the media, and technology companies are united in suppressing oppositional viewpoints. The most striking element of the document, however, is that it is not describing the future, but contemporary reality. Everything is in the present tense. The machinery of mass censorship has already been built."
Interestingly enough, though, Watts also offers a suggestion that I happen to agree with. Contributors on the op-ed pages and independent outlets should always divulge who they work for and who is paying them -- either before or at the end of their articles. Unfortunately, Watt chooses not to reveal where his own paycheck comes from.
So I will. The funding sources for his work comprise at least 25 foreign governments, including authoritarian regimes on the Arabian peninsula, with millions donated to the Atlantic Council by the genocidal Saudis; bomb and gun and drone manufacturers; the gambling casinos known as banks; private equity parasites; climate-destroying oil companies... in other words, a veritable Who's Who of the ruling oligarchy. Of course, they prefer to call themselves the "Honor Roll," rather than the Orwellian Ministry of Truth.
Please feel free to leave your comments!
It's coming up on the weekend, so nothing is off-topic.