Social media has markedly changed in the last seven years. Gone are the early days of authenticity. A decade ago on Twitter I followed a farmer in Bangladesh and enjoyed reading his daily status update reports, my Facebook account was reserved only for people I actually knew in the flesh, and my Google searches produced comprehensive and factual results. That was then. We could enjoy the light side of humanity and even politics without the burden of the gray consumer pressure. Inasmuch as we had the ability to find both pockets of compassionate and intimate moments in our internet lives. I became addicted as most writers did because the connectedness was refreshing, and it was a chance to write, a lot, and get immediate gratification doing so. There was however fleeting a sense of community in those days.
In 2013 that all started to change. I would even say September 11, 2013 to be precise when Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Op-Ed, titled “A Plea for Caution From Russia,” appeared in the New York Times appeared in what I heretofore had thought was an American newspaper (boy, was I wrong) warning us against a recently proposed U.S. military strike on Syria. How queer was that? The president of an allegedly hostile nation was spilling the tea in the Gray Lady? This was also back when the corporate media began to blow their budgets attempting to paint Mr Putin as the Lucifer of the East, the dark overlord of Mordor, America’s number one existential threat. There was a haunting quality to the Op-Ed. In hindsight it was clearly a Madisen Avenue campaign, quite literally. Somehow the Russian president squired an American publicist, Ketchum. The trouble in Ukraine started brewing just shortly after. Go figure. Also in hindsight, if we today focus on the economic component of America’s war policies, we’ll see the conflicts in which we intervened (Ukraine), the elections we rigged (Ukraine), the coups we supported (Ukraine), and the constabularies we formed (Ukraine) and empowered globally all served the interests of U.S. corporate investors. Putin played along, it seems.
What began in 2013 was the enablement of corporations vis-á-vis oligarchy to partner with the U.S. military-intelligence industrial complex while simultaneously exerting control over the media outlets they owned. The military-intelligence industrial and media complex (MIMIC) was born. When it became apparent that U.S. imperialism was on its way out, the American ruling class decided it would be necessary to restart a 21st century Cold War with Russia and China. Since then, the repeal of the propaganda ban has created many terrible trends for the American media, such as the emergence of a revolving door between intelligence officials and cable news stations, the government assimilation of formerly independent outlets. In July of 2013, the U.S. had begun the unleashing of government-funded programs for domestic U.S. consumption.
If you think of corporate secularism, or materialism, as a religion, big web platforms owned by oligarchs (Google, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon) now serve the same role as the cults and pagan mystery religions managed by the Roman high priests. Back then any cult could comfortably exist under Rome’s control as long as it denied any claim to objective truthfulness, both undermining and marginalizing Abrahamic faiths. Today a mystical online domination of two Silicon Valley corporations—Facebook and Google—who control 60% of the entire digital advertising market. They have used monopolistic control to siphon off advertising revenues from the news organizations. This may be a stretch for some people, but consumerism is a corporate religion of sorts, one where the truth is subjective, relative and malleable. Call it what you want, post-truth, fake news, disinformation, quasi-state propaganda, corporate fiction, there’s no objective truth. That’s the point. It’s consumerism. There is a strong psychological, religious-like component and denying that is dangerous. Because for most people their religion is their belief system. With that I have hopefully set the state adequately, for this story is about a “web brigade.”
While we are not collectively equipped to think about the kind of power that transnational corporations represent, the silent way they exercise their specific form of sovereignty and the numerous mechanisms that allow them to circumvent the law wherever they operate, we can get a glimpse into this world through their social media corporate ambassadors and a web brigade I have tracked for six years in relation to the “crisis in Ukraine” and the American response to it. That is the small picture, but I detail the makeup of the brigade in large brush strokes below. The bigger picture is that need to think long and hard about this because corporations don’t want us to do exactly that. The turbulent Trump presidency has been filled with the seductive riches of many unintended benefits in the form of sociological observance of “the swamp.” The "deep state" lost its shit and for a closet sociologist, like myself, it was fabulous to observe. And the web brigade I observed is part and parcel of it. Every American presidential administration since Truman has had some war mongering body on board with an eye on creating wars. During the Trump administration they’ve gone gangbusters. Overall, we now see in the light of day how the Beltway operated in darkness for three decades, since the fall of the Soviet Union. But it began before then and the murky creatures we call Neoconservatives are the foot soldiers who have religiously marched forward hailing the corporate transformation of the American political system, imperialist foreign policy and the destruction of the social safety new programs created by Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Ronald Reagan successfully dismantled FDR’s New Deal order and pulled liberals rightward. Reagan transformed the Democratic Party — and he was aided by Democrats like Neoconservative Joe Biden. Remember, Neocons occupy all of the political parties.
A shift in the U.S. from capitalism to corporatism has had some pretty awful consequences. Namely, power has coalesced in both Washington, DC and among tech and media companies, such that the latter can undermine American rights and manipulate American political opinion with impunity, while the former abdicates its oath to defend the U.S. Constitution against all enemies, both foreign and domestic. As I have written repeatedly, the Neoconservatives are the one constant, administration after administration. As Eric Zuesse says and I think he is right, the Neocon believes in the rightfulness of an “American empire” over this entire planet. This imperialistic belief was an extension of Yale’s “pacifist” pro-Nazi America First movement, which was supported by Wall Street’s Dulles brothers in the early 1940s. This dovetails with the effort of corporations, oligarchs and the very wealthy to incorporate every corner of the world into a global corporatist economic system benefits only that one percent.
I like to think of Neoconservatives as the clown car version of the Soviet politburo that Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote about in 200 Years Together, responsible for all of the communist terror and atrocities. Like the Bolsheviks, these #NeverTrump Neocons are service nomads to corporations, a kind of foreign suzerain of bad actors who occupy politics with the aim of destroying national interests. But like the Nazis, they are inherently stupid and rely on style over substance. They are never ever short on arrogance. The pouty Neocon pundit David Frum always comes to mind, first.
The absolute best outcome of Trump’s presidency has been that these Neocon criminals have now been fully outed. They did it to themselves. Stupidly, they tagged themselves with the hashtag, #NeverTrump. They relinquished the only real power they possessed: anonymity. For decades, they were self-protected. Then, they engineered the “weapons of mass destruction” baloney, the so-called “war in Iraq” in 2002 and they were inched out of the closet. But for a long time it was verboten to speak of them —similar to the Israel Lobby— and anybody who went too far would be wrongly accused of being “anti-Semitic.” While in America’s shift from capitalism to corporatism, there’s no publicly transparent separation between corporate power and state power, the Neocons have exposed themselves at a time when they most needed the cover. Unlike any previous administration, President Trump has given them ample opportunities to screw up royally in the public eye. And they have every single time. A rogue’s gallery of complete morons. There’s been more alleged Russian threat in the last four years than for the entire 45 years of the Cold War. The Neocons were front and center in that marketing campaign.
Compassion and concern for others, and seeking knowledge through understanding can protect against the kind of agitation the Neoconservatives have been bringing to social media for the last seven years, but hindsight is 20/20. All too many of us got involved in their attempts to break down a sense of community on the internet and destroy free sharing of decentralized information, objective truth. So much hate, so much nastiness, so much fear mongering. Corporatism as a governing strategy accounts for both politics and economics. Corporate use economic power to gain and hold political power and, in turn, use politics to expand their economic power. The oldest strategy in the world is divide-and-conquer. In particular, I see now the body they targeted. The old school Democrats, like myself. It’s a fool’s errand to not recognize that the Democrat Party has been divided by corporations, lobbies and cartels that will most benefit from an imperialist foreign policy.
It sounds far too sexy but what I want to draw attention to is corporate espionage on social media. The psychological manipulation is pretty awful, but this social media surveillance also undermines our privacy and that is even worse, in my opinion. Since my first encounter, I have simply been calling the phenomenon a “web brigade.” Web brigades are covert governmental teams of on-line commentators that participate in political blogs and Internet forums to promote disinformation and prevent free discussions of certain subjects. Such teams are allegedly affiliated with Russian state propaganda department and security services and with Chinese internet police. Of course, blame the Russians and the Chinese for what the U.S. government is doing itself. We know that drill. For me, the idea of a “web brigade” and the murder of the famous Russian journalist called Anna Politkovskaya began my research journey all those years ago. But the web brigades she wrote about are of the WASP variety, not the Russian. This web bridge spans U.S. government and American industry from armament sales, think tanks, the media and Hollywood. I am picking up on my very first post from October of last year where I stakes out the “Neocon Hoax.” Because through the web brigade I was intuitively able to navigate through the whole ecosystem with rudimentary social media analysis. And here are the institutions:
- Government: U.S. State Department, Pentagon, U.S. Agency for Global Media, National Endowment for Democracy, Freedom House, U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, U.S.-Ukraine Foundation, USAID, Peace Corps, Vatican, CIA, NSA, NATO, Bilderberg Group, Rendon Group, Raytheon, Five Eyes intelligence alliance.
- Think tanks and other NGOs: Atlantic Council, George Soros’s Open Society, Human Rights Watch, Council on Foreign Relations, McCain Institute, Brookings Institue, Wilson Center, Center for European Policy Analysis, Project for the New American Century, The Institute for the Study of War, Foreign Policy Research Institute, Ukrainian World Congress, Ukraine Crisis Media Center, Euromaidan Press, Stop Fake.
- Media: Washington Post, New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, Economist, Vice, Buzzfeed, Daily Beast, Newsweek, Atlantic, Kyiv Post, Reuters, Comcast.
- Academia: Stanford University, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, London School of Economics, Naval War College, Johns Hopkins.
- Technology: Facebook, Twitter, Google, Amazon.
Before social media, corporate fiction was pretty easily centralized through the news outlets. Now they’ve got to blame the lies on an existential threat like Russia or China. Now corporations and the “intelligence community” must control the internet with surveillance, censorship, coercion, bullying and psychological abuse to stop the hemorrhaging of truthful information. Nothing has really changed beyond that. The Cold War ended in 1991, but somehow we have got a significant section of the military-intelligence and media industrial complex (MIMIC) who seem to believe in their hearts and minds that it is still happening. The Soviet Union fell 30 years and scary communism 60 years ago. But that doesn’t stop the brainwashed today from using it as a device. Belief is a tough one to crack. Neoconservative belief is corporate fiction, but they actually do believe it.
For years, I observed the web brigade on Twitter as then Vice President Joe Biden exploited the intent of Maidan protest movement, staged a bloody coup of a democratically elected president, and backed neo-Nazis. The U.S. government brought war (14,000 dead, 1.5 million displaced), corruption and plundering, poverty, and the persecution of Christians to Ukraine. Want to know why Ukraine was so dear to old Joe? Because the Dnipro-Donetsk basin is a major oil and gas producing region accounting for 90% of all current Ukrainian production. Burisma holds licenses covering the Dnieper-Donets basin in the eastern Ukraine. In fact, the Joe Biden family was so interested in the oil in Ukraine, that his son Hunter was appointed to the board of directors of that company, Ukraine’s largest private gas producer, Burisma Holdings. When Hunter Biden was hired, Burisma was relatively small and produced 11,600 barrels of natural gas, condensate and oil. It had permits to drill in the Dnieper-Donets, Carpathian and Azov-Kuban basins. In 2018, it produced 1.3 billion cubic meters.
Ukraine is the canary in the coal mine. And I fear for the yellow bird’s welfare. War is a racket. We need to treat the threat to our welfare not just as a large corporate venture, but rather as a transnational sovereign power serving the interests of its investors and interfering in politics, culture, religion, society, finance, industry and academia.
The Charge of the Light Brigade on October 25, 1854, the disastrous British cavalry charge against heavily defended Russian troops at the Battle of Balaklava during the Crimean War, turned out to be a suicide mission that underscores the importance of professional competence and a clear chain of command and communication. Today, I have faith that the web brigade’s ventures in Ukraine will end in such a cautionary tale as that. Former Vice President Biden and the Neoconservatives got caught in Ukraine. There’s no doubt about it. What happens in the next six months will give us the canary’s prognosis, I think. We watch as lies about “Russian aggression” in Ukraine have faded and even now we are starting to see the ones about WWII slip away. In 2014, Donbas was a breakaway region and Crimea’s secession from Ukraine was an act of self-determination. And guess what folk? Surprise! The USSR defeated the Nazis and U.S. corporations had heavily supported the Third Reich. The media and historians reported corporate fiction, a form of espionage conducted for commercial purposes instead of purely national security. In fact, they’ve threatened national security.
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