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Let’s Party Like it’s 1984: The Ministry of Truth in 2017

Posted in Act Out!, Creative Commons, Journalism, and Video

This segment of Act Out! was co-written by Kit O’Connell and Eleanor Goldfield.

War is peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is strength. And we’ve always been at war with Russia. So, while you were celebrating the holidays Barack Obama quietly approved a multimillion-dollar anti-propaganda project that feels a lot like the Ministry of Truth from George Orwell’s “1984” — with a more covert and far more boring name. Included as part of this year’s National Defense Appropriations Act, aka NDAA, and inspired by the new “Red Scare,” it’s called the Global Engagement Center and it’s this week’s Fucked Fact.

As you may recall from Orwell’s novel, the Ministry of Truth controlled all the media — from journalism to entertainment, ensuring it all conformed to the government’s agenda. America’s new Global Engagement Center is ALSO designed to control the media narrative — at a time when alternative media outlets and journalists known to question the US Empire are being slammed for acting as Russian spies.

Signed into law on December 23rd, the creation of the Global Engagement Center is part of the “Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act,” originally introduced as a separate bill in March by Republican Senator Rob Portman, and Democrat Chris Murphy. Luckily for Portman and Murphy, their pet bill made it into the NDAA and into law just before Santa came to town.

And the timing of this is of course no accident. I mean, who’s gonna protest a 619 billion dollar military budget or some benignly worded legislation against thought criminals two fucking days before Christmas?! Not only that but this year’s corruption covert op had the added benefit of falling on a lame duck year — when legislators can really relax, comforted by the knowledge that they’re either on their way out or have won yet another chance to fuck people and planet over for the sake of private profit. Responsibility — what responsibility?!

Of course, even if it’s not a lame duck year, the legislators feel pretty confident that we won’t raise any eyebrows, much less any hell on their account because we’re too busy beating the shit out of each other for a new TV because Jesus.

Street art by Shepard Fairey in London, November 26, 2007. One poster reads “Big Brother Is Watching You.” (Flickr / Tim Rich and Lesley Katon)

Another example: nary a year ago on December 18th 2015, Congress shoved a ruling on the export of crude oil into a government spending bill, lifting a 40-year ban on the practice. Or indeed, the NDAA itself which was signed by Obama on New Year’s Fucking Eve 2011?! Because nothing says festive new beginnings like passing a bill that allows a President to indefinitely militarily detain any one of us without due cause or trial.

I imagine the champagne flowed this past December 23rd as well – when Obama ‘n friends’ latest pet project made the lame duck cut. So let’s take a look at this pet project shall we — what does the Engagement Center actually do? Well, according to the law, it’s designed to “recognize, understand, expose, and counter foreign state and non-state propaganda and disinformation efforts aimed at undermining United States national security interests.”

Or as journalist Rick Sterling put it last week, it sets aside “160 million dollars to combat any “propaganda” that challenges Official Washington’s version of reality.” Sieg heil ‘Murica.

The law will bring together multiple government agencies to create the center, supposedly with the purpose of tracking foreign propaganda and creating a counter-narrative that instead promotes American interests. Hmmmm — tracking foreign propaganda and promoting American interests. I mean, that doesn’t sound like the suppression of free speech, does it? I mean, it must not because apparently Washington promises that the act is all about those evil Russians, and other meddling foreign governments, and not at all about suppressing alternative voices at home.

Cool, so I guess the blacklist of journalists that we mentioned in Episode 93 is just an unfortunate coincidence … and our own government’s habit of creating propaganda and fake news by the truck load is beside the point because when we do it, it’s not propaganda and if you think it is, you too are a Russian spy. See how that works?

And indeed, it does work. Because by now, our propaganda machine has much of the public convinced, without any evidence, that the Russians altered our election results and are even hacking our power grid.

Last week, James Clapper, the director of national intelligence claimed that Russia is a quote “existential threat” to the U.S. and that the Intelligence community has evidence to support the story that Russia not only hacked our elections but spread fake news and propaganda. Meanwhile, he wasn’t able to produce any evidence because that would help the enemy. Quote, “We’ll be as forthcoming as we can, but there are some sensitive and fragile sources and methods here.”

Keep in mind, this is THIS guy:

Of course when it came out that that was all bullshit and the NSA was in fact spying on anyone and everyone, Clapper defended himself by talking about wife beating:

Yeah, this guy is PRECISELY who you want heading up your fucking “intelligence” community.

But luckily for the powers that be, American minds are malleable. We’ve all but forgotten Clapper’s past cock-ups and prefer now to focus our attentions on Red Scare 2.0 and all the necessary trimmings — like, the Global Engagement Center.

And no one seems to be sure, based on the purposefully vague language in the bill, exactly how the new center will operate, or how the public can hope to keep its power in check. What we do know is the center will be formed within the next 180 days, with the director appointed by the president — In other words, staffed with fascist cronies selected by Donald Trump. But I’m sure he’ll use it wisely, right? I mean — ignoring the fact that you can’t actually use a totalitarian tool of mind control and misinformation wisely — ignoring that fact, we’re gonna be ok.

And before you shrug and say, “well I don’t watch TV anyway,” the bill seems especially concerned with monitoring social media. In a recent development, foreigners entering the U.S. are now asked to “voluntarily” provide their Twitter, Facebook, Skype, and other social network accounts to border guards — just in time for this new Global Engagement Center to begin tracking their supposedly “free speech” for signs of anti-American sentiments!

From dissidents speaking their mind on Twitter to journalists that won’t mindlessly repeat the Pentagon’s pro-war message, the U.S. government is making a list and if you will, they’re checking it twice. When even respected alternative media sites like the ones we mentioned in Episode 93 are being accused — again, without any evidence — of spreading Russian propaganda; with Trump already threatening the media on a daily basis, it’s not really a surprise that the ruling elite are partying like it’s 1984.

In this more overt, fucked up, Orwellian atmosphere, it will be more important than ever to support your favorite independent, investigative journalists and alternative media outlets. We’ll all have to work together to keep a free press alive and to be smarter than the propaganda machine that would have us swallowing jingoist laden fake news, jagged lies and fucked facts galore.


Let’s Party Like it’s 1984: The Ministry of Truth in 2017 by Kit O’Connell and Eleanor Goldfield is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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