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June 21, 2013
Understanding the latest leaks is understanding the rise of a new fascism
By John Pilger
In his book, 'Propaganda', published in 1928, Edward Bernays wrote: "The conscious
and intelligent manipulation of the organised habits and opinions of the masses is an
important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen
mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power
of our country."
The American nephew of Sigmund Freud, Bernays invented the term "public relations"
as a euphemism for state propaganda. He warned that an enduring threat to the
invisible government was the truth-teller and an enlightened public.
In 1971, whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg leaked US government files known as The
Pentagon Papers, revealing that the invasion of Vietnam was based on systematic
lying. Four years later, Frank Church conducted sensational hearings in the US
Senate: one of the last flickers of American democracy. These laid bare the full extent
of the invisible government: the domestic spying and subversion and warmongering
by intelligence and "security" agencies and the backing they received from big
business and the media, both conservative and liberal.
Speaking about the National Security Agency (NSA), Senator Church said: "I know
that the capacity that there is to make tyranny in America, and we must see to it that
this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law... so
that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return."
On 11 June 2013, following the revelations in the Guardian by NSA contractor Edward
Snowden, Daniel Ellsberg wrote that the US had now fallen into "that abyss".
Snowden's revelation that Washington has used Google, Facebook, Apple and other
giants of consumer technology to spy on almost everyone, is further evidence of
modern form of fascism - that is the "abyss". Having nurtured old-fashioned fascists
around the world - from Latin America to Africa and Indonesia - the genie has risen at
home. Understanding this is as important as understanding the criminal abuse of
Fred Branfman, who exposed the "secret" destruction of tiny Laos by the US Air Force
in the 1960s and 70s, provides an answer to those who still wonder how a liberal
African-American president, a professor of constitutional law, can command such
lawlessness. "Under Mr. Obama," he wrote, "no president has done more to create
the infrastructure for a possible future police state." Why? Because Obama, like
George W Bush, understands that his role is not to indulge those who voted for him
but to expand "the most powerful institution in the history of the world, one that has
killed, wounded or made homeless well over 20 million human beings, mostly civilians,
In the new American cyber-power, only the revolving doors have changed. The
director of Google Ideas, Jared Cohen, was adviser to Condaleeza Rice, the former
secretary of state in the Bush administration who lied that Saddam Hussein could
attack the US with nuclear weapons. Cohen and Google's executive chairman, Eric
Schmidt - they met in the ruins of Iraq - have co-authored a book, The New Digital
Age, endorsed as visionary by the former CIA director Michael Hayden and the war
criminals Henry Kissinger and Tony Blair. The authors make no mention of the Prism
spying programme, revealed by Edward Snowden, that provides the NSA access to all
of us who use Google.
Control and dominance are the two words that make sense of this. These are
exercised by political, economic and military designs, of which mass surveillance is an
essential part, but also by insinuating propaganda in the public consciousness. This
was Edward Bernays's point. His two most successful PR campaigns were convincing
Americans they should go to war in 1917 and persuading women to smoke in public;
cigarettes were "torches of freedom" that would hasten women's liberation.
It is in popular culture that the fraudulent "ideal" of America as morally superior, a
"leader of the free world", has been most effective. Yet, even during Hollywood's most
jingoistic periods there were exceptional films, like those of the exile Stanley Kubrick,
and adventurous European films would have US distributors. These days, there is no
Kubrick, no Strangelove, and the US market is almost closed to foreign films.
When I showed my own film, 'The War on Democracy', to a major, liberally-minded US
distributor, I was handed a laundry list of changes required, to "ensure the movie is
acceptable". His memorable sop to me was: "OK, maybe we could drop in Sean Penn
as narrator. Would that satisfy you?" Lately, Katherine Bigelow's torture-apologising
'Zero Dark Thirty' and Alex Gibney's 'We Steal Secrets', a cinematic hatchet job on
Julian Assange, were made with generous backing by Universal Studios, whose
parent company until recently was General Electric. GE manufactures weapons,
components for fighter aircraft and advance surveillance technology. The company
also has lucrative interests in "liberated" Iraq.
The power of truth-tellers like Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, and Edward
Snowden is that they dispel a whole mythology carefully constructed by the corporate
cinema, the corporate academy and the corporate media. WikiLeaks is especially
dangerous because it provides truth-tellers with a means to get the truth out. This was
achieved by 'Collatoral Murder', the cockpit video of an US Apache helicopter
allegedly leaked by Bradley Manning. The impact of this one video marked Manning
and Assange for state vengeance. Here were US airmen murdering journalists and
maiming children in a Baghdad street, clearly enjoying it, and describing their atrocity
as "nice". Yet, in one vital sense, they did not get away with it; we are witnesses now,
and the rest is up to us.