The highly unsettling hearings of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees this week featuring representatives of major U.S. Internet social media platforms are demonstrating something of the extent of Russian penetration into the U.S. political process both in last year’s presidential election and since, up to right now.
Among the more shocking revelations are those indicating that a single Russian operation creating fake accounts generated political ads that were seen by over 123 million Americans, with overall numbers swelling to over 150 million in testimony given yesterday. The sheer size of the swarm of fake and malicious accounts traced back to Russia is simply mind boggling.
Sen. Mark Warner, vice chair of the Senate committee, showed an example of a seemingly innocuous Facebook ad luring viewers to access some simple Bible passages and subsequently over time asking the follower to choose between Jesus and the devil, with the devil being a depiction of Hillary Clinton with horns.
There is no question that these operations are highly sophisticated, not only from technical aspects of being so effective faking all these accounts and operations, but from the psychological aspect, in terms of manipulating unsuspecting people into following down the path that the Russians want to take them. In the past, these operations were called “enemy propaganda” and very aggressive efforts were taken by the U.S. counterintelligence operations to counter them.
But in recent decades there has been a marked decline in the ability of democratic governments to identify and caution the public about disinformation from their enemies. No seems to be listening any more to the likes of linguist-philosopher Noam Chomsky, the U.C. Berkeley’s George Lakoff or others who’ve been, among other things, lonely watchdogs cautioning against the thought and language patterns that can be developed for purposes of the deception the unsuspecting.
The intellectual ineptitude of the leadership of the U.S.’s intelligence world, beginning with the likes of the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover, is a source of this, manipulated by far wiser and sinister minds to adopt one-dimensional visions of freedom versus tyranny, for example. This and related flawed epistemologies have been played forward to inform, in one case, the sadly deficient thinking behind the White House chief of staff Gen. John Kelly’s views of American history, including the Civil War, demonstrated this week, not to mention the thoroughly-dumbed down mental process informing our current president.
The wiser among the global elites who are engaged in games of manipulation and control of mass populations have always known since the rise of capitalism and the modern nation state that their most important work is in the domain of language and other forms of thought control; political propaganda primarily, but spilling over into innocuous but no less serious forms of cultural and material product suasion.
The introduction of the philosophy of so-called “postmodernism” in the post-World War II and Cold War era launched a major full-court press aimed at undercutting the anti-elitist and universalist values introduced in the U.S. general population during the FDR era. It was funneled into the popular culture mixed in with a strong dose of intimidation and fear of the McCarthy witchhunt period after the war, It insinuated its way into the language forms and thoughts of the public to counter the legacy of the FDR “New Dealers” in the civil rights, antiwar and feminist/gay rights currents that peaked in the late 1960s.
Stripped of its distractions, the essence of “postmodernism” is a rejection of the empathetic and human-centered connectedness of culture in favor of the notion that “love” is a hoax and only the dynamics of anger-driven power and pleasure account for real things. It is an institutionalized cynicism that debases the role of human interactions and, among other things, led to the elevation of sex for its own sake (as in pornography) over love and compassion in the early 1970s. That was unleashed as a major cultural offensive against feminism in those days by way of the cruel objectification of women and children that led to an epidemic of the kind of abuse that women are now starting to call out and resist.
(To be continued).
Nicholas Benton may be emailed at [email protected].