Reflecting on the Ukraine conflict, in the context of conversations with dear friends, I have been coming to understand that there is a closely-related cultural dialogue abroad about mainstream media versus independent media – a dialogue in which I notice the tendency of some people, and also some government broadcasters and commercial media channels, to make generalised condemnations of independent media on YouTube and elsewhere as providing a voice for ‘dangerous conspiracy theorists’. This is an important conversation for our times, so I wrote the short piece below, which attempts to briefly present a perspective that draws on Buddhist wisdom.
This article is one of several anti-war articles that I have felt to write in amongst my other ‘Mandala of Love’ articles, which have more often focused on Buddhist philosophical themes and on the practice of meditation. When I first learned meditation in my early twenties, I was passionately engaged by the idea of cultivating Loving Kindness (mettā / maitri). In the form of mettā practice that I learned, I was instructed to become absorbed in unconditional love, not only towards myself and the people in my personal life, but towards the whole world.
This concern for the people of the world has become habitual for me, and has increasingly found expression in a deep study of world affairs. I find myself preoccupied with the suffering that I see, and drawn into a deep investigation of its causes. This investigation has in part been an enquiry, following a Buddhist methodology, into the roots of human suffering in the cognitive-perceptual error of personalisation; and in part an enquiry into the collective expression of that personalisation in human history, and in the systemic dysfunction of the modern world.
Below the article, I have included a YouTube from The Grayzone – one of the most reliable sources of commentary and detailed analysis both on the escalating war with Russia and China, and on the lamentable state of journalism in the west.
I have also included a very interesting YouTube video on this collective state of journalism from Graham Majin, a British journalist/writer – here in conversation with wonderful Pascal Lottaz, of the Neutrality Studies channel.
I sometimes hear some of my Buddhist friends and non-Buddhist talking dismissively of sources of news and commentary outside of the mainstream government and commercial media as pedlars of ‘conspiracy theories’, or as Russian / Chinese ‘disinformation’ – often with the implication that it is unethical, undiscerning, and perhaps even a little delusional, to venture outside of the mainstream narrative. As a way into an examination of this situation, I would like to first address a larger question – a question about how we think about ethics – both as Buddhists and more generally in society. Although this seems paradoxical to me, I find that Buddhists are especially prone to thinking that ethics is just about individual choices and judgements.
I see the Buddha as a great model of the non-judgemental attitude – an individual in which the attitudes of understanding, compassion, kindness and empathy spring from a recognition of the complex web of conditioning factors at play in every life situation. It is common for those who identify as Buddhists however, to make a lot of judgements about other individual’s ethical choices as way of affirming and clarifying their own ethical position, and even perhaps, as way of signalling their own virtue. The Buddha’s approach to ethics was actually much more complex and nuanced however. He would say that the self is an illusion; that the collective processes are primary; and that the egoic perspective is always limited and dysfunctional – flawed because of its inherent cognitive-perceptual blind-spots and habitual personalisation.
The implication of this is that ethics requires a systemic perspective – a willingness to see that the good or the bad in this world, the ‘skilful’ or the ‘unskilful’ (if we translate the Buddhist idiom into English), are phenomena arising within a complex web of conditions. The Buddhist view on ethical questions, therefore, needs to start by resisting any oversimplification of what is always much more complex than we can know. We also need the humility to consider, as both the Buddha and Carl Jung urged, that the structure of the egoic mind might be such that patterns of cognitive-perceptual unconsciousness are playing out both in ourselves and in the collective. So, we need to investigate the cognitive-perceptual factors in ourselves, while also acknowledging the cultural, historical, economic, political, social, organisational, and even geopolitical factors in the collective – in other words, to be ‘systemic’ in our analysis of both self and world.
For me, this acknowledgement that decisions and judgements that have ethical implications are always happening within a complex societal context, is the only basis from which to address these questions. Aware that the notion of ‘mainstream media’ is a somewhat crude conceptual construct, I use this term, and I often express a sense of despair about the poor quality of Western journalism in my articles and Facebook posts. Essentially, I am of the opinion that the term encourages discernment – since we all need to entertain the possibility that paradoxically, our established government broadcasters and commercial media channels are subject to a range of increasingly strong systemic factors that mitigate against their presentation of the truth, and that they therefore inevitably tend to generate, at best, distorted and ‘dumbed down’ narratives in the public mind, or at worst, outright propaganda.
While a tiny minority of individuals will go to the opposite extreme, we should not be too quick to dismiss those who are distrustful of what they hear from our established government broadcasters and commercial media channels as ‘conspiracy theorists’, or ‘China apologists’, ‘Kremlin stooges’, etc. People are right to be distrustful, and the impulse to go in search of sources of commentary where dissenting views can be heard is an understandable and necessary one. As with the mainstream media channels, there is a great need for discernment, but the idea that anything outside the mainstream is likely to Russian misinformation is itself just misinformation.
I am not proposing that we simply look for an authoritative source of truth outside the mainstream. Rather we need to renounce the idea that such a thing as a consistently authoritative source exists. We need to take responsibility for the way we gather information. Rather that being passive recipients of our nightly television news, or our chosen internet news subscription, we need to recognise that it is unethical to apply a lack of discernment in the way we gather information, and to approach that activity in a whole new way. We need to begin examining each channel, each journalist or commentator, and ultimately each piece of information, on its merits. We must resist the temptation to crudely categorise – as left or right; as academic or popular; or even as reliable or non-reliable. We must refuse to allow any prejudice or preconception to cloud our judgement – and must learn to apply all our discriminative faculties to every piece of information or commentary.
For me, the Buddha’s Middle Way suggests that we must fully allow and even encourage the cultural plurality of multiple channels of news and commentary. The dialectic by which truth is arrived at, requires this acceptance and diversity – this willingness to defend the free speech of those we disagree with, and even of those we regard as crazy; and the willingness to hear the opposite position with a deep and compassionate empathy.
It is important to remember the history of the notion of ‘conspiracy theory’ in this context – that the term ‘conspiracy theorist’ was first used as a deliberate term of ridicule to dismiss evidence that was inconvenient to the narrative being presented by the powerful, and to establish a culture of self-censorship. Probably the most well-know example of the application of this term was in regard the assassination of US President John F Kennedy in suspicious circumstances in November 1963, after he had made a series of speeches and public statements that were strongly against the right-wing post-WW2 consensus within the military and intelligence establishment of the US.
After Kennedy’s assassination, we saw a tragic acceleration in the huge number of terrible US wars and regime-change operations in the developing world that characterised the Cold War period – always either cynically in support of US financial interests or US global domination. It’s now acknowledged by historians that the Warren Commission which conducted the enquiry into that assassination was a cover-up operation by Allen Dulles (who Kennedy had sacked as Director of the CIA). Its purpose was to officially establish the Lee Harvey Oswald ‘crazy lone gunman’ narrative; to identify all other explanations of the evidence as mere ‘conspiracy theory’; and to close down all further investigation. So successful was that narrative control exercise that, to this day, it not possible for historians to present the vast amount of evidence that was omitted from the Warren Commission report without attracting the derogatory label of ‘conspiracy theorist’.
The 9/11 Commission played a similar role to Warren Commission – primarily a vehicle to create an official narrative, prevent further investigation, and to condemn in advance as a conspiracy theorist, any academic historian, journalist, or citizen investigator who might wish to point to any one of the thousands of unexplained facts that that do not fit the official explanation of the events. Interestingly, the most significant push back against the 9/11 Commission Report has come from the structural engineers who design steel-frame high-rise of the type that collapsed. These are scientifically minded individuals, who take the view that the world has yet to be provided with an adequate explanation for the actual evidence.
The Buddha would tell us that everything is a mental and emotional creation of volition and narrative. In asserting that the narrative description of reality that we each create is ’empty’, part of what he was saying is that nothing is as it seems. I take the view that an awareness of the that the public narrative is constrained in various ways, is an important corollary of this Buddhist teaching on the ’emptiness’ of our mental constructions. The interests of the mainstream media outlets are such that we are being prevented from talking about particular things – the uncomfortable realities of US empire; about corporate power; about how money is created; about how it is not governments, but privately owed banks that are shaping our national economies; and about the dark history and current functioning of CIA / MI6 and the other self-serving, anti-democratic institutions of the so-called ‘national security’ apparatus. If democracy is to function, we need people who are willing to do intensive research in these areas, and we need media channels in which they can present their findings to a wide audience.
There is an important piece of consciousness raising that we need to engage in here, that is perhaps too large a subject for this article, but I still feel a need to briefly address it. To be able to provide a historical perspective on the ethical issues in the foreign policy arena we need to be aware of how utterly dysfunctional is the often presented conceptual construct of a dichotomy between ‘democracy’ and ‘authoritarianism’ in the modern world. This crude conceptual polarity is a hangover from the Cold War period and simply does not describe the actual reality of the modern world. The US is the world’s dominant capitalist economy, but more than that has become a vehicle for the international ideology of global capitalism – and has in a sense been ‘captured’ by that vast systemic phenomenon. There is a very real sense in which the US Congress does not function in the service of the US population, but rather is in the service of the US-based multinational banks and corporations that fund the election of those representatives.
So what we have in the US is a nation state, that having unquestioningly adopted the economic philosophy of extreme neoliberalism, has become so extremely weak that, while being nominally democratic, it cannot function in the interests of its population. For example, its foreign policy is controlled by its military industrial complex; the structure of its economy is controlled by its banks; its health care is controlled by its insurance industry and pharmaceutical companies; and its higher-education system is designed to maximise profits. And a very large section of its population lives in extreme poverty as a result of these profound systemic flaws in its democratic functioning.
The People’s Republic of China has approached the governance of the Chinese nation state in a completely different way. China’s historical process since the 1950s has been an experimental one – in part a reaction to the cruelty of its feudal and colonial past, and to the dysfunction that it sees in Western democracies. They have made a lot of mistakes along the way, but the Chinese Communist approach has been to try to create a ‘street-level’ democracy, while developing a state-level governance structure that protects the nation state against the influence of the banks, corporations and oligarchs. This is not a corrupt, autocratic, and elitist approach, such as the ideologues in the US would have us believe. On the contrary, we need to recognise that the path that China has chosen is in many ways more rational and socially just than is the Western approach that we are more familiar with – and that it is culturally appropriate in view of the Confucian values that have guided Chinese culture in the past. The difference in national governance structure is not so great as to be cause for a new Cold War, or a proxy-war over Taiwan – except in the delusional, belligerent view of the US neocons and those who follow their lead.
So, while the Chinese system is condemned by the West, because its success is so threatening to so many western interests, the strategy is a rational and understandable one. Indeed, it can be argued that it is the Chinese who are being pragmatic, open-minded, and focused on trade and global harmony, while the West is being ideological and closed-minded and focused on war and global domination. Chinese Communism has worked remarkably well as a governance structure for that developing nation – since it has lifted a billion people out of extreme rural poverty, within two generations. The Chinese state has used government control of banking to created a ‘mixed’ economy, and to make money available for industrial development and infrastructure development, in the much the same way that their Western counterparts did during their own industrial development. The government provision of extensive high-quality infrastructure, free education, and free healthcare, together with very modest spending on defence, has created the conditions for industrial production that is extremely competitive and has served to lift the nation out of poverty, whilst also generating wealth all around the world.
Western manufacturing industry is embedded in a private banking system, and primarily serves its shareholders’ interests. Increasingly the underlying economic model has been the philosophically flawed neoliberal one, which drives up costs within the economy while claiming to reduce costs through competition. The banking model is one of debt-farming and financialisation – a model which, at worst, facilitates short-term profit taking through asset-price inflation and the buying and selling of assets, rather than through long-investment in manufacturing and infrastructure. The private US banking industry does operate crudely in the US national interest, through its protection of the US Dollar’s world reserve currency status, and indeed the US government and military frequently acts to maintain this economic hegemony. The overall logic of the US economic system (and its satellite systems in the developed world) has however dictated that, in order to maximise profits, US manufacturing companies should export their worker’s jobs to China, where labour is cheaper. This has created enormous profits for US manufacturing companies and low-priced Chinese products for US consumers, but has not served the long-term interests of the US population.
The tragedy of the current stage in this process is that the working class in the West is now being persuaded to turn against China – the country whose global wealth-generating engine they have been benefiting from for decades. We are being told that Chinese Communism is cruel, inhumane and undemocratic, that failure go to war against China is ‘appeasement’. No systemic analysis of this impending conflict in terms of the underlying economic debate is reaching the Western public consciousness, because this economic analysis has been effectively outlawed, deemed too left-wing – or too friendly to the ‘autocratic government in Beijing’. Instead, what we see is extremely manipulative ‘China threat’ documentaries, and the steady indoctrination of Western populations by anti-China enemy-images – like those related to the un-evidenced ‘Uyghur genocide’ narrative, which can all be traced to a handful of Western anti-Communist fanatics who have no interest in truth.
In regard to Russia, allegations of ‘autocratic’ rule are even more rife, and even less grounded in reality – since Russia is a democratic country with a strong underlying tradition of communal solidarity and that goes back to the 1917 Bolshevik revolution. The current Russian economic landscape was however, in effect created by the US economic advisors brought in by Boris Yeltsin in the early 1990s. During those years almost all of the common wealth of the Russian nation state was transferred to a very small number of wealthy families who were able to access the necessary Western loans to purchase all those assets.
The West refused to support the Russian nation though that traumatic economic transition as it did with Poland and other ex-Communist states – so the Russian economy collapsed catastrophically and there were many years of extreme poverty and a markedly increased death-rate in the general population. It is because of the unusually extreme concentration of wealth in the hands of a very small number of ultra-wealthy Russian families – the Russian oligarchs – which happened at that time, that Russia has needed to evolve and maintain a very ‘strong’ democracy of a sort that we do not recognise in the west.
Strong democratic government is not necessarily a bad thing in the modern world – but it is not what Western-style capitalism prefers. Indeed, the US has fought against the development of strong democratic nation states since the end of the colonial period – since states which show too much national self-interest are resistant to the looting operations of Western global capitalism. The US says it supports democracy, but its actions show a preference for client oligarchies – dysfunctional nation states that are either monarchies; right-wing dictatorships; or weak democracies in which the private banks and corporations hold the levers of power; and for those who have surrendered their sovereignty to the US through their membership of US-led military alliances. Indeed, the US appears to prefer degenerate states where corruption is rife, and in which left-wing economic perspectives are being silenced, because this makes things much easier for US business.
Ukraine, for example, has proved to be a playground for Western capital. Not only is it deeply corrupt, but it had a traumatic history under Communist rule between the world wars – so left-leaning political analysis is easily condemned and silenced and currently all opposition parties are banned. Because of Ukraine’s history of collaboration with the Nazis in WW2, and the subsequent support of these far-right groups during the Cold War and since by US intelligence services, Ukraine also has a very established and diverse culture of neo-Nazism – one which is profoundly influential in contemporary Ukrainian society, and which played a key role in the US-facilitated coup in 2014. Compliance with US priority of weakening the Russian Federation, appears to have caused the liberal democracies of Europe to forget the horrific power that a minority right-wing movement can wield if it is ideologically committed to the use of violence and the threat of violence to achieve its aims. The US covert operators who planned and executed the 2014 coup in Kiev, were keenly aware of this fact however – and this disproportionate influence of the far-right in Ukrainian political life has continued to this day.
So, the Russian democracy is not at all the ‘autocracy’ that Western commentators imagine – in percentage terms, Vladimir Putin has always been a much more popular leader than any US president. Russia is a ‘strong’ democracy however – one that acts to protect its general population and the sovereignty of its nation state from the very real and ever-present danger of take-over or influence by its oligarchs and private corporations. This is why Russia is hated and relentlessly attacked by the US and by the forces of global capitalism – because it has a nationalist style of government, and one that is both protesting the NATO encirclement operation, and resisting the next stage of the looting operation that US corporate elite had planned for it during the Yeltsin years. The same understandable wish for nationalist government is of course abroad in the West, as witnessed in the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump. Russian national identity is however shaped by a very different and distinctive social conservatism – and by the civic values of communism, and by the traumatic national sacrifice of its struggle against Nazism in WW2.
When we examine the unwillingness to address the systemic dysfunction of the West’s democracies and economic system, it becomes clear that mainstream journalism in the West is itself a dysfunctional systemic phenomenon – one that is subject to conflicting motivations, to ideological pressures, and to subtle and not-so-subtle social psychological forces. Put crudely, we might say that mainstream journalists have mortgages to pay, editors to please, and government sources that they must court. There are subtle processes of intuition and volition taking place however. Journalists are sensing what narratives are acceptable and constraining themselves – allowing themselves to be part of the creation of the prevailing narrative. It is of the nature of the modern world that we are always caught in the middle of some form of ideological war where our hearts and minds are the subject of public relations and propaganda operations. Journalists tend to be the first casualties in that war – unless they are unusually courageous, and can insulate themselves from that influence by establishing independent sources of funding.
Democracy is not a clean fight. It’s very dirty, and inevitably very dysfunctional – because manipulation of the public mind is inherently part of the way the modern world works. There are innumerable techniques for shaping of the public world-view – all well established within the advertising and public relations industry. The fact of the matter is that there are always a vast number of very well-resourced covert operators at play – many thousands of people, in hundreds of institutions, whose job it is to shape the public narrative in countless ways. And even though it is profoundly undemocratic to do this, the foreign ministries of the democratic nations of the West, employ dozens of specialist secret public relations organisations to manipulate public opinion and justify their actions – and our elected representatives are the targets of these government-funded propaganda operations, just as much as the general population.
We all need to be aware that in key areas, like the foreign policy arena, there is, in effect, no democracy functioning at all, since this domain has been entirely subverted by hugely powerful but extremely dysfunctional international alliances like NATO and AUKUS – and by the spokespersons and narrative control operations associated with these alliances. Indeed, NATO is a classic example of an anti-democratic bureaucratic system – and it sits at the centre of vast anti-democratic military-industrial system. NATO presents itself in the carefully crafted rhetoric of ‘friendship’ and ‘security’, but in reality it is a network of unaccountable arms corporations, think tanks, and un-elected military, government, and intelligence bureaucracies. Indeed, NATO is a US-driven, ideological, military, corporate, narrative-management system, and history has shown that its supra-national and undemocratic nature leads it, seemingly inevitably, to horrifically unethical decisions and catastrophically violent outcomes.
NATO has destructiveness in its DNA, and since the fall of the Soviet Union, we might generously say, that it has only existed to address the problems that are created by its existence. Looking more closely, and especially considering the US dismissal, in December 2021, of the very reasonable Russian Federation proposal for Ukrainian neutrality and for a federal solution in Ukraine to protect the ethnic-Russian citizens of the southern and eastern part of that country from violent persecution and military attack by the Ukrainian government, we can see that NATO’s goal has always been to ‘weaken Russia’ and ultimately to break up the Russian Federation – at whatever cost to the Ukrainian people. NATO has always served as a vehicle for US geopolitical control in Europe – a mechanism by which successive European governments, having been persuaded to fear ‘Russian aggression’, and having sacrificed their sovereignty, have been profoundly manipulated. I cannot help feeling that anyone who frames NATO’s role otherwise is just not paying attention, or not studying enough history, or simply caught in the ‘groupthink’ of the pervasive US narrative.
The narrative-management operation that the European population has been subjected to in relation to the Ukraine conflict has been extremely audacious. The US, a country with a vast surplus of ‘fracked’ liquid petroleum gas that it desperately needs to sell into the world market, has even managed to convince the Europeans that their security lies in breaking off their economic partnership with Russia, from which they have been buying cheap gas for industrial processes, power generation and heating. Quite correctly guessing that European population would not allow their governments to maintain this great sacrifice just for the sake of US hegemony, a secret US military operation destroyed the Nordstream gas pipelines before they could become operational.
The planning and execution of this covert operation was described in detail by Seymour Hersch who had a source in the White House. The way this sabotage was blamed on the Russians – suggesting that they had destroyed their own pipeline – and the way this ridiculous and un-evidenced story was adopted by Western media channels, and successfully established in the public mind, was an extraordinary international deception phenomenon. Indeed, the international response was so deeply irrational that it should make the world sit up, pay attention, and regard any other statement that comes out of the US-Ukraine propaganda channels as the misinformation that it usually is. Another obvious ‘false flag’ operation was the destruction of the Kakhovka Dam on 6 June 2023. Even more sinister was the way Ukrainian ethic cleansing operations to kill ethnic-Russian Ukrainians who had appeared to collaborate with, or accept food from, Russian Federation forces, were blamed on Russian forces – when the reality of the situation was that Russian forces had no motivation to engage in such acts, and had strict orders to avoid civilian casualties even when this significantly increased the danger to themselves.
The truth of what it happening is very uncomfortable indeed – and antithetical to the illusion of civilised social democracy that we comfort ourselves with in the West. We should remember the great Hannah Arendt, who, reflecting on the horrors of the Nazi holocaust, spoke of evil as a ‘banal’ and bureaucratic phenomena – a systemic phenomenon that easily goes unnoticed if we are unwilling to see the way that all of our little ethical blindnesses conspire together. The Buddha would say that our ethical sensibility is only fully established through wisdom; that the ethical vigilance of the true individual requires a cleansing of cognition and perception, and a release of the egoic kleshas, so that we can at last see all the karmic conditions playing out – can at last see all of the various motivations, unconscious dynamics, and bogus collective narratives, that are shaping our world.
History may look back on our generation as one that profoundly failed the world. Having witnessed the outrageous cruelty of US foreign policy in the developing world during the post WW2 Cold War period (the rest of the developed world seeming to turn a blind eye – unspeakable horrors being deemed acceptable in the fight against a propaganda invention and collective projection called the ‘evil of Communism’) we have allowed the potential for peace and goodwill that followed the fall of the Soviet Union to be squandered by the fools and monsters in the halls of power in Washington.
The combination of the Cold War itself, with the irrational violence and very effective narrative manipulations of the Western military powers in regard to Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and now Ukraine during the period of US hegemony, has left us with a strangely unbalanced political narrative landscape in which the reasoned arguments of an anti-war left or a realist anti-war right are almost completely absent. The real interests of our nation states are quite simply not being served, and the wealth of the world is being syphoned off into armaments production and the vast cost of US military adventures. Nations who resist US domination, like Iraq in its decision to sell its oil in Euros rather that US Dollars, have received horrific high-tech military punishment beatings – a complete destruction of the life support and cultural infrastructure their societies – and these have been so effectively dressed up in the language of national security and bogus humanitarianism that the world has been willing to look the other way, or has shrugged its shoulders in racist disinterest.
The arena of diplomacy is one in which, the Buddha’s Middle Way has much to say – indeed the wise diplomat might recognise its principles as fundamental. Diplomacy requires the quintessential Middle Way discipline of being willing to see from both points of view, and of being willing to empathise. At a deeper level it requires the awareness that every action tends to generate an opposite reaction, and therefore can tend to create the very opposite of what was supposedly intended. This was profoundly true during the Cold War and has been even more profoundly true during the US-dominated unipolar period since the fall of the Soviet Union.
What is happening in current world crisis however has not been just a failure of diplomacy. What has happened under US hegemony has been an anti-diplomatic process – a bullying process, a drive for unipolar dominance and for the destruction of the any near-peer players on the world stage. The place that the current generation of US neocons has chosen for this cataclysmic showdown is Ukraine – although there may be an even greater nightmare being prepared us in Taiwan.
A foundational principle of diplomacy – that the real security of one nation, can never be achieved at the expense of the security of another – was abandoned by the US in the relentlessly provocative process of NATO expansion. The US-facilitated coup in Kiev in 2014; the support of Russia-hating Ukrainian neo-Nazis; the assembly of a massive, 400,000 strong, NATO-trained army in eastern Ukraine; the disdainful undermining of the Minsk Accords by the US; and the sneering dismissal of the Russian Federation’s peace proposal at the end of 2021 – these were acts of war. In refusing to see ‘conspiracy’, we fail to see the great power of the confluence of US military intelligence and business interests that came together in Ukraine – the long-term neocon agenda of breaking up the Russian Federation and looting its resources; the military objective built into NATO war machine; the opportunism and neoliberal agenda of US banking and business interests; and an old anti-Russian hated lovingly nurtured by US intelligence operatives in Ukraine since the end of WW2.
Following the incredible Democrat neocon success of the completely secret Afghan proxy-war in the 1980s, which broke the Soviet Union – a war that is celebrated, rather horribly, but not entirely inaccurately, by Hollywood, in the film Charlie Wilson’s War – we are seeing the same barbaric “let’s you and him fight” strategy playing out. Within the awful logic of the neocon mind, the civil war that they created in Ukraine was a situation in which the US could not lose. Eighteen months into the conflict, there are still no US servicemen getting killed, but the US arms industry is booming and Russia is being weakened. The Biden administration does not care that Ukrainians are being killed and maimed in their hundreds of thousands and that the nation of Ukraine is being destroyed, because Russia is being weakened and isolated from its neighbours in Europe – the main objective is being achieved.
The conversation about the profound dysfunction of both journalism and the academic world in regard to this process is profoundly important. The establishment of a pervasive fear of the social stigma of being associated with ‘conspiracy theories’ is part of a deliberate propaganda operation to establish a broad culture of self-censorship across the Western world. There is an extraordinary creeping ignorance abroad – a sort of inverted totalitarianism. All the features of a culture of historical revisionism and narrative control in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four vision of a totalitarian future are playing out, not in a dreary communist dictatorship, but in the glossy high-tech consumer society of the West, where the censorship, lies and manipulations are much easily hidden – and mostly embraced voluntarily. The superficial freedoms of our society have lulled us into a false sense of security – a sort of cultural passivity and a lack of critical, historically-informed thinking. We have fallen into the delusion that our culture is informed by reason, truth, and democracy, when in reality something very different and very dark is playing out.
This darkness is not new. This is not something unprecedented – not something that we could not possibly have anticipated. Anyone who has made even a fairly superficial study of the very long series US covert operations in the developing world from WW2 onwards – the dozens of coups to overthrow democratic governments and install US-friendly right-wing regimes – should be alert by now to how the world really works. It is important for us to understand that the US activities to achieve world dominance have been worse since the Berlin Wall came down – not better. US ideological and covert warfare has accelerated and become even more audacious and irrational – a continuation of the Cold War agendas, cynically taking advantage of the apparent lack of a peer adversary, and desperately trying to ensure that no peer adversary shall ever arise in future.
In my view the generalised condemnation of ‘conspiracy theories’ is part of the anti-historical dumbing down process that is endangering our world. It is a promotion of ignorance and naivety and it creates both a climate of ignorant jingoism, and conditions in which our elected representatives cannot perceive what is true, let alone act in our best interests. How absurd to ignore the fact that history has always involved covert activity to manipulate events, and to manipulate the public narrative, and to manipulate the writing and teaching of history. Everything significant that ever happened is a collaboration, and much of that collaboration is deliberately obscured from public view – in a word, a conspiracy.
Are we to imagine that the vast US intelligence apparatus that exists precisely in order to exert a covert influence across the globe in support of US interests, actually has no effect on Western culture; no affect on our world view; no effect on journalism; no effect on academia; and no effect on domestic politics and foreign policy both inside and outside the US? How absurd. What a naïve and dangerous idea. The brutal horror that is the Ukraine conflict is the end result of decades of conspiracy by generations of US operatives who have, in effect, been unconstrained by public scrutiny, or by democracy, because any possibility of an effective critique in the mainstream media has been crushed by threats that such a counter-narrative will be ridiculed as mere ‘conspiracy theory’.
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