Democracy 2.0 is having its own modern-day McCarthy moment: Millionaire George Soros has published a blacklist of thousands of politicians, journalists, academics and celebrities ever to appear on Russian state broadcaster, RT, designed to intimidate anyone from ever appearing on the network which has already been defunded by NatWest, demonetised by social media giants Google, Facebook and Twitter which have rapidly become privately outsourced state regulators. This campaign of censorship and content control is further proof of an establishment fast losing control of the narrative.
There’s a scene in Aaron Sorkin’s critically acclaimed political drama, The West Wing, where President Bartlet, (played by Martin Sheen) is in an argument with his communications director, Toby Ziegler, (played by Richard Schiff) over a speech he has to write condemning Hollywood for its gratuitous use of sex and violence in entertainment:
“…If I were an actor or a writer or uh, uh, uh, a producer in Hollywood and someone were to start coming at me with lists of things that were American and un-American I’d start to think that this was sounding eerily familiar.”
Bartlett replies: “Do I look like Joe McCarthy to you?”, to which Ziegler responds: “Nobody ever looks like Joe McCarthy, Mr President. How do you think they get in the door in the first place?”
Well, I’m afraid to say, Democracy 2.0 (otherwise known as late-stage capitalism, or neoliberalism) is having its own, new, modern-day McCarthy moment. Democracy is being co-opted because of rank economics.
Some very disturbing things happened this week which I have been trying to high-road by ignoring and getting on with the job, but the coordinated attempt to completely silence publications critical of the US government has really stuck in my craw.
About a week ago, gazillionaire George Soros became a modern-day McCarthyist by publishing a report and accompanying Excel document via European think tank “European Values” (which he funds, incidentally), listing hundreds of writers, journalists, celebrities, authors, academics, experts and ‘miscellaneous persons’ that have ever appeared on Russia’s public broadcaster, Russia Today, tarring them as ‘useful idiots undermining Western democracy’. RT is often accused of acting as a propaganda mouthpiece for Putin and his ‘lackeys’. More on this shortly.
The report lists 2327 US and UK politicians, political figures, diplomats and military leaders that have appeared on the the channel including Ron Paul, Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein, Ralph Nader, former Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, Lawrence Wilkinson, US Representative and Deputy Chair of the DNC, Keith Ellison and US National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn.
British figures named include former Mayor of London, Ken Livingston, British MP, Vince Cable, former Deputy Labour Prime Minister John Prescott, former UKIP leader, Nigel Farage and Leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn.
The names ‘gracing’ Soros’ blacklist are many and varied, and include my colleague, mentor and friend of the show, economist Professor Steven Keen, Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, economist Michael Hudson, feminist author and intellectual, Germaine Greer. Celebrities on the blacklist include Fred Armison, Bill Hader, Jason Alexander, Alec Baldwin, Patricia Arquette and Christina Ricci. Fox News host Ann Coulter, journalist Seymour Hersh and MIT linguist Professor Noam Chomsky are all also named. It even lists CEOs such as Richard Branson and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and tv show host, Piers Morgan. Even the Dalai Lama and Deepak Chopra rate a mention. Download the full list for yourself here.
The blacklist is designed to discourage advertisers from doing business with RT, discourage broadcasters from hiring anyone that has ever appeared on the channel, and create an environment that discourages anyone and everyone from putting their careers at risk by associating themselves with the network.
This is textbook McCarthyism. That this list even exists, and that it has barely rated a mention among the mainstream press should scare the living daylights out of us.
Their silence speaks volumes about the state of our free press.
Historically, listing people as threats to the state has not ended well, and we certainly shouldn’t be encouraging it now. This leads nowhere good, fast..
You’d like to think that these public figures would stand up and say they won’t be quite so publicly blackmailed, but I’ve yet to read a single response from any of those gracing Soros’ spreadsheet.
At the same time, there is something deeply pathetic about a rich hedge fund guy probably paying a bunch of interns and assistants to troll the RT website and social channels, compiling lists of names of perceived media enemies. It signifies the beginning of the end of the neo-liberal order. It seems those who support it have no choice but to censor those whose ideas pose an existential threat to the status-quo.
Yesterday, Twitter announced it would be banning RT and Sputnik from advertising on Twitter on the baseless grounds it was involved with disrupting the 2016 Presidential election. The decision to censor RT from its network follows in the wake of a 2016 Department of National Intelligence report that named RT and Sputnik as “implementing state-sponsored Russian efforts to interfere with and disrupt the 2016 Presidential election.”
Among its many accusations, the report said RT was guilty of airing two news shows critical of the US government, publishing reports on the vulnerabilities of US election machines, broadcasting, hosting and advertising debates between third party candidates, covering Occupy Wall Street, criticising the US surveillance state, economic system, Wall Street greed, currency policy and environmental degradation. It also claimed RT alleged widespread US infringements of civil liberties, police brutality and drone use. The nerve.
About a month ago, YouTube demonetised RT, despite the fact that the channel reaches more viewers than any other on its platform.
Oh, and last year, NatWest closed all of RT’s bank accounts without explanation beyond that it would “no longer provide these facilities”. Nat West is owned by RBS – which is part owned by the British taxpayer. The same British taxpayer who is legally obliged to pay for the BBC or face big fines and possibly prison if those fines are not paid.
Now, I have a couple of points to make on RT:
Is it a state-sponsored news channel? Yes. So is PBS. And ABC. And the BBC. And Al Jazeera (which, incidentally, is funded by the Muslim Brotherhood, but for some reason no social media organisation seems to have any issue with it continuing to broadcast and advertise on its platforms. Could it be that it is supported by a government which advocates free-trade neoliberalism?)
Does the Russian government have issues of corruption? Yes. So does The White House, (Campaign funding anyone? Google alone spent $6 million dollars in three months lobbying Washington earlier this year).
Does Russia have issues of ‘democracy’? Yes. So does America.
Does Russia have issues of freedom of the press, arguably. So does America. And the UK, and Australia and most so-called ‘democratic’ governments around the world.
Has America rigged and ‘interfered’ with elections around the world since time immemorial? Yes. So has Britain. So has Australia.
What is it about alleged Russian interference – though there has yet to be a single shred of any evidence – that makes it so unique? Answer: nothing. And if there is evidence – publish it.
Every country has a right to a public broadcaster. Arguably, RT gives airtime to ideas, stories, experts and voices that are largely ignored and maligned by their other media competitors, Renegade Inc is among them. For clarity, RT licenses Renegade Inc’s video content, though it is produced entirely independently.
Renegade Inc, incidentally, is censored and shadow-blocked on every one of the social media channels. Your geography will largely determine what can be viewed on YouTube.
What does it say about the strength of the ideas we broadcast and write about, that the only refuge of the mainstream media and the corporate conglomerates that control their existence is to censor us? Is this capitalism thing looking a bit wobbly? Or is the whole corporate welfarism thing beginning to show a little too obviously?
It is rapidly becoming clear that the old adage: ‘if you’re not paying for it, you’re the product’ has come home to roost.
As rogue journalist, Caitlin Johnstone rightly points out: “Your true rulers do not oppose RT and Sputnik because they want to protect you from propaganda and psy-ops, they oppose RT and Sputnik because they gum up the gears of the propaganda and psy-ops you’re meant to be consuming and believing. Twitter’s 2017 DNI report essentially admits this.”
The world’s social media giants – Google, Facebook and Twitter – have become privately outsourced state regulators and better yet, the state has somehow got our corporate media giants to pay them to do it.
There is a reason that most of the news we have access to is free. And it’s not just because of broken business models.
Never has there been a more important time for subscription journalism.
The unfortunate byproduct of Media 3.0 is that the truth of how the world really works will only be accessible to those who can afford to pay for it.
It is not as though Soros is alone in these kind of anti-democratic activities. The corporate media has almost always been united in their efforts to omit key information from their reports and shame anyone who dare defy the dominant narrative.
Remember the pages of ink and column inches devoted to convincing the world of the existence of weapons of mass destruction? The op-eds from even the most liberal publications calling out anyone against the Iraq war as traitors? Or more recently, the continuous coverage of alleged Russian election hacking, despite the complete lack of evidence supporting claims of interference, and the fact that several intelligence veterans have meticulously and publicly debunked the claims, revealing that data was not hacked — but leaked — by a person with physical access to DNC computers and then doctored to incriminate Russia.
Luke Rudkowski, a journalist tarred with the ‘alt-news’ brush for simply reporting on the status-quo had hundreds of his videos censored and demonetised by YouTube with no explanation or warning. He is not the first and he will not be the last.
The Australian, beloved newspaper of a one Rupert Murdoch, ran a headline last week that New Zealand had ‘elected a commie’, referring to the swearing in of new Labor Prime Minister, Jacinda Arden, who ran on a platform of government that — radically — supports the financial and economic needs of the people who elected it. But don’t go getting any ideas, unless you want to be tarred with the Commie brush.
In Britain, journalists can go to jail for seven years for receiving documents from whistleblowers. Australians can go to prison for 10 years for reporting on issues of national security. And while Americans have whistleblower protection laws, they have been circumvented so many times that the three key whistleblowers of the past decade: Edward Snowden and Julian Assange have had to flee their countries to avoid lengthy jail terms, and in the case of Chelsea Manning she spent seven years in the slammer for having the audacity to reveal just how brazen her government is in violating international law, rigging elections, and assassinating civilians in the Middle East.
Can you see the strategy yet?
And as an aside – in the UK – the former chairman of the BBC Trust, a woman called Rona Fairhead, has just been given a ministerial post. You might recall that in March 2015, Ms Fairhead appeared before the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons. She was as a non-executive director of the Swiss subsidiary of HSBC. The Chair of the committee, Margaret Hodge MP, pointed out that in the light of her performance as an HSBC director, she was no longer fit to continue in her role heading the BBC Trust. Margaret Hodge was accused of making a “bullying” attack. But I digress.
Between locking up journalists for reporting on matters of state pertaining to the public interest, social-media and internet that is heavily censored while amplifying sympathetic publications and voices that convey a narrative that most conveniently suits the needs of the ruling class and publicly shaming and or defunding those who haven’t already been silenced, corporate liberalism has the game all locked up. If censorship by algorithm wasn’t bad enough, PayPal and commercial banks have the power to pull merchant and banking facilities at any time, demonstrating the collusion of government, the private sector and technology. The US and UK governments, with the support of their private sector allies, have way too much power to control which media publications succeed and which ones fail.
The game has been rigged from the start, and what’s worse: too few seem to notice, or even care. Far too many people believe the system has always worked this way, all evidence to the contrary.
The betrayal of democratic liberalism
It is a disturbing new trend in democratic liberalism that once fought against segregation, censorship and civil-rights violations but now embraces as weapons the very same evils it once opposed, in order to preserve its grip on power.
And while there has been some outcry against the disturbing attempts by both financial institutions and social platforms to shut down access to networks airing content critical of the US government narrative, this disturbing turn of events has not been given the attention or significance it deserves.
This is the digital equivalent of burning books.
That censorship is their only refuge should demonstrate to the public just how broken the system is: It proves their arguments do not pass muster, confident there are no words that could justify the virtues of the global economy, it has no choice but to stifle those who present alternatives.
With no credible defence against those who oppose late-stage capitalism, it has no choice but to censor those whose ideas pose an existential threat to the status-quo.
America censors foreign public broadcaster
The First Amendment of the US Constitution guarantees that: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
But conveniently, the Constitution does not apply in Russia and America apparently has no problem dictating what should and should not air on the public broadcaster of a foreign nation.
It’s worth adding, that if the situation happened in reverse and YouTube, PayPal, Twitter and Facebook were Russian companies conspiring with the Kremlin to decide what could and could-not be broadcast on American television networks, the government would lose its damned mind. The US has no right to decide what ought to be broadcast on foreign news channels. (But it’ll try its darnedest anyhow).
The Corporate news media is so desperate for survival they have allied themselves with the very powers they’re meant to be objectively reporting on.
The Fourth Estate has largely become a mouthpiece for state media and corporate welfare.
And anyone who dares disagree with the mainstream is branded as some kind of enemy of the state.
Well I’m here to tell you: We are not the enemies of democracy but of late-stage capitalism.
Soros and his liberal allies ought to be afraid. The jig is up.
Besides, it is not democracy Soros and his ilk are fighting for – it’s capitalism – but most of us cannot afford the system Soros and Co claim to be fighting for: a world of more debt and more lies, more deregulation and disinformation, of private media controlled by the state, of wealth that trickles only upwards, and blacklists of those of us who try to point this out.
This is not the social contract we signed up for
Liberalism has completely given up on social justice, and the social contract implicit in all democratic societies.
Corporate media cannot save us. And its campaign of censorship and content control is only further proof of an establishment fast losing control of the narrative.
At Renegade Inc, we plan to be a remedy to the propaganda exercises playing out across social media and the mainstream press. But we need your help. Your subscriptions not only keeps the lights on, it pays for our lawyers.
There has never been a more important time to be an informed citizen. And the only way to do that, increasingly, will be to subscribe.
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Specialising in economics, technology and policy, Connelly is working on her first book due out in 2018.
With more than a decade of experience under her belt, Claire has written for leading publications including The Australian Financial Review, The Saturday Paper, ABC, SBS, Crikey, New Matilda, VICE & others. She is the co-host of The Week In Start-Ups Australia, and features regularly as a commentator on TV and radio shows including Radio National's Download This Show, ABC's The Drum, Ten's The Project, and more.