Late on the evening of December 23, when the attention of the public was fixed on the consumerist excesses of the holiday season, President Obama signed into law the Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Like the other NDAAs that President Obama signed into law during his administration, this one further strengthened the repressive capacities of the state.
Buried deep in the provisions of the NDAA was language from a bill introduced by Sen. Rob Portman ostensibly to protect the public from the effects of “foreign propaganda.” As previously reported by Black Agenda Report, the bill, originally introduced last March, was passed by the Senate on December 8 as the “Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act”and then inserted into the NDAA.
According to Senator Portman, the intent of the law is to “…improve the ability of the United States to counter foreign propaganda and disinformation from our enemies by establishing an interagency center housed at the State Department to coordinate and synchronize counter-propaganda efforts throughout the U.S. government. To support these efforts, the bill also creates a grant program for NGOs, think tanks, civil society and other experts outside government.”
For Senator Portman, the U.S. is the innocent victim of ruthless propaganda efforts on the part of foreign governments to slander and discredit the altruistic objectives of U.S. global activities.
In the face of the Neo-McCarthyism represented by this legislation and the many other repressive moves of the Obama administration to curtail speech and control information — from the increased surveillance of the public to the use of the espionage act to prosecute journalists and whistleblowers — one would reasonably assume that forces on the left would vigorously oppose the normalization of authoritarianism, especially in this period of heightened concerns about neo-fascism.
Unfortunately, the petit-bourgeois “latte left” along with their liberal allies have been in full collaboration with the state for the past eight years, with the predictable result that no such alarm was issued, nor has any critique or even debate been forthcoming.
So there has been very little “mainstream” liberal/left discussion around the fact that, as the political blog Zero Hedge noted, “long before ‘fake news’ became a major media topic, the US government was already planning its legally-backed crackdown on anything it would eventually label ‘fake news.’ ”
As Black Agenda Report publisher Glen Ford framed it, “When the narrative at the heart of a system of rule falls apart, when the flow of history runs counter to the story told by those in power, then we know the entire edifice is crumbling under the weight of its own contradictions. The political crisis arrives when the people sense that the prevailing order is built on a foundation of oppressions and lies. The rulers panic, scrambling to reweave the matrix of fables and myths that justify their waning supremacy. At such points in history, the truth is up for grabs – and a change of regime is in the offing.”
The dangerous and cynical moves by the Clinton campaign during the presidential campaign to paint Trump as an agent of a foreign government in order to project Hillary as the real, tough alternative, has morphed into a commonsense narrative that has a dual purpose.
First, it is meant to weaken the incoming administration by attempting to split it from its Republican legislative arm. The liberal, transnational financial and corporate rulers are especially concerned by Trump’s economic and social base that is demanding an alteration of the neoliberal order in favor of small, mid-size and large business interests still dependent on the U.S. domestic market. They see this demand as a threat to the neoliberal logic that has been largely unquestioned in the West over the last three decades.
Secondly, by narrowing the scope of acceptable political discourse in relation to U.S. global strategies that are heavily dependent on militarism and the strategic commitment to suppress regional capitalist rivals, the neocons and liberal interventionists can expect to avoid mass opposition to continued imperialist adventures. Similar to the McCarthyite period when the ideological commitment to containment abroad required the destruction of any domestic opposition, the neo-McCarthyism of today is geared toward ideological conformity. In this sense, Trumpism is becoming a useful tool for enforcing neoliberal ideological consensus.
The potential danger of the unfolding order is not lost on those of us who take a consistent oppositional stance to the bi-partisan games being played on the people. The set-up piece that ran in the Washington Post that supposedly identified news outlets that were supposed to be involved in questionable or outright “fake news” included a number of outlets to which I contribute, including Counterpunch and the only all-black outlet on the list, Black Agenda Report.
When you have supposedly respectable liberal outlets pushing this kind of madness, we are not expecting much support from liberals or even left forces when the repressive knives are sharpened.
The American Prospect’s Robert Kuttner has even suggested that Trump is guilty of treasonbecause of what he calls the President-elect’s “dalliance” with Vladimir Putin.
With the left’s attention fixed on Trump and its fear of the “new” authoritarianism that he is supposed to introduce, it has failed to confront or even be aware of the fact that the foundation for any kind of “neo-fascism” that might emerge in the U.S. was constructed over the last 15 years of the combined Bush and Obama administrations.
But even more dangerous for authentic oppositional forces in the U.S., collaboration from the left with the new McCarthyism is providing an opening for the isolation and repression of those of us who represent and are part of oppressed communities/peoples who were going to have to fight no matter who would have been elected.
This is not a new situation for us. When the repressive apparatus of the state focused on radical black organizations like the National Negro Congress and Civil Rights Congress, and on such individuals as Paul Robeson, W.E. B. Dubois, William Patterson and Claudia Jones, to the systematic assault on the radical Black Liberation Movement in the 1960s and ‘70s, we were largely required to fend for ourselves against the state after being abandoned by white liberals and significant numbers of white leftists. I fully expect that to happen again.
Neo-fascism is not a new existential phenomenon for us or for people around the world who have suffered from the racist, arrogant assaults of this criminal state to maintain the Pan-European colonial/capitalist project. So save your hysterical concerns about Trump for others and either commit yourself to building a revolutionary movement or get out of the way.
Ajamu Baraka was the 2016 candidate for vice president on the Green Party ticket. He is an editor and contributing columnist for the Black Agenda Report. His latest publications include contributions to Killing Trayvons: An Anthology of American Violence (Counterpunch Books, 2014), Imagine: Living in a Socialist USA (HarperCollins, 2014) and Claim No Easy Victories: The Legacy of Amilcar Cabral ( CODESRIA, 2013). He can be reached at www.AjamuBaraka.com