21st Century Wire
December 14, 2010
“We’ll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the public believes is false”.
- William Casey, Director of CIA in his first address to his staff in 1981.
Whether the Wikileak media phenomenon has been actually engineered from a cluster of office cubicles in Langley, Virginia or has been corrupted with made-to-order disinformation is still anyone’s guess. One thing that we can say for certain, however, is that the Icelandic “watchdog” digital dumping site is being now used in a cynical ploy by the Establishment. If the only tangible result of the recent Wikileaks hype is that the State will be curtailing internet freedoms and blocking selected websites, then it only validates William Casey’s haunting statement back in 1981.
Case in point, the FOX News recent piece feature entitled, Al Qaeda Looks to Make New ‘Friends’ — on Facebook is the latest example in a cumulative campaign designed to advance the ruling Establishment’s key talking point for coming year in 2011- that the internet is a potential threat to national security, “the troops”, public safety and the general welfare of the nation.
This of course, follows the massive Wikileaksdocument dump two weeks ago. Upon releasing the 250,000 ‘secret cables’, the Mainstream Media (aka ‘MSM’) has engaged in a fortnight-long feeding frenzy, chewing mostly on light-to-middleweight intelligence leaks and US Embassy gossip, followed by a serialized sex scandal drama centered around the website’s illusive point-man Julian Assange. The US State Department, along with regular Neoconservative mouthpieces like Ann Coulter, have joined in with a host of similar predictable reactionary voices, who are all together, advancing identical talking points about how dangerous Wikileaks(aka the free internet) is for America. The essence of this campaign which we will continue to see throughout the coming year can be summed up in this list of maxims:
1) The World Web Wide is putting National Security at risk
2) The Web is being used by terrorists to share intel and plan attacks
3) We must sacrifice our freedom of speech online in order to make us safer at home
America invented, pioneered and revolutionized the web, so it is only fitting that America will be the first Western state to regulate free speech on the internet using a Chinese-style grid containing a long list of websites and key words banned by the new Thought Police.
Naturally, web giants like Google and Facebook will not in themselves be affected, or lose advertising revenue from a State clampdown on free internet and expression, although millions of their users could be at risk of falling afoul with the Thought Police.
There is a genuine conflict of interest here with regards to Google who itself has received some of its seed capital money from the CIA and has retained strong links with the agency as well as the NSA. Without a doubt, members of its board and operations managers are members of the intelligence club, and recipients of a nice double paycheck. But the primary targets of a concerted State and corporate campaign against internet free speech will surely be independent news sites, blog sites, peer-to-peer and torrent sites.
Mainstream Media losing its audience
Since 2000, the inertia created from the Dot.com boom has propelled the Web way past the traditional monolithic MSM in terms of numbers. The MSM still maintains the prestige associated with big brands, big budget productions and celebrity, but in terms of bottom line profits, its hay days are long gone. Where a relatively small number of corporate conglomerates once had a monopoly stronghold over audiences, viewer numbers for terrestrial and cable TV have plummeted during the ascent of the internet. Websites, forums, chat rooms, blogs, alternative news sites and social networks have more or less obliterated TV Neilson Rating numbers and print newspaper sales, which means that the big advertizing money has also dried up considerably since 2000. Large sections of advertising budgets that were once reserved for expensive commercials and reserving block bookings for highly rated TV ad space have already migrated over to the internet with no sign of returning. That money is now being collected by thousands of New Media agencies and in the form of advertising revenue for the likes of Google, Facebook and Yahoo and E-Bay whose finances have gone orbital in comparison to the MSM stalwarts- making these web-based corporations the new heavyweights on the Fortune 500.
Earlier efforts to monetize user-generated content sites like YouTube saw Google’s acquisition of the social networking video giant in late 2006, which was followed soon after by a revamp away from user-generated and rated content on its main page, to its new front page being reserved exclusively for paid-for network TV trailers, Hollywood Studio promos and music industry videos. This was in effect a sort of corporate bottom-line-driven form of censorship.
Audiences have switched off their TV’s, dropped their newspapers and flocked to the web because of its interactivity and because it offers an online community experience not available in the traditional MSM. The result of this trend has meant that TV networks and news wire agencies like Reuters and AP have had to rely on paid-for news inserts(masquerading as news) to make up the short fall on their balance sheets, by promoting R&D technology, pharmaceuticals, retail products and hyping investment stocks. A major source of TV and news revenue between 2003 and 2005 was in the form of an estimated $1.6 Billion spend by the US government in paid-for government news. It seems State propaganda can indeed be a lucrative business after all.
The National Association of Broadcasters
When it comes to running an orchestrated campaign to demonize the Web, who better to lead the charge than the old guard cartel, who has lost the most- and stands the most to gain by restricting parts of the Web. The National Association of Broadcasters is one of the largest lobbies in Washington and whose members read like a who’s who list of major networks and media conglomerates. Collectively it contributes hundreds of millions of dollars to the campaign coffers and works to influence legislation by applying pressure on elected representatives and committees to pen legislation in their favor.
- A d v e r t i s e m e n t
In their minds, if the internet had never come along late last century, they would be completely content with the status quo and an iron grip over audiences and influence. Those days are long gone of course, but still today, traditional monolithic media outlets are still the ideal bedfellow for the ruling Establishment’s own State-run propaganda machine. The major networks like FOX, CBS, MSNBC and ABC have all been enthusiastic and compliant partners with the State whenever it needed to prime the public for an impending illegal war (see Afghanistan, Iraq), or when it requires a distraction away from a questionable election (see 2000). In contrast, independent websites like Infowars, Drudge Report, CLG News, We R Change and Zero Hedge- along with thousands of other sites and newsgroups, are rather difficult to manage in terms of synchronizing official talking points released through the type of strictly controlled press briefings we get coming out of Washington. Collectively, these relatively small web sites break more real news, release gov’t leaks and shatter more disinformation campaigns than Wikileaks or any other MSM outlet combined. They currently amount to a rather large thorn in the side of the Establishment. Not only are they uncontrollable, they are also spiriting away millions upon millions of readers, viewers and advertizing dollars each day from the traditional MSM. It is almost impossible for the State to run a successful disinformation campaign or gov’t “Psy-op” via these elements of the independent online media because they are not licensed by the government, not centrally controlled by ownership or a trade-lobby association, and more importantly… they don’t take their marching orders from head office or Washington DC. This is precisely why they are all a priority target of the ruling Establishment.
The Big Three
Real Web vs Fake Web
There is an egalitarian aspect of the World Wide Web which for the most part, makes it curiously immune to disinformation and State-sponsored propaganda campaigns. On the Real Web the cream usually rises to the top, and the garbage tends to sink to the bottom. The process is validated through a massive hive of readers, researchers and consumers who can very quickly and easily test the veracity of a particular story, OpEd piece or news flash online. This works in a completely opposite fashion to the passive viewer-led MSM model where most disinformation and propaganda immediately dominates the top layer of news and events and constantly recycled in a manner that any psychologist would admit is mass classical conditioning. Just as fake news has been planted countless times throughout history in major newspapers and run on TV, there is also fake intelligence which is uploaded to the Web via security agencies and clandestine government operations in order to achieve success in one operation or another.
Enter stage left, the silver fox and new face of free speech online, one Julian Assange, founder of the free world’s latest beacon of light, Wikileaks. Still mesmerized by the volume of info released, few in the MSM are ready to question the quality of information dripping down from the massive Wikileak doc dump. Some of it could be genuine intel, while other parts may be planted. Planting information or intelligence online is nothing new. The Fake Web was launched nearly a decade ago through a prolific series of anonymous postings on seemingly anonymous radical Islamic websites featuring a Walt Disney-like rotating cast of pixellated avatars including Osama Bin Laden, and the Al’s- like Ayman al-Zawahiri and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi plus a host of theatrical supporting characters in the West’s staged production of the Global War on Terror. One of the Fake Web’s greatest hits was the Nick Berg beheading video which many still maintain is one of the best examples of digital fakery ever to hit the big-time and sway war-time public opinion over the edge. It’s certainly worth noting here also that many, if not all of the Bin Laden video and MP3 messages have since been debunked and exposed as contrived fakes put out by the CIA’s shadowy media arm Intel Center.
What the anonymous Islamic dot.com boom achieved was to validate the Fake Web composed of all manner of mysterious postings and virtual events online as something purporting to real life intelligence and a new digital form of modern historical record. Predictably, Washington would validate these internet episodes in as serious a manner as possible with official State Department briefings, reactions and high even references in Presidential speeches. Hence, foreign policies, domestic security state measures and war-time decisions could now be based on this new virtual theatre. Add Wikileaks to the mix now, and we get more reactions from the State based on another digital theatre of events.
The Waning Power of Joe the Plumber
That brings us back to where we are today. Authorities and their MSM mouthpieces are all calling in unison for something to be done about “the internet”. The MSM will always defer to their core audience opinion on this issue, typically embodied by the everyman cum-political sage, passive media consumer- Joe the Plumber. If Joe believes that regulating the net will keep him safe from Al Qaeda, then chances are he is going to support any government or corporate restriction of free speech online because after all, Joe only uses Twitter to Tweet about his softball games on the weekends and give a ribbing to his buddies at work. “Sometimes we have to sacrifice our liberty for freedom”, he says, but totally unaware of what his statement really means.
In the past, Joe’s voice carried some serious weight but increasingly today, the web is being driven by millions of active, not passive users and readers. The active bunch who are used to operating on a web of unlimited choice and egalitarian rankings based on intense participation, and they won’t go quietly into the night. Controlling them will not be as simple and as straight forward as controlling what is aired on the Eleven O’Clock News.