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Manufacturing Normality
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Sometime circa mid-November, in the wake of Hillary Clinton’s defeat (i.e., the beginning of the end of democracy), the self-appointed Guardians of Reality, better known as the corporate media, launched a worldwide marketing campaign against the evil and perfidious scourge of “fake news.” This campaign is now at a fever pitch. Media outlets throughout the empire are pumping out daily dire warnings of the imminent, existential threat to our freedom posed by the “fake news” menace. This isn’t the just the dissemination of disinformation, propaganda, and so on, that’s been going on for thousands of years … Truth itself is under attack. The very foundations of Reality are shaking.

Who’s behind this “fake news” menace? Well, Putin, naturally, but not just Putin. It appears to be the work of a vast conspiracy of virulent anti-establishment types, ultra-alt-rightists, ultra-leftists, libertarian retirees, armchair socialists, Sandernistas, Corbynistas, ontological terrorists, fascism normalizers, poorly educated anti-Globalism freaks, and just garden variety Clinton-haters.

Fortunately, for us, the corporate media is hot on the trail of this motley of scoundrels. As you’re probably aware, The Washington Postrecently published a breathtaking piece of Pulitzer-quality investigative journalism shamelessly smearing hundreds of alternative publications (like the one you’re reading) as “peddlers of Russian propaganda.” The piece, a classic McCarthyite smear job perpetrated by the Post‘s Craig Timberg, was based on the groundless, paranoid claims of what Timberg unironically describes as “two teams of independent researchers,” The Foreign Policy Research Institute, a third-rate, former anti-Communist think tank, and an anonymous website, propornot.com, that no one had ever heard of prior to its sudden appearance on the Internet last August, and which, based on the tenor of its tweets and emails, appears to be run by Beavis and Butthead.

The Washington Post has been catching some flak for taking this courageous “pro-Truth” stand against the forces of Putinist falsehood and fakery. A host of dangerously extremist publications, like CounterPunch, The Intercept, Rolling Stone, The Nation, The New Yorker, Fortune Magazine, Bloomberg, and US News & World Report, have lambasted The Post for its “shoddy,” “lazy,” or otherwise sub-par journalism practices. The Post, of course, is “backing its boy,” and refusing to apologize for defending democracy, as it has throughout its storied history, like when it smeared Gary Webb as retribution for reporting the CIA-Contra connection, more or less destroying his career as a journalist, or when it blatantly shilled for Hillary Clinton throughout her ugly, fear-mongering campaign, notably publishing sixteen negative pieces on Sanders in sixteen hours, or when it ran this piece on how Clinton might have been poisoned by secret Putinist agents … and these are just a few of the highlights.

But I don’t want to single out The Washington Post, or its Executive Editor, Marty Baron, who is clearly a paragon of journalistic ethics. The rest of the corporate media have also been mercilessly flogging the “fake news” hysteria, and the “Putinist propaganda” hysteria, and the “normalizing of fascism” hysteria, and beating the “post-Truth” drum to death. The Guardian, The New York Times, et al., NPR, the TV news networks, the entire mainstream media chorus is barking out the message in perfect synch. So what is really going on here?

As I suggested in these pages previously, what we are experiencing is the pathologization (or the “abnormalization”) of political dissent, i.e., the systematic stigmatization of any and all forms of non-compliance with neoliberal consensus reality. Political distinctions like “left” and “right” are disappearing, and are being replaced by imponderable distinctions like “normal” and “abnormal,” “true” and “false,” and “real” and “fake.” Such distinctions do not lend themselves to argument. They are proffered to us as axiomatic truths, empirical facts which no normal person would ever dream of contradicting.

In place of competing political philosophies, the neoliberal intelligentsia is substituting a simpler choice, “normality” or “abnormality.” The nature of the “abnormality” varies according to what is being stigmatized. Today it’s “Corbyn the anti-Semite,” tomorrow it’s “Sanders the racist crackpot,” or “Trump the Manchurian candidate,” or whatever. That the smears themselves are indiscriminate (and, in many instances, totally ridiculous) belies the effectiveness of the broader strategy, which is simply to abnormalize the target and whatever he or she represents. It makes no difference whether one is smeared as a racist, as Sanders was during the primaries, or as an anti-Semite, as Corbyn has been, or a fascist, as Trump has relentlessly been, or peddlers of Russian propaganda, as Truthout, CounterPunch, Naked Capitalism, and a number of other publications have been … the message is, they are somehow “not normal.”

Why is this any different from the shameless smear jobs the press has been doing on people since the invention of the press and shameless smear jobs? Well, hold on, because I’m about to tell you. Mostly it has to do with words, especially binary oppositions like “real” and “fake,” and “normal” and “abnormal,” which are, of course, essentially meaningless … their value being purely tactical. Which is to say they denote nothing. They are weapons deployed by a dominant group to enforce conformity to its consensus reality. This is how they’re being used at the moment.

The meaningless binary oppositions that the neoliberal intelligentsia and the corporate media are supplanting traditional opposing political philosophies with (i.e., normal/abnormal, real/fake), in addition to stigmatizing a diversity of sources of non-conforming information and ideas, are also restructuring our consensus reality as a conceptual territory in which anyone thinking, writing, or speaking outside the mainstream is deemed some kind of “deviant,” or “extremist,” or some other form of social pariah. Again, it doesn’t matter what kind, as “deviance” in itself is the point.

Actually, the opposite of deviance is the point. Because this is how “normality” is manufactured. And how consensus reality as a whole is manufactured … and how the manufacturing process is concealed. Apologies for getting all Baudrillardian, but this is actually how this stuff works.

The media’s current obsession with “fake news” conceals the fact that there is no “real news,” and simultaneously produces “real news,” or, rather, the simulation thereof. It does so by means of the binary opposition (i.e., if such a thing as “fake news” exists … then, ipso facto, “real news” exists). Likewise, the focus on “not normalizing Trump” conceals the fact that there is no “normality,” and simultaneously manufactures “normality” … which is always only a simulation.

Similarly, the stigmatization of Trump as a modern-day Hitler, or Mussolini, or some other type of fascist dictator, conceals the fact that the United States is already virtually a one-party system, with concentrated ownership and control of the media, an omnipresent militarized police force, arbitrary enforcement of the rule of law, the maintenance of a more or less permanent state of war, and many other standard features of authoritarian systems of government. At the same time, this projection of “fascism” conjures, or manufactures, its opposite, “democracy” … or the simulation of democracy.

This neoliberal simulation of democracy, and normality, and reality, is what the corporate media, and the entire neoliberal intelligentsia, is desperately working to shore up at the moment, as they took quite a hit with this election mess. Trump was not supposed to win. He was supposed to be another Hitlerian bogeyman that the neoliberals could save us all from, but then, well, look what happened. The problem for the neoliberal ruling classes, and the mainstream media, and liberals generally, having gone balls out on the Hitler schtick, is that they pretty much have to keep it up now, which is going to get increasingly weird as Trump turns out to not be Hitler, but, rather, just another Republican plutocrat, albeit one with zero government experience and some certified bull goose loonies on his staff. I’m sure Trump will want to help them out, though (i.e., his neoliberal “enemies”), with the occasional racist or misogynist tweet, as he will need to maintain his “white working class” creds, at least until the “War on Islam” gets going.

In any event, we can all look forward to some serious pathologization of dissent throughout the coming four (and perhaps eight) years. And I’m not referring to Trump and his boys, though I’m certain they’ll be in there slinging it too. I’m referring to our friends in the corporate media, like Marty Baron and his smear machine, and the Guardians of Reality at The New York Times, The Guardian, and other “papers of record.” WNYC is already airing a daily “descent into fascism” segment. And of course the neoliberal left, Mother Jones, The Nation, et al., and The New York Review of Books, apparently (they just can’t get enough of this Hitler stuff), will be monitoring liberals’ every thought to ensure that fascism does not get normalized … which God have mercy should that ever happen. Who knows how America might end up? Torturing people? Attacking other countries that pose no threat to it whatsoever? Indefinitely imprisoning people in camps? Assassinating anyone the president deems a “terrorist” or an “enemy combatant” with the tacit approval of the majority of Americans? Surveilling everyone’s phone calls, emails, tweets, and reading and web-browsing habits?

Imagine the dystopia we would all be living in … if things like that were considered “normal.”

C. J. Hopkins is an award-winning American playwright and satirist based in Berlin. His plays are published by Bloomsbury Publishing (UK) and Broadway Play Publishing (US). He can reached at his website, cjhopkins.com, or at consentfactory.org.

(Republished from Counterpunch by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: American Media, Fake News 
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  1. Mark Green says: • Website

    Great article. Indeed, the corrupt old guard has lost its sheen. Their desperation is palpable. The dinosaur media is on its last legs. Meteors of resistance are falling all around them. It’s getting cold. Their well-deserved extinction has begun. Good riddance. Time for fresh new voices. Sunshine. Renewal.

  2. I hope that this line of attack doesn’t get squashed. I’ve disliked Trump since I’ve had an opinion on the matter (decades). But I ended up voting for him and I am genuinely glad that he won. Actually I am VERY glad that he won. To some extent this is me recognizing that he has some merits that I neglected, but it is also me recognizing that his enemies are far worse.

    • Agree: Randal
  3. Anon • Disclaimer says:

    Soviets called their newspaper Pravda, or Truth. Apparently, non-Soviet news was ‘fake news’ or poddielni novosti.

    Now, we have ‘western news’ claiming to be the Truth while dismissing counter-news as ‘fake news’.
    Many in the elite institutons would love ‘fake news’ to be declared illegal news.

    Since ‘fake news’ is tied to Russia by the Western Pravda, we should sarcastically use Russian terminology: Poddielni Novosti or just Poddielka for ‘fake’.
    Maybe just Podka for short.

  4. “Normal” isn’t quite the right word. Maybe “nerml.” Something that sounds like it but isn’t.

  5. Well, The Nation at least has Stephen Cohen.The rest are exactly as Orwell predicted, with the Two Minute Hate, the Hate Week, the Memory Hole, War Is Peace, Ignorance Is Strength, and all the rest of it…

  6. Tom Welsh says:

    Very well said indeed. One can only hope that truth, logic and reason win out in the end. But it all depends on how lazy and stupid the average voter has become.

  7. anon • Disclaimer says:

    “Torturing people? Attacking other countries that pose no threat to it whatsoever? Indefinitely imprisoning people in camps? Assassinating anyone the president deems a “terrorist” or an “enemy combatant” with the tacit approval of the majority of Americans? Surveilling everyone’s phone calls, emails, tweets, and reading and web-browsing habits?”
    This according to Obama is what makes the US strong; by following the rule of law. In an address which he delivered yesterday to warn Trump not to deviate from what the US has been doing under Obama. Does he actually believe what comes out of his mouth, or is he totally blind to his role as a mouthpiece for propaganda. Whatever the case, something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

  8. Randal says:

    In any event, we can all look forward to some serious pathologization of dissent throughout the coming four (and perhaps eight) years.

    I’m rather more concerned at the active criminalisation of dissent, through the ongoing rise of a spurious distinction between “hate speech” and “free speech”.

    Though the two (pathologisation and criminalisation) are just two ends of the same spear, really. But the actual use of the law against dissenters is the sharp end.

    • Replies: @utu
  9. I believe among the first to voice concerns about the dangers of centralization with respect to maintaining a free press was Hilaire Belloc in his 1918 classic The Free Press. Over the course of nearly a century since its publication, the press has become less and less free and is now largely controlled by six media mega-corporations who gain control of what Richard Weaver referred to as the “Great Stereopticon” through financial jiggery-pokery, not through any form of journalistic excellence.

    The web is the one means by which a free “press” can be restored, although the generalized dumbing-down of Western populations hampers a restoration of quality journalism. The press as propaganda machine won’t disappear, but there’ll be a wider variety of propaganda from which to choose.

  10. Paul Joseph Goebbels, PhD from Heidelberg University became Reich Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda in the Hitler Cabinet. One of his first acts was to take complete control the news media, the arts and information.
    “That propaganda is good which leads to success, and that is bad which fails to achieve the desired result,’ he wrote. “It is not propaganda’s task to be intelligent, its task is to lead to success.”

    Dr Goebbels might smile to see our great nation reduced to mindless minions with no clear grasp of fact or fiction after decades of spin and cant.

    http://bit.ly/2h93yR4

    • Replies: @Wally
  11. utu says:
    @Randal

    “I’m rather more concerned at the active criminalisation of dissent” – Actually it would be good. At least we would know and everybody else who doesn’t know it yet what is the true nature of the regime. W/o it still too many have illusions.

    • Replies: @Randal
  12. Randal says:
    @utu

    It’s started already, it’s just that these things always start small, targeting the most “outrageous” areas of dissent first in order to normalise the idea of speechcrimes and establish precedents and police practices.

    As I have noted elsewhere, anyone who is a dissenter from the Official Truth on the jewish issue could do worse than drop Alison Chabloz (https://alisonchabloz.wordpress.com/) a line giving her support in the legal harassment she’s facing next week from the identity lobby bullyboys. Where she goes, there we all go in the end.

  13. Miro23 says:

    The piece, a classic McCarthyite smear job perpetrated by the Post‘s Craig Timberg…

    Careful, many of McCarthy’s “victims” were in fact Soviet spies as proven by the Venona transcripts, so “McCathyism” wasn’t so much of a “smear job”as claimed.

    Example: Morton Sobell imprisoned and served 17 years for passing classified military information to the Soviet Union. He always protested his innocence becoming a celebrated “victim” with his cause championed by progressive intellectuals.

    In 2008 he finally admitted that he did pass secrets to the Soviets in WW2, but it was obvious by then, as a result of the Venona project decryption of KGB, NKVD and GRU intelligence messaging.

    Venona list of American spies:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Americans_in_the_Venona_papers

  14. OutWest says:

    I agree –sort of. McCarthy was indeed correct about the abundance of Soviet spies in the U.S. government. However, he didn’t k now who there were individually. So he made scattershot accusations that harmed a rather large number of innocent individuals. In addition to undercutting his accusations it caused great harm to the innocents while cloaking the guilty.

  15. Jason Liu says:

    The irony is that fascism and hierarchy has been normal for almost all of human history, while egalitarian humanism is a brief delusion of a privileged west.

    It’s not like they don’t know this. Leftist ignorance is intentional.

  16. edNels says:

    Good article, shows a lot of sound thinking. When the term ”Fake” was chosen to talk about news sites, it seemed to me too crass of a word, because, ”News” is just what somebody says, and it is news to somebody who hears it. Like ”The Sky is falling!”, Might not be good news, might not be well researched, or might be… premature, like when it didn’t even happen yet. (Bldg Seven… (IE:) hyahya.. )

    But who says the news that isn’t fit to print is ”Fake News”? Answer the dumb fuck Bratpacks that took over the MSM fake prop organizations.

    Fake Newspapers, and fake reporters, and fakers who don’t even have integrity to show their puny selfs.

    ____________________

    Not sure I agree with the Trump phenomenon though, as even, while the Bernie show was also a big phony ballongna from the start, everybody could know, he’s got zero chance, so there wasn’t any talk about basics like his age, that was off limits, and he got zero coverage, as an Object Lesson, for being a court jester and Socialist ”piniatta”.
    Trump got ”Billions worth of free Press!! How’s that happen…?

    So is Trump really anything but the actual desired pick of the MSM? Yet another ”object lesson” for the balance of the loonies, who were out there for the first this or first that type of dodo’s

  17. Wally says: • Website
    @Robert Magill

    Laughable Goebbels nonsense, a sure sign of indoctrination.

    There are the ‘Nazis’ with the mythological ‘6M Jews, 5M others, & gas chambers’ and there are the ‘Nazis’ without the mythological ’6M Jews, 5M others, & gas chambers’.

    The ‘6M Jews, 5M others, & gas chambers’ are scientifically impossible frauds.
    see the ‘holocaust’ scam debunked here:
    http://codoh.com
    No name calling, level playing field debate here:
    http://forum.codoh.com

    • Replies: @H.S. Idaltu
  18. Parbes says:

    From the Wikipedia biography of The Washington Post Executive Editor Marty Baron:

    “Baron was born in Tampa, Florida to Jewish immigrants from Israel…”

    That piece of information right there, tells you all you really need to know. There’s not much need to analyze any further for why things are the way that they currently are.

  19. Wally says: • Website

    It’s revealing that we do not see the recent “Anti-Semitism Awareness Act” mentioned here.

    Recall this past warning:

    Look for the US Zionists in control to pass anti free speech laws which will ban scrutiny and free speech of the impossible ‘holocaust’ storyline, like has been done is much of ‘democratic’ Europe.

    And that is exactly what’s happening.

    Only lies need protection of government, truth can stand on it’s own.

  20. mcohen says:

    Today at dusk I received a crows warning.the weather has changed in ways not seen before.not normal.manufactured abnormality.thought I should post on this thread.

  21. @Wally

    There’s nothing in that post about the Holocaust. Goebbels is being quoted accurately and the bit about the Nazi closing of opposition presses is undeniable.

  22. Boris N says:

    It makes no difference whether one is smeared as a racist, as Sanders was during the primaries, or as an anti-Semite, as Corbyn has been, or a fascist, as Trump has relentlessly been, or peddlers of Russian propaganda, as Truthout, CounterPunch, Naked Capitalism, and a number of other publications have been … the message is, they are somehow “not normal.”

    I’m sure nobody noticed that, but this sentence has a very revealing parallelism. It clearly shows where Russia is put by the Western establishment: …racist, …anti-Semite, …fascist, …Russian. Or in other words, “not normal”. Thank you that you (unwittingly) pointed that out.

    • Replies: @Cynical Romanian
  23. @Boris N

    Boris N, it’s about the fact that a lot of US and Western elites see Russia as being more or less weak, so they’ll use every conceivable stupid excuse against her – homophonia, antisemitism, etc. It’s just a pretext, really.

  24. Political distinctions like “left” and “right” are disappearing, and are being replaced by imponderable distinctions like “normal” and “abnormal,” “true” and “false,” and “real” and “fake.”

    It’s just as well that all these distinctions are disappearing, for most of them are long past their prime. The only important distinction that really matters today, as Mme. Le Pen pointed out, is the one between globalizationists and nationalists.

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