I suppose it was always just a matter of time until the global capitalist ruling classes and their mouthpieces in the corporate media combined their two main official narratives into a Ronco-type 2-in-1 kind of deal. That’s right, folks, your days of switching between the War on Terror official narrative and the Putin-Nazi official narrative are over, because now, for just $19.99, the Putin-Nazi-Terrorist-O-Matic® takes care of all your official narrative needs with just the press of one button!
Here’s how it works. First, you take your classic mentally-disturbed individual, someone like, say, John Hinkley, Jr., Mark David Chapman, or Travis Bickle, or a total wack job like Cesar Sayoc, and you paint whichever clearly psychotic crimes he’s committed as acts of “terrorism.” Don’t worry about the definition of “terrorism” or how it has become a virtually meaningless label the capitalist ruling classes and corporate media can slap onto anyone. Just keep saying “terrorist,” “terrorism,” and any other lexical derivatives of “terror,” over and over, like some kind of mantra … you know, like the Hare Krishnas do.
Next, you take whatever obsession your disturbed individual is maniacally obsessed with, and you paint that obsession as an “ideology,” or some kind of organized political movement, as if your wack job was actually a rational person and not just a totally paranoid geek who decided to attempt to assassinate Reagan because he couldn’t get a date with Jodie Foster, or to murder John Lennon because God had ordered him to do so in a J. D. Salinger novel.
Now, this works much better if your disturbed individual is actually obsessed with something political, like, say, if he’s a Donald Trump fanatic who has plastered the windows of the van he’s living in with all sorts of blatantly psychotic artwork deifying Donald Trump and demonizing Donald Trump’s political opponents, but you’ll have to work with what your lunatic gives you. In any event, whatever his pathology, you will need to de-pathologize your psycho, so you can misrepresent him as a “domestic terrorist,” and then associate whatever “ideology” you’ve just painted onto him with “terrorism.”
If that sounds a little complicated, don’t worry, folks, it’s really not! The ruling classes and the corporate media just provided us with a demonstration of the Putin-Nazi-Terrorist-O-Matic in action, which proves how easy-to-use it is. In the span of just a single week, they whipped up so much mass paranoia that, by the weekend, millions of hysterical liberals were calling for a Deep State coup, and the arrest and internment of all registered Republicans, because a right-wing loon had sent a bunch of non-exploding bomblike devices to prominent members of the neoliberal “Resistance,” or rather, to their respective mail-screening services.
These Putin-Nazi Terrorist “bomb-like devices” were “intercepted” throughout last week. Their targets were a roll call of Resistance heroes, Soros, Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Brennan, the offices of CNN, Eric Holder, Maxine Waters, Joe Biden, and, yes, even Robert De Niro! Putin-Nazi panic paralyzed the nation! The neoliberal corporate media (who, remember, are serious, respected professionals, not conspiracist nuts like Alex Jones) began pouring out pieces informing the world that Donald Trump was behind these attacks, or had encouraged, “emboldened,” or “inspired” whoever was with his violent, neo-Hitlerian rhetoric.
The Washington Post went full Shakespearean with Dana Milbank’s What Hath Trump Wrought? The New York Times explained how Trump was employing a strategy called “stochastic terrorism,” i.e., inspiring random acts of violence that are statistically predictable but individually unpredictable! “Trump’s words have consequences,” The Guardian lectured. “Words matter,” CNN concurred. John Brennan, who courageously continued to appear on television, despite the ongoing terrorist threat, affirmed that Trump’s “un-American” rhetoric had “emboldened individuals to take matters into their own hands.” Even “alternative” Resistance outlets like Truthout joined the chorus of voices reporting that “Trump’s Rhetoric Emboldens Violence!”
By Thursday morning, #MAGAbomber, #MAGATerrorist, and other such hashtags were circulating widely on Twitter. Which meant it was only a matter of time until the Resistance linked these stochastically-terrorist MAGA bomber attacks to Russia. On Thursday evening, MSNBC’s Chuck Todd did exactly that, speculating that “this could be a Russian operation!” (Washington Post propagandist Craig Timberg, author of the infamous McCarthyite smear piece on “peddlers of Russian propaganda” that got the whole “fake news” hysteria going back in December 2016, would soon follow up with this ridiculous attempt to connect the “MAGA Terrorist” to Russia … but I’m getting a little ahead of myself.)
By Friday, after anti-Terrorism specialists (or the kids that work in the mail screening room) “intercepted” more “bomb-like devices” addressed to Senator Cory Booker and ex-National Intelligence Director James Clapper, the neoliberal punditocracy were soiling themselves on national television. This was it! The long-awaited Putin-Nazi Apocalypse had finally begun! And just as Paul Krugman had prophesied it would … or, OK, not exactly like that, but still, Trump was, once again, about to suspend the Constitution, declare martial law, and appoint himself dictator! Clearly, Putin had ordered Trump to launch the destruction of Western democracy by deploying the dreaded Totally Incompetent Domestic Terrorist Mail Bomber Strategy … and just in time for the midterm elections!
And then, just like that, they caught him … Cesar “the Jackal” Sayoc, Jr., the terrorist mastermind that had nearly perpetrated another 9-11-type event, and who was sleeping in his van behind an auto parts store! As is standard procedure for terrorist sleeper agents, Sayoc, until he was “activated,” had been maintaining a totally low-profile cover as juiced-up, body-building, racist male stripper with an extensive criminal record and an obsession with Trump. Like the “Skripal assassins” and other Putin-Nazi operatives, he had made a point of getting himself photographed and noticed by witnesses in various public places, and otherwise drawing attention to himself, which is one of the first things they teach you at the Kremlin. Sayoc hasn’t yet divulged the names and ranks of his handlers in the GRU, but, presumably, Eliot Higgins and Bellingcat are hard at work googling that right this minute.
In the meantime, the liberal corporate media have been working the Putin-Nazi-Terrorist-O-Matic on a more or less 24/7 basis. It is crucial at a time like this, when mass hysteria is reaching peak levels, that the public not be allowed to believe that this “MAGA Terrorist” is merely one more pathetic, attention-seeking geek who decided to vent his impotent rage on those he perceived as his mortal enemies. Same goes for the Pittsburgh synagogue attacker, who struck as I was writing this piece. Never mind that this homicidal idiot did not like Trump, who he condemned as a “Jew-lover.” In order to maintain the official narrative, the ruling classes need us to believe that he was not just another anti-Semite with a gun collection and a gab.com account, but, rather, an official “domestic terrorist,” who was probably “radicalized” by Donald Trump’s rhetoric!
Look, I’m no fan of Donald Trump, or racism, or anti-Semitism, or any other type of bigotry (despite what my smear-happy former editors at CounterPunch would like you to believe). What I am is a student of the production of ideology. I lived through the deployment of the official “War on Terror” narrative after 9-11, and then watched in frustration as millions of Americans mindlessly supported a war of aggression, the abrogation of many of their civil liberties, torture, and various other atrocities, based on nothing but propaganda and media-generated mass hysteria.
We are experiencing a similarly historic ideological readjustment at the moment, which I’ve been trying to capture (satirically and more seriously) since it began in the summer of 2016. The official “War on Terror” narrative (and people’s understanding of what “terrorism” is) is being gradually redefined and expanded to encompass any and all forms of “extremism” (i.e., whatever the ruling classes decide is “extremism”). Mass murder, battery, racist graffiti, opposing the spread of global capitalism, saying nasty things about Soros, tattooing your forehead with a giant Swastika, using the words “globalism,” “sovereignty,” and so on … the distinctions are rapidly disappearing. The media-generated mass hysteria over Islamic terrorism during the War on Terror is being replaced with media-generated mass hysteria over Nazis and Russians (unless you’re a die-hard Trump supporter, in which case, you’ve got your immigration hysteria, but my focus is on ruling class ideology, which, despite the existence of Donald Trump, remains neoliberal, supranational, and, yes, God help me, globalist in nature). Any and all forms of opposition to global capitalist ideology, regardless of whether they come from the Left or the Right, are being stigmatized as “extremism,” and thus inextricably linked to “terrorism.” I described this, back in January, as a global capitalist “War on Dissent,” and I think events over the last ten months have largely confirmed my diagnosis.
I’d love to go on, but this essay is already way too long for people’s phones, and the midterm elections are fast approaching, so this is no time for critical thinking … and plus, news is just coming in from Guardian columnist Christina Patterson that Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party are also responsible for the Pittsburgh attack, and for “emboldening” all these “extremists” and “terrorists,” and for “normalizing” anti-Semitism and fascism, and mass murder, and who knows what other atrocities, and I don’t want to miss a chance to catch the Putin-Nazi-Terrorist-O-Matic in action!
C. J. Hopkins is an award-winning American playwright, novelist and satirist based in Berlin. His plays are published by Bloomsbury Publishing (UK) and Broadway Play Publishing (USA). His debut novel, ZONE 23, is published by Snoggsworthy, Swaine & Cormorant. He can reached at cjhopkins.com or consentfactory.org.