From Nicaragua to Syria – Journalism is dead, long live psy-warfare …
by Jorge Capelan and toni solo, June 21st 2012
Journalism has been rendered obsolete by the reporting practice of media in NATO countries and their allies. Recent wars from the Ivory Coast to Libya and now Syria only confirm what was already clear after the chain of wars in the 1990s, in former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Somalia, Rwanda, the Congo and many other places. NATO country information media across the political spectrum are, one way or another, a vital component of NATO war planning and practice in terms of psy-warfare. The same is also true of the aid, development and human rights non-governmental sector of those NATO countries.
The conflicts in Libya and Syria demonstrated that most progressive and radical currents of political opinion will readily collaborate with NATO psy-warfare campaigns against target countries. In general almost all progressive opinion is intimidated by the completely bogus rhetoric of human rights and democracy deployed by the NATO country psy-warfare machinery. The most common expression of this is for the representatives of progressive opinion to try to seek a neutral position that in practice facilitates NATO aggression against its target countries.
This in turn means that even political systems and movements enjoying mass support can be readily demonized as has happened in the cases of the Libyan Jamahiriya or of the Syrian Ba’ath party. Similar tactics are being used today against all countries in Latin America that do not conform to NATO’s desires, as well as against the solidarity between those countries and towards them. Always focusing on a different nation depending on the specific conjuncture. Apart from the constant campaign against Venezuela, one can think of the so-called Cuban “Black Spring” in 2003, the weeks and months prior to the failed coup against Correa in Ecuador in 2010, or today’s protests against Evo Morales in Bolivia or those against Cristina Fernandez in Argentina and now the coup attempt in Paraguay against Fernando Lugo.
These demonization campaigns always imply some element of differentiation among the Latin American rebels. Whereas sometimes the CNN and other imperial outlets focus on Lula’s “realism” vis-á-vis Chávez’ “unpredictability”, other times they may choose to underline Correa’s willingness to talk with, say, Hilary Clinton against Daniel Ortega’s “shrewdness” and so on. The roles of angels and foes can change overnight and has, off course, nothing to do with reality but with the needs and logic of information psy-warfare.
As a chorus to the corporate media’s demonizing cacophony, a parallel world of debates is carried out in the so-called alternative media – a diverse universe in which Western voices nevertheless wield disproportionate influence in terms of their actual political relevance. These voices, often very influential in the circles of Western progressive opinion, hand out tiny revolutionary stars of legitimacy to movements or processes. The stars are awarded according to various criteria – democratic credentials, treatment of various minorities, ecological footprint, economic policy and so on.
This supposedly alternative arena complements mainstream Western corporate media psy-warfare against NATO’s target countries by reinforcing differences and sharpening contradictions. As in the corporate media, little or no attention is paid to the real situation and debates of the subjects and political instruments building and shaping processes and movements for change. The final result of all this is functional to the aims of NATO’s planners: division, isolation of the targets, confusion among those who could organize an effective resistance to imperialism and, finally, paralysis in facing the interventions.
The “neither (…) nor (…) syndrome”, formerly known as the “two daemons’ syndrome”, historically has yielded catastrophic results in fighting imperialism. It is only a question of time before these campaigns of psychological warfare against the region intensify at unprecedented levels as the voice of Latin America’s most radical democracies, especially that of the ALBA countries, becomes more prominent in the creation of a new multipolar world order, as well as in the practical achievement of social models that transcend capitalism in the real world. A recent article in Le Monde Diplomatique, flagship monthly of Western progressive elites, suggests that the psy-warfare machinery is being greased up and shifted into higher gear against Nicaragua.
The structure and content of the article, “Why Nicaragua chose Ortega?”, by Maurice Lemoine, published in the June 2012 edition of Le Monde Diplomatique, show how readily NATO’s psy-warfare strategy can co-opt ostensibly progressive media. It is worth looking at the nuts and bolts of the machinery to see how it works. The parallels with the current psy-warfare campaign against Syria offer little comfort for those who believe the US and its allies will find it harder to co-opt the neocolonial Left to attack Latin America than targets like Syria.
Before looking closely at Lemoine’s exercise in disinformation, it may be helpful to consider the immediate context with regard to the continuing aggression against Syria by the terrorist NATO governments and their regional allies. As in the case of Libya, most liberal and progressive opinion refuses to express solidarity with the Syrian government. The suggestion is that, as in the case of Libya in 2011, there is some kind of third position, distinct both from that of NATO’s genocidal governments and from that of the Syrian government.
Lebanese writer Amal Saad Ghorayeb has written acutely in Al-Akhbar on that phenomenon and for her pains experienced a predictable wave of indignant responses from people across the progressive end of the political spectrum. The tenets upheld as indisputable by Ghorayeb’s critics are that Syria is a uniquely evil government and that the rebellion against it is legitimated by overwhelming popular support. But neither of those assertions are in the least true.
Syria’s human rights record is better than that of Israel, Turkey or Saudi Arabia or any of the feudal monarchies that comprise the Gulf States. The Syrian government’s response to the armed insurgency against it has been demonstrably more restrained than the practice of the US, France and Britain or their allies Israel and Turkey, for example, anywhere those countries have been faced with armed rebellion. Furthermore, the Syrian government clearly enjoys majority support across the greater part of its territory.
What is remarkable for people in Nicaragua are the striking parallels between the kind of arguments used in the case of Syria and those deployed to smear and denigrate the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. More remarkable still are the completely unself-critical terms in which those arguments are made. The usual keywords are constant: “democracy” “democratic institutions” “human rights” “freedom of expression”.
The underlying assumption is invariably that people in the US and Europe understand and enjoy democracy, human rights and freedom of expression while people in countries like Syria and Nicaragua do not. The arguments deliberately deny or obscure the fact that majorities in both those countries support their governments. In the case of Syria, that support has held fast against vicious NATO supported terrorist onslaught, and in the case of Nicaragua, against constant slander and economic intimidation, the latest instance being the cutting of US development cooperation.
The human rights records of the US and Europe with regard to immigrants and ethnic minorities is universally abysmal. The record of severe human rights abuses by the UK in Ireland or by Spain in the Basque country hardly needs rehearsing yet again. The appalling domestic human rights record of the US government has few rivals running the whole gamut from political prisoners and routine administrative disappearance of illegal immigrants via regular police and prison brutality to the routine use of torture and other blatant and complete abandonment of international judicial norms.
Apart from their complacency about their own countries’ human rights records, self-righteous NATO-country critics of target countries like Syria and Nicaragua are completely silent about the most massive anti-democratic transfer of wealth in history that has taken place in the United States and Europe. Trillions of dollars have been shifted from those countries’ majorities to support the plutocrat corporate and financial oligarchies. A fraction of those amounts would suffice to eradicate hunger worldwide. Yet still we are expected to believe in the benign “humanism” of the West.
The ruling elites that control NATO country economies ensure their populations are constantly intimidated by threats and fear-mongering against concerted resistance to the area’s completely corrupt financial system. Furthermore, the reality of human rights and democracy in the NATO countries is little different to that anywhere else in the world, elite cronyism, corruption and impunity for the powerful are the norm. Outlets of progressive opinion in those countries for the most part completely fail to compare and contrast that undeniable reality with the reality in countries like Syria and Nicaragua.
On almost all foreign affairs issues, both corporate and alternative Western media tend to string along with fake reality created by corporate psy-warfare media. The Houla massacre in Syria is the latest and clearest example. Across the political spectrum facts are distorted and rumours exaggerated precisely because any true and fair account of the facts would render absolutely ridiculous the alleged pretexts for targeting potential NATO victim-countries.
That is the overall context in which Le Monde Diplomatique has published Maurice Lemoine’s dishonest account of the current situation in Nicaragua and its recent history. In effect, that context renders supposedly progressive outlets like Le Monde Diplomatique little more than post-modern echo chambers for NATO’s insane neoconservative globalization project. Consciously or unconsciously, they continue to believe in the West’s non-existent moral superiority. In doing so, they reinforce the psy-warfare component of NATO’s ruthless war on humanity.
Lemoine’s article is a classic exercise in neo-colonial Left disinformation. The article’s disingenuous, tendentious content and its egregious omissions follow the standard format of NATO country media psy-warfare against governments that obstruct Western geostrategic interests. For Le Monde Diplomatique this is nothing new. Few people familiar with the reality of NATO target countries like Nicaragua could reasonably regard Le Monde Diplomatique as a trustworthy source of reliable information on international affairs.
The arguments in this Le Monde Diplomatique article rehash yet again the discredited anti-Sandinista propaganda of Nicaragua’s political opposition, emphatically aligned with the imperialist policies of the governments of Canada, the United States and the European Union. Lemoine and his editors try to save Le Monde Diplomatique’s progressive credentials by citing ex-Sandinistas in the misnamed Sandinista Renewal Movement (MRS) from the NATO-aligned Nicaraguan opposition. Among the article’s most dishonest gambits, it quotes those individuals while failing to mention that they and their organizations have been directly funded by Western governments or by those governments’ proxy non-governmental organizations.
Lemoine’s article begins with two outright lies in a single sentence : President Daniel Ortega‘s “Sandinista government has abandoned many of its principles, especially on women’s rights, to stay in power.” But the historic programme of the Frente Sandinista has always been based on political pluralism, international non-alignment and a mixed economy. That was true in the 1980s and it remains true now. Those unchanging principles have been thoroughly vindicated by the practice of Daniel Ortega and his colleagues since the FSLN’s return to government in January 2007.
Maurice Lemoine and his editors have merely recycled a hostile gloss from ex-Sandinista sources who themselves long ago abandoned the most minimal vestige of anti-imperialism, a fundamental Sandinista tenet. Le Monde Diplomatique cites people who have profoundly betrayed their own Sandinista past to try and smear Nicaragua’s FSLN government as unprincipled. The article then compounds that self-evident dishonesty with the absurd claim that the FSLN government has abandoned its support for women’s rights in Nicaragua.
The reverse is self-evidently true, since the position of women has changed radically for the better in Nicaragua since January 2007. Nicaragua is now among the leading countries in the world in the number of its women legislators and in women’s representation in senior government posts. The FSLN government’s social programmes deliberately prioritize hundreds of thousands of previously economically excluded women and have brought them into active economic participation. In April 2012, the FSLN sponsored the passage of a law ensuring that 50% of candidates in all national and local elections must be women.
In June 2012 another FSLN sponsored law, passed in April 2012, came into effect, criminalizing a wide range of misogynist behaviour, making femicide a crime distinct from homicide and mandating a national campaign against violence against women. Despite this unprecedented range of policies and legislation in favour of women, Lemoine’s article supinely retails standard NATO psy-warfare anti-FSLN untruths in their liberal/social democrat variety.
Similarly, Lemoine gives a pro-MRS summary of the vicious power struggle within the FSLN in the years after the 1990 election. He omits the ruthless cynicism with which Sergio Ramirez and his partners tried to railroad Sandinista rank and file into accepting a social democrat coup in the party. Nor does the article mention the disgraceful role played by Ramirez’s colleague Rosa Marina Zelaya as president of the Supreme Electoral Council in the blatantly rigged elections of 1996.
Lemoine couples these kinds of omissions with the use of contemptuous descriptions in relation to the FSLN to soften up his readers’ receptivity to his version of events. Thus, Lemoine talks about an Ortega “clique”. He repeats opposition accusations against Daniel Ortega and the FSLN making no attempt to appraise them. The accusations are left unanswered, but the reader is then immediately confronted with “This (widespread) view of events suggests the FSLN had lost its way.”
Certainly, Lemoine is correct to note these untruths are widespread, precisely among the liberal and social democrat intellectual-managerial classes of the NATO countries - the natural audience, in fact, of Le Monde Diplomatique. Here we are dealing with the infinite disinformation feedback loop that is NATO’s fundamental propaganda mechanism. A small, unrepresentative opposition in a NATO target country emits venomous falsehoods against its government. NATO country psy-warfare media recycle the untruths. Those lies then become “widespread” orthodoxy fed back to their point of origin in an effort to broaden local opposition support.
In that strategic context, Lemoine’s article also follows standard NATO psy-warfare media tactics in deploying its text. Firstly, the article frames the context of the readers’ approach to its content in terms that implicitly deprecate the moral calibre of the FSLN government in Nicaragua, at the same time severely criticizing its concrete policies. Secondly, the rest of the article offers occasional mild qualifications of the extremely negative image created so as to give a false impression of “balance”.
So in the first half of his article, Lemoine uncritically quotes opposition figures and offers a very crude summary of the huge political challenge facing the FSLN through the late 1990s and early 2000s. He dismisses the FSLN’s profound efforts at overcoming the deep hostility and division inherited from the war of the 1980s as playing “the reconciliation game”. He picks quotes from Orlando Nuñez Soto to make it sound as if the FSLN acknowledges that in some sense it needs to apologize for its policy of alliances prior to the 2001 and 2006 elections, something which is quite untrue.
Implicit, but concealed, in Lemoine’s text is the fact that the direct consequence of the FSLN’s policy of alliances from 1998 to the present has been the apparently irreparable break up of the right-wing that had dominated Nicaraguan politics from 1990 to 2006. That result vindicates the deep and sharp political acumen of an FSLN leadership composed of different currents not by any means always in harmonious agreement. It renders a complete non sequitur Lemoine’s observation that the FSLN lost sympathy among the Western Left, none of whom vote in Nicaragua.
This last point is highly relevant in relation to the issue of abortion in Nicaragua which was completely banned in October 2006 just weeks prior to the national elections of that year won by Daniel Ortega. Lemoine attempts to put the issue in context but neglects to note that for the vast majority of women in Nicaragua, abortion rights are not a priority. Nor does Lemoine note that maternal mortality has dropped significantly since the FSLN took office in January 2007. Only the most bitter of the FSLN government’s enemies reject the clear drop in maternal mortality apparent in government statistics, currently down to around 70 deaths per 100,000 births.
Lemoine quotes Sergio Ramirez saying “The rank-and-file Sandinistas did not abandon their leader, though following him called for courage.” This self-serving nonsense gives the impression that some large number of FSLN supporters went along with Ramirez and his fellow social democrat opportunists. They never did. The overwhelming majority of FSLN supporters have always rallied to Daniel Ortega because he is Nicaragua’s only political leader who truly represents the interests of Nicaragua’s impoverished majority.
Another example of Lemoine’s cynical deployment of unanswered accusations displays the blatant misogynist hatred of the Nicaraguan opposition for Daniel Ortega’s wife Rosario Murillo. Lemoine quotes centre-right feminist Sofia Montenegro. Montenegro is a director of the USAID funded CINCO media organization and was revealed by a Wikileaks cable to have directly asked the US ambassador in Managua for US$100,000. This is the source Lemoine quotes describing Rosario Murillo as “a superstitious opportunist who talks about nothing but God and the Virgin Mary all day long.” No wonder Montenegro hates Rosario Murillo – Murillo has been the driving force behind Nicaragua’s revolution in women’s rights since January 2007.
The revolution for women in Nicaragua itself has made the FSLN the most dynamic force for revolutionary change in Central America. Murillo’s role in enforcing that change has been truly decisive. Likewise her self-evident partnership with Daniel Ortega in terms of formulating and executing policy is an inspiring model for women and young people in Nicaragua whose impact is impossible to overestimate. Lemoine’s report wilfully ignores that reality, preferring to recycle long-discredited social democrat feminist lies only people ignorant of Nicaragua could possibly take seriously.
The ideologically paid-on-both-sides character of LeMonde Diplomatique and writers like Maurice Lemoine becomes clear in the final paragraphs of this article on Nicaragua. Lemoine notes “Nobody mentioned socialism”, referring to the comments of ordinary people supportive of the FSLN government’s policies. He then jumps from vox populi reporting to macro-economic policy, falsely juxtaposing and confusing two completely different kinds of reality.
That obscurantist manoeuvre allows Lemoine to insert a banal and ignorant comment about ALBA in Nicaragua, “Huge amounts of aid from Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela — the ‘orthodox, sterile, reactionary and authoritarian pseudo-left’ that makes the MRS’s blood boil — have boosted the FSLN’s social programmes.” That sentence on its own gives a damning summary of the whole article.
In Nicaragua, the MRS party is taken seriously only by its allies, right wing leaders like corrupt banker Eduardo Montealegre, right-wing gerontocrat Fabio Gadea and the Chamorro family’s oligarch-poodle Edmundo Jarquin. Lemoine gives further currency to NATO country media distortion in relation to Nicaragua’s ALBA development cooperation funding and concessionary oil transactions with PDVSA, summing up that complex trade and development relationship in the caricature “Huge amounts of aid from Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela.”
Lemoine ends his article with a self-exculpatory admission from Maria López Vigil of the Envío magazine collective: “The ILP-MRS alliance is not based on a shared social project, programme or ideology. Its sole purpose is to stop the dictatorial tendencies of the FSLN and Ortega.” Here López Vigil is trying to distance herself and her MRS accomplices from the dirty reality of their cynical self-serving deal with Nicaragua’s right-wing. But she is hopelessly entangled in the facts of her complicity in seven years of determined collaboration with the imperialist agenda of the United States, Canada and the European Union.
Back in 2007 she wrote this “I think and write this from Nicaragua, from Central America, from the societies of the Christian West that have still not overcome the traumas of the Conquest of 500 years ago nor the hierarchical framework of the Colonial centuries that followed. Daily we find this. We are countries that achieved formal independence little more than 150 years ago but continue being home to millions of people, the majority, who lack personal autonomy, who have never tasted it. We are societies with the institutionalism – and also the theatricality – of democracy (separation of powers, periodic elections, institutions, posts, delegates in international bodies, costly processes of State modernization) but are strangers to everything or almost everything in democratic culture.”
For López Vigil, nothing has changed. She and her fellow MRS sympathizers continue to talk as if there is some universal common agreement about what constitutes “democratic culture”. She obviously continues to think that she and her colleagues know and understand what that culture is while the vast majority of people in Central America do not. This absurd attempt to monopolize the terminology of democracy is entirely consonant with NATO country psy-warfare in general and anti-FSLN propaganda in particular.
It is natural that Le Monde Diplomatique offers a platform to journalism blatantly sympathetic to liberal elitists and intellectual frauds like Maria López Vigil, Sofia Montenegro, Sergio Ramirez and their colleagues. Since the war against Libya it has become clear that the role of fake-progressive media like Le Monde Diplomatique has been to obscure inconvenient realities and to confuse and censor genuine debate. Under the government of President Daniel Ortega, Nicaragua has made truly dramatic progress in every sphere of national life, experiencing grass-roots change that is truly revolutionary. Writers and media outlets that conceal this undeniable truth have self-evidently taken sides with the enemies of humanity.