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Comments 17

Obama’s Musings on False Narratives and Fake Stories

by Glen Ford, The Black Agenda Report
People no longer believe the fake “news” and bogus narratives issued by the ruling class and its corporate and military misinformation specialists.

President Obama traveled to Berlin last [month] to browbeat Europeans on why they should continue to play junior partners in Washington’s quest for full spectrum global domination, but kept returning to his post-election obsession: the existential threat posed by “fake news” on social media. It was as if the realization had just dawned on the lame duck president, that his own powers to create “facts” and manufacture “news” out of thin air would soon be gone.  Without the Clintons in the White House to continue the neoliberal project, history might conclude that the First Black President’s only enduring legacy was…that he was the first Black president.

It’s a question of who gets to decide what’s “fake” or not. Obama fears that what he calls “fake” news begets fake history, which begets the fall of western civilization as the rulers would like people to imagine it. Fake news is a grave danger “in an age where there’s so much active misinformation and its packaged very well and it looks the same when you see it on a Facebook page or you turn on your television,” according to Obama. “If everything seems to be the same and no distinctions are made, then we won’t know what to protect,” he told the Germans.

It was a magic kind of moment. The legendarily cool and collected Obama had just let out the secret: the ruling class, which he so faithfully serves, has lost control of the social and political narrative, without which it cannot “protect” its wealth, privilege and power.

When the people come to believe that the president’s narrative is a bunch of ‘propaganda,’ then future Obamas will no longer be able to protect the Lords of Capital from the pitchforkers.

Was the world’s most powerful individual (until January 20) in despair over Facebook’s failure to erase three or four fictitious, yet ultimately inconsequential, stories from its pages?  Of course not.  Obama’s problem — and capitalism’s crisis– is that people no longer believe the fake “news” and bogus narratives issued by the ruling class and its corporate and military misinformation specialists. “If we are not serious about facts and what’s true and what’s not, and particularly in an age of social media when so many people are getting their information in sound bites and off their phones, if we can’t discriminate between serious arguments and propaganda, then we have problems,” said Obama.

This is the man that told the nation’s assembled bankers, a year after the Greet Meltdown of 2008, “My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks.”  When the people come to believe that the president and the corporate media’s narrative — that the system can be fixed with a little tinkering — is a bunch of “propaganda,” rather than “serious argument,” then future Obamas will no longer be able to protect the Lords of Capital from the pitchforkers.

Losing control of the narrative is what happened after Michael Brown’s murder in Ferguson, Missouri, when Black youth stopped listening to Obama’s fictitious sermon that racism is not endemic in America, a fake history that candidate Obama had successfully dispensed in his “A More Perfect Union” speech in Philadelphia, in 2008.

Obama’s targeted handful of phony social media articles generally favored Donald Trump. But the biggest “fake news” of the recent campaign, promulgated by virtually the entirety of the ruling class ensconced in Hillary Clinton’s Supersized Tent, was that the Russians were scheming to despoil and disrupt the U.S. elections — crimes Americans commit all by themselves every cycle through massive voter purges and other racist conspiracies. To Clinton and Obama’s horror, this McCarthyite deluge of fake anti-Russian news failed to sway the very “Middle Americans” that were thought to be the most belligerent, warlike constituency of all.

The root of the crisis lies in the inability of late stage capitalism to offer anything that will stem the steady decline in the mass of people’s living standards and economic security.

The Big Tent — Wall Street, the national security establishment, and their media – have lost all credibility with the public, and Obama was still shaken by the realization when he traveled to Berlin. Donald Trump and his crowd’s credibility – their ability to weave a believable narrative – was nonexistent from the start among half the country, and will shrink even more over time.

The root of the crisis of credibility, which is really a systemic crisis of legitimacy, lies in the inability of late stage capitalism to offer anything that will stem the steady decline in the mass of people’s living standards and economic security. So deep is the decay, every amelioration of public pain would require the dismantling of capitalist structures of power, which is unacceptable to the rulers.

On the most basic level, the U.S. does not have universal health care because capital has entrenched itself in all aspects of health care delivery. The rulers cannot provide affordable housing because Wall Street has financialized the nation’s land and dwellings. Good jobs at living wages are impossible, as long as corporations are empowered to maintain their carefully crafted international supply chain for manufactured goods – the foundation of corporate globalization. Black America cannot break free of the Mass Black Incarceration State until Black people eject the police, as presently constituted, from their communities, which will also require ejecting the corporate collaborators of the Black Misleadership Class from positions of power. There can be no peace — and no peace “dividend” for Americans – while predatory corporations and cartels dictate U.S. foreign policy. The cycle of decline and repression will continue until corporate power is broken and the banks are nationalized.

The rulers offer nothing, because the system is no longer capable of providing relief to the working and “superfluous” classes (that means most Black folks).  They can only spin tales of fantasy and distraction – fake stories and phony narratives.

American “Exceptionalism” is “Manifest Destiny” with Native American genocide and Black slavery blotted out.  It is the falsest narrative of all, tailored for imperial conquest and an “end of history” — meaning, the end of everyone’s narrative except the imperialist’s.

 

17 Comments

  1. passerby says

    When I was a kid, many books began with a note by the censor of the Catholic Church which said whether the book was considered wholesome for Christians. There even was a list of prohibited books, the “Index librorum prohibitorum”.

    Now there is a list of 200 webs with “fake news”. Today’s Jesuits are trying to tell me what I should read and what not.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. archie1954 says

    What is most frustrating is the complete contempt the ruling class has for te general public. They truly believe that they can continue to provide the narrative, no matter how ridiculous, and the rest of us will swallow it ook, line and sinker. A very small illustration is the visit by Secretary f State, Clinton to Stockholm a few years ago without invitation as if she had time for social calls. It occurred right after Julian Assange was cleared of all accusations, by the Swedish Department of Justice. Yet within a few hours of her departure, the case was back on again. The US would have us all believe her visit had absolutely nothing to do with such obstruction of justice. We are not that stupid and the President is just starting to understand that, too little. too late!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yet another vague term, Fake News like others such as Hate Speech have the distinct smell of contrivance in order to deceive. It appears those who use such terms invariably want you to believe something, usually the team or message they represent. As Mr Ford uses the term fake, ten times in one article, it seems I need to believe something.

    Like

  4. An excellent piece written clearly.

    “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”

    It will be spontaneous and the narrative written afterwards.

    Gil Scott-Heron and Marx understood this. Many Marxist did/do not.

    History is written by the hegemons to reflect their interests. As news is history being written as it happens then we see how the narrative is faked through current internet apps and media.

    Who controls the media has always been a problem for the ruling class and faking the news has always been their prerogative.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. On the subject of “fake” stories, not only is this nothing new – the mass media has been doing exactly this for decades – but perhaps we also need to query why these stories have only arisen now?
    Is it because the established mass media – like the BBC, The Guardian, The Independent, etc. – are in decline and are being replaced by better sources of information like offGuardian and other on-line sources of information?
    Is this the Establishment trying to re-write the hegemonic agenda to favour its preferred outlets?

    Like

  6. Willem says

    ‘The root of the crisis lies in the inability of late stage capitalism to offer anything that will stem the steady decline in the mass of people’s living standards and economic security.’

    Well maybe.

    But not if the status quo somehow manages to offer something that will improve people’s living standards.

    And that should not be a too hard task for the status quo who ‘own’ nearly all the money and resources.

    So I except that things will improve for a lot of people in the near future, because only that can save the status quo with their false narrative.

    Which will yet again lead to the failure of the prophecy of Marxism that socialism will take over capitalism because late stage capitalism makes life too miserable.

    Not that it is bad to improve living standards for people.

    But it would be a pity if the improvement of living matters would put people back to sleep, as I expect.

    But who knows what will happen?
    We have to wait and see, and remain critical in the meantime.
    Interesting times.

    Like

    • bevin says

      “So I accept that things will improve for a lot of people in the near future, because only that can save the status quo with their false narrative…”
      They have been getting steadily worse for about half a century now. The latest figures show US life expectancy falling, and labour market participation at an historic low.
      The thing is it would not be difficult to, for example, introduce Medicare for all and a decent welfare system in the US. Nor would it be hard to invest a trillion dollars in infrastructure projects which would enormously boost demand and employment.
      It would have been easy enough to do these things in 2008-when a lot of people expected them.
      The problem is that a system built on greed is run by very greedy people_ as living standards fall, the ruling classes call for cuts, price increases and wage cuts. They just aren’t afraid of a working class which no longer has Trade Unions, has no perspective of political change and socialism and regularly votes against its own interests.
      It would be easy enough to change these things. But until they are changed things will get worse- the rich will only concede anything (including their birthrights) to the poor when a knife is held to their throats.

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  7. Dear John, to expect one person to offer solutions to oppressive structures like exploitation, capitalism, patriarchy is putting him/her in an unfair situation. I think it is only when each one of us starts thinking of solutions on our own that something sustainable might arise. ‘My solution to collective oppression would be to stop oppressing others whenever we as individuals are in positions of power (e.g. Our subordinates, animals, earth). Perhaps when we ourselves individually stop exploiting others, a collective transformation may occur.

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  8. michaelk says

    I don’t believe there’s realistic alternative narrative or model the people can employ to regain even a fraction of the power and wealth they’ve lost over the last three or four decades. The political system is no longer configured that way. In essence the democratic, the liberal bourgeois democratic model, has ground to a halt.

    What we’re seeing now is something like a return or a birth of a new type of feudal economy and society, that, despite all the glittering tech, resembles the pre-modern era. The massive wealth and power chasm looks increasingly like pre-revolutionary France, especially in relation to taxation and huge economic subsidies for the very rich, who live in what I’ve termed a global, vertual, Versailles.

    So, one can probably write off politics as the route by which ordinary people regain a bit of power and wealth. Politics is probably ‘dead’ too. Democracy a dry husk covering an empty hole. What’s left is revolt, insurrection and revolution as the way forward. More likely though, at least in the short term, is massive state oppression designed to control the population and hinder a revolution, the return of something resembling totalitarian fascism, which seems to be our default mode.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Agree with everything you say, except this: the liberal bourgeois democratic model, has ground to a halt. No. Since its inception, It was ever this way. People are only just waking up from the fantasy that there was ever anything like a democratic process in which, however insignificant their individual part may have been, they could participate and that they could collectively influence. And what we have is not a new type of feudal society, but capitalism, which as part of its structure incorporates a political process that is very much liberal bourgeois democratic, with the emphasis on bourgeois.

      And yes, I think you’ve got that right, an observation that has actually been made time and again by other astute observers of capitalism going back as far as the late 19th Century down to the present day: “What’s left is revolt, insurrection and revolution as the way forward.”

      The thing that threatens the ‘regime’ is as Glen Ford puts it:

      The root of the crisis of credibility, which is really a systemic crisis of legitimacy, lies in the inability of late stage capitalism to offer anything that will stem the steady decline in the mass of people’s living standards and economic security. So deep is the decay, every amelioration of public pain would require the dismantling of capitalist structures of power, which is unacceptable to the rulers.

      Marx got it right, broadly speaking, assuming that things are pretty much as Ford is describing them.

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  9. While I fully concur with Glen Ford’s analysis, he has failed to come up with any alternative course of action for poor and working people to pursue in order to regain power and control over their society.
    He needs to provide an alternative vision of a new and better society, as well as provide some sort of road map to achieve it.

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    • John: True, He didn’t offer an alternative system, but good grief! Can’t someone write an article without being the one to have all the answers?

      Like

    • But why should Glen Ford provide an answer or a course of action for you to follow? Can’t you come up with your own ideas? Ford makes no claim to being a Second Messiah.

      It is this kind of expectation that keeps us psychologically enslaved to TPTB, be they our present corporate elites or the religious elites of the past. We can’t keep bouncing from one set of people claiming to have all the solutions to our problems to the next.

      Every society may be facing the same enemy but there can be no one way to defeat the enemy. It is easier for the enemy to face down one charge and concentrate its efforts into countering it than for the enemy to suffer death by 10,000 cuts from 10,000 different directions.

      Liked by 1 person

      • If no one comes forward with an alternative, then nothing changes.
        That is the difference between present-day commentators and former political visionaries like Marx, Lenin and – even – Hitler.They changed their societies – not for the better.
        But there were also others like FDR in the US and Clement Attlee in the UK – who established the British National Health Service and a national welfare state.
        Why is there no F. D. Roosevelt or Clement Attlee around today?

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        • “Visionaries” like Marx, Lenin and . . . . Hitler!??!

          You are just a tad mixed up, aren’t you John? Or you are trying hard to be funny?

          I’ll assume the former:

          Hitler may have been a fascist, but he was all for and about capitalism, so he didn’t actually change anything at all about the dominant political and economic institutions of Germany or Europe. So any catastrophe that you may want to attribute to Hitler and his “vision” is actually to be attributed to capitalism more generally. And do recall that WWII was global in scope, and that the United States, after having tried to crush the Bolshevik revolution in Russia in the years just after WWI, actually and astutely allied with the evil communist regime during WWII so as to maneuver itself in a position of dominance in those parts of the world that would remain under capitalist rule, and incidentally, if things became as prosperous as they did under Roosevelt, it had less to do with his “vision” of things than with a radicalized American working class threatening the powerful who then trembled at the very real prospect of a revolution. Roosevelt only paid the ransom he felt that capitalism had to pay if it was to survive at all, and what he paid turned out to be sufficient.

          As for the issue of fascism as such, here, do try to educate yourself at least a little:

          The Return of Fascism in Contemporary Capitalism

          As for Lenin and making things a lot worse than they had been, you are joking, again, right? But on the off chance that you aren’t, here, have a listen to what you will no doubt construe as propaganda, but what is actually the fact of the matter:

          Dr. Michael Parenti lecture (1986): “US interventionism, the 3rd world, and the USSR” April 15, 1986 — approximately 1.5 hours.

          As for Marx, 95% of what he wrote wasn’t at all “visionary.” Indeed, he was mostly focused on teasing out the dysfunctions of capitalism, on trying to understand why a system that was so potentially hugely productive of human welfare could in fact be so willfully destructive of both the earth and its inhabitants.

          For what we have mostly come to understand about the kind of political and economic system under which the entire world now lives, we actually owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the old man.

          An astute observer he was; a visionary he was not, and he even actually declaimed that he had no formula or prescription for how a post-capitalist or socialist or communist society ought to be organized in its details.

          The only thing of which he was certain was that unless private property in the means of production was outlawed and wage labour as an institution abolished, the miseries inherent to the mode of oppression and exploitation that is capitalism would never be transcended toward a more humane mode of life.

          Furthermore, as Marx never lived to personally participate in any attempt to overthrow any capitalist regime anywhere, you cannot possibly accuse him of being the originator of anything “not for the better,” or as you clearly imply, far worse than capitalist society.

          Marx offers you a detailed and accurate indictment of capitalism, not a prescription for socialism.

          His position was that it would be up to the men and women of a post-capitalist order to create and invent the real world institutions of a real world socialist era, not necessarily perfect in all respects, but free at last of the worse defects of what we now live under.

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