Naked Capitalism: Working Together to Combat 21st Century Lies

By John McGregor, a translator and political violence researcher

It’s easy to think of good reasons to contribute to Naked Capitalism. I was reading it long before I started to write, and I know that I have benefited from the work of the whole Naked Capitalism community. This work is more essential than ever.

When the current conflict (or current phase in the conflict) in Ukraine began earlier this year, the Western censorship machine went into overdrive, blocking or silencing news and views from Russia. Alongside news outlets, Western businesses and state institutions launched a boycott of anything, and anyone, Russian. Russian athletes, filmmakers, and artists have been fired or banned from public life, and long-term academic research collaborations cancelled.

In Australia, this process of rapidly transforming public discourse fit a long-established pattern that has escalated over time. Instead of legislating, or issuing a directive, the Australian government openly pressured state institutions and big businesses to prosecute in this censorship campaign.

Amongst other interventions, the Former Communications Minister Paul Fletcher wrote to Meta, Apple, TikTok, Twitter, Snap, Reddit, Google, and Microsoft on behalf of the government to “request” that they stop disseminating Russian state media.

Australia already has one of the most concentrated media ownership landscapes in the world, and the above tech giants control most of the Australian traffic on the internet. All it took was a few letters and a couple of phone calls from the Liberal government minister and the entire Australian media sphere, local and international, across multiple platforms, agreed to cooperate in censoring Russia.

This isn’t about liking Russia or not, it’s about the government using its tools to shape public opinion. We’ve seen these approaches deployed in other recent crisis responses, like the mass surveillance and endless conflicts of the War on Terror.

In parallel to the censorship, much of the Western propaganda was equally and confusingly blunt. While Russian state media was knocked off YouTube, DW, the German state-owned broadcaster, took the extraordinary step of changing the name of its channel so that it began “Russia invades Ukraine LIVE”.

This was just one aspect of the propaganda campaign against Russia but it was indicative of the stakes. The Western powers have committed to total information warfare.

Any pretense of the free market of ideas has been entirely replaced by the information battlefield that we as Naked Capitalism readers now inhabit. The bombardment of comes from every direction. Mainstream news outlets and government mouthpieces shower us with lies from above, something they have always done, but with a technologically enhanced capacity that is always increasing. Social media, often cooperating freely with the state, assaults us with more nonsense, with the added touch of appearing more organic, homely, and unhinged. When I went to buy (extremely expensive) petrol the other day, a screen on the pump started giving me unprompted “news” about the conflict in Ukraine.

When lies permeate so much of society, it is impossible to avoid them. One can’t simply not buy the newspaper or change the dial when the news comes on. We are exposed to literally thousands of advertisements every day. Corporate interests try to take and maintain hegemonic control over what we know of the past and what we expect from the future. They mold and manipulate the ways we engage with the present. Working hand in hand with governments, they crush dissenting voices and inundate us with so much useless pantomime and self-interested deception that the few rare attempts to analyze and criticize the Capitalist system are at constant risk of being washed away in the flood.

But nobody can ignore the effects of this miasma of corporate propaganda. Whether it be the forever wars, the climate crisis, the catastrophic responses to Covid-19, or the current self-induced economic crisis, the effects of an economic system and society running on lies are tangible to working people the world over. In these circumstances, even the simpler lies, the lies that we repeat to ourselves and rely on to keep going every day, are being exposed, with catastrophic consequences. Lies like, these pills will make you well (and aren’t addictive either!), the water is safe to drink in America, we’ll be able to stay warm this winter, or people don’t starve to death in modern Britain.

To protect against the worst effects of this system, to try to change it, we need to cut through the lies from all sides before they harm us. We can’t build anything for the future if we operate with intentionally faulty information. If you’ve already accepted this mission, please go to the donations page to support our effort to navigate this hall of mirrors.

More than ever, in the face of ongoing health and energy crises, we need to make intelligent choices. We cannot possibly do so without honest analysis.

To do this, we need to fight back against the barrage of deception. This is not something we can do alone. On the information battlefield, Rambo might manage to pick off a few stray fabrications, but he’d soon be blown apart by one of the various well-oiled and organized propaganda machines.

We must be organized to fight organized lies. We need to come together and highlight the nonsense, analyze it, pull it apart, show our work (and theirs). We all do that all the time here at Naked Capitalism, whether in the articles or in the comments. We push and pull against each other, put forward ideas and analyses, find, share, and assess information (and its origins). We all bring together different expertise, local knowledge, and personal experience of the same rotten system to highlight its dangers and damages, and hopefully change it. So please support this process! Donate!

Please contribute what you can to Naked Capitalism. I know the many blind-spots in my worldview that it has helped me enlighten, and I know full well that I wouldn’t have otherwise addressed them.

I know, as do you all, the time it takes to unpick one tiny fabrication when it has resources behind it, and we live in a world where lies are a dime a dozen, mass-produced and nearly fully automated. Without a community, without a team of people, without a platform, I might be able to counter some small portion of the mass deception I encounter personally, but I know I would give up in most cases. And giving up normally means either accepting the mainstream narrative, or indulging in an unexamined fringe conspiracy theory, either of which just serves to prop up the system.

As governments, tech companies, and big businesses pool their resources to prosecute wars on working people the world over, we have to work together to fight back. In many parts of the world we have been physically isolated from each other in recent years, banned from coming together to protest the decisions of governments or businesses locally. We cannot afford to be digitally isolated from one another as well, to lose our capacity to work together against the onslaught of lies, to concede yet another battleground. Please contribute what you can to Naked Capitalism so that we can continue the fight together.

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  1. The Rev Kev

    John McGregor is not wrong about Australia getting sucked down this toilet bowl of censorship and I saw an example recently here. So there was this street artist named Peter Seaton who painted a large mural depicted a Russian and a Ukrainian soldier hugging each other. Well that is when all the usual suspects went ballistic. Kiev’s ambassador to Australia went on a rant and said that the artist failed to consult with the Ukrainian community in Melbourne and all the ‘good people’ agreed.

    Seaton said that it “doesn’t say you have to love the Russians. No. It’s just that love is fundamental within us…And anything that takes us away from love is not acting in our best interests in the long run. I really stand by that.”

    Not good enough they said so the poor guy had to make a public apology and then had to paint over the mural with gray paint-

    Still not good enough as Ukrainian leaders here were saying ‘what about the damage caused to those Ukrainians’ that came here and asked how this could happen in Australia. Well this is one Aussie that says that they can go *** and then they can ***** with a **** then **** with a rubber duck.

    1. John Zelnicker

      Rev – Scheerpost has a post up that addresses this travesty with links to some of the whinging and Seaton’s web site. Along with another organization, they are offering to put the mural on billboards around the world:

      “World BEYOND War has funds donated to us specifically for putting up billboards. We would like to offer, should Seaton find it acceptable and helpful, to put this image up on billboards in Brussels, Moscow, and Washington. We would like to help with reaching out to muralists to put it up elsewhere. And we would like to put it on yard signs that individuals can display around the world.”

      Perhaps they should include Sydney, Melbourne, etc., if a billboard company will accept it.

      1. The Rev Kev

        Thanks for that link John. I doubt that Seaton would give permission as they really came down hard on him for his crimethought and made things unpleasant for him. And he was only a young guy. So if any other city tried to do this, there would be the same sort of backlash led by the Ukrainian mafia. Hopefully though this can be done when the war is over and people are no longer sucked in by all these optics.

  2. mistah charley, ph.d.

    I was a fan of Bob Dylan in my adolescence and his young adulthood – it was the quest for authenticity in a world of fakery that appealed to me then – “something is happening here, but you don’t know what it is – do you, Mr. Jones?”

    I still wonder what is happening here, although sometimes I think I know. My studies of political economy, psychology, the social sciences, and the spiritual traditions have led me to conclude that self-aware beings – and self-awareness is a complex phenomenon, with many ways of being incomplete – must face four existential questions:

    1/Where did we come from?
    2/Why are we here?
    3/Where are we going?
    4/What’s for lunch?

    It is in the spirit of helping to answer the fourth question that I intend to make another donation to the Tip Jar.

    1. lambert strether

      Thank you for a second donation. I appeal once again to those who had a good year to “pay it forward” for those who cannot.

    2. tegnost

      On a cautionary note I’d like to highlight a couple of dylan tunes. He does existential really good.
      The first is “It’s all over now, baby blue”, followed by “It ain’t no use to sit and wonder why”.
      Donate as if NC relies on donors to survive, because it does…

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