Gaza and the student protests

9 May

… empire managers are acutely aware of something normal human beings are not: that power comes from manipulating the stories people tell themselves about reality. They know we are storytelling animals, our inner lives dominated by mental narratives about what’s happening, so if you can control those narratives, you can control the humans …

… like highly manipulative people in general, they  do not use language the way normal people do, to connect and communicate. They use it to extract things they want, and to exert control …

The day before I flew to Norway, where I now write, a former colleague alerted me to a campus sit-in over mass murder in Gaza. Said colleague being at Sheffield Hallam University – and me a dipstick even more error prone than usual in my race through a daunting to-do list – I misread his email and, already on a tight shed, made my way to the SHU students union. With camera.

WTF is everyone?

The next day my colleague replied, bidding me re-read his email. In the BA Guest Lounge at Heathrow I did just that, to find that the occupation was at University of Sheffield, the more senior of the steel city’s two higher education shops.

It still is.

Meantime here’s Caitlin Johnstone on those university occupations in protest at Gaza genocide. Or rather, on how a Siliconaire oligarch’s condemnation of them, at a forum for the elites who rule the West through a fig leaf of democracy, shows how unguardedly these people may speak on their home turf.

She also revisits a more frequently aired theme; that it is only possible to maintain even the chimera of democratic choice, over how our societies are run, by controlling the narrative. As I put it in the differing context – the preposterous notion that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was “unprovoked” – of my previous post:

Our leaders’ denials of having knowingly provoked Russia amount to a flat out whopper whose widespread acceptance, in the face of evidence easily adduced, is a triumph of narrative over reality which reveals our media as systemically incapable of speaking truth to power when it most matters.

Over to Caitlin, writing today.

Empire Managers Explain Why This New Protest Movement Scares Them

“They understand that if they lose control of the narrative, they won’t be able to deploy their armies anymore.”

The US secretary of state and a Bilderberg surveillance tech oligarch have both made some very interesting admissions about the burgeoning protest movement against the US-backed slaughter in Gaza and the problems it poses for the empire they help run.

During a vitriolic rant about university demonstrators at the Ash Carter Exchange on Innovation and National Security on Tuesday, Palantir CEO Alex Karp came right out and said that if those on the side of the protesters win the debate on this issue, the west will lose the ability to wage wars.

For those who don’t know, Palantir is a CIA-backed surveillance and data mining tech company with intimate ties to both the US intelligence cartel and to Israel, playing a crucial role in both the US empire’s sprawling surveillance network and Israeli atrocities against Palestinians. Karp is a billionaire who sits on the Steering Committee of the Bilderberg Group and regularly features at the World Economic Forum and other platforms of plutocratic empire management. 

We kind of just think these things that are happening, across college campuses especially, are like a sideshow — no, they are the show. Because if we lose the intellectual debate, you will not be able to deploy any army in the west, ever.

Everyone should listen very carefully to Karp’s words here, because he’s giving the whole game away. He’s making it very clear how crucial it is for the empire to stomp out this protest movement and the zeitgeist upon which it rides, because the very existence of the imperial war machine depends on it. At a time when most imperial spinmeisters are trying to dismiss the importance of this movement and what young people are doing on college campuses around the world, this is a really extraordinary admission from someone who lives deep in the guts of the imperial hydra.

Such conferences are great for obtaining useful information from swamp monsters that you don’t normally hear, because when they’re surrounded by like-minded empire goons they tend to get a lot more loose-tongued than they are when they’re more aware that they have an audience of normal people.

We saw this illustrated again in a conversation between Senator Mitt Romney and Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the McCain Institute last week, during which both acknowledged some facts that generally go unstated by such creatures.

After bemoaning Israel’s lack of success at “PR” regarding its Gaza assault, Romney just came right out and said that this was “why there was such overwhelming support for us to shut down potentially TikTok or other entities of that nature” —  with “us” meaning himself and his fellow lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

“How this narrative has evolved, yeah, it’s a great question,” Blinken responded, saying that at the beginning of his career in Washington everyone was getting their information from television and physical newspapers like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.

“Now, of course, we are on an intravenous feed of information with new impulses, inputs every millisecond,” Blinken continued. “And of course, the way this has played out on social media has dominated the narrative. And you have a social media ecosystem environment in which context, history, facts get lost, and the emotion, the impact of images dominates. And we can’t — we can’t discount that, but I think it also has a very, very, very challenging effect on the narrative.”

Notice how he said the word “narrative” three times? That’s how empire managers talk to each other, because that’s how they think about everything.

This is because empire managers are always acutely aware of something that normal human beings are not: that real power comes from manipulating the stories — narratives — that people tell themselves about their reality.

They understand that humans are storytelling animals whose inner lives are typically dominated by mental narratives about what’s happening, so if you can control those narratives, you can control the humans.

They understand that power is controlling what happens, but true power is controlling what people think about what happens.

They understand that whoever controls the narrative controls the world.

That’s what’s going on with all the mass media propaganda, Silicon Valley algorithm manipulation, plutocrat-funded think tanks, and mainstream culture manufacturing in New York and Hollywood. A few clever manipulators understand that you can control a society by controlling its dominant narratives.

Our rulers don’t think about things like normal people think about them. They don’t think in terms of doing the right thing or acting in a way that benefits everyone. They don’t think in terms of truth and honesty or the lack thereof. They only think in terms of what stories people are telling each other, and how those stories can be changed in a way that advances the interests of the empire they manage.

Empire managers — and highly manipulative people in general — do not use language in the way that normal people use it. Normal human beings use language to connect and communicate, whereas manipulators use it only to extract things they want from people and exert control over them. They do this by working to control the narratives that people have about their material reality.

That’s why when Romney and Blinken are talking to each other about why people are so upset at Israel, it never even occurs to them to discuss how Israel’s public image is being hurt by its own actions, or to suggest that it could improve that image by simply ceasing to behave in a monstrous way. All they talk about is “the narrative” of what Israel is doing, and how people having the ability to share ideas and information with each other online makes that narrative harder to control.

So while normal people are looking at the bloodshed and horror in Gaza and screaming it needs to stop at the top of our lungs, our rulers are hearing us and thinking, “Oh no, we need to find a way to get them to stop believing that narrative and get them to believe another one.”

That’s what we’re seeing with all the attempts to stomp out free speech both at demonstrations and online. They understand that if they lose control of the narrative, they won’t be able to deploy their armies anymore.

So please don’t make the mistake of thinking your attempts to disrupt their narrative control aren’t working. Don’t let anyone tell you your protests don’t make a difference or your dissident speech poses no threat to the powerful. If what you’re doing wasn’t working, empire managers wouldn’t be losing their minds right now.

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4 Replies to “Gaza and the student protests

  1. Yes I read Caitlin’s piece earlier. I wonder, are these people so dumb (arrogant?) they don’t realise that we, and many others who think critically, will read reports of them basically admitting it’s all about narrative control.

    Anyway it’s really good, encouraging actually, that these monsters know millions are on to them. Hope it’s keeping them awake at night.

    Norway sounds nice. Hope you’re getting some sunshine if you have time to enjoy it. We’re going to hopefully sunny Pembrokeshire on Saturday.

    Have a good day Phil x

  2. Meanwhile, this just dropped into my inbox this morning:

    “Survivors of the October 7 attacks filed a lawsuit in U.S. federal court last week alleging links between Hamas and the pro-Palestinian student groups leading nationwide protests against Israel’s war on Gaza. The survivors claim the student groups are liable for monetary damages because of the purported terrorism links.

    “When someone tells you they are aiding and abetting terrorists — believe them.” That’s the opening line the suit filed Wednesday against the Palestinian advocacy groups American Muslims for Palestine and National Students for Justice in Palestine, the umbrella group supporting student organizers for Palestine, which supports more than 350 Palestine solidarity groups, including more than 200 campus organizations across the country.

    The lawsuit is part of a nationwide crackdown on pro-Palestine activism, especially on campus. It was filed a day after police in New York City deployed militarized forces to remove students from campus encampments protesting the war on Gaza and arrested hundreds.

    Some or all of the nine plaintiffs in the suit are involved in a raft of other civil suits related to the October 7 attacks. Among the defendants they’ve pursued in court are major media organizations and United Nations agencies…..

    …..The lawsuits rely on anti-terrorism laws that made it possible to bring civil cases for acts of international terrorism, including provisions around bans on material support to terrorism that have long been controversially applied. ….

    ….“For years, CCR and others have been warning of the abuse of broad ‘material support’ laws to shrink the space for Palestinian rights,” said Diala Shamas, staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights…..

    …..“The law’s provision of civil damages means that private actors — including those with seemingly endless resources — can bog you down in costly and distracting litigation,” Shamas said. “This means that Palestinians and those who support their rights become ‘high risk’ — and those who they rely on — charities, funders, banks or social media companies — are chilled from further engagement. The goal is to isolate Palestinians.””

    How long before this kind of approach is used to target not just collective organisations who challenge The Official Narrative but any individual who steps out of line?

    The precedent having already been set in another context in which the Labour Party trawled Social Media to find anything they could to discipline, suspend, expel and vilify members who did not follow The Official Narrative to the letter.

    • Addendum:

      To pinch a well known catchphrase (at least to us current generation of wrinklies);

      “They don’t like it up ’em!

      “They” being Zionists and their lobby.

      Not to be outdone by the Americans in targeting anyone supporting Palestinians former Labour MP John Woodcock – now Blue Tory Peer Lord Walney:

      “plans to issue a report recommending new measures to outlaw groups trying to end genocide or to protect the planet – with a particular emphasis on protecting weapons manufacturers, treating them on similar lines to the proscription of supposed terrorist groups.”

      “Walney……wants to limit the activities and fundraising of groups such as Palestine Action (PA) and Just Stop Oil.”

      Apparently Woodcock “wants a “proscription-light” option to restrict the groups’ ability to meet and fundraise – combined with “buffer zones” around weapons manufacturers to protect factories producing deadly technologies from protest.”

      The American political class have already upped the ante……

      ……with that well known ‘humanist’ Lindsey Graham demanding:

      “that the US keep sending Israel bombs to use on Palestinian civilians in Gaza”

      Justifying “his demand by comparing Gaza to Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

      “We decided to end the war (with Japan) by the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with nuclear weapons and that was the right decision. Give Israel the bombs they need to end the war that they can’t afford to lose.”

      It would seem a complete waste of time attempting to get through to such people even basic practical facts about low inventory weapons stocks and the lack of manufacturing capacity (in a de-industrialised economy based on financialisation and unsustainable debt levels) as those like Lindsey Graham don’t do the Reality Based Community.

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