The Pentagon’s Pro-War Sock Puppets
In the next years, if you find someone online defending the warfare state, it just might be a government propagandist. The web persona might be a complete fake, even the product of a computer program concocted by the US military “to influence internet conversations and spread pro-American propaganda,” reports the Guardian.
It has become fashionable since 2001 or so to call the situation in America”Orwellian,” but before long, we will need another term, one that refers specifically to post-9/11 America and can be used to describe other phenomena of a similarly creepy and dystopian nature. Even Orwell could not predict what the U.S. has become—the military spies on the American people, federal officials irradiate and molest airline passengers en masse, the state borrows and inflates and spends to undo a crisis caused by borrowing, inflating and spending, and, by the way, we have always been at war with Libya.
Yet there is something especially unsettling about the prospect of government infiltrators in civil society. They have long existed, but the post-9/11 drive to put them in positions of trust—package carriers, cable installers and telephone repairmen—whereby they would have access to Americans’ homes, seemed a bit too Stasi-like even for the American people, some of whose outrage apparently inspired Bush to cancel that program.
But now we have what we could call Operation Sock Puppet—named after the common label given to a false online persona created for the purpose of weighing in on one side of the debate and to tip the scales of discourse—whereby the government plans to infiltrate social media and whoop it up for war.
The bright side? Their typical propaganda apparatuses are not sufficiently working, perhaps. Even with the corporate media, big business, big labor, both political parties, the public school system, higher education, the press corps and their tentacles on the grip of most organs of the conservative movement and many of the left-liberal ones, the War Party must resort to ever more desperate attempts to shore up support for its wars.
That’s a positive spin on the situation. We could alternatively argue that the wars—such as the new one in Libya—barely register on the minds of most Americans, and neither will this cynical ploy by the empire to solidify public support. If Obama tried to bring back TIPS, would it succeed, after nearly a decade of post-9/11 desensitization to government lies, torture, spying, jailing without trial and killing?
Either way, we know the state cannot thrive without public support, or at least public acquiescence. Its sock puppet program only reminds us how much it distrusts, resents and even fears its subjects. We might lament how little Americans seem to strike back against these obscene yet everyday invasions. But at least we see how vulnerable the establishment is, which gives us some hope.