opinion | Drunk in Power: The US State Department’s neoliberal conquest of the South African media landscape

An old fish swims past a young fish and comments as it goes: “Good morning boy. How’s the water today?”

“Water?” replies the young fish. “What is that?”

And so it is with the creeping neoliberal hegemony in which the South African media is swimming. She demands that we take for granted the pro-Western neoliberal worldview enshrined in mainstream and trusted media sources. It makes it seem inherently unassailable and naturally virtuous. It eliminates the subtlety and nuance of debate, dressing the bad guys in black hats while the good guys wear sweatpants with pinstripes and stars. And it is quick to slander and slander those who deviate from this imposed and fabricated orthodoxy.

Those editors and publications that hide their funding, hide their operations, and hide their agenda need to come clean.

The South African media landscape has been taken over by a coalition of right-wing and neoliberal forces, with major online publications such as News24, amaBhungane and Daily Maverick all firmly under neoliberal control. A number of publications have a cash flow from a web of funds linked directly or indirectly to the US intelligence network in such a way that they have become an extension of the CIA. There are also all forms of influence, such as B. Confidential briefings and collaborations with USAID or projects funded by the National Endowment for Democracy that do not take the form of direct cash transfers. In addition, there is ongoing collaboration with a network of US-funded NGOs and research centers.

This information complex has been so legitimized by its henchmen that any attempt to ring the cat of foreign interference is instinctively dismissed as conspiracy theory, disinformation by renegade state officials, and even the “talking topic” of dictatorships at a distance. unleashed lands.

So it’s hard to imagine that much of the South African media, which has acquired such institutional authority over the years, is being duped by the US State Department.

At first glance, such a claim sounds far-fetched. After all, it’s only the “criminals, scammers and bullshit artists” who take refuge, saying the game is rigged, the referee is biased and the news is fake. But one only has to look at the published works of these titles to see their very clear biases.

On the rocks, off the record

One of the most chilling bombshells to emerge from New Frame’s recent shutdown is editor Richard Pithouse’s revelation that he was mugged by former US Ambassador to South Africa Lana Marks, as well as three Consuls General. If only he was approached, we could consider this innocent. But it is well known that the whole approach of the US diplomatic machine based in South Africa is to recruit the media outlets as stenographers for the US propaganda machine.

According to Pithouse:

“In almost four years of operation, one state and one state have only attempted to connect with New Frame. A few months after our launch, Donald Trump’s Ambassador (Lana Marks) came to our offices for a surprise unscheduled visit, accompanied by her three consuls. I didn’t invite them in. But as she stood at the door, she inquired about our interest in international affairs and invited me to a monthly editors’ meeting in Cape Town called ‘On the rocks and off the record’. She emphasized the first class transport and accommodation, as well as the excellent food and alcohol, and told me that ‘all the editors are coming’ and how good it would be for my career. I declined the offer.”

Now this event raises many questions.

  • What current editors of publications have, past or present, visited or used emissaries to be flown first class to Cape Town, perhaps to a luxurious five star hotel in a place like Bantry Bay?
  • What did former ambassador Lana Marks mean by “all the editors are coming” and “it’ll be good for your career”? Is this a job promise, privileged State Department information, access to funding, or other opportunities?
  • Daily Maverick editor Will Branko Brkic, amaBhungane’s Sam Sole, News24’s Adriaan Basson and editors from other major South African publications and media outlets have confirmed or denied to their boards, shareholders and most importantly the public and their readers that they are involved in a covert project be to influence the national narrative? It is now imperative that every editor be clear about this publicly.
  • What is the position or policy of the South African National Editor’s Forum (SANEF) on this type of attempted interference by US intelligence and State Department officials? A clear statement is also required from the SANEF ethics committee.
  • Do these editors share some other nation-state’s off-the-record soirees? The public deserves to know.

We also deserve to know who funds the Daily Maverick. It is unacceptable that such an influential publication should refuse to disclose its funding.

The result

The desired end product of such improper influence is the publication of ready-made packages of lies and disinformation in the Daily Maverick, amaBhungane, and other media outlets. Opinion forming has been outsourced and licensed exclusively to a group of self-proclaimed opinion makers who spearhead the analysis for the Chatter class. The Opinionista section of the Daily Maverick, particularly those “legally” allowed to write on foreign policy, is limited to a few hawks, like Peter Fabricius, a 30-plus-year veteran in the US State Department machine, and Greg Mills, who advises the most capricious hawks in the military-industrial complex. The publication’s own content indicates that it is an in-house project of the US state. One need only compare the number of articles written by journalists embedded in the US information complex with those written in support of the Palestinian people’s struggle, for example.

This gatekeeping creates a false neoliberal consensus within the culture of these publications. Journalists in these publications, and even potential contributors to these publications, are beginning to see the path of least resistance to publishing their work, and this reduces the voices of dissent in these liberal editorial offices. Material serving the pro-US propaganda line circulated in this On the Rocks and Off the Record is elevated. Material that does not is dismissed as “Putin talking point” or “rogue state propaganda” or even a Chinese conspiracy fabricated by Indians and trade unionists in a very crude attempt at delegitimization.

This is a sinister scenario of a cohort of journalists beginning to separate fact from fiction by evaluating fact on their own terms, a practice selectively employed when it comes to curating particular narratives. The journalistic outfits so embedded in the US worldview, either through a distorted sense of mission, or ideology, or access to resources, or simply a lack of courage to stand up to the imperial cop.

Why should such an agenda exist?

Why is imperialism doing this? Imperialism needs no rhyme or reason, it simply has interests. It exists as a system constantly striving to conquer new frontiers and consolidate its influence over others. For the US, this has been the primary urge since the founding of Manifest Destiny on the back of its racist imperial conquest of the First Nations of America. It has trodden the path of conquest, interference and appropriation on its journey from a tiny hemispheric actor in the 19th liberal and right-wing MAGA clown. The creation of “reality” through media narrative control is a key weapon of imperialism.

For South Africa the program is simple. The creation of this neoliberal consensus should pave the way for the election dismantling of the ANC-led alliance government. The innumerable failures of the three-way alliance have not made things easier for themselves. Multiple crises in energy production, high unemployment, poverty and structural inequality, and a deteriorating economy have increased discontent among all South Africans.

This has lubricated the Western powers’ long-held program of undermining the legitimacy of the ANC, as this would present an opportunity for regime change to a government or alliance that would be partial to Western interests and refocus South Africa’s perspective away from the common ones interests of the Global South and the pursuit of National Democratic Revolution. On issues where the South African government was NOT pro-Western, pro-US and pro-NATO, there was a program to paint neutral institutions and views as anti-Western, anti-US, anti-NATO and pro-China , pro-Russia, etc. Non-alignment in principle is cynically misrepresented as pro-China and pro-Russia. This is the logic of George W. Bush: “You are either with us or against us”.

The end result of this program will be a political body that will resemble and amplify all the weaknesses of unstable coalition governments at the local level. Only this time, the stage for this instability will be national, regional and continental. These neoliberals under the spell of the US machine are not evil people, but they suffer from magical thinking. While they believe that they are further strengthening democracy, they are actually helping to initiate an accelerated phase of Balkanization in the Republic of South Africa. They want to replace the ANC but, as is usual in US-backed regime change operations, have given no thought to the long-term consequences of such a coup.

Those editors and publications that hide their funding, hide their operations, and hide their agenda need to come clean. What happens at the Ellerman House and other places where they get drunk on their imperial masters’ whiskey? what are you talking about What is the program and why are they not disclosing it to the public and their shareholders?

The reason for this is simple and can be summed up by what the late great George Carlin said:

“It’s a big club and you’re not in it!”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.