Tortilla con Sal, Telesur, July 25th 2016
Ever since the early 20th Century, managing global consumer taste in communications has been fundamental to the Western corporate elites’ success in their endless global war on the impoverished majority. But their control of global perceptions is in jeopardy now as the effects of climate change become more extreme and the Western powers face increasingly more effective challenges to their economic and military supremacy. Increasingly too, Western dominance even in the English language theater of the global psychological war is less robust now than before. Foreign media with English language outlets, like Russia’s RT, Iran’s Press TV, the ALBA countries’ Telesur or China Central TV offer fresh coverage that has effectively broken Western media’s previous monopoly of foreign news consumption.
One fundamental aspect of psychological warfare ruthlessly exploited by the corporate capitalist elites is the vulnerability of people who think of themselves as progressive to dishonest manipulation of their sincere humanitarian impulses and sense of justice. That exploitation has intensified and become more creative over the last thirty years with a mushrooming of non-governmental organizations and their increasing use as supposedly reliable sources of factual information. This is especially important in terms of managing the relatively well educated, politically articulate populations of the NATO countries in North America and Europe. To do so, Western media and NGOS collaborate more and more with self-evident but unacknowledged ideological bias and also increasingly abandon even the pretense of basic professional competence.
Just as in the West’s corporate disinformation media, the corporate management of the NGO sector works via a straightforward class mechanism that naturally screens out genuine dissidents. The various ideological filters can accommodate all kinds of nonconformists, across gender, sexuality, race, religion and class itself, but long experience has shown that peer pressure and fear of losing income or status suppress dissent very effectively. Only a tiny number of people are able to resist the subtle but crushing machinery of intellectual oppression this insidious culture imposes. And because the numbers who resist are so small, they have a correspondingly trivial impact in the West’s psychological war against the global impoverished majority.
This in its turn means that really quite diverse identities accumulate in the Western NGO sector, clustering around gender, sexuality, race, and political ideology. Those identity-focused clusters feed into and are in turn themselves to some extent shaped by the majority world NGO sector, itself mostly dependent on the corporate and government funding base of their Western counterparts. The resulting enormous global network enjoys a symbiotic relationship with Western corporate and alternative media. Western media pick up stories from NGOs so the NGOs benefit from Western media coverage in a mutual credibility-enhancing display for the benefit of gullible consumers. This kind of perception management occurs constantly in foreign news coverage of countries targeted by NATO country governments, from Venezuela to Syria to Eritrea but it takes time and effort to uncover how this psy-warfare mechanism works.
A recent example in the case of Nicaragua turns around reports of alleged killings of environmental activists in the country’s Caribbean Coast. Both the Guardian and Fox News for example ran stories based on a June 2016 report called “On Dangerous Ground” by the Global Witness NGO which alleges that 12 environmental defenders were murdered in Nicaragua in 2015. The Global Witness report cynically places these alleged murders in the same context as the murder of Berta Cáceres and of other environmental activists in Brazil, Colombia and Peru. The report’s summary introduction states, “As demand for products like timber, minerals and palm oil continues, governments, companies and criminal gangs are exploiting land with little regard for the people who live on it. Increasingly, communities that take a stand are finding themselves in the firing line of companies’ private security, state forces and a thriving market for contract killers. The numbers are shocking. We documented 185 killings across16 countries, a 59% increase on 2014 and the highest annual toll on record.”
In Nicaragua’s case, what Global Witness mean by “documented” is that their team went on line, consulted several reports published in the virulently anti-Sandinista La Prensa newspaper of the views and work of one activist and her human rights organization, some links about that same activist by Front Line Defenders another Western NGO, and a recommendation for precautionary measures from the neocolonial OAS Inter American Commission for Human Rights. Following the Global Witness report, yet another Western NGO called Intercontinental Cry published an article headlined There is a crisis erupting along Nicaragua's Northern Coast”. All these reports are deliberately framed to give the false impression that Nicaragua’s Sandinista government is somehow colluding with sinister commercial interests to attack indigenous peoples and deprive them of their land. But all the relevant detail and context, all the social, economic and cultural complexity, tell a very different story.
In fact, under President Daniel Ortega, since 2007, the Sandinista government has resolutely restored and defended the communal rights of around 300 indigenous peoples’ communities with 23 communal land titles covering a population of over 200,000 people on 37,000 square kilometers, equivalent to almost 30% of Nicaragua’s national territory. Land disputes in Nicaragua are not uncommon because the Sandinista government has struggled to bring order and legitimacy to the chaotic property legacy resulting from title disputes unresolved, in many cases, since the revolutionary land reform of the 1980s. Across all of northern Nicaragua, including the northern Caribbean Coast, climate change and agricultural expansion are putting increasing pressure on natural reserves and protected areas. In recent years, that already difficult situation has been made more tense and complicated in the northern Caribbean Coast, by unscrupulous local indigenous peoples’ leaders.
In September last year, the National Assembly suspended the parliamentary status of Brooklyn Rivera, leader of the indigenous people’s movement Yatama because the government’s Attorney General alleged he and his accomplices had illegally sold communal lands to non-indigenous people. That series of illegal sales, including, among others, the communities of Awastigni, Prinzu Awala, Wangki Twi-Tasba Raya, Twi Waupasa, Wangki Li Aubra, Matumbak and covered a total territory of over 1500 square kilometers. Among the areas involved in the illegal sales are precisely the areas where non-indigenous purchasers of land have been in conflict with local indigenous people. The conflict in Nicaragua’s northern Caribbean Coast is one partly provoked and in in great part aggravated by the greed of the indigenous peoples’ own corrupt leaders.
However, as usual, Western media and NGOs have colluded to omit vital context, reporting in a selective and dishonest way, giving a false account of a complicated reality completely foreign to them. They have failed to report the causes or context of the conflict in northern Nicaragua, leaving it open to their readers to conclude that Nicaragua’s Sandinista government has colluded in events of genuine concern. They also omit that Sandinista party activists have been victims of violence from Brooklyn Rivera’s Yatama political movement, the very people responsible for the illegal sale of their own communities’ lands. Despite that, Western media and their allies often give a platform to Brooklyn Rivera who continues to pose as a defender of his people. On the other hand, they have inexplicably omitted to consult the opinion of Mirna Cunningham, another historic indigenous people’s leader from Northern Nicaragua who has been president of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous issues since 2011.
Western NGOs and media also falsely claim that the Nicaraguan government has deliberately failed to protect vulnerable communities, when police and army units do their best to control violent incidents. These incidents have involved the killing of campesinos trying to make a better life for their families but regarded by indigenous communities as invaders The army too has suffered casualties in its efforts to patrol the extensive territory in conflict which is also an area used by armed criminal gangs. None of this complexity is reflected in the glib falsity of the Global Witness Report and others like it. Nor did Global Witness research the work, positive or otherwise, of the Inter- Institutional Commission set up by President Ortega in December 2015. Despite all their readily verifiable failings, these reports are taken up and recycled by other organizations who, naively or deliberately, help spread falsehoods and misrepresentations given phony authority by the West’s highly developed media and NGO industrial disinformation network.
A big part of the relevant context for a genuinely concerned, factually based discussion of the land conflicts in northern Nicaragua is the categorical failure of Western governments to address the issue of Climate Justice. Related to that is the issue of indemnity for the vulnerable, impoverished countries affected by Climate Change. Poverty and increasingly volatile Climate Change are driving Nicaragua’s rapidly advancing deforestation and the consequent threat to vital natural reserves like Bosawas, Indio Maiz and others. The human consequences of those huge historical injustices are self-evident in the kinds of violent conflicts happening in areas like the indigenous peoples’ lands on Nicaragua’s Caribbean Coast. The Nicaraguan government hopes the mass reforestation program and employment opportunities of the proposed Interoceanic Canal will help fight Climate Change But all that indispensable context and other relevant facts are systematically omitted by Western media and NGOS and their local allies.
Those NGOs and media outlets betray the genuine, legitimate concern people in the West may have for environmental activists and indigenous peoples around the world by selectively misreporting the facts to further a clearly neocolonial economic, social and cultural agenda. That agenda is ultimately determined by class loyalties. The board members of George Soros-style NGOs like Global Witness or Front Line Defenders all come from the same managerial class as their counterparts at the Guardian or other similar undeservedly prestigious Western media . The fundamental political motive driving their agenda is the Western elites’ defense of their power and privilege by seeming to mitigate the systemic abuses on which Western capitalism is based. It suits those elites to falsify the facts and misrepresent the global context because doing so bolsters their phony moral authority, their increasingly precarious economic control and their totally illegitimate political power.