The American Empire is failing and flailing. This is the spectacle of our time. The Western mainstream news media are either blind, ignorant or complicit in denying the historic collapse. Such media are indulging reckless fantasies of the US political class to distract from the potential internal implosion. Casting around for scapegoats to “explain” the deep inherent problems, the political class are using Russia and alleged Russian “interference” as a pretext.
World history has reached a foreboding cross-roads due to the collapsing of the American Empire. Can we navigate a safe path forward avoiding catastrophic war that often accompanies the demise of empires?
A lot, it seems, depends on ordinary American people becoming politically organized to challenge their dysfunctional system run by and for the elites. If the American people cannot hold their elites to account and break their corrupt rule, overhauling it with something more equitable and democratic, then the world is in peril of being plunged into total war. We can only but wish our American brothers and sisters solidarity and success.
This core component of American patriotism – the popular conviction in a world-historical role for the US – is unlikely to continue. First, it is increasingly difficult not to notice that in many basic matters of government and society, including healthcare, public education, gender equity, social mobility and prosperity, economic fairness, childcare, environment and more, the US has fallen behind most of the developed world. The US’s world-historical ambitions have simply not kept pace with world history. Secondly, the wars. Wars are nation-making events, but they can also be unmaking ones. If your patriotism is linked to pretensions of a world-historical role, what do you do when the world chooses not to emulate you, or when it (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya) doesn’t want your Americanisation project?
We think that what we see in society confirms the assumptions we take for granted. But this is misguided. The assumptions themselves are the causes of those real life outcomes.
Right uses left
Through its amplification of an interlinked, multi-centered network organized around institutions like Lozansky’s American University in Moscow and the Voltaire Network and conferences like Moscow’s “Multi-Polar World” and Tehran’s “New Horizons,” syncretic networks associated with Dugin’s Eurasianist ideology have combined distortions and ambiguities into a geopolitical narrative meant to confuse audiences and promote authoritarian populist opposition to liberalism.
The “gray measures” used to deny the Kremlin’s influence operations may seem dubious when delivered through channels like Sputnik that are, themselves, political technologies of far-right political influence. When cycled through “narrative laundering” of secondary and tertiary networks enhanced by trolls and coordinated influence operations, however, propaganda is “graywashed” of its dubious sources and presented as cutting-edge journalism.
As shown with Figure 3, think tanks like Katehon and connected Russian Institute for Strategic Studies develop strategies for media spin and online promotion through influence groups and botnets. These think tanks engage in feedback loops with Russian state media channels and linked syncretic news sites, amplified through social media with the help of botnets, and eventually reaching more legitimate sources often freed of their dubious sourcing. The results are explored by a recent study from Data and Society called Media Manipulation and Disinformation Online: “Online communities are increasingly turning to conspiracy-driven news sources, whose sensationalist claims are then covered by the mainstream media, which exposes more of the public to these ideas, and so on.”
The pieces are all there to create an entirely different world history. For the most part, we’re just too blinded by our prejudices to see the implications. For instance, almost everyone nowadays insists that participatory democracy, or social equality, can work in a small community or activist group, but cannot possibly ‘scale up’ to anything like a city, a region, or a nation-state. But the evidence before our eyes, if we choose to look at it, suggests the opposite. Egalitarian cities, even regional confederacies, are historically quite commonplace. Egalitarian families and households are not. Once the historical verdict is in, we will see that the most painful loss of human freedoms began at the small scale – the level of gender relations, age groups, and domestic servitude – the kind of relationships that contain at once the greatest intimacy and the deepest forms of structural violence. If we really want to understand how it first became acceptable for some to turn wealth into power, and for others to end up being told their needs and lives don’t count, it is here that we should look. Here too, we predict, is where the most difficult work of creating a free society will have to take place.