False Narrative Maintains Confusion, Status Quo

I was waiting for the headline to come. And today (3/27/19) it did. Two days after the release of the Mueller Report, the Valley News published an editorial entitled “Russia attacked us, and we’ve done little to prevent it from happening again.” The editorial goes on to advocate for applying economic sanctions on Russia in response to their meddling in the 2016 presidential election. For my part, I can’t decide it this suggestion is more reckless or bizarre.

Due in part to the escalating tensions with Russia as a result of US military involvement in Ukraine, Syria, and now Venezuela, military conflict with Russia has become an increasing possibility. By amplifying a narrative which asks for retaliatory action against Russia, the Valley News again joins the pro-war mainstream media.

The “Russia Attacked Us” narrative is also dangerous in another way. It poses a subtle attack on our ability to think clearly by implying ideas we know to be false. Because it is disingenuous to loudly protest the behavior of others who behave in ways that we ourselves are currently behaving, loudly protesting the electoral meddling implies that we do not ourselves meddle in the democratic process in other countries. Given that the US has been involved in at least 81 regime-change campaigns in the second half of the 20th Century, this narrative reinforces a double standard by ignoring our past and present foreign policy.

The “Russia Attacked Us” narrative is also misleading in another way. Suggesting that undermining the fairness of our elections constitutes and attack on our country, implies that fair elections are a core value in the US. That this is not the case is demonstrated by the lack of an investigation into the widespread DNC 2016 Primary electoral fraud or the lack of an organized effort to prevent the hacking of voting machines, not to mention corporate campaign finance, and organized voter suppression.

Perhaps the most insidious effect of the bewilderment which results from false narratives is that we lose the grounding necessary to enter into meaningful dialogue about the way forward. At a time when changing the trajectory of our society is a matter of the gravest importance, championing false narratives supports the status quo.

For example, a particular social analysis is the glue which holds social action groups together. If the social analysis is fragmented by competing narratives, it loses its ability to function effectively as dialogue repeatedly runs aground.

CTP is dedicated to our societal transition from exploitive culture to regenerative culture. In this work, I have the opportunity to meet with groups to discuss this transition from a number of angles. The conversation often includes social action and social analysis and our ability to use the same language to mean the same thing is essential to our ability to reach agreements. But again and again, we feel a kind of tension or divide emerge in the room as certain words or people are mentioned. To some on the left, the mention of the name Hillary Clinton engenders thoughts like “feminist icon,” to others, it engenders thoughts like “war criminal.” This dichotomy spills into what happens inside of us when we hear the name of our current president. Some think, “enemy” others think, “pawn.” When this dichotomy surfaces in the conversation about effective action, each camp comes to different conclusions. For example, the first camp feels that an anti-Trump rally might be a really good idea. The second believes that it plays into the hands of an status-quo-oriented elite. This kind of divide is fairly ubiquitous and it parallels an unspoken divide about where to get news that won’t mislead us.

Can we get to the bottom of this? Not without being able to stomach some pretty complex conversations. And not unless we can stay committed to each other even when areas of disagreement surface. I’m committed to the process, are you?

Thanks for reading and for all you do.

~Simon

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