22 January 2014

Flip and Spin- US Foreign Policy and Apartheid South Africa

Earlier this evening I was watching the recent Frontline programme on North Korea. Obviously many citizens reject the unbelievable propaganda which supports the Kim dynasty but fear forces conformity. While they may reject it, they're afraid their neighbour might be a true believer.

Western propaganda works in a very different way and is actually far more powerful. Kim Jong-Un is unlikely to survive long enough to rule North Korea as an old man. His days are numbered. Technology will break the spell.
In America, technology helps to weave a spell. Entertainment or self-absorption means the average citizen can't remember the news from last week, let alone last year. And the idea that people would be able to integrate history and find patterns is something completely alien to American society.
While most Americans are interesting in 'flipping' real estate, I'm far more interested in geo-political 'flipping'. It's striking how often great powers and in particular can 'flip' an enemy into an ally.
Saddam Hussein was an enemy in the 1970's, then an ally in the 1980's, then an enemy again post-1990.
Or Manuel Noriega... a CIA asset from the 1960's through most of the 1980's...then suddenly he becomes an enemy, a dictator, an indicted drug dealer who is a threat to US security.
Those are just a couple of quick examples.
The 'flip' only works when combined with the 'spin'.
And the 'spin' can work very effectively in a society that's far more interested in narcissistic consumerism and governed by fear.
It's not fear of the state knocking on your door in the night. It's fear of enemies, outsiders...the other.
This type of society will not only be incapable of learning history and geopolitics, it will never be able to put together events and relationships.
And so after some of these flips occur, the spin can be pretty outrageous. Those who are paying attention can rightly get pretty angry and disgusted. Not a few times have I wanted to throw the remote or a mouse at the screen listening to American president or high ranking diplomat.
How these people can live with themselves, look at themselves in the mirror is beyond me.
The geopolitics on the Horn of Africa are morally revolting and yet even after dead soldiers are glamourized in Hollywood (think Black Hawk Down)...the average person cannot grasp the absurdity and hypocrisy of US policy in the region.
I think back to the 1980's when People Power brought down longtime American ally Ferdinand Marcos. When the moment was right the US flipped and backed the sympathetic figure of Corazon Aquino. Though she knew the US had backed her husband's murderer, she came to Washington and spoke to Congress. She was trying to establish her credentials and knew there was no future in the Philippines apart from the American masters. After all the Americans had stationed troops throughout the entirety of the 20th century...minus the years under Japanese occupation.
But what 'spin'! The US shifted gears and suddenly was glad Marcos was out? What an awful man that Marcos was? But as Marcos retired in Hawaii most Americans quickly forgot that he had been a longtime ally, in fact they forgot everything but Imelda's awesome shoe collection.
And then we have Nelson Mandela. By the end of the Cold War he was a great hero and in the twenty plus years since his release it's been nothing but praise.
But just a few years before, Mandela was a 'terrorist' and the US had a quite cozy relationship with the Republic of South Africa. They were waging proxy wars on the behalf of the United States, and collaborating with Israel on a secret nuclear project.
And even after the United States turned on South Africa in the late 1980's the military and intelligence relationship was maintained.
It was this relationship that led the United States to assist the Apartheid government in the capture of Mandela in the first place...something Washington never acknowledged or apologized for.
And yet Mandela certainly knew. It's been known for years that the CIA played an integral part in Mandela's capture. They supporting the Apartheid regime and no less a person than Jack Abramoff lobbied on their behalf during the 1980's.
Flip and spin...it doesn't matter. No one is paying attention. What Toby Keith said about Kim Kardashian is all anyone cares about apart from the status of their 401k.
I wish I could say I find a more educated and vigilant crowd within the Church. I meet a lot of Christians who 'love' history but most of the time what they really love is the regime and its propaganda mill.
North Korea's Kim is terrified of information. The big dumb silly. You can let information inundate your society and you can sit securely and comfortably. You don't have to destroy your people...just distract them and you can do whatever you want.


  1. Reminds me where I was watching Rambo 3 a couple years ago. This was late 80s/early 90s, and so of course, the Russians are the bad guys. But who were Rambo's noble allies? The Mujaheddin no less! They were portrayed as humble freedom fights, with a strong devotion to God. Only a decade later, these are the arch villains and bad guys. For those with eyes to see, Hollywood leaves an almost comical vestigial trail of its propaganda. But it's been doing that since the lead up to WW2.

  2. Yeah I remember Rambo taking down that big Russian attack helicopter.

    Ah the 80's. I miss them.

    And of course we 80s children remember when Nick appeared on Family Ties and the dad said...our daughter is dating Rambo.

    That was a hoot.

    And on a far more serious note....yes, Hollywood (for the most part) has long been part of the propaganda machine. If you want access to the military toys you have to tell the story the way they want it. Think Top Gun.

    Today Hollywood is making some of the worst movies ever...but there are a handful that are some of the best. (Syriana, The International, Blood Diamond, The Interpreter etc...)

    I always think of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar...ally in the 80s, enemy today.

    It also reminds me of Joe Pesci as David Ferrie in JFK....the really deranged dialogue. He talks about flipping and changing sides.

    It's true. Welcome to non-romanticized history.