The Real Meaning of Red Scare 3.0

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

The US corporate media, who had such a long run as relative monopolizers of truth, have been discrediting themselves in serial fashion since 9/11. Their lapdoggery to the Bush regime backfired on them during the WMD lie operation and the resulting war of aggression. Then came their participation in the fraudulent business reporting leading up to the 2007-2009 Wall Street crash, and their big lies afterward that “no one could have imagined.” The next big rupture arrived in 2015-2016, their million-minutes spent on preemptive coronations of Trump as one candidate and Clinton as the other, and their responsibility for the unexpected result, which they have tried ever since to blame daily on a vague, ever-present “Russia.”

In the last few years, it is true that a few million mostly well-meaning people have partaken in the fandom and breaking-news rituals of the Extended Maddowverse. A similar number have bought into the sorry fantasies of Murdochworld, in which a heroic manly Trump is always about to drain the swamp that spawned him. These groups are like the devoted audiences of Game of Thrones or Star Wars, but smaller. Of course it’s a far more serious matter, because they don’t distinguish between their favorite shows and reality, and they are politically influential people, relatively speaking. A third minority, meanwhile, also small if growing, reject both sides of the #Russiagate coin.

Meanwhile 90-95% of everyone else in this country just aren’t following it, don’t know, don’t care. The QAnon Volk call them sheeple, and the committed Hamiltonian liberals of the Russia-Ukrainegate priesthood want to condemn these vulgar Americans for their supposed toleration of Trump’s constitutional outrages. (The latter are the ones who assured that toleration, when they cheered on a ridiculously narrow impeachment, one bound to lose and based on the least atrocious of Trump’s many crimes, and proclaimed that “all roads lead to Russia.”)

But it’s okay. It is okay that most working people are worried about work and wages and health care and debt, and bills and university and maybe ending the endless wars, and don’t have a fucking clue who Oleg Deripaska or Lev Parnas are. Those people have their priorities straight. Or, at least, their priorities are set more by the realities of having to get by and make a living, and perhaps just a little bit less by flickering shadows on a cave wall.

In short, the more the corporate media and the mercenary-intellectual complexes (of private “think tanks” and “analysts”) continue to act openly as adjuncts of the alphabet-agencies and assert the hegemony of the new #Russiagate creed (or its flipside, on Fox and Co), the less they are believed. The more exposed they are.

This is a big story: the decline of the corporate media’s power to persuade, an upheaval in what Guy Debord described as the Society of the Spectacle. It is why these outlets have become so fervent in condemning social media, as if people sharing bullshit on Facebook — problematic as it can be, although it should be noted that most of this bullshit is also corporate media product — is somehow inherently more pernicious than the activities of the cable news networks and the pronouncements of their “unnamed sources” at the blood-drenched State Department, Pentagon and natsec agencies.

The corporate media have effectively joined the campaigns calling for Internet censorship. I don’t know if that will work, given the confluence of crises, the way all the inevitable disasters of capitalism, its wars and its ecocides might allow for sudden new repressive measures. But the corporate media’s credibility keeps setting new lows, and they keep grasping for the same increasingly blunted instrument of blaming the All-American shitshow on Russia. This week, apparently, Russia is why Sanders is winning.

To respond to this piece, complain about the omission of citations to Plato and Naomi Klein, or remind Nicholas Levis that he really ought to be more of a school-body, write to


Nicholas Levis, who teaches history, has pretty much had it, and the Google ate the contact e-mail he created just for these articles (true story). So there is no way for you to contact him, not even to offer him money for his nest-egg against imminent obsolescence. You’re on your own.