A shibboleth among some progressives is that in its imperialistic foray, the United States historically has backed “right-wing” and opposed “left-wing” leaders around the globe based on an anti-Communist ideological tendency.
But more than intellectual McCarthyism, our opposition to nationalist and populist movements and individuals abroad has been motivated by whether and to what degree a group has opposed United States political-corporate interests. Better to be sovereign in one’s own country than to live beholden to satraps.
Ideological anti-Communism, then, was a factor but more crucial has been the imperative to simply punish governments, individuals, and organizations that have refused to play ball on our terms. Vladimir Putin, Bashar al-Assad, and the late Muammar Gaddafi have not been reviled for being on the “right” or “left,” but for their implacable resistance to neoliberal corporate-political hegemony.
This matters now because the established political order views American populists with the same hostility as Mexican Zapatistas, who rose in opposition to neoliberalism harboring an antipathy for it similar to Pat Buchanan’s. The new global political-corporate “counterterrorism” effort brings this into view.
On July 26, Reuters reported that the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT) would significantly expand its operations to “crack down on material from white supremacists and far-right militias.”
Facebook, YouTube, Microsoft, and Twitter formed GIFCT in 2017 as an independent intelligence apparatus. It will use data from Five Eyes, an international intelligence alliance of dozens of agencies from the CIA to MI6, to elevate the Proud Boys to the status of al-Qaeda.
“Anyone looking at the terrorism or extremism landscape has to appreciate that there are other parts . . . that are demanding attention right now,” said GIFCT’s Executive Director Nicholas Rasmussen in an interview with Reuters, pointing to supposed threats of far-right extremism.
Also, on July 26, the Anti-Defamation League announced a partnership with PayPal to assist the online payment system in refusing service to financial networks that, according to the ADL, “support extremism and hate” or endanger “at-risk communities.” As Jonathan Tobin noted in the New York Post, “the ADL isn’t saying how it will make its determinations. But given its ideological orientation, there’s little doubt that the ADL will target anyone who dissents from support for Black Lives Matter and other left-wing causes.” Tobin’s right to worry.
This kind of partnership would require Paypal not only to give the ADL access to user transaction history but would also open up this information for law enforcement agencies. One need not even read between the lines to see this; the quiet part is being said aloud. “The information collected through the initiatives will be shared with other firms in the financial industry, law enforcement and policymakers,” PayPal told Reuters.
According to our new public-private national security apparatus, what qualifies as extremism or terrorism? Anything that can be characterized as “antisemitism, Islamophobia, racism, anti-immigrant, anti-Black, anti-Hispanic and anti-Asian bigotry,” Reuters reports. In other words, every slur that the Left—which is, whether it will acknowledge it or not, the establishment faction—hurls at its enemies. Indeed, the ADL recently worked with Twitter to deplatform the controversial political commentator Nick Fuentes.
The day after the ADL published an “extremist” profile of Fuentes, Twitter permanently suspended his account. Fuentes is a controversialist but, practically speaking, harmless. But that is the point. These initial shows of force always select individuals like Fuentes because they are difficult to defend in polite company, and in the era of guilt by association, any defense of them is automatically taken as an implicit endorsement of everything that person has said and done. People like Fuentes are never the real targets, however, just victims of a regime flexing its muscles before it undertakes the heavy lifting and expands its appetite to the broader population.
The way to think about domestic politics today is through the lens of foreign policy. The ruling class and elites in the United States view millions of Americans as partisan insurgents, wide-eyed foot soldiers similar in the threat they pose to the established political order as combatants stalking the jungles of Mexico or the mountains of Afghanistan. That threat will require a new national security apparatus, one that is coming into being right now.