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The Russian Revolution, an attempt to right 1,000 years of wrongs, began on March 8th, 1917. The American anti-socialism campaign kicked off on March 9th. Long before Russia, North Korea, et al., had begun to use the internet to manipulate us, the US subjected Russia to relentless spying, subversion, and propaganda, attempting to undermine and defeat first the revolution itself—In 1918, Woodrow Wilson dispatched 8,500 US troops to Russia to help defeat the Bolsheviks—and later the Soviet state. Long before they sent communist moles here—from almost the moment the Russian people said, “Nyet!”—we sent moles there on missions to subvert Soviet citizens and institutions. (As the case of Vladimir Putin demonstrates, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.)

American capitalists could not afford (pun intended) to allow sharing to take root, and then, God forbid, to spread. But how, with our history, our well-developed rhetoric, our relentless propagandizing about the righteousness of rebellion, about the nobility and duty of an oppressed people to throw off their oppressors, were they to convince Americans that, although it was a good idea when we did it, it was a terrible idea when Russians did it?

Here’s the plan: 

  • Part one (a little spendy), we buy up American media and co-opt it. Then we’ll make sure our media strings carry only the news we want Americans’ cans to broadcast; but we tweak the news it so it comes out the way we want it heard. Then we stoke anxiety, fear, suspicion, mistrust, division, and hatred. Plus we’ll make a lot of money. [When’s the last time you visited Hearst Castle?] 
  • Part two, we use the media to create a false dichotomy: Capitalism or Socialism? There can be only one! [This is a macro version of pitting Ford against Chevy at tractor pulls or Good against Evil at professional wresting bouts. A lot of people like morality plays.]

Just imagine how much they stood to profit based on how much they were willing to spend. (Come to think of it, just ask Rick Caruso.) But despite their best efforts, it spread. It spread here. People were considering it, thinking the idea might have some merit. Political parties formed. And grew. Union membership climbed. Strikes spread. Profit was threatened.

And then, as if things weren’t bad enough, along came Franklin Delano Roosevelt. FDR! Pushing reform. It wasn’t much really, socialism lite, more like Democratic Capitalism, but it was enough to throw America’s capitalists into a them-or-us panic. They saw any socialism—any sharing—as a disease, like economic malaria. Knowing how disease spreads, they vowed to hit it hard, to wipe it out; they could not allow an economic disease to establish itself. Not to mention what it might mean if, God forbid—because God was a Capitalist—it worked. Oh my God! What if it worked!? Since 1917, they’d been working hard, spending fortunes to show Americans that socialism was the antithesis of happiness and all things good. What if Americans saw people thriving and, worse, happy under socialism? What kind of example would that set? No, that would not do.

American capitalists used their media—print, film, radio, and, eventually, the brain tenderizer that is television—to frighten and manipulate us and set us against one another. Divide and conquer. (That sounds just awesome in Latin: Divide et vince!)

We had FDR. They had Joseph. Stalin was a ringmaster in a circus of horrors, but we contributed generously to his instability and paranoia. This is not to excuse Stalin’s brutality or the excesses of subsequent Soviet governments; it is to assert that none of that occurred in a vacuum. Stalin may have become Stalin regardless. Probably he would have. But maybe not. Or, without our constant harassment, he might not have become quite so Staliny, in which case fewer Russians would have been imprisoned and died. So some of Stalin’s brutality, some of the misery and death he inflicted, is on us.

Everybody wants the same thing: a fair chance at a decent life. Without having to be constantly on guard against subversion, an open and egalitarian Soviet society might have emerged. It is possible.

Only it would have been socialist. There is plenty about which to criticize the Soviets just as there is plenty about which to criticize any government run by humans, but none of that was the fault of socialism, any more than the terrors of the Crusades or of la inquisición were the fault of Christianity. People behaving badly in the name of an ism is not the fault of the ism but of the people; it’s just easier, from a propaganda perspective, to blame the ism.

In the event, American media began hyping the Red Menace. Distorted news reports, half-truths and outright lies emerged from the mediaverse: terrifying tales of Soviet oppression of its own citizens, fantastical fables of communist mind control, scary stories of secret police spying, disturbing descriptions of neighbors denouncing neighbors, family, friends, and, spitefully, rivals.

Newspapers, magazines, radio, television, Hollywood, the clergy, everybody who was anybody or who wanted to be somebody climbed aboard the disorient express, only too happy to help frightened capitalists spread the anti-socialist word. (Well, no, not everybody, but it doesn’t take everybody to sway elections, it takes only enough, and when you own the media, enough is a lower threshold.) Those who didn’t climb aboard? Those who naively believed most deeply in the American promise of freedom of thought, belief, and speech and so, as a matter of principal, wouldn’t climb aboard? For them, we always had the House Un-American Activities Committee. HUAC: The most Un-American activity of all.

But then the Latin American poor—people in our backyards!—started agitating para más, para mejor (for more, for better). Crap! It was still spreading! Into our backyards! Convincing Americans that Russia was an empire of evil had worked so well that the program was expanded to Red Menace Phase Dos: Translate Red Scare rhetoric into español and alter vodka-soaked Russian templates to fit hot-blooded Latin Americans. Spread the nets to include anyone with the temerity to want más than whatever scraps United Fruit was handing out.

American media began alerting us to incursions by left wing guerillas spreading Soviet Marxism. Wait: How were they incursions? Didn’t those people live there? During the American Revolution, were attacks on the British by American rebels incursions? Is it patriotic to ask? Alarms went off. Citizens panicked: One if by land, two if by sea! The Russians are coming to a Latin American country near you!

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(The current, furious stoking of anti-immigrant hysteria is part of the ongoing anti-socialist effort. The right perceives immigrants as a monolithic bloc of left-leaners whom Democrats buy with welfare. Anti-immigrant rhetoric is a secondary form of voter suppression: If they can’t get here, they can’t become citizens and can’t vote for socialism. Progressives’ persistent angst over the anger and division Republicans are stoking with anti-immigrant rants, our desperately trying to make them understand the damage they’re doing, is our undoing. They know the damage they’re doing; anger and division are their goals. Until we accept that, we are their victims too.)

The Red Menace was fomented not to save us from totalitarianism but to prevent the spread of socialism. And enough of us fell for it, just as enough of us fall for similar rubbish today. (Or even more-rubbishy rubbish: Please take a moment to Google QAnon or Marjorie Taylor Greene. Among the most dismaying aspects of current events is how willingly some of us embrace rubbish.) The Red Menace—incursions of totalitarianism into our backyards!—was a useful rationalization for overthrowing elected Latin American leaders whose outlooks were insufficiently capitalista

Then we replaced them with capitalism-friendly dictadores or juntas who then, at our behest, brought to our backyards the totalitarianism and terror that the Red Scare was warning us that the Russians wanted to bring to our backyards. The Red Scare provided a paradigm in which we accepted brutal and totalitarian—but tractable—dictadores only too happy to torture and murder their own people to increase the profits of America’s already rich. We funded them, armed them, trained them, and directed them, and then they happily terrorizes and desaparecido their own citizens. That too is on us.

From Wikipedia:

In March 1983, President Reagan began issuing warnings about the threat posed to the United States and the Caribbean by the Soviet-Cuban militarization of the Caribbean, evident from the excessively long airplane runway being built and intelligence indicating increased Soviet interest in [Grenada]. He said that the runway and the numerous fuel storage tanks were unnecessary for commercial flights, and that evidence indicated that the airport was to become a Cuban-Soviet forward military airbase.

Wait: Military aircraft could land, so we needed to invade? Military aircraft can land at any international airport. So because runways at Charles de Gaulle Airport are long enough and there is sufficient fuel storage available, is France next? The Grenadians thought they were building an airport for tourism. Our Marines were sent to Grenada not to protect our backyards from Marxism but to deny Grenada a source of revenue that would have helped it, and its socialism, to survive.

Russia was not the enemy. Socialism—sharing—was the enemy, but it was not the enemy of America; it was the enemy of those who believed they ruled America by Divine Right of Money.

Disappearing America Series:

Disappearing America: Feeling the Bern—Part 1
Monday, 28 November 2022

Disappearing America: The Red Menace—Part 2
Tuesday, 29 November 2022

Disappearing America: I Was Objective When I Started—Part 3
Wednesday, 30 November 2022

Disappearing America: It’s Only Faire—Part 4
Thursday, 1 December 2022

Disappearing America: More For Me—Part 5
Friday, 2 December 2022

Disappearing America: Indoctrination Nation—Part 6
Saturday, 3 December 2022

America Disappeared: What We Could Have Been Doing in the Shadows—Part 7
Friday, 4 December 2022