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Greenwald writes: "Over the weekend, the British surveillance agency GCHQ - the most extremist and invasive in the West - bathed its futuristic headquarters with rainbow-colored lights 'as a symbol of the intelligence agency's commitment to diversity' and to express solidarity with 'International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.'"

How can you not feel good about GCHQ when it drapes itself in the colors of LGBT equality? (photo: GCHQ/Public Affairs Office/Intercept)
How can you not feel good about GCHQ when it drapes itself in the colors of LGBT equality? (photo: GCHQ/Public Affairs Office/Intercept)

Exploiting Social Issues for Militarism and Imperialism

By Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept

18 May 15


ver the weekend, the British surveillance agency GCHQ — the most extremist and invasive in the West — bathed its futuristic headquarters with rainbow-colored lights “as a symbol of the intelligence agency’s commitment to diversity” and to express solidarity with “International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.” GCHQ’s public affairs office proudly distributed the above photograph to media outlets. Referring to Alan Turing, the closeted-and-oppressed gay World War II British code-breaker just memorialized by an Oscar-nominated feature film, Prime Minister David Cameron’s office celebrated GCHQ’s inspirational lights:

This is so very moving. Gay Brits are now just as free as everyone else to spy on people, covertly disseminate state propaganda, and destroy online privacy. Whatever your views on all this nasty surveillance business might be, how can you not feel good about GCHQ when it drapes itself in the colors of LGBT equality?

This is all a stark illustration of what has become a deeply cynical but highly effective tactic. Support for institutions of militarism and policies of imperialism is now manufactured by parading them under the emotionally manipulative banners of progressive social causes.

The CIA loves this strategy. It now issues press releases hailing LGBT Pride Month and its “Agency Network of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Officers and Allies (ANGLE),” which “heralded the start of Pride Month by unveiling a photography exhibit at CIA Headquarters showcasing LGBT officers, allied employees, and their families.” Last month, the spy agency actually set up a recruiting tent at the Miami Beach Gay Pride Parade. Also last month, it summoned Maureen Dowd to Langley to interview female agents — ones whom the NYT columnist hailed as a “perky 69-year-old blond” and a mid-30s “chic analyst” — to produce a glowing portrait of “the C.I.A. sisterhood.” What Good Progressive could possibly view such such a pro-gay and feminist institution with disdain?

Neocons have long adeptly exploited this tactic and are among its pioneers. Before the invasion of Afghanistan, Americans were inundated with stories about the Taliban’s oppression of women: as though feminism was part of the cause of that war. To help justify the invasion of that country, the Bush State Department suddenly discovered its profound concern for the plight of “Afghan women and girls.” Some American feminist groups dutifully took up the cause as U.S. bombs were falling and U.S. soldiers were invading that country, as though it were some sort of War for Feminism and the Liberation of Afghan Women.

What Good Progressive could oppose a war like that? The fact that the U.S. not only refrained from invading, but lavishly supported, all sorts of regimes that were at least as repressive to women as the Taliban went unmentioned. That might suggest that liberation of women was merely a propagandistic pretext for that war rather than an actual desired outcome — just as Saddam Hussein’s “gassing of his own people” and other human rights abuses (committed when he was a close U.S. ally) had exactly zero to do with that war other than providing a feel-good means for liberals to support it.

These days, animosity toward leading U.S. adversaries — Vladimir Putin and Iranian mullahs — is bolstered through a sustained focus on their maltreatment of their LGBT citizens. The most war-craving neocons endlessly focus on the plight of gay Iranians — as though that’s what motivates their hostility, as though neocons care about any of that in the slightest — while completely ignoring brutal LGBT suppression by regimes that are highly deferential to the U.S. and Israel. All of this, though blatantly manipulative, is also a remarkably effective tactic: Obama-aligned gay groups in the U.S. such as Human Rights Campaign regularly churn out anti-Russia screeds, and do the same for Iran.

Like any effective propaganda, all of this is grounded in some semblance of truth. The Taliban really are grotesquely oppressive to women; Saddam really was a severe human rights violator; Iran really does punish and sometimes even executes its gay citizens, while Putin has cultivated an anti-gay climate for domestic political benefits.

But none of that has the even the remotest connection to U.S. foreign policy or to the reasons these countries are deemed American adversaries. Just as is true for the Taliban’s treatment of women, the regimes the U.S. loves and supports the most are at least as oppressive to LGBT individuals as Iran is (or, when compared to Russia’s actual record on gays, far more oppressive). The U.S. government doesn’t mind in the slightest if a government is oppressive to its gay or female citizens: quite the contrary, as a look at its closest allies proves. It just exploits those social issues as a means of propagandizing the public into hating the regimes that oppose its dictates, and well-intentioned people then dutifully march into line (just as some Iraq War supporters, and Libya War supporters, genuinely got convinced that invading and bombing those countries would somehow improve “human rights” — as though that were the goal or the likely outcome).

As a general matter, this tactic for Washington is far from new. The U.S. media has long hyped human rights and civil liberties abuses when perpetrated by governments disliked at the moment by the U.S. government, while ignoring far worse ones committed by subservient regimes. That’s why “Pussy Riot” has become a household name among Americans, and why the U.S. media developed an acute interest in the press freedom record of Ecuador as soon as it granted asylum to Julian Assange, but there is almost no interest in hearing about the systematic abuses of the Gulf tyrannies most commonly hailed by the U.S. media as “Our Friends and Partners in the Region.” This is human rights concerns as a cynical propaganda tactic, not anything remotely approaching an actual belief.

But the exploitation of these specific progressive social issues — especially women’s and LGBT rights — is a relatively new modification of this long-standing tactic. It has found expression in the “pink washing” of Israeli aggression: all Good Progressives are supposed to side with Israel because they provide better treatment to LGBT citizens than Palestinians do. Anti-Muslim fanatics use this same tactic constantly (literally every day, I’m told I should never oppose persecution and imperialistic aggression against Muslims because of “their” anti-gay fanaticism: why are you defending “them” since “they” would throw you off a roof, etc.). Similarly, the (genuinely exciting) milestone of the first African-American president was effectively used to obscure what the CIA itself in 2008 regarded as Obama’s irreplaceable value in protecting status quo militarism, while the milestone of the first female president will be used to obscure Hillary Clinton’s similar role.

Figuratively dressing up American wars in the pretty packaging of progressive social causes, or literally decorating pernicious spy agencies with the colors of the LGBT cause, should leave no doubt about what this tactic is. Militarism and aggression don’t become any more palatable because the institutions that perpetrate them let women and gays participate in those abuses, nor do American wars become less criminal or destructive because their targets share the same primitive social issue stances as America’s closest allies. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+13 # babaregi 2015-05-18 15:06
But Glenn...that building looks so pretty!
+23 # John S. Browne 2015-05-18 17:51

Totally spot-on again as usual, Glenn Greenwald! Why don't you tell it like it is some more? :o) lol All of this reminds me of the Orwell quotes shown in the following image:

The U.S. government and its Western allies are getting increasingly Orwellian in their false propaganda, and far too successfully so as well, causing most "Amerikans" and other Western peoples to support all kinds of evil(s) including the mass-murder in their totally-illegal preemptive wars of aggression, "the supreme international crime" according to international, AND U.S., law(s). Thus, evil mass-murderous warmongers like "Odrona-CON" can assassinate mostly innocent civilians, now in the thousands, in the pursuit of so-called "terrorists" on the flimsiest of "evidence", and be beloved symbols of "Amerikanism" without even recognizing let alone facing the abject fascism that those, and their countries' "virtues", that they so love perpetrate, bringing more and more tyranny, oppression and repression to their "homeland(s)", to a larger and larger extent, turning the West into a totalitarian-fa scist militarized police state for global(ist) subjugation and control, making those enslaved subjects less and less Truly Free.

What madness the U.S. and the rest of the West has degenerated into, so blatantly Orwellian, and/or "1984-ish", literally! We better "throw off" (referencing the U.S. Declaration of Independence) this tyranny or we're fracked!

+9 # jwb110 2015-05-18 21:38
It all begins to sicken me.....
+9 # John Escher 2015-05-19 05:50
Quoting jwb110:
It all begins to sicken me.....

"begins?" Where you been?
+23 # cordleycoit 2015-05-18 22:21
The Us is only doing the dirty work for the bankers who exploit every disaster every disease out break, every neocolonialist government. Glenn thanks for taking the risk.
+3 # Texas Aggie 2015-05-19 13:18
It isn't just the bankers exploiting every opportunity. It's the whole corporate world. The phrase "disaster capitalism" was coined just for this, and can be seen at work after every disaster that has ever occurred from Sandy Hook to Katrina to drought to the recession to riots to you name it.
+23 # tedrey 2015-05-18 22:47
Greenwald's articles should be required reading, but they're not picked up by the media everyone follows. They're "not fit to print," I guess.
+13 # John Escher 2015-05-19 05:52
Quoting tedrey:
Greenwald's articles should be required reading, but they're not picked up by the media everyone follows. They're "not fit to print," I guess.

"The New York Times never met a well it didn't want to poison."-- Gore Vidal
+16 # Farafalla 2015-05-19 00:19
This is spot on. As a radhomo I get this viscerally. I had also heard that they had Gay Day at Langley for CIA queer folk. Thank you for telling us all. I wonder what it's like to be gay and out and working for the clampdown? My head spins.
+18 # Jadhu 2015-05-19 00:34
What bothers me is that the majority of people don't even see what's going on. I guess dissent and critical thinking are lonely pastimes. So sad... As they say, "Beam me up Scotty--there's no intelligent life here!"
-25 # barbaratodish 2015-05-19 06:28
Yeah Glenn Greenwald, Too bad that YOU can be open about being gay, but closed about being a JEW WITHOUT ANY SENSE OF HUMOR! You are so defensive about being a JEW, let's see YOU make, or even support, jokes about THE HOLOCAUST INDUSTRY! For instance let's see you support my idea for HOLOCAUST BARBIE DOLL: She is a skeleton with a 69696969 tattoo and Holocaust Barbie sings this musical recorded revised version of John Lennon's "Imagine":

Why'd the naked Jews all line up?
Was it just to be given free soap?
Why'd they loose their dignity?
It's cause Jews want $, fame, power over hope.
Guess Jews know they're already "dead"
When Jews are unable to take a Joke!
Whooooo, Whoooo, Whooooo
Jews will say: "Well, that's a nightmare!"
And I guess it is for some
I know 1 day we'll all emerge
from this seriousness language delusion!
+12 # think4once 2015-05-19 07:41
Barbara, you should see your doctor right away...I think you just had a stroke..
-7 # barbaratodish 2015-05-19 10:43
Quoting think4once:
Barbara, you should see your doctor right away...I think you just had a stroke..

Yeah, I have and/or had a stoke of luck, because I am not YOU or the ones that give "you" the "thumbs up"! Who are "You"? Guess "you", the anonymous YOU, AKA "think4once" are even anonymous to yourself! BTW when ARE you going to start thinking? Oh! I 4got, there has to BE a you b4 u CAN start 2 think! lol
+2 # dickbd 2015-05-19 18:57
Does being Jewish trump principles? If so, my Jewish wife would have disagreed. Her cousins, both history professors are alarmed that Zionism will bring back anti-Semitism with a vengeance.
+4 # Kootenay Coyote 2015-05-19 08:53
Ah yes, the USA’s devoted liberation of Afghan women: & where are the Afghan Revolutionary Women now?
+6 # Edwina 2015-05-19 09:05
I've just seen a headline about the IS takeover of Ramadi causing the U.S. to question the effectiveness of its Middle East strategy. Mind boggling. You can only skew or dress up "reality" for so long. However, when you have corporate ownership of the media, that is way too long. Thankfully, there are people like Greenwald (sense of humor or not) that work to inform us of context and history of the "facts".
+6 # Trish42 2015-05-19 10:38
I'm not sure whether the neocons, the military, or advertising had the idea first, but current propaganda practices expect, no require, the absence of critical thinking. Just cover up bad behavior with good, and no one will notice. America is so proficient at turning sows' ears into silk purses---and if you can coat it with patriotism, it's really a winner!
+2 # Texas Aggie 2015-05-19 13:21
You wouldn't be talking about Jebbie's response to the Iraq War question, would you? It so fits your description.
+3 # Aliazer 2015-05-19 11:41
Greenwald is a true professional journalist who will call it as he sees it!!!!

This government, as well as the British, or European Union, along with its numerous satellite states, have only one agenda and that is the expansion and protection of globalism, regardless of the obliteration and destruction of the customs, morals or beliefs its own people, including urinating and litterally defecating on all of that so that their most important goal and agenda is maintained.
+2 # Texas Aggie 2015-05-19 13:30
While reading about using women's rights to invade Afghanistan, one is reminded of the situation of women in Saudi Arabia and the Emirates. It's a whole lot worse there.
+1 # 2015-05-19 20:53
True progressives like GLENN GREENWALD and CHRIS HEDGES know and understand the true face of "THE BEAST". This "BEAST" and its machinery is highly sophisticated and unfortunately, is a number of steps ahead of a docile and easily manipulated general public. What is even more unfortunate is that the docile and fully-indoctrin ated general public will not see the face of the monster until it is too late and the house of cards comes tumbling down!
-1 # peterjmck1 2015-05-20 09:47
Right on, Glenn!! Shine a spotlight on this co-option of the formerly despised, All we need now is for the FBI-like Kruschev's famous 1956 denunciation of Stalin at the Communist Party Congress, or of Chairman Mao in the 1990's as "70% right and 30% wrong" -to denounce the homophobic and racist Hoover as "99% wrong and 1% right.
Why not? With almost every ounce of energy in the GLBTQ movement over the last 20 years channeled into the struggle for gay marriage, we're now - almost - "normal", right?
We - and as a gay person I have been complicit in this - have done this instead of focusing on coalition building with other progressive groups on economic issues like jobs, the minimum wage and the political, economic, and physical enslavement of women and children, racism and the militarization of policing, the growth of the surveillance state,and environmental destruction - to name but a few urgent issues.
Let us withdraw our support - economic and political - from any gay organization that participates in this co-option as we divest or boycott companies that promote the use of fossil fuels and those state aggression against oppressed person and groups, whether it be our country (US), Israel, Russia et al and ad nauseum - from the Palestinians and the indigenous people drowning in the Pacific to those who would endanger our planet from the North pole to the ends of the earth!!! Peter McKimmin, Ph.D
-2 # Bruinwaterjongen 2015-05-24 15:31
I am one deeply opposed to corporate militarism and exploitation, however I must say that I do indeed like this colourful lit up building!

I would like to see other buildings for more positive organisations light their respective buildings in rainbow colours for combating homophobia as well.

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