From Obama’s War on Whistleblowers to Trump’s Fascist Assaults



Let’s be clear that the intensification of attacks on government/military whistleblowers did not start with the Trump/Pence regime. It began under the Democrats and Barack Obama, who prosecuted more leakers under the Espionage Act (eight) than all previous presidents combined. The prosecution, conviction, and imprisoning of Chelsea Manning took place under Obama, who declared Manning “guilty” even before her trial. And the Obama DOJ seriously considered indicting Assange (but in the end did not).

In a situation where the U.S. rulers and their empire are facing serious increasing challenges from various quarters around the world, the exposure of their war crimes (as well as dirty dealings against their allies) by Chelsea Manning, WikiLeaks, and others have caused big problems for them. And these exposures reveal a strategic weakness—there are those within their machinery of war and repression who refuse to stay silent and who act on their conscience. So the rulers have been striking back in a draconian way in order to threaten others and prevent them from becoming whitsleblowers.

The Trump/Pence regime has continued this, with three government whistleblowers already charged. But what is also involved here is an overall juggernaut rolling toward consolidation of fascist rule, with assaults on the media and journalists—calling those who criticize Trump “enemies of the people”—a key part of this. As Bob Avakian has noted, the capitalist-controlled, imperialist-controlled media are the “propaganda instruments of the ruling class of this system.”

The mainstream media is part of the “superstructure” of society within which the interests of different sections of the ruling class get aired and battled out, even while the fundamental terms of discussion are increasingly set and remain within constraints that serve the system, its functioning and rules. The basic nature of this society and the history of this country, and exposure that reveals or is consistent with that, is not open for discussion in the mainstream media. Therein, the dominant media play a key role in keeping people systematically misinformed and miseducated.1

At the same time, there are also sharp divisions within those at the top of this system. The differences are not over the need for them to deal with the serious challenges their empire is facing in order to protect and push forward their interests, but over how. For example, Obama did not go forward with the indictment of Assange. This was not primarily because of concerns among some in his administration about the First Amendment and the protection of journalists (as is often portrayed by those like the New York Times), but because of strategic concerns around cohering norms of liberal bourgeois democracy, and moves that could lead to dangerous cracks in the illusions of a “free press” under this system.

But the fascists in power need a cowed media, and a compliant population overall—as part of crushing any opposition (including from their ruling class opponents) and assaulting the very notion of objective truth. The attacks on the media have been one of the hallmarks of this regime from the beginning—and the indictment of Julian Assange ratchets this up to even more extreme and dangerous levels.


1. “Propaganda Instruments of the Ruling Class... And the Railroad of the Central Park 5,” from a talk by Bob Avakian.  [back]



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