Beyond Manufacturing Consent: A world of color revolutions
Color revolutions emerged alongside the booming of alternative media platforms as influencing tools, and B2C's manufactured consent products became the influencers.
Western liberalism has failed, in fact, liberalism altogether has failed. It has failed its core values, it has lost the balance of its so-called democracy, and it has failed to maintain its illusion of upholding individual freedom. This failed liberalism, however, continued to play a significant role in exporting a “manufacturing consent product” that feeds on instantaneous misinformation.
In this context, we discuss the attempts, some successful and some failed, of liberal democracies across the world to export their “anticulture” illusions under the pretexts of liberty, development, and meritocracy. These attempts have become historically known by a variety of names, from the crusades to settler colonialism, then colonization, humanitarian intervention, Responsibility to Protect (R2P), and most recently, colored revolutions.
Manufacturing consent as a self-made product
While tons of literature describe the evolution of hegemony processes under various names and pretexts, such as humanitarian intervention and the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty’s (ICISS) Responsibility to Protect, the literature outlines how these committees and principles have served the collective West in enforcing their unwanted conceptions of Eurocentric superiority.
The regime changes sought by the collective-West liberal democracies have historically aimed to increase their financial needs by means of looting, through legal and illegal means, while also diminishing expenses.
In previously-common frameworks aimed at establishing and extending hegemony, the use of hard power, such as military intervention, was coupled with the preparation of public opinion for the hard power actions, which has become known as manufacturing consent. Prior to these types of “liberal” wars against “authoritarianism", public opinion, according to Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman in Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, was fed information that had been carefully manipulated by mainstream media (MSM) to bring people to adopt specific conclusions.
Joseph Nye, the advocate for the shift from hard power to soft power through the shift in norms and values, argued in a piece in The Guardian that:
"The countries that are likely to gain from soft power are those closest to global norms of liberalism, pluralism, and autonomy; those with the most access to multiple channels of communication; and those whose credibility is enhanced by their domestic and international performance. These dimensions of power give a strong advantage to the United States and Europe."
However, as alternative media platforms began taking the lead in terms of manufacturing opinions across the world through the use of identity politics and circumstantial evidence, liberal governments developed a need to export the manufacturing of consent to become a product of the community, region, or nation, which they are targeting. This product then becomes the business that feeds the consumer of socio-political mobilization.
The emergence of alternative media as a tool for individual self-worth
This need primarily emerged alongside alternative media platforms that made way for independent journalists and "activists" to deconstruct the propaganda that is being fed to the masses through MSM. As a result, a generation was born into the concept of identity politics alongside a notion of individualism that made individuals feel important or superior to others based on market demand, also known as "reach and like" engagement rate, regardless of the truth of the information being shared.
This sense of heightened individual value, which is a liberal value, also put forward the notion of circumstantial evidence. This circumstantial evidence allows for a series of logical fallacies, as it would be grounded in the information that is primarily detached from the larger context of its happening, and thus, there is an act of information omission.
This media bias results in the accumulation of indirect evidence, in which one or more facts can be derived from the initial incomplete information mistaken for a direct fact, merely because an individual is related to it on a personal level.
When that happens, a person that feels unheard by their parents, for example, will want to rebel against any father figure who can be represented by a strong and determined government official for example, without any regard to the actual standards of development assessment on specific topics, such as social wellbeing, education levels, or technological advancements.
In doing so, one's understanding of “freedom” becomes absolute; the ultimate freedom, such as Frederich Neitzches's Übermensch, leads to the disregarding of the social contract without any assessment of the consequences of what it actually means to break that contract, let alone offending or invalidating an entire culture and replacing it with personal pleasure.
This is what this article will reference as the “B2C manufacturing consent product” (Business to Consumer) and the evolution from hard power to soft power, from R2P to colored revolution.
B2C manufactured consent products across the world
The first manufactured consent product was Serbia’s Srdja Popovic, who was one of the founders of the US-funded organization “Otpor” in 1998. Since the late 1990s, Popovic has gained widespread recognition as a key architect of regime changes in Eastern Europe and globally.
According to an investigation by Occupy.com, Popovic and the Otpor! spinoff CANVAS (Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies) maintained tight relations with a Goldman Sachs executive, the private intelligence business Stratfor (Strategic Forecasting, Inc.), as well as the US government. Furthermore, for a year, Popovic's wife also worked for Stratfor, the investigation noted.
These disclosures follow the publication of hundreds of additional emails by Wikileaks' "Global Intelligence Files." According to the emails, Popovic collaborated frequently with Stratfor, a private firm located in Austin, Texas, which collects information on geopolitical events and activists for clients like the American Petroleum Institute, Archer Daniels Midland, Dow Chemical, Duke Energy, Northrop Grumman, Intel, and Coca-Cola.
The investigation carried out by Occupy.com, as well as the emails released by Wikileaks, uncovered that Popovic helped Stratfor connect with activists all across the world. It is worth noting that Stratfor branded itself as a "Shadow CIA" and sought to use Popovic's relationships to gather material that would then be used by its corporate clients as "actionable intelligence".
Information provided by Popovic was related to activist mobilizations and activities taking place in the Philippines, Libya, Tunisia, Vietnam, Iran, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Tibet, Zimbabwe, Poland, and Belarus, as well as Georgia, Bahrain, Venezuela, Malaysia, and other countries.
Former Stratfor Eurasia Analyst Marko Papic at one point referred to Popovic as a “great friend” of his and described him as a “Serb activist who travels the world fomenting revolution.”
When asked about CANVAS, Papic said, “They...basically go around the world trying to topple dictators and autocratic governments (ones that U.S. does not like ;),” and then replied to a follow up to that email stating that “they just go and set up shop in a country and try to bring the government down. When used properly, more powerful than an aircraft carrier battle group.”
A functional framework
For the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC), some of the campaign's key strategic initiatives included the following in Serbia, for example (copied as-is, without change from the author of this article):
Protest and Persuasion
• Street theatre and humorous skits mocking Milosevic performed throughout the country to transform the political culture and empower widespread opposition;
• Ubiquitous postering and displays of public symbols (such as Otpor’s iconic clenched fist) and slogans on posters, leaflets, and T-shirts, and in television spots;
• Large public rallies, marches, and demonstrations;
• Electoral politics – coalition-building and campaigning;
• Holding music concerts and cultural celebrations;
• The widespread distribution of anti-Milosevic materials;
• Use of the Internet, cell phones, fax machines, and alternative media to disseminate resistance messages and organize opposition;
• Public and private communication with security and church officials, media, union leaders, municipal politicians, and others to cultivate potential allies and defections;
• Petitions, press releases, public statements, and speeches;
• Workshops and training sessions for activists, distribution of training manuals.
• Strikes and boycotts by workers and students, artists, actors, and business owners;
• General strike;
• Defections by security, military, and police forces cultivated by careful communication with them and public calls for their noncooperation;
• Defections by members of the media;
• Organizing by Otpor outside of the electoral system;
• Parallel election monitors and an election results reporting system to detect and report election fraud.
• Blockades of highways and railroads with cars, trucks, buses, and large crowds of people to shut down economic and political activity and demonstrate parallel sources of powers and debilitate the political regime;
• Physical occupation of space surrounding key public buildings (e.g., parliament and media), then in some cases, storming and nonviolent invasions of the buildings;
• Bulldozers moving aside police barricades (a later symbol of the resistance).
Political advertisement in the face of adversity
Color revolutions started in Serbia, however, these regime change tactics have taken place all over the world. From the attempted coups in Latin America, some of which succeeded, the "Arab Spring", the velvet revolution in Armenia, the Orange revolution in 2014 Ukraine, as well as more complex color revolution attempts in Iran, all these examples fall onto the platform of soft power. However, this does not come to say that hard power has gone out of style, rather, it says that soft power allows more long-term and sustainable resource looting at a lower expense and with a greater influence that maintains them as superior in values, norms, and lifestyle, regardless of all the systematic inequalities and structural problematics that their societies face as part of the struggle between individualism and statism.