Thursday, September 03, 2020

Fake News in the Guatemala Invasion Compared to Now

Sylvia Brindis Snow and Shane Snow take a deep, deep dive into the U.S. use of fake news to overthrow Jacobo Arbenz in 1954. It includes photos and audio. That story is not a new one (though the details make me shake my head no matter how many times I've heard them) but they take it a step further and view it as a precursor to the Russian meddling in U.S. presidential elections. There are interesting parallels.

Comparing Hillary Clinton to Arbenz feels like a stretch at times, but it's intriguing. The basic idea is to concoct an entirely false picture from abroad and broadcast it as broadly as possible, radio then and social media now. The CIA created a new reality that the Communists were taken over and that a rebel force was on the march. This was all recorded outside Guatemala by actors. Nothing about it was real. Similarly, we got (and still get) crazy stories about Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. 

On the Guatemala side, we see David Atlee Phillips pleased as punch after Arbenz was overthrown, playing bridge and feeling smug. One can easily imagine a parallel in Russian hackers. And in both cases, they are leaving terrible wreckage. The authors conclude by showing how the offending governments cover up their tracks, lying even more. Unable to find any evidence of Communist affiliation in Arbenz's house, the CIA puts in bags of dirt labeled with Communist countries, as if he had collected dirt in his Communist ardor. Stupid, and unconvincing, but convincing enough for those didn't think too much about it, much like now.


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