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Nicaragua : psy-warfare v reality

Nicaragua : psy-warfare v reality

by toni solo,

Nicaragua is in a similar position to Ingrid Bergman's protagonist in the 1944 film “Gaslight”, victim of a sinister conspiracy orchestrated by a murderous seducer-thief and his coldly calculating accomplice. In the film, Bergman plays a woman systematically isolated by means of mental torture by her tormentors who try – and succeed – to make her doubt her own reason. They do so by all means of tricks, one of which is to cause the gaslights to dim, making her think that she is somehow unconsciously or mischievously responsible.

Those tricks and techniques have been perfected by President Obama and his cold, calculating sidekick Hillary Clinton, applying them with relish to victims on a global scale. Both are robbers of the aspirations of whole peoples – including their own people in the United States. Through their unprovoked wars of aggression, both are authors of the mass murder of untold thousands of people. They accomplish their crimes through seductive speeches about democracy, liberty and prosperity while cynically and sadistically sinking their victims into death, impotence and misery.

The diversity of the techniques of emotional and psychological manipulation of so called fourth generation warfare may seem new. Recent decades have seen efforts by the US military to appropriate anthropological methodology so as to dominate what they term the “human terrain” of the countries they occupy during their wars of aggression. No doubt, particular techniques may be new, but the essence of psychological manipulation has remained unchanged for centuries. That essence has been superbly expressed in “The Turn of the Screw”, the short story by Henry James, brother of William James, the great US psychologist and philosopher, .

In the story, just as in “Gaslight”, the protagonist is a woman, victim of a situation of tension and fear bordering on terror. But the key element – doubt, uncertainty, suspicion, is even more exaggerated in James' story than in “Gaslight”. In part, the story achieves this effect by leaving its ending inconclusive – no Scotland Yard policeman turns up to arrest the villain. But the force and power of the story derive more than anything from its ambivalence about the possible presence of spirits, which quits any possibility of emotional security for the protagonist and also any certainty for the reader about what has actually happened.

The US government achieves this effect by the use of ghosts equivalent to those in James' story via their own fictions, like the “war on terror” and the “war on drugs”. The ghosts are entities like Al Qaeda or the FARC. Are they not holed up defeated in their caves and mountains and forests? No. We are told they are everywhere. Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe insists the FARC are defeated. The US government says the FARC are more dangerous than ever. That is why Southern Command needs seven extra military bases in Colombia and two extra naval bases in Panama.

The case of Nicaragua – from the absurd to the sinister

In the case of Nicaragua as the protagonist-victim, the psy-warfare is characterized by lies, half-truths, crude manipulations of history, fantastic curses, and far-fetched tall tales. The basic technique is that of propaganda guru Edward Bernays, used with such success by the Nazis, as Bernays himself acknowledged : one big lie mechanically reproduced in industrial quantities, flooding the news and information markets. Those news markets function on a global level by means of an imperialist franchise infinite-feedback loop. The franchise is run from its corporate-governmental head office in Washington via media disinformation and anti-reporting branches around the world.

Nicaragua's case is especially noteworthy because not all those branches carry the imperialist brand. Some pirate clone-branches stick to and assist the franchise propaganda because their influential managers are people friendly with or loyal to the franchise's Nicaraguan salespeople like Dora Maria Tellez, Victor Hugo Tinoco, Sergio Ramirez or Gioconda Belli. This irregular pirate element adds to the atmosphere of mystery, insecurity and suspense required to induce a more intense psychological crisis in the victim.

The superficial content of the psy-warfare waged against Nicaragua is very simple. In line with the practice of Bernays and Goebbels, it projects one single basic image-concept, namely, that the government of the Sandinista Front for National Liberation under President Daniel Ortega is a corrupt, repressive anti-democratic family elite bent on controlling the country for personal financial gain. From that enormous original lie the last three years have seen generated a fertile genealogy of all kinds of falsehoods.

The absurd aspect of the psy-warfare against Nicaragua is that it takes a truly superhuman effort to ignore the expressions of approval by prestigious world institutions about the integrity, competence, creativity and responsibility of President Ortega's government. Examples abound. Miguel d'Escoto won support for his election as President of the UN General Assembly based on his own personal prestige as Foreign Minister of the first FSLN government and on the demonstrated worldwide prestige of the FSLN led by Daniel Ortega that promoted d'Escoto's candidacy.

UNICEF has praised the Nicaraguan government's effort to eradicate illiteracy and improve education in the country. The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization has recognized as among the best in the world the Nicaraguan government's efforts to improve its people's food security. The International Monetary Fund has repeatedly recognized the competence and commitment of Nicaragua's Central Bank and Treasury Ministry officials in the country's economic management.

This year, during Nicaragua's Universal Periodic Review in the UN Human Rights Council more than 60 out of 69 countries rated as extremely good the Nicaraguan government's promotion of human rights. Apart from the self-evident advances and benefits achieved by programmes like Zero Hunger, Zero Usury, the Yo Sí Puedo literacy campaign, the Misión Milagro health programme, the Programa Amor child protection programme, and the Voice for All programme for people with disability, the UN review also covered improvements in civil rights, especially reforms to the criminal justice system. Likewise the review emphasized the complete freedom of expression in Nicaragua.

It is absurd that this reality is hardly ever reflected in commentary, reports and analysis published by the international corporate media and their sympathizers in alternative media ideologically opposed to the FSLN. This fictive-absurd aspect of the psy-warfare against Nicaragua's government complements and strengthens that war's fictive-sinister aspect. This sinister aspect is beaten out of innumerable deceits, little and great, derived from the original master-deceit template. The deceits are stamped out with extraordinary coincidence between both the official imperial brands and the pirate alternative clones.

The range and reach of the imperialist franchise

Even prior to the FSLN's taking office for the second time in January 2007, the imperialist franchise was launching desperate propaganda attacks. The enemies of humanity simply could not believe, let alone accept, that a force they had thought was fatally wounded could confront them once more. The attacks became even more ferocious once President Ortega made clear the reach and seriousness of his government's program. At the level of regional and international relations, what most frightened the enemies of humanity was the threat of a union of peoples in Latin America and the Caribbean under what has now become the Bolivarian Alliance of the peoples of the Americas – ALBA.

In the international corporate media the psychological assault proceeded as one might have expected through outlets like the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, he Economist, the Guardian, El País, Le Monde, CNN, the BBC and their various international counterparts. All these media have large resources and permanently take advantage of the prestige those resources give them so as to serve in practice as broadcasters of their governments, the Western Bloc governments of North America, Europe and their Pacific allies.. As well as those corporate media. The campaign to calumny the FSLN government has been supported either sporadically or constantly by alternative information media like Le Monde Diplomatique, Inter-Press Service, Counterpunch, ZNet, Dissident Voice, the North American Congress on Latin America, among others, and individual bloggers on progressive web sites.

On considering why there should be that strange coincidence of opinion – so starkly contradicted by the facts - running the gamut of political ideology, one common factor stands out. The publishers, editors and writers all form part of the Western Bloc countries intellectual-managerial class. They have class interests in common and advance arguments based on shared themes, especially the theme of civil and political rights.

In practice, Nicaragua's FSLN government dismantles those arguments, as the facts demonstrate. No one can say the lies and omissions propagated by anti-FSLN media are the result of an honest mistake. A world of difference exists between a sincere research error or oversight and dishonest manipulation of objective facts readily available for journalists or writers to verify – or falsify – via authoritative sources.

Dimming the lights, turning the screw

A few brief recent examples illustrate this basic truth. So as to cover the whole political spectrum, these examples are taken from the revolutionary Solidarity web site (, from the social-democrat Inter-Press Service (, and from the right-wing Wall Street Journal (

The main themes are always the same : that President Daniel Ortega violently represses his opponents, that the Citizens' Power Councils are merely a party tool, that President Ortega makes corrupt use of ALBA cooperation funds, that NGOs are persecuted, that the 2008 municipal elections were fraudulent and no observers were allowed; the economy is a mess. The coherence of these false accusations across the political spectrum is impressive, especially when they can be readily exposed as false with even a minimum of research.

Almost the complete range of these accusations appears in an article (“Looking back at the FSLN's elections loss”) by a blogger called Dianne on the web site of the revolutionary North American organization, Solidarity. Dianne writes that in the municipal elections in 2008 “the only international observers allowed were from Venezuela”. This blatant lie is contradicted by the presence as electoral observers of over 150 observers from all over Latin America and the Caribbean. They came from prestigious electoral organizations, members of the Quito Protocol and the Tikal Protocol as well as representatives from Mexico's Electoral Tribunal.

Among many other unsupported accusations, Dianne also claims, “...the Zero Hunger program is administered by the CPCs. Since the Venezuelan aid ($250 million in 2008 alone) does not pass through the national budget, but is handled by a Venezuelan-Nicaraguan joint venture that Ortega controls, aid operates as a source of corruption and patronage.” The Citizens' Power Councils do not administer the Zero Hunger programme or any other government programme. They are consultative community bodies whose composition and practice, as one might expect, vary greatly from one place to another.

Dianne's false accusation omits the various formal national and bilateral structures that govern the use of funds derived either from commercial sales of oil by PDVSA to Albanisa or from funds made available by Venezuela's development bank BANDES. In a few false words, Dianne wipes out the oversight by the Economic Commission of Nicaragua's National Assembly, the Bank Superintendent, the Controller-General, the Tax Office, the Customs Service the audit systems of PDVSA and BANDES and the controls exercised by the various ALBA councils.

Just on those two points one can see Dianne's ignorance and bad faith. But perhaps much more culpable is the intellectual dishonesty of José Adán Silva and his editors at the Inter-Press Service in an article entitled “Corruption in the times of ALBA”. It is worth pointing out that José Adán Silva reports for the Nicaraguan daily newspaper El Nuevo Diario, owned and run by the Chamorro family media dynasty, die-hard enemies of the FSLN.

As one might expect, Silva's report omits the least expression of a point of view that supports the Nicaraguan government. He quotes four sources – all opposed to the government, with no attempt to support their false statements with trustworthy data. His article appears to be about corruption and ALBA. But it mentions none of the relevant bodies.

No reference is made to the joint-venture company Albanisa, the respective State oil companies Petronic and PDVSA, nor of ALBA-Caruna, the financial institution charged with handling funds derived from Venezuelan solidarity. Silva does not mention that Petronic emerged with great credit from a recent audit by the Controller-General. Nor does he note that the Controller General is soon to audit Albanisa. Nor does Silva mention the internationally acclaimed social and economic programmes financed with Venezuela's solidarity-based cooperation.

On the other hand, without offering any particular case for appraisal, Silva does mention the alleged repression of opposition demonstrations, assaults on freedom of expression, attacks on NGOs. Everything he reports is based on the opinions of opposition figures like Carlos Tunnerman Bernheim, ex head of the opposition Movement for Nicaragua organization, a body funded almost entirely by the US government or its associated bodies. Among other downright lies, Silva quotes Bernheim saying, “The Central Bank indicated that as a result of the drop in international cooperation, the government of this Central American country needs to cut its budget by US$500m, while reducing spending on social programmes in areas like education, health and food.”

Silva cites no precise source to corroborate Bernheim's deceit. It is extremely unlikely Nicaragua's Central Bank would state something completely untrue. Development cooperation funding did drop in 2009, mostly by US$40m in budget support from the European Union and US$60m in grants from the Millenium Challenge Account. Of those US$60m over US$50m were replaced by new funding from ALBA. Contrary to Bernheim's falsehood, the major drop in government income to occur in 2009 was a dramatic fall in tax and customs revenue as a result of the international economic crisis. In September 2009, Treasury Minister Alberto Guevara reckoned tax income had fallen by around US$150m. Silva does not even mention that crucial fiscal reality.

Silva's Inter-Press Service article deepens its falsity by quoting Irving Davila of the Coordinadora Civil, a group of NGOS that in practice operate as yet one more little opposition political party in Nicaragua. Davila alleges quite arbitrarily that more than 300,000 people fell into poverty in Nicaragua in 2009 – making the overall figure for people in poverty 10% more than in 2008, a completely ridiculous figure. By contrast, the country's Continuous Household Research programme, run by the Nicaragua's Institute for Development Information, advised by the UN's Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean and other international bodies, indicates that poverty in the country has diminished since 2005 by about 5%. Silva could easily have quoted that figure but chose not to do so.

If one goes on then to read the Wall Street Journal, one finds an article by the right wing columnist Mary O'Grady repeating the same falsehoods, lies and omissions. With no attribution, O'Grady alleges that Daniel Ortega “has taken over large swaths of the economy”. She writes, “Mr. Ortega gets oil from Mr. Chávez at a discount but only pays 25% of the Chávez price up front. The rest is a long-term loan. Mr. Ortega sells the oil at the market price and pockets the gain.” As a matter of fact, Albanisa, the Nicaraguan-Venezuelan joint venture run by the countries' respective State oil companies pays 50% of the price within 90 days, not 25%.

Once more, all the Nicaragua, Venezuelan and ALBA institutions involved in controlling and processing Venezuela's cooperation with Nicaragua are erased from the record. O'Grady's crude, calculated lies omit that all the transactions concerned take place via commercial and financial structures duly supervised by Nicaraguan State entities, Venezuelan bodies and those of ALBA. Nor does O'Grady offer the least evidence or detail of the “large swaths” of Nicaragua's economy supposedly controlled personally by President Ortega.

It is sobering to realise that O'Grady's carefully calculated idiocies appear in the Wall Street Journal, virtually the official journal of US high finance. No surprise then, with O'Grady's quality of information, that the giant US economy is in the toilet, with a huge budget deficit dependent on foreign forebearance and real unemployment levels around 18%. No one is confident the official unemployment level of 10% will fall dramatically in the near future.

Furthermore, recent auctions of US government debt have not gone well. Foreign buyers seem to be drifting away, forcing domestic buyers to purchase what's left. Many observers think the Federal Reserve and the US Treasury are in cahoots to monetize US government debt, something Federal reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has said publicly will not happen. For the moment attention is focused on Greece and the Euro. But further financial and economic crisis in the United States is guaranteed.

All that is worth mentioning in the context of another O'Grady falsehood, when she writes of Nicaragua's economy, “investors are fleeing the country and the economy is anemic. An electorate that never was very fond of Mr. Ortega is growing more dissatisfied.” The facts are the reverse of this malicious disinformation. Investment levels and export levels are both near record levels in Nicaragua. Those record levels were achieved under this self-same FSLN government in 2008.

A recent national opinion poll with a representative sample showed approval for the work of President Ortega's government had risen three points to 48%. O'Grady alleges that 60% of the population opposes the FSLN . No representative poll has shown that. What has been shown is that support for the FSLN is running at almost double that for the other opposition parties combined while 25-30% of the population has yet to decide for whom they will vote in the national elections of 2011. These are encouraging figures for the FSLN and explain the sheer desperation of anti-democratic columnists like O'Grady, who enthusiastically supported the coup d'etat in Honduras along with the vicious repression and abuses that accompanied it.

Ghosts in the light of ALBA

All these examples follow the same pattern of deceit and falsehood set out by writers like Roger Burbach (published by the North American Congress on Latin America), or anti-reporters like Rory Carroll of the Guardian and John Carlin in the Independent. It is hard to believe that such an ideologically broad campaign, one contradicted almost entirely by the facts, is not carefully orchestrated by the enemies of real change on behalf of the impoverished majority in Latin America. Despite its crude use of blatant lies, the campaign does deploy a certain psychological subtlety.

At the same time as it recruits the support of media sources loyal to the empire in the international corporate media, it also counts on the arrogance of the Western Bloc countries' progressive intellectual-managerial class. The people who make up that class lack sufficient intellectual humility to recognize they are wrong on Nicaragua, that the facts contradict the falsehoods they have circulated. Still, they refuse to let the truth spoil the agreeable, seductive tales they spin for their market audience.

The tall tales published by NACLA, Wall Street Journal, Inter-Press Service and other similarly unscrupulous outlets are indeed carefully calculated to seduce their audience. One is dealing with ideological marketing directed at clearly identified and characterized market-audiences. It is an extremely pernicious infinite feedback system, like marketing cocaine or tobacco or alcohol. The propaganda sells the product in accordance with the client's tastes which the marketing itself shapes over time. The client becomes dependent, incapable of freeing themselves emotionally or intellectually from their habit. The habit becomes an imaginative and intellectual prison, more effective than any prison of iron or stone.

Inside Nicaragua, the credibility of that propaganda has plummeted as social and economic indicators and daily reality continue inexorably to show that the FSLN government's programme is actually improving people's living standards. Nicaragua's people have new opportunities to develop their country despite the international economic crisis that has flattened rich-country economies. That reality results from the solidarity-based cooperation of Cuba and Venezuela within the framework of the Bolivarian Alliance of the peoples of the Americas – ALBA.

Alba has made this possible by reinforcing already existing available resources. But, in the same way Nicaragua has been targeted for psy-warfare by global disinformation media, likewise it is very difficult to find positive references to ALBA in those same corporate and alternative media. When they do occur, the great majority of references to ALBA are dismissive.

ALBA is the most advanced model for change towards genuine sovereignty and independence in Latin America. In Central America, Nicaragua fulfills the same role that ALBA does at the wider regional level. That reality is unacceptable to the US government and its allies, to their corporate media and to their progressive fellow-travellers. For that reason they deliberately provoke doubt, suspicion and uncertainty by every possible means. They deliberately confuse the minds of their market-audience with deceit and the omission of basic facts that contradict that deceit.

They try to render reality obscure and suspicious. Then in that information twilight they tighten down the screws of their media machinery so as to further distort the truth. From that they make spring forth imaginary ghosts and false fears to shock their audience even more. These are the same psychological tricks, techniques and methods used by tyrants, despots and dictators throughout human history. They insist their terror is justice, their exploitation is equality, that war and death add up to freedom, that slavery is democracy and indebtedness prosperity.

The FSLN government and its allies in the Bolivarian Alliance of the peoples of the Americas are lighting the way for people all round the world to escape hopeless corporate capitalist obscurantism imposed by the US government and its allies. In response, the immensely powerful governments promoting corporate capitalism are deploying all their powerful, sophisticated psy-warfare machinery to try and snuff out that light. It remains to be seen what they will do when they realize their psy-warfare ghosts of fear and terror have failed.


toni writes for

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