You are Free (Except to Speak Truth to Power) in America
The topic of censorship has featured prominently in ongoing conversations about big tech and its deep links with the U.S establishment, particularly the security state. Activists and journalists known for speaking out against the depredations of the American empire and challenging the official narrative are promptly banned from the major platforms. The journalist and comedian Lee Camp used to host a satirical comedy show called Redacted Tonight on Russia Today (RT) where he exposed the machinations of corporate media, the security state and global elites, in his own inimitable style.
Following the Russia-Ukraine conflict, RT was taken off air in the US and so was Lee Camp’s show. So explosive were Camp’s revelations that, soon after RT was pulled, YouTube banned his videos globally and Spotify deleted his podcast. Note that Facebook has shadow-banned Camp since 2016. RT gave him unfettered freedom to express his views candidly. Now, American platforms have pushed Camp into the shadows.
Camp has been a biting critic of NATO expansion and American hegemony. So successful was Camp in upending prevailing tropes about the inherent goodness of America that both The New York Times (NYT) and National Public Radio (NPR) published hit pieces on him in rapid succession.
Ironically, the US, which likes to admonish other countries for muzzling dissent, is notorious for punishing those who dare to challenge its political and cultural hegemony. Julian Assange and Edward Snowden were both branded as enemies of the state for spilling the beans on the largest illegal mass surveillance program in history. While Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, is currently locked up in a dingy cell in Britain’s infamous Belmarsh prison, awaiting extradition to America, Snowden was forced to seek asylum in Russia, where he was recently granted citizenship by President Vladimir Putin.
In a candid and wide-ranging conversation with Camp, we spoke about his relentless activism to unmask the hidden face of the American empire, the origins of the US proxy war in Ukraine, the lies and distortions published in corporate media outlets, the way the CIA has infiltrated major media organizations and American military assistance to 73% of the world’s dictators. Camp responds to accusations of being a “conspiracy theorist,” shares his thoughts on the FBI raid on Donald Trump’s residence, opines on the rise and fall of the petrodollar and claims that asset management firm Black Rock is “the one entity that really owns the world.”
The transcript has been edited for clarity.
Vikram Zutshi: A common accusation leveled against journalists like yourself, who regularly speak out against the crimes of the American empire, is that you are assets of the Chinese or Russian deep state. In fact, your show, Redacted Tonight, was hosted on the Russian state channel, Russia Today, later shut down by the US government in the wake of the Ukraine crisis. How do you respond to these charges?
Lee Camp: US media and television is kept carefully within a small Overton window, a small area of acceptable thought. There are no true anti-war voices regularly on US media, no anti-capitalist voices, and no anti-imperialist voices. Therefore, for an anti-war, anti-imperialist comedian/commentator such as myself, there was essentially nowhere one could host a comedy TV show like Redacted Tonight. In 2014, just about the only channel that would allow such a thing was RT America.
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I chose to house my show there because a) I could be unabashedly anti-war and anti-imperialist and b) I was completely uncensored and unrestricted. For the eight years Redacted Tonight lasted, I wrote every word I ever said. I was never told what to say or what not to say. I was not instructed on where to stand or what to believe. Such freedom is completely unheard of on American television.
Not only are news broadcasters and reporters heavily censored — just look at people like Phil Donahue or Chris Hedges being forced out for being anti-war — but even comedians are kept in a small cage. Even back to the days of The Smothers Brothers, comedians were “canceled” for being anti-war. Nowadays, there are essentially no anti-capitalist or anti-imperialist comedians on television. Well, for eight years there was at least one until the US government shut down RT and my show this past March.
So to sum up, if you’re asking why I would air my show on RT America, then you’re really asking why I would want to be free and uncensored. Hopefully the answer to that is pretty obvious.
Zutshi: On August 26, you tweeted, “New documents show the US & EU plans to plunder Ukraine have been in the works for years. They plan to sell off public infrastructure, destroy worker rights, and secure massive giveaways to billionaires. Much of this has already begun.” What is the invasion of Ukraine really about in your view and what are these “new documents” you refer to?
Camp: Here are the documents I refer to. And while this sort of plundering is the standard operating procedure when a country has been “acquired” by the West, that is not the root reason for the proxy war. I have said since day one that I’m opposed to the Russian invasion, but because I’m a thinking adult, I can say that and also realize the US and NATO have been creating this scenario for years. Anyway, the root cause for this proxy war is that the US is a late-stage empire, and the ruling elite believe they own the world. They are not willing to allow the rise of any other large countries.
Economically Russia is not much of a competitor to the US, but if Russia were allowed to align with China, France, Germany, India etc. then US hegemony would very much be at risk. The US ruling class deals with this threat by attempting to chip away pieces of Russia and China and create a wedge between them and the rest of the world. Of course in many ways, this plan is backfiring.
Rather than turning Russia into some sort of failed state, US/NATO actions seem to be speeding up the splitting of the world economies with many states moving beyond the petrodollar. Meanwhile the US has begun to collapse internally as we can see by the fact that the UN’s Office of Sustainable Development now ranks us with Cuba and Bulgaria as a “developing country.”
Furthermore, the moment the petrodollar is no longer king, the US empire will be over, because without it the US can’t print as much money as we want and still have a powerful currency. The ruling elite realize this and that’s the true reason they have destroyed Iraq, Libya, and Syria and tried to crush Iran and Venezuela. All of those nations were/are outside the petro-dollar and outside the grasp of our central bankers. (Not to mention if humanity is to ever do anything about the climate crisis, step one is to end the petrodollar).
As it stands now, the most powerful country in the world will do everything it can to make sure oil is still the main energy source of the world – because the power of our currency depends on it.
Zutshi: You have spoken about the CIA’s tentacles spreading far and wide, infiltrating all aspects of public life including Google and social media. It’s been well documented that the US intelligence community is firmly embedded in corporate mainstream media. In this context, how do legacy organizations like The New York Times and The Washington Post succeed in projecting themselves as stridently anti-establishment and champions of the underdog?
Camp: Well, it’s all just propaganda, marketing, and branding. The CIA has a long history of being heavily involved in mainstream media. Operation Mockingbird in the 1960s and 1970s involved placing CIA personnel in most mainstream outlets to help control the reporting and slant the coverage. The CIA and the US government pretend all of those shenanigans are long over. However, nowadays they don’t need to do anything secretly. CIA agents and Pentagon officials are regularly interviewed and “consulted” on mainstream media. They are viewed as the final word in truth, when in fact it is their job to lie to the American people (and the world).
The Washington Post and NYT act as if anything said by the CIA, the FBI, the Pentagon or the State Department is the absolute truth. They are not reporters but rather stenographers for the corporate state. Of course this results in wild inaccuracies in their reporting.
Fairly recent fake stories like Russia paying the Taliban bounties to kill Americans or Cuba using advanced sonic weapons to give US diplomats mild headaches made the “legacy media” look like clowns. Then there are past epic failures like WMD in Iraq or the Gulf of Tonkin incident.
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The New York Times famously essentially refused to cover the Holocaust throughout World War II. Even when they covered the liberation of Auschwitz and the horrible acts that took place there, they still failed to mention the victims were Jews. They basically ignored the genocide of the Jewish people. NYT also talked very positively of Hitler all the way up to the US entrance into World War II.
Anyway, why are these legacy media outlets still held up as the highest form of journalism? Because that’s what helps the US empire – repeating the lies of the corporate state and attacking those who reveal the truth, such as the attack piece NYT did on me which was filled with lies and misinformation.
Zutshi: Was there a singular incident or series of events that turned you stridently against the American empire and its relentless efforts to preserve and maintain economic and political hegemony at all costs? How do you respond to those who dub you a conspiracy theorist?
Camp.: To answer the last part first, those who call me a conspiracy theorist are either willfully ignorant or trying to defend the status quo at all costs. They clearly don’t want to discuss these subjects in an adult, rational sense.
You ask when I turned against the American empire, but in fact, I believe I act in support of the truth and in support of freedom for all peoples. If someone is intellectually honest and they support freedom and truth, then they will find that they are opposed to the viewpoint being pushed by the American empire on most events that take place these days.
Empires in general are never built in order to spread equality, justice, and sustainability. They are built out of greed, ego, and hunger for power. For example, a report by the Congressional Research Service found that the US has perpetrated over 250 military interventions over the past 30 years. I think any honest person would be hard-pressed to find one of these interventions that is motivated purely by a need to help others or defend human rights. Sure, those types of things sound nice when printed in The New York Times, but they’re never the truth.
With every US military intervention (and even with all of our economic sanctions), the true motivation is always power, wealth, and resources. One can see proof that the US does not care even remotely about human rights in the fact that our country gives military assistance to 73% of the world’s dictators.
Zutshi: You recently stated that the asset management firm Blackrock is the one entity that “really owns the world.” It’s a sensational claim but one that begs further enquiry. Tell us more about your investigations into Blackrock.
Camp: I’m certainly not the first to cover this, but BlackRock has over $9 trillion in assets, which is more than the GDP of every country except the US and China. To put $9 trillion in perspective, if you make $40,000 a year after taxes, in order to make $9 trillion, it would take you 225 million years. That’s not a typo.
And you won’t be surprised to hear that BlackRock does not generally use their insane wealth for good. They are one of the largest investors in weapons contractors, fossil fuels, and deforestation. They also are the one of the top stakeholders in every major media company in the US,so they can control the message. This is one of the reasons you hear so little about BlackRock. They don’t really want people talking about them, and they exert massive control over American media. They are also one of the top stakeholders in most big banks, including many outside the US.
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Anyway, long story short, it’s tough to overstate the amount of control BlackRock has. No person or company should have anywhere near that amount of wealth and power.
Zutshi: What is the truth behind the unprecedented FBI raid on Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence? Does Trump have the goods on Biden, Obama, Hillary and the intel community as some are saying?
Camp: No. I don’t think he has anything on them. Keep in mind I don’t support either of the main parties, which are really just one party representing only corporate America. The raid on Trump’s residence – and all other legal attacks against him right now, whether legitimate or not – are all meant to stop him from running (and winning) in 2024.
Trump represents a rift in the elite ruling class, who don’t actually care about the terms “Democrat” or “Republican.” The ruling class wants to continue American hegemony and continue the bonanza of wealth they’ve enjoyed. A certain percentage of them support Trump because he oversaw one of the largest transfers of wealth to the top percentile ever, along with a massive tax break for the wealthiest Americans. But a larger percentage of the ruling class don’t support Trump because he’s not a good CEO for America. He says things out loud that are meant to be government secrets. He alienates allies and befriends “enemies.”
Zutshi: Finally, do you see the American empire unravel as the dollar ceases to be the global currency standard and more and more nations begin transacting in their national currencies? Is there likely to be a new “rules-based order”, one that is not dependent on the NATO agenda?
Camp: Yes, the writing is on the wall for the American empire. It is in its last years, which could mean decades, and there are two or three ways America can deal with that decline. Accept it and transfer into a sustainable, mostly happy country that does not control the world but also does not have as much Ponzi scheme wealth for corporate America. Or use all military might to maintain control, thereby precipitating some sort of horrific nuclear war, which the proxy war in Ukraine has put us on the cusp of.
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Waning empires can shrink and not collapse, the way Britain has done, though not without hundreds of years of trouble. But waning empires can also collapse into a horrific kind of fascism. Right now the US seems to be racing towards the later choice.
But another aspect that people should take into account is climate change. Climate catastrophe is putting all of this on steroids. And the end of the American empire and the climate crisis are inexorably linked in a way that most people are not talking about. I mentioned this in an earlier question.
When the US left the gold standard, we created the petrodollar to make sure our currency would still be incredibly powerful. We made a deal with Saudi Arabia that all oil sales would be in dollars and then all the other OPEC countries joined on. So in order for the US to maintain hegemony, the world must keep selling/buying oil in US dollars.
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The moment oil is no longer king and green energy takes over or the moment oil sales switch to other currencies, the US piggy bank will collapse. So unfortunately this means the most powerful country in the world has a very strong vested interest in making sure oil is the world’s main energy source. Therefore, the most powerful country in the world demands that climate change because of fossil fuel use continues unabated. It’s horrifying. And it honestly amazes me so few are talking about it.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.