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  • President Daniel Ortega and Vice-President Rosario Murillo just won a landslide election in Nicaragua.

    President Daniel Ortega and Vice-President Rosario Murillo just won a landslide election in Nicaragua. | Photo: Reuters

Published 22 January 2017
Put plainly, a lie is still a lie whether or not it comes dressed up in robes with a funny hat, brandishing a PhD.

Western imperialist elites accumulated their power and wealth by means of genocidal conquest which they have defended over centuries through different kinds of colonialism and, since late in the 20th century, by systematic neocolonialism.

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Many writers, perhaps most notably Edward Said in his pioneering books titled, “Orientalism” and “Culture and Imperialism,” have pointed out the fundamental role of Western intellectual production, academic or otherwise, is legitimizing the systematic genocide and looting of majority world resources. Also well understood is the role of self-serving local intellectuals and academics in reinforcing majority world subjugation to Western intellectual and cultural imperatives.

The current intractable crisis in North America and Europe represents the interaction of domestic economic stagnation and political incoherence with the Western ruling elites’ chronic inability to meet the challenges of a multipolar world. Whole regions like Southeast Asia and Latin America are increasingly autonomous. China and Russia have agreed to a robust, mutually beneficial, long-term partnership.

Together with Iran, Syria and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, they have inflicted a long-pending strategic defeat on the United States and its allies. In response, the Western elites are taking aggressive military measures, involving the threat of nuclear war on Russia’s borders, in China’s maritime space and in South Korea and Japan, neighboring both Russia and China.

In all these theaters of confrontation and conflict, the psychological warfare role of news and information media is very clear and increasingly well documented. The main corporate news media are completely subjugated to the propaganda needs of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and its regional allies, as are alternative media and NGOs dependent on funding from North American and European governments, corporate foundations and other private sources.

Less publicized has been the role of universities and their academics in legitimizing the false premises of the West’s endless war on the majority of the world, especially in social sciences, economics and related disciplines. Given its identification with broken corporate consumer capitalism, mainstream economics as an academic discipline, for example, resembles theology more than ever.

Academics and universities from NATO countries support their governments’ aggression against majority world targets in various ways, often assisted by academics and universities in the very same target countries. The controversial role of anthropologists, psychologists and others in analyzing so-called Human Terrain Systems to assist U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan is very well known.

But academics also promote and sustain psychological warfare in support of the Western elite’s neocolonial agenda in less high-profile ways. The hallmark of their anti-democratic activity is to dress up tendentious and even factually inaccurate intellectual production with the phony authority of their academic credentials. They do this both incidentally, via the publication of articles, essays, broadcasts and videos and, institutionally, by rigging curriculums and research programs so as to further their neocolonial agenda.

In Latin America, Cuba has been a victim of this Western anti-intellectual assault for decades. A whole industry has grown up in Western academic institutions heavily funded by governments and private foundations to discredit all the region’s progressive governments, especially the biggest ALBA countries, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

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The ideological gamut of that academic industry explicitly hostile to progressive governments in the region runs from the extreme right wing to the social democrat center, to the super-revolutionary radical left. Hardly surprising, that range of academic opinion generally reflects faithfully the composition of the political opposition in the country concerned. Nor is it surprising to see the cynical hypocrisy with which these academics claim to promote open debate and democracy when in fact their deliberately misleading intellectual production denies people the factual information and fairly presented evidence necessary to make democratic debate possible at all.

Here in Nicaragua, local and foreign academics and intellectuals permanently nullify the notable successes of the country’s Sandinista government, led by President Daniel Ortega and Vice-President Rosario Murillo. The same is true in the case of all the other ALBA countries. Poverty reduction, the democratization of the economy, wholesale improvements of port, airport and road infrastructure, the extension of health care and social security and access to education, greater gender equality and protection of Indigenous people’s rights — these huge achievements often barely get a mention in most, current academic literature. Most commonly, one finds a cursory, begrudging acknowledgment.

The main business of Western academic intellectual production on Nicaragua, as in corporate and alternative news media coverage, is to promote the big propaganda lie that the country is a nascent dictatorship. Associated with that lie are efforts to exploit bogus academic respectability to discredit the Sandinista government’s many outstanding achievements.

A fair illustration of this kind of disingenuous, anti-democratic and anti-intellectual academic culture is a request for research articles from an important European Union university network, the Cahiers des Ameriques Latines. The very title of their call for papers restates the big lie that Nicaragua is a nascent dictatorship: “Sandinismo 2.0: Neo-Authoritarianism, Oligarchy, and New Ideological Reconfigurations of the Political in Contemporary Nicaragua.”

The text goes on to restate propaganda talking point of Nicaragua’s political opposition, including several downright falsehoods:

       *Poverty reduction in Nicaragua is dubious

       *Nicaragua gets cheap oil from Venezuela

       *The Interoceanic Canal is a cynical pretext to expropriate land for private enrichment

       *Daniel Ortega controls Nicaragua through local citizen power committees

       *Daniel Ortega’s family controls the police, the Supreme Court and the electoral authority

       *Economic migration is exploding in Nicaragua

       *Nicaragua’s renowned citizen security is a spurious illusion

The facts are quite different:

       *Significant poverty reduction in Nicaragua has been confirmed and praised by all the relevant U.N. organizations, including the Food and Agriculture Organization, as well as the World Bank and related international financial institutions

       *Nicaragua pays the market price for the oil it receives from Venezuela, 50 percent within 90 days and 50 percent over 20 years.

       *Expropriation of land for the canal is explicitly limited by the relevant law to that necessary for the canal route and for no other purpose

       *The local citizen power committees are consultative councils based on the long-standing municipal councils which have operated under every government in Nicaragua since before the 1979 revolution

       *None of Daniel Ortega’s family have any role of any kind in the country’s police, Supreme Court or electoral authority

       *The latest authoritative national poll found that the percentage of people who might consider emigrating from Nicaragua is lower than it has ever been since 2003 and less than half the figure for 2004

       *Nicaragua, with homicides at 8 per 100,000, is definitely the safest country in Central America and among the safest in all the Americas.

The Cahiers des Ameriques Latines, and its call for papers, shows how categorically marginal opposition opinion in a small country like Nicaragua can overcome their complete domestic irrelevance by means of influential collaborators in the neocolonial academic structures of Europe and North America.

The pattern of cynical exploitation of fraudulent academic prestige is the same that has been applied in recent years to Libya, the Ivory Coast, Syria and other targets of the NATO and allied country elites. These cynical, academic psychological warfare offensives are profoundly anti-intellectual and anti-democratic, serving to validate and mutually reinforce sustained psychological warfare offensives by governments and corporate and alternative media. Put plainly, a lie is still a lie whether or not it comes dressed up in robes with a funny hat, brandishing a PhD.

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