You only need to watch an episode of Jack Ryan to get a revealing glimpse into the CIA’s propaganda agenda.
I watched the first episode and a half of Amazon’s CIA propaganda show Jack Ryan. I got bored after that.
But, I wanted to do write-up of what I saw, because it’s a bald-faced display of CIA talking points. The CIA is open that this show is what they want you to believe.
I’m going to start with a synopsis of what I saw, then transition to a conclusion, with analysis interspersed.
After a short espionage segment, the show transitions to a classroom at CIA headquarters.
Jim from the Office is teaching the class and he’s like “whose the biggest threat to the world?” All the CIA types are like “Russia!” “China!”
Jim from the Office replies “Nope, it’s Venezuela because they have more oil than Saudi Arabia and Iran”. He adds on, “Venezuela has more gold than any country in Africa!”.
Of course, this doesn’t actually illustrate any threat. The implication here is that the US-enabled, global capitalist system is “threatened” when a country tries to disengage and insulate themselves from that system. Although the show goes into Venezuela having big scary weapons, that’s not even the catalyst for why the CIA was worried about them. They were worried because Venezuela is rich in resources and doesn’t let the US have them.
Jim from the Office continues talking about Venezuela’s government. Curiously, the Maduro stand-in is portrayed as a “nationalist”, and the Guaido stand-in, who’s not actually Guaido because she’s a woman, is portrayed as a “human rights activist”.
Then, the Maduro stand-in is portrayed as a “nationalist”, and the Guaido stand-in is portrayed as a “human rights activist”.
If you look through the reviews of the show on Amazon, you immediately see a lot of 1-star reviews. I assumed it would be people calling it out as CIA propaganda (naive, right?).
Nope, it was conservatives who were outraged that the show portrayed the villain as a “nationalist”, because “we all know Venezuela is socialist!”
But the decision to make Maduro a nationalist is pretty obvious. The show’s reason to exist is to manufacture consent for CIA coups. They don’t need to manufacture consent from conservatives to support coups. Every CIA coup in history has supported the right-wing faction within a power struggle.
Conservatives will uncritically support US policy no matter what. And they’ll still watch the show even if they’re really really angry the villain is a nationalist. Liberals are the ones that need to be convinced the CIA is good and supports human rights.
Later in the episode, CIA Jim and some of his coworkers go to Venezuela. The streets of Caracas are presented like a Disnyeland ride of corruption and poverty, with brown, presumably homeless, people cluttering the streets and people rioting, as CIA Jim looks very sad for them out his car window.
Then they arrive at the Maduro stand-in’s fancy presidential mansion. Here, we learn more about the politics at play. As mentioned earlier, he’s portrayed as nominally right-wing. However, when they approach him with their knowledge of nuclear arms (more on that later), he says “you wouldn’t understand our revolutionary process,” which makes it clear the president is supposed to be a Chavista, or something like it.
Then, they cut to a segment with the Venezuelan general’s daughter. She is smoking weed and drinking beer with her friends, who the general will later call her “leftist friends,” reinforcing the mixed messages. The leftist friends say “why don’t they ever play [Juan Guaido]’s speeches, she’s so cool and authentic!”
This, again, gives mixed messages about the nature of the Venezuelan government. It continues saying it is a right-wing government, but implicitly suggesting the material reality of the situation is left-wing. Why else would they be nationalizing resources? Why else would the CIA want to overthrow them? Why else would they refer positively to a “revolutionary process”?
There’s also a secondary storyline that runs throughout the episode. We see a shady looking, curiously very white guy with a Nazi haircut, nefariously recruiting helpless Venezuelans. Indeed they were playing upon tropes of evil Nazis in his portrayal. There’s also some elements of a stereotypical Bond villain.
As the CIA agents are leaving Venezuela, they get ambushed by several down-trodden cops, the ones who were paid off by the Aryan. They kill several of the CIA agents with a bomb. Then the Aryan takes out several more with a sniper rifle.
This character’s role entirely relies on tropes of universally-recognized evil. He looks like a slimier, slimmer Richard Spencer and generally acts like a scumbag. I’m sure they flesh out who he is and his agenda more, which paint him as something more specifically, but based on the first episode, this is how he’s portrayed.
His character reinforces some age-old antisemitic tropes. He’s a “fifth column” style internationalist who came to Venezuela to undermine them. Even when this idea isn’t being used in an antisemitic way – although it will always carry that weight – it’s still used in right-wing, nationalist tropes. But then, they do a switcharoo and make him a Nazi-looking dude.
One part I’ve avoided talking about, and the reason the CIA went to Venezuela to begin with, is they apparently had nuclear weapons. When the show was first announced, this was the main part that critics focused on, because it’s absolutely egregious to suggest Venezuela has nukes, or would even try to have them.
But the threat of nukes is always the last-ditch, biggest scaremongering tactic to instigate public desire for US intervention. They’re doing it with Iran right now. But the issue, which is especially clear witht he Iran situation, is the US wants countries to develop nukes, as a pretense to fulfill what they always wanted: intervention for resources. Nuclear threat is the strongest pretense to then get those resources.
But it’s a tenuous balancing act for the US. Because once Iran actually gets nukes, the US becomes much more limited in the ways they can militarily and covertly intervene. So they create the conditions where the acquisition of nuclear weapons becomes imminent, to make it “necessary” to intervene before it’s too late.
When Bush gave his David Frum-written “axis of evil” speech, he said the axis of evil was Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. Iraq got invaded so that “axis” was “neutralized”. But Iran and North Korea went separate ways with regards to weapons: Iran (eventually) agreed to the JCPOA, which allowed monitors into their country, to ensure they aren’t making nukes, in exchange for not being sanctioned.
North Korea took another path, and developed nuclear weapons. Now compare the US’s approach to Iran and North Korea since. The US tore up the JCPOA, imposed brutal sanctions on Iran, killed their most revered general, and has been threatening war against them. Meanwhile, Trump has been trying to buddy-up with North Korea. Of course, that’s all for show and North Korea is still heavily under threat from the US, but the US isn’t trying to poke at North Korea into an active war.
In conclusion about the actual content of Jack Ryan. The first episode of the show doesn’t have much to say about the actual relationship with the geopolitics of Venezuela. It’s all Hollywood and artifice. It also didn’t have anything particularly unique to your average spy story.
What the show attempts to do is complicate and muddy real-life geopolitics. It describes the Venezuela government as a right-wing government, but portrays it as a left-wing government in some other ways.
The point of the show, which is a strategy of the broader political media apparatus, is to pump as much information into the world as possible, so you no longer know what’s right. Reality melds with fusion, and neither seems particularly true, but it doesn’t have to seem true, because it will be treated as if it is.