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‘US efficient at using social media to further its foreign policy objectives’

Published time: April 08, 2014 11:54
Reuters / Enrique De La Osa

The US doesn't realize that its Cold War with Cuba ended 20 years ago, and is using social media to manipulate its people and achieve desired political outcomes, William Robinson, Professor of Sociology at the University of California, told RT.

US officials confirmed last Thursday that they tried to set up a ‘Cuban Twitter’ called ZunZuneo, aimed at building followers by giving them access to soft news stories on music and other topics. It was revealed that the United States was looking to create unrest in the country through social networks. Once a ‘Cuban Twitter’ reached a critical mass, then political stories would be introduced to damage the image of Cuba’s government. The project, financed by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), was aimed at fomenting mass protests and eventually a “Cuban Spring.” The program was halted in 2012 due to a lack of funds.

RT: US officials say the social network is aimed at "promoting democracy". Do you buy that?

William Robinson: No, absolutely not. First of all, the US has been trying to overthrow the Cuban government and destabilize the revolution for over 50 years now. This is simply the latest in the long strain of destabilization ever. The US has never been interested in democracy in Cuba. Before the Cuban revolution the US colonized Cuba and then supported dictatorship. But we should go beyond Cuba. The US does not promote democracy abroad; it uses the rhetoric of promoting democracy. But what the US does is to intervene politically in other countries to achieve its desired political outcomes and it calls it democracy promotion.

RT: This twitter-like social network was built by the US federal government agency, thus it is taxpayers who are footing the bill. Do you think they are happy with this expense item of the budget?

WR: I think there's a false debate going on the US. The US Congress was arguing whether this is in line with the US law or is not in line with the US law, but this is irrelevant because this is an absolute violation of international law and international norms. That is the real issue. But you are asking me if the US taxpayers are upset with how their money is used, well, most US taxpayers don't even know, this was a covered-up operation. We had no idea how covered up operations are, where the money goes for covered-up operations.

RT: Could this be just the tip of the iceberg?

WR: Absolutely. The US spent between 1996 and 2011 over $200 million to destabilize Cuba in the name of promoting democracy. And that’s documented. This particular program was $1.5 million. And that’s the tip of the iceberg of what we have documented, which spent $205 million for the so-called promotion of democracy. We also know that there are hundreds and millions of dollars that have been spent in the last few decades covertly on the Central Intelligence Agency that is not documented. Of course this is the tip of the iceberg. And the US has been trying now for 55 years to overthrow the Cuban revolution and it does so in the name of so-called fighting communism, in the name of promoting democracy. It just comes up with any legitimation that it wants, but this is nothing new. So this is really a continuation of the Cold War. I don’t think the US realizes that the Cold War with Cuba ended 20 years ago.

Reuters / Enrique De La Osa

RT: Social media is believed to have played a considerable role in the Arab Spring uprisings. Could the same scenario take place in Cuba?

WR: What happened here is that social media arose at one point at the time used by the social movements at ground up to face dictatorial regimes, to bring about progressive social change, but the US government has discovered they can also use social media in order to intervene in other countries, in order to mobilize and manipulate populations, in order to achieve its desired political outcomes. Now in the case of Cuba this is crystal clear – the 40,000 people that have signed up to this program were not told and were completely unaware that this program was funded and organized, operated covertly by the US government. They are completely unaware of this. The plan was, it fell apart, but the plan was for these 40,000 people and for hundreds and thousands more to be signed up, particularly Cuban youth, because Cuban youth are most disaffected with economic difficulties and other limitations that there are in Cuba. The plan was for these people to get cultural and musical twitters and then, when the critical mass had been achieved, then political messages would be sent for this part of population to mobilize and start challenging and street protest challenging the government. So we see the US government has become very efficient at using social media for its own foreign policy purposes.

The US Agency for International Development, which is the agency which covertly funded this program, is presented as a humanitarian organization, but that is not true. The Agency for International Development has ever since it was established in the 1950s, has been a branch of US foreign policy, it’s not a humanitarian organization like the World Health Organization, for instance. It’s not in the least. It’s an instrument of US foreign policy and it has always been used for these purposes.

RT: If these programs achieved its aims, what it could bring for the country?

WR: You can just look at what has taken place in Ukraine just now, for instance. What the US wanted to do was to spark the Arab Spring, it wanted to spark an uprising of youth that could violently confront the government. Or something like Venezuela right now – create chaos, destabilize the government. They have been attempting to do that but there were objectives. This was exposed by The Associated Press and it was quite a long report. The details, the objectives were to organize the political mass for street demonstrations and for violent confrontations with the government in order to undermine the Cuban government as exactly what we see is taking place in Venezuela right now and what we’ve seen taken place in many other countries. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to observers.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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