How the US Used Disinformation and the ‘Jakarta Method’ to Change the World

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On Oct. 1, 1965, in Jakarta, Indonesia, military officials said they believed their superior officers were organizing a coup, and so they kidnapped some of them. Six generals ended up dead. A general named Suharto immediately took control of the country against orders from then-President Sukarno. 

Suharto’s actions would eventually lead to the mass murder of at least one million people in the country who were accused of being communists, with the assistance of United States CIA, in what became known as the “Jakarta Method.”

“[Suharto] immediately gets the full backing of the United States materially and ideologically as he begins to spread a horrible story that the Indonesian Communist Party was responsible for this and had engaged in horrible torture of these six generals,” Vincent Bevins, author of “The Jakarta Method: Washington's Anticommunist Crusade and the Mass Murder Program that Shaped Our World,” told Inside Edition Digital.

The U.S. government immediately gave communications materials to Suharto that he used to coordinate his message around the country, Bevins explained. 

“The U.S. also pressured Western media outlets, including BBC and ended up getting the support of The New York Times and Time Magazine to spread this story that the Indonesian Communist Party, specifically the women's wing of the party, which was at the time one of largest feminist organizations in the world, had taken these six generals and performed a bizarre kind of tantric, satanic torture ritual in which they literally castrated these Indonesian men and threw them into a well,” Bevins continued. 

Suharto then spread the message that the PKI, the Indonesian Communist Party, needed to be eradicated. In the following months, millions of people were arrested and accused of being leftists. Prisoners were then executed and thrown into rivers, according to Bevins.

The violence migrated to different parts of Indonesia and then arrived in Bali, which is where the worst of the violence took place. At least 5% of the population in Bali was killed in 1955 and 1956, Bevins said.

“For the other side of the world's political spectrum, the side of the radical anticommunists and the U.S.-allied dictators, this was an inspirational achievement,” Bevins said. “This was something that they could do in their own backyards, and not only would it work, as it clearly worked in Indonesia, they would get the full backing of the United States as they attempted to launder their own reputations afterward.”

In both Brazil and in Chile in the 1970s, right-wing authorities in the country began using the word "Jakarta," in Spanish and Portuguese, to “signify something that they were going to do to their own left-wing problem.”

“So, in Brazil, you had something behind the scenes called Operação Jacarta, which was a similar program to eliminate the left, and in Santiago, the capital of Chile, you had this quite chilling terror campaign, which consisted of graffiti showing up on the homes of leftists or accused leftists that said simply, 'Jakarta is coming,'' Bevins said. “And for anybody paying attention in the Cold War at the time, it was very obvious what that meant. It meant, ‘We're going to kill you just like the Indonesians killed their own communists.’”

Bevins says that in at least 20 countries, U.S. allies employed “the intentional mass murder of civilians in the construction of a U.S. backed authoritarian capitalist regime, and I find that this tactic, this Jakarta Method, was such an important part of the way that the Cold War was won, that it profoundly shaped the world that we live in today.”

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