Listen to a reading of this article:
All of our world’s worst problems are created by the powerful. The powerful will keep creating those problems until ordinary people use their superior numbers to make them stop. Ordinary people don’t use their superior numbers to stop the powerful because the powerful are continuously manipulating people’s understanding of what’s going on.
Humans are storytelling creatures. If you can control the stories humans are telling themselves about the world, you control the humans, and you control the world.
Mental narrative plays a hugely prominent role in human experience; if you’ve ever tried to still your mind in meditation you know exactly what I’m talking about. Babbling thought stories dominate our experience of reality. It makes sense then that if you can influence those stories, you’re effectively influencing someone’s experience of reality.
The powerful manipulate the dominant narratives of our society in approximately five major ways: propaganda, censorship, Silicon Valley algorithm manipulation, government secrecy, and the war on journalism. Like the fingers on a hand they are distinct from each other and each play their own role, but they’re all part of the same thing and work together toward the same goal. They’re all just different aspects of the US-centralized empire’s narrative control system.
Everyone's Anti-War Until The War Propaganda Starts
"Nobody thinks of themselves as a warmonger, but then the spin machine gets going and before you know it they're spouting the slogans they've been programmed to spout"https://t.co/lLnPVlfyfK
— Caitlin Johnstone ⏳ (@caitoz) April 27, 2022
Propaganda is the empire’s narrative creation system. While the other four elements of imperial narrative control are geared mostly toward preventing inconvenient narratives from circulating, propaganda is the means by which the empire generates narratives which benefit it.
That foreign leader is a dictator and needs to be removed. That inconvenient politician is sinister in some way and must not be permitted to lead. Your government loves human rights and all its wars are humanitarian. Voting works. Capitalism is great. You can trust us, we’re the good guys.
You’ll see variations on these and similar narratives churned out day after day by the corporate media and Hollywood. The wealthy media-owning class protects its own class interests by hiring media executives whose worldview matches its own, and those executives hire underlings with the same worldview, who hire their own underlings with the same worldview, and before you know it you’re looking at a media conglomerate full of people who all support the status quo politics of the media-owning class whose kingdoms are built upon that status quo.
In fact these giant media institutions are so invested in protecting the status quo that they have a very large degree of overlap with other institutions responsible for maintaining the imperial status quo, like the US intelligence cartel. News punditry is now full of “former” intelligence officials, and anytime there’s a narrative an intelligence agency wants printed it simply has an officer or a proxy whisper it to a mainstream news reporter who then uncritically repeats that narrative disguised as a news story.
Reporters within this system are not explicitly told to generate propaganda to protect status quo power. Rather, they develop a sense for what kind of reporting will get published and earn them attaboys in the newsroom and what will get spiked and cause their career to stagnate. If they fail to learn to navigate the system in this way, you simply never hear about them, because their careers peter out.
More Escalations In Online Censorship
"YouTube has been deleting videos disputing the US government narrative about Russian war crimes in Bucha"https://t.co/M7zupF8AMa
— Caitlin Johnstone ⏳ (@caitoz) April 15, 2022
Propaganda is geared toward putting narratives favorable to the oligarchic empire in front of people, while censorship is all about keeping unfavorable narratives away from public vision. We’ve long seen this expressed in the way the mass media simply refuse to give any platform or voice to critics of capitalism and imperialism, but imperial narrative management has required a whole new order of censorship since internet access became widely available.
Because the widespread ability to share ideas and information poses a major threat to imperial narrative control, empire managers have been working toward normalizing and expanding censorship on internet platforms like Google/YouTube, Meta/Facebook/Instagram, and Twitter. Any online space where a large number of people gather will find itself pressured by the US government to remove a wider and wider spectrum of content in the name of public safety, election security, containing a virus, or just keeping people from thinking wrong thoughts about a war.
Every few months since the US election in 2016 we’ve been fed a new reason why more internet censorship is needed, which is always followed by a giant purge of the newly-banned content and the accounts which created it. This trend has escalated dramatically with the Ukraine war, where for the first time there’s no pretense being made that content is being censored to protect the public interest; it’s just being censored because it disagrees with what western government and media institutions tell us.
3. Silicon Valley algorithm manipulation
Silicon Valley Algorithm Manipulation Is The Only Thing Keeping Mainstream Media Alive
Recent statements by YouTube's CEO highlight the way Silicon Valley tech giants use algorithms to boost mainstream media propaganda and suppress independent content.https://t.co/rJRkSmydUG
— Caitlin Johnstone ⏳ (@caitoz) May 3, 2021
This one relates to both propaganda and censorship, because it facilitates both. Silicon Valley officials have admitted to manipulating their algorithms to make sure that independent media doesn’t get seen very much while artificially elevating the online publications of mass media outlets on the basis that they are “authoritative sources” of information, despite the fact that those “authoritative sources” have lied to us about every war.
Silicon Valley algorithm manipulation does more damage than overt forms of online censorship, because its consequences are much more far-reaching and because people don’t even know it’s happening. When Google changed its algorithms to ensure that leftist and antiwar media outlets ranked much lower in search results than they used to, it influenced the way millions of people gather information about the most important issues in the world. And hardly anyone ever knew it happened.
If it weren’t for tech giants artificially directing traffic toward empire-approved media outlets, those outlets probably would have shut down by now. We saw a clear illustration of how disdainful the public is of mass media outlets when the paid streaming service CNN+ was forced to shut down just 30 days after its launch when it failed to maintain even ten thousand daily viewers. People don’t consume mainstream news media unless it is foisted upon them.
4. Government secrecy
The Only Obstacle To A Healthy World Is Government Secrecy And Propaganda
"If people in power were no longer able to hide secrets and spin lies about what’s going on in the world, all of our major problems would come to an end."https://t.co/NIWdBpY4Jn
— Caitlin Johnstone ⏳ (@caitoz) July 21, 2020
Like censorship, government secrecy is another way the empire prevents inconvenient narratives from entering public awareness. By classifying information on the basis of “national security”, the empire prevents unauthorized narratives before they even get off the ground. As Julian Assange once said, “The overwhelming majority of information is classified to protect political security, not national security.”
The amount of power you have should be inversely proportional to the amount of privacy you get. In a healthy society, ordinary people would have full privacy from the government while government officials should have to be fully transparent about their lives, finances and behavior. In our society it’s exactly reversed: the people are surveilled and monitored while those in power hide vast troves of information behind walls of government opacity.
They hide everything they’re doing from the view of the public, then when people start taking educated guesses about what they might be up to behind the veil of government secrecy they get called “conspiracy theorists”. There would be no need to form theories about conspiracies if there was complete transparency for the powerful, but of course this would greatly hinder the ability of the powerful to conspire.
They claim they need government secrecy to avoid giving an advantage to the enemy in times of war and conflict, but really they need government secrecy to start wars and conflicts.
5. The war on journalism
Assange Is Doing His Most Important Work Yet
As important as his WikiLeaks publications are, none of them exposed the depravity of the empire as much as forcing them to look us in the eye and tell us they'll extradite a journalist for telling the truth.https://t.co/Qr3KVqH0TP
— Caitlin Johnstone ⏳ (@caitoz) June 18, 2022
Lastly, in order to effectively control the dominant narratives about the world, the empire needs to wage a war on disobedient journalism. We’ve seen this unfold in various ways over the years, but right now none are so clear as the US empire’s persecution of Julian Assange.
The goal of the Assange case is to establish a legal precedent for extraditing any journalist or publisher anywhere in the world who tries to get around US government secrecy. Once a precedent has been set and consent has been manufactured, the war on journalism can really get going.
All of these five points are used to control the way people see, think about, and talk about their world, thereby controlling how they act and how they vote at mass scale. This enables the powerful to maintain an entirely enslaved populace which never tries to escape its enslavement, because it thinks it is already free.
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Chris / July 3, 2022
Spot on: “The goal of the Assange case is to establish a legal precedent for extraditing any journalist or publisher anywhere in the world who tries to get around US government secrecy.”
The man shouldn’t be in prison in the first place if the rules of inviolability as they apply to embassies hadn’t been criminally breached by Ecuador (Moreno) and the UK. As to his trial, no big prizes for saying it’s a total sham, not an open court case, for public interest defence is barred. It’s more akin to a court of arbitration, a rigged medieval procedure used and abused by corporations nowadays. The harsh and cruel treatment he is receiving is plainly sadistic aimed at maiming him physically and mentally.
Reading your piece reminded me of Lewis Mumford’s Pentagon of Power (1970), its five components were basically:
– power i.e energy
– organised political power backed by coercive weapons (police, army, mercenaries)
– mechanical productivity linked to markets
– profit (money power)
– publicity (PR, propaganda)
Des Maddalena / June 27, 2022
I like the pentagon symbolism. It all fits together so simply. We’ve all observed each of the parts and commented upon them but to see the whole system working together as a method of controlling the masses it’s superb. Every time I see a pentagon now it will bring back this diagram of how we are controlled. We can use it as a meme for mind control.
Third-Eye Roll / June 26, 2022
Willing stenographers for Empire
Weaving fact and fantasy for hire
With the nasty intent
Of fostering consent
For a confederacy of liars
JQ LLC / June 26, 2022
On point 5 on the war on journalism, the tyrannical, incompetent, spineless and brainless police in Ulvade, Texas are doing just that while trying to avoid accountability and their responsibility that caused the slaughter of children and teacher from a school shooting that was entirely preventable.
do chere / June 25, 2022
All the governments in the world are involved in thuggery. Their corrupt justice systems can never bring their officials to justice because they are owned by them. Prison is for those who are marginalized or are too poor to afford a decent legal representation. They have us all yoked by their incessant lying while stealing from us 24/7.
K-Dog / June 25, 2022
Excellent pentagonal analysis on how existing arrangements are maintained.
I was in an argument with my son a few weeks ago. He did not agree that propaganda and censorship go together. I contend that when the government gets involved it is impossible to have one without the other.
It is about Controlling The Narrative. Going after journalists is part of censorship and manipulation by algorithmic bias is the heart of propaganda. The cultivation of particular narratives to accomplish a goal more important than truth. Control.
It all ties together nicely.
Mary Wildfire / June 25, 2022
I think maybe there’s a sixth piece–surveillance. Near-universal surveillance of citizens by government enables the cabal to determine who needs a closer watch and maybe imprisonment, and also enables them to tailor the message to the recipient, in way never before possible (i.e. Cambridge Analytica).
Christoph / June 25, 2022
I mostly agree. It is a tool, that is used on both ends of narrative control, since it helps gather information to find out in which way “narrative pressure” needs to be applied and to determine whether that was succesful.
One might argue that it is not a part of narrative control itself, but it certainly is part of the process.
K-Dog / June 25, 2022
Good point. I’ll guess you know something about .
They can be very creative with their electronic toys.
K-Dog / June 25, 2022
LOL I used >< tags in reversed order to emphasize:
tailor the message to the recipient
And I censored myself. My text decoration made the above line invisible.
And that is why it mad no sense.
K-Dog / June 25, 2022
forceOfHabit / June 28, 2022
Jabba / June 25, 2022
Well, the department of state for a long time has a special division called “strategic dialogue” which means literally translating the division of LIES. If it is not an official LIE it is misinformation. Note that in most cases misinformation tracked down by them is the TRUTH.
Jabba / June 25, 2022
Once upon a time, in a dummy’s country far far away…
Joe Biden – We will crush Russia with economic sanctions.
4 months later…
Harry S Nydick / June 24, 2022
The content of this offering by Caity should be so blatantly obvious to anyone with at least half a brain. The problem is that half brain, or full, the vast majority doesn’t open that brain to critical analysis – and even many of those who do, shut down when they hit some truth that they do not like.
X Fretensis / June 24, 2022
Why is life starting to resemble “Catch-22”? I know the trained military mind – senior ranks – is terminally fucked, so is that of senior politicians and their advisors and the media. But the rest of us?
I have heard the reason for censoring Russian op-ed pieces on Ukraine is to “…relieve (me) of the tedium of wading through one dimensional propaganda”.
Well, that’s a fucking relief! I’ve always enjoyed the multi dimensional propaganda of ‘our’ side.
John Moffett / June 24, 2022
Stories have driven all of human history, the good and the bad, but mostly the bad. Most people really only understand things put to them in the form of a story, and in fact, stories help people remember details better. But unfortunately, the reliance on stories makes people very susceptible to propaganda, just like they are susceptible to religious preaching. As you would expect, dominant stories come from those in power or those seeking power, who are only interested in their own agendas. That’s why stories have influenced history for the worse in most cases. As Orwell once noted, “hierarchical societies are only possible on the basis of ignorance and poverty”. False stories are the key to maintaining that ignorance.
Inna / June 24, 2022
The war on journalism is a government version of the witch hunt.
Inna / June 24, 2022
I think US government is hiding that they are not deciding or doing anything, and hiding their assets from IRS.
Everything is decided by a few unknown people for their own benefit.
Even Elon Musk publicly questioned who controls Biden’s teleprompter.
Ted Christian / June 24, 2022
True story: the US government once mailed me a censored copy of a letter I SENT THEM. The names in the letter were no shit blacked out. Which didn’t keep me from knowing them, since I wrote the original letter. It was disquieting because you get the impression you’re dealing with genuine lunatics, and besides which seeing your own words physically blacked out is just weird.
And I gotta say Caitlin, when it comes to censorship you walk your talk. Just a few minutes ago I noticed a comment I made on the antiwar.com site had been taken down, presumably over their squeamishness about “stupid Pollocks” (which aren’t my fault, BTW). I don’t recall any comment I’ve posted on your site being censored, nor am I concerned any will be.
Pascal / June 24, 2022
“Ordinary people don’t use their superior numbers to stop the powerful because the powerful are continuously manipulating people’s understanding of what’s going on”.
But then, if “ordinary people” put an end to this, what will they do?
They’ll look for another narrative because that’s what they’re hooked upon. God – aka the opium of the people – has done a great job of that for ages. Why? Because He boosts people’s ego. As Ambrose Bierce put it in his Devil’s Dictionary, “Pray, verb: to ask the laws of the universe to be annulled on behalf of a single petitioner confessedly unworthy”.
By having the laws of the universe annulled in his favour, the prayer becomes de facto God himself, which is very gratifying.
According to a Gallup poll published on Monday, only 81% of Americans now believe in God, down from 87% in 2017. God has lost 1.2% a year over the past five years. He’s on the slippery slope and probably looking in horror at Europe where only 26% of people believe in Him according to the same source. However, He’s better organized in the US, with the motto “In God we trust” on the banknotes and the notion of “manifest destiny” that’s the backbone of the “American experiment”. Drop God and the manifest destiny falls by the wayside.
“Ordinary people” believe in the manifest destiny because it kinda gives them an edge and so they believe in God, with the added bonus that they can have Him annul the laws of the universe whenever they feel like it.
Well actually, it’s a bit more complicated… More like the lottery.
Of course, most of them are Christians, which Ambrose Bierce defines as “one who follows the teachings of Christ so long as they are not inconsistent with a life of sin” since the Scriptures are “the sacred books of our holy religion, as distinguished from the false and profane writings on which all other faiths are based”.
The belief in God of the otherwise very materialistic Americans is probably also linked to the prestige of their nation on the international scene and the drop in this belief to the fact that you’ve got to wear a 24/7 blindfold nowadays not to notice that the US government is actually operating under the skull and bones flag, aka Jolly Roger – which is not very gratifying.
The last citizens of the Roman Empire also believed in their manifest destiny. When besieged by the Ottomans in Constantinople in 1453, they held mass religious processions which unfortunately didn’t ward off the May 29 assault. The Ottoman army converged toward the vast square fronting the church of Hagia Sophia where a huge crowd of civilians had taken shelter, hoping for divine protection.
Alas… God couldn’t hear their prayers because He was watching the World Series and lo and behold, after the doors were breached, the troops separated the congregation according to what price they might fetch in the slave markets. Cruel world…
James / June 24, 2022
Brilliant, Caitlin. The five fingers of the information hand is accompanied by the other fist. Keep them ignorant but also display intense brutality and overwhelming force, hence the militarization of police and blanket surveillance. The security state wants the public to see pregnant women and retirees being thrown to the ground. It’s willing to sacrifice a few officers to criminal charges in order the brutalize protest movements. Don’t underestimate the power of threat in conjunction with lies.
Linda Hagge / June 24, 2022
Most of the left has yet to realize that this is true of ALL government narratives, not just the ones about war or the economy or Julian Assange. Basically, if the government or government agencies are telling you something is true, it isn’t. There may be elements of it that are true, but the safest practice is to assume everything is a lie until you have had a chance to do a thorough investigation. They don’t tell you the truth about COVID and lie about Ukraine. They don’t tell you the truth about “green energy” and lie about Julian Assange. They lie about everything, because their entire reason for being is to make some corporation richer. Your job as a citizen is to say, “how does this narrative make some corporation richer”?
Pascal / June 24, 2022
Here’s a very articulate explanation by a jurist of why the Assange case is a sham:
Seems like the standards of democracy have gone down a few notches since the Pentagon Papers and this analysis just casts even more light on the obvious fact that the USG has been captured by the mob as Pom Pompeo himself claimed when he said: “We lied, we cheated, we stole (…) This reminds you of the glory of the American experiment”.
Assange, stricto sensu, is wanted by criminals to be tried by criminals for exposing their crimes. Kinda like if Al Capone had had Elliott Ness kidnapped to have him tried by the heads of the Chicago mob families for busting their illegal operations.
Can’t make that stuff up!
How judges go along with that tells us just how low morality has fallen – possibly with a little help from Mammon and Jeffrey Epstein.
ldb / June 24, 2022
I feel like maybe you could just post this every day…
Efforst to get people to unplug from corporate/billionaire owned/sponsored media seems like the only thing I can do in response to what is going on right now.