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They Keep Us Focused On Decoy Dichotomies: Notes From The Edge Of The Narrative Matrix

Caitlin Johnstone

Nov 20, 2022

Westerners are taught that evil foreign "regimes" don't let their people criticize their government, meanwhile westerners themselves are trained to never criticize their government. They're trained instead to criticize decoy dichotomies — false partisan nonsense — not the real power.

Westerners are trained to criticize the actions of the other party or the beliefs of the other ideological faction, never the foreign or domestic policies which are fully supported by both parties. The power structure which maintains 99.9% of the same policies regardless of which party is officially in charge is the real government, but westerners are trained never to look there. They're instead trained to fixate on a false two-handed puppet show diversion.

Westerners say "Well I'd rather live here than China or Russia, because here I can criticize my government whenever I want!" Okay. But you don't. You don't criticize your government. You just criticize the puppets, and usually only the puppets of the party you don't like. You never criticize your actual government. Criticizing your actual government looks like attacking the murderous foreign policy that's supported by both parties. Attacking the authoritarian domestic policies supported by both parties. Attacking the exploitative capitalist systems supported by both parties.

Westerners are trained not to do that. They're trained to believe that "criticizing your government" looks like saying "Drumpf" or "Let's go Brandon" while the same tyrannical agendas march forward regardless of who sits in the White House.

Westerners are "free" in the same way "free range" chickens are free; sure the door's technically open and they can technically go outside, but they're conditioned never to do so. Western so-called liberal democracy purports to offer freedom while in practice only offering the illusion of freedom. It uses the most sophisticated propaganda machine ever devised to keep people trapped in an existence as blindly obedient gear-turners while cartoons about freedom play in their heads.

The problem isn't "wokeism", the problem is that important conversations like US militarism and imperialism get bogged down in ridiculous conversations about whether the US military is too woke or not woke enough instead of how it's killing people and threatening the whole world. Engaging in either side of that debate protects the worst impulses of the most powerful and dangerous people in the world, because it moves the crosshairs of public scrutiny from the powerful to the other side of the "wokeness" culture war. This is happening all over the place.

A good example is the way Republicans have been pushing the most horrific agendas of US imperialism but using "anti-wokeness" as a carrying agent for their propaganda, like when Jesse Kelly said on Tucker Carlson that "We don’t need a military that’s woman-friendly. We don’t need a military that’s gay-friendly, with all due respect to the Air Force. We need a military that’s flat-out hostile. We need a military full of Type-A men who want to sit on a throne of Chinese skulls."

Tucker Carlson's guest: "We don't need a military that's woman-friendly, that's gay friendly" we need men "who want to sit on a throne of Chinese skulls, but we don't have that now. We can't get women off of naval vessels, that should be step one but most are pregnant anyway."— nikki mccann ramírez (@NikkiMcR) December 18, 2021

Or when Psycho Rubio said “We don’t need a military focused on the proper use of pronouns. We need a military focused on blowing up Chinese aircraft carriers.”

From a speech @marcorubio gave yesterday.To a roaring applause.This is playing with literal fire. Republicans aren't anti war post Trump, they just got conned into shifting their focus to China, after OBAMA'S Asia pivot.This rhetoric cannot be accepted.— Kyle Matovcik. (@KyleMatovcik) August 25, 2022

The culture war says you should push back on the "anti-woke" rhetoric. Anti-imperialism says you should push back on their omnicidal warmongering. It's hard to focus on both. This is being exploited by empire managers in myriad ways. They get people chasing decoy dichotomies so they can't focus on the powerful.

Step 1: Be a progressive.

Step 2: Ignore a major problem that progressives are supposed to oppose.

Step 3: Keep ignoring it until right wingers start paying attention to it.

Step 4: Frame opposing that problem as a right wing position.

See: See nuclear brinkmanship, Ukraine proxy warfare, Assange, Syria, internet censorship, etc.

One of the reasons people are so casual about risking nuclear war is because it's a difficult concept for the mind to wrap itself around. Full-scale nuclear war wouldn't just kill everyone, it'd prevent every other human who would have been born in the future from ever existing.

This is how all mainstream Russia hysteria victims think; they're just not normally this forthcoming about the infantile nature of their worldview. This is how stupid US empire propaganda has made the average westerner. They think like small boys watching a cartoon show.— Caitlin Johnstone (@caitoz) November 14, 2022

I have no special feelings one way or the other about China or Russia, I just acknowledge the indisputable fact that they are quantifiably far less destructive than the US-centralized empire. If they weren't being aggressively targeted by that empire I probably wouldn't notice them much.

Discussion of revolution and communism in the English-speaking world is just fantasy role playing unless it begins and ends with the cold hard reality that the left has been completely neutralized and marginalized here and the numbers are nowhere close to what they need to be. Moving revolutionary leftism out of the farthest margins and closer to the mainstream should be your first and foremost objective before you talk about anything else, because otherwise you're just LARPing. You're arguing about a political movement that has no actual movement.

You can do this by outreach and activism. You can also do this by finding ways to make socialism and communism look so fucking cool that people start knocking each other over to be a part of it. Finding clever ways to make it shiny and attractive in a very indoctrinated society.

Western journalism is becoming more and more illegal. The western empire is guilty of everything it accuses its enemies of doing.— Caitlin Johnstone (@caitoz) November 12, 2022

Anyone who tries hard to convince you to like a powerful person has traded their mind for personality cult doctrine, whether their hero is Bernie Sanders, AOC, Donald Trump, Tucker Carlson or Elon Musk. Proselytizing for the powerful is a sign that critical thinking has been abandoned.

Think about it: what would be gained by one more person having positive feelings about Elon Musk or some other powerful figure? How does that benefit the world? It doesn't, yet people try to win converts for them constantly, just like evangelists proselytizing their religion. This is because they're all about the individual, not the cause or the policies that individual supposedly stands for.

Anyone who tries to convince me to support a given goal or perspective will have my interest if their case is lucid and well-argued, but anyone who tries to convince me to like a given individual is instantly dismissed as a mindless automaton. I know I won't be hearing anything intelligent from them.

Pushing agendas serves those agendas. Pushing individuals serves only those individuals. If you care about advancing a cause, then advance that cause. Don't get caught up in the propaganda-friendly, thought-killing tar pit of personality worship.

Famous people are not your friend, and uplifting the powerful only serves power. This is especially true in the power structure we currently live under where the only people who are allowed to get to the top are those who facilitate the interests of power.

Filmmakers can trick you into cheering for the seal or for the polar bear just by choosing which one's being followed by the camera and framed as the protagonist. They can also trick you into cheering for cops, a corrupt legal system, or an imperialist military in the same way.

This article was originally published on Caitlin Johnstone's Substack.

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