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Psychological Tyranny Is Still Tyranny: Notes From The Edge Of The Narrative Matrix

Caitlin Johnstone

Jan 10, 2023

Western “liberal democracies” are just totalitarian regimes with more money and better narrative management. The US-centralized empire controls the global south with bombs, bullets and blockades and controls the rest of us with mass-scale psychological manipulation.

Sure it’s more pleasant to be sitting where we are rather than at the barrel of the gun, but don’t confuse pleasantness with freedom. It’s nice that here they let you criticize your government and buy whatever you can afford at the store. It would be pleasant to live in a vat with your brain plugged into a virtual world of endless pleasure, too, but it wouldn’t be freedom. Psychological tyranny is still tyranny.

You’ll never get change as long as propagandists are able to convince a critical mass of people not to push for change. You’ll never stop depraved agendas as long as propagandists can manipulate a critical mass of people into consenting to those agendas. Propaganda is enemy #1.

Every other solution people talk about is secondary to the problem of the empire being able to psychologically manipulate a critical majority of people. Voting strategies, organizing, activism, protests, none of these things will get off the ground as long as public perception is controlled.

The good news is that public trust in the mass media is at an all-time low while our ability to share unauthorized ideas and information with each other is at an all-time high. The bad news is it still hasn’t been enough, and online censorship is increasingly suppressing dissent.

So we need to get moving. What we need to do is work to exacerbate public distrust in imperial media and help people to see they’re being continually deceived about their nation, their government and their world by the powerful. Propaganda only works if people trust the source.

This is the front line of the revolution. Everything else comes second, because until you deal with the fact that our enemy has the most powerful narrative control machine in the history of civilization, none of your other revolutionary ideals will ever be able to manifest. The imperial spin machine should therefore be our primary target. Attack the empire’s news media and its manipulators in Hollywood and Silicon Valley, expose their lies, and weaken public trust in those institutions so that people can no longer be manipulated by them.

Every positive change in human behavior — whether individual or collective — is always preceded by an expansion of consciousness. All we need to do is expand public consciousness of what’s really happening. The more people wake up, the more people will be available to help us.

Every healthy impulse gets twisted by our rulers. The push toward equality for women got twisted into doubling the workforce and slashing worker pay. The push for racial equality and LGBT rights gets twisted into having to vote for abusive imperialist political parties. The healthy impulse for global worker solidarity sees imperialist narrative managers finger-wagging at leftists that they must display “solidarity” with protesters in empire-targeted nations and with Ukrainian soldiers fighting in a US proxy war. Everything healthy gets twisted.

None of this means those healthy impulses are now unhealthy. Just because the narrative managers are twisting them toward sickness doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still want health. The problem isn’t social justice movements etc, it’s the manipulations that get placed overtop them. This is why I put so much emphasis on overthrowing imperial narrative control. The empire’s ability to manipulate the dominant narratives in our society is what keeps us ineffective and confused. Until we can crush their ability to twist perception of reality, they’ve got us.

Opposing US warmongering against China offers the antiwar left an area in which they can publicly outperform and surpass the antiwar right, because most of the rightists who are good on opposing warmongering against Russia are absolute dogshit when it comes to making peace with China. There’s a small faction of US libertarians who are good on both Russia and China, but pretty much everyone else on the right is only good on Russia.

Most leftists could do a much better job on opposing warmongering against China, which appears to be headed toward a truly nightmarish confrontation in the coming years. Doing so would let the antiwar left reclaim some of the public ground it’s lost to the antiwar right. Best case scenario, the true left rebuilds its reputation as a real antiwar force and reclaims some of the public sympathy that has gone to the right. Another positive scenario would be the antiwar right responding by stepping up its game and getting less horrible on China to remain relevant.

It’s actually a good thing that young people are becoming more sensitive and demanding more sensitivity from their world. The world is troubled because there isn’t enough sensitivity, not because there’s too much.

The world needs softer hearts, not harder hearts. It needs more people leaning in with curiosity, not leaning back with cold apathy. It needs more emotional intelligence and less emotional sedation. We’ve seen what a world ruled by hardened men looks like. It isn’t good.

Keep growing your sensitivity. Keep peeling the callous from off your hearts. You cannot be bowled over be the beauty of the world if your eyes are covered in cataracts of insensitivity. Thick skin makes for lousy sex.

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