How to Win A Grassroots Media Rebellion
by Caitlin Johnstone
August 18, 2018
This address was streamed live at the Ron Paul Institute Peace and Prosperity Conference at the Dulles Marriott in Virginia. Though I'm not too fond of the venue, as it's mostly a libertarian affair (I'm a left-leaning independent!), this speech by one of my favorite writers/journalists exposes the actual, current condition of the mainstream media, how the pro-war narrative is beginning to slip from their grasp thanks to countless efforts by alternative and independent media, and how one can get started to continue the effort to counter the mainstream media's narrative.
Thank you, thank you, Daniel [McAdams of the Ron Paul Institute], thanks very much for the beautiful introduction. According to internetworldstats.com, as of the end of last year, there were nearly 4.2 billion Internet users worldwide. That's billion with a "b". The ubiquitousness of the mobile phone has meant that people of all races, colors, creeds, religions, nationalities, and classes can now access the Internet and add their voice to the global conversation. 4.2 billion! That's more than the population of the entire world when I was born. 4.2 billion brains networked with each other, like neurons in a giant, planet-sized brain.
This is an unprecedented situation. We have never been here before. The world has literally never seen anything like this. So I want you to take a moment to ingest that into your worldview. When you're in an unprecedented situation, you don't know how it ends. You just don't! None of us do. We can make models, we can try to look back to history for clues, but in all honesty, it's just a huge unknown.
Seriously, when 4.2 billion people are suddenly hooked up together in a giant global brain that breaks through proximity and language barriers, national and tribal echo chambers, mosed down various propaganda narratives particular to which country, and create the conversation that at times, might seem like white noise. We really don't know how and what that's going to manifest.
The Internet has democratized information in such a way that there are no longer editors answerable to plutocrats who own them, keeping tabs on which journalists get the big gigs, and which get sidelined into safer territory. Anyone with a phone can join in. And that is precisely what worries the elites around the world. They know, and have always known that those who control the narrative control the world.
If you have control over the story that everyone uses to make sense of the things that happen in their world, you can control the people. Everyone from the Pope to Coca-Cola knows that, which is why the elected and unelected power establishment spend so much money on marketing and messaging, advertising, think tanks, social media mod farms, and all manner of efforts to make sure that they retain the dominant narrative.
Now, I reckon we can safely name a point where the establishment lost control of the narrative, and that was the [American] election cycle of 2016. Many strange things happened in that election cycle that were just not meant to happen. Every msm outlet across the board were all-in for HC from the get-go. But the grassroots left decided that they actually wanted Bernie. Just by collabing in Facebook groups, Reddit, Twitter, grassroots volunteers managed to create a campaign worth millions of dollars just out of sheer enthusiasm. And that was the campaign that even the wealthiest using the best minds could buy couldn't match. People made content that no marketing company can produce, no matter how much the budget would cost.
And who'da thunk a wiry old geezer from Vermont nearly felled the anointed queen through sheer power alone? The DNC actually had to rig the primary to get her through. And that wasn't the end for Hillary's annus horribilis. I think the defining moment of the general election of 2016 was the looks on the pundits' faces as the tellies started to come through, and it appeared that she was not going to win. Their faces said everything. This--
That wasn't meant to happen. It was after a few Wikileaks drops, and some unauthorized opinions circulated on alternative media, and they had lost control of the narrative. So, 2016 happened for two major reasons:
Trust in the mass media is at an all-time low. We know that, and our ability to share our own narrative is at an all-time high.
This poses a real and direct threat to the power establishment, and the ruling power establishment knows that. So they're doing everything they can to reverse it. For them, that means they have two main goals: they need to bring back trust in the mainstream media, and they need to bring down our ability to share information and ideas. That's a really big task that they set themselves, especially because all the while, they have to maintain the illusion of freedom and democracy. The entire power establishment is built on war, exploitation, and ecocide. And that depends on manufacturing consent for those things so they don't look like what they are. They have to maintain this illusion, so they're fighting with their hands tied behind their back. They can't just come out and say "Guess what, everybody? We're locking down the Internet!" They have to do it really slowly, incrementally, starting with Alex Jones and Julian Assange, moving on to the smaller, but important anti-war voices like Peter van Buren. Just working around the edges, and knocking out the smaller profiles that support these kinds of anti-establishment voices, gradually manipulating the public into granting consent for more and more significant hits.
That's why it's so important to fight censorship of all voices, even the voices you don't particularly like. Alex Jones is not my cup of tea (same here!), but there is an obvious strategy being played out here. You slowly manufacture consent by first silencing the anti-establishment voices that are generally considered divisive and distasteful by the majority. These are the soft targets. Once they've primed people for censorship, and got them talking not about whether there should be censorship, but who should be censored. From then on, it's like shooting fish in a barrel.
So, yeah, as Daniel was saying in the introduction, I've had an interesting 24 hours or so. I woke up this morning to find out that my Twitter profile has been suspended indefinitely. I won't go into all the facts and stuff, [because] I don't have the time, but, suffice to say that we--all my tweets, all my followers, every message I'd ever sent, all the energy I'd invest in Twitter--all got disappeared. 33,000 followers, 28,000 tweets, all gone. Now, fortunately for me, and unfortunately for the social engineers, the outcry was such that they were forced to reinstate me.
So, yeah, that was great. But then, they put me on a 12-hour suspension for no reason, no stated reason. I think maybe just to disrupt my "I"m back!" parade and mitigate the damage on their mistake. Because it really was a mistake. I happened to have spent the last week now, rising at late how in a corporatist system, corporate censorship is state censorship, and the Silicon Valley companies can't suddenly claim to be mum-and-pop shops who can decide for themselves who they censor when they have deep government ties going both ways and they are essentially operating as contractors for the government's surveillance state.
So, yeah, this is what I've been writing about. So I have inadvertently been prepping my readers all week for this exact scenario, and just giving them tips on what they should do should it happen. Serendipity really can go my way, I've been saying all week now like, "Don't be happy that Alex Jones is getting the axe, because next week, it will be me! You just watch." So I look totally psychic, but I'm not.
It wasn't a crystal ball, that was just their strategy and it's plain as day to see it playing out, and it's as easy as anything to forecast. We know where this is going.
So, this morning when the banhammer dropped on my Twitter account, people went really nuts, because of the Streisand Effect, which is something you should look up if you haven't already. I've actually gained thousands of followers from just since this morning. So, even the article I wrote about it got ten times more retweets than usual, and that's always the risk you take with censorship. People are naturally curious animals, and they will seek out what they're not allowed to see. Censorship works best when people are unaware that it's happening. So, they have a very tricky task ahead of them. So when people say, "Our task is impossible, these corporations are too powerful, there's no oversight, what can one person do?" I think to myself, "Well, look at their task! They have to slowly move the chess pieces into place without awakening the masses." Every step of the way has to be carefully considered and coordinated so as to not look like the thing that it is. One mistake, like the mistake that they made today with banning me on Twitter, could actually boost opposition.
And, at all times, the invisible totalitarianism that we are ruled under risks coming out into the light. And that would be the endgame for them. Without the illusion of freedom and democracy in place, they cannot propagandize us effectively, and if they can't propagandize us effectively, then they cannot rule. So, I'd like to think about their task. There's a few things they need to do. They need to maintain a singular, authoritative narrative. The whole power structure relies on everyone being more or less in accord with the will of the plutocrats. As regular people, we just have to point a truth when we see it. That's all we have to do, and we don't have to coordinate to do that. They have to maintain an air of seriousness about everything they do. They're like, the Emperor's New Clothes, they can't have people laughing at them, it totally breaks the spell. So we just have to laugh at them, and the idea of it all is just sitting right there.
I don't know if you guys have been following the Skripal case in the UK of late. That's the one that Trump recently sanctioned Russia over, causing yet another escalation in the dangerous new Cold War, but the Skripal case is honestly one of the funniest things that ever made it onto the news. Like, Monty Python could not have written a better script for this thing. Every single day, they came back, they had to change the story because it was, it kept getting debunked, so as like, "Oh, the Novichok, it was on the door handle! I-I mean, it was on the air vents! Like, it was on the park seat! N-no! It was on the weaponized miniature drone." So it just went on and on, and got crazier and crazier every day. It was just, like, pre-written satire. It's really very hard not to make fun of it.
Another thing they had to do, [is] that they had to look cool and attractive while lying and being evasive. Part of dominating the narrative means dominating the culture. Being thought of as "cool" is suprisingly important to the Empire. When you consider that one of the reasons people give over their authority to other people is because they want to be like them. If you're not "cool," no one wants to be like you, and it's hard to be "cool" when you're being really inauthentic and creepy. So, but for us, that comes really naturally, authenticity is always really cool.
So, I think the key thing to remember is that they worked so hard to manufacture consent because they absolutely require that consent. If they fail to manufacture that consent, the mask of freedom and democracy will fall off, and the plutocratic manipulators will be seen for the totalitarian oppressors that they are. Think about it, they really are treading a very fine, thin line. We will wake up to their manipulations if they control the narrative too little, or if they control it too much. If it's too little, and they fail to control the narrative, then, we win. Ctrl is taken out of the hands of a few plutocrats and put back in the hands of the people. Like, as in, democracy. Like what we were sold in the first place. The will of the people we put back in charge in a giant, planet-sized network of human brains will get to decide what to do with the resources and how to look after each other. So they can't lose total control of the narrative, but if they get too ham-fisted and too totalitarian, the curtain over the oppressive regime that keeps most of the world toiling hand to mouth for the powerlust of an insatiable few falls away. We all wake up from the Matrix, and they suddenly have billions of very angry humans who don't believe any of their stories anymore.
To my mind, winning a grassroots media rebellion is not only possible; it's actually very likely. And how do we win it? Well, we win it by taking the fight to the town square. There's no point hiding away in some quiet back channel avoiding censorship and public shunning for having ideas that don't conform to the mainstream narrative. You got to get loud, get proud, speak your truth, using whatever means you have at your disposal. Memes, songs, pictures, pity statements, whatever your challenge is, bring it to the revolution. We need your thoughts and energy. Don't get caught up in the fighting. Remember, in the social media arena, content is king, and the more quality content you can create, the better. So pull as much energy any as you can out of pointless internet arguments, and put that energy into writing a blog, recording a video, or making a meme, that makes the argument that you see needs to be made. If you find yourself hovering over that share or retweet button, wondering how your friends and family are going to perceive you, press it anyway.
As an anti-establishment voice, it's amazing how much silent support you have. People have been chained into silence and often don't feel brave enough to like or retweet you. But they are listening. And as Julian Assange says, "Bravery is contagious." Stand up. Speak up. Don't apologize. Say it like it's true because you know it is. Keep fighting, but most importantly, keep shining. Shine as bright and as bold as you can so the others can find you. Together, we can "seize the means of producing the narrative," to steal from an old socialist meme, and let's take back democracy. Not just for the U.S., but for all the other countries that the Western Empire that have been swept up in this corporatist, omnicidal, ecocidal, surveillance state nightmare.
Now, I really love Americans, and I think one of the most beautiful and charming things about them is that they believe themselves to be superheroes, ready to charge in and save the world. And in the chaos of the white noise, I believe that's what's happening. It's messy, but it's happening now. Regular Americans are waking up to a system they are oppressed by, and they are no longer trusting the poisonous mouth noises of the talking heads on their screens. There is a lot of grief about that, and that's also what we're seeing now. As the illusions fall away, the grief is palpable and you can feel that from across the seas. But it's only a matter of time before Americans are leading the charge and taking back control of their country, and its resources from the corporatist oligarchs, and in doing so, releasing the rest of the world from its clutches as well.
So, we can do this. We are doing this. Keep fighting, and shine on. Thank you.