The Totalitarian Dystopia Is Already Here

Caitlin Johnstone

4/18/20233 min read

I had a nightmare that I leaked some classified information and got arrested and waterboarded by New York Times reporters.

The goal is to keep us fighting with as much hostility as possible over issues that inconvenience our rulers as little as possible. It’s really amazing how successful they are at this.

The other day I saw a video of a guy angrily running over a case of Budweiser with a monster truck for reasons that made no sense to me, and everyone was excitedly yelling their opinions about it, and I was just like, oh my god we are so fucked. They’ve got us totally wrapped up.

You couldn’t design a more effective totalitarian dystopia than the one we’re in right now. One where everyone’s brainwashed by propaganda without even knowing it, where everyone thinks, acts, votes, and shops exactly as their rulers want them to, all while thinking they are free.

People worry about technocratic escalations like increasing surveillance, digital IDs, central bank digital currencies etc, and rightly so; those measures do give the powerful a greater degree of power over the populace. But many incorrectly imagine that a future technocratic dystopia created by those measures would look a lot different from the dystopia we’re in right now, and it simply would not. Those measures would be used to help keep this current system locked in place, not to create a new one.

People imagine totalitarian dystopia as some dark threat looming in the future because they don’t understand how profoundly unfree we already are right now. They think we’re free because we can choose what to buy at the supermarket and call the president “Brandon”, but we’re not. They imagine that our rulers have some grand conspiracy to create a dystopia where they can force us all to do as they wish, not realizing that we’re already in a dystopia where we are doing exactly as they wish. It really can’t be improved upon. They’re just locking it in.

Seriously, think about it: what could the rulers of Western society possibly extract from us that they’re not already getting? There’s no meaningful political opposition, no antiwar movement, no anti-capitalist movement, very little critical thought — they’ve got total control. Everything we do in this dystopia is designed to funnel profit into the coffers of the oligarchs and power into the hands of the imperialists, and all efforts to resist and change these funneling systems have been successfully quashed by mass-scale psychological manipulation.

This totalitarian dystopia looks like freedom because they let us more or less do what we want while controlling what it is that we want to do using mass-scale manipulation. They further bolster this by creating systems where what we do has little or no meaningful effect. Even if we had actual software in our brains that gave our rulers total and complete control over our minds, they’d have the masses think and behave in more or less the same way they do right now.

The primary weapon of our totalitarian rulers is not surveillance, police robots, digital IDs, or CBDCs — their primary weapon is propaganda. The system of mass-scale psychological conditioning they’ve created is unlike anything that has ever existed in history. The ability to detect and suppress an emerging revolution is vastly inferior to the ability to use psychological conditioning to prevent people from even thinking about revolting in the first place. That’s what real power looks like. That’s total control.

This is a dystopia whose inhabitants all move fully in alignment with the will of their rulers, without ever even thinking that they are unfree or should try to become so.

Try to design a more effective totalitarian dystopia than this.

You can’t. It’s perfect.

Propaganda is the real mechanism of control, and that’s what we’re going to have to fight if we’re ever to become free. The only way out of this giant matrix of psychological control is to show people how unfree we are, how they’re being deceived, and how much better things could be. Awaken people to the lies, to the real nature of the political, educational, and media institutions designed to keep us enslaved, weaken public trust in the propaganda machine, and then we might have the beginnings of the possibility of real change. Until then, we’re locked in.

Who you think of as an anti-authoritarian hero says a lot about you as a person. If I ask you to picture someone fighting the power and you think of Tank Man or Navalny or some historical figure instead of the living people fighting the power structure you actually live under, it means you have swallowed the lie that your own government and its allies are good and virtuous in the here and now, and that “fighting the power” is something that could only happen for noble reasons in other countries or back during other points in history.

In reality, the need to “fight the power” is greater under the US-centralized empire which rules over anyone who’s likely to be reading these words, because the US-centralized empire is the most murderous and tyrannical power structure in the world right now.

So when I ask you to picture an anti-authoritarian figure who comes to mind, if you are lucid you won’t picture someone like Tank Man, Navalny, Gandhi, Mandela, or MLK. You’ll picture someone like Julian Assange: someone who’s fighting the real power where it stands here and now.