The Primary Mechanism of Oppression is Not Hidden

Caitlin Johnstone says bought politicians and owned news outlets do more harm — out in the open — than government secrecy. 

By Caitlin Johnstone

I write a lot about government secrecy and the importance of whistleblowers, leakers and leak publishers, and for good reason: governments which can hide their wicked deeds from public accountability will do so whenever possible. It’s impossible for the public to use democracy for ensuring their government behaves in the way they desire if they aren’t allowed to be informed about what that behavior even is.

These things get lots of attention in conspiracy circles and dissident political factions. Quite a few eyes are fixed on the veil of government opacity and the persecution of those brave souls who try to shed light on what’s going on behind it. Not enough eyes, but quite a few.

What gets less attention, much to our detriment, is the fact that the primary mechanism of our oppression and exploitation is happening right out in front of our faces.

The nonstop campaign by bought politicians, owned news outlets, and manipulated social media platforms to control the dominant narratives about what’s going on in the world contribute vastly more to the sickness of our society than government secrecy does.

We know this from experience: any time a whistleblower exposes secret information about the malfeasance of powerful governments like NSA surveillance or “Collateral Murder,” we see not public accountability, nor demands for sweeping systemic changes to prevent such malfeasance from reoccurring, but a bunch of narrative management from the political/media class.

Retraining Attention

This narrative management is used to shift attention away from the information that was revealed and onto the fact that the person who revealed it broke the law or misbehaved in some way. It’s used to convince people that the revelations aren’t actually a big deal, or that it was already basically public knowledge anyway.

And it’s used to manipulate public attention on to the next hot story of the day and memory hole it underneath the white noise of the media news churn. And nothing changes.

We’ve seen it happening over and over and over again. The narrative management machine has gotten so effective and efficient that it’s been able to completely ignore the recent revelation that the U.S., U.K. and France almost certainly bombed Syria in 2018 for a completely false reason. A few half-assed Bellingcat spin jobs and an otherwise total media blackout, and it’s like the whole thing never happened.

What this tells us is that our first and foremost problem is not the fact that conspiracies are happening behind a curtain of government secrecy, but that the way people think, act and vote is being actively manipulated right out in the open.

Government secrecy is indeed one aspect of establishment narrative control, but controlling the public’s access to information is only one aspect. The bigger part of it is controlling how the public thinks about information.

The reason people never use the power of their superior numbers to force real change, even though they’re being exploited and oppressed in myriad ways by the ruling class, is because they’ve been propagandized into accepting the status quo as desirable (or at least normal).

The propaganda of the political/media class is therefore the establishment’s front line of defense. It is its most powerful, and essential, weapon.

This is important for dissidents of all stripes to understand, because it means we’re not just passively waiting around for another Manning or Snowden or an Ian Henderson to give us information which we can use to fight the oppression machine.

Those individuals have done a great public service, but the battle to awaken human consciousness to what’s really going on in our world is in no way limited to leakers and whistleblowers. It is not at the mercy of government secrecy.

If you are engaged in any type of media, you are engaging the narrative matrix which keeps the public asleep and complacent. It doesn’t matter if you have a Twitter account, a Youtube account, some flyers or a can of spray paint: if you are capable of getting any kind of message out there, you are able to directly influence the mechanism of your oppression.

You are able to inform people that they are being lied to, you are able to explain why, and you are able to point them to where they can find more information.

This is extremely empowering. You do not need to wait around hoping that some bombshell piece of information makes it past all the various security checks and spinmeisters and triggers a real social awakening. You can be that information. You can become a catalyst for that awakening.

The key to turning this ship around does not lie hidden somewhere behind a veil of government opacity. It lies in you. It lies in all of us. We can begin awakening our fellow humans right now by attacking the narrative management of the propaganda machine that sits right in front of us, unarmored and unhidden.

Caitlin Johnstone is a rogue journalist, poet, and utopia prepper who publishes regularly at Medium. Follow her work on FacebookTwitter, or her website. She has a podcast and a book, Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers.” 

This article was re-published with permission.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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19 comments for “The Primary Mechanism of Oppression is Not Hidden

  1. February 10, 2020 at 16:04

    Thank you for your effort to wake people from their delusion. Please research the neuroscientist Tali Shorat whose research demonstrates that people choose based on beliefs. Beliefs an be and are manipulated by neuro linguistic programming and Framing in the media.
    This means evidence does not penetrate or change choice.
    However, if you can show someone how the Framing and NLP manipulates them they will work to become free of it(which other research shows). For example, the phrase “conspiracy theory” is NLP and triggers the belief that it is crazy so no one with that belief searches further.

  2. IvyMike
    February 8, 2020 at 20:01

    The quality of mercy is not ‘strained,
    It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven…

    Took me a minute to figure out why the headline got my attention.

  3. Me my self
    February 7, 2020 at 06:04

    Some people still prefer the BLUE Pill and I understand Why. Ignorance is Bliss.

  4. Dwight
    February 6, 2020 at 13:49

    What’s really sad is that one has to be a “dissident” just for wanting facts and not propaganda to drive public discourse and legislative decisions on issues of war and peace. This is good citizenship 101, and supposed to be the purpose of education, yet critical thought is treated as “dissidence.”

    • OlyaPola
      February 7, 2020 at 10:31


      Dissidence can lead to dissonance, and dissonance undermine we-the-people-hold-these-truths-to-be-self-evidentmess increasing dissidence and increased oscillation leading to systemic destruction (one of the suspension systems being representative democracy).

      Consequently to some the “other” should never be restricted if getting-with-the-teamness is to prevail, whilst others understand that never restricting the “other” can increase dissidence and “lead to dissonance, and dissonance undermine we-the-people-hold-these-truths-to-be-self-evidentness increasing dissidence and oscillation leading to systemic destruction.”

      “This is good citizenship 101, and supposed to be the purpose of education, yet critical thought is treated as “dissidence.”

      You are harbouring an illusion. What was meant to be is/was “We the people hold these truths to be self-evident….”

  5. AC Arthur
    February 6, 2020 at 12:16

    Great point, a rational approach to the need of creating awareness of public sentiment and dissent that’s lives outside of the corporate/state propaganda foisted on us. At street level, feet on the ground, eyes open in the U.S.A., we live in an ugly dystopia, a racist police state. To understand that public free expression is the states greatest fear makes it an imperative for each of use our best weapon in a fight for survival and eventual emancipation from the tyranny of empire. Bad law is any law, policy or decree that limit our free expression, freedom of association, and free press. There are many bad laws and barriers to access for the greater public. Those bad laws that limit us are meant to be broken on mass and challenged. The act of free expression is dissent, be compassionate about your dissent and show compassion to those whom you disagree with. Focus on a vision of victory. Cheers.

  6. Eugenie Basile
    February 6, 2020 at 12:05

    For those interested in this subject the book ‘Asi se domina el mundo…. ‘ by Pedro Baños is a must-read. The author is a colonel in the army of Spain and former chief of security and counter-intelligence. Unfortunately the English version was dropped by Penguin after a complain of anti-Semitism because the Rothschild name is mentioned in the book.

  7. February 6, 2020 at 10:47

    Spot on, Johnstone — an excellent piece! Indeed rare to see anyone explain those points so clearly and brilliantly.

    • BCD
      February 6, 2020 at 15:02

      We have to stop dinging the kool-aid

    • BCD
      February 6, 2020 at 15:04

      make that “drinking”

  8. Nathan Mulcahy
    February 6, 2020 at 07:53

    Thank you Caitlin, for keeping on bringing this extremely important topic up. The corporate media are the most effective propaganda tools for the rulers. This propaganda is so all omnipresent that most people live and breath in it without even realizing this.

    Quite by chance, I recently came across the website of Swiss Propaganda Research (SPR), an independent nonprofit research group investigating geopolitical propaganda in Swiss and international media. It was founded in 2016. A significant part of it is in English where they have published an extremely useful graphic called “The Media Navigator”. In this graphic 72 (western) media outlets are plotted in two axes: a “left/right” axis and a “distance from power” axis. I personally consider the “power” axis to be more important because any media organization that is too close to power cannot practice journalism. You can find the graphic here

    Very pleased to see that CN is right at the perfect spot: at the center of right/left axis and far away from power. Congratulations!

    Since it is so informative, I’d like to point out another article on their website: “The American Empire and its Media”. Here they map out the network of connections between a huge number of media outlets in the “free world” and Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and its two major international affiliate organizations: the Bilderberg Group (mainly covering the US and Europe) and the Trilateral Commission (covering North America, Europe and East Asia).


    Thank yo for sharing this info with your readers.

  9. Jay Dee
    February 6, 2020 at 06:17

    Share this message people.

  10. john forward
    February 6, 2020 at 05:36

    No comment. Just kidding. This article is/was the start of my own awakening to the obviously hidden layers that we flip through on a daily basis. I am not sure if I’d be alive today if it weren’t for the fact that I don’t ever “watch” he news. I basically watch others who watch the news. Make sense? Thanks for shaking things up, Caitlin. I wondered often why I have always thought that whistle blowers were, by nature, incidental saints and should be fed and kept safe from harm – sorry that’s not the case in most cases, but the lucky few who survive, like this author, should be read and appreciated more than ever.

  11. geeyp
    February 6, 2020 at 04:59

    Speak the truth that you feel, and if another doesn’t agree with it, that’s okay. Just move on and so can they. Not enough energy left to get upset just ’cause you do not always agree.

  12. JWalters
    February 6, 2020 at 04:21

    This article makes a very important point. I encourage all CN readers to post comments at MSM websites, and include links to the great articles here at CN. MSM consumers need to be informed compellingly that they MUST supplement their favorite MSM site with information from INDEPENDENT, non-corporate, professional quality news outlets. Like Consortium News.

  13. Realist
    February 6, 2020 at 04:10

    Government secrecy, unrelenting propaganda and collusion by the mass media are only parts of the problem. People give up trying to buck the system at an early age because they are incessantly and, I suspect, deliberately jacked with by powerful institutions which they can never beat. How many times have you been “erroneously” or deliberately over-billed, under-compensated, misidentified or otherwise inconvenienced by some data processing program that can never seem to be permanently corrected no matter how persistent you are? They say “garbage in, garbage out,” as if that is a legitimate excuse. But why can they never completely dump the garbage no matter how many times they promise to do so? Why are there misspellings of your name and far out mysterious “aliases,” to say nothing of bogus debts, court records, educational achievements and other personal data, attributed to you that persist in the data bases for decades after you’ve made heroic attempts to get them expunged or corrected? Is it done purposely just to wear you down and discourage you from “fighting city hall” under any circumstances, because you’ve come to realise that your efforts will always come to nothing? It may very well be just a form of operant conditioning imposed upon all of us, kind of like primary school, to make us all docile, accepting and compliant bricks in the wall.

    • robert e williamson jr
      February 6, 2020 at 20:14

      Funny thing about sitting in the dark cold and hungry with your kids is that it will change your perspective and you priorities. You just watch and see what happens if the IMPOTUS is left to his own devices.

      I’m going to be a lot tougher on the average Joe and Jane who allow themselves to be used as useful idiots because the money is too good. Don’t rock the boat, they say, be a team player, and so on. These statements come from those who feel, “I got mine and to hell with those who are less fortunate.” What goes around comes around, and the economy of this country for the working man is in a very dismal state.

      All those the glass is half full types might want to think realistically about just how much money one needs to compete with billionaires who are responsible for death everyday. I’d say making a U-swag , that is an uneducated guess” , that if your wealth isn’t on the heavy side $900,000,000 you don’t get into the game.

      Now with the take over of the society by computers those useful idiots are not nearly so useful to the governments who are ran by the billionaires. The computer has become their weapons of choice. The US government has stolen software and made damned sure the Israelis got it. Why?

      Society is about to experience a large correction I believe. We are a society burdened with far too many wasted individuals. People who never got even close to the education they needed to survive in this world and they live the world over, a world more than ready to just simply pass them by.

      These people never had the were with all to fight the good fight for themselves to begin with. The computerized society has already passed them by.

      Wait till the official numbers of America’s poor are published in the next year or so. It’s a problem no one seems to address, including many of the rural poor who are either to proud to consider themselves poor or too dumbed down to know it. The proof is in the pudding as they say and it also explains the thinking or the lack there of by many of the IMPOTUS’ base.

  14. Skip Edwards
    February 5, 2020 at 20:10

    Caitlin has done it again. It’s too bad that this article and her message will never see the light of day in any MSM propaganda organ.

  15. robert e williamson jr
    February 5, 2020 at 19:58

    Ahhh, but Caitlin the multitude of lies kept secret for the last 74 years by the various “secret arms” (key phrase) of the government are the grease for that wheel.

    This has been a long process in the making, the point is how does the public make informed decisions when the media beats them to death with the party line. You are right and it all started when the public could no longer get truthful information from anyone, circa 1950. It is obvious to me, a layman, without college who sees through the BS. At seventy plus I know where to look and the beginning was about 1946-47 with the NSA the CIA and USAEC.

    Your brilliant piece here describes the culmination of the public long being useful idiots. Now the big money owns the players in government in a large majority. The politicians got bought off and we all got sold out.

    But hey them 401k’s are dong great tight!

    Freedom took a beating today at the hands incompetent and pretty much totally corrupt U.S. congress and a totally corrupted two party system.

    All Hail to the SCOTUS and Citizens United ruling, the court managed to get just what it wanted.

    Dark money from an Israeli billionaires and little recognition from anyone that the Israeli government may well be playing both ends, that is the republican PARTY end and the democratic PARTY end, against the rest of America, that would be of course, the rest of us.

    I think the charade is about to end this is not going to be pretty.

    So get ready, the interests of Israel must be beside themselves with joy seeing the U.S. so divided, with a dictator running things and the divided parties both blindly supporting the Israeli agenda. Them and the billionaires have got us right where they want us now.

    I suggest you l listen to and enjoy Aretha Franklin’s great song “THINK”. Or read the lyrics, if we could just get people to understand what they are doing to themselves by giving up!

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