UPRISING: Don’t. Side. With. The. Powerful.

Caitlin Johnstone calls reflexive subservience a zombie infection; a  mental virus spread by propaganda and toxic ideologies.  

By Caitlin Johnstone

I had a weird dystopian dream recently where I was running away from evil Agent Smith-type characters who looked just like normal people, so there was no way to recognize them; they could be an old man or a child or a librarian, or anyone.

The only sign that allowed me to tell them apart from real people always came too late: if I ever talked about the dark forces I was fighting, at some point they would say the words “Well, what did you expect?”

As in, what did you expect when you disobey us? What did you expect when you try to stand against our power? Did you think we wouldn’t come after you? Did you really think you could win?

It was a really scary, trippy dream, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

I’ve been thinking about it because it’s such an accurate reflection of how subservience to power actually manifests in our world. You talk about abusive power structures in our world, from police brutality to corporate predation to imperialist military interventionism, and many people are receptive. But you always wind up standing across from some freaky empire zombie saying “Well, what did you expect?”

It really is like a zombie infection, like a virus of the mind which spreads through propaganda and toxic ideologies and leads people to support the abuse of the disempowered by the powerful.

Whenever there’s an act of police brutality caught on video, no matter how brutal or inexcusable it may be, when that video circulates online you will always see comments saying “Well, what did you expect? That person was disobeying.”

Literally always. Always, always, always, without a single solitary exception. There’s a certain type of mind virus whose victims literally cannot help themselves. They absolutely cannot resist the impulse to start making excuses for the authority figure explaining why it’s okay for them to assault and abuse the disobedient weaker party. You get the impression that they’re not even really thinking about it; it’s an entirely mindless reflex for them. Like robots. Or zombies.

And it’s the exact same mind virus which justifies literally any violence by the powerful against those who disobey them, from the smallest to the largest of scales.

Those who respond to videos of police brutality with “Well what do you expect? They were disobeying!” aren’t just defending the police, they’re defending every power structure in the world where the weak are attacked for disobeying the powerful. From governments which attack, subvert and destroy weaker nations which disobey them, all the way down to parents who hit their children for annoying them.

It’s the same mind virus, and it’s the same dynamic, and it all funnels upward in support of the same power structures. The doctrine which says it’s okay for the powerful to use violence upon the disobedient disempowered applies anywhere else one might choose to apply it. Which is why there’s so much overlap between defenders of police violence and supporters of various kinds of US imperialism.

Don’t side with the powerful against the disempowered. Just don’t.

Learning to distinguish between empowered parties and disempowered parties can be a little tricky, because nobody likes to think of themselves as siding with the powerful against the weak. It’s something we all know intuitively to be wrong, so we’ll often find clever ways of using an incomplete analysis of the power dynamics at play which allows us to feel as though we’re fighting the power when we’re really doing the exact opposite.

And propagandists are of course all too eager to help us do this.

Israel is a perfect example. You can squint at it in such a way that lets you feel as though you’re defending a disempowered religious minority with an extensive history of persecution that is surrounded by enemies, but really it has nuclear weapons and the full might of the U.S. empire on its side. In reality the Palestinians are the down-power ones, but people who want to believe the Israeli government is a poor widdle victim will do mental gymnastics to contort the power dynamics.

These compartmentalizations ignore where the actual power is at on a global scale and just zoom in to a local analysis which ignores all else.

Whenever you see the Western mass media and their propagandized followers talking about “The people of [insert targeted nation here],” they’re cheerleading a U.S. empire-backed movement against a weaker government which has resisted absorption into that empire. But they’re posing as supporters of the little guy.

  • In the case of Venezuela, Juan Guaido is the brave rebel fighting the powerful Maduro regime! No, he’s backed by the U.S.-centralized empire which is trying to stage a coup in the nation with the largest proven oil reserves on the planet.
  • Yay, the freedom fighters in Syria are fighting the tyranny of their oppressive ruler! No, they’re not, they’re jihadist extremists who were backed by the U.S. and its allies with the goal of toppling Damascus in order to seize control of a crucial geostrategic region.
  • Yay, the brave people of Hong Kong are liberating themselves from the tyranny of Beijing! Well really China is far less powerful than the U.S.-centralized power alliance and the U.S. government is unquestionably intervening in the HK protests. But people make believe it’s just the people vs the big bad Chinese government.

This impulse to pretend you’re fighting the power instead of fighting for power is so pervasive I’ve seen people do ridiculous things like say Julian Assange is actually the power because WikiLeaks is influential. He’s one guy!

That’s also what you’re seeing when people try to spin these U.S. protests as a Deep State color revolution backed by George Soros and “the Chicoms.” No, it’s not, you just don’t want to admit that you support the government and its armed goon squad against people who are sick of the brutal U.S. police state, so you’re doing ridiculous mental gymnastics to make it feel like you’re actually punching up.

Online forums are full of self-described “anarchists” who constantly wind up on the same side as the CIA and the U.S. State Department on foreign policy because they act like every “revolution” in every nation is the people vs power while ignoring a global-scale analysis of real power. If your “anti-authoritarian” worldview frequently leads you to supporting agendas which make the biggest power structure on the planet more powerful, then you’re not anti-authoritarian, you just want to feel like you are. You’re fundamentally no different from any other MSM-brainwashed tool.

Learn to see clearly where the power is, and refuse to side with it. Expunge the “What did you expect?” mind virus from your system and you’ll be doing all of humanity a big favor.

Caitlin Johnstone is a rogue journalist, poet, and utopia prepper who publishes regularly at Medium.   Her work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, liking her on Facebook, following her antics on Twitter, checking out her podcast on either YoutubesoundcloudApple podcasts or Spotify, following her on Steemit, throwing some money into her tip jar on Patreon or Paypal, purchasing some of her sweet merchandise, buying her books “Rogue Nation: Psychonautical Adventures With Caitlin Johnstone and “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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18 comments for “UPRISING: Don’t. Side. With. The. Powerful.

  1. Aaron
    August 2, 2020 at 20:42

    The best way to identify the sources of power is to follow the money. Power goes where money flows.

  2. vinnieoh
    August 2, 2020 at 17:08

    If Caitlin were a bug zapper there would be the smell of fried insects in the air. I guess it’s automatic, why bug zappers work; you just turn them on.

    So, how do we get from championing the poor, weak, and the oppressed to the macro end results?

    North Korea, by the end of ’53 was bombed beyond recognition . Viet Nam, by the time we left, was bombed, burned, and poisoned, with 3 million dead. Central and South America – who really knows the tally of the dead in our long campaign of white hat neoliberalism? There is a swath of destruction from NE Iraq down through the Levant, blowing out the south end of the Arabian peninsula and across the north of Africa – all in the name of protecting and promoting “American interests and way of life.” Interesting that; our way of life results in the termination of so many others. Premise and conclusion are totally incompatible.

    “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.”

    What did they expect?

  3. Andy
    August 2, 2020 at 15:42

    Another good piece by Caitlin but I have to disagree about her view of China, they are another hideous regime that suppresses individuals freedoms and acts like a bull its around the wider region, I pity the poor Tibetans, colonised and suppressed, their culture is being cleansed for good.

  4. August 2, 2020 at 09:21

    The video of the big, bully cop holding down and beating the small defenceless child is a representation of what America is in the world…

  5. SRH
    August 2, 2020 at 02:31

    “China is far less powerful than the U.S.-centralized power alliance”. True but please, don’t whitewash that authoritarian state which “executed more people than the rest of the world combined last year, according to Amnesty International’s new annual report on capital punishment. Thousands of people were sentenced to death in the country, although exact figures remain unknown because such killings are kept a state secret, the report said.””


  6. Rob Roy
    August 1, 2020 at 20:50

    Every time I read Caitlin Johnstone, I’m impressed by her ability to go one step further into the analysis of any situation than most other journalists. Every time, I say, “Thank god for Caitlin!” and send her articles to others. I have acquaintances who make up excuses for police brutality (“he must have done something wrong,” or “he resisted arrest”) and imprisonment of people who should never have been sent to prison (one relative said, “Oh, I’m pretty sure people in prison are there for a good reason.”)
    Caitlin, thank you for offering the best observation every darn time….never disappointed, and always learn something.

  7. robert e williamson jr
    August 1, 2020 at 17:48

    I have long had problems with the lack of respect some police officers show for the average citizen.

    Now things have come to a boiling point. Why because the of Israeli practice of “over kill”.

    This is the Israeli “rule with an iron fist” theory.

    “Get on the ground, don’t resist, hands up, hands behind your back, quit moving, lay still.!” All after someone has been violently thrown to the ground or tazed. Your other choice take off running and get shot in the back.

    This is out of control in many areas of the country. Ex-combat vets should not be patrol officers, the vetting process is non-existent.

    I do not suffer fools lightly especially when they are cops and with many law officers in the area I’m a very bad man simply because I do not tolerate their B.S.. That said if you intend to exchange harsh comments with these a-holes you need to be on your game.

    On last bit of advice, never resist them, don’t talk to them and demand a lawyer or demand they let you go. If they don’t go back to the beginning – don’t resist, don’t talk to them and demand a lawyer.

  8. Je Zultzien
    August 1, 2020 at 14:26

    Since the US is the “most powerful nation”, and the “richest”, and has “the world’s most powerful military”, and every other country must conduct business in the US dollar, and the US decides which form of government is acceptable in other nations and will foment wars, coups, civil wars, assassinations, genocide, and all manner of death, destruction, and mayhem on countries deemed “enemies”, or “a threat to our national interests”, and the US has such influence over everybody and everything, then all of the people in the world should vote in US elections. Really though, the rest of the world should “regime-change” the US just like the Allies had to with the Nazis. Because that is how good the US is to the world, including itself.

  9. Arty
    August 1, 2020 at 14:13

    There certainly is one country that needs regime-change…

  10. August 1, 2020 at 14:12

    I think her heart’s in the right place, but justification for siding w/a lesser, however abusive/corrupt foreign power over the U.S. sounds a bit like the lesser evil argument here at home.

    How about we oppose tyranny & authoritarianism EVERYWHERE??

    Just because an authoritarian government who suppresses different human rights than we are fighting for here may use the vocabulary of resistance and revolution doesn’t mean we have to support them. And of course the CIA would use those suppressed human rights as fodder for propaganda. That doesn’t mean we have to pretend those people are not suffering in a different way than we are suffering here?

  11. August 1, 2020 at 12:16

    Just as one must learn to understand how thinking is being manipulated in this country–how politically-correct narratives are implemented and maintained—one must understand how video provides only part of an incident, and not to draw highly-emotional responses to them until all facts are noted. Such as in the George Floyd situation.

  12. August 1, 2020 at 11:37

    Well, what did you expect?

    (I couldn’t resist that one.)

  13. michael888
    August 1, 2020 at 09:58

    You don’t side with the powerful or the weak. You side with those in the right, as you see it. You pick your battles, and execute them as well as you can. If someone wishes to be a martyr for a principle, I respect that. But running your mouth about it, without making any contribution beyond that, is disingenuous at best, or cowardly.

  14. Antonio Costa
    August 1, 2020 at 09:05

    CJ: “That’s also what you’re seeing when people try to spin these U.S. protests as a Deep State color revolution backed by George Soros and “the Chicoms.” No, it’s not, you just don’t want to admit that you support the government…”

    Does this mean that CJ think George Soros’s Open Society Foundation doesn’t fund color revolutions, mostly concentrated in Eastern Europe? “Deep State” is the US government and while Soros is not the only source of funds, he undoubtedly does fund these in various parts of the world. None of this is to deny US security state role.

    So if I’m reading CJ accurately, this is the first time I’m really disappointed in her analysis which sounds more like the Dem./liberal bourgeoisie, MSM…could I be wrong?

  15. Sue Smith
    August 1, 2020 at 08:55

    Put rioters, pedophiles, felons, abusers, thieves, looters Etc – those NOT obeying the countries “laws” (which WE NEED) in your article & it will be more truthful… you have it backwards!

  16. Clive
    August 1, 2020 at 04:13

    At least in the US some people are rebelling against the oppression. Around here, people are just behaving like a bunch of lemmings, downloading corporate state spyware apps, and zooming toward the precipice.

    • DH Fabian
      August 1, 2020 at 15:45

      No, the BLM is pushing back against (exclusively) police oppression and violence in black communities. I think the middle class is, at this point, “building a movement” for a new sort of welfare system, but only for the most-recently unemployed who are jobless specifically because of the quarantine. Instead of the former average $400 monthly allotment per family, they want $1200 per month per laid-off worker.

    • Luke
      August 1, 2020 at 20:53

      Keep the faith, Clive. It only takes a spark to light a fire. Cheers from Chicago

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