Caitlin Johnstone: In A World Ruled By Propaganda

As primates whose survival depended on social cohesion, being rejected by the tribe would mean almost certain death, so it was necessary to conform. But we don’t live in prehistoric times anymore.

By Caitlin Johnstone
Caitlin’s Newsletter 

Listen to Tim Foley reading this article.

One of the worst mistakes you can make when formulating your understanding of the world is to begin with the assumption that the truest and most accurate position must lie somewhere near the center of the two major political perspectives you see laid out all around you. 

It’s a mistake not only because assuming that the center position must be the best one is a type of fallacious reasoning known as the middle ground fallacy (the correct position between “Drink a gallon of bleach daily for good health” and “Drink zero bleach daily for good health” is not “Drink half a gallon of bleach daily for good health”); it’s also a mistake because the entire framing arises from a situation that has been artificially engineered by the powerful.

It’s a well-documented fact that the rich and powerful pour vast fortunes into manipulating the political and media landscape in ways that serve their interests. Their control over the news media and Silicon Valley tech platforms is used to set the agenda and influence public perception by determining what issues will receive attention and which won’t in ways that preserve the political status quo they’ve built their empire upon, thereby shrinking the Overton window of acceptable debate down to a very narrow spectrum whose outcomes can’t threaten their interests in any way.

We just discussed this dynamic with regard to U.S. aggressions against Russia and China; the Overton window is being narrowed to a debate between which U.S. enemy should be the target of the most imperial aggressions, with voices who advocate detente with both countries finding no platform in mainstream politics or media.

This is what Noam Chomsky was talking about when he said “the smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum.”

People assume there must be truth in the mainstream worldview because so many others are invested in the mainstream worldview, when really the only reason that worldview is mainstream in the first place is because so much wealth and influence has gone into making it mainstream.

In reality the assumption that the truth exists anywhere in either of the two mainstream political viewpoints promoted by the managers of the western empire is an example of the bandwagon effect, which describes the cognitive bias in which humans tend to take on beliefs, behaviors, styles and attitudes solely because that’s what the people around them are doing.

This bias would have had evolutionary advantages early on in our development as a species. Back when our evolutionary ancestors were prey for prehistoric carnivores, it was a survival advantage to start running for your life if you saw other members of your tribe running, even if you personally didn’t see what they were running from.

As primates whose survival depended on social cohesion, being rejected by the tribe would mean almost certain death by predation or starvation, so it was necessary to conform in whatever ways prevented that rejection from happening.

But we don’t live in prehistoric times anymore. We live in a civilization with a highly complex information environment that is being continually manipulated away from truth and accuracy and toward the advantage of powerful people who rule over us. If you go along with the herd, you’ll be deceived.

In truth the so-called “centrists” or “moderates” of our world are really violent extremists, because they support the most murderous and tyrannical power structure on our planet, and are only regarded as moderate because they sit in the mid-range of a completely artificially created spectrum. A perspective that is actually sane will be about as far away from their perspective as you can get.

Because the majority of people have been duped by propaganda into espousing mainstream political perspectives, those with an accurate read on things will necessarily be a small fringe minority until that dynamic changes. As long as your entire civilization is structured around deceit-based perspectives which serve the powerful, going along with the crowd will prevent you from forming a truth-based perspective that serves human interests.

So you’ll have to get comfortable rejecting mainstream orthodoxies, dismissing mainstream media, and shunning mainstream politics, because those things are all inseparably interwoven with the matrix of deceit by which our rulers have pulled the blindfold over this civilization.

This won’t be a sign that you’re out of touch or a kooky crackpot or some snobby hipster who rejects all things mainstream out of a pathological need to be different, it will be a sign that you are seeing things clearly.

This can set you apart from your tribe at times; as Terence McKenna said, “The cost of sanity in this society is a certain level of alienation.” But we can still find each other online, so we’re never really alone, and the cost is definitely worth it.

The sincere pursuit of a truth-based perspective is ultimately the surest path not only toward a healthy society, but toward lasting happiness as an individual as well.

Caitlin Johnstone’s work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, following her on FacebookTwitterSoundcloudYouTube, or throwing some money into her tip jar on Ko-fiPatreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy her books. The best way to make sure you see the stuff she publishes is to subscribe to the mailing list at her website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything she publishes.  For more info on who she is, where she stands and what she’s trying to do with her platform, click here. All works are co-authored with her American husband Tim Foley.

This article is from and re-published with permission.

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

18 comments for “Caitlin Johnstone: In A World Ruled By Propaganda

  1. D.H.Fabian
    August 26, 2023 at 14:56

    The proverbial “masses” no longer have common ground. We can wax philosophical to our heart’s content, but at the end of the day, what people care about the most is whether they have the means of survival – adequate food and shelter. In the US, a few million don’t. As US job losses long surpassed job gains, we stripped away the basic human rights of those left jobless. We’re now 27 years into the war on the poor. It’s not possible to repair this deep split among the US public.

  2. Francis Lee
    August 26, 2023 at 04:42

    Ay yes, truth, the great elusive quarry. Why is it that most people believe the bullshit but an intransigent minority don’t. This is a truism that defies reason.

    In Orwell’s 1934 novel ‘Coming up for Air’ the abject inability of the average person to come to terms with reality was vividly portrayed in a short passage from the novel. The scene is set. Georg Bowling (the central character of the novel in question) speaks:

    ”Of course there is no question that it – the war – is coming – soon. You can tell how close it is by the cheer-up stuff that they are talking about in the Newspapers … I was reading an article in the newspaper the other day where it said that bombing planes can’t do any damage nowadays. The Anti-aircraft guns are so good that the bomber has to stay at twenty thousand feet.”

    But Bowling nails the idiocy of modern times as follows. thus:

    ” But the chap opposite me on the train who was reading the same piece seems to imagine that if the bombers are high enough the bombs don’t reach the ground! Or more likely what our journalist really meant is the bombs will miss the Woolwich Arsenal and only hit places like my home in Ellesmere Road.”

    Nailed it!

  3. Drew Hunkins
    August 25, 2023 at 22:37

    “The cost of sanity in this society is a certain level of alienation.”

    Unfortunately this is pretty true regarding many issues and topics.

    Once in a while sticking to sports and weather is a wise course of action.

  4. shmutzoid
    August 25, 2023 at 21:25

    Indoctrination into the religion of the USA begins early in life. School books are increasingly hagiographic peans to America’s “exceptionalism” and its ‘indispensable” role in world affairs. Kids make THE PLEDGE every day. WWll might be taught without any mention of the USSR’s role in defeating Nazism. The myth of the need to drop two A-bombs on Japan to win the war and “save American lives” still persists.——- What passes for ‘common knowledge’ and accepted truths are fantasy hero myths that extoll the virtue of our dear homeland. Most of US history is unknown/hidden to its citizens. …..from how numerous Nazis were recruited after WWll to help launch the national security state —-to—- any number of CIA Operations (Mockingbird, Phoenix, etc.)
    ————Our corporate media environment is a compendium of official state sanctioned narratives. The closing of the American mind is a life long project by the state. worship of military at ball games and singing “God Bless America” during the 7th inning stretch on Sundays only reinforces religious adherence to the uS. — Oh, and , of course, CAPITALISM = DEMOCRACY = FREEDOM =USA. That’s all you need to really learn in school!
    ——————- i’ve shut down all political discourse with friends. Good hearted, intelligent folks, all. They ‘consume’ a range of media from NY Times to MSNBC to NPR to PBS and a few others in that vein. They all internalize the official talking points about Ukraine. Putin is Hitler and wants to conquer Europe——Russia was NOT provoked——-there are no neo-Nazis in Ukraine———US had nothing to do with the 2014 coup. ———–> yes, online is the only refuge for in contemplating world events/issues.

  5. wildthange
    August 25, 2023 at 21:04

    The political process involves the billionaires and well funded interest groups. All the money goes into to profit motives of the media and consultants that thrive on permanent political and culture war. The MSM wants to maximize profits by supporting the 2 party system to preserve their profits by ignoring any other discussion of alternative. It is perfect profiteering warfare promoting system that is willing to risk collapse of human civilization for profit and doom.

  6. Graeme
    August 25, 2023 at 21:00

    Noam Chomsky, more than once, has cited in his writings Propaganda (1928) by Edward Bernays.

    In the intro to Propaganda, Chomsky is quoted from his “What Makes Mainstream Media Mainstream”: a talk at Z Media Institute, June 1997:
    [that after World War 1] “The country [the USA] was becoming formally more democratic. A lot more people were able to vote and that sort of thing. The country was becoming wealthier and more people could participate and a lot of new immigrants were coming in, and so on. So what do you do? It’s going to be harder to run things as a private club. Therefore, obviously, you have to control what people think.”

    Further, Chomsky notes that propaganda
    “which is a U.S. invention and a monstrous industry, came out of the first World War. The leading figures were people in the Creel
    Commission. In fact, the main one, Edward Bernays, comes right out of the Creel Commission.”

    Evidence for the blatant intention of propaganda to usurp democracy [whatever that means] and to protect the 1% is crudely stated by Bernays at the very outset of his propaganda piece about propaganda:
    “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.

    “We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized.
    … Whatever attitude one chooses to take toward this condition, it remains a fact that in almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons—a trifling fraction of our hundred and twenty million—who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind, who harness old social forces and contrive new ways to bind and guide the world.”
    Bernays continues in this vein for another 50 pages.

    Propaganda by Bernays is approaching it centenary, and remains, as implied in Caitlin’s article a cruel force that has done little to benefit society; perhaps one of the most insidious examples is the traction that climate denial received.

    It’s often the work of social observers – sometimes referred to as comedians – who can encapsulate concepts into language and images that resonate.
    The late Bill Hicks, addressing marketing & advertising – AKA propaganda – his analysis may be abrupt, but it sticks.


  7. waltdublanica
    August 25, 2023 at 16:15

    ONE SMART LADY is much better then 10 dumb guys.

  8. Valerie
    August 25, 2023 at 15:39

    From the article:

    “As primates whose survival depended on social cohesion, being rejected by the tribe would mean almost certain death by predation or starvation, so it was necessary to conform in whatever ways prevented that rejection from happening.”

    As a primate rejected by the “tribe” i thank godzilla there is an Aldi supermarket.

  9. Tony
    August 25, 2023 at 15:20

    “…shrinking the Overton window of acceptable debate down to a very narrow spectrum whose outcomes can’t threaten their interests in any way.”

    Earlier today, BBC Radio 4 broadcast a programme in its Reunion series about the 1988 bombing of an airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988. 270 dead.

    The programme told us who was convicted of the crime but the strong possibility of CIA involvement was not mentioned at all.

    On board the plane was Major Charles McKee of the DIA (the Pentagon’s own intelligence agency). Others from the DIA accompanied him. McKee was very anti-drugs and this may well have led him to be targeted by the very pro-drugs CIA which feared he may blow the whistle on their activities.

    Needless to say, the BBC made no mention of this at all.

    Further reading:

    “Cover-up of Convenience – the Hidden Scandal of Lockerbie” by John Ashton and Ian Ferguson.

  10. James White
    August 25, 2023 at 15:14

    Brilliant topic, as propaganda today occupies a majority of minds, worldwide.
    A separate but related development is the overwhelming volume of information that is flowing. The amount of known information keeps doubling in ever shorter intervals. A Moore’s Law of scientific facts and truth. Humans throughout history have struggled to perform even the obvious civilization-al tasks: Growing adequate food, storing and preserving clean water supplies, punishing violent crime, ensuring that children are safe from abuse and educated. But now we are bombarded with information and choices as never before. That was why Marshall McLuhan observed that the medium itself had become the message. Consider that the more information is available, the less certain any of it is. Charlatans have seized on this mechanism and exploit it by manufacturing propaganda. Governments and their spy agencies produce most of this, but now legacy media conspire with them. Both have evil intent. Our track record on meeting the most basic of societal needs shows that we are ill-equipped to cope with a firehose of information flow. Meanwhile, next on our horizon is Artificial Intelligence. What could possibly go wrong?
    Then there is the ‘cognitive bias in which humans tend to take on beliefs, behaviors, styles and attitudes solely because that’s what the people around them are doing.’ Most people have a deep desire for approval. ‘If you go along with the herd, you’ll be deceived.’ Many people also suffer from a hero complex which is a variant of the need for approval. That is why virtue-signaling has become so widespread. We end up with a world where every nearly female strives desperately to resemble Barbie. Striking the same pouty lipped pose in every endless selfie. You must expect to be ostracized and punished for holding independent thoughts or views outside of the mainstream. You will be rejected by friends, co-workers and family alike. The stark truth about the Jan. 6th gathering is that you can be held without due process and given years in prison for holding beliefs that Nancy Pelosi feels threatened by. Obsequium parit amicos, veritas parit odium. The same struggle has played out since ancient times. But the penalties and weapons deployed against fact seekers and truth tellers are ever more draconian.

    • J Anthony
      August 25, 2023 at 18:14

      1/6/21 was a bad example to use to make that point, but i get it

  11. medo
    August 25, 2023 at 14:17

    Problem. My Friends, who are kind, busy supporting themselves and family, reasonably intelligent, watch a little network news, read some papers, and are entirely unaware of what I believe to be the real situation in the world. Generally they avoid discussions with me, knowing I have a perspective which they find wrong headed. My family warn me to not be taken in by conspiracy theories…. so I go online, look for honest news and keep my opinions to myself. \\

    The majority of these folks do not have the leisure to hunt for information, are fully engaged in holding their lives and family together.

    • Valerie
      August 25, 2023 at 16:59

      “The majority of these folks do not have the leisure to hunt for information, are fully engaged in holding their lives and family together.”

      And sadly, that is the situation of most households. And that is what the rich/elites/governments rely upon.

    • Alan Hodge
      August 25, 2023 at 19:49

      Nevertheless, self-censoring by those who are paying attention is as important to the aims of the elite as is the glazed propaganda uptake of the self-neutered. Stay loud and stay proud.

    • Liz
      August 25, 2023 at 20:38

      I too am surrounded by people who don’t know the truth, mostly because they only watch a little network news, a few because they wholeheartedly believe the lies told by intel community/left-leaning mainstream media. I don’t keep my opinions to myself, but I do try to mete it out in bites intended to make people think & question without writing me off completely or cutting me out of their life (my mom included). I can’t say that it’s making a dent, but I can’t stop trying, with the future of humanity and especially my children and grandchildren at stake.

      • vinnieoh
        August 26, 2023 at 12:31

        Sometime around my 45th birthday I had an epiphany: it suddenly hit me just how much time and effort so many people expend trying to be like everyone else. We are social animals, and everyone wants to be accepted, but I never viewed life as a popularity contest. I am not purposely out of step with the column, but I can’t march in stride if it just doesn’t feel right.

    • Henry Smith
      August 26, 2023 at 09:01

      Most people have taken the blue pill and are happy in their ignorance and they don’t appreciate the status quo being upset by ‘the outsiders’, ‘the conspiracy nuts’ who have taken the red pill and know most everything we are told is a lie.
      One to one discussions with individuals is the only way to break into the bubble as individuals will usually accept the truth of rational argument, but groups won’t, as the pack relies on groupthink for cohesion and survival. Thinking for yourself identifies you as a danger to the stability of ‘normal’ life.

      “People are wonderful. I love individuals. I hate groups of people. I hate a group of people with a ‘common purpose’. ‘Cause pretty soon they have little hats. And armbands. And fight songs. And a list of people they’re going to visit at 3am. So, I dislike and despise groups of people but I love individuals. Every person you look at; you can see the universe in their eyes, if you’re really looking.”
      ? George Carlin

  12. Greg Grant
    August 25, 2023 at 13:33

    I like that you’re factoring in the responsibility of the people not to be so gullible and lazy.
    Chomsky likes to say the propaganda we are subjected to is more sophisticated than in other countries, because in the U.S. it’s harder for them to control what people do, so it’s more important for them to control what people think. He claims nobody really believed “Soviet style” propaganda, but it didn’t matter because they could just lock you up or kill you anyway for speaking out.
    That may all be true, “U.S. style” propaganda may be a shade more sophisticated than Soviet Style.
    It does operate under the guise of free speech.
    But it is still incredibly transparent and obvious.
    The U.S. population must really want to believe what they’re being told, because the emperor truly wears no clothes.
    It really doesn’t take much to dupe most people.
    So the revolution is never going to start at home, it’s going to have to be the peoples of the world eventually and finally rising up.

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