Caitlin Johnstone: Ghost Town

In Ghost Town, we do not look at Gaza. We look at everything except Gaza.

Times Square in New York. (Terabass, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)

By Caitlin Johnstone

Listen to Tim Foley reading this article

Walking the streets of this ghost town, watching ghost people laugh and play and indulge like Gaza isn’t burning, like children aren’t starving, like people aren’t dying slowly trapped under rubble next to the corpses of their loved ones, like IDF troops aren’t merrily picking off civilians with drones and snipers while children get their limbs amputated without anaesthetic, with the full support of this ghost civilization and its ghost leaders.

This ghost town full of ghost cars, ghost buses, ghost trains, ghost pubs, ghost concerts, ghost theme parks, ghost cinemas, ghost festivals, ghost laughter, ghost feasting, ghost shopping, all going on just the same as it was before all this started.

Little children running around with flesh on their bones and their organs inside their bodies like they’re supposed to be, supervised by ghost parents with heads full of social clout and gossip.

Last month a man set himself on fire before the Israeli embassy and screamed “FREE PALESTINE” as he burned. He was not a ghost. He was flesh-and-blood real. He saw it. He responded to it. He treated this nightmare like the thing that it is.

Candlelight vigil to honor U. S. Airman Aaron Bushnell’s self sacrifice for peace at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, Feb. 26, 2024. (Elvert Barnes, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0)

We don’t do that in this ghost town. We stare at screens and shovel snacks and booze into the gaping void within ourselves and flail our attention around looking for anything that will keep us from an even momentary encounter with the real. We do not look at Gaza.

We look at everything except Gaza.

So we keep the charade going. Frantically keeping the gears of this ghost town turning like hamsters on a running wheel, running faster and faster because we can feel the wet mouth of authenticity nipping at our heels.

It’s like a giant theater improv game we’re all playing together, where the whole instruction is to keep the scene in a constant state of frenetic motion.

Because we all know what will happen if we are still, on some level. We all know that stillness allows the smoke to clear and the mud to settle in the water, and from there it’s only a matter of time before we find ourselves in the tyrannical grip of clarity.

And then it will all bubble up. The lies. The phoniness. The discontentment. The feelings. Shame. Guilt. Truth. Gaza.

But there’s only so long you can run from yourself. There’s only so far you can flee before you get exhausted and fall down and find yourself staring up at the sky you’ve been living under your whole life.

This fraudulent ghost town can’t keep up this charade forever. None of this is sustainable. At some point and in some way, truth inevitably comes crashing in.

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.

17 comments for “Caitlin Johnstone: Ghost Town

  1. jamie
    April 1, 2024 at 12:03

    “you can’t be no ghost, be a spirit!” (Bullworth); we think we are free, but when you live in a lie, in a constructed reality that feed your fear and protect you from it, you can’t be a spirit, you end up being a ghost.

    I watch many time John Mearsheimer, I think is a brilliant mind, I can learn a lot about his theories applying realism. But even he, it seems he can’t escape the social and cultural pressure.
    In his theory he is convinced that China is the danger, not Russia; that when China will be powerful enough it will become just like the United States (a “bad and dangerous country” even though I have never heard him admitting it).
    He is a realist. His conclusion come from a western perspective, influenced by the culture and society he has grown up in. And such conclusion, which lacks in my opinion of holistic thinking, is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.
    When we studied foreign cultures, our professor always emphasized “do not analyze such culture with your western closed mind, open it up and don’t judge what you find different, study its uniqueness, live it, embraced it then make an assumption if it is a good adapting strategy”.
    With all respect I have for Mearsheimer, I do not think it has ever analyze China from the point of view of a Chinese person living in China, it has never factor in the cultural and historical difference of China, never truly embraced this new culture, and it has never explored new theories of nation’s adaptation to the global orders. Even he can escape “the realism” of the western constructed reality, thus he can’t be amaze by something new.

    Just the fact that China has promoted multipolarism, place such country in a different path from US, which in his history it has never embraced such idea I think. I am not saying that China will not become like the US, but as a realist, I can’t say that today China wants to be like the US, actually, every statement of the Chinese government point to a different direction.
    Outside our own reality we are hardly able to cope and adapt, that is why we prefer to ignore other realities, other screams, other sufferings, other voices, other smiles, other love and joy. That is why we are ghosts in this world, and we will never live, we will never be free if we can embrace other realities the world offers.

  2. Francis (Frank) Lee
    April 1, 2024 at 04:39

    The term ‘nationalist” was frequently used by Orwell in his some of his non-fictional writings. ‘Notes on nationalism’ was written in 1945. He wrote. ‘All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts. … Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is no kind of outrage – torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassinations, the bombing of civilians – which does change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side.

    How often have we heard the technobabble of the the mass media which has formed the external wallpaper of our lives. Orwell goes on to describe the nationalist’s surrealism thus:

    The nationalist does not only disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them! For example:

    ”On 31 May 2010 a humanitarian flotilla on route to Gaza and carrying 7 hundred passengers came under attack in International waters by Israeli commandoes. The flotilla’s six vessels were delivering 10 thousand tons of badly needed supplies to Gaza’s beleaguered population. By the end of the Israel assault in the middle of the night, nine passengers aboard the flagship Mavi Maramara had been shot to death. ”If Operation Cast Lead was a turning point in the attitude of the world toward us …Haaretz columnist, Gideon Levy, rued, ”this operation was the second horror film of the apparently ongoing series …” (‘Gaza’ – Norman Finkelstein ) On and on and on. The Kabuki act will continue.

  3. March 31, 2024 at 15:27

    Thank you, Caitlin. This is the most powerful piece you have ever written.

  4. Valerie
    March 30, 2024 at 22:23

    Profoundly true. I’ve been told by more than one friend not to send any more articles or links to videos on Palestine. It just gets them depressed or sad. Their attention needs to be elsewhere – on their shallow, superficial, distracted little lives. Sometimes I wish I could take just a day not to bear witness – it is the first thing I think of when I wake and the last thing I am thinking about when I go to sleep. But it would be wrong of me to not look because I am living in my safe little well-fed world. It would be wrong not to at least honor those struggling by paying attention – by looking – by bearing witness.

    • Wendy
      March 31, 2024 at 15:06

      Same thing happened to dear friend wants to “live her best life” and not think about Gaza too much.

  5. Sailab
    March 30, 2024 at 20:44

    Thank you Caitlin for this great piece. Yes Gaza is flesh and blood real. However, as Gazans are being bombed, burned and buried alive, in defiance of all logic, the resistance is rising from the rubbles and ashes and fighting back. For it knows that this is the moment to seize the opportunity and fight for freedom. No more looking for ghost towns to deliver what they cannot or will not.

  6. March 30, 2024 at 17:45

    Bravo Caitlin! Thanks for setting this reality so clearly. The stain of genocide will not wash out and the ghost life will weigh upon us until we come to our senses.

  7. wildthange
    March 30, 2024 at 17:33

    That is because we think our imaginary god gave us wars and empires for maximizing profits due to superiority in war technology for progress. There were 5 immolation in the US over the Vietnam war that aren’t remembered and countless ones over Tibet but we weaponized Tibet for the cold war like we weaponized Afghanistan and now Ukraine. Rome may have weaponized a religion for an assist in occupation there plus an imaginary defamation of character that has lasted ever since.

  8. Gypsy33
    March 30, 2024 at 10:49

    I am amazed that anyone can go as if life were ordinary when this slaughter of fellow human beings is happening before our eyes.
    I am forever changed. I have zero faith in humanity.

    • sisuforpeace
      April 1, 2024 at 15:53

      Please don’t consider ALL human beings as the same. Try to remember all those who do live and fight for justice, peace and freedom for all. We are many and we can’t forget this, as hard as it seems. otherwise, what’s the point of getting up in the morning?

  9. Mark
    March 30, 2024 at 05:42

    Excellent piece, thanks. I live in Europe and I’m sick to the stomach how many people around me behave. Our society is sick and we live in a fantasy world. I would call it zombie town, with zombies.

    • Susan Siens
      March 30, 2024 at 16:46

      Years ago, someone wrote an essay about zombies and vampires. We ordinary people are the zombies and our rulers are the vampires. All too accurate.

  10. Andrew Nichols
    March 30, 2024 at 03:53

    Reads like a review of the Truman Show.

  11. Hud
    March 29, 2024 at 22:33

    Arrest warrants issued for Biden and Blinken—–>>>report to Cook County Jail—>>>>Chicago doesn’t want you!

  12. Tedder
    March 29, 2024 at 17:34

    The Buddhist chant, “May we exist in muddy waters with the purity of a lotus” comes to mind. The water is very, very dirty!

    • sisuforpeace
      April 1, 2024 at 15:56

      Thank you for this. ? The lotus flower does rise out of the muddy water. Otherwise, we fall into nihilism.

  13. bardamu
    March 29, 2024 at 17:19

    Well, beat the drum slowly, I guess. Beautiful piece. I’ve walked through ghost towns, for all that’s worth, and this resonates.

    At some point, we build a new economy in a different way so that we can walk away from all this. Or we do not. Here’s to spring and planting.

Comments are closed.