Caitlin Johnstone: An Empire Fears Its Students

They understand that if they lose control of the narrative, they won’t be able to deploy their armies anymore.

World Economic Forum session in January 2017 with Alex Karp, CEO of Palantir, second from right on stage. (World Economic Forum / Walter Duerst, Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

By Caitlin Johnstone

Listen to Tim Foley reading this article.

The U.S. secretary of state and a Bilderberg surveillance tech oligarch have both made some very interesting admissions about the burgeoning protest movement against the U.S.-backed slaughter in Gaza and the problems it poses for the empire they help run.

During a vitriolic rant about university demonstrators at the Ash Carter Exchange on Innovation and National Security on Tuesday, Palantir CEO Alex Karp came right out and said that if those on the side of the protesters win the debate on this issue, the west will lose the ability to wage wars.

For those who don’t know, Palantir is a C.I.A.-backed surveillance and data mining tech company with intimate ties to both the U.S. intelligence cartel and to Israel, playing a crucial role in both the U.S. empire’s sprawling surveillance network and Israeli atrocities against Palestinians. 

Karp is a billionaire who sits on the steering committee of the Bilderberg Group and regularly features at the World Economic Forum and other platforms of plutocratic empire management.

“We kind of just think these things that are happening, across college campuses especially, are like a sideshow — no, they are the show,” Karp said during his rant. “Because if we lose the intellectual debate, you will not be able to deploy any army in the west, ever.”

Karp addressing World Economic Forum session in May 2022 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland. (World Economic Forum / Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 )

Everyone should listen very carefully to Karp’s words here, because he’s giving the whole game away. He’s making it very clear how crucial it is for the empire to stomp out this protest movement and the zeitgeist upon which it rides, because the very existence of the imperial war machine depends on it. 

At a time when most imperial spinmeisters are trying to dismiss the importance of this movement and what young people are doing on college campuses around the world, this is a really extraordinary admission from someone who lives deep in the guts of the imperial hydra.

Such conferences are great for obtaining useful information from swamp monsters that you don’t normally hear, because when they’re surrounded by like-minded empire goons they tend to get a lot more loose-tongued than they are when they’re more aware that they have an audience of normal people. 

We saw this illustrated again in a conversation between Sen. Mitt Romney and Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the McCain Institute last week, during which both acknowledged some facts that generally go unstated by such creatures.

After bemoaning Israel’s lack of success at “PR” regarding its Gaza assault, Romney just came right out and said that this was “why there was such overwhelming support for us to shut down potentially TikTok or other entities of that nature” — with “us” meaning himself and his fellow lawmakers on Capitol Hill. 

“How this narrative has evolved, yeah, it’s a great question,” Blinken responded, saying that at the beginning of his career in Washington everyone was getting their information from television and physical newspapers like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post

“Now, of course, we are on an intravenous feed of information with new impulses, inputs every millisecond,” Blinken continued. 

“And of course, the way this has played out on social media has dominated the narrative. And you have a social media ecosystem environment in which context, history, facts get lost, and the emotion, the impact of images dominates. And we can’t — we can’t discount that, but I think it also has a very, very, very challenging effect on the narrative.”

Notice how he said the word “narrative” three times? That’s how empire managers talk to each other, because that’s how they think about everything.

This is because empire managers are always acutely aware of something that normal human beings are not: that real power comes from manipulating the stories — narratives — that people tell themselves about their reality. 

They understand that humans are storytelling animals whose inner lives are typically dominated by mental narratives about what’s happening, so if you can control those narratives, you can control the humans.

They understand that power is controlling what happens, but true power is controlling what people think about what happens. 

They understand that whoever controls the narrative controls the world.

Pro Palestine protest and encampment in White Memorial Plaza in Stanford University on April 25. (Suiren2022, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 4.0)

That’s what’s going on with all the mass media propaganda, Silicon Valley algorithm manipulation, plutocrat-funded think tanks, and mainstream culture manufacturing in New York and Hollywood. A few clever manipulators understand that you can control a society by controlling its dominant narratives.

Our rulers don’t think about things like normal people think about them. They don’t think in terms of doing the right thing or acting in a way that benefits everyone. They don’t think in terms of truth and honesty or the lack thereof.

They only think in terms of what stories people are telling each other, and how those stories can be changed in a way that advances the interests of the empire they manage.

Empire managers — and highly manipulative people in general — do not use language in the way that normal people use it. Normal human beings use language to connect and communicate, whereas manipulators use it only to extract things they want from people and exert control over them. They do this by working to control the narratives that people have about their material reality.

That’s why when Romney and Blinken are talking to each other about why people are so upset at Israel, it never even occurs to them to discuss how Israel’s public image is being hurt by its own actions, or to suggest that it could improve that image by simply ceasing to behave in a monstrous way. 

All they talk about is “the narrative” of what Israel is doing, and how people having the ability to share ideas and information with each other online makes that narrative harder to control.

So while normal people are looking at the bloodshed and horror in Gaza and screaming it needs to stop at the top of our lungs, our rulers are hearing us and thinking, “Oh no, we need to find a way to get them to stop believing that narrative and get them to believe another one.”

That’s what we’re seeing with all the attempts to stomp out free speech both at demonstrations and online. They understand that if they lose control of the narrative, they won’t be able to deploy their armies anymore.

So please don’t make the mistake of thinking your attempts to disrupt their narrative control aren’t working. Don’t let anyone tell you your protests don’t make a difference or your dissident speech poses no threat to the powerful. If what you’re doing wasn’t working, empire managers wouldn’t be losing their minds right now.

Caitlin Johnstone’s work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, following her on FacebookTwitter,SoundcloudYouTube, 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.

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5 comments for “Caitlin Johnstone: An Empire Fears Its Students

  1. Rafi Simonton
    May 10, 2024 at 23:31

    “Outside agitators.” “A few disgruntled leftists.” “Privileged college kids.” “Out of touch idealists.”
    The same terms we veterans of the labor movement, civil rights, AIM, women’s liberation, environmentalism, and every other activist for change has heard before. The oligarchs and plutocrats seem puzzled why they can’t convince us that what they say is true. But we know by experience what lies, even those wrapped in heavy propaganda, look and feel like.for
    I’ll bet they’re worried! By sheer force, they may appear to be succeeding for awhile. But history long term (and not all that long, really) shows a very different picture.

  2. Julie Stroeve
    May 10, 2024 at 19:00

    this deep-state billionaire has first amendment rights to persons’ privacy, among other things, but students attending 4-year colleges and universities don’t have the right to peaceful protest. this is a basic constitutional threat to Americans, and it bothers me a lot. this concept of “empire” just needs to be tamped down by about 99%. it just isn’t healthy for democracies and democratic republics like ours. frankly, I’m wondering why this state-sponsored spying and data mining of Americans is legal. the Patriot Act was signed following 9/11, but that was decades ago. we need a sea change of perspective, policy, and approach.

  3. Michael G
    May 10, 2024 at 17:34

    Alex Karp’s company,
    “…Palantir was created to be the privatized panopticon of the national-securtiy state..”
    -Whitney Webb
    One Nation Under Blackmail Vol. 2 p.362
    The “panopticon” was originally a conceptual prison intended to create this state of mind:
    “…the uncertainty that one may be under surveillance at any time and for any reason induces obedience in that individual, allowing a small number of people to control the masses.”
    -Johnny Vedmore
    Ibid p.363
    Palantir was founded around the time that Congress had to shutdown Reagan’s security advisor and 5 time felon John Poindexter’s program called TIA, or Total Information Awareness. A deep state program that built on a database called Main Core. Main Core was:
    “a database of Americans, who, often for the slightest and most trivial reason, are considered unfriendly, and who, in a time of panic might be incarcerated. The database can identify and locate perceived “enemies of the state” almost instantaneously.”
    -Christopher Ketchum
    Ibid p.363
    Some variant of Main Core is what is being used to target and bomb selected individuals and their families in Gaza.
    That’s who this guy is.

  4. hetro
    May 10, 2024 at 16:55

    Important I think on Why? is the ends justify the means thinking of which The Narrative is a vital part. The end or purpose is always the answer “myself” to the cui bono question. Not some principle, such as bringing peace, or resolution to a conflict or an injustice. No, it’s much more personal. With Hitler it was Restoration of Germany as the means to the end of reversing his failures in life and assuming Mighty Power. The Fuehrer. Today it’s reputation, election, money, power, self-justification, glory, whatever. The Narrative then twists incredibly inside certain little minds.

    As with The Speaker of the House (this week): Zionist Israel is the victim here. It’s in the same position as those poor Jews in 1930’s Germany, pursued by cruel Nazi thugs. It’s Goliath Israel prostrate before Palestine David. These delusions then shrivel with the disclosures on social media, and so to the next resort: authoritarian bills and call the cops.

  5. bardamu
    May 10, 2024 at 14:57

    Sadly, Karp is exaggerating, at least if this is a student victory to the extent that we have seen such things. But even to the extent that we have seen such things, student protest is a major impairment to war and oppression.

    Consider–though the wars have continued, the draft ended. Though US adventurism through the Americas was rank throughout the 70’s and 80’s, it remained almost completely covert, even where open revolution blazed. It had to be funded by organized crime and drug-running. This became an item publicly examined by Congress, though penalized far less and with far less public understanding than one might have hoped, to the extent that Clintons and Bushes could make careers from it.

    That’s not a healthy situation. But it is better than Congress simply voting to send hundreds of billions of dollars to pork barrels and conflagration.

    A potentate only wields power through a populace. The option to dump all these bastards does exist.

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