By Charles Hugh Smith
Source: Of Two Minds
When lying is no longer enough to gain compliance, then the organs of security are unleashed on dissent and resistance.
“When it becomes serious, you have to lie.” Jean-Claude Juncker simply gave voice to what the world’s leaders practice on a daily basis, because now it’s always serious.
And why is it now serious? Persuading tax donkeys and debt serfs that everything is going their way is now impossible without lies. Persuading the populace that the leadership is working on their behalf was jettisoned in the wake of the 2008 bailout of bankers and parasites.
Stripped of the artifice that they care about anything other than preserving the wealth of their cronies, global political leaders now rely on propaganda: narratives designed to manage expectations and perceptions, bolstered by carefully tailored official statistics.
Reliance on lies erodes legitimacy. As the rich get richer and the burdens on tax donkeys and debt serfs increase, the gulf between the official happy-story narrative and reality widens to the breaking point, and faith in the narrative and the leadership espousing it declines.
When 20% of the populace no longer believe the lies and begins questioning the state’s enforcement of the status quo, the government devotes its resources to punishing dissenters and resisters. Whistleblowers are charged with trumped-up crimes; those publicly refuting the status quo’s narrative of lies are harassed and discredited, and those who resist state enforcement of parasitic cronyism are set up, beaten, entrapped, investigated, interrogated and arrested once suitably Kafkaesque charges can be conjured up by the apparatchiks of enforcement.
Why 20%? It’s the Pareto Distribution (the 80/20 rule): the 20% of any populace that accepts a new trend, technology or narrative has an outsized influence over the other 80%.
Governments operate on the premise that propaganda and threats will always be enough to cow their populaces into compliance and bribes will induce complicity. When lies, bribes and threats no long work, the state unleashes its full pathological powers on dissent.
The last mass campaign of political suppression in the U.S. occurred in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when resistance to the war of choice in Vietnam reached mainstream proportions.
The U.S. government was accustomed to manipulating and managing the populace with very simple propaganda: Communism is our deadly enemy, we must fight it everywhere on the planet, etc. But when thousands of American service personnel started coming home in body bags from the latest “we must fight Communism everywhere because it’s dangerous to us” war in East Asia, this simplistic justification made no sense: what existential threat to the U.S. did a Communist Vietnam pose?
The U.S. has faced only two existential threats to its sovereignty since 1860: World War II (1941-45) and the potential for a nation-destroying nuclear war with the Soviet Union. The idea that the U.S. was existentially threatened by falling dominoes in East Asia was always ludicrous, and the U.S. status quo (the political leadership, the Deep State, private industry profiting from war, etc.) soon abandoned the absurd justification.
Vietnam was always more of a domestic-politics issue than a geopolitical one: the Democrats feared being perceived as being “weak on Communism” because that impacted the results of elections. Throwing treasure and American lives away in Vietnam was pure domestic politics from 1961-68 (once mired, Democrats feared being tagged as the party that “lost Vietnam”), and thereafter the treasure and lives were sacrificed on the equally contrived Nixon-Kissinger policy of avoiding losing geopolitical face with a withdrawal that amounted to surrender.
Though it is not well known, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was ordered to devote essentially all its resources to suppressing dissent in these years. Teams assigned to organized crime were reassigned to track down draft resisters and other political malcontents. COINTELPRO was a vast program devoted to illegally entrapping, beating up and undermining any and all political resistance to the war and the government’s increasingly heavy-handed oppression of dissent.
For more on COINTELPRO, please read War at Home: Covert action against U.S. activists and what we can do about it.
Simply put: when lies no longer work, governments freak out and devote their resources not to eliminating wars of choice, cronyism and corruption but to suppressing dissent and resistance to those policies.
The U.S. government has always been free to pursue wars of choice with its professional military, with little risk of widespread political blowback. A variety of “splendid little wars” have been waged, generally for conquest or enforcement of hemispheric hegemony. The government’s success in rallying the nation during World War II instilled a false confidence that merely raising the flag of existential threat would be enough to eliminate dissent and elicit compliance in the masses.
Vietnam was the first time the American public went through the process of buying the usual “threat” justification for war, questioning the threat and eventually rejecting the state’s narrative. The government responded by lashing out at its own citizenry, engaging in a full spectrum of illegal and blatantly immoral actions designed not to right wrongs or fix broken policies, but to suppress dissent and resistance to destructive policies and broken systems.
The U.S. government is not unique in this; on the contrary, all governments, by their very nature as concentrations of coercive power, will pursue the same path. Rather than confess the government is operated by cronies, for cronies, the machinery of the state will increasingly be turned on its citizenry.
Rendering unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s is no longer enough; abiding by the laws of the land are no longer enough. What the state demands is not just compliance with its countless laws and regulations, but absolute obedience to its narratives and policies.
Anyone who withholds obedience is quickly deemed a traitor–not to the nation or its Constitution, but to the state itself, which is ultimately a collection of cronies and self-serving vested interests protecting their fiefdoms at the expense of the citizenry.
When lying is no longer enough to gain compliance, then the organs of security are unleashed on dissent and resistance. This process is well under way in nation-states around the world.
If I had to pick the two key operative dynamics of the next 20 years, I would choose:
1. The over-expansion and implosion of credit/debt bubbles.
2. The over-reach of the central state as it seeks to win the hearts and minds of its people by ruthlessly suppressing dissent.
The two dynamics are of course causally connected. Central states depend entirely on credit bubbles for their financial survival, and on enforcing increasingly untenable official narratives for their legitimacy.
Both are unraveling, and will continue to unravel, no matter how many state resources are thrown at the symptoms of political illegitimacy, rather than at the root causes of that illegitimacy.