When we think of the most gruesome totalitarian regimes in the 20th century, we think of actual gulags, imprisonments, and mass slaughter. The nature of totalitarianism in our time will not look like that. It will rather be a soft authoritarianism– it will take two primary forms.
First is what Michael Malice refers to: the highly publicized skewering of a single person (or handful of people) to make an example out of him. They loudly proclaim this “enemy of society” as a proponent of “hate” and as a bigot and they produce a sort of circus trial with cameras and news segments and protestors to be streamed to our devices. That way the rest of us “get the point.” We will behave because we can’t afford to get skewered. We will live in constant fear of saying the wrong thing, having the wrong opinion, criticizing the wrong politically protected group.
It’s too difficult and expensive and time consuming to put all dissenters into prison camps– and it goes against the creepy and Orwellian narrative of “love” as the single motivating factor of all socio-political action. The Regime doesn’t need to send all dissenters to Prison in order to dominate– it just needs to leave a few heads on spikes so that people understand the message.
But second, as we move into a world of increased digital socialization– where our very lives and identities are found online– there is also another means of authoritarian control that is equally as concerning: the complete removal of one’s presence from the internet for saying the wrong thing. If anyone has seen Black Mirror, the episode on social credit comes to mind. One can imagine a scenario where your credit worthiness or your “background checks” for jobs, education, and social groups are considered via your history of expressed approved opinion– in China they are already doing this and vocal disagreement with the regime constitutes damage to your social credit.
In the west, the “regime” also includes various politically protected and especially coddled classes of people (classes that are created and defined by the government of course) that might include non-white groups, LGBT members, immigrants in general, or loudly expressed dissent of government policy and trends.
In this case, the major tech corporations are the gatekeepers to acceptable society and their discretion reigns supreme– at their whim and prerogative, they have the ability to make one’s entire life disappear. And if in the future the “real” is the “digital,” if one’s social identity is defined by his online presence and expression of thought, then to be removed from The Platform is to be, for all intents and purposes, removed from society. The ultimate ostracism.
This sound dystopian, but is it really all that different to what is currently happening to the many YouTubers, Twitter users, Patreon users, and so forth who wake up to an email indicating that their entire library of work (which they have depended on for income) has been deleted from the internet? Tens (perhaps hundreds) of thousands of supporters and followers and audience bases; gone. Content, gone. All that hard work? Forever forgotten. Their own digital libraries of thoughts, social contributions, input, reflections on current events? Lost, not to history, but to the Internet’s Thought Controllers.
I know some of these people. They are good people– but they said the wrong thing in the wrong way and The Great Algorithm has brought them down.
This cannot be reversed except by the gatekeepers. Some of these people have everything they’ve ever done on these platforms– they are defined by it and consider it their contribution to society and their means of making a living.
Gone. Down the deep dark hole of the internet, never to return.
This is a staggering thought.
This second means of thought control via making people disappear is a remarkable prospect. If society itself exists online in a meaningful way that replicates or replaces the physical world of the pre-internet age (and we are certainly in this transition– many people born before 1985 or so don’t truly understand this), then to be removed from your platform is to exist without permission to participate in the New Society.
What do you tell a potential boss, a social group, a creditor, or some other entity, when they inquire as to your non-existence? Or perhaps, when they investigate to put together their reports, it comes up as “suspended for hate speech.”
Hate speech as a legal category has always been a means of stifling dissent by first loudly going after the groups of people no one cares about anyways, but then using that as a means to control those whose speech can be redefined to fit the whims of the controllers.
But now the logic of this dubious phrase is reaching its fruition as the narrative of “oppressed vs. oppressor” reaches new heights of hysteria. People’s lives are being ruined, not by people who refuse to endorse traditionally deranged behavior, but by the teaming up of the alleged victims and the techno-state masters who cling to the victims as a launch pad toward Total Power.