John Whitehead's Commentary
Technofascism: Digital Book Burning in a Totalitarian Age
“Those who created this country chose freedom. With all of its dangers. And do you know the riskiest part of that choice they made? They actually believed that we could be trusted to make up our own minds in the whirl of differing ideas. That we could be trusted to remain free, even when there were very, very seductive voices—taking advantage of our freedom of speech—who were trying to turn this country into the kind of place where the government could tell you what you can and cannot do.”—Nat Hentoff
We are fast becoming a nation—nay, a world—of book burners.
While on paper, we are technically free to speak—at least according to the U.S. Constitution—in reality, however, we are only as free to speak as the government and its corporate partners such as Facebook, Google or YouTube may allow.
That’s not a whole lot of freedom. Especially if you’re inclined to voice opinions that may be construed as conspiratorial or dangerous.
Take David Icke, for example.
Icke, a popular commentator and author often labeled a conspiracy theorist by his detractors, recently had his Facebook page and YouTube channel (owned by Google) deleted for violating site policies by “spreading coronavirus disinformation.”
The Centre for Countering Digital Hate, which has been vocal about calling for Icke’s de-platforming, is also pushing for the removal of all other sites and individuals who promote Icke’s content in an effort to supposedly “save lives.”
Translation: the CCDH evidently believes the public is too dumb to think for itself and must be protected from dangerous ideas.
This is the goosestepping Nanny State trying to protect us from ourselves.
In the long run, this “safety” control (the censorship and shadowbanning of anyone who challenges a mainstream narrative) will be far worse than merely allowing people to think for themselves.
Journalist Matt Taibbi gets its: “The people who want to add a censorship regime to a health crisis are more dangerous and more stupid by leaps and bounds than a president who tells people to inject disinfectant.”
Don’t fall for the propaganda.
These internet censors are not acting in our best interests to protect us from dangerous, disinformation campaigns about COVID-19, a virus whose source and behavior continue to elude medical officials. They’re laying the groundwork now, with Icke as an easy target, to preempt any “dangerous” ideas that might challenge the power elite’s stranglehold over our lives.
This is how freedom dies.
It doesn’t matter what disinformation Icke may or may not have been spreading about COVID-19. That’s not the issue.
As commentator Caitlin Johnstone recognizes, the censorship of David Icke by these internet media giants has nothing to do with Icke: “What matters is that we’re seeing a consistent and accelerating pattern of powerful plutocratic institutions collaborating with the US-centralized empire to control what ideas people around the world are permitted to share with each other, and it’s a very unsafe trajectory.”
Welcome to the age of technofascism.
Technofascism, clothed in tyrannical self-righteousness, is powered by technological behemoths (both corporate and governmental) working in tandem. As journalist Chet Bowers explains, “Technofascism’s level of efficiency and totalitarian potential can easily lead to repressive systems that will not tolerate dissent.”
The internet, hailed as a super-information highway, is increasingly becoming the police state’s secret weapon. This “policing of the mind: is exactly the danger author Jim Keith warned about when he predicted that “information and communication sources are gradually being linked together into a single computerized network, providing an opportunity for unheralded control of hat will be broadcast, what will be said, and ultimately what will be thought.”
It’s a slippery slope from censoring so-called illegitimate ideas to silencing truth.
Eventually, as George Orwell predicted, telling the truth will become a revolutionary act.
We’re almost at that point now.
What you are witnessing is the modern-day equivalent of book burning which involves doing away with dangerous ideas—legitimate or not—and the people who espouse them.
Today, the forces of political correctness, working in conjunction with corporate and government agencies, have managed to replace actual book burning with intellectual book burning.
“Free speech for me but not for thee” is how my good friend and free speech purist Nat Hentoff used to sum up this double standard.
This is about much more than free speech, however. This is about repression and control.
With every passing day, we’re being moved further down the road towards a totalitarian society characterized by government censorship, violence, corruption, hypocrisy and intolerance, all packaged for our supposed benefit in the Orwellian doublespeak of national security, tolerance and so-called “government speech.”
The reasons for such censorship vary widely from political correctness, safety concerns and bullying to national security and hate crimes but the end result remains the same: the complete eradication of what Benjamin Franklin referred to as the “principal pillar of a free government.”
The upshot of all of this editing, parsing, banning and silencing is the emergence of a new language, what George Orwell referred to as Newspeak, which places the power to control language in the hands of the totalitarian state.
Under such a system, language becomes a weapon to change the way people think by changing the words they use.
The end result is control.
In totalitarian regimes—a.k.a. police states—where conformity and compliance are enforced at the end of a loaded gun, the government dictates what words can and cannot be used.
In countries where the police state hides behind a benevolent mask and disguises itself as tolerance, the citizens censor themselves, policing their words and thoughts to conform to the dictates of the mass mind lest they find themselves ostracized or placed under surveillance.
Even when the motives behind this rigidly calibrated reorientation of societal language appear well-intentioned—discouraging racism, condemning violence, denouncing discrimination and hatred—inevitably, the end result is the same: intolerance, indoctrination and infantilism.
It’s political correctness disguised as tolerance, civility and love, but what it really amounts to is the chilling of free speech and the demonizing of viewpoints that run counter to the cultural elite.
The police state could not ask for a better citizenry than one that carries out its own censorship, spying and policing: this is how you turn a nation of free people into extensions of the omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent police state, and in the process turn a citizenry against each other.
Tread cautiously: Orwell’s 1984, which depicts the ominous rise of ubiquitous technology, fascism and totalitarianism, has become an operation manual for the omnipresent, modern-day surveillance state.
1984 portrays a global society of total control in which people are not allowed to have thoughts that in any way disagree with the corporate state. There is no personal freedom, and advanced technology has become the driving force behind a surveillance-driven society. Snitches and cameras are everywhere. People are subject to the Thought Police, who deal with anyone guilty of thought crimes. The government, or "Party," is headed by Big Brother who appears on posters everywhere with the words: "Big Brother is watching you."
We have arrived, way ahead of schedule, into the dystopian future dreamed up by not only Orwell but also such fiction writers as Aldous Huxley, Margaret Atwood and Philip K. Dick.
Much like Orwell’s Big Brother in 1984, the government and its corporate spies now watch our every move. Much like Huxley’s A Brave New World, we are churning out a society of watchers who “have their liberties taken away from them, but … rather enjoy it, because they [are] distracted from any desire to rebel by propaganda or brainwashing.” Much like Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, the populace is now taught to “know their place and their duties, to understand that they have no real rights but will be protected up to a point if they conform, and to think so poorly of themselves that they will accept their assigned fate and not rebel or run away.”
And in keeping with Philip K. Dick’s darkly prophetic vision of a dystopian police state—which became the basis for Steven Spielberg’s futuristic thriller Minority Report—we are now trapped in a world in which the government is all-seeing, all-knowing and all-powerful, and if you dare to step out of line, dark-clad police SWAT teams and pre-crime units will crack a few skulls to bring the populace under control.
What once seemed futuristic no longer occupies the realm of science fiction.
Incredibly, as the various nascent technologies employed and shared by the government and corporations alike—facial recognition, iris scanners, massive databases, behavior prediction software, and so on—are incorporated into a complex, interwoven cyber network aimed at tracking our movements, predicting our thoughts and controlling our behavior, the dystopian visions of past writers is fast becoming our reality.
In fact, our world is characterized by widespread surveillance, behavior prediction technologies, data mining, fusion centers, driverless cars, voice-controlled homes, facial recognition systems, cybugs and drones, and predictive policing (pre-crime) aimed at capturing would-be criminals before they can do any damage. Surveillance cameras are everywhere. Government agents listen in on our telephone calls and read our emails. And privacy and bodily integrity have been utterly eviscerated.
We are increasingly ruled by multi-corporations wedded to the police state.
What many fail to realize is that the government is not operating alone. It cannot.
The government requires an accomplice.
Thus, the increasingly complex security needs of the massive federal government, especially in the areas of defense, surveillance and data management, have been met within the corporate sector, which has shown itself to be a powerful ally that both depends on and feeds the growth of governmental overreach.
In fact, Big Tech wedded to Big Government has become Big Brother, and we are now ruled by the Corporate Elite whose tentacles have spread worldwide.
The government now has at its disposal technological arsenals so sophisticated and invasive as to render any constitutional protections null and void. Spearheaded by the NSA, which has shown itself to care little to nothing for constitutional limits or privacy, the “security/industrial complex”—a marriage of government, military and corporate interests aimed at keeping Americans under constant surveillance—has come to dominate the government and our lives.
Money, power, control.
There is no shortage of motives fueling the convergence of mega-corporations and government. But who is paying the price?
“We the people,” of course. Not just we Americans, but people the world over.
We have entered into a global state of tyranny.
Where we stand now is at the juncture of OldSpeak (where words have meanings, and ideas can be dangerous) and Newspeak (where only that which is “safe” and “accepted” by the majority is permitted). The power elite has made their intentions clear: they will pursue and prosecute any and all words, thoughts and expressions that challenge their authority.
This is the final link in the police state chain.
Americans have been conditioned to accept routine incursions on their privacy rights. In fact, the addiction to screen devices—especially cell phones—has created a hive effect where the populace not only watched but is controlled by AI bots. However, at one time, the idea of a total surveillance state tracking one’s every move would have been abhorrent to most Americans. That all changed with the 9/11 attacks. As professor Jeffrey Rosen observes, “Before Sept. 11, the idea that Americans would voluntarily agree to live their lives under the gaze of a network of biometric surveillance cameras, peering at them in government buildings, shopping malls, subways and stadiums, would have seemed unthinkable, a dystopian fantasy of a society that had surrendered privacy and anonymity.”
Having been reduced to a cowering citizenry—mute in the face of elected officials who refuse to represent us, helpless in the face of police brutality, powerless in the face of militarized tactics and technology that treat us like enemy combatants on a battlefield, and naked in the face of government surveillance that sees and hears all—we have nowhere left to go.
We have, so to speak, gone from being a nation where privacy is king to one where nothing is safe from the prying eyes of government.
In search of so-called terrorists and extremists hiding amongst us—the proverbial "needle in a haystack," as one official termed it—the Corporate State has taken to monitoring all aspects of our lives, from cell phone calls and emails to Internet activity and credit card transactions. This data is being fed through fusion centers across the country, which work with the Department of Homeland Security to make threat assessments on every citizen, including school children.
Wherever you go and whatever you do, you are now being watched, especially if you leave behind an electronic footprint.
When you use your cell phone, you leave a record of when the call was placed, who you called, how long it lasted and even where you were at the time. When you use your ATM card, you leave a record of where and when you used the card. There is even a video camera at most locations equipped with facial recognition software. When you use a cell phone or drive a car enabled with GPS, you can be tracked by satellite. Such information is shared with government agents, including local police. And all of this once-private information about your consumer habits, your whereabouts and your activities is now being fed to the U.S. government.
The government has nearly inexhaustible resources when it comes to tracking our movements, from electronic wiretapping devices, traffic cameras and biometrics to radio-frequency identification cards, satellites and Internet surveillance.
Speech recognition technology now makes it possible for the government to carry out massive eavesdropping by way of sophisticated computer systems. Phone calls can be monitored, the audio converted to text files and stored in computer databases indefinitely. And if any "threatening" words are detected—no matter how inane or silly—the record can be flagged and assigned to a government agent for further investigation. Federal and state governments, again working with private corporations, monitor your Internet content. Users are profiled and tracked in order to identify, target and even prosecute them.
In such a climate, everyone is a suspect. And you’re guilty until you can prove yourself innocent.
Here’s what a lot of people fail to understand, however: it’s not just what you say or do that is being monitored, but how you think that is being tracked and targeted.
We’ve already seen this play out on the state and federal level with hate crime legislation that cracks down on so-called “hateful” thoughts and expression, encourages self-censoring and reduces free debate on various subject matter.
Say hello to the new Thought Police.
Total Internet surveillance by the Corporate State, as omnipresent as God, is used by the government to predict and, more importantly, control the populace, and it’s not as far-fetched as you might think. For example, the NSA has designed an artificial intelligence system that can anticipate your every move. In a nutshell, the NSA feeds vast amounts of the information it collects to a computer system known as Aquaint (the acronym stands for Advanced QUestion Answering for INTelligence), which the computer then uses to detect patterns and predict behavior.
No information is sacred or spared.
Everything from cell phone recordings and logs, to emails, to text messages, to personal information posted on social networking sites, to credit card statements, to library circulation records, to credit card histories, etc., is collected by the NSA and shared freely with its agents.
Thus, what we are witnessing, in the so-called name of security and efficiency, is the creation of a new class system comprised of the watched (average Americans such as you and me) and the watchers (government bureaucrats, technicians and private corporations).
Clearly, the age of privacy is at an end.
So where does that leave us?
We now find ourselves in the unenviable position of being monitored, managed and controlled by our technology, which answers not to us but to our government and corporate rulers. This is the fact-is-stranger-than-fiction lesson that is being pounded into us on a daily basis.
It won’t be long before we find ourselves looking back on the past with longing, back to an age where we could speak to whom we wanted, buy what we wanted, think what we wanted without those thoughts, words and activities being tracked, processed and stored by corporate giants such as Google, sold to government agencies such as the NSA and CIA, and used against us by militarized police with their army of futuristic technologies.
To be an individual today, to not conform, to have even a shred of privacy, and to live beyond the reach of the government’s roaming eyes and technological spies, one must not only be a rebel but rebel.
Even when you rebel and take your stand, there is rarely a happy ending awaiting you. You are rendered an outlaw.
So how do you survive this global surveillance state?
As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we’re running out of options.
We’ll soon have to choose between self-indulgence (the bread-and-circus distractions offered up by the news media, politicians, sports conglomerates, entertainment industry, etc.) and self-preservation in the form of renewed vigilance about threats to our freedoms and active engagement in self-governance.
Yet as Aldous Huxley acknowledged in Brave New World Revisited: “Only the vigilant can maintain their liberties, and only those who are constantly and intelligently on the spot can hope to govern themselves effectively by democratic procedures. A society, most of whose members spend a great part of their time, not on the spot, not here and now and in their calculable future, but somewhere else, in the irrelevant other worlds of sport and soap opera, of mythology and metaphysical fantasy, will find it hard to resist the encroachments of those would manipulate and control it.”
Which brings me back to this technofascist tyranny being meted out on David Icke and all those like him who dare to voice ideas that diverge from what the government and its corporate controllers deem to be acceptable.
The problem as I see it is that we’ve allowed ourselves to be persuaded that we need someone else to think and speak for us. And we’ve allowed ourselves to become so timid in the face of offensive words and ideas that we’ve bought into the idea that we need the government to shield us from that which is ugly or upsetting or mean.
The result is a society in which we’ve stopped debating among ourselves, stopped thinking for ourselves, and stopped believing that we can fix our own problems and resolve our own differences.
In short, we have reduced ourselves to a largely silent, passive, polarized populace incapable of working through our own problems and reliant on the government to protect us from our fears.
In this way, we have become our worst enemy.
You want to reclaim some of the ground we’re fast losing to the techno-tyrants?
Start by thinking for yourself. If that means reading the “dangerous” ideas being floated out there by the David Ickes of the world—or the John Whiteheads for that matter—and then deciding for yourself what is true, so be it.
As Orwell concluded, “Freedom is the right to say two plus two make four.”