Let’s say that tomorrow you are elected Secret Ruler of the USA, a position that gives you total power over the government, economy, and the culture at large — everything that hippies refer to as “the system.” Now, your first job is to not get beheaded by rioting peasants, which means your first job is really to maintain “stability” (i.e., “keeping things mostly the way they are”).
Immediately you’ll find that you’re facing a never-ending stream of protests from disgruntled groups who say they’re being treated unfairly or otherwise getting left out — this group over here is upset that somebody got abused by the police; this other bunch is demanding better wages or something. How do you handle it? Sure, you could crush their movements with an iron fist, using violence to kill, intimidate or arrest their most vocal members. But that can backfire, often turning them into martyrs and proving them right in the process — you’ve seen Star Wars; somebody always finds the exhaust port.
No, what you need is to get the majority on your side, against those vocal complainers. Fortunately for you, the “system” comes with a number of refined and subtle processes designed to make sure the complaints of the few get ignored by the many. First, all you have to do is …
Wait For One Of Them To Break The Law, Then Talk Only About That
Andrew Burton/Getty Images News/Getty Images
This might literally be the oldest trick in the book. I’m thinking powerful people have been doing this to protesters and activists since the days when getting gored by a mammoth was a leading cause of death. It plays out like this:
A) A certain group has a complaint — they’re being discriminated against, had their benefits cut, whatever — but they are not the majority.
B) Because the majority is not affected, they are largely ignorant and uninterested in what is going on with the complainers. The news media does not cover their issue, because it’s bad for ratings.
C) To get the majority’s attention, the group with the complaint will gather in large numbers to chant and block traffic, etc. This forces the media to cover the demonstration (since huge, loud groups of people make for good photos and video) and cover the issue in the process (since part of covering the protest involves explaining what is being protested). In America we’ve seen this tactic used by everyone from impoverished war veterans, to women seeking the right to vote, to the protests about police violence you’re seeing all over the news right now.
Andrew Burton/Getty Images News/Getty Images“Can you do that again? My lens cover was on.”
D) To counter this, all you need to do is simply wait for a member of the activist group — any member — to commit a crime. Then the media will focus on the crime, because riots and broken glass make for even more exciting photos and videos than the demonstrations. The majority — who fears crime and instability above all else — will then hopefully associate the movement with violence from then on.
Via Historyoffeminism.comParasol violence is the most destabilizing kind.
E) You, in your quest to keep the system from changing, can now reframe the issue not as oppressors vs. the oppressed but as citizens vs. criminals — supporting their cause means supporting violence. The TV will be full of images of burning convenience stores and looted storefronts, at which point the majority will then smirkingly say, “I would never protest government oppression by mindlessly destroying someone’s private property!”
“I mean, why can’t they protest within the law? You know, like Martin Luther King? That’s why he was universally respected in his day!”
“And let’s face it, the fact that they’re resorting to violence and petty destruction of property proves that they’re really just criminals looking for an excuse to misbehave!”
Now, keep in mind, not even the people repeating this will actually believe it — America’s pop culture and actual history are both full of heroes who broke the law and destroyed shit when the system failed them (you know Batman ain’t got no permit to fly that plane). To this day we applaud when oppressed peoples in other countries do it. So when someone says we should ignore a movement because they’re a bunch of “thugs” and their bleeding heart friend points out that the same could be said of the Founding Fathers, they’ll shift gears immediately. “Are you honestly comparing the protesters in Ferguson with brave imprisoned heroes like Thomas Paine? He campaigned for freedom!”
In other words, they’ll quickly admit that the legality of the tactics actually doesn’t have any impact on whether or not the cause is just — disabled veterans and Neo-Nazis alike have gotten tossed in jail for protests that turned ugly. Unruly members don’t automatically make a cause wrong any more than they automatically make it right. Everyone will agree this is true and logical, but then five minutes later they will again dismiss an entire cause the moment they see a single burning police car. The success rate of this technique is very high — today, the only thing most people in China remember about the Tiananmen Square massacre is that it restored stability and order.
CNN/3rd Party – Misc/Getty ImagesAnd created Human Frogger.
“But since the USA was built on a revolution, won’t most people automatically side with the underdog group, even if they step out of line?” This is certainly a danger, which is why the next step is …
Convince The Powerful Majority That They’re The Oppressed Ones
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Last year a billionaire investor said criticism of the rich today is equivalent to the persecution of the Jews during the Holocaust. He’s not having a stroke; he’s under the influence of one of the most powerful techniques the system has in its arsenal. To get the majority to ignore complaints by any disadvantaged group, you simply insist that disadvantaged group has the real power and that the powerful majority is thus the underdog. It usually involves the following steps:
A) Find an example of a successful member of the disadvantaged group and exaggerate their power.
B) Say or do outrageous things until the victim lashes out, then accuse them of censorship/oppression.
C) Accuse the victim of enjoying their victimization and/or doing what they do purely for publicity. Insist they were asking for it and were the real driving force behind the harassment all along.
I’ll give you a couple of real-world examples, and trust me: Once you get the hang of it, you’ll start to see this everywhere.
Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty ImagesOr just randomly browse to literally any political blog. Or any website, really.
Let’s say your country has a rapidly worsening poverty problem, and the impoverished are getting noisy. A) requires you to insist that those at the very bottom — the ones depending on government assistance to buy food — are actually rich. This would seem like an impossible if not ridiculous task, but all it takes is a Photoshopped image showing a massive food stamp balance on a receipt from a liquor store, and the majority will share it on Facebook hundreds of thousands of times. Or, find a video of a beggar who is caught driving a luxury car, and it will be blasted from the headlines as a typical example of a poor person. Next comes B): The moment anyone calls bullshit, cry censorship by insisting you’re a martyr of “Political Correctness.” And then we get to C), in which you say that the activists supporting the victims of your attack are only in it for the money or attention.
That’s all there is to it. Three simple steps — exaggerate the victim’s power to get the public on your side, get the victim to lash out so you can claim victimhood yourself, insist all of their complaints are disingenuous. Boom. Done.
Keith Brofsky/Photodisc/Getty ImagesTime to sit back and put your feet up, preferably on the back of a disenfranchised scapegoat.
And just to be clear, the narrative being put forth above — that everyone claiming to be poor is secretly rich — is once more not something that anyone actually believes. Offer anyone saying it the chance to live in the public housing projects or trailer parks where these secretly rich welfare queens dwell and all you’ll see is a cloud of dust and a tiny silhouette sprinting off into the horizon. But you don’t need the majority to actually believe it, only to “believe” it.
That’s why this works with any group, no matter how laughably the balance of power is tilted in their favor. The petroleum industry is making $200 billion a year in profits. If you want to portray them as the gritty, oppressed underdog, just A) talk about how these poor guys are constantly getting bullied by the vicious and hugely powerful environmental lobby …
… and, seriously, don’t be afraid of using words like “bullied,” even when talking about what is literally one of the most wealthy and powerful groups in all of human history. Actual quote: “But if anyone was being bullied here, it was Chevron … it is almost impossible for an oil company to get a fair hearing in a world brainwashed by environmentalist propaganda.” Of course, that bit about not getting a “fair hearing” covers B), the accusation of censorship and cry of victimhood. Then, C) you talk about how environmentalists are only in it for the money (in this case, Al Gore), and there you go — soon you’ll have common folks looking at rising gas prices and saying, “Thanks a lot, Greenpeace.”
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty ImagesLuckily for Chevron, their position was so just it required only 60 law firms to defend.
And while just mentioning this makes me tired all over, the whole GamerGate thing last year was actually a textbook example. The guy behind it needed to rally an overwhelming male majority against an unknown, amateur female game developer, so he A) literally claimed she was being worshiped as a “false idol” that needed to be brought down, then for good measure the harassers insisted she was secretly a powerful agent for a U.S. government propaganda operation. Then, B) when the resulting harassment got bad enough that she had to get a fucking restraining order, they called it censorship. And of course, C) when she received donations from sympathetic supporters, they declared that this proved she was only in it for the money.
Ten years earlier, they did it to another female developer named Kathy Sierra, following the exact same template. The playbook never changes because it never stops working — in three simple steps you can get mobs to bully anyone on your behalf, all while claiming heroic victim status. After all, what tactic is off the table when you’re taking on an unstoppable giant who is trying to bully you and silence criticism for fame and profit?