Kojima Was Right: An Essay Response to You Must Comply
Penned by Charlie Canady
Date: December 15th, 2020 Words: 1232
Colonel Campbell: In this digitised world, trivial information is accumulating every second, preserved in all it’s triteness. Rumours about petty issues, misinterpretations, slander…. all of this junk data, preserved in an unfiltered state, growing at an alarming rate.
Fake Merrill: It will only slow down social progress, reduce the rate of evolution.
Campbell: The digital society furthers human flaws, and selectively rewards development of convenient half-truths. Just look at the strange juxtapositions of reality around you...
Everyone grows up being told the same thing: Be nice to other people. But beat out the competition.
“You’re special. Believe in yourself and you will succeed.” But it’s obvious from the start that only a few can succeed.
-Metal Gear Solid 2
Yesterday, a fellow contributor to the site posted a warning about the flow and control of information in the modern day. He used Orwell’s 1984 as his example. Suffice to say, I feel the need to contribute to the discussion.
Let’s begin with Orwell’s work. Nineteen Eighty Four was written in 1949. Orwell developed INGSOC, Oceania, Newspeak, and the one party state of Big Brother after witnessing the role of state media in the social engineering of states like the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. All of the above elements were designed after contemporary efforts to control populations through the flow of information. Redaction of dissidents from newspapers is modeled after the NKVD media code. The two minute hate is a Nazi film rally. Reporting of family members for crimes against the state is found in the kulak campaign as well as post-Kristallnacht Juden reporting campaign.
This is not a coincidence. The one party state, in Orwell’s eyes, doesn’t have an ideology, so much as an intrinsic goal: serve the interests of the powerful and convince the population to divide itself. Fear the other. Report the other. Hide from detection, pretend to be loyal, and you will become loyal.
Both of these interpretations were borne from WW2, as well as Orwell’s reporting in Catalonia, during the Spanish Civil War. There, he was privy to the demands of Soviet military liaisons to clamp down on rebellion in the province and bring the socialists and anarchists into line. Nazism, and by extension regional Fascism, were competing for political and economic power with Soviet-style Communism. They learned from one another the best ways to manipulate mass media. Hitler used rallies and film propaganda to convince the reading populace of Germany’s right to build an Aryan state, while Stalin cultivated blind devotion to rapid modernization and the Soviet ideal.
In its day, these two machines were among the most powerful depersonalization cultures in Europe.
They can’t exist anymore. I mean it.
The mainstream uses Nineteen Eighty Four as an example of a dark future without freedom of information. I know this because it comes up on the syllabus of every middle and high school literature curriculum, and a few AP World History curriculums too.
However, I firmly believe that this take is outdated. We’re in a brave, terrifying new world of information freedom and corporate control. A world that monetizes outrage and pretends censorship to enrage the average reader.
Let’s bring it back to the quote up above. This soliloquy is made at the end of the game by former ally and mission controller Joseph Campbell. The plan of the antagonists, the Patriots, is to institute a social order by letting the internet grow out of control. Social outlets multiply, opinions shrink in scope, chat rooms become echo chambers, news benefitting narrative and motive smother the truth. In essence, the Patriots want to use the human instinct towards tribalism against itself, to exploit division and rule without instituting anything but the cultural bottom line:
“You’re special. Your opinion is important. The truth is yours to make.” We can still read Trump’s tweets, despite the warning labels. This is because Twitter isn’t a government agency - it’s a private space. A corporation has the freedom to regulate information on its platform, even if it’s restricted by Section 230. Conservatives are free to discuss fraud, even if Twitter flags them for disputed claims. The actual rate of posts being taken down is small, in comparison to a one party state’s systematic efforts to crush dissenting information. The existence of outlets like Parler and the CNR without immediate evidence of throttling by private ISPs is damning to the notion of intentional censorship.
We have seen that in action in the modern day. The Chinese government’s information bureau is a ruthless animal. The Great Firewall is an excellent example of what a state apparatus can do to deny outside information to a population, but even at full efficacy, the internet gets through.
Because the internet is a different beast. The internet, and specifically social media zones Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and subsidiaries like Parler, Reddit, Breitbart, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitch, are not owned by a political party. They own the communication streams of political parties.
They own discourse.
It is in the financial interest of Mark Zuckerberg, Susan Wojcicki and Jack Dorsey to play the purse for political parties. They gave Brexit the platform to run and crashed the British economy. They let Trump go on for four years, using Twitter as a funnel for proven misinformation, they let state actors like Chinese national media and Russia Today host alternative streams of approved info. You can find a narrative that fits your politics on Facebook, and definitely on Parler.
The chief difference is that the 2020 election results gave them an out to spank conservatives, whether or not election interference was true.
Fifty eight failed court cases against voter fraud were allowed to disseminate across social media. The Kraken was birthed and killed online.
This is a media world no government official controls. It’s a vast and ungoverned kudzu. Sedition is brewing in the same places we use as social outlets, because there is no harm in it to a private entity.
Sedition draws clicks. It resonates with a sense of loss and betrayal, it confirms the narrative of a world out of control. Our frenetic belief that the world revolves around our need for a narrative creates monsters in the echo chamber. It feeds a different dehumanization than Orwell wrote down.
The one party state created Newspeak to make the idea of rebellion unthinkable, to deny human beings the lexicon of a counternarrative.
The internet created libraries of vocabulary - Stop the Steal, caravans, the deep state, Pizzagate, QAnon, TERFs, Cancel Culture - to reflect our inability to reconcile narrative.
We do not have a collective truth anymore. There are a thousand truths that exist at any given time, perpetrated by grifters large and small, for goals beyond controlling culture.
I have a bias in this as a left-leaning writer, and I am certainly blind to our vocabulary and narrative dissonance. This much is true.
But I still recognize that we are being played.
Nineteen Eighty Four is a relic of its day, a playbook of the worst of authoritarian agitprop and information control. The new machine, the new rules of the information age, they rely on constant division and the denial of a shared truth.
That, to me, is scarier than a boot on the head of humanity.
If there is a counter-narrative to the flux of lots of individual narratives, presented by the mainstream and adopted by echo chambers, it’s that no narrative is right. We are all individuals in a sea of information that wants us to adopt its maxims as truth. Either to be propagated as ideas by itself, or to sell division and isolation as products.
We have to own that we know nothing as individuals. Ideology is faulty. Common humanity and empathy kill the algorithm machine. Why? How? Because search terms and traffic inside an echo chamber drive the algorithm, keep you in one part of cyberspace.
Having the decency to cut off ideologies that otherize people you’ve never met is the first step. This, at least, is what modern politics and Nineteen Eighty Four have in common.
If you have a chance to safely reject the narratives and discuss your political and social views with others, even do a little introspection on what others think of your politics, you can break out of the constant demands of modern media.
We don’t have to have a civil war over the truth.
There is an objective truth out there that none of the irrational actors here want you to see, and it isn’t something quantifiable as a narrative.
It’s people. Self-interest.
We are our worst enemy, and our greatest friend.
Understand that first before calling for arms.
1 Delineated because Mussolini’s Fascism was different from the Horthy government in Hungary, the rabid anti-semitism in Romania under the Iron Guard Party, the various agrarian dictators of the Baltic states, the Finnish assembly’s de facto authoritarianism, Pilsudski and Moscicki’s Camp of National Unity in Poland and Francoist Spain. All of them were authoritarian and used Fascist tactics, but variously labeled themselves in geopolitical opposition.