What is Controlled Opposition

Image credit: Jared Rodriguez / TruthOut

by Liam Campbell

“The best way to control the opposition is to lead them.” – Vladimir Lenin

If you go online and search for “controlled opposition” you will find over 2 million results, and essentially all of them are garbage. This is a tactic which has been used throughout the entirety of known human history, and yet you’ll find the internet has been cleaned of almost every meaningful reference. My first introduction to controlled opposition was George Orwell’s book 1984, a dystopian novel which paints a vivid picture of a grim future: humanity has become the slave of perpetual warfare, inescapable government surveillance, insidious propaganda, and irrational denialism. Does this remind you of the Project for the New American Century? It should.

In Orwell’s novel people focus on the superstates, the Thought Police, and Big Brother. But, in fact, the single greatest character is a forgettable person named Goldstein; he is the leader of “The Brotherhood” and he is based on Leon Trotsky. Within the narrative of the novel, Goldstein is supposed to be the hero whose revolutionary writing inspires those “woke” minds within the system to rise up and dismantle the corrupt system in which they’re enslaved. Yet, as the novel progresses, Orwell soon reveals to us that the heroic “Goldstein” is nothing more than fiction, a character created by the dominant culture to bait dissenters into the open so they can be identified and neutralized. Orwell uses “Goldstein” to paint a vivid picture of controlled opposition.

Orwell uses the character of Goldstein to demonstrate an insidious tactic, used by the dominant culture, to control the boundaries of dissent. This character is effectively a “rat trap” to ensare those few individuals who dare look beyond the veil of our manufactured reality, so they can be processed and neutralised before they foment any real resistance against the hegemony of the state.

Today we are faced with a dying planet. Corporations employ puppets like Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, and Jair Bolsonaro to serve rotational roles as villains in order to focus the unthinking masses on “two minutes of hate” against fleeting enemies, distracting us from the more fundamental forces behind our collective extinction. Our species has fallen victim to Gustave Le Bon’s horrific vision of unthinking crowds, divided against each other and incapable of thinking deeply. In this way we become so polarized that we are more inclined to accept global annihilation than to conceive of the possibility of changing the dominant systems of power. In this way, identity politics have rendered us incapable of perceiving objective reality, and so we deny apocalypse even as it rains down upon our heads.

In the United States we bear witness to a tragical comedy of controlled opposition; two parties representing the same cause vie against each other in violent cultural battles, at the expense of the marginalized and to the profit of those few invisible hands who hoard the abstract figures of monetary games. The United States is a nation of controlled opposition; the Republican Party marches uncontrollably toward a death urge, while the Democratic Party controls the public backlash through weakness, compromise, and incrementation. For every 10 years they gain, they give 20 years, and so the cycle goes until there is nothing left but the burning wreckage of a plundered planet concentrated into the silos of a few hopeless bunkers inhabited by fictional billionaires on a dead planet.

Our latest iteration of controlled opposition is called Extinction Rebellion, which supposedly stands in contrast to the End Times death cults which now control so much of the world — including figures like Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro. This supposed resistance movement is made up of privileged members of society who drape themselves in the robes of moral superiority while simultaneously largely ignoring the enslaving of children in cobalt mines necessary for their iPhones, the devouring ecosystems through their toilet paper, and the burning the planet alive through their fossil fuel consumption. We are led to believe that street theatre, weekend marches, and media interviews are the fringe of rebellion. By framing the world this way, they are effectively controlled opposition. Joining their cause does much more than add us to government lists; it confines us within the predetermined boundaries of the death cults who are, at this very moment, leading us to global extinction.

In American politics we are asked “will you vote Red or Blue” and in environmental activism we are asked “will you perform street theatre or deny global warming?” By controlling the opposition and defining the parameters of acceptable rebellion, the forces of death nullify our ability to meaningfully resist our own annihilation; they make us both the victims and the perpetrators of genocide.

6 thoughts on “What is Controlled Opposition”

  1. Huh. Bitter words.
    I went to an xr orientation on July 22. Weak tea.
    Three demands for the government to do something. Like that ever works. And also, something needs to be done about biodiversity loss. By the way. Kinda.
    Until they got to regenerative culture. Check that one out. Right there in Principles & Values. Humane. No shame, no blame. We accept everyone, and every part of everyone. And yah. Good parties while the planet burns.
    At least riding my bike to weekly meetings gets me off my bed.
    At least making banners and posters gets my mind off my fate.
    You got bitter words, I got nice parties. In the end, can’t eat words, can’t eat parties. Parties more fun.

  2. I’m an engineer, so what do I know. But it seems that throughout the history of civ, when people get antsy, and search for something to be done, the process ends in a new hierarchy, or modification of an existing hierarchy. And we all know how that always invariably works out.
    Rebellion just says – tear this down. Refuse to participate in that. Confer about alternatives.
    xr has a set of demands, and a set of principles. No hierarchy. Something new under the sun? Let’s try, maybe it just might work.
    xr has no bank accounts. It doesn’t incorporate. It doesn’t espouse, endorse, or advocate for solutions. It proposes a process. Based on associations of autonomous individuals. Who may or may not decide to undertake joint actions.
    Plus respect and compassion. We do this all together.
    A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
    Shoot and then aim.

  3. XR say like Greenpeace: At lest we mobilize folks. That’s right, but for what? And after?

    The what is to force the State to give huge money for the deployment of new globalized and industrialized technologies.

    Which imply than after will be just more destruction due to more globalized and industrialized technologies when the living needs less of them.

    The what is to drive the State into a totalitarian “green” fascist direction, which imply the after will be more State, more corruption, more repression, more wars and more social inequalities, that when the human society need less of all of them.

    They made street parties and don’t want to realize than “recreational” use of champagne has always been a mean to escape from reality and will never be a mean to understand reality or to build the future.

  4. The biggest problem with Extinction Rebellion is that they mean extinction of humans. Anthropocentric attitudes like that will just lead to the same evil place we’re already going eventually. I like that they’re a non-membership group and that they have no hierarchy like Earth First! did when I was a campaigner there, but you have to fight for all life on Earth, not just humans, and you have to give all life the same priority, not place humans above everything else.

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