People associate authoritarianism with violent oppression, the secret police coming for your neighbors at night. But oppression is only a tool, a means to an end: money and power. Violent oppression costs a lot of energy, and it can backfire, so intelligent tyrants will naturally try to avoid visible oppression as much as possible if they can control common people without using (excessive) physical force.
Tyrants in the past had to use brutal violence to create so much fear in the minds of common people that almost nobody dared to become rebels. This primitive method of “crowd control” is not necessary today. High-tech mass surveillance, based on mobile phones, CCTV cameras, and cashless transactions, in addition to monitoring events from the sky, have given Western CorpStates so much power that they can easily control people without using much physical force. This surveillance, which is gradually becoming omnipresent, is overpowering in such a degree that most educated persons see no point rebelling against it. They are hopeless. But if a very tiny minority of naive and brave rebels decide to fight the new surveillance regime it will be relatively easy for the police to locate them, using drones and receiving information from snitching family members. FBI asks people to spy on friends and family members. That’s how the Stasi operated, but in a less high-tech manner.
New York Post:
FBI urges monitoring of ‘family members and peers’ for extremism
The Washington Post:
Pushed to the edge by the Capitol riot, people are reporting their family and friends to the FBI
Critics may argue that nobody forces people to use cell phones. But when over 90% of the population have mobile phones it will be relatively easy for intelligence agencies to notice when an already identified political activist goes off the grid. They see it on their screens when his/her phone is turned off. Other high-tech detection methods can then be used to track him or her. CCTV cameras is the easiest way to follow a person in a city. Today you can’t do much rebelling in public without being filmed by citizens using smartphone cameras, though you can get away with (relatively low-intensity) rioting if ultra-liberal elites support it, cf Black Lives Matter in 2020.
We are only at the first or second stage of the new authoritarianism. What we observe today is just the beginning. In five or ten years there will be IoT sensors all over the place. Surveillance cameras will be much more effective too. They can already detect heartbeats. Forbes:
Novel Video Camera Can Monitor Your Heart Rate–Using Only Your Face
New surveillance tech means you’ll never be anonymous again
“Your heartbeat and your breathing pattern are as unique as your fingerprint. A small but growing number of remote sensing technologies are being developed to detect vital signs from a distance, piercing through skin, clothes and in some cases even through walls.”
“In June, the Pentagon went public with a new laser-based system capable of identifying people at a distance of up to 200m. The technology, dubbed Jetson, uses a technique known as laser doppler vibrometry to detect surface movement caused by your heartbeat.” (…)
“Coats, walls, even rocks and rubble are no obstacle for another nascent surveillance technology, however. Researchers are hard at work developing radar-based systems capable of tracking vital signs for a range of purposes, from non-invasive monitoring of patients and aiding in medical diagnoses to finding survivors in search and rescue operations.” (…)
“But why bother installing new radars when we’re already bathed in a different sort of radiation pretty much all the time? Wi-Fi can also be used to locate individuals, identify their position in the room and whether they’re sitting or standing, and even track vital signs.” (…)
“Every person emits around 36 million microbial cells per hour, and human microbiomes are unique for a certain period of time (a 2015 study found that around 80 per cent of people could be re-identified using their microbiome up to a year later). This means that the constant trail of microbial traces we leave behind us, as well as those we pick up from our surroundings, can be used to help reconstruct a picture of a person’s activities and movements, like where they walked, what objects they touched and what environments they have been in.” (…)
“Amazon is perhaps the prime example for this blurring of the lines between private and government surveillance. Amazon has previously come under criticism for selling facial and emotion-recognition systems to police. More recently, it has been revealed that Amazon is partnering with hundreds of law enforcement agencies in the US, including giving them access to surveillance data gathered through its Ring home doorbell in return for police actively marketing the devices to the community.”
Only an authoritarian regime will develop the kind of insane surveillance methods described above. When surveillance is (almost) omnipresent, and today’s Western citizens are atomized, the new authoritarians only need to publish in corporate media that a group of dissidents are “extremists” before using surveillance to locate them and pick them up, one after the other, (using less lethal tasers) with little or no drama. If anybody protests online they can be shadow banned, if necessary. All instances of rebellion can be nipped in the bud.
A democracy can be defined as common people having de facto power to stop corrupt elites. Average citizens today lack the power to overthrow Machiavellian elites that accumulate unprecedented (financial) tech power while the rest get poorer. That’s why America and Europe today can be defined as being authoritarian, on the fast track to a surveillance tyranny nobody in 1950 could imagine was possible less than a century later.
Critics may argue that I can publish this article without being thrown in jail, and this proves that the West is not authoritarian.
Firstly, people in the West today do get jailed because of speech.
Secondly, everyone agrees that China is a tyranny, but in 2019 it was documented that people can buy 1984 and Brave New World in China. The Atlantic:
Why 1984 Isn’t Banned in China
The new authoritarians have so much surveillance power, and 95-97% of the population are so scared of this power that neoliberal tyrants feel confident that they can deal with online rage as long as only 0.5% dare to rebel against this panopticon regime in real life. The online screamers are like monkeys screeching in a zoo. The zookeeper doesn’t care. He can just watch them from a distance on his monitor, with the sound turned off. Smart tyrants don’t care what you say as long as you comply.
But neoliberal tyrants are not always that smart. Sometimes they overreact. They occasionally “radicalize” many people because of their “big stick” approach, instead of just “hide and bide” a few more years until their surveillance power is truly unbeatable. Resistance is still possible the next 3-4 years, at least in theory.
I’m not optimistic, but should you admit defeat and surrender to ultra-liberal despots? That’s not the right question from a culturally conservative perspective, because if you give up today you will quickly notice that life is empty and boring when everything around you is woke and libertine. A cultural conservative can’t enjoy today’s ultra-liberal entertainment for example. In this situation, rebellion becomes the new entertainment. Who cares if the fight is hopeless? A tragic but dramatic fight beats boredom. So keep fighting, and maybe we get lucky and actually win, against the odds. Make the resistance a good story worth living today.