Remember: The Goal Is Always To Make Dissident Ideas Mainstream

Caitlin Johnstone
6 min readJul 3, 2019

It’s amazing how many people confuse egoic masturbation for revolutionary political activism.

We talk a lot about how you can discern the real intentions of a given politician, plutocrat or official by ignoring their words and watching their behavior, but this principle can be applied equally to everyone. And if you were to ignore the words of the people you see sharing dissident ideas in revolutionary-minded circles today and watch their behavior instead, you’d come away with the impression that most of them are actually interested in drama, conflict, social climbing, accolades, and scoring points on social media.

They want dominance and approval from their tribe, in the same way our evolutionary ancestors wanted dominance and approval in theirs. It’s the same primitive, hardwired impulse. The majority of the people who find themselves moving in circles that are dedicated to upheaving the status quo in some way are primarily motivated first and foremost by this impulse, no different from anyone else in any other clique.

Obviously, tickling one’s ego is not the real purpose of political activism.

Still others spend their time chest-thumping over which ideas are the most correct, and who in their circle has the purest ideology. They often spend time writing dry essays that hardly anybody reads arguing against other dry essays that hardly anybody reads over what’s the correct way to view this or that obscure strain in a given sub-sect of political ideology. Political dissidents who devote themselves to this activity often find themselves isolated into tiny echo chambers with the very small number of people who share their exact worldview, taking comfort in their sense of rightness so they don’t have to feel bothered by their total lack of meaningful influence.

There can be value in arguing about the specifics over what is the most exactly correct ideological position to hold, but at best that is only sharpening your sword, not using it. At best it’s something you do to hone your ability to practice efficacious activism, but by itself it’s useless, neither activism nor efficacious.

This is not the real purpose of political activism either.

The real purpose of activism, obviously, is to make real change. Surely everyone can agree on that. And yet if you look at the things that people in such circles actually pour most of their mental energy into from day to day and from moment to moment, very little of it is actually making a big push toward real change. Most of their energy swirls in impotent little self-enclosing eddies of the sorts I just mentioned.

If you want to pour your energy into making real change, and you want to make sure that your energy is as efficient and efficacious as possible, there is an easy target for you to fix your gaze on. Simply put all of your energy into getting dissident ideas into mainstream attention.

If you want to make real change, clearly this is the target to shoot for. After all, it’s the target that the establishment narrative management machine has all its defenses built around. Everything the propaganda engine does is dedicated to keeping anti-establishment ideas marginalized, whether it’s by hiding alternative media outlets on Google, smearing dissident figures as anti-semites or Russian assets, or just the relentless campaign to paint the status quo as safe and normal to make any deviation therefrom look dangerous and freakish. Our rulers are well aware that the preservation of the status quo requires keeping the mainstream herd inoculated against dissident ideas, because it’s going to take a large percentage of the public using the power of their numbers to topple the machine and move humanity toward health. So we should all be aware of that also.

The status quo will not be undermined if we all stay in our little fringey circles sharing our little fringey ideas amongst ourselves, no matter how cool and special that might make us feel. That’s exactly what our rulers want us to do. If we stay in our little marginalized circles, we’ll get to feel good about how much more right we are than everyone else, and our other fringey friends will give us plenty of accolades for it, but meanwhile the oligarchs will be bolstering the bars of the Orwellian cage they’re building around us while the world burns.

Keeping the question “What can I do to get X into mainstream attention?” front and center in your activism prevents this from happening. It keeps all organizing, demonstrating, social media posting and information sharing focused on the one thing that really matters in this fight, instead of bogged down in the meaningless side shows. You make sure you’re always spending your energy in an efficacious way instead of an impotent way.

A lot of revolutionary-minded types have a strong egoic resistance to going mainstream. They’ve built up a strong sense of identity in their cool fringey counterculture image, and you’ll see a strong, reflexive rejection from them whenever ideas or people that they consider “theirs” start appearing anywhere outside their tight little echo chamber. This is due solely to their subconscious awareness that if their dissident values go mainstream, they won’t be edgy and countercultural anymore. Their cool guy self image will be ruined.

This is intensely stupid. Imagine letting the world burn rather than sharing your healthy ideas with the mainstream public, for no other reason than your egoic sense of comfort. But many activists have such egoic defense mechanisms in place for exactly that reason.

Some people also make the mistake of assuming that an idea is bad just because it’s gone mainstream. This isn’t always an unhealthy assumption given how tightly controlled the mainstream sphere still is, but please remember that as revolutionary activism becomes more and more effective, we will necessarily begin seeing more healthy ideas appearing in that sphere. Take it as a good sign going forward.

Stand in the public square and shove as many revolutionary ideas as far into the public spotlight as possible. Do it even if it means people you used to spend your time opposing start picking them up and using them. Do it with the goal of having your healthy anti-establishment ideas become the norm throughout your society. Do it with the goal of your worldview becoming conventional and boring. Do it with the intention of your activism becoming obsolete. Crave the absence of your own cool revolutionary self-image.

The goal of revolutionary political activism is to make revolutionary ideas so common that they become the new normal. If you’re not going to do that, it’s just glorified masturbation. And there are much more energy efficient ways to wank.


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