Dictatorships require the cooperation of institutions to uphold their vice grip of power over society. In fact, if you begin to study the question “how can you topple a dictator?” (perhaps because, like me, you’ve been worried we’re about to get one) you’re likely to encounter the concept of the pillars of power.
I can’t source who came up with the concept first, but the basic idea, is it’s not really possible for one man (yes, nearly always a man) to maintain control over society without the cooperation of many, many other people and institutions. In general, the main institutions that an autocratic government needs to rely on are the ones listed in the image above; they need the military, schools, government, businesses, religion and media to all be supporting them in their desire to control society.
As soon as some of those pillars start falling, then the authoritarian regime is unable to sustain its power. Now, what we’re seeing on the right, is that certain institutions are attempting to align to create conditions that allow for dictatorship to come about.
The pillars that the right wing authoritarians have made big inroads are:
- Government (via the republicans)
- Religion (specifically white evangelicalism)
- Media (mainly Fox News is the one with the most power)
Another place they’re actively trying to take over is schools. If you’ve been wondering what all this critical race theory panic is about, it’s about the right wing government attempting to control the school curriculum so they can continue laying the foundation of an authoritarian dictatorship.
Interestingly, a conservative institution that the right wing hasn’t made significant inroads into is the military. You know, I gotta say, not always the biggest fan of the military, but they may have been the last line of defense protecting democracy in the US. If Trump had succeeded in turning the military, it would absolutely have been game over, but it seems they resisted. I just hope that continues to hold.
The largest place of resistance to the Trump dictatorship was — in my opinion — business. Frankly, Twitter’s decision to pull Trump from the platform was huge, absolutely huge, and it’s sort ironic that Trump considers himself to be such a businessman considering how poorly he failed to get alliance in that arena.
Now, you might be thinking “doesn’t the left wing do the exact same thing?” and the answer is no because, regardless of how corrupt any one liberal institution is, they are not colluding with other institutions the same way conservative ones are. (Well, on both sides business and government colludes, but the dems have no advantage here over the republicans IMO.) But, the liberal media and the democrats do not collude like Fox news and the republicans collude because liberal media is still critical of democratic politicians. MSNBC will still call out Biden for inflation, or the mishandling of monkeypox or whatever; Fox news never did the equivalent with Trump. Fox news was always up the president’s ass, becoming effectively a propaganda machine.
Similarly, there is no connection on the liberal side between things like religion and schools; even if you don’t like the “woke agenda” or whatever people imagine is happening in schools, there is no religious institution pushing the “woke agenda” so there is no collusion between those pillars of power on the liberal side. However, on the conservative side, evangelicals are trying to get their dirty little fingers all over schooling, including stuff like still banning the teaching of evolution and sex education, so those are colluding conservative pillars.
Then finally (and this may be the biggest) there’s no way I can see the military deeply collaborating with the liberals. In fact, the military’s historically conservative leanings make a liberal dictatorship almost impossible to contemplate in the near future, and I’m just impressed the military had the fucking ethics to prevent a conservative dictatorship as well.
So, to sum up, conservative are looking to solidify authoritarian rule by taking over institutions because they are in the minority in the US right now, and they will lose by genuine democratic standards. Liberals may be annoying to some people or whatever, but they are not looking to overturn democracy and implement authoritarianism in the same way. Simply stated, they can’t because they do not have the institutional support to do so. So, if you’re a fence sitter who hates both sides equally, maybe keep in mind only one side is within spitting distance of a dictatorship.
Anyway; what does all this have to do with Alex Jones?
Many Americans think of civil disobedience as going out and protesting, maybe smashing up a few police stations (or the US Capitol?) but that’s one of the most dangerous and least effective forms of civil disobedience. A far more effective form of civil disobedience effectively comes down to “non cooperation.” For example, if you’re in a factory that’s producing weapons for a dictator you don’t agree with, maybe you don’t openly oppose the dictator because that would be dangerous. Instead, you slow down production immensely, components of your factory keep “breaking down” in ways that are impossible to pinpoint, and things like that, so the dictator doesn’t have the weapons he needs to maintain control, but also no one can ever find the right person to blame to get it fixed.
Anyway; if you’re not familiar with Alex Jones, he was the guy who said that the kids at Sandy Hook were crisis actors, and he is currently being sued by those children’s parents. Recently, Alex Jones’ own lawyer accidentally turned all all his text messages over to opposing council. Jones’ lawyer is claiming that the texts were accidentally sent by one of his paralegals, and is desperately trying to claw back the damage.
My question is; do you think this paralegal made a genuine mistake, or sent them on purpose? Because I think it’s very likely they sent them on purpose. And, even if not, this is exactly how resistance to authoritarian rule works. No one will ever be able to prove that this was by mistake or on purpose, and sure, that paralegal will probably be fired — but here’s the thing, because Jones’ lawyer was the person in charge, it will probably be the lawyer and not the paralegal that has to deal with legal repercussions.
And story is, those text messages were so spicy they got pulled into the Jan 6th committee investigation, and apparently has Tucker Carlson “shitting himself” over what may be in them.
So, let’s say you’re a paralegal and you realize you are participating in something really corrupt. You’re making 50–60 grand a year while your boss may be making millions annually on these expensive cases; how much more incentive do you have to “have an oopsie” than your boss does? Sure, you’ll never work as a paralegal again, but you know, you have other skills that could be transferred to other professions, you probably won’t go to jail. You won’t die.
Do you pull the trigger?
Most don’t but some do. And, those that do potentially change the course of history, because authoritarianism is built on lies. Always. And, it requires the participation of many many people to keep the lies going, and some people just won’t keep participating in the lie.
I think we’re starting to see this more and more — even in exceptional circumstances like the recent Supreme Court leak on Roe v Wade. And, this is what resistance looks like; the types of things people used to be able to take for granted — client attorney privilege, supreme court secrecy — aren’t things that the lower level people are willing to participate in anymore, and you need their cooperation to keep the power structures functioning. Even all of Trump’s aids who are writing tell all books are participating in a kind of civil resistance; most president’s aids don’t do that after the president’s term ends. These aids are weakening Trump, and it’s a sign of how bad he was that they’re willing to risk their own livelihoods to do it — because despite what many conservatives think, these people will never be welcomed with open arms by the liberals because they supported Trump to begin with.
What we’re beginning to see, is a kind of grass roots efforts coming from the population that is resisting the slide into authoritarianism by undercutting the institutions of power. And, I don’t know if it will work in the short run — I hope it will, and the republicans will either reform or be overtaken by a pro-democracy party — but it does give me hope that even if the worst happens, people seem primed to resist governmental corruption.