February 9th, 2020

Capitalism is the most effective form of censorship

If you look at humanity in relation to its history, you might sometimes get the impression that human beings never learn from their past. By and large, humanity just keeps making the same mistakes over and over again. After all, how could they not? What else is there for them to do? Everything people can do can result in a disaster one way or another, and so when you've learned from all the mistakes that can be made, you end up realizing that nothing is safe, secure, or certain in the world, and if you're going to continue being alive, you can only do so by doing things which have been shown in the past to be mistakes.

That said, there is enough history behind our world that certain people have learned better ways of doing things than the ways which were attempted in the past. Governments have learned right along with the rest of the world, and after some of the disastrous political failures that have been well documented over the years, governments have found more effective ways of getting or doing what they want.

A particularly strong example of this is how governments approach the idea of censorship today. In the past, censorship tended to take familiar patterns of suppression in which people were imprisoned or killed for saying certain things or spreading certain ideas in writing, undesirable ideas were erased and burned, and people were subtly (or not-so-subtly) threatened and discouraged from bringing up certain topics. This pattern of censorship is still seen in some parts of the world today, but by and large, governments around the world are waking up to the realization that this form of censorship doesn't really work: The more you try to suppress an idea, the more interest people take in it. The more you tell people not to think or talk about something, the more they're going to think or talk about it. The more attention you give to an idea, the more people will know about it.

Having recognized this, governments have learned the lesson that the most effective way to kill an idea is to simply ignore it. If you don't talk about something, nobody will know about it. If someone else talks about something you don't want people talking about, let them talk about it; people will soon get bored of hearing about that topic (because people get bored easily), and they will start to simply ignore the idea. If you try to punish people for talking about the idea, that only brings more attention to them and their ideas; just let them talk and everyone will get tired of their talking.

For those who are interested in censorship, here's a good point to keep in mind: What has removed more books from the public sphere than all the book burnings and bannings in history? Books going out of print. Books need to be published, printed, and distributed by someone, and doing this costs money. If you ban a book, this usually makes it wildly popular, with people defiantly printing and distributing copies of the "banned book" as a subversive act. If you just ignore a book and let people forget about it, it will soon go out of print, because no one is going to keep printing a book that no one's buying or reading.

In this sense, capitalism is the most effective form of censorship. Nothing forces books to disappear from the public eye like a system that allows people to read what they want. A person could write a brilliant book full of important political or social insights, and most people who see the book will respond by saying something like "Yawn, another book about politics or society or some crap like that. I want to read a book about vampires and wizards. Or better yet, a movie (or TV series) adaptation of one. Now that's my kind of reading!"

We live in the most totalitarian and repressive age in all of human history. Rather than trying to force people into desired behaviors through violence and laws, systems of control have learned to manipulate people based on human psychology. This means of manipulation is so much more effective because it is mostly invisible, meaning people are generally not aware of it, and the majority of people will never resist it, because it exploits human nature, such as human beings' natural laziness, selfishness, and attraction to dumb spectacle. People are naturally defiant and want to rebel against authority, so rather than giving them something to fight against, just give them endless amounts of dumb, flashy media, because that will make them happy and satisfied with the situation. Give them lots and lots of media so they feel like they are in control of their lives, and then just let things sort themselves out; a populace fed on dumb media is too happy and stupid to cause any problems. And if an idea pops up which you want to eliminate from the public sphere, don't worry: Any ideas which people develop will quickly disappear as they move on to the next episode of their favorite TV series.