When something dramatic happens, we want an explanation. We want answers to questions like: Why is it happening? Who is responsible? Where is it heading? What does it all mean?
Dramatic events and their orthodox meanings
In the mainstream narrative, the orthodox narrative, a clear meaning is always provided, right along with the news of the dramatic event itself. Like on the morning of 9/11, when the video of the explosions was first being shown, there was already a banner going across the screen: America under attack by Al Qaeda. And soon after: They want to destroy our democracy.
This prompt assignment of meaning to an event has an important psychological effect. The first plausible explanation someone hears for a dramatic or traumatic event tends to fix in the subconscious, and resists being displaced by later explanations. That’s why the orthodox meaning is provided promptly, is repeated endlessly, and is reinforced from a variety of angles by the various mass media genres – news broadcasts, newspapers, talk shows, interviews, official announcements, comedians, sitcoms, documentaries, etc.
It is easy to see why followers of the mainstream media would consider themselves to be well informed citizens. On any public topic, they know what it means, and from that framework they can discuss this or that development with a sense of knowing what it’s all about. For every story, big and small, the media always gives us a Why along with the What.
The closed orthodox bubble
The world of the mainstream narrative is to a large extent a closed bubble of meanings and beliefs. Its stories and their meanings seem to cover the whole scope of ‘what’s important’ and there’s no room for alternative explanations to find a place there. If a contrary explanation emerges from some non-mainstream source, there are many reasons why the explanation will be dismissed. First: ‘We already know why that happened’. Perhaps next: ‘Who are you that thinks you know better than the world’s experts?’ Every explanation that comes from outside the bubble is automatically suspect.
Because it explains everything, the mainstream narrative naturally defends itself against info-intrusions into its bubble. That is to say, media faithfuls tend to be quick to dismiss such intrusions. As if that weren’t enough to keep the bubble sealed, there are specific mechanisms – what we might call info-firewalls – that are ever present in the orthodox world.
For many years now, ever since the JFK assassination, we’ve had the ‘conspiracy theory’ firewall. Any story that puts a contrary meaning on events is tagged right away as a ‘conspiracy theory’, and conspiracy theorists, as we all know in the mainstream world, are a bit unbalanced, have authority issues, tend to be paranoid, need to get a life, etc. Not a place to go for useful information.
More recently, growing out of events involving Wikileaks and the 2016 Presidential election, we now have a ‘fake news’ firewall. Right in the middle of the campaigns, Wikileaks came forward with information that by rights would have seen the Clintons and their foundation come under indictment for serious crimes. This obviously wasn’t going to happen in the real world of Washington politics, and a quick info-fix was needed. Instead of responding to or denying the leaks, they were simply branded with a fresh new term, ‘fake news’ – a term that soon became an all-pervasive meme, automatically applicable to anything that contradicts the orthodox narrative.
So the orthodox bubble is sealed tight, with strong defenses against contrary ideas, reinforced by firewall memes. This is why it’s impossible to discuss issues with an orthodox believer, if you have a contrary understanding of the meaning behind the events of the day. They don’t even want to hear what you have to say, because they know it will be either fake news or some conspiracy theory. Your attempt at info-intrusion can be received even as an insult, suggesting that the person isn’t well informed, and is in need of coaching from ‘arrogant you’.
Orthodoxy and history without meaning
In the orthodox world big changes always come as a response to some unexpected crisis (eg. Pearl Harbor, 9/11, WMDs, 2008 collapse, COVID). A crisis is identified, it is given a meaning, and changes are announced. And then another crisis comes along, and again we get big changes. Each crisis comes with its own little meaning story, unrelated to the meaning of the crisis that came before or the one that comes after. Society stumbles along, it seems, always responding to unexpected crises.
Each transformation society goes through is given a definite meaning, but no meaning is assigned to the sequence of transformations. There is no path being followed; we are not heading in any direction; there is no meaning in the combined effect of all the changes we’ve gone through. There can be no meaning in society’s trajectory, in the orthodox world, because in that world we know very well that the trajectory has been imposed on us by unexpected random crises. Any suggestion of some kind of direction or path can only be a paranoid fantasy – you are seeing patterns where none exist, like with a Rorschach inkblot.
So that’s what we’re facing if we want to discuss anything with Orthodox media faithfuls: a sealed-tight understanding of the world, including a perspective that sees historical change as a sequence of random events.
Fort Orthodox and the implanting of meaning
Fort Orthodox is a solid edifice, and the psyop mortar that binds it all together is control over meaning. That’s why a meaning is declared right away – even if it’s a mystery how they figured things out so quickly. And that’s why the meaning is repeated endlessly, via multiple info-genres, and is kept alive thereafter. No one ever refers back to the events of 9/11 without including a mention of that horrible terrorist attack.
Declaring a meaning is much easier than tying to prove the truth of that meaning with data and arguments. If every voice in the media starts repeating with confidence the same meaning, it will quickly sink in to the listener that it is something ‘everyone knows to be true’. Of course there will also be testimony and evidence presented, but this need not go beyond the cursory. Since people already ‘know’ the meaning, the Who & Why, they need very little in the way of evidence in order for them to feel that the meaning has been adequately verified. Psychologists call this confirmation bias.
Thus arguments about evidence have little impact on Fort Orthodox. An articulate orthodox faithful might respond to contrary evidence this way: ‘Not only has your evidence been debunked, by trusted fact checkers, but the official story was proven – wasn’t there some kind of 9/11 Commission and some article in Popular Mechanics? I didn’t bother with the technical details myself, no need. The experts are dealing with all that, and I don’t want to talk about it with you.’
Thus the whole power of Fort Orthodox stands on one tactic: the prompt implantation of a declared meaning deep into the psyche of the listener, followed by ongoing comprehensive reinforcement. This powerful tactic makes the job of info-propaganda much easier, as the believer is only looking for verifications, for rationalizations, not proof. With meaning firmly and promptly established, the media can focus right away on promoting the actions that are required by that meaning, by that orthodox declaration of what it’s all about, eg terrorist attack, Novichok, deadly pandemic, etc.
The open-source world of the real
Whereas Fort Orthodox is a closed bubble of information and meaning, with a clear explanation for everything, there exists outside that bubble a wider world of open-source information and meaning, available on the Internet, with a wide variety of explanations on offer for everything.
In order to be considered a well-informed citizen in the orthodox world, you need only to sit down, turn on the TV or open your newspaper, and absorb. Becoming a well-informed citizen of the real world, by making use of what’s available open-source, is a much more challenging undertaking. You must rely on your own judgment, your ability to discriminate between wheat and chaff, and your ability to make overall sense of what you learn.
I’ve been doing my best to be a well-informed citizen of the real world, using open sources, for many years now. I’ve found this process to be a journey, never reaching any final ‘land of truth’, but each step on the journey peels away one more layer from the onion of meaning. Not only are there deeper meanings for specific events, than those offered in the orthodox world, but there are meanings that tie events together, that reveal directions and paths in society’s trajectory.
The real meaning of crisis events
No way does society proceed by responding spontaneously to unexpected crises, as orthodoxy would have it. The declared and implanted meanings found in the orthodox world are among the earliest layers of the onion to be peeled away. Those meanings never were intended to stand up to scrutiny, as their means of being implanted was based on psychological processes and repetition, not on the existence of evidence. For example, with 9/11, if you look at all closely into the evidence, it soon becomes apparent that the orthodox meaning, terrorist attack, makes no sense – Muslims in planes could not possibly be what caused both twin towers to vanish into molten steel and dust at free-fall speed.
There is a standard pattern in the crisis-response scenario. First a crisis event is declared, along with a declared meaning. Then the media begins revealing the steps to be taken in response. This always involves the expansion of government activity into new practices and new initiatives, into new powers. The real meaning of each crisis scenario, it turns out, is always the same:
……….Who defined the crisis and its orthodox meaning?
……….……….those who fashion the narrative.
……….……….those who fashion the narrative.
……….Why did they choose that meaning?
……….……….so the government could claim the right to specific new powers.
……….……….so the government could claim the right to specific new powers.
……….Where will this lead?
……….……….to the exercise of those new powers.
……….……….to the exercise of those new powers.
The crisis event itself is more or less irrelevant to the scenario. The event might even be totally imaginary, like incubator babies, Iraqi WMDs, or Gulf of Tonkin torpedos. The real meaning of a crisis is always the ‘response’ – all the rest is some version of flim flam, of secondary importance at best.
Cross-bubble conversations, a best-practice approach
So we have a real world, with real meanings behind events, and an orthodox world, a matrix world, whose illusions are maintained by a universe of implanted meanings. While the implanted meanings are very resistant to outside influence, as we have seen, they are at the same time very fragile, if ever evidence might become relevant to the conversation.
However conversations – about evidence, or about the meaning of events – are nearly impossible across the boundary of the orthodox bubble. Each side sees itself as being well-informed, and the other to be misinformed. Neither sees the other’s viewpoint as worthy of serious consideration. Both parties in such an exchange feel that their well-informed knowledge is not being respected, and that their attempts to point out obvious facts are being dismissed out of hand. Such conversations, if attempted at all, soon sputter to a stop, succumbing to frustration and annoyance.
In such a conversation, if they can be called conversations, each person feels they have the real facts, and they are trying to present them. But the other isn’t listening, because they have their own real facts that are more relevant. What each wants from the other is to be heard, for their viewpoint to be given a hearing. If those inside the bubble won’t give our ideas a hearing, triggered as they are by the barrier memes, it is up to us to take the first step, to introduce listening into the conversation.
The confrontational approach, pushing ideas and facts at the other party, simply does not work. In fact, when challenged, people tend to grasp even more firmly onto their familiar beliefs. Rather than coming in with the intention of convincing someone, we would do better by seeking to understand where they’re coming from, and how they see the world. We can start by asking questions, instead of making claims. If you give their ideas a hearing, it is likely they’ll be willing to hear something about where you’re coming from and how you see the world.
We need to recognize that it is quite understandable that an intelligent, critically thinking person, can feel quite well-informed in the mainstream world. They get explanations for everything, and they hear the same message from many different authoritative voices. Why should they doubt what ‘everyone knows’ to be true? We need to respect that such a person is doing their sincere best to be a well-informed citizen, and we need to show our respect in how we talk to them.
If you want to get to a place where you might be able to talk about controversial issues, you need to begin by leaving controversy out of the conversation altogether. Instead the focus needs to be on developing rapport, showing respect for what the other person has to say, and building trust by not being judgmental. This is a process, an investment in relationship building. And the investment is necessary, if the conversation is ever to reach more challenging territory – without triggering defensiveness.
Undermining Fort Orthodox
As long as the orthodox narrative monopolizes a critical mass of public opinion, society will be easily led down the garden path to a technocratic dystopia, each step being disguised as a necessary response to a dangerous crisis. We are already far down that path
To the extent a mainstream faithful is willing to look at, and perhaps seriously consider, non-orthodox meanings and evidence, to that extent doubt has been raised, and a mind has been opened to the possibility that all may not be what it seems. Perhaps this doubt will be shared with fellow orthodox faithfuls. Perhaps a spark of curiosity might even be raised, and our doubter might start looking around on their own, expanding their info-sources. In this way, if on a large scale, it may be possible to shake the structure of Fort Orthodox, and poke holes in the bubble.
Many of us are already trying to wake people up from the all-pervasive narrative, for example by posting revelatory articles, chiming in aggressively on comment threads, and sometimes risking controversy in conversation. Fort Orthodox remains unshaken by these kinds of confrontational approaches. It doesn’t make sense for us to keep doing the same things, and expect anything different to happen.
If we invest that same energy in pursuing respect-based conversations, we are more likely to succeed in opening minds to non-orthodox perspectives and meanings. We have an available enabling technology, social media, and in particular facebook, which provides a ready-made platform for seeking out such conversations.
Instead of sharing a controversial article, to be read mostly by people already on your side, you might comment on an orthodox friend’s posting, acknowledging their point, and asking to hear more about that perspective. If a bit of conversation develops, you might move eventually to video chat. When you can see one another, the conversational process can proceed more efficiently and on a deeper level.
Fort Orthodox is strong but vulnerable. It’s strength, it’s implanted meanings, are also its weakness. Those meanings cannot stand up to scrutiny, if they are examined by an open mind. Each time one orthodox mind rejects one orthodox meaning, that is a micro-quake inside the Fort. If enough of us can get enough points across, we can get bigger quakes going, and generate resonance, like they did with the walls of Jericho.
We have leverage on our side. If something like 5% of the orthodox community become doubters or questioners, that soon becomes a critical mass, and it generates wider doubting and questioning out of its own energy. We just need to start the fire.
So I invite you give to it a try – experiment in whatever way works best for you, and see if you can get a conversation going where before there would have been fruitless confrontation. Don’t expect anything at first, just get some practice with a new way of engaging. If it starts working for you, you can join the cause, and help shake the foundations of the Fort.
Conversations across the divide must happen somehow – because there is a path that society is following, there is a direction, and where it is heading is really not a place any of us would like to be. The orthodox majority is being led down a garden path, one crisis at a time. Somehow we must find ways to break through the bubble’s barrier, or else humanity will follow blindly down the path, like lambs to the slaughter.