Science and Technology

21st Century Authoritarianism

By John Robb, Global Guerrillas

Here’s a question you should be asking yourself:

What does 21st Century authoritarianism look like?

Given what we’ve seen so far, it isn’t likely that we’re going to see a return to the 20th Century model, with its absolute dictators, industrial scale bureaucracies, paramilitaries, ideologies, ubiquitous/vicious secret police, relentless propaganda, etc…

That model died when globalization and the Internet hollowed out the nation-state.

The new model of authoritarianism. The model that is sweeping the world is very different.

It’s networked.

These networks aren’t formal constructs. They don’t rely on rigid ideologies or hierarchies. They don’t even use the left/right spectrum.

Instead, they are open, amorphous, and participatory. Networks that are in constant motion… nominally led by political showmen with little real power.

These networks don’t rely on government bureaucracies to coerce people. They coerce bureaucracies.

Moreover, they are more effective than bureaucracies in the elements of power that matter.

They are capable of spying on more people than the East German secret police and they can stifle free speech without recourse to a gulag.

They don’t have any need for state produced propaganda or the media to control the narrative. They can produce a blinding blizzard of spin that can overwhelm official narratives.

In short, 21st Century authoritarianism is very different. It’s not what the experts and the media pundits are warning against and that’s why it will sneak up on us.


John Robb

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