Before he’d quit doing interviews, the previous fall, he’d taken to dropping the word totalitarian. Younger interviewers, to whom the word meant total surveillance, total mind control, gray armies in parade with medium-range missiles, had understood him to be saying something unfair about the Internet. In fact, he simply meant a system that was impossible to opt out of. The old Republic had certainly excelled at surveillance and parades, but the essence of its totalitarianism had been more everyday and subtle. You could cooperate with the system or you could oppose it, but the one thing you could never do, whether you were enjoying a secure and pleasant life or sitting in a prison, was not be in relation to it. The answer to every question large or small was socialism. If you substituted networks for socialism, you got the Internet. Its competing platforms were united in their ambition to define every term of your existence.
The totalitarian regime has won in a way we never thought it could.