Any state, no matter how powerful, cannot not rule solely through the use of brute force. There are too few rulers and too many of us for coercion alone to be an effective means of control. The political class must rely on ideology to achieve popular compliance, masking the iron fist in a velvet glove. Violence is always behind every state action, but the most efficient form of expropriation occurs when the public believes it is in their interest to be extorted.
Mythology is necessary to blunt the violent nature of state power in order to maximize the plunder of property — and, most importantly, provide an aura of legitimacy. The perception of legitimacy “is the only thing distinguishing a tax collector from an extortionist, a police officer from a vigilante, and a soldier from a mercenary. Legitimacy is an illusion in the mind without which the government does not even exist.”1
State authority, and public obedience to it, is manufactured through smokescreens of ideology and deception. These myths sustain the state and offer an illusion of legitimacy, where orders, no matter how immoral or horrific, are followed because they are seen as emanating from a just authority. The state cannot implement violence against everyone everywhere and overwhelm the host, so the battle is waged against the hearts and minds of the public. Fear is exploited, language is distorted, and propaganda is spread, while narratives and history are tightly controlled. The gulag of state power, first and foremost, always exists in the mind.
If the mythology of state power is smashed, then the state is exposed for what it is: institutionalized violence, expropriator of the peaceful and productive, and entirely illegitimate.