Controlled opposition is a term used to refer to any person, group, idea or narrative that superficially appears to be radically opposed to the mainstream ones, but is actually promoted by the same people, and for the same purposes (i.e.: social control, political power, economic convenience).
Controlled opposition can manifest itself in various forms (a isolated person who exposes mainstream lies and deception, a group of people promoting a radical social change, a minoritarian political party, an alternative theory, an internet blog or forum promoting ideas that go contrary to the establishment, etc.), it can be obtained from genuine opposition by infiltrating and subverting it, or it can be entirely manufactured from the ground up; and the degree of discrepance between their ideas and the ones promoted by the establishment can vary: in some cases they might be almost the same on a very superficial level, but with just a different wording in order to fool people into thinking they are different; in other cases they might effectively be radically different and incompatible on a fundamental level, but still leave untouched some very specific critical issues; and in some other cases they might address the really crucial issues, but just lie about their real intentions and do nothing in practice about it.
Controlled opposition makes up a huge portion of propaganda and can serve a variety of purposes:
- Misdirecting opposition
A small minority of people who won't be affected by mainstream propaganda is often inevitable; therefore, in order to prevent these people from becoming a problem, it is necessary to create a different kind of propaganda specifically tailored for them; exposing lies in the mainstream narrative is used as a "bait" to attract dissenters and then turn them against false enemies or towards false solutions.
- Preventing revolution
By giving people the illusion that a strong opposition already exists, it is possible to prevent dissenters from actively organizing and taking action by themselves, thinking that someone else is already doing it for them.
- Feigning pluralism
Pluralism of opinions is a fundamental feature in a liberal democracy; if all mass-media constantly promoted a single narrative with no contradictory whatsoever, people might eventually realize to live in a dictatorship; so, by periodically presenting "alternative" opinions, people can be fooled into thinking that freedom of thought is still present, or sometimes even that there is too much of it.
- Blackwashing dissent
By intentionally creating opposing parties that say or do deliberately stupid or evil things it is possible to turn the majority of people against them and, by association, against *any* form of dissent, therefore strenghtening their faith in the authorities and institutions even more.
- Keeping a failsafe
In certain cases, the opposition can become so strong that the mainstream faction cannot be defended anymore; however, if most of the "opposition" is already controlled by the same elites who control the establishment, it can be allowed to take power and become the new mainstream with no real damage for the elites in power.