30 November 2008

The morality of marketing

Let's face facts - virtually no-one has an opinion of their own on anything. Knowledge, like virtually everything else in human culture, is social, and opinions spread like viruses, through contagion. Ideas are only real things when they seize the masses - and there's no moral difference between a good idea you thought up and one which you pull out of the mediasphere.

The idea of "originality", that people who originate ideas or memes, is an artefact of capitalism, based in the institutions of copyright and intellectual property. A lot of the soul-deadening nature of modern culture can be traced back to the fact that we only award people who come up with ideas for which property rights can be established, promptly alienated, and trades. In another culture, artists, memeticians, writers, politicians etc. might be honoured for the way they channel the "loa" of our culture into new product which enrich us all, but we might not be so hung up about the idea of "individual genius", which appears to just ruin everything.

You do not have an autonomous mind - you are an expression of the totality of human culture, especially in this cosmopolitan intarwebz era. Therefore, the question of the morality of marketing, propaganda, language-based thought control, call it what they will, cannot be boiled down to the question of "messing with someone's head" - we all do that, in a way, every day. There is only one human cultural mind which our individual consciousness refract in different ways. So, the question of the morality of marketing is a question of to what greater social end the meme is being spread (whether for the continued rise of collective consciousness, or to keep people ignorant so the savvy can profit from them); as well as whether the techniques used foster or retard trust and social cohesion, on balance.

The question of whether we should use deception and manipulation is, when you come right down to it, the question of whether we should use violence. The answer is: yes, in the right place, and at the right time, and only if we are willing to be fully accountable for the consequences of our actions. Swearing off marketing is the memetic equivalent of pacifism. Noble, but perhaps not sustainable in the world-as-is.

I realise I've just written off the existence of what might be called the "Higher" or "God" self in many mystical traditions. Well, good - every man and woman might be a star, but stars obey the laws of gravity etc. All that really exist in the "astral realms" are currents in the culture-sphere - we collectively make all these currents, but individually we are powerless against them. A "meme" is, in a way, a decision to all swim in a particular direction, which creates a new current, bolsters an existing one, or negates one we don't like.

29 November 2008

Mistargeting

Call me a Marxist if you like (in fact, I prefer you do), but I think we have to re-orient ourselves to the idea that successful memes are always based in real, socio-physical-economic causes. People don't start hating X group of people over there for no reason - Hitler his own self couldn't have convinced Germans to go on an official anti-semitism spree, if there hadn't been a tradition of resentment of rich Jewish "usurers" going back to the Middle Ages. (Imagine how many votes he would have won with an argument that die Samoanen sind unser Unglück, although you could possibly get a hearing for that in some parts of New Zealand today.)

So, let's concretise this: the "black masses" (as 19th century Russian bloggers called them) of the rural peasantry / semi-proletarians, and the urban liberal "chattering classes", have been sworn mutual enemies way back to the days of the Enlightenment and possibly beyond. When an American rural conservative curses out the "faggots", I think you'll find in many cases they're not actually thinking about teh buttsecks (although in others I'm pretty sure they are... long and hard, if you catch my drift), they're thinking about a self-important, privileged, urbanised and (as they'd see it) parasitical "cognitive elite", living large off the proceeds of exploited factory, farm and call-centre labour. To bring 4chan back into it again, think carefully about what those people mean when they use "gay" or "faggot" as an insult. It more or less means what British or Australian slang means by "wanker", which is why the gay press sometimes see "extreme homophobia" in teenagers where it's not.

(This in turn feeds into a meme where straight sex is a necessary social glue - an "investment" in the future of society, as it were - whereas gay sex is seen as a purely "consumption commodity", a frivolous luxury. The Protestant work ethic has much more in common with the Protestant sex ethic than we might have thought.)

And you'll find that liberal Islamophobes (as opposed to conservative Islamophobes motivated by ideas of imperialist self-interest) will talk about the aforementioned conservative underclass of their own country in exactly the same way. For example, one Northern Irish blogger who I do like to read has the habit of referring to the hard-core Unionist minority as "the Prodiban". The "ignorant religious peasants are our enemy" meme not only justifies imperialism abroad, it encourages the kind of condescending attitude to everyone who doesn't drink lattés and watch The Daily Show which has led to the complete and utter isolation of the liberal Left from the lives of real people - and thus led to the ascendency of working-class and rural conservatism.

Meanwhile, while all this are going on, our real common enemy - the capitalist and rentier overclass - giggle maniacally at watching the latte-drinkers and the black-eyed-pea eaters beat the shit out of each other, and yell "DANCE, MY PUPPETS, DANCE!!!"

I'm not saying we should make the mistake that Tim Wohlforth made when he ran Gerry Healey's branch office in America in the early '70s, of declaring "the working class hate faggots, hippies and women's libbers, and so do we!!!" The solution must be to build UNITY between the faggots, hippies, women's libbers, workers, and oppressed ethnic and religious minorities. The unity of the blue-collar and the white collar workers - the old GDR logo of the hammer and compass had the right idea behind it, despite the nastiness of that particular effort at "socialism in half a country". The theory is that if the white-collar liberal left can start presenting concrete material program for change to blue-collar conservatives, perhaps the presents of faggots, hippies and moooslims in the former's ranks will cease to be the wedge issue that it is today.

Even Germans know about the serious business

"Most 4chan users made themselves useful for the first time in their lives against the cult." (Harsh call? You be the judge.)

28 November 2008

MIND CONTROL GONE OUT OF CONTROL YAAAAAAAAA

Forums like this, much like the newspapers of sectarian socialist/anarchist groups, intrigue and depress me in equal amounts. Depressing mainly because what looks like a cut-and-dried case of symptoms of schizophrenia on the surface can also be seen -from another angle - to be a remarkably cogent and creative way for people who have no idea what's really happening to them to make sense of it in language they can understand. A new religion, in other words.

My main argument against all this is, of course, that the State has no need to implant radio transmitters in anyone or carry out deliberate wide-scale child abuse to make people conform, submit and obey. The culture of modern capitalism creates all the docility and low-grade sociopathy necessary, out of nothing more than - on one hand - the profit motive, and -on the other - a combination of the atomisation of the grassroots under capitalism combined with malfunctioning traditional primate social cues. Sure, the State and/or other ruling class agencies drop various additives into the meme pool occasionally, but so much of the system of brainwashing acts on automatic. Or, to put it the way the Church of the SubGenius does - "they don't need to invent televisions that watch you, because they have invented televisions that they know you will watch."

A blind social system makes us crazy and unhappy, not any evil conspiracy. Only changes in how we live our lives will shut the maddening voices up once and for all.

27 November 2008

A new aphorism

  • Egregores, memetic complexes, "wild ideas" - once summoned, they're nearly impossible to put down.

  • Capitalist media, like capitalist industry, specialises in massive overproduction of memes, which massively outlive their usefulness and even sometimes turn against their owners.


Case in point: the "PUMAs" (stands for Party Unity My Ass) - hard-core supporters of Hillary Clinton, whipped into a frenzy during the American primary elections into believing that Barack Obama was the worst monster in history (even to the extent of reviving repulsive "black man assaults white woman" memes). So much so that they adamantly swore to vote for the Republican ticket of Grandpa Walnuts and Caribou Barbie.

The funny thing is, this Frankenstein's monster is still shambling on now that Hillary is going to be a senior cabinet minister for President Obama. This is of course extremely similar to the massive amounts of Islamophobia whipped up in the Western mediasphere to justify the Iraq invasion - it's still churning along out there, producing hate-crimes and encouraging fascism in its wake, now that our leaders no longer have a need for it.

The most disturbing Frankenstein's monster / zombie idea out there is of course Sarah Palin, cynically propped up by the McCain campaign in order to attract the afore-mentioned PUMAs, who doesn't have the good grace to expire when she's no longer of use to her masters. I predict that Palin-zombies will continue to reproduce via massive media attention for the next four years, and she may well be a viable candidate in 2012 despite being totally useless at everything except dressing herself on someone else's credit card and reading a prepared script.

19 November 2008

Towards a post-influence society

I already called out the Randroids last month, but just to repeat the lesson - humans are not entirely rational beings. Perhaps not even predominately rational, and that's got not as much to do with emotion as it has with:

1. Humans are troop animals, and have a truckload of instinctual decision-making rules which mainly consist of going along with what the other primates around us are doing. This has been selected for over millions of year in which, for the majority of the time, submitting to the Alpha Male, sticking close to the others when under threat, etc, have been good ideas.

2. There's far too much information. Rational decision-making takes up vital organic-CPU time that we really just don't have, particularly in late-capitalist info-overload death culture.

Factor 1 above isn't going to change in any significant way, absent some major genetic engineering. One of the bad things about modern capitalism is that, by smashing traditional social and familial ties, it has wrecked a lot of the good things about traditional community, but left all those primate urges to fit in with your troop intact. Which is of course because those in charge of us can exploit those to work, consume, kill who they want us to kill, etc.

The "small-business occultist" tendency claim that through their DIY parapsychology you can override those urges, become a "real individual" for the first time in your life, "become something more than what heredity and environment have programmed you for". And what then? Write this down, folks - real individuals have little survival value, precisely because they don't have the correct instincts to get on in primate society. We generally call those people "basement-dwelling nerds". Capitalism has simultaneously implanted the ideology that "the individual" is not only a real but the only real thing - and made the world so complex that you need social skills to get on in it. It's absolutely true - the reason the world has less place for the glorious weirdos of the past (Einstein, for example). It's also theorised that that's one of the reasons that we've begun noticing that things like Asperger's Syndrome exist.

Is so much of this "Prometheus Rising" etc stuff nothing more than deliberately induced quasi-autism? If the New Man spends the rest of his life wishing to live on a space station confined only to people who like to listen to Beethoven while stoned, is that an improvement on being an ape? What have all these brilliant meta-programmers really accomplished - apart from becoming moderately successful authors with an adoring fanbase, and feeling good about themselves? Is that the limit of your ambition?

The goal of Chaos Marxism - and now we may state this openly - is to learn and use the arts and sciences of producing social compliance so we may transcend them as a society. It would be too easy to become what Uncle Al would call a Black Brother (note, not /b/rother) and learn all those skills just to rise to the top of the pile. But if we want the world changed, rational thinking and agency have to be splashed all around the globe. Can we use the arts of politics and salesmanship to create a movement that will change the world to one where politics and salesmanship are obsolete? Do we have to the courage to really create a revolutionary praxis that will wipe itself out of existence on completion?

This is also why anarchism just doesn't cut it. You abolish the State, but how are you going to abolish authority altogether when we're all troop animals? You think that Stanley Milgram's experiments wouldn't have worked in an anarchist society? If not, you haven't seen the same anarchist movements I have, where it's all too easy to see who the Alpha Males and Alpha Females are, where conformity extends far past political thought to the kind of clothes you wear and the kind of music you listen to. Not that that's a bad lifestyle choice, sure beats being a fundamentalist Mormon, but lifestyle choices are not politics and won't change anything.

As for Factor 2 above, that's not going to be fixed by anything less than drastically reducing the amount we all have to work to maintain a good standard of living, so we have time and energy to process things properly. Which should be Demand Numero Uno of any serious revolutionary movement.

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This latest hiatus brought to you by, once again, sinking a lot of energy into a failed experiment. Never mind.