15 February 2008

Their magick and ours, part the umpteenth

Even when we sleep, the web of nervous plexuses emanating from that ancient region of the lower brain remains awake, haunting our bodies with a mysterious presence. Perhaps, long before the day the central nervous system convinced us it was in charge, our way of understanding the world had been purely involuntary and autonomic, fluctuating without subtlety between poles of stimulus and response, contraction and relaxation, excitement and satisfaction. Perhaps the enteric brain remains our last link to the time before we ate the apple of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, the time before we knew death. The primeval brain of the involuntary, the abdominal brain, the brain that controls sympathy and revulsion but not ratiocination, that is the brain of the wow.

When it comes to television, the theory becomes practice: Whether on the Hot Network, E! Entertainment Television, or CBS, the splanchnic response, not the lucubrations of the intellect but the primal gut reaction – that’s what hauls in the ratings. When the new president of CNN/US, Jonathan Klein, took over last November, he introduced himself to the troops with what has become the perennial “it’s about the storytelling” speech. As Van Gordon Sauter preached in the 1980’s, news needs the emo, and executives now understand that the emo comes from the gut, the gut makes the wow, and the wow makes the money. It’s not the content that matters – food, sex, or news – so much as the autonomic form.

Read the whole thing. The tl;dr version of it: the media priesthood have perfected memetics to the point where they can actually bypass the rational brain altogether and provoke, literally and directly, "gut reactions" (or groin reactions, for that matter). HOLY SHIT if we do not learn to do this ourselves and socialise the means of production and distribution of media signals (exchange will not mean anything in a post-itellectual property era), they may well perfect the means to control us with pleasure rather than pain and the species will be doomed. On the other hand, it may well be that, like any media technology, our ability to resist it if necessary will be able to more-or-less keep pace with its advance, but I'm not sure I want to take that risk.

Note that Chaos Marxism is not "luddite" in the pejorative sense, or indeed puritan. We don't oppose the technology of provoking pleasure or pain via media, in fact, we think it's pretty damn neat, but only when under the control of mass, grassroots democracy - like governmental power itself. I don't trust anyone else with the ability to bypass my thinking, conscious brain without explicit permission.