‘Reason, science, and technology are not inert processes by which men [and women] discover, communicate, and apply facts disinterestedly and without passion, but means by which, through systems, some men [and women] organise and control the lives of other men [and women] according to their conceptions as to what is preferable.’
The imaginary future is invariably a claim to the present by its dominant political and economic class. In the case of Cold War America, there was an urgency to its creation, because although it was outdoing the USSR in all conventional economic and productive indices, the distorted Marxist veneer maintained in Moscow had a stronger rhetorical vision of the future which, in the end, it claimed, would win out: history was on its side. The creation of such an American version ‘imaginary future’, spurred on also by short lived moments when the Soviets were ahead, or appeared to be ahead in certain modernist technologies – the first satellite in space, and then the possibility of a communist cybernetics — is what Richard Barbrook describes in this book. It is an account which exhaustively pulls out the ideological and fetishistic dynamics from under the flim-flam of its promoters, but also describes how the development of the internet and its world wide web has ironically emerged as a tool with liberatory possibilities.
I am fascinated by the group David Cameron has set up in No.10, called The Behavioural Insights Unit. I think it is evidence of a massive shift that is just beginning in British politics which will change the way politicians govern and manage the rest of us.
Tony Blair believed in a consumerist idea of democracy. He used focus groups to try and find out what people wanted as a way of shaping policy (except, of course, over Iraq). Like Mrs Thatcher, he believed that the people knew best. They expressed their desires and wants clearly through the market. And politics, he believed, should imitate this.
The Behavioural Insights Team believe the opposite. That in many cases you can’t trust the people. That if you let them just follow their desires they will often do things that are bad both for themselves and for society.
To radically shift regime behavior we must think clearly and boldly for if we have learned anything, it is that regimes do not want to be changed. We must think beyond those who have gone before us, and discover technological changes that embolden us with ways to act in which our forebears could not. Firstly we must understand what aspect of government or neocorporatist behavior we wish to change or remove. Secondly we must develop a way of thinking about this behavior that is strong enough carry us through the mire of politically distorted language, and into a position of clarity. Finally must use these insights to inspire within us and others a course of ennobling, and effective action.
In the end of his essay ‘Cognitive Mapping’ from 1988, Fredric Jameson makes what seems to be a disparaging remark about the ubiquity of the theme of paranoia in contemporary cultural production. ‘Conspiracy’, he writes, ‘one is tempted to say, is the poor person’s cognitive mapping in the postmodern age; it is a degraded figure of the total logic of late capital, a desperate attempt to represent the latter’s system, whose failure is marked by its slippage into sheer theme and content.’ With this statement Jameson seems to be in tune with the majority of conspiracy theory theory, for lack of a better term. The label ‘conspiracy theory’ is almost exclusively used in the pejorative. Belittled by Richard Hofstadter in 1964 in one of the groundbreaking essays in the field as a ‘political pathology’, conspiracy theory is often seen as at best a misguided and inadequate attempt to understand the functioning of power in an increasingly complex global society.
Annual Wertheim Lecture by professor Alfred McCoy (video presentation)
Introduction: Parapolitics, Shadow Governance and Criminal Sovereignty Robert Cribb I am not what I am. – Iago,Othello ‘Parapolitics’ is a new term.1 It emerged in scholarly discourse only in the early 1990s to capture a set of observations which suggest a strange, powerful, clandestine and apparently structural relationship between state security-intelligence apparatuses, terrorist organisations and transnational organised criminal syndicates. This relationship often involves spaces on the globe that are, for practical purposes, outside the formal international state system, including weak states, failed states, de facto states and unrecognised states (commonly separatist movements that control territory but which have not secured formal international recognition). The term ‘parapolitics’ both creates a conceptual link between phenomena that have not normally been linked analytically and suggests a research agenda to identify more precisely how these links operate. Parapolitics is a newﬁeld and it is premature to say just how signiﬁ cant it will prove to be. At very least, however, it is likely to make a signiﬁ cant contribution to understanding contemporary global politics and to ask serious questions of the dominant liberal view of modern democratic systems.
Jim Hougan — On the importance of Julian Assange
A lot of people are trying to figure where they stand on the question of Julian Assange and Wikileaks. But for me, it’s a no-brainer.
Having spent a couple of years investigating and pressuring fugitive billionaire Marc Rich, with and on behalf of striking Steelworkers in Ravenswood, West Virginia, I was (as the Brits say) gobsmacked to hear Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton fulminating about the evils of disclosing “national secrets” (that is to say, State Department gossip and backroom deals).
Holder owes his job to Hill’s Bill, who negotiated a pardon for Rich in return for what seems to have been the cooperation of an ethnic voting bloc in New York – which then threw its support behind Hillary’s quest for a Senate seat as a stepping-stone to the Presidency. Holder saw no reason to object to Rich’s pardon – which is why he’s now Attorney General – despite the vehement objections of the former Justice Department prosecutor spent years on the case. The deal was all the more shocking for the fact that Rich had not, in fact, been tried for his crimes, having fled the country years earlier to escape conviction. To my knowledge, the only precedent for an exculpation of this kind was the pardoning of Richard Nixon, who was given a pass even before he could be (or lest he be) indicted.
Accordingly, I’m not much impressed by Eric and Hillary’s pleas for the sanctity of government secrecy. For decades, they and their predecessors have conspired to keep the public in sheep-like ignorance, eviscerating the Freedom of Information Act even as they worked behind closed doors to bury the truth about events as disparate (and important) as Watergate and the Kennedy assassination. This had less to do with national security than it did with their own continued tenure in the corridors of power. The real concern of those who know where the bodies are buried is, of course, that the graves should remain forever unmarked, so that the machine of global politics may grind on without hindrance.
Assange threatens all that. A latterday anarchist, he understands the real meaning of “the information age:” knowledge is money, and secrets are its hundred-dollar bills. By exposing those secrets, Assange creates the cognitive equivalent of inflation, driving down the value of information by making it public.
Nothing could be more dangerous – which is why Holder and Clinton are conspiring (as I write) to put Assange in Supermax, while pols (like the quacked out Sarah Palin) are calling for his assassination and/or “rendition.” (I’m not kidding – and it’s serious. Check out Hamish MacDonald’s piece in the Sydney Morning Herald. It’s the best and most interesting story that I have read about Assange and Wikileaks).
Forty years ago, three people in an apartment on 72nd Street, a couple of blocks from where John Lennon would be assassinated, writing a “collective novel” – it was the Sixties – about a figure not unlike Julian Assange. The story was premised on the establishment of “a media shelter,” a sort of cyber-driven Artists & Writers Dope Co-op for Self-Defence, wherein the protagonist and his friends sought refuge from the avalanche of bullshit tumbling out of Madison Avenue, Wall Street and the White House.
Fast-forward: have you seen Wikileaks’ headquarters? It’s that very same media shelter, reified and transported to a de-commissioned missile silo “somewhere in Scandinavia.” The place looks like a scene from a Robert Heinlein novel, with scores of freestanding servers humming away in what appears to be a news-room the size of a football stadium.
Assange, of course, isn’t there. He’s in a British lock-up, poised between extradition and rendition. The authorities are no doubt satisified that they have him (and his backpack) right where they want him, and with the cooperation of the credit-card companies, Amazon, PayPal and the rest, they are confident that they can shut down the whole organization. But what Hillary, Eric and the rest fail to understand is how difficult this will be. Stopping Assange and his cohort is like wrestling with a wave. The harder you fight, the more likely you’ll drown. Which makes me wonder if Assange’s enemies have given any thought at all to what may happen if the Denial of Service attacks orchestrated by Assange’s supporters go viral.
It will all, very likely, end in tears. But with British students rioting over tuition increases, and Wikileaks preparing to drop a data-bomb on Wall Street, it feels a bit like 1968. And I have to say, it’s about time.
Contains some classic films (All quiet on the Western Front) and key Anarchist films.
Curiously, Hughes sees Jung as having a greater sensitivity to history, but he still sees Jung as the lesser theorist and excessively nebulous. Hughes finally pigeonholes Jung as a mystagogue and explicitly names him a reactionary. Bravo.
This also contains Robert Fisk’s, “Libya in turmoil: America’s secret plan to arm Libya’s rebels; Obama asks Saudis to airlift weapons into Benghazi,” Independent, March 7, 2011; Benjamin Gottlieb’s, “Egypt Arms Libyan Rebels As Gaddafi’s Conquest Continues,” NeonTommy Annenberg Digital News, March 17, 2011. Yoichi Shimatsu’s, “Mideast Revolutions and 9-11 Intrigues Created in Qatar,” New America Media, March 1, 2011 and others.