Saturday, October 31, 2015

Escaping the Broadcast

"The broadcast is state media, their institutional infrastructure, their political economy, the culture they create, and the social control the culture serves through the socialization it administers." Gene Youngblood
"Fantastic doctrines (like Christianity or Islam or Marxism) require unanimity of belief. One dissenter casts doubt on the creed of millions. Thus the fear and the hate; thus the torture chamber, the iron stake, the gallows, the labor camp, the psychiatric ward." --Edward Abbey
"Until they become conscious they will never rebel and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious." George Orwell
"The greatest success of propaganda is the belief there’s no propaganda." Gene Youngblood

In Secession From the Broadcast: The Internet and the Crisis of Social Control, Gene Youngblood makes the case that culture in the United States and most of the rest of the world is dominated by state media and its associated agendas supported and defended by a corporate oligarchy.

As we've seen in the case of climate change, the message is totalitarian, in that it does not allow dissent, skepticism or denial. Opposing or even questioning voices are disallowed, removed from the discourse, marginalized, ignored.

Escape from the message promulgated by state media domination, The Broadcast, requires awareness of alternatives. It requires the fish to become aware of the water.

Daniel Quinn wrote about becoming aware of the broadcast in his 1992 book, Ishmael. He called it becoming aware of the invisible bars of the cage. Until one can see the bars, one is unaware of being in captivity.

In a world dominated by the broadcast, generated by people who have become expert at defining the message and inserting it ubiquitously in every medium, it's difficult to step outside the cage and look back at the reality of the bars. Once one becomes aware, it is evident that our civilization is driven by two great myths that are so much a part of the fabric of our lives that we accept them unquestioningly and consider them unexpressed reality rather than mythology.

Myth #1: The Universe was made as a place for mankind to live out his destiny as the pinnacle of evolution, bringing order to the chaos in the non-human world, having dominion over all other life forms, in control of all natural processes.

Myth #2: Our civilization and our culture is the one right way to live and all other cultures must be reshaped to conform with our own, the pinnacle of civilization.

How do we become aware? How do we become aware of the need to become aware?

Youngblood looks to the Internet for a direction and a model. Today, the Internet is the source of all knowledge, the conduit of economic activity, the preferred advertising medium, the propagandist's dearest tool. It holds and distributes our cultural memories, our civilization's dreams, our imaginarium, our exercise book where we do our sums and scribble on the pages.

The Broadcast is distributed liberally throughout the internet, in all the mainsteam news and information sources, in Wikipedia, in official government and corporate web sites, on Facebook, in chat rooms, on blogs and forums. The Internet is an echo chamber of the status quo, the place where thoughts are formed and dreams shaped.

It is also the place where dissent, skepticism, rebellion and alternatives are revealed and developed.

Youngblood suggests that one can avoid the broadcast, yet shape an alternative world view by careful selection of Internet content and contributions. He holds the hope that control of the Internet can be avoided long enough for "us" to create networks of connections that allow us to step outside the Broadcast and form an alternative, perhaps the first real human civilization.

I have my doubts, though I have my hopes as well. As long as I can sit here and pound on this poor defenseless keyboard, I'll continue to escape from the cage and build a meaningful life as free as possible from the dominant mythology.

Coming up on Words Arranged: Ways to avoid the Broadcast and live a life of greater freedom.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Cultural Hegemony or Biological Hegemony?

In Marxist philosophy, cultural hegemony "describes the domination of a culturally diverse society by the ruling class, who manipulate the culture of that society — the beliefs, explanations, perceptions, values, and mores — so that their ruling-class worldview becomes the worldview that is imposed and accepted as the cultural norm; as the universally valid dominant ideology that justifies the social, political, and economic status quo as natural, inevitable, perpetual and beneficial for everyone, rather than as artificial social constructs that benefit only the ruling class."

The Italian anarchist, Antonio Gramsci viewed cultural hegemony as operating within a society in which a shifting alliance of social classes struggle for domination of social norms and ideas. Gramsci was to first to identify popular media as the means through which this struggle takes place. This results in an on-going dialectic between the ruling classes and the subordinate classes as to the dominant definition of reality.

In today's world, we see international business interests attempting to defend and increase capitalist domination of the global economy, and thus, local economies, through international trade agreements supported by international trade organizations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Through economic manipulations, less developed countries are encouraged to shift their local economies from local production for local consumption to local production for global exports.

Also at the international level, the United Nations Division of Sustainable Development "provides leadership in promoting and coordinating implementation of the sustainable development agenda of the United Nations... and to promote integration and coherence of policies and the implementation of actions in the social, economic and environmental areas." In plain language, this means the United Nations promotes economic growth to reduce poverty and increase the quality of life for people in less developed countries.

Meanwhile, people at the local level struggle to maintain cultural traditions, social norms and ideals against the negative effects of increased industrialization, environmental damage and cultural loss as due to the efforts of transnational corporations and international economic manipulation.

The definition and perception of climate variation takes place in this swirling miasma of competing agendas. Public relations firms are contracted by national and international agencies, including the United Nations, corporations and non-profits to spread their interpretation of climate variation and its implications for public policy and private initiative. As a result of media attention, climate variation has become a critical topic on which political careers depend, a moral issue for religious leaders and media pundits, a scientific conundrum based on popular misunderstanding of the scientific process and the nature of evidence and theory formation.

The current cultural hegemony of climate change holds that 97% of scientists believe that human CO2 production causes observed global warming, and that reduction of CO2 emissions will "stop" climate change, or at least diminish its effects on human civilization sufficiently to allow us to accommodate  coming changes. Those who question these conclusions are labeled "deniers" and "climate skeptics" and marginalized in the discourse, regardless of qualifications or affiliations. Popular media parrots the consensus view without analysis or question, adding hyperbole and unsupported conjecture to the confusing mixture of opinion.


The situation oozes of cultural totalitarianism, in which only one mode of thought is allowed, in which ad hoc thinkpol roam the information superhighway seeking deviant thinkers and writers of thoughtcrime to be pulled over and diverted to the off-ramp to the Ministry of Love for reprogramming.

The question remains: cui bono? Who stands to benefit from the popular perception that human action causes climate change and all the cultural carnage that will follow? Does the global agenda to "stop climate change" benefit the people who will be affected, or does it benefit an economic elite in supporting a global economy based on unlimited economic growth? Which vision of reality supports all life on the planet, including human life, and which is designed to benefit humans at the expense fo the rest of the biosphere.

How do we shift from cultural hegemony to biological hegemony? How do we escape from the totalitarian domination of a destructive world view?

Next up on Words Arranged: Secession from the Broadcast: The Internet and the Crisis of Social Control.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Exploring the Unseen

Now, to that other new thing up in the upper left corner...

"Exploring the Unseen." How can we explore something we can't see?

Glad you asked!

I've recently read several interesting articles that have placed my mental feet on this particular path:

Secession from the Broadcast: The Internet and the Crisis of Social Control, by Gene Youngblood 

The battle against global warming: an absurd, costly and pointless crusade,  from the Société de Calcul Mathématique SA, translated from the French original

Cultural Hegemony, by in Beautiful Trouble: A Toolbox for Revolution

I've been studying climate variation for 25 years now, as an archaeologist, a dendroclimatologist, and, most recently, as an interested amateur observer. Over the years, the debate over the source of observed increases in global average surface temperature and atmospheric CO2 concentration has resolved into a struggle between proponents of anthropogenic climate change (aka Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW)) and so-called "climate skeptics" or "deniers," as they are characterized by the more vehement AGW proponents.

AGW followers loudly protest perceived funding of skeptics and deniers by fossil fuel interests threatened by demands to "leave fossil fuels in the ground," shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources and shift to organic agriculture to reduce petroleum based fertilizers and equipment fueling. They accuse corporations such as Exxon/Mobil of employing public relations firms to support their cause and foster doubt about global warming by questioning the science, which, they vociferously proclaim, is settled. There are even public relations firms that have vowed to never represent climate deniers and skeptics, as AGW has more and more become a moral issue.

This got me to thinking, a dangerous proposition, I know, but inevitable. If the anti-AGW crowd employs cadres of dedicated Edward Bernays acolytes to sow seeds of doubt about AGW, how is it that the dominant perception is that of human caused global warming and the necessity for humans to do something NOW! to stop it? Where did that idea come from and how has it become ubiquitous in global western culture?

In steps the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC is viewed by many as a science organization involved in studying climate change. It's not. The IPCC is a policy organization that analyzes climate science (and other non-science) research to recommend national and international policies on how to deal with human caused climate change. AGW is the base assumption in their mission statement.

The IPCC is a daughter organization of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization, which are all a part of and beholding to the United Nations Development Programme. And you'll no be surprised to learn that the United Nations has its own Department of Public Information, which contracts with numerous prestigious public relations firms to spread its message of "Sustainable (sic) Development."

The Department of Public Information "fosters dialogue with global constituencies such as academia, civil society, the entertainment industry, educators and students to encourage support for the ideals and activities of the United Nations."

There you have it. An international organization with billions of dollars of funding to dangle before academia, Hollywood, and the public and private education system to build support for "Sustainable (sic) Development."

Development (aka growth) of "less developed" countries is now hobbled by environmental pressure to stop economic growth and the negative effects of unlimited growth in a finite world. AGW is used as a big economic guilt stick to beat about the heads of "more developed" countries, by accusing them (us) of being the proximate cause of climate change with an obligation to fund development in "less developed" countries so they can better survive the effects of climate change to come.

Have you ever pulled a loose thread on your sock, only to have it unravel into a loose pile of threads on the floor? That's what it's like to attempt to follow the connections woven into the AGW propaganda machine, connections that remain unseen, looking like a whole sock, until one starts to take them apart.

The concept of human caused climate change looks more and more like cultural hegemony, "the domination of a culturally diverse society by the ruling class, who manipulate the culture of that society — the beliefs, explanations, perceptions, values, and mores — so that their ruling-class worldview becomes the worldview that is imposed and accepted as the cultural norm; as the universally valid dominant ideology that justifies the social, political, and economic status quo as natural, inevitable, perpetual and beneficial for everyone, rather than as artificial social constructs that benefit only the ruling class."

What then do we do now? How do we explore the unseen and bring it into the seen? How do we escape from cultural hegemony?

I'll toy with these ideas, and many others, in future editions of Words Arranged.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Attentive readers who have followed this blog (assuming there are some!) since its tentative birth on a certain Sunday, February 6, 2005, will notice something new, up there in the upper left hand corner.

No, Hayduke is not yet dead. He lives on in the words of another writer, Ed Abbey, and remains alive and well in his own special world. When I started this experiment I was concerned with Hayduke's future as a voice for wilderness protection and environmental activism, in a world increasingly digitized, sanitized and commodified.

Meanwhile, in my special world, life goes on and continues to evolve. The concept of environmentalism from the 60s and 70s has become its own endangered species, steamrollered by a juggernaut of "Global Warming" alarmism that has flattened everything in its path into a one dimensional paean to international sustainable (sic) development, economic growth and corporate domination.

Over the past ten and a half years, I've learned a lot about writing, publishing, the Internet, social media and cyber-activism. In many ways, it's discouraging, in fewer ways, potentially promising. The Internet is a vast resource and an even vaster energy sink. Time is relative; time spent on a computer doubly so. While the Internet makes communication faster and easier, it also makes distraction far faster and easier, and much harder to avoid.

Words Arranged is not so much a new direction as a consolidation of my scattered attention. My writing, photography, web sites and blogs have piled up like stacks of books in my library and have begun to succumb to gravity in chaotic piles on the floor. Entropy always increases, and in my case, faster than my ability to retain some semblance of order.

I've learned to create websites to help organize complex technical information, so I'm taking this same strategy back into my creative life to help organize my thoughts, in my head, in print, in images and other media. If I can organize where I've been and what I'm doing now, maybe I'll have some indication of where I will go next.

As the Cheshire cat told Alice, "If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there."