And by a prudent flight and cunning save A life which valour could not, from the grave. A better buckler I can soon regain, But who can get another life again? Archilochus

Saturday, June 29, 2024

The Pundits after the debate...

...looking "backwards" contra-"time".  Constructing a narrative of the event, after the event,  for moving "past" it.  "F*ckity-f*ck-f*ck-F*CK!"

Friday, June 28, 2024

A Reflexivity Refresher - How Billionaires Get Richer and Politicians Use Power

Former Discussions of Relexivity: 1 and 2

On Julian Assange

Slavoj Žižek, "Assange is free, but are we?"
I fought for years with and for Julian Assange. But upon hearing that he has regained his freedom, my first thought was that he is returning to a world that looks—and is—much worse than the one he left behind. Pandemics, wars, and widespread ecological breakdown force us to ask the big question: in what sense are we who breathe the fresh air outside prisons still free?

Even our fictional accounts are getting worse. The new children's movie Inside Out 2 follows a 13-year-old Riley at the start of puberty. Her personified emotions—Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, Disgust—have created a new section in her mind called the "Sense of Self." Then, four new emotions—Anxiety, Envy, Embarrassment, Ennui—arrive, and conflict ensues. Joy thinks Riley should focus on having fun at camp, while Anxiety wants Riley to win a spot on the team and make new friends. In the end, the first and second generations of emotions learn to work together to protect Riley's ever-changing Sense of Self, leaving viewers with an utterly fraudulent depiction of the human psyche.

In the real world, these internal psychic tensions often escalate to the point of madness. A much better movie would have portrayed the emotions of a Palestinian boy in the ruins of Gaza, not a girl from a wealthy Los Angeles suburb. Rather than working together to form a stable self, his conflicting emotions would push him towards psychic breakdown and suicidal acts of violence. Recall GK Chesterton's wonderful description:
"A soldier surrounded by enemies, if he is to cut his way out, needs to combine a strong desire for living with a strange carelessness about dying. He must not merely cling to life, for then he will be a coward, and will escape. He must not merely wait for death, for then he will be a suicide, and will not escape. He must seek his life in a spirit of furious indifference to it; he must desire life like water and yet drink death like wine."
Oleh Sentsov's recent film, Real, renders this combination of opposites perfectly. After spending several years as a political prisoner in Russia, Sentsov went to fight for the Ukrainian army. The film consists of 90 minutes of GoPro footage taken when he didn't realise his camera was on. Presented unedited, it depicts the strange mix of terror and boredom that defines life on the front line.

Such dualities run through the entire film. The banal brutality of the real is punctuated by magical moments of what might best be described as meaningless meaning. Sentsov recalls a moment from just before the footage in Real begins, "There was a soldier with the call sign Johnny, a veteran of the Afghan war. He was going there to evacuate the wounded, but he was hit, and he managed to make one last radio transmission, in which he said, 'This is Johnny. I'm dead.'" It is a moment of authentic metaphysical absurdity.

Many reviewers believe Real shows war as it truly is. If that was Sentsov's message, his film would be yet another pacifist paean to the meaningless absurdity of war. But though Sentsov recognises the brutal meaninglessness of the situation, he ultimately believes that the fight for a just cause must go on. Having stripped away all the romanticism of battlefield heroism, Real shows what true courage means: to accept the misery of a military struggle, and not obfuscate it with pathetic fantasies.

This is the message we need right now. In the case of Ukraine, pacifism has been used to excuse Russia's military aggression. The message from those who oppose Western support for Ukraine is, "You must not resist the occupier, because then you will become the same as him." In the Holy Land, the message is similar, but the mainstream media's reporting of events is very different. There is a consistent effort to shape and manipulate our perception of what is going on, so as to limit the emotional impact. While Israelis are killed in a "massacre," Palestinians are merely "found dead." These forms of "soft" censorship pervade public discourse.

Did you know that a large group of Israeli Jewish intellectuals recently called on all EU member states, the United Kingdom, and others to recognise the state of Palestine? This courageous act generated scarcely any coverage in Western media. Major events that might disturb the Western public's sensibilities either go unmentioned or are reported only with a small note at the bottom of the page.

How many people noticed that, on June 20, 2024, Israel enacted what amounts to an annexation of the West Bank, with the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) transferring powers there to "pro-settler civil servants"? The irony of this move will not be lost on Palestinians. While a military occupation implies some distance from Israel, this new dispensation means that they are being integrated into the Israeli civil order—albeit one dominated by chauvinists bent on excluding them.

These examples show why we need heroes like Assange. He did what needed to be done, and he paid a high price. The time has come for others to continue the work he started. By "work," I mean not just a job but a vocation: something that you are called to do. Assange did not choose to launch WikiLeaks and expose state secrets so that he could spice up his life. He did it because he could not have done otherwise. For that reason, I suspect he is a happy man, despite all the suffering he has endured.

Entropy - US and China (Tang Dynasty)

Thursday, June 27, 2024

Entropy = Increasing Disorder? Think Again... Contextually Dependent Entropy?

from Wiki:

Order and disorder[edit]

Entropy is often loosely associated with the amount of order or disorder, or of chaos, in a thermodynamic system. The traditional qualitative description of entropy is that it refers to changes in the state of the system and is a measure of "molecular disorder" and the amount of wasted energy in a dynamical energy transformation from one state or form to another. In this direction, several recent authors have derived exact entropy formulas to account for and measure disorder and order in atomic and molecular assemblies.[62][63][64] One of the simpler entropy order/disorder formulas is that derived in 1984 by thermodynamic physicist Peter Landsberg, based on a combination of thermodynamics and information theory arguments. He argues that when constraints operate on a system, such that it is prevented from entering one or more of its possible or permitted states, as contrasted with its forbidden states, the measure of the total amount of "disorder" in the system is given by:[63][64]

Disorder =  Cd/Ci

Similarly, the total amount of "order" in the system is given by

:Order = 1 - Co/Ci

In which CD is the "disorder" capacity of the system, which is the entropy of the parts contained in the permitted ensemble, CI is the "information" capacity of the system, an expression similar to Shannon's channel capacity, and CO is the "order" capacity of the system.[62]

Life - A Persistence in Purposeful Purposelessness

“Silence, yes, but what silence! For it is all very fine to keep silence, but one has also to consider the kind of silence one keeps.”
― Samuel Beckett
...and so I go on.  But I do begin to end:

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

The Missing Law of Physics?

Excerpts from video above:
...We could be wrong. We could be spectacularly wrong. But it's also possible that science is missing a profound truth about the cosmos. We have these 10 or so laws of nature, only one of which currently has an arrow of time. That's the second law of thermodynamics, the increase in entropy-it's disorder; it's decay. We all grow old. We all die. But the second law doesn't explain why things evolve; why life emerges from non-life. You look around, and you see flowers bloom and trees blossom and birds sing. It seems like all of those things are counter to the idea of disorder. In fact, it's a kind of ordering of nature.

So let me tell you what we think: We think there's a missing law, a second arrow of time that describes this increase in order, and we think has to do with an increase in information.

So there's two possibilities. We could just be wrong. We could be terribly wrong, dramatically wrong. But I think, if we're wrong, we're wrong in a very interesting way. And I think, if we're right, it's profoundly important.

I'm Bob Hazen. I'm a Staff Scientist at the Earth and Planets Laboratory of Carnegie Science in Washington, D.C. I do mineralogy, astrobiology. I love science.

We think that, for some reason, there's been missing a second arrow of time. And that arrow has to do with an increase of information, an increase in order, an increase of patterning that goes side by side with the arrow of increasing disorder and increasing chaos, entropy.

The core of everything we've been thinking about, in terms of the missing law, is evolution. When I say the word "evolution," you immediately think of Darwin, but this idea of selection goes much, much beyond Darwin and life. It applies to the evolution of atoms. It applies to the evolution of minerals. It applies to the evolution of planets and atmospheres and oceans. Evolution, which we see as being an increase in diversity, of patterning, in complexity of systems through time.
And so the question is, "Well, what is evolution?" Evolution is simply "selection for function." And this applies to every kind of system.

Now, in life, you select for organisms that can survive long enough that they can reproduce and have offspring that will pass on their characteristics. That's what Darwin said, and that's one very important example of selection for function.

But, in the mineral world, you select for organizations, of assemblies, of structures of atoms that persist, that can last billions of years even in new environments. They don't break down. They don't dissolve. They don't weather away. It's very analogous to biological evolution, but it's different in detail. We think there's a missing law- it's a law of evolution.

And, if there is a law, it has to be quantitative. It has to have a metric. You have to be able to measure something. And what we've zeroed in on is a fascinating concept about information, but not just information in general, something called 'functional information.'

Let me see if I can explain this to you 'cause it took me a while to figure it out myself. Imagine a system, an evolving system that has the potential to form vast numbers of different configurations. Let's say they're atoms to make minerals, and you have dozens of different mineral-forming elements, and they can arrange themselves in all different ways. And 99.99999999- I can keep going- percent of those configurations won't work. They will fall apart. They'll never form. A tiny, tiny fraction makes a stable mineral, and you end up with a few stable minerals and lots of rejects.

Now, all you need to do is think about that fraction. If it's one in a hundred trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion possibilities that's stable, then you can represent that fraction as information. And because it's such a tiny, tiny fraction, you need a lot of bits of information to do that- that's functional information.

Evolution is simply an increase in functional information because, as you select for better and better outcomes, you select for minerals that are more and more stable. You select for living things that can swim. They can fly. They can see. You need more information, and each step of the evolutionary ladder leads you to increasing functional information.

So, our law, our missing law, the second arrow of time is called the 'Law of increasing functional information.' And that's the parallel arrow of time that we think is out there that we want to understand.

...So think about this: We're saying that the coffee cup has value as a coffee cup. It has some value as a paperweight, but it has no value as a screwdriver- that's contextual.

So this is why the second arrow of time is difficult for science because it's saying there's something in the natural world that is not absolute. It's contextual. It depends on what your purpose is. It depends on what your function is.

If it's true, what we're saying is there's something in the Universe that is increasing order, it's increasing complexity, and it isn't doing this in a random way. It's selecting for function.

And if it is, if you're selecting for function, it means that there almost seems to be, can I use the word "purpose?"

Do minerals have a purpose? Do atmospheres have a purpose? Does life have a purpose?

To me, there's something real there, and the old way of thinking of a single arrow of time no longer rings true to me.

Sounds like "hindsight" relative to an observer to me, just as Entropy is a "foresight".  Epimetheus/ Prometheus, all "Science" narratives and myths (like wave-particle duality in the slit experiment) involving "time" are relative to an "observer" and his sensory "instruments". 

Byung-Chul Han: "Psycho-Politics"; The Crisis of Freedom (Ch 1)

Excerpt from above video:
...Today's dialectic of master and slave means the totalization of Labor. As the entrepreneur of its' own self, the Neoliberal subject has no capacity for relationships with others that might be free of purpose. Nor do enterpreneurs know what purpose free friendship would even look like.

Originally, being free meant being among friends. 'Freedom' and 'Friendship' have the same root in Indo-European language. Fundamentally, Freedom signifies a relationship. A real feeling of Freedom occurs only in a fruitful relationship, when being with others brings happiness. But today's Neoliberal regime leads to utter isolation. As such, does not really free us at all. Accordingly, the question now is whether we need to redefine "freedom", to reinvent it, in order to escape from the fatal dialectic that is changing "Freedom" into "Coercion".

Neoliberalism represents a highly efficient, indeed, and intelligent system for exploiting Freedom. Everything that belongs to practices and expressive forms of Liberty, emotion, play, and communication comes to be exploited. It is inefficient to exploit people against their will. Our exploitation yield scant returns. Only when freedom is exploited, are returns maximized.

It is interesting to note that Marx also defines freedom in terms of a successful relationship to others. "Only in community with others, does each individual have the means of cultivating his gifts in all directions. Only in the community, therefore, is personal freedom possible".

From this perspective, being free means nothing other than self-realization with others. Freedom is synonymous with a working Community i.e.- a successful one. For Marx, individual Freedom represents "a ruse, a trick of capital". Free competition, which is based on the idea of individual Freedom, simply amounts to the "relation of capital to itself as another Capital, i.e.- the real conduct of capital as capital."

Capital reproduces by entering into relations with itself as another form of capital through free competition. It copulates with the other of itself by way of individual Freedom. Capital grows in as much as people engage in free competition. Hereby, individual Freedom amounts to servitude, in as much as capital lays hold of it, and uses it for its' own propagation. That is, capital exploits individual freedom in order to breed. "It is not the individuals who are set free by free competition, it is rather Capital which is set free.".

...In our world we no longer work in order to satisfy our own needs, instead we work for capital. Capital generates needs of its own. Mistakenly, we perceive these needs as if they belonged to us. Capital therefore, represents a new kind of of transcendence which entails a new form of subjectivation. We are being expelled from the sphere of lived imminence, where life relates to life instead of subjugating itself to external ends.

Emancipation from a Transcendent order, that is, an order grounded in religious premises, is the Hallmark of modern politics. Only under modern conditions when transcendental means of justification no longer possess any validity, is a genuine Politics, the politicization of society as a whole, held to be possible. Now, norms of action are supposed to be subject to negotiation at every level. Transcendence will yield to discourse imminent to society itself. Society, the reasoning goes, can construct itself anew purely from within on the basis of imminent properties. However, such Freedom vanishes just as soon as capital achieves the status of being a new transcendency, a new master. When this occurs, politics lapses into servitude again. It becomes the handmaiden of capital.

Do we really want to be free? Didn't we invent God so we wouldn't have to be free? Before God, we are all debtors, guilty, schuldig (guilty). But debt guilt destroys Freedom. Today, politicians appeal to high debt rates to explain that their freedom to act is massively restricted. Free from debt, that is, wholly free, we would truly have to act. Perhaps we run up debts perpetually so we won't need to do so. That is, so we won't need to be free, or responsible. Don't our debts prove that we don't have the power to be free? Could it be that capital is a new god, making us guilty and debt ridden?

Again, Walter Benjamin held that capitalism is a religion. As he put it, capitalism represents the "first case of a cult that creates guilt, not atonement." Since there is no possibility of relieving debt and guilt, the state of unfreedom perpetuates itself. "A vast sense of guilt that is unable to find relief, seizes on the cult, not to atone for this guilt, but to make it Universal."

The Dictatorship of Transparency

Initially, the internet was celebrated as a medium of boundless liberty. Microsoft's early advertising slogan, "Where do you want to go today?", suggested unlimited freedom and mobility on the web. As it turned out, such Euphoria was an illusion. Today, unbounded freedom and communication are switching over into total control and surveillance. More and more, social media resembled a digital panoptica, keeping watch over the social realm and exploiting it mercilessly. We had just freed ourselves from the disciplinary panopticon, then we threw ourselves into a new, and even more efficient panopticon. Jeremy Bentham's panopticon isolated inmates from each other for disciplinary purposes, and prevented them from interacting. In contrast, the occupants of today's digital panopticon actively communicate with each other, and willingly expose themselves. That is, they collaborate in the digital panopticon operations.

Digital control society makes intensive use of Freedom. This can only occur thanks to voluntary selfillumination and self-exposure. Digital Big Brother outsources operations to inmates, as it were. Accordingly, data is not surrendered under duress, so much as offered out of an inner need. That is why the digital panopticon proves so efficient. Transparency is demanded in the name of the Freedom of Information too. In reality however, this amounts to nothing other than a neoliberal dispositive. It means turning everything inside-out by force, and transforming it into in-formation.

Under the immaterial mode of production that now prevails, more information, and more communication, mean more productivity, acceleration, and growth. Information represents a positive value. In as much as it lacks interiority, it can circulate independently, free from any and all context. Accordingly, the circulation of information admits acceleration at will, for purely arbitrary reasons. Secrets foreignness, and otherness represent impediments to unbounded communication. In the name of "transparency", they are to be eliminated.

Communication goes faster when it is smoothed out, that is, when thresholds, walls, and gaps are removed. This also means stripping people of interiority, which blocks and slows down communication. However, such emptying out of persons does not occur by violent means. Instead, it occurs as voluntary self-exposure. The negativity of otherness, or foreignness, is de-interiorized, and transformed into the positivity of communicable, and consumable difference, "Diversity". The dispositive of transparency affects utter exteriorization in order to accelerate at the circulation of information, and speed communication. Ultimately, openness facilitates unrestricted communication, whereas closedness, reserve, and interiority obstruct it.

The dispositive of transparency has the further consequence of promoting total Conformity. The economy of transparency seeks to suppress deviation. Total networking, total communication already has a leveling effect, per se. Its' effect is Conformity. It is as if everyone were watching over everyone else, even before Intelligence Agencies or Secret Services have stepped in to supervise and steer. Invisible moderators smooth out communication, and calibrate it to what is generally understood and accepted. Such primary intrinsic surveillance proves much more problematic than the secondary, extrinsic surveillance undertaken by secret services and spying agencies.

Neoliberalism makes citizens into consumers. The freedom of the citizen yields to the passivity of the consumer. As consumers, today's voters have no real interest in politics, in actively shaping the community. They possess neither the will, nor the ability to participate in communal political action. They react only passively to politics, grumbling and complaining as consumers do, about a commodity or service they do not like.

Politicians and parties follow this "logic of consumption", too. They have to "Deliver". In the process, they become nothing more than suppliers. Their task is to satisfy voters, who are consumers or customers. The transparency demanded of politicians today is anything but a political demand. Transparency is not called for in political decision-making processes. No consumer is interested in that. Instead, and above all, the imperative of transparency serves to expose or unmask politicians, to make them an item of scandal. The call for transparency presupposes occupying the position of a shocked spectator. It is not voiced by engaged citizens, so much as by passive onlookers. Participation now amounts to grievance and complaint. With that, the Society of transparency, inhabited by onlookers and consumers, has given rise to a spectator democracy.

An essential component of freedom is informational self-determination. The 1984 ruling on the census made by the German federal constitutional Court already declared "If citizens cannot know who knows what, when, and on what occasion about them, the right to informational self-determination is incompatible with social order, and the legal order facilitating the same."

That said, this ruling was made at a time when people commonly believed they were facing the State as an instance of domination, which wrested information from citizens against their will. Such a time is long passed. Today, we voluntarily expose ourselves without any external constraint at all, without an edict commanding us to do so, of our own free will. We put any, and all, conceivable information about ourselves on the internet without having the slightest idea who knows what, when, or on What occasion. This lack of control represents a crisis of freedom to be taken seriously. Indeed, given the data that people make available willy nilly, the very idea of protecting privacy, "datenschutz", is becoming obsolete.

Today, we are entering the age of digital psychopolitics. It means passing from passive surveillance, to active steering. As such, it is precipitating a further crisis of Freedom. Now, "free will" itself is at stake. Big Data is a highly efficient psychopolitical instrument that makes it possible to achieve comprehensive knowledge of the dynamics of social communication. This knowledge is knowledge, for the sake of domination and control. It facilitates intervention in the psyche, and enables influence to take place on a "pre-reflexive level". For human beings to be able to act freely, the future must be open. However, Big Data is making it possible to predict human behavior. This means that the future is becoming calculable and controllable.

Digital psychopolitics transforms the negativity of freely made decisions into the positivity of factual states. Indeed, persons are being positive-ized into "things" which can be quantified, measured, and steered. Needless to say, no "thing" can be free. But at the same time, "things" are more transparent then persons. Big Data has announced the end of the person who possesses "free will".

Every dispositive, every technology or technique of domination, brings forth characteristic devotional objects that are employed in order to subjugate. Such objects materialize and stabilize Dominion. "Devotion", and related words mean "submission" or "obedience".

Smartphones represent digital devotion. Indeed, they are the devotional objects of the digital period. As a subjectivation apparatus, the smartphone works like a rosary which, because of its' ready availability, represents a handheld device, too. Both the smartphone and the rosary serve the purpose of self-monitoring and control. Power operates more effectively when it delegates surveillance to discreet individuals. "Like" is the digital "amen" when we click, like we are bowing down to the order of domination. The smartphone is not just an effective surveillance apparatus, it is also a mobile confessional. Facebook is the church, the global synagogue, literally "Assembly of the Digital".
This has been chapter one of "Psychopolitics: Neoliberalism and new technologies of power", written by Byung-Chul Han, translated by Eric Butler, written and read in 2024. I hadn't read this before, but I think I'm enjoying it, and I'll probably read more. Chapter 2 is called "Smart Power."

Dancing Brainwaves


Vibe Bregendahl Noordeloos, "Music sends our brainwaves dancing"
In a joint venture, researchers from Aarhus University and the University of Oxford have uncovered how our brain reacts to and recognises music. The research shows that listening to music sets off a complex chain reaction of events in the brain —a discovery that may one day be used to help screen for dementia.

Ever heard just a snippet of a song and instantly known what comes next? Or picked up the rhythm of a chorus after just a few notes? New research from the Center for Music in the Brain at Aarhus University and the Centre for Eudaimonia and Human Flourishing at the University of Oxford has uncovered what happens in our brain when we recognise and predict musical sequences.

When we turn on the radio and our favourite song starts playing, our brain reacts in a complex pattern, where areas that process sound, emotions, and memory are activated. In a feedforward and feedback loop, our auditory cortex first responds to the sounds and sends information to other brain areas, like the hippocampus, which is involved in memory, and the cingulate gyrus, which helps with attention and emotional processing. This process helps us recognise songs quickly and predict what comes next, making listening to music an enjoyable and familiar experience.

Knowing how our brain reacts to music can play a pivotal role in understanding our cognitive functions, explains one of the leading researchers behind the study, Associate Professor Leonardo Bonetti from the Center for Music in the Brain at Aarhus University:

“Our research provides detailed insights into the brain's ability to process and predict music and contributes to our broader understanding of cognitive functions. This could make a difference for studying brain health, as it offers potential pathways to explore how ageing and diseases like dementia affect cognitive processing over time.”

In fact, understanding how our brain rocks along to Bohemian Rhapsody or reacts to a childhood classic may help researchers detect dementia in the future.

“In the long run, these findings could inform the development of screening tools for detecting the individual risk of developing dementia just using the brain activity of people while they listen to and recognise music.”

In the study, the researchers measured the brainwaves of 83 people as they listened to music, and they will follow up with additional studies, says Leonardo Bonetti.

“Future studies could explore how these brain mechanisms change with age or in individuals with cognitive impairments. Understanding these processes in more detail could lead to new interventions for improving cognitive function and quality of life for people with neurological conditions.”

Behind the research - more information:

Method: Basic research

Collaborators: Aarhus University and the University of Oxford, with additional contributions from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of Bologna

External funding: The key foundations are the Danish National Research Foundation, Lundbeck Foundation and Carlsberg Foundation

Information on any impartiality issues: Nothing to declare

Information on deviations from the principle that the research result is based on a peer reviewed article published in a scientific journal.: The article has been peer reviewed and information about such process is freely available in the article

Read more in the scientific paper

Monday, June 24, 2024

Deleuze and the Internet (2007)- The Medium and Its' Message: Machines/Bodies w/o Organs for Ghosts

Excerpt from video above:
...Australia did not opt, however, for complete State control as Britain did, but neither did it leave it all to the market as the US did, although even there the government placed severe restrictions on content. Australia aimed for a kind of Middle Ground that allowed for commercial applications, but kept a close eye on what those applications were. TV was essentially a national technology and the issue of what it could, and should, be was a matter of national debate. The internet has never been being a national technology in this sense, so its' development has not been overseen by a governmental body except in the most ad hoc way VIA Band-Aid legislation, which in the case of child pornography, say, can do no more than ban certain practices and create the Judiciary conditions needed to punish the offenders but cannot actually stop it. And that is how thing should be according to the majority of Internet pundits, whether e-business billionaires or left-wing academics: internet equals Freedom.

This is the internet body without organs, the great and unquestioned presupposition that it is an agent of Freedom. The material problem confronting schizo-analysis is knowing whether the bodies without organs we have are any good or not. Or more to the point, knowing whether we have the means of determining whether they are any good or not. The body without organs is an evaluative concept which, as Guattari instructs in his last book "Chaosmosis", (https://www.theguardian.com/music/2016/mar/20/primal-scream-chaosmosis-review) should be used dialectically. Which is to say, with a view towards an understanding of how it is produced. In other words, we should ask two basic questions, "how is a particular body without organs produced?" and "what circulates on it once it has been produced." Just how enfeebled a concept of "Freedom" the internet rhetoric implies was exposed by the Press reaction to the story of Google's entry into the Chinese market, which is said to be growing by 20 million users a year and was already worth an estimated $151 million per annum in 2004, a figure that is literally tiny by US standards. But it doesn't take a genius to see that the potential for growth is huge. With everyone predicting that China is going to be the next Superpower, one can understand why Google would want a foothold. To be allowed to set up servers on Mainland China, and create a Google.cn service, which will be faster and better suited to the purpose than the regular US version that Chinese people already have access to, Google had to agree to adhere to the Chinese government's regulation and control of Internet content. This means complying with its T's rule. Tibet, Taiwan, and Tienamen are all off limits, as are such search categories as human rights, Amnesty International, pornography, and of course Fallon Gong. It is believed that there are 30,000 online police officers monitoring chatrooms, blogs, and news portals to ensure that these topics aren't discussed, and these kinds of sites aren't accessed. Although this isn't the first time Google has agreed to cooperate with government, and effectively censor its search results. In Germany, it restricts references to sites that deny the Holocaust, while in France, it restricts access to sites that incite racial violence. The scale of its compliance with the Chinese government's censorship requirements far exceeds anything it has done before.

That Google chose to make these compromises as the necessary price of doing business in the world's fastest growing economy was read by many as a betrayal of the values of freedom for which Google is supposedly an emblem. The fact that these jeremiads were largely confined to the business pages of liberal papers suggests that the notion of "Freedom" they had in mind was largely of the the freedom to do business kind, wrapped up in the rhetoric of "freedom of speech". The obviously self-serving acquiescence to censorship is defended by the company on the grounds that providing no information, or a heavily degraded user experience that amounts to no information, is more inconsistent. What this case demonstrated is that Google isn't really concerned about our access to content at all. All the Bluster about "compromised values" was really just a verbal smoke screen to cover up this one glaring truth. Google's priority is its' access to New Markets, and it will not hesitate to compromise its' putative ethic of "Do no Evil" in order to achieve that goal.

If we regard Google as a gigantic multinational corporation which, with a net worth in excess of $80 billion making it bigger than Coke, General Motors, or McDonald's, it in fact is, and not simply a Search tool, then there should be little to surprise us in its' "about face" in China. It is only if we continue to buy into the fantasy that it, and somehow the internet as a whole, is a "Bastion of Freedom" that we find these events dismaying. If the internet was ever a "Commons", to use the word anti-corporate commentators like Naomi Klein have made fashionable, then there can be no doubt that it is rapidly being enclosed. The implication being that Amazon, Google, and eBay are still only at the "Primitive accumulation stage". Information is, in effect, a natural resource like oil. But Google exploits without regard for the environment, as all companies do when we aren't watching, and sometimes even when we are.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the Google led hype surrounding the convergence of Internet and mobile phone technology. In an Op-Ed for the FT, Google CEO Eric Schmidt went on record saying that internet enabled mobile phones would effectively solve the problem of how to gain access to emerging markets in underdeveloped countries, where the absence of landline infrastructure would otherwise have proved an impossible obstacle. He doesn't put it like that, of course, he's never so indelicate as to mention the dirty word "market". His rhetoric is liberatory and egalitarian. The internet has democratized information ,Schmidt claims. Or at least it has, for those who have access to it. And that, he says, is the problem. "Not everyone has access in sub-Saharan Africa," Schmid laments, "Less than 1% of households have a landline."

If that statistic wasn't bad enough for a business that presupposes the existence of such basic utilities as a functioning telephonic network, then there is the worse news that "even if Broadband was available to every household, it wouldn't change things all that much, because very few people in this part of the world can afford computers. Mobile phones will liberate this technologically dark region by overcoming these twin obstacles to online access. On the blessed day when everyone has internet enabled mobile phones, a school child in Africa will be able to find research papers from around the world, or to see ancient manuscripts from a library in Oxford." Schmid. "Until then, however, the digital divide prevents this democratizing magic from having its effect." According to Schmidt, thanks to the internet, we don't have to take what business, the media, or politicians say at face value, and this is empowering. Schmid's view is that what is actually said online isn't as important as the freedom to say whatever one happens to want to say. Thus, he says, governments should stop focusing on how to control the web, and concentrate on how to give internet access to more people in more countries. Government should, in other words, help Google to expand its Market.

By the same token, as Google's negative response to requests from US law enforcement agencies for assistance in tracking down users of child pornography illustrates, Google thinks the government shouldn't be allowed to impinge on its Market. Although Yahoo, MSN, and AOL have been willing to help out, Google has held fast, citing the right to "privacy" as its rationale. But Google patently speaks with a "forked tongue" on this subject. Co-founder of Google, Larry Page, defended the company's refusal to help identify Child pornographers by saying rather tellingly, that the company relies on the trust of its' users, and that giving out data on users would break that trust. His implication is obvious, if Google gave out data on its users, it would effectively turn customers away and eventually lose its preeminent place as market leader. Protecting market share is how we should understand Page's call for legislation that stops government from being able to ask for such data in the first place.

But this doesn't mean Google actually respects the privacy of its users, if by that one means it doesn't keep them under surveillance. It is constantly gathering data on users, individually and collectively, and even publicizes this fact under the innocuous sounding rubric of "Google Trends", by releasing maps of most frequently searched topics, broken down by region. Refuting any pretense to being scientific, these search maps make for titillating reading, as one Ponders what it means in cultural geographical terms, that the most frequent Google searches in the city of St Alban's in Hartfordshire, were for gym's, weight loss, and the Atkins diet. Does this make it the most self-absorbed City in Britain, as claimed by the Sunday Times in a half page piece studded with such titbits of spurious psychosocial information gleaned from Google Trends? Obviously more of a lifestyle puff than a hard news piece, although it was in the news section, what is particularly striking about this article is its' complete lack of sensitivity to the fact that such maps are the product of electronic surveillance. That is precisely the kind of thing the Sunday Times normally rails against. That a liberal paper like this doesn't see Google Trends as surveillance, is evidence of just how little critical attention is paid to this dimension of the internet in the public sphere. I don't however want to give the impression that this is some kind of conspiracy because the fact is, Google is very open about its snooping. One Google executive, Marissa Mayer, has even said we should expect it.

The Rhizome

Is the internet or rhizome? All the straws in the wind say, "yes it is":
"Whereas mechanical machines are inserted into hierarchically organized social systems obeying and enhancing this type of structure, the internet is ruled by no one, and is open to expansion or addition at anyone's whim as long as its' communication Protocols are followed. This contrast was anticipated theoretically by Jacques Delueze and Felix Guattari, especially in "A Thousand Plateaus (1980), in which they distinguish between arboreal and rhizomic cultural forms. The former is stable, centered, hierarchical. The latter is nomadic, multiple, decentered. A fitting depiction of the difference between a hydroelectric plant, and the internet. Mark posted, "what's the matter with the internet?"
There are, of course, excellent grounds for thinking that the internet meets some, if not all of the basic criteria of the rhizome which Deleuze and Guattari list as follows:
...the rhizome connects any point to any other point, connections do not have to be between same and same, or like and like, the rhizome cannot be reduced to either the one, or the multiple, because it is composed of Dimensions, directions in motion, not units. Consequently, no point in the rhizome can be altered without altering the whole. The rhizome operates by variation, expansion, conquest, capture, and offshoots, not reproduction. The rhizome pertains to an infinitely modifiable map, with multiple entrances and exits that must be "produced". The rhizome is a-centered, non-signifying, and acephelus. The rhizome isn't amenable to any structural or generative model.
So, how well does the internet map against these six principles? At the bare Machine level, it seems to agree with the first principle very closely. The ideal of the internet is that any computer can be connected to any other computer. How well this works in practice, is another matter altogether, as anyone who has experienced the frustration of trying to access big sites using low bandwidth connections, such as dialup, or has had to rely on servers clogged by high volumes of traffic, can readily attest.

But the more interesting philosophical question here, which applies as much to Deleuze and Guattari as to the internet, is the premium we place on intention. Until the Advent of search engines, of the capability of Google, it was extremely difficult to implement one's "intent" in relation to the internet. The phrase "surfing the internet" reflects this. Using the internet used to be, and in some cases still is, like looking for a needle in a Haystack. And basically what one did, in order to find something, was surf from one site, to another, until one found it. Hence, the proliferation in the early 1990s of books listing useful websites, which themselves tended to be indexes or directories enabling you to find other sites. By the same token, little attention was given to domain names at this time, with the result many of them look like nightmare calculus equations rather than the userfriendly pneumonics we're accustomed to now. You move from one web address to another, as though from one fixed point in space to another, which interestingly, is not at all what Surfers do.

This brings us to the second principle. Here the match is a little less straightforward. For a start, the practical reality of the internet is nothing at all like the multi-dimensional sensorium envisaged by William Gibson when he first used the term cyberspace in his groundbreaking novel "Neuromancer". But then again, he famously didn't even own a computer at the time.

However, Gibson's vision of cyberspace has had a lasting influence, and many people do think of the internet as the realization of the Deleuzian ideal of Multiplicity. But the incredible proliferation, and constantly expanding number of websites does not by itself mean that the internet can be classed as a multiplicity in Deleuze's sense, our website's dimension, or unit of the web.

There is a simple way to answer this question. What happens when we add or subtract a site? The answer is that, it isn't clear that the addition or the subtraction of any one site actually affects the whole. If several million sites were to vanish, then that would clearly make a difference. But the loss of a few hundred, or even several thousand, might not.

If sites were dimensions, then according to Deleuze and Guattari's definition of the rhizome, their removal would alter the whole. So we have to conclude that in individual websites are units of the internet, not Dimensions. Empirically we know that the number of websites is important. There is, for example, a vast difference between the internet of today, which has hundreds of millions of specific sites and trillions of pages to go with them, and the internet of 1990, which had fewer than 200 sites and could be contained in its totality on a single PC. But this doesn't mean we have to abandon the idea that the internet is a multiplicity, because there is another way we can come at this problem.

Thus we come to the third principle. That the rhizome operates by variation, expansion, conquest, capture, and offshoots, not reproduction, which is essentially a matter of population. And which in contrast to the numbering, number can be grasped in dimensional terms. Darwin's two great insights, according to the Deleuze and Guattari, were that the population is more significant than the type in determining the genetic properties of a species. And that change occurs not through an increase in complexity, such as the proliferation of individual websites or multiplication of web links entails, but rather the opposite. Through simplification. Internet usage certainly bears this point out, as recent Trends confirm the internet is the standard source of product information, everything from details of the latest designs, to replacement user manuals are lodged there. It is also becoming the preferred point of sale, as more and more businesses conducted online. And it is steadily taking over from its Rivals, TV and radio, the role of content provision, as podcasts and downloads become more the rule than the exception. In the process, the internet is changing how we understand media. On the one hand, it is steadily displacing the variety of media that used to exist, newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, and Cinema, onto itself. While on the other hand, it is absorbing new interactive functions, such as data searches, and Direct online sales, that the other media can't offer. Paradoxically then, from the perspective of the user, the internet is without doubt the most powerful homogenizing and standardizing machine invented since money. Firstly, all pre-existing forms of media have been compelled to adapt themselves to suit the internet environment. Second, having stripped the traditional media of its' exclusive preserve to make and distribute news, movies, or whatever, the internet has enabled a whole new kind of media production. From the so-called "citizen journalists" we hear so much about today, to bloggers, to home Movie Makers, and amateur photographers. Viewed from the perspective of the media as a whole, that is, from a population perspective, the internet has simplified what media means. And in the process, set off a massive expansion of media operations into virtually every corner of existence. It is having the same effect on retail.

The fourth principle, that the rhizone pertains to an infinitely modifiable map, with multiple entrances and exits that must be produced, is, I would Hazard, the most important. But its' implications are neither obvious, nor fully explained by Deleuze and Guattari. In effect, however, what it means is this: the rhizome is not manifest in things, but rather a latent potential that has to be realized by experimentation.

This can be linked to the sixth principle, namely that the rhizome is intermeanable to any structural or generative model. Because basically, what Deleuze and Guattari are saying is that you can't either prescribe the rhizome into existence, or expect to find it naturally occurring, it has to be invented. The rhizome is the Subterranean pathway connecting all our actions, invisibly determining our decision to do this, rather than that. In so far as we remain unaware of its existence, and indeed its' operation, we do not have full control over our lives. The rhizome is, in this sense, a therapeutic tool.

For both statements, and desires, the issue is never to reduce the unconscious, or to interpret it, or to make it signify according to a tree model. The issue is to produce the unconscious, and with it, new statements, different desires. The rhizome is precisely this production of the unconscious, "A Thousand Plateau." The rhizome of the internet cannot simply be the pre-existing network of connected computers. Rather, we have to conceive it in terms of the set of choices that have been made concerning its' use, and determine the degree to which the resulting grid is open, or closed.

The fifth principle, that the rhizome is a-centered, non-signifying, and acephalous, appears to be one that could be left unchallenged. Yet, if we were to grant that the internet is a-centered, non-signifying, and acephalous in appearance, and indeed in its very construction, the reality of its' day-to-day use still does not live up to this much vaunted Deleuzian ideal. Here, we have to remind ourselves that Deleuze and Guattari regard the rhizome as a tendency, rather than a state of being. It must constantly compete with an equally strong tendency in the opposite direction. Namely towards what they term, the arboreal. The internet exhibits Arboreal Tendencies, as well as rhizomatic Tendencies. And any balanced assessment of it would have to take these into account too, and weigh up their relative strength.
To begin with, one still moves from point to point through the internet. There is no liberated line of flight in cyberspace. Moreover, Google searches are very far, far, from disinterested. As John Bartel's pathbreaking book, "The Search" makes abundantly clear. Now that retailers can pay Google to link certain search items, with what Google calls "AdWords", to their business name, so that a search for a book, for instance, will always lead to Amazon or A-Books, or whoever, the minimal conceptual distinction that used to separate Google from the Yellow Pages has basically vanished. The operating premise of Google searches may not be that, when, whenever we are searching, no matter what we are searching for, we are actually looking for something to buy. But its' results certainly appear to obey this code.

In so far as we rely on Google as our user's guide to the internet, the internet we actually see and use, is thus stable, centered, and hierarchical. That is, the very opposite of rhizomatic. Google searches are conducted on a stable electronic snapshot of the internet, not the living, breathing thing itself, which it indexes very precisely. The search engine is patently a 'centering' system de facto, and a jury. And what could be more hierarchical than page rank? This is not to say that Google isn't an extremely useful tool, because plainly, it is. But it is to insist not only that it has its limitations, some of which are quite serious, but that it isn't the only means of searching for information available.

A new problematic.

If we were to follow Deleuze's watch word, that philosophy has the concept it deserves, according to how well it formulates its problems, then we would not start from the idea that the internet might be a body without organs, or that it looks like a rhizome, or indeed, from any other pre-existing point of view. Instead, we would try to see how the internet works, and develop our Concepts from there.

In its first flush, the internet seemed to be about connectedness. But that idea has since been exposed as a perhaps necessary, but nonetheless impossible ideal, like the Lacanian conception of sexual relations, that we are at once compelled to try to realize, but destined never to succeed in doing so. Now though, Patel's work has made it clear that the internet is much more about "searching" than "connecting". Although Connecting People, strangers with strangers, Friends With Friends, is a major feature of the internet's cultural role, it is predominantly used to search for objects, that is, Commodities. And in the case of pornography, and celebrity gossip, one may well say it is searching for people in their "guise as commodities".

A lot of quite utopian claims have been made on behalf of the internet, the strongest being that it has so changed the way people interact that it has created a new mode of politics. But it now seems clear that it is just another "model of realization", Deleuze and Guattari's term for the institutions capitalism relies on to extract Surplus value from a given economy. That business' couldn't immediately figure out how to make money out of the internet, that is turn it into a "model of realization", meant that in the early years of its' existence, the utopian image of it as an affirmative agent of cultural change was able to flourish, giving the internet a powerful rhetorical Legacy it continues to drawn on, even as it is molded more and more firmly into a purely commercial Enterprise.

Google is effectively the common sense understanding of what using the internet actually means, both practically and theoretically. It is at once our abstract ideal of searching, and our cumulatively acquired empirical understanding of it. But more more importantly, searching is what we think of as the proper practice associated with the internet. One writes with the pen, makes calls with the phone, and searches the internet.

When our searches don't yield the results we're after, we tell ourselves it is because we don't properly understand Google, that we don't have enough practical experience with it or sufficient competence, to use it fully, rather than to dismiss the search engine itself as fundamentally flawed. It is in this precise sense that Google has become, in neurological terms, the image of the search.

Google's significance is clearly more cultural than technical, because it determines our view of internet technology itself, deciding for us in advance and without discussion, what it is actually for. If the problem in the early days of the internet was that no one could foresee the range of its applications, and seemed to stand around waiting for history to decide, instead of putting in place the appropriate legislation and policy to guide its development some now think of as missing, the problem today is that everyone thinks they know what its' application should be. Namely, the facilitation of sales, and any sense that it might have a more Progressive use, as being consigned to the Dustbin of fantasy. If there is something the matter with the internet, it is that its' utopian beginnings block critical thoughts about its future, as though somehow its' starting point was already the fabled "end of history" when the concrete and Abstract became one.

John Battell's books says he wrote "The Search" because it was his sense that Google, and its rival search engine companies, had somehow figured out how to jack into our cultures nervous system. His account of the seemingly inexorable rise of the search engine giant, which is largely a standard corporate biography, is by turns alarmist and infatuated. He is in equal measure amazed by Google's power, and disturbed by it. It is however Batell's attempt to use Google's history to say something about contemporary culture, that makes for the most fascinating reading. And whether we agree with his prognosis, or not, I think we have to take it seriously. There can be no doubt that the internet is going to play an increasingly significant role in shaping cultural attitudes, behaviors, and practices in the future. Batell's decision not to write a book about Google per se, but rather something like a Google effect, is undoubtedly wise. As much of a behemoth as Google is, there's no guarantee that it will be around forever. It may disappear as AOL appears to be doing, as its business model founders in the face of Google's. Or, it may be swallowed up by an even more aggressive Predator, such as Microsoft, presently three times the size of Google measured in terms of market capitalization, which virtually wiped out its' one-time competitor, Netscape Navigator, in the so-called browser Wars of the 1990s. By the same token, none of the other major corporations, not eBay, nor Amazon, nor even the venerable Microsoft, can be considered immune to such forces of change. Indeed, Wall Street is worried that Microsoft won't be able to shake off the competition. It has no answer to Apple's iTunes, and it is losing the battle to control the web. It has also lately been reported that Google, and Yahoo, as well as Microsoft, are cooking up plans to encroach on eBay's Turf, though so far the results are disappointing to investors. But the business sector at least, sees it as both inevitable, and desirable. Commercial users of eBay apparently feel they have maxed out on that service, and to reach new customers they need to access new providers.

The internet seems to engender a kind of restlessness in us, to always want to see what's just over the horizon, one click away. The success of Amazon, Google, and eBay, amidst the blaze of spectacular DotCom failures of the past decade, is intimately related to the way their sites facilitate searching. Google's strength in this regard is obvious. But we shouldn't Overlook just how good Amazon and eBay are, in their own highly localized domains. What these companies have cottoned onto, is something we might call "search engine culture." The internet thrives, not because it can be searched, but because the search engines we use to navigate it, respond to and Foster the desire to search, by constantly rewarding us with the little satisfactions of the unexpected Discovery. A potent search engine makes us feel that the world really is at our fingertips, that we are verily becoming world.

One can find objective evidence of the intensifying influence of search engine culture in the constant consumer demand for increased bandwidth and memory capacity, to facilitate it. Most households in the West possess vastly more computing power than they could hope to use except for such activities as searching the web. It may be that online business is only just now starting to take off and show genuine profits. Because it has only lately developed an appreciation of the architecture of the desire called "searching".

As John Lanchester puts it, Google has a direct line, if not quite to the unconscious dreaming mind of the world, at least to the part of it which voices its' wishes. I believe the same is true of Amazon and eBay, and indeed a range of other internet services such as online dating, and grocery shopping, that are yet to produce corporations of the gigantic proportions as these icons. But I don't accept that Google is the global Id, as Lanchester puts it, because to do so would be to accept that our deepest activistic desire is to buy something, and there could be no more dystopian outlook than that. Neither is it the "global body without organs", though with a bit of work, it could be. And who knows what changes that might bring.
...and Post-Punk/ Brutalism/ Pop Modernism (Ideal; Constant Formal Innovation):

Sunday, June 23, 2024

Ghostly Analogies: Does this mean that the Spectre of Marx is Vacating the Premises?

"A spectre is haunting Europe — the spectre of communism. All the powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: Pope and Tsar, Metternich and Guizot, French Radicals and German police-spies."
-Karl Marx, "The Communist Manifesto"

Slavoj Zizek, "The specter of neo-fascism is haunting Europe"
LJUBLJANA – The surprise in this month’s European Parliament elections was that the outcome everyone expected really did come to pass. To paraphrase a classic scene from the Marx Brothers: \ 
Europe may be talking and acting like it is moving to the radical right, but don’t let that fool you; Europe really is moving to the radical right.

Why should we insist on this interpretation? Because most of the mainstream media has sought to downplay it. The message we keep hearing is: “Sure, Marine Le Pen, Giorgia Meloni, and Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) occasionally flirt with fascist motifs, but there is no reason to panic, because they still respect democratic rules and institutions once in power.” Yet this domestication of the radical right should trouble us all, because it signals a readiness by traditional conservative parties to go along with the new movement. The axiom of post-World War II European democracy, “No collaboration with fascists,” has been quietly abandoned.

The message of this election is clear. The political divide in most EU countries is no longer between the moderate right and the moderate left, but between the conventional right, embodied by the big winner, the European People’s Party (comprising Christian democrats, liberal-conservatives, and traditional conservatives) and the neo-fascist right represented by Le Pen, Meloni, AfD, and others.

The question now is whether the EPP will collaborate with neo-fascists. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is spinning the outcome as a triumph of the EPP against both “extremes,” yet the new parliament will include no left-wing parties whose extremism is even distantly comparable to that of the far right. Such a “balanced” view from the EU’s top official sends an ominous signal.

When we talk about fascism today, we should not confine ourselves to the developed West. A similar kind of politics has been ascendant in much of the Global South as well. In his study of China’s development, the Italian Marxist historian Domenico Losurdo (also known for his rehabilitation of Stalin) stresses the distinction between economic and political power. In pursuing his “reforms,” Deng Xiaoping knew that elements of capitalism are necessary to unleash a society’s productive forces; but he insisted that political power should remain firmly in the hands of the Communist Party of China (as the self-proclaimed representative of the workers and farmers).

This approach has deep historical roots. For over a century, China has embraced the “pan-Asianism” that emerged toward the end of the nineteenth century as a reaction against Western imperialist domination and exploitation. As historian Viren Murthy explains, this project has always been driven by a rejection not of Western capitalism, but of Western liberal individualism and imperialism. By drawing on pre-modern traditions and institutions, pan-Asianists argued, Asian societies could organize their own modernization to achieve even greater dynamism than the West.

While Hegel himself saw Asia as a domain of rigid order that does not allow for individualism (free subjectivity), pan-Asianists proposed a new Hegelian conceptual framework. Since the freedom offered by Western individualism ultimately negates order and leads to social disintegration, they argued, the only way to preserve freedom is to channel it into a new collective agency.

One early example of this model can be found in Japan’s militarization and colonialist expansion before WWII. But historical lessons are soon forgotten. In the search for solutions to big problems, many in the West could be newly attracted to the Asian model of subsuming individualistic drives and the longing for meaning in a collective project.

Pan-Asianism tended to oscillate between its socialist and fascist versions (with the line between the two not always clear), reminding us that “anti-imperialism” is not as innocent as it may appear. In the first half of the twentieth century, Japanese and German fascists regularly presented themselves as defenders against American, British, and French imperialism, and one now finds far-right nationalist politicians taking similar positions vis-à-vis the European Union.

The same tendency is discernible in post-Deng China, which political scientist A. James Gregor classifies as “a variant of contemporary fascism”: a capitalist economy controlled and regulated by an authoritarian state whose legitimacy is framed in the terms of ethnic tradition and national heritage. That is why Chinese President Xi Jinping makes a point of referring to China’s long, continuous history stretching back to antiquity. Harnessing economic impulses for the sake of nationalistic projects is the very definition of fascism, and similar political dynamics can also be found in India, Russia, Turkey, and other countries.

It is not hard to see why this model has gained traction. While the Soviet Union suffered a chaotic disintegration, the CPC pursued economic liberalization but still maintained tight control. Thus, leftists who are sympathetic toward China praise it for keeping capital subordinated, in contrast to the US and European systems, where capital reigns supreme.

But the new fascism is also supported by more recent trends. Beyond Le Pen, another big winner of the European elections is Fidias Panayiotou, a Cypriot YouTube personality who previously gained attention for his efforts to hug Elon Musk. While waiting outside Twitter’s headquarters for his target, he encouraged his followers to “spam” Musk’s mother with his request. Eventually, Musk did meet and hug Panayiotou, who went on to announce his candidacy to the European Parliament. Running on an anti-partisan platform, he won 19.4% of the popular vote and secured himself a seat.

Similar figures have also cropped up in France, the United Kingdom, Slovenia, and elsewhere, all justifying their candidacies with the “leftist” argument that since democratic politics has become a joke, clowns might as well run for office. This is a dangerous game. If enough people despair of emancipatory politics and accept the withdrawal into buffoonery, the political space for neo-fascism widens.

Reclaiming that space requires serious, authentic action. For all my disagreements with French President Emmanuel Macron, I think he was correct to respond to the French far right’s victory by dissolving the National Assembly and calling for new legislative elections. His announcement caught almost everyone off guard, and it is certainly risky. But it is a risk worth taking. Even if Le Pen wins and decides who will be the next prime minister, Macron, as president, will retain the ability to mobilize a new majority against the government. We must take the fight to the new fascism as forcefully and as fast as possible.

Ghostly Technologies

Pepper's Ghost

Marshall McLuhan , "The Medium is the Message",
The title "The Medium Is the Massage" is a teaser—a way of getting attention. There's a wonderful sign hanging in a Toronto junkyard which reads, 'Help Beautify Junkyards. Throw Something Lovely Away Today.' This is a very effective way of getting people to notice a lot of things. And so the title is intended to draw attention to the fact that a medium is not something neutral—it does something to people. It takes hold of them. It rubs them off, it massages them and bumps them around, chiropractically, as it were, and the general roughing up that any new society gets from a medium, especially a new medium, is what is intended in that title"

Can You Spot All the Ghosts in the Machines?

Marshall McLuhan , "Understanding Media",

In Understanding Media, McLuhan describes the "content" of a medium as a juicy piece of meat carried by the burglar to distract the watchdog of the mind.[11] This means that people tend to focus on the obvious, which is the content, to provide us valuable information, but in the process, we largely miss the structural changes in our affairs that are introduced subtly, or over long periods of time. As society's values, norms, and ways of doing things change because of the technology, it is then we realize the social implications of the medium. These range from cultural or religious issues and historical precedents, through interplay with existing conditions, to the secondary or tertiary effects in a cascade of interactions that we are not aware of.[12]
Without a retentional framework, the technical structures we use to communicate are inherently incapable of holding the content of the present to the tribunal of the past. Control of the present in this situation becomes a matter of taking up space within the medium, of the combinatorial flicker of rapidly generated content within familiar frames. Mark Fisher described this as the reduction of all memory to formal memory—the memory possessed by Jason Bourne, the amnesiac spy turned provocateur who, unable to base present decision making on a memory of the past, is nevertheless equipped with a set of reflexes and hardwired methodologies for navigating the apparently senseless and ahistorical circumstances he finds himself in (Fisher, 2009, p. 64). In culture and in the news media, the rational unity of content is replaced by an aesthetic unity of form: narrative coherence with brand consistency. Power in such a medium is a matter of proficiency in the techniques of framing, not in the production of valuable content (since the capacity to publicly stabilise value is the very thing that has departed).