OV: If you’re asking me about the current US media landscape, I think Donald Trump is a good example. Why did he have so much more media coverage in comparison to the other candidates? While others tried to make arguments, Trump looked at the form. He was constantly serving small, crazy and controversial bits that were picked up by the media. These memes then unleashed other messages. The left should think much more about pleasure and the pharmacological aspects of media, design and communication and after that about arguments. The current US media works like a drug in the literal sense. Trump was good at keeping millions of people high, even tough it was a bad high. I agree with Bernard Stiegler when he speaks about destruction of attention and the resulting destruction of care. Technology enables this every day. The atomizing digital sphere does what Hollywood entertainment could not do now. What’s left is an addicted population. Technology can be added to the list of other drugs, especially pharmaceuticals and bad food. Memes seem to like an environment dominated by any kind of drugs. Unfortunately, bad memes result largely from a culture dominated by social networks like Facebook, produced and consumed by people on bad drugs.
While memes can build stories, todays data/media sphere is largely loosing its narrative. Trump acts without a narrative and this seems to correspond with how the media, especially social media, operate. The destruction of the narrative corresponds with what Rushkoff calls “the constant now”. In order to replicate the feeing of pleasure that we gain from the states of being in the constant now, we need to be fed bits of media without a narrative context because the instant, temporal gratification is what brings pleasure. Franco Berardi (Bifo) has been writing about the rise of use of cocaine in the creative industries because this helped people to focus attention. Have you seen the current fidget spinner craze?
Cocaine is still there, but as cocaine makes people high, so does media—and this is not new—we accept that never before media operated as explicitly as a drug and it never operated as a drug with such an addictive potential with such immense social costs. The USA is the most drugged nation in the world. Memes like this because with slight mutations they can travel fast and wide until they are able to make people high.
As Donald Trump stages his own inane production of the Watergate scandal, firing the official tasked with investigating his administration as he would a contestant on “The Apprentice” and inadvertently admitting to obstruction of justice, a bill is wending its way through Congress that threatens the lives of the sick and the vulnerable. The American Health Care Act could strip more than 24 million Americans of their health insurance over the next 10 years, generating perhaps the greatest transfer of wealth from the middle and working classes to the rich in U.S. history. Its passage in the House last week represents not only a breach of the public trust but the triumph of conservative lobbying efforts for the better part of four decades. What many may not know is that its architects’ political ideology was born in one of the most liberal cities in the country, if not the world.
In 1975, New York was teetering on the brink of collapse, as deindustrialization, an exodus of affluent taxpayers and a worldwide recession left it unable to pay for the robust social services it had carefully grown and developed since World War II. The big banks, including Chase and First National City Bank (now Citigroup), were eager to lend the city money until they weren’t. At the behest of New York’s creditors, the state established an Emergency Financial Control Board, effectively removing power over the city’s budget from then-Mayor Abe Beame. As journalist and historian Kim Phillips-Fein argues in her new book, Fear City: New York’s Fiscal Crisis and the Rise of Austerity Politics, this presaged a government-wide capitulation to big business and a transformation of what it means to be not just a New Yorker but an American. “The crisis,” she writes, “saw a group of almost universally white elites remake life in a city that was becoming increasingly black and brown.
”Fear City is both an illuminating history of some of New York’s darkest years, and a book of ideas. What does a government owe its citizenry? How have we come to accept budget cuts and layoffs as the only recourse for a mounting deficit? Why is there “no alternative” to the neoliberal economic model, as Margaret Thatcher famously sloganeered in Great Britain? These questions have been made more urgent by the devastation visited upon the city of Detroit and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, to say nothing of the national trendlines that have accelerated since the Reagan administration. For Phillips-Fein, austerity is very much a choice, and it is our responsibility to challenge its inevitability.
I am convinced that it is not a specific task for some “trained elite task force” to monitor all of the world for a specific outbreak of rhetoric — instead this awareness of the danger of these memes should be widespread. As I wrote above, the greater the amount of believed bullshit there is in the world the more it undermines our very foundation as a society.
The definition of genocide itself, the eight stages of genocide, the twelve steps of genocide denial, and the psychology of evil — all of this should be common education so we prepare to meet these eternal, insidious forces. The only effective inoculation is the one which reaches the largest selection of at-risk population. With economic hardship, the American cultural landscape is fertile ground for 5GW recruiting and the rhetorical tropes in use.
The language of recruitment is rooted in dehumanization — which itself is the transactional language of cognitive deconstruction. In essence, suicidal ideation and other mental illnesses can be weaponized through rhetorical triggers. Bullshit is a weapon, and will cause more and more acts of increasingly violent mass killings.
New research investigating the transition of the Sahara from a lush, green landscape 10,000 years ago to the arid conditions found today, suggests that humans may have played an active role in its desertification.