Friday, August 23, 2019

Culture Wars Portland – Pop Mob

I had purchased tickets to the Portland Thorns vs. Washington D. C. Spirit NWSL soccer match, not long after the conclusion of the Woman’s World Cup. Saturday, August 17th was a home game for the Thorns, in the newly expanded Providence Park stadium. Providence Park is a great neighborhood sports venue (just up from the Pearl District) for both the Portland Timbers men’s team, as well as the Thorns.

After the headline-generating controversy of the “equal pay” lawsuit, and the Woman’s National Team victory at this summer’s World Cup in France… the NWSL has considerable star-power and draw, with over 20,000 fans in attendance. There were many amazing players on both teams, fresh from the 2019 World Cup extravaganza. Most notably: U S midfielder Rose Lavelle, playing for Spirit and U S midfielder Lindsey Horan, playing for the Thorns. The Canadian superstar forward, Christine Sinclair also made an appearance, playing for the Thorns.

What I didn’t realize when I bought the tickets (great seats… midfield, a dozen rows up), was that on this particular Saturday, the White Nationalist militia group, the Proud Boys had scheduled an anti-Antifa (sounds redundant, I know) rally on Portland’s waterfront… a dozen blocks from Providence Park. On our drive up I-5 toward Portland, we monitored the rally… and the huge counter-protest… on social media.

The Thorns organization had issued an early statement, indicating that they were monitoring the developing situation and that the safety of their fans was of the utmost importance. As we pulled into town, we envisioned (as had happened in the past) running skirmishes and teargas raging through the streets of downtown Portland. However, this scenario was not to be…

A half-hour into the march, the Proud Boys… hopelessly outnumbered by Portlandiers of all stripes… made a hasty and somewhat panicky request to Portland police... that they be extracted from the situation. The Portland police, not wanting to see an escalation of violence, agreed. They allowed the Proud Boys to march onto the Hawthorne Bridge and disband.

The hour-long protest was not without incident. Portland police made multiple arrests of individuals they identified as “instigators.” The obvious matchup was between the Proud Boys and the Rose City Antifa. Picture if you will… big, burly white supremacists marching in lockstep chanting some variation of Nazi sloganry… squaring off against skinny 20 somethings, clad in all-black, making a wide assortment of taunts, slurs, and superlatives.

However, the group who won the day… in alliance with the Rose City Antifa… was the totally amazing and oh-so-stylish faction known as the: Pop Mob.” Here was an adversary of the Culture Wars who came ready to play. Dressed in flamboyant costumes, including one guy in a full-blown unicorn outfit… others in full-body banana suits… Pop Mob meant business. Their battle tactics were to demonstrate… through the theatre of the absurd… the complete insanity of white supremacy, violent protest and the general ineptitude and absurdity of culture war and identity politics.

The Pop Mob performance artists were equal-opportunity demonstrators. They poked fun at the Antifa and Proud Boys alike. At the end of the day... I believe more violence did not ensue precisely because both the Proud Boys and Antifa were a little embarrassed and downright humiliated at the absurdity of their ideologies... as deftly pointed out to them, by Pop Mob. Both warring factions dispersed without further incident, once the Pop Mob made the scene.

The Pop Mob’s action is a classic Operation Mindfuck.” The idea of dispersing large, warring factions with the use of humor, mimicry, and ridicule is a brilliant tactical maneuver. As you know, Operation Mindfuck involves subtlety, so that those whose minds are being fucked, don't know whether something's being pulled on them or not. Consequently, both Antifa and the Proud Boys were suspicious that they had been made fun of… but couldn’t quite grasp what to do about it… so they went home.

I am happy to report that the Thorns vs Spirit game ended with a 3  to 1 result in favor of the Portland Thorns. The August 17th Portland, Oregon protest and Culture Wars skirmish ended with the result: Proud Boys: 0, Antifa: 0, Pop Mob: 1. What a blow against the Empire! You gotta love it!

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Culture Wars

"The world we live in today appears to be much more socially chaotic and politically contentious than it did only yesterday. Seemingly overnight our planet's socio-political landscape has been rearranged into a nightmarish, dystopian mix of soul-crushing late-stage capitalism, social media intrusion, surveillance, and tribally networked identity politics. Welcome to the Culture Wars. The term "culture war" has been used to refer to the political discourse and actions surrounding issues that are rooted in dogmatically held, emotionally charged ideologies and factional reality tunnels.

Originally, the term referred to the conflict between traditionalist, conservative values and social-democratic, progressive values... as predominantly demonstrated in the Western world. The late 20th and early 21st centuries witnessed the rise of a new, ultra-conservative movement, labeled neoconservatism. Neo-conservatives or Neocons differ from their conservative predecessors... as well as their opponents... in that they interpret problems facing the nation as moral issues rather than economic or political issues. With the rise of the neocons, the culture wars have since escalated from an ideological cold war, to one that is white-hot."

"Most battles in the culture wars are fought over issues such as LGBTQ rights, abortion,  gun control, feminism, pornography, the sexual revolution, drugs, multiculturalism, the role of religion in American society, school prayer, the teaching of evolution... and the latest battlegrounds... immigration and climate change. Other battles come and go depending on what new moral panic is currently trending on social media.

Although the issues of the culture war target tribal affiliation and emotion, they are often employed by those who are not actually vested in the culture war... those who hold the pursuit of wealth and power as their primary value. They use the culture war as a means to get people to act against their own economic self-interest and to distract voters' attention."

"Such battle lines are being exasperated by emerging, social media conglomerates that seek to dominate the world's infotainment sphere. The usual suspects... facebook, google, amazon... battle for dominancy of modern humanity's hand-held interface with a globally intact mass media landscape. Through intrusive, privacy-busting, personal data mining techniques, they insidiously target users, utilizing their own browsing history to not only sell them "personalized" products, but to sell their personal data to ambiguous, often shady third-parties, with ambiguous, often shady intent. Theft by data..."
~   ~   ~

The preceding excerpts are from our new Culture Jammer Central page, at our mothership: The curious will find a brief overview of the Culture Wars phenomena... that insidious scam, perpetrated by those who wish to continue to divide us. We also delve into the ramifications of the impact that social media has upon the Culture Wars... what we call: the World Entertainment Wars.  

As the page name implies, additional resources for those who wish to resist the tomfoolery of the Culture Wars will also be made available as we update and expand the new addition. Stay tuned, dear intrepid traveler, for: The Empire Never Ended...

World Entertainment War is... “a benevolent media virus programmed to prevent
the entertainment criminals from stealing your imagination."

Sunday, August 4, 2019

The Noö Future of Politics

“The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be”
 – Sam Lowry

In December of 2010, an intensive 28-day campaign of civil resistance, including a series of massive street demonstrations took place in the North African nation of Tunisia. These protests led to the ousting of longtime president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011. It eventually led to a thorough democratization of the country and to free and democratic elections. The Tunisian Revolution, also called the Sidi Bouzid Revolt, marked the beginning of a new era in world politics.

During the Sidi Bouzid Revolt, Tunisians used technology to accelerate their revolution, and in the process gave us a preview of how other people around the world might do the same. The Revolution began in mid-December, as civil unrest broke out in the interior of the country after a young street vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire to protest mistreatment by a government functionary… a desperate expression of helplessness in the face of a lack of opportunity.

The protests started in Bouazizi’s home city of Sidi Bouzid, far from the centers of Tunisian power, but they quickly provoked a violent response from the government’s internal security forces. As protesters marched and police beat them down, political organizers traveled to the area and started using digital video and Twitter to spread the word throughout the country. Within a day of Bouazizi’s immolation, the movement became a viral phenomenon.

As it drew more and more people, the center of online action moved to Facebook. A much more popular medium in Tunisia than Twitter, it was also a more visual one… photos and videos posted on Facebook, documenting brutal government oppression, made the protesters’ case in a visceral way as they spread through people’s online social circles.

Social media didn’t trigger the Tunisian Revolution… oppression did. However, social media networking enabled it. Without the ability of a small number of activists to pass along shocking news and imagery from the first wave of protests, they might have fizzled out as so many street demonstrations in so many countries have in the past. 

So it was that in the fiery beginnings of the Arab Spring, weaponized social media - as a politically strategic tool - was born. Since 2016, it appears to have taken two distinct forms. The following has been adapted from the writings of John Robb. Retired USAF special ops pilot, entrepreneur and author of Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization… Robb founded numerous successful technology companies, including an online brokerage/banking company that sold for $295m and a company that pioneered the technologies used at Facebook and Twitter.

Open Source Insurgency

An open source insurgency (as first exemplified in the Tunisian/Arab Spring, circa 2011) is a loose network that is composed of many individuals and small groups working independently but united by a single purpose. In the 2016 presidential election, this single purpose was to elect Trump. As we have seen, such digital insurgencies can originate not only from the left but the right as well. Open source insurgencies are much more innovative than their bureaucratic counterparts. They are constantly coming up with and trying out new ideas.

Trump accelerated and directed this insurgency by interacting with it. Via his twitter account, he accelerated the innovation of the insurgency by paying attention to it. His now-famous Tweets and media mentions incentivized innovation and spread new ideas across the insurgency in minutes (not days/weeks). Trump also selected targets for the insurgency. In many, many instances, Trump directed the insurgency to silence individuals in the opposition through a torrent of online/offline abuse.

Networked Orthodoxy

The second form of political social networking arose organically around the opposition to Trump's presidency… now known as… the #resistance   

This reactive, outraged form of political social networking rose up from the ashes of a collapsed two-party political system. As of Trump’s election, the resistance has virally grown... as-yet devoid of any clearly defined strategic leadership. This politically correct reaction can be described as a bureaucratic, networked political orthodoxy... an open source insurgency in reverse.

 It uses social networking to exert pressure on people to accept the orthodox position (in this case, resistance to Trump's insurgency). Online orthodoxies grow through peer pressure and political correctness. This online orthodoxy is growing at an accelerated pace because Trump, through his continued bombastic, and increasingly racist tweets, feeds the outrage that fuels it.

These two political networks, the Trumpian insurgency, and the politically correct resistance... are the two main examples of our current state of affairs. This political dichotomy replaces, yet mirrors the old, two-party system. For the most part, they generally fall along traditional left/right ideological lines. However... they are more insidious than the traditional broad-based party politics, in that they fuel racial, religious, ethnic, social, and/or cultural bias to form the exclusive, niche alliances of identity politics.

Participatory Political Networking

So where is political networking taking us?  That's the BIG question. Robb identified a third possibility for where our political system could be headed…

Imagine in the near future, a networked participatory political party.  Such a participatory party could be run as a cell phone app.  This would allow it to scale up to millions of members in a very short time. People participating in the on-line party would debate the issues and vote on how their representatives should vote in Congress. 

A networked, participatory political party would combine the fluidity of the "insurgency" with the solidarity of "orthodoxy." Unlike current political parties, this party wouldn't just vote every 2 years to elect candidates.  It would operate continuously… voting on all major issues. Through their phone app, party members would provide immediate direction, showing constituent trending in real-time. Such a participatory party could arise independently, growing virally… or it could co-opt an existing political party from the inside out.

How would a participatory network govern?  Unlike the other systems, it has the best chance of working within the confines of the current US Constitution.  It also has the strength to tame political distortions caused by globalization without resorting to the extremes of either the orthodoxy or the insurgency.

Robb’s insight envisions a participatory political system made possible by social networking.  Would such a system be the best chance for a better future...  a system that would put social networking to work for us instead of against us?

Is our Brave Noö Future destined to be driven by the continued rise of open source insurgency? Is it ordained that we repeatedly resort to reactive orthodoxy? Open source insurgencies can take advantage of innovative immediacy, at the cost of deliberation and accuracy. In their haste, they are more susceptible to error. Networked orthodoxy is reactive, yet, over time, aligns with traditional, rule-of-law guidelines… slow but steady.

Or do we embrace a third way? Do we embrace the possibility of a networked, participatory political system? For a glimpse of this potentiality, we turn to the 21st century oracular instrument of choice… science fiction. The sci-fi genre has become the modern equivalent of the “Oracle of Delphi” for those who deal in predictive speculation. Turning to a new talent within the genre, will our near political future resemble the globally networked, digital government of Malka Older’s 2016 cyberpunk book: “Infomocracy?” 

In her book (the first in the Centenal Cycle series), Older imagines a near future where a powerful search engine monopoly, known as “information” facilitates Earth’s socio-political transition from a collection of warring nation-states, to a global micro-democracy. Nation-States are a thing of the past and governing districts are broken down into 100,000 person constituencies known as Centenals. Each centenal is run by a political or corporate faction, with more or less global influence. The faction who wins the most Centenals in the 10-year election cycle, controls the world government for that cycle.

So is Malka Older’s cautionary sci-fi tale, where we are headed? Those of us who are foolish enough to seriously monitor the current political theatre will likely find out soon. Weaponized political networks will certainly play a significant role in the 2020 American presidential campaign. Arguing over whether or not Russia will be a major perpetrator in such political shenanigans, misses the point. 

The future of politics likely will be driven by humanity's immersion in the globally networked, social media empires that are well on their way to dominating all of our lives. So when we all wake up on November 6th, 2020… maybe we will be a little closer to knowing what the near future of politics looks like... nationalistic autocracy or micro democracy? As always… stay tuned, dear intrepid cybernauts, stay tuned!   

Friday, July 26, 2019

Fog of Information

“In this day and age... we are faced with a Fog of Information that is as distracting and detrimental as the fog of war.”
- from “Bread & Circuses

Information Overload (AKA: infobesity or infoxication) is a state of mental uncertainty and consequential inaction, driven by too much incoming information. This mental malaise occurs when an individual has difficulty in understanding and effectively making decisions on a specific issue, precisely because they have been inundated with excessive, often conflicting quantities of information, pertaining to said specific issue.  

The concept of Information Overload originated in the study of Information Theory, which examines the storage, preservation, communication, compression, and extraction of information. The term, information overload, was popularized by Alvin Toffler in his bestselling 1970 book Future Shock. Here is a brief definition from a recent study on information theory: 

Information overload occurs when the amount of input to a system exceeds its processing capacity. Decision-makers have fairly limited cognitive processing capacity. Consequently, when information overload occurs, it is likely that a reduction in decision quality will occur.

As any intrepid explorer of our exponentially expanding digital culture has experienced, information overload is a direct byproduct of social media and the insidious rise of what has been labeled the Attention Economy. Within attention economics, an individual’s attention span is considered a natural resource, to be extracted and exploited like any other commodity. Once again… strange days have found us.

In these strange days, information overload is the exacerbating yet predictable result of too many, increasingly unmanageable information streams. In addition to texting and the antiquated e-mail, we are subjected to a daily barrage of facebook, youtube, snapchat, instagram and of course twitter… all received through our now-pervasive mobile devices. Together, these information streams cascade and inundate each of us in a cumulative morass of data that we refer to as a Fog of Information.

In analogy to a Fog of War, fog of information obscures a clear view of the digital battlefields of the Culture Wars being waged on and through these information mediums. As in military conflicts, a fog of information is a stark reality in the culturally and ideologically driven information wars. Precision and certainty may be unattainable goals, but the use of social media facilitates a trade-off of precision and certainty for speed and agility... fast, if not accurate.

The major theatre of battle in the American Culture Wars is being waged in the political arena. As such, battle lines are drawn between Red States and Blue States. This schism pits Republican vs. Democrat… conservatives vs. progressives, coastal elites vs. the heartland. The split is, of course, a divide and conquer strategy, encouraged by those who stand to gain the most from a population fighting amongst themselves. The information fog obscures any clear-headed perspective so that it is impossible to tell who is targeting who. Just keep the message simple… make Amerika great again!

Thus, the president of the U S of A… the illustrious Orange One has become the master of 280 character diplomacy. Forget about protocol… the administrative branch proclaims presidential decree via tweet. Minus any apparent, legally binding executive order, the American legislature anxiously awaits the Orange One’s most recent twitter post, be it a misspelled assault on members of congress, or a proclamation of war. That’s how shit gets done in the information wars!

Political commentary aside, the fog of information imposes a paralyzing cloud of uncertainty over in-depth analysis and critical thinking… in favor of memes and quick sound bytes. These are the tools of the information warrior… thoughtless posts that spawn thoughtless, knee-jerk responses. These are the weapons that are being employed in the socially networked politics of our near future. Decree by tweet is just the beginning.

Meanwhile, social media behemoths such as google and facebook exploit the people’s confusion through the Attention Economy. It turns out that short attention spans are lucrative commodities! Clicks mean profit! Social media has changed the face of not only politics but all facets of our lives. The fog of information even hides the fact that our networked world is changing in ways that most of us do not fathom... as yet.

However… the ever-resourceful readers of this blog possess ways and means in which to counteract the fog of information. Through the art of what has been called synchromysticism, we observe the torrent of information, extracting meta-information from mega-trend. We study the signs and portents to glimpse the over-arching patterns that course through social, pop media. It is this pattern recognition that sharpens and broadens our intel on “what the f#@k is really going on!” In this Brave Noö World… intel is power.

In our next installment, we will look at how the 2016 presidential campaign marked a critical pivot-point in modern politics. We will explore the future of political networking and the massive changes in store for political systems, world-wide. The Orange One’s twitter feed barely scratched the surface of how politics will play out in our Brave Noö World… stay tuned, dear intrepid readers… stay tuned! 

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Quieting the Monkey Mind

“Many creatures bear the outward form of a man, but do not be fooled by appearances. Not all such life-forms can be considered human.”

- Frank Herbert

American author, futurist, skeptic, tekgnostic saint and illustrious proponent of the eight circuit model of consciousness: Robert Anton Wilson was fond of describing Homo sapiens as: “Domesticated Primates.” In so doing, he was reminding us of our shared, evolutionary mammalian attributes. His description was not necessarily flattering. Using a then-contemporary, science fiction film title analogy, he described humanity’s existential circumstances as: living on the “Planet of the Apes.”

Similarly, American research pharmacognosist, ethno-pharmacologist, and psychedelic advocate, Dennis McKenna has often described Homo sapiens as: “Problematic Primates.” McKenna’s depiction emphasizes humanity’s ignorance of our place within, and impact upon, our homeworld. To quote McKenna: “The human species is an anomaly in nature. Our hypertrophied brains have made us highly linguistic, immensely creative, and enormously clever… but we also devalue nature. This disjunct has created problems for us as a species and for the entire biospheric community.”

These two luminaries’ colorful descriptions of humanity were likely inspired by the Buddhist concept of the “Monkey Mind.” This expression illustrates the unsettled, restless, capricious, whimsical, inconstant; confused… and the resulting indecisive and uncontrollable nature of most of humanity. The mind-monkey metaphor was consequently adopted in Taoism and Neo-Confucianism, as well as in the poetry, drama, and literature of archaic China and Japan.

“We all have monkey minds” suggests a fashionable pop-Buddhist anecdote… “with dozens of monkeys all clamoring for attention. Fear is an especially loud monkey, sounding the alarm incessantly, pointing out all the things we should be wary of and everything that could go wrong.” This “fear monkey” metaphor is especially poignant in our modern, conspiratorial, brave noö world. Fear continues to be a particularly problematic bugaboo within the human psyche.

The monkey mind is a powerful metaphor precisely because it is a universal one. Many cultures use the monkey archetype to illustrate superficial, unaware and copycat behavior. Proverbial examples include “Monkey see, monkey do” and the infamous “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” monks. Within such philosophic and meditative systems as Taoism and Zen, the monkey mind is the undisciplined, un-evolved mind.

Use of the monkey-mind metaphor, challenges us to rise above our primate, animal nature, to become truly human. As Frank Herbert famously said in his epic science fiction novel: Dune… Many creatures bear the outward form of a man, but do not be fooled by appearances. Not all such life-forms can be considered human. In that ground-breaking piece of science fiction, Herbert also famously said … Fear is the mind-killer.” 

The implication of the monkey mind suggests that there exists, a higher mind that is available… if not inherent… to humanity. Applied Tek-Gnostics identifies tools and technologies that ameliorate the negative impact that fear has upon the normal functioning of the domesticated primate. By incorporating the intelligence engineering techniques outlined, the intrepid psychonaut will discover the ways and means to quiet the incessant, fear-based chatter of the monkey mind. And in so doing, the courageous intelligence engineer enhances her/his level of accessible intelligence or Intel… from which to navigate our Brave Noö World.