a.nihil

democracy

On-powerlessness

The people on the streets and on public transport appear more as people than blurs, there's a distinct sense of belonging without adherence to a particular cause or reason. I do not have the urge to debate over global topics, which I am removed from anyway because of powerlessness I embody. When I look around this powerlessness is more visible but the cacophony of the media narratives makes us believe that we are more important than we are. – A break from the news

Most of our everyday life we are propelled through with a feeling of power. We are told that our actions have consequences and they hold us in the middle of things: pay your taxes, wear your masks, vote for change, buy local.. for most part we do believe in them and do our best to participate. Societies that do not operate on these levels of consciousness wither into a painful existence while we soldier on, believing that we have the power to change anything and everything in our lives.

But, can we really? While the news amuses us with how much wealth Jeff Bezos has hoarded this year or with some political brouhaha from across the world, we assume in part the bodies of the people we read and think about. The politics of the country we live in is far from us and the globalized American dream has us wondering what step we take in the future can make us the capitalists we love and hate at the same time. The plebeian existence we inhabit is hidden behind the millions of customizations we are granted in the internet age, a power trip that was hitherto unknown to previous generations.

The music we listen to, the books we read and the restaurants we go to are all hidden in the black boxes we possess each moment, hidden from the everyday audience. Behind the scenes they are the access to central servers that pile up money with the very information we hold secret with the people next to us. In these moments we feel powerful that we have access to all the information and products in the world but what we cannot control is the faces and the powers behind the screen. Power now has become abstracted, it is no longer the politician who controls what we want and how we want them but a Silicon Valley billionaire who in his nonchalance is putting a hyper-libertarian world view into action without your permission (you clicked on “I agree” of course).

In a pre-internet era there was a singular flow of information and a chain of command that was local. There was not a constant monitoring of oneself (unless someone lived in East Germany under the aegis of the Stasi) and the villains of ones life could be found in the nearest Capital city. Now that is not the case. If one wants to decry job losses and protest against Uber, where does one go to? And if Uber were to be shut down, what about the market forces that Uber has helped unleash? Sitting on contracted work with no benefits in an economy that promises more “freedom and flexibility” for both consumers and producers alike, what's the political upheaval one is really aiming for?

I am not saying that societal problems did not have a global relation in the earlier generations but with the advent of the internet, our problems have been collectivized into an effective global package. Google is just identifiable as the crucifix around the world. To google is to exist in the 21st century, this is a reality that no-one of us is going to escape anytime soon. The buzzwords of disruption and digitization, are warning signs that the security of being middle-class, is being slowly taken away by a class of extremely rich people who we have learnt to revere. How does one fight for their rights against someone situated in another country altogether?

What has been really disrupted is our lives: one part of it is being drained into the dossiers of mega-corporations and the other we are trying to figure out how to make our presence in the economies we live in. We do not talk about these things because we are all engaged in the same game of capital worship. If we were as honest to each other as we are to layers and layers of internet surveillance, we would see how powerless we are in the global scheme of things. A part of the rebellion against the current iteration of how things are organized would come from this shared powerlessness.

This powerlessness should make us question why power should be concentrated and if that power should be concentrated between a few companies and investors on the planet. Governments do not have the gall [1] or the creativity to fight the new operators of power. If the lowest common denominator in a democracy, the voter, finds their place of helplessness then it is easier for the government to see their relative position. This helplessness will be a bargaining position for the world of the future. As the power becomes powerless, it starts to fight back.

The first step in the process is to come out of the induced stupor of artificial self-worth that our current state of living provides. Communicating our fragility in the market ecosystem instead of trading ego boosts on Instagram would pave the way for a greater social conversation about current state of our power. This can be translated into political will and speak – it is irrelevant if someone is Indian or Tunisian in the current iteration of the market. It's US, China or a handful of developed countries everyone is dependent on and this dependence is only getting stronger by the day. When the political apparatus of countries start to wake up to this stark divide – (hoping that most countries have the interests of its common people at heart) – change can be expected. The hegemonic nature of countries are always in flux, to steer it away from the current establishment requires unity of the powerless and resolve.

[1] As we speak, the Indian government has banned a fresh lot of 118 Chinese apps citing surveillance as a reason. None of the American or other internet companies that operate on the same revenue models find no mention for the same practices. If the government was really so concerned about the well-being of its citizens, it would shut down the internet. This is a sign of the helplessness once the Indian government wakes up from its Doublethink.

#capitalism #democracy #power #internet

Part 1 Part 2

I took a break from reading and watching the news. For the past week I do not know what happened in the world and what dystopias are waiting for us in the shadows. I do not know anything about America, the financial markets, the EU, the Hindu right-wing or about the virus. I do not know the new drama that Twitter wants to diffuse into me or the outrage that Reddit forces me to consider. The pangs of boredom that make me want to consume more of the Guardian and the Washington Post are yet to find a new home, but the media terror of discourse building is suddenly absent.

News media operates like a terror organization, as ideologues who push forward their narrative through capturing attention. The content behind the news does not mean as much as the attention power it generates. Generating content 24/7 is not an easy task but considering the low shelf life of most news, the need to invent is continual.

I consume news for the same reasons I consume alcohol, as a social lubricant, as a means of getting through with the world, as a relaxant and in a corny hope that it makes me wiser. What started as an occasional 9 p.m. news bulletin evolved into reading a newspaper everyday to constantly being surrounded by the news. This leads to a chatter of information and sure, it helps one keep track of the malfeasance of power. But is it really a medium of change? If I did the same with alcohol I would end up with a serious case of alcoholism and a cirrhosis of the liver.

The status-quo heavily benefits the news organization and change orchestrated by it would never be in the interests that are outside its workings. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube operate on a different level, where the conventional news cycle is broken down further. The driving force here is hidden inside an algorithm, not a kooky Australian billionaire. We cannot even decode a person behind a phone screen, what about the machine behind them? These companies operate in secrecy and but whitewash their existence through ideals of openness and connectivity.

What the media organization thrives from is discontent and disconnection. Good news is bad news for a media organization because good news warrants no further discussion. Bad news however creates engagement and engagement creates more revenue. This translates into fraught societies that are connected and fragmented at the same time, one does not need to look further than Facebook or Fox News for the destabilization they have done to the global thinking order in the past decade.

“People who are addicted to Twitter, are like all addicts—on the one hand miserable, and on the other hand very defensive about it and unwilling to blame Twitter.” – Jaron Lanier

Coming down from by bingeing of news, I find more calm for people and my surroundings. The people on the streets and on public transport appear more as people than blurs, there's a distinct sense of belonging without adherence to a particular cause or reason. I do not have the urge to debate over global topics, which I am removed from anyway because of powerlessness I embody. When I look around this powerlessness is more visible but the cacophony of the media narratives makes us believe that we are more important than we are. A deeper look of our collective dissatisfaction and wants, untainted by a mediator or an algorithm is a good place to counter existing narratives and to hope for something new.

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#media #facebook #democracy

Engage

Demand an elaborate, time-consuming comparison / analysis between your position and theirs.

Entangle

Insist that the Liberal put their posts in their own words. That will consume the most time and effort for the Liberal poster.

They will be unable to spread numerous points on numerous blogs if you have them occupied. Allowing a Liberal to post a web link is too quick and efficient for them. Tie them up. We are going for delay of game here.

Demoralize

Dismiss their narrative as rubbish immediately.

Do not even read it. Once the Liberal goes through the trouble to research, gather, collate, compose and write their narrative your job is to discredit it. Make it obvious you tossed their labor-intensive narrative aside like garbage. This will have the effect of demoralizing the Liberal poster.

It will make them unwilling to expend the effort again, and for us, that is a net win.

Attack

Attack the source. Any Liberal website or information source must be marginalized, trivialized and discounted. Discredit Liberal sources of information whenever possible.

Confuse

Challenge the Liberal position with questions, always questions. The questions need not be relevant. The goal is to knock the Liberal poster off their game, and seize control of the narrative.

Once you have control you can direct the narrative to where you want it to go, which is always away from letting the Liberal make their point. Conversely, do not respond to their leading questions. Don't rise to their bait.

Contain

Your job is to prevent the presentation and spread of Liberal viewpoints.

Do anything you must do to prevent a Liberal poster from presenting a well-reasoned argument or starting a civil discussion.

Don't allow a Liberal to present their dogma unchallenged EVER.

Intimidate

Taunt the Liberals. If you find yourself in a debate with a Liberal where you are losing a fact-based argument then call them a name to derail their diatribe. Remember your goal is to prevent a meaningful exchange of views and ideas which may portray Liberalism in a positive light.

Your goal as a conservative blogger is to stop the spread and advance of the Liberal agenda. Play upon any identifiable idiosyncrasies, character flaws, physical traits, names, to their disadvantage. Monitor other posts for vulnerabilities you can exploit. Stay on the offensive with Liberal wimps. Don't let up.

Insult their Movement

Assign as many character and moral flaws to Liberals as you can. You must portray Liberals as weak, vacillating, indecisive, amoral, baby killers, unpatriotic, effete snobs, elitists, Leftists, Commies, sense of entitlement, promiscuous, union lovers, tax raisers, Welfare Queens, Socialists, lazy, sex-obsessed, druggies, moochers, troop hater,.etc. Always use these negative epithets when referring to, or describing Liberals.

Deceive

Identify yourself as a moderate, centrist or independent. It will also cause Liberals to lower their guard a bit, which gives you an effective opening. This may also have the effect of aligning conservative viewpoints with the real moderates we are attempting to reach.

It may serve to influence some moderates over to the Conservative side.

Patriotism

Always claim the high ground of pro-military, low taxes, strong defense, morality and religion. We own those virtues. Learn how to exploit them when debating.

Demean

Always refer to the other side as Liberals, Lefty Liberals, Libbies, Librandus. Never assign them the status of a bona-fide political party. Hang Liberalism around their neck like a burning tire. Make Liberalism appear as a moral turpitude or a character flaw. They are NEVER, NEVER to be referred to with their party affliation. Never assign them respect.

Opportunity

Be alert for ways to insert our catch phrases into your narrative. You will receive your daily list of talking points and topics that we want you to cover. Consistent, persistent repetition and inculcation will drive our talking points home and so will neuro-linguistic programming. Stick with it and our talking points will become truth. If they debunk your talking point, ignore it, and move on as if you didn't hear it.

#propaganda #fascism #media #democracy

Credit: u/BouncyBunnyBuddy

Read the first part in this series here

The media is self-referential and exists in its own bubble. It is not a scientific establishment where peer reviewing articles and sources is a thing. Scientific process is slow and cumbersome because of the consequences of putting an unfinished thought/product/theory into the world can have disastrous consequences. However, the media does not bear the same weight of scrutiny. The media has to be nimble and ever-changing because of the nature of our reality and information. Things have to move quick otherwise you lose your audience to another source. This means a piece of information once it gains attention in a legitimate, audience filled podium, it will be referenced over and over without thought being given to if the first fact is true or not. This is at least the case of the fast moving media anyway, longform articles and books might come after the media cycle has finished covering a particular topic but that does nothing as the dopamine charged media consumers have moved a thousand stories forward.

Considering that the media only exists within the framework of capitalism, it cannot produce any means of dissent against the existing system because that would mean suicide. And all modern nation-states also exist within the same ecosystem which makes the relationship symbiotic and self-serving. That is why it would make sense if the media works to preserve the status quo than to break it. Considering that the media produces only what the lowest factor in a society can understand since alienating the masses is not a good sign for a balance sheet, it makes content that appeals to this lowest factor in a democracy. This would mean simplistic renditions of events, the idea that truth has two sides and that one doesn't need to think but just believe.

That would be the only explanation why people who work in thankless jobs keep functioning in them and perpetuate their lives forward. It is not that they do not know that their existence is trivial but because they do not know of any other existence that would be any different from the one they are living. The media hands out to them that there are people elsewhere that your life is worth sacrificing for, say a soldier at the frontier or a farmer slaving his time in the field. The soldier and the farmer also receive programming that their work and actions have a greater meaning for these people in thankless jobs – they all work for this fictional entity called the Nation, but who does the Nation really belong to? The people? It does seem like the Nation belongs to the people on paper but the reality is far different – the soldier does not have a say whether he wants to fight or not, nor does the thankless worker or the farmer. They should just accept things as they are and make the country proud. Proud for whom? In India that would mean for the businesses that operate internationally, the tourists and the politicians seeking international legitimacy but these population subsets are miniscule compared to the whole of Indian population. The media works for this subset rather than the whole, pretending to be a part of the masses but a cleverly disguised medium manipulation in our midst.

Now whatsapp, facebook and youtube have completely taken over traditional forms of news where the choices become more and more limited as prescribed to a certain kind of news consumption – echo chambers out of which there is no certain escape. Neither should not following the news be an option because being informed is a critical process of participation and if one removes oneself from the information loop then one becomes zombie citizen who exists just to consume but exert no real change. The way the current system of media concentration can be challenged is to draft laws that no big businesses or politicians can hold media companies and existing media houses be nationalized under strict guidelines for what can and cannot be reported. This is again easier said than done because if the nation does not evoke any kind of confidence then neither does the nationalized entity.

Competing against deep pockets needs deeper pockets and in this case to dismantle the media mechanism is not an easy task as private capital would be hard to come by. Grassroots activism via blogs, websites and social media channels by alternative media is possible but the limits to their access to information will be minimal. The internet had a capacity to do what traditional media couldn't but with the centralization of the internet it has become the new norm. The breaking of this hegemony needs a crew of academics, thinkers, strategists and politicians who believe that a real change is possible. Change in this context is not a utopian ideal but the betterment of a deeply flawed society with no incentives to better itself.

There should be a secondary constitution written on which this group of thinkers operate, a legitimate ideology connecting the members. The constitution should involve the developed values of today along with a strong scientific backing and minimal religious or emotional value. This doctrine should become the locus of interaction rather than the loosely bound ideas of a Nation and this entity should also choose to function outside the commercial universe, relying on itself for its growth, no matter how small. Upon fostering for such a community for a period of time one can start negotiating for a better future from the inside out, giving no chance to the existing elements that rule our society.

#media #democracy #dissent

Our time and our attention and hopefully in the well oiled gearboxes of capitalism, our money.

I have a very short attention span when it comes to passively immersing myself into advertisements but sometimes, it is inevitable. I have all the blocks to keep myself from constant programming, I have de-googled and de-facebooked my life to a large extent, I have an employ of privacy features on my devices and I even pay for services that we have otherwise taken for granted but still, I am being advertised to and I am influenced by media propaganda just as much as anyone else.

I walk down the streets and see advertisements for hipster brands on bus stops and on buses, there advertisements for things I don't care about on walls, doors, hanging from supermarket ceilings and worse still, embedded into media pretending to be genuine content but nudging me to do something I do not want nonetheless. Though I have become insulated against this general messaging what I am not insulated against is in feeling one with the others, being a part of the herd even when I am not thinking the same things as the herd. I might hear about a stabbing on the London bridge or a rape in Hyderabad, I might or might not have feelings for these incidents but still, my mind is hijacked by these subjects in a way I do not have any control over them, or do I?

At what point does it become obvious that a particular news story is not worth my attention or when do I know that a certain subject needs my complete focus and thought, so that I can apply my knowledge and make the world 'a better place'? Making the world a better place is not why I think of things. I think of things because it is almost an ambient, natural response to events, my frame of reference to the things that happen around and inside me. In this sense there is no objective truth I am essentially pursuing even though I know that there are facts, but those facts exists because I understand them. Otherwise I could be a flat-earther talking about how vaccines are bad and how the Jews are the Illuminati and the Nazis are playing football on the moon.

Making the world a better place is not the objective but thinking about the world I live in is. Being human also puts me square in the hive mind of things, eventually I consume what all the others do, no matter how high and snooty I wish to be. In some analyst's computer right now I am a blip who has spent the same amount on average on a Coke product than the nose-picking Joe Guy sitting next to me on the Metro and I do not even know it. Saying which, does talking about an issue that is the center of focus of media attention mean that I am swayed by the media machine that demands my eye balls and my brain cells? Mass media tells me things without me even paying for them, social media is just like this essay, throwing words about topics I did not even subscribe to but being human I am held sway by what people talk and since I want to belong, I participate first by listening and then by talking. The in-between stages is by the meta-talking and meta-listening I do by injecting ideas in interpersonal conversations, which are again narratives over which I have no control over after the initial ignition.

This personal stages of opinion forming is what the media does for me, it is thinking outsourced to a well branded agency that I am told I must trust. The media talks about itself in a self-flagellating sense of entitlement, projecting itself as the upholder of value, virtue and the truth. The truth it is, as the media sees it or the people holding control of the cameras and the people holding control of the people holding the cameras. The media also has the responsibility to be relevant and keep its business model alive so each moment there is a new ping of information, bread crumbs for the wagging dog.

What the media does for reporting is what we do for our lives itself. We are confronted with a complex world where there are thousands of narratives building themselves around us in a single moment but we do not have the necessary brain power to process and make sense of what is unfolding in the immediate reality before us, so we have to satisfy ourselves with simplistic narratives that help us focus on other aspects of living – mainly work. This is also a deliberate function of a highly industrialized and capitalistic world where people are mere economic actors and their role in the political process is reduced to a number that votes to their particular smidgen of colour.

There was a time a decade ago with the nascency of the internet was taking over the world there was a talk of decentralized citizen journalists revolutionizing media itself. What these commentators in newspapers and other traditional media did not expect was social media and the subsequent boom. What they imagined as a decentralized reporting apparatus has instead become a walled garden of algorithms deciding who hears what without telling why such a conclusion has been made in the first place. This obfuscation of the rules underlying communication puts consumers in a space of not understanding the bias of the media they are consuming. As it happens, most media ownership is now controlled by a few handful of people across the planet and that is not a good sign, to have the future of the world shaped by the gentle nudge of a few.

The ultimate product of the media is not the content but us, it lulls us into comfortable anger, confuses us with information overload, distracts us and in the end makes us be what it intended in the first place, docile humans who will work and live, maintaining the status quo. The media makes us complacent in having voice, making sure that we have just the right amount, not more and not less. When we choose to vote with our eyeballs and keystrokes we are pandering to this opinion forming machine. So what does the media really want? In short, nothing less than your soul.

#media #democracy #dissent