Our Media Catastrophe

The Reagan Revolution will go down as one of human history’s most successful elite schemes. As its remarkable run nears the half-century mark, it still shows precious few signs of even being politically named as a problem, to say nothing of actually being reversed. At this late date, what passes for a left continues to wander around in various self-referential circles grasping (perhaps) at micro-straws (including plastic straws) while mumble-ranting about stillborn, punch-pulling neologisms like “neo-liberalism” and “intersectionality.”

One important sign of the continuing addlepated weakness of the forces of reason and survival is their lack of alarm about the fact that, by this point, all the major outlets of public communication are in the full control of the corporate capitalist machine. As folks like Bernie Sanders labor to get civilized medical insurance mentioned within the Democratic Party branding operation, this issue, along with the other unmentioned whopper of one-person-one-vote, lies all but untouched, despite the paint-peeling facts-at-hand, which now make the institutional landscapes enumerated by Herman and Chomsky and Bagdikian look like the epoch of Common Sense and the committees of correspondence.

To wit: In any democratic society, this “news story,” which NBC News, the child of the Comcast theft-empire, would not only have cost Comcast/NBC its broadcasting licenses, but would be Exhibit A in the long-overdue move to democratize and diversify the U.S. communications infrastructure.

As it is, such shameless self-advertising propaganda by the single greatest opponent of universal media accesss goes by completely unnoticed.

A Worthy Idea: Media Strike!

Larry Sanger is a libertarian, so he has not thought through modern life’s inevitable collective dimension. We homo sapiens face unavoidable problems of how to make macro-choices and how to account for the various dilemmas of group size/social scale. In the 21st century, with 8 billion of us afoot, these shared conundrums are certainly not going to go happily away if we don’t face up to them.

His libertarian bent also means that, despite his own deep immersion in it, Sanger doesn’t seem to remember that government invented both computers and the internet.

Of course, as a libertarian, Sanger also ignores the reality that capitalists hate price competition and generally try to swallow and merge with their business competitors — making capitalism an inherently centralizing (and totalitarian) institutional order.

It thus isn’t surprising that Sanger’s call for a boycott, on July 4 and 5, of the corporate media oligopolies does not include a demand for the only institutional arrangement that could ever possibly achieve his stated goals: lavish, bleeding-edge public provision of both internet access and elementary social media platforms/apps (non-commercial alternatives to Facebook, Google, etc.).

If he thought it through, Sanger would be calling for the USPS to enter the field of modern communications media access provision and internet software development/operation, i.e., for it to fulfill its Constitutional duties by making available a safe (private), non-commercial, cutting-edge basis for maximum democratic correspondence amongst We, the People.

But, despite this fatal flaw, TCT thinks Sanger’s boycott — and it actually uses the word “strike”! — is, for now, an excellent idea. Let’s do this!

On July 4 and July 5, do not use any corporate internet or cellular media or apps. If you must look at TCT or some other non-commercial app, and if you also somehow have a way to do so without going through a corporate access pipe, please choose a non-proprietary, non-corporate browser.

As for TCT, we will be on strike then!

Cities as Spyware

Have you heard about “smart cities”? Guess what? They are a marketing research operation.

This, of course, is no surprise to those of us hip to what corporate capitalism really is. By its nature, it fuels an ever-growing marketing race, which itself requires more and more spaces, places, experiences, and entities to become platforms for commodity-promotion.

Consider LinkNYC. It is run by Intersection, which is a corporate marketing agency.

Here is how Intersection’s Chief Revenue Officer describes LinkNYC, which, again, his firm runs:

With award-winning products like LinkNYC, the largest and fastest free public Wi-Fi network in the world, Intersection connects the digital and physical worlds, enhancing people’s journeys through their cities and offering brands the opportunity to drive more relevant and engaging advertising, rooted in real-world context.

Source: Advertising Age, June 20, 2019

So, yes, sports fans, the moment has arrived: American towns and cities are now themselves data-gathering tools for our behavior-engineering overclass. Big business marketing is now bigger than the biggest metropolises, which it now treats as just another deployable asset.

All, of course, with the help of our dear liberal leaders.

Facebook as Lightning Rod

lightning-rod-image The New York Times has obtained some of Facebook’s internal planning records.  These show that Facebook is what it says it is, what its founders have always understood it to be: a device for harvesting intimate knowledge of people’s private lives and selling that knowledge to corporate marketers.

The meat of the NYT story is the revelation that, despite pretending to promise the Federal Trade Commission that it would cease doing so, Facebook has continued to sell “what are known internally as “capabilities” — the special privileges enabling companies to obtain data, in some cases without asking permission.”

This means, among other things:

Facebook [has] assumed extraordinary power over the personal information of its 2.2 billion users — control it has wielded with little transparency or outside oversight. Facebook allowed Microsoft’s Bing search engine to see the names of virtually all Facebook users’ friends without consent, the records show, and gave Netflix and Spotify the ability to read Facebook users’ private messages. The social network permitted Amazon to obtain users’ names and contact information through their friends, and it let Yahoo view streams of friends’ posts as recently as this summer, despite public statements that it had stopped that type of sharing years earlier. [The New York Times, 12/19/2018]

Despite its importance, the great problem with this exposé is that it is yet another major case of rotten-appleism, of trying to portray a systemic imperative as a mere miscreant malpractice. As the NYT acknowledges, “personal data has become the most prized commodity of the digital age, traded on a vast scale by some of the most powerful companies in Silicon Valley and beyond.”

Why is that, and what entities and forces are genuinely responsible for the radical, progressively worsening market-totalitarianism of our life environment? It ain’t just ham-handed, yuppie-faced Facebook. It is, as somebody once said, a matter of Economics 101 in our supposedly best-possible, history-resolving system.

facebook finger-point image

Meanwhile, the proper answer to all this is not more silly efforts to regulate private-sector media providers. It is to empower the United States Postal System to enter the realm of modern communications, on all fronts, with full competitive aggression. A non-commercial, publicly-guaranteed social networking website, for example, could neatly and reliably dispose of all the problems inherent in Facebook, including the privacy issue.

The Trump Effect

stork carrying baby One important impact of the scum-floating-to-the-top phenomenon that is the Trump Presidency is its addlepation of the political left.

Here, for example, is the meat of an email I just received from Truthout:

“We live in an age where lies can be used to justify pretty much anything: revoke a press pass, deny thousands of people asylum, change laws affecting people’s basic rights. This is somewhat ironic, considering that we live in an age of technology more sophisticated than ever before.”

The proposition here is that, with Trump’s election, we have entered an “age of lies,” with the features listed above.

This is multiply precious.

First of all, the triumph of Trump has been foreseeable, if not predictable, since at least 1987, when The Art of the Deal consolidated this megalomaniacal rentier cretin’s Reaganite fame. Certainly, the thesis that government should be run like a business has always been at the heart of the ongoing Great Restoration/Reagan Revolution.

Et voila, this knownothing TV terminator.

Meanwhile, what kind of age do Truthout‘s people think we lived in before the wonderful Electoral College seated this mentally ill, proudly ignorant election-loser?

Here at TCT, we have always been impressed with the power of this observation by the late Robert L. Heilbroner:

“At a business forum, I was once brash enough to say that I thought the main cultural impact of television advertising was to teach children that grown-ups told lies for money. How strong, deep, or sustaining can be the values of a civilization that generates a ceaseless flow of half-truths and careful deceptions?”

Heilbroner said that in 1976.

Finally, how cute is it that Truthout supposes that modern technology somehow supports, rather than clashes with, truth-telling? Has the climate for realism and democracy ever suffered a more fateful blow than the one struck by the continuing ascendancy of electronic audio-video machines? That a lefty operation with “truth” in its name can possibly miss the deep importance of the old tech of print literacy and direct human conversation is, I fear, a true sign of the times — times which did not begin in November of 2016.

Tea-Potting the Tempest

teacup photo From the TCT perspective, it is amusing and more than a little discouraging to watch the present freak-out about Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. The cardinal, institutional fact is that data-scraping on behalf of behavioral managers underlies almost the entirety of our mass media, which we have not only allowed our corporate masters to monopolize, but to so thoroughly extend into our our lives that sponsored attention-and-information grabs now dominate almost all our waking hours. The notion that this process and its hateful results can be confined to Trump is every bit as addlepated and unhinged as Trump himself.

The society’s inability to name and track its own essential problems is one of the major consequences of the market totalitarianism that results from the normal operation of “our” big business economy. Trump’s use of Facebook and harvested data is but a pebble on the tip of this iceberg.