We live in a time of perpetual ersatz crises. Discuss in 280 characters.
As gamers in the fourth industrial revolution we’re always on the cusp of crisis. You know, the sort of calamity and panic that unfolds when the media fear they might fail to wring a mawkish angle out of a tale.
The media is now hypermedia and it’s the tail wagging the governing dog. If I were to say the future of our rational liberal democracy relies on realising and remedying this you’d probably say I was being overly dramatic. I’d say watch the news if you want overly dramatic hammed up emotions. Opinion, cant and sentiment are not reporting.
If reporters and presenters must convey emotions, empathy and their opinion when they talk to us then populism, and its ugly bedfellow extremism, become part of the mainstream political discourse. In our sentiment-soaked hypermedia, opposing views are reduced to good versus evil. Pick your side, choose your weapons and fire.
Can liberal leadership survive the relentless corsicating barbs of hypermedia assault? The focus of the fourth estate is not on calling anyone to account. Rather, it’s a conduit for 24/7 ridicule, character assassination and outrage. All with a gnat’s attention span.
“It’s not a surprise that this sentiment-fuelled, reactionary and irrational environment has seen the global resurfacing of sinister old Jewish-elite conspiracy tropes.”
The communication revolution facilitates always being able to stick the blame on someone. Innuendo will do as we don’t need proof when we are so knowing, so “information” rich. According to the blahformation generation in times past the people were less informed. But, perhaps they were more rationally stoic.
Being a conspiracy theorist wingnut is now mainstream. After all, western democracy is crumbling due to Russian psych-ops and a neoliberal cabal. Brexit, Trump, ascendancy of populists and extreme right in Europe, etc is their handywork. In cool intellectual repose most of us know this is not true. However, hypermedia sweeps us up in our subconscious emotional biases. It emotionally airlifts us to the destination, then we scramble to deploy our rational selves to justify where we have landed.
Our subconscious is always darker and more inchoate than our external rationalised and moderated selves. The story of human progress is the story of deliberation and rationalism overpowering our emotions. Not for centuries has the subconscious, less rational and more primitive bit of our personality had the ability to out itself like this. Welcome to the un-enlightenment.
It’s not a surprise that this sentiment-fuelled, reactionary and irrational environment has seen the global resurfacing of sinister old Jewish-elite conspiracy tropes. Marvel at the power of our hypermedia platform to accelerate such cancerous views. The facts of historic subjugation and violence against Jews are indisputable but are overcome at hypermedia warp speed to give life to updated versions of old conspiracies. This is an instructive lens through which to observe how the hypermedia medium is driving our polity more than it reflects it.
“It’s not Russians, evil neoliberals or Cambridge Analytica undermining our society, its our hypermedia gullibility and impulse to emotions-first reasoning.”
There are plenty of examples of the brew of emotions, facts and myths that hypermedia accelerates to normality. Soros is not just served up as a very wealthy and opinionated financier and philanthropist. There is a more sinister subversive, anti ordinary people agenda at work that links to his Jewishness. The nationalist populism that Trump harnessed to help take power bleeds into and mainstreams new anti-semitism in the US. Elements of the UK progressive political movement that is Corbyn and Momentum slips easily into anti-semitism as part of a shifting, kaleidoscopic narrative for what’s wrong with the world and why its brand of progressivism is needed. Labour is not the coming of UK pogroms but it does contain and empower a virulent hypermedia tribe that overpowers cool rationality in a way that is not dissimilar to how Trump motivated his base.
Today’s elite is much more fractious and fractured than we think. Fifty years ago in the UK, Europe and US elites were narrow and much more in control. Today we do not know who or where they are with any certainty. That Trump and Brexit happened proves this point. They were not elite planned events. But we are so hooked on the elite conspiracy narrative that we segue easily into incorporating an elite conspiracy element. For example, Brexit is a neoliberal banker plot to turn the UK into low-wage, no-rights sweatshop.
“Hot emotions emasculate the potential for complex and profound political discourse.”
The real tragedy is that the more we believe in conspiratorial and paranoid things the more we disempower ourselves as citizens of equal voting power in a liberal democracy, perhaps recklessly leaving the door open for a demagogue to save us. It’s not Russians, evil neoliberals or Cambridge Analytica undermining our society, its our hypermedia gullibility and impulse to emotions-first reasoning.
We probably aren’t anymore disgruntled or disappointed with stuff than before hypermedia. However, in slower times, most of us could check out of our angst and anger for weeks on end until the time came to re-enter our passions actively – a space for civility and seeing good in others. Today, the radical or disenfranchised impulse is always active, bristling to fight.
The hypermedia equilibrium is stasis within constant high-decibel conflict. Nothing can happen and nothing can change, perhaps until everything changes. A petri-dish for revolutionary tumult. Hot emotions emasculate the potential for complex and profound political discourse. I am infuriated everytime I hear the rallying call “our NHS” not as I am anti-NHS but as it emotionally weaponises the debate, trivialises it and makes progress impossible – it’s revolution or nothing.
Here’s THE reality check my hypermedia brothers and sisters: wail and gnash your teeth as much as you like but Trump has this hypermedia madness by the horns and that’s why he’s “winning”. As long as he avoids impeachment there ain’t no-one on the horizon that will beat him in the 2020 presidential elections. Brexit and Trump are our hypermedia bastard children sired by our hypermedia promiscuity.
A little part of the solution: switch off and read more books. Whether for escapism or learning, the necessity of focusing on the entirety of someone’s message is a tonic to keep suppressed the deliriums of a hypermedia existence.
I love reading Karl Popper. Not as I think he was always right but as he tried to be relentlessly transparent, rational and intellectually parsimonious. His most famous work, The Open Society and its Enemies is about as long as The Bible. Perhaps it should be taught and read as if corrective gospel for a modern hyper-irrational hypermedia world to remind us of how we struggled to become liberally enlightened coolheaded sceptics.
Unfortunately, too many politicians, journalists, public figures and intellectuals appear to be to stoic rationality what Kim Kardashian is to elegance.