THE INTERNET IS ITS OWN ECONOMIC SYSTEM AND IDEOLOGY
History seems to move faster at certain times than others. Now is one of those times.
Karl Marx, thinking about industrialization, claimed that a newly emergent economic force/system was actually revolutionary in the sense that it reshaped all the territory and politics it touched. 100 years later, Marshall McLuhan claimed similar powers for the emergence of technology. The internet differs from prior economic revolutions in that it seeks to reshape the current geographic layout of man in order to completely replace it. It literally recreates itself by writing itself on the landscape-anyone who’s ever used Snapchat or even Pokemon Go could tell you as much. The internet, at this point being both a new technological and new political formation, presents a two-front war with all of us unfortunately trapped in the middle.
RADICALIZATION IS A FEATURE, NOT A BUG
A library science professor I had in college assigned an academic paper whose author and title I forget. It dealt with the “bridging” vs. “bonding” elements in how internet communities were shaped. A “bonding” community was one that tended to increase homogeneity and insularity-it brought together people with a specific set of interests/demographics and isolated them from the outside world over time. A “bridging” community brought people together across demographics/interests. Internet communities were found to be almost exclusively “bonding”, while groups organizing on the physical proximity of persons were shown to fall more evenly across a bridge/bond spectrum.
The alt-righter thinks by himself: “If I feel wronged about anything, no matter how stupid or illegitimate, I’m sure I can find people willing to indulge or enable me, and the more wronged and isolated I feel about the thing, the more time I’m willing to spend on the internet with these people enabling me. Because these people are now my real friends, they hold disproportionate social influence over me and my initial attraction to them doesn’t suggest strong independent thinking skills to begin with.”
The vernacular of internet discourse has centered around increasingly shocking content and progressive desensitization to extreme materials for nearly as long as the internet has existed. This is how the neo-Nazis and ISIS both recruit. This is how Gamergate happened. Etc. Etc. Etc.
…good article Dan. “The internal propaganda system also places a heavy emphasis on popular media-everything from the boring politically empty celebration of civics in something like Parks and Recreation through to the superheroes-as-Blackwater Wagner-lite of the Avengers/Iron Man movies to the sleight of hand use of martyrdom to cover a broken ideology in films like American Sniper to the use of hundreds of drones during the Super Bowl to normalize their use all feed into this larger ecosystem.”
i consider too the internet to be a ‘natural evolution’ of men, not Man. Its simplistic but for me , when I look seperate at men/collectivization, i see a new species forming which is more than just a larger and larger number of men.
As individuals we use the internet singularly and respond to it one by one…but for ‘men’ , the internet , like politics, war , medicine becomes part of a complex statistical systemonly. it is both logical to mass numbers but irrational to a singular purpose,
just as every billiard ball seems to have its own reasons for going in a particular direction but the ‘landscape’ of its path is 1 % a flat surface and 99% the collective movement of its neighbours.
In a phrase “we think we are talking but in actuality we are only listening”
Put otherwise, “the medium is the message”
I like the way you use the internal/external division of propaganda in the context of the changes to communications brought about by social media.
I occasionally argue with Nazis on social media. One of things I’ve noticed is that they often speak in code while talking to outsiders. They have their own internal mythology. I remember a few weeks ago, there was this Nazi bashing immigrants. He had what I thought was a photo of John Lennon as his avatar and I remarked about how odd is was to have someone who believed in “imagining no countries” as your avatar while bashing immigrants. The avatar turned out, not be John Lennon but some Asian who looked like John Lennon. Since I hadn’t been aware of the meme (which was popular in Nazi circles) they all believed they had scored a big LULZ victory over the dumb liberal cuck. it was an almost textbook example of what you refer to by a “bonding” community in action.