Something Feral

Digging up the flower-beds.

Friday, January 2, 2009

"Keen" is something of a misnomer

In which Andrew Keen fails to understand the subtle nature of the medium:
The 1930s fascists were expert at using all the most technologically sophisticated communications technologies - the cinema, radio, newspapers, advertising - to spew their destructive, hate-filled message. What they excelled at was removing the the traditional middlemen like religion, media, and politics, and using these modern technologies of mass communications to speak with reassuring familiarity to the disorientated masses.

Imagine if today’s radically unregulated Internet, with its absence of fact checkers and editorial gatekeepers, had existed back then. Imagine that universal broadband had been available to enable the unemployed to read the latest conspiracy theories about the Great Crash on the blogosphere. Imagine the FDR-baiting, Hitler-loving Father Charles Coughlin, equipped with his "personalized" YouTube channel, able, at a click of a button, to distribute his racist message to the suffering masses. Or imagine a marketing genius like the Nazi chief propagandist Josef Goebbels managing a viral social network of anti-Semites which could coordinate local meet-ups to assault Jews and Communists.

Well, gosh, it'd be kinda like Digg, wouldn't it? Or perhaps Fark?

The media from the "Fascist Thirties" share a common element: the distribution of the information is unidirectional, straight from a centrally-controlled source to the general public. Radio and cinema existed independently of each other until the advent of television, which is undoubtedly a more restricted format than its predecessors; broadcasting rights require government approval. What could possibly offer a more insidiously invasive method than to have a government-controlled box in nearly every home for the manipulation of information?

Conversely, as John Gilmore observed, the Internet has the peculiar trait that it "interprets censorship as damage and routes around it." This has been show time and time again, through the inability of the MPAA/RIAA to stem the tide of file-sharing amongst peers, the development of GPL software, the several varieties of Linux and Firefox, and the rise of the Blogosphere; each of these formed as a response to a centralized monopolistic entity abusing its position at the expense of John and Jane Q. Public. Each entity responded with attempts to crush the opposition, and in each instance they failed, are failing, and will continue to fail in a miserable fashion.

Keen goes on:
Even before the October crash, Americans had become ever-increasingly suspicious to all institutional forms of authority - from traditional political parties to mainstream media organizations to Wall Street executives, educators, and lawyers.

I have an interesting theory: this bleak opinion did not appear ex-nihilo, but as a response to the ever-increasing similarities in candidates from the Democrat and Republican parties, and the institutionalized complicity in the education, financial and judicial systems. But why now? Why at all?

In truth, the advent of the Internet and the resultant magnitude-of-shift in peer-shared information was the death-knell for the halcyon days of central-programming. The people are talking, sharing, creating, and shaking off the fetters of the State and its mewling quislings, and worse yet, they're loving it.

But soft, what fail through yonder comment breaks?
In 2008, the Internet elected Barack Obama; in 2012, in an America with 15 percent or 20 percent unemployment, I doubt that the digital crowd will be quite as wise.

Wrong again, Keen. The Internet elected Ron Paul by way of fundraising, recognition and even as Time's "Man of the Year".

Finally, the pièce de résistance:
For another sneak preview of digital fascism, it’s worth looking at South Korea, another country with universal broadband infrastructure. In April, the new democratically elected South Korean President, Lee Myung Bak lifted a ban on imported American beef. This resulted in an eruption of anger on the Internet-first amongst teenage girls, then on the popular online portal Daum, and finally through teenage "citizen journalists" on blogs, videocasts, and social networks. The rumor spread that all the American beef was tainted with mad cow disease and an online petition for Lee’s impeachment got 1.3 million signatures in a week. And for an even more real-time example of digital fascism, take a look at the way in which this week’s raging anti government violence in Greece by the young and unemployed (already at over 9% in the Greek economy) has been coordinated by Facebook, Twitter and other viral digital networks.

To paraphrase Vox, it's a pity an educated fellow such as Keen cannot muster the presence of mind to open a dictionary:
   /ˈfæʃɪzəm/ [fash-iz-uhm] - noun

1. (sometimes initial capital letter) a governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.

2. (sometimes initial capital letter) the philosophy, principles, or methods of fascism.

3. (initial capital letter) a fascist movement, esp. the one established by Mussolini in Italy 1922-43.

Vox has also been kind enough to permanently link this historical reference.

Clearly, a popular movement to recall a politician is in no way a fascist activity. If anything, advocating the restriction of information to media that have been shown to be propaganda-dissemination mechanisms by authoritarian governments is itself a fascist viewpoint, considering the intimate nature of the relationship between the "approved distributors" and said government.

I did not have a high opinion of the Daily Beast before this, and it has not improved.


Anonymous said...

I revere Father Coughlin.

If Father Coughlin had a youtube channel, I would watch it every day.

Elusive Wapiti said...

"[the] unregulated Internet...with its absence of fact checkers and editorial gatekeepers..."

I have one question for Mr. Keen. Qui custodiet ipsos custodes?

" enable the unemployed to read the latest conspiracy theories about the Great Crash on the blogosphere."

Or perhaps the truth would have emerged that inflation and manipulation of the money supply by government agents in cahoots with banksters was responsible for their being jobless, rather than Hoover's much-malinged stock-market speculators. Might that knowledge have started a riot or two? Maybe put a coupla gummint servants or banksters in fear?

"Imagine the FDR-baiting, Hitler-loving Father Charles Coughlin, equipped with his "personalized" YouTube channel, able, at a click of a button, to distribute his racist message to the suffering masses."

Goldberg touched on this in Liberal Fascism. Social gospeler Coughlin was a philosophical co-traveller of FDR. They shared the same core philosophy. And racist eugenics was the rage those days...everybody believed in it because it was 'science' and not 'religious superstition'. Moreover, Coughlin didn't need YouTube to spew his vitriol. He had the democrat party to help him with that for a time, as the democrat wanted his power base. After FDR started to distance himself, Coughlin kept at it with radio and rallies.

"Or imagine a marketing genius like the Nazi chief propagandist Josef Goebbels managing a viral social network of anti-Semites which could coordinate local meet-ups to assault Jews and Communists."

This clown speaks as if there is a significant difference between the commies and the Nazis.

More from Keen's article:

"Like in the 30s, we are faced with a systemic crisis not only to free market capitalism but also possibly to representative democracy."

Two lies in this sentence. As in 1930, we do not have a free market. Thus the threat that exists is not to free markets, but to controlled, regulated, government-tinkered markets. Also as in 1930, we do not have a representative democracy, but a mercantilist democracy, one that represents the interests of large corporations and bankers. I do not weep over a threat to either.

"In the Thirties, mass unemployment lead to the catastrophe of fascism..."

Um, no. Keen's history leaves a bit to be desired. But what to expect of a (presumed) lefty? Fascism was already well underway by 1930. And, according to Goldberg, the USA was leading the rest of the world in a transition to a fascist government up until WWII. It was only the horrors of Communism and Nazi-ism that arrested this fall. I say arrested and not corrected, as we remain a fascist country in many ways.

I have to stop here. This article is so bad, I have to exhaust an entire post fisking it. So I'll do just that...

You wrote:

"The Internet elected Ron Paul... "

Perhaps this is because the Internet served as a form of marketplace, which tends to reflect the coverged-upon opionion of a whole group of people. And, since markets communicate information efficiently, also tends to select the best solution to a problem.?

This is as opposed to a pair of crappy candidates selected by our elite ruling masters and placed in front of us in a sort of morton's fork scenario?

Something Feral said...

Grab a plate and knife and go to town on this, EW. There's so much disinformation, failure and untruth in Keen's article that we could be busy for quite a while.

If it's terrible to contemplate the ideas that some people subscribe to, it's horrifying to realize what what they embrace because of what they don't know. Keen, in a way that is typical of authoritarians, has sufficient knowledge about the subject of which he speaks to embarrass himself, nothing more.

(I'm going to grab a copy of Liberal Fascism when I get a chance, along with another book by Rothbard, as I'm almost finished with a few other books on my stack.)

Ron Paul continues to enjoy massive support on the Internet, in no small part due to the financial meltdown that we are experiencing, and as a result those that are discontent with a status quo solution are reading about Austrian economic theory, how personal liberty is inextricable from economic liberty, and how our current situation is as different from that as night and day. Obama has not yet been inaugurated, but there has already been an audible rumble of buyers' remorse regarding his appointments, and those that sold their principles down the river are now realizing that this is only the first of many to come.