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The English Ideology and WIRED Magazine - Mark StahlmanFrom: pit@is.in-berlin.de

[we are co-publishing this trilogy
in colaboration with  David Hudson's 
www.rewired.com, where you can find
more of a Wired interview and also replies
of Richard Barbrook to the blockbuster-article
he wrote with Andy Cameron. This
text here shows again that meetings
in physical space (this time Budapest)
tend to trigger actions on the text level.
Finally i strongly recommend to check
the threads at Howard Rheingold's Electric
Minds in  the Technos section: www.minds.com

From: Mark Stahlman <newmedia@aol.com>
Date: 18.11.96

[Final Draft -- Copyright New Media Associates, 1996]

The English Ideology and WIRED Magazine

In the hopes of adding some cultural and historical context to the
conversation kicked off by last year's critical essay "The
Californian Ideology" by Richard Barbrook and Andrew Cameron,
I'd like to argue that the tribe which has consistently promoted
the worldview expressed by WIRED and, in effect, publishes and
writes the magazine today isn't American at all -- it's the English. 
If anything, WIRED represents yet another attempt to invade
American culture and to undermine American political and
economic initiative -- another of the attempts which have
characterized American relations with the English for many

WIRED magazine is not an American institution, nor is it even
distinctly Californian (although its association with San Francisco
is certainly undeniable).  And, it's ideology is also not nearly as
novel as Barbrook/Cameron and some other European
commentators seem to suggest -- although, arguably, it is
appearing in a new and, therefore, potentially confusing form. 
Each of the magazine's elements, including free-market
economics, hedonic lifestyle, techno-utopianism and, crucially,
complete disdain for the uniqueness of human consciousness are
all specifically and historically English.  

For that matter, the magazine's sponsors are all English (or self-
confessed Anglophiles).  Its themes are largely English in origin
and its strategy of world-domination through techno-utopian
revolution is English (specifically H.G.Wells) to the core.  Indeed,
WIRED is a house-organ for the modern political expression of
British radical liberalism and it's philosophical partner British
radical empiricism.  Politically, philosophically, financially and
psychologically, WIRED is English -- right down to it's boot block.

Who/What/When/Why is WIRED?

The WIRED project began when the director of MIT's Media Lab,
Nicholas Negroponte (an Anglophile who's ideal digital-slave is
an AI-spawned robotic English butler), plucked Louis Rossetto and
Jane Metcalfe from obscurity in San Francisco's European sister-
city, the other Anglo-Dutch "experimental" metropolis,
Amsterdam.  Before WIRED, Rosetto's greatest previous literary
achievement had been a book describing the high-budget nudie
shenanigans at the filming of "Caligula" -- until then the greatest
artistic achievement of Penthouse magazine's Bob Guccione,
whose introduction to porn-production was under English tutelage
in Tangier and who sent his sons to British military finishing

Negroponte's apparent goal was to meld Rosetto/Metcalfe with
the now flagging San Francisco-based Whole Earth project of his
longtime associate, Stewart Brand (who had previously
contributed the book/marketing-brochure, "Media Lab").  First to
join the WIRED editorial team was Brand protege and Whole Earth
editor, Kevin Kelly, in what was billed as an ambitious relaunch of
the original effort designed to amp-up the graphics, capture
consumer product advertisers and spearhead the, now digital,
techno-Utopian world revolution.  Sex, Drugs and Rock&Roll were
now "tired"; WIRED was now "wired."

WIRED, which positioned itself as the journal of this post-
psychedelic world revolution, was launched with seed money
from Negroponte (buying him the back page and ultimately a
best-seller) and from game designer Charlie Jackson.  But the
glossy mockup failed to attract the crucial second round of
investment and WIRED appeared to be still-born until Negroponte
introduced them to the San Francisco-based private bank,
Sterling Payot, which fronted the money for the magazine's
launch.  Continued existence, however, was still in doubt until the
notoriously Anglophile (a polite word for English in American
clothing) publisher Si Newhouse's Advance Publications stepped
in for the last push.  (No, despite its name, the Newhouse
published magazine, "The New Yorker" is actually not an
American publication -- it's English.)

In this tumultuous process involving financial reorganizations,
whatever notions of editorial independence which might have
been initially entertained at WIRED were quickly contained.  The
editorial content of the magazine from its inception has been
heavily influenced by the larger utopian agendas of Brand and
his Whole Earth-to-WIRED editorial colleague Kevin Kelly.  In
particular, the multi-national scenarios-planning company co-
founded by Brand and previously London-based Royal-Dutch
Shell futurist Peter Schwartz, the Global Business Network (GBN),
has been decisive in shaping WIRED's "content."  From promoting
GBN's consultants endlessly with cover-stories and interviews to
actually producing a "special issue" on the future totally with GBN
resources, WIRED handed over its editorial reigns to GBN and it's
New Dark Age scenarios (more on this below) from day one.

To be sure, proclaiming the gloomy truth of the GBN scenario-
planned and social-engineered future is not exactly WIRED's
public mission.  WIRED is all about the "optimism meme" and is
committed to catalyzing the creation of a "better world" -- at
least for the 5% of the population who are expected to comprise
the new Information Age rulers.  This new "class" even has a
name -- the "Brain Lords" (and what else would the English call
the Information Age aristocracy, anyway?) -- according to
Michael Vlahos, a policy analyst at Newt Gingrich's think-tank,
the Progress and Freedom Foundation.  Editorial support for
Gingrich's brand of "revolution" as well as consistent backing of
his technocratic policy advisers, most notably Alvin Toffler, has
been a WIRED commitment from its earliest issues.

The project which preceded WIRED, the Whole Earth (and it's
various off-shoots, such as the computer conferencing system
known as the WELL), had been the product of Stewart Brand et.
al's 1960's efforts to engineer a utopian counter-culture which, it
was hoped, would broadly transform society at large.  So, aren't I
confusing my tribal history here? Isn't Brand all American?  No, I
don't think so.  Scratch a Stewart Brand and what will you find? 
None other than the English anthropologist Gregory Bateson, of
course.  And, it is from Bateson's lifelong commitment to re-
program a humanity which he deeply despised and, in particular,
his explicit drive to destroy the religious basis of Western
civilization by replacing God with Nature, that the Whole Earth
project was born.  It was literally the beginning of a new religion
with Nature at its center and mankind portrayed as the
dangerous ape threatening to destroy it all.
Bateson's British (and American) intelligence sponsored takeover
of the nascent field of cybernetics in the 1950's from it's creator,
Norbert Wiener, led directly into Bateson's LSD-driven experiments
on schizophrenia and creativity in Palo Alto, which in turn, were
the origins of Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters and their house band,
the Grateful Dead.  Indeed, Stewart Brand's own career as a
publicist for what was first conceived of as drug and then
computer-based techo-utopian revolution owes much to
Bateson's cybernetics guidance.  Brand was among the first to
recognize that personal computers and computer networks might
have even greater potential to re-program the humans who
"used" them than the psychedelics which fueled his earlier efforts. 
Indeed, based on Brand's success at promoting LSD at his Trips
Festivals, he was hired by Doug Englebart to stage the first mass
demonstration of the mouse and windows system which Englebart
had invented at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI).

Bateson is the son of the English geneticist, William Bateson,
whose attacks precipitated the suicide of his principle
Continental rival,  Otto Kammerer, is chronicled in Arthur Koestler's
"Case of the Mid-Wife Toad."  And, if the Englishman Bateson
doesn't satisfy your hunger for a proper tribal genealogy for
psychedelic San Francisco, one might consider Captain Al
Hubbard (no relation to L. Ron), the Johnny Appleseed of LSD.  He
was born in Kentucky but by the 1950's had renounced his U.S.
citizenship and sailed right up to Vancouver, British Columbia, to
become a commodore in their very English yacht club.  That's
where he set up the world war-room to target the destruction of
Western culture (through San Francisco) and from this base that
he joined forces with Humphrey Osmond (English military
psychiatrist, lead English MK-ULTRA researcher and the originator
of the term "psychedelic") and Aldous Huxley (English black-
sheep godson of the original techno-utopian, H.G. Wells) to
spread LSD among the intelligentsia to achieve the world
revolution.  To be sure, San Francisco's cultural scene has long
been shaped by its close association with English intellectuals
and social engineers.

Hey, I Thought "Laissez-Faire" Was French

Don't be fooled by such foreign sounding (at least to some of us)
phrases.  You can be certain that the free-markets, "invisible
hands" and the libertarian thought patterns that have motivated
WIRED publisher Louis Rossetto since his college days are all very
proper and all very English, indeed.  

First there was Thomas Hobbes and Francis Bacon, then Locke
and Hume and then Malthus, Bentham, Smith and the Mills (then
Bertrand Russell and H.G. Wells).  The intellectual movement
named after these Englishmen has been dubbed the
Enlightenment and it is billed as a radical break with dogma-
based religious authority ostensibly in favor of human reason.  

Bullocks, as Barbrook would say.  Instead, the Enlightenment was
an attack on the largely continental-based Renaissance and its
championing of imagination, creativity, science and freedom,
indeed, on human consciousness itself.  As a philosophical
movement (which did also have a continental component), the
Enlightenment is closely associated with attempts to reform and
therefore perpetuate the British Empire (many of these
"philosophers" were employed by the British East India Company)
-- particularly against those Renaissance inspired upstarts like the
gang who revolted and won their independence over in America. 

British radical liberalism was its political form (expressed in our
days as libertarianism by way of nominally Austrian but actually
London School of Economics professor and Nobel Prize winner,
Frederick Hayek).   It's philosophical twin, British radical
empiricism (essentially, re-tooled form of  Aristotelianism), is its
far-flung and anti-human intellectual form propounding that all
knowledge comes from the senses -- denying the uniqueness of
human consciousness and laying the foundation for the inevitable
degrading of humans to the level of farm animals which always
accompanies "liberal" social policy.

Let me hold off from exploring all of the historical and
epistemological territory implied by the above comments which
are unfortunately far too vast for this short essay.   Perhaps,
Bernard de Mandeville's, London published, 1714 treatise, "The
Fable of the Bees: Private Vice, Publick Virtue", will concisely
illustrate the point at hand.  Originally published anonymously
and still in print in a variety of editions today, Mandeville's thesis
is a simple one.  According to Mandeville, humans are no more
than mere beasts and, he went on to say, vice, corruption and
the satisfaction of wanton desire is the only viable basis for
building a successful and thriving economy.  

It was the satisfaction of humanity's animal instincts that
constituted liberty and the aggregation of these acts of private
vice that would result in the greatest public benefit.  By
maximizing human degradation through free-markets regulated
only by what Smith later called the "invisible hand" overall profits
would be maximized along with "publick" virtue, Mandeville and
his cohorts insisted.  And, for its obvious role in attempting to
address the issue of morality in human affairs, religion was the
Enlightenment's arch-enemy -- not because religion was anti-
rational, a common but demonstrably ahistoric and ignorant
opinion, but because it sought to curtail depravity -- the essence
of "liberalism."

It has been suggested that Mandeville's escapades would make
a great WIRED cover story but we'll probably have to settle for his
20th century equivalent, WIRED Executive Editor Kevin Kelly.  As
discussed in Kelly's book, "Out of Control", Kelly has had a life
long fascination with bees -- the "social" insects.  The book's
cover art is swarms of digital bees and the book is little more than
a revision of Mandeville's thesis in complexity-theory/A-life
clothing.  Kelly's thesis should be familiar by now.  Any hope of
controlling economies or cultures or unfolding events is doomed
to suboptimize the results and yield only nasty "unintended
consequences."  People should be left to do whatever they want
-- and eventually they'll buzz back to make plenty of honey (or
die after slamming into someone's windshield along the way) just
like the bees in the hive.  

Mandeville's bald-faced advocacy of depravity would of course
find plenty of public support in WIRED's home town, San
Francisco.  Where else are there public lectures on erotic torture
techniques and "advanced no-safe-word topping"?  Perhaps,
today's average San Franciscan would find little surprising, let
alone shocking, in Englishman Jeremy Betham's ode to the joys
of sex with his favorite donkeys.  For much of his life, Mandeville's
London was ruled by Prime Minister Robert Walpole (who is
credited with the free-market maxim "everyman has his price")
and for a time, the infamous Hell-Fire Clubs were one of London's
principle entertainment attraction.  At least until the crash of the
speculative South Sea bubble (as all free-marketeering inevitably
leads to speculative excess and collapse) forced the public
closing of these historic theme parks of depravity.  

There should be no confusion on this point.  Cyber-libertarianism
is just the latest installment of the now perennial English-led
counter-Renaissance Enlightenment project of the 17th-19th
century.  WIRED's philosophical platform is thoroughly derived
from this English Enlightenment and, if its program were to ever
become broadly successful, the result would only favor the same
ilk of oligarchist "reformers" who started this whole ball rolling a
few hundred years ago.

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