Jesse Hirsh on Mon, 25 Nov 96 16:33 MET

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Re: nettime: The Anarchives... The Mythology of Technology: The Internet AsUtopia

At 09:39  20/11/96 -0800, via RadioMail wrote:
>This is direct reply to you which I hope will also be forwarded to the
>nettime (and other) lists.  
>You sent chills down my spine many times throughout your essay (a true
>"multiple") -- for a number of reasons.  As you will notice from my
>"English Ideology" essay, I've been working on the Utopian theme and
>end-of-it-all theme for some time and you've beautifully captured the
>horrors which await us if we allow the Internet-as-global-market to become
>the New Media.  Beautifully.

I just finished reading the second part of your essay and I'd just like to
say I thought it was brilliant. In other papers I've linked WIRED into the
powermove currently going on, but not nearly as succinctly as you have. It's
great to see critical thought mobilizing in such a way ;)

>You also correctly used McLuhan's aphorism in this context but you could
>have made it even stronger by completing the quote.  "The medium is the
>message . . . and the audience is the content."  We are the New Media.  If
>we "choose" slavery then the way we will do it will be by participating in
>an enslaving medium.  What you may not have known is that McLuhan thought
>that the apocalypse is near -- literally -- and that TV would take us
>there.  Close but now the Internet offers much more chilling possibilities.

I'll revise my sentence to include 'the audience as content' as clearly it
was what I meant. I'm currently a research associate here in Toronto with
the McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology, and I am quite aware of
McLuhan's personal attitutdes towards current global transformations. I've
currently revived McLuhan's Monday Night Seminar tradition, and every monday
night in the old stock exchange in the heart of Toronto we discuss the true
nature of how the world is changing. One of the recurrent themes is the
nihilism, or as McLuhan put it: Narcissus as Narcosis that haunts the new
media. Whatever dark future we may or may not see, we will be responsible
for its final manifestation. Hence the need to actively engage RIGHT NOW :)

>When asked, "Are you an optimist or a pessimist?"  He answered, "An
>apocalypsist!"  And, given both his extreme devotion to Catholicism (he
>knew in a profound manner what an apocalypse truly means) and his
>conviction that an evil cabal runs this world (see his letters to Ezra
>Pound), the only way to read McLuhan is as a scared shitless
>prophet-of-doom who spoke in "code" so that he wouldn't get busted.

I saw Allen Ginsberg speak here at UofToronto just a couple of weeks ago,
and I was warmed to hear him chant quickly amidst many other syllabuls and
what not that: "The Apocalypse is the Masses" which in a round about way I
felt quite comforting.

I'm also working on a thesis which portrays McLuhan as a taoist sage, and
'McLuhanism' (if there really is such a thing) as revamped Taoism. This was
one of the underlying currents in my 'Utopia' paper, which itself is a lead
in to a paper I'm working on called the TAO of the Internet.

>The problem is that "democracy" is the ultimate honey-trap.  The
>utopian/corporativist (i.e. fascist) impulse *needs* online "democracy" to
>get a public buyin and to be able to constantly surveil the subject
>population.  The "bizarre fusion" that Barbrook/Cameron spoke of is *both*
>total jack-boot and total "freedom."  Both at the same time.  My friend, on
>this planet, anarachy is totalitarianism.

My greatest fear is that anarchy is totalitarianism. I've been raised on the
premise that Anarchy was peace and love. I call myself an anarchist because
I believe in peace, order, love, and democracy, all of which are expressions
of equality.

One point I like to make in reference to 'on-line' democracy is the
deconstruction of Athenian Direct Democracy. Not to many people take into
consideration that the city-state of Athens had 30,000 citizens and 270,000
slaves. The direct democracy was only possible with the direct enslavement
of a much larger majority. I certainly felt this was an accurate analogy to
use in terms of Internet democracy after reading the second part of your paper.

>The further problem is that a fundamental religious basis for this
>totalitarianism is already emblazed in our skulls -- the insane notion that
>the Earth is being threatened by humanity.  Not only is there no science
>behind fear of eco-disaster (its a religion, remember) but by placing
>Nature at the pinnacle of creation and by being willing to sacrifice human
>progress at Nature's altar, we are sealing our fate.

Not to mention the fact that we are foolishly separating human from nature.
Nature is mind, and nature is everything. This is the message of the Tao.
Humanity is the Earth, we cannot threaten it, however our nihilism can
destroy us, and with it our mother, the Earth.

>The New Dark Age you describe will be an Eco-Fascist World State run by
>Jaron Lanier's "Stewards" who define the boundaries of our jailcells while
>we merrily embrace total surveillance of our thoughts and desires through
>libertarian/anarchist "democratic" participation in decorating the

Sounds a lot like Plato's Cave revisited, or at least reawoken. The Internet
is the new break in the wall which allows us to speak between cells, and
bitch about the philospher kings.

>We must return to the Renaissance inventions of scientific knowledge and
>the anti-empire nation-state or much more than Babylon will burn. 
>Civilization will have died.

One of the things were trying to promote at the McLuhan Program is the fact
that we are currently in a Renaissance. All of human knowledge and culture
is being rehashed as we create a new mind. However I'm not to sure if we can
revert to old models of cognition and organization. As the original
Renaissance invented scientific knowledge and the 'anti-empire
nation-state', we now must reinvent these same extensions of our mind. We
need to readdress the dichotomy between self and other, which was at the
core of the last Renaissance. This will be the path towards a reinvigurated
civilization. What is the objective and what is the self. We know the
answers but do we know the questions?

>Mark Stahlman
>New Media Associates

Hey Mark, could you send me a private email explaining New Media Associates?

>New York City

Jesse Hirsh
McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology
Toronto Canada

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P.O. Box 108, Station P, Toronto,  Canada, M5S 2S8

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