Mark Stahlman (via RadioMail) on Fri, 28 Mar 1997 20:35:33 +0100 (MET)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> How Do We Get Out of This Mess?

Jon (et al):

WIRED is just an emblem and a convenient target, as we all know.  It is
useful for getting at some historical material and some ideological
frameworks which will be just as important/dangerous when WIRED is nothing
but soggy rotting landfill.  

Unfortunately, as the recent online "experiment" about all this has shown,
very few of us are comfortable holding a conversation which isn't literally
about WIRED (or whatever) or abstractly fitting into some other
"discourse."  We seem to be having a problem with our concreteness. 
Likewise, the fun and games about where someone was born or whether someone
actually was recorded to have sex with donkeys is only goofy
window-dressing.  It (WIRED, donkeys and birth certificates) is all there
only as props -- in part to demonstrate what level of discussion we will
permit ourselves to have and in part to explore our willingness to grapple
with the life and death issues at hand.  

Let's take, for instance, the Heaven's Gate UFO/death cult.  As noted by
the "religion" editor of the NYTimes today, this is/was simply another
Gnostic cult.  The extreme belief in the separation of mind/soul and
body/reality is what allowed these poor idiots to rationalize the deed and
commit mass suicide yesterday.  Where have we seen these notions before?

I maintain that this group's belief system is *identical* to the impulse
behind what eventually became the liberal wing of the philosophical
movement known as the Enlightenment.  This is the "Knowledge is Power"
framework of Francis Bacon and reason why Newton has been described as the
"last Magi."  It is the impulse to impose human will on nature and it can
only lead, in the final account, to our extinction -- as shown literally in
this case.  It is, in turn, no different from the pathetic geek-stroke of

Let's speak clearly.  Radical liberalism or the "English Ideology" (which
you have recently been combatting over at eMinds, along with me and few
others, in its guise as cyber-libertarianism) is nothing more nor less than
the technocratic wing of the oligarchy.  Likewise, what we refer to as
"conservative" is nothing more nor less than the aristocratic wing of that
*same* oligarchy.  Yin and Yang.  Liberal and Conservative.  Both born in
the Enlightenment and both still more or less running the place.  WIRED is
merely one of the recently oozing pimples of the technocratic wing in this
long running drama.  So, naturally, some of us can't resist squeezing the

As you may recall, Gnosticism was declared to be heretical in the 2nd
century by the bishops in Alexandria.  Needlesstosay, this "movement" never
disappeared and it never gave up its hatred for the then triumphant
Christianity.  And, since the Enlightenment set itself up to "free"
humanity from the Church, you will not be surprised to find that these
surviving secretive "gnostic" currents played a significant and possibly
pivotal role in the Enlightenment and all the related subsequent events. 
Right down to today's insane headlines.

As Richard Barbrook has pointed out, this secretive (Freemasonic) approach
is essential to the "English Ideology."  It is what they often call
"invisible colleges" (with the Enlightenment's HQ at the British Royal
Society among the first) and it is simply the origins of episodic events
like WIRED.  Read Alvin Toffler's review of Kenneth Boulding's "Meaning of
the 20th Century" or his notes of his meeting with Boulding for his
introduction to these "invisible colleges."  This is the origin of "Future
Shock" and Newt Gingrich and "direct democracy."  This is the origin of the
GBN, the PFF and the myriad of technocratic institutions set up to
re-program humanity.  Surely, you know who I'm talking about.

With the double wammie of Nietzsche and Darwin at the end of the 19th
century, the "triumph" of the Enlightenment began to really kick in. 
Modernity gave us social science and scientific socialism.  Whatever might
have remained of the earlier Christian integration of body and soul (there
is a *reason* why incarnation is vitally important, you know), was rapidly
stomped out of most public expressions of our "spiritual" and intellectual

Theosophy and Crowley.  Teutonic myths and collective unconscious. 
Scientology (which has very similiar UFO origins as Heaven's Gate, BTW) and
techno-paganism.  New Age and body-piercing.  These are all "gnostic"
belief structures which were "invented" to fill the void left after the
Enlightenment had (more or less) buried its enemies.  Humans are a
religious bunch, as it turns out.  In order to defeat Christianity, the
obvious place to start was the "counter-tradition", Gnosticism.  Let a
thousand gnostics bloom.

Modernity was a really nasty time.  It almost finished us off.  So,
following in its wake (i.e. post WW II), post-modernity was designed to
cool things down.  Social engineering moved to the front burner as
techniques which proved promising during WW II became the focus of massive
funded research in the 1950's.  Whatever remained of the pre-modern
Christian beliefs *and* the totalitarian madness which displaced it was all
lumped together and labelled "authoritarian."  Stability became the
unifying purpose of the oligarchy and "never again" became their slogan. 
Psychological warfare became their main weapon -- otherwise known as the
"Cold War."

LSD wasn't designed to make/break spys.  That's what is known as a
cover-story.  It was intended to be the basis of a new synthetic religion. 
The only debate was whether to give it to the top 100 leaders in the world
(Huxley/Leary) or to put it in the water supply (Kesey/Brand/Dead). 
Despite it's casting as pre-civilization "oneness", LSD and all its
companions are pure post-modern social-engineering.

So is anti-war.  So is anti-statism.  So is zero-growth.  So is
environmentalism.  So are all the "liberation" movements.  The theory is
that growth-obsessed, authoritarian nations destroy the environment and
start wars which threaten us all.  Surely you've heard this theory.  Maybe
you even believe it.  Who's theory is this?  It's the oligarch's theory, of
course, and it has been elaborately detailed by oligarchist hirelings like
Kenneth Boulding, among others.  Read his works.  It is very difficult to
understand the late 20th century without understanding how these pieces
originated and how they fit together.

We all live in a test tube designed to "cure" us of our violence and our
greed and our bigotry.  Some of us (i.e. my "baby-boom" generation) were
been the first designer generation.  And, many of you are second generation
lab rats.

All this is what McLuhan and Wiener and C.S. Lewis were warning about. 
And, it is what I have been warning us about too.  It's what H.G. Wells and
Bertrand Russell (among hundreds more) were fighting *for*.  That's all. 
You can't tell the players without a scorecard, you know.

The question is whether we can heed these warnings and whether we can build
 institutions to block what Lewis refered to as "The Abolition of Man."  In
turn, this is what I've been calling the "Battle for Cyberspace."  I'm
looking forward to fighting that battle alongside many of you.

(I expressly forbid Bruce Sterling or anyone else from forwarding this
message to the WELL, Electric Minds or any related system.  All others
should feel free to re-post this as they see fit.)

Mark Stahlman
New Media Associates
New York City
#  distributed via nettime-l : no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a closed moderated mailinglist for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: and "info nettime" in the msg body
#  URL:  contact: