Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Selling the Debased Present With Fraudulent Futures

The momentary reflection on Jeffrey Toobin's disgusting self-promotional stunt in the last post leads me to make a larger point that actually provides a way of understanding what drives this quirky quixotic blog of mine. In my opinion, we can never underestimate the devastating force of marketing and promotional discourse, a mode of mass-mediated deception and hyperbole that has always operated less according to traditional rhetorical relations of logical entailment and evidenciary substantiation and figural evocation than in the more ballistic terms of velocity and timing and saturation, from the early Nazi propaganda tactics of the Big Lie to the Bush Administration selling a pre-emptive catastrophic criminal war based on lies modeled on bringing a product on market at the most propitious season. There is in my view nothing more devastating to the possibility of democratic deliberation, progressive reform, and shared problem solving than the current suffusion of our public life with the always deceptive always deranging norms and forms of marketing and promotional discourse. It is this concern that drives this blog's shared preoccupations (which may seem strange) with both Movement Republicanism and with futurological discourses.

Movement Republicanism came into its own after a long struggle in resistance to New Deal and Great Society progressivism with the administration of a "Great Communicator" whose communication was entirely advertorial (it actually matters that there were no "welfare queens," it actually matters that "Star Wars" could not work) and it is dying before our eyes as its various incarnations deploy its codes and manipulate the electoral process in efforts not to govern or make policy but to sell books and promote their personal celebrity and augment their personal fortunes, whatever the public costs, from Rush Limbaugh to Sarah Palin to Herman Cain to Newt Gingrich.

Futurology came into its own in the aftermath of WWII and always functions in the service of the neoliberal Washington Consensus, peddling the phony redemption of Hiroshima into nuclear energy too cheap to meter (a reality of ruinously expensive catastrophically dangerous boondoggles) and plastic superabundance for all (a reality of toxic petrochemical crap first blighting the visible world and then bulldozed into mountains of poisonous landfill wounding the living world for centuries) and "urban renewal" yoked to emancipatory fantasies of traffic flow (a reality of devastated once-vital diverse neighborhoods, white capital flight via snarled enraged carbon pollution spewing snarls into demographically and environmentally and psychologically catastrophic suburban enclaves, eventually hyperbolized into paranoid privatized walled compounds) and longevity medicine (a reality of skin cream and boner pills marketed to Baby Boomers by pre-teen models and snake oil salesmen hawking nutritional supplements and sports cars and uncanny-making cosmetic procedures and yearly press releases about the latest athlete-in-a-pill lab result) and open-access participatory digital democracy (a reality of vapid 140-character limited content and pet videos and hyperbolic self-promotional profiles posted to the indifference of "zero comments" and plowed into a mulch of targeted corporate marketing and military surveillance).

Both Movement Republicanism and futurology (especially evident in sub(cult)ural formations of futurology that also identify as "Movements" like the transhumanists) functionally promote corporate-military incumbent elites and the status quo from which they disproportionately benefit either by trumpeting an anti-governmentality that promises the future emergence of a spontaneous order of liberty if only we dismantle any countervailing powers that constrain their profit-taking abuses or by trumpeting a techno-transcendence that promises the future emergence of a toypile of superabundance and superpowers if only we get out of the way of the celebrity CEOs and thought-leaders to bring all the supergoodies to market. Both are hyperbolic variations on the deceptions, hyperbole, brand-building, buzz flogging, repetition drilling, neologism-coining and repackaging strategies of marketing and promotional discourses selling a debased present through the fraudulent conjuration of spectacular futures.


jimf said...

> Both Movement Republicanism and. . .transhumanists[']. . .
> techno-transcendence. . . are. . . variations on the deceptions,
> hyperbole, brand-building, buzz flogging, repetition drilling,
> neologism-coining and repackaging strategies of marketing and
> promotional discourses. . .

But transhumanism is New and Improved. Right?

Dale Carrico said...

Transhumanism definitely has the EZ Pour Spout. I do not recommend a Big Gulp.