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

Monday, January 31, 2011

Better Than Ezra?

When Ezra Klein wears his spectacles on the tee vee he looks a bit like Emma Goldman. One wishes he sounded a bit more like her. (I keed! I keed!)

Onto the Sofa and Into the Tweet

Rising income inequality and neoliberal precarization -- together, I am far from denying, with decades of US-backed dictatorship with no end in sight (especially when Mubarak signaled succession for his son) -- is a key driver of the current Egyptian social unrest, but by some measures inequality in the aftermath of the long epoch of Reagan-Clinton-Bush neoliberalization is worse in the United States than in Egypt.


Right after Republicans on the Supreme Court selected George W. Bush to the Presidency in a coup from which our institutions have not yet recovered to this day, I was reading Salon very regularly. For a while there Salon felt something like a popular and populist voice in the wilderness. But then for years and years I didn't read Salon at all, well, except for Greenwald's column -- as Salon seemed to get rather lame and the scattered left blogipelago captured my wandering eye. But, lately, I've noticed, Salon has been drawing back my attention again... I wonder if it's just me?

Ain't That the Truth

Over at Salon, Alex Pareene points out that across the spectrum America's narcissism taints Egypt coverage.

Rising Up From Point Zero

I have to say the voice of the heroic Nawal al-Sadawy this morning on Democracy Now! probably moved me more than anything I'd heard so far, strange to tell. I'm still disgruntled at what seems to me a pornographic touristic quality in the enjoyment I see across much of the online commentary about Egypt. Also, I'm still enormously worried about what seem to me lethal confusions of spontaneism with democracy and also too many facile assumptions about Facebook-Revolutionaries and other figures of techno-abundance presumably in play (both spontaneism and techno-abundance are profoundly congenial to neoliberal developmentalist narratives -- and I fear all too likely to facilitate and rationalize authoritarian recapture of the energies of the uprising -- even as, just such neoliberal policies and Washington Consensus assumptions no less than all those tear gas canisters, fighter jets, and tanks are among the key American imports contributing indispensably to the conditions against which Egypt is rising up). But, all that aside, hearing Nawal al-Sadawy's happiness and conviction on the streets of Cairo (I've been teaching her since I discovered her work, as a real latecomer let me add, back in 1995), I'll admit I shed a few tears of joy in spite of myself.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Krugthulu Spies More Signs of the Singularity!

The Kitchen Test:

By any reasonable standard, the change in how America lived between 1918 and 1957 was immensely greater than the change between 1957 and the present.

Accelerating, ever-accelerating, into the digi-nano-robo-transcendent future!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Democracy Isn't a Riot

The authoritarian right is wrong to denigrate democracy as mob rule but the anti-authoritarian left is just as wrong to celebrate democracy in mob insurrection. Every insurrection is a promise but no insurrection is the fulfillment of the promise. Venting grievance is just another form of suffering grievance -- it can be moralizing the way a dancefloor or a public hanging can be, but it isn't ethical, and politics that are moral (we-expressive) but not ethical (soliciting formal-universal assent) are nothing to be particularly happy about if your politics are supposed to be democratic. When the street educates grievance with shared and proffered narratives, when the street agitates for an end to grievances in voiced positions with constituencies, when the street organizes councils or other bodies out of which leaders they respect start making demands equal to these grievances, then, and only then, do I stop reserving judgment. Don't mistake what I am saying as the insistence we look only to political parties or professional politicians as these usually stifle and domesticate the promise in such outbreaks of history as this -- but to look for educational and organizational impulses arising from the street, to discern the real promise of legible voices and legitimate leaders emerging out of those movements.

A Little Grossed Out

Uninformed cheerleading at foreign insurrections seems to me exactly as unseemly as uninformed cheerleading at foreign invasions.

You Are Not There

No matter how many times you hiccup into the silly twitterverse.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

TED Talk =

The total reduction of culture to venture capitalism.

Blobjects On Parade

...with their parents and friends over at Designs On Us.

Also, Like It Or Not, Sputnik Moment = Mars, Bitches!

...since Congress holds the purse strings.

The Morning After

To the extent that Obama sought to divert America's dumb dumb nationalist and exceptionalist impulses from war making to education and infrastructure investment, I suppose that his State of the Union was a comparatively good thing -- not that everybody didn't give endless blow jobs to the military in any case last night.

Come what may, I personally think we should all be hoping for the Chinese to become a better educated and more prosperous and more responsible planetary partner rather than getting into a delusive lather over "outcompeting them," rah rah blah blah blah, especially to the extent that this sort of competition can so easily just end up becoming a rationale for still more self-sacrifice and austerity, which is never about anything but more welfare for the already rich at the endless expense of precarious majorities to the ruin of all.

Obama's speech was okay, certainly not inspiring for me nor intended for the likes of me. It was rather reassuring to hear a President pretending both parties have reasonable people in them capable of responding sensibly to real problems so long as you didn't think about how that isn't, you know, even remotely true.

The Republican responses were full of the usual lies and errors and confusions, but managed to surprise only in their shared choice of a tone of catastrophism over optimism. Don't Republicans understand any more that Americans like to accentuate the positive as we eat our children? Don't they remember why they love smiley-face Saint Ronnie's corporate-militarism so much more than frowny-face Sinner Nixon's corporate-militarism?

In his "official" wingnut response, fitness guru and roseate puppet-head Paul Ryan (anagrammatically, that's "Ayn R" to you) alluded to European crises not all of which actually exist, he warned about seniors losing benefits while proposing literally to take those benefits away as a matter of principle, he reassured us all that Republicans see a role for government facilitating enterprise and order but just not involving any investment or interference or anything else.

In other words, he was pretty hard to distinguish in his lunacy from Michelle Bachmann, although apparently all one need do to be treated as "articulate" and "serious," again, comparatively speaking, is manage to look at the right camera as one peddles the Randroid fraud and Founderological revisionisms.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Republican SOTU Responders Are BOTH Loons

Michelle Bachmann certainly deserves the ridicule she's getting as she steps up to offer up a fulminating megalomaniacal second "Tea Party" Republican response to the Republican response already being offered to the President's State of the Union tonight.

If you are having trouble remembering CNN broadcasting Bernie Sanders or Russ Feingold's Democratic wing of the Democratic Party responses to Bush SOTU's in addition to the wan DLC approved official responses, that's because obviously they didn't take place in "the liberal media," so called.

An unfortunate effect of all the well deserved ridicule Bachmann is getting, however, is that the GOP's official responder Paul Ryan seems, when presented against the backdrop of Bachmann's saucer-eyed idiocy, to be constructed all too often as some sort of "serious" guy, a guy I have heard described more than once, flabbergastingly enough, as an "intellectual," of all things, an "ideas guy."

Let us be very clear about this. Paul Ryan is a laughable light weight. Only in America would his brand of smarmy salesmanship be peddled as "intellectualism."

Paul Ryan wants to eliminate Medicare and Social Security because he decries their "collectivism."Paul Ryan thinks Obama is like a villain in an Ayn Rand novel. Ryan presumably thinks the social democracies of Europe are tantamount totalitarian death camps. He is an utterly unserious person.

Paul Ryan's facile libertopian double talk is just as outside the bounds of acceptable or even remotely useful assumptions as is Bachmann's patent nonsense. Nobody the least bit sensible has anything to gain by enabling this foolishness. Bachmann and Ryan are both utterly ridiculous people. They should both be laughed into comparative harmlessness and then out of government for good.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Soft Futurology of Lowered Expectations...

Edited and upgraded from the Moot...

Don't you just love it when futurologists who have been handwaving about robo-digi-nano-bio techno-transcendence just around the corner every hour on the hour for a generation turn around after endless prophetic failure and say, well, you know, actually, when you really come to think about it, well, we've actually had cognitive enhancement for as long as we've had education, we've actually had virtual reality for as long as we've had literature, we've actually had nanotechnology for as long as we've had biochemistry, we've actually had enhancement and longevity medicine for as long as we've had effective healthcare, we've actually had the singularity for as long as we've had an uncertain future, we've actually been cyborgs since we've had eyeglasses, clothes, used language, whatever... as if this retreat into the quotidian represents some sort of vindication of futurology, some sort of indication of their special relevance and expertise... and it doesn't seem to occur to any of them that nobody ever needed a futurologist of all people -- or pseudo-scientific futurological promotional neologisms of all things -- to point out that chemistry and literature and prostheses and so on exist or are, you know, worthy of discussion?


I haven't felt as though I had much to say lately worthy of a hearing in the world, even in the odd-ball sense of a public hearing afforded in the new blogipelogic twitterversal pseudo-public realm of panoptic "participation" and "zero comments."

If Amor Mundi has anything like a useful niche in this burgeoning blogipelago, I expect it is as the place of my ongoing critique of both mainstream and superlative futurological discourses and formations. Lately, however, I must admit that the greenwashers and liberal eugenicists and even the Robot Cultists have seemed to me in the main too tired and dumb and simply lame to be worthy of serious critique or even mined for humorous critique, and attending to them has felt more demoralizing than provocative.

This happens sometimes, and usually, eventually, I snap out of it. I'm teaching a graduate seminar this term on design discourse that engages these themes in a differently rewarding sort of setting (the blog for that course is here), and it remains to be seen if this teaching will re-invigorate my anti-futurological blogging or function as a sufficiently satisfying intellectual alternative to make my blogging feel even more redundant.

I do occasionally vent my frustrations or express opinions about current events here, of course, and no doubt that will continue to happen as much from habit as anything, but I have always known that there are lots of people out there who share much of my perspective and express it more forcefully and pithily than I manage to do in my pedantic meandering sort of way here, and I really wouldn't want Amor Mundi to degenerate into that sort of enterprise.

Anyway, we'll see how things unfold, I just wanted to say a word about where I'm at for those readers who do still stop by regularly.

Countdown to a New Countdown

Word is, in the sudden (to most of us) aftermath of Olbermann's exit last night from MSNBC's Countdown there is going to be some quick scrambling of the evening lineup -- Ed Shultz entering prime time, ready or not, Lawrence O'Donnell's show (which has been better than I expected it to be) appearing earlier in the evening, that sort of thing. Apart from the marvelous Rachel Maddow, of course, MSNBC's anchors tend to look far too much like the white wizened attendants to the Emperor in his Death Star 2.0 throne room in Return of the Jedi. I for one would like to see Countdown continue on with Aisha Tyler at the helm. The Countdown format always works better when the righteous anger is leavened with the righteous funny, when it edges a little closer in tone to the Soup (an anchor desk Tyler once briefly took up herself). I also wouldn't mind seeing Sam Seder take charge (in more ways than one), and he's a more plausible candidate than Tyler since he's actually guest-hosted Countdown a couple of times, although my preference that he host in boxer shorts is probably at least marginally less plausible. Cenk Uygur, who has also guest-hosted, would end the show for me forever -- his style is even more barky and stiff -- all surface tedium and discomfiting hysteria underneath -- than the one that has suffused KO's performance in these many months of family tragedies and management disputes, all of which has made Countdown lately a show I almost always skip when once upon a time, deep in the slough of despond of the Killer Clown Administration now just behind us, it was a show I rarely missed.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

More Signs of the Singularity!

I received from the gloved hand of my postal carrier this afternoon an envelope from WIRED magazine hoping to entice me to read their ink and pulp plea to subscribe to their ink and pulp magazine with the promise of a Free Gift! inside the envelope which turned out, of all things, to be a sad little slip of paper with a conventional 2011 calendar printed on it of a kind that could not possibly be of the least use to the possessor of a single computer or media device, that is to say, to anybody surely who would ever subscribe to their technolowhizbang offering.

Civility Among the Assholes

If you look, let us say, at educational outcomes, levels of poverty, incarceration rates for people of color in the United States either you think these data reflect natural endowments of people of color (which makes you a racist asshole) or you think these data reflect unnecessary unjust social conditions. And if you think they reflect unnecessary unjust social conditions either you don't care (which makes you a racist asshole) or you do care and so engage in some measure in education, agitation, and organization to change these unnecessary unjust social conditions. And if you don't engage in any measure in education, agitation, or organization to change these unnecessary unjust social conditions then you really don't care even if you say you do (which makes you a racist asshole).

I know that when we speak of racism in contemporary life we are supposed to be quick (in the political correctness of the one who fears above all the charge of political correctness) to indicate we are talking about outcomes and structural features and vestigial legacies of a curiously abstruse racism rather than accusing particular individuals of intentional vitriolic racist sentiments.

I think this habit of ours not only overlooks widespread and fairly flagrant concrete racism in this country but it also indulges in a facile fantasy about the extent to which it is actually possible to be ignorant of or inattentive to extraordinary and abiding social violence and injustice disproportionately affecting people of color without also being outright racist in a fairly straightforward sense, a fantasy that always only benefits the racist rather than the victims of racism and hence is itself racist.

I suspect that we engage in this pretense among other reasons because we all know that part of what it usually means to be a racist asshole (or a sexist pig, or a gay basher, or a torture-apologist, or a rich prick) is also to be a self-important asshole who fancies his hurt feelings matter more than whatever hurt his clumsy belligerent ignorant self-regard causes, so everyone the least bit more sensible proceeds to let assholes be assholes in a general sort of way even as they try to nudge assholes to ameliorate their assholery the least bit in any particular egregious expression of it, because that is the only thing short of making a scene almost as unpleasant as the assholery itself that assholes allow for, being assholes.

Nevertheless, it really is worth pointing out that it happens to be inherently, absolutely, and categorically disagreeable to disagree agreeably with racist, sexist, heterosexist, or classist varieties of assholery even if precisely this, I'm sorry to say, is too often what is meant by "civility" in contemporary parlance.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ups and Downs

Feeling a bit spent in the aftermath of that last epic post, over which I fussed for two days, for all the good it did me -- so I turned off the computer, crawled under a comforter on the couch with the cat and on and off Eric, too, and I've devoted the last couple of days entirely to Upstairs, Downstairs, in order, from the beginning. Even so, there's still a huge amount of episodes to enjoy ahead of me. A week from today I'll be full of stage fright and ferocious conviction, preparing for my first lectures of the Spring term, but for now I'm a very satisfied slug.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Displacement of the Public by the Promotional and the Disastrous Parochialism of Our Politics

Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is now struggling for her life together with a number of other surviving victims of a profoundly mentally disturbed gunman with marginal right-wing anti-government associations and sympathies.

You will no doubt have heard already that the Sarah Palin camp is attempting to deny that the now notorious campaign ad of hers targeting Giffords and other Democrats for elimination was indeed saying what it was saying, however figuratively, denying that the ad relied for its intelligibility and force on the citation of the iconography and mobilization of the energies of right-wing anti-government discontent in which gun-culture and insurrectionary fantasizing figure prominently, right-wing cultures at the extremes of which -- providing their contours and supplying much of their organizational passion -- are white-racist and anti-abortion and anti-government and militia movements.
"We never ever, ever intended it to be gun sights. It was simply cross-hairs like you'd see on maps," said Rebecca Mansour on the Tammy Bruce radio show. Moreover, there was "nothing irresponsible" about the image, and to draw a line connecting Palin and Saturday's shooting is "obscene" and "appalling."

The denial is of course patently ridiculous -- Palin was simply saying the obvious when she herself referred to the "'bullseye' icon used 2 [sic] target the 20 Obamacare-lovin' [sic] incumbent seats". No less patently ridiculous is her camp's effort to displace onto those who struggle to comprehend and contextualize violence what is obviously "obscene" and "appalling" in the violence itself and in those who play into it.

The indispensability to the very rich elite incumbent minority whose interests define the agenda of the Republican Party of a reservoir of ugly unruly inchoate white-racist authoritarian-religionist lumpenproletarian resentments and energies at its margins is well known and easily observed -- the Southern Strategy, the hate minorities denominated the Silent Majority-Moral Majority-Family Values-Values Voters, the Birchers and Buchananites, the Randroids and libertopians are none of them stealthy or inconspicuous -- as are the "dog whistle" genuflections to these constituencies and their anti-democratic dreams in would-be "mainstream" or "centrist" Republican politicians trolling for the stamp-lickers and sign-wavers and votes of the mobs needed to serve the minorities who sign the checks to keep as much oligarchy as can pass for democracy among the rubes from year to year.

There is rarely an easy, straightforward, direct line of causation connecting such cynical GOP "dog whistles" to the occasional eruption of outright criminal violence from some deranged quarter of the mob confusing getting the nod for getting a cue to unleash bloody mayhem This is not to deny either a real connection between endless recourse to the imagery of firearms and the rhetoric of elimination and such terrible acts, but just to insist on care in the attribution of culpable responsibilities in these circumstances. Although the situations differ, there is a family resemblance here with efforts either to draw too facile or to deny altogether a chain of causation between the teen who attempts rape and who also enjoys video games in which animated rape figures prominently, or gun violence in a school setting where the many kids listen to violent rock and/or rap music, so-called. As I say, the analogies are not perfect here, but they are close enough to recommend careful attention from those trying to grasp the connections between eruptions of criminal violence and the work of culture (and subcultures, including subcultures at the margins, including subcultures that organize at political sites) attesting to, responding to, negotiating with, making sense of criminal and systemic violence abroad in the world.

The Palin camp's effort to disavow altogether any need for soul searching in this moment, to register any complicity at all (here's to the "personal responsibility" crowd in action!) in the ongoing violence and ever-present threat of violence into which it is otherwise so eager to tap cynically and opportunistically for short-term advantage, media attention, better book sales, a better seat at the table where the spoils are divided, from moment to moment is all bad enough. But what seems to me even worse, if that is possible, and well worth a longer look, is frankly the incredible contempt expressed in the Palin camp's recourse to so obvious and so ridiculously false a claim in making its denial as to propose that the target icons in the infamous ad are in fact innocuous marks of the kind you would find on a surveyor's map.

You may recall that just a few days ago I posted about Republican Representative Darrell Issa, who is now Chair of the House Oversight Committee, and who told Rush Limbaugh a few months ago that he considered President Obama "one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times." Since part of his brief in the Oversight Committee would be to address corruption, a word that actually means something that has actual serious penalties attached to it, it is scarcely surprising that Issa has regularly been pressed since making this statement and many others like it to provide a single piece of evidence of the actual corruption to which he referred. Obviously unable to do so Issa did not apologize or back down from his outrageous charge but proposed a rather brazen lie:
I think people misunderstand the meaning of the word corrupt, and obviously, CNN does. 'Corrupt', or 'corrupted' or 'failure', it's no different than a disc drive that's given you some bits that are wrong…. I have never said it's illegal. I've never made any of the statements that are often said on CNN that implied wrong-doing of the president at a criminal level.

In other words, when people understood him to be saying what he was obviously saying they were "misinterpreting" his intended meaning, just as when people recognized shooting targets pointing to candidates targeted for elimination in the Palin ad as evoking a painfully clear figure they too were "misinterpreting" her intended meaning. Never mind that using corruption in the sense of a corrupt computer file would render Issa's utterance politically ineffectual, never mind that a map with surveyor marks on it would render Palin's ad politically ineffectual -- in both cases demanding as the condition of their intelligibility according the their defensive retroactive justifications that both the utterance and the ad would be completely unintelligible in the political context in which utterances and ads are offered up to make impacts not puzzle audiences with their inapt innocuousness.

Many are making the important point that there is a distinction between heated disagreements and proposals on the part of one side of a heated disagreement that their opponent should be marked for death, either literally or even through the conjuration of the figure of firearms and force -- which is to say the present distress is not properly attributable to the "incivility" endlessly protested in some quarters, which is incapable of distinguishing strong disagreement from threats of violence, largely because they disapprove of any disputes over policy differences at all preferring as they seem to do the maintenance of the status quo above all else.

But it is not just their recourse to threats of violation and violent imagery that distinguishes Palin and Issa from legitimate political dispute right about now: In making these patently ridiculous moves, Palin and Issa reveal both the level of their contempt for the very idea of political legitimacy (that is to say, the idea that politics is beholden in the least either to the demands of truth or of ethics) and the level of their contempt for the people (to whom the attribution of the least dignity and standing in their diversity requires the minimal assumption of an expectation on their parts of some truthfulness and ethics in their representatives) in whose names and in whose interests they claim to speak and work.

Stakeholder politics are difficult and adults assume that the reconciliation of the diversity of aspirations of the plurality of peers with whom we share the world will be frustrating, and that even good faith efforts of good people of good will in the service of their ideals are fraught with peril and prone to error in the face of the real demands of pragmatism. This is not the sort of thing I am drawing attention to when I speak of the patent absurdity of the claims of Palin and Issa here.

Further, we have all come to expect, for better or worse, a terrible susceptibility to cynicism and hypocrisy and deception from nearly all partisan politicians -- in consequence of the deep and structural corruption of our institutions by the military-industrial complex, by a for-profit healthcare system, by the workings of ubiquitous lobbyists in the context of a surreally expensive privately-funded system of election. And we have all come to expect, for better or worse, this cynicism and hypocrisy and deception from Republican politicians in particular even more readily and naturally -- in consequence of the facts that Republicans primarily serve the interests of a small minority of moneyed and reactionary interests but that even in a notionally democratic system such as our own they must either attract or demoralize sufficient majorities to enact this agenda and it can only be through relentless cynicism, hypocrisy, and deception that such a fraud could be perpetrated to sufficient effect for long enough to be worth the money and effort the small minority of moneyed and reactionary interests they serve must put into it to keep it going. But neither is this the sort of thing I am drawing attention to (though we are getting closer now) when I speak of the patent absurdity of the claims of Palin and Issa here.

In going on and on and on about all this I do not want to be mistaken as simply belaboring the obvious point that Palin's camp, like Issa, is blatantly indulging in rather facile deception here. Of course Palin and Issa are lying, Republicans lie, just as of course Senate Republicans hyperventilating about filibuster reform are hypocritically reversing the "principled positions" they held when they would be the beneficiaries of filibuster reform, Republicans are hypocrites, just as of course House Republicans elected as deficit hawks are now gleefully setting out to add hundreds upon hundreds of billions to the deficit in order to give billionaires more tax breaks, Republicans represent the rich by mobilizing the mob, just as of course "family values" Republicans, in the fullness of time, are exposed in a garish parade of hotel rooms with big-haired anorexic women who are not their wives, with gay hookers' feet in their mouths, with their pockets full of bribe money.

Of course, as a matter of course: it has become an airless, joyless, robotic ritual, a dance of death in which conservatives lie and cheat and then are shown by progressives to have done so and then flashbulbs erupt and eyes roll and cynics shake their heads cynically while photogenic prison sentences and retirements sink into the swampy ooze where their books written or their path to a perch in firm or University or think-tank awaits and the next round of eager liars and criminals vaults onto the greasy pole…

It is wrong to think of the work of ideology as nothing but the work of a kind of relentless deception -- although such deception and cultivated ignorance are indeed among its spectacular achievements -- since ideology functions as well, and more importantly, when none or most of us are actually deceived at all. That is to say, what we properly call ideology works not only when and because we are deceived but also, and especially, despite the fact that we know better than to believe its deceptive formulations and so are deluded in a different and deeper way than deception from our capacity to act meaningfully and efficaciously together with our peers in the making and changing of the world. While some may buy the expensive toothpaste, which is not only ineffectual as compared to the promise of the radioactive detonation of white enamel pornographically brushing the digitally enhanced mouths of the joyful mammals modeling for the cameras but also ineffectual as compared to the endlessly many alternate toothpastes the multinational corporation also sells "in competition" with this one brand, because the man in the lab-coat and the thick but stylishly square-framed glasses says it exhibits scientific and medical qualities beyond compare, when in fact it does not, we describe as ideological the way in which not only those few who are duped by this ritual deception but the many more who are not deceived in the least will also buy the toothpaste -- about which they are reasonably skeptical about any claims about its superiority and about which claims they may even feel a sarcastic appreciation precisely of the manner of their falsity -- just because the ad and its associations has lodged congenially in their sense of self, enough so that no false expectation of medical enhancement, personal satisfaction, sexual liberation, consumer emancipation at all is necessary to impel them pluck the product from the supermarket shelf.

(Those of you who might think upon reading this that I must be an avid reader of Slavoj Zizek are, I suppose, either ignorant of or forgetful of the better and more serious work of Adorno and Barthes, the first of whom is incomparably more insightful, the second of whom wrote incomparably more beautifully and clearly, and both of whom preceded Zizek's gnomic regurgitations by decades.)

Americans "buy" the Republican family values schtick and they "buy" the Republican fiscal responsibility schtick and they "buy" the Republican libertarian schtick not so much because they believe what Republicans say as despite not believing what they say enough never to be the least bit shocked, never to exact any kind of price whenever Republicans are subsequently exposed in their infidelities, their reckless borrowing and revenue giveaways, their hostility to civil liberties all in the usual manner.

As I said, anybody who is not a complete fool or naïf has acquired a certain skepticism about the motives of even the best of our partisan politicians, and anybody who is not a complete fool or naïf has come, likewise, to realize that stakeholder politics requires painful compromises and demands fraught, error-prone negotiations of the ideal in light of the pragmatically possible (a sense of the possible which itself is error-prone and all too corruptible).

Further, every minimally competent citizen in any complex, hierarchical, mass-mediated society with a functional division of labor participating in global finance and trade, even or especially in notionally democratic societies relying for their legitimacy on the appearance and experience of the consent or reconciliation of the governed to their government, will be literate in the reading and appreciation and enabling -- variously earnestly, sarcastically, otherwise ambivalently -- of any number of ideological formations suffusing public discourse.

But I want to propose at least one more element is at work here beyond our cynicism at ubiquitous corruption, our awareness of the fraught negotiation of the ideal and pragmatic in all stakeholder politics, and the work of ideology: and that is the prevalence in our time of a deceptive and hyperbolic and parochial advertising and promotional culture that has largely displaced the assumptions, norms, and practices out of which legitimacy -- such as it is, and however compromised -- hitherto has shaped public life.

I have been preoccupied lately with the crisis of scientific, ethical, and political legitimacy exacerbated by the ongoing suffusion and subversion of public discourses and institutions by the norms, ends, assumptions and ethos of marketing and promotional discourse. Just this Friday I posted a new critique of futurological discourse emphasizing these issues, for example.

As a pluralist and a pragmatist I have long accepted as my own the definition of truth in William James's proposal that "the true is the name of whatever proves itself to be good in the way of belief, and good, too, for definite, assignable reasons." It has also long seemed to me that one can identify a usefully limited number of separate, but no doubt also related, domains of reasonable belief-ascription, domains of truth-talk each with a shared ethos, responding to shared histories and hopes, emerging out of shared situations or practices, with shared criteria of reasonable warrant. The domains I tend to talk about are science, morals, aesthetics, ethics, politics, commerce, but I do not doubt that these domains could readily be multiplied, carved up differently, go by different names, etc.

Now, for me, the domains of the scientific and of the ethical, considered as importantly separable modes (among many) of warranted belief-ascription or truth-talk, are defined not only by their unique criteria of warrant (for instance, falsifiability for science, integrity for ethics) but also out of the practices and imperatives of contingent universalization out of which the legitimacy of each is substantiated, as distinguished crucially from the essentially parochial practices and imperatives out of which arise the different truths of profitability (every profit somewhere complemented by a loss elsewhere) and morality (every "we" constituted through the exclusion of a "they").

I do not point out these differences to denigrate profit as compared to scientific consensus or morality as compared to ethics. Sometimes, surely, what is reasonable and congenially wanted is to make a profit in some competitive context, just as sometimes what is wanted is to signal one's belonging in a particular moral community, just as sometimes what is wanted is a belief that a consensus of scientists propose as best, however counter-intuitive it may be, at delivering superior powers of prediction and control, just as sometimes what is wanted are norms that would solicit universal assent among the diversity of individuals and subcultures who share the world and collaborate in shaping its posterity, just as sometimes what is wanted are nonviolent adjudications of stakeholder disputes, however contingent they may be.

To be reasonable demands a proper respect, in their proper places, for all the various goods in respect to which we can be warranted or not in our beliefs. We are irrational in my view not only when we accept as true a belief that is not warranted as such, especially when we do or should know better, but also when we mistake the domain of truth an occasion calls for or try to impose the criteria of warrant proper to one domain onto another to which it is unsuited.

Looking back over much of my writing, it would seem that I am especially preoccupied by those confusions and problems that arise from ignorant or mistaken efforts to substitute properly parochial domains of belief-ascription for those which yield the indispensable legitimacy of contingent-collective-universalization. Given how often the verdicts of such universalization can be exposed retroactively as more beholden to parochial concerns than they aspired to be, these are of course perfectly understandable confusions and problems.

But treating the difference between the insistent-parochial and contingent-universal as a difference that makes a difference and acting as though it does in one's efforts and aspirations really is indispensable, I would say, however trivial a difference it may seem at an initial glance; which is to say, putting the point in its weakest form, more confusions and problems by far are introduced by dispensing with the distinction in practice than must be coped with in keeping the distinction in theory, and putting the point in its strongest form, this is a distinction, if I may crib from Gayatri Spivak, we cannot not want.

In particular, I keep warning against the prioritization or substitution of the moral for the ethical (which yields moralizing and genocide) and against the prioritization or the substitution of the profitable for the scientific (which yields propaganda and oligarchy). It seems to me that efforts to make sense of the force of the propaganda technique of the Big Lie or to grasp the force of the philosophical proposal of the "noble lie" both benefit from a focus on such confusions, for example.

Not so very long ago there began the still-ongoing, still-incredible criminal enterprise of the George W. Bush administration to declare an illegal pre-emptive war based on lies and then, in pursuing that war and the subsequent occupation of territories conquered in that war, to engage in war-crimes like torture and illegal domestic spying and other violations of Constitutional rights.

It is in my view the utter suffusion and subversion of the concerns of legitimate politics (even conceding the debased form of our democracy) by the norms and assumptions and practices of marketing and promotional discourse that accounts most of all for the criminal catastrophe of the Bush Administration and the debasements of Movement Republicanism more generally, both the inspiration of its vile architects and the resignation to its evil -- again, very much ongoing -- by American majorities, including many who disapprove of what they are nonetheless enabling.

More than the greed, more than the bloodymindedness, more than the imperial hubris, more than the indifference to unnecessary suffering, more than the entanglement in brazen deceptions and flabbergasting incompetence, what I would direct our attention to is the shaping of that criminal enterprise, that war, occupation, looting, torture precisely by the parochial and wishful norms and ends of marketing and promotional discourse and their substitution for the norms and ends of legitimate public science, ethics, and politics. The megalomaniacal ad-man's delusion that an unpopular unecessary illegal war could be sold like anything else to saucer-eyed consumers and the futurological fantasies of war on the cheap through digital network jazz all to conjure up at the place of one of humanity's oldest civilizations the neo-feudal fraud of a libertopian snake-oil paradise of contractors casinos and crap, all displaced considerations of respect for evidence, for the rule of law, for the consent of the governed, for the shared humanity of shocked and awed civilians, for the good opinion of mankind, even for the practical rules of warfare.

In an article published by William Schneider in early September, 2002, entitled "Marketing Iraq: Why now?" then White House chief of staff Andrew Card explained the timing of the Bush Administration's sudden insistent public push for an invasion of Iraq by declaring, in a phrase that immediately became notorious, "From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August."

That the decision to invade Iraq was indeed made from the vantage of "a marketing point of view" could be discerned as much in Republican strategist Dick Morris's assessment at the time that "Polls show that only one issue works in Bush's favor: terrorism" (not that Iraq was actually connected to the terrorist attacks on 9/11 in any case), and also in Karl Rove's no less cynical assessment that "We can also go to the country on this issue because they trust the Republican Party to do a better job of protecting and strengthening America's military and thereby protecting America," but also in the response to demands for evidence with dismissive appeals to uncritical passions over falsifiable reports, from President Bush's evocation of "ticking time bombs" to Condoleeza Rice's notorious terrorizing declaration that "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud." (All these quotes are included in the article linked above.)

Whereas the scientific and ethical domains of truth confer a legitimacy to which not only those who are shown to be right but those who are wrong, not only those whose case prevails but those who are defeated are both beholden, in marketing and promotional discourse there is no question of contingent universalization: what is marketed or promoted is always a product or service or spin among competitors, and what is sought is only adequate prevalence not generality, the term of profit or victory is defined by immediacy not posterity, the continence of commercial success or moral satisfaction does not rely on concern with the fate of the loser, the outsider, the excluded, however proximate they may be, however urgent may be their concern.

We have come to expect hyperbolic claims, outright deceptions, misleading repackaging of the stale as the new and improved in the advertising that bombards us incessantly and ubiquitously today. Even commercials connected to government blatantly deceive us: as in the Air Force ad that conjures up a computer generated conflict of spacecraft and orbiting military platforms and concludes with the slogan "It's Not Science Fiction" when that is precisely and obviously what it is.

Advertising copy colonizes ever more of our geography, our time, our attention, where ads have always been they are multiplying deliriously, where commercials already hailed us they are growing ever louder, ever more shrill, corporate logos are re-branding our public buildings, commercials interpose themselves in our privileged professional relationships with our doctors and lawyers, advertisements distract and derange the deliberation of scholars at study in public universities, newspaper "reportage" in Science and Technology sections are scarcely distinguishable from advertisements enthusing over consumer goods like the "latest" cell-phone or hybrid car or indulge in fantastic extrapolations from inconclusive press releases about some medical research finding into futurological agonies and ecstasies over "designer kids" "clone armies" "zombie drugs" or "thousand-year lifespans."

Propaganda networks like Fox are content -- indeed, eager -- to appeal only to a mass but nonetheless canalized and insulated audience whose sense of reality, facts, values, acceptable conduct are importantly at odds with those of vast numbers of their fellow citizens and fellow earthlings, but with which they cannot be reconciled because there are no authorities to which they could make consistent shared recourse to adjudicate disputes on either facts of the matter or to deliberate respectfully on questions of what matters in the first place.

We are saturated in deception, spin, hyperbole for parochial short-term inconstant gains and we come to find our expectations, our assumptions, our aspirations, our very souls are being reshaped in the image of the parochial promotional: the desperate marketing impulse that pads our resumes to get that job interview, whatever our qualifications, and connect us somehow to some useful role in the society from which we feel unmoored, the sad self-promotional effort that exaggerates, fictionalizes, and normalizes our personal profiles and photoshops our images to get that first date, whereupon we dream some magic of encounter will deliver us from spiritual homelessness, the pathetic public relations ethos that drives us to express ourselves in blog posts that yield zero comments, that pretend word clouds mechanistically weighting the frequency of word choices discerns some unique meaning from utterly undistinguished utterances, that fancies the number of fleeting page views drawn in by who knows what word search strings renders us public intellectuals of a sort, all the while only the silent raptor-eyed panoptic surveyors and monitors of the security state and the compilers of profiles for even more incessant and intensively targeted advertising harassment show much more than utter indifference to our "participation" in the remnant freedom of open networks...

We fancy we are agents marketing ourselves for advantage in a networked attentional economy, promoting what is remarkable in us when instead we go unremarked but marked for marketing, constituted in our selves as market-ready, readily marketed, on the make not self-making but on the market.

There have always been ideologues and charlatans and fraudsters populating the scene of our public life, there has always been deception and corruption and scandal, oligarchy and violence and exploitation are nothing new. But we have been sold: the corrosive and deepening derangement of public discourse by the norms and forms of promotional discourse demands our urgent and immediate address, its forms facilitate in their utter prevalence the displacement by parochial profit-taking and imperial moralizing of the contingent universalization in which public scientific, ethical, and political legitimacies are lodged, its suffusion of our public life and our public selfhood provides an indispensable but neglected context (no doubt among others) with which to understand the special vulnerability to and force of eliminationism, hyperbole, deception in our debased contemporary politics.

Bill Clinton: "Words Fall on the Serious and the Delirious Alike... They Fall on the Connected and the Unhinged Alike"

Worth recalling right about now, from just last year, in the aftermath of the lovely summer of Tea Bags and Death Panels:
Words we use really do matter, because there's this vast echo chamber and they go across space and they fall on the serious and the delirious alike. They fall on the connected and the unhinged alike. And I am not trying to muzzle anybody. But... no law can replace personal responsibility. And the more power you have and the more influence you have, the more responsibility you have. Look, I'm glad they're fighting over health care and everything else. Let them have at it. But I think all you have to do is read the paper everyday to see how many people there are who are deeply, deeply troubled.... By all means, keep fighting. By all means, keep arguing. But remember words have consequences as much as actions do. And what we advocate commensurate with our position and responsibility, we have to take responsibility for.

Left Well Lost?

More clippings from the cutting room floor.

In any sufficiently complex and spatially disseminated functional division of labor such that the contribution of any individual to the civilization on which all its members depend for their survival and flourishing becomes impossible to specify within the terms enabling and hence available to all its contributors themselves, that determination of contribution and standing and reward will depend in part on the work of ideological formulations to the preferential benefit of incumbent elites, just as in any hierarchical society sufficiently democratic for legitimacy of government to depend on the apparent consent of the governed the appearance of consent will be maintained by ideological formations to the preferential benefit of incumbent elites. This means that every hierarchical society of any complexity is permanently susceptible to the deceptive and delusive work of ideology to the benefit of reactionary politics and oligarchy.

I do not agree that such permanent susceptibility is the same thing as ineradicability, and I certainly do not sympathize with cynical (essentially moralizing) accounts which would reduce every charge of ideology simply to an inappropriately grandiose signal of personal disapproval of some truth-claim well warranted to differently situated peers. I regard both of these positions as rationalizations for complacency, often all the worse for being proposed in tonalities of phony radicalism. I will add that the first error -- mistaking permanent susceptibility to ideology as ineradicability of ideology -- is almost justified as an injunction to a permanent vigilance equal to the risk of assimilation to or collaboration with injustice, but that the second error -- mistaking every claim to legitimacy as always only parochial and so declaring illegitimate legitimacy as such -- is never justified (not that this should matter, given that the formulation denigrates justification as such, but of course it always does turn out to matter just the same), especially as a signal of a radicalism the very possibility of which it disdains.

I maintain that the distinction of the academic and activist Left from liberalism has hitherto depended on a distinction of Revolution from reform that has usually been a wholesome effort to learn from and stay true to demands of the permanent susceptibility of complex, hierarchical societies, even notionally democratic ones, to ideological formulations and formations -- an effort that has sometimes, and understandably, made the error of mistaking permanent susceptibility for ineradicability precisely in order to maintain necessary discipline in the face of ubiquitous and insidious forces abetting assimilation to and collaboration with injustice, exploitation, violence, and oligarchy (not to mention the perils of reconciling the righteous demand of the impossible that fuels our idealism and directs our pragmatism with the pragmatic considerations at the left wing of the possible out of which come the reforms through which we actually arrive at the ideal from the real where we are here and now).

To those of the academic and activist Left who still bemoan the loss of the Communist Other at the end of the Cold War as the loss of an actually existing alternative to capitalism in which those who would aspire to a more radical transformational Left than reformist liberalisms enable (despite the inappropriateness of what actually existed in the name of Communism as a site for such imaginative investment), it is unclear to me why a contest over what counts as a properly capitalist order is assumed necessarily to be less radical and transformational and emancipatory than a contest of what passes as capitalism with what passes as communism. In my view, for example, the provision of a basic guaranteed income (among other elements in a strong suite of welfare entitlements including single payer healthcare, lifelong education and training, and access to wholesome affordable housing) would be a necessary precondition for the emergence of any capitalist order for which the moral claims of typical of market fundamentalists that only contractarian orders truly repudiate coercion can have the slightest chance to apply in reality, since in the absence of such guarantees what passes for consensual outcomes are too easily misinformed through conspicuously unequal recourse to reliable information and education, unequal recourse to law, and duressed by the threat of poverty and precarity. But notice the curiosity that it is actually quite difficult to distinguish such a construal of a morally righteous consensually contractarian capitalism from many construals of socialism.

To those who declare reform always only the responce to limited, local, strategic, parochial injustices and concerns while leaving deeper structural injustices and irrationalities intact, awaiting no doubt the more sweeping and totalizing transformations of muscular and audacious radical critique and revolutionary action, it is unclear to me why reform campaigns struggling, again say, to implement the provision of a basic guaranteed income (very likely preceded and enabled by reform campaigns to render taxation more progressive, achieve a more equitable sensible healthcare system, expand public education, and improve other welfare programs) would not eventuate, without revolution, at a transformation of society quite as radical in its democratizing aspirations as any revolutionary vision one would care to propose.

I still see the sense of Michael Harrington's declaration that "the best liberalism leads toward socialism. I’m a radical, but... I want to be on the left wing of the possible." I begin to suspect that I am a reformist more than a revolutionary, a liberal more than a Leftist, a radical democrat more than a progressive one, especially inasmuch as mine is a vision of a democratizing struggle imagined and practiced as an ongoing and interminable expression and experimentation of equity-in-diversity already well underway more than a progressive struggle toward a final and definitive "accomplishment" of equity-in-diversity as an eidos we presumably know well in advance.

While it may well be true that such a reformist, liberal, experimentalist but still radical democracy (this is not, after all, an apologia for the confinement of politics to partisan efforts by any means) does lack any totalizing critique of existing institutions and norms, I must say I think it healthy to regard such totalizing vantages at least with skepticism if not as always only mirages altogether well lost, and also as so alienated from the present world as to risk the solidarity with present peers without which politics will tend to be the more elitist and tyrannical precisely the more radical they are.

I tend to find revolutionaries more congenial than reformers, and liberationists more congenial than liberals, at least as a matter of temperament -- so I am not without qualms in delineating this perspective, and I am more open to dissuasion than you might think. But I must say it is very hard for me to see what this understanding of radicalism loses the democratic left, substantially, but very easy for me to see what the revolutionary and totalizing Left gains instead is more self-indulgent and self-congratulatory than substantial as far as it goes.

Democracy and Nonviolence

Believe it or not, this post is from the cutting room floor, paragraphs I snipped from a longer post I am still working on but decided were too digressive from the subject even for meandering me, but which seemed to me still worthy, maybe, of attention in their own right.

Although we speak of democracy as a political practice and doctrine, it would be better to say that democracy is an ethical practice and domain, a particular ethical vantage on the political.

Politics, when and to the extent that it is reasonable, is a set of beliefs and practices through which is facilitated the ongoing acceptable adjudication of the interminable and ineradicable disputes arising among the diversity of stakeholders with whom we share the world. Unless one's politics were absolutely opportunistic -- which I suspect is actually impossible to anyone who is not a sociopath -- they will make recourse to ethical beliefs.

Democratic politics is a matter of the nonviolent adjudication of stakeholder disputes in accordance with what are in fact ethical considerations, the aspiration to universal assent via contingent universalization inhering in assertions of universal human rights, of valuing a country of laws and not men, of decent respect to the opinions of mankind, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for a common defense, promote general welfare, secure liberty for ourselves and our posterity, and so on.

Democracy at its heart is simply the idea that people should have a say in the public decisions that affect them, and free speech and free association and the notion that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed all speak to the connection between what it means for a democrat to have a say and what it means to abhor violence in a democratic society. From courts of law to peaceful transfers of power in elections democracies seek to create and maintain alternatives to the violent adjudication of disputes.

Despite my assertion that democratic politics is nonviolent, I do not mean to imply by this that all democratic practices and institutions are properly subsumed under radical nonviolent politics as proposed and practiced by Gandhi or King, say (although I do think all radical nonviolence is indeed subsumed under democracy, and I also do think the best democracy should aspire to nonviolence in the radical sense). This is so, because violence can of course inhere deeply in the status quo, in the norms of society, in the law, and what might pass for nonviolence can easily depend on and even consolidate such structural violences.

Of course, modern technoscientific societies, whether notionally democratic or not, to the extent that their governance includes some measure of social administration in the service of general welfare and public investment in indispensable but unprofitable infrastructure will make recourse not only to ethical but also to scientific vocabularies.

Science and ethics are crucially different from one another. Facticity and normativity, however interdependent they may be, are never reducible to one another, nor is either one always only properly designated as prior to the other: No amount of knowledge about what is possible will tell you what among many possibilities is worthwhile or important; no amount of fervency as to what is wanted will provide confidence as to what among many desirable outcomes is possible.

However, both the scientific and ethical as modes of warranted belief-ascription do generate truths of a kind that confers legitimacy arising out of the collaborative work of contingent universalization. In this they differ together from other domains of truth which, no less indispensable in their proper precincts, confer parochial values: for example, greater profitability for some among many competitors, or a sense of belonging to a moral community purchased through the exclusion of outsiders and the policing of deviance among insiders.

To the familiar concerns (of Arendt and Foucault to name two I profoundly respect) that regular recourse of the political to the scientific threatens to reduce the political to social or disciplinary logics that undermine freedom the better to facilitate instrumentalizing or homogenizing ends, my own proposal is that a suite of welfare entitlements -- from basic guaranteed income, to public education and healthcare and housing, to the generous subsidization of scientific research and art for the public domain -- are all best justified as rendering the scene of consent on which democracy most crucially depends reliably informed and nonduressed and that this justification constrains within the bounds of ethical legitimacy nonetheless the pragmatic considerations of administration that answer to scientific rather than ethical warrants.

In response to familiar concerns (of conservatives and market libertarians to name two I have very little respect for at all) that such welfare entitlements and public investments require exploitation of worthy elites for the sake of the unworthy poor or ignorant masses, I would add that this support of the scene of reliably informed actually nonduressed consent through the provision of general welfare seems to me required by any contractarian (or capitalist) order that would claim to be anything more than a rationalization for abusive exploitation just as, at the same time, as it happens, for those keeping score at home, it provides for the permanent and universally available strike fund and freedom of association required by any socialist order that would claim to be anything more than a rationalization for tyrannical control.

Again, what is important here is to grasp the connection between democratization and anti-violence, a connection that neither the settled terms of capitalist nor communist discourses are quite equal to, at least as they circulate in mainstream parlance (although still marginal Green and democratic socialist discourses often do emphasize this connection).

Candidates for RNC Chair Compare Gun Collections

What could possibly go wrong?

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Culture of Violence

Democratic State Representative Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona was shot in the head at point blank range this morning at a public event in Tucson. Whatever motivated her deranged assassin, it is worth noting that Giffords has been targeted before: According to TPM her office was vandalized during the healthcare debates last year, and Republican opponents -- among them, most notoriously, Sarah Palin -- "targeted" her for elimination figuratively as well.

It deserves more mention than it has received so far that a package addressed to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano ignited this Friday at a U.S. Postal Service facility in Washington, as did two other parcels addressed to Democratic Maryland officials the day before.

However predictable I suppose it is, I must say I find astonishing nonetheless the speed with which so many right wing commentators have vaulted to the consensus that more outrageous than the violence, more outrageous than the calls to violence that are part of the context in which this violence has taken place, are any expressions of outrage or even worry at the violence or the violent rhetoric that has accompanied it by those struggling to make some sense out of these dreadful events. I would like to hope I will not be accused of premature judgment, unseemly opportunism, or facile conspiracy theory simply for proposing in the midst of this distress that incendiary calls to violence of the kind we have heard from so many Republicans from the 2008 Presidential campaign through the recent 2010 mid-terms, threats of "Second Amendment Remedies" and all, however figurative they may be meant to be, are clearly terribly inappropriate in the atmosphere of profound social dislocation of this Recession, especially accompanied as it has been by the capture of the GOP by its most extreme elements -- or for voicing the hope that these terrifying, tragic acts nudge people of both parties to reconsider the need for stricter regulation of private gun ownership in the United States as well as more rigorous scrutiny of domestic hate groups and militias that celebrate gun violence and circulate fantasies of armed insurrection. Just last April the relentlessly awful Republican Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed into law a bill making Arizona the third state allowing people to carry a concealed weapon without requiring a permit.

The Circus Comes to Town

Gee, That's a Big Gavel You Have There… Constitutional Muzak… Birthus Interruptus… Place Your Hand on the Tee Vee and Repeat After Me… Ah, Sweet Smell of Mendacity…

TPM's Five Instant Classics from Week One of the 112th Congress.

Friday, January 07, 2011

"The Future" as Ad and as Cult

You will not go far wrong simply to treat pop futurology as a fandom of dupes doing unpaid crowdsourced marketing and promotional work for violent incumbent corporate-militarist interests.

The hyperbolic, bordering on fraudulent, claims of mainstream advertising for ineffectual pills and ointments, the trumpeting as "revolutionary" of incremental adjustments and repackagings of features already available in consumer goods, but especially cars, computers, and media devices, the evocations of "science" with phony experts in labcoats mouthing pseudo-scientific neologisms, the computer generated animations connecting imaginary science fiction "sensawunda" futurity to the stasis of quotidian neo-feudalism (space battles in Air Force ads, crystal pastel art deco cityscapes in ads for sunglasses, immersive virtual reality in ads for chewing gum, radical cyborgization in ads for cellphones and so on): all of these conventions are shared across the landscape of mainstream advertising and in futurology.

Those few public pseudo-intellectuals among the futurologists who pose as serious experts, policymakers, and scientists, the ones who find it so easy to describe their vapid enthusiasms and neologisms as a practice of "philosophy" unmoored from any actual philosophical reading or tradition, are certainly incompetents and fools. But most of them are not so much indulging in conscious scams (although futurology has its share of ridiculous would-be gurus who are hard to distinguish from those fundamentalist frauds who fleece parishioners with fierce promises of transcendence and revenge) as they are simply not very bright, rather uncritical participants and therefore symptom of the suffusion of public discourse by marketing and promotional norms more generally.

We are saturated in deception, spin, hyperbole for parochial short-term inconstant gains and we come to find our expectations, our assumptions, our aspirations, our very souls are being reshaped in the image of the parochial promotional: the desperate marketing impulse that pads our resumes to get that job interview, whatever our qualifications, and connect us somehow to some useful role in the society from which we feel unmoored, the sad self-promotional effort that exaggerates, fictionalizes, and normalizes our personal profiles and photoshops our images to get that first date, whereupon we dream some magic of encounter will deliver us from spiritual homelessness, the pathetic public relations ethos that drives us to express ourselves in blog posts that yield zero comments, that pretend word clouds mechanistically weighting the frequency of word choices discerns some unique meaning from utterly undistinguished utterances, that fancies the number of fleeting page views drawn in by who knows what word search strings renders us public intellectuals of a sort, all the while only the silent raptor-eyed panoptic surveyors and monitors of the security state and the compilers of profiles for even more incessant and intensively targeted advertising harassment show much more than utter indifference to our "participation" in the remnant freedom of open networks...

We fancy we are agents marketing ourselves for advantage in a networked attentional economy, promoting what is remarkable in us when instead we go unremarked but marked for marketing, constituted in our selves as market-ready, readily marketed, on the make not self-making but on the market.

There have always been ideologues and charlatans and fraudsters populating the scene of our public life, there has always been deception and corruption and scandal, oligarchy and violence and exploitation are nothing new. But we have been sold: the corrosive and deepening derangement of public discourse by the norms and forms of promotional discourse demands our urgent and immediate address, its forms facilitate in their utter prevalence the displacement by parochial profit-taking and imperial moralizing of the contingent universalization in which public scientific, ethical, and political legitimacies are lodged, its suffusion of our public life and our public selfhood provides an indispensable but neglected context (no doubt among others) with which to understand the special vulnerability to and force of eliminationism, hyperbole, deception in our debased contemporary politics.

To understand this catastrophic suffusion of public life with the norms of the promotional (you need only ponder the distinction of politics from public relations to grasp the full force of such a shift), it is especially crucial to remember that contemporary capitalist formations are post-Fordist, and that neoliberal/neoconservative, that is to say corporate-militarist, capitalism depends on a relentless kind of hyper-speculation that disavows its materiality (financialization, informationalization/informalization, digitization, logo-ization) as well as a global developmentalism that disavows its violence (the military might that enables exploitation of the global/informal Precariat, as well as the violation of ecosystems that enables ongoing extractive industrialization in the face of ruin).

The ongoing devastation of academic and evidence-based institutions through the emergence of the anti-academic think-tank archipelago and the corporatization of the University and the hegemony of corporate-militarist mass media, should be regarded as both a casualty of this shift into a promotional public, as well as facilitating, accelerating, and amplifying its terms. This is the indispensable context for understanding the thriving of climate change denialism and macroeconomic illiteracy (among many other comparable irrationalisms and moralisms) vying in contemporary public discourse for the patina of institutional legitimacy.

The scientific and the ethical as modes of warranted belief-ascription, that is to say as forms of truth-talk, are organized by imperatives of contingent universalization out of which arise their falsifiable claims to legitimacy, while the truths of profitability (every profit complemented by a loss) and mores (every "we" constituted through the exclusion of a "they") are inherently parochial.

This is not to say the moral and the profitable are illegitimate or dispensable as modalities of belief ascription in their parochialism, but to insist that they are what they are and do the work that they do, and to warn against confusions and problems that arise from ignorant or mistaken efforts to substitute the moral for the ethical (which yields moralizing and genocide) or the profitable for the scientific (which yields propaganda and oligarchy) when what is wanted are the sorts of legitimacy only afforded by the latter terms. (If this strain of argument is congenial but unfamiliar to you, by the way, you might enjoy other efforts I've archived at the sidebar under the heading Posts on Pluralism and Pragmatism.)

I mention these apparently tangential issues in order to circle around to another point, by way of conclusion. I've devoted enormous amounts of space to the critique of futurology, but hitherto that critique has emphasized the ways in which what I call superlative (or transcendental) futurology embedded within sub(cult)ural futurological formations (the whole Robot Cult archipelago of organizations and would-be "movements" and identity politics/fandoms I have ridiculed so relentlessly for so many years now) should be regarded as a kind of organized but marginal and defensive religiosity for which the familiar critiques of cult formations and True Believers and fundamentalist politics all come very much in handy. (For these critiques of mine, The Condensed Critique of Transhumanism hands it to you in a nutshell, while The Superlative Summary offers endless variations and applications on these themes, and my Futurological Brickbats provide an aphoristic alternate survey of the highlights.)

Although I try to take pains to emphasize that the rather outrageous and extreme forms taken by superlative and sub(cult)ural futurology are most useful when taken as clarifying crystallizations of more prevailing mainstream discourses -- and I would insist that futurology is the quintessential justificatory and aspirational vocabulary of neoliberal capitalism (still more on this here) -- I can see why long-time readers might still wonder whether the critique of futurology as a symptom of the contemporary suffusion of the public sphere with the norms of marketing and promotional discourse represents an important shift away from my earlier critique of futurology as a kind of organized religiosity engaged in pseudo-science and fundamentalist politics.

What I would say in conclusion is that for me these two critiques are very much of a piece, that part of what is wrong with the suffusion of the public sphere with promotional norms is that it amounts to a resurgence of priestly-aristocratic parochialism and incumbent-elitism, an eclipse of the collective work of contingent universalization, peer to peer, that yield the legitimacy, authority, and currency of the scientific and the ethical, proper, with which the most congenial strands of Enlightenment seem to me most concerned, and without which the ongoing work of attaining to secular sustainable consensual convivial social democracy seems to me both unworkable and even unthinkable.

Although I am someone whose political economy is indebted to Keynes most of all and whose political theory is indebted to Arendt most of all (both of whom were decidedly post-Marxist even in those areas in which they were not outright anti-Marxist), it seems to me that one still has to turn to the late Marx and his cultural critique of the ubiquitous fetishized commodity-form to grasp just how futurology's promotional normativity connects to futurology's transcendental cultism: the story, which is a long one I balk at elaborating at length and so leave to another day, is one that features among its key episodes Adorno's Culture Industry, Barthes's Mythology, Debord's Spectacle, and Naomi Klein's Logo (all of whom foreground in turn mass mediation to supplement failed Marxian historiography and to correct Marxian reductionism all the while sounding the key Marxian theme that culture is the repository of enslaving irrationality).

It's a story any one of the students in any number of the courses I have taught in critical theory over the last decade could recite with their eyes closed, and it's rather nice to find such a conspicuous convergence between the preoccupations of my blogging and the focus of my teaching opening up.

More to come.

Oversight for the Oversght Committee Chair

Excellent resources provided by California's always indispensable Courage Campaign: IssaExposed.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Stupid, Evil. And Also Tacky.

Krugthulu, don't give them ideas!

Issa: Corruption = What I Disagree With

via Steve Benen:

Back in October, Republican Representative Darrell Issa, now Chair of the House Oversight Committee, told Rush Limbaugh he considered President Obama "one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times." Pressed to provide a single piece of evidence of actual, you know, corruption, Issa has finally brazened his way to this bit of flabbergasting double talk: "I think people misunderstand the meaning of the word corrupt, and obviously, CNN does. 'Corrupt', or 'corrupted' or 'failure', it's no different than a disc drive that's given you some bits that are wrong…. I have never said it's illegal. I've never made any of the statements that are often said on CNN that implied wrong-doing of the president at a criminal level." In other words, everybody is wrong to think corruption means what it means. Corruption just means getting some of the bits wrong, according to Darrell Issa. Give that man his gavel and let the witch-hunts begin!

Your Future Sucks

We have just emerged from a decade bookended by the years 2001 and 2010, that is to say, by years that also happen to be the titles of excellent and incomparably influential science fiction by Arthur C. Clarke. These works contained what Clarke regarded as sound futurological conjurations of the decade which, compared to the actual decade now thankfully behind us, might just as well be republished as futurological conjurations of a world a century ahead of us (on the actually optimistic assumption that the human race hasn't managed a century from now to destroy itself altogether through war and waste).

Meditating on our traversal of this disastrous disappointing decade, Transhumanist Kyle Munkittrick wants to know "Can we finally admit we live in the future?"

To the extent that "The Future" denotes the hyperbolic marketing and promotional discourse by means of which futurologists peddle, through hyperbolic promises and distractions, a corporate-militarist present shittier by far than it needs to be to the majority of those who are getting shit on, I think it is very fair indeed to say we do indeed live in The Future.

Munkittrick is well aware that the present might seem disappointing to those whose best hopes were shaped by generations of futurology past. As is usually the case he captures this disappointment by pointing to the jet-packs we don't have.

I must say, I am less disappointed at not having a jet pack (which I can't see much use for, to be honest, preferring as I do reading a book on the train, which is less possible now than it once was because Americans have long been in thrall to their cramped dangerous demanding polluting automobiles) than I am in the way our biosphere is failing in the face of ongoing waste and pollution, the way the working hours of average Americans are going up while the purchasing power of their paychecks is going down, the way the power grid goes down for millions every time it rains or snows, the way bridges are collapsing and roads being re-graveled for lack of maintenance, the way tuberculosis, whooping cough, and plague are returning to the scene, the way human slavery is back on the rise, the way the Concorde ended its run, the way Americans apparently can't build tunnels anymore, the way we can't go to the Moon the way we could half a century ago, the way weapons of mass destruction are proliferating, the way fewer and fewer people feel confident that through hard work and following the rules they are helping to create a better world for the next generation to live in.

Munkittrick seems to think those who are disappointed in The Future in the present lack perspective, frankly he seems to me to imply that we're ingrates. He proposes that we imagine what it would have been like in 1995 to be given a glimpse into the stunning world of 2010.

He speaks of cellphones. (Weren't we already being annoyed by them ringing at the movies by 1995?) He speaks of the Internet. (I had a homepage up by 1993.) He speaks of video games. (World of Warcraft was released in 1994. [EDIT: My partner Eric informs me that WoW appeared on the scene akin to its present mmorpg incarnation in 2004, but that I can make much the same point in reference to Everquest.]) He speaks of private spaceflight. (Amusement park rides and high altitude flights, neither of which are real spaceflight any more than what passes for "private spaceflight" is today, have been around for generations.) He speaks of "a rogue Australian cyberterrorist [who] is wanted by world’s largest governments and corporations for leaking secret information." (Quite apart from the grotesquely wrongheaded description of Assange as "a rogue cyberterrorist" I will point out that Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971.) He speaks of "Time Magazine’s person of the year... created a network, 'Facebook,' which allows everyone (500 million people) to share their lives online." (In a world of billions, many of whom lack access to the Internet, 500 million people is not "everyone" in any remotely meaningful sense. Furthermore the superficial belches and snapshots swapped via the marketing and surveillance schemes that pass for "social media" provide a profoundly and even tragically impoverished form for people "to share their lives" for most of their used users to my eyes. Interestingly enough, Amazon dot com's Jeff Bezos had already been featured on the cover of Time as Person of the Year by 1999 -- prior to the turn of the Millennium, although in Munkittrick's chosen year 1995, it was futurological darling and con-man Newt Gingrich who made the cover -- how things have changed!)

"If the past decade has taught us anything, it’s that though technological progress is guaranteed, its direction is impossible to discern, pace Ray Kurzweil." Technological progress is guaranteed? I must say, if that's what this empty, static, vapid, crap decade teaches you, you may be unteachable. He continues, "It’s no longer a question of when the future will get here but which future is next?" It's a good thing we have futurists on hand to offer us these insights, otherwise we might not realize that we don't know what will happen before it does.

If the past provides any guide, however, we can be sure that no amount of failed hyperbole, repackaging of the stale as the new, falling standards will ever dim the delusive cheerleaders of The Future peddling their crap for the rubes. Dragging our way out of a Lost Decade and contemplating looming economic and ecologic catastrophes the saucer-eyed rictus-grinning can-do hysterics of futurology ponder the possibilities to come: "A future of space flight and interplanetary colonization? A future of androids, cyborgs, and AI? A future of genetically enhanced and near-immortal transhumans? A future of nanotech based post-scarcity production?"

I have little doubt that while none of these endlessly robotically reiterated futurological futures will arrive in anything remotely like the lifetimes of anybody now living, almost every life here and now and throughout our lives could have been made healthier, fairer, safer, freer without the distractions, derangements, and fraudulent sales-pitches of futurologists skewing our sense of what is happening, of what is possible, and of what is important in the living world, opening in the present onto what comes next, peer to peer.

Transhumanism Kills

I am often chided for taking so seriously the ridiculous claims of transhumanists and other Robot Cultists. But of course ridiculous ideas regularly distort public debates, especially when ridiculous ideas are congenial to rich and powerful minorities at the expense of precarious majorities. A case in point:
During an interview with the New York Times’ David Leonhardt, [Indiana Governor Mitch] Daniels claimed that raising the retirement age makes sense because people will eventually live to be 100 years old by “replacing body parts like we do tires…” Aside from the obvious folly of raising the retirement age now in anticipation of human body-part replacement technology that may or may not exist at some undetermined point in the future, Daniels is basing his policy preference on the same faulty understanding of American life expectancy espoused by loads of would-be Social Security reformers. While average life expectancy has indeed been rising, it is largely as a result of increases among upper income earners working in white-collar jobs. Middle- and low-income workers [who actually do exist --d] have not seen the same increases and would be disproportionately affected [adversely, in the real world and in the real present --d] if the retirement age were raised.

Emphases added.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Jerry Brown Inaugurated Governor of California Today

Forthright, fair, funny, good speech. A lovely, sometimes inspiring, display of no-nonsense erudition, a never wavering commitment to good government, hope without hyperbole. For the next two years my own best hopes are pinned, to be sure, on my great adopted home State rather than to the ugly irresponsible public relations stunts sure to suffuse a Washington held hostage to reactionary Republicans.

What's New in "Geo-Engineering"?

As it happens, I do not disapprove of the contemplation of releasing various amounts of sulphur into various regions of the atmosphere under various conditions. Hell, I do not disapprove of the contemplation of much of anything at all. I do disapprove of anybody actually going ahead and pumping massive amounts of sulphur into the atmosphere, half-cocked (you might, too, after you've read this and this and this and this), but contemplating it? Not so much.

More to the point, I strongly disapprove the suggestion that in contemplating pumping sulphur into the atmosphere and then subjecting the notion to serious scrutiny we are doing some radically new sort of thing than we are when we are contemplating, say, planting thousands of acres of trees, contemplating installing thousands of wind turbines or millions of solar roofs, contemplating changing zoning ordinances to facilitate the emergence of dense, walkable neighborhoods, or the like.

I disapprove the suggestion that contemplating pumping sulphur into the atmosphere is a matter of engaging in an additional and special environmental discourse, one that needs the new word "geo-engineering" to describe it, an environmentalism that futurologists of all people are special experts in, presumably because of their special capacity for having especially Big Ideas and thinking especially fearless thoughts. Although I daresay it is true that most of the sorts of handwaving futurologists indulge in when they get into a lather of "geo-engineering" talk would indeed get shot down, especially as and to the extent that the proportion of non-futurologists who are actually competent climate scientists and engineers at the discussion table rises, I do disapprove the suggestion that these futurological proposals necessarily constitute a separate kind of environmentalist proposal rather than, say, just dumb ideas environmentalists who cannot distinguish science and science fiction very well came up with without thinking things fully through.

I disapprove the suggestion that contemplating pumping sulphur into the atmosphere is a newfangled environmentalism made necessary by the failures of already existing environmentalism and which justifies or even necessitates making obviously ugly and misguided separate political assumptions than usually circumscribe the field of legitimate discourse, new assumptions that are described as visionary, brave, tough-minded rather than ugly and misguided, such that when futurological experts contemplate pumping sulphur into the atmosphere suddenly we are licensed or encouraged to think of the corporate-militarist villains who have been destroying our world for their reckless profit-taking instead as our last, best hope to save that world they are destroying, as uniquely competent elites that must be given the authority to clean up their mess in their own way however awful and ugly and criminal that may appear, that saving the world must proceed in a way that is above all profitable for elite-incumbent interests, that democratic processes and accountability are suddenly (oh- so- reluctantly- and- regretfully!) dispensable and for the good of precisely those who would otherwise have a say in public decisions that directly affect them should democracy prevail, that when political processes fail to implement emissions regulations we must turn to megascale engineering projects instead since, of course, no political processes are involved in the funding, regulation, oversight, building, or maintenance of megascale engineering projects (oh, wait, that's the opposite of reality), that since catastrophic climate change is real and renewable energy technology is real and emission standards and energy efficiency standards and health and safety standards necessary for sustainability are well-understood and perfectly reasonable we must turn, when political will seems unequal to these realities, to grandiose ill-conceived scenario-spinning about acres of orbiting space mirrors and vast chemical spewing airfleets peddled with splashy artist renderings and futurological neologisms and talk of "terraforming" the earth as though humans were alien invaders re-engineering an extraterrestrial planet from the Mother Ship.

There is no unique climate science data set or specific modality of engineering proposal of which "geo-engineering" as a discourse uniquely consists. What "geo-engineering" essentially and substantially consists of in my view is the assumption of a particular (and profoundly pernicious) vantage on environmentalist consciousness, a particular framing of environmentalist assumptions and aspirations, one that insists on freighting a handful of loosely connected proposals (no stable or coherent criteria exists to explain why any particular "geo-engineer" includes their particular preoccupations under the umbrella of "geo-engineering" while excluding others with comparable scope in their aggregate effects) with phony novelty to the self-promotional benefit of futurologists themselves cast as special "experts," while also creating a space in which anti-democratic policy recommendations and skewed elite-incumbent corporate-militarist for-profit priorities over remediation and sustainability itself can be voiced in public as if they were "serious" proposals.

In my view, these anti-democratizing effects are not incidental but absolutely essential to "geo-engineering" discourse. Indeed, they are the only things "geo-engineering" introduces into environmentalist ideas and politics as they already exist -- apart from the fact that a disproportionate number of "geo-engineering" proposals also tend in their hyperbole and militarism (deriving from their emergence, like all futurology, out of the norms of corporate-militarist marketing and promotional discourse) to be unusually grandiloquent and half-baked (mirrors on the Moon! Submarine cityscapes of pipeworks churning the depths! and so on).

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Picking "Geo-Engineering" to the Bone

Edited and Adapted from an (I hope friendly) Exchange in the Moot:
I've got a bone to pick about your [highly dismissive] Geoengineering comment. There are people advocating research into Geoengineering who take curbing emissions seriously. There's no guarantee we haven't already gone too far. Our emissions keep climbing and feedback effects worthy of science fiction disaster novels are showing up decades ahead of schedule. Emissions cuts are the best solution, everyone acknowledges that. That doesn't mean however that there's no such thing as too late.

I do not doubt that among the people who waste time foolishly or cynically throwing the term "geo-engineering" around there are surely many who do take curbing emission seriously, who are very rightly concerned about climate change more generally, and who likely support any number of sensible environmentalist policies apart from the ones they imagine to constitute "geo-engineering." However, my point is that so long as talk turns to "geo-engineering," so long as the lens through which environmental problems are being discussed is a "geo-engineering" one, the focus is not on curbing emissions, the focus is not on any of the suite of mainstream-legible environmentalist initiatives -- from regulation, public programs, incentives, to educational and activist campaigns -- and, worse, the framing of the politics, history, bad actors, urgencies of climate crises are profoundly skewed in ways that cannot be justified in the least from the vantage of environmentalist priorities.

Not to put too fine a point on it, I disagree that there is in fact anybody at all advocating "research" into geo-engineering stricto sensu inasmuch as there is nobody who can even tell you to what "geo-engineering" is supposed to refer as a coherent body of techniques in the world. This is not just to make the rather obvious observation that the sorts of scenarios that preoccupy most "geo-engineering" futurological discussion -- tons of iron filings dumped into the sea, vast sulfur spewing air fleets, massive pipe works disgorging icy water from the depths to cool warming ocean surfaces, orbiting Brobdingnagian archipelagos of space mirrors, and so on -- do not actually exist, often would require technologies that don't exist, would demand the mobilization of forces that dwarf those we already fail to muster in the service of more modest, better understood, perfectly sensible recommendations already.

No, when I say that nobody really is doing any "geo-engineering" for us to support or decry at all, I also mean that it isn't even clear what "geo-engineering" is supposed to consist of for it to exist as in the first place, even in potentia, especially if "geo-engineering" presumably is supposed to be some new sort of notion, in distinction from, say, aggregate effects of remediation strategies and renewable techniques already well understood, well underway, or at any rate being campaigned for by wide constituencies and supported by consensus science and serious policymakers.

Public reforestation programs, or building regulations that mandate small carbon footprints, or zoning ordinances that facilitate dense walkable neighborhoods are perfectly mainstream legible environmentalist proposals the aggregate effects of which could easily yield the sorts of vast-scaled and far-reaching impacts that the flashy mega-scale engineering daydreams of the futurologists might do, if any of the silly things ever managed to get off the ground, and yet nobody needed futurologists to come up with some neologism and sf-cover art to argue for the good sense of reforestation programs or better zoning ordinances (not that Americans have either yet), nor is it clear what "geo-engineering" adds to the scale or scope of environmentalist thinking that already accommodates such interventions so readily.

As far as I can tell, "geo-eningeering" is just another futurological neologism that introduces nothing of substance apart from the word itself, which then functions as a point of imaginative identification and fandom enthusiasm in the usual way. It would be better by far to treat "geo-engineering" discourse not as serious climate science or environmental policy but as a marketing effort, involving mostly repackaging, rebranding, hyperbole, snazzy CGI and cartoon renderings, all in the service of selling something. This recommendation that we read futurological "geo-engineering" proposals not as the science or policy they pretend to be but as public relations in the service, almost always, of elite incumbent interests, seems to me generally true of the futurological genre.

Contrary to the final sentence of the bone you have to pick with me, assuming I am understanding your point correctly, I declare that if mainstream-legible environmentalist interventions like regulations, incentives, government programs, educational campaigns fail (and I take your reference to emission standards as synecdochic for the full suite of strong but still mainstream-legible environmentalist proposals), then, yes, I really do believe that it really is too late. In a finite world in which a biosphere is possible within bounds that are strained already nearly beyond bearing and can indeed fail, there really is such a thing as too late, and serious people of good will damn well better leave off the infantile magical thinking bullshit.

The chief innovation of "geo-engineering" discourse finally seems to me to be to feather the nests of certain newly-minted "experts" in "geo-engineering" who would not otherwise be getting such attention, as well as providing some folks who otherwise grasp the catastrophic implications of climate science and who might therefore be useful motivated articulate collaborators in the political response to that catastrophe to pretend that there may be a techno-magickal "Plan B" to save our skins should the political response to the crisis fail, thus enabling their comparative complacency or distracting their efforts into flights of fancy that amount to apologies for the status quo.

Note that the sorts of untestable in advance, unknowable in advance, unfathomably vast-scaled and crazily ramifying impacts of the kind of futurological schemes that tend really to give the corporate-militarist "geo-engineering" bullshit artists their most ferocious hard-ons would also have to be funded, regulated, implemented, promoted, operated in the real world via precisely the very sorts of politics whose failure presumably would render futurological alternatives necessary in the first place, thus raising the question why political processes that presumably cannot work for stuff we all actually know would be equal to the climate crises would suddenly miraculously be political processes that work effectively to fund, regulate, and maintain megascale engineering wet dreams nobody can even pretend are real or understood in their impacts let alone plausible engineering tasks. We live, after all, in an age in which we can't build tunnels we could build a century ago, we cannot go to the Moon though we did a generation ago, we cannot have supersonic passenger service though we could a decade ago.

And, again, I must add that I do find it difficult to shake the suspicion that the fact that most "geo-engineering proposals" would enable the very same corporate/militarist-extractive/industrial concerns that so polluted and laid waste to the whole planet in the first place to assume center stage as heroes in for-profit megascale cleanup operations is a better explanation than their so-called necessity or even plausibility to account for their allure for these futurological techno-environmentalist "experts" who now cheerlead for them to the applause of well heeled corporate pricks and military wonks the world over.

My critic responded:
Nothing is unknowable in climate science. We already have a pretty good idea of the cooling effects of sulphur for instance. It's not an alternative to going zero carbon but a panic button if going zero carbon isn't enough. It's always being framed as being a stalking horse for something sinister. In reality it's just scientists speculating these people aren't united under a singular agenda. Do I want geoengineering? No. I don't think anybody in their right mind does. That position changes if the world's climate goes into runaway positive feedback.

The mistake you are making is fancying that "geo-engineering" discourse has anything substantially to do with serious science at all.

Many of the proposals corralled -- however incoherently -- under the banner of "geo-engineering" recommend interventions into climate systems of unprecedented scope to produce singular desired impacts in extraordinarily complex dynamic systems and without preliminary investigation into unintended consequences -- untested either, presumably, because "urgency" justifies all sorts of rashness (as usually happens when politics is refigured as a declaration of war in the service of elite incumbent profit-taking), or because in many cases there simply could be no test in advance that did not simply amount to the intervention itself given the scales and costs involved.

"Geo-engineering" is like every futurological topic turns out to be, primarily a promotional effort, the promulgation of an ideological -- or even, in its extreme variations, theological -- vantage selectively and superficially appropriating, organizing, while also freighting with emotional and narrative significance, some science (and usually no small amount of pseudo-science as well) in the service of wish-fulfillment fantasizing. I have explained elsewhere this wish-fulfillment fantasizing almost always functionally supports reactionary politics, despite its "progressive" coloration, peddling in the name of "The Future" what always amounts to the prolongation and amplification of elite-incumbent interests and actors and parochial values: hence my futurological brickbat that every futurism is functionally a retro-futurism.

There is of course plenty of science happening at the nanoscale level, there is plenty of molecular biochemistry afoot, but there is no Drexlerian "nanotechnology" that correlates to the futurological topic. There is plenty of non-normativizing prosthetic, genetic, cognitive medicine emerging on the scene but there is no "post-human enhancement" and certainly no "immortality" or "super-longevity" medicine that correlates to the futurological topic. There is plenty of network security and user-friendly software coding but no "AI" and certainly no "Friendly super-intelligent AI" that correlates to the futurological topic.

So, too, there is no "geo-engineering" for you to want or not to want. In claiming to have an opinion on the question of whether you want or don't want "it" you are entrapped by a discursive cul-de-sac into conceptual confusions and distractions. The term has little substance at all except as a discursive canalization directing attention and imagination from mainstream-legible environmentalism onto greenwashing pseudo-environmentalist formations to maintain and even amplify elite-incumbent profit-taking and authority.

Quite apart from whether you agree with me or not, do you grasp now the altogether different nature of the critique I am leveling than the one to which you seemed hitherto to be responding?