“The point of modern propaganda isn’t only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth.” – Gary Kasparov
I cribbed that quote by Gary Kasparov from Xraymike’s blog The Collapse of Industrial Civilization, from a recent post entitled “The Trumpocene: Darkness Gathers”. It is true that this short-circuiting of reason is the aim of propaganda. But in broader terms, what we are witnessing in the absurdities of the present period of history, which we find so “surreal” with its self-negating and self-devouring logic we call “chaos”, is better described as the self-immolation of the Modern Mind.
I know we all feel a certain sense of anguish about this. We would like to intercede and intervene in this process of self-immolation and attenuate that process before it completes its logic in total self-annihilation, which seems to be where we are headed presently. Spaceship Earth appears to be falling apart at the seams, which is the echo in physical terms of the disintegration of modern man’s consciousness structure.
In today’s Guardian there is a review of the book The Making of the President (that is, Trump) by the notorious “ratfucker” Roger Stone, who I’ve had occasion to mention in the past in connection with the” creepy clown” or Trickster archetype. There is a kind of fraternity of such types — the dirty tricksters — in contemporary politics, including the Australian “political operative” Lynton Crosby. Mr. Stone insists, like Kellyanne Conway’s justification of “alternative facts”, that people today have “a choice of truths“. So, Ms Conway’s “alternative facts” wasn’t a momentary aberration or a transient lapse of reason. It’s deliberate and in the nature of post-modern politics. It’s one of the chief features of the “New Normal” (or Adam Curtis’s “Hypernormalisation“).
Here, I want to explore how this situation reflects the fragmentation and disintegration of the personality and consciousness structure of modern man in duplicity, as examined also by Jean Gebser also in The Ever-Present Origin.
In 1972, Lewis Yablonski published a book entitled Robopaths: People as Machines. Not just the date of publication is interesting — it follows writings about “Organisation Man” and R. Seidenberg’s “Posthistoric Man” from the 50s, while predating Christopher Lasch’s Culture of Narcissism (1979) by a few years — but also because it speaks to one of Marty Glass’s five characteristics of the Kali Yuga (or “Dark Age”) — “the Mutation into Machinery”.
One of the things I’ve noted about climate change deniers is their assumption that all thinking is mere self-interest. In those terms, climate scientists are beholden to the self-interest and so have confabulated the climate crisis for self-interested reasons of monetary gain.
Once you assume that all thinking is just self-interest (except that of their own — the “righteous mind” — of course) then you must assume there is no such thing as “objective truth”, but only self-interested “points-of-view”. “Truth” becomes whatever self-interest decides it is. This is also an aspect of the egoic “isolation” of the perspectivist consciousness structure, ie, the “point-of-view” consciousness.
Earlier today, I was mulling over the meaning of “awakening” — or notions of “public enlightenment” — as used by ethno-nationalists, or the so-called “alt-right”, to describe their right-wing populist movements. Deutschland Erwache! (or, “Germany, Awake!”) was the great slogan of German fascism as well, and every nationalist movement still tends to think of itself as an “awakening”.
But an awakening of what? And in what sense can it be described as “awakening” when the very meaning of the word “fascism” points in the opposite direction, towards trance, rather, being related to spell-casting — a “fascinum,” or a fascination? In that sense, fascist “awakening” represents a co-optation of the meaning, and language, of “enlightenment”.
I’ve been working my way through Jennifer Welsh’s The Return of History: Conflict, Migration, and Geopolitics in the Twenty-First Century. The title, of course, is a dig at the naivete that informed much of Francis Fukuyama’s triumphalist announcement of “the end of history” back in 1990. Welsh’s book, on the other hand, might be considered a further contribution to “chaos literature”, as we might call that — the literature on sudden reversals of fortune.
Most analyses I’ve read about the current epidemic of “fake news”, or matters like “alternative facts” or “post-truth,” take the view that it’s about ideology overpowering and overwhelming reality.
I’m going to suggest that we look at this somewhat differently — not as ideology run amok so much as indicative of the bankruptcy of ideology itself and, in those terms, of the intellect also (or at least that form of the intellect Gebser calls “mental-rational”). It seems to me that, in the absence of any real “facts” or truth to buttress the received and conventional ideologies, their partisans and adherents now resort to simply making them up in a brazen attempt to disguise the fact that they are bankrupt.