Commentary on Bruce Sterling’s “The Blast Shack”

Since KK emailed me the link to Bruce Sterling’s “The Blast Shack“, I’ve been reading and re-reading Sterling’s sometimes witty (and sometimes not) observations about Julian Assange and Wikileaks. As much as for what Sterling doesn’t say (or contextualise) as for what he does say about the meaning of Assange, I thought I would post something about Sterling’s piece. It’s one of the better commentaries out there about the meaning of Julian Assange and Wikileaks.

“So it’s going to take me a while to explain why this highly newsworthy event fills me with such a chilly, deadening sense of Edgar Allen Poe melancholia.”

One of the first lines in the article, this one grabbed my attention and held it throughout. “Melancholia” is a strange word to use relation to the events described, but if you were with The Dark Age Blog you may recall that I discussed this sense of “melancholia” at length as it appeared at almost epidemic scale in the early Renaissance and Late Middle Ages. It reappears again today for much the same reasons, although we tend to call it “malaise”.

Albrecht Dürer: Melencolia

Melancholia, or “the black bile”, was epidemic in the early modern period. The physician Richard Burton wrote a very thick book on the social problem called The Anatomy of Melancholy in his time (1621).  I’m fortunate to have a copy of it. The German artist Albrecht Dürer (1471 – 1528) did a famous etching entitled Melencolia that captures much of the mood of it, and especially of that “dull icy feeling” that Sterling mentions as his own response to the meaning of Assange. This Melancholia is revisited upon us today for much the same reasons as then. A widespread sense of malaise that attends also a sense of loss. There is, in Sterling’s piece, a grieving for the old that is ambiguously coincident with a hopeful anticipation for the new. This is mood is characteristic of times of rapid social and historical transition. In a sense, it might be comparable to post-partum depression, which is also transitional effect. Nonetheless, in contemporary terms we would call this “malaise”, as reflected in the title of the philosopher Charles Taylor’s book The Malaise of Modernity.

“So Wikileaks is a manifestation of something that has been growing all around us, for decades, with volcanic inexorability… Wikileaks is “underground” in the way that the NSA is “covert”….”

In other words, it’s simply an event whose time has come — whose time had to come. What lies “underground” is seed. What is covert is masked and camouflaged. The association of the words “volcanic” with “underground” recalls Jean Gebser’s use of the term “irruption” to describe the emergence of a new structure of consciousness, which is an in-structed way or mode of perceiving. This shift in the sensorium was already foreseen decades ago in the work of Marshall McLuhan. There has emerged an essential historical discontinuity between his “Typographical Man” of the Gutenberg Galaxy and the Digital-Electronic Man of the Global Brain. A little further on in “The Blast Shack”, Sterling describes the meaning of Assange in just those terms,

“If the Internet was walking around in public, it would look and act a lot like Julian Assange. The Internet is about his age, and it doesn’t have any more care for the delicacies of profit, propriety and hierarchy than he does.”

In effect, that is what McLuhan’s motto “the medium is the message” amounts to. A new medium introduces a new bias in our sensorium — that is to say, a new ratio between and amongst the senses which results in a new modus of conscious relationship to reality.  Assange represents this, which makes him almost incomprehensible to an older sensibility. That is another way of saying that a change in media of representation also reconfigures our perception of the truth being represented, and of what is perceived as the real. Sterling’s quip about Assange being the embodiment of the Internet is somewhat to the point. For Assange, what is presently being called “the Global Brain” is the true reality. The nation-state and corporate system of fragmented, sectional, and fractious legal entities is the truly fictitious and the unreal — a mass illusion and delusion that persists only because of an implicit “conspiracy” that he feels compelled to disrupt after having ingeniously discovered a way of doing so — mass leakage of the electronic signals along its neural pathways.  No one really directs or controls this conspiracy. It is more a covert rather than an overt conspiracy that functions more along the lines of “groupthink”, as discussed earlier. In fact, Sterling characterises Assange — quite accurately I think — as a “post-national” life-form and species. What would that be but what we have elsewhere called a “global soul”?

And it doesn’t really matter how open, transparent, or diaphanous the global soul is in reality. To old perception, the global soul is an opaque and imponderable mystery that must be snuffed out. And so you see Assange condemned and demonised in the most absurdly inappropriate and inapplicable terms as “traitor” or “terrorist” or “sociopath”, and so on.

If you have seen George Lucas’s early film THX 1138, the theme is much the same. I watched this again the other day. Here also there is a “conspiracy”, as such, but there are no central controllers or directors of the conspiracy. The mood of the movie THX 1138 is probably a good rendition of how Assange also feels about the nation-state system (or “international community),” insofar as the society depicted in Lucas’s film is just one great instance of groupthink which by its very functioning suppresses those things that Assange holds dear — freedom, truth, and self-realisation. It’s the totality of the social and mental environment in THX 1138 that constitutes the authoritarian conspiratorial regime. Nobody directs it. Nobody controls it. It is what is called “the System”. In that sense, the system is autonomous juggernaut. This system is pretty much what Assange refers to as the groupthink entity that functions as a single “cognitive device”.

Sterling turns to the figure of Bradley Manning, summarising his feelings for the soldier’s fate with the wonderful metaphor,

“I don’t have the heart to make this transgressor into some hockey-puck for an ideological struggle. I sit here and I gloomily contemplate his all-too-modern situation with a sense of Sartrean nausea.”

Manning has become that, of course. The metaphor is apt, and it points also to one of the central critiques Jean Gebser has of the “deficient rationality” of the mental-rational structure of consciousness in its present decline and decadence (Sterling’s phrase “all-too-modern” has the same feel to it as Gebser’s “deficient rationality”). We have called this our “post-Enlightenment” rationality. Rationality, become deficient, is less concerned with truth or falsehood than it is with winning or losing, which are issues of power and will to power. This is one reason — maybe the main reason — why so many people today sense the Wizard of Oz and Alice-in-Wonderland character of the Late Modern era. Describing and de-personalising Bradley Manning as a “hockey-puck” in an ideological struggle makes this into an issue of winners and losers, and the “hockey-puck” is the manipulation of images and symbols as a means to gain ideological advantage rather than as a means to disclosing or revealing the truth or falsehood of our human situation.  Assange is principally in the unveiling business, which is why, Sterling notes, he doesn’t give a fig for “profit, propriety and hierarchy”. You may note the these three values are, in some ways, the inverted or perverted forms of the triad of values that Assange holds ultimately dear — freedom, truth, and self-realisation. These values are now on a collision course, just as the patriot mentality and the global soul are on a collision course (as is “mentality” and “soul” as values). These are two different forms of self or identity in terms of a modern self and a transmodern self.

(You may also ask yourself why it is that such declarations of values always seem to come in triadic form — or appear in pyramid form. Here we have “profit, propriety, and hierarchy” contrasted with “freedom, truth, and self-realisation” — or, in other terms equally triadic: “truth, justice, and the American Way”, or “liberty, equality, fraternity”, or dialectically in terms of “thesis-antithesis-synthesis”. Although three is also the number of magical incantation, and is also the shape of a pyramid and the dimensions of space, it is also the form of the Trinity — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I suspect that there is still an ancient religious impulse that, subliminally, still directs our thought and action and which provides an unconscious blueprint for understanding and representing values.)

The impending collision of the nation-state supremacy model and the ascendancy of the global brain is also well expressed by Sterling,

“Unfortunately for the US State Department, they clearly shouldn’t have been messing with computers, either. In setting up their SIPRnet, they were trying to grab the advantages of rapid, silo-free, networked communication while preserving the hierarchical proprieties of official confidentiality. That’s the real issue, that’s the big modern problem; national governments and global computer networks don’t mix any more. It’s like trying to eat a very private birthday cake while also distributing it. That scheme is just not working. And that failure has a face now, and that’s Julian Assange.”

The real “clash of civilisations” is not what Samuel Huntington believed, whose thought is still mired in increasingly and desperately antiquated and obsolete models. Huntington wanted to deflect and divert the internecine “culture war” in the West into the international arena as a global ideological war between peoples rather than conflict between past and future in time. It’s an old con man’s and pick-pocket’s trick, after all, called “direction by indirection”. Divert the sucker’s attention elsewhere while you pick his wallet. But the real clash now unfolding is the conflict between the future and the past — between planetary civilisation and “the international community” — the nation-state system and its partnerships in the corporate-state constellation. (We’ve already witnessed the corporations defensively circling their wagons around the state — Visa, Mastercard, PayPal, Apple, Bank of America, etc in reaction to what Assange and Wikileaks represent).

Alex Colville: Horse and Train on Collision Course

There is now no way to avoid this confrontation. It will be a brutal and feral struggle between old power and new consciousness, between the Nation State and the Global Brain. This is the Clash of the Titans in our time. As new consciousness becomes more confident of itself and its resources, it will also become more effective and lethal in the struggle with old power. This alignment is already taking shape and was taking shape before Assange and Wikileaks appeared on the scene. What Assange has done, in effect, is to bring it into focus with amazing perspicuity.  He’s called out the whole notion of “the international community” as being a fraud and has challenged the nation-state system to justify itself and its legitimacy. In fact, he’s challenged pretty much the whole Modern Era to justify itself. That’s pretty bold. I don’t know of any precedent for this except (as noted earlier) man’s challenge to the gods to justify themselves and their claims to dominate and regulate human life. He’s not acting as an individual, though. He’s acting as a representative and agency of the global brain. But, as Sterling put it,

“I don’t even think Assange is all that big on ego; I know authors and architects, so I’ve seen much worse than Julian in that regard. He’s just what he is; he’s something we don’t yet have words for.”

That’s to the point, actually. And that apparent fearlessness makes Assange a frightening figure to many — a blasphemer and heretic even —  who can’t find words for this “something” which Assange is, even to his friends and confidantes. And apparently, to Sterling as well, who fumbles the ball and stutters for the right words here by taking Assange all-too-personally (none of which is the point). It’s not ego that drives Assange, it’s the absence of ego that makes him appear “chilly”

“Furthermore, and not as any accident, Assange has managed to alienate everyone who knew him best. All his friends think he’s nuts. I’m not too thrilled to see that happen. That’s not a great sign in a consciousness-raising, power-to-the-people, radical political-leader type. Most successful dissidents have serious people skills and are way into revolutionary camaraderie and a charismatic sense of righteousness. They’re into kissing babies, waving bloody shirts, and keeping hope alive. Not this chilly, eldritch guy.”

Ah well… Assange doesn’t fit the mold of man or of our primitive expectations of what man is or should be by dictionary definitions. So, even Sterling lapses into nostalgic stereotype, even though he sees this distancing being not in any way an “accident” on Assange’s part. But if it’s not accident, isn’t it then a deliberate distancing — a protective distancing perhaps? The alleged iciness of Assange — his apparent indifference to his own safety in drawing down upon himself the wrath of the State is reminiscent of Nietzsche’s instruction to his men and women of the future — to become hard, to become icy, to become remote — which is to say resilient, durable, and enduring because they would have to bear and suffer much for the sake of the transhuman future.

It’s interesting that Sterling, sensibly, sees absence of egotism in Assange’s motives where others — less astute and discerning — charge Assange with self-aggrandising egotism. But it’s actually the absence of such egotism that allows Assange to be enduring and resilient against the kinds of pressures and stresses that would make any ordinary everyday ego — such as our disapproving and timid scribblers in the mainstream press — break down, collapse, and grovel at the feet of power. Lucas has that kind of faux dissident character, too, in his film THX 1138 — the man who breaks down and grovels when push comes to shove.

But Assange is a man who is responding to an overpowering sense of calling. That calling gives him a sense of mission and purpose. That purpose is his all and it overrides self-interest. And only people without any sense of calling, task, or great purpose themselves would mistake that as egoism or as a vain quest for personal martyrdom. Assange is a man who feels personally called (the “vocation” in the true sense). And that sense of vocation or calling changes everything. Yet even a sympathetic Sterling gets this wrong because he, too, probably could never understand why early Christians, for example, went willingly to the lions in the Roman Colleseum, or why the great Sufi Al-Hafiz danced in his chains to his torture and execution for his blasphemy of declaring “I am Truth!”.  That is how decadent a merely calculating rationality has become that has confused means and ends.

Assange, on the other hand, has not confused means and ends. This enrages those who have confused means with ends.

“He’s a different, modern type of serious troublemaker. He’s certainly not a “terrorist,” because nobody is scared and no one got injured. He’s not a “spy,” because nobody spies by revealing the doings of a government to its own civil population. He is orthogonal. He’s asymmetrical. He panics people in power and he makes them look stupid. And I feel sorry for them. But sorrier for the rest of us.”

Julian Assange’s extremely weird version of dissident “living in truth” doesn’t bear much relationship to the way that public life has ever been arranged. It does, however, align very closely to what we’ve done to ourselves by inventing and spreading the Internet. If the Internet was walking around in public, it would look and act a lot like Julian Assange. The Internet is about his age, and it doesn’t have any more care for the delicacies of profit, propriety and hierarchy than he does.

So Julian is heading for a modern legal netherworld, the slammer, the electronic parole cuff, whatever; you can bet there will be surveillance of some kind wherever he goes, to go along with the FREE ASSANGE stencils and xeroxed flyers that are gonna spring up in every coffee-bar, favela and university on the planet. A guy as personally hampered and sociopathic as Julian may in fact thrive in an inhuman situation like this. Unlike a lot of keyboard-hammering geeks, he’s a serious reader and a pretty good writer, with a jailhouse-lawyer facility for pointing out weaknesses in the logic of his opponents, and boy are they ever. Weak, that is. They are pathetically weak.”

They are pathetically weak in the face of Assange’s mental onslaughts only because they have confused means and ends. Always the man or woman of the new historical type is interpreted as a “sociopath”, a “traitor”, or even a “terrorist” — the loner, the outsider, the genuinely creative human being who challenges the rules and turns history on its head. We are back to the deficient logic of the Inquisition. And if indeed Assange is “something we don’t yet have words for” (although I might suggest a few), then it is pointlessly misleading and vain to use all the old words to describe this “something”. And if Assange’s “living in truth” in fact “doesn’t bear much relationship to the way that public life has ever been arranged”, that’s no argument against this “living in truth” at all.

It may well be an argument, though, against the way that public and social life has hitherto been arranged in historical terms. And that is Assange’s whole point.

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11 responses to “Commentary on Bruce Sterling’s “The Blast Shack””

  1. InfiniteWarrior says :

    Well, I must be “confused”, then, because I find not only Assange’s focus on himself egocentric, but all the focus on Assange (good and ill) egocentric as well, “centralized” on this one “ego” as it is.

    Assange is not the “embodiment” of the Internet. All who’ve availed themselves of the Internet’s ability to skirt the Old Guard’s supposed power — and that includes the “Twitter revolution” of Iranian youth (despite the US State Dept’s efforts to twist it to its own ends); Chinese bloggers troubling “the State” with their “beyond the Iron Curtain” hosting structures; etc.; etc. — have made uber-efficient use of what is essentially a tool. A damn good crowbar of a tool, to be sure, but still just a tool. All the supposedly “ordinary, average, everyday” people who, under extraordinary circumstances, have succeeded in creating cracks all across the “Cosmic Egg” are, I believe, the extraordinary examples of an “‘irrupting consciousness structure”. Otherwise, your commentary to date on the import of Wikileaks is dead-on, as usual, imo.

    What I find important about Wikileaks — and Assange and Wikileaks are not inseparable, given that this one man is not the only person involved in its coming to be — are the questions it’s prompted people in the West to ask of themselves. It’s not at Assange’s prompting that these questions are being asked. It’s the illusion-shattering information itself that’s prompted the soul-searching, and the fact that such soul-searching is occurring simultaneously both East and West I take as a very good sign.

    We have to question the world around us, see it in a new and different light—and communicate what we see. If we live in a government-controlled vacuum, what can we say that’s of value?

    And if we found something, would we be allowed to say it? It’s not just Wikileaks being threatened now, but the whole concept of free speech….

    I felt for the first time the power of words to reach out across borders of culture and geography, to break down walls and smash through silence, to link us all together in a community that recognizes truth. — Why Wikileaks Should Matter to Writers

    And that’s the import of the Internet, imo.

  2. Scott says :

    Well, I must be “confused”, then, because I find not only Assange’s focus on himself egocentric, but all the focus on Assange (good and ill) egocentric as well, “centralized” on this one “ego” as it is.

    I think Sterling is correct (but it wouldn’t matter to me if he wasn’t either). After reading more on Assange and his statements, it’s not possible to reconcile his “reclusive” instincts with his alleged “self-aggrandising” egoism. The fact that the media focusses and centres more on the personality of Assange than on the message can’t be a fault laid upon Assange. If the media has framed Assange in that role, that’s because that’s all they understand and probably all they’ve ever encountered — media hounds and celebrity seekers. The actual message seems to escape them. Only on occasion has someone noted Assange’s “reluctant” assumption of this role as the face of Wikileaks and his reclusive inclinations.

    The very first article I read about Assange is a case in point. The reporter spent half the article gushing about her attraction to Assange — his ghostly and sallow demeanor that she found so erotic. Well, fine. But after reading that I simply dismissed the significance of Assange. My bad. I allowed her framing of the issue to colour my judgement. Turns out, Assange is just what he says he is — a messenger. I also find it difficult to reconcile Assange’s alleged egoism with his enthusiasm for lampooning and parodying his own image. It’s not typical of an egotist to be self-deprecating. And why did Assange do this? As the two blokes at “Rap News” said, it was because they “hit the nail on the head” about it being the message, not the personality.

    I also think that Sterling is correct in describing Assange as the avatar of the medium. There’s a difference between consciously using the internet and being conscious of and as the internet (the distinction between being conscious as and being conscious of. It’s clear from reading Assange’s essays that he is virtually the self-consciousness of the medium itself — it’s human “avatar” in a sense. We talk about being able to “read somebody like a book”, because that is the medium we half-ways understand and think literacy is crucial. If we don’t yet have words to describe the “something” that Assange is, it is because the book metaphor is inapplicable here. Assange can’t be read like a book for those reasons.

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      I also think that Sterling is correct in describing Assange as the avatar of the medium.

      THE avatar of the entire medium of the Internet? It’s with that I whole-heartedly disagree. There’s so much more to the medium than Assange and Wikileaks’ (or anyone else’s) spilling of reprehensible state behavior, which (as a few commentators have pointed out) is certainly not news to anyone, even those who haven’t quite faced up to it yet.

      If you think Assange himself is a shining example of an irrupting consciousness structure, I certainly wouldn’t disagree with you. That’s a personal judgment. My point is that the “Global Brain” is comprised of a lot more (and far less appreciated) people, cultures and “subjects” than Assange and Wikileaks. This is not to say that I think the over-reaction, especially to him, is right. In fact, I think it’s insane.

      I guess when I think of emergent culture or a supposedly “new” (in fact, I believe its been in motion for quite some time), “irrupting” consciousness structure, I think of all the compassionate, loving people who are coming together for the common good and not just those making the biggest waves.

      All the best to you and readers of The Chrysalis.

      • Scott says :

        THE avatar of the entire medium of the Internet?

        No. More in the sense that to be “modern” is to be a literate being and conduct ourselves as avatars of book culture as McLuhan’s “typographical man”. There’s nothing personalistic about this. We’re speaking of historical types or species. Again, we have to emphasise the quality of non-linearity in Assange’s approach as key here. On one of my visits yesterday, a friend commented he had watched Assange interviewed on TV and noticed something strange about him he couldn’t put his finger on (Sterling’s reference to a deficit of words to describe him). It’s that same quality. That is the sense in which Assange is an avatar (not THE avatar in the sense of a digital messiah).

        I guess when I think of emergent culture or a supposedly “new” (in fact, I believe its been in motion for quite some time), “irrupting” consciousness structure, I think of all the compassionate, loving people who are coming together for the common good and not just those making the biggest waves

        “Irruption” doesn’t come on little dove’s feet. That’s why Gebser uses that word. This apocalyptic disclosure of new reality and truth is never pleasant, and this informs much of Sterling’s “melancholia” too. He’s full of regret for the people being drawn into the vortex of change. It’s in the ecology of things. As we destroy the ecological diversity of the earth, as a race we will correspondingly come to incarnate this ourselves — there will be strange creatures and growths emerging from the cracks in the nation-state system. Some will be genuine exemplars of this “irruption”, and some will be abortive developments. By it’s very nature, integral consciousness is not one thing. It is a unity with diversity, and we have to hold that paradox in mind when we are dealing with the irruption.

        • InfiniteWarrior says :

          “Irruption” doesn’t come on little dove’s feet.

          Given that I’ve said nothing about “irruption” coming on “little dove’s feet”, I’m not sure what you’re responding to, unless it’s the accompanying aspect of emergent culture I’ve mentioned, which Gebser describes (in preferred terms, I’m sure) as you’ve quoted in the first paragraph of your next piece. Integral consciousness is, indeed, paradoxical and not everything about this current “apocalypse” is earth-shattering or unpleasant. Though the “characters” and circumstances are somewhat different, not much else about is “new”, either, imo. It just happens to be a global phenomenon in our times.

          Awakening and/or elicitment to awakening is perhaps as old as our species, but has been relatively confined to certain places and times. We’re all familiar with the major persons involved, ranging from Buddha to Jesus to Rumi to Ibn Arabi to…Gebser. I can’t say, given what I know, that I would consider Assange in the same league, though my respect for the guy just went up a notch.

          As you’ve noted, it’s the inane, insane (not to mince words) reaction to Wikileaks (and “the face” of Wikileaks) that’s tumultuous and unpleasant, but so it is also to all the “unsung heroes” who’ve accomplished as much in the name of freedom, truth, and self-realization and, that, quite a bit more peacefully.

          If there’s anything that prevents me from thinking Assange an “avatar” of a new historical type, it’s that he’s no better than I (and most, apparently) at “compassionate speech”, especially under pressure, which is the hallmark of most of the greats listed (and not listed) above. I’m afraid I can’t get on board with the “avatar” of a “new consciousnes0s” characterization, but have taken your opinions on the matter under consideration.

        • InfiniteWarrior says :

          If there’s anything that prevents me from thinking Assange an “avatar” of a new historical type….

          Let me add that in addition to the lack of patience (temporary or permanent) for a deficit in compassionate speech, the others I speak of — persons and organizations alike — are actually in the process of creating that “better” world rather than focusing entirely, if at all, upon revealing the warts and diseases of the old. Such revelation is an important step toward transparency, to be sure, but is not the only aspect of “irruption”, much less emergent culture.

          It’s nice to see as much focus upon that loving, compassionate, emergent culture, though information regarding it is far harder to track down, given that its activities are not “sensational” enough to get much in the way of major media coverage.

  3. Scott says :

    We’re all familiar with the major persons involved, ranging from Buddha to Jesus to Rumi to Ibn Arabi to…Gebser. I can’t say, given what I know, that I would consider Assange in the same league, though my respect for the guy just went up a notch.

    Assange isn’t in the same league because he’s not a “guru”, he’s a novel exemplar or specimen of an emergent historical type anticipated by Gebser and likely by McLuhan. He’s a novel kind of disciple of all those things that Sterling lacks words to describe. Assange isn’t necessarily conscious of consciousness in the same way as these others. He has “mystique” without being a mystic, as it were. One doesn’t even necessarily have to be all that self-conscious either to be a representative type (ie, an “avatar”). I imagine you might have avatars in virtual reality that more or less represent you and are bound to you. It’s much the same principle. Without the internet, there would be no “Julian Assange”. The man can no more function as an historical type without the internet than a librarian can function without a library of books. In that sense, a librarian as role is an avatar of the library itself, just as there is no “writer” or “reader” without literacy.

    There is lots of interesting anecdotes about men and women from tribal/oral cultures who were perplexed by the book and bookmen, and by reading and writing. When they finally understood the meaning of the book as “frozen speech”, their awe was as great as was Helen Keller’s when she learned from Ann Sullivan that things had names (“water”). Keller noted in her autobiography that she discovered her soul at that moment. That’s very Gebserian, in fact. The awakening to a new potentiality of consciousness. This is the discovery of a new potentiality that was dormant or sleeping in the soul. It’s not exactly what we call “enlightenment” in the sense of Buddha or Rumi or Hafiz or Jesus. In a way, Assange is more like Helen Keller than he is like Rumi or Buddha etc. He has discovered a new potency or faculty of consciousness that is implicit in the meaning of the global internet, for the global internet is the manifest and visible form today of innovations in non-linear logics, quantum physics, chaos theory, butterfly effect, etc that have become closely associated in people’s minds with the symbolism of Indra’s Net.

    I don’t know if Assange knows anything about these things or whether “Indra’s Net” is even something he is familiar with. It doesn’t matter anyway. I would be surprised if he didn’t understand the comparison between Indra’s Net and non-linear reasoning and perception. His essays are astute, and have elicited accolades from others in terms of “awesome” and “ingenious” and “brilliant”. What is the innovation, then, that Assange represents? The innovation or “something” that Sterling can’t find words for himself? That is the question we need to ask here. The answer is not hard to arrive at either: Assange has discovered a way to make non-linear logic and new perception historically and sociologically effective in the transformation of reality. That is why he is absolutely confident that the world will be “elevated to a better place”. That is why his opponents, as Sterling puts it, are almost defenseless against Assange: “weak. Pathetically weak”, is how Sterling put it. Linear logic or “perspective consciousness” has no defence against new non-linear logic and aperspectival consciousness. Parsifal has become Don Quixote, if you catch my meaning. That’s the significance of Assange. He’s a specimen of a new historical type of consciousness struggling to be born, not the founder of a new religion. He’s just found a way to break the spell — the fascinum — of linear, perspectivising logic on the mind, and the reaction to that has been — as you can see — visceral, feral, and immoderate.

    There’s that word again — modernity and the moderate now become immoderate and disproportionate (irrational). That’s the effect Assange wanted to evoke. Assange and WikiLeaks did nothing but hold up a mirror to that “deficient rationality” and embarrassment became immodesty, immoderation, and disproportionate reaction. That’s all Assange did, really. He held up a mirror and the “guardians” didn’t like what they saw at all. They went crazy.

  4. Scott says :

    I guess it’s Boxing Day — dueling comments 🙂 (And I don’t know what happened to your “reply” button).

    Such revelation is an important step toward transparency, to be sure, but is not the only aspect of “irruption”, much less emergent culture

    But that overlooks Assange’s motives for doing what he did — which is precisely to create a space for “freedom, truth, and self-realisation” and justice to emerge and become effective reality. If you want to seek a parallel or analogy from scripture, it would be akin to Jesus’ taking a whip to the money-changers in the temple — the event that sealed his fate as the authorities began then to mobilise against him as a rabble-rouser and heretic (and in fact, if the gospels are to be believed, Jesus himself knew that this act would and had sealed his fate with the authorities). As mentioned earlier, Assange is a disciple, whether he knows this or not, and especially where he describes power-relations as having become “fiscalised” and the need to break that fiscal relationship between state and corporation so the “word” can become free again.

    Not without extreme peril, either. Assange mentions that two human rights lawyers who worked with WikiLeaks were assassinated in Nairobi. Compassion comes with a price tag, apparently.

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      so-called ‘secular’ works of literature

      And let me add to this before I depart that, while much complaint is heard regarding the speed of contemporary information flow (and it can be overwhelming, if one is not the selective type), another of the Internet’s major contributions to the “great awakening” is the synchronization of our “collective” perception. (I’m still looking for another word for “collective”. I’m probably being too picky. If they just hadn’t made it synonymous with the Borg, it’d be fine!)

  5. InfiniteWarrior says :

    I don’t know what happened to your “reply” button

    I’ve discovered this is unique to threaded comments. The “reply” button is actually on your comment directly above mine. (I can hear the devs now. “We have to solve this linear comment tracking problem. We’ll go back to old school “threading” and have people reply to their original comment to continue a particular ‘thread’ in the ‘thread'”. “Sure! That makes sense.” “Um, yes. Maybe not so much, but it’s the best we’ve got if we don’t want to do that bit where we present comments in more and more narrow columns until they’re barely legible at all.”And, now…back to serious mode.)

    But that overlooks Assange’s motives for doing what he did

    No. That hasn’t been overlooked. I just haven’t mentioned it because it happens to be comprehensively included in all your other commentary on the subject of the “message itself”. With that, I agree. I just don’t see this message “embodied” solely in Assange and — lo siento — never will.

    If you want to seek a parallel or analogy from scripture

    I don’t, as I don’t much care for “scripture” (as such), but it’s a good one for the effect the global financial meltdown, if not especially Assange or Wikileaks, has had and I’m sure there are parallels to the further, deeper “revelation” Wikileaks itself represents in all our great, so-called ‘secular’ works of literature as well. (It is the message and not necessarily the medium that is of import, imo, whether “book”, Internet, aural, visual or otherwise. The stories change from culture to culture, time to time and place to place. The messages, however, remain the same. One would think we’d get it eventually….)

    Compassion comes with a price tag, apparently.

    Indeed. Unfortunately, it always has.

    • Scott says :

      Compassion comes with a price tag, apparently.

      I’m not sure if the lawyers were assassinated because of they’re work with WikiLeaks or for some other “reason” (or excuse). But it would appear to influence Assange’s alleged ‘paranoia’. Actually, given that context, I’m not sure that “paranoia” is the right word for this, since the precautions Assange takes would appear to be justified and reasonable. Paranoia isn’t the right word, I think. Perhaps just another example of Assange as Rorschack Inkblot for other’s own expectations.

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