Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Writing, Ideology & Mass Communication In Techno-Industrial Society

Originality, accuracy, and clarity can be hard things to measure in terms of the written word. Originality is always bound to some degree with the familiar. Accuracy, while sometimes easier to assess, is rarely complete and can still lead us to faulty conclusions. Clarity is largely dependent upon the ability of any readers to comprehend, relate to, and think reasonably about whatever is being presented to them. These three aspects comprise but a general shortlist of problems a writer may face when trying to compose something of worth and interest to the broader reading public.

Underlying political and ideological tendencies, which are engrained in the general public, further serve to restrict a writers ability to find and captivate an audience. The promotion of certain ideas, right or wrong, can even be dangerous to writers who promote them. People have been burnt at the stake and put before firing squads because of their ideas.

More commonly problematic is simply the inability of writers to adequately reach a receptive audience. On the simplest level this could sometimes be due to a writers limited access to a suitable medium. However, even having access to modern tools of mass communication does not guarantee that the message being produced will reach a broad or receptive audience. The reasons for this are many.

The most common barrier to gaining an audience is often just a simple matter of finances and resources. Most people can't afford a printing press or the distribution network required to broadly distribute hard copies of their work. Even in this Internet age of blogs it helps to have financial resources dedicated to the promotion of your work on the world wide web.

Just as traditional publishers have long had to compete for an audience in a world of pulp and pablum, a similar problem exists for online publishers. In fact, it's probably much easier for various forms of quality web content to get lost amidst the nearly infinite number of other web pages – E-pulp, if you will.

The magnification of extremes when comparing the problems of traditional pulp with E-pulp may also be reflective of the types of focus (and the amount of critical thought) which is demonstrated in mass society. In smaller populations it's easier to reach a larger percentage of that population by using almost any means of communication. One can discuss their ideas directly with their neighbors, those ideas can be directly examined on their merits, and useful ideas can spread from village to village in a similar manner. In techno-industrial mass society, however, it is actually more difficult to reach a large percentage of the overall population – and almost every message is always competing with a nearly infinite number of equally amplified messages. Beyond one way consumption of television programming (where truly oppositional debate is non-existent), with online discourse most people end up addressing a faceless crowd which is prone to arguing against any position by using one logical fallacy after another. And while messages can be distributed via Facebook or Twitter, most messages on those systems, regardless of quality, will be lost in the shuffle of mundanity – and those mediums do not really lend themselves well to comprehensive analysis.

But the difficulties of mass communication in the modern age are not merely because the population is so large, nor because every voice and message is amplified. There is an underlying ideology which guides and directs modern techno-industrial society. It is related to the underlying idea that has caused the population to explode. And while the underlying ideology of technological progress and naked materialism has persisted throughout the population boom, both the capability and desire for critical thought has been blunted by those with the most power.

As wealth and power has become more concentrated... those with that power have gained access to more effective tools which are used to maintain the underlying ideology of technological progress and control. They use these tools for distraction and obfuscation by filling people with consumeristic dreams or by promising them pie and the sky after they've died. Voices of reason are subsequently mocked at the behest of the powerful or buried under the mundane trivialities of our techno-industrial consumer society.

The powerful have long dictated the underlying ideology which is responsible for the current state of affairs in which we find ourselves. This ideology has led to one genocide after another. A billion people currently suffer from malnutrition because of this ideology. Because of this ideology, environmental degradation is responsible for the current mass extinction of species. And anthropogenic climate change threatens to potentially destroy the ability for humans to live on this planet – because of the dominant underlying ideology. This is the ideology that the powerful have engrained into the masses.

Even those individuals who recognize some of the overt negative effects of this ideology often do not realize the underlying aspects – which they consequently maintain and promote. We have been manipulated into believing the biggest of lies. These lies have formed the framework of our cultural truths which we take for granted – in much the same way that certain populations have believed that the Earth was flat or that authoritarian dictators were benevolent rulers. Human beings, like so much livestock, have been domesticated in a manner which will lead to their slaughter. A hackneyed cliché, to be sure, but an accurate one.

As Thoreau wrote, we are “hacking at the branches of evil” while failing to strike at the root. In general, many people do actually recognize many of the overt problems we face and the overt injustices perpetrated against specific groups. Unfortunately, we often fail to see the underlying system of control and we don't recognize our engrained ideological biases. This is what leads us to focus on rather superficial issues, or singular issues, while the whole world is going to hell in a proverbial handbasket. This is what guides people into having faith in a thoroughly corrupt system and it inspires them to continue supporting the evil of two lessers.

Most protest movements in the modern age, and I'm speaking particularly of the United States here, have been spayed and neutered. Even manifestations of mass protest have been largely turned into ineffectual parades. Effective protests have been equivocated with passivity, allowing yourself to get beaten or arrested, and/or boycotting product A in favor of product B. Right wing notions of law and order inform the opinions of most people about how protests should be responded to by the government. Unjustified wars rage, the banks rob the masses of their savings, and the biosphere is ravaged... but many people never get truly outraged or indignant until someone smashes the window of a bank. And these feelings are inculcated into society with the most advanced communication networks – by design and at the behest of the powerful.

Furthermore, on the subject of protest proponents, I've noticed a great deal of duplicity and hedging amongst those who are propped up in the media as paragons of radical thought. These are usually formal academics with a foot in the door of the power structure. These are people who typically lead a comfortable bourgeois life selling books and going on speaking tours. The fact that they ever support any form of protest against the power structure endears them greatly to a public which is starving for any plan of resistance. Unfortunately, the adoration they receive blinds their supporters to any inconsistencies, or ineffectual aspects, which may be part of their larger program. The cult of personality which surrounds these individuals allows them to effectively serve as the loyal opposition. In moments of social upheaval these people can be propped up as effectively pacifying voices. Should social upheaval ever lead to a qualitative revolution... they will then be presented as the engineers of that upheaval and their enacted programs would not really be that much different from the system currently in place. And, therefore, it wouldn't be a truly qualitative revolution. This is all assuming they even have any real faith in their own programs.

The mass of humanity has been cultivated to serve the aristocratic elite. Pop culture revolutionaries have been propped up for the purposes of counseling passivity (or maybe backstabbing). The thoroughly corrupt and destructive system in place is presented as only needing superficial reforms. The underlying ideology of techno-industrial mass society is a self-destructive monolith – which threatens to take humanity down with it.

However... this article is not being presented to promote hopelessness. The system will, in fact, eat itself (one way or another, with or without any help). The deep ideological biases of a society can, and will, change. Hope, as they say, does indeed spring eternal. A hard or total crash is not inevitable.

It is within our power as individuals to reverse the negative trends, tendencies, and truisms presented in this article. We can undermine the values of techno-industrial mass society. But we must recognize the deep pernicious roots of the dominant ideology if we wish to stop it. Our comprehensive resistance must be founded in a deep understanding of the system we are revolting against. The scale of revolutionary activity must match the scale of the problems we face. And while we must keep in mind our long term goals, we must not be idle in making strides to reach those goals. Practical strategies can be formulated and put into action. We do not need to remain passive victims of a value-free postmodern ethos.

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