It’s a Conspiracy!!

If one wants to make an argument to black people in Jamaica, and apparently America also, one must be very charismatic. And by charismatic, I mean something akin to Hitler at the Nuremburg rally giving away free swastika shaped candies made of cocaine.  You may invoke Godwin’s Law, but am I really being that harsh? How much different would that be from Tony Matterhorn using call and response to woo partygoers at a dancehall session? Or Portia Simpson at the annual PNP conferencing, courting the crowd with talk of victory, jobs and another 5 years for the PNP (but never policy)? Or the preacher at his megachurch,  seducing the congregation with tales of prosperity, the promise of rights without responsibilities, and a heaven on earth, all for the low, low price of $1999.99 every Sunday?

It is true that many of the most influential and effective leaders have used emotional appeals and evocative imagery, but consider this – do you know the actual ideology that was espoused by those leaders? What were the economic and social policies that Martin Luther King Jr. espoused? How about the political philosophy of Malcolm X? Or Albert Einstein’s views on socialism, quantum mechanics, the photoelectric effect or the mass-energy equivalence?  Chances are, even if you do know, the first thing that comes to mind is a famous image of the person in question, or an oft replayed soundbite from a very long speech.

The conspiracist plays on the fact that we live in an image based society. Like the lying politician, the sound system operator and the money-grubbing pastor, he plays upon emotion instead of reason. Unlike the social activist, the community leader, or the scientist, he does not have a positive program of knowledge or action, but only asserts a negative ideology that questions and criticizes existing structures.  Naturally, he joins the long list of charlatans to plague the black community in the U.S., and Jamaica as well. He applies the same image based rhetoric, ignoring rationality, and appealing to emotions. Much of what they say is self-contradictory, easily refuted and just plain silly. Their theories fail to accurately predict future events, fail to address present issues, and do not explain the past in a way that is not better explained by the usual institutional analysis. They play upon the fears of black and brown people, but they do nothing to alleviate these fears, or to ‘fight the power’ so to speak.

Stopping the Illuminati, one mouse click at atime

 

But that is not the true danger of believing the black conspiracy theorists. On a bad day, their theories are a mere nuisance to everyday people. On the other 29 days of the month, they create an alternate reality that has serious health implications for black communities, from vaccinations-as-Trojan-horse theories to avoiding anti-retroviral medications:

In 2004, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control staked out gay pride events in Baltimore, Detroit, Oakland, and San Francisco. They asked more than a thousand men their thoughts about AIDS and HIV. What did the men believe was the cause of AIDS? How dangerous did they think the disease was? What the researchers found is almost hard to stomach: Among minorities, conspiracy beliefs were ascendant. More than half of the African American men surveyed did not believe HIV causes AIDS. Forty-eight percent of the Hispanic men and more than a quarter of the white men also questioned the link. Another survey conducted that year by the RAND Corporation and researchers at Oregon State University found that black men who espoused such theories were far less likely than people who did subscribe to the HIV theory to regularly use condoms.

I can find several more cases like that which I have posted above. But, one is more than enough to prove that, unlike bitchism, the conspiracy theory can have actual real life implications in both our personal and social lives.

But what is the appeal of the conspiracy theory to black people? Yes, there is good reason to be skeptical about what you hear or see in the media, but the conspiracist takes this to a whole new level. So why does anyone take him seriously? And why so much more in black communities, compared to other communities?

The appeal of the conspiracy theory to black people is that it seems to give an all-encompassing explanation for all historical events and economic crises post-slavery. It allows the conspiracist and his followers to ignore complex forces and systems of control that require explanation and study, instead attributing all such forces to a single, omniscient, omnipotent nefarious group. So they created a secular devil in the form of an Omniscient Council of Vagueness –but who is their secular God? Unfortunately for them, they have none.  They would rather stand on their soapboxes and preach, because just like all the other charlatans and hucksters, they seek self-aggrandizement and deep down, self-pity. Thus, they pride themselves on devouring vast amounts of useless trivia with which to enlighten us poor ‘sheeple’, but what about actually liberating said sheeple?

Let’s take a case study. One trope among conspiracists is the use of ‘microchips’ to track and enslave people in developed country, usually in accordance with the Mark of the Beast prophecy in Revelation 13. Now, I’ve been hearing this sort of stuff since my Father was debating these loons at the Ethiopian Orthodox Church over at Maxfield Avenue, so would several questions regarding this, such as:

  • How are their transponders constructed
  • As devices that use inductive coupling  what are their limitations, in terms of power requirements and range
  • What are the frequency ranges for RFIDs in the United States, Europe and Japan
  • What are the security vulnerabilities of RFID (Wi-Fi, man in the middle, spoofing, insert, replay, )
  • What type of cryptography is used by the various types of RFIDs
  • What kind of shielding can the RFID signal penetrate (high frequency and low frequency)
I wonder why they didn’t include the fried chicken and watermelon

If any of you are able to get an answer from any conspiracist regarding these questions, then you are lying. The conspiracist, by definition, is uninterested in the technical details of the technologies and techniques that he claims will enslave us. His view is fatalist, so he ignores the masses by escaping the ‘Coming Apocalypse’, by going off to the hills to watch the world burn. Unfortunately, there is no one to strike the match. So they stay on the ground with the rest of us, enthralled by simple devices such as RFIDs, like the savages worshipping Coca-Cola bottles as if it were God.

And what is exactly the track record of conspiracy theorists. What have they anticipated? Nothing, actually. They did not anticipate the collapse of the Soviet Union, the dot-com boom, the 9/11 false flag operation terrorist attacks, the response to Hurricane Katrina, the Great Recession, the collapse of the Jamaican mid-90s financial sector collapse, various PNP scandals, and so forth. And they will never, because the point of conspiracism is not to explain reality so that we may make a better life for ourselves and our children, but to replace it with fantasies and an easy to follow Manichean worldview.

There is a way out of this. We can develop our own secular theories to explain our experiences on our behalf, rather than the half-baked nonsense spewed by the conspiracists. Much of the groundwork has been laid for us already, through the work of cultural observers, social scientists, and philosophers that offer explanations for us that do not lock us into useless distinctions of left and right. People such as, Oliver C. Cox, Christopher Lasch, David Noble, Neil Postman, Jane Jacobs, Michael Eric Dyson, Frederick Cooper, Peter Abrahams, Barry Chevannes, Errol Miller, and so on.  Of course, our black conspiracist will say that because some of our theorists are white, we should be thought of as Uncle Toms and ‘brainwashed sheeple.’ Of course, this does not apply to them when they are watching Loose Change, Zeitgeist, listening to William Cooper, or reading Henry Makow.  Unlike them, we are not hypocrites. I’d rather be a ‘Good’ Black Man, or a ‘Good’ Black Woman, any day of the week, than be a conspiracist.

So here we are, in the year 2012 A.D. , with what seems like an Eternal Recession, an ongoing failure of leadership, and a generation that Is for the most part locked in a cycle of ennui  and anomie, if not outright despair. So as young black people, we can make a choice – the dead ideologies of the last century that have failed us time and time again, or a new master narrative that uses the best elements of the past to help us in the present, and prepare us for the future.

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Summary and Analysis of Amusing Ourselves to Death – Foreword

In our culture, there are certain numbers that can evoke strong emotions with their presence. 666 is one such number. In the Eastern world, 108 has the same effect. 911 implies law enforcement, and all the issues that it are associated with it. 9/11, however, implies something completely different. Another date that conjures up strong feelings is 1984, a number that is associated with a totalitarian dystopia, bent on stamping out individuality through persistent surveillance, mass psychological manipulation and physical brutality.

Indeed, the book 1984 is quite popular in the English-speaking world, that is, for a book that hardly anyone reads, if this Guardian Poll is anything to go by :

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” Ring any bells? How about: “The hallway smelt of boiled cabbage and old rag mats.” Many will not have read the novel from which these are among the opening lines – but nearly half of us are happy to lie and say we have, a survey reveals today.

George Orwell‘s Nineteen Eighty-Four comes top in a poll of the UK’s guilty reading secrets. Asked if they had ever claimed to read a book when they had not, 65% of respondents said yes and 42% said they had falsely claimed to have read Orwell’s classic in order to impress.

The fact is, that most people nowadays engage with literature through visual images, not the original literary ones.  This is why I have chosen 1984 as a specific moment that represents the switch from a literary culture to a graphic one. Neil Postman has chosen a much earlier date for the changeover , but I will stick with Apple’s Superbowl ad for reasons that will become clearer both throughout this series and this blog.

Postman’s Foreword for ‘ Amusing Ourselves to Death ‘ can be easily considered his most concise piece of writing  – and his finest . In very persuasive prose, he shows that the dystopian worlds of George Orwell’s ‘1984’ and Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’  are not only different, but mutually exclusive. This can be seen in the diagram below.

I have made my own slight alterations to the Huxleyan dystopia, updating it somewhat for modern times. The changes that I make are specifically to show how the Internet, the soft sciences (behavioral analysis) and data analysis could apply to a Huxleyan regime. After all, why use a RFID chip when the cookie in your browser cache will suffice?  But the point remains the same. The Totalitarian and Statist regimes that existed in the latter half of the 20th century had controlled their populations by inflicting pain, our modern Consumer Capitalist states (and the large corporations that spring from them) control us with pleasure. But is that really so bad? The citizens of Brave New World were perfectly happy, as are we! Just replace Soma and the centrifugal bumblepuppy  with reality TV and Xbox and we are almost their already!

You probably already anticipated that I am going to say that ‘yes, that is bad,’ so I’ll explain why. The world of Brave New World did not have the  worries of rapidly decreasing finite resources in world of infinite wants. They did not have to worry about the conflicts that a world with multiple intersections of class and race brings. They did not have to worry about supranational corporations and other powerful organizations encroaching in our lives. We do.  And  our leaders are not doleful Grand Inquisitors like Mustapha Mond, but amoral at best and incompetent at worst. Not our parents. Us.

The Millennial Generation can be said to have started around 1984, or around the same time Margaret Thatcher (England), Ronald Reagan (United States of America) and Edward Seaga (Jamaica) were re-elected for a second term in government. What is significant about their re-elections is that they were not based upon rational appeals to the  electorate, or to public grievances (such those that brought Michael Manley into power) but to imagery and raw emotion, as espoused in media like television commercials. The ‘war’ with Grenada resulted in a nationalist fervour which returned Reagan to office (and which Seaga manipulated for his own benefit), and the same could be said of the Falklands War and Madame Thatcher’s electoral victory. That this occurred around the same time of Apple’s 1984 commercial is no coincidence. The television commercial had become the West’s primary art form by then, being used for everything from health education to political philosophy. True, a 60 second advertisement must, by definition, trivialize those subjects, but it doesn’t matter, because when that is all you grow up knowing, then that is what you consider normal.

But what those elections were to political discourse, Ridley Scott’s ‘1984’ ad was to George Orwell’s masterpiece. While it may be argued that a 60 second advertisement should not be compared to Orwell’s 300 page masterwork, unfortunately, it must. The same with ‘Days of Future Past‘, Equilibrium, and almost every other pop dystopian fiction. What separates them from the classics of the genre, is their complete ignorance of politics and economics as it would apply to the characters and settings. Oh, they get some of the gloomy atmosphere right, and the stamping out of individuality is usually there, if not outright genocide, but that’s about it. This is the problem with shifting a message from one medium to another without considering the changes that the message will undergo as a result of said shift. comes warped, if not completely changed. And in order to make the necessary refit, the class struggles that are central to both Brave New World and 1984 are omitted. No Alphas, Betas or Gammas are depicted, neither is there any mention of anything likeThe Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism’ in the derivative works. Instead it is conformist against non-conformist, hip versus square ,rebel versus everyman.. In the case of the Apple advertisement, non-conformism means buying  a Macintosh.

The one thing that both the Huxleyan and the Orwellian scenarios have in common is that they established and maintained their dystopias through the use of advanced technologies and media manipulation. What those dystopias have in common with our world is that both the characters and ourselves have not undertaken to understand the philosophy of those technologies that are used to control a population. Neil Postman seeks to change that, focusing on television, both as a technology and a philosophy.

The world of 1984 was too quixotic, too complex and too bureaucratic to be directly implemented on the Western side of the Iron Curtain. Yet I have no doubt that Orwell understood this, and intended that his book be a self-defeating prophecy that would give its readers the language and ideas to recognize and combat such a regime, should ever threaten to arise. A shame we have no such guide for a Huxleyan dystopia. So Neil Postman’s work will have to do for now. At least , until I get around to reviewing some more authors.

The Orwellian scenario could not come about by itself in the Western world. But it has long since been banished from Western consciousness, replaced instead with watered versions of dystopias, promote consumption as a form of liberation and non-conformity as individuality. For that, you need to level all culture to the same the same importance  Then 1984 goes from being a self -defeating prophecy to that can be fulfilled, given the right set of situations. For that you need a Huxleyan culture, where no one sees a reason to read a book, where relevant information is drowned in a see of triviality and truth rendered irrelevant among a sea of answers. That culture would not be able to understand what 1984 warned us about, even if they did read 1984.  What then , would stop the politicians, the managers, the financiers and their associated Numerati from dropping the Huxleyan pretense and going straight into Orwellian style feudalism? Not much I’m afraid.  A Brave New World for us Millennials indeed.

The End of Dead Sexy of the Week

I never thought that it would end so soon. Bit , this is the end of the Dead Sexy of The Week. You see friends, I  have found the woman of my dreams, so any further points would be pointless. Behold, perfection

 

 

 

As you can see friends, my life is complete. Well almost. I will not stop until I have drugged her, thrown her into a car trunk, and smuggled her back home,  proposed  marriage to her in a gentlemanly, chivalrous fashion, after spending several months courting her. Of course. I believed  that this would be an impossible task, until I saw a documentary that showed a man who would cross any border, withstand any hardship, and spare no expense to get to the woman that he loved.

 

Unfortunately, I lack the resources that Borat received from the Kazahk Ministry of Information, so I will need your help, my friends. I will need places to couchsurf, food, WiFi, assistance with travel, as well as access to a storage locker, preferably one that is secure and has a soundproof basement. I you wish to help me, please leave let me know in the comments section, and I will establish contact with you via email.

I still maintain a vast womenagerie, so expect to posts and lists of various speciwomen as I find them, just not in the standard gallery format. So , here is to the end of Dead Sexy of the Week, and the start of something better.