God Bless Russo-America

by John Shirley

 

July 4, 2031. “Today we thank the Holy Father and St. Boris and St Xenia for rescuing America from its nightmare of chaos and uncertainty. We give thanks for the Red, White and Blue Militias — American revolutionaries and Selected Special Forces of Russia — who spilled their blood in the struggle to rescue America, as reported by the Heroes of Social Media. With one voice we hail the holy martyr, Donald J. Trump, who died in office as he struggled for the cause.

Many other heroic actions made possible the Great Gasp of Relief as America was liberated by Emperor Vladimir I: The Glorious Acceptance of the Sovereignty of Mother Russia, signed by General George Foster and Admiral Slevins in 2026, as well as the unanimous entirely-democratic fully-counted votes authorizing America’s Blessed Uniting with Russia on July 4, 2028. And we honor the Joyous Welcome by the Voluntarily Disarmed American Military.

“We celebrate the Anniversary of the Blessed Uniting with the execution of 100,000 homosexual blasphemers and 11,000 reactionary domestic terrorists, to be followed by the greatest of all military parades: the Parade of Steel will celebrate our declaration of war on the People’s Republic of China…God Bless Russo-America!”

Background art by Ed Reibsamen

The Secret Burning with Rachel Haywire

 

As her bio puts it, “Rachel Haywire is an event producer, writer, model, and entrepreneur who seeks to create a new economy in which people can express themselves more freely. She likes long walks after the apocalypse and a damn good time”. Sometimes that good time can be… let’s say… a bit provocative. Currently she is raising funds for a public burning of the notoriously banal self-help book, The Secret, and doing it as a way to fund AIDS research.

As she put it on her GoFundMe page for this project:

The Secret is an extremely dangerous pseudo-science book that remains a bestseller for new age yuppies and the guru hacks that feed them. It teaches people that your thoughts create your reality. In other words, your thoughts cause everything from cancer to cerebral palsy to AIDS. Not only that, but events such as the holocaust and slavery could have been stopped if only the victims would have exercised positive thinking.

The Secret is especially popular in the city of Los Angeles, which is why we are going to host The Secret Burning in LA on the 1st of October. It is here (in a Secret location) that we will burn as many copies of The Secret as our friends and enemies chip in for us to buy. 

For every copy of The Secret burned, we will donate $5 to AIDS Research. We want the money to go to researching new treatments for AIDS, rather than having AIDS patients believe that they can cure themselves with the power of positive thinking.

Let’s end this pseudo-science cult and begun devising real solutions. Do help us purchase (used) copies of The Secret so we can burn them and create a better world.

…………………………………….

After conducting this email conversation I recalled that some time in the mid-90s a sort-of gossip column in SF Weekly reported that someone had burned a copy of How To Mutate & Take Over The World by myself and St. Jude (Milhon) as part of a performance piece, which I took as a tribute that was well aligned with the sensibility of the book itself. I don’t think Rhonda Byrne, author of The Secret would feel the same.

Ok then. Here’s the interview

RU Sirius: Of all of the sort-of positive thinking manuals, The Secret seems to mostly attract a unique brand of airhead and there are a lot of them. Is it just the simplicity? Have you been surprised by some of the people who bought in? 

RACHEL HAYWIRE: It’s the simplicity and the pandering self-help culture. Some people don’t really buy in as much as pretend to in order to get ahead. Others are stupid enough to believe it because they have never actually been through real misfortune. It’s usually pseudo-affluents who are trying desperately to succeed and failing. They are afraid of expressing “negative vibrations” they think are the cause of everything bad that happens to them. They often ignore action and focusing only on “manifesting.” They can manifest right off, you know? The banality of this entire group of people is almost remarkable in its sheer vapidness. Anyone I know who has bought in is like a zombie infected by a plague, yet I suppose some are just gaming it for their amusement and wealth. This isn’t to say that energies and vibrations don’t attract different outcomes; just that these people actually think that negative events occur due to mindset and wavelength. This is scientifically absurd, yet they continue to throw these seminars and make money off of gullible idiots who want to be a part of this new age fake success cult.

RUS: A bit of positiveness seems necessary for doing anything. I’m imagining that I will continue to publish articles here and that a few people will find them worthwhile… but sometimes it’s hard to be sure. So where’s the boundary between rousing oneself to be proactive and swallowing a giant tub or horseshit like The Secret?

RH: That’s a good question. I think a lot of people assume that if you are positive and proactive, it is somehow necessary not to criticize or question anything. They think that challenging anything that makes people happy or scales up the economy is a horrible and sinister act that must be punished. What they don’t realize is that they are actually making people miserable and hurting the economy as a result. As evidenced by the concentration of wealth in San Francisco, revolution leads to growth. It is only through refusing to swallow horseshit and providing a new alternative that real growth can occur in the first place. Yet people don’t like to look at this long term because they are concerned only with immediate winning.  Read more “The Secret Burning with Rachel Haywire”

Morgan Russell High Frontiers/Reality Hackers/MONDO 2000 Writer/Editor Publisher RIP 12/11/1957 — 7/16/2018

Morgan Russell 

 

Morgan Russell came into the “MONDO 2000” orbit in 1987 when we were still called High Frontiers. He had come out from Lake Geneva, Wisconsin to attend a 20th Anniversary of the Summer of Love that was taking place at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco. But let’s let Morgan tell it.

Morgan Russell: There was a good crowd but no one seemed to be taking photographs. I set up a tripod and a long lens and took photos of people at a distance.

R.U. and Queen Mu were on the hunt for people to attend a Reality Hackers Evening or something… an event sponsored by the magazine. And it was a cyberpunk event—before this word had really entered the vocabulary. They approached me. In addition to the flyer for the event, Queen Mu gave me a copy of High Frontiers number 3 which I devoured in a night’s time and then knew that I had to meet the people therein. It’s not a reaction I normally would have reading a magazine, but I was convinced I had to make contact with them. At the same time, Mu was searching for a contact with me, which was made through Peter Booth Lee, who was kind enough to give me a ride home to the place where I was living then with my cousin. She had the intuition that I could be helpful to the magazine. Peter Booth Lee was put on the duty of scouring the neighborhood where he had dropped me off; because he didn’t see what building I went into. He didn’t find me. But at the same time I was looking for them.

I was so impressed with the magazine that — there was an ad for Pink Tarantula hairdressers and I went there when I needed a haircut. It was run by a woman who used to be a whore. She described herself as that or a prostitute. She was from Australia, and she had bones in her hair like other people would have ribbons in their hair. I didn’t know if they were chicken bones or something and I didn’t ask. They specialized in making more exotic cuts and colorings of hair before this was really happening in a widespread manner. A little girl came in with blond hair and the hairdresser made it bright pink or something like this. So I absorbed everything, even the ads. There weren’t too many ads.

R.U. Sirius: OK that’s a start but to get the real skinny you have to read the mad mad article that Morgan wrote for us about the event, about us, about whatever the fuck popped into his manic mind. In the process of putting together MONDO memoirs, I described his style as a cross between Hunter Thompson and Oscar Wilde — a dandy gonzo.

Seriously, stop reading this… and read this article! You may want to return to the rest of this tomorrow.

So Morgan came for the conference as a visitor, but he never left. I believe he may have gone home for a few days, but he was basically in the pudding for the next few years.

He stayed for a while at the Hotel Ansonia in San Francisco and eventually found himself living in an apartment in Oakland with High Frontiers veteran art director Lord Nose. But it wasn’t long before he was ensconced in the “technogothic citadel in the Berkeley Hills” (as it would be described in various periodicals out of which we were running our magazine. (It would eventually be known as “The MONDO House.”

Morgan Russell: Much of our history is tied to a place usually referred to as the MONDO House, designed by a follower of Maybeck, situated high in the Berkeley Hills and reigned over by Queen Mu. It eventually became the HQ for the latter High Frontiers, all of Reality Hackers and most of MONDO 2000. Before this, the business was located in the financial district of SF. I met R.U. Sirius there in the midst of people wearing jackets or suits with tie. There was cognitive dissonance woven into our aims and our neighborhood.  Read more “Morgan Russell High Frontiers/Reality Hackers/MONDO 2000 Writer/Editor Publisher RIP 12/11/1957 — 7/16/2018”

Everyone I know is brokenhearted

by Joshua Ellis

originally posted on Zenarchery, August 1, 2014

Get Joshua’s complete book of essays and writing Everyone I Know Is Brokenhearted: Collected Essays And Writing, 1998-2018

 

All the genuinely smart, talented, funny people I know seem to be miserable these days. You feel it on Twitter more than Facebook, because Facebook is where you go to do your performance art where you pretend to be a hip, urbane person with the most awesomest friends and the best relationships and the very best lunches ever. Facebook is surface; Twitter is subtext, and judging by what I’ve seen, the subtext is aching sadness.

I’m not immune to this. I don’t remember ever feeling this miserable and depressed in my life, this sense of futility that makes you wish you’d simply go numb and not care anymore. I think a lot about killing myself these days. Don’t worry, I’m not going to do it and this isn’t a cry for help. But I wake up and think: fuck, more of this? Really? How much more? And is it really worth it?

In my case, much of it stems from my divorce and the collapse of the next relationship I had. But that’s not really the cause. I think that those relationships were bulwarks, charms against the dark I’ve felt growing in this world for a long time now. When I was in love, the world outside didn’t matter so much. But without it, there is nothing keeping the wolf from the door.

It didn’t used to be like this when I was a kid. I’m not getting nostalgic here, or pretending that my adolescence and my twenties were some kind of soft-focused Golden Age. Life sucked when I was young. I was unhappy then too. But there was always the sense that it was just a temporary thing,that if I stuck it out eventually the world was going to get better — become awesome, in fact.

But the reality is that the three generations who ended the 20th century, the Boomers, their Generation X children, and Generation Y, have architected a Western civilization that’s kind of a shit show. Being born in 1978, I fall at either the tail end of Gen X or the beginning of Gen Y, depending on how you look at it. I became an adolescent at the time Nirvana was ushering in a decade of “slacker” ideology, as the pundits liked to put it. But the reality is that I didn’t know a whole lot of actual slackers in the 1990s. I did know a lot of people who found themselves disillusioned with the materialism of the 1980s and what we saw as the failed rhetoric of the Sixties generation, who were all about peace and love right until the time they put on suits and ties and figured out how to divide up the world. I knew a lot of people who weren’t very interested in that path.

The joke, of course, is that every generation kills the thing they love. The hippies became yuppies; Gen X talked a lot about the revolution, and then went and got themselves some venture capital and started laying into place the oversaturated, paranoid world we live in now. A lot of them tried to tell themselves they were still punk as fuck, but it’s hard to morally reconcile the thing where you listen to Fugazi on the way to your job where you help find new ways to trick people into giving up their data to advertisers. Most people don’t even bother. They just compartmentalize.

And I’m not blaming them. The world came apart at the end of the 90s, when the World Trade Center did. My buddy Brent and I were talking about this one night last year — about how the end of the 90s looked like revolution. Everybody was talking about Naomi Klein and anti-consumerism and people in Seattle were rioting over the WTO. Hell, a major motion picture company put out Fight Club, which is about as unsubtle an attack on consumer corporate capitalism as you can get. We were poised on the brink of something. You could feel it.

And then the World Trade Center went down. And all of a sudden calling yourself an “anticapitalist terrorist” was no longer a cool posture to psych yourself up for protest. It became something you might go to jail for — or worse, to one of the Black Camps on some shithole island somewhere. Corporate capitalism became conflated somehow with patriotism. And the idea that the things you own end up defining you became quaint, as ridiculous spoken aloud as “tune in, turn on, drop out”. In fact, it became a positive: if you bought the right laptop, the right smartphone, the right backpack, exciting strangers would want to have sex with you!  Read more “Everyone I know is brokenhearted”

Urine Luck Mr. Trump

words by R.U. Sirius

Image by Chad Essley

Urine luck Mr. Trump
Urine luck said Vlad Putin
Urine luck we have a deal
Sign it now or I will squeal
 
I told NATO where to go
Vlad will treat me like a hero
There’ll be hookers there’ll be pee
It’ll all be there just for me!
 
Urine trouble Mr. Trump
Urine trouble Mueller said
Trouble big time said Ms Stormy
Show Mike Pence all of your pornies
 
I put 2 year olds on trial
But I do it with a smile
Don’t be rude please be civil
Baby snowflakes shouldn’t snivel
 
Urine luck Mr. Trump
Urine luck said Vlad Putin
Urine luck we have a deal
Sign it now or I will squeal
 
 

Fear of an Orange Man Planet

by R.U. Sirius

Songs & Lyrics from the Trump Era for your weekend dance party and horrorshow

 

Brag (I Fucked Ted Nugent With His Own Gun)

 

I walk 47 miles of barbed wire
I drink ayahuasca just to watch the news
I drank Jagger & Richards under the table
And late at night I dress like Betty Grable
Who do you want me to be
Who do you want me to be
Who do you want me to be
I’m not too blind to see

My voodoo remote gets all 12 channels
I stuck with leather when Seattle did flannel
My boy named Sue is scary to you
And if you cry I’ll be flingin’ poo
Who do you want me to be
Who do you want me to be
Who do you want me to be
I’m not too blind to see

I eat the living dead for fun
I fucked Ted Nugent with his own gun
I midnight rambled with Joseph Campbell
His hero trip was a croc of shit
Who do you want me to be
Who do you want me to be
Who do you want me to be
I’m not too blind to see

by R.U. Sirius & Phriendz w. Cussed Varmint
R.U. Sirius – Cussed Varmint
Produced by Daddy Phriday
Video by Daddy Phriday

Subterranean Heartsick Blues (with apologies to Bob Dylan)
Unrecorded

Donnies in the White House mixing up the masses
We’re on the pavement showing cops our passes
You might need a guillotine to stop the Ruling Crass, yes
You might need a weatherwoman to fight against the fascists
You might want some mescaline to rid you of your stasis
You might need some kerosene to Molotov the bastids
 
Look out kid it’s nothing you did
You’re not yet ten but you’re doing it again
They got tweens and toddlers held up in a big pen
You don’t need a MAGA hat to make you any new friends
 
Get born see porn don’t scorn Ms. Dohrn
Learn to tango Eat a Mango Dylanesque-ish fandango
You might need a guillotine to stop the Ruling Crass, yes
You might need a weatherwoman to fight against the fascists
 

Jesus Was A Zombie 

Unrecorded

Jesus was a zombie
He rose up from the dead
It was a virgin rebirth
Still Mary gave him head
He walked the streets naked
Gorged on Roman flesh
Decided he would hitchhike
His way to Marrakesh

Jesus was a hippie
He listened to The Dead
He panhandled the Pharisees
Saved up all his bread
Went to see his father
Way up in the sky
Holy fuck Jesus said
I must be way high

Jesus was a vampire
He rose up from the dead
He had so much to offer
His body blood and dread
He started up a little cult
It grew … metasticized
Jesus was a cancer
That thought it knew the answer

Read more “Fear of an Orange Man Planet”

Memes Are For Tricksters: The Biology of Disinformation

by R.U. Sirius

An interview with Douglas Rushkoff, David Pescovitz & Jake Dunagan

Back in 1990, when MONDO 2000 magazine promised Screaming Memes on its cover, it was more or less a secret argot winking at our technohip Mondoid readers. I mean, sure there was that Dawkins book in which he invented the concept, but it seemed to be a bunch of playful, subversive freaks who were using them to blow open some heads (and maybe sell a few magazines). 

We’ve come a long way baby. Now, the world appears to be defined by memetic warfare and the damage done is real world crisis and horror.

A recent paper by Douglas Rushkoff, David Pescovitz and Jake Dunagan written for the Institute for the Future titled The Biology of Disinformation: memes, media viruses and cultural inoculation describes the contemporary condition and suggests ways to combat this bad operation mindfuck.  

Read The Biology of Disinformation

David Pescovitz and Jake Dunagan are both research directors at Institute for the Future and Rushkoff is a research fellow.  MONDOids are, of course, familiar with Pescovitz as one of the founding members of Boing Boing and Rushkoff as the author of many books including the highly relevant Media Virus, from 1994.

We chatted using Slack…

thanks to Satori D for his assistance and participation

R.U. Sirius: In a sense, you’re offering a different model than the one most of us usually think in, as regards memetics. Instead of fighting bad memes with good, or their memes with ours, are you suggesting that we look at memes themselves as viruses attacking us? Is that right?

Douglas Rushkoff: Yeah, that’s the simplest way of looking at it. That’s why I called memes in media “media viruses.” Even if they end up forcing important ideas into the cultural conversation, and even if they ultimately lead to good things, they do infect us from the outside. They attack our weak code, and continue to replicate until we repair it, or until we come to recognize the “shell” of the virus itself.

I think what makes our analysis unique, compared with a lot of what’s out there, is that we’re not proposing yet another technosolutionist fix. Mark Zuckerberg wants to fight fake news with artificial intelligence. Great. He’s already over his head in a media environment he doesn’t understand. He doesn’t know why his platform has led to so many unintended effects. So what’s his solution? Build yet another technology he understands even less to solve the problem with yet another black box.

Even those with the best intentions see all this as a technological problem, when it’s really more a cultural or biological one. The difference in our approach is that we still have faith in the human organism and human society to rise to the occasion and increase their resiliency. So we’re writing for people, not tech companies.

David Pescovitz 

David Pescovitz: I’m also interested in how our networked media environment has evolved to allow this nastiness to occur and, in fact, reward it. During the early days of Twitter and Facebook it was exciting that people were using the platforms to share ideas and “find the others.” But I was also annoyed and later alarmed by the rise in narcissism, emphasis on “personal brands,” and mob mentality. Maybe those people were always like that and social media just amplified those traits. Either way, to me it quickly felt like antisocial media.

Since then, it’s become increasingly clear that the only real way to fix our social media experiences is by fixing ourselves. This is true when it comes to how we interact with other people online but also our own vulnerability to propaganda, disinformation, and coercion. Of course reconnecting with our own humanity is much harder than just giving in to the algorithmically addictive dopamine rush of another retweet or “like.”

Jake Dunagan: There was an old Zuck who swallowed a virus, I don’t know why he swallowed the virus. He swallowed AI to fight the virus…

I was struck by the psychologist Dannagal Young’s point that we quoted in the article: “blaming readers for spreading fake news from a cognitive perspective …somewhat equivalent to blaming a baby for soiling itself. They can’t help it. ”

 

Jake Dunagan

This is what Doug is calling our weak code, our vulnerabilities we’ve inherited from evolution and extended by culture. Humor, satire, memes, are exploiting our cognitive weaknesses, and lowering our defenses. I’ve always loved the Mad Magazine, SNL, and Yes Men ways of showing us how the messages we’re hearing are full of shit. Read more “Memes Are For Tricksters: The Biology of Disinformation”

The Psychedelic Inspiration For Hypercard

by Bill Atkinson, as told to Leo Laporte

In 1985 I swallowed a tiny fleck of gelatin containing a medium dose of LSD, and I spent most of the night sitting on a concrete park bench outside my home in Los Gatos, California.
 
I gazed up at a hundred billion galaxies each with a hundred billion stars, and each star a giant thermonuclear fusion reaction as powerful as our Sun. And for the first time in my life I knew deep down inside that we are not alone. 
 
I knew that life on planet Earth is not the only pocket of consciousness in the universe, and likely not the most advanced. But we still have a role to play in the unfolding drama of creation. 
 
It seemed to me the universe is in a process of coming alive. Consciousness is blossoming and propagating to colonize the universe, and life on Earth is one of many bright spots in the cosmic birth of consciousness.
 
But the stars are separated by enormous distances of darkness and vacuum, which may hinder communication between them. I lowered my gaze and saw the street lamps below glowing brightly, each casting a pool of light but surrounded by darkness before the next lamp. As above, so below.
 
 
 
The street lamps reminded me of bodies of knowledge, gems of discovery and understanding, but separated from each other by distance and different languages. Poets, artists, musicians, physicists, chemists, biologists, mathmeticians, and economists all have separate pools of knowledge, but are hindered from sharing and finding the deeper connections.
 
My vision distorted by thick eyeglasses, I witnessed the curvature of the Earth’s horizon, and I felt the pull of gravity toward its center, such that every one of us is standing at the very apex. Each of us stands at the top of planet Earth, and each of us is a leader or captain of the “Blue Marble” team.
 
How could I help? By focusing on the weak link. If I were captain of a soccer team, I would look for the weak link and work on it. If the goalie was letting too many through, I would spend extra practice time with him, and the whole team would prosper.
 
It occurred to me the weak link for the Blue Marble team is wisdom. Humanity has achieved sufficient technological power to change the course of life and the entire global ecosystem, but we seem to lack the perspective to choose wisely between alternative futures. But I was young, without much life experience or wisdom myself.
 
Knowledge, it seemed to me, consists of the “How” connections between pieces of information, the cause and effect relationships. How does this action bring about that result. Science is a systematic attempt to discover the “How” connections. 
 
 
Wisdom, it seemed to me, was a step further removed, the bigger perspective of the “Why” connections between pieces of knowledge. Why, for reasons ethical and aesthetic, should we choose one future over another?
 
I thought if we could encourage sharing of ideas between different areas of knowledge, perhaps more of the bigger picture would emerge, and eventually more wisdom might develop. Sort of a trickle-up theory of information leading to knowledge leading to wisdom.
 
This was the underlying inspiration for HyperCard, a multimedia authoring environment that empowered non-programmers to share ideas using new interactive media called HyperCard stacks. 
 
 
Each card in a HyperCard stack included graphics, text, interactive buttons, and links that took you to another card or stack. Built-in painting tools, drag-and-drop authoring with a library of pre-fab buttons and fields, and simple event based scripting made HyperCard flexible and easy to use.
 
It took a lot of hard work and a dedicated team to complete this mission. Apple shipped HyperCard in August 1987, and included it free with every Mac so any user could create and share HyperCard stacks. Many creative people expressed their ideas and passions, and several million interactive HyperCard stacks were created. 
 
HyperCard was a precurser to the first web browser, except chained to a hard drive before the worldwide web. Six years later Mosaic was introduced, influenced by some of the ideas in HyperCard, and indirectly by an inspiring LSD experience.
 
Leo Laporte did a great interview with me in April 2016. You can watch it here —  with the part about hypercard inspiration starting at 22:43 
 
Check out Bill Atkinson’s Nature Photography
 
 

you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop!

Detention Center Mural

 

There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part. You can’t even passively take part! And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop! And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it — that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!

Mario Savio, 1964

 

 

 

 

“All medias are propagandic” — Of Bowie, Mishima, Memewar: Jamie Curcio Interviewed

 

by R.U. Sirius

artwork by Jamie Curcio

Jamie Curcio is a brilliant artist and cultural theorist or something like that… but even, thankfully, harder to pin down.  

In any case, he is one hell of a writer and thinker, mixing together all kinds of favorite MONDOid memes — the ups and downs of post-whatever philosophies, the over-the-edges of avant cultural works, media narratives and quasi-apocalyptic hysterias and — perhaps most charmingly — he is obsessed with David Bowie.

Books include Narrative Machines: Modern Myth, Revolution and Propaganda, Party At The World’s End (Fallen Cycle, Volume One) and the upcoming Masks: Bowie and Artists of Artifice, which is in progress.

I interviewed Curcio mainly about Narrative Machines and the upcoming Bowie book.  

R.U. SIRIUS: Your book Narrative Machines provides a discourse about the distorting effects of a sort of mediated hall of mirrors and decentering of identity. This sort of thing has been active for a very long time, even before the internet made its growth “exponential.”  From whence comes the recognition that the contingency of our narratives is more useful to the “right” than the “left”… if true?

Also, there was a ‘90s idea that a sufficiently advanced technology would sort-of blow through the rupturing aspect of it all — that the dissipating structures would eventually cohere as a higher evolutionary order.  Is there any use for that sort of hopeful perspective today?

JAMIE CURCIO: Pessimism and realism have a complicated relationship. That’s one of the things I was trying to come to terms with in working on Narrative Machines. So let me say, if being pessimistic is going to shut people down, then I’m not going to say it’s a virtue.  

But it’s also hard to really take an account of the problems on the horizon for our civilization, and our collective inability or unwillingness to deal with it, and not recognize how blinding optimism about the “revelatory power of the new” can be. Accelerationists often forget just how dumb the perpetual rush toward the new can be.

People can read that statement in a Right or a Left way — they’ll differ in terms of looking for a solution, or in what “our civilization” means. Everyone seems to think the barbarians are at the gates, whether it’s the Fascists and Russian oligarchs, or the immigrants and cultural Marxists brainwashing the children. It’s clear which I think is more absurd, but in either case, it’s a war of myth. We can joke about memewar, but I think we need to recognize the ways that it isn’t a joke, or at least, the way that it’s a continuation of propagandist methods that are hardly new.

There’s a kind of messianism and eschatology that runs through both the “Right” and “Left,” the idea that a political ideology itself can fix anything. Robert Anton Wilson wrote about this plenty. I think he was ahead of the curve in many ways, for all that it’s worth. And he was adamant about remaining optimistic.

To me, the silver lining is that if the analogy of the effect on culture the printing press had, and now with the internet, then there’s reason to believe the end isn’t nigh in that regard. Things are looking dark, but if we’re talking about bot armies and the Russian use of postmodern methods in their propaganda — all is not lost. It just emphasizes the importance of studying “useless” things like philosophy and art.

On the other hand, the way that unfettered capitalism is likely to consume the planet, or at least its habitability for a great number of species including, ultimately, ourselves… that’s another story. For all we know, that ship has already sailed. The only way out, if there is one, is through. We’re committed to carry the experiments of the past into the future — just look at how the problems and solutions of a century ago continue to get resurrected. Fascism, Communism, Liberalism. The three ideologies that arose from the ashes of WW 1.

I should add, I happen to think compassion should guide our actions toward others as much as we can manage, and much Right wing ideology seems a veneer for various forms of cruelty, and I believe cruelty should be reserved for art. So my sympathies tend to run Left, but that’s different from an ideological commitment.

RUS: You take on the statistical based optimism that seems to be well-loved particularly by neoliberal sorts like Pinker. The idea is that statistics show us that human beings are improving their lot in life and becoming more well-behaved.  Can you explicate your view a bit?

JC: I was taken by John Grey’s argument on this subject in The Soul of the Marionette, and so while I didn’t just reproduce it, I would say it helped me put a pre-existing line of thought in order. In short, I investigate the Progressive certainty that everything is improving all the time is very much based both on our selective interpretation of the facts, and our situation in terms of a particular narrative we have constructed about our place in history. There have been undeniable benefits per capita in the past 100 years regarding the marriage of technology and capitalism. Will that read the same in 100 years? I’m not so sure.

RUS: I think underlying the technotopian hope of the late 20th Century was the idea that this mostly white and American eruption at the end of the 20th century could use tech to deliver an awesomely improving world and you could elide the blowback from centuries of colonialism and racism. It’s not an entirely bad idea… to avoid conflict.

JC: It definitely tends to overlook the role of inertia in a culture, or of a true reckoning with the past, why that keeps repeating itself through us. Time may be accumulative but the behavior of complex systems is generally not linear.

 

RUS:  You deal in Narrative Machines with questions of revolution… and how it doesn’t tend to deliver on its hopes.  Looking at the Arab Spring, would you say that any movement now just accelerates confusion. There’s no interregnum of hope?

The broader question about revolution usually not improving things… does this leave us with neoliberalism with its economic domination, total surveillance and constant war… or nationalism?  

JC: I use the Arab Spring as an example. What struck me about it was how clearly it supports the idea of “revolution” as very literal — going around and around, forever. There is a sense of Frazier’s Golden Bough here, each King deposed by the King who will one day be deposed. Though that’s a bit reductive, it is hard to find examples of revolution going well for “the people” long term. It’s generally good for some people, and not others. To the extent that revolutions are a power play, they just reshuffle the cards. There’s a lot in Marxist thought about getting beyond that problem… which we definitely haven’t see play out in reality. The day of the revolution is one thing, but there’s always the day after. But that doesn’t necessarily mean everything is hopeless — we still affect one another, things do actually change.

But my ultimate focus in that book isn’t political, even though it deals so much in political ideological terms. It’s all a backhanded argument for an art movement, really… Read more ““All medias are propagandic” — Of Bowie, Mishima, Memewar: Jamie Curcio Interviewed”