The Anarchives... The Mythology of Technology: The Internet As Utopia

Jesse Hirsh (jesse@tao.ca)
Sun, 17 Nov 1996 15:04:40 -0500


"get ready for the bumrush, babylon is burning"
The Anarchives Volume 3 Issue 14
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The Mythology of Technology: The Internet As Utopia
by Jesse Hirsh <jesse@tao.ca>

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This is the written version of some of the talks that I have been giving
throughout my travels this year along the North American east coast as well
as Brasil. Anywhere I launched this virus, revolution was sure to follow.
For further information on how to launch this meme into your local
environment, email me <jesse@tao.ca> or the international media collective
<media-l@lglobal.com>.

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The Mythology of Technology: The Internet as Utopia

The ideology of technology serves a global hegemony.
Technology as milieu; technology as mythology.

If we do not act, we will relinquish the responsibility to rule, and
transfer our decision-making capabilities to a machine named 'The Global
Market'. With the decline of the printed word and the rise of the digital
word, the nature of our literacy is changing. The state itself is being
redefined: the author becomes corporate, and the narrative becomes non-linear.

The world is transformed as the planet plugs into itself. A unified
mediated environment emerges which presents an epic struggle of change. The
media, after successfully consuming the masses, reverses and implodes into a
universal black hole. We are caught collectively staring into a narcissistic
pool of distorted self-reflection and self-absorbsion, desperately wondering
where it all leads.

The term "media" refers to neither institution nor artefact, but rather to
an environment. The environment in which we all live. Media are the methods
in which we communicate with ourselves, each other, and the world at large,
and as we communicate, we forge the material reality in which we exist.

The medium is the message. Linguistic hacking is an attempt to find the
message in the medium. We need to crack the code that distorts language and
mind created through media, examining the culmination of time and space, the
basis of our living reality, hacking through to the meaning imbedded in the
medium.

In a society dominated by technology, media manifests the mythology that
consumes and immerses the masses into the growing global market. We are
entering an existence in which total inclusion will be the constant, and
exclusion a technical impossibility. One operative, the politics of
exclusion, has been the basis of power and empire throughout history. Now
information management and the mythology of technology becomes the method of
maintaining a grip upon the minds of the mass. In its wake most are
excluded from the process of self governance. Technological mythology is the
medium by which information warfare is waged.

The information economy, the crisis economy, the global economy, are all
pseudonyms for an economy based on perpetual war. Capital centralizes into
the hands of conglomerates, originally the global military industrial
complex: AT&T, General Electric, Westinghouse, Disney. A melee of media
mergers make the way for corporate giants to wage information war in the
battle for your mind.

The linguistic hacker exposes myths by examining the context by which the
word receives meaning. 'Figures' are defined by the ground which surrounds
it. The figures themselves however can also be reflected through the media,
itself a mirror of ground, clouding our language and warping our words. In
the struggle for the free mind we try and identify truth and dissolve myth.
As an act of self-defence, linguistic hacking disarms the imperial assault
on the mind, by examining each figure naked unto itself, in direct immediate
relation to its actual ground.

The most dominant myth of our time is the Internet.
The mythological meaning of the Internet: 'Utopia'. It has become the
technological metaphor large enough to absorb all the hopes, dreams, and
desires of a civilization. Millions have rushed on-line in search of a
meaning, a harmonious narrative that describes change. Billions are sunk
into the Internet to feed the hunger to be the future: we become Spaceship
Earth via the Starship Enterprise, "Free Enterprise".

The US Telecom Act that was passed in February of 1996 was the bottle of
champagne broken upon the vessel's hull. Bon voyage, screamed the most far
sweeping and corrupt bill in US legislative history. Written by and for big
business, the bill unilaterally raised concentration and cross-ownership
limits on media. Within days and weeks there were a flurry of media
mega-mergers, in which the military establishment (General Electric,
Westinghouse) and their propaganda arm (Disney) bought the major networks,
cable czar Ted Turner took over the Time Warner empire, the regional phone
companies all jumped into bed together and reduced in number by almost half,
radio and newspapers fled beneath various umbrellas, and most recently
British Telecom made the largest foreign take-over in US history by
increasing their stake in MCI (the largest shareholder of which is News Corp.).

The Internet is the black hole at the center of our universe: it is the
negation of time and space. Comparable to gravity, the Internet is an
imploding force that draws everything into it.

The Internet by definition, does not exist. It is an abstraction that nobody
has seen, smelled, or touched. It is a myth used to shift our belief systems
and dramatically alter our behaviour. It transforms our linguistic framework
by changing the context in which language interacts with mind. It is a
redefinition of literacy as the linguistic system itself becomes
simultaneously individual and collective.

What is the effect of the Internet myth? What is the basis of its meaning?

The Internet is the virus from West Virginia that will consume all media
until it becomes the information superhighway media monopoly brought to you
by AT&T.

The Internet is the ultimate red herring, the dazzling distraction that
abducts our attention while power plays with totality. Instead of addressing
the decline of democracy in the real world, Internet consumers discuss and
debate the democratization of the Internet. The US Telecom Act was able to
be passed so easily for two reasons: OJ Simpson, and the strategic placement
of the Communications Decency Act within the Telecom Bill. The CDA was a
purposefully useless attack on free speech on the Internet, that within only
a few months was overturned by the Supreme Court. The CDA was another red
herring, a distraction for the liberal media outlets and civil liberty
groups to rally around, as the rest of the communications system was hoarded
into the hands of the very few.

Through the virtualization of our culture, the medium of mythology
reconstructs reality to manufacture consent. Growth and development are
guided and directed by the few at the expense of the many. The technological
mythology is reality in the virtual world, and our consuming desires drive
us to live virtually perfect. In the process we have negated our sovereignty
and secured the Platonic chains around our neck as we stare at the shadows
on the cave wall.

The Internet is the post-modern gold rush, a mass anxiety to get 'plugged
in'. People ask themselves, 'why fight gravity?', and our mother responds:
'If all your friends (or co-workers) jumped off the CN Tower would you?'

We are entering a new regime of market regulation. 'Usage sensitive pricing'
as introduced through both the US Telecom Act and the CRTC in Canada, is
designed to allow the 'market', and the mechanisms of supply and demand, to
determine the development of communications. This structure replaces
existing democratic rights with consumer rights.

Democratic rights are inherent and unlimited. You always have them, and you
can always exercise them, at least in a democracy. Consumer rights on the
other hand are not inherent and they are limited. They are based on the
pay-per-use model, as your rights are determined in relation to your
participation in the economic marketplace. Thus the more you pay the more
you play. The concept of one person one vote is replaced with one dollar one
vote. Consumer rights subvert democratic rights by introducing a
quantitative factor, achieving a finite definition of our entitled rights,
and limiting the extent to which we may exercise them.

Universal access to the technology will exist, but the use of the technology
will be limited. Democracy depends upon free and open access to information,
which becomes severely limited, if not negated by proposed pay-per-use
pricing structures. Your right to speak still exists, but how much you get
to say is determined by your economic standing.

During a CRTC hearing in Canada that discussed this change in regulation, I
and I challenged the actions of Stentor, the consortium of Canadian phone
companies, and asked why they were dismantling democracy by introducing
'usage sensitive pricing'. Stentor responded by charging that I and I were
protecting the status quo and that these changes were like the future:
inevitable.

The dominance of the Internet myth is based on the myth of the future. What
we call the future is a means by which we can objectively deal with the
present. What we perceive as the present is the past. The future does not
really exist. Like the Internet it is also an abstraction of a negation.
Have you seen the future? Perhaps you have seen a reflection of the past
(maybe in your dreams), that either becomes or resembles a later present,
however none us can ever exist in the future. In the past we were, in the
present we exist, in the future at some point we are dead. Accept it and
transcend it.

Myths themselves are largely reactive rather than proactive. They are an act
of co-optation, a response to either natural or spontaneous actions that
might jeopardize the technological system. Both the Internet and the future
have origins in positive notions of change and vision. It is the
mythological manifestation that distorts the meanings of these metaphors.

If we undress the myths surrounding the Internet, and examine the true
meaning of the word, we see that it is not a story of technological
revolution. Rather it is a narrative of popular revolution. It isn't about
technology, it's about people. People coming together and expressing
themselves freely. That in itself is a revolution. We are the Internet. We
are the revolution. We drive it, we make it, we use it, we are it. This is
the return of the subjective experience. I think with my brain, but I act
with my heart. I cannot change the world, I can only change myself. If we
were all working on healing ourselves we would all be a lot better.

The Internet is not utopia, as it clearly demonstrates that as the medium is
the message, there is no end. The living language is all about process: it
matters little where were going. What's important is how we get there. The
Internet as global consciousness could be an uprising that achieves human
liberation.

When I look into the world that is my own, the planet that reflects me, I
see genocide and terror, conquest and colonialization. I immediately and
spontaneously denounce the perpetrators of these crimes. They stand naked
before me: Pepsi in Burma, Nike in Indonesia, Northern Telecom in China,
McDonalds all over; whoever and wherever.

Yes the emperor is naked. The Internet as open mind exposes this to any one
who looks. There are no lies in the environment of infinite comparison. We
are exposing the corporate coup of global domination.

In an environment of total visibility, only via mythology and the bending of
truth can power maintain control. Media concentration is the knee-jerk
reaction of the frontiersmen circling their wagons in fear of the natives
getting restless.

The youth are the media aboriginals. Raised and bathed in electronic media,
they are the open minded hackers who can traverse and navigate through the
complex information systems of the electronic mind.

The youth are ageless as time and space dissolve, and the search for truth
becomes a quest for identity. I and I bringing down babylon. Speak, yell,
kick, shout, until they are forced to hear you. You have the truth, and the
truth will set you free. The youth know this truth. This can also be called
a youth revolution as it is the youth who still remember how to play. If you
can't dance don't even bother coming out to the Internet revolution.

We need an active approach to media, a fight for our own awareness, and our
own liberation. Nobody can give us freedom, we have to take it.
We need to look at the current media domination, and rise up in media
liberation.
We need to come together, and remove the mediation between us. Face to face
communication is the best way to convey loving energy.

We must not abandon our bodies in the technological rush to be everyone and
everywhere. We come from the earth and to the earth we will return. When our
feet are on the ground we are more likely to not only recognize, but make
change. Taking care of our bodies is the same as taking care of the land
upon which we live. We must reclaim our land in the face of a cataclysmic
environmental threat, and we must reclaim our bodies in the face of a
cataclysmic nutritional technological threat.

The Internet is a mind, a living global growing mind, that is demonstrating
self-awareness in its drive for consciousness. We must engage and reclaim
this mind, as it is collectively our own. In reclaiming our bodies, we must
also reclaim our mind. It will be our love that will carve the path to
reclaiming our mind. However we must be sure that the distortion of our
love, as manifest through media mythology does not destroy our mind through
its own reversal.

We walk a fine line, in what is an epic struggle of change. What is true
now, was true 30 years ago, and has been true forever. If large Banks run
Bob Dylan songs as commercials for on-line services, perhaps there's
something being said here that nobody has acknowledged?

Like the late 1930s and the late 1960s, the late 1990s are themselves
defined by dramatic changes in media. From the radio to colour television to
the digital network, media revolutions draw on the tensions and energy that
exist between people and technology. Popular political upheavals occurred in
the first two media revolutions of this century, if we are to engage the
runaway train of technology, we desperately need another now in the the third.

The youth of the nineties need to reach out to the youth of the sixties and
build a creative movement that once again mobilizes the masses. Similarly as
adults we must all recognize our responsibility to retain and reclaim
democracy, and with it a social system that progressively builds equality.
Together we can combine experience and energy, to make a final effort to
break the bonds that hold us docile, facing the flashing cave wall.

The Internet is all about the unknown: living with the unknown.
The Internet may be alluring and seductive, but is the Information
Superhighway really the way? One hopes that in the middle of this mad search
for utopia, we will realize that the earth is the utopia, and we have been
living here all along..

"The highway is for gamblers better use your head.
Take what you have gathered from coincidence.
The empty handed painter from your streets.
Is drawing crazy patterns on you sheets.
The sky too is folding under you,
It's all over now, Baby Blue."
(Bob Dylan, It's All Over Now Baby Blue - 1965)

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Jesse Hirsh - jesse@lglobal.com - jesse@tao.ca - tao@lglobal.com
P.O. Box 108, Station P, Toronto, Canada, M5S 2S8

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