Probably one of the most consistent technological and commercial trends of the last fifty years has been the reduction in size of media-carrying hardware. Be it tabloid newsapers, hifi, personal computers, android tablets or simple mobile internet: points of view are, in the 21st century, being emitted from smaller and smaller spaces.
This ‘convenient’ but otherwise regrettable process took place alongside two other key socio-economic changes.
First, the down-dumbing of our education norms over that same period – and towards the end of it, an obsession with targets and facts rather than analyses and originality – bred a belief among Western youth that brevity was more important than the development of a comprehensive opinion.
And second, these developments took place alongside the increased time starvation felt by employees after 1980, as part and parcel of the rapid deregulation of working practices, rewards and employer commitments in the West.
Further, the cynical response of New Labour under Mandelson, Gould, Blair and Campbell was to “cater for” this tragic situation via the invention of the soundbite. And in turn, so-called ‘social media’ developed in such a way as to make brevity the norm on the internet. Brands like Twitter, Gab and Facebook encourage the one dimensional observation and response, the right-brain thoughtless insult, and the puerile conclusion.
Increasingly, they’re becoming anti-social media.
At first, I liked the literary discipline of Twitter. Saying something in 140 characters was to me an everyday process of honing prose and removing the froth – in and of itself quite creative in a way.
But over time, it has increasingly become the quintessential medium for those who favour obscene abuse and simplistic awe. Indeed, in some ways it is the 2017 micro-version of a Hitler Sportpalast rally from 1936 and thereafter.
In 1932, the Nazi propaganda minister Josef Goebbels put forward the following insane premise:
“All Jews and Communists are against us because all Jews are Communists”
The assertion was as brilliant as it was bonkers. It was soundbite genius because it united the two German bourgeois fears in one demon. And it enabled the Nazis to expand from the desperate impoverished vote to the deeply concerned vote.
It did not invite thought, it appealed to fear.
This for me is the link between the theatre of Nazi rallies, and the bullring that represents contemporary online “social” media. In both these contexts – parted by eighty years of history that remains unlearned – all the depth of colour and rainbow subtlety is washed out in favour of black and white. The whole is reduced to an amorality that Hemingway reduced to a simple phrase: death in the sun. But the death this time around is that of tolerant democracy.
Nationalist bad >>>>> Socialist good
Socialist bad >>>>> Neoliberal good
Capitalism bad >>>>>Socialism good
Feminists good >>>>>>Men bad
Right is Nazi >>>>>>> Left is Communist
Arabs good >>>>>>> Jews bad
NATO good >>>>>> Assad bad
Independence bad >>>>> European Union good
Inflation good >>>>>> Inflation bad
As the last of those polarities tries to show, in the end one winds up with one thing being both good and bad at the same time.
What we have lost in this abbreviation of careful consideration is calm debate, and the gradual expansion of a thought-through argument based on realistic aspiration and empirical study.
What we have “gained” is the increasing acceptance of simplistic correlation.
Instead of plain English brevity, we have the sloganism of ideologues. Instead of balanced opinion, we have bigoted Groupthink:
The young tweeter above specialises in this sort of instant conclusion: the snap decision from the right brain that so often breaks the back of quiet contemplation. Here’s another of her recent efforts:
It’s mindless, but how about this piece of alternative Universe thinking from Michael Moore:
‘I am he as you are me and we are all together”. A memorably ironic Lennonism conceived on an injudicious mixture of drugs and self-importance has become regular fare on the internet’s pathetic War of the Words. John Lennon himself would’ve condemned all of it: I’m not him or you, I’m me….and we are not altogether in a fluffy global village, we are a dysfunctional pack species suspicious of other packs.
No amount of potty neoliberal or socialist claptrap is going to improve us. And daft ideas from long before the era of understood DNA, sub-atomic physics and neuroscience will not send us back up the trees again. No: the miniaturisation of media is merely the most recent symptom of Man’s imprisonment in an evolutionary cul de sac. Without the intervention of enlightened, open-minded science, we are doomed to be the mammalian version of crocodiles.
In the US, we see this daily in Trumptweets. In the UK, we watch it weekly at Parliamentary PMQs. In the EU, we read it hourly in relation to Brexit, Catalonia, Hungary, Italy and Greece. On global media, we hear it 24/7 from Bloomberg, CNBC, CNN, the BBC and France24 in relation to Brexit.
Only a reversal of deregulated labour markets, narrow education, neoliberal social values, ideological mob rule, globalist assumptions and monied political lobbying can save civilisation. All these developments have caused considerable losses in liberty: but they are not as yet a lost cause.
For some thirty years now – and into the unknown future – this has been and will be up to us, the individual citizens. The fate of Man is up to ordinary men and women.