Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Establishment after Post-Truth

Image Source: National Enquirer.

This post considers the struggle between the establishment and the precariat to control the dominant narrative in global media. To start, we need to know what the establishment is. The word 'establishment' has a medieval history. From the late 15th century to the early 19th century, it meant a settled economic arrangement, what we would call an annuity, or it was an income gained from property.

From the 1640s to the 1860s, the word referred to the legal and economic connections between the established church and the state. 'Establishment' described legal codes and special arrangements by which prelates or nobles acted officially in the name of the monarch or the state, especially when they collected or spent public monies. From the OED:
"Earl of Essex in Essex Papers 31 Aug [1672]. Upon the closing of the Establishment for this Kingdome [Ireland], five hundred Pounds a year were reserved with intention that if I should find cause to move the King in behalf of this City of Dublyn, it should be restored to them agen..I desire that I may have an order to insert them [the £500] into the Establishment."
From the 1830s, 'establishment' could mean a place of business; in the same period, the word further indicated connections between the state and the military. Or it concerned well-off families and their households.

In the 20th century, all those older meanings combined into a single concept of wealth, power, and something beyond that. By the mid-1950s, 'establishment,' according to Dictionary.com, meant "a social matrix of ruling people and institutions." Also: "the existing power structure in society; the dominant groups in society and their customs or institutions; institutional authority." Or:
"a group or class of people having institutional authority within a society, esp those who control the civil service, the government, the armed forces, and the Church[.]"
The OED defines the 20th century meaning as follows:
"Esp. as the Establishment: a social group exercising power generally, or within a given field or institution, by virtue of its traditional superiority, and by the use esp. of tacit understandings and often a common mode of speech, and having as a general interest the maintenance of the status quo. "
If you look carefully at the 20th century meanings and compare the Dictionary.com and the Oxford English Dictionary definitions, you will see a huge difference. The Dictionary.com picture is superficial and simplistic. It defines the establishment from the outside, from a vantage point where it is easy to condemn wealthy people who hold (or appear to hold) power, and control institutions. But this definition tells you nothing about how power is held, and control wielded.

Oxford's definition is far more subtle and accurate: the status quo of traditional superiority depends on "tacit understandings and often a common mode of speech." In rough terms, how can you be part of Dictionary.com's social matrix, if you do not have insider knowledge and tacit understanding? If you do not know the social code? If you are not part of the club? If you do not recognize the message inside the message? You can't.

Oxford's definition of 'establishment' implies that modern authority in the social matrix depends on two layers of information, one authoritative and privileged, the other for the underprivileged, who see power only from the outside. Comprehension of the authoritative layer of information depends on complex social and political experiences. You cannot dump establishment information randomly into the public square and accurately assess it when it is stripped of context.

This inner-outer duality explains why the establishment MSM and the Internet's alt-media both currently fail to describe the whole truth. They are like two ships passing in the night. On the establishment side, systems of authority in society and institutions have long depended on an exterior monoculture of information, a mainstream line. This exterior line has been entrenched by the mass media, entertainment, sports, and politics, popular culture, and governmental and educational institutions. At the same time, there is an interior line of information, little known, and less understood.

The establishment media have lately defended the exterior line, while continuing to guard the interior line. They have condemned any alternative view as fake news or post-truth. They applauded citizen journalism when it looked politically harmless, or helpful to the existing system.

Now, a gulf widens between the mainstream press and the alt-media. In America, President Trump exploits this gulf to build his own brand of post-truth sensationalism. With all the savvy of an expert showman, he insults the authority of mainstream professional journalists in the White House press corps by blocking them, or by inviting amateur bloggers and Youtubers to join the corps.

The New York Times was aghastSo were CNN, the BBC, and The Guardian. This was exactly what Trump wanted. It made him look anti-establishment, like a defender of the people. This shows Trump's canny understanding of communications dynamics. He insulted the legacy press by banning them from one press conference. It made international headlines. They discussed it for a week. Trump had tricked them into broadcasting their own disempowerment as they protested against "unconstitutional censorship."

Trump was able to do this because the mainstream media tacitly guard two narratives, not one. Whistle-blowers, hackers, leakers and conspiracy theorists insist that the mainstream line does not tell the whole story or the real truth about the establishment. In line with the Oxford definition of the establishment, this is absolutely true. There are tacit understandings. Alt-journalists condemn social media giants like GoogleFacebookTwitterReddit, and Youtube for censoring and demonetizing undesirable information, be it racist opinion, or post-truth conspiracy theories. If you believe in freedom of speech, the anti-censorship critics are right. Although there are racist and other destructive narratives which are forbidden for good reason, those labels are open to powerful interpretation. There is also a large portion of privileged or forbidden information which is denied to, or shielded from, the underclasses. That is why they are the underclasses.

Whistle-blowers and hackers set out to rectify this situation. The results are helter skelter. There are currently constructive methods being developed to release and present data in democratic, neutral ways. For an attempt to legitimize alt-journalistic approaches, look at Janine Römer's revision-controlled journalism project.

Attempts to strip privileged information of its authoritative broadcasters and contexts and present data in neutral, encrypted and crowd-sourced ways will not help the precariat to understand that information. For the past ten years, whistle-blowers and hackers have been opening up the sacred treasure chests of privileged information and exposing them online, like so many Pandora's boxes. They did not realize that the final layer of encryption is not computer code. The final layers of encryption are social and cultural codes.

When privileged information is dumped on the Internet, the precariat generally lack the tacit understandings and social experiences to interpret the information. This is privileged information, ripped out of its sheltered, authoritative context.

To crack the final layers of social and cultural encryption, netizens must understand that they are interpreting hacked, leaked, and conspiratorial information in their terms and according to their biases and expectations, which skew original meanings. They are so shocked by revelations of secret establishment transgressions and bids for control, of actions taken behind the curtain of power, that they forget they are also reading leaked information with only half of the proverbial alphabet of authority. Their judgement is informed by their half of the alphabet, which for decades has been shaped (by the establishment) to give them only a superficial, externalized picture of power.

Whistle-blowing and conspiracy theories do not expose the whole truth or the real truth. With each new shocking revelation about the establishment, the precariat's vloggers and alt-journalists try to digest and explain the whole truth. Instead, they conflate privileged information with morally forbidden information, like extreme racism. The alt-media tend to glorify all anti-establishment narratives. Alt-journalists, due to lack of experience and training, have trouble distinguishing between fact and fiction, reason and opinion. This makes them vulnerable to opportunistic manipulators and those who weaponize information.

Once privileged information is exposed, the precariat will come to it with anti-establishment views and biases which they expect to confirm. But the only way to fully understand the establishment's exposed interior line is to step into their shoes and see the world on their terms. You also have to know their internal, private, and secret social and cultural codes. This is a philosophically demanding exercise, to know your opponent as you would know yourself, with discernment and compassion - while at the same time holding the fully critical and alienated counter perspective intact.

When you don't know how power is wielded, it becomes difficult to know who your friends are. When WikiLeaks attacked the military industrial complex and the Bush administration, Julian Assange was a liberal media darling. WikiLeaks' military intelligence whistle-blower Bradley Manning gained similar approval.

The mainstream media did not understand that Assange had the entire establishment - conservative and liberal - in his sights. As for the alt-media appraising their friends, consider that Manning is now a poster child for the establishment's transgender gnostic message; he/she is the face of Davos. If I were a conspiracy theorist, I would think that this means that Manning played to the interior establishment line all along, and the whistle-blowing was part of a long game.

I don't think the way power is exercised and its corrupting influence are anything new. What is new is the democratization of access to information about power. Imagine what privileged information Julian Assange has seen. If you knew what he does, what would it do to you? And what would you do? And if the information lay beyond all your experience and you knew nothing of statecraft, how would you understand it, especially if the official narrative reflexively dismissed it as fake?

There are challenges on all sides. Do not to shoot the messengers. Do not lapse into denial. Do not see only what you want to see, and only confirm your biases. Do not to become disillusioned, revolutionary, delusional, paranoid, or nihilistic. Do read articles and subscribe to accounts of those with whom you disagree. Do see both sides, seek the whole picture.

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