TIMES, TIME, AND HALF A TIME. A HISTORY OF THE NEW MILLENNIUM.

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.



Showing posts with label Cold War. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cold War. Show all posts

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Black Friday and the Aesthetics of Fascism


Window-mounted cat beds, Amazon review: "It's been nine months and Tucker still loves this bed ten times more than anything else I've bought him." Image Source: Buzzfeed.

In North America, Thanksgiving weekend is the cornerstone of consumption-based capitalism. Thanksgiving is celebrated in the United States on the fourth Thursday in November, this year on November 22nd, followed by Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which have become pre-Christmas discounted shopping bonanzas. Stores are selling everything you could imagine, down to the window-mounted cat bed. This weekend is lucrative enough to tempt merchants in other countries to use the same gimmick to boost their fourth quarter sales.

Kohler Pedestal Sink. These sinks retail at Home Depot in the USA for USD $600-$800. Image Source: Miley Photos.

Essex Metal 24" Console Bathroom Sink with Overflow by Cheviot. Regular priced at Wayfair for CAD $830.25, on sale on Black Friday for CAD $584.99. Image Source: Cheviot.

Waldorf Ceramic 24" Wall Mount Bathroom Sink with Overflow by WS Bath Collections. Regular priced at Wayfair for CAD $1109.99, on sale on Black Friday for CAD $849.99. Image Source: homeclick.

This week, I saw some Black Friday examples which reminded me of an earlier commentary, Fascism at a Hairpin Turn. In a series of posts on this blog, I am considering how 1940s' fascism became a part of modern global culture in ways which are poorly understood. Above, are sinks by Kohler, Cheviot and WS Bath Collections. Kohler Co. was founded in Wisconsin in 1873 by Austrian Americans; it employs a sharp German aesthetic in its high end lavatory designs.

I was struck by the aesthetic similarity between today's sinks and 1940s' institutional sinks. Below, are sinks in an autopsy room and in another room from the French concentration camp near Strasbourg, Natzweiler-Struthof, where human experiments were conducted.


Sinks at Natzweiler-Struthof. Images Source: La Vie est Bonne.

Of course, sinks made outside fascist Europe in the 1940s would also resemble today's designs and their modernist style could be pre-World War II, derived from interwar Bauhaus. When I mentioned this similarity between past and present, my friend, C., said,
"The fascist aesthetic ... merged what ... [the fascists] wanted of [the] modern aesthetic (some aspects of architecture and NO aspect of the fine arts) and aspects of the neoclassic as well as empire styles, both of which were adopted as official styles by Napoleon's ... régime. ... Makes one think that everything that happened[,] including sinks, New York skyscrapers, and concentration camps were all a part of leaving the feudal system."
The Nazis definitely took that white porcelain neoclassical look and made it theirs. Going forward from 1945, there is no way a designer could be ignorant of that aesthetic reference when creating a consumer product in that style. This is why it was startling to see Nazi-esque sinks on sale on this Black Friday at Home Depot. I can't say that the example of the sinks proves anything in terms of demonstrable historical aesthetic lineage because I have not researched that. But it made me ask why and how that aesthetic has been absorbed into mainstream North American culture and values.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Fascism at a Hairpin Turn


The undercut was an Edwardian haircut which remained popular through the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. It became the iconic male haircut of Nazi fascism. It did not become widely popular again until the 2010s. Today, it is sported in different variations by hipster urbanites on the left and the right, with only some individuals aware of the hairstyle's political message. Image Source: The Bold Italic.

Social control. Censorship. Totalitarianism. They won't arrive in the 20th century varieties we expect. Nouveau Nazis have appeared in dozens of movies, including Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984); V for Vendetta (2005); The Man in the High Castle (2015-present); The Handmaid's Tale (2017-present), and Fahrenheit 451 (2018).

Greater Germanic Reich | Man in the High Castle (5 March 2018). Video Source: Youtube.

An alt-historical adaptation of Philip K. Dick's Man in the High Castle (1962), produced by Ridley Scott, considers what America would be like if the Axis Powers won World War II. The new adaptation of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale (1985) depicts fascists as rigid, hypocritical, psycho-Christians, who impose a violent, patriarchal and puritanical monoculture, viciously suppress women's rights, and divide American society into uniformed, hierarchical, militaristic-gender castes.

The Handmaid’s Tale Trailer (Official) (26 April 2017). Video Source: Youtube.

Elisabeth Moss Describes A 'Fictional' Totalitarian, Right-Wing Regime (21 April 2017). Video Source: Youtube.

Because of these cultural representations, we expect totalitarianism to dress itself in brownshirts and jack boots. The subtext in liberal adaptations is that Donald Trump's America is an alt-right neo-Nazi régime.

Neo-Nazis have certainly reemerged during Trump's administration more boldly than they have in the previous sixty years. Yet fascism is also exploding into the mainstream from other political quarters. It must be combated at all costs, but to do that, you have to understand what fascism is and how it works. That requires recognizing the menace you can't see coming, as much as the threat you're sure you know.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Countdown to Hallowe'en 2017: Psychic Spies and Time Cross Predictions


Image Source: BackPackerVerse.

Welcome to another countdown to Hallowe'en! This year, October 31st will mark the 500th anniversary of the start of the Protestant ReformationMartin Luther (1483-1546) nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of All Saints' Church in Wittenberg, Germany in 1517. On October 31st, I will publish a special interview about Martin Luther.

The Hallowe'en countdown is an online event, a mass blogathon, in which dozens of blogs count down to the end of October every year. The countdown is led by this blog (where you can see the other participants), run by the American comic book and graphic novel writer, John Rozum, and blogger Shawn Robare, who runs the Gen X Website, Branded in the 80s.

My contributions to the Hallowe'en countdown, to be published this year every three days, tend to cover odd subjects which nonetheless shed light on mainstream Millennial technology and culture. Today's post deals with the precognition and temporal psi protocol developed by the US Army in 1978, known as remote viewing. This was one of the primary psychic weapons cultivated in the Stargate Project; you can read the table of contents of the Stargate manual at the CIA's online reading room, here.

During the Cold War, the US military used remote viewing to view its enemies psychically and to foresee the future. A film dramatized this work, The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009); it was based on the 2004 book of the same name and starred George Clooney. On 12 August 2017, Leonard (Lyn) Buchanan, one of the US government's former remote viewers (and the person upon whom Clooney's character was based), gave an interview on Youtube, below.

Original Govt. Psychic Spy Reveals Remote Viewing Secrets (12 August 2017). Video Source: Youtube.

Buchanan stated that at the end of World War II, the Nazis' secret research was shared among the Allies. Due to lack of interest from the USA and UK, the Russians took the Germans' psychic and esoteric experiments, including remote viewing. According to Buchanan, the Russians developed this body of knowledge, and achieved apparent successes, to the alarm of the Americans. The most famous psychic in the Russian program was Nina Kulagina (1926-1990), who was later accused of fraud.

This was what led the US Army to develop the Stargate Project, officially until 1995, although the CIA may then have taken it over under another name. You can read a 1985 Master's thesis, Psychokinesis and Its Possible Implication to Warfare Strategy by W. G. Norton, here. There is a 2004 report by Eric W. Davis, Teleportation Physics Study, sponsored by the Air Force Research Laboratory at Edwards Air Force Base, here.

Lyn Buchanan claimed that remote viewers can see the past and present with high degrees of accuracy. They can view the future, but the future (unlike the past and present) is changeable. Buchanan maintained that he had been tasked to view as far into the future as the year 2080, whereupon he got into strange, conspiratorial territory:
"An agrarian society with very few people. Large cities, mainly deserted, and most people very self sufficient on their little farms. ... A low population count. That's what I found. ... [Between now and 2080] there's going to come some rough times. ... The population will be greatly affected. ... Intentional changes, from the tasking - remember there's 30 per cent inaccuracy here - from what I've found, the first step of all that is what is called chemtrails. The chemtrails are a selective thing that will damage the health of, or even kill off, certain types of people, while leaving others not so badly affected. And in the process, a sort of genetic selection will be made. But that's doom and gloom, and one of the rocks in the pond of time, I don't think there's very much we can do about that."
Other weirdness associated with Buchanan's remote viewing involves psychic police work; gambling; space exploration; space aliens; cosmology; and consciousness. He said he does not "kill things" using remote viewing, but "it's scarily easy to do." Another figure associated with this project is Joseph McMoneagle, who was the first recruit in the US Army's remote viewing program. He was designated as 'Psychic Spy 001.' You can hear an interview with him below. He spoke of visiting Russia, touring their remote viewing facilities and meeting his Russian psychic spy counterparts, who did remote viewing in the conflict in Chechnya. He remarked that the Russian capacity for remote viewing is "substantial."

Joe McMoneagle US Army Remote Viewer aka Psychic Spy 001 (2 March 2014). Video Source: Youtube.

The CIA is also rumoured to have used this parapsychological tool in psychic espionage. The US government's remote viewing training manual is here and here. I have previously written about psychic military projects here.

Excerpt from a CIA document on remote viewing. Click to enlarge. Image Source: 4chan.

Remote viewing is considered pseudoscience, but it has understandably attracted a lot of attention. After all, what government - or civilian group - wouldn't want to be able to predict coming events, re-examine historical events, or send spies to learn closely guarded secrets at almost no expense or risk?  The Chinese have studied remote viewing. The UK's Ministry of Defence secretly ran a remote viewing experiment in 2001 and 2002. Some members of the public are also attempting to conduct organized investigations of this protocol. For example, German remote viewers are listed here.

Proponents of remote viewing claim that the technique seems to work best under blind conditions, that is, viewers should not know what target the project leader has assigned. Some remote viewers, like this one trying to foresee the possibility of war with Russia, use Associative Remote Viewing (ARV), which involves knowing the target.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

In Millennial Eyes 6: The Antarctic Fourth Reich and the Great Game


Frank Hurley's photograph, taken between 1914 and 1916, of Antarctic explorer Dr. Leonard Hussey with Samson - one of the Canadian sled-dogs on Sir Ernest Shackleton's ill-fated Endurance expedition. Image Source: Pinterest via Royal Geographical Society.

Today's post continues my coverage of the Millennial Antarctic Fourth Reich conspiracy theory and its meaning in terms of Internet psycho-politics. In this case, I will describe how this conspiracy theory relates to the revival of the 19th century contest between Britain and Russia for Asian lands and wealth: the Great Game.

I argue that Antarctica now replaces Central Asia, to serve as a cipher in a new virtual Great Game. The Antarctic Fourth Reich conspiracy theory appears to be an alarming Russian-sourced or pro-Russian form of propaganda, which endorses and then moves past the pro-Trump agenda, to encourage Americans to destroy their own country from within. The Fourth Reich theory also channels a folkloric and racist renewal of Anglospheric nationalism, in which Vladimir Putin is viewed as a strategic ally.

The Fourth Reich conspiracy theory depends heavily on the Nazis' merger of the occult, politics, and technology. Secrets of the Third Reich: The Rediscovery of Vimanas (uploaded 11 February 2013). Video Source: Youtube.

The conspiracy theory also seeks to isolate the Anglosphere from the Europeans. It hinges on the supposed historic continuation of German Nazism (with a conspicuous, ahistorical failure to mention Italian fascism, Japan, or affiliated Axis powers from World War II) and returns Anglospheric opinion of the Russians to the sympathetic year of 1944.

Despite the apparent Russian dominance of this online extravaganza, the Anglospheric aspect of the Fourth Reich narrative has an elusive introspective quality which may excise the Russian factor and even nationalist racism. That is, something about this conspiracy theory involves America, the UK, and affiliated Commonwealth countries chewing over internal identity in light of contemporary politics and evolving global techno-economies and societies. The outcome of that muddled cultural reevaluation may be completely independent and unexpected, regardless of whether or not the Russians try to interfere with, or benefit from, this process.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Stargate Tweets, Mysteries and Rumours


A Stargate? Image Source: Twitter / iReport/CNN.

At present, there is a very strange dis/information eruption on Twitter, coming from a single account, KibBitzLaw. Whoever is running this account is mingling a giant conspiracy theory with current affairs at breakneck pace (hat tip: The Outer Light). This person is threatening top level officials with information leaks of the most outlandish kind. WikiLeaks is mentioned, as is Chelsea / Bradley Manning. The Tweeter also apparently visited 4chan today, archived here, and stated: "This is not a joke." Tonight's tweets were dedicated to Seth Rich, the murdered Democratic National Committee staffer.


There are weirdos all over the Internet, so one more ranting conspiracy theorist should not matter. The only problem is that this account - which was created in March, 2009 - for some time had, as its first and only follower, former president Barack Obama. The account was previously followed by members of the mainstream media and Democrats running for Congress. It lay quiet for some time, with some tweets during the US election in 2016, and suddenly exploded with activity this month. The account was mentioned today (14 May 2017) on Reddit, here.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Nuclear Leaks 37: Citizen Journalists, Plutonium, and the Hanford Tunnel Collapse



On 9 May 2017, a 20-foot-long section of a nuclear waste storage tunnel collapsed at the Hanford Site in Washington State, USA. The collapse occurred at the 20-foot-wide join of two tunnels, possibly exposing the contents to the open air, although Hanford denied this. Hanford is famous for producing plutonium for nuclear weapons during the Cold War. It is also famous for its contamination and leaking tanks of waste, making it one of the most toxic sites in the United States.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Productivity: The Last Domino to Fall in the Old System



In a previous post, Subliminal Slavery of the Subconscious Self, I summarized a BBC 2002 documentary, The Century of the Self, in which director Adam Curtis maintained that the mid-to-late 20th century was a time in which cause was divorced from effect, actions separated from consequences, in the name of preventing world war and genocide.

Curtis claimed that post-World War II mass culture became a giant pressure cooker experiment. The hypothesis ran that pre-World War II societies were repressed by old social values and religions. When societies became psychologically and emotionally over-repressed, they could suddenly blow and all the dark instincts of the community would surge out in racism, mass psychosis and murder. Psycho-social repression was the hypothesized cause of the Holocaust.

Image Source: Aussie Cool Story Club.

The prescribed remedy in western cultures, and later, global cultures, was to indulge the Jungian collective unconscious and mass shadow in a thousand different ways. Smaller vices were continually encouraged to give the big collective pressure cooker a way to let off steam. Celebrities came forth to personify aspects of the Freudian Id or Jungian Unconscious, in order to push those buttons in audiences. Derived from Austrian psychoanalysis, transported into American mass entertainment and mass politics, the pressure cooker slow release experiment wasn't a great idea.


A famous, early example of the 1960s' Hell-Sell technique, used in an actual Kent cigarettes ad, with explanation of the subliminal images and colours employed from a leaked advertising training manual. Part of the blurred-out message includes giant spiders mating on the girl's leg. Images Source: Whale.

As a result, as the Cold War wore on, any kind of inhibition in the name of old-fashioned social mores was condemned as social repression, an attack on liberty. Gone was the idea that norms reflected customs based in everyday life, and that norms connected people to habit, sanity, and reality. This is the kind of freedom that really enslaves people! The adoration of the libertine came at a price, because there was one place left where actions still connected to consequences.

Creation, making things, building things, was still directly related to making money. That correlation became more and more harshly enforced, more industrial, an assembly line governed by line managers, as time went on. Productivity was also unconsciously and in real terms wedded to the rise of the computer, so that we were expected to work like machines, battling against the continual threat of lack and loss. Space and time for productivity became supreme luxuries, reserved for the top few producers.

This is the logical inconsistency embedded in post-World War II global culture. Where all the other leashes were loosened, the last one, productivity, was inhumanly tightened. Normally, productivity is associated with discipline; that discipline was somewhat mitigated when other areas of life moved in parallel. But in developed countries, social limitations, personal restraints, and boundaries were erased. A lack of discipline rewarded and eased suffering in the personal realm. Meanwhile, all base survival was tied - with threats and desperation - to machine-like performance and productivity. The only place we were still connected to reality was through productivity, measured in time and money.

This paradoxical arrangement caused enormous social and cultural stresses, glossed over by blinking, flashing mass entertainment, bent on stating and restating: "It's all right. It's all right. It's all right." When, in fact, it was not all right and it did not correlate. One could not have no inhibitions on off hours, yet turn up bang on the dot on Monday to work like a robot. Or these days, turn up bang on the dot any time of the day or night, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, to work like a robot, while also somehow simultaneously blowing off crazy steam in Id-dominated playgrounds.

Social theorists, political ideologues, and cultural gurus arose to reconcile the paradox and explain it away. For a time, the paradox could be cloaked, such that it offered the only ethical way to behave. Given its original historical premise, it was always presented as the only possible social structural counter-argument to racial genocide and world war. That is, workers were asked by broader culture to suppress their own souls in the name of making money or helping others to make money. But in all other respects, it was the height of right-thinking and social correctness to invert all previously-held values and to destroy self-limitations.

This post is not a conservative screed, moralizing or condemning libertinism. I merely observe that the formula was inconsistent and thus, the pattern is not sustainable. The paradox cannot hold for much longer. This must give way: the forceful over-expectation in Millennial working life, that this is the only way that cause can lead to effect, that actions can lead to consequences, that one must work oneself into the ground, second by second, to make money. While at the same time, in all other areas of life, irresponsibility and the divorce between actions and consequences prevail. One is minute-by-minute bombarded with media messages of war, disaster, chaos, and unbridled instinct. And counter to the pressure cooker experiment, our world is becoming more, not less, brutal, savage and potentially genocidal. It is a place where online beheadings and extreme porn are the norm and barely stir any profound response in the desensitized populace. Can you even remember what outrages you saw on the television or computer two weeks ago? Or what you ate for supper?

Further, as I noted in my post, Post-Apocalypse Rehab, mass media messages insist that the money you earn while acting like a robot rewards you by removing restraint in off hours. This is why we are surrounded by images of conspicuous consumption, which beg citizens to be irresponsible and disconnected from themselves and from reality in non-work areas of life. Supermodel sumptuousness and cinematic fictions of carnage create dreamlike distances from ongoing collective trauma. They allow the carnage in, so one engages, but from a quasi-safe position of cocoon-like detachment from the weirdness of living in this heaving, struggling world.

All of this must finally give way to a different way of living. The last domino to fall will be the outmoded way productivity is inflexibly correlated to money. This domino will fall in the name of consistency. You cannot train human beings to be hedonistic libertines for half a century, but deny them access to that final realm of freedom, within their own souls. Thus, in the last area where they are ordered inflexibly to be obedient, making money, they will rebel, because all other rules have been relaxed, inverted, abrogated, redefined, or overturned. The manner in which they redefine productivity and profitability may go either way: a soulful path or a libertine one.

The Internet is Ground Zero for this change. Cyberspace was supposed to broaden libertinism; it was a fantasyland, a computer playland. Cyberpunk was an extension of 1960s' and 1970s' drug culture. What a surprise, then, that after the initial wallowing in porn and LOLcat bullshit, computerland instead turned out to be a tough-as-nails Spartan training ground, which is now having radical impacts in the real world.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Time and Politics 22: The Masks of Simple Politics


Image Source: Archillect.

For today, see the Adam Curtis documentary, HyperNormalisation, which opened in the UK on 16 October 2016 and is circulating on the Internet. Produced by the BBC, it is reproduced here under Fair Use non-commercially for review and discussion. Told from a liberal-left perspective, this film starts in the mid-1970s and discusses big banks, Donald Trump, Brexit, Vladimir Putin, hypertechnology, and Syria.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Quote of the Day: "It’s not easy to move 20+ nukes"


Image Source: Keep Talking Greece.

There are reports that between 20 and 100 nuclear weapons are being moved from Incirlik Air Base, Turkey (70 miles from the Syrian border) to Deveselu air field in Romania:
  • Global Security (May 2016): Deveselu Base, Romania
  • The New Yorker (17 July 2016: The H-Bombs in Turkey
  • Stimson (14 August 2016): US Nuclear Weapons in Turkey at Risk of Seizure by Terrorists, Hostile Forces
  • Stimson (August 2016): B61 LIFE EXTENSION PROGRAM Costs and Policy Considerations
  • Business Insider (15 August 2016): A briefing for Congress on possibly moving the US's nuclear weapons from Turkey's Incirlik Air Base
  • Jerusalem Post (15 August 2016): Report: Terrorists Could Seize US Nuclear Weapons from Turkey Base
  • Russia Today (15 August 2016): US nukes in Turkey vulnerable to ‘terrorists & other hostile forces’ – think tank
  • The Sun (15 August 2016): ISIS NUKE THREAT Dozens of US nuclear bombs stored at Turkish air base ‘are at risk of being seized by terrorists’
  • Newsweek (15 August 2016): U.S. TURKEY AIRBASE NUKES AT RISK OF SEIZURE FROM 'TERRORISTS': REPORT
  • Keep Talking Greece (18 August 2016): USA moves nuclear weapons from Incirlik Air Base in Turkey to Romania
  • EurActiv (18 August 2016): US moves nuclear weapons from Turkey to Romania
  • The Times (19 August 2016): Kremlin presses Turkey for access to US airbase
  • Sputnik News (20-21 August 2016): Kremlin Presses Turkey for Access to NATO's Incirlik Air Base, Home to US Nukes
  • Russia Today (21 August 2016): Russia could use Incirlik airbase ‘if necessary’ – Turkish PM
  • The Illuminati Conspiracy Blog (22 August 2016): Nuke Transfer: Great Opportunity for Nuke Theft (the conspiracy theorist's view)
"Map of main air bases and other important airfields in Romania, as of 1989. (Map by Tom Cooper, based on Encarta 2003 software)." Image Source: ACIG.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Tornado


A tornado in Colorado, USA (7 May 2016). Image Source: Tori O'Shea.

This blog is skeptical of conspiracy theories because they are not consistent with the way reality is created. Conspiracy theories about current events - for example, regarding the disastrous situation in Syria - are examples of modern urban folklore, which impose exactly the same superstitious, deterministic logic onto the world that an established religion would. Many of today's orthodoxies are nominally secular, but they are no less based in blind faith. Actors on the international scene do try to impose strategic control on the world's hot spots; the media come to these hot spots with spin, preconceived ideas and even false flag agendas. However, the notion that anyone - governments, politicians, banks, shadowy cabals, unseen actors, evil establishments - controls the reality that ensues from fluid conditions is incorrect.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Time and Politics 15: Educated Readers and Pimlico Flats


Williams worked for Echelon, or the Five Eyes, an intelligence accord between the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The radomes in this photo at RAF Menwith Hill in North Yorkshire are alleged to be part of the ECHELON system. Image Source: Wiki.

Here is a follow-up to a previous post: there are hair-raising rumours online about the 2010 death of GCHQ computer expert and cryptographer Gareth Williams. In that earlier post, I quoted a passage from C. S. Lewis's That Hideous Strength, on how truth comes out in the tabloids:
"Why you fool, it's the educated reader who can be gulled. All our difficulty comes with the others. When did you meet a workman who believes the papers? He takes it for granted that they're all propaganda and skips the leading articles. He buys his paper for the football results and the little paragraphs about girls falling out of windows and corpses found in Mayfair flats. He is our problem. We have to recondition him. But the educated public, the people who read the highbrow weeklies, don't need reconditioning. They're all right already. They'll believe anything."
Williams's body was not discovered in Mayfair, but in a not-so-safe safe house in Pimlico, another district of the City of Westminster.

A supposed Met computer model reconstruction of the scene when Williams's body was found. Note how different this video-game-like scene is from the video of Williams's flat below the jump. Image Source: Breitbart.

Two rumours about Williams's death appeared in late summer 2015. In one story, he was named as the hacker in the Clinton diary hack. In another, a former Russian intelligence agent, now hiding in London (while chatting indiscreetly with the national press), claimed to have investigated the matter for personal reasons.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Unhacking the Reality of Russia's Troll Farms


Image Source: ritabrezkolin.

Recent posts on this blog have pointed to debates about how to verify memory, truth and reality. These are pressing questions. Mistaken arguments based on online information lead to outrageous conspiracy theories. These theories masquerade as products of verified data-gathering. Many people online are travelling further and further from truth, rationality and reality, while thinking they are doing exactly the opposite.  Can we map the philosophical distinctions and debates made between subjective perception and objective reality onto the distinctions between virtual reality and meatspace? How do we determine reality, based on evidence and experience from online communication and relationships? How do we write news and real-time history, and confirm events in reality, when all information, sources and historical authorities are suspect?

Image Source: Buzzfeed.

Later posts will seek to answer these questions. Today's post explores how dangerous continued confusion on these questions can be, starting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin's quest to rewrite post-Cold War history. One of the primary tools used in this regard is the establishment of so-called 'troll farms,' groups of social media actors employed by the Russian state to spread anti-American real- and faux-news that appears to come from domestic American man-on-the-street sources. This is an example of Stalinist disinformation techniques and the Russian state-media apparatus, targeting a rival national audience rather than its own.

Of course, in the Communications Revolution, everyone in governments, corporations, hackerspace and social media circles is gathering and playing with information. Today's focus on the Russian case does not deny the existence of trolls and hackers working for other powers and businesses. The point is to understand the dangers of Millennial propaganda - which is always cloaked in the pretense of its targets' commonly-held virtues - with this example. Trolls and troll farms can alter public opinion; worse: they can change their targets' perceptions of reality. They can change memory. They can change history. A great informational power struggle is taking place. The winners will define reality. On those foundations, anything can be built.

Vigilance in this regard means not just finding the evidence online which confirms the message with which you agree politically, or hearing the message you want to hear. It means hearing the message you do not want to hear, and considering it to be plausible. Unfortunately, healthy skepticism is now a breeding ground for anti-reality trolls, so caution is required on that front too. Algorithms on search engines now tailor our results based on earlier search histories, narrowing our worlds into smaller and smaller solipsistic bubbles, exposing us only to those with whom we easily agree. Rationalists believe that logically-aligned data provide solid conclusions to support their arguments. They do not, because all data are malleable. Hackers and whistleblowers supposedly topple evil authoritarian power structures by blowing them away with the cold, hard truth. Well, even if they do, does that mean that these actors are automatically 'good'? To what service do they put their revelations? And as with the links listed below about Russia troll farm whistleblowers, how can we be sure they are telling the truth?


The recent Pluto flyby revealed how instantaneous media have confused people about the real accomplishments of Big Science and space exploration. Some thought the flyby was faked, echoing the moon landing conspiracy theory and indicating a lack of confidence in information authorities and in photographs and videos as evidence. Some complained that there was no live feed from Pluto, showing zero understanding the immense distances involved and the related scientific challenges. The vast supply of online information on these subjects has provided no online education. Instead, it has provided a false sense of confidence about being 'right' in quasi-rationalized, self-righteous and communal ways.

Image Source: CStar.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Putin's Paradox


Image Source: Nine Inch News.

When there is a crisis of values, when consensus around a dominant narrative begins to dissolve, the world seeks an anti-hero. Vladimir Putin would like to be that anti-hero. This is a leader whose survival and success depend on ruthlessness, combined with a counter-factual gloss that obfuscates his darker acts (see the sobering details here, trumping the alleged Clinton body count (listed here, discredited here)). Where else could opposition leader Boris Nemtsov be shot this past February in Moscow's midnight, while business goes on as usual? That is the tip of the iceberg of the story of this man who is willing to do what others will not to steer Russia toward sole superpower status, combining with a friendly China in the race to the top, and supplanting the USA.


Putin is overtly a pragmatist and a strongman, and covertly a strategist and visionary. He uses whatever is useful from the western lexicon. For the rest of it, he speaks as the leader of the anti-western world. Putin's paradox depends on two psychological factors. First, western powers are blind to how and why opposition to the liberal democratic project works. Second, western powers depend on values of rationalized contracts, law and order, word of honour, rule of law. They have serious problems dealing with Putin's appetite for the counter-intuitive and anti-logical. In that realm, he can become a kind of Erlking, speaking the language of sane men in a primal context where such words have lost their meaning. Many of Putin's anti-logical acts make perfect emotional sense to his admirers. By any means, Putin intends to restore the international power of Russia and the dignity of the Russian people. Or so this counter-narrative alternate reality would have the people believe.

Erlking/After the Shower (2011) © Dominque Rey via SAAG. Image Source: Southern Alberta Art Gallery.

The Second World War and end of the Cold War established a now-contested consensus. These were western victories, only partly Russian. They created democratic liberal window dressing for global capitalism, combined with multicultural social welfare. Former Allies - including Russia - fought genocidal and tyrannical forces. Because the Nazi and Japanese acts to support imperial expansion were so horrific, it is inconceivable in the western mind that anyone would want to follow that path ever again. And because any alternative to this single-story consensus raises the Nazi spectre, the consensus created a bright, hard blindness about other ways of doing things. There is one way for civilized countries: the consensus. Anything else is beyond the limits. As Chimamanda Adichie explains in her TED talk linked above, a single story is dangerous and becomes oppressive, even when the story is benevolent (or thinks it is) and anti-oppressive. A single story demands other stories for balance. When a single story becomes dominant, like the western consensus narrative, then its dominance invites rebellion. And the rebellious story, even if it is tyrannical and murderous, will sound like a anti-oppression narrative.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Riding the Wheel of Fortune


Waterwheel at Daio Wasabi farm in Azumino, Nagano, Japan. The farm appeared in Akira Kurosawa's film, Dreams (1990; see film clip, below, and my previous posts on that film, here, here, and here). Image Source: Youtube.

Is time a circle? Sometimes, it looks as though the wheel turns and returns. The wheel of fortune represents two opposing things: a divination of the future, or luck at the roulette table. That means the wheel, which is also a symbol of human technology, mixes a message about the passage of time because it combines order with chaos. The wheel supposedly reveals the points where Fate meets Fortune. Looking at a problem linearly, we might believe the past is gone, done and fixed, indicating the path of future destiny. But if time is a circle, we can revisit the past, gamble again and change its story.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Rewrite the History of the 1960s


Unpacking the head of the Statue of Liberty (1885). Image Source.

This week, my post on Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder was highlighted on one of Gen X's best blogs, Are You There, God? It's Me, Generation X. While thanking Jennifer James and checking the other links she listed, I was struck by the way Generation X remains ensnared as an echo generation, its identity projected upon from the outside by a narcissistic Boomer narrative. Jen writes: "Part of my intention is to maintain a tiny space on the Internet where evidence of Gen X society can be preserved." Why is her mission such a struggle?

Head of the Statue of Liberty, displayed in 1878 after completion at the Third Universal Exhibition, or World's Fair, in Paris. It was exhibited in Paris for several years before being shipped to the United States. Image Source: Albert Fernique (born c. 1841, died 1898) / LOC via pinterest. Published in 1883 in Frédéric Bartholdi's Album des Travaux de Construction de la Statue Colossale de la Liberté destinée au Port de New-York (Paris).

The Boomer narrative, that blinkered, one-track view of history, started as a story about 1960s' youth counterculture and fighting for liberty from the establishment. Boomers' liberties made them into libertines, who erected a monument to their own whims and pleasures around the period from the 1967 Summer of Love through 1969. The entire world now seemingly turns around that temporal pivot. Sometimes, it is also treated as a historical bottleneck. For the post-war period, 1967-1969 becomes a shorthand for the social, political and economic history of what happened in developed countries, and everything must go through that chokepoint, as it relates to the Boomer story. But what if everything didn't go through that chokepoint? What if that is not the way things happened? What if other histories ran concurrently from the 1940s through to the present that go unacknowledged because they don't fit the generational story? What if this is not a story about generations at all? What if you can find millions of individuals who don't fit the generational idea, and what if constructing a whole new social order around social alignments based on horizontal categories like 'age' is fake? If any of these suggestions are possible, then the history of the 1960s needs to be radically overturned and rewritten.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Counting Down to Hallowe'en: Virtual Reality, Unexplained


Still from the Wyoming Incident (2006). Image Source: Crushable.

Explore the faked and the unexplained in the mass media and you enter a realm which is one part crime and one part law enforcement, where disinformation mingles identity theft with social control, vigilantism and espionage.

Image Source: imgur.

"A computer-generated 10-year-old Filipina called 'Sweetie' was used to identify over 1,000 child sex predators around the world. An Australian man has become the first person convicted from the operation, the rights group behind it said." (2014) Image Source: Business Insider.

Fake identities and Internet stings give way to the unaccountable. There are things out there on the Web which are just 'out there,' with no explanation. Some are anonymous experiments in mass communications. Post something weird, see what happens. What kinds of urban legends form? How quickly? From reddit:
Some people post frightening material to trick the unsuspecting. Take the Wyoming incident in 2006 and 2007, in which pranksters posted cryptic videos with frightening messages (see below). These videos supposedly carried forward footage from an earlier television broadcast signal intrusion onto the new medium of the Interent. Speculation on the meanings and origins of the videos went viral, and a strange blog, Unknown Videos - Warning, joined in the fun before it turned out that the clips of earlier television hacking and the new videos online were faked. You can read the account of the incident on Crushable here. If you want to explore more bizarre faked online horror, visit the Website Creepy Pasta - the term refers to creepy stories which float around the Interwebs. Note: some viewers may find the videos below the jump to be disturbing.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Anniversaries: Hiroshima in Colour


This week (August 6 and 9) marks the 69th anniversaries of the US atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There were two terrible legacies from the Second World War, never fully understood, which became mainstream post-war and were insidiously repurposed into false positives. The first legacy involved discoveries made around social control, derived from Nazi propaganda and the Holocaust. The other legacy was nuclear.

The latter paved the way for the Cold War, atomic weaponry and the 'green' nuclear energy industry. Nuclear tests, such as 1954's Castle Bravo (above), punctuated a line of technological developments which eventually led to the rise of the Internet. At that point, the two legacies came full circle and reunited: the Atomic Age gave birth to the Digital Age.

Image Source: PBS via ENE Energy News.

These underground continuities are rarely recognized, but they are all around us; they include the most recent Fukushima headline - that 11,000 metric tonnes of subterranean trench water containing uranium and plutonium are leaking into the Pacific. Finally, on 6 August 2014, PBS reported that the China Syndrome is indeed occurring, and the radioactive core is exposed to ground water. In 2011, commentators estimated that the molten core - which is basically radioactive lava - could melt through the concrete floor of the plant within hours. The report claims that the core - in Reactor #3? - has melted two feet into the ten-foot concrete floor (or further? and in which of the three reactors?), although how this reassuring fact has been confirmed is a mystery:
3:30 – Miles O’Brien, PBS: Three of [Fukushima Daiich's] cores are now melted down, still steaming hot, their steel containment structures breached. Engineers believe some of the nuclear fuel has melted right through the steel containment vessels on to a concrete basement floor, where it is exposed to groundwater. [...] Each and every day, about 100,000 gallons of fresh groundwater seeps into the basements of the plant, where it becomes contaminated with a witch’s brew of radionuclide. [...] No one disputes the plant is steadily leaking radiation-tainted water into the sea. ...

14:05 — Masuda: Unfortunately, the fuel itself is exposed.
14:10 - O’Brien: Melted through?
14:15 — Masuda: Melted through the pressure vessel, and coming down to this room and it goes down to the floor.
If you think PBS ran this story on the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing by coincidence, you are not paying attention. The Japanese hope to invent robots which can remove the radioactive melted cores at the Daiichi plant by 2020. In the meantime, expect continuous pollution of the atmosphere and the Pacific Ocean.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Boomer Legacies: End of the Vietnam War



The blog is on a break right now, but for today, see some images and music commemorating the end of the Vietnam War, 39 years ago on 30 April 1975. This day is celebrated in Vietnam as Liberation Day or Reunification Day to mark when Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troops captured Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) from the South Vietnamese and the Americans.

Views of the war, also known as the Second Indochina War (1956-1975), are skewed by the fact that it stands at the crossroads of a huge counter-cultural revolution in the west. For the American government, participation was part of a strategy to contain Communist states. But the more complex causes of the war involved local Asian and anti-French conflicts exploding after the post-World-War-II revival, and subsequent collapse, of French Indochina in the First Indochina War (1946-1954).

Friday, January 17, 2014

Millennial Cultures of Belief


Jan. 7, 2014. White whales and their trainers present a show for visitors at Harbin Pole Aquarium in Harbin, China. Image Source: Lintao Zhang—Getty Images via Time.

For many today, this is a secular age. Yet everywhere, we base our actions on belief. Popular investment in the system depends on faith. Every time you get on an airplane, you are participating in a culture of belief; you are trusting the credentials, training and abilities of the pilot and co-pilot; the company which hired them and which maintains the airplane; and the company which built the machine in the first place. You have to believe that they will collectively see you through to the arrivals gate at the other end of your journey. You are placing your life in their hands for a few precious hours. To travel by air, you have to believe you will survive.

Faith transmits an individual's power into the system. On the basis of belief, we offer our ability to work, think and function - the whole span of a personal lifetime - to every facet of larger society. Institutions and governments demand the same trust as an airline, but extend the period of trust across decades. In exchange for accepting these structures, as well as cultural and sub-cultural products marketed as mass and niche norms, we develop relationships and communities which support us. We participate in economies which should support us. The political, economic, social, institutional, business and governmental systems are worth as much faith as we give them. And if we stop believing in them, their power dwindles down, sometimes to nothing, and migrates elsewhere.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Counting Down in North Korea


"Kim Jong-un climbs into the saddle as he inspects the training ground of a horse riding company of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Unit 534 at an undisclosed place in North Korea." Image Source: KNS/AFP/Getty Images via the Telegraph.

As far as modern media go, North Korea is a testing ground. In the Age of Communications, North Korea is one of the few places on earth where there is no constant feed of data with the surrounding, outside world. The state still controls its population with 20th-century-totalitarian-style propaganda.

North Koreans' only exposure to the outside world is through pirated DVDs, which are having an impact on attitudes in the country. As one North Korean 2010 defector put it in 2012, "I was told when I was young that South Koreans are very poor, but the South Korean dramas proved that just isn’t the case." The main report on this issue comes from Intermedia in 2012 and is entitled: A Quiet Opening: North Koreans in a Changing Media Environment:
Global watchdog organizations such as Freedom House and Re­porters Without Borders routinely rank the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) as the country with the least free media in the world. Indeed, for more than half a century, North Ko­rea’s leaders have relied on a domestic media monopoly to control what information North Koreans can access and how narratives around that information are presented. But the situation on the ground is changing, thanks in large part to North Koreans’ expanding access to unsanctioned foreign media and information sources. ...

The project’s assessment of the current state of the media environ­ment in North Korea suggests that substantial numbers of North Koreans are able to access various forms of foreign media. These include foreign TV and radio broadcasts, and particularly foreign DVDs brought into the country from China by cross-border traders and smugglers. Other vectors for information from abroad include smuggled mobile phones capable of receiving foreign signals, and the exchange of illicit foreign content on otherwise legal MP3/MP4 players and USB drives.
Even the secretive régime is changing part of its Stalinist approach and has its own Youtube channel, here. This is odd, since most North Koreans don't have access to the Internet, which means that the channel is aimed at foreigners. Kim Jong-un has approved strange media events, such as an American basketball exhibition game, promoted by Dennis Rodman.

The Technological Revolution has sparked social and political upheavals across the globe. Will Millennial revolutions reach North Korea as well? Observers feel that they are counting down to a change for this communist dictatorship. Can online media expose and realign the ruling dynasty's power relationships? Kim family members vary in their engagement with the modern media. Most live completely outside the public eye. Others show a slowly developing media savvy.

Some commentators speculate, with Kim Jong-un's recent effort to "eliminate factionalist filth," that conflict between North Korea and its neighbours is inevitable in 2014. They argue that external conflict could unite the country's leadership and halt the pace of change.

As far as uniting the leadership goes, those commentators may be wrong. North Korea began 2013 with apocalyptic nuclear threats, and the Americans responded late in the year by flying nuclear-capable B-52 bombers over the Korean peninsula. Critics argue that the Americans have been threatening North Korea with the 'Hiroshima Doctrine' for fifty years. The North Korean leadership seems to have taken a message from the 2013 Korean Crisis. This year's New Year's news in relation to the outside world was quieter, but from inside the Hermit Kingdom, there are reports of internal dissent at the top, of hair-raising purges and possibly-attempted palace coups.

In December 2013: "Very good likelihood of survival: Kim Jong-un with his aunt Kim Kyong-hui." In January 2014, those odds dropped for Kim's aunt, who has lately suffered from ill health. Image Source: AP via Sydney Morning Herald.

When patriarch and leader Kim Jong-il died in 2011, the world's press assumed that his youngest son and heir would fall under the sway of his paternal aunt, Kim Kyong-hui and her husband Jang Sung-taek. What happened next over the following two years is unclear. State news blackouts foster a black market in information, the more grim and outlandish, the better. Jang was later sensationally arrested by Kim Jong-un's elder brother Kim Jong-chul. Almost no other country could then have a rumour circulated that Jang was stripped naked, along with five aides, and executed by 120 starving dogs in December 2013 - and have people believe it. Other reports state that Jang and his aides were executed with anti-aircraft machine guns.

On 24 December 2013, the Sydney Morning Herald thought, nevertheless, that the leader's aunt, Kim Kyong-hui's chances of survival were still "very good." But on 7 January 2014, the National Post reported (via the Chosun Ilbo newspaper) that Jang's wife has died either by heart attack or suicide; she last appeared in the international press in December. Her daughter, Jang Kum-song, Kim Jong-un's first cousin, committed suicide in Paris while studying there in 2006, after her parents opposed a marital proposal.

"Kim Jong Il’s half-brother, Kim Pyong Il, with daughter [Eun Song] and son [In Kang]." (2007) Image Source: Daily NK.

Starving dogs or no starving dogs, the leader's family members are dying off. The Sydney Morning Herald reported:
In the mid-18th century, Korea was ruled by King Yeongjo, who governed according to austere Confucian principles. One day, he began to hear reports that his son, Crown Prince Sado, was addicted to wine and women; more worryingly, Sado would wander the streets at night, randomly committing murder. There were even rumours that Sado sought to overthrow the king and seize power. Fearing for the safety of his kingdom but unable to order the death of his own son, Yeongjo ordered him placed outside in a box used for the storage of rice. Most Koreans know what happened to the "rice box prince," as Sado later came to be known - he died of starvation and suffocation, as those in the palace heard his cries for help. Fast-forward 250 years later, and we're back asking the same question: Is blood really thicker than water?
You may want to keep track of the rest of the family. Kim Jong-il had "one younger sister Kim Kyung Hee [now deceased] (married to Jang Sung Taek [now deceased]) as well as half-brothers (to different mothers) Kim Pyong Il [above, with his children], Kim Young Il (deceased 2000) and half-sister Kim Kyung Jin (51, married to Kim Kwang Sup, Ambassador to Austria [in 2007])." If you want to know more, check out the blog, North Korea Leadership Watch, which has profiles on family members. It also has information on the Party brass, the generals, and figures in North Korea's security apparatus.

Kim Jong-nam was the heir apparent in North Korea's leading communist dynasty until 2001. Image Source: NPR.

Kim Jong-un's oldest brother, Kim Jong-nam, fell out of favour with his father in 2001 when he was caught secretly attempting to visit Japan to see Tokyo's Disneyland; he was traveling under a "Dominican Republic Passport while using the Chinese name Pang Xiong (which means 'fat bear')." He "was [also] known as a 'familiar figure' at a bathhouse in Yoshiwara, which is one of Tokyo’s red light districts." There are rumours that his uncle was executed in December 2013 for secretly meeting with him. The 42-year-old playboy lives in Macau, the last European colony in Asia, which was Portuguese territory until 1999. In 2010, a South Korean reporter cornered the disgraced heir against an elevator in the Altira Hotel in Macau:
A JoongAng Sunday reporter confronted Jong-nam, 39, in the 10th-floor elevator bank of the Altira Hotel after a late-morning meal with an unidentified woman, who looked to be a Korean in her 20s. He had previously given interviews to the Hong Kong and Japanese press, but for South Korean media it was a first.

Jong-nam appeared cool as he allowed his picture to be taken, blue Ferragamo loafers and all. But he kept the talk and his answers short.

Asked how he had been, he said, “Fine, now are you satisfied?”

As to rumors that he had been telling people in Macau that heir-apparent Kim Jong-un, who was born in 1984 (although North Korean media last year reported he was born in 1982), is the son of one of his father’s mistresses, and thus should be out of the line of succession, he replied “I do not have any idea of what you just said.”
Kim Jong-nam now feels that his younger brother, aged 30, will not last long as dictator and he advocates reform in his country, with improved relations with South Korea.

Kim Jong-nam's son, the leader's nephew, Han-sol, sparked a scandal in 2011 when South Korean media discovered his Facebook page. Gawker:
South Korean media discovered Kim Jong-Il's grandson's Facebook page on Saturday and are having a field day picking over his blog and photo galleries. Turns out he's just a geeky high schooler who likes American movies and gets in comments flame wars. ...

Han Sol's blog posts and Facebook status updates also caused a stir, as they seem to be at odds, politically with his grandfather. According to the Chosunilbo, he posted a poll on his Facebook account asking if people preferred Democracy over communism, saying he liked the former. This is not surprising, given that Han Sol's father was exiled from North Korea over his pro-Western leanings. But pretty sure grandpa would purge him for less than that!

Han Sol had a couple Twitter accounts as well, and a blog (all since deleted)—the blog listed Love Actually and Remember the Titans as his favorite movies, and his interests as traveling, photography and "spa." Good to see he's not taking after his grandfather and secretly building nuclear weapons in his spare time.

However, Han Sol apparently shares Kim Jong Il's distate for Americans, as evidenced by a long flame war he apparently got in with someone named NickyAmerica in the comments section of a YouTube video posted to North Korea's official account. "Fuck off fatty," he tells NickyAmerica…. "go drop your cigarette and your cheesburger and go read a book. I'd suggest you to go study some geography."
Han-sol gave an interview to a Finnish TV network in Bosnia in 2012. The 17-year-old said:
"I’ve always dreamed that one day I would go back and make things better and make it easier for the people there. ... It’s really sad I can’t go to the other side (South Korea) ... . But we can, if we put in a little effort, step-by-step, come to a conclusion and unite."
In April 2013, Bosnian media reported that Kim Han-sol had gone missing. But reports from December 2013 stated that he had resurfaced under police protection in Paris where he is studying at Sciences-Po. You can see the 2012 interview with him below the jump.