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 Propaganda. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Propaganda. Show all posts

Monday, March 3, 2014

Breaking Newspeak's Faustian Bargains

Image Source: Escapist Magazine.

In the new Millennium, online surveillance comes hand-in-hand the media's external imposition upon, and transformation of, internal thought. It is not news that Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) has arrived as a horrendous reality, although the UK is not yet known merely as Airstrip One. In some ways, the arrival is so horrendous that a portion of the public lives day by day in denial or willful ignorance, because it is easier to believe that things are not as bad as that. On 3 March 2014, Toronto Star columnist reported on the GCHQ collection of Yahoo users' video feeds and insisted, yes, it is as bad as that; we are living in a science fiction novel, where our own word processors are subject to outside control:
Whenever British journalist Luke Harding, working on his new book about spying whistleblower Edward Snowden, wrote something disparaging about the NSA, a weird thing would happen.
“The paragraph I had just written began to self-delete. The cursor moved rapidly from the left, gobbling text. I watched my words vanish,” Harding wrote in the Guardian this week.
The deletes kept happening for weeks. “All authors expect criticism,” wrote Harding, author of the new and astounding The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man. “But criticism before publication by an anonymous, divine third party is something novel.”
Finally, Harding politely asked whoever was doing it to consider stopping. A month later, they finally did.
He has no idea who did this. Were they American or British, a hacker or an offended National Security Agency analyst? We know they were reading Harding’s words as they were written but were they also watching him via a Skype-like device?
The news that GCHQ— the British surveillance agency that teams with the NSA and spy agencies in other allied “Five Eyes” nations, including Canada — has been intercepting and storing Yahoo webcam chats globally is eerie. We knew they could read what you typed, we suspect they can do this in real time, but now the massive Snowden leaked papers reveal that they can watch you talking to your nearest and dearest. Worse, you may have been naked at the time.
A program codenamed Optic Nerve gathered millions of stills from webcam chats between 2008 and 2010 and sent them in for viewing. In one six-month period alone, Optic Nerve scooped up images from more than 1.8 million Yahoo accounts around the world, the Guardian has reported.
Yahoo says it knew nothing of this.
In effect, people’s computer screens have become devices from Nineteen Eighty-Four where humans watch a screen that watches them back. But at least Winston Smith knew he was being watched.
In case you would like to know, the word processor that Guardian journalist Luke Harding was using was OpenOffice, which plainly lives up to its name. The Guardian has been in the thick of the Snowden leaks from the beginning. Harding admits that the entire staff felt paranoid. This post asks whether Orwell's dystopia is really here; or whether his Nineteen Eighty-Four world can still become a 'near miss,' a terrible alternate history that can still be narrowly avoided.

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.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Subliminal Slavery of the Subconscious Self

Revlon ad altered to highlight seeming subliminal death imagery. Image Source: Subliminal Manipulation.

The other day, I caught a telltale momentary flicker on the television and wondered - with some uneasiness - what subliminal message I had just seen. The history of subliminal messages is bound up with the rise of mass democracy. The manipulation of the hidden depths of individual psychology, the cult of the self, the obsession with subjectivity, moral relativism and self-love that intensified through the 20th century and crested with the movements of the Baby Boomers, all involved techniques to manipulate, control, and profit from, the masses. Now, we should wonder how those techniques and ideas are carrying over into the virtual reality that the Web is becoming.