ZIZEK AND I

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Now the politics of the Great Seduction is truly out of the bag.  In a provocative piece in In These Times, cultural iconoclast Slavoj Zizek gets to the political heart of the digital matter. Zizek explains why post French revolutionary political categories of left wing and right wing don’t work anymore. The reason, Zizek explains, is that the digital revolution has changed the moral and economic language of politics. The old left/right divide now is digital versus analog.

Zizek’s analysis is so breathtakingly simple that everyone missed it. Here he is explaining how the digital elite are now indistinguishable from communists:

"So who are these liberal communists? The usual gang of suspects: Bill Gates and George Soros, the CEOs of Google, IBM, Intel, eBay, as well as court-philosophers like Thomas Friedman. What makes this group interesting is that their ideology is becoming indistinguishable from that of Antonio Negri, who has praised postmodern digital capitalism, which, according to Negri, is becoming almost indistinguishable from communism. By Negri’s reckoning, both the old Right—with its ridiculous belief in authority, order and parochial patriotism—and the old Left—with its big Struggle against Capitalism—are the true conservatives today, completely out of touch with the new realities as they fight their shadow-theatre struggles."

Zizek is right (and left). The new divide in political and cultural life is between the digital elite and the old Right and the old Left. Zizek is on the analog left, I am on the analog right. I still have that “ridiculous” belief in authority, order and parochial patriotism; the good soldier Zizek is still struggling against Capitalism. But Zizek and I are united by our common opposition to digital culture. We stand arm-in-arm against the digital elites at Google, IBM, Intel and eBay with their collective nostalgia for 1968 and their love of humanitarian crises:

"There is no single exploited Working Class today, only concrete problems to be solved, such as starvation in Africa, the plight of Muslim women or religious fundamentalist violence. When there is a humanitarian crisis in Africa—and liberal communists love humanitarian crises, they bring out the best in them!—"

Zizek gets to core of the liberal communist Silicon Valley ethic. Think of the boys at Google, particularly Larry Page who, on the one hand, is happy to do business with the Chinese communist government and, on the other hand, wants to provide all African children with $100 laptop computers to do their email and their online shopping. To quote Zizek, the Larry Pages’ of the world are:

"Above all, liberal communists see themselves as true citizens of the world, good people who worry. They worry about populist fundamentalists and irresponsible, greedy corporations. They see the “deeper causes” of today’s problems, the mass poverty and hopelessness that breed fundamentalist terror. So their goal is not to earn money, but to change the world (and, in this way, as a by-product, make even more money)."

Zizek is against the digital elite for their moral hypocrisy of simultaneously making fortunes out of globalization and then returning some of those profits dressed up as humanitarian projects. My opposition to the digital elite stems from the destructive moral and cultural consequences of their technological utopianism.

Neither Zizek or I like “good people who worry.” I don’t much care for “good” people since they usually end up being bad. Zizek wants good people to be really “good” and not make profit from the global capitalist market. Zizek and I make odd bedfellows in a political world where the old left/right divide is fast becoming digital versus analog. 

SPANKING MY SPACE

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After noting the morally dubious nature of My Space yesterday, I picked up the Wall Street Journal this morning to read an article by Julia Angwin and Brian Steinberg about News Corp’s move to defend its expensive new acquisition. According to WSJ, My Space is full of “swinging” teenagers.

Well, surprise, surprise.

Apparently, “My Space users post sexually explicit photos and list activities such as swinging and spanking among their interests. Oh my God. Kids these days are SO much more depraved than their AOL chat room addicted parents.

The problem, as the WSJ says, is that News Corp wants to “retain My Space’s cool factor.” So Rupert Murdoch has two choices: either maintain the sexually dodgy nature of My Space and retain its 36 million users (8th most visited site on the Internet); or do-the-right-thing and instigate a moral clean-up, thereby losing most of those 36 million users and recycling that $580 million he paid for My Space in one of his uncharacterically all-too-human moments of irrational exuberance.

“We’re going to take some pretty dramatic steps to provide industry-leading safety,” said Ross Levinshohn, president of News Corp’s Fox Interactive Media unit.

Cool, Ross, cool. A firm hand, that’s what needed, with the swingers, the spankers and the spanked. Here are some dramatic, if not necessarily pretty, suggestions:

  • Spank the My Space swingers.
  • Swing the My Space spankers.
  • Spank Rupert Murdoch in real-time – as a new media spectacle on behalf of all those poor little old ladies who own News
    Corp stock.

Speaking of public spankings, everyone should read Saturday’s Financial Times flogging of the blogosphere by the very talented Trevor Butterworth. At long last we are seeing some more intelligent media coverage on the Web 2.0 nonsense.

Butterworth sent me a most entertaining note yesterday about the great Web 2.0 seduction:


“I was reminded of Richard Rorty’s liberal utopia where everyone was a poet constructing stories that are useful and interesting freed from metaphysical illusion of truth…Yes the blogosphere, a giant mfa program where all effort is equally applauded. LOL. However – -if you noted some of the comments on the
hastily conceived FTMag blog – my guess is that there’s a couple of
asteroids assuming a trajectory that will obliterate the Internet as we know it… the telecom clamp down and the media corp crack down on content aggregators…

Butterfield nailed it: the blogosphere as a giant mfa program. And not a very good one at that. Iowa State or, worse still, Stanford.

And to learn more about those asteroids which will obliterate the Internet, a spankingly entertaining conversation with Butterfield will appear on afterTV in the next couple of weeks.