Search
Ideas | Images Live Here

 

 

Powered by Squarespace
"Like" Facebook status $16 1919 419 Advance Fee Fraud 72 virgins accuracy afterlife Aki Kaurismäki Alberta Alcatraz Alchemist Alchemy algorithm all-knowing Andrew Keeling Andrew Rawlinson apparatchik Arab Spring archive art art criticism art theory Assam Assiniboine River atheism ATLAS auction baby names Battle of Marengo BB shot Ben Gurion betrayal Beverly Rowbotham Bible bicephalic Bing blues Bollingen Bolsheviks Boxing Day Boxing Week Boxing Year brain Buddhism bullshit bureaucrat Cairo California Guitar Trio Canada Carl Matheson Carlos Fuentes centre of being CERN CG Jung Chagas Disease Charles Frederick Gray Charles Hartshorne Cheerios chimpanzee China Christmas Christopher Hitchens church CMS cocking a snook Conrad Black conscience Constancia core organic search creativity criminal code critical realism crowds and power crowdsourcing crucifixion cruelty Danielle Smith David Roberts death degrangement democracy dentist died Drama Centre driftwood Eden Eduard Munch eduskunta Egypt election Elemental Particles elias canetti eon Epistemology era essay essayist existentialism F-35 Facebook fake news fakhir falsehoods filter bubble finland First International Conference on Multiple Partonic Interactions at LHC Franz Kafka Free Press Freedom of Association Friends Friendship Frippertronics fun G.I. Gurdjieff gamma waves gangs drug violence gender equality general strike Gethsemane Global Sunday Globe Mail God Golgotha Google Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew government Guantanamo happiness Harry G Frankfurt Hartshorne Heritage Canada Higgs Boson hit hitting horse diaper Hosni Mubarak hunchback Huxingting Tea House hyper irony ideas immortality Income Tax innocence of muslims Ipsos Reid J.G. Bennett Jane Goodall Institute jean valjean Jesus Christ Jiffy journalism Judas Iscariot juice Justin Trudeau keisaku stick King Crimson Kingston kiss of peace La vie de Boheme Large Hadron Collider Lavengro left-handed leone vivante l'oiel de Gabes love Lucian Freud Machiavelli manger Manitoba Mark Stobbe market Matthieu Ricard maudlin Maxwell's Sorting Demon metaphor Mexico millisecond mindfulness mokhtar belmokhtar monk murder Myanmar Nanosecond narcissistic personality disorder nativity Natural Person neuroscience New York Times newspaper circulation nihilism no loitering objet trouve ontological argument ontology opinion Osama bin Laden ouagadougou P.D. Ouspensky pain painter painting paintings panpsychism Paolo Gabriele Pentonville Peter Higgs Peter Miller phenomenalism philosophy Picosecond Pierce Brosnan Planck Time Unit Plato PMO post-truth Post-Truth.News Prime Ministers Office Prismatic public execution Public Safety pudding palace qatar raccoon recipes Rasputin repeating names Robert Fripp Rodeo roses Saint Nick Samuel Beckett Santa Claus satori Savoy scream search engine optimization Second Law of Thermodynamics security SEO Sigma 5 sirhan sirhan skateboard sorrow sotheby Soundscapes space flight Spinoza Standard Model Physics Statistics Canada Stephen Cave stolen Svedberg Syria T.S. Elliot Tahrir Square television The Coon Hunters Handbook The God Particle The Simpsons The Wine of Silence The World's Happiest Man top secret trial trout Trump Trump.Rodeo Truth in Advertising tyranny University of Manitoba Via Dolorosa Vic Toews victims violence Viva Mi Fama voters wabi-sabi Whole Grains Wildrose William Klassen Winnipeg Wolseley women Wormwood Scrubs writer writing Yoctosecond Zen

 

     

tumblr visit counter
 

Entries in crowds and power (2)

Thursday
Jan122017

Post-Truth News

 

 We stand in awe at the power of the crowd - the phenomenon of assembly and disassembly, of unification and fracture - the power of the crowd in the digital space and elsewhere, to come together and to unleash itself for better or worse, good or ill.

We've reached the point where a seemingly evolved western democratic culture has embraced a pathology of derangement so severe that politics no longer functions at the level of rational discourse.  There is a crisis of credibility and integrity. Contributing to this trouble is the fact that a previous emphasis on fact-finding and accuracy in the news media has been usurped by millions of content producers churning out free-floating opinion. The result is that truthfulness has been upended by puffed-up histrionics, fear-stoking, spin and pants-on-fire lies. You could say truth has been trumped.

It is amazing to me how ubiquitous is today's news and how everyone is a publisher.
 
The theorist Jean Baudrillard suggested decades ago that “we live in a world where there is more and more information, and less and less meaning."

Our shortened attention span and addiction to the novelty of the next digital stimulus leaves us open to manipulators who exploit the fissures of division between groups. Such a millieu provides a more than sufficient opportunity for disinformation: "You are FAKE NEWS!"

It also opens the door for any opinion to hold sway over the crowd, no matter how dangerous or poorly formed. Everyone can find their personal truths reflected in the iridescent patina of the web. The internet is a filter bubble. It is an echo chamber. It's is a personalized algorithm that feeds on itself and we are seduced by the glitter of our own digitized universe.

This disruption and exploitation was articulated by the Italian Communist Antonio Gramsci who said in his prison diaries: "The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear."

It's easy to be smug, here in Canada. We should not be. Bend low your ear to the rumblings: hear the long-simmering cri de coeur rise up from both right and left. Not just a few restless voices are emboldened as once-firm bedrock shifts.

Looking to our neighbours to the south, we hope it all ends OK. It's sometimes tempting to look away and try to not watch. But then, like that car crash in front of your house - you can't avert your gaze. It's a bit like the cavity in your tooth. It's painful to stick your tongue in there. But you can't stop sticking your tongue in there.

As Andrew Sullivan observes, this inability to look away from the crisis, to detach from the emergency, is one of the proofs that autocrac rule is gnawing at the very heart of western democratic institutions and values: "One of the great achievements of free society in a stable democracy is that many people, for much of the time, need not think about politics at all ... because we live under the rule of law, we can afford to turn the news off at times." How exquisitely ironic it is, then, that in a time of diminished confidence in news media that an anxious public turns to this very news media for information, a media which is, itself, also diminished, untrustworthy and unhinged.

This is particularly dangerous in the age of personality driven politics. And so what are we to make of this figure who occupies the centre of the cyclone to the south of us, from which we cannot look away? There are those who dispute it, but watching him, my own unqualified diagnosis would be narcissistic personality disorder triggered by low self-esteem. This can be measured by micrometer - you can gauge the thinness of the skin. That's because for the narcissist, like the Sultan of Delhi, there is no real communion with others. The same psychosis applies to the Jihadi narcissists who declare war in the name of God.

Elias Canetti describes the ascendancy of the manipulative power figure in his book Crowds and Power, as well as the psychosis itself. It is the seeker chasing glorification of his own Name: "Names collect their own crowds ... The crowd which the seeker after fame envisages consists of shadows, that is, of creatures who do not even have to be alive as long as they are capable of one thing, which is to repeat his name."

Friends, it all appears to be unfolding in the manner of a horses ass no matter which way you look at it. The wild ride is underway. So we are keeping the internet domain name Trump.Rodeo which has been put on a loop to here until a future utility for it unfolds.

(Image - After Amano - Digitized watercolour and ink on paper - David Roberts)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday
Sep282012

Hunchback Of The Hour


Finnish citizens can go online to force their national parliament, the Eduskunta, to vote on any citizen-led proposal, providing the citizens can garner at least 50,000 digital voices.

 

The initiative is being hailed as a milestone, crowdsourced digital democracy in action.

 

This is our world: interconnected, social, mobile and – take note – driven by technology and by the crowd.

 

I stand in awe of the power of the crowd, which seems anxious to respond decisively to any of the incessant provocations that echo across the digital domain.


Atop the minaret

 

The digital tribe is a force for good when it responds, for example, to natural disaster in Haiti or Japan. The power of the crowd is evident in the squares of Tunis and Cairo as the old guard, if just briefly, is brought to heel. Mass action by the Occupy Movement, street demonstrations by thousands in Quebec - these too are mobilized with the aid of instant messaging. Not to diminish the dignity of the individual and his anger, but the Arab street, recently called to protest the film Innocence of Muslims is beckoned to the public square not just by the loudspeaker atop the minaret but also by text message. And, as I witness mass disruption in journalism and publishing - since everyone now is a writer and everyone, now, is a publisher - I see the traditional, legacy media caught in the public square and challenged there by the wisdom of the crowd.

 

This has me reflecting on the alacrity of technology, its' impact and mediated power to provoke us to acts of kindness or cruelty. The crowd holds the power to transform, to build, to rescue and repair. The crowd holds the power to incite, to maim, and to obliterate. The mediated, mass, digitized crowd can be herded down either path.


The Siege of Paris by Moonlight

 

In history, when mobs laid siege to Paris by moonlight, where they converged on the Bastille or took up their knitting before the guillotine, you could at least see the whites of their eyes as the crowd became puffed with power. The crowd can be swift, its' vengeance awesome. Today, the mediated crowd can be just as vengeful but also anonymous.

 

We can classify the crowd according to their prevailing emotion. As Nobel laureate Elias Canetti shows in his book Crowds and Power, crowds can be very irrational. These days you need simply look here.

 

So, what is the difference between the 1789 Lafarge storming the Bastille and the digitized Lafarge leading the crowd into the fray via a keyboard campaign on FB, Twitter or SMS? Both the 1789 crew and the modern one reach a moment of discharge, as Canetti calls it, where individual power is safely transferred into the mass anonymity of the many.

 

But consider for a moment the tyrannical power of the crowd.

 

Not long ago I was compelled to reach out to a lonesome outcast, a modern hunchback of sorts who had been pilloried and gutted by the social media cowards and, dammit, by the mainstream mass media too.

 

But it was the social media campaign organized against this contemporary Quasimodo that caught my attention, as the poor soul must have felt like the loneliest being on earth. The digital froth and frenzy against him had all the trappings of a Medieval public execution, the crowd lusting for blood.

 

Although we had never met, I extended my hand to Quasimodo: assuring him via email that while this dark moment had come to pass - it had not come to stay. He replied with great courtesy, obviously relieved to hear a lone whisper of support across the cold canyons of estrangement.

 

And though I assured him that things could not possibly get worse, things then got worse.

 

With each passing hour the crescendo of calls for his head became louder, more virulent, more persistent. Blog posts and thousands of voices on Twitter and Facebook, cackled with condemnation. A few days more and the swarming, frenzied, crowd reached its climax. “He is just a terrible human being,” one Facebook user said of our poor hombre, who was by now the loneliest man in Dodge, an absolute outsider, the hunchback of the hour.

 

I could only imagine how for our hunchback this would have been a moment of complete estrangement from society and humanity. I sent him another note. He seemed moved almost to tears.


It's cleaner now

 

Whether it's the bloodlust of the internet crowd or the rabble assembling in the square for the public execution, in either instance the swarm-crowd risks nothing. “There is no risk because the crowd have immense superiority on their side. The victim can do nothing to them. He is either bound or in flight, and cannot hit back; in his defenselessness he is victim only,” says Canetti.

 

Writing in 1960, Canetti noted that in the mid 20th C everyone was able to participate in the collective killing via the newspapers. Things were a little cleaner than in the old days, the crowd more distant from the actual event, but the psychology remained the same. No risk: “We are not responsible for the sentence, nor for the journalists who report the execution, nor for the papers which print them.”

 

Today, the print version of the newspaper is pretty much dead, but the crowd has reified. The digital crowd will form, do its business, only to vanish again into cyberspace - all the while calling for the victim's severed head. Since this crowd does not even have to assemble, it escapes disintegration and lives to find its next victim or villian, hero or hunchback of the hour.

 

Recommended: Elias Canetti Crowds and Power, 496 pp, Farrar ISBN-10 037451820

 

(Top Image: David Roberts The Siege of Paris by Moonlight 30 x 20 A/P Giclee | Inserted Image: David Roberts The Weight of Heaven 16 x 12  watercolours)