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Posts Tagged ‘journalism’

IMG_20171015_165153_processedAs a rule of thumb it’s best to assume there’s more behind the day’s headlines than we know, or could ever imagine. Trump and BREXIT have dominated UK current affairs for years now, both of them beginning as little things we did not believe could happen, but which went on to happen in a big way, to the extent they have now mired the western world in crises too numerous to be unpicked here – even if I knew how.

I had thought it the result of a kind of cyclical madness, that once every couple of generations, the veneer of political stability naturally fell apart, that it was a kind of madness too that we could become normalised to what is now, frankly, a bewildering state of world affairs. But the picture emerging of the story behind this story, is not one of collective madness at all, more one of a concerted and clandestine campaign of disinformation and psychological warfare – specifically, the deployment of techniques developed to win over the hearts and minds of an enemy, or failing that to collapse their will, and therefore their resistance, to ideas and to forces they might otherwise see as harmful. In this case, the enemy is us, the civilian populations of the UK, Europe and the United States.

It was achieved through the medium of the truly Orwellian Visiphone, one many of us carry, all the time – our phones, our laptops, our swish tablet computers. They watch us, they look, listen, take note of the things we like, the things we don’t like, and make predictions based upon that data – what else we might like, or how we might be persuaded to like or not to like certain things. It logs our every step, everywhere we go, and how often. It makes note of our contacts. It can even make predictions of the likelihood of our committing future crimes, the likelihood we belong to an ethnic, religious or sexual minority group, the likelihood we are to the left or the right of the political divide.

Those deploying such weapons are not governments. ‘They’ are the plutocrats who own the world’s money, the unimaginably rich whose goal it is to further consolidate control of the world’s money flows. They have done this since the dawn of time by partly infiltrating and lobbying government, by funding and effectively blackmailing politicians into obedience, and more lately by owning and deploying with deadly effect that most recent Pandora’s box of nefarious possibility – Big Data.

Big Data is everything conceivably knowable about you and me, and we give it away in exchange for the convenient services we are offered in return – essentially messaging, information, entertainment and navigation via our Visiphones. Want to play that crazy cat game? You have to sign away all objections to your data being harvested first. Sounds dodgy? It is. But you know what? We do it anyway.

We have been at war for a long time without realising it. It’s basically a class war like no other ever waged in history, and we’re losing it. Worse, I see no heroes coming to our rescue, only leader after leader lying brazenly with their pants on fire as if to own the truth by denying its very existence. No one reading Carol Cadwalladr’s reports here, can be in any doubt now the result of the BREXIT vote was influenced by the self interest of an international plutocratic elite, virtue of the psychological weapons it deployed in the run-up to the vote, weapons purchased at great cost, yet secreted through various murky back-channels. To all rational thinkers the result of the BREXIT vote is null and void, democracy was undermined, yet we remain transfixed as the train rushes towards us, frozen in our disbelief.

The result for the UK is the destabilising chaos that has been BREXIT, and a government now torn between those within it who would work towards minimising the damage it will do, and those who would maximise that damage for their own purposes – damage here meaning severe detriment to the working and the middle classes of the UK, with the implication that whatever the outcome, that damage is now unavoidable and will be substantial. Already stripped of our former securities we face a further collapse of all certainties concerning healthcare, social provision and any kind of worthwhile work, both for ourselves and the generations who follow. This is a new world order. It’s Orwellian, it’s oppressive, and it came out of nowhere.

Plutocrats traditionally inhabit the far right of the political landscape, but so far as I can tell, not from any particular affinity with its ideology. Right leaning politicians and their cheerleaders are merely convenient bedfellows, and similarly contemptuous towards the common enemy, this being “The People”.

Persuading “the people” to vote or to support the policies of the right, policies that aid the plutocratic cause, and which are inherently harmful to “the people”  relies upon sowing the seeds of an irrational fear to distract from the actual facts – like vote for me and I’ll make you poorer, and I’ll make your children suffer. To pull that off is an act of astonishing sleight of hand, but it’s as effective now as it was in the nineteen twenties, and the fears stoked are the same – fear of the foreigner, or the other who is not like you, who will take your job and ruin the purity of your imagined native heritage.

The difference now is the plutocrat is not restricted in his disinformation to the partial media, which they mostly own. Now they have access to our primary means of information as well – to our Visiphones. Now they can make us hate anyone and anything they want, merely by a form of subliminal suggestion through the images and the adverts we are served. They can make us say and do stupid things, make us vote in strange ways, make us saw off the branch of the tree we’re sitting on. They are the Svengalis of the modern world.

Armed with a sufficient level of education, a knowledge of the dangers of this all-pervasive media, who controls it and how they control it helps one view information thus gleaned with circumspection. But not everyone is interested, or cares that much and it’s been proven anyway that, given sufficient motivation, even good people can be persuaded to do harm to others without just cause. Our will is weakened by a constant bombardment of unsettling and confusing issues to the point where we know something is badly wrong and we can’t believe anything we’re seeing, yet cannot conceive of any alternative, let alone how we go about achieving it.

I’m at the stage now where I want to close my eyes to that train heading full pelt in our direction. It might help if I focus my attention on a future world, one interpolated from the data plots already marked on the chart, and from the general direction we seem to be heading. It’s a world without any meaningful work, and a population enslaved, working two or three of those meaningless jobs for a minimum wage, eighty hours or more a week, just to pay the rent. None of us will own anything, not even the Visphones in our pockets, and the only satisfaction in life we’ll have is counting the likes we got for that stupid video we re-posted from somewhere else. Meanwhile the plutocrats in their super-yachts will be anchored offshore, grey silhouettes in the sunset, like the battleships of a conquering nation, a vision both futuristic and medieval. And there’s not a damned thing we can do about it. Except, next time, before you click, think about what information you’re giving away to the enemy, and what you might already have lost on account of it.

I’m off to West Wales now, to a little place half way up a mountain where there’s no ‘phone signal, and no Internet, where I can still believe the world is a beautiful place, and worth the shout and where my Visiphone won’t be urging me to hate any more.

 

 

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slarts1_001I find my dreams are mostly wordless. They are filled instead with an imagery from which understanding and meaning flow naturally, and in a way that suggests it is the verbal language we adopt in waking life that slows cognition, renders it as something pedestrian and ambiguous. Last night I dreamed I had returned to college, a late middle-ager, older even than the oldest of my tutors. My course materials consisted of a set of antiquated 35mm slides, arranged in a specific order. At some point a young girl in my class, a fellow student, had upset the slides, tipped them out into the dust and was building them up into random piles, losing for ever their original intent, mangling what I had taken to be the coherent run of their narrative, thus denying me what I had thought was progress. I was frustrated by this, but the tutor shrugged it off. It didn’t matter a damn, he was saying. The images had no meaning in themselves, no meaning either in the way they had been originally presented, but there was always the potential for meaning in some new way of seeing. Later I drank whiskey with him in the late of night. We were joined by the janitors of the college who had left their brooms, and we sat together simply as men around a table, thus transcending the usual order of things, at ease with one another in the shared intoxication of a higher truth.

The imagery of dreams renders the message itself at least vivid. Whether we interpret it correctly is a question of experience, openness and self-honesty. There was much more to this dream that I have recounted here – or indeed that I can remember – but for now the bit about the images seems clear and is the impulse behind this latest flurry of words. The dream speaks not only of itself but of the way the mind, steeped in the material world, often-times loses that looseness of interpretation, a looseness that would render the meaning of much we see about us equally and transparently numinous.

Instead, we are presented daily with a procession of imagery, ever brighter, ever sharper in detail, yet we remain lost to its deeper meaning and fall victim instead to a form of blindness, a form of corruption in which we are all complicit, as both viewers and suppliers of that imagery. To whit: my blog gained a new follower at the weekend. The Gravatar, the image, was of a pretty young thing, but alas her blog was not a blog but an online emporium selling “lifestyle”. I was supposed to click, to fall in love with her, to want to share in the myth of her promises, and buy something. This was imagery corrupted into the service of commerce, and follows on, with a curious serendipitiousness, from my earlier meditation on the corruption of our thoughts, and how we are supposed to trust and interpret things, how we are supposed to know what’s true.

The dreaming steals imagery from waking life, in the case of my dream here, from my distant past, but presents them as a reflection of something contemporary, of a pattern of thought or emotion that is emerging or seeking recognition within us. Time spent in contemplation of the dream image will usually yield an insight that is true and which will free us, while imagery of the real world, taken literally as it is, seems only to ensnare and enslave, seems only to bind us up with its falseness, with its corruption, because such images do not come from the deep collective well of the unconscious, but from a far shallower place. Still, they can be useful, if we can only see through them.

Have you noticed how television soaps occupy the prime times of our weekday scheduling? From seven ’till nine they recycle their circular plots of thwarted hopes, putting on hold the lives of tens of millions who are for ever pining for a resolution to storylines that will in fact never end, to witness at last those happy endings but which are already dissolving into conflict before the kiss of that apparent resolution has dried upon the protagonists’ fevered lips. Winter is indeed a hard time to be living in a household inured of its soap opera – nowhere to escape the fucking things! Drugs, rape, murder, deceit, and all before tea-time; a world without foundation, and in eternal free fall, This is our daily bread.

And then comes the news bulletin, a continuation of the same, a showcasing of sensational imagery: Terrorism, sexual perversion, political corruption, war and economic decline. It’s largely factual, one would hope, but sadly literal in its shallowness, and my how they trumpet and crow, eroding bit by bit our confidence in the comfortable circumference of our lives. They press us inwards, back upon ourselves, then vent us into a closed vessel, imprison us in a world where we need no longer think, and where our every fear is perpetually realised!

How to survive this onslaught of imagery? How to identify the corruption? Well, we can always ask ourselves, as in the interpretation of a dream, what part of me is reflected in this thing shoved daily in my face? Why does it grate upon me so? Or indeed why does it seduce or tease? Thus, as in the dream, the image itself is seen to be meaningful only in the sense that it is reflective of something inside of us. Thus the image, no matter how corrupt, loses both its power and its intended misdirection, and leads us instead to a deeper connection with our selves and the deeper nature of all things.

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woman reading letterNothing happened today. There was no news, no carnage, no politicians to be called to account, no food scares, no financial ruin. There was no one to hate, no one to pity.  The nation breathed a great sigh of relief and we all drove to work in soft sunshine, with lighter hearts, skipping along like children let out of school early. A gentle hush settled over hill and vale, I saw my first Snowdrop,… and the world felt like a much better place.

The opening of an impossibly optimistic fantasy novel? No,… our regular news and current affairs programming was off the air because of a strike by journalists, and oh,… what a relief!

I’m sorry. I know it’s important to keep up with current events, to be able to understand and talk knowledgeably about the world. But there’s also a terrible downside, being inundated daily with crap that you can’t do a damned thing about. You begin to form a picture of a world in which nothing good happens, and it doesn’t matter that it bears not even a passing resemblance to the world you personally experience, you feel cowed by it, intimidated, depressed, goaded into cynicism, even afraid to venture abroad for fear of having your head cut off by blood crazed trolls.

So I don’t buy newspapers. I don’t watch the TV news, preferring nowadays to get my snippets in controlled bursts, through my iPad. I read the news briefly, with a cold, objective eye, digest the main points, then turn to the blogs I’m following because they’re so much more interesting.

For example, yesterday evening, I learned about a play in which Freud’s fictional final consultation was with the writer CS Lewis. It sounded like a fascinating idea, but the writer who saw it had felt let down by it. I also read about Innis Oirr, one of the remote Aran isles, off the west coast of Ireland and how the way of life there has changed over the centuries. Then I read about the pope and his reportedly unsympathetic views regarding people who might be labelled gay, bisexual or transsexual.

I realised I knew very little about CS Lewis and have now chased down some more very interesting information about his life that syncronistically informs something else I’ve been thinking about. I also mused that although my grandfather is from the west of Ireland I’ve still not visited his birthplace, and I really must do something about that.  I also pondered on the fact that religious teachings are too often defined so narrowly they cannot hope to encompass the rather more eclectic nature of the human condition. And is that right or wrong?

This is so much better than being blathered at by assertive media types, evasive politicians and pontificating pundits. Through blogging you realise there’s a whole ecosystem of ideas out there, and you can get involved in shaping it simply by writing your own material. But like anywhere else there are abusers in the blogsphere. They contribute nothing, yet expect the globe to laud them in return, catapult them to the dizzy heights of celebrity. A bit like the conventional media then.

Case in point: something odd happened last night. I put my piece up on “Photographing Ghosts”, but in the process managed to lose all the text, so what I actually posted was just the title. I was wondering how on earth that had happened, and whether it was worth sorting out, or if I should just delete the lot and go to bed,  when my iPad started pinging like it had gone mad. Before I knew it I had 3 likes for that piece – which was very gratifying but of course I could claim no credit for my literary prowess because all I’d posted was a blank page.

What was that all about then?

Among the rules of successful blogging the most important is that, apart from posting our own sincerely intended content, we should also take the trouble to read the work of other bloggers who catch our eye, and comment on their blogs as we might in making polite conversation with strangers. If you really like the work, then “like” it. If you consistently enjoy the musings of a particular blogger, and you want a regular dose of them, then you “follow”. What could be simpler?

But it seems some of us are sitting at the gates of WordPress’s “what’s new!” list and “liking” anything that wanders through, even “following” with no more motivation than the hope or expectation we’ll get liked or followed in return. This indiscriminate technique is the same as jumping up and down like a petulant wannabe, shouting “Look at me! Look at me!”. Are  we trying to get ourselves into WordPress’s currently hot list perhaps? Maybe from there we believe it’s only a short step to a slot on whatever passes for our nations top celebrity chat show?

Hmmm.

You cannot be serious. Real blogging is for those with something to say, and who are perhaps denied any other voice. If you’ve nothing to say, if you’ve only web farmed stuff for content , or “products”, or yourself to “sell”, then shut up and go away.

Blog because you like to write, because you like to present ideas, and see what ideas ping back at you. I blog about writing fiction, about the creative processes, the psychology and even the underlying spirituality of it, and if some of my readers are tempted to have at look at my stories while they’re at it, then all the better for my ideas, but I’m not selling anything, not courting my own celebrity here. I’ve been writing for thirty five years now  – I can walk into a bar anywhere in the world and no one will know who I am. And that’s the way I like it. I don’t know how to transform a blog into a WordPress hottie, and to be honest I don’t care. I’d rather remain obscure than lose my virtue vainly trying to escape it. I blog because I enjoy the debate and because that debate informs my own ideas, and because also, crucially, it paints a very different picture of the world out there than the one I get from the TV news.

I’m currently following around 12 blogs. This doesn’t sound like many, but I do read the postings from these authors, and I allow their musings to tickle my own thoughts and if you follow too many, you’re not going to find the time to do any of them justice. And it’s in doing justice to the blogs of others, even in a small way, that enables the blogsphere to collectively reflect, and more importantly to inform the global zeitgeist. Thus begins the slow fight back from a position where our views of the greater world are dominated by an entirely negative and sensationalist press.

I’m glad nothing happened today.

It’s was nice hearing myself think for a change.

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