Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Selling A Techno-Dystopa To The Public Like It’s A Consumer Product

It was predictable that when a crisis like this one happened, and the ruling class sought to fortify their system against the rise of class consciousness while leaning on the high-tech sector for capitalist production, they would market the implementation of their new techno-dystopia to the public as if it were just another product. This is what the “Great Reset” is, as well as its accompanied Silicon Valley power grab the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”: a project to make society even more economically unequal, and heavily policed, and war-oriented under the pretext of lifting society out of its current misery.

While Joe Biden and his team of liberal technocrats, with their pro-war think tanks and their big tech ties, scheme to carry out all of the censorship and surveillance policies which the “Great Reset” will entail, they’re presenting it as the way for society to return to safety and comfort. At a World Economic Forum panel in November, Biden’s Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry said about the Great Reset that “we’re at the dawn of an extremely exciting time,” and that he thinks the Great Reset “will happen with greater speed and with greater intensity than a lot of people might imagine. In effect, the citizens of the United States have just done a Great Reset. We’ve done a Great Reset. And it was a record level of voting.”

The vapid nature of Kerry’s supporting argument (electing an imperialist to replace the current imperialist can’t honestly be called a “reset”) shows the emptiness of his promises. Kerry’s think tank doesn’t recommend that the U.S. government respond to the climate crisis by paying reparations, helping the poor, or shrinking the unparalleled carbon emissions machine which is the U.S. military. It recommends that the U.S. build up its military presence in the melting Arctic to prepare for war with Russia, and that it expand its military buildup against China in response to the geopolitical advantages that China has been gaining. (Ironically, China has been gaining this international favor through actually addressing the need for carbon emissions reductions.)

These imperialist technocrats aren’t going to use the Great Reset’s technological updates to enact a Green New Deal, or to wage a campaign to eliminate poverty (both of which China’s socialist government has been able to do). They’re going to use these technologies to exacerbate wealth inequality, expand the militarized U.S. police state, and further destroy the environment in pursuit of the cheap manufacturing of the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s signature gadgets. And they’ll do this while carrying out a social engineering project to get the masses to accept it as an exciting new series of consumerist opportunities.

So far, public opinion data shows that the masses are easily seeing through the phony intentions of the corporations which have been pushing advertising with pandemic-related messaging. It’s obvious to everyone that these companies are just trying to manipulate our emotions. Their veneer of humanitarianism is laughable. But the U.S. propaganda machine has been able to successfully market policies before under the guise of humanitarian intentions, namely with the regime change campaigns against Syria and Venezuela-wherein imperialist agents have sold themselves as fighters for “human rights” within these countries. And the Great Reset, with its familiar undertone of “humanitarianism,” is an attempt to apply this mass persuasion tactic to the United States internally during a moment of crisis.

Look at how the tech CEOs, at the same time when they’ve been collectively gaining hundreds of billions of dollars this year, have sold their opportunistic campaigns to proliferate their products as an effort to make people’s lives easier during a difficult moment. The CEO of Google Eric Schmidt has been working with New York governor Andrew Cuomo to integrate technology into every aspect of daily life, marketing this as a way to make people’s lives more convenient during the pandemic. Bill Gates has been working with Cuomo on a plan to privatize the state’s schools, calling it a “reimagining” of the school system for a post-pandemic era. Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Apple have all been experiencing soaring profits as a result of this pandemic, while in their own ways presenting themselves as assets in the fight for the public’s health.

Their endgame is to turn all of the country’s wealthy metropolitan areas into “smart cities,” and to point to these shiny new little worlds as evidence that innovation has revitalized capitalism. This is in spite of how a further rise in unemployment, more engineered deterioration of social services, and potentially even a dollar crash are expected for 2021 and beyond.

In the coming years, as these companies roll out a series of appealing new conveniences-fully automated cars, the total replacement of retail with home delivery, the outsourcing of more jobs to machines, home appliances that are all connected to the internet-it will become apparent that mainly those in the upper strata will be able to enjoy the benefits from these technological advancements, or to access these fancy new lifestyles at all for that matter. The poor will be subjected to more politically hostile mass surveillance, a higher-tech militarized police state, more online censorship, and more hegemonic control over their daily lives from companies like Amazon. The marketing for this will come along with a series of claims from the state that more restrictions on freedoms are necessary to defend from supposed threats of cyberattacks and information warfare from Russia, China, and Iran. This ties in with the fact that the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s primary task is to build up the industrial base for Washington’s 2020s cold war military buildup.

It all fits the predictable patterns of necro-capitalism, as described by Marquette University’s Gerry Canavan in his 2014 essay Snowpiercer and Necrofuturism:

The ongoing creation of these kinds of “states of exception” wherein citizens are prohibited from making decisions about their own locality recalls precisely Banerjee’s theory of necrocapitalist colonialism, which confines “democratic rights” to a ritualized “political sphere” while “continuing forms of domination, exploitation, and violence” exert the real power. What necrocapitalism marks, then, may be not so much a novel feature of capitalism but rather the ongoing intensification of these technologies of suffering past the point where they are possible to deny. And things are getting worse: the need for new sources of profit (even in the post- 2008-crash world of economic turmoil and declining fossil-fuel energy sources) has meant ever-more-brutal discipline-by-death of the world’s workers. Soon, we are told, jobs for humans will vanish entirely as they are replaced by apps and robots — yet futurists like Tyler Cowen argue that this will not lead to some techno-utopia of plenty but rather an even more brutal scramble to not be left behind by the march of progress with the rest of the 99.9%.

Through the culturally ingrained logic of consumerism, the system is conditioning the public to rationalize these intensified patterns of violence. This is happening the same way they got the public to accept NAFTA, with its shipping out of a million U.S. jobs, its destruction of the environment, and its increase of economically destructive neo-colonial labor within Mexico: portray the exploitation and extractivism as inevitable in the march towards “progress.” It’s appropriate that the NAFTA story is now on its way to repeating itself throughout the 2020s, with DC think tanks pushing for Biden to implement the similarly necro-capitalist Trans-Pacific Partnership. And in a repeat of another running theme, these think tanks base their argument for reviving the TPP in the idea that China must be countered.

The smart cities, the cold war on China, the TPP-they’re all part of the product package which is being sold to us under the “Great Reset” brand. The pitch behind it is that these things will make everyone’s lives better through normalizing new technologies, making the U.S. be able to better economically compete, and proliferating jobs in the tech sector. But the fraudulence of these promises is transparent. You don’t need to become a Marxist economist to see that the benefits of the new technologies will be unequally distributed in an increasingly unequal society, that economically decoupling from China and putting even more resources into the military will hurt the U.S. economy, that the TPP will only put workers in a worse position, or that tech jobs are becoming more numerous relative to the losses of tens of millions of jobs in other areas of business.

The masses aren’t fools, they can see how capitalism is leaving them behind. But as Canavan observes, the ideological framework of the neoliberal era robs the masses of a way to coherently advocate for an alternative system:

Objecting to this state of affairs, either as it exists today or as these trends suggest it will continue to advance in the future, is assumed to be utterly pointless: necrocapitalism is not only here whether or not it is desired, the fact that it is obviously not desirable is perversely taken as the proof that necrocapitalist misery is necessary for social order and stability…things must be this necrocapitalist because, if they were not, our society would be even more necropolitical and wretched than it is now. That is: necrocapitalism’s own horrors are perpetually taken as proof of necrocapitalism’s necessity, even its own self-prophlyactic. We ingest the poison to keep ourselves from becoming even sicker.

The endless demonizations of China from the U.S. political and media class are part of this. If the cultural consensus is that China and its Marxist-Leninist governing model represent nothing but an even more brutal system of state violence and exploitation (“state capitalism,” as China’s detractors on the anti-communist left call it), then the U.S. model of necro-capitalism is implied to be the best system available. No matter that this reasoning comes from an oversimplification of China’s economic system, or that it’s buffered by increasingly outlandish and unsubstantiated Western media rumors about the events in China’s Xinjiang province; the pesky journalists who point out these things are easily pushed outside of the mainstream dialogue through censorship and media blacklistings.

In this environment of enforced political unconsciousness, where the idea of the proletariat taking power is continuously kept out of people’s minds by a heavy layer of xenophobic and anti-communist propaganda, the necro-capitalist brand that the system is selling us becomes passively accepted as our only possible path forward. The Great Reset, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and all of their thinly veiled sinister implications become as banal as Amazon, McDonald’s, or Starbucks. Our society’s necro-political trends aren’t just being marketed as if they were products, they’re being treated by the public as if they were products.

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