because the internet

restating the obvious

it’s amazing how rapid the degradation of thought and reason has progressed in the past few decades. as for the source, remember what website you’re viewing. can the internet be blamed for causing this? probably not, but it’s the equivalent of gasoline being thrown on a fire. (specifically, a dumpster fire)

words

apparently at some point recently a bunch of protestors in iraq vandalized a building. of course by the time this hit the american news cycle, it was punched up a bit into something more apt to unchain jingo: iran-backed protestors had attacked an american embassy.

i didn’t see anything about this, and i consider my daily intake of news to be a bit deeper than the average person - the result of a habit deeply ingrained from the days of policy debate back in school.

i only heard about this particular event because it was used as the pretext for a more politically significant event: earlier this week, the u.s. carried out an assassination of a high-ranking iranian, general qassem suleimani. to anyone with even a vague notion of american history, the fact that we assassinate people isn’t exactly new - what changed here is that there were no pretenses, no real effort to cover it up with niceties. (i’m sure the entire bush II administration is throwing their hands up in exasperation - what, we put all that effort into making everything appear legal for nothing?)

similarly, the response seems to be nothing new, and yet, also different in its own way. i’m talking, of course, about the response by We The People, in which we immediately divvy up into pro- and anti-war factions and, heh, proceed to have at it.

i don’t think i need to elucidate on how it’s the same this time around; what fascinates me is what has changed. continuing with the theme of “all pretense dropped”, those who are hungry for war have blasted past any sort of attempt at justification. or rather, blasted past double-checking the justifications used.

dark city except the implanted memories are iran

looking at the ground-zero of the culture wars, facebook, reveals this tragedy in realtime. to paraphrase many a post, it seems war must be done because ‘innocent civilians’ were killed, and iran is now ‘walking all over us’. i am simply in awe at the amount of opinions i see which mirror this basic framework, in part because it reveals how many people have clearly not actually looked into the details of the embassy attack, but also in part because i try to imagine the mindset in which one can easily picture any country, in particular iran, ‘walking all over us’. and in truth, i struggle to even really grasp what is meant by ‘walking all over us’.

information, however, does move at lightspeed these days. and i have seen some of those mourning the imaginary americans killed in this embassy ‘attack’ try to backpedal somewhat - by daisy-chaining backwards to an event where an american was killed and responsibility could be placed with iran. the most common example i see is something like: the embassy attack was a response to an american strike on an airfield, which was a response to an attack in which an american contractor was killed. so there! there is your american death, checkmate! (as for why those who passionately wield this dead american’s story choose to do so now, as opposed to when it actually happened…)

i can say with almost absolute confidence that prior to january 1, maybe four of my facebook friends even knew of the existence of qassem suleimani. (one of them is an actual policy-wonk type in the international relations field, in particular military affairs. i then added three people for the sake of a margin of error.) it is now january 5 and lo, i seem to have been mistaken in this assumption. as it turns out some 70% of my facebook social circle knows everything there is to know about not only suleimani, but also iran’s quds forces. of course to know about these things would almost necessarily imply knowing about the complex history of iran, but if the pro-war types are even remotely aware of things like the iran air flight 655 incident, or who oliver north even is, i’d be truly shocked.

at this point though, i risk falling into the oh-so-common trap that has more-or-less supplanted actual conversation: the rhetorical pit of whataboutism. we can go on for days covering the tit-for-tat - and in many regards alot of effort has been placed on engineering this sort of pointless dialogue, for that exact reason of its pointlessness. we go back, and forth, in a hyper-accelerated process that unfolds live on social media. about a week into this process, we all burn out.

what can we do?

ah, the saddest part. the immediate answer is, nothing. at this point we’re more or less locked in to the sheer inertia of a snowballing series of choices at various points which are unfolding as i type. at every step we often took the path which led to immediate results, and unfortunately this isn’t a particularly unique trait of american culture, but rather an annoyingly too-familiar quality most everyone exhibits. it is only in opposing something that one tends to suddenly gain perspective; to this point i can’t help but notice more than one voice currently opposed to taking action against iran were of a very different opinion when it came to making the same choices with regards to syria and north korea. ultimately it doesn’t matter in the sense that the masses have little to no say in the direction our foreign policy takes, but that isn’t to say that having such an effect is possible - unfortunately, years of apathy have really chipped away at the power of public opinion, and very rarely does public outcry carry the sort of weight that it has carried throughout history. in part this is due to an aversion to “the mob”, or populism, that has developed as we progress. but perhaps it’s also a developed aversion by any hypothetical mob to a blind acceptance of a narrow band of opinion.

i don’t think i’ve described that very well, but i think what i mean is: social media has transformed the traditional dynamics in which popular opinion is formed, shaped, and perceived. i can’t even begin to really go into detail to that extent. but the part i am focusing on now is the “forming” part - armed with a podium in the form of access to the internet, the average person seems more interested in voicing their own opinion than rallying behind someone else’s opinion - even if it is more or less the same opinion.

i am aware of the irony in, well, voicing my own opinion here. regardless, i have tried to withhold posting on social media regarding the current situation, and as much as i want to dive in, instead i’ve been just passively reading the fairly awful comment threads and fighting every urge to do the online equivalent of grabbing someone by the shoulders and shaking them, screaming do you hear yourself?! do you know what you are talking about? do you know the consequences of what you are saying?

i wish i could remember exactly where i first encountered the theory that the american idea of “rugged individualism” was incredibly destructive to the building of mass movements - hell, maybe it’s something i sort of worked out myself - but watching the frenzied, loud, yet ultimately uneventful yelling back and forth between two different viewpoints broadly divided into “pro-war” and “anti-war” serves as a pretty good example of the theory in action. everyone feels compelled to voice their opinion, noone can merely lend support and solidarity. the result is, well, what we’re currently experiencing: alot of noise and little else. the american empire will continue on its path, and while we are louder than ever, we are also somehow far less effective as a people than ever, as well.

i’m not really sure where this was going. i’m not sure it even went anywhere. but i’ve been telling myself i need to write more, and i figured if writing in the shadow of a potential global crisis isn’t the time to do it, i might just never get around to doing it. i’ll try to maybe use this rambling as the starting point to explore a few different things i touched on above. in the meantime i figured both you the reader, and i, could use a break from my incredibly techno-centric posts - to stick our heads out the window, so to speak, and catch a look at what has been going on.

until next time,