The Iranian Election and the New Media Revolution

I remember CNN’s moment when Bernard Shaw reported live Baghdad in 1992 as the First Gulf War commenced or Aaron Brown live from Midtown Manhattan as the first tower of the World Trade Center fell. News events like those were the height of old media accomplishment. Right now the most amazing thing happening in the world is the election protests in Iran and I turn on the television hoping for something current and relevant. I’m paying for the extended cable package because I have hitherto thought that when a major story happens, only the big news channels can offer coverage up to the magnitude of the event. On CNN Larry King is interviewing Paul Teutul about his favorite muscle cars and on FOX News Geraldo At Large is interviewing Carrie Prejean about her spat with the Miss USA Pageant. On CNN’s website the lead stories are the Six Flags bankruptcy and the troubles at the FCC hotline over the analog cable shutoff.

The only place for news on Iran right now is twitter, internet forums, YouTube, flickr and various other photo sights where individual Iranians are uploading. Twitter is serving as the guide to it all. I am regularly refreshing the #IranElection twitter hash and getting snippets of what’s happening there in bustles of disorganized 140 character updates. Right now #IranElection, Tehran, Mousavi are the numbers two, four and five highest Trending Topics on twitter. The hash #CNNfail is coming in at number three. When CNN does run some loop story about Iran, they are using still photos culled from FaceBook!

I suspect that within a few days the Iranian police will get a handle on this and the Ahmadinejad victory will be made to stick. This will be unfortunate for the Iranian people and the cause of peace.

However, the new media revolution proceeds apace.

Reconstructing Hegelianism

Here’s why Charles Mudede has become one of my most closely followed blogger-thinkers: because his project is my project (“The End of Internalism,” SLOG, The Stranger, 9 June 2009):

I’m quietly building a case for the importance of Hegel in an age that cares neither for him or his direct descendant, Marx. A part of the case will, one, link Hegel’s concept of geist and its movement in time (world history) with the idea of the evolution of noosphere in Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s Phenomenon of Man; and, two, link Hegel’s idea of absolute spirit with the ideas expressed in Alva Noë’s new book Out of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain, and Other Lessons from the Biology of Consciousness — some of these ideas can be heard on the Brain Science Podcast.

I am very interested in using contemporary information economy concepts such as the noosphere or general systems theory to reconstruct the Hegelian system. I’m less sure where Mr. Mudede is going with the second part of this, but Out of Our Heads is on my list now.

34

10 June 2009, 34th birthday, spent in my cubical

I’m 34 today.

I intended to take the day off and do some biking around like I did last year, but the project that I’m working on was presented to the client and the COO of the company today, so office birthday it was. During the run through yesterday we discovered a show-stopping system flaw and I spent one of the most stressful days of my career in a panicked flurry of debugging and emergency releases. I’m giving myself an IOU on birthday.

Amazon.com gave me a birthday present by delivering a copy of Infinite Jest two days in advance of their estimate (their logistics people are geniuses). Between the book, my twitter and this blog I’m all geared up for Infinite Summer.

Petrified Onions

The latest controversy to sweep the blogosphere is the outing of previously pseudonymous blogger John Blevins, a.k.a. Publius by Ed Whelan (Whelan, Ed, “Exposing an Irresponsible Anonymous Blogger,” The Corner, National Review Online, 6 June 2009; Blevins, John, “Stay Classy Ed Whelan,” Obsidian Wings, 6 June 2009; Whelan eventually apologized, “My Apologies to Publius,” The Corner, 8 June 2009). This prompts some musings on the subject of on-line personae by Matthew Yglesias (“The Metaphysics of Pseudonymity,” Think Progress, 9 June 2009):

And of course it’s a fallacy to assume a perfect identity between any Internet persona and its author(s). A whole bunch of different writers collaborate on producing Think Progress and they write in what I think is a pretty uniform voice. But like the writers behind The Economist, they’re actually all beautiful unique snowflakes who are often quite different from the TP persona. And by the same token, Matthew Yglesias “in real life” is not the same as the character I play on the Internet. On the other hand, I’m not sure it’s quite right to say that the in-the-flesh [ME] is “real” and the on-the-Internet one is somehow “fake.” This blog has existed for over seven years now, and it’s almost certainly the case that more people “know” the persona than know me. And I think that should hold all the more strongly for any prominent pseudonymous bloggers. The well-known, stable character is a person with integrity, influence, a personality, a reputation, social connections, etc., the same as anyone else. To be sure, they may be artifice in terms of the presentation of the character. But our various “in real life” self-presentations (to a boss, to a first date, to family, to friends, to people we run into at a high school reunion) involve artifice as well.

In the past you body was at least the skeleton on which your personae hung. They depended on you to take them places, to animate them. The dutiful son only existed at the family get-together, after which he was de-emanated. The nightclub alter ego only came out to play when the costume was dawned.

Media personae persist. In the era of mass participation mass media, your personae don’t need you anymore. They’re out there, being recreated by anonymous onlookers while you are sleeping.

The Hegemony of Neoliberalism

A roundup of some recent thinking on the hegemony of neoliberalism:

  1. Taking off from what Matthew Yglesias calls “Prestige Cross-Pollination1 and Ezra Klein “The Tyranny of the Economists,”2 Mike Konczal at RortyBomb relates of the,

    … “credibility gap” between sociologists and economists, even when they deploy the same methods, when it comes to the public debate over the issues we face.3

    It helps to have a paradigm, and in recent years economics has rather forcefully acquired one.4

  2. In his review of Steven Teles’s new book, The Rise of the Conservative Legal Movement,5 Henry Farrell makes a brief assessment of the state of the tyranny of the bureaucracy:

    If you win the technocrats (and [the law and economics movement] arguably has won the technocrats), then you very nearly have won the entire game.6

    This strikes me as about true. The shift rightward of the economics and policy intelligentsia since the New Frontier / Great Society heyday of Keynesian fine tuning has played a significant part in the general right-ward drift of the polity. There aren’t exactly dais upon dais of unreconstructed Keynesians offering policy makers intellectual cover on the Sunday morning shows.

  3. Via Charles Mudede7, Steven Shaviro reacts to Peter Ward’s new book, The Medea Hypothesis: Is Life on Earth Ultimately Self-Destructive?8 Using the purported instability of ecological systems — one of the paradigm cases of self-organization — Mr. Shaviro sets himself against emergence, evolution, complexity, network theory, et al. He identifies Friedrich Hayek as one of the key thinkers of self-organization — the market would be one of the other paradigm cases —

    But the most significant and influential thinker of self-organisation in the past century was undoubtedly Friedrich Hayek, the intellectual progenitor of neoliberalism. … inspired by both cybernetics and biology, Hayek claimed that the “free market” was an ideal mechanism for coordinating all the disparate bits of knowledge that existed dispersed throughout society, and negotiating it towards an optimal outcome. Self-organization, operating impersonally and beyond the ken of any particular human agent, could accomplish what no degree of planning or willful human rationality ever could.9

    Friedrich Hayek, cyberneticist.

Combine these three and where are we for policy making and policy debate?

  1. Yglesias, Matthew, “Prestige Cross-PollinationThink Progress, 2 June 2009
  2. Klein, Ezra, “The Tyranny of the Economists,” The Washington Post, 2 June 2009
  3. Konczal, Mike, “Economists, Methods and Government,” RortyBomb, 3 June 2009
  4. The Future of Economics is Here: The Arational and the Irrational,” This is Not a Dinner Party, 28 September 2008
  5. Teles, Steven, The Rise of the Conservative Legal Movement: The Battle for Control of the Law (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008)
  6. Farrell, Henry, “Fabians and Gramscians in Law and Economics,” Crooked Timber, 30 April 2009
  7. Mudede, Charles, “Self-Made,” SLOG, The Stranger, 28 May 2009
  8. The Medea Hypothesis: Is Life on Earth Ultimately Self-Destructive? (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009)
  9. Shaviro, Steven, “Against Self-Organization,” The Pinocchio Theory, 26 May 2009