All We Have to Fear is Manipulation Itself

When you feel fear in a media-driven society, chances are it’s because someone wants to scare you.

As previously conjectured, fear is usually the product of a media message. The message is certainly calculated, perhaps cynical. At its most benign, it’s to sell you a hygiene product to avoid the purgatory of those who smell, look or taste human. If political, the message is surely cynical: to alarm you over a non-issue so convincingly that you reward the manipulator of your emotions with your vote or worse – another of your dwindling freedoms.

There are two kinds of people in a society: those who expect to work for whatever shows up and those who just know they can get others to do for them what they cannot or will not do themselves. The latter kind must manipulate the willing workers to be served as they expect, with fear as the best tool for the job.

Let’s break that down. In my recent Viet Nam recollection, I suggested that we pay too much attention to scary but improbable anecdotes and too little to our real lives and loves. Perhaps our innocence has been stolen by terrorists, but our energy is being drained by politicians. They can do it because we’re wired that way.

To be fair, the politicians face their own greatest fear: another major attack will expose their lack of control of this conflict. Their fear, then, is for their political security and not the security of their fellow citizens. All they have to sell us sell is the illusion of control over a chaotic world.

We are the Warriors

A war on terrorism is a war of terrorism. Who are the front line soldiers in a terrorist war? It’s you and me, untrained guerilla fighters moonlighting on the front lines of a nasty, random conflict. It’s not our troops who bravely take the conflict to the nations harboring terrorism.

We are the Continental Army on the barricades of this conflict. As the front line warriors, perhaps we want some voice about how this battle will be joined. For instance, we might accept the fact that some of us are going to be killed and wounded. Not many of us, certainly, and very improbably any one of us, but some of us. Now if we’re willing to be real patriots and warriors – to die or bleed for this cause – maybe we want to tell our elected “leaders” about our preferred terms of engagement. Here’s one view:

Poiticians Terrorism Briefing

  • No more grandstanding – Lead, follow, or get out of the way, but don’t erode our civil rights for political gain or the appearance of security.
  • We’re not secure – We all know that. Don’t insult our intelligence or courage by pretending you can save us from a threat you don’t understand and can’t relate to. Join us in taking responsibility for our actions by being responsible for your own actions.
  • Be candid – Tell us and the world that we are an imperfect nation doing its best to perfect its civil liberties and education for all its citizens, so we remain a beacon of freedom and possibility for all the people of the world, as we always have been. Admit that the terrorists are brave, committed warriors willing to do things so unthinkable that we are in real danger, and that the outcome is so uncertain that your ability to manage it is questionable.
  • Be intelligent – the least we can expect. Remind us that we are committed, courageous and caring; that this fight is between a culture that blindly does what its leaders say and one that seeks to once again be led by intelligent, thinking strategists: Leaders who understand the constitution’s limits on powers and who know we’re fighting for diversity, free speech and due process.
  • Listen to US, not your party workers or toadies. Reach out to the most of us who are able to make fine distinctions between cultural values; who know that there will be a cost to dissuade the people who know we’re evil. Focus our outrage through intelligent, open discourse so the terrorists learn they cannot prevail against this alarmed, alert (perhaps, even, as ESR urges, armed people).
  • Above all: Define the Mission
    • Are we really fighting for our “style of life”?
    • Is our “style of life” worth dying for?
    • Does our “style of life” mean being 300 million people living like 3 billion?
    • Does our “style of life” mean reducing real people to consumers
         (poor sods who ingest ads in one end and crap cash out the other)
    • How many real Americans would die for those values?
  • Define What We Stand For.
  • If we’re defending freedom, then we’re defending diversity. Let’s deplore government policies that limit diversity – even here.
  • If we’re defending freedom, we’re defending free speech. Even the kind that makes other uncomfortable – even here.
  • If we’re defending freedom, we’re defending freedom of religion – or its absence – even here.
  • Skip this list – just read the Federalist Papers. Why not interpret the Constitution and Bill of Rights strictly, as Absolute Authority, rather than, say, the Bible. Like their fundamentalists.

Get Real, Go Online

Of course I’m dreaming a utopian vision. Politicians won’t do this because they are the worst of the people who excel at getting others to do things for them. And they’ve got the best means to do it – subjugation. Only technology (web applications) can save us from the 226 year slide from a barely governable oligarchy of propertied, rebellious white guys to a manipulated herd of materialists.

But who’s going to build these web applications? We will. If Mitch Kapor can spend $5 million on the OSAF PIM, surely we can find a way to build specific, purpose-built global connectors:

The Electoral Collage A web application to aggregate opinions into votes, in the same way that the open source community aggregates user preferences into executable code. The opinions would be developed, of course, by the blogging community and its knowledge logs.

Moneyware A web application for a P2P economy – people buying and selling based on proven reputation rather than unsupported hype – among other things, a way for motivated American women to buy homespun directly from Afghani and Iraqui women, creating a new and visible female Arab moneyed class. (In process)

Take it to the Streets A web application with online protocols for rule-based, sustainable community development, whereby American cities and towns can directly communicate with and adopt sister villages and pipeline funds directly into communities, bypassing central graft government.

Howard Bloom points out that confusing times can make you fee
l listless
. Larry Lessig wonders why the web community is so passive about copyright. But why not do what we do best? Let’s hack some code, build some shared applications, get it together. And get all of us together while we’re at it.

9:29:36 PM    

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