Monday, February 27, 2017

Don't Be Paranoid, But Do Be Attentive

Surveillance through technology is so pervasive, the collection and use of our data is so much more sophisticated. It’s totally covert. And people don’t realize what is going on.
It’s all about the emotions. They call it bio-psycho-social profiling. It takes your physical, mental and lifestyle attributes (mining much information freely given on sites like Facebook) and, using algorithms, works out how people work, how they react emotionally, and then targets them--usually with bots--with words they will react emotionally to, and a message the manipulator wants them to accept.
Many of the techniques were refined in Russia, and then exported everywhere else. These incredible propaganda tools were developed in an authoritarian regime, and have now moved into free market economies with an absolute absence of regulatory stoppers--vacuums. And nature deplores a vacuum, so you get a firestorm.
The Oxford Internet Institute says one third of all traffic on Twitter before the EU referendum was automated “bots” – accounts that are programmed to look like people, to act like people, and to change the conversation, to make topics trend. And they were all for Leave.
Before the US election, they were five-to-one in favor of Trump – many of them Russian. Yes, Russian bots. Last week they were identified in action in the Stoke by-election in England –
We’re not quite in the alternative reality where the actual news has become “Fake news!!!” But we’re almost there.

Out on Twitter, the new transnational battleground for the future, someone has tweeted a quote by Marshall McLuhan, the great information theorist. “World War III will be a guerrilla information war. With no divisions between military and civilian participation.”

Monday, February 20, 2017

A Modest Holiday Proposal

Wednesday, February 22nd, is George Washington's birthday. As you may recall, he did a few good things for our country: won our War For Independence, served as our first president, and set the precedent of term limits on that position. And if you haven't forgotten already, February 12th is Abraham Lincoln's birthday.  He also did a few good things, such as preserving the Union, writing the Emancipation Proclamation, and producing the most memorable piece of presidential oratory--no, it was not a tweet--The Gettysburg Address.

Some of us remember when we actually celebrated these real persons' birthdays on their real dates. In our American History classes, we learned about each of them. Really.  We wanted to remember what they had done for our country, (really), and had not yet turned their two birthdays into a blended shopping event, complete with TV announcers in phony colonial garb.

Do these sound like the complaints of a retro-grouch? Well, to show that I'm hip to the times, here is a modest proposal that even Congress would love: Abolish all current public holidays and create twelve or thirteen- or even more- "Famous Person Days," which we can celebrate on Mondays with super sales! Think of the money that businesses would save: they could recycle their banners, their ads, and their commercials--they would all be "Famous Person Day" sales.  We could add, oh, famous baseball players, vice-presidents no one has ever heard of, NASCAR drivers, and people (or corporate "persons") who contribute obscene amounts of money to members of Congress.  Just think--members of Congress could add anyone they want--just like pouring more water in the soup. No more squabbling over who deserves his or her own "day".  And since there would be more Monday holidays, people would be happier, since they'd have fewer Monday mornings to gripe about!

Or, we could try to remember where we came from, who we are, and how we got here, because we surely didn't get here by doing what we're doing now.

Oh. . . . And Happy birthday, George and Abraham. And thanks.

Friday, February 3, 2017

More Appropriate Now Than Ever

Populist manifesto
(For Poets, with Love)

Poets, come out of your closets,
Open your windows, open your doors,
You have been holed-up for too long
in your closed worlds.
Come down, come down
from your Russian Hills and Telegraph Hills,
your Beacon Hills and your Chapel Hills,
your Mount Analogues and Montparnasses,
down from your foothills and mountains,
out of your teepees and domes.
The trees are still falling
and we’ll to the woods no more.
No time for sitting in them
As man burns down his own house
to roast his pig.
No more chanting Hare Krishna
while Rome burns.
San Francisco’s burning,
Mayakovsky’s Moscow’s burning
the fossil-fuels of life.
Night & the Horse approaches
eating lights, heat & power,
and the clouds have trousers.
No time now for the artist to hide
above, beyond, behind the scenes,
indifferent, paring his fingernails,
refining himself out of existence.
No time now for our literary games,
no time now for our paranoias and hypochondrias,
no time now for fear and loathing,
time now only for light and love.
We have seen the best minds of our generation
destroyed by boredom at poetry readings.
Poetry isn’t a secret society,
it isn’t a temple either.
Secret words & chants won’t do it any longer.
The hour of oming is over,
the time of keening come,
a time for keening & rejoicing
over the coming end
of industrial civilization
which is bad for earth & Man.
Time now to face outward
in the full lotus position
with eyes wide open,
Time now to open your moths
with a new open speech,
time now to communicate with all sentient beings,
All you ‘Poets of the Cities’
hung in museums, including myself,
All you poet’s poets writing poetry
about poetry,
all you poetry workshop poets
in the boondock heart of America,
all you housebroken Ezra Pounds,
All you far-out freaked-out cut-up poets,
All you pre-stressed Concrete poets,
All you cunnilingual poets,
All you pay-toilet poets groaning with graffiti,
All you A-train swingers who never swing on birches,
All you masters of the sawmill haiku
in the Siberias of America,
All you eyeless unrealists,
All you self-occulting supersurrealists,
All you bedroom visionaries
and closet agitpropagators,
All you Grouch Marxist poets
and leisure-class Comrades
who lie around all day
and talk about the workingclass proletariat,
All you Catholic anarchists of poetry,
All you Black Mountaineers of poetry,
All you Boston Brahmins and Bolinas bucolics,
All you den mothers of poetry
All you zen brothers of poetry,
All you suicide lovers of poetry,
All you hairy professors of poesie,
All you poetry reviewers
drinking the blood of the poet,
All you Poetry Police—
Where are Whitman’s wild children,
where the great voices speaking out
with a sense of sweetness and sublimity,
where the great new vision,
the great world-view,
the high prophetic song
of the immense earth
and all that sings in it
And our relation to it—
Poets, descend
to the street of the world once more
And open your minds & eyes
with old visual delight,
Clear your throat and speak up,
Poetry is dead, long live poetry
with terrible eyes and buffalo strength.
Don’t wait for the Revolution
or it’ll happen without you,
Stop mumbling and speak out
with a new wide-open poetry
with a new commonsensual ‘public surface’
with other subjective levels
or other subversive levels,
a tuning fork in the inner ear
to strike below the surface.
Of your own sweet Self still sing
yet utter ‘the word en-masse’—
Poetry the common carrier
for the transportation of the public
to higher places
than other wheels can carry it.
Poetry still falls from the skies
Into our streets still open.
They haven’t put up the barricades, yet,
the streets are still alive with faces,
lovely men & women still walking there,
still lovely creatures everywhere,
in the eyes of the secret of all
still buried there,
Whitman’s wild children still sleeping there,
Awake and walk in the open air

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, (1975)