I remember a friend in Oxford saying that he didn’t want to “know what was happening on the other side of the world!”
He was, of course, referring to the content of broadcast media, the disparate logics and demands of which could be somewhat difficult to deal with, on a personal level. The information overload of the public realm vs. the sensitivity of the personal.
Robert Sheckley’s short story, “Protection” (1956), is interpretable precisely as a metaphor of this predicament peculiar to the Information Age.
Interestingly, Sheckley explicitly links this burdensome, epistemological multiplicity of information proliferation, with the very ‘supernormal’ perspective of the validusian derg’, affording the protective advantage of the story’s title.
But the predictive advantages of ‘supernormal’ perspective are gained through a corollary lack of localisation.
Sheckley refers to the collapse of the usual logics of separation structuring geospatial experience – “”Locale means nothing to me,” the derg replied stubbornly. “My perceptions are temporal, not spatial. I must protect you from everything!”” – a similar lack of both spatial relevance and localising referential coordination as that characterising the imperial telescoping of universalisms and the ‘current affairs’, narration style, of ‘news reporting’.
The informational concentration of such telescoping universalisms and corollary currents of reportage as conveyed by electrical and electronic, communications technology – telegraph, radio, television, et cetera – unavoidably impose the structural obligations of whatever imperialisms control them.
The localised epistemology of humanistic conventions; the alien and ‘supernormal’ perspective of the ‘validusian derg’; the supernatural world of spirits; Sheckley puts all of these on a sliding scale of existential perception and attention, their respective ‘worlds’ vying for attention.
Sheckley introduces the protagonist’s concern, whilst the protagonist is conversing with the invisible, ‘validusian derg’, to not be associated with the psychopathology of imaginary voices. This is a border concern between two of those ‘worlds’, the protagonist’s attention and behaviour split between two, discrepant orders or realms, with the corresponding difficulty of adequately satisfying the obligations of both.
So, Robert Sheckley introduces psychopathology as a function of variable, worldly perception and attention, similar to Philip K Dick’s explorations in the 1960s.
The story is a casebook example of techno-theory and philosophy of technology; of sociology and perception; of both the psychology and psychopathology of inventive production, or productive invention; of ‘worlds’ as economic systems.
I didn’t mention the Internet, personal computers, or smart phones. This stage of communications technology is one in which the distinction between broadcaster and receiver has become interchangeable, which is to say that anyone with access to such technology can be both broadcaster and receiver.
Obviously, this can set the stage for the sorts of retrogressive, cultural feedback loops, witnessed in recent times.
The conflicts between them; implosions of them according to their unacknowledged, inner contradictions; the donning of them, as the repetitive and populist nostalgia of a ridiculous profusion of heavily marketed, farcical reenactments; all of these movements can be seen, as the clumsily contentious stumbling of this or that, stupid identity ‘meme’. All very much as the typical vernacular would have it.
The very jingoism declaring its global imperialism so proudly is exactly the same localism railing against the very globalism it built railways and airports to construct, the same localism producing so much ‘hot air’ nationalism.
As the ‘nationstate’ increasingly becomes merely a subfolder in the global directory structures of even the most insular of interests, it is possible to ascertain that the jingoistic West or the jingoistic Occident; unlike the protagonist in Robert Sheckley’s story lured by the offer of safety; is the very monstrosity, the monstrous character of which, it chooses always to project onto others; is the monstrosity it arbitrarily scapegoats others as being, using the very instruments of globalisation which it condemns and pretends to be a victim of and yet simultaneously, it continues to build and use, always disingenuously.
The concept of ‘fake news’ is the result of the contradictions of Western hypocrisy no longer able to hide in the hidden spaces of an obscuring, geospatial distance, such being destroyed by the instantaneous clarifications of communications technology.
Why is it that there is such an interest in encryption technology?
In order to produce new hiding spaces hosting the profits from fresh forms of exploitation!
Exploiters always enjoy the production of chaos, this is another way of hiding injustice and exploitation. It’s an ongoing style that is used to distract from and displace the recollection and formation of evidence!