Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Democracy, Existentialism, Fascism, Human Rights
“Maxwell Smart, a highly intellectual but bumbling spy working for the CONTROL agency, battles the evil forces of rival spy agency KAOS with the help of his competent partner Agent 99.” Source: Internet Movie Database (1965 – 1970)
There were several spy genres on television as well as on the big screen. “I Spy” with Robert Culp and Bill Cosby were undercover agents posing as a tennis pro and coach. There was “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.“; “The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.“; “The Wild, Wild West“; “The Saint“; “Mission: Impossible“; and “The Avengers” to name a few. Sean Connery inhabited James Bond, S.P.E.C.T.R.E., like KAOS, a metaphor for the Soviet Union.
Speaking of Russia:
COINTELPRO The FBI began COINTELPRO—short for Counterintelligence Program—in 1956 to disrupt the activities of the Communist Party of the United States. In the 1960s, it was expanded to include a number of other domestic groups, such as the Ku Klux Klan, the Socialist Workers Party, and the Black Panther Party. All COINTELPRO operations ended in 1971. Although limited in scope (about two-tenths of one percent of the FBI’s workload over a 15-year period), COINTELPRO was later rightfully criticized by Congress and the American people for abridging first amendment rights and for other reasons. Source: vault.FBI.gov/COINTELPRO
We were balancing a world post-WWII and launched into a Cold War. We nearly annihilated the human species a year before the March on Washington, a year after I was born. We also had assassinations of significant leaders: Medgar Evers (June 12, 1963), President John F. Kennedy (November 22, 1963), Malcolm X (February 21, 1965), Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (April 4, 1968), and Robert F. Kennedy (June 6, 1968). So spy shows tried to give us escapist fantasies from an era with great music, but it was a decade soaked in blood and angst.
It seems I recall – my parents received two newspapers: the Winston-Salem Journal in the mornings (now the only paper) and the Winston-Salem Sentinal in the evening. If you were a business advertising, you had a higher price for the morning than the evening paper. The evening news consisted of local from 6:00 – 6:30 pm, and national from 6:30 – 7:00 pm. After that, you got the spy series, game shows, or comedy series. They seemed to receive a decent amount of information they felt they needed to be informed, citizens. They and society as a whole also seemed: calmer. Instead of 24 hours of programming on a plethora of channels, which we’ll probably never view in a single human lifetime, the television went to a test pattern at midnight. There were a lot fewer insomniacs back then, and we had relief from the blood and angst – at least for brief respites.
The more we learn about the insidiousness that underlies social media in the new documentary “The Social Dilemma,” the more it seems like the film is bringing a slingshot to a nuclear war. What we learn in this movie is that our brains are being manipulated and even rewired by algorithms that are designed to get our attention and make us buy things, including buying into distorted ideas about the world, ourselves, and each other.
“The Social Dilemma” is from Jeff Orlowski, who gave us the similarly terrifying “what are we doing to ourselves” documentaries “Chasing Coral” and “Chasing Ice.” This one might as well be called “Chasing Us” as it asks fundamental and existential questions about whether we are literally writing (with code) ourselves out of the ability to make vital decisions about our own survival. Source: The Social Dilemma, Roger Ebert dot com
Part of what I remember from the documentary is emotion: anger engages us to click on a display, an ad, or fire off (what we think is) a witty missive in a comments section.
Monomers as metaphors
Monomers can bind with like molecules to form polymers in nature. The Internet has allowed us to combine with like-minded individuals at lightspeed over vast distances. Just because an extremist in North Carolina converses with an extremist in Norway, that they have found a “crew” in a chatroom, that they are vibing off each other, it doesn’t mean that each of the other is “right.” E.g.: Everyone in the fictional Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane thinks the citizens of Gotham are dumb schmucks and that Batman is a violent, vigilante psychopath (that last part might have a tinge of truth to it). That they would make the Penguin Mayor of Gotham and the Joker President also makes my point: a polymer of individual mental patients grouped together might give itself the name Qanon, and believe Secret Jewish Space Lasers cause fires in California.
Unlike Europe and the United States, Russia has a clear stance on Ukraine. Vladimir Putin’s hope for the future is his Eurasian Union, to be established next January as a rival to the European Union. Belarusian and Kazakh strongmen are game to join his dictators’ club. But since the idea has little popular support anywhere, Eurasian integration can take place only in conditions of Russian domination and local dictatorship. For Mr. Putin, the Eurasian Union would be meaningless without Ukraine. Eurasian ideology is the brainchild of Alexander Dugin, who has never disguised his admiration of fascism. His website publishes Russian strategists who claim that Ukraine is not a sovereign state.
Don’t Let Putin Grab Ukraine, Timothy Snyder, NYT, February 3, 2014
I’ve read Alexander Dubin’s name in Snyder’s book, “The Road to Unfreedom.” Referred to as “Putin’s brain,” he may have influenced the war in Ukraine. Two Medium writers, Nadin Brzezinski and B Kean have both suggested that Dugin planned and approved of the assassination of his daughter by the FSB. I’m almost expecting Dr. Evil.
This ain’t really a life, ain’t really a life, ain’t really nothing but a movie. “B-Movie,” Gil Scott-Heron, Genius Lyrics
So-called “strongmen” use KAOS/chaos as their toolbox. They’re really not strong: Putin, Orban, Xi Jinping, Trump: the tendency towards authoritarianism shows individuals internally insecure with not having the final word or the solution to any problem. It’s why Orban seized control of the media in Hungary: can’t let those reporters say mean things about his ineptitude. Xi’s response to Covid is probably worse than ours if he let his scientists speak to those in the west and share information (this secrecy births conspiracy theories whether they’re true or not). Putin was best at turning individuals against their nations but by rank a Lieutenant Colonel and low-level bureaucrat. He seized power by a staged terrorist attack before the year 2000: he exploited Russians’ fear and need for security: KAOS/chaos.
A world run by the weakest of men (it’s always men) is a world on fire, a societal, psychotic episode, a saturation of 24/7/365 angst: KAOS/chaos.
I can only conclude now the model is KAOS/chaos without a balance of order/CONTROL.