Internet, Industrialisation and Social Engineerering:

 From: Trevor Batten <>
 To: Robert W. McChesney <>, undisclosed list <>
 Subject: Fw: Digital Disconnect
 Date: Sat, 9 Mar 2013 22:05:53 +0800
 X-Mailer: Sylpheed 3.0.3 (GTK+ 2.24.4; x86_64-slackware-linux-gnu)

 Dear Friends,
 Actually, while agreeing with the idea of the pernicious nature of the
 internet, I'm beginning to suspect the reality of the problem is much deeper
 and more complex than is sketched in the text included below. In my view, it is
 an oversimplification (and perhaps even a perversion of the term in its
 original sense) to blame "capitalism". To do so is to distract from the real
 problem in ways that perhaps make a functional understanding impossible. The
 really fundamental problem is very likely to be "consumerism" -which developed
 (perhaps automatically) out of the industrialisation process in order to solve
 the "economy of surfeit" inevitably generated by the industrialisation process
 Consumerism develops the market for (essentially useless) products -while
 Socialism (can) provide the economic redistribution of income required to keep
 the system going. Of course, this latter is a taboo thought in the mainstream
 USA. However, the ultimate problem is surely the self-sustaining and all
 consuming nature of the modern industrial-military-edutainment complex: A
 system which provides a very unfortunate example of "sustainable development"
 -because (like a cancerous vampire) it continually expands and nourishes itself
 through the destruction of all that is not part of itself -and can thus only
 survive by finding new victims, because all are destroyed that are subsumed
 into it.
 Galbraith repeatedly mentions (in the "New Industrial State") how the American
 political theory is so directly opposed to the way the system works in
 practice. He also states the dangers of this -not only because it obscures the
 true nature of the beast -but also because of the dangers involved if political
 leaders believe the rhetoric and take it at face value.
 A fascinating question is then surely: How did America mutate from a
 revolutionary paradise (theoretically) based on freedom and equality to a
 centralised, globally domineering, feudal bully?
 If one reads "Only Yesterday -An Informal History of the 1920s" a 1931 book by
 Frederick Lewis Allen <>.
 then I believe one can see that Allen has skilfully documented the changes in
 America which took place in the '20's -apparently presaging the rise of modern
 consumerism -because largely based on the need to market industrial
 over-production. A situation that appears to have been replayed globally, since
 WWII. Even the 1930's crash seems currently present in the contemporary post
 WWII global rerun (which has also speeded up in the post 9/11 period, for
 various reasons, perhaps in a misguided attempt to avoid the terminal decline
 it may be, inherently, heading towards).
 The 1920's period thus seems a pivotal moment in the history of the US -because
 that is when it became apparent that the industrial production was starting to
 exceed (and transcend) the "capital" requirements of industry. By "capital" one
 means here the use of production to increase the production of the
 industrialisation process itself: Iron and steel and railways and agricultural
 machinery -all involve "capital" goods that increase production. But in the
 1920's the production shifts to consumer goods -which have to be explicitly
 marketed, because there is no inherent market for these things (as there is
 with capital goods). The marketing of this overproduction (an economy of
 surfeit) produces marked social and cultural changes in the 1920's. Social
 engineering thus becomes an essential part of modern marketing.
 So, can one find a similar "watershed" moment for the industrialisation process
 itself, within the American national historical context?
 Howard Zinn suggests that the American Civil War was not primarily about
 slavery, as most people seem to prefer to assume. Clearly issues of State
 "independence" (the right to live one's life as one wishes) are implicit within
 any demand for succession. But what was the major issue (if not slavery) that
 might threaten the Southern way of life? For Zinn (and this seems credible) the
 real issue was the industrialisation of America -and in particular the economic
 potential of the unexploited Southern coal fields. From this perspective, the
 Civil War was, literally, a "class" war -in which the urban, organised,
 industrialised bourgeois of the North won against the rural, anarchic,
 agricultural "freeman" lifestyle of the South: i.e The social transition from
 the agrarian and independent world of Jeffersonian democracy described by
 Crevecoeur's "Letters from an American Farmer" (interrupted by the
 Revolutionary War of independence) and de Tocqueville's "Democracy in
 America" (later destroyed by the American Civil War) towards "modern",
 industrialised and organised America (more or less) as we now know it. Harald
 Robbin's "The Carpet Baggers", describing the post-war situation, is surely
 more reminiscent of the post Soviet rape of Eastern Europe and the current
 drive for "regime change" in the Middle East -rather than the bucolic,
 gentlemanly, world of the original (pre-Civil War) American ideals. Apparently
 the end of the American Civil War was more than a military victory, it was a
 socio-economic "regime change".
 Because most intellectuals aspire to an urban lifestyle (despite their physical
 location) -it is perhaps difficult for them to appreciate the fundamental
 differences between urban and rural contexts. However, both Crevecoeur and
 Thomas Jefferson were influenced by Physiocratic ideas. Clearly, these ideals,
 in various (mutated) forms are still active today in various socio-political

 The wikipedia  entry for Physiocracy <>
 <begin quote Wikipedia>
 Physiocracy (from the Greek for "Government of Nature") is an economic theory
 developed by the Physiocrats, a group of economists who believed that the
 wealth of nations was derived solely from the value of "land agriculture" or
 "land development." Their theories originated in France and were most popular
 during the second half of the 18th century. Physiocracy is perhaps the first
 well-developed theory of economics.
 The movement was particularly dominated by François Quesnay (1694–1774) and
 Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot (1727–1781).[1] It immediately preceded the first
 modern school, classical economics, which began with the publication of Adam
 Smith's The Wealth of Nations in 1776.
 The most significant contribution of the Physiocrats was their emphasis on
 productive work as the source of national wealth. This is in contrast to
 earlier schools, in particular mercantilism, which often focused on the ruler's
 wealth, accumulation of gold, or the balance of trade. At the time the
 Physiocrats were formulating their ideas, economies were almost entirely
 agrarian. That is presumably why the theory considered only agricultural labor
 to be valuable. Physiocrats viewed the production of goods and services as
 consumption of the agricultural surplus, since the main source of power was
 from human or animal muscle and all energy was derived from the surplus from
 agricultural production..........
 Individualism and laissez-faire
 Main articles: Individualism and Laissez-faire
 The Physiocrats, especially Turgot, believed that self-interest is the
 motivation for each segment of the economy to play its role. Each individual is
 best suited to determine what goods he wants and what work would provide him
 with what he wants out of life. While a person might labor for the benefit of
 others, he will work harder for his own benefit; however, each person's needs
 are being supplied by many other people. The system works best when there is a
 complementary relationship between one person's needs and another person's
 desires, and trade restrictions place an unnatural barrier to achieving one's
 Investment capital
 Both Quesnay and Anne Robert Jacques Turgot, Baron de Laune recognized that
 capital was needed by farmers to start the production process, and both were
 proponents of using some of each year’s profits to increase productivity.
 Capital was also needed to sustain the laborers while they produced their
 product. Turgot recognizes that there is opportunity cost and risk involved in
 using capital for something other than land ownership, and he promotes interest
 as serving a “strategic function in the economy.”[10] <end quote Wikipedia>

 The same Wikipedia article also states:

 "The perceptiveness of the Physiocrats' recognition of the key significance of
 land was reinforced in the following half-century, when fossil fuels had been
 harnessed through the use of steam power. Productivity increased manyfold.
 Railways, and steam-powered water supply and sanitation systems, made possible
 cities of several millions, with land values many times greater than
 agricultural land. Thus, whilst modern economists also recognise manufacturing
 as productive and wealth-creating, the underlying principles laid down by the
 Physiocrats remain valid. Physiocracy also has an important contemporary
 relevance in that all life remains dependent on the productivity of the raw
 soil and the ability of the natural environment to renew itself."

 However, I believe this interpretation, by focusing on the materialistic aspect
 of the theory -misses the fundamental politico-economic changes that occur
 automatically with the transition from an urban to a rural environment.
 This contrast is described effectively in Ralph Borsodi's "Flight From The
 City" New York: Harper & Row, 1933. The book "Chronicles the Borsodi family's
 journey from job-in-the-city dependency to self-sufficient country
 independence. Borsodi was far-sighted enough to accomplish this move during the
 prosperity of the 1920s; his books served as guideposts for many anguished
 wage-slaves who saw his book as a guiding light toward financial security, even
 survival, during the Great Depression. More, Ralph Borsodi was an amazingly
 intelligent social critic whose view cut through to the very heart of the
 contradictions and problems of industrial civilization. PUBLIC DOMAIN."

 Jeffersonian democracy (taken as an idealistic theory, without the practical
 problems of defining its range of inclusivity) is possible in a society of
 economically independent "freemen", living off the land. However, an urban
 environment generally does not permit this. Land is scarce in cities and
 nowadays it is generally considered uneconomic to use city land for natural
 (non-processed) food production. Consequently, cities are essentially
 (immaterial) money based economies: Where economic independence can only be
 obtained by acquiring enough monetary wealth (via traditional Marxist
 capitalism) to exist either outside, or through exploitation of, the system of
 monetary exchange. The Jeffersonian democratic ideal of a society of "free (and
 equal) men" thus seems impossible within an urban context -simply because
 economic independence is contrary to urban economic principles based on trade
 and a money based economic inter-dependence (necessary to drive the trade which
 is the life-blood of the city economy).

 Similarly, the "hidden hand of God" invented by Adam Smith, was, in practice, a
 theory of the rural market place -and, one might argue, has no place within the
 pseudo-monopolistic corporate system that grows naturally out of the large
 scale production, distribution and "marketing" system inherent in an
 industrialised, urban, society. Marxism, clearly bases its theories also on an
 industrial interpretation of the "market" -which is perhaps why it fails to be
 sufficiently aware of the difference between "capitalism" as a general
 principle of sustainability -and "financial capitalism" which easily becomes
 inherently exploitative (and ultimately unsustainable) -unless an inherent
 redistribution principle is included.
 In conclusion: The exploitative nature of the internet is an inherent and
 inevitable characteristic of an economic system based on industrial
 overproduction focused on consumer goods rather than capital goods. Under these
 conditions, expansion is not an expression of the success of the system -but
 expansion of the market becomes absolutely essential for the survival of the
 system itself. Otherwise it would be impossible to deal with the surfeit of
 goods mass produced so effectively by the system. Post-1920's, social
 engineering (backed up by the modern edutainment industry) is now an essential
 part of the marketing strategy required to keep production of the inessential
 surplus going: Here, "education" (via the news media, "think tanks" and
 lobbyists, schools and colleges, or via the internet) plays an essential role
 in socially engineering the consumer market. Foreign invasions fill the gap,
 where the edutainment system is ineffective for political, social or religious
 reasons. Secularism is also an essential part of consumerism -otherwise
 religious taboos would limit consumption and undermine the system.

 However, this is largely masked by the confusing nature of much
 politico-economic rhetoric -which has actually become dysfunctional, if not
 deliberately, then by the continued application of pre-industrial, rural,
 social and economic theory, long after the living conditions which made these
 theories appropriate have generally disappeared.
 In order to understand the complex subtlety of the processes involved -it may
 be necessary to develop a wider, more creative and McLuhan like approach to the
 concept of "media" -which extends beyond mass communication media and includes
 the way innovative thought processes (both analytical and synthetic) are
 intertwined with (and manifest in) physical processes and cultural products (as
 opposed to lifestyle products). In this context, maybe creative "artistic
 media" are more valid (as models) than propaganda based "communication media".

 Begin forwarded message:
 Date: Fri, 8 Mar 2013 17:59:45 +0000
 From: Robert W. McChesney <>
 To:  <>
 Subject:  Digital Disconnect
 View online
 “A major new work by one of the nation's leading analysts of media.… A hard to
 put down, meticulously researched must-read.”
 —Juliet Schor, author of True Wealth

 Dear friend or acquaintance of Bob McChesney,
 I am writing you to tell you about my new book on the Internet that may
 interest you. It is titled Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism is Turning the
 Internet Away from Democracy
 ( .
 The book is a political economic examination of the digital revolution based
 upon 15 years of research. The book provides considerable detail but also an
 overarching analysis and argument, so it is intended for anyone concerned with
 the Internet. It is the capstone of my career
 ( .
 Michael Delli Carpini, Dean of the Annenberg School for Communication at the
 University of Pennsylvania, said: “Digital Disconnect makes a convincing case
 that one can only understand the Internet and related communication
 technologies through the lens of political economy, and that the capitalist
 political economy in which they are currently embedded in the United States is
 anathema to a truly democratic information environment.”
 The book includes the following:
 * how the standard dichotomy of views on the Internet as “celebratory” or
 skeptical” have important and necessary insights, but they almost all fail to
 factor in or appreciate the importance of capitalism as the driving force, as
 well as the problems capitalism can create for democratic values and practices
 * a fresh look at  the noncommercial origins of the Internet, and the shadowy
 process whereby it was converted into an engine for commercialism
 * how the dinosaur industries of telecommunication and entertainment media have
 managed to survive and even prosper in the Internet era by their domination of
 the corrupt policymaking process
 * how the Internet, once seen as an engine of economic competition, has become
 arguably the greatest generator of economic monopoly in history, with troubling
 implications for both the economy and political democracy; the dominant
 Internet firms now comprise nearly one-half of the 30 largest publicly traded
 corporations  in the United States, based on market value
 * how advertising has been radically transformed online such that traditional
 notions of privacy have been eliminated, and the traditional support for media
 content advertising once provided is disappearing
 * how the national security state has surveillance powers over private citizens
 that were unimaginable a generation ago and are inimical to the foundations of
 a free society
 * how the Internet has assisted in destroying journalism as it has been
 practiced for the past century, and offers no hope on its own of rejuvenating
 journalism as a credible broad-based democratic institution; this chapter
 updates the research I did with John Nichols in 2010’s multiple-award-winning
 Death and Life of American Journalism
 (Nation Books)
 * how a series of crucial policy debates in the next decade will go a long way
 toward determining the course of the Internet and the course of society.
 This book is written with the aim of helping scholars and citizens be informed
 participants, and to see that the revolutionary democratic potential of the
 digital revolution be realized.
 After reading the book, Eric Alterman of The Nation and Brooklyn College wrote:
 “Once again, McChesney stands at the crossroads of media dysfunction and the
 denial of democracy, illuminating the complex issues involved and identifying a
 path forward to try to repair the damage. Here's hoping the rest of us have the
 good sense to listen this time.”
 Matthew Rothschild, editor of The Progressive, wrote: “With a panoramic sweep
 and profound insights, McChesney rings the alarm bells, showing clearly how
 capitalism is swallowing up the promise of the Internet. No one knows this
 field better than McChesney, and with this book, he has reached the pinnacle.”
 Thank you for your consideration,
 Bob McChesney
 Purchase on Amazon
 | Powell's (
 “Over the past 20 years, the world has experienced a profound communications
 revolution delivered by the internet as well as an equally profound rise in
 economic inequality and instability delivered by neoliberal capitalism. Digital
 Disconnect explores the connections between these epoch-defining trends with
 clarity, depth, originality and verve."
 —Robert Pollin, Professor of Economics and Co-Director, Political Economy
 Research Institute (PERI), University of Massachusetts-Amherst
 Why did I get this?

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Trevor Batten
 <trevor at tebatt dot net>
 Baclayon 2013