Appendix: Digital disconnect:


From: Trevor Batten <>
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


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Trevor Batten
 <trevor at tebatt dot net>
 Baclayon 2013