Brian Holmes on Wed, 9 Jul 2014 20:41:18 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Facebook's Mood Study: Orwellian newspeak 2.0

On 07/09/2014 12:53 AM, nettime's avid reader wrote:

It turns out that one of the researchers who ran Facebook's recent
psychological experiments received funding from the U.S. Department of
Defense to study the contagion of ideas

So why should the crossover of one researcher be so suspicious? Are we being told that DOD's Minerva project itself contagious? Isn't this just more aimless paranoia from the crazies?

Check out David Price, the author of Weaponizing Anthropology:

"When you looked at the individual bits of many of these projects they sort of looked like normal social science, textual analysis, historical research, and so on, but when you added these bits up they all shared themes of legibility with all the distortions of over-simplification. Minerva is farming out the piece-work of empire in ways that can allow individuals to disassociate their individual contributions from the larger project."

That's it, right down to the banality and the over-simplification. The crucial technique used by DoD to exploit civilian research is the concept of "dual use" - the professors see the civilian, peace-time use (a salve for their conscience) and the military planners see the research as small pieces in a larger effort that they coordinate. The best book I know about this is Mind Wars, by the bioethicist Jonathan Moreno (with that unforgettable first chapter, Darpa on Your Mind). But in the meantime, definitely read the two Guardian articles by Nafeez Ahmed that describe the Minerva project and its backgrounds:

Ahmed's key conclusion is this: "NSA mass surveillance is partially motivated to prepare for the destabilising impact of coming environmental, energy and economic shocks." They want your info so they can model, influence and shape your behavior. Big data = social control.

There's no use sticking our heads in the sand. The military is right that massive disorder lies on the horizon, because it started three years ago (with Fukushima, Tahrir, Occupy and right now, Isis). The question is, how do we guide ourselves through the breakdown of the neoliberal order toward a more viable way of life? Whoever thinks there will be a spontaneous "return to normal" is ripe for the manipulations of militarized social science, delivered via the giant corporations.

That nexus (big science-corporations-military) is as old as WWII, and its tradition is unbroken, despite the scandals of the 60s and 70s. The covert force of miitarized social science will act, it _is_ acting on society right now. We need to massively recognize that our whole oil-based civilization is currently on a disaster course, and that course is having immediate consequences. We need to find the ways to make this into a fully public preoccupation, so that the efforts to steer the ensuing chaos are not guided by the single aim of preserving the plutocratic status quo and the capitalist exploitation of society. Efforts to maintain the status quo inevitably worsen the problems we are facing. And one-off protests, occupations and revolts, valuable as they may be, will not change the dynamics of an entire social order.

Civil society has tremendous resources to deal with the problems of the present. On the basis of transformative processes that have already begun, over the next thirty years we could leave the petroleum economy behind for alternative energies, transform the food system into healthy fare for all, end massive inequality and the hatred, oppression and terrorism that comes in its wake, and find a new ethos, a new culture, a new art of living. But none of that can be done if you think your own life won't change. What's missing is the public recognition that the current form of society can't last. It will end in authoritarianism and bloodshed, or it will end in far better ways, with people you can love and air you can breathe. What we have in our lives is not some unbearable nightmare, but the chance to be part of the transition.

so let's go further, Brian

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