Eyes Wide Open or Eyes Wide Shut? Political Choices for the Technologically Disillusioned
You can look at the world with your eyes wide open or your eyes wide shut.
The age of information is the age of disillusionment. Perhaps Julian Assange never considered that people do not always want to hear the truth. He and his team expose worldwide corruption, deep in the governmental and state systems. But constant leaks and revelations prompt psychological resistance. Too much truth-telling may cause people to reject the truth and retreat to the old half-truths and fictions about the system that made them feel stable and secure.
In the era of too much information, the deeper challenge is... how much truth can you bear? How do you like the truth when the truth shatters your world? How does justice fare in your mind when it is justice for the people you most despise and fear? The liberal left championed WikiLeaks when Assange exposed the US Military. But when WikiLeaks took aim at Hillary Clinton's 2016 electoral campaign, their position changed. There are leaks one likes to hear because they confirm one's prejudices. Then there are the leaks that disturb, disrupt, and overturn one's world view to such a serious degree that they become uncomfortable, or impossible to absorb or believe. In that case, the original narrative must be reaffirmed, and the offending truth-telling narrative discredited.
When truth exits the comfort zone of millions of people, who are confronted with something they just do not want to accept, the preservation of society can become more important than exposing the truth. When truth is viewed as a threat, the original lie becomes equated with the survival of a society. This is very dangerous. This means that those who wish to believe in the mainstream version of reality may retreat into self-delusion to ignore the changes around them. This is the "Eyes Wide Shut" option, for those who accept defensive disinformation from a beleaguered establishment.
Others bear witness to the spilled secrets, and assume that the establishment cannot be trusted. As they abandon mainstream politics, they confront huge resistance. Rather than appeal to the Internet-literate with true innovation, the surveillance-capitalist establishment instead seeks to chastise, admonish, and bully people back into their former trust of the system.
It's not working. In Internet culture, if you still trust the system, it is not because you made a rational choice between the 20th century order and the 21st century underground. It is because you are under-informed or misinformed; you just don't know what's going on. Internet trolls refer to the 20th-century-minded as 'normals' or 'normies.'
For the 20th-century-minded, the standard of press journalism is still Watergate, that is, Nixon's illegal surveillance of his political opposition and 18 minutes of missing White House conversations. Compare that to today, and the contrast is ludicrous.
Whistle-blowers, hackers, and leakers make shocking revelations far worse than Watergate every few days. When WikiLeaks and others have so much to reveal — volumes and volumes of information on the ruination and corruption of the system stretching back decades — the alt-media insists that the mainstream media have failed in their duty to safeguard the integrity of their societies.
The alt-media choose the "Eyes Wide Open" option, but their skepticism suffers from a different kind of self-delusion. Their weak spot remains any destabilizing anti-mainstream or anti-establishment argument which proclaims itself to be the 'real truth.'
The 21st century alt-media gain credibility among disenchanted citizens by claiming that the whole system is broken. This 'all or nothing' attitude is dangerous because extreme currents of thought resonate with the dynamics of social media.
Alt-media discourses of 'ultra-truth' chime with social media functions such as traffic, search engine optimization, hashtags, and going viral. There are subtler elements of psychological surrealism, as alt-media personalities thrive on 'red-pilling' their followers, demolishing earlier world views and rebuilding ruined perceptions from the ground up with contagious virtual symbols called memes. This is why the alt-media's credibility is built on destruction, and a total rejection of modern societies as functioning constructs. As technologically-driven information obliterates old norms, we have the choice to close our eyes — or open them.