Thursday, December 08, 2016

Defining the Darkness.9: Orwell Gets An Update

Every January, futurist and sf author Bruce Sterling does his "State of the World" posts at The Well.  There's nothing else like them.  I expect the next one to be epic, but there are a few themes from the last one--in 1/2016--that seem of particular relevance now.

Among them are his comments on oligarchy and authoritarianism.  He mentions that:

"As for corporate dominance, it's quite old-fashioned. What actually
dominates now is stockholder value and a few ultra-rich individuals;
finance defeated corporate power many years ago. We have oligarch
dominance, not corporate dominance. Otherwise, Donald Trump would
be insulting and trolling corporations instead of individuals. The
Koch Brothers wouldn't be hated, feared and respected, we'd hate
their front corporations instead. People don't do that now.
Mistaking the Koch Bros for one of their corporate fronts would be
naive and corny."

I note this in connection with the upcoming US administration.  Not only are these cabinet secretaries against what their agencies administrate (anti-labor Labor secretary, anti-environmental EPA, etc.) but a conspicuous number are billionaires, with zero experience in government.  It is not only an oligarchical government--it is run by literal oligarchs.

The authoritarian tendency of the Republican candidate was no secret.  Here's what Sterling had to say about prominent authoritarian governments and economies elsewhere:

"In Russia and China in 2016, digital media is an arm of
the state. Internet has zero revolutionary potential within those
societies, but all kinds of potential for exported cyberwar. The
Chinese police spy and firewall model, much scoffed at in the 1990s,
is now the dominant paradigm. The Chinese have prospered with their
authoritarian approach, while those who bought into borderless
friction-free data have been immiserated by the ultra-rich."

It will be interesting to see how "exported cyberwar" applies to what Russia did in this American election (apparently a matter of controversy in Washington.)  But the larger point is the drift of oligarchy to authoritarianism, and how well it works economically--for the oligarchs.  This has implications for the economic well-being of Americans (including and perhaps especially those hapless stooges who voted Republican) and for freedom--for effective dissent, or freedom in any and all traditional senses in America.  Orwell gets an update.

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