The Daily DeX: News, Notes, And Quotes For 04/29/2019

The Daily DeX curates the most compelling news, opinion, narratives, data, polls, arguments, and dot-connecting. It’s ammunition for weaponizing our sense-making networks. Load up.

Today on The Daily DeX: The not so disturbing link between conspiracy theory and petty crime, African neo-neocolonialism, Joy Division, climate realism, futurism = fascism, selfie deaths and market crashes, and Rustler ‘77.

+“The Disturbing Link Between Conspiracy Theories and Petty Crime” | The Daily Beast

“The study, which was conducted by the universities of Kent and Staffordshire, showed that a belief in conspiracy theories—such as anti-vaccination and flat earth theories—may also actually make people more inclined to engage in everyday crime, like running a red light or avoiding taxes. According to Professor Karen Douglas, one of the study’s lead researchers, the correlation between conspiracy and small crime in certain people can be attributed to a heightened sense of “anomie,” a general feeling of unrest or dissatisfaction that can lead to the belief that society as a whole is without morality. “Anomie is the idea that people feel that there’s no social capital left, they don’t really like or trust people anymore… the feeling that something has been lost in society…” Douglas explained. “Being exposed to conspiracy theories makes people higher in this sense of anomie… if they think other people are doing these bad things, then why shouldn’t they?””

→”The Matrix” was the worst thing that ever happened to conspiracy theory. It gave heft and weight to alienated cool and the disintegrating social bonds many of us felt but couldn’t articulate in the late 90s. Because “glitches in The Matrix” and “taking the Red Pill” were uber cool at about the same time that lots of people who were discovering the power of networks weren’t networked in the ways that truly matter, it was easy and comforting to believe that one had access to special knowledge others who remain “plugged in” didn’t. What the conspiracist pose has wrought won’t be flushed out of our culture’s system for a generation.

+“To Ramp Up Fear of Russia in Africa, NYT Downplays Massive US Military Presence on Continent” | FAIR

According to documents obtained by the Intercept’s Nick Turse (12/1/18), the US currently has 34 military bases in Africa; Russia has zero. The Times doesn’t tell us how many “contractors’ and “troops” Russia has in Africa, so it’s not clear what the so-called “light footprint” is “relative” to. Is it 10? 100? 10,000? If it’s a lot less than 6,000, then the story is a bit of a dud. Alas, we’re simply left guessing at the “relative” size of Russia’s Africa presence. Also worth noting: “Light footprint” is the same Orwellian phrase the Pentagon has been using for years to obscure the growth of AFRICOM, as in this AFRICOM press release (6/13/12)

–>Africa is the latest theater of great power struggle. The near term prizes are oil and rare earths. The long term prize is “guarantor of security,” the vague but important status with which the United States maintains global political and military hegemony while China challenges in the South China Sea and Africa. Both nations have military bases in Djibouti. It’s not clear what Russia’s presence in the region means, but if Syria and Venezuela are indications, this regional power will try to simulate global power as a member of what I’ve called the Counterweight Coalition. The current situation is complex and there aren’t many independent, non-think tank voices right now who can make good sense of it. Until things become more clear, there are two people to listen to. Years ago an analyst named Thomas P. M. Burnett analyzed post-9/11 geo-strategy in terms of “the Core” and “the Gap.” Africa and much of the Middle East, are in the Gap. The Gap is resistant to capital, data, information, and cultural flows that open up and leverage markets for products as well as ideas. The other voice is Nick Turse of Tom’s Dispatch. He’s well-researched and decidedly anti-imperialist. An informed view on neo-neocolonialism in African begins somewhere these two writers.

+“Deciphering the Mystery of Joy Division” | The Atlantic

Post-punk: what a great term. We’re all post-punk. Punk happened, and then—at some point—we did. For bands in the era of Joy Division, it meant music that sounded like ideas. Tony Wilson, trickster-broadcaster and high theorist of the Manchester Geist, signed them to his new label, Factory. “The degraded city was part of Joy Division’s life,” said Wilson. “The idea of the city is a theme that runs through this whole thing, Manchester being the archetypal modern city.” Martin Hannett became their producer—dimensional slippage was his fixation, the little blips and space-smears and echoes of otherness with which he would open up the Joy Division sound.”

–>I don’t think post-punk ever really ended. We may always be post-punk.

+“Climate ‘Realists’ Are Delusional” | Motherboard

“Why do we accept the language of what’s “realistic” at face value? It’s ridiculous to allow people to tell us that geoengineering and capitalism-friendly, moderate strategies are more “realistic” than, say, the Green New Deal or sweeping forms of policy.

The language of “realism” is weaponized pragmatism—but it isn’t actually pragmatism. Pragmatism would be acknowledging the threat for what it is, and addressing it appropriately.

Semiotician Roland Barthes once argued that myth is inherent in language, and that it helps to naturalize certain world views. In his book Mythologies, he wrote, “Myth does not deny things, on the contrary, its function is to talk about them; simply, it purifies them, it makes them innocent, it gives them a natural and eternal justification, it gives them a clarity which is not that of an explanation but that of a statement of fact.””

–>Climate change is an ideological struggle of/for the future. The climate change fight will be more difficult to solve than climate change itself. Even if a big-budget climate change disaster movie scenario came to pass, the ideological fight would continue as Americans in the south migrate northward.

+“When Futurism Led to Fascism—and Why It Could Happen Again” | Wired

This love of disruption and progress at all costs led Marinetti and his fellow artists to construct what some call a “a church of speed and violence.” They embraced fascism, pushed aside the idea of morality, and argued that innovation must never, for any reason, be hindered. Marinetti and his movement cheered, for example, when Italy invaded Northern Africa. “Italian bombardment of Tripoli from biplanes and dirigibles was the first air bombardment in the history of the world, and thus a major technological innovation,” writes Eugene Ostashevsky. Today, some technologists praise drone warfare with similar language. “Though they painted themselves as scions of a new age, the Fascists and Futurists were really ultraconservatives ideologically,” writes Gabriel T. Rubin. Again, sound familiar? In their never-ending quest for progress at any cost, today’s companies are flirting with fascism themselves.

–>Finally! An intellectual and historical basis for my claim that Big Data is inherently fascist. I’m beginning to think artificial intelligence is, too.

+“Selfie Deaths Are Like Market Crashes” | Bloomberg

“The fuller picture now looks something like this: There are billions of cell phones in use today. They take trillions of photographs annually. By my very inexact calculation, we take about 36.5 billion selfies a year. So stuff those numbers into the calculator and the share of people who die while taking a selfie works out to 0.000000001182648 percent. The parallels to investing are obvious: We fear rare events like stock-market crashes and hyperinflation, when we should be focused instead on the mundane, like broad diversification and keeping costs low. To be more specific, our attention is captivated by black-swan events like the 1987 market crash, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged a record 23 percent in one day; this is metaphorically akin to a terrorist attack, while high fees that erode long-term returns are more like elevated LDL cholesterol.”

–>Both selfie deaths and market crashes are exceptional and rare, but when they occur they are of such cultural and emotional impact that we ignore how utterly unlikely they are. However, because market crashes and other such events are difficult to see before they happen (don’t believe 80% of those who claim to have seen the 2008 FInancial Crisis before it happened) there’s a tendency among some to see doom and gloom outcomes where probability implies there shouldn’t be. “Economic Collapse!” videos on YouTube or anyone who thinks gold will skyrocket to $100,000 an ounce once the dollar is no longer the world’s reserve currency are prime and exasperating examples.

+“A day working at Rustler Steak House (1977)” | Boing Boing

“”Back in 1976/77, I worked at the Rustler Steak House in Alameda, California,” writes Take2MarkTV. “One night, I took my Super 8 camera with me to document a typical shift.” Growing up, my family preferred the local Ponderosa Steakhouse over Rustler, and even Bonanza and Sizzler for that matter.”

–>My mom loved eating out. My dad always wondered “Why eat somewhere else when there’s food at home that I paid for?” Of course my mom won. My dad saved face by discovering Rustler Steak House, the one across the street from the mall. He loved eating a steak and baked potato meal so much that he didn’t mind my mom occasionally stealing the silverware. For me eating there with them was one of those times when I felt closest to my family. That feeling of belonging was better than a $3.99 T-Bone.

@ProjectDeX

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