"Though Mao's cult of personality has passed into history, its traces persist within systems of Orwellian control. To downplay the importance of 1989's Tiananmen Square protests, the state apparatus weaponizes forgetting in order to once again pit younger, more socially engineered generations against once militant Baby Boomers."
"How we think about "knowledge" is in flux. The convergence of polarized culture and fractured media remakes political discourse on an industrial scale. An internet connection provides access to staggering amounts of information, but not nearly as many tools and strategies for transforming information into knowledge. But it’s also true that mastery of a given body of knowledge now is further beyond what the average person knows about that subject than ever before. Thus, expertise may not have the same social value for the average citizen it once enjoyed. Because we’re encouraged to cling to the belief that it does, we now worship a handful of internet barons, political technocrats, financial moguls, and spiritual gurus, all of them peddling easy paths to enlightenment through virtues manufactured to serve their agendas."
"The impact of surveillance technologies on culture, politics, and even our values has been my jam for a long time. Of particular interest are the accelerating transitions from science-fictiony possibilities that horrify us to everyday realities that tame us. For instituting such breathless control, China provides the blueprint for what it's leaders cynically call “managed democracy.” As I’ve written before, whatever Orwellian tactic emerges in China does not stay in China. It propagates to other totalitarian regimes across the globe. We’ll even see a slow totalitarian creep in “open” societies like Great Britain (which doesn’t have strong free speech and personal privacy protections) before we see it here. Thanks to a virtually unregulated tech sector, the American version will be brought to us by major corporations that fatten 401Ks, and small, shrouded research firms that spin themselves as techno-utopians. The difference between China’s brute force authoritarian control and its American cousin is that the latter will be more subtle and opaque—a soft (or “inverted”) totalitarianism, as Sheldon Wolin called it—that produces capital as well as control by harvesting then leveraging even more of our data than it does now."
"Why don’t we ever see someone with real power and influence getting arrested on Cops? Reality shows are never about reality. They’re always about reality as someone else wants it presented. However, I’m equally convinced reality shows are about reality as we want it presented. How easily do we assume that because an episode of Cops has obviously been edited that police interactions never violate a citizen’s rights? And if we didn’t assume this, would we even know violations if we saw them? What we want from shows like Cops are age-old, deeply ingrained, and rarely challenged depictions of criminality that assure us that whatever the police do on this tv show is right, proper, and the closest thing to a wall between order and disorder we can imagine."
"Take American empire seriously. It's the most complex artifact civilizations have thus far developed. Its grim, awe-filled beauty is that the very idea has always been more powerful than our tanks, carriers, nukes, legions, and the almighty dollar combined. Still, the age-old story of how empires rise and fall has only one iteration. Empires rise because they’re ambitious, then fall because their reach exceeds their grasp. What were once assets become liabilities. Unfortunately, it takes a long time for reality to settle in. We’re still badass. And I’d rather live in a real empire than a former empire like Great Britain or a fake empire like Russia. But no one I take seriously believes America is still rising. Indeed, it’s a significant feat for an empire to simply stay afloat at such a late stage after two world wars."
"I was going to write that the dark side of white privilege is that whiteness so convinces you everything should be easy that when things aren’t going your way at all you give up like a spineless and hang around Twitter wearing a clown wig and a rubber nose. But that actually sounds like the white side of white privilege."