I suggest you read the blog and then watch the video..
The purpose of the ‘Marketplace of Ideas’ in the first instance is to explain what happened to Russell Brand in his recent battle with the media for public opinion. This is part of a broader discussion on the nature of political, cultural and philosophical debate in Anglo Saxon society and why discussion of alternatives has always failed to make a significant impression on this society in particular.
Whether you agree with Brands particular form of alternative politics or not, it was pretty obvious that he lost more than just an argument about politics. Clearly he was personally damaged by what has happened to him. There are important observations to be made here for anyone who seriously considers proposing or implementing alternatives for society.
Only a short while ago Brand published a widely discussed book on ‘Revolution’ and had more or less cornered media attention with his advocacy for abstention from voting in elections. Yet within a few months he was largely discredited and isolated. And now he seems to have withdrawn almost completely from alternative politics.
This change in fortune was not somehow the consequence a disconnected chain of events or the result of poor personal choices. It was clear that a media lynch mob was intent on waging a war of attrition on Brand and succeeded in their objective. What was remarkable was that this provoked no widespread outrage or even a mildly critical response from the majority of the alternative media.
It is hardly the first time that someone like Brand has been publicly mauled like this and I can confidently predict it will not be the last. With this in mind we should try to understand the intellectual framework within which this media vivisection occurred. What is the content of media and societal thought that makes an outcome like this possible?
The stock answer would be that mainstream media and society are in the right so of course they won, but I am sure you would agree that it is hardly likely to be as simple as that.
The next simplest explanation is one of economic and political power and sheer weight of numbers. The mainstream media can saturate the discussion till they win. But this does not address the question of why the press is a homogenous mass- of why they all think the same.
This leads to the argument that press and society is homogenous because the press owners are all capitalists and oligarchs. This observation is hardly new. But do the readers of the press not know this? Do they not discount it when they read the press? What is the mechanism that links the buttons the press pushes with the lights that go on the in the public mind? Why are press and public coherent?
The only viable explanation is that there is an overarching framework of ideas that controls debate. It is a framework that works; that maintains society in a stable form. I likened this framework to the roots of a tree. Like a root system it initially seems impossibly complex. But if we bring the network to light we can categorise classes and types of roots and their relationship one to another and to the tree as a whole.
In the first part of my analysis I dealt with the Power Of Naming and Subversive Naming which is the battle to control the terms of the argument. Characterise Brand as ‘this person’ and his ideas as ‘this type of idea’ and you have gone ninety percent of the way to victory.
If Brand battles from ‘principle’ he can’t beat mainstream media system because their purpose in arguing is not to ‘win’ an argument on principle or intellect but to produce an army of believers that will continuously attack Brand.
This army of reporters, commentators, and web contributors endlessly launch wave after wave of assaults. By this means the Power of Naming is used to reconstruct and ultimately neutralise the opposition. It is ideological sandblasting-a million tiny particles wearing the subject away. What is the organising principle that allows a stream like this to be focused and directed with force at the opposition?
Following on from the Power of Naming I identified the Marketplace of Ideas which I argue determines what is possible through argument and discourse and in particular defines the originality of thought.
If originality can be defined as not doing or thinking what you are told, then it inevitably leads to collapse of the existing order. In this time and place originality is those thoughts or actions which directly or indirectly leads to the collapse of capitalism, since this is the dominant order. It follows then that capitalism does not want originality, or rather capitalism cannot sustain more than a certain very limited amount of originality. And the amount of originality that can be tolerated must necessarily decrease over time.
How does the capitalist thought system control, limit and where necessary kill, originality? I argue that it is though the Ownership of Ideas and the creation of a new kind of modern totalitarian society.
I used ‘1984’ as a description of modern totalitarianism that cannot be overthrown in the classical sense because it is totalitarian control of thought. This difference between physical totalitarianism and intellectual totalitarianism is important because totalitarianism is now of the mind.
This new kind of total mental control is sometimes referred to as ‘Inverted Totalitarianism’.
Inverted totalitarianism is a term coined by political philosopher Sheldon Wolin in 2003 to describe the emerging form of government of the United States. Wolin believes that the United States is increasingly turning into an illiberal democracy, and uses the term “inverted totalitarianism” to illustrate similarities and differences between the United States governmental system and totalitarian regimes such as Nazi Germany and the Stalinist Soviet Union. In Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt by Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco, inverted totalitarianism is described as a system where corporations have corrupted and subverted democracy and where economics trumps politics. In inverted totalitarianism, every natural resource and every living being is commodified and exploited to collapse, (including Ideas!-AP) as the citizenry is lulled and manipulated into surrendering their liberties and their participation in government through excess consumerism and sensationalism
It is Nazism turned upside-down, “inverted totalitarianism.” While it is a system that aspires to totality, it is driven by an ideology of the cost-effective rather than of a “master race” (Herrenvolk), by the material rather than the “ideal.”
‘Inverted Totalitarianism’ and the Marketplace of Ideas can be compared to ‘1984’ to get a more complete composite sense of modern totalitarianism.
There are omissions in the future vision that Orwell describes.
The first is Ideas as commodities which is at the crux of ‘1984’ but never explored in the text.
Ownership of Ideas is based and relies on, the Provenance of Ideas intellectually abstracted and formalised into the History of Ideas.
The Provenance of ideas is a legal argument dressed up as intellectual description. This legal argument expressly challenges the idea of overarching truth. It creates a dichotomy between the past and the present, the traditional and the modern. This is usually centred on the Enlightenment which it is claimed spontaneously produced the modern mind.
Ownership of Ideas leads to Ideas as commodities, artefacts which are traded as an expression of their social value. Understanding Ideas as commodities leads to the Marketplace of Ideas and the real purpose and meaning of discourse and debate.
Ideas are claimed to have proven ownership through the concept of provenance disguised by the intellectual discipline of ‘History’. Owned Ideas are revealed as commodities through use in consumption and trade. As commodities they have commodity value.
Commodity Value is a social construction in two ways: something is either valuable because everyone (or a large number) believe it to be valuable (and want it), or it is valuable because it gives an individual or group an advantage over everyone else. This is analogous to exchange value and use value.
For example, the social value of the ‘modern western medicine’ Idea can be understood as its ability to make a society healthy or to make an individual healthier than others. Vaccination and the controversies that surround it are an excellent illustration of this process and of the contradictions that are never far from it’s surface.
Vaccination is supposed to confer ‘herd immunity’ if enough members of a community are vaccinated. This is the group social value of vaccination; why we should all want it. But if an individual is successfully vaccinated that individual cannot catch the disease whether everybody else is vaccinated or not. This individual ‘use value’ of vaccination renders herd immunity irrelevant.
Herd immunity can only be of benefit to those people who have chosen not to be vaccinated as they are the only ones who can catch the disease. But they cannot be allowed to choose not to be vaccinated and take advantage of herd immunity because this damages herd immunity, which is what is protecting them! How can this bizarre logical catch 22 be resolved?
Vaccination only works as a Commodity Idea if it is generally accepted as a benefit with little or no risk. Individual benefit (use benefit) and group benefit (exchange benefit) work hand in hand with each other. But if you don’t accept the individual or the group benefit of vaccination the argument breaks down completely! In other words if you don’t accept the Commodity Value of the Vaccination Idea then the logic behind it breaks down.
Why does this matter?
Because it shows that there is no a priori logic behind vaccination but rather it is a Commodity Idea. It is valuable for as long as it is seen to be valuable by individuals and by society. When a significant section of the population question whether it is valuable either for themselves or for society as a whole it breaks down- not just as something people do but as a logical proposition! It’s not that people just stop doing it but it actually stops making sense. In other words it is only logical to the extent that people believe it is logical!
At this point there are two possible responses to ‘vaccination’ and what is claimed about it.
Either it is a lie or it is something other than a lie ( a useful fiction?).
Of course, in the modern world we don’t deal in ‘truth’ and ‘lies’ so the opposition to vaccination must be the product of ‘cranks’ ‘flat earthers’, in other words ‘The Primitive’ and so on…..
Here is how debate is exactly controlled and curtailed within the framework of Modernity and Tradition.
If it is claimed that an idea has no value in and of itself (in other words it is not either ‘true’ or ‘untrue’), then its value has to be established by other means. What other means can there be? It has to be proven by means of being trialled. It’s efficacy will be established through Trials.
The trials used to establish the efficacy of an idea in modern Germanic societies are carefully controlled public debates which are in effect the same as scientific trials.
What you saw with Russell Brand was the trialling of a set of ideas. But not Russell Brands ideas, because Russell Brand has no original ideas.
What was being trialled were the ideas of the ruling elite. That is what ‘discussion’ and ‘debate’ is; a means for elites to scientifically evaluate how effective their ideas are in controlling the way people think.
That is why debate is allowed and promoted. Brand is run through the maze like a white rat until dehydrated and exhausted he collapses. It is the maze that is being tested, not the rat!
It is a public demonstration of the efficacy of any given aspect of the system. The system is tested over and over again in public to prove to everybody’s satisfaction that it works. Not that it is ‘true’. Not that it is honest. Not that it is decent. But that it works. This is how its existence is justified. Not even that the ends justifies the means; the means IS the end. The defeat of both Truth and Originality.
So what would happen if Brand or any other white rat were to find a weakness or anomaly in the maze? The error would be repaired or amended and the trial would begin again. The story is updated and improved whenever a weakness is discovered.
This is called ‘Progress’….
The rat can never ‘win’ the trials; no-one can ever ‘win’ the debate and retire from the trials, any more than a lab rat can be allowed to escape from the maze, find a mate and set up a colony of free rats in the corner of a commercial laboratory….the idea of ‘winning’ a debate is INSANE.
Now we have established scientific efficacy of Commodity Ideas through the Trial process, we have one final step to take. Efficacy alone is too abstracted as a form of appraisal. After all, an artefact can be efficacious on any number of levels and in respect of any number of applications. We need a form of effectiveness that is specific to the Germanic Cult of Capitalism. We need Profitability.
Establishing Profitability entails a concrete financial appraisal of effort in and result out as described in the definition of Inverse Totalitarianism:
‘it is driven by an ideology of the cost-effective rather than of a “master race” (Herrenvolk), by the material rather than the “ideal.”’
This leads to the observation that in this society the purpose of discourse is to exploit the value that ideas have for as long as it is profitable. When it is no longer profitable to use, trade and maintain, an Idea is discarded and replaced. This is the fully formed Marketplace of Ideas.
Resources are martialed and applied to the promulgation of Ideas. These ideas are trialled and their Profitability evaluated, e.g. how much effort goes into them and how many people believe them. They are modified, discarded and replaced according to a resulting evaluation.
You can’t ‘win’ a debate under these circumstances. As the ‘opposition’ you are the bull in the ring; the ‘rube’ in the fairground; the rat in the maze. You say things because you believe them. The elite says things because you believe them. Discussion or debate is meaningless in this context.
The Germanic elite believes it is ‘elite’ as a consequence and expression of this intelligence. And that the way it operates is an expression of ‘intelligence’. Here is the great F Scott Fizgerald, horrified, amused and admiring modern Germanic intelligence all at the same time :
The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function
F Scott Fitzgerald
1984 as comedy
There is one further aspect of the Marketplace of Ideas that I need to mention That is ‘Intellectual Audacity’ which I will define as the ability and desire of the elite to relentlessly prosecute an idea until they don’t believe in it anymore. This of course, includes introducing new ideas.
Audacity is defined as:
‘Showing a willingness to take surprisingly bold risks.Showing an impudent lack of respect.‘
Taking intellectual risks makes you an Intellectual Entrepreneur; a vital component of the Marketplace of Ideas.
Those outside the Idea Trading Elite are always flabbergasted and outraged by the way that mainstream media insiders can continue to cling to an obvious lie even when there is clear evidence that it is untrue. They are equally astounded when the mainstream propagates a ‘new’ Idea that has no basis is fact whatsoever. The mainstream revels in this fringe astonishment, bewilderment and outrage. To them it is absolute proof of their modernity and superiority, their sophistication and their justified elite status.
Harold Pinter’s superb Nobel Prize acceptance speech refers to a kind of intelligence and gleeful wit that motivates the elite in this process. It is well worth an hour of your time….
The argument that Ideas are valuable not because of what they intrinsically are but because of what they do leads to Instrumentalism:
Instrumentalism is the methodological view in Epistemology and Philosophy of Science, advanced by the American philosopher John Dewey, that concepts and theories are merely useful instruments, and their worth is measured not by whether the concepts and theories are true or false (Instrumentalism denies that theories are truth-evaluable), or whether they correctly depict reality, but by how effective they are in explaining and predicting phenomena. It maintains that the truth of an idea is determined by its success in the active solution of a problem, and that the value of an idea is determined by its function in human experience.
Moral Instrumentalism (or Instrumentalist Morality) defines moral rules only as tools for moral good. Thus, the moral code arising from a given population is simply a collection of rules that are useful to that population. This view resembles Utilitarianism and developed from the teachings of David Hume and John Stuart Mill.
Political Instrumentalism is the view, developed by John Dewey from his instrumentalist and Pragmatist views, and from the much earlier writings of Niccolò Machiavelli, which sees politics as simply means to an end.
There is much more that could and should be written about the Marketplace of Ideas. If you would like to contribute something, small or large, please do.