Clouds of Culture

Something I have noticed in the media recently is that there seems to be a lot left unsaid; Donald Trump for example said that "dark shadows" are controlling Joe Biden. Of course, at face value that doesn't mean anything; a literal dark shadow cannot control a person. But it's rather what that phrase means, to a group of people that is important. Of course, it's a metaphor for some sort of global elite but how do we know this to be the case?

To create this implicit cultural understanding of things like this we need to create a lot of media and the narratives surrounding the media. There needs to be an understanding of the aesthetics of that is being said too. In today's world, where creating and disseminating large amounts of content is next to free for a lot of companies it can be pretty quick and easy to summon forth a narrative around a set of events. There is great strength in this idea of a dispersal of information, especially where there isn't an easy source to track down, in fact sites like bellingcat exist to do this sort of thing. But there is a clear imbalance of effort and time to creating a cultural idea that spreads like this and investigating where it came from, and even what it means. Surely that investment in time and effort leads to some level of power these ideas can have?

Where, historically there would be a definitive source for an idea: a book, an article, or even just a meeting or speech; now we are left with this nebulous spread of ideas, viral, mutating. This gives ideas like this strength where we have not seen strength like this before, there is no root to the tree to debate, disprove, or discredit. In this article in the Guardian, the writer seeks to find where the sentiment of "workers must return to offices" comes from; but of course there is not a single source of sentiment, it would be silly to assume there was. There is however a good few newspaper articles and TV programmes that disperse the sentiment into the masses, but you do not need to say what the sentiment is directly, only gesture towards it.

You can hear them every single day on radio phone-ins, boasting smugly about their exciting new ‘work/life balance’ and the amount of money they are saving on their railway season tickets. 

Why, they ask, would I ever want to go back into the office?

Meanwhile, they’re climbing over each other to fill their faces with state-subsidised chicken and chips at Nando’s, while at the same time pretending to be too frightened to turn up for work.

This of course is hardly the most transparent example but it goes to show that you don't actually have to voice the contempt that you have for people and that cloaking it in an article about 'propping up the economy' in cities. There are of course much more insidious ideas going around that are talked about in vaguer terms, you only need to Google something like 'Donald Trump Dog-whistle' to find hundreds of examples of subtle nods to the white nationalists that support him.

This is perhaps why there is such a divided culture, each person is operating on a different set of these implicit assumptions about the culture that they both consume and are part of. When people are subsumed by these ideas it creates an implicit understanding of the media they consume, both 'left-wing' and 'right-wing' media is part of this, so is 'neutral' media, TV & movies create implicit understanding of the universe and its aesthetics through subtle exposition, and more usually than not, we notice when they're being heavy handed with it.

I think about this like granular synthesis in music, there are hundreds, maybe even thousands, of small pieces of information that build into a sound (or in this metaphor, a worldview / ideology). We no longer have the need for the public intellectual who tells us what to make of a situation in a general way, rather we have pundits who will comment as things happen and react rather than explain (and sure, they exist but when was the last time a public intellectual put together a 'grand unifying' theory and wasn't mocked a la Wolfram).

A (perceived) weakness that Marxists have in the eyes of the right is that Marx was a single human, thus Marxism must be true to the writings of Marx and if we can prove Marx wrong, all Marxists are wrong! Of course, this isn't the truth, and if pressed most Marxists will probably admit that Marx didn't have it 100% right, in fact I'm sure that most Marxists will say something to the effect that there were some pretty racist ideas that Marx and Engels put forward. In reality, Marxists have been playing this game of creating a culture through many small (and large) pieces of information since Kapital this culture of critique that we see through leftists texts has advanced the base of ideas put forwards by Marx into something that, whether you're a supporter of Marxism or not, is different than what Marx wrote.

Overall I think its important to recognise the source of such 'background radiation', no longer can we often point to a single source of an idea or person who came up with it because often we have all collectively been influenced into making these ideas up, sure there are people who push them along but the spread of the ideas through memetics means they're often optimised to the heads of the consumer.

Perhaps this is why, even when the left will dunk on Ben Shapiro, Jordan Peterson, Sam Harris, etc. etc. Nothing much comes out of it other than a feeling of superiority. The right themselves will distance themselves from bad apples but still share ideas with them, they are powerful. How many people think that these ideologues are bad but still hold a largely-similar ideology to them, base their ideologies on similar assumptions?

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