Digital Disconnect by Robert McChesney

Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism is Turning the Internet Against Democracy

Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism is Turning the Internet Against Democracy
Robert McChesney, The New Press

Specific topics include the decline in enforcement of antitrust laws, the increase in patents on digital technology, and the dominance of Google, Microsoft and other firms. McChesney builds on his earlier work to detail the many ways in which the Internet has harmed professional journalism and limited the vital watchdog role of American newspapers, which have lost their allure for profit-seeking investors. The author concludes that reforms will not save the democratic promise of the Internet; rather, Americans must spur the rise of a new political economy based on nonprofit and noncommercial institutions.

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The myths of libertarian competition and innovation espoused by defenders of neo-liberalism are the same myths which ‘celebrants’ of the internet have fallen prey to. In the nineties these ‘celebrants’ outweighed those Robert McChesney refers to as ‘skeptics’. Theoretical and journalistic writing, intoxicated by the advances of the net, was by no means limited to the starry-eyed optimism of the likes of Wired magazine in California. The Internet and new technological changes were also a source of fascination from the very different perspective of the nihilistic libidinal economy of the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit (CCRU) at Warwick University. Sickened by the moralising tendencies of a Left content with identity politics, their controversial leader Nick Land searched for a theoretical praxis based on a negation of identity, a post-human ‘machinic praxis’. This led him to embrace the de-subjectiying qualities of neo-liberalism, envisioning capitalist speed as a generator of post-human technological revolution. The CCRU’s fusion of disparate elements included texts by Deleuze and Guattari , cyberpunk and science fiction references, films such as Blade Runner and Apocalypse Now, and jungle and rave music. The texts are saturated with a discourse on immersion and imminence, always oriented towards an experience of the Outside and a celebration of post-human possibilities. If for Land and the CCRU, imminent human extinction was accessible on the dance floor, network theory and the development of the internet also pointed to exhilarating trajectories towards the Outside.

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