techno-fascism and six factors which could bring it about

An interesting article on Truthout which has some degree of cross over with the ideas I’m developing at the moment. I agree with quite a lot of this in its own terms but see it as a tendency, susceptible to being resisted, emerging against a background which makes that resistance decreasingly likely (depoliticisation and the fragility of social movements):

Techno-fascism is characterized by the ways more aspects of daily life are becoming dependent upon digital technologies that lead to many benefits while at the same time reducing the diversity of cultural ways of knowing and by increasingly subordinating human thought and behaviors to the dictates of machines.

Unlike the racist mythologies of German fascism, the mythic dimensions of techno-fascism are rooted in ancient religious narratives about humans naming and taking control of the environment, and in the abstract thinking of philosophers who laid the conceptual and moral foundations for the modern myth of progress, including the idea that human life is mechanistic in nature and is driven by nature’s law governing natural selection. While the moral foundations of techno-fascism align with the values of market capitalism and the progress-oriented ideology of science that easily slips into scientism, its level of efficiency and totalitarian potential can easily lead to repressive systems that will not tolerate dissent, especially on the part of those challenging how the colonizing nature of techno-fascism promotes consumerism that is destroying the environment and alternative cultural lifestyles such as the cultural commons.

The primary characteristic of all fascist modernizing movements is conformity of thinking and behavior, which is directed and controlled by total surveillance systems that track people’s thoughts, behaviors and relationships. The latest in the emerging techno-fascist arsenal of surveillance technologies is the new facial recognition system now being adopted by local police, which will shortly become part of the FBI’s $1 billion Next Generation Identification program. Photos of people not suspected of criminal activities, as well as those who are, will be instantly available to 18,000 local, state, federal and international law enforcement agencies. The facial recognition technology can identify 16,000 distinct features of a person’s face, and compare them at a rate of more than 1 million faces per second, with other photos held by police agencies.

Three of the most important threats to what remains of our civil liberties include how social unrest resulting from extreme environmental changes can easily lead to redefining what constitutes criminal behavior. A second major problem is that the facial recognition software has a 20 percent failure rate. And the third threat is the one now plaguing local police across the United States: namely, how their biases and misinterpretations lead to police actions that result in the death of innocent people.

I also think the potential causation at work here is very complex. I increasingly see this as a sui generis socio-political tendency, originating out of a very specific set of circumstances and unevenly generalised to the population at large through a diverse range of factors, which might in turn be compounded by a number of distinct though potentially mutually reinforcing tendencies. For instance:

  1. One longer term possibility is the increasingly proactive interventions of defensive elites, against a background of rising instability which they experience as leaving their (increasingly likely to be inherited) privilige at risk.
  2. Another is the latent totalitarianism that can be found within more extreme advocates of copy protection: how far into ‘private’ life will the enforcement of intellectual property rights lead the state to intrude? Cory Doctorow has explored this very provocatively across a range of novels, articles and talks.
  3. What’s the end game for the ‘war on extremism’? Given the tendency for wars on abstract nouns to generate more of precisely what they attempt to oppose, should we expect that the current military lock down in Brussels and the effective suspension of Democracy in France become ever more common occurrences?
  4. What role will depoliticisation 2.0, as I’ve become facetiously prone to thinking of things like TTIP and the Troika’s rampage through southern Europe, play in facilitating what might be a genuinely (techno)-fascistic tendency originating sui generis?
  5. If the present ‘migrant crisis’ in Europe is merely the tip of the iceberg, how will the further fortification of what is already fortress Europe compounds these other trends? What role will the Other, now here rather than there, play in fermenting (digital)  nativism? How will depoliticised governments respond to this tempting electoral inducement?
  6. What about the possibility of actual world war? The geopolitics of the Syrian crisis are so mind-bogglingly complex as to leave systemic risks multiplying with each passing month.

The very depressing prognosis of the article quoted above is that techno-fascism would go unrecognised. I think it overstates the point somewhat but this is largely what I’ve been trying to get at through my account of distracted people.

Digitally mediated learning, which is heavily dependent upon print- and data-based accounts that encode the taken-for-granted cultural assumption (and ideology) of the people who write the programs, reinforces a mindset that responds to short explanations that do not lead to the experience of boredom associated with long-term memory, narratives and written accounts. The ways in which the social media reinforce the importance of the shifting sense of immediacy and instant responses to the anonymous Others ensure that the emergence of a fascist state will go unrecognized. The systems of local control involving a variety of democratic practices and traditions of ecological wisdom must first be lost to memory. Where in the digitally mediated curriculum will students learn about these traditions, when the ideology underlying the digital revolution represents traditions, including local decision-making, as sources of backwardness and as impediments to students creating their own ideas from the wealth of context free data available on the internet?

In order to understand the traditional defenses against totalitarian regimes now being lost, we need to focus more specifically upon the cultural transformations that occur as students spend more of their day in classrooms where computer-mediated learning increasingly displaces face-to-face interaction with teachers and professors who might spark their curiosity to explore beyond the orthodoxies of the day. The many hours of the day texting friends, playing video games and exploring the seemingly endless boundaries of cyberspace also shorten attention spans in ways that undermine long-term memory. Speed and context-free slogans have now replaced depth of understanding and critical judgment.