New media fog

Interesting times allow me the indulgence to reflect…ideas coming together…why do they need to go together? Is there a purpose, an outcome, or a more significant reason? Yes, ideas coming together can be good, but keeping some ideas apart is also good. Pictures coming together may only sometimes provide solutions; they may also create problems. Fools shouldn’t have guns; dialogue isn’t an end in itself.

As I have found out the hard way, some hermeneutics are in-penetrable, and there isn’t anything you can say or do to change them (like parts of ‘new media’). And the more parochial the discourse, the more likely it is universalised (“best little town in the World, mate”). Paul Keating used to lament talking to Queensland farmers because their politics were hot-wired into their souls, and they wouldn’t listen to him. And if they aren’t going to listen to the Prime Minister, then they aren’t going to listen to me on my blog.

And parts of ‘New Media’ were interesting for a while. It reinvigorated an entirely new political class of activists, mainly from the old Industrial centres of Newcastle, Western Sydney, Brunswick, and Inner Melbourne. It also hooked the new 1990s Red Brick Universities to ‘Meta-Narrative’ some of their educational history into the more significant Australian-educated public sphere (especially with the Globalism, cultural industries, and ‘information society’ rhetoric). It also provided a platform for visual artists from the Red Bricks to perform on the big stage through the Australia Council, etc. Who would have thought that ‘one’ technology and ‘one’ hermeneutic could achieve so much in so little time for a new political class?

Some parts of ‘new media’ flourished, whilst others failed. (And ‘new media’ is geographically specific; i.e. what Australians call ‘new media’ is very different from how Americans, Germans, or Nords use the term). In Australia, ‘new media’ became a festival, a networking event, where people congregate to realign things a little. At worst, it became a Libertarian orgy where a millionaire bio-tech engineer with deadlocks could hang out with an unemployed son of a panel beater from Toowoomba and imagine that the place they inhabit is based on equity. No Borders, huh? It was a place where political cynicism reached such heights that the political process became imagined as nothing more than a dance of images and hollow political sloganeering. It became a place where ‘intelligent people’ became the enemy of the ‘common man’ because the commoner could never be an intellectual.

The reason why parts of ‘new media’ *failed* is the same reason that a whole bunch of companies *failed* etc. The problem isn’t external to new media but internal to new media. It is (parts of) the understanding of new media that is the problem, not the solution.

I think the day that I lost faith in (parts of) ‘new media’ was when I met a Fascist at university (this may not be a *real* person). It sent me into a bit of a crisis because not only did the Fascist not know he was a Fascist, but his peers didn’t know. They thought Fascism was just a swear word and what the Fascist said was ’empowering’ the other students (for better or worse), so they liked him. The Fascist wasn’t an outward racist; modern Fascists are more intelligent than this. However, he was a right-wing extremist ‘Libertarian’ of the Continental style with an impenetrable deterministic monomania hermeneutic. He told them that they were the most biologically advanced people on Earth because they used computers; he said to them that everyone else needed to be civilised and that any other way of thinking was an enemy of the ‘common people’. The Fascist was brilliant and knew a lot about new media technology, giving him credibility with his peers. After all, this was a ‘Red Brick’ (vocational university), and they wanted skills and jobs. Fascism wasn’t part of their ‘real world’; this was ‘theory’ or something from some other ‘snobby’ place where ordinary people weren’t allowed. The Fascist was a complete armature as he made deference to the ‘common people’ (who were, of course ‘, stupid’ like him) and to ‘nature’, which means that they had no choice.

The Fascist made me angry, one because his skills made him untouchable in the ‘Red Brick’ and two because no one else questioned his ideas. Allowing a Fascist to operate unhindered in the ‘new media’ field in a University was a sign of a chasm in the curriculum of a university that didn’t teach the humanities and make its students equally responsible for the pain in the historical maps. After all, this was the ‘real world’, and history isn’t part of the natural world, only jobs that stoke the (Fascist?) oven.

And the Fascist was a networker, and the Fascist had manners, and the Fascist tried to destroy me because I was an ‘enemy of the common man’. The Fascist was politically cunning; the Fascist got money from the Government, and the Fascist thrived for a while. But the Fascist inevitable *failed* because his platform failed.

But I hear that ‘he’ is still hiding away in the new media field somewhere, pulling down ‘boundaries’, attacking ‘hierarchies’, creating ‘grass root’ ‘communities’, creating ‘discussion networks’ attacking the ‘nation state’, persecuting intellectuals, and creating ‘revolutions’ of ‘common people’ on the way to a place where everyone can participate on ‘non-hierarchical’ terms…as long as you are a Fascist.

Even political ‘white ants’ have a history. Hitler was a ‘white ant’, Hitler loved the ‘common people’, Hitler was a brilliant ‘New Media activist’, and Hitler deferred his actions to nature and ‘young Germans’ adored him. After the Second World War, the occupying forces forced German technical schools to have humanities schools. Why? Because the technical schools (the common people) had complied with Nazism. Why? Because the schools were ‘real world’, they were being ‘dynamic’ and ‘job ready’ to stoke the ovens.

Not all ‘New Media’ has failed; the opposite is true. It’s now about recognising the valuable components of New Media, about finding more pieces of the societal jigsaw puzzle. New Media (as an academic field) is about a generation behind areas such as Political Science and History, but this is good because there is plenty of scope to get things wrong, fail, learn, and move on. In research, nine things bad out of 10 make a right, and we forget the history of the fog. And new media is all about moisture; the problem is that this is where the Fascists hide. Once ‘new media’ learns to deal with the ‘Fascists in the fog’, it will be a powerful, responsible, and significant field. Maybe some of this ‘network society’ rhetoric will take on some responsibility for our shared history because it is always with us.