Monday, April 23, 2012

The Man Comes (Back) Around

It's a sorry state of affairs when nearly two full years pass between blog posts. I'd use the excuse that I've been in graduate school since the days of my last post, but that wouldn't be fair. The truth is I've had more time on my hands lately than I did at any point while I was posting, frequently, in 2010. Those earlier entries were the work of a mind feverish for uninhibited, incredibly nerdy expression after days spent working for an organization that tip-toed around important truths so it could, ostensibly, preserve its political independence. In principle, then, my employer was sort of the antithesis of a good newspaper, and it is just one more illustration of cosmic injustice that independent newspapers are disappearing while P.R. flacks are proliferating.

Given the circumstances of the blog's genesis, then, it shouldn't have been surprising that its content fell into the "institutions behaving badly" genre. (Is that a genre? Can I make it one?) Google turned a blind eye to China's human rights abuses until China attacked the company itself. Banks paid out exorbitant bonuses a year after wrecking the world economy. Universities sold out. Facebook sucked. In making these the topics of discussion, the blog held true to the spirit of righteous indignation referenced in its charter. To their credit, many of the posts from 2009 and 2010 read as prescient today. My criticisms of WikiLeaks worship were apparently deserved, as founder Julian Assange now has a television program on a Kremlin-funded news channel. It also seems the Fed really has been pushing on a string and boosting opportunities for systemic risk for two years, as I argued, but thankfully rising capital levels have been a factor in beginning to bring Wall Street back down to earth.

If this blog delights in anything, then, it is skewering elite institutions (or at the very least casting disapproving, disappointed looks at them) taken to be our cultural saviors or benevolent overlords. It doesn't assume technocrats are smart or corporations can be cool, but rather that they -- like most institutions and their actors -- want to monopolize power and reinforce a social structure that most benefits the most privileged among us. Looking back, the "thoughtcrime" mentioned in the blog's subtitle has referred to a deeply felt skepticism about those systems and institutions we are intellectually drawn to. Wall Street trading may be the ultimate complex game, but fascination should not give way to worship, and the same goes for tech companies, powerful bureaucracies, and social media campaigns. The more new or advanced something seems, the more likely we are to take its goodness or rightness or even neutrality as given. This blog endeavors to show there is no such thing as neutrality, especially for those institutions that purport to value it so highly.

No comments:

Post a Comment