Back in the 1990’s I was an activist. Even while I was still in the Marine Corps, I was placing Greenpeace stickers on garbage cans in the barracks and trying hard to bring about little changes in consciousness – granted, it was probably the wrong place to do it and that might explain why I was fairly miserable in the Corps – a person out of place.
When I got my honorable discharge and split that scene, I set out for an activist town. My choices were either Boulder, CO or Bellingham, WA and I went with Bellingham because I was born near there and I wanted the chance to spend time with my grandfather before he got too old and passed away (sadly, I missed that boat – after about two weeks, I realized his dementia made it impossible for us to get to know each other better than we had), but Bellingham was a wonderful choice.
I still consider it one of my two hometowns with the other being Honolulu, Hawaii. Bellingham was a hotbed of 1990s hippie activism and before too long I was the head of a Citizen’s Initiative Group, working on campaigns to save frogs, a member of the Community Food Coop, and involved in Permaculture workshops, organizing protests, and by 1998 actively involved in organizing disparate groups to protest at the World Trade Organization talks in Seattle in 1999. I’d also set up a magazine and website called Conchsense with the stated goal of uniting creativity and culture through the medium of the internet.
Back then – we thought that the internet was the great leveler – we thought it was the tool by which activists could finally level the playing field with the media and corporate interests by using citizen journalism, organizing online, and educating the public about the ‘truth’. We were all big fans of the X-Files back then and the tagline “The Truth is Out There” resonated with us.
When my friend, John Zerzan talked about how the leveling of the playing field was temporary and how the internet was an illusion that would disappear as soon as the establishment figured out how to regulate it, or even that technology was just a means of greater control of the population – I couldn’t see it. I didn’t want to see it. I wanted to see people being exposed to new ideas and changing everything. I wanted to see a better world and even though I’d read Ted Kaczynski’s Unabomber Manifesto when it was published and heard the Green Anarchist arguments that sided with his own beliefs that all technology led to enslavement – I didn’t want to believe that.
And it’s only now that I start to realize that John and Ted were right. Technology is the great enslaver. Whether we are talking about the technology of the agricultural revolution, the industrial revolution, or the information revolution – every bit of it has managed to enslave and blind the common man further from the truth of the matter – we are controlled by those who control the technology.
Those early days were a window and that window has closed. Facebook, Twitter, and Google are publically traded corporations that have boards of directors and public relations departments. Facebook feels justified to conduct behavioural experiments on users without their knowledge and you can be certain that Google and Twitter are doing the same. Google is analyzing your mail and Facebook is looking at what you post and Twitter is sharing your userdata with the NSA and more. They are justified in it – you agreed to their terms of service.
People make a mistake with these companies by thinking that they are empowered users with rights – they, we, are not. We are the products. Our information is the product. We are not the clients. The clients are the advertisers, the marketing companies and the governments that pay with treasure or privelidge – we are the chattel. Like slaves in tobacco fields, we provide the product and like masters in the antibelum manor houses – the internet companies figure out how to sell it and use the profits to enslave us further.
I know – there are many positive things which have come from the internet – too many to recount here – but in fact – the internet is the worst thing to ever happen to the human species. I know too that I am writing this on the internet, that I earn most of my family’s bread and butter on the internet, and that without it – most of what I’ve done in this life might not have been possible. I know that and still I say that this is the worst thing ever created. Worse than atomic weapons. Worse than DDT.
We thought the internet would free people. Instead it has stolen their souls. It has turned them into sociopaths. It has destroyed much of what was good in the world – not all of it – but much of it. Ted Kaczynski was right. Dammit.
Don’t believe me? Read it and comment afterward.