As we replicate voluntarily via Facebook and Twitter a version of the East German state depicted in The Lives of Others, we can thank people like Ben Walker and his podcast Too Much Information for helping people to think more deeply about internet culture and some larger issues involved therein. You might listen to his recent broadcast about “the Lulz.”
A few weeks ago, I heard a TMI podcast with “Chris” talking about an alleged meeting with Mark Zuckerberg, in which the Zuck admitted to modeling Facebook on the Stasi. Rather than the state needing to take extraordinary measures to spy on its people, à la the NSA’s plan to build a spying center in Utah, Facebook is the medium in which people offer up their secrets to the state for everyone to see. Ben was kind enough to respond to an e-mail that I sent him to ask about the reliability of Chris’ story. Result: unreliable. However, it turns out that the comedian Pete Holmes came up with a similar idea prior to the broadcast by “Chris” about Zuckerberg and the Stasi genesis of Facebook.
In short, this scenario of people absorbing a Stasi mentality and turning it inside out is quite similar to Althusser’s discussion of interpellation. Not the kind of language that will land me an invitation to speak at SXSW, but it fits, and reinforces the political motivations of the people behind Facebook.
Unfortunately, even our most astute media analysts (Ben Walker thinks that Gabriella Coleman is one) do not seem prepared to connect party politics to the internet in innovative ways. As “the Lulz” episode of TMI shows, members of the Mexican drug cartels know how to exploit the internet to their practical advantage, but hacktivists, internet-aware Occupiers, academic techno-media specialists, and (as far as it’s possible to tell) Anonymous members themselves toggle between moments of revolutionary posturing and smug hipsterism marked by impotent inclusions of Antonio Negri’s texts in course syllabi, unable to sustain a consistent political message. The TMI podcast on “the Lulz” demonstrates how splintered the hacktivists can become, barely able to bring their own internal conflicts to satisfying conclusions. The phrase “the Lulz” by itself might be the most telling symptom of the hopelessness some might feel who look to the Boing Boingers for rescue on a grand scale — the promise of the new medium that we see pulled out on stage during, for example, the “Arab Spring” to confirm for the Gangboingers that Twitter is the best revolutionary tool since the Reformation pamphlet. The Revolution has been cancelled.