By Drew Burns
Obscure pre-Socratic philosopher, Heraclitus believed that, through a unity of opposites, everything flows (πάντα ῥεῖ). As time passes, ripples and waves shift the shoreline and shear headlong paths through mountains to constantly create and recreate the territory and its topography. Through every violent earthquake, a tsunami; and around every wading branch, a capillary halo. The hydrodynamics of reality, perception, meaning, and imagination – the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis turnt seafaring cartographer. The presumption, thus, that a finite and underdetermining closed system of potential thought is available – vast as the oceans and with leagues left murky and uncharted – but finite, nonetheless. To occupy the greater proportion of the known territory with your fleet … why, that ensure global perceptual hegemony.
Of course, that is to the best of my reckoning, what the U.S. Central Intelligencia Argentum Astrum (CIA∴A∴ or more commonly abbreviated as CIA) and its Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF). The CCF funded and funneled an astounding proportion of what is, to this day, considered the artistic avant-garde of the West. The gambit being that by the control of cultural supremacy in the arena of high art, they would possess air supremacy over the waves. The fear that the CCF reified and embodied was that the Cold War must be won through cold media. In this manner, the CCF claimed ontological osmosis – the dilution and reagency of ideology and habitus into a solution. A steady stream of Gore Vidal and Gloria Steinem to promote the West abroad and simulate the freedom to transgress in America’s stolen marshlands.
As the imagined threat of ideological pollution in during the Red Scare and the Baby Boom converged into a generation of would-be reincarnate Rainbow Warriors, the United States unwittingly catalyzed a soon-to-be all-encompassing cultural superorganism. The monster under the bed no longer needed to be anthropomorphized, it may be a blob, a thing, It. So, it was when the perceived existential threat to the American interests shifted from humanoid to purely conceptual in form. The body without organs of this phantasm is a vast, active, living intelligence system – the invisible membrane capable of enveloping all and absorbing the totality of all things. All become one with the Juggernaut; touch with the Juggernaut’s leathery tendrils, see through the Juggernaut’s collimated oculi. Feel Juggernaut feels, think Juggernaut throughts.
I keep mistyping thoughts into throughts (actually did it again, just now as well). I typed actually as acutely. Maybe what I actually typed was just as acute. Maybe typing throughts is subterranean truth; that it is the mind that is the ocean, and thoughts flow through. The dyslexic subliminal is brush underlying the muddy river, invisible at the surface but still able to produce sturm und drang.
Throughts, I’ve decided, are paths from which one thinks through. I think through the mind’s eye and language and shortsighted goals of a capitalist American ideological state apparatus – juggernaut throughts.
Dyslexia may hold liberatory power. Not always, but sometimes they reveal more than slipping on Freudian banana peels and tripping over your Jungian shadow.
To remove all the dross and sea monsters and shipwrecked ideas of bygone regimes is the goal of normalization. What more could be expected than smooth sailing. The winds are your own. Blow enough hot air and you can traverse the seven seas.
More so, you can flatten the land through the power of Poseidon until all is thy domain!
Imagine … quieting the waves, flattening the tides … you’d have to stop the world.
Atlas takes both hands and a firm footing to force the global stasis. It fails, miserably.
Yin and Yang spirals through his fingers, producing increasingly volatile dichromatic ripples and eddies. The brute force of worked just long enough to dislodge and reorient the flows.
A counterculture? The decentering of nationalism and the fully Oedipalized flower children of their four fathers embodied the self-fulfilling prophecy of subversion.
With that, the Oedipalized Juggernaut that slew Laius fled the unlikely alliance of Artemis, Eris, and Dionysus until he donned Apollonian regalia.
The least likely of all possible alliances, the CIA funding of literary, musical, political, and artfully transgressive muses is the culmination of the allegories above. Upon realizing the mistake of brute force propaganda, the agency adopted the supple 为无为 (wéi wú wéi). Upon the exposure of the CCF and subsequent realization that, according to Frances Stoner Saunders, “whether they knew it or not, there were few writers, poets, artists, historians, scientists, or critics in postwar Europe whose names were not in some way linked to this covert enterprise” CIA adopted the gentle path of non-action in accordance with the flow of nature.
Purely non-sequitur, for now, is normalizing power the goal, or the tool? Is normalization a process, a manifestation, a desire, or a self-interested agent? Are memes social actors, complete with their own libido and death drive? Hold that thought.
Rather than relying on the ideological boulder of juvenile wartime propaganda, oversized condoms and Der Fuerhrer’s Face, the Contemporary Intelligencia Apparatus occupies significant ontological territorial waters.
All that is solid has evaporated, condensed, taken to the air and fell as rain upon the parched earth. The media and cultural water cycle, once controlled by CIA rainmakers, once again appears to self-precipitate. Certainly, except for the occasional cloud seeding, there’s little need for anything else. The Juggernaut flooded the market with media exports and stifled importation for long enough to shape the coastline and allow the sea to move freely within the space allotted.
The counterculture becomes the property of the hegemon. DARPA developed ARPANET, which evolve into a unified system of information, entertainment, dating, desire, work, play, identity, and purpose. Swords, turned into plowshares, only to be flattened, rounded, buffed, and shined to become a mirror society holds up to itself to simulate introspection.
The raw appeal of rebellion is normalized, systematized, skimmed, packaged, marketed, sold and, in the process, denatured. The effect is that even as an actor prepares to transgress, they must use tools provided by the hegemon; the enthymemes and positionality written in the script written for their normalized transgression. When the actor performs their rebellion, they produce surplus value that is captured and commodified. Though some structured improvisation is permissible, there is nothing outside of the script. Who, or what, then, is the director?
What is the effect of the closed system of the global covert dominance of all memetic territory?
First, and foremost, vast portions of the universe of potential memes are obscured. Better put, smaller curated areas are chosen and focused upon through the lens of the hegemon. This superficial creation of a focal point excludes all outside territory. The collimator, the lens that directs and organizes perceptual chaos into a precise, striated, and unified vision. This is the machine that superficially manufactures the ordered social reality. That which is collected as waves of unknown irrelevances are unified to produce a rational, fully soluble, flow of ostensibly objective reality.
What this collimation amounts to is forced memetic closure. A cultural bottleneck effect. The elimination of finely curated conceptual range and, thus, the valence of potential ideology and cosmology.
This also constitutes the constricting of the aperture of apperception. The ability to perceive even a hint of shortsightedness is either collimated out or obscured by a deftly placed smudge upon the lens. It is impossible to perceive it directly but must be sought indirectly through a sidelong glance at the concavity of the memetic horizon.
The chaotic material of condensation nuclei fully contained in an aquafer, replaced by silver iodide.
Despite the adoption of the supple path, the intelligencia normalization apparatus can control every cubic milliliter of the seven seas. From flows come fluctuation, strobes, and breaks. In strongarming the globe into a standstill, Atlas left indelible marks on its surface and, though the hid under the waterline, still directed the hydrodynamic flow. Such a system will have unforeseeable breaks in the flow.
The reaction to the break reveals the true level of adherence to wéi wú wéi – this gambit to rely on the flow of nature – that the agentic intelligencia are willing to abide. Can they trust the branch will bend, but not break? Do they stand at the ready to counter the deluge that threatens now that ARPANET has opened the floodgates? Can they ride the incoming tide to slide safely ashore or paddle headlong into the cresting waves only to be beaten back with lungs full of sand and saltwater as their only accomplishment?
Circumnavigating the Globe
Relevant social theory already exists in various forms, addressing the problem from different directions – Disneyfication, the McDonald’s Peace Theory, Deleuzo-Guattarian schizoanalysis, the memetic evolutionary conception of autocatalytic closure – all point to portions of osmotic propaganda. The passive, supple mode of influence now has its first apparent signs of disequilibrium – of course, that is because it was never passive, only passive aggressive.
The goal, the very thing that ensures the control apparatus is never truly passive and ultimately doomed to tidal pools and tsunamis when ol’ butterfingers Atlas drops the ball, is the closure of totality and the commandeering of possibility. The world, culture, capital, freedom, autonomy, reality – all of these are now the purview of an ontological totalitarianism that directs attention through the deletion of the infinitude of alternatives. A map that insists upon one set of directional opportunities. A set of ideas that all other ideas must be throught.
Case Study: The CIA and a Radio (Free) Europe
Rather than simply maintain a fancy, stylized hallucinogenic tone, and leave the topic without a practical example, Ireinforce the theoretical stance above evinces the CIA’s Cold War propaganda broadcast system, Radio Free Europe.
How quickly can we describe the question without giving away the analysis? Through the modern digital reification of ontological territoriality: Quora. When some kind soul asked “Why does the radio free Europe exist, an American propaganda radio station? And what do they try to make us Europeans to believe?” The response is as pithy and adroit as any ever published on the internet:
“It is a hangover from the cold war of the 1970s . Whether it serves a value today with satellite communications,is moot.”
While this response asserts, to paraphrase, it’s a nothingburger and fuck you for asking, the actual U.S. government has explained otherwise:
“RFE/RL (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty) has an editorial board and follows journalistic standards, and its independence is mandated by US law. Its audience is international, and its mission is to inform people living in less-than-free countries.
RFE/RL is registered with the IRS as a private, nonprofit Sec. 501(c)3 corporation, and is funded by a grant from the U.S. Congress through the United States Agency for Global Media (USAGM) as a private grantee. RFE/RL’s editorial independence is protected by U.S. law.”
“Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty examines the first twenty years of the organization, policies, and impact of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, arguably one of the most important and successful policy instruments of the United States during the Cold War.”
~ Wilson Center, purchase page for Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty: The CIA Years and Beyond by A. Ross Johnson
“Radio Free Europe was created and grew in its early years through the efforts of the National Committee for a Free Europe (NCFE), an anti-communist CIA front organization that was formed by Allen Dulles in New York City in 1949.”
The above quotes, each of a banal and pedestrian quality, for what? To introduce to the world, at the onset, that Radio Free Europe (RFE) is a known commodity as a CIA front. The CIA funded broadcast system pumped all manner of propaganda to Eastern Europe in one form or another until 1972. RFE did not cease to exist, however, when the CIA pulled funding and removed their agents from the management structure of broadcast operations. As the conventional understanding goes, thus ends the Central Inteligencia’s official relationship with Eastern European radio broadcasting.
Now, I will not seek to vilify the CIA any more than could be done by way of a Google search.
What is the payoff, you may ask, in maintaining a consistent presence in the form of radio broadcast in Eastern Europe? Take the independence of RFE/RL as a jittery ambiguity, a fuzzy kinetic truth. The truth value is both irrelevant and, if I may be allowed one small conspirative claim, the ambiguity and dynamic hyper-truth is its very purpose.
Radio Free Europe is a legacy project for the post-Cold War United States, sure. Let’s pretend, for a moment, that the CIA is still running covert ops through RFE/RL: what good would it do? It would show the EU and Russia that the US and the CIA∴A∴ are still players in the region.
The points, because I see two, interrelate the CIA’s involvement with Radio Free Europe and their earlier CCF skull-fuckery. The decades of obvious propaganda work of RFE/RL and the known commodity of psychological operations create the potential for a counter-intelligence hall of mirrors. The CIA may or may not be at the helm of the RFE/RL but they do not need to be. The Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF) showed the ineluctable capacity to control the world of arts and letters for decades.
Rather than attempting to fund the Banksies and Sascha Baron Cohens of today, the CIA licked its wounds after the disclosures of the 1970s – depicting them as the sanguine wraiths of the dark forces within American government. The CIA boneshakers, it may one day be known, found multipotentiality through non-action. To be both the spectre haunting the Balkans and the implication within psychoanalysis requires no mind, no action, no intent – wei wu wei. Minimal action, when decades of global flex built up a reputation of the global try hard nosey neighbor and assassin, is truly the most potent of all possible moves.
Of course, one vital lynchpin to the mind-fuck grenade of the CIA actually doing nothing is the persistence of evidence that may perpetuate the perception that there’s always a double agent or visiting game show host come-lately to visit Prague and took the train to Kiev “on a whim” to garrote the known Putin plant.
Most importantly, the medium is the message. McLuhan’s thesis remains a multi-faceted koan for a world so fully enmeshed in media. A radio station is a broadcast machine, but its true value is as a sensual object. Radio Free Europe never left Europe, even long after the Cold War ended. It can be heard and provide messages such as news, views, politics, and established facts with not a whiff of overt propaganda, and still it will demonstrate the same psychological messages implicitly through its mere continued presence.
“Truth, in the spy world, is very layered.”