Reflective Musings of a Cynical Optimist and
With the advent of New Media – albeit not particularly ‘new’ these days – various issues pertaining to the identity, celebrity, and prestige of those who utilise it arise quite naturally.
Having heavily utilised ‘New Media’ platforms – primarily in the form of the now defunct DIY news media site Melbourne Indymedia in both a contributory and editorial capacity – since the early 21st century, and then moving onto the YouTube platform in late 2006, I believe I can shed a relatively unique light on the limitations and the potentials of these platforms.
An exploration follows. I invite you to join me.
In his analysis of the sociological function of the celebrity, David Marshall explains that ‘…celebrity has been and is increasingly a pedagogical tool and specifically a pedagogical aid in the discourse of the self…’ and goes on to describe one of the purposes of the celebrity industry has been to ‘…[teach] generations how to engage and use consumer culture to ‘make’ oneself.’ (2010, p.36). This seems to imply that there exists an industry which seeks to ‘make people’. Perhaps more accurately, it seeks to convince people to adopt a certain range of marketable identities.
How might a celebrity market – or be used to market – identities? Joseph Henrich and Francisco J. Gil-White (2001) explore the evolution and psychology of prestige which they describe as ‘…noncoerced, interindividual, within-group, human status asymmetries…’ (p.166) which is distinguished from dominance which is described in terms of being the result of ‘force or force threat’ (p. 165). The authors explore these concepts in the context of cultural transmission or social learning – pedagogy. As celebrities do not rely on dominance in order to attain and maintain their status, it follows that they must rely on prestige – whether based on the merits of their works or the merits of a marketing department, is currently of no moment – in order to successfully impart elements of their identity to those who view them as prestigious.
As can be seen from the following screenshot of a very small sample of comments on my YouTube channel’s ‘discussion’ page, there are clearly some people who view my video (and likely, comments) work as being very valuable. That is, I have obtained a certain amount of prestige. That is, albeit in a quite modest way, I’m a celebrity.
So, what elements of my identity may have enabled me to obtain this prestige?
Fleur Gabriel, in her analysis of the effects of social media use on youth (2014) has raised the notion of ‘Youth as performance’ (pp. 108 – 110), implying that ‘youthful identity’ is in part a product of ‘youthful performance’ – a result of actions. It seems that this notion can be extended to the concept of identity generally, reminiscent of the Biblical maxim ‘by their fruits you shall know them’.
My online work consists of primarily – though by no means exclusively – Geopolitical and social commentary and analysis. In the days when I was active on Melbourne Indymedia I posted under the psuedonym ‘Changeling’ in honour of the character in the 1990s sci-fi series Star Trek Deep Space Nine who I most empathised with, Odo. Odo was of a species of shapeshifters known as Changelings who could alter their form and shape at will and, in doing so, could begin to understand the existence of whatever thing they became (IMBd).
While I obviously can’t physically shapeshift in this way, I do have the ability to shift mindset in order to gain an understanding of different perspectives and to speak to those mindsets accordingly. This faculty enables me to more easily see where others may be in error and enables me to shine a new light on whatever matter is under discussion.
I am also able to analyse and articulate ‘conspiracy theories’ – a term which Dr. Francisco Gil-White (4th October 2005) demonstrates carries with it unnecessarily negative connotations – in a rational manner which doesn’t rely on paranoia for its efficacy.
I would humbly suggest that the elements of my identity – my online actions – which pertain to exposing absurdities, and articulating a path around them, are a key source of the prestige I have earned in the eyes of various others.
In an essay which I penned last year (2014) I posited the notion that New Media technologies have the potential to be a tool for Human liberation but that, without more, they will be little more than a tool which merely enables more people to spread more bad information more readily. I analysed the socio-political function of the ‘traditional media’ in terms of it being a psychological weapon utilised by a Power Elite for the purposes of, inter alia, perception management. This could be construed, in part, as a reflection of both the cynical and the optimistic elements of my identity, which can also be seen reflected in my new Twitter profile, and my first ever Tweet shown below.
In my analysis I also hypothesised that to counter the liberating effects of the utilisation of New Media technologies by political/social activists, New Media discourse pertaining to controversial issues would need to be actively sabotaged by counter-intelligence operations.
Indeed, it is being sabotaged by what appears to be a modern day incarnation of the infamous COINTELPRO of the 1960s and 1970s (Changeling9au, 31st August 2013; Waronwethepeople.com). Unfortunately, a detailed analysis of COINTELPRO-type operations would take this post too far afield, so for now I would direct interested readers to study the blog of investigative journalist and former CIA psychological operations expert, Barbara Hartwell. In short, such operations work primarily to undermine the prestige (IE: Celebrity) of genuine activists while artificially bolstering the prestige of an array of liars and frauds – misidentification – with the effect that fruitful discourse on controversial issues becomes all but impossible.
The following Tweet and infographic reflect the role I have, and will continue to have, in exposing counter-intelligence functionaries – or ‘COINTELPROstitutes’ as I have uniquely labelled them.
Schematic Depiction of Counter-Intelligence (Pro-Stupidity) Operations. Drawn using Gliffy.
This is my identity. Welcome to my World.
WORD COUNT: 1010
LIST OF REFERENCES
Changeling9au. ‘PressTV, Veterans Today and Lasha Darkmoon – The Axis of Weevils in The Syndicate’s Syrian Propaganda Matrix’
31st August 2013
Gabriel, F. ‘Sexting, Selfies and Self-Harm: Young People, Social Media and the Performance of Self-Development’
Media International Australia No. 151 (May 2014), pp. 104 – 112.
Gil-White, F. 4 October 2005 ‘What is conspiracy theory? Is this website doing it?’
Hartwell, B. ‘Barbara Hartwell Vs. CIA’
Henrich, J., Gil-White, F.J. ‘The evolution of prestige. Freely conferred deference as a mechanism for enhancing the benefits of cultural transmission.’
Evolution and Human Behavior Vol 22 (2001), pp. 165 – 196.
Internet Movie Database (IMDb)
Marshall, P.D. ‘The promotion and presentation of the self: celebrity as marker of presentational media’
Celebrity Studies Vol. 1, No. 1, March 2010, pp. 35 – 48.
Waddington, N. ‘CONSTRUCTED REALITY: WHAT’S ‘REAL’ NOWADAYS?’
Submitted for ALC102, Deakin University, Burwood. 8th October 2014