Media Neoliberalism

Distributional Grip, Fake News and the Risks of Accelerated Multipolarity

Until very recently, western dominance over the interpretive spectrum of international phenomena stood relatively uncontested. Anglo-American supremacy over global analog communication systems enabled London and Washington to shape critical vectors of international morality, geopolitical legitimacy and transnational distributional justice while blockading interpretive media space to its state and non-state counter-hegemonic rivals. Using the post-war German and Japanese psyche-jamming initiatives as their benchmark for large scale perception management operations, the age of mass transnational propaganda took off monopolized by the narrative manufacturing and distribution capabilities of a cluster of English-language media services who ruled the waves. A power projection instrument which managed to penetrate and address the entirety of the socio-cultural and political discursive realm.

Since its early scalar inception, the epicentre of post-war international interpretive order and space was ruled and managed by a vast international web of Anglo-Saxon media outposts and correspondents which, escorted by Cold War censorship structures and lacking any capable competitor, soon fortified their ontological polarity. With Warsaw Pact, Chinese and non-aligned media assets unable to compete in terms of in scale, content agreeability and wave range, the BBC and the CNN spearheaded an interpretive colonisation endeavour which transformed the way the world first conceived the globalised experience. A critical juncture which not only shaped how distant populations framed contemporary and past international phenomena, but also how entire communities who lacked national media capabilities thought of themselves in terms of their national identity and collective aspirations.

The collapse of the Eastern Bloc´s political and cultural subjectiveness led to the advent of the absolute international macroeconomic rule of the Washington Consensus and reified the global geopolitical interpretive dominance of NATO. A twin self-reinforcing notion of western supremacy which gained practical thrust during the international aid and development theory boom of the 1990s and proved decisive in manufacturing the political frame of the First Gulf War and Yugoslavian campaign.

By the arrival of the new millennia, the collusion of post-Cold War kinetic disparity and neoliberal societal experimentation had produced the ideological body of contemporary western psyche. The end-of-history thesis became then ontological cornerstone upon which Anglo-American media dominance not only would legitimise its social structure of accumulation domestically, but also frame the geopolitical challenges of the new century. A civilizational imaginary backed by a full spectrum battlefield dominance articulated around the technological component of the RMA where novel information managing processes would transform the linearity of conflict and its interpretive aftermath.

The advent of the revolutionary digital transformation of the communications arena colluded with the first truly counter-hegemonic wave of national and regional interpretive manufacturing. In the space of just a decade, the Anglo-American cultural and geopolitical global prism would face an increasingly contested media geography shaped by the democratisation of media scale and technologies. Middle Eastern Al-Jazeera, South American Telesur, Russian RT and an overhauled Chinese CCTV had by that time amassed the necessary know-how and wave projection capabilities to confront and ultimately crowd-out rival colonial ontologies. The phenomenon responsible for delivering a gradual re-nationalisation of local, national, and regional interpretive scenarios which now had the potential to abandon its initially defensive –sovereign- focus to become platforms capable of delivering their own geopolitical payload to the epicentre of global information networks.

Yet, in spite of its multipolar interpretive potential, the democratisation of transnational media instruments did not produce an immediate and sizeable geo-cognitive gravitational shift capable of decisively distorting the global interpretive frame of the 1990s. As the interpretive escort to deployments in Afghanistan and -particularly- Iraq took shape, the “Global War on Terror” thesis propelled western exceptionalism and perception management capabilities to new heights. But, despite the available room for contestation, aggregate interpretive resistance was minimal.

Western hubristic zeitgeist would remain relatively unchallenged until a conundrum of geopolitical, technological and socio-economic factors would later conspire to bring down the moral backbone of the Anglo-American global political endeavour. A cascade of enough disruptive magnitude to create the necessary deconstructed space to open the doors of civilizational introspection. The ontological earthquake where the neoliberal societal blueprint which since the 1970s had cognitively governed the global media space would begin to lose its consent-manufacturing grip and an ideational context where many would find the perfect opportunity to materialize their non-kinetic payback ambitions.

Prior to the Great Financial Crisis, its cumulative self-sustaining stagnation and the societal turbulences which followed, the West stood proud in the international system starring its end-of-history political apex. Central to that hubristic proposition was a societal model called to socially outclass and cumulatively outperform any rival in any field. The societal outcome of a century of Darwinist engagement between competing conceptualizations of human nature, notions of freedom and theories about state-market relations. A system which, by articulating its hypermodern cognitive underpinnings, believed itself to be the societal arrangement-destiny of humanity. A civilizational entity entitled to the ideational colonisation of the international interpretive sphere. For forty years, it seemed that this self-fulfilling prophecy had an unlimited lifespan. Since 2008, it is hardly controversial to claim that the West is embarking on a fin de siècle endeavour fuelled by a metastasizing notion of systemic unsustainability.

The pivotal electoral developments which have destabilized the political normal of the liberal capitalist economies of the global north constitute a systemic trend which, beyond the periodic thrills of media-driven “oh dearism”, reveals a profound gravitational shift within the western cognitive ecosystem. A dormant ideational landslide unleashed by the critical junctures of the financial crash which is propelling and intensifying the cognitive dissonance between the modernity-driven econocratic oracle and the market societies over which they rule. Between the once all-mighty western media apparatus and its domestic consent-manufacturing home front.

Constrained by the cognitive boundaries of neoclassical modernity, the existential crisis of the liberal social and political order has been widely conceptualized by mainstream political and economic actors by deploying the same interpretive framework used to conceptualize the financial crash. The insurgent political cascade which has shaken the econocratic societal paradigm of our time has been depicted by mainstream media as a mere deviation from the equilibrium, as an unforeseen social externality derived from the collusion of ontological inadaptability to novel social and economic geographies and over-emphasized “trickle-down” exuberance. An unexpected societal malfunction which defies the ontological pillars upon which the West has constructed its ethereal governance body and which must be confronted with a full spectrum moral repression campaign grounded on their “economic illiteracy” and political “illiberality”. A political framework which not only reflects to what extent market utopians have colonized the socio-political dimension and imposed their econocratic rationale, but also exposes how inflexible and irreformable the cognitive underpinnings of western plutocracy are.

The way western political elites and their hegemonic cognitive apparatus have assessed, appraised and reacted in terms of policy and narrative manufacturing to the double crisis of the neoliberal governance macrostructure reveals the nature, scope and cognitive supremacy of a societal paradigm which has completely overridden political action, popular participation and alternative Archimedean points of economic, social and political phenomena interpretation. A societal trend heir to the scalar end of history where low levels of inter-elite competition and capitalist distributional legitimacy has produced a predatory turn characterized by the disarticulation of embedded liberalism-driven democracy and the rise of an accumulation-centric regime governed by market-driven societal decision making.

The collusion of the predicaments of the RAND school, the maxims of neoclassical economics and the sinews of corporate hegemony created the conditions under which the modernity-driven predatory neoliberal societal enterprise has reached unprecedented superstructurality. Under this cognitive geography, the ontological privilege of the operational requirements of accumulation propelled a profound and unparalleled transformation of the political and social realm. Politics was stripped of the notion of societal change and filled with an end-of-history imaginary captured by the concept of social management, the econocratic societal truth based on self-interested individuals in which society, by the virtue of nomadological competition channelled through consumption, reaches a self-regulating optimum. A political geography characterised by unprecedented disembeddedness and ideational emptiness, a social fabric shaped by a structural deficit of meaning and an individual governed by a nihilistic, dreamless and selfish mechanicity.

The cognitive underpinnings of this societal setup based on Berlin´s concept of negative freedom and Arendt´s account on the totalitarian –and doomed to failure- nature of any interference with market-driven movement have overhauled collective interaction and extra-cumulative sources of political legitimacy. The scope of political engagement has been cognitively repressed to a narrow cognitive alley defined by budgetary chrematistics where initiatives are exclusively judged by financial spreadsheets. A Gramscian econocentric public sphere dominated by those who are thought to be able to govern a system which is believed to be distinct and have its own logic and laws.

Consequently, Western civilizational trajectory entered the new millennia ruled by a neoclassical clergy immune to critique which hollowed-out and nullified the “bloated” state and institutionalised a full-spectrum metrics-driven ontology. Discarding Polanyian buffers in favour of a “market democracy” where citizens are transformed from active political actors into passive consumers. A gradual privatisation of political power which, by equating societal agency to purchasing power, laid the conditions for a systemic deadlock whenever extreme internal cumulative and societal vulnerabilities came into play.

Epitomized by the Great Financial Crisis, the inevitable systemic inability to materially honour the neoliberal social contract constitutes the primordial driver behind the cognitive demise of the nomadological econocratic setup underpinning the neoliberal societal blueprint. A wave of social and economic devastation which has effectively obliterated traditional meso-organizational sources of domestic consent manufacturing and the uncontested notion of infallibility and transnational exportability of the western societal model. Yet, despite these odds and the unprecedented build-up of rival domestic and foreign perception-management capabilities, western elites have been unable to produce the political formula to retain their distributional leverage while detaching themselves from the hyper-modern and inflexible capitalist universe of the end of history thesis.

As a consequence, the neoliberal governance body has produced the ideational conditions under which the systemic inability to counter the distributional impact of an increasingly winner takes it all political economies not only is manufacturing large pools of ontological vacuum, but also supplying validation and social grip to the disruptive component of insurgent narratives. Due to its configuration and drivers, this new theatre of media operations characterised by an increasingly fractured ideational space has proven particularly suited for domestic positive-freedom-driven conceptualizations of political reality. An interpretive space where targeting the white-collar cosmopolitan clique of experts, corporate power ambassadors and monetary managers which bring a unified front of orthodoxy to the power nodes of western societal decision making is the formula of political success. A wave of ontological deconstruction which, capitalising on the generous interpretive masse de manoeuvre provided by the cumulative marketization of truth, has managed to storm the Overton window of the neoliberal ideal through a myriad bonding-capital ideational schemes.

The inability of western elites to manufacture a political economy fix to their political and distributional symbiosis with the fate of capitalist societal trajectory has ultimately rendered them unable to decisively counter this metastasising rebellion. Despite the deployment of the most ambitious and coordinated central bank policy revolution in modern history, their unwillingness to wage war against the same social structures of accumulation from which they benefit has only managed to produce ephemeral political relief.  As a result, the core of western elites has turned to manufacture hysteria to try to delegitimise the `populist´ tide. An all-out fake-news-driven engagement which has compromised the anglo-centric global ideational bastion and granted vigilant geopolitical rivals with now advanced media instruments free passage to shape novel depictions of the West, both domestically and internationally.

The destabilizing ideational effects of the management and contingency vision and policy which western elites deployed to address the post-2008 societal and cumulative crisis was accompanied by an accidental magnifier which rendered the interpretive realm of western societies a critical component of today’s geopolitical checkboard. The emergence of the Ukrainian, Syrian, and North and South East Asian theatres of media operations not only meant the arrival of rival vested interests to domestic western interpretive markets in an era of hyper-hybrid warfare, but also the consolidation of novel domestic vectors of polarization and disruption. Vectors which have proved critical in fracturing western monolithic cognitive governance structures and sabotaging its international legitimacy and power projection capabilities.

Through advanced and well-tailored –content, language and concept art- media instruments able to capitalise on imperial deconstruction to expose western elites to an unprecedented level of political vulnerability, these new sources of information and narrative manufacturing assets have made common cause with domestic counter-hegemonic activity through a myriad of informal alliances. An improvised arrangement which functions as a bilateral force multiplier in their quest against the overall credibility of the domestic and international statu quo by merging geopolitical, social, economic and moral concerns into a plastic battering ram adaptable to multiple operational scenarios.

Epitomizing this geography of transnational offensive interpretive network of networks is RT, a media outlet which embodies vested geopolitical interests, enough cultural affinity to blend itself with western media spaces, a large state-backed web of on-the-ground assets and a great psyop savvy. An organisation able to effectively counter a unified media cartel by targeting a wide array of vulnerability vectors at once, from delivering the necessary elements to re-interpret the Syrian and Ukrainian conflicts to exposing cronyism in the western societal order and providing media coverage to heterodox austerity-battling economists. The interpretive equivalent of a MIRV, capable of deconstructing western narrative on its own, but also able to provide interpretive support and on-the-ground assistance to domestic counter-hegemonic insurgency. A dynamic and decentralized threat which, as data on media trust support for liberal democracy has showcased, Anglo-American and European media systems have not been in a position to counter.

In the face of an ever growing cognitive dissonance between the liberal-econocratic nodes of consent manufacturing and the increasingly populated category of those against the statu quo, efforts to address the epidemic of `disinformation´ have largely backfired against an increasingly polarized web of insurgent ontological contestation.  Confronted with the electoral effects of economic insecurity and the demise of the “enlightened” societal programme in the form of Anglo-American and European `illiberal-populists´, eastern authoritarians and a rising shared anti-exceptionalist vision of western diplomacy, the neoliberal-econocratic counterinsurgent playbook has been overwhelmed. A context of interpretive chaos where any political countermeasure brought to contain and repress the ontological haemorrhage is rapidly weaponized and used to cement the political theses of the opposing party. Where coherent geopolitical planning and diplomatic action becomes an operational nightmare.

Western media´s strategic inability to act and counter the ideational and interpretive effects of distributional hoarding in a non-linear interpretive battlefield has led to an accelerated transition from a western-centric liberal-militant prism to a potential geography of multipolar contestation. A disorderly shift which, due to its nature, introduces critical new risks vectors to the international system. While the realm of transnational media attrition and “troll diplomacy” might have opened the door to a relatively cost-effective potentially uncounterable non-kinetic weapon able to target the centre of gravity of future social class tensions, the exposure of critical systemic vulnerabilities of elite societal management could trigger retaliatory actions of a real kinetic shape. A risk of international escalation enhanced by the kaleidoscopical and post-Wesphalian interpretive spaces where collusion accusations, scapegoating and domestic and foreign interest merge and cohabit. Recent missile strikes in Syria by president Trump could exemplify the dawn of these vectors. An effort to domestically fight the neo-McCarthyist frame deployed to politically repress any form counter-hegemonic ontological contestation. The array of potential political combinations leading to international risk-taking in a future conflict is vast.

With interpretive projection parity constituting the primordial source of volatile accelerated multipolarity and western distributional entrenchment proving to be impervious to a frontal electoral assault, the current geopolitical and social puzzle is likely to endure and, given cumulative prospects, likely to deteriorate. The inability of western elites to ontologically fortify their international interpretive monopoly and penetrate distant target public spheres with ease –due to a combination of nationalised media spaces and advanced censorship instruments in China, the Middle East, and Russia- may drive them to a worrisome strategic conundrum. A policy dilemma between the deployment of an interpretive exclusion zone or dangerous international brinkmanship. Political counterattacks which, in a context of declining international economic inequality and shared transnational domestic wealth polarisation, might well become increasingly plausible and effective. A viable strategy to relief internal pressure and bring ontological instability to their rival´s home front.

Post-2008 societal dynamics and the counterinsurgent lessons derived from them might create an international system shaped by a multi-vectorial interpretive Cold War where nationalised anti-access media spaces meant to address political vulnerability live together with non-Westphalian alliance systems and chaotic and hyper-polarised national political discourses. In this context, with the interpretive dimension of social and geopolitical conflict becoming increasingly critical in any theory of victory, the media space will rapidly gain an unprecedented strategic centrality. A novel competitive theatre where, most likely, the struggle between cumulative and political critical junctures and anti-access measures will contribute to the rapid erosion of the international and domestic metanarrative which once governed the end of history fantasy. The rocky dawn of a post-western interpretive scenario which threatens to reignite the flame of geopolitical strife between great powers.

Beyond the risks of media projection driven psyche-jamming exchanges, the probable long term alternative to an entrenched ontological conflict is not a global ecosystem where the accommodation of a multipolar interpretive scenario produces an international equilibrium of cooperation and trust. Instead, the advent of symmetric international inter-elite competition in a political economy theatre of shared extreme domestic wealth inequality is likely to produce high levels of geopolitical distrust and erect formidable high-tech interpretive blockades. A systemic conundrum which not will shape the future of international relations and modern strategic spaces, but also the future of the global media instruments and ultimately the emancipatory potential of international freedom of information.

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