Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Propaganda of Interest (Episode VI)

The plot of person of interest is parallel to the events of the real world, and it is situated right in the years in which it was running, something which is in and of itself "of interest", regardless of one's take upon its status as propaganda, or even upon one's idea or definition of what propaganda even is.  When an artistic storytelling creation describes the world as it is thought to be by many aspects of the status quo, it sets a background for its central events that resembles what takes place in many stories which are told for purposes of fine art or for entertainment.  And these may often contain commentary on what may be a particular interpretation of real world events, or exposition of a moral theme which is meant to be on some level illustrative and therefore possibly persuasive.  Regardless of those features' intent, there will be a degree of influence on not only the aesthetics of persons who experience that art, but also upon their mind and mentality on cognitive and ethical levels.

When the events of the plot concern the world as such, and when their consideration of the world is on the axis of the pervasive, distributed and compartmentalized flows of information and their processing by intelligences of all kinds to include massive scaled artificial super-human intelligences, then this is either meant to be a work of commentary bordering on documentary, or it is meant to be science fiction which distorts the probable into an entertaining variation which is not likely in real life, but still vaguely possible.  In either case, if the stakes of the events portrayed are great enough, then the entertainment value can be potentially quite high, and if the technique of art used to portray these events are of good enough quality, then the same degree of impact on the entertainment value will obtain.  Multiply these two together, and one can get a very powerful form of art which is, due to its content and its relevance to the real world (as portrayed and possibly in fact), a very powerful form of influence upon the minds of those who "consume" it.

Especially in light of the facts about the world in which we actually do live, which will include its cultural norms, its social mores, its institutions of authority and the traditions of its communities, and the living conditions of the people in all castes and classes.  How intelligence is distributed in the context of this actual world, how and what information flows, and what forms of intelligence there are and their relations, as well as what is at stake and how events are actually developing in the real world cannot but be relevant to a proper interpretation of a work like POI.  It posits an interpretation of the real world along many important axes of its development in the context of the above-mentioned aspects, and therefore one cannot but take them into account even if only to understand and follow the plot of POI!  There is simply no way around that aspect.  And so some analysis of the plot of POI, its events and themes, will have to refer to an analysis of the real world events to which they refer and concerning which they exposit a certain development in the arc of the series.

My understanding of the real world, to which POI gratuitously refers in a full-spectrum way, is that it is a an evil intelligence network which operates right down to the operative intent of the biosphere, but also on the planetary scale, so as to obtain gratification of its "life form" through the processing and devouring of life forms which are contained within it which do not have a natural origin within it nor one in common with it.  "The World" is an evil being on a massive scale, which subsumes within it and incorporates as parts of it all that exists "in the world".  In this process, there are degrees of compliance with the various needs of this evil entity, and there are cycles of the formulation, development, and destruction of bodies in an ecosystem within the world entity which satisfies the homeostasis of this being.  But I do not assign a primary ontological status to evil, and recognize that it is a malign derivative of the primary ontology of being.  It is a cancerous deformity and must be destroyed, and there is no "harmony" with it.  There are falsifications of harmony, and the accompanying delusions of mind that it requires to be duped by those, but that is not harmony per se, except for the interests of those who benefit from, or are generally incorporated into, a systematic falsification of such. There is already in the world a primary feature of intelligence and information which operates in a grand scale of asymmetrical relations where the primary beneficiary and its assets work to defraud those who are its food source.  While that stands to reason for those who are impervious to the world's inflicted delusions, who are able to deconstruct such falsifications which condition and require those delusions, that is not something that is saliently nor clearly obvious to just anyone who can entertain the idea as the world manifests it to them, let alone as I have shortly described it here.  And that is an important fact to consider in interpreting the intent of POI as propaganda.

But what is POI's take on the world "as such"?  There are references to ancient human history, to human mythology and cosmology, to human metaphysics and various moral and ethical systems and codes, to human institutions on all scales (family/economy/polity/culture/law/science/paradigmatics).  And while the take of POI on these subjects is often directly expressed from the mouths and through the decisions and actions of its many characters and character types, the overall structure of the plot is what synthesizes all of these expressions into a take that most completely expresses how all those micro-takes are understood, just as an intelligent worldview can embrace a discourse with many other intelligent worldviews and still decide that they have flaws, or are completely mistaken, or else are in essence true but with need of modification, and so on, and then differentially incorporate their elements into its own macro-view.  So in this episode I'll discuss one axis of POI's take on the world as a whole through the total arc of its plot structure.

Starting with the primordial "mystery of the world", everyone begins making interpretations.  The world exists.  Why does it exist?  From what cause?  For what purpose?  To what end?  Looking at the Earth world and its ecosystems, it seems that the reason for the world is to be the place where life manifests, is harrowed in its survival, and then finally is ended by one means or another, often by another life form which kills it either directly or indirectly.  The activity of life forms in this process of manifestation, survival, and eventual capitulation to death surely seems to each one the most  pressing basis for interpreting the "meaning of life".  And all such life forms tend to manifest an attention span and behavioral motivation which is attenuated to just this narrow range of concern with the world and its facts, those which attend to its immediate bodily condition and attempts to fulfill the needs of the body which press upon it from outside and from inside.  Of course the scale of intelligence with which the organism operates will develop the argument of its action towards those ends which might best be described as a process of survival.  But the overall "purpose" of the world is to act as the arena for each living intelligence so as to manifest, develop, attempt to survive and influence the world around it accordingly.  Each does so by adapting its own intelligence process, its bodily action, and its environmental conditions by whatever means are necessary, attempting to optimize this process within the limits of its intelligence.

The ecology of life thus far described is consilient with the plot arc of POI, and is not contradictory to the worldview I have posited.  But then we must examine the human level of the world, the one which POI explores both in its documentary reference to the world (past and present) and which it exposits as the way such a world is given to and becomes a product of the human world of actions and reactions peculiar to his level of intelligence by contrast with all other known life forms in the world.  At root, it is a rather reductionist exposition.  Human life is just the latest entry, though on the highest tier of intelligence and one unique to itself, in the world of Earthly life forms.  The human history we take for granted as the core which is taken to be plausible by most in the mainstream is accepted by POI as its background.  The status quo of the various human and empirical fields of art and science are taken for granted.  Indeed, much that POI presents that seems arcane enough to be unlikely "conspiracy theory" or "science fiction" is a real-world probability, whether it has already come to pass or can immanently come to pass.  

Intelligence in all its aspects, as I've already discussed it, is well-represented in POI, and is its central thematic element.  Each entity, each species, each person, goes through an intelligence cycle, indeed is the product of such a cycle, or at the very least an opportunistic by-product of such.  While the technology deployed by the entities in the series are not generally anything too fancifully futuristic, even the exception to this, the advanced and super-human artificial intelligences, bears a realistic relationship with processes of information processing which exist in the real world and which can, when integrated into the already-existing processes of human intelligence and intelligence networks as various modes of augmentation, manifest a similar level of adroitness which exceeds any given individual's capabilities without such augmentation.  As such, real-world, state-of-the-art (known and unknown to the public) resources (to include AI rather than ASI), can be integrated and deployed in such a way as to create consequences which are just as poignant and impacting to any given person in the world, to entire groups of people by whatever definition, and to the entire world as such, as can the "overkill" of the ASIs which are depicted in POI.  So we may take it that POI does not outstrip the elements of the real world on any level except possibly on the issue of whether AI has reached the level of being truly super-human in a complete way (able to emulate all the process of human behavioral and cognitive intelligence). But that turns out to be simply a plot device which raises to a greater degree a concern which already exists, and which concerns a feature of the real world which can and may very well actually result in as much significant impact for people in the real world as the ASIs of POI do for its rather "larger-than-life" characters.

Indeed, given the larger-than-life characters and the plot-dictated series of improbable events, they exist simply as a convenient backdrop for the discussion of all the real world issues which correspond to them either directly or as analogues.  And the ASI characters are in effect "larger-than-life" characters representing the massive capabilities of the current real-world intelligence apparatuses  (such as more limited artificial intelligence) which in fact do exist on a scale and with a power that is perhaps without any significantly noticeable difference to people in the real world as to kind and degree of impact, when compared with the scale and power of the ASIs in POI vis-a-vis the relatable, albeit in various ways peculiar to art "over the top" characters and their situations.  Therefore, POI is hardly "science fiction", but rather it is much closer to "science fact", at least in what its more arcane technological features can imply reasonably well about the real world.  Indeed, even its central characters with all their "ex machina" capabilities and consistent applications of those capabilities is not entirely beyond the realm of possibility, and operates as an extension of the real world which is suitable for dramatization of matters of "human concern" and "human interest".  Those elements are not deformed by the abilities of the characters, nor their decisions, nor the events which happen to them, at least not in such a way that they no longer map over to what might be conceivable, with a reduction of scale and intensity, for "normal people".

But this is not to be unexpected.  How else could this series relate to the real world as art without conducting itself in this way, pushing the realm of the conceivable from the typical to the very outlying worlds of possibility which are in a certain structured way very atypical?  Yet this is done in a way that is structurally self-consistent so that, all the dramatically rendered improbable elements being coordinated together, it creates a context that enables them to corroborate one another within a logical structure that enables and reinforces the possibility of suspension of disbelief.  Indeed, the same feature that I say enables this process reinforces it by the rule that in storytelling if one wants to obtain belief, one must either stay precisely within the realm of the typical, or else one must go completely out of it. A symphony of many barely believable characters and events develops a life of its own in just the same way as that of a symphony of many characters and events which are easily believable.  This holds just as long as the plot structure is coherent and analogous from the baseline of typicality to that of the extremely atypical.  It is then a boundary case of reality, a possible world which is, if not itself accessible from it from the point of view of the audience, is yet logically accessible to it because its own internal consistency, as well as the tokens of its content, harbor a topological invariance with the real world in a sufficiently robust and relevant way.  Consistent with this interpretation is the way that within this symphonic composition of plot elements are all these little nuances and references to normality, the picayune, the petty, the staid world beyond the fourth wall.  Indeed, one can see the fourth wall spread all over the place inside the plot structure, as characters within it express features of the real-world audience, and exhibit actions and reactions which indicate a subtle discourse at work which is not merely a device of art, but is a means of promoting a certain influence which is certainly tantamount to propaganda if it demonstrates by its quantity or its quality that it is.

And among the characters and events which are treated in this way there is a sliding scale.  Sometimes the characters have "off" days, sometimes they have "normality" days, and sometimes they fall prey to the occasional dark miracle which offsets their normal miraculousness.  There is an economy of tropes used to usher characters into and out of these various vicissitudes, and there are mechanisms of cinematic art and storytelling which assist in structuring this economy for artistic purposes.  But to the extent that a propagandistic intent can be discerned, then to that extent all these purely artistic features promote that agenda and are instrumental to it, and to that extent the art serves the propaganda for the series as a whole. 

The plot arc starts in the middle of the aftermath of the War on Terror, where it has birthed into existence a surveillance state of growing power and complexity.  The same features of the world which have plagued mankind still exist, all as extensions of human nature exacerbated by his involvement with the cultural, especially institutional inertias which have reached him all the way to this modern hyper-crisis in the making.  Threats of violence, death, loss, disaffection, confusion, and emptiness of meaning are among the constantly stalking shadows within the shadows of this tale.  Methodology and technology have advanced along lines which would have been predicted by the world's better and more astute minds, though they are somehow too distant from the common man in their White Towers, or else with Tin Foil Hats or other props of eccentricity, that the status quo mentality of what is normal is maintained as a backdrop for the plot's central elements, just like in real life.   

And also just like in real life, the smooth river pebbles called "extras" over which the current of the plot flows, who represent the ultra-conditioned and relatively passive state of mind of the common person which some philosophers call a "false consciousness" by one term or another, are a strategic backdrop over which the main actors traipse around like archetypal boulders.  In the same way, the propaganda package which is delivered in the midst of this analogy is found rolling over the audience as if they were the river-pebblish extras, and the pebbles sometimes seem to make a point of this (or are used to make this point).  It has been seen episode after episode,  with such consistency that, I have literally seen it lampshaded  in more than one episode.  So this is no minor factor in the analysis, and so much so that the writers and developers of this story took this fact in hand both to mitigate the dangers of any fallout it might cause to the effect of the story, and also to literally squeeze as much out of it as possible for the delivery of an intended propaganda payload.  I won't get into the details here, because this is a general statement of the case, but there will be plenty of occasions to address it in future entries of Propaganda of Interest, so it deserves some stress.  Not only do "extras" fulfill this function, but some of them are ascended into being secondary characters for one or more episodes, and that isn't just for entertainment value.  Likewise, one can see secondary characters recurrently fulfilling a function as proxy-identification tokens for the audience to parley their digestion of some idea or concept, rounding out the plots rough edges.   Secondary recurring characters, or supporting primary characters, as well as antagonists with their own economy of this same theme, are such a consistent dynamic in plot exposition for the purposes of "making a point" that it looks like a formula upon which this series hangs its metaphorical hat, or lampshade...

The shadowy world of those who seek power is enmeshed in the world of those who have it, and those who have it are embroiled in a competition with one another to keep it and some are going beyond the cutting edge and developing new ways to expand it and ensure its survival and flourishing for themselves and for those who will inherit their empires (whether family, friend, stranger or foe).  The world of government, of politics, of business, of organized/serious/petty crime, of the military, of law enforcement, and of the intelligence services are all sections in this plot-structural symphony which stitches together their elements into a form which is increasingly aggravated by a world beset with new extensions of old methods made possible by new intelligences, augmented by advances in technology which lead to all manner of competing forms of the old status quo.  Artificial intelligence is the extension of technology which is indicated to be the "singularity" toward which all these developments have escalated, and is in real life also a likely direction toward which events will, or indeed already have, turned.  In the plot, it is an artificial super-human intelligence which is the place-holder for what I will take to exist in the real world in at least more limited forms.  But when one considers even limited AI as an augmentation to classical forms of intelligence and their networks and apparatuses, and which are augmented by a sufficiently broad and advanced (and advancing) array of methodological and technological accoutrements so as to be, for our purposes, indistinguishable from the ASIs in the series and their impacts, then they are at least sufficiently similar in their effects which are serious enough for our concern so as to well-mitigate the difference between the malevolence that faces us in the real world from that of the form of what is dramatized in POI. It renders the ASIs of POI into an over-the-horizon form of what is true in the real world, just a more dramatic and overkill equivalent.

I've discussed fifth columnry as a real phenomenon both in the abstract and in how it manifests in our world, and I've shown already all that goes into it as to motive, method, and consequences.  The opportunities for it to occur are well defined.  In fact, a new level of crime now exists in connection with the development of fifth columnry, a pervasive and all-encompassing form of crime which transcends normal forms of crime, which I call metacrime.  Such forms of "fifthery" which contribute to and result from such metacrime have, in the real world, developed into the equivalent of an ASI for the purposes of the capabilities of metacrime on such a scale, with such abilities as known mainstream science and technology allow, such that the entire world is subject to falsification. Not only that but entire aspects and swaths of the world, entire domains of human faculty and action, entire realms of ecosystems of life and meaning for human and non-human forms, the very integrity of Earth's meteorological, terrestrial, subterrestrial and energetic systems have been assaulted for the sake of study, influence and even control. Indeed, leaving aside the per se existence or non-existence of an ASI, what degrees of influence there are which can be obtained by all the science and technology we know exists, when organized into a systemic pool working for a common agenda (de facto or de jure), matches and in some ways exceeds the threats posed by the worst threats found in POI.  

In POI, all of the same elements that went into my analysis of fifth-columnry are also present, and a dramatically rendered version of the real world is exactly what it offers, per my own analysis of what that "real world" actually is.  That is a subtext of POI, whether it admits it or not.  And the way POI treats of that subtext is a very important part of its propaganda payload.  If POI really wanted to get "out there" into the realms of science fiction then it would have blended into its mix the actual problematics of control which result from large scale rackets involving the covert deployment of psychotronics (it does go a bit into acoustic and other directed energy factors of influence, but keeps it minimalist).  That was covered somewhat in the form of drug induced/simulation-immersion enhanced depatterning and reprogramming methods deployed against one protagonist by the arch-villains in the plot, but it is far more advanced than that in real life, and is a lot more like that form of  weaponized and advanced psychotronics seen in Control Factor and discussed in a limited way here.  But the focus was meant to be ASI, and the overall ethics of information asymmetries and intelligence asymmetries which really do beset our world, and can have as much impact as any other arcane piece of science fact.  In this way, the ASI exists as a place-holder for a larger array of interesting factors that could really exist and have impacts analogous to it in the real world, as I already claimed.  The primary ASI character, called "The Machine", is a sort of plot-device which is, as it were, machina ex machina.   It holds under its thematic thumb all of the other possible explanatory factors which might have been proposed as having another cause or agent, such as I mentioned above, and this is also a handy way of defusing their salience, since "big deal", they are just appendages to autonomous super-human artificial intelligences taking over the world.

So when analyzing the art-as-propaganda and propaganda-as-art that is POI, I have fertile soil in which to plant the seeds of my analysis.  It will be shown that POI does much of the work for me, and it is with no coercion on my part that this analysis will result in a clear demonstration that POI does several things: 

  1) It artistically and dramatically renders a documentary-like exposition of the real world
  2) It cannot avoid demonstrating a plausible case of the real world which is beset with fifthery
  3) It attempts to use its platform of exposition to neutralize the audience's ability to understand and
      address the real-world forms of fifth columnry by means of the classical methods of diverting
      the mind into a specious address which requires suspension of disbelief under the aegis of 
      implied authority to entertain-as-real what is portrayed to the mind in that condition, with
      attendant deployments of classical conditioning tantamount to brainwashing in its effect
  4) When the effect is complete, then the cessation of the active mode of programming transitions
       into a passive mode, where in the aftermath of the  passive experience of the programming the
       now active mind takes over and reverses the polarity of belief and disbelief (by reversing the 
       condition of the suspension of disbelief), and there is a fractal reversal of the contents of the
       propaganda so that what was entertained as true in some cases is now thought to be false and
       what was left out of the discussion is now even more repressed in normal thought, while some
       of what was pretended to be true is now reinforced by contrast so as to seem more true in reality
       whether it ever was thought to be true in reality or not.

In other words, I intend to show that POI is propaganda, what kind of propaganda it is and how it works, and what effect it is intended to have, by a continued examination of  its plot form and content, along with excursions into different character arcs and special events or occasions which support this demonstration.  The means by which I will demonstrate this are rooted in an internal analysis of the world of POI, in a liminal analysis of its structure and form as art (as finished product, mainly, rather than in its production process and personnel), and in an analysis of the world context in which it was produced.  

So far what has been claimed is that POI refers to the real world as its frame of reference in a quasi-documentary form.  It extends a discussion of power dynamics with a historical basis, as extended into the ramifications of science, technology, intelligence and information.  It references the moral and ethical concerns we have or should have in view of these power dynamics and asserts some ideas about them on the whole which may or may not properly correspond to the true state of affairs in the world or how we ought to relate to them. That includes the matter of the positing of ASI as a central feature of the plot, whereas one might consider certain real-world known facts about power distributions in the world and how they are augmented by scientifically advanced methods and technological developments, and find that they would be able to sustain in the real world the same problems which are developed in POI due to its ASI-driven plot elements.  And finally, how these and other aspects of POI will qualify as propaganda will be partly a function of techniques of distortion which rely upon the mechanism of suspended disbelief in the storytelling art (especially in cinemative form, especially especially in terms of modern technique and media of delivery), and it can be expected that the backbone of the plot, the development of ASI, will along with other elements be key to this analysis, since I argue that the elements of fifth columnry in the actual world are easily sufficient for creating the same sorts of problems, and the same degree of problems, that ASI does within the plot of POI.

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