Globalism in Decline
Grand larceny by any other name...
Globalism is nothing new. We recognized it as the League of Nations at the Paris Peace Conference directly after World War I. And of course the League of Nations became the United Nations directly after World War II. Seems the exact same folks who get us into these wars are always the exact same folks who negotiate the peace. Makes me wonder what kind of peace organization will follow World War III to ensure World War IV.
Not new includes the World Economic Forum, founded in 1971. Not new includes the W.H.O., established as a specialized agency of the U.N. in 1948. The World Bank and the International Money Fund both date back to 1944. Again, not new. Some global institutions — NGOs and corporations like the International Red Cross, the International Olympic Committee, Reuters, and the Associated Press — date back to the 19th century and before.
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So no, nothing new about globalism. What’s new is the populist illusion that it’s on the rise — or so one of my readers kindly reminded me the other day in the comments section of my latest essay, A DeepMind is a Terrible Thing to Waste. He’s right: globalism isn’t on the rise. Totalitarianism and fascism are on the rise, and — as a result — populism is on the rise. But globalism — brought to us by the same folks who brought us World War I, the League of Nations, World War II, the United Nations, the Korean War, the Viet Nam War, the war in Ukraine, and countless wars in the Middle East — has been in decline since the turn of the 21st century.
Evidence of globalism’s decline is found in the commensurate broad decline in the quality of life across the Western democracies since the early 21st century. The decline in the quality of life reflects the chaotic decay of global institutions, private and public alike.
Of course, to a man with a hammer toe every problem looks like a hammer toenail. So once we identify elitist globalism as the villain (and there’s plenty of evidence to suggest it is), every subsequent headline exists only to confirm it. And nowadays we simply see, consume, and endure a lot more headlines than we did back in the quainter days of the 20th century, back when we still sat down with our morning newspaper and a quiet cup of coffee to check out yesterday’s news — just one of the meaningful rituals we abandoned like a burned out battle tank on the side of the road.
What we witnessed in the early 21st century was the rise of digital scale to manage the decay — what I call The Grand Larceny Phase — of massive global institutions, and the concurrent rise of state-sponsored default addiction to cushion the impact for the rest of us. Both phenomena had been in the works for decades. Fortunately for the global elite, both matured — perhaps not so coincidentally — at the same time.
The rise of digital scale — and the comprehensive institutionalization of our lives that rode shotgun with it — was required by the elite forces of globalism to manage the decline and consolidate for themselves the requisite power and wealth to survive it en route and thrive thereafter, catch-as-catch-can, on the way down. In essence, the power and global reach of digital scale provides our elite masters with the ways and means to steal everything that isn’t nailed down as they pillage and loot our homes, our children, our money, our freedom, and our dreams. Needless to say, they don’t call what they do grand larceny. Rather, they call themselves and their acolytes social justice warriors in the ongoing battle to secure truth, justice, freedom, and democracy — at least for themselves.
With digital scale came the unmanageable complexity of massive systems pushed to extreme, a phenomenon codified back in the 1960s in one of media ecologist Marshall McLuhan’s Four Laws of Media: the Law of Reverse — what happens when complex systems pushed to extreme suddenly display teleologically opposite tendencies and begin to push back. All things once progressive turned suddenly regressive and chaotic in order to manage and extract maximum profit from the collapse.
Thus the same digital media technologies of scale that promised in the late 20th century to liberate and democratize us suddenly turned against us, first with passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, handing effective ownership control of the entire legacy media ecosystem to a handful of corporate behemoths — and the Democratic Party. Then again just a few years later after 9/11 with passage of the monstrous Patriot Act, the rise of the technomedia cartel, and the political weaponization of the entire Department of Justice.
Likewise, the same digital tools of scale that opened Wall Street to private investors en masse in the 1990s crushed them, first with the collapse of the Dot Com bubble, then again in 2008, when trillions of dollars in the private real estate and credit markets were stolen in broad daylight in the greatest criminal heist in history.
From once progressive tools of liberation to regressive and repressive tools of a massive security/surveillance state and money mill for the rich and powerful — in a heartbeat.
No longer allowed to simply live our lives — now made impossibly complex by runaway digital scale — we were suddenly required to manage them instead. But only with the help of a global managerial class, of course: the new-and-improved version of the same elite kleptocrats that brought us the League of Nations, the United Nations, the WHO, and the WEF — only now operating at digital scale. Their consumer tools of choice at the time: social media and the smartphone.
The concurrent rise of state-sponsored default addiction was merely the flip side of the same corporatist coin, deployed with the same consumer tools of choice: social media and the smartphone. As described in The Rise of Huxwell, state-sponsored default addiction was the mandatory compliance mechanism of the global elites, the Huxleyan predecessor and counterpart to the Orwellian iron-boot enforcement mechanism that emerged in full force as state-sanctioned terror with the BLM/Antifa riots and Covid mandates of 2020 — both invoked largely to end Donald Trump’s challenge to elite hegemony and put populism of all stripes on permanent state notice. The irony, of course, is that institutional decay and corruption are the very things that manufacture populism and elect guys like Donald Trump in the first place.
The same inexorable progress/regress cycle of decline and decay that beset major corporate media franchises like Reuters, the Associated Press, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, 60 Minutes, CNN, MSNBC, and FOX News in recent years is already on full display in the digital media ecosphere as the massive technomedia cartel, once the repository of all things progressive, turns against us as regressive tools of a totalitarian surveillance state and censorship regime. All of the outsized personalities that once populated the cable ranks are gone now, replaced instead by a crop of anodyne and perfectly interchangeable faces — what Hanna Arendt might have described collectively as the banality of evil. Gone, too, are the audiences.
All of the larger-than-life media personalities with the biggest audiences — the Joe Rogans, Russell Brands, Patrick Bet-Davids, Jordan Petersons, Michael Shellenbergers, Tucker Carlsons, Tim Pools, Dave Rubins, and Ben Shapiros of the media ecosphere are now online as center-right populists. Some of them started that way. Some, however, started out as social progressives and/or progressive populists (to the extent such folks still exist) but found themselves cancelled or otherwise red-pilled by fiat as corporate apostates in exile. Regardless, they all wound up as populists, all firmly ensconced in the center-right heart of civil liberties and traditional family values — precisely where blue-collar workers and immigrant cultures once built middle-class homes and communities predicated on family values of faith, family, and community. Precisely where all blue-collar workers and immigrant cultures always resolve.
But thus has it always been: those of us on the center-right build homes and communities while the more progressive among us build and dismantle empires. All well and good, of course, while the empires are expanding. Less so, however, in decline. Empires in decline are far more dangerous than those in ascent. Far more autocratic and authoritarian. Far more likely to double down on failed policy as those at the top steal whatever they can while they can for themselves. And far more progressive as the fruits of empire sour on the vine. Once the demolition begins, progressive ideology takes over and finishes the job.
Digital media and biogenetics and AI are the last-gasp technologies of a desperate elite, far too busy consolidating power and wealth on the way down to manage anything effectively en route. Ideology supplants managerial competency once the narrative disappears and all that remains is power.
Unfortunately, all of the mother technologies mentioned above are also massive vehicles of institutional power, and those institutions most empowered by them will likely require at least a generation or two to unwind as they pass through their respective Grand Larceny Phases — assuming we survive them. Hence my response for now: regressive populism focused on the restoration of meaningful ritual and local autonomy.