“We live inside the manifestations of human minds. Like the child seeking outside connection, we find only the projections of other humans. We can’t know the natural from the artificial, since the processes that would reveal that are nowhere visible.”
In the first performance of the Ghost Monologues in the Underground Studio Bunker, I chose Jerry Mander’s Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television as the text. While the book was written 40 years ago in 1978, and focuses on the media effects of television, it couldn’t be more relevant today. Television as a platform for the dissemination of propaganda and mind-numbing programmatic material has simply been absorbed into the monolithic, universal medium of the Internet. Now the amplification of media disinformation is greater, faster, and ubiquitously distributed by nearly everyone on the planet.
“We are cut off, floating in space, living within a nationwide sense-deprivation tank. We see a stimulus, a light, and we cling to it. It becomes everything. It causes images in our brain. We call this experience, but we can’t tell if it is our experience or something else. It is in our heads, but we didn’t create it. We don’t know if it is real or it isn’t.”
The flattened hierarchy of broadcasting now means that everyone can participate: the multitudinous generation and redirection of information, where once media came from a few centralized sources. Now we are all swirling and drowning in the soup, in which everybody is a participant, a broadcaster, a creator of content. Does this mean we are any closer to the truth? Are we now living in the McLuhanesque utopian dream of the global village, everyone connected, everyone informed? Quite the contrary, if we follow Mander’s prediction, we are deeper in chaos and confusion brought about by a bottomless reservoir of opinions, perspectives, prognostications, memes, and emojis: the brain is overwhelmed and nothing is real.
“We can’t stop the broadcasts. We accept whatever comes. One vision is equal to the next. One thought is as good as the next. All information merges. All experience merges. We take everything on faith. One explanation is the same as the next one. Contradictions do not exist. We have lost control of our minds.”
We find ourselves floating adrift in the ethereal waves of digital information. We have become saturated in the non-stop torrent of data, which fills our heads and dampens the critical need to turn it off. TURN IT OFF? We can’t. The media is who we are, what we have become, key to our desires and aspirations. It is what binds us all together. Yes, perhaps we do live in a global village, but this is a village largely bound and related by profiles and status updates. Media has become what Mander calls the “influencing machine,” an external force that continuously reshapes our internal existence and redefines our human connection to one another. WE are the high-flying Ghosts in the Machine.
“We are all lost in space. Our world exists only in memory. Everything is arbitrary. Media is the guru speaking reality. We have merged with the influencing machine. We are astronauts. – Paraphrased from Jerry Mander’s Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television.