From Print Democracy To Digital Fascism.

“The political imperative of print as a mass medium is democracy.
The political imperative of electronic mass media is fascism.”
Jeff Einstein
By John Fraim

Jeff Einstein updates much of Marshall McLuhan for the modern world in his work as a “digital apostate.” For Einstein, the print culture of the past created a “medium” of democracy while the electronic culture created a “medium” of facism. There are analogies of the worlds of print democracy and electronic fascism. Many today have lived through this transition from one technology to another. Many have not. In the future, there will be no experience of growing up in the print culture. Just growing up in an electronic culture.
The argument establishes the part of the grand symbolic duality always at battle throughout life. What Jung would have called the Masculine and Feminine archetypes. Print culture is a masculine archetype while digital culture a faminine archetype. This is close to saything that print culture is associated with a masculine symbol while digital culture associated with a feminine symbol. In this respect the bias of current technology towards is certainly towards the digital culture although small “off the grid” outposts of remaining “print culture” takes shots at it from the hinterlands of culture. Usually, out in places like the high California desert outside of Twenty-Nine Palms.
Einstein, brings in conflict the two grand symbols that have dominated contemporary life: mechanical and digital technology. Mechanical technology was a linear technology while digital technology is a non-linear technology. Using a key dynamic of symbolism called correspondeces or non-linear connections, we can see that these two technologies have many symbolic correpondences that highlight and enlighten our key investigators of media – like Jeff Einstein – and those few today who might be called symbologists. For example, assume a correspondence (connection) with all the items under print and electronic below. The ones under these are connected to the major masculine or feminine archetype.
Print culture
Baby-boom generation
McLuhan’s Hot Media (little participation)
Broadcast, one-way communcation
End of cycle
Digital culture
Millennial generation
Emotion, experience
McLuhan’s Cool Media
Interactive, two+ communication
Beginning of cycle
One could extend the correspondences out further and further. The point is that all communication witihin a dominating technology is always influenced.controlled by this technology. As the print culture fades in the closing of the print versions of American newspapers, the electronic culture rises in the electronic publication of these newspapers. In new forms in podcasts, blogs, YouTube postings. Neighborohood email lists. Social media on smartphones.
Perhaps it should come as little surprise that that function called “reason” is such a vanishing species today. It’s major technology is tied to print and not electronic culture, the print culture of the baby boomers and not the electronic culture of the millennials. Electronic culture is that of emotion as Einstein notes in his brilliant short video. (What a way of imparting tremendous knowledge in just a few minutes. If only could watch brilliant little videos like this on the screen rather than all the other distractions of culture today so many of us – including me – follow down endless Internet rabbit holes.
Seeing things in the larger perspective Einstein suggests in just four minutes can lead to a new way of thinking about the world. Something that is much needed. In many ways, the short powerful statements about the world today, like those in this short little video, can perhaps give a wake-up shock volt to culture today. As it is, electronic, digital culture offers a non-linear, emotional, experiential worldview. It is a worldview that is much in conflict with the masculine-domiated worldview of the baby-boom generation, the last generation today of the print culture Einstein talks about.
Explore Jeff’s work at Digital Apstate, or check out his excellent feature video Brave New Digital World: The Revelation
* * *
Perhaps it comes back to that ancient duality of symbols – a paradox really – that was at the heart of the founding of America. As I’ve discussed before, this was the founding of America at the intersection of the Feminine and Masculine symbols of Equality and Freedom. It was a paradox because neither symbol could dominate for ever but must always give way to its duality symbol as life moved from its youth (equality symbol domintation) to age (freedom symbol domination). In other words, the domination of one of the symbols in culture, in the life of culture and the individual within it, has always moved in a cyclic manner.
Today’s life is so difficult because there is a passing of the torch of technology from print to electronic culture. From the mechanical, linear world, to the digital non-linear world. The old print world was one of reason. The new digital, electronic world is one of emotion and experience. Hasn’t this always been the grand debate throughout history?
In all of this, the old cycle of the masculine symbol is fading as the young symbol of the feminine digital technology controls culture. Any content today, whether feminine or masculine oriented content, Democrat or Republican, is controlled ultimately by the current technology of the times. As Einstein argues in his short video, it breeds a culture of Fascism. From a symbolic standpoint, I would argue it suggests a culture where the feminine archetype of equality is the symbol for the current electronic culture. The non-linear nature of it suggests a great feminine, surrounding water or sea we all live within today. This is what digital culture really is: a new type of a totally surrounding media. Like water is to a fish. So pervasive that it is totally invisible.
Communication strategies need to keep this simple message of Jeff Einstein in mind. They also need to explore his website. Jeff represents the best of that small “outpost” of intellectuals called Media Exologists that see this big picture of our current culture. When, so many others have full time jobs of getting all of us to focus on the little pictures of life.
But then, there are New York residents like Jeff Einstein out there, or those off-the grid people in our western deserts. Another type of media ecologist perhaps. They fight this small mindedness. Whatever political party tends to own it at the present time. But they are certainly not welcome to the cultural barons who want to keep everything small minded. Their grandest fear is that they might see the “big” picture. Or, just get a quick glimpse of it.
There are others like Jeff Einstein out there. Perhaps few, though, who see the situation today so brilliantly from a post-McLuhan perspective. Marshall was able to see ahead to the future. Yet, he wasn’t able to live in the future. This was not his experience. His experience was in the dominating media of his period. This time was the greatest days of print culture and the beginnings of their fading in the 1960s and 70s.
Putting a stake in the intellectual stand, so to speak, Jeff Einstein has provided the basis for what should be a debate in culture. If not a debate, then something for the reader to consider as a way of seeing the world.
To believe that life is composed of beliefs and rules.
To believe that life is composed of emotions and no-rules.
The duality of the two symbols needs further study and attention of symbologists or any others that desire to see the big picture in life.
America has been the first grand experiment to fuse the duality symbols of masculine and feminine as the two founding symbols of a nation. Really, the first experiment in this fusion in history. The challenge has never been beating the other but rather understanding the other. Yet understanding is difficult when the remainder of print culture challenges electronic culture. It is a battle that print cannot win. Witness all the newspapers and other print media shuttering their businesses. The modern world is one where emotion and experience dominate reason and linear rationality. The latter have controlled in their print cycle. But now, it is time for the new barons of elctronic media to be the controllers of culture. All of us, part of the dominate technology of our time. A topic that few write about or discuss. Or even aware of. That water of electronic media and its effect on our lives. The interest of Jeff Einstein and one that perhaps be the interest of other communicators today?
John Fraim
John and Eric McLuhan, son of Marshall McLuhan, were good friends for many years and did a number of projects together. These might be subject to offering to our readers some day. There are a number of unpublished collaborations between the two of us. One novel and a number of essays and articles. I started this entire website Midnight Oil as a tribute to Marshall McLuhan. Not the well-known media theorist. But rather, a person who saw the big picture of life rather than that little picture they all forced us to look at 24/7. It is like this with any mentor, it seems to me.

Leave a Reply