Because I still have a soft spot for whack-job conspiracy theorism…

Paul Raven @ 22-02-2011

… I can’t refrain from posting to the latest gem at Vigilant Citizen, wherein grating and (hopefully) ephemeral British pop clothes-horse Jessie J is revealed as the latest in a long line of Illuminati sock-puppets (presumably taking over on point from the high mistress of meat-couture, Lady Gaga), acting out their smug boasts of complete mind-control over the population through the medium of, er, pop music [via No Rock’n’Roll Fun]. Honestly, you’ve gotta love this stuff, even if it ticks every box on the checklist:

At first glance, the song has a noble message regarding the love of music winning over the love of money. What better way to convey this revolutionary message than with a mainstream, gimmicky, formulaic and made-for-radio pop song which strategically features today’s hottest crossover rapper. Alright, that might be harsh, but it illustrates the fact that there is a lot of cognitive dissonance involved with this song. Although its message is about the un-importance of money and embracing individuality, the single is obviously calculated to get the most radio play possible, while constantly depicting the artist as a puppet or toy.

[…]

Hailed as the “new face of pop”, Jessie J brings new energy to the Illuminati agenda, but she still repeatedly flaunts the One-Eye sign like so many other pop acts, proving that she is another pawn of the system. She sings the point of view of the elite: It does not need your money, it already owns most of the world’s resources. It wants to make the world dance to its beat. It wants to shape and mold the youth to think the way it wants it to think. We are witnessing an important movement of homogenization of popular culture where mainstream media is only playing a limited number of “pre-approved” artists who push a “pre-approved” agenda. So, yeah, the video is saying, you can keep the price tag. There is a bigger investment at stake here: the minds of the youth. Of course, there are exceptions within the industry. Anti-establishment rebels have always attracted tons of fans and some still manage to obtain some success … but not with the help of mass media. Not anymore. Money is not the only thing ruling the business.

Last time I looked, money was deserting the music business… but of course, that’s just what they want me to think. Remember, kids: Occam’s Razor is a red herring!


Do you want to know a secret? Social steganography

Paul Raven @ 09-02-2011

Blah blah blah, the intertubes are eroding literacy, kids these days have poor communication skills, blah. Well, if we keep measuring those skills using old metrics, it’s bound to look that way… but kids (a definition that in this instance I’d consider expanding to “web natives”, a demographic that can extend into the younger end of Gen-X, if not further) are actually very sophisticated communicators, primarily because they’re adapting fast to the fact that a lot of their personal communication occurs in publicly-accessible spaces like Facebook. When your mum (or your boss) can be keeping an eye on your wall (or your Twitter stream), you sometimes have to code your updates so that they’re only comprehensible to their intended recipients. And what better an encryption key than your shared cultural references?

Posting lyrics to communicate your mood is one of the most common social steganographic tricks, because teens are fluent in pop culture in a way their parents aren’t. What teenagers are doing reminds me of Washington’s “dog whistle” politics, in which politicians deliver speeches that sound bland but are laden with meaning aimed at their base. For instance, Republican kingmaker Lee Atwater used to advise candidates to use phrases like “states’ rights” and “forced busing” to incite racial fears among white voters without actually using offensive language.

Obviously, one could regard the emergence of youth steganography as yet more depressing evidence of how dangerously overcomplex the web has made teens’ lives. But frankly, I’m kind of awed by the rhetorical sophistication of today’s teens. They are basically required to live in public (you try maintaining friendships without an online presence), but they crave some privacy, too. So they’ve taught themselves to hack language. They hack systems, as well: [Danah] Boyd has also found teenagers who “deactivate” their Facebook account when they log off so nobody can see their stuff or post comments. Then they “reactivate” it when they want to go back online and interact with friends. Presto: They create a virtual club where they control the operating hours. Color me impressed.

I’m tempted to see this as a reappropriation of a (virtual) social space by a generation that increasingly has little access to (physical) social space, though that’s doubtless either an oversimplification of the case or a fractional component of what’s actually happening.

But I think the important thing here is that young people will always find a way to do what young people have always done: distance themselves from the adult-mediated social sphere that they feel oppresses them (c’mon, every kid feels that way, even if it isn’t necessarily true), and create a new space to populate with their own argot, their own ideas and values. Of course, if you’ve always felt intimidated by kids and their weird ways, that’ll be cold comfort… but to me it’s a clear sign that we’re not losing anything essential about our human-ness to the web, we’re just finding new ways to enact it.