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January 15, 2016

The Reign of the Internet

by Jay Taber

In the 1973 film The Society of the Spectacle, Guy Debord described the total domination of the
industrialized capitalist economy over the psyche of 20th Century humankind, and the resulting
separation of modern urban society from reality. Represented in images projected by the
bureaucratic state, the assumption of this unreal role of urban consumers enables the ruling class
to control consciousness. Today, that separation from reality is so complete that the economy of
war including genocide and mass displacement of indigenous peoples is largely
unchallenged, despite the fact that consumer demand created by the spectacle of advertising is
complicit in these crimes against humanity.
War for the resources required to fulfill consumer demand of luxury goods like automobiles and
electronics is now accepted as normal, shrugged off by hyper-consumers as an unfortunate but
inevitable consequence of progress. Unlike the spontaneous resistance by students and
marginalized sectors of urban society to this total bureaucratic domination in the 1960s,
consumer reaction to mass murder and dispossession in the 21st Century is itself choreographed
by the ruling class. Controlling consciousness through mass communication via the Internet has
created what the French philosopher Debord described as A Culture of Imbeciles, in which
advertising has become the only factor.
The ongoing social disintegration of industrial civilization that produces pseudo-citizens signing
online petitions created by ruling class entities like Avaaz, Purpose and 350, is indicative of the

unbridled power of seamless spectacle, begun in the era of television, and culminated in the reign
of the Internet. Controlling Consciousness through public relations has generated a discursive
monoculture, where self-organized democratic renewal is unimaginable. Communication in this
environment has become what the American cultural critic Neil Postman described in 1985 as
Amusing Ourselves to Death. Thirty years later, and contrary to Postmans assertions, technology
has substituted itself for human values.
Jay Thomas Taber is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies, a
correspondent to Forum for Global Exchange, and a contributing editor of Fourth World
Journal. Since 1994, he has served as communications director at Public Good Project, a
volunteer network of researchers, analysts and activists engaged in defending democracy. As a
consultant, he has assisted indigenous peoples in the European Court of Human Rights and at
the United Nations. Email: tbarj [at]
More articles by:Jay Taber