A Free-Lance Intelligence Report by J. Paul Serengeti for GaSCo



In 1983 I came up with the word "infotoxin" while reading at a coffee shop in Berkeley. It is a synthesis of "information", which I use in the general sense of "the understandable content of communication", and "toxin", which means a poison. Information poisoning. Over the past 18 years I have been researching and developing this "hypothesis". I think it is accurate to say that we live in the age of infotoxin as much as we live in the "age of technology" or the "age of information".

We have always lived in and been a part of the world of nature, our true home, our real living environment. Our second-order artificial environment was actually born with the development of symbolic language, but took major evolutionary strides with the invention of the written word, the printing press, and in this century with the advent of television and computers. We now as a whole essentially live in a virtual-reality matrix fabricated from inter-connected systems and artifacts of what I call (mc)2, or amplified mass-communication.

The most salient quality of (mc)2 is that it is a second-order "reality", meaning that it is gathered, constructed, fabricated and disseminated by people other than you. A first-order "reality" would be what you experience directly yourself. Most of what we call "education" is a second-order reality. The good side of it is that we can learn what others have learned and from what they have done, even though they may have lived on a distant continent several hundred years ago; the down side is that the transmission of knowledge is at best subject to the whims and limitations of the human mind, and at worst subject to deliberate distortion or the imposition of spin or censorship.

The relationship between first- and second-order "realities" in each of our lives is critical to understanding the current scenario. In today’s world most of us rely heavily on inputs from assorted mass-media to give us a sense of what is happening in the world. Obviously, if you weren’t there to see something happen, you only know about it from other people’s sources. But we tend to give little thought to who actually controls these media. For example, a few decades ago the US had thousands of independently-operated newspapers; today only a fraction of that number exist, and most of them are directly or indirectly controlled by a handful of global media magnates, like Rupert Murdoch. The same applies to television stations and networks. Concentration and centralization of media ownership and control has been a major trend over the past 30 years.

A major result of this trend is that all the various media are saying the same things…there is no real cognitive dissonance or voices of opposition to the status quo…and these same things are messages of persuasive consumption: buy this and buy that and you will be cool and with it and have high self-esteem.

What we call the "news" has undergone similar mutation, from the reporting of happening events in the spirit of true journalism to the spoon-feeding of corporate pap which is fabricated by public relations firms. We somehow give the "news" undue authority, as if they were the official spokespersons for the government. During the Gulf War media analysts recognized that as much as 70% of all news had questionable origins. That was over 10 years ago. Since then we have travelled far down the path toward "manufactured reality."

Our culture today has both Orwellian and Huxleyan components. In Orwell’s 1984 Big Brother was the secret government who forced you to obey through coercion and fear; in Huxley’s Brave New World no force was necessary because the powers that be simply provided you with your supply of soma, an undefined drug that simply made everything ok. Today we have "Big Brother" as an electronic narcotic self-administered through voluntary televison viewing. Timothy Leary said that in today’s world the _expression "to have someone by the balls" means "by the eyeballs." Brave new electronic techno-soma. (end part one)