20 February 2020 — Off Guardian
Daniel Broudy, Tabe Bergman, and Ed Rankin
The latest advances in networked technology hold the promise of lifting millions of people out of poverty. Take 5G. It is hyper-fast and, as everyone knows, time is money. Who doesn’t look to save both?Hang on, though, 5G comes with a catch – or two. You could be assimilated by the global digital matrix, microchipped like domesticated cattle, and transformed into a docile sexless cyborg. The growing opposition to 5G cannot really come as a surprise. As it turns out, human beings still enjoy sex, reproducing, and roaming free.
As scholars of contemporary propaganda, we are acutely aware of the power of mass communication to cow the “bewildered herd” – as Walter Lippmann once blithely insulted the masses. Yet, we suspect that even the slick PR campaigns trying to engineer public consent for 5G have failed to persuade millions of concerned citizens that this technology is sufficiently safe.
More generally speaking we suspect that, despite persistent exposure to decades of mainstream news prodding and cultural cues urging people to welcome whatever new technology arises, most people retain fond memories of a simpler, more humane past: when monetary transactions with hard currency were also key moments of human interaction between buyer and seller, un-surveilled by the all-seeing eye of surveillance capitalists.
Below we explain the growing fear of 5G by pointing to recent history and to the growing number of commentators and scholars who, uncorrupted by corporate research grants, express serious concerns about the latest “wonderful” technology. Unsurprisingly, no one in power appears ready to fully address these concerns. Are they willfully blind or hopelessly distracted?
We find that corporate media unjustly frame reasonable people who take pains to investigate the truth about 5G’s apparent dangers as paranoid conspiracy theorists. In other words, don’t mind what you read in your mainstream newspaper. The 5G doubters are a far cry from naïve luddites who reflexively reject all forms of technological innovation.
Government to Public: Drop Dead
Key moments in American legislative history serve as clear reminders that corporate power has largely co-opted the political will to serve the public good. Recall, for example, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 signed by “Democratic” President Bill Clinton.
That piece of legislation is one of the most important since the Communications Act of 1934, which spawned the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the claimed regulation of telephone, telegraph and radio.
The asserted intent of the 1996 Act was to engender greater competition (=“freedom”) across the cable and telephony sectors by dismantling the delicate balance of power between the FCC, local governments, and marketplace competition, which had been established by the preceding Communications Act of 1984.
Intent aside, Clinton’s efforts triggered a wellspring of mergers and acquisitions – a wet dream for industry megalodons single-mindedly anti-antitrust. The big fish feasted, in time, on unprotected bottom dwellers, and soon the era of Leviathan telecom arrived. The giants grew to dominate the industry previously maintained by a regulatory stasis safeguarding the public interest.
The 1996 Act for the National Broadband Plan freed industry from considering the harm electronic communications technologies bring to human rights and human health. Is this why, we wonder, insurance companies still won’t sell policies hedging people against future injuries?
Who’s Afraid of 5G?
On the surface, it seems as though the Western push for 5G arises from a fear that East Asia is way ahead. The principal concern for many American politicians appears to be that China has gained an insurmountable leading edge on the United States in this sector. Yet, one glance at Chinese society will promptly remind everyone that citizens of the most populous nation on earth appear to be contending with any one of the many dark social forces prevailing in Black Mirror. Hardly way ahead in terms of freedom of thought and speech.
Notwithstanding the electronic tools leaders now have in wielding totalitarian control, citizens of Western democracies might expect that politicians would have, at least, gained some understanding of the effects that radiation would have on life. But, similar to the appalling indifference toward nuclear experiments on people of Bikini and Rongelap Atolls from the 1940s to the late 1950s, no one in power today seems to grasp the implications of these untested technologies on biological life.
Exceptionally, in a February 2019 public hearing on Commerce, Science and Transportation, chaired by Senator Max Blumenthal, potential problems presented by 5G implementation rose to the surface. Blumenthal asked pointedly,
How much money has the industry committed to supporting additional independent research – I stress independent research? Is that independent research ongoing? Has any been completed? Where can consumers look for [research] on the biological effects of this new technology?”
His persistence in questioning industry representatives on safety yielded zero insights on what precisely the industry is doing to address public concerns.
In fact, despite the ongoing discussion, “the Federal Government,” Richard Maxwell and Toby Miller point out, “seems irrevocably split over the desire for innovation versus safety, and we are the victims of the race to 5G.”
If such claims seem like hyperbole, let us consider the testimony of a disinterested recognized authority. Paul Héroux, expert in epidemiology, biostatistics and public health, testified in 2018 that 5G is “a new threat on biological systems.” An abundance of research underwrites his position. Not that the industry itself has cared enough to consider the human health consequences.
Filmmaker Sabine El Gemayel points out that the Trump administration is throwing caution to the wind and presently plotting a strategy to implement 5G “despite potential dangers of this technology for human health and the environment.” Indeed, we might do well to remember that dispersed and targeted sources of radiation, like the sun and directed energy weapons (DEWs), have tangible effects on all life.
Hyper-commodification, Courtesy of 5G
Beyond the congressional-industrial complex and the intrigue surrounding the 5G public force-feed, we wonder too about the upside-down world of commerce imagined by the world’s leading merchants.
Without 5G, Amazon, for example, could not possibly position its interactive ads in every crevice and orifice of the living world. And the planned Internet of Things (IoT) would not be possible without the digital switching and transfer speeds offered by 5G which are needed to process the ubiquitous transactions of a hyper-commodified global market.
The burgeoning market of investors who seek the very financialization of nature further demand higher speeds, as everything – living and inorganic – is subsumed by the merchants and their ever-expanding opportunities to control buying and selling. Author Jutta Kill notes that “for capital markets, the value of ecosystem services lies in being able to appropriate parts of nature’s ‘free gift’.” This “growing global trend” notes Stephanie Spear, “pits people and corporations against each other in a battle over public resources.”
Today, it simply isn’t good enough to obscure these externalities of the “free” market, but our tastes and desires for more and more material things must be continually manufactured. Get ready for the next step. We consumers must develop sincere gratitude toward the merchant class for facilitating our own obedient practices of conspicuous consumption.
While it might seem absurd to many people in the “free” world, our engineered craving to “earn” points based on “good behavior” in return for a monetary “reward,” earned through a mobile app transaction, seems akin to China’s effort to “hack human consciousness through its social credit system.”
The dividing line between products, ideas, and acceptable points of view is wafer thin. If you don’t buy the approved ones on how to live a justified life, the social climate is now ripe for being driven from the “herd.”
Daniel Broudy, Ph.D., is a professor of applied linguistics at Okinawa Christian University. His latest book, co-authored with Miyume Tanji, is Okinawa Under Occupation: McDonaldization and Resistance to Neoliberal Propaganda (Palgrave, 2017). Tabe Bergman, Ph.D, is a lecturer in journalism at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University in Suzhou, China. Ed Rankin, Ph.D. is an independent scholar based in Austin, Texas.
[For further reading on this topic please see my compilation of links to essays on 5G here. WB]