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Douglas Rushkoff-- Present Shock and Presentism: Interview Transcript

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I run a website, Opednews, and we get people wanting to submit conspiracy theory-kinds of ideas, the latest being that every new violent event that occurs in America is a "False Flag," which is what Alex Jones has been claiming, that "The government did it." And we're trying to come up with some answers, but how do you figure out what is a conspiracy theory and what is something that needs to be seriously looked at? Although -- and that's a challenge. So how do you - talk about this "Connection" situation. Do you have any ideas for us on how to address this?

Douglas Rushkoff: Yeah. I think the reality of it is, we're moving into an increasingly decentralized and chaotic cultural landscape where things are going to come from all sides at once. It's not like you can kill the head of al Qaeda and stop terrorist bombings. It's more of a viral, decentralized, memetic, bottom up thing. It doesn't mean that it's random; it just means that you can't understand it as, "Oh. This bad guy did this thing, which led to that thing, which led to this!"

For folks like the conspiracy theorists out there, it's more comforting to them. It's comforting to believe that Obama or the government was somehow behind these things, than that they just happen. You know, that we're living in a world where this can pop up anywhere. That you're not safe, that you don't know who the enemy is, because there is no enemy; the enemy is within, the enemy is everywhere.

Rob Kall: Well put. Now what they would say, because I've been involved in these conversations is, "Well wait a minute. There's evidence here. This weapon was in the wrong place, and this photograph showed this,. And hey! That guy his uncle's cousin was connected to the CIA." How do you explain, how do you answer that without saying, "Oh it's just that you're more comfortable that way," which they'll take as an insult?

Douglas Rushkoff: "I'm sorry. Everything is connected to everyone. Everything is connected to everyone. If I blew something up, you could make all the same connections. You'd find it. You'd find it. You'd find out, "Oh, the person's on Prozac, that means what?" It doesn't mean it's not true, it just means it's not intentional or causative. Prozac is a coercive agent. Right. Prozac does it asks people to conform to a depressing and exploitative reality rather than take charge of it. "If you don't like your society, if it's depressing you, than take this drug. Right? Because you're the problem." It doesn't mean that people making Prozac have been hired by the government to come up with a system of social control, it means that the marketplace itself is a character in this thing. It's not human, it's not intentional, it's not alive; but the market places a certain inertia, and it will come up with things that help a market culture contain itself over time.

Rob Kall: So in a sense what you're saying is, along the lines of say, Clay Shirkey, and how it's a filter problem.

Douglas Rushkoff: In some ways, yeah. I don't really believe in it as a filter failure so much as that people are trying to draw lines between things rather than recognize patterns. Or they start to recognize patterns but they can't stop. You know? Pattern recognition, I think we've got to close on this, but pattern recognition is the skill that Marshall McLuhan said would be the most important thing in an electronic age. And in our Digital Age (which really goes beyond Electronic Age), it is the most important thing to be able to recognize patterns but not to get ruled by them. To see them as rhythms, to see them as hints, as clues, but not to get so locked down, not to need them to be so absolutely true.

Rob Kall: Well where you go with this is that this idea that fractal patterns that are coalescing on the internet - that it seems like they're creating the connections, but that the idea is to look with other people at them, to get to the -- and if there's -- you mention the comments.

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