Last few years have been marked with an increased mainstream interest in politics. And like every type of discourse that has been touched by mainstream media, it has been weaponized and the whole affair has turned into a shit-flinging festival of buzzwords and labels.
And in a world where everything has bled together with politics, this is quite a dangerous thing. Economics, philosophy, sociology - everything has a political undertone now. Which is maybe not inherently terrible, but the modern landscape of political discourse renders this notion alarmingly harmful. And while some can argue (and quite fairly) that politics are not the cause of many things (e.g. "War is pre-political"- @Outsideness), that hardly matters when politics are the way these things are matters to the public.
Often politics are referred to as a "framework" for the discourse about modern phenomena. I'd like to argue that (and please excuse the technology circlejerk here) politics are a protocol, not a framework. Let's quickly take a look at both constructs:
- Provides a useful set of basic default functionality
- Provides inversion of control (the program flow is controlled by the framework, not the caller)
- Immutable. It may be extendable, but not editable
The first point is quite applicable, no question here. The second point is absolutely false when applied to politics. While at some points the scaffolding of political ideas may take control of the events, that is hardly the norm. And the third point is totally moot, since politics are not a centralized product (as much as mainstream media are attempting to make it one) and are hardly immutable.
- A set of rules that specifies how parties shall communicate
Very simple. Even simpler outside of the digital world, where we can afford to be not as surgically precise as when exchanging data packets in a network. Protocols often are used to build new protocols, to raise the overall level of abstraction. And this, I believe, is a more apt description of politics and political discourse.
As we know from the history of the Internet, protocols in the digital world have been largely successful. We have such things as UDP, that is a fast but unreliable protocol for data exchange. You may want to switch to TCP is you want guarantees that your data will be safely delivered. On top of these protocols we have built such things as HTTP, which maybe be a quite outdated protocol, but still powers most of the Internet today. It has quite a lot of features that are underused or over-engineered, but that's just how these things go. Software engineers can't predict the future.
And even with all of the archaic anchors that hold HTTP down, we still managed to figure out how to create real-time web applications by building on top of it (e.g. long-polling). When we got tired of the leaky abstractions over HTTP, we build WebSockets. Nowadays we're getting into HTTP/2. The cycle continues. We use old protocols for conveying data in new ways by building abstractions based on clever technical hacks. And then we extract the best bits of these abstractions and build them into a non-hack powered protocol. Thus the capability of adaptive communication rises. New types of communication appear.
Back to politics now.
The mainstream political discourse protocol is quite simple:
- Establish labels
- Establish your Objective Truth (TM) about the label-holders
- Label things (and thus imply your opinion of them)
While this may not be the case for every single instance of political discourse, it is still very close. Smart people on twitter or in cigar bars may sound much more nuanced than that, but it's nothing more than a thin layer of leaky abstraction. That is not to say that the discourse is not worth having or doesn't have any value. Quite the contrary, the discourse is vital and valuable because it has incredible potential. Right now this protocol is on the level of the TCP protocol in the 70's. While it is the basis for most the digital communication today, it is hardly valuable in its original form now. For all of the anti-/trans- humanist sentiments that are popular in some modern intellectual circles, we are caught up in very human, and therefore highly flawed, mechanisms of communication.
Of course the mainstream business of psyops-media is not interested in raising the level of conversation. That would be of no help to them. But in this day and age, nothing stops people from building upon the basics on their own. Castles and towers of concepts and types of communication. That is not to say that many people are not doing that already. I am just here to stress the importance of this process.