Manufacturing Dissent Since 1996
New interviews throughout the week
Microsoft bing maps  datacenter   flickr   robert scoble

There are many people at MIT, where I did my studies, who think that the solution to our problem is just another technology. Technology might help, but without radically reconfiguring how we relate to each other, how we relate to our planet, how we relate to and imagine the world itself, I don't think it's really going to get us very far.

MIT Program in Science, Technology, and Society's Cloud Anthropologist Steven Gonzalez Monserrate on his article, "The Cloud Is Material: On the Environmental Impacts of Computation and Data Storage." "Rotten History" and some correspondence from listeners follow the interview.

Help keep This Is Hell! completely listener supported and access weekly bonus episodes by subscribing to our Patreon.


Posted by Alexander Jerri
Ubu roi maga

Don’t believe anything? Why would you? You’re a cyborg. Donna Haraway, described at times as a feminist primatologist, now Professor Emerita in the History of Consciousness program at UC Santa Cruz, wrote a famous article about how our identities need no longer be slaves to history or past myth, rendering us freer than the old human species: cyborgs.


Although the idea offered a great deal of empowerment in the early-to-middle decades of postmodernity, she was obviously a premature ahistorian, as was the sloppy Francis Fukuyama. The difference with FF was that his declaration was triumphalist rather than empowering. It was meant to disempower the collapsed communist bloc through gloating, so that their betters might dictate the terms of their next incarnation. The gloating was unwarranted at best, at worst willfully ignorant.


There’s a lyric from the Beatles’ Abbey Road album, from a track about a scientist who is victimized by a serial killer: “Joan was quizzical, studied ‘pataphysical science in the home.” ‘Pataphysics, for those unaware, is the science of imaginary solutions. It was created by a unique artist, writer, and cycling enthusiast working in the late 19th Century, Alfred Jarry. The aesthetic descendant of Russian absurdists and pre-cursor to the DADAists and Surrealists, his most famous character is Pere Ubu, which inspired the name of the David Thomas post-punk band. His most famous play, Ubu Roi (King Ubu), sets the Ubu character’s grotesquely omnivorous id to navigating the palace intrigue and battlefield horror of a chaotic history play ending with Pere and Mere Ubu escaping in a ship that happens to pass near the kingdom where Prince Hamlet met his fate.


If any character from literature embodies the myriad flaws of the United States 45th and most impeached and indicted President, it is Pere Ubu. DADA and MAGA were sired by the same type of father: a bloviating, voluminous, avaricious, and rapacious thing never meant by the Heavens to reproduce, let alone breathe life into a movement.


If ‘pataphysics is the science of imaginary solutions, MAGAphysics is the cult of imaginary problems. This raises an obvious question. If DADA, operating according to ‘pataphysical laws, and MAGA, slobbering and spasming under the force of MAGAphysics, were to have a fight, who would win?


The first round begins as a... read more

Posted by Alexander Jerri
Biden mending corporate flag

I was fascinated to read in a social media post that Biden had shown no evidence of mental decline throughout his term in office. Had my eyes and ears deceived me? Was he not having more trouble than in the past following complex sentences and ideas to a comprehensible end? Had he not, during the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health, tried to encourage a recently deceased colleague to rise from the audience and be recognized? Was he not slower and less confident than even at the beginning of his term?


Had he not been falling down more than a person with full cognition and coordination would be expected to? A fake showed him bumping his way face-down the full length of the Air Force One debarkation stairway, leaping to his feet at the bottom none the worse for wear. The right wing has collected all his real stumbles and tumbles with Shapiro and Carlson voiceovers mocking him, whereas I’m sure Trump would’ve burst like the sewage-filled balloon that he is on contact with the ground, but are falls themselves something we should complacently accept? The public’s perception is important, as the public has been vouchsafed the key task of voting. If they worry, I worry about them worrying.


The last president who fell a lot, Gerald Ford, ended up pardoning Richard Nixon, an act of abject mendacity that has redounded to crisis proportions in the present day. I’m not saying there was a direct relation between Ford’s falling and his utter paucity of moral, ethical, and civic judgment, but even not having sustained a brain concussion, an elder person’s tendency to fall can both indicate and exacerbate cognitive debility.


Should one dare ask these questions, one is not only barraged with rationalizations, but accusations of agism and ablism on top of it all. So be prepared for that. I wasn’t. For some reason the lessons of 2016 and its aftermath had faded into the vanishing point of my rearview. I forgot how practiced doctrinaire Democrats are at denying reality. They’re almost a good at it as GOP supporters and fossil fuel cheerleaders.


I had forgotten how Hillary had infused them with self-delusion, leading by example: having sabotaged her own chance to win in three key swing states with her refusal to heed her campaign staff on the ground in those localities, she had limped off into the woods to contemplate her humiliation by a... read more