Globalism is nothing new. We recognized it as the League of Nations at the Paris Peace Conference directly after World War I. And of course the League of Nations became the United Nations directly after World War II. Seems the exact same folks who get us into these wars are always the exact same folks who negotiate the peace. Makes me wonder what kind of peace organization will follow World War III to ensure World War IV.
Not new includes the World Economic Forum, founded in 1971. Not new includes the W.H.O., established as a specialized agency of the U.N. in 1948. The World Bank and the International Money Fund both date back to 1944. Again, not new. Some global institutions — NGOs and corporations like the International Red Cross, the International Olympic Committee, Reuters, and the Associated Press — date back to the 19th century and beyond.
So no, nothing new about globalism. What’s new is the populist illusion that it’s on the rise — or so one of my readers kindly reminded me the other day in the comments section of my latest essay, A DeepMind is a Terrible Thing to Waste. He’s right: it’s not. Totalitarianism and fascism are on the rise. But globalism — brought to us by the same folks who brought us World War I, the League of Nations, World War II, the United Nations, the war in Ukraine and countless wars in the Middle East — has been in decline since the turn of the 21st century.
The broad decline in the quality of life across the Western democracies since the early 21st century reflects the chaotic decay of global institutions, private and public alike. Of course, to a man with a hammer toe every problem looks like a hammer toenail. So once we identify elitist globalism as the villain (and there’s plenty of evidence to suggest it is), every subsequent headline exists only to confirm it. And nowadays we simply see, consume, and endure a lot more headlines than we did back in the quainter days of the 20th century, back when we still sat down with our morning newspaper and a quiet cup of coffee to check out yesterday’s news — just one of the meaningful rituals we abandoned like a burned out battle tank on the side of the road.
What we witnessed in the early 21st century was the rise of digital scale to manage the decay — what I call The Grand Larceny Phase — of massive global institutions, and the concurrent rise of state-sponsored default addiction to cushion the impact for the rest of us. Both phenomena had been in the works for decades. Fortunately for the global elite, both matured — perhaps not so coincidentally — at the same time.
The rise of digital scale — and the comprehensive institutionalization of our lives that rode shotgun with it — was required by the elite forces of globalism to manage the decline and consolidate for themselves the requisite power and wealth to survive it en route and thrive thereafter, catch as catch can on the way down. In essence, the power and global reach of digital scale provides our elite masters with the ways and means to steal everything that isn’t nailed down as they pillage and loot our homes, our children, our money, our freedom, and our dreams. Needless to say, they don’t call what they do grand larceny. Rather, they call themselves and their acolytes social justice warriors in the ongoing battle to secure truth, justice, freedom, and democracy — at least for themselves.
With digital scale came the unmanageable complexity of massive systems pushed to extreme, a phenomenon codified as one of media ecologist Marshall McLuhan’s Four Laws of Media: the Law of Reverse — what happens when complex systems pushed to extreme suddenly display teleologically opposite tendencies and begin to push back. All things once progressive turned suddenly regressive and chaotic in order to manage and extract maximum profit from the collapse.
Thus the same digital media technologies of scale that promised in the late 20th century to liberate and democratize us suddenly turned against us, first with passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, handing effective ownership control of the entire legacy media ecosystem to a handful of corporate behemoths (and the Democratic Party). Then again just a few years later after 9/11 with passage of the monstrous Patriot Act and the political weaponization of the entire Department of Justice.
Likewise, the same digital tools of scale that opened Wall Street to private investors en masse in the 1990s crushed them, first with the collapse of the Dot Com bubble, then again in 2008, when trillions of dollars in the private real estate and credit markets were stolen in broad daylight in the greatest criminal heist in history.
From once progressive tools of liberation to regressive and repressive tools of a massive security/surveillance state and money mill for the rich and powerful — in a heartbeat.
No longer allowed to simply live our lives — now made impossibly complex by runaway digital scale — we were suddenly required to manage them instead. But only with the help of a global managerial class, of course: the new-and-improved version of the same elite kleptocrats that brought us the League of Nations, the United Nations, the WHO, and the WEF — only now operating at digital scale. Their consumer tools of choice at the time: social media and the smartphone.