From television to smartphones 60 years to extinguish the last fibers of our humanity

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According to Hannah Arendt, European imperialism, what we call colonialism today, is the consequence of the Western bourgeoisie’s desire for economic expansion. The growth of their profits needed new territories and a « human resource » that was more accessible and easier to tame. It was 1880, and the wealth and the non-European labor force were going to allow the establishment of mass consumption, then of modern comfort. Pure product of the industrial technician system, the television, like the automobile before it, was initially intended for the single use of the bourgeoisie, like an ostentatious sign of wealth. But the possibilities of alienation offered by the market society were beginning to dawn on the minds of the great industrialists. Thus, after being marketed in France at the beginning of the nineteen fifties, the television set, the first personal screen, spread to all homes during the following decade.

Like the Eiffel Tower, dedicated to the World Fair of 1889 in Paris, television was presented as an extraordinary technical achievement, the result of Western scientific research. But if the governments put forward the human creative genius, they never mentioned the colossal sums of money that were necessary for the conception, and even more, for the deployment of this new invention, of which they quickly perceived all the benefits that they could draw from it in terms of propaganda, social control and lobotomy(1). It’s exactly the same with the smartphone and Internet-connected life. Extravagant sums of money have been spent and will continue to be spent to achieve the « fullness » of a touchless life riveted to a small screen and completely under control. The small screen was precisely, in reference to the big screen that was the cinema, the name in its time of the television. It is now obsolete, but it was an essential element in the concomitant destruction of the social link, of discernment and of human vitality. The smartphone, sixty years after the advent of the television set, completes the establishment of a society of absence and emptiness.

As for television, the fascination-addiction couple is marvelously staged by industrialists and States, which play a well-tested score. Children’s addiction to screens is only the consequence of adults’ addiction, and this one came at the right time to fill the abyssal void of our lives. Since the end of the First World War, modern comforts, imposed in particular by advertising and pressure from the States, have greatly contributed to emptying humans of themselves. This great dispossession has imposed itself slowly, surreptitiously, by suppressing, over time, all the elements of our human condition and our autonomy: the taste for effort, manual work, the link with the earth, the unexpected, fraternity, poetry, craftsmanship, felt experience, creation, imagination, autonomous thought, memory, boredom, social life, etc.

A good illustration of this addiction-fascination of our time is the aberration that can arise in the words of health professionals who talk about it. While they rightly denounce the very serious deleterious effects they see in their young patients, they can, with some confidence, go on to say:  » It is undeniable that digital objects provide us with great services. If it seems impossible today to do without a search engine or GPS […] Since 2013, 4G downloading has improved the quality and supply of content available on smartphones, making the world accessible at your fingertips(2) « . Here we measure the extent of the disaster. Their addiction-fascination has made them lose their sense of discernment and attests to the fact that they are living completely off the grid. Indeed, to write that a screen « makes the world accessible to you » is extremely revealing of this irremediable loss of all human sensitivity and of the reality of the anchoring of our life in a given space and time.

The industrial and technological excess of the connected machinery, requiring the devastation of the planet and the sacrifice of a majority of humans, is well hidden and fades away, anyway, in front of the obligation henceforth made to comply with the new digital order. Since unlimited expansion is still the only horizon of our capitalist world, as at the turn of the 20th century, colonization needs new « territories » to explore. Since the planet is not extensible, our bodies and our social, professional and intimate lives have become the new Eldorado of the multinationals. The physical, psychic and financial violence with which the State imposes the state of health emergency, which is also the state of emergency of the digitalization of our lives, testifies to the little consideration brought in reality to the whole of the populations, contrary to the speeches that the leaders hold. In view of the voluntary and happy submission(3) that has reached the vast majority of us, this seems disproportionate. But never mind, it is always good to impose terror in order to rule by fear and thus discourage any possible desire to protest.

The techno-system, described by Jacques Ellul as early as 1954(4), has reached maturity. It is the inventions commercialized by the industrialists that prefigure the political orientations. In South Korea, for example, the president declared that  » the contactless society is the goal of his 76 trillion won stimulus plan , with drones, autonomous vehicles, robot waiters in restaurants and hotels, etc. »(5) . Now the great success of globalized capitalism, in addition to the expropriation of humans from themselves mentioned above, is to have inculcated the cult of personality in its subjects. To make us believe that the choice of the political staff, during the electoral masquerades, had a determining influence on the course of the things. So we rage against Trump, Macron, Castex or before them Bush, Sarkozy, Hollande… but they are not the ones who decide. They are only faithfully accompanying the economic growth based on the industrial technician system. So what South Korea is doing is exactly what is happening to us and what is already well underway in China, the United States and Israel. The democratic camouflage, with its court of auditors, its constitutional council and its multiple ethics commissions, is shattered and reveals under the varnish a totalitarianism in digital version that does not need an army marching through the country to impose itself. But it still uses some methods from the past.

 » The totalitarian bureaucracy, with its understanding of absolute power, has intruded into the private individual and his inner life with equal brutality. The result of this radical efficiency was to kill the intimate spontaneity of the people subjected to its yoke and to kill at the same time the social and political activities of this people…(6) « .

Hervé Krief, day 303 of the year 01 of confinement (January 14, 2021)

Notes et références
  1. Je fais référence à l’ouvrage de Michel Desmurget TV lobotomie (Max Milo, 2011). Si le constat me semble excellent, les références omniprésentes à la science et aux études d’experts apportent la preuve que l’auteur est bien un de ces scientifiques du désastre qu’il décrit.
  2. Carole Vanhoutte, orthophoniste, « Le conditionnement numérique des jeunes enfants », in Cédric Biagini, Christophe Cailleaux et François Jarrige (dir.), Critiques de l’école numérique, l’Échappée, 2019.
  3. Internet ou le retour à la bougie, Écosociété, 2020.
  4. un des trois livres de Jacques Ellul sur la technique : La technique ou l’enjeu du siècle (1954), Le système technicien (1977), Le bluff technologique (1988).
  5. L’écologiste, n° 57, décembre 2020.
  6. Cf. Hannah Arendt, Les origines du totalitarisme, Gallimard, 1958/2002.

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