Political Animal Magazine2019-03-27T14:53:23+00:00

SPOTLIGHT

Narcissism and the Idolization of Technology

December 20th, 2019|

By Glen Paul Hammond

It is true, we shall be monsters, cut off from all the world; but on that account we shall be more attached to one another.” ̶ Mary Shelley, Frankenstein.

As Marshall McLuhan pointed out in his book, Understanding Media, over a half-century ago, a characteristic of new and pervasive technologies is the numbness that accompanies them, a numbness that does not allow the society effected by it to objectively analyze its influence. In being overawed by the creation, McLuhan argued, man becomes mesmerized by what he called a technological extension of the self, falling into its trance, conforming to it rather than the other way around and, through our continuous embrace of it in daily use, allowing ourselves to become its servomechanisms (McLuhan, Understanding, 50-51). Technology, in this context, becomes a religion that demands sacrifice. Yet, through the lens of such unquestioning devotion, society exposes itself to the dangers of losing much more than it gains in the environments that these extensions create. In the case of the internet and its social media platforms, it is necessary then to acquire a greater understanding of the technology’s potential influences in order to, as McLuhan advised, mitigate its negative effects and bring it into orderly service (McLuhan, Understanding, 6) (more…)

Silence as Speech: Reading Sor Juana’s Primero Sueño in the Light of her Final Silence

May 4th, 2016|

By: Rich Frontjes

Speakers and Listeners in Public Discourse

American public discourse is theoretically founded on the freedom of speech.  This freedom to speak, however, in no way guarantees entry into conversations where the common good is considered, assessed, or decided.  Free speech is the freedom to speak publicly—but participation in public discourse requires inclusion.  And inclusion is variously brokered: depending on the conversation, its participants, and the power dynamics at work, any given stream of public discourse involves a boundary.  On one side are the participants, and on the other side are the listeners—or, frequently, those whose attention is focused elsewhere.

In contemporary society, the boundary between participants and listeners exists partly as a function of access to media.  Individuals or groups with the (financial or other) power to gain access to media increase their chances of entering the public discourse.  The powerless, of course, are typically also voiceless.  But financial power has not always been the key that opened the door to participation in public discourse: various epochs and cultural moments have likewise had various modes of adjudicating participation in public discourse.

The present power of media outlets to perform this boundary-keeping function once resided largely within other institutions.  The Roman Catholic Church and its functionaries exercised considerable control over public discourse for centuries of European history and cultural development.  Exploring how participation in public discourse has been adjudicated in a specific past instance elucidates a dynamic which clarifies the nature of contemporary public speech.  In the example of the Mexican nun Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1648-1695), we discover a turn of events in which ecclesial power brokers attempted to enforce silence upon an otherwise astoundingly prolific poet.[1] (more…)

THEORY

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PRACTICE

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JUSTICE

Social Contract Theory

By |February 1st, 2019|0 Comments

When you make an agreement of some significance (e.g., to rent an apartment, or join a gym, or divorce), you typically agree to certain terms: you sign a contract. This is for your benefit, and for the the other party’s benefit: everyone’s expectations are clear, as are the consequences of failing to meet those expectations.

Plato’s Crito: When should we break the law?

By |January 11th, 2019|0 Comments

Plato’s Crito describes a conversation that takes place in 399 B.C.E. in an Athens prison, where Socrates awaits execution.Not long before, an assembly of more than 500 Athenian citizens convicted Socrates of corrupting the youth and impiety, essentially failing to respect the gods of the city.

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ARTS & LETTERS

A Tribute to D.A. Pennebaker

By |August 8th, 2019|0 Comments

When you have a master or a leader, there’s always another master somewhere fighting them off or trying to contest them. The masters of other people can look pretty annoying to you, if not contemptible, irrelevant, reprehensible. I think about Beatlemania, where people were just horrified — What the hell is going on? These four guys with weird floppy haircuts. Or with Elvis, Jimi Hendrix, or any of the other rock stars. The disgust and terror that people have that others are caught up.

Freud, Woodstock, and Crowd Behavior

By |July 25th, 2019|0 Comments

When you have a master or a leader, there’s always another master somewhere fighting them off or trying to contest them. The masters of other people can look pretty annoying to you, if not contemptible, irrelevant, reprehensible. I think about Beatlemania, where people were just horrified — What the hell is going on? These four guys with weird floppy haircuts. Or with Elvis, Jimi Hendrix, or any of the other rock stars. The disgust and terror that people have that others are caught up.

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