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‘Aleister & Adolf’: Douglas Rushkoff on his new graphic novel, Crowley and magical warfare

Aleister & Adolf is a new graphic novel from Dark Horse Comics, the product of the creative pairing of media theorist Douglas Rushkoff—Professor of Media Studies at Queens College in New York—and and award-winning illustrator Michael Avon Oeming.

In Aleister & Adolf the reader is taken behind the scenes of the capitalist spectacle and inside the boardrooms where corporate-occult marketing departments employ fascist sigil magick developed by the Nazis during WWII in today’s advertising logos. A place where the war for men’s minds is waged with symbols and catchy slogans. It’s a fun smart read and you’ll be much smarter after you’ve read it, trust me. And Oeming’s crisp B&W artwork is perfectly suited for getting across some often difficult and tricky philosophical concepts. He’s a unique talent indeed.

Rushkoff recently told AV Club:

“Swastikas and other sigil logos become the corporate logos of our world. And given that we’re living in a moment where those logos are migrating online where they can move on their own, it’s kind of important that we consider the origins and power of these icons.”

Grant Morrison even wrote the introduction to Aleister & Adolf. I mean, how can you lose with something like this?

I asked Douglas Rushkoff a few questions via email:

Dangerous Minds: Where did you find the inspiration for Aleister & Adolf?

Douglas Rushkoff: It’s almost easier to ask where didn’t I find inspiration for Aleister & Adolf. The moment it occurred to me was when I was in an editorial meeting at DC/Vertigo about my comic book Testament, back in 2005. The editor warned me that there was an arcane house rule against having Jesus Christ and a Superhero in the same panel. Not that I was going to get to Jesus in my story, but the rule got me thinking about other potentially blasphemous superhero/supervillain pairings. And that’s when I first got to wondering about Aleister Crowley vs. Adolf Hitler.

But as I considered the possibility, it occurred to me that they were practicing competing forms of magic at the same time. And then I began to do the research, and learned that the premise of my story was true: Aleister Crowley performed counter-sigils to Hitler’s. Crowley came up with the V for Victory sigil that Churchill used to flash—and got it to him through Ian Fleming (the James Bond author) who was MI5 at the time.

I’ve always wanted to do something about Crowley, but I’ve been afraid for a bunch of reasons. Making him something of a war hero, and contrasting him with a true villain like Hitler, became a way to depict him as something more dimensional than “the Beast.”

Did you think of the ending first? It’s a bit like a punchline, isn’t it?

Douglas Rushkoff: I didn’t think of the ending first. The first thing I thought of was to have a young American military photographer get sent to enlist Crowley in the magical effort. I wanted us to see the story through someone like us—someone more cynical, perhaps—and then get to have the vicarious thrill of being drawn into Crowley’s world.

Then, I decided I needed a framing story - just to show how relevant all this creation of sigils is to our world today. So I created a prologue for the story, that takes place in a modern advertising agency: the place where the equivalent of sigil magic is practiced today. I wanted to set the telling of the story within the frame of how corporate sigils are taking life on the Internet today. So the outer frame takes place in the mid-90’s, when the net was being turned over to marketers. The ending is pretty well broadcast up front.

Aleister & Adolph reminds me a lot of Robert Anton Wilson’s Masks of the Illuminatus—which I think is his best book—because it sort of forces its ideas into the reader’s head like an earworm that you can’t resist. Also Crowley is a character in that book, too, of course. Do you see it as a bit of a RAW homage?

Douglas Rushkoff: It’s a RAW homage in that the story has verisimilitude—it is told in a way where it’s absolutely possible for this all to happen. There’s no supernatural magic here; it’s just the magick of Will. There’s the black magic of the Nazis. But however extreme the Nazis, it was real. It’s got the reality quotient of Eyes Wide Shut or Apocalypse Now.

And that’s the understanding of sigil magic I got from Bob. It’s all very normal. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. Just that you have to participate in its perception. It’s just a different way of understanding the connections. So while the protagonist of the story starts off as a disillusioned atheist and ends up believing in magick as Magic, even Crowley (at least my Crowley) tries to convince him not to take it so literally.

I wouldn’t understand magick that way if it weren’t for Bob. It’s embedded in the fabric of reality. It doesn’t need to break the rules of reality to work. 

Are you aware of a recent trend among some alt-right types to organize acts of group 4Chan “meme magick”? Some of it’s just blatant harassment and bullying over Twitter, but there’s actually a sophisticated intent behind some of it. Pepe the Frog has become a hypersigil. I’m not being admiring of it—the idea that certain reichwingers would want start a magical war via social media is alarming to say the least—but the concept is a sound one magically speaking: They’ve figured out how to amplify their signal’s strength like a radio transmitter.

Douglas Rushkoff: There’s a real crossover between the alt-right and the occult. I knew a guy writing a book about it, in fact. And remember, it was one of Bush’s advisors who once explained that the future is something you create. And there’s an any-means-necessary quality to libertarianism that is consonant with chaos magic.

Plus, you’re talking about homespun propagandists inhabiting the comments sections of blogs and things. They’re not reading Bernays and Lippman. They’re waging hand-to-hand battle in the ideological trenches. A bit of NLP, rhetoric, and magic are what you turn to.

The interesting thing here is why the left does not use these techniques. It goes against our sense of what is fair. We know we’re “right” and so we want to win with the fact. Sigil magic feels like cheating on some level. So we have to ask ourselves, isn’t the full expression of our Will something we want to unleash? If not, why not?

This isn’t the freethinking/pansexual “Generation Hex” types who seemed to be on the horizon a few years ago, but rather like an evil skinheads contingent at Hogwart’s.

Douglas Rushkoff: Alas it is not. That’s partly because the freethinking pansexuals got a bit distracted by other things. And most of them worked alone. I don’t think there were nearly as many, either. That’s pretty rarified air. Back in the 80’s, there were more kids taking acid in the parking lot at AC/DC concerts than there were in the dorms of Reid College. And likewise - as a result of economics as much as anything - there’s more gamergaters throwing sigils online than Bernie Sanders supporters. Sometimes magic gets in the hands of people you’d rather not find it.

Photo of Douglas Rushkoff by Jeff Newelt

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Capitalism’s operating system has gone off the rails: An interview with Douglas Rushkoff
12:51 pm


Douglas Rushkoff

In his latest book, Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus: How Growth Became the Enemy of Prosperity (Portfolio/Penguin), media/technology theorist and PBS documentarian, Douglas Rushkoff asks “Why doesn’t the explosive growth of companies like Facebook and Uber deliver more prosperity for everyone? What is the systemic problem that sets the rich against the poor and the technologists against everybody else?”

Rapid technological improvements have created unforeseen societal chaos and this change is just starting to pick up speed. Our economic operating system—the “program” at the heart of Capitalism itself—is deliriously out of control. The economy no longer serves the human race, just a tiny elite sliver of it. The rest of us, whether we realize it or not, to a certain extent toil on their behalf. Think about it: How did the Waltons become the richest family in America, amassing a collective fortune of around $150 billion, if not by siphoning off a micropayment from every single gallon of milk, bottle of shampoo or box of Hostess Ding Dongs sold there? Bud and Sam Walton might have started Walmart, but all their offspring did was win the lottery at birth.

If you think that sounds predatory—and it should—just wait until you get a load of what the big technology firms have in mind for us…

I asked my friend of some twenty years some questions over email.

Richard Metzger: You write how the operating system of capitalism is obsolete, creating vast spoils for a select group of lucky human beings who are more or less basically leeching off the rest of mankind’s activities, and in a world of increasing automation to make things even worse. What’s the new book’s diagnosis of the modern economy?

Douglas Rushkoff: That sounds like a pretty good diagnosis to me. Or I suppose those are the symptoms? The underlying problem is not a disease, however. It’s not that corporate capitalism has been corrupted by greed or even by the startup economy of digital businesses. The system is working precisely as it was designed to.

It’s just that the transfer of value from people and places into capital used to happen a bit slower. And our companies tended to do it to other places more than to us. So in the 1400’s, British East India Trading Company might have enslaved thousands of Africans or taken land from the people of the West Indies - where today it’s Walmart bankrupting our towns and Uber extracting labor from drivers.

So now, the extractive power of expansionary, growth-based capitalism has been turned against us. The same sorts of companies are growing, but at the expense of all humans - not just those we can’t see. And the startup economy does all this a whole lot faster. A company goes from zero to a billion in 24 months. And it only does that by abandoning its original goals of helping people do something new, and instead adopting scorched earth policies toward its own markets.

That’s the real problem: companies that want to be around for a long time need to keep their markets - their customers and suppliers and workers - healthy and viable. Once companies are in control of venture capitalists, that’s no longer the goal. They haven’t bought the company to own it, but to sell it. They only need their markets to survive long enough to get to the exit - the IPO or acquisition that lets them cash out.

In the process, the company can use its war chest of investment capital to regulate the marketplace in its favor, or undercut the prices of the competition. It’s not about doing business; it’s about selling the company.

Okay, if that’s the diagnosis, then what’s the remedy? Is there one?

There’s not a single remedy. That’s the one-size-fits-all ethos of the industrial age: figure out the solution, then scale it universally! (And make a ton of money in the process.) Rather, the solution set will be as varied as the people and communities of our planet. The first step is to remember that human beings retain their home field advantage as long as they stay in the real world, on planet earth. We are the natives here - the corporations and technologies and business plans are all invented alien. That’s part what the SF protesters mean when they lay in front of the Google buses.

The way to reduce the power of the companies extracting value from our economy is to begin transacting locally and laterally. Do as much locally as you can. See your town or city as the economy. If there’s people with needs, and people with skills, you have the basis for an economy. You just may need to develop an alternative means of exchange, such as a local currency or favor bank.

Of course that doesn’t replace the entire economy. People look at a suggestion like that, and they immediately thing I’m arguing that cash, banking, corporations, iPhones, and automobiles go away. We can’t help but think of things in apocalyptic terms. But all I’m suggesting is that we balance out even just a little of our Walmart or Amazon purchases with some more local, small-scaled value creation and exchange.

The other remedy is for those developing new technologies or applications not to accept so much venture capital. They still think that getting a lot of money for their idea is the best way to build it. But it’s not. The more money you take, the less control you have over the future of your company. When you take in VC, you have already sold your company to someone who doesn’t care about your app, your customers, your employees, or your mission. Kiss it good-bye. They only care about selling your business to someone else - to the next round of investors - and that means plumping it up. You will be forced to pivot from whatever you wanted to do, to something they think can let them sell the company. It doesn’t even have to make money - it just has to destroy a market and claim a monopoly over what’s left. 

Continues after the jump…

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Douglas Rushkoff: Media Theorist for the Age of Occupy
03:47 pm


Douglas Rushkoff

Congratulations are in order for Dangerous Minds pal Douglas Rushkoff, make that Professor Douglas Rushkoff, as he’ll now be called in his new position at Queens College. From his website this morning:

It’s official. I’m a university professor - and at a public university where you can all come and study and work and devise the future of civilization for cheap. The official press release is below. The skinny? I’ve taken my first university post, as a professor of media studies at CUNY/Queens College, where I’ll be helping to build a first-of-its-kind media studies program. Instead of training people to become advertisers or to write the next useless phone app (and raise VC), I’m going to support people who want to see through the media, and use it to wage attacks on the status quo. This is media studies for Occupiers.

The undergraduate program is in full swing. The graduate program is accepting applications for Spring.

This is my answer to the emails I get every week from people asking where they can study media theory and activism. Come and get it.

Smart professors like Douglas Rushkoff attract smart students and smart students attract even more smart students. A few years back Doug had to be out of town and so I was the guest instructor for one of his NYU graduate studies classes. Smartest bunch of young people I’ve ever been in a room with and the reason they were all there was because of my old friend, that much was obvious.

If there was something like this when I was of college-going age, well I probably would have gone to college myself…

From the press release:

Rushkoff’s move to academia reflects his interest in social justice and the need to build media literacy in the rapidly evolving global media environment. “This is a rally for consciousness,” says Rushkoff. “The essential skill in a digital age is to understand the biases of the landscape – to be able to think critically and act purposefully with these tools – lest the tools and companies behind them use us instead.”

“I wish to foster a deeper awareness and more purposeful implementation of media, and this can be best accomplished at a mission-driven public institution such as Queens College,” says Rushkoff, a native of Queens who was inspired to join the school because of its rich legacy of social dialogue and engagement. “I want to teach a diverse range of students without putting them into lifelong debt. Besides, where better to work on media in the people’s interest than a public university?”

The school’s Media Studies Chair, Professor Richard Maxwell said “The college, with its unique community of students, creative artists, and scholars, has a tradition of cultivating a learning environment supportive of critical thinking and social consciousness. Rushkoff’s contributions to current thinking in technology, media, and society are at the forefront of the evolving study of media. He’s a great fit for our program and will complement our existing faculty in providing a transformative learning experience.”

Good move on the part of Queens College to hire Doug—I mean Professor Rushkoff—he’s a prestige name for the CUNY system in general. Starting in August, Rushkoff will be teaching courses in propaganda and media theory. The new Master of Arts in Media Studies program will be in full swing by Spring of 2015.

Below, a recent Rushkoff talk at the DLD conference earlier this month. I was going to post this anyway, and this announcement gave me the perfect excuse.

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Mind Warriors: Douglas Rushkoff interviewed by Greg Barris
02:33 pm


Douglas Rushkoff
Greg Barris
Mind Warriors

Dangerous Minds pal Greg Barris is a man who spins a lot of plates in the air at once. He’s a stand-up comic, actor, writer,  former restaurateur and he is the creator, host and promoter of Heart Of Darkness, a monthly psychedelic showcase of comedy, live music and fringe science that happens in New York City (and occasionally in Los Angeles). PAPER magazine describes him as “the perfect combination of very good looking, hilarious and super-weird.”

Greg’s new project is a series of video interviews taped in front of a live audience at his Heart of Darkness events and we’re pleased to premiere it here on Dangerous Minds. The first episode of Mind Warriors (“Bringing you the most cutting edge information from the edge of the universe (that’s two edges)”) features author and cultural critic Douglas Rushkoff discussing his most recent book Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now.

The full episode of the podcast can also be found on SoundCloud.

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The MONDO 2000 project: An Open Source History of Cyberculture

Nina Hagen on the cover of MONDO 2000 magazine

In the late 1980s into the early 90s, for me, and for a lot of people, a new issue of the sporadically published cyberculture magazine MONDO 2000 appearing on newsstands was… a big event. There was nothing else like it and I’d pore over each issue, reading it from cover to cover. Then I’d read it again. It came out on a very irregular schedule, but I always seemed to have a sixth sense about a new issue coming out—or maybe I just really haunted bookstores more then than I do now—in any case, I doubt that an issue was ever on the stands for more than 24 hours before I held a copy in my hands.

I discovered a lot of great stuff via MONDO 2000 and was exposed to a lot of new ideas (hacking at a time when a fax machine was still a novelty), new technologies (virtual reality) and even new drugs (Piracetam, I’m looking at you, kid), but I think the strongest attraction that MONDO 2000 had on the imaginations of so many people was that it seemed to indicate that an entirely NEW counterculture was being born. It was like a William Gibson novel had sprung to life. It was the best thing since post-punk.

Some of the elders of the 60s (like Tim Leary) became fellow travelers of the MONDO 2000 crew—which was led by two cheerfully druggy, but terribly smart, hedonistic pied-pipers by the names of R.U. Sirius (AKA Ken Goffman) and Queen Mu (AKA Alison Kennedy). Clued-in younger people, too, seeking a “scene” for themselves gravitated towards San Francisco to check out in-person what they’d been reading about in the magazine. bOING bOING’s David Pescovitz, for instance, once told me that he ended up in SF as a very direct result of MONDO 2000 magazine.

If you look back at who appeared between the covers of MONDO 2000, whether as subjects, or as writers, you’re talking about the likes of William Gibson, Robert Anton Wilson, the anonymous psychedelic adventurers “Gracie and Zarkov,” Mark Frauenfelder, Grant Morrison, Douglas Rushkoff, Debbie Harry, Nine Inch Nails, John Perry Barlow, “life extension” pioneers Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw, Rudy Rucker, Negativland, Bruce Sterling, Diamanda Galas, “Xandor Korzybski,” the conspiracy theorist/ranter, cultural critic Mark Dery, Nina Hagen, and Mark Pesce. That’s a heady crew, but the list goes on and on.

R.U. Sirius’ upcoming book, Use Your Hallucinations: MONDO 2000 in Late 20th Century Cyberculture, is the story of the magazine—half personal memoir, half scrapbook from the MONDO archives and oral history from the participants. An excerpt recently appeared on the Omni Reboot website:

William Gibson: MONDO was arguably the representative underground magazine of its pre-Web day. It was completely outside what commercial magazines were assumed to be about, but there it was, beside the commercial magazines. I was glad it was there. And then, winding up on the cover of Time —what does that do? How alternative is something that makes the cover of Time? Could MONDO even happen today?

Douglas Rushkoff: The idea of having a scene, a place…Oddly enough, MONDO was the last scene of the last era. It’s the last sort of Algonquin group or whatever. I mean, physical reality isn’t what it used to be. Now you create a Facebook group to do what MONDO did.

The first time I met Grant Morrison, the topic turned to MONDO 2000 and he told me that it was, to him, the single most important piece of press he’d gotten to that point. I felt the same way. When Disinformation debuted online in September of 1996 (btw, the 17th anniversary of that launch was—gulp—yesterday) and MONDO 2000 wanted to cover it, like Grant, I was thrilled. I was similarly tickled to be depicted in the pages of the magazine with three heads in a wild two-page spread illustrated by artist Omaha Perez. A young Reese Witherspoon was on the cover.

During one visit to San Francisco, I got to visit “the MONDO house” a large mansion in the Berkeley Hills rented by Alison Kennedy where she lived and where the mag was put together. She was an interesting character, a strikingly beautiful older woman, charming, literate and obviously brilliant. Kennedy is an heiress who put her inheritance into the building the magazine. She walked with me up the hill to show me a home that Timothy Leary had once occupied and pointed out a garage that Leary had built himself and then she made an absolutely fabulous meal, telling me a great story about Aldous Huxley as she cooked. I was very impressed by her, but I had been warned by more than one person that she was quite eccentric, and by the time it was starting to get dark, she was saying some incredibly paranoid, kooky things and it got a little bit awkward.

If you want to read a great piece of journalism about what it was really like around the MONDO 2000 orbit, Jack Boulware’s classic SF WEEKLY article, “MONDO 1995: Up and Down With the Next Millennium’s First Magazine” is a must-read (R.U. calls it “mostly true.”) You can find out more about R.U. Sirius’s MONDO project here.

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‘Occupy Comics’ featuring work by Alan Moore, Douglas Rushkoff, Laurie Penny, Amanda Palmer and more

Occupy Comics is the first issue of a new project bringing together comic pros, storytellers and artists to create a time-capsule of the Occupy protests. Each issue of the anthology will tell individual stories and explore broader themes inspired by the months of protests that began in fall of 2011.

Halo-8’s Matt Pizzolo told Wired back in 2011:

“Adbusters created a really powerful image of a ballerina atop the Wall Street bull with protesters in the background, and that was enough to set this off,” he said. “Then Anonymous brought in the Guy Fawkes masks, and U.S. Day of Rage created more art challenging the relationship between Wall Street and Washington. So this is an art-inspired movement, and that’s part of what makes it so viral. It’s not intellectual, it doesn’t need a manifesto. People are banding together around an idea, rather than an ideology.”

Occupy Comics participants include Alan Moore, Charlie Adlard (The Walking Dead), Susie Cagle (cartoonist arrested at Occupy Oakland), Ben Templesmith (30 Days of Night), Dan Goldman (Shooting War), Molly Crabapple, Amanda Palmer, Darick Robertson (Transmetropolitan), Laurie Penny, Zoetica Ebb, Patrick Meany and Douglas Rushkoff.

Check out this PDF preview of Occupy Comics. You can purchase the 48 page first issue via Midtown Comics. There will be a hardback graphic novel published this Fall.

Occupy Comics was funded via the social-networking site Kickstarter and the profits were, and still are, being donated to Occupy-related groups.

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Douglas Rushkoff: ‘Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now’
02:09 pm

Current Events
Pop Culture

Douglas Rushkoff

For the first time in a long time, I recorded a new Dangerous Minds interview show, this time with my old friend Douglas Rushkoff who was in Los Angeles on Tuesday doing press and media appearances—like Joe Rogan’s podcast and Jason Calacanis’ This Week in Start-Ups—to promote his new book, Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now (This was actually taped in Jason’s TWIST studio starting about two minutes after he and Doug finished up).

As I say at the end of the interview, I think Present Shock is Rushkoff’s best yet and I think it’s going to be his best-selling book, as well. Present Shock addresses certain key issues about modern life and where technology is taking all of us, so this isn’t a book aimed at advertising creatives or cyber theorists, it’s a very “big picture” book for everyone who wants to understand where we are, and we’re we’re headed in the always on “now.”

Douglas Rushkoff: Present Shock, the Boing Boing interview by David Pescovitz

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Occupy Wall Street teach-in with Douglas Rushkoff

“They say the Occupy movement has no leaders. They are wrong. YOU are the leaders! The rest of us are your followers! What you do here shows us what we can do out there.”

A history lesson about a 500-year old operating program that’s cramping our style in the 21st century delivered at Zuccotti Park today in downtown Manhattan by media theorist Douglas Rushkoff.

“If you can sleep under tarps, the rest of us can tell your story to our children at bedtime…”

Beautiful. I love it. Please spread this message far and wide. Shot by Janine Saunders.

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Rush Limbaugh vs Douglas Rushkoff
10:11 am

Stupid or Evil?

Douglas Rushkoff
Rush Limbaugh

Reichwing radio gasbag Rush Limbaugh responds to Douglas Rushkoff’s fascinating essay “Are Jobs Obsolete” in his own inimitable style... Hilarity ensues!

I love how Limbaugh starts off his rant by making sure his listeners know that he’s never heard of Douglas Rushkoff. Since Rushkoff is one of America’s most prominent intellectuals, no surprises there, Rushbo…

RUSH: I was just handed here a CNN story. The headline here: “Are Jobs Obsolete?” Who wrote this? Douglas Rushkoff. I never heard of Douglas Rushkoff. It’s a column. I’m gonna have to read this. The point of this is the whole concept of jobs may be “obsolete” in America now, which is the most amazing attempt to excuse Obama I have net seen, but that’s just at cursory glance. Yeah, get this, folks: “America is productive enough that it could probably shelter, feed, educate, and even provide health care for its entire population with just a fraction of us actually working.” This is an opinion piece called, “Are Jobs Obsolete?” that appears at by some guy named Douglas Rushkoff, who I’ve never heard of and he’s not identified here.

Okay, now, I found out who this Douglas Rushkoff guy is. He’s a “media theorist,” a media theorist, “the author of Program or be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age, and also Life, Inc.: How Corporatism Conquered the World and How We Can Take it Back.” That’s who has written the piece at, “Are Jobs Obsolete?” He’s a “media theorist.” What the hell is a “media theorist”? Now, he’s got a Wikipedia entry, but everybody has a Wikipedia entry, just like everybody has a radio show. It says he was born in 1961, so he’s 50. He’s “an American media theorist, writer, columnist, lecturer, graphic novelist, and documentarian best known for his association with the early cyberpunk culture and his advocacy of open source solutions to social problems.”

So he’s a “media theorist” who writes comic books. So it’s quite understandable here that CNN would give him a soapbox. Anyway, “Are Jobs Obsolete?” On the day Obama’s going to give his big speech on jobs! “The U.S. Postal Service appears to be the latest casualty in digital technology’s slow but steady replacement of working humans. Unless an external source of funding comes in, the post office will have to scale back its operations drastically, or simply shut down altogether. That’s 600,000 people who would be out of work, and another 480,000 pensioners facing an adjustment in terms. We can blame a right wing attempting to undermine labor, or a left wing trying to preserve unions in the face of government and corporate cutbacks.

“But the real culprit—at least in this case—is e-mail. People are sending 22% fewer pieces of mail than they did four years ago, opting for electronic bill payment and other net-enabled means of communication over envelopes and stamps. New technologies are wreaking havoc on employment figures—from EZpasses ousting toll collectors to Google-controlled self-driving automobiles rendering taxicab drivers obsolete. Every new computer program is basically doing some task that a person used to do. But the computer usually does it faster, more accurately, for less money, and without any health insurance costs,” and it doesn’t ask for a day off to take care of the cat.

“We like to believe that the appropriate response is to train humans for higher level work. Instead of collecting tolls, the trained worker will fix and program toll-collecting robots. But it never really works out that way, since not as many people are needed to make the robots as the robots replace. And so the president goes on television telling us that the big issue of our time is jobs, jobs, jobs—as if the reason to build high-speed rails and fix bridges is to put people back to work. But it seems to me there’s something backwards in that logic. I find myself wondering if we may be accepting a premise that deserves to be questioned. I am afraid to even ask this, but since when is unemployment really a problem? I understand…”

(laughing) “I understand we all want paychecks—or at least money. We want food, shelter, clothing, and all the things that money buys us. But do we all really want jobs? We’re living in an economy where productivity is no longer the goal, employment is. That’s because, on a very fundamental level, we have pretty much everything we need. America is productive enough that it could probably shelter, feed, educate, and even provide health care for its entire population with just a fraction of us actually working.” (sniffs) No, my nose started running. This is Douglas Rushkoff, “media theorist” at

“America is productive enough that it could probably shelter, feed, educate, and even provide health care for its entire population with just a fraction of us actually working. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, there is enough food produced to provide everyone in the world with 2,720 kilocalories per person per day. And that’s even after America disposes of thousands of tons of crop and dairy just to keep market prices high. Meanwhile, American banks overloaded with foreclosed properties are demolishing vacant dwellings to get the empty houses off their books. Our problem is not that we don’t have enough stuff—it’s that we don’t have enough ways for people to work and prove that they deserve this stuff.”

Wait a minute. “[W]e don’t have enough ways for people to work,” but yet he just said we don’t need people working. I shall nevertheless continue here: “Jobs, as such, are a relatively new concept.” Did you know that, folks? Jobs are a new concept, “relatively” so. “People may have always worked, but until the advent of the corporation in the early Renaissance, most people just worked for themselves. They made shoes, plucked chickens, or created value in some way for other people, who then traded or paid for those goods and services. By the late Middle Ages, most of Europe was thriving under this arrangement. The only ones losing wealth were the aristocracy, who depended on their titles to extract money from those who worked.

“And so they invented the chartered monopoly. By law, small businesses in most major industries were shut down and people had to work for officially sanctioned corporations instead. From then on, for most of us, working came to mean getting a ‘job.’ ... While this is certainly bad for workers and unions, I have to wonder just how truly bad is it for people.” See, workers in unions are not people. “Isn’t this what all this technology was for in the first place? The question we have to begin to ask ourselves is not how do we employ all the people who are rendered obsolete by technology, but how can we organize a society around something other than employment?

“Might the spirit of enterprise we currently associate with ‘career’ be shifted to something entirely more collaborative, purposeful, and even meaningful? Instead, we are attempting to use the logic of a scarce marketplace to negotiate things that are actually in abundance. What we lack is not employment, but a way of fairly distributing the bounty we have generated through our technologies, and a way of creating meaning in a world that has already produced far too much stuff. The communist answer to this question was just to distribute everything evenly. But that sapped motivation and never quite worked as advertised.

“The opposite, libertarian answer (and the way we seem to be going right now) would be to let those who can’t capitalize on the bounty simply suffer. Cut social services along with their jobs, and hope they fade into the distance.” Is that what we’re doing? That’s what we’re doing now, we’re just cutting loose people and letting them suffer out there? We’re cutting social services along with their jobs? I’ll tell you what, I think Obama is putting this crackpot theory to the test. Having a small number of people working to support the rest of the country is exactly what Obama’s doing. This crackpot’s theory is in process here of being implemented!

We’re all a bunch of guinea pigs here; we didn’t know it. Mr. Rushkoff here sounds like he’s sitting in some frat house after a night of too many hits on the bong, folks. He says here, “We start by accepting that food and shelter are basic human rights. The work we do—the value we create—is for the rest of what we want: the stuff that makes life fun, meaningful, and purposeful. This sort of work isn’t so much employment as it is creative activity. Unlike Industrial Age employment, digital production can be done from the home, independently, and even in a peer-to-peer fashion without going through big corporations.

“We can make games for each other, write books, solve problems, educate and inspire one another—all through bits instead of stuff. And we can pay one another using the same money we use to buy real stuff.” Yeah, that’s what we should do: Make games for each other, write books for each other, solve problems for each other, educate and inspire one another instead of doing stuff—and we can pay one another using the same money we use to buy real stuff, but… Well, nobody’s gonna have any money if they don’t have any. I don’t know. Again, Douglas Rushkoff. I’m sort of embarrassed this guy shares letters of my name.

You know, this Rushkoff guy needs to hear the story of the first Thanksgiving. He needs to hear how his way failed. He needs to actually… Anyway, it’s at, and just came in over the transom. (interruption) Funemployment? Look, I’m not gonna make the claim that this guy is out there trying to help Obama (laughing), but on the day Obama’s giving his big job speech, this guy’s got a piece out there, “America’s productive enough they could probably shelter, feed, educate, even provide health care for its entire population with just a fraction of us actually working,” and we’re putting that theory to test here, folks. We are in the process of doing exactly that.

Thank you kindly, Jeff Newelt of New York City!

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Robert Anton Wilson Remembered

Joseph Matheny and our friends at Hukilau announce a new audio book: Robert Anton Wilson Remembered:

Fond remembrances of the life and work of Robert Anton Wilson, featuring Douglas Rushkoff, Antero Ali, Tiffany Lee Brown, David Jay Brown, Zac Odin, and Joseph Matheny.

You can get the audiobook for free by joining Audible or purchase Robert Anton Wilson Remembered for $3.95 at Amazon.
Below, an interview that Genesis P-Orridge and I did with Bob Wilson in (I think) late 1997 on my old talkshow, The Infinity Factory.

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Douglas Rushkoff: Taking Back the World
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Douglas Rushkoff
Seth Kushner

Philosopher and media critic Douglas Rushkoff has written several books, graphic novels and comics and now he’s actually in a comic, playing himself in “Taking Back the World,” an installment of Seth Kushner’s innovative Culture Pop series at the Activate Comix site.

Douglas Rushkoff was the recipient of The Neil Postman Award for Career Achievement in Public Intellectual Activity. Click here to read “Taking Back the World.”

Below, Douglas Rushkoff discusses his book Program or Be Programmed on the Dangerous Minds talkshow:

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Douglas Rushkoff: Program or Be Programmed
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Douglas Rushkoff

Is the Net is good or bad for us? That’s beside the point: it’s here; it’s everywhere. In Program or Be Programmed, Rushkoff tells readers the real question is, do we direct technology, or do we let ourselves be directed by it and those who have mastered it?
Programming is the new literacy of the digital age––and a template through which to see beyond social conventions and power structures that have vexed us for centuries.

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Harvey Pekar and Douglas Rushkoff team up to take on Corporatism!

Have you been keeping up with the delightful Pekar Project at the Smith website? The latest installment is my favorite, with Dangerous Minds pal Douglas Rushkoff co-starring with our hero! With terrific—kinda perfect—art by Sean Pryor.

Editor Jeff Newelt writes:

A year ago, our own cuddly curmudgeon, Harvey Pekar, joined author / media theorist Doug Rushkoff on his WFMU radio show, The Media Squat, to talk about a pet peev to both authors: the corporate takeover of society. Doug recently wrote LIFE INC: How the World Became A Corporation and How to Take It Back and Harvey legendarily bashed GE on Letterman in the ’80s, so jamming on this was a natural. To create this comic, “Pekar & Rushkoff Kibbitzin’ About How Life Got Incorporated” (part one of a four-part epic collaboration), we treated the transcript of their talk like the first track laid down for a jazz record. Harvey & Doug remixed the script and then artist Sean Pryor brought the dialogue to life. Note the masterful switch in coloring technique whenever the story shifts from the conversation itself to images of subjects being talked about. Sean first collaborated with Harvey on “Gauntet of Rock” a story for Royal Flush Magazine, and has since rocked out three Pekar Project stories, “Searchin’”, “Jungle Music,” and “Two Working Stiffs.” Sean also designed and contributed a Harvey Head to the new Pekar T-shirt.

This is fucking excellent!

Pekar & Rushkoff Kibbitzin’ How Life Got Incorporated by Harvey Pekar & Sean Pryor (Smith)

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DMT: The Spirit Molecule

Trailer for a new documentary film called DMT: The Spirit Molecule, based on the book of the same title by Dr. Rick Strassman MD. DMT or Dimethyltryptamine is one of the strongest hallucinogens known to man and each of us has a small amount of it floating around in our brains and blood stream. You can even make it yourself from a handful of a common type of lawn grass, distilled in a shot glass. The film features interviews with Dangerous Minds friends, author Douglas Rushkoff and visionary artist Alex Grey.

Smoking DMT, as the late Terence McKenna once said, is like getting shot out of a psychedelic canon. I agree. I’ve had some STRANGE experiences on the drug myself. It’s not for the timid, that’s for sure. DMT is not a drug you do for “fun” it’s a means of chemically connecting to an otherworldly “space” inhabited by strange and alien beings. Yes, you read that correctly. Think I’m joking? Smoke some, buster, then we’ll talk…

If you want a really good explanation of what the DMT experience is like, listen to this:

Bonus clip of Fear Factor’s Joe Rogan talking about his experience: DMT Changes Everything

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Douglas Rushkoff: Economics is Not Natural Science
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Douglas Rushkoff
John Brockman



Terrific new essay by Dangerous Minds pal Douglas Rushkoff at John Brockman’s Edge website:

We must stop perpetuating the fiction that existence itself is dictated by the immutable laws of economics. These so-called laws are, in actuality, the economic mechanisms of 13th Century monarchs. Some of us analyzing digital culture and its impact on business must reveal economics as the artificial construction it really is. Although it may be subjected to the scientific method and mathematical scrutiny, it is not a natural science; it is game theory, with a set of underlying assumptions that have little to do with anything resembling genetics, neurology, evolution, or natural systems.

The scientific tradition exposed the unpopular astronomical fact that the earth was not at the center of the universe. This stance challenged the social order, and its proponents were met with less than a welcoming reception. Today, science has a similar opportunity: to expose the fallacies underlying our economic model instead of producing short-term strategies for mitigating the effects of inventions and discoveries that threaten this inherited market hallucination.

The economic model has broken, for good. It’s time to stop pretending it describes our world.

Economics is Not Natural Science by Douglas Rushkoff

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