Californian Ideology

Who/What/When/Why is WIRED?
part 2

The Wired project began when the director of MIT's Media Lab, Nicholas Negroponte (an Anglophile who's ideal digital-slave is an AI-spawned robotic English butler), plucked Louis Rossetto and Jane Metcalfe from obscurity in San Francisco's European sister-city, the other Anglo-Dutch "experimental" metropolis, Amsterdam. Before Wired, Rosetto's greatest previous literary achievement had been a book describing the high-budget nudie shenanigans at the filming of Caligula. This movie, in turn, was the boldest effort by Penthouse magazine's Bob Guccione, whose introduction to porn-production was under English tutelage in Tangier and who sent his sons to British military finishing schools.

Negroponte's apparent goal was to meld Rosetto/Metcalfe with the now flagging San Francisco-based Whole Earth project of his longtime associate, Stewart Brand (who had previously contributed the book/marketing-brochure Media Lab). First to join the Wired editorial team was Brand protege and Whole Earth editor, Kevin Kelly, in what was billed as an ambitious relaunch of the original effort designed to amp-up the graphics, capture consumer product advertisers and spearhead the, now digital, techno-Utopian world revolution. Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll were now "tired"; Wired was now "wired."

Wired, which positioned itself as the journal of this post-psychedelic world revolution, was launched with seed money from Negroponte (buying him the back page and ultimately a best-seller) and from game designer Charlie Jackson. But the glossy mockup failed to attract the crucial second round of investment and Wired appeared to be still-born until Negroponte introduced them to the San Francisco-based private bank, Sterling Payot, which fronted the money for the magazine's launch. Continued existence, however, was still in doubt until the notoriously Anglophile (a polite word for English in American clothing) publisher Si Newhouse's Advance Publications stepped in for the last push. (No, despite its name, the Newhouse published magazine, The New Yorker is actually not an American publication -- it's English.)

In this tumultuous process involving financial reorganizations, whatever notions of editorial independence which might have been initially entertained at Wired were quickly contained. The editorial content of the magazine from its inception has been heavily influenced by the larger utopian agendas of Brand and his Whole Earth-to-Wired editorial colleague Kevin Kelly. In particular, the multi-national scenarios-planning company co-founded by Brand and previously London-based Royal-Dutch Shell futurist Peter Schwartz, the Global Business Network (GBN), has been decisive in shaping Wired's "content." From promoting GBN's consultants endlessly with cover-stories and interviews to actually producing a "special issue" on the future totally with GBN resources, Wired handed over its editorial reigns to GBN and it's New Dark Age scenarios (more on this below) from day one.

To be sure, proclaiming the gloomy truth of the GBN scenario-planned and social-engineered future is not exactly Wired's public mission. Wired is all about the "optimism meme" and is committed to catalyzing the creation of a "better world" -- at least for the 5% of the population who are expected to comprise the new Information Age rulers. This new "class" even has a name -- the "Brain Lords" (and what else would the English call the Information Age aristocracy, anyway?) -- according to Michael Vlahos, a policy analyst at Newt Gingrich's think-tank, the Progress and Freedom Foundation. Editorial support for Gingrich's brand of "revolution" as well as consistent backing of his technocratic policy advisers, most notably Alvin Toffler, has been a Wired commitment from its earliest issues.

The project which preceded Wired, the Whole Earth Catalog (and it's various off-shoots, such as the computer conferencing system known as the Well and the newer Electric Minds), had been the product of Stewart Brand et. al's 1960's efforts to engineer a utopian counter-culture which, it was hoped, would broadly transform society at large. So, aren't I confusing my history here? Isn't Brand all American? No, I don't think so. Scratch a Stewart Brand and what will you find? None other than the English anthropologist Gregory Bateson, of course. And, it is from Bateson's lifelong commitment to re-program a humanity which he deeply despised and, in particular, his explicit drive to destroy the religious basis of Western civilization by replacing God with Nature, that the Whole Earth project was born. It was literally the beginning of a new religion with Nature at its center and mankind portrayed as the dangerous ape threatening to destroy it all.

Bateson's British (and American) intelligence sponsored takeover of the nascent field of cybernetics in the 1950's from it's creator, Norbert Wiener, led directly into Bateson's LSD-driven experiments on schizophrenia and creativity in Palo Alto, which in turn, were the origins of Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters and their house band, the Grateful Dead. Indeed, Stewart Brand's own career as a publicist for what was first conceived of as drug and then computer-based techo-utopian revolution owes much to Bateson's cybernetics guidance. Brand was among the first to recognize that personal computers and computer networks might have even greater potential to re-program the humans who "used" them than the psychedelics which fueled his earlier efforts. Indeed, based on Brand's success at promoting LSD at his Trips Festivals, he was hired by Doug Englebart to stage the first mass demonstration of the mouse and windows system which Englebart had invented at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI).

Bateson is the son of the English geneticist, William Bateson, whose attacks precipitated the suicide of his principle Continental rival, Otto Kammerer, is chronicled in Arthur Koestler's Case of the Mid-Wife Toad. And, if the Englishman Bateson doesn't satisfy your hunger for a proper genealogy for psychedelic San Francisco, one might consider Captain Al Hubbard (no relation to L. Ron), the Johnny Appleseed of LSD. He was born in Kentucky but by the 1950's had renounced his U.S. citizenship and sailed right up to Vancouver, British Columbia, to become a commodore in their very English yacht club. That's where he set up the world war-room to target the destruction of Western culture (through San Francisco) and from this base that he joined forces with Humphrey Osmond (English military psychiatrist, lead English MK-ULTRA researcher and the originator of the term "psychedelic") and Aldous Huxley (English black-sheep godson of the original techno-utopian, H.G. Wells) to spread LSD among the intelligentsia to achieve the world revolution. To be sure, San Francisco's cultural scene has long been shaped by its close association with English/Anglophile intellectuals and social engineers.

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