I have been turned off by modern trends in digital content presentation, which has become saturated with advertising gimmicks that perpetuates in me a distrust of web content. Even sources of quality writing and analysis seem to be framed by cynical eyeball-retention tactics. Commercial media tend to consistently distract away from the content being presented to the edges of any given page: portals to associated content or intrusive advertisements mocking you from the edge of the text, or brazenly hurled into the middle of an essay or article. Even on news websites, advertisements triage the text we would like to read, daring us to avert our eyes for just a second to pull away from the reader. This has constantly prevented me forming a personal bond or connection with writing or writer, as there never seems to be an end to consider their impact on me. If I read a good article on a news platform, how would I be able to find it again when published content churns and compounds endlessly? Indeed, even as I write this, blogs and internet essays are being tailored to prioritize “readability,” some sort of disturbing metric that challenges the freedom of a writer to present their ideas with a prose comfortable to them.
At its best, this style of presentation is distracting. At its worst, manipulative. We might consider the advertising campaign unleashed by The Washington Post following Mr. T’s inauguration back in 2017. The phrase “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” squared over the top of their homepage while advertising content dripped down the sides of the page: truth can be rented out, I suppose. Of course, you could always pay to remove this visual encumbrance, but with the advent and growth of micro-transactions, we are already asked to shoulder so much on our monthly salaries (internet bill, phone plan, streaming sites, etc. etc.). Paying for a source of “truth,” should that idea really exist, feels callous and uneconomical.
And then there is the internet itself, that perpetual feed of never-ending information. The constant bombardment of thoughts, “news,” bakes into us a compelling need to keep clicking. Not being clued in to exactly what has happened in the last couple days incites a sort of traumatic technoFOMO. The proliferation of cancel culture – for all the good it’s provided in holding powerful figures or trends to the fire – has also introduced a constant, creeping anxiety that the artist or speaker whose ideas you put so much stock in is actually as synthetic and/or despicable as you always feared.
This constant barrage of more content successfully goads us into feeling that our thoughts and opinions are not enough. To satiate this induced self-consciousness, we are led to a trough of new links and advertisements that pull the eyes (and thus, the brain of the reader) to ever more content. Indeed, when you dig further you realize this is hardly random – it is planned and is the bedrock business plan of many large companies. We all knew this of course – the playbook for mass media consumption has existed for some time, predating even the internet. But our bandwidth is fraying, as uncertainty and inequality have begun to capture critical mental real-estate; there are only so many consistent indignities that we can put up with before we start lashing out at the cultural annoyances we have previously accepted as given.
And yet, despite all this new content, I have felt that actually engaging or being part of the internet has felt more limited than ever. Popular areas of self-expression (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook) curate a mode of communication that is inherently limited; they curate our behavior to entrench their bottom line, limited the range of options by which we might interact with friends and individuals. The bargain gets worse: our personalities are codified and sold to be dissected and analyzed, so that we may be further exploited by advertisers or ideological salesman in the future.
Of course, I choose this – I am not required to have a social-media account, just as I am not required to have a job and a health-care plan. But how else are we expected to maintain social relationships, where so much social work occurs on these privatized socialization platforms? This is what might be called in economic circles as a collective-action problem; or, a scenario where coordinated action between actors would produce a better status-quo for everyone, but unilateral action makes the individual worse off relative to everyone else. If invitations to a Birthday Party are disseminated through Facebook, staying off the medium means you won’t hear about it unless someone remembers to tell you through some other means. Your friends wouldn’t forget you, would they? Rather than face the terrifying truth – that we might not be worth a text or do not occupy mental space in the brains of people we consider friends – we are compelled to glue our identities to the balance sheets of privatized capital.
This is the principle that has allowed a few digital media conglomerates to dominate the majority of web-traffic on the internet. At a glance, this might not seem such a bad idea. But we might consider the original dream of the internet as a place of freedom from the limitations of the physical world. It was to be a place where we could represent ourselves as we like and meet and share ideas with people outside the bounds of physical space. Despite these dreams, the pursuit of endless profit by a few powerful pools of capital have successfully baked into modern internet use a triage of addictive behaviors that restrict the scope and potential of the internet. Through the manipulative social engineering I fear we have come to rely on for “social-media” use, I fear that many of us have become unable to communicate through means unprofitable to our digital overlords – such as the indulgent long-form personal essay.
It is with an intent to challenge the current modes of internet use that this site is pursued. I want to own a digital presence that felt fixed. I want to be able to share thoughts and ideas without abusing or manipulating readers so that I may sell their attention to nefarious capitalists. Hopefully, this is partially achieved through the presentation of this site – although as of this writing, the design here is hardly where it needs to be.
The content here is meant to be consumed as if your brain were downloading ideas directly into your skull. Click around if you like, but you will find nothing to trick you into lingering here in perpetuity. Content-wise, this site is largely edited with an eye to Marxist dialects. The Central Scrutinizer is hardly a philosopher, but Marxist concepts and definitions have a distinct prose and series of assumptions that, I believe, have gone largely missing in modern discourse. Maybe for good reason – but the style has always felt comfortable and aesthetically pleasing to me, so I continue that tradition here.
Another influence here is George Orwell, whose writing on politics and language is always an inspiration. His commitment to detailing a socialist existence does not end with an analysis of the object, but attempts to diligently account for the biases and perceptions that inform the subject (himself). Much modern political writing seems informed by Orwell’s blunt participation in the presentation of his stories, but I feel that the thrust of their statements are poisoned by the frame with which these narratives are presented. It is hard to take radical or reform minded perspectives seriously when ads or off-ramps to other content float around on the side of your screen.
If there is a goal for this whole thing, it is to contribute in some way to the destruction of capitalism. This is high-minded and almost humorous objective, but I state it honestly as something we are trying to be a part of. This is not a statement of self-importance, just a disclosure of the broader ideological purpose that informs the writing and editing of content made available here. The sort of post-capitalist world we want is one where we need not sacrifice individuality and humanity to remain financially solvent. Possibly unobtainable, but if it is achievable, maybe we can help lay the foundation for an off-ramp that will lead us out of our suffocating economic system. Do not take this as self-congratulating – I am continually plagued by thoughts that even pretending to be “anti-capitalist” is, itself, a spectacle orchestrated to keep us placated from effecting true change. I don’t know how to respond to this critique. But know that our intention is to share and provide personal opinions using an anti-capitalist ideological framework. If you’ve got a better way, let us know.
This site has hardly found a means of living outside of the capitalist mode of production. Indeed, I fear that it’s taken for granted that there even is a clear and consistent explanation of what capitalism even is. But consider this whole endeavor as a sort of Nebuchadnezzar, sailing through the real world hoping to find and invite those in the Matrix to think of, if not join, us. Whether or not we can build, or even find, a Zion is irrelevant at this point. For us, it’s better than swallowing the blue pill.
I do fear that self-published (“published”) writing tends to be looked down on. In an age where identities are occupations, and occupations are discrete (what even is a “Writer”?), the system sneers on the amateur or hobbyist as indulgent or impotent. And, while this characterization may be fair, I find comfort in maintaining and curating a digital space, so I do it.
Some broader design notes: this site is hardly where it needs to be. I plan on installing a custom-made layout, pending support from friends who understand how to actually code and not just mimic it with a font and color scheme. I had previously mentioned the Matrix and that 90s cyber-punk style is something that is appropriated here.
There are also broader plans to publish a physical print magazine out of pure vanity, if nothing else. Additionally audio & video content are also planned to be added, as well as a dedicated fiction series. These will come in time.
There also be some question on why pseudonyms are used. This is likely something we will walk away from later, but frankly, I want to be able to spread information in a way that isn’t immediately Google-able and attributable to my name. There is some freedom in being able to control and construct an identity that isn’t exactly yourself. Indeed, that is the point of this whole thing.