Tagcounterculture

How Silicon Valley’s Hippie Roots Led to Its Modern Elitism

Fred Turner, author of From Counterculture to Cyberculture and The Democratic Surround: Multimedia and American Liberalism from World War II to the Psychedelic Sixties interviewed on how Silicon Valley went from counter cultural cool to mustache twirling villain. Turner talks a lot about Silicon Valley’s connection to 60s communalism, and why that outlook is shaping its modern practices:

One of the great mistakes people made in reviewing my book was to say, “Wow, it’s great. Turner finally showed us how the hippies brought us computing.” Nothing could be further from the truth. What I think I did in the book was actually show how the research world that brought us computing also brought us the counterculture. In the ‘40s, we see military industrial research in and around MIT and around a variety of other centers being incredibly collaborative and open. It’s that style that actually migrates into and shapes countercultural practices. What the counterculture does for computing is it legitimates it. It makes it culturally cool. […]

A legacy from the communalist movement that I think is pernicious is a turning away from politics, a turning toward the self as the basis of political change, of social action. I think that’s something you see all through the Valley. The information technology industry feeds off it because information technologies can so easily be aimed at satisfying individual needs. You see that rhetoric leveraged when Google and other firms say, “Don’t regulate us. We need to be creative. We need to be free to pursue our satisfaction because that’s ultimately what will provide a satisfying society.”

That’s all a way of ignoring the systems that make the world possible. One example from the ‘60s that I think is pretty telling is all the road trips. The road trips are always about the heroic actions of people like Ken Kesey and Neal Cassady and their amazing automobiles, right? Never, never did it get told that those road trips were only made possible by Eisenhower’s completion of the highway system. The highway system is never in the story. It’s boring. What’s in the story is the heroic actions of bootstrapped individuals pursuing conscious change. What we see out here now is, again, those heroic stories. And there are real heroes. But the real heroes are operating with automobiles and roads and whole systems of support without which they couldn’t be heroic.

Full Story: Harvard Business Review: How Silicon Valley Became The Man

See also:

The Tyranny of Structurelessness by Jo Freeman

Turner’s essay on the connections between Burning Man and Silicon Valley, particularly Google (PDF)

The R.U. Sirius’ interview with Turner

How the “Do What You Love” Mantra Enables Exploitation

The California Ideology

3 New Dossiers: Process Church of the Final Judgement, Amber Case, David Cronenberg

Three new dossiers are up:

The Process Church of The Final Judgement, the 60s cult.

Amber Case, the cyborg anthropologist.

David Cronenberg, the body horror film director.

Supervert on Mark Dery’s New Book I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts

Supervert, author of Extraterrestrial Sex Fetish and webmaster of the definitive William S. Burroughs site Reality Studio, reviews Mark Dery’s new book I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts:

How is it that Dery is able to produce this uncanny feeling of identification? You get the sense that, while the rest of us were living the zeitgeist, Dery was holding a stethoscope to its heart. His essays are EKGs showing that our pulse goes haywire in the presence of extremes — perversion, violence, satanism. In an introduction, Dery declares that it is “the writer’s job” to “think bad thoughts”: “to wander footloose through the mind’s labyrinth, following the thread of any idea that reels you in, no matter how arcane or depraved, obscene or blasphemous, untouchably controversial, irreducibly complex, or preposterous on its face.” All of us take in these abominations as they play across our flatscreens and iPhones, but Dery’s distinction is to really think about them — reflect on them, contextualize them, pursue their logic to sometimes unpalatable consequences. “The writer’s job,” he means to say, “is to transform ‘bad thoughts’ into good ones — insights and observations — through a process of examination.”

Supervert: I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts

See also: Mark Dery: How the Cephalopod Became Our Zeitgeist Mascot

Coil Retrospective

Coil

The Quietus ran a retrospective on Coil‘s career for the one year anniversary of Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson’s death:

Through a potent trinity of chemically-altered states, occult arcana and technological transmutation, Coil was, perhaps, the strangest and occasionally the most frightening of bands. While their twenty year history saw much in the way of personal turmoil and tragedies as they moved through the extreme hedonism and post-AIDS fallout of London’s gay clubland to a more hermetic but no less intoxicated existence on England’s South West coast, John Balance (née Geff Rushton) and Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson remained true to their original intentions to explore, as the cover of their debut release puts it: “How sound can affect the physical and mental state of the serious listener”. Such explorations produced a unique and incomparable body of work that not only charts a most unconventional route through emergent musical technologies, but also signposts a hellishly complex set of references to occult theories and deviant figures throughout history (from Aleister Crowley to William S Burroughs) along the way. But the high physical and mental cost of their creative processes often lead to long gaps in their output. Indeed, the most elusive album in their back catalogue eluded the band themselves: Backwards, originally intended as a follow-up to 1991’s Love’s Secret Domain, was mentioned in the band’s semi-regular updates describing sessions with mainstream players such as Tim Simenon and Trent Reznor, yet the album was never released (although some of the recordings were later re-arranged posthumously for The Ape of Naples and its companion piece, The New Backwards).

The Quietus: Serious Listeners: The Strange And Frightening World Of Coil

Fixing A Scene: Examine Your Assumptions

This is about underground hip hop, but much of it could apply to almost any scene:

Bars are, for the most part, terrible places to be. Obnoxiously crowded and stupid expensive. The sound system has never been set up right and it’s always too loud. So why do artists keep presenting their blood and guts in these fast food environments? I’ve played shows in beauty salons, backyards and basements and had a great time doing it—there’s not a “tour circuit” for this yet, but there will be soon.

How many shows can you play for a room full of dudes before it’s time to kill yourself in a hotel room? Why don’t more women come to rap shows? That one is easy: because they don’t want to be there. They don’t enjoy themselves, they don’t feel safe and they don’t have fun.

We need more than “Alternative Hip Hop,” and definitely more than another coffee shop for spoken word navel-gazing. We need an alternate Universe, a great & secret show, a Truth & Beauty circuit full of fresh fruit, fine foods and exotic tea from fictional continents. We need daytime shows, midnight gigs on anonymous rooftops, costume concerts and a nationwide revival of Acid Tests from coast to burning coast. We need all four alleged “Elements of Hip Hop” in the same building again—most of all, we need parties worth going to, parties worth putting down your fucking phones for and actually living.

Hump Jones: Fixing Underground Hip Hop

One Man Army: The Stormer Generation

OMAC Kirby

Ikipr outlines all the reasons he thinks Iain Spence’s prediction that the youth culture of the 00s would be dominated by so-called “Stormers” actually did come true.

It’s a good, long article defending Spence’s Sekhmet Hypothesis, which as we’ve seen here before Spence himself no longer subscribes.

Kook Science Resistance: Stormer Generation and the Aeon of Sekhmet

I recommend reading it, but I have a couple notes to make:

1) It wasn’t just the lack of Stormer culture that made Spence abandon the Sekhmet Hypothesis. It was the lack of correlating solar data.

2) I think what Ikipr is exhibiting here is… not apophenia – because the patterns more certainly are there. But there are other patterns as well. As Ikipr notes towards the end, Alex Grey’s work was tremendously popular during the 00s. There were whole psychedelic and magickal subcultures at play, from the psyhipsters seen in Arthur to the digital occultnik underground on sites like Disinfo, Irreality, Frequency 23 and Key 23/64 which eventually culminated in the meatspace EsoZone events.

Each of the movements Spence originally identified had aspects other than the ones that Spence highlighted (as Spence admitted in the comments here, and says he never said that movements like hippie and punk were mutually exclusive). The 60s counterculture wasn’t entirely peaceful. There were the Weathermen, the Black Panthers, the Hell’s Angels. The punk movement wasn’t just rage and destruction – there were animal rights and anti-war sentiments throughout. By night, ravers were about PLUR – but they experienced some nasty morning afters. And James St. James pointed out some of the darker corners of the party scene (and that’s to say nothing of the other subcultures of the 90s).

3) I’m surprised Ikipr didn’t mention Woodstock 99, though I guess the testosterone fueled violence there doesn’t quite fit with his Stormers, who are more cyber than physical.

I’m not sure what, if anything, my two notes above matter.

Top 10 Counterculture Colleges in America

The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA, which I happen to go to, was selected by High Times as the number one counterculture school in the America. Whoo hoo! The story’s spotty, but it paints a pretty good picture of what life is like here. My biggest complaint is that the reporters were only here during spring, when it rains less and people are less miserable. The local paper did an equally spotty job of reporting on the story. Seems people around here are concerned that the publicity will hurt Evergreen, and the school works hard to deny that marijuana is any more prevalent here than at any other school. They also complain that the story wasn’t based on scientific data. Like what? Counterculture actions per capita? The problem is that the school has been trying hard to “mainstream” Evergreen by emphasizing sports and de-emphasizing culture. The administration seems to want the school to become just another state college. Hopefully this article will attract some bright free-thinkers to the school and keep the counterculture spirit alive.

ZOCK, the outlaw manifesto of the centuary

“Destructive artist” Otto Muehl’s ferociously nihilistic manifesto ZOCK, originally published in 1967 and translated in the most recent Exquisite Corpse, is one of the most disturbing things I’ve read in a long time. It calls for the complete destruction of pretty much everything. However, one idea in it blew my mind: “ZOCK will eliminate the race problem in a very simple way: 1. A general ban on sexual intercourse between people with the same skin color.”

Exquisite Corpse: ZOCK: The Outlaw Manifesto of the Century

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