Above: Protestors gather at Columbus Circle, New York, on the evening before the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump, 19 January 2017. Credit: Mathias Wasik.
Above: Woman with hot beverage browsing on the Internet. Credit: Matthew Henry.
Above: Preparation of propaganda-leaflet bombs by Gunners of E Troop, 124 Battery, 151st Field Regiment, 24 January 1945. Credit: Sgt. Palmer/IWM.
Above: German Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels inspects bomb damage in Berlin following RAF raids on the city in August 1940. Credit: Heinrich Hoffmann.
Above: Former White House intern Monica Lewinsky arrives at her lawyer's offices in Washington DC in 1998. Credit: Thomson-Reuters.
The internaut--Virilio's ironic nomenclature for a person using the Internet derived from astronaut--has access to copious information from myriad sources but is often unable to verify its authenticity (the post-truth or fake-news era). Information retrieved via the Internet is uncertain or "undecidable" to the extent that "it's impossible to be correctly informed (SD; 49)." The general scene of uncertainty that characterizes the Internet is definitely political and ideological: it disempowers the individual by precipitating inertia, "instability is a prerequisite of total domination (GA: 84)." The internaut is unavoidably the victim of an information bomb which exploded at some point in the 1990s and which has wreaked its devastation ever since (CP: 42). A scene of information overload has developed debilitating the internaut who struggles to determine veracity. In the face of a ceaseless flow of unverifiable and conflicting information the internaut (an addict of the device-screen) drifts towards inertia--an inertia which is presaged by disconnection, dissociation, and eventually nihilism.
The internaut begins to negate and reject any requirement to be reliably informed--he switches off. What emerges then is a "new sort of protectionism, a negation pure and simple of the need to be informed that will lead sooner or later to the extinction of public opinion and consequently to the end of a certain form of democracy (DS: 68)." There is no longer any basic mechanism by which the internaut can distinguish news from propaganda to the extent that this question of distinguishability is no longer even current: an irreversible loss of confidence in presented information has already occurred. The Internet provides the internaut with a "maelstrom of information in which everything changes, is exchanged, opens up, collapses, fades away, gets buried, gets resurrected, flourishes, and finally evaporates in the course of a day--and after a while much less than this, in the very instant, we might say, it surges up in real time, twenty-four hours a day (AM: 52-53)." As a response to this informational vortex Virilio recalls the recommendation of writer Emile Gaboriau (1832-1873), "as concerns the news: distrust what seems most likely, always begin by believing what seems most unbelievable." The situation is that "the difference between (true) information and (false) deception fades a little more each day (SD: 78)."
If, for example, a plane crash occurs, it is difficult to be sure is this was a malfunction or a malicious and intentional act--perpetrated by State operators; by terrorists, etc. The internaut asks, "accident or attack?" But unfortunately, "from now on uncertainty rules (OA: 21)." The scene of claim and counter-claim, disinformation and misinformation that characterized, for example, the 1998 Monica Lewinsky scandal in the US, was a harbinger of the now pervasive information environment in the era of the information bomb. During the times in which President Clinton was potentially going to be impeached (for lying about having sex with an While House intern), all involved used media briefings to rebut and cast doubt on claims made by other participants so that there were always "doubts cast on the veracity of the facts asserted ... the uncontrollable development of a manipulation of sources and hence of public opinion itself (IB: 108)." The Lewinsky scandal was characterized by bitter claim, and bitter counter-claim and a general muddying-of-the-waters by both sides. Such tactics. are now commonplace. Expressed bluntly, the Internet has enabled "a revolution in virtual disinformation (IB: 108)." The public is moving towards the hardened terminal cynicism of the conspiracy theorist "it is now a matter of denying what you know in order not to believe anything at all anymore! This superior form of cretinism passes itself off as some sort of avant-garde nihilism (UD: 34)," or a "totalitarian form of unbelief (UD: 48)."
In the context of a profound loss of certainty many modern fears are utterly abstracted and have passed into being mythological or even supernatural, and are thus "cosmic" and to this extent even "panic has now become something mystical (ADF: 35)." This catastrophe of interpretation or "interpretosis" (a portmanteau word derived from a contraction of interpretation and psychosis) is actually a delirium of interpretation in that it its principal symptom is a loss of contact with reality as in psychosis (UD: 92). The dissemination by the State military of disinformation is no longer a tactic utilized during war (untruths disseminated to further a just cause), but rather a routine activity: myriad State operators are hacking, dissembling, and disseminating disinformation at all times. These activities are carried on in an a way which inevitably subverts democratic processes: public opinion is habitually, in fact ceaselessly, being manipulated with the ordinary person subject to a "loss of the sense of reality" under a prevailing environment in which "reality and fabricated truth" have sadly become indistinguishable (CP: 42).
It is tenable to conceptualize the non-locale of the Internet as the site of an all out information war (SD: 49). The internuat is caught up in the midst of a total war (a war in which legitimate military targets are broadened to include civilian targets). The tactic of information saturation is being deployed with a basic war aim: the effective silencing of the masses by means of hypnagogic induced inertia (PD: 63).
In the short-term at least we are going to have to learn to survive under a tech-based domination (GA: 84). Informational undecidability is something that we will have to come to terms with and find ways of living with since it is inherent to the Internet as a mode of communication (GA: 79-80). Perhaps at the level of the legal system it might be necessary to introduce a "court of the instant," with a judicial function comparable to the steward's enquiry at the end of a closely-run race: arbiters whose role it is to determine veracity.