Spy vs Spy: The Russia (Un)Reality Show

Oh, the utter lack of self-awareness

Why am I growing leery of all this "CIA coup" talk we're hearing in the media? 

Exactly because we're hearing it in the media. I didn't cut my teeth on all those old issues of Covert Action Quarterly to just turn around and buy whatever narrative the media is flogging.


This all feels orchestrated and stage-managed to me. Like everything about this election and its aftermath. Some kind of game is playing out here, I just can't grasp at the contours of it. Which is a good thing, probably. For me.


For some reason I can quite put my finger on, it makes perfect sense that a man known to most of the public as a reality TV star is at the center of this open-air psychodrama unfolding in front of us, this contrived Clash of the Titans, this bizarro Battle of the Billionaires.

So much of this is ultimately a new media put-on, Trump battling (read: trolling) the press, shooting out tweets with his meaty fingers. The charge is being led by The Washington Post (owned by Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com fame) and The New York Times (owned and operated by Carlos Slim Helu, the Mexican telecom magnate), and the once-mighty/now-endangered CNN bringing up the rear.


And for a guy who's the focus of a firestorm of controversy and the ostensible target of attack from some of the most powerful forces in the country, he doesn't seem to be sweating it too much. Near as I can tell, at least. Even the ultraliberal Newsweek has the headline today: "Don't Kid Yourself - Trump Is Winning." 

That raises some red flags, by my reckoning. Is this just another performance for a seasoned reality TV hand? Have we finally come to this?


Think about it for a minute: why dump all this Russia stuff out when all the paperwork has been completed? The recounts didn't pan out, the Hamilton Elector campaign went nowhere, the Electoral College voted, the results were ratified by Congress. It's a done deal. 


These painfully-earnest celebrity videos, the Golden Globes speeches, aren't moving the needle at all. They're just inspiring eye-rolling, resentment and hathos, even among Trump-haters. No one cares about the status anxieties of the unjustly-pampered and impossibly-rich. 

Chris Rock put it best: “If poor people knew how rich rich people are, there would be riots in the streets.” 

SUCH A THING AS PRECEDENT

I'm pretty sure I know where all this is all eventually going, I'm just not sure what exact road they're planning to take. But I guarantee that a lot of people cheering on the new McCarthyism are definitely not going to like where the bus lets off. 

How do I know this, you ask?

Well, the CIA's track record isn't entirely classified is it? I mean, there's the matter of testing LSD on children as young as five, testing radiation on pregnant mothers and on the mentally-handicapped, overthrowing democratically-elected governments and setting up death squads, flooding our cities with illegal drugs...


...need I go on? I hope not.

But hey, there's an election to try to undo. So already having sold their souls (and the working and middle classes everywhere) to Wall Street, Bilderberg and Silicon Valley billionaires, the Democrats have given up their last scraps and shreds of hair, skin and sinew to the fucking CIA, of all people.

And how does the CIA apparently plan to repay them?

Well, according to this report, by installing the man who would like nothing better than to crush what is left of their party into a finely-ground powder into the Oval Office:

For these two reasons, there are people inside the CIA who would love to see the unpredictable tycoon replaced by vice-president-elect Mike Pence, a man who they feel they can work with. 
Of course, it is well-known that the CIA has an infamous record of plotting coups d’etats against democratically elected governments in other countries — for example, in the early-Fifties when it helped the Iranian military overthrow premier Mohammad Mosaddeq and reinstate the Shah, and the ousting of Chile’s president Salvador Allende in 1973. 
The atmosphere is currently so feverish in Washington that there are well-informed people who now believe that the CIA is contemplating a version of the same thing in America itself.
Wouldn't that just be a kick in the pants? Give the Left Trump's head on a platter and put their worst fucking nightmare in the White House?

Mike Pence, an inveterate partisan warrior who would not only work night and day to gut all their favorite programs but won't lead with his chin the way Trump does. A much harder target who will come armed with an increasingly-radicalized Republican Congress (led by Ayn Rand devotee Paul Ryan) and a seriously pissed-off police force looking for payback after eight years of Obama.  Not to mention a vengeful GOP voter base, who will baying for blood just in time for the midterms.

That's 
the CIA we all know and unlove.



But is any of this actually true? The Media has seized on Trump's tactical assent with the Russia hacking report, but that means that they are now taking the word of the CIA and Donald Trump as gospel when the only evidence presented thus far is use of Ukrainian not Russian-  malware, that hackers can obtain anywhere on the Dark Web.

Not familiar with what's going on in the Ukraine, are we? Not familiar with the "color revolution" that Obama Administration neocons engineered, that just happened to bring real-life Nazis to power? From Globalist mouthpiece Foreign Policy:
Yes, There Are Bad Guys in the Ukrainian Government 
It's time for a frank conversation about some of the unsavory characters in Kiev. 
Sound policy, however, can only be based on sound analysis of the players involved. That requires conceding the point — even when made by the Kremlin — that more than a few of the protesters who toppled Yanukovych, and of the new leaders in Kiev, are fascists.
Here's video of a mass rally of the Soros-funded Ukrainian fascists. And then there's this recent story:
RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazilian police have unveiled a plot led by a Ukrainian armed movement to recruit Brazilian neo-Nazis with combat experience to fight pro-Russian rebels in the European country’s civil war. 
A series of raids took place last month in seven cities on the homes of neo-Nazis in order to prevent possible attacks against Jews and gays in Porto Alegre, according to Brazilian police, who seized vast amounts of Nazi propaganda material and also illegal ammunition, reported the Zero Hora news portal.
Nice friends we have there. Still think the Russians shot that jet down?

Bizarro-World in the comics was funny. Not so much here.

RUSSIARUSSIARUSSIA

In the middle of the New McCarthyites' New Red Scare came a blockbuster headline: Trump and Vladimir Putin to hold summit. Suddenly every newly-minted CIA-lover's worst nightmare had come true- Trump really was Putin's puppet, by gum!

Only problem was the story is not true:
The Russian embassy in London has denied that Russian president Vladimir Putin will meet President-elect Donald Trump in Iceland following his inauguration on January 20. 
The Sunday Times newspaper wrote that Trump's team have told British officials that the new US leader plans to meet Putin within weeks of becoming president. But the Russian embassy in London has downplayed the report.
A spokesman for the embassy told Business Insider on Sunday that the report is "complete rubbish" and suggested that we look at the embassy's Twitter feed, where the embassy has been referring to the report as #fakenews. 
Two aides to Trump also denied The Sunday Times story, according to Reuters. "The story is a fantasy," one Trump aide told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity. Another said the report was not true.
Did anyone happen to notice that the Trump team has been running ops to smoke out leaks, by its own admission? Did the unimaginably credulous press corps, desperate to throw any negative or sensationalistic headlines they could, bother to verify this story? 

These privileged pajama-boys and girls in the press are not dealing with Obama Administration whiz kids from Oberlin and Vassar anymore.

Now they're dealing with men who have killed and tortured people. A lot of men who have killed and tortured a lot of people, if you start counting all the adjutants and assistants, I'm sure. They're dealing with men who would probably like nothing more than to kill them if they can figure out a way to get away with it. Think I'm exaggerating?




How bizarre has the world you are now living in become? The liberal New Yorker is hailing Marine General James Mattis, late of Central Command, as a bulwark against the perceived authoritarianism of a New York native who spent his life in the libertine worlds of casinos, beauty pageants and network television. 

I mean, where do you start?

Need I remind you this guy's nickname is "Mad Dog?" Here's a couple quotes from his time in Iraq to let you know that he earned the moniker:

“I come in peace. I didn’t bring artillery. But I’m pleading with you, with tears in my eyes: If you fuck with me, I’ll kill you all.” 
“Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet."
Some savior, New Yorker.

Now ask yourself; do you think these people are afraid of reporters?

WHAT IF?

Look, I could be wrong but the fact remains that the CIA had all the time in the world to take Trump down if that's what they were really after. They had the primaries, the elections, the Electoral College and both their hands up the ass of the entire mainstream media since at least the 1980s. All of it, from stem to stern.
  
This feels like something else. 

What if there was a war among the intelligence hierarchy, one side lost and this is all just face-saving? This is all just brush-clearing, steam-letting, which the victors are indulging before they bring the hammer down? What if Trump is trolling in order to draw attention away from what is coming down the pike?

Maybe this Russia unreality show is just one giant "red" herring. Maybe the War in Heaven has already been fought and settled.

Why would I think this?


The news that the Clinton Global Initiative is closing down might have something to do with it. The Clintons used this mammoth cash machine as an extremely effective power base while out of office and cultivated unimaginable wealth, power and influence with it:
Since Bill Clinton launched CGI as an arm of the Clinton Foundation in 2005, its members made more than 3,550 commitments and pledged to raise $125 billion to meet them, according to a Bloomberg News calculation based on annual reports. The group says its work has affected 430 million people in 180 countries. In philanthropy circles, CGI is widely credited with creating a new framework for giving and action, convening powerful figures from government, business and charities to address global problems. Members would pay for the privilege to meet and brainstorm solutions, then make financial commitments, often multi-year plans costing tens of millions of dollars.
This closing is based on paperwork filed with the State of New York and yet no major media outlet will cover the story. Why? Mainstream site Politico reported on the mass layoffs there back in Septermber.

What's different now?



Maybe this will give you a clue. 

I'm no prophet. Prediction is a tough racket, given the random variables constantly swirling around, banging into one another like protons in an atom smasher. But I can say this- the powers that be played the Global game and there was one clear, unambiguous winner: Communist China.

It's why China seems to be the odd man out at Davos this year, Monopoly board under its arm, forlornly trying to get an increasingly-reluctant world to play along again.


And after a number of years-absence, China's horrific smog problems are headline news again. 

I believe there is a new Cold War coming. But collating all the stories and taking the measure of the Trump junta, I don't believe it will necessarily be with Russia.


Spy vs Spy: What Was This Election Really About?




Well, what a show they're putting on for us, eh? The Deep State has come out of the shadows and into the mainstream and splashed onto the headline news. I said right after the election that the secret wars had only just begun and I was half-right; they're not-so-secret.

And I'm actually wondering about what kind of wars they actually are.


If you've been (wisely) avoiding the newsmedia, the CIA's latest apparent ratfucking was leaking a dossier put together as opposition research by one of these so-called private intelligence outfits, which sound more and more like fly-by-night con artists the more we hear about them. The report ran the gamut, and gave the clients some salacious gossip and potentially damaging innuendo, but none of it was properly sourced and the report was filled with errors. 

The dossier made the rounds to the media late in the election cycle but most journalists smelled a turd and passed. The Clinton campaign did as well. But CNN chief Jeff Zucker, who hates Trump even more than your average media maeven, ran with a story claiming intel chiefs briefed Trump and Obama on it and touched on some of the less-sensationalist details.

Social-justice-clickbait-farm Buzzfeed ran the entire report, kicking off the #Pissgate storm on Twitter (based on claims the germophobic Trump hired hookers to do golden showers) and brought the wrath of the rest of the media down on its head, claiming they'd given Trump ample ammo to attack the press for excessive partisanship and "fake news."


Glenn Greenwald wrote sagely on the whole mess, placing the finger of blame squarely on the CIA:
The serious dangers posed by a Trump presidency are numerous and manifest... 
But cheering for the CIA and its shadowy allies to unilaterally subvert the U.S. election and impose its own policy dictates on the elected president is both warped and self-destructive. Empowering the very entities that have produced the most shameful atrocities and systemic deceit over the last six decades is desperation of the worst kind. Demanding that evidence-free, anonymous assertions be instantly venerated as Truth — despite emanating from the very precincts designed to propagandize and lie — is an assault on journalism, democracy, and basic human rationality.

Beyond all that, there is no bigger favor that Trump opponents can do for him than attacking him with such lowly, shabby, obvious shams, recruiting large media outlets to lead the way. When it comes time to expose actual Trump corruption and criminality, who is going to believe the people and institutions who have demonstrated they are willing to endorse any assertions no matter how factually baseless, who deploy any journalistic tactic no matter how unreliable and removed from basic means of ensuring accuracy? 
All of these toxic ingredients were on full display yesterday as the Deep State unleashed its tawdriest and most aggressive assault yet on Trump: vesting credibility in and then causing the public disclosure of a completely unvetted and unverified document, compiled by a paid, anonymous operative while he was working for both GOP and Democratic opponents of Trump...
The former MI6 agent allegedly behind the document has reportedly "now fled his Surrey home and is ‘terrified for his life.'"

Well, maybe.


DNI James Clapper was forced to issue a statement clarifying that the intelligence community did not take the dossier seriously and did not include it in their evaluation:
"The [intelligence community] has not made any judgment that the information in this document is reliable, and we did not rely upon it in any way for our conclusions," Clapper noted
But even so CNN spun that statement as "US spy chief rejects Trump's attack over Russia dossier." 

Priceless.


But CNN may have another very good reason for trying to play the Spy vs Spy game. CNN may get sold-off from TimeWarner to smooth the way for the pending merger with AT&T, which would cripple the struggling cable news network:
Trump said on the campaign trail that he wouldn’t approve the deal.
It was much debated in media circles if the press conference run-in would move the needle on Trump’s stance.
 
Some pondered whether Time Warner would have to sell off CNN to get the deal approved. 
“If AT&T had to spin off CNN to get the deal approved, I suspect they would be willing to do so,” said analyst Craig Moffett of MoffettNathanson. 
“The CNN story puts an exclamation mark on the deal and what’s always been the biggest risk to this deal — political concerns in the White House,” Cowen & Co. analyst Paul Gallant, told The Post.
Former CIA agent Philip Giraldi- no fan of Trump either- looked at the document and had this to say: 
My suspicion would be that the report is a composite of some fact, a lot of speculation, and even some fiction. It is very similar to the types of media-focused disinformation produced by both CIA and KGB in Europe in the 1970s and 1980s, where a little bit of factual information would be used to provide credibility for a lot of speculation and false stories that were intended to sow doubt and confusion. In this case, the original intent might well have been to discredit Trump personally; its release at this time is likely intended to delegitimize his presidency, or to narrow his options on recalibrating with Russia. 
I expect, however, that much of the possibly tall tale being told will unravel as the FBI continues and expands its investigation. Trump has predictably denounced the entire matter as “fake news.” He may be right.
Fake something, at least.

But the question must be asked: who really benefits from this? The people pouncing on the report already hate Trump to the point of utter distraction anyway. If Trump was rattled he didn't seem to be at his press conference and I really don't think he's that good an actor. 
And Trump's supporters see this as just more media monkey-business, more Democrat dirty tricks. 

But what if it's not? What if there's a much deeper game being played on the field? A game we can barely perceive because the moves are so subtle and insidious? What if this is more like Kabuki theater or professional wrestling than civil war?

The hits just keep on coming: in the latest ostensible attempt to delegitimize the election comes the investigation by Obama appointee Michael Horowitz of the FBI's handling of the Clinton email scandal.
Inspector General Michael Horowitz announced that the investigation would also review FBI Director James Comey’s decision to disclose that the FBI was recommending against prosecuting Clinton for her private e-mail server and then revealing days before the election that more emails had been found on a laptop belonging to Anthony Weiner.
The inspector general will also also investigate whether an FBI deputy director whose wife received financial support in her state election from a close Clinton ally should have been involved in the election and whether the Department of Justice’s assistant attorney general, who was close to Clinton campaign chair John Podesta, should have been recused from matters. 
Additionally, Horowitz will looking “Allegations that Department and FBI employees improperly disclosed non-public information” and allegations that the FBI improperly released information that may have interfered in the election. 
But is this just keeping the endless campaign going, the way all of these stories seem to be? Keeping the tension stoked, keeping the partisan fervor fired up?

What is happening while we're distracted by all of this sensationalism and conflict?

I'll tell you one thing;  the strange volte-face from the Trump camp on Russia. All of a sudden the tone and timbre on Putin has changed. I have to say that it always rang a bit false to begin with; businessman Trump may have wanted to ingratiate himself with the Russian strongman, but is there really room for two alpha males on the block?

But a voice in my head keeps telling me, "it was a confidence game all along. These Cold War types don't change their stripes." And sure enough..

James 'Mad Dog' Mattis calls Russia 'adversary,' claims confidence in intelligence community:
WASHINGTON, Jan 12 (Reuters) - Donald Trump's pick to lead the Pentagon put Russia at the top of a list of threats to U.S. interests on Thursday and told Congress that America must be ready to confront Moscow where necessary, even as he backed Trump's bid for better relations. 
The remarks by retired Marine General James Mattis were the latest by one of Trump's Cabinet picks that veered away from the president-elect's campaign rhetoric, which included praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin and pledges to improve ties with him. 
"I'm all for engagement but we also have to recognize reality in what Russia is up to," Mattis said, adding there were a "decreasing number of areas" where the United States might cooperate with Moscow. 
Asked about the main threats to U.S. interests, Mattis said: "I would consider the principle threats to start with Russia." 
Mattis said he wanted to meet with the new Trump national security team to "craft a strategy to confront Russia for what it's done," when questioned about the possibility of new U.S. sanctions.
This isn't Maverick Mattis going out on a limb- all of Trump's appointees have been sounding downright bellicose in their appearances before the Senate. And Trump is infamous for his insistence that his people toe the party line or take a walk. 

Just ask Chris Christie.

So clearly the change in tone is coming from the top. Does "Make America Great Again" mean "Make America Reagan Again?" Because I'm sure getting flashbacks here.


DON'T HOLD YOUR BREATH

We still haven't heard the evidence linking the hacking to Russia and we probably never will. What claims we did hear came from those "private security firms" again, who have absolutely zero financial incentive not to find the culprit you asked them to look for, whether or not it actually exists. 

And now it's looking like Trump won't spill the beans either.

Be logical for a moment here: if anyone even suspected that the Russians were really involved the material would have been pulled off the Web faster than you could say "National Security Act" and no one but a few weirdos would have questioned it.  The Clinton campaign could have made a huge hash of it during the campaign but barely made a peep. And the intelligence agencies' official estimate was based on the Democrats' paid-for intel from private sources to begin with. 

And now the Trump team is suddenly going along with all this nonsense?

So what is really going on here?

Well, I don't know anything special. I'm not read into any meetings or copied on any memos. But let me just supply you with a few dots. You connect them how you see fit...

ITEM: France’s election shows Europe’s line against Russia is fraying
VLADIMIR PUTIN must wonder what he did right. From the refugee crisis to Brexit, Europe’s troubles have allowed the Russian president to portray himself as a bulwark of stability in a region of chaos. America’s election brought an apparent Kremlin sympathiser to the White House. And now France is on the same track. François Fillon’s victory over Alain Juppé in the presidential primary of the centre-right Republican Party leaves an avowed friend of Mr Putin as the favourite to occupy the Élysée after next spring’s election. (Mr Fillon’s most serious rival, the nationalist Marine Le Pen, has a yet more marked Moscow tilt.) 
Historical revisionism is one thing. More worryingly for Germany, France’s partner in the four-party “Normandy format” set up to negotiate with Russia and Ukraine, Mr Fillon wants to scrap the economic sanctions that the European Union imposed on Russia over Crimea and its incursions in eastern Ukraine. Opinions in the EU are divided on Russia, from hawks like the Balts and Poland to doves like Italy and Hungary. 
So far Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, has held the club together, ensuring a regular rollover of the toughest measures. But the consensus is slowly fraying; to lose the French would be a shock.
Isn't that interesting. How about this?

ITEM: China's President Xi Jinping will seek to promote "inclusive globalisation."  
"Economic globalisation is facing resistance," vice foreign minister Li Baodong said at a briefing on Xi's Davos visit. 
Beijing will respond to the international community's concern over globalisation by putting forward China's opinions on how to "steer economic globalisation towards greater inclusiveness", he said. 
This year's forum, from January 17-20, is expected to be dominated by discussion of an outbreak of public hostility towards globalisation and US President-elect Donald Trump, whose tough talk on trade, including promises of tariffs against China and Mexico, helped win him the White House. Trump will be sworn in on Jan. 20. 
Li said criticism of trade protectionism levelled at China, by Trump and others, was unjust. "Trade protectionism will lead to isolation and is in the interest of no one," he said.
Because China was the only country to benefit from Globalization, of course. And is using that windfall to build up its military...

But let's get to the core of the election issue...

ITEM: President Obama is leaving the White House with majority disapproval among members of the military...
Obama's move steep reduction of U.S. forces stationed in Afghanistan after a troop surge, and his withdrawal of forces from Iraq in keeping with a status of forces agreement, doesn't appear to have carried support in the the military. 
The poll said 49 per cent backed President-elect Donald Trump in the campaign, compared to just 29 per cent for Hillary Clinton. 
ITEM: Report shows Marines extremely dislike Hillary Clinton
According to the survey, more than 83% of troops question Mrs. Clinton’s honesty and trustworthiness, mainly because of the scandals involving Benghazi and her personal email server. The report also showed that among Marines — only 8.6% said they’d vote for Hillary.Each touted their support among military brass during the campaign.
ITEM: Hillary Clinton Has Few Fans in the Military
Hillary Clinton is still in line to win the Democratic Party's nomination to be the next commander in chief, but few Americans in the military have a good impression of her. 
A new RallyPoint/Rasmussen Reports national survey of active and retired military personnel finds that only 15% have a favorable opinion of Clinton, with just three percent (3%) who view the former secretary of State Very Favorably. 
What about the unreported story of the past eight years; the military's retention problem?
ITEM: By the end of this year, the Air Force is expected to be short about 700 pilots and it still needs 4,000 more maintainers– airmen that repair and work on aircraft.  
Several months ago, the service created a new policy that would give $2,000 bonuses to new airmen who signed up to be maintainers. 
“It’s going to take us years to get out from under this because we are bringing in new people that will just swell the ranks of the more juniors and it will take years to season them,” James said.
What about the porkbarrel weapons programs that greedy politicians love and military brass hate?

ITEM: Failure of new U.S. weapons systems may be more than science fiction

A war between China and America is a favorite subject of armchair military analysts. Why would it happen? How would it play out? Authors have written thousands of pages online and off trying to answer these questions. 
The novel particularly shines when the writers depict the failures of the Pentagon’s newest weapons systems. Over the past decade, U.S. taxpayers have poured trillions of dollars into fancy new weapons, such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the Littoral Combat Ship, though defense experts warned of their many failings.
And finally, the story that may well have decided this election: 

ITEM: A Department of Defense official said Tuesday that Russia could overrun NATO within 60 hours, but maintained it would be more difficult to do so after 2017.
Michael Carpenter, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia, affirmed a February analysis by the RAND Corporation, which determined that it would take Russian troops a maximum of 60 hours to reach the capital cities of Estonia or Latvia.
Why after 2017? Oh....

Virtual Reality: The Future is Not a Straight Line


Since Darwin, the ruling class of the West has clung on to a new myth to replace traditional Christianity; the myth of linear progress. History was rewritten, not as a series of events revealing an omnipotent god playing out his master plan, but as the story of the genius of Nature, whose mechanistic processes evolved over millions of years of trial and error and conspired to produce a master class of priest-kings, whose church was the Cathedral of Science.

A vast and impossibly well-funded infrastructure spread out across the entire world, preaching this new gospel, promising that perpetual scientific and technological progress was not only inevitable, it was our birthright. Or more accurately, the birthright of those who were lucky enough to be one of the anointed, who the reliably-invidious Richard Dawkins calls the "Brights."

The system has been radically weighted in favor of the new episcopacy, and any challenge to its full-spectrum dominance has been effectively starved-out and silenced. Most people seemed to be OK with all this, since up until very recently they bought into the hype that the rising tide would lift all boats, that all that gravy just had to trickle down to everyone else's plate, that the ruling class really did have their best interests at heart, all evidence to the contrary.

And they believed that scientific progress was indeed running on a straight line, on an ever-upward arc, forever and ever, amen

But have we in fact sacrificed too much when we offered up our spiritual lives to the tophets of Technology?

There has to be another way.

People are finally waking up to the fact that Silicon Valley's primary function- if not its actual mission statement-  is eliminating jobs and destroying communities.

Waking up to the fact the most scientifically-advanced cultures have the most catastrophic collapses in birthrates and family formations, that the witches' brew of plastics, chemicals and toxins cooked up in industrial laboratories is very possibly doing irreparable damage to the environment and to the human genome itself.

And where we will go to escape it?

The promise of space exploration is running into the brick wall of the incompatibility of the human body with the rigors of space. And the other frontier science promised- the virtual frontier- is turning out to be no frontier at all. Just as I've been saying all along.

From the New York Times:
SEATTLE — For a technology to crack the mainstream, there is an unspoken understanding: It shouldn’t make the people who use it want to throw up. 
And yet there was a reminder, at last week’s International CES trade show in Las Vegas, of how far virtual reality has to go until everyone is ready to fasten 3-D goggles to their faces. At a news conference, Intel, the chip maker, provided virtual reality headsets to about 250 attendees so they could watch a 3-D video from the perspective of sky divers hurtling out of a helicopter in wingsuits. 
Intel also passed out motion sickness bags to everyone, in case anybody felt inclined to vomit, an unfortunate side effect of turbulent virtual reality experiences for some people. 
Laura Anderson, an Intel spokeswoman, said the company had provided the bags “out of an abundance of caution and to be tongue in cheek about our immersive experience.” No one used the bags, she said. 
It is time for a reality check for virtual reality, one of the most hyped technologies of last year. Sales of the most capable headsets have been sluggish by most estimates, held back by high costs, a lack of must-have content, and the complexity and awkwardness of the products. Less expensive mobile headsets that use smartphones as their screens are selling better, but are far more limited in what they can do.
VR sickness is a nut that has yet to be cracked. And that's not even counting the other discomforts users report from the experience, such as ergonomic problems with the handsets. 

So let's be clear about what we're talking about here: almost 30 years after this technology was first introduced it's still not ready for the prime time. Compare this to every other medium you can name: radio, phonographs, TV, computers. Would any of them have survived with VR's failure rate?

And yet Valley pashas just won't let go of the dream:

“This is going to be a long slog, as the technology continues to improve, more content becomes available and awareness increases,” said Jan Dawson, an analyst at Jackdaw Research. 
Virtual reality now appears to be headed for a phase in the evolution of new technologies known as the “trough of disillusionment,” said Sunny Dhillon, a venture capitalist at Signia Venture Partners, which has invested in virtual reality start-ups. According to the technology research firm Gartner, this stage of the hype cycle for new technologies comes after a period of inflated expectations, but before a phase in which their benefits become commonly accepted.
The problem isn't just the technology. Or maybe in a way it is- the technology just doesn't seem to inspire anyone to produce anything exciting for it:
Virtually boring: VR really disappoints at CES this year 
Call it a virtual disappointment. Or virtually unsurprising. I'll just say I was virtually underwhelmed. 
Whatever pun you choose, the virtual reality industry has some explaining to do after this year's Consumer Electronics Show, during which the biggest product announcements can largely be categorized as "more of the same." 
Even Intel, the world's largest chipmaker, which is developing its own VR headset, gave a presentation using nearly year-old devices from Facebook's Oculus. 
If you relied on CES to show you the latest in technology, VR was pretty much a no-show. 
"It is concerning that people haven't invented as much cool things to do with VR," said Gartner analyst Brian Blau, on the sidelines of CES next to people checking out gadgets like smart locks with fingerprint sensors and this year's reimagining of the multifunction remote control, which looked suspiciously similar to last year's version. 
Maybe the problem is that we've been gadgeted to our natural limits. Maybe the answer isn't a new killer app or another electro-toy but a return to the things that made people happy and fulfilled for millennia.

Maybe that means rebuilding community and finding another purpose for life other than passive consumerism. Maybe that means learning how to hack our own operating systems once and for all and seeing just how many realities we can access without some silly goggles.


I don't know if you notice but I have a saying in the right hand column of the blog here. It's from the Greek philosopher Strabo and it goes something like this:
"Human beings then act most like the gods when they are doing good to others, yet one might better say, when they are happy; and such happiness consists of rejoicing, celebrating festivals, pursuing philosophy, and engaging in music."  
I was thinking about this quote because I've been watching a lot of documentaries on cults lately. Cults are a fascination of mine, from the ancient Mystery cults to the more modern cults that welled up in the wreckage of the Aquarian Age.

Some of these cults were truly odious things, run by sociopaths and sexual predators. Others have evolved out of pretty dodgy origins and become reasonably decent support systems for people in need.

Cults all seemed to run into the same problem; they could never work their way around the letdown that came after the honeymoon period, the crash after the high. This is remarkably similar to the pattern that drug addicts face- or tech addicts for that matter.

I think VR sickness is a blessing to humanity in this regard because as Jaron Lanier and others have said, the potential for abuse with this technology is immense.

Yet somehow the Mystery cults were able to overcome this pattern and stuck around for a very, very long time. This is why I find them so interesting. They obviously offered a quality product to their customers, a worthwhile experience that kept people coming back for more. The nascent ayahuasca movement seems to be the closest analog we have today, but I don't see the same cultural content at work. Yet.

Another thing that fascinates me in particular is how people cope after leaving certain cults. They go from an environment of belonging and purpose to the dead, empty, meaningless world of modern, secular, technocratic society, in which people are atomized by corporations and governments into easily-manageable, isolated units. Is an iPhone really just compensation for the death of your life's mission?



There has to be another way.