Zygmunt Bauman and David Lyons have connected the philosophical implications of experiencing a reality defined by constant measurement to how most people now allow their private expressions and activities to be monitored by the authoritarian security-surveillance state. No one is left unscathed. In the current historical conjuncture, neoliberalism’s theater of cruelty joins forces with new technologies that can easily "colonize the private" even as it holds sacrosanct the notion that any "refusal to participate in the technological innovations and social networks (so indispensable for the exercise of social and political control) . . . becomes sufficient grounds to remove all those who lag behind in the globalization process (or have disavowed its sanctified idea) to the margins of society." Inured to data gathering and number crunching, the country’s slide into authoritarianism has become not only permissible, but participatory - bolstered by a general ignorance of how a market-driven culture induces all of us to sacrifice our secrets, private lives and very identities to social media, corporations and the surveillance state.
Ignorance finds an easy ally in various elements of popular culture, such as the spectacle of reality TV, further encouraging the embrace of a culture in which it is no longer possible to translate private troubles into public concerns. On the contrary, reveling in private issues now becomes the grounds for celebrity status, promoting a new type of confessional in which all that matters is interviewing oneself endlessly and performing private acts as fodder for public consumption. Facebook "likes," lists of "friends" and other empty data reduce our lives to numbers that now define who we are. Technocratic rationality rules while thoughtful communication, translated into data without feeling, meaning or vision, withers. Lacking any sense of larger purpose, it is not surprising that individuals become addicted to outrageous entertainment and increasingly listen to and invest their hopes in politicians and hatemongers who endlessly lie, trade in deceit and engage in zombie-like behavior, destroying everything they touch.
That is, a society of ignorance that idealizes obedience and embraces a culture of cruelty . . .
Of course, the confessional society does more than produce its own private data storm and exhibit a narcissistic obsession with performing publicly the most personal and intimate elements of the self; it also allows one to flee from any sense of moral responsibility or genuine friendship. Moreover, it is complicit with a surveillance state in which, as Zygmunt Bauman observes “social networks offer a cheaper, quicker, more thorough and altogether easier way to identify and locate current or potential dissidents than any of the traditional instruments of surveillance . . . A true windfall for every dictator and his secret services."
The reign of ignorance now produces a flood of discourse that clouds understanding and offers up disingenuous politicians and anti-public intellectuals who constantly interview themselves as they move through diverse media sites. Under such circumstances, evil becomes banal or commonplace, as Arendt pointed out, setting the stage for fascism when it becomes difficult "to imagine what the other person is experiencing." That is, a society of ignorance that idealizes obedience and embraces a culture of cruelty and oppression has moved dangerously close to the kind of total moral collapse that gives rise to authoritarian regimes.
It does not seem unreasonable to conclude at this point that critical thinking as a mode of reasoning is nearing exti