SACRED MEDIA / GLOBAL SACRIFICE
Sacred media is today’s foundation myth. It is the technology of authority and naked power, its exercise, an obscene ritual of pagan sacrifice.
Ancient urban machines - ziggurats, pyramids, and capitols - were the cornerstones of the modern media. Temple priests articulated a divine message from their altars in calling their subjects to pay tribute by cultivating the sacred precincts and offering their bounty, including their children, to the gods. Their instructions were disseminated throughout the kingdom as systems of standards, obligations, and privileges. The central requirement was to fulfill ritual - a singular, violent act that converted tribes into nations of social laborers capable of ever-increasing sacrifices to placate their deities. The sacred languages of prayer mystified the quest for wealth. Loyalty to the divine commands meant sacrifice, yet it also promised relief from scarcity.
For as along as societies have built and controlled these instruments, power has accrued to those identified with their divine purpose. Occasionally, revolutionaries disrupted this process but soon learned to build their own altars and demanded new sacrifices. Embarking on this same paradigm, their myths varied and their incantations appeared strange at first, but there was always a return to the familiar ritual of sacrifice.
What is changing in the modern media are the machines and our relation to them. Now they are buried underground or hidden in geostationary orbit. They pretend to be unassailable fortresses. Actually they are fragile, decentralized networks and must be defended vigilantly. Their messages have been amplified, their incantations are evolving into a universal language of source codes and commands. We pray daily via computers, televisions, and other devices, and this activity merges the notion of divinity with technology itself. Our religion is wired. Its priesthood are salesmen preaching a theology of the market that reduces public morality to matters of personal security. We have responded by exchanging the old gods for animated gadgets. This is realm of commercial idolatry and mass eroticism – alienation - where the sacred media ceases to function … but not so the call for sacrifice. Ironically, the risks to our freedom are greater, but so are the possibilities for liberation.
My keynote address proposes an archaeological excavation of the contemporary media. Only by demystifying the process of global sacrifice can we realize the power of consensus to preserve human dignity and freedom.