project misinformation

generating culture in order to imagine vocabularies that might speak a new enlightenment

Reading Is a Lot of Work

The value of capital is that it produces wealth (or more capital) by its continued existence. It is the channel through which labor is exploited and turned into surplus. By this process of exploitation, the means of production generate the means to buy more means, and wealth continues to increase. The owner of the capital is not necessarily involved in the process of exploitation. (Or, if he is, the net effect is the same, because he captures his own surplus.)

In the phonocentric tradition of writing, writing is different than speech. Speech is considered the essence of meaning, or, at least, it’s considered the closest thing to pure thought, which is the essence of meaning. Or… at least, thought is considered a metaphysical proxy for meaning. At any rate, speech is as close as we get. And speech is present – it does work in real time, as it can be heard by listeners, who can challenge the speaker to adopt and express other language. The difference between the speaker and the listener dissolves.

Writing is cut off from speech, in a way that allows it to do work without its owner. But a book does nothing on a shelf. A reader can be a new exponent of the thought expressed in the writing. She can also disagree with it. But either way, she is thinking or speaking about it. And, more importantly, the universe of thoughts that can be generated in response are, in at least some way, constrained by the content of the writing. It is certainly possible to have other thoughts. (The thoughts that produced the writing in the first place were, at some point, sui generis, if we trace them far back enough.) But a writing’s existence is more likely to generate similar thought, merely by virtue of the existence of the writings.

In this way, the reader is exploited. The laborer could put his efforts to some productive use apart from exploitation through another’s means of production (but he chooses to trade labor for money because his labor is leveraged to greater value through the channel of the means of production). The reader could have other thoughts than those directed by the writing. But she read the book to leverage her thought by making use of existing thoughts. Even to disagree is to pay some minimal deference to the “school of thought” or the “conventional wisdom” with which she is disagreeing. (And this is no less the case for radical opposition. I find Christian evangelical pamphlets humorous (which is not their intended effect), but I can only do this from the self-identifying position of “non-Christian”.)

One application of this process – an example that is actually essential to the property and contract law that underpin capitalism – is the rendering of judicial rulings on legislative text. Upon identifying some legal relationship that it wishes to change, a legislature will debate the form of a law and adopt it into written language. The language (usually) applies to all people indiscriminately. But it will obviously be an odd fit in many circumstances, because of the variation among people and their legal relationships with other people. And so the court system will adjudicate whether the law is a proper “fit” or not. It does this, generally, using oral testimony (spoken under penalty of perjury, so that the spoken words correspond to the “truth” or “actual meaning” of what they are about). The court speaks its rulings from the bench. Meaning is once again expressed verbally, presently, and with immediate application, not to all people at large, but only to the litigants who are parties to the action.

It is rare (but not unheard of) for a court to go entirely “off book”. But more often, they regard their role as being constrained by the imputed intentions of the legislature, which they derive from the text of legislation. It is possible for a court to issue rulings that are about something other than the written text of the law, but they are much more likely to speak about the text of the legislation by the mere existence of that text. (In fact, an appellate court would probably decide that a deviant trial court acted incorrectly, as a matter of law, if they ignored the text of the legislation and the text of other judicial opinions interpreting that legislation.)

Or… this argument could probably be summarized as “things that exist are more likely than things that don’t exist to cause other, similar things to exist in the future”. I should get back to writing about memetic evolution one of these days; it’s much less work.

The Loneliness of the Injured Doctor aka The Psychology of a Headspace Conversation by Someone Who Knows Better

As a principled chiropractor, I walk a fine tightrope on a daily basis between two worlds: mechanism and vitalism.

Patients usually present to a typical* chiropractic office complaining of one of two conditions, chronic non-specific mechanical (CNSM) neck pain and/or back pain. From time to time, patients present with headaches, shoulder pain, knee pain and assorted muscle aches. These conditions represent, by some estimates, 70% or more of the conditions accounted for in primary care office and ED presentations around the country each year, so it’s not surprising that folks would look to a DC to address these issues quickly and efficaciously.

No doubt, chiropractic care is a phenomenal band-aid as an essential treatment for CNSM back and neck pain in short doses. The average chiropractor can ameliorate back pain in <6 visits…when no other primary diagnosis will fit. Will this so-called ameliorative, i.e. small dose, short-term chiropractic care fix the problem? No freaking way, nor will so-called “wellness” or “maintenance” care unless the cause of the problem has been identified and corrected. The bitter irony here is that a chiropractic adjustment, when performed by a master chiropractor, digs so much deeper than the neurological mirage known as pain. Stay with me.

To understand why – and furthermore to understand where I’m going with this – we have to first understand the neurology of pain. In the early 1980s, awash in research from the likes of scholars like Michael Merzenich who discovered that the brain “doesn’t waste real estate” when confronted with somatotopic insult, a text book was written by Ronald Melzack and Patrick David Wall that expounded upon a theory first postulated in 1965 called “gate control” otherwise known as “pain gate.”  The book weighs a metric ton and costs upwards of $300 in its most recent manifestation, the 6th edition. Simply put, M & W proposed that mechanoreception from quick Ab afferents (i.e. movement circuitry) fire antithetically with respect to slower Ad and C nociceptive afferents (i.e. “pain” or more appropriately “noxious” stimulus circuitry). Think of it like a gate: when movement circuits are firing, the gate swings open, away from the “pain” or “noxious stimulus” circuits. When “noxious stimulus” circuits are firing, the gate swings closed, away from the movement circuits. According to M & W, you can’t have both, which means movement theoretically down-regulates somatotopic pain integration in the cortex.  Got all that?  Good, great, wonderful. Further down the rabbit hole we go…

Chronic injury and disease are poorly reconciled in Western society because our healthcare economy is founded upon a culture of cognitive dissidence. We believe what we want because it’s convenient. I frequently reference the scholar Thomas Kuhn, author of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, who wrote [in paraphrased form] that humans can only tolerate so much peculiarity within the confines of their own paradigm before their world views [in the Heideggerian sense (] begin to breakdown around them. In summary, we tend to follow the path of least resistance even if it kills us. This is why we dump more money into the birthing process, for example, and boast some of the poorest infant and maternal mortality and morbidity outcomes and highest caesarean section rates in the developed world. Healthcare policy in the US generally tends to follow this pattern. Our guidelines are woefully inadequate and antiquated. Evidence-based medicine is a sham because it requires subscription to a research model, i.e. the holy randomized controlled trial (RCT) that is far removed from the realities of private practice, which includes the doctor’s clinical acumen, expertise and experience. We good?

This brings us to the problem: headspace. Today, I would consider myself a CrossFit athlete. Certainly, I’ve been an athlete all of my life. I’ve trained in martial arts since I was 8 and wrestled until I was 18. I’ve probably backpacked close to 4000 miles in my lifetime. I did some waterskiing in college and still love to snowboard whenever I can. When I was 16 I shattered my left collarbone snowboarding. My doctor opted to brace and immobilize my shoulder for about 12 weeks, but did not perform surgery. I was ok with that decision. At that point, I felt that the three surgeries I’d had as an infant were enough. Later that year I tore my medial meniscus at a wrestling tournament, which ended my season. Again, no surgery warranted, but it certainly hit me hard. The year following, I broke my nose an estimated 5 times in various wrestling matches. I’m sure I’ve been concussed more times than I could count on two hands and to say that I’ve whiplashed myself while head-banging at various metal shows over the years would be an understatement. It wasn’t until I had a colleague x-ray my neck a short time after re-injured my left shoulder (for a third consecutive time) performing a muscle up at my local CrossFit box that I realized I’d been judging my health by symptomatology, precisely what I’ve been teaching my patients not to do for my entire career. In sum, my nervous system had adapted to a barrage of noxious stimuli for years until it could not adapt any more. Was the cause of my problem the pain in my neck and shoulder? No dum-dum, it was the years of pounding I’d taken in my youth.

DB Lat CervicalDB APOMDB Axial Cervical

You see health is elusive, intangible. The neurology of adaptation is complex and is often overlooked as a route to assisting people regain vitality after a chronic injury. As a doctor, the health of my patients has always trumped my own. And that brings us back to headspace. When I started lifting at my local CrossFit box 3 years ago, I’d ignored the fact that I’d endured years of chronic damage to my skeletal system and, by association, my nervous system – the master control system that communicates to and regulates every cell in my body – that could not be glossed over with repetitive axial loading and metabolic conditioning. My shoulder, my knee and particularly my cervical spine had been through the wringer and certainly weren’t going to fix themselves (if you don’t know what you’re looking at in the films above, suffice it to say I’m messed up).

Through this most recent extended recovery phase, I’ve learned a hard lesson: that not even I am immune to chronic disease. I had to hit rock bottom to realize this by enduring weeks of pain while adjusting my patients. I’ve also come to the realization this is the first time in my life I’ve truly taken my health seriously. Sure I get adjusted, eat clean, stay away from meds and try not to stress out too much, but have never taken specific steps to improve myself in the face of what seems like insurmountable challenges. Frankly, I’ve never felt that I’ve been so catastrophically injured that I couldn’t rise from the dead if necessary. This time it’s different and it has reminded me that vigilance is the price we must pay to live healthy, vital, prosperous lives. No one is immune and we all carry the stress born out of varying degrees of traumas, toxins and thoughts.

I’m reminded of a story that a friend and colleague once shared with me about the importance of absolute commitment to congruency. [For those of you who’ve heard this story, forgive me if I don’t get all the fine details correct.] As a chiropractor, he’d been under patchwork care with various doctors for years; DCs tend to get checked for vertebral subluxations when we can, often at seminars and conferences, but rarely with the alacrity we expect from our patients because we’re all too busy running our practices. When he was in his late 30s or early 40s he was diagnosed, seemingly out of the blue, with a life-threatening pulmonary condition that could not be treated medically. As a high subscriber to vitalistic philosophy, he questioned his faith in a manner of speaking because he could not reconcile the fact that his body, in all of its infinite wisdom and design, could fail him in this way. He was approached by his long-time family chiropractor at some point during his convalescence and asked when he’d truly been examined by a chiropractor last, someone who knew his listings, his scans, his test results, his x-rays, etc. Of course, his answer was something along the lines of, “years.” At that point, he had his chiropractor evaluate him and establish a schedule of care that would allow his body to heal accordingly. Whether or not he’d be cured of his life-threatening condition was inconsequential, but he knew that a clear nervous system wouldn’t hurt. Over the next several months, he literally baffled his medical doctors with his remission and what should have been a six month death sentence turned into a flash-in-the-pan medical oddity.

The moral here is that we can only lie to ourselves for so long. Health is not a weekend retreat; it’s a lifestyle and it requires a ton of work. This is the crux of vitalistic philosophy. I’ve been under patchwork chiropractic care now for close to 10 years. Not until recently have I been under the high-quality, specific, intent-driven care that I give to my patients. I can hold an atlas adjustment for approximately 11 days and I’ve been getting checked and adjusted by other chiropractors for a long damn time. Some of my patients and fellow athletes are so chronically sick and injured that they can barely hold adjustments for 24 hour periods. The question is then, why in the face of absolute indicators that we are damaging ourselves, do we continue to drive ourselves into the grave? Specifically, if you cannot hold a chiropractic adjustment and maintain a clear nervous system for more than 24 hours, why would you only get checked once per month and continue to lift, run and sit while simultaneously expecting to get results? [Cue cognitive dissidence rant.] This is where vitalism and mechanism clash. CrossFit has been the topic of many a chiropractors’ blog** over the past several years, particularly after Kevin Ogar broke his spine during a failed snatch attempt in 2013 ( The overwhelming rhetoric in these web entries centers on the false premise that symptom amelioration is a means to an end: that true health arises from a symptom free body. While this is certainly an inclusive statement, the inherent logical fallacy is that health is not an absolute, black-and-white state; it is a spectrum. Symptoms are usually a sign that the body has failed to adapt to chronic stress and has fatigued. Chiropractors are generally skilled at towing the line, but it’s a genuine rarity to find a doctor of any specialty principled enough to look objectively at both the causes and effects of chronic dis-ease. To the folks in denial I say, “who the hell cares about how you feel if you stay sick and injured?” You may feel better from a quick band-aid treatment, but you’re still just one small step away from fatigue again. I still have a long road to travel in order to repair my spine and nervous system, but you’d better believe I’ll be committed and I’d expect anyone who comes through my door to do the same.
Dr Daniel Bronstein is the director of Beacon Chiropractic in Grover Beach CA. He focuses the bulk of his practice on objective straight chiropractic care for pregnant women, infants, toddlers, children and families. For more information or to schedule a complimentary consultation, you may contact his office at 805.481.1566 or visit his website at


* Typical generally equates with what the average uninformed healthcare consumer expects when they first visit a new healthcare provider.

**For reference, google “CrossFit and chiropractic” and see what pops up. One of the only folks in our field who has written extensively on chiropractic from an objective perspective is Dr Lindsey Mathews. You can find a sample of her work here:

The Other Ontology

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It’s possible that language inaugurated humanity – language could be the quintessence of what makes us different than other life. Language allows us to be a meaningful species. It’s not that other species lack a form of language; we just do it better… much better. It’s also possible that some other distinction – like making and using tools – amounts to the greatest difference and stands in the liminal position between mere primates and gods in our own image. Yet, the capacity for language – the ability to name objects in the world – is just a more abstract form of that same tool-making capacity.

And that abstraction is the key to our meaning. To conjure a word is to hypostatize reality. Physical tools create differential abilities to manipulate this world, but verbal abstractions coalesce ether into presence. Our language doesn’t manipulate the physical ontology; it creates a new one – a new place where ideas, and only ideas, exist. That was the ontology that allowed meaning.

The other ontology has been the underpinning of all projects of meaning in western history – those attempts to get around language to see what’s really there. For Plato, it was forms; for Copernicus, it was matter and its movement; for Wittgenstein, it was the structure of language itself. Each of these, the world of forms, the nature of reality and the fitness of language to reality, is a statement about the other ontology – the place where meaning is.

And each of these owes its desire for this search to that first gesture of meaning – the hypostatizing of language into a new ontology. If you like Judeo-Christian creation myths (who doesn’t?), the first meaning was created in the first division between what is here and what is absent: “Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.” This division – between lightness and darkness – allowed light to have meaning in its presence. Darkness is the absence of light, and light imposes its meaning as it inhabits and displaces darkness. In the story, God literally begets something from nothing in the physical ontology. And the creation of presence in the physical ontology is the same gesture that creates the first possibility of meaning, by calling into existence the other ontology – the one that holds the meaning of the words “light” and “dark” – which is, at the same time, the result and prerequisite of the action, “God said…”

In the postmodern, we’re well on our way to killing our gods. We understand that the limits of language are our limits. Words can’t correspond; they can’t mean, they can only do. And language does by its difference to other always already absent language, not by its transcendental relationship to what is not here in the physical ontology. We’ve destroyed the other ontology we created in language by understanding that we were the ones who created it in the first place. (It’s our self-creation myth.) But around the same time we began dissolving the hypostatized ontology into itself in the mid-1960s, we took the first steps to creating another one through the development of the computer.

The computer has allowed the creation of a network of data that eclipses our ability to do outside of it. Within a generation, the computer has not-merely revolutionized material dynamics, but has succeeded in placing itself between who we are and what we want to affect in the world. This new western metaphysics raises us, not only on language, but also on the idea that the physical ontology is not the only one – it’s just the most immediate one. Through Apple’s FaceTime, my infant brother sees my corporality and interacts (or “interfaces”) with me from over 400 miles away. Though he could not possibly understand the technology he’s using or how it performs this miracle, he unambiguously identifies the photons and sound waves as his older brother. The how doesn’t matter.

Cloud computing removes the division between the various pieces of hardware so that each device is a portal to the ontology of data. “Data” is the new “meaning”. Although, it doesn’t actually have to mean anything, like language did, because it is always exactly the same, copied with identic precision. It increasingly collects our behaviors and produces algorithmic responses. Google becomes more adept at bringing us that thing we want by virtue of our own efforts to find it, just like our behavior becomes better suited to a task as our neurons track a beaten pathway in our brain, thereby making it the more prominent one. We no longer need to communicate a need to another human through meaningful language: we can merely type the keystrokes of data, which are the keystrokes of the kind that one often types when looking for the data, X. By merely falling within the invisible statistics of human behavior, Google presents us with X. Google doesn’t know what it’s doing. It doesn’t mean anything. It just presents the data that we seek. It assists in eliminating the space between our minds and the part of the physical ontology we want it to come into contact with.

Data reduces us. Target’s “targeted” marketing algorithms famously knew that a teenage girl was pregnant, before her father did, because of sudden changes in her shopping patterns. (I say Target “knew”, but I should say its data manipulated the physical ontology; old vocabularies are the trappings of coming up in the old ontology.) I might go so far as to say that the girl’s shopping patterns are not “meaningful” behaviors, because it would be unlikely for another human to draw a conclusion from her suddenly changing, for example, from scented to unscented lotion. But the data ontology collapsed the difference between the contents of her mind and the possibility of a meaningful expression, by eliminating the physical ontology and reducing her behavior to a statement.

In Adorno’s Culture Industry, there was a product for everyone so that no type of desire would go unsatisfied and no individual could think outside of a system where all cultural preferences can be satisfied through consumption. In the postmodern, it is not merely our shopping patterns and artistic choices that come to be so dominated. Facebook knows, with alarming accuracy, who in the physical ontology you are likely to know or be friends with. It knows this because we behave in the physical ontology in a manner that reduces our activity to data algorithms: we “friend” people, we “like” music and activities and political figures, and we post pics until Facebook can pick our faces out of a lineup. This isn’t meaningful, it is merely data.

In the modern, we conceived of ourselves as inhabiting a physical ontology that was not changed by our inhabiting it. We dominated and controlled that which was available. We pushed our preferences into open space. In the postmodern, the empty space is all filled, and we get sucked into place as we become a mere iteration of human interests – identifiable, repeatable, replaceable. Our self-identity is no longer in a system that allows our positive operations; the system is a negative space, a vacuum, that pulls us into prefigured positions.

Once again from Adorno, the modernist impulse draws a straight line from myth, through repetition, to the singular. The performing of ritual was the genesis of the pattern that allowed scientific experimentation and the reduction of phenomena to causes. The seeds of Enlightenment were planted, and they grew fungible fruit. Enlightenment reduces quality to quantity – ultimately to one. In the ontology of data, human perception and experience is similarly reduced to its grounding term. Mathematics reduces our innate, logarithmic understanding of quantities to equidistant integers. Pre-mathematical cultures are likely to note a significant change in the doubling a quantity, but a smaller change when you add a third (even less with a fourth, and so on, ad nauseum). The western world counts ABC easy as 1-2-3, as logarithm becomes logocentric. Math and science reduce the unique objects of our perception to abstract quantity, and ultimately to one, so that everything becomes replaceable and repeatable.

The data ontology does this without relent or remorse. Sitting in a bar with a record playing, you hear the melody, but you also hear the scratch of the needle and the reverberation of the old wood that could hold the memory (in its way) of spilled drinks, bar fights and first kisses. The Shazam app on my iPhone reduces even this physical experience, with infinite variation, defiant of replication, to a song artist and title, so my profile can buy it on iTunes.

Experience is reduced to data. The advent of 3D printing even destroys the sacredness of physicality. We fetishize objects, but if a 3D printer can generate infinite copies of an object, then the data taunts us as it demonstrates that an object’s true “objectness” actually comes from somewhere else – the data ontology. Although, this change happened well before 3D printing.

“Money” has existed practically as long as trade, as the ultimate proxy of our attempts to deal with scarcity. What could be more fundamental to human behavior than food – the basic, chemical energy that renews and sustains us. With the first surplus came the first trading. With the first trade came the first pressure to eliminate – through an intermediary – the “double coincidence of wants” (that tricky remainder left behind when you’re trading in apples, I’m trading in oranges, and the amount of labor that creates an orange doesn’t fit neatly into apple-integers). Since the creation of money, it has been primarily money (as opposed to some other value-holder) that has motivated human economic behavior (the investment in this, the use of labor for that, or the attempt to compensate for something irreplaceable, like a life or an heirloom). Most of the American money supply is electronic. It is literally a figment, stored in the data ontology, somewhere. The data ontology creates a new material dialectic between the physical ontology and itself, motivating human behavior, not through meaning, but through abstraction.

And the data ontology, unlike the physical one, is resistant to adulteration by changes in scope. It has, as its floor, storage media – bits. It doesn’t care if these are on a magnetic or optical disk, a punch card, or even in DNA-memory in a jar  – so long as the medium can interface with the data ontology. The physical media is fungible; only the data is relevant. While observation begins to change with scope in the physical world (to the extent, for example, that position and direction become inversely knowable as we go small enough), the data ontology always reduces, in the exact same way, to the exact same thing – bits – and no smaller. There is nothing beyond this level of granularity; that is the outline of its reality.

The data ontology is an abstraction, but abstraction that has an undeniable effect on our lives. We can’t perceive it directly, but we can interface with it. We can’t know its meaning, because it doesn’t have one; but we don’t care about meaning anymore. The old correspondence is gone. The new one is here, and it knows your behavior better than you do. We finally got rid of the old ontology. Will this one be more persistent?

The Structural Linguistics of “Draw Something”

A preoccupation with language is a preoccupation with meaning. That is, by focusing on language, we become fixated on what language means. Language as a “meaning project” has dominated philosophy for about a century, but the recent trend has been to focus, not on what language means, but on what language does.

It’s difficult to engage this topic, because we have to engage it with language. In other words, we think in language, so there are subtle but powerful limits on our ability to be self-reflexive. Because we think in language, the best way to understand “outside” of language is to relate in a language that isn’t verbal. Draw Something presents such an opportunity.

Before we get to Draw Something, I’m going to explain Structural Linguistics. Structural Linguistics is an early attempt to develop a theory about how meaning is created in language. (Remember, presently, we don’t care about meaning-as-such, but the early adopters of this theory didn’t know that yet.) Structural Linguistics came about after a couple thousand years worth of philosophy that was preoccupied with meaning – particularly in how meaning is created in the contrast between the sensible and the intelligible – what we could experience and what we could think. Its predecessors offered arguments for finding meaning in the world of experience or the world of reason, but Structural Linguistics ignored that problem by unifying the two: the sensible and the intelligible were no longer separate realms; they now represented opposing sides of the same construct – the Sign.

The Sign is the focus of Structural Linguistics. On the inside – within the mind – exists all of the content of the Sign – what we would call our knowledge or understanding of a concept. When we think of “iPhone”, we don’t conjure every impeccable molecule of a tangible object; we conjure our familiarity with that kind of object from past experience. (This could include memories of how to use the iPhone or memories of an important phone call; these don’t necessarily have to do with the object as such.) All the stuff on the inside is the Signified.

On the outside is the Signifier. The Signifier is the sensible content of the Sign. Now, the iPhone is actually a physical, tangible object, but language is deeper than a particular object. The Signifer is the perceptible sound “iPhone”, as it is spoken from one person to another. But, more than that, it carries a content with it in how the recipient hears the sound (or reads the words on a page). That content is created, not by the sound itself, but by what holds the sound up (or what sets it apart from other sounds). This is how we can tell the difference between “iPhone” (or whatever) and mumbled nonsense. “iPhone” is sensibly meaningful because it sounds different than other sounds that exist within our language. It also sounds different than the purring of a cat or a crack of lightening, but we don’t care about that; we care about the System of our language – which includes all of the sensible Signifiers within it – and how they are different from each other. In fact, if two Signifiers have no difference from each other, they are the same.

The Sign has two sides – the Signifier (outside) and the Signified (inside). This departure from classical philosophy finds meaning, not in the difference between mind and experience, but in the difference among sounds (or written words) in a language. An “apple” isn’t an apple to each of us because of some objective content to that sound. It means apple to us because “apple” isn’t “orange” or “banana” or “chair” or “postmodernism”. It assumes meaning by contrast – through Difference. Sign, Signified, Signifier, System, and Difference – these are the tools of Structurlism. Now we’re ready for Draw Something.

Draw Something has a sensible content (the picture) and an intelligible content (the artist – or, whatever the artist happens to be thinking of when she draws the picture). Note that the artist also knows the “word” that she’s drawing. At first glance, this seems duplicitous – as if I’m trying to force Structural Linguistics on some derivative form of communication, to which it is arbitrary. Here’s why that word doesn’t matter: the word is a prompt or a motivation, but there are no boundaries on how the artist will conjure a mental content for that word. Some words, like “apple” seem a little blunt. But for the word “tie”, you could draw a person wearing a tie, or people tying in a race, or a shoelace that becomes tied, etc. The prompt word is merely the motivation or prompt for conjuring a Signified – a Signifier without Difference.

Once the Signified is conjured (internally, intelligibly) the artist makes it sensible, by “uttering” it onto the screen. And, the manner in which it inhabits the screen is governed by Difference. As I begin to draw my Signifiers (the marks, lines and colors that distinguish my Sign), they assume meaning in Difference. If my prompt is “shell”, I don’t just draw a white blob on the screen and assume my message will be effectively communicated; I might start by painting some light blue blobs on top of the screen (which could mean anything), then some brown blobs below that, and finally some darker blue blobs in the middle. Based on our System of shared experiences, it’s reasonable to assume that I’m painting “sky”, “sea” and “beach”. These Signifiers can’t mean anything by themselves (how could they?), but they assume meaning by difference. Then I add a yellow circle, which assumes the meaning of “sun” by its difference from the rest of the setting. Finally, I draw an off-white flowery blob, or a hermit crab with a nautilus shape and point an arrow to it. These strokes mean nothing by themselves: they assume all of their meaning by their Difference from whatever else is in our System and from whatever else is being painted.

This meaning through Difference is affirmed as we transition back to written language, where our available letters constrain the possible “graphemes” (i.e., different words) that our Signifier could represent. But note, at this point, the Signifier has already referred back to the Signified in your mind, conjuring the intelligible content of “shell” before you begin to look for the letters S-H-E-L-L. If “guessing the prompt” is equivalent to meaning, then meaning is created through the Difference of Signifers as they refer back to the other half of their Sign, the Signified.

However, as I said in the beginning, the purpose of language is not what it “means” but what it “does”. The present trend is to focus on language as a performative act rather than a meaningful one. It’s not just that language breaks down under scrutiny as a vessel to hold meaning, but the idea of “meaning” itself tends to fall apart. But this is a project for Post-Structural Linguistics and another iPhone app.

The Future of Health & Wellness Part II: Chiropractic on the Forefront of an Evolving Wellness Revolution

BJ Palmer wrote, “We are well when Innate Intelligence has unhindered freedom to act through the physical brain, nerves and tissues.  Disease is a lack of normal functions.”  Chiropractors have known for over 100 years that the principles Dr Palmer wrote about in The Science of Chiropractic transcend time and technology.  Mixed or Straight, we treat our patients based on a fundamental and unbiased understanding that wellness stems from genetically congruent lifestyle choices free from the toxic effects of structural, chemical and emotional stressors.  Medical scientists validate this on a daily basis but often do not credit Chiropractic philosophy as the lynchpin in the development of an efficacious health paradigm.  Although previously antagonistic Chiropractic concepts like “mind-body medicine” are now becoming accepted in scientific circles, Chiropractors are still poised on the outskirts of recognition and will have much work to do to establish cultural authority and take credit for concepts which Dr Palmer and his followers essentially cultivated.  In spite of all that we know about human physiology, many still cling to the notion that we can somehow outsmart the Innate Intelligence of the infinitely complex human body with pharmaceuticals and other reactive interventions.

Indoctrinated by traditional medical science with this idea, we as Doctors of Chiropractic often forget what the human body is capable of when it is freed from the shackles of the toxicity and deficiency caused by industrialization and sedentarism.  Of course Chiropractic care has been shown to be extraordinarily effective in treating symptomatic back and neck pain, but has never been truly critically and academically studied as a vessel for delivering health.  The lack of intrinsic high-quality evidence for the link between Chiropractic care and “wellness” poses a problematic quandary for our profession, because we acknowledge through our case-by-case experiences the power adjusting subluxations has on our patients but have difficulty proving to the rest of the academic world that what we do is not only important, but crucial.

We must also acknowledge the incontrovertible fact that a lack of proof does not mean that proof is lacking.  Much of what we know about Chiropractic stems from a deeper understanding that randomized controlled trials cannot possibly reduce the “health” concept into compartmentalized terms of clinical prediction rules and symptom alleviation.

For this reason, it is absolutely vital that we as Doctors of Chiropractic embrace and lead the so-called “wellness revolution.”  By complying with medically-imposed recommendations for establishing cultural authority and relegating ourselves to the realm of back and neck pain, we ignore the piles of compelling research showing us that, as Dr Palmer taught, adjustments are more than therapeutically effective.  Although BJ’s flamboyant style and often inflammatory and dogmatic rhetoric has been misappropriated over the years, the science which validates our special paradigmatic authority cannot be ignored.  No other profession has the tools to help society overcome the dangers of reactive, reductionist medicine.  We must tout prevention.  We must practice and preach healthy lifestyles.  We must continue funding research which will help us break the cycle of medically-funded discrimination and, above all, we must believe in ourselves and the power we wield to help our patients.

As American Chiropractic Association or International Chiropractic Association members, we must take more aggressive steps toward unifying our profession.  While the ACA is by far the most organized and politically powerful Chiropractic organization in the United States, it has yet to establish itself as an effective voice in the hearts and minds of most American Chiropractors; in fact, the ICA has done a tremendous job of bridging this gap in recent years.  We must put our egos aside and acknowledge the strides made by each organization by creating a notion of “family” amongst our members.  By reaching across party lines and meeting with leaders from each organization to further cultivate a culture of collaboration, we may share our special knowledge with the hope of one day uniting against the powerful medical lobbies to spread the vision of health that BJ envisioned.  Clearly, when we stand divided, we stand defenseless.  This does not mean that we must abandon our core philosophies; to the contrary, we must maintain a strong stance in the face of anti-Chiropractic legislation and continue to develop strong Chiropractic leaders who will lead our profession into the next century and help cement Chiropractic care in the public eye as the primary-prevention modality in American healthcare.  Yes, we must continue to argue the importance of sweeping healthcare reform to our legislators and develop literature to educate our peers and patients, but more importantly, we must embrace each other as equals, respect our differences (as long as they are founded on best evidence and clinical expertise) and use our science, clout and esteem to deliver a pure, unadulterated model for wellness to the public.

Viral and Internet Memes – A Clarification

Over the last few years, I’ve come across more and more instances of the terms Viral Memes and Internet Memes in reference to attention-grabbing “things” – Viral Memes doing this undeservingly, without the host’s awareness – Internet Memes because of the commerce of web-based cultural currency.

As a self-proclaimed memetician (or memeologist?… memetic evolutionist), a part of me is pleased to see the rhetoric of memes proliferate into the mainstream.  And what could be considered more mainstream than the culture of professional advertising, thinking ‘outside the box’ to latch on to this concept. (After all, they seem to determine what constitutes pop culture, at least).  In stark contrast stands the inexplicable, democratic force of Internet Memes – the elusive attention grabbing effect of absurd web content – which captivate the audience that advertisers attempt to apprehend.

So, one kind of meme serves as an institutional tool to indoctrinate (whether implemented intentionally or benignly, for Christianity or Pepsi), while the other kind of meme can only be seen as the symptom of a groundswell interest in an arbitrary object – cats or Star Trek or Rick Astley or something – serving as a lingua franca for trendy power users.  What an elegant dichotomy.  There’s only one problem:

Neither of these phenomena are memes…

The Notion of Quintessential American Freedom

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what the word “freedom” means.  The word is simple enough: I’m sure I learned it at some point in early elementary school; it was an accessible crescendo in Braveheart; as a matter of civics, the concept of “freedom” is at the nexus of the structural antagonism between sovereign state and sovereign people.  In short, freedom is important to America.  And yet, I keep hearing the word dragged out and beaten in the media.  If I had to work out its meaning based on its use, I’d have to conclude that it means the opposite of “Obama-style socialism”.  But it’s always troublesome to try and define a word in the negative, so how do we condense this cloud of idealism?

It occurs to me, the determinist, that there’s not actually any such thing as freedom, as we like to conceive of the word.  (Not that most people would be aware of this – most people aren’t determinists).  So, if there isn’t real freedom – of the variety that free will could have a hand in manipulating – is there such thing as circumstantial freedom?  Well, not really.  The freedom to “guns!!” isn’t a freedom to do whatever you want with a gun.  You have to shoot them in designated areas and times or for designated reasons.  In violation of this, you risk consequences (and are therefore often governed by the fear of those consequences).  Fear is every bit the same restraint on freedom that a boulder is, for most would no sooner choose to be incarcerated than run full speed into the boulder or throw themselves from it.  We have limited resources, which further constrain our choices.  (I personally can’t choose to own a Hummer, whether or not I think that Americans should have the freedom to drive them).  And, though I doubt anyone could appreciate this, we have limited scope, based not only on epistemological factors, but also on our experience, which is the prism through which we interpret our perception.  So, we aren’t free to choose from all “possibilities”, only from the ones for which we have been cultivated.  I can choose to take calculus class in high school, but I can’t choose for it to be easy (because I don’t already have the experience of “knowing calculus”).  I can choose to live just enough for the city, or to “have been educated enough” to earn more money and live comfortably.  These aren’t real choices, they just show different hypothetical paths when viewed in retrospect.

When I hear people talking about freedom (in the context of American politics), I understand that they aren’t actually looking for freedom; they’re simply reacting to the desire for control.  According to the Huffington Post (see,, most Palin supporters can’t conjure a concise mission statement, let alone a cohesive argument explaining the comment.  (Even I have some problems with cap and trade, but the flaws aren’t self evident).  The clarity is no better coming from the top, where the RNC has mandated the “10 Commandments” of Republicanism.  Available online at:

  • (1) Smaller government, smaller national debt, lower deficits and lower taxes by opposing bills like Obama’s “stimulus” bill
  • (2) Market-based health care reform and oppose Obama-style government run healthcare;
  • (3) Market-based energy reforms by opposing cap and trade legislation;
  • (4) Workers’ right to secret ballot by opposing card check;
  • (5) Legal immigration and assimilation into American society by opposing amnesty for illegal immigrants;
  • (6) Victory in Iraq and Afghanistan by supporting military-recommended troop surges;
  • (7) Containment of Iran and North Korea, particularly effective action to eliminate their nuclear weapons threat;
  • (8) Retention of the Defense of Marriage Act;
  • (9) Protecting the lives of vulnerable persons by opposing health care rationing and denial of health care and government funding of abortion; and
  • (10) The right to keep and bear arms by opposing government restrictions on gun ownership.

Many of these seem like reactions to a perceived lack of freedom.  It’s a thought experiment, at best, to argue whether an America committed to upholding these principals would be “freer” than one that didn’t (although, I personally think it would be a more constrained one, and, of course, I reject the principle word in the question on semantic grounds).  There’s also the problem of trying to juggle the role of leadership in a rapidly changing society with monolithic rules peculiarly reminiscent of the immutable Ten Commandments. (Does that make them duolithic?).  I mean, I absolutely expect this from the political ideology that thinks that there’s a right way to interpret the Constitution.  (And, on that subject, I can’t help but plug this gem:

This “Resolution on Reagan’s Unity Principle for Support of Candidates”, in its most idealistic terms, is wholly inadministrable.  (Well, except for the one about retaining DOMA; that actually seems pretty binary, even though it’s a dick move).  So, my guess is that if the RNC actually insists on policing its own members with such rigidity, it’s going to fracture the party.  But won’t this highlight the hypocrisy all the more if they precipitate their own downfall by taking away the freedom of their own members to do anything other than adopt their version of what freedom looks like?

This is my point.  Conservatives aren’t interested in freedom.  They’re interested in control.  They want to control their own lives because they are so suffocated by their lack of understanding of what is going on around them that the opportunity to yell a bumpersticker at the top of their lungs is a breath of fresh air.  Sometimes these slogans putatively champion personal freedom (like the right to bear arms).  Sometimes they manage freedom circuitously (like preventing homosex’yuls from destroying their freedom to preserve the America of their revisionist nostalgia).

I suppose my purpose in writing this is to argue that the reactive tactic of yelling statistics and evoking the gods of reason and logic in support of a counterpoint is failing.  I think we live at a time in history where there is no future for humanity without social progress.  We can’t change the way we use energy, create waste, destroy nature and define enemies unless we change the way we think first.  If you’ll pardon the arrogant metaphor, progressives would be better off guiding sheep than butting heads with rams.  I offer this perspective to prompt others to think about ways to change minds through changing discussions instead of getting mired in the trench warfare of conservative rhetoric.  In the words of Richard Rorty, “[it is] a talent for speaking differently, rather than for arguing well, [that] is the chief instrument of cultural change”.

Common Paradigm and the Chiropractor’s Role as a Functional Neurological Interventionist

aka “The Memetic Evolution of the Chiropractic Paradigm” aka “Chiropractic Paradigm for Dummies, Inside the Profession and Out”

A significant controversy has surrounded the ‘chiropractic paradigm’ since D.D. Palmer first postulated the concept of spinal subluxation in his early 20th century writings.  As a consequence, chiropractors have had a difficult time defining their roles in the evolving health care landscape dominated by best-practices and evidenced-based research.  For years, chiropractors have maintained that at their philosophical cores, they serve humankind by detecting and correcting spinal subluxations or focal vertebral joint dysfunctions, which are postulated to attenuate some vital neurological force that is essential for survival. Traditional chiropractic philosophy argues that free from the neurological constraints caused by these subluxations, our body’s innate ability to heal and grow can express itself and free us from sickness and disease.

While this simple model seems to get to the heart of the communal chiropractic identity, it has been shown to fail under the weight of scientific scrutiny.  Throughout the years, chiropractors have wrestled with the identity crisis inherently caused by their scientifically flawed world-view, as is evidenced by the now clichéd disunity between so-called ‘mixer’ and ‘straight’ practitioners.  The aforementioned have elected to forsake their philosophical roots to pursue more evidenced sensory techniques for symptom relief such as physical therapies, soft-tissue interventions and rehabilitation while the latter have staunchly maintained a principled approach to holistic care by addressing only spinal subluxations as dictated by D.D. Palmer and, later, his son B.J.  Because of an essentially universal scope of practice that allows chiropractors to perform manual manipulative techniques in every state in the US, often the argument about what doctors of chiropractic choose to do to address patient complaints in their respective offices becomes a matter of semantics and egos.  However, as we’re beginning to see through advances in neuroscience, such semantic arguments may soon become moot.

In any form, chiropractic care is essentially sensory-based medicine designed to stimulate a receptor-driven neurological construct.  Chiropractors bombard patients’ nervous systems with stimuli with the intention of creating positive change without having to use pharmaceuticals.  In that regard, both ‘straight’ and ‘mixer’ approaches have valid usefulness.  The intention and approach to application, as it turns out, is more important than the application itself.  Non-chiropractic neuroscientists such as Paul Bach-y-Rita, Mike Merzenich, Edward Taub and Vilayanur Ramachandran as well as scientists inside the profession such as Heidi Haavik-Taylor, Burnadette Murphy and Frederick Carrick have begun to show that the human nervous system is in fact an incredibly dynamic and plastic environment that is heavily influenced by sensory input and receptor potentiation.  In short, the brain has been shown to change permanently under the influence of outside forces, such as, say, a chiropractic adjustment, which sends massive amounts of afferent input into the spinal cord, brainstem, cerebellum and cerebral cortex.  In this regard, it is not too much of a stretch to see how D.D. Palmer’s original subluxation concept may be have been partially accurate in spite of it’s crudeness.  Chiropractors who choose to use additional sensory techniques such as massage, electric stimulation and ultrasound, to name a few, to address subclinical neurological compromise including spinal subluxations are essentially performing treatments in line with traditional chiropractic philosophy without acknowledging it.

A wide and variable scope of practice is, therefore, clearly not a detriment.  Since Carrick’s first works, chiropractors have been convincingly shown to be the gatekeepers of neurological well-being in terms recognized by leading non-chiropractic neuroplasticians, regardless of their specific mode of intervention.  In this regard, chiropractors have taken perhaps an unintended step away from their traditional role as spine specialists.  True, chiropractors address mostly spinal complaints due to the intrinsic and powerful relationship the spine has with the central nervous system, but in reality they treat disorders relating to central neurological integration errors created by cultural, social and genetic maladaptation.  In light of the current healthcare renaissance, it is vital that chiropractors embrace this functional appreciation for the care they provide.  Regardless of scope, chiropractors must differentiate themselves from physical therapists and physiatrists whose roles may at times overlap.  Whether we embrace wellness, pain management or preventative spine care, the intent we bring to our craft delineates our uniqueness.  Varying scopes of practice fail to weaken our core philosophy as long as we remain mindful that we serve our patients by acknowledging the research that supports our paradigm and by appreciating the fact the tools at our disposal necessarily classify us as functional nervous system specialists regardless of the techniques we use or outcomes we seek.

Functional Chiropractic Neurology and ‘New-Age’ Healing: A Different Perspective on the Vitality of Clinical Nutrition

aka “The Memetic Evolution of Functional Nutrition.”

By Daniel Bronstein

Dr. Royal Lee theorized that whole food supplementation “harness[es] nutrients as they are found in nature,” and as such include naturally-occurring enzymes, co-factors and catalysts required for proper metabolism. In a society dominated by processed foods stripped of their innate genetic nutrients, it is reasonable to conclude that many modern diseases predicated upon insulin resistance, gliadin sensitivity and GI acidity may be avoided by creating complete nutritional sufficiency, not just by replacing individual nutrients suspected to be missing. It is therefore vital for health care practitioners to teach their patients to differentiate between artificial, calorically-dense foods, which trick the brain into releasing pleasure chemicals and nutritious foods that include the proper nutrients to foster metabolic integrity and create nutritional sufficiency.

For manual care specialists such as chiropractors, enforcing nutritional standards in patient care is not only recommended, but critical. Research has shown that anti-inflammatory diets predicated on raw, whole foods stimulate natural metabolic pathways synergistically. This relationship helps to detoxify, alkalize and maintain the body’s ability to mount appropriate immune responses, but most importantly, helps the body to accept and mediate sensory stimuli. This is especially important to chiropractors who use joint manipulation to stimulate their patients’ central nervous systems (CNS). The CNS requires both proper nutrition and sensory stimulation to foster healthy growth, but the brain, the pinnacle of the CNS cannot metabolically tolerate high-input sensory stimuli from manipulations if it lacks the ability to absorb, integrate and metabolize exogenous vitamins, minerals and neurotransmitters.

Chiropractors are among the most qualified healthcare specialists to tout the benefits of balanced nutrition to society because they understand the holistic nature of human homeostasis: constant, whole-body, neurological adaptive momentum towards survival. In fact we are hardwired for it. Take, for example, the innate human response to touching a hot stove burner. Recent scholarship suggests that chiropractic adjustments, in fact, create ‘neuroplasticity’ by altering what is termed the ‘central integrative state’ (CIS) of nervous structures. This means that spinal manipulation changes the brain by restoring the input it should receive from a healthy spine by gravity and motion that may be knocked out by a lack of genetic expression vis-a-vis appropriate movement. However, the CIS of any given structure is also inextricably tied to membrane permeability, gas exchange efficiency and rate of ATP production, which is in turn tied to the bioavailability of exogenously-supplied nutrients and co-factors. Consider, for example, the electron transport chain, which mediates the majority of ATP production in the body. Without adequate mitochondrial Niacin, Folate, Co-enzyme Q, a variety of other minor proteins, cytochromes and an appropriate concentration of protons (i.e. appropriate pH), the electron transport chain can break down resulting in lower ATP production and, notably, a resultant down-regulation in neuronal sensitivity to stimulus, otherwise known as ‘transneural degeneration’ (TND). In particularly neurologically unhealthy individuals, chiropractic manipulations are theorized by some researchers to produce less-than-desirable results because neuronal mitochondria cannot produce the protein and energy necessary for appropriate conduction, synaptogenesis and plasticity, and while an acute breakdown in oxidative phosphorylation may require an equally acute CoQ10 nutraceutical intervention, long term sufficiency necessitates balanced natural sources of carbohydrates, B vitamins, essential fatty acids and amino acids to fuel glycolysis.

Teaching patients to embrace whole-food diets, on which our genome is founded and has evolved around for over 10,000 years must take precedent as citizens embrace progressively unhealthy lifestyles founded upon trans-fatty acids, inflammatory meats, fruit and vegetable deficiencies and a lack of exercise. Whole food supplementation represents a still relatively untapped resource on the forefront of ‘New-Age’ healing, where reactive pharmaceutical intervention takes a backseat to a radical preventative health concept. Proper nutrition is therefore not just an ancillary therapeutic possibility, but an essential precursor to innate homeostatic expression.

Memetic Evolutionary Interpretivism – An Adaptive Alternative to Conventional Constitutional Interpretation

The current debate in constitutional interpretivism manifests the irreconcilability of two ideologies. Put simply, one group, the Originalists, believe that under novel circumstances, the Constitution ought to be interpreted based on the meaning of its language at the time it was written. The other group, Living Constitutionalists, believe that the founders intended to draft a document that could change with time so that judges could broaden its applicability without always waiting for an amendment: some passages are literal and inflexible, but others are elastic and can expand to contain new information. Neither side has convinced the other of its merits, and each assumes different quality judgments, thwarting a qualitative analysis of general applicability. Jurists and scholars have spoken this debate in the language of intentionalism, arguing over whose interpretivist rules are the right ones; but that vocabulary stifles the proper inquiry – namely, which expression of the Constitution will allow it to maintain its relevance.

To engage that question, I offer the theory of memetic evolution, which describes the adaptability of cultural information (memes) in changing social environments. I will focus on the expression of two interpretivist memes, Originalism and Living Constitutionalism, in discussing the adaptability of the Constitution generally, as well as exploring other relevant memes to build a broader framework for analysis. This new framework will expose the inevitable failures that flow from thinking in an old vocabulary.

The following article outlines the framework that I will eventually use in a more comprehensive work to provide a qualitative analysis of Supreme Court decision-making:

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