Independent Western thought is impossible
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Somewhat rusty with debates and I forget some of the good house rules, so essentially just be fair.
The spectacle is a representation of what the media, driven forward by consumer capitalism, has determined the ideal life should look. Since we are assaulted by the spectacle before we have the ability to have fluid thought (as were the generations before us albeit in a less technological fashion), we are raised believing that the spectacle represents what is right. Our behavior therefore is an attempt to succeed in the economic structure that exists only because we justify its economic path to internal peace based on the evidence of happiness presented by the advertising media. It is here that it becomes clear that the spectacle is no longer being ran by an entity other than itself as the whole of society. We desire the fictional emotions presented through the images so we emulate that behavior and, in doing so, bring the spectacle into reality. No longer can we say the spectacle is fiction; the spectacle is the only existence there is. Because of this if there was, hypothetically, an attempt made at a thought independent of the spectacle's eternal projection of images, this authentic experience would now be the fiction. The spectacle has devoured all.
"In a world that really has been turned on its head, truth is a moment of falsehood." - Debord, Guy. The Society of the Spectacle. 1967. Thesis 9.
Through this devouring of emotional experience we can no longer claim any experience to be unique, authentic, or independent of the corruption of the spectacle. We are now many generations into the spectacle's fury and any traces of what unique, authentic, independent thought has long been absorbed and processed into the spectacle. Once the spectacle has it, it is then replicated and mass published so the entirety of society can experience the concept of an experience. We know what it is to be angry because the spectacle had shown it to us. Now, though it may be based on an authentic injustice, the actual emotion and thought that occurs has been corrupted since we had already seen anger in one of the spectacles images. Even if you, personally, had somehow managed to reach an age old enough to have mental fluidity to be able to process these experiences without ever having been exposed to a sample copy that the spectacle churns out, you would be basing that emotional experience on your observations of your parents/older siblings/caretaker; if they themselves have not ever came into significant contact with the spectacle as well then there is no logical way you could say that they exist in Western Culture.
I have demonstrated, to an exact point, why Independent Western Thought is impossible.
All thoughts are biologically independent, as we are not part of a hive mind and do not thus reach the same conclusion via the same premises, or even the same conclusion at all. There are trends, patterns, and vulnerabilities that our minds are prone to, and this is in part where I think your concept of spectacle takes hold. However, the antithesis to this position is that of the analyzer, the critic, and the philosopher. Even if two people think the same thing, are they not also thinking it independently of each other? Even if they share an environment, consume the same media, and participate in the same social groups, there is evidence to show that these two people can and will have radically different worldviews and perspectives. You need look no farther than the movements of Anarchism, and Statism. Both are equally viable (at least theoretically) and commonly held beliefs by multitudes of people in the West. Anti-establishment notions are seen as preposterous by Statists, and Anarchists consistently rebel and struggle against what they view as the Capitalist, Consumerist, Media-driven ideals of the mainstream. Consider then the possibility that while one can argue endlessly about the disadvantages or merits of any given system or lack thereof, that these systems serve a purpose. That purpose can often be extrapolated into something nefarious, a vile trick used to corrupt and enslave people's minds. That being said, and I do recognize the importance of considering all the options, Occam's Razor would tend to suggest that rather than being an evil machination, contemporary society and its culture is simply a manifestation of Western Civilization's choices, and sadly, its slothful tendencies when making those choices.
The unfortunate reality of our many kinsmen and kinswomen being all too susceptible to the popular, the vogue, the utopian, is not an apocalyptic devouring of intelligentsia. Far be it from me to lecture you but, is it not the plight of the thinking man to be surrounded by those who do not see the world as he sees it? Did not Socrates inculcate in his peers the value of examining one's life? And is it not then so simple and easy to say that any who examine their life would see this self-evident dystopia as you've brought it forth? Where are the outcries by the enlightened? I don't think they appear, because the world has always been one of materials and ideals. Our ability to hold this debate right now, is a testament to our independent thought, and reflection on ideals. Ideals, true as we can know them as independent thinkers and reach a consensus upon them, are unfalsifiable. So while it's tempting to blame all of this on our fellow people casting shadows on the walls to deceive us and manipulate us, is it not equally possible that our fellows cast the shadows to entertain, to amuse, and to most practically make ends meet? As best as any man can critique the world that influences him, so too can deep introspection provide something of a damning revelation; that we know less of ourselves than we do of the world. And would not that horrify any self-respecting person? We are after all ourselves, all of our lives, seeing the world through the vessel of our mind. If even the scarcest possibility is found that we are incapable of comprehending our own psyche, it is a natural next step to say that the world is at fault, and that the truth of our minds has been obfuscated by the surroundings we live in. However, Occam's Razor cuts both ways. It is more of a leap of logic to make the excuse of spectacle covering up our true selves, than it is to say that we do not yet understand our true selves in full.
So you see, I have spoken of critical thinking in two ways. I have shown that through critical thinking, people arrive at different conclusions, and they do not correlate with your claim that ideal life as dictated by the media is the pervasive collective belief which dominates all forms of thought. Independent thought is manifested through Marxism, Fascism, Communism, Capitalism, Anarchism, Libertarianism, Totalitarianism, and a whole host of other ideological schools. Even within these schools there are numerous dissenting opinions and lifestyles. As an anecdotal proof, when was the last time you saw an anarchist commercial? And yet are there not anarchist groups and forums? Your claim that the spectacle or mass media is massively corrupting is a half-truth. The second way I spoke of critical thinking was to demonstrate the flaws inherent in any argument that supposes a universal truth about reality. If there is a truth that is so pervasive as to be manipulating reality, and yet also be overt enough to be discussed by those within that reality, it probably is not a universal truth, or something that affects those that choose not to be affected by it.
And so, the third and last way that I find critical thinking to be superior to your theory of spectacle, and demonstrative of why independent western thought is possible, is thus. Your argument relies heavily on abstract concepts.
Yes I know, I too have relied much on the abstract in the above response. However, I am in the easy position of having to prove independent thought whereas you need to broaden the boundaries of your supposed restrictions on independent thought to such a wide extent that it beggars belief. The proofs for independent thought it would seem to me are that the thought comes from a traceable source (in this case, my IP address, as well as my confirmed identity as a real human being), does not fall under plagiarism (go ahead and check if you like, this is partly why I haven't sourced anything, and obviously the Socrates quote predates your theory), and expresses an idea or concept in a meaningful way. These criteria are pretty easy to fill. Extraordinarily so in fact. The sentence, "I have never liked the taste of cranberries on toast," is an independent western thought, by those proofs.
I can be very specific with my original independent thoughts, however your criteria is a bit more difficult. By your logic, this entire response would have had to have been something I absorbed through mass media and either somehow internalized or otherwise regurgitated due to the unoriginality and lack of authenticity of thought. However the more complex a statement is, the harder your thesis is to prove, especially if it covers any of the above areas. The best example I can think of would be something that is very generic, and almost meaningless. Something like, "I have never liked the taste of cranberries on toast." How do you ratify this? Can this be falsified? Evidently not. Which means you fall into the same trap as before, the fact that purely mechanically, your idea is a faulty one. In order to prove its validity, you either put yourself in a box small enough that critical thinking can break it with ease, or expound it in such vague and general terms as to make it indistinguishable from critical thinking.
So to wrap all of my thoughts together, your theory of the spectacle is an entertaining one, but is by no means proof that independent western thought is dead because;
-Independent thought is unfalsifiable
-The mainstream serves a function that aids society, even if the willful acceptance of it pains those who think outside the box.
-To claim self-reflection is impossible while self-reflecting is circular logic.
-Occam's Razor suggests that the evidence for a spectacle theory is probably a way of rationalizing incomprehension of one's own psyche.
-One's own ideals and morals are the product of one's choice, not one's environment, and if one chooses to insist that they are the product of the environment... ...One's ideals and morals are the product of one's choice.
I thank you for engaging in this debate, and because I know that this was mostly rhetorical and pretty anecdotal, with me trying to just get out my stream of thought, I would understand if you desired for me to expand on some areas or provide sources. I look forward to your response, and thank you for the opportunity to have this debate!
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