10 Ways to Oppose Trumpism Other Than Voting

Not everyone will be able to vote in the presidential election this November (perhaps due to disenfranchisement, a job that forbids them from taking time off, matters of conscience, etc.). Some people believe the stakes are so high that they wish to do EVEN MORE than vote to protect the people they love from creeping fascism. Of course, even if Trump loses this election, the social forces that let him get this far will still be around, so it’s worth fighting those to prevent the next Trump, too. This is my brief attempt at explaining several ways you can up your commitment outside of the ballot box.

1. Support Black Lives Matter
All lives matter, but black lives need the most help in America right now. Attend rallies in your area.

2. Support the Fight for $15
This seemingly-idealistic push to increase the minimum wage to something livable has already won some major victories, including adoption in NY state. When fast food workers near you are on strike, stop by and express your support.

3. Work with Food Not Bombs
This anarchist network has locations set up in many major cities to provide fresh food to low-income populations. You can donate food or your time to help prepare hot meals for people in your area who need it the most – it’ll help bring your community together rather than push it apart.

4. Film the police
If you have a smartphone, you can do this one. It’s legal to film the police in public from a safe distance in all 50 states – doing so might increase the chance that they choose to de-escalate a situation. Be careful out there.

5. Get an ACLU membership
The ACLU has stuck up for civil rights for decades, and will continue to oppose unconstitutional infringements of rights. If the proposed ban on Muslims ever gets serious discussion, they’ll be the ones to shut it down. You can join for $25 and continue renewing your membership for as little as $5.

6. Subscribe to a labor or socialist publication
Stopping the rightward drift of the American mainstream means strengthening the left, which has been depleted with the decline of labor unions. I personally think In These Times and Jacobin are entertaining, and your subscription will help broaden public thought and pay struggling writers.

7. Attend counter-protests of fascist rallies
Hitler himself said that his movement would never have succeeded if it had been recognized for what it was and confronted in its early days. When the KKK or other white nationalist factions poke their heads out in your area, join the inevitable counter-protest to send the message that hate isn’t welcome on our streets.

8. Donate to or volunteer with Planned Parenthood
Planned Parenthood does a ton of different work to help poor women, LGBTQ people, and other groups that are directly threatened by Trump/Pence’s rhetoric. Your financial donations are appreciated, and calling your nearest location and asking if they need any volunteer support is always welcome.

9. Protect Muslims and immigrants from abuse
Muslims and Mexicans (and anyone who could be mistaken for Muslim or Mexican) are the #1 scapegoat on the Trumpist agenda. Support the Council on American-Islamic Relations if possible, help any Syrian refugees that are settled in your area, and don’t let your friends make bigoted jokes or comments.

10. Advocate for nuclear disarmament
Worried about Trump having control of a nuclear arsenal? You’ll have less to worry about if we didn’t have enough bombs to blow up the planet ten times over! When the opportunity arises, speak up in favor of ditching weapons that can only ever be used to cause the deaths of thousands of innocent people.

This is just a small sampling of the options available to counter the rising forces of fascism in the US. If you reasonably believe Trump is a historic threat to peace and democracy, I’m sure you’ll want to oppose him and the forces that gave him rise by any means necessary.

Grey Gru: Minions and Commodity-Form as Ecophagy

The finality of evil.
The finality of evil.

The laws of genre fiction dictate that a promising experiment backfires at approximately the same rate that a hard-drinking detective cracks the one case that’s been haunting them for years. Despite the permanency of laws, some things change: detectives get grittier, murders get sexier, and nuclear power has lost its place as the go-to MacGuffin battery to nanomachines. The apocalyptic extreme among the type of nerds who have VIP access to the transhuman post-fuckfest being cooked up by Roko’s Basilik is the appetizingly named “grey goo scenario.” From Wikipedia:

Gray goo (also spelled grey goo) is a hypothetical end-of-the-world scenario involving molecular nanotechnology in which out-of-control self-replicating robots consume all matter on Earth while building more of themselves,[1][2] a scenario that has been called ecophagy (“eating the environment”).[3]

Frankenstein. Skynet. The brooms from Fantasia. The fear of an invention “getting away” from and turning on its creator takes many forms. It may start getting pretty predictable after a while. Remember the old rhymes: “If pharmaceuticals you see, then zombies there be; if radiation abound, then kaiju around; a fem-bot mañana, mecha-vagina dentata”; and so on.

The problem with these scenarios never seems to be going too far, but not going far enough. Why would a man-made disaster that reduces the realm of experience to one horrible, qualitatively homogeneous mess be limited to the literal eating of the world? If there is something in our genes that inclines us to turn everything into one featureless monocolored smear, why wait for robots?

Futurologists had warned us of the
Futurologists had warned of the “meme crunch” scenario for years.

Have you been online lately? Minions are everywhere. Fucking everywhere. Perhaps by the time you read this they’ve become so commonplace that you can’t even notice them anymore. They’ve gone from the stuff that is everywhere to being the stuff that is everywhere.

We swim in them, mouths agape, recycling and drinking and pissing and sometimes freezing in minions during the winter without even noticing. This is minions. And while it might be more appropriate to see them as a kind of memetic malfeasance (…laughs), there is one interesting thing about the path to Minion oversaturation that distinguishes them from run-of-the-mill litter.

In the first installment of the Despicable Me franchise (2010), it’s strongly implied that the protagonist Gru was the original creator of the Minions. By the time of their eponymous spin-off five years later, we have learned that they’re a sort of primordial species that has existed for as long as, if not longer than, humanity. Minions have served as pages for every blood-drenched tyrant throughout history (but not during the World Wars…really makes you think). In our enlightened age, every reasonable person knows that Minions are exactly what they claim to be, perfectly natural. Despite a grievous lack of mainstream airtime or funding, adherents to the original Despicable Mythos nonetheless persist.

Of course, those errant whiffs of Frankenstein(‘s monster) that you’re detecting always lead us back to that classic Gothic horror that we all love – that’s right folks, I’m talking about classic Kapital.

Imagine, if you will, an all-consuming, self-replicating entity that threatens to erase the distinctions that give coherency or meaning to anything that you’re stupid enough to love. Some terror that broke free of its master’s control and devours children with the same efficiency that it turns entire nations into uninhabitable wastes. A beast that turns lifelong comrades against one another with invisible efforts. A creature that only seems to grow smarter and stronger with each drop of blood that you extract at the cost of a whole battalion. Something that doesn’t sleep, turns to fog, and never stops moving in pursuit of its next victim.

You get the idea. Nonetheless, I’m obliged to state plainly:

Capital is the grey goo.

It’s here. It’s eating everything. We’re drowning in it.

I’m not who you should be reading about the many ways that capital violently opens up new markets where monetary exchange was once unthinkable (through enclosure or worse). I’m not capable of fully explaining the implications of capital’s explosive growth cycle (where money is exchanged for commodities for the purpose of becoming a larger pile of money, M-C-M’). That cycle brings with it the imposition of the commodity form, meaning an exchange-value is attached to more stuff than ever. The bigger this system, the more difficult it becomes to discern the exploitative social relations that made exchange possible. Still, I think it was David Harvey who phrased it like this: if you can put a price tag on one thing, you put a price tag on anything.

Long story short, the commodity form not only affects everything, but transforms it, and breaks down the world into that which we cannot readily grasp or distinguish- so, “all that is solid melts into air.”

Describing the scale of the transformation is one thing, but responding to it is another. What is there left to do when you’re living in a world that has been ravaged by an end-of-world scenario?

keep calm and mini on
They reproduce faster than you can scroll. The page will outlast you.

The best place to start may be simply disobeying the posters.

Godspeed You, David Graeber! Anarchist Professor Commits to Go Fight in Syria

Think you know courage? Think again. Then, think again while envisioning David Graeber, Professor of Anthropology at the London School of Economics, who has just today volunteered to go fight in the trenches for the protection of the people of Syrian Kurdistan.

David Graeber before going off to fight in the war.
David Graeber before going off to war.

David Graeber already demonstrated his bravery when he wrote a 987-word piece for The Guardian headlined “Why is the world ignoring the revolutionary Kurds of Syria?” Graeber, lone voice of courage, takes anti-imperialists to task for failing to see the obvious historical parallels between the current situation, with the leftist YPG currently fighting the well-funded nihilists of ISIS, and the doomed anti-fascist fighters of the Spanish Republic in the 1930s (Graeber’s father was among their ranks). All agree that the situation is tragic, but the Professor distinguishes himself by suggesting we do something about it.

As he has been patiently explaining to the haters and losers, decent, realistic people should support arming the Kurds. Who should arm the Kurds? Anyone works, but it’d probably be NATO. Q.E.D., all decent people who oppose imperial expansion and meddling must call for a NATO “something” in the current fighting. To do otherwise would be to display your naïveté and imperial privilege.

Many are grateful to Graeber for simply relaying the desires of the locals, of which he alone has special knowledge. But he took his commitment to the next level by tweeting the following this morning:

Courage h/t @moomism
Courage h/t @moomism

By “defenders of Kobane” it turns out the Professor was using the fancy academic trick called “metonymy” to refer to himself. The link went to a fundraiser for a project called “Homage to Kobane,” which its creator says will grant Graeber “the opportunity to gain the same experiences, and the same historical influence on the world as his dad.” Perhaps he deleted the link to the page (which you really ought to read) out of modesty – after all, the Orwell comparison! Such flattery! – or knowing that his legions of fans would raise the funds just fine for him.

The clock is ticking.
The clock is ticking.

The most persuasive and well-sourced counterarguments fall flat in the face of this moxie. Graeber has demonstrated Napoleonic levels of strategic brilliance while giving marching orders to his thousands of followers, who will surely join him in Syria in some sort of, say, “Graebraham Lincoln Brigade”! If foreigners do not follow his lead, I can guarantee that the Professor will climb the ranks of the resistance quickly by virtue of his brilliance and his militant opposition to bullshit jobs, mean net users, and other banes of the revolutionary working class.

Even the most trenchant anti-imperialists are humbled by Graeber’s display of courage. When you are crawling through the mud, dodging small arms fire, performing field amputations, brutally interrogating captured fighters, giving inspirational impromptu TED talks to your besieged squad, struggling against dysentery, refurbishing Soviet-era weaponry, mailing draft chapters to your publisher by international post, detonating car bombs, and hanging out with this guy, we will be thinking of you, Graeber. Godspeed you, Comrade Professor Graeber – may you lead by example and show that most prominent and vocal supporters of joining the right conflict will never show cowardice or surrender!

Incentives!
Incentives!

Chains of being

In the old days, I hear, people generally understood themselves as belonging to a great chain of being. God was on top, angels and assorted spiritual beings in the middle, then people – appropriately subdivided – followed by animals, plants, and minerals. There was no particular shame in being either a King or being a peasant: you were born into it, like your father was, and society required people in both roles to continue. For many weary millennials, there’s even a bit of appeal in the idea of never having to undergo another anxious job search or climb a corporate ladder with all due speed, lest one gets branded as a loser. If job security means having to start work on the family farm at age 4, sign me up.

The great chain of being had little chance to survive intellectually after Darwin gave a sharp reply to the wiseguy who first asked, “If Kings evolved from peasants, then why are there still peasants?” Of course, material changes of the 18th-19th centuries, such as the enclosure of common land, sale of land and titles, and shift from agrarian to industrial economic bases in Western nations had the greater impact of changing the makeup of society’s elite. Without the divine placement of gods to confer them legitimacy, the wealthy were in need of a new myth. Presidents and parliaments were able to point to some notion of democratic will, but what of those who held a different kind of power? Neoliberalism, as the slickest program-cum-ideology yet to accompany capitalism, settled on meritocracy.

“The cream will rise to the top.” “The people at the top must be the hardest working and most deserving.” This new way, as you may know, is marked by uncertainty and the idea that social mobility is possible. Now, men have been prone to anxious disorders throughout history, but were not diagnosed as “hysteric” for political or social reasons. Some doctors were surprised to see the nervous symptoms of what they called hysteria cropping up in men who worked and rode the newly created railroads of their century. Without the celestial chain calling the shots, people had to grapple with questions of “living authentically” and status anxiety and similar things. Do I follow security with a steady job or pursue my artistic interest? Should I neglect my home life to rise faster in the ranks at work? Even if you have the relative luxury of making these choices freely, it will likely end in your designation as an innate loser for failing to ruthlessly accumulate your way to the top.

In the words of Wikipedia-quoted sociologist Laurie Taylor:[43]

The hideous thing about meritocracy is it tells you that if you’ve given life your all and haven’t got to the top you’re thick or stupid. Previously, at least, you could always just blame the class system.

It doesn’t take a single mother to know that the people who work the hardest don’t always end up on top. Unfortunately, due reverence for the radiant Fortuna has been replaced by the worship of a total misunderstanding of this dipshit.

Marx stuff starts here

Marx made a number of observations that can help us understand the uneven shift from feudal to capitalistic economies. Understanding this material shift helps us see how the myths of desert (as in “deserving”) are connected and similarly post hoc. He saw capitalism as an inherently global system even before it spread out from Europe to all continents, breaking down barriers to trade and marginalizing superstitions that dare stand in the way of the profit motive. As most invocations of the “invisible hand” metaphor makes obvious, capital has the unstoppable, divine, and seemingly capricious power that was once attributed to God. Among the changes it would bring to the world would be the end of the feudal system’s beliefs and practices. Marx’s letter to Abraham Lincoln commending him for waging war on the South spells out clearly enough that slavery was one of the pre-capitalist formations which Marx was eager to see dropped in the dustbin of history. Slavery was of course assumed be to a part of the “natural order” – slaves just naturally fit below slaveholders, who were naturally closer to angels, on the celestial chain. To be sure, supporting all holdovers of feudal society, simply because they undermine the brutal system of capitalism, would lead to perversion. Practices need to be considered not only for how they have appeared in the past, but for how they might adapt if they were to last into a post-capitalist arrangement.

Attacks on religious expression are an example of a program undertaken by left-leaning individuals without thought for how this may be a part of capital’s larger approach to destroying sources of meaning outside of itself. Zizek, certainly not the best launching point for discussions of multiculturalism, nevertheless illuminates the issue here:

The problem of pseudo-choice also demonstrates the limitations of the standard liberal attitude towards Muslim women who wear the veil: acceptable if it is their own free choice rather than imposed on them by husbands or family. However, the moment a woman dons the veil as the result of personal choice, its meaning changes completely: it is no longer a sign of belonging to the Muslim community, but an expression of idiosyncratic individuality. In other words, a choice is always a meta-choice, a choice of the modality of the choice itself: it is only the woman who does not choose to wear a veil that effectively chooses a choice. This is why, in our secular liberal democracies, people who maintain a substantial religious allegiance are in a subordinate position: their faith is ‘tolerated’ as their own personal choice, but the moment they present it publicly as what it is for them—a matter of substantial belonging—they stand accused of ‘fundamentalism’. Plainly, the ‘subject of free choice’, in the ‘tolerant’, multicultural sense, can only emerge as the result of an extremely violent process of being uprooted from one’s particular life-world.

Capital is a jealous god which does not tolerate the worship of what it may register as false idols. Strong religious allegiance, then, is one example of a thing it will continue to marginalize and diminish. On the contrary, Marx and Engels never saw some sort of “defeat of religion” as a necessary condition for moving society forward. Engels wrote in his Principles of Communism: “All religions so far have been the expression of historical stages of development of individual peoples or groups of peoples. But communism is the stage of historical development which makes all existing religions superfluous and brings about their disappearance.” The distinction between this “withering away” and the foolish, ahistorical view that sees religion as the only form myth may take and a major impediment to Progress(? Whose? To what end?), such as Dawkins or Hitchens or another latter-day sophist might espouse, cannot be overstated.

The Marx stuff is over

Religious demands to dominate and control bodies, especially women’s bodies, are the sort of feudal holdover that deserve serious concern. The failure of capital’s custodians to dispose of this relic in a timely manner is a reminder of their priorities. Contemporary expressions of feudalism are permitted and even encouraged if it makes the work of accumulation run more smoothly. When traditional families request even small accommodations, well, they’re not guaranteed to win. Maintaining the chain of meritocracy helps to keep the system running and internalizes a measure of desert over their station in life. You have no one to blame for yourself. People who have no one to blame but themselves don’t go around blaming other people, let alone guillotining them. If others are to be blamed, a suitable Other is sure to be found.

For all our talk of rationality and worship at the altar of Neil Degrasse Tyson, we are still dominated by a type of celestial myth. It does not come bearing a crown and Sovereign’s Orb, but decontextualized test scores and a signed copy of “Lean In.” The next great advance in human civilization, the one we will hope to see, will have to be accompanied by a new paradigm. It is rewarding to internally and externally reject the myth of meritocracy and consider and champion new ways – or old and untested ways – people can relate to their fellow humans, animals, and the world around them. We have nothing to lose but our chains of being.

Dread Techlord: Why to Worry about the Dark Enlightenment

Summary:

The “Dark Enlightenment” or Neo-Reactionary movement (“NRx”) has been the object of curiosity and condescension as its most high profile writers and adherents in the tech industry attract more mainstream coverage. The perils of the NRx’s sexist, racist, and hyper-capitalistic techno-utopian thought are evident to most observers. Rather than write off the movement as a nerdy non-entity that is beneath one’s concern, it is important to see how this reactionary strain is uniquely positioned to cause severe damage in the event of a social crisis that leaves people open to anti-liberal beliefs. This is a situation which has been made possible by the persistent libertarian ideology of elitist tech sector employees, whose material advantages leave them uniquely positioned to spread reactionary thought and practice. As remote as the possibility may seem, the potential explosion in popularity of NRx ideas gives a strong incentive to begin laying down frameworks of opposition against them today in the form of labor organization and intersectional thought.

 

Introduction

The best introductory writing about the Dark Enlightenment thus far has been by Corey Pein, in his article “Mouthbreathing Machiavellis Dream Of A Silicon Reich” in The Baffler magazine. I encourage you to read the whole thing to get a solid understanding of the principles, motivations, and influences behind the nascent NRx, but want to draw attention to the following points:

– “Neoreactionaries are explicitly courting wealthy elites in the tech sector as the most receptive and influential audience.”

– Significant and wealthy members of the tech industry, such as Peter Thiel, have already voiced sentiments that are shibboleths in the NRx world, including “I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible.”

It seems as though today’s left is destined to spend some time battling a cohort which was already thoroughly satirized by the tragic visionary John Kennedy Toole, whose treatment of the medievalist man-child Ignatius J. Reilly in his novel “A Confederacy of Dunces” is all the funnier for having been written in the 1960s. Many careful writers will do a good job dismantling the ahistorical, resentful, and just poorly written ideals of the NRx’s thought leaders. But, because of the irregular and decentralized nature of any reactionary tendency, demolishing the proposals of one Mencius Moldbug will have all the finality of cutting the head off the Hydra. Replacements will always be in steady supply for as long as the social environment which fosters reactionary thought exists. This essay will focus primarily on the people that these ideas are most likely to take hold of in the foreseeable future and the reason why these ideas can lead to dangerous reactionary politics in the event of a major crisis.

 

Meet The Techlord

Peter Thiel is not an exceptional case. Though Silicon Valley’s rank and file is now generally liberal, the ideas that he supports are being smuggled into the mainstream in innocuously “Disruptive” packaging. Meanwhile, the tech industry has been successfully accumulating wealth on a corporate and individual level. The increase of wealth and privileges for tech sector employees seem most likely to lead to greater tensions and feelings of persecution or victimization at hands of neo-Luddites who couldn’t possibly have a good reason to criticize them. A subculture within the industry that brought you Angry Birds is forming: the techlord. Techlords are the special subset of the nouveau riche who see themselves above the petty restrictions that apply to lesser people. They might feel that they possess an identity which is singled out for hate crimes by virtue of existing, or that government regulation is stifling innovation by their superior minds. These are the start-up monarchs/dictators-for-life who become disillusioned with democracy and, like Thiel, find it incompatible with their work. When discussing capitalistic liberalism’s inherent dilemma of balancing freedom and equality, they will solve it by doing away with equality altogether. The most accessible individualistic ideology for techlords, then, is libertarianism. Their brand of  “cyberlibertarianism” is a pervasive ideology which is flexible enough to influence even the Democratic voters of Silicon Valley. Rather than serving as an ideological end, this libertarianism opens the door to more extreme far-right thought, with which it frequently aligns strategically and fundamentally.

 

Fascism and Libertarianism

The conventional wisdom about fascism is that it stands as a polar opposite to socialism or, fascinatingly, in both polar and perpendicular opposition to libertarianism. If socialism means the death of the free market, then what is fascism? The idea that “Hitler was a libertarian”  seems so absurd to true believers that dropping it into the ether almost always warrants a furious know-it-all’s reply. Meanwhile, the historical record shows that Nazi Germany was so pro-business that the first apparent English-language use of the word “privatization” was to describe their economic policies. Hitler himself wrote that it would be “illogical” to transfer the product of a person’s achievement into the hands of “…someone of lesser achievement, or to the hands of the collective…“. One may find “collectivism” invoked as the enemy today by billionaire Charles Koch.

The attraction between fascists and libertarians has never been a one way road. Ludwig von Mises, one of the major influences on American libertarianism, praised European fascists in 1927, saying that “[t]he merit that Fascism has thereby won for itself will live on eternally in history.” Mises’ contemporary F.A. Hayek, who is simultaneously regarded as an influence for conservative, neoliberal, and libertarian thought, endorsed the “temporary” dictatorship of Pinochet in Chile, a regime which killed and disappeared thousands and tortured tens of thousands to advance the agenda of the invisible hand.

Fascism, as has long been known, surges when a nation suffers a major crisis as German economic instability of the 1920’s, the CIA-engineered coup against a democratic government, or long-lasting recession or depression. It doesn’t need to win over the hearts and minds of 51% of the population, but just enough to seize the effective monopoly of violence within a nation. Liberal governments may tolerate or even nurture fascist elements to serve their ends in the midst of perceived moments of crisis: in post-World War I Germany, proto-Brownshirts were used to put down worker’s uprisings. In post-9/11 America, neo-Nazis bolstered the ranks of an army that needed all the volunteers it could find. Such elements have proven difficult to control and prosper amid crisis. Fascism offers a simple answer – we would be great again if we destroyed some intruding force that is plaguing the national body – and seeks to go about accomplishing this goal with the utmost of efficiency. Fascism in the 20th century had the assembly line as its model for rapid and efficient horror. Fascism in the 21st, should it appear in full force, will have lightning-speed decision making computers.

 

The Potential Trajectory

“I think a truly enlightened stance would be: violence may be justified against parasites who lack virtue.”   – Justine Tunney, Software Engineer at Google

[The Protocols of the Elders of Zion] shows Jews how to infiltrate the bloodstream and organs of Gentile peoples. It reveals how Gentile states are to be undermined to make them completely subject to the Jewish parasite.” – G.G. Otto, “The Jew As World Parasite,” 1943 pamphlet

The good news: nothing in the United States today resembles a full-blown fascist party. The bad news: neither did anything in Germany in 1914. The Republican Party has been the liberal order’s home for reactionary tendencies and natural system for policing the margins of far-right thought and prevented anything too extreme from gaining mainstream acceptance. The steady increase of inequality has sparked new interests in alternatives to liberal capitalism, sometimes with confusing or contradictory manifestations. To provide a plausible example: Peter Thiel has co-funded publications in the past, and if he felt like it, could easily use a sliver of his net worth to establish a devoted publication that would disseminate hyper-libertarian thought and propaganda with the intention of swelling the ranks of techlords and intensifying their fear and distrust of the ignorant, illiterate masses. Writers of or influenced by the NRx may find a steady gig in such a position. Keeping in mind the significant economic clout of even non-executive tech employees, even a small group of techlords with perhaps one or two interested executives would be able to fund numerous projects to further their particular strain of ideology. The libertarian climate denial machine provides an example of a successful agnotology project with only a small handful of funders. A “human egalitarianism denial machine,” or something like it, is not beyond imagining.

The current NRx blogroll is largely incoherent and too mired in references to 15-year old sci-fi movies and sprawling webcomics to hold the attention of anyone who isn’t predisposed to loving or hating the ideas. It’s the generation which follows this one that is cause for concern. This will be the generation that knows how to package its ideas in a more “politically correct” format, as Pein mentioned libertarian royalty Patri Friedman is already attempting. The prototype techlords are already voicing support for foreign fascist political movements – NRx 2.0 will find ways to make these ideas more palatable to the swaths of people who may find themselves in a crisis with substantial resources and a desire to bring things “back to normal.”

 

Burying the Hydra: an incomplete proposal

First, a note: despite the “neo-” suffix, reactionary thought is enabled by a range of persistent forces that will always exist as long as our economic system is built on the private ownership of the means of production. This system ensures there will never come a day where everyone agrees to just be decent, tolerant liberals because it is built to entrench and reproduce division. Resentment on the basis of race, sex, gender, ability, or “culture” is fostered to divide the masses who have to sell their labor to survive. Division keeps things cheap for the tiny minority which purchases all of that labor (David Graeber helpfully formulates: if 1% of the population controls most of the disposable wealth, what we call “the market” reflects what they think is useful or important, not anybody else”). To recycle an earlier metaphor, the NRx is just one head of the Hydra of reaction which can only by buried in the past by revolution. Cutting it off leaves neo-Nazis, neo-Confederates, and whatever else may follow. As long as we’re stuck with capitalism, we need to find solutions to slow the growth or reduce the popularity of particular reactionary belief systems. As far as the NRx strain is concerned, I humbly offer the following three courses of action, and would be delighted to hear critique or further suggestions from those who have given it thought:

  • Encourage unionization in the tech industry

A more organized work force would promote a greater consciousness of the role of class in society. It is much easier to see one’s common situation with others when living in a “union vs. management” rather than the atomized “employee vs. boss” framework. Members of the tech industry may believe a unionization drive would be against their interests at the moment, but doing it before the balance of power has shifted entirely in favor of start-up monarchs is the safest strategy for ensuring their long-term livelihoods and combating the tendency towards ruthless and destructive individualism.

  • Avoid social crisis

Not exactly something we have complete control over, but it’s a useful medium-term goal of the left to prevent the total failure of the state. Accelerationists may tell you that collapse will pave the way for revolution, but economic disasters that leave many unemployed and desperate have a way of enabling all the wrong people. Of course, more widespread unionization of the U.S. workforce would likely lead to lessened inequality, which might well reduce the chance of a crisis occurring, but almost certainly means improved social conditions regardless.

  • Promote intersectional thought

The NRx movement is home to a veritable constellation of ideologies. Countering these disparate strains of political reaction will be made easier if there is a wider understanding of the interconnection of oppression in its many forms. White supremacy, patriarchy, imperialism, and the exploitation of workers are all powerful forces that overlap to pit normal people against one another. The left going forward requires an acceptance of the complexity of these intersecting oppressions, as well as the common benefit we all stand to win from opposing all of them at all times. An intersectional left which acknowledges the damage done by these divisions and the fundamental interconnectedness of us all is the only decent response to a belief system which seeks to preserve the oppressive relationship between the exploiter and exploited in more futuristic attire: techlord and techpeasant.

The Year of Everyday Sexism by David Foster Wallace

Reposted in part and without permission from here.

The campaign against everyday sexism has shown that a deeply unpleasant¹ vein² of misogyny still runs through our society. But in highlighting the antisocial, misguided³ behaviour of some unreconstructed³¼ individuals, it is important³½ to be aware that such behaviour is not representative of most men’s attitudes. More worryingly,³½½ from the perspective of a progressive sexual politics³½½½ there is a danger that the campaign is promulgating a view that any direct sexual advance is tantamount³¾ to harassment. If directly propositioning somebody for sex is automatically³³ condemned as misogynist, as the campaign appears to assert,³¹³ then the movement risks being highly counterproductive to the feminist cause and playing into the hands of the sexually repressive, patriarchal ideology that feminism strives to counter.

Endnotes:

¹ The use of “deeply unpleasant” may seem a needless flourish where “shallowly unpleasant” or any other alternative may not present itself as appropriate, here, there, or anywhere, but beginning the endnoted section of an essay with a stylistic comment on the abuse of adverb may strike some as an even more needless flourish, if not an indication of yrs truly’s overt intention to derail the work above and below into some miserably downer-type territory, in toto. 

² Another intriguing choice by your loyal correspondent where a “vein” that features running matter is most likely to be either a. blood or b. a precious metal such as gold, but at this point the grammatical objections are piling up on top of themselves like so many instances of street harassment pile onto the conscious experiences of women around the world every day, and maybe we’ve reached the point where this whole thing has gotten silly and we should let yrs truly get through at least the rest of the sentence uninterrupted before continuing to provide supplemental information on the text provided above.

³  By this point the delicate wrist-slapping and tsk-tsking of those poor misguided (by who? the women?) men may have you in the howling fantods, but I assure you that there are veins of precious words yet to be uncovered and strip mined as incentivized by their artificially inflated prices on the market.

³¼ Sorry for the interruption, but what is the process of reconstruction that is sought here, and does it necessarily involve publication in the Guardian or the subsequent sesquepedalian fuckery that is likely to be provoked by one’s name which is sadly close to but one-third off of a more prominent English-language writer?

³½  By implication, the rest of the essay is not important. You have your correspondent’s permission to ignore it.

³½½ The worry is all on your behalf, folks – rest assured that your faithful Guardian-published correspondent has nothing to be worried about in terms of pitching the proverbial CiF column, as it were.

³½½½ Progressive (according to Merriam Webster Online) – a: of, relating to, or characterized by progress b: making use of or interested in new ideas, findings, or opportunities c: the political philosophy ensuring that the inherent right of man to pursue sex shall not be infringed, even within a capitalist system where economic violence is still deployed by the class controlling the means of production which has also included in its strategem the policing of one section of the working class by another – e.g., the public and vocal harassment of women by men to serve as a daily reminder of their suppression, and so reduce the potential for solidarity, &c.

³¾ Yr correspondent has never met a mount he hasn’t liked.

³³ Automatically, as if it were a reflex that existed before experiential input from encounters with – name of the essay, take a drink – everyday sexism within their patriarchal society. Consider, also, the lobster – it automatically reacts rather badly to the sight of boiling water, when it could afford to be much more progressive and discerning and realize that it may not even be plunged into that particular pot.

³¹³ The campaign appears to assert many things, such as banning talking to strangers in public, if you’re prone to this extrapolation and spending a bit too much time with the onanistic navel-gazing (would that it were only the navel).

™ Not an endnote – your faithful correspondent seems likely to go down to the trademark office and register The Feminist Cause to his name.

∞ Have no fear, though, ladies, your sexually progressive Guardianista narrator is here to liberate you with his concupiscent columnizing. A familiarity with the lived experience of women, or even a Wikipedia-level glance of Foucault or Mackinnon’s “difference v. domination” or literally any thing ever written by someone who has spelled out what the patriarchy means, it turns out, is merely optional. You may thank him later in whatever way you choose (the man is known for his quote-unquote column output if you catch my proverbial drift), perhaps as soon as someone can answer the still-standing question — see, what I would like to know, is, why did it take a man to finally write about how an anti-street harassment campaign may be a bad thing?

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Uncanny Indie

The ‘uncanny valley‘ is a theory that refers to the feeling of revulsion that tends to happen when a person sees human-like features or movement from something that is not a living human being. Generally, the less faithful an effort to appear human, such as what one might expect from cartoonish puppets, the more positive the reaction. The closer an effort gets to appearing human, without actually being human, the creepier the result tends to be.

Image

A useful term if you watch movies with bad CGI or have the dubious fortune to spend time around lifelike animatronics, I recently wondered if a lighter version could be present in works of art that had nothing to do with human representation but still struck one as eerily close to The Real Deal, but ultimately false. The feeling that stirred this idea was my contempt for indie pop act Foster the People. 

It’s important to clarify my tastes here: I usually love what more discerning listeners might accurately describe as “indie garbage.” Even that one song with the whistling. I also don’t have a pretentious requirement that music meet some standard of authenticity. If that was the case, I’d be writing about how Vampire Weekend is a gang of phonies for using Afro-Caribbean beats (a nice image to keep in mind in case you thought this was as insufferable as it could get). One may find authenticity (whatever that means) in music important, or not have a general enjoyment of whatever strikes them as indie. But as someone who is fine with inauthentic trash, “Pumped Up Kicks” stands out for the way it strikes me as uncanny and unsettling. 

According to my extensive research, “Pumped Up Kicks” was the unexpected hit that propelled the three-man Foster the People from obscurity to chart-topping fame. The lyrics about adolescent murder fantasies could be entirely ignored if it weren’t for the presence of the catchy hook. The provocative subject matter that can’t be heard without a concerted effort is about the only thing that could give anyone offense. Every other thing is harmless and been done a thousand times before. It’s a paint-by-numbers exercise. It’s like someone went down a checklist of what makes a successful indie hit:

✔ Basic structure – Verse – Hook – Verse – Hook – Interlude – Hook

✔ Catchy hook that makes up the bulk of the song

✔ Heavily distorted vocals (covers lack of rhyme and makes it so mumbling IS singing along)

✔ Spacey, distant “indie”-sounding instrumentals on loop

✔ Whistling, for Christ’s sake

More could possibly be said about the lyrics giving a cute treatment to violence seeking to endear the “ain’t I adorable” irony contingent of the indie listeners, but that’s not really my point. I only seek to convey how strongly I feel that this song is calculated artifice. It’s engineered to sound like a surprise indie-crossover hit and gets very, very close by checking off all the main features – like ensuring the eyes, mouth, nose of a face are all there. Yet as the nature of uncanniness goes, closer is worse, landing a lazy but thorough efforts right in the corpse/zombie depths of the valley.

“Pumped Up Kicks” is too close for comfort. It’s a replicant that not only fails the Voight-Kampff test, but walks through the desert turning turtles onto their backs. 

I’ll conclude with this delightful paragraph from the uncanny valley Wikipedia page. It’s one attempt to explain why people feel the reaction – perhaps not the only factor at play, but if it brings these things to mind, it seems valid: 

  • Mortality salience. Viewing an “uncanny” robot elicits an innate fear of death and culturally-supported defenses for coping with death’s inevitability…. [P]artially disassembled androids…play on subconscious fears of reduction, replacement, and annihilation: (1) A mechanism with a human facade and a mechanical interior plays on our subconscious fear that we are all just soulless machines. (2) Androids in various states of mutilation, decapitation, or disassembly are reminiscent of a battlefield after a conflict and, as such, serve as a reminder of our mortality. (3) Since most androids are copies of actual people, they are doppelgängers and may elicit a fear of being replaced, on the job, in a relationship, and so on. (4) The jerkiness of an android’s movements could be unsettling because it elicits a fear of losing bodily control.”[13]

In this song is a face, and it reveals no capacity for empathy. In “Pumped Up Kicks,” one can see death.

Writing about politics. Intersectional and independent.