Modern Digital Life and Death
I have tried to understand Cancel Culture, the online beehive phenomenon where users attack and boycott a transgressing Social Character. We make them a Pariah and ostracize them, any person who mentions this person who ‘cannot be mentioned’ will get it. Any person who consumes the music, films, books, art of the Pariah is due to get the same hate that the person would get. It is the substitute for real change and real activism, where you can virtue-signal your dislike for something and not have to actually do anything. Out of sight, out of mind, once the Pariah is no longer spoken of we feel a sense of achievement. One theorist hit the nail on the head, his name escapes me now, but it was true. We live our lives Digitally online, so therefore death is online as well. Cancelling is our version of digital death, to get you banned off of social media so you are socially dead. It is impossible to boycott R. Kelly, I’m sorry I tried, but any 90’s-2010 mix is incomplete without his songs or production. That would make many people angry, some care little about fighting child abuse here at home but digital cancelling is easier. People attack his listeners but no one boycotts his corporation Sony/RCA Records which made hundreds of millions off his art and protected him at all costs.
Wild Wild West
We have been here before, when new technology shrinks time and space opening up new possibilities and frontiers. Take the Railway, it used to take up to six months to cross America, the railway reduced that to 2-3 days and this opened up the West to settlement. The first people to cross were adventurers and pioneers, mixed in with a few criminals of course. The New West was still rugged at first, the government in Washington could not impose law and order due to lack of infrastructure and lack of institutions. The West soon attracted more criminals, those who are law-abiding become unethical as well because there is no law. Anyone could kill anyone, in the movies you shoot a man then calmly resume drinking your whiskey, identity is not certain so you can’t prosecute. A few big criminals find notoriety, Billy the Kid, half hero, half demon, an example to be made out of but a small part of the wider problem. We will need to live our digital lives the same way we live our real one, with established identities only, if we give our phone numbers and bank details then we should use our identities as well. A person opens a fake email address and goes online as an Avatar writes “I hope your children die!!!!!” you dig a bit deeper and find he is a dull accountant from Nebraska, a doting father and loving husband nonetheless, but they have another personality online for hatred only. We are breeding schizophrenic people, no one would post hate if they knew it would come back to haunt them at work.
Dr. Achilles Mbembe, an observational Genius
It stands to reason that most of the innovative thought on modern life will come from the periphery, the West is too engrossed in its idiosyncrasies to observe and understand itself. That is why many are looking to Dr. Achilles Mbembe, writer of many great booking on Decolonization; The Post-Colony, Necropolitics, both bibles on deconstructing colonialism. I recently watched a lecture of his at Duke University and was blown away, he described the dynamics behind modern “Woke” Culture. Firstly, he described the background to the world of Post-Fanonian thinking. The world is locked in a Battle of Good vs Evil in a War on Terror, where Terrorist groups fueled by religious intensity are the only ones physically fighting Western Imperialism. The aim is to form a Caliphate in place of the Western Security State, however both have more in common than they think. Both believe in blood sacrifice to further their cause, both think there is a finite number of deaths that will make the other capitulate. Both have utter certainty that they are in the right, both believe in Radical Destruction, a few drone victims here, a few innocent bus passengers there. They believe in Absolute Justice and Absolute Murder, look at the Marvel and DCU universes and how they mirror the War on Terror. The Corporation has taken over government, the political and the economic have become one. Fanon warned “when the political and the economic interests merge, it makes politics impossible, but it also makes resistance futile.”
In this world of coopted power, where institutions no longer serve interests of the people because they are beholden to Big Corporations, people look to new forms of expression. People seek a new political existence, but one that is non-constitutional because the system is corrupt. They do not seek to reconcile their views with others, they seek total agreement or total silence. They have adapted the thought of Black Radicalism, feminism, Queer theory, Neo-Marxism, and direct action to form what Fanon called the “Coalition of the Suffering.” They have no regard for previous struggles, being a Civil Rights hero will not save you from a bad tweet. There is no material structure joining this coalition of White Liberals, POC (People of colour, the dustbin of brown people) LGBTQI, and “Women” though women vote for both sides. This is a Visceral movement, based on emotions, not logic, logic brought us White Supremacy and Partiarchy, it cannot be trusted, trust your feelings, because your eyes can fool you, your mind can be tricked, gut your gut can’t. Many leftist Scholars cite the work of Dr. Grella in Chile, who posits that the Gut is a second brain. It is as logical as thinking that because a car always indicates when it turns, therefore the indicator is turning the car. Coincidence is not cause. The reason why you can argue logic all day and fail is because people “think” with their gut, by instinct, not examining and reaching a conclusion.
Coalition of the Suffering
The ticket to get on the bus is pain, pain is what defines this coalition. Your lived experience, not your ideology is what defines you. There is no ideological framework linking them, they all experience pain and oppression in different ways, so many priorities but so little time, so it comes down to who can raise the most money in the coalition, LGBT wins. They reject conventional wisdom, you cannot use the thoughts of Patriarchy to fight Patriarchy. You cannot quote Hagel or Heidegger to them because they were “Racist, misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic” regardless of what they said in favour of them. Intellect is no longer the highest level of knowledge, machine learning is, they can Google stuff. They are united by psychic bonds, not ideology, but by lived pain. They are united by hatred of Individual Hate Figures not institutions, they have no contact with or understanding of institutions, but they have contact with People, people can be held accountable but institutions can’t. So they spew their bile on R. Kelly, but not Sony/RCA records who made $500m from various R. Kelly productions. They explode viscerally at a person who listens to R. Kelly, but not at the Record Label that paid $20m in hush money and lawyer fees over the years. You can’t lynch a corporation, but you can lynch a man. Once said Pariah has been canceled, we act like we ended all pedophilia. In this Woke age, virtue-signaling is enough, not actual virtue, but performative ethics. Even though Christianity is dying in the West, the principles have been coopted by this “Woke” generation, that your pain can be transformed or transubstantiated into liberation or freedom and eternal life.
Eternal Autopsy of the Spotless Mind
In this Visceral age of the Politics of Viscerality as Fanon put it 70 years ago in Black Faces, White Masks, where we cannot be sure who is who, what their interests really are, who they really work for, we need constant autopsy. Like in the Film Blade Runner where Humans and Replicants cannot be told apart, so you need a serious scientific method to tell the real from the fake. So we have constant autopsy, your life and lived experiences are examined in minute detail. Every tweet, every post, every pic, every friend, anything at anytime can be brought up and expose you. People are constant digging through your guts, your viscera to find evidence of fakery. Constant autopsy leads to constant self-correction or self-censoring so as not to have your guts torn out. It took Freud 50 years to analyze human behavior but Facebook can analyze 1.6 billion people’s minds in real time. The effect the Technology has had on human behavior has made most of Freud’s work pointless as we have been changed so much. Fanon identified “North African Syndrome” when he was fighting in Algeria, seeing people affected indirectly by trauma and showing signs of illness. Even today scientists accept that being “triggered” is real, when your body responds physically and viscerally to a verbal stimulus. People feel a rage, a fear, cold sweats, a sense of suffocation, migraines, and such when they are Triggered.
We are getting further away from true Artificial Intelligence because our biggest asset is now a flaw. We are adapting to machines quicker than machines are adapting to us. We are flexible, we adapt to any situation, instead of training machines to cognitive thought, we train our minds to machine learning. This has brought about a whole new way of learning based on metrics. If I asked for a loan at a bank today they would have to put all my data in a program, this program would decide if I would get a loan or not. Even in the world of Football, modern coaches go by numbers, 10% of corners result in a goal, give me 10 corner kicks, I want 50 passes in the opposition box, painting by numbers and living on probabilities. There is a belief that we have reached the end of the limitations of intellect, that machines should take over. The algorithms have taken over, we are adapting to algorithms, the rich and powerful are researching ways live forever on the internet by downloading their brains onto a hard-drive. Homo Deus by Noah Yuval Hariri is excellent at explaining this. We still want eternal life, we want the benefits of religion without actual religion. Facebook has 1.6bn users because it offers 3 things we treasure most; Communion, Fellowship, and Confession. All three of these were fulfilled by religion, but we still need them, we need rituals to bind us, we need companionship of like-minded people, and we need to confess our sins and be forgiven.
#MeToo to #YouToo ?
So when we look at this world changing around us, we must not only blame the technology, we created it and chose not to regulate it. We must look at the factors driving this Politics of the Visceral, when people are resolved to throw excrement at public figures, it shows that all political avenues are exhausted. They hate the system and think it is beyond repair, the only thing left is to humiliate the system like it humiliated you. There was change, but not enough change, and the benefits went to a few not the many. In this “Post-Racial” world we have found Racism is alive and well, your identity can still hold you back despite what the constitution says. The Liberation Movements and political parties have all been absorbed into this Capitalist power structure, the political and economic has merged, there is only Neoliberalism or death. Class struggles continue in the dark with the media ignoring inequality. The Human Body has been commodified, dehumanized and cheapened. Privacy no longer exists, we will live public lives from now. People have deep pain that society is ignoring, social media has isolated us from our analogue friendships and local support networks, so now people scream online for sympathy. I once read a Twitter Bio with “Rape Victim” on it, we wear our pain on our sleeve now. Why should that be the first thing to define you? Surely someone is more? That just shuts up any debate, you win by default and you get silence. Who can transubstantiate this pain? The Techno-Messiahs. They say “In the battle of asymmetric warfare, top is bottom, the victim has all the power. To the victim the spoils.”