Category Archives: Commentaries

The Economics of Repulsion

7. XI 2021

In traditional capitalism, the supply of commodities is finite and their exploitation leads to depletion of the supply. By mining coal, diamonds or drilling oil, access to these commodities becomes increasingly more difficult, which requires deeper mines, oil drills, and more sophisticated technology, all of which increases production costs. For a fixed demand, this reduction in supply results in a rise of perceived value and higher price.

In cognitive capitalism, where information is the main commodity, the imbalance resides on the opposite side. Its economics is governed by diminishing demand. Human attention is biologically limited – there is a finite amount of information our brains can absorb and store at any given time. Supply of information, on the other hand, is unlimited and comes practically at no cost – ideas can come out of nowhere (or as a result of the general intellect) and, in principle, cannot be exhausted.

Since everyone is competing for the same fraction of our (limited) attention, sooner or later cognitive capitalism becomes a zero-sum game. For a brain already overloaded with information to pay attention to something new, it has to neglect something else. Every spec of information, every new idea, therefore, has an inherent ephemeral quality and carries a potential of becoming worthless.

In order to insert itself into the tight space of the already saturated attention space, new information has to be able to shock. It does not necessarily have to be relevant or carry semiotic value; it only needs to be sufficiently loud to overpower other voices. And, in competitive markets, such loud information wins and gradually dominates. Cognitive capitalism, thus, inevitably leads to semiotic inflation — more information buys less meaning – and ultimately to hyperinflation when information carries no meaning whatsoever.

Metabolic disorder and addiction to shocks

As an ideology that disseminates market values to every segment of life, neoliberalism has naturally aligned with the new logic of social media and the diminishing demand of the attention economy. Once one allows the market to impose its values and criteria, society becomes subordinated to it and has to be managed as its auxiliary. As an adaptive system, neoliberalism has adjusted to the new chapter of cognitive capitalism by transforming society and conditioning political subjects to its new laws.

Neoliberalism makes citizens into consumers. As consumers, today’s voters have no real interest in politics or in actively shaping the community; they react only passively to it. Politicians and parties follow this logic of consumption too. They have to deliver. In that process, they become nothing more than suppliers; their task is to satisfy voters who are their customers.

Society of the spectacle and the attention economy, when put together, result in new politics defined by the explosion of affects, revenge, and peddling in highly improbable. Through interaction between technology and politics, society gradually becomes addicted to shocks — they need to be administered continuously and without interruption.

Immunoreaction and informational fatigue syndrome

Shock is a kind of immunoreaction. A strong immune system stifles communication – it impairs its fluidity – the lower the level of immunity, the faster information circulates. A high level of immunity slows down the information flow. Immune-suppression, on the other hand, allows massive quantities of information to penetrate our souls without immune defense.[1]

Political foreplay, in the initial stage, consists of preparing its constituents for the new landscape by weakening their cognitive immune system. Once political subjects are properly conditioned, politics is administered through barraging them with a constant flow of nonsense in order to wear down their immune system and create a metabolic disorder[2] (akin to an eating disorder). Their minds are constantly stimulated – the underlying information becomes a semiotic equivalent of junk food — the less meaningful the information and the more toxic and addictive its effects are, the more marketable it is.

According to Walter Benjamin, the primary mode of a spectator’s response to cinema was one of a shock: Shock replaced contemplation that came as cinema replaced painting. However, we are no longer shocked by images. Even the most disturbing images have been made consumable[3].

Shocks now have to contain another quality that relies on different kind of imagery and the target audience needs to be conditioned to receive them.Media outlets are increasingly playing on repulsion rather than on seduction — response to pleasure is too diverse while response to repulsion is the same. Anxiety gradually replaces excitement while persistent exposure to the semiotic excess of informational barrage leads to what B.C. Han calls informational fatigue syndrome (IFS), which progressively weakens our analytic capacities and monopolizes our attention. 

In our reaction to ambiguously disturbing images emerges a new category representing the repulsion we cannot resist.

Repulsion as political leverage and emergence of the emotionalized electorate

In its essence, Right-wing populist politics in Europe is not dissimilar to its American counterpart – it revolves around conservative budget spending, pseudo-Christian values, certain types of cultural iconography, and self-centered xenophobia. However, their mode of articulation cannot be more different. European right-wingers and their politics, as much as one finds them disagreeable, their delivery is coherent – they speak in meaningful sentences, their thoughts have a logically consistent flow, and address the problems of shared reality, which one might agree with or contest and argue on rational premises.

In the USA, however, shared reality no longer supports the tenets of whatever the conservatism has become, which stand in trivial conflict with facts and is rendered demonstrably false and indefensible, invalidated by the long history of failure and bankruptcy. Defense of the right-wing narratives in the USA requires the creation of an alternative universe where not only are the shared reality and observable facts ignored, but the underlying laws of economics, sociology, biology, physics, the probability, and even mathematics have to be suspended. The end effect of this environment is removal of all systems of reference where the mental instability of a single person in power easily mutates into a large-scale collective affliction with defenders and advocates of that politics turning into performance artists in a state of simulated self-induced mental illness.

In cognitive markets, where shocks amplify informational impact, the more repulsive the messengers, the easier their message penetrates the barriers erected by the compromised public immune system. Self-debasement becomes the statement of authenticity and repulsion a desirable quality.

Two examples of this mechanism at work:

Right-wing broadcasters and political consultants, which have elevated their appearances to the level of performance art, tend to wear their shirts one size smaller and buttoned up all the way to the top, so that it causes an authentic discomfort and irritation giving them a slightly deranged and agitated look, an emotion which gets transmitted to their emotionalized audience.

And speaking of undersized garments, the infamous sighting of Christy’s camel toe represents a singular example. Once seen, never forgotten, this historic picture — a visual equivalent of eating durian — cannot be accidental, despite its spontaneous appearance. Such extreme deficit of self-awareness simply does not exist (not to mention the discomfort wearing of these pants must have caused). It is not a fortuitously captured moment of leisure of the former New Jersey Governor, but a product of meticulous calculation of the teams of specialized PR consultants.

These, and other similar, images are carefully crafted so that they continue to shock, irritate, and disgust because these are addictive emotions; they provide a lifeline to the outrage conglomerate. In this way, any possible resistance of the opposition is automatically thwarted and their collaboration ensured from the outset. They have been taken hostage by this vortex of addictive repulsion. Opposition media outlets are placed in a conflicting position where their bottom-line disincentivizes resistance. As much as they would like to oppose the new ideology of repulsion, they cannot afford to wound, let alone deal a defeating blow to it – nobody would pay attention to them anymore, which would ultimately wipe out their revenues and put them out of business. This mechanism sustains otherwise lifeless and non-sustainable narratives.

The objective of politics is to never break the chain of emotions set in motion by a shock. Their synchronization has become the new way of governing and the community of emotions replaces the community of interests resulting in communism of affects[4].


[1] B. C. Han, In the Swarm: Digital Prospects, The MIT Press (2017)

[2] B. C. Han, ibid.

[3] B. C. Han, ibid.

[4] Paul Virilio, The Administration of Fear, Semiotext(e) intervention series (2012)

Goebbels in America: The Microsolidarity of Identitarian Autohypnosis

19. IX 2021

Three quarters of a century after his death, Goebbels is back in vogue. After the 2020 shipwreck, Republicans are fighting for their lives. Desperate and pissed off, they are coming out as a full-blown Nazi party, taking Goebbels’ playbook as a gospel, pure and undiluted, as if no other books have ever been written. There are no more pretenses — anti-Semitism, racism, and misogyny are alive and well in America today with open support for white supremacy in all its modes and hasty legislation of outdated segregationist policies. MAGA-pride events, the culturally adjusted burlesque versions of Nazi conventions, have replaced country fairs and have become magnets for angry, aggressive, and comically stupid folks. New blood is being mobilized to carry out Brown-shirt activities and half-assed attempts to model their own martyrs (Ashli Babbitt as a modern day Horst Wessel) after Nazi folk heroes.

Without a program or agenda, and armed with strategy of fully randomized focus targeting, everything is in the mix (hoping that something will stick): The Constitution, first (and second) amendment, race (critical and uncritical), education, prayer in schools, American history (and anti-history), slavery, 1619, white replacement, immigration, misogyny, abortion, climate change, wealth distribution, student loans, taxes, recounts, voter suppression, insurrection, swastikas, sedition, civil war, Republican math, Florida man, flat earth, space travel, Taliban, Hunter Biden, media, influencers, Moonies, masks, vaccines, Fauci, Ivermectin, Jews with (and without) lasers, cousins in Trinidad, and, of course, Jesus.

By its design, the new, 21st century gumbo of neo-Nazi propaganda has become the key identifier of growing masses of excluded, grotesquely ignorant folks whose anger and self-pity, caused by their precarity, trumps rationality, logic, science, and their own economic interests, safety and well-being. The high marketability of the Nazi-style response to populist rage is the new frontier for the transparently dishonest media outlets who, in search of attention, publicity, and ratings are willing to cross the boundaries of century-old social and political taboos and get on the other side in order to get ahead of the competition or just stay in the game.

A logical question emerges at this point: Why do we have to go back to these issues again? After all, these are outdated ideologies with a well-documented chronology of their inadequacy and chronic failure (social, economic, political, moral). Is fascism turning out to be the strange attractor of modernity and is its periodic recurrence unavoidable?

Despite its extreme nature and excesses, what happened in Germany in the 1930s was a logical inevitability of the Western civilization and its intellectual tradition. Evil is an intellectual need of the mind, which meditates about good. Intellectuals made evil logically necessary upon funding the idea about a better world. It is, therefore, no wonder that the origins of WWII reside in one of the most developed countries with the strongest cultural tradition in the Western world of that time.

After WWII was over, while the victors indulged in the narcissistic righteousness of its aftermath, Germany emerged richer with insights, which had remained unregistered by the allies. Through an unprecedented defeat, they [Germans] have been brought to the unwanted but valid insight that national identities and ethnic missions are in principle nothing more than violent and violence-producing collective autohypnosis. Consequently, they have developed a relationship to the missions of history that resembles that of a sober alcoholic to their former drug[1].

And while modern Germany has retreated from the manic historicity and forever abandoned the idea of being a chosen nation, the victors saw, and continue to see, WWII as just another round in a tournament for international supremacy in which one competitor (Germany) had been eliminated. They (the victors) never abandoned the dreams of their own supremacy — their individual or collective visions of the future have been nothing but projections and fantasies of their domination extending to their logical extremes[2].

America seems to have gone the furthest in that direction. Economically prosperous, but, at the same time, neck-deep in excrement, largely due to its own self-neglect and gross mismanagement of its fortunes, it remains narcissistically in love with itself (for all the wrong reasons). Paradoxically, this is especially true for those segments of the American population that have been the victims of said neglect. In the last years these folks have been in a state of a post-coital narcissistic orgy and have become a petri dish for the same collective auto-hypnotic identity politics and self-discovery that Germany went through a century ago.

By the end of the first decade of the new century, the gap that separates every disgruntled member of the excluded white sub-proletariat in America from the clutches of white supremacist rage has shrunk so much that it takes only a moment of inattention for any member of that community to falsely interpret their personal misery, deserved defeat, and bitterness as the sad faith of America, which, if we are to be honest, with such whining, pitiful and comically ignorant constituents, never really deserved anything better.

They failed in the game, which they invented, maintained, and defended at all cost, and now, they want another shot at it, but with altered rules, ones that would guarantee their advantage. This is the core of the microsolidarity and fractal belonging of the current identity politics. It is also fascism at its purest.

And as the saying goes: All comedies of history happen twice; the first time they are bloody, and the second time ridiculous. When the final receipts were written, the 1900s turned out to be a bad century for Germany. It was also a turning point for America as the leading cultural and economic global force. Now that baton has been passed, it is America’s turn. So, here we are.


[1] Peter Sloterdijk, Infinite Mobilization, Polity Press (2020)

[2] ibid.

Texas

5. IX 2021

Identity code has a generally excluding effect capable of mobilizing negative energies and social forces towards those who do not share the same origin, territory or culture. Fascism is the fundamental obsession with identity, origin and belonging. It is a knee-jerk reaction to physical and social displacement. Fascism is generally absorbent, which reflects a fear of small numbers — it likes size because identity robustness had been eroded by the defection and depletion of ranks. It absorbs everyone willing to join in and expresses hostility to outsiders.

While there are many varieties of fascism, they all have one thing in common: Misogyny resides at the origin of each and every one of them – there hasn’t been a fascist movement without it. It’s never been too difficult to mobilize enough male solidarity when it comes to organized misogyny. By questioning the external norms that relate to the position of men and women in society, man has and had nothing to gain and everything to lose: he would lose not only social and economic advantages, but something far more precious, a sense of his own superiority which bolsters his ego both in his public and private life[1].

The fundamental cohesive force of fascism always begins with a male bonding ritual of masculinization of cultural self-perception. In Italy, for example, early 20th century fascism represented the turning point from feminine self-perception to masculine assertiveness: Erasing feminine quality of its Mediterranean sensitivity – everything that makes life there pleasant and seductive — and affirming a different self-image based on acceleration and male potency (national pride, military aggressivity, industrial growth, etc). German fascism, on the other hand, was not a programmatic cultural defeminization, but rather an establishment of systematic downgrade of femininity to reproductive function as a part of the new nation-serving hierarchization. Its essence was a utilitarian placement of women as birth factories, their subordination to the interests of the National Socialist political agenda (run by men), to serve the numbers.

When seen in the context of the most recent developments, the new intensity of the American misogyny appears less of an anachronistic anomaly and more as a logical consequence of the current political struggles. The debates (and the present escalation) of the Abortion law – the topic that had been put to rest in the remainder of the world a long time ago – is resurfacing now, at this particular moment, not in the light of its renewed relevance or urgency, but as an opening act for the new chapter of fascism. It is showing here in a more convoluted way than it had 100 years ago because the social and cultural displacement of the 21st century Western man has triggered new modes of identity politics.

Modern day misogyny is the ultimate male fantasy of the Western conservatives structured around a nostalgia for the times of lower entropy, a return to the past as a site of coherence, and a relapse to the patriarchal setting when man held their “naturally deserved” upper hand and (a male) God ruled the world. Through misogyny this man articulates the desire to reclaim what he considers his “natural right” to control women and, in that way, take control of his own destiny.

Conservative man’s vision of woman is not objective, but an uneasy combination of what he wishes her to be and what he fears her to be[2]. The masculinization program and return to patriarchal values (the most coveted axiom of any right-wing politics) and assault on women’s rights and their position in society, if they are to be successful, would have to be deeper, gradual, and systematic. This means undoing the women’s emancipation. The tactical approach of conservative politics is that the masculinization program requires a proper framing and subtle maneuvering — women must not be antagonized; they are many and they vote. In their view, the most effective approach is to strike at the root of a woman’s influence.

No one has more influence on a person during their formative age than their mother. As such, she is a constant threat to both the state and to men in general. The decision of life and death has to be taken away from women. Their influence and importance in the life of their children have to be diminished, if not de facto, then, at least, symbolically. Right to life! This is ultimately the question about who has jurisdiction over the life of an individual, their mother/family or the state (ruled by men, of course). With the help of proper framing, this becomes the theme that defines the core of conservative identity politics, an issue slowly hijacked by (predominantly white) men who feel righteous and entitled, and present themselves as defenders of human life while women take a back seat.


[1] Eva Figes, Patriarchal Attitudes, Persea Books (1986)

[2] ibid.

What More Needs to Happen before Something Happens?

22. VIII 2021

Our everyday life is peppered with illegal activities – its normal functioning would be practically impossible without discretionary transgressions of the law. We jaywalk every day, regularly drive above the speed limit, and use cellphones while driving. And who hasn’t littered at some point in their life? For a long time, smoking marijuana or taking drugs have been considered rights of passage for many, while sharing you password or downloading music, movies or books is done continuously without even an afterthought. In certain states in America, non-procreative sex is still illegal and in some countries like Iran it carries a death sentence. Nevertheless, people systematically, and sometimes exclusively, engage in those practices as a matter of sexual preferences or lifestyle choices.

This aspect of casual transgression is well understood by both the citizens and the authorities. However, actions of authorities are almost never aimed at their systematic suppression. Police functioning is most effective when everyone is breaking the law. The purpose of the law and law enforcement is to make you a potential criminal and for the police to have an option to declare you an actual criminal at any given time[1].

Once this is done, once you have been declared a criminal, the court does not initiate a trial and possible sentencing, but instead pressures you to plead guilty and accept your criminality. This is more effective in the long run – once you have confessed to your criminality (in order to serve a lesser sentence or go free with a slap on the wrist), there would be no way of complaining or objecting to the consequences. In this way, you move closer to an easily governable docile subject. This is governmentality at its purest.

However, the situation is markedly different when non-individual entities are concerned. When an entire congregation or political party breaks the law systematically, this becomes a sign of possible civil disobedience and unrest, which requires urgency of intervention, especially if their followings are of negligible size. In that case, any attempt to prosecute those people can be diverted into a political struggle and, as such, become a defense against abuses of power.

Genealogy of a Political Hysteria

The seeds of the Jan-6 clown coup, and with it, the radical reshaping of the Republican party, most likely started as a consequence of the previous Oval Office occupant’s failed attempts to extort some kind of blanket immunity from prosecution by his successor. The repeated failure to successfully ensure such a package led to escalation in the negotiations and threats, most likely never intended to be realized, but, as the new President elect called his predecessor’s bluff, things went beyond the point of no return. As matter got out of hand in this game of miscalculated leverage, and assumed an unintended dimension with grave legal implications, some key figures of the previous administration became implicated and compromised.

Clearly, the whole Jan-6 thing wasn’t conceived to be anything but a threat. No one in his right mind would think that a few hundred people breaking into the Capitol would amount to keeping the losing candidate in office. Keeping the Congressmen as hostages and asking that the Election results be reversed? Or what? The mob executes them? The noose? Only a total moron (and there were plenty of them in DC on that day) could believe that this could amount to anything. All of that was intended to be nothing more than a threat to push the Republicans in Congress to vote against certification in order to drag things further so that the new administration, in order to keep things under control and finish the whole charade, finally settles for a sweeping pardon. Nothing else.

Well, that didn’t work as planned, so here we are. For those involved, the consequences have become non-trivial. The latest transformation of the Republican Party into a pseudo-criminal collective is a result of dealing with those consequences.

Since almost every Republican still sees the support of Trump’s base as a must-have on their political path, the implicated leaders have compelled others, either by dirt or by promises of endorsement, to join in and create a shift from individual to collective criminality. With that maneuver, the underlying allegations of the Republican top would be converted into a collective liability of the entire party, which would transform the defense of the idiot-coup into a political struggle.

Clearly, this cannot be, in any possible context, a sustainable platform of a political organization. It is a losing proposition in an environment where political victory is won within 1% majority. It is really a desperate attempt to diffuse the culpability of their leadership and prevent consequences to take place.

The cold civil war

The democratic process was originally conceived as a way to peacefully resolve economic disputes between people who share common values, either cultural, religious, or in terms of lifestyles or visions of the future. As such, democracy requires commonality; inequality undermines it. When, however, inequality reaches the critical point, when interests diverge so much that consensus is no longer attainable, the bonding tissue that keeps society together begins to tear and democracy becomes compromised. In the absence of commonality, disputes can no longer have peaceful resolve. Instead, the resolution occurs through negotiation or war[2].

Despite being abundantly and unambiguously clear what happened on and after Jan-6, the response has been annoyingly gradual. The effect of subsequent diversion of blame from individual to collective was to increase the already existing division and elevate the tensions, which have been accumulating over the past years. The escalation caused by the Republicans’ coming out as the white supremacist party has transformed those tensions into a cold civil war.

The legal and political disputes related to the Jan-6 events are now happening against a highly combustive social background where the underlying social tensions have already crossed the point of no return. The most acute problem, therefore, is how to avoid the cold civil war from heating up.

The current situation has become explosive — it is configured like a booby trap. And, when facing the problem of its deactivation, one does not just come in and cut the wires — one wrong move and the device will explode. Deactivation must proceed slowly and sequentially, first by figuring out who is connected with whom and only then can the cutting really begin.


[1] This argument, I believe, is due to Slavoj Zizek.

[2] Jeffrey A. Winters, Oligarchy, Cambridge University Press (2011)

Death & Life in Utopia for the Stupid (a flashback)

19. VII 2021

The rational is always the rationality of an irrational (Fèlix Guattari)

If utopia represents the impossible [imaginary places where social relations are represented, contested, and inverted], and developed society has reached the point where (almost) everything is possible, then the problem of finding our way is no longer the problem of disappearing utopia, but the problem of vision and politics[1]. So, what is the neoliberal utopia really like? What is a logical extrapolation of the neoliberal experience and what could be the next frontier for its all-around permissiveness?

Of all the issues that have emerged in the last years, murder has been the most divisive. From police brutality, to vigilante killings, mass murders, shooting of cops or innocent bystanders and terror attacks. All these cases were really about who has the right to kill whom, and at what price. Black lives matter, terrorism, the OJ Simpson trial, the idiot coup … they have all been about the same theme: Is it ok for whites to kill blacks, for Muslims to kill Christians, for rich to kill poor, or even for the rich blacks to kill not-so-rich whites, etc.? There has always been some implicit hierarchy of rules in that space.

Issues that have played a similar divisive role in the past have been alcohol prohibition, teenage drinking, abortion (right to life), legality of drugs, prostitution, gay marriage, speed limits, etc. In many countries where these issues have been put to rest, tensions and problems associated with the issue have disappeared.

It is common sense to assume that removing an aura of taboo reduces the appeal of the vice. By legalizing something, one eliminates the challenge and reduces the abuse. For example, incidence of teenage drinking, drunken driving etc. are much lower in countries which have no minimum drinking age, and similarly in the case of car accidents vs. speed limit. In the same manner, one can argue, that the legalization of drugs could lead to lower incidence of drug abuse and a reduction in crimes associated with illegal drug trafficking. Same holds for prostitution. The upside of legalizing these activities is that society becomes less polarized – people get along better with each other – and, once divisive aspects are removed, politics becomes more constructive.

Utopia for the stupid

Stupidity does not understand context. It assumes knowledge and extrapolations of experiences to contexts where those do not belong and often cannot hold. This is the summary of neoliberalism’s essence and its destiny as an ideology premised on applying the laws of the markets to life as a whole. In the final days of the unraveling of the neoliberal reign, this has become the era of stupidity. Therefore, entertaining the counterfactual reality that reflects the future as a neoliberal utopia of permissiveness, by allowing for its virtual triumph and applying its patterns and rules to situations where they do not belong, should be done based on the same foundations of confused contexts and argued with the same logic as the ideology itself.

By analogy with the well-know cases of causal connection between bad habits and their status of social taboo, it is fair to ask the same question regarding murder. Following the logic of neoliberal reasoning, one can argue along the following lines:

First, in America, there is an insane number of murders every year. By now, we probably have more than one mass murder for each day in the year. Obviously, the fact that murder is a capital offense is no detractor for killers; the rate of killing (individual/random/mass) keeps increasing. The legitimate question to ask then is: Would the number of murders decrease if they were to become legal? Following the same line of reasoning as with drinking or drug abuse, one could argue that most likely, there would be an initial surge, but then the trend would gradually subside and a new lower equilibrium murder rate reached.

Death by shooting would gradually be accepted as a consequence of our freedoms, in the same way as death caused by traffic accidents, plane crashes, fire, or natural disasters have.

The benefits would be immediately visible. First, guns would get the status of a regular appliance, like car or TV — everyone would own (at least) one. This would be plain common sense. All debates about the second amendment would become obsolete and with them the polarizing effects would go away. There would be no justification for the existence of the gun lobby. The NRA would be rendered politically irrelevant and politics, free of its influences, would be able to focus on issues that matter. Without polarization around the second amendment, republicans and democrats could even merge into a single party.

Smart guns would become the new technological frontier. Apple would produce first iGun, synchronizable with iPhone and iWatch, and Teslas would come with special road rage software and appropriate smart guns usable in such situations.

Compulsive killing would be frowned upon. It would be deemed uncool, along the lines people treat compulsive eating and obesity. There would be awareness groups that provide counseling and talk shows where compulsive killers would be subjected to public shaming.

The US would enter its post-political phase. There would be less need for police; private protection would be the new area of economic expansion. There would be far fewer people in prisons, both private and state-run. No debates about the death penalty or life sentences? All these would free the federal budget for more constructive projects. People would be much more considerate and respectful of each other’s feelings. Conflicts would tend to be avoided. Everyone would be nice to each other (assholes would have a very low chance of survival). Generally, people would get along much better. Right?

At the end, it would be every man for himself, just as Margaret Thatcher said: There is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. These thoughts represent the basic axiom of neoliberalism and its sociopathic core. It, therefore, doesn’t come as a surprise that, when stripped of the constraints of moral judgment, the utilitarian logic of neoliberalism, if applied consistently and carried to its final consequences, inevitable leads to over-optimized dystopian world of sociopathy. A sociopath truly practices the notion of morality developed by utilitarianism. He need not necessarily lack intelligence, but on a landscape of normal human interaction, he is lost – that is what defines his affliction. For him, morality designates a behavior one adopts by way of intelligently calculating one’s interests (in the long–run, it profits us all if we try to contribute to the pleasure of the greatest number of people). A sociopath sees morality as a theory one learns and follows and not something one identifies with: [in his universe] doing evil is a mistake in calculation, not a guilty act[2].


[1] Fredric Jameson, An American Utopia: Dual Power and the Universal Army, Verso (2016)

[2] Slavoj Zizek, How to Read Lacan, W. W. Norton & Company (2007)

Fatal Strategies and the Value of Human Life

20. VI 2021

Civilization’s potential for barbarism is growing; the everyday bestialization of man is on the increase. (Peter Sloterdijk)

In the autumn of 1914, a human life was infinitely more worthless than in the autumn of 1913. WWI was an abyss, a near-unfathomable crisis of civilization, and one of the most important issues that needed to be addressed in its wake was precisely the worth of the human being[1].

This question would set the tone and meter of the political discourse to come, its echo extending beyond the remainder of the 20th century, without ever losing its relevance. It would only assume different forms and granularity as its context changed, its mutation continuously adapting to different modes of fascism and identity politics, which defined the metrics for the relative valuation of human life.

Before and during WWII, it was the value of Arian vs. non-Arian lives (fascism). In occupied territories in WWII, Germany had a simple algorithm, precise and unambiguous, displayed in public for everyone to know: For each German killed, they would execute 100 randomly picked locals. In the second part of the 20th century, which Immanuel Wallerstein had coined as the realization of democratic fascism[2] whereby 20% of the global population exploits the remaining 80%, the debate shifted to the relative worth of American vs. non-American lives. In backlash to western hegemony, the Islamic dilemma was articulated through Islamo-fascism and terrorism with the discourse defined by a different valuation of Muslim and infidel lives. With the gradual normalization of neo-fascism and white supremacy in the new century, the debate shifted (back) to white vs. non-white and natives vs. migrants.

In today’s America, this problem is currently struck around quantifying the value of Black lives. It is not an entirely new debate, but the socio-political backdrop is. The narrative behind the current ritual of white supremacist coming out and their clownish uprising rests on the belief that, contrary to the overwhelming evidence, Black lives are valued fairly, if not even overvalued. Persistent and deliberate police brutality against Black people is but a particular way of transmitting this message, and so is the normalization of white supremacy with white replacement paranoia, the glorification of slavery, voter suppression, the exorcism of critical race theory from the school curriculum, and general revisionism.

Delirium

The embrace of a regressive revival of racial tensions defines the delirium of the current socio-political counterpoint. It is a moment that desperately demands collective introspection. Here, we have to be careful to avoid the trappings of conventional (Freudian) psychoanalysis defined relative to an Oedipal axis (which locates the roots of our problems in sex and family). What is currently at play requires a different perspective, defined by Deluze and Guatarri as anti-Oedipal:

The real problem of delirium lies in the extraordinary transition from the pole of reactionary or fascist to a revolutionary pole. Statements like ‘I belong to a superior race’ appear in all paranoid deliriums. Similarly, ‘I belong to an utterly inferior race’ is a revolutionary pole of madness[3].

The excluded white precariat is torn between these two poles, unable to decide where they stand or belong, and where they want to be. They have managed to lose their way in the interstices of the anti-Oedipal perspective. The decades of erosive acrobatics of ideological maneuvering have made this point especially ambiguous in a way that, although neither one is correct, both appear equally plausible and seductive.

Trapped in what Wendy Brown considers the neoliberal trauma inflicted by neoliberalism’s accidental wounding of the white male supremacy[4], the white underclass remains transfixed between a self-pity of collective victimology and an unwavering sense of superiority and entitlement, all these emotions grossly misinterpreted, misdirected and manipulated, standing as a testament to their anachronism.

This ideological terrain had been already claimed and appropriated by the conservative Right, resurrected as the Right Wing populism, which has latched onto the underlying white discontent as their lifeline and the last point of rescue from their own obsolescence. In a bizarre symbiosis between the super-privileged and the super-marginalized segments of the white American population, conservative leaders have taken upon themselves the role of speaking on behalf of the poor so that the poor wouldn’t speak for themselves: We want to include you in the decision without letting you influence it. Through carefully structured narratives and divisive memes, their rhetorics are framed as a culture war, which insures that the underlying rage capital of the white precariat remains properly invested and its supply never stops growing.

Entropy

The current crisis of politics is unlike anything seen before. It hasn’t been brought about by chronic scarcity, economic devastation or depression. It has been driven by an undeniable realization that exploding wealth and prosperity has repeatedly failed to underwrite a decent, or even acceptable, life for a growing majority of people amidst the unrestrained accumulation of wealth of a shrinking minority.

Entropy cannot decline, it must rise – systems always evolve towards less orderly state. This means that order always comes at a price: Local order can happen so long as it ejects enough disorder to its surroundings that the total disorder raises. Peaceful social life means that one party, the ruling one, has already won. Interfering with that – taking over by another political faction – creates an upheaval and disruption of peace.

Exploding inequality, which comes about when extreme prosperity is financed by extreme exclusion, eventually tips the scale and leads to a buildup of latent systematic violence that does not know, and is incapable of acknowledging the existence of, any bounds. At some point, this latent violence begins to permeate every aspect of social and political life and along the way creates the state of the general exclusion principle: [Y]ou cannot calculate both the current [social] position of an individual and his or her velocity of exclusion, [e.g.] advancement of women and their virtual downgrading[5]. It is impossible to distinguish causes and effects or to isolate subject from object (are Republicans hostages of their base or is the base their victims). One can grasp either the appearance or the meaning, but not both at the same time (we cannot tell whether GOP politicians only act as morons or they are actual morons). Ultimately, we can no longer calculate the price of a human life and its statistical value at the same time[6].

Nihilism of value and the fight for human soul

How did we get here? What is the big loss and trauma humanity had experienced that has led to this nihilism of value, which the neoliberal mutation of capitalism only made intolerable?

In the past, the human being was not doomed to be merely what he is. God and Satan wrestled over him. In the past, we were important enough to have a battle fought over our soul. Today, our salvation is our own affair. Our lives are no longer marked by original sin but by the risk of failing to fulfill our ultimate potential. So we accumulate plans, ideas and programs; we constantly pass the buck and seek to outdo each other in a universal effort to perform[7].

By attempting to achieve local order in our lives we eject disorder elsewhere. And as everyone does the same thing, this creates entropy, which continues to grow unstoppably and, as much as we try to avoid it, entropy begins to seep into all pores of everyone’s life. But whom do we turn to when we fail (and an increasing fraction of American population is failing), or whom do we blame for our failure?

In the absence of transcendent powers watching over us, and in the perpetual effort to validate our existence, we are forced to become ‘fatal’ to ourselves[8]. We romanticize the past and revive its ghosts in order to create a context for the struggle about jurisdiction over the ancestral terrain, its location and boundaries, and the right to map the current reality onto it. This is the only way of bringing back the lost meaning of human life. We need to own the future in order to conquer the past, because this is the terrain on which the battle for our souls will be fought again.

In what becomes a parody of fate, a leader figure will emerge who will fill that empty place and fight for the excluded and forgotten. And when they find each other, the excluded and forgotten followers will ignore every and all of his shortcomings — no matter how flawed he might be, they will support him unconditionally. He might be the worst human being there is, but they don’t require goodness or humanity from him because he fights for their soul. Nothing else will matter anymore.


[1] Karl Ove Knausgaard, My Struggle Book 6, Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2019)

[2] Immanuel Wallerstein, World Systems Analysis: An Introduction, Duke University Press (2004)

[3] Felix Guattari, Chaosophy, Semiotext(e), New edition (2008)

[4] Wendy Brown, In the Ruins of Neoliberalism: The Rise of Antidemocratic Politics in the West, Columbia University Press (2019)

[5] Jean Baudrillard, Impossible Exchange, Verso; Reprint edition (2012)

[6] ibid.

[7] ibid.

[8] ibid.

Bare life

29. V 2021

In Hegel’s master-slave dialectic, the party who emerges as master does not fear death. The desire for freedom, recognition, and sovereignty raises the master above concern for bare life. It is fear of dying that induces the future slave to subordinate himself to the Other. Preferring servitude to the threat of death, the slave clings to bare life. (B. C. Han)

What on the surface appears as a consolidation in the ranks of the post-Q-anon Republican Party, from Hawley’s clenched fist and Lyin’ Ted’s escapades, the psychotic trailer-park vitriol of Boebert and Taylor-Greene to the full immersion of Stefanik, the disoriented and stunningly myopic maneuver devoid of any logic and common sense, is not an ideological realignment, but the fight for bare life – a desperate attempt to secure a financial bloodline necessary for their short-term survival.

When seen in a broader context, the collective pledge of unconditional servitude to the rejected and discarded former leader represents the liminal stage in the forced transformation of the American conservatism, which has been following a well-defined and rigid pattern of ritual in its quest for structure, long lost after decades of its own cannibalization. This transformation process has reached the point where its inner contradictions have become so abundant that the party representing conservative ideology can no longer exist as a part of the democratic process.

For the Republican Party, this is the unconditional moment – a situation that requires the creation of a new set of values and standards, a new picture of the world and one’s sense of self in it. They are confronted with the restrictions and pathological narrowness of their existence, a condition that demands the Party to abandon the security of its limitedness, and enter a new realm of self-awareness. For them, there is no turning back; the whole system of values must change.

Republicans’ desperate gasp for air is an attempt to answer the existential question forced upon their party: How to respond to a confrontation with the reality of failure — an absolute failure, which one cannot fail to recognize? Answering this question requires entering terra incognita where they come to terms with their underlying incapacities, a transformation process that demands separation from the existing structure.

The power of ritual

Ritual is a social act of subjective transformation, which allows the transformed subject to see the context with different eyes and from a new perspective afforded by the experience of ritual. It usually takes place at an inflection point where the status quo approaches a dead end and functions as a mechanism that converts the obligatory into the desirable.

The essence of ritual is a play between structure and anti-structure. Irrespective of the context, it is always staged in three acts. The first act consists of separation – this is when the subject is taken out of their context. The second step is the transitional or liminal stage. During this phase, the work of the ritual takes place: The order of things is (temporarily) suspended — participants are in a structureless zone ready to accept new rules. In the final, integration, phase the subject is re-contextualized[1].

An example of this formal structure, with all three stages is the ritual of the American college experience. After a sheltered (and structured) childhood, where access and exposure to major sources of risk, like excessive time mismanagement, night clubs, drinking, drugs, etc. is restricted either legally or through parental supervision, college kids ceremonially leave their parents’ homes and move into student dorms (separation), the new communal centers where they cohabitate with their peers. Unsupervised and armed with newly acquired fake IDs, they step into the Devil’s playground (anti-structure) with access to alcohol, drugs, sexual experimentation, and a host of new experiences, becoming exposed to the risks and temptations of the adult world. No longer kids and not yet adults, betwixt and between, they enter the liminal stage, in which all rules of either life seem to be suspended. In most cases, the American college experience has a progressive (centrifugal) liminal period, which emerges as a source of potential alternative structures waiting to be embraced after which a successful integration into adult life can take place.

In the last 4 years, conservative politics has entered the liminal stage, its existence marked by the play between structure and anti-structure. Nothing is ordinary — everything is tremendous. Semiotic excess — lies, nonsense, conspiracy theories, and propaganda — has had the main purpose of perpetuating the ritual, sustaining liminality, and suspending the rules. Palpable falsehoods became new articles of faith, new social identity drew the boundary between us and them and became the main theme of political discourse. Acceptance includes tests of authenticity, which require participants to go through initiation rites in which they burn bridges by committing deep out-of-the-money unethical acts and physical or intellectual atrocities (sometimes all three). This is an ongoing ritual within a ritual consisting of competitive symbolic self-immolation in the arena of public spectacle, which irreversibly closes the doors for their return to pre-liminal life.

If 2016 was a moment of separation, and subsequent years were liminal, in the current context of political ritual, post-liminal right wing integration is evolving towards the Weberian everydayinization of the out-of-ordinary situations.

The road to re-contextualization

For all the good that it has created, money, in its omnipresence as the ultimate metric of value, has had a deleterious effect on society, culture and politics.

Democracies today are captured and dominated by big interest groups and their money. They still formally function as democracies — we are free to speak and free to struggle — but elections are competitive and their outcomes are not known in advance; they remain constrained by the boundaries set by financial interests of the wealthiest segments of the society. This has become more pronounced as the costs of running (for political office) are getting more and more expensive, further reinforcing the power of big money. It is practically impossible for a candidate to emerge without money – he/she must either be independently wealthy or have the people with money who back them. At the end, politics has become a game of seduction where everyone is funded by someone and they have to conform with the wishes and views of their potential and actual donors. 

Money has flattened everything – it has made every drama, every villain, and every existential or ethical dilemma linear and one-dimensional. Behind every act of evil, there is always a financial position. A madman who is plotting to nuke a large American metropolis in a doomsday suspense drama is no longer a deranged psychopath, driven by madness of revenge against humanity or dreams of establishing ex-nihilo a new world order, but a rational investor who has a short position in commodities, which would be driven in the money by the underlying catastrophe of his design.

The GOP’s current political ritual of collective lobotomy is not the result of a regressive uprising of autocratic mad villains, but a consequence of the flattening of politics by money. Their apparent suicidal tactics are in reality just posturing meant to serve as a surrogate for commitment. The ritualized loyalty oath to their rejected and defenestrated ex-leader is nothing else but a money-raising scheme. It is a plea of an increasingly marginalized ideology, deemed futureless, running out of the willing oligarchic support, transitioning from an actual political party to a suicide pact which embraces the TV-evangelist business model centered on monetizing on peoples’ misery and stripping the gullible bottom of disenfranchised rubes of their last penny.

This is the current American conservative utopia and the path to their re-contextualization. Republicans are fighting for their bare life. Beyond concerns for their short-term survival, their only vision of the future is a society as an atonal pseudo-totalitarian operetta without a key or meter, the kingdom of arbitrariness where words have no fixed meaning and actions no consequences, a fool’s paradise in which Ivy-league cohabitates happily with trailer-trash and everyone is allowed to dwell in his/her own stupidity.


[1] This breakdown of the structure and the concept of liminality were first introduced by Arnold von Gennep in 1909, Rites of Passage, University of Chicago Press (1961)

The Wound That Never Heals: Lacan Meets Trump

22. XI 2020

There is an essential difference between natural laws and those governing social contexts like history or politics. The former have to be respected while the latter can be temporarily suspended and sometimes completely ignored. Denying gravity cannot be a long-lasting practice and could have dire consequences, but disobeying historical laws can often be done with impunity. During the epochs of paradigmatic social transitions there have been a number of instances when underlying political regimes would continue to function on borrowed time, even though everybody was aware that their time was over. Napoleon had to be defeated twice to get the point, the first time in 1813, in the battle of Leipzig, and the second time at Waterloo[1]. It is only through his repeated defeat that it became clear that his passing expressed a deeper historical necessity and not just an accident of history. In a similar way, although communism was effectively over even before the downfall of the Berlin wall, it continued to live on and is still alive and well, albeit in different forms, across parts of Eastern Europe and Asia. It will take another round of defeats before its self-destructiveness causes its final disappearance.

The last four years have felt like an attempt to subvert this hierarchy, through systematic efforts to downgrade the natural laws: Ignore mathematics, physics, biology, epidemiology, and common sense in general, and replace them with speech acts and palpable falsehoods. And although we knew all too well that this ridiculous effort could not last forever and would inevitably self-destruct, we were continuously surprised by how far it went on. Our perception of this project had been repeatedly revised as the boundaries of its validity continued to stretch, until they were finally torn apart. And, while this was not surprising, it is astonishing that the whole insane thing managed to survive for four years. How was this allowed to happen and how did we get to where we are now in 2020?

Comedy like sodomy is an unnatural act: Between partial objects and human omelets

There is an archetypal scene from a Looney Tunes cartoon that plays upon the contingency of the existing rules and which relies for its comical effect precisely on the confusion of the two levels of interpretation of the laws of physics. In each episode, the cunning, insidious and constantly hungry Coyote repeatedly attempts to catch and subsequently eat the Road Runner, a fast-running ground bird, but is never successful. In his pursuit he always goes one step too far – just when he thinks he has caught up with the bird, Wiley Coyote finds himself floating in the air above the precipice, and he falls only after he looks down and becomes aware that he has no support beneath his feet, as if he has momentarily forgotten the laws of gravity its body must obey, and has to be reminded of them.

This is humor at its purest. The laws of physics have been downgraded to the level of historical laws and temporarily suspended: Gravity is initially ignored and its inevitability faced only when the subject is forced to acknowledge it. If there is an ideological interpretation to be extracted from this cartoon, it is that self-deception is reinforcing. The magic stops when we stop believing. Looking down is a mistake.

This is the maneuver that permeates almost every cartoon: What would the world look like if nature were governed by the same types of laws as history and politics? This question has acquired a different perspective and significance in the last four years. By now we know the actual answer: If the laws of nature are downgraded and become optional, the world turns into a cartoonish nightmare. The core of Trumpism is a stupid man’s version of postmodernism: Science, facts, and truth is just another story we are telling ourselves about ourselves, a narrative whose apparent supremacy over other alternatives (like myths or arts or, as in Trump’s case, outright confabulations) is, according to Foucault, only grounded in the historically contingent Western “regime of truth”. Trump’s disrespect for facts and science is precisely what gives him and his presidency a cartoonish character.

However, this superficial comedic dimension is only setting the terrain to zoom in on the bigger theme of the Road Runner (and Trump’s presidency): Why does the Coyote keep chasing the Road Runner, repeatedly, episode after episode? This is the point where cartoon merges with real life.

The most surprising aspect of Trump and his presidency is really how predictably unpredictable he had become after a very short time. Without a single exception, he was always on the wrong side of every argument; every opportunity he had, he would invariably use to say things that made the least sense. There was no accountability, no corrective mechanism of learning, like if I make a mistake once, I will try to not repeat again, I will do things differently in order to change the outcome etc. However, Trump’s compulsion to repeat the same thing over and over again, his ability to survive — his obscene political immortality despite repeated and persistent efforts at self-sabotage — is the signature of the death drive. As if failure was a drug he was addicted to, and the more he failed, the harder he tried. His every effort at self-destruction was “rewarded” with a failure, and the lower he sank, the more self-destructive he became.

Over the course of the last four years, Trump has abandoned the body of conventional politics and has become like a weird organ, which is magically autonomized, surviving without a body. He has morphed into, what in Lacanian lingo is called, a Partial object as indivisible, indestructible, and immortal – more precisely, undead: Not the sublime spiritual immortality, but the obscene immortality of the “living dead” which, after every annihilation, re-composes itself and clumsily goes on. He does not exist, he insists. He is an entity of pure semblance, and a multiplicity of appearances, which seem to envelop a central void.[2]

You only die twice: The wound that does not heal

Trump’s presidency inscribes itself into politics in the guise of a wound that deprives the political body of the capacity to die: Only when this wound is healed, the body can die in peace. And for America, this wound carries the same traumatic overtones as it does for Wagner’s character Amfortas in his last opera Parsifal: The ultimate horror is the horrible and obscene eternal life of the undead. The wound is the object that penetrates the wounded person as a parasite. [3]

And four years later, when things have turned out as predicted, Trump has run over the precipice and is refusing to look down, because he knows it’s over. The sociopolitical balance sheet, which has grown in the last four years, in sync with other balance sheets of this era, consists now of 70 million of Trump’s orphan rubes (equal to the entire population of Germany) who will soon feel again unwanted, undesired, cheated, unable to integrate, and angry. What is now recognized as Trump’s America, is the undead partial object, the indestructible remainder, cut off from the living social body, caught and fossilized inside the gap of irreconcilable cultural differences. It represents the site where the Lacanian traumatic Real resides: The Thing we have been refusing to acknowledge about ourselves, the terrible truth we have to learn how to live with.

Over the past decades, the core of American politics was the idea that social division was an effective way to govern, that only a divided nation could continue to legitimize the current system, which thrives in the interregnum of perpetual metastability. The last four years represent an accelerated terminal phase of that project taken to the next level.

As the 45th President is on his way out, the political wound created by his presidency will possibly begin to heal allowing the entire political body associated with his following to dissolve. If it happens, it will be the happy ending of a tragedy, as George Will put it, the format America loves the most. It will replace what until very recently looked like a dark comedy without an end.


[1] Slavoj Zizek, How to read Lacan, W. W. Norton & Company; 1st edition (2007)

[2] Jacques Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis, Routledge (2004)

[3] Slavoj Zizek, Tarrying with the Negative: Kant, Hegel and the Critique of Ideology, Duke University Press, 1993.  p.176-82

Turmoil and Tinfoil

17. XI 2020

Woke up this morning, decided to kill my ego, it ain’t ever done me no good, no how. (Sturgill Simpson, opening verse of Just Let Go)

Triple negatives exist only in country music and in statistics. While their deployment in everyday language is considered excessive and, outside of the bible belt, rejected as stylistically undesirable, musical lyrics sometime require them for rhythm or rhyme. In statistics, on the other hand, triple negatives play a specific role and are encountered regularly. They are there to prevent us from overstating a statistically significant result as certainty.

Statistical inference is based on drawing probabilistic conclusions based on the analysis of a finite sample of data. The sample that we work with is our universe, but although it can be representative, it never contains all information. Because of that, there is always residual skepticism that we didn’t see it all and have not taken everything into account. As a consequence, based on statistical analysis, it is unacceptable to say that something is true, but instead we have to settle for a slightly weaker statement that something is not false. In statistics, one cannot simply accept, but can only fail to reject. And that can be done only with a certain confidence level without which the statistical results are incomplete.

When testing a hypothesis in a statistical context, statements like “This will happen with certainty” have no place; the strongest statement one can make is “This will happen almost surely”. For example, if all air in a room is evacuated and we release a small amount in one corner, after some time the air molecules will be evenly distributed throughout the entire room. Their distribution will stay uniform almost surely. This does not mean that the air molecules cannot find themselves all in one corner again – there is nothing in physical laws that prohibits that — it is just that probability of that happening is extraordinarily small.

Results of current Presidential elections, as they are an outcome of statistical measurements and inferences, thus, need to be expressed accurately. First the outcome needs to be framed properly. Although the bottom line is that after Jan-20-2021, there will be a new president in the White House, if one is to be precise, Democrats didn’t win – Trump failed in not losing.

And to be perfectly clear, despite all his maneuvers and PR stunts, Trump doesn’t really believe that he won – he just fails to reject that he didn’t lose. Of course, the subtlety of this difference completely eludes him. In his overdramatized “revolt”, which is really a money raising scam, he is being less delusional and more ignorant and confused.

While the claim of victory represents a statement of certainty and, as such, can be easily invalidated, the failure to reject is incomplete without giving the confidence interval about that statement and, in its incompleteness, it is deprived of its probabilistic context.  The official results of the Elections reject the fact that Trump did not lose with probability greater than 99.999%; Trump’s failure to accept the results is the complement of that – it has a probability, which is less than 1/1000th percent.

The consequence of the underlying incompleteness is that in the eyes of Trump’s innumerate followers, it opens an ill-conceived possibility of hope. The reality of the failure to reject is a very low confidence statement, one that has an infinitesimal probability of realization, at best less than a fraction of a 1/1000th of a percent[1].

While this is a probability that has no value for any practical purposes, when put in the context of the general Republican narrative of the last four years, the core of which had been based largely on conspiracy theories, with roughly the same order of magnitude probability of realization, it could have equal merit as everything else they have stood for. After all, more than 40% of Trump supporters are evangelical Christians who believe in the magic of thoughts and prayers and reality of miracles, which have even a lower probability of realization than Trump’s chance of successfully contesting the Election’s outcome.


[1] On Friday, 6-Nov, one day before the Elections would be called by the media, it was down to three states that remained to be counted: AZ, PA, and GA. Trump had to win all three in order to win. The probabilities of Trump’s victory in each state, which were at the time still called by different outlets were as follows: PA 8%, AZ 23%, and GA 12.4%. The probability of winning all three states (= product of the three probabilities) is 0.2%. Since then, with more votes counted, increased margins, dismissed disputes and further verification, the probabilities for Trump’s victory in each of the three states have declined precipitously and the joint probability of winning all three, which he would still need if his “arguments” are to hold, has dropped by several orders of magnitude.

Declownification of sovereignty

1.XI 2020

When the number of those who have failed the rationality test is so large that they begin to present a significant political body whose voice can be heard in the ballot box, rationality will already exhaust itself. At that point, the excluded will seek to abandon reason and, with the help of nostalgia and identity politics, elect a new Prince. And this Prince will be unlike any other before him. He will govern with unwisdom and will have the courage to wear his unreason unabashedly as an ultimate virtue. He will create a new order of things, define new reality, and construct the world of unreason with rules that only he and his constituents understand.

In this kingdom of unreason, power will derive from a way of using language rather than from a system of ideas. But this, like any other detachment from reality, cannot be anything but short-lived. The Prince will sit in his big car, get on a highway and drive against the traffic. His car will have only one pedal: Gas. Like his constituents, he believes that everyone else is driving in the wrong direction. Many drivers will move to the shoulder to avoid the collision, but, as he continues to accelerate, there’ll be a slow-moving trailer truck that won’t be able to maneuver fast enough.