15:17 to Paris and the Banality of Valor

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by Guy Walker

Spencer Stone wasn’t supposed to be good at anything. He was deficient in his academics, overwhelmed with sloth, obese as a child, consumed with his love for toy guns and camo. In other words, a great American in the making. He eventually joined the Air Force where he was deferential and persevering, but kept failing in the most menial tasks assigned. But then on August 21, 2015, Stone proved what he was capable of when he helped thwart a potentially bloody massacre on a Paris-bound train.

He was with with his lifelong best friends Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler, traveling through Europe together, unknowingly boarding the same train car that Moroccan-born Ayoub El Khazzani was readying an attack. He armed himself in the bathroom with an assault rifle and three-hundred rounds of ammunition, a pistol, a box cutter, and no shirt, like a self-hating Rambo pantomimist, the sweaty discharge of nerves dripping from his tits. When he emerged from the toilet with gun in hands, he was immediately met with the struggle and force from another passenger, American-born Frenchman, Mark Moogalian. After much hassle, in what looked like a deadly version of musical chairs with the disheveled handing-off of guns, Moogalian was shot in the neck with the pistol, and Stone, Sadler, and Skarlatos seized the weapons from Khazzani, beat his face in with the butt of the rifle, and tied him up. They nursed Moogalian’s severe neck wound until the train stopped, and French police and doctors boarded, and all order was restored.

Clint Eastwood’s new movie, The 15:17 to Paris, centers around these suspenseful moments, contextualizing the episode with a strange selection of biographical accuracy. It’s been widely reviewed as a bold, yet mostly failed experiment. By casting the real heroes as the actors, their stultifying charisma is not equatable to bad acting—necessarily, the acting can’t be bad. Criticism of their performance is instead criticism of them as self-conscious young men—a hollow pointless objection that simply says they didn’t entertain the way a real hero would. These complaints are, of course, wrong. Eastwood’s experiment is neo-Stanislavskian idealism, a higher methodology of never breaking character, a newfound commitment towards death. Our heroes will never be in another movie not because they are loathsome as actors, but because they will never be able to prepare for another role.

So, why was the movie so unbearable?

Eastwood has long made clear his political leanings. His queer imbecilic performance at the 2012 Republican National Convention, in which he delivered a stumbling hallucinatory interrogation of Barack Obama sitting in a chair, made everything he did in the future a political act. The 15:17 to Paris wasn’t just shameless military propaganda, or an advocacy of mass distribution of guns and war games for children; it was a landmark entry in the anthology of alternative facts. The single most thoughtful and literary sentence of dialogue was also its worst: my God is bigger than your statistics. It was a moment in the film when our heroes are children; they’re acting up in school, and two of the mothers are speaking privately with their sons’ teacher. She flagrantly and brashly diagnoses the children with ADD, saying they need to be medicated, subdued. The film’s commentary on the reckless haphazard medication of children could have been poignant; but Eastwood’s screenwriter, Dorothy Blyskal, instead diverts it to a gratuitous pandering to Christian conservatism. My God is bigger than your statistics is part of the defiant eulogy in Christian politics—it’s a reactionary crack that’s widely distributed in its application, saying gays are faggots, abortion is murder, war is peace, and so on, until the whole American experience is a porcelain infancy.

There’s about a twenty minutes sequence of Stone and Sadler ambling around Venice, Italy with a selfie stick, posing with the puerile occupation of “Americans in Italy.” There’s no plot here, no advancement of conflict, no foreshadowing of obstacle or goal. But in Eastwood’s obvious senility, in his dithering worship of films about strong men, in his attempt to remain modern and relevant, he inserts the selfie stick as a totem to this is what kids do these days, like a grandfather trying to stay hip with his runny-nosed grandsons: Man, this ice cream is the tits! he says, slobbering everywhere, embarrassing the world.

This has always been an illuminating hallmark of Eastwood’s. His entire career has been about re-characterizing his glory days as the elusive cowboy in the Sergio Leone films, characters that Donald Trump has purportedly idolized himself after—a trick-stopping showman who shoots from the hip and says it like it is. American Sniper was merely an episode in the gradual milk-lacquered entropy of Western heroism, the masturbatory fatigue weighing everything down with the onset of chronic blockbuster depression.

There’s a moment when our three heroes wake up together in a sunlit room after a night of dancing in some club in Amsterdam. One of them mutters the well-known adage: last night was crazy, but man, this morning I’m so hungover. The problem isn’t just that this is profanely hollow dialogue that doesn’t do anything to advance the story; rather, it unearths the more brazenly solecistic aspects of ourselves we’d prefer to edit out; it is unnervingly accurate in its portrayal of human simplicity. In truth, the vast majority of us speak the way an illiterate would write. If an invisible transcriber followed us as we went about our day, and we had to read ourselves in dialogue form each night before going to bed, most of us would shrink into the deepest folds of the sheets, cowering in the face of our brutish parody. A choked starling and her impish gasps is all we get; the rest is theater. The home-loving dramaturges that Chekhov and Arthur Miller beautified give an unrealistic advantage to their kind. Those everyday homely characters that we are supposed to relate to are too pictorial and precise in their structure. Stone, Sadler, and Skarlatos are relatable in their doughy normalcy, their artless glorification of helping others.

It’s interesting to compare the incident on the Paris-bound train with a similar, more gruesomely intimate tale of everyday heroism. On May 26th, 2017, on a train in Portland, Oregon, Jeremy Joseph Christian, an ugly mullet-loving white suprematist, was spluttering his yokel philistinism at two teenage girls, one Muslim, the other African American. Strangers in the crowded train intervened, defending the girls, two men of which ultimately sacrificing their lives, and a third man surviving with a severe stab wound to the neck. It’s heroic, but not cinematic. Dead heroes don’t inspire others. But more importantly, there is no flag worship in this type of action; the Other is the victim and not the perpetrator. The messaging in The 15:17 to Paris is clear that these are our boys. Focusing on an incident like that on the train in Portland would confuse that dialogue.

The 15:17 to Paris feels cruel and inept because it is. It never should have been made. It feels like a movie built with stock footage, the kind you see in pharmaceutical commercials with couples walking their doggie on the beach, flying a kite, mowing the lawn—the everyday tedium that we are actually programed to forget. This is all stacked around a single moment of competence, when the shooter’s gun jams, and our hero tackles him. Actually, both of his guns jam. Eastwood makes a nod at the monumental luck, when Skarlatos inspects the guns immediately after the attempted attack, and comments on their “one in a million” fortitude; but Eastwood never fully illuminates this, that the grandiosity of one man’s valor swirls chaotically in our collective farts of ephemerality.

It brings it back to when they are children—my God is bigger than your statistics. “One in a million” is prophecy along this quixotic brand of Pulp Fiction divine intervention moment—it marries Stone’s awesome bravery to run headfirst at the barrel of a loaded assault rifle with the omnipotence of God’s hand at work, ending with the victorious ejaculation of hero-worship dripping off the screen, a hundred flag-waving hard-ons watching determinedly in the theater, their dicks overflowing like lava cakes. What the film achieves in is explicating the pedestrian nature of heroism—it’s something that everyday citizens like you and I can achieve—be fat, suck at school, stop terrorists. It’s the American way.

And in a way, 15:17 to Paris transcends above all other films. The exhausting banalities of our heroes’ day-to-day are all part of the unsentimental realism of how we live our lives. We’re shitty at nearly everything that’s interesting. We go to Europe—to the safe big cities, and to the hostels in those cities—out of some last-ditch desperation for menial indulgence. The 15:17 to Paris is Westernized avant-garde, an unintended masterpiece of social criticism; it forces its viewers to plug along with the careful representation of themselves—an hour-and-a-half autobiographical biopic in which we stand in front of the mirror staring at the religion of monotony that has overcome us, the utter boredom. It’s a sobering moment, when we realize none of us actually orate like the baroque Tarantino dialogues, that the extravagant fictions of our favorite films are exactly that—fantastic, impossible, award winning in their artistry.

Finally, we can continue as normal. Because this is who we are. Heroes are everyone everywhere, shuffling across the wide open range, consuming things like mac ’n’ cheese and Coca Cola. Our cinematic gallantry always just a moment away.


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A Year of Resistance: What Went Wrong

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by Guy Walker

As Donald Trump wipes his stubby fingers clean of 2017, the pomaded residue from a year of nihilistic triumph is left like a vague stain on every surface. His first year in office will be remembered as the dumpster fire that we all had to witness, day after day. His name, his trademark sullen profile, his jelly-soaked face—it’s TRUMP in its totality, and it follows us everywhere. His daily routine has been thrown at us like it were important: he goes to his room by 6:30pm, alone; he locks the door, turns on all three televisions, the sound blaring all-Trump all-the-time like the mangled orchestra of his own ego. There’s a growing heap of Diet Coke cans and Big Mac wrappers that have gone transparent from grease drippings, there’s shredded lettuce caught in his glittered chest hair like a fly trap, bits of decade-old American cheese mummified beautifully under the folds of his tits. He rummages around for awhile, for a dried out morsel of a chocolate malted, oinking victoriously on all fours when he discovers his evening treat.

But in part because of Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury, we know he didn’t want any of this. Hillary Clinton and her whole campaign staff and donors have to live with the grim reality that not only did they lose to a reality TV star who boasted about sexual assault and was endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan, but also that he undisputably tried to lose. According to Wolff’s book, Roger Ailes and Donald Trump were floating rumors of a new media empire—a Trump TV of sorts—following their triumphant loss to Clinton. It would have been built on the progression of mania, the paranoia and delusion so severe it would have made Alex Jones seem as drab and dim-witted as Wolf Blitzer reading off a grocery list.

Even with the cartoonish hellscape that has propogated under him, Trump’s presidency is the best thing that could have happened. If Ted Cruz had won, he would have led like a greased-up lord of squalor, pushing the same oppressive policy as Trump but without any of his brazen ineptitude. If Clinton won, the stampede of reactionaries would have been successfully gruesome in their protest, marching with tiki torches in support of their illiterate ghoul-hero. Congress and the Senate would have gridlocked every dithering attempt of hers to spread her tepid liberalism further. Her closeted racism would have remained mostly unscathed. The alt-right may have become more emboldened because of a Trump presidency, but the conspiratorial charade that would have entirely engulfed a Clinton presidency would have given them the momentum they really need and crave.

They won a contest they never wanted to win. The Bannons and Millers and Trumps of the world function best in their spluttering hostility from the sidelines. Their message is perversely apt only when they are the fringe extremists, squealing like lost pigs in a storm. Resistance under the guise of patriotism worked, but it worked too well. Now they’re in charge, and liberals are in the position the klansmen much preferred, clawing their way towards some respectability. The Democratic Party especially has postured itself as the party of resistance. Resistance was the main theme of 2017, but it resulted in little more than a hashtag.

The problem is in large part due to the fact that the political left has no understanding how to resist effectively. The day after Trump’s inauguration marked the beginning of an era of voyeuristic pusillanimousness—a pacified resistance movement that’s overly pleased with itself. The Women’s March didn’t have a single arrest. In what was deemed “likely the largest single-day demonstration in recorded U.S. history,” by The Washington Post, with an estimated 4 million attendees at demonstrations across the country, and not cause for a single arrest, the #Resistance movement was off to its start of withering fruitlessness. It was self-pacified, concerned not with halting the fascistic menology of a Trump administration, but posing with your other nasty gals for another hit Instagram post. It was, after all, a day of fashion. Were the pink pussy-eared hats part of a feminist hallmark, something of a suffragette anatomical allusion, or were they just a response to Donald Trump’s red hats? If the presidency was won with a cheap red hat, then surely it could be taken away with a pink one. One almost expected the alt-right to respond with exaggerated scrotums sagging from side to side on their heads, chanting Balls Are Beautiful! as they summited a hill for everyone to see.

As the year dragged on however, the left did demonstrate that they can indeed incite outrage. When the conservative provocateur, Milo Yiannopolous, came to speak at UC Berkeley, antifa erupted in protest by smashing storefront windows and setting cars ablaze. When conservative political commentator Ben Shapiro came to the same campus, he required $600,000 worth of security. When professor Bret Weinstein of Evergreen State College issued his disagreement when white students were encouraged not to attend campus as part of Day of Presence/Day of Absence, students deemed him a racist, and responded by patrolling the campus with baseball bats. It was as if all the pent up rage had spurted out in the most self-immolating ways, the ineffectiveness of it all making a mockery of their cause.

When did resistance become so petulant? It drives a Prius with a #HillYes bumpersticker fourteen months after the election; it eats mud and then proceeds to brag about it. The Democratic Party confirmed they only want to lose when they elected Tom Perez as chairman of the DNC, completing the powerhouse trilogy of dying turkey-gizzard aristocrats with Pelosi and Schumer.

It wasn’t always this way. In Henry Kissinger’s first volume of memoirs, White House Years, he recounts a Richard Nixon who was terrified that Vietnam War protestors were going to summit over the barricades of empty city buses surrounding the White House gates. In a PBS News Hour interview, The Presidency of Richard Nixon author, Melvin Small, put it this way:

“Henry Kissinger said Washington and the White House were besieged. There were district buses lined up around the White House for who knows what. The 82ndAirborne was in the basement of the Executive Office Building across the street.”

The tyrants were cowering. They feared the people enough to admit it even decades later. The Nixon administration was perhaps the last in which the peoples’ contempt made a lasting impression. When George W. Bush was asked what he thought about the Iraq War protests, he said he welcomed them, because they were expressions of democracy, a freedom they were going to bring to the Iraqi people. In effect, the American peoples’ collective voice was silenced. Resistance never evolved beyond the Gandhian salt march, beyond the quiet stubbornness of Rosa Parks. In today’s hailstorm of controversy and content, an action similar to Parks would never make headlines, much less the history books.

But there’s other reasons why resistance no longer works like it used to. It’s been said elsewhere that one of the key differences between Trump and Nixon is Nixon was capable of shame. Even in his rotten pastiche of character, in his alcoholic’s hallucinatory furor, he somehow had enough rectitude and awareness to be shamed out of office. Trump doesn’t have that capacity, but he is far less impervious than he pretends.

The justice system is heavily bent on its own intimidation of (and sometimes, alliance with) white nationalists. Waco and Ruby Ridge were public relations disasters for the state, directly inspiring the Oklahoma City bombing, and solidifying the suspicions from gray state paranoia. Since these instances, the federal authorities have been tepid at best when dealing with rightwing militant standoffs. They eventually surrendered to Cliven Bundy, releasing back his cattle, presuming the conclusion that if you are white and have enough guns you are immune from federal crimes. And the charges against the Bundys were most recently dismissed by a federal judge, allowing them to walk free after leading an armed standoff. As noted before, there were no arrests during The Women’s March, but there was an unduly amount the day before, during the inauguration. Compare the dismissal of the Bundy case with these arrests, now known as the J-20 trials, involving 230 people, many of whom are journalists. Of these, photojournalist Alexei Wood was indicted on eight felony charges and could face up to 60 years in prison. It’s this kind of justice system that makes resistance as we knew it impossible.

Trump’s mental stability has been called into question by his own staff, his pathological bluster seeming to weaken in its conviction. We want a professional to diagnose him as the madman he is, thinking that this would somehow finally convince his base of his actual ineptitude. But we can’t. Under the “Goldwater rule,” the American Psychiatric Association denies its members from diagnosing members of the public from afar, without having them as actual patients. It is evident though, his ever-worsening madness catapulted his electability in the first place. This is why traditional forms of resistance don’t work—his madness is his greatest asset.

In Foucault’s History of Madness, he describes the Classical Age as one of which the mad were revered for bestowing an unusual kind of wisdom. The literature and art of the time, according to Foucault, cast the schizophrenics and hallucinating as minor prophets wading into other realms of the senses. This is, of course, how supporters of Trump see him. Forgetting the words to the national anthem is actually cool. Not knowing how to read is tantamount to true enlightenment.

By the end of Trump’s term, he’s sitting in the Oval Office, in a pile of hay and newspaper shredding, in just his underwear, his bloated flesh spilling over the sides of the elastic band, blabbering nonsense like he were mimicking De Niro in the final scene of Cape Fear. Kellyanne Conway is standing over him, writing in her clipboard. “That’s great,” she says aloud, “I love where you’re coming from. Keeping your promises to the American people.”

This is how it will end. And if the Democrats and the rest of the #Resistance movement hoist up someone like Oprah Winfrey to compete with him in 2020, it won’t matter who wins—it will be one enormous dystopic circus until the end of time. “Modern man no longer communicates with the madman,” Foucault writes in the preface. And not by diminishing into a language of celebrity and spectacle will the “rupture in dialogue” be restored. A lasting, meaningful resistance is effective through elevated reason, through a dialectical materialism evolved for here and now.

Erecting Ruins: The Future of Isolationism

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by Guy Walker

How will Donald Trump finally build his wall? At nearly every campaign rally, he iterated his plans of a gilded hysteria, his fetishized wet dream of this coruscating seventh wonder of the world. Whenever he spoke about it, his mouth tightened and expanded like a gasping sphincter, as if every now and then the pressure builds to uncontrollable levels, and he explodes like a rushing torrent of tics and insults. You can see his face twitch when he reads from a teleprompter, like there’s a profane and haunting beast right at the edges of his skin trying to climb his way out.

This is the real Donald Trump, the one who ran on a promise of ethnic cleansing, pushing 11 million undocumented immigrants just over the other side of his “big, fat, beautiful wall.” But there’s something strange about it all—his obsession with something seemingly so mundane, out there in the desert, is unlike normal fantasies. There’s no reason he would stop with the initial 11 million. The wave of deportation would inevitably spread to all members of the media, everyone who’s ever criticized him on Twitter, Democrats, feminists, all male competition for women or power. He only wants to corral himself away from the rest of the world, him and Ivanka safely locked behind their two-thousand miles of barricaded gold mirrors, his chest hair saturated in baby oil, the sizzling gravity of his tits cooking like two thick steaks in the sun. He wants to personally patrol the entire length of his wall, leaning from side to side as he walks like a human pear, his baggy suit blowing aimlessly in the dry anarchic gasps. His huge red tie hangs like the tongue of a dying dog. But these clothes—this suit and tie—are old garments of a former life that was strictly about business and real estate. Now, he imagines himself in an open robe, hung with little velveteen tassel-balls, a Burger King paper crown propped on his head, gripping an oversized trident still smoking with victory, the triumphant abandonment of the world begging to be touched by him. When he looks up at night, the major constellations have rearranged themselves into a glittery caps-lock pronouncement: TRUMP! #MAGA

There are eight prototypes from six contracting companies being seriously considered, all of which will soon be put through stress tests to better determine what best keeps the colored people out. Contestants will try to climb over, dig under, and hammer their way through. You could call these tests The Trump Games, call them Blood and Soil Olympics, call them Island Stupid, or Wall Madness. It’s government sanctioned theater that has a lot of potential—a Survivor-style reality show where contestants can have flamboyant pseudonyms and side ponytails, give sobbing backstabbing confessionals in front of navy blue curtains, share their family histories on why we should root for them. It’ll be everything the major networks could dream of: everyone in the country will talk endlessly about how much they hate it, but they won’t be able to take their eyes off of it.

The hysteria has nothing to do with keeping the brown-skinned people out. Even if the border was merely a sloppily drawn line in the sand, and every immigrant that stumbled over it were a desiccated serial rapist, Trump supporters wouldn’t be frantically stacking cinder blocks to keep them out. It was never about this particular profession of belief; it’s always been about adding to the bloat of America, nothing more. Support for the man is a different thing altogether. It’s an obsession, a Freudian pathology with insatiable cravings for more. But so is the hatred of him—every bit of it is disgusting and impossible to ignore. It’s as if we all volunteered to be locked in a Hometown Buffet in some indiscriminate strip mall as we consume endless portions of Donald Trump, dipping the oversized ladle back into the mac ’n cheese, gorging ourselves on the American heart attack solidified into human form right in front of us.

This is where the wall enthusiasts feel most comfortable. The wall has nothing to do with keeping America safe from the apparent reign of drugs and crime festering in the squalid enormity south of the border; the wall is an exclamation of nihilistic pedantry, a pointless craving to leave a human scar across the landscape. Even the word itself has a unique distaste when leaving the mouth. Wall. It’s a stretched out grunt, an illogical menacing groan that likely shouldn’t exist. But it does, in all its awfully banal physical form. It’s Monument Todestrieb, a meandering ruin trying to dam up the sky. Our greatest monuments to ourselves have never been about anything practical or worthwhile—they’re always a pharaoh’s desert-hardon magnified into some cumbersome concrete edifice that can be seen from space. Trump’s wall, when viewed from space, will be a hyper-realistic rendering of his dick—a single, wet, Top Ramen noodle. It wanders aimlessly, the stupid thing looking for a purpose all its life, meandering in and out of lost valleys, the staggering confines of freedom waving delicately in the arid breeze.

This is what it’s always been about. A man and his dick palace. When he was in real estate, his buildings were golden phalluses, erect and shimmering in a desolate universe; they’re totems of one man’s inner gilded age, meant to signify not only his good fortune, but his youth and fertility. I fuck in gold! his buildings blurt out from every coruscating edge. But he knows his buildings are a teenager’s joke of giant cocks drawn on the skyline—with the ephemerality of a man’s erection, Trump’s buildings will soon crumble and fall. The Wall, on the other hand, is where he can really make his mark.

The form of the monument changes with the form of the man. Because he’s bulging from all sides and his skin is just seared meat, his monument has changed accordingly. He wants to spill himself across the frontier like a patriarch’s fetid corpse. This is his death drive, his unholy petrified cum statue he has commissioned for himself—or is it of himself. It’s possible it’s both. There’s obviously a precondition here, a vague haunting that’s slowly giving him the shrewdness of a fetus. You can notice it in the little things, the way he drinks water, the way he shows everybody he wrote his name. Trump has been given everything; he’s more powerful than any man before him, and all he wants to do is play in his room, stacking Lincoln Logs in the Oval Office, enthusiastically revving up Hot Wheels and smashing them into Barbie dolls. As each succeeding day nudges Donald Trump closer to death, he turns more and more into a slobbering newborn. Every time he doesn’t shit himself he demands the people applaud. When he said, I just want to play with trucks, his staff brought a Mack truck to the front steps of the White House so he could pretend to drive one, honking the horn with the outstanding enthusiasm of a toddler. The wall is his Lego castle he always wanted to build.

The wall will almost certainly never be built, but the glamorous drama of believing it could be reality would be great for our culture. After all, that’s what it’s always been about. A mile-and-a-half from where the prototypes stand, in the dusty nowhere, there is a “free speech zone”, where protestors can throw tantrums, march in circles in their sealed off paddocks, and finally ease themselves under catharsis and dehydration. But nobody’s fighting for anything—the wall is only a symbol, and not because it won’t function properly for its intended use, but because it’s a wall. It’s the most nihilistic form of tribalism—we are at rock bottom. The already crumbling slab of concrete has brought all ideological encampments to their knees, begging for some outcome, some gilded destiny, or some failure that allows the landscape to remain. Whatever the case, this is the end of us. Evolution ended when we stampeded the world for the concept of a wall in the desert.


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The Future of Desire

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by Guy Walker

What actually did happen to the sexual revolution? It wasn’t long after one of Freud’s most noteworthy students, Wilhelm Reich, landed on New York’s squalid shores in August of 1939, that the generation of prurience and free love was born. His most noteworthy invention and physical contribution apart from his writings now seems like an artifact of dereliction, some shambled box from an abandoned carnival: the Orgone Energy Accumulator. It looks like a boarded up telephone booth, an unexciting trunk turned on its side that you were supposed to sit in and wait to receive the brilliant and spontaneous orgasms it provided.

Sex from some obscure unknown realm has long been a preferred subject of science fiction. In Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, a bounty hunter Phil Resch (a phonetic cousin of the Austrian psychoanalyst), who works for a fictitious police agency, and could be another android, remarks to Deckard with a tone of austere advice, “If it’s love toward a woman or an android imitation, it’s sex.” The reader is propelled into the obvious: how does it actually feel to be in a storm of eroticism with a robot?

Blade Runner 2049 offered another installment of this fantasy. Our hero’s girlfriend, Joi, is a three-dimensional hologram resembling an evolutionary masterpiece; you can watch the movie in what is seemingly another layer of 3-D, gaping up at her seductive digitization swaying into the bedroom, your mouth hanging open stupidly, staring up at the huge screen with your flimsy paper sunglasses. Joi’s character is a reincarnation of a character we know well.

In the 1956 French drama, …And God Created Woman, Juliette, the subliminally catastrophic temptress played by Brigitte Bardot, believed “the future was invented only to spoil the present.” Sixty years later, it’s the present that wants to spoil the future—it wants to give it all up for us, tell us of the trenchant nihilism ahead, popularize the ultimate ghosts of technology. In the film, she lays around naked, walks everywhere barefoot, undisturbed by the male forces and societal norms around her, causing a moral panic amongst those nearest her. The men in the film conclude she “was made to destroy men,” as they try to repel the inevitable gravity of her enchantment.

The destruction of man by the strange and impossible intrigue of the woman is a common theme now. Hollywood is smitten with this fantasy. How will people, you know, “do it”, in the future? Spike Jones’s 2014 dystopic interlude, Her, brought the same titillating futurism conceptualized in the bedroom to the big screen. The envisioned communing between Theodore and the computer operating system, Samantha, was little more than a banal exclamation that mimicked the snorts and grunts of pleasure. It was phone sex, mildly elaborated, only for the sake of the pronouncement of orgasm, leaving the fluids, sweat, bullwhips, fuzzy handcuffs, and every other physical attributor of touch, in question and out of the picture.

Ex Machina notioned that the most beautiful women of the future will be an invasive species of silicon chips molded in our most alluring fashion—they’ll be prowling amongst us, like a digitized playmate who could calmly and regularly beat the Kasparovs of chess, and then lock them in a cellar until they rot. There’s nothing more thrilling than taking someone home from the bar who might turn out to have a survival glitch that would necessarily have to kill you to succeed. BDSM for existentialists; the abstract fetishizing would turn a whole generation into a sex-themed Russian roulette game.

Or there’s HBO’s Westworld series, which featured robot prostitutes that would kill their way to freedom. Thus far, our popularized interest in artificial intelligence goes as far as what sort of envious bloom their reproductive organs will look like, how lusting and lifelike the interplay could and should be. Especially the women. Movie producers and audiences alike don’t desire the other possibility in quite the same way. There’s something deeply unsettling about their male counterparts that would only be used for sex—their dangling rubberized testicles waving in the dusty anarchy of the wild west, their smutty reprogrammable libido under spasms of defect, wreaking havoc on innocent female victims who only wanted a bit of cathartic delight.

It’s clear what’s happening. When Lacan famously announced “there is no sexual relation,” he wasn’t attempting a contrarian view of desire without features. He was iterating how we split ourselves up in the act of sex, between “its being and its semblance, between itself and that paper tiger it shows to the other.” In this, as in a combative death drive, we either give or receive a mask, “a thrown-off skin,” in order to protect our real being.

We’re never really alone with our sexual partners. There’s always a deep fantasy or weirdly-cloaked fetish lingering in the shadows, hammering away at our heads in varying degrees of distraction. In the strange and extraordinary partnership of cultural totems, Slavoj Žižek was commissioned by Abercrombie & Fitch to write for their 2003 Back to School Quarterly, where he quipped his bursting tic-filled remarks on youth and sex, the capitalized large font spread across a glossy overlay of two boys and a girl completely naked, barely of age, carousing in green fields, the sun’s yolk spilled across the whole verdant jouissance like a pagan dream: “The only successful sexual relationship occurs when the fantasies of the two partners overlap. If the man fantasizes that making love is like riding a bike and the woman wants to be penetrated by a stud, then what truly goes on when they make love is that a horse is riding a bike…With a fantasy like that, who needs a personality?”

A horse riding a bicycle is as real as Ryan Gosling passing his dick across and into the flickering static of his girlfriend, both of which are only barely less real than an undisturbed sexual communion between two people. There’s nothing remarkably novel about Hollywood’s attempts to realistically imagine the future of bodily desire. A robot’s vagina is not the exemplary nexus of modern art, not some avant-garde interpretation of Freudian psychoanalytics. But some productions have imagined a sort of post-Oedipal world, in which man creates his maker, fucks her, and then is gruesomely slain by her.

What Ex Machina and Westworld achieve is they thrust the viewer outside the obvious torments of being killed by the glamorous female lead, and they allow you to imagine the daily benign thrill of the technicians themselves, and what it must be like for them to pick and prod and quietly sculpt women of our yearning. As viewers, we know the architects of these humanoids had to at some point kneel down and masterfully sculpt the deep swelling crevasse of her reproductive organ, the realism of her sensuality more essential than any other appendage or feature. The absurd bald mounds on Barbie dolls, like they were long-legged congenital eunuchs disguised in aprons and wigs, no longer suffice for the pornographic obsessions of the modern age.

The cinema is now our most easily digested form of suggestive enterprise. We bring the whole circus of crime and drama and comedy and romance and war into our bedrooms, our gawping voyeurism permanently attached to our laptop screens. But it’s always been like this. The preferred art forms from before quietly distilled the same libidinal hankering as multi-million dollar productions filmed in front of green screens do today. What happens when Picasso or Lucian Freud paints one of their women? Are they not attempting to garner a lusciousness of dimension of the female form they never managed to see themselves? They spent countless painstaking hours leaning over their huge canvases, trying to improve on mere replication, detailing the dimpled flesh and overgrown pubic forests like things of undocumented mystery. They composed these scenes, arranged their women in candid moments of trembling bliss, and hyper-realized the overflowing smooth flesh of women as the givers of all life. The title of the painting above is “Benefits Supervisor Sleeping,” the model’s actual job title. The words give a humanness, a normalcy to the shapeless spill of tit over the edge of the couch, as if this could be every moderately heavy woman walking down the street. We are pressed with the overwhelming gravity of who we really are, the unflattering reality of ourselves as a gruesome patchwork of anuses and other spluttering holes, all held together with this dying membrane of sweat and pores and hair, the festering wounds of age slowly eating away at us.

What’s next, beyond each fantasy, is another. Most of us spend our days slouched in some form or another, our necks sloped like a cow grazing her fields, staring at a screen. We tap away at it endlessly, as if it will eventually do something, fetishizing the swirling blots of color, a whole universe encased in Snapchat doggy ears and nose. When you watch porn on your computer or phone, you’re signaling one half of a holographic sex doll—an illusory, yet very real, pleasure. There’s a brothel in Germany that’s already gotten rid of all the prostitutes—all the real humans, that is—and instead offers their clients a lineup of lifelike sex dolls. We’re almost there. It’s the same fantasy played out in different forms—different brands of the same product within today’s culture industry. Adorno and Horkheimer illuminated in their philosophical monument, Dialectic of Enlightenment, that the “culture industry perpetually cheats its consumers of what it perpetually promises.” It usually ends in flaccid regret. Instead of the high definition fantasy playing out in front of us, we end with a white pool of mucous in a dirty sock. “The promise,” they continue, “which is actually all the spectacle consists of, is illusory.” But it’s voluntary. We pay $17 to see someone else play out our fantasies of what the future will look like.

It could have been an interesting storyline in Blade Runner 2049, between K and his holographic girlfriend—where their moments of affection and confidentiality really lead to, what they would have done about having children, arguments around infidelity and if it’s really considered cheating. But the filmmakers never went there. That particular subplot ended in masturbatory ennui, a close indifference about the future of our relationships. Again and again, we’ll watch these films on our own screens, the clutching voyeurism of survival fluttering across the backlit rectangles, the colorful blobs of other humans superimposed. But the end is always the same. The credits roll and the screen goes black, and we’re left staring at our dark naked reflection in the glass.


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The Faux Patriot Phenomenon

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by Guy Walker

On a dank fetid afternoon in the middle of August, as the sweltering torridity encouraged record-breaking fires to spread even further across the American frontier, Donald Trump emerged for a group of journalists, their questions frantic, as if each one were trying to clammer over the another. His skin was more opaque than usual, like a mangled sun-roasted apricot, a glob of hellish torture that housed his gleaming white blocks of teeth. He kept his lips pulled back in order to show off his teeth like a prey trying to scare off its enemy, and answered questions about the racial-infused violence that occurred just days prior, famously uttering there “were very fine people” amongst the Klansmen, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis that stormed through Charlottesville.

It was a simple seditionary remark, another snort of his trademark grandiose ignorance, the kind he exhibited when denying he knew who David Duke was while initially running his presidential primary campaign.

Fast forward a little more than a month, when Trump is speaking at a rally in Huntsville, Alabama. His skin is softer; he’s surrounded by his unwavering compatriots peering up at their charismatic hero; he’s more at ease, and therefore even more reckless in speech, encouraging the firing of any athlete who kneels during the national anthem. “You’re FIRED!” he screams, as the crowd roars with approval, a deluge of blood rushing to his emaciated genitals.

Responses to Trump’s more treacherous remarks incite the usual bursts of outrage like they were little anger-filled ejaculations glazing the screens of countless blogs and social media platforms. Likewise, it positions any number of Trump whisperers to pontificate on what he really meant, as they condemn the media for always listening to him incorrectly. But it’s not an issue of Donald Trump as master villain or gilded hero; it’s the present manifestation of tribalism gone mad.

In The Authoritarian Personality, Theodor Adorno and his accompanying authors posited a theory on the phenomenon of the authoritarian figure, including the unwavering patriotism of the masses that contribute to his manifestation. The authoritarian figure himself is the result of a Freudian developmental model, a sexually impulsive, insecure man, catapulting with outward hostility in order to overcome his shortcomings. With overwhelming impulses from the id (disorganized instinctual drives), and an incapable mediator of reason—known as the ego—the authoritarian shoves his way to power like a desperate and lonely drunk finally grabbing an old pumpkin to fuck. Hideous perhaps, but nevertheless inevitable.

Something analogous to the Napoleon complex, Adorno et al. considered that men pursuing roles of acute power and severity tended to be atoning for their bestial malformities. It seems plausible enough—a glitch in the mass outcropping of humans is bound to eventually take the form of a vainglorious sasquatch every now and then. It’s more the hysteria of support around him that is interesting—why do blundering fools such as Franco, Mussolini, and Hitler corral such aberrant loyalty? They were grotesque figures, considered buffoons before accessing power. It’s only because patriotism is more magnetic than any god. As Adorno et al. described, “patriotism…involves blind attachment to certain national cultural values, uncritical conformity with the prevailing group way, and rejection of other nations as outgroups.” It is the blind patriotism that is so fascistic—chauvinism, by its nature, is a fetid and truculent enterprise that only manifests from a long-exaggerated tribalism, when we smashed rocks and bones to establish survival over other threatening groups.

As long as we’re still human, we’ll likely never fully outgrow our tribalism. It was a survival mechanism that worked too well. Now, we clutch maniacally only onto what we know, fearing the other shaded men outside. We hate the neighboring middle school in town, then the other high schools in the league, then sports teams or religions that differ from our own—we’re seven billion tribesmen standing with crooked cheeseheads and smeared body paint, stammering why our paddock of dirt is better than theirs. What makes it far more beastly and hideous today than when our ancestors hunched on all fours, grunting and tossing their feces, is we moderns should know better. We’re the momentary products of a 200,000-year enlightenment—one would expect us to be a little more astute of our prevailing commonalities.

But there’s reason for this lingering stupidity. English essayist, Samuel Johnson famously announced that “patriotism is the last refuge for a scoundrel.” Patriotism works like an impenetrable edifice of one’s identity, an ideological safe space for anti-intellectuals. The more illiberal corners of the political left have been justly blamed for calling anyone they disagree with a racist or a bigot—they apply it so haphazardly that when they finally do meet a legitimate racist, the term is no longer effective; similarly, many conservatives call their opponents un-American, as if this were the towering lord of all insults. It is difficult to recover from if a politician is deemed un-American—they’re now on the defensive, having to prove that in fact they are a proud member of this relatively new land.

The Patriot Act of 2001, by its very name, challenged anyone opposed to the act as the antithesis of patriotism. It didn’t matter what the contents of the act were—indefinite detentions of immigrants, the searching of telephone and financial records without a court order, the searching of a home or property without the consent of the owner or occupant. The Patriot Act passed 98 to 1 in the Senate, the only dissenting vote coming from Russ Feingold from Wisconsin, saying its provisions violated the civil liberties of citizens.

Blind patriotism is nothing new, and its tempting to think this is just one more manifestation of our cyclical human deformity, with all its baseless love for the stars and stripes. But it’s not. The patriotism of today is far more contrived than it is blind. There’s a bombasity and overachieving loudness to American patriotism today that makes it all seem so fraudulent and miserable. Men stomping around in head-to-toe camo with semi-automatic rifles slung over their shoulders, women proudly flaunting their bulging muffin-tops cinched tight with America-themed body armor, red trucks lifted to the height of houses, babies drinking breast milk from Big Gulp mugs while simultaneously punching commies—American patriotism is a fashion statement no more sophisticated than girls wearing garlands and John Lennon glasses at Coachella. It’s a shitty Halloween costume that countless Americans wear everyday. The faux patriotism of today comes out of a desperate overcompensation of life-without-meaning—they wave only the symbols of those ideals without propagating the ideals themselves.

As of 2013, 94 percent of all imported American flags came from China. Polyester showered with carcinogens. But it still works. The meaningless piece of cloth still triggers something deeply primordial in good patrioteers, like a bull who sees a red bed sheet and starts blowing steam from his nostrils. It makes the authoritarian personality that much more serious.

The monumental pettiness surrounding the national anthem debate essentially ends with the contents of the anthem itself. The entirety of “The Star-Spangled Banner” reads more like whorish pedantry, the abecedarian rhymes of which cheapen all polemics about nation and virtue. Written by Francis Scott Key about the Battle of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812, only the first verse has been extracted and used for our arduously long ceremonies preceding every major sporting event. Given that the first verse is still dragged through exaggerated undulations, minute after minute, like a glittered masturbatory spectacle in front of forty thousand exhausted beer-bloated fans, perhaps no one dare add a second verse. Adding even one more verse would compromise the attention spans for the rest of the night. Or, perhaps it was to hide the overtly racist rhymes near the end of the third verse:

No refuge could save the hireling and slave

From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Francis Scott Key was referring to something specifically annoying to him. In response to the Americans trying to hijack Canadian territory from the British Empire, the British recruited entire families of slaves, training the men to form their own regiment known as the Colonial Marines, assuring they would not return any of them to their former American owners. Not only was it an invitation to escape a life of shackles and routine whippings and sexual humiliation, but a chance to fight against the ideological perversity that enslaved them in the first place, to openly antagonize the ubiquitary of systemic despotism. Anyone in their right mind would take the British up on their offer. Francis Scott Key—a slaveowner himself—held this against slaves, scribing his paeans of death for the opportunistic men with darker skin than his.

“Land of the free and the home of the brave” is now a meaningless phrase that still triggers the most frenzied ravenous excitement. We humans are animals that attach overbearing emotions onto words. When Trump tweets “Courageous Patriots have fought and died for our great American Flag” as reason for why professional athletes should be forced to stand during the national anthem, he’s serving a word salad of patriotic idioms that his base will recognize as their own. Every major word in the sentence ignites a shallow sense of pride and purpose; it assures arousal without providing any real meaning.

The word “patriot”, for example, wasn’t always used to describe the illustrious bravado of camo-obsessed Americans as it is today. Liddell & Scott (A Greek-English Lexicon) wrote that patriotes was “applied to barbarians who had only a common [fatherland].” It was a term used for derisive mockery, defined in Samuel Johnson’s fourth edition of his Dictionary as “a factious disturber of the government.”

The American journalist John Thomas Flynn wrote about it in his As We Go Marching in 1944, a time when even the most ardent American patriotism may have seemed justified: “[W]hen fascism comes it will not be in the form of an anti-American movement or pro-Hitler bund…it will appear rather in the luminous robes of flaming patriotism.” This is where we are today—the gilded dawn of fascism, when men and women march gladly into their weaponized barbarism. Flynn said “when fascism comes,” not “if,” as if it’s an entropic inevitability, as if we humans will invariably create dystopia in our pursuit of utopia.

The cult hero is the representative of this phenomenon, hoisted on his high stage, lamenting about why non-patriots are destroying the country. Trump managed to corral 81 percent of the white evangelical vote without noticeably understanding any Christian practice himself. Similarly, he successfully branded himself as the patriotic choice without having any history in serving the country. When he famously mocked John McCain for getting captured and tortured for five years in Vietnam, or snubbed the Pakastani-American parents of Army captain Humayun Khan, or announced on Twitter that transgender soldiers would not longer be allowed to serve in the military, he became the incarnate celebration of the faux patriot. We’re amidst the self-destruction of reason, a gloating dystopic tribunal of normalities. The world is a cube; sea cucumbers are just slimy cucumbers; and it’s patriotic to loathe and belittle true patriots.

Trump had five deferments during the Vietnam draft, one of which was for heel spurs—calcium buildup in the heel that can oftentimes be treated through stretching exercises. In an interview with the New York Times in July of 2016, he said “I had a doctor that gave me a letter—a very strong letter on the heels.” He never produced a copy of the letter, nor could he remember the doctor’s name; but it doesn’t matter because it was categorically the most patriotic thing he could have done. He was patriotic not to pay his taxes. He was patriotic whenever he grabbed a rogue pussy. He was patriotic under every golden shower, lathering his mangled genitals in the noxious suds. And if hard evidence does reveal that he purposefully colluded with Russia, Trump’s loyalists will not waver—the magnetism of the cult hero is fixed permanently.

This self-styled faux patriotism erodes away only through reason alone, as the demagoguery and supreme brutishness is slowly replaced with a more humane understanding of ourselves, until we fully abandon what Bertrand Russell called the “willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons.”


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The Sad Truth About White Nationalism

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by Guy Walker

Vice News probably covered it best. In their 22-minute segment on the Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, they begin with the night prior. At the University of Virginia, a group of what looks like predominately young white men have equipped themselves with tiki torches that would normally line the entryway of a New Age cocaine party in Laurel Canyon. This is almost all someone needs to see in order to understand the anxious virility of America’s most ardent hate groups. They’re more caricatures of hate, bulking their shoulders out, adorning themselves with fashionable anger like they watched too many grainy t.v. reenactments of mobs marching into town to burn witches. It seems put on, overly contrived—after all, political anger is trending these days, like an emotional hashtag many are trying to embody. But toughness mostly died out with cowboy movies and the dawn of social media. Gangster rappers today star in family comedies, or at the very best, have inconclusive Twitter feuds with other rappers. White revolutionists don’t actually engage in any meaningful revolution—they buy tiki torches in bulk from Home Depot and grimace for the cameras to see, hoping their march, too, will go viral.

White nationalists, neo-Nazis, KKK members—they have preferred names they identify by, little different from the sexless liberals who want to be named by their preferred non-binary pronouns. You can imagine them stuffing their mother’s warm meatloaf in their underwear just out of boredom, or tying an earthworm in a complicated knot and calling it stupid for not untying itself. They’re the type of aspiring ogres who get ketamine enemas, drink a case of Natty Ice just with the boys, and talk about chicks and fags. Because, they are the most superior race, marching to reunify the New World as the proper land to spread their Vitamin D deficient skin, like they’re a race of milky cum ejaculating across the frontier. Nostalgia for Manifest Destiny, a cheapened romance about how cool your symbolism is.

For a minute, you think none of this actually real—the European colonialists enslaved Africans to build their homes and estates, they massacred the natives, they forced the Chinese to build the railroads, they stole an enormous portion of Mexico in the Mexican-American War, they elected a literal fascist. And they’re feeling at risk of becoming minorities. But it’s clear nobody is here to think historically and rationally. They just want to chant. The group marched towards the site of the statue of Confederate superstar Robert E. Lee, chanting things like “Jews will not replace us,” “Blood and soil,” and other hoggish self-immolating phrases.

At the site of the statue, there are counter protestors surrounding Robert E. Lee, as if, counter to all conceivable logic, they were the ones trying to protect the Confederate general. There is a back-and-forth of the two teams chanting Black Lives Matter! and White Lives Matter! at each other, like the shittiest rap battle ever, with only a three-word sentence they yell over and over. It’s the adult equivalent of booger-encrusted toddlers squabbling over which color crayon they like most in the crayon box. No, turquoise is prettier! Yes, we are horribly stupid beasts, gathering like armies of swine because it’s easier than engaging in meaningful conversation.

If the white nationalists had only read their Foucault they would have known that power is not obtained by ‘episodic’ and ‘sovereign’ acts of hostile coercion, but rather that power pervades society altogether, like an invisible and inevitable force of knowledge and truth. We’re engaging in little more than deadly food fights while the cafeteria itself is closing in. In Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, the French postmodernist compares the violent public torture of Robert-François Damiens for attempting to assassinate King Louis XV,  and the strictly enforced routines of prison inmates in the early 19th century. Foucault’s point is that the structural disciplines found in prisons, schools, hospitals, and military barracks are for the continuing subjection of all members of society. While the obvious public display of violence carried out by the state over its persons has subsided into an almost indetectable form, our subjection has calcified to the point of society as a whole is now far easier to coerce.

Where Foucault goes wrong is he illustrates power as a deep state enterprise, a consciously Orwellian command of design. It’s not. It’s far more Huxlian, in that apathy is self-imposed, and thus our petty squabbles erupt out of stupidity. In Brave New World, the World State is built by its worship of Henry Ford. The homogeneity and predictability of our lives are like that of the assembly line: we demand the cheap production and consumption of things. Books become meaningless. Soma, an opioid-like substance, is the stuff for the masses. Aldous Huxley’s grim novel takes place in AD 2540 (or 632 AF, for After Ford), but the picture today is already eerily similar: the commands of routine, our daily banalities—these have prevented us from a second Enlightenment, from the restless curiosities that elevate our inquiries for truth.

In the Vice News episode of the white nationalist rally (some have called it a ‘planned race riot’), the reporter interviews leading figures in the alt-right community, as well as overt racists and neo-Nazis. They sound paranoid, demonic, everything you’d expect from men with faces like stapled-back scrotums, who carry several concealed guns on them at any given time. It follows the car slamming into counter demonstrators, killing one and injuring twenty others; and the drearily amusing press conference the following day by Unite The Right’s organizer Jason Kessler: he was punched, chased through an overgrown clump of daffodils, and tackled by a woman, before being protected and escorted to safety by police. The most poignant moment was when in the protection of police, Kessler told a news reporter that the police were the reason things got violent, that they are the ones to blame. He was literally in their arms, hugged with protection from the State, criticizing them for not doing their jobs.

This is clearly just the beginning, something that has the potential to escalate into a full-out race war. The following rally planned is to be held at Texas A&M on September 11th, organized by alt-right meme-champ Richard Spencer. It was immediately canceled by A&M, but it will still undoubtedly happen. White nationalism isn’t some fart of anger that will dissipate after a bit of time; it’s not like the tepid protests of the Occupy movement that quickly died off, everyone returning home to watch porn on their iPads. It’s a deeply resolute ideology that only functions in a slavishly illiterate society.

Yes, the resurgence of white pride is partly bred and inspired by Trump—his encouragement for violence during his campaign rallies, his political legacy beginning with the Birtherism around President Obama, his defense of Klansmen and neo-Nazis during Tuesday’s address to the press—but he’s some blundering fool who’s proud he’s never finished a book. The phenomenon of Trump is testament to our solecistic era and the regression of human intellect. I’m sure Make America Great Again insinuates Make America White Again for some of his supporters, and perhaps for many who attended in support of the Unite The Right rally. But in our Huxlian world, the phrase completes the entirety of its substance. The vocabulary of thought has been reduced to three and four word chants.

White Lives Matter! was the most predictable reaction to Black Lives Matter. It’s an alliance of boorishness that says wait, what about us. Yes, it’s stupidly adolescent, but the dimming of the mind turns us back into tribal brutes who beat in the heads of the other colored team. Blame it on the opioid crisis, blame it on a weakened education system, blame it on religion’s hostility to scientific literacy, blame it on reaction to the terrible ideology of Islam, or the obsession of political correctness on the left—there’s many reasons for America’s resurgence of fatuity, and hence white nationalism, and its deep commitment to apathy of reason. Under Foucauldian analysis, we’re committing ourselves to being pawns of petty squabble under a power system of subjection and coercion. The capitalism of mass production turns us into predictable consumers.

While the press is scrambling to criticize the President for saying “many sides” were violent, instead of the “white nationalists,” as if this was the great fuckup that was going to finally due him in, or by enabling the neo-Nazis who marched to defend the statue of Robert E. Lee while chanting their hatred of Jews, the love of spectacle and outrage hardens its citizens into reliable consumers of political quarreling. It’s what Aldous Huxley shoved against, encouraging a more tempered nuanced literacy that might bring a second, much-needed Enlightenment.


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Let the Beautiful People Rule the World

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by Guy Walker

You may have begun to notice the looming end of politics. It’s overwhelmed us like a marching band of wild rodents, a huge spectacularized circus of dysfunction. It happened so suddenly and so powerfully, there’s almost no memory of when things were normal. You tune in to the news not because you want to understand the nuances of public policy currently underway, or so you can better debate the advantages of a single-payer health care system—you just want to see Donald Trump stumble around like a mangled half-shaven sasquatch, smashing windows over his head, kidnapping women sunbathing on the beach, lighting off fireworks in the Oval Office. There’s no going back to the dreary ashen-faced days of passing bills and submitting formal disagreements. Especially now that a band of other celebrities have joined the elegiac cantus firmus and announced their plans for political office.

Most recently, it was Caitlyn Jenner, who told radio host John Catsimatidis that she “would look for a senatorial run.” Before her it was Kid Rock who announced he would also run for the U.S. Senate in Michigan. Soap opera star and underwear model, Antonio Sabáto Jr., is running for Congress. The Rock might bypass the whole bumbling peasantry and just run for President. If elected, he’ll sit there in the Situation Room in his neon highlighter panties and leather vest, and plot drone attacks on Wrestlemania enemies. Stone Cold Steve Austin will be blown to smithereens, body parts ablaze, the crowd screaming for more. Kanye West might also run for President, where he’ll campaign solely about the importance of cool shoes, as the First Lady’s chronic steatopygia gobbles up terrorists whole.

As the list of celebrity contenders grow, regular politicians are growing more concerned. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) warned about Kid Rock’s announcement: “There were a lot of people who weren’t concerned about Donald Trump running for the presidency…So, I take it all seriously right now.” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) wrote in an email to his supporters, “I’ll be honest, we don’t know if this is real, a joke, or a bizarre publicity stunt. But I’ll tell you this: I don’t find it funny.”

By now, it’s obvious that the dull hubris of establishment politics is passed its prime, out of touch with the star-studded appetites of younger generations. Their awfully brittle logic ignores the successes of Saturday Night Live comedian turned senator, Al Franken, or the Tugboat Annie Sails Again movie star, Ronald Reagan, who rightfully matured into his political role and funded far right-wing terrorists in Nicaragua. Arnold Schwarzenegger arguably did as well as most governors before him. The problem is that our political beliefs have been condensed perversely into two camps: pro-Trump and anti-Trump. There’s no room for moderation, no slight left or right of center; just the ravenous schizophrenia of a public who is completely consumed by the wild orange beast in front of us. So when Warren and Schumer say they don’t find Kid Rock’s announcement for a senatorial run funny, they just mean that because he’s not on their team, he is a viable sensationalistic threat.

We’re not supposed to care this much about politics; it was never supposed to be front and center entertainment. Government policy is what only the most boring, moth-eaten cretins are capable of, allowing the rest of us to carry on our business of meandering through hobbies and escapism until we die. When President Trump tweeted the video of him wrestling down the spindly embodiment of CNN, his testosterone-bloated fists wailing into the emojilike head of the news organization, he wasn’t ‘insinuating violence’ or hurling metaphoric rage like a character on Street Fighter; he was tossing another morsel of entertainment to his deeply loyal fans, persuading by means of his cult of personality. Scott Adams—creator of the most lifeless, unimaginative comic strip, Dilbert, and likely the most rational of all Trump supporters—describes the aching dichotomy of responses to Trump as a “two-movie reality,” in that, between the pro-Trump and anti-Trump camps, we are all watching “two movies on one screen.” When Trump smashes in the head of CNN, his fans see their leader as the dominant alpha he already is while simultaneously working as a catastrophic blow to the frail sensitivities of liberals. His critics see another version, something akin to a deep-fried Michelin man who ejaculates fountains of Tang onto his own family members.

Critics call his CNN video unpresidential behavior, but what they mean is it’s not their movie of presidential behavior. Because there’s been many like him. Teddy Roosevelt wrestled and killed a cougar with a knife. Alexander Hamilton, though never president, was killed in a duel with then sitting Vice President Aaron Burr. Andrew Jackson—the man who Trump sees himself as the burly reincarnation of—killed a man in a duel who accused Jackson of cheating on a horse race. John F. Kennedy is well-known for his compulsive womanizing, fucking everything beautiful in site with his inescapable fury of charisma. So Trump’s behavior certainly is, to an extent, presidential—it’s just not the version his critics want to see in our languid arena of old men politely shuffling around in grey suits. What Trump is doing in all his orgiastic madness is being the celebrity showman his supporters want him to be. He is the caricature we all want him to be, because he fits our chosen narrative of hero or villain.

We used to judge a presidential candidate’s competency on the beer test: they could likely negotiate a peace deal with a hostile nuclear threat if they seemed like a dope person to have a beer with. We’re beyond that now. We want our government leaders to be glossy overlords, greased up with coconut oil and a stringy goatee, commanding over 320 million screaming fans with a burning trident. We’re a generation who grew up on American Idol and Internet porn—the dull bromidic fuckery of Nixonian politics is over. And although there have long been celebrities who later became politicians, Trump galvanized the celebrity persona and showmanship within modern politics. He brought the celebrity with him, as others before him separated themselves from their starry personas. The Rock, Caitlyn Jenner, Antonio Sabáto Jr., Kanye West—these are the gods of youth and sex we’ve always gawked at up on a high stage or ohuge television screen; now they are the obvious chosen ones who can fix health care, resolve the climate crisis, pardon turkeys, do whatever it is our government does.

When you go to the cinema and see another heroic war drama projected monstrously in front of you, there’s a subtle, yet gnawing depression when the film ends and the overhead lights come back on, and you have to shamefully walk back to your car and then your thankless life back home. The tragedy and ecstasy has ended, and the verdant luxury of escape along with it. It doesn’t have to be that way. Because we’re in a movie now. It’s likely all a computer simulation anyways, freewill just an imaginary fart in the VR imaging system; so let the big-titted celebrities roam like they were always meant to, declaring war on octopus demons and fucking supermodels in space. Reality will be so much better. Caitlyn will put on his Bruce costume whenever he wants to fuck with other leaders at G20 summits. Kid Rock will Snapchat himself in a wife-beater, masturbating into sinks and killing rodents with a hammer. Kanye West once made a music video of him in bed with wax figurines of Taylor Swift, Bill Cosby, and other celebrities and world leaders—now it will be real life, striking a peace deal with Bibi Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas by humping their legs like a dog underneath the bed linens. The show must go on.


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