Paradise of Storm

From Silicone Implants to Silicon Humanoids: The Body Must Die

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by Guy Walker

It’s always the same shameful exposition: standing completely naked in front of a full-length mirror, self-criticizing every lifeless pouch weighed down by gravity. If not that, there’s an extra piece of baggy skin somewhere that hangs like a kite begging for the wind. If not that, your legs are too scrawny; or your lips aren’t plump enough; or your lower-back-to-buttocks ratio isn’t what it should be. We’ve all done it—staring at ourselves in our full bleakness, wishing we had it another way.

But these peripheral fixes are mere trifles. Hacking open a woman’s chest and stuffing it with water balloons, or trimming down an obtuse nose with a metal file doesn’t suffice as a satisfactory remedy to our quaint ephemerality. Our agreed upon commitment to resent our own bodies is driven by far more than the fluttering vanity for a better figure—we’re trapped in a decomposing suit of meat, a slow entropic nightmare drawing out over many decades. A few bright years perhaps, but the window between crawling on all fours in a diaper full of your own excrement and being pushed in a wheel chair in the same embarrassing condition is excruciatingly short. In the grand scheme of things, we’re here for a few seconds and then all drop dead like flies.

Humans have always been at war with their own bodies. We want our fittest most enviable qualities to carry into the future, selfishly imprinting ourselves in as many offspring as possible. Plutarch told stories of the Spartans tossing their unhealthy babies off the mountain—a practice that was presumably meant to heighten and preserve their genetic fortitude. This is, perhaps, a display of antiqued animalism, like an unwarranted human sacrifice without the gods to accept their gifts—babies flailing and crying as they somersault down the hill, smashing into rocks as they go. It’s the human version of a mother bird eating her weakest chick. Ancient Greeks and Romans were known to leave sick infants on manure heaps, sometimes being rescued by others and turned into slaves. We like to think that things have changed, that our proud domesticity has evolved enough to care for the destitute and disadvantaged—but the 2,000 year history of female infanticide in China that still continues today is evidence that the brute is still there, that we can do the unimaginable just for the right set of genitals.

For a while, it seemed like religion’s fault. It’s always wanted to turn the human into some sort of sexless troglodyte, inhibiting the body of its most carnal features until all that’s left is a stinking abstract form of functioning organs, everything wrapped up in a colorless gown. When Catholic nuns—and virtually all women in Saudi Arabia—cover themselves from head to toe, they presumably wish to purify the body’s total libidinal sense. It’s intended as a visible sign of getting closer to their god—a display of ornate sterility, like a peacock who jumped in a bog because it was afraid of its great color. Many Orthodox Jewish married women cover their hair with a wig or half-wig (a sheitel) in order to conform to the religion’s standards of modesty. Cover yourselves, or be damned!

Female genital mutilation is clearly the result of a desperate phobia of pleasure (98% of Muslim women from Indonesia have been hacked at, 93 % of Muslim women from Malaysia, and 98% of all women from Somalia, just to name a few). Masturbation in males was long thought to have caused blindness, mental illness, and epilepsy; and circumcision was the popularized remedy, now postured under the guise of just better hygiene. John Harvey Kellogg, a Christian fundamentalist, created Corn Flakes as an anti-masturbatory breakfast cereal, also advocating for pint-sized yogurt enemas to clean the gut, consequently purifying the soul. Religion has done everything to destroy the human body in some sempiternal quest of holiness, driven by the belief that the body is inherently filthy.

The once prominent religion, Christian Science, declared that there is no body at all, that the material existence is mere illusion, and we should simply ignore growths on the body, symptoms of disease, even death itself. Because you don’t even die—you pass on, presumably to higher worthier frontiers. Nearly every ancient religion seems to have had human sacrifice as a necessary theater of gore in order to appease their gods. Even Christianity is based on the human sacrifice of one man: he had to be crucified for the sins of unwedded orgasms and envying our neighbor’s ass.

But maybe it’s not religion that is innately anti-human. Our war with ourselves has modified through the ages—it has reshaped itself to every cultural and moral custom since monkeys threw feces at each other, and now conforms to the acceleration of scientific and technological advancement. There are those who still pierce their faces with blunt sticks, or stack their necks with thick golden rings because for some reason or another they must manipulate what they were born with; the forefront of modern science basically does the same thing—people naturally indulge in the technologies available to them.

Embryo selection through in vitro fertilization (IVF) is of course the expensively high-tech way to avoid tossing our ugly crippled newborns off the mountain. From what is available from a woman’s supply of eggs, parents can curate their child to their preferred gender, eye and hair color, even selecting the “most intelligent” embryo. But this is only from what is available. Maybe one’s entire gene pool is shit.

So when a new technology called CRISPR-Cas9 emerged in 2013, everything changed. We could now begin the quest of the gods, not curating what was already available, but engineering something entirely new. The Cas-9 protein has been used as a genome editing tool, in which an unfavorable section of DNA sequence can be cut out and replaced with a more desirable section. It’s through this permanent modification of genes within organisms that we can hypothetically build superhuman immune systems, completely eliminate disease and malformities, and finally sculpt man with features from Homeric epics. CRISPR is avant-garde eugenics—it’ll be for parents who want superior babies, no different than when the Nazi’s attempted to manufacture a racially pure race in their hospitals.

For now, CRISPR has only been used to edit animal genetics: researchers have removed malaria from mosquitos, treated muscular dystrophy in mice, modified pig organs to be safer for transplantation into humans. But even now, this research seems pedestrian and passé in the shadow of what we know is possible. An all-knowing übermensch is marching on the horizon, chanting with genius and prose—man will finally achieve his god not through ancient myth and sacrifice, but through scientific excellence, turning us shit-tossing monkeys into computerized cyborgs.

But the allure of genetically reengineering human embryos is here. Once this technology is deemed safe enough, parents will swarm the editing rooms in hospitals (or just laboratories), curating their soon-to-be babies to be a blend of Mozart and Tom Brady, or Marilyn Monroe and Simone de Beauvoir. Every Little League sporting event has a squad of dads at the edge of the playing grounds, their eyes raging and cynical, their mouths frothing like wild dogs, yelling at their sons to play better ball. Soon these same dads will be hovering behind doctors, yelling at them to max out their son’s gene sequence of athleticism. And the levels of excellence will so quickly surpass anything any human has ever achieved. Of course only the richest will be able to afford these “designer babies”, consequently widening the wealth and opportunity gaps to unimaginable levels, impossible ever to recover from.

In our fury of anticipation of CRISPR’s potential, we have already begun the dramatization of where we’re headed. The ultra-fustian HBO series, Westworld, about a vacation retreat in the near future that’s populated entirely with Wild West humanoids, in which wealthy human clients pay to rape and kill anyone they choose without consequence, is a moderately fun thought experiment. Most of it seems possible. The morbid titillation of living out our Grand Theft Auto dreams would be too much for us war-crazed humans to resist—the theatrics would be too great; the ornate bloodshed would be too glorious.

The series begins simply enough: a train of new clients—who are as excited as a gaggle of frat boys headed to their first toga party—arrive in a dusty nondescript town, every detail of which has been tailored to the predictable look of every other Hollywood depiction of the Wild West. After they drink their whiskey and kill their prostitutes, they return to their boring lives back home, in the real world, plodding along on a treadmill at the end of a cul-de-sac. As viewers, of course, we don’t see that part—nobody wants to watch their own tedious lives laid out in front of them. What we see is the dramatized bloodshed, and then the repair, and then the evolution of artificial intelligence take over. Whenever a humanoid is injured or killed during a session of rampaging tourists, they are taken into laboratories and repaired by technicians, reprogrammed and erased of all the horrific memories for the next round of torture. A humanoid’s level of aggression, compassion, hostility, and so forth can be controlled with simple dials on an iPad, allowing a Westworld engineer to easily manipulate how he or she wants a character to behave. It’s little different from the Nexus-6 brain units in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, in which androids can modulate any one of “fourteen basic reaction-postures” and are more intelligent than most of the humans left on earth. In Philip K. Dick’s classic dystopian novel, the robots harness their power and fight back against the humans, who are now a threat to their survival. In the HBO series, they do the same. One of the main characters, a humanoid prostitute, eventually controls her own character dials, giving her abilities her fellow characters don’t. From there, it’s all runaway chaos.

As devouring consumers of these types of shows, we’re programmed to want nothing more: three billion years of evolution and all we want to do is watch robot hookers running wild with guns as we grab another handful of Fritos. But it’s not hard to see the bridge between the CRISPR technology being used to enhance characteristics in embryos and these angry self-controlling AI bots who will do anything to control their own settings. The acceleration of this technology is compounding on itself. Look at video games. When Pong was released in 1972 as the first ever video game, it was radically advanced, capturing the obsession of every runny-nosed kid at the time. It’s only been a few decades since, and we’re already battling other players from around the world in three-dimensional high definition virtual universes.

But this already goes well beyond video games. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is working on an implantable chip for U.S. soldiers that will connect their brains to death-obsessed computers, consequently turning boys into military cyborgs. It’s what President Obama referred to in 2014 during a White House manufacturing innovation event when he chummily quipped, “we’re building Iron Man.” It’s easy to see where this could go. Previously, police departments have been equipped with the Pentagon’s excess—an overflow of MRAPs and grenade launchers have been used to deter protestors after a black kid gets shot and killed by the police. It doesn’t seem far out to imagine a time when cyborgs—or full on androids—police our streets, lurking in and out of alleyways, suspicious of anything that moves.

Maybe that’s where we always wanted to be: anywhere but this carnal Eden of humans wrapped in nothing but leaves. The religious want to drift amongst the heavens, whipping up clouds behind them as they smile for the rest of eternity. The futurists want to be cyborgs with superhuman strength, nostalgically reenacting their unlived pasts with gun-wielding prostitutes in the desert. We’re stuck too much in the past and the make-believe, while at the same time catapulting ourselves into a future that cannot host something that is committed to destroying itself. Religion never fixed our basic human anxieties, and CRISPR won’t either. It’s one thing for Donald Trump to go giddily insane when Mack Trucks pull onto the White House lawn, as he hoists himself up onto his high chair, blowing the horn and screaming like a chubby toddler with chocolate frosting around his mouth who just got a new toy truck. Just imagine when he gets ahold of DARPA’s Iron Man. He’ll stomp the world, holding the thing like a G.I. Joe action figure, wreaking havoc on us like we’re a city of ants.

“It’s a disaster, a total disaster,” he’ll say, looking upon the rubble of death. “Oh, I did this. Just incredible. Good work everybody, this is incredible.”


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We Worship Trump: How Religion Consumes Everything

Members of the clergy lay hands and pray over Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump at the New Spirit Revival Center in Cleveland Heights

by Guy Walker

Trump fatigue is already here. It’s the same Trump-only mania that began a couple of years ago—a never-ending misadventure of savagery and paranoia, a circus act of cannibalism that wants to popularize itself out on the streets. Even if we tried to avoid to him, he’d still interrupt everything, popping up his head of fried chicken meat onto the screen of your regular television shows, or into your bedroom, or in the office beside the water cooler. He’d find a way to disrupt every pondering sentiment, every moment of love and privacy, the name TRUMP branded permanently on every newborn’s forehead. Last week it was James Comey and the Russian connection; next week it will be something even more bastardly and profane.

In a way, it’s amusing. The pack of beasts rummaging inside the White House then try to pretend in front of the cameras that there is order and function within their walls. It’s like farm animals trying to look innocent after ransacking a house, tables smashed and couches torn apart, their snouts all covered in cake crumbs. But when you consider the consequences of their enacted policy, the comedy quickly wears off: the loss of healthcare for millions, mandatory minimum sentencing for non-violent drug users, runaway climate change and environmental collapse, the rise of a theocratic state in which everyone has to follow some form of Christian Sharia Law.

With the sheer amount of shrieking profanity coming from Donald Trump and his administration, the last point—that of a fundamentalist Christian theocracy administering the rule of law—is particularly concerning because it doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Trump rests on a bed of nails with every new blunder, scandal, and insult dulling the seriousness of his prior ones. So he avoids the critics as much as possible, and instead goes wherever he is liked so he can continue to gloat about his victory in November. It is in this where he finds his most loyal base in the evangelical Christian community.

Over the weekend, Trump gave his first commencement speech as president, at Liberty University, his scabby cheeks shaking violently as he spoke to the group of graduates looking up at him with devout bellicism, their golden tassels furious with conservative juvenescence. Many of the 50,000 or so attendees gripped their Make America Great Again hats in their laps or under their gowns with a simple tribalistic fervor. These hats and their piousness are, of course, ideological totems, part of a phenomenon that is comparable to high school football fans in a quaint dusty town with nothing but their parades of bright body paint and dull battle cries. God! Trump! USA!—they’re all synonyms of each other—prideful apish grunts from animals who toss their fresh turds at anyone who doesn’t repeat the same chorus.

This is the same Liberty University that teaches young Earth creationism in its biology courses. It’s rumored that the dinosaur bones in its on-campus museum are labeled as being 3,000 years old. So as an institution of alternative facts, Liberty is surely the most appropriate university to host Trump—as long as what’s said sounds conservative, it’s right and should be made gospel. In a 2015 convocation speech, the president of the school, Jerry Falwell Jr., encouraged his students to carry more guns on campus, advocating that the more beer-drinking 20-year-olds with loaded guns under their belts, the safer and more secure their educational experience would be.

For as much as Donald Trump is mocked for his blustering style of speech, he knows how to speak to his audience. At Liberty, it was all about God: “When the Founders wrote the Declaration of Independence, they invoked ‘Our Creator’ four times. Because in America, we don’t worship government, we worship God.” The crowd proceeded to roar with approval, their glossed-over eyes affirming that religiosity dictates over everything, that their fabulous puppeteer booms his way from chugging smoke machines as we collapse to our knees, weeping with enthusiasm. The government is just a bureaucratic obstacle, they say, a rusting machine of sin that needs only to be dismantled and overcome.

His statement doesn’t provoke the shock and enormity that it usually would if it was said by a normal politician. Instead, we sigh despondently—almost indifferently now. In a few more days, we won’t even remember this speech—it will join the drunken blur of ineptitude along with everything else, the mounding scandals and investigations taking precedence over a little talk of God. If Trump were a tenth as blundering as he is now, this statement might seem worse—there would be more time to be offended, more energy and daylight to oppose the dictums of theocracy. Instead, he continues almost unnoticed. He reasoned that because the Founding Fathers invoked “Our Creator” four times, American currency is inscribed with “In God We Trust”, and why school children obediently quip “one nation, under God” every morning, their little fingers placed perfectly over their hearts, repeating it day after day until it’s burned in their memories forever.

This, of course, is incorrect. These adages were inserted in their designated places during the “religious revival” of the 1950’s. It was the time of the Red Scare, when the Cold War slogan “better dead than red” was repeated ad nauseam, assuring the West it was better to burn up in a nuclear blast, melting off the faces of children, than live under a communistic society. But it wasn’t just communism itself that was the enemy. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles believed the United States should oppose the Soviet Union not because of their oppressive manipulation of communism, but rather because it was an atheist state—their leaders were godless and therefore malevolent, like vulgar troglodytes shoving their sinfulness upon the world, their parades just armies of red-cloaked brutes that were irredeemable because they had abandoned the one true faith. But the Founding Fathers were forcibly opposed to any institutionalization of religion, noting the separation of church and state in the First Amendment to the Constitution, as well as declaring that “no religious Test as a Qualification to any Office” in Article Six. And the original Pledge of Allegiance—written in 1892 by socialist Francis Bellamy—read “one nation indivisible,” as a heartening paean of bringing together the many individual states in secular unity.

Trump’s commencement speech is already old. But its reception at Liberty University is a reminder why he won 81% of the white evangelical vote in the presidential election. His charisma—however grotesque and illiterate it may be—is inescapable, like a cult leader who will inevitably convince at least some of his supporters to follow him to their graves. There’s something luridly infallible about the thundering orange beast: he surely isn’t religious himself, but offers the same impossible promises like they were ideological aperitifs, little morsels of doctrine to be consumed quickly and regularly. He’s as carnivorous as a David Koresh or a Jim Jones—just a few steps away from the great plunge.

Religion is always discussed culturally: if you’re born in a heavily Christian populated area, chances are your parents also subscribe to the faith and will raise you accordingly; or if you drew a different straw at birth and were shoved into a Muslim dominant country instead, the same pattern would occur. Our gods are malleable according to the patch of dirt we are born on; and the faith persists on through innumerable aspects of the surrounding culture. That’s why according to new analysis at the Pew Research Center, 78% of white evangelical Protestants approve of Trump’s first one hundred days. For them, there’s nothing chaotic or borderline treasonous about Trump’s possible collusion with the Russians—it’s run-of-the-mill politics, and the rest of the country is unpatriotic if they don’t support him. At a recent protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, for example, Richard Spencer and his sickly tribe of white nationalists were heard chanting “Russia is our friend!” in some sort of last ditch effort to embrace the enemy. It just shows how strong the power of belief can be when someone has fully invested themselves in a movement. Everyone’s favorite cult to shit on, Scientology, is emblematic of this phenomenon: when Scientologists have invested all their money, and sacrificed their social and professional lives for the sake of L. Ron Hubbard’s sci-fi, self-help wizardry, and then learn that Lord Xenu, dictator of the Galactic Confederacy, planted billions of his people in volcanoes 75 million years ago, it’s somewhat understandable that many adherents of the religion are now too immersed to be able to suddenly retract decades of reinforced belief. Trump Mania is much the same. The enthusiasm for him during the primaries and general election was often so fanatic that many will never recover; likely, it’s not that they won’t admit that they fucked up, but rather that they can’t, not even to themselves.

When Trump signed an executive order that allowed churches to more freely participate in future political campaigns and not lose their tax exemption, he likely did so at the suggestion of one of his closest aides—Jeff Sessions, or Mike Pence, or some other greased-up toad waiting in the shadows. And with the word “impeachment” fluttering around more and more, we begin to wonder what things would look like under a Pence presidency, full of gay conversion therapy and chainmail mittens, public flogging for every boner.

At this point, there is very little that will surprise the world about the American political arena. Shaved rodents high on steroids are scribing our last remaining rights into law. There’s no use in predicting anything anymore—polls are useless and preemptive, a castration of the undercurrents of America. But one thing is certain: Christian fundamentalism within the Republican Party is in its most opportune time.

For now, he’s still there, shuffling around his huge barren stage, dusting himself with a heavy compound, the lights overhead glimmering against his silky eyes. Confetti pours from the sky for years; crowds chant Trump! Trump! Trump! for decades longer. The orange beast leans in a little closer, and opens his mouth still stained with a wet residual paste: “In America, we don’t worship the government,” he says at last, “we worship Trump.”

Reza Aslan and the Pageantry of Belief

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by Guy Walker

Nothing has changed: humans are still deathly afraid of other tribes. They’re beasts that should be corralled and caged, every brown-skinned cretin identified with a cone of shame. Of course we are normal; it’s everyone else who has a funny accent, and believes in the wrong god, who should be feared. Before politics, before social structures and traditions, before we choose what we eat, how we fuck, what we wear, the world defines itself by which invisible puppeteer tugs on our strings. Everything else then falls into place.

Reza Aslan’s new show, Believer, seeks to help us better understand the myriad beliefs far unlike our own. At least, that’s what they say their show is about. The six-part CNN program describes itself as a “new spiritual adventure series,” as if it were a hit Indiana Jones and the Temple of Holy Friars television show, starring a cadre of hermetic monks and wild-eyed fire dancers who succeed in wielding our acceptance of other faiths. But Believer views more like an adolescent’s tour of a freak show, the audience gawking at what could be bearded ladies and midgets who swallow swords. It’s the most recent of many failed attempts to normalize fringe religious ideas in an era when other belief systems are widely feared and misunderstood. And the danger is, Aslan only escalates these misunderstandings.

Reza Aslan, the creative writing professor who finds any excuse to mention he has a PhD in religious studies, drew wide criticism for the series premiere in which he met with an Aghori guru, and took part in the Hindu sect’s practice of cannibalism. There was Aslan, cross-legged in the dirt on the banks of the Ganges, the ash of a cremated human smeared all over his face, eating human brain matter, proving to the world that this is what religious tolerance looks like. He later joked on his Facebook page: “Want to know what a dead guy’s brain tastes like? Charcoal . . . It was burnt to a crisp.” So here we are: watching soap commercials in between the episodic performance art of another man-eating cult, everything sensationalized with the cameras and gentle charm of the show’s host; yes, here we are, in the middle of a gruesome reality-show, all decency and reason abandoned like ash in the wind.

The Aghori man—scrawny, mostly naked, with a garland of bloody jawbones around his head—drank his own piss, and threw his feces at Aslan, because the Aghori abhor India’s caste system, and indulge in their perversions to prove how inconsequential the body actually is. This is a fascinating set of beliefs indeed, and they should be documented for those of us who are culturally intrigued to want to learn about them; but it’s not enough to simply document the practices of the Aghori—Aslan and CNN have to show us that he can eat brains too. This clearly isn’t tolerance; nor is it open-mindedness. It’s paparazzi spectacle, meant only to enhance the usually awful ratings of CNN. It creates a buzz, even if it’s a critical article like this one. Our tolerance of other beliefs opposed to (or at least different from) our own shouldn’t be participating in their practices, but rather in gathering a well-versed literacy of those belief systems, and equipping oneself for a most fruitful and lucid argument against archaism and barbarism.

Because barbarism is on the rise. The anti-immigrant reactions intensifying here in the West are as barbaric as they are ignorant. Earlier this month, a Sikh man was shot and hospitalized in Seattle, his shooter telling him to “go back to [his] own country.” Two weeks prior, another apparent hate crime killed a man of Indian decent in Kansas, the shooter also reportedly yelling “get out of my country” before firing in the busy bar. Believer—at least its episode on the Aghori—fuel the already dangerous ignorance spreading in the U.S. about brown people with strange accents. The xenophobic rhetoric most popularized under Trump’s command doesn’t marry well with Aslan’s sensationalistic illiteracy of other religions.

In its totality, Believer offers no deep understanding of cult behavior or the origins of such malfunctioned thinking. In the episode that follows the Aghori, Aslan asks a Hawaiian doomsday cult leader who calls himself JeZus, not why his ideas are so intellectually inept and poisonous, or what led him to want to corrupt the minds of others; rather, he asks him about his levels of stress to keep all his disciples in line. It feels like unqualified exposition because it is. It’s an old tactic used to entertain instead of inform. And in a way it’s understandable to see why: the overwhelming amount of entertainment shoved at us everyday requires the dying, more desperate networks to press antics of garish pageantry.

When seven billion people are simultaneously clamoring for attention, sanity and decency are never going to win. You’re going to have a stampede of fame-crazed zombies begging you to look at the goat cheese salad they had for lunch. Or they’ll croak their torpid witticism at you until you’re forced to take notice. Twitter is often little more than the defeated classes trying to be as outrageous as possible in 140 characters or less; every tweet is inscribed with the assumed precondition of vanity to get as many retweets as possible. There are asses on Instagram with more fanatic followers than all the standing armies in the world, every ass trying to be larger and juicier than the last, until implants go grotesquely awry. We’re in the middle of a global orgy, everyone trying to outperform the person next to them—if there’s a couple having sex normally, then three people are going to do a headstand and fuck in a human triangle, then a group of strangers will twirl upside down from a ceiling fan, naked, jerking off the person next to them. Anything to go viral for a second.

In this sense, mainstream media stations are in a bit of quandary—they have to keep their corporate monoliths relevant, hip, and edgy amid this lawless extravaganza of entertainment when any runny-nosed teenager with a smartphone can capture the attention of the entire world. It’s hard for CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, who has the charisma of a depressed ewok, to compete with figures like Gigi Gorgeous (who rose to fame giving makeup tutorials on Youtube as a teenage boy; and now, identifying as a woman, recently came out as a lesbian). The luster of celebrity far exceeds the procedural banality of talking heads. Something as bizarre and innocuous as the Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen song—a one minute song experiment combining the words “pen” and “apple,” performed by a man in gold snakeskin pajamas and a thin porno mustache—was still watched over 115 million times. So CNN is left there in the studio, cameras rolling, every news anchor screaming “Look at us! We have something important to say too!”

But they’re supposed to talk about politics, and their ratings are consistently some of the lowest amongst the major news stations, so they stick to awfully insipid topics like Trump’s tweet of the day: self-appointed specialists sit around in monkey suits analyzing the inflammatory content of his 3am outbursts. And they’re not aware of their own absurdity. This is clearly a dead end, and it’s why no one likes CNN.

So what do they do?

They hire Anthony Bourdain to travel the world and eat dumplings. Or Mike Rowe to jump out of airplanes. Or John Walsh to hunt criminals. And finally, Reza Aslan to eat brains.

This cannibal-clickbait works, of course, because the Aghori are far away in India. It allows us to distance ourselves from the idea of it, while also allowing many to reinforce their ideological hostilities against dark-skinned foreigners. If the Aghori were instead a group of white American cannibals, Aslan wouldn’t eat the brain matter even if it were legal. We’re tribal beasts, and eating our own would be unkosher.

There is a point where bad belief needs to be contested without any sensational thrill. What if Aslan came across an operative Warren Jeffs, former President of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FDLS), claiming 70 wives, and sexually abusing his own children? What about Jim Jones, leader of the Peoples Temple, and responsible for the massacre of 918 people, 304 of which were minors? What about Marshall Applewhite, who led the mass suicide of 39 members in order to get onboard a UFO? I trust Aslan and CNN wouldn’t show that he can do these things too.

We shouldn’t pretend to worship other people’s illusory demons; we shouldn’t agreeably nod our heads when others describe their favorite connect-the-dots stick figure traced in the stars. An educator’s role is to nudge us closer to truth. Everything else is just theater.


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A Dialogue of Brutes: the Successful Attack on the Free Press

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by Guy Walker

All that’s left is constant snorting, rummaging through the garbage heap for an edible morsel. Our language has degraded into a pile of censored insults and sensitivies; our press soon nothing more than congratulatory think-pieces on Donald Trump and Steve Bannon. The president’s administration has one main prerogative—more urgent than the wall, the immigration ban, or repealing healthcare: making all dissidence slander.

When Bannon spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference in late February, it was the first time he appeared in public since Trump’s inauguration, his aura of putrid steam billowing across the ballroom like a hypnotic glaze. Supporters finally saw their man—the pale greased-up beast, occasionally scratching himself under his bristled chin—as they’d nod and reassure each other how smart a human turnip actually could be.

He sat there hunched. His gelatinous belly heaved over his sweaty and suffocating crotch, the liver spots that dazzle his face almost peeling at their corners. His eyes, tired and cavernous, are the eyes of complete and impenetrable nihilism—as if he was forced to stare at nothing but cat memes for thirty years, and now seeks revenge on the entire world.

His speech made the usual allegations, posturing conservatives as the underdog, as if they are the political embodiment of Rocky Balboa, knowing well that we humans root and holler for such figures. He said they were being unjustly attacked by the “corporatist globalist media that are adamantly opposed” to their agenda. It’s more a sophomoric tantrum than political rhetoric. It’s what they always blame liberals for doing: snowflakes who “cry and weep” when things don’t go their way—then Trump turns and tweets that SNL is “really bad television” because they made fun of him.

As chief strategist of the White House, Bannon is paralyzingly void of political acumen. He’s squirmish in his suit and tie—his natural, more charitable state is in a bulging-tight wifebeater (because it’s not an undershirt, it’s a way of life)—slouched in his sticky sofa, cursing at the news personality on the television as bits of uncooked pork rocket from his mouth. His ‘strategy’ from the beginning has been to silence dissidence, to insult those who question Trump’s infallibility. In late January, he said “the media”—in general sweeping terms—“should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and listen for a while.” In a way, it makes complete sense for Bannon to hate the news. He was, after all, executive chair of Breitbart News.

The patterned formula for Trump’s cabinet positions is to nominate someone who condemns the mere existence of that position. Betsy DeVos hates public education. Scott Pruitt sued the EPA many times before being appointed its chief administrator. Rick Perry once said he wanted to dismantle the Department of Energy (he actually forgot the name of this department, but later admitted that this was what he meant). They’re like schoolchildren giggling for wearing their underwear over their pants during Backwards Day, almost purposefully mocking the public for making us accept it.

Everything is reversed. A media tycoon hates the media. A 70-year-old baby plays with his toys of the world’s most advanced nuclear arsenal. Language is meaningless. War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. We’re all floundering in the dark, trying to grab hold of something real.

Writers have long waded into the depths of cliché by referring to the actions of the opposition political party as “Orwellian” (a queer and unfitting word, as George Orwell made a career of opposing tyranny). His concept of Newspeak in Nineteen Eighty-Four is used to describe the more disparaging antics of both the left and the right ad nauseam, leveraged to whatever paranoia is most fitting: from the flailing pettiness of political correctness that spawns from scrawny self-abusing leftists, to the Nixonian litigation of the War on Drugs, condemning every magical cabbage that sprouts its head. But Trump’s administration is something entirely new: a band of shit-smeared pigs haphazardly shuffling pieces on a Scrabble board, squealing triumphantly when they get a three syllable word. When journalists from the New York Times, CNN, and Politico were recently barred from attending a Spicer press briefing—and Breitbart and America News Network greeted quickly in—a new narrative unfolds: only praise will be allowed.

Milo Yiannopoulos, Gavin McInnes, and other professional conservative trolls who pose as free speech advocates, suddenly lose their platform. Their reality-show ideologue hates the freedoms of those who disagree with the minutia of his brutish declarations of absolute power. If he could, he’d fire every dissident, every skeptic and examiner of the truth.

But he doesn’t really need to. A storm cloud of disinformation has overwhelmed the modern political dialectic. The fake news phenomenon is more a pop-culture phenomenon than anything else—it’s yet another symptom of what Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer called the “culture industry,” the churlish beast of mass culture that anesthetizes an entire generation through its pageant of entertainments. In Adorno’s 1951 book, Minima Moralia, he writes:

    “Lies have long legs: they are ahead of their time. The conversion of all questions of truth into questions of power, a process that truth itself cannot escape if it is not to be annihilated by power, not only suppresses truth as in earlier despotic orders, but has attacked the very heart of the distinction between true and false, which the hirelings of logic were in any case diligently working to abolish.”

The bucktoothed carnies are in charge now, chanting their new vocabulary, requiring us to debate only in grunts and farts, the most repulsive one winning a garland of Easter basket nesting in order to better resemble their god. Kellyanne Conway’s “alternative facts” moment was testament to this—a lazy-eyed performance art of Gustave Flaubert’s famous remark, “There is no truth. There is only perception.” She tours one news station after the next, her procedural drawl resembling a sticky-fanged bobblehead, a wax paper automaton smiling larger when she lies, shifting her aching buttocks in front of another green screen. It demonstrates the annihilation of truth is a necessary prerequisite for the rise of authoritarianism—it leaves a void that is naturally occupied the quickest by power and aggression.

And it clearly works. A Fox News poll marked Americans’ distrust of “reporters” deeper than their distrust of Donald Trump. The slithering reality-show host who launched his political career by alleging that Barack Obama was a Muslim born in Kenya, and then officially endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan, has more favorability than the grossly generalized populace of journalists and talking heads. Bannon’s comments are not actual threats to shut the media up—he’s simply gloating that he can say this and get away with it. He thrives on the inflammatory, on offending entire populations of fragile leftists into yet another frenzy.

Orwell never wrote anything that argued specifically against fascism. He took it for granted that Cartesian common sense wouldn’t let a generation go entirely mad. He was, however, obsessed with language. In one of the most important political essays, Politics and the English Language—written a year before Trump shoved his veiny head out of his mother—Orwell conferred that we “ought to recognise that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language.” He meant the hyper-intellectualization of language—speech used by many economists, politicians, academics with the intent to confuse the reader or listener under a glaze of jargon. He criticized use of ‘pretentious diction’ and ‘meaningless words’ as confabulatory, stupid, and manipulative. If Orwell could look upon today’s political arena, and listen to the level of debate and discourse, he may very well enjoy a fiendish delight in even his most pessimistic concerns being surpassed. There is nothing Daedalean or exaggerated about the Trump-Bannon-Conway approach to their speech, but rather a literal degradation of language, a dogmatically stubborn defense of adult retardation assuming the highest office in the world.

Early-stage fascism is the most opportunistic and consequential, and yet also the most fragile. As the Trump administration takes its first steps forward, it momentarily glances around to see if it can still get away with it—Trump’s affinity for Putin is obvious, as he restricts the press and puffs his chest as he does it. But he succeeds only through the sordid apathy of the public, through our splendor of the culture industry, like bugs flying stupidly towards a florescent lamp.

50 Shades Darker: the Banality of Fetishism

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by Guy Walker

The sun finally rose enough to push through the beige lace curtains, the first rays of light shining into the visible effluvium of the bedroom, shining on the huge heaving butt cheek of a fat woman sleeping. Her breasts weighing down the bed, her blue veins beating like knotted spurts through a garden hose. A fan in the corner oscillating over and over, blowing the long draping fern, then moving towards the sleeping woman, blowing her mass of starless sordid hair like she were resting under a coastal breeze. A kitten is sitting by its empty bowl, as it had sat there for most of the night, just waiting patiently for the woman to stir, then wake, then feed him. But she didn’t stir—she just groaned like a dying antelope, scaring away the many little robins outside.

Many hours pass. The room is now full of steaming light, and the woman rolls over onto her back, naked, a million individual beads of sweat pushing from their pores. She opens her eyes finally, her eyelids encrusted with sticky yellow globs, and she stares up at a huge and absurd papier-mâché Chinese dragon hanging from the ceiling—completely lifeless, the fan not even making it stir, like it were some recoiled memory of life, an illusory modish object just hanging there in the middle of the room. The woman shoves that whole body of hers onto her feet, picks up a pair of soiled panties, and slips her legs into them one by one—they are, naturally, baggy around the bottom of the ass, seeming to always flutter loosely in that warm gap between the buttcheeks. Then her breasts—she packs them into a bra, cinching it tight around the front. She stands up and walks towards her desk, making the antique floorboards creak. She doesn’t eat, doesn’t wash her face, doesn’t piss, and doesn’t feed the little kitten. She just sits into her tufted leather chair, opens her laptop, and begins writing instantly, her fingers burning furiously, finishing page after page like a flip book. Outside, the wet temporal countryside buzzes with excitement, the satyric affairs of bugs more rupturous than all other predatory fauna; but the woman never once looks out the window. Words and love and the scenic delirium of fantasy devour her. Her heart beats with more nerve and adventure than she has felt from all the real wanton intrigue she’s had in the bedroom. She writes her next sentence: Holy crap! He’s wearing a white shirt, open at the collar, and tray flannel pants that hang from his hips. She feels the illustrious paean flood over her. It’s all too much.

She is Erika James, EL James, and she is halfway through her life epic, 50 Shades of Grey. No one knows it yet, but Erika will excite and satisfy tens of millions of desirous frenzied women seeking something far beyond their domestic passivities. In other words, Erika is going to sell books.

In its primitive stage, it started as a Twilight fan fiction series, originally titled Master of the Universe. Her pen name was, fittingly, Snowqueen Icedragon. But the story was always the same: Ana, an average-looking woman gets fucked properly by a billionaire, Christian Grey. He is young, handsome, a stalwart type who satisfies himself by tying up women, fucking them, and spanking them until their buttcheeks pulse cherry red. When performed on Ana, she at first admonishes these advances, but when he pulls off his belt and begins whipping her, she hesitates and pulls away from him. Classic boy-meets-girl-boy-whips-girl love story. But in the midst of her libidinous appetite for abuse, we are graced with Erika’s natural talent for words, something we as readers are forever in debt: I pull him deeper into my mouth so I can feel him at the back of my throat and then to the front again. My tongue swirls around the end. He’s my very own Christian Grey-flavored popsicle. I suck harder and harder … Hmm … My inner goddess is doing the merengue with some salsa moves. As a fellow writer, I am completely aroused. My fully erect penis throbs for the next page. I read on, almost as fast as when Erika wrote the thing.

50 Shades of Grey has sold over 100 million copies, in 52 languages. At its peak, it was being sold every second somewhere in the world. They were mostly to women of course. But the sorts of women who buy and read this type of shit are an especially malnourished breed—none of them have ever been in love, and certainly none of them have ever even had great sex, but they do all fantasize about being spanked over and over, their orgasms bellowing across town like a Call to Prayer. After the first of the 50 Shades trilogy premiered in theaters on Valentines of 2015, stories began to arise of soiled cucumbers and sex toys being found in the back rows. This is clearly more than a distant fantasy, but rather a very real fetish. It seems more like a sex-deprived epidemic—women numbering the size of a large nation are paralyzed by their domestic sexual inhibitions, in which the only conceivable outlet is a terribly written novel and its equally terrible film adaptation.

With all our customized dating apps and easily accessible drugs, my generation is having less sex than men and women were 60 years ago. Our grandparents, with their prudish raisined lips and crooked genitals, fucked more than us. And the 50 Shades phenomenon is testament to that. Yes, the genders have their preferences—men are more brutish, humping and snorting like a warthog until they ejaculate all over her glossy buttocks and immediately roll over asleep. Women, it seems, read books. They join book clubs, and discuss over tea and biscuits the allure of being whipped with a belt—it’s akin to men watching hours of hazy porn as their retinas burn red, their penises sweaty and tired, still hanging flaccidly in their clammy grip. We humans are repressed animals, with too much religion, porn, and anti-depressants to manifest our fantasies. Rather than having great sex with a great partner, the women who spend $15 on a book like this—or $15 on the movie—prefer to shuffle around in sweatpants, their unruffled panties filling with the stink of resentment.

50 Shades Darker, the film sequel to the original, opened Valentines, which was perfect timing if you and your date like watching sadomasochism but not actually taking part in it. You can voyeuristically watch a girl being tied up and beaten, and eat more popcorn while holding your girl’s hand. It’s something French philosopher Gilles Deleuze argued didn’t exist as a real term. Sadomasochism is of course the combination of one’s desire to be bear pain through sexual acts, and another’s desire to inflict the pain. But in Deleuze’s essay Coldness and Cruelty, he confers that the sadist attempts to destroy the ego in order to unify the id and the super-ego, while masochism alone is the desire that intensifies because of a delay of sexual gratification; its sexual frustration is ‘rewarded’ as ‘unwavering coldness.’ This is The Contract, the process of controlling another, and turning them into a cold and callous prey. In other words, because a man is sexually insecure or unsatisfied, he will be more prone to tying up girls and whipping them in order to feel closer to an illusory alpha dominance.

We all have our perversions, and there is nothing better than carrying them out with a willing partner or partners—and if ball gags and hot wax are involved, all the better—but this 100-million-person fetishism for abuse is a strangely gruesome one. It’s not who is conducting the abuse that’s important, but rather the abuse itself—because Christian Grey happens to be handsome in this case, his abuse is desirable. If he were fat and pig-snouted, the same actions would be condemned as violent and rapish. If the novel itself were written by a man, it would of course be viewed as misogynistic, as hostile against women, and possibly protested against with pussy hats and vitriolic chants. It’s the fetish itself—the sadomasochism—that every sex-driven serial killer has in common with Christian Grey—they all need to assert their dominance over their chosen inferiors. Gary Ridgeway—the Green River Killer—for example, had an insatiable sexual appetite; he would lure women (mostly prostitutes) with a picture of his son. After raping them, he strangled and killed them (totaling seventy-one in all) and then dumped their bodies in the river. Or David Berkowitz—Son of Sam—the New York serial killer who in the late seventies shot and killed several couples. Whether they were kissing in their car or having a picnic in the park, Berkowitz sought to end the romantic affection of others.

The quintessential modern-day failed masochist is Elliot Rodger, the 22-year-old who couldn’t get laid so he killed six people—mostly young women—near the University of California, Santa Barbara campus in May of 2014. Rodger was Christian Grey’s hallmark predecessor: wealthy, the son of a movie director, good looking, and sexually frustrated. Before carrying out his killing spree, he posted a 141-page autobiographical manifesto titled My Twisted World on the internet, a scrambled barely literate diatribe of his young adult trauma of still being a virgin. He also posted videos, the last one of which he justifies his cause: I’m 22-years-old and I’m still a virgin. I’ve never even kissed a girl. I’ve been through college for two and a half years, more than that actually, and I’m still a virgin. It has been very torturous. College is the time when everyone experiences those things such as sex and fun and pleasure. Within those years, I’ve had to rot in loneliness. It’s not fair. You girls have never been attracted to me. I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me, but I will punish you all for it. It’s an injustice, a crime, because  .  .  .  I don’t know what you don’t see in me. I’m the perfect guy and yet you throw yourselves at these obnoxious men instead of me, the supreme gentleman.

Rodger was as much of a gentleman as Christian Grey—the only problem was that Rodger didn’t have anybody to turn cold and callous, so he just killed them instead. His misogynistic narcissism is tragic and predictable, comparable to the schoolboy reverie of Donald Trump, the title of his manifesto in ironic similarity to Mein Kampf. He wrote in his journal that he would wait outside a Dominos Pizza for hours on end waiting for a girl to walk by and smile at him so they could start talking and eventually fuck in a glorious fashion. Clearly, Dominos is mostly delivery.

Elliot Rodger was a product of American Pie derangement—the mania of some tepid conquest overpowering him. If he ever did lose his virginity, he would have been utterly disappointed, the full-steamed climax immediately evaporating into the room. Christian Grey was tirelessly charging against this same vacuous despair. He was one lonely fantasy of one lonely woman. Erika James had to keep writing about him because he kept disappearing into the same evaporation of ecstasy—without her words he would be a cloud of smoke, a fading symptom of sexual dissatisfaction, opening up space on book shelves for better writing.

Across the road from where Erika is writing her epic, there is a cherry blossom where a nest is shaking and a mother bird is tending to her chicks. Beyond that there is a garden, full of lilacs and grasses hanging heavy with dew. And beyond that there is another tall house. Inside, a bushy porcine man in a stained wife-beater is sitting back in his  couch—the foam cushions bulging out the torn ends—his hand wrapped around his sweaty penis, tugging on it like a madman as another man on the television gets whipped again, naked, screaming for more. The porcine man is so close to climax, his face contorts and then freezes in place. Everything is silent for a moment—the man, the porno on the television, the grasses and birds outside, they are all frozen in place. Erika too pauses for the first time in hours, thinking of her next word. She looks out the window with a look of devoted contemplation. Suddenly, a group of pheasants erupt from the tall grasses; the porcine man leans forward in the dim opaque room, ejaculating all over his coffee table; Erika smiles, and then writes, Why is anyone the way they are? That’s kind of hard to answer. Why do some people like cheese and other people hate it? Do you like cheese?

Wallowing for a Trifle: Why the Left Always Loses

by Guy Walker

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Not all children throw tantrums when they lose a game on the schoolyard. The kids who make certain they win next time sure don’t. It’s the already unpopular ones, those who flail their arms gruesomely like a dying pigeon, tears streaming down their cheeks because they lost in tetherball—the same runny-nosed children who tattle on their peers for saying a bad word—they actually make certain they lose every time, because in a way, they relish in being the victim. This is the problem with the left. They keep losing because they deserve to lose, because they enjoy throwing fits of self-flagellation for everyone else to see.

This is most obvious in the context of freedom of speech. Last week, the “gay conservative provocateur” Milo Yiannopoulos, was supposed to finish his Dangerous Faggot Tour of US campuses at the University of California, Berkeley—the same university that celebrated its 50th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement just two years ago, but also the same university who tried to ban Bill Maher from speaking on their campus a little over a year ago for his criticisms of Islam. After the escalation of violence and property destruction from so-called anti-fascist demonstrators, the talk was forced cancellation, shoving the name “Milo Yiannopoulos” further into the mainstream—or simply as “Milo,” as he is now of the pop-star status of a single name.

A year-and-a-half ago, the name was little heard of—he was the technology editor for Breitbart News, and rose to stardom through the Gamergate controversy, which, if you forget, was nothing more than trolling women in the video game industry on Twitter. He’s more an inevitable phenomenon than anything else—a charismatic hero for the online trolls to claim as their own. As a writer, he’s desperate to be provocative, picking fights with Perez Hilton about who’s the better gay icon, asking Trump to “deport fat people,” mocking conservative pundit Ben Shapiro for being shorter than him. His content is insubstantial at best, but he’s struck a nerve with political internet culture, making his newly published book Dangerous the number one bestseller on Amazon.

And it’s obvious why. The history of banning controversial thought has never given victory to censorship. Banning Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer from import into the United States only dramatized its luster. The federal court cases of Joyce’s Ulysses or Ginsberg’s Howl became landmarks of hugely successful titillation. When the UK tried to ban the Sex Pistols from their Anarchy tour in 1976, it completely backfired. And for good reason: these were advancements in freedom of speech and freedom of the press—they further liberated the prurient thrusts of thought and language, they shoved our sheer humanness into the light, sending the dying generation of proudly overgrown pubes and milky underwear forever into the past.

In August of last year, Yiannopoulos spoke at the launch of the Young British Heritage Society—essentially a band of internet goons describing themselves as the “new conservative and libertarian national student organization dedicated to opposing political correctness on the university campus.” A newfangled trollish political organization who’s entire ideological platform is centered around confronting political correctness. And not through rational constructive means that psychologists Jonathan Haidt and Jordan Peterson, and former philosophy professor Christina Hoff Sommers, have worked on, but through meme culture and name-calling. Herds of socially awkward male bovines who hunch behind their PC’s on 4chan and Twitter, securing their fear of women in their group-curated echo chambers, are envisioning an illustrious futuristic utopia where students can freely pass one another exchanging insults.

The problem with “being against political correctness” is the same as any unwavering position taken in politics: there’s no nuance. It’s always one side against the other. As if “being PC” were one huge agglutinative eating mass of the same substance, as if the group of people that said it’s no longer acceptable to call a black man a nigger is the same group of people that now self-identify as animals or non-humans and require you to call them by their appropriate pronouns. Yes, in this unfortunate hell of reality there is an ever-expanding list of made-up nonbinary pronouns—and not just the gender-neutral pronouns of “zie” and “zir,” but even more sinister ghoulish ones: “pedal,” “pan,” “sprout,” “wormself.” Like man-eating cartoon figures, this new tribe of leftists has emerged on the horizon, chanting their unacknowledged rights to be worms and pixies, taking attention away from the truly dire issues of our time. It is similar to the uproar every Halloween when a celebrity dresses up as a pilgrim or wears a sombrero on their head. The problem is the fanatics are always the loudest. They contaminate the rest of the party, sending the whole charade to the circus.

For all our quantum computing and rocket engineering, we hominids are soft tribal beasts. We’re taught to despise the Little League football team one neighborhood over; Protestants were long taught to hate Catholics; Sunnis against Shiites. It’s what Freud termed the “narcissism of small differences”—the glorious dramas that erupt out of superfluities. When one identifies an example of absurdity within PC culture they often conclude they are entirely anti-PC, consequently making it much easier for them to call out much more reasonable cultural advances in our language also to be absurd—hence the rise of racial rhetoric in our modern political arena.

But it can be far more sinister and dangerous than this. Look at Charlie Hebdo. When twelve people—including eight journalists—were murdered for drawing cartoons of Mohammed, thousands marched the streets, hand-in-hand, with signs that read “Je Suis Charlie,” to decorously express their solidarity, assumingely to stand for a free and open press. The irony was, most major newspapers and television stations refused to publish the inciting cartoons, in fear of retaliation. There was a faction of the left that said Charlie Hebdo was hate-speech and although they may not have deserved to be massacred, they sure were asking for it. This kind of thinking is incredibly regressive, and it invalidates the seriousness and urgency of other issues.

The right to free speech is more fragile than we moderns deem it to be. When the anti-fascist demonstrators prevented Yiannopoulos from speaking, they were being profoundly fascist themselves. In a moment of blinding anger, they stood for the fundamentals of tyranny, for everything they thought they were fighting against, for everything the United States was founded on.

If the left continues in these petty quarrels, throwing fits every time they’re offended, they’ll continue to lose elections. There are principled issues of urgency to debate and wrestle over, and without defending the right to free speech we will only encourage the oppression of ideas.


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Anti-Intellectualism or Death!

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It’s official. Donald J. Trump rose his scaly right hand up beside his face, his oily fingers pressed firmly together, squinted his eyes together once more, and swore his oath to serve as President of the United States of America. The lights blazed against his crumbly gelatinous cheeks that hung on to the rest of his face, his second saggy chin fluttering in the January breeze. A baby too young to know what she was witnessing sat on her father’s shoulders, her tiny fingers wrapped around a miniature American flag, her nose blushing red from the cold.

To us leftists, this is a gruesome circus, a four-year carnival run by a mad anger-spewing clown. To the upcoming generation, this is normal. This is what all future experiences will begin to take shape around. This is the first reference point of reality.

Reality, as it turns out, is going to be commandeered by a reality television star, a diehard anti-intellectual whose most fervent supporters wave banners of their proud illiteracy. It was anti-intellectualism that won the election. It won the debates, the culture war, the propagandistic battle of blame and paranoia. Obama’s successful 2008 campaign won major advertising prizes not for the content of what he was selling, but for the branding and packaging of his message. Trump won his presidency with hats. A slogan on a hat won control of the largest nuclear arsenal in the world.

Political campaign slogans are mantras of anti-intellectualism. They always have been. They hijack all meaningful discourse and cognitive aptitude, and summarize political leaders and the movements behind them into catchphrases and rhymes. Make America Great Again. I’m With Her. Stronger Together. Lock Her Up. “Lock her up” has the same luster as the rock ’n roll anthem “Lick It Up”—by its syllabic nature it demands to be chanted over and over. “Yes we can” rolls off the tongue like a pseudo-positivity event with Tony Robbins. “Better dead than Red,” the anti-communist slogan, is more of a morbid Sesame Street rhyme than containing any serious ratiocinative acumen. “Love Trumps Hate” clearly isn’t true. Even casting Trump as the figurehead of all our political miseries is intellectually lazy—he’s a symptom of a failing system, on both sides of the aisle. It’s easy to demonize him for all our future pettiness when the same tepid air blows across our backs. The degrees of fanaticism require anti-intellectualism to keep their doctrine afloat, something every ideology is inherent of—it needs to follow their chosen narrative while always blaming the angry god for the storm and drought.

It was the first election cycle where we heard anything about fake news, as if it was a new fad that came blazing into the scene. It’s another rising narrative that has branched from the growing trend of conspiracy theory thinking and the democratization of news, blogging, and social media platforms. There was of course pizzagate, the conspiracy theory that high-ranking members of the Democratic Party were part of a child-sex ring and satanic ritual abuse in the basement of Washington D.C. pizza parlor, Comet Ping Pong. When Edgar Maddison Welch, a 28-year-old from North Carolina, went to Comet Ping Pong to “self-investigate,” firing three shots into the pizzeria with an AR-15 style rifle, he was as definitively entrenched in ideology as an ISIS gunman storming into a marketplace.

Fake news, no matter how absurd, is dangerous. But the capital’s own paper, The Washington Post, can be astonishingly lazy and inept themselves. In late November they ran a piece headlined “Russian propaganda helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say,” an unfounded report that claimed some 200 alternative news outlets were publishers of Russian propaganda. Stories like this rapidly discredit journalism as a serious necessary avocation—without facts we’re all just anarchist memers with muffin crumbs stuck in our neck beards.

The alt-right is rooted in meme culture on websites such as 4chan and 8chan, where users can post anonymously, creating their own virtual echo chambers of white nationalism. There are thousands of them, herds of stinking neckbeards hunched behind their glowing screens, drawing up images of Pepe the Frog with Trump hair, and naming their most disliked mainstream Republican politicians as ‘cuckservatives,’ coming of course from ‘cuckhold,’ the porn term for when a white woman gets fucked by a black man in front of her white husband. So the alt-right is rooted in anti-intellectualism, in willful and shameless misinformation, in cartoons of frogs and masturbatory ennui.

In Richard Hofstadter’s 1963 book, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, he offers us the explanation that this brazen illiterate fundamentalism stems from the early American conflict between the value of formal education and a literal interpretation of the Bible.

In response to the anti-slavery movement of the 19th century for example, American evangelicals took more of a literalist interpretation of the Bible. Before this, churches tended to be in favor of the advancements of scientific thinking. In Mark Noll’s The Civil War as a Theological Crisis, he explains that because of the intensification of debate around slavery, many Protestant churches split into northern and southern branches. Southern branches took a much more literal interpretation of the Bible, from its littered references of the proper treatment of slaves—“slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling” (Ephesians 6:5)—whereas northern branches adopted an interpretation-based approach to their teaching, leaning on the “inspired Word of God” instead.

There was, of course, the few who tried to warn us. Eighteen years after Thomas Paine published his revolutionary and prominent work, Common Sense, he was then widely vilified for his trenchant attack on Christianity in The Age of Reason, and some fifteen years later died penniless with six people attending his funeral. People don’t like to be told their favorite tale is a myth. Separation of church and state was more than a novel concept at the time—and maybe still is. After all, there is not a single open secularist serving in the House or Senate today, and yet, every several months one of the old-crusty-fat-ones is caught touching little boys.

We simple plebeians shouldn’t hesitate our curiosities. This is a common sentiment demagogues hold towards the inquisitive masses—the voting class is seen more as a mob of drooling troglodytes to herd and sway with bluster and magnetism. In a letter to Maxim Gorky in 1919, Lenin adjured Gorky “not to waste [his] energy whimpering over rotten intellectuals.” Spineless spongey highbrows had to be indicted simply on the grounds of contesting demagoguery, even if done so only in private conversation. Look at Apostolic preachers who dance and spew their unreason under traveling tents, their mission shoving along like a carnival, full of spectacle and wild-eyed theatrics. Look at Pokémon Go, which has literal flocks of humans shuffling around aimlessly like pigeons, their necks down, their flaccid exasperation for life itself dwindling away.

American politics is much the same. It’s Monday Night Football. American Idol. It’s The Apprentice bloated to the size of an international superpower. Serious political literacy is needed now more than ever, not just to oppose Trump’s impulse for fabrication of fact, but to hoist up the legitimacy of our cause—of equal rights, action on climate change, affordable education and healthcare, to create a radical left as the most legitimate left and the most legitimate governance.

 


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Victoria’s Secret, the Presidential Election, and How Nepotism Rules the World

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by Guy Walker

Winter is coming. Trees rustle their last stolid leaves. Four-year-olds wear huge mittens, preventing them from Snapchatting their BFF’s. Cats gnaw on mice innards by the fire as old men sip whiskey for months on end. Most of us feel the urgency to enjoy our last shriveling dawns before the Trump presidency, before the mad glistening fascism is enforced by Scott Baio and the Ku Klux Klan. Our only remedy of course, is the night of December 6th, the 2016 Victoria Secret Fashion Show, full of its own gilded hysteria, the hypnotizing seraphims parading down their runway. More than ever, we need something to admire, some over-relished human peacock to idolize on a high stage, as if we were frantically trying to masturbate one last time before being devoured by hyenas.

But the lineup for this year’s show is a depressing list of women nobody ever liked in the first place. Year by year, the models consist more of rich, well-connected family members who have been pasteurized in a vat of polish, their lives just spectacles of birthright. The 2015 VS fashion show debuted Gigi Hadid—daughter of luxury real estate developer, Mohamed Hadid, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, who outmaneuvered Donald Trump in a real estate bid, and Yolanda Hadid, star of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Gigi is walking again in this year’s show, along with her sister, Bella, and BFF Kendall Jenner—who is of course sisters with Kim Kardashian, famous because she was Paris Hilton’s assistant and then sucked a dick on camera.

The annual pageant designates itself “the most watched fashion event in the world,” with 6.6 million viewers last year huddled around their screens, gleaming at what they will never have—the men discussing amongst themselves who they’d like to fuck the most, the women agreeing that the models must all be starved and addicted to cocaine. But as all events do when they are the most watched shows in the world, they turn to nepotism—incestuous love affairs of privilege, orgies of elitism that mimic the history of the royal family.

In a way, it’s much too simple: famous people have friends; and those friends, in turn, become famous. But even worse, they have family. And naturally, family members ride on the backs of their genetically gifted relative, trying to achieve their own momentary immortality, like a secondary character in a television show who happens to get a spinoff. And if the family member isn’t already hot, they certainly have the means to become hot—lip fillers, rhinoplasty, teardrop boob jobs, cheek bone enhancers, and Botox can turn boneless demons into angels of ecstasy. There is nothing that fame and money cannot give us.

The thing is, the Victoria Secret Fashion Show isn’t really a fashion show. There may be a $3 million Fantasy Bra, and the Angels may wear wings around their VS lingerie, but like Bella Hadid confided to Harper’s Bazaar, this event is about “personality”. “It’s about the lingerie, but you also have to keep a smile on your face. You have to interact. It’s a different experience than I am really used to.” Not only did the Hadid sister admit she doesn’t really know how to smile or interact with people, she highlighted the simmering ontological physicalism that viewers so maddeningly crave: we want them to look at us, to flirt using only their smile, to tell us that all of it is possible. It’s what Norman Mailer described of Marilyn Monroe in 1973: “‘Take me,’ said her smile. ‘I’m easy. I’m happy. I’m an angel of sex, you bet.’”

The whole spectacle is a titillating episode of a reality television show. With confetti explosions and live musical performances from Usher or Seal or Lady Gaga, it resembles something close to the season finale of American Idol, or this year’s Republican National Convention—it’s really hard to tell which. It’s about advertising, ratings, celebrity, scandal.

This is of course part and parcel as to why the Hadid sisters and Kendall Jenner are in the fashion show to begin with—we plebeians prefer to root for people we recognize. It’s why Donald Trump won the presidency—name and facial recognition; he had his own reality show where he was the central personality, a platform to popularize his dictatorial fetishism.

Number 28 was the first true reality show—the Dutch precursor to The Real World, which aired a year later. Viewers could now witness the candid drama of people like ourselves, sympathize with their on-camera confessionals, root in some gruesome way for our favorite cast member. A little over two decades later, every public event on earth is a frothing nightmare of personalities. Predictably, the deep luring questions are already being asked: how will Kendall feel about being in Paris for the first time since her sister Kim got robbed there during Fashion Week? how does Karlie Kloss balance between the gurgling feud of Taylor Swift and Kim Kardashian? is Bella Hadid’s nose job establishing a new trend of natural looking plastic surgery?

The nepotism of personality is the kingpin of our every fortune. Take the presidential election as the most consequential example. Many liberals are already murmuring that they would like to see Michelle Obama run for office in 2020. She’s never suggested anything of the sort—in fact, she’s only suggested how excited she is to have a more normal family life again. But the people who hope to see her take back the torch from the howling orange beast who will soon take it from her husband are merely looking at how modish and dignified she was as first lady. They’re remembering her few good speeches, repeating her “When they go low, we go high” mantra ad nauseam. Perhaps an elegant first lady, but her initial and only qualification is that she’s married to the standing president—otherwise, no one would even know who she is.

Rousing behind the idea that someone has the divine right of authority because they are related or closely intimate with another is what will turn the United States into the worst form of monarchy. It’s what Confucius advocated for 3,000 years ago—to balance “filial piety with merit”—the touchstone characteristic of a monarchy.

It’s one of the reasons that made Hillary Clinton such a terrible candidate for the first female president—her political clout was never self-made. She’s a royal automaton, a waxen effigy glued together with kindergarten paste who rode on the curtails of her husband. Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Samantha Power, they are all better representatives of the self-made woman.

The parallels are obvious. The Hadid sisters and Kendall Jenner have corralled millions of loyal disciples by making duck lips with the Snapchat doggy nose and the garland of butterflies and lilies, like some strange animal hybrid, hoisting themselves up towards unimaginable fame and fortune. The Victoria Secret Fashion Show is just their season finale. The U.S. presidential election was an eighteen-month reality T.V. show of a reality T.V. star and a royal family member—the perverse spectacle is turning back on itself in gruesome irony. The only option left is revolt.


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The End of Normalcy

hillary_10

by Guy Walker

So it begins. Trump’s four years of stammering pageantry, his hideous donut-mouth grinning at you, through your television and into your living room, the bombastic shrill of ego making all the children cry. January 20th marks the beginning of the Trump era. Or as Trump supporters call it, MAGA time. MAGA time consists of American values that make us truly great: family-sized cheesy puffs, 36-pack Natty Ice, camo for the newborn, dead raccoons strewn across the floor, and an orgiastic tailgate party that lasts until the sun explodes. Armies of pudgy frat boys emerge on the horizon, chanting, “books are for queers! drink more beer!” The oceans turn into a massive scummy cauldron, the froth of misery getting whipped up in another record-breaking cyclone. Roaches swim with flippers. Adults brush their teeth with rocks. Sex is banned and replaced with the game ¡Uno! Because the leader of the free world is reality television star Donald J. Trump.

Trumpers didn’t actually want to win. What will Alex Jones do now that he is the voice of the establishment?—he is more shell-shocked than we are. No, the Trumpers only wanted to squat in the desert with their fists raised, punching the charred birdless sky, chanting “Lock her up.” And even though they’re only repeating a cheerleading slogan that Trump started for reasons he got wrong, in a way they’re right. As Noam Chomsky has explained ad nauseam, if the Nuremberg laws were applied, every post-World War II American president would be indictable. Hillary Clinton is no better. She’s been a military hawk since her unelectable position as First Lady. She supported arming the Contras in the 80’s. She voted for Iraq, which led to the power vacuum that eventually led to the creation of ISIS. She led us to invade Libya. The most nefarious hell-encrusted individual, Henry Kissinger, praised her for running the State Department “in the most effective way” he’s ever seen. At the end of her tenure as Secretary of State, a Win/Gallup poll declared the United States as the greatest threat to peace in the world. So yes, lock her up. But lock many others along with her.

Mainstream Democratic pundits are all repeating their expected rebuttals. Rachel Maddow said if only Jill Stein voters and half of Gary Johnson voters in Florida voted for Clinton instead, she would have won Florida. The cretinous lizard-creature, Paul Krugman, also blamed Florida on Stein. Instead, establishment Democrats should examine the attenuating functions of the DNC, how it manipulates leverage for one candidate, for a candidate so soiled by scandal, warmongering, and money grubbing, that she lost to a reality television star who was officially endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan.

In Michael Moore’s list of “Things To Do Now,” he advises us to command to everyone we meet—and in all capital letters, of course—‘HILLARY CLINTON WON THE POPULAR VOTE!’ Yes, she won by three-hundred thousand votes, and yes, perhaps it’s possible to end the electoral college, but there is little consolation when 59 million people paraded for a fascist, one who wants to consume the world with his grubby pig-hoofs-for-hands. There’s little consolation when you realize half the country voted for torture, misogyny, and white supremacy. He wants to coat the old growth forests and the tall grass prairies and the last budding corners of ocean reef with a gold aerosol can, and 59 million people are behind him, chanting, “Paint the pandas gold! Paint the night sky gold! Give my testicles some glitter!”

I’ve read dozens of my peers’ requests strewn across social media, and they are all something to the degree of, “this is the time for love, for uniting together.” Or the nauseating meme of “birthplace: earth; race: human; politics: freedom; religion: love.” Even President Obama said “we are all rooting for Trump’s success.” He compared our national politics to intramural scrimmage. No, he said it is intramural scrimmage—it’s merely a fun game of little or no consequence. Or the ungodly acquiescent slogan of “Love Trumps Hate” pasted on t-shirts, posters, buttons, any dreary merchandise that lets you feel like your voice is being heard. Or Michelle Obama’s endlessly reiterated slogan: “When they go low, we go high.” The truth is, when they go low, we cower on scabby knees, like a boy in the schoolyard with cracker bones who’ll do anything not to be picked on. Rooting for Trump’s success is exactly what we leftists have to avoid. His success means punishing women who have abortions, deporting 11 million undocumented immigrants, repealing national healthcare, ending all efforts to combat climate change, building a wall, creating a religious database of all Muslims, executing whistleblowers like Edward Snowden. His success means spreading unbridled fascism across our brittle ground until songbirds screech hellish insults and roses rot under the morning sun.

Professors at many universities canceled classes in order to allow students to cope with the emotional trauma of the presidential results. I listened to NPR most of the morning after the election, and there were at least two political pundits who began to cry on the air. I was at an anti-Trump rally the night of November 9th, and at one point the herd of young optimists began singing “Give Peace A Chance.” This is what haunts the left. Clearly love did not trump hate. Clearly the radical right has mobilized enough energy and momentum to elect their prophet of death. Clearly the Clintonian neoliberals could not engage the enthusiasm needed to charm the overwhelming majority.

Bernie Sanders had the enthusiasm behind him. He would have mopped the floor with Trump until the orange man’s scintillating neon hair smeared a residue across the bathroom floor. But the DNC conspired to paint Bernie as an atheist amongst other things, anything to discredit him as a viable candidate. They said she’s the only electable candidate, her success is inevitable. Every time Hillary walked onto a stage, it was with an air of divine righteousness, that this was her turn and nobody had the right to challenge her. And now the clan of vampire children shall lurk the hallways of the White House, their tubercular ecchymosis cursing the world forever.

There is much talk of achieving “normalcy” after this perverse election season, as if anything about this is normal or could ever become normal. After all, we can blame Anthony Weiner’s dick for fucking us and giving us Trump. The last thing the left needs is continuing on its normal route of neoliberal elitism. We need a radical left. We need to restore youthfulness, fire, and jouissance from the squabbling turkey necks of old.


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Father John Misty and the Death of Cool

“Very evil people cannot really be imagined dying.”

Theodor Adorno

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by Guy Walker

It’s always been the same. Musicians are those veiled effigies we look to for momentary reprieve from being alive. We demand to be entertained, like sticky-fingered children gripping onto lollipops, yelling at the monkey to be funny again. We go to concerts and music festivals with the same gluttonous exigency, herding ourselves around towering stages, gleaming up with glossed-over eyes at the chugging fog machines soaked in red light, anticipating the silhouette of our hero for the evening.

“Distract us from this catastrophe!” we cheer. “Take us on a journey, and make it rhyme!” as we clap our hands and shake our sweaty buttocks to the main chorus. But our love of amusement is nothing new. We’ve always said it. Plato scribed the hedonistic torments of our survival, that we’ve always needed human marionettes, dancing shadows against the light. In the medieval and Renaissance periods, jesters weren’t only used to amuse noblemen. At fairs and markets, they sung songs for the common folk, pulled never-ending ribbons out of hats, told jokes, eased the restless tension of being poor and having little prospects. They made the crushing hysteria of living under a monarch that much more tolerable. Today, we’ve brought Netflix in the bedroom, Youtube channels in our back pocket, and regularly attend concerts with the same intent of escape, soaking ourselves in Red Bull vodkas and MDMA. A blast of serotonin and idol worship—today we are free!

The machinery of entertainment smothers us. The cornfed paradise spreads on. Remember Franz Liszt and the hysterical fan frenzy that ensued when the Hungarian composer and pianist took the stage, now known as Lisztomania. In the mid-19th century, crazed fans would treat Liszt as a greased-up celebrity, making bracelets out of his broken piano strings, fighting over his handkerchiefs, gloves, even locks of his hair, collecting his coffee dregs into little glass vials. One lady resurrected his old cigar butt from the gutter and encased it in a locket surrounded by diamonds. We hoist musicians up on stages so they tower over us. We blind them with coruscating measure, leaving us all in the anonymous pathetic dark. God is dead, so we needed to manufacture new gods.

A century and a half later, the mania has only worsened. For the breed of ghoulish beard-entangled apathy, there is Josh Tillman, or as he is popularly know, Father John Misty. He’s one of the leading figures of the indie rock scene; or the indie folk scene; or folk rock. With songs such as “Bored In The USA,” “I’m Writing A Novel,” “I Went To The Store One Day,” he leads us along the meandering ennui of celebrity libertinage. He exerts great effort to come across as a pessimist, a son to Hermes, to seem deep in thought, tortured, enigmatic, all the usual attributes given to artists and contemplatives. But Tillman is more. He is the direct reincarnation of two classical figures: Julie Andrews twirling between wild dandelions, unable to suppress the libidinal volcano inside her; and Nero playing the fiddle as America falls into an entropic spiral of spectacle and misery, the parody of indifference swelling inside him. Tillman is ravished by the orgiastic features of life, but needs to wear a more putrid pixelated glaze in order to exist. It’s high-definition theater, and he’s caught in his own madness.

Josh Tillman is tall, lean, his face covered in a bushel of perfumed pubic hair. Yes, he may be hideous to look at, but he fashions himself as a mirror to Jim Morrison’s last drunken days in Paris, when he was the most self-indulgent, right before he died in the bathtub with chunks of half-digested Cheerios stuck to his chest hair. His look is a biological mishap—an extended phenotype of hipsterdom—what a nest is to a bird, Josh Tillman is to hipsterdom. His entire personage is a performance, as an aloof misanthrope, like a Dostoyevskian antihero who’s won our pity because he has one or two squabbling virtues left, because we want to see him go mad in front of all of us. His charisma is synthesized glee, like he’s dancing and making jokes so he doesn’t collapse in a puddle of his own drool and beg for forgiveness under a cloud of fireflies. All in all, he is the ideal figure of a cult leader (this is of course what musicians are). Jim Jones, David Koresh, Charles Manson—they were all able to command over their disciples, their screaming fans begging to drink Kool-Aid, piss, buckets of semen, anything to say they were by their leader’s side.

When Josh Tillman dictates over the mud-soaked peasantry from high on his stage, he’s weary of his own power. It’s not that he’s pretentious; it’s more that he’s exhausted from trying to seem pretentious. Under the guise of pubescent narcissism, with his spongey tendrils waving in a burning desert, Tillman makes an appeal to the hysterical crowd of disciples: “Fuck you! I hate entertaining you, and everything it involves. Also, I’m conflicted about my manbun!!” The crowd goes wild. Kids in skinny jeans yell “Hell yeah! I’m cynical too. I haven’t washed my socks for a whole week!” A twenty-something year old with rainbow colored John Lennon glasses turns to his friend, and comments simply, “Rad. He gets it … Here, hit this.” Tillman scowls at the crowd. They’re not getting it. I actually hate all of them, he thinks to himself. At that, young women lose strength in their legs, and faint one by one like dominos, like the gaggles who collapsed during the early Beatles concerts, their 1950’s chastity bursting into wanton cherry-nippled flames, pheromones of spring and dawn collecting into visible clouds above the stage.

In the end, Tillman will go mad. With cardboard cutouts of the Snapchat doggy ears and nose glued to his face, he exclaims to a crowd of invisibles, “I’ve read Norman Mailer! I can quote Nietzsche!! I think about serious matters!!” At the impenetrable silence, he looks out across the wilting cherry blossoms, pulls out his acoustic guitar, and sings a song about canvas shelters. And all the wild animals run far far away.


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