Paradise of Storm

Wallowing for a Trifle: Why the Left Always Loses

by Guy Walker

milo

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!

trump-red

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

peacock

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

father-john-misty-live-oct-670

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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The Hipsterdom of Decay

surfer

by Guy Walker

Imagine. You sputter your way north on the PCH in your 1972 VW bus—its teal-colored paint faded just enough, with morsels of ornament-sized rust dazzling the exterior, vintage surf stickers pasted randomly on the back window and bumper like a candid discharge of how authentic you really are. Your sun-baked arm is propped gently out the window, the coruscating morning breeze blowing your highlighted crusty tendrils so they tickle your nipples. You enjoy this, like when you allow a fly to walk along your arm, entangling itself in your arm hair because it secretly feels good. There’s a pretty girl beside you, also with her window down, staring contemplatively out at the drought-ridden hillsides pass by, but mostly she’s just staring at her epitomized reflection in the side-view mirror, her long hair whipping around her sunnies, her laissez-faire sex appeal cropped perfect for an Instagram post. There’s a stack of singlefins tied to the roof. A dog in the backseat. A folded Mexican blanket. A handplane and flippers. Go-Pros so you can document how similar to George Greenough you are. A bag of yerba mate, and an authentic gourd from Argentina. Kurt Vile is singing about his morning walks over the stereo. You have several tattoos blotted haphazardly around your arms and torso—one of them is ironic. You’ve done ayahuasca. And earlier this morning, you completed fifty sun salutations. You’ve made it, the poster child of cool. You’re a surfer and you look homeless. You’ve mimicked the various landmarks of unkemptness, and in doing so, achieved the granule celebrity of surf hipster.

And yet, we know we’re simulacral surf explorers, fabricating a sense of untethered adventure, going on little forays into sunny horizons and then scurrying back home to our assigned parking spaces and IPAs on draught. While every detail of cool is in its place, we still vaguely recognize we’re in a pit of vacuous simulation, feeling that we’ll be caught, that our cover of ‘not caring what others think’ will be exposed as fraudulent. Surf hipsterdom is just the current ephemeral trend, everyone aching to be an individual, to be sought after and unique. So we surf twin fins, homemade alaias, shoot with film, listen to Dick Dale, and mimic the schizophrenic styles of Alex Knost and Robin Kegel, who mimic the likes of Phil Edwards and others, who surfed the way they did because of their heavy boards, because the physics required them to. Edwards—one of the favorites in the history of California surfing—threw all his weight into turning his boards, throwing his hands up in the air just to keep his balance, thus creating his iconic style that many of us copy unnecessarily today. And perhaps I’m critical because I’m as guilty as anyone. I’ve tried my entire adult life to stand out from the rest, to shape my own surfboards, most of which are singlefins with bright abstract resin tints. I wear tattered retro wetsuits that don’t make any practical sense. I’ve grown my hair long and kept some form of hair on my face. It’s a pallid effort to single yourself out from the herd, to declare yourself an individual, until we’re all the same psychedelic cliché, like the tie dye shirts of the 60’s, everyone twirling in unison, crazed that they are a bright light in the universe.

Surf hipsterdom is a hobby for the young who are not that young anymore. We’ve grown up slow, stylizing ourselves as the innovators of nostalgia and not much else. Jay Adams—the idolized skateboarder from the Zephyr Team in Venice Beach—was iconic and celebrated because he was a cute child with long blonde hair, and didn’t know any better. He’s an important figure because he pushed skateboarding to a new level, perhaps without entirely realizing it. But before he died, he was an undesirable figure: inarticulate, uneducated, drug-abused, in and out of prison. To skate like him today, in many circles, is considered rebellious and alternative. It says you don’t care about competitions, you’re more elevated than that. But as far as the momentum of progression and innovation is concerned, it’s elementary and trite—it’s a sweet gesture, but you won’t be taken seriously.

Surfers and skaters today want to rehash everything that once was, digging through archival landfills of fads, resurrecting innovations that are now so old and pretending they’re new. Surfing and skating are unique in this respect. We don’t use smoke signals to communicate—we take pictures of our lunch on Instagram. We don’t wrap our genitals in large leaves and holler at the moon—we wear acid-washed jeans and sing pop songs. We don’t worship a white man with lightning bolts in the clouds—we adulate a woman with a fat ass who sucked a dick on camera. We’ve evolved. But more and more surfers are returning to ancient times, gliding on alaia surfboards—those primitive slabs of wood the Hawaiians surfed a thousand years ago. They walk hand in hand back in time, awing at the romance of nonfunctioning relics.

The hipster as a whole, admits he is merely the resemblance of something desirable. By definition, he is a cold naked body wrapped in a tailored rag of cotton. Maybe a beard too. We scoff at Kylie Jenner for puffing up her lips so she isn’t quite her flat-lipped chubby self, but how many shitty jawlines hide under the beards of hipsters? How many ugly pea-shaped heads take refuge under unwashed man buns? And more so, how many cruelly uninteresting men and women are disguised in torn jean jackets and nose piercings? We hipsters are the product of insecurities and unimaginative fuckery. We’re playing Halloween, dressing up as artists, intellectuals, creative-types, when the vast majority of us are merely shoving along, the dank humidity of life weighing heavily on.

There is something genuinely enjoyable about meandering up a coastline in an old car and a stack of surfboards, checking on various surf spots along the way, hoping to find one all to yourself, to feel like a penniless frontiersman for once. And maybe that authentic want of adventure spills into the contents of our day-to-day, as we try to communicate to others that this is what we do, that we’re carefree and not showered, that we surf waves. Our Instagram filters are vintage and sophisticated, and so is our reality. But a true frontiersman is exploring something new. It’s venturing into the landscape of innovation, without all the paralyzing vanity that wants to come along.

The Violent Beast of Safe Spaces

garden

by Guy Walker

There’s no where to go. We’ve been corralled into padded white rooms of academic pedantry, from floor to ceiling, glittered with papyrus-font quotes from Maya Angelou and nondescript Chinese Proverb like starry haphazard reminders of an idealism more akin to a prudish hell. Everyone is so polite. Their skin is glossy. All the women have long armpit hair dyed green. All the men have cracker bones and speak in frail submissive voices. We’re locked in a series of Safe Spaces, forever, screaming for all white masculine-types to die, protesting that flowers should be gender fluid, accosting the sun to be nicer to our skin.

Safe Spaces—predominately found on college campuses—are those brittle fortresses of political correctness that resemble something between a nunnery and a madhouse. They are where the smarmiest of young adults go to die.

College campuses are supposed to be small ambrosial cities of twenty-year-olds in cargo shorts and fading pimples all congregating around a professor’s lectern, listening like it were a nasalized campfire story, their four years of puttering optimism slowly eroding into the spiteful trenches of reality, their student-debt now soaring, their intellectual aptitude barely better than it was before. The puerile fertility of the boys reeking down hallways and frat houses with the urgency to hose the world down with their semen. The girls bursting like a huge Georgia O’Keeffe painting. Mostly, kids just hang on until they are let go, trading in their parent’s savings account for a sheet of biscuit-colored paper, shuffling in and out of the place like duteous bovines who just experienced the best four years of their life.

Why? we ask ourselves in lulls of sobriety. Why do we march en masse into such institutional mediocrity? The obvious and banal answer is that parents or society presses it upon us, or because of boredom, or because it is a perquisite to our desired profession. But there’s something even more routinely ideological about higher education, like some cold hubristic measure of our learned inability that we crave to flaunt under the stelliferous cynicism of our era. Walter Benjamin said “ideological class education starts with puberty,” and he’s never wrong. The bourgeoisie’s “mark of shame,” he argues, is that they demand unwavering discipline from all children, thus hampering the creative mind into the dull peasantry of modern man.

The politics of getting into a university is class struggle; it’s a cloistered pubescent frenzy to get into the right group of buildings with the right name printed on its gilded gates. We besiege their shiny edifices with varying degrees of expectation, whether they be to learn, to fuck, to play sports, to get drunk without curfew. Whatever the expectation, we expect liberalism. We expect our thought and discourse to be free.

But the Benjaminian critique of education isn’t just a neo-Marxist attitude that the bourgeoisie is bad. It is meant to massage the teet of humanity, to liberate the intrinsic ingenuity of child and man alike. Benjamin thought all school children should act in the theater because only through unrehearsed performance does the creative critical mind developed as it should, that in doing so, man achieves his humanity through the “wild liberation of the child’s imagination.” Only through “wild liberation” is any socio-political revolution possible, something of a catalytic component for women, gays, and minorities today.

But Safe Spaces are a weird and recent phenomenon—bursting onto the scene only in the last couple of years, they have quickly grown out of the religiosity for a brutish and paranoid form of social justice, already having converted masses of former unbelievers to speak in tongues, to grow out all their body hair, to protest guest speakers at universities who have different points of view. The ideal state for Safe Space people presumably is S.S. buildings the size of mega churches littered across the world with feminized Joel Osteen and Benny Hinn types commanding the use of a decent lexicon to their congregation, attendees’ eyes rolling back as their bodies convulse violently upon upon the floor. They have what are called ‘trigger warnings,’ microaggression innuendos that send the very sensitive into cataclysmic shock. There are certain topics, phrases, words, that mustn’t ever be discussed in the classroom in fear it will offend someone.

If applied, Hegelian dialectics and its philosophical lineage would be banned from academia, from thought itself, like a Fahrenheit 451 of our own miserable minds, of our perverted subconscious whisperings, of our tribalistic tendencies, into a single neural highway that roars across roads of pristine virginal marble. The dictatorial idealism of the S.S. people extracts only the emotional brazenness out of the Sophists’ methodology of aretē (quality, excellence, especially that of the oratory mold) and abolishes everything that Socrates was after in the first place: truth, truth by means of logic and rationality, by the dialectic of reason, rather than by emotion.

Safe Spaces are churches for the intolerance of reason. By definition, they are spaces that have banned all constructive discussion. This goes against all that liberalism stands for, against the utilitarianism John Stuart Mill mapped out to be applied to society and the state—essentially, that we do what we do as long as it doesn’t hurt others, that the greatest good for the greatest whole is liberty. However, the Safe Space people predominately identify with the political left, something seemingly contrary to the social identity of liberty itself. They are groups that American psychologist Jonathan Haidt calls the ‘illiberal left,’ a seemingly new group of actors who oppose civil intellectual discourse. In a podcast with Sam Harris, he goes on to explain that when asked why women are underrepresented in the STEM fields for example, he is not allowed to respond with the reasonable theory that “prenatal testosterone actually influences what children enjoy doing,” out of fear of retaliation from the illiberal left. It has to be a social justice issue even if it’s not.

Philosophy, science, art, music, all fields of human ingenuity advance because of the discourse had through that medium. Imagine a young churlish Wittgenstein hunched over his schoolbooks with a runny nose, reading Schopenhauer, becoming squeamish and psychologically pained over the author’s writings on Wille zum Leben, demanding the teacher provide him a Safe Space where he can mash globs of Play-Doh against his forehead and drink glasses of warmed whole milk. Imagine schoolboy Samuel Beckett aghast at the pornography in Joyce’s writings. Imagine Sibelius collapsing to the notes of Anton Bruckner, curling into the fetal position and screaming for the music to stop, ponds of coruscating drool and tears pooling together around his flaccid sweaty body.

But Safe Spaces are not merely rooms of worship for the obsessively prudish types. And they don’t just obstruct freedom of speech in some hapless mediocre way (at some institutions it is plainly defined as blasphemy for one to question affirmative action, for example). It’s more dangerous even. It is the laws and nimble skills of debate, and the manifold processes of thinking that make debate possible, that construct new truths and attitudes of our era—these are in jeopardy. Safe Spaces are about manufacturing the simulacrum of decency. They merely turn words into taboos, thus creating the facade of humanity.

It is through this disabled intellectualism that the Safe Space people want to force us all to soak in the same tepid cauldron of orthodoxy, everyone paranoid they’re going to fuck up one day and say ‘retard’ or ‘black’ or ‘person of Hebrew faith’ or ‘hrímpursar’ or ‘pudenda’ or ‘thank you’ or ‘how do you do?’. There’ll be ladies in hair curlers circling around students’ desks, scribbling frantically on their notepads about the content, analysis, and the actually-intended offensive meaning of their language. The five-year-old with bucked teeth at desk 101 said “my tummy hurts”, which is clearly a derogatory slur against the stomach organ. White girl in polka dot dress is combing her straight hair in the presence of other girls with curly hair. Blonde boy raises his hand to ask a question, but it could have also been the Nazi salute.

When the advocacy of unrealistic pettiness is shoved into the general public, it’s never accepted as the new golden standard of morality. It generally has the opposite effect, igniting a stubbornness to submit to the new rule, becoming far more hostile than before. When California teen McKay Hatch started The No Cussing Club, and wrote a book with the same title, he was expectantly trolled and bullied by school peers yelling “fuck!” “pussy!” “cheese dick!” and other rosebud paeans of profanity far louder than they would have if unprovoked. The hacktivist group Anonymous published Hatch’s home address and telephone number online, resulting in mass quantities of pornography and pizza deliveries to his family home, and prank calls with torrents of obscenities. We humans don’t like to be told how to behave. When told, “we can’t discuss affirmative action” in the classroom, it is expected to evoke a certain kind of animosity against the evangelists of this taboo even if we wholeheartedly agree with affirmative action.

The justification for Safe Spaces applies Adorno’s logic around morality and conflict—that the gentlest of things “culminate in unimaginable brutality”—to the pettiness of day-to-day language, posturing that only a negative dialectic exists. It suggests that we are en route towards a barbaric shit-throwing contest, that we began as philanthropic culturally diverse Victorians and are agents of the entropic collapse of humanity, that soon we’ll just be apes grunting obscenities and racial slurs at each other, while the few rogue hyper-sensitive leftists faint from the trauma of it all.

There are undoubtedly grotesque examples of professors or student peers being callous and vicious towards minorities, or gays, or women. And where those cases occur they should undoubtedly be dealt with in their necessary ways. But the momentum of our cultural tolerance is rapidly headed in the right direction: from the abolition of slavery, to child labor laws, to women’s suffrage, to the Civil Rights Movement, to gay rights, the West’s trajectory is towards equality. And given the human timeline—most of which looks like an extravagantly buttered hell—our relations with one another are becoming more hospitable than they ever have.

In Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of our Nature, he maps out the long historical decline in violence, from the evolution of hunter-gatherer societies to settled centralized civilizations, through the Enlightenment, through the less frequent and less violent wars, to where we are today: amidst what he calls the Rights Revolution, the domestic advocacy for gays, minorities, women, and so on. But in the Benjaminian application of the thought and tenor behind this modern-day revolution, the Rights Revolution won’t be able to sustain itself without the “wild liberation” of a child’s imagination, one that the Safe Space people, by their very nature, wish to inhibit even more than already has through the current educational construct.

If they had it their way, the S.S. people would dictate cats always be kittens, the color yellow be softer on the eye, all Richard Wagner would be edited to resemble Erik Satie, bricks be turned to bubble wrap. But the libidinal ferment of millennials wants to fuck in paradise. We want to whisper dirty words under enormous night skies. And I gather we want these things more than to sit quietly in the classroom too afraid to discuss our differences.

 

The Politics of Surveillance and the Self

big-brother

by Guy Walker

We want too much. We want to read every email and analyze every dick pic every politician ever sent. But we also want the petrified banality of our own daily online routines to be kept private. We want our intellectual stratum of Pornhub, Snapchat, naked photos of celebrities, drunken text messages, emails to our grandmothers, to be our sacred guilty pleasures. But then we also shove our personalities into the public stratosphere, yelling “Look at this goat cheese salad! Look at my face! Look at my cute doggy!” until somebody nods some vague acknowledgement from across the world and likes our most recent online post.

It’s a matter of torment and contrast. Privacy is one of the truly meaningful comforts, one that we take for granted. You’re granted privacy in the womb, bobbing in warm gelatin for nine months until you are shoved into the screaming florescent chaos of day 1 of the rest of your life. When you die, you’re packed neatly into a plush mahogany box you have all to yourself, and are lain deep in the cold dank earth until the bugs and worms make their way in and spread you across the field. There’s something perverse and orgiastic to mass graves—even when we understand ontologically that it doesn’t actually matter if we are thrown in a pit with the rest of them, we prefer a more private decay. In just the several short decades between the beginnings and endings of true privacy, we can only scramble for moments of it, cherishing them like small glowing gems in the night. Usually, we just heave along with the rest of the herd.

It’s the State, we say. It’s their fault we’re all paranoid. The State has always been an encroachingly over-curious uncle who wants to know the sum of our banalities, one that only grows more huge and overbearing the older he gets, with more tools of this queer invisible surveillance available to him. He wants to know how we actually dance like no one’s watching, and justifies his gross desire in the name of protecting his home.

But state surveillance is nothing new. Chinese general Sun Tzu wrote in his lionized paper The Art of War: “Enlightened rulers and good generals who are able to obtain intelligent agents as spies are certain for great achievements.” And from spies bred suspicion. In ancient Rome, politician and orator Cicero wrote to his friend, “I cannot find a faithful message-bearer. How few are they who are able to carry a rather weighty letter without lightening it by reading.” East Germany of course had the Stasi, one of the most notoriously repressive secret police agencies in history.

In the United States, the real expansiveness of state surveillance began immediately after WWII with Project SHAMROCK and its sister project, Project MINARET. They were espionage operations responsible for the largest collection of intelligence on US citizens in the nation’s history. The Armed Forces Security Agency (AFSA) and its successor, the NSA, were given access to all telegraph data passing across American borders, analyzing up to 150,000 messages a month. The NSA shuffled off whatever information-of-interest to the government law enforcement or intelligence agency most applicable: the FBI, CIA, Secret Service, Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNDD), and the Department of Defense.

SHAMROCK and MINARET operated without warrants and under no approval from any court until May of 1975, when the NSA terminated the two projects because of Congressional pressure and investigation. The intentions of the program were obvious: to seek out any traitors within the nation’s borders, to discover them invisibly, hidden behind the curtain of data, to rid the country of threat bred at home.

1978 saw the creation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which required a process of warrants and judicial reviews if the NSA sought to intercept certain data from a civilian. The Patriot Act of 2001 corrupted this, especially through its Titles I and II: ‘Enhancing domestic security against terrorism’ and ‘Surveillance procedures,’ respectively. So when Edward Snowden exposed the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping of millions of Americans, everybody more or less shit themselves.

Oliver Stone just released the biopic Snowden, animating the human element to the story we know so well by now. In an interview with Vice News, investigative journalist Jason Leopold explains that when Stone made JFK back in 1991, it influenced the creation of the JFK Records Act, which consequently taught us about programs such as Operation Northwoods—the proposed operation signed off by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Department of Defense in 1962 to commit acts of terror on American citizens and blame it on the Cuban government. Does Stone have an interest in creating a dialogue that will possibly pardon Snowden?

Julian Assange blames Snowden for trying to cozy up to the likes of Obama and Clinton in the hope of being pardoned. But there’s no reason to consider why Obama would do this—under his administration, more whistleblowers have been prosecuted under the 1917 Espionage Act than all previous presidents combined. Introduced by President Woodrow Wilson shortly after the US entry into World War I, the Espionage Act was designed for spies—agents giving intel to the enemy, those who Wilson declared were “born under other flags.”

In May of 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in Manhattan, ruled that the mass collection of phone records of millions of Americans was illegal, that the Patriot Act does not in fact authorize the unwarranted collection of calling records in bulk.

So what about this election? At the first Presidential debate, there was no discussion around the more recent war on whistleblowers. At the Democratic Primary debate, when asked if Edward Snowden should do jail time, Hillary Clinton responded by saying, “In addition—in addition, he stole very important information that has unfortunately fallen into a lot of the wrong hands. So I don’t think he should be brought home without facing the music.” Donald Trump has previously grunted that he should be killed. Then he coughed, and a cloud of Cheeto dust burst from his smutty mouth.

Lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee signed a bipartisan letter to President Obama urging him not to pardon or grant clemency to Snowden, because he “perpetrated the largest and most damaging public disclosure of classified information in our nation’s history.” Daniel Ellsberg is certainly in support of a pardon, but added, “As things stand, I think the chance that this or any president will pardon Snowden is zero.”

It’s a sinister feeling to know you’re always being quietly monitored. All the hipsters favorite namedrop, Slavoj Žižek, disagrees. He apparently loves being watched. In an interview at the International Authors’ Stage, he crudely admitted that he doesn’t care if a government is reading through his emails because he has nothing to hide, because “people are stupid,” and if someone did read through his emails it would be the comparative of showing a newspaper of Hegel’s Logic to a cow. “This is where they feel most horrified, you know, when they learn that you don’t care.” This is an old brittle position to say I don’t care if they watch me, I have nothing to hide. It’s something Snowden himself said is the equivalent of I don’t care about the first amendment because I don’t have much to say. It’s insane and inapplicable to the argument.

But indeed the surveillance system reaches beyond the NSA’s unwarranted wiretapping or its mass collection of metadata. Michel Foucault said much of Freudian psychoanalysis was guilty in its contribution to what he called “disciplinary society,” keeping the whole of the citizenry under constant surveillance, through the institutional and structural design of schools, prisons, hospitals, and work places. Even the buildings themselves are constructed in a way to best keep watch over the people within, consequently keeping them in a constant state of submission. The Orwellian comparisons have become cliche for a reason: the desire to watch over a people is only becoming more desperate and gruesome, until every post-it note and dark hole has an HD camera monitoring it.

Surveillance isn’t a secondary issue in this presidential election cycle. There is a serious dialogue to be had, one that debates a more wholesome and trustworthy approach to our national security, one that doesn’t end in more paranoia, more secrets, more prosecution of whistleblowers. Surveillance on the scale of a nation is the gross simulation of a scripted buttered hell—everyone fucking with the lights off, everyone pooping silently in the dark.

On the Stupidity of Reza Aslan

Reza-Aslan-on-The-Daily-Show-Screenshot-800x430

by Guy Walker

When Reza Aslan wakes in the morning, he laughs one cold slithering laugh. The dull profanity of the morning sun spills through the soiled linen curtains and across his eyes, and he opens them to a shaven clawless cat licking his earlobe. He pets the thing with only his fingertips, in short painful strokes that cause the old imbecilic feline to erect his backside and wheeze a muted cry. “Good boy, Mohammed, my bald little prophet,” he sneers prudishly. Aslan heaves himself up from his cot, white padding spilling from a tear in the corner, and pours a bowl of curdled milk, and kneels to all fours, lapping up the bits of fermented solids as the cat stares patiently on. “Did you know I’m a professor? A scholar!” he stammers in between selfish gulps. “I’ve been on CNN!!” He slams his fist on the corner of the bowl, sending the watery cottage cheese through the air, and begins sobbing, little ponds of tears and drool pooling on the checkered floor. The cat turns away indifferently, Aslan’s incoherent exclamations fading into the distance, into soft brittle anthems of self-pity as the cat curls into a ball in a dim sun spot on the red hirsute rug.

There are only three books on his only book shelf: The No Cussing Club, by McKay Hatch, A Shore Thing, by Snooki, and the Quran, the latter of which is embroidered in gold leaf and plastic gems, with a small fan blowing on it at all times. He holds the book up close to his face, and flips through its entirety with the edge of his thumb like it were a flip book. “Ahhh, the prose and subtle paean of God’s last revelation. This book gets me every time,” he says gazing wonderingly at the peeling linoleum wall, as a gang of ants drag a dead cockroach across the floor.

As Aslan saunters off to the rusting ivy-ridden gates of UC Riverside, where he teaches creative writing to a decaying group of toothless meth addicts, a tattered white king pigeon defecates on a passing wagon pulled by hyenas below. Reza’s lips tighten into a churlish aristocratic pose of disgust, and he repositions his spectacles as he notes in his notepad about the eminent whiteness of the pigeon. Clearly, it’s not just the dark colored pigeons who shit on things. Down the crumbling avenues of swollen rubble, the braided petrified trees all lay fallen across their horrible patches of ashen grey earth, all usable soil blown off in the storms a decade ago. A gaunt hairless dog with violet skin limps across the road, and Aslan swings around light poles, skipping in a haphazard menacing sort of way. He obsesses never to step on a crack on the sidewalk, because as a child, he heard from someone who heard from someone that if he did it would break his mother’s back, and he never grew out of the belief. Hopping from cement parcel to cement parcel, his professor-edition leather satchel embroidered with “Yes, I actually AM a professor,” swings aimlessly around his neck, as he sings, “Cracks on the sidewalk! Cracks on the asphalt! Crack in the ghettos, crack in my butt! Violence is here, and violence is there! But if a Muslim kills you, it’s not Islam’s fault!” He wipes the frothing saliva off his chin with a baby blue bib, and stops next to a tumbleweed to take a shit.

At this point, a Smerdyakov-looking mujahideen runs by wielding an AK-47, his beige and heavily soiled shalwar kameez fluttering in the coruscating morning air, but his chronic steatopygia slows his fanatic religious momentum to a gross and lonely stagger. There’s not many people left to kill in the world, but still, the man is chased by a gang of bailiffs, their scintillating armor blinding the few people around. Aslan moves quickly and intersects the gun-gilded officers, and like Moses parting the Red Sea, he throws both hands into the air, erect as a giraffe dick, and declares “BEHOLD!! FEAR NOT! THIS MAN IS NOT DOING IT IN THE NAME OF ISLAM! Also, Christians do the same.” But the mujahideen stops, turns around, and replies, “No, I’m definitely doing this in the name of Islam. It says right here, ‘And he who fights in the cause of Allah and is killed or achieves victory—We will bestow upon him a great reward.’ Or here: ‘And fight them until there is no fitnah and the religious, all of it, is for Allah. And if they cease—then indeed, Allah is seeing of what they do.’ Or here: ‘If they turn away, then seize them and kill them wherever you find them and take not from among them any ally or helper.’” Aslan responds sharply, “I don’t think you know this yet, but I’m a professor of religions. I know things other people don’t. You’re not doing this in the name of Islam.”

The truth is, Reza Aslan is a passive-aggressive apologist who manipulates the truth through his own denial. In a 2007 debate with neuroscientist Sam Harris, Harris postured that it is the role of Aslan and other moderate Muslims in the public eye to steer Islam more towards being a religion of peace, rather than the predominant opinion at the time to prosecute those who draw cartoons of Mohammed, or hacking off the genitalia of their girls en masse. Aslan responded by turning away from this offer, and repeating his qualifications as a public figure. “[T]here’s a reason I don’t write books on neuroscience. I write books about what’s going on in the Muslim world because I have an expertise about what’s going on in the Muslim world.” It’s a pubescent puerile argument to try to win a debate by declaring how smart and qualified you are. It doesn’t argue anything substantial or meaningful; it’s a crude fuliginous declaration of “Trust me, I’m an expert,” which, fittingly, is actually the name of a book that Aslan has essays published in. “Trust me, I’m an expert.” It’s such a pandering offensive idiom, something akin to Trump’s pasted together lexicon of entropic elitism. It admits that the person didn’t get a degree for the supposed purpose of a degree—to think critically and argue constructively—but rather for the sole and shallow purpose of saying they have a degree.

In a viral Youtube video titled “The Stupidest Interview Ever,” when a Fox News anchor tried to argue that Aslan didn’t have the right to write a book about Jesus because Aslan himself is a Muslim, Aslan kept repeating over and over, “I am an expert with a PhD in the history of religions.” “I am a historian.” “I am a professor of religion, including the New Testament.” The truth is, not a single one of these claims is true. He only has one PhD, which is in sociology. He is not a professor of religion, but rather of creative writing, at the University of California, Riverside, that barren wasteland of meth addicts, tract houses, bros, and dust storms. Yet he continues to posture himself as a scholar and historian of religions.

While on CNN, he argued that female genital mutilation (FGM) is not a Muslim problem but a central African problem. But David Pakman from The David Pakman Show refuted this vague claim with specific global numbers: seven of the top eight countries listed by UNICEF with the highest rates of FGM in Africa were predominately Muslim countries. Egypt has a 91% FGM rate, Sudan 88%, Somalia 96%, Guinea 96%, Sierra Leone 88%, Mali 89%. And beyond Africa, Pakman shows, Kurdish Iraq has a 72% FGM rate, Indian Shia Bohras have a 90% rate.

Aslan went on to say in the CNN interview that countries such as Indonesia, Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Turkey are free and open societies. But in Malaysia, 93% of Muslim women had their clitorises hacked off. In Indonesia, 98% of women. These astounding rates of barbarism are not some fringe ineffectual minority as Aslan tries to argue by using Saudi Arabia as the most extreme example because they don’t let their women drive cars. Numbers as high as these require serious reevaluation of our tolerance for certain aspects of certain ideologies. In a Vice article publish in 2015 about female genital mutilation being on the rise in Malaysia, a 19-year-old Muslim girl openly shares that she is “circumcised because it is required by Islam.” In the Quran, circumcision is described as a tradition for men, but a duty for women. The delights of uncontrollable pleasure, of our only refuge from this desert twirling hell, has been hacked away in the name of an invisible deity. This mass violent insanity should be reason enough to disprove the existence of any benevolent higher power.

According to a 2013 Pew poll, 68% of the world’s Muslims believe governments should abide by Sharia law (chopping off the hands of thieves, death to apostates, beating of wives, death to homosexuals, the stoning of adulterers, and an assortment of other savory tenants of obedience).

Aslan has many times proclaimed that “a Muslim is whoever says he’s a Muslim,” which leaves us to doubt those who say Islamic terrorists are not Muslim. If a Muslim is whomever he or she declares themselves to be, then, by Aslan’s own definition, ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Al-Nusra Front, and other such terrorist groups are very much Muslim. Extremely fringe populations admittedly, yet nonetheless Muslim. And to Aslan’s credit, in a speech he gave at the University of Toledo in 2015, he admits that if ISIS says they are Muslim then they are Muslim. But then he continues: “If you want to blame religion for all of the bad things that religion does, fine. As long as you are willing to credit religion for all the good things religion does.” He credits the thousands of Muslims fighting ISIS as one of the notable virtues of Islam, as coruscating evidence that Islam is also a force for peace. The flaw he makes here is ISIS is killing in the name of Islam, while the thousands of people who also happen to be Muslim are simply resisting against these insane goat-fucking men who are ransacking their homeland and raping mothers and daughters. These resisters are doing so not in the name of Islam, but by necessity, by a survivalist’s instinct to protect where one lives.

At the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books in April 2016, Aslan made the baseless claim that “right-wing terrorists have killed far, far more Americans since the attacks of 9/11 than Islamic terrorists have. You are more likely in this country to be shot by a toddler than you are to be killed by an Islamic terrorist […] So yes, we are under threat of terrorism in this country, it’s just not Islamic terrorism.” But according to the International Security Program, in the United States 94 people have been killed by Islamic terrorists since 9/11, and 48 people have been killed by far right wing attacks. The toddler fact is seemingly true, which, if a gun advocate gets killed by his own toothless newborn whilst shitting in his diaper, then Darwinism has worked again and nature has necessarily thinned its herd.

In all his prudish passive aggression, Aslan declares he writes books about the Muslim world because he has “an expertise in the Muslim world.” But he doesn’t. He hurls himself into his classroom at UC Riverside, constructed with glued chunks of plaster and horse hair, and opens his three-ringed binder, pushing his glasses up to the top of his nose with one finger. He clears his throat of all its phlegm, and begins a lecture on punctuation. Because after all, he has an expertise in creative writing.


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Squirt Guns and the Death Throes of Emojis

01

by Guy Walker

When Apple released that they were going to replace their real-life looking pistol emoji with a squirt gun, there were a few hours of nervous unsteady control amongst the avenues of Downtown LA. The dreary overgrown intersections between Chicago gang outfits stopped as well, not because it was the Parade of Nations at the Olympics and it’d be the appropriate gesture of solidarity to do here in Chicago, but because their mutual communicative devices had changed, their metonymically pixelated hieroglyphs had been translated into something else, something either mockingly childish or terribly magniloquent, and it was done so overnight. For a moment, the mutes, the schizophrenics, the retards, the gun enthusiasts, and the gun control advocates were all the same, all floundering in the tepid shit-ridden swamps of language, unsure whether they would sing the poems of Whitman or belch a bit of hell.

The Walmarts and mega shopping malls uniformly hushed, everyone frozen in place as to not disturb any temperamental idiot with a gun and the wrong set of emojis who could be pushed over the edge. A man with a round hunched neck and soiled polo shirt froze with his hand shoved in the discount bra bin at Sears, his eyes nervously and silently scanning the rows of empty clothing racks. A six-hundred pound woman with a Trump-Pence nightgown used as a t-shirt who was once galloping through the soda aisles on her scooter-made-for-handicapped-people, stopped and tried to camouflage herself amongst the American themed sugar cookies. A stock-boy who was stacking cans of Campbell soup, wondering what is the difference between him and Andy Warhol, stopped and waited expectantly with everyone else for the effects of replacing the pistol emoji with a squirt gun.

To confirm their worst, most exigent fears, it was the children who stormed and terrorized the public. Great herds of kindergarteners simultaneously broke out of their classrooms and flooded their playgrounds, shooting their super-soakers into the air, all just to celebrate the warrantless expansion of their prepubescent lexicon. A five-year-old with half-inch thick reading glasses was trampled in the sandbox, water balloons that looked like hand grenades splashing all around him. Boys drew six-pacs on their stomachs and Hitler mustaches with markers, and spoke only in quotes from Napoleon in Animal Farm. A young teacher assistant fell to her knees in agony, but was completely silent in doing so, and began frantically pressing the crying emoji on her smartphone, not sending messages to anyone, just haphazardly scrolling multi-page compositions of tears. Two of the kids began swinging on the monkey bars at the same time, cackling under a torrent of rain bullets, and one of the teachers tried to communicate that two at a time was not allowed. She pressed the two finger emoji, then the monkey face emoji, then the red circle with a line through it, then held the iPhone screen up to the boys. “Peace, Monkey. No Way!” they read. “Yeah! That’s Right, No More Peace! No More Glossy Apples! Just Penis! Poop! Butts! And More Bad Words!” they screamed with rotten humor, firing their water pistols into the teacher’s face. She responded expectantly, with an Instagram selfie ending in a series of hashtags: #tgif #newemojiday #boysareweird #iminlovewithkanyewest.

But the hazy tautology of our spectrum of possible communicative symbols did have some positive net effect. Action movies suddenly turned into animated sandbox dramas, and young inept children and politically correct adult virgins went to see them, stuffing sugar-free cotton candy into their smacking esurient mouths. God turned out to be a naked comedian who only made jokes about Teletubbies, Jarool, and Princess Diana, as he chewed tobacco and spit casually onto the glistening bald heads in the audience. Down on skid row, a skinhead touched his own chest with a sentimental caress, and where there was once a massive opaque swastika was now a tattoo of a unicorn rubbing himself with a bushel of orchids. The skinhead smiled to himself, cupped his mug with both hands and sipped his steaming chamomile tea. All women became men. All men became women. White people stained their skin with floor stain in order to look black, and they took to the streets, chanting “Black Lives Matter! It’s Pretty to be Fatter!” for 72-hour shifts, before finally collapsing onto waterbeds filled with distilled fluoride-free water. Caitlyn Jenner transitioned into a human fetus, then a Venus Flytrap, because, in her words, “fetuses are like amorphous sexless heroes, but flytraps are enigmas of bloody heavens.” She petitioned the public that she shouldn’t be forced to eat flies, and went on a hunger strike and eventually died. Hippies bought suits from Saks Fifth Avenue and began hating gays because they didn’t know what to do with themselves. Overnight, the whole emoji-speaking world flipped—peace became war, and war became peace—and everything stayed the same.

Words have always evolved and transformed their meaning into strange agglutinative forms. “Nice” to used mean silly and foolish. “Awful” used to mean “worthy of awe.” “Naughty” meant being poor or needy. In the story of Jesus’ conception, the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew “almah,” or young woman, translated it into the Greek “parthenos,” meaning virgin. This single mistranslation led to countless generations of zealous followers to synch up their private tingly areas, to deny themselves untold libidinal splendor. It is expected to have a few embellishments along the tortuous banal profession of storytelling and translations—a bit of exaggeration here and there, a few less loaves and fishes, a few more people in the crowd, year by year, until miracles are made.

When Plato defined humans as “featherless bipeds,” Diogenes brought a plucked chicken into his classroom, retorting “Behold! I’ve brought you a man!” Plato then expanded his definition to be a “featherless biped with broad flat nails.” To Einstein, “god” meant the sum total of the laws of physics. But to an Islamic extremist it means the disperser of martyrdom, the ghostly gallant king that will grant you 72 virgins. But 72 isn’t 72. It means “a lot,” “a bunch,” “a fuck ton,” whatever your most lyrical paeanic way is to put it. And the Quran never said it would grant a martyr many virgins. The original word that the Quran used means “raisins.” You’ll get a sack of raisins if you honor god’s word and kill a gang of French people drinking champagne. It’s because the ephemeral capricious nature of our words and their definitions are too easily manipulated to our desired meanings, to meanings that could serve us very well to believe. It’s easy to believe the virgin definitions, both in the story of the birth of Jesus and the gift of martyrdom, because they grant us an advantage, they grant us the awe and wonder that we so desperately crave on this ransacked polluted desert, to liven up these dreary hungover routines that leave us hunched over night after night wondering when all this hapless confusion will end. Someone was the first to grunt the word for ‘food’, ‘rock’, ‘sky’, ‘god’, ‘fart’’, egodystonicity’, ‘symparanekromenoi’, and the rest of us agree that these are the words and their respective meanings, from chimps plucking and eating the lice from each other’s heads to hairless pink men hurling themselves in a metal tube towards other planets, we croaked and coughed our way towards collective progress.

And emojis will unwittingly shove us towards the next glorious frontier.

Last year, Oxford Dictionaries named the laughing-crying emoji, or the ‘Face with Tears of Joy,’ the word of the year. And naturally, parents and prudish types will wince at the seemingly accelerated degeneration of human language, and point to the Yeats and the Eliots and the natural prose on the common man from the past, but their sordid complaints are wrong and have no strength against the impenetrable momentum of the human lexicon. These assorted hieroglyphs are the cute articulate paeans of modern man, something Hegel and Wittgenstein would have envied, because of the economy of language is dealt in a single image. Ever since Webster’s Second Edition Dictionary, words have been defined according to how they are being used on the street, in the cafés, amongst the silly gaggles of girls and their daily banter. There is no fixed meaning to anything anymore.

According to the Global Language Monitor, there are over a million words in the English language. Teenagers today speak an average of 800 words a day. But, if we are lucky, emojis can potentially reduce this even further, to just a handful of muted voguish symbols, to a squirt gun and a smiley face, to praying hands and an eggplant, to an alien head and a thumbs up, and together we can rid the world of violence, misery, color, and all meaning. We can finally return to where we came from, and point to things and grunt, and throw our feces from up high in trees. Together we can be free.

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