Sunday, June 13, 2021
Many of the greatest horrors of the history of humanity owe their occurrence solely to the establishment and social enforcement of a false reality. With gratitude to the Catholic philosopher Josef Pieper and his important 1970 essay “Abuse of Language, Abuse of Power” for the term and idea, we can refer to these alternative realities as ideological pseudo-realities.
Pseudo-realities, being false and unreal, will always generate tragedy and evil on a scale that is at least proportional to the reach of their grip on power—which is their chief interest—whether social, cultural, economic, political, or (particularly) a combination of several or all of these. So important to the development and tragedies of societies are these pseudo-realities when they arise and take root that it is worth outlining their basic properties and structure so that they can be identified and properly resisted before they result in sociopolitical calamities—up to and including war, genocide, and even civilizational collapse, all of which can take many millions of lives and can ruin many millions more in the vain pursuit of a fiction whose believers are, or are made, sufficiently intolerant.
The Nature of Pseudo-realities
Pseudo-realities are, simply put, false constructions of reality. It is hopefully obvious that among the features of pseudo-realities is that they must present a plausible but deliberately wrong understanding of reality. They are cult “realities” in the sense that they are the way that members of cults experience and interpret the world—both social and material—around them. We should immediately recognize that these deliberately incorrect interpretations of reality serve two related functions. First, they are meant to mold the world to accommodate small proportions of people who suffer pathological limitations on their abilities to cope with reality as it is. Second, they are designed to replace all other analyses and motivations with power, which these essentially or functionally psychopathic individuals will contort and deform to their permanent advantage so long as their pseudo-real regime can last.
Pseudo-realities are always social fictions, which, in light of the above, means political fictions. That is, they are maintained not because they are true, in the sense that they correspond to reality, either material or human, but because a sufficient quantity of people in the society they attack either believe them or refuse to challenge them. This implies that pseudo-realities are linguistic phenomena above all else, and where power-granting linguistic distortions are present, it is likely that they are there to create and prop up some pseudo-reality. This also means that they require power, coercion, manipulation, and eventually force to keep them in place. Thus, they are the natural playground of psychopaths, and they are enabled by cowards and rationalizers. Most importantly, pseudo-realities do not attempt to describe reality as it is but rather as it “should be,” as determined by the relatively small fraction of the population who cannot bear living in reality unless it is bent to enable their own psychopathologies, which will be projected upon their enemies, which means all normal people.
Normal people do not accept pseudo-reality and interpret reality more or less accurately, granting the usual biases and limitations of human perspective. Their common heuristic is called common sense, though much more refined forms exist in the uncorrupted sciences. In reality, both of these are handmaidens of power, but in pseudo-realities, this is inverted. In pseudo-reality, common sense is denigrated as bias or some kind of false consciousness, and science is replaced by a scientism that is a tool of power itself. For all his faults and the faults of his philosophy (which enable much ideological pseudo-reality), Michel Foucault warned us about this abuse quite cogently, especially under the labels “biopower” and “biopolitics.” These accusations of bias and false consciousness are, of course, projections of the ideological pseudo-realist, who, by sheer force of rhetoric, transforms limitations on power into applications of power and thus his own applications of power into liberation from it. Foucault, for any insight he provided, is also guilty of this charge.
It must be observed that people who accept pseudo-realities as though they are “real” are no longer normal people. They perceive pseudo-reality in place of reality, and the more thoroughly they take on this delusional position, the more functional psychopathy they necessarily exhibit and thus the less normal they become. Importantly, normal people consistently and consequentially fail to realize this about their reprogrammed neighbors. Perceiving them as normal people when they are not, normal people will reliably misunderstand the motivations of ideological pseudo-realists—power and the universal installation of their own ideology so that everyone lives in a pseudo-reality that enables their pathologies—usually until it is far too late.
As a result of this failure of perspective, many particularly epistemically and morally open normal people will reinterpret the claims of pseudo-reality into something that is plausible in reality under the usual logic and morals that guide our thinking, and this reinterpretation will work to the benefit of the pseudo-realists who have ensnared them. This sort of person, who stands between the real world and the pseudo-real are useful idiots to the ideology, and their role is to generate copious amounts of epistemic and ethical camouflage for the pseudo-realists. This phenomenon is key to the success, spread, and acceptance of pseudo-realities because without it very few people outside of small psychologically, emotionally, or spiritually unwell people would accept a pseudo-reality as if it is a superior characterization of the genuine article. Clearly, the more plausible the account of pseudo-reality on offer, the stronger this effect will be, and the more power the ideologues who believe in it will be able to accrue.
Pseudo-realities may have any degree of plausibility in their distorted descriptions of reality, and thus may recruit different numbers of adherents. They are often said to be accessible only by applying a “theoretical lens,” awakening a specialized “consciousness,” or by means of some pathological form of faith. Whether by “lens,” “consciousness,” or “faith,” these intellectual constructs exist to make the pseudo-reality seem more plausible, to drag people into participating in it against their will, and to distinguish those who “can see,” “are awake,” or “believe” from those who cannot or, as it always eventually goes, will not. That is, they are the pretext to tell people who inhabit reality instead of pseudo-reality that they’re not looking at “reality” correctly, which means as pseudo-reality. This will typically be characterized as a kind of willful ignorance of the pseudo-reality, which will subsequently be described paradoxically as unconsciously maintained. Notice that this puts the burden of epistemic and moral responsibility on the person inhabiting reality, not the person positing its replacement with an absurd pseudo-reality. This is a key functional manipulation of pseudo-realists that must be understood. The ability to recognize this phenomenon when it occurs and to resist it is, at scale, the life and death of civilizations.
Adoption of a pseudo-reality tends to hinge upon a lack of ability or will to question, doubt, and reject them and their fundamental presuppositions and premises of the pseudo-reality. Therefore, the “logical” and “moral” systems that operate within the pseudo-reality will always seek to manufacture this failure wherever they can, and successful pseudo-realist attacks will evolve these features like a social virus until their effectiveness is very high. This deficiency is often the direct result of mental illness, usually paranoia, schizoidia, anxiety, or psychopathy, however, so maintaining and manufacturing these states in themselves and normal people is strongly incentivized by the false “logic” and false “morality” of the ideological pseudo-reality. That is, the methods and means applied in service to a pseudo-reality will create and manipulate psychological weaknesses in people to get them to carry water for a destructive lie. The nicer, more tolerant, and more charitable a community is, supposing it lacks the capacity to spot these counterfeits early on, the more susceptible its members will tend to be to these manipulations.
Pseudo-realities and Power
The ultimate purpose of creating a pseudo-reality is power, which the constructed pseudo-reality grants in many ways. Though these means are many, we should name a few. First, the pseudo-reality is always constructed such that it structurally advantages those who accept it over those who do not, frequently by overt double standards and through moral-linguistic traps. Double standards in this regard will always favor those who accept pseudo-reality as reality and will always disfavor those who seek the truth. An ideological pseudo-reality must displace reality in a sufficient population to grant itself power to succeed in its goals. Linguistic traps will often employ strategic double meanings of words, often by strategic redefinition (creating a motte and bailey), will beg the question in ways that forces people to participate in the pseudo-reality to respond (often by Aufhebung-style, i.e., Hegelian, dialectical traps), or will begin with an assumption of guilt and demand proof of innocence such that denial or resistance is taken as proof of guilt of some moral crime against the moral system that serves the pseudo-reality (a kafkatrap). Demands will be made with sufficient vagueness such that they can never be said to have been met and such that responsibility for failure will always be the fault of the enemies of the ideology who “misunderstood” them and thus implemented them incorrectly.
Second, the very assertion of pseudo-reality demoralizes all who are pressed into engaging with it by the mere fact of being something false that must be treated as true. We should never underestimate how psychologically weakening and damaging it is to be forced to treat as true something that is not true, with the effect strengthening the more obviously false it is. Despite the fact that obviousness of the pseudo-real distortion concentrates its demoralizing power, pseudo-reality is only pseudo-real when the distortion is not immediately and wholly transparent and also when it is sufficiently widely socially accepted to become a socially constructed pseudo-truth. Whether or not the distortion is apparent, however, the situation it creates is most demoralizing for those who see through it because making the distortions of a pseudo-reality apparent to those who do not already see them is always exceptionally tedious and will be vigorously resisted not only by adherents but by useful idiots.
Thus, third, by trading off normal people’s assumptions that seemingly serious people care about what is true, they successfully force normal people to verify aspects of the pseudo-reality even in the act of denying it by getting the normal person to meet the ideologue part way. This is the relevance of pseudo-reality being pseudo-real, with greater plausibility strengthening the effect. That is, many normal people will fail to realize the pseudo-reality is false because they cannot see outside of the frame of normality that they charitably extend to all people, whether normal or not.
This dynamic bears a brief elaboration. Normal people do not tend to recognize that a broken logic and twisted morality is being used to prop up an ideological vision—a pseudo-reality—and that the mental states of the people within it (or held hostage by it) are not normal. Some among them, particularly the very but not exceptionally smart, thus skillfully reinterpret the absurd and dangerous claims of the pseudo-realist ideologues into something reasonable and sensible when, in fact, they are not reasonable or sensible. This, in turn, renders the pseudo-reality more palatable than it actually is and further disguises the distortions and underlying will to power presented by the ideological pseudo-realists. All of these features, and others, advantage the ideologue who, like some modern-day Zarathustra, speaks a pseudo-reality into existence, and all of these confer power upon that ideologue while stealing it from every participant in their social fiction, willing or not.
A Note on Ideology
As we are now speaking in terms of ideologues, we need to be clear before continuing that by “ideology” is meant here something closer to “cult ideology” than a more general meaning of the term. It is crucial to distinguish between these so that we do not confuse those sweeping approaches to contextualizing and understanding reality that are generative of comprehension of the real with those that exist in relationship with the pseudo-real.
Liberalism may, for example, be construed as an ideology, but it would not qualify as a cult ideology because, for any shortcomings it may have, it makes itself subordinate to the truth. (Indeed, this together with its incorrect general assumption of the normality of all people is why liberal systems are so susceptible to ideological pseudo-reality and thus so desperately need a vaccine against them.) That liberalism subordinates itself to an external, or objective, truth is obvious from the first principles of liberalism, which arises in the context of favoring rationalism and deferral to the greatest degree of objectivity in any circumstance it seeks to understand or dispute it aims to solve. It also explicitly sides with due processes in service to these objectives and explicitly denies any “ends justify the means” rationales. Accordingly, it exhibits none of the psychopathic tendencies that arise quite regularly in the context of ideologies that depend upon the production and maintenance of some useful but bogus pseudo-reality.
Cult Pseudo-realism and Utopianism
Though we are primarily interested in ideological pseudo-realities, perhaps the most atomic example of a pseudo-reality is not ideological in nature. It is the tragic world of the clinically deluded person, which only he accepts as the “true” state of affairs. “His reality,” “his truth,” is no one else’s because he is not a normal person, and no one is confused by this. The psychopathology involved is readily apparent to all normal people, and, if all goes well, he receives treatment, not enablement. Extending this example up by one rung on the social ladder, we can imagine that our delusional person is sufficiently charismatic and linguistically savvy to establish a cult following of fellow believers in his pseudo-reality. While a cult may not itself be ideological, it requires no effort to climb the ladder from a cult (say of personality, even) all the way up to global pseudo-real sociopolitical movements that endure over decades or even centuries (Hegel, for example, wrote The Phenomenology of Spirit in 1807).
Only two propositions are needed to understand this ladder exists from a single deluded person with a small cult around him to a massive and devastating political movement. The first is simpler: it is that otherwise psychically, emotionally, and intellectually healthy people can be manipulated into pathologies in these domains. That is, such a ladder exists because pseudo-realists are sometimes able to persuade people that the presumptions underlying their pseudo-real construction provide a better read on reality than others, which obviously happens all the time. Cults arise and can grow quite large.
The second is that cults can become ideological, and, more specifically, Utopian. This also happens with some documented frequency, especially in situations where some oversimplification of how to arrange the entire social order in which we all live takes on a glorious vision with a Utopian endpoint—literally, nowhere, in the original Greek (there are no Utopias, only dystopias). A reliable symptom that this is occurring is a vision over a very long time period (often a millennium), after which time all social ills will be cured, that nevertheless requires a revolution in the here and now to begin. These cults of pseudo-reality are very dangerous and threaten us and our civilizations even today.
The Utopian vision hiding at the heart of all (cult) ideologies provides the rationale beneath and means by which an ideological pseudo-reality is created. The pseudo-reality is a construction that misunderstands actual reality as compared against the imagined Utopia that resides at the end of the ideological rainbow. It is constructed to force as many people as possible to live within the Utopian daydream of the people who find reality less tolerable than a fictional alternative that cannot be believed without nearly universal compliance. That is, the pseudo-reality that is constructed in service to an ideology is a fantastic vision of society made perfect for certain intolerant misfits that is then turned backwards upon itself. In other words, as we shall see, Utopian ideologies are psychopathic and arise from an inability to inhabit reality (at least without treatment).
So the construction of an ideological pseudo-reality tends to be done in reverse by starting with an impossibly perfect society (in the view of particular psychopathological people) and then inventing an alternative vision of the world we actually inhabit as a kind of mythology that contains a pseudo-real explanation for why we have not yet arrived at Utopia and how we might get there yet. Details are light—specifically because no plan can replace reality with pseudo-reality—and it will be insinuated by the ideologues that they will be provided as we go. The pseudo-real Utopia will thereby be produced from reality through a process that’s rightly described as alchemical in nature—seeking to make something out of that which cannot produce it—which nearly always involves creating fundamental changes to society and the people who inhabit it. Here it bears mentioning that any injustice in the present and near future can be justified against a vision of perfection for fictitious people a thousand years hence.
Pseudo-realities as Language Games
As implied by Pieper, as can be seen even in the title of his essay from which we’re taking the term “pseudo-reality” (“Abuse of Language, Abuse of Power”) these constructions tend to arise out of abuses of language that enable abuses of power. These manipulations are therefore attractive to people with strong inclinations to control other people or to take power, particularly when they are of moderately high intelligence, relatively well-off, and linguistically savvy (while, perhaps, lacking in other more concretely valuable skills). That is, pseudo-realities are constructed by linguistically capable manipulators who wish to control other people, and it’s reasonable to assume that a sufficiently convincing (and convicting) pseudo-reality will then draw in more such people who are able to develop the pseudo-world and its fictions and then convince people it maps meaningfully onto reality in a way that it does not. The process by which they do this might most accurately be called discourse engineering, with the exact same connotation that we usually attach to the bigger project it facilitates, social engineering. Some specific types of these language games, to borrow a phrase from Wittgenstein, were mentioned briefly above.
These behaviors, even when done by the sincere person who has confused reality for a pseudo-reality, should all be seen as manipulations and abuses, though it’s always important to recognize that intention of each participating individual matters in the moral ramifications that follow from this fact. Pseudo-real world-builders tend to manipulate people upon their vulnerabilities, which is a well-known fact of cult recruitment. Thus, they are most effective on people who have an underlying baseline of psychological, emotional, or spiritual illness, particularly of the kinds that relate poorly to the real world and the rough-and-tumble social realities within it. As noted, these are also often manufactured to purpose and target the psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually susceptible, along with the naive, the angry, and the aggrieved. It is in such minds where pseudo-realist manipulations are most effective and can generate a sizable sympathizer base among otherwise normal people, some of whom will be induced into the psychopathologies that underlie the whole project. This is the real alchemy of the pseudo-realist ideological project: turning normal, mostly healthy people into psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually broken water-carriers who can no longer cope adequately with the features of reality and thus must prefer the pseudo-reality that was built to receive them—and, more importantly, to make strategic use of them.
Given the fact that they are the tool of manipulative people who exhibit high thirst for power and linguistic savvy, pseudo-realists tend to target the (bourgeois) upper-middle class whose livelihoods depend most upon their credentialing and acceptance by a group of peers, particularly the highly educated, though not most brilliant, among them. An abnormally high proportion of such individuals are employed in education, media, politics, and especially academia. (The most potent and dangerous ideological pseudo-realities are the kinds of absurdities only academics could truly believe.) Among its features, pseudo-reality, being a linguistic and social construction, enables a path to careerism and credentialing in these sorts of professions far more than in most others, which generates an incentive structure that favors the pseudo-realists’ ambitions.
Aside from base careerism among the otherwise underaccomplishing, these people are also particularly susceptible to rhetorical devices that arouse the possibility that they are insufficiently intelligent, sensitive, or spiritually enriched, and the pseudo-reality will then be presented as the proper “interpretive frame” that resolves these defects. Maybe it will be suggested, for example, that the pseudo-realist has a more complete or sophisticated understanding of reality that the intended target doesn’t or can’t understand (often by appealing to the infinitely complicated “systemic nature” of problems that are otherwise quite straightforward). Maybe a moral or spiritual attack will be made that renders them feeling unlikable by others or self (often through accusations of moral complicity and crimethink). The fact that the pseudo-reality does not conform correctly to actual reality will generate cognitive dissonance that, in the circumstances, will be usefully generative of more indoctrination into the basic premises of the pseudo-reality. This is, of course, a specific manifestation of the process of cult indoctrination and reprogramming.
This feature of pseudo-realist cultism strengthens as the mark accepts more of the premises of the pseudo-reality and thus divorces himself further and further from reality and normal people who live within it. This slowly traps adherents, who have almost no escape mechanism, even when ideological off-ramps are made plainly available. Without even mentioning that they know how their daily bread is buttered—and by, and in relation to, whom—because those who accepted pseudo-reality have distorted their understanding of the world (their epistemology) to the internal (bogus) “logic” of the pseudo-reality and have subverted their ethics (their morality) to the (evil) “moral” system employed by it, they are well and truly trapped by the ideology the pseudo-reality serves. With a distorted logic that can no longer perceive reality except as a counterfeit, they lack the necessary epistemic resources to challenge the ideology, even within themselves. With a subverted morality that perceives evil as good and good as evil in accordance with the slave morality of the pseudo-reality, their entire social environment is conditioned to keep them in a Hell whose gates are locked from the inside. Thus, to understand ideological pseudo-realities and to try to discover something we can do about them, it is necessary to examine their internal logic and moral systems in more detail.
Because the pseudo-reality is not real and does not correspond in any faithful way to objective reality, it cannot be described in terms that are logical. In the realm of how it thinks about the world, a pseudo-reality will employ an alternative logic—a paralogic, an illogical fake logic that operates beside logic—that has internally comprehensible rules and structure but that does not produce logical results. Indeed, it necessarily must correspond not to reality but to pseudo-reality, and it must also therefore violate the law of non-contradiction. That is, a pseudo-real paralogic will always be internally (and often unrepentantly) inconsistent and self-contradictory. This can be taken as a symptom that a paralogic is being presented in support of a pseudo-reality, as can be any sustained attack on principles of objectivity and reason.
In successful ideological pseudo-realities, the paralogic in play necessarily manipulates normal people outside of its purview into trusting their own (incorrect) assumption that the paralogic must somehow be logical (why wouldn’t it be?). Thus, normal people will (wrongly) assume that the given descriptions of the pseudo-reality must have some reasonable (real) interpretation that is intelligible by applying real logic (incorrectly) to the claims of the pseudo-realist. (Very) smart people will look for this “logical” reinpretpretation of nonsense by reflex and will thus render themselves (very smart) useful idiots.
The role paralogic plays in being parallel to logic but for a false reality is crucial to understand. It reliably leads (very) smart, thoughtful people who utterly reject the pseudo-reality—and yet who remain mostly ignorant of its paralogical structure—to carry water for the ideologues inhabiting it by normalizing it while portraying accurate critics as kooks and bad actors. In fact, these (very smart) people are generating the smokescreen to the broader normal public that makes the pseudo-reality look far more reasonable and tethered to reality than it actually is. This intellectual manipulation of (very smart) people is a crucial factor in the establishment of any successful large-scale pseudo-reality, which will only be able to maintain a relatively small proportion of true believers. Of note, nobody is better at this than an educated or credentialed liberal who stands to lose a lot by being branded a kook or bad actor by other useful idiots.
It must be recognized that the paralogical structure that serves the ideological pseudo-reality is ultimately alchemical—not chemical, not scientific, i.e., not logical—in nature. That is, it wants to make something out of nothing (and thus makes nothing out of something). More specifically, it seeks to change the substance of one “reality” into another effectively by means of a magic that does not exist. Indeed, its objective is to transmute the substance of reality as it is into what is envisioned in the pseudo-reality and the Utopia it is ultimately based upon. This means that there can be no legitimate form of disagreement with a pseudo-real paralogic, and there can be no disproof of the pseudo-reality it claims to make sense of. The paralogic, falsely appearing logical, dismisses all such contradictions. Real communism, as we have heard, for example, has apparently never been tried, and the problem was that the people who implemented it, say through the Leninist Soviet model in one design or another, didn’t properly understand it or its crucial elements. Thus, the paralogic of the ideology cannot produce philosophy but only sophistry. It cannot produce gold from lead, but it can get its sorcerers to drink mercury and drive themselves mad.
Alongside the paralogical structure used to trick useful idiots into defending the ideological pseudo-reality project is a powerful tool of social enforcement using an ostensibly moral dimension. A relativist might refer to this as a “moral framework” that is ethical “within the ideology,” but as it is a morality contingent not upon the facts of human existence as those exist in reality but instead as they are distorted in the constructed pseudo-reality, it would be more appropriate to refer to it as a paramorality, an immoral false morality which lies beside (and apart from) anything that deserves to be called “moral.” The goal of the paramorality is to socially enforce the belief that good people accept the paramorality and attendant pseudo-reality while everyone else is morally deficient and evil. That is, it is an inversion of morality, the slave morality as described by Nietzsche in his Genealogy of Morals.
Because the paramorality is, in fact, immoral, participants in the pseudo-reality will experience vigorous, usually totalitarian, enforcement of the ideological paramorality. It is in this way that the requisite social pressure is created to maintain the lie and its immoral system. In turn, following the cycle of abuse, they will then use the same tenets and tactics to (para)-moralize normal people outside of it, eventually far more vigorously. The trend toward puritan-style pietism, authoritarianism, and eventually totalitarianism in application of this paramorality is a virtual certainty of acceptance of an ideological pseudo-reality, and these abuses will be visited not only on every participant in the constructed fictional reality but also to everyone who can be found or placed within its shadow (which can come to include entire nations or peoples or, in fact, everyone, even those who reject it). Again, this is the true alchemy of the pseudo-realist program; it transforms normal, moral people into immoral agents who must perpetrate evil to feel good and perceive as evil those who do good.
An ideological paramorality is even less accessible to disagreement than the paralogic of an ideological pseudo-reality because it bets everything—including reality itself and the well-being of every individual who inhabits it—against Utopia, a daydream of absolute perfection. Thus, the paramorality sees only two types of people: those who accept the pseudo-reality and replace actual morality with its paramorality positioned as champions against those who must not want Utopia (and who therefore must want a world of suffering of the kind its architects are least capable of bearing). In this regard, there is no neutrality in a paramoral system, and all shades of gray are alchemically transformed into real black and pseudo-real white. Thus, in a pseudo-realist’s paramorality, there is either fully convicted support or incomprehensible (in the paralogical system) and depraved (in the paramorality) desire to see the indefinite continuation of the evils that will no longer exist when the Utopia is (technically never) realized. Vicious moralizing that will eventually justify violence, including on wide scales, is an eventual guarantee of such demands, if they are enabled sufficiently to shift that power to the ideologues.
This guarantees the paramorality of an ideological pseudo-reality will always be repressive and totalitarian. Dissent and doubt cannot be tolerated, and disagreement must be cordoned off into a moral pit that adherents dare not approach. Further, the paramorality will mandate deceptively bifurcated concepts of concepts like tolerance (which must be repressive), acceptance, compassion, empathy, fairness (all of which must be conditional and selective), merit (in regurgitating the doctrines of the pseudo-reality), and compromise (to always favor pseudo-real claims) that preposterously support the pseudo-reality, all propped up by the linguistic games at the heart of the pseudo-real ideological project. That is, specifically, the bifurcation makes these concepts completely relevant in ways that bias for its ideas, but strictly prohibited for any others. These bogus constructions are meant to unilaterally shift power to the ideologues so that their pseudo-reality can remain propped up.
It must be stressed that the paramorality in play is always an inversion of the prevailing morality that is also parasitic upon it—namely, Nietzsche’s slave morality. In other words, it is a particular type of perversion of morality that can feel more moral than moral but is, in fact, evil. This is because the paramorality acts in service to a pseudo-reality, not reality, and is thus the domain of psychopathy, which, when inflicted on the normal masses, is evil. The goal of the paramorality will always arise from and exist to favor people with particular psychopathologies who cannot otherwise cope with the discomforts of reality. This implies that an ideological pseudo-reality’s most successful means of gaining strength is through appealing to the perceived victimhood of those people and whipping up the grievances of those who have suffered similar injustices with more dignity. When widely empowered, this should be treated as another symptom of impending civilizational calamity and a need to identify and reject the pseudo-reality manipulating these feelings.
The Threads Upholding Pseudo-realities
It cannot be overstated that the pseudo-reality cannot be maintained without strenuous application and enforcement of the relevant paralogic and paramorality that have just been described. Put classically, paralogic is pathos subverting logos, and paramorality is pathos dominating ethos. No society can be healthy—or long survive—in such a state. The threads of paralogic and paramorality have to be identified and severed if we are to escape the calamities of ideological pseudo-realities. Non-contradiction and genuine moral authority are therefore fatal to ideological pseudo-realities.
These two elements—a false paralogic and an evil paramorality—are crucial to the creation, maintenance, and spread of all pseudo-realities that go beyond an unfortunate delusional individual. They are the threads holding up the entire distortion and its increasingly criminal enterprise. If these are cut in any meaningful way, so falls the entire pseudo-reality, which cannot support itself (being unreal) and will necessarily collapse under its own weight. This maneuver will have consequences, of course. It will take with it much of the society it has infected, but it will also liberate those people it has ensnared or holds hostage, both paralogically and paramorally. Learning and teaching others to identify these two threads, the paralogic and paramorality that uphold the pseudo-reality—and thus to see them as fundamentally illogical and immoral—is the key and only possible way to resist and eventually destroy a movement predicated on the social construction and enforcement of an ideological pseudo-reality.
The Caprice of the Party
Because pseudo-reality is not real, it is not possible for people it has ensnared to check any claim within it for themselves, even if they have the courage to feel inclined to do so (as it will induce a paramoralizing beating commensurate with the quantity of power that the pseudo-realists have managed to obtain). This necessitates the elevation and appointment of specialists in one or both of the paralogic and paramorality of the ideological pseudo-reality to make these determinations for everybody (in the aforementioned bifurcated way). The traditional modern name given to this cabal of corrupt “experts” is “the Party” (“Pharisees” is, probably, one more historical name). These are the people who the pseudo-reality is designed to benefit through grift and extortion, and so the paralogic twists to support their views, even when these change, and the paramorality bends to ensure they are always righteous. Professed acceptance of the pseudo-reality, skill in its paralogic, and application of its paramorality to self and others become the political test of Party commitment and access to Party spoils, and in all but the highest echelons of Party activity, these will all be routinely and viciously tested.
Again, it cannot be lost in this analysis just how crucial is the basic fact that pseudo-realities do not describe reality. This carries a number of consequences. For one thing, it commits the Party to being illogical and immoral, as it commits itself to relying upon paralogic and paramorality in place of logic and morality. As should be clear, it is to the greatest advantage of the pseudo-realists (the Party) for their paralogic to be the most illogical that it can while still passing a generic sympathizer’s sniff-test as “logical,” and it is likewise most advantageous for their paramorality to be maximally immoral in the same way.
This state of affairs is a potent weapon of demoralization in and of itself, and it lends itself to a particular caprice quite naturally—even necessarily. The Utopia will not realize (this being another thing), being that it is an object of pseudo-reality and thus not real, and in its place, there will be only the Party’s iron grip on power, maintained at any cost and by any means (and the more desperately and brutally in failure). Lacking an objective standard of reference and being without a universally accessible (in principle) appeal to reason, the discourse of the powerful (and of power itself) becomes ever more determinative. A capricious paralogic that defines as correct today but not necessarily tomorrow that which the Party says is right today but not necessarily tomorrow and a parallel paramorality that does the same trick upon what is right are superior as paralogic and paramorality, and thus they will be favored by the Party. The unfailing result is caprice from the Party, ever the favored tool of dominance and totalitarianism.
Of note, while the Party will always identify and punish scapegoats to enable its abuses and cover up its mounting failures—which are assured due to the break from reality at the heart of its project—the Party itself is the ultimate scapegoat of the pseudo-realist project. This seemingly unlikely fact is comprehensible in the paralogic (notice how it seems illogical) and demanded by the alchemical heart of the paramorality it employs. In the end, and the end will always arrive for every specific pseudo-real project, the pseudo-reality will collapse and the Party will be blamed. Just as when alchemical experiments failed, the alchemist’s spiritual purity is always called (unfalsifiably) into question, so too will the corruption of the Party by paramoral “evils” be blamed (like, having a bourgeois mentality). The “real” pseudo-real ideology will remain “unattempted” (in a sufficiently uncorrupted form), and more importantly, the general thrust of the paralogic and paramorality will therefore survive their own death (again, it can’t be logical). Christian readers will immediately recognize this as an inversion of Christianity (the inverted Cross), for God puts no one but Himself on the Cross and willingly bears in innocence the responsibility of sin for all others, thus to enable Grace, whereas this approach eschews in guilt all responsibility entirely so as to continue in the world unhindered by its own deviance.
Later, upon finding the right societal alchemical ingredients for the time, the surviving paralogical and paramoral modes will generate a new, generally identical pseudo-reality that threatens (liberal) civilization yet again. This is why it is the twin threads of the paralogic and the paramorality have to be severed to defeat pseudo-realist ideologies and vaccinate otherwise healthy societies (especially liberal ones) from their abuses. If this is done in specific to a particular pseudo-reality, then that manifestation will collapse, hopefully before it can do much damage. If this can be done in general by learning to identify and reject ideological paralogics and paramoralities as a genus of bogus intellectual and ethical activity, that is much better. This happens more or less solely through recognition: learning to spot pseudo-realities, paralogic, and paramorality, and subsequently recognizing that they are the province of psychopathies that should never be given unchecked power over normal people.
Psychopathy and Pseudo-reality
Now that we have established that an ideological pseudo-reality is all but destined, once it starts gaining sway and power, to head toward caprice, abuse, and totalitarianism of the most pernicious, dangerous, and evil forms—and to the death of civilizations and massive numbers of their inhabitants if unchecked early enough in their progression—we need to pause to understand another fine point that bears on the entire analysis. If we take a step back to consider our delusional cultist upon which the entire analysis began, we can glean another important point about the nature of ideological pseudo-realities that has been repeatedly intimated so far. That is this: it is easy to perceive that this hypothetical person not only might be but probably is psychopathic to a certain degree if he is creating a cult ideology and attendant pseudo-reality. Pseudo-reality is not the domain of the sane, by definition, and wishing to enforce one’s pathologies upon others for one’s own benefit, especially through manipulation of their vulnerabilities, is as near to a simple, general definition of psychopathy as one could hope to read.
Psychopathic ideologies will engender a number of predictable self-concentrating consequences. For one thing, they will by their nature attract and channel the vision of like-minded psychopathic opportunists (“grifters”), who will form the core of the developing Party. They will also degrade the psychological capacity of anyone who comes in contact with the ideology—for or against it. This is done through demoralization of a variety of forms, including (para)-moralizing, ostracization, dialectical trapping, and the highly useful tactic of employing “reversive blockades,” which obliterate anyone’s ability to know the truth about reality by forcing distortions from pseudo-reality upon them (which prevents their reversion toward sanity and out of the clutches of the pseudo-reality and its paralogic and paramorality). These tend to result in people not being able to discern what is true any longer and to assume the truth—whether material or moral—must be somewhere in between where they were before and the pseudo-real assertion being forced upon them. One will immediately notice that this necessarily moves the target further away from reality, as the new position will be some blend of the person’s former belief and an assertion out of pseudo-reality. One will also notice that it is a manipulation, and when paramoralizing is involved, a coercive one (to the benefit of the psychopathic ideology).
Most concerningly, psychopathic ideologies reliably generate (temporary but) functional psychopathy in otherwise normal people who, by means of these manipulations, become sufficiently convicted fellow travelers with and sympathizers to the ideology. Quite literally, aside from the direct effects of demoralization and the destabilization caused by the growing drift of their beliefs away from reality and toward unreality (pseudo-reality), a psychopathic ideology makes its sympathizers believe and act in psychopathic ways themselves, at least in a functional sense. These are the demands and costs of upholding the paralogic (so as not to be a “fool” in pseudo-reality) and paramorality (so as not to be the wrong kind of person in pseudo-reality), and slowly these victims of the ideology become the monsters they were too weak to fight. As noted previously, virtues like tolerance and empathy are intentionally perverted until they begin to bifurcate so that they carry a political valence (paramorality good, morality bad) that increasingly favors the pseudo-real ideology and becomes legitimately psychopathic as the effect strengthens.
Eventually, a normal person subjected to these circumstances ceases to be normal. This occurs when they “awaken” to a “full consciousness” in the pseudo-reality. At that point, they will have reached a place where, from their perspective, pseudo-reality is reality and reality is the pseudo-reality. That is, they will be psychopathic themselves, in thrall to the paralogic of the pseudo-real delusion and with bifurcated and narrowed ethics and moral virtues under its paramoral system. Presumably, in the majority of such previously normal people, this effect is temporary and contingent upon participation in the cult, though it is likely that some of the relevant psychological damage will be long-lasting, if not permanent. Nevertheless, in the short term, the result of this dynamic is a growing body of functionally and legitimately psychopathic people accruing more and more power for themselves, which they use (in psychopathic ways) to enforce their ideological pseudo-reality on everyone, most notably everyone else.
This process is quite exquisite. The deficiencies of the paralogic, caprice of the paramorality, and dissonance around the pseudo-reality itself will all tend to engender in the susceptible normal person a similar sense of distress about inhabiting reality as the pseudo-reality exists to enable. Obviously, this is convenient for recruitment, indoctrination, and eventual (psychopathic) reprogramming because the pseudo-reality is constructed in such a way as to enable those specific psychopathologies to flourish and avoid detection and treatment. In this regard, one might refer to the spread of a psychopathic ideology and its pseudo-reality by now-familiar phrases like “the madness of crowds,” which is more apt than one might realize at first blush, and even sociopolitical “zombification.”
Importantly, this circumstance implies that the average “fellow traveler” in a cult ideology not only does not realize they’re a cultist who is using tools and tactics of manipulation (paralogic and paramorality) on people in their lives, both normal and ideologically “awakened” fellow cultists; they cannot realize this without first abandoning the paralogic and paramorality that has captured them and rejecting the ideological pseudo-reality in a fundamental way. They find themselves in the broken position not only of being functionally psychopathic but also of being reality-inverted such that they believe all normal people who are not (yet) cultists are the cultists while they, themselves, are not. This represents a complete reversal of sanity, and the conversion of normal to ideologically psychopathic is, by that point, complete. These people, as many have learned the hard way throughout history, are the otherwise good people who are capable of perpetrating genocides.
Cutting the Threads
What, then, could possibly be the answer to this perilous and perennial tangle? Fortunately, the first step, at the least, is very simple. It’s mere awareness. It is learning to recognize the constructed pseudo-reality for what it is—a fabricated simulation of reality that is unfit for human societies—and beginning to reject unapologetically any demand to participate in it. This means refusing the analysis of the paralogic (by seeing its contradictions) and being held to account by the paramorality (by recognizing its caprice, malice, and evil) that sustain the lie. (An old word for this is “secularism,” in the non-specific sense.) In the exact instant one becomes competent at spotting the lie—or, the network of lies—held in service of a constructed pseudo-reality and its social enforcement, one already possesses the necessary perspective to break the spell of the pseudo-reality in its entirety. This, knowing the cheat for what it is, more than any other thing, is how the strings of paralogic and paramorality are cut, and with them cut pseudo-reality will come crashing down.
This can only be done by learning enough to see the games, telling the truth, and refusing to be coerced or forced to participate in the increasingly hegemonic pseudo-reality before it claims totalitarian power. Speaking practically, there are two straightforward ways this can be done. One is to refute the pseudo-reality, and the other is to reject it.
For most people, the latter of these is easier than the former, and it requires less of someone. Strength of will and character will suffice. Simply refusing to participate in the pseudo-reality, utilize its paralogic, or bow to its paramorality—and to live one’s life as though it is utterly irrelevant to yours—is a powerful act of defiance against an ideological pseudo-reality. It requires nothing more of a person than a convicted statement that says, “This does not apply to me because it is not me” (or, “not even real”), a refusal to make decisions based in socially constructed fear and intimidation, and a willingness to live one’s life on the most normal terms possible. This is a powerful and peaceful act of defiance that many other normal people (those outside the pseudo-reality) will recognize for strength, and while it may cost you in the short term and in some ways, it will reap rewards in the long term and in others, at least up until the point that the paramoral totalitarian trap is fully sprung on a sufficiently broken and demoralized society. Just keep your head up and refuse to live your life on someone else’s (psychopathic) terms, and you will do much against such budding regimes.
Refuting pseudo-reality is harder, as it requires much more specific knowledge along with skill, strength of character, and courage. It also must be done, at least by someone, if an ideological pseudo-reality has already taken root. Such a pseudo-reality has to be shown to be a false reality, which is to say a pernicious fiction, to as many people as possible. To do it, its distortions of reality, the contradictions of its paralogic, and the evils and harms of its paramorality must all be exposed and explained as a first step. These objectives require devoting, which is in some sense wasting, a great deal of time and expending a great deal of effort intentionally learning something one knows is false and therefore (if one is successful) useless. It is also demoralizing to learn, given the psychopathic nature of the material. It’s not for the faint of heart, even if all goes well.
Commonly, also, this process will not be comfortable and requires tremendous courage of precisely the kind that ideological demoralization is very effective at eroding and containing. The paralogic will interpret direct dissent as stupid or crazy, and the paramorality will characterize it as evil (or motivated by evil intentions, even if unconscious ones outside of the dissenter’s awareness). The courage to bear these outrageous insults and slander, and to bear its unjust social consequences, is therefore a necessary precondition to putting a halt to totalitarianism. It is understandable why most will not choose this path, but be warned: the longer one waits, the worse this gets.
For those who will take up the task, the approach is a combination of being informed, being courageous, being forthright, and being subversively funny. Being informed is necessary to identify, expose, and explain the distortions of the pseudo-reality and juxtapose them with reality. It is also necessary to make use of the most decisive tool that exists against ideological pseudo-realities, which is the law of non-contradiction. Pseudo-realities and their paralogical structures always contradict reality and themselves, and exposing these contradictions exposes their lies. Being courageous and forthright is necessary to believe in oneself and one’s (real) values and thus to withstand the paramoralizing attacks and social pressure they will generate, but they inspire more of the same and restore moral authority to those who are drained of it by these distortions. Being subversive and funny undermines the psychopathy and will to power that characterize the entire ideological pseudo-realist enterprise.
Resisting effectively and with sufficient knowledge (refuting) is, of course, best, but resisting at all, even by mere refusal to participate in any obvious lie (rejecting), is also effective. This is because revealing the ideological pseudo-reality for what it is—false and irrelevant to actual reality—undermines the pseudo-reality and encourages more people to refute and reject it. Even more powerful, however, is that revealing the underlying nature of the ideological pseudo-reality—that it is psychopathic—to normal people (including those partially ensnared) ranks highly among the ways the paralogical and paramoral threads can be severed. And, a psychopathic reaction is precisely what will result from effectively resisting a psychopathic ideology. The challenging part is that you, who dares resist their games and who eludes their trap, becomes the target of their psychopathic ire, and many sympathizers who you would usually count as friends will take sides against you (there is no neutral in the paramorality). The earlier one enters this fight, the more courage it takes and yet the more valuable it is.
Some of the requisite courage to resist can be found by remembering that the pseudo-reality is not real, its paralogic is not logical, and its paramorality is not moral. That is, it’s not you; it’s them. Some more backbone can be dredged up by realizing that once the pseudo-real begins displacing the real for even a few percent of the population, the question is no longer whether things will go bad but how bad they will go before the bubble bursts. Reality will always win, and calamity comes in proportion to the size of the lie between us and it, so it is better to act sooner than later. Still more heart resides in grasping that it gets worse right up until a real resistance mounts, and then, after a rocky transition, it starts getting better. The time to act is therefore now.
The way resistance—just plain resistance—works is by restoring to the normal person the epistemic and moral authority necessary to resist the ideologue’s illegitimate demands to participate in a pseudo-real fraud. That is, it restores confidence in normality to the normal. No one feels ashamed of resisting a con, whatever form it takes, and this is the real phenomenon we face with any growing ideological pseudo-reality. Its paralogic and paramorality work to drain us of our sense of authority to know what is and is not true and what is and is not right. One’s authority only lacks under the assumptions of the paralogical and paramoral systems, however—that is, inside pseudo-reality—and it can be reclaimed by anyone who simply refuses to participate in the lie. Step outside of the pseudo-reality (take the “red pill,” as depicted in The Matrix), and you’ll see.
"Legitimation by paralogy" roughly means "manufacturing 'truth(iness)' through (forcing) consensus," or, in simpler language, creating social enforcement of lies that must be believed. Lyotard rightly recognized that this is a disaster (he wrongly believed everything is that). (Source)
Postmodernism stems from a "Crises of Authenticity" and the death of the meta-narrative.
Authentic people have "character" and risk putting their real identity on the line in all their social interactions (but must constantly fight to resist social pressure) unlike inauthentic people who instead project an artificial external image [as in schizoid personality disorder] and most frequently submit to and conform with social expectations and norms.
A nostalgic desire to "return to the past" is a symptom of this crises of authenticity (especially for internet influencers like Travis Scott.)
Source of Marxist thought (ie - Michael Foucault)... People with deviant desires and who are forced to conform to societal and moral norms have a pent up desire to "expand potentialities of being" so as to change society in a manner which allows them to reveal their true "authentic" selves publically and not be subjected to these formerly oppressive social and moral norms (through guilt). They rationalize their own pathologies through their idealized theories.
So the question becomes, "What is the authentic experience of the oppressed person?" Is "blackness" today a more-real-than-real (hyper-real) social paralogy? Why can't Kanye wear a MAGA hat (because to do so would be considered "inauthentically black") If you don't vote for Joe Biden, you ain't black (or at least the paralogy of blackness as defined by the MSM monopoly). All black conservatives considered by the standards of the media monopoly are "inauthentically black", because those standards have been legitimized by paralogy (media consensus).
The problem is that these media created hyper-real identities (of what it means to be minority x) seek to define an individual's "authenticity" through identity categories reflecting a victimhood of historical oppression having nothing specific to do with the individual's character (thereby replacing the real with the hyper-real). And what "oppression" are these minority groups being subjected to? Hyper-real "micro-aggressions" (not even REAL oppression).
Wokeness is a media manufactured theoretical identity substituting for authenticity. Authenticity is being who you are when you aren't trying to be anyone. It cannot be faked. You can't "fake it 'til you make it (ala an "Internet Influencer")
Friday, June 11, 2021
Slavoj Žižek, "The difference between ‘woke’ and a true awakening"
The supposedly liberal ‘wokeness’ and cancel culture have little to do with awakening to what’s going on in the world and trying to change it – it’s just noise for the sake of noise, while the status-quo is carefully preserved.
The usual liberal-conservative reproach to the so-called woke cancel culture is that it is too radical: Its partisans want to destroy all statues, cleanse our museums, rewrite our entire past… in short, they want to deprive us of our entire collective memory and purify our everyday language into a flat, heavily censored jargon. However, I think Ben Burgis is right in his claim that the woke agents of cancel culture are “Canceling Comedians While the World Burns”: Far from being ‘too radical’, their imposition of new prohibitions and rules is one of the exemplary cases of pseudo-activity, of how to make sure that nothing will really change by pretending to act frantically. No wonder new forms of capital, in particular anti-Trump tech capitalists (Google, Apple, Facebook), passionately support anti-racist and pro-feminist struggles – ‘woke capitalism’ is our reality. One does not really change things by prescribing measures which aim at establishing a superficial ‘just’ balance without attacking the underlying causes of the imbalance.
Here is a fresh case of the politically correct struggle against privilege: California’s Department of Education proposed that the gap between well-performing students and their less able peers must disappear. Professors should hold well-performing students back and push their less intellectual peers forward, as if they were all equal in abilities. Justification? “We reject ideas of natural gifts and talents,” since “there is no cutoff determining when one child is ‘gifted’ and another is not.” The goal is thus to “replace ideas of innate mathematics ‘talent’ and ‘giftedness’ with the recognition that every student is on a growth pathway.”
This is a showcase of fake egalitarianism destined to just breed envy and hatred. We need good mathematicians to do serious science, and the proposed measures certainly don’t help in this regard. The solution? Why not more access to good education for everyone, better living conditions for the poor? And it is easy to imagine the next step in this direction of the false egalitarianism: Is not the fact that some individuals are much more sexually attractive than others also a case of supreme injustice? So should we not invent some kind of push towards equity in enjoyment also, a way to hold the more attractive back, since there is no cutoff determining when one person is sexually attractive and another is not? Sexuality effectively is a domain of terrifying injustice and imbalance… Equity in enjoyment is the ultimate dream of false egalitarianism.
There are rare voices of authentic Left opposition to this drive towards false justice – apart from Burgis, one should mention Angela Nagle and Katherine Angel. The only problem I have with Angel’s Tomorrow Sex Will Be Good Againis its title, which seems to imply that sex was once good (not-antagonistic) and will be that again. I’ve rarely read a book with whose basic premise I agreed so fully – since this premise is formulated concisely in the publicity paragraph for the book, I will shamelessly quote it:
“Women are in a bind. In the name of consent and empowerment, they must proclaim their desires clearly and confidently. Yet sex researchers suggest that women’s desire is often slow to emerge. And men are keen to insist that they know what women—and their bodies—want. Meanwhile, sexual violence abounds. How can women, in this environment, possibly know what they want? And why do we expect them to? Katherine Angel challenges our assumptions about women’s desire. Why, she asks, should they be expected to know their desires? And how do we take sexual violence seriously, when not knowing what we want is key to both eroticism and personhood?”
The parts bolded (by me) are crucial: Any feminist theory should take into account not-knowing as a key feature of sexuality and ground its opposition to violence in sexual relationship not in the usual terms of ‘yes means yes’, but by evoking this not-knowing. This is why the motto that women “must proclaim their desires clearly and confidently” is not just a violent imposition on sexuality but literally de-sexualizing, a promotion of ‘sex without sex’. This is why feminism, in some instances, enforces precisely the same ‘shaming and silencing’ of women’s sexuality that it seeks to oppose. What lies under the direct physical (or psychological) violence of unwanted male sexual advances is the patronizing assumption he knows what the ‘confused’ woman doesn’t know (and is thereby legitimized to act upon this knowledge). It could thus be argued that a man is violent even if he treats a woman respectfully – as long as it’s done under this presumption of knowing more about her desires than she does herself.
This in no way implies that women’s desire is in some sense deficient compared to that of men (who are supposed to know what they want): The lesson of psychoanalysis is that a gap always separates what we want from what we desire. It may happen that I not only desire something but want to get it without explicitly asking for it, pretending that it was imposed on me – demanding it directly would ruin the satisfaction of getting it. And inversely, I may want something, dream about it, but I don’t desire to get it – my entire subjective consistency depends on this not-getting-it: Directly getting it would lead to a collapse of my subjectivity. We should always bear in mind that one of the most brutal forms of violence occurs when something that we secretly desire or fantasize about (but are not ready to do in real life) is imposed on us from outside.
The only form of sex that fully fits the politically correct criteria is a sado-masochist contract.
Leftist partisans of political correctness often reproach to its critics that their focus on PC ‘excesses’, on the prohibitive aspect of cancelling and woke culture, ignores a much graver threat of censorship. Just in the UK, we have police infiltrating trade unions, regulation of what gets published in the media and appears on TV, underage children from Muslim families questioned for terrorist links, up to single events like the continuing illegal imprisonment of Julian Assange… While I agree that censorship is much worse than the ‘sins’ of cancel culture, I think it provides the ultimate argument against the woke culture and PC regulations: Why does the PC Left focus on regulating details of how we speak, etc. instead of bringing out the above-mentioned much bigger things? No wonder Assange was also attacked by some PC feminists (not only) from Sweden who did not support him because they took seriously the accusations about his sexual misconduct (which were later dismissed by the Swedish authorities). An unproven infraction of PC rules outweighed the fact of being a victim of state terror…
However, when the woke stance touches on a really important aspect of the reproduction of the hegemonic ideology, the reaction of the establishment changes from ridiculing the opponent for its excesses to a panicky attempt of violent legal suppression. We often read in our media complaints about the ‘excesses’ of critical gender and race studies which try to reassess the hegemonic narrative of the American past. But we are now in the middle of an ongoing reactionary counter-offensive to reassert a whitewashed American myth. New laws are proposed in at least 15 states all across the US that would ban the teaching of ‘critical race theory’, the New York Times’ 1619 Project, and, euphemistically, ‘divisive concepts’.
Are the prohibited theories really divisive? Yes, but only in the precise sense that they oppose (divide themselves from) the hegemonic official myth which is already in itself divisive: It excludes some groups or stances, putting them in a subordinate position. Furthermore, it is clear that to the partisans of the official myth, truth does not matter here but only the ‘stability’ of the founding myths – these partisans, not those dismissed by them as ‘historicist relativists’, are effectively practicing the ‘post-truth’ stance: They like to evoke ‘alternate facts’, but they exclude alternate founding myths.
While criticizing the PC cancelling culture, we should thus always bear in mind that we share their goals (for feminism, against racism, etc.), and that we criticize their inefficiency in reaching these goals. With advocates of the founding myths, the story is a different one: Their goals are unacceptable, and we hope they will fail to reach them.
Wednesday, June 9, 2021
Maurizio Lazzarato, "Semiotic capitalism: Social subjection and machinic enslavement"
Signs are far more than ideological raw materials and “capital” is far more than a simple economic category relating to the circulation of goods and the accumulation of wealth. According to a definition of Félix Guattari’s that dates back to the seventies, Capital is a “semiotic operator” that affects all levels of production and all levels of stratification of power and subjectivity.
According to Deleuze and Guattari, the semiotic components in control societies always operate in a dual register. The first is the register of “representation” and “signification”, organized by signifying semiotics (the most important of which are “natural languages”) for the purpose of producing the “subject”, the “individual”, the “I”. Signifying semiotics fulfil the functions of social subjection and subjective alienation since, through representation and signification, they create and allocate roles and places, they provide us with a subjectivity and they assign us to an identity, a gender, a profession, a nationality, etc. so that everyone is implicated in a semiotic trap that is both signifying and representative.
The second semiotic register is organized by a-signifying semiotics (such as money, analog or digital machines that produce images, sounds and information, the equations, functions, diagrams of science, music, etc). Like Félix Guattari, we can call these “a-signifying” semiotics for, while they bring into play signs with a potentially symbolic or signifying effect, they have a machinic rather than a symbolic or signifying effect in the way they actually function.
Signifying semiotics speak, interpret, narrate, perform, while a-signifying semiotics fulfil the functions of machinic enslavement since this second register is not aimed at subject constitution, but at capturing and activating pre-individual and trans-individual elements (affects, emotions, perceptions). Stock-exchange indices, economic statistics, scientific diagrams and computer languages do not generate discourse; they operate, rather, by keeping the socio-economic machine running. Let the European Central Bank raise its bank rate by 1% and tens of thousands of “projects” go up in smoke for lack of credit. Let the French national health service accounts show a deficit and decisions on ways to cut spending are going to follow.
Thus, signs and semiotics can operate according to these two heterogeneous and yet complementary logics; they can fulfil two functions at the same time. On the one hand, through a-signifying semiotics, they have a direct impact on the real, they produce processes, trigger actions, work, constitute the input and output elements of a social or technological machine while on the other, they produce meaning, representations, discourses in which the subject recognizes himself/herself and is alienated from himself/herself. On the other hand, through signifying semiotics, signs are no longer linked to processes but to representations, to meanings. The same semiotic devices can be devices for both machinic enslavement and social subjection simultaneously. Television, for instance, can constitute us as subjects, as users, or it can even use us as simple relays for transmitting information, emotions, affects or signs, which trigger an action-reaction sequence. We have the privilege of being subjected simultaneously to the effects of both.
One can detect a certain family resemblance in the way Foucault, Deleuze and Guattari, and Rancière use the concept of (social) subjection. In contrast, however, a-signifying semiotics and their functions of “machinic enslavement” have no corresponding concept in any contemporary political, linguistic or philosophical theories, and they represent one of the fundamental contributions by Deleuze and Guattari to our understanding of contemporary societies. It is perhaps Félix Guattari who has gone furthest to analyse the specificity of the relationship between the semiotic system and the capitalist system. Capitalism is regarded as a specific valorization process, based on “indexing” and “symbolization” systems that mobilize a range of signifying and a-signifying semiotic systems, which have a dual function. On the one hand, they connect and “formally” group together heterogeneous areas, asymmetric forces and power; on the other, they organize the integration and shift in focus of these areas and forces.
From this point of view, contemporary financialization is merely an increase in the – mainly a-signifying – semiotic indexing and symbolization systems that allow the differentials in valorization in all areas and between all areas to be managed. The mass media constitute other semiotic information management systems that, by using mainly natural languages, allow the differences in behaviours, opinions and meanings to be integrated and their focus shifted towards the logic of power.
What matters to capital is control of the semiotic devices that allow it to manage the integration and shift in focus of “differences”. Semiotic devices are simultaneously devices for management and “comparison”, for “scheduling” and for “computerization of material and economic goods, of individual and collective human activities and of technical, industrial and scientific processes, since whatever “is capitalized by capital is semiotic power”. The semiotic devices of government occur at different levels. They articulate the problems that matter for a society and an era by turning them into slogans and deploying them in “worlds” and “universes” of meaning. They bestow the power of speech and at the same time remove it, by organizing the interpretation / transmission of these slogans and these universes of meaning for increasingly diverse audiences. And finally, they transform these same slogans and worlds of meaning into the conditions necessary for the subjection of individuals, the conditions by which they are turned into subjects.
For Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze, the statement of problems is one of the major issues of politics since we have the solutions we deserve, and these solutions are determined by the questions we ask. For Deleuze, the predominant statements, representations and meanings operate like a “grid” that affects our mode of perception, feeling and understanding all at the same time.
The grid operates by imposing a certain discursive universe, a certain vocabulary, a certain imagery upon the governed, within which they will be made to think, express themselves and act. Everything that happens, everything one does and thinks or everything that one might think or do, is folded over this grid of statements and meanings, which represents the limits of one’s interpretation and articulation of the world. For Foucault, the power to pose problems is a power to politicize, i.e. the power to introduce new objects and new subjects into the political space and make them the focus of a struggle and a debate. “Problematization ( … ) is the entire set of discursive and non-discursive practices that introduces something into the interplay of true and false and constitutes it as an object for thought.”
This function of instituting / selecting “problems” and “solutions” operated by signifying semiotics establishes an initial distribution between the governing and the governed. The governing have the power to define the problems and formulate the questions (they name the possibles), by establishing in this way whatever is remarkable, important, relevant, worth acting upon and articulating. Meanwhile, the freedom of expression of the governed is exercised within the limits of a “doing“ and “saying” that has already been codified, predetermined by the problems and solutions of the governing.
The discursive devices (television, newspapers, opinion polls, elections, marketing, etc) operate on the hypothesis, which is a complete fabrication on their part, that there is a consensus on the problems, that there is agreement on the presuppositions, that there is no disagreement on the questions that deserve to be asked. Every day, we are invited to choose but the terms on which we operate our selection cannot be the object of debate, only of consensus. Instead of threatening the constituted order, these choices serve to confirm and consolidate it.
The “problems” and meanings, as Deleuze and Guattari remind us, are always the problems and meanings of the dominant reality, and the communicational machine of signifying semiotics is only there to produce and repeat this obvious fact. The “problems” or the “grid” of dominant statements and meanings are real semantic barriers. Anything that doesn’t fit into the consensual definition will be literally inaudible, incommunicable and incapable of being transmitted.
The narrating function of signifying semiotics
The media don’t just transmit slogans. They actualize them, they deploy them in “worlds” and “universes” of images, words and signs through stories and narrations that don’t describe the real but rather institute it. Michel de Certeau summarizes this new narration function of signifying semiotics admirably: “The media change the profound silence of things into its opposite. Once constituted in secret, the real now jabbers away. We are surrounded by news, information, statistics and opinion polls. Never has history talked so much or shown so much (...) Our orthodoxy is made up of narrations of “what’s going on”. Statistical debates are our theological wars. The combatants … move forward, camouflaged as facts, data and events. They set themselves up as messengers of a “reality” (…) But in fact they manufacture it, they simulate it, they cover themselves with it, they believe in it – they thus create the stage of their law ( …). “ 1
The message circulated by the slogans is an injunction: “Be quiet”, say the press journalists, the TV presenter or the political leader: “ ‘There are the facts. Here are the data, the circumstances, etc … Therefore you must …’” 2. The once ‘secret‘ real now jabbers. “The real, as told to us, interminably dictates what must be believed and what must be done.”3
The stories and narrations actualize the consensus in worlds and universes of discourse and meaning.
Unemployment, the perfect example of a slogan in our societies, is simultaneously interpreted and narrated as the disease in the social fabric that must be cured by employment, and the event in security societies that must be constantly talked about and staged with figures, statistics that invite comment by experts, intellectuals and the unemployed themselves to try to integrate, via the meaning of the communicational machine, the inequalities that the economy is increasing.
The discourses on unemployment are meant to circulate both the fear that pervades the entire labour market and at the same time a mission to mobilize society for the future. The “narrative conjunctions” compensate for the growing “disjunctions” created by the division of labour, by the differential treatment put in place by public policies and by the increase in inequalities. Signifying semiotics guarantee the creation of a reparatory meaning, by supplying a common frame of reference for the increase in “differences” (inequalities of status, of income, of access to welfare, etc), which is meant to hold them together and to constitute a shared objective. Discourses, stories, narrations create the possibility of a real reconciled with itself, the image of society’s regained unity (in view of the social divisions), the image of a security that exorcises fear.
MACHINE OF SUBJECTIVATION / ENSLAVEMENT
One final function performed by signifying and a-signifying semiotics remains to be analysed. They don’t just construct, interpret and transmit slogans, or narrate and deploy worlds and universes. It is impossible to dissociate the workings of the semiotic machine of interpretation and transmission of slogans from those of a machine of subjection. In security societies, we see the coexistence of a multiplicity of sign systems. We have already analysed one of these systems through the transmission of statements – slogans. The process of subjectivation / subjection constitutes a second. In this system, the signs no longer refer to signs, but to the subject. The signs, meanings and statements do not refer to their endless proliferation but rather to the boundary beyond which they cannot circulate, which is constituted by the way the subject uses them in order to influence himself/herself and act by himself/herself.
Taking television as an example, we can derive a simplified schema of how these security devices of subjection operate to “silence” the public by making it “talk”. As is the case with psychoanalysis, television works on the basis of a limited number of statements that have already been codified (the “grid” mentioned above). These are the statements (the “problems”) of the dominant reality and television claims to transform them into the statements of individual subjects. It encourages us to speak as subjects of enunciation (sujets d’énonciation), as though we were the cause and origin of statements, whereas in fact we are spoken by the machine of communication and we are, as a result, just one of its effects. We are transformed into subjects of the statement (sujets d’énoncé).
If you are interviewed on television, (whether in a literary discussion programme or a chat show, or even on reality TV where you talk about your experiences), you are set up as a subject of enunciation. (“You the viewer or you the esteemed guest, who are making television” ). You are then subjected to a machine of interpretation / expression with several constituent parts, which takes over your enunciation and you are likely to become a mere component, a cog in the audiovisual machine (a subject of the statement). First of all, you come under the control of a non-discursive machine that interprets, selects and standardizes your attitudes, your positions, your expressions – and this is before you have even begun to speak. As a subject of enunciation, you are folded over a prefabricated audiovisual semiotics. Your voice, your gestures, your intonation, your positions, etc are going to slide, more or less meekly, into codified devices of expression. As soon as you open your mouth, you are interpreted by a discursive machine, in which the journalist is just a terminal who measures the gap that might still exist between your enunciation, your subjectivation, your meanings and the statements, subjectivation and meanings that are expected of you.
At the end of the interview, your words are folded over statements and modes of expression that are imposed on you and expected of you so that, beneath the folds of your mental reality, lies the dominant reality. On television, you are always in danger of being trapped in the dominant meanings and subjectivations, no matter what you say or do.
Deleuze speaks of a “crushing of the enunciation” by means of a pre-existing code that doesn’t manifest itself negatively as repression, but in positive terms as encouragement to speak, as an invitation to express oneself in such a way that the subject “will feel he/she is talking, but will be unable to say a single thing about what really affects him/her.” There is no point in talking: the entire machine of interpretation and subjectivation is “designed to suppress the conditions for a genuine enunciation”. The communicational devices disconnect you from your own collective arrangements of enunciation and draw you into other collective arrangements (television), which individualize you as a split subject, as a subject divided simultaneously into the cause and the effect of statements.
All the enunciative devices in our security societies (opinion polls, marketing, elections, political and union representation, etc) are, on the one hand, more or less sophisticated variations on the division whereby the subject of enunciation must be reflected in the subject of the statement.
As a voter, you are invited to give your views and exercise your freedom of choice as a subject of enunciation, but at the same time you are spoken as a subject of the statement since your freedom of expression amounts to nothing more than a choice from among possible options that have already been codified by others, from a choice between (“right-wing” and “left-wing”) alternatives that prevent you from exercising the power to state the problem. In the same way, marketing and advertising are a daily training for choosing between alternatives that are established and offered to us by the market and by companies. It is clear, therefore, how the machine of communication can operate as a form of mass psychoanalysis. It translates what you say into another language; it shifts the origin and the meaning of your words and gives you an explanation of your true statements and your true desires (which the company can then tap into). Michel de Certeau draws the same conclusions. The proliferation of statements, messages and signs blocks the emergence of the conditions needed for a singular enunciation. The constant buzzing, the incessant circulation of words and signs “creates an absence of words”, denying humans the possibility of “an enunciation that is peculiar to them”.
In order to articulate a “true”, singular enunciation capable once more of creating divisions, viewpoints, a space for self-expression, we first have to interrupt the circulation of languages and signs targeted at “all, but true of none”.1 Michel de Certeau, The Certeau Reader, ed. Graham Ward, (Blackwell Publishing: Oxford, 2000), p.124.
Monday, June 7, 2021
Man is sick because he is badly constructed. We must make up our minds to strip him bare in order to scrape off that animalcule that itches him mortally, god, and with god his organs. For you can tie me up if you wish, but there is nothing more useless than an organ. When you will have made him a body without organs, then you will have delivered him from all his automatic reactions and restored him to his true freedom. Then you will teach him again to dance wrong side out as in the frenzy of dance halls and this wrong side out will be his real place.- Antonin Artaud, "Selected Writings" (1976)