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Fear and Loathing (but Mostly Loathing) in Wawa Country
"People get the government they deserve" — and they get it good and hard
On my last night in Montana, I gave a talk on transhumanism to a right-wing organization. This was the third meeting I’d attended, held in the basement of an old Eagles Lodge. It really was a great honor. There were about forty people in the audience, I’d say, and about twenty holstered pistols. You don’t say the wrong thing to a crowd like that.
Any more, I open my talks on transhumanism by noting that what we’re talking about is mostly fantasy. Genetic engineering on demand, sentient artificial superintelligence, commercial brain-computer interfaces—these are all disturbing ideas that exist, by and large, as propaganda. It’s alarming that the tech is rapidly catching up to these projections, but they’re still just fantasies and propaganda. For now.
Really, the worst elements of the transhumanist dream already exist in banal forms. Smartphone symbiosis is the most obvious manifestation. There’s no need for brain implants if people glue their minds to the digital realm with scrolling meme storms on little glowing screens.
Artificial intelligence, in its current larval phase, is simply a collection of algorithms that determine what memes are shown to what person, thereby determining that person’s digital consciousness. In that sense, the AI gods are already in control of millions of souls, with techie dweebs summoning them to do their bidding.
I presented all this to my Montana audience, slammed a few Budweisers, made a blood pact in the parking lot, and started my long drive to Pennsylvania to cover the doomed mid-term election. What I found there was another sad ass meme storm of fantasy and propaganda—a poorly produced tragedy devoid of poetry or heroes, starring a brain-damaged phony versus a slick TV snake-oil salesman.
I miss Montana already. And as the blue flood soaks into its soil, I suspect that before long, many Montanans will miss it, too.
The Pennsylvania senate race is emblematic of the American dilemma. People argue over whether we are a democracy or a republic, but the real question is whether we’re a functional technocracy or just a failing superpower with cool toys.
As I drove through the flashing cameras of digital toll booths, watched motorists pilot their cyborg exoskeletons while staring at GPS maps on their dashboards, ordered my Sheetz sammies on touchscreen menus, sat at restaurants where you can’t order without scanning the QR code, and watched the mid-term election unfold on an endless Twitter timeline, I’d say Pennsylvania got the government it deserves. To be honest, we all did.
To the world’s amusement, the Democrats ran John Fetterman—a brain-damaged, word-scrambling, race-pandering, ogre-looking, pussy-whipped, commie-talking, plumber-imitating trust fund baby. The guy speaks like he’s drawing words at random from a jar. But somehow, Fetterman managed to beat Dr. Oz by nearly five points, making him our First Official Cyborg Senator.
This outcome really didn’t surprise me that much. I’d been attending both Fetterman and Oz rallies, following the polls, and talking with Pennsylvanians. The sense was a razor thin margin of victory for either candidate—although I’d have bet on Oz. After learning that Democrats had been harvesting ballots since before the candidates’ single disastrous debate, the Democrat advantage made much more sense.
Hanging around the Dr. Oz election night party in northeast Philadelphia, I found the mood pleasant but hardly triumphant. As the results came in, the Republicans gathered there were disappointed, but it was nothing another drink from the open bar couldn’t drown.
About an hour before the media called the race, Oz came out with his family and assured the crowd that he would fight to the end and win. It wasn’t convincing—Oz was never convincing—and the next morning he conceded. Republicans lost a crucial vote in the Senate, but we hardly lost a great Senator.
Nowadays, everyone wants to be the Six Hundred and Sixty-Six Million Dollar Man. Back in September of 2016, Dr. Oz dedicated a show segment to shilling RFID implants for medical records. “It sounds like it’s from a sci-fi movie,” he told the TV audience, holding the chip just above his hand, “but people all over the world are implanting these in their wrists.”
It’s true that people are getting chipped all over the place, but no one implants devices in their wrists. They implant them in their hands. I’m fairly certain that Oz and his producers must have known this, but chose to bullshit and say “wrists” because implanting a chip in your hand would be way too biblical for a prime time audience.
“Whether it’s our smartphones, our watches, our fitness trackers, or our Bluetooth headphones,” the Dr. Oz Show producer said into the camera, “it’s clear that technology is not just part of our lives, it’s running them.”
Without shame, the producer did a lil’ transhuman shuffle:
We’re so attracted to our devices that they’re basically becoming a part of our bodies. But what if they really could become part of our bodies? ... This chip in your wrist won’t just change your life. One day, it might just save it. And that’s why this little RFID microchip is “The Next Big Thing.”
Then there was Dr. Oz’s recent red carpet appearance with the “spirit cooking” occultist, Marina Abramović, at an American Turkish Society event in New York. Not trying to pry or anything, but you have to wonder what the Wizard of Oz has to talk about with the Wicked Witch of the West.
To be clear, I seriously doubt that Dr. Oz has been initiated into a satanic transhuman cult of the illuminated. It’s much worse than that. I suspect that Oz—like most politicians and talking heads and pop stars—is an empty vessel to be programmed with whatever hookum will benefit the people signing his checks.
Oz’s technoccult connection is just another bad omen. It’s a vivid expression of a culture spiraling into outer darkness. We live in an era where an open transhumanist like Elon Musk can wear a ram-head Baphomet with an inverted cross between its eyes, and Christian fanboys will rush to his defense screaming, “It was just a Halloween costume! Everybody dresses up like devils on Halloween!!”
True enough. But it’s been over two weeks since Halloween, and Musk is still sporting that Baphomet armor in his Twitter profile pic. Seems significant, somehow.
Again, it’s not that I think Musk and Oz are sacrificing babies and sending succubi to seduce the Babylon Bee. It’s more mundane than that. Our pop culture has simply rendered the traditional sense of the sacred irrelevant. Most people just don’t care.
Chips in your hand, chips in your head, spirit-cooking witches, satanic Halloween costumes worn until Thanksgiving—it’s really not that weird anymore. It’s just part of the New Normal.
At least a conspiracy would be consistent and under control. The actuality is a webwork of hyperreality—just enough facts to keep you coming back, just enough fantasy to keep you moving forward—what Douglas Rushkoff aptly described as an endless cycle of hype and spin.
One day Oz is a quack on the idiot box. The next day, he’s the last hope of the Republic. The next, he’s a case study in lost causes.
One day Musk is a lefty transhuman globalist. The next, he’s the last hope of free speech. Tomorrow—well, you’ll have to keep scrolling Twitter to find out.
Hype and spin. Hype and spin.
We live in a network of perpetual motion machines built from interlocking eyeballs and digital devices. Our oligarchs and technocratic managers are driving around on clouds of human brains like we’re bumper cars. Now and again, they smash us into one another, seemingly for the hell of it.
“Because it consists of billions of bidirectional interactions per day,” Musk recently tweeted, “Twitter can be thought of as a collective, cybernetic super-intelligence.” That means your mind is just another node in a vast, AI-suffused global brain. “A neuron doesn’t know it’s a neuron,” Musk explained.
People have grown so accustomed to living life through the lens of hype and spin, their eyes glued to glowing screens, their minds whirring with the phantasms of propaganda, there is no meaningful distinction between the digital and material worlds. For many, the digital apparition is far more real than what is actually occurring in the next house over, or even the next room.
In that sense, the Singularity is already here. The virtual has become indistinguishable from the actual. It’s just way more idiotic than any futurist could have imagined.
None of this is an excuse to despair. The world simply is as it is—thrilling, beautiful, and fallen. You can only do so much to change it.
You smash buttons, you smash noses, you smash the gas pedal and move on. You win some, you lose some. The most important thing is to keep your blood pumping and your head clear. Win or lose, you keep fighting—but do learn to pick your fights wisely.
As I write this, Word War III is being hyped on the TwitterReality timeline. If we ever achieve world peace, they’ll still have us living in bomb shelters watching mushroom clouds through VR goggles. Of course, if the nukes actually do start flying, we’ll probably be doing much the same.
Hype and spin. Hype and spin.
Right now, the newsfeed is clogged with hilarious stories about the crypto exchange FTX imploding under the leadership of a speedfreak polycule jacked up on self-righteous “effective altruism” and other people’s money. Kanye West has not responded to requests for comment.
Hype and spin. Hype and spin.
Meanwhile, the robot Sophia is now a mascot for the e-sports promoter XSET.
On a brighter note, the man who developed the Oculus VR goggles—a Trump-supporter working to digitize the War Machine—recently trolled technophobes by creating a VR headset that kills you if you die in the game.
Hype and spin.
Most futurist schemes are black holes. These vortices suck up venture capital and mental space and crush them into a singularity that amounts to nothing at all.
Hype and spin.
Donning traditional Indonesian garb, WEF leader Klaus Schwab just lectured the G20 nations on the promises and perils of “Zee Fourth Industrial Revolution”—the fusion of the physical, digital, and biological worlds.
“We are at zee inflection point to exponential development. And technology will change completely what we are doing at zis present time,” he assured global leaders. “It will change, and it will have an impact, on who we are.”
Hype and spin.
Using the book of Revelation as an instruction manual, major banks are partnering with the Federal Reserve to pilot a new “digital dollar.” I suggest they call it The Mark.
Hype and spin.
Donald Trump has just announced he’s running for president in 2024. His proposed platform is solid, albeit delivered without enthusiasm.
From NPR to National Review, the pathetic wails of protest sound like a troop of wild monkeys when a snake crawls by.
Two more years of hype and spin. Hype and spin. Hype and spin.
Our families and nations can’t be taken for granted. You have to fight for them like your salvation depends on it. Even so, never forget your salvation lies outside this world. It can be glimpsed but never grasped. The ground of being extends far beyond the cycles of hype and spin.
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