Paradoxical truths of an isolationist empire

Neither Sisi, the Daily Mail nor Trump invented the parallax truth.

In Egypt, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi used protests to oust his political rival then outlawed protesting. Sisi will save the economy if enough people make donations to a bank account he personally controls. Sisi will build a new capital city in the desert that everyone knows will never break ground. Sisi dug a minor canal that rivals the great engineering feats of mankind. Sisi would never harm another Egyptian, unless it was in defense of Egypt. When faced with evidence of the military’s massacres, the pro-stability reactionary conservative can simply shrug and blame Photoshop.

The architects of Brexit did not actually believe their own narratives — forcing Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage to both quickly resign in the face of unexpected victory. Farage unveiled anti-immigrant posters reminiscent of Nazi propaganda while claiming it’s The Establishment that smears him as a racist. The newspapers that howled for secession lamented about the devastation of the sterling, they demand walls be thrown up to keep out refugees, then pretend to mourn the children that drown at sea.

Neither Sisi, the Daily Mail nor Trump invented the parallax truth. Trump’s rhetorical pivots are entirely in line with the government’s messaging since 9/11 — America is the strongest country on earth and America is in constant mortal danger. America is an isolationist empire of ethical torturers. It is the guardian of human rights that drone-bombs weddings. It is the land of the free, built by slaves, holding a quarter of the world’s prisoners. It is a surveillance state erected to protect your freedoms. It is democratic destruction in the name of known unknowns.

Yes We Can. But we won’t.

Is it any wonder that so many people have never been more desperate to invoke a mythological past of comprehensible truths when they have been forced to live for so long in this equally fictitious present of elite illusion?

Why should the liberals be happy for the NSA, Guantanamo, drone warfare and the emergence of a global superclass to be acceptable realities under Obama and unimaginable horrors under Trump? Why shouldn’t a new set of beliefs be erected to counter such hypocrisy? And who better to raise the bar than the master-builder himself? While Hillary is micro-managed to android flawlessness, Trump tweets his mind from the toilet at 2 am. Hillary has lived her life in public office, but he has lived his life on reality TV — perhaps the only fragment of mass media that actually seems real anymore (though, of course, is staged just enough to make it seem real). His twitter handle even begins with the word @real. Trump has spent his life constructing his own parallel reality — and now the electorate wants in.

“Fascism”, Walter Benjamin wrote in 1936, “attempts to organize the newly created proletarian masses without affecting the property structure which the masses strive to eliminate. Fascism sees its salvation in giving these masses not their right, but instead a chance to express themselves.”

Trump allows that expression to happen — and will certainly not be dismantling capitalism. The reality that he has erected of himself now extends outwards like a canopy to shelter and echo back his supporters’ expression — of anger and resentment and everything that’s been building up over years of being silenced by political correctness.

The Southern Poverty Law Centre has recorded over 200 incidents of harassment or intimidation since the election.

But such reports are dismissed on the digital walls of Trump’s supporters — in part because it has never been easier to ignore ideas and create new truths in their place. Truths that only become truer with each Like. While Facebook claims to be creating a globalized world of digital connectivity it is actually balkanizing users into individualized ideological islands of mutually re-enforcing beliefs and fears. I think it, therefore it is true. The world has never been more Cartesian. I am blinded to the realities around me, burning only with envy at an estranged lover’s perfect eggs benedict #brunch #healthyliving #organic #yum or raging at spoiled, self-obsessed tyrannical #libtard defenders of black privilege #MAGA.

On the night of Trump’s election Mark Zuckerberg posted that he was “feeling hopeful.” After the media began to scrutinize Facebook’s potential role propelling a celebrity con artist into the Presidency he offered the meaningless platitude that he believes that “people are good” — so Facebook should therefore not be held accountable for any “not good” aberrations of behavior.

It has never been easier to ignore ideas and create new truths in their place.

Facebook says it has now banned fake news sites. But there is still much to be watchful of in an online community deeply infiltrated and exploited by security agencies and a corporation with a track record of privacy violations, participation in NSA surveillance programs and collaboration with governments in the USUKTurkeyIsraelPakistan and India. Even more worryingly, Facebook routinely experiments in improving its near-celestial level of control over our collective global psychology as Zuckerberg strives to fulfil his megalo-messianical ambitions of leading us all on a “journey to connect the world.”

Yet Facebook has become the principal tool for political organization  today. A tool that could, one day, simply be switched off for certain people, places, keywords or, more likely, algorithmically altered to influence users’ political perception of the world around them. The coming years should see a generation of activism and radical thought unmatched since the 1960s. But even without direct censorship or corporate interference, users still have to overcome the obstacles of data-driven feedback loops, isolated online communities, deep surveillance, over-inflated attendance estimations, shortened attention spans, conspiracy-theorizing, physical disengagement and mutually-fortifying malaise.

And as to the newly triumphant. Will they know what their new president is really doing? Will they care? Citizens of the West have long been conditioned to de-empathize with the victims of their political compromises and economic comforts and the current construction of the internet only makes it easier to ignore, then deny and then ultimately endorse Trump’s coming actions. It can all, in the end, be Photoshop.

Paradoxical truths of an isolationist empire