August 19, 2020

Fear and Loathing

There are two kinds of totalitarianism: that modeled by Orwell’s 1984, and that model by Huxley’s Brave New World. Each of them justifies itself as bulwark against the other, against (to oversimply) decadence on one hand and deprivation on the other. The consumerism of the West (decadence!) has indeed ushered us in the direction of a Huxleyan technocracy, but it seems to have taken a diabolic turn with the exploitation of victimhood as a supreme marker of social worth.

Victimhood is thus eagerly embraced as a means of removing anyone who stands in the way of one’s advancing in an institution (academia, business, politics). But it also condemns one to continued victimhood: The Huxleyan machine offers protection, salvation, validation, just sign over your privacy and freedom, both physical and of thought.

And that’s how MeToo, BLM, and Covid lockdown/mask/vaccine mania intersect with globalist neoliberalism and imperial neoconservatism. We’re just demographics in their ad and PR campaigns, their nonsensical consultancies.

Classic advertising plays to status anxiety – that you’re losing out, but you can buy in – and political advertising often plays to outright fear – that you’re losing out owing to the actions of others. With Brexit, Trump, and other successful uprisings against globalism, the ruling elites and their courtiers have panicked. Their fear of losing some of their power, their sense of superiority, has been transferred to a campaign of public fear-mongering that has continued to intensify over the years, especially as Trump’s reelection and the actual implementation of Brexit loom.

In addition to redirecting their own fear to social issues, they have engaged in a campaign of hate, transferring their own status fears to smearing the supporters of Brexit and Trump and anyone who questions the neolib/neocon program of the past four decades, to blaming and mocking the victims of globalism for being at all angry about their privilege (their one-time sense of economic security). And so, lest they be aligned with the losers, so many people align with their victimizers, cheering on their own debasement.

It has succeeded in its goal of making people increasingly more hysterical, irrational, filled with rage and fear. All of us dying in 10 years because of climate change wasn’t enough: now we’re all going to die if you don’t wear a mask! (and even then, stay at least 2 meters away!) Above all, Trump wants you to die! And everyone who does not denounce Trump is your mortal enemy, an agent of sexist and racist hate and genocide.

They have pathologized social interaction and economic life. They have revived racism as a driving force of unrest. They have made a mockery of true grievance and injustice. They have debased politics as well as themselves.

And they will take us all down with them. They have made us hate and fear not only each other, but ourselves as well.