Trump is the last psycho standing in the Republican primary (since all the other psychos are bowing to him). And it’s way past time to overreact. Unfortunately not yet enough of us are as traumatized by this as we should be. How did we get here? Neoliberalism. Fear. A Magic Bullet. Whatever the reasons, I’m not interested in tracing a history; I’m interested in what this reveals to us about our present situation, and what it means for tomorrow. The fact that Trump and the fate of the world are so intertwined reveals the chaos that forms the unsustainable foundation of our society, or in larger context, modernity itself. To be clear, Trump is not representative of some absolute Evil, no; what I’m suggesting is that the rise of Trump’s global-political influence represents the fruition of our very way of life- and we are totally complicit in this. What enables Trump’s ascendancy is simply put- stupidity, or in less trumped-up language- anti-intellectualism.
“Freedom” of Speech
Trump’s popularity has been built upon a ‘freedom of speech’ platform that wages war against ‘political correctness’- the man speaks his mind, and people are drawn to this. However, ‘freedom of speech’ in an age of anti-intellectualism is nothing more than the freedom of sounds to endlessly bounce around in an echo chamber. When I think ‘freedom of speech’ I immediately think of freedom of the press, and the freedom to dissent, to conscientiously object to one’s own government- y’kno the concepts of accountability and open dialogue to guard against tyranny. But this is not how ‘freedom of speech’ manifests itself today; it means something more like the freedom from guilt to empower oneself to speak out in a tyrannical and bigoted way. “I’m exercising my freedom of speech” sounds more and more like “I’m justifying my stubborn inability to empathize or engage in reasonable debate with a differing opinion” or it’s simply the shamelessly proud broadcasting of one’s tribal affinity- “Go Yanks!” is affectively no different from “black lives matter!” or “vote Trump!” Freedom of speech, within the context of advanced capitalism, has become the freedom to advertise one’s personal brand- it is self-serving (Trump, along with his followers, have perfected this business/campaign model). And the marketplace is flooded with products made out of shit and not built to last. None of this is sustainable. Freedom of speech should be something that builds constructive dialogue towards fairer governance and guarding against bigotry and tyranny; rather it tends towards inundating the public sphere with ‘gossip’ and misinformation in the service of tyranny. Why?
There are different reasons for this but for now I’d like to focus on just one: anti-intellectualism. Anti-intellectualism is the condition whereby freedom is transformed into tyranny- where we are seduced into desiring our own enslavement. I’ve traveled the world quite a bit and nowhere has anti-intellectualism been more pronounced, or even a concern at all, than in the US. Trump’s candidacy has been won without recourse to anything resembling a reasonable democratic process- debate, consistent arguments, facts- I think on this we could all agree. He’s gotten to where he is because something extra-political about him appeals to the neoliberal kind of humanism that has become the norm- he speaks his mind, and changes it as need be. To be clear, Trump does not represent anarchical ideology, or the absolute absence of any guiding principles. There is an arkhê to his madness, and he traces it back to himself (I’ll return to this concept of arkhê below). He’s his own man, proud in his self-made brand and identity. Something everyone can either relate to or aspires to. Question is, have you been seduced? Perhaps the degree to which people have entertained supporting a Trump presidency is proportional to how anti-intellectual they are. By anti-intellectualism, I don’t mean uneducated, as if there were an elitist undertone accompanying the critical use of the term. So what exactly is it?
Anti-Intellectualism & Artificial-Intelligence
When I consider the ramifications of anti-intellectualism (AI) I immediately think of the war on Iraq and the ‘war on facts’ that accompanied it. The Bush regime somehow pulled off an unjust war while riding the wave of hyper patriotic emotions that came out of 9/11. It’s widely accepted now among the Intelligence communtiy that the Iraq War was criminal; we straight up invaded another country. So how is it that so many seemingly ‘smart’ people supported it (Hillary Clinton)? I submit to you the argument that AI is not merely represented by ignorant people who support Trump because they think he’s amusing. It’s the condition of being caught in a matrix of power relations where one’s ability to think becomes completely dependent upon something other than the self. Meaning, we conflate what thinks for us, with our own thinking. ‘What thinks for us’ are the institutions that manufacture information- media, the sciences- and police and enforce norms; or in Marxist terms, these so-called ‘experts’ control the means of producing information. Mind you- I say information, and not knowledge, because knowledge is clearly a rare endangered thing none of us recognize anymore, whereas information is ubiquitous. And that’s the anti-intellectual context- the inundation of information that floods the public sphere to keep people from what would threaten the hegemony of the oligarchy: knowledge. They do this by controlling and suppressing our desire- to wonder in the way a child has an unregulated and insatiable curiosity for the world- and replaces our genuine desires with legal forms of addiction; we have stronger desires to learn about the latest trends in fashion, business and technology than we do for our neighbors or our politicians and the current state of international politics. AI is the condition brought about by living in a system that manufactures your desires and thoughts for you- this system is capitalism.
Anti-intellectualism isn’t simply a disregard for facts or unwillingness to engage in reasoned debate, nor is it the blind embrace of sweeping emotions that burst forth from strong egos like vengeance, nationalism, or identity politics. Fact-checking or reasonable argumentation and debate has become denigrated in the public sphere as being ‘unpatriotic’, ‘cynical’, or even offensively elitist. “How dare you be better informed than I! I who have the power of the Internet at my fingertips!” Or perhaps a cleverer reaction- “That’s just your interpretation, not the truth!”
My point is that the reliance on and unwavering faith in self-knowledge simultaneously undermines it. On the surface, anti-intellectualism reflects a negative attitude towards dialogue and diversity. It expresses a prideful stubbornness that doesn’t care if 5×0 could equal 5, “it’s always been 0, and that’s how it should remain.” It’s the active annihilation of freedom, which I’ll define here as the ability to act and think in accord with one’s own capacity to be affected. In other words, anti-intellectualism is forsaking one’s capacity to be affected, and the full immersion of oneself into a collective consciousness, or should I say- one becomes artificial intelligence, utterly indifferent. Sure, artificial intelligence reflects technological progress, but it has also induced the decline of critical thinking, and the onset of anti-intellectualism.
But it’s not only Trump’s campaign that exposes this rampant embrace of ignorance and stupidity infecting this country; Clinton’s supporters are not all that different. I wrote in my last post:
To be fair, this is something that baffles me. I have absolutely no substantive explanation for why there is so much minority support for the Clintons. I’m tempted to think that the electorate is simply misinformed, deceived and blindly buying into the Clinton brand very much like how Trump supporters have bought into his brand.
AI has become a form of authority that people refer to tacitly. When Trump or Clinton supporters are challenged they typically argue from the position of AI- they’ll point at numbers, ‘facts’, slogans and tweets; but as I pointed out in my last post, their information is twisted to dumb down discourse, and sell voters half-truths that appeal to their emotions. Capitalism aside, one has to wonder whether cynicism has fueled the infiltration of AI in everyday thought, and whether the lack of faith in our elected officials to ‘do the right thing’ has given way to a defeatist attitude of simply accepting what’s coming despite our best efforts to resist- like Clinton’s ‘inevitable’ presidential win. It is often said that cynicism has infected the youth, and that this is reflected in youth’s dismal voter turnout. Those who are jaded by politics tend not to vote, choose to tap out and not participate. But then these people have no business complaining about how shitty everything is. The very people, young people, who have the most potential power to effect change, are the same who rarely vote- and democracy doesn’t work if people choose to opt out of representing their own interests. Of course, our country has laws that actively make it difficult for people to vote. But, to change that, we gotta vote…while we still can. The ‘establishment’ is taking the mat out from under us, our civil liberties are being taken away from us and no one seems to care (except a very small number, those who feel the Bern). Sure, maybe youth are too busy being young, self-interested and preoccupied with making a life for themselves without the time to worry about ‘petty politics’. It still doesn’t refute the point that they’re the difference makers. Too bad we’re (the ‘grownups’) indifferent to them making a difference. And this reflects the AI sentiment, being indifferent to the life outside of one’s own that one nonetheless affects (global warming anyone?).
The Return of Fundamentalism: The Political Shift Towards the Right
Is it cynicism that fuels this anti-intellectualism, or vice versa? JFK’s assassination sparked an increase in fear and antagonism towards government. As distrust, fear, doubt, and contempt towards authority grows, so does cynicism and despair, which in turn only further alienates and disempowers people from the sphere of politics. In a word, we are disenchanted. What were we enchanted by before? The American Dream? The belief in ourselves to be able to do anything, to overcome any obstacle, and to succeed? Whatever it was, that spirit of the morals of yesteryear is in drastic decline. But it’s also of no use to attempt to return to those good ‘ol days- otherwise you’re no different from Trump, who wants to ‘make America great again.’ What version of America was great, and for who? This is why I’m always skeptical of trends in fashion, real estate, and pop culture in general that increasingly embrace a return to what is ‘vintage’- what exactly is it that we’re celebrating here or trying to make part of our identities? A return to the past is always an attempt at ‘reformation’, at cultural purification, intentional or otherwise- it is neo-fundamentalism, the return of a worldview that is incapable of coexisting among different worldviews within a pluralistic context. Fundamentalism is grounded in the absolute power/arkhe of being the ground of one’s own existence; meaning, there is no authority outside of one’s own absolute worldview or narrative. And I should emphasize here, any authority outside my own worldview- Christians don’t get a free pass just because they recognize an authority outside themselves in the figure of ‘God’. Fundamentalism is the notion that one could be the representative of Divine Power (ISIL).
This leads to another point- self-awareness, or the lack thereof. A characteristic of fundamentalists is their inability to be self-critical. There is no critical distance between themselves and their beliefs- to them, identity and belief are one and the same. This very phenomenon is spreading…everywhere. Why has there been a continual shift of politics towards the right?- because fundamentalism is re-establishing itself as the norm thanks to AI. Clinton is a fundamentalist because of her capitalism; consider all her political positions and you’ll come to the conclusion that she’s fundamentally incapable of adopting a worldview that doesn’t cater to corporate interests. The growing disparity between the Left and the Right, between the rich and poor, correlates with the inability our politicians to break from a worldview that is structured by capital- and this isn’t just paradigmatic of the West, ‘capital’ applies just as much to extreme fundamentalists of the terrorist variety.
Anarchy: The Origin of Authority
Trump’s ascendancy does not signal the collapse of civilization, it is in fact the opposite. The foundation or arkhê of western civilization has not collapsed; its foundations are as strong as ever actually. The logic of arkhê (Greek concept for rule or beginning) refers to the idea that there is a disposition or qualification specific to the exercise of power and authority. Except, if you think about it long and hard enough, you come to the disturbing conclusion that there is no justification for any exercise of authority. The assumption here is that authority needs to be justified; unjustified authority results in tyranny; hence, in a democracy what’s supposed to happen is we vote for our public officials, thereby justifying their authority to represent our interests (hah!). In other words, the concept of ‘authority’ or ‘foundation’ always has to derive from somewhere, and the problem has to do with this ‘somewhere’. What happens is like an infinite regress- whoever wields the ring of power rules Middle Earth; well, the power of the ring comes from the creator of that ring; well, the power of whoever created that ring comes from somewhere; and so on, until we reach a place that is like the big bang, we reach some absolute source of all power- this is why we’re obsessed with origins and where things come from (well, not as obsessed as we ought if none of us question the legitimacy of our government officials who hold power over us). This is also why patriarchy holds such a strong grip on the fundamental fabric of human civilization; it’s all about lineage, being able to trace roots, especially economic roots of financial wealth back to some mythical source of power (the virility of one’s seed…I mean- capital!). You see, there is an intimate link between power, authority, patriarchy, and capitalism. I would be remiss if I didn’t include a jab at the absurdity of Biblical language in this regard- “and X begat Y”- with rarely a mention of women, or how the Church traces its divine authority back to the apostle Peter and some shit about keys. Clearly, ‘power’ is too complex of an idea to treat properly in this post. But to return to my point- the foundations of our civilization has not collapsed. The Trump event reveals not the collapse of our most cherished ideals; rather, it is the fruition of the logic of arkhê- anarchy. The source of all authority is the complete lack thereof. I mean, this should be pretty obvious since ‘postmodernity’ characteristically embraces the absence of absolute authority in favor of multiple individual notions of self-autonomy; in other words, in a multi-cultural context, you can’t simply impose your values over others, you gotta communicate and work things out, negotiate, compromise and come to a consensus about how to coexist. This isn’t the Dark Ages anymore when power was viciously enforced with divine violence, or is it? The disturbing truth about ‘authority’ is that it is utterly anarchic- without a definite place of origin. And the underlying anarchy that our civilization is grounded upon is showing its true face in the person of Trump. (Religious folk will deflect the question of authority upon some imaginary notion of the Divine, conflating the imaginary with the real, but the problem remains, it only becomes displaced one step further. I could harp on this ad infinitum, but onto more pressing matters…)
AI’s Trojan Horse: Capitalism
It’s an interesting case where postmodern pluralism and its emphasis on freedom- and the proliferation of diversity and a multiplicity of different worldviews- simultaneously breeds an indifference to this freedom. What I mean is- the celebration of diversity has empowered individuals to pursue their own forms of self-expression; however, this freedom of self-expression has regressed to a narcissistic form of individualism that dismisses worldviews that don’t conform to one’s own. However, it is this very notion of dismissing other worldviews that has become the dominant umbrella ideology that people collectively share in- again, this is AI. Dismissal of all worldviews as a fundamental worldview then introduces the possibility for a tyrant to come along and manipulate this AI to his or her advantage. This dismissal doesn’t have to be intentional, it can very much be enforced through coercion on a subconscious level. For example, capitalism is the perfect Trojan horse for AI- as we consume, make purchases, and participate in the market, we simultaneously and unconsciously create a self-brand- “we are what we buy”; but this identity building is not something uniquely our own, rather it is an identity manufactured and sold to us by corporations that profit off of our never-ending need to self-express or discover ourselves. You can’t deny that what, where, when, how and why one buys is a pretty accurate indicator of one’s values, or at the least one’s own sense of identity. As we consume, we fortify the illusion that we are expressing our freedom of self-creation, which taps into the gravitational seduction of a fundamental view of the self; we seduce ourselves into believing the ‘I’ that is constructed via purchases is an autonomous being expressing individualism because it was constructed from free-market choices. Hence, fundamentalism of the individual is brought about- “I” constitute my own absolute authority because I am self-bought, I am the accumulation of what I have accumulated. I could also talk about this in reference to how we relate to our memories, that self-identity is an accumulation of fetishized/commodified memories. All to say- while pluralism and diversity is something that we celebrate and encourage, we really have no idea how to relate to it in a way that doesn’t involve commodification- of others or ourselves. An excess of ‘freedom’ in a capitalistic context results in the enslavement of oneself to this freedom-to-accumulate, but clearly “this isn’t freedom, it’s fear.”
(I know a bunch of you read my last post. I’d really appreciate and comments, thoughts, or arguments. Thanks!)
 Since doing so would be awfully patriarchal, which is lame.
 There was really no connection between 9/11 attacks and Sadaam’s regime, but thanks to the invasion of Iraq, we now have ISIL. Malcolm Nance, world’s foremost expert in counter terrorism, said that the war on Iraq was as if the US invaded Mexico after Pearl Harbor. Yea…
 To echo Foucault, ‘truth’ isn’t something to be found in the content of one’s speech. Truth reveals itself in the conditions in which one speak; more specifically, under the condition of risk. Hence we differentiate between truth and facts, between what facts tell us at face-value, and what the truth of the facts are, or whether there is any truth to be found in said facts. With AI, one never need feel risk.
 If you have five of anything, say five chairs…and you multiple those five chairs, zero times…you’d still have five chairs. Multiplication by ‘nothing’ does not negate the existence of those five chairs. Math is abstract and our adherence to its ‘laws’ makes us stupid precisely because we cease thinking for ourselves; we let laws, rules, and the notion of ‘this is how it’s always been’ do the thinking for us. This is precisely what AI induces- not merely stupidity, but faithfulness. We become enslaved to concepts with histories we have no idea about. After all, who has the time to examine every presupposition one has? And that’s what capitalism and its advertising aids want to supply for us- information. Knowledge, excuse me, information is something humans no longer create; rather, it is something we consume.
 Neil Postman rolling in his grave.
 Of course, we can argue whether or not voting actually ‘represents’ anything or whether representation is at all possible.
 Voter registration laws, closed ballots, party affiliation, redistricting maps, etc.
 And for the religious, one’s ‘god’.
 However, factors like where one lives, access to points of commerce, marketplace diversity, etc determine the limits of one’s capacity to construct an identity.
 Which is why there is so much money in risk management and prevention. Also, quote from Captain America.