In Critique of Influence

“I thought this person was my friend, but I have learned that he is not. He has hurt me and betrayed me. He has lied to me, mistreated me, and failed to deliver on his promises to me. In conclusion, he is a terrible influence upon me. I shall sever ties with him and cut him from my life. That solves that!”

Does it, though? Does the removal of this man from your immediate sphere obviate his influence upon you, as well? The people in the world I will never meet outnumber by billions those whom I will, yet a momentary glance at these pages suggests that the former wield a much more powerful influence upon me. Familiarity and influence are not synonymous, much less interchangeable, and any contrary assertion mistakes the influence for the person—an embarrassing error. How could it be that the influence and the person are one and the same? Influence is an effect, an external effect unto someone who is not the source of this influence. To say that I am my influence is to say that I am the influence and the influenced simultaneously! The serpent devouring its own tail, even as the tail devours the serpent!

This is a primitive error, the error of government: “We will remove the murderer from society. So ends the influence of his crime of killing!” Such reactionaryism misunderstands not only the nature of the relationship between influence and actor, but the nature of the influence itself. Unwarranted emphasis is placed on incidental symptoms of the influence, while the ethereal influence is ignored, if not unknown. Superficiality is both motivation and distortion, and just as government promotes a superficial approach to all things in life, so are those who seek an authoritarian governance over their own lives guided by a relentless obsession with surface.


Traitors of Journalism: Hillary Clinton, Minister of Misinformation


“In short, there are a hundred ways in which you can listen to your conscience. But that you take this or that judgment for the voice of conscience—in other words, that you feel something to be right—may be due to the fact that you have never thought much about yourself and simply have accepted blindly that what you had been told ever since your childhood was right; or it may be due to the fact that what you call your duty has up to this point brought you sustenance and honors—and you consider it “right” because it appears to you as your own ‘condition of existence’ (and that you have a right to existence seems irrefutable to you).”

–Nietzsche, The Gay Science, 1882

A process whereby, or an entity wherein, something is transmitted is a medium. Certainly, writing is the medium through which I transmit or communicate my thoughts. When you have more than one medium, or more than one version of a medium, then you have media, a word that, in its plural form, is seldom spoken in the United States. When the innumerable media are amalgamated, when they bind to one another and consolidate unto a solidified mass, then the term becomes singular—the media, as it is helpfully labelled—and we are referring not to a medium, but to a monolith. By its nature, a monolith is oppressive and threatening, hence why we invariably rebel against it. The media is no exception: whether we are right-wing conservatives condemning fake news or liberal progressives castigating propaganda, we perpetually war against the monolith; we tirelessly fight to overthrow the media.

Our mistake is to attempt to destroy one piece of the media at a time, as if the removal of a single brick could collapse an entire castle. When we read Dan Merica’s article, deceitfully presented as if it were a work of objective journalism, we immediately expend our collective salvo on a furious discrediting of his clumsy butchery—and easily so, as Merica lives up to his incidentally clownish, jingoistic name. In a piece for CNN, Merica reports on Hillary Clinton’s accusation—really, more of a juvenile taunt—that Tulsi Gabbard is coordinating with “the Russians” to discourage us from voting for the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee in November 2020. He acknowledges that “Clinton did not provide proof about how Russia is ‘grooming’ Gabbard”, but a few minutes later, he quotes Clinton’s spokesman, who says: “If the Russian propaganda machine, both their state media and their bot and troll operations, is backing a candidate aligned with their interests, that is just a reality, it is not speculation.”

Quickly, we submit countless quintessential questions. Why does Merica obtain quotes from Clinton’s spokesman on two separate occasions, yet he does not reach out to Gabbard for comment even once? How does the occasional praise of punditry, delivered through media like RT, who have no affiliation with Gabbard’s presidential campaign, amount to “grooming”, a term that implies a direct partnership between Gabbard and Putin? Furthermore, why did Merica, in the same paragraph in which he noted Clinton failed to present any evidence, immediately describe “allegations that Russian news and propaganda sites often report on Gabbard’s campaign and that moments in Gabbard’s campaign have been reportedly amplified by trolls and bots on Twitter”? Why did he voluntarily and generously justify Clinton’s baseless claim? Why did he emphasize the Russians’ suspicious habit of reporting on Gabbard’s campaign while refusing to make mention of the Americans’ curious habit of ignoring her campaign?


The Masochistic Democratic Debates, Parts V and VI

rum 1

Is white rum a microaggression? What if the victim is too sloshed to be wounded? Does it become . . . a supermicroaggression?

Part V

Cullen Tiernan spoke much too gently when he compared the fifth round of the Democratic Party’s presidential debates to The Godfather: Part III. It is true that both of these frivolous spectacles ran for three unforgivably protracted hours, and it is true that neither had any clear raison d’être, but whereas every self-preserving person has already forgotten the “third” debate, the third installment of the Godfather series has achieved a perverse cultural persistence: it invariably resurfaces in any conversation pertaining to the series, though usually only as an easy punchline. Not everyone is clever, but almost anyone can craft an amusing joke at the expense of The Godfather: Part III; yet, conversely, it is nigh impossible to say anything funny about the third debate, not because it can’t or shouldn’t be ridiculed, but because it has been universally forgotten, no one is in on the joke!

I watched that debate, but my memory is fuzzier than the final inch of tape on a VHS copy of The Empire Strikes Back. I thought about revisiting that debate and watching the highlights—as much of the highlights as I could tolerate, I mean—but even I am unprepared to subject myself to such a mastery of masochism four months before the New Hampshire primary. I can offer you only the notes that I hurriedly took on my phone before Captain Morgan flushed me away. For some reason, it became more coherent as I went along, as I plunged deeper and deeper into my liquor cabinet. I necessarily conclude that inebriation is required if one is to understand the political process in the United States, which more closely resembles a mating ritual than any past ethnographer allowed himself to see.

note 1

Why did I need to remind myself that it was Beto O’Rourke who promised to disarm the citizens—sorry, to take away their AR-15s? It must have seemed reasonable at the time to suspect the media would overwrite that statement, conceal it amidst coverage of something less ominous. Thereafter, Cory Booker made another embarrassing attempt at political philosophizing, lauding the inherent benevolence of the State, even amidst overwhelming evidence to the contrary—an interesting topic for a treatise, no doubt, but not for a single installment of this series. Hmm, let’s see: Joe Biden is asking every nation on earth to join America in threatening China with an unfathomable fusillade of firepower to compel China to . . . to do what, exactly? Of course, so reckless a statement remains unfinished: we must make time for the BBC, who asks which candidate had the sharpest one-liner.

Ah, I don’t want to write any more about this. Out with the old, in with the new!

Part VI

If the “third” debate was a shameless ceremony of political strappado, then the fourth was billed—in alternative media, at least—as the deliverance of the wounded body unto lubricity, to a gentle caressing of the cerebral faculties culminating in orgiastic release. Anyone who believed that must have been suffering from political malnourishment, starved by the absence, by the denial, of Tulsi Gabbard from the third debate. Hunger can lead to psychosis, and anyone who expects deliverance of any form in the form of a political forum aired on corporate television obviously needed to eat, yet a political discussion is an act of digestion. Here, the desperate placed the cart before the horse, as if they were reading the closing chapter first.


Nietzsche and the Social Justice Warriors


Today is the 175th anniversary of the birth of Friedrich Nietzsche, my spiritual mentor and—or, perhaps, because he was—the finest writer who ever lived. Yet, this is a date that few will observe, for the serious reader of Nietzsche is nigh as rare today as he (or she!) was in Nietzsche’s lifetime. Much to our discredit and our disadvantage, as there may be no stronger tonic, no superior antidote, to our pervasive social toxins than the joyous polemics and ironical ethnography of history’s only truly apolitical intellectual. We sink our nails and fangs into our neighbor’s throat in search of the solution to our political questions, questions which Nietzsche swiftly dismissed as the symptoms of “a diet of beer and newspapers”. I couldn’t even write that without feeling guilty for partaking in, and contributing to, our ubiquitous and incurable political obsession, especially because I have done so only with the best intentions. Even this essay, wherein we yoke Nietzsche into the political maelstrom, risks a betrayal of his anti-political stance!

Would we commit this betrayal on the man’s birthday, no less? Would we reduce ourselves to the miserable state of Ayn Rand, whose only unforgivable mistake was her persistent attempt to apply Nietzschean thought politically? Not so fast: Nietzsche’s hostility to politics must not be mistaken for political silence. It is not that he had nothing to say about politics, or that he would never argue against a political perspective, but that he would never argue for a political position or ideology. In other words, one can refer to Nietzsche’s writings when disproving a political claim, but one is forbidden to use his writing in defense of the opposite, or in defense of anything strictly political.

In fact, when reading Nietzsche, it is nigh impossible not to reflect on our modern state of political dysfunction. Consider this entry, titled “On the critique of saints”, which appears in his book, The Gay Science:

“To have a virtue, must one really wish to have it in its most brutal form—as the Christian saints wished—and needed—it? They could endure life only by thinking that the sight of their virtue would engender self-contempt in anyone who saw them. But a virtue with this effect I call brutal.”


Traitors of Journalism: Lisa Lerer, Character Assassin & Eraser of History


On Thursday, I published a reproof of Pieter Friedrich, a religious fundamentalist who, in a series of subreptitious tweets, accused me of conspiring with Tulsi Gabbard to videotape a fake campaign rally wherein an actress would ask a question about Gabbard’s financial ties to the RSS. I prefaced my essay with an expression of distaste for the business—needed, but distasteful—of exposing the fatuity of my fellow journalists, the vast majority of whom are paid to proliferate and reinforce the propaganda of the American Empire: we must disassemble their multilayered mendacity, but it is so much more rewarding to produce our own independent content. Alas, forty-eight hours after the fall of Mr. Friedrich, another fabulist emerges from the smoggy bog to deepen the pollution of the corporate media: Lisa Lerer, a writer for The New York Times and a woman embalmed within her inextricable connections, and morally bankrupt loyalty, to the Democratic Party establishment.

Early Saturday morning, the Times published Lerer’s essay: “What, Exactly, is Tulsi Gabbard Up To?” Titled less as a question than as a declaration, Lerer’s piece is the latest in a voluminous store of letters in which writers express their dyspeptic concern that Gabbard is fostering disunity in the Democratic Party. The charge, articulated as clumsily by Lerer as it was by Aaron Rupar and Molly Jong-Fast, is that Gabbard has profaned the moral sanctity of the Democratic Party by questioning the integrity of the Party’s presidential primary process. Most conspicuously and controversially, she has condemned the polling system—its criteria as well as its execution—whereby candidates are invited to or excluded from televised debates. Her criticism ought to be utterly uncontroversial, rooted as it is in demonstrable fact, but the party establishment takes umbrage with her sacrilegious skepticism, and it has sent its rottweilers in the corporate media to overwrite her message.

However, Gabbard’s most recent challenge pertains not to the polling system, but to the delegate system in the state primaries and caucuses. For all of the inexorable attention paid to polling in the media, there is suspiciously slight “official interest” in the delegate tallies, likely because a serious examination of such would reveal the sickly undemocratic principles of our so-called democracy. The delegate system, a term that is more than incidentally authoritarian, achieved popular interest in the summer of 2016, when Bernie Sanders netted far fewer delegates at the Democratic National Convention than his performances in the primaries and caucuses would suggest. This nonplussing inversion, further complicated by WikiLeaks’s invaluable revelations that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) was conspiring against Sanders from the start of his presidential campaign, led to calls for intraparty reform.


Traitors of Journalism: Pieter Friedrich, Conspiracy Theorist/Freewheeling Slanderer


Overcrowding at Tulsi Gabbard’s event in Londonderry, New Hampshire on 10/01/2019. Conspiracy theorist Pieter Friedrich questions the authenticity of a video I released (which can be viewed here) in which a woman challenged Tulsi Gabbard’s alleged support of the Modi administration in India. He also wants to know why no other recording of the event exists. Note the person filming in the picture above.

I really don’t enjoy expending my time and energy on fruitless measures of journalistic warfare, not when it is far more satisfying to argue in the affirmative, but in the last nine days, I have been beset a desperate mob of unprincipled critics, some of whom seem to misrepresent me knowingly, with malice. We have already vanquished Lucid Primate, a man who failed to live up even to his own unflattering name when he scolded me for exposing his idol, Bernie Sanders, hours before he accused me of plotting to assassinate Sanders; but in the midst of that controversy, it was easy to overlook the outlandish accusations made by Pieter Friedrich, a self-proclaimed expert on “South Asian affairs” who, for the last year, has written extensively, though not at all convincingly, about his favorite political fantasy. According to this man, Tulsi Gabbard is a devoted agent of the RSS, and as President of the United States, she will empower that military group at the fatal expense of Indian Muslims.

Anyone who has followed the Gabbard campaign—or anyone who has read my own work, for that matter—is sufficiently conversant with the assiduous claim, as baseless today as it was in January, that Gabbard labors to empower bloodthirsty warmongers all over the globe, that there is no sight she finds more delectably sadistic than the vision of persecuted millions perishing at the bad end of an imperialist weapon. It’s an awfully creative and audacious accusation to be made of the one presidential candidate in the Democratic Party who has spoken in unambiguous, credible contempt of the military-industrial complex, but ours is the time of tragic irony, and on this day, it is not at all improper to accuse a critic of imperialism of untoward aggression.

The corporate media rewards this inverted and insane commentary, and as Ana Kasparian profits by voicing it to the lowest common denominator, Pieter Friedrich gussies up the same propaganda for the bourgeois pseudointellectuals. If this were Russiagate, then Kasparian would play the part of Rachel Maddow, Friedrich that of Seth Abramson. Friedrich wrote a preposterously prolix piece on the imaginary connections between Gabbard and the RSS, a scroll that, by his own boastful and incessant reminders, runs for more than 18,000 words; by contrast, my longest piece published here, on a website named for wordiness, ran for less than 7,000. And yet, in all of that language, Friedrich fails to forge even the most tenuous link—although we shouldn’t pick on him, not when Abramson wasted four hundred and fifty pages without finding a single proof of collusion.


The Joke’s on Us: “Joker” Doesn’t Get its Own Sense of Humor


The walls are closing in. Every form of liberty is really an exercise of the freedom of movement, the freedom to explore one’s physical and mental environment. Ergo, in order to move freely, one must have a free environment, which is to say: a natural environment. Imprisonment is punishing because it is unnatural: the barriers, restrictions, and limitations form a rigid antithesis to the fluid volatility of natural life. Some unnatural construction is required for the development of a society, lest the endless splintering reduce the unifying center to a superfluity, unfamiliar and useless; the problem is not the forming of a society, but the refusal of that society to leave in peace those who live, or would live, without it or apart from it. When the society seizes from uninterested outsiders, then the society has become a virus—and unless the virus is cured, then the society will eventually devour itself once it has consumed everybody else.

The United States is a society whose obsessive-compulsive fetish for death, death by consumption, has resulted in the acquisition of immense international power, but this external power, which I would argue is largely illusory, is reciprocated by an internal impotence. Our interpersonal dysfunction, mirrored by our incoherent culture, is an inevitable symptom of our pervasive social sickness, the physical act of destructive consumption transmuted and made ethereal, but much more palpable, as well. It is not impossible to live well in an unwell society, but it is impossible to live without coming into contact with some element of the diseased, and in turn, running the risk of infection. Usually, this infection takes the form of economic hardship—or economic anxiety, at the very least—which is later manifested in our increasingly strained personal ties. Our own failings become indistinct from our society’s, and we are unified only in our hopeless march toward our gruesome climax.

Our own ability to abandon this sinister parade is contingent on our freedom of movement. Absent this power, the people continue to make their unfree selections, selections that were chosen for them long before they were presented to them. One such selection is the movie Joker, currently in its fourth day of release. The film is centered on a miserable man named Arthur Fleck, who, in the midst of psychological deterioration engendered by incessant immersion in bleak society, finds catharsis in dressing as a clown and engaging in disturbing antisocial behavior, including murder. Countless people have been fascinated by this film since the release of its brilliant teaser trailer six months ago, and with good reason: the premise is a reflection of the unsettling, ominous decadence of our own social structure, and in embracing this grotesquerie before deconstructing it, the movie promises an emotional discharge for us as well as Arthur.