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Internet Culture

Day 566 and Thot Leadership

I’m only a week out from moving to the homestead in Montana. So naturally I’m having a lot of feelings that I’m coping with by being unproductive on the internet. I’ve been enjoying falling down various rabbit holes like the rise of femcels whilst torturing reply guys on Twitter with bait polling.

But through this particular exercise in self indulgence, I’ve wandered off my usual path of vaguely right coded back-to-the-land regional capitalism and stumbled into the extended universe of socialist criticism of neoliberalism feminism. Socialists spend a lot of time being pissed at capitalist visions of feminism. And it’s really good stuff.

The discourse on resistance to neoliberal feminism is fascinating and the narrative space is so rich. We’ve got the failures of female friendship because of productivity concerns. We’ve got tradwives and reactionary refusals to work outside the home. We’ve got elaborate aesthetic deconstructions of Mormon homesteading. Ann Helen Peterson is an entire Substack beat. Meg Conley has some of the best writing on consumption and home life ever written.

It’s enough to make me wish I’d stayed in academia and pursued blue check thot-leadership. How fun is it to complain about being burnt out and misused but in fancy language? Ok it’s probably not as fun as I imagine since they are mostly untangling lifestyles I actually live.

But like what if instead of being a Girlboss who became a Tradwife homesteader I did academic research on myself instead? Write what you know amirite?

It’s clearly uncomfortable being in an in-between space and I simply cannot move to Montana fast enough. I’m scattered and annoying and in hardcore goblin mode and I’ve got no other excuse but I’m scared. You can really spot it in the erratic shitposting and bitching. But I think everyone is having fun so I guess it’s alright.

Categories
Internet Culture Media Politics

Day 482 and Vibe Shift

A month or so ago a piece written by a New York marketing executive titled Vibe Shift went viral among the chattering classes. The premise is that we are on the precipice of a cultural change that is upending everything from politics to fashion. And depending on your perspective, this shift might include crumbling dystopian decay or vibrant fuck it optimism. Or in the case of web3 absolutely both.

I think the Vanity Fair piece on the New Right is chronicling one of the first emergent vibe camps to emerge from the vibe shift. The article is a look at the art, intellectual environment and personalities of the “not quite conservative” new right. And it’s a largely positive even glowing send up.

If you believe the Citadel is a corrupt institution and moral moral crisis then the Vanity Fair piece should have been negative. It’s a surprise that it wasn’t. Not long ago we were subjected to intense narratives about the dangers of nRX neo-reactionaries and it’s infiltration of Silicon Valley. It was a real and urgent issue that the center of so much money and power might doesn’t align with the cultural values of media or academia. If you don’t speak this language the Citadel is code for the left leaning creative and cultural institutions like Hollywood, academia and media.

So why isn’t it a crisis any more that there is a new breed of influential “not quite” conservatives? If anything the right in America has shown itself to be capable of so much more than just boat parades and goofy hats. Some of these fuckers were expanding the Overton window on peaceful transitions of democratic power on January. It might actually be getting worse.

Except now the left fucking sucks too. Now I’m not justifying fascists. These Christian Nationalists are trying to roll back modernity and pluralism. Fuck them. They fuckers don’t even have a demographic majority. So it pains when I say the vibe shift is showing the left as the worst version of themselves while the right is showing a new cultural ascension.

To a lot of normal moderate people the left looks controlling, scolding, frigid, and conformist. Everything from mask politics to gender relations has started to make the left look insane. It’s entirely rational people would be seeking a vibe shift for something more welcoming.

My theory is we are about to see a massive resurgence of affection for all kinds of conservative hobby horses. Especially of vibes that used to be the province of the traditional left. Everyone is sick of being shamed while they go about living their lives. And whoever wins that vibe war will win America.

Categories
Finance Politics

Day 430 and History Rhymes

If you aren’t following along I am in spending the month working from an Airbnb in Frankfurt. I picked Frankfurt on a whim when I decided to go to Europe. I wanted to work from “somewhere” else after two years of being home. It seemed like a nice central city and I’m a finance nerd (it drives my investments in crypto) so the home of the European Central Bank felt like a great pick.

When I booked the trip the war in Ukraine wasn’t even on the horizon. I was simply trying to get a change of scenery after two years of Covid lockdowns. But now I feel as if it might have been accidentally prescient to be here. Like I’m in some world historical nexus as Europe reorients itself to the next era of geopolitical reality. I couldn’t have picked a better place to absorb the zeitgeist that is going to drive the financial future.

I am going to spend my time here absorbing everything I can about about the currents of past intellectual movements like the Frankfurt School. I am going back to Weimar history and the interwar years. I will go further back to Goethe.

I have this gut sense that there is something I am supposed to learn about history so I can navigate the next decade. While I founded chaotic.capital on the thesis that the world was going to become more complex and thus inherently more unstable I didn’t expect those trends to unfold quite as fast as they did. I thought I had a decade. It turns out the future was already here. History doesn’t repeat but it does rhyme. And if I’m going to predict the next stanza I better start with the past.

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Internet Culture

Day 400 and Consumption

I’m excited to be hitting my first year two posting milestone today. Four hundred straight days of writing is the kind of habit that has got clear staying power. It’s funny that today I celebrate the power of creation when my topic for the day is consumption.

Pandemic living cut down a lot of consumption for me. Travel, dining out, cosmetics and fashion used to be huge parts of my life. Style played a prominent part in my career. I loved being a part of a creative profession. People made things. We worked on items that existed in the physical world meant to be appreciated in the here and now. But we also made things to be consumed. We created in service of consumption.

I love the intersection of art and commerce. It’s really where humanity tells on itself. Just raw unadulterated power dynamics on display. But also sometimes consumption means wanting to be seen and liked by someone else for sharing in-group affinities. I get it. I pride myself on knowing a bunch of ephemera so I can wow just about anyone at a cocktail party. Being included is a powerful safety drive and I think it’s nice to cultivate it for each other.

So I guess I’ve missed I missed some of that. Being at home I’ve done so little to engage with the current moment’s aesthetics except as they manifest inside internet culture. I’m up on all the zeitgeist in the chattering classes but I’m not hip to what’s being bought.

Maybe this is what happens when you haven’t been on Instagram since Trump got elected. I’ve got no idea where to shop anymore. My instincts remain but the specifics of the moment were a blank. So you want to know what I bought? Hand to fucking God I bought some of Kim Kardashian’s loungewear. Because why not go right into the Kierkegaardian soul sickness. If I’m starting my fresh might as well go right to the common denominator.

Categories
Aesthetics Internet Culture

Day 393 and Red Pilled

Maybe three years ago William Gibson was promoting his new book. It was the last event I attended in a pre-pandemic world so it stands out to me. He gave an interview where he mentioned reading a novel by Hari Kunzru called “Red Pilled” and that he found the plot as a plausible near future.

I immediately bought a copy as I’m heavily influenced by the prescient near future work of @GreatDismal. The book was about a member of the blue check media class slowly going stark raving mad because of an elaborate right wing alt-reich troll farming operation. It was uncomfortably clear on the kind of elaborate cultural war tactics that goes into pilling normies. Dank memes and slowly you are accepting the aesthetics and touchstones of former Reich minutiae or Nordic runes or pick your mythical volk white mythology. Memes are dangerous gateway ideology kids.

I didn’t really think anything of it at the time. Then I lived through the pandemic becoming an elaborate death cult ritual with totemic significance for both warring sides. I realized we are in the middle of a massive meme war for the soul of internet culture and most of us don’t know we are victims yet.

Walk down one wrong hobby hole on Reddit and suddenly you have become friends with folks with more than passing fascinations with authoritarian culture. Honestly it’s freaky as shit and I’m absolutely socially friendly with people who don’t think I’m a fully autonomous sovereign individual. And yes I mean both socialist Soviet apologist Tankies and TradCath beach fascists.

The latest example of mass hyper object cultural murmurations might be the Bored Ape Yacht Club. And not in the way you think! It was brought to my attention by Venkatesh Rao and he clicked together some signs I’d registered but not processed. It’s entirely possible someone pulled a QAnon semiotic culture jacking with everyone’s favorite NFT project and made it so we all consumed a bunch of Nazis culture.

Which sounds like a deranged conspiracy theory by woke activists but might actually be true. Someone did quite a bit of homework on the BAYC aesthetic history and it’s connection to racist reactionary political traditions, but it’s inherently unreliable as the story is being told by another elaborate culture artist. Who the fuck knows? Are there even sides to this kind of culture war? Can I be a conscientious objector?

If even a fraction of the wild associative leaps are premeditated it would be a kind of aesthetic scandal on par with the country electing a reality show host. A couple nRX message-board fascists cosplaying as Zombie Nazis grift 4 billion dollars in market place from venture capitalists and gullible celebrities. What a collective failure to repudiate literal Nazis! Lol. Maybe this means our unconscious might think some of this is right? Oh god maybe we did read a human biodiversity essay that made a convincing point. We seem to be a lot closer to black pilled. Fuck. Is this psychological warfare?

Honestly I hate this fantasy so much I hope it ends up being the largest milkshake ducking in history. Except at the end a whole bunch of us end up simping for the technical value of a bunch of Hitler memes. Fuck I’d die if this is how we all got pilled on antique fascist aesthetics. I’d love it even more if Peter Thiel were involved so the left wing conspiracy types could build their own QAnon metaverse. Already we’ve been warned about meme magic and the spiritual traditionalism that is animating a global new right. And I’ve got to be honest some of the threads going around have some elaborate research and narrative work. It’s propaganda level and designed to be compelling and confusing.

BAYC is of the most intricate hidden trolling campaigns in history created by very intelligent 4chan-related trolls who have hidden lots of nazi and alt-right innuendoes across the collection I’ve gathered enough proof to confirm it.

I honestly have no idea who is playing who in this saga. I’m think @vgr is probably right that even the terminally online struggle to make sensible or legible this level of signaling. So we brush it off. But it’s going to be an inception vector. So be careful when you react to an event. You might be primed to respond to their propaganda and not even know it.

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Aesthetics Internet Culture

Day 391 and Breath

Daily overstimulation is starting to rub the pressure sores of America’s downer induced depression into a full blown mental health crisis. Like, even more than usual. War with Russia in the imagination, inflation and market volatility coaxing a recession, culture war skirmishes over every basic fact in the pandemic, along with generalized anxiety are fucking us up focus wise. And every propaganda outlet and publicist on the planet is having a field day.

I’m listing to The Prodigy’s Breath and mumbling lyrics like pyschosomatic insane. So I guess, come play my game?

I try not to listen too much music as it overstimulates my nervous system to be honest so its kind of rare for me to have Spotify playing. I’ve got a finely tuned propaganda radar that benefits from sensing subtle shifts in tone and extremely online discourse. I can’t do that if I’m too worked up from the rough stimulus that comes from pop music. I mostly use it to run my portfolio and investing but sometimes I think I should really be used in the service of some autocrat or multi-national. I’m the doubt factory

I guess it is nice I can make a buck during the end of the empire. I’m one of those post structuralism, post-capitalism babies. A regular Bane “born to the darkness” of hyper objects like markets and climate change. So I guess I’d better be molded to being the kind of villain that survives a world of agitprop and meme warfare. Thanks Adbusters!

Frankly I’m having a fucking blast. Sure I’m scared I don’t have my homestead property all shored up for civilization hiccups, but I’m of the mind that the crumbles is going to take a while so might as well enjoy the gains that come from a massive upheaval. I guess its true venture capitalists are ghouls. I mean at least we aren’t private equity carrion birds but it is wild that the system rewards a class of people that invest in creative destruction.

But even as I want to paint myself as bad, I do stereotypically think what venture capital does is often good. We can’t predict second order effects. Chaos theory doesn’t let us see all the future paths. But stochastic as shit power laws are just math so we’ve got a shot at accidentally making things better. So while the agitprop tries to sway your opinions might I recommend you just Breath? That is my professional advice.

Categories
Aesthetics Internet Culture

Day 177 and Unaesthetic

Aesthetics are opinions. And opinions are totalizing. I’ve been on some bullshit recently about how taste is totalitarian. Mostly because I care about how aesthetics turn into politics. But aesthetics are almost always personal choices (except our biology which is another discussion entirely) which gives them wide latitude to be all encompassing.

That aesthetics are choices matters. We choose to articulate our aesthetics. If our tools have the capacity to articulate an aesthetic vision with clarity and fidelity it’s often been the choice of artists to render their vision closely to what is in their mind’s eye. Or sometimes we say fuck it, who cares, there is virtue going in the other way. I’d argue that is unaesthetic.

A deliberate decision to eschew aesthetics is literally the definition of unaesthetic. It’s not an insult. It’s just a choice. If we can tell something is a deliberate choice to pursue an aesthetic that is unappealing, unpopular, ugly or otherwise thumbing its nose its nose at beauty that is unaesthetic. Which is its own aesthetic. And it’s fine for that to be your taste but it is a taste.

Normative standards and boundaries are powerful. So rejecting them has become own own artistic and culturally pursuit. It’s become so popular “punk is dead” has become a layered insult.

Modernity has been on about how the search for universals of beauty is both hegemonic and homogenizing for most of the last century. That means everyone has to have the same standard and because we have the same standards we all tend to look alike. Think Stepford Wives or South Korean beauty pageant queens.

Understanding and telegraphing cultural norms of beauty is generally considered crucial for social competence and often for participation in any group. Think of how awkward it is to wear a suit into a startup or not wearing any makeup for sorority rush.

Sometimes I think beauty and aesthetic standards wish they were as totalitarian as technology. Protocols are literally limitations on what can and cannot be done. 8Bit and pixel art were originally protocol standards. What could be rendered wasn’t a limit of imagination but our tool sets. That’s why we obsessed on rendering and fidelity for so much of the history of computing. We’d say shit like “look how crisp” and we’d mean it.

That’s not true anymore. If anything we’ve got issues with too much fidelity. The uncanny valley of hyper reality upsets our mind because it’s hyper real. Aesthetics now has to cope with the ability to render even the most elaborate vision to exact reality. Now that’s a cool problem. But if you want to sell pixel art, call it punk, and tell me it’s actually a cool commentary on protocol limits that’s fine. But I’m going to call it unaesthetic. But it’s not worth being insulted about.

Unpopular take but crypto punks are unaesthetic
Categories
Aesthetics

Day 175 and Paternalism

Taste is totalitarian. Movements seeking aesthetic dominance hold sway with a paternalistic sneering. Anytime you’ve felt excluded because of dress code or manners you’ve experienced a form of aesthetic exclusion. It can be worse than country club snobbery though. Imagine the indignity of preppy credentialism from supporters of Brett Kavanaugh. How dare you question the character of the graduates of our finest institutions.

It isn’t so different from the pearl clutching of “good taste” of outlets like Anna Wintour’s Vogue. Oh my you are wearing cargo shirts? Heavens! That very tight tube top just isn’t done. You must conform to the standards of good taste.

Divergence from the mean is bad form, the preferred insult of Peter Pan’s nemesis Captain Hook. Sure he was a pirate but the man has good manners and grubby children thumbing their noses at authority is a classic adult frustration.

I suspect that “bad form” underlies much of the criticism of post modernism. I came across an article in The New Statesmen about the paranoia around “pomophobia” amongst post modern academics. The thesis is that the critics are basic bitches missing the point that postmodernism is all aesthetics. It was never about politics. I happen to agree.

It’s entirely possible to recognize it’s critical theory ,and it’s cousin post modernism, are entirely aesthetic movements not a political or social one. And taste, being totalitarian, can and does overwhelm opposition. So the screeching panic mongers at Tucker Carlson may have a point. Just not the one they think. That’s why scandal and hand wringing are so interwoven into criticism of critical theory.

Taste is meant to be inscrutable. We cannot question it. If anyone can question “bad form” or good taste then why do we need our social betters? It would be absolute anarchy! But then again I thought punk was dead. Maybe not!

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Aesthetics Internet Culture

Day 127 and Horizontal Thinking

In the beginning there was the word? I dunno, seems more likely it was the image and then the Levantine religions got around to giving God the word. And thank God too as internet culture couldn’t exist without binary stuff.

But lately it seems like we’ve decided to go all in on horizontal thinking. Now it’s all about images. Gifs, YouTube videos, twitch streams and TikToks giving us cultural understanding not though the written word, but vibes.

The weaving together of aural, visual and emotional planes is an aesthetic that I’m thrilled to see Gen Z adopting en masse. If vibes had a gender, it wouldn’t. But seriously, backing away from the linear is a lot of fun and all of this vibes zeitgeist has been throwing my thinking back to a 1998 pop-science book called “The Alphabet and The Goddess.”

The Alphabet and the Goddess by Leonard Schlain is about humanity’s progression from horizontal to linear thinking. Shlain, a neurosurgeon, argues that that learning written languages, especially alphabetic languages, altered human brain function from holistic thinking to linear thinking. In other words, humanity wasn’t always so limited in processing. That’s a kinda new development.

I can’t say I have any real expertise in different theory’s of the mind like lateralization, but it does seem as if we seek to reduce complex matters such as ethics to simple rules and numerical measures in human systems, this despite us having significant holistic and metaphorical capacity.

If you coded “holistic, simultaneous, synthetic” views as feminine and the masculine as a “linear, sequential, reductionist”, you’re not alone according to Schlain. The scanning of the written word and visual processing of images may be different processes for the mind and for some weird ass reason we gendered them. Even though it’s just a straight up difference in brain processing. Schlain says:

Images approximate reality. The brain simultaneously perceives all parts of the whole integrating the parts synthetically into a gestalt. The majority of images are perceived in an all-at-once manner. Reading words is a different process. When the eye scans distinctive individual letters arranged in a certain linear sequence, a word with meaning emerges.

Basically humanity has been livin’ la vida linear for a few centuries, even though we have been plenty holistic as a species. But maybe with the internet our horizontal image driven thinking is coming back? Which brings me back to vibes. Vibes getting the New Yorker treatment this week.

I learned that vibes have a strong tie to the critical theory crowd. I suspect this pisses off a number of more literalist thinkers that are dedicated to trad aesthetics… I mean, ummm, Burkean economics? Whatever. Maybe the trads and red pillers sense the critical theory backstory?

Gernot Böhme identified “atmosphere” as the basis for a new aesthetics of perception, a kind of over-all feeling that has much in common with vibe. Heidegger had used “mood” to describe the quality of being in the world, and Walter Benjamin had identified “aura” as the feeling inspired by the presence of a unique work of art.

I think I’ve finally found the through line of why the “woke, critical theory, Gen Z, gender fluid crowd” and their vibes upset the “Athens to Jerusalem Western Civilization” crowd. Going from “great works” to “vibes” is going from linear to horizontal. It’s big dick energy being trounced by hot girl summer. The patriarchy is falling to glitter queers. And there is nothing anyone can do about it. And personally I like these vibes.