The Age of LOLZ is Over. Long Live DEATH LOLZ
In our post-9/11 and post-2007/8 banking crash era we can see these two events as the destruction of the neoliberal political ideology, and the collapse of its economic theory, which in turn have led directly to Brexit and Trump. These two nationalistic manifestations are revolutions in one sense, and yet are not in another. They don’t make history as such rather they go with the flow - a "fuck you" not a "fuck this". It should be said that the alternatives - Hillary Clinton and the UK staying in the European Union — were very unappealing, in that they represented the same old, same old. So it’s clear why Brexit and Trump happened, but neither probably would have made it across the finishing line without the sneaky use of manipulated digitized lifestyle information.
There was no way this could have gone any other way
There is no hope. It is hopeless. The light you think you see at the end of the tunnel is either an oncoming train or, as J.G. Ballard put it, "embers of the New Dark Age burning just ahead of us in the near future", which is now our present. The power of the algorithm as exploited by companies such as Facebook, Google, and Cambridge Analytica is well evidenced; their insight into and control over mass decisions, like voting and subsequent power distribution, have become vital to maintaining the pervasive grip over consumption-orientated subjects. We can’t help but give the THEM billions of tiny and seemingly irrelevant bits of data — minute threads of power that they, the THEM, can weave together to make a soothing blanket of suffering and death.
Our power is non-existent. Our grouping together under some as yet to-be-realized ideology keeps falling apart under the combined weight of continued left-wing differences and the hegemony of right-wing power- a power that demonizes any threat as a treasonous lie vented by "enemies of the people". It is already a given, or so the spirits of fear dominating our thinking will have you believe, that we are alone and standing on the verge of the mother of all meltdowns. We are taught, in our atomized lives, that we are permanently lost in our anxieties, with no one to help us forge our future. We are hopeless as things continue to collapse and are powerless to do anything about it. Our everyday lives, our very selves are the battlefield, and we are losing. We won’t know who we are because, as the raft of tradition and security we have been clinging onto crashes upon the shores of the future, we will be so traumatized by the shattering of our illusions that we will be driven mad by the emptiness of what we will find.
The LOLZ has died
LOL goes back to the 1980s and the Usenet systems that described software connections, which became e-mail and the Internet. It is fitting that, at the dawn of what looked like a new age under Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, the LOL was born. That history does repeat itself first as tragedy and then as farce is pretty clear - from Reagan to Trump, Thatcher to May, and Yuppie to Hipster. There’s much in the 1980s that gets recycled, like films, art, and music. However, it’s the money that really tells the story. The 1980s wasn’t a decade of new prosperity; it was a decade of growing collapse. It became clear that Eastern producers were able to not only compete but also win with cheaper labor costs. As the container ships carried more and more trade from Japan and China, the banks released trillions in credit, acting as life support for a dying body. 30 years of megaloans and US-led military-backed Capitalism resulted in 9/11 and 2007/8..
Of course there is a lack of a straight line in the above, and it’s more a case of overlapping interests causing hybrid relationships between powerful parties and ideologies that result in devastating destruction. It doesn’t matter if it's ISIS, bombings in Syria, or economic or environmental collapse; the fallout is the same: suffering, poverty, and death. The politicians are ineffective, being as they tend to be bureaucratic narcissists, skilled in a cunning eloquence that is only good for forming gangs and picking fights with enemies. They build approval, not things, and have swapped hope for fear as their currency. This leads to an alt- or anti-politics; the situation we are in now, where daily bursts of lies are taken as facts. The architects and players of the current system act like financial traders - they read the moods, feelings, and the ebbs and flows of emotion-led opinion, and anticipate its course. Quick influence is made in being able to forecast the direction of a particular desire as it drifts towards its rapid death, only to be replaced by the next new thing-scandal-disaster-riot-murder.
The ideology underpinning this has been to ramp up the maintenance infrastructure in the sites of work and lifestyle - setting a trap that the workers are powerless to resist. Their wages are paid as rents on debts, which are accrued to finance the consumption of their lifestyles. They become units of work, conduits for capital to flow from one large body to another as their lifestyles become dedicated to endless consumption. Targets were set as new forms of management were introduced to regulate and control the direction of the social drift. We had to be herded in the right direction. Bill Clinton and Tony Blair were masters of this kind of socially aspirational politics, and delivered huge apparent growth on the back of near total economic poverty. Their forms of manipulation, which started as subtle nudges in the 1990s, have become the repeated punches in the face we have today. And yet we treat it the same.
But not anymore… The LOLZ have died. Long live DEATH LOLZ
In 2015 you could still just about get away with pretending you were living in a neo-version of the 1990s but with high-speed broadband. We are, however, in a new era now.
Wake up, you are already dead. We need to appreciate and formulate a sense of the reality described by the crystallization of Capitalist Realism and the Big Other into hard power - one in which bureaucrats use armed thugs to persuade us to not ask questions, to not cross the line, and to not follow the hidden trail.
What are we to make of where we are, as we endlessly oscillate between worry and hope? I don't mean politically, I mean personally. The state and the corporate bodies that administer the unreasonable violence listed above happen in the everyday of our lives. So our response also needs to happen in the everyday, and it also needs to be unreasonable. DEATH LOLZ is an unreasonable humor.
Nothing is sacred, everyone is already dead
How are we to live? How does this act upon our psyches? What becomes of our everyday psychopathology? How does it mutate to cope with the privatization of fear, stress, and despair? Can we think something else? Can we arm ourselves with new forms of humor?
Art won't die, but art without artists isn't art anymore. If the art market collapses, what will become of the swarm of artists that grows day by day? What will they do? Where will they show? Who will collect their work? It seems strange that whilst thousands of artists, galleries, collectors, and curators flocked to Venice, Basel and documenta this year, and clamor to get into the next show or bear witness to the latest shape-shifting evidence of cultural supremacy and fashion, no one seems to be asking or thinking about what will happen when the flood of disaster drowns out all of this hubbub. Very few seem to get that what they are looking at and taking part in is a desperate attempt to say "business as usual". They haven't heard that the LOLZ have died.
We will need new forms of humor, but the jokes are not ones that the THEM can ever get. We will laugh, we will smile as the paradigm shifts, and we will get the joke. These are times of life and death, of heat and cold, of bleakness and of joy. We need our jokes to be as funny as they are unreasonable. In our streets, in our rooms and studios, and in our hearts, we have to laugh. As dark as it gets, we have to laugh.
London September 2017