Nothing Makes Sense Anymore

Nothing Makes Sense Anymore

It wasn’t all that long ago that I bought a Toyota Prius and was summarily mocked by every man in my life.

Driving around in a boxy 2008 Prius was seen as nothing short of vehicular castration by many (mostly conservative) guys in the early years of the Obama era. I got more than a few looks from dudes that said: Are you serious with this stupid ass car? You cannot be serious. Some were aghast that I had paid not-insignificant money to putz around in an electric-gas hybrid. Can you even roll coal in that thing, bro?

Refusing to burn as much gasoline as possible and caving to the do-gooders who would have you believe the earth is being poisoned by the shit pouring out of your tailpipe was seen as un-masculine at best, and feminine at worst. In short, the American right was horrified by the idea of electric and hybrid vehicles driven by earnest liberals who kinda sorta wanted to cut back on the amount of fossil fuel they burned every day.

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Today, a decade and a half later, the electric car is a cultural token of the American right wing. With Elon Musk, running comms for the international fascist movement, pumping out the electric cars, conservatives are more than happy to open their wallets to purchase a Tesla. Peruse Twitter and watch as Elon’s empty-brained blue-check army encourages folks to buy Teslas as a kind of thank you to Musk for taking on eye-watering debt to purchase the social media site – a key transaction in the advancement of the fascist project to create and push bad-faith narratives, censor the political left, and dominate culture and politics.  

Conservatives adore electric cars today. It makes no sense.

Liberals and leftists used to be accused of adoring Russia and its ideological collectivism, even if the USSR was decidedly conservative in many respects. Folks on the American left would be told to “move to Russia” – or some variation thereof – if they expressed even a modicum of support for socialist policies. Since then, as you may have heard, the Berlin Wall fell and Russia lost its empire while devolving into a third-world kleptocracy headed by the world’s most blatantly evil man. Today, conservatives in the US love this version of Russia and see its dictator as a worthy model to be duplicated not just in America, but in all Western nations.

Republicans in the 21st century love Russia; they want the US to be like Russia. Democrats, meanwhile, hate Russia (and Russians) with every fiber of their soy-loving being. It makes no sense.

Modern-day conservatives hate sports. They hate having beers with the boys. The sports might be woke, the beer might be woke. Best to exercise maximum caution and engage in neither. Sports has become (almost) exclusively the domain of liberals who still like to see a ball go through a hoop or a long touchdown pass or a homer smashed over the left field wall. They can enjoy these things even if there’s a tiny rainbow flag on the players’ sleeves.

Lefties have claimed sports as their own. It makes no sense.

Republicans today support women’s sports (if it means barring trans folks from participating). They love a member of the Kennedy family. They’re skeptical of Big Pharma. They hate banks. None of it – not a single part of it – makes any sense unless you understand bad faith.

And trying to understand it is exhausting.  I hate it.

The Starman Had Something To Say on Fragmentation

No one has talked about fragmentation quite like David Bowie.

His philosophizing on the fragmentation of society and art and culture wasn’t isolated to that famously viral 1999 interview in which he called the internet an “alien lifeform” and predicted it would upend every aspect of civilization while the interview looked on in haughty skepticism  ("The Internet carries the flag of being subversive and possibly rebellious and chaotic, nihilistic,” he said). Bowie talked endlessly about fragmentation in the early 1970s, as gender norms were being shattered in the western world and he was walking the steets of London wearing floral dresses with hair down to his mid-back, identifying as bisexual in interviews with music magazines of the day.

Bowie saw very clearly that the postwar consensus – forged by an authoritarian sense of conformity – was crumbling, and crumbling fast, and the only thing left one day would be the wreckage of what we thought we knew about life and the universe and our place in it. We would meander around that wreckage with no idea about what was real and what was not real, racked with anxiety and depression, determined to pick up the pieces of shattered consensus, jam them together with a little elbow grease, and give some meaning, some sense, to our existence. The pieces, we say, have to fit.

In 2003, Bowie explored the theme of cultural fragmentation in his (fairly boring and forgettable) album, Reality. He teamed up with longtime producer Tony Visconti to make the album in the midst of the United States government concocting a reality from whole cloth in its push for war in Iraq. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, things made increasingly little sense, and Bowie saw as much from his artistic perch in the crumbling American empire (even Bowie's so-called concept albums were fragmented; his Ziggy Stardust and Outside albums being pieced together in nonlinear ways, rejecting the comfort of sensible narrative).

The Bush administration, with a friendly assist from UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, had expertly wielded bad faith over the two years between 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq, convincing Americans that they had no choice but to launch an all-out ground war to stop the next 9/11 attacks, which, of course, could be coming any day now. It did not matter that there was no evidence that Iraq was on the verge of attacking the US with weapons of mass destruction. The administration had picked up the pieces of shattered consensus and pieced them together in a way that made war the only choice.

“I feel that reality has become an abstract for so many people over the past 20 years,” Bowie said upon Reality’s release in April 2003. “Things that they regarded as truths seem to have just melted away, and it’s almost as if we’re thinking post-philosophically now. There’s nothing to rely on anymore. No knowledge, only interpretation of those facts that we seem to be inundated with on a daily basis. Knowledge seems to have been left behind and there’s a sense that we are adrift at sea. There’s nothing more to hold onto, and of course political circumstances just push that boat further out to sea.”

Until the 70s, Bowie said, “we felt we were still living under the guise of a single and absolute created society where there were known truths and known lies and there was no duplicity or pluralism about the things we believed in.”

Now – meaning the late 90s – Bowie said there are “three, four, five sides to every question, that the singularity had disappeared, and that, I believe, has produced such a medium as the internet, which absolutely … shows us we are living in total fragmentation.” This phenomenon has only accelerated over the past two decades, destroying any shred of belief that we can understand the world and where we fit in it.

The Faith Is Bad And Getting Worse

This fragmentation has created a political and cultural void into which the worst among us have entered to craft new realities for those who choose the red pill over the blue pill. Without an established reality, bad-faith performance artists like Glenn Greenwald and Joe Rogan and Michael Tracey and others in the Contrarian Industrial Complex can create their own.

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This is wildly convenient for the ascendent international fascist movement. Like all fascist movements, today’s version hinges on a critical mass of people misinterpreting power dynamics and believing a version of reality that makes fascisms’s political programs not only viable, but necessary.

Nathan Kalman-Lamb, a sociology professor at the University of New Brunswick, said in a recent Twitter post that the fascist project was fueled by this unstoppable tide of bad faith. Kalman-Lamb, after Elon Musk hilariously and idiotically banned the word “cis” on Twitter as a slur, said Musk’s doomed investment in Twitter was well worth it for him and his ilk if they can more easily mold reality for those logged on to the social media site.

“The discursive project of fascism is to convince you that that power dynamics are upside-down. Dominant groups and people are ‘oppressed.’ Marginalized people are in fact dominant ‘oppressors.’ … The insidious and contemptible genius of fascism (MAGA) is that it blames the ‘woke’ for all of society’s very real ills instead of capitalism, thus insulating and even framing as ‘victims’ the very perpetrators of those ills: capitalists and their political compradors. The fascist strategy to blame the ‘woke’ (actually marginalized people and their advocates) for the depravaties of capitalism is most effective on social media where some marginalized people do have some non-economic forms of social and cultural capital (clout).
A cissy boy whines on the internet 

Kalman-Lamb's words check out, of course. The Jews and gays and blacks and browns are dominating the poor white underclass. Something must be done. And so the fascist steps in and offers his ideas for what can be done. The fascist makes it make sense.

I don’t have some magical prescription for how the left – both in the US and abroad – can punch back against the right wing creating realities in which white folks and rich folks and straight folks are the ones facing ungodly discrimination at the hands of the all-powerful woke mob, composed of black athletes and actors and musicians and the banks that use them as spokespeople in their appeal to overly-educated white suburbanites. I wish I had some grand idea about how to oppose this phenomenon in our fragmented reality.

My only thought here is that the American left needs to get in on the reality-constructing game. We can’t stand by and scream ourselves hoarse about facts and logic, about graphs and charts and other reality-measuring shit that, we think, should change people’s minds. The left has to accept reality – or lack thereof – for what it is and stop letting the worst people on the planet shape what is and is not real for untold millions of online broken brains.

We must seize the broken brains and tell them what is real and what is not. The left has to start picking up the pieces of a fragmented civilization and putting them together in a way that promotes justice and fairness. This will require money and resources and, yes, a willingness to bend the truth, if there is such a thing. People want life to make sense. They need it to make sense. Only the monsters on the political right understand this, and act on it in ways that endanger society’s most vulnerable groups.

This era of fragmentation cannot be treated like any other. It begs for order.

Follow Denny Carter on Twitter at @CDCarter13.