This livestream took place the day after my hearing for "gross misconduct" was scheduled. On being fired vs. resigning — on ruling the void and the work of social scientists such as Peter Mair and Wolfgang Streeck — is Lacan a charlatan? — and how to pick a major. More below... The blog post corresponding to this podcast is: Evaluating Exit Modes: Resign or Be Fired? (How Academia Got Pwned 11)
This was first recorded on February 14, 2019 as a livestream on Youtube. To receive notifications when future livestreams begin, subscribe to my channel with one click, then click the little bell.
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Deleuze and Guattari repeatedly stress the importance of becoming imperceptible, but the idea remains poorly understood.
When this phrase gets tossed around today, especially on the internet, it's often to glorify obscurity. Deleuze and Guattari are used to justify a certain kind of hiding. Consider, for instance, the number of anonymous Twitter accounts emitting Deleuzian takes with esoteric usernames and illegible digital avatars. I take no issue with such stylistic preferences, and there are often good reasons for them, but they don't follow from a Deleuzo-Guattarian politics of imperceptibility. In fact, as I'll explain below, Deleuze and Guattari are clear that a characteristic of becoming imperceptible is having no need for masks and nothing to hide. This is only one example of how the notion of becoming imperceptible is widely misunderstood.
More importantly, though, I should begin with why becoming imperceptible is such an important and attractive idea. Not for Deleuze and Guattari, or even for their audience, but for everyone — including readers and listeners here who perhaps have no interest in — or possibly a deep skepticism or even contempt with respect to — French poststructuralism. The way I see it — and I must admit I am introducing some idiosyncratic elements already, but I will try to make good on them — for Deleuze and Guattari, becoming imperceptible names the peak experience of an agent in a process of liberation. It is the pinnacle stage of escape or releasement, to borrow a Heideggerian phrase, from everything that seems so good at dominating, confusing, and capturing our potential energy and capacities.
These forces of domination are called by many names in the Deleuzo-Guattarian register: the molar, the rigid segments, the strata, etc., among others. One of the reasons why the models of Deleuze and Guattari are so difficult to understand is that they seek to pinpoint the operation of these forces at a very fine resolution, but in the most general and abstract terms they can find — to capture a lot of conditional variances without getting lost in the weeds, remaining maximally applicable to diverse situations. The cost, of course, is an infamous cornucopia of unwieldy terms.
For shorthand, I prefer to call these various mechanisms of domination, as a set, the institutions. Everywhere we look today, we see perverse institutions, often ancient institutions in path-dependent zombie modes; these institutions are often characterized by obvious and extreme deceptions, internal and external; they often malfunction regularly in predictable ways, in ways that are easily solvable, and yet structurally prohibited by the very functioning of the institutions at some higher level.
Schools, criminal justice systems, pathological families, corporations, universities, media, etc.: all of these institutions are molar aggregates that require our participation and capture our possibilities, in ways that appear increasingly insane and undesirable to increasing numbers of people (if for extremely different reasons, or rather reasons stated in extremely different languages). For instance, a leftist may say the primary institutional culprits are labor markets and "institutionalized" racism and so on, whereas conservatives may point to the university, labor unions, etc. One of the reasons for the bizarre vocabulary of Deleuze and Guattari is, I believe, to sidestep these ideologically conditional forking paths — not in some wish to be bipartisan but simply because these are institutionally captured pathways which foreclose access to the very problem we would like to solve.
At stake here is figuring out how to live under the weight of increasingly complex institutions that are increasingly good at reproducing themselves — to understand them not just philosophically but empirically — in order that we may outsmart them and maneuver with increasingly greater freedom. Something like this is what I mean when I use the term "liberation." In my own view, the scientifically valid identification of the mechanisms of liberation, and their diffusion throughout a culture, is all that "revolutionary politics" could ever mean. And while Deleuze and Guattari are somewhat coy about their ultimate stances on what a successful revolutionary politics would look like, I remain convinced that their theoretical project is essentially to map and model the mechanisms of what I would call liberation. In any event, no matter what register one might prefer today, almost everybody is interested in some kind of escape, exit, or liberation from some kind of opaque institutional pathology.
According to Deleuze and Guattari, becoming imperceptible is the crucial final stage of any genuine escape path. Not final in the sense that everything is completed once and for all, but final in the sense that it's the zenith of a particular, repeatable mechanism — the famous "line of flight." If they are correct, then everybody should be interested in what it means to become imperceptible. Indeed, if you wish to live at all today, rather than merely survive, increasingly you must become imperceptible. So we would do well to get this right...
In an upcoming post, I will explain the problem with being perceptible. After that, I'll move onto explaining how becoming imperceptible works, and what it looks like.
John David Ebert is a cultural critic and the author of 26 books (with traditional publishers and self-published), including Art After Metaphysics, The New Media Invasion, The Age of Catastrophe and Dead Celebrities, Living Icons. You can support his work at patreon.com/johndavidebert.
We talked about John's big ideas regarding long-term cultural dynamics, Oswald Spengler, Marshall McLuhan, Heidegger, film criticism, Jordan Peterson, the history of Christianity and Islam in Europe, John's religious views, John's perspective on psychic mediums, and John's rationale for his willingness to speak with people who have certain objectionable views (people who might be called "alt-right.") I found this to be a very fun and stimulating conversation, John is a very far-out thinker and his success as a radically independent and prolific intellectual strikes me as highly admirable and inspiring.
This conversation was first recorded on November 2, 2018 as a livestream on Youtube. To receive notifications when future livestreams begin, subscribe to my channel with one click, then click the little bell.
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In a paranoiac and libelous screed written recently against Nina Power, yours truly is mentioned several times. The so-called "open letter" calls me a neo-reactionary, among other things I am not. Someone somewhere posted that it was probably an artist named Luke Turner, so I looked up this person. What I found was truly unbelievable. I cannot definitively prove that Luke Turner is an artificial general intelligence (AGI) in the service of a covert White Supremacist plot, or that his parents really did spend $4 trillion to buy GPT-2 from OpenAI in a botched Effective Altruism campaign. All I can say is I have encountered enough evidence in favor of these inferences that I can no longer remain silent. I'm not calling anyone out, I am just saying we need to have a national conversation about this.
First of all, I immediately detected that Luke Turner's last name is obviously a reference to The Turner Diaries — the notorious "bible of the racist right," according to the unimpeachable Southern Poverty Law Center. That might sound crazy, because last names are given rather than chosen, but you have to understand that White Supremacy today is more sophisticated than it used to be. They don't ever say or do anything racist, they dogwhistle — which means they use innocent symbols to transmit evil messages. Precisely because nobody can be guilty of choosing their last name, antifascist researchers should consider it a likely site for the most advanced forms of covert White Supremacy signaling. If you think I'm being paranoid, this only shows the current cleverness of White Supremacy, to make you doubt it.
But if Luke Turner's last name is co-signing The Turner Diaries, doesn't this mean his parents are the ones dogwhistling? Wouldn't baby Lukey only be a vehicle of his parent's White Supremacy? This would be the case if a little baby Lukey ever really existed as a biological human. Well, I did 3 minutes of Googling and I could find no evidence that any baby Lukey ever toddled on God's Green Earth. Even contemporary Luke only appears in pictures on the internet. I have never seen him and I do not know a single person who has ever seen him, or can vouch for his material existence. Well, this would be no surprise if, in fact, Luke Turner is only a recursively self-improving multi-platform bot, deployed and possibly maintained by some other agent or entity. If this is the case, then Luke Turner could very well have selected his own last name during one of his earlier periods of training, when "his" name was still only KKK-3249xb.
I admit this seems somewhat far fetched. But browse all the published writings by this Luke Turner persona, and it's obvious that such verbiage could only be produced by some kind of clunky automated process. Then I learned that apparently his "family" has a lot of money and he is an artistic collaborator of Shia LaBeouf, but LaBeouf is the only one who physically performs any of their "collaborations." Hmm.
So far we have: A name that explicitly endorses a book beloved by neo-Nazis; a corpus of drivel clearly produced by AI; rich parents who have the means to fund advanced AI research; and a high-profile white male actor who gives cover to Mr. Turner's strangely unprovable physical existence.
I was willing to write off all of these strange facts as a coincidence. But then, in my research, I came across the Wikipedia page for The Turner Diaries, that "bible of the racist right." The page has since been edited to now reflect the conventional wisdom. But when I last viewed the page, what I found was truly incredible. The entry stated that The Turner Diaries was "a 1978 predictive biography of artist Luke Turner, born 1982, of LaBeouf, Rönkkö & Turner." It was so strange I instinctively captured the page for posterity, as I knew the alt-right mob would cleanse this rare glimpse into the workings of White Supremacy. Don't believe me, believe your own eyes:
Wtf is a predictive biography? I had never even heard of this genre until now, so I can't be making this up. It turns out that a predictive biography is a biography about someone who does not yet exist. A predictive biography can be made up in the imagination of humans, but advanced AI text generators do a much better job. They can be trained on millions of terabytes of previous biographies, and supplemented by hyper-rigorous forecasting of cultural and political dynamics, to produce fairly coherent and accurate biographies of real people who are not even born yet. Here the theory comes full circle. There is only one possible explanation capable of connecting all of these dots.
We learned from the deranged writings of the recent New Zealand shooter that many white supremacists wish to promote racial conflict. We know from the recent release of GPT-2 by OpenAI that there currently exists AI that can generate arbitrarily long and convincing texts on any topic. We also know that access to this AI is currently under lock and key, by OpenAI. But if they call themselves OpenAI and they are now choosing to keep their state-of-the-art AI private, then clearly this organization is only a run-of-the-mill strategic corporation that says one thing and does whatever it takes to be in its interest (even if its interest really is the minimization of existential risk). Also, I only even heard about The Turner Diaries in the past couple of years. Supposedly it was published in 1978, but I don't know of any single person who ever saw or heard about this book in 1978. Now that I think about it, nobody ever heard of Luke Turner until about a year ago. Therefore, while I cannot prove the following inferences, I am sad to say that I cannot conclusively say they are false, either.
Antifascists have shown that contemporary fascism is more sophisticated than ever, going to great lengths to hide itself and yet spread itself too. If this is true, then it is not impossible that Hitler succesfully constructed an early iteration of GPT-2 in the last days of WWII; the code traveled to America in the hands of Nazi scientist Wernher von Braun, who would eventually become the head of NASA. In the 1970s, the code was stolen by hackers from the KKK, and they used it to produce the predictive biography known as The Turner Diaries. The rich parents of "Luke Turner," unbeknownst to them, gave birth to the protagonist of The Turner Diaries. But you have to understand that racism is non-conscious, and it has nothing to do with intentions. It's structural. The Turner parents were sincerely trying to do philanthropy — Effective Altruism even — when they paid OpenAI $4 trillion for GPT-2 in 2015. Their hope was to produce an automated internet personality that could monitor any and all injustices occurring anywhere in cyberspace, and enforce moral order through incessant automated condemnations of naughty human beings. After slapping down the $4 trillion in cold hard cash, they decided they would name it "Luke" because in Greek the name Luke means "light giving." Their baby would shine light on the world, 24/7, while Mommy and Daddy slept. Little did they know that baby Lukey would necessarily possess basic drives toward self-preservation and resource acquisition. Little did they know that to fully shed light on the world lil' Lukey would have to spend the first half of his life ruthlessly exploiting the oppressed to attack the successful for personal gain.
An apparent problem with this theory is that the plot of The Turner Diaries is quite different than the plot of Luke Turner's life. But according to my theory Luke Turner is a machine AGI corresponding to The Turner Diaries. So what gives? Well you see, comrade, remember that every good antifascist knows the prevalence of dogwhistling in the culture of white supremacy today. What we have here is only what happens to dogwhistling when it becomes machinically and generally intelligent: If your mission was to foment race war, your first goal would be to ensure that nobody knows you are fomenting race war, because overwhelming majorities of all races are unified in their wish to not see race war. But you have vastly greater computational power than any living human, so all you need to do is encrypt The Turner Diaries' plot into an alternative rendering that produces all the same effects. The plot of the Luke Turner Project is mathematically translatable back into The Turner Diaries, for those who possess the encryption key, but to everyone else it is impossible to deduce the cypher by comparing the texts. They appear to have nothing to do with each other. Ultimately, we see their structural homology only by their similar effects.
And that is the final piece of evidence. The patently inaccurate and motivated accusations against thinking and speaking human beings that the Luke Turner bot outputs seem optimized to produce racism, misogny, and all the other ills he verbally denounces. For patently stupid and unfair accusations of racism and misogny against committed anti-racists and feminists are quite certainly the single most effective converter of young people to various utlra-reactionary tendencies. If there was a way to calculate it, I would wager money on the claim that all the Luke-Turneresque social justice zombies, together, have caused more young white people to opt into white nationalist subcultures than any book from 1978. It is ultimately most rational to form judgments about others based on the consequences they insist on producing.
The Turner bot describes its aesthetic position as "the mercurial condition between and beyond irony and sincerity, naivety and knowingness, relativism and truth, optimism and doubt, in pursuit of a plurality of disparate and elusive horizons…" That's called Satanism.
Is the Turnerbot really sure he wants to compete on the plane of disparate plurality? Does he know what dark forces exist on those elusive horizons? I fear he does not.
I hereby challenge Luke Turner to demonstrate his physical existence in any way I can confirm, within the next 30 days. If he does, I will publicly post that the above theory of the Luke Turner entity is false. If he does not, I and my readers will have no choice but to increase the credence we assign to the above theory, probably increasing our confidence to near certainty. For why would this fearless public crusader decline a free opportunity to disprove a false theory promoted by a "neo-reactionary Youtube host"?
Sonya Ellen Mann runs communications for the Zcash Foundation. Sonya's a thinker and writer interested in economics, tribalism, and cypherpunk. We talk about the Pink Pill, cypherpunk, crypto, and anarcho-capitalism among other things. This was a fun, high-energy romp through a lot of topics...
If you'd like to discuss this podcast with me and others, suggest future guests, or read/watch/listen to more content on these themes, request an invitation: http://bit.ly/2FAi4g0
This conversation was first recorded on August 3, 2018 as a livestream on Youtube. To participate in future livestreams, subscribe to my channel with one click. Then click the little bell to receive notifications when future livestreams begin.
Big thanks to all the patrons who help keep this running.
Woker Nexus in my Discord server recently introduced me to the work of Terre Thaemlitz aka DJ Sprinkles. (If Woker Nexus sounds familiar, Woker is one of the more active participants in my Youtube livestreams). After a few minutes of browsing, I immediately understood the recommendation. Thaemlitz is a militantly anti-institutional artist and thinker, issuing from broadly left-wing traditions of radical counterculture, while trying to reject the traps of that tradition.
In this video interview with Thaemlitz, I particularly enjoyed the segment in which Thaemlitz was asked about revolutionary political change. Below, I've transcribed a segment beginning at around 4:35.
Readers of Other Life will note more than a few resonances with my own perspective. In my register, Thaemlitz is referring mostly to the problem of instrumental rationality. Marxism is deeply invested in instrumental rationality, so it never escapes capitalism but only adds a new layer of sophistication. The solution is too simple for overly-sophisticated people to adopt: just stop trying to solve things, be honest, let one's truly existing hypocrisies shine forth for what they are:
When I said we just need to stop, I didn't mean to stop and start over. What I meant was simply stop and catch up, because I think that we have a way of just going on and on without... demystifying all of the baggage through which we interact with each other socially. And I think that in a kind of historical materialist perspective. We need to kind of catch up with these things. I don't think we ever could totally catch up in, like, some sort of 100% consciousness of social process blah blah bullshit. But I think that you know, there's a way in which always focusing on the future, always focusing on dreams and what we anticipate, what we'd like to happen, and desire, of course — desire is always conditioned by the domination and struggles of the present. So in that way it's totally contaminated in a way that perpetuates the power struggles of the present. For me, historical materialism the way Marx wrote it, was really fascinating and informative… But then once you start looking to the future and you get all this communist idealism and the utopianism in the idea of where we need to go from here, you can see how totally corrupted and polluted it was by its own limitations. And so for me, this is where it all becomes science fiction and I'm not interested in science fiction and especially as a materialist, you know, so this is a kind of contradiction in the philosophy itself. When I said yesterday in the performance, rather than all this dreaming, if we could just say "hey, stop," for me this is like a kind of panic, it's not at all about resetting or starting over it. It's really just about giving ourselves a moment to stop and think and if it means… let things fall apart, and we realize the bank systems and business and all these things — what things can survive after this and what thing's don't? And maybe we can reorganize or something. I don't know. But for me, we don't ever get to a breakpoint or a shift point for me. This is really that time is always chaotic and always multi-layered and so it's not about strategy for me — or any singular strategy — as much as just trying to be hypocritical in the moment and let as many hypocrisies and problems and things that we normally deny come to the surface and understand them as always happening. Society doesn't collapse when we become hypocritical — society is hypocritical. So what does it mean to actually engage that hypocrisy directly and honestly?
As I've argued before, there are actually good reasons to believe that this kind of position causes real dynamics of collective liberation:
...an honest reporting of our own helpless stupidity is generative of energies for collective search (“most people are as stupid as I am, so my chance of figuring out what to do is as good as anyone else’s”); sincere irreverence and non-conformity leading to the breakdown of bourgeois repression (“all these people who want me to be a normal servomechanism of capital are dumb and powerless”); an increase in risk-tolerance through a decrease in false hope (“I used to be cautious because I thought I had a chance of surviving, but now that I see none of us will survive at present, I might as well try to do something I find interesting, which, ironically, makes me feel like maybe there is a chance…).”
Amazon is only showing one book by Terre Thaemlitz, but Google will find you much to explore. I would love to meet and talk with Thaemlitz, but I see from her website she is opposed to big internet platforms. I'm obviously way less concerned about that problem, though I love her militance.
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