That Which Simply Is and Emerges Without Contrivance
The increasing micromanagement of tech totalitarianism is starting to choke us. In fact, I would say that it’s already choked us to the extent that we wouldn’t even know oxygen if we breathed it in full. It would seem foreign and alien, as if it were an ethereal gas from another dimension. The Boomers and older generations may have some faint recollection of when it was still around, but what good has that been to us so far? The Real was sacrificed and replaced by a consumerist hyperreality, in other words, a superficially constructed and controlled medium which many now prefer to the Real itself.
For the sake of preface, we can begin by defining the Real as essentially that which is and emerges without contrivance or interjection. At first draft I immediately inserted the adjective ‘organic,’ and categorizing it as such puts it apart from the Real. If this is vague and unclear, I’ll provide further context to remedy it.
Imagine a rural community in the 19th century; living was a direct experience and any reading was limited to the news of the day and maybe the Bible. There was little medium between ‘us’ and physical existence. In some parts, even shelter was merely a thin barrier between ‘us’ and the physical elements themselves. Physical hardships required more effort, but all the same there was little medium barrier between the self and the Real. Simply one’s own thinking (or ‘thinking’), a thin shelter, and sparse reading. That is it.
Contrast this with our current existence: a thick shelter, often over-thinking, thick clothing, a thick jobplace, endless text, endless media, endless politics, thick laws (in more ways than one), and worst yet, a social media which we use to record our every experience and action. Even our food is no longer personally hunted or grown, but purchased, oftentimes scarcely even resembling the Real. The medium between oneself and the Real has increased tenfold, creating an engineered Medium. Not only has the Medium increased in size and thickness over time, but it has devoured our every individual detail.
We purchase ‘organic’ produce to mentally separate it from the ‘contrived’, when one foodstuff is as much a product as another. We go to festivals like Burning Man or similar such retreats to try to taste the real, when it is again a contrivance in itself, which nonetheless attempts to appear Real, or ‘primitive.’ We take up hobbies to try and recapture authentic craft, like the tradesmen of old, when really it is again only an attempt to grab the Real as an escape from the usual sixty hours we spend in a superficial jobplace, immersed in the contrived.
We no longer live in the Real; we yearn for it. Our soul craves it. What once was has been sacrificed, and instead replaced by a pseudo-model, a contrivance, a simulacrum, and we are so immersed and used to it that many can hardly comprehend what once was. We are immersed in the Medium, defend the Medium, only know the Medium, and over time our physical bodies and consciousness will adapt to the superficially contrived, and often malevolent, Medium rather than the real. this adaptation is a harrowing fact that could be spoken about ad nauseum, but for now let us simply define the Real as that which is without contrivance or interjection.
Negative Liberty is the State of Simply Allowing What Is to Simply Be Without Manipulation or Interjection
Isaiah Berlin first coined the terms ‘negative liberty’ and ‘positive liberty.’ By ‘negative,’ Berlin meant ‘absent,’ and by ‘positive’ he meant ‘present.’ An example of positive liberty would be single-payer health care provided by the State, which is the form of control or an offering of a service that is for the aimed benefit of furthering the flourishing or liberty of the citizen. A negative liberty example would be the option to grow marijuana for personal use; a lack of control or interjection to stop one from doing so if they choose to. For the sake of this article, we will primarily be focusing on liberty, and while banal politics are within that scope, they are not my dwelling point.
The Real cannot be, nor can it flourish or produce, if it is strangled by tedious or totalitarian micromanagement.
An example of this is how many mom & pop shops and diners used to be the norm. They emerged from the Real, from the community, they reflected the community and its culture . . . for culture is just that: emergent properties of the Real. Zoning, building codes, licenses, regulations, excessive taxation, and other such tedious strangulations have stifled the emergence of culture from the Real, effectively rendering it infertile.
In its place we see big box retail and franchises; a corporate monoculture that’s part of the consumerist hyperreal, which is fast becoming the new permanent fixture. This replacement is wholly divorced from the Real. It has no true culture for it is merely contrived consumerism, an aspect of the Medium. This is not to say there are no arguments for some degree of regulation, but rarely does regulation ever remain minimal. Once control starts, it only ever grows onward to the point of total regulation. The local, a flourishing of the Real, is replaced by the corporate hyperreal/Medium.
Often do we hear mourning for what “New York City once was,” or San Francisco, or Los Angeles, etc. Again it is the same, tedious micromanagement, ever-increasing to the point where local culture dwindles and in its place is wealthy and/or corporate ‘culture.’ San Francisco was once the spirit of Bohemian free spirit and grassroots politics. This was the lack of tedious control that allowed the Real to flourish and produce.
Instead, today we see the strangulation of negative liberty, and what Real there was replaced with only the most micromanaged engineered climate, which only allows the hyper-hygienic wealthy or corporate to reside in it. The working class is no exception, as they are also ‘plugged in’ to the Medium and are fully managed by it.
The same can be said of New York City, with its numerous ethnic neighborhoods and vibrant subcultures. Far less of those exist now, and of those that remain, they are again tediously micromanaged and sanitized so that only the most ‘Twitter harmonious’ and ‘glossed-over Instagram’ remains. These examples are whole cities now further divorced from the Real, and the vibrant culture which arose from the real, now replaced with the micromanaged hygienic and sanitized medium. Existence only occurs by requesting permission and being authorized by the Medium, and acting only within its control, never outside its control. It is so tediously micromanaged by an army of drones (both organic and mechanical) that it strangles out all of the artistic and free-spirited flourishing of the Real.
We can then expand this idea to all aspects of existence and society, not just cities or small towns. Is there any part of our existence that is not now tediously micromanaged and tracked? We are immersed in the Medium, in the hyperreal, and there is only strangulating control. Aside form the rare exception of living ‘off the grid,’ there is no such thing as living outside the micromanaged Medium. There is hardly, if any, detail of our daily existence that is not within the Medium in which we all dwell. From what we think, we desire, who we date, what we eat, how we vote, one’s appearance, location, religious beliefs, politics, workplace, and so forth. It is not mere recording or tracking that I aim to get across, rather the metaphysical and intangible aspects of this micromanagement, the very reshaping or re-engineering of the psyche itself which is the result of this full-on permeating immersion in the Medium.
That Which is Brought Within the Fold Cease to Be
Throughout the 20th century, from political uprisings to cultural revolutions, the ‘powers that be’ learned a powerful lesson on how to squelch such threats. They learned many times over that prohibition and censorship only go so far, and that they oftentimes only fuel the fire those in charge aim to extinguish. the better and more effective approach to neutralized any possible threat is simply this: whatever the threatening niche is, do not further exclude it, but bring it fully into the mainstream fold and control it.
This is a joint effort by both the State and corporations, who achieve their aims through neoliberal economics, efforts that are facilitated to the max by social media, which is just tech used as discourse manipulation and narrative control.
What threat political leftism once was, with its riotous uprisings and aspirations of revolution, is altogether neutralized as it has been brought into the fold to such an extent that the young girls’ magazine Teen Vogue is openly flaunting the teachings of Marx. The armed threat of Black Identity groups, caring for their own and defending themselves against the State is now rendered a cheap spectacle, with Beyoncé flaunting their aesthetics at a Super Bowl for corporate profit and cheap applause.
The same can be said for much of the right-wing. There is no actual explosion in national identity occurring, for a substantial chunk of it can be reduced to neutered ‘controlled opposition,’ such as Turning Point USA and Ben Shapiro, who ensnare the milquetoast many. For that is the point of ‘controlled opposition,’ to allow the opposition to exist, but only if it has been brought into the mainstream fold with a tightly controlled narrative, thus neutralizing any possible threat to the status quo while still giving the appearance of an existing ‘oppostion.’
There are exceptions that cannot be brought into the fold, such as the factions of the further right which reject modern notions of egalitarianism and (often) asserts national identity. For that, the older methods of censorship and prohibition are still used, maintaining control of the discourse to not allow freedom of discussion on those topics.
In the somewhat less political, beloved subcultures which once defined a unique, free-spirited aspect of the US have also now been brought into the fold, curated, and made into cheap, commodified trinkets. One can look at how what was once ‘punk,’ an outlier rebellion against the status quo was commodified over time into the pockets of Hot Topic and a countless number of studio-curated ‘Avril Lavigne’s.’
The Bohemian LGBT subculture of yesterday, which once produced such figures as John Waters and William S. Burroughs; has been completely brought into the neoliberal fold. It is now neutralized like a banal and bourgeoisie soccer mom. Corporations leap at the chance to slap a rainbow sticker on their product and exploit the community for easy profit.
No longer is there a transgressive subculture, queer or Bohemian, or otherwise, as it has been brought into the fold as yet another MSNBC segment or Starbucks coffee banality. Even much of the LGBTQ community seems to have no awareness of this, having no problem becoming absolute tools of the Medium and status quo rather than maintaining any sense of transgression.
Transgression is eradicated when brought into the mainstream fold, brought into the narrative. It becomes the Medium’s pet, a commodity and a tool for its own ends. Prohibition places something outside the realm of control; integration brings it into the realm of control.
To bring something within the realm of control, within the mainstream fold, is to neutralize its threat to the status quo. Whether it be the flourishing of culture or political threats to the status quo, the Real gets strangled out when it is ‘brought into the fold’ controlled and replaced or just outright devoured by the micromanaged, contrived Medium.
It is all about control.
Social Media is the Manipulation, Narrowing, and Engineering of Allowed Discourse
Just as authentic culture is the flourishing of the Real, strangled out and replaced with the controlled contrived, so too is authentic discourse being strangled out and curated to suit the agenda.
No longer does much of our everyday existence occur outside of the contrived, outside of the realm of control, and the same goes for the intellectual and emotional. With few exceptions, the general masses record every action, photograph every moment, and trade social currency within the micromanaged realm of social media.
From what to think, how to respond, what to feel, what to feel strongly about, how to look, how to go about dating, where to place importance, and an infinite reflection-to-judgment dopamine feedback loop off of others equally as plugged into the Medium.
There are those who say society has always operated in this way. Humans are indeed group-minded and take cues from the whole. But this a tremendous and dishonest simplification. Before, social mores and cultural cues emerged from actual culture, which itself emerged from the Real with minimal contrivance. What we are seeing now is a complete divorce from the Real, immersed fully in the contrived simulacrum, and most importantly, a contrived Medium which is being purposely engineered to achieve particular ends. These ends are varied, many political, many economic, many overlapping. These ends, which I will not discuss at this time, are both disturbing and bleak.
Just as local small businesses get replaced by Wal-Mart, and Bohemian queer subculture gets replaced with a rainbow-themed Starbucks marketing campaign, so too is genuine discourse and belief replaced with contrived pseudo-discussion.
When all discourse occurs within the contrived Medium, and the contrived Medium is entirely owned by a handful of tech corporations, then it is those few tech corporations which decide what the allowed discourse is to be.
What suits the corporate agenda, what suits the State’s agenda: this is what will be allowed.
What is deemed to be a threat to either, to the status quo, this is what will be either taken into the fold to sanitize if possible, or if not, then it will be limited in reach or outright censored.
Anyone politically too far left will be brought into the fold through commoditization, completely neutralizing it that they are made as harmless as a Teen Vogue article. Anyone politically too far right is not as easily brought into the fold and commodified; therefore they are limited in their reach or outright silenced.
Either way, both threats to the status quo are completely neutralized, leaving only the non-threatening milquetoast center.
It is all about narrowing discourse, trimming away that which is exceptional, and therefore threatening, and leaving only the non-threatening mediocre. Nonetheless, even the non-threatening center spectacle, will be made emotionally vibrant and hysterical in its endless chattering show. They will be easily manipulated and emotionally charged in such a way that they will defend the Medium. They will delight in anyone (especially someone who disagrees with them) being ‘cancelled,’ and the Medium has manipulated things to such an extent that this is seen as an upbeat positive thing to occur. Those truly immersed in the ‘hivemind’ will sincerely believe it has their best interests in heart.
Meanwhile, the far-left and far-right, which in essence could be a threat to the status quo if ever actualized, stay far too obsessed with attacking one another in their zealous aggression that they never see the actual enemy neutralizing them both.
Let me emphasize that when I say ‘exiled from the totality of societal discourse,’ I am not exaggerating. We are now so far divorced from the Real, so immersed in the contrived Medium, that to be removed from that Medium is to be removed from the totality of societal discourse.
Perhaps the exiled may still discuss matters at their local bar, or church, or supermarket, but have no doubt they have been silenced from interacting with society at large. Such is how it is when we live in a contrived Medium, where the contrived has slowly become the whole, and it decides who will be a part of it and who will practically cease to exist.
Many will tout that ‘free speech’ is still protected, and that since the State itself is not censoring or exiling, then nothing has been infringed upon. This is only true by technicality, and it is of the utmost shameful character to be so dishonest and inauthentic that one pretends to act as if this is not still severe silencing or censorship.
Furthermore, it shows their own full intention: that they have no problem with people and discussion being censored as long as it is by other means rather than the State. If this is their position, so be it, but let us hope they do not in the least pretend to care about freedom of speech or discourse or any such ‘liberal’ or ‘democratic’ values. Even those who are so impotent and inauthentic as to regurgitate Popper’s take on the topic.
The other argument, often made by short-sighted and self-defeating libertarians, is that since these corporations are private companies then they have every right to censor. Again this is true by technicality, but also does not acknowledge the dire consequences of living in a society in which only a handful of agenda-motivated tech corporations determine discourse. And it can be most assured their motivations are antithetical to libertarian values, so libertarians who support this position are (as usual) not only defending, but actively advocating their own demise.
This is not intended to be black-pilling. It is not intended to fill one with despair or push that there is no hope. The only way to assess and address a situation is to look at it directly and clearly, regardless of how bleak or dystopian it may look upon first glance.
Does the Medium Further Devour or do We Return to Negative Liberty?
Divorced from the Real, with the flourishing that accompanied the Real strangled out, our existence is now fully immersed in the contrived Medium, where we all reside. We forget with each passing generation what the Real even is. It sounds condemning, and disturbingly enough, it has only just begun.
There are those who are so damn lost that they see this immersion and devourment by the contrived Medium as a wonderful glorious thing. Those so tragically naive and mentally malnourished that they would even refer to our condition as actual upward progress. There is little to be done for the poor in the soul such as these. They are far too dissolved into the malicious zeitgeist and have succumbed to the most base materialism. Their consciousnesses are too deeply yoked and conditioned to the Medium.
One can better grasp how existence once was when negative liberty was prominent (as negative liberty is the default state of humanity) by spending time immersed in old photos taken from dusty photo albums, especially those of more rural environments. Reflect on how life would have been then, not necessarily the physical, rather our consciousness and its interactions with the Real absent of a controlling Medium. On the Self in its interactions with the Real, a fluid air absent of intangible fetters. The distinct lack of every minute detail being tracked, logged, measured, and managed. Only performing what was needed in a space lacking surveillance or intangible grip.
Then, in contrast, become aware of the oppressive intangible in the air that now presses upon us daily. It has not always been there. There was once only a fluent ‘lack therof,’ a fluidity of movement rather than the intangible shackles which now bind us. Ideology, incessant narrative, incessant text: these imprison our soul far more than physical bodily needs do. imagine existence without the oppressive looming presence surrounding us, demanding we conform to its discursive narration. Negative liberty is this default state, one of fluid movement and air free of oppressive discursiveness.
What we are currently experiencing is only the beginning. At the direction and rate it is going, the transhumanist future will be one which will imprison and fully bend our consciousness to its virtual Medium. It is as if this is only a test alpha run for the far more densely engineered medium to come.
The question must be asked: Just how far can the medium be divorced from the Real and just how immersed can we become in the engineered Medium? The divorce is one of both physicality and consciousness. It is not merely a divorce either, but the reshaping and re-engineering of the physical and the consciousness to become far more synthesized into the Medium. I will speak of this in greater detail in the future, and it is a topic which disturbs me to the core.
This is not a call to despair, but a call to be fully aware of what is happening. It is becoming increasingly difficult to detach from the Medium, but the attempt must be made. Not everyone can afford to completely live ‘off the grid,’. Nonetheless, it is the most ideal goal to strive for. As most cannot, then there are still varying degrees of it to achieve. To be aware of the ‘tuning fork’ is the first step of disengaging from it, and for it to have less and less influence. When possible, move to or visit the rural, or spend as much time outdoors as one can. Not just in parks, but as much woods or wilderness as one has access too. First disengage, then secede in mind and spirit from the Medium. It is a matter of metaphysical secession just as much as physical.
Simply know that disengaging from the Medium is the goal. Secede to the best of one’s ability in our current societal state, in all aspects of one’s being.
As the Medium (hinged on technological developments) continues to increase and continue its intent to devour us, there is always the hope that it will collapse before advancing too far. There are those who wish to accelerate that collapse, but frankly, if a collapse is to occur, it is well on its way and not in need of further momentum. Those who promote active accelerationism are placing their efforts and spirit in the wrong place. Regardless of action, what one must do is acknowledge the ever-controlling and ever-thickening Medium. If we are fortunate, perhaps there will be a time when much of the contrived simulacrum collapses and we return to a previous state.
To live in the Real, in the default state of negative liberty, would allow both authentic culture and our souls to flourish T.o continue on in the ever-thickening Medium, with every detail of our existence tracked and engineered, will be a harrowing existence we have yet to see in full.
This is only the beginning of something far worse that looms on the horizon.
Natasha Maria is the Community Manager of Trigger Warning. She is an egoist, occultist, and esoteric philosopher with interests ranging from archeofuturism to transhumanism to horror fiction. She enjoys long romantic walks through the abyss.