The Facebook Disease

Here are some musings from July, 2016. Interesting to revisit now.

I went to facebook, because I have a disease that compels me to seek more, more, more, more. I have not sought help or counseling. I have read about my condition. I am not alone.

There, I clicked on a link a friend had posted about a black man who was shot by cops in Florida while he was lying on his back with his hands in the air. He survived. He was a social worker trying to assist an autistic patient who was holding a toy truck. Someone called in a suicide threat. Apparently, when asked why he shot the man, the cop said "I don’t know."

On the side of the video and the news report was a menu called “Trending.” I had trouble choosing among the clickable titles, including “Medical marijuana expected to be available in Florida next week,” “You can now drink Krispy Kreme doughnut-flavored soda,” “Turkey declares 3-month state of emergency after failed coup,” and “Queen: Trump wasn’t authorized to use ‘We are the Champions’

I still can’t decide.

I believe that Trump’s wife ripping off part of Michelle Obama’s speech was an intentional and calculated move, and I believe it will improve Trump’s ratings. Truth is irrelevant, and plagiarism is something only privileged upper-crust liberals who went to fancy private schools and colleges care about. Everybody knows that. He didn’t fire the speechwriter. That’s a true American story. We don’t punish people for fucking up; we give them promotions, raises, and bonuses. Just look at the subprime mortgage crisis of 2007.

Your attention has become the world’s biggest commodity. Attention means clicks, clicks mean ads, ads mean money. The more attention you can get, the more money you can get, and the more money you can get, the more politicians you can buy, and the more politicians you can buy, the more you can shutdown congress, prevent the selection of Supreme Court justices, turn a political party into a Nazi reunion party.

But the biggest problem is not that we’re giving our attention away freely; the biggest problem is not that people with very little concern over your future, or the future of your children, are getting filthy rich off your attention; the biggest problem isn’t that we have become so desensitized to racism and oppression in our country that we barely even flinch when the seedy underbelly is exposed. The biggest problem is Pokemon.

The biggest problem is that we are comparatively affluent and well-off enough to maintain a critically dangerous level of indifference while the world goes to hell in a hand basket. The biggest problem is that we are all suffering from attention deficit disorder, and we don’t know where to click to make it all better.

If I wanted to subjugate the entire first world, I would build a machine to distract them. I would numb, desensitize, and slowly acclimate them to a growing collection of erosions to their civil liberties, and everything they believe they stand for, and meanwhile, I would fatten them on a steady diet of fast food, soda, and endless endless endless streaming media. I would give them food, water, homes, and distractions.

The people I couldn’t give food, water, homes, and distractions to, I would disenfranchise. And I would do my best to turn them into scapegoats for all the problems I created for the first group of people who I have managed to make just uncomfortable enough to add to the endless streaming media, but not uncomfortable enough to revolt.

Of course, I don’t want to subjugate the entire first world. I don’t believe anyone really does, necessarily. But I do know that Stephen Hawking’s greatest fear is the looming spectre of artificial intelligence, and the associated rise of the machines. And I do fear that the internet may be the collective unconscious of the mainframe brain that will be the thinker behind that Matrix-like revolution.

If a cancer is simply anything that repeats itself ad-infinitum, meanwhile distracting, hijacking, and destroying other processes, then I don’t know what else to call the internet. It reproduces, reproduces, and reproduces its distractions, all the while coaxing us into what can only be described as a politically and socially vegetative state. The institutions of democracy that were built to protect and insulate us from tyranny, like the organs of our bodies, become infected with the cancer, and turn against us. We are left a dying body, gasping for air, striving to come to terms with how this all happened so quickly.

If Trump is elected president, I fear for the worst. All the precursors of civil war seem poised on the brink as it is. But if Hillary is elected, it’s just another distraction as the diseasemachine rumbles on. I can’t imagine two worse candidates. Trump, because he is a racist, a bigot, a xenophobe, a terrorist, and a fascist. Hillary, because when we collectively decided to vote for her instead of Bernie, we did so knowing full-well that she polled poorly against Trump… knowing full well that Bernie had a better chance to beat him.

The sub-prime mortgage crisis could have taught us something about risky bets on traditional norms — but it didn’t. We have all hedged our bets assuming that there could be no way in hell that America would be racist or stupid enough to give Trump the nomination. Now, we make bets based on a Hail Mary toss that he won’t be elected president. Instead of washing the DNC, the RNC, Capitol Hill, and the entire political machine of the latent, obvious, not even thinly veiled institutionalized corruption that defines it, we picked a Yes-Man (Woman) who could not be more emblematic of the cancer that American politics has become. Either way, I fear for the worst.

The writing is on the wall. The train is headed for the cliff. We can all see the edge we’re approaching. We say “well, maybe if we start turning left, we’ll be able to reroute”. But then, we remember what we were all here for in the first place… Pokemon. And the train rumbles on.