If the Chinese and Russian regimes are more authoritarian, the US state is more totalitarian - America is most successful at integrating its various departments and functions into a totalised system for realising itself as an environment. Whilst China and Russia are still imprisoning and assassinating opponents, the US has developed a performative system of inclusion of differences that functions as a client driven control system. The homeostasis of the US totality is maintained by its constant readjustment to the manufacture of included differences. The process of governmental metabolisation of difference via the agency of manufactured opposition (where the manufacture of consent is taken to its logical inclusion) only really becomes apparent where the system’s good guy operatives are subjected to the sort of attacks that are conventionally directed against caricature enemies as exemplified by mobilisatory popular front style ‘punch a Nazi in the face’ and ‘ACAB’ slogan-memes, first widely circulated, and then abruptly discontinued.
The ticklish matter is not that those who cleave to emancipatory ideals are not authentic, on the contrary, sincerity is a condition of employment, just as the best salesman believes in his product, the difficulty is that the recuperative moment is located elsewhere than within the problematic of commitment - the authenticity of revolt, whatever the personal level of participation, is imbued with a positive/monetary value within the system against which it is directed, and for this reason it is reproduced. And wherever the form of revolt transforms into a circulated product, the revolutionaries are dissuaded from revolting against the binary oppositions they inherit - at the most basic level, as an example, there is a structured presumption that feminism cannot be one of the names of the father. Whilst the totality is geared to orchestrate attacks on clearly designated skipping villains, the fascists, racists, misogynists, it has yet to come up with an adequate response to the antileft strategy of shaking the apparat tree to see which of its nice, good, tolerant, generous social critics fall out. The antileft approach suggests that it is only when you go after the Totality’s exemplary ‘blue tick’ revolutionaries, the allies who have adequately demonstrated their opposition to ‘oppressions’, who possess the fabled ‘free pass’ (i.e. make a paid living from their opposition to their employers) and meet the threshold for what it is to be an official opponent of the regime, that you find out how the system manufactures dissent against itself.
What was it in 2020 that induced so many sectors of the American establishment to converge upon the strategy of investing in protest politics? The question is almost too big to answer, or to put it another way, it is because there were so many inputs, a profusion of programming, persuading the state-industrial complex to head down the route that it did, an issue-policy patterning that is repeated with its response to the Covid pandemic, drug decriminalisation, and climate change, that it is this overdetermined aspect, the multiplicity of causal inputs, the confluence of pressures and tendencies upon a single output, that distinguishes the present moment from everything that went before. Significance is no longer located strategically, there is no single objective (expressed in policy of interest and the financing of policy of interest) to be realised, but rather the policy is decided structurally, and then the reason for it, the objective, is added later - both added, and added to through a proliferation of rationalisations, and investments. Why did the security apparatus commit to, and facilitate identity politics? Why did the biggest corporations invest in and sponsor identitarian protest movements, even as they looted and set fire to corporate buildings? Why did the grand families constituting the political elite take the knee as they took up the cause of identity politics? It’s bizarre, it’s outlandish and it’s unprecedented. Yes, it indicates crisis but only in the sense that the party of capital has harnessed broken window theory as a source of accumulation.
Capital has discovered the 2003 mantra, degrade, disrupt and dismantle as applied to itself constitutes the path of recomposition. The party of capital has taken a Bakuninist turn, and it is working. Camatte observed that post-war capital had realised and incorporated the project of the historic workers’ movement on the objective terrain of the community of capital, we are now living through actualised insurrectionism as a productive relation. But the answer is never singular, the reason for events always approaches the dreamwork’s navel, the event horizon. Every sector of the establishment found its own reasons for acting in 2020 as it did, and every sector had multiple justifications for the swerve it took. For the reason that ‘policy’ has entered a post-strategic state and undergone a qualitative transformation, the reason for anything undertaken by the state has become difficult to describe and much less explain: in effect, the motte-and-bailey doctrine has entered a borgesian state of infinite regress.
How extraordinary it is, how paradoxically, elegantly bizarre, and so very beautifully fascinating that the greatest project of colonisation the world has ever known is now ideologically sympathetic to anti-settler ideology - alliance to the struggle against white supremacy becomes the veritable thirst trap, the Pavlovian trigger, for a conditioned identification with the world’s most recognisable commodities. All those Portland anarchists are transformed into exemplars of HR, the rioting sandwich board. Verily, Seattle is the locale where la poésie est dans la rue touched asphalt as taglines are in the street. Every revolt, whether it is constituted as violence, diversity, intelligence, divergence, deviance or flight is incorporated at the level of its compatibility with the apparatus of circulation, and contrariwise, a veritable Catch 22, only that which cannot be circulated (that is, the most unpopular and incommunicable of forms) continue to resist the totality. If it can be communicated it is within the state; if it resists the state, it cannot be communicated.
If we consider just one example here, we can observe in action what I have elsewhere described as niche opportunism, and also briefly consider how current operations indicate a step change in the modus operandi of social control. At a certain level everyone already knows that images are always separated from what they represent - every image can be put to use strategically by careful editing to elicit and displace affective responses onto other objects. The use of images of ‘resistance’ and the feelings generated by them severing as a path into collusion with fragments of the state is a remarkable and long established technique, the function of the provocateur (now also called ‘thirst trap’) is often acknowledged but rarely identified because, put very simply, we are predisposed to desire that the semblance of what is good really does express what is good; we do not want to think that the image of someone bravely standing up for justice and what is right, might also be circulated as a Trojan ruse for inducing acquiescence to what is craven and unjust. I borrowed the notion of niche opportunism (I cannot now remember where I borrowed it from) to describe adaptive behaviours triggered by environmental transformations which could not be otherwise attributed to design, strategy or intent. The idea supposed that subject formations no longer sought to realise (modify) their environment in accord with their desires - the capital resources had dried up and all capital-heavy investments were productive of unforeseen consequences and crippling unexpected costs which rivals could swoop in on and exploit (communications infrastructure such as broad band cellular network technology and fibre optic cabling are obvious examples).
At a certain moment, modern states gave up on the idea of making history and instead allowed history to make itself which the states would then affirm, seek to adapt to, and exploit to the best of their abilities - whilst at one level, the post-strategy position really is just another iteration of Renaissance city-state constrained pre-strategic realpolitik, the situation is irrevocably shifted historically. Fortuna is converging with the singularity, and this, beyond the exigencies of a surface level machiavellianism, has radically transformed the role of princes. The modern prince subsists in the shadow of the greater power, waiting for it to enter a state of crisis, and when this inevitably comes to pass, the prince expands his forces to occupy his moment in the sun, utilising for capital the moment itself, the opportunity itself. In the natural world, very small birds and fish dwell in the vicinity of top predators for which the small animals do not meet the threshold of prey items; the small animals gain a level of protection from attacks by mid-level predators whilst performing services to the king predator (both feeding on their parasites, and attracting mid-level predators into the jaws of their protector). The flock of images of justice and emancipation which routinely circulates within the apparat, taking flight in crisis, serves a grooming function performed by small animals not worth devouring. Amongst certain sections of the left, niche opportunism is theorised as communisation where the revolution and the new society, on the basis of the principle, ‘nature abhors a void’, operate inseparably and immediately - the movement is powered by the moment, the moment is powered by the movement and both are powered by an objective tilt of conditions. In all versions of niche opportunism, the strategic element, the transitional phase (where policy is formulated for the realisation by agency) has become operationally redundant.
The recent example that perhaps best illustrates the niche opportunist mechanism, and best demonstrates the ultimately inscrutable character of its overdetermined products, are the recruitment videos published by different departments within the US security apparatus. The videos variously show individuals belonging to one or more marginalised and minority grouping categorised by sexuality, gender, race, ethnicity and ‘neurology’. The video narratives show how those who were once outsiders can now be included as authentic soldiers for the state in its phase of post-imperial teleoplexic realisation as the city set on a hill. But what do these inclusionist narratives really say about the post-Trump strategy of the security apparatus? That it is in ecstasy? That the control society has entered the moment of its apotheosis, and incorporated every fragmented scroll into its Logos? I can imagine five strategems within the dreamwork which might indicate that the idea-limits of both over-determination and the dream’s navel are now exceeded - there is a mining in the mining, not just in the spoil heap but in the process of mining itself:
The first strategem, Shakespearean perhaps, is that such inclusion indicates a sort of promotion sideways of the rainbow movement of useful fools who did such good work undermining the Trump narrative of parochial isolationism. Public recognition and acknowledgement of the heroic role of oppressed minorities is also a sort of disengagement from them, a variant (in the age where Prince Hal has become his own Falstaff) of I know thee not old man which is neutralised into a soft blocking, I see you baby shakin' that ass. Pride communities are transformed into totemic icons of acknowledged victimhood, whilst official recognition of their previously hidden contributions functions as a readymade casus belli for every operation of the drone corps. It is easy to imagine that members of these minorities will be assigned back office duties but it is more likely that they will be sent into crowd control and population subjugation operations - whoever fights against them reveals their hatred of difference. What else says ‘we are not Hamas’ better than the dancing, cat-eared ‘hot’ IDF girl?
A second stratagem built into the apparat’s inclusionist videos might suggest that although these are intended for consumption on the domestic market they are not recruitment tools at all but are intended as ideological bridges between psychologically profiled individual types and security forces. The types of individual identified and recognised are classified by their googled sense of personal vulnerability, their ressentiment, their sense of justification in deplatforming, doxing and denouncing, their Milgram-path into repressive desublimation, their nascent receptivity to totalitarian drives. Their browsing history suggests their latent responsiveness to high profile security apparatus promises to defend all inclusive ‘lifestyles’. The videos rationalise the necessity of becoming an informant in the fight against fascism - everyone against fascism can do their bit for the alliance, whilst at the same time everyone else, identified through their internet searches and cultural proclivities are revealed as potential Trump supporters.
The isolated individual conditioned to identify with communities extracted algorithmically through search terms and equally conditioned to be wary of the threat posed by others in their actual physical locality are also more emotionally susceptible to the apparat’s propagandised obligation to defend the substance of their abstract category-based identities. In other words, these recruitment videos are not recruitment videos at all but mere propaganda videos for home consumption by targeted demographics (not necessarily those identifying as belonging to the Pride communities), just as in previous eras the security state deployed emblematic images of happy families to elicit affectionate feelings in individuals (even if they were not a member of a happy family) for that which might be lost if the status quo were ever to change. The subject’s conservative impulse, to stick and not twist, to defend what exists and what has already been won, is easily manipulated into making justifications for the cause of emergency measures, as the left’s ‘cheerleading’ of the state’s ‘listen to the science’ response to the Covid pandemic has amply demonstrated.
A third stratagem suggests that the recruitment videos only pretend to be targeted at a domestic audience, whilst the real targets are members belonging to minorities working in the security apparatus of rival regimes. There has been a lot of discussion comparing the American’s ‘pansy’ military videos with equivalent Russian ‘macho’ videos. It is suggested, wrongly, that the comparison proves American cultural decadence. On the contrary, it is well established that an image may have a function very different, in fact in no way related, to the represented subject matter - this is the stuff of Three Day’s of the Condor. The third hypothesis suggests that it is possible that, for whatever reason, the recruitment videos are directed at members of opposing forces, perhaps for the reason of persuading them of America’s harmlessness, where the video functions as a sort of paratrepsis or distraction display. Alternatively, the videos might also function as a recruitment tool for potential double agents, perhaps they are directed (as virtual honey traps) at closeted members of enemy security forces and are intended as a stratagem for inducing identification and ‘solidarity’ with America’s progressive cause that moves in line with their disaffection from the ‘repressive’ character of their own nation. If this is the case, the US apparat may intend to simply recruit enemies or, more efficiently, once their sympathies have drawn them into the trap, they become, as in the old days, highly vulnerable to blackmail under the threat of exposure. A recruited gay operative in Iran will prove highly cooperative.
The fourth stratagem would replicate the arguments of the third but in this version, the videos are directed at the general populations of foreign countries, or more precisely, the repressed minorities within such countries. If sizeable ethnic and queer minorities at the level of particular market entities within Iran, China and Russia could be persuaded to identify with, and act in the interest of, American capital, buying into specific (the water drinking Ronaldo proving the exception) iconic commodities, on the grounds of progressivism and inclusivity, then that in itself would demonstrate sufficient justification for the form taken by the video subject matter - there’s a home for us is still a resonant, throat catching, formulation of hope.
The fifth, and last conceivable stratagem would present Itself speculatively, let’s do anything. An operation can be severed from a specific objective, it can function precisely at the level of pure operability, and as it becomes real and begins to generate outcomes, the agency can monitor the links, clicks and retweets, collate the conspiracy theories, and then perhaps integrate the best of them after the fact as the true purpose in making the intervention in the first place. The number of ‘file under miscellaneous’ state instigated events intentionally severed from all rational meaning seems to be spiralling, as signalled by the recent opening of the UFO floodgates, and which appears to operate something like cloud seeding - at the level of operational objective, any form of outcome-precipitation registers as a win, the more un-modelled the outcome, the better the agency likes it. Fucking stuff up and shit happens has always played a strategic function, sowing confusion, interruption of normality by inexplicable occurrences, and misdirections deployed to bury bad news, all these are basic manoeuvres in spy versus spy. But the turn towards post-strategy where techniques once used against enemies are now deployed on home territory as a sort of therapeutic stimulant is another level.
The perversity of recent governmental politics, indicating a transformed teleoplexic relation within the executive’s relation to the processes of power, and seems to reveal an eager readiness to resort to a form of occult incantation, or attack sorcery, wherein the experimentally unknown is actively sought out for its own sake: unknown events are manufactured by unknown agents for unknown reasons so as to produce unknown outcomes - incantatory investments of speculative capital are re-directed towards fictive outcomes, which are thereby summoned into the world, all that is air solidifies into matter. The return post-strategically to that inadvertantly acknowledged central plank of neo-conservatism, the ‘unknown unknowns’, as a form of open-ended, open handed policy, that is rebuilt around the traumatic kernel of willed social dislocation, appears to indicate the beginning of the end of the era of instrumentalising rationality, the sine qua non of bourgeois governmentality. From the perspective of the party of capital, everything and anything can be hooked up to an income stream. Spies too, as entrepreneurs of the unexpected, can make anything happen: if they plug an object chosen at random into a seeded or tilted stochastic network, then link it to a Patreon, Substack and/or Onlyfans account, it will begin to operate as an attractor basin, even if only to bots, and start generating revenue as long as the tilting of the host environment is maintained in steady state - Alicia, 17, makes £10,000 a day on TikTok lip-syncing to Katy Perry songs.