Is anybody else tired? I certainly am.
Following the threat to democracy, the ‘coup’, the backlash of populism (and any other over inflated name you want to give it) in the United States on Wednesday, all I have seen online so far are personal hot takes. These have mainly been poor interpretations of what was clearly a bunch of losers, to steal an insult from Trump, being allowed to storm the Capitol building by the police. However, with endless comparisons with Black Lives Matter (we know the US state apparatus is racist, although it is a good point to make), the blaming of fake news, the counterarguments that these people are not ‘anarchists’, or that they were Antifa in disguise trying to hide their true intentions by dressing up as trump supporters (really if someone is stupid enough to believe this, then is it even worth typing to argue the point), and with all of this is anybody else burnt out?
Not to say I don’t agree with most of these arguments, but the internet is violent in its approach. Often, we have to talk about violence as in harming somebody physically, or less often in how we behave towards someone else. Byung-Chul Han argues that violence in our society has not disappeared, but merely changed its form. It has merged with freedom to form a new form of violence. He splits this new form into two: negative (aggressive and physical) and positive (over achievement, hyperactivity, over-communication and so on). He warns that this positive violence could be more destructive in the long run.
In his earlier work The Burnout Society, Han claims that subjects are no longer divided into master/slave or oppressed and oppressor, but they are one and the same. We are our own oppressors in our achievement-structured society. We force ourselves to produce, achieve and be informed, and if we don’t, then we denounce ourselves as being not worthy in the eyes of others. This in itself is a modification of violence it is self-inflicting.
It is not as simple as the fun Netflix documentaries point out that ‘we are addicted to social media’, and that ‘they are designed to hit our neurological buttons’. It is also the society of violence. Self-inflicting violence with the illusion of freedom. Feeding our desire to be informed and, in some case, outraged. It is just another way to keep the whole spectacle of society alive.
Self-care, detoxing or deleting social media are one individual reformist argument. They may give temporary relief from the egotist hot takes of social media, but it will not change the structure, and the ethics of how we live. What is more, the increase in opinion articles speaking as fact rather than opinion, and how we receive such articles also needs to be addressed.
It’s a work in progress, this train of thought. Let’s see where it goes.
I am going to read The Twittering Machine by Richard Seymour to get things a bit clearer.