On a Saturday night in Central London three people drove a van into a group of pedestrians on London Bridge in what would be Britain’s third terror attack of the year. After the van crashed, its occupants got out and began stabbing people on a murder spree that left at least eight dead, ending with the sound of gunfire through some of the city’s more gentrified spaces.
My Facebook feed soon became filled with emotional solidarity to the British capital, new pledges for internment camps and those marked thankfully safe. I do not participate and so no one knows how I feel or where I am.
That answer is never a popular one.
On a Saturday night another tragedy occurred in the world, resulting in the deaths of people that will gain more attention than any of those who have died in the Middle East since American intervention, or in any number of car crashes globally. This tragedy is more significant because it provides the illusion of chaos through media, in order for governments and corporations to exert more control over you.
It starts with basic storytelling.
You are presented with a villain that you should fear, this could be an immigrant, or a Trump supporter, perhaps HIV and any sexual activity, but in this case, it’s ISIS. They are bad, which means that you, and all those who position themselves against them, are inevitably good, and in destroying another’s humanity, we are given a superficial sense of understanding who we are. We are not Them.
Freedom of speech is a right until it clashes with your own and this attitude is amplified by the powerful players that ensure we remain on one side or the other. We have been placed in these Filter Bubbles, devoid of all morality and critical thought, and it is a position we remain stuck in because our spaces for communication are hijacked and broken.
Yet Donald Trump’s victory, a vote for Brexit and populism surging in the West have made it easier to see this slow theft of meaning and Xeroxing of ideas now defining our humanity.
America may have elected a megalomaniac bent on rights for no one, but this terror consumed via satellite points us to a deeper insincerity long established – Justin Trudeau marching in Pride while Canada sells arms to Saudi Arabia is just one example.
A greater threat remains.
We are told that ISIS is winning the war of social media, encryption is bad and online forums allow this demonic ideology to spread, but it is with the regulation aimed at stopping this that our current state of being is encouraged to continue. Our loss of identity becomes amplified by Selfies and automated Likes and Memories.
Online communities were meant to offer an escape from the status quo, freedom to educate, build and create. But the corporatisation of these spaces have peeled back our individuality and filled it with vapid pulp that we eat, digest and, more importantly, create ourselves.
Since 2006 I have been an unsuccessful Reality TV star, with no holiday or pay, giving myself to these companies that control the spaces in which I live and am encouraged to be me. I tell them who I am until they are the ones telling me and I am stuck, with no way out, trying to remember who I was before 2006.
The fact that you cannot retain your raw data from Facebook should be viewed as a human rights violation. Selling this raw data, without your knowledge, should be tried as a terror crime against the governments and corporations that are currently participating in such fascism. Your data is you and no one should touch you without your consent.
But we pay no attention because there’s been a terror attack, we are happy and not Them, unless you’ve been caught and imprisoned, finding this narrative suddenly flipped on its head.
Now is the time to wake up.
I first met Truth Champion at Sotheby's in Central London, nowhere near where the third terror attack occurred – Mayfair is no soft target.
I had been there once a couple years before to interview a Russian artist about bringing contemporary works from Moscow to sell in London. We spoke for three hours, ate gorgeous pastries, and soon, I had fallen in love.
Truth Champion was a cultural critic who I would not fall in love with. Critiquing culture seemed both pompous and lazy, and I was more of a solution driven idealist big on empathy and self-righteousness.
But Truth Champion was familiar with the work of a group called Desearch Repartment, who I was interested in, because they were exploring identity founded in our digital spaces and I was equally sure that they were some kind of cult.
When I saw what Truth Champion walked in wearing I immediately regretted my decision to show up.
TC: It’s called creative fascism, darling.
CC: That outfit is destroying fond memories of this café.
TC: What about?
CC: About art overcoming adversity.
TC: Sounds like a Pepsi commercial.
CC: Well then Pepsi owes me money, which is not why we’re here. Tell more more about Desearch Repartment. I read your piece about the new Facebook they’re creating.
TC: If Facebook is the United States of online citizenry, then the State of Exceptional Webnation would be the neoliberal ISIS.
CC: Right. The future of social media. I signed up. I liked how my identity is anonymous and I felt more in control of the content that I was producing. Maybe a system like this is a way forward in the true democratisation of data.
TC: That’s a bit way off.
CC: Excuse me?
TC: What the State of Exceptional really does is make all users slaves to the State with corporate sponsorship and complete loss of control of identity, encouraging self-surveillance and the trade of your personal data.
CC: So it is Facebook and like Facebook it comes with that smokescreen of trust through superficiality.
TC: But you’ll eventually become a hologram. Your data will be imprisoned in a nanobot, inside your clone, your DNA archive.
CC: Desearch Repartment are terrorists then.
TC: We already have to perform at this kind of durational extent in order to make ourselves into brand products to create capital for corporations. We do this constantly in order to survive neoliberal capitalism.
CC: Desearch Repartment thinks neoliberal capitalists are the terrorists.
TC: They think neoliberal capitalism is in direct conflict to what democracy is and that we have no say in the structures that define it. Did you get a vote in Facebook?
TC: Me neither. You should try a Desearch Repartment YAGA class. It will make you more, let’s say, acclimatised. More disciplined. And yet flexible.
CC: It looks like yoga. I smoke cigarettes and date sociopaths: I don’t do things that are good for me.
TC: But it will help you understand your true potential under Neo-Lived Realism. It really will!
CC: You mean my potential to drink the Kool-Aid and live as a Desearch Repartment superfan like you?
TC: Your potential to be a terrorist.
CC: Or a prisoner.
TC: Exactly! The poses you hold in your YAGA class are the poses that they hold in Guantanamo Bay. It’s like one day you’re doing yoga and then, bam, the next you’re in prison.
CC: Am I an extremist?
TC: That depends who's in control and whether or not you’re being a good nanobot creating capital.
CC: I just want to be happy.
TC: That should not be your goal. You are fuelling neoliberal capitalism, which is to cut off ethics, morals and community, even having any philosophical thought. You’d be better off being depressed.
CC: I’m already depressed, so what comes next?
TC: Think fast, die less.