William Gibson writes dystopian science fiction, where he imagines the future by closely studying the present. In his post 9/11 novel Pattern Recognition, he discovers that the present is just as weird and dystopian as any future he might imagine.
I’ve realized I do something similar in my own writing except rather than imagining a dystopian future I recognize patterns to try and make sense of our dystopian present.
The dystopian present is increasingly visible under our system of financial-monopoly-capitalism: more and more low-wage, high surveillance jobs, rentier-centric housing costs, student loan payments, and ever-escalating health care costs, which for most Americans translates into a system of unending precarity. And that’s before getting to radical climate-change. Or, as Gibson calls it, Jackpot.
With regards to climate-change, I’ve long recognized that the patterns of our political-economy would preclude meaningful action until it was too late. Neoliberalism, with an ideology that there’s no such thing as society that the market should be sacrosanct with government limited to guaranteeing contracts and providing security, almost guarantees that there won’t be any meaningful action. Furthermore, the inequality that neoliberalism engendered meant that the losses from radical climate-change would be borne disproportionately by the lower-classes, something Gibson and I both agree has always been the elite endgame.
Pattern recognition also allowed me to understand Trump’s surprise election and the elite freak-out that ensued. Recognizing the patterns of the US empire, especially since the demise of the Soviet Union, I could confidently predict the deep state’s antipathy towards Trump for his temerity to suggest better relations with Russia and an end to the normative regime-change wars. The point of Russia-gate, Ukraine-gate and the present impeachment circus was always to make it impossible for Trump to change major policy trajectories especially in foreign policy. A main issue here is the reorientation of the U.S. military complex and its NATO proxies from the war of terror towards a direct confrontation with main powers like Russia and China.
Comprehending the kayfabe that’s become our political process was possible through the process of pattern recognition. The election of Trump has only made this dynamic more obvious. For instance, the Democrats and so-called #Resistance regularly claim that Trump is a Russian-Nazi dictator, or something. (It’s kind of hard to make any historical sense of this pejorative since the Hitler and the Nazi’s fought a vicious war against the Soviet Union, but the #Resistance doesn’t strike me as particularly bright). Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that when push comes to shove on the important things, like economics and foreign policy, the Democrats are totally down with what Trump is doing, and that the opposition is selective and designed to mislead their supporters.
For instance, imagine that President Trump spent his phone call with the Ukrainian president threatening to withhold military aid unless the Ukrainian government agreed to use the money to purchase weapons from a US manufacturer. Does anyone seriously think that foreign service professionals and deep state operatives would be so shocked and offended by Trump’s request that they would launch efforts to impeach him? Would Congress view this as “high crimes and misdemeanors” or applaud Trump for carrying out one of modern presidents’ supposedly most important jobs — acting as salesmen for the American military-industrial complex?
Then, there’s the recent release of the Afghanistan Papers and their revelations by the Washington Post. What’s more shocking than the corruption revelations is the fact that the story was brought to you by the Washington Post, a neocon-centric paper owned by Jeff Bezos, that’s never met a war they didn’t love. After all, by Post’s own admission it both sought and published the Afghanistan Papers in order to take a swing at Donald Trump. According to the Post it went down this path in 2016 initially seeking documents on Michael Flynn, who was then part of the Trump campaign, after receiving a tip that he’d made some juicy statements about the war in Afghanistan to the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). They then made the decision to publish the papers now rather than waiting for its legal battle for more information to complete because Trump is currently in the midst of negotiating with the Taliban over a potential troop withdrawal.
I’m sure the fact that the Trump administration just chose Microsoft over Amazon (owned also by Jeff Bezos) for a juicy military contract had no bearing whatsoever on the decision by the Post to publish this expose now.
The curious case of warrantless spying that’s been a reality since 9/11 offers a good beginners overview of kayfabe recognition. Many Democrats who claim that President Trump is a secret Putin-spy, a fascist and completely mentally unhinged are ok-dokey with him continuing to conduct warrantless surveillance on every American. For instance, while the corporate media has been fixated on the carefully orchestrated impeachment drama that continues to monopolize headlines, Congress passed and President Trump signed into law legislation extending three key provisions of the USA Patriot Act, which had been set to expire on December 15, 2019.
Some fierce ideological struggle.
I could go on but hopefully you recognize the pattern.
What all of these examples show is a pattern of behavior that’s furthering our dystopian present and guaranteeing a dystopian future.
I don’t need science fiction to imagine it.