Adam Curtis And Reality Control
I review the new Adam Curtis documentary, HyperNormalisation, about reasons for the breakdown of collective reality and the problems this has caused.
I’m back in Bihar this week. I discuss why Donald Trump is a “big fan of Hindu” and why donating to the GOP after the North Carolina arson attack won’t save American democracy.
This week from Mumbai! Where the press sells magic conch sheels and covers fashion trends among right-wing street thugs.
Some missing context on the story I read about the new RSS uniforms—a court ruled that the old uniforms made the paramilitaries look too much like real police officers
The presidential candidates have infiltrated the collective unconscious. Corey interprets the great plague of political dreams.
I started a podcast and that now, after three episodes, the podcast is available in the iTunes store. This means more people will be able to find it than those of you who happened to catch me posting about it on social media. Which, given my new time zone, is I-don’t-know-how-many people.
The current format is basically me talking for twenty to thirty minutes, mixed with clips from elsewhere when the internet works well enough for me to find them. I read a little news and a little relevant history and interject where it feels right with my opinion. Simple. I miss BSing with my friends about the news over drinks and this is the best I can do to approximate that experience in a place where alcohol is outlawed and my friends are far away.
The podcast is called News from Nowhere. It may not appear in the actual iTunes search results for a few days, but you can always find it in these places:
There is and will continue to be plenty of crossover between this podcast and whatever I happen to be writing about.
The first episode dovetails with my latest Baffler column on conspiracy theories and the 2016 elections. It’s a longer-than-usual read so make sure you’re sitting down before you start. Given the powerful mind-altering nature of some of the material I cover, you may want to ensure that you have chemical assistance in hand.
I quote passages like this from one of Donald Trump’s favorite news broadcasters, Alex Jones:
Most of these old men you see at Bilderberg, there’s a reason they’re all whacked out of their minds—they’re taking DMT [dimethyltryptamine, a powerful hallucinogen] . . . They were jackin’ DMT seventy years ago. They were injecting it. They were in special tanks . . . It’s so hardcore people won’t even believe it. But that’s the stuff I never get in to because you’re not ready for it.
The globalists don’t believe in Satanism, they believe they’re contacting inter-dimensional aliens through the drug use and through the electronic interface . . . They believe they’re in contact with these entities . . . and the entities are telling them,
‘eternal life, total power, total control, everything you could ever want, just kill everyone, set up a world government, build this design we’re telling you, build what we’re telling you, build this, build this, let us through, build the Hadron Collider, open the dimensions, let us in, we’re gonna really help you, WE’RE FRIENDLY LITTLE GUYS! DEMONS? ALIENS? DON’T EXIST? I DON’T KNOW!
I only cover what I can prove.
The transcript doesn’t quite do justice to Jones’ deilvery. That’s what the podcast is for. Subscribe and tell your friends and click all of the shiny buttons on the iTunes page! Thanks.
This episode contrasts one jock hero, Colin Kaepernick, and one recently outed-as-nefarious nerd, Palmer Luckey, a Facebook executive and founder of Oculus VR.
I noticed only after mixing and uploading the episode that I mistakenly said “pledge of allegiance” instead of “national anthem” when discussing Kaepernick’s protest. I do realize there’s a difference and if you nag me about it I may invite you to work for free as my sound editor and production intern.
Apocalypse, coup d’etat or four more years of mulligans and ineptitude? The most likely outcomes of a Trump presidency considered.
Hi from Bihar! This inaugural episode considers the role of conspiracy theories in the 2016 US presidential elections, with special guest appearances by Alex Jones, Donald Trump, the John Birch Society and an assortment of Holocaust deniers and the politicians who pander to them, such as Green Party vice presidential candidate Ajamu Baraka.
My personal Brexit commenced last week with a move to rural India.
I’m living in a refurbished 1960s hotel compound in Bihar, one of the poorest states in India, and the most prone to flooding. Flying in to Patna airport, what my brain first registered as a large expanse of sand was actually the silty brown water of the overflowing Ganges. The town I’ve moved to, Rajgir, is on somewhat higher ground and abuts some striking mesa-like mountains dotted with caves where the Buddha lectured. The locals have been friendly and welcoming so far and I’m sure they will be even more so once I learn some Hindi beyond “yes,” “no,” “hello” and “thanks.” Until then, I’m that guy.
Once my stomach settles I’ll get started on my backlog of journalism assignments. This year, keep an eye out for more of my Magical Thinking columns in The Baffler and some new outlets, including other national magazines and indie efforts like Ken Silverstein’s new Washington Babylon website. Next year, according to the publisher, you can expect to see my Silicon Valley book on store shelves. Lastly, I hope to take advantage of my new social and geographical isolation and see a work of fiction to completion. I have a story in mind.
There aren’t many distractions here, which should help. The internet cuts out as often as the electricity—although not on the same schedule—and alcohol has been banned by the state government. But don’t let that put you off from a visit, especially if you already happen to be traveling in the region. Give me a heads-up and I will give you a short list of items I require.
If you won’t visit, at least sign up for my mailing list.
My American friends are still confused about Brexit and what it means, and my British neighbors, with a few notable exceptions, are in despair.
First thing this morning, I wrote a Leave lament, which ran in The Baffler. An excerpt:
Economists have predicted recession for post-Brexit Britain, but I get paid in US dollars, and the immediate consequence of the Leave victory was for the Great British Pound to fall to a thirty-year low. When I went to bed, the tenner on my dining table was worth $15. When I woke up, it was worth $12. Thus Farage effectively bought my next pint. If I had the chance, though, I’d throw it in his face.
Although the near-term consequences of Leave’s victory may accrue in my favor, I would happily trade my Brexit bonus for a world in which this noxious and disastrous referendum never took place. Do not be misled by the muddled centrist or leftish arguments that favored secessionism: this vote is a victory for the reactionary right and a bad omen for the world in the years to come.
Please read the whole thing, it’s fairly short.
I’ve also come across some smart reaction pieces amid the usual flood of nonsense while obsessively scouring the news today. Here are a few:
Dawn Foster in The Nation:
The EU referendum became a conduit for anger on many issues: immigration, economic inequalities, London’s disproportionate economic boom, and disenfranchisement by an aloof political elite, an elite that after the vote appears shaken.
David Dayen in Prospect magazine:
The post-World War II social order has failed too many, and people are desperate for an alternative. As much as the toxicity of right-wing populism is driving this disruption, ultimately the blame must be laid at the feet of those who bungled the European project so completely.
Felix Salmon at Fusion:
The Brexit referendum—the referendum that sealed the fate of an entire continent—should never have happened in the first place. But even though the decision to call the referendum was truly idiotic, the responsibility for the outcome still rests on the shoulders of the British people—and, specifically, of the English people.
Fintan O’Toole in the Irish Times:
The country that prides itself on sober moderation has made one of the most impulsive moves ever undertaken in a developed democracy. The stiff upper lips have parted and released a wild and inarticulate cry of rage and triumph.
Make no mistake: this is an English nationalist revolution.
I agree with all of these writers’ points, at least in part. I’ll keep an eye out for other worthy articles and update this list when I find them.
Wolfgang Münchau in the Financial Times:
While I continue to believe that the case for European integration is overwhelming, I have to accept that this case was simply not made in the campaign. …
David Cameron was elected Conservative leader after giving a Eurosceptic speech to a Tory party conference. If you are a genuine supporter of EU integration, you do not need enemies with friends like these. This was not really a contest between Leave and Remain. It was a choice between two variants of Euroscepticism.
Ed Caesar in the New Yorker (reporting from the memorial service for the assassinated Remain campaigner and Labour MP Jo Cox):
At the Batley Conservative Club, a vast and formerly grand establishment at odds with its dwindling clientele of mostly old, white men, two members, named Darren and Stuart (they declined to offer their surnames), sat at the bar discussing how they had both voted Leave. Darren knew Jo Cox from school and said she was “a lovely lass.” But both men spoke repeatedly about how they had been let down by politicians, particularly on the issue of immigration. Their complaint did not just concern the recent migrants from the E.U. but the older Muslim residents of Batley. Darren put his wish to leave the E.U. partly down to “the change in the town and the feeling in the town. There are certain people who don’t integrate.” Stuart said that “it’s a sad thing what happened last week,” but added, “We just want our country back.”
Nadine El-Enany on “Brexit as Nostalgia for Empire“:
The racist discourse that has defined the Brexit campaign must be understood in the context of Britain’s imperial legacy. The terms on which the debate around the referendum have taken place are symptomatic of a Britain struggling to conceive of its place in the world post-Empire. …
Being faced with a choice between between David Cameron and Nigel Farage is a nightmare scenario for any anti-racist and anti-capitalist. With the debate on the referendum eclipsed by the topic of migration, it is no surprise Cameron is struggling to hold the fort having spent the last five years peddling the lie that migrants are to blame for society’s ills rather than his government of millionaires and their penchant for cuts to vital public services.
Stephen Marche in Esquire:
But Brexit itself was not inevitable, despite the national trait of a suspicion of foreigners. Britain, so far from being a model of xenophobia, was one of history’s models for incorporating difference into a single political unity. The United Kingdom had kept peoples with different cultures, even with different languages, gathered around a common purpose. It has been the foremost proponent of the freedom of trade for most of its history, and it has created the world’s most cosmopolitan city. That is exactly what is so terrifying this morning. The nativist nightmare has come to roost in the country at the heart of the modern world order. If it could happen there, if it could happen in London, it could happen anywhere.