Premised on a sense of Authority and Seriousness

Thursday, February 15th, 2018

In the conflict between the “Blue Church” (of the televised Mainstream Media) and the digital Insurgency, there are deep forces shifting:

Attention is attention. By means of direct digital communications, the Insurgency has largely controlled the attention of legacy media (and by proxy the attention of its entire audience). Consider the infamous “covfefe” post of May. Within hours of the post, nearly the entirety of the English-speaking broadcast media was giving its attention to the Insurgency. And while the Blue Church’s conscious evaluation of the event might have been to deride the President as an incompetent, it is the unconscious meaning that matters: they gave him their attention en masse and almost for free. Over and over again in 2017, we saw this dynamic play out. If we think of attention as the primary resource of narrative creation, what we are witnessing is the increasing capacity of the decentralized, digital, interactive media to control the legacy broadcast media’s access and use this resource. Rather than standing as a competitive peer to Digital, Television is slowly becoming an organ and resource of Digital.

It is Kayfabe all the way down. The power of the Blue Church is premised on a sense of Authority and Seriousness. By pushing the entire conversation into the realm of the absurd (“really Fake News”), the Insurgency robs the Church of its simulacrum of legitimacy. If it is all just a game designed to manipulate your emotions and grab and hold your attention (say for advertising bucks or for political points), then pretenses of Authority and Seriousness are just that: pretenses. 4chan in particular has been playing with this game effectively in the past year — successfully causing the Blue Church to attend with Seriousness the notions that milk, the OK hand sign and a cartoon frog are deep symbols of a Serious alt-right conspiracy. Note — if what I just said here feels shocking, alarming or wrong, this would be a very good point to slow down and consider the frame that I am trying to examine. I am not, for example, saying that there isn’t an alt-right, nor that Pepe the Frog isn’t associated with the alt-right. What I am saying is that if you think Pepe the Frog is the symbol of the alt-right and that the alt-right exists as an ideology in the same way that symbols and ideologies worked under the 20th Century models of Broadcast media (e.g., like Uncle Sam and America or the Swastika and Nazism), then you are missing something unspeakably important. For the Insurgency, what matters is not the symbol or the ideology; what matters is who produces symbols and ideologies and how they hold them. To assume and rely on some Authority to produce them and to take them Seriously is always already to be playing the Blue Church game. Within the Insurgency, the shibboleth is style, not content; disposition, not ideology.

Velocity, velocity, velocity. The Blue Church is like a Battleship. Very slow moving and able to focus its efforts on only a very narrow set of targets. If you stand around long enough to get punched, it can still land some heavy blows. But if the conditions of the ground are changing faster than the Blue Church can Observe, Orient, Decide and Act, it is constantly caught flat footed and swinging at the wrong targets.The Insurgency, by contrast, is more like a swarm of Slaughterbots (go ahead and watch that video, it is a very good use of seven minutes): a whole lot of small pieces that can coordinate into a big punch when necessary but more often flow around the landscape taking opportunities when they arise. In this context, velocity is key. If you have been feeling disoriented by the pace and seeming complete disjunction of events in 2017, you are not alone. This is the point: the entire Blue Church approach to collective sensemaking and action requires a particular velocity of change. By moving the entire landscape into a much higher pace, the Insurgency is making it impossible for the Blue Church collective intelligence to maintain effective coherence.


  1. Anomaly UK says:

    Second quoted para has first sentence or two duplicated

  2. Isegoria says:

    Thanks, Anomaly UK. It should be fixed now.

  3. Gaikokumaniakku says:

    It took me about two minutes before I even stopped to consider that the slaughterbots video might be satire. The tipoff was the use of white-skinned “bad guys” at 1 minute and 52 seconds.

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