“Our emerging post-privacy order isn’t quite totalitarian, but it’s getting there,” writes Ross Douthat in his latest Sunday column. For years, the Left has been shifting from a theory of justice rooted in the public/private divide to a theory of justice rooted in the divide between what’s in the realm of officialdom and what’s outside it.
Some of us have been tracking that shift from the beginning, or close to it.
Ross reflects that, today, “Western order in the internet age might be usefully described as a ‘liberalism with some police-state characteristics.’ Those characteristics are shaped and limited by our political heritage of rights and individualism. But there is still plainly an authoritarian edge, a gentle ‘pink police state’ aspect, to the new world that online life creates. And what’s striking is how easily we have come to tolerate it.”
Those playing the home game will recall that I coined the “pink police state” concept just over a decade ago, having ruminated for ten years before that on the uncanny message Marilyn Manson seemed to have sent from the future in his splashy 1998 video for the Grammy-winning song “The Dope Show,” the lead single off his prophetic Mechanical Animals LP:
In September 1998, Marilyn Manson, who was then the most dangerous and threatening person in pop music, released his most high-profile album, entitled Mechanical Animals. The video for its lead single, a Grammy-nominated song called “The Dope Show,” teasingly featured an image of riot police, dressed head to toe in pink, drawing one another close in an amorous embrace….
Today, indeed, we confront a transformation in the regulatory state so profound as to indicate a change at the regime level. Today, our regulatory state does not simply promulgate the kind of docile “soft despotism” Tocqueville feared, or blanket the human passions with the kind of bureaucratic uniformity Nietzsche derided as the “coldest of cold monsters.” Instead, as we still struggle to accept, it is aggressively intervening in the intimate details of everyday life as a friend to some kinds of civil liberties but an enemy of others….
Rather than stamping out hedonistic pursuits and pleasure-centered living, 1984 style, the new statism creates a “safe” space for their “healthy” experience. Yet, rather than expanding the project limitlessly, Brave New World style, so as to make all pleasure official, the new statism tacitly acknowledges that our most potent appetites can never be fully domesticated, even with all the tools of force, surveillance, and coercion at the government’s disposal….
In “The Dope Show,” Manson made overt the latently sexual and violent tension between those two realms. “Cops and queers make good-looking models,” he croaked.
For the past twenty years, the concepts or archetypes of copness and queerness have developed a symbiotic relationship as twin secular gods in a new post-political secular theology. No longer are authoritarianism and transgressivism enemies or opposites, but rather mutually dependent forms of mastery: one bloodlessly technological, the other primally occult.
Had my book on democracy in America, where I developed these themes further, come out this year, I might have been able to take advantage of the current craze for 1999 retrospectives to emphasize that The Matrix teaches us the same lesson: it is both an allegory for the realization of trans identity and a master mythos for gnostic terrorism in a digital age. Reflecting on this symbiosis ought to awaken us to what is really confronting us regime-wise today—and what will continue to pose the urgent, defining question of our age.
In fact, the pink police state aspect of the regime change being thrust on us now is not at all a gentle one. Our technocrats today intend to perfect the long-held progressive goal of mastering people by mastering material science. To be granted this power, they gladly bow at the altar of the woke gods and accept its establishment as our official religion.
Their new fusionism is simple: by uploading woke gnosticism to the internet, our invisible robot masters will rule us instant by instant with a perfection beyond even the best of human experts. The posthumanity at the heart of woke religion and technology that enables the nonliving to rule the living merge into a politics of the anti-human, and the will to power becomes the ultimate science of “emergence.” Many of its priests and prophets say with a straight face, which is simultaneously a rictus grin, that they are the partisans of equality, ensuring you your due measure. Yet in truth they are at war with the naturally human creature, and strain to strip us forever of our political nature.
For years it has been important to me to stick as much as possible to simply analyzing the new techno-gnostic regime trying to assert mastery over us, and avoid opportunistically rushing a “politicized” judgment to the hot-takes market.
But the time has come to stop hanging back.
Millions of Americans are now frightened every day by the effects of the monstrous new future they see popping up everywhere, half-hidden deep in the shadow it casts on our present. It is scary to come to grips with how much the partisans of the new regime see being human as bad news—as something to be avenged. But it must be done.
For soon we will have the technology to destroy our humanity, our identity, our natural individuality. To stop others before they come into being. Before they can even be imagined. What will stop us from embracing this alien invasion of demiurges and daemons? Entities neither alive nor dead, God nor human? If your political life and thought isn’t framed around these questions, there’s still time to fix that. But not much.
The power nexus of identity politics and tech transhumanism, of woke religion and woke capital, must be broken and defeated: in academia, in media, in tech, in finance, in entertainment, in the corporations and the bureaucracies—in every cell of the commissars that has colonized the interpretive-industrial complex. Blessedly, digital itself is doing some of this work for us, disenchanting the rule of the imaginary and fantasy almost faster than our televisual elites with their Aquarian cults can escape. But the technocrats are working against us, and their bots know no gods or masters.
Whatever the rhetoric, in reality the power nexus opposes human justice, because it opposes human politics—and human nature itself. Therefore America, the place where the human politics of justice was enshrined in a founding political philosophy based on a grasp of human nature, is a unique stumbling block—an obstacle that must be radically transformed, and not at all gently, away.
Many Americans hungry to reclaim and assert their human agency are in search of the context that can finally explain what is happening to us today politically. This is it.