Horst D. Deckert

Electronic Fog of War

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Truth, of course, is the first casualty of war. But it is also war’s objective. In the heat of battle paper tigers fold, and myths evaporate. The true strength of the combatants is examined, and the real order of power appears.

COUNTERREVOLUTION IN THE GLOBAL VILLAGE

Alongside the complexity of the geopolitical questions and the intensity of the passions that Israel’s military action in the Gaza Strip continues to provoke, the conflict also has exacerbated and exemplified, and perhaps clarified, the global metaphysical reality which extends beyond it: the post-truth reality that animates the Western mind.

Beginning with the murder of civilians in Southern Israel on October 7, the truth of every incident has been aggressively contested, regardless of the strength of evidence behind them. Across a no man’s land of information warfare, divided by the friend/enemy distinction, every fact presented by one side as decisive is rejected by the other as propaganda.

This situation itself presents a kind of fact that needs to be considered alongside other axes of analysis. We are enveloped by an electronic fog of war, chaotically combining symbols, interests, and emotions into an immersive, semi-conscious simulation. This fog today refracts the battlefield of Israel’s war in Gaza, but it precedes it, and extends beyond it, into an hallucinated future.

We are inside an interzone of ethical and intellectual ambivalence, punctuated by intermittent bursts of random violence. The long-forgotten spectacle of Kony 2012 supplies the template. For three weeks an ecstatic public shuddered at a tale of horror from the heart of darkness, and forgot about it one week later. 

Unconscious motives, massaged by cybernetic media, are the key to the spectacular reality of global conflicts. In the ghost parade of former current things, every urgent flashpoint becomes a temporary silhouette of psychic drama. The conditioned reflex of social media consumers mechanically asserting ideological or geopolitical allegiances should be submitted to the “school of suspicion” for examination. What are the psychic and commercial angles to the shadow war of Left and Right? What is the cybernetic logic of projection and apophenic paranoia? Why are certain metaphors and words and symbols chosen, and not others? What is the strategic function of conformism, and the function of transgression in the attention economy? What is the unity of the unconscious, shattered, across a billion mirrored screens?

It’s necessary to drop the liberal pantomime that still imagines politics through the prism of competing parties advocating for material interests. What exists today is a consumer simulation of that logic. With the extension of cybernetic media and its destruction of the older liberal media politics is content in a global matrix of pathology triangulated like a sex show or a multiplayer game. The current thing at any given moment is never the most salient, but the most emotionally magnetic, according to the passing mood, which changes like the weather in response to broken butterflies and solar breeze.

So-called climate change in fact refers obliquely “through a scanner darkly” to this changing cultural and social climate. What Bernard Steigler described as an “uncontrollable society of disaffected individuals” has been brought into being through the destruction of meaningful human communities and the liquidation of their concomitant intellectual and moral structures. 

Commodified dreams replace private experience. Character flattens into synthetic identity. Man no longer thinks and becomes unsure that he exists. Productions of selfies and autofictions circulate attempt to mask existential anxiety. Pseudo-communities and protest cults emerge as exhibitionist puppet shows in extended ideological universes. The ritual in which social media users photograph meals with their phones has replaced the ritual blessing characteristic of religious communities. Big data eats first. The choice of Hamas fighters on October 7 to film themselves murdering Israeli civilians is paralleled by the media strategies of internet prostitute-artists and criminal hooligan TikTok influencers to obliterate privacy for a cheapened celebrity.

Stiegler emphasizes the “immense rupture” created in the logic of the “calendrical and the cardinal” with the surgical birth of mass media and its development into computerized media. A stellar cosmology organized around natural cycles was replaced by a mass synchronization connected to ideological spectacles. The prototype was the French Revolutionary calendar, which defined a 10-day week to eliminate the sacrament of Christian Sunday. The plethora of new globalist holidays, above all for the deity Pride, is the contemporary update. Meanwhile, revolutionary iconoclasm channeled against national monuments and historical memory imposes a new cardinal landscape where heroes once stood.

The aim is to program the social environment to structure perception within a restricted psychological spectrum. The ideological schematization of politics serves the same purpose. If, over the last decade, the Left has enthusiastically supported every assault on human dignity and freedom, this consistency is not a fluke, but the attraction of the brand. Violence is the point. Ideology is secondary, if not irrelevant, except to the degree it offers targets. What calls itself the Left is a political expression of the desire to destroy, or scream, or profit from destruction. Similarly, if over the past three years, the most cynical actors across the ideological spectrum have been the ones who most consistently invoke the rhetoric of “We” and claim to represent its spokesmen the motives for this tactic aren’t hard to place.

Ideology is second-order rationality embraced to channel drives. Sloterdijk’s formula ira quaerens intellectum defines the general dynamic. Rage, resentment, or ambition locates a story which transmutes it into something else and something more. This is now exemplified by the war against Hamas in Gaza as it plays out as a festival of protest on the streets of European cities, on the campuses of zombie universities, and in the psychic sewer of online. Across all these zones the protests are identity parades seeking to express and ultimately impose a personal and social sense of self inside a non-stop city of deracination, dislocation, derealisation, and disgust. 

Any effort to establish the objective truth of incidents or claims or the relevance of historical context is misguided because the war is nothing but the shadow of the protestors themselves. No wonder the description of the conflict is disputed. Is Hamas at war with Israel or is Israel engaged in genocide against the peaceful Palestinian people? Does Hamas, or Antifa, or cancel culture, or accelerating demographic change, or crime, or race or sex or the difference between truth and lies exist, or are all these things “far-right” disinformation? The international phenomenon of individuals destroying posters of Israeli hostages demonstrates the basic logic. The truth must be suppressed in order to protect the fantasy, which also is a  weapon and a shield.

No one wants to be reminded that the enemy is also human. No doubt, denial of the suffering of civilians in Gaza arrives to the same point. But suffering is universal and irrelevant. Beyond the stories and hysteria the truth of this reality is war. Truth, of course, is the first casualty of war. But it is also war’s objective. In the heat of battle paper tigers fold, and myths evaporate. The true strength of the combatants is examined, and the real order of power appears. 

What is decisive? This question is settled through a war. If no position of neutrality today exists between the warring parties, even to the point of the description of the war, in Israel or elsewhere, this is because the imposition of the neutral is the goal. A ceasefire is pointless. One side must surrender or be beaten, or else perpetuate a pseudo-peace of self-delusion in lieu of true belief.

Why, against the protests of the state of Israel, has the BBC refused to label Hamas terrorists, and calls them militants instead? To tell this lie: “The BBC’s job is to place the facts before its audience and let them decide what they think.” Six months earlier, the broadcaster refused to grant that Elon Musk’s new Twitter could describe it as state-funded media, despite the fact the BBC is funded through taxation, and the Director General is appointed by the government. The BBC insisted it was “funded by the British public through the license fee.” This distinction with no difference defines a project to confuse. 

The real dividing line is here. There is no escape from truth, or from the fact that it means almost nothing. It is no longer possible, or never was, to establish truth as authoritative because truth does not exist in space, but in the midst of an occupied world in which the deciding factor isn’t truth but the power to impose a culture that respects it. 

The world is not a search for truth, but the reverse. The record cannot be corrected because no power is committed to the truth as such. Power possesses only expertise in using power. When the systems concentrating power are corrupted, so is the expertise they shelter. The knowledge of the powerful becomes the expertise of the seraglio, sophistic knowledge of maneuvers, masquerades, and games. At the same time, knowledge of the outside is suppressed, because it is increasingly unable to survive. Forced outside the cities, it takes to desert highways, to find refuge where it can, and waits. Welcome to 2024.

Daniel Miller is a writer, critic, and IM—1776’s literary editor.


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