I don’t know why I’m even writing to you this week. Your brain is probably mush. The news feed is laced with stimulants and soporifics. Hell is empty, and all the disinformation is here.

The week’s news is salt and fat for your brain. Sure, it might look important now. It might even make history books. But it’s contingent. The things happening in government are just the particular way the mold has fruited. The rot has been growing for a long time.

Blink away the cobwebs. The decisions of the upper class are not made live on C-SPAN. The “intelligence community” don’t love a whistleblower. Bluecheck journalists are just as addicted to internet arguments as you are. That doesn’t mean they’re right.

Social media and 24-hour news are entertainment, not power. How many hours did you watch today? Which American idol are you rooting for? How

Behind the viscous skin of this screen, millions of bots chatter in dissonant union. But their idiot ranting is not random. There are layers of lies, each iterated in a million forms and amplified through shares and forwards. Every circle draws you deeper, invites you into a new unreality.

You can’t change anything in this realm. The infernal swarms will probe at the surface of your mind, seeking a soft spot to set their spores. The longer you look, the more likely that one will find its way in.

Transgression is the hook. The account says something unthinkable. It tunnels into the terrain of your thought. The repugnant outsider breaks the symmetry of your worldview, forces your attention. The very existence of this alien thought in your brain implies a whole world of ugliness that it calls home. It shambles forth into your brain, scattering spores, and leaves a rift in your world through which you cannot help but peek. And if you step through, you may never be the same.

Sometimes the delusion comes wrapped in a Trojan gift horse. Sometimes it’s delivered through sheer repetition, hordes of vapid assertions that overwhelm your rational defenses. Always it seeks to spread. It wants to put you to work.

You can banish these poison thoughts, but eventually one will irrupt into your mind. The abyss gazes upon you, and it is the hardest thing in the world not to look back.

Not all of these demons are bots. Many are trolls: students and kids and retirees who need a quick buck. And it’s not just Russia. If the USA and UK don’t have giant bot farms, it’s only because they do their ops on a better platform. Think “paper of record”.

The danger of the delusion is that it makes a troll of you. A sixth of Tweeter accounts are fakes. But how many real people are acting like bots? Are you an unpaid troll, spreading disinformation, unleashing your temper on the infidels of the internet? Are you a tool of shadowy forces, who chuckle darkly as you splatter “your” opinions across the feeds? How would you know if you were?

The surface froth of takes and dunks, of tweets and barbs and zingers, is all prestidigitation. Distracting you with one hand, stealing your future with the other.

The actual decisions being made bear only the slightest relation to the narratives being propagated. The Cable News Cinematic Universe is doing a splashy crossover event, but it’s still fiction. If you want to make sense of the news, you have to follow the power.

Ultimately, all power on Earth is bestowed by the sun. Plants capture sunlight. Animals eat plants. Our capacity to do work, whether on gardens or on pyramids, was historically limited to our bodies and the animals we bonded with. The industrial revolution brought a new source of power: fossil fuels, ancient stored sunlight. The refinement of machines, and the development of electronics, replaced animals with bots. People have been rebelling against automation since the cotton gin. But what does it matter, if the puny workers rebel? They can be replaced as well. Those who own the machines also own the fuel.

The factions that won in the colonial era are still working under this consensus. They want the world liquidated to capital They want an exterminist future, where the poor are cleansed from the earth and robots service the needs of the few remaining Botox Eloi. The “Five Eyes”, the integrated intelligence agencies of the anglophone world, are the global enforcers of this technocracy. Spies, bureaucrats and professionals, roughly correlating with the current status quo.

But lately this end-of-history gang has been embarrassed worldwide by reactionary insurgencies. The nationalisms and jihads might look different on the surface, but they follow a common pattern. Demagogues speak to the contradictions of the working class: The elites tell you life is good, but you’re working three jobs and have six streaming subscriptions to feed. Wouldn’t it be nice to have someone to blame?

Simple answers to complex problems: simply blame the outgroup! Simply trust in authority! Simply waggle your gun at the Chads of the world, and all will be well for you and those you care about. These simplicities are mind candy. Empty calories.

Simple answers may be elegant in physics or math. But in the social realm, simple answers should be suspect. We know that our brains are biased, that we have limited time and knowledge, that we can never know it all or be 100% rational. Wherever a mental shortcut appears, we’ll take it. That’s just human nature.

Also human nature: murder, rape, torture, theft, war for resources, war for religion, war by other means. Genocide. Empire. Simple answers.

We have developed, over the last few fossil-fueled centuries, a complex interconnected system to extract, transform, and deliver resources. It still contains the painful biases of colonialism and capitalism. But this abundance has allowed for an incredible new scale of cooperation. The scientific revolution expanded from the Republic of Letters, written on paper and passed hand-to-hand across national borders, to Wikipedia and ArXiv and Github. It’s a complicated system, but it beats the war of all against all.

Most people just want to eat lunch, get laid, and contribute to their community. They don’t want civil war, they don’t want genocide. They want Wikipedia. But there are small, committed factions of dark magic in this world, who divide so that they can conquer. They’re going mask off right now, in a last-chance blitz of noise and fury. They want you as a meat puppet, mouthing their lies. Without the belief of the public they have no power.

Do yourself a favor and get off the internet for a while. Watch a cloud, touch a tree. Talk to an animal. Remember that you, too, are an animal. You need an ecosystem to live. We cooperate in a world-wide dance of oxygen and nitrogen and carbon, all of us, every day. We are together in that.

We can learn to get along. We have to.

Thanks for reading,

– Max


###### SCIOPS is a weekly letter that’s not about the news. Feel free to forward it, or share it, or subtweet it with your thoughtless takes. You can find a web version of the latest letter here , or view the archive here .

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