“Political thought and political instinct prove themselves theoretically and practically in the ability to distinguish friend and enemy. The high points of politics are simultaneously the moments in which the enemy is, in concrete clarity, recognized as the enemy.”
Sometimes I wonder if we’re the first generation to carry our Friends around with us in our pockets—e-mail, iMessage, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook messenger, WhatsApp—like baggage, smartphones or a pack of Pokémon cards. Little gods, talismans, burdens.
I mean, like anyone, I like collecting FB friends and Insta-followers. Who doesn’t? It’s kitschy, but, I mean, like kitsch, most people also like to lie. I used to have a pack of Marseilles tarot cards cards when I was young. I convinced my friends that they were ten-year-old YuGiOh collector’s editions; traded a Major Arcana for a Blue Eyes Silver Dragon and First-Edition Holographic Charizard.
I did the same thing on LinkedIn. I typed “Writer of the Great American Novel” and convinced the impressionable American fiction-consuming public that I’d published a story in the New Yorker, the Paris Review, and even The Phoenix and got the damn novel (which didn’t actually exist) reviewed in the New York Times Review of Books as a result, sort of like how Kanye West convinced the world he was the best rapper in the world with a series of ingenious samples and authentic confessions of insecurity, which are, like my LinkedIn profile and novel, by principle, lies, looped on AbletonLive and set on repeat.
All my Friends lie, too; not to themselves, but to their little gods and talismans, when they pretend that a Snapchat can carry emotion. I mean, the selfie has really become the art of the 21st century, a casual art and style so sacred we don’t even notice it anymore. We carry it around on self-described sticks like dandies used to carry ivory-covered walking canes, and don’t even realize it when we’re carrying around our Friends and Albums around in our pockets anymore. Subtle, yet permanent, like sidewalks. For us, a lie is not so much a noun, or a fiction, as a verb and passageway through time, an action we’re not even aware of committing ourselves to, habit. Someone, for example, Snapchatted me so often I convinced myself that I was in love with them, even though all I was doing was taking selfies of myself, over and over, and sending them over 4G, even making some “Stories” with them.
Selfies, like Stories, are lies that carry emotional currency. Art, the most intimate form of lying, as opposed to the noun, a lie, teaches you to love yourself in little more than a gesture. Action, in a verb: ‘acting’ e.g. “I love you” as opposed to “I have love for you.” It’s always more powerful than the noun, and potentially infinite, if reciprocated.
Take for example Donald Trump. Lying, inhuman; he’s invented and simultaneously been invented by reality TV. By definition, a man who becomes the artistic medium in which he is represented is no longer human. Akin to a god, or a brand, this art of Trump has become so ubiquitous as to transcend reality; he is “void,” an empty signifier, à la Upanishads. And yet Trump has and continues to produce currency, like coinage in a mint, or the hot pain in a brandname. His coin’s value correlates to how hugely a single white American man can reproduce lying, in the verbal sense, at the U.S. Federal Reserve of Art, and never apologize.
What I call his ‘Selfie’ method of lying, for example, has an exchange value that resonates; a distortion effect that proudly reflects America’s impoverished white angst on the mirror-stage (see Lacan) of the News and its daughter, reality TV. This realm is where a white-for-the-sake-of-being-white voting block has realized that the childlike, doglike (insofar as it is trainable) attention-span of white voters, too, has utility and use-value in the mirror of Trump’s art of lying. The currency of this great unapologetically white lying-mirror lacks substance; it reflects. And out of spite it begins reflecting a method of lying that’s left its lying imprint upon the HD TV, laptop, tablet, smartphone screens—a Selfie architecture in which America is still learning to see how many ways it can smile.
Opposite of scentless smartphone selfies, farts also have currency. In the back of my middle school classrooms I had the good fortune of learning how to fart on command. It was the only way a twelve-year-old bully could gain respect for me as a person. It motivated me into anxiously and powerlessly squeezing out the innermost caverns of my being, like mirrors, because, if nothing else, that scent of irony, that mirror, reflected both the horrible power of the sadist’s laughter and my own realization of it.
This pain, this repetitive realization, of needing to make the sadist laugh to relieve being harassed by him, but not knowing how, explains modern Trump think-pieces, lying, and how bullied my “Generation” feels by Myspace Top-8’s and Facebook likes. Clarity, journalism, and think-pieces have failed to dent Trump’s coin. Only the mad mirror, I’m convinced, and strength of an equally perverse analogy can succeed. In my own experience, only the art of farting on command had the power to impress a twelve-year-old bully. If there’s one truth to American art, after all, it’s that “fart jokes never get old.” Like the mirror-stage of analogies and farts, our “like” button (like the one on the bottom of this page) is as vulgar and digested as Donald Trump. It feels almost like a game, a Likémon trading card game, except we are the monsters and he (the author of this piece, you might say) is the collector. I need you to like me, after all, to validate my writing about me, to show me that you agree.
A double-edged sword of flatulence, it’s like all the liberal condemnations of Trump that we “like” online only enable and validate Trump’s art of lying to trend on the Infowars, DrudgeReport, Weekly Standard and all the other Right news sources the Left pretends don’t exist. This includes the conservative silos of Facebook and Google feeds they feed if only because our liberal condemnations have also permitted, simultaneously, for “the enemy” of the Right, “to be recognized as the enemy,” and because every successive high-profile condemnation of Trump only increases the Right’s conviction.
The new, like, architecture, like, sort of, like, has started to, like, mirror even, like, the way, we, like, you know, talk about ourselves. The Right decries “liberals,” while the Left generalizes “Trump supporters.” You know, authenticating-like, prosaic-esque, like, banality of evil? The devils being the interesting ones.
I digress. Not only do we carry around the analogy of the “like” button and the grammatical function of the “like,” like punctuation, in our english and our prosaic like-Phones, like a plague on all Orwell’s politics of language, while pretending to converse with parents and professors and simultaneously scrolling down our Instagram feeds under the dinner and seminar tables, like-junkies, “liking” both pictures and trending Yaks—glued to the motion and action painted by the scrolling gesture of our worn-out thumbs—but we also, as I mentioned, seem to be carrying around the analogies of our friends around with us in our pockets, as opposed to “Real Friends,” in the words of Kanye West:
“I guess I get what I deserve, don’t I?”
“Trump is not the god America needs, but the devil it deserves.”