The March lockdowns were a success. The early ones. The late ones. The ones that didn’t happen. The silent majorities entirely ignored the orders to distance and stay at home, but the University says we’ve achieved a 64% reduction in non-essential activity. Perhaps we’ve only confirmed less than 10% of global cases. Perhaps Europe is halfway to herd immunity. Yes, the early models were all wrong, but they’ve been updated with the latest data, and The New York Times says if we don’t stay home through the summer, it will be as bad as if we did nothing. Look at the curve. You are here.
The United States is the epicenter of a global pandemic much worse than SARS-CoV-2. The disease has almost taken the whole of the social field. The Verfallen cannot see it, but you, Millennial man, may now suspect you are unemployed in a way that goes beyond work.
Jean Baudrillard’s original dissertation on third-order simulacra opens with an attack on Jacques Monod, founding father of molecular biology. With two others, Monod received the 1965 Nobel Prize in Medicine for “discoveries concerning genetic control of enzyme and virus synthesis.” In his book Chance and Necessity, Monod elaborates a philosophy for a universe without causality. But Baudrillard finds more than triumphal scientism here. This is an early attempt to give the coming technocracy its “natural philosophy.”
Monod looked into the cell and saw “a system that [defied] any ‘dialectical’ description. It [was] not Hegelian at all, but thoroughly Cartesian: the cell is indeed a machine.” He declares DNA replication and translation to be technological processes. The Ultima Ratio of all living beings, if still illegible, is discovered. And the secret will be penetrated when we improve our models of the laws of chemical organization.
Baudrillard’s fear, in the transition from generic man to genetic man, is the capitulation of thought to a technological double of reality. Monod’s indecipherable yet automatic code, derived from the idealism of DNA and the molecule, is equivalent to the reality of power. So a schema appears that can take over from the great ideological model of political economy (and dialectical providence): regulation on the model of the genetic code. A unifying cybernetic point of view justified by a biological referent and employing radical indeterminacy as a tactical feature. This elimination of causality portends social control by prediction and programming from generative models.
Baudrillard’s famous definition of simulation is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal. Put another way: a process of instant renewal whereby reality is immediately contaminated by its simulacrum. The territory neither precedes the map-making, nor does it survive it.
Your current misery may feel more than simulated. But to determine your lived reality, the models came first. The pandemic models are updated each day, soon each hour, and the cycles of possible meaning they offer become increasingly shorter in the Hertzian, real-time relays. Have we flattened the curve yet? To the dashboards at the Johns Hopkins website. Can I go back to work now? Quiet, this week is peak week.
The precession of models form the “genuine magnetic field of the event” in societies of simulation. Facts can be engendered by every model at once. Events are not insignificant in themselves, but they have no meaning because their processes only coincide with the model preceding them. Internet digitality ensures a marketplace of generally equivalent events which only interrupt our instinctual symbolic strategies. Like the cell phone EMF we blast into our brains. In the radiation of information and radical indeterminacy at the End of History, we suffer a kind of leukemia.
As with the CDC’s guidance to cancel all events and in-person gatherings in the United States, simulations are employed in hyperreal societies as a method of political deterrence. The production and profusion of all this information serves purely injunctive ends. Perhaps this is Virilio’s Information Bomb. But there won’t be an explosion. By decree, nothing can happen for eight weeks.
In the light of its models, the pandemic is also kept in suspension. America again by June, we are promised. People are dying somewhere, but we are saved by the distillation of the event into “homeopathic doses in the cold, continuous reservoirs of information.” This is the real vaccine. The one next year is its alibi. Sean Hannity can still defend the radical obscenity of the Trump presidency, and Joe Biden can still squint in confusion on CNN. A real catastrophe would delay things. Both men would be dead in a hallway.
The coronavirus simulation is one of deterrence. It is part of a general hypermodel of Security, the aim of which is not to control the spread of a virus, but the spread of the social.
Every strategy of global power is one of mental terror and deterrence tied to the suspension and eternal simulation of catastrophe. In the later Baudrillard, “the aim of the world order is the definitive non-occurrence of events.”
NPR’s Elsa Chang and Marie Louise Kelly would be hilariously inappropriate reporters from the front of any real event. Kelly’s bizarre voice conjures the ethical horror of allowing the bourgeoisie to overbreed news anchors. Chang’s is the literal sound of the invisible violence of security. The very voice (ipsissima vox) of a world order that nothing must disturb.
We don’t come to NPR to find the news, but to find the norm, which has replaced the old arsenal of laws and violence. We listen to become acculturated to the greatest system of security and control ever conceived. To hear the daily language of a system attempting to arrest its own disappearance through the simulation and discourse of crisis. To listen to the sounds of the social, historical and political desert.
An explosion is always a promise. Our hope. “The whole world waits for something to blow up… and remove us from this unnameable panic” of deterrence. “Substantial food for our messianic libido.” But this will never happen.
You will be forgiven for thinking 2020 would end in a hot finality. That centuries of socialization were leading to some kind of populist WrestleMania in America, where two old idiots might accidentally reinvent a political stake. But Bernie peaced like dad and now you’re sitting at home waiting for $1200 in the mail. No, nothing will stop this. Twenty million and more will be on the unemployment rolls and still Elsa Chang will comfortably describe a world without us. How? It is the entire universe of causality thrown into question now.
You are experiencing The White Terror of World Order.
What can counter NPR, whose faggy personalities are each the demons of our Doom Eternal? What can resolve the imperious necessity to glory kill them? To check this system of deterrence in broad daylight?
This, Baudrillard tells us, only terrorism can do.
Security is, intuitively, the best medium for terror. “The more hegemonic the system,” writes Baudrillard, “the more the imagination is struck by smallest of its reversals. The challenge, even infinitesimal, is the image of a chain of failure.” So it was with Liberator, the first gun made for cybernetic games. But I should say the first model of such a gun. Guns themselves are often indifferent industrial simulacra. Digital gun models are always simulacra of the third order.
Cast into the networks of the total state, Liberator has never stopped threatening the global imaginary with its empty playfulness.
How do you regulate a simulated gun? This question delayed the federal Arms Export Control Reform initiative for over three years and cost the prime military-industrial contractors billons, a feat that by itself makes me the most effective American anarchist to have ever lived. In the void of a coherent federal response, bewildered Congressmen and state attorneys general began to fight the “deregulation” themselves. Even today they bitch with their ancient, naturalist denunciations (an Amazon for AR-15s!) to whatever court will take pity on their many, many gun laws. In these seven years they have discovered the political problem of offensive simulation.
The feds abandoned the game when I challenged their control of the Liberator. But the same powers that chased me like Orestes to Taipei City still insist on my legal monopoly on publishing gun files. Because this is all that remains for the Left in the era of simulation: to demand the mere signs of power where power and meaning have vanished. Desperate for any historical function at all, the Left recreates the wheels of capital in a bid to later control them. When at last we meet at Megiddo.
It is the system itself that automatically realizes and cannibalizes our revolutionary goals. I’m just as depressed about it as the state AG’s, but world power is separate from traditional political power now. The White Terror no longer needs Law, it is the operational immanence of this growing system of deterrence that has become the law. Have you read the Commerce Control List? Its scope is majestic. Total. Eternal. But there is a cursed remainder.
In Baudrillad’s cultural materialism, a printable pistol is one of those rare gifts of impossible exchange. Digging it out of the channels of information is a project of inconceivable scale and expense. Its enemies, in their blind and frantic efforts, have done irreversible damage to federal administrative law and the regulation of the Internet. I am defeated ideologically, but my symbolic, terrorist hypothesis is verified: God can declare war on himself.
COVID-19 is a simulation. It is generated from the models of our system’s own auto-immune disorder. A system whose omnipotence belies its extraordinary internal fragility. Generations of expulsion, censorship and the liquidation of meaning in the pursuit of some hideous global monoculture have left the West immuno-deficient. The prospect of any event at all (in the future but also from the past) is a terrorist threat. Like those poor bastards strapped down with wet lung, our “country” is delirious from its own self-defense.
Under the sign of security, the democratic system of freedom and human rights has “progressively” sabotaged itself. Infinite Quantitative Easing. Years of rolling lockdowns. The décor of surveillance. If it will overreact this badly to its own shadow, it has already internalized its defeat.
Letitia James from her New York kitchen to whoever is left out there:
“At a time when first responders are overrun with calls related to COVID-19, companies should be working to limit the dangers Americans face, not increasing them by publishing files that will make it easier for criminals to get guns.”
No. “Now you must fight everything that wants to help you.”
It is the time for new schools and styles of intervention into the Internet. Into the space-time of the terrorist power of the media. Events may no longer be possible, but the field is wide open for new pathologies and radical singularities. Strategies outside of and beyond modeling. There is a lot to learn from the viral simulacra.
Our art and objects must be direct challenges and analogies. They must introduce the element of chance in a universe without causality. Ambiguous, undetectable, indeterminate. They should be symbolic situational transfers that use the system’s own models against it.
As Benjamin Denio has said: “We should have coronavirus every year.”
Cody R. Wilson is the founder of DEFCAD, a repository for models for 3D-printable firearms.