By Mike Meyer ~ Honolulu ~ January 9, 2021
Our realities are completely intermingled mashups of the virtual and the physical. Failing to recognize this increases the confusion and chaos that is steadily overwhelming us.
Did the US have a failed coup or successful media promotion for neofascist groups? Was it a paramilitary attack on Congress or an Instagram video shoot that got out of hand?
Americans have just had a brutal lesson in this convergence, and most have not been able to understand what happened. Most of the people involved in the riot in the capital also don’t seem to understand it. This produces multiple alternative realities that are contradictory and increasingly divorced from the physical reality we all still share.
This is the fracturing of our social, political, and economic paradigm. This shattering is traumatic for those people easily engulfed by conspiracies and ideologies, causing them to switch to some other, similar reality. But all virtual realities are equal as none is physically real, and all are fabricated. The weighting of these is in the number of followers. They need to pick one quickly, and then they may have to change if that ‘reality’ is too thin in followers.
The capital riot instigated by Trump and facilitated by Congressional Republicans was, to the older minds, an act of symbolic political rebellion. For the politicians, particularly true of the disintegrating Republican Party, symbolic fist-waving is the marketing of their personal brand acknowledged in private as meaningless beyond stroking their supporters and gaining donations.
For the rioters, many of whom are fully resident in loosely related alternative realities, the goal was to promote themselves in their virtual reality. We could see that these people were extreme in having lost touch with all but their own virtuality. To them, this was cosplay, and the payback would be expanded social influencer status. This was not a coup but a media event.
The media coverage was the audience. The break-in disintegrating into selfie-taking and live streaming to select social media was the object. Elamin Abdelmahmoud of BuzzFeed identified and described this brilliantly. The majority of the rioters were doing it for Instagram, and old fashioned political overthrow was not where they were. The violence and death were shocking to these people, with the rapid switch to an alternate reality claiming that Trumpists were not involved and it was all ‘Antifa’ fake has left many of them befuddled. After all, they were there!
Alternative realities built on constantly shifting conspiracy theories with immense, superficial detail and no foundation effectively create confusion. That is their purpose. Those people susceptible to such things are people in need of an absolute belief to define themselves. As they are subjected to wildly inconsistent lies and complete reversals, they learn to jump quickly to the next reality. Denying their own physical experience is hard. But, as we know, most make the change required to maintain their status as a true believer in whatever their currently defined reality group believes.
This is not to ignore those who were, such as the ‘zip tie man,’ in a different physical reality with the intent to take hostages and, it is now thought, killing them. A convergence of different realities among rioters may be seen as the media influencers in cosplay were shouting for Pence to shout at him on video. In contrast, the alternative physical reality rioters intended to take him hostage and present Trump with the body of a traitor.
While there is a tendency to see the cosplay and selfies as a poorly managed and hopeless political coup, the mix is far more dangerous because of the incompetence at this stage. Social media influences, corrupt politicians, white supremacists, and neofascists will keep playing their games as long as they are left free to do so. Naivete is common in violent groups manipulated through multiple realities, but that does not stop them from destroying society and killing masses of people.
The diverse groups living in their own pocket realities are too few to be dangerous if denied public and official leadership. The Republican members of Congress who supported this were not involved in cosplay, whatever they may say. Their responsibility is to maintain our foundation in a common reality. Obviously, Trump needs to be immediately removed, but the others are the ones who will remain dangerous and can turn cosplay into violent tragedy. We are now warned.