Tricks In Neoliberal Culture #001: Affirming Values Through Compliments

Say you’re a ne’er-do-well with a need or desire to pass yourself off as a bleeding heart. Say you don’t have enough time on your hands to do the actual work of a bleeding heart. Perhaps you’re too busy on account of maintaining a cocaine habit, or just sleeping in, or some-such.

Only, you’ve got a start-up, or a spokesperson gig that brings you work, fame and/or fortune, and it all rises or falls based on your standing.

Do not worry. Other people do this work all the time; capitalise on their labour. You just have to find a way to take credit, without appearing to take credit, all while minimising the expenditure of your resources.

This is where compliments come in, and they work at all scales.

Example 1

“Wow. Those cancer researchers do a great job. People really need to be more aware of how cancer effects people!”

Sounds twee, doesn’t it? Likeably twee though, and lets face it, it’s easy to portray anyone criticising such sentiment as being cruel. It’s also a bit of a non-sequitur; it doesn’t follow from the great job cancer researchers really are doing, that people need to be more aware of the social impact of cancer.

Hell, everyone knows someone who’s been “touched by cancer”.

But people don’t pay attention to this kind of detail. You can even put it in the same paragraph and people won’t notice.

“Wow. Those cancer researchers do a great job. People really need to be more aware of how cancer effects people! Everyone knows someone who’s been touched by cancer! Did you know that?”

Being a layabout spokesperson for cancerishness stuff is as easy as that. If someone points out the flaws in the argument, then simply call them cruel and fall back on the crowd to defend you.

It’s vitally important that you place these details well beyond reproach, because these details actually relate to what you’re going to do, and you don’t want your actions being scrutinised.

“Cancer researchers work hard. To draw attention to how bad cancer is, we’re having an iced-genital challenge. Just record yourself icing your genitals, nominate someone else with warmer genitals than yourself, maybe send some money to our cancer awareness campaign, and all will be good!”

Bucket_of_Ice Place genitals here, and send me your cancer dollars
(Photo Source CC: Nautical9)

Thing is, after getting your not-for-profit up and running, you’re not going to send that money on to fund cancer research. Oh no, you only send those boffins compliments. You? You fund cancer awareness. Who is doing the cancer awareness work that you will be funding? Why that would be you!

Compliment cancer research + patronise cancer-induced suffering with “awareness” shite = profit.

Well, not literally. By “profit” I mean “expenses” like business lunches (that you like to eat), travel (to where you want to go), employing people (such as yourself and your fuck buddies), and so on. All to make people aware of cancer, the effects of which have been experienced in at least some capacity by… everyone.

If exploiting people’s gullibility makes you feel poorly, just remember that thanks to this, you can probably afford to buy yourself a pony. If you still feel poorly after buying a pony, then you’re shark bait – use the pony as a decoy when predators arrive and then harden the fuck up.

Example 2

Okay, so maybe your career as a spokesperson or thingy-thing-doer or whatnot isn’t at the kind of level where you can just up and establish a not-for-profit and market the shit out of yourself The Cause. Do not worry; I said this was doable at all scales.

Don’t ever let it be said that Ayn Rand didn’t collect social security. Also, if government money is available for a cause, fucking aim for it. (Depending on where you live, this trick may instead mean taking money from corporate PR departments – the point is, never think of where the money comes from or what it’s supposed to be for).

Whatever your situation may be, if you’re at least worth spit, there are always organisations with money floating around, looking for spokespersons for causes. The most sincere (and hence the most exploitable) of these look to outsiders, rather than their founders, to do the awareness-making and speaky-speak.

Often, they want someone to look as if they’re from outside the establishment because it gives a (false) appearance of independence. Tiny Tim can sell Scrooge’s good intentions better than Scrooge can.

The best place to prowl for these lush gigs is around performance artists. These needn’t be major recording artists, although it could be – you could work your way up to that if you’re evil enough. Again, this is doable at all scales.

As with the first example, you want to compliment others while minimising your workload. Essentially, this just means being a part of the crowd, while nominally, also being on stage.

Open mic sessions, spread between more established performers, are great for this. Become a regular at such gigs!

Write super-sanctimonious shit. It doesn’t have to be good, just be earnest. Nobody notices your artifice, or at least, if they do, they don’t want to be the only one who’s calling you on your shit – that’s a one way trip to lonely-town. You’ll get away with it – this is the easy bit.

The two important things that you do not want to fuck up, are; being louder in your praise of other artists than everyone else is, and not praising the wrong kind of shit.

If you want a gig as an anti-racism spokesperson, it doesn’t matter if on some level, your own performance is implicitly racist or patronising because most people at stage performances do not do deep thinking, and the ones that do don’t get listened to because they’re too quiet. It will matter however, if you give a huge fucking applause to a KKK slam poet; you’ll be the one sad fuck in the crowd who’s cheering them on. You’ll be the one pathetic twonk in the scene who cheered on that bonehead that one time.

Don’t be that twonk.

No, what you want to do is wait until that exploitable Social Justice Warrior who’s been fighting racism all their life, comes on to stage to slam, rhyme and free-verse about it, and then hit them with a “YES! YES! YES!”

Pick some affirmations that are short, abrupt, preferably monosyllabic, infinitely repeatable, don’t require thought, and then blast them out. Stand up while you’re hollering if you can.

Do not be bothered with any of that foot-rumbling crap, or that clicky-shit they do at slams in Melbourne. You’ll just blend-in if you resort to that. SEIZE PEOPLE’S ATTENTION! Take attention from the artist who has fought against racism all their life, and focus it on you, but don’t appear to be greedy while you are doing it; “YOU ARE BRILLIANT! I LOVE IT! SO TRUE! YOUR WORDS! SO WISE! INSPIRATIONAL!”

Be careful with “inspirational” though – the audience surely won’t know, but artists may cotton on to your motives when you use this word. If that happens, and the artist criticises you, take advantage; you can just feign innocence to make them look both bad, and bad to work with. Eliminate the competition with a smile.

All of this will work even better, if you’re looking for an anti-racism gig, if the artist you are exploiting is a person of colour and if you are white. Seriously.

Why? Because you’ll probably have a mostly white audience who on some level want the continued comfort of white people being in charge of any and all discussions of racism; people recruiting speakers from the arts use the audience as barometer. The disposition of the audience is also likely true of any number of advocacy bodies looking to recruit anti-racist spokespersons as well, or at least, this is mostly true of most of the well funded ones.

And if you fail, so what? You’re just some person who doesn’t like racism. You can’t be faulted for that, right? Again – feign innocence.

It’s not like this takes much effort anyway. If you don’t win the first time around, you may as well safely sit back, relax and have a beer, and maybe buy one for the new POC friend you’re mooching cred from.

You can go back to hating Jews and feminists after you’re done, which nobody is going to call you on unless you’re silly enough to make it an integral part of your shtick.

The thing with a low-investment, high-payoff scam like this, is that you can effortlessly repeat it over and over and over again. It’s mutable as well; it works just as well for disability advocacy, asylum-seeker advocacy, victims-of-crime advocacy…

If you’re a high functioning sociopath, all advocacy is potential self-advocacy, and don’t you go forgetting that, John Galt!

Observations

Go and attend some free public events centred around do-gooders and artsy types. Make observations. Particularly, watch the people who give the most compliments.

What labour do they actually perform?

What do they get out of the event?

How do they hide their exploits, if any, from being detected?

What values are they affirming through their compliments, and what signs do they actually show of living up to these values (Google is your friend)?

~ Bruce

Tricks In Neoliberal Culture #000: The Beginning

I have this new series of posts lined up, which as you can probably tell, will fall under the title ‘Tricks In Neoliberal Culture’. Jaded political types will have some idea what I’m on about, while the less wonky may very well scratch their heads.

“What the fuck is neoliberalism? Can it help me?”

Well, if you’re a self-made Übermensch, dependent on no-one, then yes, neoliberalism can help you. The basic, unvarnished truth of neoliberalism is that it advocates for the freedom of the powerful to take away the freedom of the poor. The result, when people operate under this scheme, is a condensation of power at the top, while people at the bottom claw their way over each other instead of cooperating.

If this all seems a bit unfair, just remind yourself that sociopaths have rights too, and then proceed to be tolerant to a fault. Easy. Now you’re on-board with neoliberalism.

But what about the history of neoliberalism? Don’t worry about that. Aside from acknowledging the fact that neoliberalism really took off in the 70s, you really don’t want to go into history. People will only point out pesky things like misreadings of Adam Smith, and historical burst-bust cycles resulting from failed economic doctrines that don’t account for the actual irrationality of markets.

Remember: Unrestrained markets are good for the powerful to freely take freedom from the less powerful, and hence good for everyone. You don’t want to be contradicted on this when you’re pushing your boot down on someone else’s shoulder. Insist at all points that markets are rational.

You are an Übermensch (or a John Galt, or an Atlas – take your pick)!

How do you survive in this brave new neoliberal world?

Start-ups! Risky investment! Self-positioning! Marketing! Marketing! Marketing!

But most important of all, thou must learn to shank thy neighbour! That’s where the tricks come in.

Now to be fair, even communists have done their fair share of shanking over the years, and they may even shank with what is broadly the same cut.

However, tricks done within neoliberal culture, even the same tricks, are just done with so much more flair. Consider the difference between being stabbed amidst Las Vegas neon, versus being stabbed amidst Soviet Bloc brutalism.

Details on tricks will be forthcoming.

~ Bruce

Easy gambit…

crazytroll Imagine you’re a part of an Internet clique, and some individual has called you a “bully”. Leave the substantive details of your past arguments, and even the particulars of your accuser’s case, to one side.

Just a little reflection shows there’s a way of demonstrating that you’re only engaging in a bit of ‘rough and tumble’ style political banter. A way that won’t be falsified.

You have to retort of course, in the first instance, that it is indeed banter you’re engaging in. Yet not to the extent that you’re merely pretending the gadfly; you’ll want to maintain that there’s a substantive critique underneath your ’bullying’ (not that you need to articulate it clearly).

“Rough and tumble”; “rhetorical flair”; “panache”; “pugilism’” and so on – the point is to illustrate that what’s being misinterpreted as “bullying” is in fact normal, at least in your circles, and preferably at large in public discourse. This shouldn’t be too hard (easy gambit!), given that it is in fact reasonable to expect some degree of emoting, satire, ridicule and questioning of character in any contentious matter of public debate.

Remember – you aren’t beyond the pale, or out of the norm, it’s that your accuser has unrealistic expectations. This is easy enough to state, and easy enough to follow through upon.

If the allegations against you don’t acknowledge your clique, it’s likely that they will be implicated, at least by inference. It’s safe to assume such a wide ranging smear even if it hasn’t been stated – it is after all, an example of high character to defend your friends’ honour.

Try this on for size…

‘You’re trying to marginalise our perspective from the public square by using false accusations!’

It also helps to counter-accuse your opponent of autocracy, of being like Pol Pot, and of whatever else gets the job done. Admittedly, this can sometimes be overdone – the job at this point is to position yourself as an open minded freedom fighter. You’re taking a stand for your people.

The full extent of your recriminations come later.

If all has gone well, by this point you’ve established that your people are being accused as well, if that wasn’t already clear. Now, it follows that if what they’re being accused of were true, then surely you wouldn’t want them to do it to you.

This is where you mock your opponent’s false-martyrdom by placing yourself in the role of potential victim.

‘Hey, my lot argue like this all the time. When someone makes a joke at my expense, I just ignore it and laugh, and then we all know that the joke’s finished. I don’t go and whine and make accusations about ‘bullying’ like you do. You need to ignore it and get thick skin like me.’

You need to follow through on claims like this by presenting a gambit with a largely pre-determined outcome – perhaps you could hold a contest for the best insult to your person, from one of your friends. Perhaps you can think of something similar.

When you’ve decided upon your gambit, be sure to trot out a self-deprecating example or two of ‘rough and tumble’ banter, showing just how light-hearted and open-minded you really are…

‘Maybe I’ll draw an MS-Paint picture of myself; it’ll have me being decapitated, with someone sticking a stainless steel cactus up my bum. Ha!’

Even if in fact you have thin skin, concerns you’ll suddenly be set upon by your friends are ill-founded. Banter sends the agreed upon signal; when you laugh, the joke’s over, so that’s the end – no more. With an act of self-deprecation, you give the signal to your clique to stop before the gambit has even begun.

Of course, nobody can prove this signalling, which means it can’t be counted against you. It’s not like there’s a formal code book of in-group social cues for your enemies to refer to.

In the absence of such proof, your display of an invitation to experience said “bullying” first-hand, shows not only that you consider it normal, but that you’re a role model, and a figure of political stamina. (This despite the fact that very few people, if any, are going to take you up on your offer.)

Moreover, you’ve shown that the spectre of supposed “bullying” does not in fact inhibit you from exercising your right to free expression. Now if that doesn’t show that the accusation levelled against you is fatuous, nothing will.

After you’ve exonerated yourself, all that remains is to capitalise on the gambit – to expose your accuser of being a tyrant and a fraud. Recriminations should abound.

‘Professional victim!’; ‘Anti-free-expression!’; ‘Political correctness gone mad!’; ‘Thingy-Nazi-Stasi’ or any number of other epithets and charges are in order, the doubling-down on any prior references to totalitarianism being a given. All that is left to do is bask in the appreciation of your fellow members of the oppressed, which likely involves the freedom fighting subscribers to YouTube and Reddit – the most oppressed of the oppressed.

~ Bruce