When Trump miraculously won the election in 2016, the smarter observers saw that he was not going to be a reform agent, but a chaos agent. Through the ballot, the public had injected a foreign body into the political system. How the system would react to that foreign body was unknown, but after three plus years the results of the experiment are coming into focus. What we are getting is chaos. Everything about the old order is suddenly in question, as everything about it is breaking down.
The most obvious example of the chaos is the old political order. For almost a generation, national politics was Red Team versus Blue Team. Both sides agreed on most everything as they were financed by the same people. Red Team wanted to be more naked in its slobbering than Blue Team over the men behind the curtain, while Blue Team wanted to be more hysterical than Red Team. Otherwise, no matter which way the people voted, the policies never changed.
Three plus years of Trump and we have prominent national politicians calling for a moratorium on immigration. Trump just claimed he signed an executive order temporarily halting all immigration. Whether or not this is true is entirely unknown, as Trump says all sorts of things that mean nothing. That’s not the point. What matters is that things that were forbidden just a few years ago are now being said in public by people who care very deeply about the taboos of modern society.
Of course, the chaos that will soon matter most to people is the chaos in the economy, which is beginning to get real and real fast. When oil futures hit levels never seen in our lifetime, we are in a different world than existed a few years ago. The nonsense about oil trading below zero is just news hype, but there is no avoiding the fact that the world is suddenly awash in BTU’s. What’s just as significant about this event is that according to the experts, it was not supposed to happen.
That’s the thing to keep in mind about the chaos that is raging all around us. The emerging liberal democratic order promised stability and predictability. Instead of booms and bust in the economy, it was supposed to be gentle slopes up and down as the central bankers steered the ship. Oil markets would no longer be the victim of forces beyond the control of suppliers. Instead, prices would be steady as producers coordinated with world government to temper supply.
What happens in a world suddenly awash in BTU’s? No one knows. Similarly, no one knows what happens when world government tries to turn the economy back on after they have had enough of the pandemic. In fact, no one knows if they will actually try to do it voluntarily. Local officials have gotten the whiff of authoritarianism in their nostrils and they like it. They may find out they like suppressing the minor protests that have been flaring up the past week. We are in uncharted territory.
What we are seeing is the work of The Mule. In the Asimov novels. The Mule is a special character, so special in fact that he is assumed to not exist. In fact, according to the known rules of the universe, he cannot exist. Because he does exist, thus invalidating the rules of the universe, he is the ultimate destroyer of worlds. His ability “is to reach into the minds of others and “adjust” their emotions, individually or en masse, using this capability to conscript individuals to his cause.”
This is Trump. In the primary, he won mostly by causing the Republican Party to go insane and destroy itself. In the general, the media went nuts and convinced the Democrats they had nothing to fear. In Washington, the establishment has taken every opportunity to discredit itself in a mad quest to deny the reality of Trump. In this pandemic, the masters of the universe seem to be determined to do everything they can to invalidate themselves and legitimize their enemies.
The madness of self-invalidation is probably just starting. Due to the crack down on economic activity, things like advertising buys have halted. So much of the internet economy, particularly the media, depends on the belief that money spent on ads and marketing is money well-spent. It was never true, but the new reality will suddenly bring that into focus. In whatever comes next, spending lavishly on ads and marketing data harvested by social media companies will be minimized.
To date, no one has figured out how to make a large-scale media enterprise work on subscriptions alone. Small-scale operations can make it work for the same reason small business can make it work. They have low overheads and focus only on providing the customer with what they seek. Mass media is mass propaganda, financed by corporate ad dollars. In other words, it is not just the political establishment finding itself in a new chaotic world of uncertainty. Its media arm is there as well.
Obviously, the biggest bit of chaos that the people in charge have yet to confront is the world after the crackdown is lifted. We have about 30% unemployment at the moment and the signs of increased economic slowdown. People forget that in the early weeks of the crack down, there was a rush of economic activity. That has subsided and firms are now starting to hear crickets. The curve benders fear a second virus wave, but wait until they get a look at the second layoff wave.
At the various lemon parties, the sobbing and moaning about Trump was understandable, as they never understood what Trump meant. Their politics are immature and based solely on what is presented to them in the media. Like children, they giggle when happy and cry when sad. Similarly, the “Orange Man Bad!” loons could never get past their hurt feelings to grasp the significance of Trump. As the chaos rages, these two camps now cheer like toddlers at someone shaking keys.
For the simple minded, the rising chaos brings to mind their preferred result, which they imagine is right around the corner. In reality, we are just entering the interregnum described by Guillaume Faye, in which the West lurches from crisis to crisis as it tries to reconcile the incoherence and contradictions of liberal democracy. In other words, Trump is not just the end of the old order, but the starting point for a period of chaos, as the world tries to create a new “logic of the universe.”
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