The fractal fascism taking shape around us

From Richard Seymour’s The Twittering Machine loc 2670-2776:

What is more, hasty denunciations risk leaving us with the misapprehension of knowing what we’ve got ourselves into, while injecting an unhelpful nastiness, condescension and paranoia into the conversation. There has been a bonfire of digital vanities, bromides stacked upon platitudes, ‘digital democracy’, ‘the networked citizen’, ‘Twitter revolutionaries’ all going up in smoke. We, who stand in its glare, should be sceptical of provisional analyses being offered with too much certainty. We should nonetheless take seriously the fascist potential of the social industry, or its potential to intensify and accelerate proto-fascist tendencies already at work. The forms of fascism that we see in the twenty-first century may not resemble those of the past. The fascist movements of the interwar period were rooted in imperialist ideologies, popular militarism, paramilitary organizations and a world system run by colonial empires and menaced by socialist revolution. These circumstances will not return. The colonies are dead, most armies are professional and there isn’t an abundance of popular organization of any kind, let alone paramilitary organization. Nonetheless, liberal capitalism shows itself to be vulnerable, crisis-ridden and open to challenge by the racist, nationalist far right. And what, in such circumstances, are the cultural valences of the social industry that produces so much of our social life now? Which tendencies would it select for, and which would it mute? There is something about the way in which we interact on the platforms which, whatever else it does, magnifies our mobbishness, our demand for conformity, our sadism, our crankish preoccupation with being right on all subjects. Ironically, this despotic rectitude is allied with exactly the kind of ‘swarm’ propensities that were once idealized as the basis for a new kind of grass-roots power. The ‘swarm’, which began as a metaphor for conscientious citizens holding power to account, might well become a metaphor for the twenty-first century version of fascist street gangs.

From loc 3042-3059:

The Islamic State has fallen, with fighters controlling just 4 per cent of the territory they once did, but the organization known as ISIS remains. It is, among other things, a form of twenty-first-century fascism. Its use of the platforms shows us something about how new fascisms will work, in terms of their culture, communications and ideology. 51 It is, to use Jonathan Beller’s phrase, a form of ‘fractal fascism’. If the spectacle is a social relationship mediated by images, what Guy Debord called the concentrated spectacle of Führer celebrity worship has given way in the social industry to the diffuse spectacle of commodity images. 52 In the social industry, it’s one, two, three, many Führers. From ISIS to the alt-right, new fascisms are emerging around microcelebrities, mini-patriarchs and the flow of homogenized messages. If classical fascism directed narcissistic libido investments into the image of the leader, as the embodiment of the people and its historical destiny, neo-fascism harvests the algorithmic accumulation of sentiment in the form of identification-by-Twitterstorm. If the image of the fascist mass was once best captured by the bird’s-eye view of aerial photography, it is now available in a much higher-resolution bird’s eye view as metrics. And if classical fascism built its organization through recruitment from social organizations, such as veterans’ clubs, germinal neo-fascism recruits from the loose associational practices of the platforms. The networked social movement has acquired jackboots.

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