Acropolis View, 2017 — where it all started. Sorta.
It’s another kinda “Night of the Long Knives” on Twitter today. And instead of relentlessly responding to nonsense from the Elon Musk haters, I thought I’d just write this instead.
First off, I want to be clear that I’m an Elon supporter. I support him not because he is a perfect human — he’s far from that, as we all are. I support him because Elon appears to be the only self-reflective billionaire we really have left, with connections to deep, traditional cultural roots. You can look at groups of elites like the Pritzker family, transhuman champions that are actively advocating castration, both chemical and physical, of depressed youth. Or Bill Gates — attempting to do good, somewhat arbitrarily, but profoundly limited by his own memetic development (Bill’s authoritarian as it gets) and the resilience of his bubble.
Elon actually takes seriously the idea of existential threats to humanity. And because of this, his entrepreneurism, while obviously of a technical bent, attempts to solve the big problems. In order to avoid human extinction due to a bizarre accident on Earth (meteor, asteroid, or nuclear war) Elon proposes a multi-planet civilization. Elon says the biggest threat to human survival is likely population collapse. And if you look at the spread of metabolic syndrome across the globe (the most obvious vector) or even the release of a super-bug, this seems not such a crazy notion. Population decline/collapse is already happening in Europe. His Boring Company champions a technology I’ve thought was long underserved — moving transportation underground.
And with his latest acquisition of Twitter, he is also confronting what he viewed as an existential threat to humanity. Most people on the planet don’t pay any attention to Twitter. But I can tell you, after about 4 years on the site, Twitter is a powerful organizing force of what John Robb has termed the Network Swarm, that has absolutely terrifying possibilities. Twitter was a chief organizing force against Donald Trump, showing it can rival the power of US Presidents. And Twitter most definitely prolonged the nightmare (and continues to do so) of ineffective COVID interventions, long after they should have been retired. Twitter has been a powerful organizing platform for ‘woke’ culture, and many academics AND journalists have flocked there, previously unknown, to largely espouse relationally disruptive positions that various governments — especially the U.S’s, have espoused. The trans fight is a great example, and I’ve written extensively about this here.
I think Elon fundamentally realized this — though he obviously has no access to my own work. Make no mistake — he’s in his bubble as well. However, there is an inherent sense when psychopaths are at play. And Elon figured out that Twitter, with its preferred mode of 280 characters — a perfect Authority-driven knowledge structure — was being overwhelmed with, well, Authoritarianism — mostly from the Left. So he bought it.
And then he started in applying the rules of civilization as he sees them, which are profoundly Enlightenment-era, and well-scaffolded. Very little of what was going on on Twitter had anything to do with the Enlightenment — in fact, it had turned into a white-hot center of destructive, egocentric relational disruption. Ideas which would never travel memetically if there was not social media would never get off the ground in real life — the current trans controversy is a great example.
As an example, only a couple of days ago, a prominent journalist attempted to link the term ‘groomer’ to a slur against LGBT folks — exactly the kind of linkage prosocial LGBT have been fighting for literal decades (for those context-impaired, LGBT folks are NOT groomers, while the term has historically been used to describe pedophiles, even in the technical literature.)
Yet here he was, going on about it, saying it WAS linked, and because it was, it became off-limits to talk about it. Which is just about as psychopathic as you can get. You can always tell a real psychopath because they want to co-opt language, subvert its meaning, and then force the cognitive dissonance from that co-option to drive conflict and take over your brain. As well as shut down legitimate debate.
So Elon, spurred by two events — one his doxxing AND broadcast of his private plane flying his kid(s) around , which he rightfully considers a real threat — suspended a bunch of journalists, including some of the biggest arbitrary psychopaths in the journalism community. They’ve written about it here, which shows how they basically have no concept of scale, as well as their willingness to seize on any issue to bring down Twitter, which through modifications in Twitter’s mis/disinformation policy was no longer favoring the COVID misinformation they DID favor, as well as other generic ‘Woke’ philosophy points. The people banned started RT’ing the flight information link to Elon’s page. So he, well, suspended them for seven days.
The second happened just today, where Twitter/Elon decided that people posting migration information to other accounts on competitors’ websites, usually with a chef’s kiss of insults along the way, would also be banned. That led his biggest critics to get whacked and then really start the Free Speech Wars on Twitter, which continue while I am writing this. Stay tuned.
Twitter/Elon did not explain this policy, though at some level it should be obvious. You don’t walk into Joe’s Hamburger Joint, and start hollering for everyone to go to Bob’s Hamburger Joint. But it actually is a deeper violation than that. And here is where it gets memetically interesting.
The first suspension rule — no doxxing (especially of Elon’s own kid!) is tied immediately to the Survival v-Meme. When your child is threatened, you do what you need to do. Doxxing is bad — especially in the social media arena — though it really is more of a paparazzi threat than direct violence, if you ask me. But the possibility exists. No question.
The second is more interesting, and involves a key element of Tribal/Magical societies on up. And that is the Guest/Host relationship.
What is the Guest/Host relationship? It governs how a guest must conduct him/herself inside a host’s house, as well as the obligations of the host. It is DEEPLY embedded in our relational stack, in that while the details vary, I can tell you it is exercised in all cultures around the globe. If you invite someone into their house, you have to treat them decently (food, beverage as prescribed by the dominant culture — you would never feed a Muslim pork inside your house, for example.) No charging someone for a beer you hand to them. And as a guest, you have to behave. No asking to sleep with the host’s daughter, or other such icks.
Why this matters is the Guest/Host relationship evolved BEFORE the idea of forgiveness. Forgiveness is actually an empathetic memetic evolution, where you attempt to (at least) emotionally connect to the other side’s pain, and find a way to synthesize their apology. What happened before this? Julian Jaynes talks about having the Old God installed in your head in his brilliant book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. What Jaynes says (and I agree with) is that prior to some level of conscious level of social evolution (I elaborate on this, but Jaynes is essentially correct) is that we all had an Old God installed in our head, and we didn’t really care what element of wrath we followed — even if it involved weeping with the person whose son we killed afterward. I’m talking about Achilles, the death of Hector and Priam, of course. The Iliad ain’t known as The Wrath of Achilles for nothing.
And when you violate the Guest/Host relationship, the Gods are angry. And when the Gods are angry, all sorts of unpredictable, terrible things happen. Odysseus lands on the Island of the Cyclops. The Cyclops bashes the heads of some of Odysseus’ men, and then eats them. Bad host! Odysseus follows suit by tricking the Cyclops and putting out his single eye. Bad guest! But the Cyclops is actually Poseidon’s (the God of the Sea) son. And then Poseidon blows Odysseus off course for 11 more years in getting home. Once more, thou shalt not fuck with the well-connected, as Kurt Vonnegut so astutely noted.
And so here we are back at Twitter. The same cohort of disruptive journalists are hollering at the top of their lungs that they are off to Mastodon, or other such site. Much like the gang of Penelope’s suitors, their behavior is lining themselves up in a mythical sense for when Odysseus shows up. So Elon kicked them off the platform. Of course, they’re busy screaming ‘free speech’ — a concept that is truly far up the v-Meme ladder from where they’re currently acting. Appropriate free speech requires a sense of agency, and responsibility to be executed. Something none of the screamers are advocating for at all. Their desire for free speech is directly related to their desire to disrupt Elon’s new home, which happens to be Twitter. So he threw those bad guests out with a rule. But it’s more mythic than that. Now the Gods are angry.
And when the Gods are angry, all those with Old Gods installed in their heads are also upset. It’s fascinating (well, pathologically) to watch people’s reactions to all this. Jaynes said the Old Gods had passed away. If you look at Twitter, and the various people’s reactions, hardly. And its memetic structure ensures it’s gonna be tough to evolve away from that. But it’s also interesting that in so many people (including many scholars) that they have no sense of what this means.
In other Greek classics (like the Oresteia) the Gods are actually called in to set up a tribunal and a set of laws that will evolve the society past the Tribal/Magical conflicts caused by violations of the Guest/Host relationship. It should be said that the Oresteia, when it came out was not a popular play, though it did win the awards for Aeschylus during its time. So that’s interesting as well. Kinda like our own Oscars.
What is more terrifying to me is that there are so many decision makers representing on Twitter that seem to have no idea about any of this. This means either one of two things. The first is that there are so many psychopaths out there in our ruling elites that they simply don’t care if they’re disrupting the peace, and could give a whit if war breaks out between the various memetic strata of society.
But in a way, it’s possibly worse in the second case. Which is that the grounding validity that comes from deep connection through understanding the memetic levels below the current one have been forgotten. And now the structure of modern society that exists is literally hanging in thin air. And as such, since the dominant myths, not only of Western society (this ridiculous constant criticism of the Greek classics is one of the most vapid I’ve ever seen) but around the world are under threat of being forgotten. It’s the End Game of Post-Modernism and fragmentation, that I talk about here. No one is going to be happy. And everyone will, in the end be isolated. Which is simply, terribly sad.
The problem is, of course, that this all leads to some type of war. How? We can’t predict. That’s what happens when you fuck with those Old Gods. And that should give us all pause.