What Is a Voter?
by Adam Staley Groves
Donald Trump, the entitled, racist billionaire who thought he could win the Presidency of the United States with his Twitter account, is finished. Hillary Clinton, a lifelong politician and opportunist who has been exposed as a liar and moderate Republican in disguise—will become the first female President of the United States.
The clear shift in support for Clinton in the media, in particular by celebrities, and numerous other facets or faces, portends a continued decline of actual voting. Belief in voting has shifted from the act to other means which is very important for maintaining order for the world’s lone superpower. For example, new found support for Clinton has been built on a lot of wild guessing and spurs of emotional hysteria, a hysteria that has been sealed with a social-celebrity lacquer, a mix between aporia and dialectical annihilation. But we miss the fact that this has all been converted into information.
Trump’s ‘pussy grab’ finished his campaign, but it was probably over before that. About two months ago, I still held on to the possibility that all bets were off. Some trends have returned to normal in terms of assessing the race by the punditry. But what happened in that moment when we were, and some remain, perplexed by an event we could not detect with statistics and talking heads? Now it is easy to say to anyone who listens, that Trump in the last four weeks has descended to joke status—in doing so he reveals actual power, but that is a power resting upon a force that resists conventional intelligence.
Even if Trump dredged up all the racist losers his Twitter feed could reach, white guys alone won’t win you the Presidency. It remains numerically impossible and has been since Trump’s insensitive and unpolished remarks began alienate those demographic categories some Republican AI deathbot had identified for acquisition. So if you think categories such as white and male are numerically and categorically, interesting, then that is a recent and stable fact to cling to. Yet what is clear is that spectacle has nearly covered up its wound and that Black Flag’s “White Minority” has now come to pass as real prophecy, or the real nucleus of any “social science.”
Trump’s campaign never pivoted into general election mode. I think this is a substantial fact or moment, that the machinery of the political party, in the general sense of democratic institutional health and functionality, fails to operate. This is based on the continuing shift between governance by the electromechanical toward the digital-informational machinery of our time. For the Democratic Party machine also failed as a democratic institution. This has all but been forgotten when Bernie Sanders folded like a lawn chair and every sweaty bottom in raw selvage denim is now left with an authentic grass stain on their backsides. The alt-right and progressive left aporia appeared, and life moved on.
The fairy tale, that one single act of decision at the ballot box—supposedly someday in November—maybe the 8th or 28th has bearing or meaning, is coming to an end for many believers. For this election is not about redeeming American democracy rather its power over the world; it’s not about Trump and his narcissism per se. And while it is amusing to see a fat, rich white guy complain about a rigged system, the truth of the matter is that it has always been rigged. Trump is not lying about that. Yet his basic instinct with Twitter, his nine and a half weeks of aggressive touching of the screen, won’t define what rigged means.
Many accept the fact that the difference between candidates is usually not this pronounced, and thus found the turbulence of this cycle disturbing, exciting. It appeared Starship American was going to crash into Space Mountain, again! This election reveals something else in its wake, some debris floating in space, riding the explosion of collision, (did it really crash?). It exposes not only the farce of voting but the continued conversion of human mental force into information, to such a degree that the spectacle of power is nearly impenetrable by analytical skill. This derranges the bodies that carry the current of such force.
I don’t trust anyone who appears to tear the spectacle for me, such as Stephen Colbert. And to illustrate this point is exceedingly difficult because many rely on this experience to massage their abdomens. That is nothing schnapps could not do for you. Right now I assume the American mood is, for the most part, just get Trump the hell over with. It’s a one night stand with that asshole you found interesting because Freud said so. Yet it is Colbert’s projection and movement with the camera, that doubles as a best friend’s scorn for that grand mistake of sleeping with Trump in the first place. It is Colbert’s attitude—he is mocking you. It is Colbert’s certainty about the matter, but it doesn’t quite exorcize the desire that has put Trump in your bed, we cannot examine it. Somehow we all know Colbert is a bit of a maniac, and he is sensitive and blessed for it. But it gets us nowhere near the problem.
He is part of the story,
useless counsel for the moment,
still in too tight of tune.
I have always thought laughter, especially at that very moment the other recognizes it taking place with you, and you in them; that it demands a moment of great caution. Because what follows the spasm is
that fleeting sigh,
that moment where the law is absent and,
that tear from your eye is a gift of emotion
that is the given when it comes
to thinking and reflection.
And if it is your belly
beautifully sore and warm,
information is cuddling every abdominal coo and curdle it produces.
For years now, ever since I read Walter Benjamin’s “The Storyteller” I have been convinced that the figure and fate of the storyteller was a powerful illustration regarding the future of politics. Yet it is more than that, nonetheless I will stick to politics the best I can.
In the opening sequence the storyteller is no longer a “force” and has become something remote, “moving ever further away.”
It’s as if a reflection in a stream,
of this or that face,
maybe your own,
captured in the water and, carried away.
In this instance the echo takes on a different effect. The narcissist is inadvertently disjoined from the very chamber of their pathological report. To this, are they not entitled? Even as the image moves away, Benjamin tells us that the image of the storyteller is somewhat static, that “viewed from a certain distance” the outline or definition stands out “in him” much like the image we make of a cloud or a rock. This is the moment where our innate desire to anthropomorphize objects, things, others, comes into play. Who is it that we encounter that was once claiming to be ourselves? It is our greatest ability to command our technologies, and our greatest liability, because we also risk being colonized by them, by thinking in streams?
We learn the position that we view the image of the storyteller—that static image before us, in some abstract projection—is due to the fact that our bodies have been under assault. Violence force of various degree, has dislodged or dehumanized us? (Do I hear laughter when information gropes me?)
We find the storyteller, a real human, has been configured into the information of the novel. That we are in relation to this informatic figure because we too are undergoing a diminishing of our human form by information, media, and the force it commands by appeal or, by sheer example (such as shell shock).
Yet the storyteller is still capable of giving counsel, and here then, is the point I wish to make. Even in our new forming form we need to listen to the counsel of Trump the storyteller, in order for us to hear it, to learn and to receive it, requires us to listen in a way that debases the viewing of this election by the very informatic novel-devices resting in our hands.
Benjamin was, in my opinion, one of the greatest proponents of the theory of poetry. And this was reified as it was recently pointed out to me, that his earliest thoughts on imagination pledge this allegiance. Benjamin was keenly aware of the sensible versus the intelligible, the general notion of contemplation in contrast to episteme. This election is all about feelings, all metrics were scrambled. That means to me, that the aporia of any technological engendered phenomena had to have a base dialectic between the sensible and intelligible that has never occurred before. In this continuous clash between sensing and recording, a fundamental code is being written. Clearly, by the time Deleuze and Guattari mediate the remains of Benjamin’s poetic insight, the storyteller had become a body without organs.
As much as I would like to track down that clear instance, this is not a time for scholarship. The fact is, as Benjamin notes, we are “innerved” with technical images. The sensible is revealed by them, but it is not eliminated by their disembodied facticity. There is an intelligencing of the emotion, the emotion graphically inscribes information, it is the force of articulation the human form innately understands as a bodily intelligence. And it seems our innervation gives to us a moment, the essence of our own intermeshing, a moment to commit the profanation Trump so sloppily examples in his persistent debasing of convention. It is to say that Trump is not the master manipulator, he is a consequence of the Republican party and the democratic institutions in general, to not make a decisive move toward victory against governance by technologies, technologies that are amassing (perhaps without clear imperatives) information.
Donna Haraway taught us that the continued miniaturization of technologies re-inscribes power relations into the everydayness of life. That white men too would experience the precariousness that women and minorities have endured because of increasing uncertainties associated with deindustrialization. This too effects the very notion of democracy for it opens us up to universal nonsense—and that is the ultimate province of poetry and what has been the desired target of the intelligence. The way in which a vote is cast had increasingly abandoned the ritual site. The fact that so many people have turned up in the last few cycles to vote shows they operate upon an allegory we have yet to intelligence a meaning from.
Trump is becoming feminized by technology? Not really. He is however, ushering in a whole new understanding that the static categories of the past are now liquidating. This does not mean fraternity and equality. It simply means we must develop ways to articulate how we are innerved with the image of informatic capture—what type of thought could we apply,
between our bodies and our storytellers,
in order to restore light to the path
of the Good and the Beautiful, if
we so wish to aspire over expire.
About the Author:
Adam Staley Groves’s research focuses on the “theory of poetry” of Wallace Stevens and other modernist poets. He is a teaching fellow at Tembusu College, National University of Singapore.