Like Yarvin, Land is not a nihilist, he is a moralist, à la Ayn Rand; [3] his version of the Singularity – the evolutionary threshold when AI overcomes and hence overwhelms human intelligence – is just capitalist eschatology. Humanity will not so much become extinct as split into two divergent strains: the tech-savvy super rich, who will biotechnologically mutate into a transhuman super-race; and the other 99%, the refuse of evolutionary history.

Affirmational strategies speak the idiom of the fetish. [18] Their sole register is intensification (e.g., the worse the better; trolling the trolls; the only way out is the way through). In this vein, the ANON collective (authors of the “Alt-Woke Manifesto,” which takes Keller as a reference), in their rebuttal of the no-platform-for-Land-open-letter [19] qua defense of Left accelerationism, emulate Landian tropes 20, unwittingly adding to the lure of far-right affect, rather than subtracting from it.

This vocabulary, some have argued, is “in flux.” I beg to differ: this vocabulary is aligned with Land and Yarvin’s anti-Left crusade, much the same way the Lügenpresse or Volksverräter were aligned with the rise of National Socialism. What is in flux is the pool of users and the contexts whereupon it appears: chauvinist epistemes are undergoing a process of normalization via groups who themselves have no far-right leanings. Again, Land is the crucial figure upon whom this operation hinges: no one I know would go to the mat in defense of Brimelow or Brett Stevens, but Land has a bevy of staunch supporters who consistently argue that his present-day drift does not overwrite the importance of his earlier philosophical contributions. For institutions like the New Centre, [21] to whom the no-platform-for-Land open letter was addressed, Land, like the Lacanian mother, [22] apparently divides into two: the good Land and the bad Land. They only engage with the good Land. [23] However, this dispute is not about whether to engage with Land’s writings, but about recognizing that institutions institute : hosting the good Land has the unwelcoming effect of rendering the bad Land respectable – influential even. In any case, their opposition is overstated: Land was never “left,” however one cuts it. [24] As Alex Williams argues, Land always “favored an absolute process of acceleration and deterritorialization,” and sustained that “politics and all morality, particularly of the leftist variety, are a blockage to this fundamental historical process.” [25] To the question “Who is the revolutionary agent?” Land’s answer was always: capitalism. His arguments proved alluring to some segments of the Left who could no longer fathom a collective subject, but capitalism is no agent of history; capitalism is by definition invested in social stasis. This why Land collapses dialectics onto phylogenesis, and displaces political conflicts to the site of chimeric struggles, over survival or extinction. In other words, it was not so much Land that changed, but rather the context around him, and context matters: what was in the ’90s a minority or adversary bent – and as such worth defending – is now an increasingly aggressive political presence.

From an infatuation with memes and other evolutionary tropes, to lionizing third nature and the “shared” economy, the point of intersection between contemporary art and the rhetoric of cyber-utopianism has been, for several years now, the style informally known as “post-internet.” But the realm of affect is presubjective: these overlappings do not imply a unified politics, but rather a shared libidinal investment in the triad of novelty/technology/potency. Hence the question: how to describe the nexus between aesthetics and ideology, which hinges on this accelerationist impulse? How to capture the imbrications of technological development, capital accumulation, and social formation without collapsing Silicon Valley, accelerationism, and post-internet into one single bad object? [26]
Roko’s basilisk – a thought experiment which emerged via the blog LessWrong, hypothesizing that AI, once in existence, would wish to accelerate its coming-into-being, hence retroactively torturing all humans who did not contribute to its creation – could be read as a symptom (one which, in his talk, Daniel Keller appeared to fetishize without fully understanding) [28] : all but the ones who devote their lives to bringing the basilisk into being will be met with cruel punishment – a perfect parable for the digital economy and the way it represents (indeed forms) a stark divide between the means of the tech plutocracy (who devote their lives to rearing the “basilisk”) and the vast underclass of underemployed or precarious users, which it only further engenders.

Paradoxically, the demographics more susceptible to the adverse effects of inequality and precarity are also the ones more prone to embrace its nihilist lure. In that vein, the introduction of the internet is said to constitute a condition, the marker of an evolutionary threshold. In this “Logan’s Run”-like logic, the concept of digital natives masks a sociopolitical loss (the rapid decline in living standards) as an evolutionary gain (millennials have an adaptive advantage). [29] Hence the shiny, glossy surfaces that post-internet leans heavily into: these slippery, liquid surfaces are a cypher for the way finance imposes its mode of being, deterritorializing and liquefying everything. Precariousness, however, is not challenged or addressed politically; rather, it is infused with survivalist energy and recuperated into a libidinal economy. Because we can hardly afford to live, we hallucinate that life itself will wither: the Singularity is a social anxiety elevated to the status of theory.

The obverse of affirmation is not withdrawal: it is negation. It is here, I would argue, that we encounter something that cannot be converted onto Warholian currency. (...)
For Daniel Keller, to kill the (alt-right) basilisk, one must mirror it. In my view, the death-drive, here, is misrecognized as dialectics: the mirroring just stages a mise-en-abyme, which renders aesthetic experience a direct extension of corporate terror – without subtracting from, denting, or otherwise undoing the conditions that gave rise to it.

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