Misreading The Blunder By Oculus' Founder

September 24, 2016

 

By now it is old news ––my favorite type. The cofounder of Oculus Rift, Palmer Luckey, had the brilliant idea of pouring some of the dough Facebook paid him on a Trump-supporting meme machine ––no, seriously, he did. Basically, this guy tried to play the mysterious a-la-Thiel funding machine of a group of Trump sympathizing geeks from reddit, mostly to make and distribute anti-Hillary memes in the belief that memes are powerful and can decide an election. He was outed, chaos ensued, and now everybody is in the process of a massive chimp out. Mostly, there have been three readings of the situation: supportive,  against it, and the college professor type trying to play Foucault and deconstructing the drama into a nerds-gone-wild saga. The latter is the most interesting version and let me tell you why.

 

For analysts like the one exemplified before, Luckey is nothing but a fedora-wearing beta trolling the heck out of the system that rejected him. Kind of like 4chan but with $700 million in the pocket. Hence the donning  of the Revenge of the Nerds movie poster as header to this entry. And he equates such reading to the whole techno-libertarian-disrupt-everything-psycho-babble which has taken over the world like a bout of diarrhea in the middle of taking a shower: nerds were bullied, now they run the world, hence they use their newfound muscle to get back at the system that ostracized them. The problem with such an analysis is two-fold. First and foremost, it is manichaean, and, second, it gets so close to the real point that it hurts when it digresses, i.e. in a part of this piece (and others), analysts assume that this nerd hurricane is dismissive of politics and even wants to get rid of it. In Bogost's words: "This is also why political values are always only accidental in the orbit of the technology industry, and why its ultimate political value is the libertarian drive to end politics entirely, anyway."

 

Big mistake.

 

Everything is political, son. To the extent that technocracy offers a narrative of how a better world is achieved, it is as much a political ideology as it is a technological and business drive. Furthermore, any analysis of the situation which dismisses the systematic obtainment, exertion, and increase of power (not just for the lulz) misses the juiciest part of the beef. You see, everything around you is not about two members of the elite competing in an election, or nerds vs. jocks, or democrats vs. republicans, blacks vs. whites, Raiders vs. Broncos, or men vs. women. Those are all distractions, and the puppets of the system get paid to inadvertently promote those distractions. It is about cold, brute power. It is about haves and have nots. Period.

 

You will feel like stoning me to death now, but please allow me to paraphrase Foucault here when I say that whenever there is power there is resistance. And out of objective realities (e.g. law of gravity), everything around the world of humans is intersubjective; henceforth, the presence of friction is a proof that power is a basic building block of the cultural edifice around us. There are no two ways about it, man. You see, intersubjectivity is, basically, the meanings we all more or less agree to, and which, in turn, create a world around us. Without that common understanding, the power humans exercise on others require more harsh uses of power (like a bullet or a hammer). However, when those shared meanings exist, a whole world of common conceptions erects around societies and constrain the expansion of the individual beyond the limits set forth by such shared convictions. That is not to say, though, that the two forms of power mentioned herein are exclusive. They usually go hand in hand. For example, the rules and institutions around us are intersubjective (they don't really exist other than by our shared acceptance of their "existence") and their status make us think twice before stealing or not saluting the flag; however, if one of us do, the bullets in the guns of police are real, tangible and can be used to exert power to command us to comply.

 

Enough Habermas, though. The point here is that human existence is all about power and, for those who have it, it is irrelevant what color or leaning they are. It can be a combination of charm, money, muscle, or networks, but power is there and everyday is a competition to either keep it, gain it, increase it or reduce it. And since power is built against the backdrop of intersubjectivity, it follows that the world we create around us by necessarily being in a society is impregnated with the friction that comes with the territory. What the Oculus douchebag is doing is what all the douchebags do, while the reaction to it is the resistance to the change of the narrative upon which our shared world is built. That is the reason some see elections, racial or gender politics as big, fat jokes. Once attained, power is blind. And power is necessarily exercised through the conduits of politics. Just because humans smile, wave flags, vote, or say yes it doesn't mean that power is being exercised over them before they react the way they do. Same goes for exercising the power itself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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