June 12, 2024

‘Nicely-informed cynicism is barely one other mode of conformity.’

(Max Horkheimer)

‘Let’s smoke emotions collectively, it’s all about you, me and emotions, which needs to be forgotten.’


‘When you’ll want to be well mannered to your search engine so as to get good outcomes.’

(Francis Starvation)

‘Your AI will speak to my AI’

(t-shirt slogan)

‘The guts says sure, however the consideration span says no.’

(Melissa Broder)

‘Be the coaching information you need to see on the planet.’

(Kylie McDonald)

‘Pause for the Individuals’

(pageant slogan)

‘The chook struggles laborious however strikes nowhere, but it’s incapable of touchdown.’

(Chinese language saying concerning the hummingbird)

‘Not “Socialism or Barbarism” however “Degrowth or Mad Max”.’

(Patrice Riemens)

‘Actuality is unsuitable. Desires are for actual.’


There are all the time new necessities, however none are useful to you. They are saying the chance for development has pale. Need was extinguished way back. Your soul feels depleted, with no discharge of internal tensions in sight. You want change however can’t deal with it any longer. What occurs when there’s no extra vitality to handle the problems head on, you set off duties and overlook to deal with your physique? You’re feeling bored and lonely now that your on-line mates now not reply. You indulged final night time, nevertheless it’s now not potential to get drunk or excessive. How do digital souls survive when perseverance means nothing anymore? When you’re too drained to handle your life and take care of planetary dysmorphia, there’s all the time a fallback possibility: copium.

If the objective is to reclaim the facility of definition within the struggle towards right-wing meme hegemony, right here’s one. Copium is the digital data consumption that makes one briefly numb, intoxicated and disadvantaged of sensation when there’s actually zero emotion on show. That is the street taken from bittersweet irony right down to confronting and overcoming absolute nihilism. What occurs when there’s no goal anymore in coping with the world’s true nature, and also you enter an unnarratable situation?

Copium is a micro-release that helps you retain going, past the harmful facet of drug-taking and the psychedelic ecstasy of vibrant different realities. Push forward, say it out loud, keep bizarre and be assured there’s life once more after the Occasion Horizon. Enter the difficult psychological state of pain-killer-as-attitude that opens you as much as the miracle. What occurs when the escalation of shock worth techniques now not works? As soon as contained in the rabbit gap, one forgets euphoria, and even the frenzy. As an alternative of a theatrical breakdown the fictional but all too actual copium drug causes a ‘no matter’ flatlining of the involuntary capitalism we’re thrown into.

And while you’re each partly alive, partly useless, at this time’s robots leap, dance, collapse and rise up once more. Even worse: they apologize and ask the way you’re doing. Chatbots are now not skilled to be well mannered and distant as with HAL in 2001: A Area Odyssey. They’re emphatic, upsetting violent responses from the annoyed multitudes that rage towards synthetic stupidity and unfounded hope. ‘Have a pleasant day – and please don’t overlook to rank me!’ Shut up! We care however don’t care.

The essence of copium

Arting Well being: A Science Communication avenue artwork challenge by Infers Group. Picture by James-Alex Matthews through Wikimedia Commons

In keeping with Know Your Meme, the ‘portmanteau of the phrases “cope” and “opium”’ describes ‘a fictional drug to assist one take care of loss’, the place making memes acts as a coping mechanism to take care of detrimental feelings. The time period, which could be traced again to rapper Keak da Sneak’s 2003 album title, was utilized in an illustration that includes Pepe the Frog hooked as much as an oxygen tank labelled copium, a chemical ‘used to assuage the thoughts of an individual who has simply misplaced a debate’. The cartoon drawing, popularized in meme area throughout the 4Chan-Twitter Trump years, reached its peak after 6 January 2021 and the storming of the US Capitol. There’s additionally a suggestion, in accordance with Wiktionary, that copium results in denial.

The time period may also be learn as a reference to the US opiate disaster. As a up to date memes states: ‘Seems, the true opiates of the lots … is opiates.’ Nevertheless, we’re speaking right here about symbolic methods of tips on how to grapple with stress, panic and anger, not about luring, self-destructive methods out. The late French thinker Bernard Stiegler describes this era because the collapse of ‘world childishness’, ‘leaving the white center courses to sink into distress, alcoholism, drug habit and resentment, accelerating the regression of their life expectancy in addition to the collapse of their “intelligence quotient”.’

Whereas City Dictionary defines copium as ‘metaphoric opiate inhaled when confronted with loss, failure or defeat, particularly in sports activities, politics and different tribal settings’, the emphasis right here lies on the structural facets of a life outlined by serial defeats. What occurs when this loss turns into everlasting and hardwired into techno-social existence? The shock doctrine that outlined the neo-liberal age is lengthy gone, but ‘change’ is for the completely happy few. The shock is everlasting now and has develop into an integral a part of twenty-first century life. What stays is variety within the type of stagnation, regression, disaster and decline, and a unending sense of catastrophe, which Kim Stanley Robinson referred to as Götterdämmerung capitalism in his cli-fi novel Ministry for the Future. Nothing will disappear voluntarily, out-of-the-blue. Appearances refuse to fade away. With each historical past and expertise dashing up additional, hyper forces develop into autonomous entities that now not want the human topic. That’s the bleakness of life after the tipping level.

Perception opiates

In 1843 Karl Marx wrote the next, now well-known sentences: ‘Faith is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the center of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless circumstances. It’s the opium of the folks.’ The goal of faith then was to settle down uncertainty in life. Across the similar time, the phrase ‘God is useless’ began to flow into. Blame Kierkegaard, Stirner and Nietzsche, however as soon as the secular genie was out of the bottle, no ‘non secular renaissance’ might reinstate the authority of faith (with the violent fundamentalist regimes in Iran and Afghanistan serving as a merciless reminder).

Quick ahead from the nineteenth century and the query is what does the ‘copium of the folks’ seems like at this time. What calms you down? How do you cope? What are methods to include insecurities within the mild of the inevitable? The uncooked objectivity of the collapse alone is not going to result in political motion except we take vulnerability into consideration. That is the lesson for the 2020s. We’re alleged to be actors however behave like twentieth-century spectators. That is our melancholy.

‘Simply that one thing so good. Simply can’t operate no extra.’ (Love Will Tear Us Aside, Pleasure Division)

As an alternative of defining coping as a psychological technique, whereby the topic rejects a harsh reality and adopts a much less disturbing perception, let’s stress the survival side of repetitive on a regular basis life that doesn’t permit for (revolutionary) change. The spirit of capitalism could also be useless, however so is the need to withstand and overthrow the regime.

‘Take a chill capsule!’ (common saying)

Coping is then a results of the lack of the optimistic facet of ideology as a belief-system. Being on the planet is lowered to killing time. It’s time to go straightforward on the job and stop the hustle. Let’s chill and test the socials.

What are ‘coping mechanisms’? On this mild, copium could be something. It’s an empty container so long as it alleviates the ache and is known as a metaphorical opiate. Whereas some affiliate it with subdued addictive substances and issues like sports activities, sleep, porn or meals, copium is best understood as basically digital time killers resembling binge-watching sequence, enjoying video games and doom scrolling TikTok movies. And don’t overlook all of the mindless YouTube periods.

Copium stands for vita non activa and gives aid from contemplation, giving your mind a break. What occurs when worries go in circles and it has develop into not possible to decide, any determination? Apathy was a stigma. Not. There’s sympathy for the slacker. Everybody has had sufficient. That is the large distinction from thirty years in the past when neo-liberal positivism was nonetheless the norm and the slacker was seemed down upon as a lazy, sub-cultural determine languishing about as Era X. The state of distraction at this time equals impulsive digital interactions that offload the anxieties onto one other platform or app: ship an immediate message, swipe to match on a courting app, touch upon a submit. All this can by no means convey relaxation or tranquillity, not to mention mindfulness.

What’s your poison?

Copium is turned to as a defence mechanism in conditions of stress. However what occurs when this ‘mechanism’ enters geo-politics, behavioural psychology and, finally, is bought again to you thru social media advertising? The neuro-science enlightenment marketing campaign has paid off. The workings of the mind’s reward system at the moment are widespread data. Patterns of cybernetic management have been acknowledged. The upper artwork of coping, which arises with all this techno-cynical cause, is on the similar time a mirrored image on Mark Fisher’s analysis of the state of frenzied stasis.

‘Making an attempt to make ends meet, you’re a slave to cash then you definately die.’ (The Verve)

Hauntology could be one possibility, however what occurs when the nightmare returns as in a Groundhog Night time, which, not like Groundhog Day, would begin over again the second the principle character falls asleep? Will copium – as soon as common on Twitch, typically additionally referred to as hopium – solely lengthen the nightmare? One wonders whether or not the digital papaver will make the chain of disasters worse or relatively soften its psychological impression? Or does it, as in Kurt Vonnegut’s phrase, work extra like a painkilling ‘aspirin of the folks’? God-like rays beam down from the clouds after which disappear, instantly.

In keeping with therapists, we have to cope ‘so as to take care of drawback or adversity’. However when you run out of coping expertise, there’s all the time copium as a final resort. That is the promise. Regression is a unending downward slope. We’re thrown again to coping mechanisms after entry to the previous and future are blocked. There’s simply horror of the everlasting presence of the now, the unending, monotonous on a regular basis. Whereas all the things seems to alter, nothing does. Coping with a world pushed by reactive forces has develop into a central problem, contemplating the straightforward means folks circulation out and in of existence on this world. What’s your poison?

The paranoia lure

There’s an uncanny whirlpool of things at play that spins round an empty core referred to as the Self. That is what occurs when emotions of being undesired, undesirable and remoted are skilled collectively, on an industrial, cosmic scale. That is the late social media age of collective loneliness, also referred to as the not-yet-widely-recognized Sherry Turkle syndrome. However the problem is now not being alone within the crowd. The unhappy and lonely collect to muffle the notion of ache, create quasi-communities with accompanying ideologies in an try to offer which means to dwelling within the void. Whether or not or not there’s a lack of precise social networks and private (emotional) bonding is now not related. The techno-social actuality supersedes the id constructing of an outsider group. As soon as failure is democratized and turns into a normal situation with a number of methods to specific itself, we have to look past this or that subculture and handle the overall techno-affect.

Let’s dig into a selected case. In her analysis on younger male incels and their on-line boards, Canadian researcher Kate Babin lists 4 components for the dearth of social cohesion. She begins with othering the in group, the observe of ‘rampant mistrust between members on a discussion board’. This reflex of exclusion mirrors a normal lack of belief on platforms and could be seen as an internalization of surveillance and digital extractivism. One isn’t actually alone on-line, nor in a closed group for that matter. There are all the time large and small Others just about current that watch and observe in a semi-invisible method. There’s by no means actually belief. The social feeling is a faux one, at finest unreliable.

On this overcrowded Planet Web, coping isn’t simply of solitary concern. Ranges of paranoia in open networks are at an all-time excessive, whereas tacit activist data on tips on how to determine infiltrators and spies stays just about non-existent. Giant flocs of customers are able to disappear in a single day, by no means to been seen once more. Whereas up to now this tradition of uncertainty was related to on-line anonymity, nowadays social media makes it a lot simpler to research who’s behind a username. At finest copium acts as a masks – if solely we might see on-line remark tradition because the masquerade balls throughout Venice Carnival.

The second component, clogging up the discussion board, is once more an inside matter, used to indicate engagement via minimal involvement. There may be pleasure in derailing an inside dialogue or trade like this and disrupting rational deliberation; I submit, like and share, subsequently I’m. When the sign to noise ratio suggestions, the facility of discourse is momentarily disrupted, reproducing a simulacrum of neighborhood.

Shitposting is the third issue Babin lists: a tradition jamming approach in a international feed, as an example on YouTube or Twitter. Typically just one dangerous comment will suffice to finish a web based dialogue and begin an avalanche of ‘engagement’, a trick cultivated by the grifters that make up the troll-industrial advanced. The recommendation of Nineteen Nineties cyberculture ‘to not feed the trolls’ didn’t scale past the do-good hacker neighborhood and is these days largely unknown to mainstream customers.

An extra problem right here is the absence of stylish moderation instruments. Platformed communities can not protect themselves as a result of on-line environments are supposed to stay ‘open’ (to develop). Closed teams merely should not have to take care of shitposters. The best way customers handled ‘zoom bombing’ throughout the COVID-19 pandemic years (sending an unique passcode to subscribed members earlier than the occasion or assembly) reveals how straightforward it’s to guard sure on-line exchanges. Nevertheless, previous media nonetheless loves reporting shitposting incidents as an indication of the decline of digital media – and society on the whole. As an alternative of accusing adolescent others with immature behaviour, it could be higher to border these acts as a part of an ideological battle, a tradition warfare, or, extra just lately, cyberwarfare.

Babin’s fourth and final attribute is fatalism, which is by far probably the most fascinating of her components because it invitations us to match fatum at this time with Jean Baudrillard’s Deadly Methods from 1983. Babin notes that ‘any optimistic point out of an curiosity or a interest which presents a chance for members to attach with one another is as a substitute diminished and labelled a “cope”.’ So what’s the fatum right here? Software program, neighborhood ties, the zeitgeist, the incel id lure? In her conclusion Kate Babin notes that the incels.is discussion board she investigated ‘creates division inside a subcultural neighborhood, resulting in an absence of social assist, low high quality relationships and excessive detrimental affectivity.’ Id isn’t celebrated as a liberation however turns into a paranoia lure.

The fatality is a second-order, weak model of Baudrillard’s romantic notion of the seductive ‘evil’ facet of the Inevitable. As an alternative, what’s skilled is an instable order to fabricated components, glued collectively in a brief setting, seemingly exchanging destiny with design. Fluidity is the other of predestination. The true current attitudes confronted listed here are types of confusion, which manifest as ‘optionalism’ – I’ve the liberty to decide on between a large number of choices and in the long run can not determine.

The identical previous funeral songs

As Timothy Morton famous, ‘the outside is already indoors’. The coexistence of me and disasters is a actuality. Morton describes issues that ‘one can perceive completely, however for which there is no such thing as a rational resolution’. We’re all the time unsuitable. Ought to the collapse be accelerated or can the katechon (the restrainer), when correctly administered, impede its unfold? Is copium then the ‘katechon from beneath’? Crowdsourcing efforts to delay the arrival of the Antichrist? How will customers cope after the Web Mass Extinction when billions of profiles get worn out in a singular occasion? Every catastrophe are parked in our private histories in a parallel trajectory – till they now not could be. Will it develop into essential for public well being and political activism causes to design the collective psychic armour that may shield us towards the detrimental psychological fallout of platform disasterism?

Can recollections of the previous operate as copium? Russian researcher Nina Danilova has written an fascinating research on the standing of déjà-vu, a phenomenon pushed by an ‘overabundance of reminiscence and the disappearance of hopes for a greater future’. However what occurs when reminiscence can now not be captured and is just now not there? What’s the déjà-vu impact in a tradition of psycho-technic amnesia? Déjà-vu of the little that’s left? Positive, one can be taught mnemonic methods, however the lure of tech is all the time there to help us when sudden waves of nostalgia resurface and we flick through our picture collections, social media collections and the occasional emails. We encompass technical units, as prosthesis, as Stiegler calls it. Customers really feel mnemonically disabled and can’t dwell with out their units. With Paolo Virno, Danilova defines deja-vu as ‘a situation that determines apathy, fatalism, and indifference to the longer term, since historical past appears to be identified upfront and unalterable’.

Danilova asks: ‘Why is considering of the longer term so problematic throughout the temporality of déjà vu?’ Micro déjà-vu moments, whether or not narco-technically induced or not, are one of many many up to date manifestations of ‘stuckness’, upsetting a way of stagnation of each society and its topics. How have we already skilled the apocalypse earlier than it has even occurred? There can solely be one ending however not on this story: we’re caught within the last section that intentionally upholds its decision. What occurs when life will get trapped in a repetitive loop and we are able to solely take heed to the identical previous funeral songs? You need to transfer on, however, within the present sadist situation, there is no such thing as a strategy to elegantly exit from the scene.

In a digital cosmos, held collectively by copium, there are a number of readings. The Russian tackle that is all the time an fascinating one. As Danilova explains in an e-mail trade, ‘the Russian mentality is about to withstand any trace of rose-tinted glasses. Our means is to hit the underside so laborious that you simply see stars.’ I ask about toska, the Russian type of despair past melancholy, unhappiness and melancholia, and the way it pertains to copium: ‘Toska signifies a realm the place irony doesn’t work anymore. It’s all the time a post-ironic state of disillusion. Irony continues to be a type of copium, because the meme world demonstrates. Within the toska frame of mind, one can not conceal behind it anymore. Copium can subsequently be put apart as a frivolous Western affair, with nonetheless an excessive amount of hope between the traces.’ Russians, we’d say, subsist within the realm of post-copium: a continuum of culturally decided despair. As a dialectical antithesis, one might suggest that it’s exactly copium that stops the cultivation of struggling and the last word institution of loss of life cults.

In keeping with Italian theorist Franco Berardi, in analysing the West, we should always think about the unsinkable Donald Trump as an addictive (social) media superstar, a political copium of a peculiar sort:

Individuals, of their majority, have to date used that repellent particular person in a transfer to sabotage the globalist elite. However now there’s something extra loopy. The American thoughts wants to deal with the persistence of insupportable actuality, in order that they open up the field of Pandora of whole erasure of actuality as Rational, unleashing a limitless sphere of memetic meaninglessness. The sphere of meaninglessness just isn’t restricted by plausibility, to not point out trustability or reality. The query for a lot of is thus how to deal with the melancholy provoked by the boundaries of actuality, by the predictability of rational selections.

Whereas politics is commonly pushed apart as cleaning soap opera or a bureaucratic recreation, common figures themselves are was copium.

Operation Discover Misplaced Time

When you’ve witnessed sudden temper shifts from anguish and mourning to outrage and anger because the core patterns that expresses discontent in society, ideological labels resembling optimism and pessimism develop into interchangeable. The copium engine sits within the midst of all of this, proper within the center, ensuring the pendulum by no means stops. In up to date on-line tradition, the completely happy feelings of ‘hopecore’ and the infinite doom scrolling ‘corecore’ mode co-exist. Each are types of collective psychic armours to guard the precarious multitudes from a rising flood of disasters. Whereas gurus, therapists, influencers, mates and oldsters consider within the energy of optimistic messages, customers that yearn for higher occasions have discovered to depart open all choices: whereas hope could be a psychological painkiller, a go to to the darkish facet could be equally uplifting. As each morale boosting speak and dank memes can shortly lose their impression and develop into disgusting, don’t overlook the facility of singing the blues.

In the long run, copium is a strategy to bridge empty time, flat, unending durations which might be now not intense nor round however stretched and repetitive. When life is a sequence of pseudo-events from the lives of others, time flies and nothing stands out. It could be counterintuitive to reintroduce and impose a ready time for no good cause, however the riot towards friction-free smoothness feels proper. The decolonization of time is at hand: Operation Discover Misplaced Time, overcoming stagnation fused with a unending stream of disasters to create an inflationary spiral. Bear in mind, the lengthy durée of the malaise and the temporality of crises are now not opposites and have develop into a poisonous combine. Higher loosen up and do nothing particular. The ontological shock isn’t coming. As an alternative, distributed types of ready are on the rise. Chilling collectively provokes. Count on a planetary name for a ‘strike on time’ quickly.

For Cade Diehm from the New Design Congress in Berlin, copium is distinctly totally different to nostalgia, the comfy internet and escapism. ‘All of them have similarities, however copium itself is a derogatory description of delusion as cope as a substitute of defeat. … Copium is like coming final in a foot race and considering you’re successful. It’s a type of post-Trump HODLing. BAYC ‘gm’ and WAGMI, QAnon loser mothers “awaiting the storm” any second now: Basic Flynn and Q are coming in to empty the swamp subsequent 12 months. Nostalgia for final month. That’s the promise. It’s the depth for energy or management, filtered via nostalgia however tremendous quick. It’s not a need for present have an effect on, and it’s not a eager for one thing gone. It’s a denial of the quick.’

Upsetting Silicon Valley billionaires and their start-up clone armies worldwide can be a straightforward technique to disrupt the ever-growing demand for copium. Their invisible methods embody using behaviour psychologists and different techno-magic tricksters. It has taken time, however mass vigilance techniques on the frontline of subliminal wars are understood by the multitudes – even when they may finally be rendered ineffective. The goal now could be to reverse the digital extractivist technique of disappearing into the background to creating infrastructure that’s seen. Difficult energy to struggle it out within the open isn’t prone to be questioned. And if their affect can now not be subtle, there might be no return to ‘regular’.


For Hannah Ahrendt, solitude meant solitary studying – whereas being with different authors. This isn’t how we understand the present desolate state of affairs. Copium is inflicting us to no-longer-be-there when the net of human relations unravels. Confronted with worldlessness, non permanent lapses of absence might trigger emotions of guilt, however the necessity to know has taken over. Indifference rulz, as David Kishik writes in Self Examine: Notes on the Schizoid Situation: ‘Though I need to categorical my feelings, all I can report again is a gradual lack of have an effect on, plus a rising sense of isolation. Is that this what medieval monks referred to as taedium vitae, a weariness that arises not from life’s burdens however from its crawling vacancy?’ That is the internal battle for (tele)presence. It’s time to articulate the dialectics of the absent presence.

Accelerationists see the unfolding of the forces of digitization as a assure for the apocalyptic transition from this late-capitalist bourgeois society to chill socialism. Towards the passive certainty of the collapse, there’s nothing extra thrilling and erotic than the vitality of latest beginnings that overcome the loss of life cult. That is Hannah Arendt’s Lebensphilosophie: the liberating feeling of not having been right here earlier than and escaping the prescribed apathy, cynicism, paralysis and melancholy to behave, once more, traditionally.

What comes after boredom? Uncover the facility of self-organization to beat the depleted self. Reclaim the social – it’s now or by no means. Motion is the a-priori; the approaching neighborhood is not going to be offered on a silver platter. Tactical media are a radical interruption of the historic continuity of platform domination and don’t want a wolf on the door to thrive. There are multitudes of urgencies. Itemizing them can be a mistake and sure to make one depressed. Finest to run into an urgency of collective design: your very personal collapse trouvée.

‘By the point the apocalypse started, the world had already ended. It ended day-after-day for a century or two. It ended, and one other ending world spun as a replacement.’ (The World Retains Ending, and the World Goes On, Franny Choi)