The Russian trolls are getting to people. Fake News is like a parasite of the brain, it latches onto the subject’s preconceived notions of the world, its natural distrust for Western authorities and makes the subject share it to his friends and families. The message is clear: ”we are all being duped people. This is the truth. Don’t trust the mainstream media. This is what’s really going on.”
The establishment did this to themselves but perhaps, it was inevitable. We enraged the demons long ago and these demons will always be there. The more we fight them, the more fire we leave behind. The fire always comes back.
Globalization was never going to make us like each other better. It’s too hard to understand the world, the people and ourselves too. The more information we receive, the more we realize that it’s far more complicated than we had initially suspected. So we simplify. We seek a comforting reality. We find the kind of news that reflects our world view. Leaders come around and tell us what we believe. Their colorful language makes them seem different. Maybe this guy is different. Maybe this guy is telling the truth.
Putin saw this happening long ago. Maybe the credit should go wider. Russian history is full of managing popular opinion. A former KGB-man, someone who spied on his people and considers himself a patriot, knows very well that the truth is too painful. The truth can ruin everything. Gorbachov can tell you this: just look at what perestroika and glasnost did! It opened borders and gave people the right to question the history of their glorified empire. No. A populist, a leader with authoritarian knows the golden rule: you close borders, you demonize the enemy and you get the journalists in line. Journalists are a pesky sort. Make sure the people hate them. Tell them they work for the establishment, that they write fake news.
Another one that’s popular today is the DEEP STATE. The opposition-this time Robert Mueler and his legal team- within the government is secretly trying to get Trump impeached. They are all using it. Not sure who started it. Perhaps it was Roger Stone. I sort of like Roger Stone. I mean I don’t like him as a person, he’s basically everything that’s revolting about humanity, but he’s upfront with it. There’s a genuineness about him. He’s pure evil and he knows it and he doesn’t care. He’s an entertaining sort of demon.
Even Newt Gingrich mentioned The DEEP STATE. This useless and irrelevant tub of lard says the president cannot obstruct justice- except if he received a blowjob, something that enraged Gingrich when he tried to get Clinton impeached. There’s also Sean Hannity, a man with such a hard-on for Trump that he wouldn’t be surprised if he was writing fan-fiction about him.
All of these supposedly respectable people have been infected by the Russian Troll. It could very well that the Trump support is just a niche market, but especially in the case of Hannity, they seem like true believers. There’s just something about about his charms, that they just can’t resist.
Watching Trump’s cabinet taking turns sucking Trump’s dick (metaphorically speaking) was painful. How could it ever get this far? I know they all have some financial stake in the game but I don’t think I could do this. Maybe if my girlfriend was taking hostage and I was forced to do this to save my life, then maybe, maybe I would consider it. But I don’t understand how they could do this and not immediately watch their mouth with soap. They had to have been high when they did this. Maybe it’s like a game of who can suck up to him the most. It was like a staged scene of Russian propaganda. Did Trump really think this was convincing to the American people? Well since many of his voters actually think he’s a Christian, I guess it could.
Meanwhile Putin is smiling, high-fifing Pepe the Troll. The divide in America was so great, it made it easy for his Russian Trolls. The infection is spreading meanwhile. Even in Holland, the message board is full of Putin supporters. There are educated people who say that perhaps Putin’s vision of the world isn’t quite so bad.
And anybody who’ve seen a glimpse of Putin’s world, knows why I’m scared. This is a world where facts are subjective, we don’t know who to trust, we don’t know if this event or that event was planned by the state, perhaps even the opposition is bankrolled by the state. Everything is a joke, nothing means anything anymore. People turned mad by the state, hunting for opposition leaders- or maybe those mad killers are bankrolled by the government? The most shameful history is warped into something glorious. The heroes could be the villains and the villains are the only ones we can trust.
Many people have been fooled by the Russian troll’s narrative. This Free Press reveals our shortcomings and in turn could instigate our own kind of perestroika and glasnost, but in reverse: close borders and a suppression of dissent. This story has been told before. It’s nothing new. Institutions can fall easily, it’s only as strong as its people. If just takes enough fools on election day.
Art by Ralph Steadman
An old friend called Harry around 2 in the morning. Harry only made a sound when he picked up the phone, he was too tired to anything resembling a word.
”It’s me, the enemy of the people.”
”Ah fuck, is that you Stone?”
”Meet me in the Interzone. We have lots to talk about.
”I was living a different live in my dreams. I prefer it than the one I’m actually living. Could we have lunch there at twelve?”
”I’m all wired. There’s no sleep for me and I’m in town. See ya soon old buddy.”
He hung up. At first Harry just closed his eyes again. Soon enough he realized that he would never return to his dream anyway.
”Goddammit. Fine,” mumbled Harry, ”I’ll go.”
It’s hard, maybe impossible, to describe to what kind of clientèle The Interzone markets itself too. At first glance it’s your typical American diner with a nostalgia for the fifties. There’s even a jukebox filled with American songs. But if you would take a closer look you see it is a place in search of an identity. There’s African, Chinese, English, even Russian art on the walls. A Catholic cross hangs on the walls as well as a Jewish star. A confederate flag but it’s painted in the colors of the rainbow. A Gadsen Flag but it’s rattlesnake seems to have a pleading smile and the words below say: ‘Tread on me, but don’t squash me please!’
Sometimes you catch people looking absently minded at the architecture. They stare at a piece of foreign art. Most of the time nobody is paying attention. They are wearing their glasses and the glasses take them to different worlds.
There’s a hint that its fractured dressing is intentional, maybe ironic. But then again, there are more places like this. This place used to mean something, now it doesn’t know what it wants to mean. Maybe it doesn’t mean anything now and maybe that’s the point.
Miguel Stone loves it here. Harry doesn’t.
”You find yourself in the weirdest places and discover that you’re finally home,” said Miguel Stone, smiling, gazing through window to the night illuminated by pink-lights. ”I met so many people that rejected the weirdness of life. Everything has to be plain. By the books. The life they know. The life their parents lived. People like me, however wicked in the eyes of the unimaginative, we accept ourselves and are rewarded by God himself.”
It wasn’t the first time they would meet like this. Stone is all over the world sometimes. You have to make time for him, he won’t make time for you. They haven’t seen each other in almost a year now. Stone always drifts in and out of Harry’s life
Harry doesn’t really understand why he wants to meet him and why Harry always agrees too. They are both completely the opposites. Stone doesn’t have any morals and therefore became a very wealthy man. Harry does alright, there’s still enough money coming in from book sales that Harry can live the rest of his life, doing his podcast. Stone, a lobbyist who runs his own firm, goes all around the world, working for mostly Kremlin backed candidates and doing a helluva job- they don’t even have to falsify the election as much because of his help.
From outward appearance, you could already digest that these two come from very different worlds. Stone was twenty years older, with pearly white hair and teeth and immaculately tailored and colorful suites. Stone doesn’t give a fuck what you think. He knows that most people hate him. Perhaps this even gives him strength. Maybe he even thrives on soft-hearted liberals or morally righteous republicans.
Harry doesn’t care about his appearance. It’s a crummy T-shirt, some faded logo with a checkered shirt to cover it. Stone’s face is bald from his thorough shave in the morning with the straight razor. Harry hasn’t shaved in months. Stone, even at his ripe old age of fifty-five still works out and is in great muscular shape. Harry is sagging all over the place. Harry tries to do the right thing, Stone prides himself of being the villain.
Perhaps it’s Harry’s genuine nature that Stone respects so much. Perhaps it keeps Stone in touch with the common man. Perhaps it’s just Harry’s humanity.
”You look like hammered shit,” smiled Stone smugly, not a hint of concern.
”I was having this beautiful dream when you woke me up,” Harry said, rubbing his eyes.
”Maybe you should thank me for it. That’s the problem with America. People dream too much.”
”You don’t need to dream.”
”I don’t need to dream. I am the dream,” Stone smiled, grabbing cigar paper from his pocket and a cigarette case. ”That’s why I love Russia. People stopped dreaming there long ago. They know themselves. They know the limit of the freedom they can handle. Give them too much freedom and they’ll give it back. Americans are the same. Slowly they’ve been giving away freedoms. Yet they still act as if they are free.”
”And you represent what dream exactly?”
”I am the true face of America. I’m filthy rich and I act like it was due to my god-given talents. I don’t admit that I’m wrong to anybody even if its very obvious. I look beautiful and I sleep with beautiful women. Sometimes even men. I’m a perfectly contended Patrick Bateman but without the bodies in the closet- though who knows,” Stone winks and opens his cigarette case: showing thick green leaves of marijuana.
”It sounds like a nightmare to me.”
”That’s because you’re human.”
”And you’re not?”
”I’m enlightened. I’m a special case.”
”And what am I?”
”You’re a dinosaur. A beautiful dinosaur.”
”Schadenfreude. That’s why you are here.”
”Maybe it’s general affection.”
”Are you even capable of having genuine affection for anyone other than yourself?”
”I don’t know. I like to think so. Maybe I hang around you for nostalgia. Back when people knew who the fuck they were.”
”Before men like you took control of the world.”
”Men like me always did. We just want more this time. Your freedoms aren’t enough. We want your reality.”
Harry sighs and sips his coffee. A part of him enjoys this conversation, no matter how it infuriates him. Stone’s presence validated Harry’s view of the world. In a world where every view seems valid, this was a comforting thing.
”Answer me this, why do I agree to meet you?” Harry asked.
”You don’t have many friends. You lost most of them. You stopped appreciating them. You cling onto the asshole that’s left.”
Harry looks out the window, a man in a torn t-shirt, with faded letters stating ‘make America great again,’ walks by the window, mumbling to himself, waving his hands around. Stone sees him too, he smiles as he reads the rambling bum’s T-shirt.
”I remember Trump when I was a teenager. That’s when the fun started.”
”I just got born then. But I’ve read enough about him.”
”One day we will manage to clone him. Hope I’ll be alive to see that.”
”So how’s the world stage? How is managing democracies?”
Stone laughs and licks his joint shut.
”It’s beautiful chaos. Especially with Oblivion around. They can’t control them. Even the most powerful men are afraid of them. Many of their firewalls have been breached already. It’s great when powerful men are scared. It means they need people like me.”
”I heard you were targeted. You tweeted about it anyway.”
”Yes I was. Some asshole threatened to expose my sexual activities if I didn’t stop lobbying for those Ukrainians. I responded by just admitting it on Twitter. I don’t care if the world knows about it or not. There’s nothing they can blackmail me on. And if they find something, I’ve got enough of them in my employ to spin the story. I can spin everything. We make dictators look like bleeding heart liberals. There is nothing they can do to rattle me.”
”I talked about them on my podcast some time back.”
”I know, I never miss a show. I thought it was hilarious.”
”I wasn’t trying to be funny.”
”I know you weren’t baby. It’s still hilarious to me.”
Stone lights up the fat joint, inhales smoothly, passes it.
”I probably shouldn’t.”
”True, you probably shouldn’t.”
Harry takes the joint and inhales.
”Has the president been targeted to?” said Harry blowing smoke, ”he denies it but that doesn’t mean shit.”
”Tell you the truth I don’t know. I might be friends with him but he doesn’t divulge everything to me. I don’t have that kind of clearance. But I think he is. The way he’s cozying up to the Eastern bloc makes it seem that way.”
”Are you proud for having made him president?”
”It’s not just me. The people voted for him.”
”Maybe. Does it really matter Harry? He’s president and he will be for another four years if the constitution doesn’t gets changed again.”
Harry passes the joint. Stone looks at the joint proudly.
”I made this shit legal again. I changed the presidents mind on the issue. My finest hour. Don’t ever say I never did anything good in my life.”
”You are a regular fucking saint.”
”How are you Harry?”
Harry sighs, looks out the window. The bum with the ‘Make America Great T-shirt’ is sitting on a bench, laughing heartily about something.
”No you’re not. You’re still sulking.”
”I’m not sure I would call it that.”
”There are probably better words. But the word you should be looking at is ‘moving on.’ She is gone. She left you for someone more hansom and successful. The healthy thing to do is find someone more hansom and successful too. Even if its just to piss her off.”
”I don’t mind being alone.”
”We all mind being alone. Even people like me. Even people who don’t even like people mind being alone. You’re the kind of person that thrives in a relationship. Without one you’re lost. Like you are now.”
”Maybe it’s the world. Maybe it’s just getting to me.”
”That’s why you need a woman in your life. A woman that keeps you grounded. You need a deep connection. I don’t. I just need power. I don’t need to be connected with anyone. I just want to have a good time being around them. That’s enough for me.”
”I don’t know. I don’t feel like I could really connect with someone again. I’ve played the game long enough. Every time I think about it makes me tired.”
”You need to get out of your soundstage and into the world my friend. Write again. I know some connections. You could write some shitty horror movie. You will meet people, fuck around.”
”I don’t want to leave my soundstage. It’s all I have.”
”You know you lost nearly half your listeners after you vehemently opposed the president.”
”Those people don’t care about you. They will stop listening to you the moment you break their reality. Information is a vast market but you care too much. Most people don’t. Either start caring less or do something else. The work will otherwise destroy you.”
Stone passes the joint. Harry takes a deep puff.
”You don’t like my answers Harry,” smiles Stone, ”because you know I’m right.”
Harry doesn’t say anything, he just keeps puffing. He feels his mind going to weird and mysterious places.
”I don’t think I will be able to sleep anytime soon.”
”That’s okay, I’m here.”
Outside, the drunk man with the Trump T-shirt began to cry.
”But I was having a beautiful dream…” Harry came close to the beautiful dream but it kept slipping away.
”It’s better not to dream. Especially in this world…
In my dream I was almost there…
Art by Ralph Steadman
”I’m scared just like the rest of you,” said Harry, gulping from his highly caffeinated energy can, ”that one day nothing will make sense anymore…”
He was sitting comfortably in his soundstage. It was his most favorite place of the world. In here he would release everything. His daily agonizing dose of melancholy would simper away a bit. He would often nap after he was done.
If he would talk enough in this place things made more sense. A sense of purpose would return. In the world of information warfare, with billions of voices trying to reach a large audience, this soundstage filtered them all, leaving on his voice. The sane voice. To him, talking to the microphone was like talking to God.
Today’s topic was the mystery about the hacking organization known as Oblivion…
”We all fear being their target. Nobody knows whether they are good or bad. Like Wikileaks, its members are all over the world. Some have ideological reasons. Some are being paid. Some just like to raise some shit. We don’t know if the majority of their members are being paid by the government to propagate some perception, to dim the rising tide of leaks from the presidents office. It could very well be that the latter is the case. Over the years they’ve finally taking heed to Russia. Former president Vladimir Putin knew the kind of world we were heading towards. A true visionary, even if his vision was monstrous…” Harry crushed his empty energy can and threw it succesfully into a trashbin in the corner of the room.
”I guess for all my critiques about the president, it’s fair to say that he’s aware of this too. That doesn’t mean I like it though…”
Harry lights up a cigarette, takes a calm puff. In front of him, behind the soundproof glass, sits his sound-assistant Dale. Dale, with his long greasy hair and glazed eyes, had been puffing from vape-pen. He gives Harry the thumbs up. Harry nods back.
”…But it could also be ideological, perhaps even religious reasons of why Oblivion are doing what they are doing. It might be one of the many data-cults we’ve been getting over the years. Perhaps they want to really help people. There have been examples, such as the case of Jerry Greenwald, a drunk who was hounded by a Oblivion hacker who found himself in the end being reunited with his long lost daughter. There’s also the case of a rape victim, Jay from Pennsylvania, being led into the scenario of a Oblivion hacker and it ended with him avenging and eventually forgiving his abuser. There’s even a case of a abusive father targeted by an Oblivion hacker, just to oust him and save his daughter from his grip. One case involves an Oblivion hacker playing cupid. Two lonely people even thank Oblivion for meeting each other. There’s naturally been countless cases of secret files of government and corporate corruption and many of them involve our current president. Sadly, none of them seem to reach mainstream audiences…”
”But there have been plenty of examples of malice too. Such as the dentist from Alaska, an avid hunter of wild-life, who was found in the woods after having shot himself with his rifle. The police found examples of Oblivion bullying all over his apartment. His computer had been assaulted with a virus that would continually show him images of an animated dead deer screaming at him,” Harry paused to inhale his cigarette, ”and nobody will forget congressman Pence doing a chickendance in front of reporters after a Oblivion hacker threatened to release his humiliating choice of pornography into the public- which was released anyway. He would kill himself too…”
”There’s been support groups for men and women who have been the target of Oblivion. People would find themselves ostracized from their community. Social media conversations, filled with scathing details would be given to friends and family. Footage of people jacking off would be filmed on webcams and they would be pressured to pay to make sure it wouldn’t leak out- this is why I always tape my webcam. But it goes further than just the computer. Some of these people would find messages, in their house, in their car. The FBI has reported that they are not sure whether this is a definitive sign of a cult or whether these people have also been targeted by the Gonzo organization. We can’t be sure. Some people would say that the world they knew was gone after being targeted. They would find messages that would destroy everything they’ve believed in. Scientologists would find sources of information about who the real L. Ron Hubbard was. Mormons about Joseph Smith. Aspiring writers would find their work rewritten, its message being: ‘you don’t have it. Quit while you still can.’ Historians would find alternative history sources. One Muslims would constantly run into pictures of beheaded infidels. Sometimes the members of Oblivion want to expose the truth, other times they just want to destroy what’s left of it.
”Some find themselves hallucinating. Psychotropic substances would be found in their coke bottles. Some violent cases have been attributed to people being targeted by Oblivion. In some instances, some people think they are using this organization to orchestrate political assassinations….”
Harry presses his cigarette into his already crowded ashtray.
”So what does Oblivion want? The original founder, or what is apparantly the original founder cos even this is mired by contradictory stories, Max O’Blivion is missing. A son of a wealthy technocrat, he apparantly emobodied a living troll. Nobody knows where he is or why he disappeared. He just vanished. Some say he’s in hiding. Other say he’s long been murdered by a disgruntled target of Oblivion.
So if it was up to Max, Oblivion would be just be continously fucking with people. It all depends whose doing the targeting. They can be angels or demons. It’s a scary we live in people. The generation before the dawn of the Internet is dying off, but some can still remember how it was. All that privacy, all that freedom, gone forever…”
Harry lights up another cigarette and continues: ”we might have been supervised by an Oblivion hacker or two, to see if we are desirable candidates. I’m even taking a risk talking about them. I could surely give them a motivation to hack into my life and alter it in exciting or disturbing ways. But I don’t like to live in a world where we live in fear. America, for all the freedom its lost over the decades, still has this freedom. I refuse to give in people. I refuse to give up the truth…”
A deep puff, a sigh and then: ”everyone could be a target. It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor. You’re just a project to them. And the only thing you can hope for is that they want what’s best for you.
Cos if they don’t, it’s a long way down the rabbit hole. It’s the darkest place you will ever be. And there is no escape. There is no escape…”
Art by Ralph Steadman