I’ve always considered blogging to be performance art. When I’m here, I’m “Severian.”* Some of the things I write about myself are true, in the way actors use their own personal experiences to shape their performances. Others are true-ish, others are false, but they’re all part of the role. This isn’t “the real me,” any more than I’m “the real me” when giving a lecture, on a date, on the phone with a client, or in any other public place. I thought all adults understood this — that “the real me” (if it exists at all outside of teenagers’ imaginations) is something that only pops up intermittently, among close friends.
Alas, it seems like mine was the last generation to get it. There are legal adults now who have grown up entirely online. They’ve made their peace with social media’s “context collapse,” the merging of all your social groups — and therefore all your personae — into one. Kids these days, by which I mean legal adults of drinking age, have no problem posting photos of themselves puking in a gutter on Facebook, even if their parents, their professors, and their potential employers can all see it. It never crosses their minds that the behaviors appropriate among drinking buddies are inappropriate among professional colleagues.
This is why I have some sympathy for the “iCrap has permanently proletarianized us” school of black pill sociology. Humans are hardwired for sociability; even we very very badthinkers are compelled to share our badthoughts. But conspirators need privacy to conspire, and that’s the most terrifying characteristic of the New New Soviet Man — while we oldsters recognize that the Internet compromises our privacy, the new generation doesn’t grok the basic concept of privacy. You might as well just report yourself directly to the Thought Police, since anything you say to anyone born after 1984 is going to end up on Twitter anyway.
There are historical parallels for this. Communist Romania didn’t have the Internet, but they did have the most comprehensive social surveillance net in the Soviet bloc. Something like 1 in 30 Romanians was a Securitate informant; even other Commie secret police goons felt their agents were nasty pieces of work. If every phone in Romania wasn’t bugged, it wasn’t for lack of trying. They wore a distinctive “uniform” — the now-standard Eurotrash track suit — and made a big show of following people randomly in public as an intimidation tactic. Anything pre-Facebook surveillance could achieve, in other words, was achieved by the Securitate.
I don’t know any Romanians, but I’ve met people who grew up behind the Iron Curtain. Even after 30 years in the West, they’re still off, in ways that are hard to describe but easy to recognize. Theodore Dalrymple said a Romanian dissident told him it’d take five full generations for the national psyche to recover from Communism, and I believe it.** And here’s the truly terrifying part: A person who grows up knowing his every word is potentially being recorded by the enemy is one thing. A person who grows up knowing his every word is potentially being recorded and loves it, because he’s been trained to chase likes and upvotes and retweets like a lab rat on crack, is something very different.
We know what happened to Nicolae Ceausescu. We also know why: Life in Romania truly sucked, even by Soviet bloc standards. But: It took 44 years before the Romanian people finally rebelled. That’s 44 years of suffering, in the shittiest police state this side of North Korea. And America’s not Romania. Life doesn’t suck here, and despite our ruling class’s best efforts, we’ve got a long slide to get even halfway to Bucharest. Our police state has Hulu, and Amazon Prime, and Starbucks, free wifi hotspots at every highway rest stop. We love our Securitate.
And yet, the Romanians did rebel. We will too, I believe…. but I can understand where you’re coming from, blackpillers.