a case for Mimetic Warfare
by Casey Carr
top image: MOAB, the largest non-nuclear bomb ever used by the U.S. military…1
After a post-9/11 upsurge in reference to René Girard, namely Peter Thiel’s dedication in his 2004 “Politics and Apocalypse” also recently questioned in Yuk Hai’s “On the Unhappy Consciousness” (2017)2, it’s become apparent that this scapegoat of a theory (not unlike Huntington’s 1996 Clash of Civilisations) won’t just go die quietly in the Sinai wilderness. Remarkably, Girard even criticized the immaturity of the Ancient Greeks in their reciprocal, predictable tragedies repeating a ritual sacrifice in order to subvert violent leanings in human beings. It is the curse of Freud’s toddler in Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1922)3 to repeatedly throw his Choo Choo away from the crib saying fort (“gone”) or da (“there”). The cornerstone of Girard’s theory is his conceptualisation of the mimetic double bind, a demonstrably common trap for the current referendum-ultimatum politics of 2016 and beyond.
Binder of doubles
The double bind refers to a communication failure which ensnares the subject (or victim) in dual, contradictory messaging. In either elicited response, the subject falls prey to an elicited false response: Pinocchio is caught in the unexecutable bind when he states “My nose grows now,” for he is caught in both a lie and a truth at the same moment. The double bind has many contexts ranging from Bateson to Girard, but also Alan Watts. Watts mentions the implementation of double bind as a training exercise to discover Enlightenment (satori) and the emptiness of the true self.5 The Bateson strain (not surprisingly developed out of the Palo Alto Group) has risen to prominence as a network failure in cybernetics research, however, this return of Girard has brought the mimetic aspect to relevance and a return to postmodernism. We (the Silicon West) appear in a time of regression and immaturity, seemingly incapable of rising from the psychoanalytic definition. It’s as if declaring oneself “woke”6 and aware of the all-inclusive Enlightenment values (perverted into neoliberalism) has led to a double bind of superficiality invoked by the satori practice of failing to be one’s own self when asked to be. The only alternative choice is to take the red pill, but how do I know this is not a snake liver oil placebo?
René Girard’s mimetic double bind (to distinguish from Bateson’s) developed out of his theory of violence and the eruption thereof caused by confounding desires between two people. In short, the concept is illustrated in common dramatic tropes where two individuals fall prey to an object of desire and upon one possessing the object, he/she prohibits the other from possessing the object. Girard draws heavily from Freud and Bateson, taking it a step further with the power of mimetics. The imitation process invites a construction of identity — for this reason the double bind among children is particularly dangerous — in order to obtain the desired object. Here is where Girard argues that ritual and sacrifice step in to mitigate the existential dangers of desires (even coined as religious pollution).
It becomes difficult to segregate Girard’s faith from his logic, sometimes coexisting and interrelating. Is he writing in support of religion or against it? Pope John Paul II appreciated Girard’s claims, and much of Violence and the Sacred supports ritualized forms of religion in that they vent our violence. In modern society however, haven’t bureaucracies replaced the ancient rites? Another work expounds, as Charles Bellinger attempts to fuse dialogue between Søren Kierkegaard and Girard.7 Both points lead to the belief that God is in constant creation, rather than after the eighth day God went into retirement. Narrowly avoiding a discussion on theology, it is important to stress this reflexion within man as he is designed “in the image of the divine”. Man is constantly bounced between desires in his mind, just as God created both good and evil. It is a push-pull relationship of positives and negatives which go to the construction of identity. Humans need comparison (Sammenligning) in order to develop their being, otherwise they become locked within a perspective. Kierkegaard and Girard share almost paralleled ideas in how mimetic desire and comparison create conflicting models within the individual.8 This is the existential root of Girard’s violence, and thus the origin of wars.
The King must die: mimesis as warfare
In Baudrillard’s sense of the third order of the simulacrum, the idea of mimetic desire may also contribute to understanding artificial intelligence “needs and wants”. In science fiction, Philip K. Dick explored the idea of an android (a simulacrum) president of the United States during World War III in his novel by the near-same title The Simulacra (1964). The concept focuses around a totalitarian E.U.-U.S. regime ruled by an actress playing the part of a long-dead matriarchal First Lady and her series of consorts (the president), the latest model of which is discovered to be a robot. The idea of inserting a Manchurian candidate into the election has been around since the 1960s, and adding the sci-fi concept of a simulacrum only brings us closer to the Tleilaxu ghola or Face Dancer in Frank Herbert’s Dune. The 2016 U.S. presidential election (and Wikileaks’ contributions) has brought this supposition to the brink of war. What happens to the conflict if the originator of the war (or object of desire) is discovered to be a phony? Both sides of the fence are meating out for genuine identity politics and decrying anything contrary to be fake news, nothing short of a reptilian coup. Imitation and mimesis are key factors for survival, and especially in war.
Understood early on in Sun Tzu’s principles, the force with the element of surprise typically obtains victory. In this advanced form of mimetic warfare for the victor, it is not about going undiscovered by camouflage, but instead of publically falling victim to the replication and removing all the clutter of previous iterations. As the systems involved and the rules of war are reduced into predictable elements via simulation, and Clinton-esque strikes on a Syrian airbase which involve an early warning, the military objective is achieved by subsuming, not obliterating, the opponent and becoming him (or her). In order for the United States to win the mimetic post-Soviet Cold War, the United States must revert to a previous version and become Russia; it must absorb its politics, it must normalize and internalize its society. This goes well beyond the dichotomous red pill or blue pill — (alt)right or left — precisely the Rubicon of the Neodammerung that current civilisation avoids. One cannot simply touch one’s toes to test the temperature, one must ingest the Lacanian mirror in its entirety.
The mother of all bombs (MOAB, or the GBU-43/B Massive Ordinance Air Blast) was dropped last week in desolate Afghanistan, not unlike the mountainous wilderness of the biblical Moab where Moses lost his life, the ultimate scapegoat. What was the purpose of this bomb? Purely symbolic if you read past the U.S. official reasoning for dropping an 11-ton bomb at $314 million to kill less than 100 individuals. This pales in comparison to nearly 60 tons of Tomahawk missiles costing around $100 million to kill less than 16: few complained about its size but more of its public onanism. These very real measures deliver quite expensive messages. Back to the double bind, lurking behind these mothers of all bombs and labrys-shaped projectiles of Oedipal complexity is Russia’s grand arsenal, including the thermobaric “father of a all bombs” (“Отец всех бомб”) or Aviation Thermobaric Bomb of Increased Power reportedly 4 times as large as the MOAB. With Trump in power now, we only have to wait for new manufacturing orders to build the bigly “World’s Greatest Bomb” from TrumpUSA Inc. to replace the recently spent MOAB.
The quest for (mimetic) immortality
Old man Trump becomes the single bearer of all lawsuits aimed at the previous system installed by the United States, he is the sacrificial simulacra to displace the past hypocrisies of the neoliberalist order. One clear flaw in this subconscious trend (or Hegelian unhappy consciousness) is that in Girard’s Violence and the Sacred, the scapegoat must be genuine and innocent. Thus far, it’s only the Evangelist camp maintaining this position, a Donald Jesus Trump chosen by God, but it won’t be long before this indefensible premise is abandoned in the crucible of war. Hai stated, “based on the relation between Thiel and Girard, that Trump and tech entrepreneurs are comparable to scapegoats; like the pharmakos in ancient Greece or the King described by Sir James Frazer in The Golden Bough, their sacrifice puts an end to social and political crisis. The scapegoat is analogous to the ‘red pill’: it is only a rhetorical tactic that justifies its reactionary tendency as a covert truth.”9 The King, even a simulacrum, must die.
Back to the mimetic nature being played out by both nation-states, the Stand Alone Complex holds validity in that both Putin and Trump (including their contenders and followers) seek rule of a Thebes that no longer exists, or had never existed in the hyperreal state of a post-197310 era, perhaps a mythic Theseus’ ship where no part of the modern nation-state contains the original “ethnic-state,” and where we have discovered the lack of a genuine Westphalian in both the neoreactionary order and neoliberalism. The West is only slowly waking up to this reality.
The emergent copycat behavior of a Stand Alone Complex is perfectly executed in the relegation of the mimetic double bind. The pharmakos’ sacrifice becomes the object of desire of the victim of the ultimate double bind and suicide (in the form of violent self-destruction) seems to be the only conclusive response. In such action, the binder is elevated to the status of immortal. As Hai claims, the scapegoat is only a gimmick used by neoreactionaries that functions more as a double bind — a simulacrum — of the purpose served by the pharmakos. This mimetic tactic works only until it is discovered to be a simulacrum. However, the alternative ending Dick never suspects in the end of The Simulacra is that perhaps the American people would gladly embrace a simulacrum for president through the double bind. The French presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon has already shown that voters are willing to accept an omnipresent hologram for president.
Deus ex simulacri.
1 Beauchamp, Zack. “MOAB, the largest non-nuclear bomb ever used by the U.S. military, explained.” Vox. 14 April 2017. Web. http://www.vox.com/world/2017/4/13/15292418/moab-mother-of-all-bombs
2 Hai, Yuk. “On the Unhappy Consciousness of Neoreactionaries.” e-flux. Journal #81 April 2017. Web. http://www.e-flux.com/journal/81/125815/on-the-unhappy-consciousness-of-neoreactionaries/
3 Freud, S., & Strachey, J. Beyond the pleasure principle, group psychology, and other works (1920-1922). London: Hogarth press. 1964: pp. 7-23
4 Warosu. Fuuka Archive. Reddit, 13 April 2015. https://warosu.org/fa/image/CB6ls-8sWYxKKMlyqETv-w
5 Wikipedia. Double Bind. Retrieved 04 April 2017. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double_bind
6 See #AltWoke Manifesto. &&& Journal. 5 February 2017. Web. http://tripleampersand.org/alt-woke-manifesto/
7 Bellinger, Charles K. The Genealogy of Violence. New York, Oxford University Press. 2001. (p. 72-86, 113-133). Bellinger draws comparison between Hitler and Stalin along these lines.
8 Ibid. p. 75
9 Hai 2017
10 The year the Twin Towers were finished, establishing NYC as the economic center of the world, shortsighted by the 1975 fiscal crisis.