The emergence of populism may have been coded in the majoritarian fallacy underlying democratic voting. What worked as a good enough proxy to ‘public will’ whatever that might be carried a fatal flaw: namely that it does not constitute reality.
Under pressure and with the passing of a generation or two, it gave way to a system where popularity (perception) beats competence (substance), where campaigning (communication) beats arguments (a slightly better proxy to reality), and where even governance could be replaced by communicating to citizens that we are doing better as a country. On their own dime.
“There isn’t actual business, it’s just guys begin in business,” said an interviewee, trying to describe the workings of Magnesis, the company that preceeded Fyre Festival.
There has been a lot of activity and buzz, but nothing fundamental was being done, nothing that would even turn a profit – let alone create some value. And that is what I think of every time a politician is campaigning without any program or even the pretense that he wants to get something concrete done. Only buzzwords, feelings, promises of control, of righteous anger, the stoking of hatred, envy and pettiness.
Business boys who are trying to appear big are doing this because they saw others faking it – until the faking became an entity in itself. Or it became so big, it wasn’t allowed to fail. Or it made so many complicit, it was bailed out and celebrated instead. Magnesis was soaking in investor money and making waves. Nothing substantial was being done – but a lot of precious Millennials appeared to have been attracted, so it must be big.
And what works in business, also works in politics. The denial of reality can go on for a long time. Lies are piled upon lies, and the voice of reason shouted down with even bigger lies. Scandals are put out by even bigger scandals, bureaucrats are intimidated into make lies official, and the remaining skeptics are struggling with attacks as well as the lack of support from the hypnotized public.
Even when you know it’s a lie, you can’t quite be sure it is.
When does it fail? When does reality bite?
People take cues from other people. If others believed stuff, they are more likely to believe it themselves.
Same stands for politicians. They lie – and when they see their voters believe the lies, they start to believe them themselves.
When a political lie becomes the collective vision of a group, eventually even the leader starts to believe it. Just take Romanian dictator Nikolai Ceausescu who came to believe his own lies about the economic fairy tale he created. By the end of his reign those fake-abundance grocery stores that were set up to fake images of a well-supplied country were fooling him as well. Day after day, streets of his capital had to be emptied and shop windows filled with products – to make him feel better, not his people.
The moment always comes when the manipulation of public opinion can no longer constitute collective illusion and replace reality. But when? Starvation has been a reality for Romanians for a long time before they toppled Ceausescu. Economic (and general) mismanagement was an everyday reality for people of the Soviet Union – long before Chernobyl happened. Indeed, even the undeniable Chernobyl disaster didn’t topple the ruler. Once the avalanche of lies starts, there is no way of predicting when it will burst and how many victims it will claim. The collective psychosis is just too great.
Until the very day of Fyre festival, everyone involved knew that the thing cannot take place. And yet they still rented planes and delivered the customers on the island where there was no food or water, only some booze and a few disaster relief tents. It was obvious for anyone on the ground that there wasn’t going to be a festival – least of all a luxury one – and that they can’t get away with this. And yet, they did not stop.
According to the story given by participant, Billy, the Visionary kept pushing on because the certainty of punishment for cancelling the festival felt to him greater than the fact that there was no festival on the island. Reality has never before come back to bite his ass.
And Billy was indeed like a perpetually lying politician who falsifies statistics and then believes it, getting into power and clinging onto it for decades – only to be shaken by a virus or a radioactive iodine isotope, things he cannot bully, intimidate or communicate away. For Billy it was thousands of actual people arriving to the unfinished camp site to find no music festival.
And even then, he thought it was not over.
What was everyone else thinking?
The above paragraph sounds like Billy Boy single-handedly pushed Fyre ahead and everyone else was completely innocent. Indeed, when one is watching the twin documentaries, employees and organizers of Fyre Fest work hard to give the impression that they all knew next to nothing. That they all knew that their particular bit of Fyre was not working, did not exist, can not happen – yet they believed that everyone else’s is different. And that Billy somehow stopped them from communicating with each other and see the bigger picture.
Similarly, the people who bought tickets were not innocent. They got social media’s biggest hit video in their faces and were puzzled. It showed the coveted models already on the island, lounging, partying, eating grapes. But it wasn’t sure what the video was selling. It was a massive trigger for FOMO and nothing else, built on the rock-solid foundation of their self-inflicted conditioning that IG is reality, that whatever looks good is good, that appearing attractive and having a great time is more important than actually being attractive and having a great time. They didn’t know what it was – and yet they bought because something this well advertised cannot be bad.
We have replaced our judgement of a thing by our judgement of its marketing. The same way analysts and talking heads judge the campaign of politicians – rather than politicians. And voters base their votes on which politician campaigned the most professionally for them, as if voting on a dance performance. Event though the campaign has nothing to do with policy later.