We Need to Push Past the Language of Greed
But how? And, most importantly, why now?
If Alex Jones can claim being honest as his superpower, if Donald Trump can claim thinking as something he does then it’s fair to say dictionary definitions may no longer apply. Instead, anything can come true if you repeat it often enough.
Now imagine an entire internet trying to manifest money with words, a vast expanse of innumerable possibilities where language is the raw material we transform into a livelihood. Until, that is, it begins to change composition. Much like concrete crumbles when you add too much water to the mix, communication breaks down when you add too much spin.
In 2020, we’re all having to deal with words that no longer mean what they’re supposed to. Meanwhile, social media marketing powers the internet as reflection and conversation suffocate and die. Personal brands and tag lines exist to sell humanness back to humans through irrepressible emoting.
Because infinite growth wasn’t supposed to shrink so now someone has to foot the bill.
Where some hurt, others profiteer. If it’s palpable enough, trust your distress will soon be someone else’s business. From digital saviors swooping in with promises of creative and financial independence to Napoleon Hill fan boys and girls with a fondness for self-aggrandizing narratives about their own benevolence, the show must go on. Mr Hill’s wisdom is so timelessly powerful The Secret took much of its message from it. or as then Slate journalist Emily Yoffe summed it up some 13 years ago, “As self-absorbed as I already am, I loved the permission the book gave to sink deeper into a Jacuzzi of megalomania.” And it only gets better from there.
Cue social media platforms filled to the rafters with personas while gullible hopefuls attempt to pull themselves out of precariousness through the strength of their keyboards by being, well, themselves. Predictably, it doesn’t go well for the uninitiated or the unpopularly opinionated, i.e. people who dare question everything.
When most of the alleged writing consists in writing about how writing can pay so you can get paid, the business models begins to look a little suspicious, an infinity loop of matryoshka dolls.
The lights are on but nobody’s home: The moment you click on them, the words on the screen open up and reveal more words similarly devoid of meaning. The longer you withstand the torture, the more money for platforms and those who ply their ‘honest’ trade on it.
But what happens when words are no longer written for human minds but for algorithms optimized to glue your eyeballs to the screen?
One mini-Napoleon once advised his followers to tell stories no one can google. Then why not go the extra mile and write novels instead of disposable content? How about your name on a spine instead of bylines everywhere that doesn’t pay? Even without talent, anyone who can follow instructions can write a book, many internet pundits posit. Does the promise sound familiar?
The swindle doesn’t only scale, you can customize it to whatever creative dream people might have.
We’ve hijacked the best tech stack we’ve ever had to build personal fame and fortune instead of community that encourages creative rather than transactional cooperation. Nothing seems real or even believable anymore and yet much of it is, bizarre, askew, scary. Even Alex Jones is “a performance artist playing a character.” This isn’t the age of digital enlightenment, cultural ascendance, and reason. No. This is the age of fear, paranoia, and outrage servicing a zeitgeist in thrall to the lowest common denominator and making a killing. Still, we remain unwilling to take greed seriously.
We now live in the era of self-quotable dumb being sold as smart.
I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor now based in the Netherlands. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.