David Cronenberg, in his 1999 Hypermodern masterpiece, Existenz, saw it coming. At the film’s conclusion, a virtual reality game designer named Yevgeny Nourish, together with his female assistant, are confronted by a pair of test subjects–played by Jennifer Jason Leigh and Jude Law–who have just participated in his game. The character known as Ted Pikul (Law) confronts Yevgeny with these words:
“Don’t you think that the world’s greatest game artist ought to be punished for the most effective deforming of reality?”
Then both he and the character named Allegra Geller (Leigh) withdraw handguns from their hiding place in the coat of the mangy dog they carry between them and shout:
“Death to the demon Yevgeny Nourish!”
“Death to Pilgrimage! Death to Transcendenz!”
Then they shoot both the virtual reality game designer and his assistant to death.
In other words, the creation of virtual phantoms and ghosts will eventually lead to thymotic reactions of anger and frustration from the limbic brain as the confused and tricked frontal lobes are manipulated by phantoms triggering energetic responses that are evolutionarily programmed into human / hominid biology. If these phantoms confuse the neocortex, the emotionally-charged thymotic centers of the mammalian brain will respond with violence, whether the objects of that violence are real or not.
And so now, the case of one Nasim Aghdam, an Iranian-born woman living in San Diego, aged 39, who has spent the past few years creating her own Hypersubject as an avataric extension of herself into cyberspace. She was a militant vegan and body-builder who created a series of YouTube videos projecting herself as a bizarre dancing entity against multi-colored backdrops and accompanied on occasion by dancing human figures wearing animal-headed masks, all in protest of the killing and eating of animals.
Ms. Aghdam claimed in her videos and on her website that YouTube had recently demonetized her and restricted some of her videos–in which she is shown doing stretching exercises–as age restricted so that she got fewer views. Apparently, demonetizing her videos, she claimed, cut off the only income she had.
So she armed herself with a Smith & Wesson 9mm. handgun and drove from San Diego to the offices of YouTube.com in San Bernardino, and on April 3 at 12:46 pm got out of her car and walked to a patio area in front of the building where some YouTube workers were having lunch, and opened fire, injuring three people before turning the gun on herself and committing suicide.
In his commentary on the ontological characteristics of the subject in the digital age, the Korean born German theoretician Byung-chul Han writes in his essay on the culture of the “outraged” which is being produced under the conditions of complete digitization:
“The outraged do not form a stable we who are displaying concern for society as a whole. Enraged citizens, even though they are citizens, do not demonstrate concern for the social body so much as for themselves…Today’s fits of outrage are extremely fleeting and scattered. Outrage lacks the mass–the gravitation–that is necessary for action. It generates no future.”
Which is the point I made exactly in my essay “On Hypermodernity.” The Hypermodern Subject, perfectly illustrated here in the actions of Nasim Aghdam, is a deworlded subjectivity, carved out from all social formations and projected and amplified into the avataric conditions of hyperspace as a lone subjectivity with his / her own private sign regime and its preferential concerns. The concerns of “society,” “ideology,” or social utopias need not apply. Under the conditions of Hypermodernity, all ideologies are dead. We are instead dealing with a new universe of excessive individualities running rampant across social media. (Donald Trump is the first Hypermodern president: neither Left nor truly Right, he is a pure phantom of raging Tweets and personal preferences connected to no particular ideology who Tweeted his way into the presidency).
These Hypersubjects–a.k.a. avatars–we are now discovering, can be hurt, deformed, warped or otherwise mangled as pain is inflicted upon them. When YouTube demonetized Nasim Aghdam’s account, it actually mangled her avatar and sent pain waves rippling backward through hyperspace to their point of origin in the very loose and liquid subjectivity known as Nasim Aghdam located in physical space in a suburban home in San Diego. In order to cause harm and do battle with YouTube, however, today’s hapless individual has recourse only to resort to a handgun attack on real, physical individuals working at YouTube headquarters in San Bernadino. Individuals there can be shot, hurt or otherwise maimed at the point of origin of their attacks on Ms. Aghdam’s avatar.
In other words, today’s warriors are not ideologically driven Marxists who are members of underground groups organizing themselves for assault on Capitalist society. Those days are gone. Today’s warriors are lone Hypersubjects who exist in cyberspace where they come equipped with their own suits of light and their own private sign regimes of personal preferences. These are deworlded individuals who have come unglued from any local horizons and are let loose in hypermodern cyberspace, where they are unstable, liquid, morphing, shifting entities who appear harmless on the surface.
But that is the realm of the hypercapitalist imaginary. On the plane of the Real, these subjectivities can, and will, do physical harm to the originators of other avatars and other sign regimes which come into conflict with their own.
In my own case, YouTube demonetized my Channel a long time ago, for no clearly given reason. Then, in 2016, they locked me out of access to my John David Channel, where I have over 500 videos, that are extremely popular, with tens of thousands of views. I do not make a cent from any of those videos which YouTube is using to make money from. They simply went in and changed my password without notifying me and now there’s no way in, as I discovered after talking over the phone to a YouTube representative who explained to me, “there no way back way in.”
Really? I kinda find that hard to believe. YouTube has over 1700 hundred employees at its offices in San Bernardino, and you’re telling me not one of those “geniuses” knows of a back way for me to get back into my account? I simply don’t believe that. They just have no motivation to help me out. After all, who am I but just another avatar in their digital apparatus of capture?
So I’ve had to create a new channel and have been trying to build an audience for that back up. Meanwhile, I cannot monetize my new channel until it has over 4000 hours of continuous watching over the last 12 months.
So I know exactly what Nasim Aghdam was feeling when she got into the car and made the drive, together with her 9 mm. handgun, to the offices of YouTube.
YouTube, apparently, can do as they please, with no accountability and no consequences for whatever arbitrary decisions they want to make, completely heedless of their effects on other peoples’ lives. After all, those people aren’t even real, are they?
I think I see more weapons glinting in the sunlight coming over the horizon.