There’s been a General Election on here in the UK – have you heard?
Most of my Facebook wall today is full of people rightly or wrongly basking in the failure of UKIP in the election. Now, I’m not a UKIP supporter, but there are some interesting points we can take from this that link to the work of critical theorists such as Deleuze, Guattari and Badiou among others.
1) Micro-fascism and everyday social criticism
There is an unwitting hypocrisy of many social media posters who on the one hand, criticize a party on the grounds of closet (or not-so-closet) fascism, yet at the same time expound a micro-fascistic belief.[i] In creating the idealised notion that all ‘good’ people are against UKIP, and all UKIP supporters are in some way shape or form ‘bad’ or ‘ill-educated’ is to over simplify a very complex debate, and is at the same time a form of elitist snobbery. Anyone who posts in this way is essentially creating an own-brand of mini-fascism in which ‘friends’ / colleagues / associates are judged and selected on the grounds of their political belief or inclination. In this sense then, to criticise UKIP on the grounds of fascism is hypocritical in that we are in many respects, all of us fascists (See Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus). Therefore to criticise UKIP in such a flagrant and overtly exclusory way, makes you just as bad as the party you criticise.
2) The myth of politics
To take this argument one stage further, it is worth considering the following: politics, as we know it, is a myth.
Your vote is next to worthless, the FPTP voting system is inherently flawed (and always will be), and the people in Westminster actually have very little say over your day-to-day lives. In all practicality, the council elections are more important than the general election as they will at least have more of a bearing on your everyday experience.
But of course, as subjects we don’t like to think about this. Politics is itself an act of illusion – an illusion in which we are each of us complicit. Just as we suspend disbelief as we see the magician pull the rabbit from the hat, so too we suspend our disbelief when it comes to politics, our influence over it, and the influence of Westminster on our day to day lives. It is in a sense, a ‘distraction’ – a sleight of hand that means we can never quite grasp the true nature of sovereign power at work upon us. (See Badiou’s Metapolitics and Infinite Thought for the illusory nature of politics).
3) The micro-politics of Facebook
But even more fascinating than the myth of ‘politics’ as we know it is the micro-politics of social media.
Take my comment above about pro- or anti-UKIP posts. Anything any of us post on Facebook or Twitter along these lines is in many respects creating a far more powerful, far more telling form of politics that is more effective than any law the elected government could create. This is because we are each of us building, and indeed sustaining a micro-fascistic discourse that governs both ourselves, and the people around us. For example: it is generally seen as ‘good’ or ‘cool’ to knock UKIP. Fair enough, we can all decide for ourselves – or can we? The interesting point here is that in general, we actually don’t decide for ourselves; we are all each of us shaped by the subtle workings of power around us.
If I was to come out today and say Nigel Farage is a great man, I’m sure a lot of my social media friends would un-friend me, or make some comment about me being completely mad. In this example, they may be right, but the point is that in-so-doing they would be sustaining the micro-fascistic discourse that essentially says ‘this is what you should think’, and ‘to be my friend you need to think X, Y, Z’. What you see here then is that power – and by this I mean real power – is a fluid thing, not located in Westminster, but in the discursive flows between us in our everyday interactions.
The philosophy of power
The above is just a small snapshot of my research interests, in which I attempt to draw links between key critical thinkers and philosophers, while also drawing literature into the mix, bringing in works of genre fiction past and present to help us better understand the true nature of sovereign power and its role in the modern world.
If you take only one thing from this blog, I hope that you take the time to have another look at your social media posts, and those of your friends, and perhaps come to recognise that every single social interaction we make helps to shape the world around us, for better or for worse.
Until next time,
[i] That’s fascism with a small f and not a big F by the way – these are two very different things.