Darkness Itself Redux

Long time readers of the blog may remember that I love Chislehurst Caves. A lot of people who know me otherwise will know I love Chislehurst Caves as well. We went two years ago, I blogged about it, and I’ve been talking about it ever since.

My girlfriend had the inspired idea that, for Hallowe’en, we should go back and see if they’re doing anything special for the occasion. It was spooky enough last time, with plenty of ghost stories told on our tour. As we drove out of London for a 10pm tour, we were excited — and then nervous — about what we’d be in for this time.

We arrived in a darkened car park, having driven past the lights of local opulence, to find ourselves loomed over by the only blocks of flats around and quickly headed inside, escaping the autumn cold.

These twenty miles of chalk tunnels under London’s super-rich suburbs find themselves represented by the forebodingly simple tagline: “darkness itself”. But once underground, it is hard to think about anything else. All else falls away.

The tunnels have had a fascinating history but darkness is all you are able to sense down here. It is a blindness with weight and distance. Caught within it, you feel out at sea, knowing to stray from the group would get you quickly lost.

On our first visit to the tunnels, this darkness was kept at bay. Paraffin torches were handed out to those on the tour, our procession well lit with evenly distributed lights and health and safety regulations.

For Hallowe’en, no such torches were offered. Small candles were hung at corners and crossroads, presumably to give the tour guides a sense of direction, but no other light sources were on offer. Such tiny flames did not give much coverage. They would appear in the distance as beacons of false promise. A destination that, on arrival, was still as dark as where you’d just been stood.

The effect of this on the group was palpable. I, for one, love being scared. I laugh through my nerves and enjoy the thrill of not knowing, of being watched, or sensing something else in the darkness. It is recognisably a nervous laughter. It is self-comforting more than any external expression of joy. On our walk, I laughed a lot.

My girlfriend, on the other hand, has always been very clear that “scary” is not her thing. Although this visit was her idea, it was clear she was not having the best time. I had never seen her act as she did as we began the tour. Actors were stationed throughout the tunnels, jumping out of passageways with masks and costumes, lingering in the occasion strobe-lit cul-de-sac, stalking our group from a distance to keep stragglers on edge. My girlfriend’s eyes darted in every direction, her neck craned like a deer aware of the hunt. She would grab me for support, getting caught under my own feet, causing us to trip over each other and slow ourselves down as we sought each other out for a quick escape.

It was a far more endearing reaction than that of the teenagers in our midst. They were a funny bunch. White suburban kids who all looked like SoundCloud rappers. One, in particular, could have been in a Lil Peep costume but I’m pretty sure he wasn’t just dressed for the occasion. At first, they were irritating and, when they would blow out the candles on their way through the tunnels, they certainly irritated the tour guide too. He would anxiously get on his radio, loudly berating them as morons to the rest of the crew as he struggled to find the now-extinguished light sources.

In the end, however, I found these teenagers endearing too. They couldn’t help but make jokes at every opportunity. Bad ones. When not looking over my own shoulder or jumping as I bump into fellow walkers, huddling together out of reach of the actors and making ourselves jump like as if we’re living in an episode of Scooby Doo, the teens were high-fiving costumed jump-scarers and sexualising every ghost story with half-whispered comments to their friends.

It felt like they were doing everything they could to undermine the job of the actors and tour guides but eventually it became clear: they weren’t just being rude — they’d paid to be here too, after all — the truth was that they were scared too. Their piss-taking and attempts to spoil the illusion for everyone else were their way of keeping sight of the reality they knew and were desperately holding onto above ground. Because, even though the actors’ masks were ill-fitting and obvious and the costumes cliche, there was no accounting for the darkness itself.

In fact, the jump scares and bad costumes felt like they were part of this reality-checking too. It was all very slapstick and over-the-top. Cheap and cheerful. I was aware that I had been more scared of these tunnels when we first came down into them, without the Hallowe’en pretence, but those tunnels from my memories were still here, lurking behind the pantomime. All the actors did was make it all more familiar and more fun — a distraction from the tricks your minds would inevitably play of its own accord, were you left down here alone.

I could feel these other tunnels lurking behind the facade and I wanted to reach them. I started to feel unnerved by the tactless covering-up of the real terror down here but that only made me want to seek it more for myself and face it on my own terms, not distracted by the noise and movement of the tour guides.

I kept my own fearful fascination to myself for most of our “scream walk” but in the end I could not bear being shepherded any longer. As I laughed along with my friends, my eyes darted around in the low light, looking for a getaway. In particular, I was drawn to the passages where there was no light at all. I felt a pull towards them, even though there was nothing to see. It was almost a gravitational pull. The darkness had a density.

Hanging back, avoiding the rehearsed scares of the jobbing actors the men who lurk at the rear, scaring stragglers into keeping pace with the crowd, their fatigue starting to show on our late-night wander, I managed to sidestep their shepherding and started to see other figures in the darkness.

Off the candle-lit paths, there was another. I got the sense she was a woman, although I’m not sure why. It was just a shadow but I could have sworn I saw a light emanate from her. I tried to take a photograph but the light was not enough to give a clearer image than I had with my own straining eyes.

I gestured to the others but they were preoccupied with what was directly in front of them. From her vantage point, I saw the rest of our tour as she undoubtedly did. They seemed carnivalesque. A hive of activity and noise. Her silence and distance unnerved me more than anything. She felt so removed from it all and, the more attention I gave to her, the more removed I found myself feeling too.

Although the use of phones were prohibited — not that there was any service that deep underground — I slid my torch on in my pocket and used it carefully, trying to follow her. I no longer had any fear of getting lost. The echoing sound of the teenagers, though disorientating as it bounced off every wall, provided an aural anchor as my senses were recalibrated to the quiet pitch-blackness of these other tunnels.

My pupils widened and my feet shuffled onwards, following the glimpses of barely-lit material I caught disappearing around corners, dancing on the air. This was no ghost. In many ways, I felt like she was as I was — a curious wanderer taking leave from her own party. But she wasn’t here for a tour. She was here for something else. With so much space around us, it wouldn’t be surprising if there were other activities going on that night as well. I was right but they were activities of a sort I was not expecting.

I kept my distance but the woman must have known I was on her tail. I felt led as if by a white rabbit. As she rounded corner after corner, I saw that she was becoming slowly silhouetted against a light source in front of her. The light was still low but it was enough to define her form.

She wore a hooded cloak and walked silently. I could hear the sound of water and her footsteps became audible as she crossed the stream. I slowed my pace, knowing I would not be able to cross the water silently. Instead, I backtracked a little and hovered at the end of a long passage, increasing my distance to what I could now see before me.

The tunnel opened out into an enclave, wider than the tunnels we had passed through and with a high ceiling. On the floor, two circles constructed with sticks — the embers of a dying fire in one, wood for an unlit fire in the other. Beyond them, an altar, arranged with items and a strange wrapped bundle.

The woman removed her hood to reveal a mask, more primitive than the loose-fitting sweat-condensed plastic masks of my abandoned tour guides but also more effective. It was an animal. A wolf maybe. It was hard to tell. I think it was made of wood.

She joined a small group of others, already gathered in the chalk clearing, gathered around the dying embers, each with their own masks in turn. They were silent, gazing into the embers in quiet contemplation.

The others silently acknowledged her arrival with a glance in her direction. She joined them, closely the circle, and paused. Then, with a slow and deliberate movement, she raised her left foot and stepped into the circle before turning around and picking something up from the floor.

I laughed to myself. I knew what it was immediately. For all that silent drama, getting caught up in the quietude of this creepy wanderer, she’s going to pick up a broom? Perhaps this was all part of the tour after all. Top marks for atmosphere but woefully predictable props.

Suddenly, the woman took the broom in her hand and brushed the floor around her in a swift circular movement, kicking up a cloud of chalk dust, ash and embers. The air seemed to shimmer for a moment, as if the current of air she had conjured around her had disturbed some previously unseen veil. The embers of the dying fire reignited, calmly, intensifying with the low sound of popping wood. The wood in the other circle began to glow in turn.

One by one, the group stepped into the circle, newly alight before them. They removed their masks but held them aloft, allowing the glow of the fire to pass through them, casting shadows across their faces. It was difficult to see from my vantage point but the effect was unsettling. The shadows seemed to contort the skin on their faces, twisting and pulling apart their humanity like clay.

One of the figures, hood still up, maskless, brought a horn to his lips and blew. It was shimmering white, almost blinding against the dulled chalk around them. Then, the woman I had followed began to speak, as if in prayer:

Harken to the Devil’s Horn
Open ye the Ways within
Awake thy ancient shifting form
Conjure it forth and turn thy skin!

All unfathomable that has of ancient been
Deepest held and further set
By waking sleep and Midnight’s dream
All potential that may be set.

Arise ye unto Midnight’s call
Dreaming beasts awaken en-fleshed
Thy myriad resurrections of ancient all
Spirit and mystery manifest.

By time betwixt and Midnight’s tide
Rouse from the deep, the wild and hidden
By mirror-mask and witches’ hide
By call of horn; summoned and bidden!

The horn sounded again although this time I could not see it held to anyone’s lips. Other sounds began to emanate from the walls around me. Scuttling sounds, scratching sounds. Gruffs and growls. Tiny shadows made the walls pulsate and quiver like the goosebumps on my skin.

The group were unmoved. They continued to stare into their grotesque masks, mirrored in the violent shadows on their faces, entranced by the embers flickering through the eye-holes of their animal familiars.

The woman began to speak again, continuing her arcane rhyme:

Upon this night of Hallantide
The veil betwixt to rend and part
We conjure forth the Midnight ride
By Devil’s Horn and witching Arte.

Spirits of old arise ye forth
Let quick and dead conjoin this night
By the way ‘twixt West and North
Let begin the Elder rite!

I was startled by a shadow approaching from behind. A fox passed me, ignoring me completely, crouched against the chalk wall and peering into this strange ceremony. It approached the group cautiously, closer than I had dared, but stopped short of the light emanating from their ritual, choosing to stay and lurk in the shadows.

I could sense that it was not alone. There were other creatures in the tunnels with us who had left the night above for the one below.

Spirits, beasts and ghostly rade
Open now the Way of the Dead
Wild horde of witch and shade
Open the Way that’s Huntsman-led.

I no longer felt like bearing witness to whatever this was. It was fascinating but, in the lure of their light, I had forgotten where I was and why I was here. I could no longer hear the screams of the tour and felt a sudden need to get back to the group I knew. The spectacle was enticing but I had a feeling that it was better enjoyed from within their circle. On the outside, I might find myself prey to something else.

Not wanting to make a sound or give away my location with the light of my phone, I walked backwards slowly down a side passage, as cautiously as I could, the echo of the woman’s chant following me as I made my retreat.

Cavalcade of Fellows all
Ride ye forth with Devil’s speed
Ride ye forth at Midnight’s call
By Night-Mare’s hoof and spirit-steed.

By flight of moth by bat and owl,
By spirit path and old Corpse Way
By Hunter’s horn and black hound’s howl
By haunted track and ancient Ley.

Her chant was loud. My increasing distance seemed to have no effect on its power. The walls carried it without diminution. I couldn’t be the only one hearing her.

Her words were distracting. As I bent my ears to try and hear the more familiar screams of Hallowe’en thrill, my mind kept focussing back on the meaning of her rhyme. I couldn’t tear my mind away from the call.

Go ye forth in the Old One’s Name
Throughout and about, without and within
By the light of the Devil’s flame
Let the Wild Hunt begin!

I turned and began to walk at pace now. The darkness still slowed me down but, feeling like I was now some distance away, I decided to pick up some speed.

The horn sounded again in the distance and I heard the scurrying sounds of nocturnal creatures again. Holding my hand to the wall to guide my way, I felt something unknown crawl over my knuckles and I ripped my hand away from the cold chalk surface. I wasn’t the only thing in here that was regretting its recent arrival.

Behind me I could hear something new. I turned to see a low light moving towards the end of the tunnel and felt a presence just out of sight. Whatever it was made a noise that was oddly familiar. It sounded like a bull, or a horse maybe — the breathy gesture of a large beast. There were certainly no bulls down here, though. As labyrinthine as it was, this was no Minotaur’s lair.

I heard hooves next but not a cantor. This was a biped. Other footsteps joined it. I assumed the enchanted circle, previously fixated on their atavistic ritual, were no longer so still and distracted.

I stopped for a moment, the cold sweat running down my back halting me in my tracks. The chanting had stopped now too but something was getting nearer. I

n the distance, I heard a yelp, choked by laughter. The tour group was close but I wasn’t close enough. I tried to call out but the words were stuck in my throat.

The horn again. Drums now too. Screams and shouts. My legs are shaking underneath me. I felt like prey and, at the same time, like I am being driven from this place, like a herded lamb being rounded up for the slaughter.

Life had been beckoned into this dark corridor and now death had emerged to chase it out. Soon there would be nothing left, once again, except darkness itself.

Applied Ballardianism | Ballardismo Applicato

Nero have just published an excellent essay by the one and only, the goth I wish I was, Enrico Monacelli, going over an old hellthread I documented on the blog about the intersections and tensions between art and politics and introducing the new Italian translation of Simon Sellars’ Applied Ballardianism — or, as they’ve translated it, Ballardismo Applicato.

Monacelli has created “an illustrative pamphlet” to aid any misadventurers wishing “to establish first contact with the profound logic of Ballardianism.” As ever, even via Google Translate, it’s an awesome read.

Whether you’re already familiar with Simon Sellars’ book or new to the cult, let Enrico be your guide.

I will not spoil the thrill of initiation, but I will give you grips that will facilitate your descent.

Spinal Catastropism

An excellent night was had on Thursday at the New Cross House to celebrate the launch of Thomas Moynihan’s new book Spinal Catastrophism.

Robin and Tom ran through a bunch of the book’s connections, from the earliest examples of speculative thought through to German Idealism and crashing on the capitalist exacerbation of contemporary back ache. It was a wide-ranging conversation that may end up online at some point and, judging from the Q&A afterwards, it sparked off so many thoughts within our audience.

It’s a “classic Urbanomic publication”, as Robin put it, but I can’t help but feel pride over Tom carrying forward the post-Ccru torch from the Cave Twitter catacombs. From Pepsi to spines, Tom is jumping from niche to niche and exploding intellectual histories wherever he goes.

Professor Barker previously explained his thoughts on spinal catastrophism in an interview with the Ccru as follows:

For humans there is the particular crisis of bipedal erect posture to be processed. I was increasingly aware that all my real problems were modalities of back-pain, or phylogenetic spinal injury, which took me back to the calamitous consequences of the precambrian explosion, roughly five hundred million years ago. The ensuing period is incrementally body-mapped by metazoan organization. Obviously there are discrete quasi-coherent neuromotor tic-flux patterns, whose incrementally rigidified stages are swimming, crawling, and (bipedal) walking. Elaine Morgan persuasively traces the origin of protohuman bipedalism to certain deleterious plate-tectonic shifts. The model is bioseismic. Crustal convulsions and animal body-plan are rigorously interconnected, and the entire Aquatic Ape Theory constitutes an exemplary geotraumatic analysis. Erect posture and perpendicularization of the skull is a frozen calamity, associated with a long list of pathological consequences, amongst which should be included most of the human psychoneuroses. Numerous trends in contemporary culture attest to an attempted recovery of the icthyophidian- or flexomotile-spine: horizontal and impulsive rather than vertical and stress-bearing.

The issue here — as always — is real and effective regression. It is not a matter of representational psychology. Consider Haeckel’s widely discredited Recapitulation Thesis, the claim that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. It is a theory compromised by its organicism, but its wholesale rejection was an overreaction. Ballard’s response is more productive and balanced, treating DNA as a transorganic memory-bank and the spine as a fossil record, without rigid onto-phylogenic correspondence. The mapping of spinal-levels onto neuronic time is supple, episodic, and diagonalizing. It concerns plexion between blocks of machinic transition, not strict isomorphic — or stratic redundancy — between scales of chronological order. Mammal DNA contains latent fish-code (amongst many other things).

Tom takes this matrix of human thought and posture and explodes it, like a lighting bolt sent up from your vestigial tail that blows out the top of your skull. For anyone who wants a concrete exposition of how the relevance of the Ccru’s misunderstood legacy resonates as far into our pasts as it does our futures, this book for you.

“There’s no fate but what we make for ourselves”: Notes on ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’

I went to see Terminator: Dark Fate this evening and have thoughts.

TL;DR: I thought it was really interesting. As an action blockbuster, I enjoyed it, but as the latest offering in a franchise so tied up with theoretical readings, it raises a lot of questions — questions that both strengthen the film as entertainment and undermine it as politicised media.

I don’t think there’s a way to say why I think this exactly without spoiling just about all of it so come back later if you’ve got plans to check it out.


“There’s no fate but what we make for ourselves” is one of the most famous lines from the Terminator franchise but it’s also the least effective and discussed. It’s meant to be a hopeful motto for most of the franchise’s characters but it betrays a weird templexity that is as integral to the franchise’s continuing existence as to that of the universe in which it takes place.

Individual fate may be fluid but repeatedly it falls foul of a much bigger plan.

This is driven home in Dark Fate in a scene where the saviour-from-the-future character, Grace, explains that Sarah Connor may have stopped Skynet from taking over but humans ended up building something else instead: Legion — yet another rogue AI that has its Oedipal and military-industrial complexes murderously entangled, threatening the entire human race after it decides to hunt it for sport. This is not just history repeating itself but the future too.

But there’s still hope. Dani, this film’s “John Connor”, future leader of the resistance — or “militia” (because she’s Mexican I guess?) — is keen to point out that we made these things so we can take them down.

It’s a hopeful line that is uttered within minutes of the iconic “there’s no fate but what we make for ourselves” and it left me feeling pretty jarred. A Terminator-dominated world is not our fate because our fate is what we make for ourselves… But it seems our fate is also to keep making rogue AI…?

Individual survival supposedly trumps any sense of collective responsibility. It has never been this franchise’s strongest message.

Terminator: Dark Fate at first feels like it has taken heavy notes from the reboot of the Star Wars franchise. The first 20 minutes or so of this film felt like they were just going to remake T2 but for today. In many respects, that is precisely what the filmmakers have done here, and it is what makes and breaks this film for me.

Initially, the updated settings and politics feel incredibly timely for a time-warped franchise such as this. The most interesting example for me is perhaps that Sarah Connor’s insane asylum sequence is changed up for a Texan detention centre for illegals who’ve crossed the US-Mexican border.

The journey into and out of this place is an interesting one and it reminded me of a lecture I went to a few months ago given by Daniel Rourke in which he gave the best analysis of T2 that I’ve ever heard. (I’m hoping one day that Daniel will publish this take for himself. I also hope he won’t mind me summarising it.)

Daniel’s focus is on Sarah Connor — “mother of the future, goddess, warrior”. She’s a “walking temporal disruption” trying to protect her son whose father was a man from the future sent back to protect her.

For Daniel, this makes her more cyborg than the Terminator. She is galvanised by her “temporal hybridity” and whilst the society in which she exists attempts to close in around her, deeming her to be insane because of her apocalyptic visions, she is nonetheless able to use the “rigidity of her own surroundings to her advantage.”

Daniel showed us her asylum escape sequence, describing her movement through the institutional space as an example of détournement — for the way that she uses the asylum against itself — but also as an act of “aphercotropism“. The latter is a term used to describe the routing around of obstacles by plants. Unable to access sunlight, plants will push through, in and around whatever lies in front of them.

Drawing up a diagram of the strategies and tactics deployed by each character in T2, Daniel explained that Sarah Connor is the “most aphercotropic being” of them all. She is “at one” with the system in which she’s contained. The Terminators, obviously, aren’t. The T-100 smashes through doors and walls like a bulldozer whilst the T-1000 just slides right through everything as if it was’t there. Without the brute force or liquidity of the Terminators in her midst, Sarah nonetheless comes out on top because she is able to adapt best to her environment without having to just destroy everything or be completely devoid of an identity like the T-1000 that mimics but is otherwise formless.

I liked this because — in DeleuzoGuattarian terms — it situated the T-100 as a striated being, the T-1000 as a smooth being, and Sarah Connor as a cyberfeminist patchwork nomad.

What is interesting about this reading in relation to Terminator: Dark Fate is that it completely falls apart. That’s not a comment on Rourke’s reading of T2 but rather a comment on the times in which we live.

In Dark Fate, Sarah Connor is back but she’s also a bit of a has-been. She’s no longer hunted and she’s no longer the most aphercotropic being in the girl gang. In fact, it’s hard to rank any of the characters in this present movie as being aphercotropic at all.

Sarah Connor hunts Terminators now. She gets sent mysterious texts, goes to the coordinates contained within and despatches Terminators as soon as they arrive. She’s not the mother of the future anymore. She’s basically a looper — a contract killer killing any remnant of the future the moment it reaches back into the past. The irony of her future-past existence is that she’s now totally behind on the present, keeping her phone in empty crisp packets because she thinks the foil lining will block tracking signals.

And yet Sarah is also the first to chide Grace, an augmented human sent back to protect Dani. Sarah notes that, yeah, she might be as fast and as strong as a Terminator with her cool future techno-skeleton, but she doesn’t know anything about the past she’s been sent back to. She has no idea how it all works.

Dani, although she is this film’s “John”, is in fact a lot more like the very first Terminator film’s Sarah. She might be destined to lead humanity to its salvation against Legion but she’s not that woman yet. She’s got a very long way to go. She’s a woman of the present but she’s clueless about the past and future forces no converging around her.

All of this is compounded by the ease with which the new Terminator is able to move through our contemporary world. Our contemporary surveillance state, in particular, means that this rogue AI has no trouble finding its prey anywhere. Every camera is an eye for it to spy through, whether that be CCTV, military drone or smart phone camera. It reminded me of that dark technology that Batman has been secretly developing in one of the Chris Nolan films — the technology that uses phone signals to listen in on calls and render 3D environments from phone data alone. In Terminator: Dark Fate, it feels like phone data is irrelevant. It’s the obvious technology to fear if you want to remain off grid but it quickly becomes apparent that, today, being “off-grid” is an outdated fantasy. Nowhere is out of sight of present day surveillance infrastructures.

The state’s role in this is made explicit. Just as the original T-1000 found itself easily overcoming obstacles by impersonating a police officer for most of the film’s duration, the new model built by Legion impersonates a border patrol officer and army personnel. It hacks networks way above the pay grade of T2‘s motorcycle cop and, as a result, it is never far behind the women’s trail, no matter whether they’re traipsing through the desert or laying low in a city. They are accessible.

One of the most interesting and troubling things, for me, about Terminator: Dark Fate is that if any character in this new film is aphercotropic it’s Arnold Schwarzenegger’s, but not in a good way.

In his lecture, Daniel explained that he sees the Terminator itself as a feminist figuration for its capacity to highlight the very power dynamics that it moves through, specifically between a machinic and masculine dualism, and that is an aspect of Schwarzenegger’s character that is put into overdrive in this film.

Having eventually killed John Connor in 1998, a year after the events of T2 — depicted in an opening flashback that, it must be said, is fucking incredible in its realism: I wouldn’t have known it was CGI if I wasn’t well aware that those characters on screen were impossibly from 22 years ago — we later learn that the T-100 developed a “consciousness” (or, more accurately, a conscience) all of its own, later settling down and becoming a family man.

I found this back story very hard to swallow. Whereas T2‘s T-100 had been completely reprogrammed in the future and then sent back to the past to protect John Connor, this T-100 was successful in its mission but, a few years later, found itself a family and then felt guilt? The film’s internal reasoning was that, somewhat like Frankenstein’s monster, in an attempt to give itself purpose in its new existence as a seemingly immortal machine that has completed its one and only mission, unable to return to the time it came from, the T-100 sets out on a new mission to make amends and… It succeeds?

I call bullshit on that as a narrative device personally but, politically, and with Daniel’s reading in mind, it does weirdly make sense that this all-female reboot would reconfigure the machinic masculinity of the previous films into a responsible don’t-mess-with-Texas caring survivalist family man who plays Platonic husband and father figure for a lost mother and son who have escaped domestic abuse.

In relation to T2, this still makes no sense whatsoever to me but, being charitable, I suppose it nonetheless contains echoes of the original John Connor’s attempts to humanise the monster in his midst in the original film.

Just as all the comic relief in T2 came from Schwarzenegger’s robotic father figure vibe and his cold delivery of teenage slang, Terminator: Dark Fate gives his character the future existence that we might have imagined for the T-100 that sacrificed itself at the end of T2.

It’s ham-fisted and awkward but it did eventually win me over, betraying my inner bleeding heart liberal. My more critical head, however, did recongise Arnie’s new T-100 was a cybergothic embodiment of what Leslie Fieder called a “Higher Masculine Sentimentality” — a weird cross-pollination of white man and savage Native that American literature has been producing for centuries. T2 kept its HMS fast and loose. Here, it is woefully consolidated. It will resonate with many, as a result, but I’m left asking myself: “At what cost?”

This is partly why this film both benefits and is dragged down by its timeliness for me. I do not see much of the internal politics of this film ageing well in this regard. This isn’t a comment on the all-female cast. In fact, that development makes perfect sense. Dani isn’t the “mother of the future”. She is the future. It updates T2 with the “future is female” promise of today and of cyberfeminism more generally and it would be weird if it went any other way. But its internal crisis of masculinity echoes the embarrassing shifting mythologies that men hold onto in our own reality. The fact that the film can write three kick-ass female characters but completely fails to give its only leading man a believable backstory is telling of the present moment. I doubt many will mourn this failure but it bothers me if only for the fact that it did affect the film as a whole for me.

This disappointment with convoluted internal politics is not uncommon to a lot of recent sci-fi. For example, whilst the film initially holds off on revealing the fact that it isn’t Dani’s womb that the rogue AI is threatened by, it reminded me of all that I didn’t like about the recent Blade Runner sequel.

That film’s fall back on a harking after domesticity and familial lineage over considerations of the impact of a replicant’s xenogenesis felt really wrong to me. If there are two paths that could be taken following the original Blade Runner, that, for me, was the wrong one.

Terminator: Dark Fate thankfully takes a far more interesting path but still struggles to deal with xenogenesis in a way that doesn’t quickly fall back on the trad politics of the nuclear family.

On a more positive note, it is inspired that the film’s main chase takes place across the US-Mexican border and involves far more nefarious apparatuses of the state than its predecessors. None of these plot devices feel heavy handed — there is no woke message screaming at you in the face — but, again, with Daniel’s lecture in mind, its narrative arch is telling. Almost a quarter of a century after the first film hit cinemas, it is striking how much more difficult it is for these characters to move around. They fall victim to just about every example of state infrastructure they pass through, slowing them down whilst these same systems allow the Terminator to speed up.

This isn’t something that the film makes a big deal of, but I do wonder why that is. In fact, one of the other heavy-handed moments in Terminator: Dark Fate contrasts this observation in an odd way.

When Dani is first introduced, turning up for work at a Mexico City car manufacturer with her brother, she discovers her brother’s station has been replaced overnight by a new robotic arm on the production line. She complains to her manager, protesting about the precedent this sets for the rest of her colleagues who, she says defiantly, will not be reduced to “keeping stations warm until the machines come along.” It’s the sort of working class technophobia that has been a staple of Hollywood sci-fi for decades and it felt very much out of date here.

This is exacerbated by the extent to which the Legion Terminator is able to exploit the apparatus of the state. Humanity creating a slipstream for murderous AI is not a drama that plays out very well anymore on the factory floor. It is the state’s adoption of technologies that is far more worrying. It worried me that the film’s Fordist fury betrayed a complete ignorance of this far more pressing and insidious issue, despite it occupying these spaces for the majority of its story.

I would be remiss not to mention k-punk’s writings on the Terminator franchise here, particularly in relation to this weirdly outdated technophobia at the start of the film.

Writing on Terminator: Salvation on his blog, Mark comments: “Capitalist realism keeps attention on the ephemeral plenitude of wealth and social status, containing the nullity of ecological catastrophe as an anamorphic blot at the edge of vision.” In Terminator: Dark Fate, it is state surveillance over ecological catastrophe that capitalist realism keeps as a blot. The Fordist technophobia getting an on-screen protest whilst no comment is passed on the nature of their detention at the hands of the US border patrol feels like a weird act of misdirection that is never rectified with the same explicitness.

It doesn’t have to be, of course — subtlety is good — but Dark Fate eschews its subtlety in some very telling places and these are typically places that only reveal the limits of the filmmaker’s own vision of the world in which their story takes place.

In his most famous Accelerationist essay, Mark would use the Terminator as the best analogy for Nick Land’s (1990s) view of capitalism:

Deleuze-Guattari’s concept of capitalism as the virtual unnameable Thing that haunts all previous formations pulp-welded to the time-bending of the Terminator films: “what appears to humanity as the history of capitalism is an invasion from the future by an artificial intelligent space that must assemble itself entirely from its enemy’s resources,” as [Land’s essay] “Machinic Desire” has it. Capital as megadeath-drive as Terminator: that which “can’t be bargained with, can’t be reasoned with, doesn’t show pity or remorse or fear and it absolutely will not stop, ever”.

The fact that, in Dark Fate, Capital-as-Terminator did stop and became a stoic boomer is damningly continuous with this Landian vision and, similarly, it doesn’t make for good watching.

Most troubling of all is the way in which Dark Fate feels like a perfected instantiation of all that made Terminator: Genisys, for Mark Fisher at least, such a shitshow. (I think I skipped that film altogether.)

Reviewing the film for Sight & Sound, Mark writes:

Terminator 2’s already irritating combination of cutesy smart alecry (“Hasta la vista, baby”) and apocalyptic foreboding laid out the formula for the 1990s postmodern thriller in the way that the Bond films did for the thrillers of the 60s. The form was a kind of have-your-cake-and-eat-it mix of send-up and portentous melodrama (Linda Hamilton’s performance was so OTT that you wanted to say, “Chill out, it’s just a nuclear apocalypse”).

I wonder if he wouldn’t find Hamilton’s performance here similarly cringe. Her hard-nosed persona does frequently miss the mark in Dark Fate and feel painfully exaggerated.

Getting to the meat of his analysis, Mark continues:

The presiding metaphysic here — a vision of total plasticity, in which nothing is final, everything can be redone — is, like everything else in this film, completely familiar. If the Terminator in the first film — a musclebound humanoid with metallic-robotic skeleton – was an image of work and technology in the Fordist era, then the T1000 gave us our first taste of the forms of capital and labour which were then emerging. No doubt, the T100’s protean capacity to adopt any form whatsoever initially seemed exciting — reflecting the promises of a new digital technologies, and of an unleashed capitalism, recently freed up from conflict with the Soviet empire.

But by 2015 that excitement has long since flatlined. As with so much contemporary culture, Terminator Genisys feels simultaneously self-satisfied and desperate, frenzied and boring. It is at one and the same time a desecration and plundering of the series’ past that is also pathetically reverential towards it. […]

[A] film whose reality is this plastic, this recomposable, is simply impossible to care about on any level. As such, Terminator Genisys becomes a kind of dumb, unintentional parable about restructuring in late capitalism. Since anything can and will change soon, why bother to care about what is happening now? The whole film feels like a monument to pointless hard work. We’re left somewhat stupefied and perturbed by the vast amount of digital labour that has gone into something that is almost completely devoid of interest, and which it certainly feels like very hard work to watch.

Terminator: Dark Fate thankfully avoids this pratfall. Its explicit grounding within a very contemporary geopolitical battleground gives it real stakes and an undercurrent that is ripe for real-world consideration.

Sometimes it is confused about what exactly it wants to say but thankfully it leaves more than enough space for the viewer to consider the film on their own terms. However, Mark’s critique of this franchise’s previous outing still lingers.

It might successfully generate interest by hanging itself on the Trumpian geopolitics of contemporary America but is this film capable of telling us any more beyond that? Its spirals of templexity still drag it down.

There is no fate but what we make for ourselves and so far, according to the film’s own internal logics, that fate is more of the same. The Terminator in Dark Fate is no longer a idol to fill with Landian analyses of our collective technomic death drive but of the frenzied stasis of Fisher’s capitalist realism.

If this film cannot connect the dots between the T-100’s fallback on trad life to the futility of its own catchphrase that betrays a self-perpetuating capitalism, paradoxically fuelled by a fear of a future-present, hopefully its audiences can.

Video: Art Under the Influence

Thanks to everyone who came down to Anise Workshop last week to hear a panel discussion on art in the climate crisis. It was great to meet a few blog readers there as well.

The panel was chaired by Kate Pincott and included (from left to right) Thomas Moynihan, Matteo Zamagni, Hayden Martin and Dane Sutherland.

I’ll have a few more things to say about my work at Anise at a later date but until then, check out their website and listen back to the discussion below:

Post-Rave Visitations

Throughout my teenager years I used to use RateYourMusic. A lot.

I started back in the early YouTube days when Anthony Fantano already had a corner of the market but, really, the “internet’s busiest music nerd” wasn’t busy doing shit compared to some of RYM’s obsessive cataloguers of their own listening habits.

I reckon Fantano could have killed the idea of what music writing and journalism could be for the YouTube generation.

Elsewhere, at that time, things felt discursive. They had to be. In the UK, NME was slowly shrivelling. The nostalgia mags were on the rise and The Wire remained a bastion that struggled — and might still — to adapt itself to hooking the musically hungry in a new world. The Quietus emerged around that time as an antidote to a new era, trying to surf a lost current, and did so successfully but the virus didn’t seem to spread as virulently beyond them as some might have hoped.

Things have changed more recently with longer pieces of writing appearing more and more as a desire grows for long-reads but back then, if you wanted old-style “progressive” music journalism, with one ear to the outside world and another in the underground, you had to go to blogs and forums.

Without the sacred local community of record shop spectres, haunting the bins and talking up the latest releases, online was where everything happened. For me, traversing these spaces was like a daily mental exercise, trawling through their pages and threads, logging my own developing taste as I went, honing an encyclopaedic knowledge of genres and eras.

RYM provided the perfect space for this for me. It was like a musical microblogging platform and I found keeping abreast of my own listening habits helped to process stuff and make connections between scenes and eras and artists. It was a place where you could publicly go on your own journey and eavesdrop on others whilst you were at it. Lists of interesting users were as common as end-of-year lists or retrospective overviews of periods and movements. It was about connections — between times and communities. It wasn’t all Last.FM data sets. It was listening and discussion. A building of new histories and a trashing of old ones.

I was sixteen when I first signed up for an account on the site and, at first, it was an alien space in a lot of ways. For the most part, it felt like a safe haven for middle-aged men having a midlife crisis, cataloguing all 15,000 of their CDs to procrastinate during their divorce proceedings, but there was so much to trawl through that it became addictive all the same. For a bedroom-dwelling teenager it was better than almost anywhere if you wanted a proper musical education. You could just dip in there and read some rushed reviews and then torrent whatever someone had decided to label “mellifluous” or something and disappear down a rabbit hole of pretentious hyperbole that would nonetheless lead to some mind-bending sounds.

As easily derided as music genres and “tags” are today, as hangovers from music’s reductive commercialisation, the best ones acted as cyphers; made-up names for strains of organic hallucinogens made ready for an anti-market of ubiquitous theft. It was a trip.

I haven’t used the site for a few years now. I don’t get off on making lists anymore and I don’t have the empty conscience to just pirate everything under the sun or the time to listen to it all if I did. But when everything was so accessible in the mid-2000s it felt hard to ignore. Back then it felt like you couldn’t find any major label releases but everything weird was up for grabs and musical history was your playground. This is to say that if you wanted stuff for free, the weird was the way to go. It was everywhere. Now streaming services mean big labels don’t care so much about open access to their assets but the smaller ones have tightened up their online distribution networks. Bandcamp feels like a brilliant compromise in the shadow of this old world.

It’s all for the best, I guess… But I do sort of miss it… As a teenager music lover, sites like RYM, along with forums and torrent sites, felt like the Wild West — a frontier of new music discovery. You’d have snake oil salesmen coming out the woodwork left and right offering to blow your mind free of charge with a seed to a Magma discography or a full set of Animal Collective bootlegs or even a tape rip of some Gerogerigegege art object that was never meant to be “listened” to never mind digitised.

If you had an insatiable appetite for new sounds like I did, you’d just snuff it all up your snozz on a school night regardless and then keep coming back for more. It was, in many ways, a problem. I blame mid-2000s online music culture for my shit GCSE results. School was a interruption to nights spent uploading discographies directly to my cerebellum, pretending like I was in The Matrix, injecting aural decades into my eardrums.

That’s the main reason I barely left my room from fourteen to twenty. I had no reason to. Everything I could ever want was ripe for picking from the internet.

I like trees and the seaside a lot more now. Outside is nice. But I still get nostalgic for that time period. Reminiscing over this weekend, probably because autumn is most definitely here and I’m getting serene and melancholic and wistful, I realised that I have some pretty good stories from back then. Weird online encounters, some of which happened barely 5 years ago, but which feel like they wouldn’t happen today. I’m going to share some over the coming weeks.

As fucking weird as our online spaces are right now, I think they used to be weirder. This appraisal is undoubtedly fuelled by nostalgia, on the one hand, but it also feels like there’s something to be reckoned with in considering it anew.

This old world of wild listening has been lost completely over the last ten years. The death of Megaupload was the death knell. It never recovered from the copyright clampdowns.

This shift from 2000s excess to 2010s shifting sands is what defines this past decade for me I think, but there is so much to unpack here we if want to figure out why.

I was reading Simon Reynolds’ post-punk history Rip It Up & Start Again last night and found his intro to the book really inspiring in this regard. Towards the end of the book’s introduction he offers a couple of “subjective and objective” reasons for writing on that historically neglected era — one which also meant so much to him personally. He writes:

As a rock critic, when you reach a certain age, you begin to wonder if all the mental and emotional energy you’ve invested in this music thing was such a shrewd move. Not exactly a crisis of confidence, but a creasing of certainty. In my case, this prompted me to wonder when, exactly, it was that I made the decision to embark upon a life of taking music seriously. What made me believe music could matter this much? Of course, it was growing up in the post-punk era. […] So this book is in part a reckoning with my younger self. And the answer I came up with…

Reynolds — who I’ll return to in the next post — seems to have felt this “creasing of certainty” again himself this year. The trouble seems to be that this uncertainty is as cultural as it is political but we cannot respond to it as we once did. It’s not hopeless but I think we have to ask ourselves some difficult questions if we’re going to come to terms with the current state of things.

As the year — and the decade — draws to a close, I’m going to fire off a few posts over the weeks ahead about disparate music-related topics that try to reckon with all of the above and more; reckon with what’s been lost and what’s been gained, and what warrants further attention in the decade ahead. Hopefully the first one will be out tomorrow. Until then…

To be continued…

Piss Gauntlet II

I’m starting to regret yesterday’s missive on XF sent out into the blogosphere, a rapid response to the latest article to take a swipe against xenofeminism’s neighbours, if only because I’m reminded of how mind-numbing Twitter arguments are. I prefer the blog. Sorry.

The point being made in that glossed overview — written fervently (and as ever) on my lunch break yesterday — of a year of XF discomfort emanating from a predictable subsection of Facebook leftists, seemingly missed by the critics mentioned in the post themselves, is that their arguments are undermined by their insistence on a bubblewrap of caveats and bad research that hang around them.

More patient readers than I have noted that the most recent article on Metamute, about XF and alienation more broadly, actually has some interesting things to say once you get past the language of “sniff[ing] out the suspect traces” and unfounded accusations of “lively esoteric fascist movement[s]” that make up XF’s still-unravelling genealogy.

In fact, Gleeson’s conclusion, read in isolation, is a good one. She is right to say that “we need to move beyond either accepting [XF’s] terms, or denouncing its corruptions.” “Repair work must begin here”, she says, and that is a sentiment I am happy to get behind.

So why did the article’s beginning only serve to perpetuate the opposite?

I’m reminded of a paragraph in Annie Goh’s critique where she falls into the same hypocrisy, noting how “Mark Fisher heaped praise on the [XF] collective for ‘definitively grasp[ing] feminism back from the […] hands of the moralising-spiteful petit-bourgeoisie’.” Unfortunately, despite this, Goh’s recognisably Goldsmiths variety of squeamishness later takes over.

Because that’s what this is. Sophie Lewis asked from which academic institutions she and the others are supposedly supposed to be boundary policing, presumably because she isn’t officially affiliated with any, but this is precisely where this need to disavow without research came from. It was a paranoia that fell out from Goldsmiths in 2017 and leaked all over the rest of the London Left. Whether affiliated or not, that’s where this came from and it is for those sorts of people that these snide acts of disavowal take place. It is a type of “saving face” that is endemic and petty.

It was following the reemergence of this in Gleeson’s article that the point was made yesterday that, rather than dismiss U/Acc as fascist without evidence, or based on nothing other than the long shadow of Land, why not take a closer look and see what is being done to further interrogate XF’s questions of otherness and alienation in that adjacent discourse? Because there’s plenty going on there.

This isn’t just a tantrum over being sidelined, as Gleeson assumed. It sticks in my craw only partly because I’m proud of this blog’s U/Acc Primer repeatedly finding itself on imageboards, posted by people seeking to counteract the alt-right bastardisation of these discourses that Gleeson lumps us in with. I’d wager that post alone has done more than most articles to turn 4chan shitposters away from violent edgelording and towards an actual engagement with the ideas, but I’m far from the only person writing on these issues. In the aftermath of some atrocious events where accelerationism and its influences have found themselves in very hot water this year, U/Acc writers has done more than any other subsection of people to galvanise debate to the contrary, and its transfeminist contingent is exemplary of this.

Gleeson’s response to this yesterday was that the article wasn’t about U/Acc and XF does its own thing — of course it does — but surely this is still implicitly relevant to the argument she ends on about comradeship, togetherness and repair? Starting off with such an embarrassing misrepresentation of an adjacent discourse is a pretty bad start to that, isn’t it? It begs the question of who it is they want to repair relations with. Their own inner circle? Not a bad place to start but it stinks of London leftist myopia.

This morning on Twitter, Sophie Lewis weighed in with her own weird logic that echoes this as well. She’s friends with Helen Hester, you see, and so she feels emboldened by the fact that “at least one of the authors that are the subjects of the comradely critiques did explicitly regard them as comradely.” But the thoughts of a single individual don’t make for a strong endorsement of comradeship by any measure. (No shade cast on Helen but the argument is dumb all the same.)

This is the issue that seems totally lost on those concerned over the last two days. They betray themselves to be in favour of the Goldsmiths version of comradeship — internally emboldened, critiqued just enough to appear progressive whilst still being run by the same “moralising-spiteful petit-bourgeoisie” that the politics they pay lip service to was meant to unground. The insistence on scattering poorly researched digs at others throughout their texts proves it and the overall conclusions being made here, by Gleeson in particular, deserve far better than that.

Piss Gauntlet

I woke up to an insane amount of notifications on Twitter this morning after pointing to the latest attempt at a takedown of Xenofeminism.

Jules Joanne Gleeson has written an article for MetaMute called “Breakthroughs & Bait: On Xenofeminism & Alienation” which deals with The Xenofeminist Manifesto and its “best critics”.

Evidently, there are slim pickings when writing an article like this because all Gleeson seems to deal with is Annie Goh’s glorified Facebook rant and Sophie Lewis’s repetition of her arguments elsewhere (albeit tailored to fit with her book for Verso).

I think the most frustrating thing about these successive attempts to disavow XF is that each writer has in turn acted as if they’re throwing down the gauntlet — here are our challenges, now come at us! But, speaking of breakthroughs versus bait, all that is liable to emerge from any of these critiques is a pissing contest.

The question I’d like to ask of these critical trio is: How can you expect anyone to bother addressing any of these arguments when they betray an embarrassing ignorance of their source material? Are you completely unaware of this? If so, what’s the aim here? Just to protect the boundaries of your academic institutions?

The Xenofeminist Manifesto was an attempt to thrown down the cyberfeminist gauntlet in our present era by a loose collection of para-academics and feminists who wanted to shake up contemporary thought. And they did just that, with an array of references and challenges to be built upon.

This is obvious, you’d hope — it’s a manifesto after all: a form that inevitably comes with various problems and demands regarding its unpacking. So simply declaring that its contents aren’t developed enough is a weird approach to take. (I’ve addressed all this before.)

What I’d like to demand, in turn, of these critics is that they at least do the necessary work to understand what it is they’re trying to pick a fight with, because the holes in their research — never mind their reasoning, as highlighted by @qdnoktsqfr and @Josh86480104 — are nothing short of embarrassing.

If they want to introduce some academic and political rigour to the XFM, that means keeping up with the field you want to critique. Instead, each article feels immediately out-dated, taking a five-year-old text at face value, providing — as Sophie Lewis rightly acknowledged — “a paranoid reading” of a text but not its present environment.

Gleeson’s “response” drives all these previous points home. A response is an answer, isn’t it? A response is a reaction. Gleeson’s reaction seems limited to: “here’s what Goh and Lewis said with a few more details”, and these in themselves are further out of date. As S.C. Hickman rhetorically asked: “Anything that doesn’t reduce to 19th Century Marxist thought becomes ‘fascist’? Spoofy world; bogus thought.”

Personally, I’ve struggled to get past the article’s third paragraph, in which Gleeson argues that “since 2015 a furtive network of pseudonymous Twitter accounts and shortlived cultural spaces have arisen to develop ‘unlimited accelerationism’ as a lively esoteric fascist movement (known as ‘u/acc’).”

U/Acc — unconditional (not ‘unlimited’) accelerationism — is an emerging area of thought that has already been thinking about and dealing with the questions that Goh, Lewis and Gleeson throw out from their respective positions as an attempt at some sort of ‘gotcha’ moment. Most memorably, Goh’s critique was that u/acc is an “appropriation of the alien” — ironically whitewashing the Ccru and its influences based on a contemporary perception of contemporary Twitter shitposters.

Her main issue was with the “xeno-” prefix:

The Greek xenos means ‘strange’ or ‘foreign’, and the prefix ‘xeno’ commonly denotes ‘relating to a foreigner or foreigners’. The name ‘xenofeminism’ is one of the first things people often query and I recall an audience question at the book launch regarding the prefix ‘xeno’, in relation to how the collective negotiated any proximity it might therefore seem to have to the commonly associated word ‘xenophobia’. A somewhat awkward answer came back from the collective to the effect that: ‘among us (the authors), some of us are queer, some of us are trans, some of us are mothers […] we are all white and from the Global North.’ Yet, we were assured that the manifesto’s subtitle, ‘a Politics for Alienation’, associated xenofeminism with the notion of ‘alienness’, but not the ‘xeno’ of ‘xenophobia’. … [W]ith xenophobia being a very real and pressing issue in the context of the contemporary resurgence of the far-right, and with the well-known rise of white nationalist and Islamophobic feminisms, to make this immediate equivalence of ‘xeno’ with ‘alienness’ and attempt to fill it with positive rather than negative content, cannot be regarded as straightforward.

Sophie Lewis summarised her questions as: “Xeno for who? Xeno from whose perspective?”

Such is the question inherently asked by accelerationism and unconditional accelerationism most explicitly. The challenge repeatedly put to equivalences of u/acc-adjacent discourses with the acc of the Christchurch shooter is that the latter is precisely the kind of modern subject that u/acc attempts to critique.

More generally, after the left and right accelerationisms of the early 2010s found themselves limited by subjective biases, u/acc emerged to challenge these assumptions (and so did the XFM itself) asking precisely the question of “xeno for who?” Nyx’s gender accelerationism blackpaper had one answer to this — notably absent from all critiques despite being the most well-known continuation of the XF challenge to now.

This is likewise something I explored in depth in this blog’s U/Acc Primer, which I’m proud has become this site’s most viewed post and is frequently shared on imageboards to counter the prevailing alt-right acc appropriation.

XF’s critics are unaware of this, of course. They lump everything in together betraying an total ignorance of their own subject matter. They focus entirely on Nick Land, doing more to limit the perspective of acc-adjacent discourses than the people they supposedly critique. And what’s worse is it’s not like any of this other stuff is hard to find.

It begs the question of who their critiques are for. They only embolden the anti-intellectual, unengaged and clout-seeking. They are preaching to the converted. If they’d like to be taken seriously by those in their crosshairs, maybe even change the minds of those who think xenofeminist is pretty cool, the least anyone such expect is an actual engagement with the arguments on the table, rather than a superficial paranoid appraisal of art world buzzwords.

Do better, then each might get the sort of responses they mistakenly think they deserve.

UPDATE #1: Gleeson has responded to this post with the dismissal that it’s “1100 word blog saying I’m not worth responding to, lol.”

It’s not that I don’t think she shouldn’t be responded to but simply can’t, because the inaccuracies undermine everything she has to say. This post isn’t intended as a response but a nod to everything written since the XFM that extends its questions and has already dealt with many of the badly formed questions posed in her article, as well as Goh’s and Lewis’s.

I share @qdnoktsqfr’s position:

I would have been a full supporter of her comments there, if not for the terrible tribunal-style associationism that holds sway throughout the first half of the article, whatever its retrospective ‘methodological’ justification. [1]

I no longer have any mercy for this way-too-easy ‘intellectual contamination’ argument. [2]

UPDATE #2: There was a line in this post that suggested Gleeson was suggesting the XFM had a “transphobic undercurrent”. She has correctly pointed out that this isn’t the case and so it has been removed.

Is she capable of rectifying all the myriad inaccuracies left in her own text?

Typos are not the issue — it’s the dismissal and shadowboxing of a thought, declaring it “a lively esoteric fascist movement”, when in fact already attempts to deal with the challenges she is posing. It is this that undermines the rest of the argument, as it undermines the arguments of all the others. You don’t know who you say is your enemy.

UPDATE #3: An extra something here, in lieu of a Twitter hellthread I don’t have the time for, there’s a short reprisal here that hopefully gets more to the point of what is missed by these bizarre XF articles that can’t help but get digs in about adjacent discourses.