People wonder why we could be duped by both Hilary and Trump on the Left and Right… a part of it was already apparent to Deleuze and Guattari quite a while back:
Reich is at his profoundest as a thinker when he refuses to accept ignorance or illusion on the part of the masses as an explanation of fascism, and demands an explanation that will take their desire into account, an explanation formulated in terms of desire: no, the masses were not innocent dupes; at a certain point, under a certain set of conditions, they wanted fascism, and it is this perversion of the desire of the masses that needs to be accounted for. (Deleuze and Guattari 1977: 29)
This sense that a certain part of our population are not simply “innocent dupes,” but that the conditions are ripe for such a fascist perversion of democracy. Yet, one wonders if ignorance does indeed play a part in this on both the Left and Right of the spectrum. Most of the followers of both Hilary and Trump are true believers. I mean by that they will follow their parties status quo no matter who it might be. Like the blind leading the blind they’ll walk into the abyss for their Party’s chosen one. I use that term tongue-n-check, “Chosen One”; yet, eerily one feels a shudder of dismay, and thinks, maybe, after all this is a little too emotional, a little too affective, a little to religious – an almost hysteria of the masses rising from the subterranean lairs?
We need to remember that for Deleuze and Guattari, unlike Lacan or – to take another immediate example, Zizek, desire was not based on lack but rather was productive: desire produces the objects, rather than seeking some lost object to fill the void of its lack. Now we can disagree or agree, that’s outside the scope of this post. For experiment’s sake I’m accepting their notion of desire as productive.
The people who have perversely produced for their party the strange objects of their desire in Hilary or Trump have done this unconsciously rather than with conscious awareness. Todd May in an essay will tell us about it this way:
“If there is only desire and the social, it is because desire produces the social. Rather than, as with psychoanalytic theory, desire being desire for something, desire directly creates its objects. We can recognize here Deleuze’s distinction between the virtual and the actual. The actual is a product of the virtual. The virtual is a field of difference from which aIl actuality arises. The actual, in turn, emerges from the virtual, while still retaining the virtual within it. In the same way, desire produces the social.” (14).1
We have known for a while that the mediatainment complex acts like a false memetic system that has replaced real and actual forms of cultural memory with artificial and simulacrum forms of corrupt and reified illusory systems of coercion and production of subjectivity. Many people in our country’s middle-classes are oblivious to how regulated their unconscious desires are by all these technological apparatuses. Ones that have from the early twentieth-century been highly adapted to effect propaganda, public relations, consumerist advertising, polling, and other media platforms to guide and shape the public mind, as well as actively shape the weak and vulnerable to the illusory desires of democratic rhetoric’s. Both the Democrats and Republicans have adapted to these systems, used them, brought them to bare to shape the mass psyche. And, in some ways both parties have come under the direct influence of corporate and lobby pressure and deep influence through power, money, and lucrative systems of desire.
None of this happened overnight, it’s been a gradual creation over the past century, adapting to the various technological advances in the ICT’s or Information and communications technologies that have created our regulated infosphere within which we all ubiquitously share a general intelligence. The few who can see what is happening get no voice in the public sphere, but are succinctly and with a certain malice expunged from both spectrums of Left and Right as the “lunatic fringe”, etc. .
So for Deleuze and Guattari if there is a problem, it is one of desire not illusion and/or ideology: ‘ It is not a question of ideology. There is an unconscious libidinal investment of the social field that coexists, but does not necessarily coincide, with preconscious investments, or with what preconscious investments “ought to be.” That is why, when subjects, individuals, or groups act manifestly counter to their class interests … it is not enough to say: they were fooled, the masses have been fooled’ (Deleuze and Guattari Anti-Oedipus: 1977: 104).
For Deleuze and Guattari our very investment in consumer society itself has produced our desire for such leaders, rather that some nefarious and illusory duping on the part of the masters. We ourselves seek such leaders because we desire our lives to go on as they are, to have the things we have, to live the way we live. As Todd May tells us:
To ask why it is that the masses form beliefs that are against their own interests is to ask the wrong question; it is to ask a question at the wrong level. ‘We see the most disadvantaged, the most excluded members of society invest with passion the system that oppresses them, and where they always find an interest in it, since it is here that they search for and measure it. Interest always comes after’ (Deleuze andGuattari 1977: 346). (15)
Instead of asking why we desire fascism (consumerism), May reports that instead we need to recognize our libidinal investments in the system and make them more revolutionary rather than allowing ourselves to remain passive participants. May will give a lot of remedies to this situation, but in the end as he reports it comes down to this:
We must see the fascism both in what we think and in what we want and create. We do not, or at least very few of us, think anything we tell ourselves is fascistic. Rather, it emerges in the practices in which we engage. It arises not because we desire fascism but because what we desire is fascistic; it arises not because we believe in fascism but because what we believe is fascistic.(26).
One almost remembers a line from Ghandi: “We are botched, therefore we are potential.” And, Mao Tse-Tung’s saying: “There is great chaos under heaven — the situation is excellent.” Maybe, admitting our vulnerability to such desires is in the end to accept the responsibility to create something new with them rather than to let the elite and powers of global capital to continue capturing them with such banal machines.