Literally used now more than ever.
Way back in 2012, Joe Biden was criticized for using the adverb ‘literally’ nine times in one speech. How quaint. I recently listened to a level 5 Google engineer use it nine times in the space of two minutes.
This particular soulless quant had another annoying habit: He would begin every other sentence by restating my name, “Jonathan, I understand what you are saying…” If such feigned familiarity is coupled with a light touch on the arm, I feel free to reach for a knife. Most people who do this are trying to overcome skepticism and inculcate credulity. As a mnemonic device, it is annoying at best; more often it is cloying and insincere and a sure sign to distrust, even despise someone.
Honestly? Like. Literally. Actually.
While I don’t miss Obama much, I do miss his particular elocution, that patient, preternaturally calm, baritone voice and the halting ‘ums’ and ‘uhs’ that stitched together his verbal output. By today’s standards, those pauses are pleasant by comparison. They don’t have any pretense; they are space fillers that allow him to think. While I have many disagreements with what he said, I could always understand it. He was thoughtful and nuanced to a fault; dithering on the golf course while fascism made a comeback. But in this he was not alone, nor particularly exceptional. Plenty of socialists, for instance practically the entire seven-year history of Jacobin Magazine and Blog, join him in this regard. But back to those adverbs.
With Trump, it is as though every wealthy, entitled, and neurotic teenager has suddenly been given carte blanche to release their own unfiltered insanity. While I think the parallels here can be overstated (Trump as a teenager) there is still something to it. Will Trump bomb Iran or just berate the housekeeper? Will he begin in earnest the rounding up of undocumented families or just do a stint in rehab?
His verbal diarrhea is pockmarked with superlatives such as ‘winner’, ‘terrific’, ‘tremendous’ and of course, ‘great’ and ‘greatest’. It’s as though his mother, or au pair, never stopped telling him how special he was, even when he was caught eviscerating the neighbor’s cat. Good boy.
If Trump were a pornography category it would be ass-to-mouth, mouth-to-ass, with all those A-list ruling class enablers from both political parties, across every imaginable capitalist enterprise, sucking and fucking to form one giant, unending, gangrenous human centipede, just like the horror film. Jeffrey Epstein is in there somewhere.
Today it seems that adverbs, and certain nasty ones, in particular, have mounted an attack upon the nonviolence of ums and ahs, completing a scorched earth assault on the quiet dignity of anodyne place fillers so as to replace them with crutch words that, whether used correctly or incorrectly, amount to obfuscation and disorganization–i.e., bullshit. These lexical tics impulsively resorted to by the verbally disabled add emphasis where none is needed, assert drama where there is only triviality, state the obvious rather than the nuanced, and (my favorite) suggest strongly that everything said beforehand was a lie (honestly?…). The standard Trump teenage verbal diarrhea disaster asserts a recklessness with meaning that can only be regarded as aggressive stupidity. This is the hallmark of the powerful, the invulnerable, the masters of the universe who say and do as they please without repercussions, and is the hidden in plain view secret behind Trump’s attraction to some people. We have heard it again and again: Trump ‘says out loud what we can only think to ourselves’. My own take on this is that Trump says out loud, in ways some people would never even hazard, the despicable ideas that belong in the basement. They generally stay there because someone will kick your fucking ass if you say them out loud elsewhere, which is as it should be, but, alas is no longer.
The terrifying ephemeral nature of Twitter is the dominant mode of communication for this viral and noxious hate speech. But together with the sheer hatred and assault of such verbiage, there is something else underway: where everything is equally dramatic, nothing is important. Aside from links to longer written work, this platform, like instagag and snapcrap is useless for leftists. The ‘twit’ in Twitter is there for a reason. Those who are prolific in these mediums are the same shallow dipshits who prosecute juvenile intra-leftist fights. Tankies vs. insurrectionists, statists vs. anarchists, etc.
No complex thoughts or arguments are possible here, only half-ass hashtags, silly memes, and depraved gossip. Chomsky once remarked that in order to engage an audience about ideas which break with orthodoxy one must spend some time setting the groundwork to do so–you need at least 15-30 minutes to tear down presumptions that prohibit ‘out of the box’ thinking. If you are not afforded the opportunity to do this you sound insane. This fact alone means the instant ambush culture of social media and the talking heads that wallow in cultish Marxisant Zizekian nonsense ensures no such thinking is possible within such a format. Zizek and his ilk thrive there because they are full of shit. That’s why Chomsky didn’t go on cable news programs or engage in celebrity debates. Chomsky has all the more integrity because of that. More leftists, certain antifascists, in particular, need a reminder on this point. Otherwise, you are just engaging in a debate on their terms. The only corrective to this sorry state of affairs is aptly provided in the wonderful allegory of revolution that is the film Snowpiercer, by Bong Joon-Ho. If you get to the front of the train, don’t listen to the conductor, don’t even allow him to talk–cut his tongue out and remember: Kronole is a bomb, you idiot!
This is why it is largely pointless to troll celebrities and engage in the shadow boxing preferred liberals and conservatives. The questions determine the parameters of possible answers. Liberals and conservatives, establishment types, and pols consumed with issues and policies are congenitally allergic to our thinking and action. Are they concentration camps? Is Jeremy Corbyn an antisemite? Was Brett Kavanaugh qualified for the Supreme Court? Is there a U.S. presidential candidate other than Bernie Sanders worth two shits? Did Jeffrey Epstein receive preferential treatment for his predations? If you debate these questions, you have lost before you begin because there is no debate. To debate what is obvious is the death of debate. It is to die a dithering death, full of thoughtfulness and nuance, that amounts to nothing. It won’t stop fascism or overcome capitalism. Enough already. Try a long-form essay, FFS, and mind your adverbs