Clown World Chronicles: Who is Wojak?

A simply-drawn MS Paint image of an expressionless man is one of the commonest memes seen today. Some know him as Feels Guy, but to most Internet denizens he is called Wojak. As this essay will show, Wojak and his many incarnations are a core part of the Clown World pantheon.

To many who see him for the first time, there is nothing special at all about Wojak. He is simply a generic-looking white face with a blank expression. Neither is he drawn with any great finesse – he is merely an MS Paint depection of a young adult male. This, however, is his great power. Wojak represents the common human spirit that is shared by all of us.

Wojak bears the brunt of the cruelties of Clown World. This is shown in his manifestation as Feels Man. As Feels Man, Wojak is the face that expresses the disappointment and crushing sadness that follows coming to terms with the reality of living in a Clown World. He is the expression of all kinds of sadness, disappointment and despair.

A common portrayal of Wojak is from behind as he stares out across an ocean towards a setting Sun. This meme speaks to the sense that one’s naivety has come to an end. As the Sun sets and leaves Wojak on the beach, so too do our conceptions of an ideal world disappear, leaving us in Clown World with all its insanity.

Another common portrayal of Wojak is as the Doomer (this concept is elaborated upon in another chapter). The Doomer is a man who has been worn down to near breaking point by the insanity of Clown World. He cannot see anything getting better – doom lurks just beyond every horizon. He is strung out, with bags under his eyes, stubble under his chin and a cigarette butt in his mouth.

Yet another is the Coomer (also elaborated upon elsewhere). The Coomer is a man who has become hopelessly addicted to pornography, to the point where he lives for nothing else. This incarnation of Wojak represents the potential sex addict inside each of us, and serves as a warning.

So Wojak, much like Pepe, represents another kind of everyman. Perhaps the essential difference is that Pepe is the masculine form, whereas Wojak is the feminine form. Whereas Pepe feels disgruntlement leading to rage, Wojak feels sorrow leading to despair.

Fundamentally, though, Wojak’s place in the Clown World pantheon is as a representative of the youthful idealism that is lost when a person realises that they live in Clown World. It’s natural to grow up thinking that one lives in a world of reason, where science and evidence weigh heavily. The realisation that only power matters and that logic is meaningless comes as a spiritual shock to many.

For those who have been through it, however (and most have), this spiritual shock is highly relatable. This relatability is the reason for the success of the Wojak meme and its descendants – the ubiquitous nature of Wojak means that he can serve as a kind of template upon which other memes are based.

NPC Wojak is a variant of the original that satirises the unthinking nature of the average pleb. NPC Wojak is similar to the original, only with a grey face and simplified features. The commonest meme to feature the NPC Wojak is a multipanel comic where he is presented with some inane political fact and becomes enraged – a satirisation of how the average NPC out there has no consciousness and simply responds to stimuli like any invertebrate would.

Brainlet Wojak is another common variant. This one involves the regular Wojak but with a variety of cranial deformities so that his brain is clearly much smaller than that of a normal person. The implication, of course, being that the idea associated with the Brainlet Wojak image is a stupid one.

There is also a female version of Wojak, identical to the male original but with long, coppery hair. This version is most commonly seen incarnated as Tradfem Wojak, wearing a flowery blue dress. In this incarnation she also represents a lost promise, in this case the promise of a loyal wife who was interested in raising a family – something that Clown World has made impossible.

Wojak and the various forms that he appears in could be described as an ur-meme and its memetic offspring. Wojak represents the grim, inescapable awareness that the world is really much, much worse that what it promised to be. His feels are our feels; his loss of innocence is ours too. Wojak represents the everyday citizen of Clown World: lost, confused, dismayed.

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This article is an excerpt from Clown World Chronicles, a book being compiled by Vince McLeod for an expected release in the middle of 2020.

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How and Why to Use the TOR Browser

Censorship in New Zealand is reaching levels that would be unbelievable to Kiwis a few years ago. The latest involves the New Zealand Chief Censor pressuring local Internet Service Providers to block access to sites that the Censor deems not to be in the public interest, such as 8chan. This article discusses how to circumvent censorship of online free expression.

New Zealand is not the first country whose Government has suppressed our natural right to free speech. Power trippers and control freaks all around the world have given in to the temptation to do so, reasoning that free speech is a potential risk to their authority. As Joseph Stalin once said: “Ideas are more powerful than guns. We do not let our enemies have guns, so why would we let them have ideas?”

Unfortunately for us Kiwis, the Sixth Labour Government has chosen to exploit the atmosphere of terror created by recent mass shootings both here and overseas. They have used this as an excuse to strip away our rights, in particular our firearms rights and our right to free expression. As this column has mentioned elsewhere, they simply don’t care about such things.

It’s not clear that the Labour Government directed the Chief Censor to pressure ISPs into banning 8chan, but they have shown no indication that they disapproved. In any case, the censorship fits neatly into the wider Labour Party goal of cracking down on free expression. It’s all but certain that the Chief Censor knew that his actions had the approval of the War Criminal’s Apprentice and her Cabinet.

Even though 8chan hosts orders of magnitude less violence and hate than any of FaceBook, Twitter or mainstream television news, and even though Section 14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act establishes that all New Zealanders have the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form, 8chan has been targeted. They will not be the only ones. The day may come when VJM Publishing, despite being alt-centrist, gets banned.

Luckily for those who value free speech, there are technological ways around these governmental abuses. One of the foremost of these is the TOR browser.

TOR stands for The Onion Router. This isn’t the place for a technical description, but it’s enough to say that TOR confuses surveillance attempts so thoroughly that the user can surf the Internet anonymously. The purpose of it is to conceal the user’s identity and online activities from surveillance and data tracking. If someone is trying to spy on what websites you are visiting, all they will be able to see is that you are using TOR.

Another advantage of using TOR is that it’s possible to access sites that are censored. Although this currently applies to little other than 8chan, you could bet money on the fact that the Sixth Labour Government are going to censor everything they can, and anyone who disagrees will be labelled a white supremacist collaborator alongside Brenton Tarrant, Anders Breivik and Adolf Hitler.

Getting hold of the TOR browser is a simple matter of going to the TOR Project website at www.torproject.org and downloading the 54MB file. This is an install file, so double-click it once downloaded and follow the instructions like you would any other program. The installation isn’t difficult, it’s just a matter of running it and letting it do its thing.

Once installed, the purple TOR icon will be available. If you click on that, it will open the TOR browser, which is very similar to the Mozilla browser on which it is based. From there, it’s a simple matter of typing what you want to look for in the search bar, as you would any other browser. TOR is a bit slower than other browsers, owing to the methodology it uses to anonymise the traffic.

That’s about all there is to it – TOR is otherwise like a normal browser. While on the TOR network, it’s possible to find access to all kinds of illicit goods and services, not merely information. It’s not a good thing from the Government’s perspective that people become exposed to material of that nature, but that’s the risk they run when they violate our human right to free expression.

See also: The Basics of VPN Use, And Why Every Kiwi Needs to Know Them

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2018 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis). A compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 is also available.

The Basics of VPN Use, And Why Every Kiwi Needs to Know Them

The aftermath of the Christchurch mosque shooting showed that the New Zealand Government is willing to give away all of our freedoms in its blind panic to clamp down on everything. We Kiwis are going to have to learn how to fight Internet censorship and how to share information despite a Government committed to banning free discussion. This article discusses the basics of VPN use.

‘VPN’ stands for Virtual Private Network. It serves to extend a private network across a public one, so that you virtually access a private network somewhere else in the world. Essentially, a computer somewhere else surfs the Internet on your behalf, and then sends the data directly to your computer. The point of this is primarily to circumvent government censorship and corporate geo-restrictions.

It’s like the diplomatic black bag of internet traffic – the Government can’t snoop in on it while its in transit and choose to block it.

VPNs are very popular in totalitarian countries such as China, because they allow their users to access websites that the government doesn’t wish them to access. As any reader of 1984 could tell you, the prime objective of any government is to stay in power, by whatever means necessary. One of the primary ways this can be achieved is by controlling information and discourse, so that rebellious ideas cannot flourish in the minds of the populace.

As Joseph Stalin put it: “Ideas are more dangerous than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, why should we let them have ideas?”

In the wake of the Christchurch mosque shootings, the New Zealand Government has taken a sharply totalitarian turn. They seem to have decided, without securing the consent of the people or even making an announcement, that it’s okay for them to censor whatever website they see fit, for any reason (or even none). Although they will not admit it, this is a totalitarian action that breaches fundamental human rights. For this reason, we citizens are forced to take counter measures.

When a country such as New Zealand tries to block the free flow of information to its citizens, those citizens have to turn to grey- or black-market solutions such as VPNs. Using a VPN will allow a person to access almost any website that the New Zealand Government may have decreed verboten, for the reason that the Great Firewall of New Zealand will consider the web traffic to be something else.

The Opera browser comes with a built-in VPN, which is probably the easiest way to get started for anyone new to the idea. The simplest way to get started is to just download and install the Opera browser (the download page can be found with a simple web search). If you then open that browser, you can see the Opera symbol up in the top left corner. Clicking on this will open a drop-down menu, on which you can select ‘Settings’ near the bottom.

This will take you to a separate Settings page, where you have a number of options. By default, you will come to the Basic panel. Towards the top-left corner of the screen, underneath the word ‘Settings’ you should be able to see the words ‘Basic’ and ‘Advanced’. ‘Advanced’ is a drop-down menu, itself consisting of three options: ‘Privacy & security’, ‘Features’ and ‘Browser’.

If you click on ‘Features’, a number of options will appear in the centre panel. At the top of these is one called ‘VPN’. Underneath this is the option to ‘Enable VPN’. From here, enabling the browser VPN is a simple matter of hitting the radio switch to the right.

Note that this may make your browsing a bit slower, because the VPN is an extra step between you and your data. However, this is a minor inconvenience, and may be your only easy option if you want to access forbidden websites.

Some people might say at this point “But the Government, in its omnibeneficence, only banned the really evil sites where hate speech flourished and I didn’t want to go there anyway.” Fair enough – but the Government could ban anything else in the future, and so you might as well learn how to circumvent that now while you still can.

Ask yourself, do you really believe that the Government is going to stop with 8chan and Zero Hedge? The Government probably regrets that the Internet ever came to exist. They would gladly switch to having a North Korea-style government news service with all alternatives banned if they thought they could get away with it.

So what we can expect is more of what David Icke calls the “Totalitarian Tiptoe”, in which the Government bans an ever-increasing number of websites, taking advantage of moral panics to do so. Because the Government’s appetite for power and control is unlimited, Kiwis ought to get to know the basics of VPN use immediately.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2018 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis). A compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 is also available.

New Zealand Already Has A Chinese-Style Social Credit System

Some hysteria has been generated recently about China’s Social Credit System. Fears of a cyberpunk-style technodystopia have been stoked by new advancements in mass surveillance technology and data mining. As this essay will show, New Zealand already has a social credit system, and it does the same thing that the Chinese one does.

The Chinese social credit system, planned to be fully introduced by 2020, has sparked intense fears among libertarians. Already it is the case in China that people with too low a social credit score have been denied access to trains and other means of transportation. The biggest fear is that this Social Credit System will spread to other societies, leading to a world where certain groups of people get to enjoy extra-legal privileges denied to those lacking sufficient “credit”.

The Chinese system works by assigning every individual citizen a score based on their level of trustworthiness. This trustworthiness is calculated by combining a number of variables that relate to that individual’s criminal history, indebtedness, education etc. It also includes several Government blacklists, which have been compiled by domestic intelligence forces.

Anyone with a sufficiently low credit score will be denied services. This doesn’t only mean restrictions on transportation, as mentioned above, but also restrictions on where you’re allowed to live, what schools you may attend, who you’re allowed to marry and even what healthcare you’re allowed to get. Some far-thinking fantasists are afraid that an automated, computer-based system of social credit might be introduced to the West by tyrannical future governments to sharply restrict freedoms here.

In reality, New Zealand already has a Social Credit System that affords extra-legal privileges to certain groups, and so does everywhere else. It’s called wealth, and it is the default social credit system of every political system that has degenerated into oligarchy, as the West has done.

We were given a crude look at it this week when Joseph Babich, a wealthy member of one of New Zealand’s most prominent winemaking families, was let off scot free by a judge on charges of importing cocaine and methamphetamine. Importation of a Class A drug carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

Contrast the leniency shown in the Babich case to the harshness of the sentence handed down to Thomas Tawha for poaching 59 trout to feed his own family earlier this year. Tawha got four months in prison.

What is clear from contrasting these two cases is that a sophisticated and all-encompassing social credit system already exists in New Zealand, and it’s similar to the Chinese one. ‘Trustworthiness’ means people that the Government likes (i.e. the obedient). Anyone the Government likes gets special privileges, and anyone the Government doesn’t like gets the hammer brought down on them for the slightest indiscretion.

The purpose of a criminal trial is not really to establish guilt, but to establish trustworthiness. Joseph Babich is a man who benefits immensely from the current political order, and therefore he can be trusted by the political class to act to maintain that order. Consequently, he escapes punishment. Tawha is a man who suffers immensely under the current political order, and therefore cannot be trusted to maintain it. Therefore, his punishment is brutal.

The New Zealand social credit system is mostly based around wealth, in that wealthy people are continually being let off crimes scot free, given warnings or not being investigated, while poor people are continually being hammered. Race is also a big part of it, in that white people and Asians can be trusted to support the current political order, whereas Maoris cannot.

To be fair, some of the aspects of this social credit system are not unreasonable. Babich had had no previous contact with the Police, while Tawha had dozens of previous convictions.

In Tawha’s case, however, at least some of the severity of his punishment can be attributed to the fact that he rejected the legitimacy of the New Zealand court system, even declaring himself a sovereign citizen. This is similar to the case of Brian Borland, who received four years and nine months imprisonment for unrepentantly growing cannabis. Borland’s sentence was heavier than those many of those handed out to rapists, people who commit vehicular manslaughter and people who pimp out children.

In summary, a comprehensive social credit system already exists in New Zealand, primarily based around personal wealth. With a high enough credit score you can break the law without punishment, and with too low a score the legal system brutalises you. This credit score is little more than the Government’s estimation of how compliant, obedient and submissive you are – the more taxes you can be milked for without complaint, the higher you are.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis).

A Technoshamanic Update to the Perennial Philosophy

The perennial philosophy comes and goes, all throughout time and space, being a reflection of the mind of God in the Great Fractal. In every new age it updates itself, taking a form that makes sense to the people of the time, depending on the characteristics of that age. Because technological change has been so rapid over the last 150 years, the perennial philosophy has not been able to keep up. This essay makes an attempt to do so.

The metaphors of the former age were the crucifix, the fish and the crescent, just as they were the pyramid, the bull and the sacrificial brazier in the age before that. The age that we are now entering has its own zeitgeist – perhaps it is time for a technoshamanic update to the perennial philosophy?

The perennial philosophy is informational gold and is more fundamental than language and therefore cannot be described in words. However, we can predict what some of its teachings are going to be, by applying the axiom of “As below, so above” to the modern day.

In its earlier incarnations, through the writings of Hermes Trismegistus and others, the perennial philosophy explained the metaphysical world by analogy to the natural world. “That which is above is from that which is below, and that which is below is from that which is above, working the miracles of one,” reads the Emerald Tablet, “Its father is the Sun and its mother the Moon.”

This remained an extremely effective metaphor, until today. The world of today is so bizarre, so surreal and impossible that distinguishing it from a dreamscape is no longer easy. Moreover, modern people are almost completely out of touch with the natural world – many of us haven’t so much as looked at the Moon in years.

We need a new metaphor for a new age, and virtual reality seems like the obvious replacement.

Following this line of reasoning, one might expect that the creation myths of the new century will be based around the same binary division as always but with a modern twist; in other words not of yang and yin, fire and water or Sun and Moon but of 1 and 0. The hardware is the brain, the software is the mind, and electricity is the Holy Ghost.

Different lives could be seen as nothing more than differing sets of sensory impressions upon consciousness. As long as these impressions could be accurately recorded and reproduced, there’s no reason why they couldn’t be accessible for any conscious person to experience at any time.

My own The Verity Key twisted the ordinary perception of consciousness through a machine that could replace the consciousness of another person with that of the operator of the eponymous device. The idea was to play on the usual belief of the reader that their consciousness was directly connected to their physical body, and could never be separated.

This played with the idea of the Great Fractal, which is conceptualised as an immense algorithm that calculates all of the possible combinations of senses that make up the illusion of the material world. This is a modern way of expressing how all things flow from one, i.e. “all created objects come from one thing, an undifferentiated primal matter”.

In other words, all of the contents of consciousness ultimately flow from consciousness itself, because nothing more than consciousness is needed to create them all – a fact known to all who have managed to purify their consciousness to the level of gold and thereby completed the Philosopher’s Stone.

Other ancient alchemical or hermetic beliefs can likewise be transliterated into a modern context.

The laws of karma can be expressed in terms of frequency, which no-one understood before the days of widespread radio, and which now everyone does. If one can imagine such a thing as a frequency of consciousness, a higher frequency would produce a more harmonious tone and joy among those who heard it, whereas a lower frequency would produce a discordant tone and fear among those who heard it.

A technoshaman might contend that, upon the expiration of one’s physical body, the frequency of consciousness that one had cultivated is the only thing that passes into the next world. They might even go as far as to contend that this frequency will attract those of a like frequency, and therefore that, post-death, one’s frequency dictates which part of the Great Fractal one’s consciousness becomes attuned to and the frequency of those who populate it (until, of course, one dies there as well).

One’s “frequency of consciousness” can here be likened to an analog television or radio signal. The more pleasurable frequencies are not necessarily the first ones discovered, or the most popular ones, and they certainly aren’t the easiest to tune into. In order to tune into higher frequencies one must know where to find them on the dial.

The alchemical quest of transforming lead into gold is a physicalist metaphor for the mystical quest that, in modern language, could be said to be about tuning a low frequency of consciousness into a higher one.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis).

The Political Paradox at the Heart of Cyberpunk

Science fiction has generally been considered a left-wing preoccupation. Not only is the readership of science fiction stories younger than average, but the nature of science fiction lends itself towards progressivism. Female characters such as Lieutenant Ripley of Alien had great appeal among the generation that had cast off the moral strictures of the 1950s, but a right-wing yang has always existed within the dark yin of the milieu.

The political atmosphere of science fiction reflects an old-school leftism that’s almost entirely different to the identity politics of the social justice warriors who dominate the media of today. The leftism of science fiction was always more libertarian than today’s culture would prefer, and was written without the need to shoehorn a moral lecture into the story.

Philip K Dick wrote his science fiction works, to a large extent, out of inspiration drawn from his hatred of authoritarianism and authoritarian systems. This is why his protagonists, like Bob Childan in Man in The High Castle, were usually everymen who lacked any aristocratic pretenses. Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War depicted a future world in which hedonistic homosexuality was standard practice and a kind of communism had taken over the resource distribution of the planet.

Realistically, it’s hard to imagine a high-tech society that hadn’t also managed to solve the vast majority of its social problems, for the simple reason that if a society has the resources to be high-tech it also has the resources to feed, clothe and house everyone. The essence of cyberpunk, however, is “high tech, low life”; Brave New World is not cyberpunk, and neither is 1984, for the reasons that these works deal with heroic and upstanding characters.

This essence lends itself to a conservative orientation for two reasons.

The first is that it suggests that “the more things change, the more they stay the same,” which is a deeply conservative sentiment. It’s a break with the easy utopias envisioned in atomic era works like Alfred Bester’s The Demolished Man or Aldous Huxley’s The Island. These works portray future societies which, although they have their problems, have generally solved all the major survival challenges (although The Demolished Man has a cyberpunk vibe in that the protagonist is also the antagonist).

In cyberpunk, by contrast, it’s common that society has either collapsed or become dystopic. The America of Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash has disintegrated into a patchwork of city states, fiefdoms, armed enclaves and chaos zones, which goes against the common narrative of an easy ascent into becoming a space-faring civilisation common to most earlier science fiction.

Likewise in William Gibson’s Bridge trilogy, where society has rotted out from the inside, meaning that people have been forced to take on a hard edge to their personality and behaviour in order to survive. In Gibson’s stories, crime exists for the same reasons it exists in our own world; greed, fear, stupidity and cruelty cast their shadows on every chapter.

This is a conservative sentiment because it directly opposes the common leftist belief that it’s possible to build a utopia. Cyberpunk works warn us of the terrible possibilities that are likely to result from attempts to build a perfect world – Akira could be considered the modern Frankenstein.

The second reason is that “high tech, low life” reflects a cynical interpretation of human nature. The protagonist of the Altered Carbon series, Lieutenant Kovacs, never gets fooled or manipulated on account of automatically assuming the worst of everyone he encounters. He is particularly cynical, verging on paranoid, and this quality serves him well as it keeps him one step ahead of the criminals trying to kill him. Cyberpunk heroes are often like this – more antihero than good old boy.

Much like the first reason, this low-life element of cyberpunk reminds us that ideas of utopias are just dreams. Life finds a way, and so does crime. This is essentially conservative because it asserts that human nature cannot fundamentally be changed.

Humans have not been intrinsically good at any point in the past, and so there’s no reason to think they should be in the future. Therefore, we can assume that humans (especially young men) will aggressively push the boundaries just as much in times to come. As is the case today, these people will often go too far in asserting their wills, and this can lead to reprisals, and thereby the whole dark side of the human drama that cyberpunk is known for.

It is not the contention of this essay that this paradox detracts from the power of cyberpunk media. To the contrary, cyberpunk draws its power from the tension inherent in the juxtaposition between the desire for order and the desire for freedom.

Many of the protagonists in cyberpunk stories just want to be left alone to enjoy their lives, but violence and trouble finds them anyway, and they have to learn to become hard in order to cope. The protagonist of Metrophage is an everyman who could have been a protagonist in a Philip K Dick story, but instead of the mind-bending confusion of a PKD story he gets dragged into the noir of a cyberpunk one.

This sentiment of escaping an oppressive, totalitarian force is also a common sentiment for many intelligent, free-thinking people nowadays, who just want to be left alone to experiment with consciousness in the form of psychoactive substances without being attacked by law enforcement officers.

In this balance, cyberpunk appeals to a more intelligent kind of reader. The resolution of the cyberpunk paradox might be found in that punk is an expression of rebellion against those same human forces that create political dystopias and faceless corporate juggernauts. In this rebellion it is an affirmation of the human spirit, more libertarian than either left of right, and this is perhaps where cyberpunk gets most of its appeal.

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Vince McLeod is the author of ANZAC cyberpunk work The Verity Key. If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of his and other VJMP essays in the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis).

FaceBook Contains The Seeds For Its Own Destruction In Its “Community Standards”

As the yang contains the seeds of the yin that will eventually grow to overwhelm it, so does FaceBook contain the seeds for its own destruction in its totalitarian “Community Standards”

Social media is becoming an ever more difficult place to express oneself, with the list of things that you’re not allowed to say growing by the week. FaceBook (otherwise known as FaecesBook) is arguably the worst offender, and is getting worse all the time. Unfortunately for them, the seeds of their own destruction are sown by their aggression against free expression.

More and more people are finding themselves “zucked”. This means they are banned from FaceBook for a set length of time because of transgressions against the mysterious “Community Standards”: an ephemeral set of ever-shifting laws against saying certain things, on the grounds (presumably) that some might find the speech offensive.

In doing so, FaceBook has forgotten who made it popular in the first place. It wasn’t people who were worried about community standards – to the contrary, it was the sort of person who flocked to the Internet as a place to speak freely. It was the cool people who made FaceBook a fun place to talk about things that were hard to talk about in real life, for whatever reason.

These people are not going to tolerate being banned for 30 days for using words like ‘faggot’ or ‘nigger’: two things which ought to be punished by no more than mild social disapproval, without need for recourse to a higher authority. Cool people don’t put up with that sort of crap; cool people will simply find another platform (such as www.minds.com), upon which they can still express themselves freely, and without being encumbered by arbitrary restrictions imposed by some moralising, prudish control freaks.

The author was recently banned from FaecesBook for three days for writing the word ‘fags’. It wasn’t written as a slur, but as the opposite. It was part of the phrase “God Hates Fags”, in the context of mocking religious fundamentalists who hate homosexuals and who are boneheaded enough to protest homosexuality by holding up signs that presume to speak for God.

So it doesn’t even matter if you make a comment in support of homosexuals by mocking those who only are homophobic because they think God told them to be. Use of the word ‘fag’ or ‘fags’ is verboten, so utterly verboten that it is a crime for which there is no defence.

On another occasion I was zucked when a troll in a group I was in accused the group of being full of people who believed that Hitler did nothing wrong. I responded with “But Hitler didn’t do anything wrong” – a comment so clearly a joke that no-one except for the most socially retarded idiot sperglord could have thought otherwise. That’s no defence in the eyes of FaceBook, though, for who all thoughtcrime must be ruthlessly punished.

Perhaps I should have been banned for making such an obvious joke? It would have been much fairer.

It makes one wonder – has Zuckerberg ever been to a pub? Has he ever been out in public, and heard how people speak in real life when they’re trying to relax and make some light humour? ‘Fags’ is hardly a problem. What is a problem is the ever-increasing creep of intrusive advertisements on FaceBook, a platform where the vast majority of the content is created by users who could go anywhere else.

Or is the plan to make FaceBook a gigantic safe space, much in the same way that television currently is? Because the obvious problem with this approach is that FaceBook got its initial momentum from being the precise opposite to a safe space, and if it tries to be the United Nations of Internet forums it will end up just as despised and derided as the UN is.

FaceBook is already dying, but it might take several years for the obvious signs of its irreversible decline to become undeniable. It is, in effect, going through the inevitable life cycle of Internet forums, in which the fourth stage – Destruction – is marked by the controllers of the forum bringing in more and more and more rules in an attempt to recapture the glory days, without them being aware that it is the very application of all these rules which has driven the glory away.

The application of ridiculous Community Standards that not even the average grandmother can abide by without getting banned will be the death of FaceBook.

The Future of Empathy

Empathy has probably evolved to facilitate social interaction in the human species, which is why an absence of it tends to have antisocial consequences

By most measures, the world seems to have become a more empathetic place since the Stone Age. The average person’s chances of meeting a violent end are far lower today than back then, and one’s exposure to grossly traumatic events are also far lower. This has had some interesting effects for a species that may have adapted to a certain level of environmental violence.

In many ways, this increasing empathy is becoming standardised and expected. We are more empathetic than ever before by a number of measures: we share more of our wealth than ever, we commit fewer crimes against each other than ever, we have a much better understanding of mental illness than ever. We debate social issues – like bringing refugees into the country to be supported out of general taxation – that would have been unthinkable even a century ago.

The question arises: where does this process end? In my upcoming cyberpunk novel, The Man With A Thousand Fathers, I explore this point in some detail. It is set in the 2080s, when the science of psychology is much more advanced than what it is today and when the confluence of virtual reality and psychoactive research chemicals has meant that the world on the flipside is often realer than this one.

In the Thailand of the story world, children who are discovered to have defective levels of empathy are put into a virtual reality environment instead of being allowed to go into real life, and then raised with exposure to a set of stimuli specifically calculated to condition them to be more civil. One of the story’s characters, an orphan named Suwat, spends over a decade in such a virtual environment before being released.

It’s entirely possible that such a thing may eventuate, for utilitarian reasons. It’s not difficult to predict the kinds of children who are going to grow up to be criminals. They’re simply the kids that lack empathy for other kids. Any schoolteacher could tell you with high accuracy which children in their class are likely to grow up to cause problems and which children are not.

It’s also not difficult to predict why these kids lack empathy. The vast majority of the time it’s because they themselves aren’t shown empathy at home. Children are not born knowing what’s what; they learn to base their behaviour and moral values on what is demonstrated to them as normal. If a child’s parents don’t show empathy to each other or to that child, that child might well grow up to learn that not showing empathy is normal.

A child who has been exposed to really bad things might even come to learn that empathy is weakness that makes a person vulnerable. They might learn that showing empathy is a signal that one is soft, and that one dare not show it in case it invites aggression and exploitation.

With advancing virtual reality technology, we’re almost at the point where using a virtual environment for therapeutic purposes becomes mainstream. Virtual reality therapy has already shown promise in treating soldiers suffering from PTSD.

Extrapolating from this, it might become possible, if a virtual environment was engineered accurately enough, to use VR therapy to cure a wide range of psychiatric illnesses and disorders.

On the darker side, advancing technology might also make it possible for psychotechnicians to use machines to measure aspects of brain activity that the owner of the brain might not themselves be aware of. It has been possible to detect homosexuality in a subject for decades by exposing them to graphic homosexual images and measuring whether certain parts of the brain spark into life or not, and who knows where this sort of technology might lead.

It might happen that young children are exposed, en masse, to virtual reality examinations in which their brains are tricked into thinking that they’re in situations where empathy is required, and then their levels of empathy are measured. Anyone with too low a level is shipped off to VR therapy in the hope that they can learn to become more co-operative.

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Vince McLeod is the author of ANZAC cyberpunk novel The Verity Key.

Blade Runner 2049 Shows That Cyberpunk Will Live Forever

A Blade Runner for a new generation poses a set of moral dilemmas for a new generation – as cyberpunk always will

Film pundits are divided over whether or not Blade Runner 2049 can be counted as a successful film. On the one hand, it lost $80,000,000 at the box office; on the other, it has an 8.4/10 rating on the IMDB. This essay argues that not only is Blade Runner 2049 a great film, but it is evidence that the cyberpunk genre will live forever.

Cyberpunk, like Satanism and Test match cricket, is never going to find mass appeal among a Western population that hates thinking. All of these genres are acquired tastes that only a particular sort of person finds interesting – and then, they usually find it fascinating. So it’s entirely appropriate that Blade Runner 2049 did poorly at the box office but extremely well among cyberpunk fans who have a sophisticated appreciation for the genre.

Cyberpunk will always have a place in popular culture, as long as advancing technology continues to pose us moral dilemmas that bring with them the possibility of horror. New technologies will keep putting people in novel and unique situations without any previous example of how to conduct oneself, and they will continue to provide new methods to control, exploit, dominate and destroy.

Even though most new technological advances will be for peaceful and wholesome purposes, we can predict, to paraphrase William Gibson, that the street will continue to find its own uses for things, and therefore there will always be expression for people using technology to get any edge on each other.

Which means that advancing technology will continue to produce moral dilemmas that make for fascinating fiction.

The moral dilemma at the heart of Blade Runner was whether or not artificial humans could ever be considered real people, and so whether or not there was ever a moral obligation to treat them as equals, in the way that most people feel a moral obligation to treat other people as equals. Roy Batty was outraged that humans might have engineered him to have such an artificially short life span, and viewers were likely to concede that he had a point.

For whatever reason, the collective consciousness appears to have concluded that replicants are not, and can never be, conscious. Fair enough, but the moral dilemma at the heart of Blade Runner 2049 is whether or not the offspring of replicants that can breed are conscious. The characters in the film seem to glibly assume that any creature that is born must have a soul, but the question is never discussed at length by them, leaving such ruminations for the viewer.

Blade Runner 2049 poses this question in a believable and terrifying manner, and forces the reader to consider Philip K Dick’s fundamental question of science fiction: not “What if…”, but “My God, what if…” My God, what if artificial creatures that managed to replicate were actually conscious in the same way that we are conscious? What if acting to reduce the suffering of all sentient beings in the universe meant that we had to consider the offspring of replicants?

Cyberpunk is always going to raise questions like this, because it will always be true that somewhere there is a megacorporation with pockets deep enough to finance bleeding-edge technological research and application away from the watchful eyes of the government or the public, for whatever dark and twisted motives the world can surmise.

Because it did such an excellent job of posing such deep questions in a way that chills the spine of the viewer, it can be argued that Blade Runner 2049 is an excellent piece of cinema for the sort of viewer who appreciates a subtler and more cerebral tale than the usual Hollywood fare, even if it did not find mass market appeal.

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Vince McLeod is the author of the cyberpunk novel The Verity Key, a story of ANZAC mateship in a dystopic future world where it’s possible for devices to control people’s thoughts and actions by satellite.

How Cyberpunk Did The World Become?

It’s now 33 years since Neuromancer was published – establishing the cyberpunk timeframe as near-future – and that’s as long as either Alexander the Great or Jesus had in this world. It’s long enough for this essay to look back from the vantage point of 2017 and see how cyberpunk Planet Earth ended up becoming in this timeline.

Where Neuromancer and Snow Crash were half right was in their prediction of a matrix within cyberspace that filled the human need for societal interaction. FaceBook and the other giants of social media certainly led the ordinary citizens of meatspace to spend a lot more time in cyberspace, but we are still limited to the bulletin board model.

Advancements in virtual reality technology have been limited, to a large part, by the need for extreme amounts of processing power. A VR setup must be capable of generating a sufficient rate of frames per second to avoid latency from the perspective of the user, because this leads to simulator sickness, which decreases the level of telepresence.

So nothing really like the eponymous all-encompassing virtual environment in The Matrix, or the metaverse, has yet arisen.

Where all of the cyberpunk classics got it right was in the widespread adoption of novel classes of synthetic drugs.

Humans have always loved to experiment with consciousness – use of magic mushrooms, cannabis and alcohol all predate the use of writing. So it was fairly predictable that new advances in chemistry would lead to new frontiers in the exploration of mental space.

Although most of the chemical enhancement in cyberpunk literature has been for the purposes of increasing martial aptitude, as in Lucifer’s Dragon, most of its use in consensual reality has been psychonautic. In other words, here on Earth people mostly use the new waves of drugs to get high – but that doesn’t make for very good fiction.

Blade Runner didn’t foresee much different in the way of human drug consumption, but it did anticipate how close artificial intelligence came to passing the Turing Test. Many people chat with bots on social media without even knowing it – especially in online poker rooms and on large politics pages.

Certainly this film, based on Philip D Dick’s Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, accurately captured the uneasiness of being a human and dealing with something that appears entirely human but for subtle differences.

Where the classics tended to get it wrong was politically, especially the diminished role of territorial governments. There seemed to be a glib assumption, perhaps expressed in extremis in Snow Crash, that corporations and the influence of corporations would expand to the point where 20th century-style governments no longer held any power.

In reality, hard iron laws like “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun” continue to hold true, and any government capable of raising sufficient taxation to raise an army or secret police will still be a force on the world stage.

In the world of soft power, Transmetropolitan correctly predicted that the political landscape would be as shallow and insane as ever. The absurdity of the various political candidates in Spider Jerusalem’s life are an eerily accurate foretelling of the rise of the Donald Trump/Hillary Clinton circus.

Corporations have started implanting microchips in their employees, which has been a staple of cyberpunk horror for a long time. My own The Verity Key, however, predicted a different path of adoption for microchips under the skin: I figured that people, especially the technophilic, would adopt it themselves for increased access to private space.

It remains to be seen if this will happen – the expense involved in reaching a sustainable critical mass might make private adoption of RFID networks unworkable.

Things didn’t really get as dark and dystopic as cyberpunk predicted. This was always the probable outcome for a literary genre that consciously adopted elements of horror from other genres and from film noir. Things really just became weird. Perhaps the most accurate of all – predicting the current obsession with transgenderism – was Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War.

If there are new avenues of cyberpunk still to be explored, it’s possible that they will feature characters who are unrepentant rebels with regard to questions of cognitive freedom, in particular characters pushed underground by new technologies that make intrusion into the mind possible.

That’s one way in which the brilliant anime series Psycho-Pass blazes a new path: from the harder, engineering and physics based sciences towards the biological ones. Much like The Verity Key, the Psycho-Pass series raises the question of what life will look like when neuropsychological technology advances to the point where the private thoughts of every individual have become a public matter.

The controllers of the mindreading technology in Psycho-Pass are public entities (or at least government ones), which makes for an oppressive totalitarian atmosphere, as opposed to the nihilistic anarchy of The Verity Key. Probably this timeline became more nihilistic than totalitarian, but who knows what might still happen?

With news that remote-controlled drones and tank-like war machines running off AI might soon become cheap enough for terrorists or rogue states to use every day against enemy targets, the most cyberpunk elements of human history, fictional or otherwise, may be still to come.

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Vince McLeod is the author of cyberpunk novel The Verity Key and of the upcoming cyberpunk novel The Man With A Thousand Fathers, to be serialised here starting from the summer of 2018.