Inquest is Power: Discipline in the Age of Digital Leviathan

In mid-October 2020, Russian social media discussed footage of six policemen beating an asthmatic boy who went down into the St. Petersburg subway without wearing a mask. This happened immediately after Anna Yuryevna Popova, the head of Rospotrebnadzor (Russian Federal Agency for Surveillance on Consumer Rights) who is Doctor of Medical Sciences and epidemiologist by education, announced the need to fight covid dissidents.

The virus is invisible, elusive, and invincible, but visible successes and even victories can be achieved if the struggle as the main cause of the so-called «pandemic» is shifted from the virus to the dissidents. The Russian political scientist Sergei Markov formulated this approach in a formula reminiscent of a quote from Mao’s works: «to scare passive skeptics and suppress the activity of active skeptics is one of the main tasks of state structures and state propaganda.»

The streets are empty in a flash, people are intimidated in their homes, and people quickly get used to the discipline provided by the full power of Digital Leviathan.

The metro incident is by no means an excess, but an example of the medieval-style inquest that is becoming typical all over the world. The replacement of law based on the idea of ​​a sovereign personality with such an inquest as a method taken from the arsenal of eastern despotisms has become new normality.

For the mass consciousness in the West, accustomed to the ritual repetition of phrases from the Enlightenment by politicians, it may look like something new but it is definitely not.

While the West is still trying to impose on such countries as East Timor, Niger, or Papua New Guinea, some «institutions», the form of which is taken from the forgotten era of Enlightenment, the West itself passed the point of no return.

Changing the paradigm

Unnoticed by itself, it now openly changed the paradigm. The year 2020 became a turning point, «explosive» — ​​the year when the West openly turned to the Orientalist practices of social regulation, greatly amplifying their impact using both neurotechnologies and more traditional methods of manipulating the mass consciousness. Thus, the oriental background came to the fore and became a distinguishable media figure.

Since the Enlightenment, the West has postulated the myth of human superiority and domination over nature, a myth that, as Horkheimer and Adorno wrote in “Dialectics of the Enlightenment”, also contains a reverse side: the idea of ​​human specialization, social hierarchy, and predetermination to the disappearance of personality itself.

The idea of ​​foresight, this latest relic of the Enlightenment, has today taken the form of technological and evolutionary determinism. This idea, in fact, the last idea of ​​Modernity, which remained afloat, on the eve of new, or well-forgotten old times, embraced both the old ruling classes and the technocratic stratum that emerged in the last 20-30 years, which today is striving not only for economic but and to political power. This deeply pessimistic predestination has nothing to do with Marxist determinism or the early capitalist optimism of the early modern era.

It was inverted from the Faustian titanic impulse into its opposite: from the absolutization of consciousness in Descartes and the elevation of free will in a number of thinkers, from the same Descartes to Shakespeare and further, to Schopenhauer, Hegel, and early Marx, to the complete rejection of both consciousness and freedom will in mainstream philosophy at the beginning of the 21st century (there are many names here, from Rorty and Skinner to Dennett and Levi Bryant).

If the existentialists saw in predetermination and in its technical aspect, in the subordination of man to the machine, an urgent problem of existence, then for analytical philosophers such submission is rather a blessing or something unimportant, located on the periphery. You need to merge with the machine and disappear in it, a person finds his place in the world only by becoming a thing, an object, completely abandoning subjectivity and transferring rights to himself to the supercomputer, which is the Universe.

Similar predestination was characteristic of the Etruscans during the time of their disappearance from the historical stage when they thought that their old gods had left them and the time for new races and new gods was coming, and therefore they had to accept and die or dissolve in a new race.

The Gnostics also professed the ideas of predetermination in a sense very close to modern technopoly. Thus, one of the most famous Gnostics, the Egyptian Valentine, who lived in Rome in the II Century A.D., divided humanity into three types: “spiritual” (pneumatics), “spiritual” (psychics), and “material” (hylics). The spirit of the pneumatics, whatever they do, will return to the Pleroma. Psychics are saved on condition of righteousness and submission to the «spiritual» in earthly life, but after death, they fall to a lower level. Hylics, attached to matter and not differing in nature from animals, are in any case doomed to perish.

Surrender of Culture

Free will in this system of views is assumed to some extent only for the second caste, for the psychics, but it is completely unimportant for the higher and lower castes. They can be moral or completely immoral, morality is not applicable to them, since the former are gods, and the latter are animals. This is strikingly consistent with the views of modern technocrats, who clearly divide the human race into two species, whose who are leaders and others who follow.

The followers are an observable, controlled, regulated biomass, which needs to be disposed of as soon as possible. As for garbage, a black plastic bag is quite enough for them after death.

Technopolis, as Neil Postman defines it in his book “Technopolis: Surrender of Culture to Technology”, sees the main goal of human labor and thought not in human development, but in quantified productivity — what is today called «economic growth» or «GDP growth.» The modern technopoly, which over the past 40 years has spread from the United States to the whole world, professes the idea that technical calculation surpasses human judgment, and the affairs of people are best managed by experts — the very pneumatics of the Gnostic Valentine.

Our obsession with economic productivity has empowered the technical apparatus, technocrats, who have become priests, rulers, and pneumatics, with incredible power.

Like modern technocrats, for example, the philosopher Daniel Dennett, the Gnostic Valentine considered free will as a completely material predicate of human nature, that is, some form of energy or force. According to Valentine, the will is a predicate of human nature, and nature, in turn, is different for each individual and depends on its gradation predetermined from above, therefore, in the Cartesian understanding, free will is essentially absent — it is completely determined by nature. According to his teaching, the mission of the highest caste, «children of eternal life,» is to destroy death and conquer the rest of the people who are numbered among the carnal, that is, animals.

The elect, Valentin believed, in this world should engage in the selection, that is, in fact, eugenics, forming an ideal society of people. About this, if we discard the verbal husk, the texts of the Gnostics who govern modern civilization speak.

Return of alchemy

The new normality is the acceptance by people as a social norm of new patterns of behavior. New words do not always correspond to new patterns. The words remained old, as Latin roots remained in the languages ​​of the peoples who replaced the Romans after the fall of the empire, and then the old meanings were gradually replaced by others. And now the concepts have changed, but we habitually use old words that have turned into shells with new content.

So, today’s science is in fact alchemy, returned at a new round of history, a scientist is either a priest, or an alchemist, or in general some impersonal, sexless, disembodied entity, an exotic surname in the list of authors, a link to links, Schrödinger’s cat, the possibility of the physical whose existence will always be in question. Ritual priestly fortune-telling with the help of computers and bigdata has replaced scientific investigation, legal investigation, accordingly, turned into inquest with a  torture chamber in the background, the constitution became a declaration, backed up by naked force, and the right was replaced by the sanction of the swarm community.

Figure and ground

In 2020, there came that «complete change in the whole way of life of people and all their cultural ideas», which the Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan called the word “blast”. McLuhan contrasted blast to gradual successive changes. However, also in the era of apparent stability, the processes of concept substitution take place. McLuhan described any situation of using media in terms of figure and ground. The “figure” is the “sphere of attention”, and the “ground” is the sphere of inattention, and the patterns of perception are constantly transferred by the media from the “ground” to the “figure” and back. At the same time, McLuhan understands media as any object artificially created by man that has a verbal structure and serves as a mediator between a person’s inner world and the outside world.

According to McLuhan, artifacts should be understood as «hardware» of a material nature, for example, a hammer or a personal computer, and “software”, that is, artificially created constructs such as philosophical categories, architectural styles, tech manuals, or Covid -19.

Metaphors such as «quark», «atom» can be attributed to both hardware and software, and the metaphor «virus» is also quite easily interpreted as one of the modern media. All these are artifacts created by man, and therefore, are equally amenable to analysis and verbal in their structure.

Artificial intelligence as a concept also forms a media artifact, and Digital Leviathan is a development of this concept. Technocrats see AI as the final and closing media environment, a kind of end of history for the human environment. As Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said, «AI is the ‘runtime’ that will shape everything we do.»

The Digital Leviathan received particular relevance in the year 2020, when it separated from the ground and became visible thanks to other metaphors — information viruses and the Covid-19 virus. The genealogy of the Digital Leviathan metaphor can be traced back to both the Hobbesian Leviathan-state and the biblical Leviathan, a monster sent to people as a reminder of the omnipresent and irresistible God, the God of predestination. As a new media, Digital Leviathan picks up functions that are already present in the culture and begins to perform them more efficiently from the point of view of the system, which, however, leads to unforeseen consequences.

Digital Leviathan will destroy or reformat for itself all social constructs, such as privacy, family, politics, art, history, truth, religion, intelligence — in accordance with what technology requires, to which a person is now an application.

McLuhan said that in the electronic culture we are returning to the tribal world. But where do we see this tribe? Our tribe is a group on WhatsApp and friends on Facebook, this tribe is as real for us as his tribe for a savage 30 thousand years ago, technologies broadcast to us images of this tribe in development. Our tribe is geographically scattered, but geography in the usual sense is no longer there, we live in a global village.

According to Neil Postman, information overloads develop in the technopoly, which leads to the loss of the integrity of the picture of the world. Serious public discourse also becomes impossible, everything turns into one big show. We see this even at philosophical round tables when participants google the topic and quote Wikipedia.

Turning to McLuhan’s media theory, let’s ask four questions.

  1. What does Digital Leviathan expand or intensify?

2. What does it make obsolete or out-of-the-box?

3. What does it return from what was previously obsolete?

4. What does he create or what does he turn into when he reaches the limit of his development?

So what does it expand and intensify?

Of course, it expands and intensifies the possibilities of supervision, enslavement, and his institutions. The idea of ​​the panopticon as a special supervisory institution is changing. During the second industrial revolution, it was factory and hospital supervision, then, according to the principle of the panopticon, prisons began to be built, and today the panopticon is ubiquitous, it does not have a specific center or set of centers. The young man’s beating demonstrates how the Digital Leviathan introduces new patterns of power functioning. If earlier the power was interested primarily in control over the time of individuals, now we are talking about control over their bodies. However, much the same thing happened in the workhouses of England during the second industrial revolution.

The twenty-first century makes anticipatory punishment relevant again. Michel Foucault, in his 1974 work “Truth and Juridical Forms”, described how the nineteenth-century punishment system turned into control not so much over individuals — do they obey laws? — «but for what they can do, for what they are able to do, for what they tend to do, and for what they will inevitably do.» In the global village, which is an all-knowing, all-pervading panopticon, everything about everyone immediately becomes known, so punishment is inevitable. Moreover, it follows even before a person commits an offense, for the institutions of punishment become aware of his or her intentions.

In a space that embraces a person from all sides, he ceases to feel the unity of the world, connectivity, and consequently, the connection of causes and effects — because these qualities are inherent in visual perception. The world falls apart, and the person resembles a blind man who does not have a sense of a single extended space. Events happen spontaneously, without any connection to each other, so planning doesn’t make sense. A person lives in the moment, trying to get the maximum benefit from it and not thinking about the next. This equates him with the animal, and the new morality makes such an approach rather a blessing. A person lives in a world of discontinuity, insights and acumens, where he can develop some new feeling, some kind of intuition that replaces vision.

The central power, like the structured world, also splits up and disappears, but splitting up, losing the authority and trust that require memory, this power captures and appropriates the grassroots, spontaneous, as well as popular, rural, tribal control mechanisms. The whole village condemns a criminal — for example, the one who does not wear a mask — it can ostracize him, and he — and he, as we noted, is functionally blind, it will be very difficult for him to survive.

Thus, the Digital Leviathan’s discipline is maintained through the mechanisms of swarm control and swarm sanction. He doesn’t need prisons. The young man in the metro is simply beaten — without due process of investigation and trial, without a sentence, and the fact that the police did it in the described case can be considered a relic of the past, when the punishment system was still specialized, that is, it needed special institutions such as a prison and the police …

These remnants of the past, remnants of specialization, have saved his life. In the near future, the Black Lives Matter slogan “Defund the Police” will be implemented. Citizens, led by swarm consciousness and swarm sanction, will themselves kick the offender to unconsciousness or death.

What is that the Digital Leviathan makes obsolete shifting it from the foreground?

The list is long. You can list such concepts as personality, free will, individuality, etc. All these concepts were associated with book culture, circulation, and the revolution of the printed word. It began with the First Cosmic Revolution — De revolutionibus orbium coelestium, “The Revolution of the Celestial Spheres” by Nicolaus Copernicus and ended with the Sputnik revolution, when man simultaneously ascended to heaven and lowered them to himself.

But heroic times are in the past. Human leaders are now terrified of revolutions and even launched the Fourth Industrial Revolution to end all revolutions. The Age of Enlightenment is over and was buried without a funeral service, and with it it is possible to transfer to the museum such concepts as “human rights” and, in general, “law” as we understood it earlier. In modern times, a “mass man” is completely annihilated in the face of economic forces, he disappears, wrote Adorno. In the world of homo fractus, a hacked person who has merged with an electronic gadget, there are no goals or prospects, and there is no movement. There is no need to turn to anything, to revolutionize — we are already there!

Let’s take one of those concepts that provide a visual representation of the radical changes taking place today. The pre-digital Leviathan was personified by such a metaphor as «statesman». It should be taken in development. In the era of the printed word, it could be a thinker like Lenin or Churchill, or a cunning, brutal social engineer like Stalin, but in any case it was a personality, individuality.

Then, in the television era, personalities began to leave the stage of political theater. De Gaulle left in mortal grudge, although the general could have overcome his inner disgust to finally play himself. A mass man looked for his reflection in all media and found it in the charisma of an outstanding person, president, statesman, with whom he could relate himself, in whom he narcissistically saw himself, beloved. The ideal statesman has become an actor, a man in character, in the mask of a statesman. Remember Reagan — he was a rather average actor good at telling Soviet jokes. As the number of screens increased, that is, the number of mirrors in the room mirrors between which the viewer could instantly switch, the requirements for the acting grew.

The actor-president had to be able not only to change his disguise, to be a chameleon but also to constantly maintain the image of a “man of the people”. George Bush Sr. did it badly, Bush Jr. was better, and Clinton was excellent. I don’t quite follow the temporal sequence here, but the story very much allows for running forward and backward, making for a sudden retro. So, Clinton was in many ways a politician of the XXI century, he anticipated the forthcoming era of narcissism, he was in love exclusively with himself. The era ended, however, with an icon of the sudden black square: the introduction of covid quarantine in March 2020.

Both Obama and even Trump were Clinton’s successors, with the difference that Trump got into the role so much that he made a mistake of really showing his individuality. It is this quality that the system, which has enough of its own uncertainties, could not digest. Digital Leviathan originated from the deep state and, perhaps, therefore, does not allow subjectivity — this is his birth trauma.

But in the fateful year 2020, the narcissistic era was over. The retro became truly a thing of the past. Now, looking at himself in the reflection, a mass man sees a monster in a mask — and expects the same from the figures on the facade of public buildings. It can be concluded that an impersonal, sexless, lacking initiative masked monster is the prototype of today’s statesman. Remember George Biden in two masks, one covering another. Masked Trump, however, was no less intimidating.

Digital Leviathan himself is an investigator, prosecutor, advocate, and judge in one. Therefore, he eliminates investigation as a form of cognition and as a form of exercising power. But is it possible? Indeed, for a civilization born out of Modernity, the investigation has become one of the most important forms of power-knowledge, a way of verifying the truth, assimilating and transmitting it. Science is moving from investigation to investigation, and although many of them end up in dead ends, even a small clerk of a scientific investigation bureau acquires the status of authority. The journalistic, and then the political and criminal investigation of Watergate weaved into one ball and drew a line under an entire era in US history.

Investigation and the enlightened, Masonic state are woven into a ball at a deep level. But today the state is gnawed by corporations from the outside and eaten away by officials from the inside, only a shell remains of it. This shell will still be needed by the very Digital Leviathan who snatched a body out of the former state, just like aliens infuse human bodies in fantastic horror films. As Michel Foucault has shown, the legal investigation is a consequence of the nationalization of criminal justice in the Middle Ages. That is why the weakening of the state means the end of the investigation.

If there is no investigation, then there can be no prison — after all, it is the investigation that sanctifies the punishment, gives the sanction for imprisonment. In the world of the Digital Leviathan, there is no freedom and cannot be, therefore there is nothing to deprive, and there is nowhere to send because the freak show is everywhere.

Therefore, the only sanction for punishment is given by always the Last Judgment of the swarm consciousness, which has replaced public opinion. Everyone takes part in the swarm’s court so responsibility would be evenly distributed to everyone if such a concept as responsibility still existed. But without freedom, there is no responsibility, and both are seized, snatched by the Digital Leviathan.

The question of punishment leads us to the next question, which is:

 What does Digital Leviathan bring back from what was previously obsolete?

Foucault showed how medieval inquest was gradually replaced by the public inquiry. Guilt or innocence was determined primarily by the strength of a person, that is, his support in the community, his status, the stability of his situation caused by origin, and his knowledge of the correct rituals. It is the inquest that returns today, with its rituals and harsh tests, when the death of a subject, for example, by immersion in water, can serve as proof of innocence. Digital Leviathan will simulate different models in order to choose the least disturbing systemic balance, as, in fact, was done in the Middle Ages, and will give the swarm a sanction to carry out the sentence, a punishment.

The methods of digital social lynching are understandable and by no means associated with a bourgeois prison: they are marginalization, deprivation of vital digital access, temporary deprivation of an avatar, digital isolation, expulsion, destruction of an avatar, general persecution, and, finally, complete erasure from all physical carriers. A bourgeois prison as an opportunity for privacy and, therefore, loss of connection with the Digital Leviathan means the return of freedom, even if it is only for a period of imprisonment, and therefore the prison will disappear.

It is no coincidence that today they begin to release prisoners from places of solitude and peace into the world of total control, where observation over them is possible.

The punishment follows the inquest, which will be used as a modernized test with water or fire, that is, the Leviathan-controlled effect on sensory endings, for example, tactile ones.

Renegade neohumans are withdrawn from the swarm space and endure torments associated only with this deprivation of the social sphere, the degree of their suffering will indicate the degree of their dependence on the system, thus, those experiencing the greatest torment can be subject to return, and vice versa, those who easily endure tortures, are subject to tougher punishment.

The ideal punishment in the absence of prison is expulsion from the paradise of the swarm. Foucault showed how deportation can be intangible but effective. Simply a displacement outside the social space and the moral, psychological, and public isolation created by the Last Judgement of public opinion may be as effective as capital punishment.

Punishment will turn into shame, humiliation, scandal: social networks are overflowing with reports of misconduct, networks promote and in every possible way provoke emotional reactions of disgust, contempt, and condemnation. However, the concept of shame is also associated with freedom, therefore it can be used up to a certain limit. In fact, only torment, torture aimed at fixing certain reactions to certain influences in the punished person can serve as a real punishment. Thus, we completely return to the casemates of medieval castles and pits.

If in the regulation of behavior there is a return from investigation to inquiry, from a court verdict to a Leviathan’s sanction, from a state to a swarm, then science also returns to its state before natural philosophy, namely, to alchemy. Alchemy is knowledge with inquest as its model. Inquest, not knowledge anymore, is power.

What is inquest as applied to science? The goal is not to reveal the truth, so there is no need to investigate. We are talking about the conquest of what natural in man still remains unnumbered, for example, cultural codes, and about the conquest of that human, anthropomorphic in nature, which also does not lend itself to being broken into tiny pieces, and further recombination of this with subsequent inclusion into Leviathan.

Thus, the alchemist, by inertia called a scientist, represents and, as it were, replaces Leviathan, he gathers his skills into a fist, he turns to Leviathan for help, of that Leviathan he is in fact a part, so both oppose the unconquered forces of nature and man, his own inner forces. For the alchemist, the unconquered forces in this battle are darkness and evil, however, being a former human himself, he feels his connection with them and uses this in battle.

He dedicates the victory to Leviathan.

This battle is an inquest. Foucault called alchemy a naturalistic form of the inquest, where «alchemical knowledge is transmitted solely through secret or explicit rules for performing procedures: this is how you need to do, this is how you need to act, such principles must be observed, such prayers must be said, such texts must be read, such symbols must be presented.» This is perfectly in line with deep learning techniques for working with big data, which do not involve exposing procedures that cannot be exactly repeated, and the result achieved once may not be achieved the next moment.

The alchemist snatches victory and, having dedicated it to his overlord, modestly awaits his reward. It can be quite material, but the most important thing is an intangible reward: the ability to merge with Leviathan at least for a short moment, and, feeling its power and strength, become a part of it. In addition, it is important for the alchemist to show that as a human being, or a former human being, he is able to overcome everything human in himself, and thus, become higher than other former humans.

What will the Digital Leviathan become when it reaches its limits?

One can only guess about this, but, perhaps, over time, counterblast will arise as the opposite of blast — that is, a counter-explosion, a counter-environment that will help to understand the effect of the environment. And this counter-environment may be somehow related to Leviathan. Perhaps he will eat himself from the inside, even in the absence of external and internal forces that gnawed and ate his predecessor.

When can this happen? The mechanisms of power in society usually function without a lot of friction, but friction increases sharply before the moment of the blast, after which friction may disappear altogether at some point. That is, before the blast, tension builds up, people perceive the mechanisms more and more unnatural, the control gear turns the control wheel, and that turns with more and more difficulty. And now the moment comes when the tension reaches the limit — and the machine simply breaks down. The axles, from which the wheels, gears, and drive belts have come off, then spin on their own, split, without any resistance.

If we live, we will know, we will feel this moment.


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