This Week in Our Dumb World
There are many consequences of my personal investment in tracking and learning about the far right online. Most of these are predictable (I’m on a bunch of lists, I get HORRIFYING emails, perpetual anxiety about the future of humanity), but the delightful surprise is that most of the internet ads that I see are geared towards selling me magic beans to fix my brain.
The big benefit from buying shoes from a facebook ad (beyond some nice shoes) is that it finally broke the spell and now I am being marketed tons of bespoke clothing options. This is a huge improvement.
Oh, and anyone who is even tangentially involved in trying to sell you these things should not be taken seriously in any way shape or form. They are proclaiming themselves to be serious news commenters while cashing out on something that is at best a scam and at worst selling dangerous unregulated chemicals.
Either way, you probably shouldn’t trust what they say about politics.
Much of the right believes unironically in the transcendent power of the market. The market determines value, and what it values is high testosterone and a high IQ, ideally working in concert. The familiar myth that we only use a small percentage of our brains appears early in Limitless, but ad copy for nootropics hesitates to quantify the latent power of the cerebrum. (Hard numbers, after all, may attract the attention of regulators.) The mind is untapped, leashed, or dormant. Nootropics assure near-instantaneous clarity, and with it the freedom to see things as they are. Common sense is viewed as intrinsic, something to be liberated rather than learned.
Nootropics also promise to act as an antidote. When Alex Jones says “there is a war for your mind,” he conceives of the battle not least as chemical warfare. The mind is kept captive not only by laziness or circumstance, but by external enemies who have already biochemically insinuated themselves. In what might be Jones’s most famous viral video, he rants about chemicals “turning frogs gay,” referring to endocrine changes in amphibians that are caused by a class of chemical called atrazine. In the Jones cosmology, atrazine’s harmful effects on frogs are not the by-product of lax industrial regulation; they are evidence of a willful program to chemically castrate an unruly citizenry before subjugating them.
As long as we are talking about the supplements grift, you should know about the profound body horror that is “taking all the Goop products at once”.
The vitamin cocktail I’d picked up at Goop’s downtown-Manhattan boutique was called Balls in the Air. It promised to defeat fatigue and promote productivity (and maybe make an arch little joke about testicles). Its ingredients include dozens of substances, but the star of the show is a cannonball of B vitamins, including 4,000 percent of the recommended daily dose of niacin and 3,333 percent of the recommended B12. A Google search confirmed my fears: As B-complex supplements break down, they create choline, which can turn bodily fluids into the vat of stink in which I was marinating.
Half-hidden under my desk and paranoid that my co-workers would have to draw straws to see who would give me the talk about proper office hygiene, I tore through digital pages of supplement breakdowns and pseudoscientific ravings about the wonders of megadosing B vitamins. Another Balls in the Air reaction, “efficient energy levels,” aided my search; as far as I could tell, the term was a polite euphemism for feeling like I had done a bump of cocaine. But I found little information beyond a sketchy doctor promising that niacin could cure schizophrenia. I do not have schizophrenia. I had stink lines radiating off of me, like a real-life Pig-Pen from Peanuts.
The fact that people would come together to gawk at the public spectacle of a bunch of rich fat guys eating piles of food is proof that Twitter has always been here waiting to come to life.
What was a fat men's club?
Self-proclaimed "fat men" -- wealthy, usually powerful men in major U.S. cities -- gathered together in clubs (with names such as the New England Fat Men's Club, the Jolly Fat Men's Club, the United Association of the Heavy Men of New York State, the Fat Men's Beneficial Association and the Heavy Weights) at various annual events such as picnic excursions, balls and clambakes that they'd have to weigh-in for. In most cases, anybody who weighed less than 200 pounds would have to watch from the sidelines.
Touch of Evil is one of my five favorite movies of all time. It’s a perfect movie that gets the balance between art and story just right. Even just beyond how I like it as a film, watching that movie when I was a teenager was incredibly formative in how I view movies and story telling in general. It’s on the list of artistic works that serves as the foundation of what I love about all art.
I tell you that as background so that you appreciate it when I say that I love this essay of Orson Welles insulting people almost as much as I love Touch of Evil.
O.W.: I hate Woody Allen physically, I dislike that kind of man.
H.J.: I’ve never understood why. Have you met him?
O.W.: Oh, yes. I can hardly bear to talk to him. He has the Chaplin disease. That particular combination of arrogance and timidity sets my teeth on edge.
H.J.: He’s not arrogant; he’s shy.
O.W.: He is arrogant. Like all people with timid personalities, his arrogance is unlimited. Anybody who speaks quietly and shrivels up in company is unbelievably arrogant. He acts shy, but he’s not. He’s scared. He hates himself, and he loves himself, a very tense situation. It’s people like me who have to carry on and pretend to be modest. To me, it’s the most embarrassing thing in the world—a man who presents himself at his worst to get laughs, in order to free himself from his hang-ups. Everything he does on the screen is therapeutic.
You can guess my exact age when you know that I owned a kids keytar when I was about 8 years old.