Millenarian Dreams of the Schizo-scene
Posted by <Caleb Cain> on 2022-02-15
In Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, Travis Bickle is a distraught young soldier, home from the war and adrift in a crime-ridden New York City. His inability to reconcile the cognitive dissonance caused by an unjust world leads to a climactic explosion of violence. As online shitposters might say, “He went schizo”.
On his long drives through the underbelly of New York, Travis monologues his longing for a “heavy rain” to come and wash away the filth. Later, Travis begins physical training to prepare for what's to come. He is individually manifesting what will later develop in much of today’s youth. Travis is oppressed by a force beyond his control, from which he feels there is no escape, and so he longs for the destruction of everything. His existential crisis of identity within a crumbling world activates his worst impulses. Travis Bickle is the destructive side of a recurring human fantasy, millenarianism.
Millenarianism is the belief by a religious, social, or political movement in a coming fundamental transformation of society, after which "all things will be changed". Many societies which faced cultural replacement or destabilized times have taken on millenarian beliefs.
These beliefs may seem like fantasies to some, but to the believer, they offer a psychological escape and therefore strength to keep fighting. The movement forms a positive vision for the future and then activates towards it with religious fervor. Today’s youth feels disenfranchised, without a stable identity or sense of safety. It's an entire generation of Travis Bickle’s.
Many have turned to meme culture and radical politics as a way to fight back or cope. On Instagram, these young people come together and share their knowledge from going down various rabbit holes to “the truth”. Among them, there are spiritualists and Traditionalists. Others are green anarchists, who long for simpler living. Some dissociate completely, into post-human utopias. These meme magicians and guerilla artists comprise a scene popularly described as “Schizo-posting”. They share a commitment to waking up the normies to the evils encroaching their world and to ascend to do battle with them. The world we inhabit is fallen or corrupt, and they believe we can usher in a new age.
The origins of schizo-posting are uncertain. Clearly, the core of the genre’s tone and language were formed in the nihilistic corners of the chans, depicted in the era of Newgrounds animations and wiki page creepypastas. It's also easy to see how conspiracy theories and new age spiritual influences might be influencing the cultural stew that schizo-posting bubbled out of. According to knowyourmeme.com: “The phrase itself has been used on 4chan since at least 2016 when it was used as a general slang term and without its rage comic connotation.”In its non-political form it is an intense expression of anger and nihilism that like many other things online became politicized and absorbed into an array of online identities and ideologies.
To understand this attitude and the different forms it postures I decided to immerse myself in the world of schizo-posting, and through it, better understand the mind of the young millenarian in the modern age. I use a personal methodology of radical performative empathy to emotionally understand its narratives and assumptions. This article should be seen as a way of understanding, not a debunking or mere description.
Schizo-posters should not be seen as individuals who authentically believe all exaggerations in their memes. Rather it is a semi-fictional identity from which underlying assumptions about facts and narratives can be discovered. Posters' use of psychological terminology like “schizo” or “autist” should not be seen as descriptive of actual illness’ or conditions, but a crude metaphor, meant to shock, offend and convey meaning. In some cases, there is a reclamation through the self-labeling of these terms.
I constructed my taxonomy and codebook using a database of images collected from a wide, ideological range of popular Instagram pages.
Identities + Ideologies
Schizo-Posters are not a monolith. Posters who engage in this scene vary in their posting styles, humor, interests, and ideologies. I have, however, identified a central theme driving the identities of various wings of schizo-posters; the desire to escape the failures of modernity and seek a millenarian solution. To distinguish the variations in beliefs, I will sketch four rough categories of ideological clusters (within which there may exist many disputes or contradictions).
1. “Revolt Against The Postmodern World”
#Christianity, #Islam, #Traditionalism, #Theosophy, #Mysticism, #Occultism, #Paganism
Blames Loss of Human Spirit or Loss of Faith in God for failures of modernity. Desires a return to cultural and religious tradition.
Both the faithful to god and believers in humanity can agree that civilization took a dive during modernity. They believe the world has become corrupted by social and political progress, requiring a return to older traditions, or a syncretism of the past. They are distinct from Luddites in that the central unifying theme is the degradation of spirituality or the human will. Followers of ancient traditions feel attacked in the modern world, declaring that we have become vapid, degenerate, and transactional. Instead of worshiping a higher order and giving grace to god we build our towers of Babel and venerate our ideal selfishness. They critique today’s culture of narcissistic and materialistic values. These millenarians differ in how we approach the problem of modernity, split on ideas around immanentization or metaphysics. They are in agreement that we must renew the human spirit, place our faith in the divine, and ascend from this sunken place.
2. “The Technological Society and its Discontents”
#Luddism, #Post-Civ, #Eco-fascism, #Anarchy, #UncleTed, #Insurrection
Blames technology, industry, and civilization for the failures of modernity. Desires a dismantling of the current techno-industrial society.
From neo-Luddites, green anarchists, to insurrectionary eco-fascists, modern society is filled with people who feel that the impositions of our technologically advanced civilization are creating an environment inhospitable for humans and other life on the planet. They wish to return to a more primitive or indigenous way of living. Others wish to syncretize the past, influenced by authors like Murray Bookchin, aiming to build eco-harmonious solar societies. The posting style can be quite explicit through the schizo-lens, looking to figures like Ted Kaczynski for inspiration. This form of schizo-posting was the most common among left-wing accounts surveyed.Global temperatures continue to rise, natural disasters intensify and influxes of immigration hit western countries. Meanwhile, the governments of these countries, beholden to industrial interests, continue to commit ecocide and shirk their responsibilities to the public and the planet. Ongoing eco-catastrophe will likely embolden insurrectionary attitudes towards those responsible.
3. “TempleOS of God”
#AlexJones, #TerryDavis, #Truthers, #ConspiracyTheorist, #GreenPill, #Gnosis
Blames shady cabals and conspiracies for the failures of modernity. Desires to overthrow the Elite and restore order and freedom to the people.
Perhaps the most obvious of the identity categories, conspiracy theorists make up a central role in the schizo-posting universe. This is where we see the purest expression of anxiety and despair of the individual in face of the technological-global-corporate-state. Conspiracy theories of course are always common within millenarian societies. These stories become a sort of folk hermeneutic to decipher what academics might call “Elite Theory”. This collection of political folklore combined with ancient myth creates a grand canon of good vs. evil. Populated with figures such as Alex Jones, Terry Davis, and John McAffee, schizo-posters carry on this tradition through modern memetics and further intertwine its canon into a complicated universe which now seems baked into the internet.
4. “A C C E L E R A T E”
#Futurism, #Transhumanism #Land #Moldbug #Deleuze
Blames humanity and its limits for the failures of modernity. Desires to overcome modernity by accelerating through its contradictions.
Nick Land, Transhumanism, Lemurian Time War. You got the bad ending, but for some, the only way to escape the pain brought by modernity is to escape the body. One wonders if this entire style is just a shitpost until you realize that its most influential figure, Nick Land, spawned a thriving discourse around the future of humanity and what technology means for our modern society. When you peel back the mentions of AI Time Gods and incoherent meth-addled sentence jumbles, you find the desire to escape the body and society completely. More than just living forever, there is a desire to disassociate from certain aspects of humanity, if not all of it. Dissociation does seem to have become a common fixture of the modern age, some seem to embrace it.
There are many diverse and conflicting ideologies within the schizo-scene’s lore but across this milieu, we can identify six common narratives and shared memes.
1. “I’m Going back to Kali Yuga”
The world today is a dark one. Infrastructure is failing, wealth gaps increase, the environment degrades, politics is polarized to the point of crisis. The Kali Yuga is used by the schizo-scene as an explanation; a new millenarian age to bring justice to the world. A common and popular reaction to this idea regardless of ideological flavor is acceleration. To push through the contradictions of modernity and overcome them. Because of this, Kali Yuga has become a relevant narrative and aesthetic to most schizo-posters. Acceleration and collapse could be seen as one of, if not the most important shared narrative within the schizo-scene.
2. “Take Your Meds”
It's possible most would agree that hesitation to medication is a normal feeling. In the world of schizo-posting meds become a tool of control. Medication, specifically that prescribed for mental illness, is portrayed as a key function in the biomedical security state. Medication keeps us numb to a disturbed world and silences the inner voices which bring truth and dissent.Taking this claim seriously, we can acknowledge corporate and state interest in a population compliance structure. SSRIs, Psychologists, Personality tests; all ways to study, monitor, and alter behavior for a more productive and passive populace. For the most intense schizo-poster, there are no positives to drugs, unless they're illegal.
3. “The Glowies Have Eyes”
For as long as there has been a CIA there have been rumors of men in black. Nameless spies who descend from black helicopters and kidnap those who know too much. These mysterious men gangstalk unwitting victims and perform psychological operations on the public. Known to schizo-posters as “glowies”, a term taken from one of their heroes Terry Davis, these feds lurk about every corner of the internet, laying traps and deploying psyops on hapless posters. This paranoia is only exacerbated by the increased interest in intelligence agencies, and especially by the Biden administration’s new counter-terror initiatives. Designating and tracking so-called “extremists” will be a major priority as national security increasingly focuses on domestic terror in the foreseeable future.
4. “Anti-Materialist Action”
Schizo-posters and other political esoterics will often avoid secular or atheistic worldviews in their posting. Many express a spirituality or moral intuition. For some, that takes a structured approach through religion or the occult. Others choose more primitive, pagan or pagan-like traditions.“Scientific Facts” mean nothing to the schizo who prefers revelation and intuition to the cold consensus of experts. Belief in something higher than our present reality is seen as an act of rebellion. Perhaps the supernatural belief associated with future liberation is what gives millenarian societies their zeal and resiliency.
5. “Eyes Wide Shut”
There is a global cabal of psychopaths who are controlling the masses in plain sight. If you can’t see it you are either brainwashed or compromised. The tropes are sometimes anti-semitic, sometimes supernatural and sometimes it's just about greed and power. Regardless, every schizo-poster can agree that none of this is a mere coincidence, and there is more than we are told behind the scenes. With revelations about Jeffrey Epstein, Bill Gates, and #MeToo it is becoming easier for people to see the deep corruption present in today’s elites. These once-conspiracies, now-facts further fuel anti-elitism and populist energy.
6. “Prophets of Doom”
Charles Manson, David Koresh, Alex Jones. All these men are lauded for their insanity but also their wisdom. Figures such as these, typically charismatic soothsayers familiar with the language of the oppressed are seen as heroes and saints in the schizo canon. They were men who stood up to the machine and paid the price. For any who grew up consuming conspiracy or counterculture content on Youtube a decade ago, you may remember stumbling across a Charles Manson interview. Perhaps it was recommended to you after watching Zeitgeist. Manson may even have made some sense to you when he scorned the destruction of the environment, the hypocrisy of “civil society” or decried the actions of the Elite. These millenarian prophets take on a character resembling that of George Carlin. What does it say about a society where many of our young see in Manson the same figure they see in Carlin?
Schizo-posting brings together the most explicit narratives, concepts, and characters within esoteric, millenarian politics. It is the traumatic, yet comical, expression of a society approaching gnosis and insanity.
The flexibility and many niche interests of the schizo-posting scene allow for a highly developed, hyperlinked environment. It is a sort of memetic library that is ready to be downloaded into the mind and reconfigured to match our interior identity. While most will likely never encounter genuine schizo-posting, I believe we can still look to the ideas within for a picture of tomorrow's discourse.
As time goes on Millenarian movements will continue to intermingle and build their canon. The creativity, commitment, and belief of these online communities have in the past mainstreamed once fringe and forbidden ideas. They work to proliferate myths at an incredible speed and scale.
Moving beyond radical perspectives such as the Kali Yuga, Luddism or full-blown insurrection will require a society that addresses the concerns of its people. Without proper justice, these narratives will continue to appeal to increasing numbers.