Research Note

Rare-Earth Ceasarism

The purchase of Twitter by Elon Musk is perhaps the most turgid symptom of a battle previously waged beneath the surface between activists, progressive academics and policy-makers against a neo-reactionary power structure and its actors. Musk’s acquisition, supported by dozens of strategic and financial collaborators, encapsulates the trend of technology weaponisation along reactionary lines. Biometric border control and "smart" concentration camps,[1] phrenologicalo-physiognomist face recognition,[2] biological essentialist tracking apps,[3] classist and racial police dragnets,[4][5] and the rise of the cryptofunded pseudo-philosophy of "longtermism"[6] all raise a shared interrogation: is there something inherently fascistic in technology – a genetic encoding within the technical systems deployed over the past two centuries? Or is technology led astray, perverted from its otherwise noble goals by so-called authoritarian personalities?

In its simplest terms, fascism is an illiberal and anti-individual authoritarianism. A palingenetic ultranationalism,[7] fascism imagines a national rebirth, the return to a Golden Age harkening from the fantasised homogeneity of the Nation. It articulates a fragile nationalist vitalism[8] haunted by the anguish of its own lifespan and the risk of the Other.[9] The rhetoric of today’s fascism towards the concept of the individual (or rather its taters from more than three centuries of liberal political economy[10]) fits inside this pseudo-dynamic. The aim remains to weaponise the Self in order to more efficiently sacrifice beings in defense of a top-down national and racial hegemon. And this sacrifice must be desired.

Technical advancements are often framed by a sort of mythical narrative of ever-forward progress. Yet they are moreso the result of a technological condition. Technological conditions are environmental, and ours is tied to the contingencies of technical development in our late-modern era. The intellectual and material baggage of the past centuries suffuses it. Through his analysis of contemporary technical systems and code,[11] Yuk Hui observes that what we call a form – the ‘shaping essence' we imbue into things and that purportedly provides them substance – develops its own materiality through its individuation: the perpetual process of becoming an individual thing – be it a technic, a piece of technology, but also a human being, a community, etc. This individuation proceeds via a synthesis of relations, one that becomes more and more concrete as technical power evolves, devolves, involves. Reject any notion of progress here: relations betweens mechanisms, systems, actors and networks simply generate tensions and potentials within a historical continuity. This crystallisation eventually reaches a tentative and temporary stability through the material mediation of technics. Drawing from this, technics is the formalised intelligibility of the world, the perceived essence of things,[12] mediated materially.

In his book Brutalisme, Achille Mbembe analyses the different modes of the contemporary project of domination, and remarks: “what is politics if not a seizure of disparate elements onto which we impose a form, by force if needs be.” It is within technology that we can descern this political capture. “Forms,” Yuk Hui notes, “demand a certain kind of force or power to secure and maintain privilege.”[13] Fascism is the power that preys upon the anguish caused by a perceived lack of strength in preserving a formalised status quo: the loss of biologically-enforced societal bearings feared by the transphobic cult; the limitations imposed on touristic and consumerist freedom-of-movement that aggrieved the so-called Trucker Convoys; the FOMO on petty stock trading after the financial crisis, harboured by the entire crypto ecosystem.

This authoritarian-pilled hegemony feeds on this anguish, based as it is upon brittle logistical chains. The middle-class cornucopia relies on extractive industries, concentrationary logistics, and wage-slavery. It represents the dead-end of statistical population management, minority policing and industrial supply chains – all originating from the history of a political economy designed to enforce and form hierarchies of class, race, sex and gender. In this decay, fascism thus invests in death as much as in a shallow appeal for vitality, turning citizens into political operators that desire the impossible maintenance of the declining status quo. This pseudo-vitalism works because fascism – especially this digitally-tinged manifestation – isn’t something imposed on people. It rather forms their unacknowledged desire: a drive to the mall, a pacified shop clerk, a handheld policing apparatus,[14] a frictionless and isolated existence absent any protesting hordes or diversity of voice.


Like a second-rate recommendation engine, fascism jostles to reassure the individual’s impotence, and the perceived lack of strength within society for the reaffirmation of hegemony. It grasps the absence of a common that rips apart liberal political economy, seizing technics by penetrating their historical authoritarian in-formation – all of this articulated politically for the securisation and preservation of privilege. If a perversion exists, such corruption therefore isn’t due to technology itself, but of desire – a weaponisation of what moves and motivates us. And it turns out that what animates much of the technocrat-oriented liberals[15] as well as some further on the left – middle-class abundance, technological solutionism, economic teleology, nation building, etc. – requires very little effort to weaponise. Blockchain technology won’t create stronger unions and co-ops, on the contrary. Only a radical grasp – at the root – of the material conditions, and their intelligible rendition, will form liberatory technologies.

To fight this off, we must reassess ontology: reclaim and redefine what being means. This necessarily touches upon first-order paradigms nowadays captured under one form by digital systems, such as identity, knowledge creation and preservation, autonomy and collectivity, etc. Fascism deploys a weak assemblage of the individual, so we too must address the question of the Self.

But perhaps we should be bolder than that, and rethink a common beyond the human that embraces the non-human and the living in its entirety. Such radical thinking is a necessity to counter both capitalist forces and their neo-reaction. The latter remains the useful idiot of a bloodthirsty and imagination-starved conservative capital, whose technics nowadays crystallises through right-wing techno-libertarian in-formation. A metastasising of these forms, with only pure force and power to maintain privilege, is seeking the final solution within the evolution of technology. Mars, earthly doomsday bases,[16] endogenism[17] and “Saving the Shire”[18] are its clearest symptoms. Only the poetic articulations of a common desire for an unending imaginary and organic technics, deployed in a genuine liberatory technology, and built upon the contradictory and reciprocal play between us and a cosmos, will be able to antagonise the gutter sci-fi deliriums that constrain our present.

Special thanks to Alice for her precious feedback.

  1. Smart Borders or a Humane World?, Mizue Aizeki, Geoffrey Boyce, Todd Miller, Joseph Nevins and Miriam Ticktin, Immigrant Defense Project, 1 December 2022 ↩︎

  2. ‘Resurrection of phrenology? AI’s quest to link facial features and criminality has a shady Victorian legacy., Catherine Stinson, Genetic Literacy Project, 9 September 2020 ↩︎

  3. Peter Thiel’s Investment Firm Is Backing a Menstrual Cycle-Focused ‘Femtech’ Company, Anna Merlan, Vice News, 6 September 2022 ↩︎

  4. US immigration agency operates vast surveillance dragnet, study finds, Ed Pilkington, The Guardian, 10 May 2022 ↩︎

  5. Here Is the Manual for the Mass Surveillance Tool Cops Use to Track Phones, Joseph Cox, Vice News, 1 September 2022 ↩︎

  6. The Effective Altruism movement is not above conflicts of interest, Sven Rone, 1 September 2022 ↩︎

  7. Staging the Nation’s Rebirth: The Politics and Aesthetics of Performance in the Context of Fascist Studies, Roger Griffin, Berghahn Books, 1996 ↩︎

  8. Brutalisme, Achille Mbembe, Paris: Éditions La Découverte, 2020 ↩︎

  9. We thank the folks at Abrüpt for this insightful reminder. ↩︎

  10. Liberal here in the sense of the broader political philosophy and economy, which most sections of conservatism, socialism, social-democracy, etc. have embraced. ↩︎

  11. Form and Relation. Materialism on an Uncanny Stage, Yuk Hui, Intellectica Revue de l’Association pour la Recherche Cognitive, July 2014 ↩︎

  12. Which includes memory, morality, narratives, knowledge, etc. ↩︎

  13. Form and Relation. Materialism on an Uncanny Stage, Yuk Hui, Intellectica Revue de l’Association pour la Recherche Cognitive, July 2014 ↩︎

  14. To deploy either against the gig-economy workforce or a representative of a social minority. ↩︎

  15. We are here only referring to the current of liberalism, more narrowly defined: classical liberalism, ordoliberalism, neoliberalism, social-democracy, etc. ↩︎

  16. The super-rich ‘preppers’ planning to save themselves from the apocalypse, Douglas Rushkoff, The Guardian, 4 September 2022
    Billionaire bunkers: How the 1% are preparing for the apocalypse Elizabeth Stamp, CNN Style, 7 August 2019 ↩︎

  17. Billionaires Like Elon Musk Want to Save Civilization By Having Tons of Genetically Superior Kids, Julia Black, Business Insider, 17 November 2022 ↩︎

  18. Shyam Sankar, Director at Palantir Technologies: “Save the Shire […] means to make the world we love and treasure a better place—to protect it from terrorists, fraudsters, cyber spies, etc. through our software. […] The Shire was the home of the Hobbits […]. They were unconventional and odd looking warriors, but they were all heart and fought valiantly for the forces of good. And so for this motley crew of computer scientists in Silicon Valley, removed from the happenings of DC, Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Colombia, the Horn of Africa, Indonesia, the Philippines, India, Pakistan, and many others places where the forces of evil conspire against us.” ‘What is the meaning of "Save the Shire" on Palantir shirts?’, and Shyam Sankar’s answer, Quora ↩︎