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  • Writer's pictureDaniel Vollaro

You Live in the Murk Now

You live in the murk now, in the great smog cloud that has descended upon everything. The murk dulls your senses and bends the light around everything. You cannot see the buoys in the murk, so you don't know if you're headed back to port or out to sea again. Time slips in the murk. Nothing is as it seems.

In the murk, messages seek you out like disembodied voices in the dark, on your phones and your feeds. Sometimes they come attached to photos of attractive women in their 20s from Singapore or Eastern Europe. They want you to know that they are successful. They want to connect with you.

"Hello! I found your number in my address book. Do I know you?"

"Hi Daniel, Nice to see you."

Hello, I'm a woman from Romania, I'm currently a risk analyst and management in a hotel, I'm curious about different industry knowledge.

These are "pig butcherers," scammers who lurk in the crypto murk, preying on your lizard brain, dangling sex and the lure of success as bait. If you engage with them, the conversation will wind its way to investment opportunities in cryptocurrency, and you can probably guess the rest. Pig butchering is what passes for culture in the murk. Hackers in a sweaty room crammed with hot server stacks somewhere in China (or maybe there are no server stacks; no matter). Hacker billionaire entrepreneurs with their armies of dopamine jockeys on the payroll and hackers gone legit, servicing the new data-industrial complex. You live in their creepy hacked panopticon universe now. You are the pig, and to quote a well-known Pink Floyd song, you'd better run.

You lose your bearings in the murk, like a wildly spinning compass needle in the Bermuda Triangle. You look for the familiar landmarks in the culture, but they have vanished. Republicans talk like anarchists now and Democrats are gee-whiz defenders of the Establishment, like dad in a 1960s sitcom. The public moralists have secret sex lives inspired by internet porn. Facts are disconnected from words. You wonder, can she say that, because in the past, such things were unsayable? But yes, she can say that, and she just did, because in the murk, up is down and down is up.

You are losing your sense of self in the murk. You've been told all your life that you are a unitary consciousness with a will of your own, and you should use this will to shape your destiny by making choices. But in the murk, the sense of self dissolves and you wonder, what, if anything, do I actually choose?

You live in the murk now. Your feeds are flooded with it. The very compelling ad for a movie called Alien Romulus that turns out to be a fake---not the movie, but the ad, and the fake trailers made from mashups of other Alien movies---and the next thing you know, you are down a rabbit hole trying to figure out if any of it is real. The photo of a giant stone head in Peru that nearly convinces you the sculpture was carved by the ancient Incas. The inspirational quote about perseverance misattributed to Abraham Lincoln fools you for a minute, until you look it up. In the murk, your attention is much more valuable than the accuracy or integrity of information.

You trust nothing in the murk because you are constantly assaulted with scammy, click-baity, sales-pitchy nothing burgers with screaming headlines. Articles that promise to show you why the '70s was the sexiest decade' but instead lead you on a long, ad-cluttered journey through a series of blurry, less-than-salacious photographs. Articles with titles such as "Wild laws and punishments from Medieval Europe" or "20 Habits of Distrustworthy People." You go down the rabbit hole each time only to discover that you've been had.

Your co-worker's Instagram feed, the one with the sprightly selfies of her in a field of sunflowers or mugging with her boyfriend on a white sand beach in Florida---the boyfriend who was beating her up the whole time and eventually put her in the hospital.

You've been had.

Hallucination is commonplace in the murk. Everyone is hallucinating, even the straight-up rationalists who finger-wag about conspiracy theories. It's as if we've all been dosed without our consent. Even the thinking machines hallucinate in the murk.

You hear whispers in the murk, so many whispers. Angry whispers. Salacious whispers. Conspiratorial whispers. Disembodied voices coming at you from every direction.

Nothing is entirely real in the murk, so everything is at least believable. The election was stolen. The pandemic isn't real. The moon landing was faked. AIDS was created by the U.S. Government. The Hubble Telescope was actually a spy satellite. Vaccines are causing autism in children. The crack epidemic was started by the CIA. Elites are kidnapping, raping, and cannibalizing children. In the murk, it's just easier to believe that our lives are being controlled by plotters from afar, that underneath democracy, there is a secret cabal of people who control wars, elections, and recessions.

We live in the murk now, and it's getting easier to see in the dark.


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