Potemkin America: AN AMERICAN ADDICTION: What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been

Music In Phase Space: Episode 51

The first great advertising campaign was designed to encourage a sufficient number of people to Potemkin the idea of America

There has been a kind of natural selection here and only those who were willing to believe in advertising made it

No one that has been naturally selected through advertising believes at heart that solutions emerge from the judicious study of discernible reality. Each one of us is on the spectrum somewhere between the rational and the irrational.

We operate under a collection of different advertising domains with some overlap with reality-based consensus that allow us to travel between domains more or less for free.

But we have been selected by evolution to believe anything we damn please and if that messes up the continuum we’ll fix it in post.

I’m actually fine with this


It’s a balance but it’s not a stretch to say our wishes, our inclinations and the “dictates of our passions” do alter the state of facts and evidence because extreme cognitive liberty and the pursuit of happiness rule.

We’re still doing it today casually connecting unrelated events despite the absence of any plausible causal link between them,

Then there are periods of adjustment when reality contradicts our beliefs so much that we then retcon the past: Remember when we said this? We screwed up, forget about that.’

Retroactive continuity: Reframing past events to serve a current plot need.

Retcon — TV TropesRetroactive Continuity. Reframing past events to serve a current plot need. The ideal retcon clarifies a question alluded to without adding excessive new questions. In its most basic form, this is any…https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/main/retcon

An Ass Pull is a moment when the we pull something out of thin air in a less-than-graceful way, violating the Law of Conservation of Detail

This post-truth collapse is just the ultimate magnification of the instincts and impulses that made that have been shimmering in this country from the beginning

Its always being closer to “it’s my way or the highway” But there was always an infinity of highways and new places not so far away where you could maybe try something else. So what happened this time time? Where did all the highways go?

The simple answer is that now, the highways are in our head.

Highways of gray matter, (which does most of the computing) and white matter, that enable gray-matter areas to communicate with each other.

And just as a single gridlock traffic throughout a section of town, a single damaged white-matter highway can shut down cognitive and emotional processes in many gray-matter hubs.

The purpose of highways are the import/export of natural fantasies.

The hypotheses are falsifiable. No gold. No shortcuts. No such a thing as free lunch. You might be able to make a living but probably the same way you did before. Do you accept the reformation without the Reaissance?

You’re entitled to your own realities but they will not go away when you stop believing in them

-portmanteau quote-

The Enlightenment was a double-edged sword. It liberated people from the clutches of religion and allowed them to believe anything whatsoever about every aspect of their lives: true, false, right, wrong, decent, evil, rational, crazy, unplausible, clever, dumb etc

Enlightenment was as much about rejecting the claims of reason and of rational choice as it was about upholding them. The Enlightenment gave license to the freedom of all thought, in and outside religion, the absurd and untrue as well as the sensible and true.

It was however assumed that in the long run, thanks to an efficient marketplace of ideas, reason would win and truth would emerge from the competition of ideas and that ideologies will be culled according to their superiority or inferiority and acceptance among people.

Following Kant’s injunction to think for yourself and with the Enlightenment triumphant, science ascendant, and tolerance required, a different kind of advertising was free to show itself: “Alchemy, astrology, the occult, freemasonry, magnetic healing, prophetic visions etc

America was marketed as an enchanted time and place, swarming with supernatural wonders, a little bit like the early-first-century Holy Land, with Jesus + a carnival of roaming prophets, healers and witches .

Indulging the fantasy that the land was studded with buried loot — old Spanish or Indian gold, tranches of robbers’ cash, lost jewels.

Tons of folk found out they could make easy money indulging the particular folk fantasy of your choice: Gold seekers, puritans, satanic panics, Deliriums, Mormonism, house on the prairie, go west

There was also a big market for Bible fan fiction: if you think of the Bible as historical fiction, it’s not a stretch to see Joseph Smith other as Don Quixote of Avellaneda or Harry Potter or Star Wars fan fictions

Supposedly the Bible points in the direction of America imagining cities upon hills to be at least like Jerusalem making it a “literal” second Holy Land, settled by “literal” Israeli émigrés. The new kingdom in the American West would be the center of the reborn Christian world.

Some would redefine Heaven is mostly sci-fi way. There you’re not just one of a mass of a billion indistinguishable souls in some ethereal netherworld, but a king or queen of your personal planetary fiefdom as a resurrected immortal physical being 🤔

They were compelled to obey long-standing orders to become polygamous or die, in some cases marrying 32 women in 2 years, 8 of them during one three-month period, 6 of those teenagers and then run for president bragging that he’d kept them more loyal than Jesus had his disciples

America was built by people who were larping, immune to fact checks, and persuaded that they had exclusive access to the facts, a place that was designed to make players pursue their characters’ goals within a fictional setting represented by the real world

You could “rise up,” channel the Holy Spirit, be born again instantly and be rewarded with an eternal afterlife at the same time that new technologies like high speed tavel, telegram and photography were making “technology indistinguishable from magic”

You could communicate with ghosts through Morse code and electrical transatlantic communication was “proof” of the possibility of communication between two worlds: the living and the dead 💀

The marvels of science and technology did not simply perpetuate religious belief, they inspired sham science and wonder. Many ideas were the products of charlatans, but patients had faith and sometimes, they seem to work. The term placebo had just become a medical term.

Is Homeopathy mostly magical thinking prescribed to cure every disease through “water memory?” A typical recommended dilution is literally equivalent to a pinch of salt tossed into the Ocean. The upside is that it fulfills the Hippocratic Oath: First, do no harm

Mesmerism attributed all disease and illness to a single cause. By using magnetized rods or their mysteriously “energized” hands, mesmerists convinced people they could clear the blockages in patients’ internal electrical flows. Some claimed to heal fractures, make the lame walk

Yet still the magic-this and magic-that forms of mesmerism were just the successful trial run for the numerous magical curing methods involving” energies which would become fundamental to the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries alternative medicine establishment

Phrenology is a pseudoscience which involves the measurement of bumps on the skull to predict mental traits. In Terry Prachett’s Discworld, he introduces the fictional practice of “retro-phrenology”, where bumps are added to the head in order to alter the personality 😀

Out of this cross-fertilization of pseudoscience and spirituality came new sects and the New Thought movement, precursor to both Scientology and the New Age. Bestselling self-help compendium of remedies, meat and spices unhealthy and, God forbid sexual stimulants.

Hospitals devoted to water cures. Belief conquers all, pain, heat, fatigue as human belief not the reality of existence, for “matter cannot suffer” misery and bliss are all in your head. Scientific as well as mystical, providers of tools for self actualization.

And not just pain or illness, but dying and matter itself — none of it is real. Small and large businesses selling all sorts of elixirs, tonics, salves, oils, powders, and pills. The principal ingredient was sugar or alcohol; some contained opium or cocaine.

Cure hunchbacks, acquired deformities, early decay as well as menstrual cramps, asthma, diabetes, epilepsy and cancer. Wear the Electro-Chemical Ring on a finger. Cancer specialists -Here for One Day Only- All cancers cured unless too far gone and then can be greatly benefited.

Humbug ‘s Rule. Ridicule and debunking are fuel for crazy. Persecution only serves to propagate new theories be they metaphysical or theological. Nothing like suspected persecution to spur the imagination

Unanimously, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed that in the open economy, buyer and seller beware. Half truths and hustling had a blanket indemnity. In business as in the rest of society, this land was already living in post-truth

The Gold rush to California in the 1800s was a mythic replay of America’s invention, providential adventure redux or at least for the first 10000 Americans who happened to be close to California or quick enough to get there and setting the rest on the highway to insanity

There’s something about yellow gold that gets to people’s heads, beyond its simple monetary value. You will inevitably become obsessed over it pass a tipping point. Personal reinvention was not just theoretically possible but suddenly happening wholesale:

In the end, the unlucky outnumbered the superlucky by ten or a hundred to one. Just four years after gold was discovered, total output peaked and mining was industrialized, requiring capital, deeds, bosses, entrepreneurs

Entrepreneur was a synonym for showman or impresario but as with the 300 K California gold-seekers in 1849–50 who followed the fortunate ten thousand in 1848, as with the American habit of wishfulness in general, a confirmation bias kicks in.

“Just Around the Corner.” From small-time fabulists, hucksters, self-promoters, frauds, and self-reinventors, to legitimately world-changing visionaries, by foul means or fair, part of every entrepreneur’s job is to persuade and recruit others to believe in advertising

Railroads and their backers needed to sell fantasies, air castles, fools’ paradises and utopias to persuade immigrants and settlers, as the original New World speculators had done to prospective Americans back in England in the 1600s

Financial panics, economic depressions, unsustainable overbuilding, popping of the railroad bubbles, inflated by real estate bubbles. Bonanza and thank your lucky stars, school of hard economic booms and busts on the Big Rock Candy Mountain

Ant and the grasshopper: Steady hard work, frugality, sobriety, and common sense + no patience, overexcitement, gambling, with a weakness for stories too good to be true short of cancel each other in the aggregate unless they lurch out of balance crackbrained haywired loco

The rebellion was the result of a conspiracy based on an hyperbolic catalog of complaints by paranoid fantasists about another conspiracy, this time by George III, to “enslave” his American subjects, and reduce them under absolute despotism.

William Gibson said that we find conspiracy theories fantastically comforting not because they’re more frightening than reality, but because they’re less frightening than reality

Secret plans, machinations, cabals, intrigues, frame ups, stratagems, tricks, collusions, confederacy covin, deception, design, dodge, ploy, ruse, subterfuge, league racket, countermine counterplot, disloyalty, fix, frame, game, hookups, perfidy, put-up jobs, seditions

When the Revolutionaries’ new American society promptly produced its own revolutionaries, the seditious and the tyrants each saw the other as a conspiracy.

The belief in a monolithic structure imposing a pattern on otherwise unpredictable timeline. The megalomaniac view of ones group as the Chose one, wholly good, abominably persecuted, yet assured of ultimate triumph; the attribution of gigantic and demonic powers to the adversary.

Satanic conspiracies of witches and Indians, European monarchs, despotic leaders, Freemasons and Illuminati (Hamilton’s idea) Catholic paranoia, catholics doubling every year, the Pope’s agents in America, “we do not go abroad in search of monster to destroy” 😇

From Aaron Burr to the American Communist Party conspiracies have never been as important social realities as the movements against them

For the abolitionists, politics for the sixty years before the war including the War of 1812, the dismantling of the national bank, and double dealings with Court justices of the supreme court were all explained as parts of the slaveholders conspiracy

Sermons on both sides portrayed the war as a holy battle on the road to Armageddon, and the kingdom of Christ and as part of the divine plan. Each side was truly convinced that it was following God’s commands to help him establish his kingdom on earth, and live with mankind here

Meanwhile, on the battlefield itself, the Age of Dakka had dawned, which meant that everything anybody knew about warfare was wrong again. Again progress and economic development made the tactical lessons of the war irrelevant in just two decades.

More Dakka — TV TropesMore Dakka is the art of solving problems by unloading as many rounds of ammunition at them as possible. While Improbable Aiming Skills are all very well and good, sometimes you just need to throw a w…https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MoreDakka

Thanks to the novels of Walter Scott, the transplanted Southern Cavaliers set about re-creating feudal Olde England in the New World, with black slaves instead of white serfs. They came because they’d been on the losing side in the English Civil War.

“sets the world in love with dreams and phantoms; with decayed and swinish forms of religion;…with the sillinesses and emptinesses, sham grandeurs…and sham chivalries of a brainless and worthless long-vanished society. He is in great measure responsible for the war”

Mark Twain

Come be a cowboy, trapper, outlaw and indulge the Great American Pastoral Larp. Far from the madding crowd removed from its traditional literary context. In this infinitely “empty”😬 new place, land of the literal, you could live the Fenimore Cooper, Washington Irving lifestyle

The gentle, quiet life of the country, peopled by souls of wise simplicity living In Harmony with Nature. A place where people stick to the Good Old Ways. Though the city dwellers may scorn them, they are the better for not having to rely on material things for happiness.

Everyone is Jesus in Purgatory! Every plot is an allegory for the rebuilding of one’s soul, every setting as a manifestation of purgatory, and every protagonist as a stand-in for the Christ

And everyone lives in the city upon the hill; the unfinished, ever-evolving city inside the city, where reality is created by larping. A city dissolving into a tired sprawl of ideas, where words come to represent exactly the opposite of what they mean

Every birth is part of the process of natural selection; a resurrection with foreknowledge of the future. We are born only once but we “are” many other people who pre-existed us. The self is a function of all other selves. Your identity fluctuates. You cannot be yourself twice.

The slave trade had a complete rescue narrative: “We are rescuing people and they’re eager to be purchased. They’re free to market themselves as fit for work. They really get a kick of the crossing across the Atlantic with their happy singing, dancing and their games of chance.

When they get to the plantations they get comfy little houses. It’s like a cradle to grave welfare state and they don’t have to worry if they get sick. We take care of them we feed them and they’re doing way better than poor peasants back in Britain.

Show business, celebrities, ad, brand, and salesmanship. All antebellum words. Already then you could advertise and sell almost anything, to make fictions seem real. The greatest dangers of advertising was not that of misleading people, but that of boring them to death

Advertising for patent medicines also worked for merchandised candidates sold to voters as the common man, salt of the earth, regular joe. Life-size and miniature log cabins, and whiskey in bear shaped bottles. Cheap dailies didn’t scruple about standards of accuracy and truth

The moon had forests, oceans, lakes , rivers, birds, small buffaloes and zebras, blue unicorns, huge molluscs, beavers, who walked upright and wore young men in their pussy. It had a magnificent, seventy-foot-high blue-stone temple with a golden roof.

There were winged, hairy humanoids, obviously “rational beings,” happy vegetarians, “passionate and “fit to produce artwork.” The man-bat, dark, and other “of a larger stature …. less dark in color and an improved variety of the race in all respects, lived in it.

“I don’t care what the newspapers say about me as long as they spell my name right.” “No one ever made a difference by being like everyone else.””There’s a sucker born every minute” The best kind of charity is to help those who are willing to help themselves”

“If some imaginary proposition is exciting, and nobody can prove it’s untrue, then it’s my right as an American to believe it’s true.” “Disbelieving in mermaids isn’t proof that this creature isn’t a mermaid.”

The default American mode was enterprise. In religion and vice versa, success meant charismatic visionaries who convinced people to believe in pipe dreams. Medical displays showed revival camp meetings selling an instant salvation of another kind.

Injun Country: Tribal Face Paint and Savage Piercings, and brandishing spears or bows. They will wear Braids, Beads and Buckskins, speak using Tonto Talk, and add tomahawks to their arsenal. They will either be mesmerized by the Mighty Whitey and accept them as brothers.

They often have one woman among them, The Chief’s (giant feather headdress) Daughter, who looks more attractive by Western standards than the rest. Camps have Tipis and Totem Poles, they greet other people with a gruff “How,” and the elders sit around a bonfire for a “pow-wow.”

Buffalo Bill’s Wild West traveling show transformed current news and history into entertainment, turned real-life figures of like himself, his pal Wild Bill Hickok and Sitting Bull into simulated versions of themselves, riding real horses and firing real guns outdoors.

Reality is unrealistic.

In one of Aesop’s Fables, a clown does an impression of a pig’s squeal. Crowd boos. The next day the clown puts his head in his cloak and there is a horrible sound. The crowd jeers and says it’s fake… and then the clown pulls a piglet out of his coat,

A new form of nostalgia emerged in our psychology, an imaginary homesickness for places and times no one had ever experienced and that had in most cases never really existed.

Nostalgia of the north before large-scale capitalism. Nostalgia of the south for the time before slavery. The songs of Stephen Foster, imagined a south from up north in Pennsylvania and Ohio. Fenimore Cooper and the wilderness, and Twain’s antebellum youth.

Neoclassical dreamlands, all temporary, disposable, full-size covered in plaster of Paris, open for six months, then gone. Takeaway. Fantasy seems superior to reality. Invent and reinvent yourself on successive frontiers, in proximity to wild nature or not

The false is real and the truth is unreal

Or truth is false and false is real

I think the “information needs to be free crowd” were not counting on the development of juggernauts concerned in the main neither with the true nor the false but with our appetite for distraction.

Soon there will be 300 million @SubstackInc accounts. That will surely take care of the problem


In the 1900 papers stopped accepting ads for patent medicines. The Pure Food and Drug Act became federal law, putting most of that industry out of business. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1905 that states and towns could legally require citizens to be vaccinated against smallpox

To the self-confident mainstream, the reactionary outbursts, new spiritual fads and kooky religions looked like last gasps. The US was on the side of analytical, balanced, deliberate, impartial, intelligent, judicious, cool, calm and collected.

1/10 Americans was a German immigrant or the child of one during WWI. Between 1910 and 1920, almost a million German-born Americans disappeared from census rolls. The first big anti-Communist panic, edged into anti-Semitism and vice versa.

Henry Ford was a fan of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. In the 1920s he underwrote the U.S. publication of a half-million copies. Ford also wrote a four-volume set called The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem. 😬

“Black America” toured the Northeast in the 1930s. It featured make believe slaves picking cotton bolls and processing them in a real cotton gin. “A fat black mammy, with, sits outside one of the little cabins, knitting. And rabbits’ feet and the “musk bag” protecting talismans.

After “The Birth of a Nation” the popularity of the revived Ku Klux Klan exploded. Four of the five states with the largest Klan memberships were Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Illinois. At its peak in the early 1920s, probably 5 percent of white American men were in the KKK.”

The Klan now had standardized spooky-fantasy-figure costumes (the white robes, the conical hats) and new fantasy nomenclature — officers were Imperial Wizards and Grand Goblins, and local Klan groups became “klaverns.”

“The salient characteristic of the south is a magnificent incapacity for the real, a talent for the fantastic. Unpleasant realities were singularly rare, and those which existed, as, for example, slavery, lent themselves to pleasant glorification, then amiable fiction

WJ Cash

All of us inherit lies when we’re born but probably after a few generations it becomes not navigable and the system crashes. How may lies should a system allow for it to function without crashing? 🤔

Of course we think there are liars and truthers but that’s wrong, of course. There are mostly liars but some of them are on opposite sides

But the point stands. A certain level of lying by omission, by distorting context, by denial, by minimisation, by exaggeration is unavoidable. Now if you’re not careful and your institution crosses the line into outright fabrication, the system will crash.

Nevermind about the stories above. They’re just metaphors

The other side of Max Weber’s idea that certain Protestant mental habits are copacetic with ambition and industriousness and that protestants’ capitalism-friendly theology had evolved into modern rationalism was “the
so-called Monkey Trial.”

Fundamentalism is a protest against the rationalistic interpretation of scripture which seeks to discredit supernaturalism. When robbed of supernaturalism it ceases to be a religion and becomes an exalted system of ethics. Shits lots of people to this day have a problem with that

One of the reason we are fucking up so badly is that lots of supposed expertise after 911, 2008 and Covid has proven to be a grift praying of our longing for sacramental way of being in the world.

From the belief that individual merit is the strict and undeviating guarantee of individual wealth, to the myth that Wall Street investment bankers are Promethean ‘job creators,’ to the mystical faith that web 2.0 will upend all traditional limitations on human enterprise,

Experts went from “do the right thing” to “make as much profit as you can and try to do the right thing” to “Do what it’s arguably legal” to “Well, do what you can get away with” Then, maybe “do whatever you want because getting caught is less expensive than not getting caught”

The holy spirit is money and theology and philosophy become economics. The iconography is advertising, PR, marketing, and product design even to the point of where the costs of bribery, corruption, greenwashing, manipulation, etc are less expensive than playing the other way.

Trump is a great example of this compulsive lying to ourselves in which we have engaged and at all levels it may be a symptom of the bipolarity, ADHD, impulse control issues, substance dependency, borderline and narcissistics personalities coming home to roost

I’m not saying repent into trad roles or anything like that but if we try to force half america into therapy, they are unlikely to cooperate. Ideally, the person in therapy will believe help is necessary and make a sincere effort to change.

And when the Consensus people are lying though their teeth to their therapist I’m not sure how they propose they’re gonna fix this thing and come up with a new inclusive magical thinking story that can get some traction

MAGA as psychological projection is a defense mechanism in which tue Bubbas defend themselves against unconscious impulses by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others.

if we treat MAGA only as as a confabulation (a memory error defined as the production of fabricated, distorted, or misinterpreted memories about oneself or the world, despite contradictory evidence) we’re going to fuck up the next 4 years again

And it’s because you should know better that you should be doing better to create America 3.0 rather than just shiting on America 1.0 and America 2.0 or pretending that you could still run the place on those operating systems as if nothing had happened in the interval

We are stuck in confabulation mode because we are retrieving the wrong memories and accepted them as a truth due to our inability to distinguish beliefs from memories

Clash of the Confabulations

Reality is shocking. We will die, most likely after illness; all our friends will die likewise; on a tiny planet. Perhaps the need for confabulation and self-deception increases with age to hold depression at bay. Some lies are prettier than others

The business of America is Live Action Role play

*Act II insight

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