Trolling, Basedness, Virtue, and Vitalism
Ethics for Post-Modernity
In the current state of post-modernity, one often finds that people have been completely disenfranchised from moral or ethical ways of life. If there is no objective “truth,” then there is no real substance for upholding moral judgments. In any case, some still consider ethical norms as good guidelines to live one’s life for many reasons; those reasons include but are not limited to utilitarian or deontological justifications for ethical systems.
In contrast to this group of cultural nihilists of post-modernity, you have a Neo-Nietzschean or maybe even a Post-Nietzschean group of people. In this group, there is a much more conservative or reactionary stance to uphold and hold on to the past or resurrect it by “not throwing the baby out with the bathwater.” Figures like Jordan Peterson would be part of this Right-wing oriented Nietzschean revival. On the other hand, those who could be labeled as Post-Post-Modernists or Metamodernists uphold or advocate for the reconstruction or creation of new values. These two groups are simply upholding not the objectivity of values but take a reactionary stance against the logic of post-modernity to combat the symptoms of what is often attributed as “late capitalism” and the feeling of nihilism by extension.
To focus on the second group, there is a way in which this somewhat reactionary positions may be on a particular “line of flight” to use a Deleuzian term, to help create meaning in a world that is so overly saturated with meaning that nothing means something and everything means nothing.
Many online cultures have coagulated themselves around ironic distancing, unlike holding a concrete stance and doubling down and defending a particular view. Ironic distancing could be illustrated best perhaps by using the term “Ironic posturing.”
Ironic posturing is when you take a stance you may sympathize with or hold some sentiment towards. Still, upon receiving significant push back, criticism, or conflict, one disengages with the idea or position, etc. Instead of holding on to and defending what one actually values, those values and positions are abandoned and can easily be discarded and replaced by other positions or values. Nothing is solid; everything melts into the air.
Trolling is usually regarded as a nasty online activity, primarily because it is usually lumped in with the worst of online behaviors. I want to show that trolling does not have to be this way, and in fact, it can be used as a Socratic or Diogenian performative dialectic. In many ways, Socrates was the first troll, and Diogenes was an even more exaggerated version. The most famous anecdote of Diogenes’s “trolling” is where Plato defined man as a featherless biped. Diogenes presented a chicken stating, “behold a man,” or roughly how the anecdote is presented.
This performative dialectic can be interpreted as a refined version of Trolling. It is not a rigorous argument for truth-seeking. However, it is still a tangible empirical methodology for flushing out contradiction within a set of “sign chains” or norms in many ways. One does not have to have a large stake in Post-irony or Meta-irony to be a good troll; in fact, Trolling as a “truth-seeking” methodology is using these tools of late-stage capitalism or post-modernity against itself.
Basedness or being “Based” is truly a modern-day virtue. Being Based is not a rigid or predefined mode of being. Instead, Basedness is truly a process of becoming. When one refers to something as being, “Based” one not only points out to a recognizable Meme but simultaneously draws from an entire reservoir of behaviors that one renders as valuable at that particular moment for a particular scenario. It is designating a strict hierarchy on a multiplicity of values, resulting from highly trained intuition that is not slowed down by contemplative thought.
Thus, what does being Based and Trolling have to do with ethics or morality? The idea that ethics is to be boiled down to a set of axioms or utility calculus is just doing “math” to find the action that one finds arbitrarily useful or beneficial. To affirm a radical vitalism is to affirm ethics as an action of “what can someone do?” under certain constraints, not what someone should do. Ethics then becomes an exploration of modality and, as a result, an affirmation of life as pure immanence in the Deleuzian sense.
The book A Thousand Plateaus and The Ethics are the same books precisely because of the affirmation of the different ways life affirms itself. The way that “God” expresses itself and identifies itself through itself is Joy. The post-modern condition should not make one collapse into an existential nihilism. Still, on the contrary, it should be the very struggle to affirm one’s existence and values that pushes one towards the vitalist path of creation. If we are limited within the cages of post-modernity and how one can act, it is this narrow window of how we could act that affirms us as living things. At the moment that we are pushed up against the wall, we remember that we are alive.