In the course of my daily rummaging through Twitter I saw a strange take: GameStop didn’t matter because it wasn’t still everything. Because the stock wasn’t still in infinite bubble mode the story was over and because the story moved to a new phase that means it “didn’t matter” in the first place. This seems like an absolutely goofy take to me as I have talked with dozens of people personally involved in the story through their efforts to lift the stock to the moon.
Then it hit me — for some people now the only story that mattered was the one that could never end. It warmed up in Texas, the story must be over there too. It didn’t used to be this way.
Never Stop Not Stopping
What is striking is that in the past news stories came and went all the time. Charles Cooper, in an insightful article, early in the Tea Party, situated the movement in the context of Karl Rove’s temporal strategy, which was famously tied to a constantly shifting slate of issues. Cooper’s core assumption is that some small issues come and go regularly (thus the move to simply wait out issues or add more) and that major issues might have more long term salience.
As much as the world of Twitter would like to be “not surprised” by any changes that ever happen, changes are real and do happen. Anything less than omniscience is reason for ridicule. Winning the affective logic of Twitter would depend on not Tweeting because it would verify that you were in fact, not surprised, and that nothing ever changed.
In 2015, Zucker, the CEO of CNN made the choice to change his business cycle by providing ample free air time for one candidate. Legacy media dovetailed with heavy Twitter use. Without the baggage of a campaign infrastructure or anything resembling a policy portfolio, the candidate was a never ending source of heat and light.
Affectively, the national political discourse entered a fully reactionary mode. Trauma envy calls for a subject that is continuously reacting to the pain of others. Anger and resentment flow infinitely and paradoxically from the very movements that should moot them. This is where it comes back to time as the temporality of this reactionary moment is founded on, as Christoper McIntosh argues, an “indefinite present.” In rhetorical terms, the reactionary moment of 2015 displaces the flow of chronos (events in some order) with pure Kairos. Six years later some are finding that they never left a single freeze frame of time.
This was one of the last Time covers of the Summer of 2001:
TIME Magazine -- U.S. Edition -- July 30, 2001 Vol. 158 No. 4
TIME Magazine Table of Contents -- U.S. Edition -- July 30, 2001 Vol. 158 No. 4
Without belaboring the news cycles of the Summer of 2001, the end of the Long 90s, were profoundly different than those of the Fall.
As the reactionary indefinite present rewrote the public sphere so many other stories were erased. Even for those not part of the dominant faction, reacting to the reaction was required as part of an ethical life, but this reaction also was to never be surprised. Focus shaming becomes a core trope, after all, this moment is the only moment, now and forever. For those trapped in the indefinite present, what’s happening in the other timeline is strange, almost shattered.
Among the worst things for an organization is when a decision is never made or worse when the executive delegates a decision and then calls to reconsider the decision at every possible second. The organization is slowly poisoned by a moment that can never pass. Thinking back to the remark that GME must not have mattered because it passed is only truly thinkable when political time becomes a quasar. Kairotic gravity holds the black hole together where time never moves, exterior cloud of radiation, brighter than anything else you would ever see draws the attention.
What does this mean? $GME is an important story. FB wrangling down under is important too. Texas utility bill repayment plans? Oh yeah, this is a story, just like so many other stories that just can’t compete with the force or intensity of the last moment. Chronos prevails. Among the most profound political gestures we can undertake is restarting the flow of regular communicative time. This is relevant because the quantum singularity we know is profoundly dangerous, but also because space needs to be opened for the declaration of new moments. Those who are never surprised or nonplussed by the fact that news stories can actually end need, like characters in a sci-fi story, to leave their bubble of the perpetual 2016 (or possibly July 2015) and rejoin this timeline.