The Insecurity Apocalypse

I don’t mean a lack of security in tech or otherwise infosec/opsec. That’s probably well on its way, mind, but that’s Marcus’s beat more than mine.

I mean the dudebro insecurity apocalypse, which has become increasingly hard to ignore, no matter how much the particular dudebros wish it could be and tell their cult-flavored followings it isn’t happening.

Consider, if you will, such a dudebro. Let’s call him (and somehow it really is always ‘him’) Mister. He’d like that. When you’re this big they call you Mister and all that.

Mister is, by all common standards, wealthy and powerful. He’s not a good guy. That’s almost tautological: the kind of wealth and power Mister has amassed do not come from doing good things. They come from an inheritance (that he does not like to talk about, since it impugns his image as an entirely Self-Made Man), from one or two pieces of extraordinary right-place-right-time luck, from an admittedly dab hand at propaganda, and from an absolute cutthroat ruthlessness. That last gives him some difficulties, in that he’s trying to simultaneously look good to the world at large who do not think crushing any obstacle with blood-spattering veins-in-your-teeth callousness is anything positive, and his base of supporters who absolutely DO value that and in fact tend to worship him in a concerningly culty way largely because they love their strong enemy-squishing daddy.

They’d never admit this is why, though. Especially not to themselves. The faithful who love Mister for his strength and apparent acumen in his chosen field are completely soaked in the most toxic kinds of masculinity. Never surrender, never compromise, never admit weakness, never admit you love being subordinate. No matter how very very very much they do, with their authoritarian mindset. Flippant terms like ‘daddy’ aside, this is seriously the thing: they worship what they perceive as strength, and believe that attaching their own identities to that of what looks to them like the strongest guy around as an idol to support and emulate makes them strong too. They imagine he has their backs.

Of course, he doesn’t. He never has, in a way that’s obvious to anyone not among the faithful. He’s got a long history of one-way loyalty, demanding it but not giving it in return. Demanding praise but only giving abuse. The faithful, behaving to a man (though they are not all men; they are mostly men, but not sadly somehow not all) like the victim of an abusive relationship, invariably imagine each time that they would be some how different, that Mister would never abandon the true faithful, that somehow every single one of the tire-tread-covered bodies behind Mister’s bus were an isolated incident or a moment of justice.

Mister’s faithful tend to be pretty plugged-in online, too, though they are stuck in something of an information silo. Mister tells them not to trust the ‘haters’, so they don’t, but ‘hater’ means any source of information critical of Mister. They do tend to be aware of other Misters and be fans of them, though only one is going to be Their Guy.

Recently, however, things have not gone so well for Mister. He’s a terribly insecure man, always was, which has led him to use his wealth and power to surround himself with yes-men. If you respond to the presentation of valid criticism or even negative news about your situation by killing the messenger, you’re going to run out of messengers pretty damn quick. Mister’s gone and locked himself in an information silo too. He is and was cynical enough not to think very highly of his faithful or of the propagandists he uses to send his message out there… but he’s been doing that for a long while now and whittled away his sources of contradictions. He’s left with nothing but his own bullshit as the way to see the world. And he’s acting on it.

Believing his decisions infallible, his resources insurmountable, and his faithful innumerable, Mister has made what he cannot admit is a very very big mistake. There was… something, let’s call it the Problem… that niggled at him. It has for a long time; the Problem was full of the not faithful, the ones who said everything he didn’t want to hear. The Problem did not revere him, did not pay him the adulation he so obviously deserved. The Problem was not his, and it was too big and visible to ignore. In his eyes, it lent faith and comfort to the enemy. So he set out to solve the Problem.

He made a bid for control. The Problem was not his, but by God it was going to be. He threw monstrous resources at it. Far far more than he believed it would take, in fact, but… he can’t admit that, either. You can’t say “yikes, that was too expensive” if you’re trying to live up to an image of infinite resources and infallible decisions, so he’s stuck in it until the bitter end now, no matter what. But the Problem is not going to come quietly. The Problem is resiting him. It’s full of people pointing out his failures, full of people who will not bend the knee. He can’t have that. He mobilizes the faithful and begins a purge! Now that the Problem is under his control at least partway, he can get rid of the infidels – by any means necessary. Out they go, on the toe of his jackboot and amid a wave of how much he’s making everything better, how the Problem could be saved, how only Mister can make the Problem great again.

It’s not working, though. This is creating more resistance. It’s making the part of the Problem that he controls less and less valuable and lending more weight to his detractors. And it’s getting more and more and more expensive, but… he can’t stop. He can never stop. The faithful are waning, there is dissention in his own ranks, but he CAN’T. EVER. STOP.

The dumpsters are on fire now. Nobody but the most absolutely cultified tattooed-his-face-on-their chest Most Faithful could possibly look around now and see anything but the blatantly obvious fact that Mister has made an absolute unmitigated seven-layer disaster out of the Problem, and it is reverberating back through everything else now, too. The things Mister has been able to claim as successes until now are under scrutiny. They’re looking more and more like paper tigers and hollow chocolate bunnies. If it weren’t for his ego, for the yawning bloody hole where Mister’s sense of self should have been that no amount of money and power can fill, he could have made it out of this, could have followed an exit strategy a while back or maybe even now, and salvaged something. Maybe or maybe not a legacy; certainly salvaged his previous successes; absolutely been able to retire to a life of luxury un-dreamt-of  by any normal person. He might even have been able to turn it around and made the Problem… not one of his successes, but a footnote that didn’t matter any more.

But he can’t. He can’t ever stop. He’s placing himself in the path of a failure so harsh and unavoidable, so monumental, that it will very possibly crack even his own narcissistic shield, and force him to face the fact that for all his money and power, for all he managed to build… he sucks. The people who loved him were wrong because he couldn’t live up to it; and the people who hate him – who then outnumber the remaining faithful by at least an order of magnitude – were right. He is, despite everything… a loser.

What will he do then?

This is the pattern we’re seeing play out right now in real-time, the pattern that isn’t really new in any way but it is extreme how much it’s being made blatant throughout current affairs at the moment.

For Mister Donald Trump, the Problem is US politics. For Mister Vladimir Putin, the Problem is Ukraine. For Mister Elon Musk, the Problem is Twitter. And they are all in the Unmitigated Dumpster Fire portion of the story. They’re going to keep pushing until they break themselves, and I don’t know what will happen then. It could be hilarious; it could be incredibly ugly; and I’d be looking forward to it except I can’t stop thinking of all the lives they’ve ruined along the way.

Why do we let people like this have any power at all??


  1. says

    @1 John Morales

    I actually hadn’t heard of her, hadn’t been following that one.

    Honestly, “it really is always ‘him’” was hyperbolic. The way this plays out and interacts with Western culture’s broken ideas about masculinity means it is often him, even usually him… but no, not always.

    It even crossed my mind that the entire Rowling saga could wind up playing out this way, if it keeps heading down the path of insanity it has been so far.

  2. lanir says

    I initially thought this would be about the tier of deliberate self-inflicted wounds that you’re describing as the followers. It still fit that tier for a bit until there were too many jarring notes and then I realized you were after a more rarified variety of shooting ones self in the foot: the rich fool with a crowd of yes men.

    In a lot of ways this is part of a more general concept of insisting on pushing ahead long after it’s obvious a pause to reassess is needed. The primary differences here are the scale of the disaster in terms of how many other people become collateral damage and the methods available for propping up the delusion. Adjust the dial lower on both of those things and it becomes a much more accessible tale of tragedy that any of the followers could star in.

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