Demo-Crazy in the USA: Predicting Robot (Mr. Robot Season 3)
Predicting Robot: Mr Robot (USA Network)
Today I am sharing some of my thoughts about the Leonard Cohen poem used in last week’s Trailer ARG and the “Democracy” Teaser trailer that was released as the prize at the end of the game.
If you want to relive the game or just want to see the trailer, this was the step-by-step recreation that I posted at the time.
My goal isn't to create spoilers or to solve Mr. Robot as much as it is to engage in discussions about my perspective of what has happened so far and how things could play out from that perspective. I have long believed that one of the coolest things about Mr. Robot is that it is an "open universe" where multiple theories can be correct at the same time.
I will be as surprised as anyone if I am occasionally right
Also, my Mr. Robot recap “Who Is Mr. Robot’s Landlord” will be coming back on October 12th.
As always, if you haven't watched all of Season One and Season Two of Mr. Robot already *Spoiler Alert*
Part One: Is there a Canary In our Coal Mine? A Ghost in our Machine?
Leonard Cohen’s poem/song “Democracy” is one hell of a powerful statement.
It is not just a statement of how Democracy can represent the latent promise of a beautiful future but also how Democracy is often a promise of coming brutal violence born out of deprivation, anger, and frustration.
At times, Cohen’s words are often enough mirroring themes of the first season’s of Mr. Robot, that you would have to think that the poem was present at the creation (so to speak). That in ‘Democracy’ lived some of the core of Mr. Robot (the show’s) very being.
When Cohen says:
Democracy is coming to the USA
It's coming through a crack in the wall
On a visionary flood of alcohol
It really speaks deeply to me, one of the current issues that I have found myself writing about was the move by many media companies to intentionally stifle engagement and interactivity with consumers of their information online.
Most recently, last week, Bill Simmons site “The Ringer,” moved to a new backbone where, without any notice, they chose to shut down comments entirely which follows a national trend.
Personally, I found this move offensive and profoundly anti-Democratic, It didn’t surprise me that most people didn’t stir up much of a fuss but it angered me.
This was clearly just another attempt by media interests to shut down unpopular speech and to wash corporate hands of having to police contentious free speech areas. Free speech should never be only about allowing educated or privileged people a platform for speech. Free speech should allow everyone a place in the public square.
As much as I disagree with Trump (and Putin’s) armies of online trolls and minions, I absolutely support their right to exist and to speak.
Many people will say that corporations don’t have the obligation to protect Free Speech, and that is true, but we all should have the mission of opening space because we believe that having the place to be heard is even more important than what people have to say.
For me, the best palliative for so-called bad speech is making a better (or more persuasive) argument and the worst response to so-called offensive speech is silencing it.
Anyway, I think part of the revolutionary vision of Mr. Robot is its suggestion that perhaps this is only natural and right because media sponsored speech always involves at least an element of co-optation and of disciplining the speaker (see Facebook).
Perhaps more importantly, I think that both Cohen and Mr. Robot suggest that it is at cracks in our walls (and through the opportunities presented by the ghosts in our machines) that real revolutionary power often is born.
In other words, the Gatekeepers are only symbolic proof of system failure and revolution isn’t sponsored by Dr. Pepper (and that water should be free).
Elliot subverts and infects gatekeepers.
The Dark Army subverts and infects gatekeepers.
And often times the Gatekeepers are subverted because they don’t know even know or understand how to communicate or understand communication in the “cracks” where real Democracy lives (or is festering).
The cool kids are always out somewhere way ahead of the gatekeepers.
I doubt most new revolutionaries need Twitter anymore or that the forces that will be fighting against these new revolutionary movements will see the right dangers until it is too late.
Part Two: “On A Visionary Flood of Alcohol”
America is in the midst of an unprecedented Opioid crisis, and Addiction affects a massive percentage of our population.
Mental illness has risen to dangerous levels throughout the United States.
Income inequality is reaching crisis proportions.
These things are connected.
When you drive enough people to despair (or a visionary flood of alcohol) no amount of bullshit can cover up the holes.
Drugs and alcohol might function initially to sap revolutionary impulses, eventually though, if enough folks are involved, things can start coming unraveled.
Once a revolution starts, it is hard to stop. This is the danger in real Democratic revolution (or in any revolution) it brings radical and often violent change.
Democratic revolutions are rarely pretty.
There is a reason that a few days ago, Donald Trump promised to respond to the Opioid crisis with more law and order and why Attorney General Jeff Sessions is doubling down on the War on Drugs.
They aren’t doing this to protect Americans, they are doubling down on Law and Order because they are invested in maintaining the status quo.
This is inequality-protecting epistemology masquerading as empathy.
Democracy might be a bedtime story we tell our children to assure them that we are a just society, but it is also a means the disenfranchised many have used throughout history to wrest power from the privileged few.
When the fairy story stops being recognizable to the people it was designed to anesthetize, things can get dangerous and Rome can collapse.
Mental illness and addiction could very well be the canaries in our particular coal mine. The Increasing numbers of citizens suffering from depression, mental illness, and addiction are probably a form of proof that for an ever increasing number of people our system of government is no longer responsive to their needs and desires.
Elliot Alderson has Dissociative Identity Disorder (considered a mental illness)
Elliot Alderson struggles with addiction.
Elliot Alderson saw privilege and income inequality destroy his Father.
Elliot Alderson knows where the cracks are and how to use them.
Part Three: Cautionary Note at The Heart of Chevrolet
It's coming from the silence
On the dock of the bay,
From the brave, the bold, the battered
Heart of Chevrolet
How presciently does this line speak to the rise of both Trump’s America and The Resistance?
I hate what the Trump supporters say, I hate that many of them seem to have decided that it was race and not systemic inequalities that were at the core of all of their suffering.
President Trump and his minions are (dangerous) buffoons, they have no answers for what ails their supporters real problems.
What happens when his supporters find out that he wasn’t the answer to their problems? That repealing and replacing Obamacare won’t make their lives better? That tax cuts don’t redress income inequality or restore a meaningful middle-class?
Unresolved anger festers and eventually explodes.
Talking folksy, and appealing to people’s worst instincts will work for a while. But eventually, Donald Trump will have his “A Face in the Crowd” denouement and none of the anger that got him elected will have been resolved.
And there is unresolved and festering anger all over the country.
There is righteous anger in neighborhoods where kids are shot for playing with toy guns on playgrounds and in neighborhoods where men are strangled to death for selling loose cigarettes.
Edward Alderson and Emily Moss were destroyed by the very vehicle which they were using to build their own version of the American Dream. In Season 3 Elliot Alderson and Angela Moss will be working together to take down that company for destroying their parents.
How many Angela’s and Elliot’s live among us now? What versions of the Washington Township Facility haunt their waking and sleeping dreams?
Part Four: En-Gendering Disappointment
From the homicidal bitchin'
That goes down in every kitchen
To determine who will serve and who will eat
From the wells of disappointment
Where the women kneel to pray
It was jarring to read this week that the Koch Brothers have made massive profits investing in recent feel-good Feminist movies like Wonder Woman and Mad Max Fury Road.
It didn’t surprise me, but it was still jarring.
The Koch brothers are just keeping their 'friends close and their enemies closer.'
'The greatest lie the devil ever told was convincing the world that he didn’t exist.'
Worried about disenfranchising African Americans, paper problems over by claiming that there is no such thing as race or racism (colorblindness).
Sure, some smart folks might mention that it makes no sense that white people own the vast majority of the property and that it seems odd that merit seems to be defined almost entirely by the very skin color that supposedly doesn’t exist.
The whole premise of Harry Harrison’s Make Room Make Room (later turned into the movie Soylent Green) that if you pit the masses against each other you can literally feed them to each other and nobody will care.
And how long will women continue to be fed the bones of other women and pretend that they are eating Filet Mignon?
There is an element of the old Virginia Slims commercial bullshit happening here (isn’t it wonderful, now that you are liberated you can consumer cigarettes until you die).
Basically, the powers that be are suggesting that we are living in amazing times. That we are present for the birth of a pro-feminist wonderland where women can have basic health benefits stripped, where they should never be able to say no to having babies, where they should rarely be protected from or be able to punish sexual violence, and where that they should earn less money than men.
Will Transgender men and women continue to agree to be treated as second-class citizens fully expected to pay taxes and follow the laws but excluded from basic citizenship rights like using the bathrooms of their choice, working where and how they want to work, and feeling safe in their own homes and communities?
Will women continue to work on 'Diana Prince’s Farm' built and celebrated by the Koch Brothers?
Will password ‘whiterose?’
Part Five: “Getting Lost in that hopeless little screen”
I'm just staying home tonight
Getting lost in that hopeless little screen
But I'm stubborn as those garbage bags
That Time cannot decay
I'm junk but I'm still holding up
This little wild bouquet
Democracy is coming to the USA
I have suggested before that Elliot is a stand-in for us and that we are his ‘friends’ precisely because Mr. Robot is trying to break the traditional failed relationship between activism and television.
During my deep-dive into the book ‘Red Wheelbarrow,’ I mentioned the astoundingly transparent commercials (starring Melissa McCarthy) that seemed to ask why anyone would bother doing the hard work necessary to protect the environment when we could all purchase a hybrid car instead?
In other words, capitalism and especially the capitalist evangelist device known as television function to assuage our guilt just like owning a Prius might resolve the guilt of a conflicted environmentalist.
So often I find myself consumed by my desire to own my own Originalfunko Mr. Robot toys more than I feel moved to go out and talk to people about the income inequality at the heart of the show.
So often, I find myself convinced that I have participated in the political process by watching Rachel Maddow rant on MSNBC or laughing while Alec Baldwin makes fun of Trump.
I don’t think the point is that we should be burning down E-Corp at all. I think the point is that if we don’t start taking part in our Democracy that it will get much worse before it gets better.
I think the point is that if we don’t start insisting that the actuality of US Democracy doesn’t start resembling the actuality, things are going to increasingly fall apart.
Elliot is who we have become sad, alone in a crowd, angry and bitter, searching for something to make us feel loved (even for a second), and desperate to believe that meaningful connection is possible.
I might be lost in my own battles with my own hopeless little screens (they are proliferating) but despite that, here I am here writing right now.
So was Leonard Cohen.
So is Sam Esmail.
I bet the opiates aren’t working like they used to.
"I'm sentimental, if you know what I mean, I love the country but I can't stand the scene"
That may mean that Democracy is coming to the USA. Will it come peacefully or in a revolution?
Perhaps what we misunderstood from the beginning was that Elliot was trying to help us see how little time we have left before the cracks widen.