The Law and the Algorithm: Joe Biden, Donald Trump and Curzio Malaparte

Kurt Erich Suckert escaped from his boarding school in Tuscany in 1914, at the age of sixteen, to join the French Army in the Great War. He quickly rose to the rank of Captain in the 5th Alpine Regiment, earning several decorations for bravery in combat. By 1922 he had grown close to the Fascist movement in Italy, taking the nickname of Curzio Malaparte: a play on Napoleon Buonaparte’s last name, and the moniker for which he is best known.

Two years after taking part in Benito Mussolini’s March on Rome, Malaparte founded the Roman periodical “La Conquista dello Stato”, which would inspire similar publications in other European countries. His literary and political activities drove him to study historical movements, in an attempt to describe how power could be seized by a revolutionary faction. The product of this study was a short book, initially published in French, called “Technique du coup d’État”.

The main thesis of this 1931 work was that the conquest of a State by subversive groups, and its defense from them, was not a political but a technical problem. Malaparte dissected several power struggles led by important figures in recent history, including Lenin, Trotsky, Piłsudski, Primo de Rivera and Hitler. The principles and pitfalls leading to a successful rise to power were carefully analyzed.

Malaparte found that a key to secure victory was to follow Trotsky’s way of organizing the Bolshevik revolution: to focus not on political maneuvering and mass protests, but on capturing vital state resources, such as radio stations, telephone lines, electricity generators and water and food reserves. It is said that the Bolshevik coup was so swift and smooth, that not even public transportation services were interrupted by the Revolution. According to Malaparte, Stalin’s later success was also a fruit of his pragmatic understanding of these technical aspects, as was Mussolini’s (who learnt them in his Marxist years). He attacked Hitler’s outlook, at the time famous only for his failed Munich Beer Hall Putsch; he described him as effeminate and a reactionary; an accusation which sparked his fall from grace in the Fascist movement.

If Malaparte were alive today, which infrastructures would he consider critical for the control of the State? Ability to enforce territorial control is the sine qua non condition for political power, something easy to do in barren, war-time Russia. In a country such as the modern US, split among political, racial, cultural and ethnic lies, infrastructure is so vast, rich and widely distributed that this is impossible without the acquiescence of local administrations. This is only achieved through the shared belief in belonging to a unified polity, the will of the political apparatus to stick together: E pluribus unum.

As these lines are being written, Biden has been proclaimed by the media as the victor in the presidential election. The accusations of fraud, which contrary to what it may seem have been commonplace in all recent elections, are nonetheless a sign of distrust in the System. Biden is being accused of stealing the election, but if he is, he’s not doing it for himself. The real coup is being carried out by the actual managers of belief and shared will in the current world: Big Tech companies, social networks and online platform consensus fabricators, who have an unchecked ability to define Truth and Reality.

Were Trump to win the legal battle that will doubtlessly take place in the next months, the question is whether his procedural victory will be translated into real control of the government and the country. Once the fact-checkers tell to a confused audience that, nonetheless, Biden still won, it’s unlikely that the judicial decision brings Americans together.And if Trump loses the litigation, his followers will not accept defeat either way. The outcome is the same: power belongs to those who can define reality. Precisely what NRx-type authoritarians defended ten years ago: a New Era of Techno-Utopian Despotism. It’s thus beautifully coherent that Mencius Moldbug ended up endorsing Biden.

This war is not being fought between two players of the same game. The regime change underway is more subtle: on one side are those who still believe that standing up and getting themselves to a voting booth is worth something, and on the other those who understand how to manage the flows of the attention economy. Just like the radio in 1917, the Internet is today’s critical infrastructure. Online frogs showed the world in 2016 what Meme Warfare can do, allegedly bringing Trump into the White House. They don’t want to accept Biden’s presidency now, but will the magic work this time?

Questioning the legitimacy of either candidate is the first flight test of a New Regime in real life conditions, because it challenges the democratic religious process itself. Online platforms contribute to disseminate at the same time stories of fraud and a pure Biden victory: they move the contest away from the ballots and into the mind. When the whole story unfolds and verdicts start coming out, what sphere will people chose to accept as the decisive battleground: the Court or the Cloud? Judges or blue-checks?

The New Regime will detach the question of sovereignty and right to rule from details such as the number of votes or the existence of fraud. When the lawfare is over, the time will come to demonstrate who has the last word: the Law or the Algorithm. So there you go, clap your hands if you believe.

%d bloggers like this: