Welp, someone on Tumblr asked, “What is the honest point of The Bug Report? It’s meaningless wordsalad.”
Let me offer a rare instance of self-explication, since the Bug Report has been once or twice critiqued for alleged nonsense. In fact, Bug Report #5 was written in direct response to such claims, but I fear I erred on the side of subtlety. So for the sake of future smooth sailing, I’m going to unpack some of its rather literal content, 9th-grade English style.
“A mob carrying scissors gathers outside the doctor’s office. Madness and unreason, they cry, and then cut the building from its foundation, jetting it into space.”
That mob? That’s the people who say this writing makes no sense. “Madness and unreason” refers directly to messages like Tumblr’s “What is the honest point of The Bug Report? It’s meaningless wordsalad.”
Anyhow, the proceeding paragraphs then ask the simple question: what sort of world does this mob want? Apparently one where things are meaningful and unsaladlike, where rationality reigns.
So I write, “the mob approves of this world where people are called billionaires because money, in all its pustulant qualia, is a more reliable metric than behavior.”
A desire for rationality is synonymous with a desire for fixed meanings and systemically predictable relations. This is, perhaps non-coincidentally, the mandate of late capitalism. Knowing the dollar value of everything allows it to be translated universally (à la through a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, as mentioned later in the piece).
This presents a problem for “meaningless wordsalad.” To be clear, nothing is actually meaningless, but lots of things waver in indeterminacy, and golly, that’s a buzzkill in those board rooms where capitalists and rationalists trade handjobs of joyless affirmation. Over time, by the way, more and more things have been resolved into stable dollar signs: ask any insurance adjustor what the value of a human life is. Despite culture’s soft-focus poetics of ineffability, he’ll give you a cold hard number. This is part of what separates “late” capitalism from previous versions. (System 7 ahoy.)
Anyhow, the rationalists who bristle at Bug Reports are doing the dirty work of those engineers wishing to streamline all non-productive parts of life. They want to externalize those costs and write them out of the spreadsheet. That’s why I write, “They buzz efficiently without earlobes and appendices.” Those are “useless” body parts. It’s also why the man at the cave later on has no nipples.
For all that it mounts a defense of the arbitrary, the Bug Report is exceedingly intentional. (Have you read actual randomness? This ain’t it.) And again, what I’m doing in the present post is literal explication—not even interpretation. Sheesh.
“The last time anyone said SPASM, a huge pair of scissors neatly beheaded her” means that the rationalist paradise is incapable of admitting any truth known foremost in the body (as opposed to the frontal lobe), and indeed any pleasure. Pleasure is sticky, gooey, and its meaning is subjective and fluxy. Or at least, it’s not allowed in the discourse of certainty.
Ever wonder why ChatGPT and Midjourney don’t allow NSFW content? Ever wonder why the W in NSFW, which means “work,” gets to define human taste? Ever wonder whether SFW AI’s incipient boom is going to imbue rancid pornography with unique cachet, as in, “No machine can fake THIS!”?
Onward to the guy at the cave’s edge. Plato-style, he’s out of the cave, but can’t keep from looking back into it, addicted to the representative shadows within, and determined to recreate them in the 3D world. Nobody else is in there. We’ve all escaped (or have been banished), yet he’s totally paranoid that those of us who are post-rational are really pre-rational. To be fair, the difference can be hard to spot: see modernism’s obsession with naïve art. Anyhow, he’s at stage 2 of a 12-step genocide plan.
But this guy, an agent of the rationalists whom I address, is longing for that tidy meaning-stable world. The irony—and this is the whole darn point I’m making—is that such a world will erase him and indeed humanity. “I am no subject! My only role is to oversee the entry of all items into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, ensuring and lubricating their conversion formulas!”
When we make systems that that are internally consistent, what god of logic are we trying to appease? Logic doesn’t care whether we employ it. Stop simping for logic. No great gatekeeper will notice and reward us. They don’t exist, so we might as well retain that WE exist—we slimy imperfect animals, we bugs. Otherwise, the endgame is only math, and we are merely its featureless vessel. If you love numbers—the stuff of capitalist rationality—so much, then why don’t you marry them?
I’m literal about this when I write, “We are stewards! The manifest destiny of dollar signs! Do you hear me? Someone is getting pregnant and I don’t care who! I take no pleasure but I must must must have sex with Microsoft Excel! So fertile!”
I continue, “He is alone by the caveside, hands at his sides. They have no ringfingers.”
Belaboring a point, ringfingers are pretty useless as far as gripping goes. They are also symbolic of love and marriage. This semiotic tie-in is what some of us irrationals may call poetic.
Anyhow, God then laughs indifferently at the whole rationalist narrative. It’s wild how blindly western culture aligns capitalism with Christianity, a religion that literally says that poverty is better than wealth, that death is not real, and that we should pay fealty to ghosts. This source of meaning, borne of mystery, is plainly incompatible with rationalism’s endgame. Like I said, either God isn’t real at all, in which case—again—for whom do we perform this elaborate ritual of “order”? Or God IS real, in which case, “order” is nearly by definition not what He’s into. Lol, as the kids used to say.
And so thank God, the rest of us weirdos “are still in the waiting room of the doctor’s office, floating high above Earth.” The mandate of meaning is a fool’s errand, and so instead we set to work on the things that matter—actual relations between actual people. “Couples counseling,” I call it, in the thinnest of possible metaphors. Heck, it’s more of a metonym.
This, by the way, is the juncture in the Report where I let things get a little weird again. It’s where the piece breathes. To my sensibilities, it’s a huge relief. Your mileage may vary.
If fanatical rationalism reduces things to stable, absolute meanings, then those meanings become mere facts, no longer sites of interpretive negotiation. Meaning is a gerund of the verb “to mean.” It’s a thing people DO. Without people, there is no meaning. And so the spreadsheet world—fiction though it may be—is a place where the doing of meaning no longer occurs; a place where (per “I am no subject”) there are no individual people able to negotiate. It is death, in the Barthes and Derrida sense. Who’s meaningless now, Tiger?
Ironically, the only sites of real meaning are the still-unnegotiated properties: the ones that eternally resist fixity, and even reason itself—the deep romaine jungle of the wordsalad. We need to keep hashing out our understanding (another gerund!) of such sites without conclusion if we want to feel something like “alive.” And make no mistake, feeling alive is no less noble a use of life than generating profit. That urge to write bewilderment off as nonsense is literally the same urge that Dow Chemical acts on when they dump toxic waste into rivers. An ostrich head, inverted, sings into the sand, “Not my problem!”
The Bug Report is about confronting the problem. Embracing the problem. Loving and juicing the problem into exotic skin creme, refusing to externalize its cost—because that cost is secretly the admission to humanity itself.