Going Die-ral: A Story for Our Time

Guest post by Carlos De La Paz

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental — SYKE, LMAO.

Yohann Jensen could have passed for a Hollywood star, after a disfiguring accident involving an exasperated anti-communist planting a shovel in his face — handsome, in other words, for a man of online letters: one-hundred-and-forty of them.

Yohann was a star, of sorts, in his own way, some might argue; a terrifying master of a medium that defined a generation, as Karl Marx (complete sentences) and Vladimir Lenin (revolution, bitch!) mastered theirs. Like a little sweet mockingbird that just won’t stop singing it’s little heart out three hours before the sun comes back from wherever it goes, Yohann was what one might call a “persistent” user of social media, ingesting and regurgitating aggregated takes, capping screens and calling out normie chumps, all with an exhausting clarity of purpose: shares, likes and the occasional direct message from a tipsy female follower fresh out of a bad relationship.

Yohann’s fame — if you will, some might say — came from his politics — if you will, some might say — picked up over the previous 18 months from roadside diners, used cocktail napkins and an ex’s hastily abandoned notes from a 2007 lecture at Columbia University by a Prof. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But with more retweets comes more problems: imitators and haters.

Ned Borton was both. And Ned Borton was determined: Ned Borton was going to kill Yohann Jensen.

END OF PART ONE

Ned Borton knew he was special by the time he was in third grade, when, intimidated by his ability to rapidly distill facts into pure persuasion, no one in class would be his partner on the science project. Ned Borton dissected the frog himself, which was unfortunate for him as that was not the project, Tony the Toad’s death further alienating him from his peers and resulting in a two-year family counseling sentence, his first exposure to the workings of the U.S. injustice system. The episode would mark him for years to come, Ned’s social isolation well preparing him for the echoing chamber of his later, online years.

Ned’s rise on the world wide web had been rapid, his star beginning its ascent on Wikipedia, where liberal mods feared his contributions to the Great Patriotic War stub. From composing underground, politicized YouTube covers of Taylor Swift songs he was soon covering some of the hottest columnists in the whole punditry game for SmashShare, a highly trafficked internet website for radicals, liberals, centrists and socially moderate conservatives. But Ned wanted more.

Unlike Yohann fucking Jensen — one of his many good friends, Ned would say if you asked him — Mr. Borton had actually read The Chomsky Reader, able to quote from two or three of the renowned public intellectual’s most relatable essays in the time it took YJ just to load up BrainyQuote.com on his Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn. Why should this blockheaded late-bloomer get retweets from teenage Hoxhaists when I, who can actually explain why Albania was an anti-revisionist workers’ state, am stuck DMing 7,000-follower accounts for sympathy likes, young Ned wondered to himself as he scrolled himself to sleep, alone.

The Black Panthers’ stance on gun control finally came to him, as if in a dream. He put aside all self-doubt in his mind’s draft folder. Like a pale Fred Hampton, he knew what the moment required of him.

END OF PART TWO

Standing over Yohann’s lifeless body, Ned felt better than he had when his .@ to Kenneth Roth went viral. Sure, he hadn’t planned for Goldman the labradoodle, thinking the beast would be away at day camp, but he wasn’t going to let some canine collateral damage undermine him the way liberal guilt and his creator’s bourgeois politics undermined Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov. History and a blue check mark would absolve him.

The more pressing issue was the weak internet connection in Yohann’s penthouse, the deceased unwilling to part with his WiFi password before departing this world. Ned was literally on Edge. Hillary Clinton’s deadly neoliberalism would, for now, be safe from his shareable insights. But seriously, though: 2G in downtown Brooklyn. More like crapitalism. God, he really needed that password.

After 20 minutes of trying to guess the code — USSR1234; password1917; Bashar_The_Lion69 — Ned returned to cleaning up what a Third Way Democrat weakened by sentimentality would consider a crime scene. It was then he noticed Yohann’s iPhone and the comfortingly familiar icon indicating a high-speed internet connection. He picked up the product of 21st Century Maoism with purpose and began to swipe. “Yohann here. Going away for a while. Follow @nedborton. I’m fine.”

Ned was pleased with himself — the Chomskyisms viralized for the timeline-scrolling hoi polloi were his now — but fatally distracted. “Shit!” he blurted as the bookcase he backed into came toppling down.

As he lay prostrate on a designer beanbag chair, his legs pinned by a library he knew to be inferior to his own, Ned saw Yohann’s last mocking revenge in the form of an unread book that had just whacked him in the back of the head: How to Read Lacan.

“Fucking. Zizek.”

It was then that Ned, his vision blurred by bad philosophy, heard a rustling from another room. “Surely, no?” Surely, yes: It was Slavoj Zizek, his hair still wet, in a white bathrobe, his eyes darting back and forth with a sudden violence.

“I’m afraid,” the Slovenian said, wiping his nose erratically, “your deal with Verso just got canceled. You, @nedborton, are logging off.” He then bludgeoned the young blogger with a copy of The Chomsky Reader. Zizek had degenerated to doing cheap irony. Fascist.

The last thing Borton ever saw before passing away was a notification on his phone, which he managed to check one last time, the life draining from his body faster than the battery on his Samsung Galaxy: The Interject’s Grayson Griswald just retweeted your tweet on the liberal imperialist, anti-Corbyn bias at Popular Science.

Ned smiled.

DEACTIVATED

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About Charles Davis

A writer and producer with whose work has aired on television and radio and been published by outlets such as Al Jazeera, The Intercept, The Nation and The New Republic.
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