Technocracy and Its Discontents

Technocracy and Its Discontents
Supporters of President Donald Trump watch a video during a campaign event in Lansing, Mich., Oct. 27, 2020 (Photo by Nicole Hester for Mlive.com and Ann Arbor News, via AP)

Among the images that circulated in the aftermath of last month’s Capitol insurrection, one video stood apart, an almost iconic representation of the mob unleashed. In it, an enraged supporter of Donald Trump wields a pole flying the American flag to repeatedly strike a police officer who, having been dragged down the stone steps of the Capitol, lies at the crowd’s feet. The video requires no deep analysis to identify the violence it portrays as a threat to liberal democracy.

A very different video that began to go viral in late September is of another register altogether. In it, a man, later identified as Nathan Apodaca, is seen skateboarding, taking a swig of cranberry juice and then lip-synching to Fleetwood Mac’s classic rock hit, “Dreams.” It’s a mystery what made the 26-second video, first posted to TikTok, go viral; as with most things these days, it involved an opaque algorithm. Subsequent reporting revealed that Apodaca’s truck had broken down. Instead of waiting to have it jump-started, he decided to skateboard the rest of the way—first to his job at an Iowa potato warehouse, and 35 million-plus views later, to a new life as the latest star of the “attention economy.”

Apodaca’s video, of course, doesn’t represent a threat to liberal democracy in the way the video of the flag-wielding assault of the Capitol police officer does. But it can still serve as an entry-point to help us understand how and why that threat to liberal democracy emerged.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.