Home Culture recent American Unreality
Home Culture recent American Unreality

American Unreality

Ersatz or artificial substitutes for products used to be a wartime necessity. Americans and other westerners have long since accepted the ubiquity of ersatz products for real ones. Everything from butter to maple syrup to meat is replaced with substitutes for dietary or economic reasons.

The ‘ersatzization’ of food has been more than overmatched by the same phenomenon in our culture. Artificially generated images and essays are treated as if they were the work of some higher artificial intelligence rather than just the digitally remixed work of actual humans.

And men are treated as women as long as they insist that they really are women.

Objective measures of reality have fallen by the wayside in favor of a subjective materialism in which it matters only what something appears to be or what we think it is, not what it really is.

The consensual illusion of ersatz foods in which we all know what we’re eating even if we occasionally pretend it’s the real thing has made way for ersatz money, ersatz art, ersatz science, ersatz politics and even ersatz women. With the latter the right to pretend, to pose as something you are not, has evolved into a civil right. To lie and be believed has eclipsed freedom of speech and the traditional rights of women, not to mention science and reality.

Illusion became delusion along a road that began with mass communications and ended with emulation in the entertainment and technology industries as the highest form of art. Emulation, like most subversive arts, required deconstruction. To duplicate a thing, whether it was a scream, a sentence or a human body, we had to deconstruct it into its components and, once deconstructed, it was all too easy to confuse the components and the illusion with the whole.

Transgender activists claim that they’re women because they wear makeup, put on dresses, adopt feminine mannerisms, and, in some cases, take hormones and get castrated. It is significant that the latter are not even real requirements. The only real requirements for transgender status are external imitation and internal conviction. In an artificial age, what we believe and what we pretend to be is what we are. Those who do this are the children of a world where fortunes, stock value, political office and academic credentials are built on illusions.

The dark side of the scientific pursuit of truth was the conviction that by understanding how things in the natural world were made, we could duplicate them and become gods. Our belief that we have achieved this has vastly outstripped the reality where our limited successes stalled early on in the atomic age. The triumph and horror of the detonation of the atomic bomb remains a compelling subject because it appeared to open a new age when it actually closed it. The everyday hard technologies that underpin modern civilization already existed then. All we have succeeded in doing since is to make them cheaper, more efficient and more accessible.

It took the evolution of computer technology for us to enter a world that seemed in line with our inflated sense of our capabilities. Within those systems, programmers appeared able to create worlds and rewrite the rules of reality. Outside them, radicals who had soured on the old socialist vision of industrial progress turned to romanticism and manufactured the myth that human technology, nuclear and industrial, was on the verge of destroying the world.

The myth of man as the destroyer of worlds, propounded by Oppenheimer, a weak man pretending to be terrified of his own strength, was not a response to technological potency, but impotence. Environmentalism was not a reaction to the accelerating speed of technological change, which was actually slowing down, but to a cultural response to the death of progress.

The atomic age’s conviction that experts and scientists would be able to solve all our problems and usher in a better world had faltered and that opened the way for the counterculture to make its case that technological progress was not the solution. While America had sharply reduced poverty, spread prosperity and increased lifespans, these great achievements in daily life had not fulfilled the promise of a future that would sweep away all the social problems of the world.

The promise of omnipotent technological man was replaced with the myths of omnipotent man who could change the world, not through actual accomplishments, but through conviction. Like the Communist dictatorships they were on the verge of defeating, Americans were persuaded through mass communications and educational indoctrination that it was more important to believe the right things than to do them because conviction could transform reality.

Every leftist revolution, beginning with the French Revolution, had begun with the slogan that will mattered more than any real world prerequisite when it came to changing the world. Leni Riefenstahl’s ‘Triumph of the Will’ condensed that central idea into its name. That reality could be overcome through the assertion of the correct principles took us from the horrors of the guillotine, the mass starvations of the Soviet Union and Communist China, and refracted through the advertising and entertainment industries, along with social media, into an American unreality where people can change their sex if done in line with identity politics principles.

Marxism had never been anything more than a 19th century crank’s pseudoscience wrapped in bad history and worse theory. Karl Marx had been a miserable student and never had any patience for learning anything. The genius of Marxism was that it asserted that the only way to understand anything was to do it. Instead of testing theories against practice, practice had to validate theory. Soviet agriculture was a miserable failure, but that was put down not to the failures of the underlying theory, but to the decadence and corruption of the peasants.

When reality failed theory, mass murder swiftly followed. Socialist theories were all big lies that were upheld with misery and censorship, at best, and with terror and murder at their worst. The intellectuals who studied Marxism either learned to kill or were replaced by those like Stalin whose understanding of theory might be poor, but who excelled at implementing it by redirecting blame for its failures through a French revolutionary drama of purges and random butchery.

In America, the lies still reign supreme from global warming to gender change. The varied lies have at their core the myth that man is omnipotent in both destructive and constructive realms. If man is not restrained, he will destroy the world, but if he is restrained through the right ideology, there is nothing that he cannot accomplish. The good kind of omnipotence comes from adopting a political dogma which when properly implemented can make anything possible.

Overcoming reality by embracing illusion is the test of faith of the dogma. Like the ancient pagans who castrated themselves and then threw the parts into the fire before worshiping the goddess, their modern counterparts embark on pretending to be women as an act of faith. To disbelieve is not just a hate crime: it questions the magical thinking at the heart of the Left.

Ersatz food, once a wartime necessity, becomes ‘sacred’ when eaten to overcome ‘climate change’. Reality becomes illusion and becomes reality again when imbued with virtue. The break between the Marxists and the Wokes over whether virtue signaling matters is emblematic of the larger conflict between industrial and post-industrial social media collectivism.

To ‘live my truth’ rather than the truth is a pivotal decision to change the world through delusion. The old school Marxists may decry a neo-liberalism of bumper stickers and hashtag activism, but it was the 60s radicals who failed at public activism and went into the system, became wealthy and successful, who claimed that they sold out externally, but not internally, who gave us the schizoid state of the postmodern western leftist and he/them fantasy collectivism.

Radical ad execs, coked out screenwriters, and fringe academics ushered in the exciting unreality all around us. Then, financed by Silicon Valley techtopians, social media offered a terrible version of the old vision of creating worlds within the old green and black CRT monitors. The world inside the now 4K monitors is not the same as the real world outside, but even before the arrival of everyday augmented reality wearables people have been conditioned to compare reality against the unreal world of social media, and to find reality, in which the people aren’t as attractive, wealth doesn’t come from imaginary currency and fringe sexuality just leads to unhappiness, as wanting. We live in utopia now and the real world is collapsing around us.

External reality is depressing. It kills dreams. Like the dream of having total power over ourselves and the world around us. The man who believes he is really a woman doesn’t want to be told otherwise. Neither does the politician who just proposed spending another trillion dollars because modern monetary theory tells him that government spending can be virtually infinite.

Children live in a magical world in which dreams mingle seamlessly with reality. Adulthood appears to be a distant mirage of unlimited freedom. The traditional process of growing up was the realization of the limitations and responsibilities of adulthood. Each generation of children has become slower to come to terms with these limitations and responsibilities. For as long as possible they inhabit a childish world in which they can do anything and may not be denied.

The unreal world, enhanced by pharmaceuticals, fantasies and entertainment, offers not freedom through responsibility, but freedom from responsibility by exchanging subjective reality and external mimicry for the basic truths of economics, biology and human nature.

The world around us appears insane because it has left behind reality for fantasy. Sanity can only come from coming to grips with the painful truths of reality all over again.

Daniel Greenfield is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. This article previously appeared at the Center's Front Page Magazine.

Thank you for reading.


  1. Anonymous17/8/23

    The very first atomic bomb was detonated at Alamagordo, New Mexico. The people there had a bet on - put in an ante, and guess how powerful this new bomb would be. The winner was the person who came closest to the actual destructive power of the new bomb; he collected all the money. The winner was a newspaperman attached to the scientific unit. He had put in what he, himself, considered a ridiculously high value as a compliment to the scientists. And he was more than a factor of 10 too low.

    Oppenheimer was no fool. If the very primitive experimental bomb detonated at Alamagordo could do that much damage, what could a fully-developed bomb do? What could a well-designed bomb using an improved technique do? What was to stop a mad dictator of the future from using a bomb as much more powerful than the Alamagordo bomb as the Alamagordo bomb was more powerful than TNT on his enemies? (He knew that some of the best scientists in the world were German and had been working on a German atomic bomb.) "Man, the destroyer of worlds", in historical context, now sounds, not weak, but all too realistic.

    1. We were too impressed by the bombs at the time. We tend to destroy things not with fire, sword or explosive, but with ideas.

      Look at Hiroshima today and look at the major cities of the former USSR.

  2. Bobo the Hobo17/8/23

    American Unreality: How we moved into the Matrix.

  3. Anonymous17/8/23

    Unbelievable article. One of your very best. Profound. "The magical thinking at the heart of the left" (as you put it, but I never capitalize 'left') is also the reason why they hate the Judeo/Christian worldview. For one, those religions put God first. And, equally important, both religions say there is an objective right and wrong. THEY HATE THAT.

    KingWestern Man

    1. Thank you. I dislike capitalizing it myself, but do it for professional reasons.

      The Left has its own religion, thus it has to destroy ours, especially since it's reviving a primitive paganism opposed to monotheism. Scratch a leftist and you'll find every primitive pagan belief.

  4. Ralph18/8/23

    As used as I am to Daniel's thoughtful and concise commentary, this essay sets a new standard. It's a disturbing but accurate assessment of America today. Should be required reading. The truth will set you free, assuming you can accept and see it. Far too many people, young and old, simply can't.

    1. Thank you. That's really good of you to say. Truth is no fun because it's uncomfortable. It doesn't give most people what they want which is a comfortable identity to invest in.


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