7–9ft shape shifting serpents which own night clubs in Sri Lanka. Reptoids are native to the antartic, and control the planet. Some people think Reptoids can time travel, but this is probably bullshit. Though they can travel on the astral plane.
Recently a friend of mine — a smart man with socialist politics — shared with me a YouTube video of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett celebrating their friendship with a tribute to the opening credits of The Golden Girls. The pair palled around at an Omaha furniture store, played ping-pong, served ice cream in aprons at some charity event. “I must admit, these are two billionaires I don’t despise,” my friend said. While I don’t doubt the sincere feelings that inspired Gates to have his video team make the video, I felt compelled to remind my friend: these are two of the most dangerous creatures on Earth.
Imagine that you, a normal, non-billionaire person, had a genuine dispute with a Gates or a Buffett. A human dispute over a lover or a slight. What recourse would you have? Personal violence is out; they have way too much security for that. The courts? Their lawyers would bury you, and even if you won a settlement the fine would never dent their vast wealth. The press? Good luck.
Bill and Warren, on the other hand, could destroy your life in any number of ways. They could sue you, smear you, buy the company you work for and have you fired, buy the building you live in and evict you. They could hire mercenaries to hunt you, disappear you, kill you. I’m not suggesting Bill and Warren make a habit of such ugliness, but no one can deny that these are tactics at the disposal of anyone with so vast a fortune.
The truth is all of us walk around each day at the mercy of the world’s billionaires. Mostly they ignore us, for which we should be grateful. But at any point they could strike us down, like capricious, alien gods. We only get to smile at Bill and Warren’s friendship, or be entertained by Elon Musk’s antics, because we are at a great remove from them, thinly anonymized through the internet. Up close, we should be terrified.
To watch Bezos and Zuckerberg jockey for market position is like watching The Avengers battle Thanos on cable news, rooting for the good guys to beat the bad guys, oblivious to the fact that all our jobs are about to get snapped. Or maybe that’s too generous. Maybe it’s like living under the thumb of the debaucherous, amoral superheroes from The Boys, or having your town razed by an evil Superboy, a la Brightburn. Our culture is full of anxiety about the power differentials that warp and twist our society. When movies like The Purge, Get Out, The Hunt or WestWorld send up bourgeois disregard for working class lives, they hit a “it’s funny because it’s true” kind of nerve.
In Nick Harkaway’s excellent novel Gnomon, a kidnapped billionaire banker gets to a phone, calls the number for an exclusive security firm, names his position in the world ranking of richest people, gets an armed extraction team there in minutes. The operator asks if he’d like to have his enemies drone striked while he waits.
If a Bill Gates or a Warren Buffet were to wake up after a party next to a dead hooker, I have no doubt that they could make a similar phone call and have people there in minutes to dispose of the body, doctor the records, fabricate an alibi, pay off the witnesses, make it so they were never even in the country when the thing that now never happened happened. With enough money you can manufacture a customized reality — not on the grand scale of global politics, necessarily, though they are certainly working on that. On the personal scale of a human life, however, enough money makes the world extremely pliable.
One never sees a billionaire put on trial for the damage their personal and business deals do to the rest of us, and if they are they never go to prison. At worst, they are slightly inconvenienced. The scandal and subsequent death of the late real life supervillain Jeffery Epstein is the exception that proves this rule; Epstein’s money didn’t protect him forever, but it did buy him years of freedom after his crimes were basically public knowledge. We are fascinated because it’s so rare to see a billionaire thrown under the bus to face, perhaps, real justice, and to see the banal reality behind PizzaGate fantasies.
Harkaway calls the personal fortunes of the world’s megarich an “evolutionary” amount of money. An amount of money so vast, that those who possess it are no longer human. Billionaires may have some human needs, some human instincts and concerns, but we can’t treat them like humans because most of the rules that apply to us don’t apply to them.
We define our fellow humans not just by DNA or human shape, but by whether they honor and are subject to our shared social compacts. This is why we find so much horror in things that look human but aren’t socially and politically human: zombies, androids, pod people.
This is not to say that they were born different, or feel different in their hearts, or haven’t led (up to a point) human lives. My friend who sent me the Golden Girls video extolled the virtues of Melinda Gates, who rose to prominence in the 90s tech world through her own dedication and merit. Sure, I said, and Jean Grey became a leader of the X-Men through her own dedication and merit. Then she was possessed by an omnipotent cosmic death spirit. The reality of that power, just like the reality of the Gates fortune, requires us to consider her just as much a villain as a hero.
If billionaires aren’t humans, than what are they? Let’s just call them reptoids.
Reptoids, for the uninitiated, are intelligent reptilian humanoids who perhaps evolved from dinosaurs that survived extinction deep underground. Now, the conspiracy theory goes, they have used their shapeshifting powers to infiltrate the highest halls of power — and now control the world. When Hillary Clinton or Mark Zuckerberg are caught on camera acting particularly awkward and wooden, it’s their reptoid mask slipping.
A good conspiracy theory checks a lot of organizing boxes. It starts with facts we can all agree on (many species have yet to be discovered, the universe is too big for us to be alone), define the world’s problems (poverty, war, chemtrails), identify an enemy (the shapeshifting aliens that control our politics), and offer a theory of change (expose the truth). It’s not hard to see the appeal of these flawed but compelling narratives when so much of our lives and the world’s wealth and power are dominated by seemingly inhuman entities: multinational corporations, stock market trading programs, propaganda botnets, search engines and social media curation algorithms.
In my adolescence, I was an unashamed conspiracy fan. I had no stake in any particular theory, but since the world was so obviously controlled by nefarious forces, it made sense to me to at least entertain the possibility that Kennedy was killed by a shot from the grassy gnoll or that the Jonestown cult suicide was a CIA medical experiment.
The flaw in most conspiracy theories is that they assume “it’s all connected” and that every strange particular must “go all the way to the top” to some sinister mastermind pulling all the strings. This assumption is built on three understandable mistakes.
First, the world simply is too strange and full of coincidental weirdness to be believed. Reading the bizarre cascade of human and mechanical failures behind the nuclear disaster at Three Mile Island, how much simpler — indeed, how comforting! — would it be to believe instead in deliberate and malicious sabotage?
Second, the world really is full of plots and lies. But the reality is that, as psychedelic guru Robert Anton Wilson once pointed out, the world is like a plate of conspiracy spaghetti. At first it looks like one strand, looping around and around. Once you look closer, however, you’ll find that it is actually many smaller strands, all tangled overlapping and tangled around each other. The CIA has ties to the mafia which has ties to the Vatican Bank which has ties to… People who get up to secret things often end up crossing paths. Squint and that web of loose connections begins to look like the org chart of the illuminati.
Even though our culture is full of spy capers and crime syndicates, we rarely reflect on just how much we really do live in spook country. Our choice is often between believing in a Big-C Conspiracy — Bush did 9/11 to advance war and oil interests — and a little-c conspiracy — nineteen men conspired with an international network of jihadis to infiltrate America and hijack four planes.
Third, there is indeed a vast system to the world that strangles human freedom and makes sure the rich get richer while the poor get poorer. But this system — capitalism — is a system of classes, not of individuals. We can’t simply hunt down all the reptoids in their boardrooms and mansions and be suddenly free of their influence. This is because the system derives its power not just from agreements made in secret, from bribes, moles and kompromat, but from the relations of production. As long as those relations stay in place, the “evolutionary wealth” that makes superpowered reptoids out of once-human billionaires will simply pass on to the next generation of elites.
These relations are why pleas to elites for noblesse oblige never work. The incentives, if you’re a reptoid, are just different. Jeff Bezos doesn’t much benefit if the economy improves, if the civilization around him thrives, if actual humans are living decent, dignified lives. He already has an arbitrary amount of money. He can bunker through any disaster of upheaval. What matters to Jeff is whether there is a force in the world that can bring him down to size. Even if he never feared prison, it’s a real drag to be hauled before congressional hearings, made to engage in a situation in which some form of power other than money still talks. For this reason the reptoids have spent the last few decades on a neoliberal project to destroy the middle class, fracture the working class, and dismantle the nation-state.
The good news is, class relations give us power we could never have over nihilistic superheroes, ancient aliens, or illuminati cabals. We can organize as a class to take the means of production away from the billionaires. We can demand that our democratic institutions answer to people, not money. We can cure them of their reptoid nature by taxing away their wealth and power.
It’s time to build our own conspiracy: a vast network of working people that is willing to stand up, as a group, to the most dangerous creatures on earth. We’re everywhere. We’ve already infiltrated every house and shop. We are many, they are few.