Last week, Dance Gavin Dance released a song from their upcoming album Artificial Selection called “Midnight Crusade.” Given that DGD is my favorite band, of COURSE I was gonna check out the song and listen to it on repeat for 5 hours. What I was not expecting was that the music video would be so incredibly Woke AF.
The reason this video is so damn good to me is because it articulates the complex relationship between technological advancements, anti-human capitalism, and exploitation in roughly 3 and half minutes. The video starts up with shots of metal and a human head shaped mold. Then we see Tilian reveal his robotic creation, which is Jon Mess. Of course, this version of the robot is imperfect. He can’t even perform basic functions properly. Then Tilian upgrades him and that’s when things get really interesting.
At about 1:10 in the video we see this:
Now like any good inventor, Tilian wants to make the absolute best product he can so that there can be the most return on investment when he markets his product. That’s the basic structure of how business works, right? Well, that isn’t the case anymore since technology has been used to exploit its user base in order to make more profit. Take Facebook as an example. Why do you think it tracked its users’ data? It’s because there was opportunity for profit in it. Why does Tilian upgrade Jon Mess? Same exact reason. That, and if he gets Jon to function properly, he could effectively change how society functions, much like social media has done.
So how can one Fully Functioning Robot change our entire Capitalist structure? Easy. The video shows this very quickly, but it’s there.
The American Workforce is dependent on labor. Without getting too technical here, our economy no longer values manufacturing positions. So when a certain shit-bag president says he would magically help coal miners, the reality was that only those at the top would ever see this “help.” Actual miners are left out because it is much cheaper and effective to automate the business using machines so that you can undercut your labor costs and therefore make more money. Welcome to how capitalism ACTUALLY works.
So I guess now you may be asking yourself how do companies do this? How can they get away with it?! Well, the answer to that is really complicated, but if you happen to be familiar with Antonio Gramsci’s work, then you may already know. I won’t dive too into this because it’s wildly complicated, but Gramsci was asking himself why Italians were not actively protesting the Fascist regime under Mussolini. His answer was that power works in a very frail yet complicated way, where those who HAVE
power must constantly request consent from those they are subjugating. Now how does this look?
Like a crazed robot giving a human a massage so that he thinks robots really are okay. Look at this dude’s face. You think he’s gonna suddenly say Tilian is evil or that robots are terrible? Nahh. That’s the face that says “Y’know that there robot is alllright.”
In the video, after Jon presents his whole business strategy, they all have a party, and what do you think happens? Do you think robots taking over humans would be a good thing? Welp…
It’s met with thunderous applause and a party for the Robot. I like how the only Black employee is still suspicious of Jon, but has no problems partying with him later. That’s what you gotta do when you’re a person of color working in a predominantly white, capitalist structure. You kinda have to go with the flow, even if it’s dumb as hell. Which brings us to this pivotal moment in the video:
Yeah, who didn’t see this coming? Of course, Jon Mess kills all the humans during the party and then makes them into machines. What does this mean? Well, I believe it’s to get society to think about its reliance on technology and how our lives are being dictated by it. More rapidly, we are surrendering parts of ourselves to it, and we become what the robot was supposed to be: a product to be sold. Does this sound familiar? It should. It’s been all over the internet after all.
I’ll give you a minute to think…..
FACEBOOK! That’s right. Now I’m not saying that the video somehow had the precognition to see what would happen with the Cambridge Analytica scandal, but it does carry a lot of overlap, namely in how Facebook exploited its user base (I.E. humans), gathered data on us without proper consent (automation), and sold that data to various third parties (capital). What Facebook became was a digital human farm for advertisers to curate what we see online. What makes Cambridge Analytica so damning is that it had a direct relation to the Presidential election. It invaded and made those it targeted one with the machine. Facebook is not a website that encourages communication. It longs to be the ONLY site for it, to limit people’s choices to communicate online so that we HAVE to use its technology. After all, Facebook owns Instagram and WhatsApp. Are there really any alternatives?
Before this post gets any longer, I wanna just ask a question. Why was Tilian’s character no longer shown once Jon Mess shows his “business plan” and then goes on his killing spree? I think it’s to showcase the relationship that Silicon Valley has with society. Why would Tilian’s character just disappear from all this chaos he caused? Why would he just turn a blind eye? That answer is in the lyrics.
Can’t fault you
I’m numb to the rhythm that guides you
Take all your confetti away
I know I know what’s killing me
Don’t need your love Your sympathy”
For the purpose of the video, I think these words are to reflect the seeming indifference that Silicon Valley has when it comes the effects their tech has on humanity. For the record, I’m not saying technology is bad. I mean, I’m a media scholar after all. I’m saying that replacing humans with technology and not leaving them a place to function in society is evil. If we’re gonna do that, we should have some sort of Universal Basic Income to insure that anyone can still live. That, and all health costs be covered. I think that’s a fair compromise isn’t it?