Like Churchill and George VI or the Emperor Claudius before them, Joe Biden is a stutterer. While the impediment says nothing for mental capacity—and certain specialists contend that stuttering tends to align with higher IQ—it indicates disfluency. In other words, it is an instance of striated speech, and so may be a fitting defect for state leaders.
In Biden’s case, the glitchiness is different—dare one say smoother—to the point of being almost atmospheric. It doesn’t only manifest in visual gaffes of a non-neurolinguistic nature, but through persistent optical bloopers that have become integrally entangled with his presidential image.
The phenomenon is not limited to photographs, either; it extends to video. And while all of the [cat]opt[r]ic oddities that circle him like flies have received a Reasonable Explanation, the fact that they demand so much explaining reinforces not only how glaring they are, but how seemingly meaningful. It is not thus merely their presence, but their constancy and their compulsive repetitiousness that turns them into a matter of Kulturinstinkt.1
It isn’t mannerism—at least on this administration’s end—as that would denote the fluent command of a playbook, and the artistic intent to distort. That Biden and Co. are hounded by optical fancies is a feature, not a bug; something demonstrated by how these trompe l’oeil have a sustained need to be seen-to. The reason people notice them is because they are as persistent as they’re manifest—one could almost say that they want to be seen.
This is not the first time I discuss hierophanies and the hair-trigger question of their framing (that was in my piece on Julien Nguyen’s recent painting, which I will share with some updates in coming days). As @MobyDickatSea tweeted on May 14, 2021, when I was in the doldrums of writing this essay: “there is no earthly way of finding out precisely what the whale really looks like.”
This tantalising imprecision evokes the Buddhist parable of the blind or sighted men, depending on the version, who grope about the fragments of an elephant in order to infer its form. There is, of course, no full picture for us to assemble at the end of our groping (since our groping itself has no end). So we reconstitute what we can from what we have, acknowledging its incompleteness; in the hope that—as a group, perhaps—we may one day be far-sighted enough to glimpse or glean something akin to a continuous surface, a thrust, a swathe, that gives away—if only for a moment—What It Is we are probing.
Observe, for instance, the uptick in UFO/UAP investigation we’ve experienced during Covid, and the public’s attendant disinterest in it, which may itself be a control for something else—perhaps a certain kind of aspect-blindness. I anticipated the Covidian might be a time for prodigies in April 2020 (see “The New Vertigo”), and confirmed it with the animal apparitions that accompanied the Black Lives Matters protests in June (“…the report was false but the tiger was Real”).2
There is a sense in which ‘disclosure’ to any general satisfaction may be needfully impossible, because the reality of the phenomenon is not what’s being disputed. The most interesting line of thinking along these lines, developed by computer scientist Jacques Vallée over the past half century, posits that UFO/UAPs are more a matter for intelligence than science. In other words, UFO/UAPs are theatre. This is why the conversation around them must subsist perversely on the level of dis-traction, with all that entails for surface adherence. The complaint that ‘the footage is grainy’ may be overlooking that it must be (as well as providing, and provoking, other information).
What we are catching glimpses of is what Vallée, and indeed Burroughs—the most American philosopher since James and Peirce—described as Control or the Control System (which, per Burroughs, needs ‘words,’ ‘time’ and ‘opposition’ to unfold). That UFO/UAPs are receptive to ‘call and response’ interaction, for example, that they can be caught-out and lured, is telling for the simple reason that, to remain as Control—in Control—Control must also have a surplus; that is, it must not be so seamless so as to devolve entirely into use. Control is governed, as it were, by its own incompleteness theorem.
In the frame of his Dramaturgical Model, Erving Goffman, the sociologist of fleeting moments, refers to mystification as a distancing effect wherein certain information is concealed or withheld from the audience, in a manner that prohibits it “from looking at the performer at all, and at times when celestial qualities and powers have been claimed by a performer, this logical conclusion seems to have been put into effect.” We are once more in the realm of the hyperbaroque, as mystification—understood as the masked social distancing of theatre—is deployed to manipulate and to legitimise, through occlusion or awe.
[On May 16, when I was moving past the doldrums of this essay, @MobyDickatSea tweeted: “there are instances where, after the lapse of many hours or several days, the sunken whale again rises, more buoyant than in life.”]
In the continued hollowing and whittling of the office, the current Pres[id]ent of the United States is not Present (whereas Trompe, despite his gaping absences, at least harboured a Presence, by force of his non-pareil id).
Where Trompe personifies the hollow man; Biden is so hollowed-out and so unmanned that one can see the contour of the skinwalker of vested interests at work within and behind him. In a manner of concealment, Trompe paraded his betrayals, whereas Biden seems impervious to what swarms around him, even if nobody else is (and the liberal media’s hyperbolic covering for even his most egregious slips is proof of it). Where compromise is agonistic to the extent that it is borne from an evident conflict of interest, in Biden the [pre]sense and essence of this conflict is again entirely pared down, like a pebble or a go stone. He is, instead, transparently incorporate[d], that is to say, of a piece with that [w]hole. It is also worth noting that Biden has one foot on the other side already, wherever that might be. He is ‘away with the fairies,’ and so the veil around him is not only thin, but thinning visibly.
It has become apparent to anyone observing clearly that President Joe Biden isn’t all there. But something is.
As César Millán—the famous dog trainer—said to Politico when asked about the repeat bites by Major, one of the Bidens’ rescues, at the White House: “It’s not the dog.” (“It’s the place and the people around the dog.”)3
As with the dog, so with its ‘master’. The call is coming from outside the house—and the house is divided.
Joe Biden bites down on his wife. Photo: Joshua Lott/Getty Images.
Still from “Biden hits the road to push COVID relief package.” Youtube. Associated Press. March 16, 2021.
Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter receive a visit from President Biden and Jill Biden at their home in Plains, Ga. Photo: Adam Schultz/The White House, via Associated Press.
I rest my c[h]ase. This was Twitter trending at 4:59 AM on May 14, 2021.
Today, the birth of a three-eyed calf was reported in Wales.
Kruze, Michael. “‘It’s Not the Dog’: What’s Really Behind the White House Dog’s Biting Problem.” Politico. April 5, 2021. <https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.politico.com/amp/news/magazine/2021/04/05/major-biden-dog-trainers-white-house-479030>