Haisley and De’ontay Jones are ready to start a family. Then. . . They move to Florida. Horror ensues.
DEMOCRACY JONES is a science fiction-horror & dark humor audio drama podcast.
Listen to the Trailer for Democracy Jones Podcast below
Democracy Jones is a serial podcast. Begin at the Teaser (above), then Opening Crawl, then A1E1 – Haisley, and so on.
Show Description: A breakthrough technology for neural chips and continued political partisanship combine to create the most explosive day in American history, Friday the 13th of July, 2040. A day that would live in infamy as 7/13.
If a pregnant Haisley Jones can survive, the software’s simulations prophesies that she will galvanize a movement to overthrow General Schenk and bring democracy back to a post-apocalyptic America. contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Note:Back Circle Theory is an approach to analyzing and critically interpreting American culture and politics through a Structuralist and Poststructuralist lens. It is not purely influenced by political science, but includes it, along with sociological and historical modes of analysis.
Introduce The increased bending of truth in the United States toward ideological extremes is more than disturbing. It’s dangerous. Seemingly enemies, the far-left and the far-right have met at the back of the circle where anti-democratic and authoritarian behavior exists. This shared authoritarian psychological core is the true enemy of democracy, not the two dominant political binaries.
Define Back Circle Theory speculates American democracy will fall by the year 2040 if its citizenry does not embrace the traditional democratic norms of bipartisan compromise and invigorate the independence and legitimacy of its institutions. Taking this action is necessary to halt the trend of ideological bifurcation spreading throughout its culture and institutions. Not taking action will allow this cancerous trend to metastasize into polarized ideologies battling for control of the institutions, resulting in widespread distrust in them. This could lead, as it did during the Late Republic era of Ancient Rome, to normalized mob violence and end in a civil war or coup, removing democracy from the world’s most influential nation.
At a base level, to rely more on the back of the circle, where the extremes of both ideological spectrums meet, is to think with the back of the brain, or the basal ganglia and brainstem. This is the oldest, most primitive part where sexual drive, thirst, hunger, territorialism and procedural memory exists. In short, authoritarian behavior, or what can be described as tribalism. If we rely more on this part of the brain, we are likely to be violent, overtly sexual, predatorial or reactionary.
To rely more on the front of the circle is to think with the front of the brain, or the prefrontal cortex where reasoning, speech, and temporal organizational behavior exists. In short, to make more thoughtful, analytic and rational decisions.
In this way, Back Circle Theory argues against its namesake.
Ethnology It’s often been said that the best way to predict the future is to study the past. In this manner, we will utilize both retrospective and prospective ethnographic approaches in a cross-cultural comparison of the Late Republic era of Ancient Rome and modern American democracy, to forecast a high probability of a future outcome.
Although it is difficult to establish universal invariants in human societies separated by over two thousand years, or even during the same era, as abstract customs and values can’t be reduced to equations. Still, the exercise can be fruitful in collecting patterns of similarities as data and formulating structural correlations to augur human behavior within a representative democracy in crisis. As logical, rationalistic and abstract means were used by Sigmund Freud to heuristically interpret dreams, and Claude Lévi-Strauss similarly did concerning cross-cultural myths, may we also use the same hermeneutic means to find parallels in an effort to avoid the catastrophic effect the death of American democracy would have on the world.
American democracy and the Roman Republic have often been involved in comparative studies, and is a recurring theme. The Roman Republic served as a direct model of government for the framers of the US constitution. The writer of this essay asks, if the framers of the US Constitution looked to the Roman Republic when creating its democracy, why wouldn’t we engage in a comparative framework study of the fall of the Roman Republic to negotiate the difficulties we face today?
In this comparative study, which utilizes inductive reasoning to influence a conclusion, four contributing factors are sited to have a large impact on four American democratic institutions.
Similar The main similarities in this essay concerns the cultural bifurcation and dueling mandates that occurred during both the Late Republic era in Rome, and is currently emergent in American democracy. The Late Republic era is most often cited as beginning at the murder of Tiberius Gracchus in 133BCE and ending in 27BCE with the establishment of the Roman Empire. Why the Roman Republic fell is up for debate, but many historians would agree that it was a conglomeration of events, including cultural and political bifurcation. Most citizens were forced to choose a side, as often occurs in societies experiencing unrest and civil war. Because this bifurcation lasted multiple generations, loyalties changed over time, and the cultural bifurcation accelerated in fits and starts. Eventually, Romans longed for a single person to dictate policy in an attempt to halt the madness of the double-headed serpent that had spread its venom into the bodies of so many generations of Romans.
In the United States today, there are explicit clues to the Roman Republic comparison given to us by means of escalation. Demagogues cast doubt upon the electoral system and force changes in the law, which causes the opposition to doubt future elections. The citizenry rallies to either side and everyone is seen in the ally/enemy dichotomy. Base mobilization turns into mobs, which morphs into politically motivated violence etc. This escalation, fueled by binary opposition and high-stakes elections has been described by political scientist Lee Drutman as a two-party doom loop and “why the two-party system makes resolution of the present conflict improbable.”
Although Rome did not have the type of liberal-conservative binary that exists today in America, the division in the Roman Republic can be generally drawn along the lines of Optimates and Populares. But even these abstractions become troublesome when considering the loyalty of respective armies after the Marion Reforms, and became focused on the ambitious generals who paid them.
But what can be established is that both sides shared authoritarian behaviors during the political violence, civil wars and purges of the Late Republic era that led to the establishment of the dictatorship of Augustus and the advent of the Roman Empire.
Share Behaviors Examples of shared authoritarian behavior by the American right and left today, as well as ancient Rome during the Late Republic era, vary in degree depending on the side, and include demands for political conformity, rhetorical and dogmatic attacks, hyper-subjectivism, the use of group authority to coerce independent institutions into purging competing narratives, ideological rigidity, slander and personal attacks against perceived political enemies, undermining constitutional checks and balances and delegitimizing the political independence of its institutions, breaking of norms/codes of conduct and even laws as a means for political ends, corruption, social policing of language, gaslighting, purity tests, ideological discipline among member groups, advocation of censorship to stifle opposing ideas, absolutist leadership styles, etc.
In this climate, people who can hold two conflicting ideas in their head at the same time are branded as traitors to each respective side, or simply cast as belonging to the opposing side. Cool-headed, centrist, nonpartisans are attacked as if they are in the throes of a zero sum game. Yet, the line between these two sides is not black and white. In fact there is no line at all. It is more like a circle. And we need to populate the front of that circle as best we can with appeals to open-mindedness, idea labs, allowance for opposing views, freedom of speech, demand independence for our institutions, point out ideological rigidity, discourage personal attacks, encourage free thinking and utilize more dialectical method of debate in place of rhetoric and echo chambers.
It is not illegal to call for someone to be silenced, cancelled or to discredit others’ views, so what we are speaking of is more along the lines of cultural norms. The revolutionary democratic norms outlined in the US Constitution and in the long-unwritten social agreements of the Roman Republic, in fact. Those norms call for extensive checks and balances in order to halt authoritarian attitudes before they become too powerful. These norms allow for multiple views to debate ideas, then compromise for the greater good.
The Greco-Roman writer Polybius felt as though the Roman Republic had such exceptional checks on authoritarian accumulation, that he believed it had successfully overcome history’s disturbing trends of democratic decline and eventual fall into the societal security that dictatorship offered. Call it Roman exceptionalism.
After the Roman Republic fell, the Mediterranean world was thrown into centuries of emperors, dictatorships, monarchs and tyranny. If we continue to allow authoritarian behavior to ascend today in the United States, the entire world could suffer a new dark age.
It’s time for thoughtful people to point out corrosive, anti-democratic behaviors committed by both sides. We must imagine a world where opposing sides come together in the spirit of solving real world problems by finding the highest probabilities of objective truth via compromise and reasoned argumentation. And to exclude the populist demagoguery of appealing to an audience, via the recognition that popularity is, in this climate, a fallacy of relevance.
Contributing Factors There are a number of divisive factors that both sides in the Late Republic and American democracy share which contribute to the bifurcation of values and dueling mandates, including Postmodernism, Mimetic Desire, Rhetoric and Identity.
Postmodernism As a mode of sociological analysis, postmodernism critiques the notion of universal validity, and therefore provides a vehicle to criticize shared role models while emphasizing differences in American values. It’s also (in)famous for not offering viable solutions to problems, and therefore itself has been criticized for narcissistically categorizing others’ inconsistencies in place of some much-needed introspection. It’s been called a philosophy of negation. Current Postmodernist thought has a tendency toward the obsessive compulsive mind and when it finds a single speck of dust in the bathwater, it immediately throws the baby out with it.
Early in both the American and Ancient Roman societies there existed a shared acceptance of laws and norms, a collective sense of patriotism and civil responsibility, a uniting religion, and the stubborn belief that disagreements between competing ideologies need to be resolved via concessions from both sides.
In both the Late Republic and modern American democracy, these shared values degraded over time. And in their place, increased narcissistic behavior became emergent, which contributed to a sort of mitosis, or a bifurcation of values which become oppositional in nature in their respective attempts to assert dominance. The result is dueling echo chambers.
Postmodernism’s mode of critical analysis underscores disbelief, and argues that any belief can be deconstructed as to question its validity. Back Circle Theory argues that this narcissistic exercise in deconstruction emphasizes differences, instead of similarities, and therefore encourages tribalism and back circle thinking.
Mimetic Desire The innate human desire to be accepted by an in-group is illustrated by Rene Girard’s theory of mimetic desire, which states “people want what other people want.” To take this a bit further, Girard stated that a person desires what a role model desires, or believes in. The role models can be politicians, famous actors or even an older sibling or friend. The only real requirement is that the role model must have a perceived higher status.
But, without the traditional shared role models of the past, the American left and right have intensified a rivalry to elevate role models that represent their respective values, in place of elevating role models that can represent everyone. In response, opposing ideologies emerge.
All emerging role models are run through respective ideological purity tests and if accepted on one side, is often automatically rejected by the other. This intensifies the dueling echo chambers and increases oppositional behavior among the role models who fight each other for supremacy.
The Late Republic era is an example of where this dangerous double-headed serpent can lead (The rivalry between Marius and Sulla is a model for this argument in Democracy Jones Podcast, represented by Manzana and Schenk). Equating the two oppositional sides in a single nation where the entire citizenry was forced to choose between them, political disputes turned into political violence on the streets and mortally damaged the representational democracy with zero sum civil wars. If you were on the side that won, you inherited the spoils. If you landed on the side that lost, you forfeited your life.
American democracy got a taste of political mob violence on Jan. 6, 2021 during the attempted insurrection of the traditionally peaceful transfer of executive power in the capital city. Earlier, the opposing side’s countrywide protests and riots displayed cultural mob violence. The role of mimesis became paramount in that these two examples successfully hardened the two ideological oppositions, causing the populace to flock to one side or the other. More spectacles such as these will cause an escalation of violence to the detriment of American democracy.
Rhetoric Bertrand Russell pleaded for us to rely on facts when deciding what to believe in, and not to be “diverted, either by what you want to believe, or what you think could have beneficent social effects.” He argued that language is often loaded with signifiers that are persuasive-based in the notion of Emotive Conjugation, and that too often we are swept up by rhetorical aspects, ignoring the more reason-based decisions that we are capable of.
One of the most notable similarities between the Late Republic era of Ancient Rome and American democracy today is the reliance on rhetoric over reason in contributing to the intensification of cultural polemics/adversarial ideologies.
Rhetoric, in and of itself, is not inherently negative, as the ability to convince or persuade others can be used to teach inherently positive things. But rhetoric in echo chambers often cannot withstand rigorous investigation since its power base comes from the perceived wisdom of the ideology and its leaders. Therefore, the reliance on rhetoric to convince in a polemic atmosphere is a case where the emperor has no clothes, because if you’re an adherent of an ideology, then you don’t typically disagree with its tenets. And if this is the case, when tempers flare, who in the echo chamber will refuse when the populist ideologues order followers to commit violence against the opposing side?
Cicero was said to have been one of the most persuasive speakers of all time, yet he was unable to convince members of the opposing side (Marc Antony’s men) to allow him to live. Cicero lived during the Late Republic era when Rome had been split by years of infighting and consecutive civil wars. Despite having the reputation as being a great thinker and rhetorician, in reality Cicero was yet another narcissistic, partisan politician, albeit a talented one. Due to the times he lived in, he had no choice but to choose a side, but as a rhetorician during a divisive time, we need to recalibrate his reputation so as not to encourage divisiveness today.
All humans are susceptible to great speakers with a populist message, but in times of increasing partisanship, we need to rely more on facts, reason and empirical evidence to make better judgments, not dueling facts, persuasive logic and emotional appeals by influential people.
Identity It is well known that there is little to no scientific evidence of multiple human biological races. The only species humans are included in is the human race, which includes all humans. Race was borne out of ethnocentric stereotyping of an informal, taxonomic ranking system based on skin color. Primarily identifying with a specific race or sex or gender is to enhance differences among the human species.
The Romans of the Late Republic era had different group-based hierarchies and relied more on a social class system as opposed to our modern racial/sexual/gender gradations, but similarities of ethnocentric beliefs in group-based hierarchies can be compared through an ethnological lens. For a very long time, if you weren’t “Roman,” then you could not become an official citizen of Rome, and the ruling elites refused to budge on the matter until the highly destructive Social War during the Late Republic era forced their hand. Discrimination in the US threatens a similarly disingenuous ethnocentric divide. Let us avoid a similar social war on par with the mortal destruction that visited the people of Rome’s Republic.
The principle that inspired the civil rights and abolitionist movements was that all human beings are created equal. All the great religious and moral traditions in history have had a similar theme, which is that we are all the same. Race, gender, sex gradations, like Rome’s social class system, emphasizes differences and contrasts, instead of focusing on similarities, and therefore encourages tribalism. Race is a category system thrust upon groups of people who are not limited to a specific set of values, and who embody broad variances across a spectrum.
When postmodernist thought is multiplied by mimetic desire and rhetoric is weaponized to drive prevailing systems of hierarchy like social class or identity, they become contributing factors in politicizing important sites of independent power, and can delegitimize a society’s major democratic institutions.
Institutions The democratic institutions, for the purpose of defining America’s most influential and supposedly independent power structures, are Media/Social Media, Government, Education and Economy.
Media/Social Media The framers of the US Constitution intended the media to be an independent free press, but according to a January 2022 Pew Research Center report, Americans’ trust in the news media “has become disaggregated and divided” and that “people tend to go with sources of information that map with their point of view.”
For years Media outlets have been bought up by big businesses and the entertainment industry, altering journalistic goals from educating the citizenry to earning a profit. This has caused it to rely less on striving for objectivity and more toward biased reportage. Outlets have often been forced to choose a political side to survive in a market economy, causing some to act as if it were a platform for subjective activism.
The institution where Americans communicate the most, Social Media, incentivizes conflict, thereby empowering extreme ideas. It is a space that lends itself to political activism and appeals to base values. Mere anecdotes, straw man fallacies, pseudo-reasoning and all types of rhetorical argumentation against perceived enemies enjoy the light of day. Here, anonymity replaces accountability behind the virtual veil, encouraging dogmatism at the expense of sound logic.
Both the Media and Social Media, institutions of American communication, champion division, outrage and echo chambers and have an outsized influence on the information ecosystem due to its need to maintain engagement. To do so, derisive postmodernist argumentation is given precedent and all forms of rhetoric are used to persuade. Identity is harnessed as a tool for outrage and alienation. Mimetic desire is found in the funneling of privilege to influencers and viral content, thereby encouraging groupthink, tribalism and scapegoating. All of which is back circle thinking.
Government The political independence of the executive, judicial, and legislative branches is important in retaining legitimacy, a basic condition for the use of power by a legally constituted government. As the values of the government’s actors become increasingly politicized, legitimacy becomes a cancer that both sides compete against each other for a treatment. With emotional pleas, they deride their opponent as sabotaging the legitimate cancer treatment and do what they can to elect/appoint allies, including the breaking of traditional norms. The side that loses an election/appointment claims martyrdom, and narcissistically alleges the tyranny of the majority to delegitimize their treatment. This back and forth of both sides claiming the other’s treatment is illegitimate, at least during the Late Republic era, intensifies, enabling the cancer to metastasize until legitimacy itself dies.
Without general trust in a president’s administration, courts or lawmakers, chaos descends and a zero sum game can ensue. Officials running for election must travel with large contingents of loyal bodyguards who, as careerists, offer ways of resolving the conflict violently in their favor, tempting leaders to an end-justifies-the-means escalation. Whether by a preconceived coup and subsequent purges, or accidentally falling into a civil war, cynicism takes over where once, many years earlier, legitimacy reigned.
Current examples of dueling ideological actions taken to undermine legitimacy include gerrymandering, partisan nominations to independent branches, striking down of campaign finance laws, allowing the rich to have an outsized influence on policy and insider trading/corruption, changing of bipartisan norms like the filibuster to win a political battle, interruption of the peaceful transition of power and the reactionary protests/riots, etc.
Postmodernist thought critiques the notion of objective natural realities, such as a universally accepted legitimacy, and in this way does not take one side over the other, but afflicts both sides with subjective cynicism. Mimetic desire spreads the values of cynicism into both of the dueling ideologies. Rhetoric is used to entrench the oppositional value system, and identity, or identification with either of the two value systems, further divides people along partisan lines. Even as it appears both sides are fighting each other, the fight itself mortally damages the legitimacy of government.
Economy The 2014 Princeton/Northwestern study by Gilens & Page, which essentially claims the US economy is acting like a civil oligarchy where “the wealthiest citizens. . . dominate policy concerning crucial issues,” alludes to the classic historical precedent that occurred during the Late Republic era. Then, an oligarchy ascended that had a direct effect on the polarization of economic values. After the fall of Carthage and Corinth, prisoner-slaves were brought to Rome, who then displaced the traditionally powerful farming class. Slave labor quickly increased disparities in wealth in favor of the ruling class. This allowed the richest Romans to buy more property in an agriculture-based economy. The great wealth brought to Rome from its foreign conquests underscored the culture’s gross disparities in wealth and split the society into haves and have-nots, which defined their oppositional mandates.
The American economy is also showing great wealth disparities. Per a fourth quarter 2022 report from Statista, “68.2 percent of the total wealth in the United States was owned by the top 10 percent of earners. . . the lowest 50 percent of earners only owned three percent of the total wealth.”
Both the political binaries increasingly rely on big business donors for campaigns, and lobbyists for shaping policy. Big business has even outright bought media companies. All of these examples have a cumulatively corrupting effects. As the US continues to transition away from manufacturing, the southern, midwestern and Great Lakes regions have been hit hardest. And it was this group that voted in droves for a populist demagogue in 2016 to represent their unhappiness. The opposition hardened against the president, exasperating the bifurcation of values.
Identity has played a role in the oppositional values system due to a lack of economic opportunities for people of color, women and LGBTQ+. Damaging rhetoric via claims on the right of an emerging socialist welfare state, and claims on the left of unregulated/discriminatory capitalism. Postmodernist thought comes into play with its short-sighted demands from both sides and mimetic desire has a multiplying effect on this mentality. Rational thought concludes that mixing socialist and capitalist schools in economy is a viable option, though neither side argues for that. Diversions such as sports, social media and entertainment have distracted the population to the benefit of the wealthy, so volatility concerning the economy has mostly been averted, though this has the emergent quality to intensify quickly.
Education Child developmental psychologist Jean Piaget once said, “only education is capable of saving our societies from possible collapse.” This statement assumes political binaries must agree on how to educate its children and young adults.
Education has long been in decline in the United States and this trend has no resolution in sight. One side claims public education is a form of socialism and supports private charter and religious schools to replace them. The other side actively critiques American history and agitates for revisionism. K-12 grade teachers are not considered an important commodity in a market economy. Teachers unions, who support the left, are not nearly as powerful as the right claims, making a lightning rod of its leaders. This dichotomy effectively mutes any meaningful advances in educating children, without which citizens lack critical thinking in their formative years.
Higher education, also subjected to the market economy, is unaffordable for millions of Americans. Those that take out loans enter formidable debt for much of their working lives. According to a Council on Foreign Relations study, from 2006-2020, total student loan debt leap-frogged auto loans and credit card debt. Meanwhile, Americans who come from the top 10 percent earning families are courted by colleges and universities, enhancing the great divide pervading the country, though not necessarily along political lines.
Without a solid intellectual footing that a well-balanced education provides, citizens can’t easily recognize rhetorical devices and are susceptible to emotional pleas, pseudo-reasoning and celebrity endorsements. Lacking the confidence gained in critical thinking exercises, citizens look for safety in group-think populism enhanced by mimetic desire. Critical theories of identity have become a hot button issue that divides along political lines. As a philosophy of resistance against collective order, purpose and agreement, postmodernism exists in the institution of education like any other, that is to say that both sides critique the other without a prescription for agreement in sight.
Conclude Back Circle Theory concludes that the contributing factors of postmodernism, mimetic desire, rhetoric and identity in American institutions of Media/Social Media, Government, Education and Economy will allow the cancerous bifurcation of values to metastasize into the loss of those institutions’ independence and legitimacy, and has a high probability, similar to what happened during the Late Republic era of Ancient Rome, to lead to the continued bifurcation of political views in American democracy and will devolve into a social ally/enemy dichotomy as well as normalized political violence, and democracy will end in civil war or coup by the year 2040, unless the citizenry embraces the traditional democratic norms of bipartisan compromise through the utilization of the dialectical method.
Critique Some have argued Back Circle Theory is similar to Horseshoe Theory, which has mostly been debunked by political scientists.
An interesting argument against Back Circle Theory is that Political Science already provides answers to the very same questions of the bifurcation of values.
From the liberal perspective, Back Circle Theory is unfair due to its putting liberal thought on par with conservatives. Liberals argue Back Circle Theory should be weighted in their favor because the right is unethical and drives the negative aspects of the dynamic, the egregious partisanship of Trumpian politicians, the Jan. 6 insurrection attempt, breaking norms to stack the Supreme Court, general support of systemic racism, sexism and anti-LGBTQ+ and transgender policies.
From the conservative perspective, Back Circle Theory is unfair due its putting conservative thought on par with liberals. Conservatives argue Back Circle Theory should be weighted in their favor due to the egregious cancellation of free speech, ignoring of the troubling issues in southern/midwest/Great Lakes states and the liberal agenda of Hollywood which dominates American culture.
Response to Critique While there are similarities to Horseshoe Theory, Back Circle Theory is not a political theory. It has cognitive, sociological, anthropological and historical baselines that map behaviors and values, antecedent to politics, and therefore sees political stances as a result of collective behaviors and values.
Recent studies in Political Science have suggested a better way of dealing with the issue of political polarization and agrees that it will erode the democratic traditions of the United States if left unchecked. This method includes the empowerment of third parties, such as a the Independent, Green, Workers or Libertarian parties to undermine the zero-sum nature of binary partisan conflict. Back Circle Theory would support this prescription, but retains reservations that such a thing will be supported en masse in a political complex that is fixated by ideological antagonism.
If we are to agree that there is no perfect objective reality, there can also be no perfect balance of authoritarian behavior displayed by respective sides. As Jacques Derrida pointed out, when it comes to binary opposites, “one of the two terms governs the other.” Or, one side usually has dominance over the other. Within the specific power dynamic of politics, it would appear right-leaning politicians display more authoritarian behaviors than left-leaning. Within the specific power dynamic of cultural values, however, the left exercises its power in places such as the massively influential entertainment industry, social media/media, academia, the workplace etc. left-leaning actors display more authoritarian behaviors than right-leaning actors when it comes to dictating norms, which has the effect of influencing policy. The solipsism of the political right, therefore, is similar to the solipsism of the cultural left.
As the left has more cultural authority, considerable criticism has been pointed at Back Circle Theory on social media platforms claiming that it “holds water for the right” simply by comparing them together. To be clear, the types of authoritarian behavior displayed are also different. In an important sociological study called Clarifying the Nature of Left-Wing Authoritarian Behavior, it’s authors concluded that although the left and right share some authoritarian behaviors, “relative to rightwing authoritarians, leftwing authoritarians were lower in dogmatism and cognitive rigidity, higher in negative emotionality, and expressed stronger support for a political system with substantial centralized state control. Our results also indicate that LWA powerfully predicts behavioral aggression and is strongly correlated with participation in political violence.”
All theories are falsifiable in some minute form or other as theories cannot withstand the scrutiny of empirical evidence, nor the postmodernist critique. Many theories choose one side (left or right) over another, but Back Circle Theory critiques both of the dominant value systems as having similar anti-democratic, authoritarian behaviors. Back Circle Theory attempts to be as objective as possible. But as postmodernists point out, there is no way to be perfectly objective. Yet Back Circle Theory refuses to accept subjectivism as an answer. Instead, it attempts to find the highest probabilities of objective truth.
In the spirit of the dialectical method, Back Circle Theory believes that through reasoned argumentation, we can work together to find the highest probabilities of truth, and therefore heuristically accepts all criticism as a form of crowdsourcing the highest probabilities of objective truth. Even when the criticism is not in good faith, sometimes there are valuable truths to be gleaned to improve Back Circle Theory.
Eamon Loingsigh for criticism or comments, send email to: email@example.com
Ethos is something I will not bother you with. I have a degree in journalism, have worked in tech and have written some novels and podcasts. Like many journalists, I know a little about a lot, but I’m a master of nothing. ~Eamon
By Sarah Millstein for Podcast Review, A Los Angeles Review of Books Channel
Fans of Science Fiction great William Gibson, and TV series like The Walking Dead are experiencing something like a resurgence in Democracy Jones Podcast, a science fiction-horror audio drama podcast by author Eamon Loingsigh.
First released on Halloween 2021, Democracy Jones has gained a broad audience since then. With a big universe, quality sound design and bite-sized 20-minute episodes, Democracy Jones focuses on character-driven jump scares and dark humor that pushes the boundaries.
Its Hans Zimmer-esque soundtrack along with the theme of neural chip software technology in a near-future USA where the fringes have taken control of both political parties, reminds listeners that this is classic speculative fiction in the vein of Margaret Atwood, but with the type of deadpan humor found in the works of Kurt Vonnegut. Each episode kicks off with spacious music and Loingsigh’s quirky reminder that this audio drama is to be taken with a grain of salt evidenced by its subtitle: “Adventures in Late Phase American Democracy.”
“A brilliant fiction podcast that mixes hard realism with satire. Voltaire meets Mad Max!”
This serial drama starts on the day a rightwing military coup takes place and follows each of the characters’ morning and afternoon as rumors begin to spread about a possible violent coup d’etat. The suspense builds as the characters find out more until they are physically confronted in their small town of Ellington, Florida with the grim reality that their lives will be forever altered.
As the narrator describes, 7/13 will live in infamy. 7/13 being a reference to Friday July 13, 2040, the date the military coup overthrows American democracy and General Alexander Schenk is named “Consul in the Interim,” which essentially means he appointed himself to step in as a dictator in order guide the country back to “democracy,” though we have a sneaking feeling democracy will forever be placed between quotation marks in the US of A.
The production quality of Democracy Jones is superb. The show cuts no corners in underscoring the emotional impact the characters feel through the lush and disturbing soundtrack. And there are no false alarms either. When the music makes you feel as though you are on pins and needles, it’s only a matter of time before the entire scene falls apart and characters are murdered, executed or die during friendly fire. Anything goes in this audio drama, which can trigger some. The story follows six POV characters (3 female, 3 male) as if we are on their shoulder, watching events, similar to the character perspective seen in A Song of Ice and Fire.
Haisley Jones, a mixed race woman in her 20s, is the hero, though she does not want to be. Similar to Jon Snow’s humility and unwillingness to accept his fate, Haisley repeats herself multiple times in saying, “I just want to be normal.” Since she is pregnant, we can understand why. But she has been chosen, due to the software in her neural chip, which is inauspiciously called “Rhetoric.” But if military coups have no regard for the safety of innocent children and pregnant women in real life, why should they in art? Everything is a threat to all characters in this world.
Haisley’s husband De’ontay is Black, but speaks a little bit like Steve Urkel. He wants to protect Haisley, but can’t as he is targeted by the MAGA-styled followers of General Schenk, known as BATAs. They want him dead not only for being Black but because he was involved in The Crowned, a leftwing group that organized guerrilla-type protest tactics in the years before the coup. Unfortunately he can’t help Haisley as he is forced to run for his life from Ellington and into the Everglades, where a hundred other people from his upscale neighborhood ran. Captain Dick, Ellington’s former Chief of Police, is a war veteran and BATA follower of General Schenk who is named “Magistrate” of the township after the coup. Captain Dick provides unlimited opportunities to be both inappropriate and hilarious, similar to Negan in TWD.
Abra is a sweet five year-old Jewish girl who, by the end of season 1, has already seen too much death and whose beliefs become sadly wayward afterward. Zeke is a redneck BATA who killed Abra’s father and whose beliefs are challenged by prevailing BATA mentality.
Sabina Xu Manzana was the (very!) liberal President of the United States who was overthrown. Hers is a harrowing story and currently she is floating somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean after the coup.
Some listeners may find the topic triggering, but Loingsigh does a great job in evening the criticism and spreads it out among both liberals and conservatives. In fact, that’s the main point of the series. Per the author, the story was inspired by the fall of the Roman Republic before it turned into an Empire. Democracy Jones is more of a warning than it is pure entertainment. It takes two to tango, but we still have time to repair the deep partisanship that pervades American politics today. And as Loingsigh says in the tagline for Democracy Jones Podcast, “It’s not too late.”
Description: In this bonus episode we explore some of the foundational principles behind Democracy Jones Podcast. In particular, two books that subtly compare the Late Republic era of Rome to American politics today: Mike Duncan’s The Storm Before the Storm and in this episode, a review of Edward J. Watts’ Mortal Republic in Smithsonian Magazine.
A Simulation Dream, or the teaser for Democracy Jones Podcast has been remixed. And WOW! What a difference! This episode was the very first to be released, and the track levels, as well as the overall quality of the recording and voiceover, was no longer up to the improved standards of the show.
You can find A Simulation Dream here:
Or you can listen on your favorite podcatcher such as Spotify or Apple
Episode Description: “Rhetoric,” the name of the software in Haisley Jones’ neural chip, is cycling through millions of simulations which appear in her dreams as a prophecy of her impending death on Alligator Alley, six days from 7/13/2040. But what does that mean?
Haisley Jones is a hero. But not the chest-out, I’m a bad-ass type hero. She doesn’t want to be a hero at all, actually. She just wants to be normal. You see, Haisley Jones grew up desperately poor in Florida where a girl of mixed race is invisible.
Born Haisley Barnes in 2013, she never knew her mother and grew up in a rundown apartment complex called Pinebrook, commonly known as “Crimebrook” in Ellington, Florida.
At 17, Haisley was arrested for the murder of her father, Lt. Barnes, a local police officer. According to reports, she stabbed him to death and dumped his body in the Everglades. Out there in the swamps, a wake of turkey vultures devoured him. All that was left of him was his Ellington PD badge.
The local newspapers called her a cop killer and a kin killer. There never was an investigation as to why she killed her father. Captain Dick, Lt. Barnes’ partner, wanted no part of an investigation.
Sentenced to life in prison, Haisley accepted a plea deal. Per the terms, she became a CP Grunt, or a Conscripted Prisoner.
Trained at Parris Island to become a Marine, she saw combat in the Seoul War (2030-2033) where CP Grunts were thrown into suicide and diversionary missions.
To avoid being redeployed, Haisley committed suicide while on leave.
Or so she thought. She woke up in a white room as a man with a salt and pepper afro walked out.
Little did she know, Dr. Owusu had brought her back to life when he installed a neural chip in her brain. The software in the neural chip was called Rhetoric, a banned technology due to the great danger caused by misuse. Often described as a thousand times stronger than any thermonuclear weapon, Rhetoric supposedly died with its creator. Other than Haisley, there is only one person has Rhetoric, the five star military general, Alexander Schenk.
Alive again, Haisley chose not go back to Ellington. Instead, she moved to New York City. There, she connected with De’ontay Jones, a member of The Crowned, a militant Black nationalist group made up mostly of college sororities and fraternities.
By 2040, Haisley and De’ontay are ready to start a family. Then. . . They move to Florida. Horror ensues.
Not all heroes are confident. Haisley Jones, in fact, is one of the most humble person you’ll ever meet.
Which makes her the type of hero America now desperately needs.