The extraordinary life and ideas of DC Barker
An uncanny journey across philosophy, psychology and Geotrauma
Daniel Charles Barker (aka DC Barker) worked as a professor of Anorganic Semiotics at Kingsport College, Miskatonic Virtual University (MVU) from 1992 to 2000. His intellectual achievements involve polymathic engagement across multiple sciences and academic disciplines. He is currently working as a psychotherapist and as an independent scholar researching thermosemiotics and comparative complexity.
Disclaimer: The DC Barker (tic) - 4Q248 on Twitter - is not necessarily the DC Barker one encounters in the texts of the CCRU (Cybernetic Culture Research Unit), or in Thomas Moynihan's Spinal Catastrophism. In fact, he - or it - may not even exist. It's another mask occupied by a force leaving marks on the surface of the Earth.
Growing up in Lovecraft Country
Barker has a complex upbringing and geographically dispersed childhood which to some extent has formed his view on life. I wanted to find out if there were any particular events in his life that got him interested in psychology, philosophy and “weirdness”.
– The short answer is that I grew up in “the Miskatonic area”, known from Lovecraft’s stories. The long answer is that I don’t like to talk about where I grew up, or where I live. I've moved around the United States, traveled abroad to Europe, Asia and elsewhere and learned a lot from all of these places. My dodging of the question is in part because I try to stay relatively anonymous online to protect my patients, and partly because culturally speaking my upbringing amounts to not much more than a boring middle-class story, Barker reports telephatically.
His interest in psychology, philosophy and the weird started with the psychology books his father kept around the house since he was a kid.
– My father was a patient of many different therapists, and I would say none of them really helped him be a better person, or father. So, I think being exposed to the culture of therapy in an abstract sense, and the concrete physical existence of psychology books guided me in that direction. In fact, some of my earliest memories of my father are him trying out psychological tests on me, like the delayed gratification marshmallow test and others.
– I think my dad was probably schizoaffective, if we want to use these kinds of arbitrary and ethereal diagnostic categories, and the consequence of that was him having a limited ability to connect emotionally to me and a lack of being able to not filter everything through his own narrow experience. This meant much of the interaction was strongly intellectual, couched in conceptual language and experience-distant, which I think was the start of my philosophical interest. I'm a bit schizoid myself having difficulty attaching to others, integrating feelings and so on. It's no surprise that in undergrad I double majored in developmental psychology and philosophy where my teachers for both majors were excellent and guided me further down these paths.
He points to the adage in psychotherapy that many get into the discipline of psychology to solve their own problems under the guise of solving other’s.
– Perhaps, not unlike Nietzsche would argue, philosophy and psychology were ways I attempted to understand myself due to feeling misunderstood or alone most of my life.
Involvements with the CCRU
Barker has an exciting background ranging from MVU and the infamous CCRU. In his Hyperstitional Therapeutics essay in the Plutonics Journal he delves into the thread from MVU – Miskatonic, the 'shadow' university of MIT, to the CCRU.
– The thread, which I write about in my upcoming CCRU E-Book, is a cabal of child-blood-drinking satanic techies who masquerade as philanthropists. There's a thread that runs through British Royalty, The Clintons, Kevin Spacey, Jeffrey Epstein, Richard Stallman, Marvin Minsky and others. It's somewhat conspiratorial, but the CCRU (I was a CCRU Meat Puppet) does a good job of stringing together cultural connections in a paranoid fashion while doing away with the despotic, over-coding Big Daddy - the real big bad guy that's under all the masks in Scooby Doo. Per Nietzsche and his critique of naive realism, the mask is itself a layer reality.
The evolution of the concept of Geotrauma
Central to the philosophy developed by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari is the idea of Geotrauma. Ideas that are taken further with Barker, Thomas Moynihan’s Spinal Catastrophism, Robin Mackay and others.
– For me Geotrauma is the idea that the earth and its impersonal, inorganic tensions shaped and selected for organic life that eventually led to human life. The human body is the product of inorganic forces and our 'instincts' or 'drives' are those inhuman and geological forces caught, or territorialized, in an organic body which is basically a meat-suit insulation and safety device for those forces.
– Those forces, Freud's Id, conflict with the safety-drive of the meat-security-apparatus, Freud’s Ego and Super-Ego. If you mix evolutionary theory and Freudian psychodynamics with Nietzschean nihilism you get Geotrauma.
Do you consider yourself to be a part of a psychological or philosophical tradition?
– I used to think I was, but over the past few years I realized the “philosophers” I like are actually “anti-philosophers” or “wanna-be” scientists. Nietzsche and Freud, and most of the psychoanalysts who follow him whom I like, in essence claim that your most hallowed philosophy or religion, even the Royal science, are in some form mostly about “cope”. They are the product of conflicts, weaknesses, or the wish to express a strength. This is “anti-philosophy”, though I'm sure more educated philosophers have a better definition.
– Even Nick Land is more of an “anti-philosopher”. Meanwhile, Kant, Whitehead and others are scientists to some degree. Kant comes from a time where German Idealism or Naturphilosophie was essentially inseparable from, or simply was, science (just as Aristotle was a scientist in his own right). I think Kuhn makes a similar argument, but I can't recall. Additionally, Freud is not a psychologist. He makes it clear that psychoanalysis is a meta-model that pulls from all fields. Contemporary psychoanalysis is more of a heuristic hermeneutic than a science. Though Nietzsche did call himself a psychologist again and again.
If philosophy is critique - what is the essence of your critique?
– I'm always tempted to say “everything is just...”, but nothing turns off the reader like a reductive phrase such as this one! Everything? Just? Walter Kauffman in his three-volume series on Goethe, Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Buber, Freud, Adler and Jung, zings Jung for constantly using that kind of rhetoric.
– But anyways - I tend to want to answer this question with 'it's all just cope.' The critique is that the meat-bag-security-apparatus I mentioned above tends towards projecting or smoothing over uncomfortable feedback that would allow us to learn and be in better contact with whatever it is we call reality, and that this gets us into trouble all the time.
“The critique is that your sound arguments don't alter the world, but libidinal flows do.“
– In experience-near language, relationships with both emotional and intellectual connections that allow for space to disagree yet still co-exist. See how even I can't escape my own cope – which is clearly indicative of the relationship with my father.
Barkers thoughts on Nick Land
Reza Negerastani and others are distancing themselves from Nick Land due to what they consider fascist undercurrents in his writings and tweets.
Why do you think the alt-right is fascinated by Land and what is your take on his writings?
– I think his presence on twitter is simply not something I would endorse for myself, for my patients, for my loved ones, or for my kids (when I eventually have them), but I don't think it's fascist in the way I understand the term.
– I understand fascism as being tied up with grand gestures of symbolic or literal unity, the need to control others, to make them submit to one rule, to have a nation state tied to some abstract empty signifier. I think much of Land's politics is about disintegration, fragmentation, multiplicity and “exiting”, instead of endlessly debating or killing each other. He talks about this in his essay Making it with Death. I talk about it again in my blog Right Wing Leninism Doesn't Make it with Death. This is a thread that runs through “old” Land and “new” Land.
– With that said, I don't care for his twitter presence, or his right-wing stuff. I like Thirst for Annihilation, CCRU Collected Texts, his work that shows up in Fanged Noumena, his Templexity text and horror texts you can buy on Amazon, some of his horror and blogs from Xenosystems and his new Substack, some of his essays on Jacobite, but I don't care for his twitter-feed right-wing stuff. I'm not really into politics at all.
– That's actually one thing I like about Land. In his work on patchwork I think one can extract an interesting non-political project that gets away from all the right-left, political violence and hatred. In this sense, my interpretation of patchwork is a non-violent path to freedom where peoples who want to cooperate break off into their own subgroups and interact with other subgroups based on mutually beneficial feedback mechanisms.
“I'm not an activist anymore, nor a political theorist, so I can't tell you how we get that, nor promise you this as a future, but I can claim it's latent in the material.”
– I've been called a disaffected and closeted communist, so maybe this is just that part of me rearing its head, I don't know. To be brief, what's interesting about him is that he doesn't care about playing the academic game, and he doesn't care about himself really. I tried to ask him some questions on Twitter once in the DMs and he responded to me “psycho biography is boring”. Built into his own anti or (g)non-philosophy is the notion that “Nick Land”' is just a meat-vessel for Outside (Geotraumatic) forces. I think his short story ”A Dirty Joke” captures that. On a practical level I don't think this excuses all the things we might not like about him, but it is indicative of a kind of performative attempt at “doing” philosophy rather than thinking it within the bounds of academia.
– As far as what the alt-right likes about him: While doing some research I once stumbled upon an alt-right blog that called him a traitor for being married to a Jewish woman and living in China. Land and that popular neo-Nazi disagree on mostly everything (I believe they talked on Kantbot's podcast once).
– I think a lot of the Pepe-type esoteric right-wingers follow him on Twitter, but I think just as many left-wing trans people and apolitical weirdos like me do as well. This isn't to downplay the fact that portions of the alt-right likely do like him, but I think if that's true, the reasons are obvious: he's anti-democratic, endorses scientific racism and IQ-science. These are the most boring aspects of Land, and the ones I pay the least attention to.
Current and future projects
Can you give an “executive summary” of your recent PhD in psychoanalysis?
– Firstly, it’s about helpful learning about myself that improved my relationships, helped me excel at my job, and feel better in many ways in my life. Secondly, I slowly realizing that drinking the Kool aid can only give you so much of that first part, the rest you need to do on your own, which means jettisoning psychoanalysis like they do with used-up parts in a spaceship launch.
What is your next project?
– I put my two e-books on hold and have slowly realize my CCRU e-book is mostly stupid, and it's wrong for me to charge money for it on Patreon. I also realize my e-book critiquing left-melancholia from a psychoanalytic-accelerationist hybrid lens will be poorly received by both the former and the latter, and that ultimately it is an overly negative text that will not add anything positive to the discourse. In other words, it's a selfish text that is more about my own frustrations with politics than it is helping others out of that hole. Until I find ways to improve these texts, they will sit on my computer. I think my next project will be a section of my blog where I explore various genres of music.
Several publications define the “new” philosophical landscape that Barker explores.
– Urbanomic and Semiotext(e) are my favorites. As far as what role they play - who knows. Semiotext(e) has let me down recently, but Urbanomic provides a good blend of humor, nihilism, academic rigor, aesthetic wankery, and non-cringe humanism; a blend much appreciated.
Thoughts on future technologies
What do you think will be the most influential and radical technologies in the coming 20 years?
– Fake tits, fake meat and Deepfakes, audio and visual alike, are scary. If culture is over-inundated with hyperreal simulations such as these, identity will become nearly unverifiable. Perhaps blockchain and its time-stamp technology will become the only manner of verifying yourself. As far as the other two - the porn industry and the commercial food industry run your life more than you think.
The Doors of Perception
What role do you thinks psychedelic drugs have played in the evolution of psychology and philosophy and what do you think we can learn from psychedelic experiences?
– This is a great question which I have a book half-written on. I'll offer a few breadcrumbs: Richard Alpert, Tim Leary, Harvard, the CIA, Canada and Beyond the Black Rainbow.
Which three living or dead thinkers would you like to spend a week with and what questions would you ask them?
– Friedrich Nietzsche, Félix Guattari and Moses Maimonides. I'd ask Nietzche boring questions like what his favorite color is, what smells he enjoys and what food he despises the most. These are appropriate questions for him. Perhaps we wouldn't even talk and just take a walk or sit in silence together, Barker whisper conclusively.