HYPERNORMALISATION (Confusion, Reductio Ad Absurdum, Existential Truth, Nihilism)


An effective strategy for evading the need to act – or even commit to a solid determination – which might expose error or mistruth or failure by real world test. The REDUCTIO AD ABSURDUM takes a circumstance or question, winnows it down to a useful binary point of ideological dichotomy then applies what looks like a firm, strident yes/no that answers the binary in a way that’s consistent with the ideology. The fact it’s an unrealistic impossibly simple binary no longer representative of real-world use case is the perfect REDUCTIO AD ABSURDUM since the answer can be absolute but the commitment to honour it meaningless as it’ll never face the artificial dichotomy in reality.

Libertarian smoke and mirrors is an exemplar of REDUCTIO AD ABSURDUM e.g. individual rights are sacrosanct no matter the details. Sounds great. Occupies a moral and political high ground. Appears to answer any contest of personal freedom threatened by authoritarian power. But what real-world situation does it actually resolve? Enforcing breach of contract? Arrest for criminal acts? Prevention of violent intrusion on a community’s safety? Trial by jury of powers? Evasion of community taxes? Actions that lead to a sequence ending in harm to others but indirectly (delayed consequence), the list cases are myriad.


Concept word borrowed from Alexei Yurchak’s 2006 book ‘Everything was Forever Until it was No More: The Last Soviet Generation’, the book describes a strange world where fakeness is both obvious to the people yet also the primary organizing social force in the absence of anything authentic.


To make normal and therefore acceptable a state of confusion as the individual is bombarded by too much information – too many angles – too many stories (fake or otherwise) – there isn’t enough time in the day to winnow the truth from the irrelevant. This creates a state of confusion which, if it continues for long enough, forces the individual to give up trying to sort truth from falsehood – if only to stay sane. In the hypernormalisation, once the individual has given up trying to know facts from fiction he/she is susceptible to surrendering to anyone with a clear, unequivocal message. This susceptibility is exploited by populists, dictators, and snake oil salesmen.

Yurchak argues that everyone knew the system was failing, but as no one could imagine any alternative to the status quo, politicians and citizens were resigned to maintaining a pretence of a functioning society. Over time, this delusion became a self-fulfilling prophecy and the “fakeness” was accepted by everyone as real, an effect that Yurchak termed hypernormalisation.Adam Curtis

Hypernormalisation is a retreat from complexity and is linked to the idea that politics and specific politicians can’t really change the world for the better and so stopped trying, preferring instead to manage peoples in the interests of large corporate power. People are complicit in this, that they can see this yet do nothing about. As predicted by Yurchak.

Hypernormalisation is both in effect and well-established. It presents the fake, oversimplified narrative favored by the politicians and then undermines these with reference to facts and alternate views which place these ideas into the wider context of global power.