Lombardi Webs, Rhizomes, & Association Fallacy
Parasocial interactions, the internet as a mirror, and none of it being real.
Mark Lombardi (1951 - 2000) was an American artist known for his conspiracy webs and “degree by influence” diagrams. Lombardi was an intellectual, archivist, librarian, researcher, and journalist in addition to his artistic “webs” on display.
In early 2000, Lombardi bolted his apartment and hung himself. He showed signs of paranoia and deep anxiety around the connections and knowledge he knew about. Like the many conspiracies around Jeffery Epstein, Lombardi knew too much and only wanted to enlighten the public on how intricate connections are among those who control us.
Thus we too can make “Lombardi webs” around those who are “friends” or “mutuals” on any social media platform, from Facebook to Twitter. This is where “guilt by association” comes in.
Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari coined the term “rhizome” in their work, A Thousand Plateaus (1980), to describe a nonlinear network that can connect to any point, and vice versa. It’s exactly like the rhizome roots found in a plant, growing in any direction and tangling within the ground. And like in a political “intersectionality,” many values within the network relate to the same egalitarian cause. If one bubble knows this bubble, obviously both bubbles have similar interests.
Take, for example, this formula:
A is a B
A is also a C
Therefore, all Bs are Cs
“B” is just as guilty of the same cause as “C,” in that “A” has the same association with it.
This is exactly what Lombardi is also projecting in his web. Rather than a vertical hierarchy, rhizomes make a connection to a horizontal anti-hierarchy. Egalitarianism, or the pursuit of extreme equality, is the main tenet of epistemology according to rhizome theory.
Now imagine the internet. It connects everyone through websites and internet accounts. A hyperlink can take us to another site. We can also look at an individual’s HTTP cookie memory and track down exactly what websites the user reads and associates with. Deleuze & Guattari thought this understanding of epistemology could liberate us into understanding how knowledge is created, while Lombardi knew all too well that this would lead to paranoia and secret truth hidden from us. The internet presents us both with the truth about social connections and social control.
The internet is like a mirror. Our projection bounces off a “mirror” and will show an image of whatever is in front of it. What we search and consume on the internet is who we are as a user. Phishing is allowed in advertisement agencies, and through social engineering algorithms, corporations show us products and sites the phishing machines think we would like.
Looking at the latest Nintendo game? Here are access links to users, sites, products, and desires related to the search interest in “Nintendo.”
So is the internet even real? No, it’s not. The internet is a tool and a virtual dream. The internet is a series of thoughts, images, and sensations occurring in the user’s mind, exactly like in sleep. We may be writing digital letters to one another, but we never meet each other in person, and rather see videos of us online, of fake avatars and virtual realities. The internet is rather a cooperative dream, where users take turns writing urban legends, extending the story through involuntary, automative work, and like artificial intelligence, constructing a fake reality, or simulation, that never happened. It’s the same transmission chain experiments found in Dennis Cooper’s novel, The Sluts. The whispers morph into a horror story of its own.
The internet constructs a parasocial relationship, a relationship experienced by the user in their mediated “encounters,” or willing suspension of disbelief and non-interactive consumption, with the “performers.” Viewers or listeners come to consider media personalities as “friends,” despite having no or limited interactions with them (and if limited, that means sending emails or direct chat with the idol). It is an illusory experience, such that media audiences interact with personas as if they are engaged in a reciprocal relationship with them. This itself, is a dream.
What is reported on Kiwi Farms, Encyclopedia Dramatic, and random threads is nothing but urban legends and the speculations of the lonely. Together, they create forums of possible outcomes, of rumors, and morphing truths. They say all publicity is good publicity, and to some extent, this is true. The state has a blacklist of people they want to damage and destroy by calling them “racist” and so forth. But on a smaller level, confusion is abrupt, and linked with ironic to deliberate troll culture.
Comedian Sam Hyde can go viral if his fans, or himself, create a hoax that he is behind a domestic terror act while gaining free publicity on national news. However, Terry A. Davis, an isolated and authentic schizophrenic, is only acknowledged because of his queer character. Davis is an outsider, and what is said about him is constructed by rumors and hearsay, never representing himself. Davis is celebrated for his eccentric personality, but many have never met him in person, his existence and popularity were promoted by his contributions on the internet, as he wrote digital letters and created virtual art, while the anonymous fan club developed myths around him. Hyde is constructed, while Davis is authentic.
This itself is a paradox. The internet is a tool used for advertising, but at the same time, a virtual reality echo chamber. Some need the internet because nothing else is going on in their own lives, and the internet gives them purpose and meaning. In a post-information age and a rise of transhumanist values, the internet is a mandatory technology to help realize and advocate a transhumanist and free reality. People escape into their own niche internet spaces and enforce it, as real. Could Sam Hyde and Terry A. Davis exist without the Internet? My knowledge of them was through the internet and it’s rhizome connections.
In addition, does that make Sam Hyde look schizophrenic the same way Davis looks? And was there a bouncing influence between the two? What happens if Hyde appears on a podcast with Nick Fuentes? Does that make him alt-right? And if Davis was alive, would he shake hands with Hyde, making him alt-right as well? We go back to the association fallacy because of the technology of the internet.
If I “saw” Matthew Heimbach attend a communist event online, does that mean the communist event advocates Nazism? What is phished back at me acts like an operant conditioning chamber, where if I press a green button, I get food, and if I press the red button, I get an electric shock. I want to press the green button for my own biases and truths that I want to live. And this is exactly how the state uses the internet to socially control people through isolated subcultures and petty niches.
The Anti-Fascist Action relies on the Lombardi web, rhizomes, and guilt by association to seek out and blacklist enemies, opponents, and outsiders from their social clubs. They even go so far as to approach them in person and accuse them of crimes they have not done. And this isn’t just Antifa, it’s anyone who believes in their reality brought up by glittering images and animations, scrolling on the computer or smartphone. Those who are against pornography are not so much against the act of masturbation, but rather against the content and unethical imagery of pornography. As much as liberalism advocates the ideal that we are all free and can restrain our actions, we end up being too addicted to the internet because of its highly addictive interface and content.
It is rational to assume someone has voice-chatted, written, and replied to another suspicious user on the internet. But have they ever interacted in person? How often do they meet? Or, have they ever met?
Many internet users tend to “know someone for a long time,” where they are confused about writing digital letters as a relationship, and never once have met in person. Therefore, the relationship is indeed, fake, and cannot uphold any merit. They are “penpals,” but ultimately strangers. This is a parasocial relationship.
It is a misconception to know someone on the internet. I have been on YTMND since 2009, and have only met one YTMND user who used to write to me, in person, in 2022. I have never met the person again. For more than a decade, this user constructed a reality around me, as if they knew me as their next-door neighbor. Other examples include meeting internet fans and associates in person after lengthy conversions, and then only a month later, getting into petty drama and fighting as if we fought in person. Now they don’t want to see me again in person because I said or wrote something online. This walks a fine line between what is real, and what is fake.
The internet is fake, and like in Cooper’s The Sluts, it often appeals to the most mentally ill, autistic, retarded, and dysfunctional, simply because they don’t have anywhere to go in real life. However, this does not stop us from understanding what is queer culture, and what is the importance of cultural anthropology and subculture. The mentally ill construct a jerk circle together, and contribute to a mythology around the circle and its scapegoat. None of these mentally ill people will ever meet in person and will enjoy the confines of the myth as their only hobby.
We are being socially controlled at this very moment. And Mark Lombardi knew of this reality. Along with Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, they were only trying to argue that everything is indeed, a small world, while power works with virtual connections. LinkedIn, a business and employee-focused social media platform, discriminates and distorts employee connections through a fake “friend” list to entice white-collar managerial businesses that could hire the users. A lot of it is fake, and nothing but a weeding process. Internet markets work the same and rely on model podcasters and celebrities to dictate the interest of their isolated fan base.
What is true, is that the online figure grifts for money and exploits the isolated. Having an ego is normal for Twitter users who have 5,000 followers and a podcast. A fever dream happens. Ask if there is such a physical movement called a “dissident right,” or a genre called “cottagecore,” or rather, just figments of the imagination in some collaborative fan fiction, like writing a creepypasta. The Unite The Right protest in 2017 relied on isolated internet users, and once together, all hell broke loose.
The internet is a mirror of us, and through phishing rhizomes, creates a parasocial relationship. How are we supposed to create a cultural revolution after the information age? We are nothing but consumers being attracted to subjective tastes through mimetic desires and fads. None of it has an authentic base and acts like a Christian religion that requires constant repentance.
Aren’t we all just products of the system?