Here’s a panel from the big DC Comics event, Final Crisis, in which a fictional President of the United States laments his state of affairs. You see, a god-like alien, Darkseid, has begun reprogramming the minds of the Earth’s population, causing them to submit to utter subjugation.
In this scene, a man with the president (for some reason wearing a fedora in the 2000s), warns that Darkseid’s forces, brainwashed humans and superheroes called “justifiers,” are about to wipe them out.
The haggard president, dejectedly clutching a gun, says, “This can’t be happening. The scale of it. The speed of it. Not in my lifetime…not like this…”
Well, of course it happened quickly! It’s a superhero comic book crossover event with an antagonist whose home planet is literally called Apokolips! Darkseid doesn’t do gradual.
But there was something about this particular comic book armageddon scenario that struck a chord with me. Cosmic-level supervillains usually achieve their aims through overwhelming destruction and death. Palpatine will rule the galaxy with the might of his fleet and the power of the Dark Side of the Force. We will all become children of Thanos once he murders half of all life forms. Etcetera.
With Darkseid, however, while there’s plenty of death and destruction, his plan for intergalactic domination was to turn humanity into a hyper-materialist cult.
“Anti-Life justifies my ignorance!”
Okay, here’s a quick summary of this particular branch of the rather dizzying plot of Final Crisis: An evil prophet-type character, Libra, recruits supervillains to help him infect people’s minds with the “Anti-Life Equation,” a sort of “proof” that leads the person exposed to the equation to reject all the values they once held dear, and choose to serve Darkseid. But not just “serve” in the sense of bowing down before his greatness or what have you, but becoming willing cogs in a sort of empty-headed, ultra-fascist state.
(Here’s where I must point out that I provided the voice for Libra and a couple other characters in the audiobook version of Final Crisis. Cool, right?)
We get a taste of what’s coming when, in a very strange part of the story, Superman deals with various alternate-universe Supermans for reasons that are frankly too esoteric to explain here. (I find these Crisis-themed series very confusing.) One such is Ultraman, and he’s not a truth-and-justice kind of guy.
“We value material wealth above everything,” he says through gritted teeth to the nicer Superfellows. His declaration is a kind of foreshadow for what Darkseid is bringing to Earth. Here’s a taste of what life under Darkseid looks like:
“Increase production!” shouts a justifier to the brainwashed drones that had once been everyday folks. And then shit gets real.
“Work! Consume! Die!” he shouts. Whoa, I’m thinking. Darkseid is creating a consumerist dystopia! Which sounds pretty close to the world as it is anyway!
And then the kicker. The justifier shouts, “Judge others! Condemn the different! Exploit the weak!”
It’s here I’m thinking, okay, Darkseid just built a Republican dream world. It’s Trumpism from space.
Don’t think so? Look how a justifier reacts to finding a copy of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species:
“What disagrees with Darkseid is heresy.” The book is burned, and echoing what other justifiers have said at the commission of horrifying acts, “Anti-Life justifies my ignorance!”
Take away the space-gods, and the attitude is exactly what is demanded by the cult of Trumpism. The facts are only what the cult leader says they are. They can change moment to moment, at his whim. Nothing he does can be bad, because it’s done by him. Any crimes committed by others are justified if they are done in his name.
This is the position of the United States’ ruling faction right now. And like the fictional comic book president observed, it happened so quickly.
Attempting to rescue some folks from the devastation, and from becoming Anti-Life zombies, the hero Black Lightning says, “Darkseid is remaking the world in his image, using our technology, our people as building blocks.”
For about a generation, the advent of the internet and social media were seen as means to enlightenment. And then the bad guys figured out how to use that technology to bring out our worst selves, minute after minute. Now countless “dimensions” and “alternate realities” are mainlined to us by Facebook through our individually-optimized Anti-Life Equation Feed, and the resulting state of chaos and confusion is the perfect breeding ground for the lies, the ignorance, the disenfranchisement, the demonization, and the many other forms of supervillainy we are witnessing right now.
Trump and his cult are remaking the world in their image. Like Black Lightning says, “This won’t be over until each and every one of us chooses to resist.” That’s true for us, too. But Superman’s not coming.