The American Caesar was born on August 13, 2010.
His name is not important. Not very many people remember it anymore. He is Caesar now, and that is name enough for anyone.
It is strange, no? That one man's name should echo down so many centuries, that kings of other peoples should name themselves after him (Qaisar, Kaiser, Tsar), that even now we still shiver slightly at the sound of the name of the second Roman who marched on Rome...
He was not a very remarkable child. He was well-formed, active, exploratory, not very academic, not particularly hard-working, but reasonably clever, and sometimes quite funny. He liked to daydream.
Caesar's family had been wealthy, but was now merely rich. (This is why he has that disregard for money that comes from never needing to worry about it - other things matter more.) They occupied a respected place in the society of their local city, but for what they had once been, rather than what they were now.
When he was 10, the world fell apart. A new illness spread through the world quite rapidly. Most societies had a series of panic attacks, which took rather a long time to stop, for various interesting reasons that we will leave aside for another time. The most important outcome of the illness and its aftermath was that many people lost their faith - they no longer believed that their culture would be able to overcome its problems.
Caesar spent his teenage years growing up in this new, frightened world. When he asked questions about things he didn't understand, his parents and elders were uncertain, timid, worried. After a while, he stopped asking their advice. Since his social stratum was the highest in his city, there wasn't really anyone higher up left to ask.
At school, he had average grades. He was smart enough that he didn't fail in any subject, but he wasn't stellar in anything either. He didn't see much point in mathematics or science or history. He enjoyed sports, and he really liked amateur theatre. He found that he could command attention rather naturally, partly because of the inherent fearfulness of most other people, and partly because his background gave him a deep, intuitive sense of his own basic superiority. In his world, he simply mattered more, and believed it unconsciously but thoroughly, and he conveyed this belief effectively to other people. It helped that he was becoming quite good-looking, with a strong jawline, and a clear steady gaze.
And then he felt the bolt of lightning, the call to action, the pebble that starts the avalanche of transformation...
A friend persuades him to dress as a Roman general to go to a party. He buys the outfit online. It consists of golden armour, golden arm protectors, a golden helmet with a red plume, and a red cape.
At the party, he poses briefly for a photo, in which he presents a bottle of alcohol to the camera, with a serious expression, as if endorsing it. It so happens that the background and lighting are fairly good, and the incongruity of the photo makes it funny. He looks very like Caesar, or at least, he looks very like our collective imagination of Caesar.
The next day the photo is shared to various chat groups. It makes its way to an image sharing site. Someone overlays the bottle with a blank background, so that other items can be easily placed in Caesar's hands. "Caesar recommends this product" becomes a fairly popular meme.
His account on a crypto social network (everyone under thirty has one of these accounts now) is given a lot of tokens by various people who like the meme.
He starts a video channel, quite deliberately, fully aware of what he's doing. He's grown up in a world full of influencers, marketers, clever ad campaigns, etc. These are normal to him - it's just how the world works. He knows that he looks like Caesar, and that this could be an unusual asset, an edge. He thinks that it's entirely reasonable that he should become famous.
He begins to make videos where he gives his opinion on various topics, always dressed as Caesar, and always staying in character. People find their way to his channel via the original meme. He becomes mildly popular. His viewers pay small fees in cryptocurrency to vote on new content. He does some collaboration work, where he appears on more established channels, in character.
He makes videos explaining his thoughts about how some other online businesses should be doing their marketing. He makes some basic mistakes, and this is pointed out to him, amusedly by internet commenters, and angrily by the businesses. He begins to read a lot about marketing itself, and about its history. He thinks hard about campaigns, and fields of battle, and how to apply resources and logistics to achieve final victory.
He becomes "Ironic Caesar", almost discovering himself along the way. He enjoys projecting a commanding presence, he looks fantastic in the outfit, and it's a lot of fun. It's certainly much more fun than going to work for someone else.
He appears as a DJ, wearing his costume. He doesn't actually play the set - it's pre-planned (and remotely managed in realtime) by a partner. He just fronts the event - he acts, he gets the crowd worked up, he makes the evening memorable.
He is attacked one night by a man consumed with jealousy, who took his date to the concert, and found that she only had eyes for the man in golden (plastic) armour at the front of the room.
After a few unskilled punches, the man is dragged away by other members of the audience, but after that night the armour is no longer plastic - it is high-end carbon fibre composite, painted and altered to look as though it were metal.
He does a music deal. It's very niche - modernised Roman marching songs - but it fits nicely with his brand.
Sometimes, he feels a little lonely. People only interact with him as Caesar now. He wonders what it would be like to get to know someone who was unaware of his public character. He comforts himself with the thought that everyone plays a role of some kind in the world, and his is just a more prominent one.
He does a fashion deal. The economic depression is getting worse, knife crime is up, and Caesar-branded body armour and arm guards are a stylish way to be safe and look good. He writes some articles to explain his thoughts on crime, poverty, violence, and the importance of high-quality personal armour.
He is interviewed on a major podcast about these views.
He does an NFT drop. It's unsuccessful, but he does at least learn how it's done.
As all heroes must, he descended to the underworld, and was shaken by what he encountered there...
His home is raided, quietly, at night, by a competent, well-armed gang. They are good at their work. They know who he is, where he lives, the layout of his house, and they have a decent estimate of how much cryptocurrency he can readily access. They hurt him a little, without doing any real damage, to demonstrate that they could hurt him a lot. They show him pictures and videos of what they have done to other people who did not pay immediately. He tells them where a couple important laptops are, and once these have been retrieved, he transfers the money to them.
Once the gang has left, he goes into his recording studio (by now, he has a rather good one), and immediately records a candid video, in which he shakily describes the event, his feelings, and his thoughts. He uploads it, and goes to bed. He does not sleep very well. He still hears the screams from the videos that they showed him.
When he wakes up at noon, he checks his feeds. The video has gone viral. It's 2034, things are getting pretty chaotic, and his experience taps into the fears of many, many people.
His more devoted fans beg him to take his safety more seriously. Some offer to let him move in with them, at least temporarily (and some of these offers come with highly personal photos).
He doesn't accept any of the offers, but he does think hard for quite some time. He doesn't do any work for a few days.
He goes on a walk to a hill outside the city. He sits there, and looks back at the city for a long time.
When he comes back, his expression is different, harder. Until recently, his eyes had still had a certain naivety, but that's gone now.
And after he had meditated, he returned to the battlefield, with a bold new strategy...
He records a new video. He says that things are out of control, and that it doesn't look like anyone is going to stop it any time soon, and that Caesar is looking for good ideas. He invites his fans to submit suggestions.
He does a new NFT drop. This time, the NFT gives the buyer the right to present himself as a candidate for Caesar's Legion. Purchasers must be long-term fans and include a recent doctor's assessment with their payment.
He chooses his new followers with an eye to how they look on camera. He asks them about any previous acting experience, their gym routines, and their diet. He outfits them with golden body armour and swords. The swords are not actually very sharp, but they can be used as fairly effective clubs.
He plans a "March For Safety" around his local city area. He and his legionaries lead the way, and a reasonably large crowd (who have signed up online to join the event) march behind him, with placards. Many wear Roman helmets. The event is broadcast live, with additional behind-the-scenes footage and personal interviews available to paying subscribers.
He is never alone now. There are always at least a dozen people in his house and garden, planning, discussing, making calls, forcibly barring entry to slightly deranged fans, cooking, and exercising.
He proposes a march on City Hall to demand answers about the safety of the people.
The discussion of the proposed march does all the political work for him. It touches a nerve, and the discussion eventually reaches the major newsfeeds. He is now national news, right up there with the French civil war and the viral strike on the Pennsylvania network. By the time the march actually happens, it is almost an afterthought.
So far, all he has done is raise a handful of well-built men from his fanbase, dress them in Roman uniforms and armour, and march around his neighbourhood and to his city centre, but this is enough to make the political point. They look awesome on camera, and the videos of them marching around the city are very popular. Fans set them to different types of music, searching for the most effective combination, hoping to promote him, and to make some money while doing so.
People begin to send him video appeals. They describe their problems, the crime levels, the lack of working infrastructure. Sometimes they cry.
He doesn't know whether they're telling the truth. He is himself a good actor, and knows how the camera can be lied to.
He appoints trusted fans (his fans now run a pretty large network on top of a blockchain social protocol - they have their own reputation system and internal currency) to visit these people, and to try to find out the truth of their situation.
Later, he acts on the reports they send back to him. He transfers money, organises some online appeals, talks to politicians, sees if any fans in the local area can help, and occasionally re-broadcasts a video or message.
His fans begin to ironically (but also entirely sincerely) form local "Roman Legions". They do copycat marches around their neighbourhoods, with varying degrees of discipline. He gives them his blessing, and commands them to do their duty, and to make him proud. They in turn record videos in which they gather together, shout "Hail Caesar", and give the Roman salute.
He is often asked now about his religious views, whether he thinks God exists, and whether he believes in the afterlife. He always gives the same set of answers: His religious views are tolerant and open-minded, God exists but perhaps not exactly in the way that we think He does, and he's not sure about the afterlife but hopes it's true. He sometimes adds that he's certain that we are here for a reason, that life can be wonderful if we work together, and that there are many paths to God.
He runs for mayor, in order to boost his clout score, and improve his video recommendation metrics on the various feeds. When he appears during his campaign, he is always surrounded by lieutenants dressed as Praetorians. (Many of his lieutenants are themselves promoting a personal brand, and do their own collaborations and endorsement deals.) To his surprise and slightly to his discomfort, he wins. His fanbase was more active and engaged than the fanbases of the other candidates. He immediately appoints a deputy mayor, who will do the actual day-to-day governing work, and returns to his marketing campaign room.
A fight occurs at a random bar between some of his followers (dressed as Romans) and some followers of Ironic Stalin (dressed as Russians). The fight is filmed and captioned and posted and spreads rapidly on the feeds.
Ironic Stalin posts an incendiary video in which he makes some unkind remarks about Caesar and Caesar's followers. Stalin's engagement metrics are boosted by 384%, so he stays on the offensive and releases more attack videos.
Caesar retaliates with a expertly funny riff on some of Stalin's rather embarrassing early work.
Followers of both men begin to organise "showdown" events, in which they meet to fight at certain famous locations, with cameras set up in preparation. They wear armour and carry clubs. They are outfitted with body cameras and location trackers, that permit subscribers to replay the battle in virtual reality. Viewers bet on which side will win the event. New types of careers and branding opportunities emerge quickly. Players acquire an exclusive NFT after every fight. They can become quite rich, if they are lucky, and survive. After a while, they sign liability waivers and begin to use modern weapons.
At this point, things became very confused...
The fighting never really stopped, but (as far as anyone can tell) it did eventually decrease from its peak in 2043. It ebbs and flows according to the fortunes, alliances, marketing campaigns, and engagement metrics of the various internet personalities. There are even some entirely virtual influencers now, controlled by distributed pseudonymous committees, with teams of animators and voice actors. No one is entirely sure which version of recent history is actually true.
There's still a President, but no one really cares anymore. He can't help much, his fanbase is not very active, his currency is not very widely accepted, and every year fewer and fewer people re-broadcast his videos. He finds it quite difficult to afford an army, and many of his former soldiers have joined up with one influencer or another, who fight small, expertly monetised wars, when the beef gets too hot, or when there's a gap in the market, or when the fanbase is in the mood for a fight. Beef index futures are a new and highly volatile investment class.
Caesar, meanwhile, is not entirely thrilled with his new role. He has lots of advisers now, and they keep trying to tell him about economics, and blockchains, and that he needs to get ready to meet the Russian Ambassador. He might live and breathe marketing but he has very little interest in actual markets, he's still somewhat unclear on the difference between private and public keys, he doesn't see why he personally needs to meet the Ambassador (isn't that what other ambassadors are for?), and it's all just gotten a bit too much. On the other hand, his armour is now truly excellent - it's got some of the very smartest people in the world working on it, all the time. Recently, they've been talking a lot about power packs and "active defense modules".
A growing chorus of voices from his fanbase is asking him to endorse an official religion. Currently, he attends services irregularly at several favoured churches (often virtually, sometimes in person), but he senses that this won't be enough forever. He decides to kick off a new video series, where in each episode he will invite a religious influencer to make their best case to him and his followers. His fans will vote and comment and argue, and his assistants will watch the debate carefully, and summarise it for him. Eventually, when the dust has settled, he will make a decision. He hopes that he'll be able to choose the Redemption Covenant, a fast-spreading reinterpretation of Russian Orthodoxy. The local representative of that faith is one of the very few men with whom he can relax, and have a rare and welcome drink.
This morning, a faction of his tech crew has insisted on showing him a large holographic demo of a spaceship, and a big map of the solar system with a dotted line leading to another star. He's uncertain about what exactly they're proposing, or whether it can work, but the demo looks fantastic, and he knows good campaign material when he sees it. He unclips the imperial hardware wallet from its sheath in his arm guard, and digitally signs the authorisation for the project.
As they leave, in respectful but excited silence, he wonders idly how his new powered armour will look on camera.
[start of notes]
An important excerpt from Curtis Yarvin:
As for the charismatic leader and would-be king, he must combine the two most important ingredients of hypermodern political communication: irony and sincerity.
This entire project of 21st-century monarchism (on the blockchain!) is both utterly ironic, and completely sincere. Every part of making it happen will feel like a joke. The result, however, will be completely real - both sincere, and irreversible.
Curtis Yarvin's prediction that the American Caesar has already been born, and is currently a teenager, occurred in this podcast:
The Stakes: The American Monarchy?
Channel: Claremont Institute
Excerpt: 55:27 - 56:18
Curtis Yarvin: A good question to ask is to say just, right now, as we speak, maybe he's out there, how old is the next American Caesar, the next FDR? And I would say probably in his or her teens.
Michael Anton: So you're hoping then that if this person is in his teens that he's going to get just a completely - somehow, then, for this person to emerge, he's got to be educated in a way that the present regime - like, if he just goes to the public schools and then to a normal university, he's not going to turn out -
Curtis Yarvin: He's got to succeed in the modern equivalent of war. Just as Caesar had to go to Gaul to succeed.
The post-postmodern equivalent of war is 1) blockchain engineering 2) influencer content 3) smart drone systems. I think that this could be called the hypermodern era.
However, I think legitimacy (an obvious requirement for a Caesar or in fact for any political leader) can only come through 2) influencer content.
Therefore, in my story, the American Caesar rises through his success in the influence market. He fights his campaigns for mindshare, rather than physical territory, and the battlefield is harsh and brutal. Of course he does eventually acquire territory, but it is simply a reward that accompanies his influence victories.
[end of notes]