Robert Appelbaum

The Complete Works of David:
A Research Project





I first encountered the work of David while reading an article on Yahoo! about a
demonstration against fracking. The demonstration was in a prosperous village in
west Sussex, and there was no fracking taking place, only an exploratory drilling by
British Petroleum on a disused piece of land outside the village limits. I expected
that a lot of people reading the article would be amused at this Not In My Backyard
activism waged by the wealthy against a potential source of wealth. So I scrolled
down to the commentaries, and found to my surprise that most of the contributors
expressed indignation at the drilling and support for the village. But I was really
perplexed when I found this entry, which was altogether different:

David.
I wonder hoe many of these socalled protesters live off our tax money? anyone
there who is on benifits ahould have their money stopped as thay are not available for
work.

Here was a commenter who was bold enough to shift the discussion away from the
economics of  oil-drilling to the economics of protest. And he had an important
insight: the government itself may be subsidising a protest against a form of progress.
Curious about this ‘David’, I clicked his name, and discovered not only an icon for
identifying him but an archive of all the comments he had posted to this site. The
next article he commented on was about a lottery for holders of what are called
‘premium bonds’, a national savings bond that offers prizes every month as a way to
encourage investment. The article listed the prizes along with bond numbers, the
face value of each bond, and the city or county of each winner. Twenty-two winners
were listed, with prizes ranging from twenty-five thousand to one million pounds.
But one reader posted a comment noticing that there weren’t any winners from
Scotland. And then came this from David:

Notice no winners in Wales, cash them in if you live there as its a waste of time.

At first, I thought the comment absurd. To take from the case of one drawing that,
since no winners were from Wales, no winner would ever be for Wales is to commit
an egregious error in logic, a dicto simpliciter. But then I thought some more about
it. For maybe once again David was onto something. He may have noticed that the
odds of winning this lottery were now 26,000 to one. He may have reflected that if
you purchase one of these bonds, some of the interest on them is being shifted to the
winners of lotteries, who are in effect skimming off profit. Twenty-two bond holders
have made handsome sums of money at the expense of 25,978 who haven’t. Do we
not have here a vivid example of how the winner-takes-all economy of late
capitalism works? That seems to be one of the ideas behind David’s statement. And
then there is the regional issue. Does not someone have to speak up for Wales? Is
not Wales as a whole one of the poorest regions of the United Kingdom? Would not a
Welsh person with money therefore be particularly susceptible to the lure of a
national lottery, where a million pound prize can be one in addition to regular
interest, even when the odds are 26,000 to one? This would seem to be one of David’
s earnest concerns. Most of the winners of this lottery are all but certain to be from
the richest parts of the United Kingdom, since those areas will be the places where
the most people wealthy enough to buy premium bonds will live. David seems to
perceive this too. Nineteen of the twenty-two winners were from the south of
England, according to the article, the others coming from Leeds, West Midlands,
and Cheshire. This is a game where an investor from Wales would be an odd player
indeed, donating money to a fund dominated by the south of England, which skims
off profits arbitrarily in order, apparently, to recirculate profits in the south of
England. David was wrong about the math but right about the politics, the
psychology, and the odds. It would very likely a ‘waste of time’ for someone from
Wales to try to play this game.
In his icon we see David from a distance. He is standing in jeans and a white shirt
atop a scraggy hill under a blue sky, accompanied by a dog. The picture is too small,
and the resolution much too low, for us really to identify the man, but we can see
that he is overweight and elderly; his hair is white. Other posts confirm the general
range of his age, for he has grown children and worries a lot about pensions.
What else do we know about him? Unlike the best-known authors of our day, David
likes to keep a low profile, and he has never been interviewed by the press. “David”
itself may be a pseudonym. We just don’t know. Instead of trying to profit from our
knowledge of his background, or from a persona that might be constructed by public
relations narratives or worried over by journalists and critics, and instead of
seeking endorsements from experts in his field (apart from the occasional thumbs
up icon) David lets his writing speak for itself. He focuses his work on the debate,
not the debater. In fact, in all the texts I have been able to collect so far, he has not
once insulted an opponent, or called attention to himself with a view toward
winning an argument by appealing to his own authority. His role, as he apparently
sees it, is to make timely interventions on public issues on the basis of logic and
evidence. It is to call attention to the unspoken, the overlooked and the
underappreciated.
His role also seems to be speak for an unappreciated constituency. For David
knows that power is shared unequally in the UK, that many laws are passed not for
the sake of justice but for the sake of perpetuating an injustice. He knows, too, that
the UK has been mismanaged for many years, its wealth having been concentrated
in the hands of the few while income for the majority has declined, public services
are in disarray, and unemployment gnaws at the belly of the state. And David knows
that the press is as likely to collaborate with power as to question it. And so, for
example, we get this response to a brief report about a man in Birmingham who was
shot and wounded (uncritically) by an unknown assailant while he was sitting
behind the wheel of his car:

Banning guns so the public dont have them leaves the criminals well armed. "MPs" are
dead scared that the public if they had guns, would rise up against them for turning the
UK into the dustbin of Europe

Obviously, some of the commenters to the article took the occasion to suggest that
there are too many guns in Britain, owned by too many people. But David had the
sense to argue the opposite. There are not enough guns in the UK, David says. And
there are not enough of them because if there were, the people would revolt against
the government – or at least, to give the nuance of David’s argument its due, ‘MPs’,
their name put in brackets as if to already suggest that there is something
illegitimate about them, are ‘dead scared’ of revolt, and so deny ‘the public’ the
means of arousing one. Again, David’s comment begins with a non sequitur; for
there is nothing in the article to suggest who either the victim or the assailant was,
or why the shooting took place. But also, David strategically shifts the terms of
debate. From a minor and unexplained incident of violence, we proceed to more
important issues and a higher truth. Weaponry is a tool of power. Parliament has the
power, and therefore Parliament restricts the ownership of guns. This is deeply
insightful. So too are the accompanying ideas: first of all, that Parliament has
criminalised the ownership of guns, which is why, apart from government officials
and licensed hunters, only criminals will own them; and secondly, that it has
criminalised guns for fear of resentment of what it has accomplished with its power,
having turned the UK into the ‘dustbin of Europe’.
As some of David’s own readers have noticed, David is not himself above arguing by
way of a quibble. For what, after all, is a ‘dustbin’ in this context? Many
environmentalists have raised the issue lately, calling the UK the ‘dustbin of Europe’
since it has such a large problem with waste.  The UK is especially wasteful, and
especially prone to the environmental hazards associated with it. But that it
probably only one of several meanings that Dave attaches to the metaphor of a
dustbin. As in his daring leaps of generalization, so in his quibbles David can make
a singular case into an example of a multitude of cases, related by a family
resemblance which itself is symptomatic of a general pathology of modern day
society.
We can get a taste of how this general pathology operates by looking at a pair of
postings David published at about the same time. The first, in response to a report of
an American travel alert with regard to an Al Qaeda threat, was this:

We need to close all western embassies in Muslim countrys and send all  Muslims back
to these countries and let them implode, otherwise our streets will run with more
bloodshed
.

David understands, and publicly admits, what few government officials would allow
themselves publicly to say: namely that Muslim-governed countries are inherently
instable; that trying to keep stabilising them by political means is, in effect, a waste
of time; that we would be better off just letting them destroy themselves; and that if
we don’t we will ourselves become victims of Muslim violence. Moreover, David also
understands and is unafraid to point out the final remedy to our situation. So, in
his second post, in response to an investigation by the European Equality and
Human Rights Commission (EHRC) into a Home Office crackdown on illegal
immigrants, David has this to say:

EHRC should itself be sent packing. The UK should not be a dumping ground for the
rest of the EU, time to get out of Europe.

Now it appears that the UK is a ‘dustbin’ in at least one additional sense; it is a
dumping ground for immigrants. The reader, moreover, begins to see a pattern,
where David’s imagery correlates with both metaphor and argument, and in the
place of the patchwork accounts by journalists of protests, lotteries, shootings and
warnings, David expresses, with the brevity of an accomplished poet, a kind of
objective correlative: waste. There are wastes of time, wastes of resources, wastes of
commodities, wastes of government effort; there is waste in the land and there are
people who are waste. The beauty of this objective correlative, this single sign for so
many social ills at once, is that it suggests its own solution, and indeed the solution
to each and every problem. Do not waste time. Do not allow waste to accumulate. Do
not allow the people who permit or promote this waste to stay in office. Do not
tolerate the presence of people who are waste. Do not allow countries who offload
this waste to us to continue to do so. We need something like a revolution, a
revolution of independence; we need to cut ourselves off from Muslims, from the EU,
from the bond market and even from our own Parliament.
Nor is David an opponent of just an assortment of political developments. An article
citing critical accounts of banks not lending enough to small businesses in the UK
got this response:

Capitalism where a few live off the backs of the many.



One possible response to the work of David is to attempt to read him against the
grain, to try to summon out of his work a personality, a social profile, a political
program. Politicians and political analysts would be inclined to identify David as a
kind of voter, and try to make sense what appeals to him. They would find, in fact,
that David is an open supporter of UKIP. Perhaps one of the places he picked up the
figure of the dustbin is a speech by Nigel Farage, who has frequently taken an
expression popularised by Leon Trotsky and applied it to the European Union. As
Trotsky argued that the Mensheviks’ role in Russian politics was ‘played out’ and
belonged nowhere but the ‘dustbin of history’, so too, according Farage, is the role of
the European Union. It belongs in the dustbin of history. A political analyst working
against the grain of David’s writing would find in it the profile of the disaffected,
middle-aged white male voter, and try to figure how to take advantage or to modify
that profile – perhaps how to manipulate or overcome this voter’s obsession with
waste, violence and the need (on many fronts) for separation.
A political scientist or a literary critic with a political agenda could perhaps read
the work of David as a symptom of a larger problem, a fracture in the system of public
trust in the UK, or even of something like white male rage. There are many
resemblances between David’s thought and that of Tea Party activists in the United
States. There is an anger and  frustration in David’s thought that starts out
sounding like right wing reaction, but that shifts across the spectrum to the point
where it sometimes summons the energy of left wing revolutionary politics. Without
the xenophobia, David’s thought could be assimilated to anti-capitalist anarchism,
and thereby present a very interesting puzzle to the political scientist or critic. But
then, the Tea Party activists also present this face of multiple positions, at once
hyper-capitalistic in its support of laissez faire and anti-capitalist in its resentment
of globalization and international finance; at once revolutionary in its appeal to
rights and the image of the terrorists at the Boston Tea Party and fascist in its
resentment of minorities and immigrants.
This analysis of David’s thought would be unfair, however, which is why I have
begun the project of collecting and analysing David’s work for the general public,
trying to work my way through the Yahoo! system. David’s work needs to be seen
first of all as what, for David, it appears to be: an art of dissent. David’s is a textual
work. It exists, it thrives and ultimately may die only so far as the medium of its
textuality exists, thrives or dies. Who David is, what kind of man he would be to
share a pint with, work with, live with or be raised by, what kind of owner of a dog he
is – about such things nothing can be said or even need be. But David as the name
of the author of a certain kind of oppositional writing – about this there is much that
can be said, and much still to learn.
David is a self-identifying author who is deliberately unidentifiable. This paradox,
encouraged by the medium in which he works, is an enabling condition. Obviously,
because of this paradox David does not need to take responsibility for what he
writes, since no one but he really knows that he has written it. But it is not clear
that David has written anything that he would not also say in certain private
situations; nor does he seem to have abused his anonymity with spurious attacks.
For after all, he is “David,” and he seems to understand himself as belonging to a
community of commenters. He addresses some of them by name, and some address
him by name. And few people, at least on this site, attack one another personally.
The partial anonymity behind the writing does allow David to write some nasty
things on occasion, as when he implies that immigrants are rubbish, which he might
not say aloud in public, or express on the Internet if people knew who he really was.
But the real benefit of partial anonymity is that David is not obliged to be consistent,
or develop a program. His writing can be entirely ad hoc, participating in a project of
dissent which has no ultimate goal but dissent itself. It seems unlikely that David is
really an enemy of capitalism, but in certain circumstances it may well be effective
to take a public stance of rejecting it for its unfairness.
This is an art to be appreciated on its own terms. It takes a certain kind of genius.
Strategically to change the subject, poetically to construct an objective correlative
that works on many levels, stylistically to use a plain yet elliptical form of address,
fashioning sharp epigrams out of complex material, and all with the aim of
registering dissent for the sake of dissent and for condemning the status quo,
responding freshly to new material so recurrently – this is an achievement worth
admiring. What the final collection of David’s writing will amount to at this point I
cannot say. Some of the writings disappear as soon as they are published, and I have
found it hard to keep abreast. I cannot yet estimate how much writing there really is
out there. It doesn’t help that David is really, when you think of it, a prolific author.
So I announce here a general call to the public for anyone who can help find and
collect more of David’s writings. The literary world will be grateful.  But please be
careful as you search for his work. For there are many ‘Davids’ out there, and it is
easy to confuse them.